“Certainly, if you drink it in that fashion. But why not try it with ice?”
“You will find a chestful in my cell. Here is the key; which, by the way, has no business with this bunch. Felipe, yonder, who was always light-fingered, must have stolen it from my work-bench.”
“Hand it over. One must go to the priests to learn good living. Here, Jacques le Bec!” He rattled off an order to a long-nosed fellow at his elbow, who saluted and left the chapel, taking the key.
“We shall need a cup to mix it in,” said Brother Bartolome quietly.
One of the pirates thrust the silver chalices into his hands: for the bottle had been passed from one man to another, and they were thirsty for more. Brother Bartolome took it, and looked at the Carmelite. For the moment nobody spoke: and a queer feeling came over me in my hiding. This quiet group of persons in the quiet chapel—it seemed to me impossible they could mean harm to one another, that in a minute or two the devil would be loose among them. There was no menace in the posture of any one of them, and in Brother Bartolome’s there was certainly no hint of fear. His back was towards me, but the Carmelite stood facing my gallery, and I looked straight into her eyes as they rested on the cups, and in them I read anxiety indeed, but not fear. It was something quite different from fear.
The noise of Jacques le Bec’s footstep in the ante-chapel broke this odd spell of silence. The man Evans uncrossed his legs and took a pace to meet him. “Here, hand me a couple of bottles. How much will the cups hold?”
“A bottle and a half, or thereabouts: that is, if you allow for the ice.”
Jacques carried the bottles in a satchel, and a block of ice in a wrapper under his left arm. He handed over the satchel, set down the ice on the pavement and began to unwrap it. At a word from Evans he fell to breaking it up with the pommel of his sword.
“We must give it a minute or two to melt,” Evans added. And again a silence fell, in which I could hear the lumps of ice tinkling as they knocked against the silver rims of the chalices.
“The ice is melted. Is it your pleasure that I first taste this also?” Brother Bartolome spoke very gravely and deliberately.
“I believe,” sneered Evans, “that on these occasions the religious are the first to partake.”
The friar lifted one of the chalices and drank. He held it to his lips with a hand that did not shake at all; and, having tasted, passed it on to Evans without a word or a glance. His eyes were on the Carmelite, who had taken half a step forward with palms held sidewise to receive the chalice he still held in his right hand. He guided it to her lips, and his left hand blessed her while she drank. Almost before she had done, the Frenchman, Jacques le Bec, snatched it.
The Carmelite stood, swaying. Brother Bartolome watched the cups as they went full circle.