“Very good,” said the doctor. “For the present, as far as I am concerned, I should recommend confession only once a fortnight as a general rule. Mass can be as before. Then Monsignor may say half of his office every day, or the rosary; but not both. And no other devotions of any kind, except the particular Examen. If Monsignor and Father Jervis both consent, I should like the Examen to be forwarded to a priest-doctor for a few weeks.”
An exclamation broke from the invalid.
“I don’t understand. What are you talking about?”
The Cardinal leaned forward.
“Monsignor, listen to me. In these cases the doctor always gives his advice. You see even the sacraments have their mental side; and on this mental side the doctor speaks. But the whole decision rests entirely with the patient and his confessor; or they can call in an expert priest-doctor. Only a priest can possibly decide finally the relations between the grace of the sacraments and their reactionary effect upon the mind. A lay doctor only recommends. Are you satisfied?”
The man nodded. It seemed very simple, so stated.
“For the rest,” continued the doctor, with a certain stateliness of manner, “I order a complete change of scene. This must be for a fortnight at least, if not longer. If the priest-doctor’s report—to whom the Examen may be sent—is not satisfactory, it will have to be for longer. The patient must engage in no business that does not honestly interest him.”
“May he travel to-night?” asked the Cardinal.
“The sooner the better,” said the doctor, rising.
“What is the matter with me?” asked the invalid hoarsely.
“It is a small mental explosion, but it has not affected the mechanism of the brain. There is not, as I have said, a trace of insanity or of loss of balance. I cannot promise that the injury will be repaired; but defects that may follow from this can easily be remedied by study. It simply depends upon yourself, Monsignor, as to in how long you can be at your post again here. As soon as you have learned the threads of business, you will be able to apply yourself as before. I shall look for a report in a fortnight’s time at the latest. Good day, your Eminence.”
The clocks of London were all striking the single stroke of midnight as the two priests stood on the wind-sheltered platform of the volor, waiting for the start.
To Monsignor Masterman the scene was simply overwhelming. There was hardly a detail that was not new and unfamiliar. From where he stood on the upper deck, grasping the rail before him, his eyes looked out over a luminous city as lovely as fairyland. There were no chimneys, of course (these, he had just learnt, had altogether disappeared more than fifty years ago), but spires and towers and pinnacles rose before him like a dream,