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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

And at that grew reassured again


My

Cousin Dorothy was pale as death by this time; and her blue eyes were set wide open. I made to take her by the hand; but I did not.

"You were dreaming," I said; "it was the memory of the tale you have heard."

She shook her head; but she said nothing.

"You have never had it before?" I asked.

"Never," she said.

"You must lie in another chamber for a week or two, and forget it."

"I cannot do that," she said. "My father would know of it." And she spoke so courageously that I was reassured.

"Well; you must cry out if it comes again. You can have your maid to sleep with you."

"I might do that," she said; and then--

"Cousin Roger; doth God permit these things to provide us against some danger?"

"It may be so," I said, to quiet her; "but be sure that no harm can come of it."

At that we heard her father calling her; and she stood up.

"I have told you as a secret, Cousin Roger; there must be no word to my father."

I pledged myself to that; for I could see what a spirit she had; and we said no more about it then.

As

the day passed on, the sky grew heavy--or rather the air; for the sky was still blue overhead; only on the horizon to the south the clouds that are called _cumuli_ began to gather. The air was so hot too that I could scarcely bear to work, for I had set myself to take some plant-cuttings in a little glass-house that was in the garden against the south wall; and by noon the sky was overcast.

After dinner I went up to my chamber; and a great heaviness fell upon me, till I looked out of the window and saw that beyond the limes the clouds spewed a reddish tint that marked the approach of thunder; and at that grew reassured again; and not only for myself but for my Cousin Dorothy, whose tale had lain close on my heart through the morning: for this thought I, is the explanation of it all: the maid was oppressed by the heat and the approaching storm, and fancied all the rest.

I fell asleep in my chair, over my Italian; and when I awakened it was near supper-time, and the heaviness was upon me again, like lead; and my diary not written.

After supper and some talk, I made excuse to do my writing; and as it was growing dark, and I was finishing, I heard music from the Great Chamber beneath. They were singing together a song I had not heard before; and I listened, well pleased, promising myself the pleasure too of going downstairs presently and hearing it.

Between two of the verses, I heard on a sudden, over the hill-top beyond the village, the beat of a horse's hoofs, galloping; but I thought no more of it. At the end of the next verse, even before it was finished, I heard the hoofs again, through the music; I ran to the window to see who rode so fast; and was barely in time to see a courier, in a blue coat, dash past the new iron gate, pulling at his horse as he did so; an instant later, I heard the horse turn in at the yard gate, and immediately the singing ceased.

As I came down the stairs, I saw my Cousin Dolly run out into the inner lobby, and her face, in the dusk, was as white as paper; and the same instant there came a hammering at the hall door.


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