The monk turned from the grill and lifted his hand.
Then again the talking grew loud, as the mob swept round the corner after the horses.
Still all was silent within. Chris felt his father’s hand seek his own a moment, and grip it; and then above the gabbling clamour a voice spoke distinctly outside.
“Have the rats run, then?”
The bell danced again over their heads; and there was a clatter of raps on the huge door.
Dom Anthony slid back the shutter.
* * * * *
For a moment it was not noticed outside, for the entry was dark. Chris could catch a glimpse on either side of the monk’s head of a flare of light, but no more.
Then the same voice spoke again, and with something of a foreign accent.
“You are there, then; make haste and open.”
Another voice shouted authoritatively for silence; and the clamour of tongues died.
Dom Anthony waited until all was quiet, and then answered steadily.
“Who are you?”
There was an oath; the tumult began again, but hushed immediately, as the same voice that had called for admittance shouted aloud—
“Open, I tell you, you bloody monk! We come from the King.”
“Why do you come?”
A gabble of fierce tongues broke out; Chris pressed up to Dom Anthony’s back, and looked out. The space was very narrow, and he could not see much more than a man’s leg across a saddle, the brown shoulder of a horse in front, and a smoky haze beyond and over the horse’s back. The leg shifted a little as he watched, as if the rider turned; and then again the voice pealed out above the tumult.
“Will you open, sir, for the last time?”
“I will not,” shouted the monk through the grill. “You are nothing but—” then he dashed the shutter into its place as a stick struck fiercely at the bars.
“Back to the cloister,” he said.
The roar outside was tremendous as the six went back across the empty court; but it fell to a sinister silence as an order or two was shouted outside; and then again swelled with an excited note in it, as the first crash sounded on the panels.
Chris looked at his father as they stood again on the steps fifty yards away. The old man was standing rigid, his hands at his sides, staring out towards the arch of the gateway that now thundered like a drum; and his lips were moving. Once he caught his breath as a voice shouted above the din outside, and half turned to his son, his hand uplifted as if for silence. Then again the voice pealed, and Sir James faced round and stared into Chris’s eyes. But neither spoke a word.
Dom Anthony, who was standing a yard or two in front, turned presently as the sound of splintering began to be mingled with the reverberations, and came towards them. His square, full face was steady and alert, and he spoke with a sharp decision.