The prelate said nothing.
It was not until a few days before Christmas that
Cardinal was sent for.
At the beginning of the month the Commission had been appointed by an overwhelming majority in the House. The proposal had been brought forward suddenly by the Government, and with a speed and an employment of business-like methods that seemed very strange to the man who had lost his memory, and who still had hanging about him a curious atmosphere of earlier days, the Commission had despatched an immense amount of work within three weeks.
It was impossible to know how far negotiations had got; but even the Cardinal himself was taken by surprise when he received an invitation to attend the sitting of the Commission. He sent for Monsignor Masterman at once.
“You will attend me, Monsignor, please. I shall have to appear alone, but I should like you to be at hand.”
It was with very much confused emotions that Monsignor found himself, a day or two later, walking up and down a corridor in the House of Representatives. He had arrived with the Cardinal, had gone up the broad staircase behind him, and had followed him even into the committee-room. A long table faced him as he entered, and he noticed with an odd little thrill how every man sitting there, from the white-faced, white-haired man at the head, down to the clean-shaven, clever-looking young man nearest the door, had risen as the two ecclesiastics came in. The table, he noticed, was strewed with papers. An empty chair stood at the lower end of the table—a red chair, he saw, with gilded wood.
The Cardinal sat down. The rest sat down, all in silence. Monsignor placed the despatch-box in front of his chief, opened it, laid a few books in order, and went out. . . .
Even now, in spite of all the knowledge that he had, and the constant contemplation of the cold facts of the case, it seemed to him, as on a dozen occasions before since his lapse of memory, as if life were not so real as it seemed. Somewhere, down in the very fibre of him, was an assumption that England and Catholicism were irreconcilable things—that the domination of the one meant the suppression of the other. Certainly history was against him. For more than a thousand years Church and State in England had been partners. It was but for four hundred years—and those years of confusion and of the gradual elimination of the supernatural—that the two had been at cross-purposes. Was it not historically certain therefore that, should the Supernatural ever be reaccepted in all its force, a partnership should again spring up between a State that needed a Divine authority behind its own, and the sole Institution which was not afraid to stand out for the Supernatural with all its consequences? Theology was against him; for if there was anything that theology taught explicitly, it was that the soul was naturally Christian, and therefore imperfect without the full Christian Revelation.