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   Chapter 6 No.6

Come Rack! Come Rope! By Robert Hugh Benson Characters: 5400

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


Two hours later Robin was still lying completely dressed on his bed in the dark.

It was a plain little chamber where he lay, fireless, yet not too cold, since it was wainscoted from floor to ceiling, and looked out eastwards upon the pleasaunce, with rooms on either side of it. A couple of presses sunk in the walls held his clothes and boots; a rush-bottomed chair stood by the bed; and the bed itself, laid immediately on the ground, was such as was used in most good houses by all except the master and mistress, or any sick members of the family-a straw mattress and a wooden pillow. His bows and arrows, with a pair of dags or pistols, hung on a rack against the wall at the foot of his bed, and a little brass cross engraved with a figure of the Crucified hung over it. It was such a chamber as any son of a house might have, who was a gentleman and not luxurious.

A hundred thoughts had gone through his mind since he had flung himself down here shaking with passion; and these had begun already to repeat themselves, like a turning wheel, in his head. Marjorie; his love for her; his despair of that love; his father; all that they had been, one to the other, in the past; the little, or worse than little, that they would be, one to the other, in the future; the priest's face as he had seen it three days ago; what would be done at Easter, what later-all these things, coloured and embittered now by his own sorrow for his words to his father, and the knowledge that he had shamed himself when he should have suffered in silence-these things turned continually in his head, and he was too young and too simple to extricate one from the other all at once.

Things had come about in a manner which yesterday he would not have thought possible. He had never before spoken so to one to whom he owed reverence; neither had this one ever treated him so. His father had stood always to him for uprightness and justice; he had no more questioned these virtues in his father than in God. Words or acts of either might be strange or incomprehensible, yet the virtues themselves remained always beyond a doubt; and now, with the opening of the door which his father's first decision had accomplished, a crowd of questions and judgments had rushed in, and a pillar of earth and heaven was shaken at last…. It is a dreadful day when for the first time to a young man or maiden, any shadow of God, however unworthy, begins to tremble.

* * * * *

He understood presently, however, what an elder man, or a less childish, would have understood at once-that these things must be dealt with one by one, and that that which lay nearest to his hand was his own fault. Even then he fought with his

conscience; he told himself that no lad of spirit could tolerate such insults against his love, to say nothing of the injustice against himself that had gone before; but, being honest, he presently inquired of what spirit such a lad would be-not of that spirit which Marjorie would approve, nor the gentle-eyed priest he had spoken with….

Well, the event was certain with such as Robin, and he was presently standing at the door of his room, his boots drawn off and laid aside, listening, with a heart beating in his ears to hinder him, for any sound from beneath. He did not know whether his father were abed or not. If not, he must ask his pardon at once.

He went downstairs at last, softly, to the parlour, and peeped in. All was dark, except for the glimmer from the stove, and his heart felt lightened. Then, as he was cold with his long vigil outside his bed, he stirred the embers into a blaze and stood warming himself.

How strange and passionless, he thought, looked this room, after the tempest that had raged in it just now. The two glasses stood there-his own not quite empty-and the jug between them. His father's chair was drawn to the table, as if he were still sitting in it; his own was flung back as he had pushed it from him in his passion. There was an old print over the stove at which he looked presently-it had been his mother's, and he remembered it as long as his life had been-it was of Christ carrying His cross.

His shame began to increase on him. How wickedly he had answered, with every word a wound! He knew that the most poisonous of them all were false; he had known it even while he spoke them; it was not to curry favour with her Grace that his father had lapsed; it was that his temper was tried beyond bearing by those continual fines and rebuffs; the old man's patience was gone-that was all. And he, his son, had not said one word of comfort or strength; he had thought of himself and his own wrongs, and being reviled he had reviled again….

There stood against the wall between the windows a table and an oaken desk that held the estate-bills and books; and beside the desk were laid clean sheets of paper, an ink-pot, a pounce-box, and three or four feather pens. It was here that he wrote, being newly from school, at his father's dictation, or his father sometimes wrote himself, with pain and labour, the few notices or letters that were necessary. So he went to this and sat down at it; he pondered a little; then he wrote a single line of abject regret.

"I ask your pardon and God's, sir, for the wicked words I said before I left the parlour. R." He folded this and addressed it with the proper superscription; and left it lying there.

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