“It is this,” said Chris, still in a trembling voice, but it grew steadier as he went on. “God’s people are being persecuted—there is no longer any doubt. They were saints who died yesterday, and Master Cromwell is behind it all; and—and you serve him.”
Ralph jerked his head to speak, but his brother went on.
“I know you think me a fool, and I daresay you an right. But this I know, I would sooner be a fool than—than—”
—“than a knave” ended Ralph. “I thank you for your good opinion, my brother. However, let that pass. You have come to teach me my business, then?”
“I have come to save your soul,” said Chris, grasping the arms of his chair, and eyeing him steadily.
“You are very good to me,” said Ralph bitterly. “Now, I do not want any more play-acting—” He broke off suddenly as the door opened. “And here is the food. Chris, you are not yourself”—he gave a swift look at his servant again—“and I suppose you have had no food to-day.”
Again he glanced out through the open door as Mr. Morris turned to go.
Chris paid no sort of attention to the food. He seemed not to have seen the servant’s entrance and departure.
“I tell you,” he said again steadily, with his wide bright eyes fixed on his brother, “I tell you, you are persecuting God’s people, and I am come, not as your brother only, but as a monk, to warn you.”
Ralph waved his hand, smiling, towards the dish and the bottle. It seemed to sting Chris with a kind of fury, for his eyes blazed and his mouth tightened as he stood up abruptly.
“I tell you that if I were starving I would not break bread in this house: it is the house of God’s enemy.”
He dashed out his left hand nervously, and struck the bottle spinning across the table; it crashed over on to the floor, and the red wine poured on to the boards.
“Why, there is blood before your eyes,” he screamed, mad with hunger and sleeplessness, and the horrors he had seen; “the ground cries out.”
Ralph had sprung up as the bottle fell, and stood trembling and glaring across at the monk; the door opened softly, and Mr. Morris stood alert and discreet on the threshold, but neither saw him.
“And if you were ten times my brother,” cried Chris, “I would not touch your hand.”
There came a knocking at the door, and the servant disappeared.
“Let him come, if it be the King himself,” shouted the monk, “and hear the truth for once.”
The servant was pushed aside protesting, and Beatrice came straight forward into the room.
There was a moment of intense silence, only emphasized by the settling rustle of the girl’s dress. The door had closed softly, and Mr. Morris stood within, in the shadow by the window, ready to give help if it were needed. Beatrice remained a yard inside the room, very upright and dignified, a little pale, looking from one to the other of the two brothers, who stared back at her as at a ghost.