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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

I pushed Dolly and her maid forward as the door opened


The

village was all dark as we came through it; and all dark was the House when we pushed open the yard gates and rode in. We went through and beat upon the door, and presently heard a window thrown up.

"Who is there?" cried my Cousin Tom's voice.

I bade Dolly's maid answer. (She was all perplexed, poor wench, at the change of relations between her mistress and me.)

"It is Mistress Jermyn, sir," she said.

"Yes, father; I have come back," cried Dolly.

There was an exclamation from poor Tom; and in two or three minutes we saw a light beneath the door, and heard him drawing the bolts. I pushed Dolly and her maid forward as the door opened, and then myself strode suddenly forward into the light.

"Why--God bless--" cried Tom; who was in his coat and shoes. I could see how his face fell when he saw me. I looked at him very grimly: but I said nothing to him at once (for I was sorely tempted to laugh at his apparition), but turned to James and bade him see to the rest and find beds somewhere. Then I went after Dolly and her father into the Great Chamber, still with my hat on my head and looking very stern. He was talking very swiftly in a low voice to Dolly; but he stopped when I came in.

"Yes, Cousin Tom," I said, "I am come back again--all unlooked

for, as I see."

"But, good God!" he cried. "What is the matter; and why is Dolly here? I was but just asking--"

I pulled out the King's paper which I had all ready, and thrust it down before the lantern that he had put on the table: and I waited till he had read it through.

"There, Cousin!" I said when he was staring on me again, "that is enough warrant for both you and me, I think. Have you anything to say?"

He began to bluster.

"Cousin," I said, "if I have any patience it is because Dolly has given it back to me. You had best not say too much. You have done all the harm you could; and it is only by God's mercy that it has not been greater."

He said that he was Dolly's father and could do as he pleased. Besides, she herself had consented.

"I know that," I said, "because she has told me so; and that it was in despair that she went, because we two fools bungled our business. Well, you may be her father; but the Scripture tells us that a woman must leave her father and cleave to her husband; and that is what I am to be to her."

Well; when I said that, there was the Devil to pay--we three standing there in the cold chamber, with the draughts playing upon poor Tom's legs. He looked a very piteous object, very much fallen from that fine figure that he had presented when I had first set eyes on him; but he strove to compensate by emphasis what he lacked in dignity. He said that he had changed his mind; that even third cousins once removed should not marry; that he had now other designs for his daughter; that I had no right to dictate to him in his own house. He waxed wonderfully warm; but even then, in the first flush of his resistance I thought I saw a kind of wavering. I sat with one leg across the corner of the great table until he was done; while Dolly sat in a chair, turning her merry eyes from the one to the other of us. For myself, I felt no lack of confidence. I had beaten the daughter; now I was to beat the father.


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