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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

I had got Dolly away from Court


There

was a very short silence.

"Anne," said Dolly, "now that we can hear ourselves speak, will you tell me again the tale that you began last night?"

She said it, not at all lightly, but with a coldness and a distilled kind of anger that gave me no choice. I lifted my hat a little; shook my reins; and once more took up my position ten yards ahead. There was a low murmur of voices behind; and then silence. It appeared that the tale was not to be told after all.

* * * * *

We dined, very late, at a little inn, called the _Cross-Keys_, between Edmonton and Ware. I remember nothing at all, either of the inn or the host or the food--nothing but the name of the inn, for the name struck me, with a dreary kind of wit, as reflective of the cross-purposes which we were at. We three dined together, in profound silence, except when Dolly addressed a word or two to her maid. As for me, she took the food which I carved, all as if I were a servant, without even such a thank-you as a man gives to a servant.

We took the road again, about three o'clock; and even then the day was beginning to draw in a little, very bleak and dismal; and that, too, I took as a symbol of my heart within, and of my circumstances and prospects. Certainly I had gained my desire in one way; I had got Dolly away from Court;

yet that was the single point I had to congratulate myself upon. All else, it appeared, was ruined. I had lost all the advantage, or very nearly all, that I had ever won from the King--(for I knew, that although he had been merry at the end of the time, he would not forget how I had worsted him)--and as for Dolly, I supposed she would never speak to me again. It had been bad enough when I had left Hare Street nearly a twelvemonth ago: my return to it now was a hundred times worse.

Although Dolly, however, would not speak to me, I was entirely determined to speak to Dolly. I proposed to rehearse to her what I had done, and why; and when that was over, I would leave it in her hands whether I remained at Hare Street a day or two, or left again next morning. More than a day or two, I did not even hope for. I had insulted her--it seemed--beyond forgiveness. Yet, besides my miserableness, there was something very like pleasure as well, though of a grim sort. I had spoken my mind to her, pretty well, and would do so more explicitly; and I was to speak my mind very well indeed to her father. There was a real satisfaction to me in that prospect. Then, once more, I would shut the door for ever on Hare Street, and go back again to town, and begin all over again at the beginning, and try to retrieve a little of what I had lost. Such then were my thoughts.

We supped, at Ware--at the _Saracen's Head_, and the same wretched performance was gone through as at the _Cross-Keys_. Night was fallen completely; and we had candles that guttered not a little. Dolly was silent, however, this time, even to her maid. She did not give me one look, all through supper.

When I came out afterwards to the horses, the yard was all in a mist: I could see no more than a spot of light where the lamp should be by the stable-door. The host came with me.

"It has fallen very foggy, sir," he said. "Would it not be best to stay the night?"

I was considering the point before answering; but my cousin answered for me, from behind.

"Nonsense," said she. "I know every step of the way. Where are the horses?"


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