Part of: THE ADVENT
From: Lord Of The World
"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
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
"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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
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.
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