Behind the town a downward sloping wood tied the castle hill to fields and meadows. The small river Wander ran by these on its way to join the greater stream. Up the Wander, two leagues or so, in a fertile vale couched the Abbey of Silver Cross. Materially speaking, a knot of stone houses for monks—Cistercians, White Monks—a stately stone house for God and his Son and Mary; near-by a quite unstately hamlet, timber, daub and thatch, grown haphazard by church and cloister; many score broad acres, wood and field, stream and pasture, mill, forge, weirs, and a tenant roll of goodly length,—such was Silver Cross. So far as physical possessions went what in this region Montjoy did not hold Silver Cross did and what the two did not hold Middle Forest had managed to wrest from them in Henry Sixth’s time. Silver Cross had, too, immaterial possessions. But once she had been wealthier here than she was now. That time had been even with a time of material poverty. Now she had goods, but she did not have so much sanctity. Yet there were values still, marked with that other world’s seal; it is useless to doubt that.
The thorn in Silver Cross’ flesh was not now Montjoy nor Middle Forest, with both of whom she had for years lived in amity. The thorn was the Friary of Saint Leofric—Dominican—across the river from Middle Forest, but tied to it by the bridge, holding its lands well away from Montjoy and Silver Cross, but rival nevertheless, with an eye to king’s favour, cardinal’s favour, and bidding latterly, with a distinctness, for popular favour. That was the wretched, irritating thorn, likely to produce inflammation! Prior Hugh of Saint Leofric—ah, the ambitious one!