Monsignor Masterman leaned back and drew a long breath. He understood now. But he perceived he must give no sign. The abbot talked on rapidly; the other caught sentences and names here and there: he grasped that there was no real possibility of a reversal of the judgment, but that yet every effort must be made. But it was only with one part of his mind, and that the most superficial, that he attended to all this. Interiorly he was occupied wholly with facing the appalling horror that, with the last veil dropped at last, now looked him in the eyes.
He stood up at last, promising he would see the Cardinal that night; and then his resolve leapt to the birth.
“I should like to see Dom Adrian alone,” he said quietly; “and I had better see him at once. Can you arrange that?” The abbot stopped at the door of the gallery.
“Yes,” he said, “I think so. Will you wait here, Monsignor?”
Monsignor Masterman lifted his eyes as the door closed, and saw the young monk standing before him, beside the little table.
He had sat down again in the gallery while the abbot was gone, watching mechanically the ushers come into the court and remove the recording-boxes one by one; and meantime in his soul he watched also, rather than tried to arrange, the thoughts that fled past in ceaseless repetition. He could plan nothing, formulate nothing. He just perceived, as a man himself sentenced to death might perceive, that the Supreme Horror was a reality at last. The very ordinariness of the scene he had witnessed, the familiarity of some of the faces (he had sat next at dinner, not a week ago, the brown-faced Canon-Theologian), the conversational manner of the speakers, the complete absence of any dramatic solemnity—these things increased the terror and repugnance he felt. Were the preliminaries of Death for Heresy so simple as all that? Was the point of view that made it possible so utterly accepted by everyone as to allow the actual consummation to come about so quietly? . . .
The thing seemed impossible and dreamlike. He strove to hold himself quiet till he could understand. . . . But at the sight of the young monk, paled and tired-looking, yet perfectly serene, his self-control broke down. A spasm shook his face; he stretched out his hands blindly and helplessly, and some sound broke from his mouth.
He felt himself taken by the arm and led forward. Then he slipped into a chair, and dropped his face in his hands upon the table.
It was a few moments before he recovered and looked up.
“There, there, Monsignor,” said the monk. “. . . I didn’t expect this. There’s nothing to——”
“But . . . but——”
“It’s a shock to you, I see. . . . It’s very kind. . . . But I knew it all along. Surely you must have known——”
“I never dreamt of it. I never thought it conceivable. It’s abominable; it’s——”