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´╗┐Title: Lord of the World
Author: Benson, Robert Hugh, 1871-1914
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Lord of the World" ***

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LORD OF THE WORLD

BY ROBERT HUGH BENSON

Dedication

CLAVI DOMUS DAVID

PREFACE

I am perfectly aware that this is a terribly sensational book, and open
to innumerable criticisms on that account, as well as on many others.
But I did not know how else to express the principles I desired (and
which I passionately believe to be true) except by producing their lines
to a sensational point. I have tried, however, not to scream unduly
loud, and to retain, so far as possible, reverence and consideration for
the opinions of other people. Whether I have succeeded in that attempt
is quite another matter.

Robert Hugh Benson.

CAMBRIDGE 1907.


CONTENTS

PROLOGUE

BOOK I
THE ADVENT

BOOK II
THE ENCOUNTER

BOOK III
THE VICTORY


Persons who do not like tiresome prologues, need not read this one. It
is essential only to the situation, not to the story.



PROLOGUE

"You must give me a moment," said the old man, leaning back.

Percy resettled himself in his chair and waited, chin on hand.

It was a very silent room in which the three men sat, furnished with the
extreme common sense of the period. It had neither window nor door; for
it was now sixty years since the world, recognising that space is not
confined to the surface of the globe, had begun to burrow in earnest.
Old Mr. Templeton's house stood some forty feet below the level of the
Thames embankment, in what was considered a somewhat commodious
position, for he had only a hundred yards to walk before he reached the
station of the Second Central Motor-circle, and a quarter of a mile to
the volor-station at Blackfriars. He was over ninety years old, however,
and seldom left his house now. The room itself was lined throughout with
the delicate green jade-enamel prescribed by the Board of Health, and
was suffused with the artificial sunlight discovered by the great Reuter
forty years before; it had the colour-tone of a spring wood, and was
warmed and ventilated through the classical frieze grating to the exact
temperature of 18 degrees Centigrade. Mr. Templeton was a plain man,
content to live as his father had lived before him. The furniture, too,
was a little old-fashioned in make and design, constructed however
according to the prevailing system of soft asbestos enamel welded over
iron, indestructible, pleasant to the touch, and resembling mahogany. A
couple of book-cases well filled ran on either side of the bronze
pedestal electric fire before which sat the three men; and in the
further corners stood the hydraulic lifts that gave entrance, the one to
the bedroom, the other to the corridor fifty feet up which opened on to
the Embankment.

Father Percy Franklin, the elder of the two priests, was rather a
remarkable-looking man, not more than thirty-five years old, but with
hair that was white throughout; his grey eyes, under black eyebrows,
were peculiarly bright and almost passionate; but his prominent nose and
chin and the extreme decisiveness of his mouth reassured the observer as
to his will. Strangers usually looked twice at him.

Father Francis, however, sitting in his upright chair on the other side
of the hearth, brought down the average; for, though his brown eyes were
pleasant and pathetic, there was no strength in his face; there was even
a tendency to feminine melancholy in the corners of his mouth and the
marked droop of his eyelids.

Mr. Templeton was just a very old man, with a strong face in folds,
clean-shaven like the rest of the world, and was now lying back on his
water-pillows with the quilt over his feet.

* * * * *

At last he spoke, glancing first at Percy, on his left.

"Well," he said, "it is a great business to remember exactly; but this
is how I put it to myself."

"In England our party was first seriously alarmed at the Labour
Parliament of 1917. That showed us how deeply Herveism had impregnated
the whole social atmosphere. There had been Socialists before, but none
like Gustave Herve in his old age--at least no one of the same power.
He, perhaps you have read, taught absolute Materialism and Socialism
developed to their logical issues. Patriotism, he said, was a relic of
barbarism; and sensual enjoyment was the only certain good. Of course,
every one laughed at him. It was said that without religion there could
be no adequate motive among the masses for even the simplest social
order. But he was right, it seemed. After the fall of the French Church
at the beginning of the century and the massacres of 1914, the
bourgeoisie settled down to organise itself; and that extraordinary
movement began in earnest, pushed through by the middle classes, with no
patriotism, no class distinctions, practically no army. Of course,
Freemasonry directed it all. This spread to Germany, where the influence
of Karl Marx had already---"

"Yes, sir," put in Percy smoothly, "but what of England, if you don't
mind---"

"Ah, yes; England. Well, in 1917 the Labour party gathered up the reins,
and Communism really began. That was long before I can remember, of
course, but my father used to date it from then. The only wonder was
that things did not go forward more quickly; but I suppose there was a
good deal of Tory leaven left. Besides, centuries generally run slower
than is expected, especially after beginning with an impulse. But the
new order began then; and the Communists have never suffered a serious
reverse since, except the little one in '25. Blenkin founded 'The New
People' then; and the 'Times' dropped out; but it was not, strangely
enough, till '35 that the House of Lords fell for the last time. The
Established Church had gone finally in '29."

"And the religious effect of that?" asked Percy swiftly, as the old man
paused to cough slightly, lifting his inhaler. The priest was anxious to
keep to the point.

"It was an effect itself," said the other, "rather than a cause. You
see, the Ritualists, as they used to call them, after a desperate
attempt to get into the Labour swim, came into the Church after the
Convocation of '19, when the Nicene Creed dropped out; and there was no
real enthusiasm except among them. But so far as there was an effect
from the final Disestablishment, I think it was that what was left of
the State Church melted into the Free Church, and the Free Church was,
after all, nothing more than a little sentiment. The Bible was
completely given up as an authority after the renewed German attacks in
the twenties; and the Divinity of our Lord, some think, had gone all but
in name by the beginning of the century. The Kenotic theory had provided
for that. Then there was that strange little movement among the Free
Churchmen even earlier; when ministers who did no more than follow the
swim--who were sensitive to draughts, so to speak--broke off from their
old positions. It is curious to read in the history of the time how they
were hailed as independent thinkers. It was just exactly what they were
not.... Where was I? Oh, yes.... Well, that cleared the ground for us,
and the Church made extraordinary progress for a while--extraordinary,
that is, under the circumstances, because you must remember, things were
very different from twenty, or even ten, years before. I mean that,
roughly speaking, the severing of the sheep and the goats had begun. The
religious people were practically all Catholics and Individualists; the
irreligious people rejected the supernatural altogether, and were, to a
man, Materialists and Communists. But we made progress because we had a
few exceptional men--Delaney the philosopher, McArthur and Largent, the
philanthropists, and so on. It really seemed as if Delaney and his
disciples might carry everything before them. You remember his
'Analogy'? Oh, yes, it is all in the text-books....

"Well, then, at the close of the Vatican Council, which had been called
in the nineteenth century, and never dissolved, we lost a great number
through the final definitions. The 'Exodus of the Intellectuals' the
world called it---"

"The Biblical decisions," put in the younger priest.

"That partly; and the whole conflict that began with the rise of
Modernism at the beginning of the century but much more the condemnation
of Delaney, and of the New Transcendentalism generally, as it was then
understood. He died outside the Church, you know. Then there was the
condemnation of Sciotti's book on Comparative Religion.... After that
the Communists went on by strides, although by very slow ones. It seems
extraordinary to you, I dare say, but you cannot imagine the excitement
when the _Necessary Trades Bill_ became law in '60. People thought that
all enterprise would stop when so many professions were nationalised;
but, you know, it didn't. Certainly the nation was behind it."

"What year was the _Two-Thirds Majority Bill_ passed?" asked Percy.

"Oh! long before--within a year or two of the fall of the House of
Lords. It was necessary, I think, or the Individualists would have gone
raving mad.... Well, the _Necessary Trades Bill_ was inevitable: people
had begun to see that even so far back as the time when the railways
were municipalised. For a while there was a burst of art; because all
the Individualists who could went in for it (it was then that the Toller
school was founded); but they soon drifted back into Government
employment; after all, the six-per-cent limit for all individual
enterprise was not much of a temptation; and Government paid well."

Percy shook his head.

"Yes; but I cannot understand the present state of affairs. You said
just now that things went slowly?"

"Yes," said the old man, "but you must remember the Poor Laws. That
established the Communists for ever. Certainly Braithwaite knew his
business."

The younger priest looked up inquiringly.

"The abolition of the old workhouse system," said Mr. Templeton. "It is
all ancient history to you, of course; but I remember as if it was
yesterday. It was that which brought down what was still called the
Monarchy and the Universities."

"Ah," said Percy. "I should like to hear you talk about that, sir."

"Presently, father.... Well, this is what Braithwaite did. By the old
system all paupers were treated alike, and resented it. By the new
system there were the three grades that we have now, and the
enfranchisement of the two higher grades. Only the absolutely worthless
were assigned to the third grade, and treated more or less as
criminals--of course after careful examination. Then there was the
reorganisation of the Old Age Pensions. Well, don't you see how strong
that made the Communists? The Individualists--they were still called
Tories when I was a boy--the Individualists have had no chance since.
They are no more than a worn-out drag now. The whole of the working
classes--and that meant ninety-nine of a hundred--were all against
them."

Percy looked up; but the other went on.

"Then there was the Prison Reform Bill under Macpherson, and the
abolition of capital punishment; there was the final Education Act of
'59, whereby dogmatic secularism was established; the practical
abolition of inheritance under the reformation of the Death Duties---"

"I forget what the old system was," said Percy.

"Why, it seems incredible, but the old system was that all paid alike.
First came the Heirloom Act, and then the change by which inherited
wealth paid three times the duty of earned wealth, leading up to the
acceptance of Karl Marx's doctrines in '89--but the former came in
'77.... Well, all these things kept England up to the level of the
Continent; she had only been just in time to join in with the final
scheme of Western Free Trade. That was the first effect, you remember,
of the Socialists' victory in Germany."

"And how did we keep out of the Eastern War?" asked Percy anxiously.

"Oh! that's a long story; but, in a word, America stopped us; so we lost
India and Australia. I think that was the nearest to the downfall of the
Communists since '25. But Braithwaite got out of it very cleverly by
getting us the protectorate of South Africa once and for all. He was an
old man then, too."

Mr. Templeton stopped to cough again. Father Francis sighed and shifted
in his chair.

"And America?" asked Percy.

"Ah! all that is very complicated. But she knew her strength and annexed
Canada the same year. That was when we were at our weakest."

Percy stood up.

"Have you a Comparative Atlas, sir?" he asked.

The old man pointed to a shelf.

"There," he said.

* * * * *

Percy looked at the sheets a minute or two in silence, spreading them on
his knees.

"It is all much simpler, certainly," he murmured, glancing first at the
old complicated colouring of the beginning of the twentieth century, and
then at the three great washes of the twenty-first.

He moved his finger along Asia. The words EASTERN EMPIRE ran across the
pale yellow, from the Ural Mountains on the left to the Behring Straits
on the right, curling round in giant letters through India, Australia,
and New Zealand. He glanced at the red; it was considerably smaller, but
still important enough, considering that it covered not only Europe
proper, but all Russia up to the Ural Mountains, and Africa to the
south. The blue-labelled AMERICAN REPUBLIC swept over the whole of that
continent, and disappeared right round to the left of the Western
Hemisphere in a shower of blue sparks on the white sea.

"Yes, it's simpler," said the old man drily.

Percy shut the book and set it by his chair.

"And what next, sir? What will happen?"

The old Tory statesman smiled.

"God knows," he said. "If the Eastern Empire chooses to move, we can do
nothing. I don't know why they have not moved. I suppose it is because
of religious differences."

"Europe will not split?" asked the priest.

"No, no. We know our danger now. And America would certainly help us.
But, all the same, God help us--or you, I should rather say--if the
Empire does move! She knows her strength at last."

There was silence for a moment or two. A faint vibration trembled
through the deep-sunk room as some huge machine went past on the broad
boulevard overhead.

"Prophesy, sir," said Percy suddenly. "I mean about religion."

Mr. Templeton inhaled another long breath from his instrument. Then
again he took up his discourse.

"Briefly," he said, "there are three forces--Catholicism,
Humanitarianism, and the Eastern religions. About the third I cannot
prophesy, though I think the Sufis will be victorious. Anything may
happen; Esotericism is making enormous strides--and that means
Pantheism; and the blending of the Chinese and Japanese dynasties throws
out all our calculations. But in Europe and America, there is no doubt
that the struggle lies between the other two. We can neglect everything
else. And, I think, if you wish me to say what I think, that, humanly
speaking, Catholicism will decrease rapidly now. It is perfectly true
that Protestantism is dead. Men do recognise at last that a supernatural
Religion involves an absolute authority, and that Private Judgment in
matters of faith is nothing else than the beginning of disintegration.
And it is also true that since the Catholic Church is the only
institution that even claims supernatural authority, with all its
merciless logic, she has again the allegiance of practically all
Christians who have any supernatural belief left. There are a few
faddists left, especially in America and here; but they are negligible.
That is all very well; but, on the other hand, you must remember that
Humanitarianism, contrary to all persons' expectations, is becoming an
actual religion itself, though anti-supernatural. It is Pantheism; it is
developing a ritual under Freemasonry; it has a creed, 'God is Man,' and
the rest. It has therefore a real food of a sort to offer to religious
cravings; it idealises, and yet it makes no demand upon the spiritual
faculties. Then, they have the use of all the churches except ours, and
all the Cathedrals; and they are beginning at last to encourage
sentiment. Then, they may display their symbols and we may not: I think
that they will be established legally in another ten years at the
latest.

"Now, we Catholics, remember, are losing; we have lost steadily for more
than fifty years. I suppose that we have, nominally, about one-fortieth
of America now--and that is the result of the Catholic movement of the
early twenties. In France and Spain we are nowhere; in Germany we are
less. We hold our position in the East, certainly; but even there we
have not more than one in two hundred--so the statistics say--and we are
scattered. In Italy? Well, we have Rome again to ourselves, but nothing
else; here, we have Ireland altogether and perhaps one in sixty of
England, Wales and Scotland; but we had one in forty seventy years ago.
Then there is the enormous progress of psychology--all clean against us
for at least a century. First, you see, there was Materialism, pure and
simple that failed more or less--it was too crude--until psychology came
to the rescue. Now psychology claims all the rest of the ground; and the
supernatural sense seems accounted for. That's the claim. No, father, we
are losing; and we shall go on losing, and I think we must even be ready
for a catastrophe at any moment."

"But---" began Percy.

"You think that weak for an old man on the edge of the grave. Well, it
is what I think. I see no hope. In fact, it seems to me that even now
something may come on us quickly. No; I see no hope until---"

Percy looked up sharply.

"Until our Lord comes back," said the old statesman.

Father Francis sighed once more, and there fell a silence.

* * * * *

"And the fall of the Universities?" said Percy at last.

"My dear father, it was exactly like the fall of the Monasteries under
Henry VIII--the same results, the same arguments, the same incidents.
They were the strongholds of Individualism, as the Monasteries were the
strongholds of Papalism; and they were regarded with the same kind of
awe and envy. Then the usual sort of remarks began about the amount of
port wine drunk; and suddenly people said that they had done their work,
that the inmates were mistaking means for ends; and there was a great
deal more reason for saying it. After all, granted the supernatural,
Religious Houses are an obvious consequence; but the object of secular
education is presumably the production of something visible--either
character or competence; and it became quite impossible to prove that
the Universities produced either--which was worth having. The
distinction between [Greek: ou] and [Greek: me] is not an end in itself;
and the kind of person produced by its study was not one which appealed
to England in the twentieth century. I am not sure that it appealed even
to me much (and I was always a strong Individualist)--except by way of
pathos---"

"Yes?" said Percy.

"Oh, it was pathetic enough. The Science Schools of Cambridge and the
Colonial Department of Oxford were the last hope; and then those went.
The old dons crept about with their books, but nobody wanted them--they
were too purely theoretical; some drifted into the poorhouses, first or
second grade; some were taken care of by charitable clergymen; there was
that attempt to concentrate in Dublin; but it failed, and people soon
forgot them. The buildings, as you know, were used for all kinds of
things. Oxford became an engineering establishment for a while, and
Cambridge a kind of Government laboratory. I was at King's College, you
know. Of course it was all as horrible as it could be--though I am glad
they kept the chapel open even as a museum. It was not nice to see the
chantries filled with anatomical specimens. However, I don't think it
was much worse than keeping stoves and surplices in them."

"What happened to you?"

"Oh! I was in Parliament very soon; and I had a little money of my own,
too. But it was very hard on some of them; they had little pensions, at
least all who were past work. And yet, I don't know: I suppose it had
to come. They were very little more than picturesque survivals, you
know; and had not even the grace of a religious faith about them."

Percy sighed again, looking at the humorously reminiscent face of the
old man. Then he suddenly changed the subject again.

"What about this European parliament?" he said.

The old man started.

"Oh!... I think it will pass," he said, "if a man can be found to push
it. All this last century has been leading up to it, as you see.
Patriotism has been dying fast; but it ought to have died, like slavery
and so forth, under the influence of the Catholic Church. As it is, the
work has been done without the Church; and the result is that the world
is beginning to range itself against us: it is an organised antagonism--
a kind of Catholic anti-Church. Democracy has done what the Divine
Monarchy should have done. If the proposal passes I think we may expect
something like persecution once more.... But, again, the Eastern
invasion may save us, if it comes off.... I do not know...."

Percy sat still yet a moment; then he stood up suddenly.

"I must go, sir," he said, relapsing into Esperanto. "It is past
nineteen o'clock. Thank you so much. Are you coming, father?"

Father Francis stood up also, in the dark grey suit permitted to
priests, and took up his hat.

"Well, father," said the old man again, "come again some day, if I
haven't been too discursive. I suppose you have to write your letter
yet?"

Percy nodded.

"I did half of it this morning," he said, "but I felt I wanted another
bird's-eye view before I could understand properly: I am so grateful to
you for giving it me. It is really a great labour, this daily letter to
the Cardinal-Protector. I am thinking of resigning if I am allowed."

"My dear father, don't do that. If I may say so to your face, I think
you have a very shrewd mind; and unless Rome has balanced information
she can do nothing. I don't suppose your colleagues are as careful as
yourself."

Percy smiled, lifting his dark eyebrows deprecatingly.

"Come, father," he said.

* * * * *

The two priests parted at the steps of the corridor, and Percy stood for
a minute or two staring out at the familiar autumn scene, trying to
understand what it all meant. What he had heard downstairs seemed
strangely to illuminate that vision of splendid prosperity that lay
before him.

The air was as bright as day; artificial sunlight had carried all before
it, and London now knew no difference between dark and light. He stood
in a kind of glazed cloister, heavily floored with a preparation of
rubber on which footsteps made no sound. Beneath him, at the foot of the
stairs, poured an endless double line of persons severed by a partition,
going to right and left, noiselessly, except for the murmur of Esperanto
talking that sounded ceaselessly as they went. Through the clear,
hardened glass of the public passage showed a broad sleek black roadway,
ribbed from side to side, and puckered in the centre, significantly
empty, but even as he stood there a note sounded far away from Old
Westminster, like the hum of a giant hive, rising as it came, and an
instant later a transparent thing shot past, flashing from every angle,
and the note died to a hum again and a silence as the great Government
motor from the south whirled eastwards with the mails. This was a
privileged roadway; nothing but state-vehicles were allowed to use it,
and those at a speed not exceeding one hundred miles an hour.

Other noises were subdued in this city of rubber; the passenger-circles
were a hundred yards away, and the subterranean traffic lay too deep for
anything but a vibration to make itself felt. It was to remove this
vibration, and silence the hum of the ordinary vehicles, that the
Government experts had been working for the last twenty years.

Once again before he moved there came a long cry from overhead,
startlingly beautiful and piercing, and, as he lifted his eyes from the
glimpse of the steady river which alone had refused to be transformed,
he saw high above him against the heavy illuminated clouds, a long
slender object, glowing with soft light, slide northwards and vanish on
outstretched wings. That musical cry, he told himself, was the voice of
one of the European line of volors announcing its arrival in the capital
of Great Britain.

"Until our Lord comes back," he thought to himself; and for an instant
the old misery stabbed at his heart. How difficult it was to hold the
eyes focussed on that far horizon when this world lay in the foreground
so compelling in its splendour and its strength! Oh, he had argued with
Father Francis an hour ago that size was not the same as greatness, and
that an insistent external could not exclude a subtle internal; and he
had believed what he had then said; but the doubt yet remained till he
silenced it by a fierce effort, crying in his heart to the Poor Man of
Nazareth to keep his heart as the heart of a little child.

Then he set his lips, wondering how long Father Francis would bear the
pressure, and went down the steps.



BOOK I-THE ADVENT

CHAPTER I

I

Oliver Brand, the new member for Croydon (4), sat in his study, looking
out of the window over the top of his typewriter.

His house stood facing northwards at the extreme end of a spur of the
Surrey Hills, now cut and tunnelled out of all recognition; only to a
Communist the view was an inspiriting one. Immediately below the wide
windows the embanked ground fell away rapidly for perhaps a hundred
feet, ending in a high wall, and beyond that the world and works of men
were triumphant as far as eye could see. Two vast tracks like streaked
race-courses, each not less than a quarter of a mile in width, and sunk
twenty feet below the surface of the ground, swept up to a meeting a
mile ahead at the huge junction. Of those, that on his left was the
First Trunk road to Brighton, inscribed in capital letters in the
Railroad Guide, that to the right the Second Trunk to the Tunbridge and
Hastings district. Each was divided length-ways by a cement wall, on one
side of which, on steel rails, ran the electric trams, and on the other
lay the motor-track itself again divided into three, on which ran, first
the Government coaches at a speed of one hundred and fifty miles an
hour, second the private motors at not more than sixty, third the cheap
Government line at thirty, with stations every five miles. This was
further bordered by a road confined to pedestrians, cyclists and
ordinary cars on which no vehicle was allowed to move at more than
twelve miles an hour.

Beyond these great tracks lay an immense plain of house-roofs, with
short towers here and there marking public buildings, from the Caterham
district on the left to Croydon in front, all clear and bright in
smokeless air; and far away to the west and north showed the low
suburban hills against the April sky.

There was surprisingly little sound, considering the pressure of the
population; and, with the exception of the buzz of the steel rails as a
train fled north or south, and the occasional sweet chord of the great
motors as they neared or left the junction, there was little to be heard
in this study except a smooth, soothing murmur that filled the air like
the murmur of bees in a garden.

Oliver loved every hint of human life--all busy sights and sounds--and
was listening now, smiling faintly to himself as he stared out into the
clear air. Then he set his lips, laid his fingers on the keys once more,
and went on speech-constructing.

* * * * *

He was very fortunate in the situation of his house. It stood in an
angle of one of those huge spider-webs with which the country was
covered, and for his purposes was all that he could expect. It was close
enough to London to be extremely cheap, for all wealthy persons had
retired at least a hundred miles from the throbbing heart of England;
and yet it was as quiet as he could wish. He was within ten minutes of
Westminster on the one side, and twenty minutes of the sea on the other,
and his constituency lay before him like a raised map. Further, since
the great London termini were but ten minutes away, there were at his
disposal the First Trunk lines to every big town in England. For a
politician of no great means, who was asked to speak at Edinburgh on one
evening and in Marseilles on the next, he was as well placed as any man
in Europe.

He was a pleasant-looking man, not much over thirty years old; black
wire-haired, clean-shaven, thin, virile, magnetic, blue-eyed and
white-skinned; and he appeared this day extremely content with himself
and the world. His lips moved slightly as he worked, his eyes enlarged
and diminished with excitement, and more than once he paused and stared
out again, smiling and flushed.

Then a door opened; a middle-aged man came nervously in with a bundle of
papers, laid them down on the table without a word, and turned to go
out. Oliver lifted his hand for attention, snapped a lever, and spoke.

"Well, Mr. Phillips?" he said.

"There is news from the East, sir," said the secretary.

Oliver shot a glance sideways, and laid his hand on the bundle.

"Any complete message?" he asked.

"No, sir; it is interrupted again. Mr. Felsenburgh's name is mentioned."

Oliver did not seem to hear; he lifted the flimsy printed sheets with a
sudden movement, and began turning them.

"The fourth from the top, Mr. Brand," said the secretary.

Oliver jerked his head impatiently, and the other went out as if at a
signal.

The fourth sheet from the top, printed in red on green, seemed to absorb
Oliver's attention altogether, for he read it through two or three
times, leaning back motionless in his chair. Then he sighed, and stared
again through the window.

Then once more the door opened, and a tall girl came in.

"Well, my dear?" she observed.

Oliver shook his head, with compressed lips.

"Nothing definite," he said. "Even less than usual. Listen."

He took up the green sheet and began to read aloud as the girl sat down
in a window-seat on his left.

She was a very charming-looking creature, tall and slender, with
serious, ardent grey eyes, firm red lips, and a beautiful carriage of
head and shoulders. She had walked slowly across the room as Oliver took
up the paper, and now sat back in her brown dress in a very graceful and
stately attitude. She seemed to listen with a deliberate kind of
patience; but her eyes flickered with interest.

"'Irkutsk--April fourteen--Yesterday--as--usual--But--rumoured--
defection--from--Sufi--party--Troops--continue--gathering--
Felsenburgh--addressed--Buddhist--crowd--Attempt--on--Llama--last--
Friday--work--of--Anarchists--Felsenburgh--leaving--for--Moscow--as
--arranged--he....' There--that is absolutely all," ended Oliver
dispiritedly. "It's interrupted as usual."

The girl began to swing a foot.

"I don't understand in the least," she said. "Who is Felsenburgh, after
all?"

"My dear child, that is what all the world is asking. Nothing is known
except that he was included in the American deputation at the last
moment. The _Herald_ published his life last week; but it has been
contradicted. It is certain that he is quite a young man, and that he
has been quite obscure until now."

"Well, he is not obscure now," observed the girl.

"I know; it seems as if he were running the whole thing. One never hears
a word of the others. It's lucky he's on the right side."

"And what do you think?"

Oliver turned vacant eyes again out of the window.

"I think it is touch and go," he said. "The only remarkable thing is
that here hardly anybody seems to realise it. It's too big for the
imagination, I suppose. There is no doubt that the East has been
preparing for a descent on Europe for these last five years. They have
only been checked by America; and this is one last attempt to stop them.
But why Felsenburgh should come to the front---" he broke off. "He must
be a good linguist, at any rate. This is at least the fifth crowd he has
addressed; perhaps he is just the American interpreter. Christ! I wonder
who he is."

"Has he any other name?"

"Julian, I believe. One message said so."

"How did this come through?"

Oliver shook his head.

"Private enterprise," he said. "The European agencies have stopped work.
Every telegraph station is guarded night and day. There are lines of
volors strung out on every frontier. The Empire means to settle this
business without us."

"And if it goes wrong?"

"My dear Mabel--if hell breaks loose---" he threw out his hands
deprecatingly.

"And what is the Government doing?"

"Working night and day; so is the rest of Europe. It'll be Armageddon
with a vengeance if it comes to war."

"What chance do you see?"

"I see two chances," said Oliver slowly: "one, that they may be afraid
of America, and may hold their hands from sheer fear; the other that
they may be induced to hold their hands from charity; if only they can
be made to understand that co-operation is the one hope of the world.
But those damned religions of theirs---"

The girl sighed, and looked out again on to the wide plain of
house-roofs below the window.

The situation was indeed as serious as it could be. That huge Empire,
consisting of a federalism of States under the Son of Heaven (made
possible by the merging of the Japanese and Chinese dynasties and the
fall of Russia), had been consolidating its forces and learning its own
power during the last thirty-five years, ever since, in fact, it had
laid its lean yellow hands upon Australia and India. While the rest of
the world had learned the folly of war, ever since the fall of the
Russian republic under the combined attack of the yellow races, the last
had grasped its possibilities. It seemed now as if the civilisation of
the last century was to be swept back once more into chaos. It was not
that the mob of the East cared very greatly; it was their rulers who had
begun to stretch themselves after an almost eternal lethargy, and it was
hard to imagine how they could be checked at this point. There was a
touch of grimness too in the rumour that religious fanaticism was behind
the movement, and that the patient East proposed at last to proselytise
by the modern equivalents of fire and sword those who had laid aside for
the most part all religious beliefs except that in Humanity. To Oliver
it was simply maddening. As he looked from his window and saw that vast
limit of London laid peaceably before him, as his imagination ran out
over Europe and saw everywhere that steady triumph of common sense and
fact over the wild fairy-stories of Christianity, it seemed intolerable
that there should be even a possibility that all this should be swept
back again into the barbarous turmoil of sects and dogmas; for no less
than this would be the result if the East laid hands on Europe. Even
Catholicism would revive, he told himself, that strange faith that had
blazed so often as persecution had been dashed to quench it; and, of all
forms of faith, to Oliver's mind Catholicism was the most grotesque and
enslaving. And the prospect of all this honestly troubled him, far more
than the thought of the physical catastrophe and bloodshed that would
fall on Europe with the advent of the East. There was but one hope on
the religious side, as he had told Mabel a dozen times, and that was
that the Quietistic Pantheism which for the last century had made such
giant strides in East and West alike, among Mohammedans, Buddhists,
Hindus, Confucianists and the rest, should avail to check the
supernatural frenzy that inspired their exoteric brethren. Pantheism, he
understood, was what he held himself; for him "God" was the developing
sum of created life, and impersonal Unity was the essence of His being;
competition then was the great heresy that set men one against another
and delayed all progress; for, to his mind, progress lay in the merging
of the individual in the family, of the family in the commonwealth, of
the commonwealth in the continent, and of the continent in the world.
Finally, the world itself at any moment was no more than the mood of
impersonal life. It was, in fact, the Catholic idea with the
supernatural left out, a union of earthly fortunes, an abandonment of
individualism on the one side, and of supernaturalism on the other. It
was treason to appeal from God Immanent to God Transcendent; there was
no God transcendent; God, so far as He could be known, was man.

Yet these two, husband and wife after a fashion--for they had entered
into that terminable contract now recognised explicitly by the
State--these two were very far from sharing in the usual heavy dulness
of mere materialists. The world, for them, beat with one ardent life
blossoming in flower and beast and man, a torrent of beautiful vigour
flowing from a deep source and irrigating all that moved or felt. Its
romance was the more appreciable because it was comprehensible to the
minds that sprang from it; there were mysteries in it, but mysteries
that enticed rather than baffled, for they unfolded new glories with
every discovery that man could make; even inanimate objects, the fossil,
the electric current, the far-off stars, these were dust thrown off by
the Spirit of the World--fragrant with His Presence and eloquent of His
Nature. For example, the announcement made by Klein, the astronomer,
twenty years before, that the inhabitation of certain planets had become
a certified fact--how vastly this had altered men's views of themselves.
But the one condition of progress and the building of Jerusalem, on the
planet that happened to be men's dwelling place, was peace, not the
sword which Christ brought or that which Mahomet wielded; but peace that
arose from, not passed, understanding; the peace that sprang from a
knowledge that man was all and was able to develop himself only by
sympathy with his fellows. To Oliver and his wife, then, the last
century seemed like a revelation; little by little the old superstitions
had died, and the new light broadened; the Spirit of the World had
roused Himself, the sun had dawned in the west; and now with horror and
loathing they had seen the clouds gather once more in the quarter whence
all superstition had had its birth.

* * * * *

Mabel got up presently and came across to her husband.

"My dear," she said, "you must not be downhearted. It all may pass as it
passed before. It is a great thing that they are listening to America at
all. And this Mr. Felsenburgh seems to be on the right side."

Oliver took her hand and kissed it.



II

Oliver seemed altogether depressed at breakfast, half an hour later. His
mother, an old lady of nearly eighty, who never appeared till noon,
seemed to see it at once, for after a look or two at him and a word, she
subsided into silence behind her plate.

It was a pleasant little room in which they sat, immediately behind
Oliver's own, and was furnished, according to universal custom, in light
green. Its windows looked out upon a strip of garden at the back, and
the high creeper-grown wall that separated that domain from the next.
The furniture, too, was of the usual sort; a sensible round table stood
in the middle, with three tall arm-chairs, with the proper angles and
rests, drawn up to it; and the centre of it, resting apparently on a
broad round column, held the dishes. It was thirty years now since the
practice of placing the dining-room above the kitchen, and of raising
and lowering the courses by hydraulic power into the centre of the
dining-table, had become universal in the houses of the well-to-do. The
floor consisted entirely of the asbestos cork preparation invented in
America, noiseless, clean, and pleasant to both foot and eye.

Mabel broke the silence.

"And your speech to-morrow?" she asked, taking up her fork.

Oliver brightened a little, and began to discourse.

It seemed that Birmingham was beginning to fret. They were crying out
once more for free trade with America: European facilities were not
enough, and it was Oliver's business to keep them quiet. It was useless,
he proposed to tell them, to agitate until the Eastern business was
settled: they must not bother the Government with such details just now.
He was to tell them, too, that the Government was wholly on their side;
that it was bound to come soon.

"They are pig-headed," he added fiercely; "pig-headed and selfish; they
are like children who cry for food ten minutes before dinner-time: it is
bound to come if they will wait a little."

"And you will tell them so?"

"That they are pig-headed? Certainly."

Mabel looked at her husband with a pleased twinkle in her eyes. She knew
perfectly well that his popularity rested largely on his outspokenness:
folks liked to be scolded and abused by a genial bold man who danced and
gesticulated in a magnetic fury; she liked it herself.

"How shall you go?" she asked.

"Volor. I shall catch the eighteen o'clock at Blackfriars; the meeting
is at nineteen, and I shall be back at twenty-one."

He addressed himself vigorously to his _entree_, and his mother looked
up with a patient, old-woman smile.

Mabel began to drum her fingers softly on the damask.

"Please make haste, my dear," she said; "I have to be at Brighton at
three."

Oliver gulped his last mouthful, pushed his plate over the line, glanced
to see if all plates were there, and then put his hand beneath the
table.

Instantly, without a sound, the centre-piece vanished, and the three
waited unconcernedly while the clink of dishes came from beneath.

Old Mrs. Brand was a hale-looking old lady, rosy and wrinkled, with the
mantilla head-dress of fifty years ago; but she, too, looked a little
depressed this morning. The _entree_ was not very successful, she
thought; the new food-stuff was not up to the old, it was a trifle
gritty: she would see about it afterwards. There was a clink, a soft
sound like a push, and the centre-piece snapped into its place, bearing
an admirable imitation of a roasted fowl.

Oliver and his wife were alone again for a minute or two after breakfast
before Mabel started down the path to catch the 14-1/2 o'clock 4th grade
sub-trunk line to the junction.

"What's the matter with mother?" he said.

"Oh! it's the food-stuff again: she's never got accustomed to it; she
says it doesn't suit her."

"Nothing else?"

"No, my dear, I am sure of it. She hasn't said a word lately."

Oliver watched his wife go down the path, reassured. He had been a
little troubled once or twice lately by an odd word or two that his
mother had let fall. She had been brought up a Christian for a few
years, and it seemed to him sometimes as if it had left a taint. There
was an old "Garden of the Soul" that she liked to keep by her, though
she always protested with an appearance of scorn that it was nothing but
nonsense. Still, Oliver would have preferred that she had burned it:
superstition was a desperate thing for retaining life, and, as the brain
weakened, might conceivably reassert itself. Christianity was both wild
and dull, he told himself, wild because of its obvious grotesqueness and
impossibility, and dull because it was so utterly apart from the
exhilarating stream of human life; it crept dustily about still, he
knew, in little dark churches here and there; it screamed with
hysterical sentimentality in Westminster Cathedral which he had once
entered and looked upon with a kind of disgusted fury; it gabbled
strange, false words to the incompetent and the old and the half-witted.
But it would be too dreadful if his own mother ever looked upon it again
with favour.

Oliver himself, ever since he could remember, had been violently opposed
to the concessions to Rome and Ireland. It was intolerable that these
two places should be definitely yielded up to this foolish, treacherous
nonsense: they were hot-beds of sedition; plague-spots on the face of
humanity. He had never agreed with those who said that it was better
that all the poison of the West should be gathered rather than
dispersed. But, at any rate, there it was. Rome had been given up wholly
to that old man in white in exchange for all the parish churches and
cathedrals of Italy, and it was understood that mediaeval darkness
reigned there supreme; and Ireland, after receiving Home Rule thirty
years before, had declared for Catholicism, and opened her arms to
Individualism in its most virulent form. England had laughed and
assented, for she was saved from a quantity of agitation by the
immediate departure of half her Catholic population for that island, and
had, consistently with her Communist-colonial policy, granted every
facility for Individualism to reduce itself there _ad absurdum_. All
kinds of funny things were happening there: Oliver had read with a
bitter amusement of new appearances there, of a Woman in Blue and
shrines raised where her feet had rested; but he was scarcely amused at
Rome, for the movement to Turin of the Italian Government had deprived
the Republic of quite a quantity of sentimental prestige, and had haloed
the old religious nonsense with all the meretriciousness of historical
association. However, it obviously could not last much longer: the world
was beginning to understand at last.

He stood a moment or two at the door after his wife had gone, drinking
in reassurance from that glorious vision of solid sense that spread
itself before his eyes: the endless house-roofs; the high glass vaults
of the public baths and gymnasiums; the pinnacled schools where
Citizenship was taught each morning; the spider-like cranes and
scaffoldings that rose here and there; and even the few pricking spires
did not disconcert him. There it stretched away into the grey haze of
London, really beautiful, this vast hive of men and women who had
learned at least the primary lesson of the gospel that there was no God
but man, no priest but the politician, no prophet but the schoolmaster.

Then he went back once more to his speech-constructing.

* * * * *

Mabel, too, was a little thoughtful as she sat with her paper on her
lap, spinning down the broad line to Brighton. This Eastern news was
more disconcerting to her than she allowed her husband to see; yet it
seemed incredible that there could be any real danger of invasion. This
Western life was so sensible and peaceful; folks had their feet at last
upon the rock, and it was unthinkable that they could ever be forced
back on to the mud-flats: it was contrary to the whole law of
development. Yet she could not but recognise that catastrophe seemed one
of nature's methods....

She sat very quiet, glancing once or twice at the meagre little scrap
of news, and read the leading article upon it: that too seemed
significant of dismay. A couple of men were talking in the
half-compartment beyond on the same subject; one described the
Government engineering works that he had visited, the breathless haste
that dominated them; the other put in interrogations and questions.
There was not much comfort there. There were no windows through which
she could look; on the main lines the speed was too great for the eyes;
the long compartment flooded with soft light bounded her horizon. She
stared at the moulded white ceiling, the delicious oak-framed paintings,
the deep spring-seats, the mellow globes overhead that poured out
radiance, at a mother and child diagonally opposite her. Then the great
chord sounded; the faint vibration increased ever so slightly; and an
instant later the automatic doors ran back, and she stepped out on to
the platform of Brighton station.

As she went down the steps leading to the station square she noticed a
priest going before her. He seemed a very upright and sturdy old man,
for though his hair was white he walked steadily and strongly. At the
foot of the steps he stopped and half turned, and then, to her surprise,
she saw that his face was that of a young man, fine-featured and strong,
with black eyebrows and very bright grey eyes. Then she passed on and
began to cross the square in the direction of her aunt's house.

Then without the slightest warning, except one shrill hoot from
overhead, a number of things happened.

A great shadow whirled across the sunlight at her feet, a sound of
rending tore the air, and a noise like a giant's sigh; and, as she
stopped bewildered, with a noise like ten thousand smashed kettles, a
huge thing crashed on the rubber pavement before her, where it lay,
filling half the square, writhing long wings on its upper side that beat
and whirled like the flappers of some ghastly extinct monster, pouring
out human screams, and beginning almost instantly to crawl with broken
life.

Mabel scarcely knew what happened next; but she found herself a moment
later forced forward by some violent pressure from behind, till she
stood shaking from head to foot, with some kind of smashed body of a man
moaning and stretching at her feet. There was a sort of articulate
language coming from it; she caught distinctly the names of Jesus and
Mary; then a voice hissed suddenly in her ears:

"Let me through. I am a priest."

She stood there a moment longer, dazed by the suddenness of the whole
affair, and watched almost unintelligently the grey-haired young priest
on his knees, with his coat torn open, and a crucifix out; she saw him
bend close, wave his hand in a swift sign, and heard a murmur of a
language she did not know. Then he was up again, holding the crucifix
before him, and she saw him begin to move forward into the midst of the
red-flooded pavement, looking this way and that as if for a signal. Down
the steps of the great hospital on her right came figures running now,
hatless, each carrying what looked like an old-fashioned camera. She
knew what those men were, and her heart leaped in relief. They were the
ministers of euthanasia. Then she felt herself taken by the shoulder and
pulled back, and immediately found herself in the front rank of a crowd
that was swaying and crying out, and behind a line of police and
civilians who had formed themselves into a cordon to keep the pressure
back.


III

Oliver was in a panic of terror as his mother, half an hour later, ran
in with the news that one of the Government volors had fallen in the
station square at Brighton just after the 14-1/2 train had discharged
its passengers. He knew quite well what that meant, for be remembered
one such accident ten years before, just after the law forbidding
private volors had been passed. It meant that every living creature in
it was killed and probably many more in the place where it fell--and
what then? The message was clear enough; she would certainly be in the
square at that time.

He sent a desperate wire to her aunt asking for news; and sat, shaking
in his chair, awaiting the answer. His mother sat by him.

"Please God---" she sobbed out once, and stopped confounded as he turned
on her.

But Fate was merciful, and three minutes before Mr. Phillips toiled up
the path with the answer, Mabel herself came into the room, rather pale
and smiling.

"Christ!" cried Oliver, and gave one huge sob as he sprang up.

She had not a great deal to tell him. There was no explanation of the
disaster published as yet; it seemed that the wings on one side had
simply ceased to work.

She described the shadow, the hiss of sound, and the crash.

Then she stopped.

"Well, my dear?" said her husband, still rather white beneath the eyes
as he sat close to her patting her hand.

"There was a priest there," said Mabel. "I saw him before, at the
station."

Oliver gave a little hysterical snort of laughter.

"He was on his knees at once," she said, "with his crucifix, even before
the doctors came. My dear, do people really believe all that?"

"Why, they think they do," said her husband.

"It was all so--so sudden; and there he was, just as if he had been
expecting it all. Oliver, how can they?"

"Why, people will believe anything if they begin early enough."

"And the man seemed to believe it, too--the dying man, I mean. I saw his
eyes."

She stopped.

"Well, my dear?"

"Oliver, what do you say to people when they are dying?"

"Say! Why, nothing! What can I say? But I don't think I've ever seen any
one die."

"Nor have I till to-day," said the girl, and shivered a little. "The
euthanasia people were soon at work."

Oliver took her hand gently.

"My darling, it must have been frightful. Why, you're trembling still."

"No; but listen.... You know, if I had had anything to say I could have
said it too. They were all just in front of me: I wondered; then I knew
I hadn't. I couldn't possibly have talked about Humanity."

"My dear, it's all very sad; but you know it doesn't really matter. It's
all over."

"And--and they've just stopped?"

"Why, yes."

Mabel compressed her lips a little; then she sighed. She had an agitated
sort of meditation in the train. She knew perfectly that it was sheer
nerves; but she could not just yet shake them off. As she had said, it
was the first time she had seen death.

"And that priest--that priest doesn't think so?"

"My dear, I'll tell you what he believes. He believes that that man whom
he showed the crucifix to, and said those words over, is alive
somewhere, in spite of his brain being dead: he is not quite sure where;
but he is either in a kind of smelting works being slowly burned; or, if
he is very lucky, and that piece of wood took effect, he is somewhere
beyond the clouds, before Three Persons who are only One although They
are Three; that there are quantities of other people there, a Woman in
Blue, a great many others in white with their heads under their arms,
and still more with their heads on one side; and that they've all got
harps and go on singing for ever and ever, and walking about on the
clouds, and liking it very much indeed. He thinks, too, that all these
nice people are perpetually looking down upon the aforesaid
smelting-works, and praising the Three Great Persons for making them.
That's what the priest believes. Now you know it's not likely; that kind
of thing may be very nice, but it isn't true."

Mabel smiled pleasantly. She had never heard it put so well.

"No, my dear, you're quite right. That sort of thing isn't true. How can
he believe it? He looked quite intelligent!"

"My dear girl, if I had told you in your cradle that the moon was green
cheese, and had hammered at you ever since, every day and all day, that
it was, you'd very nearly believe it by now. Why, you know in your heart
that the euthanatisers are the real priests. Of course you do."

Mabel sighed with satisfaction and stood up.

"Oliver, you're a most comforting person. I do like you! There! I must
go to my room: I'm all shaky still."

Half across the room she stopped and put out a shoe.

"Why---" she began faintly.

There was a curious rusty-looking splash upon it; and her husband saw
her turn white. He rose abruptly.

"My dear," he said, "don't be foolish."

She looked at him, smiled bravely, and went out.

* * * * *

When she was gone, he still sat on a moment where she bad left him. Dear
me! how pleased he was! He did not like to think of what life would have
been without her. He had known her since she was twelve--that was seven
years ago-and last year they had gone together to the district official
to make their contract. She had really become very necessary to him. Of
course the world could get on without her, and he supposed that he could
too; but he did not want to have to try. He knew perfectly well, for it
was his creed of human love, that there was between them a double
affection, of mind as well as body; and there was absolutely nothing
else: but he loved her quick intuitions, and to hear his own thought
echoed so perfectly. It was like two flames added together to make a
third taller than either: of course one flame could burn without the
other--in fact, one would have to, one day--but meantime the warmth and
light were exhilarating. Yes, he was delighted that she happened to be
clear of the falling volor.

He gave no more thought to his exposition of the Christian creed; it was
a mere commonplace to him that Catholics believed that kind of thing; it
was no more blasphemous to his mind so to describe it, than it would be
to laugh at a Fijian idol with mother-of-pearl eyes, and a horse-hair
wig; it was simply impossible to treat it seriously. He, too, had
wondered once or twice in his life how human beings could believe such
rubbish; but psychology had helped him, and he knew now well enough that
suggestion will do almost anything. And it was this hateful thing that
had so long restrained the euthanasia movement with all its splendid
mercy.

His brows wrinkled a little as he remembered his mother's exclamation,
"Please God"; then he smiled at the poor old thing and her pathetic
childishness, and turned once more to his table, thinking in spite of
himself of his wife's hesitation as she had seen the splash of blood on
her shoe. Blood! Yes; that was as much a fact as anything else. How was
it to be dealt with? Why, by the glorious creed of Humanity--that
splendid God who died and rose again ten thousand times a day, who had
died daily like the old cracked fanatic Saul of Tarsus, ever since the
world began, and who rose again, not once like the Carpenter's Son, but
with every child that came into the world. That was the answer; and was
it not overwhelmingly sufficient?

Mr. Phillips came in an hour later with another bundle of papers.

"No more news from the East, sir," he said.



CHAPTER II

I

Percy Franklin's correspondence with the Cardinal-Protector of England
occupied him directly for at least two hours every day, and for nearly
eight hours indirectly.

For the past eight years the methods of the Holy See had once more been
revised with a view to modern needs, and now every important province
throughout the world possessed not only an administrative metropolitan
but a representative in Rome whose business it was to be in touch with
the Pope on the one side and the people he represented on the other. In
other words, centralisation had gone forward rapidly, in accordance with
the laws of life; and, with centralisation, freedom of method and
expansion of power. England's Cardinal-Protector was one Abbot Martin, a
Benedictine, and it was Percy's business, as of a dozen more bishops,
priests and laymen (with whom, by the way, he was forbidden to hold any
formal consultation), to write a long daily letter to him on affairs
that came under his notice.

It was a curious life, therefore, that Percy led. He had a couple of
rooms assigned to him in Archbishop's House at Westminster, and was
attached loosely to the Cathedral staff, although with considerable
liberty. He rose early, and went to meditation for an hour, after which
he said his mass. He took his coffee soon after, said a little office,
and then settled down to map out his letter. At ten o'clock he was ready
to receive callers, and till noon he was generally busy with both those
who came to see him on their own responsibility and his staff of
half-a-dozen reporters whose business it was to bring him marked
paragraphs in the newspapers and their own comments. He then breakfasted
with the other priests in the house, and set out soon after to call on
people whose opinion was necessary, returning for a cup of tea soon
after sixteen o'clock. Then he settled down, after the rest of his
office and a visit to the Blessed Sacrament, to compose his letter,
which though short, needed a great deal of care and sifting. After
dinner he made a few notes for next day, received visitors again, and
went to bed soon after twenty-two o'clock. Twice a week it was his
business to assist at Vespers in the afternoon, and he usually sang high
mass on Saturdays.

It was, therefore, a curiously distracting life, with peculiar dangers.

It was one day, a week or two after his visit to Brighton, that he was
just finishing his letter, when his servant looked in to tell him that
Father Francis was below.

"In ten minutes," said Percy, without looking up.

He snapped off his last lines, drew out the sheet, and settled down to
read it over, translating it unconsciously from Latin to English.

"WESTMINSTER, May 14th.

"EMINENCE: Since yesterday I have a little more information. It appears
certain that the Bill establishing Esperanto for all State purposes will
be brought in in June. I have had this from Johnson. This, as I have
pointed out before, is the very last stone in our consolidation with the
continent, which, at present, is to be regretted.... A great access of
Jews to Freemasonry is to be expected; hitherto they have held aloof to
some extent, but the 'abolition of the Idea of God' is tending to draw
in those Jews, now greatly on the increase once more, who repudiate all
notion of a personal Messiah. It is 'Humanity' here, too, that is at
work. To-day I heard the Rabbi Simeon speak to this effect in the City,
and was impressed by the applause he received.... Yet among others an
expectation is growing that a man will presently be found to lead the
Communist movement and unite their forces more closely. I enclose a
verbose cutting from the _New People_ to that effect; and it is echoed
everywhere. They say that the cause must give birth to one such soon;
that they have had prophets and precursors for a hundred years past, and
lately a cessation of them. It is strange how this coincides
superficially with Christian ideas. Your Eminence will observe that a
simile of the 'ninth wave' is used with some eloquence.... I hear to-day
of the secession of an old Catholic family, the Wargraves of Norfolk,
with their chaplain Micklem, who it seems has been busy in this
direction for some while. The _Epoch_ announces it with satisfaction,
owing to the peculiar circumstances; but unhappily such events are not
uncommon now.... There is much distrust among the laity. Seven priests
in Westminster diocese have left us within the last three months; on the
other hand, I have pleasure in telling your Eminence that his Grace
received into Catholic Communion this morning the ex-Anglican Bishop of
Carlisle, with half-a-dozen of his clergy. This has been expected for
some weeks past. I append also cuttings from the _Tribune_, the _London
Trumpet_, and the _Observer_, with my comments upon them. Your Eminence
will see how great the excitement is with regard to the last.

"_Recommendation._ That formal excommunication of the Wargraves and
these eight priests should be issued in Norfolk and Westminster
respectively, and no further notice taken."

Percy laid down the sheet, gathered up the half dozen other papers that
contained his extracts and running commentary, signed the last, and
slipped the whole into the printed envelope that lay ready.

Then he took up his biretta and went to the lift.

* * * * *

The moment he came into the glass-doored parlour he saw that the crisis
was come, if not passed already. Father Francis looked miserably ill,
but there was a curious hardness, too, about his eyes and mouth, as he
stood waiting. He shook his head abruptly.

"I have come to say good-bye, father. I can bear it no more."

Percy was careful to show no emotion at all. He made a little sign to a
chair, and himself sat down too. "It is an end of everything," said the
other again in a perfectly steady voice. "I believe nothing. I have
believed nothing for a year now."

"You have felt nothing, you mean," said Percy.

"That won't do, father," went on the other. "I tell you there is nothing
left. I can't even argue now. It is just good-bye."

Percy had nothing to say. He had talked to this man during a period of
over eight months, ever since Father Francis had first confided in him
that his faith was going. He understood perfectly what a strain it had
been; he felt bitterly compassionate towards this poor creature who had
become caught up somehow into the dizzy triumphant whirl of the New
Humanity. External facts were horribly strong just now; and faith,
except to one who had learned that Will and Grace were all and emotion
nothing, was as a child crawling about in the midst of some huge
machinery: it might survive or it might not; but it required nerves of
steel to keep steady. It was hard to know where blame could be assigned;
yet Percy's faith told him that there was blame due. In the ages of
faith a very inadequate grasp of religion would pass muster; in these
searching days none but the humble and the pure could stand the test for
long, unless indeed they were protected by a miracle of ignorance. The
alliance of Psychology and Materialism did indeed seem, looked at from
one angle, to account for everything; it needed a robust supernatural
perception to understand their practical inadequacy. And as regards
Father Francis's personal responsibility, he could not help feeling that
the other had allowed ceremonial to play too great a part in his
religion, and prayer too little. In him the external had absorbed the
internal.

So he did not allow his sympathy to show itself in his bright eyes.

"You think it my fault, of course," said the other sharply.

"My dear father," said Percy, motionless in his chair, "I know it is
your fault. Listen to me. You say Christianity is absurd and impossible.
Now, you know, it cannot be that! It may be untrue--I am not speaking of
that now, even though I am perfectly certain that it is absolutely
true--but it cannot be absurd so long as educated and virtuous people
continue to hold it. To say that it is absurd is simple pride; it is to
dismiss all who believe in it as not merely mistaken, but unintelligent
as well---"

"Very well, then," interrupted the other; "then suppose I withdraw that,
and simply say that I do not believe it to be true."

"You do not withdraw it," continued Percy serenely; "you still really
believe it to be absurd: you have told me so a dozen times. Well, I
repeat, that is pride, and quite sufficient to account for it all. It is
the moral attitude that matters. There may be other things too---"

Father Francis looked up sharply.

"Oh! the old story!" he said sneeringly.

"If you tell me on your word of honour that there is no woman in the
case, or no particular programme of sin you propose to work out, I shall
believe you. But it is an old story, as you say."

"I swear to you there is not," cried the other.

"Thank God then!" said Percy. "There are fewer obstacles to a return of
faith."

There was silence for a moment after that. Percy had really no more to
say. He had talked to him of the inner life again and again, in which
verities are seen to be true, and acts of faith are ratified; he had
urged prayer and humility till he was almost weary of the names; and had
been met by the retort that this was to advise sheer self-hypnotism; and
he had despaired of making clear to one who did not see it for himself
that while Love and Faith may be called self-hypnotism from one angle,
yet from another they are as much realities as, for example, artistic
faculties, and need similar cultivation; that they produce a conviction
that they are convictions, that they handle and taste things which when
handled and tasted are overwhelmingly more real and objective than the
things of sense. Evidences seemed to mean nothing to this man.

So he was silent now, chilled himself by the presence of this crisis,
looking unseeingly out upon the plain, little old-world parlour, its
tall window, its strip of matting, conscious chiefly of the dreary
hopelessness of this human brother of his who had eyes but did not see,
ears and was deaf. He wished he would say good-bye, and go. There was no
more to be done.

Father Francis, who had been sitting in a lax kind of huddle, seemed to
know his thoughts, and sat up suddenly.

"You are tired of me," he said. "I will go."

"I am not tired of you, my dear father," said Percy simply. "I am only
terribly sorry. You see I know that it is all true."

The other looked at him heavily.

"And I know that it is not," he said. "It is very beautiful; I wish I
could believe it. I don't think I shall be ever happy again--but--but
there it is."

Percy sighed. He had told him so often that the heart is as divine a
gift as the mind, and that to neglect it in the search for God is to
seek ruin, but this priest had scarcely seen the application to himself.
He had answered with the old psychological arguments that the
suggestions of education accounted for everything.

"I suppose you will cast me off," said the other.

"It is you who are leaving me," said Percy. "I cannot follow, if you
mean that."

"But--but cannot we be friends?"

A sudden heat touched the elder priest's heart.

"Friends?" he said. "Is sentimentality all you mean by friendship? What
kind of friends can we be?"

The other's face became suddenly heavy.

"I thought so."

"John!" cried Percy. "You see that, do you not? How can we pretend
anything when you do not believe in God? For I do you the honour of
thinking that you do not."

Francis sprang up.

"Well---" he snapped. "I could not have believed--I am going."

He wheeled towards the door.

"John!" said Percy again. "Are you going like this? Can you not shake
hands?"

The other wheeled again, with heavy anger in his face.

"Why, you said you could not be friends with me!"

Percy's mouth opened. Then he understood, and smiled. "Oh! that is all
you mean by friendship, is it?--I beg your pardon. Oh! we can be polite
to one another, if you like."

He still stood holding out his hand. Father Francis looked at it a
moment, his lips shook: then once more he turned, and went out without a
word.



II

Percy stood motionless until he heard the automatic bell outside tell
him that Father Francis was really gone, then he went out himself and
turned towards the long passage leading to the Cathedral. As he passed
out through the sacristy he heard far in front the murmur of an organ,
and on coming through into the chapel used as a parish church he
perceived that Vespers were not yet over in the great choir. He came
straight down the aisle, turned to the right, crossed the centre and
knelt down.

It was drawing on towards sunset, and the huge dark place was lighted
here and there by patches of ruddy London light that lay on the gorgeous
marble and gildings finished at last by a wealthy convert. In front of
him rose up the choir, with a line of white surpliced and furred canons
on either side, and the vast baldachino in the midst, beneath which
burned the six lights as they had burned day by day for more than a
century; behind that again lay the high line of the apse-choir with the
dim, window-pierced vault above where Christ reigned in majesty. He let
his eyes wander round for a few moments before beginning his deliberate
prayer, drinking in the glory of the place, listening to the thunderous
chorus, the peal of the organ, and the thin mellow voice of the priest.
There on the left shone the refracted glow of the lamps that burned
before the Lord in the Sacrament, on the right a dozen candles winked
here and there at the foot of the gaunt images, high overhead hung the
gigantic cross with that lean, emaciated Poor Man Who called all who
looked on Him to the embraces of a God.

Then he hid his face in his hands, drew a couple of long breaths, and
set to work.

He began, as his custom was in mental prayer, by a deliberate act of
self-exclusion from the world of sense. Under the image of sinking
beneath a surface he forced himself downwards and inwards, till the peal
of the organ, the shuffle of footsteps, the rigidity of the chair-back
beneath his wrists--all seemed apart and external, and he was left a
single person with a beating heart, an intellect that suggested image
after image, and emotions that were too languid to stir themselves. Then
he made his second descent, renounced all that he possessed and was, and
became conscious that even the body was left behind, and that his mind
and heart, awed by the Presence in which they found themselves, clung
close and obedient to the will which was their lord and protector. He
drew another long breath, or two, as he felt that Presence surge about
him; he repeated a few mechanical words, and sank to that peace which
follows the relinquishment of thought.

There he rested for a while. Far above him sounded the ecstatic music,
the cry of trumpets and the shrilling of the flutes; but they were as
insignificant street-noises to one who was falling asleep. He was within
the veil of things now, beyond the barriers of sense and reflection, in
that secret place to which he had learned the road by endless effort, in
that strange region where realities are evident, where perceptions go to
and fro with the swiftness of light, where the swaying will catches now
this, now that act, moulds it and speeds it; where all things meet,
where truth is known and handled and tasted, where God Immanent is one
with God Transcendent, where the meaning of the external world is
evident through its inner side, and the Church and its mysteries are
seen from within a haze of glory.

So he lay a few moments, absorbing and resting.

Then he aroused himself to consciousness and began to speak.

"Lord, I am here, and Thou art here. I know Thee. There is nothing else
but Thou and I.... I lay this all in Thy hands--Thy apostate priest, Thy
people, the world, and myself. I spread it before Thee--I spread it
before Thee."

He paused, poised in the act, till all of which he thought lay like a
plain before a peak.

... "Myself, Lord--there but for Thy grace should I be going, in
darkness and misery. It is Thou Who dost preserve me. Maintain and
finish Thy work within my soul. Let me not falter for one instant. If
Thou withdraw Thy hand I fall into utter nothingness."

So his soul stood a moment, with outstretched appealing hands, helpless
and confident. Then the will flickered in self-consciousness, and he
repeated acts of faith, hope and love to steady it. Then he drew another
long breath, feeling the Presence tingle and shake about him, and began
again.

"Lord; look on Thy people. Many are falling from Thee. _Ne in aeternum
irascaris nobis. Ne in aeternum irascaris nobis_.... I unite myself with
all saints and angels and Mary Queen of Heaven; look on them and me, and
hear us. _Emitte lucem tuam et veritatem tuam._ Thy light and Thy truth!
Lay not on us heavier burdens than we can bear. Lord, why dost Thou not
speak!"

He writhed himself forward in a passion of expectant desire, hearing his
muscles crack in the effort. Once more he relaxed himself; and the swift
play of wordless acts began which he knew to be the very heart of
prayer. The eyes of his soul flew hither and thither, from Calvary to
heaven and back again to the tossing troubled earth. He saw Christ dying
of desolation while the earth rocked and groaned; Christ reigning as a
priest upon His Throne in robes of light, Christ patient and inexorably
silent within the Sacramental species; and to each in turn he directed
the eyes of the Eternal Father....

Then he waited for communications, and they came, so soft and delicate,
passing like shadows, that his will sweated blood and tears in the
effort to catch and fix them and correspond....

He saw the Body Mystical in its agony, strained over the world as on a
cross, silent with pain; he saw this and that nerve wrenched and
twisted, till pain presented it to himself as under the guise of flashes
of colour; he saw the life-blood drop by drop run down from His head and
hands and feet. The world was gathered mocking and good-humoured
beneath. "_He saved others: Himself He cannot save.... Let Christ come
dozen from the Cross and we will believe._" Far away behind bushes and
in holes of the ground the friends of Jesus peeped and sobbed; Mary
herself was silent, pierced by seven swords; the disciple whom He loved
had no words of comfort.

He saw, too, how no word would be spoken from heaven; the angels
themselves were bidden to put sword into sheath, and wait on the eternal
patience of God, for the agony was hardly yet begun; there were a
thousand horrors yet before the end could come, that final sum of
crucifixion.... He must wait and watch, content to stand there and do
nothing; and the Resurrection must seem to him no more than a dreamed-of
hope. There was the Sabbath yet to come, while the Body Mystical must
lie in its sepulchre cut off from light, and even the dignity of the
Cross must be withdrawn and the knowledge that Jesus lived. That inner
world, to which by long effort he had learned the way, was all alight
with agony; it was bitter as brine, it was of that pale luminosity that
is the utmost product of pain, it hummed in his ears with a note that
rose to a scream ... it pressed upon him, penetrated him, stretched him
as on a rack.... And with that his will grew sick and nerveless.

"Lord! I cannot bear it!" he moaned....

In an instant he was back again, drawing long breaths of misery. He
passed his tongue over his lips, and opened his eyes on the darkening
apse before him. The organ was silent now, and the choir was gone, and
the lights out. The sunset colour, too, had faded from the walls, and
grim cold faces looked down on him from wall and vault. He was back
again on the surface of life; the vision had melted; he scarcely knew
what it was that he had seen.

But he must gather up the threads, and by sheer effort absorb them. He
must pay his duty, too, to the Lord that gave Himself to the senses as
well as to the inner spirit. So he rose, stiff and constrained, and
passed across to the Chapel of the Holy Sacrament.

As he came out from the block of chairs, very upright and tall, with his
biretta once more on his white hair, he saw an old woman watching him
very closely. He hesitated an instant, wondering whether she were a
penitent, and as he hesitated she made a movement towards him.

"I beg your pardon, sir," she began.

She was not a Catholic then. He lifted his biretta.

"Can I do anything for you?" he asked.

"I beg your pardon, sir, but were you at Brighton, at the accident two
months ago?"

"I was."

"Ah! I thought so: my daughter-in-law saw you then."

Percy had a spasm of impatience: he was a little tired of being
identified by his white hair and young face.

"Were you there, madam?"

She looked at him doubtfully and curiously, moving her old, eyes up and
down his figure. Then she recollected herself.

"No, sir; it was my daughter-in-law--I beg your pardon, sir, but---"

"Well?" asked Percy, trying to keep the impatience out of his voice.

"Are you the Archbishop, sir?"

The priest smiled, showing his white teeth.

"No, madam; I am just a poor priest. Dr. Cholmondeley is Archbishop. I
am Father Percy Franklin."

She said nothing, but still looking at him made a little old-world
movement of a bow; and Percy passed on to the dim, splendid chapel to
pay his devotions.



III

There was great talk that night at dinner among the priests as to the
extraordinary spread of Freemasonry. It had been going on for many years
now, and Catholics perfectly recognised its dangers, for the profession
of Masonry had been for some centuries rendered incompatible with
religion through the Church's unswerving condemnation of it. A man must
choose between that and his faith. Things had developed extraordinarily
during the last century. First there had been the organised assault upon
the Church in France; and what Catholics had always suspected then
became a certainty in the revelations of 1918, when P. Gerome, the
Dominican and ex-Mason, had made his disclosures with regard to the
Mark-Masons. It had become evident then that Catholics had been right,
and that Masonry, in its higher grades at least, had been responsible
throughout the world for the strange movement against religion. But he
had died in his bed, and the public had been impressed by that fact.
Then came the splendid donations in France and Italy--to hospitals,
orphanages, and the like; and once more suspicion began to disappear.
After all, it seemed--and continued to seem--for seventy years and more
that Masonry was nothing more than a vast philanthropical society. Now
once more men had their doubts.

"I hear that Felsenburgh is a Mason," observed Monsignor Macintosh, the
Cathedral Administrator. "A Grand-Master or something."

"But who is Felsenburgh?" put in a young priest.

Monsignor pursed his lips and shook his head. He was one of those humble
persons as proud of ignorance as others of knowledge. He boasted that he
never read the papers nor any book except those that had received the
_imprimatur_; it was a priest's business, he often remarked, to preserve
the faith, not to acquire worldly knowledge. Percy had occasionally
rather envied his point of view.

"He's a mystery," said another priest, Father Blackmore; "but he seems
to be causing great excitement. They were selling his 'Life' to-day on
the Embankment."

"I met an American senator," put in Percy, "three days ago, who told me
that even there they know nothing of him, except his extraordinary
eloquence. He only appeared last year, and seems to have carried
everything before him by quite unusual methods. He is a great linguist,
too. That is why they took him to Irkutsk."

"Well, the Masons---" went on Monsignor. "It is very serious. In the
last month four of my penitents have left me because of it."

"Their inclusion of women was their master-stroke," growled Father
Blackmore, helping himself to claret.

"It is extraordinary that they hesitated so long about that," observed
Percy.

A couple of the others added their evidence. It appeared that they, too,
had lost penitents lately through the spread of Masonry. It was rumoured
that a Pastoral was a-preparing upstairs on the subject.

Monsignor shook his head ominously.

"More is wanted than that," he said.

Percy pointed out that the Church had said her last word several
centuries ago. She had laid her excommunication on all members of secret
societies, and there was really no more that she could do.

"Except bring it before her children again and again," put in Monsignor.
"I shall preach on it next Sunday."

* * * * *

Percy dotted down a note when he reached his room, determining to say
another word or two on the subject to the Cardinal-Protector. He had
mentioned Freemasonry often before, but it seemed time for another
remark. Then he opened his letters, first turning to one which he
recognised as from the Cardinal.

It seemed a curious coincidence, as he read a series of questions that
Cardinal Martin's letter contained, that one of them should be on this
very subject. It ran as follows:

"What of Masonry? Felsenburgh is said to be one. Gather all the gossip
you can about him. Send any English or American biographies of him. Are
you still losing Catholics through Masonry?"

He ran his eyes down the rest of the questions. They chiefly referred to
previous remarks of his own, but twice, even in them, Felsenburgh's name
appeared.

He laid the paper down and considered a little.

It was very curious, he thought, how this man's name was in every one's
mouth, in spite of the fact that so little was known about him. He had
bought in the streets, out of curiosity, three photographs that
professed to represent this strange person, and though one of them might
be genuine they all three could not be. He drew them out of a
pigeon-hole, and spread them before him.

One represented a fierce, bearded creature like a Cossack, with round
staring eyes. No; intrinsic evidence condemned this: it was exactly how
a coarse imagination would have pictured a man who seemed to be having a
great influence in the East.

The second showed a fat face with little eyes and a chin-beard. That
might conceivably be genuine: he turned it over and saw the name of a
New York firm on the back. Then he turned to the third. This presented a
long, clean-shaven face with pince-nez, undeniably clever, but scarcely
strong: and Felsenburgh was obviously a strong man.

Percy inclined to think the second was the most probable; but they were
all unconvincing; and he shuffled them carelessly together and replaced
them.

Then he put his elbows on the table, and began to think.

He tried to remember what Mr. Varhaus, the American senator, had told
him of Felsenburgh; yet it did not seem sufficient to account for the
facts. Felsenburgh, it seemed, had employed none of those methods common
in modern politics. He controlled no newspapers, vituperated nobody,
championed nobody: he had no picked underlings; he used no bribes; there
were no monstrous crimes alleged against him. It seemed rather as if his
originality lay in his clean hands and his stainless past--that, and his
magnetic character. He was the kind of figure that belonged rather to
the age of chivalry: a pure, clean, compelling personality, like a
radiant child. He had taken people by surprise, then, rising out of the
heaving dun-coloured waters of American socialism like a vision--from
those waters so fiercely restrained from breaking into storm over since
the extraordinary social revolution under Mr. Hearst's disciples, a
century ago. That had been the end of plutocracy; the famous old laws of
1914 had burst some of the stinking bubbles of the time; and the
enactments of 1916 and 1917 had prevented their forming again in any
thing like their previous force. It had been the salvation of America,
undoubtedly, even if that salvation were of a dreary and uninspiring
description; and now out of the flat socialistic level had arisen this
romantic figure utterly unlike any that had preceded it.... So the
senator had hinted.... It was too complicated for Percy just now, and he
gave it up.

It was a weary world, he told himself, turning his eyes homewards.
Everything seemed so hopeless and ineffective. He tried not to reflect
on his fellow-priests, but for the fiftieth time he could not help
seeing that they were not the men for the present situation. It was not
that he preferred himself; he knew perfectly well that he, too, was
fully as incompetent: had he not proved to be so with poor Father
Francis, and scores of others who had clutched at him in their agony
during the last ten years? Even the Archbishop, holy man as he was, with
all his childlike faith--was that the man to lead English Catholics and
confound their enemies? There seemed no giants on the earth in these
days. What in the world was to be done? He buried his face in his
hands....

Yes; what was wanted was a new Order in the Church; the old ones were
rule-bound through no fault of their own. An Order was wanted without
habit or tonsure, without traditions or customs, an Order with nothing
but entire and whole-hearted devotion, without pride even in their most
sacred privileges, without a past history in which they might take
complacent refuge. They must be _franc-tireurs_ of Christ's Army; like
the Jesuits, but without their fatal reputation, which, again, was no
fault of their own. ... But there must be a Founder--Who, in God's Name?
--a Founder _nudus sequens Christum nudum_.... Yes--_Franc-tireurs_
--priests, bishops, laymen and women--with the three vows of course, and
a special clause forbidding utterly and for ever their ownership of
corporate wealth.--Every gift received must be handed to the bishop of
the diocese in which it was given, who must provide them himself with
necessaries of life and travel. Oh!--what could they not do?... He was
off in a rhapsody.

Presently he recovered, and called himself a fool. Was not that scheme
as old as the eternal hills, and as useless for practical purposes? Why,
it had been the dream of every zealous man since the First Year of
Salvation that such an Order should be founded!... He was a fool....

Then once more he began to think of it all over again.

Surely it was this which was wanted against the Masons; and women,
too.--Had not scheme after scheme broken down because men had forgotten
the power of women? It was that lack that had ruined Napoleon: he had
trusted Josephine, and she had failed him; so he had trusted no other
woman. In the Catholic Church, too, woman had been given no active work
but either menial or connected with education: and was there not room
for other activities than those? Well, it was useless to think of it. It
was not his affair. If _Papa Angelicus_ who now reigned in Rome had not
thought of it, why should a foolish, conceited priest in Westminster set
himself up to do so?

So he beat himself on the breast once more, and took up his office-book.

He finished in half an hour, and again sat thinking; but this time it
was of poor Father Francis. He wondered what he was doing now; whether
he had taken off the Roman collar of Christ's familiar slaves? The poor
devil! And how far was he, Percy Franklin, responsible?

When a tap came at his door presently, and Father Blackmore looked in
for a talk before going to bed, Percy told him what had happened.

Father Blackmore removed his pipe and sighed deliberately.

"I knew it was coming," he said. "Well, well."

"He has been honest enough," explained Percy. "He told me eight months
ago he was in trouble."

Father Blackmore drew upon his pipe thoughtfully.

"Father Franklin," he said, "things are really very serious. There is
the same story everywhere. What in the world is happening?"

Percy paused before answering.

"I think these things go in waves," he said.

"Waves, do you think?" said the other.

"What else?"

Father Blackmore looked at him intently.

"It is more like a dead calm, it seems to me," he said. "Have you ever
been in a typhoon?"

Percy shook his head.

"Well," went on the other, "the most ominous thing is the calm. The sea
is like oil; you feel half-dead: you can do nothing. Then comes the
storm."

Percy looked at him, interested. He had not seen this mood in the priest
before.

"Before every great crash there comes this calm. It is always so in
history. It was so before the Eastern War; it was so before the French
Revolution. It was so before the Reformation. There is a kind of oily
heaving; and everything is languid. So everything has been in America,
too, for over eighty years.... Father Franklin, I think something is
going to happen."

"Tell me," said Percy, leaning forward.

"Well, I saw Templeton a week before he died, and he put the idea in my
head.... Look here, father. It may be this Eastern affair that is coming
on us; but somehow I don't think it is. It is in religion that something
is going to happen. At least, so I think.... Father, who in God's name
is Felsenburgh?"

Percy was so startled at the sudden introduction of this name again,
that he stared a moment without speaking.

Outside, the summer night was very still. There was a faint vibration
now and again from the underground track that ran twenty yards from the
house where they sat; but the streets were quiet enough round the
Cathedral. Once a hoot rang far away, as if some ominous bird of passage
were crossing between London and the stars, and once the cry of a woman
sounded thin and shrill from the direction of the river. For the rest
there was no more than the solemn, subdued hum that never ceased now
night or day.

"Yes; Felsenburgh," said Father Blackmore once more. "I cannot get that
man out of my head. And yet, what do I know of him? What does any one
know of him?"

Percy licked his lips to answer, and drew a breath to still the beating
of his heart. He could not imagine why he felt excited. After all, who
was old Blackmore to frighten him? But old Blackmore went on before he
could speak.

"See how people are leaving the Church! The Wargraves, the Hendersons,
Sir James Bartlet, Lady Magnier, and then all the priests. Now they're
not all knaves--I wish they were; it would be so much easier to talk of
it. But Sir James Bartlet, last month! Now, there's a man who has spent
half his fortune on the Church, and he doesn't resent it even now. He
says that any religion is better than none, but that, for himself, he
just can't believe any longer. Now what does all that mean?... I tell
you something is going to happen. God knows what! And I can't get
Felsenburgh out of my head.... Father Franklin---"

"Yes?"

"Have you noticed how few great men we've got? It's not like fifty years
ago, or even thirty. Then there were Mason, Selborne, Sherbrook, and
half-a-dozen others. There was Brightman, too, as Archbishop: and now!
Then the Communists, too. Braithwaite is dead fifteen years. Certainly
he was big enough; but he was always speaking of the future, not of the
present; and tell me what big man they have had since then! And now
there's this new man, whom no one knows, who came forward in America a
few months ago, and whose name is in every one's mouth. Very well,
then!"

Percy knitted his forehead.

"I am not sure that I understand," he said.

Father Blackmore knocked his pipe out before answering.

"Well, this," he said, standing up. "I can't help thinking Felsenburgh
is going to do something. I don't know what; it may be for us or against
us. But he is a Mason, remember that.... Well, well; I dare say I'm an
old fool. Good-night."

"One moment, father," said Percy slowly. "Do you mean--? Good Lord! What
do you mean?" He stopped, looking at the other.

The old priest stared back under his bushy eyebrows; it seemed to Percy
as if he, too, were afraid of something in spite of his easy talk; but
he made no sign.

* * * * *

Percy stood perfectly still a moment when the door was shut. Then he
moved across to his _prie-dieu_.



CHAPTER III

I

Old Mrs. Brand and Mabel were seated at a window of the new Admiralty
Offices in Trafalgar Square to see Oliver deliver his speech on the
fiftieth anniversary of the passing of the Poor Laws Reform.

It was an inspiriting sight, this bright June morning, to see the crowds
gathering round Braithwaite's statue. That politician, dead fifteen
years before, was represented in his famous attitude, with arms
outstretched and down dropped, his head up and one foot slightly
advanced, and to-day was decked, as was becoming more and more usual on
such occasions, in his Masonic insignia. It was he who had given
immense impetus to that secret movement by his declaration in the House
that the key of future progress and brotherhood of nations was in the
hands of the Order. It was through this alone that the false unity of
the Church with its fantastic spiritual fraternity could be
counteracted. St. Paul had been right, he declared, in his desire to
break down the partition-walls between nations, and wrong only in his
exaltation of Jesus Christ. Thus he had preluded his speech on the Poor
Law question, pointing to the true charity that existed among Masons
apart from religious motive, and appealing to the famous benefactions on
the Continent; and in the enthusiasm of the Bill's success the Order had
received a great accession of members.

Old Mrs. Brand was in her best to-day, and looked out with considerable
excitement at the huge throng gathered to hear her son speak. A platform
was erected round the bronze statue at such a height that the statesman
appeared to be one of the speakers, though at a slightly higher
elevation, and this platform was hung with roses, surmounted by a
sounding-board, and set with a chair and table.

The whole square round about was paved with heads and resonant with
sound, the murmurs of thousands of voices, overpowered now and again by
the crash of brass and thunder of drums as the Benefit Societies and
democratic Guilds, each headed by a banner, deployed from North, South,
East and West, and converged towards the wide railed space about the
platform where room was reserved for them. The windows on every side
were packed with faces; tall stands were erected along the front of the
National Gallery and St. Martin's Church, garden-beds of colour behind
the mute, white statues that faced outwards round the square; from
Braithwaite in front, past the Victorians--John Davidson, John Burns,
and the rest--round to Hampden and de Montfort towards the north. The
old column was gone, with its lions. Nelson had not been found
advantageous to the _Entente Cordiale_, nor the lions to the new art;
and in their place stretched a wide pavement broken by slopes of steps
that led up to the National Gallery.

Overhead the roofs showed crowded friezes of heads against the blue
summer sky. Not less than one hundred thousand persons, it was estimated
in the evening papers, were collected within sight and sound of the
platform by noon.

As the clocks began to tell the hour, two figures appeared from behind
the statue and came forward, and, in an instant, the murmurs of talk
rose into cheering.

Old Lord Pemberton came first, a grey-haired, upright man, whose father
had been active in denouncing the House of which he was a member on the
occasion of its fall over seventy years ago, and his son had succeeded
him worthily. This man was now a member of the Government, and sat for
Manchester (3); and it was he who was to be chairman on this auspicious
occasion. Behind him came Oliver, bareheaded and spruce, and even at
that distance his mother and wife could see his brisk movement, his
sudden smile and nod as his name emerged from the storm of sound that
surged round the platform. Lord Pemberton came forward, lifted his hand
and made a signal; and in a moment the thin cheering died under the
sudden roll of drums beneath that preluded the Masonic Hymn.

There was no doubt that these Londoners could sing. It was as if a giant
voice hummed the sonorous melody, rising to enthusiasm till the music of
massed bands followed it as a flag follows a flag-stick. The hymn was
one composed ten years before, and all England was familiar with it.
Old Mrs. Bland lifted the printed paper mechanically to her eyes, and
saw the words that she knew so well:

"_The Lord that dwells in earth and sea._" ...

She glanced down the verses, that from the Humanitarian point of view
had been composed with both skill and ardour. They had a religious ring;
the unintelligent Christian could sing them without a qualm; yet their
sense was plain enough--the old human creed that man was all. Even
Christ's, words themselves were quoted. The kingdom of God, it was said,
lay within the human heart, and the greatest of all graces was Charity.

She glanced at Mabel, and saw that the girl was singing with all her
might, with her eyes fixed on her husband's dark figure a hundred yards
away, and her soul pouring through them. So the mother, too, began to
move her lips in chorus with that vast volume of sound.

As the hymn died away, and before the cheering could begin again, old
Lord Pemberton was standing forward on the edge of the platform, and his
thin, metallic voice piped a sentence or two across the tinkling splash
of the fountains behind him. Then he stepped back, and Oliver came
forward.

* * * * *

It was too far for the two to hear what was said, but Mabel slipped a
paper, smiling tremulously, into the old lady's hand, and herself bent
forward to listen.

Old Mrs. Brand looked at that, too, knowing that it was an analysis of
her son's speech, and aware that she would not be able to hear his
words.

There was an exordium first, congratulating all who were present to do
honour to the great man who presided from his pedestal on the occasion
of this great anniversary. Then there came a retrospect, comparing the
old state of England with the present. Fifty years ago, the speaker
said, poverty was still a disgrace, now it was so no longer. It was in
the causes that led to poverty that the disgrace or the merit lay. Who
would not honour a man worn out in the service of his country, or
overcome at last by circumstances against which his efforts could not
prevail?... He enumerated the reforms passed fifty years before on this
very day, by which the nation once and for all declared the glory of
poverty and man's sympathy with the unfortunate.

So he had told them he was to sing the praise of patient poverty and its
reward, and that, he supposed, together with a few periods on the reform
of the prison laws, would form the first half of his speech.

The second part was to be a panegyric of Braithwaite, treating him as
the Precursor of a movement that even now had begun.

Old Mrs. Brand leaned back in her seat, and looked about her.

The window where they sat had been reserved for them; two arm-chairs
filled the space, but immediately behind there were others, standing
very silent now, craning forward, watching, too, with parted lips: a
couple of women with an old man directly behind, and other faces visible
again behind them. Their obvious absorption made the old lady a little
ashamed of her distraction, and she turned resolutely once more to the
square.

Ah! he was working up now to his panegyric! The tiny dark figure was
back, a yard nearer the statue, and as she looked, his hand went up and
he wheeled, pointing, as a murmur of applause drowned for an instant the
minute, resonant voice. Then again he was forward, half crouching--for
he was a born actor--and a storm of laughter rippled round the throng of
heads. She heard an indrawn hiss behind her chair, and the next instant
an exclamation from Mabel.... What was that?

There was a sharp crack, and the tiny gesticulating figure staggered
back a step. The old man at the table was up in a moment, and
simultaneously a violent commotion bubbled and heaved like water about a
rock at a point in the crowd immediately outside the railed space where
the bands were massed, and directly opposite the front of the platform.

Mrs. Brand, bewildered and dazed, found herself standing up, clutching
the window rail, while the girl gripped her, crying out something she
could not understand. A great roaring filled the square, the heads
tossed this way and that, like corn under a squall of wind. Then Oliver
was forward again, pointing and crying out, for she could see his
gestures; and she sank back quickly, the blood racing through her old
veins, and her heart hammering at the base of her throat.

"My dear, my dear, what is it?" she sobbed.

But Mabel was up, too, staring out at her husband; and a quick babble of
talk and exclamations from behind made itself audible in spite of the
roaring tumult of the square.



II

Oliver told them the explanation of the whole affair that evening at
home, leaning back in his chair, with one arm bandaged and in a sling.

They had not been able to get near him at the time; the excitement in
the square had been too fierce; but a messenger had come to his wife
with the news that her husband was only slightly wounded, and was in the
hands of the doctors.

"He was a Catholic," explained the drawn-faced Oliver. "He must have
come ready, for his repeater was found loaded. Well, there was no chance
for a priest this time."

Mabel nodded slowly: she had read of the man's fate on the placards.

"He was killed--trampled and strangled instantly," said Oliver. "I did
what I could: you saw me. But--well, I dare say it was more merciful."

"But you did what you could, my dear?" said the old lady, anxiously,
from her corner.

"I called out to them, mother, but they wouldn't hear me."

Mabel leaned forward---

"Oliver, I know this sounds stupid of me; but--but I wish they had not
killed him."

Oliver smiled at her. He knew this tender trait in her.

"It would have been more perfect if they had not," she said. Then she
broke off and sat back.

"Why did he shoot just then?" she asked.

Oliver turned his eyes for an instant towards his mother, but she was
knitting tranquilly.

Then he answered with a curious deliberateness.

"I said that Braithwaite had done more for the world by one speech than
Jesus and all His saints put together." He was aware that the
knitting-needles stopped for a second; then they went on again as
before.

"But he must have meant to do it anyhow," continued Oliver.

"How do they know he was a Catholic?" asked the girl again.

"There was a rosary on him; and then he just had time to call on his
God."

"And nothing more is known?"

"Nothing more. He was well dressed, though."

Oliver leaned back a little wearily and closed his eyes; his arm still
throbbed intolerably. But he was very happy at heart. It was true that
he had been wounded by a fanatic, but he was not sorry to bear pain in
such a cause, and it was obvious that the sympathy of England was with
him. Mr. Phillips even now was busy in the next room, answering the
telegrams that poured in every moment. Caldecott, the Prime Minister,
Maxwell, Snowford and a dozen others had wired instantly their
congratulations, and from every part of England streamed in message
after message. It was an immense stroke for the Communists; their
spokesman had been assaulted during the discharge of his duty, speaking
in defence of his principles; it was an incalculable gain for them, and
loss for the Individualists, that confessors were not all on one side
after all. The huge electric placards over London had winked out the
facts in Esperanto as Oliver stepped into the train at twilight.

"_Oliver Brand wounded.... Catholic assailant.... Indignation of the
country.... Well-deserved fate of assassin_."

He was pleased, too, that he honestly had done his best to save the man.
Even in that moment of sudden and acute pain he had cried out for a fair
trial; but he had been too late. He had seen the starting eyes roll up
in the crimson face, and the horrid grin come and go as the hands had
clutched and torn at his throat. Then the face had vanished and a heavy
trampling began where it had disappeared. Oh! there was some passion and
loyalty left in England!

His mother got up presently and went out, still without a word; and
Mabel turned to him, laying a hand on his knee.

"Are you too tired to talk, my dear?"

He opened his eyes.

"Of course not, my darling. What is it?"

"What do you think will be the effect?"

He raised himself a little, looking out as usual through the darkening
windows on to that astonishing view. Everywhere now lights were
glowing, a sea of mellow moons just above the houses, and above the
mysterious heavy blue of a summer evening.

"The effect?" he said. "It can be nothing but good. It was time that
something happened. My dear, I feel very downcast sometimes, as you
know. Well, I do not think I shall be again. I have been afraid
sometimes that we were losing all our spirit, and that the old Tories
were partly right when they prophesied what Communism would do. But
after this---"

"Well?"

"Well; we have shown that we can shed our blood too. It is in the nick
of time, too, just at the crisis. I don't want to exaggerate; it is only
a scratch--but it was so deliberate, and--and so dramatic. The poor
devil could not have chosen a worse moment. People won't forget it."

Mabel's eyes shone with pleasure.

"You poor dear!" she said. "Are you in pain?"

"Not much. Besides, Christ! what do I care? If only this infernal
Eastern affair would end!"

He knew he was feverish and irritable, and made a great effort to drive
it down.

"Oh, my dear!" he went on, flushed a little. "If they would not be such
heavy fools: they don't understand; they don't understand."

"Yes, Oliver?"

"They don't understand what a glorious thing it all is Humanity, Life,
Truth at last, and the death of Folly! But haven't I told them a hundred
times?"

She looked at him with kindling eyes. She loved to see him like this,
his confident, flushed face, the enthusiasm in his blue eyes; and the
knowledge of his pain pricked her feeling with passion. She bent forward
and kissed him suddenly.

"My dear, I am so proud of you. Oh, Oliver!"

He said nothing; but she could see what she loved to see, that response
to her own heart; and so they sat in silence while the sky darkened yet
more, and the click of the writer in the next room told them that the
world was alive and that they had a share in its affairs.

Oliver stirred presently.

"Did you notice anything just now, sweetheart--when I said that about
Jesus Christ?"

"She stopped knitting for a moment," said the girl.

He nodded.

"You saw that too, then.... Mabel, do you think she is falling back?"

"Oh! she is getting old," said the girl lightly. "Of course she looks
back a little."

"But you don't think--it would be too awful!"

She shook her head.

"No, no, my dear; you're excited and tired. It's just a little
sentiment.... Oliver, I don't think I would say that kind of thing
before her."

"But she hears it everywhere now."

"No, she doesn't. Remember she hardly ever goes out. Besides, she hates
it. After all, she was brought up a Catholic."

Oliver nodded, and lay back again, looking dreamily out.

"Isn't it astonishing the way in which suggestion lasts? She can't get
it out of her head, even after fifty years. Well, watch her, won't
you?... By the way ..."

"Yes?"

"There's a little more news from the East. They say Felsenburgh's
running the whole thing now. The Empire is sending him everywhere--
Tobolsk, Benares, Yakutsk--everywhere; and he's been to Australia."

Mabel sat up briskly.

"Isn't that very hopeful?"

"I suppose so. There's no doubt that the Sufis are winning; but for how
long is another question. Besides, the troops don't disperse."

"And Europe?"

"Europe is arming as fast as possible. I hear we are to meet the Powers
next week at Paris. I must go."

"Your arm, my dear?"

"My arm must get well. It will have to go with me, anyhow."

"Tell me some more."

"There is no more. But it is just as certain as it can be that this is
the crisis. If the East can be persuaded to hold its hand now, it will
never be likely to raise it again. It will mean free trade all over the
world, I suppose, and all that kind of thing. But if not---"

"Well?"

"If not, there will be a catastrophe such as never has been even
imagined. The whole human race will be at war, and either East or West
will be simply wiped out. These new Benninschein explosives will make
certain of that."

"But is it absolutely certain that the East has got them?"

"Absolutely. Benninschein sold them simultaneously to East and West;
then he died, luckily for him."

Mabel had heard this kind of talk before, but her imagination simply
refused to grasp it. A duel of East and West under these new conditions
was an unthinkable thing. There had been no European war within living
memory, and the Eastern wars of the last century had been under the old
conditions. Now, if tales were true, entire towns would be destroyed
with a single shell. The new conditions were unimaginable. Military
experts prophesied extravagantly, contradicting one another on vital
points; the whole procedure of war was a matter of theory; there were no
precedents with which to compare it. It was as if archers disputed as to
the results of cordite. Only one thing was certain--that the East had
every modern engine, and, as regards male population, half as much
again as the rest of the world put together; and the conclusion to be
drawn from these premisses was not reassuring to England.

But imagination simply refused to speak. The daily papers had a short,
careful leading article every day, founded upon the scraps of news that
stole out from the conferences on the other side of the world;
Felsenburgh's name appeared more frequently than ever: otherwise there
seemed to be a kind of hush. Nothing suffered very much; trade went on;
European stocks were not appreciably lower than usual; men still built
houses, married wives, begat sons and daughters, did their business and
went to the theatre, for the mere reason that there was no good in
anything else. They could neither save nor precipitate the situation; it
was on too large a scale. Occasionally people went mad--people who had
succeeded in goading their imagination to a height whence a glimpse of
reality could be obtained; and there was a diffused atmosphere of
tenseness. But that was all. Not many speeches were made on the subject;
it had been found inadvisable. After all, there was nothing to do but to
wait.



III

Mabel remembered her husband's advice to watch, and for a few days did
her best. But there was nothing that alarmed her. The old lady was a
little quiet, perhaps, but went about her minute affairs as usual. She
asked the girl to read to her sometimes, and listened unblenching to
whatever was offered her; she attended in the kitchen daily, organised
varieties of food, and appeared interested in all that concerned her
son. She packed his bag with her own hands, set out his furs for the
swift flight to Paris, and waved to him from the window as he went down
the little path towards the junction. He would be gone three days, he
said.

It was on the evening of the second day that she fell ill; and Mabel,
running upstairs, in alarm at the message of the servant, found her
rather flushed and agitated in her chair.

"It is nothing, my dear," said the old lady tremulously; and she added
the description of a symptom or two.

Mabel got her to bed, sent for the doctor, and sat down to wait.

She was sincerely fond of the old lady, and had always found her
presence in the house a quiet sort of delight. The effect of her upon
the mind was as that of an easy-chair upon the body. The old lady was so
tranquil and human, so absorbed in small external matters, so
reminiscent now and then of the days of her youth, so utterly without
resentment or peevishness. It seemed curiously pathetic to the girl to
watch that quiet old spirit approach its extinction, or rather, as Mabel
believed, its loss of personality in the reabsorption into the Spirit of
Life which informed the world. She found less difficulty in
contemplating the end of a vigorous soul, for in that case she imagined
a kind of energetic rush of force back into the origin of things; but in
this peaceful old lady there was so little energy; her whole point, so
to speak, lay in the delicate little fabric of personality, built out of
fragile things into an entity far more significant than the sum of its
component parts: the death of a flower, reflected Mabel, is sadder than
the death of a lion; the breaking of a piece of china more irreparable
than the ruin of a palace.

"It is syncope," said the doctor when he came in. "She may die at any
time; she may live ten years."

"There is no need to telegraph for Mr. Brand?"

He made a little deprecating movement with his hands.

"It is not certain that she will die--it is not imminent?" she asked.

"No, no; she may live ten years, I said."

He added a word or two of advice as to the use of the oxygen injector,
and went away.

* * * * *

The old lady was lying quietly in bed, when the girl went up, and put
out a wrinkled hand.

"Well, my dear?" she asked.

"It is just a little weakness, mother. You must lie quiet and do
nothing. Shall I read to you?"

"No, my dear; I will think a little."

It was no part of Mabel's idea to duty to tell her that she was in
danger, for there was no past to set straight, no Judge to be
confronted. Death was an ending, not a beginning. It was a peaceful
Gospel; at least, it became peaceful as soon as the end had come.

So the girl went downstairs once more, with a quiet little ache at her
heart that refused to be still.

What a strange and beautiful thing death was, she told herself--this
resolution of a chord that had hung suspended for thirty, fifty or
seventy years--back again into the stillness of the huge Instrument that
was all in all to itself. Those same notes would be struck again, were
being struck again even now all over the world, though with an infinite
delicacy of difference in the touch; but that particular emotion was
gone: it was foolish to think that it was sounding eternally elsewhere,
for there was no elsewhere. She, too, herself would cease one day, let
her see to it that the tone was pure and lovely.

* * * * *

Mr. Phillips arrived the next morning as usual, just as Mabel had left
the old lady's room, and asked news of her.

"She is a little better, I think," said Mabel. "She must be very quiet
all day."

The secretary bowed and turned aside into Oliver's room, where a heap of
letters lay to be answered.

A couple of hours later, as Mabel went upstairs once more, she met Mr.
Phillips coming down. He looked a little flushed under his sallow skin.

"Mrs. Brand sent for me," he said. "She wished to know whether Mr.
Oliver would be back to-night."

"He will, will he not? You have not heard?"

"Mr. Brand said he would be here for a late dinner. He will reach London
at nineteen."

"And is there any other news?"

He compressed his lips.

"There are rumours," he said. "Mr. Brand wired to me an hour ago."

He seemed moved at something, and Mabel looked at him in astonishment.

"It is not Eastern news?" she asked.

His eyebrows wrinkled a little.

"You must forgive me, Mrs. Brand," he said. "I am not at liberty to say
anything."

She was not offended, for she trusted her husband too well; but she went
on into the sick-room with her heart beating.

The old lady, too, seemed excited. She lay in bed with a clear flush in
her white cheeks, and hardly smiled at all to the girl's greeting.

"Well, you have seen Mr. Phillips, then?" said Mabel.

Old Mrs. Brand looked at her sharply an instant, but said nothing.

"Don't excite yourself, mother. Oliver will be back to-night."

The old lady drew a long breath.

"Don't trouble about me, my dear," she said. "I shall do very well now.
He will be back to dinner, will he not?"

"If the volor is not late. Now, mother, are you ready for breakfast?"

* * * * *

Mabel passed an afternoon of considerable agitation. It was certain that
something had happened. The secretary, who breakfasted with her in the
parlour looking on to the garden, had appeared strangely excited. He had
told her that he would be away the rest of the day: Mr. Oliver had given
him his instructions. He had refrained from all discussion of the
Eastern question, and he had given her no news of the Paris Convention;
he only repeated that Mr. Oliver would be back that night. Then he had
gone of in a hurry half-an-hour later.

The old lady seemed asleep when the girl went up afterwards, and Mabel
did not like to disturb her. Neither did she like to leave the house; so
she walked by herself in the garden, thinking and hoping and fearing,
till the long shadow lay across the path, and the tumbled platform of
roofs was bathed in a dusty green haze from the west.

As she came in she took up the evening paper, but there was no news
there except to the effect that the Convention would close that
afternoon.

* * * * *

Twenty o'clock came, but there was no sign of Oliver. The Paris volor
should have arrived an hour before, but Mabel, staring out into the
darkening heavens had seen the stars come out like jewels one by one,
but no slender winged fish pass overhead. Of course she might have
missed it; there was no depending on its exact course; but she had seen
it a hundred times before, and wondered unreasonably why she had not
seen it now. But she would not sit down to dinner, and paced up and
down in her white dress, turning again and again to the window,
listening to the soft rush of the trains, the faint hoots from the
track, and the musical chords from the junction a mile away. The lights
were up by now, and the vast sweep of the towns looked like fairyland
between the earthly light and the heavenly darkness. Why did not Oliver
come, or at least let her know why he did not?

Once she went upstairs, miserably anxious herself, to reassure the old
lady, and found her again very drowsy.

"He is not come," she said. "I dare say he may be kept in Paris."

The old face on the pillow nodded and murmured, and Mabel went down
again. It was now an hour after dinner-time.

Oh! there were a hundred things that might have kept him. He had often
been later than this: he might have missed the volor he meant to catch;
the Convention might have been prolonged; he might be exhausted, and
think it better to sleep in Paris after all, and have forgotten to wire.
He might even have wired to Mr. Phillips, and the secretary have
forgotten to pass on the message.

She went at last, hopelessly, to the telephone, and looked at it. There
it was, that round silent month, that little row of labelled buttons.
She half decided to touch them one by one, and inquire whether anything
had been heard of her husband: there was his club, his office in
Whitehall, Mr. Phillips's house, Parliament-house, and the rest. But she
hesitated, telling herself to be patient. Oliver hated interference, and
he would surely soon remember and relieve her anxiety.

Then, even as she turned away, the bell rang sharply, and a white label
flashed into sight.--WHITEHALL.

She pressed the corresponding button, and, her hand shaking so much that
she could scarcely hold the receiver to her ear, she listened.

"Who is there?"

Her heart leaped at the sound of her husband's voice, tiny and minute
across the miles of wire.

"I--Mabel," she said. "Alone here."

"Oh! Mabel. Very well. I am back: all is well. Now listen. Can you
hear?"

"Yes, yes."

"The best has happened. It is all over in the East. Felsenburgh has done
it. Now listen. I cannot come home to-night. It will be announced in
Paul's House in two hours from now. We are communicating with the Press.
Come up here to me at once. You must be present.... Can you hear?"

"Oh, yes."

"Come then at once. It will be the greatest thing in history. Tell no
one. Come before the rush begins. In half-an-hour the way will be
stopped."

"Oliver."

"Yes? Quick."

"Mother is ill. Shall I leave her?"

"How ill?"

"Oh, no immediate danger. The doctor has seen her."

There was silence for a moment.

"Yes; come then. We will go back to-night anyhow, then. Tell her we
shall be late."

"Very well."

" ... Yes, you must come. Felsenburgh will be there."



CHAPTER IV

I

On the same afternoon Percy received a visitor.

There was nothing exceptional about him; and Percy, as he came
downstairs in his walking-dress and looked at him in the light from the
tall parlour-window, came to no conclusion at all as to his business and
person, except that he was not a Catholic.

"You wished to see me," said the priest, indicating a chair.

"I fear I must not stop long."

"I shall not keep you long," said the stranger eagerly. "My business is
done in five minutes."

Percy waited with his eyes cast down.

"A--a certain person has sent me to you. She was a Catholic once; she
wishes to return to the Church."

Percy made a little movement with his head. It was a message he did not
very often receive in these days.

"You will come, sir, will you not? You will promise me?"

The man seemed greatly agitated; his sallow face showed a little shining
with sweat, and his eyes were piteous.

"Of course I will come," said Percy, smiling.

"Yes, sir; but you do not know who she is. It--it would make a great
stir, sir, if it was known. It must not be known, sir; you will promise
me that, too?"

"I must not make any promise of that kind," said the priest gently. "I
do not know the circumstances yet."

The stranger licked his lips nervously.

"Well, sir," he said hastily, "you will say nothing till you have seen
her? You can promise me that."

"Oh! certainly," said the priest.

"Well, sir, you had better not know my name. It--it may make it easier
for you and for me. And--and, if you please, sir, the lady is ill; you
must come to-day, if you please, but not until the evening. Will
twenty-two o'clock be convenient, sir?"

"Where is it?" asked Percy abruptly.

"It--it is near Croydon junction. I will write down the address
presently. And you will not come until twenty-two o'clock, sir?"

"Why not now?"

"Because the--the others may be there. They will be away then; I know
that."

This was rather suspicious, Percy thought: discreditable plots had been
known before. But he could not refuse outright.

"Why does she not send for her parish-priest?" he asked.

"She she does not know who he is, sir; she saw you once in the
Cathedral, sir, and asked you for your name. Do you remember, sir?--an
old lady?"

Percy did dimly remember something of the kind a month or two before;
but he could not be certain, and said so.

"Well, sir, you will come, will you not?"

"I must communicate with Father Dolan," said the priest. "If he gives me
permission---"

"If you please, sir, Father--Father Dolan must not know her name. You
will not tell him?"

"I do not know it myself yet," said the priest, smiling.

The stranger sat back abruptly at that, and his face worked.

"Well, sir, let me tell you this first. This old lady's son is my
employer, and a very prominent Communist. She lives with him and his
wife. The other two will be away to-night. That is why I am asking you
all this. And now, you till come, sir?"

Percy looked at him steadily for a moment or two. Certainly, if this was
a conspiracy, the conspirators were feeble folk. Then he answered:

"I will come, sir; I promise. Now the name."

The stranger again licked his lips nervously, and glanced timidly from
side to side. Then he seemed to gather his resolution; he leaned forward
and whispered sharply.

"The old lady's name is Brand, sir--the mother of Mr. Oliver Brand."

For a moment Percy was bewildered. It was too extraordinary to be true.
He knew Mr. Oliver Brand's name only too well; it was he who, by God's
permission, was doing more in England at this moment against the
Catholic cause than any other man alive; and it was he whom the
Trafalgar Square incident had raised into such eminent popularity. And
now, here was his mother---

He turned fiercely upon the man.

"I do not know what you are, sir--whether you believe in God or not; but
will you swear to me on your religion and your honour that all this is
true?"

The timid eyes met his, and wavered; but it was the wavering of
weakness, not of treachery.

"I--I swear it, sir; by God Almighty."

"Are you a Catholic?"

The man shook his head.

"But I believe in God," he said. "At least, I think so."

Percy leaned back, trying to realise exactly what it all meant. There
was no triumph in his mind--that kind of emotion was not his weakness;
there was fear of a kind, excitement, bewilderment, and under all a
satisfaction that God's grace was so sovereign. If it could reach this
woman, who could be too far removed for it to take effect? Presently he
noticed the other looking at him anxiously.

"You are afraid, sir? You are not going back from your promise?"

That dispersed the cloud a little, and Percy smiled.

"Oh! no," he said. "I will be there at twenty-two o'clock. ... Is death
imminent?"

"No, sir; it is syncope. She is recovered a little this morning."

The priest passed his hand over his eyes and stood up.

"Well, I will be there," he said. "Shall you be there, sir?"

The other shook his head, standing up too.

"I must be with Mr. Brand, sir; there is to be a meeting to-night; but I
must not speak of that.... No, sir; ask for Mrs. Brand, and say that she
is expecting you. They will take you upstairs at once."

"I must not say I am a priest, I suppose?"

"No, sir; if you please."

He drew out a pocket-book, scribbled in it a moment, tore out the sheet,
and handed it to the priest.

"The address, sir. Will you kindly destroy that when you have copied it?
I--I do not wish to lose my place, sir, if it can be helped."

Percy stood twisting the paper in his fingers a moment.

"Why are you not a Catholic yourself?" he asked.

The man shook his head mutely. Then he took up his hat, and went towards
the door.

* * * * *

Percy passed a very emotional afternoon.

For the last month or two little had happened to encourage him. He had
been obliged to report half-a-dozen more significant secessions, and
hardly a conversion of any kind. There was no doubt at all that the tide
was setting steadily against the Church. The mad act in Trafalgar
Square, too, had done incalculable harm last week: men were saying more
than ever, and the papers storming, that the Church's reliance on the
supernatural was belied by every one of her public acts. "Scratch a
Catholic and find an assassin" had been the text of a leading article in
the _New People_, and Percy himself was dismayed at the folly of the
attempt. It was true that the Archbishop had formally repudiated both
the act and the motive from the Cathedral pulpit, but that too had only
served as an opportunity hastily taken up by the principal papers, to
recall the continual policy of the Church to avail herself of violence
while she repudiated the violent. The horrible death of the man had in
no way appeased popular indignation; there were not even wanting
suggestions that the man had been seen coming out of Archbishop's House
an hour before the attempt at assassination had taken place.

And now here, with dramatic swiftness, had come a message that the
hero's own mother desired reconciliation with the Church that had
attempted to murder her son.

* * * * *

Again and again that afternoon, as Percy sped northwards on his visit to
a priest in Worcester, and southwards once more as the lights began to
shine towards evening, he wondered whether this were not a plot after
all--some kind of retaliation, an attempt to trap him. Yet he had
promised to say nothing, and to go.

He finished his daily letter after dinner as usual, with a curious sense
of fatality; addressed and stamped it. Then he went downstairs, in his
walking-dress, to Father Blackmore's room.

"Will you hear my confession, father?" he said abruptly.



II

Victoria Station, still named after the great nineteenth-century Queen,
was neither more nor less busy than usual as he came into it
half-an-hour later. The vast platform, sunk now nearly two hundred feet
below the ground level, showed the double crowd of passengers entering
and leaving town. Those on the extreme left, towards whom Percy began to
descend in the open glazed lift, were by far the most numerous, and the
stream at the lift-entrance made it necessary for him to move slowly.

He arrived at last, walking in the soft light on the noiseless ribbed
rubber, and stood by the door of the long car that ran straight through
to the Junction. It was the last of a series of a dozen or more, each of
which slid off minute by minute. Then, still watching the endless
movement of the lifts ascending and descending between the entrances of
the upper end of the station, he stepped in and sat down.

He felt quiet now that he had actually started. He had made his
confession, just in order to make certain of his own soul, though
scarcely expecting any definite danger, and sat now, his grey suit and
straw hat in no way distinguishing him as a priest (for a general leave
was given by the authorities to dress so for any adequate reason). Since
the case was not imminent, he had not brought stocks or pyx--Father
Dolan had wired to him that he might fetch them if he wished from St.
Joseph's, near the Junction. He had only the violet thread in his
pocket, such as was customary for sick calls.

He was sliding along peaceably enough, fixing his eyes on the empty seat
opposite, and trying to preserve complete collectedness when the car
abruptly stopped. He looked out, astonished, and saw by the white
enamelled walks twenty feet from the window that they were already in
the tunnel. The stoppage might arise from many causes, and he was not
greatly excited, nor did it seem that others in the carriage took it
very seriously; he could hear, after a moment's silence, the talking
recommence beyond the partition.

Then there came, echoed by the walls, the sound of shouting from far
away, mingled with hoots and chords; it grew louder. The talking in the
carriage stopped. He heard a window thrown up, and the next instant a
car tore past, going back to the station although on the down line. This
must be looked into, thought Percy: something certainly was happening;
so he got up and went across the empty compartment to the further
window. Again came the crying of voices, again the signals, and once
more a car whirled past, followed almost immediately by another. There
was a jerk--a smooth movement. Percy staggered and fell into a seat, as
the carriage in which he was seated itself began to move backwards.

There was a clamour now in the next compartment, and Percy made his way
there through the door, only to find half-a-dozen men with their heads
thrust from the windows, who paid absolutely no attention to his
inquiries. So he stood there, aware that they knew no more than himself,
waiting for an explanation from some one. It was disgraceful, he told
himself, that any misadventure should so disorganise the line.

Twice the car stopped; each time it moved on again after a hoot or two,
and at last drew up at the platform whence it had started, although a
hundred yards further out.

Ah! there was no doubt that something had happened! The instant he
opened the door a great roar met his ears, and as he sprang on to the
platform and looked up at the end of the station, he began to
understand.

* * * * *

From right to left of the huge interior, across the platforms, swelling
every instant, surged an enormous swaying, roaring crowd. The flight of
steps, twenty yards broad, used only in cases of emergency, resembled a
gigantic black cataract nearly two hundred feet in height. Each car as
it drew up discharged more and more men and women, who ran like ants
towards the assembly of their fellows. The noise was indescribable, the
shouting of men, the screaming of women, the clang and hoot of the huge
machines, and three or four times the brazen cry of a trumpet, as an
emergency door was flung open overhead, and a small swirl of crowd
poured through it towards the streets beyond. But after one look Percy
looked no more at the people; for there, high up beneath the clock, on
the Government signal board, flared out monstrous letters of fire,
telling in Esperanto and English, the message for which England had
grown sick. He read it a dozen times before he moved, staring, as at a
supernatural sight which might denote the triumph of either heaven or
hell.

"EASTERN CONVENTION DISPERSED.

PEACE, NOT WAR.

UNIVERSAL BROTHERHOOD ESTABLISHED.

FELSENBURGH IN LONDON TO-NIGHT."

* * * * *



III

It was not until nearly two hours later that Percy was standing at the
house beyond the Junction.

He bad argued, expostulated, threatened, but the officials were like
men possessed. Half of them had disappeared in the rush to the City, for
it had leaked out, in spite of the Government's precautions, that Paul's
House, known once as St. Paul's Cathedral, was to be the scene of
Felsenburgh's reception. The others seemed demented; one man on the
platform had dropped dead from nervous exhaustion, but no one appeared
to care; and the body lay huddled beneath a seat. Again and again Percy
had been swept away by a rush, as he struggled from platform to platform
in his search for a car that would take him to Croydon. It seemed that
there was none to be had, and the useless carriages collected like
drift-wood between the platforms, as others whirled up from the country
bringing loads of frantic, delirious men, who vanished like smoke from
the white rubber-boards. The platforms were continually crowded, and as
continually emptied, and it was not until half-an-hour before midnight
that the block began to move outwards again.

Well, he was here at last, dishevelled, hatless and exhausted, looking
up at the dark windows.

He scarcely knew what he thought of the whole matter. War, of course,
was terrible. And such a war as this would have been too terrible for
the imagination to visualise; but to the priest's mind there were other
things even worse. What of universal peace--peace, that is to say,
established by others than Christ's method? Or was God behind even this?
The questions were hopeless.

Felsenburgh--it was he then who had done this thing--this thing
undoubtedly greater than any secular event hitherto known in
civilisation. What manner of man was he? What was his character, his
motive, his method? How would he use his success?... So the points flew
before him like a stream of sparks, each, it might be, harmless; each,
equally, capable of setting a world on fire. Meanwhile here was an old
woman who desired to be reconciled with God before she died....

* * * * *

He touched the button again, three or four times, and waited. Then a
light sprang out overhead, and he knew that he was heard.

"I was sent for," he exclaimed to the bewildered maid. "I should have
been here at twenty-two: I was prevented by the rush."

She babbled out a question at him.

"Yes, it is true, I believe," he said. "It is peace, not war. Kindly
take me upstairs."

He went through the hall with a curious sense of guilt. This was Brand's
house then--that vivid orator, so bitterly eloquent against God; and
here was he, a priest, slinking in under cover of night. Well, well, it
was not of his appointment.

At the door of an upstairs room the maid turned to him.

"A doctor, sir?" she said.

"That is my affair," said Percy briefly, and opened the door.

* * * * *

A little wailing cry broke from the corner, before he had time to close
the door again.

"Oh! thank God! I thought He had forgotten me. You are a priest,
father?"

"I am a priest. Do you not remember seeing me in the Cathedral?"

"Yes, yes, sir; I saw you praying, father. Oh! thank God, thank God!"

Percy stood looking down at her a moment, seeing her flushed old face in
the nightcap, her bright sunken eyes and her tremulous hands. Yes; this
was genuine enough.

"Now, my child," he said, "tell me."

"My confession, father."

Percy drew out the purple thread, slipped it over his shoulders, and sat
down by the bed.

     * * * * *

But she would not let him go for a while after that.

"Tell me, father. When will you bring me Holy Communion?"

He hesitated.

"I understand that Mr. Brand and his wife know nothing of all this?"

"No, father."

"Tell me, are you very ill?"

"I don't know, father. They will not tell me. I thought I was gone last
night."

"When would you wish me to bring you Holy Communion? I will do as you
say."

"Shall I send to you in a day or two? Father, ought I to tell him?"

"You are not obliged."

"I will if I ought."

"Well, think about it, and let me know.... You have heard what has
happened?"

She nodded, but almost uninterestedly; and Percy was conscious of a tiny
prick of compunction at his own heart. After all, the reconciling of a
soul to God was a greater thing than the reconciling of East to West.

"It may make a difference to Mr. Brand," he said. "He will be a great
man, now, you know."

She still looked at him in silence, smiling a little. Percy was
astonished at the youthfulness of that old face. Then her face changed.

"Father, I must not keep you; but tell me this--Who is this man?"

"Felsenburgh?"

"Yes."

"No one knows. We shall know more to-morrow. He is in town to-night."

She looked so strange that Percy for an instant thought it was a
seizure. Her face seemed to fall away in a kind of emotion, half
cunning, half fear.

"Well, my child?"

"Father, I am a little afraid when I think of that man. He cannot harm
me, can he? I am safe now? I am a Catholic--?"

"My child, of course you are safe. What is the matter? How can this man
injure you?"

But the look of terror was still there, and Percy came a step nearer.

"You must not give way to fancies," he said. "Just commit yourself to
our Blessed Lord. This man can do you no harm."

He was speaking now as to a child; but it was of no use. Her old mouth
was still sucked in, and her eyes wandered past him into the gloom of
the room behind.

"My child, tell me what is the matter. What do you know of Felsenburgh?
You have been dreaming."

She nodded suddenly and energetically, and Percy for the first time felt
his heart give a little leap of apprehension. Was this old woman out of
her mind, then? Or why was it that that name seemed to him sinister?
Then he remembered that Father Blackmore had once talked like this. He
made an effort, and sat down once more.

"Now tell me plainly," he said. "You have been dreaming. What have you
dreamt?"

She raised herself a little in bed, again glancing round the room; then
she put out her old ringed hand for one of his, and he gave it,
wondering.

"The door is shut, father? There is no one listening?"

"No, no, my child. Why are you trembling? You must not be
superstitious."

"Father, I will tell you. Dreams are nonsense, are they not? Well, at
least, this is what I dreamt.

"I was somewhere in a great house; I do not know where it was. It was a
house I have never seen. It was one of the old houses, and it was very
dark. I was a child, I thought, and I was ... I was afraid of something.
The passages were all dark, and I went crying in the dark, looking for a
light, and there was none. Then I heard a voice talking, a great way
off. Father---"

Her hand gripped his more tightly, and again her eyes went round the
room.

With great difficulty Percy repressed a sigh. Yet he dared not leave her
just now. The house was very still; only from outside now and again
sounded the clang of the cars, as they sped countrywards again from the
congested town, and once the sound of great shouting. He wondered what
time it was.

"Had you better tell me now?" he asked, still talking with a patient
simplicity. "What time will they be back?"

"Not yet," she whispered. "Mabel said not till two o'clock. What time
is it now, father?"

He pulled out his watch with his disengaged hand.

"It is not yet one," he said.

"Very well, listen, father.... I was in this house; and I heard that
talking; and I ran along the passages, till I saw light below a door;
and then I stopped.... Nearer, father."

Percy was a little awed in spite of himself. Her voice had suddenly
dropped to a whisper, and her old eyes seemed to hold him strangely.

"I stopped, father; I dared not go in. I could hear the talking, and I
could see the light; and I dared not go in. Father, it was Felsenburgh
in that room."

From beneath came the sudden snap of a door; then the sound of
footsteps. Percy turned his head abruptly, and at the same moment heard
a swift indrawn breath from the old woman.

"Hush!" he said. "Who is that?"

Two voices were talking in the hall below now, and at the sound the old
woman relaxed her hold.

"I--I thought it to be him," she murmured.

Percy stood up; he could see that she did not understand the situation.

"Yes, my child," he said quietly, "but who is it?"

"My son and his wife," she said; then her face changed once more.
"Why--why, father---"

Her voice died in her throat, as a step vibrated outside. For a moment
there was complete silence; then a whisper, plainly audible, in a girl's
voice.

"Why, her light is burning. Come in, Oliver, but softly."

Then the handle turned.



CHAPTER V

I

There was an exclamation, then silence, as a tall, beautiful girl with
flushed face and shining grey eyes came forward and stopped, followed by
a man whom Percy knew at once from his pictures. A little whimpering
sounded from the bed, and the priest lifted his hand instinctively to
silence it.

"Why," said Mabel; and then stared at the man with the young face and
the white hair.

Oliver opened his lips and closed them again. He, too, had a strange
excitement in his face. Then he spoke.

"Who is this?" he said deliberately.

"Oliver," cried the girl, turning to him abruptly, "this is the priest I
saw---"

"A priest!" said the other, and came forward a step. "Why, I thought---"


Percy drew a breath to steady that maddening vibration in his throat.

"Yes, I am a priest," he said.

Again the whimpering broke out from the bed; and Percy, half turning
again to silence it, saw the girl mechanically loosen the clasp of the
thin dust cloak over her white dress.

"You sent for him, mother?" snapped the man, with a tremble in his
voice, and with a sudden jerk forward of his whole body. But the girl
put out her hand.

"Quietly, my dear," she said. "Now, sir---"

"Yes, I am a priest," said Percy again, strung up now to a desperate
resistance of will, hardly knowing what he said.

"And you come to my house!" exclaimed the man. He came a step nearer,
and half recoiled. "You swear you are a priest?" he said. "You have been
here all this evening?"

"Since midnight."

"And you are not---" he stopped again.

Mabel stepped straight between them.

"Oliver," she said, still with that air of suppressed excitement, "we
must not have a scene here. The poor dear is too ill. Will you come
downstairs, sir?"

Percy took a step towards the door, and Oliver moved slightly aside.
Then the priest stopped, turned and lifted his hand.

"God bless you!" he said simply, to the muttering figure in the bed.
Then he went out, and waited outside the door.

He could hear a low talking within; then a compassionate murmur from the
girl's voice; then Oliver was beside him, trembling all over, as white
as ashes, and made a silent gesture as he went past him down the stairs.

* * * * *

The whole thing seemed to Percy like some incredible dream; it was all
so unexpected, so untrue to life. He felt conscious of an enormous shame
at the sordidness of the affair, and at the same time of a kind of
hopeless recklessness. The worst had happened and the best--that was his
sole comfort.

Oliver pushed a door open, touched a button, and went through into the
suddenly lit room, followed by Percy. Still in silence, he pointed to a
chair, Percy sat down, and Oliver stood before the fireplace, his hands
deep in the pockets of his jacket, slightly turned away.

Percy's concentrated senses became aware of every detail of the
room--the deep springy green carpet, smooth under his feet, the straight
hanging thin silk curtains, the half-dozen low tables with a wealth of
flowers upon them, and the books that lined the walls. The whole room
was heavy with the scent of roses, although the windows were wide, and
the night-breeze stirred the curtains continually. It was a woman's
room, he told himself. Then he looked at the man's figure, lithe, tense,
upright; the dark grey suit not unlike his own, the beautiful curve of
the jaw, the clear pale complexion, the thin nose, the protruding curve
of idealism over the eyes, and the dark hair. It was a poet's face, he
told himself, and the whole personality was a living and vivid one. Then
he turned a little and rose as the door opened, and Mabel came in,
closing it behind her.

She came straight across to her husband, and put a hand on his shoulder.

"Sit down, my dear," she said. "We must talk a little. Please sit down,
sir."

The three sat down, Percy on one side, and the husband and wife on a
straight-backed settle opposite.

The girl began again.

"This must be arranged at once," she said, "but we must have no tragedy.
Oliver, do you understand? You must not make a scene. Leave this to me."

She spoke with a curious gaiety; and Percy to his astonishment saw that
she was quite sincere: there was not the hint of cynicism.

"Oliver, my dear," she said again, "don't mouth like that! It is all
perfectly right. I am going to manage this."

Percy saw a venomous look directed at him by the man; the girl saw it
too, moving her strong humorous eyes from one to the other. She put her
hand on his knee.

"Oliver, attend! Don't look at this gentleman so bitterly. He has done
no harm."

"No harm!" whispered the other.

"No--no harm in the world. What does it matter what that poor dear
upstairs thinks? Now, sir, would you mind telling us why you came here?"

Percy drew another breath. He had not expected this line.

"I came here to receive Mrs. Brand back into the Church," he said.

"And you have done so?"

"I have done so."

"Would you mind telling us your name? It makes it so much more
convenient."

Percy hesitated. Then he determined to meet her on her own ground.

"Certainly. My name is Franklin."

"Father Franklin?" asked the girl, with just the faintest tinge of
mocking emphasis on the first word.

"Yes. Father Percy Franklin, from Archbishop's House, Westminster," said
the priest steadily.

"Well, then, Father Percy Franklin; can you tell us why you came here? I
mean, who sent for you?"

"Mrs. Brand sent for me."

"Yes, but by what means?"

"That I must not say."

"Oh, very good.... May we know what good comes of being 'received into
the Church?'"

"By being received into the Church, the soul is reconciled to God."

"Oh! (Oliver, be quiet.) And how do you do it, Father Franklin?"

Percy stood up abruptly.

"This is no good, madam," he said. "What is the use of these questions?"

The girl looked at him in open-eyed astonishment, still with her hand on
her husband's knee.

"The use, Father Franklin! Why, we want to know. There is no church law
against your telling us, is there?"

Percy hesitated again. He did not understand in the least what she was
after. Then he saw that he would give them an advantage if he lost his
head at all: so he sat down again.

"Certainly not. I will tell you if you wish to know. I heard Mrs.
Brand's confession, and gave her absolution."

"Oh! yes; and that does it, then? And what next?"

"She ought to receive Holy Communion, and anointing, if she is in danger
of death."

Oliver twitched suddenly.

"Christ!" he said softly.

"Oliver!" cried the girl entreatingly. "Please leave this to me. It is
much better so.--And then, I suppose, Father Franklin, you want to give
those other things to my mother, too?"

"They are not absolutely necessary," said the priest, feeling, he did
not know why, that he was somehow playing a losing game.

"Oh! they are not necessary? But you would like to?"

"I shall do so if possible. But I have done what is necessary."

It required all his will to keep quiet. He was as a man who had armed
himself in steel, only to find that his enemy was in the form of a
subtle vapour. He simply had not an idea what to do next. He would have
given anything for the man to have risen and flown at his throat, for
this girl was too much for them both.

"Yes," she said softly. "Well, it is hardly to be expected that my
husband should give you leave to come here again. But I am very glad
that you have done what you think necessary. No doubt it will be a
satisfaction to you, Father Franklin, and to the poor old thing
upstairs, too. While we--- _we_--" she pressed her husband's knee--"we
do not mind at all. Oh!--but there is one thing more."

"If you please," said Percy, wondering what on earth was coming.

"You Christians--forgive me if I say anything rude--but, you know, you
Christians have a reputation for counting heads, and making the most of
converts. We shall be so much obliged, Father Franklin, if you will
give us your word not to advertise this--this incident. It would
distress my husband, and give him a great deal of trouble."

"Mrs. Brand---" began the priest.

"One moment.... You see, we have not treated you badly. There has been
no violence. We will promise not to make scenes with my mother. Will you
promise us that?"

Percy had had time to consider, and he answered instantly.

"Certainly, I will promise that."

Mabel sighed contentedly.

"Well, that is all right. We are so much obliged.... And I think we may
say this, that perhaps after consideration my husband may see his way to
letting you come here again to do Communion and--and the other thing---"

Again that spasm shook the man beside her.

"Well, we will see about that. At any rate, we know your address, and
can let you know.... By the way, Father Franklin, are you going back to
Westminster to-night?"

He bowed.

"Ah! I hope you will get through. You will find London very much
excited. Perhaps you heard---"

"Felsenburgh?" said Percy.

"Yes. Julian Felsenburgh," said the girl softly, again with that strange
excitement suddenly alight in her eyes. "Julian Felsenburgh," she
repeated. "He is there, you know. He will stay in England for the
present."

Again Percy was conscious of that slight touch of fear at the mention of
that name.

"I understand there is to be peace," he said.

The girl rose and her husband with her.

"Yes," she said, almost compassionately, "there is to be peace. Peace at
last." (She moved half a step towards him, and her face glowed like a
rose of fire. Her hand rose a little.) "Go back to London, Father
Franklin, and use your eyes. You will see him, I dare say, and you will
see more besides." (Her voice began to vibrate.) "And you will
understand, perhaps, why we have treated you like this--why we are no
longer afraid of you--why we are willing that my mother should do its
she pleases. Oh! you will understand, Father Franklin if not to-night,
to-morrow; or if not to-morrow, at least in a very short time."

"Mabel!" cried her husband.

The girl wheeled, and threw her arms round him, and kissed him on the
mouth.

"Oh! I am not ashamed, Oliver, my dear. Let him go and see for himself.
Good-night, Father Franklin."

As he went towards the door, hearing the ping of the bell that some one
touched in the room behind him, he turned once more, dazed and
bewildered; and there were the two, husband and wife, standing in the
soft, sunny light, as if transfigured. The girl had her arm round the
man's shoulder, and stood upright and radiant as a pillar of fire; and
even on the man's face there was no anger now--nothing but an almost
supernatural pride and confidence. They were both smiling.

Then Percy passed out into the soft, summer night.



II

Percy understood nothing except that he was afraid, as he sat in the
crowded car that whirled him up to London. He scarcely even heard the
talk round him, although it was loud and continuous; and what he heard
meant little to him. He understood only that there had been strange
scenes, that London was said to have gone suddenly mad, that Felsenburgh
had spoken that night in Paul's House.

He was afraid at the way in which be had been treated, and he asked
himself dully again and again what it was that had inspired that
treatment; it seemed that he bad been in the presence of the
supernatural; he was conscious of shivering a little, and of the
symptoms of an intolerable sleepiness. It was scarcely strange to him
that he should be sitting in a crowded car at two o'clock of a summer
dawn.

Thrice the car stopped, and he stared out at the signs of confusion that
were everywhere; at the figures that ran in the twilight between the
tracks, at a couple of wrecked carriages, a tumble of tarpaulins; he
listened mechanically to the hoots and cries that sounded everywhere.

As he stepped out at last on to the platform, he found it very much as
he had left it two hours before. There was the same desperate rush as
the car discharged its load, the same dead body beneath the seat; and
above all, as he ran helplessly behind the crowd, scarcely knowing
whither he ran or why, above him burned the same stupendous message
beneath the clock. Then he found himself in the lift, and a minute later
he was out on the steps behind the station.

There, too, was an astonishing sight. The lamps still burned overhead,
but beyond them lay the first pale streaks of the false dawn. The street
that ran now straight to the old royal palace, uniting there, as at the
centre of a web, with those that came from Westminster, the Mall and
Hyde Park, was one solid pavement of heads. On this side and that rose
up the hotels and "Houses of Joy," the windows all ablaze with light,
solemn and triumphant as if to welcome a king; while far ahead against
the sky stood the monstrous palace outlined in fire, and alight from
within like all other houses within view. The noise was bewildering. It
was impossible to distinguish one sound from another. Voices, horns,
drums, the tramp of a thousand footsteps on the rubber pavements, the
sombre roll of wheels from the station behind--all united in one
overwhelmingly solemn booming, overscored by shriller notes.

It was impossible to move.

He found himself standing in a position of extraordinary advantage, at
the very top of the broad flight of steps that led down into the old
station yard, now a wide space that united, on the left the broad road
to the palace, and on the right Victoria Street, that showed like all
else one vivid perspective of lights and heads. Against the sky on his
right rose up the illuminated head of the Cathedral Campanile. It
appeared to him as if he had known that in some previous existence.

He edged himself mechanically a foot or two to his left, till he clasped
a pillar; then he waited, trying not to analyse his emotions, but to
absorb them.

Gradually he became aware that this crowd was as no other that he had
ever seen. To his psychical sense it seemed to him that it possessed a
unity unlike any other. There was magnetism in the air. There was a
sensation as if a creative act were in process, whereby thousands of
individual cells were being welded more and more perfectly every instant
into one huge sentient being with one will, one emotion, and one head.
The crying of voices seemed significant only as the stirrings of this
creative power which so expressed itself. Here rested this giant
humanity, stretching to his sight in living limbs so far as he could see
on every side, waiting, waiting for some consummation--stretching, too,
as his tired brain began to guess, down every thoroughfare of the vast
city.

He did not even ask himself for what they waited. He knew, yet he did
not know. He knew it was for a revelation--for something that should
crown their aspirations, and fix them so for ever.

He had a sense that he had seen all this before; and, like a child, he
began to ask himself where it could have happened, until he remembered
that it was so that he had once dreamt of the Judgment Day--of humanity
gathered to meet Jesus Christ--Jesus Christ! Ah! how tiny that Figure
seemed to him now--how far away--real indeed, but insignificant to
himself--how hopelessly apart from this tremendous life! He glanced up
at the Campanile. Yes; there was a piece of the True Cross there, was
there not?--a little piece of the wood on which a Poor Man had died
twenty centuries ago.... Well, well. It was a long way off....

He did not quite understand what was happening to him. "Sweet Jesus, be
to me not a Judge but a Saviour," he whispered beneath his breath,
gripping the granite of the pillar; and a moment later knew how futile
was that prayer. It was gone like a breath in this vast, vivid
atmosphere of man. He had said mass, had he not? this morning--in white
vestments.--Yes; he had believed it all then--desperately, but truly;
and now....

To look into the future was as useless as to look into the past. There
was no future, and no past: it was all one eternal instant, present and
final....

Then he let go of effort, and again began to see with his bodily eyes.

* * * * *

The dawn was coming up the sky now, a steady soft brightening that
appeared in spite of its sovereignty to be as nothing compared with the
brilliant light of the streets. "We need no sun," he whispered, smiling
piteously; "no sun or light of a candle. We have our light on earth--the
light that lighteneth every man...."

The Campanile seemed further away than ever now, in that ghostly glimmer
of dawn--more and more helpless every moment, compared with the
beautiful vivid shining of the streets.

Then he listened to the sounds, and it seemed to him as if somewhere,
far down eastwards, there was a silence beginning. He jerked his head
impatiently, as a man behind him began to talk rapidly and confusedly.
Why would he not be silent, and let silence be heard?... The man stopped
presently, and out of the distance there swelled up a roar, as soft as
the roll of a summer tide; it passed up towards him from the right; it
was about him, dinning in his ears. There was no longer any individual
voice: it was the breathing of the giant that had been born; he was
crying out too; he did not know what he said, but he could not be
silent. His veins and nerves seemed alight with wine; and as he stared
down the long street, hearing the huge cry ebb from him and move toward
the palace, he knew why he had cried, and why he was now silent.

A slender, fish-shaped thing, as white as milk, as ghostly as a shadow,
and as beautiful as the dawn, slid into sight half-a-mile away, turned
and came towards him, floating, as it seemed, on the very wave of
silence that it created, up, up the long curving street on outstretched
wings, not twenty feet above the heads of the crowd. There was one great
sigh, and then silence once more.

* * * * *

When Percy could think consciously again--for his will was only capable
of efforts as a clock of ticks--the strange white thing was nearer. He
told himself that he had seen a hundred such before; and at the same
instant that this was different from all others.

Then it was nearer still, floating slowly, slowly, like a gull over the
sea; he could make out its smooth nose, its low parapet beyond, the
steersman's head motionless; he could even hear now the soft winnowing
of the screw--and then he saw that for which he had waited.

High on the central deck there stood a chair, draped, too, in white,
with some insignia visible above its back; and in the chair sat the
figure of a man, motionless and lonely. He made no sign as he came; his
dark dress showed vividedly against the whiteness; his head was raised,
and he turned it gently now and again from side to side.

It came nearer still, in the profound stillness; the head turned, and
for an instant the face was plainly visible in the soft, radiant light.

It was a pale face, strongly marked, as of a young man, with arched,
black eyebrows, thin lips, and white hair.

Then the face turned once more, the steersman shifted his head, and the
beautiful shape, wheeling a little, passed the corner, and moved up
towards the palace.

There was an hysterical yelp somewhere, a cry, and again the tempestuous
groan broke out.



BOOK II-THE ENCOUNTER



CHAPTER I

I

Oliver Brand was seated at his desk, on the evening of the next day,
reading the leading article of the _New People_, evening edition.

* * * * *

"We have had time," he read, "to recover ourselves a little from the
intoxication of last night. Before embarking on prophecy, it will be as
well to recall the facts. Up to yesterday evening our anxiety with
regard to the Eastern crisis continued; and when twenty-one o'clock
struck there were not more than forty persons in London--the English
delegates, that is to say--who knew positively that the danger was over.
Between that moment and half-an-hour later the Government took a few
discreet steps: a select number of persons were informed; the police
were called out, with half-a-dozen regiments, to preserve order; Paul's
House was cleared; the railroad companies were warned; and at the half
hour precisely the announcement was made by means of the electric
placards in every quarter of London, as well as in all large provincial
towns. We have not space now to adequately describe the admirable manner
in which the public authorities did their duty; it is enough to say that
not more than seventy fatalities took place in the whole of London; nor
is it our business to criticise the action of the Government, in
choosing this mode of making the announcement.

"By twenty-two o'clock Paul's House was filled in every corner, the Old
Choir was reserved for members of Parliament and public officials, the
quarter-dome galleries were filled with ladies, and to the rest of the
floor the public was freely admitted. The volor-police also inform us
now that for about the distance of one mile in every direction round
this centre every thoroughfare was blocked with pedestrians, and, two
hours later, as we all know, practically all the main streets of the
whole of London were in the same condition.

"It was an excellent choice by which Mr. OLIVER BRAND was selected as
the first speaker. His arm was still in bandages; and the appeal of his
figure as well as his passionate words struck the first explicit note of
the evening. A report of his words will be found in another column. In
their turns, the PRIME MINISTER, Mr. SNOWFORD, the FIRST MINISTER OF THE
ADMIRALTY, THE SECRETARY FOR EASTERN AFFAIRS, and LORD PEMBERTON, all
spoke a few words, corroborating the extraordinary news. At a quarter
before twenty-three, the noise of cheering outside announced the arrival
of the American delegates from Paris, and one by one these ascended the
platform by the south gates of the Old Choir. Each spoke in turn. It is
impossible to appreciate words spoken at such a moment as this; but
perhaps it is not invidious to name Mr. MARKHAM as the orator who above
all others appealed to those who were privileged to hear him. It was he,
too, who told us explicitly what others had merely mentioned, to the
effect that the success of the American efforts was entirely due to Mr.
JULIAN FELSENBURGH. As yet Mr. FELSENBURGH had not arrived; but in
answer to a roar of inquiry, Mr. MARKHAM announced that this gentleman
would be amongst them in a few minutes. He then proceeded to describe to
us, so far as was possible in a few sentences, the methods by which Mr.
FELSENBURGH had accomplished what is probably the most astonishing task
known to history. It seems from his words that Mr. FELSENBURGH (whose
biography, so far as it is known, we give in another column) is probably
the greatest orator that the world has ever known--we use these words
deliberately. All languages seem the same to him; he delivered speeches
during the eight months through which the Eastern Convention lasted, in
no less than fifteen tongues. Of his manner in speaking we shall have a
few remarks to make presently. He showed also, Mr. MARKHAM told us, the
most astonishing knowledge, not only of human nature, but of every trait
under which that divine thing manifests itself. He appeared acquainted
with the history, the prejudices, the fears, the hopes, the expectations
of all the innumerable sects and castes of the East to whom it was his
business to speak. In fact, as Mr. MARKHAM said, he is probably the
first perfect product of that new cosmopolitan creation to which the
world has laboured throughout its history. In no less than nine
places--Damascus, Irkutsk, Constantinople, Calcutta, Benares, Nanking,
among them--he was hailed as Messiah by a Mohammedan mob. Finally, in
America, where this extraordinary figure has arisen, all speak well of
him. He has been guilty of none of those crimes--there is not one that
convicts him of sin--those crimes of the Yellow Press, of corruption, of
commercial or political bullying which have so stained the past of all
those old politicians who made the sister continent what she has become.
Mr. FELSENBURGH has not even formed a party. He, and not his underlings,
have conquered. Those who were present in Paul's House on this occasion
will understand us when we say that the effect of those words was
indescribable.

"When Mr. MARKHAM sat down, there was a silence; then, in order to quiet
the rising excitement, the organist struck the first chords of the
Masonic Hymn; the words were taken up, and presently not only the whole
interior of the building rang with it, but outside, too, the people
responded, and the city of London for a few moments became indeed a
temple of the Lord.

"Now indeed we come to the most difficult part of our task, and it is
better to confess at once that anything resembling journalistic
descriptiveness must be resolutely laid aside. The greatest things are
best told in the simplest words.

"Towards the close of the fourth verse, a figure in a plain dark suit
was observed ascending the steps of the platform. For a moment this
attracted no attention, but when it was seen that a sudden movement had
broken out among the delegates, the singing began to falter; and it
ceased altogether as the figure, after a slight inclination to right and
left, passed up the further steps that led to the rostrum. Then occurred
a curious incident. The organist aloft at first did not seem to
understand, and continued playing, but a sound broke out from the crowd
resembling a kind of groan, and instantly he ceased. But no cheering
followed. Instead a profound silence dominated in an instant the huge
throng; this, by some strange magnetism, communicated itself to those
without the building, and when Mr. FELSENBURGH uttered his first words,
it was in a stillness that was like a living thing. We leave the
explanation of this phenomenon to the expert in psychology.

"Of his actual words we have nothing to say. So far as we are aware no
reporter made notes at the moment; but the speech, delivered in
Esperanto, was a very simple one, and very short. It consisted of a
brief announcement of the great fact of Universal Brotherhood, a
congratulation to all who were yet alive to witness this consummation of
history; and, at the end, an ascription of praise to that Spirit of the
World whose incarnation was now accomplished.

"So much we can say; but we can say nothing as to the impression of the
personality who stood there. In appearance the man seemed to be about
thirty-three years of age, clean-shaven, upright, with white hair and
dark eyes and brows; he stood motionless with his hands on the rail, he
made but one gesture that drew a kind of sob from the crowd, he spoke
these words slowly, distinctly, and in a clear voice; then he stood
waiting.

"There was no response but a sigh which sounded in the ears of at least
one who heard it as if the whole world drew breath for the first time;
and then that strange heart-shaking silence fell again. Many were
weeping silently, the lips of thousands moved without a sound, and all
faces were turned to that simple figure, as if the hope of every soul
were centred there. So, if we may believe it, the eyes of many,
centuries ago, were turned on one known now to history as JESUS OF
NAZARETH.

"Mr. FELSENBURGH stood so a moment longer, then he turned down the
steps, passed across the platform and disappeared.

"Of what took place outside we have received the following account from
an eye-witness. The white volor, so well known now to all who were in
London that night, had remained stationary outside the little south door
of the Old Choir aisle, poised about twenty feet above the ground.
Gradually it became known to the crowd, in those few minutes, who it was
who had arrived in it, and upon Mr. FELSENBURGH'S reappearance that same
strange groan sounded through the whole length of Paul's Churchyard,
followed by the same silence. The volor descended; the master stepped on
board, and once more the vessel rose to a height of twenty feet. It was
thought at first that some speech would be made, but none was necessary;
and after a moment's pause, the volor began that wonderful parade which
London will never forget. Four times during the night Mr. FELSENBURGH
went round the enormous metropolis, speaking no word; and everywhere the
groan preceded and followed him, while silence accompanied his actual
passage. Two hours after sunrise the white ship rose over Hampstead and
disappeared towards the North; and since then he, whom we call, in
truth, the Saviour of the world, has not been seen.

"And now what remains to be said?

"Comment is useless. It is enough to say in one short sentence that the
new era has begun, to which prophets and kings, and the suffering, the
dying, all who labour and are heavy-laden, have aspired in vain. Not
only has intercontinental rivalry ceased to exist, but the strife of
home dissensions has ceased also. Of him who has been the herald of its
inauguration we have nothing more to say. Time alone can show what is
yet left for him to do.

"But what has been done is as follows. The Eastern peril has been for
ever dissipated. It is understood now, by fanatic barbarians as well as
by civilised nations, that the reign of War is ended. 'Not peace but a
sword,' said CHRIST; and bitterly true have those words proved to be.
'Not a sword but peace' is the retort, articulate at last, from those
who have renounced CHRIST'S claims or have never accepted them. The
principle of love and union learned however falteringly in the West
during the last century, has been taken up in the East as well. There
shall be no more an appeal to arms, but to justice; no longer a crying
after a God Who hides Himself, but to Man who has learned his own
Divinity. The Supernatural is dead; rather, we know now that it never
yet has been alive. What remains is to work out this new lesson, to
bring every action, word and thought to the bar of Love and Justice; and
this will be, no doubt, the task of years. Every code must be reversed;
every barrier thrown down; party must unite with party, country with
country, and continent with continent. There is no longer the fear of
fear, the dread of the hereafter, or the paralysis of strife. Man has
groaned long enough in the travails of birth; his blood has been poured
out like water through his own foolishness; but at length he understands
himself and is at peace.

"Let it be seen at least that England is not behind the nations in this
work of reformation; let no national isolation, pride of race, or
drunkenness of wealth hold her hands back from this enormous work. The
responsibility is incalculable, but the victory certain. Let us go
softly, humbled by the knowledge of our crimes in the past, confident in
the hope of our achievements in the future, towards that reward which is
in sight at last--the reward hidden so long by the selfishness of men,
the darkness of religion, and the strife of tongues--the reward promised
by one who knew not what he said and denied what he asserted--Blessed
are the meek, the peacemakers, the merciful, for they shall inherit the
earth, be named the children of God, and find mercy."

* * * * *

Oliver, white to the lips, with his wife kneeling now beside him, turned
the page and read one more short paragraph, marked as being the latest
news.

"It is understood that the Government is in communication with Mr.
Felsenburgh."



II

"Ah! it is journalese," said Oliver, at last, leaning back. "Tawdry
stuff! But--but the thing!"

Mabel got up, passed across to the window-seat, and sat down. Her lips
opened once or twice, but she said nothing.

"My darling," cried the man, "have you nothing to say?"

She looked at him tremulously a moment.

"Say!" she said. "As you said, What is the use of words?"

"Tell me again," said Oliver. "How do I know it is not a dream?"

"A dream," she said. "Was there ever a dream like this?"

Again she got up restlessly, came across the floor, and knelt down by
her husband once more, taking his hands in hers.

"My dear," she said, "I tell you it is not a dream. It is reality at
last. I was there too--do you not remember? You waited for me when all
was over--when He was gone out--we saw Him together, you and I. We heard
Him--you on the platform and I in the gallery. We saw Him again pass up
the Embankment as we stood in the crowd. Then we came home and we found
the priest."

Her face was transfigured as she spoke. It was as of one who saw a
Divine Vision. She spoke very quietly, without excitement or hysteria.
Oliver stared at her a moment; then he bent forward and kissed her
gently.

"Yes, my darling; it is true. But I want to hear it again and again.
Tell me again what you saw."

"I saw the Son of Man," she said. "Oh! there is no other phrase. The
Saviour of the world, as that paper says. I knew Him in my heart as soon
as I saw Him--as we all did--as soon as He stood there holding the rail.
It was like a glory round his head. I understand it all now. It was He
for whom we have waited so long; and He has come, bringing Peace and
Goodwill in His hands. When He spoke, I knew it again. His voice was
as--as the sound of the sea--as simple as that--as--as lamentable--as
strong as that.--Did you not hear it?"

Oliver bowed his head.

"I can trust Him for all the rest," went on the girl softly. "I do not
know where He is, nor when He will come back, nor what He will do. I
suppose there is a great deal for Him to do, before He is fully
known--laws, reforms--that will be your business, my dear. And the rest
of us must wait, and love, and be content."

Oliver again lifted his face and looked at her.

"Mabel, my dear---"

"Oh! I knew it even last night," she said, "but I did not know that I
knew it till I awoke to-day and remembered. I dreamed of Him all
night.... Oliver, where is He?"

He shook his head.

"Yes, I know where He is, but I am under oath---"

She nodded quickly, and stood up.

"Yes. I should not have asked that. Well, we are content to wait."

There was silence for a moment or two. Oliver broke it.

"My dear, what do you mean when you say that He is not yet known?"

"I mean just that," she said. "The rest only know what He has done--not
what He is; but that, too, will come in time."

"And meanwhile---"

"Meanwhile, you must work; the rest will come by and bye. Oh! Oliver, be
strong and faithful."

She kissed him quickly, and went out.

* * * * *

Oliver sat on without moving, staring, as his habit was, out at the wide
view beyond his windows. This time yesterday he was leaving Paris,
knowing the fact indeed--for the delegates had arrived an hour
before--but ignorant of the Man. Now he knew the Man as well--at least
he had seen Him, heard Him, and stood enchanted under the glow of His
personality. He could explain it to himself no more than could any one
else--unless, perhaps, it were Mabel. The others had been as he had
been: awed and overcome, yet at the same time kindled in the very depths
of their souls. They had come out--Snowford, Cartwright, Pemberton, and
the rest--on to the steps of Paul's House, following that strange
figure. They had intended to say something, but they were dumb as they
saw the sea of white faces, heard the groan and the silence, and
experienced that compelling wave of magnetism that surged up like
something physical, as the volor rose and started on that indescribable
progress.

Once more he had seen Him, as he and Mabel stood together on the deck of
the electric boat that carried them south. The white ship had passed
along overhead, smooth and steady, above the heads of that vast
multitude, bearing Him who, if any had the right to that title, was
indeed the Saviour of the world. Then they had come home, and found the
priest.

That, too, had been a shock to him; for, at first sight, it seemed that
this priest was the very man he had seen ascend the rostrum two hours
before. It was an extraordinary likeness--the same young face and white
hair. Mabel, of course, had not noticed it; for she had only seen
Felsenburgh at a great distance; and he himself had soon been reassured.
And as for his mother--it was terrible enough; if it had not been for
Mabel there would have been violence done last night. How collected and
reasonable she had been! And, as for his mother--he must leave her alone
for the present. By and bye, perhaps, something might be done. The
future! It was that which engrossed him--the future, and the absorbing
power of the personality under whose dominion he had fallen last night.
All else seemed insignificant now--even his mother's defection, her
illness--all paled before this new dawn of an unknown sun. And in an
hour he would know more; he was summoned to Westminster to a meeting of
the whole House; their proposals to Felsenburgh were to be formulated;
it was intended to offer him a great position.

Yes, as Mabel had said; this was now their work--to carry into effect
the new principle that had suddenly become incarnate in this grey-haired
young American--the principle of Universal Brotherhood. It would mean
enormous labour; all foreign relations would have to be
readjusted--trade, policy, methods of government--all demanded
re-statement. Europe was already organised internally on a basis of
mutual protection: that basis was now gone. There was no more any
protection, because there was no more any menace. Enormous labour, too,
awaited the Government in other directions. A Blue-book must be
prepared, containing a complete report of the proceedings in the East,
together with the text of the Treaty which had been laid before them in
Paris, signed by the Eastern Emperor, the feudal kings, the Turkish
Republic, and countersigned by the American plenipotentiaries....
Finally, even home politics required reform: the friction of old strife
between centre and extremes must cease forthwith--there must be but one
party now, and that at the Prophet's disposal.... He grew bewildered as
he regarded the prospect, and saw how the whole plane of the world was
shifted, how the entire foundation of western life required
readjustment. It was a Revolution indeed, a cataclysm more stupendous
than even invasion itself; but it was the conversion of darkness into
light, and chaos into order.

He drew a deep breath, and so sat pondering.

* * * * *

Mabel came down to him half-an-hour later, as he dined early before
starting for Whitehall.

"Mother is quieter," she said. "We must be very patient, Oliver. Have
you decided yet as to whether the priest is to come again?"

He shook his head.

"I can think of nothing," he said, "but of what I have to do. You
decide, my dear; I leave it in your hands."

She nodded.

"I will talk to her again presently. Just now she can understand very
little of what has happened.... What time shall you be home?"

"Probably not to-night. We shall sit all night."

"Yes, dear. And what shall I tell Mr. Phillips?"

"I will telephone in the morning.... Mabel, do you remember what I told
you about the priest?"

"His likeness to the other?"

"Yes. What do you make of that?"

She smiled.

"I make nothing at all of it. Why should they not be alike?"

He took a fig from the dish, and swallowed it, and stood up.

"It is only very curious," he said. "Now, good-night, my dear."



III

"Oh, mother," said Mabel, kneeling by the bed; "cannot you understand
what has happened?"

She had tried desperately to tell the old lady of the extraordinary
change that had taken place in the world--and without success. It seemed
to her that some great issue depended on it; that it would be piteous if
the old woman went out into the dark unconscious of what had come. It
was as if a Christian knelt by the death-bed of a Jew on the first
Easter Monday. But the old lady lay in her bed, terrified but obdurate.

"Mother," said the girl, "let me tell you again. Do you not understand
that all which Jesus Christ promised has come true, though in another
way? The reign of God has really begun; but we know now who God is. You
said just now you wanted the Forgiveness of Sins; well, you have that;
we all have it, because there is no such thing as sin. There is only
Crime. And then Communion. You used to believe that that made you a
partaker of God; well, we are all partakers of God, because we are human
beings. Don't you see that Christianity is only one way of saying all
that? I dare say it was the only way, for a time; but that is all over
now. Oh! and how much better this is! It is true--true. You can see it
to be true!"

She paused a moment, forcing herself to look at that piteous old face,
the flushed wrinkled cheeks, the writhing knotted hands on the coverlet.

"Look how Christianity has failed--how it has divided people; think of
all the cruelties--the Inquisition, the Religious Wars; the separations
between husband and wife and parents and children--the disobedience to
the State, the treasons. Oh! you cannot believe that these were right.
What kind of a God would that be! And then Hell; how could you ever have
believed in that?... Oh! mother, don't believe anything so frightful....
Don't you understand that that God has gone--that He never existed at
all--that it was all a hideous nightmare; and that now we all know at
last what the truth is.... Mother! think of what happened last
night--how He came--the Man of whom you were so frightened. I told you
what He was like--so quiet and strong--how every one was silent--of
the--the extraordinary atmosphere, and how six millions of people saw
Him. And think what He has done--how He has healed all the old
wounds--how the whole world is at peace at last--and of what is going to
happen. Oh! mother, give up those horrible old lies; give them up; be
brave."

"The priest, the priest!" moaned the old woman at last.

"Oh! no, no, no--not the priest; he can do nothing. He knows it's all
lies, too!"

"The priest! the priest!" moaned the other again. "He can tell you; he
knows the answer."

Her face was convulsed with effort, and her old fingers fumbled and
twisted with the rosary. Mabel grew suddenly frightened, and stood up.

"Oh! mother!" She stooped and kissed her. "There! I won't say any more
now. But just think about it quietly. Don't be in the least afraid; it
is all perfectly right."

She stood a moment, still looking compassionately down; torn by sympathy
and desire. No! it was no use now; she must wait till the next day.

"I'll look in again presently," she said, "when you have had dinner.
Mother! don't look like that! Kiss me!"

It was astonishing, she told herself that evening, how any one could be
so blind. And what a confession of weakness, too, to call only for the
priest! It was ludicrous, absurd! She herself was filled with an
extraordinary peace. Even death itself seemed now no longer terrible,
for was not death swallowed up in victory? She contrasted the selfish
individualism of the Christian, who sobbed and shrank from death, or, at
the best, thought of it only as the gate to his own eternal life, with
the free altruism of the New Believer who asked no more than that Man
should live and grow, that the Spirit of the World should triumph and
reveal Himself, while he, the unit, was content to sink back into that
reservoir of energy from which he drew his life. At this moment she
would have suffered anything, faced death cheerfully--she contemplated
even the old woman upstairs with pity--for was it not piteous that death
should not bring her to herself and reality?

She was in a quiet whirl of intoxication; it was as if the heavy veil of
sense had rolled back at last and shown a sweet, eternal landscape
behind--a shadowless land of peace where the lion lay down with the
lamb, and the leopard with the kid. There should be war no more: that
bloody spectre was dead, and with him the brood of evil that lived in
his shadow--superstition, conflict, terror, and unreality. The idols
were smashed, and rats had run out; Jehovah was fallen; the wild-eyed
dreamer of Galilee was in his grave; the reign of priests was ended. And
in their place stood a strange, quiet figure of indomitable power and
unruffled tenderness.... He whom she had seen--the Son of Man, the
Saviour of the world, as she had called Him just now--He who bore these
titles was no longer a monstrous figure, half God and half man, claiming
both natures and possessing neither; one who was tempted without
temptation, and who conquered without merit, as his followers said. Here
was one instead whom she could follow, a god indeed and a man as well--a
god because human, and a man because so divine.

She said no more that night. She looked into the bedroom for a few
minutes, and saw the old woman asleep. Her old hand lay out on the
coverlet, and still between the fingers was twisted the silly string of
beads. Mabel went softly across in the shaded light, and tried to detach
it; but the wrinkled fingers writhed and closed, and a murmur came from
the half-open lips. Ah! how piteous it was, thought the girl, how
hopeless that a soul should flow out into such darkness, unwilling to
make the supreme, generous surrender, and lay down its life because life
itself demanded it!

Then she went to her own room.

* * * * *

The clocks were chiming three, and the grey dawn lay on the walls, when
she awoke to find by her bed the woman who had sat with the old lady.

"Come at once, madam; Mrs. Brand is dying."



IV

Oliver was with them by six o'clock; he came straight up into his
mother's room to find that all was over.

The room was full of the morning light and the clean air, and a bubble
of bird-music poured in from the lawn. But his wife knelt by the bed,
still holding the wrinkled hands of the old woman, her face buried in
her arms. The face of his mother was quieter than he had ever seen it,
the lines showed only like the faintest shadows on an alabaster mask;
her lips were set in a smile. He looked for a moment, waiting until the
spasm that caught his throat had died again. Then he put his hand on his
wife's shoulder.

"When?" he said.

Mabel lifted her face.

"Oh! Oliver," she murmured. "It was an hour ago. ... Look at this."

She released the dead hands and showed the rosary still twisted there;
it had snapped in the last struggle, and a brown bead lay beneath the
fingers.

"I did what I could," sobbed Mabel. "I was not hard with her. But she
would not listen. She kept on crying out for the priest as long as she
could speak."

"My dear ... " began the man. Then he, too, went down on his knees by
his wife, leaned forward and kissed the rosary, while tears blinded him.

"Yes, yes," he said. "Leave her in peace. I would not move it for the
world: it was her toy, was it not?"

The girl stared at him, astonished.

"We can be generous, too," he said. "We have all the world at last. And
she--she has lost nothing: it was too late."

"I did what I could."

"Yes, my darling, and you were right. But she was too old; she could not
understand."

He paused.

"Euthanasia?" he whispered with something very like tenderness.

She nodded.

"Yes," she said; "just as the last agony began. She resisted, but I knew
you would wish it."

They talked together for an hour in the garden before Oliver went to his
room; and he began to tell her presently of all that had passed.

"He has refused," he said. "We offered to create an office for Him; He
was to have been called Consultor, and he refused it two hours ago. But
He has promised to be at our service.... No, I must not tell you where
He is.... He will return to America soon, we think; but He will not
leave us. We have drawn up a programme, and it is to be sent to Him
presently.... Yes, we were unanimous."

"And the programme?"

"It concerns the Franchise, the Poor Laws and Trade. I can tell you no
more than that. It was He who suggested the points. But we are not sure
if we understand Him yet."

"But, my dear---"

"Yes; it is quite extraordinary. I have never seen such things. There
was practically no argument."

"Do the people understand?"

"I think so. We shall have to guard against a reaction. They say that
the Catholics will be in danger. There is an article this morning in the
_Era_. The proofs were sent to us for sanction. It suggests that means
must be taken to protect the Catholics."

Mabel smiled.

"It is a strange irony," he said. "But they have a right to exist. How
far they have a right to share in the government is another matter. That
will come before us, I think, in a week or two."

"Tell me more about Him."

"There is really nothing to tell; we know nothing, except that He is the
supreme force in the world. France is in a ferment, and has offered him
Dictatorship. That, too, He has refused. Germany has made the same
proposal as ourselves; Italy, the same as France, with the title of
Perpetual Tribune. America has done nothing yet, and Spain is divided."

"And the East?"

"The Emperor thanked Him; no more than that."

Mabel drew a long breath, and stood looking out across the heat haze
that was beginning to rise from the town beneath. These were matters so
vast that she could not take them in. But to her imagination Europe lay
like a busy hive, moving to and fro in the sunshine. She saw the blue
distance of France, the towns of Germany, the Alps, and beyond them the
Pyrenees and sun-baked Spain; and all were intent on the same business,
to capture if they could this astonishing figure that had risen over the
world. Sober England, too, was alight with zeal. Each country desired
nothing better than that this man should rule over them; and He had
refused them all.

"He has refused them all!" she repeated breathlessly.

"Yes, all. We think He may be waiting to hear from America. He still
holds office there, you know."

"How old is He?"

"Not more than thirty-two or three. He has only been in office a few
months. Before that He lived alone in Vermont. Then He stood for the
Senate; then He made a speech or two; then He was appointed delegate,
though no one seems to have realised His power. And the rest we know."

Mabel shook her head meditatively.

"We know nothing," she said. "Nothing; nothing! Where did He learn His
languages?"

"It is supposed that He travelled for many years. But no one knows. He
has said nothing."

She turned swiftly to her husband.

"But what does it all mean? What is His power? Tell me, Oliver?"

He smiled back, shaking his head.

"Well, Markham said that it was his incorruption--that and his oratory;
but that explains nothing."

"No, it explains nothing," said the girl.

"It is just personality," went on Oliver, "at least, that's the label to
use. But that, too, is only a label."

"Yes, just a label. But it is that. They all felt it in Paul's House,
and in the streets afterwards. Did you not feel it?"

"Feel it!" cried the man, with shining eyes. "Why, I would die for Him!"

* * * * *

They went back to the house presently, and it was not till they reached
the door that either said a word about the dead old woman who lay
upstairs.

"They are with her now," said Mabel softly. "I will communicate with the
people."

He nodded gravely.

"It had better be this afternoon," he said. "I have a spare hour at
fourteen o'clock. Oh! by the way, Mabel, do you know who took the
message to the priest?"

"I think so."

"Yes, it was Phillips. I saw him last night. He will not come here
again."

"Did he confess it?"

"He did. He was most offensive."

But Oliver's face softened again as he nodded to his wife at the foot of
the stairs, and turned to go up once more to his mother's room.



CHAPTER II

I

It seemed to Percy Franklin as he drew near Rome, sliding five hundred
feet high through the summer dawn, that he was approaching the very
gates of heaven, or, still better, he was as a child coming home. For
what he had left behind him ten hours before in London was not a bad
specimen, he thought, of the superior mansions of hell. It was a world
whence God seemed to have withdrawn Himself, leaving it indeed in a
state of profound complacency--a state without hope or faith, but a
condition in which, although life continued, there was absent the one
essential to well-being. It was not that there was not expectation--for
London was on tip-toe with excitement. There were rumours of all kinds:
Felsenburgh was coming back; he was back; he had never gone. He was to
be President of the Council, Prime Minister, Tribune, with full
capacities of democratic government and personal sacro-sanctity, even
King--if not Emperor of the West. The entire constitution was to be
remodelled, there was to be a complete rearrangement of the pieces;
crime was to be abolished by the mysterious power that had killed war;
there was to be free food--the secret of life was discovered, there was
to be no more death--so the rumours ran.... Yet that was lacking, to the
priest's mind, which made life worth living....

In Paris, while the volor waited at the great station at Montmartre,
once known as the Church of the Sacred Heart, he had heard the roaring
of the mob in love with life at last, and seen the banners go past. As
it rose again over the suburbs he had seen the long lines of trains
streaming in, visible as bright serpents in the brilliant glory of the
electric globes, bringing the country folk up to the Council of the
Nation which the legislators, mad with drama, had summoned to decide the
great question. At Lyons it had been the same. The night was as clear as
the day, and as full of sound. Mid France was arriving to register its
votes.

He had fallen asleep as the cold air of the Alps began to envelop the
car, and had caught but glimpses of the solemn moonlit peaks below him,
the black profundities of the gulfs, the silver glint of the shield-like
lakes, and the soft glow of Interlaken and the towns in the Rhone
valley. Once he had been moved in spite of himself, as one of the huge
German volors had passed in the night, a blaze of ghostly lights and
gilding, resembling a huge moth with antennae of electric light, and the
two ships had saluted one another through half a league of silent air,
with a pathetic cry as of two strange night-birds who have no leisure to
pause. Milan and Turin had been quiet, for Italy was organised on other
principles than France, and Florence was not yet half awake. And now the
Campagna was slipping past like a grey-green rug, wrinkled and tumbled,
five hundred feet beneath, and Rome was all but in sight. The indicator
above his seat moved its finger from one hundred to ninety miles.

He shook off the doze at last, and drew out his office book; but as he
pronounced the words his attention was elsewhere, and, when Prime was
said, he closed the book once more, propped himself more comfortably,
drawing the furs round him, and stretching his feet on the empty seat
opposite. He was alone in his compartment; the three men who had come in
at Paris had descended at Turin.

* * * * *

He had been remarkably relieved when the message had come three days
before from the Cardinal-Protector, bidding him make arrangements for a
long absence from England, and, as soon as that was done, to come to
Rome. He understood that the ecclesiastical authorities were really
disturbed at last.

He reviewed the last day or two, considering the report he would have to
present. Since his last letter, three days before, seven notable
apostasies had taken place in Westminster diocese alone, two priests and
five important laymen. There was talk of revolt on all sides; he had
seen a threatening document, called a "petition," demanding the right to
dispense with all ecclesiastical vestments, signed by one hundred and
twenty priests from England and Wales. The "petitioners" pointed out
that persecution was coming swiftly at the hands of the mob; that the
Government was not sincere in the promises of protection; they hinted
that religious loyalty was already strained to breaking-point even in
the case of the most faithful, and that with all but those it had
already broken.

And as to his comments Percy was clear. He would tell the authorities,
as he had already told them fifty times, that it was not persecution
that mattered; it was this new outburst of enthusiasm for Humanity--an
enthusiasm which had waxed a hundredfold more hot since the coming of
Felsenburgh and the publication of the Eastern news--which was melting
the hearts of all but the very few. Man had suddenly fallen in love with
man. The conventional were rubbing their eyes and wondering why they had
ever believed, or even dreamed, that there was a God to love, asking one
another what was the secret of the spell that had held them so long.
Christianity and Theism were passing together from the world's mind as a
morning mist passes when the sun comes up. His recommendations--? Yes,
he had those clear, and ran them over in his mind with a sense of
despair.

For himself, he scarcely knew if he believed what he professed. His
emotions seemed to have been finally extinguished in the vision of the
white car and the silence of the crowd that evening three weeks before.
It had been so horribly real and positive; the delicate aspirations and
hopes of the soul appeared so shadowy when compared with that burning,
heart-shaking passion of the people. He had never seen anything like it;
no congregation under the spell of the most kindling preacher alive had
ever responded with one-tenth of the fervour with which that irreligious
crowd, standing in the cold dawn of the London streets, had greeted the
coming of their saviour. And as for the man himself--Percy could not
analyse what it was that possessed him as he had stared, muttering the
name of Jesus, on that quiet figure in black with features and hair so
like his own. He only knew that a hand had gripped his heart--a hand
warm, not cold--and had quenched, it seemed, all sense of religious
conviction. It had only been with an effort that sickened him to
remember, that he had refrained from that interior act of capitulation
that is so familiar to all who have cultivated an inner life and
understand what failure means. There had been one citadel that had not
flung wide its gates--all else had yielded. His emotions had been
stormed, his intellect silenced, his memory of grace obscured, a
spiritual nausea had sickened his soul, yet the secret fortress of the
will had, in an agony, held fast the doors and refused to cry out and
call Felsenburgh king.

Ah! how he had prayed during those three weeks! It appeared to him that
he had done little else; there had been no peace. Lances of doubt thrust
again and again through door and window; masses of argument had crashed
from above; he had been on the alert day and night, repelling this,
blindly, and denying that, endeavouring to keep his foothold on the
slippery plane of the supernatural, sending up cry after cry to the Lord
Who hid Himself. He had slept with his crucifix in his hand, he had
awakened himself by kissing it; while he wrote, talked, ate, walked, and
sat in cars, the inner life had been busy-making frantic speechless acts
of faith in a religion which his intellect denied and from which his
emotions shrank. There had been moments of ecstasy--now in a crowded
street, when he recognised that God was all, that the Creator was the
key to the creature's life, that a humble act of adoration was
transcendently greater than the most noble natural act, that the
Supernatural was the origin and end of existence there had come to him
such moments in the night, in the silence of the Cathedral, when the
lamp flickered, and a soundless air had breathed from the iron door of
the tabernacle. Then again passion ebbed, and left him stranded on
misery, but set with a determination (which might equally be that of
pride or faith) that no power in earth or hell should hinder him from
professing Christianity even if he could not realise it. It was
Christianity alone that made life tolerable.

Percy drew a long vibrating breath, and changed his position; for far
away his unseeing eyes had descried a dome, like a blue bubble set on a
carpet of green; and his brain had interrupted itself to tell him that
this was Rome. He got up presently, passed out of his compartment, and
moved forward up the central gangway, seeing, as he went, through the
glass doors to right and left his fellow-passengers, some still asleep,
some staring out at the view, some reading. He put his eye to the glass
square in the door, and for a minute or two watched, fascinated, the
steady figure of the steerer at his post. There he stood motionless, his
hands on the steel circle that directed the vast wings, his eyes on the
wind-gauge that revealed to him as on the face of a clock both the force
and the direction of the high gusts; now and again his hands moved
slightly, and the huge fans responded, now lifting, now lowering.
Beneath him and in front, fixed on a circular table, were the glass
domes of various indicators--Percy did not know the meaning of half--one
seemed a kind of barometer, intended, he guessed, to declare the height
at which they were travelling, another a compass. And beyond, through
the curved windows, lay the enormous sky. Well, it was all very
wonderful, thought the priest, and it was with the force of which all
this was but one symptom that the supernatural had to compete.

He sighed, turned, and went back to his compartment.

It was an astonishing vision that began presently to open before
him--scarcely beautiful except for its strangeness, and as unreal as a
raised map. Far to his right, as he could see through the glass doors,
lay the grey line of the sea against the luminous sky, rising and
falling ever so slightly as the car, apparently motionless, tilted
imperceptibly against the western breeze; the only other movement was
the faint pulsation of the huge throbbing screw in the rear. To the left
stretched the limitless country, flitting beneath, in glimpses seen
between the motionless wings, with here and there the streak of a
village, flattened out of recognition, or the flash of water, and
bounded far away by the low masses of the Umbrian hills; while in front,
seen and gone again as the car veered, lay the confused line of Rome and
the huge new suburbs, all crowned by the great dome growing every
instant. Around, above and beneath, his eyes were conscious of wide
air-spaces, overhead deepening into lapis-lazuli down to horizons of
pale turquoise. The only sound, of which he had long ceased to be
directly conscious, was that of the steady rush of air, less shrill now
as the speed began to drop down--down--to forty miles an hour. There was
a clang of a bell, and immediately he was aware of a sense of faint
sickness as the car dropped in a glorious swoop, and he staggered a
little as he grasped his rugs together. When he looked again the motion
seemed to have ceased; he could see towers ahead, a line of house-roofs,
and beneath he caught a glimpse of a road and more roofs with patches of
green between. A bell clanged again, and a long sweet cry followed. On
all sides he could hear the movement of feet; a guard in uniform passed
swiftly along the glazed corridor; again came the faint nausea; and as
he looked up once more from his luggage for an instant he saw the dome,
grey now and lined, almost on a level with his own eyes, huge against
the vivid sky. The world span round for a moment; he shut his eyes, and
when he looked again walls seemed to heave up past him and stop,
swaying. There was the last bell, a faint vibration as the car grounded
in the steel-netted dock; a line of faces rocked and grew still outside
the windows, and Percy passed out towards the doors, carrying his bags.



II

He still felt a sense of insecure motion as he sat alone over coffee an
hour later in one of the remote rooms of the Vatican; but there was a
sense of exhilaration as well, as his tired brain realised where he was.
It had been strange to drive over the rattling stones in the weedy
little cab, such as he remembered ten years ago when he had left Rome,
newly ordained. While the world had moved on, Rome had stood still; she
had other affairs to think of than physical improvements, now that the
spiritual weight of the earth rested entirely upon her shoulders. All
had seemed unchanged--or rather it had reverted to the condition of
nearly one hundred and fifty years ago. Histories related how the
improvements of the Italian government had gradually dropped out of use
as soon as the city, eighty years before, had been given her
independence; the trains ceased to run; volors were not allowed to enter
the walls; the new buildings, permitted to remain, had been converted to
ecclesiastical use; the Quirinal became the offices of the "Red Pope";
the embassies, huge seminaries; even the Vatican itself, with the
exception of the upper floor, had become the abode of the Sacred
College, who surrounded the Supreme Pontiff as stars their sun.

It was an extraordinary city, said antiquarians--the one living example
of the old days. Here were to be seen the ancient inconveniences, the
insanitary horrors, the incarnation of a world given over to dreaming.
The old Church pomp was back, too; the cardinals drove again in gilt
coaches; the Pope rode on his white mule; the Blessed Sacrament went
through the ill-smelling streets with the sound of bells and the light
of lanterns. A brilliant description of it had interested the civilised
world immensely for about forty-eight hours; the appalling retrogression
was still used occasionally as the text for violent denunciations by the
poorly educated; the well-educated had ceased to do anything but take
for granted that superstition and progress were irreconcilable enemies.

Yet Percy, even in the glimpses he had had in the streets, as he drove
from the volor station outside the People's Gate, of the old peasant
dresses, the blue and red-fringed wine carts, the cabbage-strewn
gutters, the wet clothes flapping on strings, the mules and
horses--strange though these were, he had found them a refreshment. It
had seemed to remind him that man was human, and not divine as the rest
of the world proclaimed--human, and therefore careless and
individualistic; human, and therefore occupied with interests other than
those of speed, cleanliness, and precision.

The room in which he sat now by the window with shading blinds, for the
sun was already hot, seemed to revert back even further than to a
century-and-a-half. The old damask and gilding that he had expected was
gone, and its absence gave the impression of great severity. There was a
wide deal table running the length of the room, with upright wooden arm
chairs set against it; the floor was red-tiled, with strips of matting
for the feet, the white, distempered walls had only a couple of old
pictures hung upon them, and a large crucifix flanked by candles stood
on a little altar by the further door. There was no more furniture than
that, with the exception of a writing-desk between the windows, on which
stood a typewriter. That jarred somehow on his sense of fitness, and he
wondered at it.

He finished the last drop of coffee in the thick-rimmed white cup, and
sat back in his chair.

* * * * *

Already the burden was lighter, and he was astonished at the swiftness
with which it had become so. Life looked simpler here; the interior
world was taken more for granted; it was not even a matter of debate.
There it was, imperious and objective, and through it glimmered to the
eyes of the soul the old Figures that had become shrouded behind the
rush of worldly circumstance. The very shadow of God appeared to rest
here; it was no longer impossible to realise that the saints watched and
interceded, that Mary sat on her throne, that the white disc on the
altar was Jesus Christ. Percy was not yet at peace after all, he had
been but an hour in Rome; and air, charged with never so much grace,
could scarcely do more than it had done. But he felt more at ease, less
desperately anxious, more childlike, more content to rest on the
authority that claimed without explanation, and asserted that the world,
as a matter of fact, proved by evidences without and within, was made
this way and not that, for this purpose and not the other. Yet he had
used the conveniences which he hated; he had left London a bare twelve
hours before, and now here he sat in a place which was either a stagnant
backwater of life, or else the very mid-current of it; he was not yet
sure which.

* * * * *

There was a step outside, a handle was turned; and the
Cardinal-Protector came through.

Percy had not seen him for four years, and for a moment scarcely
recognised him.

It was a very old man that he saw now, bent and feeble, his face covered
with wrinkles, crowned by very thin, white hair, and the little scarlet
cap on top; he was in his black Benedictine habit with a plain abbatial
cross on his breast, and walked hesitatingly, with a black stick. The
only sign of vigour was in the narrow bright slit of his eyes showing
beneath drooping lids. He held out his hand, smiling, and Percy,
remembering in time that he was in the Vatican, bowed low only as he
kissed the amethyst.

"Welcome to Rome, father," said the old man, speaking with an unexpected
briskness. "They told me you were here half-an-hour ago; I thought I
would leave you to wash and have your coffee."

Percy murmured something.

"Yes; you are tired, no doubt," said the Cardinal, pulling out a chair.

"Indeed not, your Eminence. I slept excellently."

The Cardinal made a little gesture to a chair.

"But I must have a word with you. The Holy Father wishes to see you at
eleven o'clock."

Percy started a little.

"We move quickly in these days, father.... There is no time to dawdle.
You understand that you are to remain in Rome for the present?"

"I have made all arrangements for that, your Eminence."

"That is very well.... We are pleased with you here, Father Franklin.
The Holy Father has been greatly impressed by your comments. You have
foreseen things in a very remarkable manner."

Percy flushed with pleasure. It was almost the first hint of
encouragement he had had. Cardinal Martin went on.

"I may say that you are considered our most valuable
correspondent--certainly in England. That is why you are summoned. You
are to help us here in future--a kind of consultor: any one can relate
facts; not every one can understand them.... You look very young,
father. How old are you?"

"I am thirty-three, your Eminence."

"Ah! your white hair helps you.... Now, father, will you come with me
into my room? It is now eight o'clock. I will keep you till nine--no
longer. Then you shall have some rest, and at eleven I shall take you up
to his Holiness."

Percy rose with a strange sense of elation, and ran to open the door for
the Cardinal to go through.



III

At a few minutes before eleven Percy came out of his little white-washed
room in his new ferraiuola, soutane and buckle shoes, and tapped at the
door of the Cardinal's room.

He felt a great deal more self-possessed now. He had talked to the
Cardinal freely and strongly, had described the effect that Felsenburgh
had had upon London, and even the paralysis that had seized upon
himself. He had stated his belief that they were on the edge of a
movement unparalleled in history: he related little scenes that he had
witnessed--a group kneeling before a picture of Felsenburgh, a dying man
calling him by name, the aspect of the crowd that had waited in
Westminster to hear the result of the offer made to the stranger. He
showed him half-a-dozen cuttings from newspapers, pointing out their
hysterical enthusiasm; he even went so far as to venture upon prophecy,
and to declare his belief that persecution was within reasonable
distance.

"The world seems very oddly alive," he said; "it is as if the whole
thing was flushed and nervous."

The Cardinal nodded.

"We, too," he said, "even we feel it."

For the rest the Cardinal had sat watching him out of his narrow eyes,
nodding from time to time, putting an occasional question, but listening
throughout with great attention.

"And your recommendations, father---" he had said, and then interrupted
himself. "No, that is too much to ask. The Holy Father will speak of
that."

He had congratulated him upon his Latin then--for they had spoken in
that language throughout this second interview; and Percy had explained
how loyal Catholic England had been in obeying the order, given ten
years before, that Latin should become to the Church what Esperanto was
becoming to the world.

"That is very well," said the old man. "His Holiness will be pleased at
that."

At his second tap the door opened and the Cardinal came out, taking him
by the arm without a word; and together they turned to the lift
entrance.

Percy ventured to make a remark as they slid noiselessly up towards the
papal apartment.

"I am surprised at the lift, your Eminence, and the typewriter in the
audience-room."

"Why, father?"

"Why, all the rest of Rome is back in the old days."

The Cardinal looked at him, puzzled.

"Is it? I suppose it is. I never thought of that."

A Swiss guard flung back the door of the lift, saluted and went before
them along the plain flagged passage to where his comrade stood. Then he
saluted again and went back. A Pontifical chamberlain, in all the sombre
glory of purple, black, and a Spanish ruff, peeped from the door, and
made haste to open it. It really seemed almost incredible that such
things still existed.

"In a moment, your Eminence," he said in Latin. "Will your Eminence wait
here?"

It was a little square room, with half-a-dozen doors, plainly contrived
out of one of the huge old halls, for it was immensely high, and the
tarnished gilt cornice vanished directly in two places into the white
walls. The partitions, too, seemed thin; for as the two men sat down
there was a murmur of voices faintly audible, the shuffling of
footsteps, and the old eternal click of the typewriter from which Percy
hoped he had escaped. They were alone in the room, which was furnished
with the same simplicity as the Cardinal's--giving the impression of a
curious mingling of ascetic poverty and dignity by its red-tiled floor,
its white walls, its altar and two vast bronze candlesticks of
incalculable value that stood on the dais. The shutters here, too, were
drawn; and there was nothing to distract Percy from the excitement that
surged up now tenfold in heart and brain.

It was _Papa Angelicus_ whom he was about to see; that amazing old man
who had been appointed Secretary of State just fifty years ago, at the
age of thirty, and Pope nine years previously. It was he who had carried
out the extraordinary policy of yielding the churches throughout the
whole of Italy to the Government, in exchange for the temporal lordship
of Rome, and who had since set himself to make it a city of saints. He
had cared, it appeared, nothing whatever for the world's opinion; his
policy, so far as it could be called one, consisted in a very simple
thing: he had declared in Epistle after Epistle that the object of the
Church was to do glory to God by producing supernatural virtues in man,
and that nothing at all was of any significance or importance except so
far as it effected this object. He had further maintained that since
Peter was the Rock, the City of Peter was the Capital of the world, and
should set an example to its dependency: this could not be done unless
Peter ruled his City, and therefore he had sacrificed every church and
ecclesiastical building in the country for that one end. Then he had set
about ruling his city: he had said that on the whole the latter-day
discoveries of man tended to distract immortal souls from a
contemplation of eternal verities--not that these discoveries could be
anything but good in themselves, since after all they gave insight into
the wonderful laws of God--but that at present they were too exciting to
the imagination. So he had removed the trams, the volors, the
laboratories, the manufactories--saying that there was plenty of room
for them outside Rome--and had allowed them to be planted in the
suburbs: in their place he had raised shrines, religious houses and
Calvaries. Then he had attended further to the souls of his subjects.
Since Rome was of limited area, and, still more because the world
corrupted without its proper salt, he allowed no man under the age of
fifty to live within its walls for more than one month in each year,
except those who received his permit. They might live, of course,
immediately outside the city (and they did, by tens of thousands), but
they were to understand that by doing so they sinned against the spirit,
though not the letter, of their Father's wishes. Then he had divided the
city into national quarters, saying that as each nation had its peculiar
virtues, each was to let its light shine steadily in its proper place.
Rents had instantly begun to rise, so he had legislated against that by
reserving in each quarter a number of streets at fixed prices, and had
issued an ipso facto excommunication against all who erred in this
respect. The rest were abandoned to the millionaires. He had retained
the Leonine City entirely at his own disposal. Then he had restored
Capital Punishment, with as much serene gravity as that with which he
had made himself the derision of the civilised world in other matters,
saying that though human life was holy, human virtue was more holy
still; and he had added to the crime of murder, the crimes of adultery,
idolatry and apostasy, for which this punishment was theoretically
sanctioned. There had not been, however, more than two such executions
in the eight years of his reign, since criminals, of course, with the
exception of devoted believers, instantly made their way to the suburbs,
where they were no longer under his jurisdiction.

But he had not stayed here. He had sent once more ambassadors to every
country in the world, informing the Government of each of their arrival.
No attention was paid to this, beyond that of laughter; but he had
continued, undisturbed, to claim his rights, and, meanwhile, used his
legates for the important work of disseminating his views. Epistles
appeared from time to time in every town, laying down the principles of
the papal claims with as much tranquillity as if they were everywhere
acknowledged. Freemasonry was steadily denounced, as well as democratic
ideas of every kind; men were urged to remember their immortal souls and
the Majesty of God, and to reflect upon the fact that in a few years all
would be called to give their account to Him Who was Creator and Ruler
of the world, Whose Vicar was John XXIV, P.P., whose name and seal were
appended.

That was a line of action that took the world completely by surprise.
People had expected hysteria, argument, and passionate exhortation;
disguised emissaries, plots, and protests. There were none of these. It
was as if progress had not yet begun, and volors were uninvented, as if
the entire universe had not come to disbelieve in God, and to discover
that itself was God. Here was this silly old man, talking in his sleep,
babbling of the Cross, and the inner life and the forgiveness of sins,
exactly as his predecessors had talked two thousand years before. Well,
it was only one sign more that Rome had lost not only its power, but its
common sense as well. It was really time that something should be done.

* * * * *

And this was the man, thought Percy, _Papa Angelicus_, whom he was to
see in a minute or two.

The Cardinal put his hand on the priest's knee as the door opened, and a
purple prelate appeared, bowing.

"Only this," he said. "Be absolutely frank."

Percy stood up, trembling. Then he followed his patron towards the inner
door.



IV

A white figure sat in the green gloom, beside a great writing-table,
three or four yards away, but with the chair wheeled round to face the
door by which the two entered. So much Percy saw as he performed the
first genuflection. Then he dropped his eyes, advanced, genuflected
again with the other, advanced once more, and for the third time
genuflected, lifting the thin white hand, stretched out, to his lips. He
heard the door close as he stood up.

"Father Franklin, Holiness," said the Cardinal's voice at his ear.

A white-sleeved arm waved to a couple of chairs set a yard away, and the
two sat down.

* * * * *

While the Cardinal, talking in slow Latin, said a few sentences,
explaining that this was the English priest whose correspondence had
been found so useful, Percy began to look with all his eyes.

He knew the Pope's face well, from a hundred photographs and moving
pictures; even his gestures were familiar to him, the slight bowing of
the head in assent, the tiny eloquent movement of the hands; but Percy,
with a sense of being platitudinal, told himself that the living
presence was very different.

It was a very upright old man that he saw in the chair before him, of
medium height and girth, with hands clasping the bosses of his
chair-arms, and an appearance of great and deliberate dignity. But it
was at the face chiefly that he looked, dropping his gaze three or four
times, as the Pope's blue eyes turned on him. They were extraordinary
eyes, reminding him of what historians said of Pius X.; the lids drew
straight lines across them, giving him the look of a hawk, but the rest
of the face contradicted them. There was no sharpness in that. It was
neither thin nor fat, but beautifully modelled in an oval outline: the
lips were clean-cut, with a look of passion in their curves; the nose
came down in an aquiline sweep, ending in chiselled nostrils; the chin
was firm and cloven, and the poise of the whole head was strangely
youthful. It was a face of great generosity and sweetness, set at an
angle between defiance and humility, but ecclesiastical from ear to ear
and brow to chin; the forehead was slightly compressed at the temples,
and beneath the white cap lay white hair. It had been the subject of
laughter at the music-halls nine years before, when the composite face
of well-known priests had been thrown on a screen, side by side with the
new Pope's, for the two were almost indistinguishable.

Percy found himself trying to sum it up, but nothing came to him except
the word "priest." It was that, and that was all. _Ecce sacerdos
magnus!_ He was astonished at the look of youth, for the Pope was
eighty-eight this year; yet his figure was as upright as that of a man
of fifty, his shoulders unbowed, his head set on them like an athlete's,
and his wrinkles scarcely perceptible in the half light. _Papa
Angelicus!_ reflected Percy.

The Cardinal ceased his explanations, and made a little gesture. Percy
drew up all his faculties tense and tight to answer the questions that
he knew were coming.

"I welcome you, my son," said a very soft, resonant voice.

Percy bowed, desperately, from the waist.

The Pope dropped his eyes again, lifted a paper-weight with his left
hand, and began to play with it gently as he talked.

"Now, my son, deliver a little discourse. I suggest to you three
heads--what has happened, what is happening, what will happen, with a
peroration as to what should happen."

Percy drew a long breath, settled himself back, clasped the fingers of
his left hand in the fingers of his right, fixed his eyes firmly upon
the cross-embroidered red shoe opposite, and began. (Had he not
rehearsed this a hundred times!)

* * * * *

He first stated his theme; to the effect that all the forces of the
civilised world were concentrating into two camps--the world and God. Up
to the present time the forces of the world had been incoherent and
spasmodic, breaking out in various ways--revolutions and wars had been
like the movements of a mob, undisciplined, unskilled, and unrestrained.
To meet this, the Church, too, had acted through her Catholicity--
dispersion rather than concentration: _franc-tireurs_ had been opposed
to _franc-tireurs_. But during the last hundred years there had been
indications that the method of warfare was to change. Europe, at any
rate, had grown weary of internal strife; the unions first of Labour,
then of Capital, then of Labour and Capital combined, illustrated this
in the economic sphere; the peaceful partition of Africa in the
political sphere; the spread of Humanitarian religion in the spiritual
sphere. Over against this must be placed the increased centralisation of
the Church. By the wisdom of her pontiffs, over-ruled by God Almighty,
the lines had been drawing tighter every year. He instanced the
abolition of all local usages, including those so long cherished by the
East, the establishment of the Cardinal-Protectorates in Rome, the
enforced merging of all friars into one Order, though retaining their
familiar names, under the authority of the supreme General; all monks,
with the exception of the Carthusians, the Carmelites and the Trappists,
into another; of the three excepted into a third; and the classification
of nuns after the same plan. Further, he remarked on the more recent
decrees, establishing the sense of the Vatican decision on
infallibility, the new version of Canon Law, the immense simplification
that had taken place in ecclesiastical government, the hierarchy,
rubrics and the affairs of missionary countries, with the new and
extraordinary privileges granted to mission priests. At this point he
became aware that his self-consciousness had left him, and he began,
even with little gestures, and a slightly raised voice, to enlarge on
the significance of the last month's events.

All that had gone before, he said, pointed to what had now actually
taken place--namely, the reconciliation of the world on a basis other
than that of Divine Truth. It was the intention of God and of His Vicars
to reconcile all men in Christ Jesus; but the corner-stone had once more
been rejected, and instead of the chaos that the pious had prophesied,
there was coming into existence a unity unlike anything known in
history. This was the more deadly from the fact that it contained so
many elements of indubitable good. War, apparently, was now extinct, and
it was not Christianity that had done it; union was now seen to be
better than disunion, and the lesson had been learned apart from the
Church. In fact, natural virtues had suddenly waxed luxuriant, and
supernatural virtues were despised. Friendliness took the place of
charity, contentment the place of hope, and knowledge the place of
faith.

Percy stopped, he had become conscious that he was preaching a kind of
sermon.

"Yes, my son," said the kind voice. "What else?"

What else?... Very well, continued Percy, movements such as these
brought forth men, and the Man of this movement was Julian Felsenburgh.
He had accomplished a work that--apart from God--seemed miraculous. He
had broken down the eternal division between East and West, coming
himself from the continent that alone could produce such powers; he had
prevailed by sheer force of personality over the two supreme tyrants of
life religious fanaticism and party government. His influence over the
impassive English was another miracle, yet he had also set on fire
France, Germany, and Spain. Percy here described one or two of his
little scenes, saying that it was like the vision of a god: and he
quoted freely some of the titles given to the Man by sober, unhysterical
newspapers. Felsenburgh was called the Son of Man, because he was so
pure-bred a cosmopolitan; the Saviour of the World, because he had slain
war and himself survived--even--even--here Percy's voice faltered--even
Incarnate God, because he was the perfect representative of divine man.

The quiet, priestly face watching opposite never winced or moved; and he
went on.

Persecution, he said, was coming. There had been a riot or two already.
But persecution was not to be feared. It would no doubt cause
apostasies, as it had always done, but these were deplorable only on
account of the individual apostates. On the other hand, it would
reassure the faithful; and purge out the half-hearted. Once, in the
early ages, Satan's attack had been made on the bodily side, with whips
and fire and beasts; in the sixteenth century it had been on the
intellectual side; in the twentieth century on the springs of moral and
spiritual life. Now it seemed as if the assault was on all three planes
at once. But what was chiefly to be feared was the positive influence of
Humanitarianism: it was coming, like the kingdom of God, with power; it
was crushing the imaginative and the romantic, it was assuming rather
than asserting its own truth; it was smothering with bolsters instead of
wounding and stimulating with steel or controversy. It seemed to be
forcing its way, almost objectively, into the inner world. Persons who
had scarcely heard its name were professing its tenets; priests absorbed
it, as they absorbed God in Communion--he mentioned the names of the
recent apostates--children drank it in like Christianity itself. The
soul "naturally Christian" seemed to be becoming "the soul naturally
infidel." Persecution, cried the priest, was to be welcomed like
salvation, prayed for, and grasped; but he feared that the authorities
were too shrewd, and knew the antidote and the poison apart. There might
be individual martyrdoms--in fact there would be, and very many--but
they would be in spite of secular government, not because of it.
Finally, he expected, Humanitarianism would presently put on the dress
of liturgy and sacrifice, and when that was done, the Church's cause,
unless God intervened, would be over.

Percy sat back, trembling.

"Yes, my son. And what do you think should be done?"

Percy flung out his hands.

"Holy Father--the mass, prayer, the rosary. These first and last. The
world denies their power: it is on their power that Christians must
throw all their weight. All things in Jesus Christ--in Jesus Christ,
first and last. Nothing else can avail. He must do all, for we can do
nothing."

The white head bowed. Then it rose erect.

"Yes, my son.... But so long as Jesus Christ deigns to use us, we must
be used. He is Prophet and King as well as Priest. We then, too, must be
prophet and king as well as priest. What of Prophecy and Royalty?"

The voice thrilled Percy like a trumpet.

"Yes, Holiness.... For prophecy, then, let us preach charity; for
Royalty, let us reign on crosses. We must love and suffer.... " (He drew
one sobbing breath.) "Your Holiness has preached charity always. Let
charity then issue in good deeds. Let us be foremost in them; let us
engage in trade honestly, in family life chastely, in government
uprightly. And as for suffering--ah! Holiness!"

His old scheme leaped back to his mind, and stood poised there
convincing and imperious.

"Yes, my son, speak plainly."

"Your Holiness--it is old--old as Rome--every fool has desired it: a new
Order, Holiness--a new Order," he stammered.

The white hand dropped the paper-weight; the Pope leaned forward,
looking intently at the priest.

"Yes, my son?"

Percy threw himself on his knees.

"A new Order, Holiness--no habit or badge--subject to your Holiness
only--freer than Jesuits, poorer than Franciscans, more mortified than
Carthusians: men and women alike--the three vows with the intention of
martyrdom; the Pantheon for their Church; each bishop responsible for
their sustenance; a lieutenant in each country.... (Holiness, it is the
thought of a fool.) ... And Christ Crucified for their patron."

The Pope stood up abruptly--so abruptly that Cardinal Martin sprang up
too, apprehensive and terrified. It seemed that this young man had gone
too far.

Then the Pope sat down again, extending his hand.

"God bless you, my son. You have leave to go.... Will your Eminence stay
for a few minutes?"



CHAPTER III

I

The Cardinal said very little to Percy when they met again that evening,
beyond congratulating him on the way he had borne himself with the Pope.
It seemed that the priest had done right by his extreme frankness. Then
he told him of his duties.

Percy was to retain the couple of rooms that had been put at his
disposal; he was to say mass, as a rule, in the Cardinal's oratory; and
after that, at nine, he was to present himself for instructions: he was
to dine at noon with the Cardinal, after which he was to consider
himself at liberty till _Ave Maria_: then, once more he was to be at his
master's disposal until supper. The work he would principally have to do
would be the reading of all English correspondence, and the drawing up
of a report upon it.

Percy found it a very pleasant and serene life, and the sense of home
deepened every day. He had an abundance of time to himself, which he
occupied resolutely in relaxation. From eight to nine he usually walked
abroad, going sedately through the streets with his senses passive,
looking into churches, watching the people, and gradually absorbing the
strange naturalness of life under ancient conditions. At times it
appeared to him like an historical dream; at times it seemed that there
was no other reality; that the silent, tense world of modern
civilisation was itself a phantom, and that here was the simple
naturalness of the soul's childhood back again. Even the reading of the
English correspondence did not greatly affect him, for the stream of his
mind was beginning to run clear again in this sweet old channel; and he
read, dissected, analysed and diagnosed with a deepening tranquillity.

There was not, after all, a great deal of news. It was a kind of lull
after storm. Felsenburgh was still in retirement; he had refused the
offers made to him by France and Italy, as that of England; and,
although nothing definite was announced, it seemed that he was confining
himself at present to an unofficial attitude. Meanwhile the Parliaments
of Europe were busy in the preliminary stages of code-revision. Nothing
would be done, it was understood, until the autumn sessions.

Life in Rome was very strange. The city had now become not only the
centre of faith but, in a sense, a microcosm of it. It was divided into
four huge quarters--Anglo-Saxon, Latin, Teutonic and Eastern--besides
Trastevere, which was occupied almost entirely by Papal offices,
seminaries, and schools. Anglo-Saxondom occupied the southwestern
quarter, now entirely covered with houses, including the Aventine, the
Celian and Testaccio. The Latins inhabited old Rome, between the Course
and the river; the Teutons the northeastern quarter, bounded on the
south by St. Laurence's Street; and the Easterns the remaining quarter,
of which the centre was the Lateran. In this manner the true Romans were
scarcely conscious of intrusion; they possessed a multitude of their own
churches, they were allowed to revel in narrow, dark streets and hold
their markets; and it was here that Percy usually walked, in a passion
of historical retrospect. But the other quarters were strange enough,
too. It was curious to see how a progeny of Gothic churches, served by
northern priests, had grown up naturally in the Anglo-Saxon and Teutonic
districts, and how the wide, grey streets, the neat pavements, the
severe houses, showed how the northerns had not yet realised the
requirements of southern life. The Easterns, on the other hand,
resembled the Latins; their streets were as narrow and dark, their
smells as overwhelming, their churches as dirty and as homely, and their
colours even more brilliant.

Outside the walls the confusion was indescribable. If the city
represented a carved miniature of the world, the suburbs represented the
same model broken into a thousand pieces, tumbled in a bag and shot out
at random. So far as the eye could see, on all sides from the roof of
the Vatican, there stretched an endless plain of house-roofs, broken by
spires, towers, domes and chimneys, under which lived human beings of
every race beneath the sun. Here were the great manufactories, the
monster buildings of the new world, the stations, the schools, the
offices, all under secular dominion, yet surrounded by six millions of
souls who lived here for love of religion. It was these who had
despaired of modern life, tired out with change and effort, who had fled
from the new system for refuge to the Church, but who could not obtain
leave to live in the city itself. New houses were continually springing
up in all directions. A gigantic compass, fixed by one leg in Rome, and
with a span of five miles, would, if twirled, revolve through packed
streets through its entire circle. Beyond that too houses stretched into
the indefinite distance.

But Percy did not realise the significance of all that he saw, until the
occasion of the Pope's name-day towards the end of August.

It was yet cool and early, when he followed his patron, whom he was to
serve as chaplain, along the broad passages of the Vatican towards the
room where the Pope and Cardinals were to assemble. Through a window, as
he looked out into the Piazza, the crowd was yet more dense, if that
were possible, than it had been an hour before. The huge oval square was
cobbled with heads, through which ran a broad road, kept by papal troops
for the passage of the carriages; and up the broad ribbon, white in the
eastern light, came monstrous vehicles, a blaze of gilding and colour
and cream tint; slow cheers swelled up and died, and through all came
the rush and patter of wheels over the stones, like the sound of a
tide-swept pebbly beach.

As they waited in an ante-chamber, halted by the pressure in front and
behind--a pack of scarlet and white and purple--he looked out again, and
realised what he had known only intellectually before, that here before
his eyes was the royalty of the old world assembled--and he began to
perceive its significance.

Round the steps of the basilica spread a great fan of coaches, each
yoked to eight horses--the white of France and Spain, the black of
Germany, Italy and Russia, and the cream-coloured of England. Those
stood out in the near half-circle, and beyond was the sweep of the
lesser powers: Greece, Norway, Sweden, Roumania and the Balkan States.
One, the Turk, was alone wanting, he reminded himself. The emblems of
some were visible--eagles, lions, leopards--guarding the royal crown
above the roof of each. From the foot of the steps to the head ran a
broad scarlet carpet, lined with soldiers.

Percy leaned against the shutter, and began to meditate. Here was all
that was left of Royalty. He had seen their palaces before, here and
there in the various quarters, with standards flying, and
scarlet-liveried men lounging on the steps. He had raised his hat a
dozen times as a landau thundered past him up the Course; be had even
seen the lilies of France and the leopards of England pass together in
the solemn parade of the Pincian Hill. He had read in the papers every
now and again during the last five years that family after family had
made its way to Rome, after papal recognition had been granted; he had
been told by the Cardinal on the previous evening that William of
England, with his Consort, had landed at Ostia in the morning and that
the tale of the Powers was complete. But he had never before realised
the stupendous, overwhelming fact of the assembly of the world's royalty
under the shadow of Peter's Throne, nor the appalling danger that its
presence constituted in the midst of a democratic world. That world, he
knew, affected to laugh at the folly and the childishness of it all--at
the desperate play-acting of Divine Right on the part of fallen and
despised families; but the same world, he knew very well, had not yet
lost quite all its sentiment; and if that sentiment should happen to
become resentful---

The pressure relaxed; Percy slipped out of the recess, and followed in
the slow-moving stream.

Half-an-hour later he was in his place among the ecclesiastics, as the
papal procession came out through the glimmering dusk of the chapel of
the Blessed Sacrament into the nave of the enormous church; but even
before he had entered the chapel he heard the quiet roar of recognition
and the cry of the trumpets that greeted the Supreme Pontiff as he came
out, a hundred yards ahead, borne on the _sedia gestatoria_, with the
fans going behind him. When Percy himself came out, five minutes later,
walking in his quaternion, and saw the sight that was waiting, he
remembered with a sudden throb at his heart that other sight he had seen
in London in a summer dawn three months before....

Far ahead, seeming to cleave its way through the surging heads, like the
poop of an ancient ship, moved the canopy beneath which sat the Lord of
the world, and between him and the priest, as if it were the wake of
that same ship, swayed the gorgeous procession--Protonotaries Apostolic,
Generals of Religious Orders and the rest--making its way along with
white, gold, scarlet and silver foam between the living banks on either
side. Overhead hung the splendid barrel of the roof, and far in front
the haven of God's altar reared its monstrous pillars, beneath which
burned the seven yellow stars that were the harbour lights of sanctity.
It was an astonishing sight, but too vast and bewildering to do anything
but oppress the observers with a consciousness of their own futility.
The enormous enclosed air, the giant statues, the dim and distant roofs,
the indescribable concert of sound--of the movement of feet, the murmur
of ten thousand voices, the peal of organs like the crying of gnats, the
thin celestial music--the faint suggestive smell of incense and men and
bruised bay and myrtle--and, supreme above all, the vibrant atmosphere
of human emotion, shot with supernatural aspiration, as the Hope of the
World, the holder of Divine Vice-Royalty, passed on his way to stand
between God and man--this affected the priest as the action of a drug
that at once lulls and stimulates, that blinds while it gives new
vision, that deafens while it opens stopped ears, that exalts while it
plunges into new gulfs of consciousness. Here, then, was the other
formulated answer to the problem of life. The two Cities of Augustine
lay for him to choose. The one was that of a world self-originated,
self-organised and self-sufficient, interpreted by such men as Marx and
Herve, socialists, materialists, and, in the end, hedonists, summed up
at last in Felsenburgh. The other lay displayed in the sight he saw
before him, telling of a Creator and of a creation, of a Divine purpose,
a redemption, and a world transcendent and eternal from which all sprang
and to which all moved. One of the two, John and Julian, was the Vicar,
and the other the Ape, of God.... And Percy's heart in one more spasm of
conviction made its choice....

But the summit was not yet reached.

As Percy came at last out from the nave beneath the dome, on his way to
the tribune beyond the papal throne, he became aware of a new element.

A great space was cleared about the altar and confession, extending, as
he could see at least on his side, to the point that marked the entrance
to the transepts; at this point ran rails straight across from side to
side, continuing the lines of the nave. Beyond this red-hung barrier lay
a gradual slope of faces, white and motionless; a glimmer of steel
bounded it, and above, a third of the distance down the transept, rose
in solemn serried array a line of canopies. These were of scarlet, like
cardinalitial baldachini, but upon the upright surface of each burned
gigantic coats supported by beasts and topped by crowns. Under each was
a figure or two--no more--in splendid isolation, and through the
interspaces between the thrones showed again a misty slope of faces.

His heart quickened as he saw it--as he swept his eyes round and across
to the right and saw as in a mirror the replica of the left in the right
transept. It was there then that they sat--those lonely survivors of
that strange company of persons who, till half-a-century ago, had
reigned as God's temporal Vicegerents with the consent of their
subjects. They were unrecognised, now, save by Him from whom they drew
their sovereignty--pinnacles clustering and hanging from a dome, from
which the walls had been withdrawn. These were men and women who had
learned at last that power comes from above, and their title to rule
came not from their subjects but from the Supreme Ruler of
all--shepherds without sheep, captains without soldiers to command. It
was piteous--horribly piteous, yet inspiring. The act of faith was so
sublime; and Percy's heart quickened as he understood it. These, then,
men and women like himself, were not ashamed to appeal from man to God,
to assume insignia which the world regarded as playthings, but which to
them were emblems of supernatural commission. Was there not mirrored
here, he asked himself, some far-off shadow of One Who rode on the colt
of an ass amid the sneers of the great and the enthusiasm of
children?...

* * * * *

It was yet more kindling as the mass went on, and he saw the male
sovereigns come down to do their services at the altar, and to go to and
fro between it and the Throne. There they went bareheaded, the stately
silent figures. The English king, once again _Fidei Defensor_, bore the
train in place of the old king of Spain, who, with the Austrian Emperor,
alone of all European sovereigns, had preserved the unbroken continuity
of faith. The old man leaned over his fald-stool, mumbling and weeping,
even crying out now and again in love and devotion, as, like Simeon, he
saw his Salvation. The Austrian Emperor twice administered the Lavabo;
the German sovereign, who had lost his throne and all but his life upon
his conversion four years before, by a new privilege placed and withdrew
the cushion, as his Lord kneeled before the Lord of them both. So
movement by movement the gorgeous drama was enacted; the murmuring of
the crowds died to a stillness that was but one wordless prayer as the
tiny White Disc rose between the white hands, and the thin angelic music
pealed in the dome. For here was the one hope of these thousands, as
mighty and as little as once within the Manger. There was none other
that fought for them but only God. Surely then, if the blood of men and
the tears of women could not avail to move the Judge and Observer of all
from His silence, surely at least here the bloodless Death of His only
Son, that once on Calvary had darkened heaven and rent the earth,
pleaded now with such sorrowful splendour upon this island of faith amid
a sea of laughter and hatred--this at least must avail! How could it
not?

* * * * *

Percy had just sat down, tired out with the long ceremonies, when the
door opened abruptly, and the Cardinal, still in his robes, came in
swiftly, shutting the door behind him.

"Father Franklin," he said, in a strange breathless voice, "there is the
worst of news. Felsenburgh is appointed President of Europe."



II

It was late that night before Percy returned, completely exhausted by
his labours. For hour after hour he had sat with the Cardinal, opening
despatches that poured into the electric receivers from all over Europe,
and were brought in one by one into the quiet sitting-room. Three times
in the afternoon the Cardinal had been sent for, once by the Pope and
twice to the Quirinal.

There was no doubt at all that the news was true; and it seemed that
Felsenburgh must have waited deliberately for the offer. All others he
had refused. There had been a Convention of the Powers, each of whom had
been anxious to secure him, and each of whom had severally failed; these
private claims had been withdrawn, and an united message sent. The new
proposal was to the effect that Felsenburgh should assume a position
hitherto undreamed of in democracy; that he should receive a House of
Government in every capital of Europe; that his veto of any measure
should be final for three years; that any measure he chose to introduce
three times in three consecutive years should become law; that his title
should be that of President of Europe. From his side practically nothing
was asked, except that he should refuse any other official position
offered him that did not receive the sanction of all the Powers. And all
this, Percy saw very well, involved the danger of an united Europe
increased tenfold. It involved all the stupendous force of Socialism
directed by a brilliant individual. It was the combination of the
strongest characteristics of the two methods of government. The offer
had been accepted by Felsenburgh after eight hours' silence.

It was remarkable, too, to observe how the news had been accepted by the
two other divisions of the world. The East was enthusiastic; America was
divided. But in any case America was powerless: the balance of the world
was overwhelmingly against her.

Percy threw himself, as he was, on to his bed, and lay there with
drumming pulses, closed eyes and a huge despair at his heart. The world
indeed had risen like a giant over the horizons of Rome, and the holy
city was no better now than a sand castle before a tide. So much he
grasped. As to how ruin would come, in what form and from what
direction, he neither knew nor cared. Only he knew now that it would
come.

He had learned by now something of his own temperament; and he turned
his eyes inwards to observe himself bitterly, as a doctor in mortal
disease might with a dreadful complacency diagnose his own symptoms. It
was even a relief to turn from the monstrous mechanism of the world to
see in miniature one hopeless human heart. For his own religion he no
longer feared; he knew, as absolutely as a man may know the colour of
his eyes, that it was secure again and beyond shaking. During those
weeks in Rome the cloudy deposit had run clear and the channel was once
more visible. Or, better still, that vast erection of dogma, ceremony,
custom and morals in which he had been educated, and on which he had
looked all his life (as a man may stare upon some great set-piece that
bewilders him), seeing now one spark of light, now another, flare and
wane in the darkness, had little by little kindled and revealed itself
in one stupendous blaze of divine fire that explains itself. Huge
principles, once bewildering and even repellent, were again luminously
self-evident; he saw, for example, that while Humanity-Religion
endeavoured to abolish suffering the Divine Religion embraced it, so
that the blind pangs even of beasts were within the Father's Will and
Scheme; or that while from one angle one colour only of the web of life
was visible--material, or intellectual, or artistic--from another the
Supernatural was as eminently obvious. Humanity-Religion could only be
true if at least half of man's nature, aspirations and sorrows were
ignored. Christianity, on the other hand, at least included and
accounted for these, even if it did not explain them. This ... and this
... and this ... all made the one and perfect whole. There was the
Catholic Faith, more certain to him than the existence of himself: it
was true and alive. He might be damned, but God reigned. He might go
mad, but Jesus Christ was Incarnate Deity, proving Himself so by death
and Resurrection, and John his Vicar. These things were as the bones of
the Universe--facts beyond doubting--if they were not true, nothing
anywhere was anything but a dream.

Difficulties?--Why, there were ten thousand. He did not in the least
understand why God had made the world as it was, nor how Hell could be
the creation of Love, nor how bread was transubstantiated into the Body
of God but--well, these things were so. He had travelled far, he began
to see, from his old status of faith, when he had believed that divine
truth could be demonstrated on intellectual grounds. He had learned now
(he knew not how) that the supernatural cried to the supernatural; the
Christ without to the Christ within; that pure human reason indeed could
not contradict, yet neither could it adequately prove the mysteries of
faith, except on premisses visible only to him who receives Revelation
as a fact; that it is the moral state, rather than the intellectual, to
which the Spirit of God speaks with the greater certitude. That which he
had both learned and taught he now knew, that Faith, having, like man
himself, a body and a spirit--an historical expression and an inner
verity--speaks now by one, now by another. This man believes because he
sees--accepts the Incarnation or the Church from its credentials; that
man, perceiving that these things are spiritual facts, yields himself
wholly to the message and authority of her who alone professes them, as
well as to the manifestation of them upon the historical plane; and in
the darkness leans upon her arm. Or, best of all, because he has
believed, now he sees.

So he looked with a kind of interested indolence at other tracts of his
nature.

First, there was his intellect, puzzled beyond description, demanding,
Why, why, why? Why was it allowed? How was it conceivable that God did
not intervene, and that the Father of men could permit His dear world to
be so ranged against Him? What did He mean to do? Was this eternal
silence never to be broken? It was very well for those that had the
Faith, but what of the countless millions who were settling down in
contented blasphemy? Were these not, too, His children and the sheep of
His pasture? What was the Catholic Church made for if not to convert the
world, and why then had Almighty God allowed it, on the one side, to
dwindle to a handful, and, on the other, the world to find its peace
apart from Him?

He considered his emotions, but there was no comfort there, no stimulus.
Oh! yes; he could pray still, by mere cold acts of the will, and his
theology told him that God accepted such. He could say "_Adveniat regnum
tuum. ... Fiat voluntas tua_," five thousand times a day, if God wanted
that; but there was no sting or touch, no sense of vibration through the
cords that his will threw up to the Heavenly Throne. What in the world
then did God want him to do? Was it just then to repeat formulas, to lie
still, to open despatches, to listen through the telephone, and to
suffer?

And then the rest of the world--the madness that had seized upon the
nations; the amazing stories that had poured in that day of the men in
Paris, who, raving like Bacchantes, had stripped themselves naked in the
Place de Concorde, and stabbed themselves to the heart, crying out to
thunders of applause that life was too enthralling to be endured; of the
woman who sang herself mad last night in Spain, and fell laughing and
foaming in the concert hall at Seville; of the crucifixion of the
Catholics that morning in the Pyrenees, and the apostasy of three
bishops in Germany.... And this ... and this ... and a thousand more
horrors were permitted, and God made no sign and spoke no word....

There was a tap, and Percy sprang up as the Cardinal came in.

He looked horribly worn; and his eyes had a kind of sunken brilliance
that revealed fever. He made a little motion to Percy to sit down, and
himself sat in the deep chair, trembling a little, and gathering his
buckled feet beneath his red-buttoned cassock.

"You must forgive me, father," he said. "I am anxious for the Bishop's
safety. He should be here by now."

This was the Bishop of Southwark, Percy remembered, who had left England
early that morning.

"He is coming straight through, your Eminence?"

"Yes; he should have been here by twenty-three. It is after midnight, is
it not?"

As he spoke, the bells chimed out the half-hour.

It was nearly quiet now. All day the air had been full of sound; mobs
had paraded the suburbs; the gates of the City had been barred, yet that
was only an earnest of what was to be expected when the world understood
itself.

The Cardinal seemed to recover himself after a few minutes' silence.

"You look tired out, father," he said kindly.

Percy smiled.

"And your Eminence?" he said.

The old man smiled too.

"Why, yes," he said. "I shall not last much longer, father. And then it
will be you to suffer."

Percy sat up, suddenly, sick at heart.

"Why, yes," said the Cardinal. "The Holy Father has arranged it. You are
to succeed me, you know. It need be no secret."

Percy drew a long trembling breath.

"Eminence," he began piteously.

The other lifted a thin old hand.

"I understand all that," he said softly. "You wish to die, is it not
so?--and be at peace. There are many who wish that. But we must suffer
first. _Et pati et mori_. Father Franklin, there must be no faltering."

There was a long silence.

The news was too stunning to convey anything to the priest but a sense
of horrible shock. The thought had simply never entered his mind that
he, a man under forty, should be considered eligible to succeed this
wise, patient old prelate. As for the honour--Percy was past that now,
even had he thought of it. There was but one view before him--of a long
and intolerable journey, on a road that went uphill, to be traversed
with a burden on his shoulders that he could not support.

Yet he recognised its inevitability. The fact was announced to him as
indisputable; it was to be; there was nothing to be said. But it was as
if one more gulf had opened, and he stared into it with a dull, sick
horror, incapable of expression.

The Cardinal first broke the silence.

"Father Franklin," he said, "I have seen to-day a picture of
Felsenburgh. Do you know whom I at first took it for?"

Percy smiled listlessly.

"Yes, father, I took it for you. Now, what do you make of that?"

"I don't understand, Eminence."

"Why---" He broke off, suddenly changing the subject.

"There was a murder in the City to-day," he said. "A Catholic stabbed a
blasphemer."

Percy glanced at him again.

"Oh! yes; he has not attempted to escape," went on the old man. "He is
in gaol."

"And---"

"He will be executed. The trial will begin to-morrow.... It is sad
enough. It is the first murder for eight months."

The irony of the position was evident enough to Percy as he sat
listening to the deepening silence outside in the starlit night. Here
was this poor city pretending that nothing was the matter, quietly
administering its derided justice; and there, outside, were the forces
gathering that would put an end to all. His enthusiasm seemed dead.
There was no thrill from the thought of the splendid disregard of
material facts of which this was one tiny instance, none of despairing
courage or drunken recklessness. He felt like one who watches a fly
washing his face on the cylinder of an engine--the huge steel slides
along bearing the tiny life towards enormous death--another moment and
it will be over; and yet the watcher cannot interfere. The supernatural
thus lay, perfect and alive, but immeasurably tiny; the huge forces were
in motion, the world was heaving up, and Percy could do nothing but
stare and frown. Yet, as has been said, there was no shadow on his
faith; the fly he knew was greater than the engine from the superiority
of its order of life; if it were crushed, life would not be the final
sufferer; so much he knew, but how it was so, he did not know.

As the two sat there, again came a step and a tap; and a servant's face
looked in.

"His Lordship is come, Eminence," he said.

The Cardinal rose painfully, supporting himself by the table. Then he
paused, seeming to remember something, and fumbled in his pocket.

"See that, father," he said, and pushed a small silver disc towards the
priest. "No; when I am gone."

Percy closed the door and came back, taking up the little round object.

It was a coin, fresh from the mint. On one side was the familiar wreath
with the word "fivepence" in the midst, with its Esperanto equivalent
beneath, and on the other the profile of a man, with an inscription.
Percy turned it to read:

"JULIAN FELSENBURGH, LA PREZIDANTE DE UROPO."



III

It was at ten o'clock on the following morning that the Cardinals were
summoned to the Pope's presence to hear the allocution.

Percy, from his seat among the Consultors, watched them come in, men of
every nation and temperament and age--the Italians all together,
gesticulating, and flashing teeth; the Anglo-Saxons steady-faced and
serious; an old French Cardinal leaning on his stick, walking with the
English Benedictine. It was one of the great plain stately rooms of
which the Vatican now chiefly consisted, seated length wise like a
chapel. At the lower end, traversed by the gangway, were the seats of
the Consultors; at the upper end, the dais with the papal throne. Three
or four benches with desks before them, standing out beyond the
Consultors' seats, were reserved for the arrivals of the day before
--prelates and priests who had poured into Rome from every European
country on the announcement of the amazing news.

Percy had not an idea as to what would be said. It was scarcely possible
that nothing but platitudes would be uttered, yet what else could be
said in view of the complete doubtfulness of the situation? All that was
known even this morning was that the Presidentship of Europe was a fact;
the little silver coin he had seen witnessed to that; that there had
been an outburst of persecution, repressed sternly by local authorities;
and that Felsenburgh was to-day to begin his tour from capital to
capital. He was expected in Turin by the end of the week. From every
Catholic centre throughout the world had come in messages imploring
guidance; it was said that apostasy was rising like a tidal wave, that
persecution threatened everywhere, and that even bishops were beginning
to yield.

As for the Holy Father, all was doubtful. Those who knew, said nothing;
and the only rumour that escaped was to the effect that he had spent all
night in prayer at the tomb of the Apostle....

The murmur died suddenly to a rustle and a silence; there was a ripple
of sinking heads along the seats as the door beside the canopy opened,
and a moment later John, _Pater Patrum_, was on his throne.

* * * * *

At first Percy understood nothing. He stared only, as at a picture,
through the dusty sunlight that poured in through the shrouded windows,
at the scarlet lines to right and left, up to the huge scarlet canopy,
and the white figure that sat there. Certainly, these southerners
understood the power of effect. It was as vivid and impressive as a
vision of the Host in a jewelled monstrance. Every accessory was
gorgeous, the high room, the colour of the robes, the chains and
crosses, and as the eye moved along to its climax it was met by a piece
of dead white--as if glory was exhausted and declared itself impotent to
tell the supreme secret. Scarlet and purple and gold were well enough
for those who stood on the steps of the throne--they needed it; but for
Him who sat there nothing was needed. Let colours die and sounds faint
in the presence of God's Viceroy. Yet what expression was required found
itself adequately provided in that beautiful oval face, the poised
imperious head, the sweet brilliant eyes and the clean-curved lips that
spoke so strongly. There was not a sound in the room, not a rustle, nor
a breathing--even without it seemed as if the world were allowing the
supernatural to state its defence uninterruptedly, before summing up and
clamouring condemnation.

* * * * *

Percy made a violent effort at self-repression, clenched his hands and
listened.

" ... Since this then is so, sons in Jesus Christ, it is for us to
answer. We wrestle not, as the Doctor of the Gentiles teaches us,
_against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against
the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of
wickedness in the high places. Wherefore_, he continues, _take unto you
the armour of God_; and he further declares to us its nature--_the
girdle of truth, the breastplate of justice, the shoes of peace, the
shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit._

"By this, therefore, the Word of God bids us to war, but not with the
weapons of this world, for neither is His kingdom of this world; and it
is to remind you of the principles of this warfare that we have summoned
you to Our Presence."

The voice paused, and there was a rustling sigh along the seats. Then
the voice continued on a slightly higher note.

"It has ever been the wisdom of Our predecessors, as is also their duty,
while keeping silence at certain seasons, at others to speak freely the
whole counsel of God. From this duty We Ourself must not be deterred by
the knowledge of Our own weakness and ignorance, but to trust rather
that He Who has placed Us on this throne will deign to speak through Our
mouth and use Our words to His glory.

"First, then, it is necessary to utter Our sentence as to the new
movement, as men call it, which has latterly been inaugurated by the
rulers of this world.

"We are not unmindful of the blessings of peace and unity, nor do We
forget that the appearance of these things has been the fruit of much
that we have condemned. It is this appearance of peace that has deceived
many, causing them to doubt the promise of the Prince of Peace that it
is through Him alone that we have access to the Father. That true peace,
passing understanding, concerns not only the relations of men between
themselves, but, supremely, the relations of men with their Maker; and
it is in this necessary point that the efforts of the world are found
wanting. It is not indeed to be wondered at that in a world which has
rejected God this necessary matter should be forgotten. Men have
thought--led astray by seducers--that the unity of nations was the
greatest prize of this life, forgetting the words of our Saviour, Who
said that He came to bring not peace but a sword, and that it is through
many tribulations that we enter God's Kingdom. First, then, there should
be established the peace of man with God, and after that the unity of
man with man will follow. _Seek ye first_, said Jesus Christ, _the
kingdom of God--and then all these things shall be added unto you._

"First, then, We once more condemn and anathematise the opinions of
those who teach and believe the contrary of this; and we renew once more
all the condemnations uttered by Ourself or Our predecessors against all
those societies, organisations and communities that have been formed for
the furtherance of an unity on another than a divine foundation; and We
remind Our children throughout the world that it is forbidden to them to
enter or to aid or to approve in any manner whatsoever any of those
bodies named in such condemnations."

Percy moved in his seat, conscious of a touch of impatience.... The
manner was superb, tranquil and stately as a river; but the matter a
trifle banal. Here was this old reprobation of Freemasonry, repeated in
unoriginal language.

"Secondly," went on the steady voice, "We wish to make known to you Our
desires for the future; and here We tread on what many have considered
dangerous ground."

Again came that rustle. Percy saw more than one cardinal lean forward
with hand crooked at ear to hear the better. It was evident that
something important was coming.

"There are many points," went on the high voice, "of which it is not Our
intention to speak at this time, for of their own nature they are
secret, and must be treated of on another occasion. But what We say
here, We say to the world. Since the assaults of Our enemies are both
open and secret, so too must be Our defences. This then is Our
intention."

The Pope paused again, lifted one hand as if mechanically to his breast,
and grasped the cross that hung there.

"While the army of Christ is one, it consists of many divisions, each of
which has its proper function and object. In times past God has raised
up companies of His servants to do this or that particular work--the
sons of St. Francis to preach poverty, those of St. Bernard to labour in
prayer with all holy women dedicating themselves to this purpose, the
Society of Jesus for the education of youth and the conversion of the
heathen--together with all the other Religious Orders whose names are
known throughout the world. Each such company was raised up at a
particular season of need, and each has corresponded nobly with the
divine vocation. It has also been the especial glory of each, for the
furtherance of its intention, while pursuing its end, to cut off from
itself all such activities (good in themselves) which would hinder that
work for which God had called it into being--following in this matter
the words of our Redeemer, _Every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth
it that it may bring forth more fruit._ At this present season, then, it
appears to Our Humility that all such Orders (which once more We commend
and bless) are not perfectly suited by the very conditions of their
respective Rules to perform the great work which the time requires. Our
warfare lies not with ignorance in particular, whether of the heathens
to whom the Gospel has not yet come, or of those whose fathers have
rejected it, nor with _the deceitful riches of this world_, nor with
_science falsely so-called_, nor indeed with any one of those
strongholds of infidelity against whom We have laboured in the past.
Rather it appears as if at last the time was come of which the apostle
spoke when he said that _that day shall not come, except there come a
falling away first, and that Man of Sin be revealed, the Son of
Perdition, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called
God._

"It is not with this or that force that we are concerned, but rather
with the unveiled immensity of that power whose time was foretold, and
whose destruction is prepared."

The voice paused again, and Percy gripped the rail before him to stay
the trembling of his hands. There was no rustle now, nothing but a
silence that tingled and shook. The Pope drew a long breath, turned his
head slowly to right and left, and went on more deliberately than ever.

"It seems good, then, to Our Humility, that the Vicar of Christ should
himself invite God's children to this new warfare; and it is Our
intention to enroll under the title of the Order of Christ Crucified the
names of all who offer themselves to this supreme service. In doing this
We are aware of the novelty of Our action, and the disregard of all such
precautions as have been necessary in the past. We take counsel in this
matter with none save Him Who we believe has inspired it.

"First, then, let Us say, that although obedient service will be
required from all who shall be admitted to this Order, Our primary
intention in instituting it lies in God's regard rather than in man's,
in appealing to Him Who asks our generosity rather than to those who
deny it, and dedicating once more by a formal and deliberate act our
souls and bodies to the heavenly Will and service of Him Who alone can
rightly claim such offering, and will accept our poverty.

"Briefly, we dictate only the following conditions.

"None shall be capable of entering the Order except such as shall be
above the age of seventeen years.

"No badge, habit, nor insignia shall be attached to it.

"The Three Evangelical Counsels shall be the foundation of the Rule, to
which we add a fourth intention, namely, that of a desire to receive the
crown of martyrdom and a purpose of embracing it.

"The bishop of every diocese, if he himself shall enter the Order, shall
be the superior within the limits of his own jurisdiction, and alone
shall be exempt from the literal observance of the Vow of Poverty so
long as he retains his see. Such bishops as do not feel the vocation to
the Order shall retain their sees under the usual conditions, but shall
have no Religious claim on the members of the Order.

"Further, We announce Our intention of Ourself entering the Order as its
supreme prelate, and of making Our profession within the course of a few
days.

"Further, We declare that in Our Own pontificate none shall be elevated
to the Sacred College save those who have made their profession in the
Order; and We shall dedicate shortly the Basilica of St. Peter and St.
Paul as the central church of the Order, in which church We shall raise
to the altars without any delay those happy souls who shall lay down
their lives in the pursuance of their vocation.

"Of that vocation it is unnecessary to speak beyond indicating that it
may be pursued under any conditions laid down by the Superiors. As
regards the novitiate, its conditions and requirements, we shall shortly
issue the necessary directions. Each diocesan superior (for it is Our
hope that none will hold back) shall have all such rights as usually
appertain to Religious Superiors, and shall be empowered to employ his
subjects in any work that, in his opinion, shall subserve the glory of
God and the salvation of souls. It is Our Own intention to employ in Our
service none except those who shall make their profession."

He raised his eyes once more, seemingly without emotion, then he
continued:

"So far, then, We have determined. On other matters We shall take
counsel immediately; but it is Our wish that these words shall be
communicated to all the world, that there may be no delay in making
known what it is that Christ through His Vicar asks of all who profess
the Divine Name. We offer no rewards except those which God Himself has
promised to those that love Him, and lay down their life for Him; no
promise of peace, save of that which passeth understanding; no home save
that which befits pilgrims and sojourners who seek a City to come; no
honour save the world's contempt; no life, save that which is hid with
Christ in God."



CHAPTER IV


I

Oliver Brand, seated in his little private room at Whitehall, was
expecting a visitor. It was already close upon ten o'clock, and at
half-past he must be in the House. He had hoped that Mr. Francis,
whoever he might be, would not detain him long. Even now, every moment
was a respite, for the work had become simply prodigious during the last
weeks.

But he was not reprieved for more than a minute, for the last boom from
the Victoria Tower had scarcely ceased to throb when the door opened and
a clerkly voice uttered the name he was expecting.

Oliver shot one quick look at the stranger, at his drooping lids and
down-turned mouth, summed him up fairly and accurately in the moments
during which they seated themselves, and went briskly to business.

"At twenty-five minutes past, sir, I must leave this room," he said.
"Until then---" he made a little gesture.

Mr. Francis reassured him.

"Thank you, Mr. Brand--that is ample time. Then, if you will excuse
me---" He groped in his breast-pocket, and drew out a long envelope.

"I will leave this with you," he said, "when I go. It sets out our
desires at length and our names. And this is what I have to say, sir."

He sat back, crossed his legs, and went on, with a touch of eagerness in
his voice.

"I am a kind of deputation, as you know," he said. "We have something
both to ask and to offer. I am chosen because it was my own idea. First,
may I ask a question?"

Oliver bowed.

"I wish to ask nothing that I ought not. But I believe it is practically
certain, is it not?--that Divine Worship is to be restored throughout
the kingdom?"

Oliver smiled.

"I suppose so," he said. "The bill has been read for the third time,
and, as you know, the President is to speak upon it this evening."

"He will not veto it?"

"We suppose not. He has assented to it in Germany."

"Just so," said Mr. Francis. "And if he assents here, I suppose it will
become law immediately."

Oliver leaned over this table, and drew out the green paper that
contained the Bill.

"You have this, of course---" he said. "Well, it becomes law at once;
and the first feast will be observed on the first of October.
'Paternity,' is it not? Yes, Paternity."

"There will be something of a rush then," said the other eagerly. "Why,
that is only a week hence."

"I have not charge of this department," said Oliver, laying back the
Bill. "But I understand that the ritual will be that already in use in
Germany. There is no reason why we should be peculiar."

"And the Abbey will be used?"

"Why, yes."

"Well, sir," said Mr. Francis, "of course I know the Government
Commission has studied it all very closely, and no doubt has its own
plans. But it appears to me that they will want all the experience they
can get."

"No doubt."

"Well, Mr. Brand, the society which I represent consists entirely of men
who were once Catholic priests. We number about two hundred in London. I
will leave a pamphlet with you, if I may, stating our objects, our
constitution, and so on. It seemed to us that here was a matter in which
our past experience might be of service to the Government. Catholic
ceremonies, as you know, are very intricate, and some of us studied them
very deeply in old days. We used to say that Masters of Ceremonies were
born, not made, and we have a fair number of those amongst us. But
indeed every priest is something of a ceremonialist."

He paused.

"Yes, Mr. Francis?"

"I am sure the Government realises the immense importance of all going
smoothly. If Divine Service was at all grotesque or disorderly, it would
largely defeat its own object. So I have been deputed to see you, Mr.
Brand, and to suggest to you that here is a body of men--reckon it as at
least twenty-five--who have had special experience in this kind of
thing, and are perfectly ready to put themselves at the disposal of the
Government."

Oliver could not resist a faint flicker of a smile at the corner of his
mouth. It was a very grim bit of irony, he thought, but it seemed
sensible enough.

"I quite understand, Mr. Francis. It seems a very reasonable suggestion.
But I do not think I am the proper person. Mr. Snowford---"

"Yes, yes, sir, I know. But your speech the other day inspired us all.
You said exactly what was in all our hearts--that the world could not
live without worship; and that now that God was found at last---"

Oliver waved his hand. He hated even a touch of flattery.

"It is very good of you, Mr. Francis. I will certainly speak to Mr.
Snowford. I understand that you offer yourselves as--as Masters of
Ceremonies--?"

"Yes, sir; and sacristans. I have studied the German ritual very
carefully; it is more elaborate than I had thought it. It will need a
good deal of adroitness. I imagine that you will want at least a dozen
_Ceremoniarii_ in the Abbey; and a dozen more in the vestries will
scarcely be too much."

Oliver nodded abruptly, looking curiously at the eager pathetic face of
the man opposite him; yet it had something, too, of that mask-like
priestly look that he had seen before in others like him. This was
evidently a devotee.

"You are all Masons, of course?" he said.

"Why, of course, Mr. Brand."

"Very good. I will speak to Mr. Snowford to-day if I can catch him."

He glanced at the clock. There were yet three or four minutes.

"You have seen the new appointment in Rome, sir," went on Mr. Francis.

Oliver shook his head. He was not particularly interested in Rome just
now.

"Cardinal Martin is dead--he died on Tuesday--and his place is already
filled."

"Indeed, sir?"

"Yes--the new man was once a friend of mine--Franklin, his name
is--Percy Franklin."

"Eh?"

"What is the matter, Mr. Brand? Did you know him?"

Oliver was eyeing him darkly, a little pale.

"Yes; I knew him," he said quietly. "At least, I think so."

"He was at Westminster until a month or two ago."

"Yes, yes," said Oliver, still looking at him. "And you knew him, Mr.
Francis?"

"I knew him--yes."

"Ah!--well, I should like to have a talk some day about him."

He broke off. It yet wanted a minute to his time.

"And that is all?" he asked.

"That is all my actual business, sir," answered the other. "But I hope
you will allow me to say how much we all appreciate what you have done,
Mr. Brand. I do not think it is possible for any, except ourselves, to
understand what the loss of worship means to us. It was very strange at
first---"

His voice trembled a little, and he stopped. Oliver felt interested, and
checked himself in his movement to rise.

"Yes, Mr. Francis?"

The melancholy brown eyes turned on him full.

"It was an illusion, of course, sir--we know that. But I, at any rate,
dare to hope that it was not all wasted--all our aspirations and
penitence and praise. We mistook our God, but none the less it reached
Him--it found its way to the Spirit of the World. It taught us that the
individual was nothing, and that He was all. And now---"

"Yes, sir," said the other softly. He was really touched.

The sad brown eyes opened full.

"And now Mr. Felsenburgh is come." He swallowed in his throat. "Julian
Felsenburgh!" There was a world of sudden passion in his gentle voice,
and Oliver's own heart responded.

"I know, sir," he said; "I know all that you mean."

"Oh! to have a Saviour at last!" cried Francis. "One that can be seen
and handled and praised to His Face! It is like a dream--too good to be
true!"

Oliver glanced at the clock, and rose abruptly, holding out his hand.

"Forgive me, sir. I must not stay. You have touched me very deeply.... I
will speak to Snowford. Your address is here, I understand?"

He pointed to the papers.

"Yes, Mr. Brand. There is one more question."

"I must not stay, sir," said Oliver, shaking his head.

"One instant--is it true that this worship will be compulsory?"

Oliver bowed as he gathered up his papers.



II

Mabel, seated in the gallery that evening behind the President's chair,
had already glanced at her watch half-a-dozen times in the last hour,
hoping each time that twenty-one o'clock was nearer than she feared. She
knew well enough by now that the President of Europe would not be
half-a-minute either before or after his time. His supreme punctuality
was famous all over the continent. He had said Twenty-One, so it was to
be twenty-one.

A sharp bell-note impinged from beneath, and in a moment the drawling
voice of the speaker stopped. Once more she lifted her wrist, saw that
it wanted five minutes of the hour; then she leaned forward from her
corner and stared down into the House.

A great change had passed over it at the metallic noise. All down the
long brown seats members were shifting and arranging themselves more
decorously, uncrossing their legs, slipping their hats beneath the
leather fringes. As she looked, too, she saw the President of the House
coming down the three steps from his chair, for Another would need it in
a few moments.

The house was full from end to end; a late comer ran in from the
twilight of the south door and looked distractedly about him in the full
light before he saw his vacant place. The galleries at the lower end
were occupied too, down there, where she had failed to obtain a seat.
Yet from all the crowded interior there was no sound but a sibilant
whispering; from the passages behind she could hear again the quick
bell-note repeat itself as the lobbies were cleared; and from Parliament
Square outside once more came the heavy murmur of the crowd that had
been inaudible for the last twenty minutes. When that ceased she would
know that he was come.

How strange and wonderful it was to be here--on this night of all, when
the President was to speak! A month ago he had assented to a similar
Bill in Germany, and had delivered a speech on the same subject at
Turin. To-morrow he was to be in Spain. No one knew where he had been
during the past week. A rumour had spread that his volor had been seen
passing over Lake Como, and had been instantly contradicted. No one knew
either what he would say to-night. It might be three words or twenty
thousand. There were a few clauses in the Bill--notably those bearing on
the point as to when the new worship was to be made compulsory on all
subjects over the age of seven--it might be he would object and veto
these. In that case all must be done again, and the Bill re-passed,
unless the House accepted his amendment instantly by acclamation.

Mabel herself was inclined to these clauses. They provided that,
although worship was to be offered in every parish church of England on
the ensuing first day of October, this was not to be compulsory on all
subjects till the New Year; whereas, Germany, who had passed the Bill
only a month before, had caused it to come into full force immediately,
thus compelling all her Catholic subjects either to leave the country
without delay or suffer the penalties. These penalties were not
vindictive: on a first offence a week's detention only was to be given;
on the second, one month's imprisonment; on the third, one year's; and
on the fourth, perpetual imprisonment until the criminal yielded. These
were merciful terms, it seemed; for even imprisonment itself meant no
more than reasonable confinement and employment on Government works.
There were no mediaeval horrors here; and the act of worship demanded
was so little, too; it consisted of no more than bodily presence in the
church or cathedral on the four new festivals of Maternity, Life,
Sustenance and Paternity, celebrated on the first day of each quarter.
Sunday worship was to be purely voluntary.

She could not understand how any man could refuse this homage. These
four things were facts--they were the manifestations of what she called
the Spirit of the World--and if others called that Power God, yet surely
these ought to be considered as His functions. Where then was the
difficulty? It was not as if Christian worship were not permitted, under
the usual regulations. Catholics could still go to mass. And yet
appalling things were threatened in Germany: not less than twelve
thousand persons had already left for Rome; and it was rumoured that
forty thousand would refuse this simple act of homage a few days hence.
It bewildered and angered her to think of it.

For herself the new worship was a crowning sign of the triumph of
Humanity. Her heart had yearned for some such thing as this--some
public corporate profession of what all now believed. She had so
resented the dulness of folk who were content with action and never
considered its springs. Surely this instinct within her was a true one;
she desired to stand with her fellows in some solemn place, consecrated
not by priests but by the will of man; to have as her inspirers sweet
singing and the peal of organs; to utter her sorrow with thousands
beside her at her own feebleness of immolation before the Spirit of all;
to sing aloud her praise of the glory of life, and to offer by sacrifice
and incense an emblematic homage to That from which she drew her being,
and to whom one day she must render it again. Ah! these Christians had
understood human nature, she had told herself a hundred times: it was
true that they had degraded it, darkened light, poisoned thought,
misinterpreted instinct; but they had understood that man must worship
--must worship or sink.

For herself she intended to go at least once a week to the little old
church half-a-mile away from her home, to kneel there before the sunlit
sanctuary, to meditate on sweet mysteries, to present herself to That
which she was yearning to love, and to drink, it might be, new draughts
of life and power.

Ah! but the Bill must pass first.... She clenched her hands on the rail,
and stared steadily before her on the ranks of heads, the open gangways,
the great mace on the table, and heard, above the murmur of the crowd
outside and the dying whispers within, her own heart beat.

She could not see Him, she knew. He would come in from beneath through
the door that none but He might use, straight into the seat beneath the
canopy. But she would hear His voice--that must be joy enough for
her....

Ah! there was silence now outside; the soft roar had died. He had come
then. And through swimming eyes she saw the long ridges of heads rise
beneath her, and through drumming ears heard the murmur of many feet.
All faces looked this way; and she watched them as a mirror to see the
reflected light of His presence. There was a gentle sobbing somewhere in
the air--was it her own or another's? ... the click of a door; a great
mellow booming over-head, shock after shock, as the huge tenor bells
tolled their three strokes; and, in an instant, over the white faces
passed a ripple, as if some breeze of passion shook the souls within;
there was a swaying here and there; and a passionless voice spoke half a
dozen words in Esperanto, out of sight:

"Englishmen, I assent to the Bill of Worship."



III

It was not until mid-day breakfast on the following morning that husband
and wife met again. Oliver had slept in town and telephoned about eleven
o'clock that he would be home immediately, bringing a guest with him:
and shortly before noon she heard their voices in the hall.

Mr. Francis, who was presently introduced to her, seemed a harmless kind
of man, she thought, not interesting, though he seemed in earnest about
this Bill. It was not until breakfast was nearly over that she
understood who he was.

"Don't go, Mabel," said her husband, as she made a movement to rise.
"You will like to hear about this, I expect. My wife knows all that I
know," he added.

Mr. Francis smiled and bowed.

"I may tell her about you, sir?" said Oliver again.

"Why, certainly."

Then she heard that he had been a Catholic priest a few months before,
and that Mr. Snowford was in consultation with him as to the ceremonies
in the Abbey. She was conscious of a sudden interest as she heard this.

"Oh! do talk," she said. "I want to hear everything."

It seemed that Mr. Francis had seen the new Minister of Public Worship
that morning, and had received a definite commission from him to take
charge of the ceremonies on the first of October. Two dozen of his
colleagues, too, were to be enrolled among the _ceremoniarii_, at least
temporarily--and after the event they were to be sent on a lecturing
tour to organise the national worship throughout the country.

Of course things would be somewhat sloppy at first, said Mr. Francis;
but by the New Year it was hoped that all would be in order, at least in
the cathedrals and principal towns.

"It is important," he said, "that this should be done as soon as
possible. It is very necessary to make a good impression. There are
thousands who have the instinct of worship, without knowing how to
satisfy it."

"That is perfectly true," said Oliver. "I have felt that for a long
time. I suppose it is the deepest instinct in man."

"As to the ceremonies---" went on the other, with a slightly important
air. His eyes roved round a moment; then he dived into his
breast-pocket, and drew out a thin red-covered book.

"Here is the Order of Worship for the Feast of Paternity," he said. "I
have had it interleaved, and have made a few notes."

He began to turn the pages, and Mabel, with considerable excitement,
drew her chair a little closer to listen.

"That is right, sir," said the other. "Now give us a little lecture."

Mr. Francis closed the book on his finger, pushed his plate aside, and
began to discourse.

"First," he said, "we must remember that this ritual is based almost
entirely upon that of the Masons. Three-quarters at least of the entire
function will be occupied by that. With that the _ceremoniarii_ will not
interfere, beyond seeing that the insignia are ready in the vestries and
properly put on. The proper officials will conduct the rest.... I need
not speak of that then. The difficulties begin with the last quarter."

He paused, and with a glance of apology began arranging forks and
glasses before him on the cloth.

"Now here," he said, "we have the old sanctuary of the abbey. In the
place of the reredos and Communion table there will be erected the large
altar of which the ritual speaks, with the steps leading up to it from
the floor. Behind the altar--extending almost to the old shrine of the
Confessor--will stand the pedestal with the emblematic figure upon it;
and--so far as I understand from the absence of directions--each such
figure will remain in place until the eve of the next quarterly feast."

"What kind of figure?" put in the girl.

Francis glanced at her husband.

"I understand that Mr. Markenheim has been consulted," he said. "He will
design and execute them. Each is to represent its own feast. This for
Paternity---"

He paused again.

"Yes, Mr. Francis?"

"This one, I understand, is to be the naked figure of a man."

"A kind of Apollo--or Jupiter, my dear," put in Oliver.

Yes--that seemed all right, thought Mabel. Mr. Francis's voice moved on
hastily.

"A new procession enters at this point, after the discourse," he said.
"It is this that will need special marshalling. I suppose no rehearsal
will be possible?"

"Scarcely," said Oliver, smiling.

The Master of Ceremonies sighed.

"I feared not. Then we must issue very precise printed instructions.
Those who take part will withdraw, I imagine, during the hymn, to the
old chapel of St. Faith. That is what seems to me the best."

He indicated the chapel.

"After the entrance of the procession all will take their places on
these two sides--here--and here--while the celebrant with the sacred
ministers---"

"Eh?"

Mr. Francis permitted a slight grimace to appear on his face; he flushed
a little.

"The President of Europe---" He broke off. "Ah! that is the point. Will
the President take part? That is not made clear in the ritual."

"We think so," said Oliver. "He is to be approached."

"Well, if not, I suppose the Minister of Public Worship will officiate.
He with his supporters pass straight up to the foot of the altar.
Remember that the figure is still veiled, and that the candles have been
lighted during the approach of the procession. There follow the
Aspirations printed in the ritual with the responds. These are sung by
the choir, and will be most impressive, I think. Then the officiant
ascends the altar alone, and, standing, declaims the Address, as it is
called. At the close of it--at the point, that is to say, marked here
with a star, the thurifers will leave the chapel, four in number. One
ascends the altar, leaving the others swinging their thurifers at its
foot--hands his to the officiant and retires. Upon the sounding of a
bell the curtains are drawn back, the officiant tenses the image in
silence with four double swings, and, as he ceases the choir sings the
appointed antiphon."

He waved his hands.

"The rest is easy," he said. "We need not discuss that."

To Mabel's mind even the previous ceremonies seemed easy enough. But she
was undeceived.

"You have no idea, Mrs. Brand," went on the _ceremoniarius_, "of the
difficulties involved even in such a simple matter as this. The
stupidity of people is prodigious. I foresee a great deal of hard work
for us all.... Who is to deliver the discourse, Mr. Brand?"

Oliver shook his head.

"I have no idea," he said. "I suppose Mr. Snowford will select."

Mr. Francis looked at him doubtfully.

"What is your opinion of the whole affair, sir?" he said.

Oliver paused a moment.

"I think it is necessary," he began. "There would not be such a cry for
worship if it was not a real need. I think too--yes, I think that on the
whole the ritual is impressive. I do not see how it could be
bettered...."

"Yes, Oliver?" put in his wife, questioningly.

"No--there is nothing--except ... except I hope the people will
understand it."

Mr. Francis broke in.

"My dear sir, worship involves a touch of mystery. You must remember
that. It was the lack of that that made Empire Day fail in the last
century. For myself, I think it is admirable. Of course much must depend
on the manner in which it is presented. I see many details at present
undecided--the colour of the curtains, and so forth. But the main plan
is magnificent. It is simple, impressive, and, above all, it is
unmistakable in its main lesson---"

"And that you take to be--?"

"I take it that it is homage offered to Life," said the other slowly.
"Life under four aspects--Maternity corresponds to Christmas and the
Christian fable; it is the feast of home, love, faithfulness. Life
itself is approached in spring, teeming, young, passionate. Sustenance
in midsummer, abundance, comfort, plenty, and the rest, corresponding
somewhat to the Catholic Corpus Christi; and Paternity, the protective,
generative, masterful idea, as winter draws on.... I understand it was a
German thought."

Oliver nodded.

"Yes," he said. "And I suppose it will be the business of the speaker to
explain all this."

"I take it so. It appears to me far more suggestive than the alternative
plan--Citizenship, Labour, and so forth. These, after all, are
subordinate to Life."

Mr. Francis spoke with an extraordinary suppressed enthusiasm, and the
priestly look was more evident than ever. It was plain that his heart at
least demanded worship.

Mabel clasped her hands suddenly.

"I think it is beautiful," she said softly, "and--and it is so real."

Mr. Francis turned on her with a glow in his brown eyes.

"Ah! yes, madam. That is it. There is no Faith, as we used to call it:
it is the vision of Facts that no one can doubt; and the incense
declares the sole divinity of Life as well as its mystery."

"What of the figures?" put in Oliver.

"A stone image is impossible, of course. It must be clay for the
present. Mr. Markenheim is to set to work immediately. If the figures
are approved they can then be executed in marble."

Again Mabel spoke with a soft gravity.

"It seems to me," she said, "that this is the last thing that we needed.
It is so hard to keep our principles clear--we must have a body for
them--some kind of expression---"

She paused.

"Yes, Mabel?"

"I do not mean," she went on, "that some cannot live without it, but
many cannot. The unimaginative need concrete images. There must be some
channel for their aspirations to flow through--- Ah! I cannot express
myself!"

Oliver nodded slowly. He, too, seemed to be in a meditative mood.

"Yes," he said. "And this, I suppose, will mould men's thoughts too: it
will keep out all danger of superstition."

Mr. Francis turned on him abruptly.

"What do you think of the Pope's new Religious Order, sir?"

Oliver's face took on it a tinge of grimness.

"I think it is the worst step he ever took--for himself, I mean. Either
it is a real effort, in which case it will provoke immense
indignation--or it is a sham, and will discredit him. Why do you ask?"

"I was wondering whether any disturbance will be made in the abbey."

"I should be sorry for the brawler."

A bell rang sharply from the row of telephone labels. Oliver rose and
went to it. Mabel watched him as he touched a button--mentioned his
name, and put his ear to the opening.

"It is Snowford's secretary," he said abruptly to the two expectant
faces. "Snowford wants to--ah!"

Again he mentioned his name and listened. They heard a sentence or two
from him that seemed significant.

"Ah! that is certain, is it? I am sorry.... Yes.... Oh! but that is
better than nothing.... Yes; he is here.... Indeed. Very well; we will
be with you directly."

He looked on the tube, touched the button again, and came back to them.

"I am sorry," he said. "The President will take no part at the Feast.
But it is uncertain whether he will not be present. Mr. Snowford wants
to see us both at once, Mr. Francis. Markenheim is with him."

But though Mabel was herself disappointed, she thought he looked graver
than the disappointment warranted.



CHAPTER V

I

Percy Franklin, the new Cardinal-Protector of England, came slowly along
the passage leading from the Pope's apartments, with Hans Steinmann,
Cardinal-Protector of Germany, blowing at his side. They entered the
lift, still in silence, and passed out, two splendid vivid figures, one
erect and virile, the other bent, fat, and very German from spectacles
to flat buckled feet.

At the door of Percy's suite, the Englishman paused, made a little
gesture of reverence, and went in without a word.

A secretary, young Mr. Brent, lately from England, stood up as his
patron came in.

"Eminence," he said, "the English papers are come."

Percy put out a hand, took a paper, passed on into his inner room, and
sat down.

There it all was--gigantic headlines, and four columns of print broken
by startling title phrases in capital letters, after the fashion set by
America a hundred years ago. No better way even yet had been found of
misinforming the unintelligent.

He looked at the top. It was the English edition of the _Era_. Then he
read the headlines. They ran as follows:

"THE NATIONAL WORSHIP. BEWILDERING SPLENDOUR. RELIGIOUS ENTHUSIASM. THE
ABBEY AND GOD. CATHOLIC FANATIC. EX-PRIESTS AS FUNCTIONARIES."

He ran his eyes down the page, reading the vivid little phrases, and
drawing from the whole a kind of impressionist view of the scenes in the
Abbey on the previous day, of which he had already been informed by the
telegraph, and the discussion of which had been the purpose of his
interview just now with the Holy Father.

There plainly was no additional news; and he was laying the paper down
when his eye caught a name.

"It is understood that Mr. Francis, the _ceremoniarius_ (to whom the
thanks of all are due for his reverent zeal and skill), will proceed
shortly to the northern towns to lecture on the Ritual. It is
interesting to reflect that this gentleman only a few months ago was
officiating at a Catholic altar. He was assisted in his labours by
twenty-four confreres with the same experience behind them."

"Good God!" said Percy aloud. Then he laid the paper down.

But his thoughts had soon left this renegade behind, and once more he
was running over in his mind the significance of the whole affair, and
the advice that he had thought it his duty to give just now upstairs.

Briefly, there was no use in disputing the fact that the inauguration of
Pantheistic worship had been as stupendous a success in England as in
Germany. France, by the way, was still too busy with the cult of human
individuals, to develop larger ideas.

But England was deeper; and, somehow, in spite of prophecy, the affair
had taken place without even a touch of bathos or grotesqueness. It had
been said that England was too solid and too humorous. Yet there had
been extraordinary scenes the day before. A great murmur of enthusiasm
had rolled round the Abbey from end to end as the gorgeous curtains ran
back, and the huge masculine figure, majestic and overwhelming, coloured
with exquisite art, had stood out above the blaze of candles against the
tall screen that shrouded the shrine. Markenheim had done his work well;
and Mr. Brand's passionate discourse had well prepared the popular mind
for the revelation. He had quoted in his peroration passage after
passage from the Jewish prophets, telling of the City of Peace whose
walls rose now before their eyes.

"_Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is
risen upon thee.... For behold I create new heavens and a new earth; and
the former shall not be remembered nor come into mind.... Violence shall
no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy
borders. O thou so long afflicted, tossed with tempest and not
comforted; behold I will lay thy stones with fair colours, and thy
foundations with sapphires.... I will make thy windows of agates and thy
gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones. Arise,
shine, for thy light is come._"

As the chink of the censer-chains had sounded in the stillness, with one
consent the enormous crowd had fallen on its knees, and so remained, as
the smoke curled up from the hands of the rebel figure who held the
thurible. Then the organ had begun to blow, and from the huge massed
chorus in the transepts had rolled out the anthem, broken by one
passionate cry, from some mad Catholic. But it had been silenced in an
instant....

It was incredible--utterly incredible, Percy had told himself. Yet the
incredible had happened; and England had found its worship once
more--the necessary culmination of unimpeded subjectivity. From the
provinces had come the like news. In cathedral after cathedral had been
the same scenes. Markenheim's masterpiece, executed in four days after
the passing of the bill, had been reproduced by the ordinary machinery,
and four thousand replicas had been despatched to every important
centre. Telegraphic reports had streamed into the London papers that
everywhere the new movement had been received with acclamation, and that
human instincts had found adequate expression at last. If there had not
been a God, mused Percy reminiscently, it would have been necessary to
invent one. He was astonished, too, at the skill with which the new cult
had been framed. It moved round no disputable points; there was no
possibility of divergent political tendencies to mar its success, no
over-insistence on citizenship, labour and the rest, for those who were
secretly individualistic and idle. Life was the one fount and centre of
it all, clad in the gorgeous robes of ancient worship. Of course the
thought had been Felsenburgh's, though a German name had been mentioned.
It was Positivism of a kind, Catholicism without Christianity, Humanity
worship without its inadequacy. It was not man that was worshipped but
the Idea of man, deprived of his supernatural principle. Sacrifice,
too, was recognised--the instinct of oblation without the demand made by
transcendent Holiness upon the blood-guiltiness of man.... In fact,--in
fact, said Percy, it was exactly as clever as the devil, and as old as
Cain.

The advice he had given to the Holy Father just now was a counsel of
despair, or of hope; he really did not know which. He had urged that a
stringent decree should be issued, forbidding any acts of violence on
the part of Catholics. The faithful were to be encouraged to be patient,
to hold utterly aloof from the worship, to say nothing unless they were
questioned, to suffer bonds gladly. He had suggested, in company with
the German Cardinal, that they two should return to their respective
countries at the close of the year, to encourage the waverers; but the
answer had been that their vocation was to remain in Rome, unless
something unforeseen happened.

As for Felsenburgh, there was little news. It was said that he was in
the East; but further details were secret. Percy understood quite well
why he had not been present at the worship as had been expected. First,
it would have been difficult to decide between the two countries that
had established it; and, secondly, he was too brilliant a politician to
risk the possible association of failure with his own person; thirdly,
there was something the matter with the East.

This last point was difficult to understand; it had not yet become
explicit, but it seemed as if the movement of last year had not yet run
its course. It was undoubtedly difficult to explain the new President's
constant absences from his adopted continent, unless there was something
that demanded his presence elsewhere; but the extreme discretion of the
East and the stringent precautions taken by the Empire made it
impossible to know any details. It was apparently connected with
religion; there were rumours, portents, prophets, ecstatics there.

* * * * *

Upon Percy himself had fallen a subtle change which he himself was
recognising. He no longer soared to confidence or sank to despair. He
said his mass, read his enormous correspondence, meditated strictly;
and, though he felt nothing he knew everything. There was not a tinge of
doubt upon his faith, but neither was there emotion in it. He was as one
who laboured in the depths of the earth, crushed even in imagination,
yet conscious that somewhere birds sang, and the sun shone, and water
ran. He understood his own state well enough, and perceived that he had
come to a reality of faith that was new to him, for it was sheer
faith--sheer apprehension of the Spiritual--without either the dangers
or the joys of imaginative vision. He expressed it to himself by saying
that there were three processes through which God led the soul: the
first was that of external faith, which assents to all things presented
by the accustomed authority, practises religion, and is neither
interested nor doubtful; the second follows the quickening of the
emotional and perceptive powers of the soul, and is set about with
consolations, desires, mystical visions and perils; it is in this plane
that resolutions are taken and vocations found and shipwrecks
experienced; and the third, mysterious and inexpressible, consists in
the re-enactment in the purely spiritual sphere of all that has preceded
(as a play follows a rehearsal), in which God is grasped but not
experienced, grace is absorbed unconsciously and even distastefully, and
little by little the inner spirit is conformed in the depths of its
being, far within the spheres of emotion and intellectual perception, to
the image and mind of Christ.

So he lay back now, thinking, a long, stately, scarlet figure, in his
deep chair, staring out over Holy Rome seen through the misty September
haze. How long, he wondered, would there be peace? To his eyes even
already the air was black with doom.

He struck his hand-bell at last.

"Bring me Father Blackmore's Last report," he said, as his secretary
appeared.



II

Percy's intuitive faculties were keen by nature and had been vastly
increased by cultivation. He had never forgotten Father Blackmore's
shrewd remarks of a year ago; and one of his first acts as
Cardinal-Protector had been to appoint that priest on the list of
English correspondents. Hitherto he had received some dozen letters, and
not one of them had been without its grain of gold. Especially he had
noticed that one warning ran through them all, namely, that sooner or
later there would be some overt act of provocation on the part of
English Catholics; and it was the memory of this that had inspired his
vehement entreaties to the Pope this morning. As in the Roman and
African persecutions of the first three centuries, so now, the greatest
danger to the Catholic community lay not in the unjust measures of the
Government but in the indiscreet zeal of the faithful themselves. The
world desired nothing better than a handle to its blade. The scabbard
was already cast away.

When the young man had brought the four closely written sheets, dated
from Westminster, the previous evening, Percy turned at once to the last
paragraph before the usual Recommendations.

"Mr. Brand's late secretary, Mr. Phillips, whom your Eminence commended
to me, has been to see me two or three times. He is in a curious state.
He has no faith; yet, intellectually, he sees no hope anywhere but in
the Catholic Church. He has even begged for admission to the Order of
Christ Crucified, which of course is impossible. But there is no doubt
he is sincere; otherwise he would have professed Catholicism. I have
introduced him to many Catholics in the hope that they may help him. I
should much wish your Eminence to see him."

Before leaving England, Percy had followed up the acquaintance he had
made so strangely over Mrs. Brand's reconciliation to God, and, scarcely
knowing why, had commended him to the priest. He had not been
particularly impressed by Mr. Phillips; he had thought him a timid,
undecided creature, yet he had been struck by the extremely unselfish
action by which the man had forfeited his position. There must surely be
a good deal behind.

And now the impulse had come to send for him. Perhaps the spiritual
atmosphere of Rome would precipitate faith. In any case, the
conversation of Mr. Brand's late secretary might be instructive.

He struck the bell again.

"Mr. Brent," he said, "in your next letter to Father Blackmore, tell him
that I wish to see the man whom he proposed to send--Mr. Phillips."

"Yes, Eminence."

"There is no hurry. He can send him at his leisure."

"Yes, Eminence."

"But he must not come till January. That will be time enough, unless
there is urgent reason."

"Yes, Eminence."

* * * * *

The development of the Order of Christ Crucified had gone forward with
almost miraculous success. The appeal issued by the Holy Father
throughout Christendom had been as fire among stubble. It seemed as if
the Christian world had reached exactly that point of tension at which a
new organisation of this nature was needed, and the response had
startled even the most sanguine. Practically the whole of Rome with its
suburbs--three millions in all--had run to the enrolling stations in
St. Peter's as starving men run to food, and desperate to the storming
of a breach. For day after day the Pope himself had sat enthroned below
the altar of the Chair, a glorious, radiant figure, growing ever white
and weary towards evening, imparting his Blessing with a silent sign to
each individual of the vast crowd that swarmed up between the barriers,
fresh from fast and Communion, to kneel before his new Superior and kiss
the Pontifical ring. The requirements had been as stringent as
circumstances allowed. Each postulant was obliged to go to confession to
a specially authorised priest, who examined sharply into motives and
sincerity, and only one-third of the applicants had been accepted. This,
the authorities pointed out to the scornful, was not an excessive
proportion; for it was to be remembered that most of those who had
presented themselves had already undergone a sifting fierce as fire. Of
the three millions in Rome, two millions at least were exiles for their
faith, preferring to live obscure and despised in the shadow of God
rather than in the desolate glare of their own infidel countries.

On the fifth evening of the enrolment of novices an astonishing incident
had taken place. The old King of Spain (Queen Victoria's second son),
already on the edge of the grave, had just risen and tottered before his
Ruler; it seemed for an instant as if he would fall, when the Pope
himself, by a sudden movement, had risen, caught him in his arms and
kissed him; and then, still standing, had spread his arms abroad and
delivered a _fervorino_ such as never had been heard before in the
history of the basilica.

"_Benedictus Dominus!_" he cried, with upraised face and shining eyes.
"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He hath visited and redeemed His
people. I, John, Vicar of Christ, Servant of Servants, and sinner among
sinners, bid you be of good courage in the Name of God. By Him Who hung
on the Cross, I promise eternal life to all who persevere in His Order.
He Himself has said it. _To him that overcometh I will give a crown of
life._

"Little children; fear not him that killeth the body. There is no more
that he can do. God and His Mother are amongst us...."

So his voice had poured on, telling the enormous awe-stricken crowd of
the blood that already had been shed on the place where they stood, of
the body of the Apostle that lay scarcely fifty yards away, urging,
encouraging, inspiring. They had vowed themselves to death, if that were
God's Will; and if not, the intention would be taken for the deed. They
were under obedience now; their wills were no longer theirs but God's;
under chastity--for their bodies were bought with a price; under
poverty, and theirs was the kingdom of heaven.

He had ended by a great silent Benediction of the City and the World:
and there were not wanting a half-dozen of the faithful who had seen,
they thought, a white shape in the form of a bird that hung in the air
while he spoke white as a mist, translucent as water....

The consequent scenes in the city and suburbs had been unparalleled, for
thousands of families had with one consent dissolved human ties.
Husbands had found their way to the huge houses on the Quirinal set
apart for them; wives to the Aventine; while the children, as confident
as their parents, had swarmed over to the Sisters of St. Vincent who had
received at the Pope's orders the gift of three streets to shelter them
in. Everywhere the smoke of burning went up in the squares where
household property, rendered useless by the vows of poverty, were
consumed by their late owners; and daily long trains moved out from the
station outside the walls carrying jubilant loads of those who were
despatched by the Pope's delegates to be the salt of men, consumed in
their function, and leaven plunged in the vast measures of the infidel
world. And that infidel world welcomed their coming with bitter
laughter.

From the rest of Christendom had poured in news of success. The same
precautions had been observed as in Rome, for the directions issued were
precise and searching; and day after day came in the long rolls of the
new Religious drawn up by the diocesan superiors.

Within the last few days, too, other lists had arrived, more glorious
than all. Not only did reports stream in that already the Order was
beginning its work and that already broken communications were being
re-established, that devoted missioners were in process of organising
themselves, and that hope was once more rising in the most desperate
hearts; but better than all this was the tidings of victory in another
sphere. In Paris forty of the new-born Order had been burned alive in
one day in the Latin quarter, before the Government intervened. From
Spain, Holland, Russia had come in other names. In Dusseldorf eighteen
men and boys, surprised at their singing of Prime in the church of Saint
Laurence, had been cast down one by one into the city-sewer, each
chanting as he vanished:

"_Christi Fili Dei vivi miserere nobis,_"

and from the darkness had come up the same broken song till it was
silenced with stones. Meanwhile, the German prisons were thronged with
the first batches of recusants. The world shrugged its shoulders, and
declared that they had brought it on themselves, while yet it deprecated
mob-violence, and requested the attention of the authorities and the
decisive repression of this new conspiracy of superstition. And within
St. Peter's Church the workmen were busy at the long rows of new altars,
affixing to the stone diptychs the brass-forged names of those who had
already fulfilled their vows and gained their crowns.

It was the first word of God's reply to the world's challenge.

* * * * *

As Christmas drew on it was announced that the Sovereign pontiff would
sing mass on the last day of the year, at the papal altar of Saint
Peter's, on behalf of the Order; and preparations began to be made.

It was to be a kind of public inauguration of the new enterprise; and,
to the astonishment of all, a special summons was issued to all members
of the Sacred College throughout the world to be present, unless hindered
by sickness. It seemed as if the Pope were determined that the world
should understand that war was declared; for, although the command would
not involve the absence of any Cardinal from his province for more than
five days, yet many inconveniences must surely result. However, it had
been said, and it was to be done.

* * * * *

It was a strange Christmas.

Percy was ordered to attend the Pope at his second mass, and himself
said his three at midnight in his own private oratory. For the first
time in his life he saw that of which he had heard so often, the
wonderful old-world Pontifical procession, lit by torches, going through
the streets from the Lateran to St. Anastasia, where the Pope for the
last few years had restored the ancient custom discontinued for nearly a
century-and-a-half. The little basilica was reserved, of course, in
every corner for the peculiarly privileged; but the streets outside
along the whole route from the Cathedral to the church--and, indeed, the
other two sides of the triangle as well, were one dense mass of silent
heads and flaming torches. The Holy Father was attended at the altar by
the usual sovereigns; and Percy from his place watched the heavenly
drama of Christ's Passion enacted through the veil of His nativity at
the hands of His old Angelic Vicar. It was hard to perceive Calvary
here; it was surely the air of Bethlehem, the celestial light, not the
supernatural darkness, that beamed round the simple altar. It was the
Child called Wonderful that lay there beneath the old hands, rather than
the stricken Man of Sorrows.

_Adeste fideles_ sang the choir from the tribune.--Come, let us adore,
rather than weep; let us exult, be content, be ourselves like little
children. As He for us became a child, let us become childlike for Him.
Let us put on the garments of infancy and the shoes of peace. _For the
Lord hath reigned; He is clothed with beauty: the Lord is clothed with
strength and hath girded Himself. He hath established the world which
shall not be moved: His throne is prepared from of old. He is from
everlasting. Rejoice greatly then, O daughter of Zion, shout for joy, O
daughter of Jerusalem; behold thy King cometh, to thee, the Holy One,
the Saviour of the world._ It will be time, then, to suffer by and bye,
when the Prince of this world cometh upon the Prince of Heaven.

So Percy mused, standing apart in his gorgeousness, striving to make
himself little and simple. Surely nothing was too hard for God! Might
not this mystic Birth once more do what it had done before--bring into
subjection through the might of its weakness every proud thing that
exalts itself above all that is called God? It had drawn wise Kings once
across the desert, as well as shepherds from their flocks. It had kings
about it now, kneeling with the poor and foolish, kings who had laid
down their crowns, who brought the gold of loyal hearts, the myrrh of
desired martyrdom, and the incense of a pure faith. Could not republics,
too, lay aside their splendour, mobs be tamed, selfishness deny itself,
and wisdom confess its ignorance?...

Then he remembered Felsenburgh; and his heart sickened within him.



III

Six days later, Percy rose as usual, said his mass, breakfasted, and
sat down to say office until his servant should summon him to vest for
the Pontifical mass.

He had learned to expect bad news now so constantly--of apostasies,
deaths, losses--that the lull of the previous week had come to him with
extraordinary refreshment. It appeared to him as if his musings in St.
Anastasia had been truer than he thought, and that the sweetness of the
old feast had not yet wholly lost its power even over a world that
denied its substance. For nothing at all had happened of importance. A
few more martyrdoms had been chronicled, but they had been isolated
cases; and of Felsenburgh there had been no tidings at all. Europe
confessed its ignorance of his business.

On the other hand, to-morrow, Percy knew very well, would be a day of
extraordinary moment in England and Germany at any rate; for in England
it was appointed as the first occasion of compulsory worship throughout
the country, while it was the second in Germany. Men and women would
have to declare themselves now.

He had seen on the previous evening a photograph of the image that was
to be worshipped next day in the Abbey; and, in a fit of loathing, had
torn it to shreds. It represented a nude woman, huge and majestic,
entrancingly lovely, with head and shoulders thrown back, as one who
sees a strange and heavenly vision, arms downstretched and hands a
little raised, with wide fingers, as in astonishment--the whole
attitude, with feet and knees pressed together, suggestive of
expectation, hope and wonder; in devilish mockery her long hair was
crowned with twelve stars. This, then, was the spouse of the other, the
embodiment of man's ideal maternity, still waiting for her child....

When the white scraps lay like poisonous snow at his feet, he had sprung
across the room to his _prie-dieu_, and fallen there in an agony of
reparation.

"Oh! Mother, Mother!" he cried to the stately Queen of Heaven who, with
Her true Son long ago in Her arms, looked down on him from Her
bracket--no more than that.

* * * * *

But he was still again this morning, and celebrated Saint Silvester,
Pope and Martyr, the last saint in the procession of the Christian year,
with tolerable equanimity. The sights of last night, the throng of
officials, the stately, scarlet, unfamiliar figures of the Cardinals who
had come in from north, south, east and west--these helped to reassure
him again--unreasonably, as he knew, yet effectually. The very air was
electric with expectation. All night the piazza had been crowded by a
huge, silent mob waiting till the opening of the doors at seven o'clock.
Now the church itself was full, and the piazza full again. Far down the
street to the river, so far as he could see as he had leaned from his
window just now, lay that solemn motionless pavement of heads. The roof
of the colonnade showed a fringe of them, the house-tops were black--and
this in the bitter cold of a clear, frosty morning, for it was announced
that after mass and the proceeding of the members of the Order past the
Pontifical Throne, the Pope would give Apostolic Benediction to the City
and the World.

Percy finished Terce, closed his book and lay back; his servant would be
here in a minute now.

His mind began to run over the function, and he reflected that the
entire Sacred College (with the exception of the Cardinal-Protector of
Jerusalem, detained by sickness), numbering sixty-four members, would
take part. This would mean an unique sight by and bye. Eight years
before, he remembered, after the freedom of Rome, there had been a
similar assembly; but the Cardinals at that time amounted to no more
than fifty-three all told, and four had been absent.

Then he heard voices in his ante-room, a quick step, and a loud English
expostulation. That was curious, and he sat up.

Then he heard a sentence.

"His Eminence must go to vest; it is useless."

There was a sharp answer, a faint scuffle, and a snatch at the handle.
This was indecent; so Percy stood up, made three strides of it to the
door, and tore it open.

A man stood there, whom at first he did not recognise, pale and
disordered.

"Why---" began Percy, and recoiled.

"Mr. Phillips!" he said.

The other threw out his hands.

"It is I, sir--your Eminence--this moment arrived. It is life and death.
Your servant tells me---"

"Who sent you?"

"Father Blackmore."

"Good news or bad?"

The man rolled his eyes towards the servant, who still stood erect and
offended a yard away; and Percy understood.

He put his hand on the other's arm, drawing him through the doorway.

"Tap upon this door in two minutes, James," he said.

They passed across the polished floor together; Percy went to his usual
place in the window, leaned against the shutter, and spoke.

"Tell me in one sentence, sir," he said to the breathless man.

"There is a plot among the Catholics. They intend destroying the Abbey
to-morrow with explosives. I knew that the Pope---"

Percy cut him short with a gesture.



CHAPTER VI


I

The volor-stage was comparatively empty this afternoon, as the little
party of six stepped out on to it from the lift. There was nothing to
distinguish these from ordinary travellers. The two Cardinals of Germany
and England were wrapped in plain furs, without insignia of any kind;
their chaplains stood near them, while the two men-servants hurried
forward with the bags to secure a private compartment.

The four kept complete silence, watching the busy movements of the
officials on board, staring unseeingly at the sleek, polished monster
that lay netted in steel at their feet, and the great folded fins that
would presently be cutting the thin air at a hundred and fifty miles an
hour.

Then Percy, by a sudden movement, turned from the others, went to the
open window that looked over Rome, and leaned there with his elbows on
the sill, looking.

* * * * *

It was a strange view before him.

It was darkening now towards sunset, and the sky, primrose-green
overhead, deepened to a clear tawny orange above the horizon, with a
sanguine line or two at the edge, and beneath that lay the deep evening
violet of the city, blotted here and there by the black of cypresses and
cut by the thin leafless pinnacles of a poplar grove that aspired
without the walls. But right across the picture rose the enormous dome,
of an indescribable tint; it was grey, it was violet--it was what the
eye chose to make it--and through it, giving its solidity the air of a
bubble, shone the southern sky, flushed too with faint orange. It was
this that was supreme and dominant; the serrated line of domes, spires
and pinnacles, the crowded roofs beneath, in the valley dell' Inferno,
the fairy hills far away--all were but the annexe to this mighty
tabernacle of God. Already lights were beginning to shine, as for thirty
centuries they had shone; thin straight skeins of smoke were ascending
against the darkening sky. The hum of this Mother of cities was
beginning to be still, for the keen air kept folks indoors; and the
evening peace was descending that closed another day and another year.
Beneath in the narrow streets Percy could see tiny figures, hurrying
like belated ants; the crack of a whip, the cry of a woman, the wail of
a child came up to this immense elevation like details of a murmur from
another world. They, too, would soon be quiet, and there would be peace.

A heavy bell beat faintly from far away, and the drowsy city turned to
murmur its good-night to the Mother of God. From a thousand towers came
the tiny melody, floating across the great air spaces, in a thousand
accents, the solemn bass of St. Peter's, the mellow tenor of the
Lateran, the rough cry from some old slum church, the peevish tinkle of
convents and chapels--all softened and made mystical in this grave
evening air--it was the wedding of delicate sound and clear light.
Above, the liquid orange sky; beneath, this sweet, subdued ecstasy of
bells.

"_Alma Redemptoris Mater_," whispered Percy, his eyes wet with tears.
"_Gentle Mother of the Redeemer--the open door of the sky, star of the
sea--have mercy on sinners. _The Angel of the Lord announced it to Mary,
and she conceived of the Holy Ghost_.... Pour, therefore, Lord, Thy
grace into our hearts. Let us, who know Christ's incarnation, rise
through passion and cross to the glory of Resurrection--through the same
Christ our Lord."

Another bell clanged sharply close at hand, calling him down to earth,
and wrong, and labour and grief; and he turned to see the motionless
volor itself one blaze of brilliant internal light, and the two priests
following the German Cardinal across the gangway.

It was the rear compartment that the men had taken; and when he had seen
that the old man was comfortable, still without a word he passed out
again into the central passage to see the last of Rome.

The exit-door had now been snapped, and as Percy stood at the opposite
window looking out at the high wall that would presently sink beneath
him, throughout the whole of the delicate frame began to run the
vibration of the electric engine. There was the murmur of talking
somewhere, a heavy step shook the floor, a bell clanged again, twice,
and a sweet wind-chord sounded. Again it sounded; the vibration ceased,
and the edge of the high wall against the tawny sky on which he had
fixed his eyes sank suddenly like a dropped bar, and he staggered a
little in his place. A moment later the dome rose again, and itself
sank, the city, a fringe of towers and a mass of dark roofs, pricked
with light, span like a whirlpool; the jewelled stars themselves sprang
this way and that; and with one more long cry the marvellous machine
righted itself, beat with its wings, and settled down, with the note of
the flying air passing through rising shrillness into vibrant silence,
to its long voyage to the north.

Further and further sank the city behind; it was a patch now: greyness
on black. The sky seemed to grow more huge and all-containing as the
earth relapsed into darkness; it glowed like a vast dome of wonderful
glass, darkening even as it glowed; and as Percy dropped his eyes once
more round the extreme edge of the car the city was but a line and a
bubble--a line and a swelling--a line, and nothingness.

He drew a long breath, and went back to his friends.



II

"Tell me again," said the old Cardinal, when the two were settled down
opposite to one another, and the chaplains were gone to another
compartment. "Who is this man?"

"This man? He was secretary to Oliver Brand, one of our politicians. He
fetched me to old Mrs. Brand's death bed, and lost his place in
consequence. He is in journalism now. He is perfectly honest. No, he is
not a Catholic, though he longs to be one. That is why they confided in
him."

"And they?"

"I know nothing of them, except that they are a desperate set. They have
enough faith to act, but not enough to be patient.... I suppose they
thought this man would sympathise. But unfortunately he has a
conscience, and he also sees that any attempt of this kind would be the
last straw on the back of toleration. Eminence, do you realise how
violent the feeling is against us?"

The old man shook his head lamentably.

"Do I not?" he murmured. "And my Germans are in it? Are you sure?"

"Eminence, it is a vast plot. It has been simmering for months. There
have been meetings every week. They have kept the secret marvellously.
Your Germans only delayed that the blow might be more complete. And now,
to-morrow---" Percy drew back with a despairing gesture.

"And the Holy Father?"

"I went to him as soon as mass was over. He withdrew all opposition, and
sent for you. It is our one chance, Eminence."

"And you think our plan will hinder it?"

"I have no idea, but I can think of nothing else. I shall go straight to
the Archbishop and tell him all. We arrive, I believe, at three o'clock,
and you in Berlin about seven, I suppose, by German time. The function
is fixed for eleven. By eleven, then, we shall have done all that is
possible. The Government will know, and they will know, too, that we are
innocent in Rome. I imagine they will cause it to be announced that the
Cardinal-Protector and the Archbishop, with his coadjutors, will be
present in the sacristies. They will double every guard; they will
parade volors overhead--and then--well! in God's hands be the rest."

"Do you think the conspirators will attempt it?"

"I have no idea," said Percy shortly.

"I understand they have alternative plans."

"Just so. If all is clear, they intend dropping the explosive from
above; if not, at least three men have offered to sacrifice themselves
by taking it into the Abbey themselves.... And you, Eminence?"

The old man eyed him steadily.

"My programme is yours," he said. "Eminence, have you considered the
effect in either case? If nothing happens---"

"If nothing happens we shall be accused of a fraud, of seeking to
advertise ourselves. If anything happens--well, we shall all go before
God together. Pray God it may be the second," he added passionately.

"It will be at least easier to bear," observed the old man.

"I beg your pardon, Eminence. I should not have said that."

There fell a silence between the two, in which no sound was heard but
the faint untiring vibration of the screw, and the sudden cough of a man
in the next compartment. Percy leaned his head wearily on his hand, and
stared from the window.

The earth was now dark beneath them--an immense emptiness; above, the
huge engulfing sky was still faintly luminous, and through the high
frosty mist through which they moved stars glimmered now and again, as
the car swayed and tacked across the wind.

"It will be cold among the Alps," murmured Percy. Then he broke off.
"And I have not one shred of evidence," he said; "nothing but the word
of a man."

"And you are sure?"

"I am sure."

"Eminence," said the German suddenly, staring straight into his face,
"the likeness is extraordinary."

Percy smiled listlessly. He was tired of bearing that.

"What do you make of it?" persisted the other.

"I have been asked that before," said Percy. "I have no views."

"It seems to me that God means something," murmured the German heavily,
still staring at him.

"Well, Eminence?"

"A kind of antithesis--a reverse of the medal. I do not know."

Again there was silence. A chaplain looked in through the glazed door, a
homely, blue-eyed German, and was waved away once more.

"Eminence," said the old man abruptly, "there is surely more to speak
of. Plans to be made."

Percy shook his head.

"There are no plans to be made," he said. "We know nothing but the
fact--no names--nothing. We--we are like children in a tiger's cage. And
one of us has just made a gesture in the tiger's face."

"I suppose we shall communicate with one another?"

"If we are in existence."

It was curious how Percy took the lead. He had worn his scarlet for
about three months, and his companion for twelve years; yet it was the
younger who dictated plans and arranged. He was scarcely conscious of
its strangeness, however. Ever since the shocking news of the morning,
when a new mine had been sprung under the shaking Church, and he had
watched the stately ceremonial, the gorgeous splendour, the dignified,
tranquil movements of the Pope and his court, with a secret that burned
his heart and brain--above all, since that quick interview in which old
plans had been reversed and a startling decision formed, and a blessing
given and received, and a farewell looked not uttered--all done in
half-an-hour--his whole nature had concentrated itself into one keen
tense force, like a coiled spring. He felt power tingling to his
finger-tips--power and the dulness of an immense despair. Every prop had
been cut, every brace severed; he, the City of Rome, the Catholic
Church, the very supernatural itself, seemed to hang now on one single
thing--the Finger of God. And if that failed--well, nothing would ever
matter any more....

He was going now to one of two things--ignominy or death. There was no
third thing--unless, indeed, the conspirators were actually taken with
their instruments upon them. But that was impossible. Either they would
refrain, knowing that God's ministers would fall with them, and in that
case there would be the ignominy of a detected fraud, of a miserable
attempt to win credit. Or they would not refrain; they would count the
death of a Cardinal and a few bishops a cheap price to pay for
revenge--and in that case well, there was Death and Judgment. But Percy
had ceased to fear. No ignominy could be greater than that which he
already bore--the ignominy of loneliness and discredit. And death could
be nothing but sweet--it would at least be knowledge and rest. He was
willing to risk all on God.

The other, with a little gesture of apology, took out his office book
presently, and began to read.

Percy looked at him with an immense envy. Ah! if only he were as old as
that! He could bear a year or two more of this misery, but not fifty
years, he thought. It was an almost endless vista that (even if things
went well) opened before him, of continual strife, self-repression,
energy, misrepresentation from his enemies. The Church was sinking
further every day. What if this new spasm of fervour were no more than
the dying flare of faith? How could he bear that? He would have to see
the tide of atheism rise higher and more triumphant every day;
Felsenburgh had given it an impetus of whose end there was no
prophesying. Never before had a single man wielded the full power of
democracy. Then once more he looked forward to the morrow. Oh! if it
could but end in death!... _Beati mortui qui in Domino moriuntur!_ ...

It was no good; it was cowardly to think in this fashion. After all, God
was God--He takes up the isles as a very little thing.

Percy took out his office book, found Prime and St. Sylvester, signed
himself with the cross, and began to pray. A minute later the two
chaplains slipped in once more, and sat down; and all was silent, save
for that throb of the screw, and the strange whispering rush of air
outside.



III

It was about nineteen o'clock that the ruddy English conductor looked in
at the doorway, waking Percy from his doze.

"Dinner will be served in half-an-hour, gentlemen," he said (speaking
Esperanto, as the rule was on international cars). "We do not stop at
Turin to-night."

He shut the door and went out, and the sound of closing doors came down
the corridor as he made the same announcement to each compartment.

There were no passengers to descend at Turin, then, reflected Percy; and
no doubt a wireless message had been received that there were none to
come on board either. That was good news: it would give him more time in
London. It might even enable Cardinal Steinmann to catch an earlier
volor from Paris to Berlin; but he was not sure bow they ran. It was a
pity that the German had not been able to catch the thirteen o'clock
from Rome to Berlin direct. So he calculated, in a kind of superficial
insensibility.

He stood up presently to stretch himself. Then he passed out and along
the corridor to the lavatory to wash his hands.

He became fascinated by the view as he stood before the basin at the
rear of the car, for even now they were passing over Turin. It was a
blur of light, vivid and beautiful, that shone beneath him in the midst
of this gulf of darkness, sweeping away southwards into the gloom as the
car sped on towards the Alps. How little, he thought, seemed this great
city seen from above; and yet, how mighty it was! It was from that
glimmer, already five miles behind, that Italy was controlled; in one of
these dolls' houses of which he had caught but a glimpse, men sat in
council over souls and bodies, and abolished God, and smiled at His
Church. And God allowed it all, and made no sign. It was there that
Felsenburgh bad been, a month or two ago--Felsenburgh, his double! And
again the mental sword tore and stabbed at his heart.

* * * * *

A few minutes later, the four ecclesiastics were sitting at their round
table in a little screened compartment of the dining-room in the bows of
the air-ship. It was an excellent dinner, served, as usual, from the
kitchen in the bowels of the volor, and rose, course by course, with a
smooth click, into the centre of the table. There was a bottle of red
wine to each diner, and both table and chairs swung easily to the very
slight motion of the ship. But they did not talk much, for there was
only one subject possible to the two cardinals, and the chaplains had
not yet been admitted into the full secret.

It was growing cold now, and even the hot-air foot-rests did not quite
compensate for the deathly iciness of the breath that began to stream
down from the Alps, which the ship was now approaching at a slight
incline. It was necessary to rise at least nine thousand feet from the
usual level, in order to pass the frontier of the Mont Cenis at a safe
angle; and at the same time it was necessary to go a little slower over
the Alps themselves, owing to the extreme rarity of the air, and the
difficulty in causing the screw to revolve sufficiently quickly to
counteract it.

"There will be clouds to-night," said a voice clear and distinct from
the passage, as the door swung slightly to a movement of the car.

Percy got up and closed it.

The German Cardinal began to grow a little fidgety towards the end of
dinner.

"I shall go back," he said at last. "I shall be better in my fur rug."

His chaplain dutifully went after him, leaving his own dinner
unfinished, and Percy was left alone with Father Corkran, his English
chaplain lately from Scotland.

He finished his wine, ate a couple of figs, and then sat staring out
through the plate-glass window in front.

"Ah!" he said. "Excuse me, father. There are the Alps at last."

The front of the car consisted of three divisions, in the centre of one
of which stood the steersman, his eyes looking straight ahead, and his
hands upon the wheel. On either side of him, separated from him by
aluminium walls, was contrived a narrow slip of a compartment, with a
long curved window at the height of a man's eyes, through which a
magnificent view could be obtained. It was to one of these that Percy
went, passing along the corridor, and seeing through half-opened doors
other parties still over their wine. He pushed the spring door on the
left and went through.

He had crossed the Alps three times before in his life, and well
remembered the extraordinary effect they had had on him, especially as
he had once seen them from a great altitude upon a clear day--an
eternal, immeasurable sea of white ice, broken by hummocks and wrinkles
that from below were soaring peaks named and reverenced; and, beyond,
the spherical curve of the earth's edge that dropped in a haze of air
into unutterable space. But this time they seemed more amazing than
ever, and he looked out on them with the interest of a sick child.

The car was now ascending; rapidly towards the pass up across the huge
tumbled slopes, ravines, and cliffs that lie like outworks of the
enormous wall. Seen from this great height they were in themselves
comparatively insignificant, but they at least suggested the vastness of
the bastions of which they were no more than buttresses. As Percy
turned, he could see the moonless sky alight with frosty stars, and the
dimness of the illumination made the scene even more impressive; but as
he turned again, there was a change. The vast air about him seemed now
to be perceived through frosted glass. The velvet blackness of the pine
forests had faded to heavy grey, the pale glint of water and ice seen
and gone again in a moment, the monstrous nakedness of rock spires and
slopes, rising towards him and sliding away again beneath with a
crawling motion--all these had lost their distinctness of outline, and
were veiled in invisible white. As he looked yet higher to right and
left the sight became terrifying, for the giant walls of rock rushing
towards him, the huge grotesque shapes towering on all sides, ran upward
into a curtain of cloud visible only from the dancing radiance thrown
upon it by the brilliantly lighted car. Even as he looked, two straight
fingers of splendour, resembling horns, shot out, as the bow
searchlights were turned on; and the car itself, already travelling at
half-speed, dropped to quarter-speed, and began to sway softly from side
to side as the huge air-planes beat the mist through which they moved,
and the antennae of light pierced it. Still up they went, and on--yet
swift enough to let Percy see one great pinnacle rear itself, elongate,
sink down into a cruel needle, and vanish into nothingness a thousand
feet below. The motion grew yet more nauseous, as the car moved up at a
sharp angle preserving its level, simultaneously rising, advancing and
swaying. Once, hoarse and sonorous, an unfrozen torrent roared like a
beast, it seemed within twenty yards, and was dumb again on the instant.
Now, too, the horns began to cry, long, lamentable hootings, ringing
sadly in that echoing desolation like the wail of wandering souls; and
as Percy, awed beyond feeling, wiped the gathering moisture from the
glass, and stared again, it appeared as if he floated now, motionless
except for the slight rocking beneath his feet, in a world of whiteness,
as remote from earth as from heaven, poised in hopeless infinite space,
blind, alone, frozen, lost in a white hell of desolation.


Once, as he stared, a huge whiteness moved towards him through the veil,
slid slowly sideways and down, disclosing, as the car veered, a gigantic
slope smooth as oil, with one cluster of black rock cutting it like the
fingers of a man's hand groping from a mountainous wave.

Then, as once more the car cried aloud like a lost sheep, there answered
it, it seemed scarcely ten yards away, first one windy scream of dismay,
another and another; a clang of bells, a chorus broke out; and the air
was full of the beating of wings.



IV

There was one horrible instant before a clang of a bell, the answering
scream, and a whirling motion showed that the steersman was alert. Then
like a stone the car dropped, and Percy clutched at the rail before him
to steady the terrible sensation of falling into emptiness. He could
hear behind him the crash of crockery, the bumping of heavy bodies, and
as the car again checked on its wide wings, a rush of footsteps broke
out and a cry or two of dismay. Outside, but high and far away, the
hooting went on; the air was full of it, and in a flash he recognised
that it could not be one or ten or twenty cars, but at least a hundred
that had answered the call, and that somewhere overhead were hooting and
flapping. The invisible ravines and cliffs on all sides took up the
crying; long wails whooped and moaned and died amid a clash of bells,
further and further every instant, but now in every direction, behind,
above, in front, and far to right and left. Once more the car began to
move, sinking in a long still curve towards the face of the mountain;
and as it checked, and began to sway again on its huge wings, he turned
to the door, seeing as he did so, through the cloudy windows in the
glow of light, a spire of rock not thirty feet below rising from the
mist, and one smooth shoulder of snow curving away into invisibility.

Within, the car shewed brutal signs of the sudden check: the doors of
the dining compartments, as he passed along, were flung wide; glasses,
plates, pools of wine and tumbled fruit rolled to and fro on the heaving
floors; one man, sitting helplessly on the ground, rolled vacant,
terrified eyes upon the priest. He glanced in at the door through which
he had come just now, and Father Corkran staggered up from his seat and
came towards him, reeling at the motion underfoot; simultaneously there
was a rush from the opposite door, where a party of Americans had been
dining; and as Percy, beckoning with his head, turned again to go down
to the stern-end of the ship, he found the narrow passage blocked with
the crowd that had run out. A babble of talking and cries made questions
impossible; and Percy, with his chaplain behind him, gripped the
aluminium panelling, and step by step began to make his way in search of
his friends.

Half-way down the passage, as he pushed and struggled, a voice made
itself heard above the din; and in the momentary silence that followed,
again sounded the far-away crying of the volors overhead.

"Seats, gentlemen, seats," roared the voice. "We are moving
immediately."

Then the crowd melted as the conductor came through, red-faced and
determined, and Percy, springing into his wake, found his way clear to
the stern.

The Cardinal seemed none the worse. He had been asleep, he explained,
and saved himself in time from rolling on to the floor; but his old face
twitched as he talked.

"But what is it?" he said. "What is the meaning?"

Father Bechlin related how he had actually seen one of the troop of
volors within five yards of the window; it was crowded with faces, he
said, from stem to stern. Then it had soared suddenly, and vanished in
whorls of mist.

Percy shook his head, saying nothing. He had no explanation.

"They are inquiring, I understand," said Father Bechlin again. "The
conductor was at his instrument just now."

There was nothing to be seen from the windows now. Only, as Percy stared
out, still dazed with the shock, he saw the cruel needle of rock
wavering beneath as if seen through water, and the huge shoulder of snow
swaying softly up and down. It was quieter outside. It appeared that the
flock had passed, only somewhere from an infinite height still sounded a
fitful wailing, as if a lonely bird were wandering, lost in space.

"That is the signalling volor," murmured Percy to himself.

He had no theory--no suggestion. Yet the matter seemed an ominous one.
It was unheard of that an encounter with a hundred volors should take
place, and he wondered why they were going southwards. Again the name of
Felsenburgh came to his mind. What if that sinister man were still
somewhere overhead?

"Eminence," began the old man again. But at that instant the car began
to move.

A bell clanged, a vibration tingled underfoot, and then, soft as a
flake of snow, the great ship began to rise, its movement perceptible
only by the sudden drop and vanishing of the spire of rock at which
Percy still stared. Slowly the snowfield too began to flit downwards, a
black cleft, whisked smoothly into sight from above, and disappeared
again below, and a moment later once more the car seemed poised in white
space as it climbed the slope of air down which it had dropped just now.
Again the wind-chord rent the atmosphere; and this time the answer was
as faint and distant as a cry from another world. The speed quickened,
and the steady throb of the screw began to replace the swaying motion of
the wings. Again came the hoot, wild and echoing through the barren
wilderness of rock walls beneath, and again with a sudden impulse the
car soared. It was going in great circles now, cautious as a cat,
climbing, climbing, punctuating the ascent with cry after cry, searching
the blind air for dangers. Once again a vast white slope came into
sight, illuminated by the glare from the windows, sinking ever more and
more swiftly, receding and approaching--until for one instant a jagged
line of rocks grinned like teeth through the mist, dropped away and
vanished, and with a clash of bells, and a last scream of warning, the
throb of the screw passed from a whirr to a rising note, and the note to
stillness, as the huge ship, clear at last of the frontier peaks, shook
out her wings steady once more, and set out for her humming flight
through space.... Whatever it was, was behind them now, vanished into
the thick night.

There was a sound of talking from the interior of the car, hasty,
breathless voices, questioning, exclaiming, and the authoritative terse
answer of the guard. A step came along outside, and Percy sprang to meet
it, but, as he laid his hand on the door, it was pushed from without,
and to his astonishment the English guard came straight through, closing
it behind him.

He stood there, looking strangely at the four priests, with compressed
lips and anxious eyes.

"Well?" cried Percy.

"All right, gentlemen. But I'm thinking you'd better descend at Paris. I
know who you are, gentlemen--and though I'm not a Catholic---"

He stopped again.

"For God's sake, man---" began Percy.

"Oh! the news, gentlemen. Well, it was two hundred cars going to Rome.
There is a Catholic plot, sir, discovered in London---"

"Well?"

"To wipe out the Abbey. So they're going---"

"Ah!"

"Yes, sir--to wipe out Rome."

Then he was gone again.



CHAPTER VII

I

It was nearly sixteen o'clock on the same day, the last day of the year,
that Mabel went into the little church that stood in the street beneath
her house.

The dark was falling softly layer on layer; across the roofs to westward
burned the smouldering fire of the winter sunset, and the interior was
full of the dying light. She had slept a little in her chair that
afternoon, and had awakened with that strange cleansed sense of spirit
and mind that sometimes follows such sleep. She wondered later how she
could have slept at such a time, and above all, how it was that she had
perceived nothing of that cloud of fear and fury that even now was
falling over town and country alike. She remembered afterwards an
unusual busy-ness on the broad tracks beneath her as she had looked out
on them from her windows, and an unusual calling of horns and whistles;
but she thought nothing of it, and passed down an hour later for a
meditation in the church.

She had grown to love the quiet place, and came in often like this to
steady her thoughts and concentrate them on the significance that lay
beneath the surface of life--the huge principles upon which all lived,
and which so plainly were the true realities. Indeed, such devotion was
becoming almost recognised among certain classes of people. Addresses
were delivered now and then; little books were being published as guides
to the interior life, curiously resembling the old Catholic books on
mental prayer.

She went to-day to her usual seat, sat down, folded her hands, looked
for a minute or two upon the old stone sanctuary, the white image and
the darkening window. Then she closed her eyes and began to think,
according to the method she followed.

First she concentrated her attention on herself, detaching it from all
that was merely external and transitory, withdrawing it inwards ...
inwards, until she found that secret spark which, beneath all frailties
and activities, made her a substantial member of the divine race of
humankind.

This then was the first step.

The second consisted in an act of the intellect, followed by one of the
imagination. All men possessed that spark, she considered.... Then she
sent out her powers, sweeping with the eyes of her mind the seething
world, seeing beneath the light and dark of the two hemispheres, the
countless millions of mankind--children coming into the world, old men
leaving it, the mature rejoicing in it and their own strength. Back
through the ages she looked, through those centuries of crime and
blindness, as the race rose through savagery and superstition to a
knowledge of themselves; on through the ages yet to come, as generation
followed generation to some climax whose perfection, she told herself,
she could not fully comprehend because she was not of it. Yet, she told
herself again, that climax had already been born; the birthpangs were
over; for had not He come who was the heir of time?...

Then by a third and vivid act she realised the unity of all, the central
fire of which each spark was but a radiation--that vast passionless
divine being, realising Himself up through these centuries, one yet
many, Him whom men had called God, now no longer unknown, but recognised
as the transcendent total of themselves--Him who now, with the coming of
the new Saviour, had stirred and awakened and shown Himself as One.

And there she stayed, contemplating the vision of her mind, detaching
now this virtue, now that for particular assimilation, dwelling on her
deficiencies, seeing in the whole the fulfilment of all aspirations, the
sum of all for which men had hoped--that Spirit of Peace, so long
hindered yet generated too perpetually by the passions of the world,
forced into outline and being by the energy of individual lives,
realising itself in pulse after pulse, dominant at last, serene,
manifest, and triumphant. There she stayed, losing the sense of
individuality, merging it by a long sustained effort of the will,
drinking, as she thought, long breaths of the spirit of life and
love....

Some sound, she supposed afterwards, disturbed her, and she opened her
eyes; and there before her lay the quiet pavement, glimmering through
the dusk, the step of the sanctuary, the rostrum on the right, and the
peaceful space of darkening air above the white Mother-figure and
against the tracery of the old window. It was here that men had
worshipped Jesus, that blood-stained Man of Sorrow, who had borne, even
on His own confession, not peace but a sword. Yet they had knelt, those
blind and hopeless Christians.... Ah! the pathos of it all, the
despairing acceptance of any creed that would account for sorrow, the
wild worship of any God who had claimed to bear it!

And again came the sound, striking across her peace, though as yet she
did not understand why.

It was nearer now; and she turned in astonishment to look down the dusky
nave.

It was from without that the sound had come, that strange murmur, that
rose and fell again as she listened.

She stood up, her heart quickening a little--only once before had she
heard such a sound, once before, in a square, where men raged about a
point beneath a platform....

She stepped swiftly out of her seat, passed down the aisle, drew back
the curtains beneath the west window, lifted the latch and stepped out.

* * * * *

The street, from where she looked over the railings that barred the
entrance to the church, seemed unusually empty and dark. To right and
left stretched the houses, overhead the darkening sky was flushed with
rose; but it seemed as if the public lights had been forgotten. There
was not a living being to be seen.

She had put her hand on the latch of the gate, to open it and go out,
when a sudden patter of footsteps made her hesitate; and the next
instant a child appeared panting, breathless and terrified, running with
her hands before her.

"They're coming, they're coming," sobbed the child, seeing the face
looking at her. Then she clung to the bars, staring over her shoulder.

Mabel lifted the latch in an instant; the child sprang in, ran to the
door and beat against it, then turning, seized her dress and cowered
against her. Mabel shut the gate.

"There, there," she said. "Who is it? Who are coming?"

But the child hid her face, drawing at the kindly skirts; and the next
moment came the roar of voices and the trampling of footsteps.

* * * * *

It was not more than a few seconds before the heralds of that grim
procession came past. First came a flying squadron of children,
laughing, terrified, fascinated, screaming, turning their heads as they
ran, with a dog or two yelping among them, and a few women drifting
sideways along the pavements. A face of a man, Mabel saw as she glanced
in terror upwards, had appeared at the windows opposite, pale and
eager--some invalid no doubt dragging himself to see. One group--a
well-dressed man in grey, a couple of women carrying babies, a
solemn-faced boy--halted immediately before her on the other side of the
railings, all talking, none listening, and these too turned their faces
to the road on the left, up which every instant the clamour and
trampling grew. Yet she could not ask. Her lips moved; but no sound came
from them. She was one incarnate apprehension. Across her intense fixity
moved pictures of no importance of Oliver as he had been at breakfast,
of her own bedroom with its softened paper, of the dark sanctuary and
the white figure on which she had looked just now.

They were coming thicker now; a troop of young men with their arms
linked swayed into sight, all talking or crying aloud, none
listening--all across the roadway, and behind them surged the crowd,
like a wave in a stone-fenced channel, male scarcely distinguishable
from female in that pack of faces, and under that sky that grew darker
every instant. Except for the noise, which Mabel now hardly noticed, so
thick and incessant it was, so complete her concentration in the sense
of sight--except for that, it might have been, from its suddenness and
overwhelming force, some mob of phantoms trooping on a sudden out of
some vista of the spiritual world visible across an open space, and
about to vanish again in obscurity. That empty street was full now on
this side and that so far as she could see; the young men were
gone--running or walking she hardly knew--round the corner to the right,
and the entire space was one stream of heads and faces, pressing so
fiercely that the group at the railings were detached like weeds and
drifted too, sideways, clutching at the bars, and swept away too and
vanished. And all the while the child tugged and tore at her skirts.

Certain things began to appear now above the heads of the crowd--objects
she could not distinguish in the failing light--poles, and fantastic
shapes, fragments of stuff resembling banners, moving as if alive,
turning from side to side, borne from beneath.

Faces, distorted with passion, looked at her from time to time as the
moving show went past, open mouths cried at her; but she hardly saw
them. She was watching those strange emblems, straining her eyes through
the dusk, striving to distinguish the battered broken shapes,
half-guessing, yet afraid to guess.

Then, on a sudden, from the hidden lamps beneath the eaves, light leaped
into being--that strong, sweet, familiar light, generated by the great
engines underground that, in the passion of that catastrophic day, all
men had forgotten; and in a moment all changed from a mob of phantoms
and shapes into a pitiless reality of life and death.

Before her moved a great rood, with a figure upon it, of which one arm
hung from the nailed hand, swinging as it went; an embroidery streamed
behind with the swiftness of the motion.

And next after it came the naked body of a child, impaled, white and
ruddy, the head fallen upon the breast, and the arms, too, dangling and
turning.

And next the figure of a man, hanging by the neck, dressed, it seemed,
in a kind of black gown and cape, with its black-capped head twisting
from the twisting rope.



II

The same night Oliver Brand came home about an hour before midnight.

For himself, what he had heard and seen that day was still too vivid and
too imminent for him to judge of it coolly. He had seen, from his
windows in Whitehall, Parliament Square filled with a mob the like of
which had not been known in England since the days of Christianity--a
mob full of a fury that could scarcely draw its origin except from
sources beyond the reach of sense. Thrice during the hours that followed
the publication of the Catholic plot and the outbreak of mob-law he had
communicated with the Prime Minister asking whether nothing could be
done to allay the tumult; and on both occasions he had received the
doubtful answer that what could be done would be done, that force was
inadmissible at present; but that the police were doing all that was
possible.

As regarded the despatch of the volors to Rome, he had assented by
silence, as had the rest of the Council. That was, Snowford had said, a
judicial punitive act, regrettable but necessary. Peace, in this
instance, could not be secured except on terms of war--or rather, since
war was obsolete--by the sternness of justice. These Catholics had shown
themselves the avowed enemies of society; very well, then society must
defend itself, at least this once. Man was still human. And Oliver had
listened and said nothing.

As he passed in one of the Government volors over London on his way
home, he had caught more than one glimpse of what was proceeding beneath
him. The streets were as bright as day, shadowless and clear in the
white light, and every roadway was a crawling serpent. From beneath rose
up a steady roar of voices, soft and woolly, punctuated by cries. From
here and there ascended the smoke of burning; and once, as he flitted
over one of the great squares to the south of Battersea, he had seen as
it were a scattered squadron of ants running as if in fear or
pursuit.... He knew what was happening.... Well, after all, man was not
yet perfectly civilised.

He did not like to think of what awaited him at home. Once, about five
hours earlier, he had listened to his wife's voice through the
telephone, and what he had heard had nearly caused him to leave all and
go to her. Yet he was scarcely prepared for what he found.

As he came into the sitting-room, there was no sound, except that
far-away hum from the seething streets below. The room seemed strangely
dark and cold; the only light that entered was through one of the
windows from which the curtains were withdrawn, and, silhouetted against
the luminous sky beyond, was the upright figure of a woman, looking and
listening....

He pressed the knob of the electric light; and Mabel turned slowly
towards him. She was in her day-dress, with a cloak thrown over her
shoulders, and her face was almost as that of a stranger. It was
perfectly colourless, her lips were compressed and her eyes full of an
emotion which he could not interpret. It might equally have been anger,
terror or misery.

She stood there in the steady light, motionless, looking at him.

For a moment he did not trust himself to speak. He passed across to the
window, closed it and drew the curtains. Then he took that rigid figure
gently by the arm.

"Mabel," he said, "Mabel."

She submitted to be drawn towards the sofa, but there was no response to
his touch. He sat down and looked up at her with a kind of despairing
apprehension.

"My dear, I am tired out," he said.

Still she looked at him. There was in her pose that rigidity that actors
simulate; yet he knew it for the real thing. He had seen that silence
once or twice before in the presence of a horror--once at any rate, at
the sight of a splash of blood on her shoe.

"Well, my darling, sit down, at least," he said.

She obeyed him mechanically--sat, and still stared at him. In the
silence once more that soft roar rose and died from the invisible world
of tumult outside the windows. Within here all was quiet. He knew
perfectly that two things strove within her, her loyalty to her faith
and her hatred of those crimes in the name of justice. As he looked on
her he saw that these two were at death grips, that hatred was
prevailing, and that she herself was little more than a passive
battlefield. Then, as with a long-drawn howl of a wolf, there surged and
sank the voices of the mob a mile away, the tension broke.... She threw
herself forward towards him, he caught her by the wrists, and so she
rested, clasped in his arms, her face and bosom on his knees, and her
whole body torn by emotion.

For a full minute neither spoke. Oliver understood well enough, yet at
present he had no words. He only drew her a little closer to himself,
kissed her hair two or three times, and settled himself to hold her. He
began to rehearse what he must say presently.

Then she raised her flushed face for an instant, looked at him
passionately, dropped her head again and began to sob out broken words.

He could only catch a sentence here and there, yet he knew what she was
saying....

It was the ruin of all her hopes, she sobbed, the end of her religion.
Let her die, die and have done with it! It was all gone, gone, swept
away in this murderous passion of the people of her faith ... they were
no better than Christians, after all, as fierce as the men on whom they
avenged themselves, as dark as though the Saviour, Julian, had never
come; it was all lost ... War and Passion and Murder had returned to the
body from which she had thought them gone forever.... The burning
churches, the hunted Catholics, the raging of the streets on which she
had looked that day, the bodies of the child and the priest carried on
poles, the burning churches and convents. ... All streamed out,
incoherent, broken by sobs, details of horror, lamentations, reproaches,
interpreted by the writhing of her head and hands upon his knees. The
collapse was complete.

He put his hands again beneath her arms and raised her. He was worn out
by his work, yet he knew he must quiet her. This was more serious than
any previous crisis. Yet he knew her power of recovery.

"Sit down, my darling," he said. "There ... give me your hands. Now
listen to me."

* * * * *

He made really an admirable defence, for it was what he had been
repeating to himself all day. Men were not yet perfect, he said; there
ran in their veins the blood of men who for twenty centuries had been
Christians.... There must be no despair; faith in man was of the very
essence of religion, faith in man's best self, in what he would become,
not in what at present he actually was. They were at the beginning of
the new religion, not in its maturity; there must be sourness in the
young fruit. ... Consider, too, the provocation! Remember the appalling
crime that these Catholics had contemplated; they had set themselves to
strike the new Faith in its very heart....

"My darling," he said, "men are not changed in an instant. What if those
Christians had succeeded!... I condemn it all as strongly as you. I saw
a couple of newspapers this afternoon that are as wicked as anything
that the Christians have ever done. They exulted in all these crimes. It
will throw the movement back ten years.... Do you think that there are
not thousands like yourself who hate and detest this violence?... But
what does faith mean, except that we know that mercy will prevail?
Faith, patience and hope--these are our weapons."

He spoke with passionate conviction, his eyes fixed on hers, in a fierce
endeavour to give her his own confidence, and to reassure the remnants
of his own doubtfulness. It was true that he too hated what she hated,
yet he saw things that she did not.... Well, well, he told himself, he
must remember that she was a woman.

The look of frantic horror passed slowly out of her eyes, giving way to
acute misery as he talked, and as his personality once more began to
dominate her own. But it was not yet over.

"But the volors," she cried, "the volors! That is deliberate; that is
not the work of the mob."

"My darling, it is no more deliberate than the other. We are all human,
we are all immature. Yes, the Council permitted it, ... permitted it,
remember. The German Government, too, had to yield. We must tame nature
slowly, we must not break it."

He talked again for a few minutes, repeating his arguments, soothing,
reassuring, encouraging; and he saw that he was beginning to prevail.
But she returned to one of his words.

"Permitted it! And you permitted it."

"Dear; I said nothing, either for it or against. I tell you that if we
had forbidden it there would have been yet more murder, and the people
would have lost their rulers. We were passive, since we could do
nothing."

"Ah! but it would have been better to die.... Oh, Oliver, let me die at
least! I cannot bear it."

By her hands which he still held he drew her nearer yet to himself.

"Sweetheart," he said gravely, "cannot you trust me a little? If I could
tell you all that passed to-day, you would understand. But trust me that
I am not heartless. And what of Julian Felsenburgh?"

For a moment he saw hesitation in her eyes; her loyalty to him and her
loathing of all that had happened strove within her. Then once again
loyalty prevailed, the name of Felsenburgh weighed down the balance, and
trust came back with a flood of tears.

"Oh, Oliver," she said, "I know I trust you. But I am so weak, and all
is so terrible. And He so strong and merciful. And will He be with us
to-morrow?"

* * * * *

It struck midnight from the clock-tower a mile away as they yet sat and
talked. She was still tremulous from the struggle; but she looked at him
smiling, still holding his hands. He saw that the reaction was upon her
in full force at last.

"The New Year, my husband," she said, and rose as she said it, drawing
him after her.

"I wish you a happy New Year," she said. "Oh help me, Oliver."

She kissed him, and drew back, still holding his hands, looking at him
with bright tearful eyes.

"Oliver," she cried again, "I must tell you this.... Do you know what I
thought before you came?"

He shook his head, staring at her greedily. How sweet she was! He felt
her grip tighten on his hands.

"I thought I could not bear it," she whispered--"that I must end it
all--ah! you know what I mean."

His heart flinched as he heard her; and he drew her closer again to
himself.

"It is all over! it is all over," she cried. "Ah! do not look like that!
I could not tell you if it was not."'

As their lips met again there came the vibration of an electric bell
from the next room, and Oliver, knowing what it meant, felt even in that
instant a tremor shake his heart. He loosed her hands, and still smiled
at her.

"The bell!" she said, with a flash of apprehension.

"But it is all well between us again?"

Her face steadied itself into loyalty and confidence.

"It is all well," she said; and again the impatient bell tingled. "Go,
Oliver; I will wait here."

A minute later he was back again, with a strange look on his white face,
and his lips compressed. He came straight up to her, taking her once
more by the hands, and looking steadily into her steady eyes. In the
hearts of both of them resolve and faith were holding down the emotion
that was not yet dead. He drew a long breath.

"Yes," he said in an even voice, "it is over."

Her lips moved; and that deadly paleness lay on her cheeks. He gripped
her firmly.

"Listen," he said. "You must face it. It is over. Rome is gone. Now we
must build something better."

She threw herself sobbing into his arms.



CHAPTER VIII

I

Long before dawn on the first morning of the New Year the approaches to
the Abbey were already blocked. Victoria Street, Great George Street,
Whitehall--even Millbank Street itself--were full and motionless. Broad
Sanctuary, divided by the low-walled motor-track, was itself cut into
great blocks and wedges of people by the ways which the police kept open
for the passage of important personages, and Palace Yard was kept
rigidly clear except for one island, occupied by a stand which was
itself full from top to bottom and end to end. All roofs and parapets
which commanded a view of the Abbey were also one mass of heads.
Overhead, like solemn moons, burned the white lights of the electric
globes.

It was not known at exactly what hour the tumult had steadied itself to
definite purpose, except to a few weary controllers of the temporary
turnstiles which had been erected the evening before. It had been
announced a week previously that, in consideration of the enormous
demand for seats, all persons who presented their worship-ticket at an
authorised office, and followed the directions issued by the police,
would be accounted as having fulfilled the duties of citizenship in that
respect, and it was generally made known that it was the Government's
intention to toll the great bell of the Abbey at the beginning of the
ceremony and at the incensing of the image, during which period silence
must be as far as possible preserved by all those within hearing.

London had gone completely mad on the announcement of the Catholic plot
on the afternoon before. The secret had leaked out about fourteen
o'clock, an hour after the betrayal of the scheme to Mr. Snowford; and
practically all commercial activities had ceased on the instant. By
fifteen-and-a-half all stores were closed, the Stock Exchange, the City
offices, the West End establishments--all had as by irresistible impulse
suspended business, and from within two hours after noon until nearly
midnight, when the police had been adequately reinforced and enabled to
deal with the situation, whole mobs and armies of men, screaming
squadrons of women, troops of frantic youths, had paraded the streets,
howling, denouncing, and murdering. It was not known how many deaths had
taken place, but there was scarcely a street without the signs of
outrage. Westminster Cathedral had been sacked, every altar overthrown,
indescribable indignities performed there. An unknown priest had
scarcely been able to consume the Blessed Sacrament before he was seized
and throttled; the Archbishop with eleven priests and two bishops had
been hanged at the north end of the church, thirty-five convents had
been destroyed, St. George's Cathedral burned to the ground; and it was
reported even, by the evening papers, that it was believed that, for the
first time since the introduction of Christianity into England, there
was not one Tabernacle left within twenty miles of the Abbey. "London,"
explained the _New People_, in huge headlines, "was cleansed at last of
dingy and fantastic nonsense."

It was known at about fifteen-and-a-half o'clock that at least seventy
volors had left for Rome, and half-an-hour later that Berlin had
reinforced them by sixty more. At midnight, fortunately at a time when
the police had succeeded in shepherding the crowds into some kind of
order, the news was flashed on to cloud and placard alike that the grim
work was done, and that Rome had ceased to exist. The early morning
papers added a few details, pointing out, of course, the coincidence of
the fall with the close of the year, relating how, by an astonishing
chance, practically all the heads of the hierarchy throughout the world
had been assembled in the Vatican which had been the first object of
attack, and how these, in desperation, it was supposed, had refused to
leave the City when the news came by wireless telegraphy that the
punitive force was on its way. There was not a building left in Rome;
the entire place, Leonine City, Trastevere, suburbs--everything was
gone; for the volors, poised at an immense height, had parcelled out the
City beneath them with extreme care, before beginning to drop the
explosives; and five minutes after the first roar from beneath and the
first burst of smoke and flying fragments, the thing was finished. The
volors had then dispersed in every direction, pursuing the motor and
rail-tracks along which the population had attempted to escape so soon
as the news was known; and it was supposed that not less than thirty
thousand belated fugitives had been annihilated by this foresight. It
was true, remarked the _Studio_, that many treasures of incalculable
value had been destroyed, but this was a cheap price to pay for the
final and complete extermination of the Catholic pest. "There comes a
point," it remarked, "when destruction is the only cure for a
vermin-infested house," and it proceeded to observe that now that the
Pope with the entire College of Cardinals, all the ex-Royalties of
Europe, all the most frantic religionists from the inhabited world who
had taken up their abode in the "Holy City" were gone at a stroke, a
recrudescence of the superstition was scarcely to be feared elsewhere.
Yet care must even now be taken against any relenting. Catholics (if any
were left bold enough to attempt it) must no longer be allowed to take
any kind of part in the life of any civilised country. So far as
messages had come in from other countries, there was but one chorus of
approval at what had been done.

A few papers regretted the incident, or rather the spirit which had lain
behind it. It was not seemly, they said, that Humanitarians should have
recourse to violence; yet not one pretended that anything could be felt
but thanksgiving for the general result. Ireland, too, must be brought
into line; they must not dally any longer.

* * * * *

It was now brightening slowly towards dawn, and beyond the river through
the faint wintry haze a crimson streak or two began to burn. But all was
surprisingly quiet, for this crowd, tired out with an all-night watch,
chilled by the bitter cold, and intent on what lay before them, had no
energy left for useless effort. Only from packed square and street and
lane went up a deep, steady murmur like the sound of the sea a mile
away, broken now and again by the hoot and clang of a motor and the rush
of its passage as it tore eastwards round the circle through Broad
Sanctuary and vanished citywards. And the light broadened and the
electric globes sickened and paled, and the haze began to clear a
little, showing, not the fresh blue that had been hoped for from the
cold of the night, but a high, colourless vault of cloud, washed with
grey and faint rose-colour, as the sun came up, a ruddy copper disc,
beyond the river.

* * * * *

At nine o'clock the excitement rose a degree higher. The police between
Whitehall and the Abbey, looking from their high platforms strung along
the route, whence they kept watch and controlled the wire palisadings,
showed a certain activity, and a minute later a police-car whirled
through the square between the palings, and vanished round the Abbey
towers. The crowd murmured and shuffled and began to expect, and a cheer
was raised when a moment later four more cars appeared, bearing the
Government insignia, and disappeared in the same direction. These were
the officials, they said, going to Dean's Yard, where the procession
would assemble.

At about a quarter to ten the crowd at the west end of Victoria Street
began to raise its voice in a song, and by the time that was over, and
the bells had burst out from the Abbey towers, a rumour had somehow made
its entrance that Felsenburgh was to be present at the ceremony. There
was no assignable reason for this, neither then nor afterwards; in fact,
the _Evening Star_ declared that it was one more instance of the
astonishing instinct of human beings _en masse_; for it was not until an
hour later that even the Government were made aware of the facts. Yet
the truth remained that at half-past ten one continuous roar went up,
drowning even the brazen clamour of the bells, reaching round to
Whitehall and the crowded pavements of Westminster Bridge, demanding
Julian Felsenburgh. Yet there had been absolutely no news of the
President of Europe for the last fortnight, beyond an entirely
unsupported report that he was somewhere in the East.

And all the while the motors poured from all directions towards the
Abbey and disappeared under the arch into Dean's Yard, bearing those
fortunate persons whose tickets actually admitted them to the church
itself. Cheers ran and rippled along the lines as the great men were
recognised--Lord Pemberton, Oliver Brand and his wife, Mr. Caldecott,
Maxwell, Snowford, with the European delegates--even melancholy-faced
Mr. Francis himself, the Government _ceremoniarius_, received a
greeting. But by a quarter to eleven, when the pealing bells paused, the
stream had stopped, the barriers issued out to stop the roads, the wire
palisadings vanished, and the crowd for an instant, ceasing its roaring,
sighed with relief at the relaxed pressure, and surged out into the
roadways. Then once more the roaring began for Julian Felsenburgh.

The sun was now high, still a copper disc, above the Victoria Tower, but
paler than an hour ago; the whiteness of the Abbey, the heavy greys of
Parliament House, the ten thousand tints of house-roofs, heads,
streamers, placards began to disclose themselves.

A single bell tolled five minutes to the hour, and the moments slipped
by, until once more the bell stopped, and to the ears of those within
hearing of the great west doors came the first blare of the huge organ,
reinforced by trumpets. And then, as sudden and profound as the hush of
death, there fell an enormous silence.



II

As the five-minutes bell began, sounding like a continuous wind-note in
the great vaults overhead, solemn and persistent, Mabel drew a long
breath and leaned back in her seat from the rigid position in which for
the last half-hour she had been staring out at the wonderful sight. She
seemed to herself to have assimilated it at last, to be herself once
more, to have drunk her fill of the triumph and the beauty. She was as
one who looks upon a summer sea on the morning after a storm. And now
the climax was at hand.

From end to end and side to side the interior of the Abbey presented a
great broken mosaic of human faces; living slopes, walls, sections and
curves. The south transept directly opposite to her, from pavement to
rose window, was one sheet of heads; the floor was paved with them, cut
in two by the scarlet of the gangway leading from the chapel of St.
Faith--on the right, the choir beyond the open space before the
sanctuary was a mass of white figures, scarved and surpliced; the high
organ gallery, beneath which the screen had been removed, was crowded
with them, and, far down beneath, the dim nave stretched the same
endless pale living pavement to the shadow beneath the west window.
Between every group of columns behind the choir-stalls, before her, to
right, left, and behind, were platforms contrived in the masonry; and
the exquisite roof, fan-tracery and soaring capital, alone gave the eye
an escape from humanity. The whole vast space was full, it seemed, of
delicate sunlight that streamed in from the artificial light set outside
each window, and poured the ruby and the purple and the blue from the
old glass in long shafts of colour across the dusty air, and in broken
patches on the faces and dresses behind. The murmur of ten thousand
voices filled the place, supplying, it seemed, a solemn accompaniment to
that melodious note that now pulsed above it. And finally, more
significant than all, was the empty carpeted sanctuary at her feet, the
enormous altar with its flight of steps, the gorgeous curtain and the
great untenanted sedilia.

* * * * *

Mabel needed some such reassurance, for last night, until the coming of
Oliver, had passed for her as a kind of appalling waking dream. From the
first shock of what she had seen outside the church, through those hours
of waiting, with the knowledge that this was the way in which the Spirit
of Peace asserted its superiority, up to that last moment when, in her
husband's arms, she had learned of the Fall of Rome, it had appeared to
her as if her new world had suddenly corrupted about her. It was
incredible, she told herself, that this ravening monster, dripping blood
from claws and teeth, that had arisen roaring in the night, could be the
Humanity that had become her God. She had thought revenge and cruelty
and slaughter to be the brood of Christian superstition, dead and buried
under the new-born angel of light, and now it seemed that the monsters
yet stirred and lived. All the evening she had sat, walked, lain about
her quiet house with the horror heavy about her, flinging open a window
now and again in the icy air to listen with clenched hands to the cries
and the roarings of the mob that raged in the streets beneath, the
clanks, the yells and the hoots of the motor-trains that tore up from
the country to swell the frenzy of the city--to watch the red glow of
fire, the volumes of smoke that heaved up from the burning chapels and
convents.

She had questioned, doubted, resisted her doubts, flung out frantic acts
of faith, attempted to renew the confidence that she attained in her
meditation, told herself that traditions died slowly; she had knelt,
crying out to the spirit of peace that lay, as she knew so well, at the
heart of man, though overwhelmed for the moment by evil passion. A line
or two ran in her head from one of the old Victorian poets:

You doubt If any one Could think or bid it? How could it come about?...
Who did it? Not men! Not here! Oh! not beneath the sun.... The torch
that smouldered till the cup o'er-ran The wrath of God which is the
wrath of Man!

She had even contemplated death, as she had told her husband--the taking
of her own life, in a great despair with the world. Seriously she had
thought of it; it was an escape perfectly in accord with her morality.
The useless and agonising were put out of the world by common consent;
the Euthanasia houses witnessed to it. Then why not she?... For she
could not bear it!... Then Oliver had come, she had fought her way back
to sanity and confidence; and the phantom had gone again.

How sensible and quiet he had been, she was beginning to tell herself
now, as the quiet influence of this huge throng in this glorious place
of worship possessed her once more--how reasonable in his explanation
that man was even now only convalescent and therefore liable to relapse.
She had told herself that again and again during the night, but it had
been different when he had said so. His personality had once more
prevailed; and the name of Felsenburgh had finished the work.

"If He were but here!" she sighed. But she knew He was far away.

* * * * *

It was not until a quarter to eleven that she understood that the crowds
outside were clamouring for Him too, and that knowledge reassured her
yet further. They knew, then, these wild tigers, where their redemption
lay; they understood what was their ideal, even if they had not attained
to it. Ah! if He were but here, there would be no more question: the
sullen waves would sink beneath His call of peace, the hazy clouds lift,
the rumble die to silence. But He was away--away on some strange
business. Well; He knew His work. He would surely come soon again to His
children who needed Him so terribly.

* * * * *

She had the good fortune to be alone in a crowd. Her neighbour, a
grizzled old man with his daughters beyond, was her only neighbour, and
a stranger. At her left rose up the red-covered barricade over which she
could see the sanctuary and the curtain; and her seat in the tribune,
raised some eight feet above the floor, removed her from any possibility
of conversation. She was thankful for that: she did not want to talk;
she wanted only to control her faculties in silence, to reassert her
faith, to look out over this enormous throng gathered to pay homage to
the great Spirit whom they had betrayed, to renew her own courage and
faithfulness. She wondered what the preacher would say, whether there
would be any note of penitence. Maternity was his subject--that benign
aspect of universal life--tenderness, love, quiet, receptive, protective
passion, the spirit that soothes rather than inspires, that busies
itself with peaceful tasks, that kindles the lights and fires of home,
that gives sleep, food and welcome....

The bell stopped, and in the instant before the music began she heard,
clear above the murmur within, the roar of the crowds outside, who still
demanded their God. Then, with a crash, the huge organ awoke, pierced by
the cry of the trumpets and the maddening throb of drums. There was no
delicate prelude here, no slow stirring of life rising through
labyrinths of mystery to the climax of sight--here rather was full-orbed
day, the high noon of knowledge and power, the dayspring from on high,
dawning in mid-heaven. Her heart quickened to meet it, and her reviving
confidence, still convalescent, stirred and smiled, as the tremendous
chords blared overhead, telling of triumph full-armed. God was man,
then, after all--a God who last night had faltered for an hour, but who
rose again on this morning of a new year, scattering mists, dominant
over his own passion, all-compelling and all-beloved. God was man, and
Felsenburgh his Incarnation! Yes, she must believe that! She did
believe that!

Then she saw how already the long procession was winding up beneath the
screen, and by imperceptible art the light grew yet more acutely
beautiful. They were coming, then, those ministers of a pure worship;
grave men who knew in what they believed, and who, even if they did not
at this moment thrill with feeling (for she knew that in this respect
her husband for one did not), yet believed the principles of this
worship and recognised their need of expression for the majority of
mankind--coming slowly up in fours and pairs and units, led by robed
vergers, rippling over the steps, and emerging again into the coloured
sunlight in all their bravery of Masonic apron, badge and jewel. Surely
here was reassurance enough.

* * * * *

The sanctuary now held a figure or two. Anxious-faced Mr. Francis, in
his robes of office, came gravely down the steps and stood awaiting the
procession, directing with almost imperceptible motions his satellites
who hovered about the aisles ready to point this way and that to the
advancing stream; and the western-most seats were already beginning to
fill, when on a sudden she recognised that something had happened.

Just now the roaring of the mob outside had provided a kind of underbass
to the music within, imperceptible except to sub-consciousness, but
clearly discernible in its absence; and this absence was now a fact.

At first she thought that the signal of beginning worship had hushed
them; and then, with an indescribable thrill, she remembered that in all
her knowledge only one thing had ever availed to quiet a turbulent
crowd. Yet she was not sure; it might be an illusion. Even now the mob
might be roaring still, and she only deaf to it; but again with an
ecstasy that was very near to agony she perceived that the murmur of
voices even within the building had ceased, and that some great wave of
emotion was stirring the sheets and slopes of faces before her as a wind
stirs wheat. A moment later, and she was on her feet, gripping the rail,
with her heart like an over-driven engine beating pulses of blood,
furious and insistent, through every vein; for with great rushing surge
that sounded like a sigh, heard even above the triumphant tumult
overhead, the whole enormous assemblage had risen to its feet.

Confusion seemed to break out in the orderly procession. She saw Mr.
Francis run forward quickly, gesticulating like a conductor, and at his
signal the long line swayed forward, split, recoiled, and again slid
swiftly forward, breaking as it did so into twenty streams that poured
along the seats and filled them in a moment. Men ran and pushed, aprons
flapped, hands beckoned, all without coherent words. There was a
knocking of feet, the crash of an overturned chair, and then, as if a
god had lifted his hand for quiet, the music ceased abruptly, sending a
wild echo that swooned and died in a moment; a great sigh filled its
place, and, in the coloured sunshine that lay along the immense length
of the gangway that ran open now from west to east, far down in the
distant nave, a single figure was seen advancing.



III

What Mabel saw and heard and felt from eleven o'clock to half-an-hour
after noon on that first morning of the New Year she could never
adequately remember. For the time she lost the continuous consciousness
of self, the power of reflection, for she was still weak from her
struggle; there was no longer in her the process by which events are
stored, labelled and recorded; she was no more than a being who observed
as it were in one long act, across which considerations played at
uncertain intervals. Eyes and ear seemed her sole functions,
communicating direct with a burning heart.

* * * * *

She did not even know at what point her senses told her that this was
Felsenburgh. She seemed to have known it even before he entered, and she
watched Him as in complete silence He came deliberately up the red
carpet, superbly alone, rising a step or two at the entrance of the
choir, passing on and up before her. He was in his English judicial
dress of scarlet and black, but she scarcely noticed it. For her, too,
no one else existed but, He; this vast assemblage was gone, poised and
transfigured in one vibrating atmosphere of an immense human emotion.
There was no one, anywhere, but Julian Felsenburgh. Peace and light
burned like a glory about Him.

For an instant after passing he disappeared beyond the speaker's
tribune, and the instant after reappeared once more, coming up the
steps. He reached his place--she could see His profile beneath her and
slightly to the left, pure and keen as the blade of a knife, beneath His
white hair. He lifted one white-furred sleeve, made a single motion, and
with a surge and a rumble, the ten thousand were seated. He motioned
again and with a roar they were on their feet.

Again there was a silence. He stood now, perfectly still, His hands laid
together on the rail, and His face looking steadily before Him; it
seemed as if He who had drawn all eyes and stilled all sounds were
waiting until His domination were complete, and there was but one will,
one desire, and that beneath His hand. Then He began to speak....

* * * * *

In this again, as Mabel perceived afterwards, there was no precise or
verbal record within her of what he said; there was no conscious process
by which she received, tested, or approved what she heard. The nearest
image under which she could afterwards describe her emotions to herself,
was that when He spoke it was she who was speaking. Her own thoughts,
her predispositions, her griefs, her disappointment, her passion, her
hopes--all these interior acts of the soul known scarcely even to
herself, down even, it seemed, to the minutest whorls and eddies of
thought, were, by this man, lifted up, cleansed, kindled, satisfied and
proclaimed. For the first time in her life she became perfectly aware of
what human nature meant; for it was her own heart that passed out upon
the air, borne on that immense voice. Again, as once before for a few
moments in Paul's House, it seemed that creation, groaning so long, had
spoken articulate words at last--had come to growth and coherent thought
and perfect speech. Yet then He had spoken to men; now it was Man
Himself speaking. It was not one man who spoke there, it was Man--Man
conscious of his origin, his destiny, and his pilgrimage between, Man
sane again after a night of madness--knowing his strength, declaring his
law, lamenting in a voice as eloquent as stringed instruments his own
failure to correspond. It was a soliloquy rather than an oration. Rome
had fallen, English and Italian streets had run with blood, smoke and
flame had gone up to heaven, because man had for an instant sunk back to
the tiger. Yet it was done, cried the great voice, and there was no
repentance; it was done, and ages hence man must still do penance and
flush scarlet with shame to remember that once he turned his back on
the risen light.

There was no appeal to the lurid, no picture of the tumbling palaces,
the running figures, the coughing explosions, the shaking of the earth
and the dying of the doomed. It was rather with those hot hearts
shouting in the English and German streets, or aloft in the winter air
of Italy, the ugly passions that warred there, as the volors rocked at
their stations, generating and fulfilling revenge, paying back plot with
plot, and violence with violence. For there, cried the voice, was man as
he had been, fallen in an instant to the cruel old ages before he had
learned what he was and why.

There was no repentance, said the voice again, but there was something
better; and as the hard, stinging tones melted, the girl's dry eyes of
shame filled in an instant with tears. There was something better--the
knowledge of what crimes man was yet capable of, and the will to use
that knowledge. Rome was gone, and it was a lamentable shame; Rome was
gone, and the air was the sweeter for it; and then in an instant, like
the soar of a bird, He was up and away--away from the horrid gulf where
He had looked just now, from the fragments of charred bodies, and
tumbled houses and all the signs of man's disgrace, to the pure air and
sunlight to which man must once more set his face. Yet He bore with Him
in that wonderful flight the dew of tears and the aroma of earth. He had
not spared words with which to lash and whip the naked human heart, and
He did not spare words to lift up the bleeding, shrinking thing, and
comfort it with the divine vision of love....

Historically speaking, it was about forty minutes before He turned to
the shrouded image behind the altar.

"Oh! Maternity!" he cried. "Mother of us all---"

And then, to those who heard Him, the supreme miracle took place.... For
it seemed now in an instant that it was no longer man who spoke, but One
who stood upon the stage of the superhuman. The curtain ripped back, as
one who stood by it tore, panting, at the strings; and there, it seemed,
face to face stood the Mother above the altar, huge, white and
protective, and the Child, one passionate incarnation of love, crying to
her from the tribune.

"Oh! Mother of us all, and Mother of Me!"

So He praised her to her face, that sublime principle of life, declared
her glories and her strength, her Immaculate Motherhood, her seven
swords of anguish driven through her heart by the passion and the
follies of her Son--He promised her great things, the recognition of her
countless children, the love and service of the unborn, the welcome of
those yet quickening within the womb. He named her the Wisdom of the
Most High, that sweetly orders all things, the Gate of Heaven, House of
Ivory, Comforter of the afflicted, Queen of the World; and, to the
delirious eyes of those who looked on her it seemed that the grave face
smiled to hear Him....

A great panting as of some monstrous life began to fill the air as the
mob swayed behind Him, and the torrential voice poured on. Waves of
emotion swept up and down; there were cries and sobs, the yelping of a
man beside himself at last, from somewhere among the crowded seats, the
crash of a bench, and another and another, and the gangways were full,
for He no longer held them passive to listen; He was rousing them to
some supreme act. The tide crawled nearer, and the faces stared no
longer at the Son but the Mother; the girl in the gallery tore at the
heavy railing, and sank down sobbing upon her knees. And above all the
voice pealed on--and the thin hands blanched to whiteness strained from
the wide and sumptuous sleeves as if to reach across the sanctuary
itself.

It was a new tale He was telling now, and all to her glory. He was from
the East, now they knew, come from some triumph. He had been hailed as
King, adored as Divine, as was meet and right--He, the humble superhuman
son of a Human Mother--who bore not a sword but peace, not a cross but a
crown. So it seemed He was saying; yet no man there knew whether He said
it or not--whether the voice proclaimed it, or their hearts asserted it.
He was on the steps of the sanctuary now, still with outstretched hands
and pouring words, and the mob rolled after him to the rumble of ten
thousand feet and the sighing of ten thousand hearts.... He was at the
altar; He was upon it. Again in one last cry, as the crowd broke against
the steps beneath, He hailed her Queen and Mother.

The end came in a moment, swift and inevitable. And for an instant,
before the girl in the gallery sank down, blind with tears, she saw the
tiny figure poised there at the knees of the huge image, beneath the
expectant hands, silent and transfigured in the blaze of light. The
Mother, it seemed, had found her Son at last.

For an instant she saw it, the soaring columns, the gilding and the
colours, the swaying heads, the tossing hands. It was a sea that heaved
before her, lights went up and down, the rose window whirled overhead,
presences filled the air, heaven flashed away, and the earth shook it
ecstasy. Then in the heavenly light, to the crash of drums, above the
screaming of the women and the battering of feet, in one thunder-peal of
worship ten thousand voices hailed Him Lord and God.



BOOK III-THE VICTORY



CHAPTER I

I

The little room where the new Pope sat reading was a model of
simplicity. Its walls were whitewashed, its roof unpolished rafters, and
its floor beaten mud. A square table stood in the centre, with a chair
beside it; a cold brazier laid for lighting, stood in the wide hearth; a
bookshelf against the wall held a dozen volumes. There were three doors,
one leading to the private oratory, one to the ante-room, and the third
to the little paved court. The south windows were shuttered, but through
the ill-fitting hinges streamed knife-blades of fiery light from the hot
Eastern day outside.

It was the time of the mid-day siesta, and except for the brisk scything
of the _cicade_ from the hill-slope behind the house, all was in deep
silence.

* * * * *

The Pope, who had dined an hour before, had hardly shifted His attitude
in all that time, so intent was He upon His reading. For the while, all
was put away, His own memory of those last three months, the bitter
anxiety, the intolerable load of responsibility. The book He held was a
cheap reprint of the famous biography of Julian Felsenburgh, issued a
month before, and He was now drawing to an end.

It was a terse, well-written book, composed by an unknown hand, and some
even suspected it to be the disguised work of Felsenburgh himself. More,
however, considered that it was written at least with Felsenburgh's
consent by one of that small body of intimates whom he had admitted to
his society--that body which under him now conducted the affairs of West
and East. From certain indications in the book it had been argued that
its actual writer was a Westerner.

The main body of the work dealt with his life, or rather with those two
or three years known to the world, from his rapid rise in American
politics and his mediation in the East down to the event of five months
ago, when in swift succession he had been hailed Messiah in Damascus,
had been formally adored in London, and finally elected by an
extraordinary majority to the Tribuniciate of the two Americas.

The Pope had read rapidly through these objective facts, for He knew
them well enough already, and was now studying with close attention the
summary of his character, or rather, as the author rather sententiously
explained, the summary of his self-manifestation to the world. He read
the description of his two main characteristics, his grasp upon words
and facts; "words, the daughters of earth, were wedded in this man to
facts, the sons of heaven, and Superman was their offspring." His minor
characteristics, too, were noticed, his appetite for literature, his
astonishing memory, his linguistic powers. He possessed, it appeared,
both the telescopic and the microscopic eye--he discerned world-wide
tendencies and movements on the one hand; he had a passionate capacity
for detail on the other. Various anecdotes illustrated these remarks,
and a number of terse aphorisms of his were recorded. "No man forgives,"
he said; "he only understands." "It needs supreme faith to renounce a
transcendent God." "A man who believes in himself is almost capable of
believing in his neighbour." Here was a sentence that to the Pope's mind
was significant of that sublime egotism that is alone capable of
confronting the Christian spirit: and again, "To forgive a wrong is to
condone a crime," and "The strong man is accessible to no one, but all
are accessible to him."

There was a certain pompousness in this array of remarks, but it lay, as
the Pope saw very well, not in the speaker but in the scribe. To him who
had seen the speaker it was plain how they had been uttered--with no
pontifical solemnity, but whirled out in a fiery stream of eloquence, or
spoken with that strangely moving simplicity that had constituted his
first assault on London. It was possible to hate Felsenburgh, and to
fear him; but never to be amused at him.

But plainly the supreme pleasure of the writer was to trace the analogy
between his hero and nature. In both there was the same apparent
contradictoriness--the combination of utter tenderness and utter
ruthlessness. "The power that heals wounds also inflicts them: that
clothes the dungheap with sweet growths and grasses, breaks, too, into
fire and earthquake; that causes the partridge to die for her young,
also makes the shrike with his living larder." So, too, with
Felsenburgh; He who had wept over the Fall of Rome, a month later had
spoken of extermination as an instrument that even now might be
judicially used in the service of humanity. Only it must be used with
deliberation, not with passion.

The utterance had aroused extraordinary interest, since it seemed so
paradoxical from one who preached peace and toleration; and argument
had broken out all over the world. But beyond enforcing the dispersal of
the Irish Catholics, and the execution of a few individuals, so far that
utterance had not been acted upon. Yet the world seemed as a whole to
have accepted it, and even now to be waiting for its fulfilment.

As the biographer pointed out, the world enclosed in physical nature
should welcome one who followed its precepts, one who was indeed the
first to introduce deliberately and confessedly into human affairs such
laws as those of the Survival of the Fittest and the immorality of
forgiveness. If there was mystery in the one, there was mystery in the
other, and both must be accepted if man was to develop.

And the secret of this, it seemed, lay in His personality. To see Him
was to believe in Him, or rather to accept Him as inevitably true. "We
do not explain nature or escape from it by sentimental regrets: the bare
cries like a child, the wounded stag weeps great tears, the robin kills
his parents; life exists only on condition of death; and these things
happen however we may weave theories that explain nothing. Life must be
accepted on those terms; we cannot be wrong if we follow nature; rather
to accept them is to find peace--our great mother only reveals her
secrets to those who take her as she is." So, too, with Felsenburgh. "It
is not for us to discriminate: His personality is of a kind that does
not admit it. He is complete and sufficing for those who trust Him and
are willing to suffer; an hostile and hateful enigma to those who are
not. We must prepare ourselves for the logical outcome of this doctrine.
Sentimentality must not be permitted to dominate reason."

Finally, then, the writer showed how to this Man belonged properly all
those titles hitherto lavished upon imagined Supreme Beings. It was in
preparation for Him that these types came into the realms of thought and
influenced men's lives.

He was the _Creator_, for it was reserved for Him to bring into being
the perfect life of union to which all the world had hitherto groaned in
vain; it was in His own image and likeness that He had made man.

Yet He was the _Redeemer_ too, for that likeness had in one sense always
underlain the tumult of mistake and conflict. He had brought man out of
darkness and the shadow of death, guiding their feet into the way of
peace. He was the _Saviour_ for the same reason--the _Son of Man_, for
He alone was perfectly human; He was the _Absolute_, for He was the
content of Ideals; the _Eternal_, for He had lain always in nature's
potentiality and secured by His being the continuity of that order; the
_Infinite_, for all finite things fell short of Him who was more than
their sum.

He was _Alpha_, then, and _Omega_, the beginning and the end, the first
and the last. He was _Dominus et Deus noster_ (as Domitian had been, the
Pope reflected). He was as simple and as complex as life itself--simple
in its essence, complex in its activities.

And last of all, the supreme proof of His mission lay in the immortal
nature of His message. There was no more to be added to what He had
brought to light--for in Him all diverging lines at last found their
origin and their end. As to whether or no He would prove to be
personally immortal was an wholly irrelevant thought; it would be indeed
fitting if through His means the vital principle should disclose its
last secret; but no more than fitting. Already His spirit was in the
world; the individual was no more separate from his fellows; death no
more than a wrinkle that came and went across the inviolable sea. For
man had learned at last that the race was all and self was nothing; the
cell had discovered the unity of the body; even, the greatest thinkers
declared, the consciousness of the individual had yielded the title of
Personality to the corporate mass of man--and the restlessness of the
unit had sunk into the peace of a common Humanity, for nothing but this
could explain the cessation of party strife and national
competition--and this, above all, had been the work of Felsenburgh.

"_Behold I am with you always_," quoted the writer in a passionate
peroration, "_even now in the consummation of the world; and, the
Comforter is come unto you. I am the Door--the Way, the Truth and the
Life--the Bread of Life and the Water of Life. My name is Wonderful, the
Prince of Peace, the Father Everlasting. It is I who am the Desire of
all nations, the fairest among the children of men--and of my Kingdom
there shall be no end_."

The Pope laid down the book, and leaned back, closing his eyes.



II

And as for Himself, what had He to say to all this? A Transcendent God
Who hid Himself, a Divine Saviour Who delayed to come, a Comforter heard
no longer in wind nor seen in fire!

There, in the next room, was a little wooden altar, and above it an iron
box, and within that box a silver cup, and within that cup--Something.
Outside the house, a hundred yards away, lay the domes and plaster roofs
of a little village called Nazareth; Carmel was on the right, a mile or
two away, Thabor on the left, the plain of Esdraelon in front; and
behind, Cana and Galilee, and the quiet lake, and Hermon. And far away
to the south lay Jerusalem....

It was to this tiny strip of holy land that the Pope had come--the land
where a Faith had sprouted two thousand years ago, and where, unless God
spoke in fire from heaven, it would presently be cut down as a cumberer
of the ground. It was here on this material earth that One had walked
Whom all men had thought to have been He Who would redeem Israel--in
this village that He had fetched water and made boxes and chairs, on
that long lake that His Feet had walked, on that high hill that He had
flamed in glory, on that smooth, low mountain to the north that He had
declared that the meek were blessed and should inherit the earth, that
peacemakers were the children of God, that they who hungered and
thirsted should be satisfied.

And now it was come to this. Christianity had smouldered away from
Europe like a sunset on darkening peaks; Eternal Rome was a heap of
ruins; in East and West alike a man had been set upon the throne of God,
had been acclaimed as divine. The world had leaped forward; social
science was supreme; men had learned consistency; they had learned, too,
the social lessons of Christianity apart from a Divine Teacher, or,
rather, they said, in spite of Him. There were left, perhaps, three
millions, perhaps five, at the utmost ten millions--it was impossible to
know--throughout the entire inhabited globe who still worshipped Jesus
Christ as God. And the Vicar of Christ sat in a whitewashed room in
Nazareth, dressed as simply as His master, waiting for the end.

* * * * *

He had done what He could. There had been a week five months ago when
it had been doubtful whether anything at all could be done. There were
left three Cardinals alive, Himself, Steinmann, and the Patriarch of
Jerusalem; the rest lay mangled somewhere in the ruins of Rome. There
was no precedent to follow; so the two Europeans had made their way out
to the East, and to the one town in it where quiet still reigned. With
the disappearance of Greek Christianity there had also vanished the last
remnants of internecine war in Christendom; and by a kind of tacit
consent of the world, Christians were allowed a moderate liberty in
Palestine. Russia, which now held the country as a dependency, had
sufficient sentiment left to leave it alone; it was true that the holy
places had been desecrated, and remained now only as spots of
antiquarian interest; the altars were gone but the sites were yet
marked, and, although mass could no longer be said there, it was
understood that private oratories were not forbidden.

It was in this state that the two European Cardinals had found the Holy
City; it was not thought wise to wear insignia of any description in
public; and it was practically certain even now that the civilised world
was unaware of their existence; for within three days of their arrival
the old Patriarch had died, yet not before Percy Franklin, surely under
the strangest circumstances since those of the first century, had been
elected to the Supreme Pontificate. It had all been done in a few
minutes by the dying man's bedside. The two old men had insisted. The
German bad even recurred once more to the strange resemblance between
Percy and Julian Felsenburgh, and had murmured his old half-heard
remarks about the antithesis, and the Finger of God; and Percy,
marvelling at his superstition, had accepted, and the election was
recorded. He had taken the name of Silvester, the last saint in the
year, and was the third of that title. He had then retired to Nazareth
with his chaplain; Steinmann had gone back to Germany, and been hanged
in a riot within a fortnight of his arrival.

The next matter was the creation of new cardinals, and to twenty
persons, with infinite precautions, briefs had been conveyed. Of these,
nine had declined; three more had been approached, of whom only one had
accepted. There were therefore at this moment twelve persons in the
world who constituted the Sacred College--two Englishmen, of whom
Corkran was one; two Americans, a Frenchman, a German, an Italian, a
Spaniard, a Pole, a Chinaman, a Greek, and a Russian. To these were
entrusted vast districts over which their control was supreme, subject
only to the Holy Father Himself.

As regarded the Pope's own life very little need be said. It resembled,
He thought, in its outward circumstances that of such a man as Leo the
Great, without His worldly importance or pomp. Theoretically, the
Christian world was under His dominion; practically, Christian affairs
were administered by local authorities. It was impossible for a hundred
reasons for Him to do what He wished with regard to the exchange of
communications. An elaborate cypher had been designed, and a private
telegraphic station organised on His roof communicating with another in
Damascus where Cardinal Corkran had fixed his residence; and from that
centre messages occasionally were despatched to ecclesiastical
authorities elsewhere; but, for the most part, there was little to be
done. The Pope, however, had the satisfaction of knowing that, with
incredible difficulty, a little progress had been made towards the
reorganisation of the hierarchy in all countries. Bishops were being
consecrated freely; there were not less than two thousand of them all
told, and of priests an unknown number. The Order of Christ Crucified
was doing excellent work, and the tales of not less than four hundred
martyrdoms had reached Nazareth during the last two months, accomplished
mostly at the hands of the mobs.

In other respects, also, as well as in the primary object of the Order's
existence (namely, the affording of an opportunity to all who loved God
to dedicate themselves to Him more perfectly), the new Religious were
doing good work. The more perilous tasks--the work of communication
between prelates, missions to persons of suspected integrity--all the
business, in fact, which was carried on now at the vital risk of the
agent were entrusted solely to members of the Order. Stringent
instructions had been issued from Nazareth that no bishop was to expose
himself unnecessarily; each was to regard himself as the heart of his
diocese to be protected at all costs save that of Christian honour, and
in consequence each had surrounded himself with a group of the new
Religious--men and women--who with extraordinary and generous obedience
undertook such dangerous tasks as they were capable of performing. It
was plain enough by now that had it not been for the Order, the Church
would have been little better than paralysed under these new conditions.

Extraordinary facilities were being issued in all directions. Every
priest who belonged to the Order received universal jurisdiction subject
to the bishop, if any, of the diocese in which he might be; mass might
be said on any day of the year of the Five Wounds, or the Resurrection,
or Our Lady; and all had the privilege of the portable altar, now
permitted to be wood. Further ritual requirements were relaxed; mass
might be said with any decent vessels of any material capable of
destruction, such as glass or china; bread of any description might be
used; and no vestments were obligatory except the thin thread that now
represented the stole; lights were non-essential; none need wear the
clerical habit; and rosary, even without beads, was always permissible
instead of the Office.

In this manner priests were rendered capable of giving the sacraments
and offering the holy sacrifice at the least possible risk to
themselves; and these relaxations had already proved of enormous benefit
in the European prisons, where by this time many thousands of Catholics
were undergoing the penalty of refusing public worship.

* * * * *

The Pope's private life was as simple as His room. He had one Syrian
priest for His chaplain, and two Syrian servants. He said His mass each
morning, Himself wearing vestments and His white habit beneath, and
heard a mass after. He then took His coffee, after changing into the
tunic and burnous of the country, and spent the morning over business.
He dined at noon, slept, and rode out, for the country by reason of its
indeterminate position was still in the simplicity of a hundred years
ago. He returned at dusk, supped, and worked again till late into the
night.

That was all. His chaplain sent what messages were necessary to
Damascus; His servants, themselves ignorant of His dignity, dealt with
the secular world so far as was required, and the utmost that seemed to
be known to His few neighbours was that there lived in the late Sheikh's
little house on the hill an eccentric European with a telegraph office.
His servants, themselves devout Catholics, knew Him for a bishop, but no
more than that. They were told only that there was yet a Pope alive, and
with that and the sacraments were content.

To sum up, therefore--the Catholic world knew that their Pope lived
under the name of Silvester; and thirteen persons of the entire human
race knew that Franklin had been His name, and that the throne of Peter
rested for the time in Nazareth.

It was, as a Frenchman had said, just a hundred years ago. Catholicism
survived; but no more.



III

And as for His inner life, what can be said of that? He lay now back in
his wooden chair, thinking with closed eyes.

He could not have described it consistently even to Himself, for indeed
He scarcely knew it: He acted rather than indulged in reflex thought.
But the centre of His position was simple faith. The Catholic Religion,
He knew well enough, gave the only adequate explanation of the universe;
it did not unlock all mysteries, but it unlocked more than any other key
known to man; He knew, too, perfectly well, that it was the only system
of thought that satisfied man as a whole, and accounted for him in his
essential nature. Further, He saw well enough that the failure of
Christianity to unite all men one to another rested not upon its
feebleness but its strength; its lines met in eternity, not in time.
Besides, He happened to believe it.

But to this foreground there were other moods whose shifting was out of
his control. In his _exalt_ moods, which came upon Him like a breeze
from Paradise, the background was bright with hope and drama--He saw
Himself and His companions as Peter and the Apostles must have regarded
themselves, as they proclaimed through the world, in temples, slums,
market-places and private houses, the faith that was to shake and
transform the world. They had handled the Lord of Life, seen the empty
sepulchre, grasped the pierced hands of Him Who was their brother and
their God. It was radiantly true, though not a man believed it; the huge
superincumbent weight of incredulity could not disturb a fact that was
as the sun in heaven. Moreover, the very desperateness of the cause was
their inspiration. There was no temptation to lean upon the arm of
flesh, for there was none that fought for them but God. Their nakedness
was their armour, their slow tongues their persuasiveness, their
weakness demanded God's strength, and found it. Yet there was this
difference, and it was a significant one. For Peter the spiritual world
had an interpretation and a guarantee in the outward events he had
witnessed. He had handled the Risen Christ, the external corroborated
the internal. But for Silvester it was not so. For Him it was necessary
so to grasp spiritual truths in the supernatural sphere that the
external events of the Incarnation were proved by rather than proved the
certitude of His spiritual apprehension. Certainly, historically
speaking, Christianity was true--proved by its records--yet to see that
needed illumination. He apprehended the power of the Resurrection,
therefore Christ was risen.

Therefore in heavier moods it was different with him. There were
periods, lasting sometimes for days together, clouding Him when He
awoke, stifling Him as He tried to sleep, dulling the very savour of the
Sacrament and the thrill of the Precious Blood; times in which the
darkness was so intolerable that even the solid objects of faith
attenuated themselves to shadow, when half His nature was blind not only
to Christ, but to God Himself, and the reality of His own
existence--when His own awful dignity seemed as the insignia of a fool.
And was it conceivable, His earthly mind demanded, that He and His
college of twelve and His few thousands should be right, and the entire
consensus of the civilised world wrong? It was not that the world had
not heard the message of the Gospel; it had heard little else for two
thousand years, and now pronounced it false--false in its external
credentials, and false therefore in its spiritual claims. It was a lost
cause for which He suffered; He was not the last of an august line, He
was the smoking wick of a candle of folly; He was the _reductio ad
absurdam_ of a ludicrous syllogism based on impossible premises. He was
not worth killing, He and His company of the insane--they were no more
than the crowned dunces of the world's school. Sanity sat on the solid
benches of materialism. And this heaviness waxed so dark sometimes that
He almost persuaded Himself that His faith was gone; the clamours of
mind so loud that the whisper of the heart was unheard, the desires for
earthly peace so fierce that supernatural ambitions were silenced--so
dense was the gloom, that, hoping against hope, believing against
knowledge, and loving against truth, He cried as One other had cried on
another day like this--_Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani!_ ... But that, at
least, He never failed to cry.

One thing alone gave Him power to go on, so far at least as His
consciousness was concerned, and that was His meditation. He had
travelled far in the mystical life since His agonies of effort. Now He
used no deliberate descents into the spiritual world: He threw, as it
were, His hands over His head, and dropped into spacelessness.
Consciousness would draw Him up, as a cork, to the surface, but He would
do no more than repeat His action, until by that cessation of activity,
which is the supreme energy, He floated in the twilight realm of
transcendence; and there God would deal with Him--now by an articulate
sentence, now by a sword of pain, now by an air like the vivifying
breath of the sea. Sometimes after Communion He would treat Him so,
sometimes as He fell asleep, sometimes in the whirl of work. Yet His
consciousness did not seem to retain for long such experiences; five
minutes later, it might be, He would be wrestling once more with the all
but sensible phantoms of the mind and the heart.

There He lay, then, in the chair, revolving the intolerable blasphemies
that He had read. His white hair was thin upon His browned temples, His
hands were as the hands of a spirit, and His young face lined and
patched with sorrow. His bare feet protruded from beneath His stained
tunic, and His old brown burnous lay on the floor beside Him....

It was an hour before He moved, and the sun had already lost half its
fierceness, when the steps of the horses sounded in the paved court
outside. Then He sat up, slipped His feet into their shoes, and lifted
the burnous from the floor, as the door opened and the lean sun-burned
priest came through.

"The horses, Holiness," said the man.

* * * * *

The Pope spoke not one word that afternoon, until the two came towards
sunset up the bridle-path that leads between Thabor and Nazareth. They
had taken their usual round through Cana, mounting a hillock from which
the long mirror of Gennesareth could be seen, and passing on, always
bearing to the right, under the shadow of Thabor until once more
Esdraelon spread itself beneath like a grey-green carpet, a vast circle,
twenty miles across, sprinkled sparsely with groups of huts, white walls
and roofs, with Nain visible on the other side, Carmel heaving its long
form far off on the right, and Nazareth nestling a mile or two away on
the plateau on which they had halted.

It was a sight of extraordinary peace, and seemed an extract from some
old picture-book designed centuries ago. Here was no crowd of roofs, no
pressure of hot humanity, no terrible evidences of civilisation and
manufactory and strenuous, fruitless effort. A few tired Jews had come
back to this quiet little land, as old people may return to their native
place, with no hope of renewing their youth, or refinding their ideals,
but with a kind of sentimentality that prevails so often over more
logical motives, and a few more barrack-like houses had been added here
and there to the obscure villages in sight. But it was very much as it
had been a hundred years ago.

The plain was half shadowed by Carmel, and half in dusty golden light.
Overhead the clear Eastern sky was flushed with rose, as it had flushed
for Abraham, Jacob, and the Son of David. There was no little cloud
here, as a man's hand, over the sea, charged with both promise and
terror; no sound of chariot-wheels from earth or heaven, no vision of
heavenly horses such as a young man had seen thirty centuries ago in
this very sky. Here was the old earth and the old heaven, unchanged and
unchangeable; the patient, returning spring had starred the thin soil
with flowers of Bethlehem, and those glorious lilies to which Solomon's
scarlet garments might not be compared. There was no whisper from the
Throne as when Gabriel had once stooped through this very air to hail
Her who was blessed among women, no breath of promise or hope beyond
that which God sends through every movement of His created robe of life.

As the two halted, and the horses looked out with steady, inquisitive
eyes at the immensity of light and air beneath them, a soft hooting cry
broke out, and a shepherd passed below along the hillside a hundred
yards away, trailing his long shadow behind him, and to the mellow
tinkle of bells his flock came after, a troop of obedient sheep and
wilful goats, cropping and following and cropping again as they went on
to the fold, called by name in that sad minor voice of him who knew
each, and led instead of driving. The soft clanking grew fainter, the
shadow of the shepherd shot once to their very feet, as he topped the
rise, and vanished again as he stepped down once more; and the call grew
fainter yet, and ceased.

* * * * *

The Pope lifted His hand to His eyes for an instant, then smoothed it
down His face.

He nodded across to a dim patch of white walls glimmering through the
violet haze of the falling twilight.

"That place, father," He said, "what is its name?"

The Syrian priest looked across, back once more at the Pope, and across
again.

"That among the palms, Holiness?"

"Yes."

"That is Megiddo," he said. "Some call it Armageddon."



CHAPTER II

I

At twenty-three o'clock that night the Syrian priest went out to watch
for the coming of the messenger from Tiberias. Nearly two hours
previously he had heard the cry of the Russian volor that plied from
Damascus to Tiberias, and Tiberias to Jerusalem, and even as it was the
messenger was a little late.

These were very primitive arrangements, but Palestine was out of the
world--a slip of useless country--and it was necessary for a man to ride
from Tiberias to Nazareth each night with papers from Cardinal Corkran
to the Pope, and to return with correspondence. It was a dangerous task,
and the members of the New Order who surrounded the Cardinal undertook
it by turns. In this manner all matters for which the Pope's personal
attention was required, and which were too long and not too urgent,
could be dealt with at leisure by him, and an answer returned within the
twenty-four hours.

It was a brilliant moonlit night. The great golden shield was riding
high above Thabor, shedding its strange metallic light down the long
slopes and over the moor-like country that rose up from before the
house-door--casting too heavy black shadows that seemed far more
concrete and solid than the brilliant pale surfaces of the rock slabs or
even than the diamond flashes from the quartz and crystal that here and
there sparkled up the stony pathway. Compared with this clear splendour,
the yellow light from the shuttered house seemed a hot and tawdry thing;
and the priest, leaning against the door-post, his eyes alone alight in
his dark face, sank down at last with a kind of Eastern sensuousness to
bathe himself in the glory, and to spread his lean, brown hands out to
it.

This was a very simple man, in faith as well as in life. For him there
were neither the ecstasies nor the desolations of his master. It was an
immense and solemn joy to him to live here at the spot of God's
Incarnation and in attendance upon His Vicar. As regarded the movements
of the world, he observed them as a man in a ship watches the heaving of
the waves far beneath. Of course the world was restless, he half
perceived, for, as the Latin Doctor had said, all hearts were restless
until they found their rest in God. _Quare fremuerunt gentes?...
Adversus Dominum, et adversus Christum ejus!_ As to the end--he was not
greatly concerned. It might well be that the ship would be overwhelmed,
but the moment of the catastrophe would be the end of all things
earthly. The gates of hell shall not prevail: when Rome falls, the world
falls; and when the world falls, Christ is manifest in power. For
himself, he imagined that the end was not far away. When he had named
Megiddo this afternoon it had been in his mind; to him it seemed natural
that at the consummation of all things Christ's Vicar should dwell at
Nazareth where His King had come on earth--and that the Armageddon of
the Divine John should be within sight of the scene where Christ had
first taken His earthly sceptre and should take it again. After all, it
would not be the first battle that Megiddo had seen. Israel and Amalek
had met here; Israel and Assyria; Sesostris had ridden here and
Sennacherib. Christian and Turk had contended here, like Michael and
Satan, over the place where God's Body had lain. As to the exact method
of that end, he had no clear views; it would be a battle of some kind,
and what field could be found more evidently designed for that than this
huge flat circular plain of Esdraelon, twenty miles across, sufficient
to hold all the armies of the earth in its embrace? To his view once
more, ignorant as he was of present statistics, the world was divided
into two large sections, Christians and heathens, and he supposed them
very much of a size. Something would happen, troops would land at
Khaifa, they would stream southwards from Tiberias, Damascus and remote
Asia, northwards from Jerusalem, Egypt and Africa; eastwards from
Europe; westwards from Asia again and the far-off Americas. And, surely,
the time could not be far away, for here was Christ's Vicar; and, as He
Himself had said in His gospel of the Advent, _Ubicumque fuerit corpus,
illie congregabuntur et aquilae._ Of more subtle interpretations of
prophecy he had no knowledge. For him words were things, not merely
labels upon ideas. What Christ and St. Paul and St. John had said--these
things were so. He had escaped, owing chiefly to his isolation from the
world, that vast expansion of Ritschlian ideas that during the last
century had been responsible for the desertion by so many of any
intelligible creed. For others this had been the supreme struggle--the
difficulty of decision between the facts that words were not things, and
yet that the things they represented were in themselves objective. But
to this man, sitting now in the moonlight, listening to the far-off tap
of hoofs over the hill as the messenger came up from Cana, faith was as
simple as an exact science. Here Gabriel had descended on wide feathered
wings from the Throne of God set beyond the stars, the Holy Ghost had
breathed in a beam of ineffable light, the Word had become Flesh as Mary
folded her arms and bowed her head to the decree of the Eternal. And
here once more, he thought, though it was no more than a guess--yet he
thought that already the running of chariot-wheels was audible--the
tumult of the hosts of God gathering about the camp of the saints--he
thought that already beyond the bars of the dark Gabriel set to his lips
the trumpet of doom and heaven was astir. He might be wrong at this
time, as others had been wrong at other times, but neither he nor they
could be wrong for ever; there must some day be an end to the patience
of God, even though that patience sprang from the eternity of His
nature. He stood up, as down the pale moonlit path a hundred yards away
came a pale figure of one who rode, with a leather bag strapped to his
girdle.



II

It would be about three o'clock in the morning that the priest awoke in
his little mud-walled room next to that of the Holy Father's, and heard
a footstep coming up the stairs. Last evening he had left his master as
usual beginning to open the pile of letters arrived from Cardinal
Corkran, and himself had gone straight to his bed and slept. He lay now
a moment or two, still drowsy, listening to the pad of feet, and an
instant later sat up abruptly, for a deliberate tap had sounded on the
door. Again it came; he sprang out of bed in his long night-tunic, drew
it up hastily in his girdle, went to the door and opened it.

The Pope was standing there, with a little lamp in one hand, for the
dawn had scarcely yet begun, and a paper in the other.

"I beg your pardon, Father; but there is a message I must have sent at
once to his Eminence."

Together they went out through the Pope's room, the priest, still
half-blind with sleep, passed up the stairs, and emerged into the clear
cold air of the upper roof. The Pope blew out His lamp, and set it on
the parapet.

"You will be cold, Father; fetch your cloak."

"And you, Holiness?"

The other made a little gesture of denial, and went across to the tiny
temporary shed where the wireless telegraphic instrument stood.

"Fetch your cloak, Father," He said again over His shoulder. "I will
ring up meanwhile."

When the priest came back three minutes later, in his slippers and
cloak, carrying another cloak also for his master, the Pope was still
seated at the table. He did not even move His head as the other came up,
but once more pressed on the lever that, communicating with the
twelve-foot pole that rose through the pent-house overhead, shot out the
quivering energy through the eighty miles of glimmering air that lay
between Nazareth and Damascus.

This simple priest had scarcely even by now become accustomed to this
extraordinary device invented a century ago and perfected through all
those years to this precise exactness--that device by which with the
help of a stick, a bundle of wires, and a box of wheels, something, at
last established to be at the root of all matter, if not at the very
root of physical life, spoke across the spaces of the world to a tiny
receiver tuned by a hair's breadth to the vibration with which it was
set in relations.

The air was surprisingly cold, considering the heat that had preceded
and would follow it, and the priest shivered a little as he stood clear
of the roof, and stared, now at the motionless figure in the chair
before him, now at the vast vault of the sky passing, even as he looked,
from a cold colourless luminosity to a tender tint of yellow, as far
away beyond Thabor and Moab the dawn began to deepen. From the village
half-a-mile away arose the crowing of a cock, thin and brazen as a
trumpet; a dog barked once and was silent again; and then, on a sudden,
a single stroke upon a bell hung in the roof recalled him in an instant,
and told him that his work was to begin.

The Pope pressed the lever again at the sound, twice, and then, after a
pause, once more--waited a moment for an answer, and then when it came,
rose and signed to the priest to take his place.

The Syrian sat down, handing the extra cloak to his master, and waited
until the other had settled Himself in a chair set in such a position at
the side of the table that the face of each was visible to the other.
Then he waited, with his brown fingers poised above the row of keys,
looking at the other's face as He arranged himself to speak. That face,
he thought, looking out from the hood, seemed paler than ever in this
cold light of dawn; the black arched eyebrows accentuated this, and even
the steady lips, preparing to speak, seemed white and bloodless. He had
His paper in His hand, and His eyes were fixed upon this.

"Make sure it is the Cardinal," he said abruptly.

The priest tapped off an enquiry, and, with moving lips, raid off the
printed message, as like magic it precipitated itself on to the tall
white sheet of paper that faced him.

"It is his Eminence, Holiness," he said softly. "He is alone at the
instrument."

"Very well. Now then; begin."

"We have received your Eminence's letter, and have noted the news.... It
should have been forwarded by telegraphy--why was that not done?"

The voice paused, and the priest who had snapped off the message, more
quickly than a man could write it, read aloud the answer.

"'I did not understand that it was urgent. I thought it was but one
more assault. I had intended to communicate more so soon as I heard
more."'

"Of course it was urgent," came the voice again in the deliberate
intonation that was used between these two in the case of messages for
transmission. "Remember that all news of this kind is always urgent."

"'I will remember,' read the priest. " `I regret my mistake.'"

"You tell us," went on the Pope, His eyes still downcast on the paper,
"that this measure is decided upon; you name only three authorities.
Give me, now, all the authorities you have, if you have more."

There was a moment's pause. Then the priest began to read off the names.

"Besides the three Cardinals whose names I sent, the Archbishops of
Thibet, Cairo, Calcutta and Sydney have all asked if the news was true,
and for directions if it is true; besides others whose names I can
communicate if I may leave the table for a moment.'"

"Do so," said the Pope.

Again there was a pause. Then once more the names began.

"'The Bishops of Bukarest, the Marquesas Islands and Newfoundland. The
Franciscans in Japan, the Crutched Friars in Morocco, the Archbishops of
Manitoba and Portland, and the Cardinal-Archbisbop of Pekin. I have
despatched two members of Christ Crucified to England.'"

"Tell us when the news first arrived, and how."

"'I was called up to the instrument yesterday evening at about twenty
o'clock. The Archbishop of Sydney was asking, through our station at
Bombay, whether the news was true. I replied I had heard nothing of it.
Within ten minutes four more inquiries had come to the same effect; and
three minutes later Cardinal Ruspoli sent the positive news from Turin.
This was accompanied by a similar message from Father Petrovski in
Moscow. Then--- '"

"Stop. Why did not Cardinal Dolgorovski communicate it?"

"'He did communicate it three hours later.'"

"Why not at once?"

"'His Eminence had not heard it.'"

"Find out at what hour the news reached Moscow--not now, but within the
day."

"'I will.'"

"Go on, then."

"'Cardinal Malpas communicated it within five minutes of Cardinal
Ruspoli, and the rest of the inquiries arrived before midnight. China
reported it at twenty-three.'"

"Then when do you suppose the news was made public?"

"'It was decided first at the secret London conference, yesterday, at
about sixteen o'clock by our time. The Plenipotentiaries appear to have
signed it at that hour. After that it was communicated to the world. It
was published here half an hour past midnight.'"

"Then Felsenburgh was in London?"

"'I am not yet sure. Cardinal Malpas tells me that Felsenburgh gave his
provisional consent on the previous day.'"

"Very good. That is all you know, then?"

"'I was called up an hour ago by Cardinal Ruspoli again. He tells me
that he fears a riot in Florence; it will be the first of many
revolutions, he says.'"

"Does he ask for anything?"

"'Only for directions.'"

"Tell him that we send him the Apostolic Benediction, and will forward
directions within the course of two hours. Select twelve members of the
Order for immediate service."

"'I will.'"

"Communicate that message also, as soon as we have finished, to all the
Sacred College, and bid them communicate it with all discretion to all
metropolitans and bishops, that priests and people may know that We bear
them in our heart."

"'I will, Holiness.'"

"Tell them, finally, that We had foreseen this long ago; that We commend
them to the Eternal Father without Whose Providence no sparrow falls to
the ground. Bid them be quiet and confident; to do nothing, save confess
their faith when they are questioned. All other directions shall be
issued to their pastors immediately!"

"'I will, Holiness.'"

* * * * *

There was again a pause.

The Pope had been speaking with the utmost tranquillity as one in a
dream. His eyes were downcast upon the paper, His whole body as
motionless as an image. Yet to the priest who listened, despatching the
Latin messages, and reading aloud the replies, it seemed, although so
little intelligible news had reached him, as if something very strange
and great was impending. There was the sense of a peculiar strain in the
air, and although he drew no deductions from the fact that apparently
the whole Catholic world was in frantic communication with Damascus, yet
he remembered his meditations of the evening before as he had waited for
the messenger. It seemed as if the powers of this world were
contemplating one more step--with its nature he was not greatly
concerned.

The Pope spoke again in His natural voice.

"Father," he said, "what I am about to say now is as if I told it in
confession. You understand?--Very well. Now begin."

Then again the intonation began.

"Eminence. We shall say mass of the Holy Ghost in one hour from now. At
the end of that time, you will cause that all the Sacred College shall
be in touch with yourself, and waiting for our commands. This new
decision is unlike any that have preceded it. Surely you understand
that now. Two or three plans are in our mind, yet We are not sure yet
which it is that our Lord intends. After mass We shall communicate to
you that which He shall show Us to be according to His Will. We beg of
you to say mass also, immediately, for Our intention. Whatever must be
done must be done quickly. The matter of Cardinal Dolgorovski you may
leave until later. But we wish to hear the result of your inquiries,
especially in London, before mid-day. _Benedicat te Omnipotens Deus,
Pater et Filius et Spiritus Sanctus._"

"'Amen!'" murmured the priest, reading it from the sheet.



III

The little chapel in the house below was scarcely more dignified than
the other rooms. Of ornaments, except those absolutely essential to
liturgy and devotion, there were none. In the plaster of the walls were
indented in slight relief the fourteen stations of the Cross; a small
stone image of the Mother of God stood in a corner, with an iron-work
candlestick before it, and on the solid uncarved stone altar, raised on
a stone step, stood six more iron candlesticks and an iron crucifix. A
tabernacle, also of iron, shrouded by linen curtains, stood beneath the
cross; a small stone slab projecting from the wall served as a credence.
There was but one window, and this looked into the court, so that the
eyes of strangers might not penetrate.

It seemed to the Syrian priest as he went about his business--laying out
the vestments in the little sacristy that opened out at one side of the
altar, preparing the cruets and stripping the covering from the
altar-cloth--that even that slight work was wearying. There seemed a
certain oppression in the air. As to how far that was the result of his
broken rest he did not know, but he feared that it was one more of those
scirocco days that threatened. That yellowish tinge of dawn had not
passed with the sun-rising; even now, as he went noiselessly on his bare
feet between the predella and the _prie-dieu_ where the silent white
figure was still motionless, he caught now and again, above the roof
across the tiny court, a glimpse of that faint sand-tinged sky that was
the promise of beat and heaviness.

He finished at last, lighted the candles, genuflected, and stood with
bowed head waiting for the Holy Father to rise from His knees. A
servant's footstep sounded in the court, coming across to hear mass, and
simultaneously the Pope rose and went towards the sacristy, where the
red vestments of God who came by fire were laid ready for the Sacrifice.

* * * * *

Silvester's bearing at mass was singularly unostentatious. He moved as
swiftly as any young priest, His voice was quite even and quite low, and
his pace neither rapid nor pompous. According to tradition, He occupied
half-an-hour _ab amictu ad amictum_; and even in the tiny empty chapel
He observed to keep His eyes always downcast. And yet this Syrian never
served His mass without a thrill of something resembling fear; it was
not only his knowledge of the awful dignity of this simple celebrant;
but, although he could not have expressed it so, there was an aroma of
an emotion about the vestmented figure that affected him almost
physically--an entire absence of self-consciousness, and in its place
the consciousness of some other Presence, a perfection of manner even in
the smallest details that could only arise from absolute recollection.
Even in Rome in the old days it had been one of the sights of Rome to
see Father Franklin say mass; seminary students on the eve of ordination
were sent to that sight to learn the perfect manner and method.

To-day all was as usual, but at the Communion the priest looked up
suddenly at the moment when the Host had been consumed, with a half
impression that either a sound or a gesture had invited it; and, as he
looked, his heart began to beat thick and convulsive at the base of his
throat. Yet to the outward eyes there was nothing unusual. The figure
stood there with bowed head, the chin resting on the tips of the long
fingers, the body absolutely upright, and standing with that curious
light poise as if no weight rested upon the feet. But to the inner sense
something was apparent the Syrian could not in the least formulate it to
himself; but afterwards he reflected that he had stared expecting some
visible or audible manifestation to take place. It was an impression
that might be described under the terms of either light or sound; at any
instant that delicate vivid force, that to the eyes of the soul burned
beneath the red chasuble and the white alb, might have suddenly welled
outwards under the appearance of a gush of radiant light rendering
luminous not only the clear brown flesh seen beneath the white hair, but
the very texture of the coarse, dead, stained stuffs that swathed the
rest of the body. Or it might have shown itself in the strain of a long
chord on strings or wind, as if the mystical union of the dedicated soul
with the ineffable Godhead and Humanity of Jesus Christ generated such a
sound as ceaselessly flows out with the river of life from beneath the
Throne of the Lamb. Or yet once more it might have declared itself under
the guise of a perfume--the very essence of distilled sweetness--such a
scent as that which, streaming out through the gross tabernacle of a
saint's body, is to those who observe it as the breath of heavenly
roses....

The moments passed in that hush of purity and peace; sounds came and
went outside, the rattle of a cart far away, the sawing of the first
cicada in the coarse grass twenty yards away beyond the wall; some one
behind the priest was breathing short and thick as under the pressure of
an intolerable emotion, and yet the figure stood there still, without a
movement or sway to break the carved motionlessness of the alb-folds or
the perfect poise of the white-shod feet. When He moved at last to
uncover the Precious Blood, to lay His hands on the altar and adore, it
was as if a statue had stirred into life; to the server it was very
nearly as a shock.

Again, when the chalice was empty, that first impression reasserted
itself; the human and the external died in the embrace of the Divine and
Invisible, and once more silence lived and glowed.... And again as the
spiritual energy sank back again into its origin, Silvester stretched
out the chalice.

With knees that shook and eyes wide in expectation, the priest rose,
adored, and went to the credence.

* * * * *

It was customary after the Pope's mass that the priest himself should
offer the Sacrifice in his presence, but to-day so soon as the vestments
had been laid one by one on the rough chest, Silvester turned to the
priest.

"Presently," he said softly. "Go up, father, at once to the roof, and
tell the Cardinal to be ready. I shall come in five minutes."

It was surely a scirocco-day, thought the priest, as he came up on to
the flat roof. Overhead, instead of the clear blue proper to that hour
of the morning, lay a pale yellow sky darkening even to brown at the
horizon. Thabor, before him, hung distant and sombre seen through the
impalpable atmosphere of sand, and across the plain, as he glanced
behind him, beyond the white streak of Nain nothing was visible except
the pale outline of the tops of the hills against the sky. Even at this
morning hour, too, the air was hot and breathless, broken only by the
slow-stifling lift of the south-western breeze that, blowing across
countless miles of sand beyond far-away Egypt, gathered up the heat of
the huge waterless continent and was pouring it, with scarcely a streak
of sea to soften its malignity, on this poor strip of land. Carmel, too,
as he turned again, was swathed about its base with mist, half dry and
half damp, and above showed its long bull-head running out defiantly
against the western sky. The very table as he touched it was dry and hot
to the hand, by mid-day the steel would be intolerable.

He pressed the lever, and waited; pressed it again, and waited again.
There came the answering ring, and he tapped across the eighty miles of
air that his Eminence's presence was required at once. A minute or two
passed, and then, after another rap of the bell, a line flicked out on
the new white sheet.

"'I am here. Is it his Holiness?'"

He felt a hand upon his shoulder, and turned to see Silvester, hooded
and in white, behind his chair.

"Tell him yes. Ask him if there is further news."

The Pope went to the chair once more and sat down, and a minute later
the priest, with growing excitement, read out the answer.

"'Inquiries are pouring in. Many expect your Holiness to issue a
challenge. My secretaries have been occupied since four o'clock. The
anxiety is indescribable. Some are denying that they have a Pope.
Something must be done at once.'"

"Is that all?" asked the Pope.

Again the priest read out the answer. "'Yes and no. The news is true. It
will be inforced immediately. Unless a step is taken immediately there
will be widespread and final apostasy.'"

"Very good," murmured the Pope, in his official voice. "Now listen
carefully, Eminence." He was silent for a moment, his fingers joined
beneath his chin as just now at mass. Then he spoke.

"We are about to place ourselves unreservedly in the hands of God. Human
prudence must no longer restrain us. We command you then, using all
discretion that is possible, to communicate these wishes of ours to the
following persons under the strictest secrecy, and to no others
whatsoever. And for this service you are to employ messengers, taken
from the Order of Christ Crucified, two for each message, which is not
to be committed to writing in any form. The members of the Sacred
College, numbering twelve; the metropolitans and Patriarchs through the
entire world, numbering twenty-two; the Generals of the Religious
Orders: the Society of Jesus, the Friars, the Monks Ordinary, and the
Monks Contemplative four. These persons, thirty-eight in number, with
the chaplain of your Eminence, who shall act as notary, and my own who
shall assist him, and Ourself--forty-one all told--these persons are to
present themselves here at our palace of Nazareth not later than the Eve
of Pentecost. We feel Ourselves unwilling to decide the steps necessary
to be taken with reference to the new decree, except we first hear the
counsel of our advisers, and give them an opportunity of communicating
freely one with another. These words, as we have spoken them, are to be
forwarded to all those persons whom we have named; and your Eminence
will further inform them that our deliberations will not occupy more
than four days.

"As regards the questions of provisioning the council and all matters of
that kind, your Eminence will despatch to-day the chaplain of whom we
have spoken, who with my own chaplain will at once set about
preparations, and your Eminence will yourself follow, appointing Father
Marabout to act in your absence, not later than four days hence.

"Finally, to all who have asked explicit directions in the face of this
new decree, communicate this one sentence, and no more.

"_Lose not your confidence which hath a great reward. For yet a little
while, and, He that is to come will come and will not delay_.--Silvester
the Bishop, Servant of the Servants of God."



CHAPTER III

I

Oliver Brand stepped out from the Conference Hall in Westminster on the
Friday evening, so soon as the business was over and the
Plenipotentiaries had risen from the table, more concerned as to the
effect of the news upon his wife than upon the world.

He traced the beginning of the change to the day five months ago when
the President of the World had first declared the development of his
policy, and while Oliver himself had yielded to that development, and
from defending it in public had gradually convinced himself of its
necessity, Mabel, for the first time in her life, had shown herself
absolutely obstinate.

The woman to his mind seemed to him to have fallen into some kind of
insanity. Felsenburgh's declaration had been made a week or two after
his Acclamation at Westminster, and Mabel had received the news of it at
first with absolute incredulity.

Then, when there was no longer any doubt that he had declared the
extermination of the Supernaturalists to be a possible necessity, there
had been a terrible scene between husband and wife. She had said that
she had been deceived; that the world's hope was a monstrous mockery;
that the reign of universal peace was as far away as ever; that
Felsenburgh had betrayed his trust and broken his word. There had been
an appalling scene. He did not even now like to recall it to his
imagination. She had quieted after a while, but his arguments, delivered
with infinite patience, seemed to produce very little effect. She
settled down into silence, hardly answering him. One thing only seemed
to touch her, and that was when he spoke of the President himself. It
was becoming plain to him that she was but a woman after all at the
mercy of a strong personality, but utterly beyond the reach of logic. He
was very much disappointed. Yet he trusted to time to cure her.

The Government of England had taken swift and skilful steps to reassure
those who, like Mabel, recoiled from the inevitable logic of the new
policy. An army of speakers traversed the country, defending and
explaining; the press was engineered with extraordinary adroitness, and
it was possible to say that there was not a person among the millions of
England who had not easy access to the Government's defence.

Briefly, shorn of rhetoric, their arguments were as follows, and there
was no doubt that, on the whole, they had the effect of quieting the
amazed revolt of the more sentimental minds.

Peace, it was pointed out, had for the first time in the world's history
become an universal fact. There was no longer one State, however small,
whose interests were not identical with those of one of the three
divisions of the world of which it was a dependency, and that first
stage had been accomplished nearly half-a-century ago. But the second
stage--the reunion of these three divisions under a common head--an
infinitely greater achievement than the former, since the conflicting
interests were incalculably more vast--this had been consummated by a
single Person, Who, it appeared, had emerged from humanity at the very
instant when such a Character was demanded. It was surely not much to
ask that those on whom these benefits had come should assent to the will
and judgment of Him through whom they had come. This, then, was an
appeal to faith.

The second main argument was addressed to reason. Persecution, as all
enlightened persons confessed, was the method of a majority of savages
who desired to force a set of opinions upon a minority who did not
spontaneously share them. Now the peculiar malevolence of persecution in
the past lay, not in the employment of force, but in the abuse of it.
That any one kingdom should dictate religious opinions to a minority of
its members was an intolerable tyranny, for no one State possessed the
right to lay down universal laws, the contrary to which might be held by
its neighbour. This, however, disguised, was nothing else than the
Individualism of Nations, a heresy even more disastrous to the
commonwealth of the world than the Individualism of the Individual. But
with the arrival of the universal community of interests the whole
situation was changed. The single personality of the human race had
succeeded to the incoherence of divided units, and with that
consummation--which might be compared to a coming of age, an entirely
new set of rights had come into being. The human race was now a single
entity with a supreme responsibility towards itself; there were no
longer any private rights at all, such as had certainly existed, in the
period previous to this. Man now possessed dominion over every cell
which composed His Mystical Body, and where any such cell asserted
itself to the detriment of the Body, the rights of the whole were
unqualified.

And there was no religion but one that claimed the equal rights of
universal jurisdiction--and that the Catholic. The sects of the East,
while each retained characteristics of its own, had yet found in the New
Man the incarnation of their ideals, and had therefore given in their
allegiance to the authority of the whole Body of whom He was Head. But
the very essence of the Catholic Religion was treason to the very idea
of man. Christians directed their homage to a supposed supernatural
Being who was not only--so they claimed--outside of the world but
positively transcended it. Christians, then--leaving aside the mad fable
of the Incarnation, which might very well be suffered to die of its own
folly--deliberately severed themselves from that Body of which by human
generation they had been made members. They were as mortified limbs
yielding themselves to the domination of an outside force other than
that which was their only life, and by that very act imperilled the
entire Body. This madness, then, was the one crime which still deserved
the name. Murder, theft, rape, even anarchy itself, were as trifling
faults compared to this monstrous sin, for while these injured indeed
the Body they did not strike at its heart--individuals suffered, and
therefore those minor criminals deserved restraint; but the very Life
was not struck at. But in Christianity there was a poison actually
deadly. Every cell that became infected with it was infected in that
very fibre that bound it to the spring of life. This, and this alone,
was the supreme crime of High Treason against man--and nothing but
complete removal from the world could be an adequate remedy.

These, then, were the main arguments addressed to that section of the
world which still recoiled from the deliberate utterance of Felsenburgh,
and their success had been remarkable. Of course, the logic, in itself
indisputable, had been dressed in a variety of costumes gilded with
rhetoric, flushed with passion, and it had done its work in such a
manner that as summer drew on Felsenburgh had announced privately that
he proposed to introduce a bill which should carry out to its logical
conclusion the policy of which he had spoken.

Now, this too, had been accomplished.



II

Oliver let himself into his house, and went straight upstairs to Mabel's
room. It would not do to let her hear the news from any but his own
lips. She was not there, and on inquiry he heard that she had gone out
an hour before.

He was disconcerted at this. The decree had been signed half-an-hour
earlier, and in answer to an inquiry from Lord Pemberton it had been
stated that there was no longer any reason for secrecy, and that the
decision might be communicated to the press. Oliver had hurried away
immediately in order to make sure that Mabel should hear the news from
him, and now she was out, and at any moment the placards might tell her
of what had been done.

He felt extremely uneasy, but for another hour or so was ashamed to act.
Then be went to the tube and asked another question or two, but the
servant had no idea of Mabel's movements; it might be she had gone to
the church; sometimes she did at this hour. He sent the woman off to
see, and himself sat down again in the window-seat of his wife's room,
staring out disconsolately at the wide array of roofs in the golden
sunset light, that seemed to his eyes to be strangely beautiful this
evening. The sky was not that pure gold which it had been every night
during this last week; there was a touch of rose in it, and this
extended across the entire vault so far as he could see from west to
east. He reflected on what he had lately read in an old book to the
effect that the abolition of smoke had certainly changed evening colours
for the worse.... There had been a couple of severe earthquakes, too, in
America--he wondered whether there was any connection.... Then his
thoughts flew back to Mabel....

It was about ten minutes before he heard her footstep on the stairs, and
as he stood up she came in.

There was something in her face that told him that she knew everything,
and his heart sickened at her pale rigidity. There was no fury
there--nothing but white, hopeless despair, and an immense
determination. Her lips showed a straight line, and her eyes, beneath
her white summer hat, seemed contracted to pinpricks. She stood there,
closing the door mechanically behind her, and made no further movement
towards him.

"Is it true?" she said.

Oliver drew one steady breath, and sat down again.

"Is what true, my dear?"

"Is it true," she said again, "that all are to be questioned as to
whether they believe in God, and to be killed if they confess it?"

Oliver licked his dry lips.

"You put it very harshly," he said. "The question is, whether the world
has a right---"

She made a sharp movement with her head.

"It is true then. And you signed it?"

"My dear, I beg you not to make a scene. I am tired out. And I will not
answer that until you have heard what I have to say."

"Say it, then."

"Sit down, then."

She shook her head.

"Very well, then.... Well, this is the point. The world is one now, not
many. Individualism is dead. It died when Felsenburgh became President
of the World. You surely see that absolutely new conditions prevail
now--there has never been anything like it before. You know all this as
well as I do."

Again came that jerk of impatience.

"You will please to hear me out," he said wearily. "Well, now that this
has happened, there is a new morality; it is exactly like a child coming
to the age of reason. We are obliged, therefore, to see that this
continues--that there is no going back--no mortification--that all the
limbs are in good health. 'If thy hand offend thee, cut it off,' said
Jesus Christ. Well, that is what we say.... Now, for any one to say that
they believe in God--I doubt very much whether there is any one who
really does believe, or understand what it means--but for any one even
to say so is the very worst crime conceivable: it is high treason. But
there is going to be no violence; it will all be quite quiet and
merciful. Why, you have always approved of Euthanasia, as we all do.
Well, it is that that will be used; and---"

Once more she made a little movement with her hand. The rest of her was
like an image.

"Is this any use?" she asked.

Oliver stood up. He could not bear the hardness of her voice.

"Mabel, my darling---"

For an instant her lips shook; then again she looked at him with eyes of
ice.

"I don't want that," she said. "It is of no use.. Then you did sign it?"

Oliver had a sense of miserable desperation as he looked back at her.
He would infinitely have preferred that she had stormed and wept.

"Mabel---" he cried again.

"Then you did sign it?"

"I did sign it," he said at last.

She turned and went towards the door. He sprang after her.

"Mabel, where are you going?"

Then, for the first time in her life, she lied to her husband frankly
and fully.

"I am going to rest a little," she said. "I shall see you presently at
supper."

He still hesitated, but she met his eyes, pale indeed, but so honest
that he fell back.

"Very well, my dear.... Mabel, try to understand."

* * * * *

He came down to supper half-an-hour later, primed with logic, and even
kindled with emotion. The argument seemed to him now so utterly
convincing; granted the premises that they both accepted and lived by,
the conclusion was simply inevitable.

He waited a minute or two, and at last went to the tube that
communicated with the servants' quarters.

"Where is Mrs. Brand?" he asked.

There was an instant's silence, and then the answer came:

"She left the house half-an-hour ago, sir. I thought you knew."



III

That same evening Mr. Francis was very busy in his office over the
details connected with the festival of Sustenance that was to be
celebrated on the first of July. It was the first time that the
particular ceremony had taken place, and he was anxious that it should
be as successful as its predecessors. There were a few differences
between this and the others, and it was necessary that the
_ceremoniarii_ should be fully instructed.

So, with his model before him--a miniature replica of the interior of
the Abbey, with tiny dummy figures on blocks that could be shifted this
way and that, he was engaged in adding in a minute ecclesiastical hand
rubrical notes to his copy of the Order of Proceedings.

When the porter therefore rang up a little after twenty-one o'clock,
that a lady wished to see him, he answered rather brusquely down the
tube that it was impossible. But the bell rang again, and to his
impatient question, the reply came up that it was Mrs. Brand below, and
that she did not ask for more than ten minutes' conversation. This was
quite another matter. Oliver Brand was an important personage, and his
wife therefore had significance, and Mr. Francis apologised, gave
directions that she was to come to his ante-room, and rose, sighing,
from his dummy Abbey and officials.

She seemed very quiet this evening, he thought, as he shook hands with
her a minute later; she wore her veil down, so that he could not see her
face very well, but her voice seemed to lack its usual vivacity.

"I am so sorry to interrupt you, Mr. Francis," she said. "I only want to
ask you one or two questions."

He smiled at her encouragingly.

"Mr. Brand, no doubt---"

"No," she said, "Mr. Brand has not sent me. It is entirely my own
affair. You will see my reasons presently. I will begin at once. I know
I must not keep you."

It all seemed rather odd, he thought, but no doubt he would understand
soon.

"First," she said, "I think you used to know Father Franklin. He became
a Cardinal, didn't he?"

Mr. Francis assented, smiling.

"Do you know if he is alive?"

"No," he said. "He is dead. He was in Rome, you know, at the time of its
destruction."

"Ah! You are sure?"

"Quite sure. Only one Cardinal escaped--Steinmann. He was hanged in
Berlin; and the Patriarch of Jerusalem died a week or two later."

"Ah! very well. Well, now, here is a very odd question. I ask for a
particular reason, which I cannot explain, but you will soon
understand.... It is this--Why do Catholics believe in God?"

He was so much taken aback that for a moment he sat staring.

"Yes," she said tranquilly, "it is a very odd question. But---" she
hesitated. "Well, I will tell you," she said. "The fact is, that I have
a friend who is--is in danger from this new law. I want to be able to
argue with her; and I must know her side. You are the only priest--I
mean who has been a priest--whom I ever knew, except Father Franklin. So
I thought you would not mind telling me."

Her voice was entirely natural; there was not a tremor or a falter in
it. Mr. Francis smiled genially, rubbing his hands softly together.

"Ah!" he said. "Yes, I see.... Well, that is a very large question.
Would not to-morrow, perhaps---?"

"I only want just the shortest answer," she said. "It is really
important for me to know at once. You see, this new law comes into
force---"

He nodded.

"Well--very briefly, I should say this: Catholics say that God can be
perceived by reason; that from the arrangements of the world they can
deduce that there must have been an Arranger--a Mind, you understand.
Then they say that they deduce other things about God--that He is Love,
for example, because of happiness---"

"And the pain?" she interrupted.

He smiled again.

"Yes. That is the point--that is the weak point."

"But what do they say about that?"

"Well, briefly, they say that pain is the result of sin---"

"And sin? You see, I know nothing at all, Mr. Francis."

"Well, sin is the rebellion of man's will against God's."

"What do they mean by that?"

"Well, you see, they say that God wanted to be loved by His creatures,
so He made them free; otherwise they could not really love. But if they
were free, it means that they could if they liked refuse to love and
obey God; and that is what is called Sin. You see what nonsense---"

She jerked her head a little.

"Yes, yes," she said. "But I really want to get at what they think....
Well, then, that is all?"

Mr. Francis pursed his lips.

"Scarcely," he said; "that is hardly more than what they call Natural
Religion. Catholics believe much more than that."

"Well?"

"My dear Mrs. Brand, it is impossible to put it in a few words. But, in
brief, they believe that God became man--that Jesus was God, and that He
did this in order to save them from sin by dying---"

"By bearing pain, you mean?"

"Yes; by dying. Well, what they call the Incarnation is really the
point. Everything else flows from that. And, once a man believes that, I
must confess that all the rest follows--even down to scapulars and holy
water."

"Mr. Francis, I don't understand a word you're saying."

He smiled indulgently.

"Of course not," he said; "it is all incredible nonsense. But, you know,
I did really believe it all once."

"But it's unreasonable," she said.

He made a little demurring sound.

"Yes," he said, "in one sense, of course it is--utterly unreasonable.
But in another sense---"

She leaned forward suddenly, and he could catch the glint of her eyes
beneath her white veil.

"Ah!" she said, almost breathlessly. "That is what I want to hear. Now,
tell me how they justify it."

He paused an instant, considering.

"Well," he said slowly, "as far as I remember, they say that there are
other faculties besides those of reason. They say, for example, that
the heart sometimes finds out things that the reason cannot--intuitions,
you see. For instance, they say that all things such as self-sacrifice
and chivalry and even art--all come from the heart, that Reason comes
with them--in rules of technique, for instance--but that it cannot prove
them; they are quite apart from that."

"I think I see."

"Well, they say that Religion is like that--in other words, they
practically confess that it is merely a matter of emotion." He paused
again, trying to be fair. "Well, perhaps they would not say
that--although it is true. But briefly---"

"Well?"

"Well, they say there is a thing called Faith--a kind of deep conviction
unlike anything else--supernatural--which God is supposed to give to
people who desire it--to people who pray for it, and lead good lives,
and so on---"

"And this Faith?"

"Well, this Faith, acting upon what they call Evidences--this Faith
makes them absolutely certain that there is a God, that He was made man
and so on, with the Church and all the rest of it. They say too that
this is further proved by the effect that their religion has had in the
world, and by the way it explains man's nature to himself. You see, it
is just a case of self-suggestion."

He heard her sigh, and stopped.

"Is that any clearer, Mrs. Brand?"

"Thank you very much," she said, "it certainly is clearer. ... And it is
true that Christians have died for this Faith, whatever it is?"

"Oh! yes. Thousands and thousands. Just as Mohammedans have for theirs."

"The Mohammedans believe in God, too, don't they?"

"Well, they did, and I suppose that a few do now. But very few: the rest
have become esoteric, as they say."

"And--and which would you say were the most highly evolved people--East
or West?"

"Oh! West undoubtedly. The East thinks a good deal, but it doesn't act
much. And that always leads to confusion--even to stagnation of
thought."

"And Christianity certainly has been the Religion of the West up to a
hundred years ago?"

"Oh! yes."

She was silent then, and Mr. Francis had time again to reflect how very
odd all this was. She certainly must be very much attached to this
Christian friend of hers.

Then she stood up, and he rose with her.

"Thank you so much, Mr. Francis.... Then that is the kind of outline?"

"Well, yes; so far as one can put it in a few words."

"Thank you.... I mustn't keep you."

He went with her towards the door. But within a yard of it she stopped.

"And you, Mr. Francis. You were brought up in all this. Does it ever
come back to you?"

He smiled.

"Never," he said, "except as a dream."

"How do you account for that, then? If it is all self-suggestion, you
have had thirty years of it."

She paused; and for a moment he hesitated what to answer.

"How would your old fellow-Catholics account for it?"

"They would say that I bad forfeited light--that Faith was withdrawn."

"And you?"

Again he paused.

"I should say that I had made a stronger self-suggestion the other way."

"I see.... Good-night, Mr. Francis."

* * * * *

She would not let him come down the lift with her, so when he had seen
the smooth box drop noiselessly below the level, he went back again to
his model of the Abbey and the little dummy figures. But, before he
began to move these about again, he sat for a moment or two with pursed
lips, staring.



CHAPTER IV

I

A week later Mabel awoke about dawn; and for a moment or two forgot
where she was. She even spoke Oliver's name aloud, staring round the
unfamiliar room, wondering what she did here. Then she remembered, and
was silent....

It was the eighth day she had spent in this Home; her probation was
finished: to-day she wits at liberty to do that for which she had come.
On the Saturday of the previous week she had gone through her private
examination before the magistrate, stating under the usual conditions of
secrecy her name, age and home, as well as her reasons for making the
application for Euthanasia; and all had passed off well. She had
selected Manchester as being sufficiently remote and sufficiently large
to secure her freedom from Oliver's molestation; and her secret had been
admirably kept. There was not a hint that her husband knew anything of
her intentions; for, after all, in these cases the police were bound to
assist the fugitive. Individualism was at least so far recognised as to
secure to those weary of life the right of relinquishing it. She
scarcely knew why she had selected this method, except that any other
seemed impossible. The knife required skill and resolution; firearms
were unthinkable, and poison, under the new stringent regulations, was
hard to obtain. Besides, she seriously wished to test her own
intentions, and to be quite sure that there was no other way than
this....

Well, she was as certain as ever. The thought had first come to her in
the mad misery of the outbreak of violence on the last day of the old
year. Then it had gone again, soothed away by the arguments that man was
still liable to relapse. Then once more it had recurred, a cold and
convincing phantom, in the plain daylight revealed by Felsenburgh's
Declaration. It had taken up its abode with her then, yet she controlled
it, hoping against hope that the Declaration would not be carried into
action, occasionally revolting against its horror. Yet it had never been
far away; and finally when the policy sprouted into deliberate law, she
had yielded herself resolutely to its suggestion. That was eight days
ago; and she had not had one moment of faltering since that.

Yet she had ceased to condemn. The logic had silenced her. All that she
knew was that she could not bear it; that she had misconceived the New
Faith; that for her, whatever it was for others, there was no hope....
She had not even a child of her own.

* * * * *

Those eight days, required by law, had passed very peacefully. She had
taken with her enough money to enter one of the private homes furnished
with sufficient comfort to save from distractions those who had been
accustomed to gentle living: the nurses had been pleasant and
sympathetic; she had nothing to complain of.

She had suffered, of course, to some degree from reactions. The second
night after her arrival had been terrible, when, as she lay in bed in
the hot darkness, her whole sentient life had protested and struggled
against the fate her will ordained. It had demanded the familiar
things--the promise of food and breath and human intercourse; it had
writhed in horror against the blind dark towards which it moved so
inevitably; and, in the agony had been pacified only by the half-hinted
promise of some deeper voice suggesting that death was not the end. With
morning light sanity had come back; the will had reassumed the mastery,
and, with it, had withdrawn explicitly the implied hope of continued
existence. She had suffered again for an hour or two from a more
concrete fear; the memory came back to her of those shocking revelations
that ten years ago had convulsed England and brought about the
establishment of these Homes under Government supervision--those
evidences that for years in the great vivisection laboratories human
subjects had been practised upon--persons who with the same intentions
as herself had cut themselves off from the world in private
euthanasia-houses, to whom had been supplied a gas that suspended
instead of destroying animation.... But this, too, had passed with the
return of light. Such things were impossible now under the new
system--at least, in England. She had refrained from making an end upon
the Continent for this very reason. There, where sentiment was weaker,
and logic more imperious, materialism was more consistent. Since men
were but animals--the conclusion was inevitable.

There had been but one physical drawback, the intolerable heat of the
days and nights. It seemed, scientists said, that an entirely unexpected
heat-wave had been generated; there were a dozen theories, most of which
were mutually exclusive one of another. It was humiliating, she thought,
that men who professed to have taken the earth under their charge should
be so completely baffled. The conditions of the weather had of course
been accompanied by disasters; there had been earthquakes of astonishing
violence, a ripple had wrecked not less than twenty-five towns in
America; an island or two had disappeared, and that bewildering Vesuvius
seemed to be working up for a denouement. But no one knew really the
explanation. One man had been wild enough to say that some cataclysm had
taken place in the centre of the earth.... So she had heard from her
nurse; but she was not greatly interested. It was only tiresome that she
could not walk much in the garden, and had to be content with sitting in
her own cool shaded room on the second floor.

There was only one other matter of which she had asked, namely, the
effect of the new decree; but the nurse did not seem to know much about
that. It appeared that there had been an outrage or two, but the law had
not yet been enforced to any great extent; a week, after all, was a
short time, even though the decree had taken effect at once, and
magistrates were beginning the prescribed census.

* * * * *

It seemed to her as she lay awake this morning, staring at the tinted
ceiling, and out now and again at the quiet little room, that the heat
was worse than ever. For a minute she thought she must have overslept;
but, as she touched her repeater, it told her that it was scarcely after
four o'clock. Well, well; she would not have to bear it much longer; she
thought that about eight it would be time to make an end. There was her
letter to Oliver yet to be written; and one or two final arrangements to
be made.

As regarded the morality of what she was doing-the relation, that is to
say, which her act bore to the common life of man--she had no shadow of
doubt. It was her belief, as of the whole Humanitarian world, that just
as bodily pain occasionally justified this termination of life, so also
did mental pain. There was a certain pitch of distress at which the
individual was no longer necessary to himself or the world; it was the
most charitable act that could be performed. But she had never thought
in old days that that state could ever be hers; Life had been much too
interesting. But it had come to this: there was no question of it.

* * * * *

Perhaps a dozen times in that week she had thought over her conversation
with Mr. Francis. Her going to him had been little more than
instinctive; she did just wish to hear what the other side was--whether
Christianity was as ludicrous as she had always thought. It seemed that
it was not ludicrous; it was only terribly pathetic. It was just a
lovely dream--an exquisite piece of poetry. It would be heavenly to
believe it, but she did not. No--a transcendent God was unthinkable,
although not quite so unthinkable as a merely immeasurable Man. And as
for the Incarnation--well, well!

There seemed no way out of it. The Humanity-Religion was the only one.
Man was God, or at least His highest manifestation; and He was a God
with which she did not wish to have anything more to do. These faint new
instincts after something other than intellect and emotion were, she
knew perfectly well, nothing but refined emotion itself.

She had thought a great deal of Felsenburgh, however, and was astonished
at her own feelings. He was certainly the most impressive man she had
ever seen; it did seem very probable indeed that He was what He claimed
to be--the Incarnation of the ideal Man the first perfect product of
humanity. But the logic of his position was too much for her. She saw
now that He was perfectly logical--that He had not been inconsistent in
denouncing the destruction of Rome and a week later making His
declaration. It was the passion of one man against another that He
denounced--of kingdom against kingdom, and sect against sect--for this
was suicidal for the race. He denounced passion, too, not judicial
action. Therefore, this new decree was as logical as Himself--it was a
judicial act on the part of an united world against a tiny majority that
threatened the principle of life and faith: and it was to be carried out
with supreme mercy; there was no revenge or passion or partisan spirit
in it from beginning to end; no more than a man is revengeful or
passionate when he amputates a diseased limb--Oliver had convinced her
of that.

Yes, it was logical and sound. And it was because it was so that she
could not bear it.... But ah! what a sublime man Felsenburgh was; it was
a joy to her even to recall his speeches and his personality. She would
have liked to see him again. But it was no good. She had better be done
with it as tranquilly as possible. And the world must go forward without
her. She was just tired out with Facts.

* * * * *

She dozed off again presently, and it seemed scarcely five minutes
before she looked up to see a gentle smiling face of a white-capped
nurse bending over her.

"It is nearly six o'clock, my dear--the time you told me. I came to see
about breakfast."

Mabel drew a long breath. Then she sat up suddenly, throwing back the
sheet.



II

It struck a quarter-past six from the little clock on the mantel-shelf
as she laid down her pen. Then she took up the closely written sheets,
leaned back in her deep chair, and began to read.

"HOME OF REST,

"NO 3A MANCHESTER WEST.

"MY DEAR: I am very sorry, but it has come back to me. I really cannot
go on any longer, so I am going to escape in the only way left, as I
once told you. I have had a very quiet and happy time here; they have
been most kind and considerate. You see, of course, from the heading on
this paper, what I mean....

"Well, you have always been very dear to me; you are still, even at this
moment. So you have a right to know my reasons so far as I know them
myself. It is very difficult to understand myself; but it seems to me
that I am not strong enough to live. So long as I was pleased and
excited it was all very well--especially when He came. But I think I had
expected it to be different; I did not understand as I do now how it
must come to this--how it is all quite logical and right. I could bear
it, when I thought that they had acted through passion, but this is
deliberate. I did not realise that Peace must have its laws, and must
protect itself. And, somehow, that Peace is not what I want. It is being
alive at all that is wrong.

"Then there is this difficulty. I know how absolutely in agreement you
are with this new state of affairs; of course you are, because you are
so much stronger and more logical than I am. But if you have a wife she
must be of one mind with you. And I am not, any more, at least not with
my heart, though I see you are right.... Do you understand, my dear?

"If we had had a child, it might have been different. I might have liked
to go on living for his sake. But Humanity, somehow--Oh! Oliver! I
can't--I can't.

"I know I am wrong, and that you are right--but there it is; I cannot
change myself. So I am quite sure that I must go.

"Then I want to tell you this--that I am not at all frightened. I never
can understand why people are--unless, of course, they are Christians. I
should be horribly frightened if I was one of them. But, you see, we
both know that there is nothing beyond. It is life that I am frightened
of--not death. Of course, I should be frightened if there was any pain;
but the doctors tell me there is absolutely none. It is simply going to
sleep. The nerves are dead before the brain. I am going to do it myself.
I don't want any one else in the room. In a few minutes the nurse
here--Sister Anne, with whom I have made great friends--will bring in
the thing, and then she will leave me.

"As regards what happens afterwards, I do not mind at all. Please do
exactly what you wish. The cremation will take place to-morrow morning
at noon, so that you can be here if you like. Or you can send
directions, and they will send on the urn to you. I know you liked to
have your mother's urn in the garden; so perhaps you will like mine.
Please do exactly what you like. And with all my things too. Of course I
leave them to you.

"Now, my dear, I want to say this--that I am very sorry indeed now that
I was so tiresome and stupid. I think I did really believe your
arguments all along. But I did not want to believe them. Do you see now
why I was so tiresome?

"Oliver, my darling, you have been extraordinarily good to me.... Yes, I
know I am crying, but I am really very happy. This is such a lovely
ending. I wish I hadn't been obliged to make you so anxious during this
last week: but I had to--I knew you would persuade me against it, if you
found me, and that would have been worse than ever. I am sorry I told
you that lie, too. Indeed, it is the first I ever did tell you.

"Well, I don't think there is much more to say. Oliver, my dear,
good-bye. I send you my love with all my heart.

"MABEL."

* * * * *

She sat still when she had read it through, and her eyes were still wet
with tears. Yet it was all perfectly true. She was far happier than she
could be if she had still the prospect of going back. Life seemed
entirely blank: death was so obvious an escape; her soul ached for it,
as a body for sleep.

She directed the envelope, still with a perfectly steady hand, laid it
on the table, and leaned back once more, glancing again at her untasted
breakfast.

Then she suddenly began to think of her conversation with Mr. Francis;
and, by a strange association of ideas, remembered the fall of the volor
in Brighton, the busy-ness of the priest, and the Euthanasia boxes....

When Sister Anne came in a few minutes later, she was astonished at what
she saw. The girl crouched at the window, her hands on the sill, staring
out at the sky in an attitude of unmistakable horror.

Sister Anne came across the room quickly, setting down something on the
table as she passed. She touched the girl on the shoulder.

"My dear, what is it?"

There was a long sobbing breath, and Mabel turned, rising as she turned,
and clutched the nurse with one shaking hand, pointing out with the
other.

"There!" she said. "There--look!"

"Well, my dear, what is it? I see nothing. It is a little dark!"

"Dark!" said the other. "You call that dark! Why, why, it is
black--black!"

The nurse drew her softly backwards to the chair, turning her from the
window. She recognised nervous fear; but no more than that. But Mabel
tore herself free, and wheeled again.

"You call that a little dark," she said. "Why, look, sister, look!"

Yet there was nothing remarkable to be seen. In front rose up the
feathery hand of an elm, then the shuttered windows across the court,
the roof, and above that the morning sky, a little heavy and dusky as
before a storm; but no more than that.

"Well, what is it, my dear? What do you see?"

"Why, why ... look! look!--There, listen to that."

A faint far-away rumble sounded as the rolling of a waggon--so faint
that it might almost be an aural delusion. But the girl's hands were at
her ears, and her face was one white wide-eyed mask of terror. The nurse
threw her arms round her.

"My dear," she said, "you are not yourself. That is nothing but a little
heat-thunder. Sit down quietly."

She could feel the girl's body shaking beneath her hands, but there was
no resistance as she drew her to the chair.

"The lights! the lights!" sobbed Mabel.

"Will you promise me to sit quietly, then?"

She nodded; and the nurse went across to the door, smiling tenderly; she
had seen such things before. A moment later the room was full of
exquisite sunlight, as she switched the handle. As she turned, she saw
that Mabel had wheeled herself round in the chair, and with clasped
hands was still staring out at the sky above the roofs; but she was
plainly quieter again now. The nurse came back, and put her hand on her
shoulder.

"You are overwrought, my dear.... Now you must believe me. There is
nothing to be frightened of. It is just nervous excitement.... Shall I
pull down the blind?"

Mabel turned her face.... Yes, certainly the light had reassured her.
Her face was still white and bewildered, but the steady look was coming
back to her eyes, though, even as she spoke, they wandered back more
than once to the window.

"Nurse," she said more quietly, "please look again and tell me if you
see nothing. If you say there is nothing I will believe that I am going
mad. No; you must not touch the blind."

No; there was nothing. The sky was a little dark, as if a blight were
coming on; but there was hardly more than a veil of cloud, and the light
was scarcely more than tinged with gloom. It was just such a sky as
precedes a spring thunderstorm. She said so, clearly and firmly.

Mabel's face steadied still more.

"Very well, nurse.... Then---"

She turned to the little table by the side on which Sister Anne had set
down what she had brought into the room.

"Show me, please."

The nurse still hesitated.

"Are you sure you are not too frightened, my dear? Shall I get you
anything?"

"I have no more to say," said Mabel firmly. "Show me, please."

Sister Anne turned resolutely to the table.

There rested upon it a white-enamelled box, delicately painted with
flowers. From this box emerged a white flexible tube with a broad
mouthpiece, fitted with two leather-covered steel clasps. From the side
of the box nearest the chair protruded a little china handle.

"Now, my dear," began the nurse quietly, watching the other's eyes turn
once again to the window, and then back--"now, my dear, you sit there,
as you are now. Your head right back, please. When you are ready, you
put this over your mouth, and clasp the springs behind your head....
So.... it works quite easily. Then you turn this handle, round that way,
as far as it will go. And that is all."

Mabel nodded. She had regained her self-command, and understood plainly
enough, though even as she spoke once again her eyes strayed away to the
window.

"That is all," she said. "And what then?"

The nurse eyed her doubtfully for a moment.

"I understand perfectly," said Mabel. "And what then?"

"There is nothing more. Breathe naturally. You will feel sleepy almost
directly. Then you close your eyes, and that is all."

Mabel laid the tube on the table and stood up. She was completely
herself now.

"Give me a kiss, sister," she said.

The nurse nodded and smiled to her once more at the door. But Mabel
hardly noticed it; again she was looking towards the window.

"I shall come back in half-an-hour," said Sister Anne.

Then her eyes caught a square of white upon the centre table. "Ah! that
letter!" she said.

"Yes," said the girl absently. "Please take it."

The nurse took it up, glanced at the address, and again at Mabel. Still
she hesitated.

"In half-an-hour," she repeated. "There is no hurry at all. It doesn't
take five minutes.... Good-bye, my dear."

But Mabel was still looking out of the window, and made no answer.



III

Mabel stood perfectly still until she heard the locking of the door and
the withdrawal of the key. Then once more she went to the window and
clasped the sill.

From where she stood there was visible to her first the courtyard
beneath, with its lawn in the centre, and a couple of trees growing
there--all plain in the brilliant light that now streamed from her
window, and secondly, above the roofs, a tremendous pall of ruddy black.
It was the more terrible from the contrast. Earth, it seemed, was
capable of light; heaven had failed.

It appeared, too, that there was a curious stillness. The house was,
usually, quiet enough at this hour: the inhabitants of that place were
in no mood for bustle: but now it was more than quiet; it was deathly
still: it was such a hush as precedes the sudden crash of the sky's
artillery. But the moments went by, and there was no such crash: only
once again there sounded a solemn rolling, as of some great wain far
away; stupendously impressive, for with it to the girl's ears there
seemed mingled a murmur of innumerable voices, ghostly crying and
applause. Then again the hush settled down like wool.

She had begun to understand now. The darkness and the sounds were not
for all eyes and ears. The nurse had seen and heard nothing
extraordinary, and the rest of the world of men saw and heard nothing.
To them it was no more than the hint of a coming storm.

Mabel did not attempt to distinguish between the subjective and the
objective. It was nothing to her as to whether the sights and sounds
were generated by her own brain or perceived by some faculty hitherto
unknown. She seemed to herself to be standing already apart from the
world which she had known; it was receding from her, or, rather, while
standing where it had always done, it was melting, transforming itself,
passing to some other mode of existence. The strangeness seemed no more
strange than anything else than that ... that little painted box upon
the table.

Then, hardly knowing what she said, looking steadily upon that appalling
sky, she began to speak....

"O God!" she said. "If You are really there really there---"

Her voice faltered, and she gripped the sill to steady herself. She
wondered vaguely why she spoke so; it was neither intellect nor emotion
that inspired her. Yet she continued....

"O God, I know You are not there--of course You are not. But if You were
there, I know what I would say to You. I would tell You how puzzled and
tired I am. No--No--I need not tell You: You would know it. But I would
say that I was very sorry for all this. Oh! You would know that too. I
need not say anything at all. O God! I don't know what I want to say. I
would like You to look after Oliver, of course, and all Your poor
Christians. Oh! they will have such a hard time.... God. God--You would
understand, wouldn't You?" ...

* * * * *

Again came the heavy rumble and the solemn bass of a myriad voices; it
seemed a shade nearer, she thought.... She never liked thunderstorms or
shouting crowds. They always gave her a headache ...

"Well, well," she said. "Good-bye, everything---"

Then she was in the chair. The mouthpiece--yes; that was it....

She was furious at the trembling of her hands; twice the spring slipped
from her polished coils of hair.... Then it was fixed ... and as if a
breeze fanned her, her sense came back....

She found she could breathe quite easily; there was no resistance--that
was a comfort; there would be no suffocation about it.... She put out
her left hand and touched the handle, conscious less of its sudden
coolness than of the unbearable heat in which the room seemed almost
suddenly plunged. She could hear the drumming pulses in her temples and
the roaring of the voices.... She dropped the handle once more, and with
both hands tore at the loose white wrapper that she had put on this
morning....

Yes, that was a little easier; she could breathe better so. Again her
fingers felt for and found the handle, but the sweat streamed from her
fingers, and for an instant she could not turn the knob. Then it yielded
suddenly....

* * * * *

For one instant the sweet languid smell struck her consciousness like a
blow, for she knew it as the scent of death. Then the steady will that
had borne her so far asserted itself, and she laid her hands softly in
her lap, breathing deeply and easily.

She had closed her eyes at the turning of the handle, but now opened
them again, curious to watch the aspect of the fading world. She had
determined to do this a week ago: she would at least miss nothing of
this unique last experience.

It seemed at first that there was no change. There was the feathery head
of the elm, the lead roof opposite, and the terrible sky above. She
noticed a pigeon, white against the blackness, soar and swoop again out
of sight in an instant....

... Then the following things happened....

There was a sudden sensation of ecstatic lightness in all her limbs; she
attempted to lift a hand, and was aware that it was impossible; it was
no longer hers. She attempted to lower her eyes from that broad strip of
violet sky, and perceived that that too was impossible. Then she
understood that the will had already lost touch with the body, that the
crumbling world had receded to an infinite distance--that was as she had
expected, but what continued to puzzle her was that her mind was still
active. It was true that the world she had known had withdrawn itself
from the dominion of consciousness, as her body had done, except, that
was, in the sense of hearing, which was still strangely alert; yet there
was still enough memory to be aware that there was such a world--that
there were other persons in existence; that men went about their
business, knowing nothing of what had happened; but faces, names,
places had all alike gone. In fact, she was conscious of herself in such
a manner as she had never been before; it seemed as if she had
penetrated at last into some recess of her being into which hitherto she
had only looked as through clouded glass. This was very strange, and yet
it was familiar, too; she had arrived, it seemed, at a centre, round the
circumference of which she had been circling all her life; and it was
more than a mere point: it was a distinct space, walled and enclosed....
At the same instant she knew that hearing, too, was gone....

Then an amazing thing happened--yet it appeared to her that she had
always known it would happen, although her mind had never articulated
it. This is what happened.

The enclosure melted, with a sound of breaking, and a limitless space
was about her--limitless, different to everything else, and alive, and
astir. It was alive, as a breathing, panting body is alive--self-evident
and overpowering--it was one, yet it was many; it was immaterial, yet
absolutely real--real in a sense in which she never dreamed of
reality....

Yet even this was familiar, as a place often visited in dreams is
familiar; and then, without warning, something resembling sound or
light, something which she knew in an instant to be unique, tore across
it....

* * * * *

Then she saw, and understood....



CHAPTER V

I

Oliver had passed the days since Mabel's disappearance in an
indescribable horror. He had done all that was possible: he had traced
her to the station and to Victoria, where he lost her clue; he had
communicated with the police, and the official answer, telling him
nothing, had arrived to the effect that there was no news: and it was
not until the Tuesday following her disappearance that Mr. Francis,
hearing by chance of his trouble, informed him by telephone that he had
spoken with her on the Friday night. But there was no satisfaction to be
got from him--indeed, the news was bad rather than good, for Oliver
could not but be dismayed at the report of the conversation, in spite of
Mr. Francis's assurances that Mrs. Brand had shown no kind of
inclination to defend the Christian cause.

Two theories gradually emerged, in his mind; either she was gone to the
protection of some unknown Catholic, or--and he grew sick at the
thought--she had applied somewhere for Euthanasia as she had once
threatened, and was now under the care of the Law; such an event was
sufficiently common since the passing of the Release Act in 1998. And it
was frightful that he could not condemn it.

* * * * *

On the Tuesday evening, as he sat heavily in his room, for the hundredth
time attempting to trace out some coherent line through the maze of
intercourse he had had with his wife during these past months, his bell
suddenly rang. It was the red label of Whitehall that had made its
appearance; and for an instant his heart leaped with hope that it was
news of her. But at the first words it sank again.

"Brand," came the sharp fairy voice, "is that you?... Yes, I am
Snowford. You are wanted at once--at once, you understand. There is an
extraordinary meeting of the Council at twenty o'clock. The President
will be there. You understand the urgency. No time for more. Come
instantly to my room."

* * * * *

Even this message scarcely distracted him. He, with the rest of the
world, was no longer surprised at the sudden descents of the President.
He came and vanished again without warning, travelling and working with
incredible energy, yet always, as it seemed, retaining his personal
calm.

It was already after nineteen; Oliver supped immediately, and a
quarter-of-an-hour before the hour presented himself in Snowford's room,
where half a dozen of his colleagues were assembled.

That minister came forward to meet him, with a strange excitement in his
face. He drew him aside by a button.

"See here, Brand, you are wanted to speak first--immediately after the
President's Secretary who will open; they are coming from Paris. It is
about a new matter altogether. He has had information of the whereabouts
of the Pope.... It seems that there is one.... Oh, you will understand
presently. Oh, and by the way," he went on, looking curiously at the
strained face, "I am sorry to hear of your anxiety. Pemberton told me
just now."

Oliver lifted a hand abruptly.

"Tell me," he said. "What am I wanted to say?"

"Well, the President will have a proposal, we imagine. You know our
minds well enough. Just explain our attitude towards the Catholics."

Oliver's eyes shrank suddenly to two bright lines beneath the lids. He
nodded.

Cartwright came up presently, an immense, bent old man with a face of
parchment, as befitted the Lord Chief Justice.

"By the way, Brand, what do you know of a man called Phillips? He seems
to have mentioned your name."

"He was my secretary," said Oliver slowly. "What about him?"

"I think he must be mad. He has given himself up to a magistrate,
entreating to be examined at once. The magistrate has applied for
instructions. You see, the Act has scarcely begun to move yet."

"But what has he done?"

"That's the difficulty. He says he cannot deny God, neither can he
affirm Him.--He was your secretary, then?"

"Certainly. I knew he was inclined to Christianity. I had to get rid of
him for that."

"Well, he is to be remanded for a week. Perhaps he will be able to make
up his mind."

Then the talk shifted off again. Two or three more came up, and all eyed
Oliver with a certain curiosity; the story was gone about that his wife
had left him. They wished to see how he took it.

At five minutes before the hour a bell rang, and the door into the
corridor was thrown open.

"Come, gentlemen," said the Prime Minister.

The Council Chamber was a long high room on the first floor; its walls
from floor to ceiling were lined with books. A noiseless rubber carpet
was underfoot. There were no windows; the room was lighted artificially.
A long table, set round with armed chairs, ran the length of the floor,
eight on either side; and the Presidential chair, raised on a dais,
stood at the head.

Each man went straight to his chair in silence, and remained there,
waiting.

* * * * *

The room was beautifully cool, in spite of the absence of windows, and
was a pleasant contrast to the hot evening outside through which most of
these men had come. They, too, had wondered at the surprising weather,
and had smiled at the conflict of the infallible. But they were not
thinking about that now: the coming of the President was a matter which
always silenced the most loquacious. Besides, this time, they understood
that the affair was more serious than usual.

At one minute before the hour, again a bell sounded, four times, and
ceased; and at the signal each man turned instinctively to the high
sliding door behind the Presidential chair. There was dead silence
within and without: the huge Government offices were luxuriously
provided with sound-deadening apparatus, and not even the rolling of the
vast motors within a hundred yards was able to send a vibration through
the layers of rubber on which the walls rested. There was only one noise
that could penetrate, and that the sound of thunder. The experts were at
present unable to exclude this.

Again the silence seemed to fall in one yet deeper veil. Then the door
opened, and a figure came swiftly through, followed by Another in black
and scarlet.



II

He passed straight up to the chair, followed by two secretaries, bowed
slightly to this side and that, sat down and made a little gesture. Then
they, too, were in their chairs, upright and intent. For perhaps the
hundredth time, Oliver, staring upon the President, marvelled at the
quietness and the astounding personality of Him. He was in the English
judicial dress that had passed down through centuries--black and scarlet
with sleeves of white fur and a crimson sash--and that had lately been
adopted as the English presidential costume of him who stood at the head
of the legislature. But it was in His personality, in the atmosphere
that flowed from Him, that the marvel lay. It was as the scent of the
sea to the physical nature--it exhilarated, cleansed, kindled,
intoxicated. It was as inexplicably attractive as a cherry orchard in
spring, as affecting as the cry of stringed instruments, as compelling
as a storm. So writers had said. They compared it to a stream of clear
water, to the flash of a gem, to the love of woman. They lost all
decency sometimes; they said it fitted all moods, as the voice of many
waters; they called it again and again, as explicitly as possible, the
Divine Nature perfectly Incarnate at last....

Then Oliver's reflections dropped from him like a mantle, for the
President, with downcast eyes and head thrown back, made a little
gesture to the ruddy-faced secretary on His right; and this man, without
a movement, began to speak like an impersonal actor repeating his part.

* * * * *

"Gentlemen," he said, in an even, resonant voice, "the President is come
direct from Paris. This afternoon His Honour was in Berlin; this
morning, early, in Moscow. Yesterday in New York. To-night His Honour
must be in Turin; and to-morrow will begin to return through Spain,
North Africa, Greece and the southeastern states."

This was the usual formula for such speeches. The President spoke but
little himself now; but was careful for the information of his subjects
on occasions like this. His secretaries were perfectly trained, and this
speaker was no exception. After a slight pause, he continued:

"This is the business, gentlemen.

"Last Thursday, as you are aware, the Plenipotentaries signed the Test
Act in this room, and it was immediately communicated all over the
world. At sixteen o'clock His Honour received a message from a man named
Dolgorovski--who is, it is understood, one of the Cardinals of the
Catholic Church. This he claimed; and on inquiry it was found to be a
fact. His information confirmed what was already suspected--namely, that
there was a man claiming to be Pope, who had created (so the phrase is)
other cardinals, shortly after the destruction of Rome, subsequent to
which his own election took place in Jerusalem. It appears that this
Pope, with a good deal of statesmanship, has chosen to keep his own name
and place of residence a secret from even his own followers, with the
exception of the twelve cardinals; that he has done a great deal,
through the instrumentality of one of his cardinals in particular, and
through his new Order in general, towards the reorganisation of the
Catholic Church; and that at this moment he is living, apart from the
world, in complete security.

"His Honour blames Himself that He did not do more than suspect
something of the kind--misled, He thinks, by a belief that if there had
been a Pope, news would have been heard of it from other quarters, for,
as is well known, the entire structure of the Christian Church rests
upon him as upon a rock. Further, His Honour thinks inquiries should
have been made in the very place where now it is understood that this
Pope is living.

"The man's name, gentlemen, is Franklin---"

Oliver started uncontrollably, but relapsed again to bright-eyed
intelligence as for an instant the President glanced up from his
motionlessness.

"Franklin," repeated the secretary, "and he is living in Nazareth,
where, it is said, the Founder of Christianity passed His youth.

"Now this, gentlemen, His Honour heard on Thursday in last week. He
caused inquiries to be made, and on Friday morning received further
intelligence from Dolgorovski that this Pope had summoned to Nazareth a
meeting of his cardinals, and certain other officials, from all over the
world, to consider what steps should be taken in view of the new Test
Act. This His Honour takes to show an extreme want of statesmanship
which seems hard to reconcile with his former action. These persons are
summoned by special messengers to meet on Saturday next, and will begin
their deliberations after some Christian ceremonies on the following
morning.

"You wish, gentlemen, no doubt, to know Dolgorovski's motives in making
all this known. His Honour is satisfied that they are genuine. The man
has been losing belief in his religion; in fact, he has come to see that
this religion is the supreme obstacle to the consolidation of the race.
He has esteemed it his duty, therefore, to lay this information before
His Honour. It is interesting as an historical parallel to reflect that
the same kind of incident marked the rise of Christianity as will mark,
it is thought, its final extinction--namely, the informing on the part
of one of the leaders of the place and method by which the principal
personage may be best approached. It is also, surely, very significant
that the scene of the extinction of Christianity is identical with that
of its inauguration....

"Well, gentlemen, His Honour's proposal is as follows, carrying out the
Declaration to which you all acceded. It is that a force should proceed
during the night of Saturday next to Palestine, and on the Sunday
morning, when these men will be all gathered together, that this force
should finish as swiftly and mercifully as possible the work to which
the Powers have set their hands. So far, the comment of the Governments
which have been consulted has been unanimous, and there is little doubt
that the rest will be equally so. His Honour felt that He could not act
in on grave a matter on His own responsibility; it is not merely local;
it is a catholic administration of justice, and will have results wider
than it is safe minutely to prophesy.

"It is not necessary to enter into His Honour's reasons. They are
already well known to you; but before asking for your opinion, He
desires me to indicate what He thinks, in the event of your approval,
should be the method of action.

"Each Government, it is proposed, should take part in the final scene,
for it is something of a symbolic action; and for this purpose it is
thought well that each of the three Departments of the World should
depute volors, to the number of the constituting States, one hundred and
twenty-two all told, to set about the business. These volors should have
no common meeting-ground, otherwise the news will surely penetrate to
Nazareth, for it is understood that, this new Order of Christ Crucified
has a highly organised system of espionage. The rendezvous, then, should
be no other than Nazareth itself; and the time of meeting should be, it
is thought, not later than nine o'clock according to Palestine
reckoning. These details, however, can be decided and communicated as
soon as a determination has been formed as regards the entire scheme.

"With respect to the exact method of carrying out the conclusion, His
Honour is inclined to think it will be more merciful to enter into no
negotiations with the persons concerned. An opportunity should be given
to the inhabitants of the village to make their escape if they so desire
it, and then, with the explosives that the force should carry, the end
can be practically instantaneous.

"For Himself, His Honour proposes to be there in person, and further
that the actual discharge should take place from His own car. It seems
but suitable that the world which has done His Honour the goodness to
elect Him to its Presidentship should act through His hands; and this
would be at least some slight token of respect to a superstition which,
however infamous, is yet the one and only force capable of withstanding
the true progress of man.

"His Honour promises you, gentlemen, that in the event of this plan
being carried out, we shall be no more troubled with Christianity.
Already the moral effect of the Test Act has been prodigious. It is
understood that, by tens of thousands, Catholics, numbering among them
even members of this new fanatical Religious Order, have been renouncing
their follies even in these few days; and a final blow struck now at the
very heart and head of the Catholic Church, eliminating, as it would do,
the actual body on which the entire organisation subsists, would render
its resurrection impossible. It is a well-known fact that, granted the
extinction of the line of Popes, together with those necessary for its
continuance, there could be no longer any question amongst even the most
ignorant that the claim of Jesus had ceased to be either reasonable or
possible. Even the Order that has provided the sinews for this new
movement must cease to exist.

"Dolgorovski, of course, is the difficulty, for it is not certainly
known whether one Cardinal would be considered sufficient for the
propagation of the line; and, although reluctantly, His Honour feels
bound to suggest that at the conclusion of the affair, Dolgorovski,
also, who will not, of course, be with his fellows at Nazareth, should
be mercifully removed from even the danger of a relapse....

"His Honour, then, asks you, gentlemen, as briefly as possible, to state
your views on the points of which I have had the privilege of speaking."

The quiet business-like voice ceased.

He had spoken throughout in the manner with which he had begun; his eyes
had been downcast throughout; his voice had been tranquil and
restrained. His deportment had been admirable.

There was an instant's silence, and all eyes settled steadily again upon
the motionless figure in black and scarlet and the ivory face.

Then Oliver stood up. His face was as white as paper; his eyes bright
and dilated.

"Sir," he said, "I have no doubt that we are all of one mind. I need say
no more than that, so far as I am a representative of my colleagues, we
assent to the proposal, and leave all details in your Honour's hands."

The President lifted his eyes, and ran them swiftly along the rigid
faces turned to him.

Then, in the breathless hush, he spoke for the first time in his strange
voice, now as passionless as a frozen river.

"Is there any other proposal?"

There was a murmur of assent as the men rose to their feet.

"Thank you, gentlemen," said the secretary.



III

It was a little before seven o'clock on the morning of Saturday that
Oliver stepped out of the motor that had carried him to Wimbledon
Common, and began to go up the steps of the old volor-stage, abandoned
five years ago. It had been thought better, in view of the extreme
secrecy that was to be kept, that England's representative in the
expedition should start from a comparatively unknown point, and this old
stage, in disuse now, except for occasional trials of new Government
machines, had been selected. Even the lift had been removed, and it was
necessary to climb the hundred and fifty steps on foot.

It was with a certain unwillingness that he had accepted this post among
the four delegates, for nothing had been heard of his wife, and it was
terrible to him to leave London while her fate was as yet doubtful. On
the whole, he was less inclined than ever now to accept the Euthanasia
theory; he had spoken to one or two of her friends, all of whom declared
that she had never even hinted at such an end. And, again, although he
was well aware of the eight-day law in the matter, even if she had
determined on such a step there was nothing to show that she was yet in
England, and, in fact, it was more than likely that if she were bent on
such an act she would go abroad for it, where laxer conditions
prevailed. In short, it seemed that he could do no good by remaining in
England, and the temptation to be present at the final act of justice in
the East by which land, and, in fact, it was more than likely that if
she were to be wiped out, and Franklin, too, among them--Franklin, that
parody of the Lord of the World--this, added to the opinion of his
colleagues in the Government, and the curious sense, never absent from
him now, that Felsenburgh's approval was a thing to die for if
necessary--these things had finally prevailed. He left behind him at
home his secretary, with instructions that no expense was to be spared
in communicating with him should any news of his wife arrive during his
absence.

It was terribly hot this morning, and, by the time that he reached the
top he noticed that the monster in the net was already fitted into its
white aluminium casing, and that the fans within the corridor and saloon
were already active. He stepped inside to secure a seat in the saloon,
set his bag down, and after a word or two with the guard, who, of
course, had not yet been informed of their destination, learning that
the others were not yet come, he went out again on to the platform for
coolness' sake, and to brood in peace.

London looked strange this morning, he thought. Here beneath him was the
common, parched somewhat with the intense heat of the previous week,
stretching for perhaps half-a-mile--tumbled ground, smooth stretches of
turf, and the heads of heavy trees up to the first house-roofs, set,
too, it seemed, in bowers of foliage. Then beyond that began the serried
array, line beyond line, broken in one spot by the gleam of a
river-reach, and then on again fading beyond eyesight. But what
surprised him was the density of the air; it was now, as old books
related it had been in the days of smoke. There was no freshness, no
translucence of morning atmosphere; it was impossible to point in any
one direction to the source of this veiling gloom, for on all sides it
was the same. Even the sky overhead lacked its blue; it appeared painted
with a muddy brush, and the sun shewed the same faint tinge of red. Yes,
it was like that, he said wearily to himself--like a second-rate sketch;
there was no sense of mystery as of a veiled city, but rather unreality.
The shadows seemed lacking in definiteness, the outlines and grouping in
coherence. A storm was wanted, he reflected; or even, it might be, one
more earthquake on the other side of the world would, in wonderful
illustration of the globe's unity, relieve the pressure on this side.
Well, well; the journey would be worth taking even for the interest of
observing climatic changes; but it would be terribly hot, he mused, by
the time the south of France was reached.

Then his thoughts leaped back to their own gnawing misery.

* * * * *

It was another ten minutes before he saw the scarlet Government motor,
with awnings out, slide up the road from the direction of Fulham; and
yet five minutes more before the three men appeared with their servants
behind them--Maxwell, Snowford and Cartwright, all alike, as was Oliver,
in white duck from head to foot.

They did not speak one word of their business, for the officials were
going to and fro, and it was advisable to guard against even the
smallest possibility of betrayal. The guard had been told that the volor
was required for a three days' journey, that provisions were to be taken
in for that period, and that the first point towards which the course
was to lie was the centre of the South Downs. There would be no stopping
for at least a day and a night.

Further instructions had reached them from the President on the previous
morning, by which time He had completed His visitation, and received the
assent of the Emergency Councils of the world. This Snowford commented
upon in an undertone, and added a word or two as to details, as the four
stood together looking out over the city.

Briefly, the plan was as follows, at least so far as it concerned
England. The volor was to approach Palestine from the direction of the
Mediterranean, observing to get into touch with France on her left and
Spain on her right within ten miles of the eastern end of Crete. The
approximate hour was fixed at twenty-three (eastern time). At this point
she was to show her night signal, a scarlet line on a white field; and
in the event of her failing to observe her neighbours was to circle at
that point, at a height of eight hundred feet, until either the two were
sighted or further instructions were received. For the purpose of
dealing with emergencies, the President's car, which would finally make
its entrance from the south, was to be accompanied by an _aide-de-camp_
capable of moving at a very high speed, whose signals were to be taken
as Felsenburgh's own.

So soon as the circle was completed, having Esdraelon as its centre with
a radius of five hundred and forty miles, the volors were to advance,
dropping gradually to within five hundred feet of sea-level, and
diminishing their distance one from another from the twenty-five miles
or so at which they would first find themselves, until they were as near
as safety allowed. In this manner the advance at a pace of fifty miles
an hour from the moment that the circle was arranged would bring them
within sight of Nazareth at about nine o'clock on the Sunday morning.

* * * * *

The guard came up to the four as they stood there silent.

"We are ready, gentlemen," he said.

"What do you think of the weather?" asked Snowford abruptly.

The guard pursed his lips.

"A little thunder, I expect, sir," he said.

Oliver looked at him curiously.

"No more than that?" he asked.

"I should say a storm, sir," observed the guard shortly.

Snowford turned towards the gangway.

"Well, we had best be off: we can lose time further on, if we wish."

It was about five minutes more before all was ready. From the stern of
the boat came a faint smell of cooking, for breakfast would be served
immediately, and a white-capped cook protruded his head for an instant,
to question the guard. The four sat down in the gorgeous saloon in the
bows; Oliver silent by himself, the other three talking in low voices
together. Once more the guard passed through to his compartment at the
prow, glancing as he went to see that all were seated; and an instant
later came the clang of the signal. Then through all the length of the
boat--for she was the fastest ship that England possessed--passed the
thrill of the propeller beginning to work up speed; and simultaneously
Oliver, staring sideways through the plate-glass window, saw the rail
drop away, and the long line of London, pale beneath the tinged sky,
surge up suddenly. He caught a glimpse of a little group of persons
staring up from below, and they, too, dropped in a great swirl, and
vanished. Then, with a flash of dusty green, the Common bad vanished,
and a pavement of house-roofs began to stream beneath, the long lines of
streets on this side and that turning like spokes of a gigantic wheel;
once more this pavement thinned, showing green again as between
infrequently laid cobble-stones; then they, too, were gone, and the
country was open beneath.

Snowford rose, staggering a little.

"I may as well tell the guard now," he said. "Then we need not be
interrupted again."



CHAPTER VI

I

The Syrian awoke from a dream that a myriad faces were looking into his
own, eager, attentive and horrible, in his corner of the roof-top, and
sat up sweating and gasping aloud for breath. For an instant he thought
that he was really dying, and that the spiritual world was about him.
Then, as he struggled, sense came back, and he stood up, drawing long
breaths of the stifling night air.

Above him the sky was as the pit, black and empty; there was not a
glimmer of light, though the moon was surely up. He had seen her four
hours before, a red sickle, swing slowly out from Thabor. Across the
plain, as he looked from the parapet, there was nothing. For a few yards
there lay across the broken ground a single crooked lance of light from
a half-closed shutter; and beneath that, nothing. To the north again,
nothing; to the west a glimmer, pale as a moth's wing, from the
house-roofs of Nazareth; to the east, nothing. He might be on a
tower-top in space, except for that line of light and that grey glimmer
that evaded the eye.

On the roof, however, it was possible to make out at least outlines, for
the dormer trap had been left open at the head of the stairs, and from
somewhere within the depths of the house there stole up a faint
refracted light.

There was a white bundle in that corner; that would be the pillow of the
Benedictine abbot. He had seen him lay himself down there some time--was
it four hours or four centuries ago? There was a grey shape stretched
along that pale wall--the Friar, he thought; there were other irregular
outlines breaking the face of the parapet, here and there along the
sides.

Very softly, for he knew the caprices of sleep, he stepped across the
paved roof to the opposite parapet and looked over, for there yet hung
about him a desire for reassurance that he was still in company with
flesh and blood. Yes, indeed he was still on earth; for there was a real
and distinct light burning among the tumbled rocks, and beside it,
delicate as a miniature, the head and shoulders of a man, writing. And
in the circle of light were other figures, pale, broken patches on which
men lay; a pole or two, erected with the thought of a tent to follow; a
little pile of luggage with a rug across it; and beyond the circle other
outlines and shapes faded away into the stupendous blackness.

Then the writing man moved his head, and a monstrous shadow fled across
the ground; a yelp as of a strangling dog broke out suddenly close
behind him, and, as he turned, a moaning figure sat up on the roof,
sobbing itself awake. Another moved at the sound, and then as, sighing,
the former relapsed heavily against the wall, once more the priest went
back to his place, still doubtful as to the reality of all that he saw,
and the breathless silence came down again as a pall.

* * * * *

He woke again from dreamless sleep, and there was a change. From his
corner, as he raised his heavy eyes, there met them what seemed an
unbearable brightness; then, as he looked, it resolved itself into a
candle-flame, and beyond it a white sleeve, and higher yet a white face
and throat. He understood, and rose reeling; it was the messenger come
to fetch him as had been arranged.

As he passed across the space, once he looked round him, and it seemed
that the dawn must have come, for that appalling sky overhead was
visible at last. An enormous vault, smoke-coloured and opaque, seemed to
curve away to the ghostly horizons on either side where the far-away
hills raised sharp shapes as if cut in paper. Carmel was before him; at
least he thought it was that--a bull head and shoulders thrusting itself
forward and ending in an abrupt descent, and beyond that again the
glimmering sky. There were no clouds, no outlines to break the huge,
smooth, dusky dome beneath the centre of which this house-roof seemed
poised. Across the parapet, as he glanced to the right before descending
the steps, stretched Esdraelon, sad-coloured and sombre, into the
metallic distance. It was all as unreal as some fantastic picture by one
who had never looked upon clear sunlight. The silence was complete and
profound.

Straight down through the wheeling shadows he went, following the
white-hooded head and figure down the stairs, along the tiny passage,
stumbling once against the feet of one who slept with limbs tossed loose
like a tired dog; the feet drew back mechanically, and a little moan
broke from the shadows. Then he went on, passing the servant who stood
aside, and entered.

There were half-a-dozen men gathered here, silent, white figures
standing apart one from the other, who genuflected as the Pope came in
simultaneously through the opposite door, and again stood white-faced
and attentive. He ran his eyes over them as he stopped, waiting behind
his master's chair--there were two he knew, remembering them from last
night--dark-faced Cardinal Ruspoli, and the lean Australian Archbishop,
besides Cardinal Corkran, who stood by his chair at the Pope's own
table, with papers laid ready.

Silvester sat down, and with a little gesture caused the others to sit
too. Then He began at once in that quiet tired voice that his servant
knew so well.

"Eminences-we are all here, I think. We need lose no more time, then....
Cardinal Corkran has something to communicate---" He turned a little.
"Father, sit down, if you please. This will occupy a little while."

The priest went across to the stone window-seat, whence he could watch
the Pope's face in the light of the two candles that now stood on the
table between him and the Cardinal-Secretary. Then the Cardinal began,
glancing up from his papers.

"Holiness. I had better begin a little way back. Their Eminences have
not heard the details properly....

"I received at Damascus, on last Friday week, inquiries from various
prelates in different parts of the world, as to the actual measure
concerning the new policy of persecution. At first I could tell them
nothing positively, for it was not until after twenty o'clock that
Cardinal Ruspoli, in Turin, informed me of the facts. Cardinal Malpas
confirmed them a few minutes later, and the Cardinal Archbishop of Pekin
at twenty-three. Before mid-day on Saturday I received final
confirmation from my messengers in London.

"I was at first surprised that Cardinal Dolgorovski did not communicate
it; for almost simultaneously with the Turin message I received one from
a priest of the Order of Christ Crucified in Moscow, to which, of
course, I paid no attention. (It is our rule, Eminences, to treat
unauthorised communications in that way.) His Holiness, however, bade me
make inquiries, and I learned from Father Petrovoski and others that the
Government placards published the news at twenty o'clock--by our time.
It was curious, therefore, that the Cardinal had not seen it; if he had
seen it, it was, of course, his duty to acquaint me immediately.

"Since that time, however, the following facts have come out. It is
established beyond a doubt that Cardinal Dolgorovski received a visitor
in the course of the evening. His own chaplain, who, your Eminences are
perhaps aware, has been very active in Russia on behalf of the Church,
informs me of this privately. Yet the Cardinal asserts, in explanation
of his silence, that he was alone during those hours, and had given
orders that no one was to be admitted to his presence without urgent
cause. This, of course, confirmed His Holiness's opinion, but I received
orders from Him to act as if nothing had happened, and to command the
Cardinal's presence here with the rest of the Sacred College. To this I
received an intimation that he would be present. Yesterday, however, a
little before mid-day, I received a further message that his Eminency
had met with a slight accident, but that he yet hoped to present himself
in time for the deliberations. Since then no further news has arrived."

There was a dead silence.

Then the Pope turned to the Syrian priest.

"Father," he said, "it was you who received his Eminency's messages.
Have you anything to add to this?"

"No, Holiness."

He turned again.

"My son," he said, "report to Us publicly what you have already
reported to Us in private."

A small, bright-eyed man moved out of the shadows.

"Holiness, it was I who conveyed the message to Cardinal Dolgorovski. He
refused at first to receive me. When I reached his presence and
communicated the command he was silent; then he smiled; then he told me
to carry back the message that he would obey."

Again the Pope was silent.

Then suddenly the tall Australian stood up.

"Holiness," he said, "I was once intimate with that man. It was partly
through my means that he sought reception into the Catholic Church. This
was not less than fourteen years ago, when the fortunes of the Church
seemed about to prosper.... Our friendly relations ceased two years ago,
and I may say that, from what I know of him, I find no difficulty in
believing---"

As his voice shook with passion and he faltered, Silvester raised his
hand.

"We desire no recriminations. Even the evidence is now useless, for what
was to be done has been done. For ourselves, we have no doubt as to its
nature.... It was to this man that Christ gave the morsel through our
hands, saying _Quod faces, fac cities. Cum ergo accepisset Me buccellam,
exivit continuo. Erat autem nox._"

Again fell the silence, and in the pause sounded a long half-vocal sigh
from without the door. It came and went as a sleeper turned, for the
passage was crowded with exhausted men--as a soul might sigh that passed
from light to darkness.

Then Silvester spoke again. And as He spoke He began, as if
mechanically, to tear up a long paper, written with lists of names, that
lay before Him.

"Eminences, it is three hours after dawn. In two hours more We shall say
mass in your presence, and give Holy Communion. During those two hours
We commission you to communicate this news to all who are assembled
here; and further, We bestow on each and all of you jurisdiction apart
from all previous rules of time and place; we give a Plenary Indulgence
to all who confess and communicate this day. Father--" he turned to the
Syrian--"Father, you will now expose the Blessed Sacrament in the
chapel, after which you will proceed to the village and inform the
inhabitants that if they wish to save their lives they had best be gone
immediately--immediately, you understand."

The Syrian started from his daze.

"Holiness," he stammered, stretching out a hand, "the lists, the lists!"

(He had seen what these were.)

But Silvester only smiled as He tossed the fragments on to the table.
Then He stood up.

"You need not trouble, my son.... We shall not need these any more....

"One last word, Eminences.... If there is one heart here that doubts or
is afraid, I have a word to say."

He paused, with an extraordinarily simple deliberateness, ran the eyes
round the tense faces turned to Him.

"I have had a Vision of God," He said softly. "I walk no more by faith,
but by sight."



II

An hour later the priest toiled back in the hot twilight up the path
from the village, followed by half-a-dozen silent men, twenty yards
behind, whose curiosity exceeded their credulousness. He had left a few
more standing bewildered at the doors of the little mud-houses; and had
seen perhaps a hundred families, weighted with domestic articles, pour
like a stream down the rocky path that led to Khaifa. He had been cursed
by some, even threatened; stared upon by others; mocked by a few. The
fanatical said that the Christians had brought God's wrath upon the
place, and the darkness upon the sky: the sun was dying, for these
hounds were too evil for him to look upon and live. Others again seemed
to see nothing remarkable in the state of the weather....

There was no change in that sky from its state an hour before, except
that perhaps it had lightened a little as the sun climbed higher behind
that impenetrable dusky shroud. Hills, grass, men's faces--all bore to
the priest's eyes the look of unreality; they were as things seen in a
dream by eyes that roll with sleep through lids weighted with lead. Even
to other physical senses that unreality was present; and once more he
remembered his dream, thankful that that horror at least was absent. But
silence seemed other than a negation of sound, it was a thing in itself,
an affirmation, unruffled by the sound of footsteps, the thin barking of
dogs, the murmur of voices. It appeared as if the stillness of eternity
had descended and embraced the world's activities, and as if that world,
in a desperate attempt to assert its own reality, was braced in a set,
motionless, noiseless, breathless effort to hold itself in being. What
Silvester had said just now was beginning to be true of this man also.
The touch of the powdery soil and the warm pebbles beneath the priest's
bare feet seemed something apart from the consciousness that usually
regards the things of sense as more real and more intimate than the
things of spirit. Matter still had a reality, still occupied space, but
it was of a subjective nature, the result of internal rather than
external powers. He appeared to himself already to be scarcely more than
a soul, intent and steady, united by a thread only to the body and the
world with which he was yet in relations. He knew that the appalling
heat was there; once even, before his eyes a patch of beaten ground
cracked and lisped as water that touches hot iron, as he trod upon it.
He could feel the heat upon his forehead and hands, his whole body was
swathed and soaked in it; yet he regarded it as from an outside
standpoint, as a man with neuritis perceives that the pain is no longer
in his hand but in the pillow which supports it. So, too, with what his
eyes looked upon and his ears heard; so, too, with that faint bitter
taste that lay upon his lips and nostrils. There was no longer in him
fear or even hope--he regarded himself, the world, and even the
enshrouding and awful Presence of spirit as facts with which he had but
little to do. He was scarcely even interested; still less was he
distressed. There was Thabor before him--at least what once had been
Thabor, now it was no more than a huge and dusky dome-shape which
impressed itself upon his retina and informed his passive brain of its
existence and outline, though that existence seemed no better than that
of a dissolving phantom.

It seemed then almost natural--or at least as natural as all else--as he
came in through the passage and opened the chapel-door, to see that the
floor was crowded with prostrate motionless figures. There they lay, all
alike in the white burnous which he had given out last night; and, with
forehead on arms, as during the singing of the Litany of the Saints at
an ordination, lay the figure he knew best and loved more than all the
world, the shoulders and white hair at a slight elevation upon the
single altar step. Above the plain altar itself burned the six tall
candles; and in the midst, on the mean little throne, stood the
white-metal monstrance, with its White Centre....

Then he, too, dropped, and lay as he was....

* * * * *

He did not know how long it was before the circling observant
consciousness, the flow of slow images, the vibration of particular
thoughts, ceased and stilled as a pool rocks quietly to peace after the
dropped stone has long lain still. But it came at last--that superb
tranquillity, possible only when the senses are physically awake, with
which God, perhaps once in a lifetime, rewards the aspiring trustful
soul--that point of complete rest in the heart of the Fount of all
existence with which one day He will reward eternally the spirits of His
children. There was no thought in him of articulating this experience,
of analysing its elements, or fingering this or that strain of ecstatic
joy. The time for self-regarding was passed. It was enough that the
experience was there, although he was not even self-reflective enough to
tell himself so. He had passed from that circle whence the soul looks
within, from that circle, too, whence it looks upon objective glory, to
that very centre where it reposes--and the first sign to him that time
had passed was the murmur of words, heard distinctly and understood,
although with that apartness with which a drowsy man perceives a message
from without--heard as through a veil through which nothing but thinnest
essence could transpire.

_Spiritus Domini replevit orbem terrarum.... The Spirit of the Lord hath
fulfilled all things, alleluia: and that which contains all things hath
knowledge of the voice, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia._

_Exsurgat Deus_ (and the voice rose ever so slightly). "_Let God arise
and let His enemies be scattered; and let them who hate Him flee before
His face._"

_Gloria Patri...._

Then he raised his heavy head; and a phantom figure stood there in red
vestments, seeming to float rather than to stand, with thin hands
outstretched, and white cap on white hair seen in the gleam of the
steady candle-flames; another, also in white, kneeled on the step....

_Kyrie eleison ... Gloria in excelsis Deo ..._ those things passed like
a shadow-show, with movements and rustlings, but he perceived rather the
light which cast them. He heard _Deus qui in hodierna die ..._ but his
passive mind gave no pulse of reflex action, no stir of understanding
until these words. _Cum complerentur dies Pentecostes...._

"_When the day of Pentecost was fully come, all the disciples were with
one accord in the same place; and there came from heaven suddenly a
sound, as of a mighty wind approaching, and it filled the house where
they were sitting.... _"

Then he remembered and understood.... It was Pentecost then! And with
memory a shred of reflection came back. Where then was the wind, and the
flame, and the earthquake, and the secret voice? Yet the world was
silent, rigid in its last effort at self-assertion: there was no tremor
to show that God remembered; no actual point of light, yet, breaking the
appalling vault of gloom that lay over sea and land to reveal that He
burned there in eternity, transcendent and dominant; not even a voice;
and at that he understood yet more. He perceived that that world, whose
monstrous parody his sleep had presented to him in the night, was other
than that he had feared it to be; it was sweet, not terrible; friendly,
not hostile; clear, not stifling; and home, not exile. There were
presences here, but not those gluttonous, lustful things that had looked
on him last night.... He dropped his head again upon his hands, at once
ashamed and content; and again he sank down to depths of glimmering
inner peace....

* * * * *

Not again, for a while, did he perceive what he did or thought, or what
passed there, five yards away on the low step. Once only a ripple passed
across that sea of glass, a ripple of fire and sound like a rising star
that flicks a line of light across a sleeping lake, like a thin thread
of vibration streaming from a quivering string across the stillness of a
deep night--and be perceived for an instant as in a formless mirror that
a lower nature was struck into existence and into union with the Divine
nature at the same moment.... And then no more again but the great
encompassing hush, the sense of the innermost heart of reality, till he
found himself kneeling at the rail, and knew that That which alone truly
existed on earth approached him with the swiftness of thought and the
ardour of Divine Love....

Then, as the mass ended, and he raised his passive happy soul to receive
the last gift of God, there was a cry, a sudden clamour in the passage,
and a man stood in the doorway, gabbling Arabic.



III

Yet even at that sound and sight his soul scarcely tightened the languid
threads that united it through every fibre of his body with the world of
sense. He saw and heard the tumult in the passage, frantic eyes and
mouths crying aloud, and, in strange contrast, the pale ecstatic faces
of those princes who turned and looked; even within the tranquil
presence-chamber of the spirit where two beings, Incarnate God and all
but Discarnate Man, were locked in embrace, a certain mental process
went on. Yet all was still as apart from him as a lighted stage and its
drama from a self-contained spectator. In the material world, now as
attenuated as a mirage, events were at hand; but to his soul, balanced
now on reality and awake to facts, these things were but a spectacle....

He turned to the altar again, and there, as he had known it would be, in
the midst of clear light, all was at peace: the celebrant, seen as
through molten glass, adored as He murmured the mystery of the
Word-made-Flesh, and once more passing to the centre, sank upon His
knees.

Again the priest understood; for thought was no longer the process of a
mind, rather it was the glance of a spirit. He knew all now; and, by an
inevitable impulse, his throat began to sing aloud words that, as he
sang, opened for the first time as flowers telling their secret to the
sun.

_O Salutaris Hostia
Qui coeli pandis ostium. . . ._

They were all singing now; even the Mohammedan catechumen who had burst
in a moment ago sang with the rest, his lean head thrust out and his
arms tight across his breast; the tiny chapel rang with the forty
voices, and the vast world thrilled to hear it....

Still singing, the priest saw the veil laid as by a phantom upon the
Pontiff's shoulders; there was a movement, a surge of figures--shadows
only in the midst of substance,

_ ... Uni Trinoque Domino ...._

--and the Pope stood erect, Himself a pallor in the heart of light, with
spectral folds of silk dripping from His shoulders, His hands swathed in
them, and His down-bent head hidden by the silver-rayed monstrance and
That which it bore....

_ ... Qui vitam sine termino
Nobis donet in patria ...._

... They were moving now, and the world of life swung with them; of so
much was he aware. He was out in the passage, among the white, frenzied
faces that with bared teeth stared up at that sight, silenced at last by
the thunder of _Pange Lingua_, and the radiance of those who passed out
to eternal life.... At the corner he turned for an instant to see the
six pale flames move along a dozen yards behind, as spear-heads about a
King, and in the midst the silver rays and the White Heart of God....
Then he was out, and the battle lay in array....

That sky on which he had looked an hour ago had passed from darkness
charged with light to light overlaid with darkness--from glimmering
night to Wrathful Day--and that light was red....

From behind Thabor on the left to Carmel on the far right, above the
hills twenty miles away rested an enormous vault of colour; here were no
gradations from zenith to horizon; all was the one deep smoulder of
crimson as of the glow of iron. It was such a colour as men have seen at
sunsets after rain, while the clouds, more translucent each instant,
transmit the glory they cannot contain. Here, too, was the sun, pale as
the Host, set like a fragile wafer above the Mount of Transfiguration,
and there, far down in the west where men had once cried upon Baal in
vain, hung the sickle of the white moon. Yet all was no more than
stained light that lies broken across carven work of stone....

_ ... In suprema nocte coena,_

sang the myriad voices,

_Recumbens cum fratribus
Observata lege plena
Cibis in legalibus
Cibum turbae duodenae
Se dat suis manibus .... _

He saw, too, poised as motes in light, that ring of strange
fish-creatures, white as milk, except where the angry glory turned their
backs to flame, white-winged like floating moths, from the tiny shape
far to the south to the monster at hand scarcely five hundred yards
away; and even as he looked, singing as he looked, he understood that
the circle was nearer, and perceived that these as yet knew nothing....

_Verbum caro, panem verum
Verbo carnem efficit ....


They were nearer still, until now even at his feet there slid along the
ground the shadow of a monstrous bird, pale and undefined, as between
the wan sun and himself moved out the vast shape that a moment ago hung
above the Hill.... Then again it backed across and waited ...

_Et si census deficit
Ad formandum cor sincerum
Sola fides sufficit ...._

He had halted and turned, going in the midst of his fellows, hearing,
he thought, the thrill of harping and the throb of heavenly drums; and,
across the space, moved now the six flames, steady as if cut of steel in
that stupendous poise of heaven and earth; and in their centre the
silver-rayed glory and the Whiteness of God made Man....

... Then, with a roar, came the thunder again, pealing in circle beyond
circle of those tremendous Presences--Thrones and Powers--who,
themselves to the world as substance to shadow, are but shadows again
beneath the apex and within the ring of Absolute Deity.... The thunder
broke loose, shaking the earth that now cringed on the quivering edge of
dissolution....

TANTUM ERGO SACRAMENTUM
VENEREMUR CERNUI
ET ANTIQUUM DOCUMENTUM
NOVO CEDAT RITUI.

Ah! yes; it was He for whom God waited now--He who far up beneath that
trembling shadow of a dome, itself but the piteous core of unimagined
splendour, came in His swift chariot, blind to all save that on which He
had fixed His eyes so long, unaware that His world corrupted about Him,
His shadow moving like a pale cloud across the ghostly plain where
Israel had fought and Sennacherib boasted--that plain lighted now with a
yet deeper glow, as heaven, kindling to glory beyond glory of yet
fiercer spiritual flame, still restrained the power knit at last to the
relief of final revelation, and for the last time the voices sang....

PRAESTET FIDES SUPPLEMENTUM
SENSUUM DEFECTUI ....

... He was coming now, swifter than ever, the heir of temporal ages and
the Exile of eternity, the final piteous Prince of rebels, the creature
against God, blinder than the sun which paled and the earth that shook;
and, as He came, passing even then through the last material stage to
the thinness of a spirit-fabric, the floating circle swirled behind Him,
tossing like phantom birds in the wake of a phantom ship.... He was
coming, and the earth, rent once again in its allegiance, shrank and
reeled in the agony of divided homage....

... He was coming--and already the shadow swept off the plain and
vanished, and the pale netted wings were rising to the cheek; and the
great bell clanged, and the long sweet chord rang out--not more than
whispers heard across the pealing storm of everlasting praise....

.... GENITORI GENITOQUE
LAUS ET JUBILATIO
SALUS HONOR VIRTUS QUOQUE
SIT ET BENEDICTIO
PROCEDENTI AB UTROQUE
COMPAR SIT LAUDATIO.

and once more

PROCEDENTI AB UTROQUE
COMPAR SIT LAUDATIO ....

Then this world passed, and the glory of it.

THE END





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