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

“I have no intention, my good Michael,” said Professor Lucifer, “of endeavouring to convert you by argument.  The imbecility of your traditions can be quite finally exhibited to anybody with mere ordinary knowledge of the world, the same kind of knowledge which teaches us not to sit in draughts or not to encourage friendliness in impecunious people.  It is folly to talk of this or that demonstrating the rationalist philosophy.  Everything demonstrates it.  Rubbing shoulders with men of all kinds——­”

“You will forgive me,” said the monk, meekly from under loads of white beard, “but I fear I do not understand; was it in order that I might rub my shoulder against men of all kinds that you put me inside this thing?”

“An entertaining retort, in the narrow and deductive manner of the Middle Ages,” replied the Professor, calmly, “but even upon your own basis I will illustrate my point.  We are up in the sky.  In your religion and all the religions, as far as I know (and I know everything), the sky is made the symbol of everything that is sacred and merciful.  Well, now you are in the sky, you know better.  Phrase it how you like, twist it how you like, you know that you know better.  You know what are a man’s real feelings about the heavens, when he finds himself alone in the heavens, surrounded by the heavens.  You know the truth, and the truth is this.  The heavens are evil, the sky is evil, the stars are evil.  This mere space, this mere quantity, terrifies a man more than tigers or the terrible plague.  You know that since our science has spoken, the bottom has fallen out of the Universe.  Now, heaven is the hopeless thing, more hopeless than any hell.  Now, if there be any comfort for all your miserable progeny of morbid apes, it must be in the earth, underneath you, under the roots of the grass, in the place where hell was of old.  The fiery crypts, the lurid cellars of the underworld, to which you once condemned the wicked, are hideous enough, but at least they are more homely than the heaven in which we ride.  And the time will come when you will all hide in them, to escape the horror of the stars.”

“I hope you will excuse my interrupting you,” said Michael, with a slight cough, “but I have always noticed——­”

“Go on, pray go on,” said Professor Lucifer, radiantly, “I really like to draw out your simple ideas.”

“Well, the fact is,” said the other, “that much as I admire your rhetoric and the rhetoric of your school, from a purely verbal point of view, such little study of you and your school in human history as I have been enabled to make has led me to—­er—­rather singular conclusion, which I find great difficulty in expressing, especially in a foreign language.”

“Come, come,” said the Professor, encouragingly, “I’ll help you out.  How did my view strike you?”

“Well, the truth is, I know I don’t express it properly, but somehow it seemed to me that you always convey ideas of that kind with most eloquence, when—­er—­when——­”

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