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Prologue

The Advent

The Encounter

The Victory



The Advent






Part of: THE ENCOUNTER
From: Lord Of The World

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,"





Next: The Encounter

Previous: Prologue



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