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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Huddleston with great firmness


he said very brokenly, "let me receive my Heavenly Saviour in a better posture than lying on my bed."

"Sir," said Mr. Huddleston with great firmness, "lie down again, if you please. God Almighty who sees your heart will accept your good intention."

(But neither of them spoke loud enough to be heard at the further end of the great chamber.)

And so he was persuaded to lie down again.

Then the priest repeated again, still holding the Blessed Sacrament before the King's eyes, the Act of Contrition of which I had heard a word or two a while ago; and His Majesty repeated it after him, word for word, very devoutly.

Then, as the time was short Mr. Huddleston omitted several of the proper prayers, and proceeded at once to the Communion, saying but the _Agnus Dei_ three times, and then communicating him immediately. With my own eyes I saw that holy act which sealed all and admitted the dying man to sacramental union with his God. His eyes were closed throughout; and when it was done he lay as still as a stone, his poor wasted face all dark against the white pillows. I caught a glimpse too of the Duke: his face was bowed in his hands, and he was weeping so that his shoulders shook with it.

Presently the priest was reading again as well as he could in a very low whisper the prayers

for the Recommendation of a Departing Soul, down to the very end. His Majesty lay motionless throughout. At the end he opened his eyes.

"Father," he whispered, "the Act of Contrition once more, if you please. I have sinned, I have sinned very--" He could speak no more for weeping.

Then, once more, very slowly and tenderly, the priest repeated it; down to _Mercy, Sweet Jesus, Mercy!_ My own eyes were all dim with tears, and as fast as I brushed them away, they came again. When at last I could see plainly once more, the priest was holding up a little crucifix before the King's eyes; and he made him a short address, very Christian and forcible. I remember near every word of it, as he said it.

"Lift up the eyes of your soul, Sir," he said, "and represent to yourself your sweet Saviour here crucified, bowing down His Head to kiss you; His Arms stretched out to embrace you; His Body and members all bloody and pale with death to redeem you. Beseech Him, Sir, with all humility that His most Precious Blood may not be shed in vain for you; and that it will please Him, by the merits of His bitter Death and Passion, to pardon and forgive you all your offences; and, finally, to receive your soul into His Blessed Hands; and, when it shall please Him to take it out of this transitory world, to grant you a joyful resurrection, and an eternal crown of glory in the next."

He bent lower, making a great sign of the cross with his right hand--(and the King too tried to bless himself in response).

"In the Name," said he, "of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."

* * * * *

One more joy and sorrow all in one was yet to be mine before the end. As I opened the door for the priest to come back, His Majesty lifted his eyes and saw me there; and I perceived that he recognized me. The Duke had already risen up and gone down the room to bid them, I suppose, to open the door and let the folks in again. Then, as the King's eyes met my own he made a sign with his head that I should come near. I think that if the chamber had been filled with but one mob of priest-hunters and Protestants, I should have obeyed him then, even though I should have been torn to pieces the next instant.

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