She raised her eyes slowly to his; and Ralph as he looked into them saw that she was perfectly sincere, and speaking without bitterness.
“Sweetheart,” he said. “I could not have taken that from any but you; but I know that you are true, and mean no more nor less than your words. You do trust me?”
“Why, yes,” said the girl; and smiled at him as he took her in his arms.
* * * * *
When she had gone again Ralph had a difficult quarter of an hour.
He knew that she trusted him, but was it not simply because she did not know? He sat and pondered the talk he had had with Cromwell and the Archbishop. Neither had expressly said that what was wanted was adverse testimony against the Religious Houses; but that, Ralph knew very well, was what was asked of him. They had talked a great deal about the corruptions that the Visitors would no doubt find, and Cranmer had told a story or two, with an appearance of great distress, of scandalous cases that had come under his own notice. Cromwell too had pointed out that such corruptions did incalculable evil; and that an immoral monk did far more harm in a countryside than his holy brethren could do of good. Both had said a word too about the luxury and riches to be found in the houses of those who professed poverty, and of the injury done to Christ’s holy religion by such insincere pretences.
Ralph knew too, from previous meetings with the other Visitors, the kind of work for which such men would be likely to be selected.
There was Dr. Richard Layton first, whom Ralph was to join in Sussex at the end of September, a priest who had two or three preferments and notoriously neglected them; Ralph had taken a serious dislike to him. He was a coarse man who knew how to cringe effectively; and Ralph had listened to him talking to Cromwell, with some dismay. But he would be to a large extent independent of him, and only in his company at some of the larger houses that needed more than one Visitor. Thomas Legh, too, a young doctor of civil law, was scarcely more attractive. He was a man of an extraordinary arrogance, carrying his head high, and looking about him with insolently drooping eyes. Ralph had been at once amused and angry to see him go out into the street after his interview with Cromwell, where his horse and half-a-dozen footmen awaited him, and to watch him ride off with the airs of a vulgar prince. The Welshman Ap Rice too, and the red-faced bully, Dr. London, were hardly persons whom he desired as associates, and the others were not much better; and Ralph found himself feeling a little thankful that none of these men had been in his house just now, when Cromwell and the Archbishop had called in the former’s carriage, and when Beatrice had met them there.
* * * * *