Part 5 out of 6
Christian Church--merely, on its earthly side, as an organization
comparable to a State. They did not seem to see that Religion
must always have a wider basis than any secular body, since it
deals with eternity as well as with time, while the State,
professedly, treats only of temporal things. The consequence was
either conflict, whenever supernatural elements clashed with
natural; or else the subservience of Religion, and its consequent
loss of prestige, as well as of its supernatural character. A
National Church, therefore, is a contradiction in terms, since it
asserts that that which is in its very nature larger than this
world must yet be confined within the limits not only of this
world, but even of a part of it. . . . Well, I need not labour
that point. You grasped it, gentlemen, even before you were good
enough to ask me to give evidence before this Commission. I felt
it, however, only right that such conditions should be reiterated
and recorded before matters went any farther.
"The Church, therefore, is perfectly content to remain as she has
always remained in this country for the last four centuries--a
free society governing the consciences of her children. Or she is
content to take outwardly and officially that position which she
has always, at least tacitly, claimed, and to reassume her civil
dignity and her civil responsibilities. But she is not content to
waive any of those Divine Rights with which her Founder endowed
her, even in return for the greatest privileges; still less is
she content to receive those privileges under false
pretences. . . ."
Again the low murmur of applause broke out, and three or four men
shifted their positions slightly.
* * * * *
Monsignor was conscious again, suddenly and vividly, of that
double sense of unreality and of intense drama which he had felt
so often before at critical moments. It seemed to him amazing,
and yet more amazingly simple, that such claims should be put in
such words under such circumstances. It was astounding that such
things should be said, and yet more astounding that they needed
to be said, for were they not, after all, the very elements of
civil and religious relations? . . .
There was something too in the voice of the invisible speaker
that thrilled his very heart. The tones were completely tranquil,
there were no gestures, and the very face that spoke was unseen.
Yet in the quiet fluency, the note of absolute assurance, there
was a dominating appeal that was almost hypnotic in its effect.
He had perceived this characteristic of the Cardinal often
before; he had noticed it first on that occasion on which, for
the first time in his knowledge, he had come into his presence,
still staggered by the shock of his mental failure and recovery.
But he had never appreciated the strength of the personality so
clearly. The Cardinal was no orator in the ordinary sense; there
was no thunder or pathos or drama in his manner. But his complete
assurance and the long, gentle, incisive sentences, moving like
rollers in a calm sea, were more affecting than any passion could
be. . . . It seemed to him now the very incarnation of that
spirit of the Church that at once attracted and repelled him--in
its serenity, its gentleness, its reasonableness, and its
* * * * *
Then, on a slightly higher note, and with a perceptible increase
of deliberation, the voice went on.
"I must add one word, gentlemen.
"I said just now that the Church was content to be as she has
recently been in this country--content, that is, so long as she
continues to enjoy the liberty with which England endows her.
"And perhaps, as her chief minister in this country, I ought to
say no more. But, gentlemen, I am an Englishman as well as a
Catholic, and I love England only less than I love the Church. I
say frankly that I do love her less. No man who has any
principles that can be called religious can say otherwise. I tell
you plainly that should it come to be a choice between Caesar and
God--between the King and the Pope--I should throw myself at once
on the side of Christ and his Vicar. . . ."
(Monsignor drew a breath. It seemed to him that this was
appallingly plain speaking. He expected a murmur of remonstrance.
He glanced at the faces, but there was no movement or change,
except that a young member suddenly smiled, as with pleasure.)
"But I love England," went on the voice, "passionately and
devotedly. And in spite of what I said just now I must add that,
as an Englishman, there is but one more thing that I desire for
my country, and that is that she may carry out that project on
whose account you, gentlemen, have met to-day."
(Again a murmur of applause rose, and sank again instantly.)
"You have kindly asked me to make this little speech, and I do
not wish to turn it into a sermon, but I must conclude by saying
that, splendid as is the history of England in many points, there
is one black blot upon the page, and that, the act of hers by
which she renounced Christ's Vicar, by whom kings reign. You have
done justice at last in returning to us those possessions which
our forefathers dedicated to God's service. But there remains one
more thing to do, formally and deliberately, as one kingdom, to
return to Him who is King of kings. I know it will come some day.
As individuals, Englishmen have already returned to Him. But a
corporate crime must be expiated by corporate reparation, and it
is that reparation which has already waited too long. I am an old
man, gentlemen. That, no doubt, is why I have been so verbose,
but my one prayer for the last thirty years has been that that
corporate reparation may be made within my own lifetime. . . ."
The voice suddenly trembled.
Then the watcher saw the chair pushed back, and the little
scarlet cap, covering the white hair, rise above it.
Simultaneously every man rose to his feet.
"That is all, gentlemen."
There was a moment's silence.
Then the applause broke out. It was not loud or noisy, as there
were scarcely two dozen men in the room, yet it was
astonishingly affecting, just the tapping of hands on the table
and a murmur of voices.
The Cardinal silenced it by a gesture.
"One word, gentlemen. . . . I have said nothing of any
opposition. Perhaps it would have been better if I had. But I
will only say this, and it is something of a warning too. I do
not believe that this Bill that is spoken of will necessarily
mean peace. I am aware of the dangers that are threatening;
perhaps I am even more aware of them than any other person
present. And yet, for all that, I am not in favour of delay."
He turned suddenly, and with his long smooth step was at the door
almost before Monsignor had time to open it and step aside. There
was no time for any other man to speak.
The car had hardly moved off from the door before Monsignor
turned to his chief.
* * * * *
"Your Eminence," he said, "what was that about danger? I did
The thin face was a little pale with the exertions of the speech,
as it turned to him in answer.
"I will tell you that," he said, "as soon as the Bill becomes law."
It was an astounding scene in which Monsignor found himself, six
weeks later--extraordinary from the extreme quietness of it, and
the enormous importance of the issue for which they waited.
* * * * *
The Cardinal and he had gone down to Lord Southminster's house
on the coast of Kent for three or four days to wait for the
final news, as it was wished to avoid the possibility of any
dangerous excitement on the night of the division; and it was
thought that the Cardinal's absence might be of service in
preventing any formidable demonstration at Westminster. He was
to return to London, in the event of the Bill passing, on the
The situation was as follows:
A completely unexpected opposition had showed itself as soon as
the Bill was announced. It was perfectly well known that this
opposition was almost entirely artificial; but it was so well
engineered that there was grave doubt whether it might not affect
the voting in the Lower House. The Upper House, it was notorious,
was practically unanimous in favour of the Bill; and there had
been one or two unpleasant demonstrations outside the entrance to
the Second Chamber.
The opposition was artificial--that is to say, its activities
were managed after the manner of a stage-army, and the protesters
were largely German; but the crowds were so great, and the
genuineness of their opposition, such as it was, so obvious, that
very clear signs of wavering had become apparent, even on the
part of some of the more prominent Ministers of the Crown. Twice,
also, during public appearances of the King, who was well known
as a strong advocate of the Bill, there had been considerable
disturbances amongst the crowds.
All this had come, of course, to the ears of the ecclesiastical
authorities far more forcibly than the world outside suspected.
There had been threatening letters; twice the Cardinal's carriage
had been mobbed; a dozen well-known priests had been molested in
the public streets. There had been meetings and consultations of
all kinds; there had even been a moment when it seemed as if the
Cardinal and the Prime Minister stood almost alone in their
complete resolution. . . . It was not that any really responsible
persons contemplated the abandonment of the Bill; but a party had
almost been formed for its postponement, in the hope that when
once the opposition had been dissolved it would be difficult to
reorganize it again. On the other hand, the resolutes stood for
the assertion that just because things were really critical in
Germany--(in the state of affairs that followed the Emperor's
conversion)--it was now the time for England to advance; that any
hesitation shown now would be taken as a sign of weakness, and
that the Socialists' cause would be thereby enormously advanced.
Three or four results therefore were possible, from the
determination of the Government to push the Bill forward and to
present it for its second reading this evening. First, it might
pass triumphantly, if the leaders could succeed in inspiring
their followers with confidence. Secondly, it might be rejected,
if the panic spread; for, under the new parliamentary system
that had succeeded fifty years ago to the old Party Government,
it was impossible to reckon accurately on how members would
ultimately vote. Thirdly, it might pass with a narrow majority;
and in this event, it was certain that a very long delay would
follow before the Upper House would have an opportunity of
handing it on for the Royal assent. Fourthly--well, almost
anything else might happen, if the crowd, assembled in
Parliament Square, and swelled every hour by new arrivals,
showed itself predominantly hostile. . . .
Lord Southminster's house needs no description. It is probably,
even to-day, as well known as any place in England: there is no
guide book which does not give at least three or four pages to
the castle, as well as a few lines to the tiny historical seaside
village beneath from which the marquisate derives its name. And
it was in the little dining-room that adjoined the hall that the
man who had lost his memory found himself on this evening with
half a dozen other men and a couple of ladies.
It was a small octagonal room, designed in one of the towers that
looked out over the sea; panelled in painted wood and furnished
with extreme plainness. On one side a door opened upon the three
little parlours that were used when the party was small; at the
back a lobby led into the old hall itself; on the third side was
the door used by the servants.
Lord Southminster himself was still a young man, who had not yet
married. His grandfather had become a Catholic in the reign of
Edward VII; and the whole house had reverted to the old religion
under which it had been originally built, with the greatest ease
and grace. The present owner was one of the rising politicians
who were most determined to carry the Bill through; and he had
already made for himself something of a reputation by his
speeches in the Upper House. Monsignor had met him half a dozen
times already, and thoroughly liked this fair-haired,
clean-shaven young man who was such a devoted adherent of the
A little silence had fallen after old Lady Southminster and her
sister had gone out, and it had been curious to notice how
little had been said during dinner of the event that was
proceeding in London.
Half a dozen times already since they had sat down a silent man
in the black gown of a secretary had slipped in with a printed
slip of paper and laid it before the Marquis and then disappeared
again, and it was astonishing how the conversation had ceased on
the instant, as the paper was read and passed round.
These messages had not been altogether reassuring.
The first was timed at 8.13, London, and had been read before the
clock chimed the quarter-past. It ran:
"MEMBERS ARE ARRIVING AFTER DINNER. HAZELTON MOBBED IN THE SQUARE."
The second, ten minutes later, ran:
"FOUR TITANIC-LINE BOATS FROM GERMANY REPORTED IN SIGHT. CORDON
OF POLICE-VOLORS COMPLETED."
"MOB REPORTED DIRECTION OF HAMPSTEAD. THE PRIME MINISTER HAS
BEGUN HIS SPEECH. HOUSE FULL."
The fourth, fifth, and sixth contained abstracts from the speech,
and added that it was becoming increasingly difficult to hear,
owing to the noise from outside.
Twenty minutes had now elapsed and no further message had
* * * * *
Monsignor looked up at the Victorian clock over the carved mantelpiece
and glanced at his host. The young man's eyes met his own.
"It's twenty-five past nine," said Lord Southminster.
The Cardinal looked up. He had not spoken for three or four
minutes, but otherwise had shown no signs of discomposure.
"And the last message was just after nine?" he said.
The other nodded.
"What time is the division expected?"
"Not before midnight. Three guns will be fired, as I said, your
Eminence, as soon as the division has taken place. We shall know
before my secretary will have time to cross the hall."
Again there was silence.
* * * * *
Outside the night was quiet. The village itself lay, spread out
above the beach, a hundred feet below the windows, and the only
sound was the steady lap and splash of the rollers upon the
shingle. The place was completely protected by the Southminster
estate from any encroachment of houses, and even the station
itself lay half a mile away inland.
Monsignor looked again at the faces of those who sat with him.
Opposite was Lord Southminster himself in the ordinary quiet
evening dress of his class, his guild-badge worn, as the custom
was, like a star on his left breast. His face showed nothing
except an air of attention; there was no excitement in it, nor
even suspense. On his right sat the Cardinal in his scarlet. He
was smiling gravely to himself, and his lips moved slightly now
and then. At this moment he was playing gently with a
walnut-shell that lay on his plate. The three others showed more
signs of excitement. Old General Hartington, who could remember
being taken to London to see the festivities at the coronation of
George V, was leaning back in his chair frowning. (He had been
reminiscent this evening in a rather voluble manner, but had not
uttered a word now for five minutes.) The chaplain had shifted
round in his chair, watching the door, and the sixth man, a
cousin of the host, who, Monsignor understood, held some
responsible post in the Government volor service, was sitting
just now with his head in his hands.
Still no one spoke.
The cousin pushed back his chair suddenly and went to the window.
"Well, Jack?" said the host.
"Nothing--just going to have a look at the weather."
He stood there, having pulled back the curtain a little and
unlatched the shutter, looking out through the glass.
Then Lord Southminster's reserve broke down.
"If it's not done to-night," he said abruptly, "God only
"It will be done to-night," said the Cardinal, still without
lifting his eyes.
"Certainly, your Eminence, if nothing interferes; but how can we
be sure of that? I know the Government means business."
"It's half an hour since the last message," observed the General.
Lord Southminster got up suddenly and went to the lobby-door. As he
went the door into the parlours opened and his mother looked in.
"Any more news, my son?"
"No, mother. I was just going to ask."
The old lady came forward as her son went out--a splendid old
creature in her lace and jewels--active still and upright in
spite of her years. She made a little gesture as the men offered
to move, and went and leaned by the old-fashioned open
fire-place, such as her husband had put in at the restoration
throughout the house.
"Your Eminence, can you reassure us?" she said, smiling.
The Cardinal, too, smiled as he turned in his chair.
"I am confident the Bill will pass," he said. "But I do not know
yet what the price will be."
"Your Eminence means in England? Or elsewhere?" asked the
"In England and elsewhere, father."
Old Lady Jane Morpeth appeared at this moment, and the two
ladies sat down on the high oak settle that screened the fire
from the window. They showed no signs of anxiety; but Monsignor
perceived that their return at all to this room just now was
significant. Simultaneously the young man came in again, closing
the door behind him.
"Our enquiries are not answered," he said sharply. "We are trying
to get into touch with another office."
No one spoke for a minute. Even to Monsignor, who still found it
hard always to understand the communication-system of the time,
it was obvious that something must have happened. He knew that
Southminster Castle had been put into wireless touch with the
great Marconi office in Parliament Square, and that a failure to
be answered meant that something unexpected had happened. But it
was entirely impossible to conjecture for certain what this
something might be.
"That is serious?" remarked Lady Southminster, without
moving a muscle.
"I suppose so," said her son, and sat down again.
Then the man who was looking out of the window turned and came
back into the room, latching the shutters and putting the curtains
"Well, Jack?" asked the General.
"I have counted eight or nine volors," he said; "usually there
are only two at this time. I went to look for them."
"Three this way and five the other."
Monsignor did not dare to ask for an interpretation. But he was aware
that the air of tenseness in the room tightened up still further.
The General got up.
"Southminster," he said, "I think I'll take a stroll outside if I
may. One might see something, you know."
"Go up to the keep, if you like. There's a covered path most of
the way up. There's a look-out there, you know. I had one set in
case the wireless failed. At any rate, they may see the rockets
farther along the coast."
Monsignor too stood up. His restlessness increased every moment,
although he scarcely knew why.
"May I come with you too?" he said. "Will your Eminence excuse me?"
The two said nothing as they went out through the dimly lighted
hall. Overhead hung the old banners in the high wooden roof; a
great fire blazed on the hearth; and under the musician's gallery
at the farther end they saw the bright little window behind which
sat the secretary.
They stopped here and peered in.
He was seated with his back to them before an instrument not
altogether unlike an old-fashioned organ. A long row of black
keys was in front of him; and half a dozen stops protruded on
either side. Before him, in the front, a glass panel protected
some kind of white sheet; and as the priest looked in he could
see a movement as of small bluish sparks playing upon this. He
had long ago made up his mind not to attempt to understand modern
machinery; and he had no kind of idea what all this meant, beyond
a guess that the keys were for sending messages, and the white
sheet for receiving them.
"Any news?" said the General suddenly.
The secretary did not move or answer. His hands were before him,
hidden, and he appeared entirely absorbed.
It must have been a minute before he turned round, drawing out as
he did so from before him a slip of paper like those he had
already brought in.
"This is from Rye, sir," he said shortly. "They too have lost
communication with Parliament Square. That is all, sir. I must
take this in at once."
The two passed on, still without speaking; and it was not until
they were going slowly up the long covered staircase that ran
inside the skirting wall that connected the keep with the more
modern part of the castle that Monsignor began----
"I'm very ignorant," he said. "Can you tell me the
The General paused before answering.
"Well," he said, "the worst possibility is a riot, engineered by
the Socialists. If that is successful, it means a certain delay
of at least several years; and, at the worst, it means that the
Socialists will increase enormously throughout Europe. And then
anything may happen."
"But I thought that all real danger was past, and that the
Socialists were discredited."
"Certainly, in one sense. In every country, that is to say, they
are in a negligible minority. But if all these minorities are
added together, they are not negligible at all. The Cabinet has
produced this Bill suddenly, as of course you know, in order to
prevent any large Continental demonstration, as this would
certainly have a tremendous effect upon England. But it seems
that they've been organizing for months. They must have known
this was coming . . ."
"And if the Socialists fail?"
"Well, then they'll make their last stand in Germany. But you
know this better than I do, Monsignor?"
"I know a good deal here and there," confessed the other;
"but I find it hard sometimes to combine it all. I had an
illness, you know----"
"Ah, yes; yes."
They paused for breath in an embrasure in the wall, where a
section of a half-tower supported the wall, itself running down
on to the cliff side. A couple of windows gave a view of the sea,
now a dark gulf under the cloudy sky, sprinkled with a few moving
lights, here and there, of vessels going up or down the Channel.
"And suppose the Bill passes?" began the priest.
"If the Bill passes, we need fear nothing in England if it passes
with a good majority. You know Government is an extraordinarily
delicate machine nowadays; and if the Bill goes through really
well, it'll be an infallible sign that the country refuses to
take alarm. And if it fails, or only narrowly passes--well, it'll
be the other way. The whole work will have to be done again, or
at least begun----"
He faced round suddenly.
"Monsignor," he said, "I wouldn't say this to everyone. But I
tell you we're at a very critical moment. These Socialists are
stronger than any one dreamed. Their organization is simply
perfect. Do you know any of them?"
"I have met Hardy."
"That's a brilliant man, you know."
They talked no more during the rest of the ascent, until they
emerged at last on to the top of the round keep, where the old
bonfires used to burn, and where the old iron cradle, used even
now at coronations and great national events, still thrust up its
skeleton silhouette against the pale sky. To the priest's
surprise the silhouette was largely filled in.
A figure came towards them, saluted, and stood waiting.
"Eh? Who's this?" snapped the General.
"The look out, sir. We've orders to watch Rye."
"The wireless is out of communication, sir. His lordship arranged
a week ago that there should be supplementary rockets."
"Where are the guns?" asked Monsignor, who was looking about him,
at the empty leads, the battlemented parapet against the sky, and
then back at the servant's figure.
"Down below, father. They're to be fired from here if three white
rockets go up."
While the two others still talked, the priest went to the side and
looked over, again suddenly overwhelmed by the strangeness of the
whole position. Once again there came on him the sense of
irresponsible unreality. . . . He stared out, hardly seeing that
on which he looked: the grey mass of the lower castle beneath with
lighted windows, at the blankness beyond, again with the scattered
lights--the nearer ones, within what seemed a stone's throw, along
the village street--the farther ones, infinitely remote, out upon
the invisible sea. There again too, far off across the land, shone
another cluster of lights, seen rather as a luminous patch, that
marked Rye. There too, eyes were watching; there too it was felt
that interests were at stake, so vast and so unknown, that heaven
or hell might be within their limits. He looked inland, and there
too was darkness, but darkness unrelieved. Near at hand,
immediately below the bounding walls, rose up the dark swelling
outlines that he knew to be the woods of the park, crowding up
against the very castle walls themselves; and beyond, dimness
after dimness, to meet the sky. . . .
It seemed to him incredible, as he looked, that things of such
moment should be under way, somewhere beyond that sleeping
country; and yet, as his eyes grew accustomed to the night, he
could make out at last a faint glow in the sky to the north that
marked the outskirts of that enormous city of which he was a
citizen, where such matters even now were approaching a decision.
For it was only little by little that he had become aware that a
real crisis was at hand. The Cardinal had told him the facts,
indeed, in the dispassionate, tolerant manner that was
characteristic of him; but the point of view necessary to take
them in as a coherent whole, to see them, not as isolated events,
but with the effect of the past upon them and their hidden
implications and probabilities for the future--this needed that
the observer should be of the temper and atmosphere of the time.
For prophecy just now was little better than feeling at outlines
in the dark. Facts could be discerned and apprehended by all--and
the priest was well aware of his own capacities in this--but
their interpretation was another matter altogether. . . . He felt
helpless and puzzled. . . .
The General came towards him.
"Well," he said, "anything to be seen?"
"We may as well make our way down again. There's nothing to be
gained by stopping here."
As they made their way down again through the covered passage,
the General once more began to talk about the crisis.
Monsignor had heard it all before; but he listened for all that.
It seemed to him worth while to collect opinions; and this
soldier's very outspoken remarks cast a sort of sharp clarity
upon the situation that the priest found useful. The
establishment of the Church in England was being regarded on the
Continent as a kind of test case; and even more by the
Anglo-Saxon countries throughout the world. In itself it was not
so vast a step forward as might be thought. It would make no very
radical changes in actual affairs, since the Church already
enjoyed enormous influence and complete liberty. But the point
was that it was being taken as a kind of symbol by both sides;
and this explained on the one hand the tactics of the Government
in bringing it suddenly forward, and the extraordinary zeal with
which the Socialists were demonstrating against it.
"The more I think of it," said the General, "the more----"
Monsignor stepped suddenly aside into the embrasure at which they
had halted on the way up.
"What's the matter?"
"I thought I saw----"
The General uttered a sharp exclamation, pressing his head over
the priest's shoulder.
"That's the second," whispered the priest harshly.
Together they waited, staring out together through the tall,
narrow window that looked towards Rye.
Then for the third time there rose against the far-off horizon,
above that faint peak of luminosity that marked where Rye
watched over her marshes, a thin line of white fire, slackening
its pace as it rose.
Before it had burst in sparks, there roared out overhead a
deafening voice of fire and thunder, shaking the air about them,
bewildering the brain. Then another. Then another.
Beneath the two as they stood, shaking with the shock, silent and
open-mouthed, staring at one another, in the courtyard a door
banged; then another; and then a torrent of voices and footsteps
as the servants and grooms poured out of the lower doors.
Two hours later the two ecclesiastics sat together, on either
side of the large table in the Cardinal's room. The Cardinal
passed over the sheets one by one as he finished them. One set
was being brought straight up here from the little office at the
end of the hall. Another set, they knew, was simultaneously being
read aloud by Lord Southminster in the hall below.
The guns had aroused even the most drowsy; and the whole
population, village as well as castle, had poured into the
courtyard to hear the news.
Monsignor sat and read sheet after sheet after his chief,
hopelessly trying to notice and remember the principal points of
the report. Everything was recorded there--the assembling of the
crowds, the difficulty that the later members found in getting
through into the House at all; the breakdown of the police
arrangements; and the storming of the wireless station by an
organized mob, many of whom had been later put under arrest.
Then there was the Prime Minister's speech, recorded word by word
in the machines, and translated later, by machinery instead of by
human labour, into terms of dots and dashes, themselves
transmitted again over miles of country, and retranslated again
by mechanical devices into these actual printed sheets that the
two were reading.
The speech was given in full, down to that tremendous scene when
half the House, distracted at last by the cries that grew nearer
and nearer, and the messengers that appeared and reappeared from
outside, had risen to its feet. And then----
The Cardinal leaned back suddenly, with a swift indrawing of his
breath that was almost the first sign of emotion that he had shown.
Monsignor looked up. The last two sheets were still under the
ringed hand that lay upon the table.
"Well, it's done," said the Cardinal softly, almost as if talking
to himself. "But it needed his last card."
"The announcement as to the East," went on the other, with the
same air. "I thank God it came in time."
"Your Eminence, I don't understand."
The Cardinal looked at him full.
"Why," he said, "the Holy Father was accepted as Arbitrator of the
East by the united Powers this morning. The news was in the Prime
Ministers hands at six o'clock. But I'm sorry he had to use it; it
would have been stronger without. . . . Don't you understand,
Monsignor? The House would have refused to vote otherwise."
"But it's finished--it's finished, isn't it, your Eminence?"
"Yes, yes, it's finished. Or had we better say it's begun. Now
the last conflict begins. . . . Now, Monsignor, I'm afraid I must
begin to dictate. Would you mind setting the phonographs?"
* * * * *
From the hall beneath rose a sudden confusion of cheering and
stamping of feet.
"Monsignor," said the Cardinal, "I am afraid I shall have to ask
you to go, after all. It is extremely important that the Catholic
authorities in England should be represented in this scheme. And
I think, you will have to travel with the first batch. They leave
Queenstown on the first of April."
"Certainly. And when shall I be back, your Eminence?"
"You must judge for yourself. It will not be more than a month
or six weeks at the outside, and I dare say a good deal less. It
will depend on the temper of the settlers. The American civil
authorities will have the final arrangements. But it is
exceedingly important that the emigrants should have some one to
speak for them; and as, of course, the Church will be believed
to be really responsible, it will be as well that an
ecclesiastic should be their friend. Identify yourself with them
as far as possible. The civil authorities are sure to be
inclined to be hard."
"Very good, your Eminence."
* * * * *
The scheme had come to birth very rapidly.
After the second reading of the Establishment Bill, it had been
taken for granted, and rightly, that the rest was but a matter
of time, and it was calculated that, considering the
Government's attitude, the Bill would receive the royal assent
before the end of the summer. Immediately, therefore, the more
peaceable Socialists had taken fright, and in every European
country had made representations that now that their last
refuges in Germany and England had been closed to them, some
arrangement ought to be made by which they could enjoy complete
civil and religious liberty elsewhere. The idea had been in the
air, of course, for a considerable time. There had been
complaints on all sides that public opinion was too strong, that
Socialists, in spite of the protection given to them, suffered a
good deal in informal ways owing to their opinions, and that
some expedient would have to be found for their relief. Then
America had come to the rescue, openly and formally, and had
offered Massachusetts, which already had a large proportion of
Socialists in its population, as a colony which would be
tolerated as definitely socialistic. Christians would be warned
that the new system would, if the Powers agreed, be on
definitely non-Catholic lines, and that the immigration laws
would be in future suspended with regard to Massachusetts. There
were, of course, innumerable details still to be worked out, but
by the end of February the understanding was established, and
from every European country emigrant parties were arranged.
There was something almost attractive about the scheme to the
popular mind. It had been talked of for years before--this
arrangement by which the Socialists should have an opportunity of
working out once more those old exploded democratic ideas to
which they still clung so pathetically. Every child knew, of
course, how fifty years before the experiment had been made in
various places, and how appalling tyranny had been the
result--tyranny, that is, over those who, in the Socialist
communities, still held to Individualism. But what would happen,
the world indulgently wondered, in a community where there were
no Individualists? One of two things certainly would happen.
Either the scheme would work and every democrat be satisfied, or
the theory would be reduced to a practical absurdity, and the
poison would be expelled for ever from the world's system.
Besides, if this asylum were once definitely secured and
guaranteed by the assent of the Powers, the new heresy laws that
were already coming to birth in Germany, that were already
enforced with considerable vigour in the Latin countries, and
were (it was known) being prepared and adapted for England--these
could now go forward and be applied universally, without any fear
of undue severity. It would, once and for all, get rid of those
endless complaints as to Christian injustice in silencing the
free expression of infidel and socialistic ideas, and offer them
a refuge where such things could not only be discussed, but put
to the test of practice.
Monsignor Masterman himself was still in a state of personal
indecision, but he certainly welcomed this solution of some of
his interior troubles, and he had warmly supported the scheme at
every opportunity he had.
But it was strange how he could not yet, in spite of his efforts,
get rid of that deep discomfort which had been, for a time, lulled
by his visit to Ireland. There was still, deep down in his mind, a
sense that the Christianity he saw round him, and which he himself
helped to administer, was not the religion of its Founder. There
was still an instinct which he could not eradicate, telling that
the essence of the Christian attitude lay in readiness to suffer.
And he only saw round him, so far as the public action of the
Church was concerned, a triumphant Government. He could not
conceal from himself a fear that the world and the Church had,
somehow or other, changed places. . . .
However, this new scheme was, at any rate, an act both of justice
and mercy, and he was very willing indeed--in fact he had
actually proposed it more than once--to go himself with the first
emigrants from England to Massachusetts.
In spite of all that he had seen in his journeys, he still found
an extraordinary fascination in watching the scene at Queenstown,
as the great Olympic-line volors, each carrying three hundred
passengers, one by one made ready and left. He himself was to
leave in the last of the four.
From the stage erected at the end of the long headland to the
south of the town, he could see the harbour on his right, closed
in by the city itself, rising up from the water's edge to the
huge cathedral, finished fifty years before; and on his left the
open sea. It was a brilliant spring morning; the air, just
charged with moisture and soaked by sunlight, was a radiant
medium through which the city sparkled on one side and the long,
low rollers shone on the other, discharging themselves against
the foot of the rocks four hundred feet below where he stood.
Sea-birds wheeled and screamed about him, tilting and sliding up
the slopes of the fresh west wind; but he noticed that as the
first volor detached itself and slid out over the sea, pausing
for an instant to head round to the compass, as if by magic every
bird was gone: he could see them far away, white dots skimming
inland as if for protection.
These Transatlantic volors were incalculably in advance of any he
had seen before. He turned, as the first moved out, its long
upper and lower decks lined with watching, silent faces--of whom
the great majority were those of men--and asked for a little
information from the genial Irish canon who had come from the
cathedral with him, to see him start.
"They are eight hundred feet long," he said, "and limited to
three hundred passengers. Of course there's the crew and stewards
besides. The crossing varies from thirty-six to forty-eight
hours. . . . Yes, transhipments are sometimes made during the
voyage; but it's not usual. It involves a good deal of delay."
Monsignor listened as the talk went on, gathering a few facts here
and there--the topographical reasons why Queenstown was still
retained, as in the days of the old steamships, for a principal
port, in spite of the transformation of Ireland; the total weight
of the boats when the gas was out of them; above all, the
incredible speed that could be attained and kept up, with a good
following wind. He learned also how, by the very rigid laws of
air-way, enforced now by all nations under very heavy penalties,
the danger of collisions was practically abolished; and so forth.
The canon talked fluently and well; but the mass of new
information was so great, and the interest of watching so intense,
that the enquirer's attention wandered a good deal.
He was watching the crowd of emigrants, two hundred feet below on
the ground, seen through the spidery framework of the stage,
railed off into a circle, surrounded by barriers that kept out
the onlookers, and diminishing visibly as he watched, as the full
platform flew up to the embarking stage just below where he stood
and the empty platforms descended again. The murmur of talking
came up to him like the buzz of a hive.
He understood that he was assisting at an historical event. For
to-day practically marked, in England at any rate, the practical
recognition of the two principles which up to now had been found,
from their mutual irreconcilability, the cause of practically all
the wars, all the revolutions, all the incessant human quarrels
and conflicts, of which history was chiefly composed--their
recognition and their adjustment. These two principles were the
liberty of the individual and the demands of society. On one
side, every man had a certain inherent right to demand freedom;
on the other, the freedom of one individual was usually found to
mean the servitude of another. The solution, he began to think,
had arrived at last from the recognition that there were, after
all, only two logical theories of government: the one, that power
came from below, the other, that power came from above. The
infidel, the Socialist, the materialist, the democrat, these
maintained the one; the Catholic, the Monarchist, the Imperialist
maintained the other. For the two, he perceived, rose ultimately
from two final theories of the universe: the one was that of
Monism--that all life was one, gradually realizing itself through
growth and civilization; the other that of Creation--that a
Transcendent God had made the world, and delegated His sovereign
authority downwards through grade after grade.
So he meditated, remembering also that the former theory was
rapidly disappearing from the world. These Socialist colonies
were not to be eternal, after all: they were but temporary
refuges for minds that were behind the age. Probably another
century or two would see their disappearance.
The second and third boats started almost simultaneously, each
suddenly sliding free from either side of the stage. There was a
ringing of bells; one boat, he saw, shot ahead in a straight
line, the other curved out southwards. He watched the second.
It resembled to his eyes a gigantic dragon-fly--a long gleaming
body, ribbed and lined, blazing and winking in the spring
sunlight, moving in a mist of whirling wings. From the angle at
which he watched its curve, it seemed now to hang suspended,
diminishing to the eye, now shooting suddenly ahead. . . . There
it hung again, already a mile away, as if poised and considering,
then with increasing speed it moved on and on, like a line of
brilliant light; little metallic taps sounded across the water;
it met the horizon, rose above it, darkened, again flashed
suddenly. . . .
He turned to look for the other; but, so far as he could
see, the huge blue arc was empty. He turned again; and the
third too was gone.
A great ringing of bells sounded suddenly beneath him.
"You've got your luggage on board, Monsignor? . . . Well, you'd
better be going on board yourself. She'll start in five minutes."
The arrival at Boston harbour was one more strange experience,
and the more strange because the man who had lost his memory knew
that he was coming into a civilization which, although utterly
unknown to him by experience, yet had in his anticipation a
curious sense of familiarity.
They had met with westerly gales, and although the movement of
the ship seemed wholly unaffected (so perfect was the balancing
system), yet the speed was comparatively low, and it was not
until shortly before dawn on the second day that they came in
sight of the American coast.
Monsignor woke early that morning, and after lying and listening
for half an hour or so to the strange little sounds with which
the air was full--the steady rush of wind like a long hush; the
shivering of some tiny loose scale in one of the planes outside
his window; a minute inexplicable tapping beneath the floor of
his cabin--all those sounds so unidentifiable by the amateur, and
yet so suggestive--he got up, dressed, and went across to the
oratory, where he had said Mass on the previous morning, to say
his prayers. When he had finished he came out again, went
upstairs, and along to the end of the ship, whence from a
protected angle he could look straight ahead. The lights were all
on, as the sun was not yet up, and the upper deck, except for a
patrolling officer, was entirely empty.
For a while he could make out little or nothing beyond the
jutting prow beneath him, itself also illuminated, and various
outlines and silhouettes of devices and rigging which even now he
did not properly understand. Then, as his eyes grew accustomed to
the dark, he began to see.
Beneath him flitted a corrugated leaden surface, flecked
occasionally with white, which he knew to be water, eight hundred
feet at least below, and once he caught a glimpse of a
flattened-looking, fish-shaped object, which went again in an
instant, lighted interiorly, which he guessed to be a coasting
steamer. Before him nothing at first was visible except an
enormous gulf of gloom, but presently, as the dawn came on
behind, this gulf became tinged with a very faint rosy colour in
its upper half, enabling him to distinguish sea from sky, and
almost immediately afterwards the sea itself turned to a livid
pale tinge under the glowing light.
The next thing that he noticed was that the edge of the sea against
the sky began to look irregular and blotted, a little lumpy here
and there, and as he looked this lumpiness grew and rose higher.
He turned as the step of the officer sounded close to him.
"That's land, I suppose?" he said.
"Yes, father; we shall be in by half-past five. . . . Beg your
pardon, father, are you staying long?"
Monsignor shook his head.
"That depends on a hundred things," he said.
"Curious idea this colony; but I dare say it's best."
Monsignor smiled and said nothing.
* * * * *
Interiorly his heart had been sinking steadily during the
journey. He had mixed freely with the emigrants, and had done his
best to make friends; yet there was something not only in their
attitude to him--for though they were respectful enough, they
were absolutely impervious to any advances, seeming to regard him
as independent but rather timid children might look upon a
strange schoolmaster--but in their whole atmosphere and outlook
that was a very depressing change from the curious, impassive,
but alert and confident air to which he had grown accustomed
among the priests and people with whom he mixed. The one thing
that seemed to interest them was to discuss methods of government
and the internal politics of their future life in Massachusetts.
They asked a few questions about crops and soil; he even heard
one group in animated conversation on the subject of schools, but
the talk dropped as soon as he attempted to join in it. They all
talked English too, he noticed.
Yet though the atmosphere seemed to him very ungenial, it
appeared to him not altogether new; there appeared, somewhere in
the back of his mind, to be even an element of sympathy. He felt
almost like one who, having climbed out of a pit to the fresh
air, looks back at others who not only live in the pit, but are
content to live there.
For the world in which he had now consciously lived for the last
twelve months was, in spite of the sharp rigidity and certitude
and inexorable logic from which he shrank, undoubtedly a place of
large horizons. In fact it seemed as if there were no horizons.
On all sides there stretched out illimitable space, for eternity
(with its corollaries) was fully as effective in it as was time.
Those with whom he mixed, however little he might share their
emotions, at any rate talked as if death was no more than an
incident in life. Secretly he distrusted the reality of this
confidence; but at least it appeared to be there. But with these
folks all was different. These frankly made their plans for this
world, and this world only. Good government, stability, good
bodily health, the propagation and education of children,
equality in possessions and opportunities--these were their ideas
of good; and better government, greater stability, more perfect
health, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and more uniform
equality, their ideals.
So he pondered, over and over again, trying to understand why it
was that he was at home with neither party. With his old friends
he felt himself incapable of their certitudes and aspirations;
with these new people, viewed for the first time _en masse_, he
felt life resting on him like a stifling blanket. He told himself
bitterly that he resembled the child's Amphibian, which could not
live on the land and died in the water.
He watched mechanically the vault of heaven broaden and brighten
with the sunrise behind, and the waste beneath presently to show
lines and patches and enclosures as they approached Boston
harbour. And his heart sank as each mile was passed, and as
presently against the clear sky there stood up the roofs and
domes and chimneys of the socialistic Canaan.
It was three or four days before he could again form any coherent
picture to himself of what this new life would mean when once it
was really under way.
He was lodged in the Government buildings, adapted a few years
before from the old temple of the Christian Scientists; and each
day in the rotunda he sat hour after hour with keen-faced
Americans, and the few Europeans who had accompanied the
emigration boats that now streamed in continually.
He flung himself into the dreary work, such as it was, with all
his power; for though he had little responsibility, he was there
as the accredited agent of the English ecclesiastical
authorities, and his business was to show as much alacrity and
sympathy as possible.
The city was, indeed, a scene of incredible confusion; and a
very strong force of police was needed to prevent open friction
between the belated and aggrieved Catholics for whom Boston
would in future be impossible as a home, and who had not yet
faced the need of migrating, and the new, very dogmatic
inhabitants who already regarded the city as their own. All
legal arrangements had, of course, been made before the first
emigrants set foot on the continent; but the redistribution of
the city, the sale of farms, the settling of interminable
disputes between various nationalities--all these things, sifted
although they were through agents and officials, yet came up to
the central board in sufficient numbers to occupy the members
for a full nine hours a day.
* * * * *
It was at the end of the fourth day that Monsignor went round the
city in a car, partly to get some air, and partly to see for
himself how things were settling down.
Of course, as he told himself afterwards, he scarcely had a fair
opportunity of judging how a Socialist State would be when the
machinery was in running order. Yet it seemed to him that, making
all allowances for confusion and noise and choked streets and the
rest, underneath it all was a spirit strangely and drearily
unlike that to which he was becoming accustomed in Europe. The
very faces of the people seemed different.
He stopped for a while in the quarter to which the English had
been assigned--that which in old Boston had been, he learned,
the Italian quarter. Here, in the little square where he halted,
everything was surprisingly in order. The open space, paved with
concrete, was unoccupied by any signs of moving in; the houses
were trim and neat, new painted for the most part; and people
seemed to be going about their business with an air of quiet
orderliness. Certainly American arrangements, he thought, were
marvellously efficient, enabling as they did some fifteen
hundred persons to settle down into new houses within the space
of four days. (He had learned something, while he sat on the
central board, of the elaborate system of tickets and officials
and enquiry offices by which such miraculous swiftness had been
Here at least they were an orderly population, going in and out of
the houses, visiting in one corner of the square the vast general
store that had been provided beforehand, presenting their pledges,
which, at any rate for the present, were to take the place of the
European money that the emigrants had brought with them.
He halted the car here, and leaning forward, began to look
round him carefully.
The first thing that struck him was a negative emotion--a
sense that something external was lacking. He presently
perceived what this was.
In European towns, one of the details to which he had become by
now altogether accustomed was the presence, in every street or
square at which he looked, of some emblem or statue or picture of
a religious nature. Here there was nothing. The straight
pavements ran round the square; the straight houses rose from
them, straight-windowed and straight-doored. All was admirably
sanitary and clean and wholesome. He could see through the
windows of the house opposite which his car was drawn up the
clean walls within, the decent furniture, and the rest. But there
was absolutely nothing to give a hint of anything beyond bodily
health and sanitation and decency. In London, or Lourdes, or Rome
there would at least have been a reminder--to put it very
mildly--of other possibilities than these: of a Heavenly Mother,
a Suffering Man; a hint that solid animal health was not the only
conceivable ideal. It was a tiny detail; he blamed himself for
noticing it. He reminded himself that here, at any rate, was real
liberty as he had conceived it.
He began to scrutinize the faces of the passers-by, sheltering
himself behind his elbow that he might not be noticed--appearing
as if he were waiting for some one. Women passed by, strong-faced
and business-like; men came up and passed, talking in twos or
threes. He even watched for some while a couple of children who
sat gravely together on a doorstep. (That reminded him of the
meeting of to-morrow, when certain educational matters had to be
finally decided; he remembered the proposed _curriculum_,
sketched out in some papers that he had to study this evening--an
exceedingly sound and useful _curriculum_, calculated to make the
pupils satisfactorily informed persons.)
Again and again he told himself that it was fancy that made him
see in the faces of these people--people, it must be remembered,
who were not commonplace, but rather enthusiasts for their cause,
since they preferred exile to a life under the Christian
system--that made him see a kind of blankness and heaviness
corresponding to that which the aspect of their street presented.
Many of the faces were intellectual, especially of the men--there
was no doubt of that; and all were wholesome-looking and healthy,
just as this little square was sensibly built and planned, and
the houses soundly constructed.
Yet, as he looked at them _en masse_, and compared them with his
general memories of the type of face that he saw in London
streets, there was certainly a difference. He could conceive
these people making speeches, recording votes, discussing
matters of public interest with great gravity and consideration;
he could conceive them distributing alms to the needy after
careful and scientific enquiry, administering justice; he could
imagine them even, with an effort, inflamed with political
passion, denouncing, appealing. . . . But it appeared to him (to
his imagination rather, as he angrily told himself) that he
could not believe them capable of any absolutely reckless crime
or reckless act of virtue. They could calculate, they could
plan, they had almost mechanically perfect ideas of justice;
they could even love and hate after their kind. But it was
inconceivable that their passion, either for good or evil, could
wholly carry them away. In one word, _there was no light behind
these faces_, no indication of an incomprehensible Power greater
than themselves, no ideal higher than that generated by the
common sense of the multitude. In short, they seemed to him to
have all the impassivity of the Christian atmosphere, with none
of its hidden fire.
He gave the signal presently for the driver to move on, and
himself leaned back in his seat with closed eyes. He felt
terribly alone in a terrible world. Was the whole human race,
then, utterly without heart? Had civilization reached such a
pitch of perfection--one part through supernatural forces, and
the other through human evolution--that there was no longer any
room for a man with feelings and emotions and an individuality of
his own? Yet he could no longer conceal from himself that the
other was better than this--that it was better to be heartless
through too vivid a grasp of eternal realities, than through an
equally vivid grasp of earthly facts.
* * * * *
As he reached the door of the great buildings where he lodged,
and climbed wearily out, the porter ran out, hat in hand, holding
a little green paper.
"Monsignor," he said, "this arrived an hour ago. We did not know
where you were."
He opened it there and then. It contained half a dozen words in
code. He took it upstairs with him, strangely agitated, and there
deciphered it. It bade him leave everything, come instantly to
Rome, and join the Cardinal.
There was dead silence on the long staircase of the Vatican,
leading up to the Cardinal Secretary's rooms, as Monsignor toiled
up within half an hour of his arrival at the stage outside the
city. A car was in waiting for him there, had whirled him first
to the old palace where he had stayed nine months ago with Father
Jervis; and then, on finding that Cardinal Bellairs had been
unexpectedly sent for to the Vatican, he had gone on there
immediately, according to the instructions that had been left
with the _majordomo_.
He knew all now; wireless messages had streamed in hour after
hour during the flight across the Atlantic. At Naples, where the
volor had first touched land, the papers already mentioned full
and exhaustive accounts of the outbreak, with the latest reports;
and by the time that he reached Rome he was as well informed of
the real facts of the case as were any who were not in the inner
circle of those who knew.
The Swiss guard presented his fantastic halberd, as he passed in
panting after his climb; a man in scarlet livery took his hat and
cloak; another preceded him through the first anteroom, where an
ecclesiastic received him; and with this priest he passed on
through the second and third rooms up to the door of the inner
chamber. The priest pushed the door open for him and he went in
alone; the door closed noiselessly behind him. The room was the
same as that which he remembered, all gold and red damask,
lighted from the roof, with the great brass-inlaid writing table
at the farther end, and the broad settee against the right-hand
wall, but it seemed to him in his apprehensiveness that the
solemnity was greater and the hushed silence even deeper. Two
figures sat side by side on the settee, each in the scarlet
ferraiuola of ceremony. One, Cardinal Bellairs, looked up at him
and nodded, even smiling a little; the other stood up and bowed
slightly, before extending his hand to be kissed. This second
figure was a great personality--Italian by birth, an
extraordinary linguist, a very largely made man, both stout and
tall, with a head of thick and perfectly white hair. He had been
a "Papabile" at the last election; and, it was thought, was
certain of the papacy some day, even though it was unusual that a
Secretary of State should succeed. He had a large, well-cut face,
rather yellowish in colour, with very bright, half-veiled black
Monsignor kissed the ring without genuflecting, as the
custom was in the Vatican, and sat down on the chair indicated.
No one spoke for a moment.
"How much have you heard, Monsignor?" asked Cardinal
"I have heard that the Socialists have seized Berlin and the
Emperor; that the city is fortified; that there have been two
massacres; and that the Emperor's life is threatened unless
the Powers grant all the terms asked within . . . within four
days from now."
"Have you heard of the death of Prince Otteone?"
"No, your Eminence."
"Prince Otteone was executed last night," said the Cardinal
simply. "He begged to go as the representative of the Holy Father
to treat for terms. They said they were not there to treat, but
to grant terms. And they say that they will do the same for every
envoy who does not bring a message of complete submission. That
will be known everywhere by midday."
Again there was silence. The Cardinal Secretary glanced from one
face to the other, as if hesitating. Monsignor made no attempt to
speak. He knew that was not his business.
"Can you guess why I have sent for you, Monsignor?"
"No, your Eminence."
"I am leaving for Berlin myself to-night. The Holy Father kindly
allows me to do so. I wish to leave some instructions about
English affairs before I go."
For a moment the priest's mind was unable to take in all the
significance of this. The Cardinal's air was of one who announces
that he is going into the country for a few days. There was not
the faintest sign even of excitement in his manner or voice.
Before the priest could speak the Cardinal went on.
"Your Eminence, I have told you what confidence I rest in
Monsignor Masterman. He has all the affairs of the English Church
in his hands. And I desire that, if possible, he should be
appointed Vicar-Capitular in the event of my death."
The Secretary of State bowed.
"I am sure----" he began.
"Your Eminence," cried the priest suddenly, "it's
impossible . . . it's impossible."
The Englishman looked at him sharply.
"It is what I wish," he said.
Monsignor collected himself with a violent effort. He could not,
even afterwards, trace the exact process by which he had arrived
so swiftly at his determination. He supposed it was partly the
drama of the situation--the sense that big demands were in the
air; partly nervous excitement; partly a certain distaste with
life that was growing on him; but chiefly and foremost a
passionate and devoted affection for his chief, which he had
never till this instant suspected in himself. He only perceived,
as clearly as in a vision, that this gallant old man must not be
allowed to go alone, and that he--he who had criticized and
rebelled against the brutality of the world--must go with him.
"Your Eminence," he said, "it is impossible, because I must come
with you to Berlin."
The Cardinal smiled and lifted his hand, as if to an
"My dear fellow----"
Monsignor turned to the other. He felt cool and positive, as if a
breeze had fanned away his excitement.
"You understand, your Eminence, do you not? It is impossible
that the Cardinal should go alone. I am his secretary. I can
arrange everything with . . . with the Rector of the English
College here, if there is no one else. That is right, is it not,
The Italian hesitated.
"Prince Otteone went alone----" he began.
"Exactly. And there were no witnesses. That must not happen again."
There was an obvious answer, but no one made it. Cardinal
Bellairs stood up, lifting himself with his stick.
"It is very good of you," he said quietly. "I understand why you
make the offer. But it is impossible. Monsignor, will you talk
with His Eminence a little? There are one or two things he wishes
to tell you. I have to see the Holy Father, but I will be with
you again soon."
The priest stood up too.
"I must come with you to His Holiness," he said. "I will abide
by his decision."
The other shook his head, again smiling almost indulgently.
Monsignor turned swiftly to the Italian.
"Your Eminence," he said, "will you get this favour for me? I
must see the Holy Father after Cardinal Bellairs has seen him,
since I may not go with him."
The English Cardinal turned with a little abrupt movement and
stood looking at him. There was a silence.
"Well--come," he said.
The contrast between these two great Princes of the Church and
their Lord and Master struck Monsignor very strongly, in spite of
his excitement, as he followed his chief into the Pope's room,
and saw an almost startlingly commonplace man, of middle size,
rise up from the table at which he was writing.
He was a Frenchman, Monsignor knew, and not an exceptional
Frenchman. There was nothing sensational or even impressive about
his appearance, except his white dress and insignia; and even
these, upon him, seemed somehow rather tame and ordinary. His
voice, when he spoke presently, was of an ordinary kind of pitch
and his speaking rather rapid; his eyes were a commonplace grey,
his nose a little fleshy, and his mouth completely
undistinguished. He was, in short, completely unlike the Pope of
fiction and imagination; there was nothing of the Pontiff about
him in his manner. He might have been a clean-shaven business man
of average ability, who had chosen to dress himself up in a white
cassock and to sit in an enormous room furnished in crimson
damask and gold, with chandeliers, at a rather inconvenient
writing-desk. Even at this dramatic moment Monsignor found
himself wondering how in the world this man had risen to the
highest office on earth. (He had been the son of a postmaster in
Tours, the priest remembered.)
The Pope murmured an unintelligible greeting as the two, after
kissing his ring, sat down beside the writing-table.
"So you have come to take your leave, your Eminence?" he began.
"We should all be very grateful for your willingness to go. God
will reward you."
"Plainly it must be a Cardinal this time, Holy Father," said the
Englishman, smiling. "We have still four days. And one of my
nationality has affinity with the Germans, and yet is not one of
them, as I remarked to your Holiness last night. Besides, I am
getting an old man."
There was nothing whatever of the gallant _poseur_ in his manner,
whatever were the words. Monsignor perceived that somehow or
another these persons stood in an attitude towards death that
was beyond his comprehension altogether. They spoke of it
lightly and genially.
"Eh well," said the Pope, "it is decided so. You go to-night?"
"Yes, Holy Father, it is absolutely necessary for me to arrange my
affairs first. I have chartered a private volor. One of my own
servants has volunteered to drive it. But there is one more matter
before I receive your Holiness' instructions. This priest here, my
secretary, Monsignor Masterman, wishes to come with me. I ask your
Holiness to forbid that. I wish him to be Vicar-Capitular of my
diocese, if possible, in the event of my death."
The Pope glanced across at the priest.
"Why do you wish to go, Monsignor? Do you understand to what
you are going?"
"Holy Father, I understand everything. I wish to go because it is
not right that the Cardinal should go alone. Let there be a
witness this time. The Rector of the English College here can
receive all necessary instructions from His Eminence and myself."
"And you, Eminence?"
"I do not wish him to go because there is no need why two should
go, Holiness. One can carry the message as well as two."
There was silence for a moment. The Pope began to play with a pen
that lay before him. Then Monsignor burst out again.
"Holy Father, I beg of you to let me go. I am afraid of
death; . . . that is one reason why I should go. I am crippled
mentally; my memory left me a few months ago; it may leave me
again, and this time helpless and useless. And it is possible
that I may be of some service. Two are better than one."
For a moment the Pope said nothing. He had glanced up curiously
as the priest had said that he was "afraid of death." Then he had
looked down again, his lips twitching slightly.
"Eh well," he said. "You shall go if you wish it."
There was only a very small group of people collected to see the
second envoy leave for Berlin. The hour and place of starting had
been kept secret, on purpose to avoid a crowd; and beyond three
or four from the English College, with half a dozen private
friends of the Cardinal, a few servants, and perhaps a dozen
passers-by who had collected below in curiosity at seeing a
racing-volor attached to one of the disused flying stages on the
hill behind the Vatican--no one else, in the crowds that swarmed
now in the streets and squares of Rome, was even certain that an
envoy was going, still less of his identity.
Monsignor found himself, ten minutes before the start,
standing alone on the alighting-stage, while the Cardinal
still talked below.
As he stood there, now looking out over the city, where beneath
the still luminous sky the lights were already beginning to
kindle, and where in one or two of the larger squares he could
make out the great crowds moving to and fro--now staring at the
long and polished sides of the racing boat that swayed light as a
flower with the buoyancy of the inrushing gas--as he saw all
these things with his outward eyes, he was trying to understand
something of the new impulses and thoughts that surged through
him. He could have given little or no account of the reasons why
he was here; of his hopes or fears or expectations. He was as one
who watches on a sheet shadow-figures whirl past confusedly,
catching a glimpse here of a face or body, now of a fragmentary
movement, that appeared to have some meaning--yet grasping nothing
of the intention or plan of the whole. Or, even better, he was as
one caught in a mill-race, tossed along and battered, yet feeling
nothing acutely, curious indeed as to what the end would be, and
why it had had a beginning, yet fundamentally unconcerned. The
thing was so: there was no more to be said. He knew that it was
necessary that he should be here, about to start for almost
certain death, as that his soul should be inhabiting his body.
But even all these recent happenings had not as yet illuminated
him in the slightest as to the real character of the world that
he found so bewildering. He felt, vaguely, that he ought to have
by now all the pieces of the puzzle, but he was still as far as
ever from being able to fit them into a coherent whole. He just
perceived this--and no more--that the extraordinary tranquillity
of these Catholics in the presence of death was a real
contribution to the problem--as much as the dull earthliness of
the Socialist colony in America. It was not merely Dom Adrian in
particular who had been willing to die without perturbation or
protest; his judges and accusers seemed just as ready when their
turn came. And he--he who had cried out at Christian brutality,
who had judged the world's system by his own and found it
wanting--he feared death; although, so far his fear had not
deterred him from facing it.
He took his place in the narrow cabin in the same mood, following
the Cardinal in after the last good-byes had been said. It was a
tiny place, fitted with a single padded seat on either side
covered with linen and provided with pillows; a narrow table ran
up the centre; and strong narrow windows looked directly from the
sides of the boat. A stern platform, railed in and provided with
sliding glass shutters, gave room to take a few steps of
exercise; but the front of the boat was entirely occupied with
the driver's arrangements. It was a comparatively new type of
boat, he learned from some one with whom he had talked just now,
used solely for racing purposes; and its speed was such that they
would find themselves in Berlin before morning.
The stern door was swung to by one who leaned from the stage.
Still through the glass the Cardinal smiled out at his friends
and waved his hand. Then a bell struck, a vibration ran through
the boat, the stage outside lined with faces suddenly swayed and
then fell into space.
The Cardinal laid his hand on the priest's knee.
"Now let us have a talk," he said.
The air that breathed down from the Alps was beginning to cloud
the windows of the cabin before they had finished talking.
The man who had lost his memory, under the tremendous stress of
an emotion of which he was hardly directly conscious at all--the
emotion generated by the knowledge that every whistling mile that
fled past brought him nearer an almost certain death--had
experienced a kind of sudden collapse of his defences such as he
had never contemplated.
He had told everything straight out to this quiet, fatherly
man--his terrors, his shrinking from the unfamiliar atmosphere of
thought to which he had awakened, it seemed, a few months before,
his sense that Christianity had lost its spirit, and, above all,
the strange absence of any definite religious emotion in himself.
He found this difficult to put into words; he had hardly realized
it even to himself.
The Cardinal put one question.
"And yet you are facing death on the understanding that
it is all true?"
"I suppose so."
"Very well, then. That is faith. You need say no more. You have
been to confession?"
The old man was silent for a moment.
"As to the unreality, the feeling that the Church is heartless, I
think that is natural. You had a violent mental shock in your
illness. That means that your emotions are very sensitive, almost
to the point of morbidness. Well, the heart of the Church is very
deep, and you have not found it yet. That does not greatly
matter. You must keep your _will_ fixed. That is all that God
asks. . . . I think it is true that the Church is hard, in a
certain sense; or shall we call it a Divine strength? It is
largely a matter of words. She has had that strength always. Once
it nerved her to suffer; now it nerves her to rule. But I think
you would find that she could suffer again."
"Your Eminence!" cried the priest lamentably, "I am beginning to
see that. . . . Yourself. . . . Prince Otteone. . . ."
The Cardinal lifted his hand.
"Of myself we need not speak. I am an old man, and I do not expect
to suffer. Prince Otteone was another matter. He was a young man,
full of life; and he knew to what he was going. Well, does not his
case impress you? He went quite cheerfully, you know."
The priest was silent.
"What are you thinking of, my son?"
The priest shivered a little.
"Tell me," said the Cardinal again.
"It is the Holy Father," burst out the other impulsively.
"He was terrible: so unconcerned, so careless as to who
lived or died. . . ."
He looked up in an agony, and saw a look almost of amusement in
the old man's eyes fixed on him.
"Yes, do not be afraid," murmured the old man. "You think he was
unconcerned? Well, ought he not to be? Is not that what we should
expect of the Vicar of Christ?"
"Yes, yes, and his Vicar too has wept. I have seen it. But Christ
went to death without tears."
"But . . . but this man is not going," cried the priest. "He is
sending others. If he went himself----"
He stopped suddenly; not at a sound, but at a kind of mental
vibration from the other. Up here in these heights, under the
pressure of these thoughts, every nerve and fibre seemed
stretched to an amazing pitch of sensitiveness. It seemed to him
as if he had never before lived at such a pitch.
But the other said nothing. Once his lips opened, but they closed
again. The priest said nothing. He waited.
"I think no one would expect the Holy Father to go himself under
such circumstances," said the Cardinal gently and blandly. "Do
you not think that it might be harder for him to remain?"
Monsignor felt a wave of disappointment. He had expected a revelation
of some kind, or a vivid sentence that would make all plain.
The old man leaned forward again smiling.
"Do not be impatient and critical," he said. "It is enough that
you and I are going. That should occupy us. Come, let us look
through these papers again."
It was an hour later that they swept down into the French plains.
The glass cleared again as they reached the warmer levels, and
Monsignor became conscious of an overpowering weariness. He
yawned uncontrollably once or twice. His companion laughed.
"Lie down a little, Monsignor. You have had a hard day of it.
I must have some sleep too. We must be as fresh as we can for
Monsignor said nothing. He stepped across to the other couch, and
slipped off his shoes, took off his cincture, and lay down
without a word. Almost before he had finished wondering at the
marvellous steadiness of this flying arrow of a ship, he had sunk
down into complete unconsciousness.
He awoke with a start, coming up, as is common after the deep sleep
of exhaustion, into a state in which, although the senses are
awake, the intellect is still in a kind of paralysis of slumber. He
threw his feet off the couch and sat up, staring about him.
The first thing which he noticed was that the cabin was full of a
pale morning light, cold and cheerless, although the shaded
lights still burned in the roof. Then he saw that the Cardinal
was sitting at the farther end of the opposite couch, looking
intently out; that one of the glass shutters was slid back, and
that a cold, foggy air was visibly pouring in past the old man's
head. Then he saw the head of the driver through the glass panes
in the door; his hand rested on the grip of some apparatus
connected with the steering, he believed.
But beyond this there was nothing to be seen through the windows
opposite, of which the curtains had been drawn back; he saw
nothing but white driving mist. He tore back the curtains behind
him, and there also was the mist. It was plain then that they
were not at rest at any stage; and yet the slight humming
vibration, of which he had been conscious before he fell asleep,
and even during one or two moments of semi-wakefulness during the
night, this had ceased. The car hung here, like a floating
balloon, motionless, purposeless--far up out of sight of land,
and an absolute silence hung round it.
He moved a little as these things began to arrange themselves in
his mind, and at the movement the Cardinal turned round. He
looked old and worn in this chilly light, and his unshaven chin
sparkled like frost. But he spoke in his ordinary voice, without
any sign of discomposure.
"So you are awake, Monsignor? I thought I would let you have
your sleep out."
"What has happened? Where are we?"
"We arrived half an hour ago. They signalled to us to remain
where we were until they came up."
"We have arrived!"
"Certainly. We passed the first Berlin signalling light
nearly three-quarters of an hour ago. We slowed down after
that, of course."
The priest turned his head suddenly and made a movement with it
downwards. The Cardinal leaned forward again and peered through
the open shutter.
"I think they are coming up at last," he said, drawing his head
back. "Hush! Listen, Monsignor."
The priest listened with all his might. At first he heard nothing
except the faint whistle of the wind somewhere in the roof. Then
he heard three or four metallic noises, as if from the depths of
a bottomless hit, faint and minute; and then, quite distinctly,
three strokes of a bell.
The Cardinal nodded.
"They are starting," he said. "They have kept us long enough."
He slipped along the seat to where his scarlet cincture and cap
lay, and began to put these on.
Monsignor sprang across and lifted down the great Roman
cloak from its peg.
"You had better get ready yourself," said the Cardinal. "They
will be here in a moment."
As the priest slipped on his second shoe, a sound suddenly
stopped him dead for an instant. It was the sound of voices
talking somewhere beneath in the fog. Then he finished, and stood
up, just as there slid cautiously upwards, like a whale coming up
to breathe, past the window by which the Cardinal was now
standing cloaked and hatted, first a shining roof, then a row of
little ventilators, and finally a line of windows against which a
dozen faces were pressed. He saw them begin to stir as the
scarlet of the Cardinal met their eyes.
"We can sit down again," said the old man, smiling. "The rest is
a matter for the engineers."
It seemed strange afterwards to the priest how little real or
active terror he felt. He was conscious of a certain sickly
sensation, and of a sourish taste on his lips, as he licked them
from time to time; but scarcely more than this, except perhaps of
a sudden shivering spasm that shook him once or twice as the
fog-laden breeze poured in upon him.
He sat there watching through the windows in a kind of
impassivity, as much as he could see of the method by which the
racing-boat was attached by long, rigid rods to the steady
floating raft that had risen from beneath. (He was even
interested to observe that these rigid rods were of telescopic
design, and were elongated from their own interiors. One of them
pushed forward once to within a foot of the windows; then the
tapering end seemed to fall apart into two hooked ends,
singularly like a lean finger and thumb with roughened surfaces.
This, in its turn, rose out of sight, and he heard it slide
along the roof overhead, till it caught some projection and
So the process went on, slowly and deliberately. The driver
still remained at his post, answering once or twice questions
put to him from some invisible person outside. The Cardinal
still sat, motionless and silent, on the opposite seat. Then,
after perhaps ten minutes' delay, a sensation of descending
His fear, such as it was, took a new form, as presently through
the thinning fog he became aware that the earth was approaching.
The first clear indication of this was the sound of a clock
striking. He counted the strokes carefully, and immediately
forgot what it was that he had counted. Then, as he watched with
straining eyes for buildings or towers to make their appearance,
the movement stopped; there was a faint jarring sensation, then
the sound of trampling feet, then a heavy shock. He had forgotten
that stages were used.
The Cardinal stood up.
"Come, Monsignor," he said, and gave his hand to him.
So the two stood a moment longer. Then the footsteps sounded on
the boat; a shadow fell across the glass of the stern-door. The
door opened, letting in a rush of foggy air, and two men in
uniform came swiftly inside.
"Your name and your business, gentlemen?" said the foremost
shortly, in excellent English.
"I am come on behalf of the Holy Father," said the Cardinal
steadily. "My name is Cardinal Bellairs. This is my secretary,
Monsignor Masterman. He is not an envoy."
"Exactly," said the man. "That is all in order. You were seen by
our guard-boats. Will you step this way?"
A bridge had been thrown across from the raft to the racing-boat,
and the latter was now attached to an immense stage whose sides
ran down into the fog. The stage-platform was crowded with men,
some in official uniform, some in blouses; but a way was kept
clear for the visitors, and they passed across without any actual
show of hostility or resentment. Monsignor noticed but one
detail--that no salutation of any kind was given; and as they
took their seats in the lift, with the two officials close beside
them, he heard guttural conversation break out, and, he thought,
one loud laugh. The doors were latched, and the lift dropped.
The speed was so great that it would have been impossible to see
anything of the town into which they descended, even had the fog
been absent. As it was, Monsignor saw nothing except the sudden
darkening of the air round them. Then as the speed slackened he
saw the side of some great building not twenty yards away. Then
the lift stopped and the doors were opened.
A group of men stood there, with something of an expectant air in
their stolid faces. All these were in uniform of some
description; one stood a little in advance of the rest and held a
paper in his hand.
"Cardinal Bellairs?" he said, also in English. "And
The Cardinal bowed.
"We had information from Rome last night. I understand you have a
communication from the Powers?"
"From the Holy Father, whom the European Powers have appointed to
"It is the same thing," said the man brusquely. "The Council are
waiting to receive you. Kindly follow me."
The official who had brought them down stepped forward.
"I understand, sir, that this gentleman" (he indicated the
priest) "is not an envoy."
"Is that so?" asked the other.
"Very good. I only have authority to introduce the envoy.
Monsignor Masterman will be good enough to follow the other
gentleman. Your Eminence, will you come with me?"
On looking back afterwards on the whole experience, that which
stood out as most shocking in it all, to the priest's mind, was
the abominable speed with which the tragedy was accomplished. It
was merciful, perhaps, that it was so, for even the half-hour or
so which elapsed before the priest had any more news dragged
itself to an intolerable length.
He walked up and down the little furnished room--some kind of
parlour, he understood, attached to a government building seized
by the revolutionaries, guarded, he knew, by a couple of men in
the passage, whose voices he occasionally heard--in a sort of
dull agony, far more torturing than positive objective fear.
He tried to comfort himself by retelling to himself the story of
the last few days; reminding himself how, after the first
outburst, when the police had been shot down by these new weapons
of which he understood nothing, and the palace had been taken,
and the city reduced to a state of defenceless terror--the
revolutionaries had sternly repressed the second attempted
massacre in a manner not unworthy of real civilization.
A great deal of the whole story was unintelligible to him. He
just knew the outlines. First, it was obvious that the
revolution had been planned in all its details months before.
There had been, soon after the Emperor's conversion, a great
access of other converts, accompanied by a dispersal to other
countries, notably America, of innumerable people of the lower
classes who were known as Socialists. All this was looked upon
by the authorities as natural, and as actually reassuring. There
had been a few protests against the new proposals with regard to
legislation; but not enough to rouse any suspicion that violence
would be attempted. Finally, when the organized emigration was
beginning, and even the most pessimistic politicians were
beginning to regard the situation as saved, without the
slightest warning the blow had been struck, obviously by the
directions of an international council whose very existence had
not been suspected.
As to the details of the revolution itself he was even more
vague, for the understanding of it depended on an acquaintance
with the internal arrangements of Berlin, by which a kind of
interior citadel, not outwardly fortified in any way, yet held in
its compass all those immense "power-stations" by which, in the
present day, every town was defended. (He did not know exactly
what these "power-stations" were, beyond the fact that they were
the lineal successors of the old gun-forts, and controlled an
immense number of mines both within the city and without it, as
well as some kind of "electric ray," which was the modern
substitute for cannon.) Well, it was this "citadel," including
the Emperor's palace, that had been suddenly seized by the
revolutionaries, obviously by the aid of treachery. And the thing
was done. It was impossible for the other Powers, or even for the
German air-navy itself, to wipe the whole place out of existence,
since it was known that the Emperor himself was in the hands of
the rebels. (It was a bald story, as he had heard it; yet he
reflected that great _coups_ usually were extremely and
Finally, there were the terms demanded--terms which the Powers
were unanimous in rejecting, since they included the formal
disestablishment of the Church throughout Europe and the
complete liberty of the Press, with guarantees that these should
continue. The alternative to the acceptance of these terms was
the execution of the Emperor and formal war declared upon
Europe--a war which, of course, could have but one ending, but
which, until that end came, would mean, under the new conditions
of warfare, an almost unimaginable destruction of life and
property, especially since (as was known) the Socialists
repudiated all the international laws of warfare. The defiance
was, of course, a ridiculous and a desperate one, but it was the
defiance of a savage child who held all modern resources in his
hands and knew how to use them. There was also possible, as some
said, a rising all over the civilized world, should the movement
meet with success.
So much, in brief, was what Monsignor Masterman knew. So much,
indeed, was now public property all the world over, and it was