Part 3 out of 13
"Yes,--and he is becoming rather an alarming personage in England,
so I hear,--" returned the Abbe--"He writes books that are
distinctly dangerous, because true. He wants to upset shams like our
Socialist writer Gys Grandit. Gys Grandit, you know, will never be
satisfied till, like Rousseau, he has brought about another French
Revolution. He is only a peasant, they say, but he writes with the
pen of a prophet. And this Englishman is of the same calibre,--only
his work is directed against religious hypocrisies more than social
ones. I daresay that is why I always feel so uneasy in his
presence!" And Vergniaud laughed lightly. "For the rest, he is a
brilliant creature enough, and thoroughly manly. The other evening
at the Club that little Vicomte de Lorgne was chattering in his
usual offensive manner about women, and Leigh astonished everyone by
the way in which he pulled him up. There was almost a very pretty
quarrel,--but a stray man happened to mention casually,--that Leigh
was considered one of the finest shots in England. After that the
dear Vicomte vanished, and did not return."
"Poor de Lorgne! Yes--I have heard that Mr. Leigh excels in
everything that is distinctly English--riding, shooting, and all
that kind of thing. He is not effeminate."
"Few Englishmen are," said the Abbe,--"And yet to my mind there is
something not altogether English in this man. He has none of the
heavy British mental and physical stolidity. He is strong and
muscular certainly,--but also light and supple,--and with that keen,
intellectual delicate face of his, he is more of the antique Greek
type than like a son of Les Isles Sans-Soleil."
"Sans-Soleil," echoed Angela, "But there is plenty of sunshine in
"Is there? Well, I have been unfortunate,--I have never seen any,--"
and the Abbe gave a shrug of half regret, half indifference. "It is
very curious the effect that this so brave England has upon me! In
crossing to its shores I suffer of course from the mal de mer--then
when I arrive exhausted to the white cliffs, it is generally
raining--then I take train to London, where it is what is called
black fog; and I find all the persons that I meet either with a
cold, or going to have a cold, or just recovering from a cold! It is
not lively--the very funerals are dull. And you--this is not your
"No--frankly I cannot say it is," replied Angela, "I have seen rain
and fog in Rome that cannot be surpassed for wretchedness anywhere.
Italy is far more miserable in cold weather than England. I passed a
summer once in England, and it was to me like a glimpse of Paradise.
I never saw so many flowers--I never heard so many birds--(you know
in Italy we kill all the singing birds and eat them), and I never
met so many kind and gentle people."
"Well!--perhaps the religious sects in England are responsible for
the general feeling of depression in the English atmosphere," said
the Abbe with a light laugh, "They are certainly foggy! The one
round Sun of one Creed is unknown to them. I assure you it is best
to have one light of faith, even though it be only a magic lantern,-
-a toy to amuse the children of this brief life before their
everlasting bedtime comes--" He broke off abruptly as a slow step
was heard approaching along the passage, and in another moment
Cardinal Bonpre entered the room.
"Ah, le bien aime Felix!" cried Vergniaud, hastening to meet him and
clasp his outstretched hand, bowing slightly over it as he did so,
"I have taken the liberty to wait for you, cher Monseigneur, being
anxious to see you--and I understand your stay in Paris will not be
"A few days at most, my dear Abbe",--replied the Cardinal, gently
pressing the hand of Vergniaud and smiling kindly. "You are well?
But surely I need not ask--you seem to be in the best of health and
"Ah, my seeming is always excellent," returned the Abbe, "However, I
do not fare badly. I have thrown away all hard thinking!"
"And you are happier so?"
"Well, I am not quite sure! There is undoubtedly a pleasure in
analysing the perplexities of one's own mind. Still, on the whole,
it is perhaps better to enjoy the present hour without any thought
"Like the butterflies!" laughed Angela.
"Yes,--if butterflies DO enjoy their hour,--which I am not at all
prepared to admit. In my opinion they are very dissatisfied
creatures,--no sooner on one flower than off they go to another.
Very like human beings after all! But I imagine they never worry
themselves with philosophical or religious questions."
"And do you?" enquired Bonpre, smiling, as he sat down in the easy
chair his niece placed for him.
"Not as a rule!--" answered Vergniaud frankly, with a light laugh--
"But I confess I have done a little in that way lately. Some of the
new sciences puzzle me,--I am surprised to find how closely they
approach to the fulfilment of old prophecies. One is almost inclined
to believe that there must be a next world and a future life."
"I think such belief is now placed beyond mere inclination," said
the Cardinal--"There is surely no doubt of it."
Vergniaud gave him a quick side-glance of earnest scrutiny.
"With you, perhaps not--" he replied--"But with me,--well!--it is a
different matter. However, it is really no use worrying one's self
with the question of 'To be, or not to be.' It drove Hamlet mad,
just as the knotty point as to whether Hamlet himself was fat or
lean nearly killed our hysterical little boy, Catullus Mendes. It's
best to leave eternal subjects like God and Shakespeare alone."
He laughed again, but the Cardinal did not smile.
"I do not agree with you, Vergniaud," he said--"I fear it is because
we do not think sufficiently for ourselves on the One eternal
subject that so much mischief threatens us at the present time. To
take gifts and ignore the Giver is surely the blackest ingratitude,
yet that is what the greater part of humanity is guilty of in these
days. Never was there so much beholding and yet ignoring of the
Divine as now. Science is searching for God, and is getting closer
to Him every day;--the Church remains stationary and refuses to look
out beyond her own pale of thought and conventional discipline. I
know,--" and the Cardinal hesitated a moment, "I know I can speak
quite plainly to you, for you are what is called a freethinker--yet
I doubt whether you are really as free as you imagine!"
The Abbe shrugged his shoulders.
"I imagine nothing!" he declared airily, "Everything is imagined for
me nowadays,--and imagination itself is like a flying Geni which
overtakes and catches the hair of some elusive Reality and turns its
face round, full-shining on an amazed world!"
"A pretty simile!" said Angela Sovrani, smiling.
"Is it not? Almost worthy of Paul Verlaine who was too 'inspired' to
keep either his body or his soul clean. Why was I not a poet!
Helas!--Fact so much outweighs fancy that it is no longer any use
penning a sonnet to one's mistress's eyebrow. One needs to write
with thunderbolts in characters of lightning, to express the wonders
and discoveries of this age. When I find I can send a message from
here to London across space, without wires or any visible means of
communication,--and when I am told that probably one of these days I
shall be able at will to SEE the person to whom I send the message,
reflected in space while the message is being delivered,--I declare
myself so perfectly satisfied with the fairy prodigies revealed to
me, that I have really no time, and perhaps no inclination to think
of any other world than this one."
"You are wrong, then," said the Cardinal, "Very wrong, Vergniaud. To
me these discoveries of science, this apparent yielding of invisible
forces into human hands, are signs and portents of terror. You
remember the line 'the powers of heaven shall be shaken'? Those
powers are being shaken now! We cannot hold them back;--they are
here, with us;--but they mean much more than mere common utility to
our finite selves. They are the material declarations of what is
spiritual. They are the scientific proofs that Christ's words to
'THIS generation,' namely, this particular phase of creation,--are
true. 'Blessed are they which have not seen and yet believed,' He
said;--and many there are who have passed away from us in rapt faith
and hope, believing not seeing, and with whom we may rejoice in
spirit, knowing that all must be well with them. But now--now we are
come upon an age of doubt in the world--doubt which corrodes and
kills the divine spirit in man, and therefore we are being forced to
SEE that we may believe,--but the seeing is terrible!"
"Because in the very beholding of things we remain blind!" answered
the Cardinal, "Our intense selfishness obscures the true light of
every fresh advance. We accept new marvels of knowledge, as so much
practical use to us, and to the little planet we live on,--but we do
not see that they are merely reflections of the Truth from which
they emanate. The toy called the biograph, which reflects pictures
for us in a dazzling and moving continuity, so that we can see
scenes of human life in action, is merely a hint to us that every
scene of every life is reflected in a ceaseless moving panorama
SOMEWHERE in the Universe, for the beholding of SOMEONE,--yes!--
there must be Someone who so elects to look upon everything, or such
possibilities of reflected scenes would not be,--inasmuch as nothing
exists without a Cause for existence. The wireless telegraphy is a
stupendous warning of the truth that 'from God no secrets are hid',
and also of the prophecy of Christ 'there is nothing covered that
shall not be revealed'--and, 'whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness
shall be revealed in light.' The latter words are almost appalling
in their absolute accord with the latest triumphant discoveries of
Abbe Vergniaud looked at the Cardinal, and slightly raised his
eyebrows in a kind of wondering protest.
"TRES-SAINT Felix!" he murmured, "Are you turning into a mystic? One
of those doubtful personages who are seeking to reconcile science
with the Church?--"
"Stop!" interposed the Cardinal, raising his hand with an eloquent
gesture, "Science is, or should be, the Church!--science is Truth,
and Truth is God! God cannot be found anywhere in a lie; and the
Church in many ways would make our Divine Redeemer Himself a lie
were it not that His words are every day taking fresh meaning, and
bringing new and solemn conviction to those who have eyes to see and
ears to hear!"
He spoke as if carried beyond himself,--his pale cheeks glowed,--his
eyes flashed fire,--and the combined effect of his words and manner
was startling to the Abbe, and in a way stupefying to his niece
Angela. She had never heard him give utterance to such strong
sentiments and she shrank a little within herself, wondering whether
as a Cardinal of the Roman Church he had not been too free of
speech. She glanced apprehensively at Vergniaud, who however only
smiled a little.
"If you should be disposed to express yourself in such terms at the
Vatican,--" he began.
The Cardinal relapsed into his usual calm, and met the Abbe's
questioning, half cynical glance composedly. "I have many things to
speak of at the Vatican," he answered,--"This matter will probably
be one of them."
"Then--" But whatever Vergniaud was about to say was interrupted by
the entrance of the boy Manuel, who at that moment came into the
room and stood beside the Cardinal's chair. The Abbe gave him an
upward glance of surprise and admiration.
"Whom have we here?" he exclaimed, "One of your acolytes,
"No," replied the Cardinal, his eyes resting on the fair face of the
lad with a wistful affection, "A little stray disciple of our Lord,-
-to whom I have ventured to offer protection. There is none to
question my right to do so, for he is quite alone in the world."
And in a few words he related how he had discovered the boy on the
previous night, weeping outside the Cathedral in Rouen. Angela
Sovrani listened attentively, her violet eyes darkening and
deepening as she heard,--now and then she raised them to look at the
youthful waif who stood so quietly while the story of his troubles
was told in the gentle and sympathetic way which was the Cardinal's
usual manner of speech, and which endeared him so much to all. "And
for the present," finished Bonpre, smiling--"he stays with me, and
already I have found him skilled in the knowledge of many things,--
he can read Scripture with a most musical and clear emphasis,--and
he is a quick scribe, so that he will be valuable to me in more ways
"Ah!" and the Abbe turned himself round in his chair to survey the
boy more attentively, "You can read Scripture? But can you
understand it? If you can, you are wiser than I am!"
Manuel regarded him straightly.
"Was it not once said in Judaea that "IT IS THE SPIRIT THAT
QUICKENETH'?" he asked.
"True!--And from that you would infer . . . ?"
"That when one cannot understand Scripture, it is perhaps for the
reason that 'THE LETTER KILLETH, BECAUSE LACKING THE SPIRIT THAT
The boy spoke gently and with grace and modesty,--but something in
the tone of his voice had a strange effect on the cynical
temperament of Abbe Vergniaud.
"Here," he mused, "is a lad in whom the principle of faith is strong
and pure,--shall I drop the poison of doubt into the open flower of
his mind, or leave it uncontaminated?" Aloud he said, kindly,
"You speak well,--you have evidently thought for yourself. Who
taught you to recognise 'the Spirit that giveth life'?"
"Does that need teaching?" he asked.
Radiance shone in his eyes,--the look of purity and candour on his
young face was infinitely touching to the two men who beheld it,--
the one worn with age and physical languors, the other equally worn
in mind, if not in body. In the brief silence which followed,--a
silence of unexpressed feeling,--a soft strain of organ-music came
floating deliciously towards them,--a delicate thread of grave
melody which wove itself in and out the airspaces, murmuring
suggestions of tenderness and appeal. Angela smiled, and held up one
"That is Mr. Leigh!" she said, "He is in my studio improvising."
"Happy Mr. Leigh!" said the Abbe with a little malicious twinkle in
his eyes, "To be allowed to improvise at all in the studio of the
Angela flushed, and lifted her fair head with a touch of pride.
"Mr. Leigh is a friend," she said, "He is welcome in the studio
always. His criticism of a picture is valuable,--besides--he is a
celebrated Englishman!" She laughed, and her eyes flashed.
"Ah! To a celebrated Englishman all things are conceded!" said the
Abbe satirically, "Even the right to enter the sanctum of the most
exclusive lady in Europe! Is it not a curious thing that the good
Britannia appears to stick her helmet on the head, and put her
sceptre in the hand of every one of her sons who condescends to soil
his boots by walking on foreign soil? With the helmet he defies the
gemdarme,--with the sceptre he breaks open every door,--we prostrate
ourselves before his face and curse him behind his back,--c'est
drole!--yet we are all alike, French, Germans, Austrians, and
Italians;--we hate the Englishman, but we black his boots all the
same,--which is contemptible of us,--MAIS, QUE FAIRE! He is so
overwhelming in sheer impudence! With culture and politeness we
might cross swords in courtly duel,--but in the presence of absolute
bluff, or what is called 'cheek', we fall flat in sheer dismay! What
delicious music! I see that it charms our young friend,--he is fond
"Yes," said Manuel speaking for himself before any question could be
put to him, "I love it! It is like the fresh air,--full of breath
"Come then with me," said Angela, "Come into the studio and we will
hear it more closely. Dearest uncle," and she knelt for a moment by
the Cardinal's chair, "Will you come there also when Monsieur l'Abbe
has finished talking with you?"
Cardinal Bonpre's hand rested lovingly on her soft hair.
"Yes, my child, I will come." And in a lower tone he added,--"Do not
speak much to Manuel,--he is a strange lad; more fond of silence and
prayer than other things,--and if such is his temperament I would
rather keep him so."
Angela bowed her head in acquiescence to this bidding,--then rising,
left the room with a gentle gesture of invitation to the boy, who at
once followed her. As the two disappeared a chill and a darkness
seemed to fall upon the air, and the Cardinal sank back among the
cushions of his fauteuil with a deep sigh of utter exhaustion. Abbe
Vergniaud glanced at him inquisitively.
"You are very tired, I fear?" he said.
"Physically, no,--mentally, yes. Spiritually, I am certainly
fatigued to the death."
The Abbe shrugged his shoulders.
"Helas! There is truly much in spiritual matters to engender
weariness!" he said.
With a sudden access of energy the Cardinal gripped both arms of his
chair and sat upright.
"For God's sake, do not jest," he said earnestly, "Do not jest! We
have all been jesting too long, and the time is near when we shall
find out the bitter cost of it! Levity--carelessness--doubt and
final heresy--I do not mean heresy against the Church, for that is
"Nothing!" exclaimed the Abbe, "YOU say this?"
"I say it!" And Bonpre's thin worn features grew transfigured with
the fervour of his thought. "I am a priest of the Church--but I am
also a man!--with reason, with brain, and with a love of truth;--and
I can faithfully say I have an almost jealous honour for my Master--
but I repeat, heresy against the Church is nothing,--it is heresy
against Christ which is the crime of the age,--and in that, the very
Church is heretic! Heresy against Christ!--Heresy against Christ! A
whole system of heresy! 'I never knew you,--depart from me, ye
workers of iniquity,' will be our Lord's words at the Last
The Abbe's wonderment increased. He looked down a moment, then
looked up, and a quizzical, half-melancholy expression filled his
"Well, I am very much concerned in all this," he said, "I wanted to
have a private talk with you on my own account, principally because
I know you to be a good man, while I am a bad one. I have a trouble
here,--" and he touched the region of his heart, "which the wise
doctors say may end my days at any moment; two years at the utmost
is the ultimatum of my life, so I want to know from you, whom I know
to be intelligent and honest, whether you believe I am going to
another existence,--and if so, what sort of a one you think is in
prospect for such a man as I am? Now don't pity me, my dear Bonpre,-
-don't pity me!--" and he laughed a little huskily as the Cardinal
took his hand and pressed it with a silent sympathy more eloquent
than words, "We must all die,--and if I am to go somewhat sooner
than I expected, that is nothing to compassionate me for. But there
is just a little uncertainty in my mind,--I am not at all sure that
death is the end--I wish I could be quite positive of the fact. I
was once--quite positive. But science, instead of giving me this
absolute comfort has in its later progress upset all my former
calculations, and I am afraid I must own that there is indubitably
Something Else,--which to my mind seems distinctly disagreeable!"
Though the Abbe spoke lightly, the troubled look remained in his
eyes and the Cardinal saw it.
"My dear Vergniaud," he began gently, "I am grieved at what you tell
"No, don't be grieved," interrupted Vergniaud, "because that is not
it. Talk to me! Tell me what you truly think. That this life is only
a schoolroom where we do our lessons more or less badly?--That death
is but the name for another life? Now do not FORCE your faith for
me. Tell me your own honest conviction. Do we end?--or do we begin
again? Be frank and fair and true; according to the very latest
science, remember!--not according to the latest hocus-pocus of
twelfth-century mandate issued from Rome. You see how frank I am,
and how entirely I go with you. But I am going further than you,--I
am bound for the last voyage--so you must not offer me the wrong
pass-word to the shore!"
"No, I will give you the right pass-word," said the cardinal, a
fervid glow of enthusiasm lighting up his features. "It is CHRIST in
all, and through all! Christ only;--Christ, the friend and brother
of man;--the only Divine Teacher this world has ever had, or ever
"You believe in Him really,--truly,--then?" exclaimed the Abbe
"Really--truly, and with all my heart and soul!" responded the
Cardinal firmly,--"Surely, you too, believe?"
"No," said the Abbe firmly, "I do not! I would as soon believe that
the lad you have just rescued from the streets of Rouen is divine,
as that there is any divinity in the Man of Nazareth!"
He rose up as he spoke in a kind of petulance,--then started
slightly as he found himself face to face with Manuel. The boy had
entered noiselessly and stood for a moment glancing from one priest
of the Church to the other. A faint smile was on his face,--his blue
eyes were full of light.
"Did you call me, my lord Cardinal?" he asked.
The Cardinal looked up.
"No, my child!"
"I thought I heard you. If you should need me, I am close at hand."
He went away as quietly as he had entered; and the same silence
followed his departure as before,--a silence which was only
disturbed by the occasional solemn and sweet vibrations of the
distant music from the studio.
"A strange lad!" said Abbe Vergniaud, abruptly.
"Strange? In what way do you find him so?" asked the Cardinal with a
touch of anxiety.
The Abbe knitted his brows perplexedly, and took a short turn up and
down the room. Then he laughed.
"Upon my word, I cannot tell you!" he declared, with one of those
inimitable gestures common to Frenchmen, a gesture which may mean
anything or nothing,--"But he speaks too well, and, surely, thinks
too much for his years. Is there nothing further to tell of him save
what you have already said? Nothing that you know of him, beyond the
plain bare fact of having found him weeping alone outside the doors
of the Cathedral?"
"Nothing indeed!" replied the Cardinal bewildered. "What else should
The Abbe hesitated a moment, and when he spoke again it was in a
softer and graver tone. "Forgive me! Of course there could be
nothing else with you. You are so different to all other Churchmen I
have ever known. Still, the story of your foundling is exceptional;-
-you will own that it is somewhat out of the common course of
things, for a Cardinal to suddenly constitute himself the protector
and guardian of a small tramp--for this boy is nothing else. Now, if
it were any other Cardinal-Archbishop than yourself, I should at
once say that His Eminence knew exactly where to find the mother of
"Vergniaud!" exclaimed the Cardinal.
"Forgive me! I said 'forgive me' as a prelude to my remarks,"
resumed Vergniaud, "I am talking profanely, sceptically, and
cynically,--I am talking precisely as the world talks, and as it
always will talk."
"The world may talk itself out of existence, before it can hinder me
from doing what I conceive to be my duty," said Felix Bonpre,
calmly, "The lad is alone and absolutely friendless,--it is but
fitting and right that I should do what I can for him."
Abbe Vergniaud sat down, and for a moment appeared absorbed in
"You are a curious man;" he at length observed, "And a more than
curious priest! Here you are, assuming the guardianship of a boy
concerning whom you know nothing,--when you might as well have
handed him over to one of the orphanages for the poor, or have paid
for his care and education with some of the monastic brethren
established near Rouen,--but no!--you being eccentric, feel as if
you were personally responsible to God for the child, simply because
you found him lost and alone, and therefore you have him with you.
It is very good of you,--we will call it great of you--but it is not
usual. People will say you have a private motive;--you must remember
that the world never gives you credit for doing a good action simply
for the pure sake of doing it,--'There must be something behind it
all,' they say. When the worst cocotte of the age begins to lose her
beauty, the prospect is so alarming that she thinks there may be a
possible hell, after all, and she straightway becomes charitable and
renowned for good works;--precisely in the same way as our famous
stage 'stars', knowing their lives to be less clean than the lives
of their horses and their dogs, give subscriptions and altar-cloths
and organs to the clergy. It is all very amusing!--I assure you I
have often laughed at it. It is as if they took Heaven by its
private ear in confidence, and said, 'See now, I want to put things
straight with you if I can!--and if a few church-ornaments, and
candlesticks will pacify you, why, take them and hold your tongue!'"
He paused, but the Cardinal was silent.
"I know," went on the Abbe, "that you think I am indulging in the
worst kind of levity to talk in this way. It sounds horrible to you.
And you perhaps think I cannot be serious. My dear Saint Felix,
there never was a more serious man than I. I would give worlds--
universes--to believe as you do! I have written books of religious
discussion,--not because I wanted the notice of the world for them,-
-for that I do not care about,--but for the sake of wrestling out
the subject for myself, and making my pen my confidant. I tell you I
envy the woman who can say her rosary with the simple belief that
the Virgin Mary hears and takes delight in all those repetitions.
Nothing would have given me greater pleasure than to have composed a
volume of prayers,--a 'Garland of Flowers'--such as an innocent girl
could hold in her hands, and bend her sweet eyes over. It would have
been a taste of the sensual-spiritual, or the spiritual-sensual,--
which is the most exquisite of all human sensations."
"There is no taint of sensuality in the purely spiritual," said the
"Not for your nature,--no! You have made your body like a
transparent scabbard through which the glitter of the soul-sword is
almost visible. But I am different. I am so much of a materialist
that I like to pull down Heaven to the warm bosom of Earth and make
them mingle. You would lift up Earth to Heaven! Ah, that is
difficult! Even Christ came down! It is the chief thing I admire in
Him, that He 'descended from Heaven and was made Man'. TRES CHER
Felix, I shall bewilder you to death with my specious and frivolous
reasoning,--and after all, I had much better come to the main fact
of what I intended to tell you,--a sort of confession out of church.
You know I have already told you I am going to die soon, and that I
am a bad man confessedly and hopelessly,--but among other things is
this, (and if you can give me any advice upon it I will take it,)
that for the last four or five years I have been dodging about to
escape being murdered,--not because I particularly mind being
murdered, because I probably deserve it,--and one way of exit is as
good as another,--but because I want to save the would-be murderer
from committing his crime. Is not that a good motive?"
Cardinal Bonpre gazed at him in astonishment. Vergniaud appeared to
him in an entirely new light. He had always known him as a careless,
cynical-tempered man;--a close thinker,--a clever writer, and a
brilliant talker,--and he had been inclined to consider him as a
"society" priest,--one of those amiable yet hypocritical personages,
who, by the most jesuitical flatteries and studied delicacies of
manner, succeed in influencing weak-minded persons of wealth,
(especially women) to the end of securing vast sums of money to the
Church,--obtaining by these means such rank and favour for
themselves as would otherwise never have been granted to them. But
now the Abbe's frank admission of his own sins and failings seemed a
proof of his inherent sincerity,--and sincerity, whether found in
orthodoxy or heterodoxy, always commanded the Cardinal's respect.
"Are you speaking in parables or in grave earnest?" he asked. "Do
you really mean that you are shadowed by some would-be assassin? An
assassin, too, whom you actually wish to protect?"
"Exactly!" And Vergniaud smiled with the air of one who admits the
position to be curious but by no means alarming. "I want to save him
from the guillotine; and if he murders me I cannot! It is a question
of natural instinct merely. The would-be assassin is my son!"
Cardinal Bonpre raised his clear blue eyes and fixed them full on
"This is a very serious matter," he said gently, "Surely it is best
to treat it seriously?"
"Oh, I am serious enough, God knows!" returned Vergniaud, with a
heavy but impatient sigh, "I suppose there is, there must be, some
terribly exact Mathematician concerned in the working of things,
else a man's past sins and failings being done with and over, would
not turn up any more. But they DO turn up,--the unseen Mathematician
counts every figure;--and of course trouble ensues. My story is
simply this;--Some twenty-five years ago I was in Touraine;--I was a
priest as I am now--Oh, yes!--the sin is as black as the Church can
make it!--and one mid-summer evening I strolled into a certain
quaint old church of a certain quaint old town,--I need not name it-
-and saw there a girl, as sweet as an apple blossom, kneeling in
front of the altar. I watched her,--I see her now!--the late
sunlight through the stained glass window fell like a glory on her
pretty hair, and on the little white kerchief folded so daintily
across her bosom, and on her small hands and the brown rosary that
was twisted round her fingers. She was praying, so she told me
afterwards, to her guardian angel,--I wonder what that personage was
about just then, Bonpre! Anyhow, to her petition came no answer but
a devil,--a devil personified in me,--I made her love me,--I tempted
her by ever subtle and hellish persuasion I could think of,--I can
never even now think of that time without wondering where all the
eloquent evil of my tongue came from--and--well!--she never was able
to ask the guardian angel any more favours! And I?--I think I loved
her for a while,--but no, I am not sure;--I believe there is no such
good thing as absolute love in my composition. Anyway, I soon left
Touraine, and had almost forgotten her when she wrote to tell me of
the birth of her child--a son. I gave her no reply, and then she
wrote again,--such a letter!--such words! At the moment they burnt
me,--stabbed me--positively hurt me,--and I was not then easily
hurt. She swore she would bring the boy up to curse his father,--
and, to put it quite briefly,--she did. She died when he was twenty,
and it now appears the lad took an oath by her death-bed that he
would never rest till he had killed the man who had dishonoured his
mother, and broken her heart, and brought him into the world with a
stigma on his name. No filial respect, you see!" And Vergniaud tried
to force a smile. "To do the boy justice, he apparently means to
keep his oath,--he has not rested; he has been at infinite pains to
discover me; he has even been at the trouble to write me a warning
letter, and is now in Paris watching me. I, in my turn, take care to
protect myself;--I am followed by detectives, and am at enormous
pains to guard my life; not for my own sake but for his. An odd
complication of circumstances, is it not? I cannot have him arrested
because he would at once relate his history, and my name would be
ruined. And that would be quite as good a vengeance for him as the
other thing. You will admit that it is a very dramatic situation!"
"It is a retribution!" said the Cardinal in a low voice, "And a
"Yes, I suppose it is. I imagined you would consider it in that
light," and Vergniaud half closed his eyes, leaning back in his
chair languidly, "But here I am, willing to set things as straight
as I can, and it really seems impossible to arrange matters. I am to
die soon, according to the doctors;--and so I have made my
willleaving everything I possess to this ridiculous boy who wishes
to kill me; and it is more than probable that he,--considering how
he has been brought up and educated--will cast all the money into
the dirt, and kick at my grave. But what can I do?"
"Nothing," said the Cardinal, "You can do nothing, Vergniaud! That
is the worst of having inflicted a wrong upon the innocent,--you can
never by any means retrieve it. You can repent,--and it is probable
that your very repentance ensures your forgiveness at a higher
tribunal than that of earth's judgment,--but the results of wrong
cannot be wiped out or done away with in this life;--they continue
to exist, and alas!--often multiply. Even the harsh or unjust word
cannot be recalled, and however much we may regret having uttered
it, somehow it is never forgotten. But--" here leaning forward, he
laid one hand gently on Vergniaud's arm, "My dear friend--my dear
brother--you have told me of your sin;--it is a great sin,--but God
forbid that I should presume to judge you harshly when our Lord
Himself declared that 'He came not to call the righteous but sinners
to repentance'. It may be that I can find a way to help you. Arrange
for me to see this misguided son of yours,--and I will endeavour to
find a means of restitution to him and to the memory of his mother
before you pass away from us,--if indeed you are to pass away so
soon. Under the levity you assume I perceive you have deep feeling
on this matter;--you shall not die with a wrong on your soul,
Vergniaud!--you shall not if I can prevent it! For there undoubtedly
is another life; you must go into it as purely as prayer and
penitence can make you."
"I thought," said the Abbe, speaking somewhat unsteadily, "that you
might when you heard all, hurl some of Rome's thunderous
denunciations upon me . . ."
"What am I, and what is Rome, compared with the Master's own word?"
said the Cardinal gently. "If our brothers sin against us seventy
times seven we are still to forgive, and they are still our
brothers! Denunciations, judgments and condemnations of one another
are not any part of our Lord's commands."
Vergniaud rose up and held out his hand.
"Will you take it," he said, "as a pledge that I will faithfully do
whatever you may see fitting and right to retrieve the past?--and to
clear my son's soul from the thirst of vengeance which is consuming
Cardinal Bonpre clasped the extended hand warmly.
"There is your answer!" he said, with a smile which irradiated his
fine countenance with an almost supernatural beauty and tenderness,
"You have sinned against Heaven, and you have sinned against the
Church and your own calling,--but the greatest sinner can do no more
than repent and strive to make amends. For I see you fully know and
comprehend the extent of your sin."
"Yes, I know it," and Vergniaud's eyes were clouded and his brows
knitted, "I know it only too well! Greater than any fault of Church-
discipline is a wrong to human life,--and I wronged and betrayed an
innocent woman who loved me! Her soul was as sweet as the honey-cup
of a flower,--I poisoned it. That was as bad as poisoning the
Sacrament! I should have kept it sweet and pure; I should have let
the Church go, and been honest! I should have seen to it that the
child of my love grew up to honour his father,--not to merely live
for the murder of him! Yes!--I know what I should have done--I know
what I have not done--and I am afraid I shall always know! Unless I
can do something to atone I have a strange feeling that I shall pass
from this world to the next--and that the first thing I shall see
will be her face! Her face as I saw it when the sunshine made a halo
round her hair, and she prayed to her guardian angel."
He shuddered slightly, and his voice died away in a half whisper.
The Cardinal pressed his hand again warmly and tenderly.
"Courage, courage!" he said. "It is true we cannot do away with our
memories,--but we can try and make them sweet. And who knows how
much God may help us in the task? Never forget the words that tell
us how 'the angels rejoice more over one sinner that repenteth than
over ninety and nine just persons.'"
"Ah!" and the Abbe smiled, recovering somewhat of his usual manner,
"And that is so faithfully enforced upon us, is it not? The Churches
are all so lenient? And Society is so kind?--so gentle in its
estimate of its friends? Our Church, for example, has never
persecuted a sinner?--has never tortured an unbeliever? It has been
so patient, and so unwearying in searching for stray sheep and
bringing them back with love and tenderness and pity to the fold?
And Churchmen never say anything which is slanderous or cruel? And
we all follow Christ's teaching so accurately? Yes!--Ah well--I
wonder! I wonder what will be the end! I wonder why we came into
life at all--I wonder why we go! Fortunately for me, by and by,
there will be an end of all wondering, and you can write above my
tomb, 'Implora pace'! The idea of commencing a new life is to me,
horrible,--I prefer 'Nirvana' or nothingness. Never have I read
truer words than those of Byron,
'Count o'er the joys thine hours have seen,
Count o'er thy days from anguish free,
And know whatever thou hast been,
'Tis something better not to be.'"
"I cannot think that is either true or good philosophy," said the
Cardinal, "It is merely the utterance of a disappointed man in a
misanthropic mood. There is no 'not to be' in creation. Each morning
that lights the world is an expression of 'to be'! And however much
we may regret the fact, my dear Vergniaud, we find ourselves in a
state of BEING and we must make the best of it,--not the worst. Is
that not so?"
His look was gentle and commanding,--his voice soft yet firm,--and
the worldly Abbe felt somewhat like a chidden child as he met the
gaze of those clear true eyes that were undarkened by any furtive
hypocrisies or specious meanings.
"I suppose it is, but unfortunately I have made the worst of it," he
answered, "and having made the worst I see no best. Who is that
He lifted his hand with a gesture of attention as a rich mezzo-
soprano rang out towards them,--
Mostrami il cielo;
Tulto e un velo,
E non si sa
Dove e il cielo.
Se si sta
Non si sa
Se non si va
Ahi me lontano!
Tulto e in vano!
Prendimi in mano
"It is Angela," said the Cardinal, "She has a wonderfully sweet
"Prendimi in mano,
murmured Abbe Vergniaud, still listening, "It is like the cry of a
"Or a strayed one," interposed the Cardinal gently, and rising, he
took Vergniaud's arm, and leaned upon it with a kindly and familiar
grace, an action which implied much more than the mere outward
expression of confidence,--"Nothing is utterly lost, my dear friend.
'The very hairs of our head are numbered,'--not a drop of dew
escapes to waste,--how much more precious than a drop of dew is the
spirit of a man!"
"It is not so unsullied," declared Vergniaud, who loved
controversy,--"Personally, I think the dew is more valuable than the
soul, because so absolutely clean!"
"You must not bring every line of discussion to a pin's point," said
Bonpre smiling, as he walked slowly across the room still leaning on
the Abbe's arm. "We can reduce our very selves to the bodiless
condition of a dream if we take sufficient pains first to advance a
theory, and then to wear it threadbare. Nothing is so deceptive as
human reasoning,--nothing so slippery and reversible as what we have
decided to call 'logic.' The truest compass of life is spiritual
"And what of those who have no spiritual instinct?" demanded
"I do not think there are any such. To us it certainly often seems
as if there were masses of human beings whose sole idea of living is
to gratify their bodily needs,--but I fancy it is only because we do
not know them sufficiently that we judge them thus. Few, if any, are
so utterly materialistic as never to have had some fleeting
intuition of the Higher existence. They may lack the force to
comprehend it, or to follow its teaching,--but in my opinion, the
Divine is revealed to all men once at least in their lives."
They had by this time passed out of the drawing-room, and now,
ascending three steps, they went through a curtained recess into
Angela Sovrani's studio,--a large and lofty apartment made beautiful
by the picturesque disorder and charm common to a great artist's
surroundings. Here, at a grand piano sat Angela herself, her song
finished, her white hands straying idly over the keys,--and near her
stood the gentleman whom the Abbe Vergniaud had called "a terrible
reformer and Socialist" and who was generally admitted to be
something of a remarkable character in Europe. Tall and fair, with
very bright flashing eyes, and a wonderfully high bred air of
concentrated pride and resolution, united to a grace and courtesy
which exhaled from him, so to speak, with his every movement and
gesture, he was not a man to pass by without comment, even in a
crowd. A peculiar distinctiveness marked him,--out of a marching
regiment one would have naturally selected him as the commanding
officer, and in any crisis of particular social importance or
interest his very appearance would have distinguished him as the
leading spirit of the whole. On perceiving the Cardinal he advanced
at once to be presented, and as Angela performed the ceremony of
introduction he slightly bent one knee, and bowed over the venerable
prelate's extended hand with a reverence which had in it something
of tenderness. His greeting of Abbe Vergniaud was, while perfectly
courteous, not quite so marked by the grace of a strong man's
"Ah, Mr. Leigh! So you have not left Paris as soon as you
determined?" queried the Abbe with a smile, "I thought you were
bound for Florence in haste?"
"I go to Florence to-morrow," answered Leigh briefly.
"So soon! I am indeed glad not to have missed you," said Cardinal
Bonpre cordially. "Angela, my child, let me see what you have been
doing. All your canvases are covered, or turned with their faces to
the wall;--are we not permitted to look at any of them?"
Angela immediately rose from the piano, and wheeled a large oaken
chair with a carved and gilded canopy, into the centre of the
"Well, if you want to see my sketches--and they are only sketches,"
she said,--"you must come and sit here. Now," as her uncle obeyed
her, "you look enthroned in state,--that canopy is just fitted for
you, and you are a picture in yourself!--Yes, you are, dearest
uncle! And not all the artists in the world could ever do you
justice I Monsieur l'Abbe, will you sit just where you please?--And
Mr. Leigh, you have seen everything, so it does not matter."
"It matters very much," said Leigh with a smile, "For I want to see
everything again. If I may, I will stand here."
And he took up his position close to the Cardinal's chair.
"But where is the boy?" asked Vergniaud, "Where is the foundling of
"He left us some minutes ago," said Angela, "He went to your room,
"Was he pleased with the music?" asked the Cardinal.
"I think he enjoyed every note of it," said Leigh, "A thoughtful
lad! He was very silent while I played,--but silence is often the
most eloquent appreciation."
"Are we to be silent then over the work of Donna Sovrani?" enquired
the Abbe gaily. "Must we not express our admiration?"
"If you have any admiration to express," said Angela carelessly,
setting, as she spoke, an easel facing the Cardinal; "but I am
afraid you will greatly disapprove of me and condemn all my work
this year. I should explain to you first that I am composing a very
large picture,--I began it in Rome some three years ago, and it is
in my studio there,--but I require a few French types of countenance
in order to quite complete it. The sketches I have made here are
French types only. They will all be reproduced in the larger canvas-
-but they are roughly done just now. This is the first of them. I
call it 'A Servant of Christ, at the Madeleine, Paris.'"
And she placed the canvas she held on the easel and stood aside,
while all three men looked at it with very different eyes,--one with
poignant regret and pain,--the other with a sense of shame,--and the
third with a thrill of strong delight in the power of the work, and
of triumph in the lesson it gave.
Low beetling brows,--a sensual, cruel mouth with a loosely
projecting under-lip,--eyes that appeared to be furtively watching
each other across the thin bridge of nose,--a receding chin and a
narrow cranium, combined with an expression which was hypocritically
humble, yet sly,--this was the type Angela Sovrani had chosen to
delineate, sparing nothing, softening no line, and introducing no
redeeming point,--a type mercilessly true to the life; the face of a
priest,--"A servant of Christ," as she called him. The title, united
with that wicked and repulsive countenance, was a terribly
significant suggestion. For some minutes no one spoke,--and the
Cardinal was the first to break the silence.
"Angela,--my dear child"--he said, in low, strained tones, "I am
sorry you have done this! It is powerful--so powerful that it is
painful as well. It cuts me to the heart that you should find it
necessary to select such an example of the priesthood, though of
course I am not in the secret of your aims--I do not understand your
purpose . . ."
He broke off,--and Angela, who had stood silent, looking as though
she were lost in a dream, took up his unfinished sentence.
"You do not understand my purpose?--Dearest uncle, I hardly
understand it myself! Some force stronger than I am, is urging me to
paint the picture I have begun,--some influence more ardent and
eager than my own, burns like a fever in me, persuading me to
complete the design. You blame me for choosing such an evil type of
priest? But there is no question of choice! These faces are ordinary
among our priests. At all the churches, Sunday after Sunday I have
looked for a good, a noble face;--in vain! For an even commonly-
honest face,--in vain! And my useless search has ended by impressing
me with profound sorrow and disgust that so many low specimens of
human intellect are selected as servants of our Lord. Do not judge
me too severely! I feel that I have a work to do,--and a lesson to
give in the work, when done. I may fail;--I may be told that as a
woman I have no force, and no ability to make any powerful or
lasting impression on this generation;--but at any rate I feel that
I must try! If priests of the Church were like you, how different it
would all be! But you always forget that you are an exception to the
rule,--you do not realise how very exceptional you are! I told you
before I showed you this sketch that you would probably disapprove
of it and condemn me,--but I really cannot help it. In this matter
nothing--not even the ban of the Church itself, can deter me from
fulfilling what I have designed to do in my own soul!"
She spoke passionately and with ardour,--and the Cardinal looked at
her with something of surprise and trouble. The fire of genius is as
he knew, a consuming one,--and he had never entirely realized how
completely it filled and dominated this slight feminine creature for
whom he felt an almost paternal tenderness. Before he could answer
her the Abbe Vergniaud spoke.
"Donna Sovrani is faithful to the truth in her sketch," he said,
"therefore, as a lover of truth I do not see, my dear Bonpre, why
you should object! If she has,--as she says,--some great aim in
view, she must fulfil it in her own way. I quite agree with her in
her estimate of the French priests,--they are for the most part
despicable-looking persons,--only just a grade higher than their
brothers of Italy and Spain. But what would you have? The iron hand
of Rome holds them back from progress,--they are speaking and acting
lies; and like the stagemimes, have to put on paint and powder to
make the lies go down. But when the paint and powder come off, the
religious mime is often as ill-looking as the stage one! Donna
Sovrani has caught this particular example, before he has had time
to put on holy airs and turn up the footlights. What do you think
about it, Mr. Leigh?"
"I think, as I have always thought," said Leigh quietly, "that Donna
Sovrani is an inspired artist,--and that being inspired it follows
that she must carry out her own convictions whether they suit the
taste of others or not. 'A Servant of Christ' is a painful truth,
Angela was unmoved by the compliment implied. She only glanced
wistfully at the Cardinal, who still sat silent. Then without a word
she withdrew the offending sketch from the easel and set another in
"This," she said gently, "is the portrait of an Archbishop. I need
not name his diocese. He is very wealthy, and excessively selfish. I
call this, 'LORD, _I_ THANK THEE THAT I AM NOT AS OTHER MEN'."
Vergniaud laughed as he looked,--he knew the pictured dignitary
well. The smooth countenance, the little eyes comfortably sunken in
small rolls of fat, the smug smiling lips, the gross neck and heavy
jaw,--marks of high feeding and prosperous living,--and above all
the perfectly self-satisfied and mock-pious air of the man,--these
points were given with the firm touch of a master's brush, and the
Abbe, after studying the picture closely, turned to Angela with a
light yet deferential bow.
"Chere Sovrani, you are stronger than ever! Surely you have improved
much since you were last in Paris? Your strokes are firmer, your
grasp is bolder. Have your French confreres seen your work this
"No," replied Angela, "I am resolved they shall see nothing till my
picture is finished."
"May one ask why?"
A flash of disdain passed over the girl's face.
"For a very simple reason! They take my ideas and use them,--and
then, when my work is produced they say it is _I_ who have copied
from THEM, and that women have no imagination! I have been cheated
once or twice in that way,--this time no one has any idea what I am
"No one? Not even Signer Varillo?"
"No," said Angela, smiling a little, "Not even Signor Varillo. I
want to surprise him."
"In what way?" asked the Cardinal, rousing himself from his pensive
"By proving that perhaps, after all, a woman can do a great thing in
art,--a really great thing!" she said, "Designed greatly, and
"Does he not admit that, knowing you?" asked Aubrey Leigh
"Oh, he is most kind and sympathetic to me in my work," explained
Angela quickly, vexed to think that she had perhaps implied some
little point that was not quite in her beloved one's favour. "But he
is like most men,--they have a preconceived idea of women, and of
what their place should be in the world--"
"Unchanged since the early phases of civilization, when women were
something less valuable than cattle?" said Leigh smiling.
"Oh, the cattle idea is not exploded, by any means!" put in
Vergniaud. "In Germany and Switzerland, for example, look at the
women who are ground down to toil and hardship there! The cows are
infinitely prettier and more preferable, and lead much pleasanter
lives. And the men for whom these poor wretched women work, lounge
about in cafes all day, smoking and playing dominoes. The barbaric
arrangement that a woman should be a man's drudge and chattel is
quite satisfactory, I think, to the majority of our sex. It is
certainly an odd condition of things that the mothers of men should
suffer most from man's cruelty. But it is the work of an all-wise
Providence, no doubt; and you, Mr. Leigh, will swear that it is all
"It is all right," said Leigh quietly, "or rather I should say, it
WILL be all right,--and it would have been all right long ago, if we
had, as Emerson puts it, 'accepted the hint of each new experience.'
But that is precisely what we will not do. Woman is the true
helpmate of man, and takes a natural joy in being so whenever we
will allow it,--whenever we will give her scope for her actions,
freedom for her intelligence, and trust for her instincts. But for
the present many of us still prefer to play savage,--the complete
savage in low life,--the civilized savage in high. The complete
savage is found in the dockyard labourer, who makes a woman bear his
children and then kicks her to death,--the savage in high life is
the man who equally kills the mother of his children, but in another
way, namely, by neglect and infidelity, while he treats his numerous
mistresses just as the Turk treats the creatures of his harem--
merely as so many pretty soft animals, requiring to be fed with
sweets and ornamented with jewels, and then to be cast aside when
done with. All pure savagery! But we are slowly evolving from it
into something better. A few of us there are, who honour womanhood,-
-a few of us believe in women as guiding stars in our troubled sky,-
-a few of us would work and climb to greatness for love of the one
woman we adore,--would conquer all obstacles,--ay, would die for her
if need be, of what is far more difficult, would live for her the
life of a hero and martyr! Yes--such things are done,--and men can
be found who will do such things--all for a woman's sake."
There was a wonderful passion in his voice,--a deep thrill of
earnestness which carried conviction with sweetness. Cardinal Bonpre
looked at him with a smile.
"You are perhaps one of those men, Mr. Leigh?" he said.
"I do not know,--I may be," responded Leigh, a flush rising to his
cheeks;--"but,--so far, no woman has ever truly loved me, save my
mother. But apart from all personalities, I am a great believer in
women. The love of a good woman is a most powerful lever to raise
man to greatness,--I do not mean by 'good' the goody-goody
creature,--no, for that is a sort of woman who does more mischief in
her so-called 'blameless' life than a very Delilah. I mean by
'good', a strong, pure, great soul in woman,--sincere, faithful,
patient, full of courage and calm,--and with this I maintain she
must prove a truly God-given helpmate to man. For we are rough
creatures at best,--irritable creatures too!--you see," and here a
slight smile lighted up his delicate features, "we really do try
more or less to reach heights that are beyond us--we are always
fighting for a heaven of some sort, whether we make it of gold, or
politics, or art;--it is a 'heaven' or a 'happiness' that we want;--
we would be as gods,--we would scale Olympus,--and sometimes Olympus
refuses to be scaled! And then we tumble down, very cross, very
sore, very much ruffled;--and it is only a woman who can comfort us
then, and by her love and tenderness mend our broken limbs and put
salve on our wounded pride."
"Well, then, surely the Church is in a very bad way," said Vergniaud
smiling, "Think of the vow of perpetual celibacy!"
"Celibacy cannot do away with woman's help or influence," said
Leigh, "There are always mothers and sisters, instead of sweethearts
and wives. I am in favour of celibacy for the clergy. I think a
minister of Christ should be free to work for and serve Christ
"You are quite right, Mr. Leigh;" said the Cardinal, "There is more
than enough to do in every day of our lives if we desire to truly
follow His commands. But in this present time, alas!--religion is
becoming a question of form--not of heart."
"Dearest uncle, if you think that, you will not judge me too
severely for my pictures," said Angela quickly, throwing herself on
her knees beside him. "Do you not see? It is just because the
ministers of Christ are so lax that I have taken to studying them in
my way,--which is, I know, not your way;--still, I think we both
mean one and the same thing!"
"You are a woman, Angela," said the Cardinal gently, "and as a woman
you must be careful of offences--"
"Oh, a woman!" exclaimed Angela, her beautiful eyes flashing with
mingled tenderness and scorn, and her whole face lighting up with
animation, "Only a woman! SHE must not give a grand lesson to the
world! SHE must not, by means of brush or pen, point out to a
corrupt generation the way it is going! Why? Because God has created
her to be the helpmate of man! Excellent reason! Man is taking a
direct straight road to destruction, and she must not stop him by so
much as lifting a warning finger! Again, why? Only because she is a
woman! But I--were I twenty times a woman, twenty times weaker than
I am, and hampered by every sort of convention and usage,--I would
express my thoughts somehow, or die in the attempt!"
"BRAVISSIMA!" exclaimed Vergniaud, "Well said, chere Sovrani!--Well
said! But I am the mocking demon always, as you know--and I should
almost be tempted to say that you WILL die in the attempt! I do not
mean that you will die physically,--no, you will probably live to a
good old age; people who suffer always do!--but you will die in the
allegorical sense. You will grow the stigmata of the Saviour in your
hands and feet--you will bear terrible marks of the nails hammered
into your flesh by your dearest friends! You will have to wear a
crown of thorns, set on your brows no doubt by those whom you most
love . . . and the vinegar and gall will be very quickly mixed and
offered to you by the whole world of criticism without a moment's
hesitation! And will probably have to endure your agony alone,--as
nearly everyone runs away from a declared Truth, orif they pause at
all, it is only to spit upon it and call it a Lie!"
"Do not prophesy so cruel a fate for the child!" said the Cardinal
tenderly, taking Angela's hand and drawing her towards him. "She has
a great gift,--I am sure she will use it greatly. And true greatness
is always acknowledged in the end."
"Yes, when the author or the artist has been in the grave for a
hundred years or more;" said Vergniaud incorrigibly. "I am not sure
that it would not be better for Donna Sovrani's happiness to marry
the amiable Florian Varillo at once rather than paint her great
picture! Do you not agree with me, Mr. Leigh?"
Leigh was turning over an old volume of prints in a desultory and
abstracted fashion, but on being addressed, looked up quickly.
"I would rather not presume to give an opinion," he said somewhat
coldly, "It is only on the rarest occasions that a woman's life is
balanced between love and fame,--and the two gifts are seldom
bestowed together. She generally has to choose between them. If she
accepts love she is often compelled to forego fame, because she
merges herself too closely into the existence of another to stand by
her own individuality. If on the other hand, she chooses fame, men
are generally afraid of or jealous of her, and leave her to herself.
Donna Sovrani, however, is a fortunate exception,--she has secured
both fame--and love."
He hesitated a moment before saying the last words, and his brows
contracted a little. But Angela did not see the slight cloud of
vexation that darkened his eyes,--his words pleased her, and she
"Ah, Mr. Leigh sees how it is with me!" she said, "He knows what
good cause I have to be happy and to do the best work that is in me!
It is all to make Florian proud of me!--and he IS proud--and he will
be prouder! You must just see this one more sketch taken from life,-
-it is the head of one of our most noted surgeons,--I call it for
the present 'A Vivisectionist'."
It was a wonderful study,--perhaps the strongest of the three she
had shown. It was the portrait of a thin, fine, intellectual face,
which in its every line suggested an intense, and almost dreadful
curiosity. The brows were high, yet narrow,--the eyes clear and
cold, and pitiless in their straight regard,--the lips thin and
compressed,--the nose delicate, with thin open nostrils, like those
of a trained sleuth-hound on the scent of blood. It was a three-
quarter-length picture, showing the hand of the man slightly raised,
and holding a surgeon's knife,--a wonderful hand, rather small, with
fingers that are generally termed "artistic"--and a firm wrist,
which Angela had worked at patiently, carefully delineating the
practised muscles employed and developed in the vivisectiomst's
Aubrey Leigh stood contemplating it intently.
"I think it is really the finest of all the types," he said
presently, "One can grasp that man's character so thoroughly! There
is no pity in him,--no sentiment--there is merely an insatiable
avidity to break open the great treasure-house of Life by fair means
or foul! It is very terrible--but very powerful."
"I know the man," said Abbe Vergniaud, "Did he sit to you
"Very willingly indeed!" replied Angela, "He was quite amused when I
told him frankly that I wanted him as a type of educated and refined
"Oh, these fellows see nothing reprehensible in their work," said
Leigh, "And such things go on among them as make the strongest man
sick to think of! I know of two cases now in a hospital; the
patients are incurable, but the surgeons have given them hope of
recovery through an 'operation' which, however, in their cases, will
be no 'operation' at all, but simply vivisection. The poor creatures
have to die anyhow, it is true, but death might come to them less
terribly,--the surgeons, however, will 'operate', and kill them a
little more quickly, in order to grasp certain unknown
technicalities of their disease."
Angela looked at him with wide-open eyes of pain and amazement.
"Horrible!" she murmured, "Absolutely horrible! Can nothing be done
to interfere with, or to stop such cruelty?"
"Nothing, I fear," said Leigh, "I have been abroad some time,
studying various 'phases', of its so-called intellectual and
scientific life, and have found many of these phases nothing but an
output of masked barbarity. The savages of Thibet are more pitiful
than the French or Italian vivisectionist,--and the horrors that go
on in the laboratories would not be believed if they were told.
Would not be believed! They would be flatly denied, even by the men
who are engaged in them! And were I to write a plain statement of
what I know to be true, and send it to an English journal, it would
not be put in, not even in support of the Anti-Vivisection Society,
lest it might 'offend' the foreign schools of surgery, and also
perhaps lest English schools might prove not altogether free from
similar crimes. If, however, by chance, such a statement were
published, it would be met with an indignant chorus of denial from
every quarter of accusation! How, then, can justice be obtained from
what I call the New Inquisition? The old-time Inquisitors tortured
their kind for Religion's sake,--the modern ones do it in the name
of Science,--but the inhumanity, the callousness, the inborn savage
love of cruelty--are all the same in both instances."
Cardinal Bonpre shuddered as he heard.
"Lord Christ, where art thou!" he thought, "Where is Thy spirit of
unfailing tenderness and care? How is Thy command of 'love one
another' obeyed!" Aloud he said, "Surely such deeds, even in the
cause of surgical science, ought not to be permitted in a Christian
"Christian city!" and Vergniaud laughed, "You would not apply that
designation to Paris, would you? Paris is hopelessly, riotously
pagan;--nay, not even pagan, for the pagans had gods and Paris has
none! Neither Jove--nor Jupiter--nor Jehovah! As for the Christ,--He
is made the subject of many a public caricature,--yes!--you may see
them in the side-streets pasted upon the walls and hoardings!--and
also of many a low lampoon;--but He is not accepted as a Teacher,
nor even as an Example. His reign is over, in Paris at least!"
"Stop!" said the Cardinal, rising suddenly, "I forbid you,
Vergniaud, to tell me these things! If they are true, then shame
upon you and upon all the clergy of this unhappy city to stand by
and let such disgrace to yourselves, and blasphemy to our Master,
exist without protest!"
His tall spare figure assumed a commanding grandeur and authority,--
his pale face flushed and his eyes sparkled--he looked inspired--
superb--a very apostle burning with righteous indignation. His words
seemed to have the effect of an electric shock on the Abbe,--he
started as though stung by the lash of a whip, and drew himself up
haughtily . . . then meeting the Cardinal's straight glance, his head
drooped, and he stood mute and rigid. Leigh, though conscious of
embarrassment as the witness of a strong reproof administered by one
dignitary of the Church to another, yet felt deeply interested in
the scene,--Angela shrank back trembling,--and for a few moments
which, though so brief, seemed painfully long, there was a dead
silence. Then Verginaud spoke in low stifled accents.
"You are perfectly right, Monseigneur! It IS shame to me!--and to
the priesthood of France! I am no worse than the rest of my class,--
but I am certainly no better! Your reproach is grand,--and just! I
accept it, and ask your pardon!"
He bent one knee, touched the Cardinal's ring with his lips, and
then without another word turned and left the room. The Cardinal
gazed after his retreating figure like a man in a dream, then he
"Angela, go after him!--Call him back!--"
But it was too late. Vergniaud had left the house before Angela
could overtake him. She came back hurriedly to say so, with a pale
face and troubled look. Her uncle patted her kindly on the shoulder.
"Well, well!--It will not hurt him to have seen me angry," he said
smiling, "Anger in a just cause is permitted. I seem to have
frightened you, Angela? Of a truth I have rather frightened myself!
There, we will not talk any more of the evils of Paris. Mr. Leigh
perhaps thinks me an intolerant Christian?"
"On the contrary I think you are one of the few 'faithful' that I
have ever met," said Leigh, "Of course I am out of it in a way,
because I do not belong to the Roman Church. I am supposed--I say
'supposed' advisedly--to be a Church of England man, or to put it
more comprehensively, a Protestant, and I certainly am so much of
the latter that I protest against all our systems altogether!"
"Is that quite just?" asked Bonpre gently.
"Perhaps not!--but what is one to do? I am not alone in my ideas!
One of our English bishops has been latterly deploring the fact that
out of a thousand lads in a certain parish nine-hundred-and-ninety-
nine of them never go to church! Well, what can you expect? I do not
blame those nine-hundred and-ninety-nine at all. I am one with them.
_I_ never go to church."
"Simply because I never find any touch of the true Spirit of Christ
there--and the whole tone of the place makes me feel distinctly un-
Christian. The nine-hundred-and-ninety-nine youths possibly would
sympathise with me. A church is a building more or less beautiful or
ugly as the case may be, and in the building there is generally a
man who reads prayers in a sing-song tone of voice, and perhaps
another man who preaches without eloquence on some text which he
utterly fails to see the true symbolical meaning of. There are no
Charles Kingsleys nowadays,--if there were, I should call myself a
'Kingsleyite'. But as matters stand I am not moved by the church to
feel religious. I would rather sit quietly in the fields and hear
the gentle leaves whispering their joys and thanksgivings above my
head, than listen to a human creature who has not even the education
to comprehend the simplest teachings of nature, daring to assert
himself as a teacher of the Divine. My own chief object in life has
been and still is to speak on this and similar subjects to the
people who are groping after lost Christianity. They need helping,
and I want to try in my way to help them."
"Groping after lost Christianity!" echoed the Cardinal, "Those words
are a terrible indictment, Mr. Leigh!"
"Yet in your own soul your Eminence admits it to be true," returned
Leigh quickly,--"I can see the admission in your eyes,--in the very
expression of your face! You feel in yourself that the true spirit
of Christ is lacking in all the churches of the present day,--that
the sheep are straying for lack of the shepherd, and that the wolf
is in the fold! You know it,--you feel it,--you see it!"
Cardinal Bonpre's head drooped.
"God help me and forgive me, I am afraid I do!" he said sorrowfully.
"I see the shadow of the storm before it draws nigh,--I feel the
terror of the earthquake before it shakes down the edifice! No, the
world is not with Christ to-day!--and unhappily it is a fact that
Christ's ministers in recent years have done more to sever Him from
Humanity than any other power could ever have succeeded in doing.
Not by action, but by inertia!--dumbness--lack of protest,--lack of
courage! Only a few stray souls stand out firm and fair in the
chaos,--only a few!"
"'I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot,--I would
thou wert cold or hot! So because thou art lukewarm and neither cold
nor hot I will spew thee out of my mouth!'" quoted Leigh, his eyes
flashing and his voice trembling with repressed earnestness, "That
is the trouble all through! Apathy,--dead, unproductive apathy and
laissez-faire!--Ah, I believe there are some of us living now who
are destined to see strange and terrible things in this new
"For myself," said the Cardinal slowly, "I think there is not much
time left us! I feel a premonition of Divine wrath threatening the
world, and when I study the aspect of the times and see the pride,
licentiousness, and wealth-worship of men, I cannot but think the
days are drawing near when our Master will demand of us account of
our service. It is just the same as in the case of the individual
wrong-doer, when it seems as if punishment were again and again
retarded, and mercy shown,--yet if all benefits, blessings and
warnings are unheeded, then at last the bolt falls suddenly and with
terrific effect. So with nations--so with churches--so with the
His voice grew feeble, and his eyes were clouded with pain.
"You are fatigued," said Leigh gently, "And I ought not to have
stayed so long. I will bid you farewell now. If I am in Rome when
you are there, I trust you will permit me to pay my respects to
"It will be a pleasure to see you, my son," answered the Cardinal,
pressing his hand and courteously preventing him from making the
formal genuflection, "And let me add that it will help me very much
to hear from you what progress you make in your intention of working
for Christ. For,--when you speak to the people as a teacher, it is
in His name, is it not?"
"In His name, and I pray in His spirit," said Leigh, "But not
through any church."
The Cardinal sighed, but said no more, and Leigh turned to Angela.
"Good-bye," he said, "I may come and see the picture in Rome?"
"You may indeed," and Angela gave him her hand in frank
friendliness, "I shall feel the necessity of your criticism and the
value of your opinion."
He looked at her intently for a moment.
"Be of good courage," he then said in a low tone, "'Work out your
own salvation', it is the only way! Fulfil the expression of your
whole heart and soul and mind, and never heed what opposing forces
may do to hinder you. You are so clear-brained, so spiritually
organised, that I cannot imagine your doing anything that shall not
create a power for good. You are sometimes inclined to be afraid of
the largeness of your own conceptions in the picture you are
dreaming of,--I can see that,--but do not fear! The higher
influences are with you and in you;--give yourself up to them with
absolute confidence! Good-bye--God bless you!" He stooped and kissed
her hand,--then left the room.
Angela looked after him, and a half sigh escaped her lips
unconsciously. The Cardinal watched her with rather a troubled look.
After a little silence he said,
"You must pardon me, my child, if I seemed over hasty in my judgment
of your work . . ."
"Dearest uncle, do not speak of it!" exclaimed Angela, "You were
pained and sorry to see such a 'servant of Christ' as the type I
chose,--you could not help expressing your feeling--it was
natural . . ."
"Yes, I was vexed,--I own it!--" went on Bonpre, "For I know many
priests, poor, patient, simple men, who do their best for our Lord
according to their measure and capability,--men who deserve all
honour, all love, all respect, for the integrity of their lives,--
still--I am aware that these are in the minority, and that men of
the kind your sketch depicts, compose alas!--the majority. There is
a frightful preponderance of evil influences in the world! Industry,
and commerce, and science have advanced, and yet a noble and upright
standard of conduct among men is sadly lacking. Men are seeking for
happiness in Materialism, and find nothing but satiety and misery,--
satiety and misery which become so insupportable that very often
suicide presents itself as the only way out of such a tangle of
wretchedness! Yes, child!--all this is true--and if you think you
have a lesson to give which will be useful in these dark days, no
one,--I least of all--should presume to hinder you from giving it.
Still, remember that the results of work are not with the worker to
determine--they rest with God."
"Truly I hope they do," said Angela fervently, "For then all bad
work will pass away and only the good and necessary remain."
"That always is the rule," said the Cardinal, "No criticism can kill
good work or vivify bad. So be happy, Angela mia! Paint your great
picture with courage and hope--I will neither judge nor condemn, and
if the world's verdict should be cruel, mine shall be kind!"
He smiled and stroked her soft hair, then taking her arm he leaned
upon it affectionately as they left the studio together.
The next day, and the next after that, were passed by the Cardinal
in gratifying a certain eagerness shown by his young foundling,
Manuel, to see the churches and great public buildings of Paris. The
boy had a quiet, straightforward way of expressing his wishes and
opinions, and a certain marked individuality in his manner--in fact,
so simple and straight were his words, and so much to the point,
that they sometimes caused confusion to his hearers. Once or twice
he gave offence, as for example, on visiting a great church where
there were numerous jewelled relics and priceless treasures of old
lace and embroidery, when he said suddenly:
"There is a woman just outside the door, very ill and poor, with two
little starving children;--would it not be well to sell some of the
jewels here and give her the money?"
The custodian looked amazed, and the attendant priest who was
escorting Cardinal Bonpre through the building, frowned.
"The treasures of the Church are not to be sold," he said curtly.
"The beggar outside is no doubt a trained hypocrite."
"Christ would not say so," answered Manuel softly,--"He would not,
even if He knew her to be a hypocrite, retain anything of value for
Himself, if by giving it to her, He could ease her pain and poverty.
I cannot understand why the Church should keep jewels."
"That is because you are ignorant," said the priest roughly.
Manuel raised his grave blue eyes and fixed them steadily upon him.
"That may be," he said, "Yet I think it is nowhere written in the
Gospel that Christ cared for the world's wealth or the world's
possessions. When they are offered to Him did he not say, 'Get thee
behind me, Satan'! The only gem he prized was the 'pearl of great
price,'--the pure and perfect human soul."
"The Church is the manufactory of those pearls," said the priest,
with something between a grin and a sneer.
"Then the Church needs no other jewels" returned Manuel quietly,
with a little gesture of his hand, "These glittering baubles you
show, are out of place."
The priest glanced him over with angry contempt. Then he said to the
"Your Eminence will have trouble with that boy," he said. "His
opinions are heretic."
The Cardinal smiled a little.
"You think so? Nay, there is something of truth in what he says,
notwithstanding his simplicity of utterance, which is not perhaps in
accordance with convention. I confess that I share his opinions
somewhat. Certainly I esteem myself happy that in my far-off diocese
there are none of the world's precious things, but only the unprized
prayers of the faithful."
The priest said nothing in reply,--but he was conscious of
discomfort and uneasiness, and hurried through the rest of his
duties with an ill-grace, annoyed, though he knew not why, by the
very presence of Manuel. The boy, however, paid no heed to his angry
glances, and noted everything in his own quiet meditative way,--a
way which was a singularly winning one, graced as it was by an
almost scholarly thoughtfulness united to the charm of youth. Once,
before a magnificent priest's garment of lace, he paused, and
touched the substance lightly.
"See," he said softly, looking wistfully up in the Cardinal's face,
"See all the leaves and rosebuds worked in, this by the needle,--and
think how many human eyes have strained at it, and grown dull and
blind over it! If one could only believe that the poor eyes were
comforted at all in the following of the difficult thread!--but no,-
-the sunshine must have lessened and the days grown darker and
darker, till death came and gently shut up the lids of the tired
orbs of earthy vision, and opened those of the soul to Light indeed!
This work speaks with a thousand tongues! I can hear them! Torture,-
-poverty,--pain,--pitilessness,--long hours,--scant reward,--tired
fingers,--weary hearts!--and a priest of Christ wears this to
perform Christ's service! Clad in a garment of human suffering, to
preach mercy! Is it not strange?"
"You think too deeply, my child," said the Cardinal, moved by the
tender pity in Manual's voice, "Nothing is accomplished without pain
in this world,--our dear Lord Himself suffered pain."
"True," said Manuel, "But His pain was endured that there might be
less of it for others! He asked His children in this world to love
one another for His sake--not to grind each other down! Not to make
unnecessary hardships for each other! But it seems as if He had
asked in vain!"
He was silent after this, and refrained from remark even when,
during their visit to Notre Dame, the treasury was unlocked for the
Cardinal's inspection, and the relics formerly contained in the now
disused "Sainte Chapelle," were shown,--including the fragments of
the "crown of thorns," and a nail from the "true cross." The
Cardinal was silent too. He had no remark to offer on these obvious
"imaginations" of the priesthood. Then they went up together to the
platform on the summit of the Cathedral, and looked at the great
bell known as the "Bourdon de Notre Dame";--and here they found a
little wizened old man sitting carelessly on the edge of a
balustrade, in a seemingly very dangerous position, who nodded and
smiled familiarly as they appeared. He acted as cicerone of the
summit of the North Tower, and was soon at their side explaining
volubly all that was of interest.
"Tired,--oh yes, one gets tired!" he admitted, in response to a
query from the Cardinal as to whether he did not find his duties
fatiguing at his age, "But after all, I like the griffins and
dragons and devils' faces up here, better than the griffins and
dragons and devils down there,--below on the Boulevards! I call this
Heaven, and down there in the streets, Hell. Yes, truly! It is
wholesome up here,--the sky seems very near, and the sculptured
beasts do no harm. But down in the streets one feels and smells the
dirt and danger directly. I sit here all by myself for hours
thinking, when no one comes to visit the tower,--for sometimes a
whole day passes and no one wishes to ascend. And there is a moral
in that, Monseigneur, if one has eyes to see it;--days pass, years,
in the world,--and no one wishes to ascend!--to Heaven, I mean!--to
go down to Hell is delightful, and everyone is ready for it! It is
at night that the platform here is most beautiful,--oh yes, at night
it is very fine, Monseigneur!--but it is only madmen and dreamers
who call me up in the night hours, yet when they do I never refuse
to go with them, for look you, I am a light sleeper and have no wife
to bid me keep my bed. Yes,--if the authorities knew that I took
anybody up to the tower at night they would probably dismiss me,"
and he chuckled like an old schoolboy with a sense of his own innate
mischief and disobedience, "But you see they do not know! And I
learn a great deal from the strange persons who come at night,--much
more than from the strange persons who come by day. Now, the last so
strange person that came here by night--you would not perhaps
believe it, Monseigneur, but it was a priest! Yes," and the old
fellow laughed, "a priest who had suddenly found out that the Church
was not following its Master! Yes, yes! . . . just fancy killing himself
"Killing himself!" cried the Cardinal, "What do you mean?"
"You would like to hear the story?--ah, take care, mon ange!" he
cried, as he perceived Manuel standing lightly near the brink of the
platform, and stretching out his arms towards the city, "Thou art
not a bird to fly from that edge in the air! What dost thou see?"
"Paris!" replied the boy in strangely sorrowful accents, turning his
young, wistful face towards the Cardinal, his hair blown back in the
light wind, "All Paris!"
"Ah!--'tis a fine sight, all Paris!" said the old guide--"one of the
finest in the world, to judge by the outside of it. But the inside
is a very different matter; and if Paris is not a doomed city, then
there is no God, and I know nothing of the Bible. It has got all the
old sins in a new shape, and revels in them. And of the story of the
priest, if you would hear it;--ah!--that is well!" he said, as
Manuel left the giddy verge of the platform where he had been
standing, and drew near. "It is safer to be away from that edge, my
child! And for the poor priest, it happened in this way,--it was a
fair night, and the moon was high--I was dozing off in a chair in my
room below, when the bell rang quickly, yet softly. I got up with
pleasure, for I said to myself, 'here is an artist or a poet,--one
of those persons who are unlike anyone else'--just as I am myself
unlike anyone else--'and so we two shall have a pleasant evening.'
But when I opened the door there was no one but a priest, and poor-
looking even at that; and he was young and pale, and very uneasy in
his manner, and he said to me, 'Jean Lapui'--(that is my name)--'let
me pass up to the platform.' 'Willingly,' said I, 'if I may go with
you.' 'Nay, I would rather be alone,' he answered. 'That may not
be,' I told him, 'I am as pleased to see the moonbeams shining on
the beasts and devils as any man,--and I shall do you no harm by my
company.' Well, he agreed to have me then, and up we went the three
hundred and seventy-eight steps,--(it is a long way, Monseigneur;--
)and he mounted quickly, I slowly,--but always keeping my eye upon
him. At last we reached this platform, and the moonlight was
beautiful, and clear as day. Then my little priest sat down and
began to laugh. 'Ha, my Lapui!' he said, 'Is it not droll that this
should be all a lie! All this fine building, and all the other fine
buildings of the kind in Paris! Strange, my Lapui, is it not, that
this Cathedral should be raised to the worship of a God whom no one
obeys, or even thinks of obeying! All show, my good Lapui! All to
feed priests like me, and keep them going--but God has nothing to do
with it--nothing at all, I swear to you!'--'You may be right, mon
reverend,' I said, (for I saw he was not in a mood to be argued
with)--"Yet truly the Cathedral has not always been a place of
holiness. In seventeen ninety-three there was not much of our Lord
or the blessed Saints in it.' 'No, you are right, Lapui!' he cried,
'Down came the statue of the Virgin, and up went the statue of
Liberty! There was the crimson flare of the Torch of Truth!--and the
effigies of the ape Voltaire and the sensualist Rousseau, took the
places of St. Peter and St. Paul! Ha!--And they worshipped the
goddess of Reason--Reason, impersonated by Maillard the ballet-
dancer! True to the life, my Lapui!--that kind of worship has lasted
in Paris until now!--it goes on still--Reason,--man's idea of
Reason,--impersonated by a ballet dancer! Yes,--the shops are full
of that goddess and her portraits, Jean Lapui! And the jewellers can
hardly turn out sufficient baubles to adorn her shrine!' He laughed
again, and I took hold of him by the arm. 'See here, petit pere,' I
said, 'I fancy all is not well with you.' 'You are right,' he
answered, 'all is very ill!' 'Then will you not go home and to bed?'
I asked him. 'Presently--presently;' he said, 'if I may tell you
something first!' 'Do so by all means, reverend pere,' said I, and I
sat down near him. 'It is just this, Lapui,' and he drew out a
crucifix from his breast and looked at it very earnestly, 'I am a
priest, as you see; and this symbol represents my faith. My mother
told me that to be a priest and to serve God was the highest
happiness that could befall a man. I believed it,--and when I look
at the stars up there crowding around us in such vast circles,--when
I look at all this moonlight and the majesty of creation around me,
I believe it still! Up here, it seems there MAY be a God; down
there,' and he pointed towards the streets, 'I know there is a
devil! But I have discovered that it is no use telling the people
about God, because they do not believe in Him. They think I am
telling them a lie because it is my metier to tell lies. And also
because they think I have neither the sense nor the ability to do
anything else. They know they are telling lies themselves all day
and every day. Some of them pretend to believe, because they think
it best to be on the safe side even by feigning,--and they are the
worst hypocrites. It drives me mad, Lapui, to perform Mass for
liars! If it were only unbelievers! but liars!--liars! Liars who lie
on their death-beds, telling me with mock sighs of penitence that
they believe in God when they do not! I had a dream last night--you
shall tell me if I was mistaken in it,--it was a dream of this very
tower of Notre Dame. I was up here as I am now--and the moonlight
was around me as it is now--and I thought that just behind the wing
of that third angel's head carved yonder--do you see?' and he got up
and made me get up too, and turned me round with his hand on my
shoulder--'a white dove had made its resting-place. Is there a white
dove there, Lapui? If there is I shall be a happy man and all my
griefs will be at an end! Will you go and look--and tell me if there
is a white dove nestling there? Then I will say good-night to you
and go home.' God forgive me!--I thought to humor him in his fancy,
and so I left him to walk those five steps--only five at the utmost-
-and see if perhaps among the many doves that fly about the towers,
it might not be that a white one, as he said, should have chosen to
settle in the place he pointed out to me, 'for,' thought I, 'he will
be quiet then and satisfied.' And like a blind fool I went--and when
I came back the platform was empty!--Ah, Monseigneur!--he had said
good-night indeed, and gone home!"
"You mean that he flung himself from this parapet?" said Bonpre, in
a low, horrified tone.
"That was the way of it, Monseigneur," said Lapui commiseratingly,--
"His body was found next day crushed to bits on the pavement below;
but somehow no one troubled much about it, or thought he had thrown
himself from the tower of Notre Dame. It was said that he had been
murdered and thrown out of a window, but nobody knew how or when. Of
course I could have spoken, but then I should have got into trouble.
And I avoid trouble whenever I can. A very strange thing it is that
no one has ever been suspected of leaping from Notre Dame into the
next world since Victor Hugo's great story was written. 'It is
against the rules,' say the authorities, 'to mount the towers at
night.' True, but rules are not always kept. Victor Hugo's
'Quasimodo,' who never lived, is the only person the wiseacres
associate with such a deed. And I,--I could tell many a strange
story; only it is better to be silent! Life is hard living,--and
when a priest of the Church feels there is no God in this world, why
what is there left for him except to try and find out if there is in
"Suicide is not the way to find Heaven," said the Cardinal gravely.
"Maybe not,--maybe not," and the old custodian turned to lead the
way down the steps of the tower, "But when the brain is gone all
through grief at losing God, it may chance that God sees the
conditions of things, and has mercy. Events happen in this world of
such a kind as to make anyone who is not a saint, doubt the sense as
well as the goodness of the Creator,--of course that is a wicked
thing to say, for we make our own evils, no doubt--"
"That is very certain," said the Cardinal, "The unhappy man you have
told me of should have trusted God to the end, whether those whom he
preached to, believed his message or not. Their conduct was not his
business,--his task was to declare, and not to judge."
"Now that is very well put!" and the old man paused on the stairway
and looked round approvingly. "Of course that is said as only a wise
man could say it, for after all, Christ Himself did not judge any
one in any case. He came to save us all, not to punish us."
"Then why does not everyone remember that, and try to save one
another rather than to condemn?" asked Manuel suddenly.
They had reached the bottom of the tower stairway, and old Jean
Lapui, shading his eyes from the glare of the daylight with one
wrinkled hand, looked at the boy with a smile of compassionate
"Why does not everyone remember? Why does not everyone do as He did?
Ah, that is a question! You are young, and you will find out many
answers to it before you are much older. One fact is sure,--that if
everybody did remember Him and lived exactly as He wished, we should
have a new Heaven and a new Earth; and I will tell you something
else," and the old fellow looked sly and mischievous, "No offence
meant--no offence!--but there would be no churches and no priests!
Believe me, I speak the truth! But this would be a great happiness;
and is not to be our portion yet! Good-day, Monseigneur!--A thousand
pardons for my wicked speech! Good-day!"
"Good-day!" responded the Cardinal gently, "Be careful of your night
visitors, my friend! Do not for the future leave them alone to
plunge into the Infinite without a warning!"
The old man smiled deprecatingly.
"Truly, Monseigneur, I am generally careful. I do not know when I
have spoken so freely to anyone as I have to you; for I am generally
in a bad humour with all Church dignitaries,--and of course I know
you for a Cardinal by your dress, while you might truly be a saint
from your manner;--so I should have held my tongue about the flight
into the air of the little priest. But you will say nothing, for you
are discreet; and even if you did, and I were asked about it, I
should know nothing. Oh, yes, I can tell lies as fast as anybody
else!--Yes, truly! I do not suppose anyone, not even an Archbishop
himself, could surpass me in lying!"
"And are you not ashamed to lie?" asked Bonpre, with an intense
vibration of pain in his voice as he put the question.
"Heaven bless you, no, Monseigneur!" replied Lapui cheerfully, "For
is not the whole world kept going by lies? Dear me, if we all told
the truth there would be an end of everything! I am a philosopher in
my way, Monseigneur,--and I assure you that a real serious truth
told in Paris without any gloss upon it, would be like an earthquake
in the city,--great houses would come down and numbers of people
would be killed by it! Good-day, Monseigneur!--Good-day."
And still smiling and chuckling, the custodian of the North tower
retired into his den there to await fresh visitors. The Cardinal
walked slowly to the corner of the street where his carriage awaited
him,--his head bent and his eyes downcast; Manuel stepped lightly
along beside him, glancing at his pale face from time to time with a
grave and tender compassion. When they were seated in the vehicle
and driving homewards the boy spoke gently--
"You grieve too much for others, dear friend! You are now distressed
because you have heard the story of one unhappy man who sought to
find God by self-destruction, and you are pained also lest another
man should lose God altogether by the deliberate telling of lies.
All such mistakes and follies of the world weigh heavily on your
heart, but they should not do so,--for did not Christ suffer all
this for you when He was crucified?"
The Cardinal sighed deeply.
"Yes, my child, but He told us plainly WHY He suffered. It was that
we might learn to follow Him, and that there should be less
suffering for the future. And surely we have not obeyed Him, or
there could not be so much pain and difficulty in the world as there
"If He come again, you think He would be grieved and disappointed in
His followers?" queried Manuel softly.
"If He came again, I fear He would not find much of His teaching in
any of the creeds founded on His name! If He came again, then indeed
might the churches tremble, totter and fall!"
"If He came again," pursued Manuel, still in the same soft, even
voice, "how do you think He would come?"
"'Watch ye therefore for ye know not when He cometh,'" murmured the
Cardinal,--" My dear child, I think if He came again it would be
perhaps in the disguise of one who is poor and friendless 'despised
and rejected of men,' as when He first glorified the earth by His
presence; and I fear that in such plight He would find Himself, as
Manuel made no reply just then, as they had arrived at home. The
servant who admitted them told them that Donna Sovrani had a visitor
in her studio,--so that the Cardinal and his young attendant went
straight to their own apartments.
"Read to me, Manuel," then said Bonpre, seating himself near the
window, and looking out dreamily on the rich foliage of the woods
and grassy slopes that stretched before him, "Find something in the
Gospels that will fit what we have seen to-day. I am tired of all
these temples and churches!--these gorgeous tombs and reliquaries;
they represent penances and thank-offerings no doubt, but to me they
seem useless. A church should not be a shrine for worldly stuff,
unless indeed such things are used again for the relief of poverty
and suffering; but they are not used; they are simply kept under
lock and key and allowed to accumulate,--while human creatures
dwelling perhaps quite close to these shrines, are allowed to die of
starvation. Did you think this when you spoke to the priest who was
offended with you to-day?"
"Yes, I thought it," replied Manuel gently, "But then he said I was
a heretic. When one loves God better than the Church is one called a
Cardinal Bonpre looked earnestly at the boy's inspired face,--the
face of a dreaming angel in its deep earnestness.
"If so, then I am heretic," he answered slowly, "I love the Creator
as made manifest to me in His works,--I love Him in every flower
which I am privileged to look upon,--I find Him in every art and
science,--I worship Him in a temple not made with hands,--His own
majestic Universe! Above all churches,--above all formulated creeds
and systems I love Him! And as declared in the divine humanity of
Christ I believe in, and adore Him! If this makes me unworthy to be
His priest and servant then I confess my unworthiness!"
He had spoken these words more to himself than Manuel, and in his
fervour had closed his eyes and clasped his hands,--and he almost
fancied that a soft touch, light as a falling rose-leaf, had for a
second rested on his brow. He looked up quickly, wondering whether
it was Manuel who had so touched him,--the boy was certainly near
him,--but was already seated with the Testament open ready to read
as requested. The Cardinal raised himself in his chair,--a sense of
lightness, and freedom, and ease, possessed him,--the hopeless and
tired feeling which had a few minutes since weighed him down with an
undefinable languor was gone,--and his voice had gained new strength
and energy when he once more spoke.
"You have found words of our Lord which will express what we have
seen to-day?" he asked.
"Yes," replied Manuel, and he read in a clear vibrating tone, "Woe
unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; because ye build the
tombs of the prophets and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous."
Here he paused and said, while the Cardinal gazed at him
wonderingly, "Is not that true of Paris? There is their great
Pantheon where most of their prophets lie,--their poets and their
teachers whom they wronged and slandered in their lifetime--"
"My child," interrupted Bonpre gently, "Poets and so-called teachers
are not always good men. One named Voltaire, who scoffed at God, and
enunciated the doctrine of materialism in France, is buried there."
"Nevertheless he also was a prophet," persisted Manuel, in his
quiet, half-childlike, half-scholarly way, "A prophet of evil. He
was the incarnation of the future spirit of Paris. He lived as a
warning of what was to come,--a warning of the wolves that were
ready to descend upon the Master's fold. But Paris was then perhaps
in the care of those 'hirelings' who are mentioned here as caring
not for the sheep."
He turned a few pages and continued reading.
"'Well hath Esais prophesied of you, hypocrites, as it is written,
This people honoureth me with their lips but their heart is far from
me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, TEACHING FOR DOCTRINE THE
COMMANDMENTS OF MAN.'"
He emphasised the last few words and looked up at the Cardinal, then
he went on.
"'Whosoever will come after me let him deny himself and take up his
cross and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it,
but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake the same shall save
"Yes," said Cardinal Bonpre fervently, "It is all there!--'Whosoever
will come after me let him deny himself,' LET HIM DENY HIMSELF! That
is the secret of it. Self-denial! And this age is one of self-
indulgence. We are on the wrong road, all of us, both Church and
laity,--and if the Master should come He will not find us watching,
He broke off, as at that moment a knock came at the door and a
servant entered the room bringing him a letter. It was from the Abbe
Vergniaud, and ran as follows:--
"TRES CHER MONSIGNEUR! I preach the day after tomorrow at Notre Dame
de Lorette, and if you wish to do a favour to a dying man you will
come and hear me. I am moved to say things I have never said before,
and it is possible I may astonish and perchance scandalise Paris.
What inspires me I do not know,--perhaps your well-deserved reproach
of the other day--perhaps the beautiful smile of the angel that
dwells in Donna Sovrani's eyes,--perhaps the chance meeting with
your Rouen foundling on the stairs as I was flying away from your
just wrath. He had been gathering roses in the garden, and gave me
one with a grace in the giving which made the flower valuable. It
still lives and blooms in a glass on my writing-table at which I
have been jotting down the notes of what I mean to say. WHAT I MEAN
TO SAY! There is more in those words than there seems, if you could
but guess all! I shall trust to the day itself for the necessary
eloquence. The congregation that assembles at the Lorette is a
curious and a mixed one. 'Artistes' of the stage and the cafe
chantant are among the worshippers;--dames of rank and fashion who
worship the male 'artistes,' and the golden youth of Paris who adore
the very points of the shoes of the female ones,--are generally
there also. It is altogether what 'perfide Albion,' or Dame Grundee
would call a 'fast' audience. And the fact that I have arranged to
preach there will draw a still greater mixture and 'faster' quality,
as I am, alas!--a fashion in preachers. I pray you to come, or I
shall think you have not forgiven me!
Cardinal Bonpre folded the letter and put it aside with a curious
feeling of compassion for the writer.
"Yes, I will go," he thought, "I have never heard him preach, though
I know by report that he is popular. I was told once that he seems
to be possessed by a very demon of mockery, and that it is this
spirit which makes his attraction for the people; but I hope it is
something more than that--I hope--" Here interrupting his
meditations he turned to Manuel.
"So you gave the Abbe Vergniaud a rose the other day, my child?"
"Yes," replied Manuel, "He looked sad when I met him,--and sometimes
a flower gives pleasure to a person in sorrow."
The Cardinal thought of his own roses far away, and sighed with a
sensation of longing and homesickness.
"Flowers are like visible messages from God," he said, "Messages
written in all the brightest and loveliest colours! I never gather
one without finding out that it has something to say to me."
"There is a legend," said Manuel, "which tells how a poor girl who