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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

But my Cousin Dorothy looked at me


My

man said that he understood very well, and went away, and I down to the Great Chamber where I had left my cousins.

As I came in at the door, my Cousin Tom woke up with a great snuffle; and stared at me as if amazed, as folks do when suddenly awakened.

"Well; to bed," he said. "I am half there already."

My Cousin Dorothy looked up from her sewing; and I think she knew that something was forward; for she continued to look at me.

"Not to bed yet, Cousin Tom," I said. "There is a matter I must speak of first."

Well; I sat down and told him as gently as I could--all the affair, except of the King's packet; and by the time I was done he was no longer at all drowsy. I told him too of the design I had formed, and that James was gone to carry it out.

"Had you not best be gone at once?" he said; and I saw the terror in his eyes, lest he too should be embroiled. But my Cousin Dorothy looked at me, unafraid; only there was a spot of colour on either cheek.

"Well," I said, "I can ride out into the fields and wait there, if you wish it, until morning: if you will send for me then if all be quiet."

But I explained to him again that I was in two minds as to whether I should go at all, so very small was the evidence of

danger.

He looked foolish at that; but I could see that he wanted me gone: so I stood up.

"Well, Cousin," I said, "I see that you will be easier if I go. I will begone first and see whether James has the horses out; and you had best meanwhile go to my chamber and put away all that can incriminate you--in one of your hiding-holes."

I was half-way to the kitchen when I heard my Cousin Dorothy come after me; and I could see that she was in a great way.

"Cousin," she said, "I am ashamed that my father should speak like that. If I were mistress--"

"My dear Cousin," I said lightly, "if you were mistress, I should not be here at all."

"It is a shame," she said again, paying no attention, as her way was when she liked. "It is a shame that you should spend all night in the fields for nothing."

As she was speaking I heard James come downstairs with the valises. As he went past he told me he already had the horses tied under the trees. I nodded to him, and bade him go on, and he went out into the yard and so through the stables.

"I had best go help your father put the things away," I said. "They will not be here, at any rate, until the lights of the house are all out."

We went upstairs together and found my Cousin Tom already busy: he had my clothes all in a great heap, ready to carry down to the hiding-hole above the door; my papers he already had put away into the little recess behind the bed, and the books, most of which had not my name in them, he designed to carry to his own chamber.

We worked hard at all this--my Cousin Tom in a kind of fever, rolling his eyes at every sound; and, at the last, we had all put away, and were about to close the door of the hiding-hole. Then my Cousin Dorothy held up her hand.

"Hush!" she said; and then, "There was a step on the paved walk."

CHAPTER IX

When my Cousin Dorothy said that, we all became upon the instant as still as mice; and I saw my Cousin Tom's mouth suddenly hang open and his eyes to become fixed. For myself, I cannot say precisely what I felt; but it would be foolish to say that I was not at all frightened. For to be crept upon in the dark, when all is quiet, in a solitary country place; and to know, as I did, that behind all the silence there is the roar of a mob--(as it is called)--for blood, and the Lord Chief Justice's face of iron and his bitter murderous tongue, and the scaffold and the knife--this is daunting to any man. I made no mistake upon the matter. If this were Dangerfield himself, my life was ended; he would not have come here, so far, and with such caution; he would not have been at the pains to smell me out at all, unless he were sure of his end; and, indeed, my companying so much with the Jesuits and my encounter with Oates, and my seeking service with the King, and for no pay too--all this, in such days, was evidence enough to hang an angel from heaven.


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