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   Chapter 60 No.60

Come Rack! Come Rope! By Robert Hugh Benson Characters: 2954

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05

"First give me your blessing, Mr. Alban," said Marjorie, kneeling down before him in the hall in front of them all. She was as pale as a ghost, but her eyes shone like stars.

* * * * *

It was a couple of months after his leaving Chartley before he came at last to Booth's Edge. First he had had to bestow Mr. Arnold in Lancashire, for suspicion was abroad; and it was a letter from Marjorie herself, reaching him in Derby, at Mr. Biddell's house, that had told him of it, and bidden him go on with his friend. The town had never been the same since Topcliffe's visit; and now that Babington House was no longer in safe Catholic hands, a great protection was gone. He had better go on, she said, as if he were what he professed to be-a gentleman travelling with his servant. A rumour had come to her ears that the talk in the town was of the expected arrival of a new priest to take Mr. Garlick's place for the present, and every stranger was scrutinised. So he had taken her advice; he had left Derby again immediately, and had slowly travelled north; then, coming round about from the north, after leaving his friend, saying mass here and there where he could, crossing into Yorkshire even as far west as Wakefield, he had come at last, through this wet November day, along the Derwent valley and up to Booth's Edge, where he arrived after sunset, to find the hall filled with folks to greet him.

He was smiling himself, though his eyes were full of tears, by the tim

e that he had done giving his blessings. Mr. John FitzHerbert was come up from Padley, where he lived now for short times together, greyer than ever, but with the same resolute face. Mistress Alice Babington was there, still serene looking, but with a new sorrow in her eyes; and, clinging to her, a thin, pale girl all in black, who only two months before had lost both daughter and husband; for the child had died scarcely a week or two before her father, Anthony Babington, had died miserably on the gallows near St. Giles' Fields, where he had so often met his friends after dark. It was a ghastly tale, told in fragments to Robin here and there during his journeyings by men in taverns, before whom he must keep a brave face. And a few farmers were there, old Mr. Merton among them, come in to welcome the son of the Squire of Matstead, returned under a feigned name, unknown even to his father, and there, too, was honest Dick Sampson, come up from Dethick to see his old master. So here, in the hall he knew so well, himself splashed with red marl from ankle to shoulder, still cloaked and spurred, one by one these knelt before him, beginning with Marjorie herself, and ending with the youngest farm-boy, who breathed heavily as he knelt down and got up round-eyed and staring.

"And his Reverence will hear confessions," proclaimed Marjorie to the multitude, "at eight o'clock to-night; and he will say mass and give holy communion at six o'clock to-morrow morning."

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