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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

I saw presently that Dolly did not like it


the rest there was a quantity of bloodshed and intrigue and false accusation, but I was surprised, considering the subject, how little was against Popery; but Mrs. Behn was content at the end of it to make the _Cardinal_ beg pardon of _King Philip_.

For the most part then I attended to the action--(and to Dolly, of course, all the while). Yet certainly there were other moments for me, when the shadow came down again, and I saw the actors and the whole house as if in a kind of bloody mist, though I had at that time no reason for it at all, and do not think that I shewed any sign of it. Two or three times before, as I have related, there came on me a strange mood--once when I came up from Wapping, and once as I put out from Dover in the packet. But it was not that kind of mood this time. Then it was as if all the world of sense were but a very thin veil, and all that was happening a kind of dream, or play. Now it was as if the play had a shocking kind of reality, as if the audience and the actors were monstrous devils in hell; and the paint on Mrs. Lee's cheeks her true colour, and her gestures great symbols, and the noise of the people the roar of hell. This came and went once or twice; and at the time I thought it to be my own humour only; but now I know that it was something other than this. When I looked at Dolly it went again in an instant, and she and I seemed to me the heart of everything, and all else but our circumstances and for our pleasure.

style="text-align: justify;">Well; it ended at last, and there was a great deal of applauding, and Mrs. Lee came on to the stage again to bow and smile. It was then, for the third time, I think, that my horror fell on me. As I stared at her, all else seemed to turn dim and vanish. She was in her costume with the blood on her arm and breast, and her great billowy skirts about her, and her stage-jewels, and she was smiling; and I, as I looked at her, seemed to see the folly and the shame of her like fire; and yet that folly and shame had a power that nothing else had. Her smile seemed to me like the grin of a devil; and her colour to be daubs upon her bare cheek-bones, and she herself like some rotten thing with a semblance of life that was not life at all. I cannot put it into words at all: I know only that I ceased applauding, and stared on her as if I were bewitched.

Then I saw my dear love's fingers on my arm, and her face looking at me as if she were frightened.

"What is the matter, Cousin Roger?" she whispered; and then: "Come, Cousin Roger; it is late."

Then my mood passed, or I shook myself clear of it.

"Yes; yes," I said. "It is nothing. Come, my dear."

* * * * *

The little passage by which we went out was crammed full of folk, talking and whistling and laughing; some imitating the cries of the actors, some, both men and women, looking about them freely with bold eyes. I saw presently that Dolly did not like it, and that we should be a great while getting out that way; and then I saw a little door beside me that might very well lead out to the air. I pushed upon this, and saw another little passage.

"James," said I, for he was close behind me, "go out and bring the coach round to this side if there is a way out." (And then to Dolly.) "Come, sweetheart, we will find a way out here."

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