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Title: Come Rack! Come Rope!
Author: Benson, Robert Hugh, 1871-1914
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Come Rack! Come Rope!

BY

ROBERT HUGH BENSON

_Author of "By What Authority?" "The King's Achievement,"
"Lord of the World," etc._


New York
P.J. Kenedy & Sons



PREFACE


Very nearly the whole of this book is sober historical fact; and by far
the greater number of the personages named in it once lived and acted in
the manner in which I have presented them. My hero and my heroine are
fictitious; so also are the parents of my heroine, the father of my
hero, one lawyer, one woman, two servants, a farmer and his wife, the
landlord of an inn, and a few other entirely negligible characters. But
the family of the FitzHerberts passed precisely through the fortunes
which I have described; they had their confessors and their one traitor
(as I have said). Mr. Anthony Babington plotted, and fell, in the manner
that is related; Mary languished in Chartley under Sir Amyas Paulet; was
assisted by Mr. Bourgoign; was betrayed by her secretary and Mr.
Gifford, and died at Fotheringay; Mr. Garlick and Mr. Ludlam and Mr.
Simpson received their vocations, passed through their adventures; were
captured at Padley, and died in Derby. Father Campion (from whose speech
after torture the title of the book is taken) suffered on the rack and
was executed at Tyburn. Mr. Topcliffe tormented the Catholics that fell
into his hands; plotted with Mr. Thomas FitzHerbert, and bargained for
Padley (which he subsequently lost again) on the terms here drawn out.
My Lord Shrewsbury rode about Derbyshire, directed the search for
recusants and presided at their deaths; priests of all kinds came and
went in disguise; Mr. Owen went about constructing hiding-holes; Mr.
Bassett lived defiantly at Langleys, and dabbled a little (I am afraid)
in occultism; Mr. Fenton was often to be found in Hathersage--all these
things took place as nearly as I have had the power of relating them.
Two localities only, I think, are disguised under their names--Booth's
Edge and Matstead. Padley, or rather the chapel in which the last mass
was said under the circumstances described in this book, remains, to
this day, close to Grindleford Station. A Catholic pilgrimage is made
there every year; and I have myself once had the honour of preaching on
such an occasion, leaning against the wall of the old hall that is
immediately beneath the chapel where Mr. Garlick and Mr. Ludlam said
their last masses, and were captured. If the book is too sensational, it
is no more sensational than life itself was to Derbyshire folk between
1579 and 1588.

It remains only, first, to express my extreme indebtedness to Dom Bede
Camm's erudite book--"Forgotten Shrines"--from which I have taken
immense quantities of information, and to a pile of some twenty to
thirty other books that are before me as I write these words; and,
secondly, to ask forgiveness from the distinguished family that takes
its name from the FitzHerberts and is descended from them directly; and
to assure its members that old Sir Thomas, Mr. John, Mr. Anthony, and
all the rest, down to the present day, outweigh a thousand times over
(to the minds of all decent people) the stigma of Mr. Thomas' name. Even
the apostles numbered one Judas!

ROBERT HUGH BENSON.

_Feast of the Blessed Thomas More, 1912.
Hare Street House, Buntingford._



PART I



CHAPTER I


I

There should be no sight more happy than a young man riding to meet his
love. His eyes should shine, his lips should sing; he should slap his
mare upon her shoulder and call her his darling. The puddles upon his
way should be turned to pure gold, and the stream that runs beside him
should chatter her name.

Yet, as Robin rode to Marjorie none of these things were done. It was a
still day of frost; the sky was arched above him, across the high hills,
like that terrible crystal which is the vault above which sits God--hard
blue from horizon to horizon; the fringe of feathery birches stood like
filigree-work above him on his left; on his right ran the Derwent,
sucking softly among his sedges; on this side and that lay the flat
bottom through which he went--meadowland broken by rushes; his mare
Cecily stepped along, now cracking the thin ice of the little pools with
her dainty feet, now going gently over peaty ground, blowing thin clouds
from her red nostrils, yet unencouraged by word or caress from her
rider; who sat, heavy and all but slouching, staring with his blue eyes
under puckered eyelids, as if he went to an appointment which he would
not keep.

Yet he was a very pleasant lad to look upon, smooth-faced and gallant,
mounted and dressed in a manner that should give any lad joy. He wore
great gauntlets on his hands; he was in his habit of green; he had his
steel-buckled leather belt upon him beneath his cloak and a pair of
daggers in it, with his long-sword looped up; he had his felt hat on
his head, buckled again, and decked with half a pheasant's tail; he had
his long boots of undressed leather, that rose above his knees; and on
his left wrist sat his grim falcon Agnes, hooded and belled, not because
he rode after game, but from mere custom, and to give her the air.

He was meeting his first man's trouble.

Last year he had said good-bye to Derby Grammar School--of old my lord
Bishop Durdant's foundation--situated in St. Peter's churchyard. Here he
had done the right and usual things; he had learned his grammar; he had
fought; he had been chastised; he had robed the effigy of his pious
founder in a patched doublet with a saucepan on his head (but that had
been done before he had learned veneration)--and so had gone home again
to Matstead, proficient in Latin, English, history, writing, good
manners and chess, to live with his father, to hunt, to hear mass when a
priest was within reasonable distance, to indite painful letters now and
then on matters of the estate, and to learn how to bear himself
generally as should one of Master's rank--the son of a gentleman who
bore arms, and his father's father before him. He dined at twelve, he
supped at six, he said his prayers, and blessed himself when no
strangers were by. He was something of a herbalist, as a sheer hobby of
his own; he went to feed his falcons in the morning, he rode with them
after dinner (from last August he had found himself riding north more
often than south, since Marjorie lived in that quarter); and now all had
been crowned last Christmas Eve, when in the enclosed garden at her
house he had kissed her two hands suddenly, and made her a little speech
he had learned by heart; after which he kissed her on the lips as a man
should, in the honest noon sunlight.

All this was as it should be. There were no doubts or disasters
anywhere. Marjorie was an only daughter as he an only son. Her father,
it is true, was but a Derby lawyer, but he and his wife had a good
little estate above the Hathersage valley, and a stone house in it. As
for religion, that was all well too. Master Manners was as good a
Catholic as Master Audrey himself; and the families met at mass perhaps
as much as four or five times in the year, either at Padley, where Sir
Thomas' chapel still had priests coming and going; sometimes at Dethick
in the Babingtons' barn; sometimes as far north as Harewood.

And now a man's trouble was come upon the boy. The cause of it was as
follows.

Robin Audrey was no more religious than a boy of seventeen should be.
Yet he had had as few doubts about the matter as if he had been a monk.
His mother had taught him well, up to the time of her death ten years
ago; and he had learned from her, as well as from his father when that
professor spoke of it at all, that there were two kinds of religion in
the world, the true and the false--that is to say, the Catholic religion
and the other one. Certainly there were shades of differences in the
other one; the Turk did not believe precisely as the ancient Roman, nor
yet as the modern Protestant--yet these distinctions were subtle and
negligible; they were all swallowed up in an unity of falsehood. Next he
had learned that the Catholic religion was at present blown upon by many
persons in high position; that pains and penalties lay upon all who
adhered to it. Sir Thomas FitzHerbert, for instance, lay now in the
Fleet in London on that very account. His own father, too, three or four
times in the year, was under necessity of paying over heavy sums for the
privilege of not attending Protestant worship; and, indeed, had been
forced last year to sell a piece of land over on Lees Moor for this very
purpose. Priests came and went at their peril.... He himself had fought
two or three battles over the affair in St. Peter's churchyard, until he
had learned to hold his tongue. But all this was just part of the game.
It seemed to him as inevitable and eternal as the changes of the
weather. Matstead Church, he knew, had once been Catholic; but how long
ago he did not care to inquire. He only knew that for awhile there had
been some doubt on the matter; and that before Mr. Barton's time, who
was now minister there, there had been a proper priest in the place, who
had read English prayers there and a sort of a mass, which he had
attended as a little boy. Then this had ceased; the priest had gone and
Mr. Barton come, and since that time he had never been to church there,
but had heard the real mass wherever he could with a certain secrecy.
And there might be further perils in future, as there might be
thunderstorms or floods. There was still the memory of the descent of
the Commissioners a year or two after his birth; he had been brought up
on the stories of riding and counter-riding, and the hiding away of
altar-plate and beads and vestments. But all this was in his bones and
blood; it was as natural that professors of the false religion should
seek to injure and distress professors of the true, as that the foxes
should attack the poultry-yard. One took one's precautions, one hoped
for the best; and one was quite sure that one day the happy ancient
times his mother had told him of would come back, and Christ's cause be
vindicated.

And now the foundations of the earth were moved and heaven reeled above
him; for his father, after a month or two of brooding, had announced, on
St. Stephen's Day, that he could tolerate it no longer; that God's
demands were unreasonable; that, after all, the Protestant religion was
the religion of her Grace, that men must learn to move with the times,
and that he had paid his last fine. At Easter, he observed, he would
take the bread and wine in Matstead Church, and Robin would take them
too.


II

The sun stood half-way towards his setting as Robin rode up from the
valley, past Padley, over the steep ascent that led towards Booth's
Edge. The boy was brighter a little as he came up; he had counted above
eighty snipe within the last mile and a half, and he was coming near to
Marjorie. About him, rising higher as he rose, stood the great
low-backed hills. Cecily stepped out more sharply, snuffing delicately,
for she knew her way well enough by now, and looked for a feed; and the
boy's perplexities stood off from him a little. Matters must surely be
better so soon as Marjorie's clear eyes looked upon them.

Then the roofs of Padley disappeared behind him, and he saw the smoke
going up from the little timbered Hall, standing back against its bare
wind-blown trees.

A great clatter and din of barking broke out as the mare's hoofs sounded
on the half-paved space before the great door; and then, in the pause, a
gaggling of geese, solemn and earnest, from out of sight. Jacob led the
outcry, a great mastiff, chained by the entrance, of the breed of which
three are set to meet a bear and four a lion. Then two harriers whipped
round the corner, and a terrier's head showed itself over the wall of
the herb-garden on the left, as a man, bareheaded, in his shirt and
breeches, ran out suddenly with a thonged whip, in time to meet a pair
of spaniels in full career. Robin sat his horse silently till peace was
restored, his right leg flung across the pommel, untwisting Agnes' leash
from his fist. Then he asked for Mistress Marjorie, and dropped to the
ground, leaving his mare and falcon in the man's hands, with an air.

He flicked his fingers to growling Jacob as he went past to the side
entrance on the east, stepped in through the little door that was beside
the great one, and passed on as he had been bidden into the little
court, turned to the left, went up an outside staircase, and so down a
little passage to the ladies' parlour, where he knocked upon the door.
The voice he knew called to him from within; and he went in, smiling to
himself. Then he took the girl who awaited him there in both his arms,
and kissed her twice--first her hands and then her lips, for respect
should come first and ardour second.

"My love," said Robin, and threw off his hat with the pheasant's tail,
for coolness' sake.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a sweet room this which he already knew by heart; for it was here
that he had sat with Marjorie and her mother, silent and confused,
evening after evening, last autumn; it was here, too, that she had led
him last Christmas Eve, scarcely ten days ago, after he had kissed her
in the enclosed garden. But the low frosty sunlight lay in it now, upon
the blue painted wainscot that rose half up the walls, the tall presses
where the linen lay, the pieces of stuff, embroidered with pale lutes
and wreaths that Mistress Manners had bought in Derby, hanging now over
the plaster spaces. There was a chimney, too, newly built, that was
thought a great luxury; and in it burned an armful of logs, for the girl
was setting out new linen for the household, and the scents of lavender
and burning wood disputed the air between them.

"I thought it would be you," she said, "when I heard the dogs."

She piled the last rolls of linen in an ordered heap, and came to sit
beside him. Robin took one hand in his and sat silent.

She was of an age with him, perhaps a month the younger; and, as it
ought to be, was his very contrary in all respects. Where he was fair,
she was pale and dark; his eyes were blue, hers black; he was lusty and
showed promise of broadness, she was slender.

"And what news do you bring with you now?" she said presently.

He evaded this.

"Mistress Manners?" he asked.

"Mother has a megrim," she said; "she is in her chamber." And she smiled
at him again. For these two, as is the custom of young persons who love
one another, had said not a word on either side--neither he to his
father nor she to her parents. They believed, as young persons do, that
parents who bring children into the world, hold it as a chief danger
that these children should follow their example, and themselves be
married. Besides, there is something delicious in secrecy.

"Then I will kiss you again," he said, "while there is opportunity."

       *       *       *       *       *

Making love is a very good way to pass the time, above all when that
same time presses and other disconcerting things should be spoken of
instead; and this device Robin now learned. He spoke of a hundred things
that were of no importance: of the dress that she wore--russet, as it
should be, for country girls, with the loose sleeves folded back above
her elbows that she might handle the linen; her apron of coarse linen,
her steel-buckled shoes. He told her that he loved her better in that
than in her costume of state--the ruff, the fardingale, the brocaded
petticoat, and all the rest--in which he had seen her once last summer
at Babington House. He talked then, when she would hear no more of that,
of Tuesday seven-night, when they would meet for hawking in the lower
chase of the Padley estates; and proceeded then to speak of Agnes, whom
he had left on the fist of the man who had taken his mare, of her
increasing infirmities and her crimes of crabbing; and all the while he
held her left hand in both of his, and fitted her fingers between his,
and kissed them again when he had no more to say on any one point; and
wondered why he could not speak of the matter on which he had come, and
how he should tell her. And then at last she drew it from him.

"And now, my Robin," she said, "tell me what you have in your mind. You
have talked of this and that and Agnes and Jock, and Padley chase, and
you have not once looked me in the eyes since you first came in."

Now it was not shame that had held him from telling her, but rather a
kind of bewilderment. The affair might hold shame, indeed, or anger, or
sorrow, or complacence, but he did not know; and he wished, as young men
of decent birth should wish, to present the proper emotion on its right
occasion. He had pondered on the matter continually since his father had
spoken to him on Saint Stephen's night; and at one time it seemed that
his father was acting the part of a traitor and at another of a
philosopher. If it were indeed true, after all, that all men were
turning Protestant, and that there was not so much difference between
the two religions, then it would be the act of a wise man to turn
Protestant too, if only for a while. And on the other hand his pride of
birth and his education by his mother and his practice ever since drew
him hard the other way. He was in a strait between the two. He did not
know what to think, and he feared what Marjorie might think.

It was this, then, that had held him silent. He feared what Marjorie
might think, for that was the very thing that he thought that he thought
too, and he foresaw a hundred inconveniences and troubles if it were so.

"How did you know I had anything in my mind?" he asked. "Is it not
enough reason for my coming that you should be here?"

She laughed softly, with a pleasant scornfulness.

"I read you like a printed book," she said. "What else are women's wits
given them for?"

He fell to stroking her hand again at that, but she drew it away.

"Not until you have told me," she said.

So then he told her.

It was a long tale, for it began as far ago as last August, when his
father had come back from giving evidence before the justices at Derby
on a matter of witchcraft, and had been questioned again about his
religion. It was then that Robin had seen moodiness succeed to anger,
and long silence to moodiness. He told the tale with a true lover's art,
for he watched her face and trained his tone and his manner as he saw
her thoughts come and go in her eyes and lips, like gusts of wind across
standing corn; and at last he told her outright what his father had said
to him on St. Stephen's night, and how he himself had kept silence.

Marjorie's face was as white as a moth's wing when he was finishing, and
her eyes like sunset pools; but she flamed up bright and rosy as he
finished.

"You kept silence!" she cried.

"I did not wish to anger him, my dear; he is my father," he said gently.

The colour died out of her face again and she nodded once or twice, and
a great pensiveness came down on her. He took her hand again softly, and
she did not resist.

"The only doubt," she said presently, as if she talked to herself, "is
whether you had best be gone at Easter, or stay and face it out."

"Yes," said Robin, with his dismay come fully to the birth.

Then she turned on him, full of a sudden tenderness and compassion.

"Oh! my Robin," she cried, "and I have not said a word about you and
your own misery. I was thinking but of Christ's honour. You must forgive
me.... What must it be for you!... That it should be your father! You
are sure that he means it?"

"My father does not speak until he means it. He is always like that. He
asks counsel from no one. He thinks and he thinks, and then he speaks;
and it is finished."

She fell then to thinking again, her sweet lips compressed together, and
her eyes frightened and wondering, searching round the hanging above the
chimney-breast. (It presented Icarus in the chariot of the sun; and it
was said in Derby that it had come from my lord Abbot's lodging at
Bolton.)

Meantime Robin thought too. He was as wax in the hands of this girl, and
knew it, and loved that it should be so. Yet he could not help his
dismay while he waited for her seal to come down on him and stamp him to
her model. For he foresaw more clearly than ever now the hundred
inconveniences that must follow, now that it was evident that to
Marjorie's mind (and therefore to God Almighty's) there must be no
tampering with the old religion. He had known that it must be so; yet he
had thought, on the way here, of a dozen families he knew who, in his
own memory, had changed from allegiance to the Pope of Rome to that of
her Grace, without seeming one penny the worse. There were the Martins,
down there in Derby; the Squire and his lady of Ashenden Hall; the
Conways of Matlock; and the rest--these had all changed; and though he
did not respect them for it, yet the truth was that they were not yet
stricken by thunderbolts or eaten by the plague. He had wondered whether
there were not a way to do as they had done, yet without the disgrace of
it.... However, this was plainly not to be so with him. He must put up
with the inconveniences as well as he could, and he just waited to hear
from Marjorie how this must be done.

She turned to him again at last. Twice her lips opened to speak, and
twice she closed them again. Robin continued to stroke her hand and wait
for judgment. The third time she spoke.

"I think you must go away," she said, "for Easter. Tell your father that
you cannot change your religion simply because he tells you so. I do not
see what else is to be done. He will think, perhaps, that if you have a
little time to think you will come over to him. Well, that is not so,
but it may make it easier for him to believe it for a while.... You must
go somewhere where there is a priest.... Where can you go?"

Robin considered.

"I could go to Dethick," he said.

"That is not far enough away, I think."

"I could come here," he suggested artfully.

A smile lit in her eyes, shone in her mouth, and passed again into
seriousness.

"That is scarcely a mile further," she said. "We must think.... Will he
be very angry, Robin?"

Robin smiled grimly.

"I have never withstood him in a great affair," he said. "He is angry
enough over little things."

"Poor Robin!"

"Oh! he is not unjust to me. He is a good father to me."

"That makes it all the sadder," she said.

"And there is no other way?" he asked presently.

She glanced at him.

"Unless you would withstand him to the face. Would you do that, Robin?"

"I will do anything you tell me," he said simply.

"You darling!... Well, Robin, listen to me. It is very plain that sooner
or later you will have to withstand him. You cannot go away every time
there is communion at Matstead, or, indeed, every Sunday. Your father
would have to pay the fines for you, I have no doubt, unless you went
away altogether. But I think you had better go away for this time. He
will almost expect it, I think. At first he will think that you will
yield to him; and then, little by little (unless God's grace brings
himself back to the Faith), he will learn to understand that you will
not. But it will be easier for him that way; and he will have time to
think what to do with you, too.... Robin, what would you do if you went
away?"

Robin considered again.

"I can read and write," he said. "I am a Latinist: I can train falcons
and hounds and break horses. I do not know if there is anything else
that I can do."

"You darling!" she said again.

       *       *       *       *       *

These two, as will have been seen, were as simple as children, and as
serious. Children are not gay and light-hearted, except now and then
(just as men and women are not serious except now and then). They are
grave and considering: all that they lack is experience. These two,
then, were real children; they were grave and serious because a great
thing had disclosed itself to them in which two or three large
principles were present, and no more. There was that love of one
another, whose consummation seemed imperilled, for how could these two
ever wed if Robin were to quarrel with his father? There was the
Religion which was in their bones and blood--the Religion for which
already they had suffered and their fathers before them. There was the
honour and loyalty which this new and more personal suffering demanded
now louder than ever; and in Marjorie at least, as will be seen more
plainly later, there was a strong love of Jesus Christ and His Mother,
whom she knew, from her hidden crucifix and her beads, and her Jesus
Psalter--which she used every day--as well as in her own soul--to be
wandering together once more among the hills of Derbyshire, sheltering,
at peril of Their lives, in stables and barns and little secret
chambers, because there was no room for Them in Their own places. It was
this last consideration, as Robin had begun to guess, that stood
strongest in the girl; it was this, too, as again he had begun to guess,
that made her all that she was to him, that gave her that strange
serious air of innocency and sweetness, and drew from him a love that
was nine-tenths reverence and adoration. (He always kissed her hands
first, it will be remembered, before her lips.)

So then they sat and considered and talked. They did not speak much of
her Grace, nor of her Grace's religion, nor of her counsellors and
affairs of state: these things were but toys and vanities compared with
matters of love and faith; neither did they speak much of the
Commissioners that had been to Derbyshire once and would come again, or
of the alarms and the dangers and the priest hunters, since those things
did not at present touch them very closely. It was rather of Robin's
father, and whether and when the maid should tell her parents, and how
this new trouble would conflict with their love. They spoke, that is to
say, of their own business and of God's; and of nothing else. The frosty
sunshine crept down the painted wainscot and lay at last at their feet,
reddening to rosiness....


III

Robin rode away at last with a very clear idea of what he was to do in
the immediate present, and with no idea at all of what was to be done
later. Marjorie had given him three things--advice; a pair of beads that
had been the property of Mr. Cuthbert Maine, seminary priest, recently
executed in Cornwall for his religion; and a kiss--the first deliberate,
free-will kiss she had ever given him. The first he was to keep, the
second he was to return, the third he was to remember; and these three
things, or, rather, his consideration of them, worked upon him as he
went. Her advice, besides that which has been described, was,
principally, to say his Jesus Psalter more punctually, to hear mass
whenever that were possible, to trust in God, and to be patient and
submissive with his father in all things that did not touch divine love
and faith. The pair of beads that were once Mr. Maine's, he was to keep
upon him always, day and night, and to use them for his devotions. The
kiss--well, he was to remember this, and to return it to her upon their
next meeting.

A great star came out as he drew near home. His path took him not
through the village, but behind it, near enough for him to hear the
barkings of the dogs and to smell upon the frosty air the scent of the
wood fires. The house was a great one for these parts. There was a small
gate-house before it, built by his father for dignity, with a lodge on
either side and an arch in the middle, and beyond this lay the short
road, straight and broad, that went up to the court of the house. This
court was, on three sides of it, buildings; the hall and the buttery and
the living-rooms in the midst, with the stables and falconry on the
left, and the servants' lodgings on the right; the fourth side, that
which lay opposite to the little gate-house, was a wall, with a great
double gate in it, hung on stone posts that had, each of them, a great
stone dog that held a blank shield. All this later part, the wall with
the gate, the stables and the servants' lodgings, as well as the
gatehouse without, had been built by the lad's father twenty years ago,
to bring home his wife to; for, until that time, the house had been but
a little place, though built of stone, and solid and good enough. The
house stood half-way up the rise of the hill, above the village, with
woods about it and behind it; and it was above these woods behind that
the great star came out like a diamond in enamel-work; and Robin looked
at it, and fell to thinking of Marjorie again, putting all other
thoughts away. Then, as he rode through into the court on to the cobbled
stones, a man ran out from the stable to take his mare from him.

"Master Babington is here," he said. "He came half an hour ago."

"He is in the hall?"

"Yes, sir; they are at supper."

       *       *       *       *       *

The hall at Matstead was such as that of most esquires of means. Its
daïs was to the south end, and the buttery entrance and the screens to
the north, through which came the servers with the meat. In the midst of
the floor stood the reredos with the fire against it, and a round vent
overhead in the roof through which went the smoke and came the rain. The
tables stood down the hall, one on either side, with the master's table
at the daïs end set cross-ways. It was not a great hall, though that was
its name; it ran perhaps forty feet by twenty. It was lighted, not only
by the fire that burned there through the winter day and night, but by
eight torches in cressets that hung against the walls and sadly smoked
them; and the master's table was lighted by six candles, of latten on
common days and of silver upon festivals.

There were but two at the master's table this evening, Mr. Audrey
himself, a smallish, high-shouldered man, ruddy-faced, with bright blue
eyes like his son's, and no hair upon his face (for this was the way of
old men then, in the country, at least); and Mr. Anthony Babington, a
young man scarcely a year older than Robin himself, of a brown
complexion and a high look in his face, but a little pale, too, with
study, for he was learned beyond his years and read all the books that
he could lay hand to. It was said even that his own verses, and a
prose-lament he had written upon the Death of a Hound, were read with
pleasure in London by the lords and gentlemen. It was as long ago as
'71, that his verses had first become known, when he was still serving
in the school of good manners as page in my Lord Shrewsbury's household.
They were considered remarkable for so young a boy. So it was to this
company that Robin came, walking up between the tables after he had
washed his hands at the lavatory that stood by the screens.

"You are late, lad," said his father.

"I was over to Padley, sir.... Good-day, Anthony."

Then silence fell again, for it was the custom in good houses to keep
silence, or very nearly, at dinner and supper. At times music would
play, if there was music to be had; or a scholar would read from a book
for awhile at the beginning, from the holy gospels in devout households,
or from some other grave book. But if there were neither music nor
reading, all would hold their tongues.

Robin was hungry from his riding and the keen air; and he ate well.
First he stayed his appetite a little with a hunch of cheat-bread, and a
glass of pomage, while the servant was bringing him his entry of eggs
cooked with parsley. Then he ate this; and next came half a wild-duck
cooked with sage and sweet potatoes; and last of all a florentine which
he ate with a cup of Canarian. He ate heartily and quickly, while the
two waited for him and nibbled at marchpane. Then, when the doors were
flung open and the troop of servants came in to their supper, Mr. Audrey
blessed himself, and for them, too; and they went out by a door behind
into the wainscoted parlour, where the new stove from London stood, and
where the conserves and muscadel awaited them. For this, or like it, had
been the procedure in Matstead hall ever since Robin could remember,
when first he had come from the women to eat his food with the men.

"And how were all at Booth's Edge?" asked Mr. Audrey, when all had
pulled off their boots in country fashion, and were sitting each with
his glass beside him. (Through the door behind came the clamour of the
farm-men and the keepers of the chase and the servants, over their
food.)

"I saw Marjorie only, sir," said the boy. "Mr. Manners was in Derby, and
Mrs. Manners had a megrim."

"Mrs. Manners is ageing swifter than her husband," observed Anthony.

There seemed a constraint upon the company this evening. Robin spoke of
his ride, of things which he had seen upon it, of a wood that should be
thinned next year; and Anthony made a quip or two such as he was
accustomed to make; but the master sat silent for the most part,
speaking to the lads once or twice for civility's sake, but no more. And
presently silences began to fall, that were very unusual things in Mr.
Anthony's company, for he had a quick and a gay wit, and talked enough
for five. Robin knew very well what was the matter; it was what lay upon
his own heart as heavy as lead; but he was sorry that the signs of it
should be so evident, and wondered what he should say to his friend
Anthony when the time came for telling; since Anthony was as ardent for
the old Faith as any in the land. It was a bitter time, this, for the
old families that served God as their fathers had, and desired to serve
their prince too; for, now and again, the rumour would go abroad that
another house had fallen, and another name gone from the old roll. And
what would Anthony Babington say, thought the lad, when he heard that
Mr. Audrey, who had been so hot and persevered so long, must be added to
these?

And then, on a sudden, Anthony himself opened on a matter that was at
least cognate.

"I was hearing to-day from Mr. Thomas FitzHerbert that his uncle would
be let out again of the Fleet soon to collect his fines."

He spoke bitterly; and, indeed, there was reason; for not only were the
recusants (as the Catholics were named) put in prison for their faith,
but fined for it as well, and let out of prison to raise money for this,
by selling their farms or estates.

"He will go to Norbury?" asked Robin.

"He will come to Padley, too, it is thought. Her Grace must have her
money for her ships and her men, and for her pursuivants to catch us all
with; and it is we that must pay. Shall you sell again this year, sir?"

Mr. Audrey shook his head, pursing up his lips and staring upon the
fire.

"I can sell no more," he said.

Then an agony seized upon Robin lest his father should say all that was
in his mind. He knew it must be said; yet he feared its saying, and with
a quick wit he spoke of that which he knew would divert his friend.

"And the Queen of the Scots," he said. "Have you heard more of her?"

Now Anthony Babington was one of those spirits that live largely within
themselves, and therefore see that which is without through a haze or
mist of their own moods. He read much in the poets; you would say that
Vergil and Ovid, as well as the poets of his own day, were his friends;
he lived within, surrounded by his own images, and therefore he loved
and hated with ten times the ardour of a common man. He was furious for
the Old Faith, furious against the new; he dreamed of wars and gallantry
and splendour; you could see it even in his dress, in his furred
doublet, the embroideries at his throat, his silver-hilted rapier, as
well as in his port and countenance: and the burning heart of all his
images, the mirror on earth of Mary in heaven, the emblem of his piety,
the mistress of his dreams--she who embodied for him what the courtiers
in London protested that Elizabeth embodied for them--the pearl of great
price, the one among ten thousand--this, for him, was Mary Stuart, Queen
of Scotland, now prisoner in her cousin's hands, going to and fro from
house to house, with a guard about her, yet with all the seeming of
liberty and none of its reality....

The rough bitterness died out of the boy's face, and a look came upon it
as of one who sees a vision.

"Queen Mary?" he said, as if he pronounced the name of the Mother of
God. "Yes; I have heard of her.... She is in Norfolk, I think."

Then he let flow out of him the stream that always ran in his heart like
sorrowful music ever since the day when first, as a page, in my Lord
Shrewsbury's house in Sheffield, he had set eyes on that queen of
sorrows. Then, again, upon the occasion of his journey to Paris, he had
met with Mr. Morgan, her servant, and the Bishop of Glasgow, her
friend, whose talk had excited and inspired him. He had learned from
them something more of her glories and beauties, and remembering what he
had seen of her, adored her the more. He leaned back now, shading his
eyes from the candles upon the table, and began to sing his love and his
queen. He told of new insults that had been put upon her, new
deprivations of what was left to her of liberty; he did not speak now of
Elizabeth by name, since a fountain, even of talk, should not give out
at once sweet water and bitter; but he spoke of the day when Mary should
come herself to the throne of England, and take that which was already
hers; when the night should roll away, and the morning-star arise; and
the Faith should come again like the flowing tide, and all things be
again as they had been from the beginning. It was rank treason that he
talked, such as would have brought him to Tyburn if it had been spoken
in London in indiscreet company; it was that treason which her Grace
herself had made possible by her faithlessness to God and man; such
treason as God Himself must have mercy upon, since He reads all hearts
and their intentions. The others kept silence.

At the end he stood up. Then he stooped for his boots.

"I must be riding, sir," he said.

Mr. Audrey raised his hand to the latten bell that stood beside him on
the table.

"I will take Anthony to his horse," said Robin suddenly, for a thought
had come to him.

"Then good-night, sir," said Anthony, as he drew on his second boot and
stood up.

       *       *       *       *       *

The sky was all ablaze with stars now as they came out into the court.
On their right shone the high windows of the little hall where peace now
reigned, except for the clatter of the boys who took away the dishes;
and the night was very still about them in the grip of the frost, for
the village went early to bed, and even the dogs were asleep.

Robin said nothing as they went over the paving, for his determination
was not yet ripe, and Anthony was still aglow with his own talk. Then,
as the servant who waited for his master, with the horses, showed
himself in the stable-arch with a lantern, Robin's mind was made up.

"I have something to tell you," he said softly. "Tell your man to wait."

"Eh?"

"Tell your man to wait with the horses."

His heart beat hot and thick in his throat as he led the way through the
screens and out beyond the hall and down the steps again into the
pleasaunce. Anthony took him by the sleeve once or twice, but he said
nothing, and went on across the grass, and out through the open iron
gate that gave upon the woods. He dared not say what he had to say
within the precincts of the house, for fear he should be overheard and
the shame known before its time. Then, when they had gone a little way
into the wood, into the dark out of the starlight, Robin turned; and, as
he turned, saw the windows of the hall go black as the boys extinguished
the torches.

"Well?" whispered Anthony sharply (for a fool could see that the news
was to be weighty, and Anthony was no fool).

It was wonderful how Robin's thoughts had fixed themselves since his
talk with Mistress Marjorie. He had gone to Padley, doubting of what he
should say, doubting what she would tell him, asking himself even
whether compliance might not be the just as well as the prudent way. Yet
now black shame had come on him--the black shame that any who was a
Catholic should turn from his faith; blacker, that he should so turn
without even a touch of the rack or the threat of it; blackest of all,
that it should be his own father who should do this. It was partly food
and wine that had strengthened him, partly Anthony's talk just now; but
the frame and substance of it all was Marjorie and her manner of
speaking, and her faith in him and in God.

He stood still, silent, breathing so heavily that Anthony heard him.

"Tell me, Rob; tell me quickly."

Robin drew a long breath.

"You saw that my father was silent?" he said.

"Yes."

"Stay.... Will you swear to me by the mass that you will tell no one
what you will hear from me till you hear it from others?"

"I will swear it," whispered Anthony in the darkness.

Again Robin sighed in a long, shuddering breath. Anthony could hear him
tremble with cold and pain.

"Well," he said, "my father will leave the Church next Easter. He is
tired of paying fines, he says. And he has bidden me to come with him to
Matstead Church."

There was dead silence.

"I went to tell Marjorie to-day," whispered Robin. "She has promised to
be my wife some day; so I told her, but no one else. She has bidden me
to leave Matstead for Easter, and pray to God to show me what to do
afterwards. Can you help me, Anthony?"

He was seized suddenly by the arms.

"Robin.... No ... no! It is not possible!"

"It is certain. I have never known my father to turn from his word."

       *       *       *       *       *

From far away in the wild woods came a cry as the two stood there. It
might be a wolf or fox, if any were there, or some strange night-bird,
or a woman in pain. It rose, it seemed, to a scream, melancholy and
dreadful, and then died again. The two heard it, but said nothing, one
to the other. No doubt it was some beast in a snare or a-hunting, but it
chimed in with the desolation of their hearts so as to seem but a part
of it. So the two stood in silence. The house was quiet now, and most of
those within it upon their beds. Only, as the two knew, there still sat
in silence within the little wainscoted parlour, with his head on his
hand and a glass of muscadel beside him--he of whom they thought--the
father of one and the friend and host of the other.... It was not until
this instant in the dark and to the quiet, with the other lad's hands
still gripped on to his arms, that this boy understood the utter shame
and the black misery of that which he had said, and the other heard.



CHAPTER II


I

There were excuses in plenty for Robin to ride abroad, to the north
towards Hathersage or to the south towards Dethick, as the whim took
him; for he was learning to manage the estate that should be his one
day. At one time it was to quiet a yeoman whose domain had been ridden
over and his sown fields destroyed; at another, to dispute with a miller
who claimed for injury through floods for which he held his lord
responsible; at a third, to see to the woodland or the fences broken by
the deer. He came and went then as he willed; and on the second day,
after Anthony's visit, set out before dinner to meet him, that they
might speak at length of what lay now upon both their hearts.

To his father he had said no more, nor he to him. His father sat quiet
in the parlour, or was in his own chamber when Robin was at home; but
the lad understood very well that there was no thought of yielding. And
there were a dozen things on which he himself must come to a decision.
There was the first, the question as to where he was to go for Easter,
and how he was to tell his father; what to do if his father forbade him
outright; whether or no the priests of the district should be told; what
to do with the chapel furniture that was kept in a secret place in a
loft at Matstead. Above all, there hung over him the thought of what
would come after, if his father held to his decision and would allow him
neither to keep his religion at home nor go elsewhere.

On the second day, therefore, he rode out (the frost still holding,
though the sun was clear and warm), and turned southwards through the
village for the Dethick road, towards the place in which he had
appointed to meet Anthony. At the entrance to the village he passed the
minister, Mr. Barton, coming out of his house, that had been the
priest's lodging, a middle-aged man, made a minister under the new
Prayer-Book, and therefore, no priest as were some of the ministers
about, who had been made priests under Mary. He was a solid man, of no
great wit or learning, but there was not an ounce of harm in him. (They
were fortunate, indeed, to have such a minister; since many parishes had
but laymen to read the services; and in one, not twenty miles away, the
squire's falconer held the living.) Mr. Barton was in his sad-coloured
cloak and round cap, and saluted Robin heartily in his loud, bellowing
voice.

"Riding abroad again," he cried, "on some secret errand!"

"I will give your respects to Mr. Babington," said Robin, smiling
heavily. "I am to meet him about a matter of a tithe too!"

"Ah! you Papists would starve us altogether if you could," roared the
minister, who wished no better than to be at peace with his neighbours,
and was all for liberty.

"You will get your tithe safe enough--one of you, at least," said Robin.
"It is but a matter as to who shall pay it."

He waved good-day to the minister and set his horse to the Dethick
track.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was no going fast to-day along this country road. The frosts and
the thaws had made of it a very way of sorrows. Here in the harder parts
was a tumble of ridges and holes, with edges as hard as steel; here in
the softer, the faggots laid to build it up were broken or rotted
through, making it no better than a trap for horses' feet; and it was a
full hour before Robin finished his four miles and turned up through the
winter woodland to the yeoman's farm where he was to meet Anthony. It
was true, as he had said to Mr. Barton, that they were to speak of a
matter of tithe--this was to be their excuse if his father questioned
him--for there was a doubt as to in which parish stood this farm, for
the yeoman tilled three meadows that were in the Babington estate and
two in Matstead.

As he came up the broken ground on to the crest of the hill, he saw
Anthony come out of the yard-gate and the yeoman with him. Then Anthony
mounted his horse and rode down towards him, bidding the man stay, over
his shoulder.

"It is all plain enough," shouted Anthony loud enough for the man to
hear. "It is Dethick that must pay. You need not come up, Robin; we must
do the paying."

Robin checked his mare and waited till the other came near enough to
speak.

"Young Thomas FitzHerbert is within. He is riding round his new
estates," said the other beneath his breath. "I thought I would come out
and tell you; and I do not know where we can talk or dine. I met him on
the road, and he would come with me. He is eating his dinner there."

"But I must eat my dinner too," said Robin, in dismay.

"Will you tell him of what you have told me? He is safe and discreet, I
think."

"Why, yes, if you think so," said Robin. "I do not know him very well."

"Oh! he is safe enough, and he has learned not to talk. Besides, all the
country will know it by Easter."

So they turned their horses back again and rode up to the farm.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a great day for a yeoman when three gentlemen should take their
dinners in his house; and the place was in a respectful uproar. From the
kitchen vent went up a pillar of smoke, and through its door, in and out
continually, fled maids with dishes. The yeoman himself, John Merton, a
dried-looking, lean man, stood cap in hand to meet the gentlemen; and
his wife, crimson-faced from the fire, peeped and smiled from the open
door of the living-room that gave immediately upon the yard. For these
gentlemen were from three of the principal estates here about. The
Babingtons had their country house at Dethick and their town house in
Derby; the Audreys owned a matter of fifteen hundred acres at least all
about Matstead; and the FitzHerberts, it was said, scarcely knew
themselves all that they owned, or rather all that had been theirs until
the Queen's Grace had begun to strip them of it little by little on
account of their faith. The two Padleys, at least, were theirs, besides
their principal house at Norbury; and now that Sir Thomas was in the
Fleet Prison for his religion, young Mr. Thomas, his heir, was of more
account than ever.

He was at his dinner when the two came in, and he rose and saluted them.
He was a smallish kind of man, with a little brown beard, and his short
hair, when he lifted his flapped cap to them, showed upright on his
head; he smiled pleasantly enough, and made space for them to sit down,
one at each side.

"We shall do very well now, Mrs. Merton," he said, "if you will bring in
that goose once more for these gentlemen."

Then he made excuses for beginning his dinner before them: he was on
his way home and must be off again presently.

It was a well-furnished table for a yeoman's house. There was a linen
napkin for each guest, one corner of which he tucked into his throat,
while the other corner lay beneath his wooden plate. The twelve silver
spoons were laid out on the smooth elm-table, and a silver salt stood
before Mr. Thomas. There was, of course, an abundance to eat and drink,
even though no more than two had been expected; and John Merton himself
stood hatless on the further side of the table and took the dishes from
the bare-armed maids to place them before the gentlemen. There was a
jack of metheglin for each to drink, and a huge loaf of miscelin (or
bread made of mingled corn) stood in the midst and beyond the salt.

They talked of this and of that and of the other, freely and easily--of
Mr. Thomas' marriage with Mistress Westley that was to take place
presently; of the new entailment of the estates made upon him by his
uncle. John Merton inquired, as was right, after Sir Thomas, and openly
shook his head when he heard of his sufferings (for he and his wife were
as good Catholics as any in the country); and when the room was empty
for a moment of the maids, spoke of a priest who, he had been told,
would say mass in Tansley next day (for it was in this way, for the most
part, that such news was carried from mouth to mouth). Then, when the
maids came in again, the battle of the tithe was fought once more, and
Mr. Thomas pronounced sentence for the second time.

They blessed themselves, all four of them, openly at the end, and went
out at last to their horses.

"Will you ride with us, sir?" asked Anthony; "we can go your way. Robin
here has something to say to you."

"I shall be happy if you will give me your company for a little. I must
be at Padley before dark, if I can, and must visit a couple of houses on
the way."

He called out to his two servants, who ran out from the kitchen wiping
their mouths, telling them to follow at once, and the three rode off
down the hill.

Then Robin told him.

He was silent for a while after he had put a question or two, biting his
lower lip a little, and putting his little beard into his mouth. Then he
burst out.

"And I dare not ask you to come to me for Easter," he said. "God only
knows where I shall be at Easter. I shall be married, too, by then. My
father is in London now and may send for me. My uncle is in the Fleet. I
am here now only to see what money I can raise for the fines and for the
solace of my uncle. I cannot ask you, Mr. Audrey, though God knows that
I would do anything that I could. Have you nowhere to go? Will your
father hold to what he says?"

Robin told him yes; and he added that there were four or five places he
could go to. He was not asking for help or harbourage, but advice only.

"And even of that I have none," cried Mr. Thomas. "I need all that I can
get myself. I am distracted, Mr. Babington, with all these troubles."

Robin asked him whether the priests who came and went should be told of
the blow that impended; for at those times every apostasy was of
importance to priests who had to run here and there for shelter.

"I will tell one or two of the more discreet ones myself," said Mr.
Thomas, "if you will give me leave. I would that they were all discreet,
but they are not. We will name no names, if you please; but some of them
are unreasonable altogether and think nothing of bringing us all into
peril."

He began to bite his beard again.

"Do you think the Commissioners will visit us again?" asked Anthony.
"Mr. Fenton was telling me--"

"It is Mr. Fenton and the like that will bring them down on us if any
will," burst out Mr. FitzHerbert peevishly. "I am as good a Catholic, I
hope, as any in the world; but we can surely live without the sacraments
for a month or two sometimes! But it is this perpetual coming and going
of priests that enrages her Grace and her counsellors. I do not believe
her Grace has any great enmity against us; but she soon will, if men
like Mr. Fenton and Mr. Bassett are for ever harbouring priests and
encouraging them. It is the same in London, I hear; it is the same in
Lancashire; it is the same everywhere. And all the world knows it, and
thinks that we do contemn her Grace by such boldness. All the mischief
came in with that old Bull, _Regnans in Excelsis_, in '69, and--"

"I beg your pardon, sir," came in a quiet voice from beyond him; and
Robin, looking across, saw Anthony with a face as if frozen.

"Pooh! pooh!" burst out Mr. Thomas, with an uneasy air. "The Holy
Father, I take it, may make mistakes, as I understand it, in such
matters, as well as any man. Why, a dozen priests have said to me they
thought it inopportune; and--"

"I do not permit," said Anthony with an air of dignity beyond his years,
"that any man should speak so in my company."

"Well, well; you are too hot altogether, Mr. Babington. I admire such
zeal indeed, as I do in the saints; but we are not bound to imitate all
that we admire. Say no more, sir; and I will say no more either."

They rode in silence.

It was, indeed, one of those matters that were in dispute at that time
amongst the Catholics. The Pope was not swift enough for some, and too
swift for others. He had thundered too soon, said one party, if, indeed,
it was right to thunder at all, and not to wait in patience till the
Queen's Grace should repent herself; and he had thundered not soon
enough, said the other. Whence it may at least be argued that he had
been exactly opportune. Yet it could not be denied that since the day
when he had declared Elizabeth cut off from the unity of the Church and
her subjects absolved from their allegiance--though never, as some
pretended then and have pretended ever since, that a private person
might kill her and do no wrong--ever since that day her bitterness had
increased yearly against her Catholic people, who desired no better than
to serve both her and their God, if she would but permit that to be
possible.


II

It would be an hour later that they bid good-bye to Mr. Thomas
FitzHerbert, high among the hills to the east of the Derwent river; and
when they had seen him ride off towards Wingerworth, rode yet a few
furlongs together to speak of what had been said.

"He can do nothing, then," said Robin; "not even to give good counsel."

"I have never heard him speak so before," cried Anthony; "he must be
near mad, I think. It must be his marriage, I suppose."

"He is full of his own troubles; that is plain enough, without seeking
others. Well, I must bear mine as best I can."

They were just parting--Anthony to ride back to Dethick, and Robin over
the moors to Matstead, when over a rise in the ground they saw the
heads of three horsemen approaching. It was a wild country that they
were in; there were no houses in sight; and in such circumstances it was
but prudent to remain together until the character of the travellers
should be plain; so the two, after a word, rode gently forward, hearing
the voices of the three talking to one another, in the still air, though
without catching a word. For, as they came nearer the voices ceased, as
if the talkers feared to be overheard.

They were well mounted, these three, on horses known as Scottish nags,
square-built, sturdy beasts, that could cover forty miles in the day.
They were splashed, too, not the horses only, but the riders, also, as
if they had ridden far, through streams or boggy ground. The men were
dressed soberly and well, like poor gentlemen or prosperous yeomen; all
three were bearded, and all carried arms as could be seen from the flash
of the sun on their hilts. It was plain, too, that they were not rogues
or cutters, since each carried his valise on his saddle, as well as from
their appearance. Our gentlemen, then, after passing them with a salute
and a good-day, were once more about to say good-bye one to the other,
and appoint a time and place to meet again for the hunting of which
Robin had spoken to Marjorie, and, indeed, had drawn rein--when one of
the three strangers was seen to turn his horse and come riding back
after them, while his friends waited.

The two lads wheeled about to meet him, as was but prudent; but while he
was yet twenty yards away he lifted his hat. He seemed about thirty
years old; he had a pleasant, ruddy face.

"Mr. Babington, I think, sir," he said.

"That is my name," said Anthony.

"I have heard mass in your house, sir," said the stranger. "My name is
Garlick."

"Why, yes, sir, I remember--from Tideswell. How do you do, Mr. Garlick?
This is Mr. Audrey, of Matstead."

They saluted one another gravely.

"Mr. Audrey is a Catholic, too, I think?"

Robin answered that he was.

"Then I have news for you, gentlemen. A priest, Mr. Simpson, is with us;
and will say mass at Tansley next Sunday. You would like to speak with
his reverence?"

"It will give us great pleasure, sir," said Anthony, touching his horse
with his heel.

"I am bringing Mr. Simpson on his way. He is just fresh from Rheims. And
Mr. Ludlam is to carry him further on Monday," continued Mr. Garlick as
they went forward.

"Mr. Ludlam?"

"He is a native of Radbourne, and has but just finished at Oxford....
Forgive me, sir; I will but just ride forward and tell them."

The two lads drew rein, seeing that he wished first to tell the others
who they were, before bringing them up; and a strange little thing fell
as Mr. Garlick joined the two. For it happened that by now the sun was
at his setting; going down in a glory of crimson over the edge of the
high moor; and that the three riders were directly in his path from
where the two lads waited. Robin, therefore, looking at them, saw the
three all together on their horses with the circle of the sun about
them, and a great flood of blood-coloured light on every side; the
priest was in the midst of the three, and the two men leaning towards
him seemed to be speaking and as if encouraging him strongly. For an
instant, so strange was the light, so immense the shadows on this side
spread over the tumbled ground up to the lads themselves, so vast the
great vault of illuminated sky, that it seemed to Robin as if he saw a
vision.... Then the strangeness passed, as Mr. Garlick turned away again
to beckon to them; and the boy thought no more of it at that time.

They uncovered as they rode towards the priest, and bowed low to him as
he lifted his hand with a few words of Latin; and the next instant they
were in talk.

Mr. Simpson, like his friends, was a youngish man at this time, with a
kind face and great, innocent eyes that seemed to wonder and question.
Mr. Ludlam, too, was under thirty years old, plainly not of gentleman's
birth, though he was courteous and well-mannered. It seemed a great
matter to these three to have fallen in with young Mr. Babington, whose
family was so well-known, and whose own fame as a scholar, as well as an
ardent Catholic, was all over the county.

Robin said little; he was overshadowed by his friend; but he listened
and watched as the four spoke together, and learned that Mr. Simpson had
been made priest scarcely a month before, and was come from Yorkshire,
which was his own county, to minister in the district of the Peak at
least for awhile. He heard, too, news from Douay, and that the college,
it was thought, might move from there to another place under the
protection of the family of De Guise, since her Grace was very hot
against Douay, whence so many of her troubles proceeded, and was doing
her best to persuade the Governor of the Netherlands to suppress it.
However, said Mr. Simpson, it was not yet done.

Anthony, too, in his turn gave the news of the county; he spoke of Mr.
Fenton, of the FitzHerberts and others that were safe and discreet
persons; but he said nothing at that time of Mr. Audrey of Matstead, at
which Robin was glad, since his shame deepened on him every hour, and
all the more now that he had met with those three men who rode so
gallantly through the country in peril of liberty or life itself. Nor
did he say anything of the FitzHerberts except that they might be relied
upon.

"We must be riding," said Garlick at last; "these moors are strange to
me; and it will be dark in half an hour."

"Will you allow me to be your guide, sir?" asked Anthony of the priest.
"It is all in my road, and you will not be troubled with questions or
answers if you are in my company."

"But what of your friend, sir?"

"Oh! Robin knows the country as he knows the flat of his hand. We were
about to separate as we met you."

"Then we will thankfully accept your guidance, sir," said the priest
gravely.

An impulse seized upon Robin as he was about to say good-day, though he
was ashamed of it five minutes later as a modest lad would be. Yet he
followed it now; he leapt off his horse and, holding Cecily's rein in
his arm, kneeled on the stones with both knees.

"Your blessing, sir," he said to the priest. And Anthony eyed him with
astonishment.


III

Robin was moved, as he rode home over the high moors, and down at last
upon the woods of Matstead, in a manner that was new to him, and that he
could not altogether understand. He had met travelling priests before;
indeed, all the priests whose masses he had ever heard, or from whom he
had received the sacraments, were travelling priests who went in peril;
and yet this young man, upon whose consecrated hands the oil was
scarcely yet dry, moved and drew his heart in a manner that he had never
yet known. It was perhaps something in the priest's face that had so
affected him; for there was a look in it of a kind of surprised timidity
and gentleness, as if he wondered at himself for being so foolhardy, and
as if he appealed with that same wonder and surprise to all who looked
on him. His voice, too, was gentle, as if tamed for the seminary and the
altar; and his whole air and manner wholly unlike that of some of the
priests whom Robin knew--loud-voiced, confident, burly men whom you
would have sworn to be country gentlemen or yeomen living on their
estates or farms and fearing to look no man in the face. It was this
latter kind, thought Robin, that was best suited to such a life--to
riding all day through north-country storms, to lodging hardily where
they best could, to living such a desperate enterprise as a priest's
life then was, with prices upon their heads and spies everywhere. It was
not a life for quiet persons like Mr. Simpson, who, surely, would be
better at his books in some college abroad, offering the Holy Sacrifice
in peace and security, and praying for adventurers more hardy than
himself. Yet here was Mr. Simpson just set out upon such an adventure,
of his own free-will and choice, with no compulsion save that of God's
grace.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was yet more than an hour before supper-time when he rode into the
court at last; and Dick Sampson, his own groom, came to take his horse
from him.

"The master's not been from home to-day, sir," said Dick when Robin
asked of his father.

"Not been from home?"

"No, sir--not out of the house, except that he was walking in the
pleasaunce half an hour ago."

Robin ran up the steps and through the screens to see if his father was
still there; but the little walled garden, so far as he could see it in
the light from the hall windows, was empty; and, indeed, it would be
strange for any man to walk in such a place at such an hour. He
wondered, too, to hear that his father had not been from home; for on
all days, except he were ill, he would be about the estate, here and
there. As he came back to the screens he heard a step going up and down
in the hall, and on looking in met his father face to face. The old man
had his hat on his head, but no cloak on his shoulders, though even with
the fire the place was cold. It was plain that he had been walking up
and down to warm himself. Robin could not make out his face very well,
as he stood with his back to a torch.

"Where have you been, my lad?"

"I went to meet Anthony at one of the Dethick farms, sir--John
Merton's."

"You met no one else?"

"Yes, sir; Mr. Thomas FitzHerbert was there and dined with us. He rode
with us, too, a little way." And then as he was on the point of speaking
of the priest, he stopped himself; and in an instant knew that never
again must he speak of a priest to his father; his father had already
lost his right to that. His father looked at him a moment, standing with
his hands clasped behind his back.

"Have you heard anything of a priest that is newly come to these
parts--or coming?"

"Yes, sir. I hear mass is to be said ... in the district on Sunday."

"Where is mass to be said?"

Robin drew along breath, lifted his eyes to his father's and then
dropped them again.

"Did you hear me, sir? Where is mass to be said?"

Again Robin lifted and again dropped his eyes.

"What is the priest's name?"

Again there was dead silence. For a son, in those days, so to behave
towards his father, was an act of very defiance. Yet the father said
nothing. There the two remained; Robin with his eyes on the ground,
expecting a storm of words or a blow in the face. Yet he knew he could
do no otherwise; the moment had come at last and he must act as he would
be obliged always to act hereafter.

Matters had matured swiftly in the boy's mind, all unconsciously to
himself. Perhaps it was the timid air of the priest he had met an hour
ago that consummated the process. At least it was so consummated.

Then his father turned suddenly on his heel; and the son went out
trembling.



CHAPTER III


I

"I will speak to you to-night, sir, after supper," said his father
sharply a second day later, when Robin, meeting his father setting out
before dinner, had asked him to give him an hour's talk.

       *       *       *       *       *

Robin's mind had worked fiercely and intently since the encounter in the
hall. His father had sat silent both at supper and afterwards, and the
next day was the same; the old man spoke no more than was necessary,
shortly and abruptly, scarcely looking his son once in the face, and the
rest of the day they had not met. It was plain to the boy that something
must follow his defiance, and he had prepared all his fortitude to meet
it. Yet the second night had passed and no word had been spoken, and by
the second morning Robin could bear it no longer; he must know what was
in his father's mind. And now the appointment was made, and he would
soon know all. His father was absent from dinner and the boy dined
alone. He learned from Dick Sampson that his father had ridden
southwards.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was not until Robin had sat down nearly half an hour later than
supper-time that the old man came in. The frost was gone; deep mud had
succeeded, and the rider was splashed above his thighs. He stayed at the
fire for his boots to be drawn off and to put on his soft-leather shoes,
while Robin stood up dutifully to await him. Then he came forward, took
his seat without a word, and called for supper. In ominous silence the
meal proceeded, and with the same thunderous air, when it was over, his
father said grace and made his way, followed by his son, into the
parlour behind. He made no motion at first to pour out his wine; then he
helped himself twice and left the jug for Robin.

Then suddenly he began without moving his head.

"I wish to know your intentions," he said, with irony so serious that it
seemed gravity. "I cannot flog you or put you to school again, and I
must know how we stand to one another."

Robin was silent. He had looked at his father once or twice, but now sat
downcast and humble in his place. With his left hand he fumbled, out of
sight, Mr. Maine's pair of beads. His father, for his part, sat with his
feet stretched to the fire, his head propped on his hand, not doing
enough courtesy to his son even to look at him.

"Do you hear me, sir?"

"Yes, sir. But I do not know what to say."

"I wish to know your intentions. Do you mean to thwart and disobey me in
all matters, or in only those that have to do with religion?"

"I do not wish to thwart or disobey you, sir, in any matters except
where my conscience is touched." (The substance of this answer had been
previously rehearsed, and the latter part of it even verbally.)

"Be good enough to tell me what you mean by that."

Robin licked his lips carefully and sat up a little in his chair.

"You told me, sir, that it was your intention to leave the Church. Then
how can I tell you of what priests are here, or where mass is to be
said? You would not have done so to one who was not a Catholic, six
months ago."

The man sneered visibly.

"There is no need," he said. "It is Mr. Simpson who is to say mass
to-morrow, and it is at Tansley that it will be said, at six o'clock in
the morning. If I choose to tell the justices, you cannot prevent it."
(He turned round in a flare of anger.) "Do you think I shall tell the
justices?"

Robin said nothing.

"Do you think I shall tell the justices?" roared the old man
insistently.

"No, sir. Now I do not."

The other growled gently and sank back.

"But if you think that I will permit my son to flout and to my face in
my own hall, and not to trust his own father--why, you are immeasurably
mistaken, sir. So I ask you again how far you intend to thwart and
disobey me."

A kind of despair surged up in the boy's heart--despair at the
fruitlessness of this ironical and furious sort of talk; and with the
despair came boldness.

"Father, will you let me speak outright, without thinking that I mean to
insult you? I do not; I swear I do not. Will you let me speak, sir?"

His father growled again a sort of acquiescence, and Robin gathered his
forces. He had prepared a kind of defence that seemed to him reasonable,
and he knew that his father was at least just. They had been friends,
these two, always, in an underground sort of way, which was all that the
relations of father and son in such days allowed. The old man was curt,
obstinate, and even boisterous in his anger; but there was a kindliness
beneath that the boy always perceived--a kindliness which permitted the
son an exceptional freedom of speech, which he used always in the last
resort and which he knew his father loved to hear him use. This, then,
was plainly a legitimate occasion for it, and he had prepared himself to
make the most of it. He began formally:

"Sir," he said, "you have brought me up in the Old Faith, sent me to
mass, and to the priest to learn my duty, and I have obeyed you always.
You have taught me that a man's duty to God must come before all
else--as our Saviour Himself said, too. And now you turn on me, and bid
me forget all that, and come to church with you.... It is not for me to
say anything to my father about his own conscience; I must leave that
alone. But I am bound to speak of mine when occasion rises, and this is
one of them.... I should be dishonouring and insulting you, sir, if I
did not believe you when you said you would turn Protestant; and a man
who says he will turn Protestant has done so already. It was for this
reason, then, and no other, that I did not answer you the other day; not
because I wish to be disobedient to you, but because I must be obedient
to God. I did not lie to you, as I might have done, and say that I did
not know who the priest was nor where mass was to be said. But I would
not answer, because it is not right or discreet for a Catholic to speak
of these things to those who are not Catholics--"

"How dare you say I am not a Catholic, sir!"

"A Catholic, sir, to my mind," said Robin steadily, "is one who holds to
the Catholic Church and to no other. I mean nothing offensive, sir; I
mean what I said I meant, and no more. It is not for me to condemn--"

"I should think not!" snorted the old man.

"Well, sir, that is my reason. And further--"

He stopped, doubtful.

"Well, sir--what further?"

"Well, I cannot come to the church with you at Easter."

His father wheeled round savagely in his chair.

"Father, hear me out, and then say what you will.... I say I cannot come
with you to church at Easter, because I am a Catholic. But I do not wish
to trouble or disobey you openly. I will go away from home for that
time. Good Mr. Barton will cause no trouble; he wants nothing but peace.
Father, you are not just to me. You have taught me too much, or you have
not given me time enough--"

Again he broke off, knowing that he had said what he did not mean, but
the old man was on him like a hawk.

"Not time enough, you say? Well, then--"

"No, sir; I did not mean that," wailed Robin suddenly. "I do not mean
that I should change if I had a hundred years; I am sure I shall not.
But--"

"You said, 'Not time enough,'" said the other meditatively. "Perhaps if
I give you time--"

"Father, I beg of you to forget what I said; I did not mean to say it.
It is not true. But Marjorie said--"

"Marjorie! What has Marjorie to do with it?"

Robin found himself suddenly in deep waters. He had plunged and found
that he could not swim. This was the second mistake he had made in
saying what he did not mean.... Again the courage of despair came to
him, and he struck out further.

"I must tell you of that too, sir," he said. "Mistress Marjorie and I--"

He stopped, overwhelmed with shame. His father turned full round and
stared at him.

"Go on, sir."

Robin seized his glass and emptied it.

"Well, sir. Mistress Marjorie and I love one another. We are but boy and
girl, sir; we know that--"

Then his father laughed. It was laughter that was at once hearty and
bitter; and, with it, came the closing of the open door in the boy's
heart. As there came out, after it, sentence after sentence of scorn and
contempt, the bolts, so to say, were shot and the key turned. It might
all have been otherwise if the elder man had been kind, or if he had
been sad or disappointed, or even if he had been merely angry; but the
soreness and misery in the old man's heart--misery at his own acts and
words, and at the outrage he was doing to his own conscience--turned his
judgment bitter, and with that bitterness his son's heart shut tight
against him.

"But boy and girl!" sneered the man. "A couple of blind puppies, I would
say rather--you with your falcons and mare and your other toys, and the
down on your chin, and your conscience; and she with her white face and
her mother and her linen-parlour and her beads"--(his charity prevailed
so far as to hinder him from more outspoken contempt)--"And you two
babes have been prattling of conscience and prayers together--I make no
doubt, and thinking yourselves Cecilies and Laurences and all the holy
martyrs--and all this without a by-your-leave, I dare wager, from parent
or father, and thinking yourselves man and wife; and you fondling her,
and she too modest to be fondled, and--"

The plain truth struck him with sudden splendour, at least sufficiently
strong to furnish him with a question.

"And have you told Mistress Marjorie about your sad rogue of a father?"

Robin, white with anger, held his lips grimly together and the wrath
blazed in an instant up from the scornful old heart, whose very love was
turned to gall.

"Tell me, sir--I will have it!" he cried.

Robin looked at him with such hard fury in his eyes that for a moment
the man winced. Then he recovered himself, and again his anger rose to
the brim.

"You need not look at me like that, you hound. Tell me, I say!"

"I will not!" shouted Robin, springing to his feet.

The old man was up too by now, with all the anger of his son hardened by
his dignity.

"You will not?"

"No."

For a moment the fate of them both still hung in the balance. If, even
at this instant, the father had remembered his love rather than his
dignity, had thought of the past and its happy years, rather than of the
blinding, swollen present; or, on the other side, if the son had but
submitted if only for an hour, and obeyed in order that he might rule
later--the whole course might have run aright, and no hearts have been
broken and no blood shed. But neither would yield. There was the fierce
northern obstinacy in them both; the gentle birth sharpened its edge;
the defiant refusal of the son, the wounding contempt of the father not
for his son only, but for his son's love--these things inflamed the
hearts of both to madness. The father seized his ultimate right, and
struck his son across the face.

Then the son answered by his only weapon.

For a sensible pause he stood there, his fresh face paled to chalkiness,
except where the print of five fingers slowly reddened. Then he made a
courteous little gesture, as if to invite his father to sit down; and as
the other did so, slowly and shaking all over, struck at him by careful
and calculated words, delivered with a stilted and pompous air:

"You have beaten me, sir; so, of course, I obey. Yes, I told Mistress
Marjorie Manners that my father no longer counted himself a Catholic,
and would publicly turn Protestant at Easter, so as to please her Grace
and be in favour with the Court and with the county justices. And I have
told Mr. Babington so as well, and also Mr. Thomas FitzHerbert. It will
spare you the pain, sir, of making any public announcement on the
matter. It is always a son's duty to spare his father pain."

Then he bowed, wheeled, and went out of the room.


II

Two hours later Robin was still lying completely dressed on his bed in
the dark.

It was a plain little chamber where he lay, fireless, yet not too cold,
since it was wainscoted from floor to ceiling, and looked out eastwards
upon the pleasaunce, with rooms on either side of it. A couple of
presses sunk in the walls held his clothes and boots; a rush-bottomed
chair stood by the bed; and the bed itself, laid immediately on the
ground, was such as was used in most good houses by all except the
master and mistress, or any sick members of the family--a straw mattress
and a wooden pillow. His bows and arrows, with a pair of dags or
pistols, hung on a rack against the wall at the foot of his bed, and a
little brass cross engraved with a figure of the Crucified hung over it.
It was such a chamber as any son of a house might have, who was a
gentleman and not luxurious.

A hundred thoughts had gone through his mind since he had flung himself
down here shaking with passion; and these had begun already to repeat
themselves, like a turning wheel, in his head. Marjorie; his love for
her; his despair of that love; his father; all that they had been, one
to the other, in the past; the little, or worse than little, that they
would be, one to the other, in the future; the priest's face as he had
seen it three days ago; what would be done at Easter, what later--all
these things, coloured and embittered now by his own sorrow for his
words to his father, and the knowledge that he had shamed himself when
he should have suffered in silence--these things turned continually in
his head, and he was too young and too simple to extricate one from the
other all at once.

Things had come about in a manner which yesterday he would not have
thought possible. He had never before spoken so to one to whom he owed
reverence; neither had this one ever treated him so. His father had
stood always to him for uprightness and justice; he had no more
questioned these virtues in his father than in God. Words or acts of
either might be strange or incomprehensible, yet the virtues themselves
remained always beyond a doubt; and now, with the opening of the door
which his father's first decision had accomplished, a crowd of questions
and judgments had rushed in, and a pillar of earth and heaven was shaken
at last.... It is a dreadful day when for the first time to a young man
or maiden, any shadow of God, however unworthy, begins to tremble.

       *       *       *       *       *

He understood presently, however, what an elder man, or a less childish,
would have understood at once--that these things must be dealt with one
by one, and that that which lay nearest to his hand was his own fault.
Even then he fought with his conscience; he told himself that no lad of
spirit could tolerate such insults against his love, to say nothing of
the injustice against himself that had gone before; but, being honest,
he presently inquired of what spirit such a lad would be--not of that
spirit which Marjorie would approve, nor the gentle-eyed priest he had
spoken with....

Well, the event was certain with such as Robin, and he was presently
standing at the door of his room, his boots drawn off and laid aside,
listening, with a heart beating in his ears to hinder him, for any sound
from beneath. He did not know whether his father were abed or not. If
not, he must ask his pardon at once.

He went downstairs at last, softly, to the parlour, and peeped in. All
was dark, except for the glimmer from the stove, and his heart felt
lightened. Then, as he was cold with his long vigil outside his bed, he
stirred the embers into a blaze and stood warming himself.

How strange and passionless, he thought, looked this room, after the
tempest that had raged in it just now. The two glasses stood there--his
own not quite empty--and the jug between them. His father's chair was
drawn to the table, as if he were still sitting in it; his own was flung
back as he had pushed it from him in his passion. There was an old print
over the stove at which he looked presently--it had been his mother's,
and he remembered it as long as his life had been--it was of Christ
carrying His cross.

His shame began to increase on him. How wickedly he had answered, with
every word a wound! He knew that the most poisonous of them all were
false; he had known it even while he spoke them; it was not to curry
favour with her Grace that his father had lapsed; it was that his temper
was tried beyond bearing by those continual fines and rebuffs; the old
man's patience was gone--that was all. And he, his son, had not said one
word of comfort or strength; he had thought of himself and his own
wrongs, and being reviled he had reviled again....

There stood against the wall between the windows a table and an oaken
desk that held the estate-bills and books; and beside the desk were laid
clean sheets of paper, an ink-pot, a pounce-box, and three or four
feather pens. It was here that he wrote, being newly from school, at his
father's dictation, or his father sometimes wrote himself, with pain and
labour, the few notices or letters that were necessary. So he went to
this and sat down at it; he pondered a little; then he wrote a single
line of abject regret.

"I ask your pardon and God's, sir, for the wicked words I said before I
left the parlour. R." He folded this and addressed it with the proper
superscription; and left it lying there.


III

It was a strange ride that he had back from Tansley next morning after
mass.

Dick Sampson had met him with the horses in the stable-court at Matstead
a little after four o'clock in the morning; and together they had ridden
through the pitch darkness, each carrying a lantern fastened to his
stirrup. So complete was the darkness, however, and so small and
confined the circle of light cast by the tossing light, that, for all
they saw, they might have been riding round and round in a garden. Now
trees showed grim and towering for an instant, then gone again; now
their eyes were upon the track, the pools, the rugged ground, the soaked
meadow-grass; half a dozen times the river glimmered on their right,
turbid and forbidding. Once there shone in the circle of light the eyes
of some beast--pig or stag; seen and vanished again.

But the return journey was another matter; for they needed no lanterns,
and the dawn rose steadily overhead, showing all that they passed in
ghostly fashion, up to final solidity.

It resembled, in fact, the dawn of Faith in a soul.

First from the darkness outlines only emerged, vast and sinister, of
such an appearance that it was impossible to tell their proportions or
distances. The skyline a mile away, beyond the Derwent, might have been
the edge of a bank a couple of yards off; the glimmering pool on the
lower meadow path might be the lighted window of a house across the
valley. There succeeded to outlines a kind of shaded tint, all worked in
gray like a print, clear enough to distinguish tree from boulder and sky
from water, yet not clear enough to show the texture of anything. The
third stage was that in which colours began to appear, yet flat and
dismal, holding, it seemed, no light, yet reflecting it; and all in an
extraordinary cold clearness. Nature seemed herself, yet struck to
dumbness. No breeze stirred the twigs overhead or the undergrowth
through which they rode. Once, as the two, riding a little apart, turned
suddenly together, up a ravine into thicker woods, they came upon a herd
of deer, who stared on them without any movement that the eye could see.
Here a stag stood with two hinds beside him; behind, Robin saw the backs
and heads of others that lay still. Only the beasts kept their eyes upon
them, as they went, watching, as if it were a picture only that went by.
So, by little and little, the breeze stirred like a waking man; cocks
crew from over the hills one to the other; dogs barked far away, till
the face of the world was itself again, and the smoke from Matstead rose
above the trees in front.

Robin had ridden in the dawn an hundred times before; yet never before
had he so perceived that strange deliberateness and sleep of the world;
and he had ridden, too, perhaps twenty times at such an hour, with his
father beside him, after mass on some such occasion. Yet it seemed to
him this time that it was the mass which he had seen, and his own
solitariness, that had illuminated his eyes. It was dreadful to him--and
yet it threw him more than ever on himself and God--that his father
would ride with him so no more. Henceforward he would go alone, or with
a servant only; he would, alone, go up to the door of house or barn and
rap four times with his riding-whip; alone he would pass upstairs
through the darkened house to the shrouded room, garret or bed-chamber,
where the group was assembled, all in silence; where presently a dark
figure would rise and light the pair of candles, and then, himself a
ghost, vest there by their light, throwing huge shadows on wainscot and
ceiling as his arms went this way and that; and then, alone of all that
were of blood-relationship to him, he would witness the Holy
Sacrifice....

How long that would be so, he did not know. Something surely must happen
that would prevent it. Or, at least, some day, he would ride so with
Marjorie, whom he had seen this morning across the dusky candle-lit
gloom, praying in a corner; or, maybe, with her would entertain the
priest, and open the door to the worshippers who streamed in, like bees
to a flower-garden, from farm and manor and village. He could not for
ever ride alone from Matstead and meet his father's silence.

One thing more, too, had moved him this morning; and that, the sight of
the young priest at the altar whom he had met on the moor. Here, more
than ever, was the gentle priestliness and innocency apparent. He stood
there in his red vestments; he moved this way and that; he made his
gestures; he spoke in undertones, lit only by the pair of wax-candles,
more Levitical than ever in such a guise, yet more unsuited than ever to
such exterior circumstances. Surely this man should say mass for ever;
yet surely never again ride over the moors to do it, amidst enemies. He
was of the strong castle and the chamber, not of the tent and the
battle.... And yet it was of such soldiers as these, as well as of the
sturdy and the strong, that Christ's army was made.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was in broad daylight, though under a weeping sky, that Robin rode
into the court at Matstead. He shook the rain from his cloak within the
screens, and stamped to get the mud away; and, as he lifted his hat to
shake it, his father came in from the pleasaunce.

Robin glanced up at him, swift and shy, half smiling, expecting a word
or a look. His father must surely have read his little letter by now,
and forgiven him. But the smile died away again, as he met the old man's
eyes; they were as hard as steel; his clean-shaven lips were set like a
trap, and, though he looked at his son, it seemed that he did not see
him. He passed through the screens and went down the steps into the
court.

The boy's heart began to beat so as near to sicken him after his long
fast and his ride. He told himself that his father could not have been
into the parlour yet, though he knew, even while he thought it, that
this was false comfort. He stood there an instant, waiting; hoping that
even now his father would call to him; but the strong figure passed
resolutely on out of sight.

Then the boy went into the hall, and swiftly through it. There on the
desk in the window lay the pen he had flung down last night, but no
more; the letter was gone; and, as he turned away, he saw lying among
the wood-ashes of the cold stove a little crumpled ball. He stooped and
drew it out. It was his letter, tossed there after the reading; his
father had not taken the pains to keep it safe, nor even to destroy it.



CHAPTER IV


I

The company was already assembled both within and without Padley, when
Robin rode up from the riverside, on a fine, windy morning, for the
sport of the day. Perhaps a dozen horses stood tethered at the entrance
to the little court, with a man or two to look after them, for the
greater part of their riders were already within; and a continual coming
and going of lads with dogs; falconers each with his cadge, or
three-sided frame on which sat the hawks; a barking of hounds, a
screaming of birds, a clatter of voices and footsteps in the court--all
this showed that the boy was none too early. A man stepped forward to
take his mare and his hawks; and Robin slipped from his saddle and went
in.

       *       *       *       *       *

Padley Hall was just such a house as would serve a wealthy gentleman who
desired a small country estate with sufficient dignity and not too many
responsibilities. It stood upon the side of the hill, well set-up above
the damps of the valley, yet protected from the north-easterly winds by
the higher slopes, on the tops of which lay Burbage Moor, where the
hawking was to be held. On the south, over the valley, stood out the
modest hall and buttery (as, indeed, they stand to this day), with a
door between them, well buttressed in two places upon the falling
ground, in one by a chimney, in the other by a slope of masonry; and
behind these buildings stood the rest of the court, the stables, the
wash-house, the bake-house and such like, below; and, above, the
sleeping rooms for the family and the servants. On the first floor,
above the buttery and the hall, were situated the ladies' parlour and
chapel; for this, at least, Padley had, however little its dignity in
other matters, that it retained its chapel served in these sorrowful
days not, as once, by a chaplain, but by whatever travelling priest
might be there.

       *       *       *       *       *

Robin entered through the great gate on the east side--a dark entrance
kept by a porter who saluted him--and rode through into the court; and
here, indeed, was the company; for out of the windows of the low hall on
his left came a babble of tongues, while two or three gentlemen with
pots in their hands saluted him from the passage door, telling him that
Mr. Thomas FitzHerbert was within. Mr. Fenton was one of these, come
over from North Lees, where he had his manor, a brisk, middle-aged man,
dressed soberly and well, with a pointed beard and pleasant, dancing
eyes.

"And Mr. John, too, came last night," he said; "but he will not hawk
with us. He is ridden from London on private matters."

It was an exceedingly gay sight on which Robin looked as he turned into
the hall. It was a low room, ceiled in oak and wainscoted half-way up, a
trifle dark, since it was lighted only by one or two little windows on
either side, yet warm and hospitable looking; with a great fire burning
in a chimney on the south side, and perhaps a dozen and a half persons
sitting over their food and drink, since they were dining early to-day
to have the longer time for sport.

A voice hailed him as he came in; and he went up to pay his respects to
Mr. John FitzHerbert, a tall man, well past middle-age, who sat with his
hat on his head, at the centre of the high table, with the arms of Eyre
and FitzHerbert beneath the canopy, all emblazoned, to do the honours
of the day.

"You are late, sir, you are late!" he cried out genially. "We are just
done."

Robin saluted him. He liked this man, though he did not know him very
well; for he was continually about the country, now in London, now at
Norbury, now at Swinnerton, always occupied with these endless matters
of fines and recusancy.

Robin saluted him then, and said a word or two; bowed to Mr. Thomas, his
son, who came up to speak with him; and then looked for Marjorie. She
sat there, at the corner of the table, with Mrs. Fenton at one side, and
an empty seat on the other. Robin immediately sat down in it, to eat his
dinner, beginning with the "gross foods," according to the English
custom. There was a piece of Christmas brawn to-day, from a pig fattened
on oats and peas, and hardened by being lodged (while he lived) on a
boarded floor; all this was told Robin across the table with
particularity, while he ate it, and drank, according to etiquette, a cup
of bastard. He attended to all this zealously, while never for an
instant was he unaware of the girl.

They tricked their elders very well, these two innocent ones. You would
have sworn that Robin looked for another place and could not see one,
you would have sworn that they were shy of one another, and spoke
scarcely a dozen sentences. Yet they did very well each in the company
of the other; and Robin, indeed, before he had finished his partridge,
had conveyed to her that there was news that he had, and must give to
her before the day was out. She looked at him with enough dismay in her
face for him at least to read it; for she knew by his manner that it
would not be happy news.

So, too, when the fruit was done and dinner was over (for they had no
opportunity to speak at any length), again you would have sworn that the
last idea in his mind, as in hers, was that he should be the one to help
her to her saddle. Yet he did so; and he fetched her hawk for her, and
settled her reins in her hand; and presently he on one side of her, with
Mr. Fenton on the other side, were riding up through Padley chase; and
the talk and the laughter went up too.


II

Up on the high moors, in the frank-chase, here indeed was a day to make
sad hearts rejoice. The air was soft, as if spring were come before his
time; and in the great wind that blew continually from the south-west,
bearing the high clouds swiftly against the blue, ruffling the stiff
heather-twigs and bilberry beneath--here was wine enough for any
mourners. Before them, as they went--two riding before, with falconers
on either side a little behind and the lads with the dogs beside them,
and the rest in a silent line some twenty yards to the rear--stretched
the wide, flat moor like a tumbled table-cloth, broken here and there by
groups of wind-tossed beech and oak, backed by the tall limestone crags
like pillar-capitals of an upper world; with here and there a little
shallow quarry whence marble had been taken for Derby. But more lovely
than all were the valleys, seen from here, as great troughs up whose
sides trooped the leafless trees--lit by the streams that threw back the
sunlit sky from their bosoms; with here a mist of smoke blown all about
from a village out of sight, here the shadow of a travelling cloud that
fled as swift as the wind that drove it, extinguishing the flash of
water only to release it again, darkening a sweep of land only to make
the sunlight that followed it the more sweet.

Yet the two saw little of this, dear and familiar as they found it;
since, first they rode together, and next, as it should be with young
hearts, the sport presently began and drove all else away.

The sport was done in this way:

The two that rode in front selected each from the cadge one of his own
falcons (it was peregrines that were used at the beginning of the day,
since they were first after partridges), and so rode, carrying his
falcon on his wrist, hooded, belled, and in the leash, ready to cast
off. Immediately before them went a lad with a couple of dogs to nose
the game--these also in a leash until they stiffened. Then the lad
released them and stepped softly back, while the riders moved on at a
foot's-pace, and the spaniels behind rose on their hind legs, choked by
the chain, whimpering, fifty yards in the rear. Slowly the dogs
advanced, each a frozen model of craft and blood-lust, till an instant
afterwards, with a whir and a chattering like a broken clock, the covey
whirled from the thick growth underfoot, and flashed away northwards;
and, a moment later, up went the peregrines behind them. Then, indeed,
it was _sauve qui peut_, for the ground was full of holes here and
there, though there were grass-stretches as well on which all rode with
loose rein, the two whose falcons were sprung always in front, according
to custom, and the rest in a medley behind. Away then went the birds,
pursued and pursuers, till, like a falling star the falcon stooped, and
then, maybe, the other a moment later, down upon the quarry; and a
minute later there was the falcon back again shivering with pride and
ecstasy, or all ruffle-feathered with shame, back on his master's wrist,
and another torn partridge, or maybe two, in the bottom of the lad's
bag; and arguments went full pelt, and cries, and sometimes sharp words,
and faults were found, and praise was given, and so, on for another
pair.

It was but natural that Robin and Marjorie should compete one against
the other, for they were riding together and talked together. So
presently Mr. Thomas called to them, and beckoned them to their places.
Robin set aside Agnes on to the cadge and chose Magdalen, and Marjorie
chose Sharpie. The array was set, and all moved forward.

It was a short chase and a merry one. Two birds rose from the heather
and flew screaming, skimming low, as from behind them moved on the
shadows of death, still as clouds, with great noiseless sweeps of
sickle-shaped wings. Behind came the gallopers; Marjorie on her black
horse, Robin on Cecily, seeming to compete, yet each content if either
won, each, maybe--or at least Marjorie--desiring that the other should
win. And the wind screamed past them as they went.

Then came the stoops--together as if fastened by one string--faultless
and exquisite; and, as the two rode up and drew rein, there, side by
side on the windy turf, two fierce statues of destiny--cruel-eyed,
blood-stained on the beaks, resolute and suspicious--eyed them
motionless, the claws sunk deeply through back and head--awaiting
recapture.

Marjorie turned swiftly to the boy as he leaped off.

"In the chapel," she said, "at Padley."

Robin stared at her. Then he understood and nodded his head, as Mr.
Thomas rode up, his beard all blown about by the wind, breathless but
congratulatory.


III

It fell on Robin's mind with a certain heaviness and reproach that it
should have been she who should have carried in her head all day the
unknown news that he was to give her and he who should have forgotten
it. He understood then a little better of all that he must be to her,
since, as he turned to her (his head full of hawks, and the glory of the
shouting wind, and every thought of Faith and father clean blown away),
it was to her mind that the under-thought had leapt, that here was their
first, and perhaps their last, chance of speaking in private.

It was indeed their last chance, for the sun already stood over
Chapel-le-Frith far away to the south-west; and they must begin their
circle to return, in which the ladies should fly their merlins after
larks, and there was no hope henceforth for Robin. Henceforth she rode
with Mrs. Fenton and two or three more, while the gentlemen who loved
sport more than courtesy, turned to the left over the broken ground to
work back once more after partridges. And Robin dared no more ride with
his love, for fear that his company all day with her should be marked.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was within an hour of sunset that Robin, riding ahead, having lost a
hawk and his hat, having fallen into a bog-hole, being one mask of mud
from head to foot, slid from his horse into Dick's hands and demanded if
the ladies were back.

"Yes, sir; they are back half an hour ago. They are in the parlour."

Robin knew better. "I shall be riding in ten minutes," he said; "give
the mare a mouthful."

He limped across the court, and looking behind him to see if any saw,
and finding the court at that instant empty, ran up, as well as he
could, the stone staircase that rose from the outside to the chapel
door. It was unlatched. He pushed it open and went in.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a brave thing that the FitzHerberts did in keeping such a place
at all, since the greatest Protestant fool in the valley knew what the
little chamber was that had the angels carved on the beam-ends, and the
piscina in the south wall. Windows looked out every way; through those
on the south could be seen now the darkening valley and the sunlit
hills, and, yet more necessary, the road by which any travellers from
the valley must surely come. Within, too, scarcely any pains were taken
to disguise the place. It was wainscoted from roof to floor--veiled,
floored and walled in oak. A great chest stood beneath the little east
window of two lights, that cried "Altar" if any chest ever did so. A
great press stood against the wooden screen that shut the room from the
ladies' parlour next door; filled in three shelves with innocent linen,
for this was the only disguise that the place stooped to put on. You
could not swear that mass was said there, but you could swear that it
was a place in which mass would very suitably be said. A couple of
benches were against the press, and three or four chairs stood about the
floor.

Robin saw her against the light as soon as he came in. She was still in
her blue riding-dress, with the hood on her shoulders, and held her whip
in her hand; but he could see no more of her head than the paleness of
her face and the gleam on her black hair.

"Well, then?" she whispered sharply; and then: "Why, what a state you
are in!"

"It's nothing," said Robin. "I rolled in a bog-hole."

She looked at him anxiously.

"You are not hurt?... Sit down at least."

He sat down stiffly, and she beside him, still watching to see if he
were the worse for his falling. He took her hand in his.

"I am not fit to touch you," he said.

"Tell me the news; tell me quickly."

So he told her; of the wrangle in the parlour and what had passed
between his father and him; of his own bitterness; and his letter, and
the way in which the old man had taken it.

"He has not spoken to me since," he said, "except in public before the
servants. Both nights after supper he has sat silent and I beside him."

"And you have not spoken to him?" she asked quickly.

"I said something to him after supper on Sunday, and he made no answer.
He has done all his writing himself. I think it is for him to speak now.
I should only anger him more if I tried it again."

She sighed suddenly and swiftly, but said nothing. Her hand lay passive
in his, but her face was turned now to the bright southerly window, and
he could see her puzzled eyes and her down-turned, serious mouth. She
was thinking with all her wits, and, plainly, could come to no
conclusion.

She turned to him again.

"And you told him plainly that you and I ... that you and I--"

"That you and I loved one another? I told him plainly. And it was his
contempt that angered me."

She sighed again.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a troublesome situation in which these two children found
themselves. Here was the father of one of them that knew, yet not the
parents of the other, who should know first of all. Neither was there
any promise of secrecy and no hope of obtaining it. If she should not
tell her parents, then if the old man told them, deception would be
charged against her; and if she should tell them, perhaps he would not
have done so, and so all be brought to light too soon and without cause.
And besides all this there were the other matters, heavy enough before,
yet far more heavy now--matters of their hopes for the future, the
complications with regard to the Religion, what Robin should do, what he
should not do.

So they sat there silent, she thinking and he waiting upon her thought.

She sighed again and turned to him her troubled eyes.

"My Robin," she said, "I have been thinking so much about you, and I
have feared sometimes--"

She stopped herself, and he looked for her to finish. She drew her hand
away and stood up.

"Oh! it is miserable!" she cried. "And all might have been so happy."

The tears suddenly filled her eyes so that they shone like flowers in
dew.

He stood up, too, and put his muddy arm about her shoulders. (She felt
so slight and slender.)

"It will be happy," he said. "What have you been fearing?"

She shook her head and the tears ran down.

"I cannot tell you yet.... Robin, what a holy man that travelling priest
must be, who said mass on Sunday."

The lad was bewildered at her swift changes of thought, for he did not
yet see the chain on which they hung. He strove to follow her.

"It seemed so to me too," he said. "I think I have never seen--"

"It seemed so to you too," she cried. "Why, what do you know of him?"

He was amazed at her vehemence. She had drawn herself clear of his arm
and was looking at him full in the face.

"I met him on the moor," he said. "I had some talk with him. I got his
blessing."

"You got his blessing! Why, so did I, after the mass, when you were
gone."

"Then that should join us more closely than ever," he said.

"In Heaven, perhaps, but on earth--" She checked herself again. "Tell me
what you thought of him, Robin."

"I thought it was strange that such a man as that should live such a
rough life. If he were in the seminary now, safe at Douay--"

She seemed a shade paler, but her eyes did not flicker.

"Yes," she said. "And you thought--?"

"I thought that it was not that kind of man who should fare so hardly.
If it were a man like John Merton, who is accustomed to such things, or
a man like me--"

Again he stopped; he did not know why. But it was as if she had cried
out, though she neither spoke nor moved.

"You thought that, did you, Robin?" she said presently, never moving her
eyes from his face. "I thought so, too."

"But I do not know why we are talking about Mr. Simpson," said the lad.
"There are other affairs more pressing."

"I am not sure," said she.

"Marjorie, my love, what are you thinking about?"

She had turned her eyes and was looking out through the little window.
Outside the red sunlight still lay on the crags and slopes beyond the
deep valley beneath them, and her face was bright in the reflected
brightness. Yet he thought he had never seen her look so serious. She
turned her eyes back to him as he spoke.

"I am thinking of a great many things," she said. "I am thinking of the
Faith and of sorrow and of love."

"My love, what do you mean?"

Suddenly she made a swift movement towards him and took him by the
lapels. He could see her face close beneath his, yet it was in shadow
again, and he could make out of it no more than the shadows of mouth and
eyes.

"Robin," she said, "I cannot tell you unless God tells you Himself. I am
told that I am too scrupulous sometimes.... I do not know what I think,
nor what is right, nor what are fancies.... But ... but I know that I
love you with all my heart ... and ... and that I cannot bear--"

Then her face was on his breast in a passion of weeping, and his arms
were round her, and his lips on her hair.


IV

Dick found his master a poor travelling companion as they rode home. He
made a few respectful remarks as to the sport of the day, but he was
answered by a wandering eye and a complete lack of enthusiasm. Mr. Robin
rode loosely and heavily. Three or four times his mare stumbled (and no
wonder, after all that she had gone through), and he jerked her
savagely.

Then Dick tried another tack and began to speak of the company, but with
no greater success. He discoursed on the riding of Mrs. Fenton, and the
peregrine of Mr. Thomas, who had distinguished herself that day, and he
was met by a lack-lustre eye once more.

Finally he began to speak of the religious gossip of the
countryside--how it was said that another priest, a Mr. Nelson, had been
taken, in London, as Mr. Maine had been in Cornwall; that, it was said
again, priests would have to look to their lives in future, and not only
to their liberty; how the priest, Mr. Simpson, was said to be a native
of Yorkshire, and how he was ridden northwards again, still with Mr.
Ludlam. And here he met with a little more encouragement. Mr. Robin
asked where was Mr. Simpson gone to, and Dick told him he did not know,
but that he would be back again by Easter, it was thought, or, if not,
another priest would be in the district. Then he began to gossip of Mr.
Ludlam; how a man had told him that his cousin's wife thought that Mr.
Ludlam was to go abroad to be made priest himself, and that perhaps Mr.
Garlick would go too.

"That is the kind of priest we want, sir," said Dick.

"Eh?"

"That is the kind of priest we want, sir," repeated Dick solemnly. "We
should do better with natives than foreigners. We want priests who know
the county and the ways of the people--and men too, I think, sir, who
can ride and know something of sport, and can talk of it. I told Mr.
Simpson, sir, of the sport we were to have to-day, and he seemed to care
nothing about it!"

Robin sighed aloud.

"I suppose so," he said.

"Mr. John looked well, sir," pursued Dick, and proceeded to speak at
length of the FitzHerbert troubles, and the iniquities of the Queen's
Grace. He was such a man as was to be found throughout all England
everywhere at this time--a man whose religion was a part of his
politics, and none the less genuine for that. He was a shrewd man in his
way, with the simplicity which belongs to such shrewdness; he disliked
the new ways which he experienced chiefly in the towns, and put them
down, not wholly without justice, to the change of which religion formed
an integral part; he hated the beggars and would gladly have gone to see
one flogged; and he disliked the ministers and their sermons and their
"prophesyings" with all the healthy ardour of prejudice. Once in the
year did Dick approach the sacraments, and a great business he made of
it, being unusually morose before them and almost indecently boisterous
after them. He was feudal to the very heart of him; and it was his
feudality that made him faithful to his religion as well as to his
masters, for either of which he would resolutely have died. And what in
the world he would do when he discovered, at Easter, that the objects of
his fidelity were to take opposite courses, Robin could not conceive.

As they rode in at last, Robin, who had fallen silent again after Dick's
last piece of respectful vehemence, suddenly beat his own leg with his
whip and uttered an inaudible word. It seemed to Dick that the young
master had perceived clearly that which plainly had been worrying him
all the way home, and that he did not like it.



CHAPTER V


I

Mr. Manners sat in his parlour ten days after the beginning of Lent,
full of his Sunday dinner and of perplexing thoughts all at once. He had
eaten well and heartily after his week of spare diet, and then, while in
high humour with all the world, first his wife and then his daughter had
laid before him such revelations that all the pleasure of digestion was
gone. It was but three minutes ago that Marjorie had fled from him in a
torrent of tears, for which he could not see himself responsible, since
he had done nothing but make the exclamations and comments that should
be expected of a father in such a case.

The following were the points for his reflection--to begin with those
that touched him less closely.

First that his friend Mr. Audrey, whom he had always looked upon with
reverence and a kind of terror because of his hotness in matters of
politics and religion, had capitulated to the enemy and was to go to
church at Easter. Mr. Manners himself had something of timidity in his
nature: he was conservative certainly, and practised, when he could
without bringing himself into open trouble, the old religion in which he
had been brought up. He, like the younger generation, had been educated
at Derby Grammar School, and in his youth had sat with his parents in
the nave of the old Cluniac church of St. James to hear mass. He had
then entered his father's office in Derby, about the time that the
Religious Houses had fallen, and had transferred the scene of his
worship to St. Peter's. At Queen Mary's accession, he had stood, with
mild but genuine enthusiasm, in his lawyer's gown, in the train of the
sheriff who proclaimed her in Derby market-place; and stood in the
crowd, with corresponding dismay, six years later to shout for Queen
Elizabeth. Since that date, for the first eleven years he had gone, as
did other Catholics, to his parish church secretly, thankful that there
was no doubt as to the priesthood of his parson, to hear the English
prayers; and then, to do him justice, though he heard with something
resembling consternation the decision from Rome that compromise must
cease and that, henceforth, all true Catholics must withdraw themselves
from the national worship, he had obeyed without even a serious moment
of consideration. He had always feared that it might be so,
understanding that delay in the decision was only caused by the hope
that even now the breach might not be final or complete; and so was
better prepared for the blow when it came. Since that time he had heard
mass when he could, and occasionally even harboured priests, urged
thereto by his wife and daughter; and, for the rest, still went into
Derby for three or four days a week to carry on his lawyer's business,
with Mr. Biddell his partner, and had the reputation of a sound and
careful man without bigotry or passion.

It was, then, a shock to his love of peace and serenity, to hear that
yet another Catholic house had fallen, and that Mr. Audrey, one of his
clients, could no longer be reckoned as one of his co-religionists.

The next point for his reflection was that Robin was refusing to follow
his father's example; the third, that somebody must harbour the boy over
Easter, and that, in his daughter's violently expressed opinion, and
with his wife's consent, he, Thomas Manners, was the proper person to do
it. Last, that it was plain that there was something between his
daughter and this boy, though what that was he had been unable to
understand. Marjorie had flown suddenly from the room just as he was
beginning to put his questions.

It is no wonder, then, that his peace of mind was gone. Not only were
large principles once more threatened--considerations of religion and
loyalty, but also those small and intimate principles which, so far more
than great ones, agitate the mind of the individual. He did not wish to
lose a client; yet neither did he wish to be unfriendly to a young
confessor for the faith. Still less did he wish to lose his daughter,
above all to a young man whose prospects seemed to be vanishing. He
wondered whether it would be prudent to consult Mr. Biddell on the
point....

       *       *       *       *       *

He was a small and precise man in his body and face, as well as in his
dress; his costume was, of course, of black; but he went so far as to
wear black buckles, too, on his shoes, and a black hilt on his sword.
His face was little and anxious; his eyebrows were perpetually arched,
as if in appeal, and he was accustomed, when in deep thought, to move
his lips as if in a motion of tasting. So, then, he sat before his fire
to-day after dinner, his elbow on the table where his few books lay, his
feet crossed before him, his cup of drink untouched at his side; and
meantime he tasted continually with his lips, as if better to appreciate
the values and significances of the points for his consideration.

       *       *       *       *       *

It would be about half an hour later that the door opened once more and
Marjorie came in again.

She was in her fine dress to-day--fine, that is, according to the
exigencies of the time and place, though sober enough if for a
town-house--in a good blue silk, rather dark, with a little ruff, with
lace ruffles at her wrists, and a quilted petticoat, and silver
buckles. For she was a gentleman's daughter, quite clearly, and not a
yeoman's, and she must dress to her station. Her face was very pale and
quite steady. She stood opposite her father.

"Father," she said, "I am very sorry for having behaved like a goose.
You were quite right to ask those questions, and I have come back to
answer them."

He had ceased tasting as she came in. He looked at her timidly and yet
with an attempt at severity. He knew what was due from him as a father.
But for the present he had forgotten what questions they were; his mind
had been circling so wildly.

"You are right to come back," he said, "you should not have left me so."

"I am very sorry," she said again.

"Well, then--you tell me that Mr. Robin has nowhere else to go."

She flushed a little.

"He has ten places to go to. He has plenty of friends. But none have the
right that we have. He is a neighbour; it was to me, first of all, that
he told the trouble."

Then he remembered.

"Sit down," he said. "I must understand much better first. I do not
understand why he came to you first. Why not, if he must come to this
house at all--why not to me? I like the lad; he knows that well enough."

He spoke with an admirable dignity, and began to feel more happy in
consequence.

She had sat down as he told her, on the other side of the table; but he
could not see her face.

"It would have been better if he had, perhaps," she said. "But--"

"Yes? What 'But' is that?"

Then she faced him, and her eyes were swimming.

"Father, he told me first because he loves me, and because I love him."

He sat up. This was speaking outright what she had only hinted at
before. She must have been gathering her resolution to say this, while
she had been gone. Perhaps she had been with her mother. In that case he
must be cautious....

"You mean--"

"I mean just what I say. We love one another, and I am willing to be his
wife if he desires it--and with your permission. But--"

He waited for her to go on.

"Another 'But'!" he said presently, though with increasing mildness.

"I do not think he will desire it after a while. And ... and I do not
know what I wish. I am torn in two."

"But you are willing?"

"I pray for it every night," she cried piteously. "And every morning I
pray that it may not be so."

She was staring at him as if in agony, utterly unlike what he had looked
for in her. He was completely bewildered.

"I do not understand one word--"

Then she threw herself at his knees and seized his hands; her face was
all torn with pain.

"And I cannot explain one word.... Father, I am in misery. You must pray
for me and have patience with me.... I must wait ... I must wait and see
what God wishes."

"Now, now...."

"Father, you will trust me, will you not?"

"Listen to me. You must tell me thus. Do you love this boy?"

"Yes, yes."

"And you have told him so? He asked you, I mean?"

"Yes."

He put her hands firmly from his knee.

"Then you must marry him, if matters can be arranged. It is what I
should wish. But I do not know--"

"Father, you do not understand--you do not understand. I tell you I am
willing enough, if he wishes it ... if he wishes it."

Again she seized his hands and held them. And again bewilderment came
down on him like a cloud.

"Father! you must trust me. I am willing to do everything that I ought."
(She was speaking firmly and confidently now.) "If he wishes to marry
me, I will marry him. I love him dearly.... But you must say nothing to
him, not one word. My mother agrees with this. She would have told you
herself; but I said that I would--that I must be brave.... I must learn
to be brave.... I can tell you no more."

He lifted her hands and stood up.

"I see that I understand nothing that you say after all," he said with a
fine fatherly dignity. "I must talk with your mother."


II

He found his wife half an hour later in the ladies' parlour, which he
entered with an air as of nothing to say. With the same air of
disengagement he made sure that Marjorie was nowhere in the room, and
presently sat down.

Mrs. Manners was well past her prime. She was over forty years old and
looked over fifty, though she retained the air of distinction which
Marjorie had derived from her; but her looks belied her, and she had not
one tithe of the subtlety and keenness of her daughter. She was, in
fact, more suited to be wife to her husband than mother to her daughter.

"You have come about the maid," she said instantly, with disconcerting
penetration and frankness. "Well, I know no more than you. She will tell
me nothing but what she has told you. She has some fiddle-faddle in her
head, as maids will, but she will have her way with us, I suppose."

She drew her needle through the piece of embroidery which she permitted
to herself for an hour on Sundays, knotted the thread and bit it off.
Then she regarded her husband.

"I.... I will have no fiddle-faddle in such a matter," he said
courageously. "Maids did not rule their parents when I was a boy; they
obeyed them or were beaten."

His wife laughed shortly; and began to thread her needle again.

He began to explain. The match was in all respects suitable. Certainly
there were difficulties, springing from the very startling events at
Matstead, and it well might be that a man who would do as Mr. Audrey had
done (or, rather, proposed to do) might show obstinacy in other
directions too. Therefore there was no hurry; the two were still very
young, and it certainly would be wiser to wait for any formal betrothal
until Robin's future disclosed itself. But no action of Mr. Audrey's
need delay the betrothal indefinitely; if need were, he, Mr. Manners,
would make proper settlements. Marjorie was an only daughter; in fact,
she was in some sort an heiress. The Manor would be sufficient for them
both. As to any other difficulties--any of the maidenly fiddle-faddle of
which his wife had spoken--this should not stand in the way for an
instant.

His wife laughed again in the same exclamatory manner, when he had done
and sat stroking his knees.

"Why, you understand nothing about it, Mr. Manners," she said, "Did the
maid not tell you she would marry him, if he wished it? She told me so."

"Then what is the matter?" he asked.

"I know no more than you."

"Does he not wish it?"

"She says so."

"Then--"

"Yes, that is what I say. And yet that says nothing. There is something
more."

"Ask her."

"I have asked her. She bids me wait, as she bids you. It is no good, Mr.
Manners. We must wait the maid's time."

He sat, breathing audibly through his nose.

       *       *       *       *       *

These two were devoted to their daughter in a manner hardly to be
described. She was the only one left to them; for the others, of whom
two had been boys, had died in infancy or childhood; and, in the event,
Marjorie had absorbed the love due to them all. She was a strain higher
than themselves, thought her parents, and so pride in her was added to
love. The mother had made incredible sacrifices, first to have her
educated by a couple of old nuns who still survived in Derby, and then
to bring her out suitably at Babington House last year. The father had
cordially approved, and joined in the sacrifices, which included an
expenditure which he would not have thought conceivable. The result was,
of course, that Marjorie, under cover of a very real dutifulness, ruled
both her parents completely; her mother acknowledged the dominion, at
least, to herself and her husband; her father pretended that he did
not; and on this occasion rose, perhaps, nearer to repudiating it than
ever in his life. It seemed to him unbearable to be bidden by his
daughter, though with the utmost courtesy and affection, to mind his own
business.

So he sat and breathed audibly through his nose, and meditated
rebellion.

       *       *       *       *       *

"And is the lad to come here for Easter?" he asked at last.

"I suppose so."

"And for how long?"

"So long as the maid appoints."

He breathed louder than ever.

"And, Mr. Manners," continued his wife emphatically, "no word must be
said to him on the matter. The maid is very plain as to that.... Oh! we
must let her have her way."

"Where is she gone?"

She nodded with her head to the window. He went to it and looked out.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was the little walled garden on which he looked, in which, if he had
but known it, the lad whom he liked had kissed the maid whom he loved;
and there walked the maid, at this moment with her back to him, going up
the central path that was bordered with box. The February sun shone on
her as she went, on her hooded head, her dark cloak and her blue dress
beneath. He watched her go up, and drew back a little as she turned, so
that she might not see him watching; and as she came down again he saw
that she held a string of beads in her fingers and was making her
devotions. She was a good girl.... That, at least, was a satisfaction.

Then he turned from the window again.

"Well?" said his wife.

"I suppose it must be as she says."


III

It was an hour before sunset when Marjorie came out again into the
walled garden that had become for her now a kind of sanctuary, and in
her hand she carried a letter, sealed and inscribed. On the outside the
following words were written:

"To Mr. Robin Audrey. At Matstead.

"Haste, haste, haste."

Within, the sheet was covered from top to bottom with the neat
convent-hand she had learnt from the nuns. The most of it does not
concern us. It began with such words as you would expect from a maid to
her lover; it continued to inform him that her parents were willing,
and, indeed, desirous, that he should come to them for Easter, and that
her father would write a formal letter later to invite him; it was to be
written from Derby, (this conspirator informed the other), that it might
cause less comment when Mr. Audrey saw it, and was to be expressed in
terms that would satisfy him. Finally, it closed as it had begun, and
was subscribed by his "loving friend, M. M." One paragraph, however, is
worth attention.

"I have told my father and mother, that we love one another, my Robin;
and that you have asked me to marry you, and that I have consented
should you wish to do so when the time comes. They have consented most
willingly; and so Jesu have you in His keeping, and guide your mind
aright."

It was this paragraph that had cost her half of the hour occupied in
writing; for it must be expressed just so and no otherwise; and its
wording had cost her agony lest on the one side she should tell him too
much, and, on the other, too little. And her agony was not yet over; for
she had to face its sending, and the thought of all that it might cost
her. She was to give it to one of the men who was to leave early for
Derby next morning and was to deliver it at Matstead on the road; so she
brought it out now to her sanctuary to spread it, like the old King of
Israel, before the Lord....

       *       *       *       *       *

There was a promise of frost in the air to-night. Underfoot the moisture
of the path was beginning, not yet to stiffen, but rather to withdraw
itself; and there was a cold clearness in the air. Over the wall beside
the house, beyond the leafless trees which barred it like prison-bars,
burned the sunset, deepening and glowing redder every instant. Yet she
felt nothing of the cold, for a fire was within her as she went again up
and down the path on which her father had watched her walk--a fire of
which as yet she could not discern the fuel. The love of Robin was
there--that she knew; and the love of Christ was there--so she thought;
and yet where the divine and the human passion mingled, she could not
tell; nor whether, indeed, for certain, it were the love of Christ at
all, and not a vain imagination of her own as to how Christ, in this
case, would be loved. Only she knew that across her love for Robin a
shadow had fallen; she could scarcely tell when it had first come to
her, and whence. Yet it had so come; it had deepened rapidly and
strongly during the mass that Mr. Simpson had said, and, behold! in its
very darkness there was light. And so it had continued till confusion
had fallen on her which none but Robin could dissolve. It must be his
word finally that must give her the answer to her doubts; and she must
make it easy for him to give it. He must know, that is, that she loved
him more passionately than ever, that her heart would break if she had
not her desire; and yet that she would not hold him back if a love that
was greater than hers could be for him or his for her, called him to
another wedding than that of which either had yet spoken. A broken heart
and God's will done would be better than that God's will should be
avoided and her own satisfied.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was this kind of considerations, therefore, that sent her swiftly to
and fro, up and down the path under the darkening sky--if they can be
called considerations which beat on the mind like a clamour of shouting;
and, as she went, she strove to offer all to God: she entreated Him to
do His will, yet not to break her heart; to break her heart, yet not
Robin's; to break both her heart and Robin's, if that Will could not
otherwise be served.

Her lips moved now and again as she went; but her eyes were downcast and
her face untroubled....

       *       *       *       *       *

As the bell in the court rang for supper she went to the door and looked
through. The man was just saddling up in the stable-door opposite.

"Jack," she called, "here is the letter. Take if safely."

Then she went in to supper.



CHAPTER VI


I

It was a great day and a solemn when the squire of Matstead went to
Protestant communion for the first time. It was Easter Day, too, but
this was less in the consideration of the village. There was first the
minister, Mr. Barton, in a condition of excited geniality from an early
hour. He was observed soon after it was light, by an old man who was up
betimes, hurrying up the village street in his minister's cassock and
gown, presumably on his way to see that all preparations were complete
for the solemnity. His wife was seen to follow him a few minutes later.

By eight o'clock the inhabitants of the village were assembled at points
of vantage; some openly at their doors; others at the windows; and
groups from the more distant farms, decked suitably, stood at all
corners; to be greeted presently by their minister hurrying back once
more from the church to bring the communion vessels and the bread and
wine. The four or five soldiers of the village--a couple of billmen and
pikemen and a real gunner--stood apart in an official group, but did not
salute him. He did not speak of that which was in the minds of all, but
he waved a hand to this man, bid a happy Easter to another, and
disappeared within his lodgings leaving a wake of excitement behind him.

By a quarter before nine the three bells had begun to jangle from the
tower; and the crowd had increased largely, when Mr. Barton once more
passed to the church in the spring sunshine, followed by the more devout
who wished to pray, and the more timid who feared a disturbance. For
sentiments were not wholly on the squire's side. There was first a
number of Catholics, openly confessed or at least secretly Catholic,
though these were not in full force since most were gone to Padley
before dawn; and there was next a certain sentiment abroad, even amongst
those who conformed, in favour of tradition. That the squire of Matstead
should be a Catholic was at least as fundamental an article of faith as
that the minister should be a Protestant. There was little or no
hot-gospel here; men still shook their heads sympathetically over the
old days and the old faith, which indeed had ceased to be the faith of
all scarcely twenty years ago; and it appeared to the most of them that
the proper faith of the Quality, since they had before their eyes such
families as the Babingtons, the Fentons, and the FitzHerberts, was that
to which their own squire was about to say good-bye. It was known, too,
publicly by now, that Mr. Robin was gone away for Easter, since he would
not follow his father. So the crowd waited; the dogs sunned themselves;
and the gunner sat on a wall.

       *       *       *       *       *

The bells ceased at nine o'clock, and upon the moment, a group came
round the churchyard wall, down from the field-path and the stile that
led to the manor.

First, walking alone, came the squire, swiftly and steadily. His face
was flushed a little, but set and determined. He was in his fine
clothes, ruff and all; his rapier was looped at his side, and he carried
a stick. Behind him came three or four farm servants; then a yeoman and
his wife; and last, at a little distance, three or four onlookers.

There was dead silence as he came; the hum of talk died at the corners;
the bells' clamour had even now ceased. It seemed as if each man waited
for his neighbour to speak. There was only the sound of the squire's
brisk footsteps on the few yards of cobbles that paved the walk up to
the lych-gate. At the door of the church, seen beyond him, was a crowd
of faces.

Then a man called something aloud from fifty yards away; but there was
no voice to echo him. The folk just watched their lord go by, staring on
him as on some strange sight, forgetting even to salute him. And so in
silence he passed on.


II

Within, the church murmured with low talking. Already two-thirds of it
was full, and all faces turned and re-turned to the door at every
footstep or sound. As the bells ceased a sigh went up, as if a giant
drew breath; then, once again, the murmuring began.

The church was as most were in those days. It was but a little place,
yet it had had in old days great treasures of beauty. There had been,
until some ten or twelve years ago, a carved screen that ran across the
chancel arch, with the Rood upon it, and St. Mary and St. John on this
side and that. The high-altar, it was remembered, had been of stone
throughout, surrounded with curtains on the three sides, hanging between
posts that had each a carven angel, all gilt. Now all was gone,
excepting only the painted windows (since glass was costly). The chancel
was as bare as a barn; beneath the whitewash, high over the place where
the old canopy had hung, pale colours still glimmered through where,
twelve years ago, Christ had sat crowning His Mother. The altar was
gone; its holy slab served now as the pavement within the west door,
where the superstitious took pains to step clear of it. The screen was
gone; part lay beneath the tower; part had been burned; Christ's Cross
held up the roof of the shed where the minister kept his horse; the
three figures had been carted off to Derby to help swell the Protestant
bonfire. The projecting stoup to the right of the main door had been
broken half off.... In place of these glories there stood now, in the
body of the church, before the chancel-steps, a great table, such as the
rubrics of the new Prayer-Book required, spread with a white cloth, upon
which now rested two tall pewter flagons of wine, a flat pewter plate as
great as a small dish, and two silver communion-cups--all new. And to
one side of this, in a new wainscoted desk, waited worthy Mr. Barton for
the coming of his squire--a happy man that day; his face beamed in the
spring sunlight; he had on his silk gown, and he eyed, openly, the door
through which his new patron was to come.

       *       *       *       *       *

Then, without sound or warning, except for the footsteps on the
paving-stones and the sudden darkening of the sunshine on the floor,
there came the figure for which all looked. As he entered he lifted his
hand to his head, but dropped it again; and passed on, sturdy, and (you
would have said) honest and resolute too, to his seat behind the
reading-desk. He was met by silence; he was escorted by silence; and in
silence he sat down.

Then the waiting crowd surged in, poured this way and that, and flowed
into the benches. And Mr. Barton's voice was raised in holy exhortation.

"At what time soever a sinner doth repent him of his sin from the bottom
of his heart, I will put all his wickedness out of remembrance, with the
Lord."


III

Those who could best observe (for the tale was handed on with the
careful accuracy of those who cannot read or write) professed themselves
amazed at the assured ease of the squire. No sound came from the seat
half-hidden behind the reading-desk where he sat alone; and, during the
prayers when he stood or kneeled, he moved as if he understood well
enough what he was at. A great bound Prayer-Book, it was known, rested
before him on the book-board, and he was observed to turn the pages more
than once.

It was, indeed, a heavy task that Mr. Barton had to do. For first there
was the morning prayer, with its psalms, its lessons and its prayers;
next the Litany, and last the communion, in the course of which was
delivered one of the homilies set forth by authority, especially
designed for the support of those who were no preachers--preceded and
followed by a psalm. But all was easy to-day to a man who had such cause
for exultation; his voice boomed heartily out; his face radiated his
pleasure; and he delivered his homily when the time came, with excellent
emphasis and power--all from the reading-desk, except the communion.

Yet it is to be doubted whether the attention of those that heard him
was where their pastor would have desired it to be; since even to these
country-folk the drama of the whole was evident. There, seen full when
he sat down, and in part when he kneeled and stood, was the man who
hitherto had stood to them for the old order, the old faith, the old
tradition--the man whose horse's footsteps had been heard, times and
again, before dawn, in the village street, bearing him to the mystery of
the mass; through whose gate strangers had ridden, perhaps three or four
times in the year, to find harbourage--strangers dressed indeed as plain
gentlemen or yeomen, yet known, every one of them, to be under her
Grace's ban, and to ride in peril of liberty if not of life.

Yet here he sat--a man feared and even loved by some--the first of his
line to yield to circumstance, and to make peace with his times. Not a
man of all who looked on him believed him certainly to be that which his
actions professed him to be; some doubted, especially those who
themselves inclined to the old ways or secretly followed them; and the
hearts of these grew sick as they watched.

But the crown and climax was yet to come.

       *       *       *       *       *

The minister finished at last the homily--it was one which inveighed
more than once against the popish superstitions; and he had chosen it
for that reason, to clench the bargain, so to say--all in due order; for
he was a careful man and observed his instructions, unlike some of his
brethren who did as they pleased; and came back again to the long north
side of the linen-covered table to finish the service.

He had no man to help him; so he was forced to do it all for himself; so
he went forward gallantly, first reading a set of Scripture sentences
while the officers collected first for the poor-box, and then, as it was
one of the offering-days, collected again the dues for the curate. It
was largely upon these, in such poor parishes as was this, that the
minister depended and his wife.

Then he went on to pray for the whole estate of Christ's Church militant
here on earth, especially for God's "servant, Elizabeth our Queen, that
under her we may be godly and quietly governed"; then came the
exhortation, urging any who might think himself to be "a blasphemer of
God, an hinderer or slanderer of His Word ... or to be in malice or
envy," to bewail his sins, and "not to come to this holy table, lest
after the taking of that holy sacrament, the devil enter into him, as he
entered into Judas, and fill him full of all iniquities."

So forward with the rest. He read the Comfortable Words; the English
equivalent for Sursum Corda with the Easter Preface; then another
prayer; and finally rehearsed the story of the Institution of the Most
Holy Sacrament, though without any blessing of the bread and wine, at
least by any action, since none such was ordered in the new Prayer-Book.
Then he immediately received the bread and wine himself, and stood up
again, holding the silver plate in his hand for an instant, before
proceeding to the squire's seat to give him the communion. Meantime, so
great was the expectation and interest that it was not until the
minister had moved from the table that the first communicants began to
come up to the two white-hung benches, left empty till now, next to the
table.

       *       *       *       *       *

Then those who still watched, and who spread the tale about afterwards,
saw that the squire did not move from his seat to kneel down. He had put
off his hat again after the homily, and had so sat ever since; and now
that the minister came to him, still there he sat.

Now such a manner of receiving was not unknown; yet it was the sign of a
Puritan; and, so far from the folk expecting such behaviour in their
squire, they had looked rather for Popish gestures, knockings on the
breast, signs of the cross.

For a moment the minister stood before the seat, as if doubtful what to
do. He held the plate in his left hand and a fragment of bread in his
fingers. Then, as he began the words he had to say, one thing at least
the people saw, and that was that a great flush dyed the old man's face,
though he sat quiet. Then, as the minister held out the bread, the
squire seemed to recover himself; he put out his fingers quickly, took
the bread sharply and put it into his mouth; and so sat again, until the
minister brought the cup; and this, too, he drank of quickly, and gave
it back.

Then, as the communicants, one by one, took the bread and wine and went
back to their seats, man after man glanced up at the squire.

But the squire sat there, motionless and upright, like a figure cut of
stone.


IV

The court of the manor seemed deserted half an hour before dinner-time.
There was a Sabbath stillness in the air to-day, sweetened, as it were,
by the bubbling of bird-music in the pleasaunce behind the hall and the
high woods beyond. On the strips of rough turf before the gate and
within it bloomed the spring flowers, white and blue. A hound lay
stretched in the sunshine on the hall steps; twitching his ears to keep
off a persistent fly. You would have sworn that his was the only
intelligence in the place. Yet at the sound of the iron latch of the
gate and the squire's footsteps on the stones, the place, so to say,
became alive, though in a furtive and secret manner. Over the half door
of the stable entrance on the left two faces appeared--one, which was
Dick's, sullen and angry, the other, that of a stable-boy, inquiring and
frankly interested. This second vanished again as the squire came
forward. A figure of a kitchen-boy, in a white apron, showed in the dark
doorway that led to the kitchen and hall, and disappeared again
instantly. From two or three upper windows faces peeped and remained
fascinated. Only the old hound remained still, twitching his ears.

All this--though there was nothing to be seen but the familiar personage
of the place, in his hat and cloak and sword, walking through his own
court on his way to dinner, as he had walked a thousand times before.
And yet so great was the significance of his coming to-day, that the
very gate behind him was pushed open by sightseers, who had followed at
a safe distance up the path from the church; half a dozen stood there
staring, and behind them, at intervals, a score more, spread out in
groups, all the way down to the porter's lodge.

The most remarkable feature of all was the silence. Not a voice there
spoke, even in a whisper. The maids at the windows above, Dick glowering
over the half door, the little group which, far back in the kitchen
entrance, peeped and rustled, the men at the gate behind, even the boys
in the path--all these held their tongues for interest and a kind of
fear. Drama was in the air--the tragedy of seeing the squire come back
from church for the first time, bearing himself as he always did,
resolute and sturdy, yet changed in his significance after a fashion of
which none of these simple hearts had ever dreamed.

So, again in silence, he went up the court, knowing that eyes were upon
him, yet showing no sign that he knew it; he went up the steps with the
same assured air, and disappeared into the hall.

       *       *       *       *       *

Then the spell broke up and the bustle began, for it was only half an
hour to dinner and guests were coming. First Dick came out, slashing to
the door behind him, and strode out to the gate. He was still in his
boots, for he had ridden to Padley and back since early morning with a
couple of the maids and the stable-boy. He went to the gate of the
court, the group dissolving as he came, and shut it in their faces. A
noise of talking came out of the kitchen windows and the clash of a
saucepan: the maids' heads vanished from the upper windows.

Even as Dick shut the gate he heard the sound of horses' hoofs down by
the porter's lodge. The justices were coming--the two whose names he had
heard with amazement last week, as the last corroboration of the
incredible rumour of his master's defection. For these were a couple of
magistrates--harmless men, indeed, as regarded their hostility to the
old Faith--yet Protestants who had sat more than once on the bench in
Derby to hear cases of recusancy. Old Mrs. Marpleden had told him they
were to come, and that provision must be made for their horses--Mrs.
Marpleden, the ancient housekeeper of the manor, who had gone to school
for a while with the Benedictine nuns of Derby in King Henry's days. She
had shaken her head and eyed him, and then had suffered three or four
tears to fall down her old cheeks.

Well, they were coming, so Dick must open the gate again, and pull the
bell for the servants; and this he did, and waited, hat in hand.

Up the little straight road they came, with a servant or two behind
them--the two harmless gentlemen, chattering as they rode; and Dick
loathed them in his heart.

"The squire is within?"

"Yes, sir."

They dismounted, and Dick held their stirrups.

"He has been to church--eh?"

Dick made no answer. He feigned to be busy with one of the saddles.

The magistrate glanced at him sharply.


V

It was a strange dinner that day.

Outwardly, again, all was as usual--as it might have been on any other
Sunday in spring. The three gentlemen sat at the high table, facing down
the hall; and, since there was no reading, and since it was a festival,
there was no lack of conversation. The servants came in as usual with
the dishes--there was roast lamb to-day, according to old usage, among
the rest; and three or four wines. A little fire burned against the
reredos, for cheerfulness rather than warmth, and the spring sunshine
flowed in through the clear-glass windows, bright and genial.

Yet the difference was profound. Certainly there was no talk, overheard
at least by the servants, which might not have been on any Sunday for
the last twenty years: the congratulations and good wishes, or whatever
they were, must have been spoken between the three in the parlour before
dinner; and they spoke now of harmless usual things--news of the
countryside and tales from Derby; gossip of affairs of State; of her
Grace, who, in a manner unthinkable, even by now dominated the
imagination of England. None of these three had ever seen her; the
squire had been to London but once in his life, his two guests never.
Yet they talked of her, of her state-craft, of her romanticism; they
told little tales, one to the other, as if she lived in the county town.
All this, then, was harmless enough. Religion was not mentioned in the
hearing of the servants, neither the old nor the new; they talked, all
three of them, and the squire loudest of all, though with pauses of
pregnant silence, of such things as children might have heard without
dismay.

Yet to the servants who came and went, it was as if their master were
another man altogether, and his hall some unknown place. There was no
blessing of himself before meat; he said something, indeed, before he
sat down, but it was unintelligible, and he made no movement with his
hand. But it was deeper than this ... and his men who had served him for
ten or fifteen years looked on him as upon a stranger or a changeling.



CHAPTER VII


I

The same Easter Day at Padley was another matter altogether.

As early as five o'clock in the morning the house was astir: lights
glimmered in upper rooms; footsteps passed along corridors and across
the court; parties began to arrive. All was done without ostentation,
yet without concealment, for Padley was a solitary place, and had no
fear, at this time, of a sudden descent of the authorities. For form's
sake--scarcely for more--a man kept watch over the valley road, and
signalled by the flashing of a lamp twice every party with which he was
acquainted, and there were no others than these to signal. A second man
waited by the gate into the court to admit them. They rode and walked in
from all round--great gentlemen, such as the North Lees family, came
with a small retinue; a few came alone; yeomen and farm servants, with
their women-folk, from the Hathersage valley, came for the most part on
foot. Altogether perhaps a hundred and twenty persons were within Padley
Manor--and the gate secured--by six o'clock.

Meanwhile, within, the priest had been busy since half-past four with
the hearing of confessions. He sat in the chapel beside the undecked
altar, and they came to him one by one. The household and a few of the
nearer neighbours had done their duty in this matter the day before, and
a good number had already made their Easter duties earlier in Lent; so
by six o'clock all was finished.

Then began the bustle.

A group of ladies, FitzHerberts and Fentons, entered, so soon as the
priest gave the signal by tapping on the parlour wall, bearing all
things necessary for the altar; and it was astonishing what fine things
these were; so that by the time that the priest was ready to vest, the
place was transformed. Stuffs and embroideries hung upon the wall about
the altar, making it seem, indeed, a sanctuary; two tall silver
candlesticks, used for no other purpose, stood upon the linen cloths,
under which rested the slate altar-stone, taken, with the sacred vessels
and the vestments, from one of the privy hiding-holes, with whose secret
not a living being without the house, and not more than two or three
within, was acquainted. It was rumored that half a dozen such places had
been contrived within the precincts, two of which were great enough to
hold two or three men at a pinch.

       *       *       *       *       *

Soon after six o'clock, then, the altar was ready and the priest stood
vested. He retired a pace from the altar, signed himself with the cross,
and with Mr. John FitzHerbert and his son Thomas on either side of him,
began the preparation....

It was a strange and an inspiriting sight that the young priest (for it
was Mr. Simpson who was saying the mass) looked upon as he turned round
after the gospel to make his little sermon. From end to end the tiny
chapel was full, packed so that few could kneel and none sit down. The
two doors were open, and here two faces peered in; and behind, rank
after rank down the steps and along the little passage, the folk stood
or knelt, out of sight of both priest and altar, and almost out of
sound. The sanctuary was full of children--whose round-eyed, solemn
faces looked up at him--children who knew little or nothing of what was
passing, except that they were there to worship God, but who, for all
that, received impressions and associations that could never thereafter
wholly leave them. The chapel was still completely dark, for the faint
light of dawn was excluded by the heavy hangings over the windows; and
there was but the light of the two tapers to show the people to one
another and the priest to them all.

It was an inspiriting sight to him then--and one which well rewarded him
for his labours, since there was not a class from gentlemen to labourers
who was not represented there. The FitzHerberts, the Babingtons, the
Fentons--these, with their servants and guests, accounted for perhaps
half of the folk. From the shadow by the door peeped out the faces of
John Merton and his wife and son; beneath the window was the solemn face
of Mr. Manners the lawyer, with his daughter beside him, Robin Audrey
beside her, and Dick his servant behind him. Surely, thought the young
priest, the Faith could not be in its final decay, with such a gathering
as this.

His little sermon was plain enough for the most foolish there. He spoke
of Christ's Resurrection; of how death had no power to hold Him, nor
pains nor prison to detain Him; and he spoke, too, of that mystical life
of His which He yet lived in His body, which was the Church; of how
Death, too, stretched forth his hands against Him there, and yet had no
more force to hold Him than in His natural life lived on earth near
sixteen hundred years ago; how a Resurrection awaited Him here in
England as in Jerusalem, if His friends would be constant and
courageous, not faithless, but believing.

"Even here," he said, "in this upper chamber, where we are gathered for
fear of the Jews, comes Jesus and stands in the midst, the doors being
shut. Upon this altar He will be presently, the Lamb slain yet the Lamb
victorious, to give us all that peace which the world can neither give
nor take away."

And he added a few words of exhortation and encouragement, bidding them
fear nothing whatever might come upon them in the future; to hold fast
to the faith once delivered to the saints, and so to attain the heavenly
crown. He was not eloquent, for he was but a young man newly come from
college, with no great gifts. Yet not a soul there looked upon him, on
his innocent, wondering eyes and his quivering lips, but was moved by
what he saw and heard.

The priest signed himself with the cross, and turned again to continue
the mass.


II

"You tell me, then," said the girl quietly, "that all is as it was with
you? God has told you nothing?"

Robin was silent.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mass had been done an hour or more, and for the most part the company
was dispersed again, after refreshment spread in the hall, except for
those who were to stay to dinner, and these two had slipped away at last
to talk together in the woods; for the court was still filled with
servants coming and going, and the parlours occupied. In one the ladies
were still busy with the altar furniture; in the other the priest sat to
talk in private with those who were come from a distance; and as for the
hall--this, too, was in the hands of the servants, since not less than
thirty gentle folk were to dine there that day.

Robin had come to Booth's Edge at the beginning of Passion week, and had
been there ever since. He had refrained, at Marjorie's entreaty, from
speaking of her to her parents; and they, too, ruled by their daughter,
had held their tongues on the matter. Everything else, however, had
been discussed--the effect of the squire's apostasy, the alternatives
that presented themselves to the boy, the future behaviour of him to his
father--all these things had been spoken of; and even the priest called
into council during the last two or three days. Yet not much had come of
it. If the worst came to the worst, the lawyer had offered the boy a
place in his office; Anthony Babington had proposed his coming to
Dethick if his father turned him out; while Robin himself inclined to a
third alternative--the begging of his father to give him a sum of money
and be rid of him; after which he proposed, with youthful vagueness, to
set off for London and see what he could do there.

Marjorie, however, had seemed strangely uninterested in such proposals.
She had listened with patience, bowing her head in assent to each,
beginning once or twice a word of criticism, and stopping herself before
she had well begun. But she had looked at Robin with more than interest;
and her mother had found her more than once on her knees in her own
chamber, in tears. Yet she had said nothing, except that she would speak
her mind after Easter, perhaps.

And now, it seemed, she was doing it.

       *       *       *       *       *

"You have had no other thought?" she said again, "besides those of which
you talked with my father?"

They were walking together through the woods, half a mile along the
Hathersage valley. Beneath them the ground fell steeply away, above them
it rose as steeply to the right. Underfoot the new life of spring was
bourgeoning in mould and grass and undergrowth; for the heather did not
come down so far as this; and the daffodils and celandine and wild
hyacinth lay in carpets of yellow and blue, infinitely sweet, beneath
the shadow of the trees and in the open sunshine. (It was at this time
that the squire of Matstead was entering the church and hearing of the
promises of the Lord to the sinner who forsook his sinful ways.)

"I have had other thoughts," said the boy slowly, "but they are so wild
and foolish that I have determined to think no more of them."

"You are determined?"

He bowed his head.

"You are sure, then, that they are not from God?" asked the girl, torn
between fear and hope. He was silent; and her heart sank again.

He looked, indeed, a bewildered boy, borne down by a weight that was too
heavy for his years. He walked with his hands behind his back, his
hatless head bowed, regarding his feet and the last year's leaves on
which he walked. A cuckoo across the valley called with the insistence
of one who will be answered.

"My Robin," said the girl, "the last thing I would have you do is to
tell me what you would not.... Will you not speak to the priest about
it?"

"I have spoken to the priest."

"Yes?"

"He tells me he does not know what to think."

"Would you do this thing--whatever it may be--if the priest told you it
was God's will?"

There was a pause; and then:

"I do not know," said Robin, so low she could scarcely hear him.

She drew a deep breath to reassure herself.

"Listen!" she said. "I must say a little of what I think; but not all.
Our Lord must finish it to you, if it is according to His will."

He glanced at her swiftly, and down again, like a frightened child. Yet
even in that glance he could see that it was all that she could do to
force herself to speak; and by that look he understood for the first
time something of that which she was suffering.

"You know first," she said, "that I am promised to you. I hold that
promise as sacred as anything on earth can be."

Her voice shook a little. The boy bowed his head again. She went on:

"But there are some things," she said, "more sacred than anything on
earth--those things that come from heaven. Now, I wish to say this--and
then have done with it: that if such should be God's will, I would not
hold you for a day. We are Catholics, you and I.... Your father--"

Her voice broke; and she stopped; yet without leaving go of her hold
upon herself. Only she could not speak for a moment.

Then a great fury seized on the boy. It was one of those angers that for
a while poison the air and turn all things sour; yet without obscuring
the mind--an anger in which the angry one strikes first at that which he
loves most, because he loves it most, knowing, too, that the words he
speaks are false. For this, for the present, was the breaking-point in
the lad. He had suffered torments in his soul, ever since the hour in
which he had ridden into the gate of his own home after his talk in the
empty chapel; he had striven to put away from him that idea for which
the girl's words had broken an entrance into his heart. And now she
would give him no peace; she continued to press on him from without that
which already pained him within; so he turned on her.

"You wish to be rid of me!" he cried fiercely.

She looked at him with her lips parted, her eyes astonished, and her
face gone white.

"What did you say?" she said.

His conscience pierced him like a sword. Yet he set his teeth.

"You wish to be rid of me. You are urging me to leave you. You talk to
me of God's will and God's voice, and you have no pity on me at all. It
is an excuse--a blind."

He stood raging. The very fact that he knew every word to be false made
his energy the greater; for he could not have said it otherwise.

"You think that!" she whispered.

There, then, they stood, eyeing one another. A stranger, coming suddenly
upon them, would have said it was a lovers' tiff, and have laughed at
it. Yet it was a deeper matter than that.

Then there surged over the boy a wave of shame; and the truth prevailed.
His fair face went scarlet; and his eyes filled with tears. He dropped
on his knees in the leaves, seized her hand and kissed it.

"Oh! you must forgive me," he said. "But ... but I cannot do it!"


III

It was a great occasion in the hall that Easter Day. The three tables,
which, according to custom, ran along the walls, were filled to-day with
guests; and a second dinner was to follow, scarcely less splendid than
the first, for their servants as well as for those of the household. The
floor was spread with new rushes; jugs of March beer, a full month old,
as it should be, were ranged down the tables; and by every plate lay a
posy of flowers. From the passage outside came the sound of music.

The feast began with the reading of the Gospel; at the close, Mr. John
struck with his hand upon the table as a signal for conversation; the
doors opened; the servants came in, and a babble of talk broke out. At
the high table the master of the house presided, with the priest on his
right, Mrs. Manners and Marjorie beyond him; on his left, Mrs. Fenton
and her lord. At the other two tables Mr. Thomas presided at one and Mr.
Babington at the other.

The talk was, of course, within the bounds of discretion; though once
and again sentences were spoken which would scarcely have pleased the
minister of the parish. For they were difficult times in which they
lived; and it is no wonder at all if bitterness mixed itself with
charity. Here was Mr. John, for instance, come to Padley expressly for
the selling of some meadows to meet his fines; here was his son Thomas,
the heir now, not only to Padley, but to Norbury, whose lord, his uncle,
lay in the Fleet Prison. Here was Mr. Fenton, who had suffered the like
in the matter of fines more than once. Hardly one of the folk there but
had paid a heavy price for his conscience; and all the worship that was
permitted to them, and that by circumstance, and not by law, was such as
they had engaged in that morning with shuttered windows and a sentinel
for fear that, too, should be silenced.

They talked, then, guardedly of those things, since the servants were in
and out continually, and though all professed the same faith as their
masters, yet these were times that tried loyalty hard. Mr. John, indeed,
gave news, of his brother Sir Thomas, and said how he did; and read a
letter, too, from Italy, from his younger brother Nicholas, who was fled
abroad after a year's prison at Oxford; but the climax of the talk came
when dinner was over, and the muscadel, with the mould-jellies, had been
put upon the tables. It was at this moment that Mr. John nodded to his
son, who went to the door, to see the servants out, and stood by it to
see that none listened. Then his father struck his hands together for
silence, and himself spoke.

"Mr. Simpson," he said, "has something to say to us all. It is not a
matter to be spoken of lightly, as you will understand presently.... Mr.
Simpson."

The priest looked up timidly, pulling out a paper from his pocket.

"You have heard of Mr. Nelson?" he said to the company. "Well, he was a
priest; and I have news of his death. He was executed in London on the
third of February for his religion. And another man, a Mr. Sherwood, was
executed a few days afterwards."

There was a rustle along the benches. Some there had heard of the fact,
but no more; some had heard nothing of either the man or his death. Two
or three faces turned a shade paler; and then the silence settled down
again. For here was a matter that touched them all closely enough; since
up to now scarcely a priest except Mr. Cuthbert Maine had suffered death
for his religion; and even of him some of the more tolerant said that it
was treason with which he was charged. They had heard, indeed, of a
priest or two having been sent abroad into exile for his faith; but the
most of them thought it a thing incredible that in England at this time
a man should suffer death for it. Fines and imprisonment were one thing;
to such they had become almost accustomed. But death was another matter
altogether. And for a priest! Was it possible that the days of King
Harry were coming back; and that every Catholic henceforth should go in
peril of his life as well as of liberty?

The folks settled themselves then in their seats; one or two men drank
off a glass of wine.

"I have heard from a good friend of mine in London," went on the priest,
looking at his paper, "one who followed every step of the trial; and
was present at the death. They suffered at Tyburn.... However, I will
tell you what he says. He is a countryman of mine, from Yorkshire; as
was Mr. Nelson, too.

"'Mr. Nelson was taken in London on the first of December last year. He
was born at Shelton, and was about forty-three years old; he was the son
of Sir Nicholas Nelson.'

"So much," said the priest, looking up from his paper, "I knew myself. I
saw him about four years ago just before he went to Douay, and he came
back to England as a priest, a year and a half after. Mr. Sherwood was
not a priest; he had been at Douay, too, but as a scholar only.... Well,
we will speak of Mr. Nelson first. This is what my friend says."

He spread the paper before him on the table; and Marjorie, looking past
her mother, saw that his hands shook as he spread it.

"'Mr. Nelson,'" began the priest, reading aloud with some difficulty,
"'was brought before my lords, and first had tendered to him the oath of
the Queen's supremacy. This he refused to take, saying that no lay
prince could have pre-eminence over Christ's Church; and, upon being
pressed as to who then could have it, answered, Christ's Vicar only, the
successor of Peter. Further, he proceeded to say, under questioning,
that since the religion of England at this time is schismatic and
heretical, so also is the Queen's Grace who is head of it.

"'This, then, was what was wanted; and after a delay of a few weeks, the
same questions being put to him, and his answers being the same, he was
sentenced to death. He was very fortunate in his imprisonment. I had
speech with him two or three times and was the means, by God's blessing,
of bringing another priest to him, to whom he confessed himself; and
with whom he received the Body of Christ a day before he suffered.

"'On the third of February, knowing nothing of his death being so near,
he was brought up to a higher part of the prison, and there told he was
to suffer that day. His kinsmen were admitted to him then, to bid him
farewell; and afterwards two ministers came to turn him from his faith
if they could; but they prevailed nothing.'"

There was a pause in the reading; but there was no movement among any
that listened. Robin, watching from his place at the right-hand table,
cold at heart, ran his eyes along the faces. The priest was as white as
death, with the excitement, it seemed, of having to tell such a tale.
His host beside him seemed downcast and quiet, but perfectly composed.
Mrs. Manners had her eyes closed; Anthony Babington was frowning to
himself with tight lips; Marjorie he could not see.

With a great effort the reader resumed:

"'When he was laid on the hurdle he refused to ask pardon of the Queen's
Grace; for, said he, I have never yet offended her. I was beside him,
and heard it. And he added, when those who stood near stormed at him,
that it was better to be hanged than to burn in hell-fire.

"'There was a great concourse of people at Tyburn, but kept back by the
officers so that they could not come at him. When he was in the cart,
first he commended his spirit into God's Hands, saying _In manus tuas_,
etc.; then he besought all Catholics that were present to pray for him;
I saw a good many who signed themselves in the crowd; and then he said
some prayers in Latin; with the psalms _Miserere_ and _De Profundis_.
And then he addressed himself to the people, telling them he died for
his religion, which was the Catholic Roman one, and prayed, and desired
them to pray, that God would bring all Englishmen into it. The crowd
cried out at that, exclaiming against this _Catholic Romish Faith_; and
so he said what he had to say, over again. Then, before the cart was
drawn away from him to leave him to hang, he asked pardon of all them he
had offended, and even of the Queen, if he had indeed offended her. Then
one of the sheriffs called on the hangman to make an end; so Mr. Nelson
prayed again in silence, and then begged all Catholics that were there
once more to pray that, by the bitter passion of Christ, his soul might
be received into everlasting joy. And they did so; for as the cart was
drawn away a great number cried out, and I with them, _Lord, receive his
soul_.

"'He was cut down, according to sentence, before he was dead, and the
butchery begun on him; and when it was near over, he moved a little in
his pain, and said that he forgave the Queen and all that caused or
consented to his death: and so he died.'"

The priest's voice, which had shaken again and again, grew so tremulous
as he ended that those that were at the end of the hall could scarcely
hear him; and, as it ceased, a murmur ran along the seats.

Mr. FitzHerbert leaned over to the priest and whispered. The priest
nodded, and the other held up his hand for silence.

"There is more yet," he said.

Mr. Simpson, with a hand that still shook so violently that he could
hardly hold his glass, lifted and drank off a cup of muscadel. Then he
cleared his throat, sat up a little in his chair, and resumed:

"'Next I went to see Mr. Sherwood, to talk to him in prison and to
encourage him by telling him of the passion of the other and how bravely
he bore it. Mr. Sherwood took it very well, and said that he was afraid
of nothing, that he had reconciled his mind to it long ago, and had
rehearsed it all two or three times, so that he would know what to say
and how to bear himself.'"

Mr. FitzHerbert leaned over again to the priest at this point and
whispered something. Mr. Simpson nodded, and raised his eyes.

"Mr. Sherwood," he said, "was a scholar from Douay, but not a priest. He
was lodging in the house of a Catholic lady, and had procured mass to be
said there, and it was through her son that he was taken and charged
with recusancy."

Again ran a rustle through the benches. This executing of the laity for
religion was a new thing in their experience. The priest lifted the
paper again.

"'I found that Mr. Sherwood had been racked many times in the Tower,
during the six months he was in prison, to force him to tell, if they
could, where he had heard mass and who had said it. But they could
prevail nothing. Further, no visitor was admitted to him all this time,
and I was the first and the last that he had; and that though Mr. Roper
himself had tried to get at him for his relief; for he was confined
underground and lay in chains and filth not to be described. I said what
I could to him, but he said he needed nothing and was content, though
his pain must have been very great all this while, what with the racking
repeated over and over again and the place he lay in.

"'I was present again when he suffered at Tyburn, but was too far away
to hear anything that he said, and scarcely, indeed, could see him; but
I learned afterwards that he died well and courageously, as a Catholic
should, and made no outcry or complaint when the butchery was done on
him.

"'This, then, is the news I have to send you--sorrowful, indeed, yet
joyful, too; for surely we may think that they who bore such pains for
Christ's sake with such constancy will intercede for us whom they leave
behind. I am hoping myself to come North again before I go to Douay next
year, and will see you then and tell you more.'"

The priest laid down the paper, trembling.

Mr. FitzHerbert looked up.

"It will give pleasure to the company," he said, "to know that the
writer of the letter is Mr. Ludlam, from Radbourne, in this county. As
you have heard, he, too, hopes by God's mercy to be made priest and to
come back to England."



CHAPTER VIII


I

In the following week Robin went home again.

The clear weather of Easter had broken, and racing clouds, thick as a
pall, sped across the sky that had been so blue and so cheerful; a wind
screamed all day, now high, now low, shattering the tender flowers of
spring, ruffling the Derwent against its current, by which he rode, and
dashing spatters of rain now and again on his back, tossing high and
wide the branches under which he went, until the woods themselves became
as a great melancholy organ, making sad music about him.

When a mind is fluent and uncertain there is no describing it. He
thought he had come to a decision last week; he found that the decision
was shattered as soon as made. He had talked to the priest; he had
resisted Marjorie; and yet to neither of them had he put into formal
words what it was that troubled him. He had asked questions about
vocation, about the place that circumstance occupies in it, of the value
of dispositions, fears, scruples, and resistance. He had, that is,
fingered his wound, half uncovered it, and then covered it up again,
tormented it, glanced at it and then glanced aside; yet the one thing he
had not done was to probe it--not even to allow another to do so.

His mind, then, was fluent and distracted; it formed images before him,
which dissolved as soon as formed; it whirled in little eddies; it threw
up obscuring foam; it ran clear one instant, and the next broke itself
in rapids. He could neither ease it, nor dam it altogether, and he did
not know what to do.

As he rode through Froggatt, he saw a group of saddle-horses standing
at the inn door, but thought nothing of it, till a man ran out of the
door, still holding his pot, and saluted him, and he recognised him to
be one of Mr. Babington's men.

"My master is within, sir," he said; "he bade me look out for you."

Robin drew rein, and as he did so, Anthony, too, came out.

"Ah!" he said. "I heard you would be coming this way. Will you come in?
I have something to say to you."

Robin slipped off, leaving his mare in the hands of Anthony's man, since
he himself was riding alone, with his valise strapped on behind.

It was a little room, very trim and well kept, on the first floor, to
which his friend led him. Anthony shut the door carefully and came
across to the settle by the window-seat.

"Well," he said, "I have bad news for you, my friend. Will you forgive
me? I have seen your father and had words with him."

"Eh?"

"I said nothing to you before," went on the other, sitting down beside
him. "I knew you would not have it so, but I went to see for myself and
to put a question or two. He is your father, but he has also been my
friend. That gives me rights, you see!"

"Tell me," said Robin heavily.

It appeared that Anthony, who was a precise as well as an ardent young
man, had had scruples about trusting to hearsay. Certainly it was
rumoured far and wide that the squire of Matstead had done as he had
said he would do, and gone to church; but Mr. Anthony was one of those
spirits who will always have things, as they say, from the
fountain-head; partly from instincts of justice, partly, no doubt, for
the pleasure of making direct observations to the principals concerned.
This was what he had done in this case. He had ridden, without a word to
any, up to Matstead, and had demanded to be led to the squire; and there
and then, refusing to sit down till he was answered, had put his
question. There had been a scene. The squire had referred to puppies who
wanted drowning, to young sparks, and to such illustrative similes; and
Anthony, in spite of his youthful years, had flared out about turncoats
and lick-spittles. There had been a very pretty ending: the squire had
shouted for his servants and Anthony for his, and the two parties had
eyed one another, growling like dogs, until bloodshed seemed imminent.
Then the visitor had himself solved the situation by stalking out of the
house from which the squire was proposing to flog him, mounting his
horse, and with a last compliment or two had ridden away. And here he
was at Froggatt on his return journey, having eaten there that dinner
which no longer would be spread for him at Matstead.

Robin sat silent till the tale was done, and at the end of it Anthony
was striding about the room, aflame again with wrath, gesticulating and
raging aloud.

Then Robin spoke, holding up his hand for moderation. "You will have the
whole house here," he said. "Well, you have cooked my goose for me."

"Bah! that was cooked at Passiontide when you went to Booth's Edge. Do
you think he'll ever have a Papist in his house again?"

"Did he say so?"

"No; but he said enough about his 'young cub.'... Nonsense, man! Come
home with me to Dethick. We'll find occupation enough."

"Did he say he would not have me home again?"

"No," bawled Anthony. "I have told you he did not say so outright. But
he said enough to show he'd have no rebels, as he called them, in his
Protestant house! Dick's to leave. Did you hear that?"

"Dick!"

"Why, certainly. There was a to-do on Sunday, and Dick spoke his mind.
He'll come to me, he says, if you have no service for him."

Robin set his teeth. It seemed as if the pelting blows would never
cease.

"Come with me to Dethick!" said Anthony again. "I tell you--"

"Well?"

"There'll be time enough to tell you when you come. But I promise you
occupation enough."

He paused, as if he would say more and dared not.

"You must tell me more," said the lad slowly. "What kind of occupation?"

Then Anthony did a queer thing. He first glanced at the door, and then
went to it quickly and threw it open. The little lobby was empty. He
went out, leaned over the stair and called one of his men.

"Sit you there," he said, with the glorious nonchalance of a Babington,
"and let no man by till I tell you."

He came back, closed the door, bolted it, and then came across and sat
down by his friend.

"Do you think the rest of us are doing nothing?" he whispered. "Why, I
tell you that a dozen of us in Derbyshire--" He broke off once more. "I
may not tell you," he said, "I must ask leave first."

A light began to glimmer before Robin's mind; the light broadened
suddenly and intensely, and his whole soul leapt to meet it.

"Do you mean--?" And then he, too, broke off, well knowing enough,
though not all of, what was meant.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was quiet here within this room, in spite of the village street
outside. It was dinner-time, and all were within doors or out at their
affairs; and except for the stamp of a horse now and again, and the
scream of the wind in the keyhole and between the windows, there was
little to hear. And in the lad's soul was a tempest.

He knew well enough now what his friend meant, though nothing of the
details; and from the secrecy and excitement of the young man's manner
he understood what the character of his dealings would likely be, and
towards those dealings his whole nature leaped as a fish to the water.
Was it possible that this way lay the escape from his own torment of
conscience? Yet he must put a question first, in honesty.

"Tell me this much," he said in a low voice. "Do you mean that this ...
this affair will be against men's lives ... or ... or such as even a
priest might engage in?"

Then the light of fanaticism leaped to the eyes of his friend, and his
face brightened wonderfully.

"Do they observe the courtesies and forms of law?" he snarled. "Did
Nelson die by God's law, or did Sherwood--those we know of? I will tell
you this," he said, "and no more unless you pledge yourself to us ...
that we count it as warfare--in Christ's Name yes--but warfare for all
that."

       *       *       *       *       *

There then lay the choice before this lad, and surely it was as hard a
choice as ever a man had to make. On the one side lay such an excitement
as he had never yet known--for Anthony was no merely mad fool--a path,
too, that gave him hopes of Marjorie, that gave him an escape from home
without any more ado, a task besides which he could tell himself
honestly was, at least, for the cause that lay so near to Marjorie's
heart, and was beginning to lie near his own. And on the other there was
open to him that against which he had fought now day after day, in
misery--a life that had no single attraction to the natural man in him,
a life that meant the loss of Marjorie for ever.

The colour died from his lips as he considered this. Surely all lay
Anthony's way: Anthony was a gentleman like himself; he would do nothing
that was not worthy of one.... What he had said of warfare was surely
sound logic. Were they not already at war? Had not the Queen declared
it? And on the other side--nothing. Nothing. Except that a voice within
him on that other side cried louder and louder--it seemed in despair:
"This is the way; walk in it."

"Come," whispered Anthony again.

Robin stood up; he made as if to speak; then he silenced himself and
began to walk to and fro in the little room. He could hear voices from
the room beneath--Anthony's men talking there no doubt. They might be
his men, too, at the lifting of a finger--they and Dick. There were the
horses waiting without; he heard the jingle of a bit as one tossed his
head. Those were the horses that would go back to Dethick and Derby,
and, may be, half over England.

He walked to and fro half a dozen times without speaking, and, if he had
but guessed it, he might have been comforted to know that his manhood
flowed in upon him, as a tide coming in over a flat beach. These
instants added more years to him than as many months that had gone
before. His boyhood was passing, since experience and conflict, whether
it end in victory or defeat, give the years to a man far more than the
passing of time. So in God's sight Robin added many inches to the
stature of his spirit in this little parlour of Froggatt.

Yet, though he conquered then, he did not know that he conquered. He
still believed, as he turned at last and faced his friend, that his mind
was yet to make up, and his whisper was harsh and broken.

"I do not know," he whispered. "I must go home first."


II

Dick was waiting by the porter's lodge as the boy rode in, and walked up
beside him with his brown hand on the horse's shoulder. Robin could not
say much, and, besides, his confidence must be tied.

"So you are going," he said softly.

The man nodded.

"I met Mr. Babington.... You cannot do better, I think, than go to him."

       *       *       *       *       *

It was with a miserable heart that an hour or two later he came down to
supper. His father was already at table, sitting grimly in his place; he
made no sign of welcome or recognition as his son came in. During the
meal itself this was of no great consequence, as silence was the custom;
but the boy's heart sank yet further as, still without a word to him,
the squire rose from table at the end and went as usual through the
parlour door. He hesitated a moment before following. Then he grasped
his courage and went after.

All things were as usual there--the wine set out and the sweetmeats, and
his father in his usual place, Yet still there was silence.

Robin began to meditate again, yet alert for a sign or a word. It was
in this little room, he understood, that the dispute with Anthony had
taken place a few hours before, and he looked round it, almost wondering
that all seemed so peaceful. It was this room, too, that was associated
with so much that was happy in his life--drawn-out hours after supper,
when his father was in genial moods, or when company was there--company
that would never come again--and laughter and gallant talk went round.
There was the fire burning in the new stove--that which had so much
excited him only a year or two ago, for it was then the first that he
had ever seen: there was the table where he had written his little
letter; there was "Christ carrying His Cross."

"So you have sent your friend to insult me; now!"

Robin started. The voice was quiet enough, but full of a suppressed
force.

"I have not, sir. I met Mr. Babington at Froggatt on his way back. He
told me. I am very sorry for it."

"And you talked with him at Padley, too, no doubt?"

"Yes, sir."

His father suddenly wheeled round on him.

"Do you think I have no sense, then? Do you think I do not know what you
and your friends speak of?"

Robin was silent.

He was astonished how little afraid he was. His heart beat loud enough
in his ears; yet he felt none of that helplessness that had fallen on
him before when his father was angry.... Certainly he had added to his
stature in the parlour at Froggatt.

The old man poured out a glass of wine and drank it. His face was
flushed high, and he was using more words than usual.

"Well, sir, there are other affairs we must speak of; and then no more
of them. I wish to know your meaning for the time to come. There must be
no more fooling this way and that. I shall pay no fines for you--mark
that! If you must stand on your own feet, stand on them.... Now then!"

"Do you mean, am I coming to church with you, sir?"

"I mean, who is to pay your fines?... Miss Marjorie?"

Robin set his teeth at the sneer.

"I have not yet been fined, sir."

"Now do you take me for a fool? D'you think they'll let you off? I was
speaking--"

The old man stopped.

"Yes, sir?"

The other wheeled his face on him.

"If you will have it," he said, "I was speaking to my two good friends
who dined here on Sunday. I was plain with them and they were plain with
me. 'I shall not pay for my brat of a son,' I said. 'Then he must pay
for himself,' said they, 'unless we lay him by the heels.' 'Not in my
house, I hope,' I said; and they laughed at that. We were very merry
together."

"Yes, sir?"

"Good God! have I a fool for a son? I ask you again, Who is it to pay?"

"When will they demand it?"

"Why, they may demand it next week, if they will! You were not at church
on Sunday!"

"I was not in Matstead," said the lad.

"But--"

"And Mr. Barton will not, I think--"

The old man struck the table suddenly and violently.

"I have dropped words enough," he cried. "Where's the use of it? If you
think they will let you alone, I tell you they will not. There are to be
doings before Christmas, at latest; and what then?"

Then Robin drew his breath sharply between his teeth; and knew that one
more step had been passed, that had separated him from that which he
feared.... He had come just now, still hesitating. Still there had been
passing through his mind hopes and ideas of what his father might do for
him. He knew well enough that he would never pay the fines, amounting
sometimes to as much as twenty pounds a month; but he had thought that
perhaps his father would give him a sum of money and let him go to fend
for himself; that he might help him even to a situation somewhere; and
now hope had died so utterly that he did not even dare speak of it. And
he had said "No" to Anthony; he said to himself at least that he had
meant "No," in spite of his hesitation. All doors seemed closing, save
that which terrified him....

"I have thought in my mind--" he began; and stopped, for the terror of
what was on his tongue grew suddenly upon him.

"Eh?"

Robin stood up.

"I must have time, sir," he cried; "I must have time. Do not press me
too much."

His father's eyes shone bright and wrathful. He beat on the table with
his open hand; but the boy was too quick for him.

"I beg of you, sir, not to make me speak too soon. It may be that you
would hate that I should speak more than my silence."

His whole person was tense and magnetic; his face was paler than ever;
and it seemed as if his father understood enough, at least, to make him
hesitate. The two looked at one another; and it was the man's eyes that
tell first.

"You may have till Pentecost," he said.


III

It would be at about an hour before dawn that Robin awoke for perhaps
the third or fourth time that night; for the conflict still roared
within his soul and would give him no peace. And, as he lay there, awake
in an instant, staring up into the dark, once more weighing and
balancing this and the other, swayed by enthusiasm at one moment,
weighed down with melancholy the next--there came to him, distinct and
clear through the still night, the sound of horses' hoofs, perhaps of
three or four beasts, walking together.

Now, whether it was the ferment of his own soul, or the work of some
interior influence, or indeed, the very intimation of God Himself, Robin
never knew (though he inclined later to the last of these); yet it
remains as a fact that when he heard that sound, so fierce was his
curiosity to know who it was that rode abroad in company at such an
hour, he threw off the blankets that covered him, went to his window and
threw it open. Further, when he had listened there a second or two, and
had heard the sound cease and then break out again clearer and nearer,
signifying that the party was riding through the village, his curiosity
grew so intense, that he turned from the window, snatched up and put on
a few clothes, groping for them as well as he could in the dimness, and
was presently speeding, barefooted, downstairs, telling himself in one
breath that he was a fool, and in the next that he must reach the
churchyard wall before the horses did.

It was but a short run when he had come down into the court, by the
little staircase that led from the men's rooms; the ground was soaking
with the rains of yesterday, but he cared nothing for that; and, as the
riding party turned up the little ascent that led beneath the
churchyard, Robin, on the other side of the wall, was keeping between
the tombstones to see, and not be seen.

It was within an hour of dawn, at that time when the sky begins to
glimmer with rifts above the two horizons, showing light enough at least
to distinguish faces. It was such a light as that in which he had seen
the deer looking at him motionless as he rode home with Dick. Yet the
three who now rode up towards him were so muffled about the faces that
he feared he would not know them. They were men, all three of them; and
he could make out valises strapped to the saddle of each; but, what
seemed strange, they did not speak as they came; and it appeared as if
they wished to make no more noise than was necessary, since one of them,
when his horse set his foot upon the cobblestones beside the lych-gate,
pulled him sharply off them.

And then, just as they rounded the angle of the wall where the boy
crouched peeping, the man that rode in the middle, sighed as if with
relief, and pulled the cloak that was about him, so that the collar fell
from his face, and at the same time turned to his companion on his
right, and said something in a low voice.

But the boy heard not a word; for he found himself staring at the
thin-faced young priest from whom he had received Holy Communion at
Padley. It was but for an instant; for the man to whom the priest spoke
answered in the same low voice, and the other pulled his cloak again
round his mouth.

Yet the look was enough. The sight, once more, of this servant of God,
setting out again upon his perilous travels--seen at such a moment, when
the boy's judgment hung in the balance (as he thought); this one single
reminder of what a priest could do in these days of sorrow, and of what
God called on him to do--the vision, for it was scarcely less, all
things considered, of a life such as this--presented, so to say, in this
single scene of a furtive and secret ride before the dawn, leaving
Padley soon after midnight--this, falling on a soul that already leaned
that way, finished that for which Marjorie had prayed, and against which
the lad himself had fought so fiercely.

       *       *       *       *       *

Half an hour later he stood by his father's bed, looking down on him
without fear.

"Father," he said, as the old man stared up at him through sleep-ridden
eyes, "I have come to give you my answer. It is that I must go to Rheims
and be a priest."

Then he turned again and went out of the room, without waiting.



CHAPTER IX


I

Mrs. Manners was still abed when her daughter came in to see her. She
lay in the great chamber that gave upon the gallery above the hall
whence, on either side, she could hear whether or no the maids were at
their business--which was a comfort to her if a discomfort to them. And
now that her lord was in Derby, she lay here all alone.

The first that she knew of her daughter's coming was a light in her
eyes; and the next was a face, as of a stranger, looking at her with
great eyes, exalted by joy and pain. The light, held below, cast shadows
upwards from chin and cheek, and the eyes shone in hollows. Then, as she
sat up, she saw that it was her daughter, and that the maid held a paper
in her hands; she was in her night-linen, and a wrap lay over her
shoulders and shrouded her hair.

"He is to be a priest," she whispered sharply. "Thank our Lord with me
... and ... and God have mercy on me!"

Then Marjorie was on her knees by the bedside, sobbing so that the
curtains shook.

       *       *       *       *       *

The mother got it all out of her presently--the tale of the girl's heart
torn two ways at once. On the one side there was her human love for the
lad who had wooed her--as hot as fire, and as pure--and on the other
that keen romance that had made her pray that he might be a priest. This
second desire had come to her, as sharp as a voice that calls, when she
had heard of the apostasy of his father; it had seemed to her the
riposte that God made to the assault upon His honour. The father would
no longer be His worshipper? Then let the son be His priest; and so the
balance be restored. And so the maid had striven with the two loves
that, for once, would not agree together (as did the man in the Gospels
who wished to go and bury his father and afterwards to follow his
Saviour); she had not dared to say a word to the lad of anything of this
lest it should be her will and not God's that should govern him, for she
knew very well what a power she had over him; but she had prayed God,
and begged Robin to pray too and to listen to His voice; and now she had
her way, and her heart was broken with it, she said:

"And when I think," she wailed across her mother's knees, "of what it is
to be a priest; and of the life that he will lead, and of the death that
he may die!... And it is I ... I ... who will have sent him to it.
Mother!..."

Mrs. Manners was bethinking herself of a cordial just then, and how she
knew old Ann would be coming presently, and was listening with but half
an ear.

"It's not you, my dear," she said, patting the head beneath her hands.
(The wrap was fallen off, and the maid's long hair was all over her
shoulders.) "And now--"

"But our Lord will take care of him, will He not? And not suffer--"

Mrs. Manners fell to patting her head again.

"And who brought the message?" she asked.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mrs. Manners was one of those experienced persons who are fully
persuaded that youth is a disease that must be borne with patiently.
Time, indeed, will cure it; yet until the cure is complete, elders must
bear it as well as they can and not seem to pay too much attention to
it. A rigorous and prudent diet; long hours of sleep, plenty of
occupation--these are the remedies for the fever. So, while Marjorie
first began to read the lad's letter, and then, breaking down
altogether, thrust it into her mother's hand, Mrs. Manners was searching
her memory as to whether any imprudence the day before, in food or
behaviour, could be the cause of this crisis. Love between boys and
girls was common enough; she herself twenty years ago had suffered from
the sickness when young John had come wooing her; yet a love that could
thrust from it that which it loved, was beyond her altogether. Either
Marjorie loved the lad, or she did not, and if she loved him, why did
she pray that he might be a priest? That was foolishness; since
priesthood was a bar to marriage. She began to conclude that Marjorie
did not love him; it had been but a romantic fancy; and she was
encouraged by the thought.

"Madge," she began, when she had read through the confused line or two,
in the half-boyish, half-clerkly hand of Robin, scribbled and dispatched
by the hands of Dick scarcely two hours ago. "Madge--"

She was about to say something sensible when the maid interrupted her
again.

"And it is I who have brought it all on him!" she wailed. "If it had not
been for me--"

Her mother laid a firm hand on her daughter's mouth. It was not often
that she felt the superior of the two; yet here was a time, plain
enough, when maturity and experience must take the reins.

"Madge," she said, "it is plain you do not love him; or you never--"

The maid started back, her eyes ablaze.

"Not love him! Why--"

"That you do not love him truly; or you would never have wished this for
him.... Now listen to me!"

She raised an admonitory finger, complacent at last. But her speech was
not to be made at that time; for her daughter swiftly rose to her feet,
controlled at last by the shock of astonishment.

"Then I do not think you know what love is," she said softly. "To love
is to wish the other's highest good, as I understand it."

Mrs. Manners compressed her lips, as might a prophetess before a
prediction. But her daughter was beforehand with her again.

"That is the love of a Christian, at least," she said. Then she stooped,
took the letter from her mother's knees, and went out.

Mrs. Manners sat for a moment as her daughter left her. Then she
understood that her hour of superiority was gone with Marjorie's hour of
weakness; and she emitted a short laugh as she took her place again
behind the child she had borne.


II

It was a strange time that Marjorie had until two days later, when Robin
came and told her all, and how it had fallen out. For now, it seemed,
she walked on air; now in shoes of lead. When she was at her prayers
(which was pretty often just now), and at other times, when the air
lightened suddenly about her and the burdens of earth were lifted as if
another hand were put to them--at those times which every interior soul
experiences in a period of stress--why, then, all was glory, and she saw
Robin as transfigured and herself beneath him all but adoring. Little
visions came and went before her imagination. Robin riding, like some
knight on an adventure, to do Christ's work; Robin at the altar, in his
vestments; Robin absolving penitents--all in a rosy light of faith and
romance. She saw him even on the scaffold, undaunted and resolute, with
God's light on his face, and the crowd awed beneath him; she saw his
soul entering heaven, with all the harps ringing to meet him, and
eternity begun.... And then, at other times, when the heaviness came
down on her, as clouds upon the Derbyshire hills, she understood nothing
but that she had lost him; that he was not to be hers, but Another's;
that a loveless and empty life lay before her, and a womanhood that was
without its fruition. And it was this latter mood that fell on her,
swift and entire, when, looking out from her window a little before
dinner-time, she saw suddenly his hat, and Cecily's head, jerking up the
steep path that led to the house.

She fell on her knees by her bedside.

"Jesu!" she cried. "Jesu! Give me strength to meet him."

       *       *       *       *       *

Mrs. Manners, too, hearing the horse's footsteps on the pavement a
minute later, and Marjorie's steps going downstairs, also looked forth
and saw him dismounting. She was a prudent woman, and did not stir a
finger till she heard the bell ringing in the court for the dinner to be
served. They would have time, so she thought, to arrange their
attitudes.

And, indeed, she was right: for it was two quiet enough persons who met
her as she came down into the hall: Robin flushed with riding, yet
wholly under his own command--bright-eyed, and resolute and natural
(indeed, it seemed to her that he was more of a man than she had thought
him). And her daughter, too, was still and strong; a trifle paler than
she should be, yet that was to be expected. At dinner, of course,
nothing could be spoken of but the most ordinary affairs--in such
speaking, that is, as there was. It was not till they had gone out into
the walled garden and sat them down, all three of them, on the long
garden-seat beside the rose-beds, that a word was said on these new
matters. There was silence as they walked there, and silence as they sat
down.

"Tell her, Robin," said the maid.

       *       *       *       *       *

It appeared that matters were not yet as wholly decided as Mrs. Manners
had thought. Indeed, it seemed to her that they were not decided at all.
Robin had written to Dr. Allen, and had found means to convey his letter
to Mr. Simpson, who, in his turn, had undertaken to forward it at least
as far as to London; and there it would await a messenger to Douay. It
might be a month before it would reach Douay, and it might be three or
four months, or even more, before an answer could come back. Next, the
squire had taken a course of action which, plainly, had disconcerted the
lad, though it had its conveniences too. For, instead of increasing the
old man's fury, the news his son had given him had had a contrary
effect. He had seemed all shaken, said Robin; he had spoken to him
quietly, holding in the anger that surely must be there, the boy
thought, without difficulty. And the upshot of it was that no more had
been said as to Robin's leaving Matstead for the present--not one word
even about the fines. It seemed almost as if the old man had been trying
how far he could push his son, and had recoiled when he had learned the
effect of his pushing.

"I think he is frightened," said the lad gravely. "He had never thought
that I could be a priest."

Mrs. Manners considered this in silence.

"And it may be autumn before Dr. Allen's letter comes back?" she asked
presently.

Robin said that that was so.

"It may even be till winter," he said. "The talk among the priests, Mr.
Simpson tells me, is all about the removal from Douay. It may be made at
any time, and who knows where they will go?"

Mrs. Manners glanced across at her daughter, who sat motionless, with
her hands clasped. Then she was filled with the spirit of reasonableness
and sense: all this tragic to-do about what might never happen seemed to
her the height of folly.

"Nay, then," she burst out, "then nothing may happen after all. Dr.
Allen may say 'No;' the letter may never get to him. It may be that you
will forget all this in a month or two."

Robin turned his face slowly towards her, and she saw that she had
spoken at random. Again, too, it struck her attention that his manner
seemed a little changed. It was graver than that to which she was
accustomed.

"I shall not forget it," he said softly. "And Dr. Allen will get the
letter. Or, if not he, someone else."

There was silence again, but Mrs. Manners heard her daughter draw a long
breath.


III

It was an hour later that Marjorie found herself able to say that which
she knew must be said.

Robin had lingered on, talking of this and that, though he had said half
a dozen times that he must be getting homewards; and at last, when he
rose, Mistress Manners, who was still wholly misconceiving the
situation, after the manner of sensible middle-aged folk, archly and
tactfully took her leave and disappeared down towards the house,
advancing some domestic reason for her departure.

Robin sighed, and turned to the girl, who still sat quiet. But as he
turned she lifted her eyes to him swiftly.

"Good-bye, Mr. Robin," she said.

He pulled himself up.

"You understand, do you not?" she said. "You are to be a priest. You
must remember that always. You are a sort of student already."

She could see him pale a little; his lips tightened. For a moment he
said nothing; he was taken wholly aback.

"Then I am not to come here again?"

Marjorie stood up. She showed no sign of the fierce self-control she was
using.

"Why, yes," she said. "Come as you would come to any Catholic
neighbours. But no more than that.... You are to be a priest."

       *       *       *       *       *

The spring air was full of softness and sweetness as they stood there.
On the trees behind them and on the roses in front the budding leaves
had burst into delicate green, and the copses on all sides sounded with
the twittering of birds. The whole world, it seemed, was kindling with
love and freshness. Yet these two had to stand here and be cold, one to
the other.... He was to be a priest; that must not be forgotten, and
they must meet no more on the old footing. That was gone. Already he
stood among the Levites, at least in intention; and the Lord alone was
to be the portion of his inheritance and his Cup.

It was a minute before either of them moved, and during that minute the
maid felt her courage ebb from her like an outgoing tide, leaving a
desolation behind. It was all that she could do not to cry out.

But when at last Robin made a movement and she had to look him in the
face, what she saw there braced and strengthened her.

"You are right, Mistress Marjorie," he said both gravely and kindly. "I
will bid you good-day and be getting to my horse."

He kissed her gently, as the manner was, and went down the path alone.



PART II



CHAPTER I


I

It was with a sudden leap of her heart that Marjorie, looking out of her
window at the late autumn landscape, her mind still running on the sheet
of paper that lay before her, saw a capped head, and then a horse's
crest, rise over the broken edge of land up which Robin had ridden so
often two and three years ago. Then she saw who was the rider, and laid
her pen down again.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was two years since the lad had gone to Rheims, and it would be five
years more, she knew (since he was not over quick at his books), before
he would return a priest. She had letters from him: one would come now
and again, a month or two sometimes after the date of writing. It was
only in September that she had had the letter which he had written her
on hearing of her father's death, and Mr. Manners had died in June. She
had written back to him then, a discreet and modest letter enough,
telling him of how Mr. Simpson had read mass over the body before it was
taken down to Derby for the burying; and telling him, too, of her
mother's rheumatics that kept her abed now three parts of the year. For
the rest, the letters were dull enough reading to one who did not
understand them: the news the lad had to give was of a kind that must be
disguised, lest the letters should fall into other hands, since it
concerned the coming and going of priests whose names must not appear.
Yet, for all that, the letters were laid up in a press, and the heap
grew slowly.

It was Mr. Anthony Babington who was come now to see her, and it was
his third visit since the summer. But she knew well enough what he was
come for, since his young wife, whom he had married last year, was no
use to him in such matters: she had lately had a child, too, and lived
quietly at Dethick with her women. His letters, too, would come at
intervals, carried by a rider, or sometimes some farmer's man on his way
home from Derby, and these letters, too, held dull reading enough for
such as were not in the secret. Yet the magistrates at Derby would have
given a good sum if they could have intercepted and understood them.

It was in the upper parlour now that she received him. A fire was
burning there, as it had burned so long ago, when Robin found her fresh
from her linen, and Anthony sat down in the same place. She sat by the
window, with the paper in her hands at which she had been writing when
she first saw him.

He had news for her, of two kinds, and, like a man, gave her first that
which she least wished to hear. (She had first showed him the paper.)

"That was the very matter I was come about," he said. "You have only a
few of the names, I see. Now the rest will be over before Christmas, and
will all be in London together."

"Can you not give me the names?" she said.

"I could give you the names, certainly. And I will do so before I leave;
I have them here. But--Mistress Marjorie, could you not come to London
with me? It would ease the case very much."

"Why, I could not," she said. "My mother--And what good would it
serve?"

"This is how the matter stands," said Anthony, crossing his legs. "We
have a dozen priests coming all together--at least, they will not travel
together, of course; but they will all reach London before Christmas,
and there they will hold counsel as to who shall go to the districts.
Eight of them, I have no doubt, will come to the north. There are as
many priests in the south as are safe at the present time--or as are
needed. Now if you were to come with me, mistress--with a serving-maid,
and my sister would be with us--we could meet these priests, and speak
with them, and make their acquaintance. That would remove a great deal
of danger. We must not have that affair again which fell out last
month."

Marjorie nodded slowly. (It was wonderful how her gravity had grown on
her these last two years.)

She knew well enough what he meant. It was the affair of the clerk who
had come from Derby on a matter connected with her father's will about
the time she was looking for the arrival of a strange priest, and who
had been so mistaken by her. Fortunately he had been a well-disposed
man, with Catholic sympathies, or grave trouble might have followed. But
this proposal of a visit to London seemed to her impossible. She had
never been to London in her life; it appeared to her as might a voyage
to the moon. Derby seemed oppressingly large and noisy and dangerous;
and Derby, she understood, was scarcely more than a village compared to
London.

"I could not do it," she said presently. "I could not leave my mother."

Anthony explained further.

It was evident that Booth's Edge was becoming more and more a harbour
for priests, owing largely to Mistress Marjorie's courage and piety. It
was well placed; it was remote; and it had so far avoided all suspicion.
Padley certainly served for many, but Padley was nearer the main road;
and besides, had fallen under the misfortune of losing its master for
the very crime of recusancy. It seemed to be all important, therefore,
that the ruling mistress of Booth's Edge, since there was no master,
should meet as many priests as possible, in order that she might both
know and be known by them; and here was such an opportunity as would not
easily occur again. Here were a dozen priests, all to be together at one
time; and of these, at least two-thirds would be soon in the north. How
convenient, therefore, it would be if their future hostess could but
meet them, learn their plans, and perhaps aid them by her counsel.

But she shook her head resolutely.

"I cannot do it," she said.

Anthony made a little gesture of resignation. But, indeed, he had
scarcely hoped to persuade her. He knew it was a formidable thing to ask
of a countrybred maid.

"Then we must do as well as we can," he said. "In any case, I must go.
There is a priest I have to meet in any case; he is returning as soon as
he has bestowed the rest."

"Yes?"

"His name is Ballard. He is known as Fortescue, and passes himself off
as a captain. You would never know him for a priest."

"He is returning, you say?"

A shade of embarrassment passed over the young man's face, and Marjorie
saw that there was something behind which she was not to know.

"Yes," he said, "I have business with him. He is not to come over on the
mission yet, but only to bring the others and see them safe--"

He broke off suddenly.

"Why, I was forgetting," he cried. "Our Robin is coming too. I had a
letter from him, and another for you."

He searched in the breast of his coat, and did not see the sudden
rigidity that fell on the girl. For a moment she sat perfectly still;
her heart had leapt to her throat, it seemed, and was hammering
there.... But by the time he had found the letter she was herself again.

"Here it is," he said.

She took it; but made no movement to open it.

"But he is not to be a priest for five years yet?" she said quietly.

"No; but they send them sometimes as servants and such like, to make a
party seem what it is not, as well as to learn how to avoid her Grace's
servants. He will go back with Mr. Ballard, I think, after three or four
weeks. You have had letters from him, you told me?"

She nodded.

"Yes; but he said nothing of it, but only how much he longed to see
England again."

"He could not. It has only just been arranged. He has asked to go."

There was a silence for a moment. But Anthony did not understand what it
meant. He had known nothing of the affair of his friend and this girl,
and he looked upon them merely as a pair of acquaintances, above all,
when he had heard of Robin's determination to go to Rheims. Even the
girl saw that he knew nothing, in spite of her embarrassment, and the
thought that had come to her when she had heard of Robin's coming to
London grew on her every moment. But she thought she must gain time.

She stood up.

"You would like to see his letters?" she asked. "I will bring them."

And she slipped out of the room.


II

Anthony Babington sat still, staring up at Icarus in the chariot of the
Sun, with something of a moody look on his face.

It was true that he was sincere and active enough in all that he did up
here in the north for the priests of his faith; indeed, he risked both
property and liberty on their behalf, and was willing to continue doing
so as long as these were left to him. But it seemed to him sometimes
that too much was done by spiritual ways and too little by temporal.
Certainly the priesthood and the mass were instruments--and, indeed, the
highest instruments in God's hand; it was necessary to pray and receive
the sacraments, and to run every risk in life for these purposes. Yet it
appeared to him that the highest instruments were not always the best
for such rough work.

It was now over two years ago since the thought had first come to him,
and since that time he had spared no effort to shape a certain other
weapon, which, he thought, would do the business straight and clean. Yet
how difficult it had been to raise any feeling on the point. At first he
had spoken almost freely to this or that Catholic whom he could trust;
he had endeavoured to win even Robin; and yet, with hardly an exception,
all had drawn back and bidden him be content with a spiritual warfare.
One priest, indeed, had gone so far as to tell him that he was on
dangerous ground ... and the one and single man who up to the present
had seemed on his side, was the very man, Mr. Ballard, then a layman,
whom he had met by chance in London, and who had been the occasion of
first suggesting any such idea. It was, in fact, for the sake of meeting
Ballard again that he was going to London; and, he had almost thought
from his friend's last letter, it had seemed that it was for the sake
of meeting him that Mr. Ballard was coming across once more.

So the young man sat, with that moody look on his face, until Marjorie
came back, wondering what news he would have from Mr. Ballard, and
whether the plan, at present only half conceived, was to go forward or
be dropped. He was willing enough, as has been said, to work for
priests, and he had been perfectly sincere in his begging Marjorie to
come with him for that very purpose; but there was another work which he
thought still more urgent.... However, that was not to be Marjorie's
affair.... It was work for men only.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Here they are," she said, holding out the packet.

He took them and thanked her.

"I may read them at my leisure? I may take them with me?"

She had not meant that, but there was no help for it now.

"Why, yes, if you wish," she said. "Stay; let me show you which they
are. You may not wish to take them all."

       *       *       *       *       *

The letters that the two looked over together in that wainscoted parlour
at Booth's Edge lie now in an iron case in a certain muniment-room. They
are yellow now, and the ink is faded to a pale dusky red; and they must
not be roughly unfolded lest they should crack at the creases. But they
were fresh then, written on stout white paper, each occupying one side
of a sheet that was then folded three or four times, sealed, and
inscribed to "Mistress Marjorie Manners" in the middle, with the word
"Haste" in the lower corner. The lines of writing run close together,
and the flourishes on one line interweave now and again with the tails
on the next.

The first was written within a week of Robin's coming to Rheims, and
told the tale of the sailing, the long rides that followed it, the
pleasure the writer found at coming to a Catholic country, and something
of his adventures upon his arrival with his little party. But names and
places were scrupulously omitted. Dr. Allen was described as "my host";
and, in more than one instance, the name of a town was inscribed with a
line drawn beneath it to indicate that this was a kind of _alias_.

The second letter gave some account of the life lived in Rheims--was a
real boy's letter--and this was more difficult to treat with discretion.
It related that studies occupied a certain part of the day; that
"prayers" were held at such and such times, and that the sports
consisted chiefly of a game called "Cat."

So with the eight or nine that followed. The third and fourth were
bolder, and spoke of certain definitely Catholic practices--of prayers
for the conversion of England, and of mass said on certain days for the
same intention. It seemed as if the writer had grown confident in his
place of security. But later, again, his caution returned to him, and he
spoke in terms so veiled that even Marjorie could scarcely understand
him. Yet, on the whole, the letters, if they had fallen into hostile
hands, would have done no irreparable injury; they would only have
indicated that a Catholic living abroad, in some unnamed university or
college, was writing an account of his life to a Catholic named Mistress
Marjorie Manners, living in England.

       *       *       *       *       *

When the girl had finished her explaining, it was evident that there was
no longer any need for Anthony to take them with him. He said so.

"Ah! but take them, if you will," cried the girl.

"It would be better not. You have them safe here. And--"

Marjorie flushed. She felt that her ruse had been too plain.

"I would sooner you took them," she said. "You can read them at your
leisure."

So he accepted, and slipped them into his breast with what seemed to the
girl a lamentable carelessness. Then he stood up.

"I must go," he said. "And I have never asked after Mistress Manners."

"She is abed," said the girl. "She has been there this past month now."

She went with him to the door, for it was not until then that she was
courageous enough to speak as she had determined.

"Mr. Babington," she said suddenly.

He turned.

"I have been thinking while we talked," she said. "You think my coming
to London would be of real service?"

"I think so. It would be good for you to meet these priests before
they--"

"Then I will come, if my mother gives me leave. When will you go?"

"We should be riding in not less than a week from now. But, mistress--"

"No, I have thought of it. I will come--if my mother gives me leave."

He nodded briskly and brightly. He loved courage, and he understood that
this decision of hers had required courage.

"Then my sister shall come for you, and--"

"No, Mr. Babington, there is no need. We shall start from Derby?"

"Why, yes."

"Then my maid and I will ride down there and sleep at the inn, and be
ready for you on the day that you appoint."

       *       *       *       *       *

When he was gone at last she went back again to the parlour, and sat
without moving and without seeing. She was in an agony lest she had been
unmaidenly in determining to go so soon as she heard that Robin was to
be there.



CHAPTER II


I

Anthony lifted his whip and pointed.

"London," he said.

Marjorie nodded; she was too tired to speak.

       *       *       *       *       *

The journey had taken them some ten days, by easy stages; each night
they had slept at an inn, except once, when they stayed with friends of
the Babingtons and had heard mass. They had had the small and usual
adventures: a horse had fallen lame; a baggage-horse had bolted; they
had passed two or three hunting-parties; they had been stared at in
villages and saluted, and stared at and not saluted. Rain had fallen;
the clouds had cleared again; and the clouds had gathered once more and
rain had again fallen. The sun, morning by morning, had stood on the
left, and evening by evening gone down again on the right.

They were a small party for so long a journey--the three with four
servants--two men and two maids: the men had ridden armed, as the custom
was; one rode in front, then came the two ladies with Anthony; then the
two maids, and behind them the second man. In towns and villages they
closed up together lest they should be separated, and then spread out
once more as the long, straight track lengthened before them. Anthony
and the two men-servants carried each a case of dags or pistols at the
saddle-bow, for fear of highwaymen. But none had troubled them.

A strange dreamlike mood had come down on Marjorie. At times it seemed
to her in her fatigue as if she had done nothing all her life but ride;
at times, as she sat rocking, she was living still at home, sitting in
the parlour, watching her mother; the illusion was so clear and
continuous that its departure, when her horse stumbled or a companion
spoke, was as an awaking from a dream. At other times she looked about
her; talked; asked questions.

She found Mistress Alice Babington a pleasant friend, some ten years
older than herself, who knew London well, and had plenty to tell her.
She was a fair woman, well built and active; very fond of her brother,
whom she treated almost as a mother treats a son; but she seemed not to
be in his confidence, and even not to wish to be; she thought more of
his comfort than of his ideals. She was a Catholic, of course, but of
the quiet, assured kind, and seemed unable to believe that anyone could
seriously be anything else; she seemed completely confident that the
present distress was a passing one, and that when politics had run their
course, it would presently disappear. Marjorie found her as comfortable
as a pillow, when she was low enough to rest on her....

       *       *       *       *       *

Though Marjorie had nodded only when the spires of London shone up
suddenly in the evening light, a sharp internal interest awakened in
her. It was as astonishing as a miracle that the end should be in sight;
the past ten days had made it seem to her as if all things which she
desired must eternally recede.... She touched her horse unconsciously,
and stared out between his ears, sitting upright and alert again.

It was not a great deal that met the eye, but it was so disposed as to
suggest a great deal more. Far away to the right lay a faint haze, and
in it appeared towers and spires, with gleams of sharp white here and
there, where some tall building rose above the dark roofs. To the left
again appeared similar signs of another town--the same haze, towers and
spires--linked to the first. She knew what they were; she had heard half
a dozen times already of the two towns that made London--running
continuously in one long line, however, which grew thin by St. Mary's
Hospital and St. Martin's, she was told--the two troops of houses and
churches that had grown up about the two centres of Court and City,
Westminster and the City itself. But it was none the less startling to
see these with her proper eyes.

Presently, in spite of herself, as she saw the spire of St. Clement's
Dane, where she was told they must turn City-wards, she began to talk,
and Anthony to answer.


II

Dark was beginning to fall and the lamps to be lighted as they rode in
at last half an hour later, across the Fleet Ditch, through Ludgate and
turned up towards Cheapside. They were to stay at an inn where Anthony
was accustomed to lodge when he was not with friends--an inn, too, of
which the landlord was in sympathy with the old ways, and where friends
could come and go without suspicion. It was here, perhaps, that letters
would be waiting for them from Rheims.

Marjorie had known Derby only among the greater towns, and neither this
nor the towns where she had stayed, night by night, during the journey,
had prepared her in the least for the amazing rush and splendour of the
City itself. A fine, cold rain was falling, and this, she was told, had
driven half the inhabitants within doors; but even so, it appeared to
her that London was far beyond her imaginings. Beneath here, in the deep
and narrow channel of houses up which they rode, narrowed yet further
by the rows of stalls that were ranged along the pathways on either
side, the lamps were kindling swiftly, in windows as well as in the
street; here and there hung great flaring torches, and the vast eaves
and walls overhead shone in the light of the fires where the rich
gilding threw it back. Beyond them again, solemn and towering, leaned
over the enormous roofs; and everywhere, it seemed to her fresh from the
silence and solitude of the country, countless hundreds of moving faces
were turned up to her, from doorways and windows, as well as from the
groups that hurried along under the shelter of the walls; and the air
was full of talking and laughter and footsteps. It meant nothing to her
at present, except inextricable confusion: the gleam of arms as a patrol
passed by; the important little group making its way with torches; the
dogs that scuffled in the roadway; the party of apprentices singing
together loudly, with linked arms, plunging up a side street; the hooded
women chattering together with gestures beneath a low-hung roof; the
calling, from side to side of the twisting street; the bargaining of the
sellers at the stalls--all this, with the rattle of their own horses'
feet and the jingling of the bits, combined only to make a noisy and
brilliant spectacle without sense or signification.

Mistress Alice glanced at her, smiling.

"You are tired," she said; "we are nearly there. That is St. Paul's on
the right."

Ah! that gave her peace....

They were turning off from the main street just as her friend spoke; but
she had time to catch a glimpse of what appeared at first sight a mere
gulf of darkness, and then, as they turned, resolved itself into a vast
and solemn pile, grey-lined against black. Lights burned far across the
wide churchyard, as well as in the windows of the high houses that
crowned the wall, and figures moved against the glow, tiny as dolls....
Then she remembered again: how God had once been worshipped there
indeed, in the great house built to His honour, but was no longer so
worshipped. Or, if it were the same God, as some claimed, at least the
character of Him was very differently conceived....

       *       *       *       *       *

The "Red Bull" again increased her sense of rest; since all inns are
alike. A curved archway opened on the narrow street; and beneath this
they rode, to find themselves in a paved court, already lighted,
surrounded by window-pierced walls, and high galleries to right and
left. The stamping of horses from the further end; and, almost
immediately, the appearance of a couple of hostlers, showed where the
stables lay. Beside it she could see through the door of the
brightly-lit bake-house.

She was terribly stiff, as she found when she limped up the three or
four stairs that led up to the door of the living-part of the inn; and
she was glad enough to sit down in a wide, low parlour with her friend
as Mr. Babington went in search of the host. The room was lighted only
by a fire leaping in the chimney; and she could make out little, except
that pieces of stuff hung upon the walls, and a long row of metal
vessels and plates were ranged in a rack between the windows.

"It is a quiet inn," said Alice. Marjorie nodded again. She was too
tired to speak; and almost immediately Anthony came back, with a tall,
clean-shaven, middle-aged man, in an apron, following behind.

"It is all well," he said. "We can have our rooms and the parlour
complete. These are the ladies," he added.

The landlord bowed a little, with a dignity beyond that of his dress.

"Supper shall be served immediately, madam," he said, with a tactful
impartiality towards them both.

       *       *       *       *       *

They were indeed very pleasant rooms; and, as Anthony had described
them to her, were situated towards the back of the long, low house, on
the first floor, with a private staircase leading straight up from the
yard to the parlour itself. The sleeping-rooms, too, opened upon the
parlour; that which the two ladies were to occupy was furthest from the
yard, for quietness' sake; that in which Anthony and his man would
sleep, upon the other side. The windows of all three looked straight out
upon a little walled garden that appeared to be the property of some
other house. The rooms were plainly furnished, but had a sort of dignity
about them, especially in the carved woodwork about the doors and
windows. There was a fireplace in the parlour, plainly a recent
addition; and a maid rose from kindling the logs and turf, as the two
ladies came back after washing and changing.

A table was already laid, lit by a couple of candles: it was laid with
fine napery, and the cutlery was clean and solid. Marjorie looked round
the room once more; and, as she sat down, Anthony came in, still in his
mud-splashed dress, carrying three or four letters in his hands.

"News," he said.... "I will be with you immediately," and vanished into
his room.

       *       *       *       *       *

The sense of home was deepening on Marjorie every moment. This room in
which she sat, might, with a little fancy, be thought to resemble the
hall at Booth's Edge. It was not so high, indeed; but the plain solidity
of the walls and woodwork, the aspect of the supper-table, and the
quiet, so refreshing after the noises of the day, and, above all, after
the din of their mile-long ride through the City--these little things,
together with the knowledge that the journey was done at last, and that
her old friend Robin was, if not already come, at least soon to
arrive--these little things helped to soothe and reassure her. She
wondered how her mother found herself....

When Anthony came back, the supper was all laid out. He had given orders
that no waiting was to be done; his own servants would do what was
necessary. He had a bright and interested face, Marjorie thought; and
the instant they were sat down, she knew the reason of it.

"We are just in time," he said. "These letters have been lying here for
me the last week. They will be here, they tell me, by to-morrow night.
But that is not all--"

He glanced round the dusky room; then he laid down the knife with which
he was carving; and spoke in a yet lower voice.

"Father Campion is in the house," he said.

His sister started.

"In the house?... Do you mean--"

He nodded mysteriously, as he took up the knife again.

"He has been here three or four days. The rooms are full in the ... in
the usual place. And I have spoken with him; he is coming here after
supper. He had already supped."

Marjorie leaned back in her chair; but she said nothing. From beneath in
the house came the sound of singing, from the tavern parlour where boys
were performing madrigals.

It seemed to her incredible that she should presently be speaking with
the man, whose name was already affecting England as perhaps no priest's
name had ever affected it. He had been in England, she knew,
comparatively a short time; yet in that time, his name had run like fire
from mouth to mouth. To the minds of Protestants there was something
almost diabolical about the man; he was here, he was there, he was
everywhere, and yet, when the search was up, he was nowhere. Tales were
told of his eloquence that increased the impression that he made a
thousand-fold; it was said that he could wile birds off their branches
and the beasts from their lairs; and this eloquence, it was known, could
be heard only by initiates, in far-off country houses, or in quiet,
unsuspected places in the cities. He preached in some shrouded and
locked room in London one day; and the next, thirty miles off, in a
cow-shed to rustics. And his learning and his subtlety were equal to his
eloquence: her Grace had heard him at Oxford years ago, before his
conversion; and, it was said, would refuse him nothing, even now, if he
would but be reasonable in his religion; even Canterbury, it was
reported, might be his. And if he would not be reasonable--then, as was
fully in accordance with what was known of her Grace, nothing was too
bad for him.

Such feeling then, on the part of Protestants, found its fellow in that
of the Catholics. He was their champion, as no other man could be. Had
he not issued his famous "challenge" to any and all of the Protestant
divines, to meet them in any argument on religion that they cared to
select, in any place and at any time, if only his own safe-conduct were
secure? And was it not notorious that none would meet him? He was,
indeed, a fire, a smoke in the nostrils of his adversaries, a flame in
the hearts of his friends. Everywhere he ranged, he and his comrade,
Father Persons, sometimes in company, sometimes apart; and wherever they
went the Faith blazed up anew from its dying embers, in the lives of
rustic knave and squire.

And she was to see him!

       *       *       *       *       *

"He is here for four or five days only," went on Anthony presently,
still in a low, cautious voice. "The hunt is very hot, they say. Not
even the host knows who he is; or, at least, makes that he does not. He
is under another name, of course; it is Mr. Edmonds, this time. He was
in Essex, he tells me; but comes to the wolves' den for safety. It is
safer, he says, to sit secure in the midst of the trap, than to wander
about its doors; for when the doors are opened he can run out again, if
no one knows he is there...."


III

When supper was finished at last, and the maids had borne away the
dishes, there came almost immediately a tap upon the door; and before
any could answer, there walked in a man, smiling.

He was of middle-size, dressed in a dark, gentleman's suit, carrying his
feathered hat in his hand, with his sword. He appeared far younger than
Marjorie had expected--scarcely more than thirty years old, of a dark
and yet clear complexion, large-eyed, with a look of humour; his hair
was long and brushed back; and a soft, pointed beard and moustache
covered the lower part of his face. He moved briskly and assuredly, as
one wholly at his ease.

"I am come to the right room?" he said. "That is as well."

His voice, too, had a ring of gaiety in it; it was low, quite clear and
very sympathetic; and his manners, as Marjorie observed, were those of a
cultivated gentleman, without even a trace of the priest. She would not
have been astonished if she had been told that the man was of the court,
or some great personage of the country. There was no trace of furtive
hurry or of alarm about him; he moved deftly and confidently; and when
he sat down, after the proper greetings, crossed one leg over the other,
so that he could nurse his foot. It seemed more incredible even than she
had thought, that this was Father Campion!

"You have pleasant rooms here, and music to cheer you, too," he said.
"I understand that you are often here, Mr. Babington."

Anthony explained that he found them convenient and very secure.

"Roberts is a prudent landlord," he said.

Father Campion nodded.

"He knows his own business, which is what few landlords do, in these
degenerate days; and he knows nothing at all of his guests'. In that he
is even more of an exception."

His eyes twinkled delightfully at the ladies.

"And so," he said, "God blesses him in those who use his house."

They talked for a few minutes in this manner. Father Campion spoke of
the high duty that lay on all country ladies to make themselves
acquainted with the sights of the town; and spoke of three or four of
these. Her Grace, of course, must be seen; that was the greatest sight
of all. They must make an opportunity for that; and there would surely
be no difficulty, since her Grace liked nothing better than to be looked
at. And they must go up the river by water, if the weather allowed, from
the Tower to Westminster; not from Westminster to the Tower, since that
was the way that traitors came, and no good Catholic could, even in
appearance, be a traitor. And, if they pleased, he would himself be
their guide for a part of their adventures. He was to lie hid, he told
them; and he knew no better way to do that than to flaunt as boldly as
possible in the open ways.

"If I lay in my room," said he, "with a bolt drawn, I would soon have
some busy fellow knocking on the door to know what I did there. But if I
could but dine with her Grace, or take an hour with Mr. Topcliffe, I
should be secure for ever."

Marjorie glanced shyly towards Alice, as if to ask a question. (She was
listening, it seemed to her, with every nerve in her tired body.) The
priest saw the glance.

"Mr. Topcliffe, madam? Well; let us say he is a dear friend of the
Lieutenant of the Tower, and has, I think, lodgings there just now. And
he is even a friend of Catholics, too--to such, at least, as desire a
heavenly crown."

"He is an informer and a tormentor!" broke in Anthony harshly.

"Well, sir; let us say that he is very loyal to the letter of the law;
and that he presides over our Protestant bed of Procrustes."

"The--" began Marjorie, emboldened by the kindness of the priest's
voice.

"The bed of Procrustes, madam, was a bed to which all who lay upon it
had to be conformed. Those that were too long were made short; and those
that were too short were made long. It is a pleasant classical name for
the rack."

Marjorie caught her breath. But Father Campion went on smoothly.

"We shall have a clear day to-morrow, I think," he said. "If you are at
liberty, sir, and these ladies are not too wearied--I have a little
business in Westminster; and--"

"Why, yes," said Anthony, "for to-morrow night we expect friends. From
Rheims, sir."

The priest dropped his foot and leaned forward.

"From Rheims?" he said sharply.

The other nodded.

"Eight or ten at least will arrive. Not all are priests. One is a friend
of our own from Derbyshire, who will not be made priest for five years
yet."

"I had not heard they were to come so soon," said Father Campion. "And
what a company of them!"

"There are a few of them who have been here before. Mr. Ballard is one
of them."

The priest was silent an instant.

"Mr. Ballard," he said. "Ballard! Yes; he has been here before. He
travels as Captain Fortescue, does he not? You are a friend of his?"

"Yes, sir."

Father Campion made as if he would speak; but interrupted himself and
was silent; and it seemed to Marjorie as if another mood was fallen on
him. And presently they were talking again of London and its sights.


IV

In spite of her weariness, Marjorie could not sleep for an hour or two
after she had gone to bed. It was an extraordinary experience to her to
have fallen in, on the very night of her coming to London, with the one
man whose name stood to her for all that was gallant in her faith. As
she lay there, listening to the steady breathing of Alice, who knew no
such tremors of romance, to the occasional stamp of a horse across the
yard, and, once or twice, to voices and footsteps passing on some paved
way between the houses, she rehearsed again and again to herself the
tales she had heard of him.

Now and again she thought of Robin. She wondered whether he, too, one
day (and not of necessity a far-distant day, since promotion came
quickly in this war of faith), would occupy some post like that which
this man held so gaily and so courageously; and for the first time,
perhaps, she understood not in vision merely, but in sober thought, what
the life of a priest in those days signified. Certainly she had met man
after man before--she had entertained them often enough in her mother's
place, and had provided by her own wits for their security--men who
went in peril of liberty and even of life; but here, within the walls of
London, in this "wolves' den" as Father Campion had called it, where men
brushed against one another continually, and looked into a thousand
faces a day, where patrols went noisily with lights and weapons, where
the great Tower stood, where her Grace, the mistress of the wolves, had
her dwelling--here, peril assumed another aspect, and pain and death
another reality, from that which they presented on the wind-swept hills
and the secret valleys of the country from which they came.... And it
was with Father Campion himself, in his very flesh, that she had talked
this evening--it was Father Campion who had given her that swift, kindly
look of commendation, as Mr. Babington had spoken of her reason for
coming to London, and of her hospitality to wandering priests--Father
Campion, the Angel of the Church, was in England. And to-morrow Robin,
too, would be here.

       *       *       *       *       *

Then, as sleep began to come down on her tired and excited brain, and to
form, as so often under such conditions, little visible images, even
before the reason itself is lulled, there began to pass before her,
first tiny and delicate pictures of what she had seen to-day--the low
hills to the north of London, dull and dark below the heavy sky, but
light immediately above the horizon as the sun sank down; the appearance
of her horse's ears--those ears and that tuft of wayward mane between
them of which she had grown so weary; the lighted walls of the London
streets; the monstrous shadows of the eaves; the flare of lights; the
moving figures--these came first; and then faces--Father Campion's,
smiling, with white teeth and narrowed eyes, bright against the dark
chimney-breast; Alice's serene features, framed in flaxen hair; and
then, as sleep had all but conquered her, the imagination sent up one
last idea, and a face came into being before her, so formless yet so
full, so sinister, so fierce and so distorted, that she drew a sudden
breath and sat up, trembling....

... Why had they spoken to her of Topcliffe?...



CHAPTER III


I

It was a soft winter's morning as the party came down the little slope
towards the entrance-gate of the Tower next day. The rain last night had
cleared the air, and the sun shone as through thin veils of haze, kindly
and sweet. The river on the right was at high tide, and up from the
water's edge came the cries of the boatmen, pleasant and invigorating.

The sense of unreality was deeper than ever on Marjorie's mind. One
incredible thing after another, known to her only in the past by rumour
and description, and imagined in a frame of glory, was taking shape
before her eyes.... She was in London; she had slept in Cheapside; she
had talked with Father Campion; he was with her now; this was the Tower
of London that lay before her, a monstrous huddle of grey towers and
battlemented walls along which passed the scarlet of a livery and the
gleam of arms.

All the way that they had walked, her eyes had been about her
everywhere--the eyes of a startled child, through which looked the soul
of a woman. She had seen the folks go past like actors in a
drama--London merchants, apprentices, a party of soldiers, a group on
horseback: she had seen a congregation pour out of the doors of some
church whose name she had asked and had forgotten again; the cobbled
patches of street had been a marvel to her; the endless roofs, the white
and black walls, the leaning windows, the galleries where heads moved;
the vast wharfs; the crowding masts, resembling a stripped forest; the
rolling-gaited sailors; and, above all, the steady murmur of voices and
footsteps, never ceasing, beyond which the crowing of cocks and the
barking of dogs sounded far off and apart--these things combined to make
a kind of miracle that all at once delighted, oppressed and bewildered
her.

Here and there some personage had been pointed out to her by the trim,
merry gentleman who walked by her side with his sword swinging. (Anthony
went with his sister just behind, as they threaded their way through the
crowded streets, and the two men-servants followed.) She saw a couple of
City dignitaries in their furs, with stavesmen to clear their road; a
little troop of the Queen's horse, blazing with colour, under the
command of a young officer who might have come straight from Romance.
But she was more absorbed--or, rather, she returned every instant to the
man who walked beside her with such an air and talked so loudly and
cheerfully. Certainly, it seemed to her, his disguise was perfect, and
himself the best part of it. She compared him in her mind with a couple
of ministers, splendid and awful in their gowns and ruffs, whom they had
met turning into one of the churches just now, and smiled at the
comparison; and yet perhaps these were preachers too, and eloquent in
their own fashion.

And now, here was the Tower--the end of all things, so far as London was
concerned. Beyond it she saw the wide rolling hills, the bright reaches
of the river, and the sparkle of Placentia, far away.

"Her Grace is at Westminster these days," exclaimed the priest; "she is
moving to Hampton Court in a day or two; so I doubt not we shall be able
to go in and see a little. We shall see, at least, the outside of the
Paradise where so many holy ones have lived and died. There are three or
four of them here now; but the most of them are in the Fleet or the
Marshalsea."

Marjorie glanced at him. She did not understand.

"I mean Catholic prisoners, mistress. There are several of them in ward
here, but we had better speak no names."

He wheeled suddenly as they came out into the open and moved to the
left.

"There is Tower Hill, mistress; where my lord Cardinal Fisher died, and
Thomas More."

Marjorie stopped short. But there was nothing great to see--only a
rising ground, empty and bare, with a few trimmed trees; the ground was
without grass; a few cobbled paths crossed this way and that.

"And here is the gateway," he said, "whence they come out to glory....
And there on the right" (he swept his arm towards the river) "you may
see, if you are fortunate, other criminals called pirates, hung there
till they be covered by three tides."

       *       *       *       *       *

Still standing there, with Mr. Babington and his sister come up from
behind, he began to relate the names of this tower and of that, in the
great tumbled mass of buildings surmounted by the high keep. But
Marjorie paid no great attention except with an effort: she was brooding
rather on the amazing significance of all that she saw. It was under
this gateway that the martyrs came; it was from those windows in that
tower which the priest had named just now, that they had looked.... And
this was Father Campion. She turned and watched him as he talked. He was
dressed as he had been dressed last night, but with a small cloak thrown
over his shoulders; he gesticulated freely and easily, pointing out this
and that; now and again his eyes met hers, and there was nothing but a
grave merriment in them.... Only once or twice his voice softened, as he
spoke of those great ones that had shown Catholics how both to die and
live.

"And now," he said, "with your permission I will go and speak to the
guard, and see if we may have entrance."

       *       *       *       *       *

It was almost with terror that she saw him go--a solitary man, with a
price on his head, straight up to those whose business it was to catch
him--armed men, as she could see--she could even see the quilted jacks
they wore--who, it may be, had talked of him in the guard-room only last
night. But his air was so assured and so magnificent that even she began
to understand how complete such a disguise might be; and she watched him
speaking with the officer with a touch even of his own humour in her
heart. Indeed, there was some truth in the charge of Jesuitry, after
all!

Then the figure turned and beckoned, and they went forward.


II

A certain horror, in spite of herself and her company, fell on her as
she passed beneath the solid stone vaulting, passed along beneath the
towering wall, turned up from the water-gate, and came out into the wide
court round which the Lieutenant's lodgings, the little church, and the
enormous White Tower itself are grouped. There was a space, not enclosed
in any way, but situated within a web of paths, not far from the church,
that caught her attention. She stood looking at it.

"Yes, mistress," said the priest behind her. "That is the place of
execution for those who die within the Tower--those usually of royal
blood. My Lady Salisbury died there, and my Lady Jane Grey, and others."

He laid his hand gently on her arm.

"You must not look so grave," he said, "you must gape more. You are a
country-cousin, madam."

And she smiled in spite of herself, as she met his eyes.

"Tell me everything," she said.

They went together nearer to the church, and faced about.

"We can see better from here," he said. Then he began.

First there was the Lieutenant's lodging on the right. They must look
well at that. Interviews had taken place there that had made history.
(He mentioned a few names.) Then, further down on the right, beyond that
corner round which they had come just now, was the famous water-gate,
called "Traitors' Gate," through which passed those convicted of treason
at Westminster, or, at least, those who were under grave suspicion. Such
as these came, of course, by water, as prisoners on whose behalf a
demonstration might perhaps be made if they came by land. So, at least,
he understood was the reason of the custom.

"Her Grace herself once came that way," he said with a twinkle. "Now she
sends other folks in her stead."

Then he pointed out more clearly the White Tower. It was there that the
Council sat on affairs of importance.

"And it is there--" began Anthony harshly.

The priest turned to him, suddenly grave, as if in reproof.

"Yes," he said softly. "It is there that the passion of the martyrs
begins."

Marjorie turned sharply.

"You mean--"

"Well," he said, "it is there that the Council sits to examine prisoners
both before and after the Question. They are taken downstairs to the
Question, and brought back again after it. It was there that--"

He broke off.

"Who is this?" he said.

The court had been empty while they talked except that on the far side,
beneath the towering cliff of the keep, a sentry went to and fro. But
now another man had come into view, walking up from the way they
themselves had come; and it would appear from the direction he took that
he would pass within twenty or thirty yards of them. He was a tall man,
dressed in sad-coloured clothes, with a felt hat on his head and the
usual sword by his side. He was plainly something of a personage, for he
walked easily and confidently. He was still some distance off; but it
was possible to make out that he was sallowish in complexion, wore a
trimmed beard, and had something of a long throat.

Father Campion stared at him a moment, and, as he stared, Marjorie heard
Mr. Babington utter a sudden exclamation. Then the priest, with one
quick glance at him, murmured something which Marjorie could not hear,
and walked briskly off to meet the stranger.

"Come," said Anthony in a sharp, low voice, "we must see the church."

"Who is it?" whispered Mistress Alice, with even her serene face a
little troubled.

For the first moment, as they walked towards the entrance of the church,
Anthony said nothing. Then as they reached it, he said, in a tone quite
low and yet full of suppressed passion of some kind, a name that
Marjorie could not catch.

She turned before they went in, and looked again.

The priest was talking to the stranger, and was making gestures, as if
asking for direction.

"Who is it, Mr. Babington?" she asked again as they went in. "I did
not--"

"Topcliffe," said Anthony.


III

The horror was still on the girl, as they went, an hour later, up the
ebbing tide towards Westminster, in a boat rowed by a waterman and one
of their own servants. About them was a scene, of which the very
thought, a month ago, would have absorbed and fascinated her. They had
scarcely passed through London Bridge finding themselves just in time
before the fall of the water would have hindered their passage, leaving
out of sight the grey sunlit heap of buildings from which they had come.
All about them the river was gay with shipping. Wherries, like clumsy
water-beetles, lurched along out of the current, or slipped out suddenly
to make their way across from one stairs to another; a great barge,
coming down-stream, grew larger every instant, its prow bright with
gilding, and the throb of the twelve oars in the row-locks coming to
them like the grunting of a beast. On either side of the broad stream
rose the houses and the churches, those on this side visible down to
their shining window-panes in the sunlight, and the very texture of
their tiled roofs; those on the other a mere huddle of countless walls
and gables, in the shadow; and between them showed the leafless trees,
stretches of green meadow, across which moved tiny figures, and the
brown flats of the marshes beyond, broken here and there by outlying
villages a mile or two away. Behind them now towered the great buildings
on London Bridge--the chapel, the houses, the old gateway on the south
end, above which the impaled heads of traitors stood out against the
bright sky. It was a tolerable crop just now, the priest had said,
bitterly smiling. But, above all else, as the boat moved up, Marjorie
kept her eyes fixed on far-off Westminster, on the grey towers and the
white walls where Elizabeth reigned and Saint Edward slept; while within
her mind, clear as a picture, she saw still the empty court, as she had
seen it when the priest fetched them out again from the church--empty at
last of the hateful presence which he had faced so confidently.

       *       *       *       *       *

"It appeared to me best to speak with him openly," said the priest
quietly, as they had waited ten minutes later on the wharf outside the
Tower, while the men ran to make ready their boat. "I do not know why,
but I suppose I am one of those who better like their danger in front
than behind. I knew him at once; I have had him pointed out to me two or
three times before. So I looked him in the eyes, and asked him whether
some ladies from the country might be permitted to see the White Tower,
and to whom we had best apply. He told me that was not his affair, and
looked me up and down as he said it. And then he went his way to ... the
White Tower, where I doubt not he had business."

"He said no more?" asked Anthony.

"No, he said no more. But I shall know him again better next time, and
he me."

       *       *       *       *       *

It seemed of evil omen to the girl that she should have had such an
encounter on the day that Robin came back. Like all persons who dwell
much in the country, a world that was neither that of the flesh nor yet
of the spirit was that in which she largely moved--a world of strange
laws, and auspices, and this answering to this and that to that. It is a
state inconceivable to those who live in the noise and movement of
town--who find town-life, that is, the life in which they are most at
ease. For where men have made the earth that is trodden underfoot, and
have largely veiled the heavens themselves, it is but natural that they
should think that they have made everything, and that it is they who
rule it.

As they drew nearer Westminster then, it was with Marjorie as it had
been when they came to the Tower. The priest was busy pointing out this
or that building--the Palace towers, the Hall, the Abbey behind, and St.
Margaret's Church, as well as the smaller buildings of the Court, and
the little town that lay round about. But she listened as she listened
to the noise that came from the streets clear across the water,
attending to it, yet scarcely distinguishing one thing from another, and
forgetting each as soon as she heard it. She was thinking all the while
of Robin, and of the man whose face she had seen, of his beard and his
long throat. Well, at least, Robin was not yet a priest....

       *       *       *       *       *

The boat was already nearing the King's Stairs at Westminster, when a
new event happened that for a while distracted her.

The first they saw of it was the sight of a number of men and women
running in a disorderly mob, calling out as they ran, along the
river-bank in the direction from Charing Old Cross towards Palace Yard.
They appeared excited, but not by fear; and it was plain that something
was taking place of which they wished to have a sight. As the priest
stood up in the boat in order to have a clearer sight of what lay above
the bank, three or four trumpet-calls of a peculiar melody, rang out
clear and distinct, echoed back by the walls round about, plainly
audible above the rising noise of a crowd that, it seemed, must be
gathering out of sight. The priest sat down again and his face was
merry.

"You have come on a fortunate day, mistress," he said to Marjorie.
"First Topcliffe, and now her Grace; if we make haste we may see her
pass by."

"Her Grace?"

"She will be going to dinner in Whitehall, after having taken the air
by the river. They will be passing the Abbey now. But she will not be in
her supreme state; I am sorry for that."

       *       *       *       *       *

As they rowed in quickly over the last hundred yards that lay between
them and the stairs, Marjorie listened to the priest as he described
something of what the "supreme state" signified. He spoke of the long
lines of carriages, filled with the ladies and the infirm, preceded by
the pikemen, and the gentlemen pensioners carrying wands, and the
knights followed by the heralds. Behind these, he said, came the
officers of State immediately before the Queen's carriage, and after her
the guards of her person.

"But this will be but a tame affair," he said. "I wish you could have
seen a Progress, with the arches and the speeches and the declamations,
and the heathen gods and goddesses that reign round our Eliza, when she
will go to Ashridge or Havering. I have heard it said--"

And then the prow of the boat, turned deftly at the last instant, grated
along the lowest stair, and the waterman was out to steady his craft.


IV

It was the very crown and summit of new sensation that Marjorie attained
as she stood in an open gallery that looked on to the road from
Westminster to Whitehall. Father Campion, speaking of a "good friend" of
his that had his lodgings there, led them by a short turning or two,
that avoided the crowd, straight to the door of what appeared to
Marjorie a mere warren of rooms, stairs and passages. A grave little
man, with a pen behind his ear, ran out upon their knocking at one of
these doors, and led them straight through, smiling and talking, out
into this very gallery where they now stood; and then vanished again.

The gallery was such as those which Marjorie had noted on the way to the
Tower; a high-hung, airy place, running the length of the house,
contrived on the level of the second floor, with the first floor roof
beneath and overhanging attics above. It was supported on massive oak
beams, and protected from the street by a low balustrade of a height to
lean the elbows upon it. It was on this balustrade that Marjorie leaned,
looking down into the street.

To the left the narrow roadway curved off out of sight in the direction
of Palace Yard; on the right she could make out, a hundred yards away,
some kind of a gateway, that strode across the street, and gave access,
she supposed, to the Palace. Opposite, the windows were filled with
faces, and an enthusiastic loyalist was leaning, red-faced and
vociferous, calling to a friend in the crowd beneath, from a gallery
corresponding to that from which the girl was looking.

Of the procession nothing was at present to be seen. They had caught a
glimpse of colour somewhere to the east of the Abbey as they turned off
opposite Westminster Hall; and already the cry of the trumpets and the
increasing noise of a crowd out of sight, told the listeners that they
would not have long to wait.

Beneath, the crowd was arranging itself with admirable discipline,
dispersing in long lines two or three deep against the walls, so as to
leave a good space, and laughing good-humouredly at a couple of
officious persons in livery who had suddenly made their appearance. And
then, as the country girl herself smiled down, an exclamation from Alice
made her turn.

At first it was difficult to discern anything clearly in the stream
whose head began to discharge itself round the curve from the left. A
row of brightly-coloured uniforms, moving four abreast, came first,
visible above the tossing heads of horses. Then followed a group of
guards, whose steel caps passed suddenly into the sunlight that caught
them from between the houses, and went again into shadow.

And then at last, she caught a glimpse of the carriage, followed by
ladies on grey horses; and forgot all the rest.

This way and that she craned her head, gripping the oak post by which
she leaned, unconscious of all except that she was to see her in whom
England itself seemed to have been incarnated--the woman who, as perhaps
no other earthly sovereign in the world at that time, or before her, had
her people in a grasp that was not one of merely regal power. Even far
away in Derbyshire--even in the little country manor from which the girl
came, the aroma of that tremendous presence penetrated--of the woman
whom men loved to hail as the Virgin Queen, even though they might
question her virginity; the woman--"our Eliza," as the priest had named
her just now--who had made so shrewd an act of faith in her people that
they had responded with an unreserved act of love. It was this woman,
then, whom she was about to see; the sister of Mary and Edward, the
daughter of Henry and Anne Boleyn, who had received her kingdom
Catholic, and by her own mere might had chosen to make it Protestant;
the woman whose anointed hands were already red in the blood of God's
servants, yet hands which men fainted as they kissed....

Then on a sudden, as Elizabeth lifted her head this side and that, the
girl saw her.

She was sitting in a low carriage, raised on cushions, alone. Four tall
horses drew her at a slow trot: the wheels of the carriage were deep in
mud, since she had driven for an hour over the deep December roads; but
this added rather to the splendour within. But of this Marjorie
remembered no more than an uncertain glimpse. The air was thick with
cries; from window after window waved hands; and, more than all, the
loyalty was real, and filled the air like brave music.

There, then, she sat, smiling.

She was dressed in some splendid stuff; jewels sparkled beneath her
throat. Once a hand in an embroidered glove rose to wave an answer to
the roar of salute; and, as the carriage came beneath, she raised her
face.

It was a thin face, sharply pear-shaped, ending in a pointed chin; a
tight mouth smiled at the corners; above her narrow eyes and high brows
rose a high forehead, surmounted by strands of auburn hair drawn back
tightly beneath the little head-dress. It was a strangely peaked face,
very clear-skinned, and resembled in some manner a mask. But the look of
it was as sharp as steel; like a slender rapier, fragile and thin, yet
keen enough to run a man through. The power of it, in a word, was out of
all measure with the slightness of the face.... Then the face dropped;
and Marjorie watched the back of the head bending this way and that,
till the nodding heads that followed hid it from sight.

Marjorie drew a deep breath and turned. The faces of her friends were as
pale and intent as her own. Only the priest was as easy as ever.

"So that is our Eliza," he said.

Then he did a strange thing.

He lifted his cap once more with grave seriousness. "God save her
Grace!" he said.



CHAPTER IV


I

Robin bowed to her very carefully, and stood upright again.

       *       *       *       *       *

She had seen in an instant how changed he was, in that swift instant in
which her eyes had singled him out from the little crowd of men that had
come into the room with Anthony at their head. It was a change which she
could scarcely have put into words, unless she had said that it was the
conception of the Levite within his soul. He was dressed soberly and
richly, with a sword at his side, in great riding-boots splashed to the
knees with mud, with his cloak thrown back; and he carried his great
brimmed hat in his hand. All this was as it might have been in Derby,
though, perhaps, his dress was a shade more dignified than that in which
she had ever seen him. But the change was in his face and bearing; he
bore himself like a man, and a restrained man; and there was besides
that subtle air which her woman's eyes could see, but which even her
woman's wit could not properly describe.

She made room for him to sit beside her; and then Father Campion's voice
spoke:

"These are the gentlemen, then," he said. "And two more are not yet
come. Gentlemen--" he bowed. "And which is Captain Fortescue?"

A big man, distinguished from the rest by a slightly military air, and
by a certain vividness of costume and a bristling feather in his hat,
bowed back to him.

"We have met once before, Mr.--Mr. Edmonds," he said. "At Valladolid."

Father Campion smiled.

"Yes, sir; for five or ten minutes; and I was in the same room with your
honour once at the Duke of Guise's.... And now, sir, who are the rest of
your company?"

The others were named one by one; and Marjorie eyed each of them
carefully. It was her business to know them again if ever they should
meet in the north; and for a few minutes the company moved here and
there, bowing and saluting, and taking their seats. There were still a
couple of men who were not yet come; but these two arrived a few minutes
later; and it was not until she had said a word or two to them all, and
Father Campion had named her and her good works, to them, that she found
herself back again with Robin in a seat a little apart.

"You look very well," she said, with an admirable composure.

His eyes twinkled.

"I am as weary as a man can be," he said. "We have ridden since before
dawn.... And you, and your good works?"

Marjorie explained, describing to him something of the system by which
priests were safeguarded now in the north--the districts into which the
county was divided, and the apportioning of the responsibilities among
the faithful houses. It was her business, she said, to receive messages
and to pass them on; she had entertained perhaps a dozen priests since
the summer; perhaps she would entertain him, too, one day, she said.

       *       *       *       *       *

The ordeal was far lighter than she had feared it would be. There was a
strong undercurrent of excitement in her heart, flushing her cheeks and
sparkling in her eyes; yet never for one moment was she even tempted to
forget that he was now vowed to God. It seemed to her as if she talked
with him in the spirit of that place where there is neither marrying nor
giving in marriage. Those two years of quiet in the north, occupied,
even more than she recognised, in the rearranging of her relations with
the memory of this young man, had done their work. She still kindled at
his presence; but it was at the presence of one who had undertaken an
adventure that destroyed altogether her old relations with him.... She
was enkindled even more by the sense of her own security; and, as she
looked at him, by the sense of his security too. Robin was gone; here,
instead, was young Mr. Audrey, seminary student, who even in a court of
law could swear before God that he was not a priest, nor had been
"ordained beyond the seas."

So they sat and exchanged news. She told him of the rumours of his
father that had come to her from time to time; he would be a magistrate
yet, it was said, so hot was his loyalty. Even her Grace, it was
reported, had vowed she wished she had a thousand such country gentlemen
on whose faithfulness she could depend. And Robin gave her news of the
seminary, of the hours of rising and sleeping, of the sports there; of
the confessors for the faith who came and went; of Dr. Allen. He told
her, too, of Mr. Garlick and Mr. Ludlam; he often had talked with them
of Derbyshire, he said. It was very peaceful and very stirring, too, to
sit here in the lighted parlour, and hear and give the news; while the
company, gathered round Anthony and Father Campion, talked in low
voices, and Mistress Babington, placid, watched them and listened. He
showed her, too, Mr. Maine's beads which she had given him so long ago,
hung in a little packet round his neck.

       *       *       *       *       *

More than once, as they talked, Marjorie found herself looking at Mr.
Ballard, or, as he was called here, Captain Fortescue. It was he who
seemed the leader of the troop; and, indeed, as Robin told her in a
whisper, that was what he was. He came and went frequently, he said; his
manner and his carriage were reassuring to the suspicious; he appeared,
perhaps, the last man in the world to be a priest. He was a big man, as
has been said; and he had a frank assured way with him; he was leaning
forward, even now, as she looked at him, and seemed laying down the law,
though in what was almost a whisper. Father Campion was watching him,
too, she noticed; and, what she had learned of Father Campion in the
last few hours led her to wonder whether there was not something of
doubtfulness in his opinion of him.

Father Campion suddenly shook his head sharply.

"I am not of that view at all," he said. "I--"

And once more his voice sank so low as to be inaudible; as the rest
leaned closer about him.


II

Mr. Anthony Babington seemed silent and even a little displeased when,
half an hour later, the visitors were all gone downstairs to supper.
Three or four of them were to sleep in the house; the rest, of whom
Robin was one, had Captain Fortescue's instructions as to where lodgings
were prepared. But the whole company was tired out with the long ride
from the coast, and would be seen no more that night.

       *       *       *       *       *

Marjorie knew enough of the divisions of opinion among Catholics, and of
Mr. Babington in particular, to have a general view as to why her
companion was displeased; but more than that she did not know, nor what
point in particular it was on which the argument had run. The one
party--of Mr. Babington's kind--held that Catholics were, morally, in a
state of war. War had been declared upon them, without justification,
by the secular authorities, and physical instruments, including
pursuivants and the rack, were employed against them. Then why should
not they, too, employ the same kind of instruments, if they could, in
return? The second party held that a religious persecution could not be
held to constitute a state of war; the Apostles Peter and Paul, for
example, not only did not employ the arm of flesh against the Roman
Empire, but actually repudiated it. And this party further held that
even the Pope's bull, relieving Elizabeth's subjects from their
allegiance, did so only in an interior sense--in such a manner that
while they must still regard her personal and individual rights--such
rights as any human being possessed--they were not bound to render
interior loyalty to her as their Queen, and need not, for example
(though they were not forbidden to do so), regard it as a duty to fight
for her, in the event, let us say, of an armed invasion from Spain.

There, then, was the situation; and Mr. Anthony had, plainly, crossed
swords this evening on the point.

"The Jesuit is too simple," he said suddenly, as he strode about. "I
think--" He broke off.

His sister smiled upon him placidly.

"You are too hot, Anthony," she said.

The man turned sharply towards her.

"All the praying in the world," he said, "has not saved us so far. It
seems to me time--"

"Perhaps our Lord would not have us saved," she said; "as you mean it."


III

It was not until Christmas Eve that Marjorie went to St. Paul's, for all
that it was so close. But the days were taken up with the visitors; a
hundred matters had to be arranged; for it was decided that before the
New Year all were to be dispersed. Captain Fortescue and Robin were to
leave again for the Continent on the day following Christmas Day itself.

Marjorie made acquaintance during these days with more than one
meeting-place of the Catholics in London. One was a quiet little house
near St. Bartholomew's-the-Great, where a widow had three or four sets
of lodgings, occupied frequently by priests and by other Catholics, who
were best out of sight; and it was here that mass was to be said on
Christmas Day. Another was in the Spanish Embassy; and here, to her joy,
she looked openly upon a chapel of her faith, and from the gallery
adored her Lord in the tabernacle. But even this was accomplished with
an air of uneasiness in those round her; the Spanish priest who took
them in walked quickly and interrupted them before they were done, and
seemed glad to see the last of them. It was explained to Marjorie that
the ambassador did not wish to give causeless offence to the Protestant
court.

And now, on Christmas Eve, Robin, Anthony and the two ladies entered the
Cathedral as dusk was falling--first passing through the burial-ground,
over the wall of which leaned the rows of houses in whose windows lights
were beginning to burn.

The very dimness of the air made the enormous heights of the great
church more impressive. Before them stretched the long nave, over seven
hundred feet from end to end; from floor to roof the eye travelled up
the bunches of slender pillars to the dark ceiling, newly restored after
the fire, a hundred and fifty feet. The tall windows on either side, and
the clerestory lights above, glimmered faintly in the darkening light.

But to the Catholic eyes that looked on it the desolation was more
apparent than the splendour. There were plenty of people here, indeed:
groups moved up and down, talking, directing themselves more and more
towards the exits, as the night was coming on and the church would be
closed presently; in one aisle a man was talking aloud, as if lecturing,
with a crowd of heads about him. In another a number of soberly dressed
men were putting up their papers and ink on the little tables that stood
in a row--this was Scriveners' Corner, she was told; from a third half a
dozen persons were dejectedly moving away--these were servants that had
waited to be hired. But the soul of the place was gone. When they came
out into the transepts, Anthony stopped them with a gesture, while a
couple of porters, carrying boxes on their heads, pushed by, on their
short cut through the cathedral.

"It was there," he said, "that the altars stood."

He pointed between the pillars on either side, and there, up little
raised steps, lay the floors of the chapels. But within all was empty,
except for a tomb or two, some tattered colours and the _piscinæ_ still
in place. Where the altars had stood there were blank spaces of wall;
piled up in one such place were rows of wooden seats set there for want
of room.

Opposite the entrance to the choir, where once overhead had hung the
great Rood, the four stood and looked in, through a gap which the masons
were mending in the high wall that had bricked off the chancel from the
nave. On either side, as of old, still rose up the towering carven
stalls; the splendid pavement still shone beneath, refracting back from
its surface the glimmer of light from the stained windows above; but the
head of the body was gone. Somewhere, beneath the deep shadowed altar
screen, they could make out an erection that might have been an altar,
only they knew that it was not. It was no longer the Stone of
Sacrifice, whence the smoke of the mystical Calvary ascended day by
day: it was the table, and no more, where bread and wine were eaten and
drunk in memory of an event whose deathless energy had ceased, in this
place, at least, to operate. Yet it was here, thought Marjorie, that
only forty years ago, scarcely more than twenty years before she was
born, on this very Night, the great church had hummed and vibrated with
life. Round all the walls had sat priests, each in his place; and beside
each kneeled a penitent, making ready for the joy of Bethlehem once
again--wise and simple--Shepherds and Magi--yet all simple before the
baffling and entrancing Mystery. There had been footsteps and voices
there too--yet of men who were busy upon their Father's affairs in their
Father's house, and not upon their own. They were going from altar to
altar, speaking with their Friends at Court; and here, opposite where
she stood and peeped in the empty cold darkness, there had burned lights
before the Throne of Him Who had made Heaven and earth, and did His
Father's Will on earth as it was done in Heaven.... Forty years ago the
life of this church was rising on this very night, with a hum as of an
approaching multitude, from hour to hour, brightening and quickening as
it came, up to the glory of the Midnight Mass, the crowded church,
alight from end to end, the smell of bog and bay in the air, soon to be
met and crowned by the savour of incense-smoke; and the world of spirit,
too, quickened about them; and the angels (she thought) came down from
Heaven, as men up from the City round about, to greet Him who is King of
both angels and men.

And now, in this new England, the church, empty of the Divine Presence,
was emptying, too, of its human visitors. She could hear great doors
somewhere crash together, and the reverberation roll beneath the stone
vaulting. It would empty soon, desolate and dark; and so it would be
all night.... Why did not the very stones cry out?

Mistress Alice touched her on the arm.

"We must be going," she said. "They are closing the church."


IV

She had a long talk with Robin on Christmas night.

The day had passed, making strange impressions on her, which she could
not understand. Partly it was the contrast between the homely
associations of the Feast, begun, as it was for her, with the mass
before dawn--the room at the top of the widow's house was crowded all
the while she was there--between these associations and the
unfamiliarity of the place. She had felt curiously apart from all that
she saw that day in the streets--the patrolling groups, the singers, the
monstrous-headed mummers (of whom companies went about all day), two or
three glimpses of important City festivities, the garlands that
decorated many of the houses. It seemed to her as a shadow-show without
sense or meaning, since the heart of Christmas was gone. Partly, too, no
doubt, it was the memory of a former Christmas, three years ago, when
she had begun to understand that Robin loved her. And he was with her
again; yet all that he had stood for, to her, was gone, and another
significance had taken its place. He was nearer to her heart, in one
manner, though utterly removed, in another. It was as when a friend was
dead: his familiar presence is gone; but now that one physical barrier
is vanished, his presence is there, closer than ever, though in another
fashion....

       *       *       *       *       *

Robin had come in to sup. Captain Fortescue would fetch him about nine
o'clock, and the two were to ride for the coast before dawn.

The four sat quiet after supper, speaking in subdued voices, of hopes
for the future, when England should be besieged, indeed, by the
spiritual forces that were gathering overseas; but they slipped
gradually into talk of the past and of Derbyshire, and of rides they
remembered. Then, after a while, Anthony was called away; Mistress Alice
moved back to the table to see her needlework the better, and Robin and
Marjorie sat together by the fire.

       *       *       *       *       *

He told her again of the journey from Rheims, of the inns where they
lodged, of the extraordinary care that was taken, even in that Catholic
land, that no rumour of the nature of the party should slip out, lest
some gossip precede them or even follow them to the coast of England.
They carried themselves even there, he said, as ordinary gentlemen
travelling together; two of them were supposed to be lawyers; he himself
passed as Mr. Ballard's servant. They heard mass when they could in the
larger towns, but even then not all together.

The landing in England had been easier, he said, than he had thought,
though he had learned afterwards that a helpful young man, who had
offered to show him to an inn in Folkestone, and in whose presence Mr.
Ballard had taken care to give him a good rating for dropping a
bag--with loud oaths--was a well-known informer. However, no harm was
done: Mr. Ballard's admirable bearing, and his oaths in particular, had
seemed to satisfy the young man, and he had troubled them no more.

Marjorie did not say much. She listened with a fierce attention, so much
interested that she was scarcely aware of her own interest; she looked
up, half betrayed into annoyance, when a placid laugh from Mistress
Alice at the table showed that another was listening too.

She too, then, had to give her news, and to receive messages for the
Derbyshire folk whom Robin wished to greet; and it was not until
Mistress Alice slipped out of the room that she uttered a word of what
she had been hoping all day she might have an opportunity to say.

"Mr. Audrey," she said (for she was careful to use this form of
address), "I wish you to pray for me. I do not know what to do."

He was silent.

"At present," she said, gathering courage, "my duty is clear. I must be
at home, for my mother's sake, if for nothing else. And, as I told you,
I think I shall be able to do something for priests. But if my mother
died--"

"Yes?" he said, as she stopped again.

She glanced up at his serious, deep-eyed face, half in shadow and half
in light, so familiar, and yet so utterly apart from the boy she had
known.

"Well," she said, "I think of you as a priest already, and I can speak
to you freely.... Well, I am not sure whether I, too, shall not go
overseas, to serve God better."

"You mean--"

"Yes. A dozen or more are gone from Derbyshire, whose names I know. Some
are gone to Bruges; two or three to Rome; two or three more to Spain. We
women cannot do what priests can, but, at least, we can serve God in
Religion."

She looked at him again, expecting an answer. She saw him move his head,
as if to answer. Then he smiled suddenly.

"Well, however you look at me, I am not a priest.... You had best speak
to one--Father Campion or another."

"But--"

"And I will pray for you," he said with an air of finality.

Then Mistress Alice came back.

       *       *       *       *       *

She never forgot, all her life long, the little scene that took place
when Captain Fortescue came in with Mr. Babington, to fetch Robin away.
Yet the whole of its vividness rose from its interior significance.
Externally here was a quiet parlour; two ladies--for the girl afterwards
seemed to see herself in the picture--stood by the fireplace; Mistress
Alice still held her needlework gathered up in one hand, and her spools
of thread and a pin-cushion lay on the polished table. And the two
gentlemen--for Captain Fortescue would not sit down, and Robin had risen
at his entrance--the two gentlemen stood by it. They were not in their
boots, for they were not to ride till morning; they appeared two
ordinary gentlemen, each hat-in-hand, and Robin had his cloak across his
arm. Anthony Babington stood in the shadow by the door, and, beyond him,
the girl could see the face of Dick, who had come up to say good-bye
again to his old master.

That was all--four men and two ladies. None raised his voice, none made
a gesture. The home party spoke of the journey, and of their hopes that
all would go well; the travellers, or rather the leader (for Robin spoke
not one word, good or bad), said that he was sure it would be so; there
was not one-tenth of the difficulty in getting out of England as of
getting into it. Then, again, he said that it was late; that he had
still one or two matters to arrange; that they must be out of London as
soon as the gates opened. And the scene ended.

Robin bowed to the two ladies, precisely and courteously; making no
difference between them, and wheeled and went out, and she saw Dick's
face, too, vanish from the door, and heard the voices of the two on the
stairs. Marjorie returned the salute of Mr. Ballard, longing to entreat
him to take good care of the boy, yet knowing that she must not and
could not.

Then he, too, was gone, with Anthony to see him downstairs; and
Marjorie, without a word, went straight through to her room, fearing to
trust her own voice, for she felt that her heart was gone with them.
Yet, not for one moment did even her sensitive soul distrust any more
the nature of the love that she bore to the lad.

But Mistress Alice sat down again to her sewing.



CHAPTER V


I

Marjorie was sitting in her mother's room, while her mother slept. She
had been reading aloud from a bundle of letters--news from Rheims; but
little by little she had seen sleep come down on her mother's face, and
had let her voice trail away into silence. And so she sat quiet.

       *       *       *       *       *

It seemed incredible that nearly a year had passed since her visit to
London, and that Christmas was upon them again. Yet in this remote
country place there was little to make time run slowly: the country-side
wheeled gently through the courses of the year; the trees put on their
green robes, changed them for russet and dropped them again; the dogs
and the horses grew a little older, a beast died now and again, and
others were born. The faces that she knew, servants and farmers, aged
imperceptibly. Here and there a family moved away, and another into its
place; an old man died and his son succeeded him, but the mother and
sisters lived on in the house in patriarchal fashion. Priests came and
went again unobserved; Marjorie went to the sacraments when she could,
and said her prayers always. But letters came more frequently than ever
to the little remote manor, carried now by some farm-servant, now left
by strangers, now presented as credentials; and Booth's Edge became
known in that underworld of the north, which finds no record in history,
as a safe place for folks in trouble for their faith. For one whole
month in the summer there had been a visitor at the house--a cousin of
old Mr. Manners, it was understood; and, except for the Catholics in
the place, not a soul knew him for a priest, against whom the hue and
cry still raged in York.

Derbyshire, indeed, had done well for the old Religion. Man after man
went in these years southwards and was heard of no more, till there came
back one day a gentleman riding alone, or with his servant; and it
became known that one more Derbyshire man was come again to his own
place to minister to God's people. Mr. Ralph Sherwine was one of them;
Mr. Christopher Buxton another; and Mr. Ludlam and Mr. Garlick, it was
rumoured, would not be long now.... And there had been a wonderful
cessation of trouble, too. Not a priest had suffered since the two, the
news of whose death she had heard two years ago.

       *       *       *       *       *

Marjorie, then, sitting quiet over the fire that burned now all the
winter in her mother's room, was thinking over these things.

She had had more news from London from time to time, sent on to her
chiefly by Mr. Babington, though none had come to her since the summer,
and she had singled out in particular all that bore upon Father Campion.
There was no doubt that the hunt was hotter every month; yet he seemed
to bear a charmed life. Once he had escaped, she had heard, through the
quick wit of a servant-maid, who had pushed him suddenly into a
horse-pond, as the officers actually came in sight, so that he came out
all mud and water-weed; and had been jeered at for a clumsy lover by the
very men who were on his trail.... Marjorie smiled to herself as she
nursed her knee over the fire, and remembered his gaiety and sharpness.

Robin, too, was never very far from her thoughts. In some manner she put
the two together in her mind. She wondered whether they would ever
travel together. It was her hope that her old friend might become
another Campion himself some day.

A log rolled from its place in the fire, scattering sparks. She stooped
to put it back, glancing first at the bed to see if her mother were
disturbed; and, as she sat back again, she heard the blowing of a horse
and a man's voice, fierce and low, from beyond the windows, bidding the
beast hold himself up.

She was accustomed now to such arrivals. They came and went like this,
often without warning; it was her business to look at any credentials
they bore with them, and then, if all were well, to do what she
could-whether to set them on their way, or to give them shelter. A room
was set aside now, in the further wing, and called openly and freely the
"priest's room,"--so great was their security.

She got up from her seat and went out quickly on tiptoe as she heard a
door open and close beneath her in the house, running over in her mind
any preparations that she would have to make if the rider were one that
needed shelter.

As she looked down the staircase, she saw a maid there, who had run out
from the buttery, talking to a man whom she thought she knew. Then he
lifted his face, and she saw that she was right: and that it was Mr.
Babington.

She came down, reassured and smiling; but her breath caught in her
throat as she saw his face.... She told the maid to be off and get
supper ready, but he jerked his head in refusal. She saw that he could
hardly speak. Then she led him into the hall, taking down the lantern
that hung in the passage, and placing it on the table. But her hand
shook in spite of herself.

"Tell me," she whispered.

He sat down heavily on a bench.

"It is all over," he said. "The bloody murderers!... They were gibbeted
three days ago."

The girl drew a long, steady breath. All her heart cried "Robin."

"Who are they, Mr. Babington?"

"Why, Campion and Sherwine and Brian. They were taken a month or two
ago.... I had heard not a word of it, and ... and it ended three days
ago."

"I ... I do not understand."

The man struck his hand heavily on the long table against which he
leaned. He appeared one flame of fury; courtesy and gentleness were all
gone from him.

"They were hanged for treason, I tell you.... Treason! ... Campion!...
By God! we will give them treason if they will have it so!"

All seemed gone from Marjorie except the white, splashed face that
stared at her, lighted up by the lantern beside him, glaring from the
background of darkness. It was not Robin ... not Robin ... yet--

The shocking agony of her face broke through the man's heart-broken
fury, and he stood up quickly.

"Mistress Marjorie," he said, "forgive me.... I am like a madman. I am
on my way from Derby, where the news came to me this afternoon. I turned
aside to tell you. They say the truce, as they call it, is at an end. I
came to warn you. You must be careful. I am riding for London. My men
are in the valley. Mistress Marjorie--"

She waved him aside. The blood was beginning again to beat swiftly and
deafeningly in her ears, and the word came back.

"I ... I was shocked," she said; "... you must pardon me.... Is it
certain?"

He tore out a bundle of papers from behind his cloak, detached one with
shaking hands and thrust it before her.

She sat down and spread it on the table. But his voice broke in and
interrupted her all the while.

"They were all three taken together, in the summer.... I ... have been
in France; my letters never reached me.... They were racked
continually.... They died all together; praying for the Queen ... at
Tyburn.... Campion died the first...."

She pushed the paper from her; the close handwriting was no more to her
than black marks on the paper. She passed her hands over her forehead
and eyes.

"Mistress Marjorie, you look like death. See, I will leave the paper
with you. It is from one of my friends who was there...."

The door was pushed open, and the servant came in, bearing a tray.

"Set it down," said Marjorie, as coolly as if death and horror were as
far from her as an hour ago.

She nodded sharply to the maid, who went out again; then she rose and
spread the food within the man's reach. He began to eat and drink,
talking all the time.

       *       *       *       *       *

As she sat and watched him and listened, remembering afterwards, as if
mechanically, all that he said, she was contemplating something else.
She seemed to see Campion, not as he had been three days ago, not as he
was now ... but as she had seen him in London--alert, brisk, quick. Even
the tones of his voice were with her, and the swift merry look in his
eyes.... Somewhere on the outskirts of her thought there hung other
presences: the darkness, the blood, the smoking cauldron.... Oh! she
would have to face these presently; she would go through this night, she
knew, looking at all their terror. But just now let her remember him as
he had been; let her keep off all other thoughts so long as she
could....


II

When she had heard the horse's footsteps scramble down the little steep
ascent in the dark, and then pass into silence on the turf beyond, she
closed the outer door, barred it once more, and then went back straight
into the hall, where the lantern still burned among the plates. She
dared not face her mother yet; she must learn how far she still held
control of herself; for her mother must not hear the news: the
apothecary from Derby who had ridden up to see her this week had been
very emphatic. So the girl must be as usual. There must be no sign of
discomposure. To-night, at least, she would keep her face in the shadow.
But her voice? Could she control that too?

After she had sat motionless in the cold hall a minute or two, she
tested herself.

"He is dead," she said softly. "He is quite dead, and so are the others.
They--"

But she could not go on. Great shuddering seized on her; she shook from
head to foot....

Later that night Mrs. Manners awoke. She tried to move her head, but the
pain was shocking, and still half asleep, she moaned aloud.

Then the curtains moved softly, and she could see that a face was
looking at her.

"Margy! Is that you?"

"Yes, mother."

"Move my head; move my head. I cannot bear--"

She felt herself lifted gently and strongly. The struggle and the pain
exhausted her for a minute, and she lay breathing deeply. Then the ease
of the shifted position soothed her.

"I cannot see your face," she said. "Where is the light?"

The face disappeared, and immediately, through the curtains, the mother
saw the light. But still she could not see the girl's face. She said so
peevishly.

"It will weary your eyes. Lie still, mother, and go to sleep again."

"What time is it?"

"I do not know."

"Are you not in bed?"

"Not yet, mother."

The sick woman moaned again once or twice, but thought no more of it.
And presently the deep sleep of sickness came down on her again.

       *       *       *       *       *

They rose early in those days in England; and soon after six o'clock, as
Janet had seen nothing of her young mistress, she opened the door of the
sleeping-room and peeped in.... A minute later Marjorie's mind rose up
out of black gulfs of sleep, in which, since her falling asleep an hour
or two ago, she had wandered, bearing an intolerable burden, which she
could neither see nor let fall, to find the rosy-streaked face of Janet,
all pinched with cold, peering into her own. She sat up, wide awake, yet
with all her world still swaying about her, and stared into her maid's
eyes.

"What is it? What time is it?"

"It is after six, mistress. And the mistress seems uneasy. I--"

Marjorie sprang up and went to the bed.


III

On the evening of that day her mother died.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was no priest within reach. A couple of men had ridden out early,
dispatched by Marjorie within half an hour of her awaking--to Dethick,
to Hathersage, and to every spot within twenty miles where a priest
might be found, with orders not to return without one. But the long day
had dragged out: and when dusk was falling, still neither had come back.
The country was rain-soaked and all but impassable, she learned later,
across valley after valley, where the streams had risen. And nowhere
could news be gained that any priest was near; for, as a further
difficulty, open inquiry was not always possible, in view of the news
that had come to Booth's Edge last night. The girl had understood that
the embers were rising again to flame in the south; and who could tell
but that a careless word might kindle the fire here, too. She had been
urged by Anthony to hold herself more careful than ever, and she had
been compelled to warn her messengers.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was soon after dusk had fallen--the heavy dusk of a December
day--that her mother had come back again to consciousness. She opened
her eyes wearily, coming back, as Marjorie had herself that morning,
from that strange realm of heavy and deathly sleep, to the pale phantom
world called "life"; and agonising pain about the heart stabbed her wide
awake.

"O Jesu!" she screamed.

Then she heard her daughter's voice, very steady and plain, in her ear.

"There is no priest, mother dear. Listen to me."

"I cannot! I cannot!... Jesu!"

Her eyes closed again for torment, and the sweat ran down her face. The
slow poison that had weighted and soaked her limbs so gradually these
many months past, was closing in at last upon her heart, and her pain
was gathering to its last assault. The silent, humorous woman was
changed into one twitching, uncontrolled incarnation of torture.

Then again the voice began:

"Jesu, Who didst die for love of me--upon the Cross--let me die--for
love of Thee."

"Christ!" moaned the woman more softly.

"Say it in your heart, after me. There is no priest. So God will accept
your sorrow instead. Now then--"

Then the old words began--the old acts of sorrow and love and faith and
hope, that mother and daughter had said together, night after night, for
so many years. Over and over again they came, whispered clear and sharp
by the voice in her ear; and she strove to follow them. Now and again
the pain closed its sharp hands upon her heart so cruelly that all that
on which she strove to fix her mind, fled from her like a mist, and she
moaned or screamed, or was silent with her teeth clenched upon her lip.

"My God--I am very sorry--that I have offended Thee."

"Why is there no priest?... Where is the priest?"

"Mother, dear, listen. I have sent for a priest ... but none has come.
You remember now?... You remember that priests are forbidden now--"

"Where is the priest?"

"Mother, dear. Three priests were put to death only three days ago in
London--for ... for being priests. Ask them to pray for you.... Say,
Edmund Campion pray for me. Perhaps ... perhaps--"

The girl's voice died away.

For, for a full minute, an extraordinary sensation rested on her. It
began with a sudden shiver of the flesh, as sharp and tingling as water,
dying away in long thrills amid her hair--that strange advertisement
that tells the flesh that more than flesh is there, and that the world
of spirit is not only present, but alive and energetic. Then, as it
passed, the whole world, too, passed into silence. The curtains that
shook just now hung rigid as sheets of steel; the woman in the bed lay
suddenly still, then smiled with closed eyes. The pair of maids,
kneeling out of sight beyond the bed, ceased to sob; and, while the
seconds went by, as real as any knowledge can be in which the senses
have no part, the certain knowledge deepened upon the girl who knelt,
arrested in spite of herself, that a priestly presence was here
indeed....

Very slowly, as if lifting great weights, she raised her eyes, knowing
that there, across the tumbled bed, where the darkness of the room
showed between the parted curtains, the Presence was poised. Yet there
was nothing there to see--no tortured, smoke-stained, throttling
face--ah! that could not be--but neither was there the merry, kindly
face, with large cheerful eyes and tender mouth smiling; no hand held
the curtains that the face might peer in. Neither then nor at any time
in all her life did Marjorie believe that she saw him; yet neither then
nor in all her life did she doubt he had been there while her mother
died.

Again her mother smiled--and this time she opened her eyes to the full,
and there was no dismay in them, nor fear, nor disappointment; and she
looked a little to her left, where the parted curtains showed the
darkness of the room....

Then Marjorie closed her eyes, and laid her head on the bed where her
mother's body sank back and down into the pillows. Then the girl
slipped heavily to the floor, and the maids sprang up screaming.


IV

It was not till two hours later that Mr. Simpson arrived. He had been
found at last at Hathersage, only a few miles away, as one of the men,
on his return ride, had made one last inquiry before coming home; and
there he ran into the priest himself in the middle of the street. The
priest had taken the man's horse and pushed on as well as he could
through the dark, in the hopes he might yet be in time.

Marjorie came to him in the parlour downstairs. She nodded her head
slowly and gravely.

"It is over," she said; and sat down.

"And there was no priest?"

She said nothing.

She was in her house-dress, with the hood drawn over her head as it was
a cold night. He was amazed at her look of self-control; he had thought
to find her either collapsed or strainedly tragic: he had wondered as he
came how he would speak to her, how he would soothe her, and he saw
there was no need.

She told him presently of the sudden turn for the worse early that
morning as she herself fell asleep by the bedside; and a little of what
had passed during the day. Then she stopped short as she approached the
end.

"Have you heard the news from London?" she said. "I mean, of our priests
there?"

His young face grew troubled, and he knit his forehead.

"They are in ward," he said; "I heard a week ago.... They will banish
them from England--they dare not do more!"

"It is all finished," she said quietly.

"What!"

"They were hanged at Tyburn three days ago--the three of them together."

He drew a hissing breath, and felt the skin of his face tingle.

"You have heard that?"

"Mr. Babington came to tell me last night. He left a paper with me: I
have not read it yet."

He watched her as she drew it out and put it before him. The terror was
on him, as once or twice before in his journeyings, or as when the news
of Mr. Nelson's death had reached him--a terror which shamed him to the
heart, and which he loathed yet could not overcome. He still stared into
her pale face. Then he took the paper and began to read it.

       *       *       *       *       *

Presently he laid it down again. The sick terror was beginning to pass;
or, rather, he was able to grip it; and he said a conventional word or
two; he could do no more. There was no exultation in his heart; nothing
but misery. And then, in despair, he left the subject.

"And you, mistress," he said, "what will you do now? Have you no aunt or
friend--"

"Mistress Alice Babington once said she would come and live with me--if
... when I needed it. I shall write to her. I do not know what else to
do."

"And you will live here?"

"Why; more than ever!" she said, smiling suddenly. "I can work in
earnest now."



CHAPTER VI


I

It was on a bright evening in the summer that Marjorie, with her maid
Janet, came riding down to Padley, and about the same time a young man
came walking up the track that led from Derby. In fact, the young man
saw the two against the skyline and wondered who they were. Further,
there was a group of four or five walking on the terrace below the
house, that saw both the approaching parties, and commented upon their
coming.

To be precise, there were four persons in the group on the terrace, and
a man-servant who hung near. The four were Mr. John FitzHerbert, his son
Thomas, his son's wife, and, in the midst, leaning on Mrs. FitzHerbert's
arm, was old Sir Thomas himself, and it was for his sake that the
servant was within call, for he was still very sickly after his long
imprisonment, in spite of his occasional releases.

Mr. John saw the visitors first.

"Why, here is the company all arrived together," he said. "Now, if
anything hung on that--" his son broke in, uneasily.

"You are sure of young Owen?" he said. "Our lives will all hang on him
after this."

His father clapped him gently on the shoulder.

"Now, now!" he said. "I know him well enough, from my lord. He hath made
a dozen such places in this county alone."

Mr. Thomas glanced swiftly at his uncle.

"And you have spoken with him, too, uncle?"

The old man turned his melancholy eyes on him.

"Yes; I have spoken with him," he said.

       *       *       *       *       *

Five minutes later Marjorie was dismounted, and was with him. She
greeted old Sir Thomas with particular respect; she had talked with him
a year ago when he was first released that he might raise his fines; and
she knew well enough that his liberty was coming to an end. In fact, he
was technically a prisoner even now; and had only been allowed to come
for a week or two from Sir Walter Aston's house before going back again
to the Fleet.

"You are come in good time," said Sir John, smiling.

"That is young Owen himself coming up the path."

There was nothing particularly noticeable about the young man who a
minute later was standing before them with his cap in his hand. He was
plainly of the working class; and he had over his shoulder a bag of
tools. He was dusty up to the knees with his long tramp. Mr. John gave
him a word of welcome; and then the whole group went slowly together
back to the house, with the two men following. Sir Thomas stumbled a
little going up the two or three steps into the hall. Then they all sat
down together; the servant put a big flagon and a horn tumbler beside
the traveller, and went out, closing the doors.

"Now, my man," said Mr. John. "Do you eat and drink while I do the
talking. I understand you are a man of your hands, and that you have
business elsewhere."

"I must be in Lancashire by the end of the week, sir."

"Very well, then. We have business enough for you, God knows! This is
Mistress Manners, whom you may have heard of. And after you have looked
at the places we have here--you understand me?--Mistress Manners wants
you at her house at Booth's Edge.... You have any papers?"

Owen leaned back and drew out a paper from his bag of tools.

"This is from Mr. Fenton, sir."

Mr. John glanced at the address; then he turned it over and broke the
seal. He stared for a moment at the open sheet.

"Why, it is blank!" he said.

Owen smiled. He was a grave-looking lad of eighteen or nineteen years
old; and his face lighted up very pleasantly.

"I have had that trick played on me before, sir, in my travels. I
understand that Catholic gentlemen do so sometimes to try the fidelity
of the messenger."

The other laughed out loud, throwing back his head.

"Why, that is a poor compliment!" he said. "You shall have a better one
from us, I have no doubt."

Mr. Thomas leaned over the table and took the paper. He examined it very
carefully; then he handed it back. His father laughed again as he took
it.

"You are very cautious, my son," he said. "But it is wise enough....
Well, then," he went on to the carpenter, "you are willing to do this
work for us? And as for payment--"

"I ask only my food and lodging," said the lad quietly; "and enough to
carry me on to the next place."

"Why--" began the other in a protest.

"No, sir; no more than that...." He paused an instant. "I hope to be
admitted to the Society of Jesus this year or next."

There was a pause of astonishment. And then old Sir Thomas' deep voice
broke in.

"You do very well, sir. I heartily congratulate you. And I would I were
twenty years younger myself...."


II

After supper that night the entire party went upstairs to the chapel.

Young Hugh Owen even already was beginning to be known among Catholics,
for his extraordinary skill in constructing hiding-holes. Up to the
present not much more had been attempted than little secret recesses
where the vessels of the altar and the vestments might be concealed. But
the young carpenter had been ingenious enough in two or three houses to
which he had been called, to enlarge these so considerably that even two
or three men might be sheltered in them; and, now that it seemed as if
the persecution of recusants was to break out again, the idea began to
spread. Mr. John FitzHerbert while in London had heard of his skill, and
had taken means to get at the young man, for his own house at Padley.

       *       *       *       *       *

Owen was already at work when the party came upstairs. He had supped
alone, and, with a servant to guide him, had made the round of the
house, taking measurements in every possible place. He was seated on the
floor as they came in; three or four panels lay on the ground beside
him, and a heap of plaster and stones.

He looked up as they came in.

"This will take me all night, sir," he said. "And the fire must be put
out below."

He explained his plan. The old hiding-place was but a poor affair; it
consisted of a space large enough for only one man, and was contrived by
a section of the wall having been removed, all but the outer row of
stones made thin for the purpose; the entrance to it was through a tall
sliding panel on the inside of the chapel. Its extreme weakness as a
hiding-hole lay in the fact that anyone striking on the panel could not
fail to hear how hollow it rang. This he proposed to do away with,
unless, indeed, he left a small space for the altar vessels; and to
construct instead a little chamber in the chimney of the hall that was
built against this wall; he would contrive it so that an entrance was
still from the chapel, as well as one that he would make over the hearth
below; and that the smoke should be conducted round the little enclosed
space, passing afterwards up the usual vent. The chamber would be large
enough, he thought, for at least two men. He explained, too, his method
of deadening the hollowness of the sound if the panel were knocked upon,
by placing pads of felt on struts of wood that would be set against the
panel-door.

"Why, that is very shrewd!" cried Mr. John. He looked round the faces
for approval.

For an hour or so, the party sat and watched him at his work; and
Marjorie listened to their talk. It was of that which filled the hearts
of all Catholics at this time; of the gathering storm in England, of the
priests that had been executed this very year--Mr. Paine at Chelmsford,
in March; Mr. Forde, Mr. Shert and Mr. Johnson, at Tyburn in May, the
first of the three having been taken with Father Campion at
Lyford--deaths that were followed two days later by the execution of
four more--one of whom, Mr. Filbie, had also been arrested at Lyford.
And there were besides a great number more in prison--Mr. Cottam, it was
known, had been taken at York, scarcely a week ago, and, it was said,
would certainly suffer before long.

They talked in low voices; for the shadow was on all their hearts. It
had been possible almost to this very year to hope that the misery would
be a passing one; but the time for hope was gone. It remained only to
bear what came, to multiply priests, and, if necessary, martyrs, and
meantime to take such pains for protection as they could.

"He will be a clever pursuivant who finds this one out," said Mr. John.

The carpenter looked up from his work.

"But a clever one will find it," he said.

Mr. Thomas was heard to sigh.


III

It was on the afternoon of the following day that Marjorie rode up to
her house with Janet beside her, and Hugh Owen walking by her horse.

He had finished his work at Padley an hour or two after dawn--for he
worked at night when he could, and had then gone to rest. But he had
been waiting for her when her horses were brought, and asked if he might
walk with her; he had asked it simply and easily, saying that it might
save his losing his way, and time was precious to him.

       *       *       *       *       *

Marjorie felt very much interested by this lad, for he was no more than
that. In appearance he was like any of his kind, with a countryman's
face, in a working-dress: she might have seen him by chance a hundred
times and not known him again. But his manner was remarkable, so wholly
simple and well-bred: he was courteous always, as suited his degree; but
he had something of the same assurance that she had noticed so plainly
in Father Campion. (He talked with a plain, Northern dialect.)

Presently she opened on that very point; for she could talk freely
before Janet.

"Did you ever know Father Campion?" she asked.

"I have never spoken with him, mistress. I have heard him preach. It was
that which put it in my heart to join the company."

"You heard him preach?"

"Yes, mistress; three or four times in Essex and Hertfordshire. I heard
him preach upon the young man who came to our Saviour."

"Tell me," she said, looking down at what she could see of his face.

"It was liker an angel than a man," he said quietly. "I could not take
my eyes off him from his first word to the last. And all were the same
that were there."

"Was he eloquent?"

"Aye; you might call it that. But I thought it to be the Spirit of God."

"And it was then you made up your mind to join the Society?"

"There was no rest for me till I did. 'And Christ also went away
sorrowful,' were his last words. And I could not bear to think that."

Marjorie was silent through pure sympathy. This young man spoke a
language she understood better than that which some of her friends
used--Mr. Babington, for instance. It was the Person of Jesus Christ
that was all her religion to her; it was for this that she was devout,
that she went to mass and the sacraments when she could; it was this
that made Mary dear to her. Was He not her son? And, above all, it was
for this that she had sacrificed Robin: she could not bear that he
should not serve Him as a priest, if he might. But the other talk that
she had heard sometimes--of the place of religion in politics, and the
justification of this or that course of public action--well, she knew
that these things must be so; yet it was not the manner of her own most
intimate thought, and the language of it was not hers.

The two went together so a few paces, without speaking. Then she had a
sudden impulse.

"And do you ever think of what may come upon you?" she asked. "Do you
ever think of the end?

"Aye," he said.

"And what do you think the end will be?"

She saw him raise his eyes to her an instant.

"I think," he said, "that I shall die for my faith some day."

That same strange shiver that passed over her at her mother's bedside,
passed over her again, as if material things grew thin about her. There
was a tone in his voice that made it absolutely clear to her that he was
not speaking of a fancy, but of some certain knowledge that he had. Yet
she dared not ask him, and she was a middle-aged woman before the news
came to her of his death upon the rack.


IV

It was a sleepy-eyed young man that came into the kitchen early next
morning, where the ladies and the maids were hard at work all together
upon the business of baking. The baking was a considerable task each
week, for there were not less than twenty mouths, all told, to feed in
the hall day by day, including a widow or two that called each day for
rations; and a great part, therefore, of a mistress's time in such
houses was taken up with such things.

Marjorie turned to him, with her arms floured to the elbow.

"Well?" she said, smiling.

"I have done, mistress. Will it please you to see it before I go and
sleep?"

They had examined the house carefully last night, measuring and sounding
in the deep and thin walls alike, for there was at present no
convenience at all for a hunted man. Owen had obtained her consent to
two or three alternative proposals, and she had then left him to
himself. From her bed, that she had had prepared, with Alice
Babington's, in a loft--turning out for the night the farm-men who had
usually slept there, she had heard more than once the sound of distant
hammering from the main front of the house where her own room lay, that
had been once her mother's as well.

The possibilities in this little manor were small. To construct a
passage, giving an exterior escape, as had been made in some houses,
would have meant here a labour of weeks, and she had told the young man
she would be content with a simple hiding-hole. Yet, although she did
not expect great things, and knew, moreover, the kind of place that he
would make, she was as excited as a child, in a grave sort of way, at
what she would see.

He took her first into the parlour, where years ago Robin had talked
with her in the wintry sunshine. The open chimney was on the right as
they entered, and though she knew that somewhere on that same side would
be one of the two entrances that had been arranged, all the difference
she could see was that a piece of the wall-hanging that had been between
the window and the fire was gone, and that there hung in its place an
old picture painted on a panel. She looked at this without speaking: the
wall was wainscoted in oak, as it had always been, six feet up from the
floor. Then an idea came to her: she tilted the picture on one side. But
there was no more to be seen than a cracked panel, which, it seemed to
her, had once been nearer the door. She rapped upon this, but it gave
back the dull sound as of wood against stone.

She turned to the young man, smiling. He smiled back.

"Come into the bedroom, mistress."

He led her in there, through the passage outside into which the two
doors opened at the head of the outside stairs; but here, too, all that
she could see was that a tall press that had once stood between the
windows now stood against the wall immediately opposite to the painted
panel on the other side of the wall. She opened the doors of the press,
but it was as it had always been: there even hung there the three or
four dresses that she had taken from it last night and laid on the bed.

She laughed outright, and, turning, saw Mistress Alice Babington beaming
tranquilly from the door of the room.

"Come in, Alice," she said, "and see this miracle."

Then he began to explain it.

       *       *       *       *       *

On this side was the entrance proper, and, as he said so, he stepped up
into the press and closed the doors. They could hear him fumbling
within, then the sound of wood sliding, and finally a muffled voice
calling to them. Marjorie flung the doors open, and, save for the
dresses, it was empty. She stared in for a moment, still hearing the
movements of someone beyond, and at last the sound of a snap; and as she
withdrew her head to exclaim to Alice, the young man walked into the
room through the open door behind her.

Then he explained it in full.

The back of the press had been removed, and then replaced, in such a
manner that it would slide out about eighteen inches towards the window,
but only when the doors of the press were closed; when they were opened,
they drew out simultaneously a slip of wood on either side that pulled
the sliding door tight and immovable. Behind the back of the press, thus
removed, a corresponding part of the wainscot slid in the same way,
giving a narrow doorway into the cell which he had excavated between the
double beams of the thick wall. Next, when the person that had taken
refuge was inside, with the two sliding doors closed behind him, it was
possible for him, by an extremely simple device, to turn a wooden button
and thus release a little wooden machinery which controlled a further
opening into the parlour, and which, at the same time, was braced
against the hollow panelling and one of the higher beams in such a
manner as to give it, when knocked upon, the dullness of sound the girl
had noticed just now. But this door could only be opened from within.
Neither a fugitive nor a pursuer could make any entrance from the
parlour side, unless the wainscoting itself were torn off. Lastly, the
crack in the woodwork, corresponding with two minute holes bored in the
painted panel, afforded, when the picture was hung exactly straight, a
view of the parlour that commanded nearly all the room.

"I do not pretend that it is a fortress," said the young man, smiling
gravely. "But it may serve to keep out a country constable. And, indeed,
it is the best I can contrive in this house."



CHAPTER VII


I

Marjorie found it curious, even to herself, how the press that faced the
foot of the two beds where she and Alice slept side by side, became
associated in her mind with the thought of Robin; and she began to
perceive that it was largely with the thought of him in her intention
that the idea had first presented itself of having the cell constructed
at all. It was not that in her deliberate mind she conceived that he
would be hunted, that he would fly here, that she would save him; but
rather in that strange realm of consciousness which is called sometimes
the Imagination, and sometimes by other names--that inner shadow-show on
which move figures cast by the two worlds--she perceived him in this
place....

It was in the following winter that she was reminded of him by other
means than those of his letters.

       *       *       *       *       *

The summer and autumn had passed tranquilly enough, so far as this
outlying corner of England was concerned. News filtered through of the
stirring world outside, and especially was there conveyed to her,
through Alice for the most part, news that concerned the fortunes of
Catholics. Politics, except in this connection, meant little enough to
such as her. She heard, indeed, from time to time vague rumours of
fighting, and of foreign Powers; and thought now and again of Spain, as
of a country that might yet be, in God's hand, an instrument for the
restoring of God's cause in England; she had heard, too, in this year,
of one more rumour of the Queen's marriage with the Duke d'Alençon, and
then of its final rupture. But these matters were aloof from her; rather
she pondered such things as the execution of two more priests at York in
August, Mr. Lacy and Mr. Kirkman, and of a third, Mr. Thompson, in
November at the same place. It was on such affairs as these that she
pondered as she went about her household business, or sat in the chamber
upstairs with Mistress Alice; and it was of these things that she talked
with the few priests that came and went from time to time in their
circuits about Derbyshire. It was a life of quietness and monotony
inconceivable by those who live in towns. Its sole incident lay in that
life which is called Interior....

It was soon after the New Year that she met the squire of Matstead face
to face.

       *       *       *       *       *

She and Alice, with Janet and a man riding behind, were on their way
back from Derby, where they had gone for their monthly shopping. They
had slept at Dethick, and had had news there of Mr. Anthony, who was
again in the south on one of his mysterious missions, and started again
soon after dawn next day to reach home, if they could, for dinner.

She knew Alice now for what she was--a woman of astounding dullness, of
sterling character, and of a complete inability to understand any shades
or tones of character or thought that were not her own, and yet a friend
in a thousand, of an immovable stability and loyalty, one of no words at
all, who dwelt in the midst of a steady kind of light which knew no dawn
nor sunset. The girl entertained herself sometimes with conceiving of
her friend confronted with the rack, let us say, or the gallows; and
perceived that she knew with exactness what her behaviour would be: She
would do all that was required of her with out speeches or protest; she
would place herself in the required positions, with a faint smile,
unwavering; she would suffer or die with the same tranquil steadiness as
that in which she lived; and, best of all, she would not be aware, even
for an instant, that anything in her behaviour was in the least
admirable or exceptional. She resembled, to Marjorie's mind, that for
which a strong and well-built arm-chair stands in relation to the body:
it is the same always, supporting and sustaining always, and cannot even
be imagined as anything else.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a brilliant frosty day, as they rode over the rutted track
between hedges that served for a road, that ran, for the most part, a
field or two away from the black waters of the Derwent. The birches
stood about them like frozen feathers; the vast chestnuts towered
overhead, motionless in the motionless air. As they came towards
Matstead, and, at last, rode up the street, naturally enough Marjorie
again began to think of Robin. As they came near where the track turned
the corner beneath the churchyard wall, where once Robin had watched,
himself unseen, the three riders go by, she had to attend to her horse,
who slipped once or twice on the paved causeway. Then as she lifted her
head again, she saw, not three yards from her, and on a level with her
own face, the face of the squire looking at her from over the wall.

She had not seen him, except once in Derby, a year or two before, and
that at a distance, since Robin had left England; and at the sight she
started so violently, in some manner jerking the reins that she held,
that her horse, tired with the long ride of the day before, slipped once
again, and came down all asprawl on the stones, fortunately throwing her
clear of his struggling feet. She was up in a moment, but again sank
down, aware that her foot was in some way bruised or twisted.

There was a clatter of hoofs behind her as the servants rode up; a
child or two ran up the street, and when, at last, on Janet's arm, she
rose again to her feet, it was to see the squire staring at her, with
his hands clasped behind his back.

"Bring the ladies up to the house," he said abruptly to the man; and
then, taking the rein of the girl's horse that had struggled up again,
he led the way, without another word, without even turning his head,
round to the way that ran up to his gates.


II

It was not with any want of emotion that Marjorie found herself
presently meekly seated upon Alice's horse, and riding up at a
foot's-pace beneath the gatehouse of the Hall. Rather it was the balance
of emotions that made her so meek and so obedient to her friend's
tranquil assumption that she must come in as the squire said. She was
aware of a strong resentment to his brusque order, as well as to the
thought that it was to the house of an apostate that she was going; yet
there was a no less strong emotion within her that he had a sort of
right to command her. These feelings, working upon her, dazed as she was
by the sudden sharpness of her fall, and the pain in her foot, combined
to drive her along in a kind of resignation in the wake of the squire.

Still confused, yet with a rapid series of these same emotions running
before her mind, she limped up the steps, supported by Alice and her
maid, and sat down on a bench at the end of the hall. The squire, who
had shouted an order or two to a peeping domestic, as he passed up the
court, came to her immediately with a cup in his hand.

"You must drink this at once, mistress."

She took it at once, drank and set it down, aware of the keen,
angry-looking face that watched her.

"You will dine here, too, mistress--" he began, still with a sharp
kindness.... And then, on a sudden, all grew dark about her; there was a
roaring in her ears, and she fainted.

       *       *       *       *       *

She came out of her swoon again, after a while, with that strange and
innocent clearness that usually follows such a thing, to find Alice
beside her, a tapestried wall behind Alice, and the sound of a crackling
fire in her ears. Then she perceived that she was in a small room, lying
on her back along a bench, and that someone was bathing her foot.

"I ... I will not stay here--" she began. But two hands held her firmly
down, and Alice's reassuring face was looking into her own.

       *       *       *       *       *

When her mind ran clearly again, she sat up with a sudden movement,
drawing her foot away from Janet's ministrations.

"I do very well," she said, after looking at her foot, and then putting
it to the ground amid a duet of protestations. (She had looked round the
room to satisfy herself that no one else was there, and had seen that it
must be the parlour that she was in. A newly-lighted fire burned on the
hearth, and the two doors were closed.)

Then Alice explained.

It was impossible, she said, to ride on at once; the horse even now was
being bathed in the stable, as his mistress in the parlour. The squire
had been most considerate; he had helped to carry her in here just now,
had lighted the fire with his own hands, and had stated that dinner
would be sent in here in an hour for the three women. He had offered to
send one of his own men on to Booth's Edge with the news, if Mistress
Marjorie found herself unable to ride on after dinner.

"But ... but it is Mr. Audrey!" exclaimed Marjorie.

"Yes, my dear," said Alice. "I know it is. But that does not mend your
foot," she said, with unusual curtness. And Marjorie saw that she still
looked at her anxiously.

       *       *       *       *       *

The three women dined together, of course, in an hour's time. There was
no escape from the pressure of circumstance. It was unfortunate that
such an accident should have fallen out here, in the one place in all
the world where it should not; but the fact was a fact. Meanwhile, it
was not only resentment that Marjorie felt: it was a strange sort of
terror as well--a terror of sitting in the house of an apostate--of one
who had freely and deliberately renounced that faith for which she
herself lived so completely; and that it was the father of one whom she
knew as she knew Robin--with whose fate, indeed, her own had been so
intimately entwined--this combined to increase that indefinable fear
that rested on her as she stared round the walls, and sat over the food
and drink that this man provided.

The climax came as they were finishing dinner: for the door from the
hall opened abruptly, and the squire came in. He bowed to the ladies, as
the manner was, straightening his trim, tight figure again defiantly;
asked a civil question or two; directed a servant behind him to bring
the horses to the parlour door in half an hour's time; and then snapped
out the sentence which he was, plainly, impatient to speak.

"Mistress Manners," he said, "I wish to have a word with you privately."

Marjorie, trembling at his presence, turned a wavering face to her
friend; and Alice, before the other could speak, rose up, and went out,
with Janet following.

"Janet--" cried the girl.

"If you please," said the old man, with such a decisive air that she
hesitated. Then she nodded at her maid; and a moment later the door
closed.


III

"I have two matters to speak of," said the squire abruptly, sitting down
in the chair that Alice had left; "the first concerns you closely; and
the other less closely."

She looked at him, summoning all her power to appear at her ease.

He seemed far older than when she had last spoken with him, perhaps five
years ago; and had grown a little pointed beard; his hair, too, seemed
thinner--such of it as she could see beneath the house-cap that he wore;
his face, especially about his blue, angry-looking eyes, was covered
with fine wrinkles, and his hands were clearly the hands of an old man,
at once delicate and sinewy. He was in a dark suit, still with his cloak
upon him; and in low boots. He sat still as upright as ever, turned a
little in his chair, so as to clasp its back with one strong hand.

"Yes, sir?" she said.

"I will begin with the second first. It is of my son Robin: I wish to
know what news you have of him. He hath not written to me this six
months back. And I hear that letters sometimes come to you from him."

Marjorie hesitated.

"He is very well, so far as I know," she said.

"And when is he to be made priest?" he demanded sharply.

Marjorie drew a breath to give herself time; she knew that she must not
answer this; and did not know how to say so with civility.

"If he has not told you himself, sir," she said, "I cannot."

The old man's face twitched; but he kept his manners. "I understand you,
mistress...." But then his wrath overcame him. "But he must understand
he will have no mercy from me, if he comes my way. I am a magistrate,
now, mistress, and--"

A thought like an inspiration came to the girl; and she interrupted; for
she longed to penetrate this man's armour.

"Perhaps that was why he did not tell you when he was to be made
priest," she said.

The other seemed taken aback.

"Why, but--"

"He did not wish to think that his father would be untrue to his new
commission," she said, trembling at her boldness and yet exultant too;
and taking no pains to keep the irony out of her voice.

Again that fierce twitch of the features went over the other's face; and
he stared straight at her with narrowed eyes. Then a change again came
over him; and he laughed, like barking, yet not all unkindly.

"You are very shrewd, mistress. But I wonder what you will think of me
when I tell you the second matter, since you will tell me no more of the
first."

He shifted his position in his chair, this time clasping both his hands
together over the back.

"Well; it is this in a word," he said: "It is that you had best look to
yourself, mistress. My lord Shrewsbury even knows of it."

"Of what, if you please?" asked the girl, hoping she had not turned
white.

"Why, of the priests that come and go hereabouts! It is all known; and
her Grace hath sent a message from the Council--"

"What has this to do with me?"

He laughed again.

"Well; let us take your neighbours at Padley. They will be in trouble if
they do not look to their goings. Mr. FitzHerbert--"

But again she interrupted him. She was determined to know how much he
knew. She had thought that she had been discreet enough, and that no
news had leaked out of her own entertaining of priests; it was chiefly
that discretion might be preserved that she had set her hands to the
work at all. With Padley so near it was thought that less suspicion
would be aroused. Her name had never yet come before the authorities, so
far as she knew.

"But what has all this to do with me, sir?" she asked sharply. "It is
true that I do not go to church, and that I pay my fines when they are
demanded: Are there new laws, then, against the old faith?"

She spoke with something of real bitterness. It was genuine enough; her
only art lay in her not concealing it; for she was determined to press
her question home. And, in his shrewd, compelling face, she read her
answer even before his words gave it.

"Well, mistress; it was not of you that I meant to speak--so much as of
your friends. They are your friends, not mine. And as your friends, I
thought it to be a kindly action to send them an advertisement. If they
are not careful, there will be trouble."

"At Padley?"

"At Padley, or elsewhere. It is the persons that fall under the law, not
places!"

"But, sir, you are a magistrate; and--"

He sprang up, his face aflame with real wrath.

"Yes, mistress; I am a magistrate: the commission hath come at last,
after six months' waiting. But I was friend to the FitzHerberts before
ever I was a magistrate, and--"

Then she understood; and her heart went out to him. She, too, stood up,
catching at the table with a hiss of pain as she threw her weight on the
bruised foot. He made a movement towards her; but she waved him aside.

"I beg your pardon, Mr. Audrey, with all my heart. I had thought that
you meant harm, perhaps, to my friends and me. But now I see--"

"Not a word more! not a word more!" he cried harshly, with a desperate
kind of gesture. "I shall do my duty none the less when the time
comes--"

"Sir!" she cried out suddenly. "For God's sake do not speak of
duty--there is another duty greater than that. Mr. Audrey--"

He wheeled away from her, with a movement she could not interpret. It
might be uncontrolled anger or misery, equally. And her heart went out
to him in one great flood.

"Mr. Audrey. It is not too late. Your son Robin--"

Then he wheeled again; and his face was distorted with emotion.

"Yes, my son Robin! my son Robin!... How dare you speak of him to me?...
Yes; that is it--my son Robin--my son Robin!"

He dropped into the chair again, and his face fell upon his clasped
hands.


IV

She scarcely knew how circumstances had arranged themselves up to the
time when she found herself riding away again with Alice, while a man of
Mr. Audrey's led her horse. They could not talk freely till he left
them at the place where the stony road turned to a soft track, and it
was safe going once more. Then Alice told her own side of it.

"Yes, my dear; I heard him call out. I was walking in the hall with
Janet to keep ourselves warm. But when I ran in he was sitting down, and
you were standing. What was the matter?"

"Alice," said the girl earnestly, "I wish you had not come in. He is
very heart-broken, I think. He would have told me more, I think. It is
about his son."

"His son! Why, he--"

"Yes; I know that. And he would not see him if he came back. He has had
his magistrate's commission; and he will be true to it. But he is
heart-broken for all that. He has not really lost the Faith, I think."

"Why, my dear; that is foolish. He is very hot in Derby, I hear, against
the Papists. There was a poor woman who could not pay her fines; and--"

Marjorie waved it aside.

"Yes; he would be very hot; but for all that, there is his son Robin you
know--and his memories. And Robin has not written to him for six months.
That would be about the time when he told him he was to be a
magistrate."

Then Marjorie told her of the whole that had passed, and of his mention
of the FitzHerberts.

"And what he meant by that," she said, "I do not know; but I will tell
them."

       *       *       *       *       *

She was pondering deeply all the way as she rode home. Mistress Alice
was one of those folks who so long as they are answered in words are
content; and Marjorie so answered her. And all the while she thought
upon Robin, and his passionate old father, and attempted to understand
the emotions that fought in the heart that had so disclosed itself to
her--its aged obstinacy, its loyalty and its confused honourableness.
She knew very well that he would do what he conceived to be his duty
with all the more zeal if it were an unpleasant duty; and she thanked
God that it was not for a good while yet that the lad would come home a
priest.



CHAPTER VIII


I

The warning which she had had with regard to her friends, and which she
wrote on to them at once, received its fulfilment within a very few
weeks. Mr. John, who was on the eve of departure for London again to
serve his brother there, who was back again in the Fleet by now, wrote
that he knew very well that they were all under suspicion, that he had
sent on to his son the message she had given, but that he hoped they
would yet weather the storm.

"And as to yourself, Mistress Marjorie," he wrote, "this makes it all
the more necessary that Booth's Edge should not be suspected; for what
will our men do if Padley be closed to them? You have heard of our
friend Mr. Garlick's capture? But that was no fault of yours. The man
was warned. I hear that they will send him into banishment, only, this
time."

       *       *       *       *       *

The news came to her as she sat in the garden over her needlework on a
hot evening in June. There it was as cool as anywhere in the
countryside. She sat at the top of the garden, where her mother and she
had sat with Robin so long before; the breeze that came over the moor
bore with it the scent of the heather; and the bees were busy in the
garden flowers about her.

It was first the gallop of a horse that she heard; and even at that
sound she laid down her work and stood up. But the house below her
blocked the most of her view; and she sat down again when she heard the
dull rattle of the hoofs die away again. When she next looked up a man
was running towards her from the bottom of the garden, and Janet was
peeping behind him from the gate into the court. As she again stood up,
she saw that it was Dick Sampson.

He was so out of breath, first with his ride and next with his run up
the steep path, that for a moment or two he could not speak. He was
dusty, too, from foot to knee; his cap was awry and his collar
unbuttoned.

"It is Mr. Thomas, mistress," he gasped presently. "I was in Derby and
saw him being taken to the gaol.... I could not get speech with him....
I rode straight up to Padley, and found none there but the servants, and
them knowing nothing of the matter. And so I rode on here, mistress."

He was plainly all aghast at the blow. Hitherto it had been enough that
Sir Thomas was in ward for his religion; and to this they had become
accustomed. But that the heir should be taken, too, and that without a
hint of what was to happen, was wholly unexpected. She made him sit
down, and presently drew from him the whole tale.

Mr. Anthony Babington, his master, was away to London again, leaving the
house in Derby in the hands of the servants. He then--Dick Sampson--was
riding out early to take a horse to be shoed, and had come back through
the town-square, when he saw the group ride up to the gaol door near the
Friar Gate. He, too, had ridden up to ask what was forward, and had been
just in time to see Mr. Thomas taken in. He had caught his eye, but had
feigned not to know him. Then the man had attempted to get at what had
happened from one of the fellows at the door, but could get no more from
him than that the prisoner was a known and confessed recusant, and had
been laid by the heels according to orders, it was believed, sent down
by the Council. Then, Dick had ridden slowly away till he had turned
the corner, and then, hot foot for Padley.

"And I heard the fellow say to one of his company that an informer was
coming down from London on purpose to deal with Mr. Thomas."

Marjorie felt a sudden pang; for she had never forgotten the one she had
set eyes on in the Tower.

"His name?" she said breathlessly. "Did you hear his name?"

"It was Topcliffe, mistress," said Dick indifferently. "The other called
it out."

       *       *       *       *       *

Marjorie sat silent. Not only had the blow fallen more swiftly than she
would have thought possible, but it was coupled with a second of which
she had never dreamed. That it was this man, above all others, that
should have come; this man, who stood to her mind, by a mere chance, for
all that was most dreadful in the sinister forces arrayed against
her--this brought misery down on her indeed. For, besides her own
personal reasons for terror, there was, besides, the knowledge that the
bringing of such a man at all from London on such business meant that
the movement beginning here in her own county was not a mere caprice.

She sat silent then--seeing once more before her the wide court of the
Tower, the great keep opposite, and in the midst that thin figure moving
to his hateful business.... And she knew now, in this instant, as never
before, that the chief reason for her terror was that she had coupled in
her mind her own friend Robin with the thought of this man, as if by
some inner knowledge that their lives must cross some day--a knowledge
which she could neither justify nor silence. Thank God, at least, that
Robin was still safe in Rheims!


II

She sent him off after a couple of hours' rest, during which once more
he had told his story to Mistress Alice, with a letter to Mr. Thomas's
wife, who, no doubt, would have followed her lord to Derby. She had gone
apart with Alice, while Dick ate and drank, to talk the affair out, and
had told her of Topcliffe's presence, at which news even the placid face
of her friend looked troubled; but they had said nothing more on the
point, and had decided that a letter should be written in Mistress
Babington's name, offering Mrs. FitzHerbert the hospitality of Babington
House, and any other services she might wish. Further, they had decided
that the best thing to do was to go themselves to Derby next day, in
order to be at hand; since Mr. John was in London, and the sooner Mrs.
Thomas had friends with her, the better.

"They may keep him in ward a long time," said Mistress Alice, "before
they bring him into open court--to try his courage. That is the way they
do. The charge, no doubt, will be that he has harboured and assisted
priests."

       *       *       *       *       *

It seemed to Marjorie, as she lay awake that night, staring through the
summer dusk at the tall press which hid so much beside her dresses, that
the course on which her life moved was coming near to the rapids. Ever
since she had first put her hand to the work, ever since, even, she had
first offered her lover to God and let him go from her, it appeared as
if God had taken her at her word, and accepted in an instant that which
she offered so tremblingly. Her sight of London--the great buildings,
the crowds, the visible forces of the Crown, the company of gallant
gentlemen who were priests beneath their ruffs and feathers, the Tower,
her glimpse of Topcliffe--these things had shown her the dreadful
reality that lay behind this gentle scheming up in Derbyshire. Again,
there was Mr. Babington; here, too, she had perceived a mystery which
she could not understand: something moved behind the surface of which
not even Mr. Babington's sister knew anything, except that, indeed, it
was there. Again, there was the death of Father Campion--the very man
whom she had taken as a symbol of the Faith for which she fought with
her woman's wits; there was the news that came so suddenly and terribly
now and again, of one more priest gone to his death.... It was like the
slow rising of a storm: the air darkens; a stillness falls on the
countryside; the chirp of the birds seems as a plaintive word of fear;
then the thunder begins--a low murmur far across the horizons; then a
whisk of light, seen and gone again, and another murmur after it. And so
it gathers, dusk on dusk, stillness on stillness, murmur on murmur,
deepening and thickening; yet still no rain, but a drop or two that
falls and ceases again. And from the very delay it is all the more
dreadful; for the storm itself must break some time, and the artillery
war in the heavens, and the rain rush down, and flash follow flash, and
peal peal, and the climax come.

So, then, it was with her. There was no drawing back now, even had she
wished it. And she wished it indeed, though she did not will it; she
knew that she must stand in her place, now more than ever, when the blow
had fallen so near. Now more than ever must she be discreet and
resolute, since Padley itself was fallen, in effect, if not in fact; and
Booth's Edge, in this valley at least, was the one hope of hunted men.
She must stand, then, in her place; she must plot and conspire and
scheme; she must govern her face and her manner more perfectly than
ever, for the sake of that tremendous Cause.

As she lay there, listening to her friend's breathing in the darkness,
staring now at the doors of the press, now at the baggage that lay
heaped ready for the early start, these and a thousand other thoughts
passed before her. It was a long plot that had ended in this: it must
have reached its maturity weeks ago; the decision to strike must have
been reached before even Squire Audrey had given her the warning--for it
was only by chance that she had met him and he had told her.... And he,
too, Robin's father, would be in the midst of it all; he, too, that was
a Catholic by baptism, must sit with the other magistrates and threaten
and cajole as the manner was; and quiet Derby would be all astir; and
the Bassetts would be there, and Mr. Fenton, to see how their friend
fared in the dock; and the crowds would gather to see the prisoner
brought out, and the hunt would be up. And she herself, she, too, must
be there with the tearful little wife, who could do so little....

Thank God Robin was safe in Rheims!...


III

Derby was, indeed, astir as they rode in, with the servants and the
baggage following behind, on the late afternoon of the next day. They
had ridden by easy stages, halting at Dethick for dinner, where the
Babingtons' house already hummed with dismay at the news that had come
from Derby last night. Mr. Anthony was away, and all seemed distracted.

They rode in by the North road, seeing for the last mile or two of their
ride the towering spire of All Saints' Church high above the smoke of
the houses; they passed the old bridge half a mile from the
market-place, near the ancient camp; and even here overheard a sentence
or two from a couple of fellows that were leaning on the parapet, that
told them what was the talk of the town. It was plain that others
besides the Catholics understood the taking of Mr. Thomas FitzHerbert to
be a very significant matter.

Babington House stood on the further side of the market-place from that
on which they entered, and Alice was for going there through side
streets.

"They will take notice if we go straight through," she said. "It is
cheese-market to-day."

"They will take notice in any case," said Marjorie. "It will be over the
town to-morrow that Mistress Babington is here, and it is best,
therefore, to come openly, as if without fear."

And she turned to beckon the servants to draw up closer behind.

       *       *       *       *       *

The square was indeed crowded as they came in. From all the country
round, and especially from Dovedale, the farmers came in on this day, or
sent their wives, for the selling of cheeses; and the small oblong of
the market--the smaller from its great Conduit and Cross--was full with
rows of stalls and carts, with four lanes only left along the edges by
which the traffic might pass; and even here the streams of passengers
forced the horses to go in single file. Groups of men--farmers' servants
who had driven in the carts, or walked with the pack-beasts--to whom
this day was a kind of feast, stood along the edges of the booths eyeing
all who went by. The inns, too, were doing a roaring trade, and it was
from one of these that the only offensive comment was made.

Mistress Babington rode first, as suited her dignity, preceded by one of
the Dethick men whom they had taken up on their way, and who had pushed
forward when they came into the town to clear the road; and Mistress
Manners rode after her. The men stood aside as the cavalcade began to
go between the booths, and the most of them saluted Mistress Babington.
But as they were almost out of the market they came abreast one of the
inns from whose wide-open doors came a roar of voices from those that
were drinking within, and a group that was gathered on the step stopped
talking as the party came up. Marjorie glanced at them, and noticed
there was an air about two or three of the men that was plainly
town-bred; there was a certain difference in the cut of their clothes
and the way they wore them. Then she saw two or three whispering
together, and the next moment came a brutal shout. She could not catch
the sentence, but she heard the word "Papist" with an adjective, and
caught the unmistakable bullying tone of the man. The next instant there
broke out a confusion: a man dashed up the step from the crowd beneath,
and she caught a glimpse of Dick Sampson's furious face. Then the group
bore back, fighting, into the inn door; the Dethick servant leapt off
his horse, leaving it in some fellow's hands, and vanished up the step;
there was a rush of the crowd after him, and then the way was clear in
front, over the little bridge that spanned Bramble brook.

When she drew level with Alice, she saw her friend's face, pale and
agitated.

"It is the first time I have ever been cried at," she said. "Come; we
are nearly home. There is St. Peter's spire."

"Shall we not--?" began Marjorie.

"No, no" (and the pale face tightened suddenly). "My fellows will give
them a lesson. The crowd is on our side as yet."


IV

As they rode in under the archway that led in beside the great doors of
Babington House, three or four grooms ran forward at once. It was plain
that their coming was looked far with some eagerness.

Alice's manner seemed curiously different from that of the quiet woman
who had sat so patiently beside Marjorie in the manor among the hills: a
certain air of authority and dignity sat on her now that she was back in
her own place.

"Is Mrs. FitzHerbert here?" she asked from the groom who helped her to
the ground.

"Yes, mistress; she came from the inn this morning, and--"

"Well?"

"She is in a great taking, mistress. She would eat nothing, they said."

Alice nodded.

"You had best be off to the inn," she said, with a jerk of her head. "A
London fellow insulted us just now, and Sampson and Mallow--"

She said no more. The man who held her horse slipped the reins into the
hands of the younger groom who stood by him, and was away and out of the
court in an instant. Marjorie smiled a little, astonished at her own
sense of exultation. The blows were not to be all one side, she
perceived. Then she followed Alice into the house.

As they came through into the hall by the side-door that led through
from the court where they had dismounted, a figure was plainly visible
in the dusky light, going to and fro at the further end, with a quick,
nervous movement. The figure stopped as they advanced, and then darted
forward, crying out piteously:

"Ah! you have come, thank God! thank God! They will not let me see him."

"Hush! hush!" said Alice, as she caught her in her arms.

"Mr. Bassett has been here," moaned the figure, "and he says it is
Topcliffe himself who has come down on the matter.... He says he is the
greatest devil of them all; and Thomas--"

Then she burst out crying again.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was an hour before they could get the full tale out of her. They took
her upstairs and made her sit down, for already a couple of faces peeped
from the buttery, and the servants would have gathered in another five
minutes; and together they forced her to eat and drink something, for
she had not tasted food since her arrival at the inn yesterday; and so,
little by little, they drew the story out.

Mr. Thomas and his wife were actually on their way from Norbury when the
arrest had been made. Mr. Thomas had intended to pass a couple of nights
in Derby on various matters of the estates; and although, his wife said,
he had been somewhat silent and quiet since the warning had come to him
from Mr. Audrey, even he had thought it no danger to ride through Derby
on his way to Padley. He had sent a servant ahead to order rooms at the
inn for those two nights, and it was through that, it appeared, that the
news of his coming had reached the ears of the authorities. However that
was, and whether the stroke had been actually determined upon long
before, or had been suddenly decided upon at the news of his coming, it
fell out that, as the husband and wife were actually within sight of
Derby, on turning a corner they had found themselves surrounded by men
on horses, plainly gathered there for the purpose, with a magistrate in
the midst. Their names had been demanded, and, upon Mr. Thomas'
hesitation, they had been told that their names were well known, and a
warrant was produced, on a charge of recusancy and of aiding her Grace's
enemies, drawn out against Thomas FitzHerbert, and he had been placed
under arrest. Further, Mrs. FitzHerbert had been told she must not enter
the town with the party, but must go either before them or after them,
which she pleased. She had chosen to go first, and had been at the
windows of the inn in time to see her husband go by. There had been no
confusion, she said; the townsfolk appeared to know nothing of what was
happening until Mr. Thomas was safely lodged in the ward.

Then she burst out crying again, lamenting the horrible state of the
prison, as it had been described to her, and demanding to know where
God's justice was in allowing His faithful servants to be so tormented
and harried....

       *       *       *       *       *

Marjorie watched her closely. She had met her once at Babington House,
when she was still Elizabeth Westley, but had thought little or nothing
of her since. She was a pale little creature, fair-haired and timorous,
and had now a hunted look of misery in her eyes that was very piteous to
see. It was plain they had done right in coming: this woman would be of
little service to her husband.

Then when Alice had said a word or two, Marjorie began her questions.

"Tell me," she said gently, "had you no warning of this?"

The girl shook her head.

"Not beyond that which came from yourself," she said; "and we never
thought--"

"Hath Mr. Thomas had any priests with him lately?"

"We have not had one at Norbury for the last six months, whilst we were
there, at least. My husband said it was better not, and that there was a
plenty of places for them to go to."

"And you have not heard mass during that time?"

The girl looked at her with tear-stained eyes.

"No," she said. "But why do you ask that? My husband says--"

"And when was the first you heard of Topcliffe? And what have you heard
of him?"

The other's face fell into lines of misery.

"I have heard he is the greatest devil her Grace uses. He hath authority
to question priests and others in his own house. He hath a rack there
that he boasts makes all others as Christmas toys. My husband--"

Marjorie patted her arm gently.

"There! there!" she said kindly. "Your husband is not in Topcliffe's
house. There will be no question of that. He is here in his own county,
and--"

"But that will not save him!" cried the girl. "Why--"

"Tell me" interrupted Marjorie, "was Topcliffe with the men that took
Mr. Thomas?"

The other shook her head.

"No; I heard he was not. He was come from London yesterday morning. That
was the first I heard of him."

Then Alice began again to soothe her gently, to tell her that her
husband was in no great danger as yet, that he was well known for his
loyalty, and to do her best to answer the girl's pitiful questions. And
Marjorie sat back and considered.

Marjorie had a remarkable knowledge of the methods of the Government,
gathered from the almost endless stories she had heard from travelling
priests and others; it was her business, too, to know them. Two or three
things, therefore, if the girl's account was correct, were plain. First,
that this was a concerted plan, and not a mere chance arrest. Mr.
Audrey's message to her showed so much, and the circumstances of
Topcliffe's arrival confirmed it. Next, it must be more than a simple
blow struck at one man, Mr. Thomas FitzHerbert: Topcliffe would not
have come down from London at all unless it were a larger quarry than
Mr. Thomas that was aimed at. Thirdly, and in conclusion, it would not
be easy therefore to get Mr. Thomas released again. There remained a
number of questions which she had as yet no means of answering. Was it
because Mr. Thomas was heir to the enormous FitzHerbert estates in this
county and elsewhere, that he was struck at? Or was it the beginning,
merely, of a general assault on Derbyshire, such as had taken place
before she was born? Or was it that Mr. Thomas' apparent coolness
towards the Faith (for that was evident by his not having heard mass for
so long, and by his refusal to entertain priests just at present)--was
it that lack of zeal on his part, which would, of course, be known to
the army of informers scattered now throughout England, which had marked
him out as the bird to be flown at? It would be, indeed, a blow to the
Catholic gentry of the county, if any of the FitzHerberts should fall!

She stood up presently, grave with her thoughts. Mistress Alice glanced
up.

"I am going out for a little," said Marjorie.

"But--"

"May two of your men follow me at a little distance? But I shall be safe
enough. I am going to a friend's house."

       *       *       *       *       *

Marjorie knew Derby well enough from the old days when she rode in
sometimes with her father and slept at Mr. Biddell's; and, above all,
she knew all that Derby had once been. In one place, outside the town,
was St. Mary-in-Pratis, where the Benedictine nuns had lived; St.
Leonard's had had a hospital for lepers; St. Helen's had had the
Augustinian hospital for poor brothers and sisters; St. Alkmund's had
held a relic of its patron saint; all this she knew by heart; and it was
bitter now to be here on such business. But she went briskly out from
the hall; and ten minutes later she was knocking at the door of a little
attorney, the old partner of her father's, whose house faced the
Guildhall across the little market-square. It was opened by an old woman
who smiled at the sight of her.

"Eh! come in, mistress. The master saw you ride into town. He is in the
upstairs parlour, with Mr. Bassett."

The girl nodded to her bodyguard, and followed the old woman in. She
bowed as she passed the lawyer's confidential clerk and servant, Mr.
George Beaton, in the passage--a big man, with whom she had had
communications more than once on Popish affairs.

Mr. John Biddell, like Marjorie's own father and his partner, was one of
those quiet folks who live through storms without attracting attention
from the elements, yet without the sacrifice of principle. He was a
Catholic, and never pretended to be anything else; but he was so little
and so harmless that no man ever troubled him. He pleaded before the
magistrates unobtrusively and deftly; and would have appeared before her
Grace herself or the Lord of Hell with the same timid and respectful
air, in his iron-rimmed spectacles, his speckless dark suit, and his
little black cap drawn down to his ears. He had communicated with
Marjorie again and again in the last two or three years on the subject
of wandering priests, calling them "gentlemen," with the greatest care,
and allowing no indiscreet word ever to appear in his letters, He
remembered King Harry, whom he had seen once in a visit of his to
London; he had assisted the legal authorities considerably in the
restoration under Queen Mary; and he had soundlessly acquiesced in the
changes again under Elizabeth--so far, at least, as mere law was
concerned.

Mr. William Bassett was a very different man. First he was the
brother-in-law of Sir Thomas FitzHerbert himself; and was entirely of
the proper spirit to mate with that fearless family. He had considerable
estates, both at Langley and Blore, in both of which places he
cheerfully evaded the new laws, maintaining and helping priests in all
directions; a man, in fact, of an ardent and boisterous faith which he
extended (so the report ran) even to magic and astrology; a man of
means, too, in spite of his frequent fines for recusancy, and aged about
fifty years old at this time, with a high colour in his face and bright,
merry eyes. Marjorie had spoken with him once or twice only.

These two men, then, first turned round in their chairs, and then stood
up to salute Marjorie, as she came into the upstairs parlour. It was a
somewhat dark room, panelled where there was space for it between the
books, and with two windows looking out on to the square.

"I thought we should see you soon," said the attorney. "We saw you come,
mistress; and the fellows that cried out on you."

"They had their deserts," said Marjorie, smiling.

Mr. Bassett laughed aloud.

"Indeed they did," he said in his deep, pleasant voice. "There were two
of them with bloody noses before all was done.... You have come for the
news, I suppose, mistress?"

He eyed her genially and approvingly. He had heard a great deal of this
young lady in the last three or four years; and wished there were more
of her kind.

"That is what I have come for," said Marjorie. "We have Mrs. Thomas over
at Babington House."

"She'll be of no great service to her husband," said the other. "She
cries and laments too much. Now--"

He stopped himself from paying his compliments. It seemed to him that
this woman, with her fearless, resolute face, would do very well without
them.

Then he set himself to relate the tale.

It seemed that little Mrs. Thomas had given a true enough report. It was
true that Topcliffe had arrived from London on the morning of the
arrest; and Mistress Manners was perfectly right in her opinion that
this signified a good deal. But, it seemed to Mr. Bassett, the Council
had made a great mistake in striking at the FitzHerberts. The quarry was
too strong, he said, for such birds as the Government used--too strong
and too many. For, first, no FitzHerbert had ever yet yielded in his
allegiance either to the Church or to the Queen's Grace; and it was not
likely that Mr. Thomas would begin: and, next, if one yielded (_suadente
diabolo_, and _Deus avertat_!) a dozen more would spring up. But the
position was serious for all that, said Mr. Bassett (and Mr. Biddell
nodded assent), for who would deal with the estates and make suitable
arrangements if the heir, who already largely controlled them, were laid
by the heels? But that the largeness of the undertaking was recognised
by the Council, was plain enough, in that no less a man than Topcliffe
(Mr. Bassett spat on the floor as he named him), Topcliffe, "the devil
possessed by worse devils," was sent down to take charge of the matter.

Marjorie listened carefully.

"You have no fear for yourself, sir?" she asked presently, as the man
sat back in his chair.

Mr. Bassett smiled broadly, showing his strong white teeth between the
iron-grey hair that fringed his lips.

"No; I have no fear," he said. "I have a score of my men quartered in
the town."

"And the trial? When will that--"

"The trial! Why, I shall praise God if the trial falls this year. They
will harry him before magistrates, no doubt; and they will squeeze him
in private. But the trial!... Why, they have not a word of treason
against him; and that is what they are after, no doubt."

"Treason?"

"Why, surely. That is what they seek to fasten upon us all. It would not
sound well that Christian should shed Christian's blood for
Christianity; but that her Grace should sorrowfully arraign her subjects
whom she loves and cossets so much, for treason--Why, that is as sound a
cause as any in the law-books!"

He smiled in a manner that was almost a snarl, and his eyes grew narrow
with ironic merriment.

"And Mr. Thomas--" began Marjorie hesitatingly.

He whisked his glance on her like lightning.

"Mr. Thomas will laugh at them all," he cried. "He is as staunch as any
of his blood. I know he has been careful of late; but, then, you must
remember how all the estates hang on him. But when he has his back to
the wall--or on the rack for that matter--he will be as stiff as iron.
They will have their work to bend him by a hair's breadth."

Marjorie drew a breath of relief. She did not question Mr. Bassett's
judgment. But she had had an uneasy discomfort in her heart till he had
spoken so plainly.

"Well, sir," she said, "that is what I chiefly came for. I wished to
know if I could do aught for Mr. Thomas or his wife; and--"

"You can do a great deal for his wife," said he. "You can keep her quiet
and comfort her. She needs it, poor soul! I have told her for her
comfort that we shall have Thomas out again in a month--God forgive me
for the lie!"

Marjorie stood up; and the men rose with her.

"Why, what is that?" she said; and went swiftly to the window; for the
noise of the crying of the cheeses and the murmur of voices had ceased
all on a sudden.

Straight opposite the window where she stood was the tiled flight of
stairs that ran up from the market-place to the first floor of the
Guildhall, a great building where the business of the town was largely
done, and where the magistrates sat when there was need; and a lane that
was clear of booths and carts had been left leading from that door
straight across the square, so that she could see the two little
brobonets--or iron guns--that guarded the door on either side. It was up
this lane that she looked, and down it that there advanced a little
procession, the very sight of which, it seemed, had stricken the square
to silence. Already the crowd was dividing from end to end, ranging
itself on either side--farmers' men shambled out of the way and turned
to see; women clambered on the carts holding up their children to see,
and from across the square came country-folk running, that they too
might see. The steps of the Cross were already crowded with sightseers.

Yet, to outward sight, the little procession was ordinary enough. First
came three or four of the town-guard in livery, carrying their staves;
then half a dozen sturdy fellows; then a couple of dignified
gentlemen--one of them she knew: Mr. Roger Columbell, magistrate of the
town--and then, walking all alone, the figure of a man, tall and thin, a
little rustily, but very cleanly dressed in a dark suit, who carried his
head stooping forward as if he were looking on the ground for something,
or as if he deprecated so much notice.

Marjorie saw no more than this clearly. She did not notice the group of
men that followed in case protection were needed for the agent of the
Council, nor the crowd that swirled behind. For, as the solitary figure
came beneath the windows she recognised the man whom she had seen once
in the Tower of London.

"God smite the man!" growled a voice in her ear. "That is Topcliffe,
going to the prison, I daresay."

And as Marjorie turned her pale face back, she saw the face of kindly
Mr. Bassett, suffused and convulsed with fury.



CHAPTER IX


I

"Marjorie! Marjorie! Wake up! the order hath come. It is for to-night."

Very slowly Marjorie rose out of the glimmering depths of sleep into
which she had fallen on the hot August afternoon, sunk down upon the arm
of the great chair that stood by the parlour window, and saw Mrs. Thomas
radiant before her, waving a scrap of paper in her hand.

Nearly two months were passed; and as yet no opportunity had been given
to the prisoner's wife to visit him, and during that time it had been
impossible to go back into the hills and leave the girl alone. The heat
of the summer had been stifling, down here in the valley; a huge plague
of grasshoppers had ravaged all England; and there were times when even
in the grass-country outside Derby, their chirping had become
intolerable. The heat, and the necessary seclusion, and the anxiety had
told cruelly upon the country girl; Marjorie's face had perceptibly
thinned; her eyes had shadows above and beneath; yet she knew she must
not go; since the young wife had attached herself to her altogether,
finding Alice (she said) too dull for her spirits. Mr. Bassett was gone
again. There was no word of a trial; although there had been a hearing
or two before the magistrates; and it was known that Topcliffe
continually visited the prison.

One piece of news only had there been to comfort her during this time,
and that, that Mr. John's prediction had been fulfilled with regard to
the captured priest, Mr. Garlick, who, back from Rheims only a few
months, had been deported from England, since it was his first offence,
But he would soon be over again, no doubt, and next time with death as
the stake in the game.

       *       *       *       *       *

Marjorie drew a long breath, and passed her hands over her forehead.

"The order?" she said. "What order?"

The girl explained, torrentially. A man had come just now from the
Guildhall; he had asked for Mrs. FitzHerbert; she had gone down into the
hall to see him; and all the rest of the useless details. But the effect
was that leave had been given at last to visit the prisoner--for two
persons, of which Mrs. FitzHerbert must be one; and that they must
present the order to the gaoler before seven o'clock, when they would be
admitted. She looked--such was the constitution of her mind--as happy as
if it were an order for his release. Marjorie drove away the last shreds
of sleep; and kissed her.

"That is very good news," she said. "Now we will begin to do something."

       *       *       *       *       *

The sun had sunk so far, when they set out at last, as to throw the
whole of the square into golden shade; and, in the narrow, overhung
Friar's Gate, where the windows of the upper stories were so near that a
man might shake hands with his friend on the other side, the twilight
had already begun. They had determined to walk, in order less to attract
attention, in spite of the filth through which they knew they must pass,
along the couple of hundred yards that separated them from the prison.
For every housewife emptied her slops out of doors, and swept her house
(when she did so at all) into the same place: now and again the heaps
would be pushed together and removed, but for the most part they lay
there, bones and rags and rotten fruit,--dusty in one spot, so that all
blew about--dampened in others where a pail or two had been poured
forth. The heat, too, was stifling, cast out again towards evening from
the roofs and walls that had drunk it in all day from the burning skies.

As they stood before the door at last and waited, after beating the
great iron knocker on the iron plate, a kind of despair came down on
Marjorie. They had advanced just so far in two months as to be allowed
to speak with the prisoner; and, from her talkings with Mr. Biddell, had
understood how little that was. Indeed, he had hinted to her plainly
enough that even in this it might be that they were no more than pawns
in the enemy's hand; and that, under a show of mercy, it was often
allowed for a prisoner's friends to have free access to him in order to
shake his resolution. If there was any cause for congratulation then, it
lay solely in the thought that other means had so far failed. One thing
at least they knew, for their comfort, that there had been no talk of
torture....

It was a full couple of minutes before the door opened to show them a
thin, brown-faced man, with his sleeves rolled up, dressed over his
shirt and hose in a kind of leathern apron. He nodded as he saw the
ladies, with an air of respect, however, and stood aside to let them
come in. Then, with the same civility, he asked for the order, and read
it, holding it up to the light that came through the little barred
window over the door.

It was an unspeakably dreary little entrance passage in which they
stood, wainscoted solidly from floor to ceiling with wood that looked
damp and black from age; the ceiling itself was indistinguishable in the
twilight; the floor seemed composed of packed earth, three or four doors
showed in the woodwork; that opposite to the one by which they had
entered stood slightly ajar, and a smoky light shone from beyond it.
The air was heavy and hot and damp, and smelled of mildew.

The man gave the order back when he had read it, made a little gesture
that resembled a bow, and led the way straight forward.

They found themselves, when they had passed through the half-open door,
in another passage running at right-angles to the entrance, with
windows, heavily barred, so as to exclude all but the faintest twilight,
even though the sun was not yet set; there appeared to be foliage of
some kind, too, pressing against them from outside, as if a little
central yard lay there; and the light, by which alone they could see
their way along the uneven earth floor, came from a flambeau which hung
by the door, evidently put there just now by the man who had opened to
them; he led them down this passage to the left, down a couple of steps;
unlocked another door of enormous weight and thickness and closed this
behind them. They found themselves in complete darkness.

"I'll be with you in a moment, mistress," said his voice; and they heard
his steps go on into the dark and cease.

Marjorie stood passive; she could feel the girl's hands clasp her arm,
and could hear her breath come like sobs. But before she could speak, a
light shone somewhere on the roof; and almost immediately the man came
back carrying another flambeau. He called to them civilly; they
followed. Marjorie once trod on some soft, damp thing that crackled
beneath her foot. They groped round one more corner; waited, while they
heard a key turning in a lock. Then the man stood aside, and they went
past into the room. A figure was standing there; but for the first
moment they could see no more. Great shadows fled this way and that as
the gaoler hung up the flambeau. Then the door closed again behind
them; and Elizabeth flung herself into her husband's arms.


II

When Marjorie could see him, as at last he put his wife into the single
chair that stood in the cell and gave her the stool, himself sitting
upon the table, she was shocked by the change in his face. It was true
that she had only the wavering light of the flambeau to see him by (for
the single barred window was no more than a pale glimmer on the wall),
yet even that shadowy illumination could not account for his paleness
and his fallen face. He was dressed miserably, too; his clothes were
disordered and rusty-looking; and his features looked out, at once
pinched and elongated. He blinked a little from time to time; his lips
twitched beneath his ill-cut moustache and beard; and little spasms
passed, as he talked, across his whole face. It was pitiful to see him;
and yet more pitiful to hear him talk; for he assumed a kind of
courtesy, mixed with bitterness. Now and again he fell silent, glancing
with a swift and furtive movement of his eyes from one to the other of
his visitors and back again. He attempted to apologise for the
miserableness of the surroundings in which he received them--saying that
her Grace his hostess could not be everywhere at once; and that her
guests must do the best that they could. And all this was mixed with
sudden wails from his wife, sudden graspings of his hands by hers. It
all seemed to the quiet girl, who sat ill-at-ease on the little
three-legged stool, that this was not the way to meet adversity. Then
she drove down her criticism; and told herself that she ought rather to
admire one of Christ's confessors.

"And you bring me no hope, then, Mistress Manners?" he said presently
(for she had told him that there was no talk yet of any formal
trial)--"no hope that I may meet my accusers face to face? I had thought
perhaps--"

He lifted his eyes swiftly to hers, and dropped them again.

She shook her head.

"And yet that is all that I ask now--only to meet my accusers. They can
prove nothing against me--except, indeed, my recusancy; and that they
have known this long time back. They can prove nothing as to the
harbouring of any priests--not within the last year, at any rate, for I
have not done so. It seemed to me--"

He stopped again, and passed his shaking hand over his mouth, eyeing the
two women with momentary glances, and then looking down once more.

"Yes?" said Marjorie.

He slipped off from the table, and began to move about restlessly.

"I have done nothing--nothing at all," he said. "Indeed, I thought--"
And once more he was silent.

       *       *       *       *       *

He began to talk presently of the Derbyshire hills of Padley and of
Norbury. He asked his wife of news from home, and she gave it him,
interrupting herself with laments. Yet all the while his eyes strayed to
Marjorie as if there was something he would ask of her, but could not.
He seemed completely unnerved, and for the first time in her life the
girl began to understand something of what gaol-life must signify. She
had heard of death and the painful Question; and she had perceived
something of the heroism that was needed to meet them; yet she had never
before imagined what that life of confinement might be, until she had
watched this man, whom she had known in the world as a curt and almost
masterful gentleman, careful of his dress, particular of the deference
that was due to him, now become this worn prisoner, careless of his
appearance, who stroked his mouth continually, once or twice gnawing his
nails, who paced about in this abominable hole, where a tumbled heap of
straw and blankets represented a bed, and a rickety table with a chair
and a stool his sole furniture. It seemed as if a husk had been stripped
from him, and a shrinking creature had come out of it which at present
she could not recognise.

Then he suddenly wheeled on her, and for the first time some kind of
forcefulness appeared in his manner.

"And my Uncle Bassett?" he cried abruptly. "What is he doing all this
while?"

Marjorie said that Mr. Bassett had been most active on his behalf with
the lawyers, but, for the present, was gone back again to his estates.
Mr. Thomas snorted impatiently.

"Yes, he is gone back again," he cried, "and he leaves me to rot here!
He thinks that I can bear it for ever, it seems!"

"Mr. Bassett has done his utmost, sir," said Marjorie. "He exposed
himself here daily."

"Yes, with twenty fellows to guard him, I suppose. I know my Uncle
Bassett's ways.... Tell me, if you please, how matters stand."

Marjorie explained again. There was nothing in the world to be done
until the order came for his trial--or, rather, everything had been done
already. His lawyers were to rely exactly on the defence that had been
spoken of just now; it was to be shown that the prisoner had harboured
no priests; and the witnesses had already been spoken with--men from
Norbury and Padley, who would swear that to their certain knowledge no
priest had been received by Mr. FitzHerbert at least during the previous
year or eighteen months. There was, therefore, no kind of reason why
Mr. Bassett or Mr. John FitzHerbert should remain any longer in Derby.
Mr. John had been there, but had gone again, under advice from the
lawyers; but he was in constant communication with Mr. Biddell, who had
all the papers ready and the names of the witnesses, and had made more
than one application already for the trial to come on.

"And why has neither my father nor my Uncle Bassett come to see me?"
snapped the man.

"They have tried again and again, sir," said Marjorie. "But permission
was refused. They will no doubt try again, now that Mrs. FitzHerbert has
been admitted."

He paced up and down again for a few steps without speaking. Then again
he turned on her, and she could see his face working uncontrolledly.

"And they will enjoy the estates, they think, while I rot here!"

"Oh, my Thomas!" moaned his wife, reaching out to him. But he paid no
attention to her.

"While I rot here!" he cried again. "But I will not! I tell you I will
not!"

"Yes, sir?" said Marjorie gently, suddenly aware that her heart had
begun to beat swiftly.

He glanced at her, and his face changed a little.

"I will not," he murmured. "I must break out of my prison. Only their
accursed--"

Again he interrupted himself, biting sharply on his lip.

       *       *       *       *       *

For an instant the girl had thought that all her old distrust of him was
justified, and that he contemplated in some way the making of terms that
would be disgraceful to a Catholic. But what terms could these be? He
was a FitzHerbert; there was no evading his own blood; and he was the
victim chosen by the Council to answer for the rest. Nothing, then,
except the denial of his faith--a formal and deliberate apostasy--could
serve him; and to think that of the nephew of old Sir Thomas, and the
son of John, was inconceivable. There seemed no way out; the torment of
this prison must be borne. She only wished he could have borne it more
manfully.

It seemed, as she watched him, that some other train of thought had
fastened upon him. His wife had begun again her lamentations, bewailing
his cell and his clothes, and his loss of liberty, asking him whether he
were not ill, whether he had food enough to eat; and he hardly answered
her or glanced at her, except once when he remembered to tell her that a
good gift to the gaoler would mean a little better food, and perhaps
more light for himself. And then he resumed his pacing; and, three or
four times as he turned, the girl caught his eyes fixed on hers for one
instant. She wondered what was in his mind to say.

Even as she wondered there came a single loud rap upon the door, and
then she heard the key turning. He wheeled round, and seemed to come to
a determination.

"My dearest," he said to his wife, "here is the gaoler come to turn you
out again. I will ask him--" He broke off as the man stepped in.

"Mr. Gaoler," he said, "my wife would speak alone with you a moment."
(He nodded and winked at his wife, as if to tell her that this was the
time to give him the money.)

"Will you leave Mistress Manners here for a minute or two while my wife
speaks with you in the passage?"

Then Marjorie understood that she had been right.

The man who held the keys nodded without speaking.

"Then, my dearest wife," said Thomas, embracing her all of a sudden,
and simultaneously drawing her towards the door, "we will leave you to
speak with the man. He will come back for Mistress Manners directly."

"Oh! my Thomas!" wailed the girl, clinging to him.

"There, there, my dearest. And you will come and see me again as soon as
you can get the order."

       *       *       *       *       *

The instant the door was closed he came up to Marjorie and his face
looked ghastly.

"Mistress Manners," he said, "I dare not speak to my wife. But ... but,
for Jesu's sake, get me out of here. I ... I cannot bear it....
Topcliffe comes to see me every day.... He ... he speaks to me
continually of--O Christ! Christ! I cannot bear it!"

He dropped suddenly on to his knees by the table and hid his face.


III

At Babington House Marjorie slept, as was often the custom, in the same
room with her maid--a large, low room, hung all round with painted
cloths above the low wainscoting.

On the night after the visit to the prison, Janet noticed that her
mistress was restless; and that while she would say nothing of what was
troubling her, and only bade her go to bed and to sleep, she herself
would not go to bed. At last, in sheer weariness, the maid slept.

She awakened later, at what time she did not know, and, in her
uneasiness, sat up and looked about her; and there, still before the
crucifix, where she had seen her before she slept, kneeled her mistress.
She cried out in a loud whisper:

"Come to bed, mistress; come to bed."

And, at the word, Marjorie started; then she rose, turned, and in the
twilight of the summer night began to prepare herself for bed, without
speaking. Far away across the roofs of Derby came the crowing of a cock
to greet the dawn.



CHAPTER X


I

It was a fortnight later that there came suddenly to Babington House old
Mr. Biddell himself. Up to the present he had been careful not to do so.
He appeared in the great hall an hour before dinner-time, as the tables
were being set, and sent a servant for Mistress Manners.

"Hark you!" he said; "you need not rouse the whole house. It is with
Mistress Manners alone that my business lies."

He broke off, as Mrs. FitzHerbert looked over the gallery.

"Mr. Biddell!" she cried.

He shook his head, but he seemed to speak with some difficulty.

"It is just a rumour," he said, "such as there hath been before. I beg
you--"

"That ... there will be no trial at all?"

"It is just a rumour," he repeated. "I did not even come to trouble you
with it. It is with Mistress Manners that--"

"I am coming down," cried Mrs. Thomas, and vanished from the gallery.

Mr. Biddell acted with decision. He whisked out again into the passage
from the court, and there ran straight into Marjorie, who was coming in
from the little enclosed garden at the back of the house.

"Quick!" he said. "Quick! Mrs. Thomas is coming, and I do not wish--"

She led the way without a word back into the court, along a few steps,
and up again to the house into a little back parlour that the steward
used when the house was full. It was unoccupied now, and looked out into
the garden whence she was just come. She locked the door when he had
entered, and came and sat down out of sight of any that might be
passing.

"Sit here," she said; and then: "Well?" she asked.

He looked at her gravely and sadly, shaking his head once or twice. Then
he drew out a paper or two from a little lawyer's valise that he
carried, and, as he did so, heard a hand try the door outside.

"That is Mrs. Thomas," whispered the girl. "She will not find us."

He waited till the steps moved away again. Then he began. He looked
anxious and dejected.

"I fear it is precisely as you thought," he said. "I have followed up
every rumour in the place. And the first thing that is certain is that
Topcliffe leaves Derby in two days from now. I had it as positive
information that his men have orders to prepare for it. The second thing
is that Topcliffe is greatly elated; and the third is that Mr.
FitzHerbert will be released as soon as Topcliffe is gone."

"You are sure this time, sir?"

He assented by a movement of his head.

"I dared not tell Mrs. Thomas just now. She would give me no peace. I
said it was but a rumour, and so it is; but it is a rumour that hath
truth behind it. He hath been moved, too, these three days back, to
another cell, and hath every comfort."

He shook his head again.

"But he hath made no promise--" began Marjorie breathlessly.

"It is exactly that which I am most afraid of," said the lawyer. "If he
had yielded, and, consented to go to church, it would have been in
every man's mouth by now. But he hath not, and I should fear it less if
he had. That's the very worst part of my news."

"I do not understand--"

Mr. Biddell tapped his papers on the table.

"If he were an open and confessed enemy, I should fear it less," he
repeated. "It is not that. But he must have given some promise to
Topcliffe that pleases the fellow more. And what can that be but that--"

Marjorie turned yet whiter. She sighed once as if to steady herself. She
could not speak, but she nodded.

"Yes, Mistress Manners," said the old man. "I make no doubt at all that
he hath promised to assist him against them all--against Mr. John his
father, it may be, or Mr. Bassett, or God knows whom! And yet still
feigning to be true! And that is not all."

She looked at him. She could not conceive worse than this, if indeed it
were true.

"And do you think," he continued, "that Mr. Topcliffe will do all this
for love, or rather, for mere malice? I have heard more of the fellow
since he hath been in Derby than in all my life before; and, I tell you,
he is for feathering his own nest if he can." He stopped.

"Mistress, did you know that he had been out to Padley three or four
times since he came to Derby?... Well, I tell you now that he has. Mr.
John was away, praise God; but the fellow went all round the place and
greatly admired it."

"He went out to see what he could find?" asked the girl, still
whispering.

The other shook his head.

"No, mistress; he searched nothing. I had it all from one of his
fellows, through one of mine. He searched nothing; he sat a great while
in the garden, and ate some of the fruit; he went through the hall and
the rooms, and admired all that was to be seen there. He went up into
the chapel-room, too, though there was nothing there to tell him what it
was; and he talked a great while to one of the men about the farms, and
the grazing, and such-like, but he meddled with nothing." (The old man's
face suddenly wrinkled into fury.) "The devil went through it all like
that, and admired it; and he came out to it again two or three times and
did the like."

He stopped to examine the notes he had made, and Marjorie sat still,
staring on him.

It was worse than anything she could have conceived possible. That a
FitzHerbert should apostatise was incredible enough; but that one should
sell his family--It was impossible.

"Mr. Biddell," she whispered piteously, "it cannot be. It is some--"

He shook his head suddenly and fiercely.

"Mistress Manners, it is as plain as daylight to me. Do you think I
could believe it without proof? I tell you I have lain awake all last
night, fitting matters one into the other. I did not hear about Padley
till last night, and it gave me all that I needed. I tell you Topcliffe
hath cast his foul eyes on Padley and coveted it; and he hath demanded
it as a price for Mr. Thomas' liberty. I do not know what else he hath
promised, but I will stake my fortune that Padley is part of it. That is
why he is so elated. He hath been here nearly this three months back; he
hath visited Mr. FitzHerbert nigh every day; he hath cajoled him, he
hath threatened him; he hath worn out his spirit by the gaol and the
stinking food and the loneliness; and he hath prevailed, as he hath
prevailed with many another. And the end of it all is that Mr.
FitzHerbert hath yielded--yet not openly. Maybe that is part of the
bargain upon the other side, that he should keep his name before the
world. And on this side he hath promised Padley, if that he may but keep
the rest of the estates, and have his liberty. I tell you that alone
cuts all the knots of this tangle.... Can you cut them in any other
manner?"

       *       *       *       *       *

There was a long silence. From the direction of the kitchen came the
sound of cheerful voices, and the clatter of lids, and from the walled
garden outside the chatter of birds....

At last the girl spoke.

"I cannot believe it without evidence," she said. "It may be so. God
knows! But I do not.... Mr. Biddell?"

"Well, mistress?"

The lawyer's head was sunk on his breast; he spoke listlessly.

"He will have given some writing to Mr. Topcliffe, will he not? if this
be true. Mr. Topcliffe is not the man--"

The old man lifted his head sharply; then he nodded.

"That is the shrewd truth, mistress. Mr. Topcliffe will not trust to
another's honour; he hath none of his own!"

"Well," said Marjorie, "if all this be true, Mr. Topcliffe will already
have that writing in his possession."

She paused.

"Eh?" said the lawyer.

They looked at one another again in silence. It would have seemed to
another that the two minds talked swiftly and wordlessly together, the
trained thought of the lawyer and the quick wit of the woman; for when
the man spoke again, it was as if they had spoken at length.

"But we must not destroy the paper," he said, "or the fat will be in
the fire. We must not let Mr. FitzHerbert know that he is found out."

"No," said the girl. "But to get a view of it.... And a copy of it, to
send to his family."

Again the two looked each at the other in silence--as if they were
equals--the old man and the girl.


II

It was the last night before the Londoners were to return.

They had lived royally these last three months. The agent of the Council
had had a couple of the best rooms in the inn that looked on to the
market-square, where he entertained his friends, and now and then a
magistrate or two. Even Mr. Audrey, of Matstead, had come to him once
there, with another, but had refused to stay to supper, and had ridden
away again alone.

Downstairs, too, his men had fared very well indeed. They knew how to
make themselves respected, for they carried arms always now, since the
unfortunate affair a day after the arrival, when two of them had been
gravely battered about by two rustic servants, who, they learned, were
members of a Popish household in the town. But all the provincial
fellows were not like this. There was a big man, half clerk and half
man-servant to a poor little lawyer, who lived across the square--a man
of no wit indeed, but, at any rate, one of means and of generosity, too,
as they had lately found out--means and generosity, they understood,
that were made possible by the unknowing assistance of his master. In a
word it was believed among Mr. Topcliffe's men that all the refreshment
which they had lately enjoyed, beyond that provided by their master, was
at old Mr. Biddell's expense, though he did not know it, and that
George Beaton, fool though he was, was a cleverer man than his employer.
Lately, too, they had come to learn, that although George Beaton was
half clerk, half man-servant, to a Papist, he was yet at heart as stout
a Protestant as themselves, though he dared not declare it for fear of
losing his place.

On this last night they made very merry indeed, and once or twice the
landlord pushed his head through the doorway. The baggage was packed,
and all was in readiness for a start soon after dawn.

There came a time when George Beaton said that he was stifling with the
heat; and, indeed, in this low-ceilinged room after supper, with the
little windows looking on to the court, the heat was surprising. The men
sat in their shirts and trunks. So that it was as natural as possible
that George should rise from his place and sit down again close to the
door where the cool air from the passage came in; and from there, once
more, he led the talk, in his character of rustic and open-handed boor;
he even beat the sullen man who was next him genially over the head to
make him give more room, and then he proposed a toast to Mr. Topcliffe.

It was about half an hour later, when George was becoming a little
anxious, that he drew out at last a statement that Mr. Topcliffe had a
great valise upstairs, full of papers that had to do with his law
business. (He had tried for this piece of information last night and the
night before, but had failed to obtain it.) Ten minutes later again,
then, when the talk had moved to affairs of the journey, and the valise
had been forgotten, it was an entirely unsuspicious circumstance that
George and the man that sat next him should slip out to take the air in
the stable-court. The Londoner was so fuddled with drink as to think
that he had gone out at his own deliberate wish; and there, in the
fresh air, the inevitable result followed; his head swam, and he leaned
on big George for support. And here, by the one stroke of luck that
visited poor George this evening, it fell that he was just in time to
see Mr. Topcliffe himself pass the archway in the direction of Friar's
Gate, in company with a magistrate, who had supped with him upstairs.

Up to this point George had moved blindly, step by step. He had had his
instructions from his master, yet all that he had been able to determine
was the general plan to find out where the papers were kept, to remain
in the inn till the last possible moment, and to watch for any chance
that might open to him. Truly, he had no more than that, except, indeed,
a vague idea that it might be necessary to bribe one of the men to rob
his master. Yet there was everything against this, and it was, indeed, a
last resort. It seemed now, however, that another way was open. It was
exceedingly probable that Mr. Topcliffe was off for his last visit to
the prisoner, and, since a magistrate was with him, it was exceedingly
improbable that he would take the paper with him. It was not the kind of
paper--if, indeed, it existed at all--that more persons would be allowed
to see than were parties to the very discreditable affair.

And now George spoke earnestly and convincingly. He desired to see the
baggage of so great a man as Mr. Topcliffe; he had heard so much of him.
His friend was a good fellow who trusted him (here George embraced him
warmly). Surely such a little thing would be allowed as for him, George,
to step in and view Mr. Topcliffe's baggage, while the faithful servant
kept watch in the passage! Perhaps another glass of ale--


III

"Yes, sir," said George an hour later, still a little flushed with the
amount of drink he had been forced to consume. "I had some trouble to
get it. But I think this is what your honour wanted."

He began to search in his deep breast-pocket.

"Tell me," said Mr. Biddell.

"I got the fellow to watch in the passage, sir; him that I had made
drunk, while I was inside. There were great bundles of papers in the
valise.... No, sir, it was strapped up only.... The most of the papers
were docketed very legally, sir; so I did not have to search long. There
were three or four papers in a little packet by themselves; besides a
great packet that was endorsed with Mr. FitzHerbert's name, as well as
Mr. Topcliffe's and my lord Shrewsbury's; and I think I should not have
had time to look that through. But, by God's mercy, it was one of the
three or four by themselves."

He had the paper in his hand by now. The lawyer made a movement to take
it. Then he restrained himself.

"Tell me, first," he said.

"Well, sir," said George, with a pardonable satisfaction in spinning the
matter out, "one was all covered with notes, and was headed 'Padley.' I
read that through, sir. It had to do with the buildings and the acres,
and so forth. The second paper I could make nothing out of; it was in
cypher, I think. The third paper was the same; and the fourth, sir, was
that which I have here."

The lawyer started.

"But I told you--"

"Yes, sir; I should have said that this is the copy--or, at least, an
abstract. I made the abstract by the window, sir, crouching down so that
none should see me. Then I put all back as before, and came out again;
the fellow was fast asleep against the door."

"And Topcliffe--"

"Mr. Topcliffe, sir, returned half an hour afterwards in company again
with Mr. Hamilton. I waited a few minutes to see that all was well, and
then I came to you, sir."

There was silence in the little room for a moment. It was the small back
office of Mr. Biddell, where he did his more intimate business, looking
out on to a paved court. The town was for the most part asleep, and
hardly a sound came through the closed windows.

Then the lawyer turned and put out his hand for the paper without a
word. He nodded to George, who went out, bidding him good-night.

       *       *       *       *       *

Ten minutes later Mr. Biddell walked quietly through the passengers'
gate by the side of the great doors that led to the court beside
Babington House, closing it behind him. He knew that it would be left
unbarred till eleven o'clock that night. He passed on through the court,
past the house door, to the steward's office, where through heavy
curtains a light glimmered. As he put his hand on the door it opened,
and Marjorie was there. He said nothing, nor did she. Her face was pale
and steady, and there was a question in her eyes. For answer he put the
paper into her hands, and sat down while she read it. The stillness was
as deep here as in the office he had just left.


IV

It was a minute or two before either spoke. The girl read the paper
twice through, holding it close to the little hand-lamp that stood on
the table.

"You see, mistress," he said, "it is as bad as it can be."

She handed back the paper to him; he slid out his spectacles, put them
on, and held the writing to the light.

"Here are the points, you see ..." he went on. "I have annotated them in
the margin. First, that Thomas FitzHerbert be released from Derby gaol
within three days from the leaving of Topcliffe for London, and that he
be no more troubled, neither in fines nor imprisonment; next, that he
have secured to him, so far as the laws shall permit, all his
inheritance from Sir Thomas, from his father, and from any other
bequests whether of his blood-relations or no; thirdly, that Topcliffe
do 'persecute to the death'"--(the lawyer paused, cast a glance at the
downcast face of the girl) "'--do persecute to the death' his uncle Sir
Thomas, his father John, and William Bassett his kinsman; and, in return
for all this, Thomas FitzHerbert shall become her Grace's sworn
servant--that is, Mistress Manners, her Grace's spy, pursuivant,
informer and what-not--and that he shall grant and secure to Richard
Topcliffe, Esquire, and to his heirs for ever, 'the manors of Over
Padley and Nether Padley, on the Derwent, with six messuages, two
cottages, ten gardens, ten orchards, a thousand acres of land, five
hundred acres of meadow-land, six hundred acres of pasture, three
hundred acres of wood, a thousand acres of furze and heath, in Padley,
Grindleford and Lyham, in the parish of Hathersage, in consideration of
eight hundred marks of silver, to be paid to Thomas FitzHerbert,
Esquire, etc.'"

The lawyer put the paper down, and pushed his spectacles on to his
forehead.

"That is a legal instrument?" asked the girl quietly, still with
downcast eyes.

"It is not yet fully completed, but it is signed and witnessed. It can
become a legal instrument by Topcliffe's act; and it would pass
muster--"

"It is signed by Mr. Thomas?"

He nodded.

She was silent again. He began to tell her of how he had obtained it,
and of George's subtlety and good fortune; but she seemed to pay no
attention. She sat perfectly still. When he had ended, she spoke again.

"A sworn servant of her Grace--" she began.

"Topcliffe is a sworn servant of her Grace," he said bitterly; "you may
judge by that what Thomas FitzHerbert hath become."

"We shall have his hand, too, against us all, then?"

"Yes, mistress; and, what is worse, this paper I take it--" (he tapped
it) "this paper is to be a secret for the present. Mr. Thomas will still
feign himself to be a Catholic, with Catholics, until he comes into all
his inheritances. And, meantime, he will supply information to his new
masters."

"Why cannot we expose him?"

"Where is the proof? He will deny it."

She paused.

"We can at least tell his family. You will draw up the informations?"

"I will do so."

"And send them to Sir Thomas and Mr. Bassett?"

"I will do so."

"That may perhaps prevent his inheritance coming to him as quickly as he
thinks."

The lawyer's eyes gleamed.

"And what of Mrs. Thomas, mistress?"

Marjorie lifted her eyes.

"I do not think a great deal of Mrs. Thomas," she said. "She is honest,
I think; but she could not be trusted with a secret. But I will tell
Mistress Babington, and I will warn what priests I can."

"And if it leaks out?"

"It must leak out."

"And yourself? Can you meet Mr. Thomas again just now? He will be out in
three days."

Marjorie drew a long breath.

"No, sir; I cannot meet him. I should betray what I felt. I shall make
excuses to Mrs. Thomas, and go home to-morrow."



PART III



CHAPTER I


I

The "Red Bull" in Cheapside was all alight; a party had arrived there
from the coast not an hour ago, and the rooms that had been bespoken by
courier occupied the greater part of the second floor; the rest of the
house was already filled by another large company, spoken for by Mr.
Babington, although he himself was not one of them. And it seemed to the
shrewd landlord that these two parties were not wholly unknown to one
another, although, as a discreet man, he said nothing.

The latest arrived party was plainly come from the coast. They had
arrived a little after sunset on this stormy August day, splashed to the
shoulders by the summer-mud, and drenched to the skin by the heavy
thunder-showers. Their baggage had a battered and sea-going air about
it, and the landlord thought he would not be far away if he conjectured
Rheims as their starting-point; there were three gentlemen in the party,
and four servants apparently; but he knew better than to ask questions
or to overhear what seemed rather over-familiar conversation between the
men and their masters. There was only one, however, whom he remembered
to have lodged before, over five years ago. The name of this one was Mr.
Alban. But all this was not his business. His duty was to be hearty and
deferential and entirely stupid; and certainly this course of behaviour
brought him a quantity of guests.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Alban, about half-past nine o'clock, had finished unstrapping his
luggage. It was of the most innocent description, and contained nothing
that all the world might not see. He had made arrangements that articles
of another kind should come over from Rheims under the care of one of
the "servants," whose baggage would be less suspected. The distribution
would take place in a day or two. These articles comprised five sets of
altar vessels, five sets of mass-vestments, made of a stuff woven of all
the liturgical colours together, a dozen books, a box of medals, another
of _Agnus Deis_--little wax medallions stamped with the figure of a Lamb
supporting a banner--a bunch of beads, and a heavy little square package
of very thin altar-stones.

As he laid out the suit of clothes that he proposed to wear next day,
there was a rapping on his door.

"Mr. Babington is come--sir." (The last word was added as an obvious
afterthought, in case of listeners.)

Robin sprang up; the door was opened by his "servant," and Anthony came
in, smiling.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Anthony Babington had broadened and aged considerably during the
last five years. He was still youthful-looking, but he was plainly a man
and no longer a boy. And he presently said as much for his friend.

"You are a man, Robin," he said.--"Why, it slipped my mind!"

He knelt down promptly on the strip of carpet and kissed the palms of
the hands held out to him, as is the custom to do with newly-ordained
priests, and Robin murmured a blessing.

Then the two sat down again.

"And now for the news," said Robin.

Anthony's face grew grave.

"Yours first," he said.

So Robin told him. He had been ordained priest a month ago, at
Châlons-sur-Marne.... The college was as full as it could hold.... They
had had an unadventurous journey.

Anthony put a question or two, and was answered.

"And now," said Robin, "what of Derbyshire; and of the country; and of
my father? And is it true that Ballard is taken?"

Anthony threw an arm over the back of his chair, and tried to seem at
his ease.

"Well," he said, "Derbyshire is as it ever was. You heard of Thomas
FitzHerbert's defection?"

"Mistress Manners wrote to me of it, more than two years ago."

"Well, he does what he can: he comes and goes with his wife or without
her. But he comes no more to Padley. And he scarcely makes a feint even
before strangers of being a Catholic, though he has not declared
himself, nor gone to church, at any rate in his own county. Here in
London I have seen him more than once in Topcliffe's company. But I
think that every Catholic in the country knows of it by now. That is
Mistress Manners' doing. My sister says there has never been a woman
like her."

Robin's eyes twinkled.

"I always said so," he said. "But none would believe me. She has the wit
and courage of twenty men. What has she been doing?"

"What has she not done?" cried Anthony. "She keeps herself for the most
part in her house; and my sister spends a great deal of time with her;
but her men, who would die for her, I think, go everywhere; and half the
hog-herds and shepherds of the Peak are her sworn men. I have given your
Dick to her; he was mad to do what he could in that cause. So her men go
this way and that bearing her letters or her messages to priests who are
on their way through the county; and she gets news--God knows how!--of
what is a-stirring against us. She has saved Mr. Ludlam twice, and Mr.
Garlick once, as well as Mr. Simpson once, by getting the news to them
of the pursuivants' coming, and having them away into the Peak. And yet
with all this, she has never been laid by the heels."

"Have they been after her, then?" asked Robin eagerly.

"They have had a spy in her house twice to my knowledge, but never
openly; and never a shred of a priest's gown to be seen, though mass had
been said there that day. But they have never searched it by force. And
I think they do not truly suspect her at all."

"Did I not say so?" cried Robin. "And what of my father? He wrote to me
that he was to be made magistrate; and I have never written to him
since."

"He hath been made magistrate," said Anthony drily; "and he sits on the
bench with the rest of them."

"Then he is all of the same mind?"

"I know nothing of his mind. I have never spoken with him this six years
back. I know his acts only. His name was in the 'Bond of Association,'
too!"

"I have heard of that."

"Why, it is two years old now. Half the gentry of England have joined
it," said Anthony bitterly. "It is to persecute to the death any
pretender to the Crown other than our Eliza."

There was a pause. Robin understood the bitterness.

"And what of Mr. Ballard?" asked Robin.

"Yes; he is taken," said Anthony slowly, watching him. "He was taken a
week ago."

"Will they banish him, then?"

"I think they will banish him."

"Why, yes--it is the first time he hath been taken. And there is
nothing great against him?"

"I think there is not," said Anthony, still with that strange
deliberateness.

"Why do you look at me like that?"

Anthony stood up without answering. Then he began to pace about. As he
passed the door he looked to the bolt carefully. Then he turned again to
his friend.

"Robin," he said, "would you sooner know a truth that will make you
unhappy, or be ignorant of it?"

"Does it concern myself or my business?" asked Robin promptly.

"It concerns you and every priest and every Catholic in England. It is
what I have hinted to you before."

"Then I will hear it."

"It is as if I told it in confession?"

Robin paused.

"You may make it so," he said, "if you choose."

Anthony looked at him an instant. "Well," he said, "I will not make a
confession, because there is no use in that now--but--Well, listen!" he
said, and sat down.


II

When he ceased, Robin lifted his head. He was as white as a sheet.

"You have been refused absolution before for this?"

"I was refused absolution by two priests; but I was granted it by a
third."

"Let me see that I have the tale right.

"Yourself, with a number of others, have bound yourselves by an oath to
kill her Grace, and to set Mary on the throne. This has taken shape now
since the beginning of the summer. You yourself are now living in Mr.
Walsingham's house, in Seething Lane, under the patronage of her Grace,
and you show yourself freely at court. You have proceeded so far, under
fear of Mr. Ballard's arrest, as to provide one of your company with
clothes and necessaries that can enable him to go to court; and it was
your intention, as well as his, that he should take opportunity to kill
her Grace. But to-day only you have become persuaded that the old design
was the better; and you wish first to arrange matters with the Queen of
the Scots, so that when all is ready, you may be the more sure of a
rising when that her Grace is killed, and that the Duke of Parma may be
in readiness to bring an army into England. It is still your intention
to kill her Grace?"

"By God! it is!" said Anthony, between clenched teeth.

"Then I could not absolve you, even if you came to confession. You may
be absolved from your allegiance, as we all are; but you are not
absolved from charity and justice towards Elizabeth as a woman. I have
consulted theologians on the very point; and--"

Then Anthony sprang up.

"See here, Robin; we must talk this out." He flicked his fingers
sharply. "See--we will talk of it as two friends."

"You had better take back those words," said the priest gravely.

"Why?"

"It would be my duty to lay an information! I understood you spoke to me
as to a priest, though not in confession."

"You would!" blazed the other.

"I should do so in conscience," said the priest. "But you have not yet
told me as a friend, and--"

"You mean--"

"I mean that so long as you choose to speak to me of it, now and here,
it remains that I choose to regard it as _sub sigillo_ in effect. But
you must not come to me to-morrow, as if I knew it all in a plain way. I
do not. I know it as a priest only."

There was silence for a moment. Then Anthony stood up.

"I understand," he said. "But you would refuse me absolution in any
case?"

"I could not give you absolution so long as you intended to kill her
Grace."

Anthony made an impatient gesture.

"See here," he said. "Let me tell you the whole matter from the
beginning. Now listen."

He settled himself again in his chair, and began.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Robin," he said, "you remember when I spoke to you in the inn on the
way to Matstead; it must be seven or eight years gone now? Well, that
was when the beginning was. There was no design then, such as we have
to-day; but the general purpose was there. I had spoken with man after
man; I had been to France, and seen Mr. Morgan there, Queen Mary's man,
and my lord of Glasgow; and all that I spoke with seemed of one
mind--except my lord of Glasgow, who did not say much to me on the
matter. But all at least were agreed that there would be no peace in
England so long as Elizabeth sat on the throne.

"Well: it was after that that I fell in with Ballard, who was over here
on some other affair; and I found him a man of the same mind as myself;
he was all agog for Mary, and seemed afraid of nothing. Well; nothing
was done for a great while. He wrote to me from France; I wrote back to
him again, telling him the names of some of my friends. I went to see
him in France two or three times; and I saw him here, when you yourself
came over with him. But we did not know whom to trust. Neither had we
any special design. Her Grace of the Scots went hither and thither
under strong guards; and what I had done for her before--"

Robin looked up. He was still quite pale and quite quiet.

"What was that?" he said.

Anthony again made his impatient gesture. He was fiercely excited; but
kept himself under tolerable control.

"Why, I have been her agent for a great while back, getting her letters
through to her, and such like. But last year, when that damned Sir Amyas
Paulet became her gaoler, I could do nothing. Two or three times my
messenger was stopped, and the letters taken from him. Well; after that
time I could do no more. There her Grace was, back again at Tutbury, and
none could get near her. She might no more give alms, even, to the poor;
and all her letters must go through Walsingham's hands. And then God
helped us: she was taken last autumn to Chartley, near by which is the
house of the Giffords; and since that time we have been almost merry. Do
you know Gilbert Gifford?"

"He hath been with the Jesuits, hath he not?"

"That is the man. Well, Mr. Gilbert Gifford hath been God's angel to us.
A quiet, still kind of a man--you have seen him?"

"I have spoken with him at Rheims," said Robin. "I know nothing of him."

"Well; he contrived the plan. He hath devised a beer-barrel that hath
the beer all roundabout, so that when they push their rods in, there
seems all beer within. But in the heart of the beer there is secured a
little iron case; and within the iron case there is space for papers.
Well, this barrel goes to and fro to Chartley and to a brewer that is a
good Catholic; and within the case there are the letters. And in this
way, all has been prepared--"

Robin looked up again. He remained quiet through all the story; and
lifted no more than his eyes. His fingers played continually with a
button on his doublet.

"You mean that Queen Mary hath consented to this?"

"Why, yes!"

"To her sister's death?"

"Why, yes!"

"I do not believe it," said the priest quietly. "On whose word does that
stand?"

"Why, on her own! Whose else's?" snapped Anthony.

"You mean, you have it in her own hand, signed by her name?"

"It is in Gifford's hand! Is not that enough? And there is her seal to
it. It is in cypher, of course. What would you have?"

"Where is she now?" asked Robin, paying no attention to the question.

"She hath just now been moved again to Tixall."

"For what?"

"I do not know. What has that to do with the matter? She will be back
soon again. I tell you all is arranged."

"Tell me the rest of the story," said the priest.

"There is not much more. So it stands at present. I tell you her Grace
hath been tossed to and fro like a ball at play. She was at Chatsworth,
as you know; she has been shut up in Chartley like a criminal; she was
at Babington House even. God! if I had but known it in time!"

"In Babington House! Why, when was that?"

"Last year, early--with Sir Ralph Sadler, who was her gaoler then!"
cried Anthony bitterly; "but for a night only.... I have sold the
house."

"Sold it!"

"I do not keep prisons," snapped Anthony. "I will have none of it!"

"Well?"

"Well," resumed the other man quietly. "I must say that when Ballard was
taken--"

"When was that?"

"Last week only. Well, when he was taken I thought perhaps all was
known. But I find Mr. Walsingham's conversation very comforting, though
little he knows it, poor man! He knows that I am a Catholic; and he was
lamenting to me only three days ago of the zeal of these informers. He
said he could not save Ballard, so hot was the pursuit after him; that
he would lose favour with her Grace if he did."

"What comfort is there in that?"

"Why; it shows plain enough that nothing is known of the true facts. If
they were after him for this design of ours do you think that Walsingham
would speak like that? He would clap us all in ward--long ago."

The young priest was silent. His head still whirled with the tale, and
his heart was sick at the misery of it all. This was scarcely the
home-coming he had looked for! He turned abruptly to the other.

"Anthony, lad," he said, "I beseech you to give it up."

Anthony smiled at him frankly. His excitement was sunk down again.

"You were always a little soft," he said. "I remember you would have
nought to do with us before. Why, we are at war, I tell you; and it is
not we who declared it! They have made war on us now for the last twenty
years and more. What of all the Catholics--priests and others--who have
died on the gibbet, or rotted in prison? If her Grace makes war upon us,
why should we not make war upon her Grace? Tell me that, then!"

"Anthony, I beseech you to give it up. I hate the whole matter, and fear
it, too."

"Fear it? Why, I tell you, we hold them _so_." (He stretched out his
lean, young hand, and clenched the long fingers slowly together.) "We
have them by the throat. You will be glad enough to profit by it, when
Mary reigns. What is there to fear?"

"I do not know; I am uneasy. But that is not to the purpose. I tell you
it is forbidden by God's--"

"Uneasy! Fear it! Why, tell me what there is to fear? What hole can you
find anywhere?"

"I do not know. I hardly know the tale yet. But it seems to me there
might be a hundred."

"Tell me one of them, then."

Anthony threw himself back with an indulgent smile on his face.

"Why, if you will have it," said Robin, roused by the contempt, "there
is one great hole in this. All hangs upon Gifford's word, as it seems to
me. You have not spoken with Mary; you have not even her own hand on
it."

"Bah! Why, her Grace of the Scots cannot write in cypher, do you think?"

"I do not know how that may be. It may be so. But I say that all hangs
upon Gifford."

"And you think Gifford can be a liar and a knave!" sneered Anthony.

"I have not one word against him," said the priest. "But neither had I
against Thomas FitzHerbert; and you know what has befallen--"

Anthony snorted with disdain.

"Put your finger through another hole," he said.

"Well--I like not the comfort that Mr. Secretary Walsingham has given
you. You told me a while ago that Ballard was on the eve of going to
France. Now Walsingham is no fool. I would to God he were! He has laid
enough of our men by the heels already."

"By God!" cried Anthony, roused again. "I would not willingly call you
a fool either, my man! But do you not understand that Walsingham
believes me as loyal as himself? Here have I been at court for the last
year, bowing before her Grace, and never a word said to me on my
religion. And here is Walsingham has bidden me to lodge in his house, in
the midst of all his spider's webs. Do you think he would do that if--"

"I think he might have done so," said Robin slowly.

Anthony sprang to his feet.

"My Robin," he said, "you were right enough when you said you would not
join with us. You were not made for this work. You would see an enemy in
your own father--"

He stopped confounded.

Robin smiled drearily.

"I have seen one in him," he said.

Anthony clapped him on the shoulder, not unkindly.

"Forgive me, my Robin. I did not think what I said. Well; we will leave
it at that. And you would not give me absolution?"

The priest shook his head.

"Then give me your blessing," said Anthony, dropping on his knees. "And
so we will close up the _quasi-sigillum confessionis_."


III

It was a heavy-hearted priest that presently, downstairs, stood with
Anthony in one of the guest-rooms, and was made known to half a dozen
strangers. Every word that he had heard upstairs must be as if it had
never been spoken, from the instant at which Anthony had first sat down
to the instant in which he had kneeled down to receive his blessing. So
much he knew from his studies at Rheims. He must be to each man that he
met, that which he would have been to him an hour ago. Yet, though as a
man he must know nothing, his priest's heart was heavy in his breast. It
was a strange home-coming--to pass from the ordered piety of the
college: to the whirl of politics and plots in which good and evil span
round together--honest and fiery zeal for God's cause, mingled with what
he was persuaded was crime and abomination. He had thought that a
priest's life would be a simple thing, but it seemed otherwise now.

He spoke with those half-dozen men--those who knew him well enough for a
priest; and presently, when some of his own party came, drew aside again
with Anthony, who began to tell him in a low voice of the personages
there.

"These are all my private friends," he said, "and some of them be men of
substance in their own place. There is Mr. Charnoc, of Lancashire, he
with the gilt sword. He is of the Court of her Grace, and comes and goes
as he pleases. He is lodged in Whitehall, and comes here but to see his
friends. And there is Mr. Savage, in the new clothes, with his beard cut
short. He is a very honest fellow, but of a small substance, though of
good family enough."

"Her Grace has some of her ladies, too, that are Catholics, has she
not?" asked Robin.

"There are two or three at least, and no trouble made. They hear mass
when they can at the Embassies. Mendoza is a very good friend of ours."

Mr. Charnoc came up presently to the two. He was a cheerful-looking man,
of northern descent, very particular in his clothes, with large gold
ear-rings; he wore a short, pointed beard above his stiff ruff, and his
eyes were bright and fanatical.

"You are from Rheims, I understand, Mr. Alban."

He sat down with something of an air next to Robin.

"And your county--?" he asked.

"I am from Derbyshire, sir," said Robin.

"From Derbyshire. Then you will have heard of Mistress Marjorie Manners,
no doubt."

"She is an old friend of mine," said Robin, smiling. (The man had a
great personal charm about him.)

"You are very happy in your friends, then," said the other. "I have
never spoken with her myself; but I hear of her continually as assisting
our people--sending them now up into the Peak country, now into the
towns, as the case may be--and never a mistake."

       *       *       *       *       *

It was delightful to Robin to hear her praised, and he talked of her
keenly and volubly. Exactly that had happened which five years ago he
would have thought impossible; for every trace of his old feeling
towards her was gone, leaving behind, and that only in the very deepest
intimacies of his thought, a sweet and pleasant romance, like the glow
in the sky when the sun is gone down. Little by little that had come
about which, in Marjorie, had transformed her when she first sent him to
Rheims. It was not that reaction had followed; there was no contempt,
either of her or of himself, for what he had once thought of her; but
another great passion had risen above it--a passion of which the human
lover cannot even guess, kindled for one that is greater than man; a
passion fed, trained and pruned by those six years of studious peace at
Rheims, directed by experts in humanity. There he had seen what Love
could do when it could rise higher than its human channels; he had seen
young men, scarcely older than himself, set out for England, as for
their bridals, exultant and on fire; and back to Rheims had come again
the news of their martyrdom: this one died, crying to Jesu as a
home-coming child cries to his mother at the garden-gate; this one had
said nothing upon the scaffold, but his face (they said who brought the
news) had been as the face of Stephen at his stoning; and others had
come back themselves, banished, with pain of death on their returning,
yet back once more these had gone. And, last, more than once, there had
crept back to Rheims, borne on a litter all the way from the coast, the
phantom of a man who a year or two ago had played "cat" and shouted at
the play--now a bent man, grey-haired, with great scars on wrists and
ankles.... _Te Deums_ had been sung in the college chapel when the news
of the deaths had come: there were no _requiems_ for such as these; and
the place of the martyr in the refectory was decked with flowers....
Robin had seen these things, and wondered whether his place, too, would
some day be so decked.

For Marjorie, then, he felt nothing but a happy friendliness, and a real
delight when he thought of seeing her again. It was glorious, he
thought, that she had done so much; that her name was in all men's
mouths. And he had thought, when he had first gone to Rheims, that he
would do all and she nothing! He had written to her then, freely and
happily. He had told her that she must give him shelter some day, as she
was doing for so many.

Meanwhile it was pleasant to hear her praises.

"'Eve would be Eve,'" quoted Mr. Charnoc presently, in speaking of pious
women's obstinacy, "'though Adam would say Nay.'"

       *       *       *       *       *

Then, at last, when Mr. Charnoc said that he must be leaving for his own
lodgings, and stood up; once more upon Robin's heart there fell the
horrible memory of all that he had heard upstairs.



CHAPTER II


I

It was strange to Robin to walk about the City, and to view all that he
saw from his new interior position. The last time that he had been in
his own country on that short visit with "Captain Fortescue," he had
been innocent in the eyes of the law, or, at least, no more guilty than
any one of the hundreds of young men who, in spite of the regulations,
were sent abroad to finish their education amid Catholic surroundings.
Now, however, his very presence was an offence: he had broken every law
framed expressly against such cases as his; he had studied abroad, he
had been "ordained beyond the seas"; he had read his mass in his own
bedchamber; he had, practically, received a confession; and it was his
fixed and firm intention to "reconcile" as many of "her Grace's
subjects" as possible to the "Roman See." And, to tell the truth, he
found pleasure in the sheer adventure of it, as would every young man of
spirit; and he wore his fine clothes, clinked his sword, and cocked his
secular hat with delight.

The burden of what he had heard still was heavy on him. It was true that
in a manner inconceivable to any but a priest it lay apart altogether
from his common consciousness: he had talked freely enough to Mr.
Charnoc and the rest; he could not, even by a momentary lapse, allow
what he knew to colour even the thoughts by which he dealt with men in
ordinary life; for though it was true that no confession had been made,
yet it was in virtue of his priesthood that he had been told so much.
Yet there were moments when he walked alone, with nothing else to
distract him, when the cloud came down again; and there were moments,
too, in spite of himself, when his heart beat with another emotion, when
he pictured what might not be five years hence, if Elizabeth were taken
out of the way and Mary reigned in her stead. He knew from his father
how swiftly and enthusiastically the old Faith had come back with Mary
Tudor after the winter of Edward's reign. And if, as some estimated, a
third of England were still convincedly Catholic, and perhaps not more
than one twentieth convincedly Protestant, might not Mary Stuart, with
her charm, accomplish more even than Mary Tudor with her lack of it?

       *       *       *       *       *

He saw many fine sights during the three or four days after his coming
to London; for he had to wait there at least that time, until a party
that was expected from the north should arrive with news of where he was
to go. These were the instructions he had had from Rheims. So he walked
freely abroad during these days to see the sights; and even ventured to
pay a visit to Fathers Garnett and Southwell, two Jesuits that arrived a
month ago, and were for the present lodging in my Lord Vaux's house in
Hackney.

He was astonished at Father Southwell's youthfulness.

This priest had landed but a short while before, and, for the present,
was remaining quietly in the edge of London with the older man; for
himself was scarcely twenty-five years old, and looked twenty at the
most. He was very quiet and sedate, with a face of almost feminine
delicacy, and passed a good deal of his leisure, as the old lord told
Robin, in writing verses. He appeared a strangely fine instrument for
such heavy work as was a priest's.

On another day Robin saw the Archbishop land at Westminster Stairs.

It was a brilliant day of sunshine as he came up the river-bank, and a
little crowd of folks at the head of the stairs drew his attention. Then
he heard, out of sight, the throb of oars grow louder; then a cry of
command; and, as he reached the head of the stairs and looked over, the
Archbishop, with a cloak thrown over his rochet, was just stepping out
of the huge gilded barge, whose blue-and-silver liveried oarsmen
steadied the vessel, or stood at the salute. It was a gay and dignified
spectacle as he perceived, in spite of his intense antipathy to the
sight of a man who, to him, was no better than an usurper and a deceiver
of the people. Dr. Whitgift, too, was no friend to Catholics: he had,
for instance, deliberately defended the use of the rack against them and
others, unashamed; and in one particular instance, at least, as Bishop
of Worcester, had directed its exercise in the county of Denbigh. These
things were perfectly known, of course, even beyond the seas, to the
priests who were to go on the English mission, in surprising detail.
Robin knew even that this man was wholly ignorant of Greek; he looked at
him carefully as he came up the stairs, and was surprised at the kindly
face of him, thin-lipped, however, though with pleasant, searching eyes.
His coach was waiting outside Old Palace Yard, and Robin, following with
the rest of the little crowd, saluted him respectfully as he climbed
into it, followed by a couple of chaplains.

As he walked on, he glanced back across the river at Lambeth. There it
lay, then, the home of Warham and Pole and Morton, with the water
lapping its towers. It had once stood for the spiritual State of God in
England, facing its partner--(and sometimes its rival)--Westminster and
Whitehall; now it was a department of the civil State merely. It was
occupied by men such as Dr. Grindal, sequestrated and deprived of even
his spiritual functions by the woman who now grasped all the reins of
the Commonwealth; and now again by the man whom he had just seen, placed
there by the same woman to carry out her will more obediently against
all who denied her supremacy in matters spiritual as well as temporal,
whether Papists or Independents.

       *       *       *       *       *

The priest was astonished, as he reached the precincts of Whitehall, to
observe the number of guards that were everywhere visible. He had been
warned at Rheims not to bring himself into too much notice, no more than
markedly to avoid it; so he did not attempt to penetrate even the outer
courts or passages. Yet it seemed to him that an air of watchfulness was
everywhere. At the gate towards which he looked at least half a dozen
men were on formal guard, their uniforms and weapons sparkling
brilliantly in the sunshine; and besides these, within the open doors he
caught sight of a couple of officers. As he stood there, a man came out
of one of the houses near the gate, and turned towards it: he was
immediately challenged, and presently passed on within, where one of the
officers came forward to speak to him. Then Robin thought he had stood
looking long enough, and moved away.

       *       *       *       *       *

He came back to the City across the fields, half a mile away from the
river, and, indeed, it was a glorious sight he had before him. Here,
about him, was open ground on either side of the road on which he
walked; and there, in front, rose up on the slope of the hill the long
line of great old houses, beyond the stream that ran down into the
Thames--old Religious Houses for the most part, now disguised and pulled
about beyond recognition, ranging right and left from the Ludgate
itself: behind these rose again towers and roofs, and high above all the
tall spire of the Cathedral, as if to gather all into one, culminant
aspiration.... The light from the west lay on every surface that looked
to his left, golden and rosy; elsewhere lay blue and dusky shadows.


II

"There is a letter for you, air," said the landlord, who had an uneasy
look on his face, as the priest came through the entrance of the inn.

Robin took it. Its superscription ran shortly: "To Mr. Alban, at the Red
Bull Inn in Cheapside. Haste. Haste. Haste."

He turned it over; it was sealed plainly on the back without arms or any
device; it was a thick package, and appeared as if it might hold an
enclosure or two.

Robin had learned caution in a good school, and what is yet more vital
in true caution, an appearance of carelessness. He weighed the packet
easily in his hand, as if it were of no value, though he knew it might
contain very questionable stuff from one of his friends, and glanced at
a quantity of baggage that lay heaped beside the wall.

"What is all this?" he said. "Another party arrived?"

"No, sir; the party is leaving. Rather, it is left already; and the
gentlemen bade me have the baggage ready here. They would send for it
later, they told me."

This was unusually voluble from this man. Robin looked at him quickly,
and away again.

"What party?" he said.

"The gentlemen you were with this two nights past, sir," said the
landlord keenly.

Robin was aware of a feeling as if a finger had been laid on his heart;
but not a muscle of his face moved.

"Indeed!" he said. "They told me nothing of it."

Then he moved on easily, feeling the landlord's eyes in every inch of
his back, and went leisurely upstairs.

He reached his room, bolted the door softly behind him, and sat down.
His heart was going now like a hammer. Then he opened the packet; an
enclosure fell out of it, also sealed, but without direction of any
kind. Then he saw that the sheet in which the packet had come was itself
covered with writing, rather large and sprawling, as if written in
haste. He put the packet aside, and then lifted the paper to read it.

       *       *       *       *       *

When he had finished, he sat quite still. The room looked to him misty
and unreal; the paper crackled in his shaking fingers, and a drop of
sweat ran suddenly into the corner of his dry lips. Then he read the
paper again. It ran as follows:

"It is all found out, we think. I find myself watched at every point,
and I can get no speech with B. I cannot go forth from the house without
a fellow to follow me, and two of my friends have found the same. Mr.
G., too, hath been with Mr. W. this three hours back. By chance I saw
him come in, and he has not yet left again. Mr. Ch. is watching for me
while I write this, and will see that this letter is bestowed on a
trusty man who will bring it to your inn, and, with it, another letter
to bid our party save themselves while they can. I do not know how we
shall fare, but we shall meet at a point that is fixed, and after that
evade or die together. You were right, you see. Mr. G. has acted the
traitor throughout, with Mr. W.'s connivance and assistance. I beg of
you, then, to carry this letter, which I send in this, to Her for whom
we have forfeited our lives, or, at least, our country; or, if you
cannot take it with safety, master the contents of it by note and
deliver it to her with your own mouth. She has been taken back to C.
again, whither you must go, and all her effects searched."

There was no signature, but there followed a dash of the pen, and then a
scrawled "A.B.," as if an interruption had come, or as if the man who
was with the writer would wait no longer.

       *       *       *       *       *

A third time Robin read it through. It was terribly easy of
interpretation. "B." was Ballard; "G." was Gifford; "W." was Walsingham;
"Ch." was Charnoc; "Her" was Mary Stuart; "C." was Chartley. It fitted
and made sense like a child's puzzle. And, if the faintest doubt could
remain in the most incredulous mind as to the horrible reality of it
all, there was the piled luggage downstairs, that would never be "sent
for" (and never, indeed, needed again by its owners in this world).

Then he took up the second sealed packet, and held it unbroken, while
his mind flew like a bird, and in less than a minute he decided, and
opened it.

It was a piteous letter, signed again merely "A.B.," and might have been
written by any broken-hearted reverent lover to his beloved. It spoke an
eternal good-bye; the writer said that he would lay down his life gladly
again in such a cause if it were called for, and would lay down a
thousand if he had them; he entreated her to look to herself, for that
no doubt every attempt would now be made to entrap her; and it warned
her to put no longer any confidence in a "detestable knave, G.G."
Finally, he begged that "Jesu would have her in His holy keeping," and
that if matters fell out as he thought they would, she would pray for
his soul, and the souls of all that had been with him in the enterprise.

He read it through three or four times; every line and letter burned
itself into his brain. Then he tore it across and across; then he tore
the letter addressed to himself in the same manner; then he went through
all the fragments, piece by piece, tearing each into smaller fragments,
till there remained in his hands just a bunch of tiny scraps, smaller
than snowflakes, and these he scattered out of the window.

Then he went to his door, unbolted it, and walked downstairs to find the
landlord.


III

It was not until ten days later, soon after dawn, that Robin set out on
his melancholy errand. He rode out northward as soon as the gates were
opened, with young "Mr. Arnold," a priest ordained with him in Rheims,
and one of his party, disguised as a servant, following him on a
pack-horse with the luggage. It was a misty morning, white and
cheerless, with the early fog that had drifted up from the river. Last
night the news had come in that Anthony and at least one other had been
taken near Harrow, in disguise, and the streets had been full of riotous
rejoicing over the capture.

He had thought it more prudent to wait till after receiving the news,
which he so much dreaded, lest haste should bring suspicion on himself,
and the message that he carried; since for him, too, to disappear at
once would have meant an almost inevitable association of him with the
party of plotters; but it had been a hard time to pass through. Early in
the morning, after Anthony's flight, he had awakened to hear a rapping
upon the inn door, and, peeping from his window, had seen a couple of
plainly dressed men waiting for admittance; but after that he had seen
no more of them. He had deliberately refrained from speaking with the
landlord, except to remark again upon the luggage of which he caught a
sight, piled no longer in the entrance, but in the little room that the
man himself used. The landlord had said shortly that it had not yet been
sent for. And the greater part of the day--after he had told the
companions that had come with him from Rheims that he had had a letter,
which seemed to show that the party with whom they had made friends had
disappeared, and were probably under suspicion, and had made the
necessary arrangements for his own departure with young Mr. Arnold--he
spent in walking abroad as usual. The days that followed had been bitter
and heavy. He had liked neither to stop within doors nor to go abroad,
since the one course might arouse inquiry and the second lead to his
identification. He had gone to my Lord Vaux's house again and again,
with his friend and without him; he had learned of the details of
Anthony's capture, though he had not dared even to attempt to get speech
with him; and, further, that unless the rest of the men were caught, it
would not be easy to prove anything against him. One thing, therefore,
he prayed for with all his heart--that the rest might yet escape. He
told his party something of the course of events, but not too much. On
the Sunday that intervened he went to hear mass in Fetter Lane, where
numbers of Catholics resorted; and there, piece by piece, learned more
of the plot than even Anthony had told him.

Mr. Arnold was a Lancashire man and a young convert of Oxford--one of
that steady small stream that poured over to the Continent--a
sufficiently well-born and intelligent man to enjoy acting as a servant,
which he did with considerable skill. It was common enough for gentlemen
to ride side by side with their servants when they had left the town;
and by the time that the two were clear of the few scattered houses
outside the City gates, Mr. Arnold urged on his horse; and they rode
together. Robin was in somewhat of a difficulty as to how far he was
justified in speaking of what he knew. It was true that he was not at
liberty to use what Anthony had originally told him; but the letter and
the commission which he had received certainly liberated his conscience
to some degree, since it told him plainly enough that there was a plot
on behalf of Mary, that certain persons, one or two of whom he knew for
himself, were involved in it, that they were under suspicion, and that
they had fled. Ordinary discretion, however, was enough to make him hold
his tongue, beyond saying, as he had said already to the rest of them,
that he was the bearer of a message from Mr. Babington, now in prison,
to Mary Stuart. Mr. Arnold had been advertised that he might take up his
duties in Lancashire as soon as he liked; but, because of his
inexperience and youth, it had been decided that he had better ride with
"Mr. Alban" so far as Chartley at least, and thence, if all were well,
go on to Lancaster itself, where his family was known, and whither he
could return, for the present, without suspicion.

       *       *       *       *       *

The roads, such as they were, were in a terrible state still with the
heavy rain of a few days ago, and the further showers that had fallen in
the night. They made very poor progress, and by dinner-time were not yet
in sight of Watford. But they pushed on, coming at last about one
o'clock to that little town, all gathered together in the trench of the
low hills. There was a modest inn in the main street, with a little
garden behind it; and while Mr. Arnold took the horses off for watering,
Robin went through to the garden, sat down, and ordered food to be
served for himself and his man together. The day was warmer, and the sun
came out as they sat over their meal. When they had done, Robin sent his
friend off again for the horses. They must not delay longer than was
necessary, if they wished to sleep at Leighton, and give the horses
their proper rest.

       *       *       *       *       *

When he was left alone, he fell a-thinking once more; and, what with the
morning's ride and the air and the sunshine, and the sense of liberty,
he was inclined to be more cheerful. Surely England was large enough to
hide the rest of the plotters for a time, until they could get out of
it. Anthony was taken, indeed, yet, without the rest, he might very well
escape conviction. Robin had not been challenged in any way; the
gatekeepers had looked at him, indeed, as he came out of the City; but
so they always did, and the landlady here had run her eyes over him; but
that was the way of landladies who wished to know how much should be
charged to travellers. And if he had come out so easily, why should not
his friends? All turned now, to his mind, on whether the rest of the
conspirators could evade the pursuivants or not.

He stood up presently to stretch his legs before mounting again, and as
he stood up he heard running footsteps somewhere beyond the house: they
died away; but then came the sound of another runner, and of another,
and he heard voices calling. Then a window was flung up beyond the
house; steps came rattling down the stairs within and passed out into
the street. It was probably a bull that had escaped, or a mad dog, he
thought, or some rustic excitement of that kind, and he thought he would
go and see it for himself; so he passed out through the house, just in
time to meet Mr. Arnold coming round with the horses.

"What was the noise about?" he asked.

The other looked at him.

"I heard none, sir," he said. "I was in the stable."

Robin looked up and down the street. It seemed as empty as it should be
on a summer's day; two or three women were at the doors of their houses,
and an old dog was asleep in the sun. There was no sign of any
disturbance.

"Where is the woman of the house?" asked Robin.

"I do not know, sir."

They could not go without paying; but Robin marvelled at the simplicity
of these folks, to leave a couple of guests free to ride away; he went
within again and called out, but there was no one to be seen.

"This is laughable," he said, coming out again. "Shall we leave a mark
behind us and be off?"

"Are they all gone, sir?" asked the other, staring at him.

"I heard some running and calling out just now," said Robin. "I suppose
a message must have been brought to the house."

Then, as he stood still, hesitating, a noise of voices arose suddenly
round the corner of the street, and a group of men with pitchforks ran
out from a gateway on the other side, fifty yards away, crossed the
road, and disappeared again. Behind them ran a woman or two, a barking
dog, and a string of children. But Robin thought he had caught a glimpse
of some kind of officer's uniform at the head of the running men, and
his heart stood still.


IV

Neither of the two spoke for a moment.

"Wait here with the horses," said Robin. "I must see what all this is
about."

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Arnold was scarcely more than a boy still, and he had all the desire
of a boy, if he saw an excited crowd, to join himself to it. But he was
being a servant just now, and must do what he was told. So he waited
patiently with the two horses that tossed their jingling heads and
stamped and attempted to kick flies off impossibly remote parts of their
bodies. Certainly, the excitement was growing. After he had seen his
friend walk quickly down the road and turn off where the group of
rustically-armed men had disappeared in the direction where newly-made
haystacks shaded their gables beyond the roofs of the houses, several
other figures appeared through the opposite gateway in hot pursuit. One
was certainly a guard of some kind, a stout, important-looking fellow,
who ran and wheezed as he ran loud enough to be heard at the inn door.
The women standing before the houses, too, presently were after the
rest--all except one old dame, who put her head forth, and peered this
way and that with a vindictive anger at having been left all alone. More
yet showed themselves--children dragging puppies after them, an old man
with a large rusty sword, a couple of lads each with a pike--these
appeared, like figures in a pantomime play, whisking into sight from
between the houses, and all disappearing again immediately.

And then, all on a sudden, a great clamour of voices began, all shouting
together, as if some quarry had been sighted: it grew louder, sharp
cries of command rang above the roar. Then there burst out of the side,
where all had gone in, a ball of children, which exploded into fragments
and faced about, still with a couple of puppies that barked shrilly; and
then, walking very fast and upright, came Mr. Robin Audrey, white-faced
and stern, straight up to where the lad waited with the horses.

Robin jerked his head.

"Quick!" he said. "We must be off, or we shall be here all night." He
gathered up his reins for mounting.

"What is it, sir?" asked the other, unable to be silent.

"They have caught some fellows," he said.

"And the inn-account, sir?"

Robin pulled out a couple of coins from his pouch.

"Put that on the table within," he said. "We can wait no longer. Give me
your reins!"

His manner was so dreadful that the young man dared ask no more. He ran
in, laid the coins down (they were more than double what could have been
asked for their entertainment), came out again, and mounted his own
horse that his friend held. As they rode down the street, he could not
refrain from looking back, as a great roar of voices broke out again;
but he could see no more than a crowd of men, with the pitchforks moving
like spears on the outskirt, as if they guarded prisoners within, come
out between the houses and turn up towards the inn they themselves had
just left.

       *       *       *       *       *

As they came clear of the village and out again upon the open road,
Robin turned to him, and his face was still pale and stern.

"Mr. Arnold," he said, "those were the last of my friends that I told
you of. Now they have them all, and there is no longer any hope. They
found them behind the haystacks next to the garden where we dined. They
must have been there all night."



CHAPTER III


I

It was in the evening of the fourth day after their start that, riding
up alongside of the Blythe, they struck out to the northwest, away from
the trees, and saw the woods of Chartley not half a mile away. Robin
sighed with relief, though, as a fact, his adventure was scarcely more
than begun, since he had yet to learn how he could get speech with the
Queen; but, at least, he was within sight of her, and of his own country
as well. Far away, eastwards, beyond the hills, not twenty miles off,
lay Derby.

       *       *       *       *       *

It had been a melancholy ride, in spite of the air of freedom through
which they rode, since news had come to them, in more than one place, of
the fortunes of the Babington party. A courier, riding fast, had passed
them as they sighted Buckingham; and by the time they came in, he was
gone again, on Government business (it was said), and the little town
hummed with rumours, out of which emerged, at any rate, the certainty
that the whole company had been captured. At Coventry, again, the
tidings had travelled faster than themselves; for here it was reported
that Mr. Babington and Mr. Charnoc had been racked; and in Lichfield,
last of all, the tale was complete, and (as they learned later)
tolerably accurate too.

It was from a clerk in the inn there that the story came, who declared
that there was no secrecy about the matter any longer, and that he
himself had seen the tale in writing. It ran as follows:

The entire plot had been known from the beginning, Gilbert Gifford had
been an emissary of Walsingham's throughout; and every letter that
passed to and from the various personages had passed through the
Secretary's hands and been deciphered in his house. There never had been
one instant in which Mr. Walsingham had been at fault, or in the dark:
he had gone so far, it was reported, as to insert in one of the letters
that was to go to Mr. Babington a request for the names of all the
conspirators, and in return there had come from him, not only a list of
the names, but a pictured group of them, with Mr. Babington himself in
the midst. This picture had actually been shown to her Grace in order
that she might guard herself against private assassination, since two or
three of the group were in her own household.

"It is like to go hard with the Scots Queen!" said the clerk bitterly.
"She has gone too far this time."

Robin said nothing to commit himself, for he did not know on which side
the man ranged himself; but he drew him aside after dinner, and asked
whether it might be possible to get a sight of the Queen.

"I am riding to Derby," he said, "with my man. But if to turn aside at
Chartley would give us a chance of seeing her, I would do so. A queen in
captivity is worth seeing. And I can see you are a man of influence."

The clerk looked at him shrewdly; he was a man plainly in love with his
own importance, and the priest's last words were balm to him.

"It might be done," he said. "I do not know."

Robin saw the impression he had made, and that the butter could not be
too thick.

"I am sure you could do it for me," he said, "if any man could. But I
understand that a man of your position may be unwilling--"

The clerk solemnly laid a hand on the priest's arm.

"Well, I will tell you this," he said. "Get speech with Mr. Bourgoign,
her apothecary. He alone has access to her now, besides her own women.
It might be he could put you in some private place to see her go by."

This was not much use, thought Robin; but, at least, it gave him
something to begin at: so he thanked the clerk solemnly and
reverentially, and was rewarded by another discreet pat on the arm.

       *       *       *       *       *

The sight of the Chartley woods, tall and splendid in the light of the
setting sun, and already tinged here and there with the first marks of
autumn, brought his indecision to a point; and he realized that he had
no plan. He had heard that Mary occasionally rode abroad, and he hoped
perhaps to get speech with her that way; but what he had heard from the
clerk and others showed him that this small degree of liberty was now
denied to the Queen. In some way or another he must get news of Mr.
Bourgoign. Beyond that he knew nothing.

       *       *       *       *       *

The great gates of Chartley were closed as the two came up to them.
There was a lodge beside them, and a sentry stood there. A bell was
ringing from the great house within the woods, no doubt for supper-time,
but there was no other human being besides the sentry to be seen. So
Robin did not even check his weary horse; but turned only, with a
deliberately curious air, as he went past and rode straight on. Then, as
he rounded a corner he saw smoke going up from houses, it seemed,
outside the park.

"What is that?" asked Arnold suddenly. "Do you hear--?"

A sound of a galloping horse grew louder behind them, and a moment
afterwards the sound of another. The two priests were still in view of
the sentry; and knowing that Chartley was guarded now as if it had all
the treasures of the earth within, Robin reflected that to show too
little interest might arouse as sharp suspicion as too much. So he
wheeled his horse round and stopped to look.

They heard the challenge of the sentry within, and then the unbarring of
the gates. An instant later a courier dashed out and wheeled to the
right, while at the same time the second galloper came to view--another
courier on a jaded horse; and the two passed--the one plainly riding to
London, the second arriving from it. The gates were yet open; but the
second was challenged once more before he was allowed to pass and his
hoofs sounded on the road that led to the house. Then the gates clashed
together again.

Robin turned his horse's head once more towards the houses, conscious
more than ever how near he was to the nerves of England's life, and what
tragic ties they were between the two royal cousins, that demanded such
a furious and frequent exchange of messages.

"We must do our best here," he said, nodding towards the little hamlet.


II

It was plainly a newly-grown little group of houses that bordered the
side of the road away from the enclosed park--sprung up as a kind of
overflow lodging for the dependants necessary to such a suddenly
increased household; for the houses were no more than wooden dwellings,
ill-roofed and ill-built, with the sap scarcely yet finished oozing from
the ends of the beams and the planks. Smoke was issuing, in most cases,
from rough holes cut in the roofs, and in the last rays of sunshine two
or three men were sitting on stools set out before the houses.

Robin checked his horse before a man whose face seemed kindly, and who
saluted courteously the fine gentleman who looked about with such an
air.

"My horse is dead-spent," he said curtly. "Is there an inn here where my
man and I can find lodging?"

The man shook his head, looking at the horse compassionately. He had the
air of a groom about him.

"I fear not, sir, not within five miles; at least, not with a room to
spare."

"This is Chartley, is it not?" asked the priest, noticing that the next
man, too, was listening.

"Aye, sir."

"Can you tell me if my friend Mr. Bourgoign lodges in the house, or
without the gates?"

"Mr. Bourgoign, sir? A friend of yours?"

"I hope so," said Robin, smiling, and keeping at least within the letter
of truth.

The man mused a moment.

"It is possible he might help you, sir. He lodges in the house; but he
comes sometimes to see a woman that is sick here."

Robin demanded where she lived.

"At the last house, sir--a little beyond the rest. She is one of her
Grace's kitchen-women. They moved her out here, thinking it might be the
fever she had."

This was plainly a communicative fellow; but the priest thought it wiser
not to take too much interest. He tossed the man a coin and rode on.

       *       *       *       *       *

The last house was a little better built than the others, and stood
further back from the road. Robin dismounted here, and, with a nod to
Mr. Arnold, who was keeping his countenance admirably, walked up to the
door and knocked on it. It was opened instantly, as if he were expected,
but the woman's face fell when she saw him.

"Is Mr. Bourgoign within?" asked the priest.

The woman glanced over him before answering, and then out to where the
horses waited.

"No, sir," she said at last. "We were looking for him just now...."
(She broke off.) "He is coming now," she said.

Robin turned, and there, walking down the road, was an old man, leaning
on a stick, richly and soberly dressed in black, wearing a black beaver
hat on his head. A man-servant followed him at a little distance.

The priest saw that here was an opportunity ready-made; but there was
one more point on which he must satisfy himself first, and what seemed
to him an inspiration came to his mind.

"He looks like a minister," he said carelessly.

A curious veiled look came over the woman's face. Robin made a bold
venture. He smiled full in her face.

"You need not fear," he said. "I quarrel with no man's religion;" and,
at the look in her face at this, he added: "You are a Catholic, I
suppose? Well, I am one too. And so, I suppose, is Mr. Bourgoign."

The woman smiled tremulously, and the fear left her eyes.

"Yes, sir," she said. "All the friends of her Grace are Catholics, I
think."

He nodded to her again genially. Then, turning, he went to meet the
apothecary, who was now not thirty yards away.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a pathetic old figure that was hobbling towards him. He seemed a
man of near seventy years old, with a close-cropped beard and spectacles
on his nose, and he carried himself heavily and ploddingly. Robin argued
to himself that it must be a kindly man who would come out at this
hour--perhaps the one hour he had to himself--to visit a poor dependant.
Yet all this was sheer conjecture; and, as the old man came near, he saw
there was something besides kindliness in the eyes that met his own.

He saluted boldly and deferentially.

"Mr. Bourgoign," he said in a low voice, "I must speak five minutes with
you. And I ask you to make as if you were my friend."

The old man stiffened like a watch-dog. It was plain that he was on his
guard.

"I do not know you, sir."

"I entreat you to do as I ask. I am a priest, sir. I entreat you to take
my hand as if we were friends."

A look of surprise went over the physician's face.

"You can send me packing in ten minutes," went on Robin rapidly, at the
same time holding out his hand. "And we will talk here in the road, if
you will."

There was still a moment's hesitation. Then he took the priest's hand.

"I am come straight from London," went on Robin, still speaking clearly,
yet with his lips scarcely moving. "A fortnight ago I talked with Mr.
Babington."

The old man drew his arm close within his own.

"You have said enough, or too much, at present, sir. You shall walk with
me a hundred yards up this road, and justify what you have said."

"We have had a weary ride of it, Mr. Bourgoign.... I am on the road to
Derby," went on Robin, talking loudly enough now to be overheard, as he
hoped, by any listeners. "And my horse is spent.... I will tell you my
business," he added in a lower tone, "as soon as you bid me."

Fifty yards up the road the old man pressed his arm again.

"You can tell me now, sir," he said. "But we will walk, if you please,
while you do so."

       *       *       *       *       *

"First," said Robin, after a moment's consideration as to his best
beginning, "I will tell you the name I go by. It is Mr. Alban. I am a
newly-made priest, as I told you just now; I came from Rheims scarcely a
fortnight ago. I am from Derbyshire; and I will tell you my proper name
at the end, if you wish it."

"Repeat the blessing of the deacon by the priest at mass," murmured Mr.
Bourgoign to the amazement of the other, without the change of an
inflection in his voice or a movement of his hand.

"_Dominus sit in corde tuo et in labiis_--" began the priest.

"That is enough, sir, for the present. Well?"

"Next," said Robin, hardly yet recovered from the extraordinary
promptness of the challenge--"Next, I was speaking with Mr. Babington a
fortnight ago."

"In what place?"

"In the inn called the 'Red Bull,' in Cheapside."

"Good. I have lodged there myself," said the other. "And you are one--"

"No, sir," said Robin, "I do not deny that I spoke with them all--with
Mr. Charnoc and--"

"That is enough of those names, sir," said the other, with a small and
fearful lift of his white eyebrows, as if he dreaded the very trees that
nearly met overhead in this place. "And what is your business?"

"I have satisfied you, then--" began Robin.

"Not at all, sir. You have answered sufficiently so far; that is all. I
wish to know your business."

"The night following the day on which the men fled, of whom I have just
spoken, I had a letter from--from their leader. He told me that all was
lost, and he gave me a letter to her Grace here--"

He felt the thin old sinews under his hand contract suddenly, and
paused.

"Go on, sir," whispered the old voice.

"A letter to her Grace, sir. I was to use my discretion whether I
carried it with me, or learned it by rote. I have other interests at
stake besides this, and I used my discretion, and destroyed the letter."

"But you have some writing, no doubt--"

"I have none," said Robin. "I have my word only."

There was a pause.

"Was the message private?"

"Private only to her Grace's enemies. I will tell you the substance of
it now, if you will."

The old man, without answering, steered his companion nearer to the
wall; then he relinquished the supporting arm, and leaned himself
against the stones, fixing his eyes full upon the priest, and searching,
as it seemed, every feature of his face and every detail of his dress.

"Was the message important, sir?"

"Important only to those who value love and fidelity."

"I could deliver it myself, then?"

"Certainly, sir. If you will give me your word to deliver it to her
Grace, as I deliver it to you, and to none else, I will ride on and
trouble you no more."

"That is enough," said the physician decidedly. "I am completely
satisfied, Mr. Alban. All that remains is to consider how I can get you
to her Grace."

"But if you yourself will deliver--" began Robin.

An extraordinary spasm passed over the other's face, that might denote
any fierce emotion, either of anger or grief.

"Do you think it is that?" he hissed. "Why, man, where is your
priesthood? Do you think the poor dame within would not give her soul
for a priest?... Why, I have prayed God night and day to send us a
priest. She is half mad with sorrow; and who knows whether ever again in
this world--"

He broke off, his face all distorted with pain; and Robin felt a strange
thrill of glory at the thought that he bore with him, in virtue of his
priesthood only, so much consolation. He faced for the first time that
tremendous call of which he had heard so much in Rheims--that desolate
cry of souls that longed and longed in vain for those gifts which a
priest of Christ could alone bestow....

"... The question is," the old man was saying more quietly, "how to get
you in to her Grace. Why, Sir Amyas opens her letters even, and reseals
them again! He thinks me a fool, and that I do not know what he does....
Do you know aught of medicine?" he asked abruptly.

"I know only what country folks know of herbs."

"And their names--their Latin names, man?" pursued the other, leaning
forward.

Robin half smiled.

"Now you speak of it," he said, "I have learned a good many, as a
pastime, when I was a boy. I was something of a herbalist, even. But I
have forgotten--"

"Bah! that would be enough for Sir Amyas--"

He turned and spat venomously at the name.

"Sir Amyas knows nothing save his own vile trade. He is a lout--no more.
He is as grim as a goose, always. And you have a town air about you," he
went on, running his eyes critically over the young man's dress. "Those
are French clothes?"

"They were bought in France."

The two stood silent. Robin's excitement beat in all his veins, in spite
of his weariness. He had come to bear a human message only to a
bereaved Queen; and it seemed as if his work were to be rather the
bearing of a Divine message to a lonely soul. He watched the old man's
face eagerly. It was sunk in thought.... Then Mr. Bourgoign took him
abruptly by the arm.

"Give me your arm again," he said. "I am an old man. We must be going
back again. It seems as if God heard our prayers after all. I will see
you disposed for to-night--you and your man and the horses, and I will
send for you myself in the morning. Could you say mass, think you? if I
found you a secure place--and bring Our Lord's Body with you in the
morning?"

He checked the young man, to hear his answer.

"Why, yes," said Robin. "I have all things that are needed."

"Then you shall say mass in any case ... and reserve our Lord's Body in
a pyx.... Now listen to me. If my plan falls as I hope, you must be a
physician to-morrow, and have practised your trade in Paris. You have
been in Paris?"

"No, sir."

"Bah!... Well, no more has Sir Amyas!... You have practised your trade
in Paris, and God has given you great skill in the matter of herbs. And,
upon hearing that I was in Chartley, you inquired for your old friend,
whose acquaintance you had made in Paris, five years ago. And I, upon
hearing you were come, secured your willingness to see my patient, if
you would but consent. Your reputation has reached me even here; you
have attended His Majesty in Paris on three occasions; you restored
Mademoiselle Élise, of the family of Guise, from the very point of
death. You are but a young man still; yet--Bah! It is arranged. You
understand? Now come with me."



CHAPTER IV


I

In spite of his plans and his hopes and his dreams, it was with an
amazement beyond all telling, that Mr. Robert Alban found himself, at
nine o'clock next morning, conducted by two men through the hall at
Chartley to the little parlour where he was to await Sir Amyas Paulet
and the Queen's apothecary.

       *       *       *       *       *

Matters had been arranged last night with that promptness which alone
could make the tale possible. He had walked back with the old man in
full view of the little hamlet, to all appearances, the best of old
friends; and after providing for a room in the sick woman's house for
Robin himself, another in another house for Mr. Arnold, and stabling for
the horses in a shed where occasionally the spent horses of the couriers
were housed when Chartley stables were overflowing--after all this had
been arranged by Mr. Bourgoign in person, the two walked on to the great
gates of the park, where they took an affectionate farewell within
hearing of the sentry, the apothecary promising to see Sir Amyas that
night and to communicate with his friend in the morning. Robin had
learned previously how strict was the watch set about the Queen's
person, particularly since the news of the Babington plot had first
reached the authorities, and of the extraordinary difficulty to the
approach of any stranger to her presence. Nau and Curle, her two
secretaries, had been arrested and perhaps racked a week or ten days
before; all the Queen's papers had been taken from her, and even her
jewellery and pictures sent off to Elizabeth; and the only persons
ordinarily allowed to speak with her, besides her gaoler, were two of
her women, and Mr. Bourgoign himself.

That morning then, before six o'clock, Robin had said mass in the sick
woman's room and given her communion, with her companion, who answered
his mass, as it was thought more prudent that the other priest should
not even be present; and, at the close of the mass he had reserved in a
little pyx, hidden beneath his clothes, a consecrated particle. Mr.
Bourgoign had said that he would see to it that the Queen should be
fasting up to ten o'clock that day.

And now the last miracle had been accomplished. A servant had come down
late the night before, with a discreet letter from the apothecary,
saying that Sir Amyas had consented to receive and examine for himself
the travelling physician from Paris; and here now went Robin, striving
to remember the old Latin names he had learned as a boy, and to carry a
medical air with him.

       *       *       *       *       *

The parlour in which he found himself was furnished severely and even
rather sparely, owing, perhaps, he thought, to the temporary nature of
the household. It was the custom in great houses to carry with the
family, from house to house, all luxuries such as extra hangings or
painted pictures or carpets, as well as even such things as cooking
utensils; and in the Queen's sudden removal back again from Tixall, many
matters must have been neglected. The oak wainscoting was completely
bare; and over the upper parts of the walls in many places the stones
showed through between the ill-fitting tapestries. A sheaf of pikes
stood in one corner; an oil portrait of an unknown worthy in the dress
of fifty years ago hung over one of the doors; a large round oak table,
with ink-horn and pounce-box, stood in the centre of the room with
stools beside it: there was no hearth or chimney visible; and there was
no tapestry upon the floor: a skin only lay between the windows. The
priest sat down and waited.

He had enough to occupy his mind; for not only had he the thought of the
character he was to sustain presently under the scrutiny of a suspicious
man; but he had the prospect, as he hoped, of coming into the presence
of the most-talked-of woman in Europe, and of ministering to her as a
priest alone could do, in her sorest need. His hand went to his breast
as he considered it, and remembered What he bore ... and he felt the
tiny flat circular case press upon his heart....

For his imagination was all aflame at the thought of Mary. Not only had
he been kindled again and again in the old days by poor Anthony's talk,
until the woman seemed to him half-deified already; but man after man
had repeated the same tale, that she was, in truth, that which her lean
cousin of England desired to be thought--a very paragon of women,
innocent, holy, undefiled, yet of charm to drive men to their knees
before her presence. It was said that she was as one of those strange
moths which, confined behind glass, will draw their mates out of the
darkness to beat themselves to death against her prison; she was
exquisite, they said, in her pale beauty, and yet more exquisite in her
pain; she exuded a faint and intoxicating perfume of womanliness, like a
crushed herb. Yet she was to be worshipped, rather than loved--a
sacrament to be approached kneeling, an incarnate breath of heaven, the
more lovely from the vileness into which her life had been cast and the
slanders that were about her name.... More marvellous than all was that
those who knew her best and longest loved her most; her servants wept or
groaned themselves into fevers if they were excluded from her too long;
of her as of the Wisdom of old might it be said that, "They who ate her
hungered yet, and they who drank her thirsted yet."... It was to this
miracle of humanity, then, that this priest was to come....

       *       *       *       *       *

He sat up suddenly, once more pressing his hand to his breast, where his
Treasure lay hidden, as he heard steps crossing the paved hall outside.
Then he rose to his feet and bowed as a tall man came swiftly in,
followed by the apothecary.


II

It was a lean, harsh-faced man that he saw, long-moustached and
melancholy-eyed--"grim as a goose," as the physician had said--wearing,
even in this guarded household, a half-breast and cap of steel. A long
sword jingled beside him on the stone floor and clashed with his spurred
boots. He appeared the last man in the world to be the companion of a
sorrowing Queen; and it was precisely for this reason that he had been
chosen to replace the courtly lord Shrewsbury and the gentle Sir Ralph
Sadler. (Her Grace of England said that she had had enough of nurses for
gaolers.) His voice, too, resembled the bitter clash of a key in a lock.

"Well, sir," he said abruptly, "Mr. Bourgoign tells me you are a friend
of his."

"I have that honour, sir."

"You met in Paris, eh?... And you profess a knowledge of herbs beyond
the ordinary?"

"Mr. Bourgoign is good enough to say so."

"And you are after her Grace of Scotland, as they call her, like all the
rest of them, eh?"

"I shall be happy to put what art I possess at her Grace of Scotland's
service."

"Traitors say as much as that, sir."

"In the cause of treachery, no doubt, sir."

Sir Amyas barked a kind of laugh.

"_Vous avez raisong_," he said with a deplorable accent. "As her Grace
would say. And you come purely by chance to Chartley, no doubt!"

The sneer was unmistakable. Robin met it full.

"Not for one moment, sir. I was on my way to Derby. I could have saved a
few miles if I had struck north long ago. But Chartley is interesting in
these days."

(He saw Mr. Bourgoign's eyes gleam with satisfaction.)

"That is honest at least, sir. And why is Chartley interesting?"

"Because her Grace is here," answered Robin with sublime simplicity.

Sir Amyas barked again. It seemed he liked this way of talk. For a
moment or two his eyes searched Robin--hard, narrow eyes like a dog's;
he looked him up and down.

"Where are your drugs, sir?"

Robin smiled.

"A herbalist does not need to carry drugs," he said. "They grow in every
hedgerow if a man has eyes to see what God has given him."

"That is true enough. I would we had more talk about God His Majesty in
this household, and less of Popish trinkets and fiddle-faddle.... Well,
sir; do you think you can cure her ladyship?"

"I have no opinion on the point at all, sir. I do not know what is the
matter with her--beyond what Mr. Bourgoign has told me," he added
hastily, remembering the supposed situation.

The soldier paid no attention. Like all slow-witted men, he was
following up an irrelevant train of thought from his own last sentence
but one.

"Fiddle-faddle!" he said again. "I am sick of her megrims and her
vapours and her humours. Has she not blood and bones like the rest of
us? And yet she cannot take her food nor her drink, nor sleep like an
honest woman. And I do not wonder at it; for that is what she is not.
They will say she is poisoned, I dare say.... Well, sir; I suppose you
had best see her; but in my presence, remember, sir; in my presence."

Robin's spirits sank like a stone.... Moreover, he would be instantly
detected as a knave (though that honestly seemed a lesser matter to
him), if he attempted to talk medically in Sir Amyas' presence; unless
that warrior was truly as great a clod as he seemed. He determined to
risk it. He bowed.

"I can at least try my poor skill, sir," he said.

Sir Amyas instantly turned, with a jerk of his head to beckon them, and
clanked out again into the hall. There was not a moment's opportunity
for the two conspirators to exchange even a word; for there, in the
hall, stood the two men who had brought Robin in, to keep guard; and as
the party passed through to the foot of the great staircase, he saw on
each landing that was in sight another sentry, and, at a door at the end
of the overhead gallery, against which hung a heavy velvet curtain,
stood the last, a stern figure to keep guard on the rooms of a Queen,
with his body-armour complete, a steel hat on his head and a pike in his
hand.

It was to this door that Sir Amyas went, acknowledging with a lift of
the finger the salute of his men. (It was plain that this place was
under strict military discipline.) With the two, the real and the false
physician following him, he pulled aside the curtain and rapped
imperiously on the door. It was opened after a moment's delay by a
frightened-faced woman.

"Her Grace?" demanded the officer sharply. "Is she still abed?"

"Her Grace is risen, sir," said the woman tremulously; "she is in the
inner room."

Sir Amyas strode straight on, pulled aside a second curtain hanging over
the further door, rapped upon that, too, and without even waiting for an
answer this time, beyond the shrill barking of dogs within, opened it
and passed in. Mr. Bourgoign followed; and Robin came last. The door
closed softly behind him.


III

The room was furnished with more decency than any he had seen in this
harsh house; for, although at the time he thought that he had no eyes
for anything but one figure which it contained, he found himself
afterwards able to give a very tolerable account of its general
appearance. The walls were hung throughout with a dark-blue velvet
hanging, stamped with silver fleur-de-lys. There were tapestries on the
floor, between which gleamed the polished oak boards, perfectly kept, by
the labours (no doubt) of her Grace's two women (since such things would
be mere "fiddle-faddle" to the honest soldier); a graceful French table
ran down the centre of the room, very delicately carved, and beneath it
two baskets from which looked out the indignant heads of a couple of
little spaniels; upon it, at the nearer end, were three or four cages of
turtle-doves, melancholy-looking in this half-lit room; old,
sun-bleached curtains of the same material as that which hung on the
walls, shrouded the two windows on the right, letting but a half light
into the room: there was a further door, also curtained, diagonally
opposite that by which the party had entered; and in the centre of the
same wall a tall blue canopy, fringed with silver, rose to the ceiling.
Beneath it, on a daïs of a single step, stood a velvet chair, with
gilded arms, and worked with the royal shield in the embroidery of the
back--with a crowned lion _sejant, guardant_, for the crest above the
crown. Half a dozen more chairs were ranged about the table; and, on a
couch, with her feet swathed in draperies, with a woman standing over
her behind, as if she had just risen up from speaking in her ear, lay
the Queen of the Scots. A tall silver and ebony crucifix, with a couple
of velvet-bound, silver-clasped little books, stood on the table within
reach of her hand, and a folded handkerchief beside them.

Mary was past her prime long ago; she was worn with sorrow and slanders
and miseries; yet she appeared to the priest's eyes, even then, like a
figure of a dream. It was partly, no doubt, the faintness of the light
that came in through the half-shrouded windows that obliterated the
lines and fallen patches that her face was beginning to bear; and she
lay, too, with her back even to such light as there was. Yet for all
that, and even if he had not known who she was, Robin could not have
taken his eyes from her face. She lay there like a fallen flower, pale
as a lily, beaten down at last by the waves and storms that had gone
over her; and she was more beautiful in her downfall and disgrace, a
thousand times, than when she had come first to Holyrood, or danced in
the Courts of France.

Now it is not in the features one by one that beauty lies but rather in
the coincidence of them all. Her face was almost waxen now, blue
shadowed beneath the two waves of pale hair; she had a small mouth, a
delicate nose, and large, searching hazel eyes. Her head-dress was of
white, with silver pins in it; a light white shawl was clasped
cross-wise over her shoulders; and she wore a loose brocaded
dressing-gown beneath it. Her hands, clasped as if in prayer, emerged
out of deep lace-fringed sleeves, and were covered with rings. But it
was the air of almost superhuman delicacy that breathed from her most
forcibly; and, when she spoke, a ring of assured decision revealed her
quiet consciousness of royalty. It was an extraordinary mingling of
fragility and power, of which this feminine and royal room was the
proper frame.

Sir Amyas knelt perfunctorily, as if impatient of it; and rose up again
at once without waiting for the signal. Mary lifted her fingers a little
as a sign to the other two.

"I have brought the French doctor, madam," said the soldier abruptly.
"But he must see your Grace in my presence."

"Then you might as well have spared him, and yourself, the pains, sir,"
came the quiet, dignified voice. "I do not choose to be examined in your
presence."

Robin lifted his eyes to her face; but although he thought he caught an
under air of intense desire towards him and That which he bore, there
was no faltering in the tone of her voice. It was, as some man said, as
"soft as running water heard by night."

"This is absurd, madam. I am responsible for your Grace's security and
good health. But there are lengths--"

"You have spoken the very word," said the Queen. "There are lengths to
which none of us should go, even to preserve our health."

"I tell you, madam--"

"There is no more to be said, sir," said the Queen, closing her eyes
again.

"But what do I know of this fellow? How can I tell he is what he
professes to be?" barked Sir Amyas.

"Then you should never have admitted him at all," said the Queen,
opening her eyes again. "And I will do the best that I can--"

"But, madam, your health is my care; and Mr. Bourgoign here tells me--"

"The subject does not interest me," murmured the Queen, apparently half
asleep.

"But I will retire to the corner and turn my back, if that is
necessary," growled the soldier.

There was no answer. She lay with closed eyes, and her woman began again
to fan her gently.

       *       *       *       *       *

Robin began to understand the situation a little better. It was plain
that Sir Amyas was a great deal more anxious for the Queen's health than
he pretended to be, or he would never have tolerated such objections.
The Queen, too, must know of this, or she would not have ventured, with
so much at stake, to treat him with such maddening rebuffs. There had
been rumours (verified later) that Elizabeth had actually caused it to
be suggested to Sir Amyas that he should poison his prisoner decently
and privately, and thereby save a great deal of trouble and scandal; and
that Sir Amyas had refused with indignation. Perhaps, if all this were
true, thought Robin, the officer was especially careful on this very
account that the Queen's health should be above suspicion. He remembered
that Sir Amyas had referred just now to a suspicion of poison.... He
determined on the bold line.

"Her Grace has spoken, sir," he said modestly. "And I think I should
have a word to say. It is plain to me, by looking at her Grace, that her
health is very far from what it should be--" (he paused
significantly)--"I should have to make a thorough examination, if I
prescribed at all; and, even should her Grace consent to this being done
publicly, for my part I would not consent. I should be happy to have her
women here, but--"

Sir Amyas turned on him wrathfully.

"Why, sir, you said downstairs--"

"I had not then seen her Grace. But there is no more to be said--" He
kneeled again as if to take his leave, stood up, and began to retire to
the door. Mr. Bourgoign stood helpless.

Then Sir Amyas yielded.

"You shall have fifteen minutes, sir. No more," he cried harshly. "And I
shall remain in the next room."

He made a perfunctory salute and strode out.

The Queen opened her eyes, waited for one tense instant till the door
closed; then she slipped swiftly off the couch.

"The door!" she whispered.

The woman was across the room in an instant, on tip-toe, and drew the
single slender bolt. The Queen made a sharp gesture; the woman fled back
again on one side, and out through the further door, and the old man
hobbled after her. It was as if every detail had been rehearsed. The
door closed noiselessly.

Then the Queen rose up, as Robin, understanding, began to fumble with
his breast. And, as he drew out the pyx, and placed it on the
handkerchief (in reality a corporal), apparently so carelessly laid by
the crucifix, Mary sank down in adoration of her Lord.

"Now, _mon père_," she whispered, still kneeling, but lifting her
star-bright eyes. And the priest went across to the couch where the
Queen had lain, and sat down on it.

"_In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti_--" began Mary.


IV

When the confession was finished, Robin went across, at the Queen's
order, and tapped with his finger-nail upon the door, while she herself
remained on her knees. The door opened instantly, and the two came in,
the woman first, bearing two lighted tapers. She set these down one on
either side of the crucifix, and herself knelt with the old physician.

... Then Robin gave holy communion to the Queen of the Scots....


V

She was back again on her couch now, once more as drowsy-looking as
ever. The candlesticks were gone again; the handkerchief still in its
place, and the woman back again behind the couch. The two men kneeled
close beside her, near enough to hear every whisper.

"Listen, gentlemen," she said softly, "I cannot tell you what you have
done for my soul to-day--both of you, since I could never have had the
priest without my friend.... I cannot reward you, but our Lord will do
so abundantly.... Listen, I know that I am going to my death, and I
thank God that I have made my peace with Him. I do not know if they will
allow me to see a priest again. But I wish to say this to both of
you--as I said just now in my confession, to you, _mon père_--that I am
wholly and utterly guiltless of the plot laid to my charge; that I had
neither part nor wish nor consent in it. I desired only to escape from
my captivity.... I would have made war, if I could, yes, but as for
accomplishing or assisting in her Grace's death, the thought was never
near me. Those whom I thought my friends have entrapped me, and have
given colour to the tale. I pray our Saviour to forgive them as I do;
and with that Saviour now in my breast I tell you--and you may tell all
the world if you will--that I am guiltless of what they impute to me. I
shall die for my Religion, and nothing but that. And I thank you again,
_mon père, et vous, mon ami, que vous avez_...."

Her voice died away in inaudible French, and her eyes closed.

       *       *       *       *       *

Robin's eyes were raining tears, but he leaned forward and kissed her
hand as it lay on the edge of the couch. He felt himself touched on the
shoulder, and he stood up. The old man's eyes, too, were brimming with
tears.

"I must let Sir Amyas in," he whispered. "You must be ready."

"What shall I say?"

"Say that you will prescribe privately, to me: and that her Grace's
health is indeed delicate, but not gravely impaired.... You understand?"

Robin nodded, passing his sleeve over his eyes. The woman touched the
Queen's shoulder to rouse her, and Mr. Bourgoign opened the door.


VI

"And now, sir," said Mr. Bourgoign, as the two passed out from the house
half an hour later, "I have one more word to say to you. Listen
carefully, if you please, for there is not much time."

He glanced behind him, but the tall figure was gone from the door; there
remained only the two pikemen that kept ward over the great house on the
steps.

"Come this way," said the physician, and led the priest through into the
little walled garden on the south. "He will think we are finishing our
consultation."

       *       *       *       *       *

"I cannot tell you," he said presently, "all that I think of your
courage and your wit. You made a told stroke when you told him you would
begone again, unless you could see her Grace alone, and again when you
said you had come to Chartley because she was here. And you may go
again now, knowing you have comforted a woman in her greatest need. They
sent her chaplain from her when she left here for Tixall in July, and
she has not had him again yet. She is watched at every point. They have
taken all her papers from her, and have seduced M. Nau, I fear. Did you
hear anything of him in town?"

"No," said the priest. "I know nothing of him."

"He is a Frenchman, and hath been with her Grace more than ten years. He
hath written her letters for her, and been privy to all her counsels.
And I fear he hath been seduced from her at last. It was said that Mr.
Walsingham was to take him into his house.... Well, but we have not time
for this. What I have to ask you is whether you could come again to us?"

He peered at the priest almost timorously. Robin was startled.

"Come again?" he said. "Why--"

"You see you have already won to her presence, and Sir Amyas is
committed to it that you are a safe man. I shall tell her Grace, too,
that she must eat and drink well, and get better, if she would see you
again, for that will establish you in Sir Amyas' eyes."

"But will she not have a priest?"

"I know nothing, Mr. Alban. They even shut me up here when they took her
to Tixall; and even now none but myself and her two women have access to
her. I do not know even if her Grace will be left here. There has been
talk among the men of going to Fotheringay. I know nothing, from day to
day. It is a ... a _cauchemar_. But they will certainly do what they can
to shake her. It grows more rigorous every day. And I thought, that if
you would tell me whether a message could reach you, and if her chaplain
is not allowed to see her again, you might be able to come again. I
would tell Sir Amyas how much good you had done to her last time, with
your herbs; and, it might be, you could see her again in a month or two
perhaps--or later."

Robin was silent.

The greatness of the affair terrified him; yet its melancholy drew him.
He had seen her on whom all England bent its thoughts at this time, who
was a crowned Queen, with broad lands and wealth, who called Elizabeth
"sister"; yet who was more of a prisoner than any in the Fleet or
Westminster Gatehouse, since those at least could have their friends to
come to them. Her hidden fires, too, had warmed him--that passion for
God that had burst from her when her gaoler left her, and she had flung
herself on her knees before her hidden Saviour. It may be he had doubted
her before (he did not know); but there was no more doubt in him after
her protestation of her innocence. He began to see now that she stood
for more than her kingdom or her son or the plots attributed to her,
that she was more than a mere great woman, for whose sake men could both
live and die; he began to see in her that which poor Anthony had seen--a
champion for the Faith of them all, an incarnate suffering symbol, in
flesh and blood, of that Religion for which he, too, was in peril--that
Religion, which, in spite of all clamour to the contrary, was the real
storm-centre of England's life.

He turned then to the old man with a suddenly flushed face.

"A message will always reach me at Mistress Manners' house, at Booth's
Edge, near Hathersage, in Derbyshire. And I will come from there, or
from the world's end, to serve her Grace."



CHAPTER V


I

"First give me your blessing, Mr. Alban," said Marjorie, kneeling down
before him in the hall in front of them all. She was as pale as a ghost,
but her eyes shone like stars.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a couple of months after his leaving Chartley before he came at
last to Booth's Edge. First he had had to bestow Mr. Arnold in
Lancashire, for suspicion was abroad; and it was a letter from Marjorie
herself, reaching him in Derby, at Mr. Biddell's house, that had told
him of it, and bidden him go on with his friend. The town had never been
the same since Topcliffe's visit; and now that Babington House was no
longer in safe Catholic hands, a great protection was gone. He had
better go on, she said, as if he were what he professed to be--a
gentleman travelling with his servant. A rumour had come to her ears
that the talk in the town was of the expected arrival of a new priest to
take Mr. Garlick's place for the present, and every stranger was
scrutinised. So he had taken her advice; he had left Derby again
immediately, and had slowly travelled north; then, coming round about
from the north, after leaving his friend, saying mass here and there
where he could, crossing into Yorkshire even as far west as Wakefield,
he had come at last, through this wet November day, along the Derwent
valley and up to Booth's Edge, where he arrived after sunset, to find
the hall filled with folks to greet him.

He was smiling himself, though his eyes were full of tears, by the time
that he had done giving his blessings. Mr. John FitzHerbert was come up
from Padley, where he lived now for short times together, greyer than
ever, but with the same resolute face. Mistress Alice Babington was
there, still serene looking, but with a new sorrow in her eyes; and,
clinging to her, a thin, pale girl all in black, who only two months
before had lost both daughter and husband; for the child had died
scarcely a week or two before her father, Anthony Babington, had died
miserably on the gallows near St. Giles' Fields, where he had so often
met his friends after dark. It was a ghastly tale, told in fragments to
Robin here and there during his journeyings by men in taverns, before
whom he must keep a brave face. And a few farmers were there, old Mr.
Merton among them, come in to welcome the son of the Squire of Matstead,
returned under a feigned name, unknown even to his father, and there,
too, was honest Dick Sampson, come up from Dethick to see his old
master. So here, in the hall he knew so well, himself splashed with red
marl from ankle to shoulder, still cloaked and spurred, one by one these
knelt before him, beginning with Marjorie herself, and ending with the
youngest farm-boy, who breathed heavily as he knelt down and got up
round-eyed and staring.

"And his Reverence will hear confessions," proclaimed Marjorie to the
multitude, "at eight o'clock to-night; and he will say mass and give
holy communion at six o'clock to-morrow morning."


II

He had to hear that night, after supper, and before he went to keep his
engagement in the chapel-room, the entire news of the county; and, in
his turn, to tell his own adventures. The company sat together before
the great hall-fire, to take the dessert, since there would have been no
room in the parlour for all who wished to hear. (He heard the tale of
Mr. Thomas FitzHerbert, traitor, apostate and sworn man of her Grace,
later, when he had come down again from the chapel-room, and the
servants had gone.) But now it was of less tragic matters, and more
triumphant, that they talked: he told of his adventures since he had
landed in August; of his riding in Lancashire and Yorkshire, and of the
fervour that he met with there (in one place, he said, he had reconciled
the old minister of the parish, that had been made priest under Mary
thirty years ago, and now lay dying); but he said nothing at that time
of what he had seen of her Grace of Scotland, and Chartley: and the
rest, on the other hand, talked of what had passed in Derby, of all that
Mr. Ludlam and Mr. Garlick had done; of the arrest and banishment of the
latter, and his immediate return; of the hanging of Mr. Francis Ingolby,
in York, which had made a great stir in the north that summer, since he
was the son of Sir Francis, of Ripley Castle; as well as of the deaths
of many others--Mr. Finglow in August; Mr. Sandys, in the same month, in
Gloucester; and of Mr. Lowe, Mr. Adams and Mr. Dibdale, all together at
Tyburn, the news of which had but just come to Derbyshire; and of
Mistress Clitheroe, that had been pressed to death in York, for the very
crime which Mistress Marjorie Manners was perpetrating at this moment,
namely, the assistance and harbourage of priests; or, rather, for
refusing to plead when she had been arrested for that crime, lest she
should bring them into trouble.

And then at last they began to speak of Mary in Fotheringay and at that
a maid came in to say that it was eight o'clock, and would his Reverence
come up, as a few had to travel home that night and to come again next
day....

       *       *       *       *       *

It was after nine o'clock before he came downstairs again, to find the
gentlefolk alone in the little parlour that opened from the hall. It
gave him a strange thrill of pleasure to see them there in the
firelight; the four of them only--Mr. John in the midst, with the three
ladies; and an empty chair waiting for the priest. He would hear their
confessions presently when the servants were gone to bed. A great mug of
warm ale stood by his place, to comfort him after his long ride and his
spiritual labours.

Mr. John told him first the news of his own son, as was his duty to do;
and he told it without bitterness, in a level voice, leaning his cheek
on his hand.

It appeared that Mr. Thomas still passed for a Catholic among the
simpler folk; but with none else. All the great houses round about had
the truth as an open secret; and their doors were closed to him; neither
had any priest been near him, since the day when Mr. Simpson met him
alone on the moors and spoke to him of his soul. Even then Mr. Thomas
had blustered and declared that there was no truth in the tale; and had
so ridden away at last, saying that such pestering was enough to make a
man lose his religion altogether.

"As for me," said Mr. John, "he has not been near me, nor I near him. He
lives at Norbury for the most part. My brother is attempting to set
aside the disposition he had made in his favour; but they say that it
will be made to stand; and that my son will get it all yet. But he has
not troubled us at Padley; nor will he, I think."

"He is at Norbury, you say, sir?"

"Yes; but he goes here and there continually. He has been to London to
lay informations, I have no doubt, for I know that he hath been seen
there in Topcliffe's company.... It seems that we are to be in the thick
of the conflict. We have had above a dozen priests in this county alone
arraigned for treason, and the most of them executed."

His voice had gone lower, and trembled once or twice as he talked. It
was plain that he could not bear to speak much more against the son that
had turned against him and his Faith, for the sake of his own liberty
and the estates he had hoped to have. Robin made haste to turn the talk.

"And my father, sir?"

Mr. John looked at him tenderly.

"You must ask Mistress Marjorie of him," he said. "I have not seen him
these three years."

Robin turned to the girl.

"I have had no more news of him since what I wrote to you," she said
quietly. "After I had spoken with him, and he had given me the warning,
he held himself aloof."

"Hath he been at any of the trials at Derby?"

She bowed her head.

"He was at the trial of Mr. Garlick," she said; "last year; and was one
of those who spoke for his banishment."

       *       *       *       *       *

And then, on a sudden, Mistress Alice moved in her corner, where she sat
with the widow of her brother.

"And what of her Grace?" she said. "Is it true what Dick told us before
supper, that Parliament hath sentenced her?"

Robin shook his head.

"I hear so much gossip," he said, "in the taverns, that I believe
nothing. I had not heard that. Tell me what it was."

He was in a torment of mind as to what he should say of his own
adventure at Chartley. On the one side it was plain that no rumour of
the tale must get abroad or he would never be able to come to her again;
on the other side, no word had come from Mr. Bourgoign, though two
months had passed. He knew, indeed, what all the world knew by now, that
a trial had been held by over forty lords in Fotheringay Castle, whither
the Queen had been moved at the end of September, and that reports had
been sent of it to London. But for the rest he knew no more than the
others. Tales ran about the country on every side. One man would say
that he had it from London direct that Parliament had sentenced her;
another that the Queen of England had given her consent too; a third,
that Parliament had not dared to touch the matter at all; a fourth, that
Elizabeth had pardoned her. But, for Robin, his hesitation largely lay
in his knowledge that it was on the Babington plot that all would turn,
and that this would have been the chief charge against her; and here,
but a yard away from him, in the gloom of the chimney-breast sat
Anthony's wife and sister. How could he say that this was so, and yet
that he believed her wholly innocent of a crime which he detested? He
had dreaded this talk the instant that he had seen them in the hall and
heard their names.

But Mistress Alice would not be put off. She repeated what she had said.
Dick had come up from Dethick only that afternoon, and was now gone
again, so that he could not be questioned; but he had told his mistress
plainly that the story in Derby, brought in by couriers, was that
Parliament had consented and had passed sentence on her Grace; that her
Grace herself had received the news only the day before; but that the
warrant was not signed.

"And on what charge?" asked Robin desperately. Mistress Alice's voice
rang out proudly; but he saw her press the girl closer as she spoke.

"That she was privy to the plot which my ... my brother had a hand in."

Then Robin drew a breath and decided.

"It may be so," he said. "But I do not believe she was privy to it. I
spoke with her Grace at Chartley--"

There was a swift movement in the half circle.

"I spoke with her Grace at Chartley," he said. "I went to her under
guise of a herbalist: I heard her confession and gave her communion; and
she declared publicly, before two witnesses, after she had had
communion, that she was guiltless."

       *       *       *       *       *

Robin was no story-teller; but for half an hour he was forced to become
one, until his hearers were satisfied. Even here, in the distant hills,
Mary's name was a key to a treasure-house of mysteries. It was through
this country, too, that she had passed again and again. It was at old
Chatsworth--the square house with the huge Italian and Dutch gardens,
that a Cavendish had bought thirty years ago from the Agards--that she
had passed part of her captivity; it was in Derby that she had halted
for a night last year; it was near Burton that she had slept two months
ago on her road to Fotheringay; and to hear now of her, from one who had
spoken to her that very autumn, was as a revelation. So Robin told it as
well as he could.

"And it may be," he said, "that I shall have to go again. Mr. Bourgoign
said that he would send to me if he could. But I have heard no word from
him." (He glanced round the watching faces.) "And I need not say that I
shall hear no word at all, if the tale I have told you leak out."

"Perhaps she hath a chaplain again," said Mr. John, after pause.

"I do not think so," said the priest. "If she had none at Chartley, she
would all the less have one at Fotheringay."

"And it may be you will be sent for again?" asked Marjorie's voice
gently from the darkness.

"It may be so," said the priest.

"The letter is to be sent here?" she asked.

"I told Mr. Bourgoign so."

"Does any other know you are here?"

"No, Mistress Marjorie."

There was a pause.

"It is growing late," said Mr. John. "Will your Reverence go upstairs
with me; and these ladies will come after, I think."


III

If it had been a great day for Robin that he should come back to his own
country after six years, and be received in this house of strange
memories; that he should sit upstairs as a priest, and hear confessions
in that very parlour where nearly seven years ago he had sat with
Marjorie as her accepted lover--if all this had been charged, to him,
with emotions and memories which, however he had outgrown them, yet
echoed somewhere wonderfully in his mind; it was no less a kind of
climax and consummation to the girl whose house this was, and who had
waited so long to receive back a lover who came now in so different a
guise.

But it must be made plain that to neither of them was there a thought or
a memory that ought not to be. To those who hold that men are no better,
except for their brains, than other animals; that they are but, after
all, bundles of sense from which all love and aspiration take their
rise--to such the thing will seem simply false. They will say that it
was not so; that all that strange yearning that Marjorie had to see the
man back again; that the excitement that beat in Robin's heart as he had
ridden up the well-remembered slope, all in the dark, and had seen the
lighted windows at the top; that these were but the old loves in the
disguise of piety. But to those who understand what priesthood is, for
him that receives it, and for the soul that reverences it, the thing is
a truism. For the priest was one who loved Christ more than all the
world; and the woman one who loved priesthood more than herself.

Yet her memories of him that remained in her had, of course, a place in
her heart; and, though she knelt before him presently in the little
parlour where once he had kneeled before her, as simply as a child
before her father, and told her sins, and received Christ's pardon, and
went away to make room for the next--though all this was without a
reproach in her eyes; yet, as she went she knew that she must face a
fresh struggle, and a temptation that would not have been one-tenth so
fierce if it had been some other priest that was in peril. That peril
was Fotheringay, where (as she knew well enough) every strange face
would be scrutinized as perhaps nowhere else in all England; and that
temptation lay in the knowledge that when that letter should come (as
she knew in her heart it would come), it would be through her hands that
it would pass--if it passed indeed.

       *       *       *       *       *

While the others went to the priest one by one, Marjorie kneeled in her
room, fighting with a devil that was not yet come to her, as is the way
with sensitive consciences.



CHAPTER VI


I

The suspense at Fotheringay grew deeper with every day that passed.

Christmas was come and gone, and no sign was made from London, so far,
at least, as the little town was concerned. There came almost daily from
the castle new tales of slights put upon the Queen, and now and again of
new favours granted to her. Her chaplain, withdrawn for a while, had
been admitted to her again a week before Christmas; a crowd had
collected to see the Popish priest ride in, and had remarked on his
timorous air; and about the same time a courier had been watched as he
rode off to London, bearing, it was rumoured, one last appeal from one
Queen to the other. On the other hand, it was known that Mary no longer
had her daïs in her chamber, and that the billiard-table, which she
never used, had been taken away again.

But all this had happened before Christmas, and now a month had gone by,
and although this or that tale of discourtesy from gaoler to prisoner
leaked out through the servants; though it was known that the crucifix
which Mary had hung up in the place where her daïs had stood remained
undisturbed--though this argument or the other could be advanced in turn
by men sitting over their wine in the taverns, that the Queen's cause
was rising or falling, nothing was truly known the one way or the other.
It had been proclaimed, by trumpet, in every town in England, that
sentence of death was passed; yet this was two or three months ago, and
the knowledge that the warrant had not yet been signed seemed an
argument to some that now it never would be.

       *       *       *       *       *

A group was waiting (as a group usually did wait) at the village
entrance to the new bridge lately built by her Grace of England, towards
sunset on an evening late in January. This situation commanded, so far
as was possible, every point of interest. It was the beginning of the
London road, up which so many couriers had passed; it was over this
bridge that her Grace of Scotland herself had come from her
cross-country journey from Chartley. On the left, looking northwards,
rose the great old collegiate church, with its graceful lantern tower,
above the low thatched stone houses of the village; on the right,
adjoining the village beyond the big inn, rose the huge keep of the
castle and its walls, within its double moats, ranged in form of a
fetterlock of which the river itself was its straight side. Beyond, the
low rolling hills and meadows met the chilly January sky.

For four months now the village had been transformed into a kind of
camp. The castle itself was crammed to bursting. The row of little
windows beside the hall on the first floor, visible only from the road
that led past the inn parallel to the river, marked the lodgings of the
Queen, where, with the hall also for her use, she lived continually; the
rest of the castle was full of men-at-arms, officers, great lords who
came and went--these, with the castellan's rooms and those of his
people, Sir Amyas' lodgings, and the space occupied by Mary's own
servants--all these filled the castle entirely. For the rest--the
garrison not on duty, the grooms, the couriers, the lesser servants, the
suites of the visitors, and even many of the visitors themselves--these
filled the two inns of the little town completely, and overflowed
everywhere into the houses of the people. It was a vision of a garrison
in war-time that the countryfolk gaped at continually; the street
sparkled all day with liveries and arms; archers went to and fro; the
trample of horses, the sharp military orders at the changings of guard
outside and within the towered gateway that commanded the entrance over
the moats, the songs of men over their wine in the tavern-parlours--
these things had become matters of common observation, and fired many a
young farm-man with a zeal for arms.

The Queen herself was a mystery.

They had seen, for a moment, as she drove in after dark last September,
a coach (in which, it was said, she had sat with her back to the horses)
surrounded by guards; patient watchers had, perhaps, half a dozen times
altogether caught a glimpse of a woman's face, at a window that was
supposed to be hers, look out for an instant over the wall that skirted
the moat. But that was all. They heard the trumpets' cry within the
castle; and even learned to distinguish something of what each
signified--the call for the changing of guards, the announcement of
dinner and supper; the warning to the gatekeepers that persons were to
pass out. But of her, round whom all this centred, of the prison-queen
of this hive of angry bees, they knew less than of her Grace of England
whom once they had seen ride in through these very gates. Tales, of
course, were abundant--gossip from servant to servant, filtering down at
last, distorted or attenuated, to the rustics who watched and exclaimed;
but there was not a soldier who kept her, not a cook who served her, of
whom they did not know more than of herself. There were even parties in
the village; or, rather, there was a silent group who did not join in
the universal disapproval, but these were queer and fantastic persons,
who still held to the old ways and would not go to church with the rest.

A little more material had been supplied for conversation by the events
of to-day. It had positively been reported, by a fellow who had been to
see about a room for himself in the village, that he had been turned out
of the castle to make space for her Grace's chaplain. This was puzzling.
Had not the Popish priest already been in the castle five or six weeks?
Then why should he now require another chamber?

The argument waxed hot by the bridge. One said that it was another
priest that was come in disguise; another, that once a Popish priest got
a foothold in a place he was never content till he got the whole for
himself; a third, that the fellow had simply lied, and that he was
turned out because he had been caught by Sir Amyas making love to one of
the maids. Each was positive of his own thesis, and argued for it by the
process of re-assertion that it was so, and that his opponents were
fools. They spat into the water; one got out a tobacco pipe that a
soldier had given him and made a great show of filling it, though he had
no flint to light it with; another proclaimed that for two figs he would
go and inquire at the gateway itself....

To this barren war of the schools came a fact at last, and its bearer
was a gorgeous figure of a man-at-arms (who, later, got into trouble by
talking too much), who came swaggering down the road from the New Inn,
blowing smoke into the air, with his hat on one side, and his
breast-piece loose; and declared in that strange clipped London-English
of his that he had been on guard at the door of Sir Amyas' room, and had
heard him tell Melville the steward and De Préau the priest that they
must no longer have access to her Grace, but must move their lodgings
elsewhere within the castle.

This, then, had to be discussed once more from the beginning. One said
that this was an evident sign that the end was to come and that Madam
was to die; another that, on the contrary, it was plain that this was
not so, but that rather she was to be compelled by greater strictness to
acknowledge her guilt; a third, that it was none of these things, but
rather that Madam was turning Protestant at last in order to save her
life, and had devised this manner of ridding herself of the priest. And
the soldier damned them all round as block-fools, who knew nothing and
talked all the more for it.

       *       *       *       *       *

The dark was beginning to fall before the group broke up, and none of
them took much notice of a young man on a fresh horse, who rode quietly
out of the yard of the New Inn as the saunterers came up. One of them,
three minutes later, however, heard suddenly from across the bridge the
sound of a horse breaking into a gallop and presently dying away
westwards beyond Perry Lane.


II

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 flambeaux 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.


III

Sunday, too, passed as usual.

At half-past eight the bells of the church pealed out for the morning
service, and the village street was thronged with worshippers and a few
soldiers. At nine o'clock they ceased, and the street was empty. At
eleven o'clock the trumpets sounded to announce change of guard, and to
tell the kitchen folk that dishing-time was come. Half an hour later
once more the little procession glinted a moment through the
ground-floor window of the Queen's stair as her Grace went to dinner.
(She was not very well, the cooks had reported, and had eaten but little
last night.) At twelve o'clock she came out again and went upstairs; and
at the same time, in Leicester, a young man, splashed from head to foot,
slipped off a draggled and exhausted horse and went into an inn,
ordering a fresh horse to be ready for him at three o'clock.

And so once more the sun went down, and the little rituals were
performed, and the guards were changed, and M. Landet, for the last time
in his life (though he did not know it), came out from the kitchen with
his white rod to bear it before the dishes of a Queen; and Sir Amyas
walked in from the orchard and was saluted, and Mr. FitzWilliam went his
rounds, and the drawbridge was raised. And, at the time that the
drawbridge was raised, a young man on a horse was wondering when he
should see the lights of Burton....


IV

The first that Mistress Manners knew of his coming in the early hours of
Monday morning, was when she was awakened by Janet in the pitch darkness
shaking her shoulder.

"It is a young man," she said, "on foot. His horse fell five miles off.
He is come with a letter from Derby."

Sleep fell from Marjorie like a cloak. This kind of thing had happened
to her before. Now and then such a letter would come from a priest who
lacked money or desired a guide or information. She sprang out of bed
and began to put on her outer dress and her hooded cloak, as the night
was cold.

"Bring him into the hall," she said. "Get beer and some food, and blow
the fire up."

Janet vanished.

When the mistress came down five minutes later, all had been done as she
had ordered. The turf and wood fire leaped in the chimney; a young man,
still with his hat on his head and drawn down a little over his face,
was sitting over the hearth, steaming like a kettle, eating voraciously.
Janet was waiting discreetly by the doors. Marjorie nodded to her, and
she went out; she had learned that her mistress's secrets were not
always her own as well.

"I am Mistress Manners," she said. "You have a letter for me?"

The young man stood up.

"I know you well enough, mistress," he said. "I am John Merton's son."

Marjorie's heart leaped with relief. In spite of her determination that
this must be a letter from a priest, there had still thrust itself
before her mind the possibility that it might be that other letter whose
coming she had feared. She had told herself fiercely as she came
downstairs just now, that it could not be. No news was come from
Fotheringay all the winter; it was common knowledge that her Grace had a
priest of her own. And now that this was John Merton's son--

She smiled.

"Give me the letter," she said. "I should have known you, too, if it
were not for the dark."

"Well, mistress," he said, "the letter was to be delivered to you, Mr.
Melville said; but--"

"Who?"

"Mr. Melville, mistress: her Grace's steward at Fotheringay."

       *       *       *       *       *

He talked on a moment or two, beginning to say that Mr. Melville himself
had come out to the inn, that he, as Melville's own servant, had been
lodging there, and had been bidden to hold himself in readiness, since
he knew Derbyshire.... But she was not listening. She only knew that
that had fallen which she feared.

"Give me the letter," she said again.

He sat down, excusing himself, and fumbled with his boot; and by the
time that he held it out to her, she was in the thick of the conflict.
She knew well enough what it meant--that there was no peril in all
England like that to which this letter called her friend, there, waiting
for him in Fotheringay where every strange face was suspected, where a
Popish priest was as a sheep in a den of wolves, where there would be no
mercy at all if he were discovered; and where, if he were to be of use
at all, he must adventure himself in the very spot where he would be
most suspected, on a task that would be thought the last word in treason
and disobedience. And, worst of all, this priest had lodged in the
tavern where the conspirators had lodged; he had talked with them the
night before their flight, and now, here he was, striving to get access
to her for whom all had been designed. Was there a soul in England that
could doubt his complicity?... And it was to her own house here in
Derbyshire that he had come for shelter; it was here that he had said
mass yesterday; and it must be from this house that he must ride, on one
of her horses; and it must be her hand that gave him the summons. Last
of all, it was she, Marjorie Manners, that had sent him to this life,
six years ago.

Then, as she took the letter, the shrewd woman in her spoke. It was
irresistible, and she seemed to listen to voice that was not hers.

"Does any here know that you are come?"

"No, mistress."

"If I bade you, and said that I had reasons for it, you would ride away
again alone, without a word to any?"

"Why, yes, mistress!"

(Oh! the plan was irresistible and complete. She would send this
messenger away again on one of her own horses as far as Derby; he could
leave the horse there, and she would send a man for it to-morrow. He
would go back to Fotheringay and would wait, he and those that had sent
him. And the priest they expected would not come. He, too, himself, had
ceased to expect any word from Mr. Bourgoign; he had said a month ago
that surely none would come now. He had been away from Booth's Edge, in
fact, for nearly a month, and had scarcely even asked on his return last
Saturday to Padley, whether any message had come. Why, it was
complete--complete and irresistible! She would burn the letter here in
this hall-fire when the man was gone again; and say to Janet that the
letter had been from a travelling priest that was in trouble, and that
she had sent the answer. And Robin would presently cease to look for
news, and the end would come, and there would be no more trouble.)

"Do you know what is in the letter?" she whispered sharply. ("Sit down
again and go on eating.")

He obeyed her.

"Yes, mistress," he said. "The priest was taken from her on Saturday.
Mr. Bourgoign had arranged all in readiness for that."

"You said Mr. Melville."

"Mr. Melville is a Protestant, mistress; but he is very well devoted to
her Grace, and has done as Mr. Bourgoign wished."

"Why must her Grace have a priest at once? Surely for a few days--"

He glanced up at her, and she, conscious of her own falseness, thought
he looked astonished.

"I mean that they will surely give her her priest back, again presently;
and"--(her voice faltered)--"and Mr. Alban is spent with his
travelling."

"They mean to kill her, mistress. There is no doubt of it amongst those
of us that are Catholics. And it is that she may have a priest before
she dies, that--"

He paused.

"Yes?" she said.

"Her Grace had a fit of crying, it is said, when her priest was taken
from her. Mr. Melville was crying himself, even though--"

He stopped, himself plainly affected.

       *       *       *       *       *

Then, in a great surge, her own heart rose up, and she understood what
she was doing. As in a vision, she saw her own mother crying out for the
priest that never came; and she understood that horror of darkness that
falls on one who, knowing what the priest can do, knowing the infinite
consolations which Christ gives, is deprived, when physical death
approaches, of that tremendous strength and comfort. Indeed, she
recognised to the full that when a priest cannot be had, God will save
and forgive without him; yet what would be the heartlessness, to say
nothing of the guilt, of one that would keep him away? For what, except
that this strength and comfort might be at the service of Christ's
flock, had her own life been spent? It was expressly for this that she
had lived on in England when peace and the cloister might be hers
elsewhere; and now that her own life was touched, should she fail?...
The blindness passed like a dream, and her soul rose up again on a wave
of pain and exaltation....

"Wait," she said. "I will go and awaken him, and bid him come down."


V

An hour later, as the first streaks of dawn slit the sky to the
eastwards over the moors, she stood with Janet and Mistress Alice and
Robin by the hall fire.

She had said not a word to any of the struggle she had passed through.
She had gone upstairs resolutely and knocked on his door till he had
answered, and then whispered, "The letter is come.... I will have food
ready"; slipping the letter beneath the door.

Then she had sent Janet to awaken a couple of men that slept over the
stables; and bid them saddle two horses at once; and herself had gone to
the buttery to make ready a meal. Then Mistress Alice had awakened and
come downstairs, and the three women had waited on the priest, as, in
boots and cloak, he had taken some food.

Then, as the sound of the horses' feet coming round from the stables at
the back had reached them, she had determined to tell Robin before he
went of how she had played the coward.

She went out with him to the entry between the hall and the buttery,
holding the others back with a glance.

"I near destroyed the letter," she said simply, with downcast eyes, "and
sent the man away again. I was afraid of what might fall at
Fotheringay.... May Christ protect you!"

She said no more than that, but turned and called the others before he
could speak.

As he gathered up the reins a moment later, before mounting, the three
women kneeled down in the lighted entry and the two farm-men by the
horses' heads, and the priest gave them his blessing.



CHAPTER VII


I

It was not until after dawn on Wednesday, the twenty-fifth of January,
as the bells were ringing in the parish church for the Conversion of St.
Paul, that the two draggled travellers rode in over the bridge of
Fotheringay, seeing the castle-keep rise grim and grey out of the
river-mists on the right; and, passing on, dismounted in the yard of the
New Inn. They had had one or two small misadventures by the way, and
young Merton, through sheer sleepiness, had so reeled in his saddle on
the afternoon of Monday, that the priest had insisted that they should
both have at least one good night's rest. But they had ridden all
Tuesday night without drawing rein, and Robin, going up to the room that
he was to share with the young man, fell upon the bed, and asleep, all
in one act.

       *       *       *       *       *

He was awakened by the trumpets sounding for dinner in the castle-yard,
and sat up to find young John looking at him. The news that he brought
drove the last shreds of sleep from his brain.

"I have seen Mr. Melville, my master, sir. He bids me say it is useless
for Mr. Bourgoign, or anyone else, to attempt anything with Sir Amyas
for the present. Mr. Melville hath spoken to Sir Amyas as to his
separation from her Grace, and could get no reason for it. But the same
day--it was of Monday--her Grace's butler was forbidden any more to
carry the white rod before her dishes. This is as much as to signify,
Mr. Melville says, that her Grace's royalty shall no longer protect her.
It is their intention, he says, to degrade her first, before they
execute her. And we may look for the warrant any day, my master says."

The young man stared at him mournfully.

"And M. de Préau?"

"M. de Préau goes about as a ghost. He will come and speak with your
Reverence before the day is out. Meanwhile, Mr. Melville says you may
walk abroad freely. Sir Amyas never goes forth of the castle now, and
none will notice. But they might take notice, Mr. Melville says, if you
were to lie all day in your chamber."

       *       *       *       *       *

It was after dinner, as Robin rose from the table in a parlour, where he
had dined with two or three lawyers and an officer of Mr. FitzWilliam,
that John Merton came to him and told him that a gentleman was waiting.
He went upstairs and found the priest, a little timorous-looking man,
dressed like a minister, pacing quickly to and fro in the tiny room at
the top of the house where John and he were to sleep. The Frenchman
seized his two hands and began to pour out in an agitated whisper a
torrent of French and English. Robin disengaged himself.

"You must sit down, M. de Préau," he said, "and speak slowly, or I shall
not understand one word. Tell me precisely what I must do. I am here to
obey orders--no more. I have no design in my head at all. I will do what
Mr. Bourgoign and yourself decide."

       *       *       *       *       *

It was pathetic to watch the little priest. He interrupted himself by a
thousand apostrophes; he lifted hands and eyes to the ceiling
repeatedly; he named his poor mistress saint and martyr; he cried out
against the barbarian land in which he found himself, and the
bloodthirsty tigers with whom, like a second Daniel, he himself had to
consort; he expatiated on the horrible risk that he ran in venturing
forth from the castle on such an errand, saying that Sir Amyas would
wring his neck like a hen's, if he so much as suspected the nature of
his business. He denounced, with feeble venom, the wickedness of these
murderers, who would not only slay his mistress's body, but her soul as
well, if they could, by depriving her of a priest. Incidentally,
however, he disclosed that at present there was no plan at all for
Robin's admission. Mr. Bourgoign had sent for him, hoping that he might
be able to reintroduce him once more on the same pretext as at Chartley;
but the incident of Monday, when the white rod had been forbidden, and
the conversation of Sir Amyas to Mr. Melville had made it evident that
an attempt at present would be worse than useless.

"You must yourself choose!" he cried, with an abominable accent. "If you
will imperil your life by remaining, our Lord will no doubt reward you
in eternity; but, if not, and you flee, not a man will blame you--least
of all myself, who would, no doubt, flee too, if I but dared."

This was frank and humble, at any rate. Robin smiled.

"I will remain," he said.

The Frenchman seized his hands and kissed them.

"You are a hero and a martyr, monsieur! We will perish together,
therefore."


II

After the Frenchman's departure, and an hour's sleep in that profundity
of unconsciousness that follows prolonged effort, Robin put on his sword
and hat and cloak, having dressed himself with care, and went slowly out
of the inn to inspect the battlefield. He carried himself deliberately,
with a kind of assured insolence, as if he had supreme rights in this
place, and were one of that crowd of persons--great lords, lawyers,
agents of the court--to whom for the last few months Fotheringay had
become accustomed. He turned first to the right towards the castle, and
presently was passing down its long length.

It looked, indeed, a royal prison. A low wall on his right protected the
road from the huge outer moat that ran, in the shape of a fetterlock,
completely round all the buildings; and beyond it, springing immediately
from the edge of the water, rose the massive outer wall, pierced here
and there with windows. He thought that he could make out the tops of
the hall windows in one place, beyond the skirting wall, the pinnacles
of the chapel in another, and a row of further windows that might be
lodgings in a third; but from without here nothing was certain, except
the gigantic keep, that stood high to the west, and the strong towers
that guarded the drawbridge; this, as he went by, was lowered to its
place, and he could look across it into the archway, where four men
stood on guard with their pikes. The inner doors, however, were closed
beyond them, and he could see nothing of the inner moat that surrounded
the court, nor the yard itself. Neither did he think it prudent to ask
any questions, though he looked freely about him; since the part he must
play for the present plainly was that of one who had a right here and
knew what he did.

He came back to the inn an hour later, after a walk through the village
and round the locked church: this was a splendid building, with flying
buttresses and a high tower, with exterior carvings of saints and
evangelists all in place. But it looked desolate to him, and he was the
more dejected, as he seemed no nearer to the Queen than before, and with
little chance of getting there. Meanwhile, there was but one thing to be
done, and that the hardest of all--to wait. Perhaps in a few days he
might get speech with Mr. Bourgoign; yet for the present than, too, as
the priest had told him, was out of the question.


III

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.


IV

On the following Saturday John Merton came up into the room where the
priest was sleeping after dinner and awakened him.

"If you will come at once with me, sir, you can have speech with Mr.
Bourgoign. My master has sent me to tell you so; Mr. Bourgoign has leave
to go out."

Robin said nothing. It was the kind of opportunity that must not be
imperilled by a single word that might be overheard. He threw on his
great cloak, buckled his sword on, and followed with every nerve awake.
They went up the street leading towards the church, and turned down a
little passage-way between two of the larger houses; the young man
pushed on a door in the wall; and Robin went through, to find himself in
a little enclosed garden with Mr. Bourgoign gathering herbs from the
border, not a yard from him. The physician said nothing; he glanced
sharply up and pointed to a seat set under the shelter of the wall that
hid the greater part of the garden from the house to which it belonged;
and as Robin reached it, Mr. Bourgoign, still gathering his herbs, began
to speak in an undertone.

"Do not speak except very softly, if you must," he said. "The Queen is
sick again; and I have leave to gather herbs for her in two or three
gardens. It was refused to me at first and then granted afterwards. From
that I look for the worst.... Beale will come to-morrow, I hear....
Paulet refused me leave the first time, I make no doubt, knowing that
all was to end within a day or two: then he granted it me, for fear I
should suspect his reason. (Can you hear me, sir?)"

Robin nodded. His heart thumped within him.

"Well, sir; I shall tell Sir Amyas to-morrow that my herbs do no
good--that I do not know what to give her Grace. I have seen her Grace
continually, but with a man in the room always.... Her Grace knows that
you are here, and bids me thank you with all her heart.... I shall speak
to Sir Amyas, and shall tell him that you are here: and that I sent for
you, but did not dare to ask leave for you until now. If he refuses I
shall know that all is finished, and that Beale has brought the warrant
with him.... If he consents I shall think that it is put off for a
little...."

He was very near to Robin now, still, with a critical air pushing the
herbs this way and that, selecting one now and again.

"Have you anything to say to me, sir? Do not speak loud. The fellow that
conducted me from the castle is drinking ale in the house behind. He did
not know of this door on the side.... Have you anything to say?"

"Yes," said Robin.

"What is it?"

"Two things. The first is that I think one of the fellows in the inn is
doubtful of me. Merton tells me he has asked a great number of questions
about me. What had I best do?"

"Who is he?"

"He is a servant of my lord Shrewsbury's who is in the neighbourhood."

The doctor was silent.

"Am I in danger?" asked the priest quietly. "Shall I endanger her
Grace?"

"You cannot endanger her Grace. She is near her end in any case. But
for yourself--"

"Yes."

"You are endangering yourself every instant by remaining," said the
doctor dryly.

"The second matter--" began Robin.

"But what of yourself--"

"Myself must be endangered," said Robin softly. "The second matter is
whether you cannot get me near her Grace in the event of her execution.
I could at least give her absolution _sub conditione_."

Mr. Bourgoign shot a glance at him which he could not interpret.

"Sir," he said; "God will reward you.... As regards the second matter it
will be exceedingly difficult. If it is to be in the open court, I may
perhaps contrive it. If it is to be in the hall, none but known persons
would be admitted.... Have you anything more, sir?"

"No."

"Then you had best be gone again at once.... Her Grace prays for you....
She had a fit of weeping last night to know that a priest was here and
she not able to have him.... Do you pray for her...."


V

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.


VI

Robin had hardly reached his room after supper and a little dessert in
the parlour, before Merton came in. He drew his hand out of his breast
as he entered, and, with a strange look, gave the priest a folded
letter. Robin took it without a word and read it through.

After a pause he said to the other:

"Who were those two men that came before supper? I saw them ride up."

"There is only one, sir. He is one of Mr. Walsingham's men."

"There were two," said the priest.

"I will inquire, sir," said the young man, looking anxiously from the
priest's face to the note and back again.

Robin noticed it.

"It is bad news," he said shortly. "I must say no more.... Will you
inquire for me; and come and tell me at once."

When the young man had gone Robin read the note again before destroying
it.

"I spoke to Sir A. to-day. He will have none of it. He seemed highly
suspicious when I spoke to him of you. If you value your safety more
than her Grace's possible comfort, you had best leave at once. In any
case, use great caution."

Then, in a swift, hurried hand there followed a post-script:

"Mr. B. is just now arrived, and is closeted with Sir A. All is over, I
think."

       *       *       *       *       *

Ten minutes later Merton came back and found the priest still in the
same attitude, sitting on the bed.

"They will have none of it, sir," he said. "They say that one only came,
in advance of Mr. Beale."

He came a little closer, and Robin could see that he was excited.

"But you are right, sir, for all their lies. I saw supper plates and an
empty flagon come down from the stair that leads to the little chamber
above the kitchen."



CHAPTER VIII


I

Overhead lay the heavy sky of night-clouds like a curved sheet of dark
steel, glimmering far away to the left with gashes of pale light. In
front towered the twin gateway, seeming in the gloom to lean forward to
its fall. Lights shone here and there in the windows, vanished and
appeared again, flashing themselves back from the invisible water
beneath. About, behind and on either side, there swayed and murmured
this huge crowd--invisible in the darkness--peasants, gentlemen,
clerks, grooms--all on an equality at last, awed by a common tragedy
into silence, except for words exchanged here and there in an undertone,
or whispered and left unanswered, or sudden murmured prayers to a God
who hid Himself indeed. Now and again, from beyond the veiling walls
came the tramp of men; once, three or four brisk notes blown on a horn;
once, the sudden rumble of a drum; and once, when the silence grew
profound, three or four blows of iron on wood. But at that the murmur
rose into a groan and drowned it again....

So the minutes passed.... Since soon after midnight the folks had been
gathering here. Many had not slept all night, ever since the report had
run like fire through the little town last evening, that the sentence
had been delivered to the prisoner. From that time onwards the road that
led down past the Castle had never been empty. It was now moving on to
dawn, the late dawn of February; and every instant the scene grew more
distinct. It was possible for those pushed against the wall, or against
the chains of the bridge that had been let down an hour ago, to look
down into the chilly water of the moat; to see not the silhouette only
of the huge fortress, but the battlements of the wall, and now and again
a steel cap and a pike-point pass beyond it as the sentry went to and
fro. Noises within the Castle grew more frequent. The voice of an
officer was heard half a dozen times; the rattle of pike-butts, the
clash of steel. The melancholy bray of the horn-blower ran up a minor
scale and down again; the dub-dub of a drum rang out, and was thrown
back in throbs by the encircling walls. The galloping of horses was
heard three or four times as a late-comer tore up the village street and
was forced to halt far away on the outskirts of the crowd--some country
squire, maybe, to whom the amazing news had come an hour ago. Still
there was no movement of the great doors across the bridge. The men on
guard there shifted their positions; nodded a word or two across to one
another; changed their pikes from one hand to the other. It seemed as if
day would come and find the affair no further advanced....

Then, without warning (for so do great climaxes always come), the doors
wheeled back on their hinges, disclosing a line of pikemen drawn up
under the vaulted entrance; a sharp command was uttered by an officer at
their head, causing the two sentries to advance across the bridge; a
great roaring howl rose from the surging crowd; and in an instant the
whole lane was in confusion. Robin felt himself pushed this way and
that; he struggled violently, driving his elbows right and left; was
lifted for a moment clean from his feet by the pressure about him;
slipped down again; gained a yard or two; lost them; gained three or
four in a sudden swirl; and immediately found his feet on wood instead
of earth; and himself racing desperately as a loose group of runners,
across the bridge; and beneath the arch of the castle-gate.


II

When he was able to take breath again, and to substitute thought for
blind instinct, he found himself tramping in a kind of stream of men
into what appeared an impenetrably packed crowd. He was going between
ropes, however, which formed a lane up which it was possible to move.
This lane, after crossing half the court, wheeled suddenly to one side
and doubled on itself, conducting the newcomers behind the crowd of
privileged persons that had come into the castle overnight, or had been
admitted three or four hours ago. These persons were all people of
quality; many of them, out of a kind of sympathy for what was to happen,
were in black. They stood there in rows, scarcely moving, scarcely
speaking, some even bare-headed, filling up now, so far as the priest
could see, the entire court, except in that quarter in which he
presently found himself--the furthest corner away from where rose up the
tall carved and traceried windows of the banqueting-hall. Yet, though no
man spoke above an undertone, a steady low murmur filled the court from
side to side, like the sound of a wagon rolling over a paved road.

He reached his place at last, actually against the wall of the soldiers'
lodgings, and found, presently, that a low row of projecting stones
enabled him to raise himself a few inches, and see, at any rate, a
little better than his neighbours. He had perceived one thing
instantly--namely, that his dream of getting near enough to the Queen to
give her absolution before her death was an impossible one. He had known
since yesterday that the execution was to take place in the hall, and
here was he, within the court certainly, yet as far as possible away
from where he most desired to be.

       *       *       *       *       *

The last two days had gone by in a horror that there is no describing.
All the hours of them he had passed at his parlour window, waiting
hopelessly for the summons which never came. John Merton had gone to the
castle and come back, each time with more desolate news. There was not a
possibility, he said, when the news was finally certified, of getting a
place in the hall. Three hundred gentlemen had had those places already
assigned; four or five hundred more, it was expected, would have space
reserved for them in the courtyard. The only possibility was to be early
at the gateway, since a limited number of these would probably be
admitted an hour or so before the time fixed for the execution.

The priest had seen many sights from his parlour window during those two
days.

On Monday he had seen, early in the morning, Mr. Beale ride out with his
men to go to my lord Shrewsbury, who was in the neighbourhood, and had
seen him return in time for dinner, with a number of strangers, among
whom was an ecclesiastic. On inquiry, he found this to be Dr. Fletcher,
Dean of Peterborough, who had been appointed to attend Mary both in her
lodgings and upon the scaffold. In the afternoon the street was not
empty for half an hour. From all sides poured in horsemen; gentlemen
riding in with their servants; yeomen and farmers come in from the
countryside, that they might say hereafter that they had at least been
in Fotheringay when a Queen suffered the death of the axe. So the dark
had fallen, yet lights moved about continually, and horses' hoofs never
ceased to beat or the voices of men to talk. Until he fell asleep at
last in his window-seat, he listened always to these things; watched
the lights; prayed softly to himself; clenched his nails into his hands
for indignation; and looked again. On the Tuesday morning came the
sheriff, to dine at the castle with Sir Amyas--a great figure of a man,
dignified and stalwart, riding in the midst of his men. After dinner
came the Earl of Kent, and, last of all, my lord Shrewsbury himself--he
who had been her Grace's gaoler, until he proved too kind for
Elizabeth's taste--now appointed, with peculiar malice, to assist at her
execution. He looked pale and dejected as he rode past beneath the
window.

Yet all this time the supreme horror had been that the end was not
absolutely certain. All in Fotheringay were as convinced as men could
be, who had not seen the warrant nor heard it read, that Mr. Beale had
brought it with him on Sunday night; the priest, above all, from his
communications with Mr. Bourgoign, was morally certain that the terror
was come at last.... It was not until the last night of Mary's life on
earth was beginning to close in that John Merton came up to the parlour,
white and terrified, to tell him that he had been in his master's room
half an hour ago, and that Mr. Melville had come in to them, his face
all slobbered with tears, and had told him that he had but just come
from her Grace's rooms, and had heard with his own ears the sentence
read to her, and her gallant and noble answer.... He had bidden him to
go straight off to the priest, with a message from Mr. Bourgoign and
himself, to the effect that the execution was appointed for eight
o'clock next morning; and that he was to be at the gate of the castle
not later than three o'clock, if, by good fortune, he might be admitted
when the gates were opened at seven.


III

And now that the priest was in his place, he began again to think over
that answer of the Queen. The very words of it, indeed, he did not know
for a month or two later, when Mr. Bourgoign wrote to him at length; but
this, at least, he knew, that her Grace had said (and no man
contradicted her at that time) that she would shed her blood to-morrow
with all the happiness in the world, since it was for the cause of the
Catholic and Roman Church that she died. It was not for any plot that
she was to die: she professed again, kissing her Bible as she did so,
that she was utterly guiltless of any plot against her sister. She died
because she was of that Faith in which she had been born, and which
Elizabeth had repudiated. As for death, she did not fear it; she had
looked for it during all the eighteen years of her imprisonment.

It was at a martyrdom, then, that he was to assist.... He had known
that, without a doubt, ever since the day that Mary had declared her
innocence at Chartley. There had been no possibility of thinking
otherwise; and, as he reflected on this, he remembered that he, too, was
guilty of the same crime;... and he wondered whether he, too, would die
as manfully, if the need for it ever came.

       *       *       *       *       *

Then, in an instant, he was called back, by the sudden crash of horns
and drums playing all together. He saw again the ranks of heads before
him: the great arched windows of the hall on the other side of the
court, the grim dominating keep, and the merciless February morning sky
over all.

It was impossible to tell what was going on.

On all sides of him men jostled and murmured aloud. One said, "She is
coming down"; another, "It is all over"; another, "They have awakened
her." "What is it? what is it?" whispered Robin to the air, watching
waves of movement pass over the serried heads before him. The lights
were still burning here and there in the windows, and the tall panes of
the hall were all aglow, as if a great fire burned within. Overhead the
sky had turned to daylight at last, but they were grey clouds that
filled the heavens so far as he could see. Meanwhile, the horns brayed
in unison, a rough melody like the notes of bugles, and the drums beat
out the time.

Again there was a long pause--in which the lapse of time was
incalculable. Time had no meaning here: men waited from incident to
incident only--the moving of a line of steel caps, a pause in the music,
a head thrust out from a closed window and drawn back again.... Again
the music broke out, and this time it was an air that they played--a
lilting melancholy melody, that the priest recognised, yet could not
identify. Men laughed subduedly near him; he saw a face wrinkled with
bitter mirth turned back, and he heard what was said. It was "Jumping
Joan" that was being played--the march consecrated to the burning of
witches. He had heard it long ago, as a boy....

Then the rumour ran through the crowd, and spent itself at last in the
corner where the priest stood trembling with wrath and pity.

"She is in the hall."

It was impossible to know whether this were true, or whether she had not
been there half an hour already. The horror was that all might be over,
or not yet begun, or in the very act of doing. He had thought that there
would be some pause or warning--that a signal would be given, perhaps,
that all might bare their heads or pray, at this violent passing of a
Queen. But there was none. The heads surged and quieted; murmurs burst
out and died again; and all the while the hateful, insolent melody rose
and fell; the horns bellowed; the drums crashed. It sounded like some
shocking dance-measure; a riot of desperate spirits moved in it,
trampling up and down, as if in one last fling of devilish gaiety....

       *       *       *       *       *

Then suddenly the heads grew still; a wave of motionlessness passed over
them, as if some strange sympathy were communicated from within those
tall windows. The moments passed and passed. It was impossible to hear
those murmurs, through the blare of the instruments; there was one sound
only that could penetrate them; and this, rising from what seemed at
first the wailing of a child, grew and grew into the shrill cries of a
dog in agony. At the noise once more a roar of low questioning surged up
and fell. Simultaneously the music came to an abrupt close; and, as if
at a signal, there sounded a great roar of voices, all shouting together
within the hall. It rose yet louder, broke out of doors, and was taken
up by those outside. The court was now one sea of tossing heads and open
mouths shouting--as if in exultation or in anger. Robin fought for his
place on the projecting stones, clung to the rough wall, gripped a
window-bar and drew himself yet higher.

Then, as he clenched himself tight and stared out again towards the tall
windows that shone in bloody flakes of fire from the roaring logs
within; a sudden and profound silence fell once more before being
shattered again by a thousand roaring throats....

For there, in full view beyond the clear glass stood a tall, black
figure, masked to the mouth, who held in his out-stretched hands a wide
silver dish, in which lay something white and round and slashed with
crimson....



PART IV



CHAPTER I


I

"There is no more to be said, then," said Marjorie, and leaned back,
with a white, exhausted face. "We can do no more."

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a little council of Papists that was gathered--a year after the
Queen's death at Fotheringay--in Mistress Manners' parlour. Mr. John
FitzHerbert was there; he had ridden up an hour before with heavy news
from Padley and its messenger. Mistress Alice was there, quiet as ever,
yet paler and thinner than in former years (Mistress Babington herself
had gone back to her family last year). And, last, Robin himself was
there, having himself borne the news from Derby.

He had had an eventful year, yet never yet had he come within reach of
the pursuivant. But he had largely effected this by the particular care
which he had observed with regard to Matstead, and his silence as to his
own identity. Extraordinary care, too, was observed by his friends, who
had learned by now to call him even in private by his alias; and it
appeared certain that beyond a dozen or two of discreet persons it was
utterly unsuspected that the stately bearded young gentleman named Mr.
Robert Alban--the "man of God," as, like other priests, he was commonly
called amongst the Catholics--had any connection whatever with the
hawking, hunting, and hard-riding lover of Mistress Manners. It was
known, indeed, that Mr. Robin had gone abroad years ago to be made
priest; but those who thought of him at all, or, at least as returned,
believed him sent to some other part of England, for the sake of his
father, and it was partly because of the very fact that his father was
so hot against the Papists that it had been thought safe at Rheims to
send him to Derbyshire, since this would be the very last place in which
he would be looked for.

He had avoided Matstead then--riding through it once only by night, with
strange emotions--and had spent most of his time in the south of
Derbyshire, crossing more than once over into Stafford and Chester, and
returning to Padley or to Booth's Edge once in every three or four
months. He had learned a hundred lessons in these wanderings of his.

The news that he had now brought with him was of the worst. He had heard
from Catholics in Derby that Mr. Simpson, returned again after his
banishment, recaptured a month or two ago, and awaiting trial at the
Lent Assizes, was beginning to falter. Death was a certainty for him
this time, and it appeared that he had seemed very timorous before two
or three friends who had visited him in gaol, declaring that he had done
all that a man could do, that he was being worn out by suffering and
privation, and that there was some limit, after all, to what God
Almighty should demand.

Marjorie had cried out just now, driven beyond herself at the thought of
what all this must mean for the Catholics of the countryside, many of
whom already had fallen away during the last year or two beneath the
pitiless storm of fines, suspicions, and threats--had cried out that it
was impossible that such a man as Mr. Simpson could fall; that the ruin
it would bring upon the Faith must be proportionate to the influence he
already had won throughout the country by his years of labour;
entreating, finally, when the trustworthiness of the report had been
forced upon her at last, that she herself might be allowed to go and
see him and speak with him in prison.

This, however, had been strongly refused by her counsellors just now.
They had declared that her help was invaluable; that the amazing manner
in which her little retired house on the moors had so far evaded grave
suspicion rendered it one of the greatest safeguards that the hunted
Catholics possessed; that the work she was doing by her organization of
messengers and letters must not be risked, even for the sake of a matter
like this....

She had given in at last. But her spirit seemed broken altogether.


II

"There is one more matter," said Robin presently, uncrossing one
splashed leg from over the other. "I had not thought to speak of it; but
I think it best now to do so. It concerns myself a little; and,
therefore, if I may flatter myself, it concerns my friends, too."

He smiled genially upon the company; for if there was one thing more
than another he had learned in his travels, it was that the tragic air
never yet helped any man.

Marjorie lifted her eyes a moment.

"Mistress Manners," he said, "you remember my speaking to you after
Fotheringay, of a fellow of my lord Shrewsbury's who honoured me with
his suspicions?"

She nodded.

"I have never set eyes on him from that day to this--to this," he added.
"And this morning in the open street in Derby whom should I meet with
but young Merton and his father. (Her Grace's servants have suffered
horribly since last year. But that is a tale for another day.) Well: I
stopped to speak with these two. The young man hath left Mr. Melville's
service a while back, it seems; and is to try his fortune in France.
Well; we were speaking of this and that, when who should come by but a
party of men and my lord Shrewsbury in the midst, riding with Mr. Roger
Columbell; and immediately behind them my friend of the 'New Inn' of
Fotheringay. It was all the ill-fortune in the world that it should be
at such moment; if he had seen me alone he would have thought no more of
me; but seeing me with young Jack Merton, he looked from one to the
other. And I will stake my hat he knew me again."

Marjorie was looking full at him now.

"What was my lord Shrewsbury doing in Derby with Mr. Columbell?" mused
Mr. John, biting his moustaches.

"It was the very question I put to myself," said Robin. "And I took the
liberty of seeing where they went. They went to Mr. Columbell's own
house, and indoors of it. The serving-men held the horses at the door. I
watched them awhile from Mr. Biddell's window; but they were still there
when I came away at last."

"What hour was that?" asked the old man.

"That would be after dinner-time. I had dined early; and I met them
afterwards. My lord would surely be dining with Mr. Columbell. But that
is no answer to my question. It rather pierces down to the further
point, Why was my lord Shrewsbury dining with Mr. Columbell? Shrewsbury
is a great lord; Mr. Columbell is a little magistrate. My lord hath his
own house in the country, and there be good inns in Derby."

He stopped short.

"What is the matter, Mistress Manners?" he asked.

"What of yourself?" she said sharply; "you were speaking of yourself."

Robin laughed.

"I had forgotten myself for once!... Why, yes; I intended to ask the
company what I had best do. What with this news of Mr. Simpson, and the
report Mistress Manners gives us of the country-folk, a poor priest must
look to himself in these days; and not for his own sake only. Now, my
lord Shrewsbury's man knows nothing of me except that I had strange
business at Fotheringay a year ago. But to have had strange business at
Fotheringay a year ago is a suspicious circumstance; and--"

"Mr. Alban," broke in the old man, "you had best do nothing at all. You
were not followed from Derby; you are as safe in Padley or here as you
could be anywhere in England. All that you had best do is to remain here
a week or two and not go down to Derby again for the present. I think
that showing of yourself openly in towns hath its dangers as well as its
safeguards."

Mr. John glanced round. Marjorie bowed her head in assent.

"I will do precisely as you say," said Robin easily. "And now for the
news of her Grace's servants."

He had already again and again told the tale of Fotheringay so far as he
had seen it in this very parlour. At first he had hardly found himself
able to speak of it without tears. He had described the scene he had
looked upon when, in the rush that had been made towards the hall after
Mary's head had been shown at the window, he had found a place, and had
been forced along, partly with his will and partly against it, right
through the great doors into the very place where the Queen had
suffered; and he had told the story so well that his listeners had
seemed to see it for themselves--the great hall hung with black
throughout; the raised scaffold at the further end beside the fire that
blazed on the wide hearth; the Queen's servants being led away
half-swooning as he came in; the dress of velvet, the straw and the
bloody sawdust, the beads and all the other pitiful relics being heaped
upon the fire as he stood there in the struggling mob; and, above all,
the fallen body, in its short skirt and bodice lying there where it fell
beside the low, black block. He had told all this as he had seen it for
himself, until the sheriff's men drove them all forth again into the
court; and he had told, too, of all that he had heard afterwards, that
had happened until my lord Shrewsbury's son had ridden out at a gallop
to take the news to court, and the imprisoned watchers had been allowed
to leave the Castle; how the little dog, that he had heard wailing, had
leapt out as the head fell at the third stroke, so that he was all
bathed in his mistress' blood--one of the very spaniels, no doubt, which
he himself had seen at Chartley; how the dog was taken away and washed
and given afterwards into Mr. Melville's charge; how the body and the
head had been taken upstairs, had been roughly embalmed, and laid in a
locked chamber; how her servants had been found peeping through the
keyhole and praying aloud there, till Sir Amyas had had the hole stopped
up. He had told them, too, of the events that followed; of the mass M.
de Préau had been permitted to say in the Queen's oratory on the morning
after; and of the oath that he had been forced to take that he would not
say it again; of the destruction of the oratory and the confiscation of
the altar furniture and vestments.

All this he had told, little by little; and of the Queen's noble bearing
upon the scaffold, her utter fearlessness, her protestations that she
died for her religion and for that only, and of the pesterings of Dr.
Fletcher, Dean of Peterborough, who had at last given over in despair,
and prayed instead. The rest they knew for themselves--of the miserable
falseness of Elizabeth, who feigned, after having signed the warrant and
sent it, that it was Mr. Davison's fault for doing as she told him; and
of her accusations (accusations that deceived no man) against those who
had served her; of the fires made in the streets of all great towns as a
mark of official rejoicing over Mary's death; and of the pitiful
restitution made by the great funeral in Peterborough, six months after,
and the royal escutcheons and the tapers and the hearse, and all the
rest of the lying pretences by which the murderess sought to absolve her
victim from the crime of being murdered. Well; it was all over....

       *       *       *       *       *

And now he told them of what he had heard to-day from young Merton in
Derby; of how Nau, Mary's French secretary--the one who had served her
for eleven years and had been loaded by her kindness--had been rewarded
also by Elizabeth, and that the nature of his services was unmistakable;
while all the rest of them, who had refused utterly to take any part in
the insolent mourning at Peterborough, either in the Cathedral or at the
banquet, had fallen under her Grace's displeasure, so that some of them,
even now, were scarcely out of ward, Mr. Bourgoign alone excepted, since
he was allowed to take the news of the death to their Graces of France,
and had, most wisely, remained there ever since.

       *       *       *       *       *

So the party sat round the fire in the same little parlour where they
had sat so often before, with the lutes and wreaths embroidered on the
hangings and Icarus in the chariot of the sun; and Robin, after telling
his tale, answered question after question, till silence fell, and all
sat motionless, thinking of the woman who, while dead, yet spoke.

Then Mr. John stood up, clapped the priest on the back, and said that
they two must be off to Padley for the night.


III

They had all risen to their feet when a knocking came on the door, and
Janet looked in. She seemed a little perturbed.

"If you please, sir," she said to Mr. John, "one of your men is come up
from Padley; and wishes to speak to you alone."

Mr. John gave a quick glance at the others.

"If you will allow me," he said, "I will go down and speak with him in
the hall."

The rest sat down again. It was the kind of interruption that might be
wholly innocent; yet, coming when it did, it affected them a little.
There seemed to be nothing but bad news everywhere.

The minutes passed, yet no one returned. Once Marjorie went to the door
and listened, but there was only the faint wail of the winter wind up
the stairs to be heard. Then, five minutes later, there were steps and
Mr. John came in. His face looked a little stern, but he smiled with his
mouth.

"We poor Papists are in trouble again," he said. "Mistress Manners, you
must let us stay here all night, if you will; and we will be off early
in the morning. There is a party coming to us from Derby--to-morrow or
next day: it is not known which."

"Why, yes! And what party?" said Marjorie, quietly enough, though she
must have guessed its character. The smile left his mouth.

"It is my son that is behind it," he said. "I had wondered we had not
had news of him! There is to be a general search for seminarists in the
High Peak" (he glanced at Robin), "by order of my lord Shrewsbury. Your
namesake, mistress, Mr. John Manners, and our friend Mr. Columbell, are
commissioned to search; and Mr. Fenton and myself are singled out to be
apprehended immediately. Thomas knows that I am at Padley, and that Mr.
Eyre will come in there for Candlemas, the day after to-morrow; in that
I recognize my son's knowledge. Well, I will dispatch my man who brought
the news to Mr. Eyre to bid him to avoid the place; and we two, Mr.
Alban and myself, will make our way across the border into Stafford."

"There are none others coming to Padley to-morrow?" asked Marjorie.

"None that I know of. They will come in sometimes without warning; but I
cannot help that. Mr. Fenton will be at Tansley: he told me so."

"How did the news come?" asked Robin.

"It seems that the preacher Walton, in Derby, hath been warned that we
shall be delivered to him two days hence. It was his servant that told
one of mine. I fear he will be a-preparing his sermons to us, all for
nothing."

He smiled bitterly again. Robin could see the misery in this man's heart
at the thought that it was his own son who had contrived this. Mr.
Thomas had been quiet for many months, no doubt in order to strike the
more surely in his new function as "sworn man" of her Grace. Yet he
would seem to have failed.

"We shall not get our candles then, this year either," smiled Mr.
Thomas. "Lanterns are all that we shall have."

       *       *       *       *       *

There was not much time to be lost. Luggage had to be packed, since it
would not be safe for the three to return until at least two or three
weeks had passed; and Marjorie, besides, had to prepare a list of places
and names that must be dealt with on their way--places where word must
be left that the hunt was up again, and names of particular persons
that were to be warned. Mr. Garlick and Mr. Ludlam were in the county,
and these must be specially informed, since they were known, and Mr.
Garlick in particular had already suffered banishment and returned
again, so that there would be no hope for him if he were once more
captured.

The four sat late that night; and Robin wondered more than ever, not
only at the self-command of the girl, but at her extraordinary knowledge
of Catholic affairs in the county. She calculated, almost without
mistake, as was afterwards shown, not only which priests were in
Derbyshire, but within a very few miles of where they would be and at
what time: she showed, half-smiling, a kind of chart which she had drawn
up, of the movements of the persons concerned, explaining the plan by
which each priest (if he desired) might go on his own circuit where he
would be most needed. She lamented, however, the fewness of the priests,
and attributed to this the growing laxity of many families--living, it
might be, in upland farms or in inaccessible places, where they could
but very seldom have the visits of the priest and the strength of the
sacraments.

Before midnight, therefore, the two travellers had complete directions
for their journey, as well as papers to help their memories, as to where
the news was to be left. And at last Mr. John stood up and stretched
himself.

"We must go to bed," he said. "We must be booted by five."

Marjorie nodded to Alice, who stood up, saying she would show him where
his bed had been prepared.

Robin lingered for a moment to finish his last notes.

"Mr. Alban," said Marjorie suddenly, without lifting her eyes from the
paper on which she wrote.

"Yes?"

"You will take care to-morrow, will you not?" she said. "Mr. John is a
little hot-headed. You must keep him to his route?"

"I will do my best," said Robin, smiling.

She lifted her clear eyes to his without tremor or shame.

"My heart would be broken altogether if aught happened to you. I look to
you as our Lord's chief soldier in this county."

"But--"

"That is so," she said. "I do not know any man who has been made perfect
in so short a time. You hold us all in your hands."



CHAPTER II


I

It was in Mr. Bassett's house at Langley that the news of the attack on
Padley reached the two travellers a month later, and it bore news in it
that they little expected.

For it seemed that, entirely unexpectedly, there had arrived at Padley
the following night no less than three of the FitzHerbert family, Mr.
Anthony the seventh son, with two of his sisters, as well as Thomas
FitzHerbert's wife, who rode with them, whether as a spy or not was
never known. Further, Mr. Fenton himself, hearing of their coming, had
ridden up from Tansley, and missed the messenger that Marjorie had sent
out. They had not arrived till late, missing again, by a series of
mischances, the scouts Marjorie had posted; and, on discovering their
danger, had further discovered the house to be already watched. They
judged it better, therefore, as Marjorie said in her letter, to feign
unconsciousness of any charge against them, since there was no priest in
the house who could incriminate them.

All this the travellers learned for the first time at Langley.

They had gone through into Staffordshire, as had been arranged, and
there had moved about from house to house of Catholic friends without
any trouble. It was when at last they thought it safe to be moving
homewards, and had arrived at Langley, that they found Marjorie's letter
awaiting them. It was addressed to Mr. John FitzHerbert and was brought
by Robin's old servant, Dick Sampson.

"The assault was made," wrote Marjorie, "according to the arrangement.
Mr. Columbell himself came with a score of men and surrounded the house
very early, having set watchers all in place the evening before: they
had made certain they should catch the master and at least a priest or
two. But I have very heavy news, for all that; for there had come to the
house after dark Mr. Anthony FitzHerbert, with two of his sisters, Mrs.
Thomas FitzHerbert and Mr. Fenton himself, and they have carried the two
gentlemen to the Derby gaol. I have had no word from Mr. Anthony, but I
hear that he said that he was glad that his father was not taken, and
that his own taking he puts down to his brother's account, as yourself,
sir, also did. The men did no great harm in Padley beyond breaking a
panel or two: they were too careful, I suppose, of what they think will
be Mr. Topcliffe's property some day! And they found none of the
hiding-holes, which is good news. The rest of the party they let go free
again for the present.

"I have another piece of bad news, too--which is no more than what we
had looked for: that Mr. Simpson at the Assizes was condemned to death,
but has promised to go to church, so that his life is spared if he will
do so. He is still in the gaol, however, where I pray God that Mr.
Anthony may meet with him and bring him to a better mind; so that he
hath not yet denied our Lord, even though he hath promised to do so.

"May God comfort and console you, Mr. FitzHerbert, for this news of Mr.
Anthony that I send."

       *       *       *       *       *

The letter ended with messages to the party, with instructions for their
way of return if they should come within the next week; and with the
explanation, given above, of the series of misfortunes by which any came
to be at Padley that night, and how it was that they did not attempt to
break out again.

       *       *       *       *       *

The capture of Mr. Anthony was, indeed, one more blow to his father; but
Robin was astonished how cheerfully he bore it; and said as much when
they two were alone in the garden.

The grey old man smiled, while his eyelids twitched a little.

"They say that when a man is whipped he feels no more after awhile. The
former blows prepare him and dull his nerves for the later, which, I
take it, is part of God's mercy. Well, Mr. Alban, my father hath been in
prison a great while now; my son Thomas is a traitor, and a sworn man of
her Grace; I myself have been fined and persecuted till I have had to
sell land to pay the fines with. I have seen family after family fall
from their faith and deny it. So I take it that I feel the joy that I
have a son who is ready to suffer for it, more than the pain I have in
thinking on his sufferings. The one may perhaps atone for the sins of
the other, and yet help him to repentance."

       *       *       *       *       *

Life here at Langley was more encouraging than the furtive existence
necessary in the north of Derbyshire.

Mr. Bassett had a confident way with him that was like wine to fainting
hearts, and he had every reason to be confident; since up to the
present, beyond being forced to pay the usual fines for recusancy, he
had scarcely been troubled at all; and lived in considerable prosperity,
having even been sheriff of Stafford in virtue of his other estates at
Blore. His house at Langley was a great one, standing in a park, and
showing no signs of poverty; his servants were largely Catholic; he
entertained priests and refugees of all kinds freely, although
discreetly; and he laughed at the notion that the persecution could be
of long endurance.

The very first night the travellers had come he had spoken with
considerable freedom after supper.

"Look more hearty!" he cried. "The Spanish fleet will be here before
summer to relieve us of all troubles, as of all heretics, too. Her Grace
will have to turn her coat once more, I think, when that comes to pass."

Mr. John glanced at him doubtfully.

"First," he said, "no man knows whether it will come. And, next, I for
one am not sure if I even wish for it."

Mr. Bassett laughed loudly.

"You will dance for joy!" he said. "And why do you not know whether you
wish it to come?"

"I have no taste to be a Spanish subject."

"Why, nor have I! But the King of Spain will but sail away again when he
hath made terms against the privateers, whether they be those that ply
on the high seas against men's bodies, or here in England against their
souls. There will be no subjection of England beyond that."

Mr. John was silent.

"Why, I heard from Sir Thomas but a week ago, to ask for a little money
to pay his fines with. He said that repayment should follow so soon as
the fleet should come. Those were his very words."

"You sent the money, then?"

"Why, yes; I made shift that a servant should throw down a bag with ten
pounds in it, into a bush, and that Brittlebank--your brother's
man--should see him do it! And lo! when we looked again, the bag was
gone!"

He laughed again with open mouth. Certainly he was an inspiriting man
with a loud bark of his own; but Robin imagined that he would not bite
too cruelly for all that. But he saw another side of him presently.

"What was that matter of Mr. Sutton, the priest who was executed in
Stafford last year?" asked Mr. John suddenly.

The face of the other changed as abruptly. His eyes became pin-points
under his grey eyebrows and his mouth tightened.

"What of him?" he said.

"It was reported that you might have stayed the execution, and would
not. I did not believe a word of it."

"It is true," said Mr. Bassett sharply--"at least a portion of it."

"True?"

"Listen," cried the other suddenly, "and tell me what you would have
done. Mr. Sutton was taken, and was banished, and came back again, as
any worthy priest would do. Then he was taken again, and condemned. I
did my utmost to save him, but I could not. Then, as I would never have
any part in the death of a priest for his religion, another was
appointed to carry the execution through. Three days before news was
brought to me by a private hand that Mr. Sutton had promised to give the
names of priests whom he knew, and of houses where he had said mass, and
I know not what else; and it was said to me that I might on this account
stay the execution until he had told all that he could. Now I knew that
I could not save his life altogether; that was forfeited and there could
be no forgiveness. All that I might do was to respite him for a
little--and for what? That he might damn his own soul eternally and
bring a great number of good men into trouble and peril of death for
themselves. I sent the messenger away again, and said that I would
listen to no such tales. And Mr. Sutton died like a good priest three
days after, repenting, I doubt not, bitterly, of the weakness into which
he had fallen. Now, sir, what would you have done in my place?"

He wagged his face fiercely from side to side.

Mr. John put his hand over his eyes and nodded without speaking. Robin
sat silent: it was not only for priests, it seemed, that life presented
a tangle.


II

The evening before the two left for the north again, Mr. Bassett took
them both into his own study. It was a little room opening out of his
bedroom, and was more full of books than Robin had ever seen, except in
the library at Rheims, in any room in the world. A shelf ran round the
room, high on the wall, and was piled with manuscripts to the ceiling.
Beneath, the book-shelves that ran nearly round the room were packed
with volumes, and a number more lay on the table and even in the
corners.

"This is my own privy chamber," said Mr. Bassett to the priest. "My
other friends have seen it many a time, but I thought I would show it to
your Reverence, too."

Robin looked round him in wonder: he had no idea that his host was a man
of such learning.

"All the books are ranged in their proper places," went on the other. "I
could put my finger on any of them blind-fold. But this is the shelf I
wished you to see."

He took him to one that was behind the door, holding up the candle that
he might see. The shelf had a box or two on it, besides books, and these
he opened and set on the table. Robin looked in, as he was told, but
could understand nothing that he saw: in one was a round ball of crystal
on a little gold stand, wrapped round in velvet; in another some kind of
a machine with wheels; in a third, some dried substances, as of herbs,
tied together with silk. He inspected them gravely, but was not invited
to touch them. Then his host touched him on the breast with one finger,
and recoiled, smiling.

"This is my magic," he said. "John here does not like it; neither did
poor Mr. Fenton when he was here; but I hold there is no harm in such
things if one does but observe caution."

"What do you do with them, sir?" inquired the priest curiously, for he
was not sure whether the man was serious.

"Well, sir, I hold that God has written His will in the stars, and in
the burning of herbs, and in the shining of the sun, and such things.
There is no black magic here. But, just as we read in the sky at
morning, if it be red or yellow, whether it will be foul or fair, so I
hold that God has written other secrets of His in other things; and that
by observing them and judging rightly we may guess what He has in store.
I knew that a prince was to die last year before ever it happened. I
knew that a fleet of ships will come to England this year, before ever
an anchor is weighed. And I would have you notice that here are Mr.
FitzHerbert and your Reverence, too, fleeing for your lives; and here
sit I safe at home; and all, as I hold, because I have been able to
observe by my magic what is to come to pass."

"But that strikes at the doctrine of free-will," cried the priest.

"No, sir; I think it does not. God's foreknowledge doth not hinder the
use of our free-will (which is a mystery, no doubt, yet none the less
true). Then why should God's foreknowledge any more hinder our
free-will, when He chooses to communicate it to us?"

Robin was silent. He knew little or nothing of these things, except from
his theological reading. Yet he felt uneasy. The other said nothing.

"And the stars, too?" he asked.

"I hold," said Mr. Bassett, "that the stars have certain influences and
powers upon those that are born under their signs. I do not hold that we
are so ruled by these that we have no action of our own, any more than
we are compelled to be wet through by rain or scorched by the sun: we
may always come into a house or shelter beneath a tree, and thus escape
them. So, too, I hold, with the stars. There is an old saying, sir: 'The
fool is ruled by his stars; the wise man rules them.' That is, in a
nutshell, my faith in the matter. I have told Mr. Fenton's fortune here,
and Mr. FitzHerbert's, only they will never listen to me."

Robin looked round the room. It was dark outside long ago; they had
supped at sunset, and sat for half an hour over their banquet of
sweetmeats and wine before coming upstairs. And the room, too, was as
dark as night, except where far off in the west, beyond the tall trees
of the park, a few red streaks lingered. He felt oppressed and
miserable. The place seemed to him sinister. He hated these fumblings at
locks that were surely meant to remain closed. Yet he did not know what
to say. Mr. John had wandered off to one of the windows and was humming
uneasily to himself.

Then, suddenly, an intense curiosity overcame him.

His life was a strange and perilous one; he carried it in his hand every
day. In the morning he could not be sure but that he would be fleeing
before evening. As he fell asleep, he could not be sure that he would
not be awakened to a new dream. He had long ago conquered those moods of
terror which, in spite of his courage, had come down on him sometimes,
in some lonely farm, perhaps, where flight would be impossible--or, in
what was far more dangerous, in some crowded inn where every movement
was known--these had passed, he thought, never to come back.

But in that little book-lined room, with these curious things in boxes
on the table, and his merry host peering at him gravely, and the still
evening outside; with the knowledge that to-morrow he was to ride back
to his own country, whence he had fled for fear of his life, six weeks
ago; leaving the security of this ex-sheriff's house for the perils of
the Peak and all that suspected region from which even now, probably,
the pursuit had not altogether died away--here a sudden intense desire
to know what the future might hold overcame him.

"Tell me, sir," he said. "You have told Mr. FitzHerbert's fortune, you
say, as well as others. Have you told mine since I have been here?"

There was a moment's silence. Mr. John was silent, with his back turned.
Robin looked up at his host, wondering why he did not answer. Then Mr.
Bassett took up the candle.

"Come," he said; "we have been here long enough."



CHAPTER III


I

"There will be a company of us to-night," said Mr. John to the two
priests, as he helped them to dismount. "Mr. Alban has sent his man
forward from Derby to say that he will be here before night."

"Mr. Ludlam and I are together for once," said Mr. Garlick. "We must
separate again to-morrow, he is for the north again, he tells me. There
has been no more trouble?"

"Not a word of it. They were beaten last time and will not try again, I
think, for the present. You heard of the attempt at Candlemas, then?"

       *       *       *       *       *

It had been a quiet time enough ever since Lent, throughout the whole
county; and it seemed as if the heat of the assault had cooled for want
of success. Plainly a great deal had been staked upon the attack on
Padley, which, for its remoteness from towns, was known to be a
meeting-place where priests could always find harbourage. And, indeed,
it was time that the Catholics should have a little breathing space.
Things had been very bad with them--the arrest of Mr. Simpson, and,
still more, his weakness (though he had not as yet actually fulfilled
his promise of going to church, and was still detained in gaol); the
growing lukewarmness of families that seldom saw a priest; the blows
struck at the FitzHerbert family; and, above all, the defection of Mr.
Thomas--all these things had brought the hearts of the faithful very
low. Mr. John himself had had an untroubled time since his return a
little before Easter; but he had taken the precaution not to remain too
long at Padley at one time; he had visited his other estates at
Swynnerton and elsewhere, and had even been back again at Langley. But
there had been no hint of any pursuit. Padley had remained untouched;
the men went about their farm business; the housekeeper peered from her
windows, without a glimpse of armed men such as had terrified the
household on Candlemas day.

It was only last night, indeed, that the master had returned, in time to
meet the two priests who had asked for shelter for a day or two. They
had stayed here before continually, as well as at Booth's Edge, during
their travels, both in the master's absence and when he was at home.
There were a couple of rooms kept vacant always for "men of God"; and
all priests who came were instructed, of course (in case of necessity),
as to the hiding-holes that Mr. Owen had contrived a few years before.
Never, however, had there been any use made of them.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a hot July afternoon when the two priests were met to-day by Mr.
John outside the arched gate that ran between the hall and the buttery.
They had already dined at a farm a few miles down the valley, but they
were taken round the house at once to the walled garden, where drink and
food were set out. Here their dusty boots were pulled off; they laid
aside their hats, and were presently at their ease again.

They were plain men, these two; though Mr. Garlick had been educated at
Oxford, and, before his going to Rheims, had been schoolmaster at
Tideswell. In appearance he was a breezy sunburnt man, with very little
of the clerk about him, and devoted to outdoor sports (which was
something of a disguise to him since he could talk hawking and riding
in mixed company with a real knowledge of the facts). He spoke in a loud
voice with a strong Derbyshire accent, which he had never lost and now
deliberately used. Mr. Ludlam looked far more of the priest: he was a
clean-shaven man, of middle-age, with hair turning to grey on his
temples, and with a very pleasant disarming smile; he spoke very little,
but listened with an interested and attentive air. Both were, of course,
dressed in the usual riding costume of gentlemen, and used good horses.

It was exceedingly good to sit here, with the breeze from over the moors
coming down on them, with cool drink before them, and the prospect of a
secure day, at any rate, in this stronghold. Their host, too, was
contented and serene, and said so, frankly.

"I am more at peace, gentlemen," he said, "than I have been for the past
five years. My son is in gaol yet; and I am proud that he should be
there, since my eldest son--" (he broke off a moment). "And I think the
worst of the storm is over. Her Grace is busying herself with other
matters."

"You mean the Spanish fleet, sir?" said Mr. Garlick.

He nodded.

"It is not that I look for final deliverance from Spain," he said. "I
have no wish to be aught but an Englishman, as I said to Mr. Bassett a
while ago. But I think the fleet will distract her Grace for a while;
and it may very well mean that we have better treatment hereafter."

"What news is there, sir?"

"I hear that the Londoners buzz continually with false alarms. It was
thought that the fleet might arrive on any day; but I understand that
the fishing-boats say that nothing as yet been seen. By the end of the
month, I daresay, we shall have news."

So they talked pleasantly in the shade till the shadows began to
lengthen. They were far enough here from the sea-coast to feel somewhat
detached from the excitement that was beginning to seethe in the south.
At Plymouth, it was said, all had been in readiness for a month or two
past; at Tilbury, my lord Leicester was steadily gathering troops. But
here, inland, it was more of an academic question. The little happenings
in Derby; the changes of weather in the farms; the deaths of old people
from the summer heats--these things were far more vital and significant
than the distant thunders of Spain. A beacon or two had been piled on
the hills, by order of the authorities, to pass on the news when it
should come; a few lads had disappeared from the countryside to drill in
Derby marketplace; but except for these things, all was very much as it
had been from the beginning. The expected catastrophe meant little more
to such folk than the coming of the Judgment Day--certain, but
infinitely remote from the grasp of the imagination.

       *       *       *       *       *

The three were talking of Robin as they came down towards the house for
supper, and, as they turned the corner, he himself was at that moment
dismounting.

He looked surprisingly cool and well-trimmed, considering his ride up
the hot valley. He had taken his journey easily, he said, as he had had
a long day yesterday.

"And I made a round to pay a visit to Mistress Manners," he said. "I
found her a-bed when I got there; and Mrs. Alice says she will not be at
mass to-morrow. She stood too long in the sun yesterday, at the carrying
of the hay; it is no more than that."

"Mistress Manners is a marvel to me," said Garlick, as they went towards
the house. "Neither wife nor nun. And she rules her house like a man;
and she knows if a priest lift his little finger in Derby. She sent me
my whole itinerary for this last circuit of mine; and every point fell
out as she said."

       *       *       *       *       *

Robin thought that he had seldom had so pleasant a supper as on that
night. The windows of the low hall where he had dined so often as a boy,
were flung wide to catch the scented evening air. The sun was round to
the west and threw long, golden rays, that were all lovely light and no
heat, slantways on the paved floor and the polished tables and the
bright pewter. Down at the lower end sat the servants, brown men, burned
by the sun; lean as panthers, scarcely speaking, ravenous after their
long day in the hayfields; and up here three companions with whom he was
wholly at his ease. The evening was as still as night, except for the
faint peaceful country sounds that came up from the valley below--the
song of a lad riding home; the barking of a dog; the bleat of sheep--all
minute and delicate, as unperceived, yet as effective, as a rich fabric
on which a design is woven. It seemed to him as he listened to the
talk--the brisk, shrewd remarks of Mr. Garlick; the courteous and rather
melancholy answers of his host; as he watched the second priest's eyes
looking gently and pleasantly about him; as he ate the plain, good food
and drank the country drink, that, in spite of all, his lot was cast in
very sweet places. There was not a hint here of disturbance, or of men's
passions, or of ugly strife: there was no clatter, as in the streets of
Derby, or pressure of humanity, or wearying politics of the
market-place. He found himself in one of those moods that visit all men
sometimes, when the world appears, after all, a homely and a genial
place; when the simplest things are the best; when no excitement or
ambition or furious zeal can compare with the gentle happiness of a
tired body that is in the act of refreshment, or of a driven mind that
is finding its relaxation. At least, he said to himself, he would enjoy
this night and the next day and the night after, with all his heart.

       *       *       *       *       *

The four found themselves so much at ease here, that the dessert was
brought in to them where they sat; and it was then that the first
unhappy word was spoken.

"Mr. Simpson!" said Garlick suddenly. "Is there any more news of him?"

Mr. John shook his head.

"He hath not yet been to church, thank God!" he said. "So much I know
for certain. But he hath promised to go."

"Why is he not yet gone? He promised a great while ago."

"I hear he hath been sick. Derby gaol is a pestiferous place. They are
waiting, I suppose, till he is well enough to go publicly, that all the
world may be advertised of it!"

Mr. Garlick gave a bursting sigh.

"I cannot understand it at all," he said. "There has never been so
zealous a priest. I have ridden with him again and again before I was a
priest. He was always quiet; but I took him to be one of those
stout-hearted souls that need never brag. Why, it was here that we heard
him tell of Mr. Nelson's death!"

Mr. John threw out his hands.

"These prisons are devilish," he said; "they wear a man out as the rack
can never do. Why, see my son!" he cried. "Oh! I can speak of him if I
am but moved enough! It was that same Derby gaol that wore him out too!
It is the darkness, and the ill food, and the stenches and the misery. A
man's heart fails him there, who could face a thousand deaths in the
sunlight. Man after man hath fallen there--both in Derby, and in London
and in all the prisons. It is their heart that goes--all the courage
runs from them like water, with their health. If it were the rack and
the rope only, England would be Catholic, yet, I think."

The old man's face blazed with indignation; it was not often that he so
spoke out his mind. It was very easy to see that he had thought
continually of his son's fall.

"Mistress Manners hath told me the very same thing," said Robin. "She
visited Mr. Thomas in gaol once at least. She said that her heart failed
her altogether there."

Mr. Ludlam smiled.

"I suppose it is so," he said gently, "since you say so. But I think it
would not be so with me. The rack and the rope, rather, are what would
shake me to the roots, unless God His Grace prevailed more than it ever
yet hath with see."

He smiled again.

Robin shook his head sharply.

"As for me--!" he said grimly, with tight lips.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a lovely night of stars as the four stepped out of the archway
before going upstairs to the parlour. Behind them stood the square and
solid house, resembling a very fortress. The lights that had been
brought in still shone through the windows, and a hundred night insects
leapt and poised in the brightness.

And before them lay the deep valley--silent now except for the trickle
of the stream; dark (since the moon was not yet risen), except for one
light that burned far away in some farm-house on the other side; and
this light went out, like a closing eye, even as they looked. But
overhead, where God dwelt, all heaven was alive. The huge arch resting,
as it appeared, on the monstrous bases of the moors and hills standing
round this place, like the mountains about Jerusalem, was one shimmering
vault of glory, as if it was there that the home of life had its place,
and this earth beneath but a bedroom for mortals, or for those that were
too weary to aspire or climb. The suggestion was enormously powerful.
Here was this mortal earth that needed rest so cruelly--that must have
darkness to refresh its tired eyes, coolness to recuperate its passion,
and silence, if ever its ears were to hear again. But there was radiance
unending. All day a dome of rigid blue; all night a span of glittering
lights--the very home of a glory that knows no waste and that therefore
needs no reviving: it was to that only, therefore, that a life must be
chained which would not falter or fail in the unending tides and changes
of the world....

A soft breeze sprang up among the tops of the chestnuts; and the sound
was as of the going of a great company that whispered for silence.


II

It was within an hour of dawn that the first mass was said next morning
by Mr. Robert Alban.

The chapel was decked out as they seldom dared to deck it in those days;
but the failure of the last attempt on this place, and the peace that
had followed, made them bold.

The carved chest of newly-cut oak was in its place, with a rich carpet
of silk spread on its face; and, on the top, the three linen cloths as
prescribed by the Ritual. Two silver candlesticks, that stood usually on
the high shelf over the hall-fire, and a silver crucifix of Flemish
work, taken from the hiding-place, were in a row on the back, with red
and white flowers, between. Beneath the linen cloths a tiny flat
elevation showed where the altar stone lay. The rest of the chapel, in
its usual hangings, had only sweet herbs on the floor; with two or three
long seats carried up from the hall below. An extraordinary sweetness
and peace seemed in the place both to the senses and the soul of the
young priest as he went up to the altar to vest. Confessions had been
heard last night; and, as he turned, in the absolute stillness of the
morning, and saw, beneath those carved angels that still to-day lean
from the beams of the roof, the whole little space already filled with
farm-lads, many of whom were to approach the altar presently, and the
grey head of their master kneeling on the floor to answer the mass, it
appeared to him as if the promise of last night were reversed, and that
it was, after all, earth rather than heaven that proclaimed the peace
and the glory of God....

       *       *       *       *       *

Robin served the second mass himself, said by Mr. Garlick, and made his
thanksgiving as well as he could meanwhile; but he found what appeared
to him at the time many distractions, in watching the tanned face and
hands of the man who was so utterly a countryman for nine-tenths of his
life, and so utterly a priest for the rest. His very sturdiness and
breeziness made his reverence the more evident and pathetic: he read the
mass rapidly, in a low voice, harshened by shouting in the open air over
his sports, made his gestures abruptly, and yet did the whole with an
extraordinary attention. After the communion, when he turned for the
wine and water, his face, as so often with rude folk in a great emotion,
browned as it was with wind and sun, seemed lighted from within; he
seemed etherealized, yet with his virility all alive in him. A phrase,
wholly inapplicable in its first sense, came irresistibly to the younger
priest's mind as he waited on him. "When the strong man, armed, keepeth
his house, his goods are in peace."

Robin heard the third mass, said by Mr. Ludlam, from a corner near the
door; and this one, too, was a fresh experience. The former priest had
resembled a strong man subdued by grace; the second, a weak man ennobled
by it. Mr. Ludlam was a delicate soul, smiling often, as has been said,
and speaking little--"a mild man," said the countryfolk. Yet, at the
altar there was no weakness in him; he was as a keen, sharp blade,
fitted as a heavy knife cannot be, for fine and peculiar work. His
father had been a yeoman, as had the other's; yet there must have been
some unusual strain of blood in him, so deft and gentle he was--more at
his ease here at God's Table than at the table of any man.... So he,
too, finished his mass, and began to unvest....

Then, with a noise as brutal as a blasphemy, there came a thunder of
footsteps on the stairs; and a man burst into the room, with glaring
eyes and rough gestures.

"There is a company of men coming up from the valley," he cried; "and
another over the moor.... And it is my lord Shrewsbury's livery."


III

In an instant all was in confusion; and the peace had fled. Mr. John was
gone; and his voice could be heard on the open stairs outside speaking
rapidly in sharp, low whispers to the men gathered beneath; and,
meanwhile, three or four servants, two men and a couple of maids,
previously drilled in their duties, were at the altar, on which Mr.
Ludlam had but that moment laid down his amice. The three priests stood
together waiting, fearing to hinder or to add to the bustle. A low
wailing rose from outside the door; and Robin looked from it to see if
there were anything he could do. But it was only a little country
servant crouching on the tiny landing that united the two sets of stairs
from the court, with her apron over her head: she must have been in the
partitioned west end of the chapel to hear the mass. He said a word to
her; and the next instant was pushed aside, as a man tore by bearing a
great bundle of stuffs--vestments and the altar cloths. When he turned
again, the chapel was become a common room once more: the chest stood
bare, with a great bowl of flowers on it; the candlesticks were gone;
and the maid was sweeping up the herbs.

"Come, gentlemen," said a sharp voice at the door, "there is no time to
lose."

He went out with the two others behind, and followed Mr. John
downstairs. Already the party of servants was dispersed to their
stations; two or three to keep the doors, no doubt, and the rest back to
kitchen work and the like, to give the impression that all was as usual.

The four went straight down into the hall, to find it empty, except for
one man who stood by the fire-place. But a surprising change had taken
place here. Instead of the solemn panelling, with the carved shield that
covered the wall over the hearth, there was a great doorway opened,
through which showed, not the bricks of the chimney-breast, but a black
space large enough to admit a man.

"See here," said Mr. John, "there is room for two here, but no more.
There is room for a third in another little chamber upstairs that is
nearly joined on to this: but it is not so good. Now, gentlemen--"

"This is the safer of the two?" asked Robin abruptly.

"I think it to be so. Make haste, gentlemen."

Robin wheeled on the others. He said that there was no time to argue in.

"See!" he said. "I have not yet been taken at all. Mr. Garlick hath
been taken; and Mr. Ludlam hath had a warning. There is no question that
you must be here."

"I utterly refuse--" began Garlick.

Robin went to the door in three strides; and was out of it. He closed
the door behind him and ran upstairs. As he reached the head his eye
caught a glint of sunlight on some metal far up on the moor beyond the
belt of trees. He did not turn his head again; he went straight in and
waited.

Presently he heard steps coming up, and Mr. John appeared smiling and
out of breath.

"I have them in," he said, "by promising that there was no great
difference after all; and that there was no time. Now, sir--" And he
went towards the wall at which, long ago, Mr. Owen had worked so hard.

"And yourself, sir?" asked Robin, as once more an innocent piece of
panelling moved outwards under Mr. John's hand.

"I'll see to that; but not until you are in--"

"But--"

The old man's face blazed suddenly up.

"Obey me, if you please. I am the master here. I tell you I have a very
good place."

There was no more to be said. Robin advanced to the opening, and sat
down to slide himself in. It was a little door about two feet square,
with a hole beneath it.

"Drop gently, Mr. Alban," whispered the voice in his ear. "The altar
vessels are at the bottom, with the crucifix, on some soft stuff....
That is it. Slide in and let yourself slip. There is some food and drink
there, too."

Robin did so. The floor of the little chamber was about five feet down,
and he could feel woodwork on all three sides of him.

"When the door is closed," said the voice from the daylight, "push a
pair of bolts on right and left till they go home. Tap upon the shutter
when it is done."

The light vanished, and Robin was aware of a faint smell of smoke. Then
he remembered that he had noticed a newly lit fire on the hearth of the
hall.... He found the bolts, pushed them, and tapped lightly three
times. He heard a hand push on the shutter to see that all was secure,
and then footsteps go away over the floor on a level with his chin.

Then he remembered that he must be in the same chamber with his two
fellow-priests, separated from them by the flooring on which he stood.
He rapped gently with his foot twice. Two soft taps came back. Silence
followed.


IV

Time, as once before in his experience, seemed wholly banished from this
place. There were moments of reflection when he appeared to himself as
having but just entered; there were other moments when he might have
been here for an eternity that had no divisions to mark it. He was in
complete and utter darkness. There was not a crack anywhere in the
woodwork (so perfect had been the young carpenter's handiwork) by which
even a glimmer of light could enter. A while ago he had been in the
early morning sunlight; now he might be in the grave.

For a while his emotions and his thoughts raced one another, tumbling in
inextricable confusion; and they were all emotions and thoughts of the
present: intense little visions of the men closing round the house,
cutting off escape from the valley on the one side and from the wild
upland country on the other; questions as to where Mr. John would hide
himself; minute sensible impressions of the smoky flavour of the air,
the unplaned woodwork, the soft stuffs beneath his feet. Then they began
to extend themselves wider, all with that rapid unjarring swiftness: he
foresaw the bursting in of his stronghold; the footsteps within three
inches of his head; the crash as the board was kicked in: then the
capture; the ride to Derby, bound on a horse; the gaol; the questioning;
the faces of my lord Shrewsbury and the magistrates ... and the end....

There were moments when the sweat ran down his face, when he bit his
lips in agony, and nearly moaned aloud. There were others in which he
abandoned himself to Christ crucified; placed himself in Everlasting
Hands that were mighty enough to pluck him not only out of this snare,
but from the very hands that would hold him so soon; Hands that could
lift him from the rack and scaffold and set him a free man among his
hills again: yet that had not done so with a score of others whom he
knew. He thought of these, and of the girl who had done so much to save
them all, who was now saved herself by sickness, a mile or two away,
from these hideous straits. Then he dragged out Mr. Maine's beads and
began to recite the "Mysteries."...

       *       *       *       *       *

There broke in suddenly the first exterior sign that the hunters were on
them--a muffled hammering far beneath his feet. There were pauses; then
voices carried up from the archway nearly beneath through the hollowed
walls; then hammering again; but all was heard as through wool.

As the first noise broke out his mind rearranged itself and seemed to
have two consciousnesses. In the foreground he followed, intently and
eagerly, every movement below; in the background, there still moved
before him the pageant of deeper thoughts and more remote--of prayer and
wonder and fear and expectation; and from that onwards it continued so
with him. Even while he followed the sounds, he understood why my lord
Shrewsbury had made this assault so suddenly, after months of peace....
He perceived the hand of Thomas FitzHerbert, too, in the precision with
which the attack had been made, and the certain information he must have
given that priests would be in Padley that morning.

There were noises that he could not interpret--vague tramplings from a
direction which he could not tell; voices that shouted; the sound of
metal on stone.

He did interpret rightly, however, the sudden tumult as the gate was
unbarred at last, and the shrill screaming of a woman as the company
poured through into the house; the clamour of voices from beneath as the
hall below was filled with men; the battering that began almost
immediately; and, finally, the rush of shod feet up the outside
staircases, one of which led straight into the chapel itself. Then,
indeed, his heart seemed to spring upwards into his throat, and to beat
there, as loud as knocking, so loud that it appeared to him that all the
house must hear it.

       *       *       *       *       *

Yet it was still some minutes before the climax came to him. He was
still standing there, listening to voices talking, it seemed, almost in
his ears, yet whose words he could not hear; the vibration of feet that
shook the solid joist against which he had leaned his head, with closed
eyes; the brush of a cloak once, like a whisper, against the very panel
that shut him in. He could attend to nothing else; the rest of the drama
was as nothing to him: he had his business in hand--to keep away from
himself, by the very intentness of his will and determination, the feet
that passed so close.

The climax came in a sudden thump of a pike foot within a yard of his
head, so imminent, that for an instant he thought it was at his own
panel. There followed a splintering sound of a pike-head in the same
place. He understood. They were sounding on the woodwork and piercing
all that rang hollow.... His turn, then, would come immediately.

Talking voices followed the crash; then silence; then the vibration of
feet once more. The strain grew unbearable; his fingers twisted tight in
his rosary, lifted themselves once or twice from the floor edge on which
they were gripped, to tear back the bolts and declare himself. It seemed
to him in those instants a thousand times better to come out of his own
will, rather than to be poked and dragged from his hole like a badger.
In the very midst of such imaginings there came a thumping blow within
three inches of his face, and then silence. He leaned back desperately
to avoid the pike-thrust that must follow, with his eyes screwed tight
and his lips mumbling. He waited;... and then, as he waited, he drew an
irrepressible hissing breath of terror, for beneath the soft padding
under his feet he could feel movements; blow follow blow, from the same
direction, and last a great clamour of voices all shouting together.

Feet ran across the floor on which his hands were gripped again, and
down the stairs. He perceived two things: the chapel was empty again,
and the priests below had been found.


V

He could follow every step of the drama after that, for he appeared to
himself now as a mere witness, without personal part in it.

First, there were voices below him, so clear and close that he could
distinguish the intonation, and who it was that spoke, though the words
were inaudible.

It was Mr. Garlick who first spoke--a sentence of a dozen words, it
might be, consenting, no doubt, to come out without being dragged;
congratulating, perhaps (as the manner was), the searchers on their
success. A murmur of answer came back, and then one sharp, peevish voice
by itself. Again Mr. Garlick spoke, and there followed the shuffling of
movements for a long while; and then, so far as the little chamber was
concerned, empty silence. But from the hall rose up a steady murmur of
talk once more....

Again Robin's heart leaped in him, for there came the rattle of a
pike-end immediately below his feet. They were searching the little
chamber beneath, from the level of the hall, to see if it were empty.
The pike was presently withdrawn.

For a long while the talking went on. So far as the rest of the house
was concerned, the hidden man could tell nothing, or whether Mr. John
were taken, or whether the search were given up. He could not even fix
his mind on the point; he was constructing for himself, furiously and
intently, the scene he imagined in the hall below; he thought he saw the
two priests barred in behind the high table; my lord Shrewsbury in the
one great chair in the midst of the room; Mr. Columbell, perhaps, or Mr.
John Manners talking in his ear; the men on guard over the, priests and
beside the door; and another, maybe, standing by the hearth.

He was so intent on this that he thought of little else; though still,
on a strange background of another consciousness, moved scenes and ideas
such as he had had at the beginning. And he was torn from this
contemplation with the suddenness of a blow, by a voice speaking, it
seemed, within a foot of his head.

"Well, we have those rats, at any rate."

(He perceived instantly what had happened. The men were back again in
the chapel, and he had not heard them come. He supposed that he could
hear the words now, because of the breaking of the panel next to his
own.)

"Ralph said he was sure of the other one, too," said a second voice.

"Which was that one?"

"The fellow that was at Fotheringay."

(Robin clenched his teeth like iron.)

"Well, he is not here."

There was silence.

"I have sounded that side," said the first voice sharply.

"Well, but--"

"I tell you I have sounded it. There is no time to be lost. My lord--"

"Hark!" said the second voice. "There is my lord's man--"

There followed a movement of feet towards the door, as it seemed to the
priest.

He could hear the first man grumbling to himself, and beating listlessly
on the walls somewhere. Then a voice called something unintelligible
from the direction of the stairs; the beating ceased, and footsteps went
across the floor again into silence.


VI

He was dazed and blinded by the light when, after infinite hours, he
drew the bolts and slid the panel open.

       *       *       *       *       *

He had lost all idea of time utterly: he did not know whether he should
find that night had come, or that the next day had dawned. He had waited
there, period after period; he marked one of them by eating food that
had no taste and drinking liquid that stung his throat but did not
affect his palate; he had marked another by saying compline to himself
in a whisper.

During the earlier part of those periods he had followed--he thought
with success--the dreadful drama that was acted in the house. Someone
had made a formal inspection of all the chambers--a man who said little
and moved heavily with something of a limp (he had thought this to be my
lord Shrewsbury himself, who suffered from the gout): this man had
walked slowly through the chapel and out again.

At a later period he had heard the horses being brought round the house;
heard plainly the jingle of the bits and a sneeze or two. This had been
followed by long interminable talking, muffled and indistinguishable,
that came up to him from some unknown direction. Voices changed
curiously in loudness and articulation as the speakers moved about.

At a later period a loud trampling had begun again, plainly from the
hall: he had interpreted this to mean that the prisoners were being
removed out of doors; and he had been confirmed in this by hearing
immediately afterwards again the stamping of horses and the creaking of
leather.

Again there had been a pause, broken suddenly by loud women's wailing.
And at last the noise of horses moving off; the noise grew less; a man
ran suddenly through the archway and out again, and, little by little,
complete silence once more.

Yet he had not dared to move. It was the custom, he knew, sometimes to
leave three or four men on guard for a day or two after such an assault,
in the hope of starving out any hidden fugitives that might still be
left. So he waited again--period after period; he dozed a little for
weariness, propped against the narrow walls of his hidinghole; woke;
felt again for food and found he had eaten it all ... dozed again.

Then he had started up suddenly, for without any further warning there
had come a tiny indeterminate tapping against his panel. He held his
breath and listened. It came again. Then fearlessly he drew back the
bolts, slid the panel open and shut his eyes, dazzled by the light.

He crawled out at last, spent and dusty. There was looking at him only
the little red-eyed maid whom he had tried to comfort at some far-off
hour in his life. Her face was all contorted with weeping, and she had a
great smear of dust across it.

"What time is it?" he said.

"It ... it is after two o'clock," she whispered.

"They have all gone?"

She nodded, speechless.

"Whom have they taken?"

"Mr. FitzHerbert ... the priests ... the servants."

"Mr. FitzHerbert? They found him, then?"

She stared at him with the dull incapacity to understand why he did not
know all that she had seen.

"Where did they find him?" he repeated sharply.

"The master ... he opened the door to them himself."

Her face writhed itself again into grotesque lines, and she broke out
into shrill wailing and weeping.



CHAPTER IV


I

Marjorie was still in bed when the news was brought her by her friend.
She did not move or speak when Mistress Alice said shortly that Mr.
FitzHerbert had been taken with ten of his servants and two priests.

"You understand, my dear.... They have ridden away to Derby, all of them
together. But they may come back here suddenly."

Marjorie nodded.

"Mr. Garlick and Mr. Ludlam were in the chimney-hole of the hall,"
whispered Mistress Alice, glancing fearfully behind her.

Marjorie lay back again on her pillows.

"And what of Mr. Alban?" she asked.

"Mr. Alban was upstairs. They missed him. He is coming here after dark,
the maid says."

       *       *       *       *       *

An hour after supper-time the priest came quietly upstairs to the
parlour. He showed no signs of his experience, except perhaps by a
certain brightness in his eyes and an extreme self-repression of manner.
Marjorie was up to meet him; and had in her hands a paper. She hardly
spoke a single expression of relief at his safety. She was as quiet and
business-like as ever.

"You must lie here to-night," she said. "Janet hath your room ready. At
one o'clock in the morning you must ride: here is a map of your journey.
They may come back suddenly. At the place I have marked here with red
there is a shepherd's hut; you cannot miss it if you follow the track I
have marked. There will be meat and drink there. At night the shepherd
will come from the westwards; he is called David, and you may trust him.
You must lie there two weeks at least."

"I must have news of the other priests," he said.

Marjorie bowed her head.

"I will send a letter to you by Dick Sampson at the end of two weeks.
Until that I can promise nothing. They may have spies round the house by
this time to-morrow, or even earlier. And I will send in that letter any
news I can get from Derby."

"How shall I find my way?" asked Robin.

"Until it is light you will be on ground that you know." (She flushed
slightly.) "Do you remember the hawking, that time after Christmas? It
is all across that ground. When daylight comes you can follow this map."
(She named one or two landmarks, pointing to them on the map.) "You must
have no lantern."

They talked a few minutes longer as to the way he must go and the
provision that would be ready for him. He must take no mass requisites
with him. David had made that a condition. Then Robin suddenly changed
the subject.

"Had my father any hand in this affair at Padley?"

"I am certain he had not."

"They will execute Mr. Garlick and Mr. Ludlam, will they not?"

She bowed her head in assent.

"The Summer Assizes open on the eighteenth," she said. "There is no
doubt as to how all will go."

Robin rose.

"It is time I were in bed," he said, "if I must ride at one."

The two women knelt for his blessing.

At one o'clock Marjorie heard the horse brought round. She stepped
softly to the window, knowing herself to be invisible, and peeped out.

All was as she had ordered. There was no light of any kind: she could
make out but dimly in the summer darkness the two figures of horse and
groom. As she looked, a third figure appeared beneath; but there was no
word spoken that she could hear. This third figure mounted. She caught
her breath as she heard the horse scurry a little with freshness, since
every sound seemed full of peril. Then the mounted figure faded one way
into the dark, and the groom another.


II

It was two weeks to the day that Robin received his letter.

       *       *       *       *       *

He had never before been so long in utter solitude; for the visits of
David did not break it; and, for other men, he saw none except a
hog-herd or two in the distance once or twice. The shepherd came but
once a day, carrying a great jug and a parcel of food, and set them down
without the hut; he seemed to avoid even looking within; but merely took
the empty jug of the day before and went away again. He was an old, bent
man, with a face like a limestone cliff, grey and weather-beaten; he
lived half the year up here in the wild Peak country, caring for a few
sheep, and going down to the village not more than once or twice a week.
There was a little spring welling up in a hollow not fifty yards away
from the hut, which itself stood in a deep, natural rift among the high
hills, so that men might search for it a lifetime and not come across
it.

Robin's daily round was very simple. He had leave to make a fire by day,
but he must extinguish it at night lest its glow should be seen, so he
began his morning by mixing a little oatmeal, and then preparing his
dinner. About noon, so near as he could judge by the sun, he dined;
sometimes off a partridge or rabbit; on Fridays off half a dozen tiny
trout; and set aside part of the cold food for supper; he had one good
loaf of nearly black bread every day, and the single jug of small beer.

The greater part of the day he spent within the hut, for safety's sake,
sleeping a little, and thinking a good deal. He had no books with him;
even his breviary had been forbidden, since David, as a shrewd man, had
made conditions, first that he should not have to speak with any
refugee, second, that if the man were a priest he should have nothing
about him that could prove him to be so. Mr. Maine's beads, only, had
been permitted, on condition that they were hidden always beneath a
stone outside the hut.

After nightfall Robin went out to attend to his horse that was tethered
in the next ravine, over a crag; to shift his peg and bring him a good
armful of cut grass and a bucket of water. (The saddle and bridle were
hidden beneath a couple of great stones that leaned together not far
away.) After doing what was necessary for his horse, he went to draw
water for himself; and then took his exercise, avoiding carefully,
according to instructions, every possible skyline. And it was then, for
the most part, that he did his clear thinking.... He tried to fancy
himself in a fortnight's retreat, such as he had had at Rheims before
his reception of orders.

       *       *       *       *       *

The evening of the twenty-fifth of July closed in stormy; and Robin, in
an old cloak he had found placed in the but for his own use, made haste
to attend to what was necessary, and hurried back as quickly as he
could. He sat a while, listening to the thresh of the rain and the cry
of the wind; for, up here in the high land the full storm broke on him.
(The hut was wattled of osiers and clay, and kept out the wet tolerably
well.)

He could see nothing from the door of his hut except the dim outline of
the nearer crag thirty or forty yards off; and he went presently to bed.

       *       *       *       *       *

He awoke suddenly, wide awake--as is easy for a man who is sleeping in
continual expectation of an alarm--at the flash of light in his eyes.
But he was at once reassured by Dick's voice.

"I have come, sir; and I have brought the mistress' letter."

Robin sat up and took the packet. He saw now that the man carried a
little lantern with a slide over it that allowed only a thin funnel of
light to escape that could be shut off in an instant.

"All well, Dick? I did not hear you coming."

"The storm's too loud, sir."

"All well?"

"Mistress Manners thinks you had best stay here a week longer, sir."

"And ... and the news?"

"It is all in the letter, sir."

Robin looked for the inscription, but there was none. Then he broke the
two seals, opened the paper and began to read. For the next five minutes
there was no sound, except the thresh of the rain and the cry of the
wind. The letter ran as follows:


III

"Three more have glorified God to-day by a good confession--Mr. Garlick,
Mr. Ludlam and Mr. Simpson. That is the summary. The tale in detail
hath been brought to me to-day by an eye-witness.

"The trial went as all thought it would. There was never the least
question of it; for not only were the two priests taken with signs of
their calling upon them, but both of them had been in the hands of the
magistrates before. There was no shrinking nor fear showed of any kind.
But the chief marvel was that these two priests met with Mr. Simpson in
the gaol; they put them together in one room, I think, hoping that Mr.
Simpson would prevail upon them to do as he had promised to do; but, by
the grace of God, it was all the other way, and it was they who
prevailed upon Mr. Simpson to confess himself again openly as a
Catholic. This greatly enraged my lord Shrewsbury and the rest; so that
there was less hope than ever of any respite, and sentence was passed
upon them all together, Mr. Simpson showing, at the reading of it, as
much courage as any. This was all done two days ago at the Assizes; and
it was to-day that the sentence was carried out.

"They were all three drawn on hurdles together to the open space by St.
Mary's Bridge, where all was prepared, with gallows and cauldron and
butchering block; and a great company went after them. I have not heard
that they spoke much, on the way, except that a friend of Mr. Garlick's
cried out to him to remember that they had often shot off together on
the moors; to which Mr. Garlick made answer merrily that it was true;
but that 'I am now to shoot off such a shot as I never shot in all my
life.' He was merry at the trial, too, I hear; and said that 'he was not
come to seduce men, but rather to induce them to the Catholic religion,
that to this end he had come to the country, and for this that he would
work so long as he lived.' And this he did on the scaffold, speaking to
the crowd about him of the salvation of their souls, and casting papers,
which he had written in prison, in proof of the Catholic faith.

"Mr. Garlick went up the ladder first, kissing and embracing it as the
instrument of his death, and to encourage Mr. Simpson, as it was
thought, since some said he showed signs of timorousness again when he
came to the place. But he showed none when his turn came, but rather
exhibited the same courage as them both. Mr. Ludlam stood by smiling
while all was done; and smiling still when his turn came. His last words
were, '_Venite benedicti Dei_'; and this he said, seeming to see a
vision of angels come to bear his soul away.

"They were cut down, all three of them, before they were dead; and the
butchery done on them according to sentence; yet none of them cried out
or made the least sound; and their heads and quarters were set up
immediately afterwards on poles in divers places of Derby; some of them
above the house that stands on the bridge and others on the bridge
itself. But these, I hear, will not be there long.

"So these three have kept the faith and finished their course with joy.
_Laus Deo_. Mr. John is in ward, for harbouring of the priests; but
nothing hath been done to him yet.

"As for your reverence, I am of opinion that you had best wait another
week where you are. There has been a man or two seen hereabouts whom
none knew, as well as at Padley. It hath been certified, too, that Mr.
Thomas was at the root of it all, that he gave the information that Mr.
John and at least a priest or two would be at Padley at that time,
though no man knows how he knew it, unless through servants' talk; and
since Mr. Thomas knows your reverence, it will be better to be hid for a
little longer. So, if you will, in a week from now, I will send Dick
once, again to tell you if all be well. I look for no letter back for
this since you have nothing to write with in the hut, as I know; but
Dick will tell me how you do; as well as anything you may choose to say
to him.

"I ask your reverence's blessing again. I do not forget your reverence
in my poor prayers."

       *       *       *       *       *

And so it ended, without signature--for safety's sake.


IV

Robin looked up when he had finished to where the faint outline of the
servant could be seen behind the lantern, against the greater darkness
of the wall.

"You know of all that has fallen at Derby?" he said, with some
difficulty.

"Yes, sir."

"Well, pray God we may be willing, too, if He bids us to it."

"Yes, sir."...

"You had best lose no time if you are to be home before dawn. Say to
Mistress Manners that I thank her for her letter; that I praise God for
the graces she relates in it; and that I will do as she bids.... Dick."

"Yes, sir."

"Is Mr. Audrey in any of this?"

"I do not know, sir.... I heard--" The man's voice hesitated.

"What did you hear?"

"I heard that my lord Shrewsbury wondered at his absence from the trial;
and ... and that a message would be sent to Mr. Audrey to look to it to
be more zealous on her Grace's commission."

"That was all?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then you had best be gone. There is no more to be said. Bring me what
news you can when you come again. Good-night, Dick."

"Good-night, sir.... God bless your reverence."

       *       *       *       *       *

An hour later, with the first coming of the dawn, the storm ceased. (It
was that same storm, if he had only known it, that had blown upon the
Spanish Fleet at sea and driven it towards destruction. But of this he
knew nothing.) He had not slept since Dick had gone, but had lain on his
back on the turfed and blanketed bed in the corner, his hands clasped
behind his head, thinking, thinking and re-thinking all that he had read
just now. He had known it must happen; but there seemed to him all the
difference in the world between an event and its mere certainty.... The
thing was done--out to every bitter detail of the loathsome, agonizing
death--and it had been two of the men whom he had seen say mass after
himself--the ruddy-faced, breezy countryman, yet anointed with the
sealing oil, and the gentle, studious, smiling man who had been no less
vigorous than his friend....

But there was one thing he had not known, and that, the recovery of the
faint heart which they had inspirited. And then, in an instant he
remembered how he had seen the three, years ago, against the sunset, as
he rode with Anthony....

       *       *       *       *       *

His mind was full of the strange memory as he came out at last, when the
black darkness began to fade to grey, and the noise of the rain on the
roof had ceased, and the wind had fallen.

It was a view of extraordinary solemnity that he looked on, as he stood
leaning against the rough door-post. The night was still stronger than
day; overhead was as black as ever, and stars shone in it through the
dissolving clouds that were passing at last. But, immediately over the
grim, serrated edge of the crag that faced him to the east, a faint and
tender light was beginning to burn, so faint that, as yet it seemed an
absence of black rather than as of a colour itself; and in the midst of
it, like a crumb of diamond, shone a single dying star. This high land
was as still now as a sheltered valley, a tuft of springy grass stood
out on the crag as stiff as a thin plume; and the silence, as at Padley
two weeks ago, was marked rather than broken by the tinkle of water from
his spring fifty yards away. The air was cold and fresh and marvellously
scented, after the rain, with the clean smell of strong turf and rushes.
It was as different from the peace he had had at Padley as water is
different from wine; yet it was Peace, too, a confident and expectant
peace that precedes the battle, rather than the rest which follows
it....

How was it he had seen the three men on the moor; as he turned with
Anthony? They were against the crimson west, as against a glory, the two
laymen on either side, the young priest in the middle.... They had
seemed to bear him up and support him; the colour of the sky was as a
stain of blood; and their shadows had stretched to his own feet....

       *       *       *       *       *

And there came on him in that hour one of those vast experiences that
can never be told, when a flood rises in earth and air that turns them
all to wine, that wells up through tired limbs, and puzzled brain and
beating heart, and soothes and enkindles, all in one; when it is not a
mere vision of peace that draws the eyes up in an ecstasy of sight, but
a bathing in it, and an envelopment in it, of every fibre of life; when
the lungs draw deep breaths of it; and the heart beats in it, and the
eyes are enlightened by it; when the things of earth become at once
eternal and fixed and of infinite value, and at the same instant of less
value than the dust that floats in space; when there no longer appears
any distinction between the finite and the eternal, between time and
infinity; when the soul for that moment at least finds that rest that is
the magnet and the end of all human striving; and that comfort which
wipes away all tears.



CHAPTER V


I

It was the sixth night after Dick Sampson had come back with news of Mr.
Alban; and he had already received instructions as to how he was to go
twenty-four hours later. He was to walk, as before, starting after dark,
not carrying a letter this time, after all, in spite of the news that he
might have taken with him; for the priest would be back before morning
and could hear it all then at his ease.

Every possible cause of alarm had gone; and Marjorie, for the first time
for three weeks, felt very nearly as content as a year ago. Not one more
doubtful visitor had appeared anywhere; and now she thought herself
mistaken even about those solitary figures she had suspected before.
After all, they had only been a couple of men, whose faces her servants
did not know, who had gone past on the track beneath the house; one
mounted, and the other on foot.

There had been something of a reaction, too, in Derby. The deaths of the
three priests had made an impression; there was no doubt of that. Mr.
Biddell had written her a letter on the point, saying that the blood of
those martyrs might well be the peace, if it might not be the seed, of
the Church in the district. Men openly said in the taverns, he reported,
that it was hard that any should die for religion merely; politics were
one matter and religion another. Yet the deaths had dismayed the simple
Catholics, too, for the present; and at Hathersage church, scarcely ten
miles away, above two hundred came to the Protestant sermon preached
before my lord Shrewsbury on the first Sunday after.

The news of the Armada, too, had distracted men's minds wonderfully in
another direction. News had come in already, she was informed, of an
engagement or two in the English Channel, all in favour of its
defenders. More than that was not known. But the beacons had blazed; and
the market-place of Derby had echoed with the tramp of the train-bands;
and it was not likely that at such a time the attention of the
magistrates would be given to anything else.

So her plans were laid. Mr. Alban was to come here for three or four
days; be provided with a complete change of clothes (all of which she
had ready); shave off his beard; and then set out again for the border.
He had best go to Staffordshire, she thought, for a month or two, before
beginning once more in his own county.

       *       *       *       *       *

She went to bed that night, happy enough, in spite of the cause, which
she loved so much, seeming to fail everywhere. It was true that, under
this last catastrophe, great numbers had succumbed; but she hoped that
this would be but for a time. Let but a few more priests come from
Rheims to join the company that had lost so heavily, and all would be
well again. So she said to herself: she did not allow even in her own
soul that the security of her friend and the thought that he would be
with her in a day or two, had any great part in her satisfaction.

       *       *       *       *       *

She awaked suddenly. At the moment she did not know what time it was or
how long she had slept; but it was still dark and deathly still. Yet she
could have sworn that she had heard her name called. The rushlight was
burned out; but in the summer night she could still make out the outline
of Mistress Alice's bed. Yet all was still there, except for the gentle
breathing: it could not have been she who had called out in her sleep,
or she would surely show some signs of restlessness.

She sat up listening; but there was not a sound. She lay down again; and
the strange fancy seized her that it had been her mother's voice that
she had heard.... It was in this room that her mother had died.... Again
she sat up and looked round. All was quiet as before: the tall press at
the foot of her bed glimmered here and there with lines and points of
starlight.

Then, as again she began to lie down, there came the signal for which
her heart was expectant, though her mind knew nothing of its coming. It
was a clear rap, as of a pebble against the glass.

She was up and out of bed in a moment, and was peering out under the
thick arch of the little window. And a figure stood there, bending, it
seemed, for another pebble; in the very place where she had seen it, she
thought, nearly three weeks ago, standing ready to mount a horse.

Then she was at Alice's bedside.

"Alice," she whispered. "Alice! Wake up.... There is someone come. You
must come with me. I do not know--" Her voice faltered: she knew that
she knew, and fear clutched her by the throat.

       *       *       *       *       *

The porter was fast asleep, and did not move, as carrying a rushlight
she went past the buttery with her friend behind her saying no word. The
bolts were well oiled, and came back with scarcely a sound. Then as the
door swung slowly back a figure slipped in.

"Yes," he said, "it is I.... I think I am followed.... I have but
come--"

"Come in quickly," she said, and closed and bolted the door once more.


II

It was a horrible delight to sit, wrapped in her cloak with the hood
over her head, listening to his story in the hall, and to know that it
was to her house that he had come for safety. It was horrible to her
that he needed it--so horrible that every shred of interior peace had
left her; she was composed only in her speech, and it was a strange
delight that he had come so simply. He sat there; she could see his
outline and the pallor of his face under his hat, and his voice was
perfectly resolute and quiet. This was his tale.

"Twice this afternoon," he said, "I saw a man against the sky, opposite
my hut. It was the same man both times; he was not a shepherd or a
farmer's man. The night before, when David came, he did not speak to me;
but for the first time he put his head in at the hut-door when he
brought the food and made gestures that I could not understand. I looked
at him and shook my head, but he would say nothing, and I remembered the
bond and said nothing myself. All that he would do was to shut his eyes
and wave his hands. Then this last night he brought no food at all.

"I was uneasy at the sight of the man, too, in the afternoon. I think he
thought that I was asleep; for when I saw him for the first time I was
lying down and looking at the crag opposite. And I saw him raise himself
on his hands against the sky, as if he had been lying flat on his face
in the heather. I looked at him for a while, and then I flung my hand
out of bed suddenly, and he was gone in a whisk. I went to the door
after a time, stretching myself as if I were just awakened, and there
was no sign of him.

"About an hour before sunset I was watching again; and I saw, on a
sudden, a covey of birds rise suddenly about two hundred yards away to
the north of the hut--that is, by the way that I should have to go down
to the valleys again. They rose as if they were frightened. I kept my
eyes on the place, and presently I saw a man's hat moving very slowly.
It was the movement of a man crawling on his hands, drawing his legs
after him.

"Then I waited for David to come, but he did not come, and I determined
then to make my way down here as well as I could after dark. If there
were any fellows after me, I should have a better chance of escape than
if I stayed in the hut, I thought, until they could fetch up the rest;
and, if not, I could lose nothing by coming a day too soon."

"But--" began the girl eagerly.

"Wait," said Robin quietly. "That is not all. I made very poor way on
foot (for I thought it better to come quietly than on a horse), and I
went round about again and again in the precipitous ground so that, if
there were any after me, they could not tell which way I meant to go.
For about two hours I heard and saw nothing of any man, and I began to
think I was a fool for all my pains. So I sat down a good while and
rested, and even thought that I would go back again. But just as I was
about to get up again I heard a stone fall a great way behind me: it was
on some rocky ground about two hundred yards away. The night was quite
still, and I could hear the stone very plainly.... It was I that crawled
then, further down the hill, and it was then that I saw once more a
man's head move against the stars.

"I went straight on then, as quietly as I could. I made sure that it was
but one that was after me, and that he would not try to take me by
himself, and I saw no more of him till I came down near Padley--"

"Near Padley? Why--"

"I meant to go there first," said the priest, "and lie, there till
morning. But as I came down the hill I heard the steps of him again a
great way off. So I turned sharp into a little broken ground that lies
there, and hid myself among the rocks--"

       *       *       *       *       *

Mistress Alice lifted her hand suddenly.

"Hark!" she whispered.

Then as the three sat motionless, there came, distinct and clear, from a
little distance down the hill, the noise of two or three horses walking
over stony ground.


III

For one deathly instant the two sat looking each into the other's white
face--since even the priest changed colour at the sound. (While they had
talked the dawn had begun to glimmer, and the windows showed grey and
ghostly on the thin morning mist.) Then they rose together. Marjorie was
the first to speak.

"You must come upstairs at once," she said. "All is ready there, as you
know."

The priest's lips moved without speaking. Then he said suddenly:

"I had best be off the back way; that is, if it is what I think--"

"The house will be surrounded."

"But you will have harboured me--"

Marjorie's lips opened in a smile.

"I have done that in any case," she said. She caught up the candle and
blew it out, as she went towards the door.

"Come quickly," she said.

At the door Janet met them. Her old face was all distraught with fear.
She had that moment run downstairs again on hearing the noise. Marjorie
silenced her by a gesture....

The young carpenter had done his work excellently, and Marjorie had
taken care that there had been no neglect since the work had been done.
Yet so short was the time since the hearing of the horses' feet, that as
the girl slipped out of the press again after drawing back the secret
door, there came the loud knocking beneath, for which they had waited
with such agony.

"Quick!" she said....

From within, as she waited, came the priest's whisper. "Is this to be
pushed--?"

"Yes; yes."

There was the sound of sliding wood and a little snap. Then she closed
the doors of the press again.


IV

Mr. Audrey outside grew indignant, and the more so since he was unhappy.

       *       *       *       *       *

He had had the message from my lord Shrewsbury that a magistrate of her
Grace should show more zeal; and, along with this, had come a private
intimation that it was suspected that Mr. Audrey had at least once
warned the recusants of an approaching attack. It would be as well,
then, if he would manifest a little activity....

But it appeared to him the worst luck in the world that the hunt should
lead him to Mistress Manners' door.

It was late in the afternoon that the informer had made his appearance
at Matstead, thirsty and dishevelled, with the news that a man thought
to be a Popish priest was in hiding on the moors; that he was being kept
under observation by another informer; and that it was to be suspected
that he was the man who had been missed at Padley when my lord had taken
Garlick and Ludlam. If it were the man, it would be the priest known by
the name of Alban--the fellow whom my lord's man had so much distrusted
at Fotheringay, and whom he had seen again in Derby a while later. Next,
if it were this man, he would almost certainly make for Padley if he
were disturbed.

Mr. Audrey had bitten his nails a while as he listened to this, and then
had suddenly consented. The plan suggested was simple enough. One little
troop should ride to Padley, gathering reinforcements on the way, and
another on foot should set out for the shepherd's hut. Then, if the
priest should be gone, this second party should come on towards Padley
immediately and join forces with the riders.

All this had been done, and the mounted company, led by the magistrate
himself, had come up from the valley in time to see the signalling from
the heights (contrived by the showing of lights now and again), which
indicated that the priest was moving in the direction that had been
expected, and that one man at least was on his track. They had waited
there, in the valley, till the intermittent signals had reached the
level ground and ceased, and had then ridden up cautiously in time to
meet the informer's companion, and to learn that the fugitive had
doubled suddenly back towards Booth's Edge. There they had waited then,
till the dawn was imminent, and, with it, there came the party on foot,
as had been arranged; then, all together, numbering about twenty-five
men, they had pushed on in the direction of Mistress Manners' house.

As the house came into view, more than ever Mr. Audrey reproached his
evil luck. Certainly there still were two or three chances to one that
no priest would be taken at all; since, first, the man might not be a
priest, and next, he might have passed the manor and plunged back again
into the hills. But it was not very pleasant work, this rousing of a
house inhabited by a woman for whom the magistrate had very far from
unkindly feelings, and on such an errand.... So the informers marvelled
at the venom with which Mr. Audrey occasionally whispered at them in the
dark.

His heart sank as he caught a glimpse of a light first showing, and then
suddenly extinguished, in the windows of the hall, but he was relieved
to hear no comment on it from the men who walked by his horse; he even
hoped that they had not seen it.... But he must do his duty, he said to
himself.

       *       *       *       *       *

He grew a little warm and impatient when no answer came to the knocking.
He said such play-acting was absurd. Why did not the man come out
courageously and deny that he was a priest? He would have a far better
excuse for letting him go.

"Knock again," he cried.

And again the thunder rang through the archway, and the summons in the
Queen's name to open.

Then at last a light shone beneath the door. (It was brightening rapidly
towards the dawn here in the open air, but within it would still be
dark.) Then a voice grumbled within.

"Who is there?"

"Man," bellowed the magistrate, "open the door and have done with it. I
tell you I am a magistrate!"

There was silence. Then the voice came again.

"How do I know that you are?"

Mr. Audrey slipped off his horse, scrambled to the door, set his hands
on his knees and his mouth to the keyhole.

"Open the door, you fool, in the Queen's name.... I am Mr. Audrey, of
Matstead."

Again came the pause. The magistrate was in the act of turning to bid
his men beat the door in, when once more the voice came.

"I'll tell the mistress, sir.... She's a-bed."

       *       *       *       *       *

His discomfort grew on him as he waited, staring out at the fast
yellowing sky. (Beneath him the slopes towards the valley and the
far-off hills on the other side appeared like a pencil drawing,
delicate, minute and colourless, or, at the most, faintly tinted in
phantoms of their own colours. The sky, too, was grey with the night
mists not yet dissolved.) It was an unneighbourly action, this of his,
he thought. He must do his best to make it as little offensive as he
could. He turned to his men.

"Now, men," he said, glaring like a judge, "no violence here, unless I
give the order. No breaking of aught in the house. The lady here is a
friend of mine; and--"

The great bolts shot back suddenly; he turned as the door opened; and
there, pale as milk, with eyes that seemed a-fire, Marjorie's face was
looking at him; she was wrapped in her long cloak and her hood was drawn
over her head. The space behind was crowded with faces, unrecognizable
in the shadow.

       *       *       *       *       *

He saluted her.

"Mistress Manners," he said, "I am sorry to incommode you in this way.
But a couple of fellows tell me that a man hath come this way, whom they
think to be a priest. I am a magistrate, mistress, and--"

He stopped, confounded by her face. It was not like her face at all--the
face, rather, seemed as nothing; her whole soul was in her eyes, crying
to him some message that he could not understand. It appeared
impossible to him that this was a mere entreaty that he should leave one
more priest at liberty; impossible that the mere shock and surprise
should have changed her so.... He looked at her.... Then he began again:

"It is no will of mine, mistress, beyond my duty. But I hold her Grace's
commission--"

She swept back again, motioning him to enter. He was astonished at his
own discomfort, but he followed, and his men pressed close after; and he
noticed, even in that twilight, that a look of despair went over the
girl's face, sharp as pain, as she saw them.

"You have come to search my house, sir?" she asked. Her voice was as
colourless as her features.

"My commission, mistress, compels me--"

Then he noticed that the doors into the hall had been pushed open, and
that she was moving towards them. And he thought he understood.

"Stand back, men," he barked, so fiercely that they recoiled. "This lady
shall speak with me first."

       *       *       *       *       *

He passed up the hall after her. He was as unhappy as possible. He
wondered what she could have to say to him; she must surely understand
that no pleading could turn him; he must do his duty. Yet he would
certainly do this with as little offence as he could.

"Mistress Manners--" he began.

Then she turned on him again. They were at the further end of the hall,
and could speak low without being overheard.

"You must begone again," she whispered. "Oh! you must begone again. You
do not understand; you--"

Her eyes still burned with that terrible eloquence; it was as the face
of one on the rack.

"Mistress, I cannot begone again. I must do my duty. But I promise
you--"

She was close to him, staring into his face; he could feel the heat of
her breath on his face.

"You must begone at once," she whispered, still in that voice of agony.
He saw her begin to sway on her feet and her eyes turn glassy. He caught
her as she swayed.

"Here! you women!" he cried.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was all that he could do to force himself out through the crowd of
folks that looked on him. It was not that they barred his way. Rather
they shrank from him; yet their eyes pulled and impeded him; it was by a
separate effort that he put each foot before the other. Behind he could
hear the long moan that she had given die into silence, and the
chattering whispers of her women who held her. He reassured himself
savagely; he would take care that no one was taken ... she would thank
him presently; he would but set guards at all the doors and make a
cursory search; he would break a panel or two; no more. And that would
save both his face and her own.... Yet he loathed even such work as
this....

He turned abruptly as he came into the buttery passage.

"All the women in the hall," he said sharply. "Jack, keep the door fast
till we are done."


V

He took particular pains to do as little damage as possible.

First he went through the out-houses, himself with a pike testing the
haystacks, where he was sure that no man could be hidden. The beasts
turned slow and ruminating eyes upon him as he went by their stalls.

As he passed, a little later, the inner door into the buttery passage,
he could hear the beating of hands on the hall-door. He went on quickly
to the kitchen, hating himself, yet determined to get all done quickly,
and drove the kitchen-maid, who was crouching by the unlighted fire, out
behind him, sending a man with her to bestow her in the hall. She wailed
as she went by him, but it was unintelligible, and he was in no mood for
listening.

"Take her in," he said; "but let no one out, nor a message, till all is
done." (He thought that the kinder course.)

Then at last he went upstairs, still with his little bodyguard of four,
of whom one was the man who had followed the fugitive down from the
hills.

He began with the little rooms over the hall: a bedstead stood in one;
in another was a table all piled with linen a third had its floor
covered with early autumn fruit, ready for preserving. He struck on a
panel or two as he went, for form's sake.

As he came out again he turned savagely on the informer.

"It is damned nonsense," he said; "the fellow's not here at all. I told
you he'd have gone back to the hills."

The man looked up at him with a furtive kind of sneer in his face; he,
too, was angry enough; the loss of the priest meant the loss of the
heavy reward.

"We have not searched a room rightly yet, sir," he snarled. "There are a
hundred places--"

"Not searched! You villain! Why, what would you have?"

"It's not the manner I've done it before, sir. A pike-thrust here, and a
blow there--"

"I tell you I will not have the house injured! Mistress Manners--"

"Very good, sir. Your honour is the magistrate.... I am not."

The old man's temper boiled over. They were passing at that instant a
half-open door, and within he could see a bare little parlour, with
linen presses against the walls. It would not hide a cat.

"Do you search, then!" he cried. "Here, then, and I will watch you! But
you shall pay for any wanton damage, I tell you."

The man shrugged his shoulders.

"What is the use, then--" he began.

"Bah! search, then, as you will. I will pay."

       *       *       *       *       *

The noise from the hall had ceased altogether as the four men went into
the parlour. It was a plain little room, with an open fireplace and a
great settle beside it. There were hangings here and there. That over
the hearth presented Icarus in the chariot of the sun. It seemed such a
place as that in which two lovers might sit and talk together at
sunset.... In one place hung a dark oil painting.

The old man went across to the window and stared out.

The sun was up by now, far away out of sight; and the whole sunlit
valley lay stretched beneath beyond the slopes that led down to Padley.
The loathing for his work rose up again and choked him--this desperate
bullying of a few women; and all to no purpose. He stared out at the
horses beneath, and at the couple of men gossiping together at their
heads.... He determined to see Mistress Manners again alone presently,
when she should be recovered, and have a word with her in private. She
would forgive him, perhaps, when she saw him ride off empty-handed, as
he most certainly meant to do.

He thought, too, of other things, this old man, as he stood, with his
shoulders squared, resolute in his lack of attention to the mean work
going on behind him.... He wondered whether God were angry or no.
Whether this kind of duty were according to His will. Down there was
Padley, where he had heard mass in the old days; Padley, where the two
priests had been taken a few weeks ago. He wondered--

"If it please your honour we will break in this panel," came the smooth,
sneering voice that he loathed.

He turned sullenly.

They were opposite the old picture. Beneath it there showed a crack in
the wainscoting.... He could scarcely refuse leave. Besides, the
woodwork was flawed in any case--he would pay for a new panel himself.

"There is nothing there!" he said doubtfully.

"Oh, no, sir," said the man with a peculiar look. "It is but to make a
show--"

The old man's brows came down angrily. Then he nodded; and, leaning
against the window, watched them.

       *       *       *       *       *

One of his own men came forward with a hammer and chisel. He placed the
chisel at the edge of the cracked panel, where the informer directed,
and struck a blow or two. There was the unmistakable dull sound of wood
against stone--not an echo of resonance. The old man smiled grimly to
himself. The man must be a fool if he thought there could be any hole
there!... Well; he would let them do what they would here; and then
forbid any further damage.... He wondered if the priest really were in
the house or no.

The two men had their heads together now, eyeing the crack they had
made.... Then the informer said something in a low voice that the old
man could not hear; and the other, handing him the chisel and hammer,
went out of the room, beckoning to one of the two others that stood
waiting at the door.

"Well?" sneered the old man. "Have you caught your bird?

"Not yet, sir."

He could hear the steps of the others in the next room; and then
silence.

"What are they doing there?" he asked suddenly.

"Nothing, sir.... I just bade a man wait on that side."

The man was once more inserting the chisel in the top of the
wainscoting; then he presently began to drive it down with the hammer as
if to detach it from the wall.

Suddenly he stopped; and at the same instant the old man heard some
faint, muffled noise, as of footsteps moving either in the wall or
beyond it.

"What is that?"

The man said nothing; he appeared to be listening.

"What is that?" demanded the other again, with a strange uneasiness at
his heart. Was it possible, after all! Then the man dropped his chisel
and hammer and darted out and vanished. A sudden noise of voices and
tramplings broke out somewhere out of sight.

"God's blood!" roared the old man in anger and dismay. "I believe they
have the poor devil!"

       *       *       *       *       *

He ran out, two steps down the passage and in again at the door of the
next room. It was a bedroom, with two beds side by side: a great press
with open doors stood between the hearth and the window; and, in the
midst of the floor, five men struggled and swayed together. The fifth
was a bearded young man, well dressed; but he could not see his face.

Then they had him tight; his hands were twisted behind his back; an arm
was flung round his neck; and another man, crouching, had his legs
embraced. He cried out once or twice.... The old man turned sick ... a
great rush of blood seemed to be hammering in his ears and dilating his
eyes.... He ran forward, tearing at the arm that was choking the
prisoner's throat, and screaming he knew not what.

And it was then that he knew for certain that this was his son.



CHAPTER VI


I

Robin drew a long breath as the door closed behind him. Then he went
forward to the table, and sat on it, swinging his feet, and looking
carefully and curiously round the room, so far as the darkness would
allow him; his eyes had had scarcely time yet to become accustomed to
the change from the brilliant sunshine outside to the gloom of the
prison. It was his first experience of prison, and, for the present, he
was more interested than subdued by it.

       *       *       *       *       *

It seemed to him that a lifetime had passed since the early morning, up
in the hills, when he had attempted to escape by the bedroom, and had
been seized as he came out of the press. Of course, he had fought; it
was his right and his duty; and he had not known the utter uselessness
of it, in that guarded house. He had known nothing of what was going
forward. He had heard the entrance of the searchers below, and now and
again their footsteps.... Then he had seen the wainscoting begin to gape
before him, and had understood that his only chance was by the way he
had entered. Then, as he had caught sight of his father, he had ceased
his struggles.

He had not said one word to him. The shock was complete and unexpected.
He had seen the old man stagger back and sink on the bed. Then he had
been hurried from the room and downstairs. As the party came into the
buttery entrance, there had been a great clamour; the man on guard at
the hall doors had run forward; the doors had opened suddenly and
Marjorie had come out, with a surge of faces behind her. But to her,
too, he had said nothing; he had tried to smile; he was still faint and
sick from the fight upstairs. But he had been pushed out into the air,
where he saw the horses waiting, and round the corner of the house into
an out-building, and there he had had time to recover.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was strange how little religion had come to his aid during that hour
of waiting; and, indeed, during the long and weary ride to Derby. He had
tried to pray; but he had had no consolation, such as he supposed must
surely come to all who suffered for Christ. It had been, instead, the
tiny things that absorbed his attention; the bundle of hay in the
corner; an ancient pitch-fork; the heads of his guards outside the
little barred window; the sound of their voices talking. Later, when a
man had come out from the house, and looked in at his door, telling him
that they must start in ten minutes, and giving him a hunch of bread to
eat, it had been the way the man's eyebrows grew over his nose, and the
creases of his felt hat, to which he gave his mind. Somewhere, far
beneath in himself, he knew that there were other considerations and
memories and movements, that were even fears and hopes and desires; but
he could not come at these; he was as a man struggling to dive, held up
on the surface by sheets of cork. He knew that his father was in that
house; that it was his father who had been the means of taking him; that
Marjorie was there--yet these facts were as tales read in a book. So,
too, with his faith; his lips repeated words now and then; but God was
as far from him and as inconceivably unreal, as is the thought of
sunshine and a garden to a miner freezing painlessly in the dark....

In the same state he was led out again presently, and set on a horse.
And while a man attached one foot to the other by a cord beneath the
horse's belly, he looked like a child at the arched doorway of the
house; at a patch of lichen that was beginning to spread above the
lintel; at the open window of the room above.

He vaguely desired to speak with Marjorie again; he even asked the man
who was tying his feet whether he might do so; but he got no answer. A
group of men watched him from the door, and he noticed that they were
silent. He wondered if it were the tying of his feet in which they were
so much absorbed.

       *       *       *       *       *

Little by little, as they rode, this oppression began to lift. Half a
dozen times he determined to speak with the man who rode beside him and
held his horse by a leading rein; and each time he did not speak.
Neither did any man speak to him. Another man rode behind; and a dozen
or so went on foot. He could hear them talking together in low voices.

He was finally roused by his companion's speaking. He had noticed the
man look at him now and again strangely and not unkindly.

"Is it true that you are a son of Mr. Audrey, sir?"

He was on the point of saying "Yes," when his mind seemed to come back
to him as clear as an awakening from sleep. He understood that he must
not identify himself if he could help it. He had been told at Rheims
that silence was best in such matters.

"Mr. Audrey?" he said. "The magistrate?"

The man nodded. He did not seem an unkindly personage at all. Then he
smiled.

"Well, well," he said. "Less said--"

He broke off and began to whistle. Then he interrupted himself once
more.

"He was still in his fit," he said, "when we came away. Mistress Manners
was with him."

Intelligence was flowing back in Robin's brain like a tide. It seemed to
him that he perceived things with an extraordinary clearness and
rapidity. He understood he must show no dismay or horror of any kind; he
must carry himself easily and detachedly.

"In a fit, was he?"

The other nodded.

"I am arrested on his warrant, then? And on what charge?"

The man laughed outright.

"That's too good," he said. "Why, we, have a bundle of popery on the
horse behind! It was all in the hiding-hole!"

"I am supposed to be a priest, then?" said Robin, with admirable
disdain.

Again the man laughed.

"They will have some trouble in proving that," said Robin viciously.

       *       *       *       *       *

He learned presently whither they were going. He was right in thinking
it to be Derby. There he was to be handed over to the gaoler. The trial
would probably come on at the Michaelmas assizes, five or six weeks
hence. He would have leave to communicate with a lawyer when he was once
safely bestowed there; but whether or no his lawyer or any other
visitors would be admitted to him was a matter for the magistrates.

They ate as they rode, and reached Derby in the afternoon.

At the very outskirts the peculiar nature of this cavalcade was
observed; and by the time that they came within sight of the
market-square a considerable mob was hustling along on all sides. There
were a few cries raised. Robin could not distinguish the words, but it
seemed to him as if some were raised for him as well as against him. He
kept his head somewhat down; he thought it better to risk no
complications that might arise should he be recognised.

As they drew nearer the market-place the progress became yet slower, for
the crowd seemed suddenly and abnormally swelled. There was a great
shouting of voices, too, in front, and the smell of burning came
distinctly on the breeze. The man riding beside Robin turned his head
and called out; and in answer one of the others riding behind pushed his
horse up level with the other two, so that the prisoner had a guard on
either side. A few steps further, and another order was issued, followed
by the pressing up of the men that went on foot so as to form a complete
square about the three riders.

Robin put a question, but the men gave him no answer. He could see that
they were preoccupied and anxious. Then, as step by step they made their
way forward and gained the corner of the market-place, he saw the reason
of these precautions; for the whole square was one pack of heads, except
where, somewhere in the midst, a great bonfire blazed in the sunlight.
The noise, too, was deafening; drums were beating, horns blowing, men
shouting aloud. From window after window leaned heads, and, as the party
advanced yet further, they came suddenly in view of a scaffold hung with
gay carpets and ribbons, on which a civil dignitary, in some official
dress, was gesticulating.

It was useless to ask a question; not a word could have been heard
unless it were shouted aloud; and presently the din redoubled, for out
of sight, round some corner, guns were suddenly shot off one after
another; and the cheering grew shrill and piercing in contrast.

As they came out at last, without attracting any great attention, into
the more open space at the entrance of Friar's Gate, Robin turned again
and asked what the matter was. It was plainly not himself, as he had at
first almost believed.

The man turned an exultant face to him.

"It's the Spanish fleet!" he said. "There's not a ship of it left, they
say."

When they halted at the gate of the prison there was another pause,
while the cord that tied his feet was cut, and he was helped from his
horse, as he was stiff and constrained from the long ride under such
circumstances. He heard a roar of interest and abuse, and, perhaps, a
little sympathy, from the part of the crowd that had followed, as the
gate close behind him.


II

As his eyes became better accustomed to the dark, he began to see what
kind of a place it was in which he found himself. It was a square little
room on the ground-floor, with a single, heavily-barred window, against
which the dirt had collected in such quantities as to exclude almost all
light. The floor was beaten earth, damp and uneven; the walls were built
of stones and timber, and were dripping with moisture; there was a table
and a stool in the centre of the room, and a dark heap in the corner. He
examined this presently, and found it to be rotting hay covered with
some kind of rug. The whole place smelled hideously foul.

From far away outside came still the noise of cheering, heard as through
wool, and the sharp reports of the cannon they were still firing. The
Armada seemed very remote from him, here in ward. Its destruction
affected him now hardly at all, except for the worse, since an
anti-Catholic reaction might very well follow.... He set himself, with
scarcely an effort, to contemplate more personal matters.

He was astonished that his purse had not been taken from him. He had
been searched rapidly just now, in an outer passage, by a couple of men,
one of whom he understood to be his gaoler; and a knife and a chain and
his rosary had been taken from him. But the purse had been put back
again.... He remembered presently that the possession of money made a
considerable difference to a prisoner's comfort; but he determined to do
as little as he was obliged in this way. He might need the money more
urgently by and by.

       *       *       *       *       *

By the time that he had gone carefully round his prison-walls, even
reaching up to the window and testing the bars, pushing as noiselessly
as he could against the door, pacing the distances in every
direction--he had, at the same time, once more arranged and rehearsed
every piece of evidence that he possessed, and formed a number of
resolutions.

He was perfectly clear by now that his father had been wholly ignorant
of the identity of the man he was after. The horror in the gasping face
that he had seen so close to his own, above the strangling arm, set that
beyond a doubt; the news of the fit into which his father had fallen
confirmed it.

Next, he had been right in believing himself watched in the shepherd's
hut, and followed down from it. This hiding of his in the hills, the
discovery of him in the hiding-hole, together with the vestments--these
two things were the heaviest pieces of testimony against him. More
remote testimony might be brought forward from his earlier
adventures--his presence at Fotheringay, his recognition by my lord's
man. But these were, in themselves, indifferent.

His resolutions were few and simple.

He would behave himself quietly in all ways: he would make no demand to
see anyone; since he knew that whatever was possible would be done for
him by Marjorie. He would deny nothing and assert very little if he were
brought before the magistrates. Finally, he would say, if he could, a
dry mass every day; and observe the hours of prayer so far as he could.
He had no books with him of any kind. But he could pray God for
fortitude.

       *       *       *       *       *

Then he knelt down on the earth floor and said his first prayer in
prison; the prayer that had rung so often in his mind since Mary herself
had prayed it aloud on the scaffold; and Mr. Bourgoign had repeated it
to him.

"As Thy arms, O Christ, were extended on the Cross; even so receive me
into the arms of Thy mercy, and blot out all my sins with Thy most
precious Blood."



CHAPTER VII


I

There was a vast crowd in the market-place at Michaelmas to see the
judges come--partly because there was always excitement at the visible
majesty of the law; partly because the tale of one at least of the
prisoners had roused interest. It was a dramatic tale: he was first a
seminary priest and a Derbyshire man (many remembered him riding as a
little lad beside his father); he was, next, a runaway to Rheims for
religion's sake, when his father conformed; third, he had been taken in
the house of Mistress Manners, to whom, report said, he had once been
betrothed; last, he had been taken by his father himself. All this
furnished matter for a quantity of conversation in the taverns; and it
was freely discussed by the sentimental whether or no, if the priest
yielded and conformed, he would yet find Mistress Manners willing to wed
him.

       *       *       *       *       *

Signs of the Armada rejoicings still survived in the market-place as the
judges rode in. Streamers hung in the sunshine, rather bedraggled after
so long, from the roof and pillars of the Guildhall, and a great
smoke-blackened patch between the conduit and the cross marked where the
ox had been roasted. There was a deal of loyal cheering as the
procession went by; for these splendid personages on horseback stood to
the mob for the power that had repelled the enemies of England; and her
Grace's name was received with enthusiasm. Behind the judges and their
escort came a cavalcade of riders--gentlemen, grooms, servants, and
agents of all sorts. But not a Derby man noticed or recognised a thin
gentleman who rode modestly in the midst, with a couple of personal
servants on either side of him. It was not until the visitors had
separated to the various houses and inns where they were to be lodged,
and the mob was dispersing home again, that it began to be rumoured
everywhere that Mr. Topcliffe was come again to Derby on a special
mission.


II

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
betaken 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
himself.

"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."


III

It appeared to the girl as if she were moving on a kind of set stage,
with every movement and incident designed beforehand, in a play that was
itself a kind of destiny--above all, when she went at last into Robin's
cell and saw him standing there, and found it to be that in which so
long ago she had talked with Mr. Thomas FitzHerbert....

The great realities were closing round her, as irresistible as wheels
and bars. There was scarcely a period in her life, scarcely a voluntary
action of hers for good or evil, that did not furnish some part of this
vast machine in whose grip both she and her friend were held so fast. No
calculation on her part could have contrived so complete a climax; yet
hardly a calculation that had not gone astray from that end to which she
had designed it. It was as if some monstrous and ironical power had been
beneath and about her all her life long, using those thoughts and
actions that she had intended in one way to the development of another.

First, it was she that had first turned her friend's mind to the life of
a priest. Had she submitted to natural causes, she would have been his
wife nine years ago; they would have been harassed no doubt and
troubled, but no more. It was she again that had encouraged his return
to Derbyshire. If it had not been for that, and for the efforts she had
made to do what she thought good work for God, he might have been sent
elsewhere. It was in her house that he had been taken, and in the very
place she had designed for his safety. If she had but sent him on, as he
wished, back to the hills again, he might never have been taken at all.
These, and a score of other thoughts, had raced continually through her
mind; she felt even as if she were responsible for the manner of his
taking, and for the horror that it had been his father who had
accomplished it; if she had said more, or less, in the hall of that dark
morning; if she had not swooned; if she had said bravely: "It is your
son, sir, who is here," all might have been saved. And now it was
Topcliffe who was come--(and she knew all that this signified)--the very
man at whose mere bodily presence she had sickened in the court of the
Tower. And, last, it was she who had to tell Robin of this.

So tremendous, however, had been the weight of these thoughts upon her,
crowned and clinched (so to say) by finding that the priest was even in
the same cell as that in which she had visited the traitor, that there
was no room any more for bitterness. Even as she waited, with Mr.
Biddell behind her, as the gaoler fumbled with the keys, she was aware
that the last breath of resentment had been drawn.... It was, indeed, a
monstrous Power that had so dealt with her.... It was none other than
the Will of God, plain at last.

       *       *       *       *       *

She knelt down for the priest's blessing, without speaking, as the door
closed, and Mr. Biddell knelt behind her. Then she rose and went forward
to the stool and sat upon it.

       *       *       *       *       *

He was hardly changed at all. He looked a little white and drawn in the
wavering light of the flambeau; but his clothes were orderly and clean,
and his eyes as bright and resolute as ever.

"It is a great happiness to see you," he said, smiling, and then no more
compliments.

"And what of my father?" he added instantly.

She told him. Mr. Audrey was in Derby, still sick from his fit. He was
in Mr. Columbell's house. She had not seen him.

"Robin," she said (and she used the old name, utterly unknowing that she
did so), "we must speak with Mr. Biddell presently about your case. But
there is a word or two I have to say first. We can have two hours here,
if you wish it."

Robin put his hands behind him on to the table and jumped lightly, so
that he sat on it, facing her.

"If you will not sit on the table, Mr. Biddell, I fear there is only
that block of wood."

He pointed to a, block of a tree set on end. It served him, laid flat,
as a pillow. The lawyer went across to it.

"The judges, I hear, are come to-night," said the priest.

She bowed.

"Yes; but your case will not be up for three or four days yet."

"Why, then, I shall have time--"

She lifted her hand sharply a little to check him.

"You will not have much time," she said, and paused again. A sharp
contraction came and went in the muscles of her throat. It was as if a
band gripped her there, relaxed, and gripped again. She put up her own
hand desperately to tear at her collar.

"Why, but--" began the priest.

She could bear it no more. His resolute cheerfulness, his frank
astonishment, were like knives to her. She gave one cry.

"Topcliffe is come ... Topcliffe!..." she cried. Then she flung her arm
across the table and dropped her face on it. No tears came from her
eyes, but tearing sobs shook and tormented her.

It was quite quiet after she had spoken. Even in her anguish she knew
that. The priest did not stir from where he sat a couple of feet away;
only the swinging of his feet ceased. She drove down her convulsions;
they rose again; she drove them down once more. Then the tears surged
up, her whole being relaxed, and she felt a hand on her shoulder.

"Marjorie," said the grave voice, as steady as it had ever been,
"Marjorie. This is what we looked for, is it not?... Topcliffe is come,
is he? Well, let him come. He or another. It is for this that we have
all looked since the beginning. Christ His Grace is strong enough, is it
not? It hath been strong enough for many, at least; and He will not
surely take it from me who need it so much...." (He spoke in pauses, but
his voice never faltered.) "I have prayed for that grace ever since I
have been here.... He hath given me great peace in this place.... I
think He will give it me to the end.... You must pray, my ... my child;
you must not cry like that."

(She lifted her agonized face for a moment, then she let it fall again.
It seemed as if he knew the very thoughts of her.)

"This all seems very perfect to me," he went on. "It was yourself who
first turned me to this life, and you knew surely what you did. I knew,
at least, all the while, I think; and I have never ceased to thank God.
And it was through your hands that the letter came to me to go to
Fotheringay. And it was in your house that I was taken.... And it was
Mr. Maine's beads that they found on me when they searched me here--the
pair of beads you gave me."

Again she stared at him, blind and bewildered.

He went on steadily:

"And now it is you again who bring me the first news of my passion. It
is yourself, first and last, under God, that have brought me all these
graces and crosses. And I thank you with all my heart.... But you must
pray for me to the end, and after it, too."



CHAPTER VIII


I

"Water," said a sharp voice, pricking through the enormous thickness of
the bloodshot dark that had come down on him. There followed a sound of
floods; then a sense of sudden coolness, and he opened his eyes once
more, and became aware of unbearable pain in arms and feet. Again the
whirling dark, striped with blood colour, fell on him like a blanket;
again the sound of waters falling and the sense of coolness, and again
he opened his eyes.

       *       *       *       *       *

For a minute or two it was all that he could do to hold himself in
consciousness. It appeared to him a necessity to do so. He could see a
smoke-stained roof of beams and rafters, and on these he fixed his eyes,
thinking that he could hold himself so, as by thin, wiry threads of
sight, from falling again into the pit where all was black or
blood-colour. The pain was appalling, but he thought he had gripped it
at last, and could hold it so, like a wrestler.

As the pain began to resolve itself into throbs and stabs, from the
continuous strain in which at first it had shown itself--a strain that
was like a shrill horn blowing, or a blaze of bluish light--he began to
see more, and to understand a little. There were four or five faces
looking down on him: one was the face of a man he had seen somewhere in
an inn ... it was at Fotheringay; it was my lord Shrewsbury's man.
Another was a lean face; a black hat came and went behind it; the lips
were drawn in a sort of smile, so that he could see the teeth.... Then
he perceived next that he himself was lying in a kind of shallow trough
of wood upon the floor. He could see his bare feet raised a little and
tied with cords.

Then, one by one, these sights fitted themselves into one another and
made sense. He remembered that he was in Derby gaol--not in his own
cell; that the lean face was of a man called Topcliffe; that a physician
was there as well as the others; that they had been questioning him on
various points, and that some of these points he had answered, while
others he had not, and must not. Some of them concerned her Grace of the
Scots.... These he had answered. Then, again, association came back....

"As Thy arms, O Christ ..." he whispered.

"Now then," came the sharp voice in his ear, so close and harsh as to
distress him. "These questions again.... Were there any other places
besides at Padley and Booth's Edge, in the parish of Hathersage, where
you said mass?"

"... O Christ, were extended on the Cross--" began the tortured man
dreamily. "Ah-h-h!"....

It was a scream, whispered rather than shrieked, that was torn from him
by the sharpness of the agony. His body had lifted from the floor
without will of his own, twisting a little; and what seemed as strings
of fiery pain had shot upwards from his feet and downwards from his
wrists as the roller was suddenly jerked again. He hung there perhaps
ten or fifteen seconds, conscious only of the blinding pain--questions,
questioners, roof and faces all gone and drowned again in a whirling
tumult of darkness and red streaks. The sweat poured again suddenly from
his whole body.... Then again he sank relaxed upon the floor, and the
pulses beat in his head, and he thought that Marjorie and her mother and
his own father were all looking at him....

He heard presently the same voice talking:

"--and answer the questions that are put to you.... Now then, we will
begin the others, if it please you better.... In what month was it that
you first became privy to the plot against her Grace?"

"Wait!" whispered the priest. "Wait, and I will answer that." (He
understood that there was a trap here. The question had been framed
differently last time. But his mind was all a-whirl; and he feared he
might answer wrongly if he could not collect himself. He still wondered
why so many friends of his were in the room--even Father Campion....)

He drew a breath again presently, and tried to speak; but his voice
broke like a shattered trumpet, and he could not command it.... He must
whisper.

"It was in August, I think.... I think it was August, two years ago."...

"August ... you mean May or April."

"No; it was August.... At least, all that I know of the plot was when
... when--" (His thoughts became confused again; it was like strings of
wool, he thought, twisted violently together; a strand snapped now and
again. He made a violent effort and caught an end as it was slipping
away.) "It was in August, I think; the day that Mr. Babington fled, that
he wrote to me; and sent me--" (He paused: he became aware that here,
too, lurked a trap if he were to say he had seen Mary; he would surely
be asked what he had seen her for, and his priesthood might be so proved
against him.... He could not remember whether that had been proved; and
so ... would Father Campion advise him perhaps whether....)

The voice jarred again; and startled him into a flash of coherence. He
thought he saw a way out.

"Well?" snapped the voice. "Sent you?... Sent you whither?"

"Sent me to Chartley; where I saw her Grace ... her Grace of the Scots;
and ... 'As Thy arms, O Christ....'"

"Now then; now then--! So your saw her Grace? And what was that for?"

"I saw her Grace ... and ... and told her what Mr. Babington had told
me."

"What was that, then?"

"That ... that he was her servant till death; and ... and a thousand if
he had them. And so, 'As Thy arms, O--'"

"Water," barked the voice.

Again came the rush as of cataracts; and a sensation of drowning. There
followed an instant's glow of life; and then the intolerable pain came
back; and the heavy, red-streaked darkness....


II

He found himself, after some period, lying more easily. He could not
move hand or foot. His body only appeared to live. From his shoulders to
his thighs he was alive; the rest was nothing. But he opened his eyes
and saw that his arms were laid by his side; and that he was no longer
in the wooden trough. He wondered at his hands; he wondered even if they
were his ... they were of an unusual colour and bigness; and there was
something like a tight-fitting bracelet round each wrist. Then he
perceived that he was shirtless and hoseless; and that the bracelets
were not bracelets, but rings of swollen flesh. But there was no longer
any pain or even sensation in them; and he was aware that his mouth
glowed as if he had drunk ardent spirits.

He was considering all this, slowly, like a child contemplating a new
toy. Then there came something between him and the light; he saw a
couple of faces eyeing him. Then the voice began again, at first
confused and buzzing, then articulate; and he remembered.

"Now, then," said the voice, "you have had but a taste of it...." ("A
taste of it; a taste of it." The phrase repeated itself like the catch
of a song.... When he regained his attention, the sentence had moved
on.)

"... these questions. I will put them to you again from the beginning.
You will give your answer to each. And if my lord is not satisfied, we
must try again."

"My lord!" thought the priest. He rolled his eyes round a little
further. (He dared not move his head; the sinews of his throat burned
like red-hot steel cords at the thought of it.) And he saw a little
table floating somewhere in the dark; a candle burned on it; and a
melancholy face with dreamy eyes was brightly illuminated.... That was
my lord Shrewsbury, he considered....

"... in what month that you first became privy to the plot against her
Grace?"

(Sense was coming back to him again now. He remembered what he had said
just now.)

"It was in August," he whispered, "in August, I think; two years ago.
Mr. Babington wrote to me of it."

"And you went to the Queen of the Scots, you say?"

"Yes."

"And what did you there?"

"I gave the message."

"What was that?"

"... That Mr. Babington was her servant always; that he regretted
nothing, save that he had failed. He begged her to pray for his soul,
and for all that had been with him in the enterprise."

(It appeared to him that he was astonishingly voluble, all at once. He
reflected that he must be careful.)

"And what did she say to that?"

"She declared herself guiltless of the plot ... that she knew nothing of
it; and that--"

"Now then; now then. You expect my lord to believe that?"

"I do not know.... But it was what was said."

"And you profess that you knew nothing of the plot till then?"

"I knew nothing of it till then," whispered the priest steadily. "But--"

(A face suddenly blotted out more of the light.)

"Yes?"

"Anthony--I mean Mr. Babington--had spoken to me a great while
before--in ... in some village inn.... I forget where. It was when I was
a lad. He asked whether I would join in some enterprise. He did not say
what it was.... But I thought it to be against the Queen of England....
And I would not."...

He closed his eyes again. There had begun a slow heat of pain in ankles
and wrists, not wholly unbearable, and a warmth began to spread in his
body. A great shudder or two shook him. The voice said something he
could not hear. Then a metal rim was pressed to his mouth; and a stream
of something at once icy and fiery ran into his mouth and out at the
corners. He swallowed once or twice; and his senses came back.

"You do not expect us to believe all that!" came the voice.

"It is the truth, for all that," murmured the priest.

The next question came sudden as a shot fired:

"You were at Fotheringay?"

"Yes."

"In what house?"

"I was in the inn--the 'New Inn,' I think it is.

"And you spoke with her Grace again?"

"No; I could not get at her. But--"

"Well?"

"I was in the court of the castle when her Grace was executed."

There was a murmur of voices. He thought that someone had moved over to
the table where my lord sat; but he could not move his eyes again, the
labour was too great.

"Who was with you in the inn--as your friend, I mean?"

"A ... a young man was with me. His name was Merton. He is in France, I
think."

"And he knew you to be a priest?" came the voice without an instant's
hesitation.

"Why--" Then he stopped short, just in time.

"Well?"

"How should he think that?" asked Robin.

There was a laugh somewhere. Then the voice went on, almost
good-humouredly.

"Mr. Alban; what is the use of this fencing? You were taken in a
hiding-hole with the very vestments at your feet. We _know_ you to be a
priest. We are not seeking to entrap you in that, for there is no need.
But there are other matters altogether which we must have from you. You
have been made priest beyond the seas, in Rheims--"

"I swear to you that I was not," whispered Robin instantly and eagerly,
thinking he saw a loophole.

"Well, then, at Châlons, or Douay: it matters not where. That is not our
affair to-day. All that will be dealt with before my lords at the
Assizes. But what we must have from you now is your answer to some other
questions."

"Assuming me to be a priest?"

"Mr. Alban, I will talk no more on that point. I tell you we know it.
But we must have answers on other points. I will come back to Merton
presently. These are the questions. I will read them through to you.
Then we will deal with them one by one."

There was the rustle of a paper. An extraordinary desire for sleep came
down on the priest; it was only by twitching his head a little, and
causing himself acute shoots of pain in his neck that he could keep
himself awake. He knew that he must not let his attention wander again.
He remembered clearly how that Father Campion was dead, and that
Marjorie could not have been here just now.... He must take great care
not to become so much confused again.

       *       *       *       *       *

"The first question," read the voice slowly, "is, Whether you have said
mass in other places beside Padley and the manor at Booth's Edge. We
know that you must have done so; but we must have the names of the
places, and of the parties present, so far as you can remember them.

"The second question is, the names of all those other priests with whom
you have spoken in England, since you came from Rheims; and the names of
all other students, not yet priests, or scarcely, whom you knew at
Rheims, and who are for England.

"The third question is, the names of all those whom you know to be
friends of Mr. John FitzHerbert, Mr. Bassett and Mr. Fenton--not being
priests; but Papists.

"These three questions will do as a beginning. When you have answered
these, there is a number more. Now, sir."

The last two words were rapped out sharply. Robin opened his eyes.

"As to the first two questions," he whispered. "These assume that I am
a priest myself. Yet that is what you, have to prove against me. The
third question concerns ... concerns my loyalty to my friends. But I
will tell you--"

"Yes?" (The voice was sharp and eager.)

"I will tell you the names of two friends of each of those gentlemen you
have named."

A pen suddenly scratched on paper. He could not see who held it.

"Yes?" said the voice again.

"Well, sir. The names of two of the friends of Mr. FitzHerbert are, Mr.
Bassett and Mr. Fenton. The names--"

"Bah!" (The word sounded like the explosion of a gun.)

"You are playing with us--"

"The names," murmured the priest slowly, "of two of Mr. Fenton's friends
are Mr. FitzHerbert and--"

A face, upside-down, thrust itself suddenly almost into his. He could
feel the hot breath on his forehead.

"See here, Mr. Alban. You are fooling us. Do you think this is a
Christmas game? I tell you it is not yet three o'clock. There are three
hours more yet--"

A smooth, sad voice interrupted. (The reversed face vanished.)

"You have threatened the prisoner," it said, "but you have not yet told
him the alternative."

"No, my lord.... Yes, my lord. Listen, Mr. Alban. My lord here says that
if you will answer these questions he will use his influence on your
behalf. Your life is forfeited, as you know very well. There is not a
dog's chance for you. Yet, if you will but answer these three
questions--and no more--(No more, my lord?)--Yes; these three questions
and no more, my lord will use his influence for you. He can promise
nothing, he says, but that; but my lord's influence--well, we need say
no more on that point. If you refuse to answer, on the other hand, there
are yet three hours more to-day; there is all to-morrow, and the next
day. And, after that, your case will be before my lords at the Assizes.
You have had but a taste of what we can do.... And then, sir, my lord
does not wish to be harsh...."

There was a pause.

Robin was counting up the hours. It was three o'clock now. Then he had
been on the rack, with intervals, since nine o'clock. That was six
hours. There was but half that again for to-day. Then would come the
night. He need not consider further than that.... But he must guard his
tongue. It might speak, in spite---

"Well, Mr. Alban?"

He opened his eyes.

"Well, sir?"

"Which is it to be?"

The priest smiled and closed his eyes again. If he could but fix his
attention on the mere pain, he thought, and refuse utterly to consider
the way of escape, he might be able to keep his unruly tongue in check.

"You will not, then?"

"No."

       *       *       *       *       *

The appalling pain ran through him again like fiery snakes of iron--from
wrist to shoulders, from ankles to thighs, as the hands seized him and
lifted him....

There was a moment or two of relief as he sank down once more into the
trough of torture. He could feel that his feet were being handled, but
it appeared as if nothing touched his flesh. He gave a great sighing
moan as his arms were drawn back over his head; and the sweat poured
again from all over his body.

Then, as the cords tightened:

"As Thy arms, O Christ, were extended ..." he whispered.



CHAPTER IX


I

A great murmuring crowd filled every flat spot of ground and pavement
and parapet. They stood even on the balustrade of St. Mary's Bridge;
there were fringes of them against the sky on the edges of roofs a
quarter of a mile away. No flat surface was to be seen anywhere except
on the broad reach of the river, and near the head of the bridge, in the
circular space, ringed by steel caps and pike-points, where the gallows
and ladder rose. Close beside them a column of black smoke rose heavily
into the morning air, bellying away into the clear air. A continual
steady low murmur of talking went up continually.

       *       *       *       *       *

There had been no hanging within the memory of any that had roused such
interest. Derbyshire men had been hung often enough; a criminal usually
had a dozen friends at least in the crowd to whom he shouted from the
ladder. Seminary priests had been executed often enough now to have
destroyed the novelty of it for the mob; why, three had been done to
death here little more than two months ago in this very place. They gave
no sport, certainly; they died too quietly; and what peculiar interest
there was in it lay in the contemplation of the fact that it was for
religion that they died. Gentlemen, too, had been hanged here now and
then--polished persons, dressed in their best, who took off their outer
clothes carefully, and in one or two cases had handed them to a servant;
gentlemen with whom the sheriff shook hands before the end, who eyed the
mob imperturbably or affected even not to be aware of the presence of
the vulgar. But this hanging was sublime.

First, he was a Derbyshire man, a seminary priest and a gentleman--three
points. Yet this was no more than the groundwork of his surpassing
interest. For, next, he had been racked beyond belief. It was for three
days before his sentence that Mr. Topcliffe himself had dealt with him.
(Yes, Mr. Topcliffe was the tall man that had his rooms in the
market-place, and always went abroad with two servants.... He was to
have Padley, too, it was said, as a reward for all his zeal.) Of course,
young Mr. Audrey (for that was his real name--not Alban; that was a
Popish _alias_ such as they all used)--Mr. Audrey had not been on the
rack for the whole of every day. But he had been in the rack-house eight
or nine hours on the first day, four the second, and six or seven the
third. And he had not answered one single question differently from the
manner in which he had answered it before ever he had been on the rack
at all. (There was a dim sense of pride with regard to this, in many
Derbyshire minds. A Derbyshire man, it appeared, was more than a match
for even a Londoner and a sworn servant of her Grace.) It was said that
Mr. Audrey would have to be helped up the ladder, even though he had not
been racked for a whole week since his sentence.

Next, the trial itself had been full of interest. A Papist priest was,
of course, fair game. (Why, the Spanish Armada itself had been full of
them, it was said, all come to subdue England.... Well, they had had
their bellyful of salt water and English iron by now.) But this Papisher
had hit back and given sport. He had flatly refused to be caught, though
the questions were swift and subtle enough to catch any clerk. Certainly
he had not denied that he was a priest; but he had said that that was
what the Crown must prove: he was not there as a witness, he had said,
but as a prisoner; he had even entreated them to respect their own
legal dignities! But there had been a number of things against him, and
even if none of these had been proved, still, the mere sum of them was
enough; there could be no smoke without fire, said the proverb-quoters.
It was alleged that he had been privy to the plot against the Queen (the
plot of young Mr. Babington, who had sold his house down there a week or
two only before his arrest); he had denied this, but he had allowed that
he had spoken with her Grace immediately after the plot; and this was a
highly suspicious circumstance: if he allowed so much as this, the rest
might be safely presumed. Again, it was said that he had had part in
attempts to free the Queen of the Scots, even from Fotheringay itself;
and had been in the castle court, with a number of armed servants, at
the very time of her execution. Again, if he allowed that he had been
present, even though he denied the armed servants, the rest might be
presumed. Finally, since he were a priest, and had seen her Grace at a
time when there was no chaplain allowed to her, it was certain that he
must have ministered their Popish superstitions to her, and this was
neither denied nor affirmed: he had said to this that they had yet to
prove him a priest at all. The very spectacle of the trial, too, had
been remarkable; for, first, there was the extraordinary appearance of
the prisoner, bent double like an old man, with the face of a dead one,
though he could not be above thirty years old at the very most; and then
there was the unusual number of magistrates present in court besides the
judges, and my lord Shrewsbury himself, who had presided at the racking.
It was one of my lord's men, too, that had helped to identify the
prisoner.

But the supreme interest lay in even more startling circumstances--in
the history of Mistress Manners, who was present through the trial with
Mr. Biddell the lawyer, and who had obtained at least two interviews
with the prisoner, one before the torture and the other after sentence.
It was in Mistress Manners' house at Booth's Edge that the priest had
been taken; and it was freely rumoured that although Mr. Audrey had once
been betrothed to her, yet that she had released and sent him herself to
Rheims, and all to end like this. And yet she could bear to come and see
him again; and, it was said, would be present somewhere in the crowd
even at his death.

Finally, the tale of how the priest had been taken by his own
father--old Mr. Audrey of Matstead--him that was now lying sick in Mr.
Columbell's house--this put the crown on all the rest. A hundred rumours
flew this way and that: one said that the old man had known nothing of
his son's presence in the country, but had thought him to be still in
foreign parts. Another, that he knew him to be in England, but not that
he was in the county; a third, that he knew very well who it was in the
house he went to search, and had searched it and taken him on purpose to
set his own loyalty beyond question. Opinions differed as to the
propriety of such an action....

       *       *       *       *       *

So then the great crowd of heads--men from all the countryside, from
farms and far-off cottages and the wild hills, mingling with the
townsfolk--this crowd, broken up into levels and patches by river and
houses and lanes, moved to and fro in the October sunshine, and sent up,
with the column of smoke that eddied out from beneath the bubbling
tar-cauldron by the gallows, a continual murmur of talking, like the
sound of slow-moving wheels of great carts.

He felt dazed and blind, yet with a kind of lightness too as he came
out of the gaol-gate into that packed mass of faces, held back by guards
from the open space where the horse and the hurdle waited. A dozen
persons or so were within the guards; he knew several of them by sight;
two or three were magistrates; another was an officer; two were
ministers with their Bibles.

It is hard to say whether he were afraid. Fear was there, indeed--he
knew well enough that in his case, at any rate, the execution would be
done as the law ordered; that he would be cut down before he had time to
die, and that the butchery would be done on him while he would still be
conscious of it. Death, too, was fearful, in any case.... Yet there were
so many other things to occupy him--there was the exhilarating knowledge
that he was to die for his faith and nothing else; for they had offered
him his life if he would go to church; and they had proved nothing as to
any complicity of his in any plot, and how could they, since there was
none? There was the pain of his tormented body to occupy him; a pain
that had passed from the acute localized agonies of snapped sinews and
wrenched joints into one vast physical misery that soaked his whole body
as in a flood; a pain that never ceased; of which he dreamed darkly, as
a hungry man dreams of food which he cannot eat, to which he awoke again
twenty times a night as to a companion nearer to him than the thoughts
with which he attempted to distract himself. This pain, at least, would
have an end presently. Again, there was an intermittent curiosity as to
how and what would befall his flying soul when the butchery was done.
"To sup in Heaven" was a phrase used by one of his predecessors on the
threshold of death.... For what did that stand?... And at other times
there had been no curiosity, but an acquiescence in old childish images.
Heaven at such times appeared to him as a summer garden, with pavilions,
and running water and the song of birds ... a garden where he would lie
at ease at last from his torn body and that feverish mind, which was all
that his pain had left to him; where Mary went, gracious and motherly,
with her virgins about her; where the Crucified Lamb of God would talk
with him as a man talks with his friend, and allow him to lie at the
Pierced Feet ... where the glory of God rested like eternal sunlight on
all that was there; on the River of Life, and the wood of the trees that
are for the healing of all hurts.

And, last of all, there was a confused medley of more human thoughts
that concerned persons other than himself. He could not remember all the
persons clearly; their names and their faces came and went. Marjorie,
his father, Mr. John FitzHerbert and Mr. Anthony, who had been allowed
to come and see him; Dick Sampson, who had come in with Marjorie the
second time and had kissed his hands. One thing at least he remembered
clearly as he stood here, and that was how he had bidden Mistress
Manners, even now, not to go overseas and become a nun, as she had
wished; but rather to continue her work in Derbyshire, if she could.

So then he stood, bent double on two sticks, blinking and peering out at
the faces, wondering whether it was a roar of anger or welcome or
compassion that had broken out at his apparition, and smiling--smiling
piteously, not of deliberation, but because the muscles of his mouth so
moved, and he could not contract them again.

       *       *       *       *       *

He understood presently that he was to lie down on the hurdle, with his
head to the horses' heels.

This was a great business, to be undertaken with care. He gave his two
sticks to a man, and took his arm. Then he kneeled, clinging to the arm
as a child to a swimmer's in a rough sea, and sank gently down. But he
could not straighten his legs, so they allowed him to lie half
side-ways, and tied him so. It was amazingly uncomfortable, and, before
he was settled, twice the sweat suddenly poured from his face as he
found some new channel of pain in his body....

An order or two was issued in a loud, shouting voice; there was a great
confusion and scuffling, and the crack of a whip. Then, with a jerk that
tore his whole being, he was flicked from his place; the pain swelled
and swelled till there seemed no more room for it in all God's world;
and he closed his eyes so as not to see the house-roofs and the faces
and the sky whirl about in that mad jigging dance....

After that he knew very little of the journey. For the most part his
eyes were tight closed; he sobbed aloud half a dozen times as the hurdle
lifted and dropped over rough places in the road. Two or three times he
opened his eyes to see what the sounds signified, especially a loud,
bellowing voice almost in his ear that cried texts of Scripture at him.

"_We have but one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ
Jesus_...."

"_We then, being justified by faith.... For if by the works of the Law
we are justified_...."

He opened his eyes wide at that, and there was the face of one of the
ministers bobbing against the sky, flushed and breathless, yet
indomitable, bawling aloud as he trotted along to keep pace with the
horse.

Then he closed his eyes again. He knew that he, too, could bandy texts
if that were what was required. Perhaps, if he were a better man and
more mortified, he might be able to do so as the martyrs sometimes had
done. But he could not ... he would have a word to say presently
perhaps, if it were permitted; but not now. His pain occupied him; he
had to deal with that and keep back, if he could, those sobs that were
wrenched from him now and again. He had made but a poor beginning in his
journey, he thought; he must die more decently than that.

       *       *       *       *       *

The end came unexpectedly. Just when he thought he had gained his
self-control again, so as to make no sound at any rate, the hurdle
stopped. He clenched his teeth to meet the dreadful wrench with which it
would move again; but it did not. Instead there was a man down by him,
untying his bonds. He lay quite still when they were undone; he did not
know which limb to move first, and he dreaded to move any.

"Now then," said the voice, with a touch of compassion, he thought.

He set his teeth, gripped the arm and raised himself--first to his
knees, then to his feet, where he stood swaying. An indescribable roar
ascended steadily on all sides; but he could see little of the crowd as
yet. He was standing in a cleared space, held by guards. A couple of
dozen persons stood here; three or four on horseback; and one of these
he thought to be my lord Shrewsbury, but he was not sure, since his head
was against the glare of the sun. He turned a little, still holding to
the man's arm, and not knowing what to do, and saw a ladder behind him;
he raised his eyes and saw that its head rested against the cross-beam
of a single gallows, that a rope hung from this beam, and that a figure
sitting astride of this cross-beam was busy with this rope. The shock of
the sight cooled and nerved him; rather, it drew his attention all from
himself.... He looked lower again, and behind the gallows was a column
of heavy smoke going up, and in the midst of the smoke a cauldron hung
on a tripod. Beside the cauldron was a great stump of wood, with a
chopper and a knife lying upon it.... He drew one long steady breath,
expelled it again, and turned back to my lord Shrewsbury. As he turned,
he saw him make a sign, and felt himself grasped from behind.


III

He reached at last with his hands the rung of the ladder on which the
executioner's foot rested, hearing, as he went painfully up, the roar of
voices wax to an incredible volume. It was impossible for any to speak
so that he could hear, but he saw the hands above him in eloquent
gesture, and understood that he was to turn round. He did so cautiously,
grasping the man's foot, and so rested, half sitting on a rung, and
holding it as well as he could with his two hands. Then he felt a rope
pass round his wrists, drawing them closer together.... As he turned,
the roar of voices died to a murmur; the murmur died to silence, and he
understood and remembered. It was now the time to speak.... He gathered
for the last time all his forces together. With the sudden silence,
clearness came back to his mind, and he remembered word for word the
little speech he had rehearsed so often during the last week. He had
learned it by heart, fearful lest God should give him no words if he
trusted to the moment, lest God should not see fit to give him even that
interior consolation which was denied to so many of the saints--yet
without which he could not speak from the heart. He had been right, he
knew now: there was no religious consolation; he felt none of that
strange heart-shaking ecstasy that had transfigured other deaths like
his; he had none of the ready wit that Campion had showed. He saw
nothing but the clear October sky above him, cut by the roofs fringed
with heads (a skein of birds passed slowly over it as he raised his
eyes); and, beneath, that irreckonable pavement of heads, motionless now
as a cornfield in a still evening, one glimpse of the river--the river,
he remembered even at this instant, that came down from Hathersage and
Padley and his old home. But there was no open vision, such as he had
half hoped to see, no unimaginable glories looming slowly through the
veils in which God hides Himself on earth, no radiant face smiling into
his own--only this arena of watching human faces turned up to his,
waiting for his last sermon.... He thought he saw faces that he knew,
though he lost them again as his eyes swept on--Mr. Barton, the old
minister of Matstead; Dick; Mr. Bassett.... Their faces looked
terrified.... However, this was not his affair now.

As he was about to speak he felt hands about his neck, and then the
touch of a rope passed across his face. For an indescribable instant a
terror seized on him; he closed his eyes and set his teeth. The spasm
passed, and so soon as the hands were withdrawn again, he began:

       *       *       *       *       *

"Good people"--(at the sound of his voice, high and broken, the silence
became absolute. A thin crowing of a cock from far off in the country
came like a thread and ceased)--"Good people: I die here as a Catholic
man, for my priesthood, which I now confess before all the world." (A
stir of heads and movements below distracted him. But he went on at
once.) "There have been alleged against me crimes in which I had neither
act nor part, against the life of her Grace and the peace of her
dominions."

"Pray for her Grace," rang out a sharp voice below him.

"I will do so presently.... It is for that that I am said to die, in
that I took part in plots of which I knew nothing till all was done. Yet
I was offered my life, if I would but conform and go to church; so you
see very well--"

A storm of confused voices interrupted him. He could distinguish no
sentence, so he waited till they ceased again.

"So you see very well," he cried, "for what it is that I die. It is for
the Catholic faith--"

"Beat the drums! beat the drums!" cried a voice. There began a drumming;
but a howl like a beast's surged up from the whole crowd. When it died
again the drum was silent. He glanced down at my lord Shrewsbury and saw
him whispering with an officer. Then he continued:

"It is for the Catholic faith, then, that I die--that which was once the
faith of all England--and which, I pray, may be one day its faith again.
In that have I lived, and in that will I die. And I pray God, further,
that all who hear me to-day may have grace to take it as I do--as the
true Christian Religion (and none other)--revealed by our Saviour
Christ."

The crowd was wholly quiet again now. My lord had finished his
whispering, and was looking up. But the priest had made his little
sermon, and thought that he had best pray aloud before his strength
failed him. His knees were already shaking violently under him, and the
sweat was pouring again from his face, not so much from the effort of
his speech as from the pain which that effort caused him. It seemed that
there was not one nerve in his body that was not in pain.

"I ask all Catholics, then, that hear me to join with me in prayer....
First, for Christ's Catholic Church throughout the world, for her peace
and furtherance.... Next, for our England, for the conversion of all her
children; and, above all, for her Grace, my Queen and yours, that God
will bless and save her in this world, and her soul eternally in the
next. For these and all other such matters I will beg all Catholics to
join with me and to say the _Our Father_; and when I am in my agony to
say yet another for my soul."

"_Our Father_...."

From the whole packed space the prayer rose up, in great and heavy waves
of sound. There were cries of mockery three or four times, but each was
suddenly cut off.... The waves of sound rolled round and ceased, and the
silence was profound. The priest opened his eyes; closed them again.
Then with a loud voice he began to cry:

"O Christ, as Thine arms were extended--"

       *       *       *       *       *

He stopped again, shaken even from that intense point of concentration
to which he was forcing himself, by the amazing sound that met his ears.
He had heard, at the close of the _Our Father_, a noise which he could
not interpret: but no more had happened. But now the whole world seemed
screaming and swaying: he heard the trample of horses beneath
him--voices in loud expostulation.

He opened his eyes; the clamour died again at the same instant.... For a
moment his eyes wandered over the heads and up to the sky, to see if
some vision.... Then he looked down....

Against the ladder on which he stood, a man's figure was writhing and
embracing the rungs kneeling on the ground. He was strangely dressed, in
some sort of a loose gown, in a tight silk night-cap, and his feet were
bare. The man's head was dropped, and the priest could not see his face.
He looked beyond for some explanation, and there stood, all alone, a
girl in a hooded cloak, who raised her great eyes to his. As he looked
down again the man's head had fallen back, and the face was staring up
at him, so distorted with speechless entreaty, that even he, at first,
did not recognize it....

Then he saw it to be his father, and understood enough, at least, to act
as a priest for the last time.

He smiled a little, leaned his own head forward as from a cross, and
spoke....

"_Absolvo te a peccatis tuis in nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus
Sancti_...."


VI

He only awoke once again, after the strangling and the darkness had
passed. He could see nothing, nor hear, except a heavy murmuring noise,
not unpleasant. But there was one last Pain not into which all others
had passed, keen and cold like water, and it was about his heart.

"O Christ--" he whispered, and so died.


THE END





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