Part 1 out of 13
Karol Pietrzak, Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
By MARIE CORELLI
"Thelma," "Ardath," "Innocent," "The Treasure of Heaven," etc.
TO ALL THOSE CHURCHES WHO QUARREL IN THE NAME OF CHRIST
All the bells were ringing the Angelus. The sun was sinking;--and
from the many quaint and beautiful grey towers which crown the
ancient city of Rouen, the sacred chime pealed forth melodiously,
floating with sweet and variable tone far up into the warm autumnal
air. Market women returning to their cottage homes after a long
day's chaffering disposal of their fruit, vegetable, and flower-
wares in the town, paused in their slow trudge along the dusty road
and crossed themselves devoutly,--a bargeman, lazily gliding down
the river on his flat unwieldly craft, took his pipe from his mouth,
lifted his cap mechanically, and muttered more from habit than
reflection--"Sainte Marie, Mere de Dieu, priez pour nous!"--and some
children running out of school, came to a sudden standstill,
listening and glancing at each other, as though silently questioning
whether they should say the old church-formula among themselves or
no? Whether, for example, it might not be more foolish than wise to
repeat it? Yes;--even though there was a rumour that the Cardinal-
Archbishop of a certain small, half-forgotten, but once
historically-famed Cathedral town of France had come to visit Rouen
that day,--a Cardinal-Archbishop reputed to be so pure of heart and
simple in nature, that the people of his far-off and limited diocese
regarded him almost as a saint,--would it be right or reasonable for
them, as the secularly educated children of modern Progress, to
murmur an "Angelus Domini," while the bells rang? It was a doubtful
point;--for the school they attended was a Government one, and
prayers were neither taught nor encouraged there, France having for
a time put God out of her national institutions. Nevertheless, the
glory of that banished Creator shone in the deepening glow of the
splendid heavens,--and--from the silver windings of the Seine which,
turning crimson in the light, looped and garlanded the time-honoured
old city as with festal knots of rosy ribbon, up to the trembling
tops of the tall poplar trees fringing the river banks,--the warm
radiance palpitated with a thousand ethereal hues of soft and
changeful colour, transfusing all visible things into the misty
semblance of some divine dwelling of dreams. Ding-dong--ding dong!
The last echo of the last bell died away upon the air--the last
words enunciated by devout priests in their cloistered seclusion
were said--"In hora mortis nostrae! Amen!"--the market women went on
their slow way homeward,--the children scampered off in different
directions, easily forgetful of the Old-World petition they had
thought of, yet left unuttered,--the bargeman and his barge slipped
quietly away together down the windings of the river out of sight;--
the silence following the clangour of the chimes was deep and
impressive--and the great Sun had all the heaven to himself as he
went down. Through the beautiful rose-window of the Cathedral of
Notre Dame, he flashed his parting rays, weaving bright patterns of
ruby, gold and amethyst on the worn pavement of the ancient pile
which enshrines the tomb of Richard the Lion-Hearted, as also that
of Henry the Second, husband to Catherine de Medicis and lover of
the brilliant Diane de Poitiers,--and one broad beam fell purpling
aslant into the curved and fretted choir-chapel especially dedicated
to the Virgin, there lighting up with a warm glow the famous
alabaster tomb known as "Le Mourant" or "The Dying One." A strange
and awesome piece of sculpture truly, is this same "Mourant"!--
showing, as it does with deft and almost appalling exactitude, the
last convulsion of a strong man's body gripped in the death-agony.
No delicate delineator of shams and conventions was the artist of
olden days whose ruthless chisel shaped these stretched sinews,
starting veins, and swollen eyelids half-closed over the tired
eyes!--he must have been a sculptor of truth,--truth downright and
relentless,--truth divested of all graceful coverings, and nude as
the "Dying One" thus realistically portrayed. Ugly truth too,--
unpleasant to the sight of the worldly and pleasure-loving tribe who
do not care to be reminded of the common fact that they all, and we
all, must die. Yet the late sunshine flowed very softly on and over
the ghastly white, semi-transparent form, outlining it with as much
tender glory as the gracious figure of Mary Virgin herself, bending
with outstretched hands from a grey niche, fine as a cobweb of old
lace on which a few dim jewels are sewn. Very beautiful, calm and
restful at this hour was "Our Lady's Chapel," with its high, dark
intertwisting arches, mutilated statues, and ancient tattered
battle-banners hanging from the black roof and swaying gently with
every little breath of wind. The air, perfumed with incense-odours,
seemed weighted with the memory of prayers and devotional silences,-
-and in the midst of it all, surrounded by the defaced and crumbling
emblems of life and death, and the equally decaying symbols of
immortality, with the splendours of the sinking sun shedding roseate
haloes about him, walked one for whom eternal truths outweighed all
temporal seemings,--Cardinal Felix Bonpre, known favourably, and
sometimes alluded to jestingly at the Vatican, as "Our good Saint
Felix." Tall and severely thin, with fine worn features of ascetic
and spiritual delicacy, he had the indefinably removed air of a
scholar and thinker, whose life was not, and never could be in
accordance with the latter-day customs of the world; the mild blue
eyes, clear and steadfast, most eloquently suggested "the peace of
God that passeth all understanding";--and the sensitive intellectual
lines of the mouth and chin, which indicated strength and determined
will, at the same time declared that both strength and will were
constantly employed in the doing of good and the avoidance of evil.
No dark furrows of hesitation, cowardice, cunning, meanness or
weakness marred the expressive dignity and openness of the
Cardinal's countenance,--the very poise of his straight spare figure
and the manner in which he moved, silently asserted that inward
grace of spirit without which there is no true grace of body,--and
as he paused in his slow pacing to and fro to gaze half-wistfully,
half-mournfully upon the almost ghastly artistic achievement of "Le
Mourant" he sighed, and his lips moved as if in prayer. For the
brief, pitiful history of human life is told in that antique and
richly-wrought alabaster,--its beginning, its ambition, and its end.
At the summit of the shrine, an exquisite bas-relief shows first of
all the infant clinging to its mother's breast,--a stage lower down
is seen the boy in the eager flush of youth, speeding an arrow to
its mark from the bent bow,--then, on a still larger, bolder scale
of design is depicted the proud man in the zenith of his career, a
noble knight riding forth to battle and to victory, armed cap-a-pie,
his war-steed richly caparisoned, his lance in rest,--and finally,
on the sarcophagus itself is stretched his nude and helpless form,
with hands clenched in the last gasping struggle for breath, and
every muscle strained and fighting against the pangs of dissolution.
"But," said the Cardinal half aloud, with the gentle dawning of a
tender smile brightening the fine firm curve of his lips,--"it is
not the end! The end here, no doubt;--but the beginning--THERE!"
He raised his eyes devoutly, and instinctively touched the silver
crucifix hanging by its purple ribbon at his breast. The orange-red
glow of the sun encompassed him with fiery rings, as though it would
fain consume his thin, black-garmented form after the fashion in
which flames consumed the martyrs of old,--the worn figures of
mediaeval saints in their half-broken niches stared down upon him
stonily, as though they would have said,--"So we thought,--even we!-
-and for our thoughts and for our creed we suffered willingly,--yet
lo, we have come upon an age of the world in which the people know
us not,--or knowing, laugh us all to scorn."
But Cardinal Bonpre being only conscious of a perfect faith,
discovered no hints of injustice or despair in the mutilated shapes
of the Evangelists surrounding him,--they were the followers of
Christ,--and being such, they were bound to rejoice in the tortures
which made their glory. It was only the unhappy souls who suffered
not for Christ at all, whom he considered were truly to be
"And if," he murmured as he moved on--"this knight of former days,
who is now known to us chiefly, alas! as 'Le Mourant', was a
faithful servant of our Blessed Lord, why then it is as well with
him as with any of the holy martyrs. May his soul rest in peace!"
Stopping an instant at the next sculptural wonder in his way--the
elaborately designed tomb of Cardinal Amboise, concerning the
eternal fate of which "brother in Christ" the good Felix had no
scruples or fears whatever, he stepped softly down from the choir-
chapel where he had been wandering to and fro for some time in
solitary musings, and went towards the great central nave. It was
quite empty,--not even a weary silk-weaver, escaped from one of the
ever-working looms of the city, had crept in to tell her beads.
Broad, vacant, vast, and suggestive of a sublime desolation, the
grand length and width of the Latin Cross which shapes the holy
precincts, stretched into vague distance, one or two lamps were
burning dimly at little shrines set in misty dark recesses,--a few
votive candles, some lit, some smouldered out, leaned against each
other crookedly in their ricketty brass stand, fronting a battered
statue of the Virgin. The Angelus had ceased ringing some ten
minutes since,--and now one solemn bell, swinging high up in the
Cathedral towers, tolled forth the hour of six, slowly and with a
strong pulsating sound which seemed to shake the building down to
its very vaults and deep foundations. As the last stroke shivered
and thundered through the air, a strain of music, commencing softly,
then swelling into fuller melody, came floating from aloft,
following the great bell's vibration. Half way down the nave, just
as he was advancing slowly towards the door of egress, this music
overtook the Cardinal like an arresting angel, bringing him to a
"The organist practises late," he said aloud, as though speaking to
some invisible companion, and then was silent, listening. Round him
and above him surged the flood of rich and dulcet harmony,--the
sunset light through the blue and red stained-glass windows grew
paler and paler--the towering arches which sprang, as it were, from
slender stem-like side-columns up to full-flowering boughs of Gothic
ornamentation, crossing and re-crossing above the great High Altar,
melted into a black dimness,--and then--all at once, without any
apparent cause, a strange, vague suggestion of something
supernatural and unseen began suddenly to oppress the mind of the
venerable prelate with a curious sense of mingled awe and fear.
Trembling a little, he knew not why, he softly drew a chair from one
of the shadowy corners, where all such seats were piled away out of
sight so that they might not disfigure the broad and open beauty of
the nave, and, sitting down, he covered his eyes with one hand and
strove to rouse himself from the odd, half-fainting sensation which
possessed him. How glorious now was the music that poured like a
torrent from the hidden organ-loft! How full of searching and
potential proclamation!--the proclamation of an eternal, unguessed
mystery, for which no merely human speech might ever find fit
utterance! Some divine declaration of God's absolute omnipresence,--
or of Heaven's sure nearness,--touched the heart of Felix Bonpre, as
he sat like an enchanted dreamer among the tender interweavings of
solemn and soothing sound;--carried out of himself and beyond his
own existence, he could neither pray nor think, till, all at once,
upon the peaceful and devout silence of his soul, some very old,
very familiar words struck sharply as though they were quite new,--
as though they were invested suddenly with strange and startling
"When the son of Man cometh, think ye He shall find faith on earth?"
Slowly he withdrew his hand from his eyes and gazed about him, half-
startled, half-appalled. Had anyone spoken these words?--or had they
risen of themselves as it were in letters of fire out of the sea of
music that was heaving and breaking tumultuously about him?
"WHEN THE SON OF MAN COMETH, THINK YE HE SHALL FIND FAITH ON EARTH?"
The question seemed to be whispered in his ears with a thrilling
intensity of meaning; and moved by a sudden introspective and
retrospective repentance, the gentle old man began mentally to grope
his way back over the past years of his life, and to ask himself
whether in very truth that life had been well or ill spent? Viewed
by his own inner contemplative vision, Cardinal Felix Bonpre saw in
himself nothing but wilful sin and total unworthiness;--but in the
eyes of those he had served and assisted, he was a blameless
priest,--a man beloved of God, and almost visibly encompassed by the
guardianship of angels. He had been singularly happy in his election
to a diocese which, though it had always had an Archbishop for its
spiritual head, boasted scarce as many inhabitants as a prosperous
English village,--and the result of this was that he had lived
altogether away from the modern world, passing most of his time in
reading and study,--while for relaxation, he permitted himself only
the innocent delight of growing the finest roses in his
neighbourhood. But he had pious scruples even about this rose-
growing fancy of his,--he had a lurking distrust of himself in it,
as to whether it was not a purely selfish pleasure,--and therefore,
to somewhat smooth the circumstance, he never kept any of the choice
blooms for his own gratification, but gave the best of them with a
trust, as simple as it was beautiful, to the altar of the Virgin,
sending all the rest to the bedsides of the sick and sorrowful, or
to the coffins of the dead. It never once occurred to him that the
"Cardinal's roses," as they were called, were looked upon by the
poor people who received them as miraculous flowers long after they
had withered,--that special virtues were assigned to them--and that
dying lips kissed their fragrant petals with almost as much devotion
as the holy crucifix, because it was instinctively believed that
they contained a mystic blessing. He knew nothing of all this;--he
was too painfully conscious of his own shortcomings,--and of late
years, feeling himself growing old, and realising that every day
brought him nearer to that verge which all must cross in passing
from Time into Eternity, he had been sorely troubled in mind. He was
wise with the wisdom which comes of deep reading, lonely meditation,
and fervent study,--he had instructed himself in the modern schools
of thought as well as the ancient,--and though his own soul was
steadfastly set upon the faith he followed, he was compassionately
aware of a strange and growing confusion in the world,--a
combination of the elements of evil, which threatened, or seemed to
threaten, some terrible and imminent disaster. This sorrowful
foreboding had for a long time preyed upon him, physically as well
as mentally; always thin, he had grown thinner and more careworn,
till at the beginning of the year his health had threatened to break
down altogether. Whereupon those who loved him, growing alarmed,
summoned a physician, who, (with that sage experience of doctors to
whom thought-trouble is an inexplicable and incurable complication)
at once pronounced change of air to be absolutely necessary.
Cardinal Bonpre must travel, he said, and seek rest and
minddistraction in the contemplation of new and varying scenes. With
smiling and resigned patience the Cardinal obeyed not so much the
command of his medical attendant, as the anxious desire of his
people,--and thereupon departed from his own Cathedral-town on a
tour of several months, during which time he inwardly resolved to
try and probe for himself the truth of how the world was going,--
whether on the downward road to destruction and death, or up the
high ascents of progress and life. He went alone and unattended,--he
had arranged to meet his niece in Paris and accompany her to her
father's house in Rome,--and he was on his way to Paris now. But he
had purposely made a long and round-about journey through France
with the intention of studying the religious condition of the
people; and by the time he reached Rouen, the old sickness at his
heart had rather increased than diminished. The confusion and the
trouble of the world were not mere hearsay,--they in very truth
existed. And what seemed to the Cardinal to be the chief cause of
the general bewilderment of things, was the growing lack of faith in
God and a Hereafter. How came this lack of faith into the Christian
world? Sorrowfully he considered the question,--and persistently the
same answer always asserted itself--that the blame rested
principally with the Church itself, and its teachers and preachers,
and not only in one, but in all forms of Creed.
"We have erred in some vital manner," mused the Cardinal, with a
feeling of strange personal contrition, as though he were more to
blame than any of his compeers--"We have failed to follow the
Master's teaching in its true perfection. We have planted in
ourselves a seed of corruption, and we have permitted--nay, some of
us have encouraged--its poisonous growth, till it now threatens to
contaminate the whole field of labour."
And he thought of the words of St. John the Divine to the Church of
"_I_ KNOW THY WORKS,--THAT THOU HAST A NAME THAT THOU LIVEST AND ART
"BE WATCHFUL, AND STRENGTHEN THE THINGS THAT REMAIN, THAT ARE READY
TO DIE,--FOR _I_ HAVE NOT FOUND THY WORKS PERFECT BEFORE GOD.
REMEMBER THEREFORE HOW THOU HAST RECEIVED AND HEARD, AND HOLD FAST
"IF, THEREFORE, THOU SHALT NOT WATCH, _I_ WILL COME ON THEE AS A
THIEF, AND THOU SHALL NOT KNOW WHAT HOUR I WILL COME UPON THEE.
"THOU HAST A FEW NAMES EVEN IN SARDIS, WHICH HAVE NOT DEFILED THEIR
GARMENTS, AND THEY SHALL WALK WITH ME IN WHITE, FOR THEY ARE WORTHY.
"HE THAT OVERCOMETH, THE SAME SHALL BE CLOTHED IN WHITE RAIMENT; AND
I WILL NOT BLOT HIS NAME OUT OF THE BOOK OF LIFE, BUT I WILL CONFESS
HIS NAME BEFORE MY FATHER AND BEFORE HIS ANGELS."
Dimmer and duskier grew the long shadows now gathering in the
Cathedral,--two of the twinkling candles near the Virgin's statue
suddenly sank in their sockets with a spluttering noise and guttered
out,--the solemn music of the organ continued, growing softer and
softer as it sounded, till it crept through the vastness of the
building like a light breeze wafted from the sea, bringing with it
suggestions of far flower-islands in the tropics, golden shores
kissed by languid foam, and sweet-throated birds singing, and still
the Cardinal sat thinking of griefs and cares and inexplicable human
perplexities, which were not his own, but which seemed to burden the
greater portion of the world. He drew no comparisons,--he never
considered that, as absolutely as day is day and night is night, his
own beautiful and placid life, lived in the faith of God and Christ,
was tortured by no such storm-tossed tribulation as that which
affected the lives of many others,--and that the old trite saying,
almost despised because so commonplace, namely that "goodness makes
happiness," is as eternally true as that the sun shines in heaven,
and that it is only evil which creates misery. To think of himself
in the matter never occurred to him; had he for a moment entertained
the merest glimmering of an idea that he was better, and therefore
happier than most men, he would, in his own opinion, have been
guilty of unpardonable arrogance and presumption. What he saw, and
what sincerely and unselfishly grieved him, was that the people of
this present age were unhappy--discontented--restless,--that
something of the simple joy of existence had gone out of the world,-
-that even the brilliant discoveries of science and the so-called
"progress" of men only served apparently to increase their
discontent,--that when they were overcome by sorrow, sickness, or
death, they had little philosophy and less faith to support them,--
and that except in the few cases where Christ was still believed in,
they gave way altogether and broke down like frightened children in
"Thou hast a few names, even in Sardis!" A few names! But how few!
Universal weariness of life seemed a disease of the time,--there was
nothing that seemed to satisfy--even the newest and most miraculous
results of scientific research and knowledge ceased to be
interesting after the first week of their triumphant public
demonstration and acceptance.
"The world must be growing old," said the Cardinal sadly,--"It must
be losing its vigour,--it is too tired to lift itself to the light;
too weary and worn out to pray. Perhaps the end of all present
things is at hand,--perhaps it is the beginning of the promised 'new
heavens and new earth.'"
Just then the organ-music ceased abruptly, and the Cardinal, waking
from his thoughts as from a trance, rose up slowly and stood for a
moment facing the great High Altar, which at that distance could
only just be discerned among its darkening surroundings by the
little flickering flame of the suspended lamp burning dimly before
the holy Tabernacle, wherein was locked with golden key behind snowy
doors of spotless marble, the sacred and mysterious Host.
"WHEN THE SON OF MAN COMETH, THINK YE HE SHALL FIND FAITH ON EARTH?"
Again that searching question repeated itself in his mind so
distinctly as to be echoed in his ears,--the deep silence around him
seemed waiting expectantly for some reply, and moved by a strange
spirit of exaltation within him, he answered half aloud--
"Yes! Surely He will find faith,--if only in the few! There are 'a
few names, even in Sardis!' In the sorrowful and meek,--in the poor
and patient and downtrodden martyrs of humanity, He will find
faith;--in the very people He died to save He will discover that
most precious and inspiring of all virtues! But in the so-called
wise and brilliant favourites of the world He will not find it,--in
the teachers of the people He will search for it in vain. By the
writers of many books He shall find Himself scorned and rejected,--
in the cheap and spurious philosophy of modern egotists He will see
His doctrines mocked at and denounced as futile. Few men there are
in these days who would deny themselves for His sake, or sacrifice a
personal passion for the purer honouring of His name. Inasmuch as
the pride of great learning breeds arrogance, so the more the wonder
of God's work is displayed to us, the more are we dazzled and
confounded; and so in our blindness we turn from the worship of the
Creator to that of His creation, forgetting that all the visible
universe is but the outcome or expression of the hidden Divine
Intelligence behind it. What of the marvels of the age!--the results
of science!--the strange psychic prescience and knowledge of things
more miraculous yet to be!--these are but hints and warnings of the
approach of God himself--'coming in a cloud with power and great
As he thus spoke, he raised his hand out of old habit acquired in
preaching, and a ray from the after-glow of the sunken sun lit up
the jewel in the apostolic ring he wore, warming its pale green
lustre to a dim violet spark as of living fire. His fine features
were for a moment warm with fervour and feeling,--then,--suddenly,
he thought of the great world outside all creeds,--of the millions
and millions of human beings who neither know nor accept Christ,--of
the Oriental races with their intricate and beautiful systems of
philosophy,--of savage tribes, conquered and unconquered,--of fierce
yet brave Turkish warriors who are, with all their faults, at any
rate true to the faith they profess--and lastly--more than all--of
the thousands upon thousands of Christians in Christian lands, who
no more believe in Him whose holy name they take in vain, than in
any Mumbo-Jumbo fetish of untaught barbarians. Were these to perish
utterly? Had THEY no immortal souls to save? Had the churches been
at work for eighteen hundred years and more, to bring about no
better results than this,--namely that there were only "A FEW NAMES
IN SARDIS"? If so, were not the churches criminally to blame? Yea,
even holy Mother-Church, whose foundation rested on the memory of
the Lying Apostle? Rapidly, and as if suggested by some tormenting
devil, these thoughts possessed the Cardinal's brain, burning into
it and teasing and agonising the tender fibres of his conscience and
his soul. Could God, the great loving Creator of countless
universes, be so cruel as to wantonly destroy millions of helpless
creatures in one small planet, because through ignorance or want of
proper teaching they had failed to find Christ?--was it possible
that he could only extend his mercy and forgiveness to the "few
names in Sardis"?
"Yet our world is but a pin's point in the eternal immensities,"
argued the Cardinal almost wistfully--"Only a few can expect to be
Nevertheless, this reasoning did not satisfy him. Again, what of
these millions? Were they to be forever lost? Then why so much waste
of life? Waste of life! There is no such thing as waste of life--
this much modern science the venerable Felix knew. Nothing can be
wasted,--not a breath, not a scene, not a sound. All is treasured up
in Nature's store-house and can be eternally reproduced at Nature's
will. Then what was to become of the myriads of human beings and
immortal souls whom the Church had failed to rescue? THE CHURCH HAD
FAILED! Why had it failed? Whose the fault?--whose the weakness?--
for fault and weakness were existent somewhere.
"WHEN THE SON OF MAN COMETH, THINK YE HE SHALL FIND FAITH ON EARTH?"
"No!" whispered the Cardinal, suddenly forced, as it were in his own
despite, to contradict his former assertion--"No!" He paused, and
mechanically making his way towards the door of the Cathedral, he
dipped his fingers into the holy water that glistened dimly in its
marble basin near the black oak portal, and made the sign of the
cross on brow and breast;--"He will not find faith where faith
should be pre-eminent. It must be openly confessed--repentingly
admitted,--He will NOT find faith even in the Church He founded,--I
say it to our shame!"
His head drooped, as though his own words had wounded him, and with
an air of deep dejection he slowly passed out. The huge iron-bound
door swung noiselessly to and fro behind him,--the grave-toned bell
in the tower struck seven. Outside, a tender twilight mellowed the
atmosphere and gave brightness to approaching evening; inside, the
long shadows, gathering heavily in the aisles and richly sculptured
hollows of the side-chapels, brought night before its time. The last
votive candle at the Virgin's shrine flickered down and disappeared
like a firefly in dense blackness,--the last echo of the bell died
in a tremulous vibration up among the high-springing roof-arches,
and away into the solemn corners where the nameless dead reposed,--
the last impression of life and feeling vanished with the retreating
figure of the Cardinal--and the great Cathedral, the Sanctuary and
House of God, took upon itself the semblance of a funeral vault,--a
dark, Void, wherein but one red star, the lamp before the Altar,
Lovely to a poet or an artist's eye is the unevenly-built and
picturesque square of Rouen in which the Cathedral stands,--lovely,
and suggestive of historical romance in all its remote corners, its
oddly-shaped houses, its by-ways and crooked little flights of steps
leading to nowhere, its gables and slanting roofs, and its utter
absence of all structural proportion. A shrine here, a broken statue
there,--a half-obliterated coat-of-arms over an old gateway,--a
rusty sconce fitted fast into the wall to support a lantern no
longer needed in these days of gas and electricity,--an ancient
fountain overgrown with weed, or a projecting vessel of stone for
holy water, in which small birds bathe and disport themselves after
a shower of rain,--those are but a few of the curious fragments of a
past time which make the old place interesting to the student, and
more than fascinating to the thinker and dreamer. The wonderful
"Hotel Bourgtheroulde," dating from the time of Francis the First,
and bearing on its sculptured walls the story of the Field of the
Cloth of Gold, in company with the strangely-contrasting
"Allegories", from Petrarch's "Triumphs", is enough in itself to
keep the mind engrossed with fanciful musings for an hour. How did
Petrarch and the Field of the Cloth of Gold come together in the
brain of the sculptor who long ago worked at these ancient bas-
reliefs? One wonders, but the wonder is in vain,--there is no
explanation;--and the "Bourgtheroulde" remains a pleasing and
fantastic architectural mystery. Close by, through the quaint old
streets of the Epicerie and "Gross Horloge", walked no doubt in
their young days the brothers Corneille, before they evolved from
their meditative souls the sombre and heavy genius of French
tragedy,--and not very far away, up one of those little shadowy
winding streets and out at the corner, stands the restored house of
Diane de Poitiers, so sentient and alive in its very look that one
almost expects to see at the quaint windows the beautiful wicked
face of the woman who swayed the humours of a king by her smile or
Cardinal Bonpre, walking past the stately fourteenth-century Gothic
pile of the Palais de Justice, thought half-vaguely of some of these
things,--but they affected him less than they might have done had
his mind not been full of the grand music he had just heard in the
Cathedral, and of the darkness that had slowly gathered there, as
though in solemn commingling with the darkness which had at the same
time settled over his soul. A great oppression weighed upon him;--
almost he judged himself guilty of mortal sin, for had he not said
aloud and boldly, while facing the High Altar of the Lord, that even
in the Church itself faith was lacking? Yes, he, a Cardinal-
Archbishop, had said this thing; he had as it were proclaimed it on
the silence of the sacred precincts,--and had he not in this, acted
unworthily of his calling? Had he not almost uttered blasphemy?
Grieved and puzzled, the good Felix went on his way, almost
unseeingly, towards the humble inn where he had elected to remain
for the brief period of his visit to Rouen,--an inn where no one
stayed save the very poorest of travellers, this fact being its
chief recommendation in the eyes of the Cardinal. For it must be
conceded, that viewed by our latter-day ideas of personal comfort
and convenience, the worthy prelate had some very old-world and
fantastic notions. One of these notions was a devout feeling that he
should, so far as it was humanly possible, endeavour to obey the
Master whose doctrine he professed to follow. This, it will be
admitted, was a curious idea. Considering the bold and blasphemous
laxity of modern Christian customs, it was surely quite a fanatical
idea. Yet he had his own Church-warrant for such a rule of conduct;
and chief among the Evangelic Counsels writ down for his example was
Voluntary Poverty. Yes!--Voluntary Poverty,--notwithstanding the
countless treasures lying idle and wasted in the Vatican, and the
fat sinecures enjoyed by bishops and archbishops; which things exist
in direct contradiction and disobedience to the command of Christ.
Christ Himself lived on the earth in poverty,--He visited only the
poorest and simplest habitations,--and never did He set His sacred
foot within a palace, save the palace of the High Priest where He
was condemned to die. Much symbolic meaning did Cardinal Felix
discover in this incident,--and often would he muse upon it gravely.
"The Divine is condemned to die in all palaces," he would say,--"It
is only in the glorious world of Nature, under the sunlit or starlit
expanse of heaven, that the god in us can live; and it was not
without some subtle cause of intended instruction to mankind that
the Saviour always taught His followers in the open air."
There was what might be called a palace hard by, to which Bonpre had
been invited, and where he would have been welcome to stay as long
as he chose,--the house of the Archbishop of Rouen--a veritable
abode of luxury as compared with the Hotel Poitiers, which was a
dingy little tumble-down building, very old, and wearing a conscious
air of feebleness and decrepitude which was almost apologetic. Its
small windows, set well back in deeply hollowed carved arches had a
lack-lustre gleam, as of very aged eyes under shelving brows,--its
narrow door, without either bolts or bars, hung half-aslant upon
creaking rusty hinges, and was never quite shut either by day or
night,--yet from the porch a trailing mass of "creeping jenny" fell
in a gold-dotted emerald fringe over the head of any way-worn
traveller passing in,--making a brightness in a darkness, and
suggesting something not altogether uncheery in the welcome
provided. They were very humble folk who kept the Hotel Poitiers,--
the host, Jean Patoux, was a small market-gardener who owned a plot
of land outside Rouen, which he chiefly devoted to the easy growing
of potatoes and celery--his wife had her hands full with the
domestic business of the hotel and the cares of her two children,
Henri and Babette, the most incorrigible imps of mischief that ever
lived in Rouen or out of it. Madame Patoux, large of body, unwieldy
in movement, but clean as a new pin, and with a fat smile of
perpetual contentment on her round visage, professed to be utterly
worn to death by the antics of these children of hers,--but
nevertheless she managed to grow stouter every day with a
persistency and fortitude which denoted the reserved forces of her
nature,--and her cooking, always excellent, never went wrong because
Babette had managed to put her doll in one of the saucepans, or
Henri had essayed to swim a paper boat in the soup. Things went on
somehow; Patoux himself was perfectly satisfied with his small
earnings and position in life--Madame Patoux felt that "le bon Dieu"
was specially engaged in looking after her,--and as long as the
wicked Babette and the wickeder Henri threw themselves wildly into
her arms and clung round her fat neck imploring pardon after any and
every misdeed, and sat for a while "en penitence" in separate
corners reading the "Hours of Mary", they might be as naughty as
they chose over and over again so far as the good-natured mother was
concerned. Just now, however, unusual calm appeared to have settled
on the Patoux household,--an atmosphere of general placidity and
peace prevailed, which had the effect of imparting almost a stately
air to the tumble-down house, and a suggestion of luxury to the
poorly-furnished rooms Madame Patoux herself was conscious of a
mysterious dignity in her surroundings, and moved about on her
various household duties with less bounce and fuss than was her
ordinary custom,--and Henri and Babette sat quiet without being told
to do so, moved apparently by a sudden and inexplicable desire to
study their lessons. All this had been brought about by the advent
of Cardinal Bonpre, who with his kind face, gentle voice and
beneficent manner, had sought and found lodging at the Hotel
Poitiers, notwithstanding Madame Patoux's profuse apologies for the
narrowness and inconvenience of her best rooms.
"For look you, Monseigneur," she murmured, deferentially, "How
should we have ever expected such an honour as the visit of a holy
Cardinal-Archbishop to our poor little place! There are many new
houses on the Boulevards which could have accommodated Monseigneur
with every comfort,--and that he should condescend to bestow the
blessing of his presence upon us,--ah! it was a special dispensation
of Our Lady which was too amazing and wonderful to be at once
Thus Madame Patoux, with breathless pauses between her sentences,
and many profound curtseyings; but the good Cardinal waived aside
her excuses and protestations, and calling her "My daughter", signed
the cross on her brow with paternal gentleness, assuring her that he
would give her as little trouble as any other casual visitor.
"Trouble!--Ah, heaven!--could anything be a trouble for
Monseigneur!" and Madame Patoux, moved to tears by the quiet
contentment with which the Cardinal took possession of the two bare,
common rooms which were the best she could place at his disposal,
hurried away, and hustling Henri and Babette like two little roly-
poly balls before her into the kitchen, she told them with much
emphasis that there was a saint in the house,--a saint fit to be the
holy companion of any of those who had their niches up in the
Cathedral near the great rose-window,--and that if they were good
children they would very likely see an angel coming down from heaven
to visit him. Babette put her finger in her mouth and looked
incredulous. She had a vague belief in angels,--but Henri, with the
cheap cynicism of the modern French lad was anything but sure about
"Mother," said he, "There's a boy in our school who says there is no
God at all, and that it's no use having priests or Cardinals or
Cathedrals,--it's all rubbish and humbug!"
"Poor little miserable monster!" exclaimed Madame Patoux, as she
peered into the pot where the soup for the Cardinal's supper was
simmering--"He is arranging himself to become a thief or a murderer,
be sure of that, Henri!--and thou, who art trained in all thy holy
duties by the good Pere Laurent, who teaches thee everything which
the school is not wise enough to teach, ought never to listen to
such wickedness. If there were no God, we should not be alive at
all, thou foolish child!--for it is only our blessed Saviour and the
saints that keep the world going."
Henri was silent,--Babette looked at him and made a little grimace
"If the Cardinal is a saint," she said--"he should be able to
perform a miracle. The little Fabien Doucet has been lame for seven
years; we shall bring him to Monseigneur, and he will mend his leg
and make him well. Then we shall believe in saints afterwards."
Madame Patoux turned her warm red face round from the fire over
which she was bending, and stared at her precocious offspring
"What! You will dare to address yourself to the Cardinal!" she cried
vociferously--"You will dare to trouble him with such foolishness?
Mon Dieu!--is it possible to be so wicked! But listen to me well!--
If you presume to say one saucy word to Monseigneur, you shall be
punished! What have you to do with the little Fabien Doucet?--the
poor child is sickly and diseased by the will of God."
"I don't see why it should be God's will to make a boy sickly and
diseased--" began the irrepressible Henri, when his mother cut him
short with a stamp of her foot and a cry of--
"Tais-toi! Silence! Wicked boy!--thou wilt kill me with thy naughty
speeches! All this evil comes of the school,--I would thy father had
never been compelled to send thee there!"
As she said this with a vast amount of heat and energy, Henri,
seized by some occult and inexplicable emotion, burst without
warning into loud and fitful weeping, the sound whereof resembled
the yelling of a tortured savage,--and Babette, petrified at first
by the appalling noise, presently gave way likewise, and shrieked a
"What ails my children?" said a gentle voice, distinct and clear in
its calm intonation even in the midst of the uproar, and Cardinal
Bonpre, tall and stately, suddenly appeared upon the threshold--
"What little sorrows are these?"
Henri's roar ceased abruptly,--Babette's shrill wailing dropped into
awed silence. Both youngsters stared amazed at the venerable Felix,
whose face and figure expressed such composed dignity and sweetness;
and Madame Patoux, nastily and with frequent gasps for breath,
related the history of the skirmish.
"And what will become of such little devils when they grow older,
the Blessed Virgin only knows!" she groaned--"For even now they are
so suspicious in nature, that they will not believe in their dinner
till they see it!"
Something like a faint grin widened the mouths of Henri and Babette
at this statement made with so much distressed fervour by their
angry mother,--but the Cardinal did not smile. His face had grown
very pale and grave, almost stern.
"The children are quite right, my daughter," he said gently,--"I am
no saint! I have performed no miracles. I am a poor sinner,--
striving to do well, but alas!--for ever striving in vain. The days
of noble living are past,--and we are all too much fallen in the
ways of error to deserve that our Lord should bless the too often
half-hearted and grudging labour of his so-called servants. Come
here, ma mignonne!" he continued, calling Babette, who approached
him with a curious air of half-timid boldness--"Thou art but a very
little girl," he said, laying his thin white hand softly on her
tumbled brown curls--"Nevertheless, I should be a very foolish old
man if I despised thee, or thy thoughts, or thy desire to know the
truth for truth's sake. Therefore to-morrow thou shalt bring me this
afflicted friend of thine, and though I have no divine gifts, I will
do even as the Master commanded,--I will lay my hands on him in
blessing and pray that he may be healed. More than this is not in my
power, my child!--if a miracle is to be worked, it is our dear Lord
only who can work it."
Gently he murmured his formal benediction,--then, turning away, he
entered his own room and shut the door. Babette, grown strangely
serious, turned to her brother and held out her hand, moved by one
of those erratic impulses which often take sudden possession of
"Come into the Cathedral!" she whispered imperatively--"Come and say
Not a word did the usually glib Henri vouchsafe in answer,--but
clutching his sister's fingers in his own dirty, horny palm, he
trotted meekly beside her out of the house and across the Square
into the silence and darkness of Notre Dame. Their mother watched
their little plump figures disappear with a feeling of mingled
amazement and gratitude,--miracles were surely beginning, she
thought, if a few words from the Cardinal could impress Babette and
Henri with an idea of the necessity of prayer!
They were not long gone, however;--they came walking back together,
still demurely hand in hand, and settled themselves quietly in a
corner to study their tasks for the next day. Babette's doll, once
attired as a fashionable Parisienne, and now degenerated into a one-
eyed laundress with a rather soiled cap and apron, stuck out its
composite arms in vain from the bench where it sat all askew,
drooping its head forlornly over a dustpan,--and Henri's drum,
wherewith he was wont to wake alarming echoes out of the dreamy and
historical streets of Rouen, lay on its side neglected and
ingloriously silent. And, as before said, peace reigned in the
Patoux household,--even the entrance of Papa Patoux himself, fresh
from his celery beds, and smelling of the earth earthy, created no
particular diversion. He was a very little, very cheery, round man,
was Papa Patoux; he had no ideas at all in his bullet head save that
he judged everything to be very well managed in the Universe, and
that he, considered simply as Patoux, was lucky in his life and
labours,--also that it was an easy thing to grow celery, provided
God's blessing was on the soil. For the rest, he took small care; he
knew that the world wagged in different ways in different climates,-
-he read his half-penny journal daily, and professed to be
interested in the political situation just for the fun of the thing,
but in reality he thought the French Senate a pack of fools, and
wondered what they meant by always talking so much about nothing. He
believed in "La Patrie" to a certain extent,--but he would have very
much objected if "La Patrie" had interfered with his celery. Roughly
sneaking, he understood that France was a nation, and that he was a
Frenchman; and that if any enemies should presume to come into the
country, it would be necessary to take up a musket and fight them
out again, and defend wife, children, and celery-beds till the last
breath was out of his body. Further than this simple and primitive
idea of patriotism he did not go. He never bothered himself about
dissentient shades of opinion, or quarrels among opposing parties.
When he had to send his children to the Government school, the first
thing he asked was whether they would be taught their religion
there. He was told no,--that the Government objected to religious
teaching, as it merely created discussion and was of no assistance
whatever in the material business of life. Patoux scratched his head
over this for a considerable time and ruminated deeply,--finally he
smiled, a dull fat smile.
"Good!" said he--"I understand now why the Government makes such an
ass of itself now and then! You cannot expect mere men to do their
duty wisely without God on their side. But Pere Laurent will teach
my children their prayers and catechism,--and I dare say Heaven will
arrange the rest."
And he forthwith dismissed the matter from his mind. His children
attended the Government school daily,--and every Wednesday,
Saturday, and Sunday afternoons Pere Laurent, a kindly, simple-
hearted old priest, took them, with several other little creatures
"educated by the State", and taught them all he knew about the great
France-exiled Creator of the Universe, and of His ceaseless love to
sinful and blasphemous mankind.
So things went on;--and though Henri and Babette were being crammed
by the national system of instruction, with learning which was
destined to be of very slight use to them in their after careers,
and which made them little cynics before their time, they were still
sustained within bounds by the saving sense of something better than
themselves,--that Something Better which silently declares itself in
the beauty of the skies, the blossoming of the flowers, and the
loveliness of all things wherein man has no part,--and neither of
them was yet transformed into that most fearsome product of modern
days, the child-Atheist, for whom there is no greater God than Self.
On this particular night when Papa Patoux returned to the bosom of
his family, he, though a dull-witted man generally, did not fail to
note the dove-like spirit of calm that reigned over his entire
household. His wife's fat face was agreeably placid,--the children
were in an orderly mood, and as he sat down to the neatly spread
supper-table, he felt more convinced than ever that things were
exceedingly well managed for him in this best of all possible
worlds. Pausing in the act of conveying a large spoonful of steaming
soup to his mouth he enquired--
"And Monseigneur, the Cardinal Bonpre,--has he also been served?"
Madame Patoux opened her round eyes wide at him.
"But certainly! Dost thou think, my little cabbage, thou wouldst get
thy food before Monseigneur? That would be strange indeed!"
Papa Patoux swallowed his ladleful of soup in abashed silence.
"It was a beautiful day in the fields," he presently observed--
"There was a good smell in the earth, as if violets were growing,--
and late in the autumn though it is, there was a skylark yet
singing. It was a very blue heaven, too, as blue as the robe of the
Virgin, with clouds as white as little angels clinging to it."
Madame nodded. Some people might have thought Papa Patoux inclined
to be poetical,--she did not. Henri and Babette listened.
"The robe of Our Lady is always blue," said Babette.
"And the angels' clothes are always white," added Henri.
Madame Patoux said nothing, but passed a second helping of soup all
round. Papa Patoux smiled blandly on his offspring.
"Just so," he averred--"Blue and white are the colours of the sky,
my little ones,--and Our Lady and the angels live in the sky!"
"I wonder where?" muttered Henri with his mouth half full. "The sky
is nothing but miles and miles of air, and in the air there are
millions and millions of planets turning round and round, larger
than our world,--ever so much larger,--and nobody knows which is the
largest of them all!"
"It is as thou sayest, my son," said Patoux confidently--"Nobody
knows which is the largest of them all, but whichever it may be,
that largest of them all belongs to Our Lady and the angels."
Henri looked at Babette, but Babette was munching watercress busily,
and did not return his enquiring glances. Papa Patoux, quite
satisfied with his own reasoning, continued his supper in an amiable
state of mind.
"What didst thou serve to Monseigneur, my little one?" he asked his
wife with a coaxing and caressing air, as though she were some
delicate and dainty sylph of the woodlands, instead of being the
lady of massive proportions which she undoubtedly was,--"Something
of delicacy and fine flavour, doubtless?"
Madame Patoux shook her head despondingly.
"He would have nothing of that kind," she replied--"Soup maigre, and
afterwards nothing but bread, dried figs, and apples to finish. Ah,
Heaven! What a supper for a Cardinal-Archbishop! It is enough to
make one weep!"
Patoux considered the matter solemnly.
"He is perhaps very poor?" he half queried.
"Poor, he may be," responded Madame,--"But if he is, it is surely
his own fault,--whoever heard of a poor Cardinal-Archbishop! Such
men can all be rich if they choose."
"Can they?" asked Henri with sudden vivacious eagerness. "How?"
But his question was not answered, for just at that moment a loud
knock came at the door of the inn, and a tall broadly built
personage in close canonical attire appeared in the narrow little
passage of entry, attended by another smaller and very much more
Patoux hastily scrambled out of his chair.
"The Archbishop!" he whispered to his wife--"He himself! Our own
Madame Patoux jumped up, and seizing her children, held one in each
hand as she curtsied up and down.
Benedicite!" said the new-comer, lightly signing the cross in air
with a sociable smile--"Do not disturb yourselves, my children! You
have with you in this house the eminent Cardinal Bonpre?"
"Ah, yes, Monseigneur!" replied Madame Patoux--"Only just now he has
finished his little supper. Shall I show Monseigneur to his room?"
"If you please," returned the Archbishop, still smiling
benevolently--"And permit my secretary to wait with you here till I
With this, and an introductory wave of his hand in the direction of
the attenuated and sallow-faced personage who had accompanied him,
he graciously permitted Madame Patoux to humbly precede him by a few
steps, and then followed her with a soft, even tread, and a sound as
of rustling silk in his garments, from which a faint odour of some
delicate perfume seemed wafted as he moved.
Left to entertain the Archbishop's secretary, Jean Patoux was for a
minute or two somewhat embarrassed. Henri and Babette stared at the
stranger with undisguised curiosity, and were apparently not
favourably impressed by his appearance.
"He has white eyelashes!" whispered Henri.
"And yellow teeth," responded Babette.
Meanwhile Patoux, having scratched his bullet-head sufficiently over
the matter, offered his visitor a chair.
"Sit down, sir," he said curtly.
The secretary smiled pallidly and took the proffered accommodation.
Patoux again meditated. He was not skilled in the art of polite
conversation, and he found himself singularly at a loss.
"It would be an objection no doubt, and an irreverance perhaps to
smoke a pipe before you, Monsieur--Monsieur--"
"Cazeau," finished the secretary with another pallid smile--"Claude
Cazeau, a poor scribe,--at your service! And I beg of you, Monsieur
Jean Patoux, to smoke at your distinguished convenience!"
There was a faint tone of satire in his voice which struck Papa
Patoux as exceedingly disagreeable, though he could not quite
imagine why he found it so. He slowly reached for his pipe from the
projecting shelf above the chimney, and as slowly proceeded to fill
it with tobacco from a tin cannister close by.
"I do not think I have ever seen you in the town, Monsieur Cazeau,"
he said--"Nor at Mass in the Cathedral either?"
"No?" responded Cazeau easily, in a half-querying tone--"I do not
much frequent the streets; and I only attend the first early mass on
Sundays. My work for Monseigneur occupies my whole time."
"Ah!" and Patoux, having stuffed his pipe sufficiently, lit it, and
proceeded to smoke peaceably--"There must be much to do. Many poor
and sick who need money, and clothes, and help in every way,--and to
try and do good, and give comfort to all the unhappy souls in Rouen
is a hard task, even for an Archbishop."
Cazeau linked his thin hands together with an action of pious
fervour and assented.
"There is a broken-hearted creature near us," pursued Patoux
leisurely--"We call her Marguerite La Folle;--I have often thought I
would ask Pere Laurent to speak to Monseigneur for her, that she
might be released from the devils that are tearing her. She was a
good girl till a year or two ago,--then some villain got the ruin of
her, and she lost her wits over it. Ah,'tis a sad sight to see her
now--poor Marguerite Valmond!"
"Ha!" cried Henri suddenly, pointing a grimy finger at Cazeau--"Why
did you jump? Did something hurt you?"
Cazeau had indeed "jumped," as Henri put it,--that is, he had sprung
up from his chair suddenly and as suddenly sat down again with an
air of impatience and discomfort. He rapidly overcame whatever
emotion moved him, however, and stretched his thin mouth in a would-
be amiable grin at the observant Henri.
"You are a sharp boy!" he observed condescendingly--"and tall for
your age, no doubt. How old are you?"
"Eleven," replied Henri--"But that has nothing to do with your
"True," and the secretary wriggled in his chair, pretending to be
much amused--"But my jumping had nothing to do with you either, my
small friend! I had a thought,--a sudden thought,--of a duty
"Oh, it was a thought, was it?" and Henri looked incredulous. "Do
thoughts always make you jump?"
"Tais-toi! Tais-toi!" murmured Patoux gently, between two whiffs of
his pipe--"Excuse him, Monsieur Cazeau,--he is but a child."
Cazeau writhed amicably.
"A delightful child," he murmured--"And the little girl--his sister-
-is also charming--Ah, what fine dark eyes!--what hair! Will she not
come and speak to me?"
He held out a hand invitingly towards Babette, but she merely made a
grimace at him and retired backwards. Patoux smiled benevolently.
"She does not like strangers," he explained.
"Good--very good! That is right! Little girls should always run away
from strangers, especially strangers of my sex," observed Cazeau
with a sniggering laugh--"And do these dear children go to school?"
Patoux took his pipe out of his mouth altogether, and stared
solemnly at the ceiling.
"Without doubt!--they are compelled to go to school," he answered
slowly; "but if I could have had my way, they should never have
gone. They learn mischief there in plenty, but no good that I can
see. They know much about geography, and the stars, and anatomy, and
what they call physical sciences;--but whether they have got it into
their heads that the good God wants them to live straight, clean,
honest, wholesome lives, is more than I am certain of. However, I
trust Pere Laurent will do what he can."
"Pere Laurent?" echoed Cazeau, with a wide smile--"You have a high
opinion of Pere Laurent? Ah, yes, a good man!--but ignorant--alas!
Papa Patoux brought his eyes down from the ceiling and fixed them
enquiringly on Cazeau.
"Ignorant?" he began, when at this juncture Madame Patoux entered,
and taking possession of Henri and Babette, informed Monsieur Cazeau
that the Archbishop would be for some time engaged in conversation
with Cardinal Bonpre, and that therefore he, Monsieur Cazeau, need
not wait,--Monseigneur would return to his house alone. Whereupon
the secretary rose, evidently glad to be set at liberty, and took
his leave of the Patoux family. On the threshold, however, he
paused, looking back somewhat frowningly at Jean Patoux himself.
"I should not, if I were you, trouble Monseigneur concerning the
case you told me of--that of--of Marguerite Valmond,"--he observed--
"He has a horror of evil women."
With that he departed, walking across the Square towards the
Archbishop's house in a stealthy sort of fashion, as though he were
a burglar meditating some particularly daring robbery.
"He is a rat--a rat!" exclaimed Henri, suddenly executing a sort of
reasonless war-dance round the kitchen--"One wants a cat to catch
"Rats are nice," declared Babette, for she remembered having once
had a tame white rat which sat on her knee and took food from her
hand,--"Monsieur Cazeau is a man; and men are not nice."
Patoux burst into a loud laugh.
"Men are not nice!" he echoed--"What dost thou know about it, thou
little droll one?"
"What I see," responded Babette severely, with an elderly air, as of
a person who has suffered by bitter experience; and, undeterred by
her parents' continued laughter she went on--
"Men are ugly. They are dirty. They say 'Come here my little girl,
and I will give you something,'--then when I go to them they try and
kiss me. And I will not kiss them, because their mouths smell bad.
They stroke my hair and pull it all the wrong way. And it hurts. And
when I don't like my hair pulled the wrong way, they tell me I will
be a great coquette. A coquette is to be like Diane de Poitiers.
Shall I be like Diane de Poitiers?"
"The saints forbid!" cried Madame Patoux,--"And talk no more
nonsense, child,--it's bed-time. Come,--say good-night to thy
father, Henri;--give them thy blessing, Jean--and let me get them
into their beds before the Archbishop leaves the house, or they will
be asking him as many questions as there are in the catechism."
Thus enjoined, Papa Patoux kissed his children affectionately,
signing the cross on their brows as they came up to him in turn,
after the fashion of his own father, who had continued this custom
up to his dying day. What they thought of the benediction in itself
might be somewhat difficult to define, but it can be safely asserted
that a passion of tears on the part of Babette, and a fit of
demoniacal howling from Henri, would have been the inevitable result
if Papa Patoux had refused to bestow it on them. Whether there were
virtue in it or not, their father's mute blessing sent them to bed
peaceably and in good humour with each other, and they trotted off
very contentedly beside their mother, hushing their footsteps and
lowering their voices as they passed the door of the room occupied
by Cardinal Bonpre.
"The Archbishop is not an angel, is he?" asked Babette whisperingly.
Her mother smiled broadly.
"Not exactly, my little one. Why such a foolish question?"
"You said that Cardinal Bonpre was a saint, and that perhaps we
should see an angel come down from heaven to visit him," replied
"Well, you could not have thought the Archbishop came from heaven,"
interpolated Henri, scornfully,--"He came from his own house over
the way with his own secretary behind him. Do angels keep
Babette laughed aloud,--the idea was grotesque. The two children
were just then ascending the wooden stairs to their bedroom, the
mother carrying a lighted candle behind them, and at that moment the
rich sonorous voice of the Archbishop, raised to a high and somewhat
indignant tone, reached them with these words--"I consider that you
altogether mistake your calling and position."
Then the voice died away into inaudible murmurings.
"They are quarrelling! The Archbishop is angry!" said Henri with a
"Perhaps Archbishops do not like saints," suggested Babette.
"Tais-toi! Cardinal Bonpre is an archbishop himself, little silly,"
said Madame Patoux--"Therefore those great and distinguished
Monseigneurs are like brothers."
"That is why they are quarrelling!" declared Henri glibly,--"A boy
told me in school that Cain and Abel were the first pair of
brothers, and they quarrelled,--and all brothers have quarrelled
ever since. It's in the blood, so that boy says,--and it is his
excuse always for fighting HIS little brother. His little brother is
six, and he is twelve;--and of course he always knocks his little
brother down. He cannot help it, he says. And he gets books on
physiology and heredity, and he learns in them that whatever is IN
the blood has got to come out somehow. He says that it's because
Cain killed Abel that there are wars between nations;--if Cain and
Abel had never quarrelled, there would never have been any fighting
in the world,--and now that it's in the blood of every body--"
But further sapient discourse on the part of Henri was summarily put
an end to by his mother's ordering him to kneel down and say his
prayers, and afterwards bundling him into bed,--where, being sleepy,
he speedily forgot all that he had been trying to talk about.
Babette took more time in retiring to rest. She had very pretty,
curly, brown hair, and Madame Patoux took a pride in brushing and
plaiting it neatly.
"I may be like Diane de Poitiers after all," she remarked, peering
at herself in the small mirror when her thick locks were smoothed
and tied back for the night--"Why should I not be?"
"Because Diane de Poitiers was a wicked woman," said Madame Patoux
energetically,--"and thou must learn to be a good girl."
"But if Diane de Poitiers was bad, why do they talk so much about
her even now, and put her in all the histories, and show her house,
and say she was beautiful?" went on Babette.
"Because people are foolish," said Madame, getting impatient--
"Foolish people run after bad women, and bad women run after foolish
people. Now say thy prayers."
Obediently Babette knelt down, shut her eyes close, clasped her
hands hard, and murmured the usual evening formula, heaving a small
sigh after her "act of contrition," and looking almost saintly as
she commended herself to her "angel guardian." Then her mother
kissed her, saying--
"Good-night, little daughter! Think of Our Lady and the saints, and
then ask them to keep us safe from evil. Good-night!"
"Good-night." responded Babette sleepily,--but all the same she did
not think of Our Lady and the saints half as much as of Diane de
Poitiers. There are few daughters of Eve to whom conquest does not
seem a finer thing than humility; and the sovereignty of Diane de
Poitiers over a king, seems to many a girl just conscious of her own
charm, a more emphatic testimony to the supremacy of her sex, than
the Angel's greeting of "Blessed art thou!" to the elected Virgin of
Meanwhile a somewhat embarrassing interview had taken place between
the Archbishop of Rouen and Cardinal Bonpre. The archbishop, seen by
the light of the one small lamp which illumined the "best room" of
the Hotel Poitiers was certainly a handsome and imposing personage,
broad-chested and muscular, with a massive head, well set on strong
square shoulders, admirably adapted for the wearing of the dark
violet soutane which fitted them as gracefully as a royal vesture
draping the figure of a king. One disproportionate point, however,
about his attire was, that the heavy gold crucifix which depended by
a chain from his neck, did not, with him, look so much a sacred
symbol as a trivial ornament,--whereas the simple silver one that
gleamed against the rusty black scarlet-edged cassock of Cardinal
Bonpre, presented itself as the plain and significant sign of
holiness without the aid of jewellers' workmanship to emphasize its
meaning. This was a trifle, no doubt;--still it was one of those
slight things which often betray character. As the most brilliant
diamond will look like common glass on the rough red hand of a cook,
while common glass will simulate the richness of the real gem on the
delicate white finger of a daintily-bred woman, so the emblem of
salvation seemed a mere bauble and toy on the breast of the
Archbishop, while it assumed its most reverent and sacred aspect as
worn by Felix Bonpre. Yet judged by mere outward appearance, there
could be no doubt as to which was the finer-looking man of the two.
The Cardinal, thin and pale, with shadows of thought and pain in his
eyes, and the many delicate wrinkles of advancing age marking his
features, would never possess so much attractiveness for worldly and
superficial persons as the handsome Archbishop, who carried his
fifty-five years as though they were but thirty, and whose fresh,
plump face, unmarred by any serious consideration, bespoke a
thorough enjoyment of life, and the things which life,--if
encouraged to demand them,--most strenuously seeks, such as good
food, soft beds, rich clothing, and other countless luxuries which
are not necessities by any means, but which make the hours move
smoothly and softly, undisturbed by the clash of outside events
among those who are busy with thoughts and actions, and who,--being
absorbed in the thick of a soul-contest,--care little whether their
bodies fare ill or well. The Archbishop certainly did not belong to
this latter class,--indeed he considered too much thought as
mischievous in itself, and when thought appeared likely to break
forth into action, he denounced it as pernicious and well-nigh
"Thinkers," he said once to a young and ardent novice, studying for
the priesthood, "are generally socialists and revolutionists. They
are an offence to the Church and a danger to the community."
"Surely," murmured the novice timidly,--"Our Lord Himself was a
thinker? And a Socialist likewise?"
But at this the Archbishop rose up in wrath and flashed forth
"If you are a follower of Renan, sir, you had better admit it before
proceeding further in your studies," he said irately,--"The Church
is too much troubled in these days by the members of a useless and
degenerate apostasy!" Whereupon the young man had left his presence
abashed, puzzled, and humiliated; but scarcely penitent, inasmuch as
his New Testament taught him that he was right and that the
Archbishop was wrong.
Truth to tell, the Archbishop was very often wrong. Wrapped up in
himself and his own fixed notions as to how life should be lived, he
seldom looked out upon the larger world, and obstinately refused to
take any thoughtful notice of the general tendency of public opinion
in all countries concerning religion and morality. All that he was
unable to explain, he flatly denied,--and his prejudices were as
violent as his hatred of contradiction was keen. The saintly life
and noble deeds of Felix Bonpre had reached him from time to time
through various rumours repeated by different priests and
dignitaries of the Church, who had travelled as far as the distant
little Cathedral-town embowered among towering pines and elm trees,
where the Cardinal had his abiding seat of duty;--and he had been
anxious to meet the man who in these days of fastidious feeding and
luxurious living, had managed to gain such a holy reputation as to
be almost canonized in some folks' estimation before he was dead.
Hearing that Bonpre intended to stay a couple of nights in Rouen, he
cordially invited him to spend that time at his house,--but the
invitation had been gratefully yet firmly refused, much to the
Archbishop's amazement. This amazement increased considerably when
he learned that the dingy, comfortless, little Hotel Poitiers had
been selected by the Cardinal as his temporary lodging,--and it was
not without a pious murmur concerning "the pride which apes
humility" that he betook himself to that ancient and despised
hostelry, which had nothing whatever in the way of a modern
advantage to recommend it,--neither electric light, nor electric
bell, nor telephone. But he felt it incumbent upon him to pay a
fraternal visit to the Cardinal, who had become in a manner famous
without being at all aware of his fame,--and when finally in his
presence, he was conscious not only of a singular disappointment,
but an equally singular perplexity. Felix Bonpre was not at all the
sort of personage he had expected to see. He had imagined that a
Churchman who was able to obtain a character for saintliness in days
like these, must needs be worldly-wise and crafty, with a keen
perception and comprehension of the follies of mankind, and an
ability to use these follies advantageously to further his own ends.
Something of the cunning and foresight of an ancient Egyptian
sorcerer was in the composition of the Archbishop himself, for he
judged mankind alone by its general stupidity and credulity;--
stupidity and credulity which formed excellent ground for the
working of miracles, whether such miracles were wrought in the name
of Osiris or Christ. Mokanna, the "Veiled Prophet," while corrupt to
the core with unnameable vices, had managed in his time to delude
the people into thinking him a holy man; and,--without any adequate
reason for his assumption,--the Archbishop had certainly prepared
himself to meet in Felix Bonpre, a shrewd, calculating, clever
priest, absorbed in acting the part of an excessive holiness in
order to secure such honour in his diocese as should attract the
particular notice of the Vatican. "Playing for Pope," in fact, had
been the idea with which the archbishop had invested the Cardinal's
reputed sanctity, and he was astonished and in a manner irritated to
find himself completely mistaken. He had opened the conversation by
the usual cordial trivialities of ordinary greeting, to which Bonpre
had responded with the suave courtesy and refined gentleness which
always dignified his manner,--and then the Archbishop had ventured
to offer a remonstrance on the unconventional--"Shall we call it
eccentric?" he suggested, smiling amicably,--conduct of the Cardinal
in choosing to abide in such a comfortless lodging as the Hotel
"It would have been a pleasure and an honour to me to welcome you at
my house"--he said--"Really, it is quite a violation of custom and
usage that you should be in this wretched place; the accommodation
is not at all fitted for a prince of the Church."
Cardinal Felix raised one hand in gentle yet pained protest.
"Pardon me!" he said, "I do not like that term, 'prince of the
Church.' There are no princes in the Church--or if there are, there
should be none."
The archbishop opened his eyes widely.
"That is a strange remark!" he ejaculated--"Princes of the Church
there have always been since Cardinals were created; and you, being
a Cardinal and an Archbishop as well, cannot be otherwise than one
Felix Bonpre sighed.
"Still, I maintain that the term is a wrong one," he answered, "and
used in the wrong place. The Church has nothing, or should have
nothing to do with differing titles or places. The ordinary priest
who toils among his congregation day and night, scarcely resting
himself, working and praying for the spiritual welfare of others,
should to my thinking be as greatly held in honour as the bishop who
commands him and who often--so it chances--is able to do less for
our Lord than he. In things temporal, owing to the constant
injustice of man practised against his brother-man, we can seldom
attain to strict impartiality of judgment,--but in things spiritual,
there surely should be perfect equality."
"Seriously speaking, are those your views?" enquired the Archbishop,
his features expressing more and more astonishment.
"Assuredly!" responded the Cardinal gently,--"Are they not yours?
Did not the Master Himself say 'Whosoever will be chief among you,
let him be your servant'? And 'Whosoever shall exalt himself shall
be abased'? These statements are plain and true,--there is no
The Archbishop was silent for a minute or so.
"Unfortunately we cannot apply our Lord's words literally to every-
day exigencies," he murmured suavely--"If we could do so--"
"We SHOULD do so," said the Cardinal with emphasis--"The outside
world may be disinclined to do so,--but we--we who are the
representatives of a God-given faith, are solemnly bound to do so.
And I fear--I very much fear--that it is because in many cases we
have not shown the example expected of us, that heresy and atheism
are so common among the people of the present day."
"Are you a would-be reformer?" asked the Archbishop good-humouredly,
yet not without a touch of satire in his tone,--"If so, you are not
alone--there have already been many!"
"Nay, I desire no reforms," responded the Cardinal, a faint flush
warming the habitual pallor of his cheeks--"I simply wish to
maintain--not alter--the doctrine of our Lord. No reform is
necessary in that,--it is clear, concise, and simple enough for a
child to understand. His command to His disciples was,--'Feed my
sheep'--and I have of late been troubled and perplexed, because it
seems to me that the sheep are not fed;--that despite churches and
teachers and preachers, whole flocks are starving."
The Archbishop moved uneasily in his chair. His habitual violent
spirit of contradiction rose up rebelliously in him, and he longed
to give a sharp answer in confutation of the Cardinal's words, but
there was a touch of the sycophant in his nature despite his
personal pride, and he could not but reflect that Cardinals ranked
above Archbishops, and that Felix Bonpre was in very truth a "prince
of the Church" however much he himself elected to disclaim the
title. And as in secular affairs lesser men will always bow the knee
to royalty, so the Archbishop felt the necessity of temporising with
one who was spiritually royal. Therefore he considered a moment
"I think," he said at last, in soft persuasive tones, "that your
conscience may perhaps be a little tender on this subject. But I
cannot agree with you in your supposition that whole flocks are
starving;--for Christianity dominates the better and more
intellectual part of the civilized world, and through its doctrines,
men are gradually learning to be more tolerant and less unjust. When
we recollect the barbarous condition of humanity before the coming
"Barbarous?" interrupted the Cardinal with half a smile,--"You would
hardly apply that term to the luxury-loving peoples of Tyre and
Babylon?--or to the ancient splendours of Athens and Rome?"
"They were heathens," said the Archbishop sententiously.
"But they were men and women," replied Bonpre, "And they too had
immortal souls. They were all more or less struggling towards the
fundamental Idea of good. Of course then, as now that Idea was
overgrown by superstitious myths and observances--but the working
tendency of the whole universe being ever towards Good, not Evil, an
impulse to press on in the right direction was always in the brain
of man, no matter how dimly felt. Primitive notions of honour were
strange indeed; nevertheless honour existed in the minds of the
early barbarians in a vague sense, though distorted out of shape and
noblest meaning. No,--we dare not take upon ourselves to assert that
men were altogether barbarous before the coming of Christ. They were
cruel and unjust certainly,--and alas! they are cruel and unjust
still! Eighteen hundred years of Christian teaching have not
eradicated these ingrained sins from any one unit of the entire
"You are a severe judge!" said the Archbishop.
Cardinal Bonpre lifted his mild blue eyes protestingly.
"Severe? I? God forbid that I should be severe, or presume to sit in
judgment on any poor soul that sought my sympathy! I do not judge,--
I simply feel. And my feelings have for a long time, I confess, been
"Sorrowful! And why?"
"Because the impression has steadily gained upon me that if our
Church were all it was originally intended to be by its Divine
Founder, we should at this time have neither heresies or apostasies,
and all the world would be gathered into the 'one fold under one
Shepherd.' But if we, who are its ministers, persist in occupying
ourselves more with 'things temporal' than 'things spiritual,' we
fail to perform our mission, or to show the example required of us,
and we do not attract, so much as we repel. The very children of the
present day are beginning to doubt our calling and election."
"Oh, of course there are, and always have been heretics and
atheists," said the Archbishop,--"And apparently there always will
"And I venture to maintain that it is our fault that heretics and
atheists continue to exist," replied the Cardinal; "If our Divine
faith were lived divinely, there would be no room for heresy or
atheism. The Church itself supplies the loophole for apostasy."
The Archbishop's handsome face crimsoned.
"You amaze me by such an expression!" he said, raising his voice a
little in the indignation he could scarcely conceal--"you talk--
pardon me--as if you yourself were uncertain of the Church's ability
to withstand unbelief."
"I speak but as I think," answered the Cardinal gently. And I admit
I AM uncertain. In the leading points of reed I am very steadfastly
convinced;--namely, that Christ was divine, and that the following
of His Gospel is the saving of the immortal soul. But if you ask me
whether I think we do truly follow that Gospel, I must own that I
have doubts upon the matter."
"An elected favourite son of the Church should surely have no
doubts!" said the Archbishop.
"Ah, there you come back to the beginning from which we started,
when I ventured to object to your term 'prince of the Church.'
According to our Master, all men should be equal before Him;
therefore we err in marking differences of rank or favoritism in
questions of religion. The very idea of rank is anti-Christian."
At this the Archbishop began to look seriously annoyed.
"I am afraid you are indulging in very unorthodox ideas," he said
with impatience--"In fact I consider you altogether mistake your
calling and position."
These were the words which had reached the attentive ears of the
Patoux children on their way up to bed, and had caused Henri to
declare that the Archbishop and the Cardinal were quarrelling. Felix
Bonpre took the somewhat violent remark, however, with perfect
"Possibly I may do so," he responded peaceably. "We are all subject
to error. My calling, as I take it, is that of a servant of Christ,
whose instructions for work are plainly set down in His own words.
It is for me to follow these instructions as literally and exactly
as I can. With regard to my position, I am placed as the spiritual
head of a very small diocese, where the people for the most part
lead very innocent and harmless lives. But I should be selfish and
narrow in spirit if I allowed myself to limit my views to my own
circle of influence. My flock are mere rustics in intellectual
capacity, and have no conception of the manner in which the larger
tide of human events is flowing. Now and then one or two of the
people grow weary of their quiet pastures and woodlands,--and being
young, hopeful, and ardent, start forth into the great world, there
to seek fairer fortunes. Sometimes they come back to their old
homes. Far more frequently they never return. But those who do come
back are changed utterly. I recognise no more the young men and
maidens whom I confirmed in their faith, and laid my hands on in
blessing ere they fared forth to other lives and scenes. The men are
grown callous and worldly; without a heart,--without a thought,--
save for the gain or loss of gold. The women are--ruined!"
He paused a moment. The Archbishop said nothing.
"I love my people," went on the Cardinal pathetically--"No child is
baptised in our old Cathedral without my praying for its future
good,--without my hope that it may grow into that exquisite mingling
of the Divine and Human which our Lord taught us was the perfection
of life, and His desire to see fulfilled in those He called His own.
Yes,--I love my people!--and when any of them go away from me, and
then return to the scenes of their childhood broken-hearted, I
cannot meet them with reproach. My own heart is half broken to see
them thus cast down. And their sorrows have compelled me naturally
to meditate on the sorrows of others,--to consider what it is in the
world which thus corrodes the pure gold of innocence and robs life
of its greatest charm. For if Christ's spirit ruled us all, then
innocence should be held more sacred. Life should engender
happiness. I have studied, read, and thought long, upon these
matters, so that I not only feel, but know the truth of what I say.
Brother!--" and the Cardinal, strongly moved, rose suddenly and
confronted the Archbishop with a passionate gesture--"My great grief
is that the spirit of Christ does NOT rule the world! Christ is
being re-crucified by this generation! And the Church is looking on,
and silently permitting His second murder!"
Startled by the force of this expression, the Archbishop sprang up
in his turn, his lips parted as if to speak--then--his angry glance
met the clear, calm, steadfast look of Felix Bonpre, and he
faltered. His eyes drooped--and his massive figure seemed for a
moment to shrink with a sort of abasement. Like an inspired apostle
the Cardinal stood, one hand outstretched,--his whole frame sentient
with the strong emotion which possessed him.
"You know that what I say is true," he continued in quieter but no
less intensely passionate accents--"You know that every day sees our
Master crowned with new thorns and exposed to fresh torture! You
know that we do nothing!--We stand beside Him in His second agony as
dumb as though we were unconscious of it! You know that we MIGHT
speak and will not! You know that we fear the ephemera of temporary
governments, policies, and social conventionalities, more than the
great, real, and terrible judgment of the world to come!"
"But all these things have been said before," began the Archbishop,
recovering a little from the confusion that had momentarily seized
him,--"And as I just now observed, you should remember that there
have always been heretics from the very beginning."
"Oh, I remember!" and the Cardinal sighed, "How is it possible that
any of us should forget! Heretics, whom we have tortured with
unheard-of agonies and burned in the flames, as a proof of our love
and sympathy with the tenderness of Christ Jesus!"
"You are going too far back in time!" said the Archbishop quickly.
"We erred in the beginning through excess of zeal, but now--now--"
"Now we do exactly the same thing," returned Bonpre--"Only we do not
burn physically our heretics, but morally. We condemn all who oppose
us. Good men and brave thinkers, whom in our arrogance we consign to
eternal damnation, instead of endeavouring to draw out the heart of
their mystery, and gather up the gems of their learning as fresh
proofs of the active presence of God's working in, and through all
things! Think of the Church's invincible and overpowering obstinacy
in the case of Galileo! He declared the existence of God to us by
the utterance of a Truth,--inasmuch as every truth is a new message
from God. Had he pronounced his theories before our divine Master,
that Master would have confirmed, not denied them! Have we one
single example of Christ putting to the torture any poor soul that
did not believe in Him? Nay--He Himself submitted to be tortured;
but for those who wronged Him, His prayer was only--'Father, forgive
them, for they know not what they do.' THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO!
The ministers of truth should rather suffer themselves than let
others suffer. The horrors of the Inquisition are a blot on
religious history; our Master never meant us to burn and torture men
into faith. He desired us to love and lead them into the way of life
as the shepherd leads a flock into the fold. I repeat again, there
would have been no room for atheism if we--we--the servants of
Christ, had been strictly true to our vocation."
By this time the Archbishop had recovered his equanimity. He sat
down and surveyed the up-standing figure of the Cardinal with
curiosity and a touch of pity.
"You think too much of these things," he said soothingly--"You are
evidently overwrought with study and excessive zeal. Much that you
say may be true; nevertheless the Church--OUR Church--stands firm
among overwhelming contradictions,--and we, its ministers, do what
we can. I myself am disposed to think that the multitude of the
saved is greater than the multitude of the lost."
"I envy you the consolation such a thought must give," responded the
Cardinal, as he resumed his seat opposite his visitor--"I, on the
contrary, have the pained and bitter sense that we are to blame for
all this 'multitude of the lost,' or at any rate that we could have
done more in the way of rescue than we have done." He paused a
moment, passing one hand across his forehead wearily. "In truth this
is what has for a long time weighed upon my mind, and depressed my
spirits even to the detriment of bodily health. I am nearing the
grave, and must soon give an account of my stewardship;--and the
knowledge of the increasing growth of evil in the world is almost
more than I can bear."
"But you are not to blame," said the Archbishop wonderingly,--"In
your own diocese you have fulfilled your duty; more than this is not
expected of you. You have done your best for the people you serve,--
and reports of your charities and good works are not lacking--"
"Do not credit such reports," interrupted the Cardinal, almost
sternly,--"I have done nothing--absolutely nothing! My life has been
too peaceful,--too many undeserved blessings have been bestowed upon
me. I much fear that the calm and quiet of my days have rendered me
selfish. I think I should long ago have sought some means of
engaging in more active duties. I feel as if I should have gone into
the thick of the religious contest, and spoken and fought, and
helped the sick and wounded of the mental battle,--but now--now it
is too late!"
"Nothing is too late for one in your position," said the Archbishop-
-"You may yet sit in St. Peter's chair!"
"God forbid!" ejaculated Bonpre fervently--"I would rather die! I
have never wished to rule,--I have only sought to help and to
comfort. But sixty-eight years of life weigh heavily on the
faculties,--I cannot wear the sword and buckler of energetic
manhood. I am old--old!--and to a certain extent, incapacitated for
useful labour. Hence I almost grudge my halcyon time spent among
simple folk,--time made sweet by all the surroundings of Nature's
pastoral loveliness;--the sorrow of the wider world knocks at my
heart and makes it ache! I feel that I am one of those who stand by,
idly watching the Master's second death without one word of
The archbishop listened in silence. There was a curious shamed look
upon his face, as if some secret sin within himself had suddenly
been laid bare in all its vileness to the light of day. The golden
crucifix he wore moved restlessly with a certain agitated quickness
in his breathing, and he did not raise his eyes, when, after a
little pause, he said--
"I tell you, as I told you before, that you think too much; you are
altogether too sensitive. I admit that at the present day the world
is full of terrible heresies and open blasphemy, but this is part of
what we are always bound to expect,--we are told that we must
'suffer for righteousness' sake--'"
"We!" said the Cardinal--"Yes, WE! that is, OURSELVES;--the Church--
WE think, when we hear of heresies and blasphemies that it is we who
are 'suffering for righteousness' sake,' but in our egotism we
forget that WE are not suffering at all if we are able to retain our
faith! It is the very heretics and blasphemers whom we condemn that
are suffering--suffering absolute tortures--perchance 'for
"Dare we call a heretic 'righteous'?" enquired the Archbishop--"Is
he not, in his very heresy, accursed?"
"According to our Lord, no one is accursed save traitors,--that is
to say those who are not true. If a man doubts, it is better he
should admit his doubt than make a pretence of belief. The persons
whom we call heretics may have their conception of the truth,--they
may say that they cannot accept a creed which is so ignorant of its
own tenets as to condemn all those who do not follow it,--inasmuch
as the very Founder of it distinctly says--'If any man hear my words
and believe not, I judge him not; for I came not to judge the world,
but to save the world.' Now we, His followers, judge, but do not
save. The atheist is judged by us, but not rescued from his
unbelief; the thinker is condemned,--the scientist who reveals the
beauty and wisdom of God as made manifest in the composition of the
lightning, or the germinating of a flower, is accused of destroying
religion. And we continue to pass our opinion, and thunder our
vetoes and bans of excommunication against our fellowmen, in the
full front of the plain command 'Judge not, that ye be not judged'!"
"I see it is no use arguing with you," said the Archbishop, forcing
a smile, with a vexation the smile could not altogether conceal,--
"You are determined to take these sayings absolutely,--and to fret
your spirit over the non-performance of imaginary duties which do
not exist. This Church is a system,--founded on our Lord's teaching,
but applied to the needs of modern civilization. It is not humanly
possible to literally obey all Christ's commands."
"For the outside world I grant it may be difficult,--but for the
ministers of religion, however difficult it may be, it should be
done," replied the Cardinal firmly. "I said this before, and I
deliberately maintain it. The Church IS a system,--but whether it is
as much founded on the teaching of our Lord, who was divine, as on
the teaching of St. Paul, who was NOT divine, is a question to me of
"St. Paul was directly inspired by our Lord," said the Archbishop--
"I am amazed that you should even hint a doubt of his apostleship!"
"I do not decry St. Paul," answered Bonpre quietly--"He was a gifted
and clever man, but he was a Man--he was not God-in-Man. Christ's
doctrine leaves no place for differing sects; St. Paul's method of
applying that doctrine serves as authority for the establishment of
any and every quarrelsome sect ever known!"
"I cannot agree with you," said the Archbishop coldly.
"I do not expect to be agreed with"--and Bonpre smiled a little--"An
opinion which excites no opposition at all is not worth having! I am
quite honest in my scruples, such as they are;--I do not think we
fit, as you say, the Church system to the needs of modern
civilization. On the contrary, we must fail in many ways to do this,
else there would not be such a crying out for help and comfort as
there is at present among all Christian peoples. We no longer speak
with a grand certainty as we ought to do. We only offer vague hopes
and dubious promises to those who thirst for the living waters of
salvation and immortality,--it is as if we did not feel sure enough
of God ourselves to make others sure. All this is wrong--wrong! It
forebodes heavy punishment and disaster. If I were younger, I could
express perhaps my meaning more clearly,--but as it is, my soul is
weighted with unutterable thoughts,--I would almost call them
warnings,--of some threatening evil; . . . and today--only this
afternoon--when I sat for an hour in the Cathedral yonder and
listened to the music of the great organ--"
The Archbishop started.
"What did you say?"
The Cardinal repeated his words gently,--
"I said that I sat in the Cathedral and listened to the music of the
"The great organ!" interrupted the Archbishop,--"You must have been
dreaming! You could not possibly have heard the great organ,--it is
old and all out of gear;--it is never used. The only one we have for
service just now is a much smaller instrument in the left-hand
choir-chapel,--but no person could have played even on that without
the key. And the key was unobtainable, as the organist is absent
from the town to-day."
The Cardinal looked completely bewildered.
"Are you quite sure of this?" he asked falteringly.
"Sure--absolutely sure!" declared the Archbishop with a smile--"No
doubt you thought you heard music; overwrought nerves often play
these tricks upon us. And it is owing to this same cause that you
are weary and dispirited, and that you take such a gloomy view of
the social and religious outlook. You are evidently out of health
and unstrung;--but after you have had sufficient rest and change,
you will see things in quite a different aspect. I will not for a
moment believe that you could possibly be as unorthodox as your
conversation would imply,--it would be a total misconception of your
true character," and the Archbishop laughed softly. "A total
misconception," he repeated,--"Why, yes, of course it would be! No
Cardinal-Archbishop of Holy Mother Church could bring such
accusations against its ministry as you would have suggested, unless
he were afflicted by nervous depression, which, as we all know, has
the uncomfortable effect of creating darkness even where all is
light. Do you stay long in Rouen?"
"No," replied the Cardinal abstractedly, answering the question
mechanically though his thoughts were far away--"I leave for Paris
"For Paris? And then?"
"I go to Rome with my niece, Angela Sovrani,--she is in Paris
awaiting my arrival now."
"Ah! You must be very proud of your niece!" murmured the Archbishop
softly--"She is famous everywhere,--a great artist!--a wonderful
"Angela paints well--yes," said the Cardinal quietly,--"But she has
still a great deal to learn. And she is unfortunately much more
alone now than she used to be,--her mother's death last year was a
terrible blow to her."
"Her mother was your sister?"
"My only sister," answered the Cardinal--"A good, sweet woman!--may
her soul rest in peace! Her character was never spoilt by the social
life she was compelled to lead. My brother-in-law, Prince Sovrani,
kept open house,--and all the gay world of Rome was accustomed to
flock thither; but now--since he has lost his wife, things have
changed very much,--sadness has taken the place of mirth,--and
Angela is very solitary."
"Is she not affianced to the celebrated Florian Varillo?"
A fleeting shadow of pain darkened the Cardinal's clear eyes.
"Yes. But she sees very little of him,--you know the strictness of
Roman etiquette in such matters. She sees little--and sometimes--so
I think--knows less. However, I hope all will be well. But my niece
is over sensitive, brilliantly endowed, and ambitious,--at times I
have fears for her future."
"Depression again!" declared the Archbishop, rising and preparing to
take his leave--"Believe me, the world is full of excellence when we
look upon it with clear eyes;--things are never as bad as they seem.
To my thinking, you are the last man alive who should indulge in
melancholy forebodings. You have led a peaceful and happy life,
graced with the reputation of many good deeds, and you are generally
beloved by the people of whom you have charge. Then, though celibacy
is your appointed lot, heaven has given you a niece as dear to you
as any child of your own could be, who has won a pre-eminent place
among the world's great artists, and is moreover endowed with beauty
and distinction. What more can you desire?"
He smiled expansively as he spoke; the Cardinal looked at him
"I desire nothing!" he answered--"I never have desired anything! I
told you before that I consider I have received many more blessings
than I deserve. It is not any personal grief which at present
troubles me,--it is something beyond myself. It is a sense of
wrong,--an appeal for truth,--a cry from those who are lost in the
world,--the lost whom the Church might have saved!"
"Merely fancy!" said the Archbishop cheerily--"Like the music in the
Cathedral! Do not permit your imagination to get the better of you
in such matters! When you return from Rome, I shall be glad to see
you if you happen to come through Normandy on your way back to your
own people. I trust you will so far honour me?"
"I know nothing of my future movements," answered the Cardinal
gently,--"But if I should again visit Rouen, I will certainly let
you know, and will, if you desire it, accept your friendly
With this, the two dignitaries shook hands and the Archbishop took
his leave. As he picked his way carefully down the rough stairs and
along the dingy little passage of the Hotel Poitiers, he was met by
Jean Patoux holding a lighted candle above his head to show him the
"It is dark, Monseigneur," said Patoux apologetically.
"It is very dark," agreed Monseigneur, stumbling as he spoke, and
feeling rather inclined to indulge in very uncanonical language. "It
is altogether a miserable hole, mon Patoux!"
"It is for poor people only," returned Jean calmly--"And poverty is
not a crime, Monseigneur."
"No, it is not a crime," said the stately Churchman as he reached
the door at last, and paused for a moment on the threshold,--a broad
smile wrinkling up his fat cheeks and making comfortable creases
round his small eyes--"But it is an inconvenience!"
"Cardinal Bonpre does not say so," observed Patoux.
"Cardinal Bonpre is one of two things--a saint or a fool! Remember
that, mon Patoux! Bon soir! Benedicite!"
And the Archbishop, still smiling to himself, walked leisurely
across the square in the direction of his own house, where his
supper awaited him. The moon had risen, and was clambering slowly up
between the two tall towers of Notre Dame, her pure silver radiance
streaming mockingly against the candle Jean Patoux still held in the
doorway of his inn, and almost extinguishing its flame.
"One of two things--a saint or a fool," murmured Jean with a
chuckle--"Well!--it is very certain that the Archbishop is neither!"
He turned in, and shut his door as far as it would allow him to do
so, and went comfortably to bed, where Madame had gone before him.
And throughout the Hotel Poitiers deep peace and silence reigned.
Every one in the house slept, save Cardinal Bonpre, who with the
Testament before him, sat reading and meditating deeply for an hour
before retiring to rest. A fresh cause of anxiety had come upon him
in the idea that perhaps his slight indisposition was more serious
than he had deemed. If, as the Archbishop had said, there could have
been no music possible in the Cathedral that afternoon, how came it
that he had heard such solemn and entrancing harmonies? Was his mind
affected? Was he in truth imagining what did not exist? Were the
griefs of the world his own distorted view of things? Did the Church
faithfully follow the beautiful and perfect teachings of Christ
after all? He tried to reason the question out from a different and
more hopeful standpoint, but vainly;--the conviction that
Christianity was by no means the supreme regenerating force, or the
vivifying Principle of Human Life which it was originally meant to
be, was borne in upon him with increasing certainty, and the more he
read the Gospels, the more he became aware that the Church--system
as it existed was utterly opposed to Christ's own command, and
moreover was drifting further and further away from Him with every
"The music in the Cathedral may have been my fancy," he said,--"But
the discord in the world sounds clear and is NOT imagination. A
casuist in religion may say 'It was to be';--that heresies and
dissensions were prophesied by Christ, when He said 'Because
iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall grow cold';--but this
does not excuse the Church from the sin of neglect, if any neglects
exists. One thing we have never seemed to thoroughly understand, and
this is that Christ's teaching is God's teaching, and that it has
not stopped with the enunciation of the Gospel. It is going on even
now--in every fresh discovery of science,--in every new national
experience,--in everything we can do, or think, or plan, the Divine
instruction steadily continues through the Divine influence imparted
to us when the Godhead became man, to show men how they might in
turn become gods. This is what we forget and what we are always
forgetting; so that instead of accepting every truth, we quarrel
with it and reject it, even as Judaea rejected Christ Himself. It is
very strange and cruel;--and the world's religious perplexities are
neither to be wondered at nor blamed,--there is just and grave cause
for their continuance and increase."
He closed the Testament, and being thoroughly fatigued in body as
well as mind, he at last retired. Lying down contentedly upon the
hard and narrow bed which was the best the inn provided, he murmured
his usual prayer,--"If this should be the sleep of death, Jesus
receive my soul!"--and remained for a little while with his eyes
open, looking at the white glory of the moonlight as it poured
through his lattice window and formed delicate traceries of silver
luminance on the bare wooden floor. He could just see the dark
towers of Notre Dame from where he lay,--a black mass in the
moonbeams--a monument of half-forgotten history--a dream of
centuries, hallowed or blasphemed by the prayers and aspirations of
dead and gone multitudes who had appealed to the incarnate God-in-
Man before its altars. God-in-Man had been made manifest!--how long
would, the world have to wait before Man-in-God was equally created
and declared? For that was evidently intended to be the final
triumph of the Christian creed.
"We should have gained such a victory long ago," mused Cardinal
Bonpre--"only that we ourselves have set up stumbling-blocks, and
rejected God at every step of the way."
Closing his eyes he soon slept; the rays of the moon fell upon his
pale face and silvery hair like a visible radiant benediction,--and
the bells of the city chimed the hours loudly and softly, clanging
in every direction, without waking him from his rest. But slumbering
as he was, he had no peace,--for in his sleep he was troubled by a
As the terrors of imagined suffering are always worse than actual
pain, so dreams are frequently more vivid than the reality of life,-
-that is we are sure that life is indeed reality, and not itself a
dream within a dream. Cardinal Bonpre's sleep was not often
disturbed by affrighting visions,--his methods of daily living were
too healthy and simple, and his conscience too clear;--but on this
particular night he was visited by an impression rather than a
dream,--the impression of a lonely, and terrifying dreariness, as
though the whole world were suddenly emptied of life and left like a
hollow shell on the shores of time. Gradually this first sense of
utter and unspeakable loss changed into a startled consciousness of
fear;--some awful transformation of things familiar was about to be
consummated;--and he felt the distinct approach of some unnameable
Horror which was about to convulse and overwhelm all mankind. Then
in his dream, a great mist rose up before his eyes,--a mingling as
of sea-fog and sun-flame,--and as this in turn slowly cleared,--
dispersing itself in serpentine coils of golden-grey vapour,--he
found himself standing on the edge of a vast sea, glittering in a
light that was neither of earth nor of heaven, but that seemed to be
the inward reflection of millions of flashing sword blades. And as
he stood gazing across the width of the waters, the sky above him
grew black, and a huge ring of fire rose out of the east, instead of
the beloved and familiar sun,--fire that spread itself in belching
torrents of flame upward and downward, and began to absorb in its
devouring heat the very sea. Then came a sound of many thunders,
mingled with the roar of rising waters and the turbulence of a great
whirlwind,--and out of the whirlwind came a Voice saying--"Now is
the end of all things on the earth,--and the whole world shall be
burnt up as a dead leaf in a sudden flame! And we will create from
out its ashes new heavens and a new earth, and we will call forth
new beings wherewith to people the fairness of our fresh creation,--
for the present generation of mankind hath rejected God,--and God
henceforth rejecteth His faithless and unworthy creatures! Wherefore
let now this one dim light amid the thousand million brighter lights
be quenched,--let the planet known to all angels as the Sorrowful
Star fall from its sphere forever,--let the Sun that hath given it
warmth and nourishment be now its chief Destroyer, and let
everything that hath life within it, perish utterly and revive no
And Cardinal Felix heard these words of doom. Powerless to move or
speak, he stood watching the terrible circle of fire, extend and
expand, till all the visible universe seemed melting in one red
furnace of flame;--and in himself he felt no hope,--no chance of
rescue;--in himself he knew that the appalling work of destruction
was being accomplished with a deadly swiftness that left no time for
lamentation,--that the nations of the world were as flying straws
swept into the burning, without space or moment for a parting prayer
or groan. Tortured by an excruciating agony too great for tears, he
suddenly found voice, and lifting his face towards the lurid sky he
"God of Eternity, stay Thy hand! For one remaining Cause be
merciful! Doom not Thy creature Man to utter destruction!--but still
remember that Thou wast born even as he! As helpless, as wronged, as
tempted, as betrayed, as suffering, as prone to pain and death! Thou
hast lived his life and endured his sorrows, though in the perfect