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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

But it was principally of my Cousin Dolly that I thought


The

third thing that I had to think upon was Hare Street to which I was going as fast as I could, and of those who would greet me there, and most of all, I need not say, of my Cousin Dolly. Her father had written to me two or three times during the four months that I had been away; and his last had been the letter of a very much frightened man, what with the news that had come to him of the proceedings in London and the feeling against the Catholics. But I had written back to him that nothing was to be feared if he would but stay still and hold his tongue; and that I myself would be with him presently, I hoped, and would reassure him; for in spite of the hot feeling in London the country Catholics suffered from it little or not at all, so long as they minded their own business. But it was principally of my Cousin Dolly that I thought; for the memory of her had been with me a great deal during the four months I had lived in London; but I was determined to do nothing in a hurry, since the remembrance of her father's words to me, and, even more, of his manner and look in speaking, stuck in my throat and hindered me from seeing clearly. I knew very well, however, that my principal reason why I urged Peter on over the bad roads, was that I might see her the more quickly.

Nothing of any importance happened to us on the way. At Hoddesdon the memory of Mr. Rumbald came back to my mind, and I wondered where it was in Hoddesdon or near it that he had his malt-houses;

and before that we stayed again for dinner at the _Four Swans_ in Waltham Cross, where the host knew me again and asked how matters were in London; and we came at last in sight of the old church at Hormead Parva, just as the sun was going down upon our left. Peter, my horse, knew where he was then, and needed no more urging, for he knew that his stable was not far away.

They knew of course nothing of my coming; and when I dismounted in the yard there was not a man to be seen. I left my horse with James; and went along the flagged path that led to the door, and beat upon the door. The house seemed all dark and deserted; and it was not till I had beaten once more at the door that I saw a light shewing beneath it. Presently a very unsteady voice cried out to know who was there; and I knew it for my Cousin Tom's; so I roared at him that it was myself. There followed a great to-do of unlocking and unbarring--for they had the house--as I found presently--fortified as it were a castle; and when the door was undone there was my Cousin Tom with a great blunderbuss and two men with swords behind him.

"Why, whatever is forward?" I said sharply; for I was impatient with the long waiting and the cold, for a frost was beginning as the sun set.

"Why, Cousin Roger, we knew nothing of your coming," said my Cousin Tom, looking a little foolish, I thought. "We did not know who was at the door."

"I only knew myself of my coming yesterday," I said. "And whatever is the house fortified for?"

My cousin was putting up the bolts again as I spoke; (the two men were gone away into the back of the house);--and, as soon as he had done, he said:

"Why, there are dangerous folks about, Cousin Roger. And it is a Catholic house, you see."

I smiled at that; but said no more; for at that moment my Cousin Dolly came through from the back of the house where she had been sent by her father for safety; and at that sight I thought no more of the door.

I saluted her as a cousin should; and she me. She looked mighty pretty to me, in her dark dress, with her lace on, for supper was just on the table; and I cannot but think she was pleased to see me, for she was all smiling and flushed.


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