It had been hoped that the King would stay his hand at the death of Anne, and even yet return to the obedience of the Holy See. The Pope was encouraged to think so by the authorities on the continent, and in England itself there prevailed even confidence that a return to the old ways would be effected. But Henry had gone too far; he had drunk too deeply of the wealth that lay waiting for him in the treasuries of the Religious houses, and after a pause of expectation he set his hand to the cup again. It was but natural too, and for more noble motives, to such a character as his. As he had aimed in his youth at nothing less than supremacy in tennis, hunting and tourney, and later in architecture, music and theological reputation; as, for the same reason Wolsey had fallen, when the King looked away from girls and sports to the fiercer game of politics; so now it was intolerable to Henry that there should be even the shadow of a spiritual independence within his domain.
A glow of resentful disappointment swept through the North of England at the news. It burst out into flame in Lincolnshire, and was not finally quenched until the early summer of the following year.
* * * * *
The news that reached Lewes from time to time during the winter and spring sent the hearts of all that heard it through the whole gamut of emotions. At one time fierce hope, then despair, then rising confidence, then again blank hopelessness—each in turn tore the souls of the monks; and misery reached its climax in the summer at the news of the execution at Tyburn of the Abbots of Jervaulx and Fountains, with other monks and gentlemen.
The final recital of the whole tragedy was delivered to them at the mouth of a Religious from the Benedictine cell at Middlesborough who had been released by the Visitors at his own request, but who had afterwards repented and joined the rising soon after the outset; he had been through most of the incidents, and then when failure was assured had fled south in terror for his life, and was now on his way to the Continent to take up his monastic vocation once more.
The Prior was away on one of the journeys that he so frequently undertook at this time, no man knew whither, or the ex-monk and rebel would have been refused admittance; but the sub-Prior was persuaded to take him in for a night, and he sat long in one of the parlours that evening telling his story.
Chris leaned against the wall and watched him as he talked with the candle-light on his face. He was a stout middle-aged man in layman’s dress, for he was not yet out of peril; he sat forward in his chair, making preacher’s gestures as he spoke, and using well-chosen vivid words.