The Ball and the Cross eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 236 pages of information about The Ball and the Cross.

As they went sailing down Ludgate Hill, Evan saw that the state of the streets fully answered his companion’s claim about the reintroduction of order.  All the old blackcoated bustle with its cockney vivacity and vulgarity had disappeared.  Groups of labourers, quietly but picturesquely clad, were passing up and down in sufficiently large numbers; but it required but a few mounted men to keep the streets in order.  The mounted men were not common policemen, but knights with spurs and plume whose smooth and splendid armour glittered like diamond rather than steel.  Only in one place—­at the corner of Bouverie Street—­did there appear to be a moment’s confusion, and that was due to hurry rather than resistance.  But one old grumbling man did not get out of the way quick enough, and the man on horseback struck him, not severely, across the shoulders with the flat of his sword.

“The soldier had no business to do that,” said MacIan, sharply.  “The old man was moving as quickly as he could.”

“We attach great importance to discipline in the streets,” said the man in white, with a slight smile.

“Discipline is not so important as justice,” said MacIan.

The other did not answer.

Then after a swift silence that took them out across St. James’s Park, he said:  “The people must be taught to obey; they must learn their own ignorance.  And I am not sure,” he continued, turning his back on Evan and looking out of the prow of the ship into the darkness, “I am not sure that I agree with your little maxim about justice.  Discipline for the whole society is surely more important than justice to an individual.”

Evan, who was also leaning over the edge, swung round with startling suddenness and stared at the other’s back.

“Discipline for society——­” he repeated, very staccato, “more important—­justice to individual?”

Then after a long silence he called out:  “Who and what are you?”

“I am an angel,” said the white-robed figure, without turning round.

“You are not a Catholic,” said MacIan.

The other seemed to take no notice, but reverted to the main topic.

“In our armies up in heaven we learn to put a wholesome fear into subordinates.”

MacIan sat craning his neck forward with an extraordinary and unaccountable eagerness.

“Go on!” he cried, twisting and untwisting his long, bony fingers, “go on!”

“Besides,” continued he, in the prow, “you must allow for a certain high spirit and haughtiness in the superior type.”

“Go on!” said Evan, with burning eyes.

“Just as the sight of sin offends God,” said the unknown, “so does the sight of ugliness offend Apollo.  The beautiful and princely must, of necessity, be impatient with the squalid and——­”

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The Ball and the Cross from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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