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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

And listen to the singing coming out of the candlelight


And

at that my Cousin Tom looked at me in such a manner as near to ruin his own scheme; for his eyes said, if his mouth did not, that now we understood one another; and were upon the same side, or at least not opposed; and to think that I was leagued with him against her made my heart hot with anger.

"Very well," he said; "we will say no more at present." And he bade me observe an old ram that was regarding us, with a face not unlike Cousin Tom's own: but I suppose that he did not know this.

* * * * *

In this manner, then, began our life at Hare Street; for I was there six weeks before I went back again to London in the way I shall relate presently. The days were passed for the most time, from rising until dinner, upon the farm, or in hunting; for we rode out now and again with the neighbours after a stag who had come from the woods. But we did not, because of the Papistry of the house, see a great deal of the neighbours, or they of us. The parson of Hormead came to see us now and again, and behaved very civilly: but during those six weeks we had no sight of a priest, except once when we rode to Standon to hear mass. After dinner, I gave myself up to writing; for I thought that I could best serve His Holiness in this way, making my diary each day in shorthand (as I had learned from an Italian); and it is from that very diary that this narrative is

composed; and I wrote too a report or two, apologizing for the poverty of it, which I determined to send to the Cardinal Secretary as soon as I had an opportunity. I read too a little Italian or Spanish or French every day; and thus, for the most part kept to my chamber. But all my papers I put away each afternoon in the little hiding-place in my chamber; and made excuse for keeping my room on the score of my practice in languages.

We supped at five o'clock--which was the country hour; and after that, to me, came the best part of the day.

For my Cousin Dorothy, I had learned, was an extraordinary fine musician. We had, of course, no music such as was possible in town; but she had taught a maid to play upon a fiddle, and herself played upon the bass-viol; and the two together would play in the Great Chamber after supper for an hour or two, when the dishes were washed. In this manner we had many a corrant and saraband; and I was able to prick down for them too some Italian music I remembered, which she set for the two instruments. Sometimes, too, when Cousin Tom was not too drowsy after his day and his ale, the three would sing and I would listen; for my Cousin Tom sang a plump bass very well when he was in the mood for it. As for me, I had but a monk's voice, that is very well when all the choir is a-cry together, but not of much use under other circumstances. In this way then I made acquaintance with a number of songs--such as Mr. Wise's "It is not that I love you less" and his duet "Go, perjured man!" of which the words are taken from Herrick's "Hesperides," and of which the music was made by Mr. Wise (who was a gentleman of the Chapel Royal) at His Majesty's express wish.

* * * * *

I have many very pleasant memories of Hare Street, but I think none more pleasant than of the music in the Great Chamber. I would sit near the window, and see them in the evening light, with their faces turned to me; or, when it grew late with the candlelight upon them and their dresses or sometimes when the evening was fair and warm I would sit out upon the lawn, and they at the window, and listen to the singing coming out of the candlelight, and see them move against it. My Cousin Dorothy would make herself fine in the evening--not, I mean, like a Court lady, for these dresses of hers were put away in lavender--but with a lace neckerchief on her throat and shoulders, and lace ruffles at her wrists.


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