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   Chapter 68 No.68

Come Rack! Come Rope! By Robert Hugh Benson Characters: 3494

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


Five days were gone by, Sunday had come and gone, and yet there had been no news, except a letter conveyed to him by Merton, written by Mr. Bourgoign himself, telling him that he had news that Mr. Beale, the Clerk of the Council, was to arrive some time that week, and that this presaged the approach of the end. He would, therefore, do his utmost within the next few days to approach Sir Amyas and ask for the admission of the young herbalist who had done her Grace so much good at Chartley. He added that if any question were to be raised as to why he had been so long in the place, and why, indeed, he had come at all, he was to answer fearlessly that Mr. Bourgoign had sent for him.

On the Sunday night Robin could not sleep. Little by little the hideous suspense was acting upon him, and the knowledge that not a hundred yards away from him the wonderful woman whom he had seen at Chartley, the loving and humble Catholic, who had kneeled so ardently before her Lord, the Queen who had received from him the sacraments for which she thirsted-the knowledge that she was breaking her heart, so near, for the consolation which a priest only could give, and that he, a priest, was free to go through all England, except through that towered gateway past which he walked every day-this increased his misery and his longing.

The very day he had been through-the Sunday on which he could neither say nor even hear mass (for, because of the greatness of that which was at stake, he had thought it wiser to bring with him nothing that could arouse suspicion)-and the hearing of the bells from the church calling to Protestant prayers, and the sight of the crowds going and returning-this brought him lower than he had been since his first coming

to England. He lay then in the darkness, turning from side to side, thinking of these things, listening to the breathing of the young man who lay on blankets at the foot of his bed.

About midnight he could lie there no longer. He got out of bed noiselessly, stepped across the other, went to the window-seat and sat down there, staring out, with eyes well accustomed to the darkness, towards the vast outline against the sky which he knew was the keep of the castle. No light burned there to relieve its brutality. It remained there, implacable as English justice, immovable as the heart of Elizabeth and the composure of the gaoler who kept it…. Then he drew out Mr. Maine's rosary and began to recite the "Sorrowful Mysteries."…

He supposed afterwards that he had begun to doze; but he started, wide-awake, at a sudden glare of light in his eyes, as if a beacon had flared for an instant somewhere within the castle enclosure. It was gone again, however; there remained the steady monstrous mass of building and the heavy sky. Then, as he watched, it came again, without warning and without sound-that same brilliant flare of light, against which the towers and walls stood out pitch-black. A third time it came, and all was dark once more.

* * * * *

In the morning, as he sat over his ale in the tavern below, he listened, without lifting his eyes, engrossed, it seemed, in a little book he was reading, to the excited talk of a group of soldiers. One of them, he said, had been on guard beneath the Queen's windows last night, and between midnight and one o'clock had seen three times a brilliant light explode itself, like soundless gunpowder, immediately over the room where she slept. And this he asserted, over and over again.

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