* * * * *
It was half an hour before Dom Anthony returned, and after hospitable enquiries, sat down by Chris again in the wide window-seat and began to talk.
He told him that guests were not expected to attend the night-offices, and that indeed he strongly recommended Chris doing nothing of the kind at any rate that night; that masses were said at all hours from five o’clock onwards; that prime was said at seven, and was followed by the Missa familiaris for the servants and work-people of the house. Breakfast would be ready in the guest-house at eight; the chapter-mass would be said at the half-hour and after the daily chapter which followed it had taken place, the Prior wished to see Christopher. The high mass was sung at ten, and dinner would be served at eleven. He directed his attention, too, to the card that hung by the door on which these hours were notified.
Christopher already knew that for the first three or four days he would have to remain in the guest-house before any formal step was taken with regard to him, but he said a word to Father Anthony about this.
“Yes,” said the monk, “my Lord Prior will tell you about that. But you will be here as a guest until Sunday, and on that day you will come to the morning chapter to beg for admission. You will do that for three days, and then, please God, you will be clothed as a novice.”
And once more he looked at him with deep smiling eyes.
Chris asked him a few more questions, and Dom Anthony told him what he wished to know, though protesting with monastic etiquette that it was not his province.
“Dom James Berkely is the novice-master,” he said, “you will find him very holy and careful. The first matter you will have to learn is how to wear the habit, carry your hands, and to walk with gravity. Then you will learn how to bow, with the hands crossed on the knees, so—” and he illustrated it by a gesture—“if it is a profound inclination; and when and where the inclinations are to be made. Then you will learn of the custody of the eyes. It is these little things that help the soul at first, as you will find, like—like—the bindings of a peach-tree, that it may learn how to grow and bear its fruit. And the Rule will be given you, and what a monk must have by rote, and how to sing. You will not be idle, Chris.”
It was no surprise to Christopher to hear how much of the lessons at first were concerned with external behaviour. In his visits to Lewes before, as well as from the books that Mr. Carleton had lent him, he had learnt that the perfection of the Religious Life depended to a considerable extent upon minutiae that were both aids to, and the result of, a tranquil and recollected mind, the acquirement of which was part of the object of the monk’s ambition. The ideal, he knew, was the perfect direction of every part of his being, of hands and eyes, as well as of the great powers of the soul; what God had joined together man must not put asunder, and the man who had every physical movement under control, and never erred through forgetfulness or impulse in these little matters, presumably also was master of his will, and retained internal as well as external equanimity.