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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

But she too was greatly sunburnt


As

I sat on my horse, waiting while my man went in to one of the doorways to inquire, a gentleman ran suddenly out of another, with no hat on his head.

"Why, you are my Cousin Roger, are you not?" he cried from the steps.

"Then you are my Cousin Tom Jermyn," I said.

"The very man!" he cried back; and ran down to hold my stirrup.

All the way up the stairs he was talking and I was observing him. He seemed a hearty kind of fellow enough, with a sunburnt face from living in the country; and he wore his own hair. He was still in riding-dress; and he told me, before we had reached the first landing, that he was come but an hour ago from his house at Hare Street, in Hertfordshire.

"And I have brought little Dorothy with me," he cried. "You remember little Dorothy? She is a lady of quality now, aged no less than sixteen; and is come up to renew her fal-lals for her cousin's arrival; for you must come down with us to Hare Street when your business is done."

I cannot say that even after all this heartiness, I thought very much of my Cousin Tom. He spoke too loud, I thought, on the common stair: but I forgot all that when I came into the room that was already lighted with a pair of wax candles and set eyes on my Cousin Dorothy, who stood up as we came in, still in her riding-dress, with

her whip and gloves on the table. Now let me once and for all describe my Cousin Dorothy; and then I need say no more. She was sixteen years old at this time--as her father had just told me. She was of a pale skin, with blue eyes and black lashes and black hair; but she too was greatly sunburnt, with the haymaking (as her father presently told me again; for she spoke very little after we had saluted one another). She was in a green skirt and a skirted doublet of the same colour, and wore a green hat with a white feather; but those things I did not remember till I was gone to bed and was thinking of her. It is a hard business for a lover to speak as he should of the maid who first taught him his lessons in that art; but I think it was her silence, and the look in her eyes, that embodied for me at first what I found so dear afterwards. She was neither tall nor short; she was very slender; and she moved without noise. All these things I write down now from my remembrance of the observations that I made afterwards. It would be foolish to say that I loved her so soon as I saw her; for no man does that in reality, whatever he may say of it later; I was aware only that here was a maid whose presence made the little room very pleasant to me, and with whom taking supper would be something more than the swallowing of food and drink.

The rooms of my lodging were good enough, as I saw when my Cousin Tom flung open the doors to show me them all. They were three in number: this room into which we had first come from the stairs was hung in green damask, with candles in sconces between the panels of the stuff; the door on the left opened into the room where my Cousin Dorothy would lie, with her maid; and that on the right my Cousin Tom and I would share between us. The windows of all three looked out upon the piazza.


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