But by the time that he came back to London he had thought out his method of meeting her. Probably she had had news of the doings of the Visitors, perhaps of his own in particular; it was hardly possible that his father had not written; she would ask for an explanation, and she should have instead an appeal to her confidence. He would tell her that sad things had indeed happened, that he had been forced to be present at and even to carry out incidents which he deplored; but that he had done his utmost to be merciful. It was rough work, he would say; but it was work that had to be done; and since that was so—and this was Cromwell’s teaching—it was better that honourable gentlemen should do it. He had not been able always to restrain the violence of his men—and for that he needed forgiveness from her dear lips; and it would be easy enough to tell stories against him that it would be hard to disprove; but if she loved and trusted him, and he knew that she did, let her take his word for it that no injustice had been deliberately done, that on the other hand he had been the means under God of restraining many such acts, and that his conscience was clear.
It was a moving appeal, Ralph thought, and it almost convinced himself. He was not conscious of any gross insincerity in the defence; of course it was shaded artistically, and the more brutal details kept out of sight, but in the main it was surely true. And, as he rehearsed its points to himself once more in the streets of Westminster, he felt that though there might be a painful moment or two, yet it would do his work.
* * * * *
He had sent a message home that he was coming, and the door of his home was wide as he dismounted, and the pleasant light of candles shone out, for the evening was smouldering to dark in the west.
A crowd had collected as he went along; from every window faces were leaning; and as he stood on the steps directing the removal of the treasure into the house, he saw that the mob filled the tiny street, and the cobbled space, from side to side. They were chiefly of the idling class, folks who had little to do but to follow up excitements and shout; and there were a good many cries raised for the King’s Grace and his Visitors, for such people as these were greedy for any movement that might bring them gain, and the Religious Houses were beginning to be more unpopular in town than ever.
One of the bundles slipped as it was shifted, the cord came off, and in a moment the little space beyond the mule before the door was covered with gleaming stuff and jewels.
There was a fierce scuffle and a cry, and Ralph was in a moment beyond the mule with his sword out. He said nothing but stood there fierce and alert as the crowd sucked back, and the servant gathered up the things. There was no more trouble, for it had only been a spasmodic snatch at the wealth, and a cheer or two was raised again among the grimy faces that stared at the fine gentleman and the shining treasure.