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   Chapter 41 No.41

Come Rack! Come Rope! By Robert Hugh Benson Characters: 4875

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


The warning which she had had with regard to her friends, and which she wrote on to them at once, received its fulfilment within a very few weeks. Mr. John, who was on the eve of departure for London again to serve his brother there, who was back again in the Fleet by now, wrote that he knew very well that they were all under suspicion, that he had sent on to his son the message she had given, but that he hoped they would yet weather the storm.

"And as to yourself, Mistress Marjorie," he wrote, "this makes it all the more necessary that Booth's Edge should not be suspected; for what will our men do if Padley be closed to them? You have heard of our friend Mr. Garlick's capture? But that was no fault of yours. The man was warned. I hear that they will send him into banishment, only, this time."

* * * * *

The news came to her as she sat in the garden over her needlework on a hot evening in June. There it was as cool as anywhere in the countryside. She sat at the top of the garden, where her mother and she had sat with Robin so long before; the breeze that came over the moor bore with it the scent of the heather; and the bees were busy in the garden flowers about her.

It was first the gallop of a horse that she heard; and even at that sound she laid down her work and stood up. But the house below her blocked the most of her view; and she sat down again when she heard the dull rattle of the hoofs die away again. When she next looked up a man was running towards her from the bottom of the garden, and Janet was peeping behind him from the gate into the court. As she again stood up, she saw that it was Dick Sampson.

He was so out of breath, first with his ride and next with his run up the steep path, that for a moment or two he could not speak. He was dusty, too, from foot to knee; his cap was awry and his collar unbuttoned.

"It is Mr. Thomas, mistress," he gasped presently. "I was in Derby and saw him being taken to the gaol…. I could not get speech with him…. I rode straight up to Padley, and found none there but the servants, and them knowing nothing of the matter. And so I rode on here, mistress."

He was plainly all aghast at the blow. Hitherto it had been enough that Sir Thomas was in ward for his religion; and to this they had become accustomed. But that the heir should be taken, too, and that without a hint of what was to happen, was wholly unexpected. She made him sit down,

and presently drew from him the whole tale.

Mr. Anthony Babington, his master, was away to London again, leaving the house in Derby in the hands of the servants. He then-Dick Sampson-was riding out early to take a horse to be shoed, and had come back through the town-square, when he saw the group ride up to the gaol door near the Friar Gate. He, too, had ridden up to ask what was forward, and had been just in time to see Mr. Thomas taken in. He had caught his eye, but had feigned not to know him. Then the man had attempted to get at what had happened from one of the fellows at the door, but could get no more from him than that the prisoner was a known and confessed recusant, and had been laid by the heels according to orders, it was believed, sent down by the Council. Then, Dick had ridden slowly away till he had turned the corner, and then, hot foot for Padley.

"And I heard the fellow say to one of his company that an informer was coming down from London on purpose to deal with Mr. Thomas."

Marjorie felt a sudden pang; for she had never forgotten the one she had set eyes on in the Tower.

"His name?" she said breathlessly. "Did you hear his name?"

"It was Topcliffe, mistress," said Dick indifferently. "The other called it out."

* * * * *

Marjorie sat silent. Not only had the blow fallen more swiftly than she would have thought possible, but it was coupled with a second of which she had never dreamed. That it was this man, above all others, that should have come; this man, who stood to her mind, by a mere chance, for all that was most dreadful in the sinister forces arrayed against her-this brought misery down on her indeed. For, besides her own personal reasons for terror, there was, besides, the knowledge that the bringing of such a man at all from London on such business meant that the movement beginning here in her own county was not a mere caprice.

She sat silent then-seeing once more before her the wide court of the Tower, the great keep opposite, and in the midst that thin figure moving to his hateful business…. And she knew now, in this instant, as never before, that the chief reason for her terror was that she had coupled in her mind her own friend Robin with the thought of this man, as if by some inner knowledge that their lives must cross some day-a knowledge which she could neither justify nor silence. Thank God, at least, that Robin was still safe in Rheims!

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