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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Mistress Dorothy must recover herself alone


God!" said he. "The minx! to behave like that!"

"It is no longer any concern of mine," I said. "For myself I shall go back to town to-morrow."

"But--" began he.

"My dear Cousin," I said, "it is the only thing that I can do--to set to work again. Mistress Dorothy must recover herself alone. I could not expect her to tolerate such a personage as I must appear in her eyes."

"But you will came back again," said Tom. "And I'll talk to the chit as she deserves."

I preserved my lofty attitude.

"That again," said I, "is no concern of mine. And as for coming back, when Mistress Dorothy has found her a husband whom she can respect--we may perhaps consider it."

He sat very silent for a while after that; and I know now, though I did not know then, what was the design he was considering--at least I suppose it was then that he saw it clear before him. At the time I thought he was giving his attention to myself; and I wondered a little that he did not press me again to stay, though I would not have done so.

It was a very desolate morning when I awakened next day, and knew what had happened, and that I must go away again from the house I had learned so much to love; but there was no help for it; and, as I put on my clothes,

I put on my pride with them; and came down very cold and haughty to get my "morning" as we called it, in the dining-room before riding; and there in the dining-room was my Cousin Dolly, whom I had thought to be in her chamber, as the door was shut when I came past it.

We bade one another good morning very courteously indeed; but we gave no other salute to one another. She knew last night that I was going, as my Cousin Tom had told her maid to tell her; and I was surprised that she was there. Presently I had an explanation of it.

"Cousin Roger," said she, "I was very angry last night; and I wished to tell you I was sorry for that, and for the hard words I used, before you went away."

I bowed my head very dignifiedly.

"And I, too," I said, "must ask your pardon for so taking you by surprise. I thought--" and then I ceased.

She had looked a little white and tired, I thought; but she flushed again with anger when I said that.

"You thought it would be no surprise," she said.

"I did not say so, Cousin," said I. "You have no right to interpret--"

"But you thought it."

I drank my ale.

"Oh! what you must think of me!" she cried in a sudden passion; and ran out of the room.

* * * * *

I think that was the most disconsolate journey I have ever taken. It was a cold morning, with a fine rain falling: my man James was disconsolate too (and I remembered the dairy-maid, when I saw it), and I was leaving the one place I had begun to think of as my home, and her who had so much made it home to me. I had not even seen her again before I went; and our last words had been of anger; and of that chopping kind of argument that satisfies no one.

I tried to distract myself with other thoughts--of what I was going to; for I had determined to go straight to Whitehall and ask for some employment; yet back and back again came the memories, and little scenes of the house, and the appearance of the Great Chamber when it was all lit up, and of the figure of that little maid who had so angered me, and the way she carried her head, and the turns of her hand--and how happy we all were yesterday about this time. However, I need not enlarge upon that. Those that have ever so suffered will know what I thought, without more words; and those who have not suffered would not understand, though I used ten thousand. And every step of all the way to London, which we reached about six o'clock, spoke to me of her with whom I had once ridden along it. As we came up into Covent Garden I turned to my man James and gave him more confidence than I had ever given to him before--for I think that he knew what had happened.

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