“My children! have pity on men, and on me who strive to be their father. Never yet has Christ reigned on earth till now—Christ who Himself died, as I, His poor servant, am ready to die a thousand times, if men may but themselves learn to die to self and to live to Him. Have pity, then, on the world you love and hope to serve. Serve it indeed as best you can. Let us serve it together!”
* * * * *
There was an instant’s silence.
He stood there, his hands clasped in agony upon his cross. Then he flung his hands wide in sudden, silent appeal.
There was a crash of an overturned desk; the crying out of desperate voices all together, and as from the great tower overhead there beat out the first stroke of midnight, the priest, on his knees now, saw through eyes blind with tears, figures moving and falling and kneeling towards that central form that stood there, a white pillar of Royalty and sorrow, calling for the last time all the world unto him.
* * * * *
But the President sat still at his desk, motionless.
The sight on which the watcher’s eyes rested, as he sat, hung here in motionlessness above Westminster, a hundred feet higher than the great St. Edward’s Tower itself, was one not only undreamed of, but even inconceivable to men of earlier days.
For it seemed as if some vast invisible air-way had been flung straight from the midst of London, down away to the south-west horizon, where it ran into the faint summer haze thirty miles away. So level was the line held by the waiting volors on either side—vast barges shining like silver, hung with the great state-cloths of modern days—that it appeared as if the eye itself were deceived, as if there were indeed a pavement of crystal, a river of glass, so clear as itself to be unseen, on whose surface floated this navy of a dream such as the world itself had never imagined.
Now and again, like a fly on water, there darted from one side to the other a tiny boat, in the blue and silver of the city guards, or dropped, ducked and vanished; now and again it wheeled, and came whirling up the line, vanishing at last in the long perspective. But, for the rest, the monsters waited motionless in the sunlight, their state-cloths, hung as from the old barges, from stem to stern, as motionless as themselves, except when now and again the summer breeze stirred from the south-west, lifting the lazy streamers, wafting softly the heavy embroideries, and stirring, even as the wind stirs the wheat, the glittering giants that waited to do their Lord honour.