“I understand, sir, that this gentleman” (he indicated the priest) “is not an envoy.”
“Is that so?” asked the other.
“Very good. I only have authority to introduce the envoy. Monsignor Masterman will be good enough to follow the other gentleman. Your Eminence, will you come with me?”
On looking back afterwards on the whole experience, that which stood out as most shocking in it all, to the priest’s mind, was the abominable speed with which the tragedy was accomplished. It was merciful, perhaps, that it was so, for even the half-hour or so which elapsed before the priest had any more news dragged itself to an intolerable length.
He walked up and down the little furnished room—some kind of parlour, he understood, attached to a government building seized by the revolutionaries, guarded, he knew, by a couple of men in the passage, whose voices he occasionally heard—in a sort of dull agony, far more torturing than positive objective fear.
He tried to comfort himself by retelling to himself the story of the last few days; reminding himself how, after the first outburst, when the police had been shot down by these new weapons of which he understood nothing, and the palace had been taken, and the city reduced to a state of defenceless terror—the revolutionaries had sternly repressed the second attempted massacre in a manner not unworthy of real civilization.
A great deal of the whole story was unintelligible to him. He just knew the outlines. First, it was obvious that the revolution had been planned in all its details months before. There had been, soon after the Emperor’s conversion, a great access of other converts, accompanied by a dispersal to other countries, notably America, of innumerable people of the lower classes who were known as Socialists. All this was looked upon by the authorities as natural, and as actually reassuring. There had been a few protests against the new proposals with regard to legislation; but not enough to rouse any suspicion that violence would be attempted. Finally, when the organized emigration was beginning, and even the most pessimistic politicians were beginning to regard the situation as saved, without the slightest warning the blow had been struck, obviously by the directions of an international council whose very existence had not been suspected.
As to the details of the revolution itself he was even more vague, for the understanding of it depended on an acquaintance with the internal arrangements of Berlin, by which a kind of interior citadel, not outwardly fortified in any way, yet held in its compass all those immense “power-stations” by which, in the present day, every town was defended. (He did not know exactly what these “power-stations” were, beyond the fact that they were the lineal successors of the old gun-forts, and controlled an immense number