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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Whatever that knowledge was to Dorothy


mistress, and Mr. Jermyn, I must not delay any longer. The horses will be ready."

They moved away still talking, all except my Cousin Dolly who sank upon the stairs still sobbing. She cried out after Mr. Harris to have mercy; and then fell a-crying again. When the door of the kitchen passage shut--for they were all gone out by now--her crying ceased mighty soon; and then I heard her laugh very softly to herself, and break off again, as if she had put her hand over her mouth. But I dared not speak to her yet.

I listened very carefully--for all the house was still now--for the sound of the horses' feet; and presently I heard them, and reckoned that a dozen at least must have come after me; and I heard the voices of the men too as they rode away, grow faint and cease. Then I heard my Cousin Dolly slip through the door beneath me, and she gave me one little rap to the floor of my hiding-hole as she went beneath it.

I did not hear her come back; for Cousin Tom's footsteps were loud in the kitchen passage; and the men too were tramping in and upstairs, while the maids went back to bed through the kitchen; and then, when all was quiet again I heard her voice speak suddenly in a whisper.

"You can open now, Cousin Roger, they be all gone away." I unbolted and pushed open the little door quickly enough then; and though I was dazed with the candlelight

the first thing that I saw was Dolly's face, her eyes as bright as stars with merriment and laughter, and her cheeks flushed to rose, looking up at me.


That ride of mine all night to London was such as I shall never forget, not from any outward incident that happened, but for the thoughts that went continually through my heart and brain; and I do not suppose that I spoke twenty words to James all night, until we saw about seven o'clock the smoke and spires of London against the morning sky.

* * * * *

So soon as the coast was clear, and the last sound of the horses was died away on the hill beyond the Castle Inn--for the men rode fast and hard to catch me--I was out and away in the opposite direction, to Puckeridge; but first we brought the horses back as softly as we could, with James (who, like a good servant had not stirred an inch from his orders through all the tumult which he had heard plainly enough from the meadow), round to the head of the little lane that leads from Hormead Magna into Hare Street. There we waited, I say, all four of us in silence, until we heard the hoofs no more; and then James and I mounted on our horses.

I had said scarcely a word to Dorothy, nor she to me; for we both felt, I think, that there was no great need of words after such an adventure, and that it had knit us closer together than any words could do; and, besides, that was no place to talk. Yet it was not all pure joy; for here was the knowledge which we both had, that I must go away, and that God only knew when I should get back again; and, whatever that knowledge was to Dorothy, it was as a sword for pain to me. As for my Cousin Tom, he was no better than a dummy; for he was still terrified at all that had happened, and at the magistrate's words to him. I told them both, while we were still in the house, that I must go to London, partly for that that was the last place in the world that any would look for me in, and partly--(but this I told neither of them)--for that I must return the packet to His Majesty: and I said that from London I would go to France for a little, until it seemed safe for me to get back again. But there, waiting in the dark, I said nothing at all; but before I mounted I kissed Dorothy on the cheek; and her cheek was wet, but whether with the feigned tears she had shed in the house, or with tears even dearer to me than those, I do not know. But I dared not delay any longer, for fear that when Mr. Harris came to Barkway, which was five miles away, he might learn that no one that could be James and I had passed that way, and so return to search again.

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