“And where do you suggest that she should go?”
“She must go home,” said Ralph.
“Then I will not receive her,” said Sir James.
Mary started up.
“Nor will Mary receive her,” he added, half turning towards her.
Mary Maxwell sat back at once. She thought she understood what he meant now.
Ralph stared at his father a moment before he too understood. Then he saw the point, and riposted deftly. He shrugged his shoulders ostentatiously as if to shake off responsibility.
“Well, then, that is not my business; I shall give her a gown and five shillings to-morrow, with the other one.”
The extraordinary brutality of the words struck Mary like a whip, but Sir James met it.
“That is for you to settle then,” he said. “Only you need not send her to Overfield or Great Keynes, for she will be sent back here at once.”
Ralph smiled with an air of tolerant incredulity. Sir James rose briskly.
“Come, Mary,” he said, and turned his back abruptly on Ralph, “we must find lodgings for to-night. The good nuns will not have room.”
As Mary looked at his face in the candlelight she was astonished by its decision; there was not the smallest hint of yielding. It was very pale but absolutely determined, and for the fast time in her life she noticed how like it was to Ralph’s. The line of the lips was identical, and his eyelids drooped now like his son’s.
Ralph too rose and then on a sudden she saw the resolute obstinacy fade from his eyes and mouth. It was as if the spirit of one man had passed into the other.
“Father—” he said.
She expected a rush of emotion into the old man’s face, but there was not a ripple. He paused a moment, but Ralph was silent.
“I have no more to say to you, sir. And I beg that you will not come home again.”
As they passed out into the entrance passage she turned again and saw Ralph dazed and trembling at the table. Then they were out in the road through the open gate and a long moan broke from her father.
“Oh! God forgive me,” he said, “have I failed?”
A NUN’S DEFIANCE
It was a very strange evening that Mary and her father passed in the little upstairs room looking on to the street at Rusper.
Sir James had hardly spoken, and after supper had sat near the window, with a curious alertness in his face. Mary knew that Chris was expected, and that Mr. Morris had ridden on to fetch him after he had called at Overfield, but from her short interview with Margaret she had seen that his presence would not be required. The young nun, though bewildered and stunned by the news that she must go, had not wavered for a moment as regards her intention to follow out her Religious vocation in some manner; and it was to confirm her in it, in case she hesitated, that Sir James had sent on the servant to fetch Chris.