“We will go whichever way you wish,” remarked the elder monk.
“Then the church,” said Ralph, “or some other private door. I suppose you have one. Most of your houses have one, I believe.”
The sneer snapped the tension.
Dom Anthony turned his back on him instantly.
“Come, brother,” he said.
Chris took his father by the arm as he went up the steps.
“Come, sir,” he said, “we are to go this way.”
There was a moment’s pause. The old man still stared down at his elder son, who was standing below in the same position. Chris heard a deep breath, and thought he was on the point of speaking; but there was silence. Then the two turned and followed the others into the cloister.
AXES AND HAMMERS
Chris sat next morning at a high window of a house near Saint Michael’s looking down towards the south of the town.
They had escaped without difficulty the night before through the church-entrance, with a man whom Ralph sent after them to see that they carried nothing away, leaving the crowd roaring round the corner of the gate, and though people looked curiously at the monks, the five laymen with them protected them from assault. Mr. Morris had found a lodging a couple of days before, unknown to Chris, in the house of a woman who was favourable to the Religious, and had guided the party straight there on the previous evening.
The two monks had said mass in Saint Michael’s that morning before the town was awake; and were now keeping within doors at Sir James’s earnest request, while the two gentlemen with one of the servants had gone to see what was being done at the priory.
* * * * *
From where Chris sat in his black habit at the leaded window he could see straight down the opening of the steep street, across the lower roofs below, to where the great pile of the Priory church less than half-a-mile away soared up in the sunlight against the water-meadows where the Ouse ran to the south of the town.
The street was very empty below him, for every human being that could do so had gone down to the sacking of the priory. There might be pickings, scraps gathered from the hoards that the monks were supposed to have gathered; there would probably be an auction; and there would certainly be plenty of excitement and pleasure.
Chris was himself almost numb to sensation. The coolness that had condensed round his soul last night had hardened into ice; he scarcely realised what was going on, or how great was the catastrophe into which his life was plunged. There lay the roofs before him—he ran his eye from the west tower past the high lantern to the delicate tracery of the eastern apse and chapels—in the hands of the spoilers; and here he sat dry-eyed and steady-mouthed looking down on it, as a man looks at a wound not yet begun to smart.