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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

By which the sunken way passed very near


me," she wailed, "leave me, you coward!"

I set my teeth.

"I shall not," I said. "I shall punish you by remaining. I know you hate my company. Well, you will submit to it, then, because I choose so. Now then, let us see--"

Then she burst out suddenly into a passion of weeping. I set my teeth harder than ever. There was only one way, after all, to get the better of Dolly; and I had pitched on it.

"Yes: it is very well to cry," I said. "You nearly had me killed just now. Well: you will have to listen to me presently, whether you like it or not. Give me the lantern."

She made no movement. She had fought down the tears a little; but I could hear her breath still sobbing. I reached up and took the lantern from her right hand.

"Now; where in God's name are we?" said I.

We had ridden into some kind of blind alley, I presently saw; and that was why Dolly's horse had halted. Even that I had not owed to her goodwill. For we had ridden, I saw presently, lifting the lantern up and down, into a great chalk pit; and must have turned off along the track that led to it, from one of those sunken ways that drovers use to bring their flocks up to the high road. That we were to the right of the high road I was certain, of my own observation. _Ergo_; if we could

get back into the sunken way and turn to the right, we might find ourselves on familiar ground again. However, I said nothing of this to Dolly. I was resolved that she should suffer a little more first. I took the bridles of the two horses more securely, slipping my hand with the lantern through the bridle of my own, turned their heads round and walked between them, looking very closely on this side and that, and turning my lantern every way. After twenty yards I saw that I was right. The bank on my left proved to be no bank, but the cliff-edge of the chalk pit only, by which the sunken way passed very near. I led the horses round to the right; and there were we, in the very situation I had surmised. Still holding Dolly's bridle, I mounted my own horse; and when I had done so, to secure myself and her the better, I pulled the reins suddenly over her horse's head, and brought them into my left hand.

"That is safer," I observed. "Now we can pretend to be friends again; and hold that conversation of which I spoke after we left London."

There was no answer, as we set out along the way. It was a little clearer by now; and I could see the bank on my right. I glanced at her; and in the light of the lantern I could see that she was sitting very upright and motionless like a shadow. I lowered the lantern to the right side, so that she was altogether in the dark and the bank illuminated. I felt a little compassion for her indeed; but I dared not shew it.

"Now, Cousin," I said, "I preached to His Majesty yesterday; and he told me I should be a Bishop at least. Now it is you that must hear a sermon."

Again she said nothing.

I had rehearsed pretty well by now all that I meant to say to her; and it was good for me that I had, else I might have fallen weak again when I saw her so unhappy. As it was I kept back some of the biting sentences I had prepared. My address was somewhat as follows. We jogged forward very gingerly as I spoke.

"Cousin," I began, "you have treated me very ill. The first of your offences to me was that, though I had earned, I think, the right to call myself your friend, neither you nor your father gave me any hint whatever of your going to Court. I know very well why you did not; and I shall have a little discourse to make to your father upon the matter, at the proper time. But for all that I had a right to be told. If you were to go, I might at least have got you better protection in the beginning than that of the--the--well--of Her Grace of Portsmouth.

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