“Yes—you think I was too late, but I saw it,” said Chris; “I was there in the evening and saw it all again.”
All his nervous tension seemed relaxed by the warm common-sense atmosphere of this trim little room, and his brother’s composure. His lips were beginning to tremble, and he half turned and gripped the mantel-shelf with his right hand. Ralph noticed with a kind of contemptuous pity how the heavy girded folds of the frock seemed to contain nothing, and that the wrist from which the sleeve had fallen back was slender as a reed. Ralph felt himself so infinitely his brother’s superior that he could afford to be generous and kindly.
“Dear Chris,” he said, smiling, “you look starved and miserable. Shall I tell Morris to bring you something? I thought you monks fared better than that.”
In a moment Chris was on his knees on the rushes; his hands gripped his brother’s arms, and his wild eyes were staring up with a fanatical fire of entreaty in them. His words broke out like a torrent.
“Ralph,” he said, “dear brother! for Jesu’s sake, come away! I have heard everything. I know that these streets are red with blood, and that your hands have been dipped in it. You must not lose your soul. I know everything; you must come away. For Jesu’s sake!”
Ralph tore himself free and stood up, pushing back his chair.
“Godbody!” he said, “I have a fool for a brother. Stand up, sir. I will have no mumming in my house.”
He rapped his foot fiercely on the floor, staring down at Chris who had thrown himself back on his heels.
“Stand up, sir,” he said again.
“Will you hear me, brother?”
“I will hear you if you will talk reason. I think you are mad.”
Chris got up again. He was trembling violently, and his hands twitched and clenched by his sides.
“Then you shall hear me,” he said, and his voice shook as he spoke. “It is this—”
“You must sit down,” interrupted Ralph, and he pointed to the chair behind.
Chris went to it and sat down. Ralph took a step across to the door and opened it.
“Morris,” he called, and came back to his chair.
There was silence a moment or two, till the servant’s step sounded in the hall, and the door opened. Mr. Morris’s discreet face looked steadily and composedly at his master.
“Bring the pasty,” said Ralph, “and the wine.”
He gave the servant a sharp look, seemed to glance out across the hall for a moment and back again. There was no answering look on Mr. Morris’s face, but he slipped out softly, leaving the door just ajar.
Then Ralph turned to Chris again.
Chris had had time to recover himself by now, and was sitting very pale and composed after his dramatic outburst, his hands hidden under his scapular, and his fingers gripped together.
“Now tell me,” said Ralph, with his former kindly contempt. He had begun to understand now what his brother had come about, and was determined to be at once fatherly and decisive. This young fool must be taught his place.