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   Chapter 29 No.29

Come Rack! Come Rope! By Robert Hugh Benson Characters: 5796

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05

Robin bowed to her very carefully, and stood upright again.

* * * * *

She had seen in an instant how changed he was, in that swift instant in which her eyes had singled him out from the little crowd of men that had come into the room with Anthony at their head. It was a change which she could scarcely have put into words, unless she had said that it was the conception of the Levite within his soul. He was dressed soberly and richly, with a sword at his side, in great riding-boots splashed to the knees with mud, with his cloak thrown back; and he carried his great brimmed hat in his hand. All this was as it might have been in Derby, though, perhaps, his dress was a shade more dignified than that in which she had ever seen him. But the change was in his face and bearing; he bore himself like a man, and a restrained man; and there was besides that subtle air which her woman's eyes could see, but which even her woman's wit could not properly describe.

She made room for him to sit beside her; and then Father Campion's voice spoke:

"These are the gentlemen, then," he said. "And two more are not yet come. Gentlemen-" he bowed. "And which is Captain Fortescue?"

A big man, distinguished from the rest by a slightly military air, and by a certain vividness of costume and a bristling feather in his hat, bowed back to him.

"We have met once before, Mr.-Mr. Edmonds," he said. "At Valladolid."

Father Campion smiled.

"Yes, sir; for five or ten minutes; and I was in the same room with your honour once at the Duke of Guise's…. And now, sir, who are the rest of your company?"

The others were named one by one; and Marjorie eyed each of them carefully. It was her business to know them again if ever they should meet in the north; and for a few minutes the company moved here and there, bowing and saluting, and taking their seats. There were still a couple of men who were not yet come; but these two arrived a few minutes later; and it was not until she had said a word or two to them all, and Father Campion had named her and her good works, to them, that she found herself back again with Robin in a seat a little apart.

"You look very well," she said, with an admirable composure.

His eyes twinkled.

"I am as weary as a man can be," he said. "We have ridden since before dawn…. And you, and your good works?"

Marjorie explained, describing to him something of the system by which priests were safeguarded now in the north-the districts into which the county was divided, and the apportioning of the responsibilities among the faithful houses. It was her business, she said, to receive messages and to pass them on; she had entertained perhaps a dozen priests since the summer; perhaps she would entertain him, too, one day, she said.

* * * * *

The ordeal was far lighter than she had feared it would be. There was a strong undercurrent of ex

citement in her heart, flushing her cheeks and sparkling in her eyes; yet never for one moment was she even tempted to forget that he was now vowed to God. It seemed to her as if she talked with him in the spirit of that place where there is neither marrying nor giving in marriage. Those two years of quiet in the north, occupied, even more than she recognised, in the rearranging of her relations with the memory of this young man, had done their work. She still kindled at his presence; but it was at the presence of one who had undertaken an adventure that destroyed altogether her old relations with him…. She was enkindled even more by the sense of her own security; and, as she looked at him, by the sense of his security too. Robin was gone; here, instead, was young Mr. Audrey, seminary student, who even in a court of law could swear before God that he was not a priest, nor had been "ordained beyond the seas."

So they sat and exchanged news. She told him of the rumours of his father that had come to her from time to time; he would be a magistrate yet, it was said, so hot was his loyalty. Even her Grace, it was reported, had vowed she wished she had a thousand such country gentlemen on whose faithfulness she could depend. And Robin gave her news of the seminary, of the hours of rising and sleeping, of the sports there; of the confessors for the faith who came and went; of Dr. Allen. He told her, too, of Mr. Garlick and Mr. Ludlam; he often had talked with them of Derbyshire, he said. It was very peaceful and very stirring, too, to sit here in the lighted parlour, and hear and give the news; while the company, gathered round Anthony and Father Campion, talked in low voices, and Mistress Babington, placid, watched them and listened. He showed her, too, Mr. Maine's beads which she had given him so long ago, hung in a little packet round his neck.

* * * * *

More than once, as they talked, Marjorie found herself looking at Mr. Ballard, or, as he was called here, Captain Fortescue. It was he who seemed the leader of the troop; and, indeed, as Robin told her in a whisper, that was what he was. He came and went frequently, he said; his manner and his carriage were reassuring to the suspicious; he appeared, perhaps, the last man in the world to be a priest. He was a big man, as has been said; and he had a frank assured way with him; he was leaning forward, even now, as she looked at him, and seemed laying down the law, though in what was almost a whisper. Father Campion was watching him, too, she noticed; and, what she had learned of Father Campion in the last few hours led her to wonder whether there was not something of doubtfulness in his opinion of him.

Father Campion suddenly shook his head sharply.

"I am not of that view at all," he said. "I-"

And once more his voice sank so low as to be inaudible; as the rest leaned closer about him.

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