The tumult died and became a murmur; and then one by one a file of figures came through. In the hand of each was an instrument of some kind, a pick or a bludgeon; and it was evident that it was these who had broken in the gate.
Chris counted them mechanically as they streamed through. There seemed to be a dozen or so.
Then again the man who had guarded the door as they came through slipped back through the opening; and they heard his voice beginning to harangue the mob.
But a moment later they had ceased to regard him; for from the archway, with the torch-bearer beside him, advanced the tall man with the riding-cane who had been the first to enter; and as he emerged into the court Chris recognised his brother.
* * * * *
He was in a plain rich riding-suit with great boots and plumed hat. He walked with an easy air as if certain of himself, and neither quickened nor decreased his pace as he saw the monks and the gentlemen standing there.
He halted a couple of yards from them, and Chris saw that his face was as assured as his gait. His thin lips were tight and firm, and his eyes with a kind of insolent irony looked up and down the figures of the monks. There was not the faintest sign of recognition in them.
“You have given us a great deal of labour,” he said, “and to no purpose. We shall have to report it all to my Lord Cromwell. I understand that you were the two who refused to sign the surrender. It was the act of fools, like this last. I have no authority to take you, so you had best be gone.”
Dom Anthony answered him in an equally steady voice.
“We are ready to go now,” he said. “You understand we have yielded to nothing but force.”
Ralph’s lips writhed in a smile.
“Oh! if that pleases you,” he said. “Well, then—”
He took a little step aside, and made a movement towards the gate where there sounded out still an angry hum beneath the shouting voice that was addressing them.
Chris turned to his father behind, and the voice died in his throat, so dreadful was that face that was looking at Ralph. He was standing as before, rigid it seemed with grief or anger; and his grey eyes were bright with a tense emotion; his lips too were as firm as his son’s. But he spoke no word. Sir Nicholas was at his side, with one foot advanced, and in attitude as if to spring; and Morris’s face looked like a mask over his shoulder.
“Well, then—” said Ralph once more.
“Ah! you damned hound!” roared the young squire’s voice; and his hand went up with the whip in it.
Ralph did not move a muscle. He seemed cut in steel.
“Let us go,” said Dom Anthony again, to Chris, almost tenderly; “it is enough that we are turned out by force.”
“You can go by the church, if you will,” said Ralph composedly. “In fact—” He stopped as the murmur howled up again from the gate—“In fact you had better go that way. They do not seem to be your friends out there.”