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   Chapter 27 HOME-COMING

By What Authority? By Robert Hugh Benson Characters: 32748

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


It was a stormy summer evening as the brother and sister rode up between the last long hills that led to Great Keynes. A south-west wind had been rising all day, that same wind that was now driving the ruined Armada up into the fierce North Sea, with the fiercer men behind to bar the return. But here, twenty miles inland, with the high south-downs to break the gale, the riders were in comparative quiet, though the great trees overhead tossed their heavy rustling heads as the gusts struck them now and again.

The party had turned off, as the dusk was falling, from the main-road into bridle-paths that they knew well, and were now approaching the village through the water meadows on the south-east side along a ride that would bring them, round the village, direct to the Dower House. In the gloom Anthony could make out the tall reeds, and the loosestrife and willowherb against them, that marked the course of the stream where he had caught trout, as a boy; and against the western sky, as he turned in his saddle, rose up the high windy hills where he had hawked with Hubert so many years before. It was a strange thought to him as he rode along that his very presence here in his own country was an act of high treason by the law lately passed, and that every day he lived here must be a day of danger.

For Isabel, too, it was strange to be riding up again towards the battlefield of her desires-that battlefield where she had lived for years in such childish faith and peace without a suspicion of the forces that were lurking beneath her own quiet nature. But to both of them the sense of home-coming was stronger than all else-that strange passion for a particular set of inanimate things-or, at the most, for an association of ideas-that has no parallel in human emotions; and as they rode up the darkening valley and the lights of the high windows of the Hall began to show over the trees on their right, Anthony forgot his treason and Isabel her conflicts, and both felt a lump rise in the throat, and their hearts begin to beat quicker with a strange pleasurable pulse, and to Isabel's eyes at least there rose up great tears of happiness and content; neither dared speak, but both looked eagerly about at the pool where the Mayflies used to dance, at the knoll where the pigeons nested, at the little low bridge beneath which their inch-long boats used to slide sideways into darkness, and the broad marshy flats where the gorgeous irises grew.

"How the trees have grown!" said Anthony at last, with an effort; "I cannot see the lights from the house."

"Mrs. Carroll will have made ready the first-floor rooms then, on the south."

"I am sorry they are not our own," said Anthony.

"Ah, look! there is the dovecote," cried Isabel.

They were passing up now behind the farm buildings; and directly afterwards came round in front of the little walled garden to the west of the house.

There was a sudden exclamation from Anthony; and Isabel stared in silent dismay. The old house rose up before them with its rows of square windows against the night sky, dark. There was not a glimmer anywhere; even Mrs. Carroll's own room on the south was dark. They reined their horses in and stood a moment.

"Oh, Anthony, Anthony!" cried Isabel suddenly, "what is it? Is there no one there?"

Anthony shook his head; and then put his tired beast to a shambling trot with Isabel silent again with weariness and disappointment behind him. They passed along outside the low wall, turned the corner of the house and drew up at the odd little doorway in the angle at the back of the house. The servants had drawn up behind them, and now pressed up to hold their horses; and the brother and sister slipped off and went towards the door. Anthony passed under the little open porch and put his hand out to the door; it was quite dark underneath the porch, and he felt further and further, and yet there was no door; his foot struck the step. He felt his way to the doorposts and groped for the door; but still there was none; he could feel the panelling of the lobby inside the doorway, and that was all. He drew back, as one would draw back from a dead face on which one had laid a hand in the dark.

"Oh, Anthony!" said Isabel again, "what is it?" She was still outside.

"Have you a light?" said Anthony hoarsely to the servants.

The man nearest him bent and fumbled in the saddle-bags, and after what seemed an interminable while kindled a little bent taper and handed it to him. As he went towards the porch shading it with his hand, Isabel sprang past him and went before; and then, as the light fell through the doorway, stopped in dead and bewildered silence.

The door was lying on the floor within, shattered and splintered.

Anthony stepped beside her, and she turned and clung to his arm, and a sob or two made itself heard. Then they looked about them. The banisters above them were smashed, and like a cataract, down the stairs lay a confused heap of crockery, torn embroidery and clothes, books, and broken furniture.

Anthony's hand shook so much that the shadows of the broken banisters waved on the wall above like thin exulting dancers.

Suddenly Anthony started.

"Mrs. Carroll," he exclaimed, and he darted upstairs past the ruins into her two rooms halfway up the flight; and in a minute or two was back with Isabel.

"She has escaped," he said in a low voice; and then the two stood looking about them silently again. The door leading to the cellars on the left was broken too; and fragments of casks and bottles lay about the steps; the white wall was splashed with drink, and there was a smell of spirits in the air. Evidently the stormers had thought themselves worthy of their hire.

"Come," he said again; and leaving the entrance lobby, the two passed to the hall-door and pushed that open and looked. There was the same furious confusion there; the tapestry was lying tumbled and rent on the floor-the high oak mantelpiece was shattered, and doleful cracks and splinters in the panelling all round showed how mad the attack had been; one of the pillars of the further archway was broken clean off, and the brickwork showed behind; the pictures had been smashed and added to the heap of wrecked furniture and broken glass in the middle.

"Come," he said once more; and the two passed silently through the broken archway, and going up the other flight of stairs, gradually made the round of the house. Everywhere it was the same, except in the servants' attics, where, apparently, the mob had not thought it worth while to go.

Isabel's own room was the most pitiable of all; the windows had only the leaden frames left, and those bent and battered; the delicate panelling was scarred and split by the shower of stones that had poured in through the window and that now lay in all parts of the room. A painting of her mother that had hung over her bed was now lying face downwards on the floor. Isabel turned it over silently; a stone had gone through the face; and it had been apparently slit too by some sharp instrument. Even the slender oak bed was smashed in the centre, as if half a dozen men had jumped upon it at once; and the little prie-dieu near the window had been deliberately hacked in half. Isabel looked at it all with wide startled eyes and parted lips; and then suddenly sank down on the wrecked bed where she had hoped to sleep that night, and began to sob like a child.

"Ah! I did think-I did think--" she began.

Anthony stooped and tried to lift her.

"Come, my darling," he said, "is not this a high honour? Qui relinquit domos!"

"Oh! why have they done it?" sobbed Isabel. "What harm have we done them?" and she began to wail. She was thoroughly over-tired and over-wrought; and Anthony could not find it in his heart to blame her; but he spoke again bravely.

"We are Catholics," he said; "that is why they have done it. Do not throw away this grace that our Lord has given us; embrace it and make it yours."

It was the priest that was speaking now; and Isabel turned her face and looked at him; and then got up and hid her face on his shoulder.

"Oh, Anthony, help me!" she said; and so stood there, quiet.

* * *

He came down presently to the servants, while Isabel went upstairs to prepare the rooms in the attics; for it was impossible for them to ride further that night; so they settled to sleep there, and stable the horses; and to ride on early the next day, and be out of the village before the folks were about. Anthony gave directions to the servants, who were Catholics too, and explained in a word or two what had happened; and bade them come up to the house as soon as they had fed and watered the beasts; meanwhile he took the saddle-bags indoors and spread out their remaining provisions in one of the downstairs rooms; and soon Isabel joined him.

"I have made up five beds," she said, and her voice and lips were steady, and her eyes grave and serene again.

The five supped together in the wrecked kitchen, a fine room on the east of the house, supported by a great oak pillar to which the horses of guests were sometimes attached when the stable was full.

Isabel managed to make a fire and to boil some soup; but they hung thick curtains across the shattered windows, and quenched the fire as soon as the soup was made, for fear that either the light or the smoke from the chimney should arouse attention.

When supper was over, and the two men-servants and Isabel's French maid were washing up in the scullery, Isabel suddenly turned to Anthony as they sat together near the fireplace.

"I had forgotten," she said, "what we arranged as we rode up. I must go and tell her still."

Anthony looked at her steadily a moment.

"God keep you," he said.

She kissed him and took her riding-cloak, drew the hood over her head, and went out into the dark.

* * *

It was with the keenest relief that, half an hour later, Anthony heard her footstep again in the red-tiled hall outside. The servants were gone upstairs by now, and the house was quiet. She came in, and sat by him again and took his hand.

"Thank God I went," she said. "I have left her so happy."

"Tell me all," said Anthony.

"I went through the garden," said Isabel, "but came round to the front of the house so that they might not think I came from here. When the servant came to the door-he was a stranger, and a Protestant no doubt-I said at once that I brought news of Mr. Maxwell from Rye; and he took me straight in and asked me to come in while he fetched her woman. Then her woman came out and took me upstairs, up into Lady Maxwell's old room; and there she was lying in bed under the great canopy. Oh, Anthony, she is so pretty! her golden hair was lying out all over the pillow, and her face is so sweet. She cried out when I came in, and lifted herself on her elbow; so I just said at once, 'He is safe and well'; and then she went off into sobs and laughter; so that I had to go and soothe her-her woman was so foolish and helpless; and very soon she was quiet: and then she called me her darling, and she kissed me again and again; and told the woman to go and leave us together; and then she lifted the sheet; and showed me the face of a little child. Oh Anthony; Hubert's child and hers, the second, born on Tuesday-only think of that. 'Mercy, I was going to call her,' she said, 'if I had not heard by to-morrow, but now I shall call her Victory.'"

Anthony looked quickly at his sister, with a faint smile in his eyes.

"And what did you say?" he asked.

Isabel smiled outright; but her eyes were bright with tears too.

"'You have guessed,' she said. 'Yes,' I said, 'call her Mercy all the same,' and she kissed me again, and cried, and said that she would. And then I told her all about Hubert; and about his little wound; and how well he looked; and how all the fighting was most likely over; and what his cabin looked like. And then she suddenly guessed who I was, and asked me; and I could not deny it, you know; but she promised not to tell. Then she told me all about the house here; and how she was afraid Hubert had said something impatient about people who go to foreign parts and leave their country to be attacked, 'But you know he did not really mean it,' she said; and of course he did not. Well, the people had remembered that, and it spread and spread; and when the news of the Armada came last week, a mob came over from East Grinsted, and they sat drinking and drinking in the village; and of course Grace could not go out to them; and all the old people are gone, and the Catholics on the estate-and so at last they all came out roaring and shouting down the drive, and Mrs. Carroll was warned and slipped out to the Hall; and she is now gone to Stanfield to wait for us-and then the crowd broke into the house-but, oh Anthony, Grace was so sorry, and cried sore to think of us here; and asked us to come and stay there; but of course I told her we could not: and then I said a prayer for her; and we kissed one another again; and then I came away."

Anthony looked at his sister, and there was honour and pride of her in his eyes.

* * *

The ride to Stanfield next day was a long affair, at a foot's-pace all the way: the horses were thoroughly tired with their journey, and they were obliged to start soon after three o'clock in the morning after a very insufficient rest; they did not reach Groombridge till nearly ten o'clock, when they dined, and then rode on towards Tonbridge about noon. There were heavy hearts to be carried as well. The attempt to welcome the misery of their home-coming was a bitter effort; all the more bitter for that it was an entirely unexpected call upon them. During those six years abroad probably not a day had passed without visions of Great Keynes, and the pleasant and familiar rooms and garden of their own house, and mental rehearsals of their return. The shock of the night before too had been emphasised by the horror of the cold morning light creeping through the empty windows on to the cruel heaps within. The garden too, seen in the dim morning, with its trampled lawns and wrecked flower-beds heaped with withered sunflowers, bell-blossoms and all the rich August growth, with the earthen flower-bowls smashed, the stone balls on the gate overturned, and the laurels at the corner uprooted-all this was a horrible pain to Isabel, to whom the garden was very near as dear and familiar as her own room. So it was a silent and sorrowful ride; and Anthony's heart rose in relief as at last up the grey village-street he saw the crowded roofs of Stanfield Place rise over the churchyard wall.

Their welcome from Mr. Buxton went far to compensate for all.

"My dear boy," he said, "or, my dear father, as I should call you in private, you do not know what happiness is mine to-day. It is a great thing to have a priest again; but, if you will allow me to say so, it is a greater to have my friend-and what a sister you have upstairs!"

They were in Mr. Buxton's own little room on the ground-floor, and Isabel had gone to rest until supper.

Anthony told him of the grim surprise that had awaited them at Great Keynes. "So you must forgive my sister if she is a little sad."

"Yes, yes," said Mr. Buxton, "I had heard from Mrs. Carroll last night when she arrived here. But there was no time to warn you. I had expected you to-day, though Mrs. Carroll did not."

(Anthony had sent a man straight from Rye to Stanfield.)

"But Mistress Isabel, as I shall venture to call her, must do what she can with this house and garden. I need not say how wholly it is hers. And I shall call you Anthony," he added-"in public, at least. And, for strangers, you are just here as my guest; and you shall be called Capell-a sound name; and you shall be Catholics too; though you are no priest, of course, in public-and you have returned from the Continent. I hold it is no use to lie when you can be found out. I do not know what your conscience is, Father Anthony; but, for myself, I count us Catholics to be in statu belli now; and therefore I shall lie frankly and fully when there is need; and you may do as you please. Old Mr. Blake used to bid me prevaricate instead; but that always seemed to me two lies instead of one-one to the questioning party

and the other to myself; and so I always said to him, but he would not have it so. I wondered he did not tell me that two negatives made an affirmative; but he was not clever enough, the good father. So my own custom is to tell one plain lie when needed, and shame the devil."

It was pleasant to Anthony to hear his friend talk again, and he said so. His host's face softened into a great tenderness.

"Dear lad, I know what you mean. Please God you may find this a happy home."

A couple of hours later, when Anthony and Isabel came down together from their rooms in the old wing, they found Mr. Buxton in his black satin and lace in the beautiful withdrawing-room on the ground-floor. It was already past the supper-hour, but their host showed no signs of going into the hall. At last he apologised.

"I ask your pardon, Mistress Isabel; but I have a guest come to stay with me, who only arrived an hour ago; and she is a great lady and must have her time. Ah! here she is."

The door was flung open and a radiant vision appeared. The door was a little way off, and there were no candles near it; but there swelled and rustled into the room a figure all in blue and gold, with a white delicate ruff; and diamond buckles shone beneath the rich brocaded petticoat. Above rose a white bosom and throat scintillating with diamonds, and a flushed face with scarlet lips, all crowned by piles of black hair, with black dancing eyes beneath. Still a little in the shadow this splendid figure swept down with a great curtsey, which Isabel met by another, while the two gentlemen bowed low; and then, as the stranger swayed up again into the full light of the sconces, Anthony recognised Mary Corbet.

He stood irresolute with happy hesitation; and she came up smiling brilliantly; and before he could stay her dropped down on one knee and took his hand and kissed it; just as the man left the room.

"God bless you, Father Anthony!" she said; and as he looked at her, as she glanced up, he could not tell whether her eyes shone with tears or laughter.

"This is very charming and proper, Mistress Corbet, and like a true daughter of the Church," put in Mr. Buxton, "but I shall be obliged to you if you will not in future kiss priests' hands nor call them Father in the presence of the servants-at least not in my house."

"Ah!" she said, "you were always prudent. Have you seen his secret doors?" she went on to Anthony. "The entire Catholic Church might play hare and hounds with the Holy Father as huntsman and the Cardinals as the whips, through Mr. Buxton's secret labyrinths."

"Wait until you are hare, and it is other than Holy Church that is a-hunting," said Mr. Buxton, "and you will thank God for my labyrinths, as you call them."

Then she greeted Isabel with great warmth.

"Why, my dear," she said, "you are not the little Puritan maiden any longer. We must have a long talk to-night; and you shall tell me everything."

"Mistress Mary is not so greatly changed," said Isabel, smiling. "She always would be told everything."

It was strange to Anthony to meet Mary again after so long, and to find her so little changed, as Isabel had said truly. He himself had passed through so much since they had last met at Greenwich over six years ago-his conversion, his foreign sojourn, and, above all, the bewildering and intoxicating sweetness of his ordination and priestly life. And yet he felt as close to Mary as ever, knit in a bond of wonderful good fellowship and brotherhood such as he had never felt to any other in just that kind and degree. He watched her, warm and content, as she talked across the polished oak and beneath the gleam of the candles; and listened, charmed by her air and her talk.

"There is not so much news of her Grace," she said, "save that she is turning soldier in her old age. She rode out to Tilbury, you know, the other day, in steel cuirass and scarlet; out to see her dear Robin and the army; and her royal face was all smiles and becks, and lord! how the soldiers cheered! But if you had seen her as I did, in her room when she first buckled on her armour, and the joints did not fit-yes, and heard her! there were no smiles to spare then. She lodged at Mr. Rich's, you know, two nights; but he would be Mr. Poor, I should suppose, by the time her Grace left him; for he will not see the worth of a shoelace again of all that he expended on her."

"You see," remarked Mr. Buxton to Isabel, "how fortunate we are in having such a friend of her Grace's with us. We hear all the cream of the news, even though it be a trifle sour sometimes."

"A lover of her Grace," said Mary, "loves the truth about her, however bitter. But then I have no secret passages where I may hide from my sovereign!"

"The cream can scarce be but sour," said Anthony, "near her Grace: there is so much thunder in the air."

"Yes, but the sun came out when you were there, Anthony," put in Isabel, smiling.

"But even the light of her glorious countenance is trying," said Mary. "She is overpowering in thunder and sunshine alike."

"We have had enough of that metaphor," observed Mr. Buxton.

* * *

Then Anthony had to talk, and tell all the foreign news of Douai and Rome and Cardinal Allen; and of Father Persons' scheme for a college at Valladolid.

"Father Robert is a superb beggar-as he is superb in all things," said Mr. Buxton. "I dare not think how much he got from me for his college; and then I do not even approve of his college. His principles are too logical for me. I have ever had a weakness for the non sequitur."

This led on to the Armada; Anthony told his experience of it; how he had seen at least the sails of Lord Howard's squadron far away against the dawn; and this led on again to a sharp discussion when the servants had left the room.

"I do not know," said Mary at last; "it is difficult-is not the choice between God and Elizabeth? If I were a man, why should I not take up arms to defend my religion? Since I am a woman, why should I not pray for Philip's success? It is a bitter hard choice, I know; but why need I prefer my country to my faith? Tell me that, Father Anthony."

"I can only tell you my private opinion," said Anthony, "and that is, that both duties may be done. As Mr. Buxton here used to tell me, the duty to C?sar is as real as the duty to God. A man is bound to both; for each has its proper bounds. When either oversteps them it must be resisted. When Elizabeth bids me deny my faith, I tell her I would sooner die. When a priest bids me deny my country, I tell him I would sooner be damned."

Mary clapped her hands.

"I like to hear a man talk like that," she cried. "But what of the Holy Father and his excommunication of her Grace?"

Anthony looked up at her sharply, and then smiled; Isabel watched him with a troubled face.

"Aquinas holds," he said, "that an excommunication of sovereign and people in a lump is invalid. And until the Holy Father tells me himself that Aquinas is wrong, I shall continue to think he is right."

"God-a-mercy!" burst in Mr. Buxton, "what a to-do! Leave it alone until the choice must be made; and meanwhile say your prayers for Pope and Queen too, and hear mass and tell your beads and hold your tongue: that is what I say to myself. Mistress Mary, I will not have my chaplain heckled; here is his lady sister all a-tremble between heresy and treason."

They sat long over the supper-table, talking over the last six years and the times generally. More than once Mary showed a strange bitterness against the Queen. At last Mr. Buxton showed his astonishment plainly.

"I do not understand you," he said. "I know that at heart you are loyal; and yet one might say you meditated her murder."

Mary's face grew white with passion and her eyes blazed.

"Ah!" she hissed, "you do not understand, you say? Then where is your heart? But then you did not see Mary Stuart die."

Anthony looked at her, amazed.

"And you did, Mistress Mary?" he asked.

Mary bowed, with her lips set tight to check their trembling.

"I will tell you," she said, "if our host permits"; and she glanced at him.

"Then come this way," he said, and they rose from table.

They went back again to the withdrawing-room; a little cedar-fire had been kindled under the wide chimney; and the room was full of dancing shadows. The great plaster-pendants, the roses, the crowns, and the portcullises on the ceiling seemed to waver in the firelight, for Mr. Buxton at a sign from Mary blew out the four tapers that were burning in the sconces. They all sat down in the chairs that were set round the fire, Mary in a tall porter's chair with flaps that threw a shadow on her face when she leaned back; and she took a fan in her hand to keep the fire, or her friends' eyes, from her face should she need it.

She first told them very briefly of the last months of Mary's life, of the web that was spun round her by Walsingham's tactics, and her own friends' efforts, until it was difficult for her to stir hand or foot without treason, real or pretended, being set in motion somewhere. Then she described how at Christmas '86 Elizabeth had sent her-Mary Corbet-as a Catholic, up to the Queen of the Scots at Fotheringay, on a private mission to attempt to win the prisoner's confidence, and to persuade her to confess to having been privy to Babington's conspiracy; and how the Scottish Queen had utterly denied it, even in the most intimate conversations. Sentence had been already passed, but the warrant had not been signed; and it never would have been signed, said Mistress Corbet, if Mary had owned to the crime of which she was accused.

"Ah! how they insulted her!" cried Mary Corbet indignantly. "She showed me one day the room where her throne had stood. Now the cloth of state had been torn down by Sir Amyas Paulet's men, and he himself dared to sit with his hat on his head in the sovereign's presence! The insolence of the hound! But the Queen showed me how she had hung a crucifix where her royal arms used to hang. 'J'appelle,' she said to me, 'de la reine au roi des rois.'"

Mistress Corbet went on to tell of the arrival of Walsingham's brother-in-law, Mr. Beale, with the death-warrant on that February Sunday evening.

"I saw his foxy face look sideways up at the windows as he got off his horse in the courtyard; and I knew that our foes had triumphed. Then the other bloodhounds began to arrive; my lord of Kent on the Monday and Shrewsbury on the Tuesday. Then they came in to us after dinner; and they told her Grace it was to be for next day. I was behind her chair and saw her hand on the boss of the arm, and it did not stir nor clench; she said it could not be. She could not believe it of Elizabeth.

"When she did at last believe it, there was no wild weeping or crying for mercy; but she set her affairs in order, queenly, and yet sedately too. She first thought of her soul, and desired that M. de Preau might come to her and hear her confession; but they would not permit it. They offered her Dr. Fletcher instead, 'a godly man,' as my lord of Kent called him. 'Je ne m'en doute pas,' she said, smiling. But it was hard not to have a priest.

"Then she set her earthly affairs in order when she had examined her soul and made confession to God without the Dean's assistance. We all supped together when it was growing late; and I thought, Father Anthony-indeed I did-of another Supper long ago. Then M. Gorion was sent for to arrange some messages and gifts; and until two of the clock in the morning we watched with her or served her as she wrote and gave orders. The court outside was full of comings and goings. As I passed down the passage I saw the torches of the visitors that were come to see the end; and once I heard a hammering from the great hall. Then she went to her bed; and I think few lay as quiet as she in the castle that night. I was with her ladies when they waked her before dawn; and it was hard to see that sweet face on the pillow open its eyes again to what was before her.

"Then when she was dressed I went in again, and we all went to the oratory, where she received our Saviour from the golden pyx which the Holy Father had sent her; for, you see, they would allow no priest to come near her....

"Presently the gentlemen knocked. When we tried to follow we were prevented; they wished her to die alone among her enemies; but at last two of the ladies were allowed to go with her.

"I ran out another way, and sent a message to my Lord Shrewsbury, who knew me at court. As I waited in the courtyard, the musicians there were playing 'The Witches' Dirge,' as is done at the burnings-and all to mock at my queen! At last a halberdier was sent to bring me in."

Mary Corbet was silent a moment or two and leaned back in her chair; and the others dared not speak. The strange emotion of her voice and the stillness of that sparkling figure in the porter's chair affected them profoundly. Her face was now completely shaded by a fan.

"It was in the hall, where a great fire was burning on the hearth. The stage stood at the upper end; all was black. The crowd of gentlemen filled the hall and all were still and reverent except-except a devil who laughed as my queen came in, all in black. She was smiling and brave, and went up the steps and sat on her black throne and looked about her. The-the things were just in front of her.

"Then the warrant was read by Beale, and I saw the lords glance at her as it ended; but there was nought but joyous hope in her face. She looked now and again gently on the ivory crucifix in her hand, as she listened; and her lips moved to-to-Him who was delivered to death for her."

Mary Corbet gave one quick sob, and was silent again for an instant. Then she went on in a yet lower voice.

"Dr. Fletcher tried to address her, but he stammered and paused three or four times; and the queen smiled on him and bade him not trouble himself, for that she lived and died a Catholic. But they would not let her be; so she looked on her crucifix and was silent; and even then my lord of Kent badgered her and told her Christ crucified in her hand would not save her, except He was engraved on her heart.

"Then she knelt at her chair and tried to pray softly to herself; but Fletcher would not have that, and prayed himself, aloud, and all the gentlemen in the hall began to pray aloud with him. But Mary prayed on in Latin and English aloud, and prevailed, for all were silent at the end but she.

"And at last she kissed the crucifix and cried in a sweet piercing voice, 'As thine arms, O Jesus, were spread upon the Cross, so receive me into Thy mercy and forgive me my sins!'"

Again Mistress Corbet was silent; and Anthony drew a long sobbing breath of pure pity, and Isabel was crying quietly to herself.

"When the headsmen offered to assist her," went on the low voice, "the queen smiled at the gentlemen and said that she had never had such grooms before; and then they let the ladies come up. When they began to help her with her dress I covered my face-I could not help it. There was such a stillness now that I could hear her beads chink at her girdle. When I looked again, she was ready, with her sweet neck uncovered: all round her was black but the headsman, who wore a white apron over his velvet, and she, in her beauty, and oh! her face was so fair and delicate and her eyes so tender and joyous. And as her ladies looked at her, they sobbed piteously. 'Ne criez vous,' said she.

"Then she knelt down, and Mistress Mowbray bound her eyes. She smiled again under the handkerchief. 'Adieu,' she said, and then, 'Au revoir.'

"Then she said once more a Latin psalm, and then laid her head down, as on a pillow.

"'In manus tuas, Domine,' she said."

* * *

Mary Corbet stopped, and leaned forward a little, putting her hand into her bosom; Anthony looked at her as she drew up a thin silk cord with a ruby ring attached to it.

"This was hers," she said simply, and held it out. Each of the Catholics took it and kissed it reverently, and Mary replaced it.

"When they lifted her," she added, "a little dog sprang out from her clothes and yelped. And at that the man near me, who had laughed as she came in, wept."

* * *

Then the four sat silent in the firelight.

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