He awoke the next morning after a troubled night, conscious instantly of a sense of crisis. In one way or another, it seemed, he would have to come to a decision. The monk would be with him in less than an hour.
He dressed as before and breakfasted. Then, as the monk did not come, he went out to the tribune to pray and to prepare himself.
Ten minutes later the door opened quietly, and the lay-brother who had attended on him bowed to him as he turned, in sign that he was to come.
The monk was standing by the fireplace as he came in; he bowed very slightly. Then the two sat down.
* * * * *
“Tell me why you have come here, Monsignor.”
The prelate moistened his lips. He was aware again of an emotion that was partly terror and partly confidence. And there was mixed with it, too, an extraordinary sense of simplicity. Conventionalities were useless here, he saw; he was expected to say what was in his heart, but at first he dared not.
“I . . . I was recommended to come,” he said. “My friends thought I needed a little rest.”
The other nodded gently. He was no longer looking straight at him, the secular priest was relieved to see.
“Yes? And what form does it take?”
Still the patient hesitated. He began a sentence or two, and stopped again.
Then the monk lifted his great head and looked straight at him.
“Be quite simple, Monsignor,” he said, “you need fear nothing. You are here to be helped, are you not? Then tell me plainly.”
Monsignor got up suddenly. It seemed to him that he must move about. He felt restless, as a man who has lived in twilight might feel upon coming out into sudden brilliant and healthful sunlight. He began to walk to and fro. The other said nothing, but the restless man felt that the eyes were watching and following every movement. He reflected that it was unfair to be stared at by eyes that were grey, outlined in black, and crossed by straight lids. Then he summoned his resolution.
“Father,” he said, “I am unhappy altogether.”
“Yes? (Sit down, please, Monsignor.)”
He sat down, and leaned his forehead on his hands.
“You are unhappy altogether,” repeated the monk. “And what form does that unhappiness take?”
Monsignor lifted his face.
“Father,” he said, “you know about me? You know about my history? . . . My memory?”
“Yes, I know all that. But it is not that which makes you unhappy?”
“No,” cried the priest suddenly and impulsively, “it is not that. I wish to God it were! I wish to God my memory would leave me again!”
But the other paid no attention.
“It is . . . it is the world I am living in—this brutal world.... Father, help me.”