Part 4 out of 6
mighty machine; and he must revolve in his place motionlessly and
unresistingly in whatever task was set before him. . . .
Once only, as he stared out at the great prosperous view, did his
heart sicken and fail him. He dropped his face upon his hands,
and cried to the only Christ whom he knew in silence. . . .
It was not until the afternoon of the third day, as the trial of
Dom Adrian Bennett drew to its close, that the man who had lost
his memory could no longer resist the horrible fascination of the
affair, and presented himself at the door of the court-room. He
had learned that morning that the end of the trial was in sight.
It was outside a block of buildings somewhere to the north of St.
Paul's Cathedral that the car set him down. He learned at the
porter's lodge the number of the court, and then passed in,
following his directions, through a quadrangle that was all
alight with scarlet creepers, where three or four ecclesiastics
saluted him, up a staircase or two, and found himself at last at
a tall door bearing the number he wanted. As he hesitated to
knock, the door opened, and a janitor came out.
"Can I go in?" asked the priest. "I am from Archbishop's House."
"I can take you into the gallery at the back, Monsignor," said
the man. "The body of the court is full."
"That will do."
They went round a corner together and came to a door up three or
four stairs. The janitor unlocked this and threw it back. Farther
steps rose within the doorway, and Monsignor as he set foot on
the first had a vivid impression that the court he was
approaching was crowded with people. There was no sound at first,
but an atmosphere of intense and expectant force.
It was a little curtained gallery in which the priest found
himself, not unlike a box at a theatre, looking out upon the
court from the corner immediately adjacent to the wall against
which the raised seats of the judges were placed. He looked round
the court, himself sitting a little back in a kind of shame,
first identifying the actors in this dreadful drama. He was glad
that the gallery had no other occupant than himself.
First there were the judges--three men sitting beneath a
canopied roof, beneath which, over their heads, hung a large
black and white crucifix. He knew them, all three. There was the
Dominican in the centre--one of that Order which has had charge
of heresy-courts since the beginning--a large-faced, kindly
featured, rosy man, with a crown of white hair, leaning back now
with closed eyes, listening, and obviously alert; on his right,
farther from the spectator, sat the Canon-Theologian of
Westminster, a small, brown-faced man with black eyes, looking
considerably younger than his years; and on this side the third
judge, pale and bald and colourless--a priest who held the
degree of Doctor in Physical Science as well as in Theology--he
at this instant was drumming gently with a large white hand on
the edge of his desk.
Beneath the judges' dais was the well of the court, very much,
somehow, as Monsignor had expected (for this was his first
experience in a Church court), with the clerks' table
immediately beneath the desks, and half a dozen ecclesiastics
ranged at it. Some strange-looking instruments stood within
reach of the presiding clerk, but he recognized these as the
mechanical recorders, of which he had had some experience
himself. They were of the nature of phonographs, and by an
exceedingly ingenious and yet very simple system could be made
to repeat aloud any part of the speeches or answers that had
been uttered in the course of the trial. At either end of the
clerks' table rose up a structure like a witness-box, slightly
below the level of the judges' desks. Opposite the desks was the
lightly railed dock for the prisoner. The rest of the court was
seated for the public, and as the spectator saw, was completely
filled, chiefly with ecclesiastics. Even the gangways were
thronged with standing figures. And over all hung that air of
intense expectancy and attention.
He glanced once more round the court, once more at the judges.
Then he allowed himself to look full at the prisoner, whom he had
not seen since his departure from Lourdes.
Dom Adrian was just as he remembered him, perhaps a shade paler
from the fierce attention of the last three days, but he had the
same serene, confident air; his eyes were bright and luminous,
and his voice (for he was speaking at this moment) perfectly
natural and controlled.
It was hard at first to pick up the thread of what he was saying.
He had a sheet or two of paper before him, to which he referred
as he spoke, and he seemed to be summing up, in a very allusive
manner, some earlier speeches of his. Technical terms made their
appearance from time to time, and decrees were quoted by their
initial Latin words--decrees which conveyed nothing to the
listener in the gallery. It was difficult too, at this distance,
to understand the very swift Latin which he spoke in a
conversational voice that was almost casual. His whole air was of
one who is interested, but not overwhelmingly concerned, in the
subject under debate.
He ended at last, and bowed.
Obviously they were not at a very critical part of the trial,
thought Monsignor. He felt extraordinarily reassured. He had
expected more of a scene.
The Dominican opened his eyes and took up a pen. He glanced at
his companions, but they made no sign or movement.
"You have made it perfectly clear," he said. "Nothing could be
clearer. I see" (he turned slightly to right and left, and his
fellow-judges nodded gently in acquiescence)--"I see no reason to
modify what I said just now, and the judgment of the court must
stand. Nothing can be clearer to my mind--and I must say that my
assessors wholly concur, as you heard just now--nothing can be
clearer than that you have contradicted in the most express terms
the decrees in question, and that you have refused to modify or
to withdraw any of the theses under dispute. Further, you have
refused to avail yourself of any of the releases which are
perfectly open to you by law. You declined all those openings
which I indicated to you, and you appear determined to push the
matter to extremes. I must tell you then plainly that I see
nothing for it but the forwarding of our opinions to Rome, and I
cannot hold out to you the smallest prospect that you will meet
with a different judgment from the highest court."
He paused a moment.
There was a profound silence in the court. As Monsignor Masterman
glanced round, unable to understand what it was that caused this
sense of tremendous tension, he noticed a head or two in that
array of faces drop suddenly as if in overwhelming emotion. He
looked at the prisoner; but there was no movement there. The
young monk had put his papers neatly together, and was standing,
upright and motionless, with his hands clasped upon them. The
Dominican's voice went on abruptly:
"Have you anything further to say before the court dissolves?"
"I should like to express my sense of the extreme fairness and
considerateness of my judges," said the monk, "and to say again,
as at the beginning, that I commit my cause unreservedly into
the hands of God."
The three judges rose together; a door opened behind and they
disappeared. Instantly a buzz of tongues began and the sound of
shifting feet. As Monsignor glanced back again at the dock,
amazed at the sudden change of scene, he saw the monk's head
disappearing down the staircase that led below from the dock. He
still did not understand what had happened. He still thought that
it was some minor stage of the process that was finished,
probably on some technical point.
He still sat there wondering, thinking that he would let the
corridors clear a little before he went out again, and asking
himself what it was that had caused that obvious sensation during
the judge's last words. To all outward appearance, nothing could
be less critical than what he had seen and heard. Plainly the
trial was going against the prisoner, but there had been no
decision, no sentence. The inquisitors and the prisoner had
talked together almost like friends discussing a not very vital
matter. And yet the sensation had been overwhelming. . . .
As he rose at last, still watching the emptying court, he heard a
tap on the door, and before he could speak, the Abbot of
Westminster rustled up the steps, in his habit and cross and gold
chain. His face looked ominously strained and pale.
"I . . . I saw you from the court, Monsignor. For God's
sake . . . sit down again an instant. Let me speak with you."
Monsignor said nothing. He could not even now understand.
"I must thank you for your kind offices, Monsignor. I know you did
what you could. His Eminence sent for me after he had seen you.
And . . . and I must ask you to help us again . . . at Rome."
"Certainly--anything . . . . But----"
"I fear it's hopeless," went on the abbot, staring out into the
empty court, where an usher was moving quickly about from table
to table setting papers straight. "But any chance that there is
must be taken. . . . Will you write for us, Monsignor? or better
still, urge the Cardinal? There is no time to lose."
"I don't understand, my lord," said the prelate abruptly,
suddenly convinced that more had happened than he knew. "I was
only here just at the end, and . . . . what is it I can do?"
The abbot looked at him.
"That was the end," he said quietly. "Did you not hear the sentence?"
Monsignor shook his head. A kind of sickness seemed to rise from
his heart and envelop him.
"I heard nothing," he said. "I came in during Dom Adrian's
The abbot licked his dry lips; there was a wondering sort of
apprehensiveness in his eyes.
"That was the last formality," he said. "Sentence was given
twenty minutes ago."
The abbot bowed his head, plucking nervously at his cross.
"It has to go to Rome to be ratified," he said hurriedly. "There
will be a week or two of delay. Dom Adrian refused any release.
But . . . but he knows there is no hope."
Monsignor Masterman leaned back and drew a long breath. He
understood now. But he perceived he must give no sign. The abbot
talked on rapidly; the other caught sentences and names here and
there: he grasped that there was no real possibility of a
reversal of the judgment, but that yet every effort must be made.
But it was only with one part of his mind, and that the most
superficial, that he attended to all this. Interiorly he was
occupied wholly with facing the appalling horror that, with the
last veil dropped at last, now looked him in the eyes.
He stood up at last, promising he would see the Cardinal that
night; and then his resolve leapt to the birth.
"I should like to see Dom Adrian alone," he said quietly; "and I
had better see him at once. Can you arrange that?" The abbot
stopped at the door of the gallery.
"Yes," he said, "I think so. Will you wait here, Monsignor?"
Monsignor Masterman lifted his eyes as the door closed, and saw
the young monk standing before him, beside the little table.
He had sat down again in the gallery while the abbot was gone,
watching mechanically the ushers come into the court and remove
the recording-boxes one by one; and meantime in his soul he
watched also, rather than tried to arrange, the thoughts that
fled past in ceaseless repetition. He could plan nothing,
formulate nothing. He just perceived, as a man himself sentenced
to death might perceive, that the Supreme Horror was a reality at
last. The very ordinariness of the scene he had witnessed, the
familiarity of some of the faces (he had sat next at dinner, not
a week ago, the brown-faced Canon-Theologian), the conversational
manner of the speakers, the complete absence of any dramatic
solemnity--these things increased the terror and repugnance he
felt. Were the preliminaries of Death for Heresy so simple as all
that? Was the point of view that made it possible so utterly
accepted by everyone as to allow the actual consummation to come
about so quietly? . . .
The thing seemed impossible and dreamlike. He strove to hold
himself quiet till he could understand. . . . But at the sight
of the young monk, paled and tired-looking, yet perfectly
serene, his self-control broke down. A spasm shook his face; he
stretched out his hands blindly and helplessly, and some sound
broke from his mouth.
He felt himself taken by the arm and led forward. Then he slipped
into a chair, and dropped his face in his hands upon the table.
It was a few moments before he recovered and looked up.
"There, there, Monsignor," said the monk. ". . . I didn't expect
this. There's nothing to----"
"But . . . but----"
"It's a shock to you, I see. . . . It's very kind. . . . But I
knew it all along. Surely you must have known----"
"I never dreamt of it. I never thought it conceivable. It's
"Monsignor, this isn't kind to me," rang out the young voice
sternly; and the elder man recovered himself sharply. "Please talk
to me quietly. Father Abbot tells me you will see the Cardinal."
"I'll do anything--anything in my power. Tell me what I can do."
He had recovered himself, as under a douche of water, at the
sharpness of the monk's tone just now. He felt but one thing at
this instant, that he would strain every force he had to hinder
this crime. He remained motionless, conscious of that sensation
of intense tightness of nerve and sinew in which an overpressed
mind expresses itself.
The monk sat down, on the farther side of the table.
"That's better, Monsignor," he said, smiling. . . . "Well, there's
really not much to do. Insanity seems the only possible plea."
He smiled again, brilliantly.
"Tell me the whole thing," said the prelate suddenly and
hoarsely. "Just the outline. I don't understand; and I can do
nothing unless I do."
"You haven't followed the case?"
Monsignor shook his head. The monk considered again.
"Well," he said. "This is the outline; I'll leave out technical
details. I have written a book (which will never see the light
now) and I sent an abstract of it to Rome, giving my main thesis.
It's on the miraculous element in Religion. I'm a Doctor in
Physical Science, you know, as well as in Theology. Now there's a
certain class of cure (I won't bother you with details, but a
certain class of cure) that has always been claimed by
theologians as evidently supernatural. And I'll acknowledge at
once that one or two of the decrees of the Council of 1960
certainly seem to support them. But my thesis is, first, that
these cures are perfectly explicable by natural means, and
secondly, that therefore these decrees must be interpreted in a
sense not usually received by theologians, and that they do not
cover the cases in dispute. I'm not a wilful heretic, and I
accept absolutely therefore that these decrees, as emanating from
an ecumenical council, are infallibly true. But I repudiate
entirely--since I am forced to do so by scientific fact (or, we
will say, by what I am persuaded is scientific fact)--the usual
theological interpretation of the wording of the decrees. Well,
my judges take the other view. They tell me that I am wrong in
my second point, and therefore wrong also in my first. They tell
me that the decrees do categorically cover the class of cure I
have dealt with; that such cures have been pronounced by the
Church therefore to be evidently supernatural; and that therefore
I am heretical in both my points. On my side, I refuse to submit,
maintaining that I am differing, not from the Catholic Church as
she really is, (which would be heretical), but from the Catholic
Church as interpreted by these theologians. I know it's rash of
me to set myself against a practically universal and received
interpretation; but I feel myself bound in conscience to do so.
Very well; that is the point we have now reached. I could not
dream of separating myself from Catholic Unity, and therefore
that way of escape is barred. There was nothing for it, then, but
for my judges to pronounce sentence; and that they did, ten
minutes before you came in. (I saw you come in, Monsignor.) I am
sentenced, that is to say, as an obstinate heretic--as refusing
to submit to the plain meaning of an ecumenical decree. There
remains Rome. The whole trial must go there _verbatim_. Three
things may happen. Either I am summoned to explain any statements
that may seem obscure. (That certainly will not happen. I have
been absolutely open and clear.) Or the sentence may be quashed
or modified. And that I do not think will happen, since I have,
as I know, all the theologians against me."
There was a pause.
The prelate heard the words, and indeed followed their sense with
his intellect; but it appeared to him as if this concise analysis
had no more vital connection with the real facts than a doctor's
diagnosis with the misery of a mourner. He did not want analysis;
he wanted reassurance. Then he braced himself up to meet the
unfinished sentence. "Or----" he murmured.
"Or the sentence will be ratified," said the monk quietly. And
again there was silence. It was the monk again who broke it.
"Where Father Abbot seems to think you can help me perhaps,
Monsignor, is in persuading the Cardinal to write to Rome. I do
not quite know what he can do for me; but I suppose the idea is
that he may succeed in urging that the point is a disputed one,
and that the case had better wait for further scientific as well
as theological investigation."
Monsignor flung out his hands suddenly. The strain had reached
"What's the good!" he cried. "It's the system--the whole system
that's so hateful . . . hateful and impossible."
"It's the system," he cried again. "From beginning to end it's
the system that's wrong. I hate it more every day. It's brutal,
utterly brutal and unchristian." He stared miserably at the
young monk, astonished at the cold look in his eyes.
The monk looked at him questioningly--without a touch of
answering sympathy, it seemed--merely with an academic interest.
"I don't understand, Monsignor. What is it that you----"
"You don't understand! You tell me you don't understand! You who
are suffering under it! Why----"
"You think I'm being unjustly treated? Is that it? Of course I
too don't think that----"
"No, no, no," cried the elder man. "It's not you in particular. I
don't know about that--I don't understand. But it's that any
living being can live under such tyranny--such oppression of free
thought and judgment! What becomes of science and discovery under
a system like this? What becomes of freedom--of the right to
think for oneself? Why----"
The young monk leaned a little over the table.
"Monsignor, you don't know what you are saying. Tell me quietly
what it is that's troubling you. Quietly, if you please. I can't
bear much more strain."
The man who had lost his memory mastered himself with an effort.
His horror had surged up just now and overwhelmed him altogether,
but the extraordinary quiet of the other man and his apparently
frank inability to understand what was the matter brought him
down again to reality. Subconsciously, too, he perceived that it
would be a relief to himself to put his developing feeling into
words to another.
"You wish me to say? Very well---"
He hesitated again for words.
"You are sure you'd better? I know you've been ill. I
don't want to---"
Monsignor waved it away with a little gesture.
"That's all right," he said. "I'm not ill now. I wish to God I were!"
"Quietly, please," said the young man.
He swallowed in his throat and rearranged himself in his chair.
He felt himself alone and abandoned, even where he had been
certain of an emotional sympathy.
"I know I'm clean against public opinion in what I think. I've
learnt that at last. I thought at first that it was the other
way, as . . . as I think it must have been a hundred years ago.
But I see now that all the world is against me--all except
perhaps the people who are called infidels."
"You mean the Socialists?"
"Yes, I suppose so. Well, it seems to me that the Church is . . ."
(he hesitated, to pick his words) "is assuming an impossible
attitude. Take your own case; though that's only one: it's the
same everywhere. There are the sumptuary and domestic laws;
there's the 'repression,' as they call it, of the Socialists. But
take your own case. You are perfectly satisfied that your
conclusions are scientific, aren't you?"
"You're a Christian and a Catholic. And yet, because these
conclusions of yours are condemned--not answered, mind you, or
refuted by other scientists--but just condemned--condemned by
ecclesiastics as contrary to what they assume to be
true--you . . . you care----"
He broke off, struggling again with fierce emotion. He felt a
hand on his arm.
"Monsignor, you're too excited. May I ask you some
"Well, don't take my case only. Take the system, as you said just
now. I really want to know.... You think that the Socialists
ought not to be repressed--that every man ought to be free to
utter his opinions, whatever they may be. Is that it?"
"However revolutionary they may be?"
Monsignor hesitated. He had considered this point before. He felt
his answer was not wholly satisfactory. But the monk went on.
"Suppose these opinions were subversive of all law and order.
Suppose there were men who preached murder and
adultery--doctrines that meant the destruction of society. Would
you allow these, too, to publish their opinions broadcast?"
"Of course, you must draw the line somewhere," began
Monsignor. "Of course----"
"I beg your pardon?"
"You said that we must draw the line somewhere. I ask you where?"
"Well, that, of course, must be a matter of degree."
"Surely it must be one of principle. . . . Can't you give me any
principle you would allow?"
The passion of just now seemed wholly gone. Monsignor had an
uncomfortable sense that he had behaved like a child and
that this young monk was on firmer ground than himself. But
again he hesitated.
"Well, would you accept this principle?" asked Dom Adrian. "Would
you say that every society has a right to suppress opinions which
are directly subversive of the actual foundations on which itself
stands? Let me give an instance. Suppose you had a country that
was a republic, but that allowed that other forms of government
might be equally good. (Suppose, for instance, that while all
acquiesced more or less in the republic, yet that many of the
citizens personally preferred a monarchy.) Well, I suppose you
would say it was tyranny for the republic to punish the
monarchists with death?"
"So should I. But if a few of the citizens repudiated all forms of
government and preached Anarchy, well, I suppose you would allow
that the government would have a perfect right to silence them?"
"I suppose so."
"Of course," said Dom Adrian quietly. "It was what you allowed
just now. Society may, and must, protect itself."
"What's that got to do with it? These Socialists are not
Anarchists. You're not an atheist. And even if you were, what
right would the Church have to put you to death?"
"Oh! that's what you're thinking, is it, Monsignor? But really,
you know, Society must protect itself. The Church can't interfere
there. For it isn't for a moment the Church that punishes with
death. On the contrary, the Catholic authorities are practically
unanimous against it."
Monsignor made an impatient movement.
"I don't understand in the least," he said. "It seems to me----"
"Well, shall I give you my answer?"
The monk drew a breath and leaned back once more.
To the elder man the situation seemed even more unreal and
impossible than at the beginning. He had come, full of fierce and
emotional sympathy, to tell a condemned man how wholly his heart
was on his side, to repudiate with all his power the abominable
system that had made such things possible. And now, in five
minutes, the scene had become one of almost scholastic
disputation; and the heretic, it seemed--the condemned
heretic--was defending the system that condemned him to a man who
represented it as an official! He waited, almost resentfully.
"Monsignor," said the young man, "forgive me for saying so; but
it seems to me you haven't thought this thing out--that you're
simply carried away by feeling. No doubt it's your illness. . . .
Well, let me put it as well as I can. . . ."
He paused again, compressing his lips. He was pale, and evidently
holding himself hard in hand; but his eyes were bright and
intelligent. Then he abruptly began again.
"What's wrong with you, Monsignor," he said, "is that you don't
realize--again, no doubt, owing to your loss of memory--that you
don't realize that the only foundation of society at the present
day is Catholicism. You see we _know_ now that Catholicism is
true. It has reasserted itself finally. Every other scheme has
been tried and has failed; and Catholicism, though it has never
died, has once more been universally accepted. Even heathen
countries accept it _de facto_ as the scheme on which the life of
the human race is built. Very well, then, the man who strikes at
Catholicism strikes at society. If he had his way society would
crumble down again. Then what can Catholic society do except
defend itself, even by the death penalty? Remember, the Church
does not kill. It never has; it never will. It is society that
puts to death. And it is certainly true to say that theologians,
as a whole, would undoubtedly abolish the death penalty to-morrow
if they could. It's an open secret that the Holy Father would do
away with it to-morrow if he could."
"Then why doesn't he? Isn't he supreme?" snapped the other bitterly.
"Indeed not. Countries rule themselves. He only has a veto if an
actually unchristian law is passed. And this is not actually
unchristian. It's based on universal principles."
"Wait an instant. . . . Yes, the Church sanctions it in one
sense. So did the Church approve of the death penalty in the case
of murder--another sin against society. Well, Christian society a
hundred years ago inflicted death for the murder of the body;
Christian society to-day inflicts death for a far greater crime
against herself--that is, murderous attacks against her own
"Then the old Protestants were right after all," burst in
Monsignor indignantly; "they said that Rome would persecute
again if she could."
"If she could?" said the monk questioningly.
"If she was strong enough."
"No, no, no!" cried the other, beating his hand on the table in
gentle impatience; "it would be hopelessly immoral for the Church
to persecute simply because she was strong enough--simply because
she had a majority. She never persecutes for mere opinions. She
has never claimed her right to use force. But, as soon as a
country is convincedly Catholic--as soon, that is to say, as her
civilization rests upon Catholicism _and nothing else_, that
country has a perfect right to protect herself by the death
penalty against those who menace her very existence as a civilized
community. And that is what heretics do; and that is what
Socialists do. Whether the authorities are right or wrong in any
given instance is quite another question. Innocent men have been
hanged. Orthodox Catholics have suffered unjustly. Personally I
believe that I myself am innocent; but I am quite clear that _if I
am a heretic_" (he leaned forward again and spoke slowly), "_if I
am a heretic_, I must be put to death by society."
Monsignor was dumb with sheer amazement, and a consciousness that
he had been baffled. He felt he had been intellectually tricked;
and he felt it an additional outrage that he had been tricked by
this young monk with whom he had come to sympathize.
"But the death penalty!" he cried. "Death! that is the horror. I
understand a spiritual penalty for a spiritual crime--but a
physical one. . . ."
Dom Adrian smiled a little wearily.
"My dear Monsignor," he said, "I thought I had explained that it
was for a crime against society. I am not put to death for my
opinions; but because, holding those opinions, which are
declared heretical, and refusing to submit to an authoritative
decision, I am an enemy of the _civil state_ which is upheld
solely by the sanctions of Catholicism. Remember it is _not_ the
Church that puts me to death. That is not her affair. She is a
"But death! death, anyhow!"
The man's face grew grave and tender.
"Is that so dreadful," he said, "to a convinced Catholic?"
Monsignor rose to his feet. It seemed to him that his whole moral
sense was in danger. He made his last appeal.
"But Christ!" he cried; "Jesus Christ! Can you conceive that
gentle Lord of ours tolerating all this for one instant! I cannot
answer you now; though I am convinced there is an answer. But is
it conceivable that He who said, 'Resist not evil,' that He who
Himself was dumb before his murderers----"
Dom Adrian rose too. An extraordinary intensity came into his
eyes, and his face grew paler still. He began in a low voice, but
as he ended his voice rang aloud in the little room.
"It is you who are dishonouring our Lord," he said. "Certainly He
suffered, as we Catholics too can suffer, as you shall see one
day--as you have seen a thousand times already, if you know
anything of the past. But is that all that He is? . . . Is He
just the Prince of Martyrs, the supreme Pain-bearer, the silent
Lamb of God? Have you never heard of the wrath of the Lamb? of
the eyes that are as a flame of fire? of the rod of iron with
which He breaks in pieces the kings of the earth? . . . The
Christ you appeal to is nothing. It is but the failure of a Man
with the Divinity left out . . . the Prince of sentimentalists,
and of that evil old religion that once dared to call itself
Christianity. But the Christ we worship is more than that--the
Eternal Word of God, the Rider on the White Horse, conquering and
to conquer.... Monsignor, you forget of what Church you are a
priest! It is the Church of Him who refused the kingdoms of this
world from Satan, that He might win them for Him self. He has
done so! _Christ reigns!_ . . . Monsignor, that is what you have
forgotten! Christ is no longer an opinion or a theory. He is a
Fact. _Christ reigns!_ He actually rules this world. And the
world knows it."
He paused for one second, shaking with his own passion. Then he
flung out his hands.
"Wake up, Monsignor! Wake up! You are dreaming. Christ is the
King of men again, now--not of just religiously minded devots. He
rules, because He has a right to rule. . . . And the civil power
stands for Him in secular matters, and the Church in spiritual. I
am to be put to death! Well, I protest that I am innocent, but
not that the crime charged against me does not deserve death. I
protest, but I do not resent it. Do you think I fear death? . .
Is that not in His hands too? . . . Christ reigns, and we all
know it. And you must know it too!"
All sensation seemed to have ebbed from the man who
listened. . . . He was conscious of a white ecstatic face with
burning eyes looking at him. He could no longer actively resist
or rebel. It was only by the utmost effort that he could still
keep from yielding altogether. Some great pressure seemed to
enfold and encircle him, threatening his very existence as an
individual. So tremendous was the force with which the words were
spoken, that for an instant it seemed as if he saw in mental
vision that which they described--a Supreme Dominant Figure,
wounded indeed, yet overmastering and compelling in His
strength--no longer the Christ of gentleness and meekness, but a
Christ who had taken His power at last and reigned, a Lamb that
was a Lion, a Servant that was Lord of all; One that pleaded no
longer, but commanded. . . .
And yet he clung still desperately and blindly to his old ideal.
He pushed off from him this dominating Presence; his whole self
and individuality would not yield to Him who demanded the
sacrifice of both. He saw this Christ at last, and by a flash of
intuition perceived that this was the key to this changed world
he found so incomprehensible; and yet he would not have it--he
would not have this Man to rule over him. . . .
He made one last effort; the vision passed and he stood up,
feeling once more sensation come back, understanding that he had
saved himself from an extinction more utter than that of death.
"Well," he said quietly--so quietly that he almost deceived
himself too,--"well, I will remember what you say, Dom Adrian,
and I will do what I can with the Cardinal."
"I'm afraid it's been a great shock," said Father Jervis
soothingly. "And I'm not surprised, after your illness. . . . Yes
I quite see your point. Of course it must seem very
strange. . . . Now what about coming over to Ireland for a week?
The Cardinal will be delighted, I'm sure."
The blow had fallen this morning--a fortnight after the
trial had ended.
First, the answer had come back from Rome that the sentence was
ratified--a sentence simply to the effect that the Church could
no longer protect this tonsured and consecrated son of hers from
the secular laws. But, as Monsignor knew privately, an urgent
appeal had been made by Rome to remit the penalty in this
instance, as in others. Then the formalities of handing over the
monk to the secular authorities had taken place, in accordance
with the Clergy Discipline Amendment Act of 1964--an Act by
which the secular houses of Representatives had passed a code of
penalties for clerks condemned by the ecclesiastical
courts--clerks, that is to say, who had availed themselves of
Benefit of Clergy and had submitted themselves to ecclesiastical
jurisdiction. Under that Act Dom Adrian had been removed to a
secular prison, his case had been re-examined and, in spite of
the Pope's appeal, the secular sentence passed. And this morning
Monsignor had read that the sentence had been carried out. . . .
He neither knew nor dared to ask in what form. It was enough
that it was death.
There had been a scene with the startled secretaries. Fortunately
Monsignor had been incoherent. One of them had remained with him
while the other ran for Father Jervis. Then the two laymen had
left the room, and the priests alone together.
Things were quieter now. Monsignor had recovered himself, and was
sitting white and breathless with his friend beside him.
"Come to Ireland for a week," said the old man again, watching
him with those large, steady, bright eyes of his. "It is
perfectly natural, under the circumstances, that the thing
should be a shock. To us, of course----"
He broke off as Monsignor looked up with a strange white
glare in his eyes.
"Well, well," said the old man. "You must give yourself a chance.
You've been working magnificently; I think perhaps a little too
hard. And we don't want another breakdown. . . . Then I take
you'll come to Ireland? We'll spend a perfectly quiet week, and
be back in time for the meeting of Parliament."
Monsignor made a small movement of assent with his head. (He had
had Ireland explained to him before.)
"Then I'll leave you quietly here for a little. Call me up if you
want me. I'll tell the secretaries to work in the next room. I'll
see the Cardinal at once, and we'll go by the five o'clock boat.
I'll arrange everything. You needn't give it a thought."
A curious process seemed to have been at work upon the mind of
the man who had lost his memory, since his interview with the
monk immediately after the trial. At first a kind of numbness had
descended upon him. He had gone back to his business, his
correspondence, his interviews, his daily consultation with the
Cardinal, and had conducted all these things efficiently enough.
Yet, underneath, the situation arranged itself steadily and
irresistibly. It had become impressed upon him that, whether for
good or evil, the world was as it was; that Christian
civilization had taken the form which he perceived round him, and
that to struggle against it was as futile, from a mental point of
view, as to resent the physical laws of the universe. Nothing
followed upon such resistance except intense discomfort to
oneself. It might be insupportably unjust that one could not fly
without wings, yet the fact remained. It might be intolerably
unchristian that a tonsured clerk should be put to death for
heresy, yet he was put to death, and not a soul, it seemed (not
even the victim himself) resented it. Dom Adrian's protest had
been not against the execution of heretics, but against the
statement that he was a heretic. But he had refused to submit to
a decision which he acknowledged as authoritative, and found no
fault therefore with the consequence of such refusal. The
condemnation, he granted, was perfectly legal and therefore
extrinsically lust; and it was the penalty he had to pay for an
individualism which the responsible authorities of the State
regarded as dangerous to the conditions on which society rested.
And the rest was the business of the State, not of the Church.
The scheme then was beginning to grow clear to this man's
indignant eyes. Even the "repression" of the Socialists fitted
in, logically and inexorably. And he began to understand a little
more what Dom Adrian had meant. There stood indeed, imminent over
the world (whether ideally or actually was another question) a
tremendous Figure that was already even more Judge than
Saviour--a Personality that already had the Power and reigned;
one to whose feet all the world crept in silence, who spoke
ordinarily and normally through His Vicar on earth, who was
represented on this or that plane by that court or the other; one
who was literally a King of kings; to whose model all must be
conformed; to whose final judgment every creature might appeal if
he would but face that death through which alone that appeal
might be conveyed. Such was the scheme which this priest began to
discern; and he saw how the explanation of all that bewildered
him lay within it. Yet none the less he resented it; none the less
he failed to recognize in it that Christianity he seemed once to
have known, long ago. Outwardly he conformed and submitted.
Inwardly he was a rebel.
He sat on silent for a few minutes when his friend had left him,
gradually recovering balance. He knew his own peril well enough,
but he was not yet certain enough of his own standpoint--and
perhaps not courageous enough--to risk all by declaring it. He
felt helpless and powerless--like a child in a new school--before
the tremendous forces in whose presence he found himself. For the
present, at least, he knew that he must obey. . . .
"You will be astonished at Ireland," said Father Jervis a few hours
later, as they sat together in the little lighted cabin on their
way across England. "You know, of course, the general outlines?"
Monsignor roused himself.
"I know it's the Contemplative Monastery of Europe," he said.
"Just so. It's also the mental hospital of Europe. You see it's
very favourably placed. None of the great lines of volors pass
over it now. It's entirely secluded from the world. Of course
there are the secular business centres of the country, as they
always were, in north and south--Dublin and Belfast; they're like
any other town, only rather quieter. But outside these you might
say that the whole island is one monastic enclosure. I've brought
a little book on it I thought you might like to look at."
He handed a little volume out of his bag. (It was printed on the
usual nickel-sheets, invented by Edison fifty years before.)
"And to-night?" asked Monsignor heavily.
"To-night we're staying at Thurles. I made all arrangements
"And our programme?"
Father Jervis smiled.
"That'll depend on the guest-master," he said, "We put ourselves
entirely under his orders, as I told you. He'll see us to-night
or to-morrow morning; and the rest is in his hands."
"What's the system?" asked Monsignor suddenly and abruptly
looking at him.
Father Jervis considered.
"It's hard to put it into words," he said. "I suppose you might
say that they used atmosphere and personality. They're the
strongest forces we know of--far stronger, of course, than
argument. It's very odd how they used to be neglected---"
"Yes; until quite recently there was hardly any deliberate use of
them at all. Well, now we know that they effect more than any
persuasion . . . or . . . or . . . diet. And of course enclosed
Religious naturally become experts in interior self-command, and
therefore can apply these things better than anyone else."
He waved his hands vaguely and explanatorily.
"It's impossible to put it into words," he said. "The very
essence of it is that it can't be."
Monsignor sighed and looked drearily out of the window.
* * * * *
As the hours of the day had gone by it had been this dreariness
that had deepened on him, after the violent emotions of the
morning. It was as if he already saw himself beaten down and
crushed by those forces he had begun to recognize. And even this
reminder that he was passing for a few days under a tyranny that
was yet more severe failed to requicken any resentment. Inwardly
the fire smouldered still red and angry; outwardly he was passive
and obedient, and scarcely wished to be otherwise.
There was nothing of interest to be seen out of the window. The
autumn evening was drawing in, and the far-off horizon of hills,
with the rim of the sea already visible beyond it, was dark and
lead-coloured under the darkening sky. He thought vaguely of Dom
Adrian, in that melancholy and ineffective mood which evening
suggests . . . he had been alive at this hour last night and
now . . . Well, he had passed to the Secret which this world
interpreted now so confidently. . . .
They halted above Dublin, and he watched, as weeks ago at Brighton,
the lighted stage swing outside the windows. He noted a couple of
white-frocked monks or friars, hooded in black, standing among the
rest. Then he watched the stage drop out of sight, and the lights
of Dublin spin eastwards and vanish. Then he turned listlessly to
the book his friend had given him, and began to read.
As he stood himself on the platform at Thurles, bag in hand (they
brought no servants to Ireland), it seemed to him that already
there was a certain sense of quietness about him. He told himself
it was probably the result of self-suggestion. But, for all that,
it seemed curiously still. Beneath he saw great buildings,
flattened under the height at which he stood--court after court,
it appeared, each lighted invisibly and as clear as day. Yet no
figures moved across them; and in the roadways that ran here and
there was no crawling stream of ant-like beings such as he had
seen elsewhere. Even the officials seemed to speak in undertones;
and Father Jervis said no word at all. Then, as he felt the swift
dropping movement beneath his feet, he saw the great lighted ship
he had just left whirl off westwards, resembling a gigantic
luminous moth, yet without bell or horn to announce its journey.
He followed his friend out through the doorway of the
ground-platform to which the stage descended, and into the
interior of a great white car that waited--still with a strange
sense of irresponsibility and heaviness. He supposed that all was
well--as well as could be in a world such as this. Then he leaned
back and closed his eyes. There were three or four others in the
great car, he noticed; but all were silent.
He opened them again as the car stopped. But the priest beside
him made no movement. He looked out and saw that the car was
halted between two high walls and in front of a great arched
gateway. Even as he looked the gates rolled back noiselessly and
the car moved through. (The others had got out, he noticed.)
It seemed, as they sped on, as if they were going through the
streets of some strange dead city. All through which they passed
was perfectly visible in the white artificial light. Now they ran
between high walls; now along the side of a vast courtyard; now a
structure resembling the side of a cloister slid by them swiftly
and steadily--gone again in an instant. It was not until
afterwards that he realized that there had hardly been one window
to be seen; and not one living being.
And then at last the car stopped, and a monk in brown opened the
door of the car.
Monsignor woke next morning, already conscious of a certain sense
of well-being, and looked round the little white room in which he
lay, agreeably expectant.
* * * * *
Last night had helped to soothe him a little. He had supped with
his friend in a small parlour downstairs, after having been
warned not to speak, except in case of absolute necessity, to
the lay-brother who waited on them; and after supper had had
explained to him more at length what the object of the
expedition really was. It was the custom, he heard, for persons
suffering from overstrain or depression, whether physical,
mental, or spiritual, to come across to Ireland to one of those
Religious Houses with which the whole country was covered. The
only thing demanded of these retreatants was that they should
obey, absolutely and implicitly, the directions given to them
during their stay, and that their stay should not be less than
for three full days.
"We shall not meet after to-night," said Father Jervis, smiling,
"I shall be under as strict orders as you."
After they had parted for the night, the man who had lost his
memory had studied the little book given to him, and had learned
more or less the system under which Ireland lay. The whole
island, he learned, was the absolute and inalienable possession,
held under European guarantees, of the enclosed Religious Orders,
with whose dominion no interference was allowed. All the business
offices of the country and the ports of the enormous agricultural
industries were concentrated in Dublin and Belfast; the rest of
the island was cultivated, ruled, and cared for by the monks
themselves. (He read drearily through the pages of statistics
showing how once again, as in medieval days, under the labour of
monks the land had blossomed out into material prosperity; and
how this prosperity still increased, year by year, beyond all
reckoning.) Of men, there were the Carthusians, the Carmelites,
the Trappists, and certain sections of Benedictines; of women,
there were the Carmelites, the Poor Clares, the Augustinian
canonesses, and certain other Benedictines. Special arrangements
between these regulated the division of the land and of the
responsibilities; and the Central Council consisted of the
Procurators and other representatives of the various bodies.
In return for the possession of the land, and for the protection
guaranteed by the European governments, one, and one only demand
was made--namely, that a certain accommodation should be
offered--the amount determined by agreement year by year--both
for these Retreat-houses in general, and for what were called
"Hospitals-of-God" in particular. These hospitals were nothing
else in reality than enormous establishments for the treatment of
the mentally unbalanced; for it had been found by recent
experience that the atmosphere supremely successful in such
cases--especially those of certain well-marked types--was the
atmosphere of the strongest and most intense religion. Statistics
had shown without a doubt that, even apart from cases of actual
possession (a phenomenon perfectly recognized now by all
scientists), minds that were merely weak or subject to mental
delusions recovered incalculably more quickly and surely in the
atmosphere of a Religious House than in any other. These cases
too were isolated with the greatest care, owing to the
extraordinary discoveries recently made, and verified over and
over again in the realm of "mental infection."
So Monsignor had learned last night; and as he lay in his little
white room this morning, waiting for the instructions that, he
had been informed, would arrive before he need get up, it seemed
that even to his own tortured brain some breath of relief had
already come. The world seemed perfectly still. Once from far
away he heard the note of a single deep-toned bell; but, for the
rest, there was silence. There was no footstep in the house, no
footstep outside. From where he lay he could see out through his
low window into a tiny high-walled court, white like his own
room, except where the level lawn ran to the foot of the wall and
a row of tawny autumn flowers rose against it. Above the white
carved parapet opposite ran skeins of delicate cloud against the
soft blue sky. It was strange, he thought, to be conscious in
this utter solitude and silence of an incomparable peace. . . .
When he opened his eyes again, he saw that the hooded lay brother
had come in while he dozed, and had begun to set the room to
rights. A door, white like the wall, which he had not noticed
last night, stood open opposite his bed, and he caught sight of a
tiny bathroom beyond. A little fire of wood was leaping in the
white-tiled chimney; and before it stood a table. The window too
was set open, and the pleasant autumn air streamed in.
Then the brother came up to the bedside, his face invisible under
the peaked hood that hung over it. He uttered a sentence or two in
Latin, bidding him get up and dress. He was not to say Mass this
morning. "Father" would come in as soon as he had breakfasted and
give him his instructions for the day. That was all.
Monsignor got out of bed and went into the bathroom, where his
clothes were already arranged. When he came back a quarter of an
hour later, he found a tray set out with simple food and milk on
the table beside the fire. As he finished and said grace the door
opened noiselessly, and a priest in the Carthusian habit came in,
closing the door behind him.
As the two faced one another for an instant, the Englishman
perceived in a glance that this monk was one of the most
impressive-looking men he had ever set eyes on. He was well over
six feet in height, and, in his rough, clumsy white dress, he
seemed enormously muscular and powerful. He carried himself
loosely, with an air of strength, almost swinging in his gait.
But it was his face that above all was remarkable. His hood lay
back on his shoulders, and from its folds rose his strong throat
and head, all as hairless as a statue's; and as the priest
glanced at him he saw that strange suggestion as of a bird's
head which some types convey. His nose was long, thin, and
curved; his lips colourless and compressed; his cheeks modelled
in folds and hollows over the bones beneath; and his eyes, of an
extraordinary light grey, looked out under straight upper lids,
as of an eagle.
So much for the physical side.
But, stranger than all this, was the unmistakable atmosphere that
seemed to enter with him--an atmosphere that from one side
produced a sense of great fear and helplessness, and on the other
of a kind of security. In an instant Monsignor felt as a wounded
child might feel in the presence of a surgeon. And, throughout the
interview that followed, this sensation deepened incalculably.
The man said nothing--not even a word of greeting--as he came
across the room. He just inclined his head a little, with a grave
and business-like courtesy, and waved the other back into his
chair. Then, still standing himself, he began to speak in a deep
but quite quiet voice, and very slowly and distinctly.
"You understand, Monsignor, the terms on which you are here? Yes.
Very well. I do not wish you to say Mass until your last morning.
I have spoken to Father Jervis about you. . . .
"Meanwhile, for to-day you are at liberty to walk in the court
outside as much as you wish, to read as you wish--in fact, to
occupy yourself as you like in this room, the ambulatory
downstairs, the roof overhead, and the garden. You are to write
no letters, and to speak to no one. You will have your meals in
the next room alone, where you will also find a few books. I wish
you to get as quiet and controlled as you can. Tomorrow morning I
will come in again at the same time and give you further
directions. You will find a tribune opening out at the end of
this corridor, looking into a chapel where the Blessed Sacrament
is reserved. But I do not wish you to spend there more than one
hour in the course of the day."
The monk was silent again, and did not even raise his eyes.
Monsignor said nothing. There was really nothing to say. He felt
entirely powerless, and not even desirous to speak. He
understood that to obey was simply inevitable, and that silence
was what was wished.
"I do not wish you to rehearse at all what you intend to say to
me to-morrow," went on the monk suddenly. "You are here to show
me yourself and your wounds, and there must be no false shame.
You will say what you feel to-morrow; and I shall say what I
think. I wish you a happy retreat."
Then, again without a word, but with that same inclination of his
head, he went swiftly across the room and was gone.
It was all completely unexpected, and Monsignor sat a few
minutes, astonished, without moving. He had not uttered a
syllable; and yet, in a sense, that seemed quite natural. He had
seen the monk look at him keenly as he came in, and was aware
that this had been an inspection by some new kind of expert.
Probably the monk had heard the outlines of the case from Father
Jervis, and had just looked in this morning, not only to give his
instructions, but to ratify by some peculiar kind of intuition
the account he had heard. Yet the ignominy of it all did not
touch him in the least. He felt more than ever like a child in
the hands of an expert, and, like a child, content to be so.
Conventions and the mutual little flatteries of the world outside
appeared meaningless here. . . .
He said some Office presently, and then set out to explore his ground.
The room he was in communicated with a lobby outside, from which
a staircase descended to a little cloistered and glazed
ambulatory opening on to the garden. Another staircase rose to a
door obviously leading to the roof. Besides the bedroom door
there were two others: the one which he entered first took him
into a little sitting-room also looking on to the garden, and
furnished simply with a table, an easy chair, and a few books;
the other opened directly on to a tiny gallery looking out
sideways upon a perfectly plain sanctuary, with a stone altar, a
lamp, and a curtained tabernacle, which seemed to be a chapel of
some church whose roof only was visible beyond a high closed
screen. He knelt here a minute or two, then he passed back again
to the lobby and ascended the staircase leading to the roof. He
thought that from here he might form some idea as to the place
in which he was.
The flat roof, tiled across, and guttered so as to allow the
rainwater to escape, at first seemed closed in on all sides with
walls over six feet high. Then he perceived that each wall was
pierced with a tiny double window, so contrived that it was
possible to see out easily and comfortably without being seen. He
went straight to one of these and looked through.
As far as he could see stretched what looked like the roofs of a
great town, for the most part flattish, but broken here and
there, and especially towards the horizon, by tall buildings
pierced with windows, and in three or four cases by church
towers. Immediately beneath him lay a vast courtyard like that of
a college, with a cluster of elms, ruddy with autumn colours, in
the midst of the central lawn. There was no human being in sight
on this side; the roofs, many of them parapeted like his own,
stretched out into the distance, their ranks here and there
broken by lines which appeared to indicate roadways running
beneath. He saw a couple of cats on the grass below.
On all sides, as he went from window to window of the little
roofless space, there was the same kind of prospect. In one
direction he thought he recognized the way he must have come
last night; and, looking more carefully, noticed that the town
seemed to be less extended in that direction. Half a mile away
the roofs ceased, standing up against a mass of foliage that
blotted out all beyond. It was here that he caught sight of a
man--a white figure that crossed a patch of road that curved
into sight and out again.
It was extraordinarily still in this Religious town. Certainly
there were a few sounds; a noise of far-off hammering came from
somewhere and presently ceased. Once he heard a door close and
footsteps on stone that faded into silence; once he heard the
cry of a cat, three or four times repeated; and once, all
together, from every direction at once, sounded bells, each
striking one stroke.
He began to walk up and down after a while, marvelling, trying to
reconstruct his ideas once more, and to take in the astonishing
system and organization whose signs were so evident about him.
Certainly it was thorough and efficient. There must be countless
institutions--hospitals, retreat-houses, cloisters, besides all
the offices and business centres necessary for carrying on this
tremendous work; and yet practically no indication of any
movement or bustle made itself apparent. So far as solitude was
concerned, he might be imprisoned in a dead city. And all this
deepened his impressions of peace and recuperation. The silence,
through his knowledge, was alive to him. There must be, almost
within sound of a shout, hundreds of living persons like himself,
yet all intent, in some form or another, upon that same
overwhelming silence in which facts could be received and
Yet even this, as he reflected upon it, had certain elements of
terror. Here again, under another disguise, was the force that
he had feared in London--the force that had sent Dom Adrian
noiselessly out of life, that proposed to deal with refractory
instincts in human nature--such as manifested themselves in
Socialism--as a householder might deal with a plague of mice,
drastically and irresistibly; the force that moved the wheels
and drove the soundless engines of that tremendous
social-religious machine of which he too was a part. It was here
too then; it was this that had closed him in here for three days
in his tiny domicile in this great dumb city; it was this that
held the whole under an invisible discipline; it was this that
had looked at him out of the hawk's-eyes, and spoken to him
through the colourless lips of the monk who had given him his
instructions this morning. . . .
Once more then his individuality began to reassert itself, and to
attempt to cast off the spell even of this peace that promised
relief. He became aware of an extraordinary loneliness of soul,
an isolation in the deepest regions of his soul from all others.
The rest of the world, it seemed, had an understanding about
these matters. Father Jervis and the Carthusian no doubt had
talked him over; they accepted as an established and self-evident
philosophy this universal unity and authority; they regarded
himself, who could not yet so accept it, as a spiritual, if not
an actual mental invalid. . . . He had been brought here to be
treated. . . . Well, he would hold his own.
And then another mood came on him--a temptation, as it seemed to
him then, to fling personal responsibility overboard; to accept
this tremendous claim of authority to control even the thoughts
of the heart. Surely peace lay this way. To submit to this
crowned and sceptred Christ; to reject for ever the other--this
meant relief and sanity. . . .
He walked more and more quickly and abruptly up and down the
little tiled space. He was conscious of a conflict all confused
with dust and smoke. He began to hesitate as to which was the
higher, even which was the tolerable course--to sink his
individuality, to throw up his hands and drown, or to assert that
individuality openly and defiantly, and to take the consequences.
He awoke the next morning after a troubled night, conscious
instantly of a sense of crisis. In one way or another, it seemed,
he would have to come to a decision. The monk would be with him
in less than an hour.
He dressed as before and breakfasted. Then, as the monk did not
come, he went out to the tribune to pray and to prepare himself.
Ten minutes later the door opened quietly, and the lay-brother
who had attended on him bowed to him as he turned, in sign that
he was to come.
The monk was standing by the fireplace as he came in; he bowed
very slightly. Then the two sat down.
* * * * *
"Tell me why you have come here, Monsignor."
The prelate moistened his lips. He was aware again of an emotion
that was partly terror and partly confidence. And there was mixed
with it, too, an extraordinary sense of simplicity.
Conventionalities were useless here, he saw; he was expected to
say what was in his heart, but at first he dared not.
"I . . . I was recommended to come," he said. "My friends thought
I needed a little rest."
The other nodded gently. He was no longer looking straight at
him, the secular priest was relieved to see.
"Yes? And what form does it take?"
Still the patient hesitated. He began a sentence or two,
and stopped again.
Then the monk lifted his great head and looked straight at him.
"Be quite simple, Monsignor," he said, "you need fear nothing.
You are here to be helped, are you not? Then tell me plainly."
Monsignor got up suddenly. It seemed to him that he must move
about. He felt restless, as a man who has lived in twilight might
feel upon coming out into sudden brilliant and healthful
sunlight. He began to walk to and fro. The other said nothing,
but the restless man felt that the eyes were watching and
following every movement. He reflected that it was unfair to be
stared at by eyes that were grey, outlined in black, and crossed
by straight lids. Then he summoned his resolution.
"Father," he said, "I am unhappy altogether."
"Yes? (Sit down, please, Monsignor.)"
He sat down, and leaned his forehead on his hands.
"You are unhappy altogether," repeated the monk. "And what form
does that unhappiness take?"
Monsignor lifted his face.
"Father," he said, "you know about me? You know about my
history? . . . My memory?"
"Yes, I know all that. But it is not that which makes you unhappy?"
"No," cried the priest suddenly and impulsively, "it is not
that. I wish to God it were! I wish to God my memory would
leave me again!"
But the other paid no attention.
"It is . . . it is the world I am living in--this brutal
world.... Father, help me."
The monk drew a breath and leaned back, and his movement had the
effect of a call for silence. Neither spoke for a moment.
"Just tell me quite simply, from the beginning," said the monk.
It was nearly half an hour later that Monsignor ended, and leaned
back, at once exhausted and excited. He had said it all--he had
said even more than he had previously formulated to himself. Now
and then, as he paused, the monk with a word or two, or a
strangely compelling look, had soothed or encouraged him. And he
had told the whole thing--the sense that there was no longer any
escape from Christianity, that it had dominated the world, and
that it was hateful and tyrannical in its very essence. He
confessed that logic was against him, that a wholly Christian
society must protect itself, that he saw no way of evading the
consequences that he had witnessed; and yet that his entire moral
sense revolted against the arguments of his head. It seemed to
him, he said in effect, as if he were held in a grip which
outraged his whole sentiment; as if the universe itself were in a
conspiracy against him. For there was wanting, he said, exactly
that which was most characteristic of Christianity, exactly that
which made it divine--a heavenly patience and readiness to
suffer. The cross had been dropped by the Church, he said, and
shouldered by the world.
The monk sat silent a moment or two, as motionless as he had been
at the beginning. Monsignor perceived by now, even through his
fierce agitation, that this man never moved except for a purpose;
he made no gestures when he spoke; he turned his head or lifted
his eyes only when it was necessary. Then the monk's voice began
again, level and unemotional:
* * * * *
"A great deal of what you say, Monsignor, is merely the effect of
a nervous strain. A nervous strain means that the emotional or
the receptive faculties gain an undue influence over the
reasonable intelligence. You admit that the logic is flawless,
yet that fact does not reassure you, as it would if you were in a
"Wait, please, till I have done. I know what you wish to say. It
is that your sense of protest is not merely sentimental, but
rather moral; is it not so?"
Monsignor nodded. It was precisely what he had wished to say.
"That is not true, however. It is true that your moral sense seems
outraged, but the reason is that you have not yet all the data
(the moral sense is a department of the reason, remember). Well,
you admit the logic of society's defending itself; but it seems to
you that that which is, as you very properly said, the divine
characteristic of Christianity--I mean, readiness to suffer rather
than to inflict suffering--is absent from the world; that the
cross, as you said again, has been dropped by the Church.
"Now, if you will reflect a moment, you will see that it is very
natural that that should appear so, in a world that is
overwhelmingly Christian. It is very natural that there should not
be persecution of Christians, for example, since there is no one
to persecute them; and therefore that you should see only the
rights of the Church to rule, and not its divine prerogative of
pain. But I suppose that if you saw the opposite, if you were to
watch the other process, and see that the Church is still able to
suffer, and to accept suffering, in a manner in which the world is
never capable of suffering, I imagine you would be reassured."
Monsignor drew a long breath.
"I thought so. . . . Well, does not the Contemplative Life
reassure you? And are you aware that in Ireland alone there are
four millions of persons wholly devoted to the Contemplative
Life? And that, so great is the rush of vocations, the
continent of Europe----"
"No," cried the priest harshly. "Voluntary suffering is not the
same thing. . . . I . . . I long to see Christians suffering at
the hands of the world."
"You mean that you are doubtful as to how they would bear it?"
The monk smiled, slowly and brilliantly, and there was a look of
such serene confidence in his face that the other was amazed.
"Well . . ." he paused again. "Well, I take it that we have laid
our finger upon what it is that troubles you. You admit that the
Christian States have a right to punish all who attack the very
foundations of their stability----"
"By your _reason_, I mean, Monsignor."
"Yes," said Monsignor slowly. "By my _reason_."
"But that you are not satisfied that the Church can still suffer;
that it seems to you she has lost that which is of her very
essence. If you saw that, you would be content."
"I suppose so," said the other hesitatingly.
The monk rose abruptly.
"We have talked enough for to-day," he said. "You will kindly
spend the rest of the day as yesterday. Do not say Mass in the
morning. I will be with you at the same time."
It was on the last morning of their stay at Thurles that
Monsignor had an opportunity of seeing something of the real
character of the place.
The lay monk came to him again, as he was finishing breakfast,
and abruptly suggested it.
"I shall be very happy," said Monsignor.
* * * * *
Certainly his stay had done him good in some indefinable manner
which he could not altogether understand. Each morning he had
talked; but there was no particular argument which he could
recall that had convinced him. Indeed, the monk had told him more
than once that bare intellectual argument could do nothing except
clear the ground of actual fallacies. Certainly the points had
been put to him clearly and logically. He perceived now that, so
far as reason was concerned, Christian society could not do
otherwise than silence those who attacked the very foundations of
its existence; and he also understood that this was completely
another matter from the charge that men had been accustomed to
bring against the Church, that she "would persecute if she had
the power." For it was not the Church in any sense that used
repression; it was the State that did so; and as Dom Adrian had
pointed out, this was of the very essence of all civil
government. But this was not new to him. Rather his stay in
Thurles had, by quieting his nervous system, made it possible for
him to elect to follow his reason rather than his feelings. His
feelings were as before. Still in the bottom of his consciousness
he felt that the Christ which he had known was other than the
Christ who now reigned on earth. But now he had been enabled to
make the decision over which he had previously hesitated; he had
sufficiently recovered at least so far as to go back to his work
and to do what seemed to be the duty to which his reason pointed,
and in action at least to ignore his feelings. This much had been
done. He did not yet understand by what means.
* * * * *
A car waited in the little court to which the two came down. The
monk beckoned him to enter, and they moved off.
"This quarter of the monastery," began the monk abruptly, "is
entirely of the nature you have seen. It is composed of flats and
apartments throughout, for the simple retreats, such as your own.
Each Father who is employed in this kind of work has his round of
visits to make each day."
"How many monks are there altogether, Father, in Thurles?"
"About nine thousand."
". . I beg your pardon?"
"About nine thousand. Of these about six thousand live a purely
Contemplative Life. No monk undertakes any work of this kind
until he has been professed at least fifteen years. But the
regulations are too intricate to explain just now."
"Where are we going first----"
"Stay, Monsignor" (the monk interrupted him by a hand on his
arm). "We are just entering the northern quarter. It is the
serious cases that are dealt with here."
"Yes; where there is a complete breakdown of mental powers. That
building there is the first of the block of the gravest cases of
Monsignor leaned forward to look.
They were passing noiselessly along the side of a great square;
but there was nothing to distinguish the building indicated from
the rest. It just stood there, a tall pile of white stone; and
the top of a campanile rose above it.
"You have worked there, Father?"
"I worked there for two years," said the monk tranquilly. "It is
distressing work at first. Would you care to look in?"
Monsignor shook his head.
"Yes, it is distressing work, but there are great consolations.
Two out of every three cases at least are cured, and we have a
certain number of vocations from the patients."
"Certainly. Mania in the majority of cases is nothing else than
possession. In fact some authorities are inclined to say that it
is exceptional to find it otherwise. And in the other cases it is
generally the force of an exceptionally strong will that has lost
its balance, and is powerful enough to disregard all ordinary
checks of reason and common sense and human emotion. Well, a
character like that is capable of a good deal. Each case is, of
course, completely isolated in this department as in all others.
It is incredible to think that less than a hundred years ago such
patients were herded together. The system now, of course, is to
surround them with completely healthy conditions and completely
self-restrained attendants. That gradually rebuilds the physical
and nervous conditions, and exorcism is not administered until
there is sufficient reserve force for the patient partly, at any
rate, to cooperate."
Monsignor was silent. Again he felt bewilderment at the amazing
simplicity and common sense of it all.
"I am taking you," said the monk presently, "to the central
quarter--to the monastery proper. It is there that the main body
of the monks live. The church is remarkable. It is the third
largest monastic church in the world. . . . We are just entering
the quarter now," he added.
Monsignor leaned forward as the air darkened, and was in time to
see the great gates swinging slowly together again as if to meet
after the car had passed. It was still twilight as they sped on,
and he perceived that they were passing, with that extreme and
noiseless swiftness with which they had come, up some kind of
tunnel lit by artificial light. Then again there was a rush of
daylight and the car stopped.
"We must go on foot here," said the monk, and opened the door.
The priest, still marvelling, stepped out after him, and followed
through a postern door; and then, as he emerged, understood more
or less the arrangement of the buildings.
He stood on the edge of an enormous courtyard, perhaps five
hundred yards across. This was laid down with a lawn, crossed in
every direction with paved paths. But that at which he chiefly
stared was a church whose like he had never set eyes on before.
It was the sanctuary end, obviously, that faced him; the farther
end ran back into the high walls, pierced here and there by low
doors, with which the court was surrounded. The church itself
rose perhaps two hundred feet from floor to roof. It was straight
from end to end, the line broken only by a tall, severe tower at
the point where it joined the wall of the court; and running
round it, jutting out in a continuous block, like a platform, was
a low building, plainly containing chapels. The whole was of
white stone, unrelieved by carving of any kind. Enormous narrow
lancet windows showed above the line of chapels, springing
perhaps forty feet from the ground, and rising to a line
immediately below the roof. The whole gave an impression of
astounding severity and equally astounding beauty. It had the
kind of beauty of a perfectly bare mountain or of an iceberg. It
was graceful and yet as strong as iron; it was cold, and yet
"Yes," said the monk, as they went across the court, "It is
impressive, is it not? It is the monastic church proper. It
can hold, if necessary, ten thousand monks. But you will see
when we look in.
"The court we are now in is surrounded by cloisters. There are
just nine thousand cells; there are, perhaps, fifty unoccupied
now. Each cell, as you know, is a little house in itself, with
three or four rooms and a garden; so we need space. The
cemeteries are beyond the cloisters. We bury, as you know, in the
bare earth without a coffin."
It was like the creation of a dream, thought the priest as he
walked with his guide, listening to the quiet talk. He had seen
some of these facts in the book that Father Jervis had lent him;
but they had meant little to him. Now he began to understand, and
once more a kind of inexplicable terror began to affect him.
But as, five minutes later, he stood in the high western gallery
of the church, and saw that enormous place stretching beyond
calculation to where thin clear glass sanctuary windows rose in
a group, like sword-blades, above the white pavement before the
altar; as he saw the ranks of stalls running up, tier above
tier, and understood that, all told, they numbered ten thousand,
one third of them on this side of the screen, in the lay
brothers' choir, and two thirds beyond; as he imagined what it
must be to watch this congregation of elect souls stream in,
each with his lantern in his hand, through the countless doors
that ended each little narrow gangway that disappeared among the
stalls; as he pictured the thunder of the unemotional Carthusian
plain-song--as he saw all this with his bodily eyes standing
silent beside the silent monk, and began little by little to
take in what it all meant, and what this world must be in which
such a condition of things was accepted--a world where
Contemplatives at last were honoured as the kings of the earth,
and themselves controlled and soothed the lives of whom the
world had despaired; as his imagination ran out still farther,
and he remembered that this was but one of innumerable houses of
the kind--as he began to be aware of all this, and of what it
signified as regards the civilization in which he found
himself--his terror began to pass, and to give place to an awe,
and to a kind of exaltation, such as neither Rome nor Lourdes
nor London had been able even to suggest. . . .
"Well?" said Father Jervis, smiling, as the two met on the
platform that evening, to wait for the English-bound air-ship.
Monsignor looked at him.
"I am glad I came," he said. "No; it is not all well with me,
even yet. But I will try again."
The other nodded, still smiling.
"Who was the Father who looked after me?" added the prelate. "He
said he had talked with you."
"He is considered one of the best they have," said the other "I
asked for him specially. He hardly ever fails. You are
impressed by him?"
"Oh yes . . . but he did nothing particular."
"That is just it," smiled the old priest. He added after a pause,
as the bell rang--
"You feel ready for work again? You know what lies before you?"
Monsignor nodded slowly.
"You mean the Establishment of the Church? . . . Yes; I am ready."
The scheme had been in the air for nearly two years, as
Monsignor learned from his papers; and for the last month or two
had come more to the front than ever. But he had not realized
how close it was.
* * * * *
It was at the end of October that the Cardinal sent for him and
revealed two more facts. The first was that it was the intention
of His Majesty's Government to appoint a Commission to consider
once more the Establishment of Catholicism as the State religion
of England; and the second was that secret negotiations had been
proceeding now for the last eight months between China, Japan,
the Persian Empire, and Russia, as to the formal recognition of
the Pope as Arbitrator of the East.
"Both points," said the Cardinal, "are absolutely _sub sigillo_
until you hear of them from other sources. And I need not tell you,
Monsignor, that they have the very strongest mutual effects."
"I beg your pardon?"
"Think it over," said the Cardinal, and waved him pleasantly away.
* * * * *
From that time forward, as week followed week, the work became
enormous. He was present at interviews of which he understood not
more than one half of the allusions; yet with that extraordinary
skill of which he was made aware by the compliments of the
Cardinal and of his own friends, he showed never a sign of his
ignorance. Papers constantly passed under his hands, disclosing
to him the elaborate preparations that had already been made on
the part of the State authorities; and questions on various
points of discipline were continually submitted to him, at the
bearing of which he could only guess.
It seemed to him remarkable that so much fuss should be made upon
what was by now almost entirely a matter of form, since by the
restoration of Catholic property, recognition of Church courts,
and a hundred other details, as well as by the affection of the
people, the Church already enjoyed supreme power.
He put this once, lightly, to Father Jervis.
"The public is affected by forms much more than by principles,"
said that priest, smiling. "They have already accepted the
principles; but even at the eleventh hour they might take
fright at the forms."
"Do you mean it is possible that a Bill, if it was brought
forward, might not pass?"
"Certainly it's possible. Otherwise, why haven't we had a
Commission appointed? The Socialists aren't beaten yet. But it's
not likely; or the Bill wouldn't be brought forward at all."
The prelate said nothing.
It was not until a few days before Christmas that the
Cardinal was sent for.
At the beginning of the month the Commission had been appointed
by an overwhelming majority in the House. The proposal had been
brought forward suddenly by the Government, and with a speed and
an employment of business-like methods that seemed very strange
to the man who had lost his memory, and who still had hanging
about him a curious atmosphere of earlier days, the Commission
had despatched an immense amount of work within three weeks.
It was impossible to know how far negotiations had got; but even
the Cardinal himself was taken by surprise when he received an
invitation to attend the sitting of the Commission. He sent for
Monsignor Masterman at once.
"You will attend me, Monsignor, please. I shall have to appear
alone, but I should like you to be at hand."
It was with very much confused emotions that Monsignor found
himself, a day or two later, walking up and down a corridor in
the House of Representatives. He had arrived with the Cardinal,
had gone up the broad staircase behind him, and had followed him
even into the committee-room. A long table faced him as he
entered, and he noticed with an odd little thrill how every man
sitting there, from the white-faced, white-haired man at the
head, down to the clean-shaven, clever-looking young man nearest
the door, had risen as the two ecclesiastics came in. The table,
he noticed, was strewed with papers. An empty chair stood at the
lower end of the table--a red chair, he saw, with gilded wood.
The Cardinal sat down. The rest sat down, all in silence.
Monsignor placed the despatch-box in front of his chief, opened
it, laid a few books in order, and went out. . . .
Even now, in spite of all the knowledge that he had, and the
constant contemplation of the cold facts of the case, it seemed
to him, as on a dozen occasions before since his lapse of memory,
as if life were not so real as it seemed. Somewhere, down in the
very fibre of him, was an assumption that England and Catholicism
were irreconcilable things--that the domination of the one meant
the suppression of the other. Certainly history was against him.
For more than a thousand years Church and State in England had
been partners. It was but for four hundred years--and those years
of confusion and of the gradual elimination of the
supernatural--that the two had been at cross-purposes. Was it not
historically certain therefore that, should the Supernatural ever
be reaccepted in all its force, a partnership should again spring
up between a State that needed a Divine authority behind its own,
and the sole Institution which was not afraid to stand out for
the Supernatural with all its consequences? Theology was against
him; for if there was anything that theology taught explicitly,
it was that the soul was naturally Christian, and therefore
imperfect without the full Christian Revelation.
And yet, as he walked, he was disturbed. The proposed
Establishment of the Church by the State appeared to him
uncharacteristic of both--of the Church, since he still tended to
think that she must in her essence be at war with the world; of
the State, since he still tended to think that that too, in its
essence, must be at war with religion. In spite of what he had
seen, he had not yet grasped with his imagination that which both
experience and intellect justified as true--namely, that it is
the function of the Church to guide the world, and the highest
wisdom of the world to organize itself on a supernatural basis.
He walked up and down, saying nothing. At one end of the long
corridor a couple of secretaries whispered together on a settee;
at the other he saw passing and repassing hurrying figures that
went about their business. Doors opened occasionally, and a man
came out; once or twice he saluted an acquaintance. But all the
while his attention remained fixed upon the door numbered XI,
behind which this quietly significant affair proceeded. The whole
place seemed a very temple of stillness. The thick carpet
underfoot, the noiseless doors, the admirable system of the
place--all contributed to create a great solemnity.
He tried to remind himself that he was present at the making of
history, but it was useless. Again and again, as, with an effort,
he forced the principles before his mind, his attention whirled
off to a detail--to a contemplation of his chief taking his seat
in the House of Lords, and to the fabric of the carpet on which
he walked; to the silent whisper of one of the two conversational
secretaries; to a wonder as to the form of prayer with which the
first professedly Catholic Parliament in England for more than
four hundred years would open.
Then he checked himself, reminded himself of certain old
proverbs about cups and hares, reflected that Socialism was not
beaten yet (in Father Jervis's phrase), as recent events in
Germany had shown. . . .
Once as he turned at the end of the corridor farthest from the
secretaries, an interesting little incident happened. A door
opened abruptly, and a man coming out quickly almost ran against
him. Then the man took off his hat and smiled.
"I beg your pardon, Monsignor . . . I . . . I can guess your
Monsignor smiled too, a little guiltily. He recognized the
Socialist leader who had called on him a few months before.
"Yes: and I'm afraid you don't approve," he said.
Mr. Hardy made a little deprecatory gesture, still holding his
hat in his hand.
"Oh! I'm a believer in majorities," he said. "And there's no
doubt you have the majority. But----"
"I hope you will be merciful. That is your Gospel, you know."
"You think we have the majority?"
"Oh, certainly. The enfranchisement of women settled all that.
They are always clerical, you know."
Monsignor felt the point prick him. He riposted gently.
"Well, you will have to take refuge in Germany," he said.
The face of the other changed a little; his eyelids came down
just a fraction.
"That's exactly what I'm going to do, Monsignor--I--but I think
there's somebody wanting you."
Monsignor turned. There was a hand beckoning him from behind a
face, as if in agitation, from the entrance to door No. XI.
"If you'll excuse me," he said, and hurried off.
"I thought you'd like to be present at the end, Monsignor,"
whispered the member who had beckoned him. "The Cardinal is
Committee room number XI seemed strangely quiet, as the prelate
slipped in behind his friend and stood motionless. One voice was
speaking; and, as he tried to catch the sense, he looked round
the faces, that were all turned in his direction. He saw Mr.
Manners on the extreme left.
Every man sat without moving, simply listening, it seemed, with an
extraordinary attention; some leaning forward, some back, with the
papers disregarded on the table. A couple of recording machines
stood now in the centre. Then he began to catch the words. . . .
"I think, gentlemen," said the voice from behind the high-backed
chair, "that I need say no more. We have discussed at length, and
I hope to your satisfaction, the particular points on which you
desired information: and my answers have brought out, I think, the
essence of all the conditions on which alone the Church can
accept the terms proposed.
"I wish it to be brought before the House, perfectly clearly,
that in her own province the Church must be supreme. She must
have an entire and undisputed right over her own doctrine and
discipline; for that is at the root of her only claim to be
heard. In respect to any legislation which, in her opinion,
touches the eternal principles of morality--in all such things,
for example, as the marriage law--her supreme authority must be
respected; as well as in all those other matters of the same
nature upon which you have questioned me.
"But on the other side the Church recognizes, and always will
recognize, the right of a free people to govern themselves; and,
not only recognizes that right, but will support it with all the
power at her command. I have acknowledged that in a few instances
in history ecclesiastics have interfered unduly with what did not
concern them--interfered, that is, not as citizens (for that is
their right, in common with all other citizens)--but in the Name
of Religion. Now that, gentlemen, is simply a thing of the past.
If secular rulers have learned by experience, so have
ecclesiastical rulers. . . . I have invited investigation into
the history of the last hundred years; and I have answered those
few charges that have been brought--I hope to your satisfaction."
(There was a murmur of applause.)
"In secular matters, therefore, the Church will be wholly on the
side of liberty. Ecclesiastical authorities, for example, would
be the first to welcome a repeal of legislation as regards
heresy; but, on the other hand, we fully recognize the right of a
secular State to protect itself, even by the death penalty,
against those who threaten the existence of the sanctions on
which a secular State takes its stand. We recognize her right, I
say; but I do not mean by that that you will not find a majority
of ecclesiastics who hold that it is, to put it mildly, a
deplorable policy and very imperfectly Christian.
"However, I have said all this before, both in public and now
again in answer to your questions; and I think that, at any rate
so far as I am concerned, I shall not be to blame if the nation
accepts the proposed change under a misapprehension.
"You see, gentlemen, the attempt that ended fifty years ago--the
attempt that was called in its day Protestantism--to establish a
religion which was to be secondary in any sense to the State,
failed and failed lamentably, in spite of the noble lives that
were spent in labouring for such a compromise. For it is the
whole essence of a Supernatural Religion to be supreme in it own
province--the very adjective asserts it; and any endeavour to
compromise on this entirely vital point is in itself a denial of
the principle, For a while this was not perceived. Men regarded
the Christian Church--or rather, that which they took to be the