* * * * *
She had gone through horrors since the June day on which she had seen the two brothers together. With Margaret beside her she had watched Master More in court, in his frieze gown, leaning on his stick, bent and grey with imprisonment, had heard his clear answers, his searching questions, and his merry conclusion after sentence had been pronounced; she had stayed at home with the stricken family on the morning of the sixth of July, kneeling with them at her prayers in the chapel of the New Building, during the hours until Mr. Roper looked in grey-faced and trembling, and they knew that all was over. She went with them to the burial in St. Peter’s Chapel in the Tower; and last, which was the most dreadful ordeal of all, she had stood in the summer darkness by the wicket-gate, had heard the cautious stroke of oars, and the footsteps coming up the path, and had let Margaret in bearing her precious burden robbed from the spike on London Bridge.
Then for a while she had gone down to the country with Mrs. More and her daughters; and now she was back once more, in a kind of psychical convalescence, at her aunt’s new house on the river-bank at Charing.
* * * * *
Her face was a little paler than it used to be, but there was a quickening brightness in her eyes as she swept along in her blue mantle, with her maid beside her, in the rear of the liveried servant, who carried a silver-headed wand a few yards in front.
She was rehearsing to herself the scene in which Ralph had asked her to be his wife.
Where Chris had left the room the two had remained perfectly still until the street-door had closed; and then Ralph had turned to her with a question in his steady eyes.
She had told him then that she did not believe one word of what the monk had insinuated; but she had been conscious even at the time that she was making what theologians call an act of faith. It was not that there were not difficulties to her in Ralph’s position—there were plenty—but she had determined by a final and swift decision to disregard them and believe in him. It was a last step in a process that continued ever since she had become interested by this strong brusque man; and it had been precipitated by the fanatical attack to which she had just been a witness. The discord, as she thought it, of Ralph’s character and actions had not been resolved; yet she had decided in that moment that it need not be; that her data as concerned those actions were insufficient; and that if she could not explain, at least she could trust.
Ralph had been very honest, she told herself now. He had reminded her that he was a servant of Cromwell’s whom many believed to be an enemy of Church and State. She had nodded back to him steadily and silently, knowing what would follow from the paleness of his face, and his bright eyes beneath their wide lids. She had felt her own breast rise and fall and a pulse begin to hammer at the spring of her throat. Even now as she thought of it her heart quickened, and her hands clenched themselves.