Then they set forth into the wood.
A PARABLE OF TWO HORSES
They were nearing Dunstan on the way back. The light had flattened out, and the little town was stretching its shadows. They were silent.... Beth was trying to fit this day to days that had gone, but it was hard. This had a brightness apart from them, but it seemed to her now that the brightness was gone with the sun. She was tired—and alone. The thoughts in her mind had brought the sense of separateness.
She must soon know from him, if the day had served her end. She thought of her temptation in the studio—to hold him from the ocean, as a woman might, as a Wordling might. She had not needed quite to do that, merely to let herself go. The glorious lover in him had done more than she dreamed, in making her Beth of the bestowals, this day.
In the sunlight, she had been one with him. Rather startlingly it came to her now, that she could have asked anything then. But in those incomparable moments of the high day, there had been nothing to ask. How strange this was to her! How utterly had they put all commonness behind.
She trembled at the thought of another woman rousing that lover in him, looking upon the miracle she had evoked. She could not bear it, nor could she suffer him to know this thought of hers.
They were riding down into the town. Brightenings from the West were still upon the upper foliage of the trees, but vague dusk had fallen between their faces. His features were white and haggard.... She was afraid to ask him now. She would wait for the darkness. Had he heard a tremble in her voice, Bedient would have caught her bridle-rein and searched her face.
She clucked. Clarendon, with stables just ahead, was only too eager.... Bedient rejoined her after turning over his horse, and making the change of clothes. Beth met him at the gate of her mother’s house and there was a smile in the evening light.
They did not sit opposite at supper. Bedient studied the little mother at the head of the table, but with a fear in his heart. A sense of disaster had come to him at the end of the ride. He knew nothing of what had formed about the short sea journey in Beth’s mind; he could not have believed from her own lips that she had been tempted to hold him with passion. He would have expected faith from her, had some destroying tale come to her ears. He did not realize the effect upon others, of his aptness to ignore all explanation. Especially in this seagoing affair, he had nothing to say. It was not his way to discuss his adventures into the happiness of others.... Beth felt his reserve instinctively, a reason why it had been impossible for her to show him the document of disorder.
The talk at the supper table had to do with the portrait she had painted. Beth never forgot some of Bedient’s sentences.... Then she told him about the new life of the Grey One; of the latter’s call on Wednesday, with the great news about Torvin, and of the telephone message yesterday.