It was all like a dreadful dream to Mary.
She had gone out from dinner at her own house into the pleasant October sunshine with her cheerful husband beside her, when her father had come out through the house with his riding-whip in his hand; and in a few seconds she had found herself plunged into new and passionate relations, first with him, for she had never seen him so stirred, and then with her brothers and sister. Ralph, that dignified man of affairs, suddenly stepped into her mind as a formidable enemy of God and man; Chris appeared as a spiritual power, and the quiet Margaret as the very centre of the sudden storm.
She sat here now by the fire, shading her face with her hand and watching that familiar face set in hard and undreamed lines of passion and resolution and expectancy.
Once as footsteps came up the street he had started up and sat down trembling.
She waited till the steps went past, and then spoke.
“Chris will be riding, father.”
He nodded abruptly, and she saw by his manner that it was not Chris he was expecting. She understood then that he still had hopes of his other son, but they sat on into the night in the deep stillness, till the fire burned low and red, and the stars she had seen at the horizon wheeled up and out of sight above the window-frame.
Then he suddenly turned to her.
“You must go to bed, Mary,” he said. “I will wait for Chris.”
She lay long awake in the tiny cupboard-room that the labourer and his wife had given up to her, hearing the horses stamp in the cold shed at the back of the house, and the faces moved and turned like the colours of a kaleidoscope. Now her father’s eyes and mouth hung like a mask before her, with that terrible look that had been on them as he faced Ralph at the end; now Ralph’s own face, defiant, icy, melting in turns; now Margaret’s with wide terrified eyes, as she had seen it in the parlour that afternoon; now her own husband’s. And the sweet autumn woods and meadows lay before her as she had seen them during that silent ride; the convent, the village, her own home with its square windows and yew hedge—a hundred images.
* * * * *
There was a talking when she awoke for the last time and through the crazy door glimmered a crack of grey dawn, and as she listened she knew that Chris was come.
It was a strange meeting when she came out a few minutes later. There was the monk, unshaven and pale under the eyes, with his thinned face that gave no smile as she came in; her father desperately white and resolved; Mr. Morris, spruce and grave as usual sitting with his hat between his knees behind the others;—he rose deferentially as she came in and remained standing.
Her father began abruptly as she appeared.
“He can do nothing,” he said, “he can but turn her on to the road. And I do not think he will dare.”