The Prior walked heavily with his face downcast as if he wished to avoid notice, and Chris saw that he paid no attention to the men-at-arms and other persons here and there who saluted his prelate’s insignia. There were plenty of people going about in the evening sunshine, soldiers and attendants, and here and there at the foot of a tower stood a halberdier in his buff jacket leaning on his weapon. There were many distinguished persons in the Tower now, both ecclesiastics and laymen who had refused to take one or both of the oaths, and Chris eyed the windows wonderingly, picturing to himself where each lay, and with what courage.
But more and more as he went he wondered why the Prior and he were here, and who had obtained the order of admittance, for he had not had a sight of it.
When they reached the foot of the prison-tower the warder said a word to the sentry, and took the two monks straight past, preceding them up the narrow stairs that wound into darkness. There were windows here and there, slits in the heavy masonry, through which Chris caught glimpses, now of the moat on the west, now of the inner ward with the White Tower huge and massive on the east.
The Prior, who went behind the warder and in front of Chris, stopped suddenly, and Chris could hear him whispering to himself; and at the same time there sounded the creaking of a key in front.
As the young monk stood there waiting, grasping the stone-work on his right, again the excitement surged up; and with it was mingled something of terror. It had been a formidable experience even to walk those few hundred yards from the outer gate, and the obvious apprehensiveness of the Prior who had spoken no audible word since they had landed, was far from reassuring.
Here he stood now for the first time in his life within those terrible walls; he had seen the low Traitor’s Gate on his way that was for so many the gate of death. Even now as he gripped the stone he could see out to the left through the narrow slit a streak of open land beyond the moat and the wall, and somewhere there he knew lay the little rising ground, that reddened week after week in an ooze of blood and slime. And now he was at the door of one who without doubt would die there soon for the Faith that they both professed.
The Prior turned sharply round.
“You!” he said, “I had forgotten: you must wait here till I call you in.”
There was a sounding of an opening door above; the Prior went up and forward, leaving him standing there; the door closed, but not before Chris had caught a glimpse of a vaulted roof; and then the warder stood by him again, waiting with his keys in his hand.
PRISONER AND PRINCE
The sun sank lower and had begun to throw long shadows before the door opened again and the Prior beckoned. As Chris had stood there staring out of the window at the green water of the moat and the shadowed wall beyond, with the warder standing a few steps below, now sighing at the delay, now humming a line or two, he had heard voices now and again from the room above, but it had been no more than a murmur that died once more into silence.