“One paper blank?” somebody repeated.
“Yes, really,” said Brother Simon. “I looked everywhere, and there’s not a mark on it.”
All turned involuntarily toward Mark, whose paper in fact it was, although he gave no sign of being conscious of the ownership.
“In a General Chapter of the Order of St. George, held upon the Vigil of the Epiphany of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the year of Grace, 1903, it was resolved to close the Priory of the Order in the town of Aldershot.”
The Reverend Father, having invoked the Holy Trinity, declared the Chapter dissolved.
Mark was vexed with himself for evading the responsibility of recording his opinion. His vote would not have changed the direction of the policy; but if he had voted against giving up the house at Aldershot, the Father Superior would have had to record the casting vote in favour of his own proposal, and whatever praise or blame was ultimately awarded to the decision would have belonged to him alone, who as head of the Order was best able to bear it. Mark’s whole sympathy had been on the side of Brother George, and as one who had known at first hand the work in Aldershot, he did feel that it ought not to be abandoned so easily. Then when Brother Athanasius was speaking, Mark, in his embarrassment at such violence of manner and tone, picked up a volume lying on the table by his elbow that by reading he might avoid the eyes of his brethren until Brother Athanasius had ceased to shout. It was the Rule of St. Benedict which, with a print of Fra Angelico’s Crucifixion and an image of St. George, was all the decoration allowed to the bare Chapter Room, and the page at which Mark opened the leather-bound volume was headed: DE PRAEPOSITO MONASTERII.
“It happens too often that through the appointment of the Prior grave scandals arise in monasteries, since some there be who, puffed up with a malignant spirit of pride, imagining themselves to be second Abbots, and assuming unto themselves a tyrannous authority, encourage scandals and create dissensions in the community. . . .
“Hence envy is excited, strife, evil-speaking, jealousy, discord, confusion; and while the Abbot and the Prior run counter to each other, by such dissension their souls must of necessity be imperilled; and those who are under them, when they take sides, are travelling on the road to perdition. . . .
“On this account
we apprehend that it is expedient for the
preservation of peace and good-will that the management of his
monastery should be left to the discretion of the Abbot. . . .
“Let the Prior
carry out with reverence whatever shall be enjoined
upon him by his Abbot, doing nothing against the Abbot’s will, nor
against his orders. . . .”