Sir James gave a sudden sob.
“Mr. Herries, Mr. Herries—”
Cranmer turned to him smiling.
“I know what you feel, sir,” he said. “But if this is true—”
“Why, it is true! God help him,” cried the old man.
“Then that is what we need, sir; as you said just now. Yes, Mr. Herries?”
The lawyer glanced at the old man again.
“That is sufficient guarantee, my Lord, that Mr. Ralph Torridon is no enemy of his Grace’s projects.”
“I cannot bear that!” cried Sir James.
Nicholas, who had been looking awed and open-mouthed from one to the other, took him by the arm.
“You must, father,” he said. “It—it is devilish; but it is true. Chris, have you nothing?”
The monk came forward a step.
“It is true, my Lord,” he said. “I was a monk of Lewes myself.”
“And you have conformed,” put in the Archbishop swiftly.
“I am living at home peaceably,” said Chris; “it is true that my brother did all this, but—but my father wishes that it should not be used in his cause.”
“If it is true,” said the Archbishop, “it is best to say it. We want nothing but the bare truth.”
“But I cannot bear it,” cried the old man again.
Chris came round behind the Archbishop to his father.
“Will you leave it, father, to my Lord Archbishop? My Lord understands what we think.”
Sir James looked at him, dazed and bewildered.
“God help us! Do you think so, Chris.”
“I think so, father. My Lord, you understand all?”
The Archbishop’s bowed again slightly.
“Then, my Lord, we will leave it all in your hands.”
There was a tap at the door.
The Archbishop rose.
“That is our signal,” he said. “Come, gentlemen, his Grace will be ready immediately.”
Mr. Herries sprang to the door and opened it, bowing as the Archbishop went through, followed by Sir James and Nicholas. He and Chris followed after.
* * * * *
There was a kind of dull recklessness in the monk’s heart as he went through. He knew that he was in more peril than any of the others, and yet he did not fear it. The faculty of fear had been blunted, not sharpened, by his experiences; and he passed on towards the King’s presence, almost without a tremor.
The room was empty, except for a page by the further door, who opened it as the party advanced; and beyond was a wide lobby, with doors all round, and a staircase on the right as they came out. The Archbishop made a little motion to the others as he went up, gathering his skirts about him, and acknowledging with his disengaged hand the salute of the sentry that stood in the lobby.