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The Master-Christian by Marie Corelli

Part 13 out of 13

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to be my Master's wish that I should suffer something for His sake,
and knowing from His words that if I 'offend one of these little
ones,' such as this friendless boy, 'it were better for me that a
millstone were hung about my neck and I myself drowned in the depths
of the sea!' Between the Church doctrine and Christ's own gospel, I
choose the gospel; between Rome's discipline and Christ's command I
choose Christ's command,--and shall be content to be glad or
sorrowful, fortunate or poor, as equally to live or die as my
Master, and YOUR Master, shall bid. For we all are nothing but His
creatures, bound to serve Him, and where we serve Him not there must
be evil worse than death.

"So in all humbleness still awaiting a more reasonable decision at
your hands, I am, Most Holy Father,

"Your faithful servant and brother in Christ,

"Felix Bonpre."

This letter finished, signed and sealed, the Cardinal addressed it
and enclosed it under cover to one of the secretaries at the Vatican
who he knew might be trusted to deliver it personally into the
Supreme Pontiff's own hands. Then stretching out his arms wearily he
closed his eyes for a moment with a sigh of mingled relief and
fatigue. The night was very cold, and though there had been a fire
in the room all day, it had died down in the grate, and there were
only a few little dull embers now glowing at the last bar. The chill
of the air was deepening, and a shiver ran through the spare,
fragile form of the venerable prelate as he rose at last from his
chair and prepared to take his rest. His sleeping room was a very
small one, adjoining that in which he now stood, and as he glanced
at his watch and saw that time had gone on so rapidly that it was
nearly eleven o'clock, he decided that he would only lie down for
two or three hours.

"For there is much to do yet," he mused. "This one letter to the
Pope will not suffice. I must write to Angela,--to say farewell to
her, poor child!--and give her once more my blessing--and then I
must prepare the way at home--for myself, and also for Manuel." He
sighed again as the vision of his own house in the peaceful old-
world French town far away, floated before his mental sight,--almost
he heard the sweet chiming of the bells in his own Cathedral tower;
which like a pyramid of delicate lace-work, always seemed held up in
the air by some invisible agency to let the shafts of sunlight
glimmer through,--once more he saw the great roses in his garden,
pink and white and cream and yellow, clambering over the walls and
up to the very roof of his picturesque and peaceful home--the white
doves nesting in the warm sun--the ripe apples hanging on the
gnarled boughs, the simple peasantry walking up his garden paths,
coming to him with their little histories of pain and disappointment
and sorrow; which were as great to them as any of the wider miseries
of sufferers more beset with anguish than themselves. He thought of
it all sorrowfully and tenderly,--his habit was ever to think of
others rather than himself,--and he wondered sadly, as he considered
all the bitterness and hardships of the poor human creatures who are
forced into life on this planet,--why life should be made so cruel
and hard for them,--why sudden and unprepared death should snap the
ties of tenderest love--why cruelty and treachery should blight the
hopes of the faithful and the trusting--why human beings should
always be more ready to destroy each other than to help each other--
why, to sum all up, so merciful and divine a Being as Christ came at
all into this world if it were not to make the world happier and
bring it nearer to heaven!

"The ways of the Infinite Ordainment are dark and difficult to
understand," he said. "And I deserve punishment for daring to
enquire into wisely-hidden mysteries! But, God knows it is not for
myself that I would pierce the veil! Nothing that concerns myself at
all matters,--I am a straw on the wind,--a leaf on the storm--and
whatever God's law provides for me, that I accept and understand to
be best. But for many millions of sad souls it is not so--and their
way is hard! If they could fully understand the purpose of existence
they would be happier--but they cannot--and we of the Church are too
blind ourselves to help them, for if a little chink of light be
opened to us, we obstinately refuse to see!"

He went to his sleeping room and threw himself down on his bed
dressed as he was, too fatigued in body and mind to do more than
utter his brief usual prayer, "If this should be the sleep of death,
Lord Jesus receive my soul!" And as he closed his eyes he heard the
rain drop on the roof in heavy slow drops that sounded like the dull
ticking of a monstrous clock piecing away the time;--and then he
slept, deeply and dreamlessly,--the calm and unconscious and
refreshing slumber of a child.

How long he slept he did not know, but he was wakened suddenly by a
touch and a voice he knew and loved, calling him. He sprang up with
almost the alacrity of youth, and saw Manuel standing beside him.

"Did you call me, my child?"

"Yes, dear friend!" And Manuel smiled upon him with a look that
conveyed the brightness of perfect love straight from the glance
into the soul. "I need you for myself alone to-night! Come out with

The Cardinal gazed at him in wonder that was half a fear.

"Come out with me!"

Those had been the words the boy had used to the Pope, the Head of
the Church, when he had dared to speak his thoughts openly before
that chiefest man of all in Rome!

"Come out with me!"

"Now, in the darkness and the rain?" asked the Cardinal wonderingly.
"You wish it? Then I will come!"

Manuel said nothing further, but simply turned and led the way. They
passed out of the little tenement house they inhabited into the dark
cold street,--and the door closed with a loud bang behind them, shut
to by the angry wind. The rain began to fall more heavily, and the
small slight figure of the waif and stray he had befriended seemed
to the Cardinal to look more lonely and piteous than ever in the
driving fog and darkness.

"Whither would you go, my child?" he asked gently. "You will suffer
from the cold and storm--"

"And you?" said Manuel. "Will you not also suffer? But you never
think of yourself at all!--and it is because you do not think of
yourself that I know you will come with me to-night!--even through a
thousand storms!--through all danger and darkness and pain and
trouble,--you will come with me! You have been my friend for many
days--you will not leave me now?"

"Neither now nor at any time," answered Bonpre firmly and tenderly.
"I will go with you where you will! Is it to some sad home you are
taking me?--some stricken soul to whom we may give comfort?"

Manuel answered not,--but merely waved his small hand beckoningly,
and passed along up the street through the drifting rain, lightly
and aerially as though he were a spirit,--and the Cardinal possessed
by some strange emotion that gave swiftness to his movements and
strength to his will, followed. They met scarcely a soul. One or two
forlorn wayfarers crossed their path--a girl in rags,--then a man
half-drunk and reeling foolishly from side to side. Manuel paused,
looking at them.

"Poor sad souls!" he said. "If we could see all the history of their
lives we should pity them and not condemn!"

"Who is it that condemns?" murmured Bonpre gently.

"No one save Man!" responded Manuel. "God condemns nothing--because
in everything there is a portion of Himself. And when man presumes
to condemn and persecute his fellow-men, he is guilty of likewise
condemning and persecuting his Maker, and outraging that Maker in
his own perverted soul!"

The boy's voice rang out solemn and clear,--and the heavy fog
drifting densely through the street, seemed to the Cardinal's keenly
awakened and perturbed senses as though it brightened into a golden
vapour round that childish figure, and illumined it with a radiation
of concealed light. But having thus spoken, Manuel turned and went
on once more,--and faithfully, in a mental ravishment which to
himself was inexplicable, the venerable Felix followed. And
presently they came to the plain and uncomely wooden edifice where
Aubrey Leigh and his bride had plighted their vows that morning. The
door was open--Aubrey would always have it so, lest any poor
suffering creature might need a moment's rest, and resting
thankfully, might see the Cross and perchance find help in prayer.

"Do you remember," said Manuel then, "when you found me outside the
great Cathedral, how the doors were barred against me? This door is
always open!"

He entered the building, and the Cardinal followed, wondering and
deeply agitated. It should have been dark within, but instead of
darkness, a soft light pervaded it from end to end, a warm and
delicate radiance, coloured with a rose glory as of sunset--and
Bonpre seeing this stopped, seized with a sudden fear. He looked
about him--on either side the huge unadorned barn-like place was
empty,--he and Manuel stood alone together as it were in the cold
vast void. Before them towered the Cross on its raised platform, and
below that Cross was the sloping footway leading to it, where lay
many of the buds and leaves and blossoms of Sylvie's bridal flowers
given to her by the poor, and yet--in this empty desolate shed there
was a sense of warmth and consolation, and the light that illumined
it was as the light of Heaven! Trembling in every limb, the Cardinal
turned to his companion--words were on his lips, but they faltered
and refused to be spoken aloud. And Manuel gently touching him said-

"Follow me!"

Straight up through the centre of this place hallowed by the prayers
of the poor and the broken-hearted, the light child-figure moved,
the old man following,--till at the footway leading to the Cross he

"Here will we pray together!" he said,--and as he spoke a smile
lighted his eyes and rested on his lips--a smile which gave his fair
face the aspect of a rapt angel of wisdom and beauty. "Here will we
ask the Father which is in Heaven--the Father of all worlds--whether
we shall part now one from the other, or still remain--together!"

As he spoke a rush of music filled the air,--and the Cardinal sank
feebly on his knees, overcome by a great wave of awe and terror
which engulfed his soul--for it was the same divine, far-reaching,
penetrative music which had once before enthralled his ears in the
Cathedral at Rouen. Kneeling he clasped his worn hands, and in all
the dizziness and confusion of his brain, raised his eyes for help
to the great Cross, bare of all beauty, save for the flowers of
Sylvie's strange bridal that lay at its foot. And as he looked he
saw a marvellous Vision!--a Dream of Angels standing on either side
of that symbol of salvation!--of angels tall and white and
beautiful, whose towering pinions glowed with the radiant light of a
thousand mornings! Amazed and awe-stricken at this great sight, he
uttered a faint cry and turned to his child companion.


"I am here," answered the clear young voice. "Be not afraid!"

And now the music of the unseen choir of sound seemed to grow deeper
and fuller and grander,--and Felix Bonpre, caught up, as it were,
out of all earthly surroundings, and only made conscious of the
growing ascendency of Spirit over Matter, saw the bare building
around him beginning to wondrously change its aspect. Slowly, as
though a wind should bend straight trees into an arching round, the
plain walls took on themselves a form of perfect architectural
beauty,--like swaying stems of flowers or intertwisted branches, the
lines formed symmetrically, and through the shadowy sculptured
semblance came the gleam of "a light that never was on sea or
land,"--the dazzling light of thousands of shining wings!--of
thousands of lustrous watchful eyes!--of thousands of dazzling
faces, that shone like stars or were fair as flowers! The Vision
grew more and more beautiful--more and more full of light--and
through veils of golden vapour, great branching lilies seemed to
grow and blossom out, filling the air with perfume, and in their
flowering beauty perfected the airy semblance of this wondrous Place
of Prayer built by spiritual hands--and like a far-off echo of
sweetness falling from unseen heights there came a musical whisper
of the chorus sung by the poor--

"All God s angels will say, 'Well done!'
Whenever thy mortal race is run.
White and forgiven,
Thou'lt enter heaven,
And pass, unchallenged, the Golden Gate,
Where welcoming spirits watch and wait
To hail thy coming with sweet accord
To the Holy City of God the Lord!"

A convulsive trembling seized the Cardinal's mortal frame--but the
soul within him was strong and invincible. With hands outstretched
he turned to Manuel,--and lo!--the boy was moving away from him--
moving slowly but resolutely up towards the Cross! Breathless,
speechless, the aged Felix watched him with straining uplifted
eyes,--and as he watched, saw his garments grow white and
glistening, and a great light began to shine about him--till
reaching the foot of the Cross He turned,--and then--He was no more
a child! All the glory of the "Vision Beautiful" shone full upon the
dying body and escaping soul of Christ's faithful servant!--the
Divine Head crowned with thorns!--the Divine arms stretched out
against the beams of the great Cross!--the Divine look of love and
welcome!--and with a loud cry of ecstasy Felix Bonpre extended his
trembling hands.

"Master! Master!" he murmured. "Did not my heart burn within me when
Thou didst talk with me by the way!"

Yearning towards that Mystic Glory he clasped his hands, and in the
splendour of the dream, and through the pulsations of the solemn
music he heard a Voice--the Voice of his child companion Manuel, but
a Voice grown full of Divine authority while yet possessing all
human tenderness.

"Well done, thou good and faithful servant! Because thou hast been
faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things!
Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord!"

And at that Voice--and in the inexplicable beauty of that Look of
Love, Felix Bonpre, "Prince of the Roman Church," whose faithfulness
Rome called in question, gave up his mortal life,--and with a
trembling sigh of death and delight intermingled, fell face forward
at the foot of the Cross, where the radiance of his Master's
Presence shone like the sun in heaven! And as he passed from death
to life, the Vision faded--the light grew dim,--the arches of the
heavenly temple not made with hands melted away and rolled up like
clouds of the night dispersing into space--the last dazzling Angel
face, the last branch of Heavenly flowers--vanished--and the music
of the spheres died into silence. And when the morning sun shone
through the narrow windows of that Place of Prayer dedicated only to
the poor, its wintry beams encircled the peaceful form of the Dead
Cardinal with a pale halo of gold,--and when they came and found him
there and turned his face to the light--it was as the face of a
glorified saint, whom God had greatly loved!

. . . . . . . . . .

And of the "Cardinal's foundling"--what of Him? Many wondered and
sought to trace Him, but no one ever heard where He had gone. Now,--
when the Cardinal himself has been laid to rest in the shadow of his
own Cathedral spires--and the roses which he loved so well are
growing into a crimson and white canopy over his quiet grave, there
are those who wonder who that lonely child wanderer was,--and
whether He ever will return? Some say He has never disappeared,--but
that in some form or manifestation of wisdom, He is ever with as,
watching to see whether His work is well or ill done,--whether His
flocks are fed, or led astray to be devoured by wolves--whether His
straight and simple commands are fulfilled or disobeyed. And the
days grow dark and threatening--and life is more and more beset with
difficulty and disaster--and the world is moving more and more
swiftly on to its predestined end--and the Churches are as stagnant
pools, from whence Death is far more often born than Life.

And may we not ask ourselves often in these days the question,--

"When the Son of Man cometh, think ye He shall find faith on earth?"


Relics of Paganism in Christianity as Approved by English Bishops.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, on being questioned as to certain
Roman observances carried on at St. Bartholomew's, Dover, admitted
"There may be irregularities," but added "they do not appear to be
of any importance." One of these "unimportant irregularities" was
the introduction of the Confessional.

The Archbishop of York considers the use of incense, which is a
relic of paganism, "a most beautiful and significant symbol of
Divine Service"--and though the services at Christ Church,
Doncaster, are known to be but a very slightly modified form of the
Romish ritual, His Grace has not seen fit to interfere. The parish
church of Hensall-cum-Heck, in the Archbishop's diocese, is entirely
Roman Catholic, and the Vicar, Mr. E. H. Bryan, might from his
practices, be a priest of Rome endeavouring by secret methods to
"convert" his parish to the Holy See.

The Bishop of London sanctions the use of incense and permits
children's Masses and hymns to the Virgin.

The Bishop of Chester advises the Rev. W. C. Reid, Vicar of
Coppenhall, to use incense preceding the service of Holy Communion.

The Bishop of Chichester ignores the fact that at St. Bartholomew's,
Brighton, seven hundred confessions were heard before Christmas,
1898, and that ten thousand were heard in that parish last year.

The Bishop of Lincoln preached at "High Mass" at St. Mary Magdalene,
Paddington, on January 7, 1899. The only difference in the service
on this occasion from that of the Roman Church was the use of the
English language instead of Latin.

The Bishop of Oxford, on being appealed to by parishioners on
January 11, 1900, attending at the Church of St. John, Cowley,
Oxford, and asked to suppress the Romish practices carried on there,
which were totally out of keeping with the simplicity of true
Christian worship, gave them no redress.

The Bishop of St. Aibans, charged in the House of Lords with
favouring practices not lawful in the Church of England, declined to
answer. On this point the Daily Telegraph wrote--"Does the Bishop of
St. Albans understand that he is responsible to the State as well as
to his own conscience? Has he any inkling of the notorious fact that
the proper administration of a diocese is not a private or a
personal matter, but an onerous public task, for which he is rightly
held accountable?"

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