But above all Ralph repented of his own words. There was no harm in saying such things in the country; but it was foolish and rash to do so in town. Cromwell’s men should be silent and discreet, he knew, not street-orators; and if he had had time to think he would not have spoken. However the crowd was with him; there was plainly no one of any importance there; it was unlikely that Cromwell himself would hear of the incident; and perhaps after all no harm was done.
Meanwhile there was Beatrice to reckon with, and Ralph laid down his pen a dozen times that morning and rehearsed once more what he would have to say to her.
He was shrewd enough to know that it was his personality and not his virtues or his views that had laid hold of this girl’s soul. As it was with him, so it was with her; each was far enough apart from the other in all external matters; such things had been left behind a year ago; it was not an affair of consonant tastes, but of passion. From each there had looked deep inner eyes; there had been on either side a steady and fearless scrutiny, and then the two souls had leapt together in a bright flame of desire, knowing that each was made for the other. There had been so little love-making, so few speeches after the first meeting or two, so few letters exchanged, and fewer embraces. The last veils had fallen at the fury of Chris’s intervention, and they had known then what had been inevitable all along.
Ralph smiled to himself as he remembered how little he had said or she had answered; there had been no need to say anything. And then his eyes grew wide and passionate, and his hands gripped one another fiercely, as the memory died, and the burning flame of desire flared within him again from the deep well he bore in his heart. The world of affairs and explanations and evasions faded into twilight, and there was but one thing left, his love and hers. It was to that that he would appeal.
He sat so a moment longer, and then took up his pen again, though it shook in his hand, and went on with his reckonings.
* * * * *
He was perfectly composed half an hour later as he went downstairs to meet her. He had finished his line of figures sedately when the man looked in to say that she was below; and had sat yet a moment longer, trying to remember mechanically what it was he had determined to tell her. Bah! it was trifling and unimportant; words did not affect the question; all the wrecked convents in the world could not touch the one fact that lay in fire at his heart. He would say nothing; she would understand.
In the tiny entrance hall there was a whiff of fragrance where she had passed through; and his heart stirred in answer. Then he opened the door, stepped through and closed it behind him.
She was standing upright by the hearth, and faced him as he entered. He was aware of her blue mantle, her white, jewelled head-dress, one hand gripping the mantel-shelf, her pale steady face and bright eyes. Behind there was the warm rich panelling, and the leaping glow of the wood fire.