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the monks have come."

"Monks! Prior! . . . Father!"

The old man looked him in the eyes again.

"Yes," he said quietly. "The Abbey was made over again to the
Benedictines last year, but they haven't yet formally taken
possession. And these papers concern business connected with the
whole affair - the relations of seculars and regulars. I'll tell
you afterwards. I must go in now, and you must just remain here
quietly. Tell me again. What is your name? Who are you?"

"I. . . I am Monsignor Masterman. . . secretary to
Cardinal Bellairs."

The priest smiled as he laid his hand on the door.

"Quite right," he said. "Now please sit here quietly, Monsignor,
till I come back."


He sat in perfect silence, waiting, leaning back in his corner
with closed eyes, compelling himself to keep his composure.

It was, at any rate, good luck that he had fallen in with such a
friend as this - Father Jervis, was it not? - who knew all about
him, and, obviously, could be trusted to be discreet. He must
just attend to his instructions quietly then, and do what he was
told. No doubt things would come back soon. But how very curious
this all was about Hyde Park and Westminster. He could have
sworn that England was a Protestant country, and the Church just
a tiny fragment of its population. Why, it was only recently
that Westminster Cathedral was built - was it not? But then this
was the year seventy-three . . . and . . . and he could not
remember in what year the Cathedral was built. Then again the
horror and bewilderment seized him. He gripped his knees with
his hands in an agony of consternation. He would go mad if he
could not remember. Or at least - - Ah! here was Father Jervis
coming back again.

The two sat quite silent again for a moment, as the car moved off.

"Tell me," said the priest suddenly, "don't you remember faces,
or people's names?"

The other concentrated his mind fiercely for a moment or two.

"I remember some faces - yes," he said. "And I remember some names.
But I cannot remember which faces belong to which names. . . . I
remember . . . I remember the name Archbishop Bourne;
and . . . and a priest called Farquharson - - "

"What have you been reading lately? . . . Ah! I forgot. Well; but
can't you remember the Cardinal . . . Cardinal Bellairs?"

"I've never heard of him."

"Nor what he looks like?"

"I haven't a notion."

The priest again was silent.

"Look here, Monsignor," he said suddenly, "I'd better take you
straight up to your rooms as soon as we arrive; and I'll have a
notice put up on your confessional that you are unable to attend
there to-day. You'll have the whole afternoon - after four at
least - to yourself, and the rest of the evening. We needn't tell a
soul until we're certain that it can't be helped, not even the
Cardinal. But I'm afraid you'll have to preside at lunch to-day."


"Mr. Manners is coming, you know, to consult with the Cardinal;
and I think if you weren't there to entertain him - - "

Monsignor nodded sharply, with compressed lips.

"I understand. But just tell me who Mr. Manners is?"

The priest answered without any sign of discomposure.

"He's a member of the Government. He's the great Political
Economist. And he's coming to consult with the Cardinal about
certain measures that affect the Church. Do you remember now?"

The other shook his head. "No."

"Well, just talk to him vaguely. I'll sit opposite and take care
that you don't make any mistakes. Just talk to him generally.
Talk about the sermon in Hyde Park, and the Abbey. He won't
expect you to talk politics publicly."

"I'll try."

The car drew up as the conversation ended; and the man who had
lost his memory glanced out. To his intense relief, he
recognized where he was. It was the door of Archbishop's House,
in Ambrosden Avenue; and beyond he perceived the long northern
side of the Cathedral.

"I know this," he said.

"Of course you do, my dear Monsignor," said the priest
reassuringly. "Now follow me: bow to any one who salutes you; but
don't speak a word."

They passed in together through the door, past a couple of
liveried servants who held it open, up the staircase and beyond
up the further flight. The old priest drew out a key and unlocked
the door before them; and together they turned to the left up the
corridor, and passed into a large, pleasant room looking out on
to the street, with a further door communicating, it seemed, with
a bedroom beyond. Fortunately they had met no one on the way.

"Here we are," said Father Jervis cheerfully. "Now, Monsignor, do
you know where you are?"

The other shook his head dolorously.

"Come, come; this is your own room. Look at your writing-table,
Monsignor; where you sit every day."

The other looked at it eagerly and yet vaguely. A half-written
letter, certainly in his own handwriting, lay there on the
blotting-pad, but the name of his correspondent meant nothing to
him; nor did the few words which he read. He looked round the
room - at the bookcases, the curtains, the _prie-Dieu_ . . . And
again terror seized him.

"I know nothing, father . . . nothing at all. It's all new! For
God's sake! . . ."

"Quietly then, Monsignor. It's all perfectly right. . . . Now I'm
going to leave you for ten minutes, to arrange about the places
at lunch. You'd better lock your door and admit no one. Just look
round the rooms when I'm gone - - Ah!"

Father Jervis broke off suddenly and darted at an arm-chair, where
a book lay face downwards on the seat. He snatched up the book,
glanced at the pages, looked at the title, and laughed aloud.

"I knew it," he said; "I was certain of it. You've got hold of
Manners' History, Look! you're at the very page."

He held it up for the other to see. Monsignor looked at it, still
only half comprehending, and just noticing that the paper had a
peculiar look, and saw that the running dates at the top of the
pages contained the years 1904-1912. The priest shook the book in
gentle triumph. A sheet of paper fell out of it, which he picked
up and glanced at. Then he laughed again.

"See," he said, "you've been making notes of the very period - no
doubt in order to be able to talk to Manners. That's the time he
knows more about than any living soul. He calls it the 'crest of
the wave,' you know. Everything dated from then, in his opinion."

"I don't understand a word - - "

"See here, Monsignor," interrupted the priest in mild glee,
"here's a subject to talk about at lunch. Just get Manners on to
it, and you'll have no trouble. He loves lecturing; and he talks
just like a history-book. Tell him you've been reading his
History and want a bird's-eye view."

Monsignor started.

"Why, yes," he said, "and that'll tell me the facts, too."

"Excellent. Now, Monsignor, I must go. Just look round the rooms
well, and get to know where things are kept. I'll be back in ten
minutes, and we'll have a good talk before lunch as to all who'll
be there. It'll all go perfectly smoothly, I promise you."


When the door closed Monsignor Masterman looked round him slowly
and carefully. He had an idea that the mist must break sooner or
later and that all would become familiar once again. It was
perfectly plain, by now, to his mind, what had happened to him;
and the fact that there were certain things which he recognized,
such as the Cathedral, and Hyde Park, and a friar's habit, and
Archbishop's House - all this helped him to keep his head. If he
remembered so much, there seemed no intrinsic reason why he
should not remember more.

But his inspection was disappointing. Not only was there not one
article in the room which he knew, but he did not even understand
the use of some of the things which he saw. There was a row of
what looked like small black boxes fastened to the right-hand
wall, about the height of a man's head; and there was some kind
of a machine, all wheels and handles, in the corner by the nearer
window, which was completely mysterious to him.

He glanced through into the bedroom, and this was not much
better. Certainly there was a bed; there was no mistake about
that; and there seemed to be wardrobes sunk to the level of the
walls on all sides; but although in this room he thought he
recognized the use of everything which he saw, there was no
single thing that wore a familiar aspect.

He came back to his writing-table and sat down before it in
despair. But that did not reassure him. He took out one or two of
the books that stood there in a row - directories and
address-books they appeared chiefly to be - and found his name
written in each, with here and there a note or a correction, all
in his own handwriting. He took up the half-written letter again
and glanced through it once more, but it brought no relief. He
could not even conjecture how the interrupted sentence on the
third page ought to end.

Again and again he tried to tear up from his inner consciousness
something which he could remember, closing his eyes and sinking
his head upon his hands, but nothing except fragments and
glimpses of vision rose before him. It was now a face or a scene
to which he could give no name; now a sentence or a thought that
owned no context. There was no frame at all - no unified scheme in
which these fragments found cohesion. It was like regarding the
pieces of a shattered jar whose shape even could not be
conjectured. . . .

Then a sudden thought struck him; he sprang up quickly and ran
into his bedroom. A tall mirror, he remembered, hung between the
windows. He ran straight up to this and stood staring at his own
reflection. It was himself that he saw there - there was no doubt
of that - every line and feature of that keen, pale,
professorial-looking face was familiar, though it seemed to him
that his hair was a little greyer than it ought to be.



"I shall be delighted, Monsignor," said the thin, clever-faced
statesman, in his high, dry voice; "I shall be delighted to
sketch out what seem to me the principal points in the
century's development."

A profound silence fell upon all the table.

Really, Monsignor Masterman thought to himself, as he settled
down to listen, he had done very well so far. He had noticed the
old priest opposite smiling more than once, contentedly, as
their eyes met.

Father Jervis had come to him as he had promised, for half an
hour's good talk before lunch; and they had spent a very earnest
thirty minutes together. First they had discussed with great care
all the persons who would be present at lunch - not more than
eight, besides themselves; the priest had given him a little plan
of the table, showing where each would sit, and had described
their personal appearance and recounted a salient fact or two
about every one. These were all priests except Mr. Manners
himself and his secretary. The rest of the time had been occupied
in information being given to the man who had lost his memory,
with regard to a few very ordinary subjects of conversation - the
extraordinary fairness of the weather; a new opera produced with
unparalleled success by a "well-known" composer of whom Monsignor
had never heard; a recent Eucharistic congress in Tokio, from
which the Cardinal had just returned; and the scheme for
redecorating the interior of Archbishop's House.

There had not been time for more; but these subjects, under the
adroit handling of Father Jervis, had proved sufficient; and up
to the preconcerted moment when Monsignor had uttered the
sentence about his study of Mr. Manners' _History of Twentieth
Century Development_ which had drawn from the author the words
recorded above, all had gone perfectly smoothly.

There had been a few minor hitches; for example, the food and the
manner of serving it and the proper method of consuming it had
furnished a bad moment or two; and once Monsignor had been
obliged to feign sudden deafness on being asked a question on a
subject of which he knew nothing by a priest whose name he had
forgotten, until Father Jervis slid in adroitly and saved him.
Yet these were quite unnoticed, it appeared, and could easily be
attributed to the habit of absent-mindedness for which, Monsignor
Masterman was relieved to learn, he was almost notorious.

And now the crisis was past and Mr. Manners was launched.
Monsignor glanced almost happily round the tall dining-room, from
which the servants had already disappeared, and, with his glass
in his hand, settled himself down to listen and remember.

* * * * *

"The crisis, to my mind, in the religious situation," began the
statesman, looking more professional than ever, with his closed
eyes, thin, wrinkled face, and high forehead - "the real crisis is
to be sought in the period from 1900 to 1920.

"This was the period, you remember, of tremendous social
agitation. There was the widespread revolution of the Latin
countries, beginning with France and Portugal, chiefly against
Authority, and most of all against Monarchy (since Monarchy is
the most vivid and the most concrete embodiment of authority);
and in Teutonic and Anglo-Saxon countries against Capital and
Aristocracy. It was in these years that Socialism came most near
to dominating the civilized world; and, indeed, you will remember
that for long after that date it did dominate civilization in
certain places.

"Now the real trouble at the bottom of all this was the state in
which Religion found itself. And you will find, gentlemen," said
the quasi-lecturer in parenthesis, glancing round the attentive
faces, "that Religion always is and always has been at the root
of every world-movement. In fact it must be so. The deepest
instinct in man is his religion, that is, his attitude to eternal
issues; and on that attitude must depend his relation to temporal
things. This is so, largely, even in the case of the individual;
it must therefore be infinitely more so in large bodies or
nations; since every crowd is moved by principles that are the
least common multiple of the principles of the units which
compose it. Of course this is universally recognized now; but it
was not always so. There was a time, particularly at this period
of which I am now speaking, when men attempted to treat Religion
as if it were one department of life, instead of being the whole
foundation of every and all life. To treat it so is, of course,
to proclaim oneself as fundamentally irreligious - and, indeed,
very ignorant and uneducated.

"To resume, however:

"Religion at this period was at a very strange crisis. That it
could possibly be treated in the way I have mentioned shows how
very deeply irreligion had spread. There is no such thing, of
course, really as Irreligion - except by a purely conventional
use of the word: the 'irreligious' man is one who has made up
his mind either that there is no future world, or that it is so
remote, as regards effectivity, as to have no bearing upon
this. And that is a religion - at least it is a dogmatic
creed - as much as any other.

"The causes of this state of affairs I take to have been as follows:

"Religion up to the Reformation had been a matter of authority,
as it is again now; but the enormous development of various
sciences and the wide spread of popular 'knowledge' had, in the
first flush, distracted attention from that which is now, in all
civilized countries, simply an axiom of thought, viz., that a
Revelation of God must be embodied in a living authority
safeguarded by God. Further, at that time science and exact
knowledge generally had not reached the point which they reached
a little later - of corroborating in particular after particular,
so far as they are capable of doing so, the Revelation of God
known as Catholicism; and of knowing their limitations where they
cannot. Many sciences, at this time, had gone no further than to
establish certain facts which appeared, to the very imperfectly
educated persons of that period, to challenge and even to refute
certain facts or deductions of Revelation. Psychology, for
example, strange as it now appears in our own day, actually
seemed to afford other explanations of the Universe than that of
Revelation. (We will discuss details presently.) Social Science,
at that time, too, moved in the direction of Democracy and even
Socialism. I know it appears monstrous, and indeed almost
incredible, that men who really had some claim to be called
educated seriously maintained that the most stable and the most
reasonable method of government lay in the extension of the
franchise - that is, in reversing the whole eternal and logical
order of things, and permitting the inexpert to rule the expert,
and the uneducated and the ill-informed to control by their
votes - that is, by sheer weight of numbers - the educated and the
well-informed. Yet such was the case. And the result was - since
all these matters act and react - that the idea of authority from
above in matters of religion was thought to be as 'undemocratic'
as in matters of government and social life. Men had learnt, that
is to say, something of the very real truth in the theory of the
Least Common Multiple, and, as in psychology and many other
sciences, had presumed that the little fragment of truth that
they had perceived was the whole truth."

Mr. Manners paused to draw breath. Obviously he was enjoying
himself enormously. He was a born lecturer, and somehow the rather
pompous sentences were strangely alive and strangely interesting.
Above all, they fascinated and amazed the prelate at the head of
the table, for they revealed to him an advance of thought, and an
assurance in the position they described, that seemed wholly
inexplicable. Such phrases as "all educated men," "the
well-informed," and the rest - these were vaguely familiar to him,
yet surely in a very different connection. He had at the back of
his mind a kind of idea that these were the phrases that the
irreligious or the agnostics applied to themselves; yet here was a
man, obviously a student, and a statesman as he knew, calmly
assuming (scarcely even giving himself the trouble to state) that
all educated and well-informed persons were Catholic Christians!

He settled himself down to listen with renewed interest as Mr.
Manners began once more.

"Well," he said, "to come more directly to our point; let us next
consider what were those steps and processes by which Catholic
truth once more became the religion of the civilized world, as it
had been five centuries earlier.

"And first we must remark that, even at the very beginning of
this century, popular thought - in England as elsewhere - had
retraced its steps so far as to acknowledge that if Christianity
were true - true, really and actually - the Catholic Church was the
only possible embodiment of it. Not only did the shrewdest
agnostic minds of the time acknowledge this - such men as Huxley
in the previous century, Sir Leslie Stephen, Mallock, and scores
of others - but even popular Christianity itself began to turn in
that direction. Of course there were survivals and reactions, as
we should expect. There was a small body of Christians in England
called Anglicans, who attempted to hold another view; there was
that short-lived movement called Modernism, that held yet a third
position. But, for the rest, it was as I say.

"It was the Catholic Church or nothing. And just for a few years
it seemed humanly possible that it might be nothing.

"And now for the causes of the revival.

"Briefly, I should say they were all included under one head - the
correlation of sciences and their coincidence into one point. Let
us take them one by one. We have only time to glance very
superficially at each.

"First there was Psychology.

"Even at the end of the nineteenth century it was beginning to be
perceived that there was an inexplicable force working behind
mere matter. This force was given a number of names - the
'subliminal consciousness,' in man, and 'Nature' in the animal,
vegetable, and even mineral creation; and it gave birth to a
series of absurd superstitions such as that now wholly extinct
sect of the 'Christian Scientists,' or the Mental Healers; and
among the less educated of the Materialists, to Pantheism. But
the force was acknowledged, and it was perceived to move along
definite lines of law. Further, in the great outburst of
Spiritualism it began gradually to be evident to the world that
this force occasionally manifested itself in a personal, though
always a malevolent manner. Now it must be remembered that even
this marked an immense advance in the circles called scientific;
since in the middle of the nineteenth century, even the phenomena
so carefully recorded by the Church were denied. These were now
no longer denied, since phenomena, at least closely resembling
them, were matters of common occurrence under the eyes of the
most sceptical. Of course, since the enquiries were made along
purely 'scientific' lines - lines which in those days were nothing
other than materialistic - an attempt was made to account for the
phenomena by new anti-spiritual theories hastily put together to
meet the emergency. But, little by little, an uneasy sense began
to manifest itself that the Church had already been familiar with
the phenomena for about two thousand years, and that a body,
which had marked and recorded facts with greater accuracy than
all the 'scientists' put together, at least had some claim to
consideration with regard to her hypothesis concerning them.
Further, it began to be seen (what is perfectly familiar to us
all now) that Religion contributed an element which nothing else
could contribute - that, for example, 'Religious Suggestion,' as
it was called in the jargon of the time, could accomplish things
that ordinary 'Suggestion' could not. Finally, the researches of
psychologists into what was then called the phenomenon of
'Alternating Personality' prepared the way for a frank acceptance
of the Catholic teaching concerning Possession and
Exorcism - teaching which half a century before would have been
laughed out of court by all who claimed the name of Scientist.
Psychology then, up to this point, had rediscovered that a Force
was working behind physical phenomena, itself not physical; that
this Force occasionally exhibited characteristics of Personality;
and finally that the despised Catholic Church had been more
scientific than scientists in her observation of facts; and that
this Force, dealt with along Christian lines, could accomplish
what it was unable to accomplish along any other.

"The next advance lay along the lines of Comparative Religion.

"The study of Comparative Religion was practically a new science
at the end of the nineteenth century, and like all new sciences,
claimed at once, before it had constructed its own, to destroy
the schemes of others. For instance, there were actually educated
persons who advanced as an argument against Christianity the fact
that many Christian dogmas and ceremonies were to be found in
other religions. It is extremely difficult for us now, even in
imagination, to sympathize with such a mentality as this; but it
must be remembered that the science was very youthful, and had
all the inexperience and the arrogance of youth. As time went on,
however, this argument began to disappear, except in very
elementary rationalistic manuals, as the fact became evident that
while this or that particular religion had one or more identities
with Christian doctrines, Christianity possessed them all; that
Christianity, in short, had all the principal doctrines of all
religions - or at least all doctrines that were of any strength to
other religions, as well as several others necessary to weld
these detached dogmas into a coherent whole; that, to use a
simple metaphor, Christianity stood in the world like a light
upon a hill, and that partial and imperfect reflections of this
light were thrown back, with more or less clearness, from the
various human systems of belief that surrounded it. And at last
it became evident, even to the most unintelligent, that the only
scientific explanation of this phenomenon lay in the theory that
Christianity was indeed unique, and, at the very least, was the
most perfect human system of faith - perfectly human, I mean, in
that it embodied and answered adequately all the religious
aspirations of the human race - the most perfect system of faith
the world had ever seen.

"A third cause was to be found in the new philosophy of evidence
that began to prevail soon after the dawn of the century.

"Up to that period, so-called Physical Science had so far
tyrannized over men's minds as to persuade them to accept her

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Online LibraryRobert Hugh BensonDawn of All → online text (page 2 of 21)