He understood that he was assisting at an historical event. For to-day practically marked, in England at any rate, the practical recognition of the two principles which up to now had been found, from their mutual irreconcilability, the cause of practically all the wars, all the revolutions, all the incessant human quarrels and conflicts, of which history was chiefly composed—their recognition and their adjustment. These two principles were the liberty of the individual and the demands of society. On one side, every man had a certain inherent right to demand freedom; on the other, the freedom of one individual was usually found to mean the servitude of another. The solution, he began to think, had arrived at last from the recognition that there were, after all, only two logical theories of government: the one, that power came from below, the other, that power came from above. The infidel, the Socialist, the materialist, the democrat, these maintained the one; the Catholic, the Monarchist, the Imperialist maintained the other. For the two, he perceived, rose ultimately from two final theories of the universe: the one was that of Monism—that all life was one, gradually realizing itself through growth and civilization; the other that of Creation—that a Transcendent God had made the world, and delegated His sovereign authority downwards through grade after grade.
So he meditated, remembering also that the former theory was rapidly disappearing from the world. These Socialist colonies were not to be eternal, after all: they were but temporary refuges for minds that were behind the age. Probably another century or two would see their disappearance.
The second and third boats started almost simultaneously, each suddenly sliding free from either side of the stage. There was a ringing of bells; one boat, he saw, shot ahead in a straight line, the other curved out southwards. He watched the second.
It resembled to his eyes a gigantic dragon-fly—a long gleaming body, ribbed and lined, blazing and winking in the spring sunlight, moving in a mist of whirling wings. From the angle at which he watched its curve, it seemed now to hang suspended, diminishing to the eye, now shooting suddenly ahead. . . . There it hung again, already a mile away, as if poised and considering, then with increasing speed it moved on and on, like a line of brilliant light; little metallic taps sounded across the water; it met the horizon, rose above it, darkened, again flashed suddenly. . . .
He turned to look for the other; but, so far as he could see, the huge blue arc was empty. He turned again; and the third too was gone.
A great ringing of bells sounded suddenly beneath him.
“You’ve got your luggage on board, Monsignor? . . . Well, you’d better be going on board yourself. She’ll start in five minutes.”
The arrival at Boston harbour was one more strange experience, and the more strange because the man who had lost his memory knew that he was coming into a civilization which, although utterly unknown to him by experience, yet had in his anticipation a curious sense of familiarity.