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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

So impatient was my Cousin Dolly


(Even

that, I observed, she said to the host and not to me.)

"The lady is impatient to get home," I said. "Is the fog likely to spread far?"

"It may be from here to Cambridge, sir," he said--"at this time of the year."

"Where are the horses?" said Dolly again.

There was no help for it. Once more we mounted; Dolly, again, assisted by the host, and not by me: but Anne was gracious enough to accept my ministrations.

For a few miles all went well: but the roads hereabouts were very soft and boggy; it was next to impossible sometimes to know whether we were right or not; and after a while one of my men waited for me--he that carried the lantern to guide the rest of us. The first I saw of him was his horse's ears, very black, like a pair of horns, against the lighted mist. "Sir," he said, "I do not know the road. I can see not five yards, light or no light."

I called out to James.

"James," said I, "do you know where we are?"

"No, sir," said he, "at least not very well."

"Cousin," I said--(for Dolly had reined up her horse close behind, not knowing, I suppose, that I was so near). "Cousin, I am sorry to trouble you; but unless you can lead us--"

"Give

me the lantern," she said sharply to my man.

She took it from him, and pushed forwards. I wheeled my horse after her and followed. The rest fell in behind somewhere. I did not say one word, good or bad; for a certain thought had come to me of what might happen. She thought, I suppose, that Anne was behind her.

So impatient was my Cousin Dolly, that, certain of her road, as she supposed, she urged her horse presently into a kind of amble. I urged mine to the same; and so, for perhaps ten minutes, we rode in silence. I could hear the horses behind--or rather the sucking noise of their feet,--fall behind a little, and then a little more. The men were talking, too; and so was Anne, to them--for she liked men's company, and did not get very much of it in Dolly's service--and this I suppose was the reason why they did not notice how the distance grew between us. After about ten minutes I heard a man shout; but the fog deadened his voice, so that it sounded a great way off; and Dolly, I suppose, thought he was not of our party at all; for she never turned her head; and besides, she was intent on hating me, and that, I think, absorbed her more than she knew. I said nothing; I rode on in silence, seeing her like an outline only in the dark, now and again--and, more commonly nothing but a kind of lighted mist, now and then obscured. It appeared to me that we were very far away to the right; but then I never professed to know the way; and it was no business of mine. Truly the very courses of nature fought against my cousin and her passionate ways. Presently I turned at a sound; and there was James' mare at my heels. I knew her even in the dark, by the white blaze on her forehead. I had been listening for the voices; and had not noticed he was there. I reined up, instantly; and as he came level I plucked his sleeve.


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