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   Chapter 63 No.63

Come Rack! Come Rope! By Robert Hugh Benson Characters: 3770

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


Within the castle that evening nothing happened that was of any note to its more careless occupants. All was as usual.

The guard at the towers that controlled the drawbridge across the outer moat was changed at four o'clock; six men came out, under an officer, from the inner court; the words were exchanged, and the six that went off duty marched into the armoury to lay by their pikes and presently dispersed, four to their rooms in the east side of the quadrangle, two to their quarters in the village. From the kitchen came the clash of dishes. Sir Amyas came out from the direction of the keep, where he had been conferring with Mr. FitzWilliam, the castellan, and passed across to his lodging on the south. A butcher hurried in, under escort of a couple of men from the gate, with a covered basket and disappeared into the kitchen entry. All these things were observed idly by the dozen guards who stood two at each of the five doors that gave upon the courtyard. Presently, too, hardly ten minutes after the guard was changed, three figures came out at the staircase foot where Sir Amyas had just gone in, and stood there apparently talking in low voices. Then one of them, Mr. Melville, the Queen's steward, came across the court with Mr. Bourgoign towards the outer entrance, passed under it, and presently Mr. Bourgoign came back and wheeled sharply in to the right by the entry that led up to the Queen's lodging. Meanwhile the third figure, whom one of the men had thought to be M. de Préau, had gone back again towards Mr. Melville's rooms.

That was all that was to be seen, until half an hour later, a few minutes before the drawbridge was raised for the night, the steward came back, crossed the court once more and vanished into the entry opposite.

It was about this time that the young man had ridden out from the New

Inn.

Then the sun went down; the fl

ambeaux were lighted beneath the two great entrances-in the towered archway across the moat, and the smaller vaulted archway within, as well as one more flambeau stuck into the iron ring by each of the four more court-doors, and lights began to burn in the windows round about. The man at Sir Amyas' staircase looked across the court and idly wondered what was passing in the rooms opposite on the first floor where the Queen was lodged. He had heard that the priest had been forced to change his room, and was to sleep in Mr. Melville's for the present; so her Grace would have to get on without him as well as she could. There would be no Popish mass to-morrow, then, in the oratory that he had heard was made upstairs…. He marvelled at the superstition that made this a burden….

At a quarter before six a trumpet blew, and presently the tall windows of the hall across the court from him began to kindle. That was for her Grace's supper to be served. At five minutes to six another trumpet sounded, and M. Landet, the Queen's butler, hurried out with his white rod to take his place for the entrance of the dishes. Finally, through the ground-floor window at the foot of the Queen's stair, the man caught a glimpse of moving figures passing towards the hall. That would be her Grace going in state to her supper with her women; but, for the first time, without either priest to say grace or steward to escort her. He saw, too, the couple of guards under the inner archway come to the salute as the little procession came for an instant within their view; and Mr. Newrins, the butler of the castle, stop suddenly and pull off his cap as he was hurrying in to be in time for the supper of the gentlemen that was served in the keep half an hour after the Queen's.

* * * * *

Meanwhile, ten miles away, along the Uppingham and Leicester track, rode a young man through the dark.

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