“I was there, my Lord Prior,” said the monk.
He was a middle-aged man, genial and plump, but his face was white and anxious now, and his mouth worked. “They were hanged in their habits,” he went on. “Prior Houghton was the first despatched;” and he added a terrible detail or two.
“Will you see the place, my Lord Prior?” he said, “You can ride there. Your palfrey is still at the door.”
Prior Robert Crowham looked at him a moment with pursed lips; and then shook his head violently.
“No, no,” he said. “I—I must see to the house.” The monk looked at Chris.
“May I go, my Lord Prior?” he asked.
The Prior stared at him a moment, in a desperate effort to fix his attention; then nodded sharply and wheeled round to the door that led to the upper rooms.
“Mother of God!” he said. “Mother of God!” and went out.
Chris went through with the strange priest, down the hall and out into the porch again. The others were standing there, fearful and whispering, and opened out to let the two monks pass through.
Chris had been tired and hot when he arrived, but he was conscious now of no sensation but of an overmastering desire to see the place; he passed straight by his horse that still stood with a servant at his head, and turned up instinctively toward the river.
The monk called after him.
“There, there,” he cried, “not so fast—we have plenty of time.”
They took a wherry at the stairs and pushed out with the stream. The waterman was a merry-looking man who spoke no word but whistled to himself cheerfully as he laid himself to the oars, and the boat began to move slantingly across the flowing tide. He looked at the monks now and again; but Chris was seated, staring out with eyes that saw nothing down the broad stream away to where the cathedral rose gigantic and graceful on the other side. It was the first time he had been in London since a couple of years before his profession, but the splendour and strength of the city was nothing to him now. It only had one significance to his mind, and that that it had been this day the scene of a martyrdom. His mind that had so long lived in the inner world, moving among supernatural things, was struggling desperately to adjust itself.
Once or twice his lips moved, and his hands clenched themselves under his scapular; but he saw and heard nothing; and did not even turn his head when a barge swept past them, and a richly dressed man leaned from the stem and shouted something mockingly. The other monk looked nervously and deprecatingly up, for he heard the taunting threat across the water that the Carthusians were a good riddance, and that there would be more to follow.
They landed at the Blackfriars stairs, paid the man, who was still whistling as he took the money, and passed up by the little stream that flowed into the river, striking off to the left presently, and leaving the city behind them. They were soon out again on the long straight road that led to Tyburn, for Chris walked desperately fast, paying little heed to his companion except at the corners when he had to wait to know the way; and presently Tyburn-gate began to raise its head high against the sky.