They halted above Dublin, and he watched, as weeks ago at Brighton, the lighted stage swing outside the windows. He noted a couple of white-frocked monks or friars, hooded in black, standing among the rest. Then he watched the stage drop out of sight, and the lights of Dublin spin eastwards and vanish. Then he turned listlessly to the book his friend had given him, and began to read.
As he stood himself on the platform at Thurles, bag in hand (they brought no servants to Ireland), it seemed to him that already there was a certain sense of quietness about him. He told himself it was probably the result of self-suggestion. But, for all that, it seemed curiously still. Beneath he saw great buildings, flattened under the height at which he stood—court after court, it appeared, each lighted invisibly and as clear as day. Yet no figures moved across them; and in the roadways that ran here and there was no crawling stream of ant-like beings such as he had seen elsewhere. Even the officials seemed to speak in undertones; and Father Jervis said no word at all. Then, as he felt the swift dropping movement beneath his feet, he saw the great lighted ship he had just left whirl off westwards, resembling a gigantic luminous moth, yet without bell or horn to announce its journey.
He followed his friend out through the doorway of the ground-platform to which the stage descended, and into the interior of a great white car that waited—still with a strange sense of irresponsibility and heaviness. He supposed that all was well—as well as could be in a world such as this. Then he leaned back and closed his eyes. There were three or four others in the great car, he noticed; but all were silent.
He opened them again as the car stopped. But the priest beside him made no movement. He looked out and saw that the car was halted between two high walls and in front of a great arched gateway. Even as he looked the gates rolled back noiselessly and the car moved through. (The others had got out, he noticed.)
It seemed, as they sped on, as if they were going through the streets of some strange dead city. All through which they passed was perfectly visible in the white artificial light. Now they ran between high walls; now along the side of a vast courtyard; now a structure resembling the side of a cloister slid by them swiftly and steadily—gone again in an instant. It was not until afterwards that he realized that there had hardly been one window to be seen; and not one living being.
And then at last the car stopped, and a monk in brown opened the door of the car.
Monsignor woke next morning, already conscious of a certain sense of well-being, and looked round the little white room in which he lay, agreeably expectant.
* * * * *