So Monsignor had learned last night; and as he lay in his little white room this morning, waiting for the instructions that, he had been informed, would arrive before he need get up, it seemed that even to his own tortured brain some breath of relief had already come. The world seemed perfectly still. Once from far away he heard the note of a single deep-toned bell; but, for the rest, there was silence. There was no footstep in the house, no footstep outside. From where he lay he could see out through his low window into a tiny high-walled court, white like his own room, except where the level lawn ran to the foot of the wall and a row of tawny autumn flowers rose against it. Above the white carved parapet opposite ran skeins of delicate cloud against the soft blue sky. It was strange, he thought, to be conscious in this utter solitude and silence of an incomparable peace. . . .
When he opened his eyes again, he saw that the hooded lay brother had come in while he dozed, and had begun to set the room to rights. A door, white like the wall, which he had not noticed last night, stood open opposite his bed, and he caught sight of a tiny bathroom beyond. A little fire of wood was leaping in the white-tiled chimney; and before it stood a table. The window too was set open, and the pleasant autumn air streamed in.
Then the brother came up to the bedside, his face invisible under the peaked hood that hung over it. He uttered a sentence or two in Latin, bidding him get up and dress. He was not to say Mass this morning. “Father” would come in as soon as he had breakfasted and give him his instructions for the day. That was all.
Monsignor got out of bed and went into the bathroom, where his clothes were already arranged. When he came back a quarter of an hour later, he found a tray set out with simple food and milk on the table beside the fire. As he finished and said grace the door opened noiselessly, and a priest in the Carthusian habit came in, closing the door behind him.
As the two faced one another for an instant, the Englishman perceived in a glance that this monk was one of the most impressive-looking men he had ever set eyes on. He was well over six feet in height, and, in his rough, clumsy white dress, he seemed enormously muscular and powerful. He carried himself loosely, with an air of strength, almost swinging in his gait. But it was his face that above all was remarkable. His hood lay back on his shoulders, and from its folds rose his strong throat and head, all as hairless as a statue’s; and as the priest glanced at him he saw that strange suggestion as of a bird’s head which some types convey. His nose was long, thin, and curved; his lips colourless and compressed; his cheeks modelled in folds and hollows over the bones beneath; and his eyes, of an extraordinary light grey, looked out under straight upper lids, as of an eagle.