He went to the novice-master after the morning-chapter, and told him that he had made up his mind to offer himself for profession if it was thought advisable by the authorities.
* * * * *
Towards the end of August he presented himself once more before the chapter to make his solemn demand; his petition was granted, and a day appointed for his profession.
Then he withdrew into yet stricter seclusion to prepare for the step.
LIFE AT LEWES
Under the direction of the junior-master who overlooked the young monks for some years after their profession, Chris continued his work of illumination, for which he had shown great aptitude during his year of noviceship.
The art was beginning to disappear, since the introduction of printing had superseded the need of manuscript, but in some Religious Houses it was still thought a suitable exercise during the hours appointed for manual labour.
It was soon after the beginning of the new year that Chris was entrusted with a printed antiphonary that had its borders and initials left white; and he carried the great loose sheets with a great deal of pride to the little carrel or wooden stall assigned to him in the northern cloister.
It was a tiny room, scarcely six feet square, lighted by the window into the cloister-garth, and was almost entirely filled by the chair, the sloping desk against the wall, and the table where the pigments and brushes lay ready to the hand. The door opened on to the cloister itself where the professed monks were at liberty to walk, and on the opposite side stood the broad aumbries that held the library of the house; and it was from the books here that Chris was allowed to draw ideas for his designs. It was a great step in that life of minute details when now for the first time he was permitted to follow his own views, instead of merely filling in with colour outlines already drawn for him; and he found his scheme for the decoration a serious temptation to distraction during the office. As he stood among the professed monks, in his own stall at last, he found his eyes wandering away to the capitals of the round pillars, the stone foliage and fruit that burst out of the slender shafts, the grim heads that strained forward in mitre and crown overhead, and even the living faces of his brethren and superiors, clear against the dark woodwork. When he bent his eyes resolutely on his book he found his mind still intent on his more secular business; he mentally corrected this awkward curve of the initial, substituted an oak spray with acorns for that stiff monstrosity, and set my Lord Prior’s face grinning among griffins at the foot of the page where humour was more readily admitted.
It was an immense joy when he closed his carrel-door, after his hour’s siesta in the dormitory, and sat down to his work. He was still warm with sleep, and the piercing cold of the unwarmed cloister did not affect him, but he set his feet on the sloping wooden footstool that rested on the straw for fear they should get cold, and turned smiling to his side-table.