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   Chapter 24 THE SPIRITUAL EXERCISES

By What Authority? By Robert Hugh Benson Characters: 35142

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


Anthony found that Mr. Buxton had seriously underestimated himself in describing his position as that of a plain country gentleman. Stanfield was one of the most beautiful houses that he had ever seen. On the day after his arrival, his host took him all over the house, at his earnest request, and told him its story; and as they passed from room to room, again and again Anthony found himself involuntarily exclaiming at the new and extraordinary beauties of architecture and furniture that revealed themselves.

The house itself had been all built in the present reign, before its owner had got into trouble; and had been fitted throughout on the most lavish scale, with furniture of German as well as of English manufacture. Mr. Buxton was a collector of pictures and other objects of art; and his house contained some of the very finest specimens of painting, bronzes, enamels, plate and woodwork procurable from the Continent.

The house was divided into two sections; the chief living rooms were in a long suite looking to the south on to the gardens, with a corridor on the north side running the whole length of the house on the ground-floor, from which a staircase rose to a similar corridor or gallery on the first floor. The second section of the house was a block of some half-dozen smallish rooms, with a private staircase of their own, and a private entrance and little walled garden as well in front. The house was mostly panelled throughout, and here and there hung pieces of magnificent tapestry and cloth of arras. All was kept, too, with a care that was unusual in those days-the finest woodwork was brought to a high polish, as well as all the brass utensils and steel fire-plates and dogs and such things. No two rooms were alike; each possessed some marked characteristic of its own-one bedroom, for example, was distinguished by its fourpost bed with its paintings on the canopy and head-another, by its little two-light high window with Adam and Eve in stained glass; another with a little square-window containing a crucifix, which was generally concealed by a sliding panel; another by two secret cupboards over the fire-place, and its recess fitted as an oratory; another by a magnificent piece of tapestry representing Saint Clara and Saint Thomas of Aquin, each holding a monstrance, with a third great monstrance in the centre, supported by angels.

Downstairs the rooms were on the same scale of magnificence. The drawing-room had an exquisite wooden ceiling with great pendants elaborately carved; the dining-room was distinguished by its glass, containing a collection of coats-of-arms of many of Mr. Buxton's friends who had paid him visits; the hall by its vast fire-place and the tapestries that hung round it.

The exterior premises were scarcely less remarkable; a fine row of stables, and kennels where greyhounds were kept, stood to the north and the east of the house; but the wonder of the country was the gardens to the south. Anthony hardly knew what to say for admiration as he went slowly through these with his host, on the bright spring morning, after visiting the house. These were elaborately laid out, and under Mr. Buxton's personal direction, for he was one of the few people in England at this time who really understood or cared for the art. His avenue of small clipped limes running down the main walk of the garden, his yew-hedges fashioned with battlements and towers; his great garden house with its vane; his fantastic dial in the fashion of a tall striped pole surmounted by a dragon;-these were the astonishment of visitors; and it was freely said that had not Mr. Buxton been exceedingly adroit he would have paid the penalty of his magnificence and originality by being forced to receive a royal visit-a favour that would have gone far to impoverish, if not to ruin him. The chancel of the parish-church overlooked the west end of his lime-avenue, while the east end of the garden terminated in a great gateway, of stone posts and wrought iron gates that looked out to the meadows and farm buildings of the estate, and up to which some day no doubt a broad carriage drive would be laid down. But at present the sweep of the meadows was unbroken.

It was to this beautiful place that Anthony found himself welcomed. His host took him at once on the evening of his arrival to the west block, and showed him his bedroom-that with the little cupboards and the oratory recess; and then, taking him downstairs again, showed him a charming little oak parlour, which he told him would be altogether at his private service.

"And you see," added Mr. Buxton, "in this walled garden in front you can have complete privacy, and thus can take the air without ever coming to the rest of the house; to which there is this one entrance on the ground floor." And then he showed him how the lower end of the long corridor communicated with the block.

"The only partners of this west block," he added, "will be the two priests-Mr. Blake, my chaplain, and Mr. Robert, who is staying with me a week or two; and who, I hope, will conduct you through the Exercises, as he is very familiar with them. You will meet them both at supper: of course they will be both dressed as laymen. The Protestants blamed poor Campion for that, you know; but had he not gone in disguise, they would only have hanged him all the sooner. I like not hypocrisy."

Anthony was greatly impressed by Father Robert when he met him at supper. He was a tall and big man, who seemed about forty years of age, with a long square-jawed face, a pointed beard and moustache, and shrewd penetrating eyes. He seemed to be a man in advance of his time; he was full of reforms and schemes that seemed to Anthony remarkably to the point; and they were reforms too quite apart from ecclesiasticism, but rather such as would be classed in our days under the title of Christian Socialism.

For example, he showed a great sympathy for the condition of the poor and outcast and criminals; and had a number of very practical schemes for their benefit.

"Two things," he said, in answer to a question of Anthony's, "I would do to-morrow if I had the power. First I would allow of long leases for fifty and a hundred years. Everywhere the soil is becoming impoverished; each man squeezes out of it as much as he can, and troubles not to feed the land or to care for it beyond his time. Long leases, I hold, would remedy this. It would encourage the farmer to look before him and think of his sons and his sons' sons. And second, I would establish banks for poor men. There is many a man now a-begging who would be living still in his own house, if there had been some honest man whom he could have trusted to keep his money for him, and, maybe, give him something for the loan of it: for in these days, when there is so much enterprise, money has become, as it were, a living thing that grows; or at the least a tool that can be used; and therefore, when it is lent, it is right that the borrower should pay a little for it. This is not the same as the usury that Holy Church so rightly condemns: at least, I hold not, though some, I know, differ from me."

After supper the talk turned on education: here, too, the priest had his views.

"But you are weary of hearing me!" he said, in smiling apology. "You will think me a schoolmaster."

"And I pray you to consider me your pupil," said Mr. Buxton. The priest made a little deprecating gesture.

"First, then," he said, "I would have a great increase of grammar schools. It is grievous to think of England as she will be when this generation grows up: the schooling was not much before; but now she has lost first the schools that were kept by Religious, and now the teaching that the chantry-priests used to give. But this perhaps may turn to advantage; for when the Catholic Religion is re-established in these realms, she will find how sad her condition is; and, I hope, will remedy it by a better state of things than before-first, by a great number of grammar schools where the lads can be well taught for small fees, and where many scholarships will be endowed; and then, so great will be the increase of learning, as I hope, that we shall need to have a third university, to which I should join a third Archbishoprick, for the greater dignity of both; and all this I should set in the north somewhere, Durham or Newcastle, maybe."

He spoke, too, with a good deal of shrewdness of the increase of highway robbery, and the remedies for it; remarking that, although in other respects the laws were too severe, in this matter their administration was too lax; since robbers of gentle birth could generally rely on pardon. He spoke of the Holy Brotherhood in Spain (with which country he seemed familiar), and its good results in the putting down of violence.

Anthony grew more and more impressed by this man's practical sense and ability; but less drawn to him in consequence as his spiritual guide. He fancied that true spirituality could scarcely exist in this intensely practical nature. When supper was over, and the priests had gone back to their rooms, and his host and he were seated before a wide blazing hearth in Mr. Buxton's own little room downstairs, he hinted something of the sort. Mr. Buxton laughed outright.

"My dear friend," he said, "you do not know these Jesuits (for of course you have guessed that he is one); their training and efficiency is beyond all imagining. In a week from now you will be considering how ever Father Robert can have the heart to eat his dinner or say 'good-day' with such a spiritual vision and insight as he has. You need not fear. Like the angel in the Revelation, he will call you up to heaven, hale you to the abyss and show you things to come. And, though you may not believe it, it is the man's intense and simple piety that makes him so clear-sighted and practical; he lives so close to God that God's works and methods, so perplexing to you and me, are plain to him."

They went on talking together for a while. Mr. Buxton said that Father Robert had thought it best for Anthony not to enter Retreat until the Monday evening; by which time he could have sufficiently familiarised himself with his new surroundings, so as not to find them a distraction during his spiritual treatment. Anthony agreed to this. Then they talked of all kinds of things. His host told him of his neighbours; and explained how it was that he enjoyed such liberty as he did.

"You noticed the church, Mr. Norris, did you not, at your arrival, overlooking the garden? It is a great advantage to me to have it so close. I can sit in my own garden and hear the Genevan thunders from within. He preaches so loud that I might, if I wished, hear sermons, and thus satisfy the law and his Reverence; and at the same time not go inside an heretical meeting-house, and thus satisfy my own conscience and His Holiness. But I fear that would not have saved me, had I not the ear of his Reverence. I will tell you how it was. When the laws began to be enforced hereabouts, his Reverence came to see me; and sat in that very chair that you now occupy.

"'I hear,' said he, cocking his eye at me, 'that her Grace is becoming strict, and more careful for the souls of her subjects.'

"I agreed with him, and said I had heard as much.

"'The fine is twenty pounds a month,' says he, 'for recusancy,' and then he looks at me again."

"At first I did not catch his meaning; for, as you have noticed, Mr. Norris, I am but a dull man in dealing with these sharp and subtle Protestants: and then all at once it flashed across me.

"'Yes, your Reverence,' I said, 'and it will be the end of poor gentlemen like me, unless some kind friend has pity on them. How happy I am in having you!' I said, 'I have never yet shown my appreciation as I should: and I propose now to give you, to be applied to what purposes you will, whether the sustenance of the minister or anything else, the sum of ten pounds a month; so long as I am not troubled by the Council. Of course, if I should be fined by the Council, I shall have to drop my appreciation for six months or so.'

"Well, Mr. Norris, you will hardly believe it, but the old doctor opened his mouth and gulped and rolled his eyes, like a trout taking a fly; and I was never troubled until fifteen months ago, when they got at me in spite of him. But he has lost, you see, a matter of one hundred and fifty pounds while I have been at Wisbeach; and I shall not begin to appreciate him again for another six months; so I do not think I shall be troubled again."

Anthony was amazed, and said so.

"Well," said the other, "I was astonished too; and should never have dreamt of appreciating him in such a manner unless he had proposed it. I had a little difficulty with Mr. Blake, who told me that it was a libellum, and that I should be ashamed to pay hush money. But I told him that he might call it what he pleased, but that I would sooner pay ten pounds a month and be in peace, than twenty pounds a month and be perpetually harassed: and Father Robert agrees with me, and so the other is content now."

The next day, which was Sunday, passed quietly. Mass was no doubt said somewhere in the house; though Anthony saw no signs of it. He himself attended the reverend doctor's ministrations in the morning; and found him to be what he had been led to expect.

In the afternoon he walked up and down the lime avenue with Father Robert, while the evening prayer and sermon rumbled forth through the broken chancel window; and they talked of the Retreat and the arrangements.

"You no doubt think, Mr. Norris," said the priest, "that I shall preach at you in this Retreat, and endeavour to force you into the Catholic Church; but I shall do nothing of the kind. The whole object of the Exercises is to clear away the false motives that darken the soul; to place the Figure of our Redeemer before the soul as her dear and adorable Lover and King; and then to kindle and inspire the soul to choose her course through the grace of God, for the only true final motive of all perfect action,-that is, the pure Love of God. Of course I believe, with the consent of my whole being, that the Catholic Church is in the right; but I shall not for a moment attempt to compel you to accept her. The final choice, as indeed the Retreat too, must be your free action, not mine."

They arranged too the details of the Retreat; and Anthony was shown the little room beyond Father Robert's bedroom, where the Exercises would be given; and informed that another gentleman who lived in the neighbourhood would come in every day for them too, but that he would have his meals separately, and that Anthony himself would have his own room and the room beneath entirely at his private disposal, as well as the little walled garden to walk in.

The next day Mr. Buxton took Anthony a long ride, to invigorate him for the Retreat that would begin after supper. Anthony learned to his astonishment and delight that Mary Corbet was a great friend of Mr. Buxton's.

"Why, of course I know her," he said. "I have known her since she was a tiny girl, and threw her mass-book at the minister's face the first time he read the morning prayer. God only knows why she was so wroth with the man for differing from herself on a point that has perplexed the wisest heads: but at any rate, wroth she was, and bang went her book. I had to take her out, and she was spitting like a kitten all down the aisle when the dog puts his head into the basket.

"'What's that man doing here?' she screamed out; 'where's the altar and the priest?' And then at the door, as luck would have had it, she saw that Saint Christopher was gone; and she began bewailing and bemoaning him until you'd have thought he'd have been bound to come down from heaven, as he did once across the dark river, and see what in the world the crying child wanted with him."

* * *

They came about half-way in their ride through the village of Penshurst; and on reaching the Park turned off under the beeches towards the house.

"We have not time to go in," said Mr. Buxton, "but I hope you will see the house sometime; it is a pattern of what a house should be; and has a pattern master."

As they came up to the Edwardine Gate-house, a pleasant-faced, quietly-dressed gentleman came riding out alone.

"Why, here he is!" said Mr. Buxton, and greeted him with great warmth, and made Anthony known to him.

"I am delighted to know Mr. Norris," said Sidney, with that keen friendly look that was so characteristic of him. "I have heard of him from many quarters."

He entreated them to come in; but Mr. Buxton said they had not time; but would if they might just glance into the great court. So Sidney took them through the gate-house and pointed out one or two things of interest from the entrance, the roof of the Great Hall built by Sir John de Pulteney, the rare tracery in its windows and the fine living-rooms at one side.

"I thank God for it every day," said Sidney gravely. "I cannot imagine why He should have given it me. I hope I am not fool enough to disparage His gifts, and pretend they are nothing: indeed, I love it with all my heart. I would as soon think of calling my wife ugly or a shrew."

"That is a good man and a gentleman," said Mr. Buxton, as they rode away at last in the direction of Leigh after leaving Sidney to branch off towards Charket, "and I do not know why he is not a Catholic. And he is a critic and a poet, men s

ay, too."

"Have you read anything of his?" asked Anthony.

"Well," said the other, "to tell the truth, I have tried to read some sheets of his that he wrote for his sister, Lady Pembroke. He calls it 'Arcadia'; I do not know whether it is finished or ever will be. But it seemed to me wondrous dull. It was full of shepherds and swains and nymphs, who are perpetually eating collations which Ph?bus or sunburnt Autumn, and the like, provides of his bounty; or any one but God Almighty; or else they are bathing and surprising one another all day long. It is all very sweet and exquisite, I know; and the Greece, where they all live and love one another, must be a very delightful country, as unlike this world as it is possible to imagine; but it wearies me. I like plain England and plain folk and plain religion and plain fare; but then I am a plain man, as I tell you so often."

As the afternoon sun drew near setting, they came through Tonbridge.

"Now, what can a man ask more," said Mr. Buxton, as they rode through it, "than a good town like this? It is not a great place, I know, with solemn buildings and wide streets; neither is it a glade or a dell; but it is a good clean English town; and I would not exchange it for Arcadia or Athens either."

Stanfield lay about two miles to the west; and on their way out, Mr. Buxton talked on about the country and its joys and its usefulness.

"Over there," he said, pointing towards Eridge, "was the first cannon made in England. I do not know if that is altogether to its credit, but it at least shows that we are not quite idle and loutish in the country. Then all about here is the iron; the very stirrups you ride in, Mr. Norris, most likely came from the ground beneath your feet; but it is sad to see all the woods cut down for the smelting of it. All these places for miles about here, and about Great Keynes too, are all named after the things of forestry and hunting. Buckhurst, Hartfield, Sevenoaks, Forest Row, and the like, all tell of the country, and will do so long after we are dead and gone."

They reached Stanfield, rode past the green and the large piece of water there, and up the long village street, and turned into the iron gates beyond the church, just as the dusk fell.

That evening after supper the Retreat began. The conduct of the Spiritual Exercises had not reached the elaboration to which they have been perfected since; nor, in Anthony's case, a layman and a young man, did Father Robert think fit to apply it even in all the details in which it would be used for a priest or for one far advanced in the spiritual life; but it was severe enough.

Every evening Father Robert indicated the subject of the following day's meditation; and then after private prayer Anthony retired to his room. He rose about seven o'clock in the morning, and took a little food at eight; then shortly before nine the first meditation was given elaborately. The first examination of conscience was made at eleven; followed by dinner at half-past. From half-past twelve to half-past one Anthony rested in his room; then until three he was encouraged to walk in the garden; at three the meditation was to be recalled point by point in the chapel, followed by spiritual reading; at five o'clock supper was served; and at half-past six the meditation was repeated with tremendous emphasis and fervent acts of devotion; at half-past eight a slight collation was laid in his room; and at half-past nine the meditation for the following day was given. Father Robert in his previous talks with Anthony had given him instructions as to how to occupy his own time, to keep his thoughts fixed and so forth. He had thought it wise too not to extend the Retreat for longer than a fortnight; so that it was proposed to end it on Palm Sunday. Two or three times in the week Anthony rode out by himself; and Father Robert was always at his service, besides himself coming sometimes to talk to him when he thought the strain or the monotony was getting too heavy.

As for the Exercises themselves, the effect of them on Anthony was beyond all description. First the circumstances under which they were given were of the greatest assistance to their effectiveness. There was every aid that romance and mystery could give. Then it was in a strange and beautiful house where everything tended to caress the mind out of all self-consciousness. The little panelled room in which the exercises were given looked out over the quiet garden, and no sound penetrated there but the far-off muffled noises of the peaceful village life, the rustle of the wind in the evergreens, and the occasional coo or soft flapping flight of a pigeon from the cote in the garden. The room itself was furnished with two or three faldstools and upright wooden arm-chairs of tolerable comfort; a table was placed at the further end, on which stood a realistic Spanish crucifix with two tapers always burning before it; and a little jar of fragrant herbs. Then there was the continual sense of slight personal danger that is such a spur to refined natures; here was a Catholic house, of which every member was strictly subject to penalties, and above all one of that mysterious Society of Jesus, the very vanguard of the Catholic army, and of which every member was a picked and trained champion. Then there was the amazing enthusiasm, experience, and skill of Father Robert, as he called himself; who knew human nature as an anatomist knows the structure of the human body; to whom the bewildering tangle of motives, good, bad and indifferent, in the soul, was as plain as paths in a garden; who knew what human nature needed, what it could dispense with, what was its power of resistance; and who had at his disposal for the storming of the soul an armoury of weapons and engines, every specimen of which he had tested and wielded over and over again. Little as Anthony knew it, Father Robert, during the first two days after his arrival, had occupied himself with sounding and probing the lad's soul, trying his intellect by questions that scarcely seemed to be so, taking the temperature of his emotional nature by tales and adroit remarks, and watching the effect of them; in short, with studying the soul who had come for his treatment as a careful doctor examines the health of a new patient before he issues his prescription. And then, lastly, there were the Exercises themselves, a mighty weapon in any hands; and all but irresistible when directed by the skill, and inspired by the enthusiasm and sincere piety of such a man as Father Robert.

The Exercises fell into three parts, each averaging in Anthony's case about five days. First came the Purgative Exercises: the object of these was to cleanse and search out the very recesses of the soul; as fire separates gold from alloy.

As Anthony knelt in the little room before the Crucifix day by day, it seemed to him as if the old conventional limitations and motives of action and control were rolling back, revealing the realities of the spiritual world. The Exercises began with an elaborate exposition of the End of man-which may be roughly defined as the Glory of God attained through the saving and sanctifying of the individual. Every creature of God, then, that the soul encounters must be tested by this rule, How far does the use of it serve for the final end? For it must be used so far, and no farther. Here then was a diagram of the Exercises, given in miniature at the beginning.

Then the great facts that practically all men acknowledge, and upon which so few act, were brought into play. Hell, Judgment and Death in turn began to work upon the lad's soul-these monstrous elemental Truths that underlie all things. As Father Robert's deep vibrating voice spoke, it appeared to Anthony as if the room, the walls, the house, the world, all shrank to filmy nothingness before the appalling realities of these things. In that strange and profound "Exercise of the senses" he heard the moaning and the blasphemies of the damned, of those rebellious free wills that have enslaved themselves into eternal bondage by a deliberate rejection of God-he put out his finger and tasted the bitterness of their furious tears-the very reek of sin came to his nostrils, of that corruption that is in existence through sin; nay, he saw the very flaming hells red with man's wrath against his Maker.

Then he traced back, under the priest's direction, the Judgment through which every soul must pass; he saw the dead, great and small, stand before God; the books, black with blotted shame, were borne forth by the recording angels and spread before the tribunal. His ears tingled with that condemning silence of the Judge beyond Whom there is no appeal, from whose sentence there is no respite, and from whose prison there is no discharge; and rang with that pealing death-sentence at which the angels hide their faces, but to which the conscience of the criminal assents that it is just. His soul looked out at those whirling hosts on either side, that black cloud going down to despair, that radiant company hastening to rise to the Uncreated Light in whom there is no darkness at all-and cried in piteous suspense to know on which side she herself one day would be.

Then he came yet one step further back still, and told himself the story of his death. He saw the little room where he would lie, his bed in one corner; he saw Isabel beside the bed; he saw himself, white, gasping, convulsed, upon it-the shadows of the doctor and the priest were upon the wall-he heard his own quick sobbing breath, he put out his finger and touched his own forehead wet with the death-dew-he tasted and smelt the faint sickly atmosphere that hangs about a death chamber; and he watched the grey shadow of Azrael's wing creep across his face. Then he saw the sheet and the stiff form beneath it; and knew that they were his features that were hidden; and that they were his feet that stood up stark below the covering. Then he visited his own grave, and saw the month-old grass blowing upon it, and the little cross at the head; then he dug down through the soil, swept away the earth from his coffin-plate; drew the screws and lifted the lid....

Then he placed sin beneath the white light; dissected it, analysed it, weighed it and calculated its worth, watched its development in the congenial surroundings of an innocent soul, that is rich in grace and leisure and gifts, and saw the astonishing reversal of God's primal law illustrated in the process of corruption-the fair, sweet, fragrant creature passing into foulness. He looked carefully at the stages and modes of sin-venial sins, those tiny ulcers that weaken, poison and spoil the soul, even if they do not slay it-lukewarmness, that deathly slumber that engulfs the living thing into gradual death-and, finally, mortal sin, that one and only wholly hideous thing. He saw the indescribable sight of a naked soul in mortal sin; he saw how the earth shrank from it, how nature grew silent at it, how the sun darkened at it, how hell yelled at it, and the Love of God sickened at it.

And so, as the purgative days went by, these tempests poured over his soul, sifted through it, as the sea through a hanging weed, till all that was not organically part of his life was swept away, and he was left a simple soul alone with God. Then the second process began.

To change the metaphor, the canvas was now prepared, scoured, bleached and stretched. What is the image to be painted upon it? It is the image of Christ.

Now Father Robert laid aside his knives and his hammer, and took up his soft brushes, and began stroke by stroke, with colours beyond imagining, to lay upon the eager canvas the likeness of an adorable Lover and King. Anthony watched the portrait grow day by day with increasing wonder. Was this indeed the Jesus of Nazareth of whom he had read in the Gospels? he rubbed his eyes and looked; and yet there was no possibility of mistake,-line for line it was the same.

But this portrait grew and breathed and moved, and passed through all the stages of man's life. First it was the Eternal Word in the bosom of the Father, the Beloved Son who looked in compassion upon the warring world beneath; and offered Himself to the Father who gave Him through the Energy of the Blessed Spirit.

Then it was a silent Maid that he saw waiting upon God, offering herself with her lily beside her; and in answer on a sudden came the lightning of Gabriel's appearing, and, lo! the Eternal Word stole upon her down a ray of glory. And then at last he saw the dear Child born; and as he looked he was invited to enter the stable; and again he put out his hand and touched the coarse straw that lay in the manger, and fingered the rough brown cord that hung from Mary's waist, and smelled the sweet breath of the cattle, and the burning oil of Joseph's lantern hung against the wall, and shivered as the night wind shrilled under the ill-fitting door and awoke the tender Child.

Then he watched Him grow to boyhood, increasing in wisdom and stature, Him who was uncreated Wisdom, and in whose Hands are the worlds-followed Him, loving Him more at every step, to and from the well at Nazareth with the pitcher on His head: saw Him with blistered hands and aching back in the carpenter's shop; then at last went south with Him to Jordan; listened with Him, hungering, to the jackals in the wilderness; rocked with Him on the high Temple spire; stared with Him at the Empires of all time, and refused them as a gift. Then he went with Him from miracle to miracle, laughed with joy at the leper's new skin; wept in sorrow and joy with the mother at Nain, and the two sisters at Bethany; knelt with Mary and kissed His feet; went home with Matthew and Zaccheus, and sat at meat with the merry sinners; and at last began to follow silent and amazed with face set towards Jerusalem, up the long lonely road from Jericho.

Then, with love that almost burned his heart, he crouched at the moonlit door outside and watched the Supper begin. Judas pushed by him, muttering, and vanished in the shadows of the street. He heard the hush fall as the Bread was broken and the Red Wine uplifted; and he hid his face, for he dared not yet look with John upon a glory whose veils were so thin. Then he followed the silent company through the overhung streets to the Temple Courts, and down across the white bridge to the garden door. Then, bolder, he drew near, left the eight and the three and knelt close to the single Figure, who sobbed and trembled and sweated blood. Then he heard the clash of weapons and saw the glare of the torches, and longed to warn Him but could not; saw the bitter shame of the kiss and the arrest and the flight; and followed to Caiaphas' house; heard the stinging slap; ran to Pilate's house; saw that polished gentleman yawn and sneer; saw the clinging thongs and the splashed floor when the scourging was over; followed on to Calvary; saw the great Cross rise up at last over the heads of the crowd, and heard the storm of hoots and laughter and the dry sobs of the few women. Then over his head the sun grew dull, and the earth rocked and split, as the crosses reeled with their swinging burdens. Then, as the light came back, and the earth ended her long shudder, he saw in the evening glow that his Lord was dead. Then he followed to the tomb; saw the stone set and sealed and the watch appointed; and went home with Mary and John, and waited.

Then on Easter morning, wherever his Lord was, he was there too; with Mary in that unrecorded visit; with the women, with the Apostles; on the road to Emmaus; on the lake of Galilee; and his heart burned with Christ at his side, on lake and road and mountain.

Then at last he stood with the Twelve and saw that end that was so glorious a beginning; saw that tender sky overhead generate its strange cloud that was the door of heaven; heard far away the trumpets cry, and the harps begin to ripple for the new song that the harpers had learned at last; and then followed with his eyes the Lord whom he had now learned to know and love as never before, as He passed smiling and blessing into the heaven from which one day He will return....

* * *

There, then, as Anthony looked on the canvas, was that living, moving face and figure. What more could He have done that He did not do? What perfection could be dreamed of that was not already a thousand times His?

And when the likeness was finished, and Father Robert stepped aside from the portrait that he had painted with such tender skill and love, it is little wonder that this lad threw himself down before that eloquent vision and cried with Thomas, My Lord and my God!

* * *

Then, very gently, Father Robert led him through those last steps; up from the Illuminative to the Unitive; from the Incarnate Life with its warm human interests to that Ineffable Light that seems so chill and unreal to those who only see it through the clouds of earth, into that keen icy stillness, where only favoured and long-trained souls can breathe, up the piercing air of the slopes that lead to the Throne, and there in the listening silence of heaven, where the voice of adoration itself is silent through sheer intensity, where all colours return to whiteness and all sounds to stillness, all forms to essence and all creation to the Creator, there he let him fall in self-forgetting love and wonder, breathe out his soul in one ardent all-containing act, and make his choice.

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