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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

We had best have a little truce an armed truce


"James,"

I whispered in Italian, lest Dolly should catch even a phrase of what I said--"not a word. Go back and find the others. Leave us. We will find our way."

James was an exceedingly discreet and sensible fellow--as I knew. He reined back upon the instant, and was gone in the black mist; and I could hear his horse's footsteps passing into the distance. What he thought, God and he alone knew; for he never told me.

The soft sound of the hoofs was scarcely died away, before I too had to pull in suddenly; for there were the haunches of Dolly's horse before the very nose of my poor grey. She had halted; and was listening. I held my breath.

"Anne," she said suddenly. "Anne, where are you?"

As in the Scripture--there was no voice nor any that answered. There was no sound at all but the creaking of the harness, and the soft breathing of the horses, for we had been coming over heavy ground. The world was as if buried in wool.

"Anne," she said again; and I caught a note of fear in her voice.

"Cousin," said I softly, "I fear Anne is lost, and so are the rest. You see you would not speak to me; and it was none of my business--"

"Who is that?" said she sharply. But she knew well enough.

I resolved to spare her nothing;

for I was beginning to understand her a little better.

"It is Cousin Roger," I said. "You see you said you knew the road, and so--"

Then she lashed her horse suddenly; and I heard him plunge. But he could not go fast, from the heaviness of the ground; and he was very weary too, as were we all. Besides, she forgot that she carried the lantern, I think; and I was able to follow her easily enough; as the light moved up and down. Then the light halted once more; and I saw a great whiteness beyond it which I could not at first understand.

I came up quietly; and spoke again.

"Dolly, my dear; we had best have a little truce--an armed truce, if you will--but a truce. You can be angry with me again afterwards."

"You coward!" she said, with a sob in her voice, "to lead me away like this--"

"My dear, it was you who did the leading. Do me bare justice. I have followed very humbly."

She made no answer.

"Cousin; be reasonable," I said. "Let us find the way out of this; and when we are clear you can say what you will--or say nothing once more."

She took me at my word, and preserved her deadly silence.

I slipped off my horse; she was within an arm's length, and, not trusting her, I passed my arm with scarcely a noticeable movement through her bridle. It was well that I did so; for an instant after she tore at the bridle, not knowing I had hold of it, and lashed her horse again, thinking to escape whilst I was on the ground. I was very near knocked down by the horse's shoulder, but I slipped up my hand and caught him close to the bit--holding my own with my other hand.

"You termagant!" I said, as soon as I had them both quiet; for I was very angry indeed to be treated so after all my gentleness. "No more trust for me. It would serve you right if I left you here."


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