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   Chapter 90 No.90

Come Rack! Come Rope! By Robert Hugh Benson Characters: 4608

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


The tidings came to Marjorie as she leaned back in her chair in Mr.

Biddell's parlour and listened to the last shoutings.

* * * * *

She had been in town now three days.

Ever since the capture she had been under guard in her own house till three days ago. Four men had been billeted upon her, not, indeed, by the orders of Mr. Audrey, since Mr. Audrey was in no condition to control affairs any longer, but by the direction of Mr. Columbell, who had himself ridden out to take charge at Booth's Edge, when the news of the arrest had come, with the prisoner himself, to the city. It was he, too, who had seen to the removal of Mr. Audrey a week later, when he had recovered from the weakness caused by the fit sufficiently to travel as far as Derby; for it was thought better that the magistrate who had effected the capture should be accessible to the examining magistrates. It was, of course, lamentable, said Mr. Columbell, that father and son should have been brought into such relations, and he would do all that he could to relieve Mr. Audrey from any painful task in which they could do without him. But her Grace's business must be done, and he had had special messages from my lord Shrewsbury himself that the prisoner must be dealt with sternly. It was believed, wrote my lord, that Mr. Alban, as he called himself, had a good deal more against him than the mere fact of being a seminary priest: it was thought that he had been involved in the Babington plot, and had at least once had access to the Queen of the Scots since the fortunate failure of the conspiracy.

All this, then, Marjorie knew from Mr. Biddell, who seemed always to know everything; but it was not until the evening on which the judges arrived that she learned the last and extreme measures that would be taken to establish these suspicions. She had ridden openly to Derby so soon as the news came from there that for the present she might be set at liberty.

The lawyer came into the darkening room as the square outside began to grow quiet, and Marjorie opened her eyes to see who it was.

He said nothing at first, but sat down close beside her. He knew she must be told, but he hated the telling. He carried a little paper in his hand. He would begin with that little bit of good news first, he said to h

imself.

"Well, mistress," he said, "I have the order at last. We are to see him to-night. It is 'for Mr. Biddell and a friend.'"

She sat up, and a little vitality came back to her face; for a moment she almost looked as she had looked in the early summer.

"To-night?" she said. "And when-"

"He will not be brought before my lords for three or four days yet. There is a number of cases to come before his. It will give us those two or three days, at least, to prepare our case."

He spoke heavily and dejectedly. Up to the present he had been utterly refused permission to see his client; and though he knew the outlines of the affair well enough, he knew very little of the thousand details on which the priest would ask his advice. It was a hopeless affair, it appeared to the lawyer, in any case. And now, with this last piece of tidings, he knew that there was, indeed, nothing to be said except words of encouragement.

He listened with the same heavy air to Mistress Manners as she said a word or two as to what must be spoken of to Robin. She was very quiet and collected, and talked to the point. But he said nothing.

"What is the matter, sir?" she said.

He lifted his eyes to hers. There was still enough light from the windows for him to see her eyes, and that there was a spark in them that had not been there just now. And it was for him to extinguish it…. He gripped his courage.

"I have had worse news than all," he said.

Her lips moved, and a vibration went over her face. Her eyes blinked, as at a sudden light.

"Yes?"

He put his hand tenderly on her arm.

"You must be courageous," he said. "It is the worst news that ever came to me. It concerns one who is come from London to-day, and rode in with my lords."

She could not speak, but her great eyes entreated him to finish her misery.

"Yes," he said, still pressing his hand on to her arm. "Yes; it is Mr.

Topcliffe who is come."

* * * * *

He felt the soft muscles harden like steel…. There was no sound except the voices talking in the square and the noise of footsteps across the pavements. He could not look at her.

Then he heard her draw a long breath and breathe it out again, and her taut muscles relaxed.

"We … we are all in Christ's hands," she said…. "We must tell him."

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