The bell rang for prayers, and still without a word being spoken they all got up and went out.
In the same silence they came back. Ralph’s servant was standing by the door as they entered.
“If you please, sir, Mr. Ralph is come in. He bade me tell you that all is arranged.”
The old man looked at him, swallowed once in his throat; and at last spoke.
“It is arranged, you say? It will not take place?”
“It will not take place, sir.”
“Where is Mr. Ralph?”
“He is gone to his room, sir. He bade me tell you he would be leaving early for London.”
Ralph rode away early next morning, yet not so early as to escape an interview with his father. They met in the hall, Sir James in his loose morning gown and Ralph booted and spurred with his short cloak and tight cap. The old man took him by the sleeve, drawing him to the fire that burned day and night in winter.
“Ralph—Ralph, my son,” he said, “I must thank you for last night.”
“You have to thank yourself only, sir, and my mother. I could do no otherwise.”
“It is you—” began his father.
“It is certainly not Nick, sir. The hot fool nearly provoked me.”
“But you hate such mummery yourself, my son?”
“It is not seemly—” began his father again.
“It is certainly not seemly; but neither are the common folk seemly.”
“Did you have much business with them, my son?” Ralph smiled in the firelight.
“Why, no, sir. I told them who I was. I charged myself with the burden.”
“And you will not be in trouble with my Lord?”
“My Lord has other matters to think of than a parcel of mummers.”
Then they separated; and Ralph rode down the drive with his servants behind him. Neither father nor son had said a word of any return. Neither had Ralph had one private word with Beatrice during his three days’ stay. Once he had come into the parlour to find her going out at the other door; and he had wondered whether she had heard his step and gone out on purpose. But he knew very well that under the superficial courtesy between him and her there lay something deeper—some passionate emotion vibrated like a beam between them; but he did not know, even on his side and still less on hers, whether that emotion were one of love or loathing. It was partly from the discomfort of the charged atmosphere, partly from a shrinking from thanks and explanations that he had determined to go up to London a day earlier than he had intended; he had a hatred of personal elaborateness.
* * * * *