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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

And arrived at Waltham Cross a little before sunset


It was a little after noon next day that first we saw the Norman church upon the hill, and then the roofs of Hare Street.

I had been astonished at the badness of the roads from London, coming as I had from Rome, where paved ways go out in every direction. We came out by Bishopsgate, by the Ware road, and arrived at Waltham Cross a little before sunset, riding through heavy dust that had hardly been laid at all by the recent rains. We rode armed, with four servants, besides my Cousin Dorothy's maid, for fear of the highwaymen who had robbed a coach only last week between Ware and London. My Cousin Dorothy rode a white mare named Jenny which mightily became her. We lay at the _Four Swans_ at Waltham Cross, and went out before supper to see the Cross which was erected where Queen Eleanor's body had lain--of which the last was at Charing Cross--and I was astonished that the Puritans had not more mutilated it. The beds were pretty comfortable, and the ale excellent, so that once more my Cousin Tom drank too much of it. And so, early in the morning we took horse again, and rode through Puckeridge, where we left for the first time the road by which the King went to Newmarket, when he went through Royston; and we found the track very bad thenceforward. My Cousin Tom carried with him, though for no purpose except for show, a map by John Ogilby which shows all the way from London to King's Lynn, very ingeniously, and which was made after the Restoration to encourage road traffic again; but it was pleasant for me to look at it from time to time and see what progress we made towards Hormead Magna which is the parish in which Hare Street lies.

Now it was very pleasant for me to ride, as I did a good deal, with my Cousin Dorothy; for her father, for a great part, rode with the men and cracked stories with them. For journeying with a person sets up a great deal of intimacy; and acquaintance progresses at least as swiftly as the journey itself. She spoke to me very freely of her father, though never as a daughter should not; and told me how distressed she was sometimes at the quantity of ale and strong waters that he drank. She told me also how seldom it was that a Catholic could hear mass at Hare Street: sometimes, she said, a priest would lie there, and say mass in the attic; but not very often; and sometimes if a priest were in the neighbourhood they would ride over and hear mass wherever he happened to be. The house, she said, lay near upon the road, so that they would hear a good deal of news in this way. But she told me nothing of another matter--for indeed she could not--which distressed her; though I presently guessed it for myself, as will appear in the course of this tale.

My horse, Peter (as I had named him after the Apostle when I bought him at Dover), was pretty weary as we came in sight of the church of Hormead Parva; for I had given him plenty to do while I was in London; and he stumbled three or four times.


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