MoboReader> Literature > Come Rack! Come Rope!

   Chapter 24 No.24

Come Rack! Come Rope! By Robert Hugh Benson Characters: 10253

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


Dark was beginning to fall and the lamps to be lighted as they rode in at last half an hour later, across the Fleet Ditch, through Ludgate and turned up towards Cheapside. They were to stay at an inn where Anthony was accustomed to lodge when he was not with friends-an inn, too, of which the landlord was in sympathy with the old ways, and where friends could come and go without suspicion. It was here, perhaps, that letters would be waiting for them from Rheims.

Marjorie had known Derby only among the greater towns, and neither this nor the towns where she had stayed, night by night, during the journey, had prepared her in the least for the amazing rush and splendour of the City itself. A fine, cold rain was falling, and this, she was told, had driven half the inhabitants within doors; but even so, it appeared to her that London was far beyond her imaginings. Beneath here, in the deep and narrow channel of houses up which they rode, narrowed yet further by the rows of stalls that were ranged along the pathways on either side, the lamps were kindling swiftly, in windows as well as in the street; here and there hung great flaring torches, and the vast eaves and walls overhead shone in the light of the fires where the rich gilding threw it back. Beyond them again, solemn and towering, leaned over the enormous roofs; and everywhere, it seemed to her fresh from the silence and solitude of the country, countless hundreds of moving faces were turned up to her, from doorways and windows, as well as from the groups that hurried along under the shelter of the walls; and the air was full of talking and laughter and footsteps. It meant nothing to her at present, except inextricable confusion: the gleam of arms as a patrol passed by; the important little group making its way with torches; the dogs that scuffled in the roadway; the party of apprentices singing together loudly, with linked arms, plunging up a side street; the hooded women chattering together with gestures beneath a low-hung roof; the calling, from side to side of the twisting street; the bargaining of the sellers at the stalls-all this, with the rattle of their own horses' feet and the jingling of the bits, combined only to make a noisy and brilliant spectacle without sense or signification.

Mistress Alice glanced at her, smiling.

"You are tired," she said; "we are nearly there. That is St. Paul's on the right."

Ah! that gave her peace….

They were turning off from the main street just as her friend spoke; but she had time to catch a glimpse of what appeared at first sight a mere gulf of darkness, and then, as they turned, resolved itself into a vast and solemn pile, grey-lined against black. Lights burned far across the wide churchyard, as well as in the windows of the high houses that crowned the wall, and figures moved against the glow, tiny as dolls…. Then she remembered again: how God had once been worshipped there indeed, in the great house built to His honour, but was no longer so worshipped. Or, if it were the same God, as some claimed, at least the character of Him was very differently conceived….

* * * * *

The "Red Bull" again increased her sense of rest; since all inns are alike. A curved archway opened on the narrow street; and beneath this they rode, to find themselves in a paved court, already lighted, surrounded by window-pierced walls, and high galleries to right and left. The stamping of horses from the further end; and, almost immediately, the appearance of a couple of hostlers, showed where the stables lay. Beside it she could see through the door of the brightly-lit bake-house.

She was terribly stiff, as she found when she limped up the three or four stairs that led up to the door of the living-part of the inn; and she was glad enough to sit down in a wide, low parlour with her friend as Mr. Babington went in search of the host. The room was lighted only by a fire leaping in the chimney; and she could make out little, except that pieces of stuff hung upon the walls, and a long row of metal vessels and plates were ranged in a rack between the windows.

"It is a quiet inn," said Alice. Marjorie nodded again. She was too tired to speak; and almost immediately Anthony came back, with a tall, clean-shaven, middle-aged man, in an apron, following behind.

"It is all well," he said. "We can have our rooms and the parlour complete. These are the ladies," he added.

The landlord bowed a little, with a dignity beyond that of his dress.

"Supper shall be served immediately, madam," he said, with a tactful impartiality towards them both.

* * * * *

They were indeed very pleasant rooms; and, as Anthony had described them to her, were situated towards the back of the long, low house, on the first floor, with a private staircase leading straight up from the yard to the parlour itself. The sleeping-rooms, too, opened upon the parlour; that which the two ladies were to occupy was furthest from the yard, for quietness' sake; that in which Anthony and his man would sleep, upon the other side. The windows of all three looked straight out upon a

little walled garden that appeared to be the property of some other house. The rooms were plainly furnished, but had a sort of dignity about them, especially in the carved woodwork about the doors and windows. There was a fireplace in the parlour, plainly a recent addition; and a maid rose from kindling the logs and turf, as the two ladies came back after washing and changing.

A table was already laid, lit by a couple of candles: it was laid with fine napery, and the cutlery was clean and solid. Marjorie looked round the room once more; and, as she sat down, Anthony came in, still in his mud-splashed dress, carrying three or four letters in his hands.

"News," he said…. "I will be with you immediately," and vanished into his room.

* * * * *

The sense of home was deepening on Marjorie every moment. This room in which she sat, might, with a little fancy, be thought to resemble the hall at Booth's Edge. It was not so high, indeed; but the plain solidity of the walls and woodwork, the aspect of the supper-table, and the quiet, so refreshing after the noises of the day, and, above all, after the din of their mile-long ride through the City-these little things, together with the knowledge that the journey was done at last, and that her old friend Robin was, if not already come, at least soon to arrive-these little things helped to soothe and reassure her. She wondered how her mother found herself….

When Anthony came back, the supper was all laid out. He had given orders that no waiting was to be done; his own servants would do what was necessary. He had a bright and interested face, Marjorie thought; and the instant they were sat down, she knew the reason of it.

"We are just in time," he said. "These letters have been lying here for me the last week. They will be here, they tell me, by to-morrow night. But that is not all-"

He glanced round the dusky room; then he laid down the knife with which he was carving; and spoke in a yet lower voice.

"Father Campion is in the house," he said.

His sister started.

"In the house?… Do you mean-"

He nodded mysteriously, as he took up the knife again.

"He has been here three or four days. The rooms are full in the … in the usual place. And I have spoken with him; he is coming here after supper. He had already supped."

Marjorie leaned back in her chair; but she said nothing. From beneath in the house came the sound of singing, from the tavern parlour where boys were performing madrigals.

It seemed to her incredible that she should presently be speaking with the man, whose name was already affecting England as perhaps no priest's name had ever affected it. He had been in England, she knew, comparatively a short time; yet in that time, his name had run like fire from mouth to mouth. To the minds of Protestants there was something almost diabolical about the man; he was here, he was there, he was everywhere, and yet, when the search was up, he was nowhere. Tales were told of his eloquence that increased the impression that he made a thousand-fold; it was said that he could wile birds off their branches and the beasts from their lairs; and this eloquence, it was known, could be heard only by initiates, in far-off country houses, or in quiet, unsuspected places in the cities. He preached in some shrouded and locked room in London one day; and the next, thirty miles off, in a cow-shed to rustics. And his learning and his subtlety were equal to his eloquence: her Grace had heard him at Oxford years ago, before his conversion; and, it was said, would refuse him nothing, even now, if he would but be reasonable in his religion; even Canterbury, it was reported, might be his. And if he would not be reasonable-then, as was fully in accordance with what was known of her Grace, nothing was too bad for him.

Such feeling then, on the part of Protestants, found its fellow in that of the Catholics. He was their champion, as no other man could be. Had he not issued his famous "challenge" to any and all of the Protestant divines, to meet them in any argument on religion that they cared to select, in any place and at any time, if only his own safe-conduct were secure? And was it not notorious that none would meet him? He was, indeed, a fire, a smoke in the nostrils of his adversaries, a flame in the hearts of his friends. Everywhere he ranged, he and his comrade, Father Persons, sometimes in company, sometimes apart; and wherever they went the Faith blazed up anew from its dying embers, in the lives of rustic knave and squire.

And she was to see him!

* * * * *

"He is here for four or five days only," went on Anthony presently, still in a low, cautious voice. "The hunt is very hot, they say. Not even the host knows who he is; or, at least, makes that he does not. He is under another name, of course; it is Mr. Edmonds, this time. He was in Essex, he tells me; but comes to the wolves' den for safety. It is safer, he says, to sit secure in the midst of the trap, than to wander about its doors; for when the doors are opened he can run out again, if no one knows he is there…."

Free to Download MoboReader
(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares