They had scarcely done supper when the bell of the outer door rang again, and a moment later Nicholas was with them, flushed with hard riding. He strode into the room, blinking at the lights, and tossed his riding whip on to the table.
“I have been to the Lieutenant of the Tower,” he said; “I know him of old. He promises nothing. He tells me that Ralph is well-lodged. Mary is gone to Overfield. God damn the King!”
He had no more news to give. He had sent off his wife at once on receiving the tidings, and had started half an hour later for London. He had been ahead of them all the way, it seemed; but had spent a couple of hours first in trying to get admittance to the Tower, and then in interviewing the Lieutenant; but there was no satisfaction to be gained there. The utmost he had wrung from him was a promise that he would see him again, and hear what he had to say.
Then Nicholas had to sup and hear the whole story from the beginning; and Chris left his father to tell it, and went up with Beatrice to arrange about rooms.
Matters were soon settled with the old lady; Nicholas and Chris were to sleep in one room, and Sir James in an another. Two servants only could be accommodated in the house; the rest were to put up at the inn. Beatrice went off to give the necessary orders.
Mistress Jane Atherton and Chris had a few moments together before the others came up.
“A sore heart,” said the old lady again, “but a glad one too. Beatrice has told me everything.”
“I am thankful too,” said Chris softly. “I wonder if my father understands.”
“He will, father, he will. But even if he does not—well, God knows all.”
It was evident when Sir James came upstairs presently that he did not understand anything yet, except that Beatrice thought that Ralph had behaved well.
“But it is to my Lord Essex—who has been the worker of all the mischief—that my son is faithful. Is that a good thing then?”
“Why, yes,” said Chris. “You would not have him faithless there too?”
“But would he not be on God’s side at last, if he were against Cromwell?”
The old man was still too much bewildered to understand explanations, and his son was silent.
* * * * *
Chris could not sleep that night, and long after Nicholas lay deep in his pillow, with open mouth and tight eyes, the priest was at the window looking out over the river where the moon hung like a silver shield above Southwark. The meadows beyond the stream were dim and colourless; here and there a roof rose among trees; and straight across the broad water to his feet ran a path of heaving glory, where the strong ripple tossed the silver surface that streamed down upon it from the moon.