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

Brother George sternly bade Brother Simon be quiet; but when the Brethren sat in choir to sing Lauds and Prime, they saw that Brother Anselm’s stall was empty, and those who had heard Brother Simon’s clamour feared that something terrible had happened.

After Mass the Community was summoned to the Chapter room to learn from the lips of the Father Superior that Brother Anselm had broken his vows and left the Order.  Brother Dunstan, who wore round his neck the nib with which Brother Anselm signed his profession, burst into tears.  Brother Dominic looked down his big nose to avoid the glances of his brethren.  If Easter Sunday had been gloomy, Low Sunday was gloomier still, and as for the Feast of St. George nobody had the courage to think what that would be like with such a cloud hanging over the Community.

Mark felt that he could not stay even until the patronal festival.  If Brother George or Brother Birinus had broken his vows, he could have borne it more easily, for he had not witnessed their profession; fond he might be of the Prior, but he had worked for human souls under the orders of Brother Anselm.  He went to Father Burrowes and begged to leave on Monday.

“Brother Athanasius and Brother Chad are leaving tomorrow,” said the Father Superior, “Yes, you may go.”

Brother Simon drove them to the station.  Strange figures they seemed to each other in their lay clothes.

“I’ve been meaning to go for a long time,” said Brother Athanasius, who was now Percy Wade.  “And it’s my belief that Brother George and Brother Birinus won’t stay long.”

“I hoped never to go,” said Brother Chad, who was now Cecil Masters.

“Then why are you going?” asked the late Brother Athanasius.  “I never do anything I don’t want to do.”

“I think I shall be more help to Brother Anselm than to soldiers in London,” said the late Brother Chad.

Mark beamed at him.

“That’s just like you, Brother.  I am so glad you’re going to do that.”

The train came in, and they all shook hands with Brother Simon, who had been cheerful throughout the drive, and even now found great difficulty in looking serious.

“You seem very happy, Brother Simon,” said Mark.

“Oh, I am very happy, Brother Mark.  I should say Mr. Mark.  The Reverend Father has told me that I’m to be clothed as a novice on Wednesday.  All last week when we sung, ’The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared unto Simon,’ I knew something wonderful was going to happen.  That’s what made me so anxious when Brother Anselm didn’t answer my knock.”

The train left the station, and the three ex-novices settled themselves to face the world.  They were all glad that Brother Simon at least was happy amid so much unhappiness.

CHAPTER XXX

THE NEW BISHOP OF SILCHESTER

The Rector of Wych thought that Mark’s wisest plan if he wished to be ordained was to write and ask the Bishop of Silchester for an interview.

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