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Come Rack! Come Rope! By Robert Hugh Benson Characters: 4607

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05

She sent him off after a couple of hours' rest, during which once more he had told his story to Mistress Alice, with a letter to Mr. Thomas's wife, who, no doubt, would have followed her lord to Derby. She had gone apart with Alice, while Dick ate and drank, to talk the affair out, and had told her of Topcliffe's presence, at which news even the placid face of her friend looked troubled; but they had said nothing more on the point, and had decided that a letter should be written in Mistress Babington's name, offering Mrs. FitzHerbert the hospitality of Babington House, and any other services she might wish. Further, they had decided that the best thing to do was to go themselves to Derby next day, in order to be at hand; since Mr. John was in London, and the sooner Mrs. Thomas had friends with her, the better.

"They may keep him in ward a long time," said Mistress Alice, "before they bring him into open court-to try his courage. That is the way they do. The charge, no doubt, will be that he has harboured and assisted priests."

* * * * *

It seemed to Marjorie, as she lay awake that night, staring through the summer dusk at the tall press which hid so much beside her dresses, that the course on which her life moved was coming near to the rapids. Ever since she had first put her hand to the work, ever since, even, she had first offered her lover to God and let him go from her, it appeared as if God had taken her at her word, and accepted in an instant that which she offered so tremblingly. Her sight of London-the great buildings, the crowds, the visible forces of the Crown, the company of gallant gentlemen who were priests beneath their ruffs and feathers, the Tower, her glimpse of Topcliffe-these things had shown her the dreadful reality that lay behind this gentle scheming up in Derbyshire. Again, there was Mr. Babington; here, too, she had perceived a mystery which she could not understand: something moved behind the surface of which not even Mr. Babington's sister knew anything, except that, indeed, it was there. Again, there was the death of Father Campion-the very man whom she had taken as a symbol of the Faith for which she fought with her woman's wits; there was the news that came so suddenly and terribly now and again, of one more priest gone to his

death…. It was like the slow rising of a storm: the air darkens; a stillness falls on the countryside; the chirp of the birds seems as a plaintive word of fear; then the thunder begins-a low murmur far across the horizons; then a whisk of light, seen and gone again, and another murmur after it. And so it gathers, dusk on dusk, stillness on stillness, murmur on murmur, deepening and thickening; yet still no rain, but a drop or two that falls and ceases again. And from the very delay it is all the more dreadful; for the storm itself must break some time, and the artillery war in the heavens, and the rain rush down, and flash follow flash, and peal peal, and the climax come.

So, then, it was with her. There was no drawing back now, even had she wished it. And she wished it indeed, though she did not will it; she knew that she must stand in her place, now more than ever, when the blow had fallen so near. Now more than ever must she be discreet and resolute, since Padley itself was fallen, in effect, if not in fact; and Booth's Edge, in this valley at least, was the one hope of hunted men. She must stand, then, in her place; she must plot and conspire and scheme; she must govern her face and her manner more perfectly than ever, for the sake of that tremendous Cause.

As she lay there, listening to her friend's breathing in the darkness, staring now at the doors of the press, now at the baggage that lay heaped ready for the early start, these and a thousand other thoughts passed before her. It was a long plot that had ended in this: it must have reached its maturity weeks ago; the decision to strike must have been reached before even Squire Audrey had given her the warning-for it was only by chance that she had met him and he had told her…. And he, too, Robin's father, would be in the midst of it all; he, too, that was a Catholic by baptism, must sit with the other magistrates and threaten and cajole as the manner was; and quiet Derby would be all astir; and the Bassetts would be there, and Mr. Fenton, to see how their friend fared in the dock; and the crowds would gather to see the prisoner brought out, and the hunt would be up. And she herself, she, too, must be there with the tearful little wife, who could do so little….

Thank God Robin was safe in Rheims!…

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