It was three or four days before he could again form any coherent picture to himself of what this new life would mean when once it was really under way.
He was lodged in the Government buildings, adapted a few years before from the old temple of the Christian Scientists; and each day in the rotunda he sat hour after hour with keen-faced Americans, and the few Europeans who had accompanied the emigration boats that now streamed in continually.
He flung himself into the dreary work, such as it was, with all his power; for though he had little responsibility, he was there as the accredited agent of the English ecclesiastical authorities, and his business was to show as much alacrity and sympathy as possible.
The city was, indeed, a scene of incredible confusion; and a very strong force of police was needed to prevent open friction between the belated and aggrieved Catholics for whom Boston would in future be impossible as a home, and who had not yet faced the need of migrating, and the new, very dogmatic inhabitants who already regarded the city as their own. All legal arrangements had, of course, been made before the first emigrants set foot on the continent; but the redistribution of the city, the sale of farms, the settling of interminable disputes between various nationalities—all these things, sifted although they were through agents and officials, yet came up to the central board in sufficient numbers to occupy the members for a full nine hours a day.
* * * * *
It was at the end of the fourth day that Monsignor went round the city in a car, partly to get some air, and partly to see for himself how things were settling down.
Of course, as he told himself afterwards, he scarcely had a fair opportunity of judging how a Socialist State would be when the machinery was in running order. Yet it seemed to him that, making all allowances for confusion and noise and choked streets and the rest, underneath it all was a spirit strangely and drearily unlike that to which he was becoming accustomed in Europe. The very faces of the people seemed different.
He stopped for a while in the quarter to which the English had been assigned—that which in old Boston had been, he learned, the Italian quarter. Here, in the little square where he halted, everything was surprisingly in order. The open space, paved with concrete, was unoccupied by any signs of moving in; the houses were trim and neat, new painted for the most part; and people seemed to be going about their business with an air of quiet orderliness. Certainly American arrangements, he thought, were marvellously efficient, enabling as they did some fifteen hundred persons to settle down into new houses within the space of four days. (He had learned something, while he sat on the central board, of the elaborate system of tickets and officials and enquiry offices by which such miraculous swiftness had been made possible.)