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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

But the Duke was in the Bedchamber


A

little before supper I went round to Mr. Chiffinch's; and, by the greatest good fortune found him on the point of returning to His Majesty's lodgings. He gave me an excellent account as we went together.

"The physicians declare," said he, "that His Majesty is out of danger: and bath permitted the Duke to tell the foreign ministers so. They have had another consultation on him; and have prescribed God knows what! Cowslip and Sal of Ammoniac, sneezing mixtures, plasters for his feet; and he is to have broth and ale to his supper. They are determined to catch hold of his disorder somehow, if not by one thing then by another. To tell the truth I think they know not at all what is the matter with him. They have taken near thirty ounces of blood from him too, to-day. If the King were not a giant for health he would have died of his remedies, I think!"

He talked so; but he was in very cheerful spirits; and before he left me at the door of the lodgings I had got an order from him to admit me everywhere within reason. It was something of a surprise to me to see how dearly this man--whose name was so evil spoken of, and, I fear with good cause enough--yet loved his master.

* * * * *

On Tuesday morning I was up again very early, and round at His Majesty's lodgings. I went up by the other way and into the great antechamber;

and there I met with one of the physicians who was just come from the consultation that twelve of them had held together. He was a very communicative fellow and told me that six of them had been with His Majesty all night, and that His Majesty had slept pretty well; and that--to encourage him, I suppose!--ten more ounces of blood had been taken from his neck. He was proceeding to speak of some new remedies--and mentioned an anti-spasmodic julep of Black Cherry Water that had been prescribed, when another put out his head and called to him from the Bedchamber; and he went away back into it with an important air.

All that day too I never left Whitehall. There were great crowds in all the streets and outside the gates, I heard, but their demeanour was very quiet and sorrowful; and prayers were said all day long in the churches. When I went back to the antechamber in the evening I saw my Lord Bishop of Ely there, and heard from one of the pages that he was to spend that night in His Majesty's room. So I gathered from that that the physicians were not very confident even yet, though couriers had been sent out again to-day to bear the news of the King's happy recovery; and I was, besides, in two minds, when I saw the Bishop there, as to what I should do about a Catholic priest. If I had seen His Royal Highness then, I think I should have said something to him upon it; but the Duke was in the Bedchamber; and there I dared not yet penetrate.

* * * * *

On the Wednesday morning, when I went early to inquire, I heard that again His Majesty had slept well, and that the physicians were well satisfied; I saw no one but a man of Mr. Chiffinch's, who told me that; and that Dr. Ken, my Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells, was with the King; and I went away content: but when I went back again, for the third time that day, just before supper-time, I saw from the faces in the antechamber that all was not so well. Yet I could get nothing out of anyone, and did not wish to press too hard lest I should be turned out altogether. I saw my friend of yesterday, whose name I have never yet learned, hurrying across the end of the chamber into another little room where the physicians had their consultations--(it was, I think, my Lord Ailesbury's dressing-room)--but I was not in time to catch him; so I went away again in some little dismay, yet not greatly alarmed even now. The Bishop, I thought, could at least do him no great harm.


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