The King's Achievement eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 517 pages of information about The King's Achievement.

The Sub-Prior stepped down at a sign from his Superior; and then one by one the monks came out.

Chris’s heart sickened as he watched; and then stood still on a sudden in desperate hope, for opposite to him Dom Anthony sat steady, his head on his hand, and made no movement when it was his turn to come out.  Chris saw the Prior look at the monk, and a spasm of emotion went over his face.

“Dom Anthony,” he said.

The monk lifted his face, and it was smiling too.

“I cannot sign, My Lord Prior.”

Then the veils fell, and decision flashed on Chris’ soul.

He heard the pulse drumming in his ears, and his wet hands slipped one in the other as he gripped them together, but he made no sign till all the others had gone up.  Then he looked up at the Prior.

It seemed an eternity before the Prior looked at him and nodded; and he could make no answering sign.

Then he heard his name called, and with a great effort he answered; his voice seemed not his own in his ears.  He repeated Dom Anthony’s words.

“I cannot sign, My Lord Prior.”

Then he sat back with closed eyes and waited.

He heard movements about him, steps, the crackle of parchment, and at last Dr. Petre’s voice; but he scarcely understood what was said.  There was but one thought dinning in his brain, and that was that he had refused, and thrown his defiance down before the King—­that terrible man whom he had seen in his barge on the river, with the narrow eyes, the pursed mouth and the great jowl, as he sat by the woman he called his wife—­that woman who now—­

Chris shivered, opened his eyes, and sense came back.

Dr. Petre was just ending his speech.  He was congratulating the Community on their reasonableness and loyalty.  By an overwhelming majority they had decided to trust the King, and they would not find his grace unmindful of that.  As for those who had not signed he could say nothing but that they had used the liberty that his Grace had given them.  Whether they had used it rightly was no business of his.

Then he turned to the Prior.

“The seal then, My Lord Prior.  I think that is the next matter.”

The Prior rose and lifted it from the table.  Chris caught the gleam of the brass and silver of the ponderous precious thing in his hand—­the symbol of their corporate existence—­engraved, as he knew, with the four patrons of the house, the cliff, the running water of the Ouse, and the rhyming prayer to St. Pancras.

The Prior handed it to the Commissioner, who took it, and stood there a moment weighing it in his hand.

“A hammer,” he said.

One of the secretaries rose, and drew from beneath the table a sheet of metal and a sharp hammer; he handed both to Dr. Petre.

Chris watched, fascinated with something very like terror, his throat contracted in a sudden spasm, as he saw the Commissioner place the metal in the solid table before him, and then, holding the seal sideways, lift the hammer in his right hand.

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The King's Achievement from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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