Shadows of Ecstasy, by Charles Williams

Chapter Six

The Mass at Lambeth

Before Sir Bernard and Philip reached Colindale Square, peace had again filled the night. The raid, if raid it had been, seemed to have been driven off, although the house, when they reached it, was awake and vocal. Caithness was waiting for them in the library, anxious but not perturbed. He knew nothing more than they did, the guns had been sounding, at intervals and at a distance, for something under an hour, then they had ceased. The police had been hastily instructed to spread the news that all was clear, and (in less loud tones) that no damage whatever had been done. Materially this might be true, but not mentally. The agitation which shook London was as much worse than that which the German raids had caused as the fear of negro barbarism was more fundamental than that of the Prussian. London hid and trembled; the jungles were threatening it and the horrors that dwelled in them. It was but for a few minutes — less than an hour — but it had happened. The morning would perhaps increase the fear when it was uttered; for the moment darkness and separation made it private.

Caithness listened with profound attention to the account Sir Bernard gave him. But he showed a distant tendency to discuss it in language which, though hostile, was far too like Considine’s to please his friend or reassure Philip. He seemed to find most difficulty in accepting the possibility of Considine’s age — which, as Sir Bernard pointed out, was due to the fact that he disapproved of Considine’s ideas. “If you thought he was a saint — your kind of saint — you’d think it might be a miracle,” he complained. “You will fall back on the supernatural to explain the unusual. But that doesn’t matter: the real problem is whether he’s the High Executive.”

“You say he talked as if he was,” Caithness said.

“Yes, but this magniloquent kind of rhetoric can never be trusted,” Sir Bernard said. “He might be merely mad. And if he is there’s no sense in talking to the Prime Minister about him. Even if I do he won’t be there, of course.”

“The man I’m thinking about”, Caithness said, “is the Zulu. You told me last night he said he was a Christian.”

“In a parenthesis, while we were talking stomach,” Sir Bernard said. “To explain the strength of his digestion, no doubt.”

“And to-night,” Caithness went on, unheeding the last remark, “to-night he was different?”

“My dear Ian, you haven’t begun to understand Mr. Considine,” Sir Bernard answered. “Every one was different. Roger went off plunged in a reverie, which is very unlike Roger. And-” he glanced at his son and changed the sentence-“and I was quite incapable of connected thought. And the king — as everybody calls him, so let’s — the king was comatose.”

Caithness began walking up and down the room. “I don’t like it,” he said. “I don’t like the sound of any of it. And especially I don’t like a Christian to be under this man’s influence or in his power. If he can affect you-”

“What on earth harm-” Sir Bernard began, and was interrupted by the priest.

“He evidently thinks he’s got hold of some infernal power,” Caithness went on, “and if — if by the wildest possibility he were mixed up with this African delirium — are we to leave one of the Faith exposed to his control? He’s done it harm enough already. God knows what he may be doing to him. He may have hypnotized him into obedience.”

“Literally”, Sir Bernard asked, “or metaphorically?”

“What does it matter which?” Caithness threw back. “D’you suppose one’s worse than the other? Are we to have a Christian spiritually martyred here among us?”

“Certainly not,” Sir Bernard said. “St. Iago, and charge, Spain! Where?”

But Caithness took no notice; he stood still and silent for a minute, and Sir Bernard observed, with interest, that he was praying. Caithness, he reflected, had always been a little inclined to call up his own spiritual reserves under such a quite honest pretence of invoking direction, though he was always rather careful to keep the command in his own hands: Sir Bernard couldn’t remember that God had ever been known to disagree with Ian, anyhow in ecclesiastical affairs. It was therefore with a sense of gratified accuracy that he heard the priest say, “Well, I’m going up there.”

“What, now?” he asked curiously.

“Certainly,” Caithness answered. “And if this Zulu is still there I shall insist on seeing him.”

“And supposing Mr. Considine refuses?” Sir Bernard asked.

Caithness looked at him abstractedly. “O I don’t think he’ll refuse,” he said. “He either won’t care to or he won’t dare to. Will you come and show me the house?”

“Anything for a quiet life,” his friend answered. “Even to conducting a Christian lion to a Zulu victim. What a world! And Rosenberg found it uninteresting. But I dare say he didn’t know many Christians. I warn you, Ian,” he went on as they left the room, “that if Considine’s there I shall pretend I don’t know you, and that I’ve come back for a cigarette case presented to me by grateful patients. Because if he isn’t the High Executive-”

“And if he is?” Caithness asked. “If he is?”

“That,” Sir Bernard said, “is my only hope of an excuse for driving you. O no, no taxis, thank you. If I have to help abduct a king, let me do it in my own car, so as to have a right to put up a gold plate: ‘In this car His Majesty the King of the Zulus once fled from the conquest of death.’ Why don’t you like the conquest of death, Ian?”

“That’s all been done,” Caithness said, and Sir Bernard, as they came to the garage, gave a little moan. “Not in Considine’s sense it hasn’t,” he said. “You’re just confused. O wel — but I think you’d probably like Considine if you could ever get to know him. Get in, and we’ll try.”

It was a little after midnight when they ran through Hampstead. Sir Bernard stopped the car at the corner of the road, and the two of them walked up it. There were more windows lit up than was usual, owing to the raid, but Considine’s house was in darkness. They went up the steps and Caithness rang. In a few minutes he rang again, and again.

“He’s probably directing the raid,” Sir Bernard said. “Or flying up to meet the planes. Levitation, I think they call it; some of your saints used to do it. Similar to the odour of sanctity.”

Caithness said: “We shall have to find a window.”

Sir Bernard sighed happily. “What a night we’re having!” he said, following his friend. “No, Ian, not that one: it’s too near the road. Somewhere away at the back. One takes off one’s coat, I believe, and presses it against the glass before striking a sharp blow in the centre. We ought really to have treacle and brown paper. You wouldn’t care to wait while I went and knocked up the nearest grocer for some golden syrup? We could use the rest of the tin as an excuse for calling. I wonder if at his age Considine can eat golden syrup without getting himself all sticky? That’d almost be worth living for.”

But since at the back of the house there was at least one window a little open there was no need to resort to these more uncertain methods. The two gentlemen pushed it up, very quietly, and entered. Sir Bernard, scrambling in, thought to himself, “‘I will encounter darkness as a bride,’ I hope she likes me.” Within all was silent. They found their way cautiously along, and emerged at last in the hall, where Sir Bernard assumed direction. Either the house was for the time empty or everyone was asleep. The second alternative was so unlikely that they permitted themselves to assume the first.

They did not, however, relax their caution until they came at last to the room where they had heard the music and seen Nielsen, and left the king in his sleep and Considine in his triumph. Sir Bernard felt that they were not treading so delicately but that one heard them; he seemed to see Considine standing far off, his head a little turned, listening to them, and he wondered if there would be some sudden interference in some unknown manner. But though the suspense endured it did not increase, and in the light of the room they saw Inkamasi still sitting in his chair.

Caithness went quietly across the room towards the Zulu, Sir Bernard paused by the door, listening for footsteps, and watching what went on. The priest kneeled down by the chair, and, after studying the African’s face for a few minutes, said in a low voice of energy, “Inkamasi, what are you doing here?”

The Zulu stirred under that intense regard and intense voice and answered, “Inkamasi waits for him who caused sleep.”

Sir Bernard jerked suddenly, for the voice was more like Considine’s own than the Zulu’s, yet fainter than either, as if from a distance the master of substitution interposed between the priest and the sleeper. Caithness said, “Do you sleep by your own will?”

“I watch by the will of him that rules me,” the other answered monotonously. “Inkamasi is hidden within me. It’s I yet not I that sleep.”

“In the name of the Maker of. Inkamasi,” Caithness said with superb and deep confidence, “in the Name of the Eternal and Everlasting, in the Name of Immanuel, I bid you awake.”

“I do not know them,” the sleeper answered, “and I keep their sound from Inkamasi lest he hear.”

“By the virtue in created life, by the union of Man with God, by the Mother of God in the world and in the soul, I command you to wake,” Caithness said.

“I do not know them, and I keep their sound from Inkamasi lest he hear,” the sleeper answered.

“In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, be silent and go out of him,” Caithness exclaimed, making the sign of the cross over the Zulu. “Inkamasi, Inkamasi, by the faith you hold, by the baptism and the Body of Christ, I bid you wake.”

The sleeper did not answer but he did not move. As if some closed powers hung, poised and equal, over or within him he lay silent. Sir Bernard remembered how, but a little before, he had seen Considine standing in front of the azure profundity of the curtain, which still hung there, as in the depth of space, and it seemed to him as if from the spectral image of that figure and from the kneeling priest two separate currents of command impinged upon the king and in the moment of meeting neutralized their strength. The central heart of the Zulu beat beyond those conflicting and equal intensities, in oblivion of the outer world yet perhaps in liberty. He waited to see what more Caithness could do. But though the priest concentrated his will and intention, though he tried once or twice to speak, the stillness was prolonged. He had silenced the speaker in Inkamasi, but the very effort held him also silent. He strove to impose his determination upon the Zulu, but he could not pass beyond the gate which he had succeeded in reaching; he could not call the other back through it. He knelt praying by the chair and the minutes went by.

Sir Bernard thought, “We can’t possibly stop here. We don’t know where Considine’s gone, we don’t know whether he’s coming back, and I should hate him to have to worry the exalted imagination with such a detail as what to do with us. He might want us for some new experiment in the conquest of death. I wonder whether-” He peered out through the door; nothing was happening. He turned back into the room. “If Ian and Considine are locked in a spiritual chest-to-chest wrestle,” he thought, “perhaps it’s time for a mere intellectualist to have a word. A timid tentative word.”

He went across the room and round the back of the chair. His eyes met the priest, and by the force of old friendship communicated something of his purpose. Caithness, still silent and intent, moved his hands from where they rested on the Zulu’s shoulders. Sir Bernard put his hand very gently under an arm, and as gently lifted it forward. It yielded easily to his pressure and when that pressure was removed dropped back again. Fearful of speaking lest some rash word should bring down the balance against him, Sir Bernard went lightly to the front of the chair, and picked up the Zulu’s hands. He drew them gently, gently forward and upward, he pulled them towards him till the arms were extended, he pulled with the least little extra firmness, and easily as the hands moved the body moved also. The king rose to his feet, following that physical direction, and Sir Bernard took a step backward towards the door. Inkamasi followed him. Caithness, still caught in spiritual combat, also rose, but he made no movement to assist; he left that visible action to his ally. Sir Bernard, taking another step backward, waited till the Zulu was in movement, then he slipped to one side and, still holding the left hand in his own left, put his right fingers on Inkamasi’s back. He pressed gently; as if automatically the Zulu moved op. Slowly they passed to the door, Sir Bernard on one side, Caithness on the other. They went in front of that hanging curtain of blue, and for a moment Sir Bernard could have believed that they were drawing Inkamasi out of its influence and depth, could have wondered whether indeed he were doing well thus to interfere on behalf of one magic against another. “What doest thou here, Gehazi?” he said to himself. “Do I really want to save a jungle-king for Ian’s passion? One religion or another, it’s all the same —‘She comes, she comes, the sable throne behold, Of Night primeval and of Chaos old.’ I suspect I’m just getting a little of my own back on Considine. Never mind; it’s too late to change now. Round the corner — so.”

They moved on, that curious mingling of intention directing the passive African, through the still house, down the steps, to the waiting car. Still in silence, Sir Bernard made the other two get in at the back and himself returned to the driving wheel. Once more they ran through London, and in the cold October night brought the sleeper to Colindale Square. There at last, once in the library, Sir Bernard turned to Caithness. “And now what?” he said. “Because I can’t personally conduct this Christian of yours about the world for the rest of my life. And I don’t, just at the moment, see what you propose to do.”

“I know what I shall do,” Caithness said. “Do you notice he moves more of his own will since we brought him out of the house?”

“I wouldn’t quite say that,” Sir Bernard said, “but he needs less direction. It is a kind of hypnotism, I suppose.”

“It’s like a locking up of the outer faculties in his master’s will,” Caithness said. “But the others are there, only they can’t hear us. They may hear a greater than us. To-morrow a voice shall call to him that no tyrant shall silence.”

“Meaning-” Sir Bernard said. “My dear Ian, you’ve no idea of how like Mr. Considine’s conversation yours is.”

“To-morrow”, Caithness said, “I will offer the soul and mind of this man to our Lord in the operation of the Mass. The Archbishop will let us use the chapel at Lambeth.”

“And you think that will help him?” Sir Bernard asked with interest.

“Subject always to the will of God,” Caithness answered.

“O quite,” Sir Bernard assented. “The will of God, of course. Heads I win, tails you lose. However — And now do you think we dare go to bed?”

“I shan’t myself,” Caithness said. “I’ll watch by him to-night. But you go on.”

Sir Bernard looked dubious. “I don’t think I should feel quite comfortable,” he said. “Suppose the High Executive suggested to him a little exalted imagination of freedom, I don’t know that you could stop him. I think, Ian, we’ll both settle down with him. I really don’t feel capable of undressing a Zulu king; we haven’t the stuff to do the grand coucher properly. Why is royalty so impressive?”

“It’s the concentration of political energy in a person,” Caithness said thoughtfully, “the making visible of hierarchic freedom, a presented moment of obedience and rule.”

“I think I prefer the Republic,” Sir Bernard said; “it’s the more abstract dream. But I’m too tired to discuss it. Let’s settle as well as we can. Will you have the divan?”

Neither of them slept much — indeed Caithness remained wakeful in his chair, except when for change of comfort he walked up and down a little. Sir Bernard, having slipped away for a few minutes to change, locked the door, took the key with him, and stretched himself on the divan, but only to feel himself revolving the events of the evening. Once his mind was relaxed it became conscious that it was more distressed than it had known. The impact of these high, strange, and violent ideas, the circumstances of colour, music, and ceremonial with which they had been accompanied, the dim suggestion of vivid personalities accepting and serving them and ringing around Considine’s own exalted figure, the dimmer but not negligible possibility that here in London moved the mysterious High Executive of the African declarations, the great intention of Nielsen’s voice, the threat and anger of the guns answering some threat hurled from the hidden places of the negro nations, the obedience of Inkamasi to some distant control, the passion of Ian Caithness-all these things shook his sedate and happily ironical brain. This was an irony which his habits found it difficult to bear, for it struck at the root of his own irony. And one nearer thing troubled him yet more closely. There had been five of them at dinner that night, and three of them had gone together, and of those three how many had come away? Roger and Philip had gone with him, but it was not the same Roger that had parted from him afterwards, and Philip was labouring under some unaccustomed burden. He felt obscurely alone — his own house, his own friends, were grown alien to him; nowhere in all the world was there one intimate with whom he could mock at the monstrous apparitions that loomed on the outskirts of his mind, closing round the slender spires and delicate gardens, in which of late its chosen civilization had moved. Not so much the facts, though they were grotesque enough, but the manner of the facts, disturbed him — the triumph, the fanaticism, the shadows of ecstasy. Other memories forced themselves on him — an insane political hot-gospeller in Hyde Park, Caithness vestmented in an ecclesiastical ceremony, the antique faces of the Jews in the crude reproductions of the papers, a look in Philip’s eyes as he watched Rosamond, the silly raucous voices of the crowd in the streets: where was detachment, where was contemplation there? Amidst all the gracious achievements of the mind what wild rites of self-immolation were again to be practised? the rich blue of those curtains was marvellous in its beauty, but in what depth of rapturous experience had it been woven? and was that rapture, with all that must accompany it of danger and terror, indeed desirable for man? Someone had cried out somewhere lately —“I will encounter darkness as a bride”—“She comes . . . the sable throne behold” . . . to encounter that as a bride; the words meant to him something far beyond his nature. Darkness was to be exiled, not embraced; and when, as in the hour of death, it could no longer be exiled, it should be received with a proud and courteous if constrained hostility. It was Roger who had cried: Roger who loved some mysterious energy that he himself had never found, or finding had mistrusted and banished. He looked from his couch on the shaded room, the dark face of the African chieftain, the pacing figure of the priest of crucifixion; he listened to find if he should again hear the sound of the guns that warned him of a crusade which had spies and devotees in the city where he lay, in the friends by whom he was surrounded, nay, in the very spirit which moved in his obscure self.

Nevertheless, he rose early the next morning with a mind still determined to enjoy its stand against enemies within and without, and gravely put his telephone at Ian’s disposal in order that the priest might speak to Lambeth. It seemed to Sir Bernard very unlikely that the Archbishop would be up, but either he was or he was caused to be. After a prolonged conversation Caithness came back to say merely that all had been arranged. Philip, who apparently had also had very little sleep, offered to drive, more for the sake of doing something, his father suspected, than because he was very clear what was supposed to be happening. But it was a perfectly good idea, Sir Bernard thought; he himself had done all, and rather more than all, that could be thought reasonable, and if Caithness’s Deity were going to fight Nigel Considine for the soul of the Zulu king, he would himself maintain towards such fantastic spiritual warfare a beautiful neutrality. He liked Inkamasi as an individual; he sympathized with him as an African; he was prepared to be interested in him as a king. But he was certainly not prepared to help decide whether he should turn out a fervent Christian or a submissive Considinian; the powers concerned could settle that between them. He saw the others off, and returned first to have breakfast and then to ring up Roger and urge on him the advisability of removing himself, Isabel and Rosamond to Colindale Square in case of further air-raids. Roger made some objection about correspondence, but a long discussion conducted between Sir Bernard at one end and sometimes Roger, sometimes Isabel, sometimes both of them at the other, and sometimes merely between themselves, ended in their accepting his offer. “I had thought of leaving London,” Sir Bernard said, “but if we decide to go, we can all go together. It’ll be kinder to Philip for you to come here, and I have the finest sort of cellar if it’s needed.”

Meanwhile, Philip at the steering-wheel was trying to order his own distracted mind. He certainly hadn’t had much sleep; the evening had shaken him far too much. That curious music, so closely allied to Rosamond yet ever avoiding her, calling and driving him to look for something that seemed to hide in her yet had to be found for its own sake not for hers, that music would by itself have prevented sleep. And when to it was added the obscure talk of Considine’s — and talk that meant something. The moment of vision in Isabel’s kitchen, when Rosamond’s arm had lain like a bar of firmamental power across the whole created universe, dividing and reconciling at once, had stirred in him something more than masculinity, and whatever had been stirred had recognized its own kingdom in Considine’s voice when he had spoken of the divine delight which foretells and communicates the conquest of death. Philip was not much concerned with the conquest of death as such in the future, but he was vitally concerned with its immediate presence. He became dimly aware that though Rosamond would die the thing he had seen in Rosamond not merely could not die but had nothing whatever to do with death. Even if it passed — though of course it couldn’t pass — but even if it did pass, still its passing had got nothing whatever to do with it. Its presence, he toiled laboriously at an undefined thought, had got nothing to do with its absence. Was it so very surprising then that men could determine not to die? He rather wondered whether he could manage to discuss this with Rosamond, only she was always impatient of his slow mind, and he wouldn’t be able to find words for it. Also, probably, she wouldn’t care about it; she’d feel it was disagreeable and a trifle obscene, and perhaps she was right. She and Considine wouldn’t get on very well; only then — far off a single unmistakable note sounded and ceased — only then which of them . . . Shocked, as such lovers are, by the implied disloyalty, when first some alien fate separates itself from the hitherto universal fate which is the beloved, he put it hastily out of his mind. He had not understood, in his confusion, the accusation which his father had flung at Considine, and Sir Bernard considerately had not pressed it on him. The High Executive was something to do with negroes, and Considine was a man in London with whom he had dined. The conquest of death itself would have been an easier matter to Philip than the union of those two thoughts in a single idea. But the two experiences ran closely parallel in his troubled heart.

At Lambeth he followed the others, Caithness gently guiding the Zulu by a hand on his arm. Philip, without exactly professing and calling himself a Christian, had a general idea that he disagreed with the people who disagreed with Christianity. His father’s own disagreement slightly accentuated this, because in the usual reflux of the generations he tended to assume that his father’s mind was insufficient. And anyhow any mere mental and argumentative disagreement was past bothering him at the moment. He couldn’t possibly have sat in the car while the others went wherever they were going; and if the king had really been put to sleep, he thought the king ought to be wakened. But even the relation of Considine with the king did not cause him to suspect whose determination had challenged England in the strange and piercing notes of the Allied Suzerainties of Africa. So he went on.

One of the Archbishop’s chaplains met them and brought them to the private chapel. Caithness led Inkamasi to the rails of the sanctuary and there caused him to kneel, kneeling himself by his side. Philip slipped behind a chair. The Archbishop, vested in the ordinary chasuble, and the chaplain, acting as server, made their entrance. Murmured sentences were exchanged and the Archbishop went up to the altar.

Philip had long ago lost touch with the ritual of the Mysteries, and the opening prayers brought back to him only a confused memory of uninteresting moments in boyhood and youth. The Archbishop, with a swift intense movement, wheeled towards the kneeling four and began the Commandments. Caithness turned his gaze on to Inkamasi, and seemed to concentrate it, as the celebrant uttered, almost as if in an incantation and with his look also fixed on the Zulu, “Thou shalt have none other gods but me.” The chaplain answered softly, and the beating series of directions went on. The Archbishop turned again to the altar, murmured a longer prayer, another, and came to the Epistle.

Of the Epistle and Gospel Philip, unused, to the phrasing and tone, understood very little. A phrase here and there struck him. “Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.” “This sickness is not unto death.” “I am the resurrection and the life.” “Lazarus, come forth.” He was aware of a rising tide of passion, swelled suddenly as the Archbishop broke into the Creed by the strong voice of Caithness. The tones of the three priests mingled and achieved the Profession, and ceased; and for some minutes Philip again heard only the single voice of the celebrant, with an occasional murmur from the chaplain. Nevertheless, as he knelt listening, the Rite ordered his mind. He forgot to try and reconcile; he was moved by reconciliation. There rose in him a feeling kindred to that with which sometimes he had waited for Rosamond — entire expectation yet mingled with complete repose and certainty. The face of Caithness, when he saw it, had lost its earlier concentration and was filled instead with a profound conviction, a content so deep that he involuntarily looked at the Zulu to see what, if anything, had caused it. But no difference showed in Inkamasi, who still, motionless, glassy-eyed, and lethargic, knelt at the rail, his hands hanging over it. The Archbishop’s face visible at moments as he turned and returned, knelt and rose, spread out or closed his hands, was more sombre than that of the other priests, but it was no more strongly moved. Philip had once seen his father the moment before a successful but very dangerous operation, and the look of the celebrant reminded him of Sir Bernard then: it was the look of a man conscious of the gravity of the work before him but conscious also of an entire capacity to deal with it. But was this also then a work of cutting and setting right and binding? was it as possible, if less usual, to restore a man’s will as to restore his stomach? The archbishop seemed to be no more agitated than any clergyman delivering a sermon; only as he stood now in the Prayer of Consecration, he suddenly, after the words “in the same night that He was betrayed,” paused and repeated them on a more exalted note. “In the same night that He was betrayed . . . ” Philip felt himself looking into a different world; a world he had glimpsed once before over the outstretched arm that had been more significant to him than any other experience in his life. To take his part in it, if indeed it really existed, was beyond him; yet he felt that if something was in fact being done there to aid a man he ought to be taking his part in it. He understood the work no more than he understood why Rosamond should be and mean so much. But if the king were really hypnotized . . . he began to make a wordless effort towards prayer, half absurd though he felt his effort to be. On the instant it took him; a sudden warmth leapt within him; his being rested stable upon a rocky basis, and the movements before him became natural and right. He understood them no more than before, but he was assured that they answered to the imperious control that held him. That control was gone again in a moment; he found himself staring only at the ordinary men whom he knew; his mind was undirected, his heart was unwarmed, as before. But as at Hampstead there had opened spaces and distance beyond all dreams, so now there had shown glimpse of a certainty beyond all pledges and promises, a fixity which any after hesitation was powerless to deny. He became conscious of an immense stillness around him; the Archbishop was on his knees before the altar, and the others motionless in their places. The Archbishop’s voice sounded: “Almighty and Everlasting God, who alone art the life of all thy creatures and hast made them able to know how in thy eternity they glorify thee, unite them in thy prevailing will, and increase in them that freedom which only is able to bring them to the bondage of the perfect service, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The chaplain and Caithness answered “Amen.”

“Almighty God,” the Archbishop said again, “make us to know thee through thy Love who hath redeemed us, and bestoweth through the operations of the Church militant upon earth grace and aid upon all that are in adversity. Establish in us, and especially at this time upon our brother here present, a perfect knowledge of thee, overcome all errors and tyrannies, and as thou only art holy, so be thou only the Lord, through Jesus Christ our Saviour.”

Before the “Amen” had ceased, he rose, genuflected, turned, and came down the steps of the altar to Inkamasi. He set his hands on the Zulu’s head, paused, and went on: “By the power of Immanuel who only is perfect Man, by his power committed unto us, we recall all powers in thee to their natural obedience, making whole all things that are sick, and destroying all things that are contrary to his will. Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee life. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.”

As his voice sounded through the chapel Philip saw the hands of the king come together, saw them fold themselves, saw his head move, heard him sigh. Caithness moved an arm behind him, but it was not needed. Inkamasi glanced round swiftly, and as he did so the Archbishop as swiftly went back to the altar, genuflected, and returned, bearing the Sacred Gifts. He communicated them to Caithness first, and then, as if in the ritual of his office, to the king; only again his voice lingered on and intensified the formula of two thousand years, the formula by which Christendom has defined, commanded and assisted the resurrection of man in God. As naturally as in any other service of his life, the king received the Mystery; afterwards he moved as if to rise, but Caithness with a smile touched him on the shoulder and made a quiet signal of restraint, and he desisted. They remained in their places till the Rite was done. The Archbishop and the chaplain passed out, and in due time the others also rose and made their way to the door.

The chaplain met them there; he and Caithness exchanged a few murmured sentences, and then the three went back to the car.

There Caithness said: “I’ll drive this time; you two get in together.” Inkamasi hesitated a moment but he obeyed, and the priest added hastily to Philip. “He knows you; better tell him everything he wants to hear-”

“Yes, but look here,” Philip began, a little startled. “I’m not clear what-”

“No, but never mind,” Caithness said, rather more like the vicar for the moment than the godfather or even the priest, “you’re able to explain what’s happened, aren’t you? He’s met you and he hasn’t met me — that’s why you’ll do it better. In you get.”

In accordingly Philip got. But he didn’t quite see how to open the conversation. Did one just say engagingly, “You must be surprised to find yourself here?” or apologetically, “I hope you don’t mind our having carried you away?” Or could one risk saying, with an air of relief, “That was a near thing?” And then supposing he said, “What?” or “How?” What had it been near to? and how? Philip began to wish that his father was in the car. But before he had found the exact words, the African turned to him and said, “Will you tell me, Mr. Travers, what has been happening?”

Philip tried to, and thought he failed badly. But apparently enough became clear to satisfy Inkamasi, who listened intently, and then said, “You’ve done me a greater service than I quite know, I think. It’s very good of you.”

“Not at all,” said Philip. “My father didn’t like leaving you there. Perhaps we ought to apologize . . . but . . . ”

“No,” Inkamasi said, “no, I don’t think you ought to apologize. If you’ve made my life clear to me, that doesn’t seem a thing to apologize for.” He stared in front of him. “But that we shall see,” he added, and relapsed into silence.

Philip, looking at him, thought that he wasn’t looking very friendly, and that he was looking rather African, in fact rather — savage. Savage was a word which might here, in fact, have a stronger meaning than it generally had. Inkamasi’s head was thrust forward, his jaw was set; his hand moved, slowly and relentlessly, along his leg to his knee, as if with purpose, and not a pleasant purpose. “I hope he isn’t annoyed with us,” Philip thought. “My father must have meant it for the best.” But before they reached Kensington the king relaxed; only there was still about him something high and strange, something apart and reserved, something almost (but quite impersonally) exalted — in short, something like a chieftain who knows that he is a chieftain and is instinctively living up to his knowledge. When they reached Colindale Square, Philip, being on the near side, got out first, and half held the car door for the stranger. Inkamasi got out and smiled his thanks. But he didn’t utter them, and Philip was suddenly aware that he had expected him to. As it was, Inkamasi seemed to have relegated him to the position of an upper servant, yet without being discourteous. Sir Bernard met them in the hall.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 12:30