So he knelt here now, pacified and content again, and thought with something of pity of his brother dozing now no doubt before the parlour fire, cramped by his poor ideals and dismally happy in his limitations.
His father, too, was content down below in the chapel. He himself had at one time before his marriage looked towards the religious life; and now that it had turned out otherwise had desired nothing more than that he should be represented in that inner world of God’s favourites by at least one of his children. His daughter Margaret had written a week earlier to say that her mind was turning that way, and now Christopher’s decision had filled up the cup of his desires. To have a priest for a son, and above all one who was a monk as well was more than he had dared to hope, though not to pray for; if he could not be one himself, at least he had begotten one—one who would represent him before God, bring a blessing on the house, and pray and offer sacrifice for his soul until his time should be run out and he see God face to face. And Ralph would represent him before men and carry on the line, and hand on the house to a third generation—Ralph, at whom he had felt so sorely puzzled of late, for he seemed full of objects and ambitions for which the father had very little sympathy, and to have lost almost entirely that delicate relation with home that was at once so indefinable and so real. But he comforted himself by the thought that his elder son was not wholly wasting time as so many of the country squires were doing round about, absorbed in work that a brainless yeoman could do with better success. Ralph at least was occupied with grave matters, in Cromwell’s service and the King’s, and entrusted with high secrets the issue of which both temporal and eternal it was hard to predict. And, no doubt, the knight thought, in time he would come back and pick up the strands he had dropped; for when a man had wife and children of his own to care for, other businesses must seem secondary; and questions that could be ignored before must be faced then.
But he thought with a little anxiety of his wife, and wondered whether his elder son had not after all inherited that kind of dry rot of the soul, in which the sap and vigour disappear little by little, leaving the shape indeed intact but not the powers. When he had married her, thirty-five years before, she had seemed to him an incarnate mystery of whose key he was taking possession—her silence had seemed pregnant with knowledge, and her words precious pieces from an immeasurable treasury; and then little by little he had found that the wide treasury was empty, clean indeed and capacious, but no more, and above all with no promise of any riches as yet unperceived. Those great black eyes, that high forehead, those stately movements, meant nothing; it was a splendid figure with no soul within. She did her duty admirably, she said her prayers, she entertained her guests with