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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

But it was not only of Dolly that I had learned my lessons


CHAPTER V

Well; I had beaten her at last; and in the only way in which she would yield. Weakness was of no use with her, nor gentleness, nor even that lofty patronage which, poor fool! I had shewn her in the parlour at Hare Street. She must be man's mate--which is certainly a rather savage relation at bottom--not merely his pretty and grateful wife. This I learned from her, as we rode onwards and up into the high road--(where, I may say in passing, there was no sign of our party)--though she did not know she was telling it me.

"Oh! Roger," she said. "And I thought you were a--a pussy-cat."

"That is the second time I have been told so in two days," I said.

"Who told you so?"

"His Majesty."

"I thought His Majesty was wiser," said she.

"He has been pretty wise, though," I said. "If it were not for him, we should not be riding here together."

"I suppose you made him do that too," she said.

* * * * *

But it was not only of Dolly that I had learned my lessons; it was of myself also. I was astonished how inevitable it appeared to me now that we should be riding together on such terms; and I understood that never, for one instant, all through this miserable year away from her, had I ever, interiorly, loosed my hold upon her. Beneath all my resolutions and wilful distractions the intention had persevered. All the while I was saying to myself in my own mind that I should never see Dolly again, something that was not my mind--(I suppose my heart)--was telling me the precise opposite. Well; the heart had been right, after all.

* * * * *

She asked me presently what I should say to her father.

"I shall forgive him a great deal now, that I thought I never should," I said with wonderful magnanimity. "A few sharp words only, and no more. You see, my dear, it was through his sending you to Court--"

"Yes: yes," she said.

"He has behaved abominably, however," I said, "and I shall tell him so. Dolly, my love."

"Yes," said she.

"I must go back very soon to town. I have been offered a piece of work; and even if I do not accept it, I must speak of it to them."

"Them?"

"Yes, my dear. I must say no more than that. It is _secretum commissum_ as we say in Rome."

"And to think that you were a Benedictine novice!" exclaimed Dolly.

We talked awhile of that then; she asked me a number of questions that may be imagined under such circumstances: and my answers also can be imagined; and we spoke of a great number of things, she and I riding side by side in the dark, our very horses friendly one with another--she telling me all of how she went to Court, and why she went, and I telling her my side of the affair--until at last in Puckeridge a man ran out from the inn yard to say that our party was within and waiting for us. They had met, it appeared, a rustic fellow who had set them right, soon after they had lost us.

I do not know what they thought at first; but I know what they thought in the end; for I rated them very soundly for not keeping nearer to us; and bade James ride ahead with the lantern with all the rest between, and Dolly and I in the rear to keep them from straying again. In this manner then did she and I contrive to have a great deal more conversation before we came a little before midnight to Hare Street.


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