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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Asked my Cousin Tom delightedly


My

Cousin Tom carried me upstairs presently to the Guest-chamber--a great panelled room, with a wide fire-place, above the dining-room--that I might wash my hands and face before dinner; and my heart smote me a little for all my thoughts of him, for, when all was said, he had received me very hospitably, and was now bidding me welcome again, and that I must live there as long as I would, and think of it as my home.

"And here," he said, opening a door at the foot of the bed, "is a little closet where your man can hang your clothes; it looks out upon the yard; and my room is beyond it, over the kitchen."

I thanked him again and again for his kindness; and so he left me.

* * * * *

We dined below presently, very excellently. The room was hung with green, with panels of another pattern upon it; and the dishes were put in through a little hatch from the kitchen passage. My man James waited with the rest, and acquitted himself very well. Then after dinner, when the servants were gone away, my Cousin Tom carried me out, with a mysterious air, to the foot of the stairs.

"Now look well round you, Cousin Roger," he said, when he had me standing there; "and see if there be anything that would draw your attention."

I looked this way and that but saw nothing;

and said so.

"Have you ever heard of Master Owen," he said, "of glorious memory?"

"Why, yes," I said, "he was a Jesuit lay-brother, martyred under Elizabeth: and he made hiding-holes, did he not?"

"Well; he hath been at work here. Look again, Cousin Roger."

I turned and saw my Cousin Dorothy smiling--(and it was a very pretty sight too!)--but there was nothing else to be seen. I beat with my foot; and it rang a little hollow.

"No, no; those are the cellars," said my Cousin Tom.

I beat then upon the walls, here and there; but to no purpose; and then upon the stairs.

"That is the sloping roof of the pantry, only," said my Cousin Tom.

I confessed myself outwitted; and then with great mirth he shewed me how, over the door into the paved hall, there was a space large enough to hold three or four men; and how the panels opened on this side, as well as into the kitchen passage on the other.

"A priest or suchlike might very well lie here a week or two, might he not?" asked my Cousin Tom delightedly; "and if the sentry was at the one side, he might be fed from the other. It is cunningly contrived, is it not? A man has but to leap up here from a chair; and he is safe."

I praised it very highly, to please him; and indeed it was very curious and ingenious.

"But those days are done," I said.

"Who can tell that?" he cried--(though a week ago he had told me the same himself). "Some priest might very well be flying for his life along this road, and turn in here. Who knows whether it may not be so again?"


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