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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : XXXVIII. With the entry of Angela's great picture |The Coming of Christ| into Londonà

The Master-christian by Marie Corelli

XXXVIII. With the entry of Angela's great picture |The Coming of Christ| into Londonà

With the entry of Angela's great picture |The Coming of Christ| into London, where it became at once the centre of admiration, contention and general discussion, one of the most singular |religious| marriage ceremonies ever known, took place in a dreary out-lying district of the metropolis, where none but the poorest of the poor dwell, working from dawn till night for the merest pittance which scarcely pays them for food and lodging. It was one of Aubrey Leigh's |centres,| and to serve his needs for a church he had purchased a large wooden structure previously used for the storing of damaged mechanical appliances, such as worn-out locomotives, old railway carriages, and every kind of lumber that could possibly accumulate anywhere in a dock or an engine yard. The building held from three to four thousand people closely packed, and when Leigh had secured it for his own, he was as jubilant over his possession as if the whole continent of Europe had subscribed to build him a cathedral. He had the roof mended and made rainproof, and the ground planked over to make a decent flooring, -- then he had it painted inside a dark oak colour, and furnished it with rows of benches. At the upper end a raised platform was erected, and in the centre of that platform stood a simple Cross of roughly carved dark wood, some twelve or fifteen feet in height. There was no other adornment in the building, -- the walls remained bare, the floor unmatted, the seats uncushioned. No subscriptions were asked for its maintenance; no collection plate was ever sent around, yet here, whenever Leigh announced a coming |Address,| so vast a crowd assembled that it was impossible to find room for all who sought admittance. And here, on one cold frosty Sunday morning, with the sun shining brightly through the little panes of common glass which had been inserted to serve as windows, he walked through a densely packed and expectant throng of poor, ill-clad, work-worn, yet evidently earnest and reverent men and women, leading his fair wife Sylvie, clad in bridal white, by the hand, up to the platform, and there stood facing the crowd. He was followed by Cardinal Bonpre and -- Manuel. The Cardinal wore no outward sign of his ecclesiastical dignity, -- he was simply attired in an ordinary priest's surtout, and his tall dignified figure, his fine thoughtful face and his reverend age, won for him silent looks of admiration and respect from many who knew nothing of him or of the Church to which he belonged, but simply looked upon him as a friend of their idolized teacher, Aubrey Leigh. Manuel passed through the crowd almost unnoticed, and it was only when he stood near the Cross, looking down upon the upturned thousands of faces, that a few remarked his presence. The people had assembled in full force on this occasion, an invitation having gone forth in Leigh's name asking them |to be witnesses of his marriage,| and the excitement was intense, as Sylvie, veiled as a bride, obeyed the gentle signal of her husband, and took her seat on the platform by the side of the Cardinal on the left hand of the great Cross, against which Manuel leaned lightly like a child who is not conscious of observation, but who simply takes the position which seems to him most natural. And when the subdued murmuring of the crowd had died into comparative silence, Aubrey, advancing a little to the front of the Cross, spoke in clear ringing tones, which carried music to the ears and conviction to the heart.

|My friends! I have asked you all here in your thousands, to witness the most sacred act of my human life -- my marriage! By the law of this realm, -- by the law of America, the country of my birth, -- that marriage is already completed and justified, -- but no 'religious' ceremony has yet been performed between myself and her whom I am proud and grateful to call wife. To my mind however, a 'religious' ceremony is necessary, and I have chosen to hold it here, -- with you who have listened to me in this place many and many a time, -- with you as witnesses to the oath of fidelity and love I am about to take in the presence of God! There is no clergyman present -- no one to my knowledge of any Church denomination except a Cardinal of the Church of Rome who is my guest and friend, but who takes no part in the proceedings. The Cross alone stands before you as the symbol of the Christian faith, -- and what I swear by that symbol means for me a vow that shall not be broken either in this world, or in the world to come! I need scarcely tell you that this is not the usual meaning of marriage in our England of to-day. There is much blasphemy in the world, but one of the greatest blasphemies of the age is the degradation of the sacrament of matrimony, -- the bland tolerance with which an ordained priest of Christ presumes to invoke the blessing of God upon a marriage between persons whom he knows are utterly unsuited to each other in every way, who are not drawn together by love, but only by worldly considerations of position and fortune. I have seen these marriages consummated. I have seen the horrible and often tragic results of such unholy union. I have known of cases where a man, recognized as a social blackguard of the worst type, whose ways of life are too odious to be named, has been accepted as a fitting mate for a young innocent girl just out of school, because he is a Lord or a Duke or an Earl. Anything for money! Anything for the right to stand up and crow over your neighbours! When an inexperienced girl or woman is united for life to a loathsome blackguard, an open sensualist, a creature far lower than the beasts, yet possessed of millions, she is 'congratulated' as being specially to be envied, when as a matter of strict honesty, it would be better if she were in her grave. The prayers and invocations pronounced at such marriages are not 'religious,' -- they are mere profanity! The priest who says 'Those whom God hath joined together let no man put asunder,' over such immoral wedlock, is guilty of a worse sacrilege than if he trampled on the bread and wine of Christ's Communion! For marriage was not intended to be a mere union of bodies, -- but a union of souls. It is the most sacred bond of humanity. From the love which has created that bond, is born new life, -- life which shall be good or evil according to the spirit in which husband and wife are wedded. 'The sins of the fathers shall be visited on the children,' -- and the first and greatest sin is bodily union without soul-love. It is merely a form of animal desire, -- and from desire alone no good or lofty thing can spring. We are not made to be 'as the beasts that perish' -- though materialists and sensualists delight in asserting such to be our destiny, in order to have ground whereon to practise their own vices. This planet, the earth, is set under our dominion; the beasts are ours to control, -- they do not control us. Our position therefore is one of supremacy. Let us not voluntarily fall from that position to one even lower than the level of beasts! The bull, the goat, the pig, are moved by animal desire alone to perpetuate their kind -- but we, -- we have a grander mission to accomplish than theirs -- we in our union are not only responsible for the Body of the next generation to come, but for the brain, the heart, the mind, and above all the Soul! If we wed in sin, our children must be born in sin. If we make our marriages for worldly advantage, vanity, blind desire, or personal convenience, our children will be moulded on those passions, and grow up to be curses to the world they live in. Love, and love only of the purest, truest, and highest kind, must be the foundation of the marriage Sacrament, -- love that is prepared to endure all the changes of fate and fortune -- love that is happy in working and suffering for the thing beloved -- love that counts nothing a hardship, -- neither sickness, nor sorrow, nor poverty, provided it can keep its faith unbroken!|

He paused -- there was a slight stir among the audience, but otherwise not a sound. Sylvie sat quiet, a graceful, nymph-like figure, veiled in her cloudy white -- Cardinal Bonpre's mild blue eyes raised to the speaker's face, were full of rapt attention -- and Manuel still leaning against the great Cross seemed absorbed in dreamy and beautiful thoughts of his own.

|I should like,| went on Aubrey with increasing warmth and passion, |to tell you what I mean by 'faith unbroken.' It is the highest form of love, -- the only firm rock of friendship. It leaves no room for suspicion, -- no place for argument -- no cause for contradiction. It is the true meaning of the wedding-ring. Apart from marriage altogether, it is the only principle that can finally civilize and elevate man. So long as we doubt God and mistrust our fellows, so long must corruption sway business, and wars move nations. The man who gives us cause to suspect his honesty, -- the man who forces us to realize the existence of treachery, is a worse murderer than he who stabs us bodily to death; for he has tainted our soul; he has pushed us back many steps on our journey Godward, and has made us wonder and question whether in truth a God can exist who tolerates in His universe such a living lie! It is only when we have to contemplate a broken faith that we doubt God! For a broken faith is an abnormal prodigy in the natural scheme of the universe -- a discord in the eternal music of the stars! There are no treacheries, no falsifying of accounts, in the Divine order of the Law. The sun does not fail to rise each morning, whether clouds obscure the sky or not, -- the moon appears at her stated seasons and performs her silver-footed pilgrimage faithfully to time -- the stars move with precision in their courses, -- and so true are they to their ordainment, that we are able to predict the manner in which they will group themselves and shine, years after we have passed away. In the world of Nature the leaves bud, and the birds nest at the coming of Spring; the roses bloom in Summer -- the harvest is gathered in Autumn, -- the whole marvellous system moves like a grand timepiece whose hands are never awry, whose chimes never fail to ring the exact hour, -- and in all the splendour of God's gifts to us there is no such thing as a broken faith! Only we, -- we, the creatures He has endowed with 'His own image,' -- Free-will, -- break our faith with Him and with each other. And so we come to mischief, inasmuch as broken faith is no part of God's Intention. And when two persons, man and woman, swear to be true to each other before God, so long as life shall last, and afterwards break that vow, confusion and chaos result from their perjury, and all the pestilential furies attending on a wrong deed whip them to their graves! In these times of ours, when wars and rumours of wars shake the lethargic souls of too-exultant politicians and statesmen with anxiety for themselves if not for their country, we hear every day of men and women breaking their marriage vows as lightly as though God were not existent, -- we read of princes whose low amours are a disgrace to the world -- of dukes and earls who tolerate the unchastity of their wives in order that they themselves may have the more freedom, -- of men of title and position who even sell their wives to their friends in order to secure some much-needed cash or social advantage, -- and while our law is busy night and day covering up 'aristocratic' crimes from publicity, and showing forth the far smaller sins of hard-working poverty, God's law is at work in a totally different way. The human judge may excuse a king's vices, -- but before God there are neither kings nor commoners, and punishment falls where it is due! Christ taught us that the greatest crime is treachery, for of Judas He said 'it were better for that man that he had never been born,' and for the traitor and perjurer death is not the end, but the beginning, of evils. Against the man who accepts the life of a woman given to him in trust and love, and then betrays that life to misery, all Nature arrays itself in opposition and disaster. We, as observers of the great Play of human existence, may not at once see, among the numerous shifting scenes, where the evil-doer is punished, or the good man rewarded, -- but wait till the end! -- till the drop-curtain falls -- and we shall see that there is no mistake in God's plan -- no loophole left for breaking faith even with a child, -- no 'permit' existing anywhere to destroy the life of the soul by so much as one false or cruel word! It is with a deep sense of the exact balance of God's justice, that I stand before you to-day, my friends, and ask you without any accepted ritual or ceremonial to hear my vows of marriage. She to whom I pledge my word and life, is one who in the world's eyes is accounted great, because rich in this world's goods, -- but her wealth has no attraction for me, and for my own self I would rather she had been poor. Nevertheless, were she even greater than she is, -- a crowned queen with many kingdoms under her control, and I but the poorest of her servants, nothing could undo the love we have for each other, -- nothing could keep our lives asunder! Love and love only is our bond of union -- sympathy of mind and heart and spirit; wealth and rank would have been but causes of division between us if love had not been greater. The world will tell you differently -- the world will say that I have married for money -- but you who know me better than the world, will feel by my very words addressed to you to-day that my marriage is a true marriage, in which no grosser element than love can enter. My wife's wealth remains her own -- settled upon her absolutely and always, and I am personally as poor as when I first came among you and proved to you that hard work was a familiar friend. But I am rich in the possession of the helpmate God has given me, and with the utmost gratitude and humility I ask you to bear witness to the fact that this day before you and in the presence of the symbol of the Christian faith, I take my oath to be true to her and only her while life shall last!|

Here going to where Sylvie stood, he took her by the hand, and led her to the front of the platform. Then he turned again to his eager and expectant audience.

|In your presence, my friends, and in the presence of God and before the Cross, I take Sylvie Hermenstein to be my wedded wife! I swear to devote myself to her, body and soul, -- to cherish her first and last of all human creatures, -- to be true to her in thought, word and deed, -- to care for her in sickness as in health, in age as in youth, -- to honour her as my chiefest good, -- and to die faithful to her in this world, -- hoping by the mercy of God to complete a more perfect union with her in the world to come! In the name of Christ, Amen!|

And then Sylvie threw back her veil and turned her enchanting face upon the crowd, -- a face fairer than ever, irradiated by the love and truth of her soul, -- and the people gazed and wondered, and wondering held their breath as her clear accents rang through the silence.

|In your presence, and in the presence of God and before the Cross, I take Aubrey Leigh to be my wedded husband! I swear to devote myself to him body and soul, to cherish him first and last of all human creatures, -- to be true to him in thought, word and deed, -- to care for him in sickness as in health, in age as in youth, -- to honour him as my chiefest good, -- and to die faithful to him in this world, -- praying God in His mercy to complete a more perfect union with him in the world to come. In the name of Christ, Amen!|

Then Aubrey, taking his wife's hand, placed for the first time on her finger the golden wedding-ring.

|In the presence of you all, before God, I place this ring upon my wife's hand as a symbol of unbreaking faith and loyalty! I pledge my life to hers; and promise to defend her from all evil, to shelter her, to work for her, and to guard her with such tenderness as shall not fail! I swear my faith; and may God forsake me if I break my vow!|

And Sylvie without hesitation, responded in her sweet clear voice.

|In the presence of you all, before God, I take this ring and wear it as a symbol of my husband's trust in me, and a token of his love! I pledge my life to his; and promise to uphold the honour of his name, -- to obey him in every just and rightful wish, -- to defend his actions, -- to guard his home in peace and good report, -- and to surround him with such tenderness as shall not fail! I swear my faith; and may God forsake me if I break my vow!|

There followed a deep and almost breathless silence. Then Aubrey spoke once more, standing before the throng with Sylvie by his side and her hand clasped in his.

|I thank you all, my friends! Strange and unlike all marriage ceremonies as ours is to-day, I feel that it is a sacred and a binding one! Your thousands of eyes and ears have heard and seen us swear our marriage vows -- your thousands of hearts and minds have understood the spirit in which we accept this solemn sacrament! I will ask you before we go, to kneel down with us and repeat 'The Prayer of Heart-searching' which I have said with you so often, and to then quietly disperse.|

In one moment the vast crowd was kneeling, and Cardinal Bonpre's aged eyes filled with tears of emotion as he saw all these human beings, moved by one great wave of sympathy, prostrate themselves before the simple Cross where the wedded lovers knelt also, and where Manuel alone stood, like one who is too sure of God to need the help of prayer.

And Aubrey, thrilled to the heart by the consciousness that all the members of that huge congregation were with him in his ideal dream of Christian Union, offered up this supplication --

|All-powerful God! Most loving and beneficent Creator of the Universe! We Thy creatures, who partake with Thee the endowment of immortality, now beseech Thee to look upon us here, kneeling in adoration before Thee! Search our hearts and souls with the light of Thy revealing Holy Spirit, and see if in any of us there is concealed an unworthy thought, or doubt, or distrust, or scorn of Thy unfailing goodness! We ask Thee to discover our sins and imperfections to ourselves, and so instruct us as to what is displeasing to Thee, that we may remedy these wilful blots upon Thy fair intention. Give us the force and fervour, the wisdom and truth, to find and follow the way Thou wouldst have us go, -- and if our strength should fail, constrain us, oh God, to come to Thee, whether we learn by sorrow or joy, by punishment or pity; -- constrain us, so that we may find Thee, whatever else we lose! Let the great searchlight of Thy truth be turned upon the secret motives of our hearts and minds, and if there be one of us in whom such motives be found false, impure, cruel or cowardly, then let Thy just wrath fall upon the misguided creature of Thy love, and teach him or her, obedience and repentance! We pray that Thou wilt punish us, oh God, when we have sinned, that we may know wherein we have offended our dear Father; -- and equally, when we have sought to serve Thee faithfully, may we receive Thy blessing! Make us one with Thee in Thy perfect plan of good; teach us how to work Thy will in the fulfilment of peace and joy; make our lives of use to this world, and our deaths gain to the next, and let the glory of Thy love encompass us, guide us, and defend us now and forever, through Christ our Lord, Amen.|

After he had ceased, there was a deep silence for many minutes, then all the people as if moved by one impulse, rose from their knees, and standing, sang the following stanzas, which Aubrey had taught them when he first began to preach among them his ideals of love and labour.

If thou'rt a Christian in deed and thought,
Loving thy neighbour as Jesus taught, --
Living all days in the sight of Heaven,
And not ONE only out of seven, --
Sharing thy wealth with the suffering poor,
Helping all sorrow that Hope can cure, --
Making religion a truth in the heart,
And not a cloak to be worn in the mart,
Or in high cathedrals and chapels and fanes,
Where priests are traders and count the gains, --
All God's angels will say, |Well done!|
Whenever thy mortal race is run.
White and forgiven,
Thou'lt enter heaven,
And pass, unchallenged, the Golden Gate,
Where welcoming spirits watch and wait
To hail thy coming with sweet accord
To the Holy City of God the Lord!

If Peace is thy prompter, and Love is thy guide,
And white-robed Charity walks by thy side, --
If thou tellest the truth without oath to bind,
Doing thy duty to all mankind, --
Raising the lowly, cheering the sad,
Finding some goodness e'en in the bad,
And owning with sadness if badness there be,
There might have been badness in thine and in thee, If Conscience the warder that keeps thee whole
Had uttered no voice to thy slumbering soul, --
All God's angels will say, |Well done!|
Whenever thy mortal race is run.
White and forgiven,
Thou'lt enter heaven,
And pass, unchallenged, the Golden Gate,
Where welcoming spirits watch and wait
To hail thy coming with sweet accord
To the Holy City of God the Lord!

If thou art humble, and wilt not scorn.
However wretched, a brother forlorn, --
If thy purse is open to misery's call,
And the God thou lovest is God of all,
Whatever their colour, clime or creed,
Blood of thy blood, in their sorest need, --
If every cause that is good and true,
And needs assistance to dare and do,
Thou helpest on through good and ill,
With trust in Heaven, and God's good will, --
All God's angels will say, |Well done!|
Whenever thy mortal race is run.
White and forgiven, Thou'lt enter heaven,
And pass, unchallenged, the Golden Gate,
Where welcoming spirits watch and wait
To hail thy coming with sweet accord
To the Holy City of God the Lord!

[Footnote: By the late Charles Mackay, LL.D., F.S.A.]

The effect of the last eight-line chorus sung by thousands of voices, was marvellous. Such a spirit of exaltation pervaded the music that the common wooden shed-like building in which these followers of one earnest man asserted their faith in God rather than in a Church, seemed to take upon itself all the architectural beauty of a temple costing millions of money. When the singing ceased, Aubrey raised his hand, and while his audience yet remained standing, pronounced the blessing.

|God be with you all, my friends! -- in your hearts and lives and daily conduct! May none of you here present shadow His brightness by one dark deed or thought of evil! I will ask you to pray that God may be with me too, and with my beloved wife, the future partner of all my work, my joys and sorrows, that we may in our union make our lives useful to you and to all others who seek our help or care. God's blessing be upon us all in the name of Christ our Saviour!|

And with one accord the people answered |Amen!|

Then this brief service over, they began to disperse. Without any scramble or rush, but in perfect order and with quiet and reverent demeanour, they left their seats and began to make their way out. None of them were seen gossiping together, or smiling or nodding over each other's shoulders as is very often the case when a congregation disperses from a fashionable church. For these people in their worship of the Creator, found something reverent, something earnest, something true, valuable and necessary to daily living, -- and though there were two peaceful-looking constables stationed at the door of egress, their services were not required to either keep order or compel any of those thousands of poor to |move on.| They kept order for themselves, and were too busy with practical life and thought, to hang about or gossip on the way to their various homes. Several members of the congregation on hearing that their friend Leigh was going to take his marriage vows before them all, had provided themselves with flowers, and these managed to pass in front of the platform where, simply and without ostentation, they handed up their little bouquets and clusters of such blossoms as they had been able to obtain and afford in winter, -- violets especially, and white chrysanthemums, and one or two rare roses. These floral offerings meant much sacrifice on the part of those who gave them, -- and the tears filled Sylvie's eyes as she noted the eagerness with which poor women with worn sad faces, and hands wrinkled and brown with toil, handed up their little posies for her to take from them, or laid them with a touching humility at her feet. What a wonderful wedding hers was, she thought! -- far removed from all the world of fashion, without any of the hypocritical congratulations of |society| friends, -- without the sickening, foolish waste, expense and artificiality, which nowadays makes a marriage a mere millinery parade. She had spoken her vows before thousands whom her husband had helped and rescued from heathenism and misery, and all their good wishes and prayers for her happiness were wedding gifts such as no money could purchase. With a heart full of emotion and gratitude she watched the crowd break up and disappear, till when the last few were passing out of the building, she said to her husband --

|Let us leave the flowers they have given me here, Aubrey, -- here, just at the foot of the Cross where you have so often spoken to them. I shall feel they will bring me a blessing!|

|It shall be as you wish, sweetheart!| he answered tenderly, -- |and I must thank you for having entered so readily into the spirit of this strange marriage before my poor friends, Sylvie, -- for it must have seemed very strange to you! -- and yet believe me, -- no more binding one was ever consummated!| He took her hand and kissed it, -- then turned to Cardinal Bonpre, who had risen and was gazing round the bare common building with dreamy eyes of wistful wonderment.

|I thank you too, my dear friend! You have learned something of my work since we came to London, and I think you understand thoroughly the true sanctity and force of my marriage?|

|I -- do! -- I do understand it!| said the Cardinal slowly. |And I wish with all my heart that all marriage vows could be so solemnly and truly taken! But my heart aches -- my heart aches for the world! These thousands you have helped and taught are but a few, -- and they were as you have told me, little better than heathen when you came amongst them to tell them the true meaning of Christ's message -- what of the millions more waiting to know what the Church is failing to teach? What have the priests of the Lord been doing for nearly two thousand years, that there should still be doubters of God!|

Over his face swept a shadow of deep pain, and at that moment Manuel left the Cross where he had been leaning and came up and stood beside him. The Cardinal looked at his waif wistfully.

|What did you think of this service, my child?|

|I thought that the Master of all these His servants could not be very far away!| answered Manuel softly, -- |And that if He came suddenly, He would find none sleeping!|

|May it prove so!| said Aubrey fervently. |But we own ourselves to be unprofitable servants at best, -- we can only try to fulfil our Lord's commands as nearly to the letter as possible, -- and we often fail; -- but we do honestly make the effort. Shall we go now, my lord Cardinal? You look fatigued.|

Bonpre sighed heavily. |My spirit is broken, my son!| he answered. |I dare not think of what will happen -- what is beginning to happen for the Christian world! I shall not live to see it; but I have sinned, in passing my days in too much peace. Dwelling for many years away in my far-off diocese, I have forgotten the hurrying rush of life. I should have been more active long ago, -- and I fear I shall have but a poor account to give of my stewardship when I am called to render it up. This is what troubles both my heart and my conscience!|

|Dear friend, you have no cause for trouble!| said Sylvie earnestly. |Among all the servants of our Master surely you are one of the most faithful!|

|One of the most faithful, and therefore considered one of the most faithless!| said Manuel. |Come, let us go now, -- and leave these bridal flowers where the bride wishes them to be, -- at the foot of the Cross, as a symbol of her husband's service! Let us go, -- the Cardinal has need of rest.|

They returned to their respective homes, -- Aubrey and his wife to a little tenement house they had taken for a few weeks in the district in order that Sylvie might be able to see and to study for herself the sad and bitter lives of those who from birth to death are deprived of all the natural joys of happy and wholesome existence, -- whose children are born and bred up in crime, -- where girls are depraved and ruined before they are in their teens, -- and where nothing of God is ever taught beyond that He is a Being who punishes the wicked and rewards the good, -- and where in the general apathy of utter wretchedness, people decide that unless there is something given them in this world to be good for, they would rather be bad like the rest of the folks they see about them. The Cardinal and Manuel dwelt in rooms not very far away, and every day and every hour almost was occupied by them in going among these poor, helpless, hopeless ones of the world, bringing them comfort and aid and sympathy. Wherever Manuel went, there brightness followed; the sick were healed, the starving were fed, the lonely and desolate were strengthened and encouraged, and the people who knew no more of the Cardinal than that |he was a priest of some sort or other,| began to watch eagerly for the appearance of the Cardinal's foundling, |the child that seemed to love them,| as they described him, -- and to long for even a passing glimpse of the fair face, the steadfast blue eyes, the tender smile, of one before whom all rough words were silenced -- all weeping stilled.

But on this night of all -- the night of Sylvie's |religious| marriage, the Cardinal was stricken by a heavy blow. He had expected some misfortune, but had not realized that it would be quite so heavy as it proved. The sum and substance of his trouble was contained in a |confidential| letter from Monsignor Moretti, and was worded as follows --

|My Lord Cardinal, -- It has come to the knowledge of the Holy Father that you have not only left Rome without signifying the intention of your departure to the Vatican as custom and courtesy should have compelled you to do, but that instead of returning to your rightful diocese, you have travelled to London, and are there engaged in working with the socialist and heretic Aubrey Leigh, who is spreading pernicious doctrine among the already distracted and discordant of the poorer classes. This fact has to be coupled with the grave offence committed against the Holy Father by the street- foundling to whom you accord your favour and protection, and whose origin you are unable to account for; and the two things taken together, constitute a serious breach of conduct on the part of so eminent a dignitary of the Church as yourself, and compel the Holy Father most unwillingly and sorrowfully to enquire whether he is justified in retaining among his servants of the Holy See one who so openly betrays its counsels and commands. It is also a matter of the deepest distress to the Holy Father, that a picture painted by your niece Donna Angela Sovrani and entitled 'The Coming of Christ,' in which the Church itself is depicted as under the displeasure of our Lord, should be permitted to contaminate the minds of the nations by public exhibition. Through the Vatican press, the supreme Pontiff has placed his ban against this most infamous picture, and all that the true servants of the Church can do to check its pernicious influence, will be done. But it cannot be forgotten that Your Eminence is closely connected with all these regrettable events, and as we have no actual proof of the authenticity of the miracle you are alleged to have performed at Rouen, the Holy Father is reluctantly compelled to leave that open to doubt. The Archbishop of Rouen very strenuously denies the honesty of the mother of the child supposed to be healed by you, and states that she has not attended Mass or availed herself of any of the Sacraments for many years. We are willing to admit that Your Eminence may personally have been unsuspectingly made party to a fraud, -- but this does not free you from the other charges, (notably that of exonerating the late Abbe Vergniaud,) of which you stand arraigned. Remembering, however, the high repute enjoyed by Your Eminence throughout your career, and taking into kindly consideration your increasing age and failing health, the Holy Father commissions me to say that all these grievous backslidings on your part shall be freely pardoned if you will, -- Firstly, -- repudiate all connection with your niece, Angela Sovrani, and hold no further communication with her or her father Prince Sovrani, -- Secondly, -- that you will break off your acquaintance with the socialist Aubrey Leigh and his companion Sylvie Hermenstein, the renegade from the Church of her fathers, -- and Thirdly, -- that you will sever yourself at once and forever from the boy you have taken under your protection. This last clause is the most important in the opinion of His Holiness. These three things being done, you will be permitted to return to your diocese, and pursue the usual round of your duties there to the end. Failing to fulfil the Holy Father's commands, the alternative is that you be deprived of your Cardinal's hat and your diocese together.

|It is with considerable pain that I undertake the transcribing of the commands of the Holy Father, and I much desired Monsignor Gherardi to follow you to London and lay these matters before you privately, with all the personal kindness which his friendship for you makes possible, but I regret to say, and you will no doubt regret to learn, that he has been smitten with dangerous illness and fever, which for the time being prevents his attention to duty. Trusting to hear from you with all possible speed that Your Eminence is in readiness to obey the Holy Father's paternal wish and high command, I am,

|Your Eminence's obedient servant in Christ,

|Lorenzo Moretti.|

The Cardinal read this letter through once -- twice -- then the paper dropped from his hands.

|My God, my God! why hast Thou forsaken me!| he murmured. |What have I done in these few months! What must I do!|

A light touch on his arm roused him. Manuel confronted him.

|Why are you sorrowful, dear friend? Have you sad news?|

|Yes, my child! Sad news indeed! I am commanded by the Pope to give up all I have in the world! If it were to give to my Master Christ I would give it gladly, -- but to the Church -- I cannot!|

|What does the Pope ask you to resign?| said Manuel.

|My niece Angela and all her love for me! -- my friendship with this brave man Aubrey Leigh who works among the outcast and the poor, -- but more than all this, -- he asks me to give You up -- you! My child, I cannot!|

He stretched his thin withered hands out to the slight boyish figure in front of him.

|I cannot! I am an old man, near -- very near -- to the grave -- and I love you! I need you! -- without you the world is dark! I found you all alone -- I have cared for you and guarded you and served you -- I cannot let you go!| The tears filled his. eyes and rolled down his worn cheeks. |I cannot lose my last comfort!| he repeated feebly. |I cannot let You go!|

Silently the boy gave his hands into the old man's fervent clasp, and as Bonpre bent his head upon them a sense of peace stole over him, -- a great and solemn calm. Looking up he saw Manuel earnestly regarding him with eyes full of tenderness and light, and a smile upon his lips.

|Be of good courage, dear friend!| he said. |The time of trial is hard, but it will soon be over. You must needs part from Angela! -- but remember she has great work still to do, and she is not left without love! You must also part from Aubrey and his wife -- but they too are given high tasks to fulfil for God's glory -- and, -- they have each other! Yes! -- you must part with all these things, dear friend -- they are not yours to retain; -- and if you would keep your place in this world you must part with Me!|

|Never!| cried Bonpre, moved to sudden passion. |I cannot! To me the world without you would be empty!|

As he spoke these words a sudden memory rang in his brain like a chime from some far-distant tower echoing over a width of barren land. |For me the world is empty!| had been the words spoken by Manuel when he had first found him leaning against the locked Cathedral door in Rouen. And with this memory came another, the vision he had seen of the end of the world, and the words he had heard spoken by some mysterious voice in his sleep, -- |The light shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not!| And still he looked pleadingly, earnestly, almost fearingly, into the face of his foundling.

|We must speak of this again,| said Manuel then, gently. |But to- night, for at least some hours, you must rest! Have patience with your own thoughts, dear friend! To part with earthly loves is a sorrow that must always be; -- Angela is young and you are old! -- she has her task to do, and yours is nearly finished! You must part with Aubrey Leigh, -- you cannot help him, -- his work is planned, -- his ways ordained. Thus, you have no one to command your life save the Church, -- and it seems that you must choose between the Church and me! To keep Me, you must forego the Church. To keep the Church you must say farewell to Me! But think no more of it just now -- sleep and rest -- leave all to God!|

The Cardinal still looked at him earnestly.

|You will not leave me? You will not, for a thought of saving me from my difficulties, go from me? If I sleep I shall find you when I wake?|

|I will never leave you till you bid me go!| answered Manuel. |And if I am taken far from hence you shall go with me! Rest, dear friend -- rest, true servant of God! Rest without thought -- without care -- till I call you!|

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