He came on and up; and as he came the hush fell deeper. It was impossible even to see his face; he was in a long travelling cloak that fell to his feet; a travelling cap covered his head; and about his throat and face was thrown a great white scarf, such as the air-travellers often use. He came on, still without looking to right or left, walking as if he had some kind of right to be there, straight up to the witness-box, ascended the steps, and stood there for an instant motionless.
Then he unwound his scarf, lifted his cap and dropped it beside him, threw back his cloak with a single movement, and stood there—a white figure from head to foot, white capped. . . . There was a great sigh from the men on the platform; two or three sprang to their feet, and sat down again as suddenly. Only the President did not move. Then there fell an absolute silence.
“Eh well,” said the Pope in delicate French; “I am arrived in time then.”
He looked round from side to side, smiling and peering—this little commonplace-looking Frenchman, who had in his hand at this period of the world’s history an incalculably greater power than any living being on earth had ever before wielded—Father of Princes and Kings, Arbiter of the East, Father as well as Sovereign Lord of considerably more than a thousand million souls. He stood there, utterly alone with a single servant waiting out there, half a mile away, at the flying-stage, in the presence of the Council who in the name of the malcontents of the human race had declared war on the world of which he was now all but absolute master. No European nation could pass a law which he had not the right to veto; not one monarch claimed to hold his crown except at the hands of this man. And the East—even the pagan East—had learned at last that the Vicar of Christ was the Friend of Peace and Progress.
And he stood here, smiling and peering at the faces.
“I come as my own envoy,” said the Pope presently, adjusting his collar. “‘The King said, “They will reverence My Son,"’ so I am come as the Vicar of that Son. You have killed my two messengers, I hear. Why have you done that?”
There was no answer. From where the priest stood he could hear laboured breathing on all sides, but not a man moved or spoke.
“Eh well then, I have come to offer you a last opportunity of submitting peacefully. In less than an hour from now the armed truce expires. After that we shall be compelled to use force. We do not wish to use force; but society must now protect itself. I do not speak to you in the name of Christ; that name means nothing to you. So I speak in the name of society, which you profess to love. Submit, gentlemen, and let me be the bearer of the good news.”