Dom Anthony glanced behind him to see that no one was following, and then turned to the other.
“They are both gone,” he said, “and others are going. Dom Bernard is getting his things together. I saw them under his bed last night.”
Chris stared at him, mute and terrified.
“What are we to do, Dom Anthony?”
“We can do nothing. We must stay. Remember that we are the only two who have any rights here now, before God.”
There was silence a moment. Chris glanced at the other, and was reassured by the steady look on his ruddy face.
“I will stay, Dom Anthony,” he said softly.
The other looked at him tenderly.
“God bless you, brother!” he said.
That night Dom Bernard and another were gone. And still the others made no sign or comment; and it was not until yet another pair had gone that Dom Anthony spoke plainly.
He was now the senior monk in the house; and it was his place to direct the business of the chapter. When the formal proceedings were over he stood up fearlessly.
“You cannot hide it longer,” he said. “I have known for some while what was impending.” He glanced round at the empty stalls, and his face flushed with sudden anger: “For God’s sake, get you gone, you who mean to go; and let us who are steadfast serve our Lord in peace.”
Chris looked along the few faces that were left; but they were downcast and sedate, and showed no sign of emotion.
Dom Anthony waited a moment longer, and then gave the signal to depart. By a week later the two were left alone.
* * * * *
It was very strange to be there, in the vast house and church, and to live the old life now stripped of three-fourths of its meaning; but they did not allow one detail to suffer that it was possible to preserve. The opus Dei was punctually done, and God was served in psalmody. At the proper hours the two priests met in the cloister, cowled and in their choir-shoes, and walked through to the empty stalls; and there, one on either side, each answered the other, bowed together at the Gloria, confessed and absolved alternately. Two masses were said each day in the huge lonely church, one at the high altar and the other at our Lady’s, and each monk served the other. In the refectory one read from the pulpit as the other sat at the table; and the usual forms were observed with the minutest care. In the chapter each morning they met for mutual confession and accusation; and in the times between the exercises and meals each worked feverishly at the details that alone made the life possible.
They were assisted in this by two paid servants, who were sent to them by Chris’s father, for both the lay-brothers and the servants had gone with the rest; and the treasurer had disappeared with the money.