The Master-Christian
by Marie Corelli
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"Thelma," "Ardath," "Innocent," "The Treasure of Heaven," etc.


The Master-Christian.


All the bells were ringing the Angelus. The sun was sinking;—and from the many quaint and beautiful grey towers which crown the ancient city of Rouen, the sacred chime pealed forth melodiously, floating with sweet and variable tone far up into the warm autumnal air. Market women returning to their cottage homes after a long day's chaffering disposal of their fruit, vegetable, and flower- wares in the town, paused in their slow trudge along the dusty road and crossed themselves devoutly,—a bargeman, lazily gliding down the river on his flat unwieldly craft, took his pipe from his mouth, lifted his cap mechanically, and muttered more from habit than reflection—"Sainte Marie, Mere de Dieu, priez pour nous!"—and some children running out of school, came to a sudden standstill, listening and glancing at each other, as though silently questioning whether they should say the old church-formula among themselves or no? Whether, for example, it might not be more foolish than wise to repeat it? Yes;—even though there was a rumour that the Cardinal- Archbishop of a certain small, half-forgotten, but once historically-famed Cathedral town of France had come to visit Rouen that day,—a Cardinal-Archbishop reputed to be so pure of heart and simple in nature, that the people of his far-off and limited diocese regarded him almost as a saint,—would it be right or reasonable for them, as the secularly educated children of modern Progress, to murmur an "Angelus Domini," while the bells rang? It was a doubtful point;—for the school they attended was a Government one, and prayers were neither taught nor encouraged there, France having for a time put God out of her national institutions. Nevertheless, the glory of that banished Creator shone in the deepening glow of the splendid heavens,—and—from the silver windings of the Seine which, turning crimson in the light, looped and garlanded the time-honoured old city as with festal knots of rosy ribbon, up to the trembling tops of the tall poplar trees fringing the river banks,—the warm radiance palpitated with a thousand ethereal hues of soft and changeful colour, transfusing all visible things into the misty semblance of some divine dwelling of dreams. Ding-dong—ding dong! The last echo of the last bell died away upon the air—the last words enunciated by devout priests in their cloistered seclusion were said—"In hora mortis nostrae! Amen!"—the market women went on their slow way homeward,—the children scampered off in different directions, easily forgetful of the Old-World petition they had thought of, yet left unuttered,—the bargeman and his barge slipped quietly away together down the windings of the river out of sight;— the silence following the clangour of the chimes was deep and impressive—and the great Sun had all the heaven to himself as he went down. Through the beautiful rose-window of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, he flashed his parting rays, weaving bright patterns of ruby, gold and amethyst on the worn pavement of the ancient pile which enshrines the tomb of Richard the Lion-Hearted, as also that of Henry the Second, husband to Catherine de Medicis and lover of the brilliant Diane de Poitiers,—and one broad beam fell purpling aslant into the curved and fretted choir-chapel especially dedicated to the Virgin, there lighting up with a warm glow the famous alabaster tomb known as "Le Mourant" or "The Dying One." A strange and awesome piece of sculpture truly, is this same "Mourant"!— showing, as it does with deft and almost appalling exactitude, the last convulsion of a strong man's body gripped in the death-agony. No delicate delineator of shams and conventions was the artist of olden days whose ruthless chisel shaped these stretched sinews, starting veins, and swollen eyelids half-closed over the tired eyes!—he must have been a sculptor of truth,—truth downright and relentless,—truth divested of all graceful coverings, and nude as the "Dying One" thus realistically portrayed. Ugly truth too,— unpleasant to the sight of the worldly and pleasure-loving tribe who do not care to be reminded of the common fact that they all, and we all, must die. Yet the late sunshine flowed very softly on and over the ghastly white, semi-transparent form, outlining it with as much tender glory as the gracious figure of Mary Virgin herself, bending with outstretched hands from a grey niche, fine as a cobweb of old lace on which a few dim jewels are sewn. Very beautiful, calm and restful at this hour was "Our Lady's Chapel," with its high, dark intertwisting arches, mutilated statues, and ancient tattered battle-banners hanging from the black roof and swaying gently with every little breath of wind. The air, perfumed with incense-odours, seemed weighted with the memory of prayers and devotional silences,- -and in the midst of it all, surrounded by the defaced and crumbling emblems of life and death, and the equally decaying symbols of immortality, with the splendours of the sinking sun shedding roseate haloes about him, walked one for whom eternal truths outweighed all temporal seemings,—Cardinal Felix Bonpre, known favourably, and sometimes alluded to jestingly at the Vatican, as "Our good Saint Felix." Tall and severely thin, with fine worn features of ascetic and spiritual delicacy, he had the indefinably removed air of a scholar and thinker, whose life was not, and never could be in accordance with the latter-day customs of the world; the mild blue eyes, clear and steadfast, most eloquently suggested "the peace of God that passeth all understanding";—and the sensitive intellectual lines of the mouth and chin, which indicated strength and determined will, at the same time declared that both strength and will were constantly employed in the doing of good and the avoidance of evil. No dark furrows of hesitation, cowardice, cunning, meanness or weakness marred the expressive dignity and openness of the Cardinal's countenance,—the very poise of his straight spare figure and the manner in which he moved, silently asserted that inward grace of spirit without which there is no true grace of body,—and as he paused in his slow pacing to and fro to gaze half-wistfully, half-mournfully upon the almost ghastly artistic achievement of "Le Mourant" he sighed, and his lips moved as if in prayer. For the brief, pitiful history of human life is told in that antique and richly-wrought alabaster,—its beginning, its ambition, and its end. At the summit of the shrine, an exquisite bas-relief shows first of all the infant clinging to its mother's breast,—a stage lower down is seen the boy in the eager flush of youth, speeding an arrow to its mark from the bent bow,—then, on a still larger, bolder scale of design is depicted the proud man in the zenith of his career, a noble knight riding forth to battle and to victory, armed cap-a-pie, his war-steed richly caparisoned, his lance in rest,—and finally, on the sarcophagus itself is stretched his nude and helpless form, with hands clenched in the last gasping struggle for breath, and every muscle strained and fighting against the pangs of dissolution.

"But," said the Cardinal half aloud, with the gentle dawning of a tender smile brightening the fine firm curve of his lips,—"it is not the end! The end here, no doubt;—but the beginning—THERE!"

He raised his eyes devoutly, and instinctively touched the silver crucifix hanging by its purple ribbon at his breast. The orange-red glow of the sun encompassed him with fiery rings, as though it would fain consume his thin, black-garmented form after the fashion in which flames consumed the martyrs of old,—the worn figures of mediaeval saints in their half-broken niches stared down upon him stonily, as though they would have said,—"So we thought,—even we!- -and for our thoughts and for our creed we suffered willingly,—yet lo, we have come upon an age of the world in which the people know us not,—or knowing, laugh us all to scorn."

But Cardinal Bonpre being only conscious of a perfect faith, discovered no hints of injustice or despair in the mutilated shapes of the Evangelists surrounding him,—they were the followers of Christ,—and being such, they were bound to rejoice in the tortures which made their glory. It was only the unhappy souls who suffered not for Christ at all, whom he considered were truly to be compassionated.

"And if," he murmured as he moved on—"this knight of former days, who is now known to us chiefly, alas! as 'Le Mourant', was a faithful servant of our Blessed Lord, why then it is as well with him as with any of the holy martyrs. May his soul rest in peace!"

Stopping an instant at the next sculptural wonder in his way—the elaborately designed tomb of Cardinal Amboise, concerning the eternal fate of which "brother in Christ" the good Felix had no scruples or fears whatever, he stepped softly down from the choir- chapel where he had been wandering to and fro for some time in solitary musings, and went towards the great central nave. It was quite empty,—not even a weary silk-weaver, escaped from one of the ever-working looms of the city, had crept in to tell her beads. Broad, vacant, vast, and suggestive of a sublime desolation, the grand length and width of the Latin Cross which shapes the holy precincts, stretched into vague distance, one or two lamps were burning dimly at little shrines set in misty dark recesses,—a few votive candles, some lit, some smouldered out, leaned against each other crookedly in their ricketty brass stand, fronting a battered statue of the Virgin. The Angelus had ceased ringing some ten minutes since,—and now one solemn bell, swinging high up in the Cathedral towers, tolled forth the hour of six, slowly and with a strong pulsating sound which seemed to shake the building down to its very vaults and deep foundations. As the last stroke shivered and thundered through the air, a strain of music, commencing softly, then swelling into fuller melody, came floating from aloft, following the great bell's vibration. Half way down the nave, just as he was advancing slowly towards the door of egress, this music overtook the Cardinal like an arresting angel, bringing him to a sudden pause.

"The organist practises late," he said aloud, as though speaking to some invisible companion, and then was silent, listening. Round him and above him surged the flood of rich and dulcet harmony,—the sunset light through the blue and red stained-glass windows grew paler and paler—the towering arches which sprang, as it were, from slender stem-like side-columns up to full-flowering boughs of Gothic ornamentation, crossing and re-crossing above the great High Altar, melted into a black dimness,—and then—all at once, without any apparent cause, a strange, vague suggestion of something supernatural and unseen began suddenly to oppress the mind of the venerable prelate with a curious sense of mingled awe and fear. Trembling a little, he knew not why, he softly drew a chair from one of the shadowy corners, where all such seats were piled away out of sight so that they might not disfigure the broad and open beauty of the nave, and, sitting down, he covered his eyes with one hand and strove to rouse himself from the odd, half-fainting sensation which possessed him. How glorious now was the music that poured like a torrent from the hidden organ-loft! How full of searching and potential proclamation!—the proclamation of an eternal, unguessed mystery, for which no merely human speech might ever find fit utterance! Some divine declaration of God's absolute omnipresence,— or of Heaven's sure nearness,—touched the heart of Felix Bonpre, as he sat like an enchanted dreamer among the tender interweavings of solemn and soothing sound;—carried out of himself and beyond his own existence, he could neither pray nor think, till, all at once, upon the peaceful and devout silence of his soul, some very old, very familiar words struck sharply as though they were quite new,— as though they were invested suddenly with strange and startling significance—

"When the son of Man cometh, think ye He shall find faith on earth?"

Slowly he withdrew his hand from his eyes and gazed about him, half- startled, half-appalled. Had anyone spoken these words?—or had they risen of themselves as it were in letters of fire out of the sea of music that was heaving and breaking tumultuously about him?


The question seemed to be whispered in his ears with a thrilling intensity of meaning; and moved by a sudden introspective and retrospective repentance, the gentle old man began mentally to grope his way back over the past years of his life, and to ask himself whether in very truth that life had been well or ill spent? Viewed by his own inner contemplative vision, Cardinal Felix Bonpre saw in himself nothing but wilful sin and total unworthiness;—but in the eyes of those he had served and assisted, he was a blameless priest,—a man beloved of God, and almost visibly encompassed by the guardianship of angels. He had been singularly happy in his election to a diocese which, though it had always had an Archbishop for its spiritual head, boasted scarce as many inhabitants as a prosperous English village,—and the result of this was that he had lived altogether away from the modern world, passing most of his time in reading and study,—while for relaxation, he permitted himself only the innocent delight of growing the finest roses in his neighbourhood. But he had pious scruples even about this rose- growing fancy of his,—he had a lurking distrust of himself in it, as to whether it was not a purely selfish pleasure,—and therefore, to somewhat smooth the circumstance, he never kept any of the choice blooms for his own gratification, but gave the best of them with a trust, as simple as it was beautiful, to the altar of the Virgin, sending all the rest to the bedsides of the sick and sorrowful, or to the coffins of the dead. It never once occurred to him that the "Cardinal's roses," as they were called, were looked upon by the poor people who received them as miraculous flowers long after they had withered,—that special virtues were assigned to them—and that dying lips kissed their fragrant petals with almost as much devotion as the holy crucifix, because it was instinctively believed that they contained a mystic blessing. He knew nothing of all this;—he was too painfully conscious of his own shortcomings,—and of late years, feeling himself growing old, and realising that every day brought him nearer to that verge which all must cross in passing from Time into Eternity, he had been sorely troubled in mind. He was wise with the wisdom which comes of deep reading, lonely meditation, and fervent study,—he had instructed himself in the modern schools of thought as well as the ancient,—and though his own soul was steadfastly set upon the faith he followed, he was compassionately aware of a strange and growing confusion in the world,—a combination of the elements of evil, which threatened, or seemed to threaten, some terrible and imminent disaster. This sorrowful foreboding had for a long time preyed upon him, physically as well as mentally; always thin, he had grown thinner and more careworn, till at the beginning of the year his health had threatened to break down altogether. Whereupon those who loved him, growing alarmed, summoned a physician, who, (with that sage experience of doctors to whom thought-trouble is an inexplicable and incurable complication) at once pronounced change of air to be absolutely necessary. Cardinal Bonpre must travel, he said, and seek rest and minddistraction in the contemplation of new and varying scenes. With smiling and resigned patience the Cardinal obeyed not so much the command of his medical attendant, as the anxious desire of his people,—and thereupon departed from his own Cathedral-town on a tour of several months, during which time he inwardly resolved to try and probe for himself the truth of how the world was going,— whether on the downward road to destruction and death, or up the high ascents of progress and life. He went alone and unattended,—he had arranged to meet his niece in Paris and accompany her to her father's house in Rome,—and he was on his way to Paris now. But he had purposely made a long and round-about journey through France with the intention of studying the religious condition of the people; and by the time he reached Rouen, the old sickness at his heart had rather increased than diminished. The confusion and the trouble of the world were not mere hearsay,—they in very truth existed. And what seemed to the Cardinal to be the chief cause of the general bewilderment of things, was the growing lack of faith in God and a Hereafter. How came this lack of faith into the Christian world? Sorrowfully he considered the question,—and persistently the same answer always asserted itself—that the blame rested principally with the Church itself, and its teachers and preachers, and not only in one, but in all forms of Creed.

"We have erred in some vital manner," mused the Cardinal, with a feeling of strange personal contrition, as though he were more to blame than any of his compeers—"We have failed to follow the Master's teaching in its true perfection. We have planted in ourselves a seed of corruption, and we have permitted—nay, some of us have encouraged—its poisonous growth, till it now threatens to contaminate the whole field of labour."

And he thought of the words of St. John the Divine to the Church of Sardis—






Dimmer and duskier grew the long shadows now gathering in the Cathedral,—two of the twinkling candles near the Virgin's statue suddenly sank in their sockets with a spluttering noise and guttered out,—the solemn music of the organ continued, growing softer and softer as it sounded, till it crept through the vastness of the building like a light breeze wafted from the sea, bringing with it suggestions of far flower-islands in the tropics, golden shores kissed by languid foam, and sweet-throated birds singing, and still the Cardinal sat thinking of griefs and cares and inexplicable human perplexities, which were not his own, but which seemed to burden the greater portion of the world. He drew no comparisons,—he never considered that, as absolutely as day is day and night is night, his own beautiful and placid life, lived in the faith of God and Christ, was tortured by no such storm-tossed tribulation as that which affected the lives of many others,—and that the old trite saying, almost despised because so commonplace, namely that "goodness makes happiness," is as eternally true as that the sun shines in heaven, and that it is only evil which creates misery. To think of himself in the matter never occurred to him; had he for a moment entertained the merest glimmering of an idea that he was better, and therefore happier than most men, he would, in his own opinion, have been guilty of unpardonable arrogance and presumption. What he saw, and what sincerely and unselfishly grieved him, was that the people of this present age were unhappy—discontented—restless,—that something of the simple joy of existence had gone out of the world,- -that even the brilliant discoveries of science and the so-called "progress" of men only served apparently to increase their discontent,—that when they were overcome by sorrow, sickness, or death, they had little philosophy and less faith to support them,— and that except in the few cases where Christ was still believed in, they gave way altogether and broke down like frightened children in a storm.

"Thou hast a few names, even in Sardis!" A few names! But how few! Universal weariness of life seemed a disease of the time,—there was nothing that seemed to satisfy—even the newest and most miraculous results of scientific research and knowledge ceased to be interesting after the first week of their triumphant public demonstration and acceptance.

"The world must be growing old," said the Cardinal sadly,—"It must be losing its vigour,—it is too tired to lift itself to the light; too weary and worn out to pray. Perhaps the end of all present things is at hand,—perhaps it is the beginning of the promised 'new heavens and new earth.'"

Just then the organ-music ceased abruptly, and the Cardinal, waking from his thoughts as from a trance, rose up slowly and stood for a moment facing the great High Altar, which at that distance could only just be discerned among its darkening surroundings by the little flickering flame of the suspended lamp burning dimly before the holy Tabernacle, wherein was locked with golden key behind snowy doors of spotless marble, the sacred and mysterious Host.


Again that searching question repeated itself in his mind so distinctly as to be echoed in his ears,—the deep silence around him seemed waiting expectantly for some reply, and moved by a strange spirit of exaltation within him, he answered half aloud—

"Yes! Surely He will find faith,—if only in the few! There are 'a few names, even in Sardis!' In the sorrowful and meek,—in the poor and patient and downtrodden martyrs of humanity, He will find faith;—in the very people He died to save He will discover that most precious and inspiring of all virtues! But in the so-called wise and brilliant favourites of the world He will not find it,—in the teachers of the people He will search for it in vain. By the writers of many books He shall find Himself scorned and rejected,— in the cheap and spurious philosophy of modern egotists He will see His doctrines mocked at and denounced as futile. Few men there are in these days who would deny themselves for His sake, or sacrifice a personal passion for the purer honouring of His name. Inasmuch as the pride of great learning breeds arrogance, so the more the wonder of God's work is displayed to us, the more are we dazzled and confounded; and so in our blindness we turn from the worship of the Creator to that of His creation, forgetting that all the visible universe is but the outcome or expression of the hidden Divine Intelligence behind it. What of the marvels of the age!—the results of science!—the strange psychic prescience and knowledge of things more miraculous yet to be!—these are but hints and warnings of the approach of God himself—'coming in a cloud with power and great glory'!"

As he thus spoke, he raised his hand out of old habit acquired in preaching, and a ray from the after-glow of the sunken sun lit up the jewel in the apostolic ring he wore, warming its pale green lustre to a dim violet spark as of living fire. His fine features were for a moment warm with fervour and feeling,—then,—suddenly, he thought of the great world outside all creeds,—of the millions and millions of human beings who neither know nor accept Christ,—of the Oriental races with their intricate and beautiful systems of philosophy,—of savage tribes, conquered and unconquered,—of fierce yet brave Turkish warriors who are, with all their faults, at any rate true to the faith they profess—and lastly—more than all—of the thousands upon thousands of Christians in Christian lands, who no more believe in Him whose holy name they take in vain, than in any Mumbo-Jumbo fetish of untaught barbarians. Were these to perish utterly? Had THEY no immortal souls to save? Had the churches been at work for eighteen hundred years and more, to bring about no better results than this,—namely that there were only "A FEW NAMES IN SARDIS"? If so, were not the churches criminally to blame? Yea, even holy Mother-Church, whose foundation rested on the memory of the Lying Apostle? Rapidly, and as if suggested by some tormenting devil, these thoughts possessed the Cardinal's brain, burning into it and teasing and agonising the tender fibres of his conscience and his soul. Could God, the great loving Creator of countless universes, be so cruel as to wantonly destroy millions of helpless creatures in one small planet, because through ignorance or want of proper teaching they had failed to find Christ?—was it possible that he could only extend his mercy and forgiveness to the "few names in Sardis"?

"Yet our world is but a pin's point in the eternal immensities," argued the Cardinal almost wistfully—"Only a few can expect to be saved."

Nevertheless, this reasoning did not satisfy him. Again, what of these millions? Were they to be forever lost? Then why so much waste of life? Waste of life! There is no such thing as waste of life— this much modern science the venerable Felix knew. Nothing can be wasted,—not a breath, not a scene, not a sound. All is treasured up in Nature's store-house and can be eternally reproduced at Nature's will. Then what was to become of the myriads of human beings and immortal souls whom the Church had failed to rescue? THE CHURCH HAD FAILED! Why had it failed? Whose the fault?—whose the weakness?— for fault and weakness were existent somewhere.


"No!" whispered the Cardinal, suddenly forced, as it were in his own despite, to contradict his former assertion—"No!" He paused, and mechanically making his way towards the door of the Cathedral, he dipped his fingers into the holy water that glistened dimly in its marble basin near the black oak portal, and made the sign of the cross on brow and breast;—"He will not find faith where faith should be pre-eminent. It must be openly confessed—repentingly admitted,—He will NOT find faith even in the Church He founded,—I say it to our shame!"

His head drooped, as though his own words had wounded him, and with an air of deep dejection he slowly passed out. The huge iron-bound door swung noiselessly to and fro behind him,—the grave-toned bell in the tower struck seven. Outside, a tender twilight mellowed the atmosphere and gave brightness to approaching evening; inside, the long shadows, gathering heavily in the aisles and richly sculptured hollows of the side-chapels, brought night before its time. The last votive candle at the Virgin's shrine flickered down and disappeared like a firefly in dense blackness,—the last echo of the bell died in a tremulous vibration up among the high-springing roof-arches, and away into the solemn corners where the nameless dead reposed,— the last impression of life and feeling vanished with the retreating figure of the Cardinal—and the great Cathedral, the Sanctuary and House of God, took upon itself the semblance of a funeral vault,—a dark, Void, wherein but one red star, the lamp before the Altar, burned.


Lovely to a poet or an artist's eye is the unevenly-built and picturesque square of Rouen in which the Cathedral stands,—lovely, and suggestive of historical romance in all its remote corners, its oddly-shaped houses, its by-ways and crooked little flights of steps leading to nowhere, its gables and slanting roofs, and its utter absence of all structural proportion. A shrine here, a broken statue there,—a half-obliterated coat-of-arms over an old gateway,—a rusty sconce fitted fast into the wall to support a lantern no longer needed in these days of gas and electricity,—an ancient fountain overgrown with weed, or a projecting vessel of stone for holy water, in which small birds bathe and disport themselves after a shower of rain,—those are but a few of the curious fragments of a past time which make the old place interesting to the student, and more than fascinating to the thinker and dreamer. The wonderful "Hotel Bourgtheroulde," dating from the time of Francis the First, and bearing on its sculptured walls the story of the Field of the Cloth of Gold, in company with the strangely-contrasting "Allegories", from Petrarch's "Triumphs", is enough in itself to keep the mind engrossed with fanciful musings for an hour. How did Petrarch and the Field of the Cloth of Gold come together in the brain of the sculptor who long ago worked at these ancient bas- reliefs? One wonders, but the wonder is in vain,—there is no explanation;—and the "Bourgtheroulde" remains a pleasing and fantastic architectural mystery. Close by, through the quaint old streets of the Epicerie and "Gross Horloge", walked no doubt in their young days the brothers Corneille, before they evolved from their meditative souls the sombre and heavy genius of French tragedy,—and not very far away, up one of those little shadowy winding streets and out at the corner, stands the restored house of Diane de Poitiers, so sentient and alive in its very look that one almost expects to see at the quaint windows the beautiful wicked face of the woman who swayed the humours of a king by her smile or her frown.

Cardinal Bonpre, walking past the stately fourteenth-century Gothic pile of the Palais de Justice, thought half-vaguely of some of these things,—but they affected him less than they might have done had his mind not been full of the grand music he had just heard in the Cathedral, and of the darkness that had slowly gathered there, as though in solemn commingling with the darkness which had at the same time settled over his soul. A great oppression weighed upon him;— almost he judged himself guilty of mortal sin, for had he not said aloud and boldly, while facing the High Altar of the Lord, that even in the Church itself faith was lacking? Yes, he, a Cardinal- Archbishop, had said this thing; he had as it were proclaimed it on the silence of the sacred precincts,—and had he not in this, acted unworthily of his calling? Had he not almost uttered blasphemy? Grieved and puzzled, the good Felix went on his way, almost unseeingly, towards the humble inn where he had elected to remain for the brief period of his visit to Rouen,—an inn where no one stayed save the very poorest of travellers, this fact being its chief recommendation in the eyes of the Cardinal. For it must be conceded, that viewed by our latter-day ideas of personal comfort and convenience, the worthy prelate had some very old-world and fantastic notions. One of these notions was a devout feeling that he should, so far as it was humanly possible, endeavour to obey the Master whose doctrine he professed to follow. This, it will be admitted, was a curious idea. Considering the bold and blasphemous laxity of modern Christian customs, it was surely quite a fanatical idea. Yet he had his own Church-warrant for such a rule of conduct; and chief among the Evangelic Counsels writ down for his example was Voluntary Poverty. Yes!—Voluntary Poverty,—notwithstanding the countless treasures lying idle and wasted in the Vatican, and the fat sinecures enjoyed by bishops and archbishops; which things exist in direct contradiction and disobedience to the command of Christ. Christ Himself lived on the earth in poverty,—He visited only the poorest and simplest habitations,—and never did He set His sacred foot within a palace, save the palace of the High Priest where He was condemned to die. Much symbolic meaning did Cardinal Felix discover in this incident,—and often would he muse upon it gravely.

"The Divine is condemned to die in all palaces," he would say,—"It is only in the glorious world of Nature, under the sunlit or starlit expanse of heaven, that the god in us can live; and it was not without some subtle cause of intended instruction to mankind that the Saviour always taught His followers in the open air."

There was what might be called a palace hard by, to which Bonpre had been invited, and where he would have been welcome to stay as long as he chose,—the house of the Archbishop of Rouen—a veritable abode of luxury as compared with the Hotel Poitiers, which was a dingy little tumble-down building, very old, and wearing a conscious air of feebleness and decrepitude which was almost apologetic. Its small windows, set well back in deeply hollowed carved arches had a lack-lustre gleam, as of very aged eyes under shelving brows,—its narrow door, without either bolts or bars, hung half-aslant upon creaking rusty hinges, and was never quite shut either by day or night,—yet from the porch a trailing mass of "creeping jenny" fell in a gold-dotted emerald fringe over the head of any way-worn traveller passing in,—making a brightness in a darkness, and suggesting something not altogether uncheery in the welcome provided. They were very humble folk who kept the Hotel Poitiers,— the host, Jean Patoux, was a small market-gardener who owned a plot of land outside Rouen, which he chiefly devoted to the easy growing of potatoes and celery—his wife had her hands full with the domestic business of the hotel and the cares of her two children, Henri and Babette, the most incorrigible imps of mischief that ever lived in Rouen or out of it. Madame Patoux, large of body, unwieldy in movement, but clean as a new pin, and with a fat smile of perpetual contentment on her round visage, professed to be utterly worn to death by the antics of these children of hers,—but nevertheless she managed to grow stouter every day with a persistency and fortitude which denoted the reserved forces of her nature,—and her cooking, always excellent, never went wrong because Babette had managed to put her doll in one of the saucepans, or Henri had essayed to swim a paper boat in the soup. Things went on somehow; Patoux himself was perfectly satisfied with his small earnings and position in life—Madame Patoux felt that "le bon Dieu" was specially engaged in looking after her,—and as long as the wicked Babette and the wickeder Henri threw themselves wildly into her arms and clung round her fat neck imploring pardon after any and every misdeed, and sat for a while "en penitence" in separate corners reading the "Hours of Mary", they might be as naughty as they chose over and over again so far as the good-natured mother was concerned. Just now, however, unusual calm appeared to have settled on the Patoux household,—an atmosphere of general placidity and peace prevailed, which had the effect of imparting almost a stately air to the tumble-down house, and a suggestion of luxury to the poorly-furnished rooms Madame Patoux herself was conscious of a mysterious dignity in her surroundings, and moved about on her various household duties with less bounce and fuss than was her ordinary custom,—and Henri and Babette sat quiet without being told to do so, moved apparently by a sudden and inexplicable desire to study their lessons. All this had been brought about by the advent of Cardinal Bonpre, who with his kind face, gentle voice and beneficent manner, had sought and found lodging at the Hotel Poitiers, notwithstanding Madame Patoux's profuse apologies for the narrowness and inconvenience of her best rooms.

"For look you, Monseigneur," she murmured, deferentially, "How should we have ever expected such an honour as the visit of a holy Cardinal-Archbishop to our poor little place! There are many new houses on the Boulevards which could have accommodated Monseigneur with every comfort,—and that he should condescend to bestow the blessing of his presence upon us,—ah! it was a special dispensation of Our Lady which was too amazing and wonderful to be at once comprehended!"

Thus Madame Patoux, with breathless pauses between her sentences, and many profound curtseyings; but the good Cardinal waived aside her excuses and protestations, and calling her "My daughter", signed the cross on her brow with paternal gentleness, assuring her that he would give her as little trouble as any other casual visitor.

"Trouble!—Ah, heaven!—could anything be a trouble for Monseigneur!" and Madame Patoux, moved to tears by the quiet contentment with which the Cardinal took possession of the two bare, common rooms which were the best she could place at his disposal, hurried away, and hustling Henri and Babette like two little roly- poly balls before her into the kitchen, she told them with much emphasis that there was a saint in the house,—a saint fit to be the holy companion of any of those who had their niches up in the Cathedral near the great rose-window,—and that if they were good children they would very likely see an angel coming down from heaven to visit him. Babette put her finger in her mouth and looked incredulous. She had a vague belief in angels,—but Henri, with the cheap cynicism of the modern French lad was anything but sure about them.

"Mother," said he, "There's a boy in our school who says there is no God at all, and that it's no use having priests or Cardinals or Cathedrals,—it's all rubbish and humbug!"

"Poor little miserable monster!" exclaimed Madame Patoux, as she peered into the pot where the soup for the Cardinal's supper was simmering—"He is arranging himself to become a thief or a murderer, be sure of that, Henri!—and thou, who art trained in all thy holy duties by the good Pere Laurent, who teaches thee everything which the school is not wise enough to teach, ought never to listen to such wickedness. If there were no God, we should not be alive at all, thou foolish child!—for it is only our blessed Saviour and the saints that keep the world going."

Henri was silent,—Babette looked at him and made a little grimace of scorn.

"If the Cardinal is a saint," she said—"he should be able to perform a miracle. The little Fabien Doucet has been lame for seven years; we shall bring him to Monseigneur, and he will mend his leg and make him well. Then we shall believe in saints afterwards."

Madame Patoux turned her warm red face round from the fire over which she was bending, and stared at her precocious offspring aghast.

"What! You will dare to address yourself to the Cardinal!" she cried vociferously—"You will dare to trouble him with such foolishness? Mon Dieu!—is it possible to be so wicked! But listen to me well!— If you presume to say one saucy word to Monseigneur, you shall be punished! What have you to do with the little Fabien Doucet?—the poor child is sickly and diseased by the will of God."

"I don't see why it should be God's will to make a boy sickly and diseased—" began the irrepressible Henri, when his mother cut him short with a stamp of her foot and a cry of—

"Tais-toi! Silence! Wicked boy!—thou wilt kill me with thy naughty speeches! All this evil comes of the school,—I would thy father had never been compelled to send thee there!"

As she said this with a vast amount of heat and energy, Henri, seized by some occult and inexplicable emotion, burst without warning into loud and fitful weeping, the sound whereof resembled the yelling of a tortured savage,—and Babette, petrified at first by the appalling noise, presently gave way likewise, and shrieked a wild accompaniment.

"What ails my children?" said a gentle voice, distinct and clear in its calm intonation even in the midst of the uproar, and Cardinal Bonpre, tall and stately, suddenly appeared upon the threshold— "What little sorrows are these?"

Henri's roar ceased abruptly,—Babette's shrill wailing dropped into awed silence. Both youngsters stared amazed at the venerable Felix, whose face and figure expressed such composed dignity and sweetness; and Madame Patoux, nastily and with frequent gasps for breath, related the history of the skirmish.

"And what will become of such little devils when they grow older, the Blessed Virgin only knows!" she groaned—"For even now they are so suspicious in nature, that they will not believe in their dinner till they see it!"

Something like a faint grin widened the mouths of Henri and Babette at this statement made with so much distressed fervour by their angry mother,—but the Cardinal did not smile. His face had grown very pale and grave, almost stern.

"The children are quite right, my daughter," he said gently,—"I am no saint! I have performed no miracles. I am a poor sinner,— striving to do well, but alas!—for ever striving in vain. The days of noble living are past,—and we are all too much fallen in the ways of error to deserve that our Lord should bless the too often half-hearted and grudging labour of his so-called servants. Come here, ma mignonne!" he continued, calling Babette, who approached him with a curious air of half-timid boldness—"Thou art but a very little girl," he said, laying his thin white hand softly on her tumbled brown curls—"Nevertheless, I should be a very foolish old man if I despised thee, or thy thoughts, or thy desire to know the truth for truth's sake. Therefore to-morrow thou shalt bring me this afflicted friend of thine, and though I have no divine gifts, I will do even as the Master commanded,—I will lay my hands on him in blessing and pray that he may be healed. More than this is not in my power, my child!—if a miracle is to be worked, it is our dear Lord only who can work it."

Gently he murmured his formal benediction,—then, turning away, he entered his own room and shut the door. Babette, grown strangely serious, turned to her brother and held out her hand, moved by one of those erratic impulses which often take sudden possession of self-willed children.

"Come into the Cathedral!" she whispered imperatively—"Come and say an Ave."

Not a word did the usually glib Henri vouchsafe in answer,—but clutching his sister's fingers in his own dirty, horny palm, he trotted meekly beside her out of the house and across the Square into the silence and darkness of Notre Dame. Their mother watched their little plump figures disappear with a feeling of mingled amazement and gratitude,—miracles were surely beginning, she thought, if a few words from the Cardinal could impress Babette and Henri with an idea of the necessity of prayer!

They were not long gone, however;—they came walking back together, still demurely hand in hand, and settled themselves quietly in a corner to study their tasks for the next day. Babette's doll, once attired as a fashionable Parisienne, and now degenerated into a one- eyed laundress with a rather soiled cap and apron, stuck out its composite arms in vain from the bench where it sat all askew, drooping its head forlornly over a dustpan,—and Henri's drum, wherewith he was wont to wake alarming echoes out of the dreamy and historical streets of Rouen, lay on its side neglected and ingloriously silent. And, as before said, peace reigned in the Patoux household,—even the entrance of Papa Patoux himself, fresh from his celery beds, and smelling of the earth earthy, created no particular diversion. He was a very little, very cheery, round man, was Papa Patoux; he had no ideas at all in his bullet head save that he judged everything to be very well managed in the Universe, and that he, considered simply as Patoux, was lucky in his life and labours,—also that it was an easy thing to grow celery, provided God's blessing was on the soil. For the rest, he took small care; he knew that the world wagged in different ways in different climates,- -he read his half-penny journal daily, and professed to be interested in the political situation just for the fun of the thing, but in reality he thought the French Senate a pack of fools, and wondered what they meant by always talking so much about nothing. He believed in "La Patrie" to a certain extent,—but he would have very much objected if "La Patrie" had interfered with his celery. Roughly sneaking, he understood that France was a nation, and that he was a Frenchman; and that if any enemies should presume to come into the country, it would be necessary to take up a musket and fight them out again, and defend wife, children, and celery-beds till the last breath was out of his body. Further than this simple and primitive idea of patriotism he did not go. He never bothered himself about dissentient shades of opinion, or quarrels among opposing parties. When he had to send his children to the Government school, the first thing he asked was whether they would be taught their religion there. He was told no,—that the Government objected to religious teaching, as it merely created discussion and was of no assistance whatever in the material business of life. Patoux scratched his head over this for a considerable time and ruminated deeply,—finally he smiled, a dull fat smile.

"Good!" said he—"I understand now why the Government makes such an ass of itself now and then! You cannot expect mere men to do their duty wisely without God on their side. But Pere Laurent will teach my children their prayers and catechism,—and I dare say Heaven will arrange the rest."

And he forthwith dismissed the matter from his mind. His children attended the Government school daily,—and every Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoons Pere Laurent, a kindly, simple- hearted old priest, took them, with several other little creatures "educated by the State", and taught them all he knew about the great France-exiled Creator of the Universe, and of His ceaseless love to sinful and blasphemous mankind.

So things went on;—and though Henri and Babette were being crammed by the national system of instruction, with learning which was destined to be of very slight use to them in their after careers, and which made them little cynics before their time, they were still sustained within bounds by the saving sense of something better than themselves,—that Something Better which silently declares itself in the beauty of the skies, the blossoming of the flowers, and the loveliness of all things wherein man has no part,—and neither of them was yet transformed into that most fearsome product of modern days, the child-Atheist, for whom there is no greater God than Self.

On this particular night when Papa Patoux returned to the bosom of his family, he, though a dull-witted man generally, did not fail to note the dove-like spirit of calm that reigned over his entire household. His wife's fat face was agreeably placid,—the children were in an orderly mood, and as he sat down to the neatly spread supper-table, he felt more convinced than ever that things were exceedingly well managed for him in this best of all possible worlds. Pausing in the act of conveying a large spoonful of steaming soup to his mouth he enquired—

"And Monseigneur, the Cardinal Bonpre,—has he also been served?"

Madame Patoux opened her round eyes wide at him.

"But certainly! Dost thou think, my little cabbage, thou wouldst get thy food before Monseigneur? That would be strange indeed!"

Papa Patoux swallowed his ladleful of soup in abashed silence.

"It was a beautiful day in the fields," he presently observed— "There was a good smell in the earth, as if violets were growing,— and late in the autumn though it is, there was a skylark yet singing. It was a very blue heaven, too, as blue as the robe of the Virgin, with clouds as white as little angels clinging to it."

Madame nodded. Some people might have thought Papa Patoux inclined to be poetical,—she did not. Henri and Babette listened.

"The robe of Our Lady is always blue," said Babette.

"And the angels' clothes are always white," added Henri.

Madame Patoux said nothing, but passed a second helping of soup all round. Papa Patoux smiled blandly on his offspring.

"Just so," he averred—"Blue and white are the colours of the sky, my little ones,—and Our Lady and the angels live in the sky!"

"I wonder where?" muttered Henri with his mouth half full. "The sky is nothing but miles and miles of air, and in the air there are millions and millions of planets turning round and round, larger than our world,—ever so much larger,—and nobody knows which is the largest of them all!"

"It is as thou sayest, my son," said Patoux confidently—"Nobody knows which is the largest of them all, but whichever it may be, that largest of them all belongs to Our Lady and the angels."

Henri looked at Babette, but Babette was munching watercress busily, and did not return his enquiring glances. Papa Patoux, quite satisfied with his own reasoning, continued his supper in an amiable state of mind.

"What didst thou serve to Monseigneur, my little one?" he asked his wife with a coaxing and caressing air, as though she were some delicate and dainty sylph of the woodlands, instead of being the lady of massive proportions which she undoubtedly was,—"Something of delicacy and fine flavour, doubtless?"

Madame Patoux shook her head despondingly.

"He would have nothing of that kind," she replied—"Soup maigre, and afterwards nothing but bread, dried figs, and apples to finish. Ah, Heaven! What a supper for a Cardinal-Archbishop! It is enough to make one weep!"

Patoux considered the matter solemnly.

"He is perhaps very poor?" he half queried.

"Poor, he may be," responded Madame,—"But if he is, it is surely his own fault,—whoever heard of a poor Cardinal-Archbishop! Such men can all be rich if they choose."

"Can they?" asked Henri with sudden vivacious eagerness. "How?"

But his question was not answered, for just at that moment a loud knock came at the door of the inn, and a tall broadly built personage in close canonical attire appeared in the narrow little passage of entry, attended by another smaller and very much more insignificant-looking individual.

Patoux hastily scrambled out of his chair.

"The Archbishop!" he whispered to his wife—"He himself! Our own Archbishop!"

Madame Patoux jumped up, and seizing her children, held one in each hand as she curtsied up and down.

Benedicite!" said the new-comer, lightly signing the cross in air with a sociable smile—"Do not disturb yourselves, my children! You have with you in this house the eminent Cardinal Bonpre?"

"Ah, yes, Monseigneur!" replied Madame Patoux—"Only just now he has finished his little supper. Shall I show Monseigneur to his room?"

"If you please," returned the Archbishop, still smiling benevolently—"And permit my secretary to wait with you here till I return."

With this, and an introductory wave of his hand in the direction of the attenuated and sallow-faced personage who had accompanied him, he graciously permitted Madame Patoux to humbly precede him by a few steps, and then followed her with a soft, even tread, and a sound as of rustling silk in his garments, from which a faint odour of some delicate perfume seemed wafted as he moved.

Left to entertain the Archbishop's secretary, Jean Patoux was for a minute or two somewhat embarrassed. Henri and Babette stared at the stranger with undisguised curiosity, and were apparently not favourably impressed by his appearance.

"He has white eyelashes!" whispered Henri.

"And yellow teeth," responded Babette.

Meanwhile Patoux, having scratched his bullet-head sufficiently over the matter, offered his visitor a chair.

"Sit down, sir," he said curtly.

The secretary smiled pallidly and took the proffered accommodation. Patoux again meditated. He was not skilled in the art of polite conversation, and he found himself singularly at a loss.

"It would be an objection no doubt, and an irreverance perhaps to smoke a pipe before you, Monsieur—Monsieur—"

"Cazeau," finished the secretary with another pallid smile—"Claude Cazeau, a poor scribe,—at your service! And I beg of you, Monsieur Jean Patoux, to smoke at your distinguished convenience!"

There was a faint tone of satire in his voice which struck Papa Patoux as exceedingly disagreeable, though he could not quite imagine why he found it so. He slowly reached for his pipe from the projecting shelf above the chimney, and as slowly proceeded to fill it with tobacco from a tin cannister close by.

"I do not think I have ever seen you in the town, Monsieur Cazeau," he said—"Nor at Mass in the Cathedral either?"

"No?" responded Cazeau easily, in a half-querying tone—"I do not much frequent the streets; and I only attend the first early mass on Sundays. My work for Monseigneur occupies my whole time."

"Ah!" and Patoux, having stuffed his pipe sufficiently, lit it, and proceeded to smoke peaceably—"There must be much to do. Many poor and sick who need money, and clothes, and help in every way,—and to try and do good, and give comfort to all the unhappy souls in Rouen is a hard task, even for an Archbishop."

Cazeau linked his thin hands together with an action of pious fervour and assented.

"There is a broken-hearted creature near us," pursued Patoux leisurely—"We call her Marguerite La Folle;—I have often thought I would ask Pere Laurent to speak to Monseigneur for her, that she might be released from the devils that are tearing her. She was a good girl till a year or two ago,—then some villain got the ruin of her, and she lost her wits over it. Ah,'tis a sad sight to see her now—poor Marguerite Valmond!"

"Ha!" cried Henri suddenly, pointing a grimy finger at Cazeau—"Why did you jump? Did something hurt you?"

Cazeau had indeed "jumped," as Henri put it,—that is, he had sprung up from his chair suddenly and as suddenly sat down again with an air of impatience and discomfort. He rapidly overcame whatever emotion moved him, however, and stretched his thin mouth in a would- be amiable grin at the observant Henri.

"You are a sharp boy!" he observed condescendingly—"and tall for your age, no doubt. How old are you?"

"Eleven," replied Henri—"But that has nothing to do with your jumping."

"True," and the secretary wriggled in his chair, pretending to be much amused—"But my jumping had nothing to do with you either, my small friend! I had a thought,—a sudden thought,—of a duty forgotten."

"Oh, it was a thought, was it?" and Henri looked incredulous. "Do thoughts always make you jump?"

"Tais-toi! Tais-toi!" murmured Patoux gently, between two whiffs of his pipe—"Excuse him, Monsieur Cazeau,—he is but a child."

Cazeau writhed amicably.

"A delightful child," he murmured—"And the little girl—his sister- -is also charming—Ah, what fine dark eyes!—what hair! Will she not come and speak to me?"

He held out a hand invitingly towards Babette, but she merely made a grimace at him and retired backwards. Patoux smiled benevolently.

"She does not like strangers," he explained.

"Good—very good! That is right! Little girls should always run away from strangers, especially strangers of my sex," observed Cazeau with a sniggering laugh—"And do these dear children go to school?"

Patoux took his pipe out of his mouth altogether, and stared solemnly at the ceiling.

"Without doubt!—they are compelled to go to school," he answered slowly; "but if I could have had my way, they should never have gone. They learn mischief there in plenty, but no good that I can see. They know much about geography, and the stars, and anatomy, and what they call physical sciences;—but whether they have got it into their heads that the good God wants them to live straight, clean, honest, wholesome lives, is more than I am certain of. However, I trust Pere Laurent will do what he can."

"Pere Laurent?" echoed Cazeau, with a wide smile—"You have a high opinion of Pere Laurent? Ah, yes, a good man!—but ignorant—alas! very ignorant!"

Papa Patoux brought his eyes down from the ceiling and fixed them enquiringly on Cazeau.

"Ignorant?" he began, when at this juncture Madame Patoux entered, and taking possession of Henri and Babette, informed Monsieur Cazeau that the Archbishop would be for some time engaged in conversation with Cardinal Bonpre, and that therefore he, Monsieur Cazeau, need not wait,—Monseigneur would return to his house alone. Whereupon the secretary rose, evidently glad to be set at liberty, and took his leave of the Patoux family. On the threshold, however, he paused, looking back somewhat frowningly at Jean Patoux himself.

"I should not, if I were you, trouble Monseigneur concerning the case you told me of—that of—of Marguerite Valmond,"—he observed— "He has a horror of evil women."

With that he departed, walking across the Square towards the Archbishop's house in a stealthy sort of fashion, as though he were a burglar meditating some particularly daring robbery.

"He is a rat—a rat!" exclaimed Henri, suddenly executing a sort of reasonless war-dance round the kitchen—"One wants a cat to catch him!"

"Rats are nice," declared Babette, for she remembered having once had a tame white rat which sat on her knee and took food from her hand,—"Monsieur Cazeau is a man; and men are not nice."

Patoux burst into a loud laugh.

"Men are not nice!" he echoed—"What dost thou know about it, thou little droll one?"

"What I see," responded Babette severely, with an elderly air, as of a person who has suffered by bitter experience; and, undeterred by her parents' continued laughter she went on—

"Men are ugly. They are dirty. They say 'Come here my little girl, and I will give you something,'—then when I go to them they try and kiss me. And I will not kiss them, because their mouths smell bad. They stroke my hair and pull it all the wrong way. And it hurts. And when I don't like my hair pulled the wrong way, they tell me I will be a great coquette. A coquette is to be like Diane de Poitiers. Shall I be like Diane de Poitiers?"

"The saints forbid!" cried Madame Patoux,—"And talk no more nonsense, child,—it's bed-time. Come,—say good-night to thy father, Henri;—give them thy blessing, Jean—and let me get them into their beds before the Archbishop leaves the house, or they will be asking him as many questions as there are in the catechism."

Thus enjoined, Papa Patoux kissed his children affectionately, signing the cross on their brows as they came up to him in turn, after the fashion of his own father, who had continued this custom up to his dying day. What they thought of the benediction in itself might be somewhat difficult to define, but it can be safely asserted that a passion of tears on the part of Babette, and a fit of demoniacal howling from Henri, would have been the inevitable result if Papa Patoux had refused to bestow it on them. Whether there were virtue in it or not, their father's mute blessing sent them to bed peaceably and in good humour with each other, and they trotted off very contentedly beside their mother, hushing their footsteps and lowering their voices as they passed the door of the room occupied by Cardinal Bonpre.

"The Archbishop is not an angel, is he?" asked Babette whisperingly.

Her mother smiled broadly.

"Not exactly, my little one. Why such a foolish question?"

"You said that Cardinal Bonpre was a saint, and that perhaps we should see an angel come down from heaven to visit him," replied Babette.

"Well, you could not have thought the Archbishop came from heaven," interpolated Henri, scornfully,—"He came from his own house over the way with his own secretary behind him. Do angels keep secretaries?"

Babette laughed aloud,—the idea was grotesque. The two children were just then ascending the wooden stairs to their bedroom, the mother carrying a lighted candle behind them, and at that moment the rich sonorous voice of the Archbishop, raised to a high and somewhat indignant tone, reached them with these words—"I consider that you altogether mistake your calling and position."

Then the voice died away into inaudible murmurings.

"They are quarrelling! The Archbishop is angry!" said Henri with a grin.

"Perhaps Archbishops do not like saints," suggested Babette.

"Tais-toi! Cardinal Bonpre is an archbishop himself, little silly," said Madame Patoux—"Therefore those great and distinguished Monseigneurs are like brothers."

"That is why they are quarrelling!" declared Henri glibly,—"A boy told me in school that Cain and Abel were the first pair of brothers, and they quarrelled,—and all brothers have quarrelled ever since. It's in the blood, so that boy says,—and it is his excuse always for fighting HIS little brother. His little brother is six, and he is twelve;—and of course he always knocks his little brother down. He cannot help it, he says. And he gets books on physiology and heredity, and he learns in them that whatever is IN the blood has got to come out somehow. He says that it's because Cain killed Abel that there are wars between nations;—if Cain and Abel had never quarrelled, there would never have been any fighting in the world,—and now that it's in the blood of every body—"

But further sapient discourse on the part of Henri was summarily put an end to by his mother's ordering him to kneel down and say his prayers, and afterwards bundling him into bed,—where, being sleepy, he speedily forgot all that he had been trying to talk about. Babette took more time in retiring to rest. She had very pretty, curly, brown hair, and Madame Patoux took a pride in brushing and plaiting it neatly.

"I may be like Diane de Poitiers after all," she remarked, peering at herself in the small mirror when her thick locks were smoothed and tied back for the night—"Why should I not be?"

"Because Diane de Poitiers was a wicked woman," said Madame Patoux energetically,—"and thou must learn to be a good girl."

"But if Diane de Poitiers was bad, why do they talk so much about her even now, and put her in all the histories, and show her house, and say she was beautiful?" went on Babette.

"Because people are foolish," said Madame, getting impatient— "Foolish people run after bad women, and bad women run after foolish people. Now say thy prayers."

Obediently Babette knelt down, shut her eyes close, clasped her hands hard, and murmured the usual evening formula, heaving a small sigh after her "act of contrition," and looking almost saintly as she commended herself to her "angel guardian." Then her mother kissed her, saying—

"Good-night, little daughter! Think of Our Lady and the saints, and then ask them to keep us safe from evil. Good-night!"

"Good-night." responded Babette sleepily,—but all the same she did not think of Our Lady and the saints half as much as of Diane de Poitiers. There are few daughters of Eve to whom conquest does not seem a finer thing than humility; and the sovereignty of Diane de Poitiers over a king, seems to many a girl just conscious of her own charm, a more emphatic testimony to the supremacy of her sex, than the Angel's greeting of "Blessed art thou!" to the elected Virgin of the world.


Meanwhile a somewhat embarrassing interview had taken place between the Archbishop of Rouen and Cardinal Bonpre. The archbishop, seen by the light of the one small lamp which illumined the "best room" of the Hotel Poitiers was certainly a handsome and imposing personage, broad-chested and muscular, with a massive head, well set on strong square shoulders, admirably adapted for the wearing of the dark violet soutane which fitted them as gracefully as a royal vesture draping the figure of a king. One disproportionate point, however, about his attire was, that the heavy gold crucifix which depended by a chain from his neck, did not, with him, look so much a sacred symbol as a trivial ornament,—whereas the simple silver one that gleamed against the rusty black scarlet-edged cassock of Cardinal Bonpre, presented itself as the plain and significant sign of holiness without the aid of jewellers' workmanship to emphasize its meaning. This was a trifle, no doubt;—still it was one of those slight things which often betray character. As the most brilliant diamond will look like common glass on the rough red hand of a cook, while common glass will simulate the richness of the real gem on the delicate white finger of a daintily-bred woman, so the emblem of salvation seemed a mere bauble and toy on the breast of the Archbishop, while it assumed its most reverent and sacred aspect as worn by Felix Bonpre. Yet judged by mere outward appearance, there could be no doubt as to which was the finer-looking man of the two. The Cardinal, thin and pale, with shadows of thought and pain in his eyes, and the many delicate wrinkles of advancing age marking his features, would never possess so much attractiveness for worldly and superficial persons as the handsome Archbishop, who carried his fifty-five years as though they were but thirty, and whose fresh, plump face, unmarred by any serious consideration, bespoke a thorough enjoyment of life, and the things which life,—if encouraged to demand them,—most strenuously seeks, such as good food, soft beds, rich clothing, and other countless luxuries which are not necessities by any means, but which make the hours move smoothly and softly, undisturbed by the clash of outside events among those who are busy with thoughts and actions, and who,—being absorbed in the thick of a soul-contest,—care little whether their bodies fare ill or well. The Archbishop certainly did not belong to this latter class,—indeed he considered too much thought as mischievous in itself, and when thought appeared likely to break forth into action, he denounced it as pernicious and well-nigh criminal.

"Thinkers," he said once to a young and ardent novice, studying for the priesthood, "are generally socialists and revolutionists. They are an offence to the Church and a danger to the community."

"Surely," murmured the novice timidly,—"Our Lord Himself was a thinker? And a Socialist likewise?"

But at this the Archbishop rose up in wrath and flashed forth menace;—

"If you are a follower of Renan, sir, you had better admit it before proceeding further in your studies," he said irately,—"The Church is too much troubled in these days by the members of a useless and degenerate apostasy!" Whereupon the young man had left his presence abashed, puzzled, and humiliated; but scarcely penitent, inasmuch as his New Testament taught him that he was right and that the Archbishop was wrong.

Truth to tell, the Archbishop was very often wrong. Wrapped up in himself and his own fixed notions as to how life should be lived, he seldom looked out upon the larger world, and obstinately refused to take any thoughtful notice of the general tendency of public opinion in all countries concerning religion and morality. All that he was unable to explain, he flatly denied,—and his prejudices were as violent as his hatred of contradiction was keen. The saintly life and noble deeds of Felix Bonpre had reached him from time to time through various rumours repeated by different priests and dignitaries of the Church, who had travelled as far as the distant little Cathedral-town embowered among towering pines and elm trees, where the Cardinal had his abiding seat of duty;—and he had been anxious to meet the man who in these days of fastidious feeding and luxurious living, had managed to gain such a holy reputation as to be almost canonized in some folks' estimation before he was dead. Hearing that Bonpre intended to stay a couple of nights in Rouen, he cordially invited him to spend that time at his house,—but the invitation had been gratefully yet firmly refused, much to the Archbishop's amazement. This amazement increased considerably when he learned that the dingy, comfortless, little Hotel Poitiers had been selected by the Cardinal as his temporary lodging,—and it was not without a pious murmur concerning "the pride which apes humility" that he betook himself to that ancient and despised hostelry, which had nothing whatever in the way of a modern advantage to recommend it,—neither electric light, nor electric bell, nor telephone. But he felt it incumbent upon him to pay a fraternal visit to the Cardinal, who had become in a manner famous without being at all aware of his fame,—and when finally in his presence, he was conscious not only of a singular disappointment, but an equally singular perplexity. Felix Bonpre was not at all the sort of personage he had expected to see. He had imagined that a Churchman who was able to obtain a character for saintliness in days like these, must needs be worldly-wise and crafty, with a keen perception and comprehension of the follies of mankind, and an ability to use these follies advantageously to further his own ends. Something of the cunning and foresight of an ancient Egyptian sorcerer was in the composition of the Archbishop himself, for he judged mankind alone by its general stupidity and credulity;— stupidity and credulity which formed excellent ground for the working of miracles, whether such miracles were wrought in the name of Osiris or Christ. Mokanna, the "Veiled Prophet," while corrupt to the core with unnameable vices, had managed in his time to delude the people into thinking him a holy man; and,—without any adequate reason for his assumption,—the Archbishop had certainly prepared himself to meet in Felix Bonpre, a shrewd, calculating, clever priest, absorbed in acting the part of an excessive holiness in order to secure such honour in his diocese as should attract the particular notice of the Vatican. "Playing for Pope," in fact, had been the idea with which the archbishop had invested the Cardinal's reputed sanctity, and he was astonished and in a manner irritated to find himself completely mistaken. He had opened the conversation by the usual cordial trivialities of ordinary greeting, to which Bonpre had responded with the suave courtesy and refined gentleness which always dignified his manner,—and then the Archbishop had ventured to offer a remonstrance on the unconventional—"Shall we call it eccentric?" he suggested, smiling amicably,—conduct of the Cardinal in choosing to abide in such a comfortless lodging as the Hotel Poitiers.

"It would have been a pleasure and an honour to me to welcome you at my house"—he said—"Really, it is quite a violation of custom and usage that you should be in this wretched place; the accommodation is not at all fitted for a prince of the Church."

Cardinal Felix raised one hand in gentle yet pained protest.

"Pardon me!" he said, "I do not like that term, 'prince of the Church.' There are no princes in the Church—or if there are, there should be none."

The archbishop opened his eyes widely.

"That is a strange remark!" he ejaculated—"Princes of the Church there have always been since Cardinals were created; and you, being a Cardinal and an Archbishop as well, cannot be otherwise than one of them."

Felix Bonpre sighed.

"Still, I maintain that the term is a wrong one," he answered, "and used in the wrong place. The Church has nothing, or should have nothing to do with differing titles or places. The ordinary priest who toils among his congregation day and night, scarcely resting himself, working and praying for the spiritual welfare of others, should to my thinking be as greatly held in honour as the bishop who commands him and who often—so it chances—is able to do less for our Lord than he. In things temporal, owing to the constant injustice of man practised against his brother-man, we can seldom attain to strict impartiality of judgment,—but in things spiritual, there surely should be perfect equality."

"Seriously speaking, are those your views?" enquired the Archbishop, his features expressing more and more astonishment.

"Assuredly!" responded the Cardinal gently,—"Are they not yours? Did not the Master Himself say 'Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant'? And 'Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased'? These statements are plain and true,—there is no mistaking them."

The Archbishop was silent for a minute or so.

"Unfortunately we cannot apply our Lord's words literally to every- day exigencies," he murmured suavely—"If we could do so—"

"We SHOULD do so," said the Cardinal with emphasis—"The outside world may be disinclined to do so,—but we—we who are the representatives of a God-given faith, are solemnly bound to do so. And I fear—I very much fear—that it is because in many cases we have not shown the example expected of us, that heresy and atheism are so common among the people of the present day."

"Are you a would-be reformer?" asked the Archbishop good-humouredly, yet not without a touch of satire in his tone,—"If so, you are not alone—there have already been many!"

"Nay, I desire no reforms," responded the Cardinal, a faint flush warming the habitual pallor of his cheeks—"I simply wish to maintain—not alter—the doctrine of our Lord. No reform is necessary in that,—it is clear, concise, and simple enough for a child to understand. His command to His disciples was,—'Feed my sheep'—and I have of late been troubled and perplexed, because it seems to me that the sheep are not fed;—that despite churches and teachers and preachers, whole flocks are starving."

The Archbishop moved uneasily in his chair. His habitual violent spirit of contradiction rose up rebelliously in him, and he longed to give a sharp answer in confutation of the Cardinal's words, but there was a touch of the sycophant in his nature despite his personal pride, and he could not but reflect that Cardinals ranked above Archbishops, and that Felix Bonpre was in very truth a "prince of the Church" however much he himself elected to disclaim the title. And as in secular affairs lesser men will always bow the knee to royalty, so the Archbishop felt the necessity of temporising with one who was spiritually royal. Therefore he considered a moment before replying.

"I think," he said at last, in soft persuasive tones, "that your conscience may perhaps be a little tender on this subject. But I cannot agree with you in your supposition that whole flocks are starving;—for Christianity dominates the better and more intellectual part of the civilized world, and through its doctrines, men are gradually learning to be more tolerant and less unjust. When we recollect the barbarous condition of humanity before the coming of Christ—"

"Barbarous?" interrupted the Cardinal with half a smile,—"You would hardly apply that term to the luxury-loving peoples of Tyre and Babylon?—or to the ancient splendours of Athens and Rome?"

"They were heathens," said the Archbishop sententiously.

"But they were men and women," replied Bonpre, "And they too had immortal souls. They were all more or less struggling towards the fundamental Idea of good. Of course then, as now that Idea was overgrown by superstitious myths and observances—but the working tendency of the whole universe being ever towards Good, not Evil, an impulse to press on in the right direction was always in the brain of man, no matter how dimly felt. Primitive notions of honour were strange indeed; nevertheless honour existed in the minds of the early barbarians in a vague sense, though distorted out of shape and noblest meaning. No,—we dare not take upon ourselves to assert that men were altogether barbarous before the coming of Christ. They were cruel and unjust certainly,—and alas! they are cruel and unjust still! Eighteen hundred years of Christian teaching have not eradicated these ingrained sins from any one unit of the entire mass."

"You are a severe judge!" said the Archbishop.

Cardinal Bonpre lifted his mild blue eyes protestingly.

"Severe? I? God forbid that I should be severe, or presume to sit in judgment on any poor soul that sought my sympathy! I do not judge,— I simply feel. And my feelings have for a long time, I confess, been poignantly sorrowful."

"Sorrowful! And why?"

"Because the impression has steadily gained upon me that if our Church were all it was originally intended to be by its Divine Founder, we should at this time have neither heresies or apostasies, and all the world would be gathered into the 'one fold under one Shepherd.' But if we, who are its ministers, persist in occupying ourselves more with 'things temporal' than 'things spiritual,' we fail to perform our mission, or to show the example required of us, and we do not attract, so much as we repel. The very children of the present day are beginning to doubt our calling and election."

"Oh, of course there are, and always have been heretics and atheists," said the Archbishop,—"And apparently there always will be."

"And I venture to maintain that it is our fault that heretics and atheists continue to exist," replied the Cardinal; "If our Divine faith were lived divinely, there would be no room for heresy or atheism. The Church itself supplies the loophole for apostasy."

The Archbishop's handsome face crimsoned.

"You amaze me by such an expression!" he said, raising his voice a little in the indignation he could scarcely conceal—"you talk— pardon me—as if you yourself were uncertain of the Church's ability to withstand unbelief."

"I speak but as I think," answered the Cardinal gently. And I admit I AM uncertain. In the leading points of reed I am very steadfastly convinced;—namely, that Christ was divine, and that the following of His Gospel is the saving of the immortal soul. But if you ask me whether I think we do truly follow that Gospel, I must own that I have doubts upon the matter."

"An elected favourite son of the Church should surely have no doubts!" said the Archbishop.

"Ah, there you come back to the beginning from which we started, when I ventured to object to your term 'prince of the Church.' According to our Master, all men should be equal before Him; therefore we err in marking differences of rank or favoritism in questions of religion. The very idea of rank is anti-Christian."

At this the Archbishop began to look seriously annoyed.

"I am afraid you are indulging in very unorthodox ideas," he said with impatience—"In fact I consider you altogether mistake your calling and position."

These were the words which had reached the attentive ears of the Patoux children on their way up to bed, and had caused Henri to declare that the Archbishop and the Cardinal were quarrelling. Felix Bonpre took the somewhat violent remark, however, with perfect equanimity.

"Possibly I may do so," he responded peaceably. "We are all subject to error. My calling, as I take it, is that of a servant of Christ, whose instructions for work are plainly set down in His own words. It is for me to follow these instructions as literally and exactly as I can. With regard to my position, I am placed as the spiritual head of a very small diocese, where the people for the most part lead very innocent and harmless lives. But I should be selfish and narrow in spirit if I allowed myself to limit my views to my own circle of influence. My flock are mere rustics in intellectual capacity, and have no conception of the manner in which the larger tide of human events is flowing. Now and then one or two of the people grow weary of their quiet pastures and woodlands,—and being young, hopeful, and ardent, start forth into the great world, there to seek fairer fortunes. Sometimes they come back to their old homes. Far more frequently they never return. But those who do come back are changed utterly. I recognise no more the young men and maidens whom I confirmed in their faith, and laid my hands on in blessing ere they fared forth to other lives and scenes. The men are grown callous and worldly; without a heart,—without a thought,— save for the gain or loss of gold. The women are—ruined!"

He paused a moment. The Archbishop said nothing.

"I love my people," went on the Cardinal pathetically—"No child is baptised in our old Cathedral without my praying for its future good,—without my hope that it may grow into that exquisite mingling of the Divine and Human which our Lord taught us was the perfection of life, and His desire to see fulfilled in those He called His own. Yes,—I love my people!—and when any of them go away from me, and then return to the scenes of their childhood broken-hearted, I cannot meet them with reproach. My own heart is half broken to see them thus cast down. And their sorrows have compelled me naturally to meditate on the sorrows of others,—to consider what it is in the world which thus corrodes the pure gold of innocence and robs life of its greatest charm. For if Christ's spirit ruled us all, then innocence should be held more sacred. Life should engender happiness. I have studied, read, and thought long, upon these matters, so that I not only feel, but know the truth of what I say. Brother!—" and the Cardinal, strongly moved, rose suddenly and confronted the Archbishop with a passionate gesture—"My great grief is that the spirit of Christ does NOT rule the world! Christ is being re-crucified by this generation! And the Church is looking on, and silently permitting His second murder!"

Startled by the force of this expression, the Archbishop sprang up in his turn, his lips parted as if to speak—then—his angry glance met the clear, calm, steadfast look of Felix Bonpre, and he faltered. His eyes drooped—and his massive figure seemed for a moment to shrink with a sort of abasement. Like an inspired apostle the Cardinal stood, one hand outstretched,—his whole frame sentient with the strong emotion which possessed him.

"You know that what I say is true," he continued in quieter but no less intensely passionate accents—"You know that every day sees our Master crowned with new thorns and exposed to fresh torture! You know that we do nothing!—We stand beside Him in His second agony as dumb as though we were unconscious of it! You know that we MIGHT speak and will not! You know that we fear the ephemera of temporary governments, policies, and social conventionalities, more than the great, real, and terrible judgment of the world to come!"

"But all these things have been said before," began the Archbishop, recovering a little from the confusion that had momentarily seized him,—"And as I just now observed, you should remember that there have always been heretics from the very beginning."

"Oh, I remember!" and the Cardinal sighed, "How is it possible that any of us should forget! Heretics, whom we have tortured with unheard-of agonies and burned in the flames, as a proof of our love and sympathy with the tenderness of Christ Jesus!"

"You are going too far back in time!" said the Archbishop quickly. "We erred in the beginning through excess of zeal, but now—now—"

"Now we do exactly the same thing," returned Bonpre—"Only we do not burn physically our heretics, but morally. We condemn all who oppose us. Good men and brave thinkers, whom in our arrogance we consign to eternal damnation, instead of endeavouring to draw out the heart of their mystery, and gather up the gems of their learning as fresh proofs of the active presence of God's working in, and through all things! Think of the Church's invincible and overpowering obstinacy in the case of Galileo! He declared the existence of God to us by the utterance of a Truth,—inasmuch as every truth is a new message from God. Had he pronounced his theories before our divine Master, that Master would have confirmed, not denied them! Have we one single example of Christ putting to the torture any poor soul that did not believe in Him? Nay—He Himself submitted to be tortured; but for those who wronged Him, His prayer was only—'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.' THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO! The ministers of truth should rather suffer themselves than let others suffer. The horrors of the Inquisition are a blot on religious history; our Master never meant us to burn and torture men into faith. He desired us to love and lead them into the way of life as the shepherd leads a flock into the fold. I repeat again, there would have been no room for atheism if we—we—the servants of Christ, had been strictly true to our vocation."

By this time the Archbishop had recovered his equanimity. He sat down and surveyed the up-standing figure of the Cardinal with curiosity and a touch of pity.

"You think too much of these things," he said soothingly—"You are evidently overwrought with study and excessive zeal. Much that you say may be true; nevertheless the Church—OUR Church—stands firm among overwhelming contradictions,—and we, its ministers, do what we can. I myself am disposed to think that the multitude of the saved is greater than the multitude of the lost."

"I envy you the consolation such a thought must give," responded the Cardinal, as he resumed his seat opposite his visitor—"I, on the contrary, have the pained and bitter sense that we are to blame for all this 'multitude of the lost,' or at any rate that we could have done more in the way of rescue than we have done." He paused a moment, passing one hand across his forehead wearily. "In truth this is what has for a long time weighed upon my mind, and depressed my spirits even to the detriment of bodily health. I am nearing the grave, and must soon give an account of my stewardship;—and the knowledge of the increasing growth of evil in the world is almost more than I can bear."

"But you are not to blame," said the Archbishop wonderingly,—"In your own diocese you have fulfilled your duty; more than this is not expected of you. You have done your best for the people you serve,— and reports of your charities and good works are not lacking—"

"Do not credit such reports," interrupted the Cardinal, almost sternly,—"I have done nothing—absolutely nothing! My life has been too peaceful,—too many undeserved blessings have been bestowed upon me. I much fear that the calm and quiet of my days have rendered me selfish. I think I should long ago have sought some means of engaging in more active duties. I feel as if I should have gone into the thick of the religious contest, and spoken and fought, and helped the sick and wounded of the mental battle,—but now—now it is too late!"

"Nothing is too late for one in your position," said the Archbishop- -"You may yet sit in St. Peter's chair!"

"God forbid!" ejaculated Bonpre fervently—"I would rather die! I have never wished to rule,—I have only sought to help and to comfort. But sixty-eight years of life weigh heavily on the faculties,—I cannot wear the sword and buckler of energetic manhood. I am old—old!—and to a certain extent, incapacitated for useful labour. Hence I almost grudge my halcyon time spent among simple folk,—time made sweet by all the surroundings of Nature's pastoral loveliness;—the sorrow of the wider world knocks at my heart and makes it ache! I feel that I am one of those who stand by, idly watching the Master's second death without one word of protest!"

The archbishop listened in silence. There was a curious shamed look upon his face, as if some secret sin within himself had suddenly been laid bare in all its vileness to the light of day. The golden crucifix he wore moved restlessly with a certain agitated quickness in his breathing, and he did not raise his eyes, when, after a little pause, he said—

"I tell you, as I told you before, that you think too much; you are altogether too sensitive. I admit that at the present day the world is full of terrible heresies and open blasphemy, but this is part of what we are always bound to expect,—we are told that we must 'suffer for righteousness' sake—'"

"We!" said the Cardinal—"Yes, WE! that is, OURSELVES;—the Church— WE think, when we hear of heresies and blasphemies that it is we who are 'suffering for righteousness' sake,' but in our egotism we forget that WE are not suffering at all if we are able to retain our faith! It is the very heretics and blasphemers whom we condemn that are suffering—suffering absolute tortures—perchance 'for righteousness' sake'!"

"Dare we call a heretic 'righteous'?" enquired the Archbishop—"Is he not, in his very heresy, accursed?"

"According to our Lord, no one is accursed save traitors,—that is to say those who are not true. If a man doubts, it is better he should admit his doubt than make a pretence of belief. The persons whom we call heretics may have their conception of the truth,—they may say that they cannot accept a creed which is so ignorant of its own tenets as to condemn all those who do not follow it,—inasmuch as the very Founder of it distinctly says—'If any man hear my words and believe not, I judge him not; for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.' Now we, His followers, judge, but do not save. The atheist is judged by us, but not rescued from his unbelief; the thinker is condemned,—the scientist who reveals the beauty and wisdom of God as made manifest in the composition of the lightning, or the germinating of a flower, is accused of destroying religion. And we continue to pass our opinion, and thunder our vetoes and bans of excommunication against our fellowmen, in the full front of the plain command 'Judge not, that ye be not judged'!"

"I see it is no use arguing with you," said the Archbishop, forcing a smile, with a vexation the smile could not altogether conceal,— "You are determined to take these sayings absolutely,—and to fret your spirit over the non-performance of imaginary duties which do not exist. This Church is a system,—founded on our Lord's teaching, but applied to the needs of modern civilization. It is not humanly possible to literally obey all Christ's commands."

"For the outside world I grant it may be difficult,—but for the ministers of religion, however difficult it may be, it should be done," replied the Cardinal firmly. "I said this before, and I deliberately maintain it. The Church IS a system,—but whether it is as much founded on the teaching of our Lord, who was divine, as on the teaching of St. Paul, who was NOT divine, is a question to me of much perplexity."

"St. Paul was directly inspired by our Lord," said the Archbishop— "I am amazed that you should even hint a doubt of his apostleship!"

"I do not decry St. Paul," answered Bonpre quietly—"He was a gifted and clever man, but he was a Man—he was not God-in-Man. Christ's doctrine leaves no place for differing sects; St. Paul's method of applying that doctrine serves as authority for the establishment of any and every quarrelsome sect ever known!"

"I cannot agree with you," said the Archbishop coldly.

"I do not expect to be agreed with"—and Bonpre smiled a little—"An opinion which excites no opposition at all is not worth having! I am quite honest in my scruples, such as they are;—I do not think we fit, as you say, the Church system to the needs of modern civilization. On the contrary, we must fail in many ways to do this, else there would not be such a crying out for help and comfort as there is at present among all Christian peoples. We no longer speak with a grand certainty as we ought to do. We only offer vague hopes and dubious promises to those who thirst for the living waters of salvation and immortality,—it is as if we did not feel sure enough of God ourselves to make others sure. All this is wrong—wrong! It forebodes heavy punishment and disaster. If I were younger, I could express perhaps my meaning more clearly,—but as it is, my soul is weighted with unutterable thoughts,—I would almost call them warnings,—of some threatening evil; . . . and today—only this afternoon—when I sat for an hour in the Cathedral yonder and listened to the music of the great organ—"

The Archbishop started.

"What did you say?"

The Cardinal repeated his words gently,—

"I said that I sat in the Cathedral and listened to the music of the great organ—"

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