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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

To speak now of better prospects for Dolly


When

he had finished, and drew breath, I stood up.

"Very bravely said, Cousin, bare legs and all," I said. "We will speak of it all again to-morrow. But now for a bite; we have been riding since noon."

It was very strange to go upstairs again after a mouthful or two, and a glass of warm ale, and see my chamber again from which I had departed in such unhappiness near a twelvemonth ago. James had made a little fire for me, before which I drew off my boots and undressed myself. For it was from this very chamber that I had gone forth in such despair, when Dolly had said that she would not have me: and now, here I was in it again, all glowing with my ride and my drink and my great content, having kissed Dolly just now in her father's presence as a symbol of our troth. And so I went to bed and dreamed and woke and dreamed again.

We had our talk out next morning, Tom pacing up and down the Great Chamber, until I entreated him for God's sake to sit down and save my stiff neck. He was very high at first; but I was astonished how quickly he came down.

"That is very well," I said, "to speak now of better prospects for Dolly. But you will do me the honour of remembering, my dear Cousin, that in this very room once you spoke to me very differently. If you have changed your mind, you might at least have told me so; for I have not changed mine at all; and Dolly,

it seems, is come round to my way of thinking at last."

"But how did you do it?" asked he, stopping in his walk.

"I lost my temper altogether," said I; "and that is a very good way if you have tried all the rest."

"But the King, man, the King! How did you get that paper out of him? Why His Majesty himself, I am told, took particular notice--"

"Eh?" said I.

"That is no matter now," he said. "What were you going to say?"

"I must have that first," said I.

Tom began to pace the floor again.

"It is nothing at all, Cousin. It is that His Majesty spoke very kindly to my daughter upon her first coming to Court."

"I am glad I did not know that," I said, "or I might have said more to him."

"Well; but what did you say?"

Now I was in half a dozen minds as to what I should tell him. He knew for certain nothing at all of my comings and goings and of what I did for the King; yet I thought that he must have guessed a good deal. I judged it safer, therefore, to tell him a little, to stop his month; but not too much.

"Why," I said very carefully, "I have been of a little service to the King; and His Majesty was good enough to ask me if there were any little favour he could do me. So that is what I asked him."

Tom stopped in his pacing again: and it was then that I entreated him to sit down and talk like a Christian. He did so, without a word.

"In France, I suppose?" he said immediately after.

"Why, yes."

Tom looked at me again.

"And you travel with four men now, instead of one."

"I find it more convenient," I said.


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