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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

And I was still brooding when she came in again


Roger!" she said, "I shall never keep my promise unless I am distracted. We will go to the play: you and I and Anne, all together: and your man James shall wait upon us with oranges."

Well; she had said it; and I laughed at her merriment: she was so like a child on her holiday, and a stolen holiday too. The ways of God are very strange--that so much should hang upon so little! It was upon that sudden thought of hers that the whole of my life turned; and hers too! As it was, I said nothing but that it should be as she wished; and that my coach should set us down there and come again when the play was over. So the threads are caught up in those great unseen shuttles that are guided by God's Hand, and the whole pattern changed, it would appear, by a moment's whim. And yet I cannot doubt--for if I did, my whole faith would be shattered--that even those whims are part of the Divine design, and that all is done according to His Holy Will.

The rest of supper was hastened, lest we should be late for the play; and then, when James came up to tell us that the coach was waiting--though it was scarcely a hundred yards to the King's Theatre--and Dolly was gone for her hood and cloak, I stood, with a glass of wine in my hand, on the hearth, looking down at the fire.

Now I cannot tell how it was; but I suppose that the shadow that I spoke of just now, began to touch that little garden of

love in which I stood; for a kind of melancholy came on me again. While she had been with cue, it had all seemed gone; we had been as merry at supper as if nothing at all were the matter; but now, even while she was in the next chamber with her maid, I fell a-brooding once more. I thought--God knows why!--of the little parlour at Hare Street which I had not seen for so long, and of the fire that burned there, upon that hearth too--the hearth on which I had stood in my foolish patronizing pride when I had first asked her to be my wife and she had treated me as I deserved. I did not think then of how we had sat there together afterwards so often; and of the happiness I had had there, but only of that miserable Christmas night when I thought I had lost her. The mood came on me suddenly; and I was still brooding when she came in again, alone. She was in her hood, and her face looked out of it like a flower.

"Cousin Roger," she said, "I have never told you why I came up to-day."

"My dear; you did," I said. "It was your father who--"

"No; no; but this day in particular. Cousin Roger, the woman came again last night."

"The woman! What woman?" I asked.

"Why--the tall old woman--to my chamber, up the stairs. You remember? She came the night before you were sent for--why--six years ago."

I stared on her; and a kind of horror came on me.

"Ah! do not look like that," she said. "It is nothing." She smiled full at me, putting her hand on my arm.

"You saw her!" I said.

"No; no. I heard her only. It was just as it was before. But I came up to town to--to see if all were well with you. And it is: or will be. Kiss me, Roger, before we go."

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