“Do not dare to rise, sir, till I give you leave,” he roared. “You had best be a penitent. Now tell me, sir, what you have to say. It shall not be said that we condemned a man unheard. Eh! Mr. Torridon?”
Ralph nodded sharply, and glanced at Chris; but his brother was staring at the Prior.
“Now then, sir,” cried the doctor again.
“I entreat you, Master Layton—”
The Prior’s voice was convulsed with terror as he cried this with outstretched hands.
“Yes, sir, I will hear you.”
“I entreat you, sir, not to tell his Grace. Indeed I am innocent”—his voice rose thin and high in his panic—indeed, I did not know it was treason that was preached.”
“Did not know?” sneered the doctor, leaning forward over the table. “Why, you know your Faith, man—”
“Master Layton, Master Layton; there be so many changes in these days—”
“Changes!” shouted the priest; “there be no changes, except of such knaves as you, Master-Prior; it is the old Faith now as ever. Do you dare to call his Grace a heretic? Must that too go down in the charges?”
“No, no, Master Layton,” screamed the Prior, with his hands strained forward and twitching fingers. “I did not mean that—Christ is my witness!”
“Is it not the same Faith, sir?”
“Yes, Master Layton—yes—indeed, it is. But I did not know—how could I know?”
“Then why are you Prior,” cried the doctor with a dramatic gesture, “if it is not to keep your subjects true and obedient? Do you mean to tell me—?”
“I entreat you, sir, for the love of Mary, not to tell his Grace—”
“Bah!” shouted Dr. Layton, “you may keep your breath till you tell his Grace that himself. There is enough of this.” Again he rose, and swept his eyes round the white-faced monks. “I am weary of this work. The fellow has not a word to say—”
“Master Layton, Master Layton,” cried the kneeling man once more, lifting his hands on one of which gleamed the prelatical ring.
“Silence, sir,” roared the doctor. “It is I who am speaking now. We have had enough of this work. It seems that there be no true men left, except in the world; these houses are rotten with crime. Is it not so, Master Torridon?—rotten with crime! But of all the knaves that I did ever meet, and they are many and strong ones, I do believe Master Prior, that you are the worst. Here is my sentence, and see that it be carried out. You, Master Prior, and you Master Sub-Prior, are to appear before Master Cromwell in his court on All-Hallows’ Eve, and tell your tales to him. You shall see if he be so soft as I; it may be that he will send you before the King’s Grace—that I know not—but at least he will know how to get the truth out of you, if I cannot—”
Once more the Prior broke in, in an agony of terror; but the doctor silenced him in a moment.
“Have I not given my sentence, sir? How dare you speak?”