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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

As well as certain other gossip too


I

might have stood and paced there till midnight, had not one of the sentinels at the water-gate--placed there I suppose, as Mr. Chiffinch had told me just now, as an additional security, after nightfall--stepped out from his place and challenged me. I had had the word, of course, as I came in; and I gave it him, and he was contented. But I was not. Here, thought I, is my opportunity.

"Here," said I, "can you tell me where Mistress Dorothy Jermyn is lodged?"

He was a young fellow, plainly from the country, as I saw, by his look in the light of the lantern he had.

"No, sir," he said.

"Think again," I said. "She is under the protection of Her Grace of Portsmouth. She is one of the Queen's ladies."

"Is she a little lady, sir--from the country--that came last month?"

"Yes," I said, feigning that I knew all about it, and trying to control my voice. "That is she."

"Why, she is with the others, sir," he said.

"She is not with the Duchess then?"

"No, sir; I know she is not. There is no lady with the Duchess beside her own. I was on my duty there last week."

This was something of a relief. At least she was not with that woman.

justify;">Now I knew where the Queen's Maids lodged. It was not an hundred yards away, divided by a little passage-way from Her Majesty's apartment, and adjoining the King's, with a wall between. There were five of these; besides those who lodged with their families--but they changed so continually that I could not be sure whether I knew any of them or not. I had had a word or two once with Mademoiselle de la Garde; but she was the only one I had ever spoken with; and besides, she might no longer be there; and she was a great busybody too; and beyond her I knew only that there was an old lady, whose name I had forgot, that was called Governess to them all and played the part of duenna, except when she could be bribed by green oysters and Spanish wine, not to play it. Such fragments of gossip as that was all that I could remember; as well as certain other gossip too, as to the life of these ladies, which I strove to forget.

However, I could do nothing at that instant, but bid the man good-night, and go up into the palace again with a brisk assured air, as if I knew what I was about. A bell beat eight from the clock-tower, as I went. Then when I had turned the corner to the left, I stopped again to reckon up what I knew.

This did not come to very much. Her Majesty, I knew, was attended always by two Maids of Honour at the least; and at this hour would be, very likely, at cards with them, if there were no reception or entertainment. If there were, then all would be there, and Dolly with them; and even in that humour I did not think of forcing my way into Her Majesty's presence and demanding my cousin. These receptions or parties or some such thing, were at least twice or three times a week, if Her Majesty were well. The reasonable thing to do, I confess, was to go home to Covent Garden, quietly; and come again the next day and find out a little; but there was very little reason in me. I was set but upon one thing; and that was to see Dolly that night with my own eyes; and assure myself that matters were, so far, well with her.


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