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310 pages, Paperback
First published January 1, 1948
“My daughter, I am a priest.”
He had thought to himself: Enough to comfort them, and then be off – off before they rise from their knees and begin to ask questions. Perhaps, too, there entered into this hare-brained falsehood an element of superstition; as though by going to meet the pestilence he would insure that it would fly him. Waiting to be let in he had time enough to examine every aspect of his folly, and to quake with fear and to remember that there is no beast of worse omen than a weasel. And yet at the same time he was saying to himself: I am certainly fasting.
Weeping with gratitude, she let him in. (p. 21)
Dame Cecily glanced from face to face, and her distress at the miscarriage was swallowed up in a more personal regret: that she could not at once use her sketch-book and her silver style. Such physiognomies would supply initials for the whole length of Jeremy’s Lamentations. What had happened was one of those accidents that overtake the righteous in the midst of their prosperity. Feeling sure of Dame Matilda’s election, grateful to be relieved of the old prioress whose temper had grown so disturbing, nun after nun had yielded to the thought: Why not vote for that poor Dame Johanna? – one vote can’t upset the result, and it would please the poor wretch.” (p. 130)
Yet what was real life? Not his own life, assuredly. He felt no pavement of reality under his feet, wandering among a change assemblage of geometry, hunger, sickness, loaned horses, debts and shifts and other people’s intentions. Whose life was real? – old Longdock’s in the wildwood, the chaplain’s at the leper-house, the suave Killdew clerk’s? Each of them in his way knew what he wanted and sought it with self-will, and for that matter, with self-denial; for no doubt the Killdew clerk must have denied himself something in order to live with such a rotundity of worldliness, he must have trampled down some artless predisposition such as wishing to recite his own poems. (p. 219)
For each one of us lives in his microcosm, the solidity of this world is a mere game of mirrors, there can be no absolute existence for what is apprehended differently my all. (p. 215)
Mankind untutored and savage will fight for bread or a bedfellow, but must be schooled by theologians before it will fight for a faith.” (p. 229)
No, the wretchedness of the poor lies below hunger and nakedness. It consists in their incessant incertitude and fear, the drudging succession of shift and scheme and subterfuge, the labourings in the quicksand where every step that takes hold of the firm ground is also a step into the danger of condemnation. Not cold and hunger but Law and Justice are the bitterest affliction of the poor. (p. 257)
Entering, Dame Matilda received a meaning glance of comradeship from her prioress. It was as if with one mind and soul that the prioress and treasuress of Oby conversed with Steven Ludcott. For the cloistered life develops in women infinite resources both of resentment and intuition; or perhaps it merely develops their sensibility, from which arise both understanding and delight in being misunderstood. Dame Matilda and the prioress might have been rehearsing their strategy for months. Though Steven Ludcott left Oby with every jot of his errand completed, the interest agreed on and his spleen vented, he rode away with the sensation of having been horribly mauled between the pair of them.
He was no sooner out of the house than a spirited defensive action became a defeat. The prioress had hysterics, Dame Matilda cursed like a crusader, and Dame Margaret, who had sat reading her psalter during the interview, sped off to tell the convent that Oby was certainly ruined and would most likely be dissolved by the bishop.
It was to the aftermath of all that that Pernelle Barstable returned, explaining that the Waxelby merchants were asking such exorbitant prices that she had thought it best to go on to Lambsholme, where she had bought such raisins as had never before been eaten at Oby. The price of raisins was the only thing in her story that made an impression. Dame Matilda said it was much too high.
But when that subject was exhausted, his own plight came to his lips and he broke out into a complaint of his isolation at Lintoft.
“What else can you expect?” cried Sir Ralph briskly. “A strong young man like you must do more than preach and say masses if he is to earn the esteem of his parishioners. You should work, young man, you should work! If you want to be a good priest you must have the best sow, the best beans, the sweetest honey, the cock that crows loudest. You will do nothing with book and prayers. Turn your mind to pigs.”
As though he had summoned them a number of pigs just then rushed screaming and grunting into the parsonage cabbage-yard. Screaming and grunting the priest’s house-keeper rushed out and drove them away by jabbing at their noses with an iron-shod staff.
“I hate pigs!”
“Very well, then!” - Sir Ralph’s voice was injuriously tolerant - “Why not take up basket-making?”
Throughout her short sickly life she had accepted the idea of an early death; but now she thought that, after all, she would be sorry to exchange the ambiguity of this world for the certitude of the next. There is pleasure in watching the sophistries of mankind, his decisions made and unmade like the swirl of a mill-race, causation sweeping him forward from act to act while his reason dances on the surface of action like a pattern of foam. 
“I have often asked myself why you sent Dame Sibilla to Oby.” Her eyelids closed down, as though the sight of his distress were something that must be eaten in private. 
The rough ground stretched for a little way and there broke off in a line of stiffened tussocks, heath bushes, and close gorse-dumps. Beyond this, half the world was hung with a blue mantle criss-crossed with an infinity of delicate creases, and the whole outspread mantle stirred as though a separate life were beneath it. Coming to her senses she knew that this must be the sea. 
'The rough ground stretched for a little way and there broke off in a line of stiffened tussocks, heath bushes, and close gorse-clumps. Beyond this, half the world was hung with a blue mantle criss-crossed with an infinity of delicate creases, and the whole outspread mantle stirred as though a separate life were beneath it. Coming to her senses she knew that this must be the sea.'
'...to Ursula's Jackie it seemed that nothing new ever happened, or ever would. The bell rang and the nuns went into quire. The bell rang and the serfs in the great field paused in their labour and crossed themselves, and then scratched themselves, and then went on working. The little bell rang and Christ was made flesh. One day the thought had risen up in him: Suppose I don't ring my bell - what then? This thought had come on a summer afternoon when the noise of the grasshoppers was everywhere. For an instant the sun had seemed to smite him with a tenfold heat, he felt himself dissolving like wax, and the butts of the mown grass where he lay pricked him like a thousand daggers. What then? The end of the world perhaps. The bell silent, Christ not made, the world snapped like a bubble. Perhaps. But also a beating.'