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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

His Majesty was too weary to speak


I

went forward without a word, leaving the door open behind me, and flung myself on my knees at the bedside.

His Majesty was too weary to speak, but, as I kneeled there, with my face in my hands on the bedclothes, and my tears raining down, he lifted his right hand and put it on my head, leaving it there for an instant. It was all he could do to thank me; and I value that blessing from him, a penitent sinner as he was, with the Body of our Saviour still in his breast, as much as any blessing I have ever had from any man, priest or bishop or Pope.

As he lifted his hand off again, I caught at it, and kissed it three or four times, careless whether or no my tears poured down upon it.

* * * * *

As I passed back again through the door to where Mr. Huddleston was waiting for me, I heard the doors at the further end of the chamber unlatched and the footsteps of the folks--physicians, courtiers, Bishops and the rest--that poured in to see the end.

EPILOGUE

I have said again and again how strange this or that moment or incident appeared to me as I experienced it; yet as I sit here now in my cell, thirty years later, looking out upon the cloister-garth with its twisted columns, and the cypresses and the grass, it is

not so much this or that thing that appears to me strange, but the whole of my experiences and indeed human life altogether. For what can be more extraordinary than a life which began as mine did, when I first went to England in sixteen hundred and seventy-eight, should be ending as mine will end presently, if God will, as a monk of St. Paul's-Without-the-Walls, in Holy Rome? To what purpose, I ask myself, was that part of my life designed by Divine Providence? For what did I labour so long, when all was to come to nothing? For what was I to learn the passion of human love; if but to lose it again? For what was I to intrigue and spy and labour and adventure my life, for the cause of England and the Catholic Church, when all a year or two later was to fall back, and further than it had ever fallen before, into the darkness of heresy? There is but one effort in all those years of which I saw the fruition, and that was the conversion of my master upon his deathbed.

However, I have not yet related what passed after I had gone from the King again, and took Mr. Huddleston downstairs. I will relate that very shortly; and make an end. I had it all from Mr. Chiffinch before I left London.

* * * * *

His Majesty, after we were gone from him, rallied a little, in so far as to make some think that he would recover altogether; but the physicians said No; and they were right for near the first time in all their diagnosis of his state. But they continued to give him their remedies of Sal Ammoniac and Peruvian Bark, and later the Oriental Bezoar Stone, which is a pebble, I understand, taken from the stomach of a goat. Also they blooded him again, twelve ounces more, and all to no purpose.

His Majesty said a number of things that night that were very characteristic of him; for God gave him back his gift of merriment, now that he had the Gift of Faith as well: and he shewed a great tenderness too from time to time and a very Christian appreciation of his own condition.


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