The monks had all stopped instantly as Ralph came among them, and had lowered their hoods with their accustomed courtly deference to a guest; and as he turned from his momentary pause at the refectory door in the full blaze of light that shone from it, he met Chris face to face.
The young monk had come up that instant, not noticing who was there, and his hood was still over his head. There was a second’s pause, and then he lifted his hand and threw the hood back in salutation; and as Ralph bowed and passed on he had a moment’s sight of that thin face and the large grey eyes in which there was not the faintest sign of recognition.
Ralph’s heart was hot with mingled emotion as he went up the cloister. He was more disturbed by the sudden meeting, the act of courtesy, and the cold steady eyes of this young fool of a brother than he cared to recognise.
He saw no more of him, except in the distance among his fellows; and he left the house the next day when the business was done.
* * * * *
Matters in the rest of England were going forward with the same promptitude as in Sussex. Dr. Layton himself had visited the West earlier in the autumn, and the other Visitors were busy in other parts of the country. The report was current now that the resources of all the Religious Houses were to be certainly confiscated, and that those of the inmates who still persisted in their vocation would have to do so under the most rigorous conditions imaginable. The results were to be seen in the enormous increase of beggars, deprived now of the hospitality they were accustomed to receive; and the roads everywhere were thronged with those who had been holders of corrodies, or daily sustenance in the houses; as well as with the evicted Religious, some of whom, dismissed against their will, were on their way to the universities, where, in spite of the Visitation, it was thought that support was still to be had; and others, less reputable, who preferred freedom to monastic discipline. Yet others were to be met with, though not many in number, who were on their way to London to lay complaints of various kinds against their superiors.
From these and like events the whole country was astir. Men gathered in groups outside the village inns and discussed the situation, and feeling ran high on the movements of the day. What chiefly encouraged the malcontents was the fact that the benefits to be gained by the dissolution of the monasteries were evident and present, while the ill-results lay in the future. The great Religious Houses, their farms and stock, the jewels of the treasury, were visible objects; men actually laid eyes on them as they went to and from their work or knelt at mass on Sundays; it was all so much wealth that did not belong to them, and that might do so, while the corrodies, the daily hospitality, the employment of labour, and such things, lay either out of sight, or affected