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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Fenwick had scarcely begun before Mr


Then,

when the silence fell, I heard Mr. Whitbread begin; and the first sentence was clear enough, though his voice sounded thin at that distance.

"I suppose," he said, "it is expected I should speak something to the matter I am condemned for, and brought hither to suffer."

Then he went on to say how he was wholly guiltless of any plot against His Majesty, and that in saying so he renounced and repudiated any pretended pardons or dispensations that were thought to have been given him to swear falsely. He prayed God to bless His Majesty, and denied that it was any part of Catholic teaching that a king might be killed as it was said had been designed by the alleged plot; and he ended by recommending his soul into the hands of his blessed Redeemer by whose only merits and passion he hoped for salvation. He spoke very clearly, with a kind of coldness.

Father Harcourt's voice was not so clear, as he was an old man; but I heard Mr. Sheriff How presently interrupt him. (He was upon horseback close beside the gallows.)

"Or of Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey's death?" he asked.

"Did you not write that letter concerning the dispatch of Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey?"

"No, sir," cried the old man very loud. "These are the words of a dying man. I would not do it for a thousand worlds."

justify;">He went on to affirm his innocence of all laid to his charge; and he ended by begging the prayers of all in the communion of the Roman Church in which he himself died.

When Mr. Anthony Turner had spoke a while, again Sheriff How interrupted him.

"You do only justify yourselves here," he said. "We will not believe a word that you say. Spend your time in prayer, and we will not think your time too long."

But Mr. Turner went on as before, affirming his entire innocence; and, at the end he prayed aloud, and I heard every word of it.

"O my dear Saviour and Redeemer," he cried, lifting up his eyes, and his hands too as well as he could for the cords, "I return Thee immortal thanks for all Thou hast pleased to do for me in the whole course of my life, and now in the hour of my death, with a firm belief of all things Thou hast revealed, and a stedfast hope of obtaining everlasting bliss. I cheerfully cast myself into the arms of Thy mercy, whose arms were stretched on the Cross for my redemption. Sweet Jesus, receive my spirit."

Then Mr. Gavan spoke to the same effect as the rest, but he argued a little more, and theologically too, being a young man; and spoke of Mariana the Jesuit who had seemed to teach a king-killing doctrine; but this sense on his words he repudiated altogether. He too, at the end, commended his soul into the hands of God, and said that he was ready to die for Jesus as Jesus had died for him.

Mr. Fenwick had scarcely begun before Mr. Sheriff How broke in on him, and argued with him concerning the murder of Sir Edmund.

"As for Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey," cried Mr. Fenwick, "I protest before God that I never saw the man in my life."

"For my part," said the Sheriff, "I am of opinion that you had a hand in it."

"Now that I am a dying man," said the priest, "do you think that I would go and damn my soul?"

"I wish you all the good that I can," said Mr. How, "but I assure you I believe never a word you say."

Well; he let him alone after that; and Mr. Fenwick finished, once more denying and renouncing the part that had been assigned to him, and maintaining his innocence.


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