But even all these recent happenings had not as yet illuminated him in the slightest as to the real character of the world that he found so bewildering. He felt, vaguely, that he ought to have by now all the pieces of the puzzle, but he was still as far as ever from being able to fit them into a coherent whole. He just perceived this—and no more—that the extraordinary tranquillity of these Catholics in the presence of death was a real contribution to the problem—as much as the dull earthliness of the Socialist colony in America. It was not merely Dom Adrian in particular who had been willing to die without perturbation or protest; his judges and accusers seemed just as ready when their turn came. And he—he who had cried out at Christian brutality, who had judged the world’s system by his own and found it wanting—he feared death; although, so far his fear had not deterred him from facing it.
He took his place in the narrow cabin in the same mood, following the Cardinal in after the last good-byes had been said. It was a tiny place, fitted with a single padded seat on either side covered with linen and provided with pillows; a narrow table ran up the centre; and strong narrow windows looked directly from the sides of the boat. A stern platform, railed in and provided with sliding glass shutters, gave room to take a few steps of exercise; but the front of the boat was entirely occupied with the driver’s arrangements. It was a comparatively new type of boat, he learned from some one with whom he had talked just now, used solely for racing purposes; and its speed was such that they would find themselves in Berlin before morning.
The stern door was swung to by one who leaned from the stage. Still through the glass the Cardinal smiled out at his friends and waved his hand. Then a bell struck, a vibration ran through the boat, the stage outside lined with faces suddenly swayed and then fell into space.
The Cardinal laid his hand on the priest’s knee.
“Now let us have a talk,” he said.
The air that breathed down from the Alps was beginning to cloud the windows of the cabin before they had finished talking.
The man who had lost his memory, under the tremendous stress of an emotion of which he was hardly directly conscious at all—the emotion generated by the knowledge that every whistling mile that fled past brought him nearer an almost certain death—had experienced a kind of sudden collapse of his defences such as he had never contemplated.
He had told everything straight out to this quiet, fatherly man—his terrors, his shrinking from the unfamiliar atmosphere of thought to which he had awakened, it seemed, a few months before, his sense that Christianity had lost its spirit, and, above all, the strange absence of any definite religious emotion in himself. He found this difficult to put into words; he had hardly realized it even to himself.