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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

And looked up the lobby beyond the King's chamber


suppose it would be about five minutes after Mr. Chiffinch had left me that Her Majesty came. The first I knew of it was a great murmur of voices and footsteps without the door. I went to the door and pulled it a little open so that I could see without being seen, and looked up the lobby beyond the King's chamber; for in that direction, I knew, lay Her Majesty's apartments. A couple of pages came first, very hastily, with rods; and then immediately after them Her Majesty herself, hurrying as fast as she could, scarce decently dressed, with a cloak flung over all, with a hood. Behind her came two or three of her ladies. I saw the poor woman's face very plain for a moment, since there was no one between me and her; and even at that distance I could see her miserable agitation; her brown face was all sallow and her mouth hung open. Then she whisked after the pages through the door into the great antechamber that lay beyond the bedroom. I went back again, to shut the door and listen at the other; for I knew that the King's bed was close to it (though he was not in it at this time, but still in the barber's chair where he had been blooded); and presently I heard the poor soul begin to wail aloud. I heard voices too, as if soothing her, for all the physicians were there, and half a dozen others; but the wailing grew, as she saw, I suppose, in what condition His Majesty was--(for he still seemed all unconscious)--till she began to shriek. That was a terrible sound, for she laughed and
sobbed too, all at once, in a kind of fit. I could hear the tone very plain through the door, though I could not hear what she said; and the voices of Mr. King and others who endeavoured to quiet her. Gradually the wailing and shrieking grew less as they forced her away and out again; till I heard it, as she went back again to her own apartments, die away in spasms. Poor soul indeed! she was nothing accounted of in that Court, yet she loved the King very dearly in spite of his neglect towards her. She could not even speak to him (I heard afterwards), though he had spoken her name and asked for her, after his first blooding.

* * * * *

Half an hour later--(in the meantime no one had come in to me, and I could only walk up and down and listen as well as I could)--I heard again the murmur of voices in the lobby, and steps coming swiftly down from the private closet. Again I was in time at the door to see who it was that went by; and it was the Duke of York, with my Lord Ailesbury who had gone to fetch him from St. James'. He went by me so near that I could hear his quick breathing from his run upstairs; and he had come in such a hurry that he had only one shoe on, and on the other foot a slipper. He went very near at a run up the lobby, and up a step or two, and into the great antechamber and so round to the Bedchamber; and I presently heard him enter it. Indeed I was very favourably placed for observing all that went on.

* * * * *

It was about eleven o'clock, as I suppose, when I first heard His Majesty's voice; and the relief of it to me was extraordinary.

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