Sir James gave an exclamation and leant forward; and Chris tightened his lips.
“She is a friend of Mr. More’s,” went on Lady Torridon, apparently unconscious of the sensation she was making, “but that is Ralph’s business, I suppose.”
“Why did Ralph not write to me?” asked his father, with a touch of sternness.
Lady Torridon answered him by a short pregnant silence, and then went on—
“I suppose he wished me to break it to you. It will not be for two or three years. She says she cannot leave Mrs. More for the present.”
Chris’s brain was confused by the news, and yet it all seemed external to him. As he had ridden up to the house in the evening he had recognised for the first time how he no longer belonged to the place; his two years at Lewes had done their work, and he came to his home now not as a son but as a guest. He had even begun to perceive the difference after his quarrel with Ralph, for he had not been conscious of the same personal sting at his brother’s sins that he would have felt five years ago. And now this news, while it affected him, did not penetrate to the still sanctuary that he had hewn out of his heart during those months of discipline.
But his father was roused.
“He should have written to me,” he said sternly. “And, my wife, I will beg you to remember that I have a right to my son’s business.”
Lady Torridon did not move or answer. He leaned back again, and passed his hand tenderly through Chris’s arm.
* * * * *
It was very strange to the younger son to find himself a few minutes later up again in the west gallery of the chapel, where he had knelt two years before; and for a few moments he almost felt himself at home. But the mechanical shifting of his scapular aside as he sat down for the psalms, recalled facts. Then he had been in his silk suit, his hands had been rough with his cross-bow, his beard had been soft on his chin, and the blood hot in his cheeks. Now he was in his habit, smooth-faced and shaven, tired and oppressed, still weak from the pangs of soul-birth. He was further from human love, but nearer the Divine, he thought.
He sat with his father a few minutes after compline; and Sir James spoke more frankly of the news that they had heard.
“If she is really a friend of Mr. More’s,” he said, “she may be his salvation. I am sorely disappointed in him. I did not know Master Cromwell when I sent him to him, as I do now. Is it my fault, Chris?”
* * * * *
Chris told his father presently of what the Prior had said as to Ralph’s assistance in the matter of the visit that the two monks had paid to the Tower; and asked an interpretation.
Sir James sat quiet a minute or two, stroking his pointed grey beard softly, and looking into the hearth.
“God forgive me if I am wrong, my son,” he said at last, “but I wonder whether they let the my Lord Prior go to the Tower in order to shake the confidence of both. Do you think so, Chris?”