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Prologue

The Advent

The Encounter

The Victory



The Encounter






Part of: THE VICTORY
From: Lord Of The World

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





Next: The Victory

Previous: The Advent



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