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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

To draw attention to his discretion


"As

to your affairs, Cousin Roger," he said, "they will soon be determined. I take it that when you have kissed His Majesty's hand and paid your duty to the Duke, you will have done all that you should for the present."

I did not contradict him; but he was not to be restrained.

"You are come to seek your fortune, no doubt:" (he winked on me again as he said this, to draw attention to his discretion); "and there is nothing else in the world but that, no doubt, that brings you to England." (He said this with an evident irony that even a child would have understood.) "Not that you have not a very pretty fortune already: I understand that it is near upon a thousand pounds a year; and great estates in Normandy too, when you shall be twenty-eight years old. I am right, am I not?"

Now he was right; but I wondered that he should take such pains to know it all.

"There or thereabouts," I said.

"That condition of twenty-eight years is a strange one," he went on. "Now what made your poor father fix upon that, I wonder?"

I told him that my father held that a man's life went by sevens, and that every man was a boy till he was twenty-one, a fool till he was twenty-eight, and a man, by God's grace, after that.

"Ah, that was it, was it?" he said, stretching

his legs yet further. "I have often wondered as to how that was."

And that shewed me that his mind must have run a good deal upon my fortunes; but as yet I did not understand the reason.

When, presently, my Cousin Dorothy had shut the door of her room, and my man was gone down again to the horses, he began again on his old tack.

"You and I, Cousin Roger," he said, "will soon understand one another. I knew that as soon as I clapped eyes on you. Come, tell me what your business is here. I'm as close as the grave over a friend's secrets."

"My dear cousin," I said, "I do not know what business you mean. Was not my letter explicit enough? I am come to live here as an English gentleman. What other business should I have?"

He winked again at me.

"Yes, yes," he said. "And now having done your duty to your discretion, do it to your friendship for me too. I know very well that a man who comes from a Roman monastery, with letters from the French ambassador, does not come for nothing. Is there some new scheme on hand?--for the honour of Holy Church, no doubt?"

I thanked God then that I had said not one word in my letter that Shaftesbury himself might not have read. I had been in two minds about it; but had determined to wait until I saw my cousin and learned for myself what kind of man he was.


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