It came swift and sudden, without the faintest sign or premonition.
As he turned in his endless pacings, down at the farther end of the room, his ears for the instant filled with the clatter of some cart outside the open, barred windows, a figure came swiftly into the room, without the sound of a footstep to warn him. Behind he could make out two faces waiting. . . .
It was the Cardinal who stood there, upright and serene as ever, with a look in his eyes that silenced the priest. He lifted his hand on which shone his great amethyst, and at the motion, scarcely knowing what he did, the priest was on his knees.
“Benedictio Dei omnipotentis Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti, descendat super te, et maneat semper.”
That was all; not a word more.
And as the priest sprang up with a choking cry, the slender figure was gone, and the door shut and locked.
All day long there had hung a strange silence over the city, unlike in its quality that ordinary comparative quiet of modern towns to which the man who had lost his memory had become by now accustomed. He knew well by now the gentle, almost soothing, hum of busy streets, as the traffic and the footsteps went over the noiseless pavements, and the air murmured with the clear subdued notes of the bells and the melodious horns of the swifter vehicles; all this had something of a reassuring quality, reminding the listener that he lived in a world of men, active and occupied indeed, but also civilized and self-controlled.
But the silence of this inner quarter of Berlin was completely different. Its profoundness was sinister and suggestive. Now and again came a rapid hooting note, growing louder and more insistent, as some car, bound on revolutionary work, tore up some street out of sight at forty miles an hour and away again into silence. Several times he heard voices in sharp talk pass beneath his window. Occasionally somewhere overhead in the great buildings sounded the whir of a lift, a footstep, the throwing up of a window. And to each sound he listened eagerly and intently, ignorant as to whether it might not mark the news of some fresh catastrophe, the tidings of some decision that would precipitate his world about him.
As to the progress of events he knew nothing at all.
Since that horrible instant when the door had closed in his face and the Cardinal had gone again as mysteriously as he had come—now three days ago—he had heard no hint that could tell him how things developed. He had not even dared to ask the taciturn servant in uniform who brought him food as to the fate of the old man. For he knew with a certainty as clear as if he had seen the dreadful thing done, that his friend and master was dead—dead, as the Revolutionary Committee had said he would be, if he came with any message other than that of submission. As to the manner of his death he dared not even conjecture. It would be swift, at least. . . .