London lay round him as quiet as Overfield, and Chris remembered with a stir at his heart his moonlight bathe all those years ago in the lake at home, when he had come back hot from hunting and had slipped down with the chaplain after supper. Then the water had seemed like a cool restful gulf in the world of sensation; the moon had not been risen at first; only the stars pricked above and below in air and water. Then the moon had come up, and a path of splendour had smitten the surface into sight. He had swum up it, he remembered, the silver ripple washing over his shoulders as he went.
And now those years of monastic peace and storm had come and gone, sifting and penetrating his soul, washing out from it little by little the heats and passions with which he had plunged. As he looked back on himself he was astonished at his old complacent smallness. His figure appeared down that avenue of years, a tiny passionate thing, gesticulating, feverish, self-conscious. He remembered his serene certainty that he was right and Ralph wrong in every touch of friction between them, his own furious and theatrical outburst at the death of the Carthusians, his absurd dignity on later occasions. Even in those first beginnings of peace when the inner life had begun to well up and envelop him he had been narrow and self-centred; he had despised the common human life, not understanding that God’s Will was as energetic in the bewildering rush of the current as in the quiet sheltered back-waters to which he himself had been called. He had been awakened from that dream by the fall of the Priory, and that to which he opened his eyes had been forced into his consciousness by the months at home, when he had had that astringent mingling of the world and the spirit, of the interpenetration of the inner by the outer. And now for the first time he stood as a balanced soul between the two, alight with a tranquil grace within, and not afraid to look at the darkness without. He was ready now for either life, to go back to the cloister and labour there for the world at the springs of energy, or to take his place in the new England and struggle at the tossing surface.
He stood here now by the hurrying turbulent stream, a wider and more perilous gulf than that that had lain before him as he looked at the moonlit lake at Overfield and yet over it brooded the same quiet shield of heaven, gilding the black swift flowing forces with the promise of a Presence greater than them all.
He stood there long, staring and thinking.
The days that followed were very anxious and troubled ones for Ralph’s friends at Charing. They were dreadful too from their very uneventfulness.
On the morning following their arrival Chris went off to the Temple to consult a lawyer that the Lieutenant had recommended to Nicholas, and brought him back with him an hour later. The first need to be supplied was their lack of knowledge as to procedure; and the four men sat together until dinner, in the parlour on the first floor looking over the sunlit river; and discussed the entire situation.