He had served the Prior’s mass at six o’clock, and had obtained leave from him the night before to be present at the execution; but the Prior himself had given no suggestion of coming. Chris had begun to see that his superior was going through a conflict, and that he wished to spare himself any further motives of terror; he began too to understand that the visit to the bishop had had the effect of strengthening the Prior’s courage, whatever had been the intention on the part of the authorities in allowing him to go. He was still wondering why Ralph had lent himself to the scheme; but had not dared to press his superior further.
* * * * *
The bishop had made a magnificent speech at his trial, and had protested with an extraordinary pathos, that called out a demonstration from the crowd in court, against Master Rich’s betrayal of his confidence. Under promise of the King that nothing that he said to his friend should be used against him, the bishop had shown his mind in a private conversation on the subject of the Supremacy Act, and now this had been brought against him by Rich himself at the trial.
“Seeing it pleased the King’s Highness,” said the bishop, “to send to me thus secretly to know my poor advice and opinion, which I most gladly was, and ever will be, ready to offer to him when so commanded, methinks it very hard to allow the same as sufficient testimony against me, to prove me guilty of high treason.”
Rich excused himself by affirming that he said or did nothing more than what the King commanded him to do; and the trial ended by the bishop’s condemnation.
* * * * *
As Chris waited by the scaffold he prayed almost incessantly. There was sufficient spur for prayer in the menacing fortress before him with its hundred tiny windows, and the new scaffold, some five or six feet high, that stood in the foreground. He wondered how the bishop was passing his time and thought he knew. The long grey wall beyond the moat, and the towers that rose above it, were suggestive in their silent strength. From where he stood too he could catch a glimpse of the shining reaches of the river with the green slopes on the further side; and the freedom and beauty of the sight, the delicate haze that hung over the water, the birds winging their way across, the boats plying to and fro, struck a vivid contrast to the grim fatality of the prison and the scaffold.
A bell sounded out somewhere from the Tower, and a ripple ran through the crowd. There was an immensely tall man a few yards from Chris, and Chris could see his face turn suddenly towards the lower ground by the river where the gateway rose up dark against the bright water. The man’s face suddenly lighted with interest, and Chris saw his lips move and his eyes become intent. Then a surging movement began, and the monk was swept away to the left by the packed crowd round him. There were faces lining the wall and opposite, and all were turned one way. A great murmur began to swell up, and a woman beside him turned white and began to sob quietly.