The Government of England had taken swift and skilful steps to reassure those who, like Mabel, recoiled from the inevitable logic of the new policy. An army of speakers traversed the country, defending and explaining; the press was engineered with extraordinary adroitness, and it was possible to say that there was not a person among the millions of England who had not easy access to the Government's defence.
Briefly, shorn of rhetoric, their arguments were as follows, and there was no doubt that, on the whole, they had the effect of quieting the amazed revolt of the more sentimental minds.
Peace, it was pointed out, had for the first time in the world's history become an universal fact. There was no longer one State, however small, whose interests were not identical with those of one of the three divisions of the world of which it was a dependency, and that first stage had been accomplished nearly half-a-century ago. But the second stage—the reunion of these three divisions under a common head—an infinitely greater achievement than the former, since the conflicting interests were incalculably more vast—this had been consummated by a single Person, Who, it appeared, had emerged from humanity at the very instant when such a Character was demanded. It was surely not much to ask that those on whom these benefits had come should assent to the will and judgment of Him through whom they had come. This, then, was an appeal to faith.
The second main argument was addressed to reason. Persecution, as all enlightened persons confessed, was the method of a majority of savages who desired to force a set of opinions upon a minority who did not spontaneously share them. Now the peculiar malevolence of persecution in the past lay, not in the employment of force, but in the abuse of it. That any one kingdom should dictate religious opinions to a minority of its members was an intolerable tyranny, for no one State possessed the right to lay down universal laws, the contrary to which might be held by its neighbour. This, however, disguised, was nothing else than the Individualism of Nations, a heresy even more disastrous to the commonwealth of the world than the Individualism of the Individual. But with the arrival of the universal community of interests the whole situation was changed. The single personality of the human race had succeeded to the incoherence of divided units, and with that consummation—which might be compared to a coming of age, an entirely new set of rights had come into being. The human race was now a single entity with a supreme responsibility towards itself; there were no longer any private rights at all, such as had certainly existed, in the period previous to this. Man now possessed dominion over every cell which composed His Mystical Body, and where any such cell asserted itself to the detriment of the Body, the rights of the whole were unqualified.
And there was no religion but one that claimed the equal rights of universal jurisdiction—and that the Catholic. The sects of the East, while each retained characteristics of its own, had yet found in the New Man the incarnation of their ideals, and had therefore given in their allegiance to the authority of the whole Body of whom He was Head. But the very essence of the Catholic Religion was treason to the very idea of man. Christians directed their homage to a supposed supernatural Being who was not only—so they claimed—outside of the world but positively transcended it. Christians, then—leaving aside the mad fable of the Incarnation, which might very well be suffered to die of its own folly—deliberately severed themselves from that Body of which by human generation they had been made members. They were as mortified limbs yielding themselves to the domination of an outside force other than that which was their only life, and by that very act imperilled the entire Body. This madness, then, was the one crime which still deserved the name. Murder, theft, rape, even anarchy itself, were as trifling faults compared to this monstrous sin, for while these injured indeed the Body they did not strike at its heart—individuals suffered, and therefore those minor criminals deserved restraint; but the very Life was not struck at. But in Christianity there was a poison actually deadly. Every cell that became infected with it was infected in that very fibre that bound it to the spring of life. This, and this alone, was the supreme crime of High Treason against man—and nothing but complete removal from the world could be an adequate remedy.
These, then, were the main arguments addressed to that section of the world which still recoiled from the deliberate utterance of Felsenburgh, and their success had been remarkable. Of course, the logic, in itself indisputable, had been dressed in a variety of costumes gilded with rhetoric, flushed with passion, and it had done its work in such a manner that as summer drew on Felsenburgh had announced privately that he proposed to introduce a bill which should carry out to its logical conclusion the policy of which he had spoken.
Now, this too, had been accomplished.
Oliver let himself into his house, and went straight upstairs to Mabel's room. It would not do to let her hear the news from any but his own lips. She was not there, and on inquiry he heard that she had gone out an hour before.
He was disconcerted at this. The decree had been signed half-an-hour earlier, and in answer to an inquiry from Lord Pemberton it had been stated that there was no longer any reason for secrecy, and that the decision might be communicated to the press. Oliver had hurried away immediately in order to make sure that Mabel should hear the news from him, and now she was out, and at any moment the placards might tell her of what had been done.
He felt extremely uneasy, but for another hour or so was ashamed to act. Then be went to the tube and asked another question or two, but the servant had no idea of Mabel's movements; it might be she had gone to the church; sometimes she did at this hour. He sent the woman off to see, and himself sat down again in the window-seat of his wife's room, staring out disconsolately at the wide array of roofs in the golden sunset light, that seemed to his eyes to be strangely beautiful this evening. The sky was not that pure gold which it had been every night during this last week; there was a touch of rose in it, and this extended across the entire vault so far as he could see from west to east. He reflected on what he had lately read in an old book to the effect that the abolition of smoke had certainly changed evening colours for the worse.... There had been a couple of severe earthquakes, too, in America—he wondered whether there was any connection.... Then his thoughts flew back to Mabel....
It was about ten minutes before he heard her footstep on the stairs, and as he stood up she came in.
There was something in her face that told him that she knew everything, and his heart sickened at her pale rigidity. There was no fury there—nothing but white, hopeless despair, and an immense determination. Her lips showed a straight line, and her eyes, beneath her white summer hat, seemed contracted to pinpricks. She stood there, closing the door mechanically behind her, and made no further movement towards him.
"Is it true?" she said.
Oliver drew one steady breath, and sat down again.
"Is what true, my dear?"
"Is it true," she said again, "that all are to be questioned as to whether they believe in God, and to be killed if they confess it?"
Oliver licked his dry lips.
"You put it very harshly," he said. "The question is, whether the world has a right—-"
She made a sharp movement with her head.
"It is true then. And you signed it?"
"My dear, I beg you not to make a scene. I am tired out. And I will not answer that until you have heard what I have to say."
"Say it, then."
"Sit down, then."
She shook her head.
"Very well, then.... Well, this is the point. The world is one now, not many. Individualism is dead. It died when Felsenburgh became President of the World. You surely see that absolutely new conditions prevail now—there has never been anything like it before. You know all this as well as I do."
Again came that jerk of impatience.
"You will please to hear me out," he said wearily. "Well, now that this has happened, there is a new morality; it is exactly like a child coming to the age of reason. We are obliged, therefore, to see that this continues—that there is no going back—no mortification—that all the limbs are in good health. 'If thy hand offend thee, cut it off,' said Jesus Christ. Well, that is what we say.... Now, for any one to say that they believe in God—I doubt very much whether there is any one who really does believe, or understand what it means—but for any one even to say so is the very worst crime conceivable: it is high treason. But there is going to be no violence; it will all be quite quiet and merciful. Why, you have always approved of Euthanasia, as we all do. Well, it is that that will be used; and—-"
Once more she made a little movement with her hand. The rest of her was like an image.
"Is this any use?" she asked.
Oliver stood up. He could not bear the hardness of her voice.
"Mabel, my darling—-"
For an instant her lips shook; then again she looked at him with eyes of ice.
"I don't want that," she said. "It is of no use.. Then you did sign it?"
Oliver had a sense of miserable desperation as he looked back at her. He would infinitely have preferred that she had stormed and wept.
"Mabel—-" he cried again.
"Then you did sign it?"
"I did sign it," he said at last.
She turned and went towards the door. He sprang after her.
"Mabel, where are you going?"
Then, for the first time in her life, she lied to her husband frankly and fully.
"I am going to rest a little," she said. "I shall see you presently at supper."
He still hesitated, but she met his eyes, pale indeed, but so honest that he fell back.
"Very well, my dear.... Mabel, try to understand."
* * * * *
He came down to supper half-an-hour later, primed with logic, and even kindled with emotion. The argument seemed to him now so utterly convincing; granted the premises that they both accepted and lived by, the conclusion was simply inevitable.
He waited a minute or two, and at last went to the tube that communicated with the servants' quarters.
"Where is Mrs. Brand?" he asked.
There was an instant's silence, and then the answer came:
"She left the house half-an-hour ago, sir. I thought you knew."
That same evening Mr. Francis was very busy in his office over the details connected with the festival of Sustenance that was to be celebrated on the first of July. It was the first time that the particular ceremony had taken place, and he was anxious that it should be as successful as its predecessors. There were a few differences between this and the others, and it was necessary that the ceremoniarii should be fully instructed.
So, with his model before him—a miniature replica of the interior of the Abbey, with tiny dummy figures on blocks that could be shifted this way and that, he was engaged in adding in a minute ecclesiastical hand rubrical notes to his copy of the Order of Proceedings.
When the porter therefore rang up a little after twenty-one o'clock, that a lady wished to see him, he answered rather brusquely down the tube that it was impossible. But the bell rang again, and to his impatient question, the reply came up that it was Mrs. Brand below, and that she did not ask for more than ten minutes' conversation. This was quite another matter. Oliver Brand was an important personage, and his wife therefore had significance, and Mr. Francis apologised, gave directions that she was to come to his ante-room, and rose, sighing, from his dummy Abbey and officials.
She seemed very quiet this evening, he thought, as he shook hands with her a minute later; she wore her veil down, so that he could not see her face very well, but her voice seemed to lack its usual vivacity.
"I am so sorry to interrupt you, Mr. Francis," she said. "I only want to ask you one or two questions."
He smiled at her encouragingly.
"Mr. Brand, no doubt—-"
"No," she said, "Mr. Brand has not sent me. It is entirely my own affair. You will see my reasons presently. I will begin at once. I know I must not keep you."
It all seemed rather odd, he thought, but no doubt he would understand soon.
"First," she said, "I think you used to know Father Franklin. He became a Cardinal, didn't he?"
Mr. Francis assented, smiling.
"Do you know if he is alive?"
"No," he said. "He is dead. He was in Rome, you know, at the time of its destruction."
"Ah! You are sure?"
"Quite sure. Only one Cardinal escaped—Steinmann. He was hanged in Berlin; and the Patriarch of Jerusalem died a week or two later."
"Ah! very well. Well, now, here is a very odd question. I ask for a particular reason, which I cannot explain, but you will soon understand.... It is this—Why do Catholics believe in God?"
He was so much taken aback that for a moment he sat staring.
"Yes," she said tranquilly, "it is a very odd question. But—-" she hesitated. "Well, I will tell you," she said. "The fact is, that I have a friend who is—is in danger from this new law. I want to be able to argue with her; and I must know her side. You are the only priest—I mean who has been a priest—whom I ever knew, except Father Franklin. So I thought you would not mind telling me."
Her voice was entirely natural; there was not a tremor or a falter in it. Mr. Francis smiled genially, rubbing his hands softly together.
"Ah!" he said. "Yes, I see.... Well, that is a very large question. Would not to-morrow, perhaps—-?"
"I only want just the shortest answer," she said. "It is really important for me to know at once. You see, this new law comes into force—-"
"Well—very briefly, I should say this: Catholics say that God can be perceived by reason; that from the arrangements of the world they can deduce that there must have been an Arranger—a Mind, you understand. Then they say that they deduce other things about God—that He is Love, for example, because of happiness—-"
"And the pain?" she interrupted.
He smiled again.
"Yes. That is the point—that is the weak point."
"But what do they say about that?"
"Well, briefly, they say that pain is the result of sin—-"
"And sin? You see, I know nothing at all, Mr. Francis."
"Well, sin is the rebellion of man's will against God's."
"What do they mean by that?"
"Well, you see, they say that God wanted to be loved by His creatures, so He made them free; otherwise they could not really love. But if they were free, it means that they could if they liked refuse to love and obey God; and that is what is called Sin. You see what nonsense—-"
She jerked her head a little.
"Yes, yes," she said. "But I really want to get at what they think.... Well, then, that is all?"
Mr. Francis pursed his lips.
"Scarcely," he said; "that is hardly more than what they call Natural Religion. Catholics believe much more than that."
"My dear Mrs. Brand, it is impossible to put it in a few words. But, in brief, they believe that God became man—that Jesus was God, and that He did this in order to save them from sin by dying—-"
"By bearing pain, you mean?"
"Yes; by dying. Well, what they call the Incarnation is really the point. Everything else flows from that. And, once a man believes that, I must confess that all the rest follows—even down to scapulars and holy water."
"Mr. Francis, I don't understand a word you're saying."
He smiled indulgently.
"Of course not," he said; "it is all incredible nonsense. But, you know, I did really believe it all once."
"But it's unreasonable," she said.
He made a little demurring sound.
"Yes," he said, "in one sense, of course it is—utterly unreasonable. But in another sense—-"
She leaned forward suddenly, and he could catch the glint of her eyes beneath her white veil.
"Ah!" she said, almost breathlessly. "That is what I want to hear. Now, tell me how they justify it."
He paused an instant, considering.
"Well," he said slowly, "as far as I remember, they say that there are other faculties besides those of reason. They say, for example, that the heart sometimes finds out things that the reason cannot—intuitions, you see. For instance, they say that all things such as self-sacrifice and chivalry and even art—all come from the heart, that Reason comes with them—in rules of technique, for instance—but that it cannot prove them; they are quite apart from that."
"I think I see."
"Well, they say that Religion is like that—in other words, they practically confess that it is merely a matter of emotion." He paused again, trying to be fair. "Well, perhaps they would not say that—although it is true. But briefly—-"
"Well, they say there is a thing called Faith—a kind of deep conviction unlike anything else—supernatural—which God is supposed to give to people who desire it—to people who pray for it, and lead good lives, and so on—-"
"And this Faith?"
"Well, this Faith, acting upon what they call Evidences—this Faith makes them absolutely certain that there is a God, that He was made man and so on, with the Church and all the rest of it. They say too that this is further proved by the effect that their religion has had in the world, and by the way it explains man's nature to himself. You see, it is just a case of self-suggestion."
He heard her sigh, and stopped.
"Is that any clearer, Mrs. Brand?"
"Thank you very much," she said, "it certainly is clearer. ... And it is true that Christians have died for this Faith, whatever it is?"
"Oh! yes. Thousands and thousands. Just as Mohammedans have for theirs."
"The Mohammedans believe in God, too, don't they?"
"Well, they did, and I suppose that a few do now. But very few: the rest have become esoteric, as they say."
"And—and which would you say were the most highly evolved people—East or West?"
"Oh! West undoubtedly. The East thinks a good deal, but it doesn't act much. And that always leads to confusion—even to stagnation of thought."
"And Christianity certainly has been the Religion of the West up to a hundred years ago?"
She was silent then, and Mr. Francis had time again to reflect how very odd all this was. She certainly must be very much attached to this Christian friend of hers.
Then she stood up, and he rose with her.
"Thank you so much, Mr. Francis.... Then that is the kind of outline?"
"Well, yes; so far as one can put it in a few words."
"Thank you.... I mustn't keep you."
He went with her towards the door. But within a yard of it she stopped.
"And you, Mr. Francis. You were brought up in all this. Does it ever come back to you?"
"Never," he said, "except as a dream."
"How do you account for that, then? If it is all self-suggestion, you have had thirty years of it."
She paused; and for a moment he hesitated what to answer.
"How would your old fellow-Catholics account for it?"
"They would say that I bad forfeited light—that Faith was withdrawn."
Again he paused.
"I should say that I had made a stronger self-suggestion the other way."
"I see.... Good-night, Mr. Francis."
* * * * *
She would not let him come down the lift with her, so when he had seen the smooth box drop noiselessly below the level, he went back again to his model of the Abbey and the little dummy figures. But, before he began to move these about again, he sat for a moment or two with pursed lips, staring.
A week later Mabel awoke about dawn; and for a moment or two forgot where she was. She even spoke Oliver's name aloud, staring round the unfamiliar room, wondering what she did here. Then she remembered, and was silent....
It was the eighth day she had spent in this Home; her probation was finished: to-day she wits at liberty to do that for which she had come. On the Saturday of the previous week she had gone through her private examination before the magistrate, stating under the usual conditions of secrecy her name, age and home, as well as her reasons for making the application for Euthanasia; and all had passed off well. She had selected Manchester as being sufficiently remote and sufficiently large to secure her freedom from Oliver's molestation; and her secret had been admirably kept. There was not a hint that her husband knew anything of her intentions; for, after all, in these cases the police were bound to assist the fugitive. Individualism was at least so far recognised as to secure to those weary of life the right of relinquishing it. She scarcely knew why she had selected this method, except that any other seemed impossible. The knife required skill and resolution; firearms were unthinkable, and poison, under the new stringent regulations, was hard to obtain. Besides, she seriously wished to test her own intentions, and to be quite sure that there was no other way than this....
Well, she was as certain as ever. The thought had first come to her in the mad misery of the outbreak of violence on the last day of the old year. Then it had gone again, soothed away by the arguments that man was still liable to relapse. Then once more it had recurred, a cold and convincing phantom, in the plain daylight revealed by Felsenburgh's Declaration. It had taken up its abode with her then, yet she controlled it, hoping against hope that the Declaration would not be carried into action, occasionally revolting against its horror. Yet it had never been far away; and finally when the policy sprouted into deliberate law, she had yielded herself resolutely to its suggestion. That was eight days ago; and she had not had one moment of faltering since that.
Yet she had ceased to condemn. The logic had silenced her. All that she knew was that she could not bear it; that she had misconceived the New Faith; that for her, whatever it was for others, there was no hope.... She had not even a child of her own.
* * * * *
Those eight days, required by law, had passed very peacefully. She had taken with her enough money to enter one of the private homes furnished with sufficient comfort to save from distractions those who had been accustomed to gentle living: the nurses had been pleasant and sympathetic; she had nothing to complain of.
She had suffered, of course, to some degree from reactions. The second night after her arrival had been terrible, when, as she lay in bed in the hot darkness, her whole sentient life had protested and struggled against the fate her will ordained. It had demanded the familiar things—the promise of food and breath and human intercourse; it had writhed in horror against the blind dark towards which it moved so inevitably; and, in the agony had been pacified only by the half-hinted promise of some deeper voice suggesting that death was not the end. With morning light sanity had come back; the will had reassumed the mastery, and, with it, had withdrawn explicitly the implied hope of continued existence. She had suffered again for an hour or two from a more concrete fear; the memory came back to her of those shocking revelations that ten years ago had convulsed England and brought about the establishment of these Homes under Government supervision—those evidences that for years in the great vivisection laboratories human subjects had been practised upon—persons who with the same intentions as herself had cut themselves off from the world in private euthanasia-houses, to whom had been supplied a gas that suspended instead of destroying animation.... But this, too, had passed with the return of light. Such things were impossible now under the new system—at least, in England. She had refrained from making an end upon the Continent for this very reason. There, where sentiment was weaker, and logic more imperious, materialism was more consistent. Since men were but animals—the conclusion was inevitable.
There had been but one physical drawback, the intolerable heat of the days and nights. It seemed, scientists said, that an entirely unexpected heat-wave had been generated; there were a dozen theories, most of which were mutually exclusive one of another. It was humiliating, she thought, that men who professed to have taken the earth under their charge should be so completely baffled. The conditions of the weather had of course been accompanied by disasters; there had been earthquakes of astonishing violence, a ripple had wrecked not less than twenty-five towns in America; an island or two had disappeared, and that bewildering Vesuvius seemed to be working up for a denouement. But no one knew really the explanation. One man had been wild enough to say that some cataclysm had taken place in the centre of the earth.... So she had heard from her nurse; but she was not greatly interested. It was only tiresome that she could not walk much in the garden, and had to be content with sitting in her own cool shaded room on the second floor.
There was only one other matter of which she had asked, namely, the effect of the new decree; but the nurse did not seem to know much about that. It appeared that there had been an outrage or two, but the law had not yet been enforced to any great extent; a week, after all, was a short time, even though the decree had taken effect at once, and magistrates were beginning the prescribed census.
* * * * *
It seemed to her as she lay awake this morning, staring at the tinted ceiling, and out now and again at the quiet little room, that the heat was worse than ever. For a minute she thought she must have overslept; but, as she touched her repeater, it told her that it was scarcely after four o'clock. Well, well; she would not have to bear it much longer; she thought that about eight it would be time to make an end. There was her letter to Oliver yet to be written; and one or two final arrangements to be made.
As regarded the morality of what she was doing-the relation, that is to say, which her act bore to the common life of man—she had no shadow of doubt. It was her belief, as of the whole Humanitarian world, that just as bodily pain occasionally justified this termination of life, so also did mental pain. There was a certain pitch of distress at which the individual was no longer necessary to himself or the world; it was the most charitable act that could be performed. But she had never thought in old days that that state could ever be hers; Life had been much too interesting. But it had come to this: there was no question of it.
* * * * *
Perhaps a dozen times in that week she had thought over her conversation with Mr. Francis. Her going to him had been little more than instinctive; she did just wish to hear what the other side was—whether Christianity was as ludicrous as she had always thought. It seemed that it was not ludicrous; it was only terribly pathetic. It was just a lovely dream—an exquisite piece of poetry. It would be heavenly to believe it, but she did not. No—a transcendent God was unthinkable, although not quite so unthinkable as a merely immeasurable Man. And as for the Incarnation—well, well!
There seemed no way out of it. The Humanity-Religion was the only one. Man was God, or at least His highest manifestation; and He was a God with which she did not wish to have anything more to do. These faint new instincts after something other than intellect and emotion were, she knew perfectly well, nothing but refined emotion itself.
She had thought a great deal of Felsenburgh, however, and was astonished at her own feelings. He was certainly the most impressive man she had ever seen; it did seem very probable indeed that He was what He claimed to be—the Incarnation of the ideal Man the first perfect product of humanity. But the logic of his position was too much for her. She saw now that He was perfectly logical—that He had not been inconsistent in denouncing the destruction of Rome and a week later making His declaration. It was the passion of one man against another that He denounced—of kingdom against kingdom, and sect against sect—for this was suicidal for the race. He denounced passion, too, not judicial action. Therefore, this new decree was as logical as Himself—it was a judicial act on the part of an united world against a tiny majority that threatened the principle of life and faith: and it was to be carried out with supreme mercy; there was no revenge or passion or partisan spirit in it from beginning to end; no more than a man is revengeful or passionate when he amputates a diseased limb—Oliver had convinced her of that.
Yes, it was logical and sound. And it was because it was so that she could not bear it.... But ah! what a sublime man Felsenburgh was; it was a joy to her even to recall his speeches and his personality. She would have liked to see him again. But it was no good. She had better be done with it as tranquilly as possible. And the world must go forward without her. She was just tired out with Facts.
* * * * *
She dozed off again presently, and it seemed scarcely five minutes before she looked up to see a gentle smiling face of a white-capped nurse bending over her.
"It is nearly six o'clock, my dear—the time you told me. I came to see about breakfast."
Mabel drew a long breath. Then she sat up suddenly, throwing back the sheet.
It struck a quarter-past six from the little clock on the mantel-shelf as she laid down her pen. Then she took up the closely written sheets, leaned back in her deep chair, and began to read.
"HOME OF REST,
"NO 3A MANCHESTER WEST.
"MY DEAR: I am very sorry, but it has come back to me. I really cannot go on any longer, so I am going to escape in the only way left, as I once told you. I have had a very quiet and happy time here; they have been most kind and considerate. You see, of course, from the heading on this paper, what I mean....
"Well, you have always been very dear to me; you are still, even at this moment. So you have a right to know my reasons so far as I know them myself. It is very difficult to understand myself; but it seems to me that I am not strong enough to live. So long as I was pleased and excited it was all very well—especially when He came. But I think I had expected it to be different; I did not understand as I do now how it must come to this—how it is all quite logical and right. I could bear it, when I thought that they had acted through passion, but this is deliberate. I did not realise that Peace must have its laws, and must protect itself. And, somehow, that Peace is not what I want. It is being alive at all that is wrong.
"Then there is this difficulty. I know how absolutely in agreement you are with this new state of affairs; of course you are, because you are so much stronger and more logical than I am. But if you have a wife she must be of one mind with you. And I am not, any more, at least not with my heart, though I see you are right.... Do you understand, my dear?
"If we had had a child, it might have been different. I might have liked to go on living for his sake. But Humanity, somehow—Oh! Oliver! I can't—I can't.
"I know I am wrong, and that you are right—but there it is; I cannot change myself. So I am quite sure that I must go.
"Then I want to tell you this—that I am not at all frightened. I never can understand why people are—unless, of course, they are Christians. I should be horribly frightened if I was one of them. But, you see, we both know that there is nothing beyond. It is life that I am frightened of—not death. Of course, I should be frightened if there was any pain; but the doctors tell me there is absolutely none. It is simply going to sleep. The nerves are dead before the brain. I am going to do it myself. I don't want any one else in the room. In a few minutes the nurse here—Sister Anne, with whom I have made great friends—will bring in the thing, and then she will leave me.
"As regards what happens afterwards, I do not mind at all. Please do exactly what you wish. The cremation will take place to-morrow morning at noon, so that you can be here if you like. Or you can send directions, and they will send on the urn to you. I know you liked to have your mother's urn in the garden; so perhaps you will like mine. Please do exactly what you like. And with all my things too. Of course I leave them to you.
"Now, my dear, I want to say this—that I am very sorry indeed now that I was so tiresome and stupid. I think I did really believe your arguments all along. But I did not want to believe them. Do you see now why I was so tiresome?
"Oliver, my darling, you have been extraordinarily good to me.... Yes, I know I am crying, but I am really very happy. This is such a lovely ending. I wish I hadn't been obliged to make you so anxious during this last week: but I had to—I knew you would persuade me against it, if you found me, and that would have been worse than ever. I am sorry I told you that lie, too. Indeed, it is the first I ever did tell you.
"Well, I don't think there is much more to say. Oliver, my dear, good-bye. I send you my love with all my heart.
* * * * *
She sat still when she had read it through, and her eyes were still wet with tears. Yet it was all perfectly true. She was far happier than she could be if she had still the prospect of going back. Life seemed entirely blank: death was so obvious an escape; her soul ached for it, as a body for sleep.
She directed the envelope, still with a perfectly steady hand, laid it on the table, and leaned back once more, glancing again at her untasted breakfast.
Then she suddenly began to think of her conversation with Mr. Francis; and, by a strange association of ideas, remembered the fall of the volor in Brighton, the busy-ness of the priest, and the Euthanasia boxes....
When Sister Anne came in a few minutes later, she was astonished at what she saw. The girl crouched at the window, her hands on the sill, staring out at the sky in an attitude of unmistakable horror.
Sister Anne came across the room quickly, setting down something on the table as she passed. She touched the girl on the shoulder.
"My dear, what is it?"
There was a long sobbing breath, and Mabel turned, rising as she turned, and clutched the nurse with one shaking hand, pointing out with the other.
"There!" she said. "There—look!"
"Well, my dear, what is it? I see nothing. It is a little dark!"
"Dark!" said the other. "You call that dark! Why, why, it is black—black!"
The nurse drew her softly backwards to the chair, turning her from the window. She recognised nervous fear; but no more than that. But Mabel tore herself free, and wheeled again.
"You call that a little dark," she said. "Why, look, sister, look!"
Yet there was nothing remarkable to be seen. In front rose up the feathery hand of an elm, then the shuttered windows across the court, the roof, and above that the morning sky, a little heavy and dusky as before a storm; but no more than that.
"Well, what is it, my dear? What do you see?"
"Why, why ... look! look!—There, listen to that."
A faint far-away rumble sounded as the rolling of a waggon—so faint that it might almost be an aural delusion. But the girl's hands were at her ears, and her face was one white wide-eyed mask of terror. The nurse threw her arms round her.
"My dear," she said, "you are not yourself. That is nothing but a little heat-thunder. Sit down quietly."
She could feel the girl's body shaking beneath her hands, but there was no resistance as she drew her to the chair.
"The lights! the lights!" sobbed Mabel.
"Will you promise me to sit quietly, then?"
She nodded; and the nurse went across to the door, smiling tenderly; she had seen such things before. A moment later the room was full of exquisite sunlight, as she switched the handle. As she turned, she saw that Mabel had wheeled herself round in the chair, and with clasped hands was still staring out at the sky above the roofs; but she was plainly quieter again now. The nurse came back, and put her hand on her shoulder.
"You are overwrought, my dear.... Now you must believe me. There is nothing to be frightened of. It is just nervous excitement.... Shall I pull down the blind?"
Mabel turned her face.... Yes, certainly the light had reassured her. Her face was still white and bewildered, but the steady look was coming back to her eyes, though, even as she spoke, they wandered back more than once to the window.
"Nurse," she said more quietly, "please look again and tell me if you see nothing. If you say there is nothing I will believe that I am going mad. No; you must not touch the blind."
No; there was nothing. The sky was a little dark, as if a blight were coming on; but there was hardly more than a veil of cloud, and the light was scarcely more than tinged with gloom. It was just such a sky as precedes a spring thunderstorm. She said so, clearly and firmly.
Mabel's face steadied still more.
"Very well, nurse.... Then—-"
She turned to the little table by the side on which Sister Anne had set down what she had brought into the room.
"Show me, please."
The nurse still hesitated.
"Are you sure you are not too frightened, my dear? Shall I get you anything?"
"I have no more to say," said Mabel firmly. "Show me, please."
Sister Anne turned resolutely to the table.
There rested upon it a white-enamelled box, delicately painted with flowers. From this box emerged a white flexible tube with a broad mouthpiece, fitted with two leather-covered steel clasps. From the side of the box nearest the chair protruded a little china handle.
"Now, my dear," began the nurse quietly, watching the other's eyes turn once again to the window, and then back—"now, my dear, you sit there, as you are now. Your head right back, please. When you are ready, you put this over your mouth, and clasp the springs behind your head.... So.... it works quite easily. Then you turn this handle, round that way, as far as it will go. And that is all."
Mabel nodded. She had regained her self-command, and understood plainly enough, though even as she spoke once again her eyes strayed away to the window.
"That is all," she said. "And what then?"
The nurse eyed her doubtfully for a moment.
"I understand perfectly," said Mabel. "And what then?"
"There is nothing more. Breathe naturally. You will feel sleepy almost directly. Then you close your eyes, and that is all."
Mabel laid the tube on the table and stood up. She was completely herself now.
"Give me a kiss, sister," she said.
The nurse nodded and smiled to her once more at the door. But Mabel hardly noticed it; again she was looking towards the window.
"I shall come back in half-an-hour," said Sister Anne.
Then her eyes caught a square of white upon the centre table. "Ah! that letter!" she said.
"Yes," said the girl absently. "Please take it."
The nurse took it up, glanced at the address, and again at Mabel. Still she hesitated.
"In half-an-hour," she repeated. "There is no hurry at all. It doesn't take five minutes.... Good-bye, my dear."
But Mabel was still looking out of the window, and made no answer.
Mabel stood perfectly still until she heard the locking of the door and the withdrawal of the key. Then once more she went to the window and clasped the sill.
From where she stood there was visible to her first the courtyard beneath, with its lawn in the centre, and a couple of trees growing there—all plain in the brilliant light that now streamed from her window, and secondly, above the roofs, a tremendous pall of ruddy black. It was the more terrible from the contrast. Earth, it seemed, was capable of light; heaven had failed.
It appeared, too, that there was a curious stillness. The house was, usually, quiet enough at this hour: the inhabitants of that place were in no mood for bustle: but now it was more than quiet; it was deathly still: it was such a hush as precedes the sudden crash of the sky's artillery. But the moments went by, and there was no such crash: only once again there sounded a solemn rolling, as of some great wain far away; stupendously impressive, for with it to the girl's ears there seemed mingled a murmur of innumerable voices, ghostly crying and applause. Then again the hush settled down like wool.
She had begun to understand now. The darkness and the sounds were not for all eyes and ears. The nurse had seen and heard nothing extraordinary, and the rest of the world of men saw and heard nothing. To them it was no more than the hint of a coming storm.
Mabel did not attempt to distinguish between the subjective and the objective. It was nothing to her as to whether the sights and sounds were generated by her own brain or perceived by some faculty hitherto unknown. She seemed to herself to be standing already apart from the world which she had known; it was receding from her, or, rather, while standing where it had always done, it was melting, transforming itself, passing to some other mode of existence. The strangeness seemed no more strange than anything else than that ... that little painted box upon the table.
Then, hardly knowing what she said, looking steadily upon that appalling sky, she began to speak....
"O God!" she said. "If You are really there really there—-"
Her voice faltered, and she gripped the sill to steady herself. She wondered vaguely why she spoke so; it was neither intellect nor emotion that inspired her. Yet she continued....
"O God, I know You are not there—of course You are not. But if You were there, I know what I would say to You. I would tell You how puzzled and tired I am. No—No—I need not tell You: You would know it. But I would say that I was very sorry for all this. Oh! You would know that too. I need not say anything at all. O God! I don't know what I want to say. I would like You to look after Oliver, of course, and all Your poor Christians. Oh! they will have such a hard time.... God. God—You would understand, wouldn't You?" ...
* * * * *
Again came the heavy rumble and the solemn bass of a myriad voices; it seemed a shade nearer, she thought.... She never liked thunderstorms or shouting crowds. They always gave her a headache ...
"Well, well," she said. "Good-bye, everything—-"
Then she was in the chair. The mouthpiece—yes; that was it....
She was furious at the trembling of her hands; twice the spring slipped from her polished coils of hair.... Then it was fixed ... and as if a breeze fanned her, her sense came back....
She found she could breathe quite easily; there was no resistance—that was a comfort; there would be no suffocation about it.... She put out her left hand and touched the handle, conscious less of its sudden coolness than of the unbearable heat in which the room seemed almost suddenly plunged. She could hear the drumming pulses in her temples and the roaring of the voices.... She dropped the handle once more, and with both hands tore at the loose white wrapper that she had put on this morning....
Yes, that was a little easier; she could breathe better so. Again her fingers felt for and found the handle, but the sweat streamed from her fingers, and for an instant she could not turn the knob. Then it yielded suddenly....
* * * * *
For one instant the sweet languid smell struck her consciousness like a blow, for she knew it as the scent of death. Then the steady will that had borne her so far asserted itself, and she laid her hands softly in her lap, breathing deeply and easily.
She had closed her eyes at the turning of the handle, but now opened them again, curious to watch the aspect of the fading world. She had determined to do this a week ago: she would at least miss nothing of this unique last experience.
It seemed at first that there was no change. There was the feathery head of the elm, the lead roof opposite, and the terrible sky above. She noticed a pigeon, white against the blackness, soar and swoop again out of sight in an instant....
... Then the following things happened....
There was a sudden sensation of ecstatic lightness in all her limbs; she attempted to lift a hand, and was aware that it was impossible; it was no longer hers. She attempted to lower her eyes from that broad strip of violet sky, and perceived that that too was impossible. Then she understood that the will had already lost touch with the body, that the crumbling world had receded to an infinite distance—that was as she had expected, but what continued to puzzle her was that her mind was still active. It was true that the world she had known had withdrawn itself from the dominion of consciousness, as her body had done, except, that was, in the sense of hearing, which was still strangely alert; yet there was still enough memory to be aware that there was such a world—that there were other persons in existence; that men went about their business, knowing nothing of what had happened; but faces, names, places had all alike gone. In fact, she was conscious of herself in such a manner as she had never been before; it seemed as if she had penetrated at last into some recess of her being into which hitherto she had only looked as through clouded glass. This was very strange, and yet it was familiar, too; she had arrived, it seemed, at a centre, round the circumference of which she had been circling all her life; and it was more than a mere point: it was a distinct space, walled and enclosed.... At the same instant she knew that hearing, too, was gone....
Then an amazing thing happened—yet it appeared to her that she had always known it would happen, although her mind had never articulated it. This is what happened.
The enclosure melted, with a sound of breaking, and a limitless space was about her—limitless, different to everything else, and alive, and astir. It was alive, as a breathing, panting body is alive—self-evident and overpowering—it was one, yet it was many; it was immaterial, yet absolutely real—real in a sense in which she never dreamed of reality....
Yet even this was familiar, as a place often visited in dreams is familiar; and then, without warning, something resembling sound or light, something which she knew in an instant to be unique, tore across it....
* * * * *
Then she saw, and understood....
Oliver had passed the days since Mabel's disappearance in an indescribable horror. He had done all that was possible: he had traced her to the station and to Victoria, where he lost her clue; he had communicated with the police, and the official answer, telling him nothing, had arrived to the effect that there was no news: and it was not until the Tuesday following her disappearance that Mr. Francis, hearing by chance of his trouble, informed him by telephone that he had spoken with her on the Friday night. But there was no satisfaction to be got from him—indeed, the news was bad rather than good, for Oliver could not but be dismayed at the report of the conversation, in spite of Mr. Francis's assurances that Mrs. Brand had shown no kind of inclination to defend the Christian cause.
Two theories gradually emerged, in his mind; either she was gone to the protection of some unknown Catholic, or—and he grew sick at the thought—she had applied somewhere for Euthanasia as she had once threatened, and was now under the care of the Law; such an event was sufficiently common since the passing of the Release Act in 1998. And it was frightful that he could not condemn it.
* * * * *
On the Tuesday evening, as he sat heavily in his room, for the hundredth time attempting to trace out some coherent line through the maze of intercourse he had had with his wife during these past months, his bell suddenly rang. It was the red label of Whitehall that had made its appearance; and for an instant his heart leaped with hope that it was news of her. But at the first words it sank again.
"Brand," came the sharp fairy voice, "is that you?... Yes, I am Snowford. You are wanted at once—at once, you understand. There is an extraordinary meeting of the Council at twenty o'clock. The President will be there. You understand the urgency. No time for more. Come instantly to my room."
* * * * *
Even this message scarcely distracted him. He, with the rest of the world, was no longer surprised at the sudden descents of the President. He came and vanished again without warning, travelling and working with incredible energy, yet always, as it seemed, retaining his personal calm.
It was already after nineteen; Oliver supped immediately, and a quarter-of-an-hour before the hour presented himself in Snowford's room, where half a dozen of his colleagues were assembled.
That minister came forward to meet him, with a strange excitement in his face. He drew him aside by a button.
"See here, Brand, you are wanted to speak first—immediately after the President's Secretary who will open; they are coming from Paris. It is about a new matter altogether. He has had information of the whereabouts of the Pope.... It seems that there is one.... Oh, you will understand presently. Oh, and by the way," he went on, looking curiously at the strained face, "I am sorry to hear of your anxiety. Pemberton told me just now."
Oliver lifted a hand abruptly.
"Tell me," he said. "What am I wanted to say?"
"Well, the President will have a proposal, we imagine. You know our minds well enough. Just explain our attitude towards the Catholics."
Oliver's eyes shrank suddenly to two bright lines beneath the lids. He nodded.
Cartwright came up presently, an immense, bent old man with a face of parchment, as befitted the Lord Chief Justice.
"By the way, Brand, what do you know of a man called Phillips? He seems to have mentioned your name."
"He was my secretary," said Oliver slowly. "What about him?"
"I think he must be mad. He has given himself up to a magistrate, entreating to be examined at once. The magistrate has applied for instructions. You see, the Act has scarcely begun to move yet."
"But what has he done?"
"That's the difficulty. He says he cannot deny God, neither can he affirm Him.—He was your secretary, then?"
"Certainly. I knew he was inclined to Christianity. I had to get rid of him for that."
"Well, he is to be remanded for a week. Perhaps he will be able to make up his mind."
Then the talk shifted off again. Two or three more came up, and all eyed Oliver with a certain curiosity; the story was gone about that his wife had left him. They wished to see how he took it.
At five minutes before the hour a bell rang, and the door into the corridor was thrown open.
"Come, gentlemen," said the Prime Minister.
The Council Chamber was a long high room on the first floor; its walls from floor to ceiling were lined with books. A noiseless rubber carpet was underfoot. There were no windows; the room was lighted artificially. A long table, set round with armed chairs, ran the length of the floor, eight on either side; and the Presidential chair, raised on a dais, stood at the head.
Each man went straight to his chair in silence, and remained there, waiting.
* * * * *
The room was beautifully cool, in spite of the absence of windows, and was a pleasant contrast to the hot evening outside through which most of these men had come. They, too, had wondered at the surprising weather, and had smiled at the conflict of the infallible. But they were not thinking about that now: the coming of the President was a matter which always silenced the most loquacious. Besides, this time, they understood that the affair was more serious than usual.
At one minute before the hour, again a bell sounded, four times, and ceased; and at the signal each man turned instinctively to the high sliding door behind the Presidential chair. There was dead silence within and without: the huge Government offices were luxuriously provided with sound-deadening apparatus, and not even the rolling of the vast motors within a hundred yards was able to send a vibration through the layers of rubber on which the walls rested. There was only one noise that could penetrate, and that the sound of thunder. The experts were at present unable to exclude this.
Again the silence seemed to fall in one yet deeper veil. Then the door opened, and a figure came swiftly through, followed by Another in black and scarlet.
He passed straight up to the chair, followed by two secretaries, bowed slightly to this side and that, sat down and made a little gesture. Then they, too, were in their chairs, upright and intent. For perhaps the hundredth time, Oliver, staring upon the President, marvelled at the quietness and the astounding personality of Him. He was in the English judicial dress that had passed down through centuries—black and scarlet with sleeves of white fur and a crimson sash—and that had lately been adopted as the English presidential costume of him who stood at the head of the legislature. But it was in His personality, in the atmosphere that flowed from Him, that the marvel lay. It was as the scent of the sea to the physical nature—it exhilarated, cleansed, kindled, intoxicated. It was as inexplicably attractive as a cherry orchard in spring, as affecting as the cry of stringed instruments, as compelling as a storm. So writers had said. They compared it to a stream of clear water, to the flash of a gem, to the love of woman. They lost all decency sometimes; they said it fitted all moods, as the voice of many waters; they called it again and again, as explicitly as possible, the Divine Nature perfectly Incarnate at last....
Then Oliver's reflections dropped from him like a mantle, for the President, with downcast eyes and head thrown back, made a little gesture to the ruddy-faced secretary on His right; and this man, without a movement, began to speak like an impersonal actor repeating his part.
* * * * *
"Gentlemen," he said, in an even, resonant voice, "the President is come direct from Paris. This afternoon His Honour was in Berlin; this morning, early, in Moscow. Yesterday in New York. To-night His Honour must be in Turin; and to-morrow will begin to return through Spain, North Africa, Greece and the southeastern states."
This was the usual formula for such speeches. The President spoke but little himself now; but was careful for the information of his subjects on occasions like this. His secretaries were perfectly trained, and this speaker was no exception. After a slight pause, he continued:
"This is the business, gentlemen.
"Last Thursday, as you are aware, the Plenipotentaries signed the Test Act in this room, and it was immediately communicated all over the world. At sixteen o'clock His Honour received a message from a man named Dolgorovski—who is, it is understood, one of the Cardinals of the Catholic Church. This he claimed; and on inquiry it was found to be a fact. His information confirmed what was already suspected—namely, that there was a man claiming to be Pope, who had created (so the phrase is) other cardinals, shortly after the destruction of Rome, subsequent to which his own election took place in Jerusalem. It appears that this Pope, with a good deal of statesmanship, has chosen to keep his own name and place of residence a secret from even his own followers, with the exception of the twelve cardinals; that he has done a great deal, through the instrumentality of one of his cardinals in particular, and through his new Order in general, towards the reorganisation of the Catholic Church; and that at this moment he is living, apart from the world, in complete security.
"His Honour blames Himself that He did not do more than suspect something of the kind—misled, He thinks, by a belief that if there had been a Pope, news would have been heard of it from other quarters, for, as is well known, the entire structure of the Christian Church rests upon him as upon a rock. Further, His Honour thinks inquiries should have been made in the very place where now it is understood that this Pope is living.
"The man's name, gentlemen, is Franklin—-"
Oliver started uncontrollably, but relapsed again to bright-eyed intelligence as for an instant the President glanced up from his motionlessness.
"Franklin," repeated the secretary, "and he is living in Nazareth, where, it is said, the Founder of Christianity passed His youth.
"Now this, gentlemen, His Honour heard on Thursday in last week. He caused inquiries to be made, and on Friday morning received further intelligence from Dolgorovski that this Pope had summoned to Nazareth a meeting of his cardinals, and certain other officials, from all over the world, to consider what steps should be taken in view of the new Test Act. This His Honour takes to show an extreme want of statesmanship which seems hard to reconcile with his former action. These persons are summoned by special messengers to meet on Saturday next, and will begin their deliberations after some Christian ceremonies on the following morning.
"You wish, gentlemen, no doubt, to know Dolgorovski's motives in making all this known. His Honour is satisfied that they are genuine. The man has been losing belief in his religion; in fact, he has come to see that this religion is the supreme obstacle to the consolidation of the race. He has esteemed it his duty, therefore, to lay this information before His Honour. It is interesting as an historical parallel to reflect that the same kind of incident marked the rise of Christianity as will mark, it is thought, its final extinction—namely, the informing on the part of one of the leaders of the place and method by which the principal personage may be best approached. It is also, surely, very significant that the scene of the extinction of Christianity is identical with that of its inauguration....
"Well, gentlemen, His Honour's proposal is as follows, carrying out the Declaration to which you all acceded. It is that a force should proceed during the night of Saturday next to Palestine, and on the Sunday morning, when these men will be all gathered together, that this force should finish as swiftly and mercifully as possible the work to which the Powers have set their hands. So far, the comment of the Governments which have been consulted has been unanimous, and there is little doubt that the rest will be equally so. His Honour felt that He could not act in on grave a matter on His own responsibility; it is not merely local; it is a catholic administration of justice, and will have results wider than it is safe minutely to prophesy.
"It is not necessary to enter into His Honour's reasons. They are already well known to you; but before asking for your opinion, He desires me to indicate what He thinks, in the event of your approval, should be the method of action.
"Each Government, it is proposed, should take part in the final scene, for it is something of a symbolic action; and for this purpose it is thought well that each of the three Departments of the World should depute volors, to the number of the constituting States, one hundred and twenty-two all told, to set about the business. These volors should have no common meeting-ground, otherwise the news will surely penetrate to Nazareth, for it is understood that, this new Order of Christ Crucified has a highly organised system of espionage. The rendezvous, then, should be no other than Nazareth itself; and the time of meeting should be, it is thought, not later than nine o'clock according to Palestine reckoning. These details, however, can be decided and communicated as soon as a determination has been formed as regards the entire scheme.
"With respect to the exact method of carrying out the conclusion, His Honour is inclined to think it will be more merciful to enter into no negotiations with the persons concerned. An opportunity should be given to the inhabitants of the village to make their escape if they so desire it, and then, with the explosives that the force should carry, the end can be practically instantaneous.
"For Himself, His Honour proposes to be there in person, and further that the actual discharge should take place from His own car. It seems but suitable that the world which has done His Honour the goodness to elect Him to its Presidentship should act through His hands; and this would be at least some slight token of respect to a superstition which, however infamous, is yet the one and only force capable of withstanding the true progress of man.
"His Honour promises you, gentlemen, that in the event of this plan being carried out, we shall be no more troubled with Christianity. Already the moral effect of the Test Act has been prodigious. It is understood that, by tens of thousands, Catholics, numbering among them even members of this new fanatical Religious Order, have been renouncing their follies even in these few days; and a final blow struck now at the very heart and head of the Catholic Church, eliminating, as it would do, the actual body on which the entire organisation subsists, would render its resurrection impossible. It is a well-known fact that, granted the extinction of the line of Popes, together with those necessary for its continuance, there could be no longer any question amongst even the most ignorant that the claim of Jesus had ceased to be either reasonable or possible. Even the Order that has provided the sinews for this new movement must cease to exist.
"Dolgorovski, of course, is the difficulty, for it is not certainly known whether one Cardinal would be considered sufficient for the propagation of the line; and, although reluctantly, His Honour feels bound to suggest that at the conclusion of the affair, Dolgorovski, also, who will not, of course, be with his fellows at Nazareth, should be mercifully removed from even the danger of a relapse....
"His Honour, then, asks you, gentlemen, as briefly as possible, to state your views on the points of which I have had the privilege of speaking."
The quiet business-like voice ceased.
He had spoken throughout in the manner with which he had begun; his eyes had been downcast throughout; his voice had been tranquil and restrained. His deportment had been admirable.
There was an instant's silence, and all eyes settled steadily again upon the motionless figure in black and scarlet and the ivory face.
Then Oliver stood up. His face was as white as paper; his eyes bright and dilated.
"Sir," he said, "I have no doubt that we are all of one mind. I need say no more than that, so far as I am a representative of my colleagues, we assent to the proposal, and leave all details in your Honour's hands."
The President lifted his eyes, and ran them swiftly along the rigid faces turned to him.
Then, in the breathless hush, he spoke for the first time in his strange voice, now as passionless as a frozen river.
"Is there any other proposal?"
There was a murmur of assent as the men rose to their feet.
"Thank you, gentlemen," said the secretary.
It was a little before seven o'clock on the morning of Saturday that Oliver stepped out of the motor that had carried him to Wimbledon Common, and began to go up the steps of the old volor-stage, abandoned five years ago. It had been thought better, in view of the extreme secrecy that was to be kept, that England's representative in the expedition should start from a comparatively unknown point, and this old stage, in disuse now, except for occasional trials of new Government machines, had been selected. Even the lift had been removed, and it was necessary to climb the hundred and fifty steps on foot.
It was with a certain unwillingness that he had accepted this post among the four delegates, for nothing had been heard of his wife, and it was terrible to him to leave London while her fate was as yet doubtful. On the whole, he was less inclined than ever now to accept the Euthanasia theory; he had spoken to one or two of her friends, all of whom declared that she had never even hinted at such an end. And, again, although he was well aware of the eight-day law in the matter, even if she had determined on such a step there was nothing to show that she was yet in England, and, in fact, it was more than likely that if she were bent on such an act she would go abroad for it, where laxer conditions prevailed. In short, it seemed that he could do no good by remaining in England, and the temptation to be present at the final act of justice in the East by which land, and, in fact, it was more than likely that if she were to be wiped out, and Franklin, too, among them—Franklin, that parody of the Lord of the World—this, added to the opinion of his colleagues in the Government, and the curious sense, never absent from him now, that Felsenburgh's approval was a thing to die for if necessary—these things had finally prevailed. He left behind him at home his secretary, with instructions that no expense was to be spared in communicating with him should any news of his wife arrive during his absence.
It was terribly hot this morning, and, by the time that he reached the top he noticed that the monster in the net was already fitted into its white aluminium casing, and that the fans within the corridor and saloon were already active. He stepped inside to secure a seat in the saloon, set his bag down, and after a word or two with the guard, who, of course, had not yet been informed of their destination, learning that the others were not yet come, he went out again on to the platform for coolness' sake, and to brood in peace.
London looked strange this morning, he thought. Here beneath him was the common, parched somewhat with the intense heat of the previous week, stretching for perhaps half-a-mile—tumbled ground, smooth stretches of turf, and the heads of heavy trees up to the first house-roofs, set, too, it seemed, in bowers of foliage. Then beyond that began the serried array, line beyond line, broken in one spot by the gleam of a river-reach, and then on again fading beyond eyesight. But what surprised him was the density of the air; it was now, as old books related it had been in the days of smoke. There was no freshness, no translucence of morning atmosphere; it was impossible to point in any one direction to the source of this veiling gloom, for on all sides it was the same. Even the sky overhead lacked its blue; it appeared painted with a muddy brush, and the sun shewed the same faint tinge of red. Yes, it was like that, he said wearily to himself—like a second-rate sketch; there was no sense of mystery as of a veiled city, but rather unreality. The shadows seemed lacking in definiteness, the outlines and grouping in coherence. A storm was wanted, he reflected; or even, it might be, one more earthquake on the other side of the world would, in wonderful illustration of the globe's unity, relieve the pressure on this side. Well, well; the journey would be worth taking even for the interest of observing climatic changes; but it would be terribly hot, he mused, by the time the south of France was reached.
Then his thoughts leaped back to their own gnawing misery.
* * * * *
It was another ten minutes before he saw the scarlet Government motor, with awnings out, slide up the road from the direction of Fulham; and yet five minutes more before the three men appeared with their servants behind them—Maxwell, Snowford and Cartwright, all alike, as was Oliver, in white duck from head to foot.
They did not speak one word of their business, for the officials were going to and fro, and it was advisable to guard against even the smallest possibility of betrayal. The guard had been told that the volor was required for a three days' journey, that provisions were to be taken in for that period, and that the first point towards which the course was to lie was the centre of the South Downs. There would be no stopping for at least a day and a night.
Further instructions had reached them from the President on the previous morning, by which time He had completed His visitation, and received the assent of the Emergency Councils of the world. This Snowford commented upon in an undertone, and added a word or two as to details, as the four stood together looking out over the city.
Briefly, the plan was as follows, at least so far as it concerned England. The volor was to approach Palestine from the direction of the Mediterranean, observing to get into touch with France on her left and Spain on her right within ten miles of the eastern end of Crete. The approximate hour was fixed at twenty-three (eastern time). At this point she was to show her night signal, a scarlet line on a white field; and in the event of her failing to observe her neighbours was to circle at that point, at a height of eight hundred feet, until either the two were sighted or further instructions were received. For the purpose of dealing with emergencies, the President's car, which would finally make its entrance from the south, was to be accompanied by an aide-de-camp capable of moving at a very high speed, whose signals were to be taken as Felsenburgh's own.
So soon as the circle was completed, having Esdraelon as its centre with a radius of five hundred and forty miles, the volors were to advance, dropping gradually to within five hundred feet of sea-level, and diminishing their distance one from another from the twenty-five miles or so at which they would first find themselves, until they were as near as safety allowed. In this manner the advance at a pace of fifty miles an hour from the moment that the circle was arranged would bring them within sight of Nazareth at about nine o'clock on the Sunday morning.
* * * * *
The guard came up to the four as they stood there silent.
"We are ready, gentlemen," he said.
"What do you think of the weather?" asked Snowford abruptly.
The guard pursed his lips.
"A little thunder, I expect, sir," he said.
Oliver looked at him curiously.
"No more than that?" he asked.
"I should say a storm, sir," observed the guard shortly.
Snowford turned towards the gangway.
"Well, we had best be off: we can lose time further on, if we wish."
It was about five minutes more before all was ready. From the stern of the boat came a faint smell of cooking, for breakfast would be served immediately, and a white-capped cook protruded his head for an instant, to question the guard. The four sat down in the gorgeous saloon in the bows; Oliver silent by himself, the other three talking in low voices together. Once more the guard passed through to his compartment at the prow, glancing as he went to see that all were seated; and an instant later came the clang of the signal. Then through all the length of the boat—for she was the fastest ship that England possessed—passed the thrill of the propeller beginning to work up speed; and simultaneously Oliver, staring sideways through the plate-glass window, saw the rail drop away, and the long line of London, pale beneath the tinged sky, surge up suddenly. He caught a glimpse of a little group of persons staring up from below, and they, too, dropped in a great swirl, and vanished. Then, with a flash of dusty green, the Common bad vanished, and a pavement of house-roofs began to stream beneath, the long lines of streets on this side and that turning like spokes of a gigantic wheel; once more this pavement thinned, showing green again as between infrequently laid cobble-stones; then they, too, were gone, and the country was open beneath.
Snowford rose, staggering a little.
"I may as well tell the guard now," he said. "Then we need not be interrupted again."
The Syrian awoke from a dream that a myriad faces were looking into his own, eager, attentive and horrible, in his corner of the roof-top, and sat up sweating and gasping aloud for breath. For an instant he thought that he was really dying, and that the spiritual world was about him. Then, as he struggled, sense came back, and he stood up, drawing long breaths of the stifling night air.
Above him the sky was as the pit, black and empty; there was not a glimmer of light, though the moon was surely up. He had seen her four hours before, a red sickle, swing slowly out from Thabor. Across the plain, as he looked from the parapet, there was nothing. For a few yards there lay across the broken ground a single crooked lance of light from a half-closed shutter; and beneath that, nothing. To the north again, nothing; to the west a glimmer, pale as a moth's wing, from the house-roofs of Nazareth; to the east, nothing. He might be on a tower-top in space, except for that line of light and that grey glimmer that evaded the eye.
On the roof, however, it was possible to make out at least outlines, for the dormer trap had been left open at the head of the stairs, and from somewhere within the depths of the house there stole up a faint refracted light.
There was a white bundle in that corner; that would be the pillow of the Benedictine abbot. He had seen him lay himself down there some time—was it four hours or four centuries ago? There was a grey shape stretched along that pale wall—the Friar, he thought; there were other irregular outlines breaking the face of the parapet, here and there along the sides.
Very softly, for he knew the caprices of sleep, he stepped across the paved roof to the opposite parapet and looked over, for there yet hung about him a desire for reassurance that he was still in company with flesh and blood. Yes, indeed he was still on earth; for there was a real and distinct light burning among the tumbled rocks, and beside it, delicate as a miniature, the head and shoulders of a man, writing. And in the circle of light were other figures, pale, broken patches on which men lay; a pole or two, erected with the thought of a tent to follow; a little pile of luggage with a rug across it; and beyond the circle other outlines and shapes faded away into the stupendous blackness.
Then the writing man moved his head, and a monstrous shadow fled across the ground; a yelp as of a strangling dog broke out suddenly close behind him, and, as he turned, a moaning figure sat up on the roof, sobbing itself awake. Another moved at the sound, and then as, sighing, the former relapsed heavily against the wall, once more the priest went back to his place, still doubtful as to the reality of all that he saw, and the breathless silence came down again as a pall.
* * * * *
He woke again from dreamless sleep, and there was a change. From his corner, as he raised his heavy eyes, there met them what seemed an unbearable brightness; then, as he looked, it resolved itself into a candle-flame, and beyond it a white sleeve, and higher yet a white face and throat. He understood, and rose reeling; it was the messenger come to fetch him as had been arranged.
As he passed across the space, once he looked round him, and it seemed that the dawn must have come, for that appalling sky overhead was visible at last. An enormous vault, smoke-coloured and opaque, seemed to curve away to the ghostly horizons on either side where the far-away hills raised sharp shapes as if cut in paper. Carmel was before him; at least he thought it was that—a bull head and shoulders thrusting itself forward and ending in an abrupt descent, and beyond that again the glimmering sky. There were no clouds, no outlines to break the huge, smooth, dusky dome beneath the centre of which this house-roof seemed poised. Across the parapet, as he glanced to the right before descending the steps, stretched Esdraelon, sad-coloured and sombre, into the metallic distance. It was all as unreal as some fantastic picture by one who had never looked upon clear sunlight. The silence was complete and profound.
Straight down through the wheeling shadows he went, following the white-hooded head and figure down the stairs, along the tiny passage, stumbling once against the feet of one who slept with limbs tossed loose like a tired dog; the feet drew back mechanically, and a little moan broke from the shadows. Then he went on, passing the servant who stood aside, and entered.
There were half-a-dozen men gathered here, silent, white figures standing apart one from the other, who genuflected as the Pope came in simultaneously through the opposite door, and again stood white-faced and attentive. He ran his eyes over them as he stopped, waiting behind his master's chair—there were two he knew, remembering them from last night—dark-faced Cardinal Ruspoli, and the lean Australian Archbishop, besides Cardinal Corkran, who stood by his chair at the Pope's own table, with papers laid ready.
Silvester sat down, and with a little gesture caused the others to sit too. Then He began at once in that quiet tired voice that his servant knew so well.
"Eminences-we are all here, I think. We need lose no more time, then.... Cardinal Corkran has something to communicate—-" He turned a little. "Father, sit down, if you please. This will occupy a little while."
The priest went across to the stone window-seat, whence he could watch the Pope's face in the light of the two candles that now stood on the table between him and the Cardinal-Secretary. Then the Cardinal began, glancing up from his papers.
"Holiness. I had better begin a little way back. Their Eminences have not heard the details properly....
"I received at Damascus, on last Friday week, inquiries from various prelates in different parts of the world, as to the actual measure concerning the new policy of persecution. At first I could tell them nothing positively, for it was not until after twenty o'clock that Cardinal Ruspoli, in Turin, informed me of the facts. Cardinal Malpas confirmed them a few minutes later, and the Cardinal Archbishop of Pekin at twenty-three. Before mid-day on Saturday I received final confirmation from my messengers in London.
"I was at first surprised that Cardinal Dolgorovski did not communicate it; for almost simultaneously with the Turin message I received one from a priest of the Order of Christ Crucified in Moscow, to which, of course, I paid no attention. (It is our rule, Eminences, to treat unauthorised communications in that way.) His Holiness, however, bade me make inquiries, and I learned from Father Petrovoski and others that the Government placards published the news at twenty o'clock—by our time. It was curious, therefore, that the Cardinal had not seen it; if he had seen it, it was, of course, his duty to acquaint me immediately.
"Since that time, however, the following facts have come out. It is established beyond a doubt that Cardinal Dolgorovski received a visitor in the course of the evening. His own chaplain, who, your Eminences are perhaps aware, has been very active in Russia on behalf of the Church, informs me of this privately. Yet the Cardinal asserts, in explanation of his silence, that he was alone during those hours, and had given orders that no one was to be admitted to his presence without urgent cause. This, of course, confirmed His Holiness's opinion, but I received orders from Him to act as if nothing had happened, and to command the Cardinal's presence here with the rest of the Sacred College. To this I received an intimation that he would be present. Yesterday, however, a little before mid-day, I received a further message that his Eminency had met with a slight accident, but that he yet hoped to present himself in time for the deliberations. Since then no further news has arrived."
There was a dead silence.
Then the Pope turned to the Syrian priest.
"Father," he said, "it was you who received his Eminency's messages. Have you anything to add to this?"
He turned again.
"My son," he said, "report to Us publicly what you have already reported to Us in private."
A small, bright-eyed man moved out of the shadows.
"Holiness, it was I who conveyed the message to Cardinal Dolgorovski. He refused at first to receive me. When I reached his presence and communicated the command he was silent; then he smiled; then he told me to carry back the message that he would obey."
Again the Pope was silent.
Then suddenly the tall Australian stood up.
"Holiness," he said, "I was once intimate with that man. It was partly through my means that he sought reception into the Catholic Church. This was not less than fourteen years ago, when the fortunes of the Church seemed about to prosper.... Our friendly relations ceased two years ago, and I may say that, from what I know of him, I find no difficulty in believing—-"
As his voice shook with passion and he faltered, Silvester raised his hand.
"We desire no recriminations. Even the evidence is now useless, for what was to be done has been done. For ourselves, we have no doubt as to its nature.... It was to this man that Christ gave the morsel through our hands, saying Quod faces, fac cities. Cum ergo accepisset Me buccellam, exivit continuo. Erat autem nox."
Again fell the silence, and in the pause sounded a long half-vocal sigh from without the door. It came and went as a sleeper turned, for the passage was crowded with exhausted men—as a soul might sigh that passed from light to darkness.
Then Silvester spoke again. And as He spoke He began, as if mechanically, to tear up a long paper, written with lists of names, that lay before Him.
"Eminences, it is three hours after dawn. In two hours more We shall say mass in your presence, and give Holy Communion. During those two hours We commission you to communicate this news to all who are assembled here; and further, We bestow on each and all of you jurisdiction apart from all previous rules of time and place; we give a Plenary Indulgence to all who confess and communicate this day. Father—" he turned to the Syrian—"Father, you will now expose the Blessed Sacrament in the chapel, after which you will proceed to the village and inform the inhabitants that if they wish to save their lives they had best be gone immediately—immediately, you understand."
The Syrian started from his daze.
"Holiness," he stammered, stretching out a hand, "the lists, the lists!"
(He had seen what these were.)
But Silvester only smiled as He tossed the fragments on to the table. Then He stood up.
"You need not trouble, my son.... We shall not need these any more....
"One last word, Eminences.... If there is one heart here that doubts or is afraid, I have a word to say."
He paused, with an extraordinarily simple deliberateness, ran the eyes round the tense faces turned to Him.
"I have had a Vision of God," He said softly. "I walk no more by faith, but by sight."
An hour later the priest toiled back in the hot twilight up the path from the village, followed by half-a-dozen silent men, twenty yards behind, whose curiosity exceeded their credulousness. He had left a few more standing bewildered at the doors of the little mud-houses; and had seen perhaps a hundred families, weighted with domestic articles, pour like a stream down the rocky path that led to Khaifa. He had been cursed by some, even threatened; stared upon by others; mocked by a few. The fanatical said that the Christians had brought God's wrath upon the place, and the darkness upon the sky: the sun was dying, for these hounds were too evil for him to look upon and live. Others again seemed to see nothing remarkable in the state of the weather....
There was no change in that sky from its state an hour before, except that perhaps it had lightened a little as the sun climbed higher behind that impenetrable dusky shroud. Hills, grass, men's faces—all bore to the priest's eyes the look of unreality; they were as things seen in a dream by eyes that roll with sleep through lids weighted with lead. Even to other physical senses that unreality was present; and once more he remembered his dream, thankful that that horror at least was absent. But silence seemed other than a negation of sound, it was a thing in itself, an affirmation, unruffled by the sound of footsteps, the thin barking of dogs, the murmur of voices. It appeared as if the stillness of eternity had descended and embraced the world's activities, and as if that world, in a desperate attempt to assert its own reality, was braced in a set, motionless, noiseless, breathless effort to hold itself in being. What Silvester had said just now was beginning to be true of this man also. The touch of the powdery soil and the warm pebbles beneath the priest's bare feet seemed something apart from the consciousness that usually regards the things of sense as more real and more intimate than the things of spirit. Matter still had a reality, still occupied space, but it was of a subjective nature, the result of internal rather than external powers. He appeared to himself already to be scarcely more than a soul, intent and steady, united by a thread only to the body and the world with which he was yet in relations. He knew that the appalling heat was there; once even, before his eyes a patch of beaten ground cracked and lisped as water that touches hot iron, as he trod upon it. He could feel the heat upon his forehead and hands, his whole body was swathed and soaked in it; yet he regarded it as from an outside standpoint, as a man with neuritis perceives that the pain is no longer in his hand but in the pillow which supports it. So, too, with what his eyes looked upon and his ears heard; so, too, with that faint bitter taste that lay upon his lips and nostrils. There was no longer in him fear or even hope—he regarded himself, the world, and even the enshrouding and awful Presence of spirit as facts with which he had but little to do. He was scarcely even interested; still less was he distressed. There was Thabor before him—at least what once had been Thabor, now it was no more than a huge and dusky dome-shape which impressed itself upon his retina and informed his passive brain of its existence and outline, though that existence seemed no better than that of a dissolving phantom.
It seemed then almost natural—or at least as natural as all else—as he came in through the passage and opened the chapel-door, to see that the floor was crowded with prostrate motionless figures. There they lay, all alike in the white burnous which he had given out last night; and, with forehead on arms, as during the singing of the Litany of the Saints at an ordination, lay the figure he knew best and loved more than all the world, the shoulders and white hair at a slight elevation upon the single altar step. Above the plain altar itself burned the six tall candles; and in the midst, on the mean little throne, stood the white-metal monstrance, with its White Centre....
Then he, too, dropped, and lay as he was....
* * * * *
He did not know how long it was before the circling observant consciousness, the flow of slow images, the vibration of particular thoughts, ceased and stilled as a pool rocks quietly to peace after the dropped stone has long lain still. But it came at last—that superb tranquillity, possible only when the senses are physically awake, with which God, perhaps once in a lifetime, rewards the aspiring trustful soul—that point of complete rest in the heart of the Fount of all existence with which one day He will reward eternally the spirits of His children. There was no thought in him of articulating this experience, of analysing its elements, or fingering this or that strain of ecstatic joy. The time for self-regarding was passed. It was enough that the experience was there, although he was not even self-reflective enough to tell himself so. He had passed from that circle whence the soul looks within, from that circle, too, whence it looks upon objective glory, to that very centre where it reposes—and the first sign to him that time had passed was the murmur of words, heard distinctly and understood, although with that apartness with which a drowsy man perceives a message from without—heard as through a veil through which nothing but thinnest essence could transpire.
Spiritus Domini replevit orbem terrarum.... The Spirit of the Lord hath fulfilled all things, alleluia: and that which contains all things hath knowledge of the voice, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
Exsurgat Deus (and the voice rose ever so slightly). "Let God arise and let His enemies be scattered; and let them who hate Him flee before His face."
Then he raised his heavy head; and a phantom figure stood there in red vestments, seeming to float rather than to stand, with thin hands outstretched, and white cap on white hair seen in the gleam of the steady candle-flames; another, also in white, kneeled on the step....
Kyrie eleison ... Gloria in excelsis Deo ... those things passed like a shadow-show, with movements and rustlings, but he perceived rather the light which cast them. He heard Deus qui in hodierna die ... but his passive mind gave no pulse of reflex action, no stir of understanding until these words. Cum complerentur dies Pentecostes....
"When the day of Pentecost was fully come, all the disciples were with one accord in the same place; and there came from heaven suddenly a sound, as of a mighty wind approaching, and it filled the house where they were sitting.... "
Then he remembered and understood.... It was Pentecost then! And with memory a shred of reflection came back. Where then was the wind, and the flame, and the earthquake, and the secret voice? Yet the world was silent, rigid in its last effort at self-assertion: there was no tremor to show that God remembered; no actual point of light, yet, breaking the appalling vault of gloom that lay over sea and land to reveal that He burned there in eternity, transcendent and dominant; not even a voice; and at that he understood yet more. He perceived that that world, whose monstrous parody his sleep had presented to him in the night, was other than that he had feared it to be; it was sweet, not terrible; friendly, not hostile; clear, not stifling; and home, not exile. There were presences here, but not those gluttonous, lustful things that had looked on him last night.... He dropped his head again upon his hands, at once ashamed and content; and again he sank down to depths of glimmering inner peace....
* * * * *
Not again, for a while, did he perceive what he did or thought, or what passed there, five yards away on the low step. Once only a ripple passed across that sea of glass, a ripple of fire and sound like a rising star that flicks a line of light across a sleeping lake, like a thin thread of vibration streaming from a quivering string across the stillness of a deep night—and be perceived for an instant as in a formless mirror that a lower nature was struck into existence and into union with the Divine nature at the same moment.... And then no more again but the great encompassing hush, the sense of the innermost heart of reality, till he found himself kneeling at the rail, and knew that That which alone truly existed on earth approached him with the swiftness of thought and the ardour of Divine Love....
Then, as the mass ended, and he raised his passive happy soul to receive the last gift of God, there was a cry, a sudden clamour in the passage, and a man stood in the doorway, gabbling Arabic.
Yet even at that sound and sight his soul scarcely tightened the languid threads that united it through every fibre of his body with the world of sense. He saw and heard the tumult in the passage, frantic eyes and mouths crying aloud, and, in strange contrast, the pale ecstatic faces of those princes who turned and looked; even within the tranquil presence-chamber of the spirit where two beings, Incarnate God and all but Discarnate Man, were locked in embrace, a certain mental process went on. Yet all was still as apart from him as a lighted stage and its drama from a self-contained spectator. In the material world, now as attenuated as a mirage, events were at hand; but to his soul, balanced now on reality and awake to facts, these things were but a spectacle....
He turned to the altar again, and there, as he had known it would be, in the midst of clear light, all was at peace: the celebrant, seen as through molten glass, adored as He murmured the mystery of the Word-made-Flesh, and once more passing to the centre, sank upon His knees.
Again the priest understood; for thought was no longer the process of a mind, rather it was the glance of a spirit. He knew all now; and, by an inevitable impulse, his throat began to sing aloud words that, as he sang, opened for the first time as flowers telling their secret to the sun.
O Salutaris Hostia Qui coeli pandis ostium. . . .
They were all singing now; even the Mohammedan catechumen who had burst in a moment ago sang with the rest, his lean head thrust out and his arms tight across his breast; the tiny chapel rang with the forty voices, and the vast world thrilled to hear it....
Still singing, the priest saw the veil laid as by a phantom upon the Pontiff's shoulders; there was a movement, a surge of figures—shadows only in the midst of substance,
... Uni Trinoque Domino ....
—and the Pope stood erect, Himself a pallor in the heart of light, with spectral folds of silk dripping from His shoulders, His hands swathed in them, and His down-bent head hidden by the silver-rayed monstrance and That which it bore....
... Qui vitam sine termino Nobis donet in patria ....
... They were moving now, and the world of life swung with them; of so much was he aware. He was out in the passage, among the white, frenzied faces that with bared teeth stared up at that sight, silenced at last by the thunder of Pange Lingua, and the radiance of those who passed out to eternal life.... At the corner he turned for an instant to see the six pale flames move along a dozen yards behind, as spear-heads about a King, and in the midst the silver rays and the White Heart of God.... Then he was out, and the battle lay in array....
That sky on which he had looked an hour ago had passed from darkness charged with light to light overlaid with darkness—from glimmering night to Wrathful Day—and that light was red....
From behind Thabor on the left to Carmel on the far right, above the hills twenty miles away rested an enormous vault of colour; here were no gradations from zenith to horizon; all was the one deep smoulder of crimson as of the glow of iron. It was such a colour as men have seen at sunsets after rain, while the clouds, more translucent each instant, transmit the glory they cannot contain. Here, too, was the sun, pale as the Host, set like a fragile wafer above the Mount of Transfiguration, and there, far down in the west where men had once cried upon Baal in vain, hung the sickle of the white moon. Yet all was no more than stained light that lies broken across carven work of stone....
... In suprema nocte coena,
sang the myriad voices,
Recumbens cum fratribus Observata lege plena Cibis in legalibus Cibum turbae duodenae Se dat suis manibus ....
He saw, too, poised as motes in light, that ring of strange fish-creatures, white as milk, except where the angry glory turned their backs to flame, white-winged like floating moths, from the tiny shape far to the south to the monster at hand scarcely five hundred yards away; and even as he looked, singing as he looked, he understood that the circle was nearer, and perceived that these as yet knew nothing....
_Verbum caro, panem verum Verbo carnem efficit ....
They were nearer still, until now even at his feet there slid along the ground the shadow of a monstrous bird, pale and undefined, as between the wan sun and himself moved out the vast shape that a moment ago hung above the Hill.... Then again it backed across and waited ...
Et si census deficit Ad formandum cor sincerum Sola fides sufficit ....
He had halted and turned, going in the midst of his fellows, hearing, he thought, the thrill of harping and the throb of heavenly drums; and, across the space, moved now the six flames, steady as if cut of steel in that stupendous poise of heaven and earth; and in their centre the silver-rayed glory and the Whiteness of God made Man....
... Then, with a roar, came the thunder again, pealing in circle beyond circle of those tremendous Presences—Thrones and Powers—who, themselves to the world as substance to shadow, are but shadows again beneath the apex and within the ring of Absolute Deity.... The thunder broke loose, shaking the earth that now cringed on the quivering edge of dissolution....
TANTUM ERGO SACRAMENTUM VENEREMUR CERNUI ET ANTIQUUM DOCUMENTUM NOVO CEDAT RITUI.
Ah! yes; it was He for whom God waited now—He who far up beneath that trembling shadow of a dome, itself but the piteous core of unimagined splendour, came in His swift chariot, blind to all save that on which He had fixed His eyes so long, unaware that His world corrupted about Him, His shadow moving like a pale cloud across the ghostly plain where Israel had fought and Sennacherib boasted—that plain lighted now with a yet deeper glow, as heaven, kindling to glory beyond glory of yet fiercer spiritual flame, still restrained the power knit at last to the relief of final revelation, and for the last time the voices sang....
PRAESTET FIDES SUPPLEMENTUM SENSUUM DEFECTUI ....
... He was coming now, swifter than ever, the heir of temporal ages and the Exile of eternity, the final piteous Prince of rebels, the creature against God, blinder than the sun which paled and the earth that shook; and, as He came, passing even then through the last material stage to the thinness of a spirit-fabric, the floating circle swirled behind Him, tossing like phantom birds in the wake of a phantom ship.... He was coming, and the earth, rent once again in its allegiance, shrank and reeled in the agony of divided homage....
... He was coming—and already the shadow swept off the plain and vanished, and the pale netted wings were rising to the cheek; and the great bell clanged, and the long sweet chord rang out—not more than whispers heard across the pealing storm of everlasting praise....
.... GENITORI GENITOQUE LAUS ET JUBILATIO SALUS HONOR VIRTUS QUOQUE SIT ET BENEDICTIO PROCEDENTI AB UTROQUE COMPAR SIT LAUDATIO.
and once more
PROCEDENTI AB UTROQUE COMPAR SIT LAUDATIO ....
Then this world passed, and the glory of it.