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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Were of my Cousin Dorothy that little maid


When

she came to me, I kissed her on the forehead, and not upon the cheek which she offered me.

"Is that the Italian custom?" cried my Cousin Tom. "Why, we can teach you better than that--eh, Dolly?"

She said nothing to that; but looked at me a little anxiously and then at the table where the wine stood; and I thought that I understood her.

"Well, cousin," I said, "I, too, had best be off to bed. We had best both go. I do not want to lie awake half the night; and if you wake me when you come to bed, I shall not sleep again."

He tried to persuade me to stay and drink a little more; but I would not: and for very courtesy he had to come with me.

In spite of my drowsiness, however, when I was once in bed and the light was out I could not at once sleep. I heard the watchman go by and cry that it was a fine night; and I heard the carriages go by, and the chairs; and saw the light of the links on the ceiling at the end of my bed; and I heard a brawl once and the clash of swords and the scream of a woman; as well as the snoring of my Cousin Tom, who fell asleep at once, so full he was of French wine. But it was not these things that kept me awake, except so far as they were signs to me of where I was.

For here I was in London at last, which, whatever men may say, is the heart of the

world, as Rome is the heart of the Church; and there, within a gunshot, was the gate of Whitehall where the King lived, and where my fortunes lay. Neither was I here as a mere Englishman come home again after seven years, but as a messenger from the Holy See, with work both to find and to do. To-morrow I must set out, to buy, as I may say, the munitions of war--my clothes and my new periwigs and my swords and my horses; and then after that my holy war was to begin. I had my letters not only to the Court, but to the Jesuits as well--though of these I had been careful to say nothing to my cousin; for I could present these very well without his assistance. And this holy war I was to carry on by my own wits, though a soldier in that great army of Christ that fights continually with spiritual weapons against the deceits of Satan.

I wondered, then, as I lay there in the dark, as to whether this war would be as bloodless as seemed likely; whether indeed it were true (and if true, whether it were good or bad) that Catholics should again almost be in the fashion, as my cousin had said. There were still those old bloody laws against us; was it so sure that they would never be revived again? And if they were revived, how should I bear myself; and how would my Cousin Jermyn, and all those other Catholics of whom London was so full?

Of all these things, then, I thought; but my last thoughts, before I commended myself finally to God and Our Lady, were of my Cousin Dorothy--that little maid, as I feigned to myself to think of her. Yes; I would go down to Hare Street in Hertfordshire so soon as I conveniently could, without neglecting my business. It would be pleasant to see what place it was that my Cousin Dorothy called her home.


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