Then the coach was gone through the tall gilded gates, and a cloud of dust, beaten up by the galloping hoofs on all sides, hid even the cuirassiers who closed the company. And as the two turned the banner sank on the tall pole.
“The King and the German Emperor,” observed Father Jervis, replacing his hat. “Now there’s the other side of the picture for you.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Why, we treat our kings like kings,” smiled the other. “And, at the same time, we encourage our butchers to be really butchers and to glory in it. Law and liberty, you see. Absolute discipline and the cultivation of individualism. No republican stew-pot, you see, in which everything tastes alike.”
They had to wait a few minutes in an ante-room before presenting their letters, as the official was engaged, and Father Jervis occupied the time in running over again the names and histories of three or four important personages to whom they would perhaps have to speak. He had given an outline of these at breakfast.
There were three in particular about whom Monsignor must be informed.
First, the King; and Monsignor learned again thoroughly of the sensational reaction which, after the humiliation of France in the war of 1914—the logical result of a conflict between a republicanism worked out to mediocrity and a real and vivid monarchy—had placed this man’s father—the undoubted legitimate heir—upon the throne. He had died only two years ago, when the Dauphin, who had ascended the throne, was just eighteen years old. The present King was not yet married, but there were rumours of a love-match with a Spanish princess. He was a boyish king, it seemed, but he played his royal part with intense enjoyment and dignity, and had restored, to the delight of this essentially romantic and imaginative people, most of the glories of the eighteenth-century court, without its scandals. Certainly France was returning to its old chivalry, and thence to its old power.
Next there was the Cardinal Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Guinet, a very old ecclesiastic, very high in the counsels of the Church, who would almost certainly have been elected Pope at the last vacancy if it had not been for his age. He was an “intellectual,” it seemed, and, among other things, was one of the first physicists of Europe. He had been ordained comparatively late in life.
Thirdly there was the Archbishop’s secretary—Monsignor Allet—a rising man and an excellent diplomatist.
There were two or three more, but Father Jervis was content with scarcely more than recounting their names. The King’s brother, and the heir-presumptive, was something of a recluse and seldom appeared at court. Of the German Emperor, Monsignor had already learned, it seemed, sufficient.
In the middle of these instructions, the door suddenly opened, and an ecclesiastic hurried in with outstretched hands, and apologies in a torrent of Latin.