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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 384 pages of information about The Altar Steps.

“It is not one of my prerogatives to threaten the prior of a monastery, even if he is an amateur,” said the chaplain.  “From the moment that Brother George refuses to recognize my position, I cease to hold that position.  Please order the trap.”

“You won’t have to leave till half-past nine,” said Mark, who had made up his mind to wrestle with Brother George on his own initiative, and if possible to persuade him to surrender the key to the chaplain of his own accord.  With this object he hurried out, to find Brother George ploughing that stony ground by the fir-trees.  He was looking ruefully at a broken share when Mark approached him.

“Two since I started,” he commented.

But he was breaking more precious things than shares, thought Mark, if he could but understand.

“Let the fellow go,” said Brother George coldly, when Mark had related his interview with the chaplain.

“But, Reverend Brother, if he goes we shall have no priest for Easter.”

“We shall be better off with no priest than with a fellow like that.”

“Reverend Brother,” said Mark miserably, “I have no right to remonstrate with you, I know.  But I must say something.  You are making a mistake.  You will break up the Community.  I am not speaking on my own account now, because I have already made up my mind to leave, and get ordained.  But the others!  They’re not all strong like you.  They really are not.  If they feel that they have been deprived of their Easter Communion by you . . . and have you the right to deprive them?  After all, Father Hett has reason on his side.  He is entitled to keep the key of the Tabernacle.  If he wishes to hold Benediction, you can forbid him, or at least you can forbid the brethren to attend.  But the key of the Tabernacle belongs to him, if he says Mass there.  Please forgive me for speaking like this, but I love you and respect you, and I cannot bear to see you put yourself in the wrong.”

The Prior patted Mark on the shoulder.

“Cheer up, Brother,” he said.  “You mustn’t mind if I think that I know better than you what is good for the Community.  I have had a longer time to learn, you must remember.  And so you’re going to leave us?”

“Yes, but I don’t want to talk about that now,” Mark said.

“Nor do I,” said Brother George.  “I want to get on with my ploughing.”

Mark saw that it was as useless to argue with him as attempt to persuade the chaplain to stay.  He turned sadly away, and walked back with heavy steps towards the Abbey.  Overhead, the larks, rising and falling upon their fountains of song, seemed to mock the way men worshipped Almighty God.

CHAPTER XXIX

SUBTRACTION

Mark had not spent a more unhappy Easter since the days of Haverton House.  He was oppressed by the sense of excommunication that brooded over the Abbey, and on the Saturday of Passion Week the versicles and responses of the proper Compline had a dreadful irony.

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