“I give you welcome,” he said in excellent English. “Come, gentlemen” (he turned to the others, who had risen to their feet as he rose), “we must be getting homewards. Monsignor!” (and he beckoned to the two English priests to walk with him.)
That walk seemed like a dream.
They went leisurely upwards towards the palace, through yew alley after yew alley, French chattering sounding behind them as they went; and the King, still in fluent English, though with an accent that increased as he talked, questioned them courteously as to England, spoke of the disputation of yesterday, discussed frankly enough the situation in Germany, and listened with attention to the remarks of Father Jervis; for Monsignor Masterman was discreetly silent for the most part.
It was not until the great doors of the palace flew open at last, and the rows of liveried men showed within, that the King dismissed them. He turned on the steps and gave them his hand to kiss. Then he raised them from their knees with a courteous gesture.
“And you go to Rome, you say?”
“Almost immediately, sire. We shall be there for SS. Peter and Paul.”
“Present my homage at the feet of the Holy Father,” smiled the King. “You are fortunate indeed. I have not seen His Holiness for three months. Good day—gentlemen.”
The two passed again in silence down the terraces on their way to the Trianon.
“It is amazing,” burst out Monsignor suddenly. “And the people. What of them? Is there no resentment?”
“Why should there be?” asked the other.
“But they are excluded from the palace and the park. It was not so a hundred years ago.”
“Do you think they are any the less happy?” asked Father Jervis. “My dear Monsignor, surely you know human nature better than that! They have lost the vulgarity of Versailles, and they have regained its royalty. Don’t you see that?”
“Well!”—Monsignor paused. “It’s simply medievalism back again, it seems to me.”
“Exactly!” said the other. “You have hit it at last. It is medievalism—that is to say, human nature with faith and reverence, and without cant.”
He paused again, and his eyes twinkled.
“You know honours and privileges are worth nothing if every one has them. If we all wore crowns, the kings would go bareheaded.”
He awoke suddenly, at some movement, and for an instant did not remember where he was.
For nearly a week they had stayed on at Versailles; and each day that had passed had done its share in making this fairyland seem more like a reality. But that strange subconscious self of his, for which even now there seemed no accounting, was still obstinate; it still assured him that the world ought not to be like this, that religion ought not to be so concrete and effective—that he would awake soon and find himself in some desolate state of affairs where Faith, hemmed in by enemies, still fought for very life against irresistible odds. It was at night and at morning that the mood came on him most forcibly; when instinct, free from facts, and ranging clear of the will’s dominion, asserted itself most strongly, and as he awoke this night it was on him again.