Father Jervis shook his head.
“It’s a sad business,” he said. “That’s Dom Adrian Bennett. He’s very daring. He’s had one warning from Rome; but he’s so extraordinarily clever that it’s very hard to silence him. He’s not exactly heretical; but he will work along lines that have already been decided.”
“Dear me! He seems very charming.”
“Certainly. He is most charming, and utterly sincere. He’s got the entree everywhere here. He is a first-rate scientist, by the way. But, Monsignor, I’d sooner not talk about him. Do you mind?”
“But what’s his subject? Tell me that.”
“It’s the miraculous element in religion,” said the priest shortly. “Come, we must go to our coffee.”
The hall was already crowded in every part as the two priests looked in at the lower end a few minutes before eleven o’clock. It was arranged more or less like a theatre, with a broad gangway running straight up from the doors at one end to the foot of the stage at the other. The stage itself, with a statue of Mary towering at the back, communicated with the examination-rooms behind the two doors, one on either side of the image.
“What’s going on?” whispered Monsignor, as he glanced up first on this side and that, at the array of heads that listened, and then at the two figures that occupied the stage.
“It’s a doctor lecturing on a cure. This goes on nearly all day. We must get round to the back somehow.”
As they passed in at last from the outside through the private door through which the doctors and privileged persons had access behind the stage, they heard a storm of clapping and voices from the direction of the public hall on their right.
“That’s finished then. Follow me, Monsignor.”
They went through a passage or two, after their guide—a young man in uniform—seeing as they went, through half-open doors here and there, quite white rooms, glimpses of men in white, and once at least a litter being set down; and came at last into what looked like some kind of committee-room, lighted by tall windows on the left, with a wide horseshoe table behind which sat perhaps a dozen men, each wearing on his left breast the red and white cross which marked them as experts. Opposite the examiners, but half hidden from the two priests by the back of his tall chair, sat the figure of a man.
Their guide went up to the end of the table, and almost immediately they saw Father Adrian stand up and beckon to them.
“I’ve kept you two chairs,” he whispered when they came up. “And you’d better wear these crosses. They’ll admit you anywhere.” (He pointed to the two red and white badges that hung over the backs of their chairs.)
“Are we in time?”
“You’re a little late,” whispered the monk. Then he turned again towards the patient, a typical fair-haired, bearded Russian with closed eyes, who at that moment was answering some question put to him by the presiding doctor in the centre.