As he thus spoke, slowly and with an exquisite softness, something in his voice, manner, or words aroused a sudden and violent antipathy in Moretti's mind. He became curiously annoyed, without any possible cause, and out of his annoyance answered roughly.
|Ignorance is always difficult to deal with,| he said, |But if it is not accompanied by self-will or obstinacy -- (and boys of your age are apt to be self-willed and obstinate) -- then much can be done. The Church has infinite patience even with refractory sinners.|
|Has it?| asked Manuel simply, and his clear eyes, turning slowly towards Vergniaud and his son, rested there a moment, and then came back to fix the same steady look upon Moretti's face. Not another word did he say, -- but Moretti flushed darkly, and anon grew very pale. Restraining his emotions however by an effort, he addressed himself with cold formality once more to the Abbe.
|You have no explanation then to offer to His Holiness, beyond what you have already said?|
|None!| replied Vergniaud steadily. |The reasons for my conduct I think are sufficiently vital and earnest to be easily understood.|
|And your Eminence has nothing more to say on this matter?| pursued Moretti, turning to the Cardinal.
|Nothing, my son! But I would urge that the Holy Father should extend his pardon to the offenders, the more so as one of them is on the verge of that land where we 'go hence and are no more seen.'|
Moretti's eyelids quivered, and his lips drew together in a hard and cruel line.
|I will assuredly represent your wishes to His Holiness,| he replied, |But I doubt whether they will meet with so much approval as surprise and regret. I have the honour to wish your Eminence farewell!|
|Farewell, my son!| said the Cardinal mildly, |Benedicite!|
Moretti bent down, as custom forced him to do, under the gently uttered blessing, and the extended thin white hand that signed the cross above him. Then with a furtive under-glance at Manuel, whose quiet and contemplative observation of him greatly vexed and disturbed his composure, he left the room.
There was a short silence. Then Abbe Vergniaud, somewhat hesitatingly, approached Bonpre.
|I much fear, my dear friend, that all this means unpleasantness for you at the Vatican,| he said, |And I sincerely grieve to be the means of bringing you into any trouble.|
|Nay, there should be no trouble,| said Bonpre quietly, |Nothing has happened which should really cause me any perplexity -- on the contrary, events have arranged themselves so that there shall be no obstacle in the way of speaking my mind. I have journeyed far from my diocese to study and to discover for myself the various phases of opinion on religious matters in these days, and I am steadily learning much as I go. I regret nothing, and would have nothing altered, -- for I am perfectly confident that in all the things I meet, or may have to consider, my Master is my Guide. All is well wherever we hear His Voice; -- all things work for the best when we are able to perceive His command clearly, and have strength and resolution enough to forsake our sins and follow Him.|
As he spoke, a tranquil smile brightened his venerable features, and seeing the fine small hand of Manuel resting on his chair, he laid his own wrinkled palm over it and clasped it tenderly. Cyrillon Vergniaud, moved by a quick impulse, suddenly advanced towards him.
|Monseigneur,| he said, with unaffected deference, |You are much more than a Cardinal, -- you are a good and honest man! And that you serve Christ purely is plainly evidenced in your look and bearing. Do me one favour! Extend your pardon to me for my almost committed crime of to-day, -- and give me your blessing! I will try to be worthy of it!|
The Cardinal was silent for a few minutes looking at him earnestly.
|My blessing is of small value,| he said, |And yet I do not think you would ask it for mere mockery of an old man's faith. I should like, -- | here he paused -- then slowly went on again, |I should like to say a few words to you if I might -- to ask you one or two questions concerning yourself -- |
|Ask anything you please, Monseigneur,| replied Cyrillon, |I will answer you frankly and fully. I have never had any mysteries in my life save one, -- that of my birth, which up till to day was a stigma and a drawback; -- but now, I feel I may be proud of my father. A man who sacrifices his entire social reputation and position to make amends for a wrong done to the innocent is worthy of honour.|
|I grant it!| said the Cardinal, |But you yourself -- why have you made a name which is like a firebrand to start a conflagration of discord in Europe? -- why do you use your gifts of language and expression to awaken a national danger which even the strongest Government may find itself unable to stand against? I do not blame you till I hear, -- till I know; -- but your writings, -- your appeals for truth in all things, -- are like loud clarion blasts which may awaken more evil than good.|
|Monseigneur, the evil is not of my making, -- it exists!| replied Cyrillon, |My name, my writings, -- are only as a spark from the huge smouldering fire of religious discontent in the world. If it were not MY name it would be another's. If I did not write or speak, someone else would write and speak -- perhaps better -- perhaps not so well. At any rate I am sincere in my convictions, and write from the fulness of the heart. I do not care for money -- I make none at all by literature, -- but I earn enough by my labour in the fields to keep me in food and lodging. I have no desire for fame, -- except in so far as my name may serve as an encouragement and help to others. If you care to hear my story -- |
|I should appreciate your confidence greatly,| said the Cardinal earnestly, |The Fates have made you a leading spirit of the time, -- it would interest me to know your thoughts and theories. But if you would prefer not to speak -- |
|I generally prefer not to speak,| replied Cyrillon, |But to-day is one of open confession, -- and I think too that it is sometimes advisable for men of the Church to understand and enter into the minds of those who are outside the Church, -- who will have no Church, -- not from disobedience or insubordination, but simply because they do not find God or Christ in that institution as it at present exists. And nowadays we are seeking for God strenuously and passionately! We have found Him too in places where the Church assured us He was not and could not be.|
|Is there any portion of life where God is not?| asked Manuel gently.
Cyrillon's dark eyes softened as he met the boy's glance.
|No, dear child! -- truly there is not, -- but the priests do nothing to maintain or to prove that,| he replied; |and the more the world lifts itself higher and higher into the light, the more we shall perceive God, and the less we will permit anything to intervene between ourselves and Him. But you are too young to understand -- |
|No, not at all too young to understand!| answered Manuel, |Not at all too young to understand that God is love, and pardon, and patience; -- and that wheresoever men are intolerant, uncharitable, and bigoted, there they straightway depart from God and know Him not at all.|
|Truly that is how I understand Christianity,| said Cyrillon, |But for so simple and plain a perception of duty one is called atheist and socialist, and one's opinions are branded as dangerous to the community. Truth is dangerous, I know -- but why?|
|Would that not take a century to explain?| said the silvery voice of the Princesse D'Agramont, who entered with Angela at that moment, and made her deep obeisance before the Cardinal, glancing inquisitively as she did so at Manuel who still stood resting against the prelate's chair, |Pardon our abrupt appearance, Monseigneur, but Angela and I are moved by the spirit of curiosity!- -and if we are swept out of the Church like straws before the wind for our impertinence, we care not! Monsignor Moretti has just left the house, wrapt up in his wrath like a bird of prey in a thunder- cloud, muttering menaces against 'Gys Grandit' the Socialist writer. Now what in the world has Gys Grandit to do with him or with us? Salut, cher Abbe!| -- and she gave Vergniaud her hand with charming friendliness; |I came here really to see you, and place the Chateau D'Agramont at your disposal, while I am away passing the winter in Italy. Pray make yourself at home there -- and your son also . . .|
|Madame,| said the Abbe, profoundly touched by the sincerity of her manner, and by the evident cordiality of her intention, |I thank you from my heart for your friendship at this moment when friendship is most needed! But I feel I ought not to cast the shadow of my presence on your house under such circumstances -- and as for my son -- it would certainly be unwise for you to extend your gracious hospitality to him . . . he is my son -- yes truly! -- and I acknowledge him as such; but he is also another person of his own making -- Gys Grandit!|
Angela Sovrani gave a slight cry, and a wave of colour flushed her face, -- the Princesse stood amazed.
|Gys Grandit!| she echoed in a low tone, |And Vergniaud's son! Grand Dieu! Is it possible!| Then advancing, she extended both her hands to Cyrillon, |Monsieur, accept my homage! You have a supreme genius, -- and with it you command more than one-half of the thoughts of France!|
Cyrillon took her hands, -- lightly pressed, and released them.
|Madame, you are too generous!|
But even while he exchanged these courtesies with her, his eyes were fixed on Angela Sovrani, who, moving close to her uncle's chair, had folded her hands upon its sculptured edge and now stood beside it, a graceful nymph-like figure of statuesque repose. But her breath came and went quickly, and her face was very pale.
|No wonder Monsignor Moretti was so exceedingly angry,| resumed the Princesse D'Agramont with a smile, |I understand the position now. It is a truly remarkable one. Monseigneur,| this with a profound reverence to the Cardinal, |you have found it difficult to be umpire in the discussion.|
|The discussion was not mine,| said the Cardinal slowly, |But the cause of the trouble is a point which affects many, -- and I am one of those who desire to hear all before I presume to judge one. I have asked the son of my old friend Vergniaud to tell me what led him to make his assumed name one of such terror and confusion in the world; he is but six-and-twenty, and yet . . .|
|And yet people talk much of me you would say, Monseigneur,| said Cyrillon, a touch of scorn lighting up his fine eyes, |True, and it is easy to be talked of. That is nothing, I do not wish for that, except in so far as it helps me to attain my ambition.|
|And that ambition is?| queried the Princesse.
|To lead!| answered Cyrillon with a passionate gesture, |To gather the straying thoughts of men into one burning focus -- and turn THAT fire on the world!|
They were all silent for a minute -- then the Princesse D'Agramont spoke again --
|But -- Pardon me! Then you were about to destroy all your own chances of the future in your wild impulse of this morning?|
|Oh, Madame, it was no wild impulse! When a man takes an oath by the side of a dead woman, and that woman his mother, he generally means to keep it! And I most resolutely meant to kill my father and make of myself a parricide. But I considered my mother had been murdered too -- socially and morally -- and I judged my vengeance just. If it had not been for the boy there -- | and he glanced at Manuel, |I should certainly have fulfilled my intention.|
|And then there would have been no Abbe Vergniaud, and no 'Gys Grandit,'| said the Princesse lightly, endeavouring to change the sombre tone of the conversation, -- |and the 'Christian Democratic' party would have been in sackcloth and ashes!|
|The Christian Democratic party!| echoed the Cardinal, |What do they mean? What do they want?|
|Christianity, Monseigneur! That is all!| replied Cyrillon, |All -- but so much! You asked me for my history -- will you hear it now?|
There was an immediate murmur of assent, and the group around Cardinal Bonpre were soon seated -- all save Manuel, who remained standing. Angela sat on a cushion at her uncle's feet, and her deep violet eyes were full of an eager, almost feverish interest which she could scarcely conceal; and the Abbe Vergniaud, vitally and painfully concerned as he was in the narrative about to be told, could not help looking at her, and wondering at the extraordinary light and beauty of her face thus transfigured by an excitation of thought. Was she a secret follower of his son's theories, he wondered? Composing himself in his chair, he sat with bent head, marvelling as he heard the story of the bold and fearless and philosophic life that had sprung into the world all out of his summer's romance with a little innocent girl, whom he had found praying to her guardian angel.
|It is not always ourselves,| began Cyrillon in his slow, emphatic, yet musical voice, |who are responsible for the good or the evil we may do in our lives. Much of our character is formed by the earliest impressions of childhood -- and my earliest impressions were those of sorrow. I started life with the pulse of my mother's broken heart beating in me, -- hence my thoughts were sombre, and of an altogether unnatural character to a child of tender years. We lived -- my mother and I -- in a small cottage on the edge of a meadow outside the quaint old city of Tours -- a meadow, full at all seasons, of the loveliest wild flowers, but sweetest in the springtime when the narcissi bloomed, lifting their thousand cups of sweet perfume like incense to the sky. I used to sit among their cool green stems, -- thinking many thoughts, chief among which was a wonder why God had made my little mother so unhappy. I heard afterwards that God was not to blame, -- only man, breaking God's laws of equity. She was a good brave woman, for despite her loneliness and tears, she worked hard;- -worked to send me to school, and to teach me all she herself knew -- which was little enough, poor soul, -- but she studied in order to instruct me, -- and often when I slept the unconscious sleep of healthy childhood, she was up through half the night spelling out abstruse books, difficult enough for an educated woman to master, but for a peasant -- (she was nothing more) -- presenting almost superhuman obstacles. I was very quick to learn, and her loving patience was not wasted upon me; -- but when I was about eleven years old I resolved that I could no longer burden her with the expenses of my life -- so without asking her consent, I hired myself out to a farmer, to clear weeds from his fields, and so began to earn my bread, which is the best and noblest form of knowledge existing in the world for all of us. With the earning of my body's keep came spiritual independence, and young as I was I began to read and consider for myself -- till when I was about fifteen chance brought me across the path of a man whose example inspired me and decided my fate, named Aubrey Leigh.|
Angela gave a slight exclamation of surprise, and Cyrillon turned his dark eyes upon her.
|Yes, mademoiselle! -- I am aware that he has been in Paris lately. No doubt you know him. Certainly he is born to be a leader of men, and if a noble life and unsullied character, together with eloquence, determination, and steadfastness of purpose can help him to fulfil his mission, he will assuredly succeed. He is from America, though born of British parents, and the first thing I gathered from him was an overwhelming desire to study and to master the English language -- not because it was English, but because it was the universal language spoken by America. I felt from what he said then, -- and I feel still from what I have learnt and know now, -- that America has all the future in the hollow of her hand. My intention, had I succeeded in my revengeful attempt this morning, was to escape to America immediately, and from there write under the nom de plume which I have already made known. I can write as easily in English as in French, -- for my friend Aubrey Leigh was very kind and took a great liking to me, and stayed in Touraine for a year and a half, simply for the pleasure of instructing me and grafting his theories upon my young and aspiring mind. And now we are as one in our hopes and endeavours, and the years make little disparity between us. He was twenty-two when I was but fifteen, -- but now that I am twenty-six and he thirty-three we are far better matched associates. From him I learnt much of the discontents, -- ethical and religious, -- of the world; from him I learnt how to speak in public. He was then an actor, a sort of wandering 'Bohemian,' -- but he soon tired of the sordidness of the stage and aspired to higher platforms of work, and he had already begun to lead the people by his powers of oratory, as he leads them now. I heard him speak in French as fluently as in English; and I resolved on my part to speak likewise in English as easily as he did in French. And when we parted it was with a mutual resolve TO LEAD! -- to lead -- and ever still to lead! -- we would starve on our theories, we said, but we would speak out if it cost us our very lives. To earn daily bread I managed to obtain steady employment as a labourer in the fields, -- and I soon gained sufficient to keep my mother and myself. My friend Aubrey had imbued me thoroughly with the love of incessant hard work; there was no disgrace, he said, in digging the soil, if the brain were kept working as well as the hands. And I did keep my brain working; I allowed it also to lie fallow, and to absorb everything of nature that was complex, grand and beautiful, -- and from such studies I learnt the goodness and the majesty of the Creator as they are never found in human expositions of Him made by the preachers of creeds. At eighteen I made my first public address, -- and the next year published my first book in Tours. But though I won an instant success my soul was hampered and heavy with the burning thought of vengeance; and this thought greatly hindered the true conceptions of life that I desired to entertain. When my mother died, and her failing voice crooned for the last time, 'Ah, la tristesse d'avoir aime!' the spark of hatred I had cherished all the years of my life for my father burst into a flame, and leapt up to its final height this morning as you saw. Now it has gone out into dust and ashes -- the way of all such flames! I have been spared for better things I hope. What I have written and done, France knows, -- but my thoughts are not limited to France, they seek a wider horizon. France is a decaying nation -- her doom is sealed. I work and write for the To-Be, not the Has-Been. Such as my life is, it has never been darkened or brightened by love of any sort, save that which my mother gave me. Your Eminence,| and he turned towards the Cardinal, |asks me why I inculcate theories which suggest change, terror and confusion; -- Monseigneur, terror and confusion can never be caused save among the ranks of those who have secret reason to be terrorised! There is nothing terrifying in Truth to those who are true! If I distract and alarm unworthy societies, revolting hypocrism, established shams and miserable conventions, I am only the wielder of the broom that sweeps out the cobwebs and the dust from a dirty house. My one desire is to make the habitation of Christian souls clean! Terror and confusion there will be, -- there must be; -- the time is ripe for it -- none of us can escape it -- it is the prophesied period of 'men's hearts failing them for fear, and looking after those things which are coming on the earth.' I have not made the time. I am born OF it- -one WITH it; -- God arranges these things. I am not working for self or for money, -- I can live on bread and herbs and water. I want no luxurious surroundings, -- no softnesses -- no delicacies -- no tendernesses -- no sympathies! I set my face forward in the teeth of a thousand winds of opposition, forward still forward! I seek nothing for my own personal needs! I know that nothing can hinder me or keep me back! Nothing! Monseigneur, I voice the cry of multitudes! -- they have, as it were, been wandering in the wilderness listening to the Gospel for many days, -- days which have accumulated to more than eighteen hundred years; just as they did of old, -- only the Master did not send them away hungry -- He fed them lest they should 'faint by the way.' He thought of that possibility! -- we seldom care how many faint by the way, or die in the effort to live! Monseigneur, I must -- I will speak for the dumb mouths of the nations! And every unit that can so speak, or can so write, should hasten to turn itself into a Pentecostal flame of fire to blaze and burn a warning upon the verge of this new century, -- causing men to prophesy with divers tongues, of the Truth of God, -- not of the lies that have been made to represent Him!|
Felix Bonpre raised one hand with a slight gesture enjoining silence, and seemed wrapped for a moment in painful meditation. Angela looking anxiously up at him caught, not his glance, but that of Manuel, who smiled at her encouragingly. Presently the Cardinal spoke, -- gently and with a kind of austere patience.
|Am I to understand from your speech, my son, and the work of your life, that you consider the Church a lie? I put the question plainly; but I do not ask it either to reproach or intimidate you. I am well aware I can do neither. Thought is free to the individual as well as to the nations; and whereas, in past time we had one man who could think and speak, we have now a thousand! We are unfortunately apt to forget the spread of education; -- but a man who thinks as you do, and dares all things for the right to act upon his thought, should surely be able to clearly explain his reasons for arming himself against any outwardly expressed form of faith, which has received the acceptance and submission of the world?|
|Monseigneur, I do not attack any faith! Faith is necessary, -- faith is superb! I honour this uplifting virtue, -- whether I find it in the followers of the Talmud or the Koran, or the New Testament, and, personally speaking, I would die for my belief in the great name and ethical teaching of Christ. I attack the Church -- yes, -- and why? Because it has departed from the Faith! Because it is a mere system now, -- corrupt in many parts, as all systems must naturally become when worn out by long usage. In many ways it favours stupid idolatries, and in others it remains deaf and blind and impervious to the approach of great spiritual and religious facts, which are being made splendidly manifest by Science. Why, there is not a miracle in the Testament that science will not make possible! -- there is not a word Christ ever spoke that shall not be proved true! And may I not be called a Christian? I may, -- I must, -- I will be, -- for I am! But hypocrisy, false measures, perverted aims, and low pandering to ignorance and brutality, vile superstition and intimidation -- these things must be destroyed if the Church is to last with honour to itself and with usefulness to others. To-day, over in England, they are quarrelling with bitter acrimony concerning forms and outward symbols of religion, thus fulfilling the words of the Lord, 'Ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter but within ye are full of extortion and excess.' Now, if the Spirit of Christ were at all in these men who thus argue, there would be no trouble about forms or symbols of faith, -- there would be too much of the faith itself for any such petty disputation. Monseigneur, I swear to you, I say nothing, teach nothing but what is the straight and true command of Christ! . . . no more, but also no less!|
Moved by the young man's eloquence, the Cardinal looked at him straightly in the eyes.
|You speak well,| he said, |Some people would tell you that you have that fluency of tongue which is judged dangerous. But danger is after all only for those who have something to fear. If we of the Church are pure in our intent nothing should disturb our peace, -- nothing should move us from our anchorage. Your ideas, you say, are founded on the Master's Word?|
|Entirely,| replied Cyrillon, |I am working, -- Aubrey Leigh is working, -- we are all working for a House of Praise more than a Place of Prayer. We want to give thanks for what we are, and what, if we follow the sane and healthy laws of life, we may be, -- rather than continue the clamour for more benefits when we have already received, and are receiving so much.|
|Would you not pray at all then?| asked Bonpre.
|Yes -- for others, not for ourselves! And then not as the Church prays. Her form of service is direct disobedience!|
|In what way?|
|Monseigneur, I always preface my remarks on these subjects with the words 'IF we believe in Christ.' I say IF we believe, we must accept His commands; and they are plain enough. 'WHEN YE PRAY, USE NOT VAIN REPETITIONS AS THE HEATHEN DO, FOR THEY THINK THEY SHALL BE HEARD FOR THEIR MUCH SPEAKING. BE NOT YE THEREFORE LIKE UNTO THEM, FOR YOUR FATHER KNOWETH WHAT THINGS YE HAVE NEED OF BEFORE YE ASK HIM.' Now if this is to be understood as the command of Christ, the Messenger of God, do we not deliberately act against it in all directions? Vain repetitions! The Church is full of them, -- choked with them! The priests who order us to say ten or twenty 'Paternosters' by way of penance, are telling us to do exactly what Christ commanded us not to do! The terrible Litany of the Protestant Church, with its everlasting 'Good Lord deliver us,' is another example of vain repetition. Again -- think of these words -- 'When thou prayest, thou shalt NOT BE AS THE HYPOCRITES ARE, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues, and at the corners of the streets THAT THEY MAY BE SEEN OF MEN.' Is not all our churchgoing that we may be seen of men?|
|Then, my son, it seems that you would do away with the Church altogether in the extremity of your zeal!| said the Cardinal gently, |There must surely be some outward seeming -- some city set on a hill whose light cannot be hid -- some visible sign of Christ among us -- |
|True, Monseigneur, but such a sign must be of so brilliant and pure a nature, -- so grand an uplifted Cross of unsullied light that it shall be as the sun rising out of darkness! Oh, I would have churches built gloriously, with every possible line of beauty and curve of perfect architecture in their fabrication; -- but I would have no idolatrous emblems, -- no superstitious ceremonies within them, -- no tawdry reliquaries of gems -- no boast of the world's wealth at all; but great Art, -- the result of man's great Thought rendered and given with pure simplicity! I would have great music, -- and more than all I would have thanksgiving always! And if valuables were brought to the altar for gifts, the gifts should be given out again to those in need-not kept, -- not left untouched like a miser's useless hoard, while one poor soul was starving!|
|My son, such a scheme of purification as yours will take centuries to accomplish,| murmured Bonpre slowly, |Almost it would need Christ to come again!|
|And who shall say He will not come!| exclaimed Cyrillon fervently, |Who shall swear He is not even now among us! Has he not told us all to 'watch,' because we know not the hour at which He cometh? No, Monseigneur! -- centuries are not needed for Truth to make itself manifest nowadays! We hold Science by the hand, -- she is becoming our familiar friend and companion, and through her guidance we have learned that the Laws of the Universe are Truth, -- Truth which cannot be contradicted; and that only the things which move and work in harmony with those laws can last. All else must perish! 'WHOSOEVER IS NOT WITH ME IS AGAINST ME' -- or in other words, whosoever opposes himself to Eternal Laws must be against the whole system of the Universe. and is therefore a discord which is bound to be silenced. Monseigneur, Christ was a Divine Preacher of Truth; -- and I, in my humble man's way endeavour to follow Truth. And if I ever fail now, after to-day's attempted crime, to honour the commands of Christ, and obey them as closely as I can, then pass your condemnation upon me, but not till then! Meanwhile, give me a good man's blessing!|
Deeply interested as he was, the Cardinal nevertheless still hesitated. To him, though the sayings and opinions of the famous |Gys Grandit| were not exactly new, there was something terrible in hearing him utter them with such bold and trenchant meaning. He sighed, and appeared lost in thought; till Manuel touched him gently on the arm.
|Dear friend, are you afraid to bless this man who loves our Father?|
|Afraid? My child, I am afraid of nothing -- but there is grave trouble in my heart -- |
|Nay, trouble should never enter there!| said Manuel softly, |Stretch out your hand! -- let no human soul wait for a benediction!|
Profoundly moved, the Cardinal obeyed, and laid his white trembling hand on Cyrillon's bent head.
|May God forgive thee the intention of thy sin today!| he said, in a low and solemn tone -- |May Christ guide thee out of all evil, and lead thee through the wildness of the world to Heaven's own peace, which passeth understanding!|
So gentle, so brave, so sweet and tender were the accents in which he spoke these few simple works, that the tears filled Angela's eyes, and Abbe Vergniaud, resting his head on one hand, felt a strange contraction in his throat, and began to think of possible happy days yet to be passed perchance in seclusion with this long- denied son of his, who had sprung out of the secret ways of love, first to slay and then to redeem him. Could there be a more plain and exact measuring out of law? If he had not confessed his sin he would have probably died in it suddenly without a chance of amendment or repentance -- but lo! -- on confession, his life had been saved as if by a miracle, and the very result of evil had been transformed into consolation! So he sat absorbed, wondering -- musing- -and while the Cardinal spoke his blessing with closed eyes, all heads were bent, and faces hidden. And in the reverent silence that followed, the gentle prelate gave a sign of kind dismissal and farewell to all, which they, understanding, accepted, and at once made their brief adieuxthe Abbe Vergniaud only lingering a moment longer than the rest, to bend humbly down and kiss his Apostolic ring. Then they left him, alone with Manual.
On their way out of the house, through Angela's studio, the Princesse D'Agramont paused for a few minutes to say further kind words to the Abbe respecting the invitation she had given him to her Chateau -- , and while she was thus engaged, Angela turned hurriedly to Cyrillon.
|As 'Gys Grandit' you receive many letters from strangers, do you not?|
The young man regarded her earnestly, with unconcealed admiration glowing in his fine eyes.
|Assuredly, Mademoiselle! And some of these letters are very dear to me, because they make me aware of friends I might otherwise never have known.|
|You have one correspondent who is deeply interested in your theories, and who sympathises keenly in all your religious views -- | she went on, lowering her eyes -- |a certain Madame Angele -- |
He uttered a quick exclamation of pleasure.
|You know her?|
She looked up, -- her eyes sparkled -- and she laid a finger on her lips.
|Keep my secret!| she said -- |I am so glad to meet you personally at last!|
He stared, bewildered.
|You -- you . . . !|
|Yes. I!| and she smiled -- |The mysterious and Christian-Democratic 'Angele' is Angela Sovrani. So you see we have been unconscious friends for some time!|
His face grew radiant, and he made a quick movement towards her.
|Then I owe you a great debt of gratitude!| he said -- |For encouragement -- for sympathy -- for help in dark hours! -- and how unworthy I have proved of your goodness . . . what must you think of me -- you -- so beautiful -- so good -- |
She moved back a little with a warning gesture -- and his words were interrupted by the Abbe, who glancing from one to the other in a little surprise, said, as he bent reverently over her hand and kissed it, --
|We must be going, Cyrillon!|
Another few moments and Angela was left alone to think over, and try to realise the strange and rapidly-occurring events of the day. Whatever her thoughts were they seemed for a long time to be of a somewhat April-like character, for her eyes brimmed over with tears even while she smiled.