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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

I do not know my cousin well enough to advise anything


will be something of an heiress," he said; "and when I say that, I do not mean that she will have as many acres as yourself. But she will have near a thousand pound a year so soon as poor Tom Jermyn dies: and I may die any day, for I am short in the neck, and might very well be taken with an apoplexy. I wish above all things then, to see her safely married before I go--to some solid man who will care for her. There is a plenty of Protestants about here that would have her; for she is a wonderful housewife, and as pure as Diana too."

He paused at that; and looked at me in that cunning way of his that I misliked so much. Yet even now I did not see what he would be at; for gentlemen do not usually fling their daughters at the head of any man; and he knew nothing of me but that I was pretty rich and would be more so one day. But I suppose that that was enough for him.

"I had thought at one time," he went on, "of sending her to Court. I could get her in, under the protection of my Lady Arlington. But the Court is no place for a maiden who knows nothing of the world. What would you advise, Cousin Roger? I would not have her marry a Protestant, if I could help it."

And with that he looked at me again.

Then, all of a sudden I saw his meaning; and my heart stood still; for not only did his words reveal him to me, but myself also; and I understood why

he had questioned me so closely in town, as to my fortune. I cannot say at this time that I loved my Cousin Dolly--for I had not known that I loved her--but his words were very effective. Indeed I had not thought to marry, though I was free to do so; for a novice does not quickly shake off his monkishness. I had thought far more of the mission I was come to England upon, and what I could accomplish, with God's blessing, for Christ and His Church. But, as I say, my heart stood still when my cousin said that to me; for, as in a vision, I saw myself here as her husband, and her as my wife, in this house among its gardens. Here we might live a life which even the angels might envy--harmless, innocent, separate from sinners, as the Apostle says--not accomplishing, maybe, any great things, but at least refraining from the hindering of God's Kingdom. The summers would come and go, and we still be here, with our children growing about us, to inherit the place and the name, such as it was. And no harm done, no vows broken, no offence to any. Such thoughts as these did not as yet shew any very great ardour of love in me; and indeed I had not got this yet; but she was the first maid I had ever had any acquaintance with, at least for some while; and this no doubt, had its effect upon me. All this came upon me of a sudden; and as I lifted my eyes I saw my Cousin Dolly's sunbonnet going among the herbs of the garden; and saw her in my mind's eye too as I had seen her just now, cool and innocent and good, with that touch of hidden fire in her eyes that draws a man's heart. Neither had she looked unkindly on me: our intimacy had made wonderful progress, though I had known her scarcely more than a week: she had spoken to me of her father, too, as one would speak only to a friend. Yet I could not say one word of this to him; for he had not said anything explicit to me: and I knew, too, that I must give myself time; for a man does not, if he is wise, change the course of his life on an instant's thought. Yet I must not say No outright, and thereby, maybe, bang the door on my new hopes.

"I could not advise you at present," I said. "I do not know my cousin well enough to advise anything. I am one with you so far as concerns the Court: I cannot think that any Catholic father should send his daughter into such a den of lions--and worse. And I am one with you as concerns marrying her to a Protestant. Yet I can say no more at present."

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