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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Whitbread was getting to his knees for the same end


We

had not very long to wait; for, by the appointment of God, I was come just to time; and very soon the door at the head of the stairs was opened and men began to come out. I saw Mr. Sheriff How among them, who was to see execution done; but I did not observe these very closely, since I was looking for the Jesuits.

Mr. Harcourt came first into the sunlight that was at the head of the steps; and at the sight of him I was moved very deeply; for he was an old man with short white hair, very thick, and walked with a stick with his other hand in some fellow's arm. A great rustle of talk began when he appeared, and swelled into a roar, but he paid no attention to it, and came down, smiling and looking to his steps. Next came Mr. Whitbread; and at the sight of him I was as much affected as by the old man; for I had spoken with him so often. He too walked cheerfully, first looking about him resolutely as he came out at all the faces turned up to his; and at him too was even a greater roaring, for the people thought him to be at the head of all the conspiracy. He was pinioned loosely with cords, but not so that he could not lift his hands (and so were the other three that followed), and a fellow held the other end of the cord in his hand. Mr. Turner and Mr. Gavan, who came next, I had never seen before--(Mr. Gavan was he that was taken in the stables of the Imperial Ambassador--Count Wallinstein)--they came one behind the other, and paid no more attention

than the others to the noise that greeted them; and last of all came Mr. Fenwick who had entertained me so often in Drury Lane, looking pinched, I thought, with his imprisonment, yet as courageous as any. Behind him came a minister and then the tail of the guard.

As I saw Mr. Fenwick come out I put into execution a design I had formed just now; and slipping from my horse I got out a guinea and begged in a low voice the fellow before me--for I was just by the sled on which Mr. Harcourt and Mr. Whitbread would be bound--to let me through enough to speak a word with him; and at the same time I pressed the guinea into his hand: so he stood aside a little and let me through, on my knees, enough to speak to Mr. Whitbread. Mr. Harcourt was already laid down on the sled, on the further side from me, and Mr. Whitbread was getting to his knees for the same end. As he turned and sat himself on the sled he saw me, and frowned ever so little. Then he smiled as I made the sign of the cross on myself and he made it too at me, and I saw his lips move as he blessed me. He was not an arm's length from me. That was enough for me; and I stepped back again and mounted my horse once more. The fellow who had let me through looked at me over his shoulder once or twice, but said nothing; for he had my guinea; and, as for myself I sat content, though my eyes pricked with tears, for I had had the last blessing (or very nearly) which that martyr of God would ever give in this world.

* * * * *

When they were all ready, and the five were bound on the sleds, with their beads to the horses' heels, I looked to see how I could best follow; and it appeared to me that it was best for me to keep close at the tail, rather than to attempt to go before. When the word was given, the whips cracked, and the sled nearest me, with Mr. Whitbread and Mr. Harcourt upon it, began to move. Then came Mr. Turner and Mr. Gavan, and last Mr. Fenwick all by himself. The minister whose name was Samuel Smith, as I learned later, and who was the Ordinary of Newgate, followed on foot, and behind him came the guards to close them all in.


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