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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Then Dolly slammed to the door


"Why-"

cried she.

"Oh! there you are," I said bitterly. "Then Mistress Jermyn is within doors."

Then I turned and went straight upstairs after her; and, as I went heard the ring of running footsteps in the paved passage out of doors, and knew that the guard was coming up. The fellow still leaned, dazed, against the doorpost; and the old woman was pouring out scream after scream.

I went after Dolly straight into the room from which she had come. It was a little parlour, very richly furnished, with candles burning, and curtains across the windows. It looked out towards the river, I suppose. Dolly was standing, as pale as paper; but I could not tell--nor did I greatly care--whether it were anger or terror. I think I must have looked pretty frightening--(but then, she had spirit enough for anything!)--for I was still in my splashed boots and disordered dress, and as angry as I have ever been in my life. I could see she was not dressed for Her Majesty; so I supposed--(and I proved to be right)--that she was not in attendance this evening. It was better fortune than I deserved, to find her so.

"Now," said I, "what are you doing here?"

(I spoke sharply and fiercely, as to a bad child. I was far too angry to do otherwise. As I spoke, I heard the guard come in below; and a clamour of voices break out. I knew that they would

be up directly.)

"Now," I said again, "you have your choice! Will you give me up to the guard; or will you hear what I have to say? You can send them away if you will. You can say I am your cousin?"

She looked at me; but said nothing.

"Oh! I am not drunk," I said. "Now, you can--"

Then came a thunder of footsteps on the stairs; and I stopped. I knew I had broken every law of the Court; I had behaved unpardonably. It would mean the end of everything for me. But I would not, even now, have asked pardon from God Almighty for what I had done.

Then Dolly, with a gesture, waved me aside; and confronted the serjeant on the threshold.

"You can go," she said. "This is my cousin. I will arrange with them below."

The man hesitated. Over his shoulder I could see a couple more faces, glaring in at me.

Dolly stamped her foot.

"I tell you to go. Do you not hear me?"

"Mistress--" began the man.

"How dare you disobey me!" cried Dolly, all aflame with some emotion. "This is my own parlour, is it not?"

He still looked doubtfully; and his eyes wandered from her to me, and back again. He was yet just without the room. Then Dolly slammed to the door, in a passion, in his very face.

Then she wheeled on me, like lightning. (I heard the men's footsteps begin to go downstairs.)


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