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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Barillon shall be in the doorway that none may come through


"God!

There is," cried the Duke. "I had forgotten it."

We stared on one another in silence. My mind raced like a mill. Then once more the Duke near ruined the whole design by his diplomacy.

"Gentlemen," he said, "we are too precipitate. His Majesty hath not yet told me that he wishes for a priest--"

"Sir--" I began in desperation.

He looked at me so fiercely that I stopped.

"Listen to me," said he very imperiously. "I will have it my own way. M. Barillon, do you come with me now to His Majesty. I will bid the company withdraw into the antechamber--Bishops and all--on the pretext that I wish to consult with my brother privately. M. Barillon shall be in the doorway that none may come through. Mr. Mallock shall be with the company and hear what they say. Then, if the King wishes for a priest, we will consult again here, and see if Mr. Mallock's plan is a possible one."

He strode towards the door. There was no more to be said. It was a dreadful risk that we ran in so long delaying; but there was no gainsaying James when he had made up his mind.

* * * * *

The great antechamber was near full of folks of all kinds when we three came to it again. They fell back as they saw the Duke; and

he passed straight through, as was arranged, with M. Barillon, leaving me behind, near the door. The King's bedchamber was pretty dark, and I could see no more of the bed at the far distant end than its curtains.

Presently I heard the Duke in a low voice saying something to the company that was within: and immediately they began to come out, three or four Bishops, among them, my Lord Halifax, Lord Keeper North, and my Lord Craven; I noticed that M. Barillon was very careful to let all in the antechamber have a clear view of the bed, at which, by now the Duke was kneeling down, having drawn back the curtains a little, yet not so much as to shew us the King lying there.

Round about me they talked very little, though I saw the Bishops whispering together. The two brothers spoke together, very low, for ten minutes or a quarter of an hour; and I could hear the murmur of the Duke's voice. Of His Majesty's I heard nothing except that twice he said, very clear:

"Yes.... Yes, with all my heart."

And I thanked God when I heard that.

* * * * *

Yet, even so, all was not yet done.

So soon as I saw the Duke stand up again from his kneeling, and coming down the chamber, I slipped away to the door that leads out towards Her Majesty's apartments, that I might be ready for him. I saw him come through, all the people standing and bowing to him, and M. Barillon following him; and I noticed in particular a young gentleman whose name I did not know at that time--(it was the Comte de Castelmelhor, a very good Catholic)--standing out, a little by himself. I noticed this man because I saw that the Duke looked at him as he came and presently signed to him very slightly, with his head, to follow. So all four of us passed through the door into the long gallery that unites their Majesties' apartments and found ourselves alone in it. The Count was a little behind.


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