There was something almost attractive about the scheme to the popular mind. It had been talked of for years before—this arrangement by which the Socialists should have an opportunity of working out once more those old exploded democratic ideas to which they still clung so pathetically. Every child knew, of course, how fifty years before the experiment had been made in various places, and how appalling tyranny had been the result—tyranny, that is, over those who, in the Socialist communities, still held to Individualism. But what would happen, the world indulgently wondered, in a community where there were no Individualists? One of two things certainly would happen. Either the scheme would work and every democrat be satisfied, or the theory would be reduced to a practical absurdity, and the poison would be expelled for ever from the world’s system. Besides, if this asylum were once definitely secured and guaranteed by the assent of the Powers, the new heresy laws that were already coming to birth in Germany, that were already enforced with considerable vigour in the Latin countries, and were (it was known) being prepared and adapted for England—these could now go forward and be applied universally, without any fear of undue severity. It would, once and for all, get rid of those endless complaints as to Christian injustice in silencing the free expression of infidel and socialistic ideas, and offer them a refuge where such things could not only be discussed, but put to the test of practice.
Monsignor Masterman himself was still in a state of personal indecision, but he certainly welcomed this solution of some of his interior troubles, and he had warmly supported the scheme at every opportunity he had.
But it was strange how he could not yet, in spite of his efforts, get rid of that deep discomfort which had been, for a time, lulled by his visit to Ireland. There was still, deep down in his mind, a sense that the Christianity he saw round him, and which he himself helped to administer, was not the religion of its Founder. There was still an instinct which he could not eradicate, telling that the essence of the Christian attitude lay in readiness to suffer. And he only saw round him, so far as the public action of the Church was concerned, a triumphant Government. He could not conceal from himself a fear that the world and the Church had, somehow or other, changed places. . . .
However, this new scheme was, at any rate, an act both of justice and mercy, and he was very willing indeed—in fact he had actually proposed it more than once—to go himself with the first emigrants from England to Massachusetts.
In spite of all that he had seen in his journeys, he still found an extraordinary fascination in watching the scene at Queenstown, as the great Olympic-line volors, each carrying three hundred passengers, one by one made ready and left. He himself was to leave in the last of the four.