“Listen,” he said, and then began to read aloud the instructions laid down for the sign-language of novices; how they were to make a circle in the air for bread since it was round, a motion of drinking for water, and so forth.
“You see,” he said, “you are not even allowed to speak when you ask for necessaries. And, you know, silence has its peculiar temptations as well as its joys. There is accidie and scrupulousness and contempt of others, and a host of snares that you know little of now.”
“But—” began Chris.
“Oh, yes; it has its joys, and gives a peculiar strength.”
Chris knew, of course, well enough by now in an abstract way what the Religious discipline would mean, but he wished to have it made more concrete by examples, and he sat long with the chaplain asking him questions. Mr. Carleton had been, as he said, in the novitiate at Canterbury for a few months, and was able to tell him a good deal about the life there; but the differences between the Augustinians and the Cluniacs made it impossible for him to go with any minuteness into the life of the Priory at Lewes. He warned him, however, of the tendency that every soul found in silence to think itself different from others, and of so peculiar a constitution that ordinary rules did not apply to it. He laid so much stress on this that the other was astonished.
“But it is true,” said Chris, “no two souls are the same.”
The priest smiled.
“Yes, that is true, too; no two sheep are the same, but the sheep nature is one, and you will have to learn that for yourself. A Religious rule is drawn up for many, not for one; and each must learn to conform himself. It was through that I failed myself; I remembered that I was different from others, and forgot that I was the same.”
Mr. Carleton seemed to take a kind of melancholy pleasure in returning to what he considered his own failure, and Chris began to wonder whether the thought of it was not the secret of that slight indication to moroseness that he had noticed in him.
The moon was high and clear by now, and Chris often leaned his cheek on the sash as the priest talked, and watched that steady shining shield go up the sky, and the familiar view of lawns and water and trees, ghostly and mystical now in the pale light.
The Court was silent as he passed through it near midnight, as the household had been long in bed; the flaring link had been extinguished two hours before, and the shadows of the tall chimneys lay black and precise at his feet across the great whiteness on the western side of the yard. Again the sense of the smallness of himself and his surroundings, of the vastness of all else, poured over his soul; these little piled bricks and stones, the lawns and woods round about, even England and the world itself, he thought, as his mind shot out towards the stars and the unfathomable spaces—all these were but very tiny things, negligeable quantities, when he