There again broke out a murmur from the listening faces, as the man paused.
“Well, they were cast, as you know, for not taking the King to be the supreme head of the Church, and for endeavouring to force the King to hold a parliament that he willed not. And I was at York again when Master Aske was brought back from London to be hanged, and I saw it!”
Again an uncontrollable emotion shook him; and he propped his face on his hand as he ended his tale.
“There were many of his friends there in the crowd, and scarcely one dared to cry out, God save you, sir.... I dared not....”
He gave one rending sob, and Chris felt his eyes prick with tears at the sight of so much sorrow. It was piteous to see a brave man thinking himself a coward.
Dom Anthony leaned forward.
“Thank you, father,” he said, though his voice was a little husky, “and thank God that he died well. You have touched all our hearts.”
“I was a hound,” sobbed the man, “a hound, that I did not cry out to him and tell him that I loved him.”
“No, no, father,” said the other tenderly, “you must not think so. You must serve God well now, and pray for his soul.”
The bell sounded out for Compline as he spoke, and the monks rose.
“You will come into choir, father,” said the Sub-Prior.
The man nodded, stood up, and followed him out.
Chris was in a strange ferment as he stood in his stall that night. It had been sad enough to hear of that gallant attempt to win back the old liberties and the old Faith—that attempt that had been a success except for the insurgents’ trust in their King—and of the death of the leaders.
But across the misery had pierced a more poignant grief, as he had learnt how Ralph’s hand was in this too and had taken once more the wrong side in God’s quarrel. But still he had no resentment; the conflict had passed out of the personal plane into an higher, and he thought of his brother as God’s enemy rather than his own. Would his prayers then never prevail—the prayers that he speeded up in the smoke of the great Sacrifice morning by morning for that zealous mistaken soul? Or was it perhaps that that brother of his must go deeper yet, before coming out to knowledge and pardon?
THE DESTRUCTION OF THE SEAL
The autumn drew in swiftly. The wet south-west wind blew over the downs that lay between Lewes and the sea, and beat down the loose browning leaves of the trees about the Priory. The grass in the cloister-garth grew rank and dark with the constant rain that drove and dropped over the high roofs.
And meanwhile the tidings grew heavier still.
After Michaelmas the King set to work in earnest. He had been checked by the northern risings, and still paused to see whether the embers had been wholly quenched; and then when it was evident that the North was as submissive as the South, began again his business of gathering in the wealth that was waiting.