Beyond the wall, and the guest-house where the Visitors had lived those two disastrous days, rose up the far sunlit downs, shadowed here and there with cup-like hollows, standing like the walls about Jerusalem.
As they turned, on the right above the red roofs of the town, rose the downs again, vast slopes and shoulders, over which Chris had ridden so short a while ago bearded and brown with hunting. It was over there that Ralph had come, through that dip, which seemed against the skyline a breach in a high wall.
Ah! surely God would spare this place; so stately and quiet, so graciously sheltered by the defences that He Himself had raised! If all England tottered and fell, this at least might stand, this vast home of prayer that stirred day and night with the praises of the Eternal and the petitions of the mortal—this glorious house where a priest so dear to them had brought forth from his mystical paternity the very Son of God!
The door opened behind them, and Chris came out pale and smiling with a little anxious-eyed monk beside him. His eyes lightened as he saw them standing there; but he turned again for a moment.
“Yes—father,” he said. “What was it?”
“You stayed too long,” said the other, “at the famularumque tuarum; the rubric says nullus nimis immoretur, you know;—nimis immoretur.”
“Yes,” said Chris.
THE NORTHERN RISING
A few of the smaller Religious houses had surrendered themselves to the King before the passing of the bill in the early spring; and the rest of them were gradually yielded up after its enactment during the summer of the same year; and among them was Rusper. Chris heard that his sister Margaret had returned to Overfield, and would stay there for the present.
Throughout the whole of England there were the same scenes to be witnessed. A troop of men, headed by a Commissioner, would ride up one evening to some village where a little convent stood, demand entrance at the gate, pass through, and disappear from the eyes of the watching crowd. Then the next day the work would begin; the lead would be stripped from the church and buildings; the treasures corded in bundles; the woodwork of the interior put up to auction on the village green; and a few days later the troop would disappear again, heavily laden, leaving behind roofless walls, and bewildered Religious in their new secular dress with a few shillings in their pockets, staring after the rich cavalcade and wondering what was best to do.