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   Chapter 70 No.70

Come Rack! Come Rope! By Robert Hugh Benson Characters: 4307

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


Sunday morning dawned; the bells pealed out; the crowds went by the church and came back to dinner; and yet no word had come to the inn. Robin scarcely stirred out all that day for fear a summons should come and he miss it. He feigned a little illness and sat wrapped up in the corner window of the parlour upstairs, whence he could command both roads-that which led to the Castle, and that which led to the bridge over which Mr. Beale must come. He considered it prudent also to do this, because of the fellow of whom Merton had told him-a man that looked like a groom, and who was lent, he heard, with one or two others by his master to do service at the Castle.

Robin's own plan had been distinct ever since M. de Préau had brought him the first message. He bore himself, as has been said, assuredly and confidently; and if he were questioned would simply have said that he had business connected with the Castle. This, asserted in a proper tone, would probably have its effect. There was so much mystery, involving such highly-placed personages from the Queen of England downwards, that discretion was safer than curiosity.

* * * * *

It was growing towards dark when Robin, after long and fruitless staring down the castle road, turned himself to the other. The parlour was empty at this hour except for himself.

He saw the group gathering as usual at the entrance to the bridge to watch the arrivals from London, who, if there were any, generally came about this time.

Then, as he looked, he saw two horsemen mount the further slope of the bridge, and come full into view.

Now there was nothing whatever about these two persons, in outward appearance, to explain the strange effect they had upon the priest. They could not possibly be the party for which he was watching. Mr. Beale would certainly come with a great company. They were, besides, plainly no more than serving-men: one wore some kind of a livery; the other, a strongly-built man who sat his horse awkwardly, was in new clothes that did not fit him. They rode ordinary hackneys; and each had luggage strapped behind his saddle. All this the priest saw as they came up

the narrow street and halted before the inn door. They might, perhaps, be servants of Mr. Beale; yet that did not seem probable as there was no sign of a following party. The landlord came out on to the steps beneath; and after a word or two, they slipped off their horses wearily, and led them round into the court of the inn.

All this was usual enough; the priest had seen such arrivals a dozen times at this very door; yet he felt sick as he looked at them. There appeared to him something terrible and sinister about them. He had seen the face of the liveried servant; but not of the other: this one had carried his head low, with his great hat drawn down on his head. The priest wondered, too, what they carried in their trunks.

* * * * *

When he went down to supper in the great room of the inn, he could not forbear looking round for them. But only one was to be seen-the liveried servant who had done the talking.

Robin turned to his neighbour-a lawyer with whom he had spoken a few times.

"That is a new livery to me," he said, nodding towards the stranger.

"That?" said the lawyer. "That? Why, that is the livery of Mr.

Walsingham. I have seen it in London."

* * * * *

Towards the end of supper a stir broke out among the servants who sat at the lower end of the room near the windows that looked out upon the streets. Two or three sprung up from the tables and went to look out.

"What is that?" cried the lawyer.

"It is Mr. Beale going past, sir," answered a voice.

Robin lifted his eyes with an effort and looked. Even as he did so there came a trampling of horses' hoofs; and then, in the light that streamed from the windows, there appeared a company on horseback. They were too far away from where he sat, and the lights were too confusing, for him to see more than the general crowd that went by-perhaps from a dozen to twenty all told. But by them ran the heads of men who had waited at the bridge to see them go by; and a murmuring of voices came even through the closed windows. It was plain that others besides those who were close to her Grace, saw a sinister significance in Mr. Beale's arrival.

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