“Tell me for the last time, truly, did not my absence cruelly affect my mother? Had she no suspicion that a more imperious duty called me elsewhere?”
“No, no, I assure you. Even when her reason was shaken, she believed that you had not yet had time to come to her. All the sad details which I wrote to you upon this painful subject are strictly true. Again, I beg of you to compose yourself.”
“Yes, my conscience ought to be easy; for I have fulfilled my duty in sacrificing my mother. Yet I have never been able to arrive at that complete detachment from natural affection, which is commanded to us by those awful words: ’He who hates not his father and his mother, even with the soul, cannot be my disciple.’"
“Doubtless, Frederick,” said the princess, “these renunciations are painful. But, in return, what influence, what power!”
“It is true,” said the marquis, after a moment’s silence. “What ought not to be sacrificed in order to reign in secret over the all-powerful of the earth, who lord it in full day? This journey to Rome, from which I have just returned, has given me a new idea of our formidable power. For, Herminia, it is Rome which is the culminating point, overlooking the fairest and broadest quarters of the globe, made so by custom, by tradition, or by faith. Thence can our workings be embraced in their full extent. It is an uncommon view to see from its height the myriad tools, whose personality is continually absorbed into the immovable personality of our Order. What a might we possess! Verily, I am always swayed with admiration, aye, almost frightened, that man once thinks, wishes, believes, and acts as he alone lists, until, soon ours, he becomes but a human shell; its kernel of intelligence, mind, reason, conscience, and free will, shrivelled within him, dry and withered by the habit of mutely, fearingly bowing under mysterious tasks, which shatter and slay everything spontaneous in the human soul! Then do we infuse in such spiritless clay, speechless, cold, and motionless as corpses, the breath of our Order, and, lo! the dry bones stand up and walk, acting and executing, though only within the limits which are circled round them evermore. Thus do they become mere limbs of the gigantic trunk, whose impulses they mechanically carry out, while ignorant of the design, like the stonecutter who shapes out a stone, unaware if it be for cathedral or bagnio.”
In so speaking, the marquis’s features wore an incredible air of proud and domineering haughtiness.
“Oh, yes! this power is great, most great,” observed the princess; “and the more formidable because it moves in a mysterious way over minds and consciences.”