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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Is Mistress Jermyn within doors


the last I set out bravely, my legs carrying me along--as it appears to me now--of their own accord: for I cannot say that I had formed any design at all of what I should do; and there I found myself after a minute or two of walking in the rain, at the door of the lodgings where all the ladies that had not their families at Court lived together. There were three steps up to the heavy oaken door that was studded over with nails; and in the little window by the door a light was burning. I had come by the sentinel that stood before the way up to the King's lodgings, and had given him the word; but I saw that he was watching me, and that I must shew no hesitation. I went therefore up the steps, as bold as a lion, and knocked upon the oaken door.

I waited a full minute; but there was no answer; so I knocked again, louder; and presently heard movements within, and the sound of the bolts being drawn. Then the door opened, but only a little; and I saw an old woman's face looking at me.

She said something; but I could not hear what it was.

"Is Mistress Jermyn within doors?" I asked.

The old face mumbled at me; but I could not hear a word. "Is Mistress Jermyn within?" I asked again.

Once again the face mumbled at me; and then the door began to close.

This would never do; so I set

my foot against it, suddenly all overcome with impatience--(for I was in no mood to chop words)--and with the same kind of fury that had seized me in Mr. Chiffinch's rooms. I saw red, as the saying is; and it was not likely that a deaf old woman would stop me. She fluttered the door passionately; and then, as I pushed on it, she cried out. There was a great rattle of footsteps, and as I came into the little paved entrance, a heavy bald fellow ran out of the room where I had seen the light--(which was the porter's parlour)--in his shirt-sleeves, very angry and hot-looking.

He looked at me, like a bull, with lowered head; and I saw that he carried some weapon in his hand.

"Is Mistress Jermyn within doors?" I asked, putting on a high kind of air.

"Who the devil are you?" said he.

I was not going to argue that point, for it was the weakest spot in my assault. So I sat down on the stairs that rose straight up to the first floor. (It was a little oak-panelled entrance that I was in, with a single lamp burning in a socket on the wall.)

"You will first answer my question," I said. "Is Mistress Jermyn within doors?"

Then he came at me, thinking, I suppose that my sitting down gave him an advantage, and he lifted his weapon as he came. I had no time to draw my own sword--which was besides, somewhere between my legs; but I rose up, and, as I rose, struck out at his chin with all my force, with my whole weight behind.

He staggered back against the doorway he had come out by; and the same moment two things happened. The old woman screamed aloud; and Dolly sprang suddenly out on to the head of the stairs, from a door that opened there, full into the light of the lamp.

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