Part 2 out of 6
"You would like to see the start, perhaps," said the old priest.
"We are a little late to-night. The country mails have only just
arrived. But we shall be off directly now. Come this way."
The upper deck, as the two turned inwards, presented an extremely
pleasant and reassuring picture. From stem to stern it ran clear,
set out, however, with groups of tables and chairs clamped to the
floor, at which sat a dozen parties or so, settling themselves
down comfortably. There were no funnels, no bridge, no break at
all to the delightful vista. The whole was lighted by the same
device as were the streets, for round the upper edges of the
transparent walls that held out the wind shone a steady, even
glow from invisible lights.
In the very centre of the deck, however, was a low railing
that protected the head of a staircase, and down this well
the two looked.
"Shall I explain?" asked the old priest, smiling. "This is
the latest model, you know. It has not been in use for more
than a few months."
The other nodded.
"Tell me everything, please."
"Well, look right down there, below the second flight. The first
flight leads to the second-class deck, and the flight below to the
working parts of the ship. Now do you see that man's head, straight
in the middle, in the bright light?--yes, immediately under. Well,
that's the first engineer. He's in a glass compartment, you see,
and can look down passages in every direction. The gas arrangements
are all in front of him, and the----"
"Stop, please. What power is it that drives the ship? Is it
lighter than air, or what?"
"Well, you see the entire framework of the ship is hollow. Every
single thing you see--even the chairs and tables--they're all
made of the metal _aerolite_ (as it's generally called). It's
almost as thin as paper, and it's far stronger than any steel.
Now it's the framework of the ship that takes the place of the
old balloon. It's infinitely safer, too, for it's divided by
automatically closing stops into tens of thousands of
compartments, so a leak here and there makes practically no
difference. Well, when the ship's at rest, as it is now, there's
simply air in all these tubes; but when it's going to start,
there is forced into these tubes, from the magazine below, the
most volatile gas that has been discovered----"
"What's it called?"
"I forget the real name. It's generally called _aeroline_. Well,
this is forced in, until the specific gravity of the whole
affair, passengers and all, is as nearly as possible the same as
the specific gravity of the air."
"I see. Good Lord, how simple!"
"And the rest is done with planes and screws, driven by
electricity. The tail of the boat is a recent development.
(You'll see it when we're once started.) It's exactly like the
tail of a bird, and contracts and expands in every direction.
Then besides that there are two wings, one on each side, and
these can be used, if necessary, in case the screws go wrong, as
propellers. But usually they are simply for balancing and
gliding. You see, barring collisions, there's hardly the
possibility of an accident. If one set of things fails, there's
always something else to take its place. At the very worst, we
can but be blown about a bit."
"But it's exactly like a bird, then."
"Of course, Monsignor," said the priest, with twinkling eyes,
"it isn't likely that we could improve upon Almighty God's
design. We're very simple, you know. . . . Look, he's
signalling. We're going to start. Come to the prow. We shall see
better from there."
The upper deck ended in a railing, below which protruded, from
the level of the lower deck, the prow proper of the boat. Upon
this prow, in a small compartment of which the roof, as well as
the walls, was of hardened glass, stood the steersman amid his
wheels. But the wheels were unlike anything that the bewildered
man who looked down had ever dreamed of. First, they were not
more than six inches in diameter; and next, they were arranged,
like notes on a keyboard, with their edges towards him, with the
whole set curved round him in a semicircle.
"Those to right and left," explained the priest, "control the
planes on either side; those in front, on the left, control the
engines and the gas supply; and on the right, the tail of the
boat. Watch him, and you'll see. We're just starting."
As he spoke three bells sounded from below, followed, after a
pause, by a fourth. The steersman straightened himself as the
first rang out and glanced round him; and upon the fourth, bent
himself suddenly over the key board, like a musician addressing
himself to a piano.
For the first instant Monsignor was conscious of a slight swaying
motion, which resolved itself presently into a faint sensation of
constriction on his temples, but no more. Then this passed, and
as he glanced away again from the steersman, who was erect once
more, his look happened to fall over the edge of the boat. He
grasped his friend convulsively.
"Look," he said, "what's happened?"
"Yes, we're off," said the priest sedately.
Beneath them, on either side, there now stretched itself an
almost illimitable and amazingly beautiful bird's-eye view of a
lighted city, separated from them by what seemed an immeasurable
gulf. From the enormous height up to which they had soared the
city looked like a complicated flat map, of which the patches
were dark and the dividing lines rivers of soft fire. This
stretched practically to the horizon on all sides; the light
toned down at the edges into a misty luminosity, but as the
bewildered watcher stared in front of him, he saw how directly in
their course there slid toward them two great patches of dark,
divided by a luminous stream in the middle.
"What is it? What is it?" he stammered.
The priest seemed not to notice his agitation; he just passed his
hand quietly into the trembling man's elbow.
"Yes," he said, "there are houses all the way to Brighton now, of
course, and we go straight down the track. We shall take in
passengers at Brighton, I think."
There was a step behind them.
"Good evening, Monsignor," said a voice. "It's a lovely night."
The prelate turned round, covered with confusion, and saw a man
in uniform saluting him deferentially.
"Ah! captain," slipped in the priest. "So we're crossing with
you, are we?"
"That's it, father. The _Michael_ line's running this week."
"It's a wonderful thing to me----" began Monsignor, but a sharp
pressure on his arm checked him--"how you keep the whole
organization going," he ended lamely.
The captain smiled.
"It's pretty straightforward," he said. "The _Michael_ line runs the
first week of every month; the _Gabriel_ the second, and so on."
"Yes," put in Father Jervis. "Whose idea was it to dedicate the
lines to the archangels? I forget."
"Ah! that's ancient history to me, father. . . . Excuse me,
Monsignor; I think I hear my bell." he wheeled, saluting
again, and was off.
"Do you mean---?" began Monsignor.
"Of course," said Father Jervis, "everything runs on those lines
now. You see we're matter-of-fact, and it's really rather
obvious, when you think of it, to dedicate the volor lines to
the angels. We've been becoming more and more obvious for the
last fifty years. . . . By the way, Monsignor, you must take
care not to give yourself away. You'd better not ask many
questions except of me."
Monsignor changed the subject.
"When shall we get to Paris?" he asked.
"We shall be a little late, I think, unless they make up time.
We're due at three. I hope there won't be any delay at Brighton.
Sometimes on windy nights----"
"I suppose the descending and the starting again takes some time."
The priest laughed.
"We don't descend at places _en route_," he said. "The tender
comes up to us. It'll probably be in its place by now. We aren't
ten minutes away."
The other compressed his lips and was silent.
Presently, far away to the southward beneath the soft starlit sky,
the luminous road down which they travelled seemed to expand once
more almost abruptly into another vast spread of lights. But as
they approached this did not extend any farther, but lay cut off
sharp by a long, curving line of almost complete darkness.
"Brighton . . . the sea . . . And there's the tender waiting."
At first the prelate could not make it out against the radiance
below, but an instant later, as they rushed on, it loomed up,
sudden and enormous, itself blazing with lights against the dark
sea. It looked to him something like a floating stage, outlined
with fire; and there were glimmering, perpendicular lines beneath
it which he could not understand, running down to lose themselves
in the misty glow three hundred feet beneath.
"How's it done?" he asked.
"It's a platform, charged of course with _aeroline_. It runs on
lines straight up from the stage beneath, and keeps itself steady
with screws. You'll see it go down after we've left again. Come
to the stern, we shall see better from there."
By the time that they had reached the other end of the ship, the
pace had rapidly diminished almost to motionlessness; and as soon
as Monsignor could attend again, he perceived that there was
sliding at a footpace past their starboard side the edge of the
huge platform that he had seen just now half a mile away. For a
moment or two it swayed up and down; there was a slight vibration;
and then he heard voices and the trampling of footsteps.
"The bridges are fixed," remarked the priest. "They're on the
lower deck, of course. Pretty prompt, aren't they?"
The prelate stood, staring with all his eyes; now at the
motionless platform that hung alongside, now at the gulf below
with the fairy lights strewed like stars and _nebulae_ at its
bottom. It seemed impossible to realize that this station in the
air was not the normal level, and the earth not a strange foreign
body that attended on it. There came up on deck presently a dozen
figures or so, carrying wraps, and talking. It was amazing to him
that they could behave with such composure. Two were even
quarrelling in subdued voices. . . .
It was hardly five minutes before the three bells rang again; and
before the fourth sounded, suddenly he saw drop beneath, like a
stone into a pit, the huge immovable platform that just now he
had conceived of as solid as the earth from which it had risen.
Down and down it went, swaying ever so slightly from side to
side, diminishing as it went; but before the motion had ceased
the fourth bell rang, and he clutched the rail to steady himself
as the ship he was on soared again with a strange intoxicating
motion. The next instant, as he glanced over the edge, he saw
that they were far out over the blackness of the sea.
"I think we might go below for a bit," said the priest in his ear.
There was no kind of difficulty in descending the stairs; there
was practically no oscillation of any kind in this still and
windless summer night, and the two came down easily and looked
round the lower deck.
This was far more crowded with figures: there were padded seats
fully occupied running round all the sides, beneath the enormous
continuous windows. In the centre, sternwards, ran a narrow
refreshment bar, where a score of men were standing to refresh
themselves. Forward of the farther stairs (down the well of which
they had seen the engineer's head), by which they were standing,
the deck was closed in, as with cabins.
"Like to see the oratory?" asked Father Jervis.
"Oratory. The long-journey boats, that have chaplains, carry the
Blessed Sacrament, of course; but there is only a little oratory
on these continental lines."
Monsignor followed him, unable to speak, up the central passage
running forwards; through a pair of heavy curtains; and there, to
his amazed eyes, appeared a small altar, a hanging lamp, and an
image of St. Michael.
"But it's astounding!" whispered the prelate, watching a man and
a woman at their prayers.
"It's common sense, isn't it?" smiled the priest. "Why, the
custom began a hundred years ago."
"Indeed it did! I learnt it from one of the little guide-books
they give one on these boats. A company called the Great Western
had mosaic pictures of the patron saint of each boat in the
saloon. And their locomotives, too, were called after saints'
names. It's only plain common sense, if you come to think of it."
"Are lines like this--and railways, and so on--owned by the State
now? I suppose so."
The other shook his head.
"That was tried under Socialism," he said. "It was one of their
smaller failures. You see, when competition ceases, effort
ceases. Human nature is human nature, after all. The Socialists
forgot that. No; we encourage private enterprise as much as
possible, under State restrictions."
They paused as they came out again.
"Care to lie down for a bit? We shan't be in till three. The
Cardinal engaged a room for us."
He indicated a small cabin that bore his own name on a card.
"Yes, I will, I think. I've a lot to think about."
But he could not sleep. The priest promised to awaken him
in plenty of time, and he slipped off his buckled shoes and
tried to compose his mind. But it was useless. His mind
whirled with wonder.
Once he slipped to a sitting position, drew back the little
curtain over the porthole, and stared out. There was little to be
seen; but by the sight of a lake of soft light that slid past at
some incalculable depth a dozen miles away, he perceived that
they had left the sea far behind and were spinning over the land
of France. He looked out long, revolving thoughts and
conjectures, striving to find some glimmer of memory by which he
might adjust these new experiences; but there was none. He was
like a child, with the brain of a man, plunged into a new mode of
existence, where everything seemed reversed, and yet
astonishingly obvious; it was the very simplicity that baffled
him. The Christian religion was true down (or up) even to the
Archangels that stand before God and control the powers of the
air. The priesthood was the priesthood; the Blessed Sacrament was
the God-Man tabernacling with men. Then where was the cause for
amazement that the world recognized these facts and acted upon
them; that men should salute the priest of God as His
representative and agent on earth; that air-ships (themselves
constructed on the model of the sea-gull--hollow feathers and
all) should carry the Blessed Sacrament on long journeys, that
communicants might not be deprived of their Daily Bread, and even
raise altars on board to the honour of those Powers under whose
protection they placed themselves. It was curious, too, he
reflected, that those who insist most upon the claims of Divinity
insist also upon the claims of humanity. It seemed suggestive
that it was the Catholics who were most aware of the competitive
passions of men and reckoned with them, while the Socialists
ignored them and failed.
So he sat--this poor man bewildered by simplicity and almost
shocked by the obvious--listening with unheeding ears to the
steady rush of air past the ship, voices talking naturally and
easily, heard through the roof above his head, an occasional
footstep, and once or twice a bell as the steersman communicated
some message to one of his subordinates. Here he sat--John
Masterman, Domestic Prelate to His Holiness Gregory XIX,
Secretary to His Eminence Gabriel Cardinal Bellairs, and priest
of the Holy Roman Church, trying to assimilate the fact that he
was on an air-ship, bound to the court of the Catholic French
King, and that practically the whole civilized world believed and
acted on the belief which he, as a priest, naturally also held
and was accustomed to teach.
A tap on his door roused him at last.
"It's time to be moving, Monsignor," said Father Jervis through
the half-open door. "We're in communication with St. Germains."
"Tell me a little about the costumes," said Monsignor, as the two
set out on foot from their lodgings in Versailles after breakfast
next morning, to present their letters of introduction. "They
seem to me rather fantastic, somehow."
Their lodgings were situated in one of the great palaces on the
vast road that runs straight from the gates of the royal palace
itself into Paris. They had come straight on by car from St.
Germains, had been received with immense respect by the
proprietor, who, it appeared, had received very particular
instructions from the English Cardinal; and had been conducted
straight upstairs to a little suite of rooms, decorated in
eighteenth-century fashion, and consisting of a couple of
bedrooms for themselves, opening to a central sitting-room and
oratory; the two men-servants they had brought with them were
lodged immediately across the landing outside.
"Fantastic?" asked Father Jervis, smiling. "Don't you think
"Oh yes; but----"
"Remember human nature, Monsignor. After all, it was only intense
self-importance that used to make men say that they were
independent of exterior beauty. It's far more natural and simple
to like beauty. Every child does, after all."
"Yes, yes; I see that, I suppose. But I didn't mean only that. I
was on the point of asking you yesterday, again and again, but
something marvellous distracted me each time," said the prelate,
smiling. "They're extraordinarily picturesque, of course; but I
can't help thinking that they must all mean something."
"Of course they do. And I never can imagine how people ever got
on without the system. Why, even less than a hundred years ago, I
understand that every one dressed, or tried to dress alike. How
in the world could they tell who they were talking to?"
"I . . . I expect that was deliberate," faltered the other. "You
see, I think people used to be ashamed of their trades sometimes,
and wanted to be thought gentlemen."
Father Jervis shrugged his shoulders.
"Well, I don't understand it," he said. "If a man was ashamed of
his trade, why did he follow it?"
"I've been thinking," said Monsignor animatedly, "that perhaps
it's the new teaching on Vocation that has made the difference.
Once a man understands that his Vocation is the most honourable
thing he can do, I suppose----There! who's that man," he
interrupted suddenly, "in blue with the badge?"
A tremendous figure was crossing the road just in front of them.
He wore a short, full blue cloak, with a silver badge on the left
breast, a tight-fitting cap of the same colour repeating the same
badge, and from beneath his cloak in front hung a tunic, with
enormous legs in tight blue hose and shoes moving underneath.
"Ah! that's a great man," said the priest. "He's a
Butcher, of course----"
"Yes; that's obvious--it's the blue, for one thing, and the cut,
for another. Wait an instant. I shall see his badge directly."
As the great man came past them he saluted deferentially. The
priests bowed with equal deference, lifting their hands to their
"Yes: he's very high up," said the priest quietly. "A member of
the Council of the National Guild, at least."
"Do you mean that man kills oxen?"
"Not now, of course; he's worked his way up. He probably
represents the Guild in the Assembly."
"Do all the trades have guilds, and are they all represented
in the Assembly?"
"Why, of course! How else could you be certain that the trade
was treated fairly? If all the citizens voted as citizens,
there'd simply be no fair representation at all. Look; there's
a goldsmith--he has probably been to the King; that's a
journeyman with him."
An open car sped past them. Two men were seated in it; both in
clothes of some really beautiful metallic colour; but the cap of
one was plain, while the cap of the other blazed with some device.
"And the women? I can't see any system among them."
"Ah! but there is, though it's harder to detect. They have much more
liberty than the men; but, as a rule, each woman has a predominating
colour, the colour of the head of her family, and all, of course,
wear badges. There are sumptuary laws, I needn't say."
"I shouldn't have guessed it!"
"Well, not as regards price or material, certainly--only size.
There are certain absolute limits on both sides; and fashions
have to manage between the two. You see it's the same thing as in
trades and professions, as I told you yesterday. We encourage the
individual to be as individualistic as possible, and draw the
limits very widely, beyond which he mustn't go. But those limits
are imperative. We try to develop both extremes at once--liberty
and law. We had enough of the _via media_--the mediocrity of the
"But do you mean to say that people submit to all this?"
"Submit! Why it's perfectly obvious to every one that it's simply
human--besides being very convenient practically. Of course in
Germany they still go in for what they call Liberty; and the
result is simple chaos."
"Do you mean to say there's no envy or jealousy between the trades?"
"Not in the social sense, in the very least, though there's
tremendous competition. Why, every one under Royalty has to be a
member of some trade. Of course only those who practise the trade
wear the full costume; but even the dukes have to wear the
badges. It's perfectly simple, you know."
"Tell me an English duke who's a butcher,"
"Butcher? . . . I can't think of one this minute. Southminster's
a baker, though."
Monsignor was silent. But it certainly seemed simple.
They were passing up now between the sentry-guarded gates of the
enormous and exquisite palace of Versailles; and, beyond the great
expanse of gravel on which they had just set foot, rose up the
myriad windows, pinnacles, and walls where the Kings of France
lived again as they had lived two hundred years before. Far up,
against the tender summer sky, flapped the Royal Standard; and the
lilies of France, once more on their blue ground, indicated that
the King was in residence. Even as they looked, however, the
banner seemed to waver a little; and simultaneously a sudden
ringing sound from a shadowed portico a couple of hundred yards
away brought Father Jervis to a sudden stop.
"We'd better step aside," he said. "We're right in the way."
"What's the matter?"
"Some one's coming out. . . . Look."
From out of the shadow into the full sunlight with a flash of
silver lightning whirled a body of cuirassiers, wheeled into
line, and came on, reforming as they came, at a canter.
A couple of heralds rode in front; and a long trumpet-cry
pealed out, was caught, echoed, and thrown back by the crowding
walls of the palace.
Behind, as Father Jervis drew him to one side, Monsignor caught
a glimpse of white horses and a gleam of gold. He glanced
hastily back at the gates through which they had just come,
and, as if sprung out of the ground, there was the crowd
standing respectfully on either side of the avenue to see its
Sovereign. (It was up this avenue to Paris, Monsignor
reflected, that the women had come on their appalling march to
the Queen who ruled them then.)
As he glanced back again the heralds were upon them, and the thunder
of hoofs followed close behind. But beyond the line of galloping
guards, in the midst, drawn by white horses, ran the great gilded
coach with glass windows, and the crown of France atop.
Two men were seated in the coach, bowing mechanically as they
came--one a small, young, vivacious-looking man with a pointed
dark beard; the other a heavy, fair-haired, sanguine-featured,
clean-shaven man. Both alike were in robes in which red and
gold predominated; and both wore broad feathered hats, shaped
like a priest's.
Then the coach was gone through the tall gilded gates, and a
cloud of dust, beaten up by the galloping hoofs on all sides, hid
even the cuirassiers who closed the company. And as the two
turned the banner sank on the tall pole.
"The King and the German Emperor," observed Father Jervis, replacing
his hat. "Now there's the other side of the picture for you."
"I don't understand."
"Why, we treat our kings like kings," smiled the other. "And, at
the same time, we encourage our butchers to be really butchers
and to glory in it. Law _and_ liberty, you see. Absolute discipline
and the cultivation of individualism. No republican stew-pot, you
see, in which everything tastes alike."
They had to wait a few minutes in an ante-room before presenting
their letters, as the official was engaged, and Father Jervis
occupied the time in running over again the names and histories
of three or four important personages to whom they would perhaps
have to speak. He had given an outline of these at breakfast.
There were three in particular about whom Monsignor must be informed.
First, the King; and Monsignor learned again thoroughly of the
sensational reaction which, after the humiliation of France in
the war of 1914--the logical result of a conflict between a
republicanism worked out to mediocrity and a real and vivid
monarchy--had placed this man's father--the undoubted legitimate
heir--upon the throne. He had died only two years ago, when the
Dauphin, who had ascended the throne, was just eighteen years
old. The present King was not yet married, but there were rumours
of a love-match with a Spanish princess. He was a boyish king, it
seemed, but he played his royal part with intense enjoyment and
dignity, and had restored, to the delight of this essentially
romantic and imaginative people, most of the glories of the
eighteenth-century court, without its scandals. Certainly France
was returning to its old chivalry, and thence to its old power.
Next there was the Cardinal Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal
Guinet, a very old ecclesiastic, very high in the counsels of
the Church, who would almost certainly have been elected Pope at
the last vacancy if it had not been for his age. He was an
"intellectual," it seemed, and, among other things, was one of
the first physicists of Europe. He had been ordained
comparatively late in life.
Thirdly there was the Archbishop's secretary--Monsignor Allet--a
rising man and an excellent diplomatist.
There were two or three more, but Father Jervis was content with
scarcely more than recounting their names. The King's brother,
and the heir-presumptive, was something of a recluse and seldom
appeared at court. Of the German Emperor, Monsignor had already
learned, it seemed, sufficient.
In the middle of these instructions, the door suddenly opened,
and an ecclesiastic hurried in with outstretched hands, and
apologies in a torrent of Latin.
("Monsignor Allet," whispered Father Jervis, as he appeared.)
Monsignor Masterman stood bewildered. The dilemma had not
occurred to him; but Father Jervis, it seemed, was prepared. He
said a rapid sentence to the secretary, who turned, bowing, and
immediately began in English without the trace of any accent.
"I perfectly understand--perfectly indeed. These doctors rule
us with a rod of iron, don't they? It'll be arranged directly.
We all talk English here; and I'll say a word to His Eminence.
The very same thing happened to himself a year or two back. He
was forbidden to talk in French. It is astonishing, is it not?
the subtlety of these doctors! And yet how natural. No two
languages have the same mental reaction, after all. They're
Monsignor caught a glimmering of what he was at. But he thought
he had better be cautious.
"I'm afraid I shall give a lot of trouble," he murmured, looking
doubtfully at this sparkling-eyed, blue-chinned young man, who
spoke with such rapidity.
"Not in the least, I assure you." He turned to the older priest.
"The Cardinal left here only half an hour ago. How unfortunate!
He came over to arrange the final details of the disputation.
You've heard of that?"
"Not a word."
The young prelate beamed.
"Well, you'll hear the finest wit in France! It's for this
afternoon." (His face fell.) "But it's Latin. Perhaps
Monsignor ought not----"
"Ah! so long as he doesn't talk---!" (Father Jervis turned to his
friend.) "I was telling Monsignor here that the doctor ordered
you to engage in no business that did not interest you; and that
Latin was rather a strain to you just now----"
This seemed adroit enough. But Monsignor was determined to miss
no new experience.
"It will simply delight me," he said. "And what is the subject?"
"Well," said the Frenchman, "it's for the benefit of the
Emperor. Two of the Parisian theologians are disputing _De
Ecclesia_. The thesis of the adversary, who opens, is that the
Church is merely the representative of God on earth--a Society
that must, of course, be obeyed; but that Infallibility is not
necessary to her efficiency."
Father Jervis' eyes twinkled.
"Isn't that a little too pointed? Why, that's the Emperor's one
difficulty! I understand that he allows, politically speaking,
the need for the Church, but denies her divinity."
"I assure you," said the French priest solemnly, "that the thesis
is his own selection. You see, he's sick of these Socialists. He
understands perfectly that the one sanction of human authority
must come from God, or from the people; and he's entirely on
God's side! But he cannot see the infallibility, and therefore,
as he's a sincere man---!" he ended with an eloquent shrug.
"Well," said Father Jervis, "if the Cardinal's not here----"
"Alas! He is back in Paris by now. But give me your letters! I'll
see that they are presented properly; and you shall receive a
royal command for the disputation in plenty of time."
They handed over their letters; they exchanged compliments once
more; they were escorted as far as the door of the room by the
prelate, across the next ante-chamber by an imposing man in black
velvet with a chain, across the third by a cuirassier, and across
the hall to the bottom of the steps by two tremendous footmen in
the ancient royal livery.
Monsignor was silent for a few yards.
"Aren't you afraid of an anti-clerical reaction?" he asked suddenly.
"How do you mean? I don't understand."
Then Monsignor launched out. He had accepted by now the theory
that he had had a lapse of memory, and that so far as his
intellect was concerned, he was practically a man of a century
ago, owing to the history he had happened to be reading shortly
before his collapse; and he talked therefore from that standpoint.
He produced, that is to say, with astonishing fluency all those
arguments that were common in the mouths of the more serious
anti-clericals of the beginning of the century--the increase of
Religious Orders, the domineering tendency of all ecclesiastics
in the enjoyment of temporal power, the impossibility of
combating supernatural arguments, the hostility of the Church to
education--down even to the celibacy of the clergy. He paused for
breath as they turned out of the great gateway.
Father Jervis laughed aloud and patted him on the arm.
"My dear Monsignor, I can't compete with you. You're too
eloquent. Of course, I remember from reading history that those
things used to be said, and I suppose Socialists say them now.
But, you know, no educated man ever dreams of such arguments; nor
indeed do the uneducated! It's the half-educated, as usual, who's
the enemy. He always is. The Wise Men and the shepherds both
knelt in Bethlehem. It was the bourgeois who stood apart."
"That's no answer," persisted the other.
"Well, let's see," said the priest good-humouredly. "We'll begin
with celibacy. Now it's perfectly true that it's thought almost a
disgrace for a man not to have a large family. The average is
certainly not less than ten in civilized nations. But for all
that a priest is looked upon without any contempt at all. Why?
Because he's a spiritual father; because he begets spiritual
children to God, and feeds and nourishes them. Of course to an
atheist this is nonsense; and even to an agnostic it's a very
doubtful benefit. But, my dear Monsignor, you must remember that
these hardly exist amongst us. The entire civilized world of
to-day is as absolutely convinced of Heaven and Grace and the
Church, and the havoc that Sin makes not only as regards the next
world but in this--so absolutely convinced that he understands
perfectly that a priest is far more productive of general good
than a physical father possibly can be. It's the priest who keeps
the whole thing going. Don't you see? And then, in a Catholic
world, the instinct that the man who serves the altar should be
without physical ties--well, that's simply natural."
"Go on. What about education?"
"My dear friend," said Father Jervis. "The Church controls the
whole of education, as she did, in fact, up to the very time when
the State first took it away from her and then abused her for
neglecting it. Practically all the scientists; all the
specialists in medicine, chemistry, and mental health;
nine-tenths of the musicians; three-quarters of the
artists--practically all those are Religious. It's only the
active trades, which are incompatible with Religion, that are in
the hands of the laity. It's been found by experience that no
really fine work can be done except by those who are familiar
with divine things; because it's only those who see things all
round, who have, that is to say, a really comprehensive
intuition. Take history. Unless you have a really close grasp of
what Providence means--of not only the End, but the Means by
which God works; unless you can see right through things to their
Intention, how in the world can you interpret the past? Don't you
remember what Manners said about Realism? We don't want
misleading photographs of externals any more. We want Ideas. And
how can you correlate Ideas, unless you have a real grasp of the
Central Idea? It's nonsense."
"Go on with the other things."
"There's a lot more about education. There's the graduated
education we have now (entirely an ecclesiastical notion, by the
way). We don't try to teach everybody everything. We teach a
certain foundation to every one--the Catechism, of course, two
languages perfectly, the elements of physical science, and a
great deal of history. (You can't understand the Catechism
without history, and _vice-versa_); but after that we specialize.
Well, the world understands now----"
"That's enough, thank you. Go on with the other things."
Father Jervis laughed again.
"We're nearly home. Let's turn in here, and get into the gardens
for a bit. . . . Well, I think you'll find that the root of all
your difficulties is that you seem not to be able to get into
your head that the world is really and intelligently Christian.
There are the Religious Orders you spoke of. Well, aren't the
active Religious Orders the very finest form of association ever
invented? Aren't they exactly what Socialists have always been
crying for, with the blunders left out and the gaps filled in? As
soon as the world understood finally that the active Religious
Orders could beat all other forms of association at their own
game--that they could teach and work more cheaply and
effectively, and so on--well, the most foolish Political
Economist had to confess that the Religious Orders made for the
country's welfare. And as for the Contemplative Orders----"
Father Jervis' face grew grave and tender.
"Why, they're the princes of the world! They are models of the
Crucified. So long as there is Sin in the world, so long must
there be Penance. The instant Christianity was accepted, the
Cross stood up dominant once more. . . . And then . . . then
people understood. Why, they're the Holy Ones of the
universe--higher than angels; for they suffer. . . ."
There was a moment's silence.
"Yes?" said Monsignor softly.
"My dear Monsignor, just force upon your mind the fact that the
world is really and intelligently Christian. I think it'll all
be plain then. You seem to me, if I may say so, to be falling
into the old-fashioned way of looking at 'Clericalism,' as it
used to be called, as a kind of department of life, like Art or
Law. No wonder men resented its intrusion when they conceived of
it like that. Well, there is no 'Clericalism' now, and therefore
there is no anti-Clericalism. There's just religion--as a fact.
Do you see? ... Shall we sit down for a few minutes? Aren't the
Monsignor Masterman sat that night at his window, looking out at
the stars and the night and the blotted glimmering gardens
beneath; and it seemed to him as if the Dream deepened every day.
Things grew more, not less marvellous, with his appreciation of
the simplicity of it all.
From three to seven he had sat in one of the seats on the right
of the royal dais, reserved for prelates, almost immediately
opposite the double-pulpited platform, itself set in the midst of
the long outer side of the great gallery of Versailles, through
which access was to be had to the little old private rooms of
Marie Antoinette, and had listened spell-bound to two of the
greatest wits of France, respectively attacking and defending,
with extraordinary subtlety and fire, the claim of the Church to
Infallibility. The disputation had been conducted on scholastic
lines, all verbal etiquette being carefully observed; again and
again he had heard, first on one side a string of arguments
adduced against the doctrine, then on the other a torrent of
answers, with the old half-remembered words "Distinguo," "Nego,"
"Concedo"; and the reasoning on both sides had appeared to him
astonishingly brilliant. And all this before two sovereigns:
the one keen, vivacious, and appreciative; the other heavy,
patient, considerate--two sovereigns, treated, as the elaborate
etiquette of the whole affair showed plainly enough, as kings
indeed--men who stood for authority, and the grades and the
differentiation of functions, as emphatically as the old
democratic hand-shaking statesmen, dressed like their own
servants, stood for the other complementary principle of the
equality of men. For alongside of all this tremendous pomp there
was a very practical recognition of the "People"; since the whole
disputation was conducted in the presence of a crowd drawn, it
seemed, from almost every class, who pressed behind the barriers,
murmured, laughed gleefully, and now and again broke out into
low thunders of applause, as the Catholic champion drove logic
home, or turned aside the infidel shaft.
The very thesis amazed the man, for the absolute necessity of an
authoritative supra-national Church, with supernatural sanctions,
seemed assumed as an axiom of thought, not merely by these
Catholics, but by the entire world, Christian and un-Christian
alike. More than once the phrase "It is conceded by all men"
flashed out, and passed unrebuked, in support of this claim. The
only point of dispute between reasoning beings seemed to be not
as to whether or no the Church must be treated practically as
infallible, but whether dogmatically and actually she were so!
As he sat here now at his window, Father Jervis' words began to
come back with new force. Was it indeed true that the only reason
why he found these things strange was that he could not yet quite
bring home to his imagination the fact that the world now was
convincedly Christian as a whole? It began to appear so.
For somewhere in the back of his mind (why, he knew not) there
lurked a sort of only half-perceived assumption that the
Catholic religion was but one aspect of truth--one point of view
from which, with sufficient though not absolute truth, facts
could be discerned. He could not understand this; yet there it
was. And he understood, at any rate intellectually, that if he
could once realize that the dogmas of the Church were the dogmas
of the universe; and not only that, but that the world
convincedly realized it too;--why then, the fact that the
civilization of to-day was actually moulded upon it would no
longer bewilder him.
It was on the following morning that he spoke with the King.
The two priests had said Mass in their oratory, and an hour later
were walking in the park beneath the palace windows.
It was one more of that string of golden days, of which they had
already enjoyed so many, and the splendour of that amazing
landscape was complete.
They had passed below the enclosure known as the "King's Garden,"
and were going in the direction of the Trianon, which Monsignor
had expressed a desire to see, and had just emerged into the
immense central avenue which runs straight from the palace to the
lake. Above them rose the forest trees, enormous now, yet tamed
by Lenotre's marvellous art, resembling a regiment of giants
perfectly drilled; the grass was like carpets on all sides; the
sky blazed like a blue jewel overhead; the noise of singing birds
and falling water was in the air. But above all there towered on
their right, beyond the almost endless terraces, the splendid
palace of the kings of France, royal at last once more. And
there, as symbol of the Restoration, there hung round the
flagstaff as he had seen it yesterday the blue folds and the
lilies of the monarchy.
It was no good trying to frame words as to what he felt. He had
said all he could, and it was useless. Father Jervis seemed
unable to understand the fierce enthusiasm of a man who now
experienced all this, as it appeared, for the first time. He
There seemed not many people abroad this morning. The two had
presented an order, obtained through Monsignor Allet, at the gates
below the Orange Gardens, and had learned from the sentry that
until the afternoon this part of the park was closed to the public.
Here and there, however, in the distance a single figure made its
appearance, walking in the shade or hurrying on some errand.
The priests had just come out from the line of trees and had
set foot in the avenue itself, when, twenty yards farther up,
from the entrance to some other path parallel to their own, a
group came out, and an instant later they heard themselves
hailed and saw Monsignor Allet himself, in all his purple,
hurrying towards them.
"You are the very men," he cried, again stretching out his
hands in a welcoming French gesture. "His Majesty was speaking
of you not five minutes ago. He is here, in the garden. Shall I
present you now?"
Father Jervis glanced at his friend.
"His Majesty is very kind----" he began.
"Not a word more! If you will follow me and wait an instant at
the entrance, I will speak with His Majesty and bring you in."
"I have not my ferraiuola---" began Monsignor.
"The King will excuse travellers," smiled the Frenchman.
The entrance to the "King's Garden" on this side passes beneath an
arch of yew, and here the two waited.
Somewhere beyond the green walls they could hear talking, and now
and again a burst of laughter. Then the talking ceased, and they
heard a single voice.
"In what language----" began Monsignor Masterman nervously.
"Oh! English, no doubt. You can't talk French?"
Monsignor shook his head.
"Not a hundred words," he said.
Again came the quick footstep, and the French priest appeared,
still gay, but with a certain solemnity. "Come this way,
gentlemen," he said. "The King will see you." (He glanced at the
prelate.) "You won't forget to kneel, Monsignor."
To the English prelate the scene that he saw, on emerging at last
into the open space in the middle, protected by the ancient
yews--even though he should have been prepared for it by all that
he had already seen--simply once more dazed and stupefied him.
The centre of the space was occupied by a round pond, perhaps
thirty yards across, of absolutely still water, and in this
mirror, shaded by the masses of foliage overhead, was reflected a
picture that might have been taken straight from some painting
two hundred years old. For, on the semicircle of marble seats
that stood beyond the water, sat a company of figures dressed
once more in all the bravery of real colour and splendour, as
from days when men were not ashamed to use publicly and commonly
these glittering gifts of God.
Monsignor hardly noticed the rest (there were perhaps twelve or
fifteen all told, with half a dozen women amongst them); he
looked only, as he came round the pond, at the central figure
that advanced to meet him. Twice he had seen him yesterday--yet
those occasions had been public. But to see the King now, at ease
amongst his friends, yet still royally dressed in his brilliant
blue suit and feathered hat, with his tall cane--to see the whole
company, gay and brilliant, talking and laughing, taking their
pleasure in the air before breakfast--the whole thing somehow
brought home to him the reality of what appeared to him as a
change, more than had all the pomps and glories of the day
before. Splendour no longer seemed ceremonial, but natural.
Monsignor Allet was explaining something in rapid French in the
King's ear, and as the two came up, the face that listened smiled
suddenly with intelligence.
"I give you welcome," he said in excellent English. "Come,
gentlemen" (he turned to the others, who had risen to their feet
as he rose), "we must be getting homewards. Monsignor!" (and he
beckoned to the two English priests to walk with him.)
That walk seemed like a dream.
They went leisurely upwards towards the palace, through yew alley
after yew alley, French chattering sounding behind them as they
went; and the King, still in fluent English, though with an
accent that increased as he talked, questioned them courteously
as to England, spoke of the disputation of yesterday, discussed
frankly enough the situation in Germany, and listened with
attention to the remarks of Father Jervis; for Monsignor
Masterman was discreetly silent for the most part.
It was not until the great doors of the palace flew open at last,
and the rows of liveried men showed within, that the King dismissed
them. He turned on the steps and gave them his hand to kiss. Then
he raised them from their knees with a courteous gesture.
"And you go to Rome, you say?"
"Almost immediately, sire. We shall be there for SS. Peter and Paul."
"Present my homage at the feet of the Holy Father," smiled the
King. "You are fortunate indeed. I have not seen His Holiness for
three months. Good day--gentlemen."
The two passed again in silence down the terraces on their way
to the Trianon.
"It is amazing," burst out Monsignor suddenly. "And the people.
What of them? Is there no resentment?"
"Why should there be?" asked the other.
"But they are excluded from the palace and the park. It was not
so a hundred years ago."
"Do you think they are any the less happy?" asked Father Jervis.
"My dear Monsignor, surely you know human nature better than
that! They have lost the vulgarity of Versailles, and they have
regained its royalty. Don't you see that?"
"Well!"--Monsignor paused. "It's simply medievalism back again,
it seems to me."
"Exactly!" said the other. "You have hit it at last. It is
medievalism--that is to say, human nature with faith and
reverence, and without cant."
He paused again, and his eyes twinkled.
"You know honours and privileges are worth nothing if every one
has them. If we all wore crowns, the kings would go bareheaded."
He awoke suddenly, at some movement, and for an instant did not
remember where he was.
For nearly a week they had stayed on at Versailles; and each day
that had passed had done its share in making this fairyland seem
more like a reality. But that strange subconscious self of his,
for which even now there seemed no accounting, was still
obstinate; it still assured him that the world ought not to be
like this, that religion ought not to be so concrete and
effective--that he would awake soon and find himself in some
desolate state of affairs where Faith, hemmed in by enemies,
still fought for very life against irresistible odds. It was at
night and at morning that the mood came on him most forcibly;
when instinct, free from facts, and ranging clear of the will's
dominion, asserted itself most strongly, and as he awoke this
night it was on him again.
He looked round the dark little room with bewildered eyes; then
he fumbled with a button, and all was flooded with light.
He was lying in a little spring-bed, set within two padded sides,
like a berth in a steamship. And beside him was the closed bureau
which he perceived to be washing arrangements in disguise;
overhead protruded a broad shelf; on the wall, above a little
couch, hung silk curtains over a window; and, as they swayed
slightly with some movement he caught sight of glass beyond. On
the door, at the foot of his bed, hung his cassock, and the
purple cincture that lay across it recalled him to at least a
part of the facts. The cabin was upholstered and painted in clean
white, and an electric globe emerged from the ceiling.
He was next conscious of cold, and instinctively leaned forward to
draw the quilt farther over his knees. Then, with a flash, he
remembered, and, in spite of the cold, was out of bed in a moment,
kneeling on the couch and peering out through the curtains.
At first he could see nothing at all. There was but an
unfathomable gulf beyond the glass. He stood up on the couch, and
drawing the curtains behind his head to shut out the light, he
once more stared out. Then he began to see.
At first he could see nothing at all. There was but an unfathomable
gulf beyond the glass. He stood up on the couch, and drawing the
curtains behind his head to shut out the light, he once more stared
out. Then he began to see.
Immediately opposite him glimmered a huge white outline--in the
incalculable night it might be a hundred yards or a mile away. It
was of irregular outline, for the star-strewn sky showed in patches
and rifts above it. And this white mass curved away beneath, under
the ship in which he travelled, till it met, at a point which he
could but just discern, a blackness that rose to meet it.
Then, as his eyes grew accustomed to the dark, he began to see
that the huge whiteness was flitting past, steadily and
leisurely, from right to left; that it was streaked with shadows
or clefts; and that following it, as in a sliding procession,
came another, like it, yet (it seemed) more distant.
All this time, too, the silence was profound. There was but a
soft humming note somewhere in the air, and the faintest sense of
vibration in the metal-work on which his hands were pressed. Once
too he heard a footstep pass softly and rhythmically overhead, as
if some watcher moved up and down the length of the upper deck.
The man dropped the curtains and sat back on his heels, trying
to force into his imagination the facts that he now perceived
They had left St. Germains last night, after dining at
Versailles. They were now crossing the Alps. They would be in
Rome for Mass and breakfast. . . . They were traversing at this
moment, no doubt, only a thousand feet high, one of those passes
up which (he thought he remembered from history) the old
railway-trains had been accustomed to climb, yard by yard and
spiral by spiral, a hundred years before . . .
In a minute or two he leaned forward and stared again, once more
closing the curtains behind his head.
The sky seemed a little brighter, he thought, than when he had
looked just now. Perhaps the moon was hiding somewhere. And
certainly the sky was more in evidence. Far away to the left
behind, passing even as he looked, moved those gigantic horns
of white, as if the ship stood still and the earth turned
beneath; and below now, sloping to the right, lay long lines of
darkness, jutting here and there with a sudden crag against the
blaze of stars. It was marvellous, he thought, how still all
lay; there was a steady hiss, now heard for the first time, as
the air tore past the glassy sides of the bird-shaped ship, as
thin as the cry of a bat.
He shifted on his knees a little, and staring forwards, saw far
ahead and at what seemed an incalculable distance something that
baffled him entirely, for it changed its aspect every instant
that he watched.
At first it was no more than a patch of luminosity; and he thought
it to be, perhaps, a lighted town. But the character of it was
changed as he formulated his thought and three brilliant spots
like blue stars broke out on a sudden, and these three stars
shifted their positions. He kept his eyes on these, marvelling;
and, with something very like fear, saw that they were approaching
upwards and onwards with the swiftness of thought.
Up and on they came. He shrank back a little, instinctively; and
then, as he leaned forward once more, determined to understand,
shrank back with a sharp indrawing of breath, as there whirled
past, it appeared only a few yards away, a flare of brilliant
blue lines, in the midst of which passed a phantom-like body in a
mist and accompanied by a musical sound (it seemed) of
extraordinary clarity and beauty, that rose from a deep
organ-note to the shrill of a flute, and down again Into a bass
and a silence. . . .
He smiled to himself as he climbed back into bed a minute or two
later, when he had reconstructed the phenomena and interpreted
them. It was but another volor, bound northwards, and it had
probably passed at least half a mile away.
Well, he must sleep again if he could. They would be in
Rome by morning.
* * * * *
They had delayed their departure from Versailles to the last
possible moment, since France was, after all, under the
circumstances, one of the best places in the world for Monsignor
to pick up again the threads of life. For one thing, it was near
to England--English was spoken there amongst the educated almost
as frequently as French; yet it was not England, and Monsignor's
plight would not cause him any great inconvenience. Further,
France was at present the theatre of the world's interest, since
the Emperor was there, and on the Emperor's future depended
largely the destinies of Europe: his conversion, it was thought,
might be the final death-blow to Socialism in his dominions.
Monsignor had employed his time well. Not only had he learned
accurately the general state of the world, but morning by morning
he had familiarized himself with his own work, and felt, by now,
very nearly competent to finish his lessons in England. Cardinal
Bellairs communicated with him almost every day, and professed
himself delighted with the progress made. Finally he had talked
Latin continually with Father Jervis in preparation for Rome, and
would have passed muster, at least, in general conversation.
* * * * *
The two motored into the city from the volor-station outside, and
everywhere as they went through the streets and crossed the Tiber
on their way to the Leonine City, where they were to lodge, were
evidences of the feast.
For the whole route from Vatican to Lateran, which they crossed
more than once, was one continual triumphal way. Masts had been
erected, swathed in the Papal colours and crowned with garlands;
barriers ran from mast to mast, behind which already the crowds
were beginning to gather, though it was hardly past six o'clock
in the morning; and from every window hung carpets, banners, and
tapestries. The motor was stopped at least half a dozen times;
but the prelate's insignia passed them through quickly; and it
was just half-past six as they drew up before an old palace
situated on the right in the road leading from the Tiber to the
Vatican, and scarcely a quarter of a mile away from St. Peter's.
Monsignor glanced up at the carved and painted arms above the
doorway and smiled.
"I did not know you were bringing me here," he said.
"You know it?"
"Why, it's the old palace where the kings of England
lodged, isn't it?"
Father Jervis smiled.
"Your memory's improving," he said.
Then a magnificent servant came out, bowed profoundly, and opened
the door of the car.
"By the way," said Father Jervis as they went in, "I'd better go and
enquire the details at the Vatican. You might give me your card.
I'll go at once, and then come back and join you at breakfast."
It was a pleasant little suite of rooms, not unlike in
arrangements to those of Versailles. The windows looked out on
the central court, where a fountain played, and the rooms
themselves were furnished in the usual Roman fashion--painted
ceilings, stone floors, and a few damask hangings.
Monsignor turned to the servant who was superintending the two
Englishmen they had brought.
"I've not been in Rome for some time," he said in Latin. "Tell me
what this house is now?"
"Monsignor, it is the English palace. Monsignor is in the
apartment of His Eminence Cardinal Bellairs."
"The King himself stays here?"
"It is His Majesty's palace," said the man. "The Prince George
arrived two days ago. His Highness is in the apartment below."
Monsignor smiled. He understood now Father Jervis' evasions as to
where they were to stay in Rome. Plainly it was determined that
he should have a front seat at all ceremonies.
Ten minutes later, as he came out of his bedroom, Father Jervis
himself came in.
"You have your choice, Monsignor," he said. "As a Domestic
Prelate you have the right to walk in the procession (here is the
permit), or as occupying rooms here we can, if you prefer, see
the procession from the front windows."
"Tell me what the programme is."
"At nine the procession leaves St. Peter's to go to the
Lateran--at least they call it nine. There the Holy Father sings
Mass, as bishop in his own cathedral. On the return of the
procession, I suppose about midday, the Holy Father visits the
tomb of St. Peter. Then this afternoon he is present at Vespers
in St. Peter's; and afterwards gives the blessing _Urbi et Orbi_
from the window as usual."
"What would you advise?"
"Well, I should advise your remaining here till mid-day.
There's no use in overdoing it. We can see everything
admirably. Then we can go into St. Peter's for the visit to the
tomb, and come back here to dejeuner. After that we can arrange
about the rest of the day."
"Very good. Then let us have something to eat at once."
"Who's Prince George of England?" demanded Monsignor presently as
they sat over coffee.
Father Jervis laughed.
"You've found that out, have you? Yes, he's here, of course.
Well, he's the second son: he's only a boy. He's over here to
represent the King. Every sovereign sends a prince of the
blood-royal for to-day. Even the German Emperor."
"Do you mean from Europe?"
"I mean from the whole world. You see the East is scarcely three
days away by the fast volors; so even the Chinese----"
"Do you mean that China and Japan send representatives?"
"Certainly. Japan is Christian of course, anyhow; and China has
at least one or two Christian princes of the blood."
"By the way, what about Russia?"
"Well, what about it?"
"Is it Catholic?"
"My dear Monsignor, it's been Catholic for thirty years."
"Oh dear me! You must lend me some more histories. . . . What
made it Catholic?"
"Common sense, I suppose. How they could have stood out for so
long is the only thing that puzzles me."
"But the Petrine claims----"
"Why, the Petrine claims were the very point. Facts were too
strong. If you look back over history you can't help seeing that
the only Christian body that was ever able to resist Erastianism
on the one side and endless division on the other has been the
Church built on Peter. They began to see it nearly a hundred
years ago in Russia and Greece. Then the Emperor of Russia was
secretly reconciled in 1930; and ten or twelve years later his
people followed him."
"Then there's no more dispute? What about the _Filioque_ clause?"
"Why, when Peter is accepted, the rest follows."
"Then you may say that the entire civilized world is represented
in Rome to-day?"
"Certainly. You'll see the princes in the procession."
An hour later they took their places at the central window of the
long sala on the third floor, looking out immediately upon the
narrow street, which, opposite, fell back into a tiny square, and
further up to the right, upon the enormous piazza of St. Peter's
and the basilica itself behind.
It was a real Roman day--not yet at its full heat, but intensely
clear and bright; and Monsignor congratulated himself on having
elected to remain as a spectator. The return journey from the
Lateran about noon would be something of an ordeal.
The street and the piazza presented an astonishingly brilliant
appearance. Beneath, the roadway was now one sheet of
greenery--box, myrtle, and bay. The houses opposite, as well as
within the little square, of which every window was packed with
heads, were almost completely hidden under the tapestries, the
carpets, the banners. Behind the barriers on either side of the
garlanded masts was one mass of heads resembling a cobbled
pavement. So much for sight. For sound, the air was filled with
one steady low roar of voices; for down to where the street opened
far away to the left into the space above the river, the same
vista presented itself. The Campagna since twenty-four hours
before had been emptying every living inhabitant into Rome; and
there was not a town in Italy, and scarcely in Europe, whence
special volors and trains had not carried the fervent to the Feast
of the Apostles in Holy Rome. And, for scent, the air was sweet
and fragrant with the aromatic herbs of the roadway, already
bruised a little by the feet of the galloping horses of those that
went up and down to guard the route or to carry messages.
It was a little hard to make out the arrangements of the vast
circular piazza in front of St. Peter's. The front of the
basilica was hung, in usual Roman fashion, with gigantic garlands
and red cloth; and the carpet of greenery lined with troops ran
straight up the centre of the space, rippled over the steps, and
ceased only beneath the towering portico of the church. But on
either side of this, with spaces between, stood enormous groups
of men and horses, marshalled, no doubt, in order to take their
places at the proper moment in the procession.
At the right, immovable and tremendous, rose up the great palace
of the Vatican itself, unadorned except where a glint of some
colour showed itself at the Bronze Doors; and above all, like a
benediction in stone, against the vivid blue of the sky, hung the
dome of the basilica.
Monsignor Masterman made a long, keen survey of all this. Then he
leaned back and sighed.
"What was the first year that the Pope came out of the
Vatican like this?"
"The year after the conquest of United Italy. It was Austria that----"
"I know all that. And you mean he never came out so long as the
old state of affairs continued?"
"How could he? Don't you see that the one thing, humanly
speaking, absolutely necessary if the world was to have
confidence in the Church, was that the Pope should be really
supra-national? Of course, for many years he had to be an
Italian--that's obvious, since he was at the mercy of Italy, and
the Romans would never have stood a foreigner; and that made it
all the more essential that he should be cut clean off, in
everything else, from Italian sympathies. He had to be two
things simultaneously, so to speak--emphatically an Italian for
the sake of Italy and indeed his own existence in Rome; and
emphatically not an Italian for the sake of the rest of
Christendom. And can you suggest any other way of accomplishing
this paradox? I can't."
Monsignor sighed again and began to meditate.
For somewhere at the back of his mind there ran an undercurrent
of thought, or as of some one talking, to the effect that the
Pope's old method of remaining as a prisoner in the Vatican was a
foolish and unhumble pose. (He supposed he must have read it all
somewhere in history.) Surely even Catholics used to talk like
that! They used to say how much more spiritual and Christian it
would have been, had the Vicar of Christ acquiesced and been
content to live as a simple Italian subject, neither claiming nor
desiring a position such as Peter had never enjoyed. Why all this
fuss, it used to be asked, about a Temporal Power on behalf of a
"Kingdom that was not of this world"?
Yet, somehow, now as he looked back on it all, with his friend's
comment in his mind, he began to see, not how clever or
diplomatic had been the old attitude, but how absolutely and
obviously essential. It was possible indeed for Peter to be a
subject of Nero in things pertaining to Caesar; but how could
that be possible to Peter's successor when the Kingdom of Christ
which he ruled on earth had become a Supra-national Society to
which the nations of the earth looked for guidance?
The phrase he had just heard ran in his mind.
"An Italian for the sake of Italy and his own existence in Rome.
Not an Italian for the sake of the rest of Christendom."
It seemed simple, somehow, just like that.
He was roused by a touch on his knee, and simultaneously was
aware of a new sound from the piazza.
"Look," said the old priest sharply. "They're beginning to move."
A curious seething movement had broken out in the piazza,
resembling the stir of a troubled ant-hill, on either side of the
broad green way down which the Pope would come; and already into
the head of the street up which the priests looked figures were
emerging. Simultaneously a crash of brazen music had filled the
air. A movement of attention, exactly like the lift of a swell
along the foot of a cliff, passed down the crowded street to the
left and lost itself round the corner towards S. Angelo.
Then they began to come, swinging over from the piazza to the
street as if from a pool into a narrow channel. Troops came
first--company after company--each with a band leading. First
the Austrian guard in white and gold on white chargers--passing
from the flash and dazzle their uniforms threw back in the
sunlight into the glow of the shadowed street. And then, by the
time that the Austrians were passing below the window, came
troop after troop down from the piazza in all the uniforms of
the civilized world.
At first Father Jervis murmured a name or two; he even laid his
hand upon his friend's arm as the Life-guards of England came
clashing by with their imperturbable faces above their silver
splendour; but presently the amazing spectacle forming in the
piazza, and, above all, on the steps of St. Peter's, silenced
them both. Monsignor Masterman gave scarcely a glance even to the
monstrous figures of the Chinese imperial guard, who went by
presently in black armour and vizarded helmets, like old Oriental
gods. For in the piazza itself the procession of princes was
forming; and the steps of the basilica already began to burn with
purple and scarlet where the Cardinals and the Papal Court were
making ready for the coming of the Lord of them all.
And then, at last, he came. . . .
Monsignor Masterman had begun to stare, almost with unintelligent
eyes, at the thronged street, beneath, watching the great
carriages come past, each surmounted by a crown with its proper
supporters, each surrounded by a small guard drawn from the
troops that had ridden by just now. He identified a few here and
there; and his heart gave a strange leap as the Imperial Crown of
England came in sight, held up by the Lion and the Unicorn, and
beneath it, within the gilded coach, the face of a boy capped and
robed in scarlet. And then he looked up again, startled by a
silence broken only by the footsteps of the horses and the wheels
over the matted roadway, and the murmur of talking.
The piazza was now one sea of white and purple, with emblems, gold
and silver and jewelled, shining here and there; the green strip
was gone; for the Papal procession was begun; and then, on the
instant, as he looked, there was a new group standing beneath the
giant columns of the portico, and the cry of the silver trumpets
told to the thousands that waited that the Vicar of Christ had
come out into this city that was again the City of God.
Very slowly he came down the steps, a tiny white and gemmed
figure, yet perfectly visible on the high throne on which he was
borne, his hand swaying as he came, and the huge fans moving
behind him like protecting deities. Down and down he came, while
the trumpets cried, and the waves of colour followed him, and
then vanished for a time among the crowd beneath, as he reached
the level ground.
Monsignor Masterman leaned back and closed his eyes. . . .
He was disturbed by another touch on his arm; and, looking up,
perceived that his friend was attracting his attention almost
mechanically, and without looking at him.
"Look," murmured Father Jervis--"it's the white jennet."
Beneath, the street was now as wholly ecclesiastical as it had
been military just before, except that the Papal zouaves marched
in single file on either side of the procession. But within there
was just one packed army, going eight abreast, of seminarians and
clerics. These were just passing as the priest looked again, and
close on their heels came the Court and the Cardinals; the latter
an indescribable glory of scarlet, riding four abreast in broad
hats and ample cloaks. But he gave scarcely more than a glance at
these; for, full in sight for at least half a minute, advancing
straight towards him down the roaring street, moved a canopy held
by figures he could not clearly make out, and beneath it,
detached and perfectly visible, on a white horse, a white figure,
its shoulders just draped in scarlet and its head shadowed by a
great scarlet hat, came slowly towards him.
And so the day went by like a dream; and the man who still seemed
to himself as one risen from the dead into a new and wholly
bewildering world, watched and gathered impressions and
assimilated them. Once or twice during the day he found himself
at meals with Father Jervis; he asked questions now and then and
scarcely heard the answers; he talked with ecclesiastics a little
who came and went; but, for the most part almost unknown to
himself, he worked interiorly, busy as a bee, building up, not so
much facts as realizations, into the new and strange
world-edifice that was gradually forming about him. He was
present at the visit of the Pope to the tomb of the Apostle, and
watched from a tribune, even then so concentrated on observation
that he was hardly conscious of connected thought, as the vast
doors rolled back and a vision as of such a celestial troop as
was dreamed of by the old Italian painters came up out of the
vivid sunlight into the cool darkness of the basilica, as the
roofs gave back the roaring of the fervent thousands and the
clear cry of the silver trumpets; watched as the army of
ecclesiastics deployed this way and that, and the Father of
Princes and Kings came on between his royal children to the gates
of the Confession ringed by the golden lamps, and went down to
kneel by the body of the first Fisherman-King.
And again at Vespers, from the same tribune, he heard the peal of
the new great organs in the dome, and the psalm-melodies rocking
from side to side between the massed choirs; he glanced now and
again at the royal tribune opposite, where, each beneath a
canopy, the rulers of the earth sat together to do honour to the
Lord and His Anointed. And, above all, he watched, still with
that steady set face that made Father Jervis look at him once or
twice, the central figure of all, now on his throne, with his
assistants beside him, now passing up to the altar to incense it,
and finally passing out again on the _sedia gestatoria_ to the
palace where at last he ruled indeed.
Last of all, as the sun began to sink behind the monstrous dome,
and Rome stood out like an Oriental city of dreams, and the
purple lights came out on the low-lying hills, and the
illuminations glowed from every window, and blazed beneath the
feet and round the heads of the gigantic apostolic figures
gathered round their Lord--there, watching again from his window,
he saw, in a sudden hush over the heads of the countless crowds
the tiny white figure standing above the tapestries with the
Papal triple cross glinting beside him like a thread, and heard
the thin voice, gnat-like and clear, declare the "help of the
Lord who," as the thunder of the square answered him, "hath made
heaven and earth," and then invoke upon the city and the world,
before the tremendous _Amen_, the blessing of God Almighty,
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
It was a few minutes after they had finished their almost silent
meal that evening, that Monsignor suddenly leaned forward from his
chair in the great cool loggia and passed his hands over his eyes
like a sleepy man. From the streets outside still came the murmur
of innumerable footsteps and voices and snatches of music.
"Tired?" asked the other gently. (He had not spoken for some
minutes, and remembering the long silence, had wondered if, after
all, it had been wise to bring a man with such an experience
behind him to such a rush and excitement as that through which
they had passed to-day.)
Monsignor said nothing for an instant. He looked round the room,
opened and closed his lips, and then, leaning back again,
suddenly smiled. Then he took up the pipe he had laid aside just
now and blew through it.
"No," he said. "Exactly the opposite. I feel awake at last."
"It seems to have got into me at last. All this . . . all this
very odd world. I have begun to see."
Monsignor began to fill his pipe slowly.
"Well, Versailles, even, didn't quite do it," he said. "It
seemed to me a kind of game--certainly a very pleasant one;
but----" (He broke off.) "But what we've seen to-day seems
somehow the real thing."
"I don't quite understand."
"Well, I can see for myself now that all that you've told me is
real--that the world's really Christian, and so on. It was those
Chinese guards, I think, which as much as anything----"
"Chinese? . . . I don't remember them."
The prelate smiled again.
"Well, I scarcely noticed them at the time, either. But I've been
thinking about them. And then all the rest of it . . . and the
Pope. . . . By the way, I couldn't make out his face very well.
Is that a picture of him?"
He stood up suddenly and stepped across to where the portrait
hung. There was nothing very startling about the picture. It
showed just a very ordinary face with straight closed lips, of a
man seated in an embossed chair, with the familiar white cap,
cassock, and embroidered stole with spade-ends.
"He looks quite ordinary," mused Monsignor aloud. "It's . . .
it's like the face of a business man."
"Oh yes, he's ordinary. He's an extremely good man and quite
intelligent. He's never had any very great crisis to face, you know.
They say he's a good financier. . . . You look disappointed."
"I hadn't expected him to look like that," said the prelate, musing.
"Well, he seems to have an extraordinary position in the world. I
should have expected more of a----"
"More of a great man? Monsignor, don't you think that the Average
Man makes the best ruler?"
"But that's rank Democracy!"
"Not at all. Democracy doesn't give the Average Man any real
power at all. It swamps him among his fellows--that is to say, it
kills his individuality; and his individuality is the one thing
he has which is worth anything."
Monsignor sat down again, sighing.
"Well, I think it's got into me at last," he repeated. "I mean, I
think I really realize what the world's like now. But I want to
see a great deal more, you know."
"What sort of things?"
"Well, I don't quite know. . . . You might call it the waterline
between Faith and Science. I see the Faith side. I understand
that the life of the world moves on Catholicism now; but I don't
quite realize yet how all that joins on to Science. In my day----"
(he broke off) "I mean I had a kind of idea that there was a gap
between Faith and Science--if not actual contradictions. How do
they join on to one another? What's the average scientific
attitude towards religion? Do people on both sides just say that
each must pursue its own line, even if they never meet?"
Father Jervis looked puzzled.
"I don't quite understand. There's no conflict between Faith and
Science. A large proportion of the scientists are
"But what's the meeting-point? That's what I don't see."
The priest shook his head, smiling.
"I simply don't know what you mean, Monsignor. Give me an example."
"Well . . . er . . . what about Faith-healing? The dispute used
to be, I think, as to the explanation of certain cures. (Mr.
Manners spoke of it, you know.) Psychologists used to say that
the cures happened by suggestion; and Catholics used to say that
they were supernatural. How have they become reconciled?"
Father Jervis considered a moment.
"I don't think I've ever thought of it like that," he said. "I
think I should say--" (he hesitated) "I think I should say that
everybody believes now that the power of God does everything;
and that in some cases He works through suggestion, and in some
through supernatural forces about which we don't know very
much. But I don't think it matters much (does it?), if you
believe in God."
"That doesn't explain what I mean."
The door opened abruptly and a servant came in. He bowed.
"The Bishop of Sebaste enquires whether you are at home, Monsignor?"
Monsignor glanced at Father Jervis.
"He's come out as chaplain to Prince George," explained the
priest in rapid Latin. "We'd better see him."
"Very good. . . . Yes," said Monsignor.
He turned to the priest again.
"Hadn't you better tell him about me?"
"You don't mind?"
"Of course not."
Father Jervis got up and slipped quickly out of the room.
"I'm delighted to see you again, Monsignor," began the Bishop,
coming in, followed by Father Jervis three minutes later.
Monsignor straightened himself after the kissing of the ring.
"You're very kind, my lord," he said.
As the Bishop sat down, he examined him carefully, noticing that
there was nothing noticeable about him. He seemed a
characteristic prelate--large, genial, ruddy and smiling, with
bright eyes and well-cut mouth. He was in his purple and
ferraiuola, and carried himself briskly and cheerfully.
"I came to see if you were going to the reception to-night. If
so, we might go together. But it's rather late!"
"We haven't heard about that."
"Oh! it's purely informal. The Holy Father probably won't appear
himself, except perhaps for a moment."
"Oh! At the Vatican?"
"Yes. There will be an enormous crowd, of course. . . . The Prince
has gone to bed, poor little chap! He's done up altogether; and I
thought of slipping over for a half-hour or so."
Monsignor glanced at his friend.
"I think it would be an excellent thing," observed the old priest.
"Well, there's a carriage waiting," said the Bishop, rising.
"I think we'd better go, if we're going. We shall be back
within the hour."
It was within ten minutes of the time that the three had arranged
to meet again at the foot of the Scala Regia that Monsignor
suddenly realized that he had lost himself.
He had wandered for half an hour, after making his salutations to
the Master of the Apostolic Palace, who, in the Pope's absence,
was receiving the visitors; and, at first with Father Jervis and
the Bishop, who had pointed out to him the notabilities, and
presently drifting from them in the crowds, by himself, had gone
up and down and in and out through endless corridors, courts,
loggie, and great reception-rooms of the enormous place, watching
the amazing crowds, and exchanging bows and nods with persons who
bowed and nodded to him.
The whole system of the thing seemed new to him. He had imagined
(he scarcely knew why) the Vatican to be a place of silence and
solemn dignity and darkness, with a few sentries here and there,
a few prelates, a cardinal or two--with occasionally a group of
very particular visitors, or, on still rarer occasions, a troop
of pilgrims being escorted to some sight or some audience.
Certainly it was not at all like this to-night.
First, the whole place was illuminated in nearly every window.
Huge electric lights blazed behind screens in all the courts;
bands of music were stationed at discreet intervals one from
another; and through every section that he went, through
corridors, reception-rooms, up and down stairways, seething in
every court, streaming through every passage and thoroughfare,
moved a multitude of persons--largely ecclesiastics, but also
very largely otherwise (though there were no ladies
present)--talking, questioning, laughing, wholly, it seemed, at
their ease, and appearing to find nothing unusual in the entire
affair. Here and there in some of the great rooms small courts
seemed to be in process--a company of perhaps thirty or forty
would be standing round two or three notabilities who sat. There
was usually a cardinal here, sometimes two or three; and on three
or four occasions he saw what he imagined must be royalty of some
kind, seated with a cardinal, while the rest stood.
It was to him a very extraordinary spectacle, in spite of his
further initiation that day into this new world, so utterly
unfamiliar to him; and it seemed once more to drive home to his
consciousness this strange state of affairs of which his friend
had tried to persuade him, but which he yet found difficult
wholly to take in. Certainly the world and the Church seemed on
very cordial terms. . . .
But now he had lost himself altogether. He had wandered up a long
corridor, thinking that it would lead him back to the Court of St.
Damasus, whence he knew his way well enough; and he now paused,
hesitating. For it seemed to him that every step he was taking led
him farther from the lights and the din of voices and music.
He could see behind him, framed in a huge open doorway, as on an
illuminated disc, a kaleidoscope of figures moving; and in front,
as he stood, the corridor, although here the lights burned as
brilliantly as elsewhere, seemed to lead away into comparative
darkness. Yet he felt certain of his direction.
Then, as he stood, a door opened somewhere in front, and he thought
he heard voices talking again. It reassured him, and he went on.
It was not until he found himself in a small lobby (comparatively
small that is, for it was not less than forty feet square, and
the painted coffered ceiling was twenty feet above his head),
that he stopped again, completely bewildered. There was no longer
any sound to guide him, for he had closed a couple of
passage-doors behind him as he came; and he noticed that
practically complete silence was on all sides; a single
illuminated half-globe shone gently from the ceiling overhead.
He stood some time considering and listening to the silence, till
he became aware that it was not silence. There was a very faint
murmur of a voice behind one of the four doors that opened on
this lobby; and beside the door there rested (he now noticed for
the first time) the halberd of a Swiss, as if the soldier had
just been called within. This decided him; he went to the door,
laid his hand upon the handle, and immediately the murmur ceased.
He pushed down the handle and opened the door.
For a moment as he stared within he could not understand: he had
expected a passage--a guard-room--at least something secular. Yet
it was some kind of a chapel or sacristy into which he was
looking: he observed the outline of an altar with its crucifix;
and two figures.
Then one of the figures--in the habit of a Franciscan,
barefooted, with a purple stole across its shoulders--had sprung
towards him, and half pushed, half waved him backwards again.
"What are you doing here? How dare you----I beg pardon,
"I beg pardon, father; I had lost my way. . . . I am a stranger."
"Back--back that way, Monsignor," stammered the friar. "The guard
should have told you."
The truth was dawning on the prelate little by little, helped by
the flash of the other kneeling white figure he had seen within.
"Yes," stammered the friar again. "The Holy Father. Back that
way, Monsignor. Yes, yes--that door straight opposite."
It was over; the two doors had closed almost simultaneously, behind
the friar as he had gone back to his duty, and behind the priest
who now stood again at the end of the long corridor down which he
had come. He stood here now, strangely moved and affected.
He had seen nothing remarkable in itself--the Pope at confession.
And yet in some manner, beyond the startling fact that he had
groped his way, all unknowing, to the Pope's private apartments,
and at such a moment, the dramatic contrast between the glare and
noise of the reception outside--itself the climax of a series of
brilliant external splendours--and the silent half-lighted chapel
where the Lord of All kneeled to confess his sins, caused a
surprising disturbance in his soul.
Up to now he had been introduced step by step into a new set of
experiences, Christian indeed, yet amazingly worldly in their
aspect; he had begun to learn that religion could transform the
outer world, and affect and use for its own purposes all the
pomps and glories of outward existence; he had begun to realize
that there was nothing alien to God--no line of division between
the Creator and the creature; and now, in one instant, he had
been brought face to face again with inner realities, and had
seen, as it were, a glimpse of the secret core of all the
splendour. The Pope attended by princes--the Pope on his knees
before a barefooted friar. These were the two magnetic points
between which blazed Religion.
He stood there, trembling a little, trying to steady his bewildered
brain--even now, in spite of his years, not unlike the brain of a
child. He passed his tongue over his suddenly dry lips. Then he
began to move down the passage again, to find his friends.
"What I can't yet quite understand," said Monsignor, "is that
point I mentioned the other day about Faith and Science. I don't
see where one ends and the other begins. It seems to me that the
controversy must be unending. The materialist says that since
Nature does all things, even the most amazing things must be done
by her--that we shall be able to explain them all some day, when
Science has got a little farther. And the theologian says that
some things are so evidently out of the reach of Nature that they
must be done by a supernatural power. Well, where's the point of
Father Jervis was silent for a while.
* * * * *
The two were sitting on the upper deck of an air-ship towards
evening, travelling straight towards the setting sun.
He had grown almost accustomed to such views by now; and yet the
sight that had been unrolling itself gradually during the last
half-hour had held him fascinated for minute after minute. They
had taken ship in Rome after a day or two more of sight-seeing,
and had moved up the peninsula by stages, changing boats soon
after crossing the frontier, for one of the high-flying, more
leisurely and more luxurious vessels on which the more wealthy
classes travelled. They were due in Lourdes that evening; and,
ever since the higher peaks of the Pyrenees had come into sight,
had moved over a vision of bewildering beauty. To their left rose
the mountains, forming, it seemed to them at the height at which
they travelled, an enormous jagged and gigantic pile, hard-lined
as steel, yet irradiated with long rays, patches, and pools of
golden sunset-light alternated by amazing depths of the shadow
whose tones ran from peacock to indigo. Then from the feet of the
tumbled pile there ran out what appeared a loosely flung carpet
vivid and yet a soft green, patched here and there with white
towns, embroideries of woodland, lines of silver water. Yet this
too was changing as they watched the shadows grow longer with
almost visible movement. New and strange colours, varying about a
fixed note of blue according to the nature of that with which the