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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

And I wish to ask my Cousin Dolly

* * * * *

It was very strange, that evening there, to be so with my Cousin Dolly; for each of us knew, and that the other knew that too, that matters were advanced with us, since we had been through peril together. It was strange how diffident we both were, and how we could not meet one another's eyes; and yet I was aware that she would have it otherwise if she could, and strove to be natural. We had music again that night, and Dolly and her maid sang the setting of "Go, perjured man" which she had made from Mr. Wise's. For myself, I sat in a corner by the fire and watched her. She was in grey that night, with lace, and a string of little fresh-water pearls.

When she was gone to bed, my Cousin Tom and I had a crack together; and he seemed to me more sensible than I had thought him at first. We talked of a great number of things; and he asked me about France and my life there; and I had a great ado from being indiscreet and telling him too much. I represented to him that I was gone over to be out of the way of Dangerfield, as indeed I had; but I said nothing at all to him as to my business there: and he seemed content.

He told me also of what he had written to me as to the return of Mr. Harris, very tired and angry, the next afternoon after his search of the house. He had ridden near all the way to Newmarket, inquiring for me everywhere: and had

come to the conclusion at last that I had not gone that way after all.

"He was very high with me," said my Cousin Tom, "but I was higher yet. I told him that it was not my business both to make conspirators and to arrest them; and since he had done me the honour of thinking I had done the first, I had done him the honour of thinking that he could do the second: but that it seemed I was wrong in that."

This seemed a considerable effort of wit for my Cousin Tom; but scarcely one calculated to soothe Mr. Harris.

Finally, when I was thinking of bed my Cousin Tom opened out once again on an old matter that was before my mind continually now: and he spoke, I think, very sensibly.

"Cousin Roger," he said: "there is one other affair I must speak to you of, now that you are come again to Hare Street and seem likely to remain here for a while; and that is of my daughter. I know you would not have me say too much; and I will not. But have you considered the advice you said you would give me a great while ago?"

I did not answer him for a moment; for I was not sure if he were very wise or very foolish in opening upon it again. Then I determined to be open with the man.

"Cousin Tom," I said, "I am both glad and sorry that you have spoken of this; and I will tell you the whole truth, which I think perhaps you may have guessed. The reason why I could not give you advice before was that I was not sure of my own mind. Well; I am sure of it now; and I wish to ask my Cousin Dolly, so soon as I see an opportunity to do so, if she will marry me. But I must say this--that I am going to take no risks. I shall not ask her so long as I think she will refuse me; and I think, to tell the truth, that she would not have me if I asked her now."

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