He nodded, and led the way over the copper floor, where the water ran high as our ankles and again was drained off, until little dry spaces grew like maps upon the surface, and in ten seconds were flooded again. He led me straight to the cages, and I saw that while the roof and three sides of these were of sheet iron, the fourth side, which faced the throne, lay open. And I saw—in the first cage, a man scourged with rods; in the second, a body twisted on the rack; in the third, a woman with a starving babe, and a fellow that held food to them and withdrew it quickly (the torturers wore masks on their faces, and whenever blood flowed some threw handfuls of sawdust, and blood and sawdust together were carried off by the running water); in the fourth cage, a man tied, naked and helpless, whom a masked torturer pelted with discs of gold, heavy and keen-edged; in the fifth a brasier with irons heating, and a girl’s body crouched in a corner—
“I will see no more!” I cried, and turned towards the great purple canopy. High over it the sun broke yellow on the climbing tiers of seats. “Harry! someone is watching behind those curtains! Is it—HE?”
Harry bent his head.
“But this is all that I believed! This is Nero, and ten times worse than Nero! Why did you bring me here?” I flung out my hand towards the purple throne, and finding myself close to a fellow who scattered sawdust with both hands, made a spring to tear his mask away. But Harry stretched out an arm.
“That will not help you,” he said. “The man has no face.”
“He once had a face, but it has perished. His was the face of these sufferers. Look at them.”
I looked from cage to cage, and now saw that indeed all these sufferers—men and women—had but one face: the same wrung brow, the same wistful eyes, the same lips bitten in anguish. I knew the face. We all know it.
“His own Son! O devil rather than God!” I fell on my knees in the gushing water and covered my eyes.
“Stand up, listen and look!” said Harry’s voice.
“What can I see? He hides behind that curtain.”
“And the curtain?”
“It shakes continually.”
“That is with His sobs. Listen! What of the water?”
“It runs from the throne and about the floor. It washes off the blood.”
“That water is His tears. It flows hence down the hill, and washes all the shores of earth.”
Then as I stood silent, conning the eddies at my feet, for the first time Harry took my hand.
“Learn this,” he said. “There is no suffering in the world but ultimately comes to be endured by God.”
Saying this, he drew me from the spot; gently, very gently led me away; but spoke again as we were about to pass into the shadow of the arch—
“Look once back: for a moment only.”
I looked. The curtains of the imperial seat were still drawn close, but in a flash I saw the tiers beside it, and around, and away up to the sunlit crown of the amphitheatre, thronged with forms in white raiment. And all these forms leaned forward and bowed their faces on their arms and wept.