“Oh yes . . . but he did nothing particular.”
“That is just it,” smiled the old priest. He added after a pause, as the bell rang—
“You feel ready for work again? You know what lies before you?”
Monsignor nodded slowly.
“You mean the Establishment of the Church? . . . Yes; I am ready.”
The scheme had been in the air for nearly two years, as Monsignor learned from his papers; and for the last month or two had come more to the front than ever. But he had not realized how close it was.
* * * * *
It was at the end of October that the Cardinal sent for him and revealed two more facts. The first was that it was the intention of His Majesty’s Government to appoint a Commission to consider once more the Establishment of Catholicism as the State religion of England; and the second was that secret negotiations had been proceeding now for the last eight months between China, Japan, the Persian Empire, and Russia, as to the formal recognition of the Pope as Arbitrator of the East.
“Both points,” said the Cardinal, “are absolutely sub sigillo until you hear of them from other sources. And I need not tell you, Monsignor, that they have the very strongest mutual effects.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Think it over,” said the Cardinal, and waved him pleasantly away.
* * * * *
From that time forward, as week followed week, the work became enormous. He was present at interviews of which he understood not more than one half of the allusions; yet with that extraordinary skill of which he was made aware by the compliments of the Cardinal and of his own friends, he showed never a sign of his ignorance. Papers constantly passed under his hands, disclosing to him the elaborate preparations that had already been made on the part of the State authorities; and questions on various points of discipline were continually submitted to him, at the bearing of which he could only guess.
It seemed to him remarkable that so much fuss should be made upon what was by now almost entirely a matter of form, since by the restoration of Catholic property, recognition of Church courts, and a hundred other details, as well as by the affection of the people, the Church already enjoyed supreme power.
He put this once, lightly, to Father Jervis.
“The public is affected by forms much more than by principles,” said that priest, smiling. “They have already accepted the principles; but even at the eleventh hour they might take fright at the forms.”
“Do you mean it is possible that a Bill, if it was brought forward, might not pass?”
“Certainly it’s possible. Otherwise, why haven’t we had a Commission appointed? The Socialists aren’t beaten yet. But it’s not likely; or the Bill wouldn’t be brought forward at all.”