“After you, Monsignor,” said the old priest.
The other stepped in and sat down. The priest hesitated for an instant, and then leaned forward into the car.
“You have an appointment in Dean’s Yard, Monsignor, you remember. It’s important, you know. Are you too ill?”
“I can’t. . . . I can’t. . . .” stammered the man.
“Well, at least, we can go round that way. I think we ought, you know. I can go in and see him for you, if you wish; and we can at any rate leave the papers.”
“Anything, anything. . . . Very well.”
The priest got in instantly; the door closed; and the next moment, through crowds, held back by the police, the great car, with no driver visible in front through the clear-glass windows, moved off southward.
It was a moment before either spoke. The old priest broke the silence. He was a gentle-faced old man, not unlike a very shrewd and wide-awake dormouse; and his white hair stood out in a mass beneath his biretta. But the words he used were unintelligible, though not altogether unfamiliar.
“I . . . I don’t understand, father,” stammered the man.
The priest looked at him sharply.
“I was saying,” he said slowly and distinctly, “I was saying that you looked very well, and I was asking you what was the matter.”
The other was silent a moment. How, to explain the thing! . . . Then he determined on making a clean breast of it. This old man looked kindly and discreet. “I . . . I think it’s a lapse of memory,” he said. “I’ve heard of such things. I . . . I don’t know where I am nor what I’m doing. Are you . . . are you sure you’re not making a mistake? Have I got any right——?”
The priest looked at him as if puzzled.
“I don’t quite understand, Monsignor. What can’t you remember?”
“I can’t remember anything,” wailed the man, suddenly broken down. “Nothing at all. Not who I am, nor where I’m going, or where I come from. . . . What am I? Who am I? Father, for God’s sake tell me.”
“Monsignor, be quiet, please. You mustn’t give way. Surely——”
“I tell you I can remember nothing. . . . It’s all gone. I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what day it is, or what year it is, or anything——”
He felt a hand on his arm, and his eyes met a look of a very peculiar power and concentration. He sank back into his seat strangely quieted and soothed.
“Now, Monsignor, listen to me. You know who I am”—(he broke off). “I’m Father Jervis. I know about these things. I’ve been through the psychological schools. You’ll be all right presently, I hope. But you must be perfectly quiet——”
“Tell me who I am,” stammered the man.
“Listen then. You are Monsignor Masterman, secretary to the Cardinal. You are going back to Westminster now, in your own car——”