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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

All the way along Holborn we went


My

fellow in front, whom I had bribed, seemed to understand what I wanted; for in the confusion he let me through, and my man James forced his way after me; so that we found ourselves with three or four other gentlemen, riding immediately behind the guards, as we came out of the court into the street outside; and so we followed, all the way to Tyburn.

That adventure of mine was I think the most observable I have ever had, and, too, the greatest privilege to my soul: for here was I, if ever any man did, following the Cross of Christ in the passion of His servants--such a _Via Crucis_ as I have never made in any church--for here was the very road along which so many hundreds of the Catholic martyrs had passed before; and at the end was waiting the very death by which they had died. I know that the martyrdom of these five was not so evident an one as that of others before them, since those died for the Faith directly, and these for an alleged conspiracy; yet before God, I think, they died no less for Religion, since it was in virtue of their Religion that they were accused. So, then, I followed them.

All the way along Holborn we went, and High Holborn and St. Giles, and at last out into the Oxford Road that ran then between fields and gardens; and all the way we went the crowds went with us, booing and roaring from time to time, and others, too, from the windows of the houses, joined in the din that was made. At first

the way was nasty enough, with the pails that folks had emptied out of doors into the gutter; but by the time we reached the Oxford Road the way was dusty only; so that the five on the sleds were first nastied, and then the dust fell on them from the horses' heels. I could see only Mr. Fenwick's face from time to time; he kept his eyes closed the most of the way, and was praying, I think. Of the rest I could see nothing.

It was a terrible sight to me when we came out at last and saw the gallows--the "Deadly Nevergreen" as it was called--the three posts with the beams connecting them--against the western sky. The ropes were in place all in one line; and a cart was there beneath them. A cauldron, too, sent up its smoke a little distance away beside the brook. All this space was kept clear again by guards; and there were some of the new grenadiers among them, in their piebald livery, with furred caps; and without the guards there was a great crowd of people. Here, then, was the place of the Passion.

The confusion was so great as the sleds went within the line of guards, and the people surged this way and that, that I was forced, somewhat, out of the place I had hoped to get, and found myself at last a good way off, with a press of people between me and the gallows; so that I could see nothing of the unbinding; and, when they spoke later could not hear all that they said.

It was not long before they were all in the cart together, with the ropes about their necks, and the hangman down again upon the ground; and as soon as that was done, a great silence fell everywhere. I had seen Mr. Gavan say something to the hangman, and he answered again; but I could not hear what it was.


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