Lord of the World
By Robert Hugh Benson
Public Domain Books
“Ah! it is journalese,” said Oliver, at last, leaning back. “Tawdry stuff! But–but the thing!”
Mabel got up, passed across to the window-seat, and sat down. Her lips opened once or twice, but she said nothing.
“My darling,” cried the man, “have you nothing to say?”
She looked at him tremulously a moment.
“Say!” she said. “As you said, What is the use of words?”
“Tell me again,” said Oliver. “How do I know it is not a dream?”
“A dream,” she said. “Was there ever a dream like this?”
Again she got up restlessly, came across the floor, and knelt down by her husband once more, taking his hands in hers.
“My dear,” she said, “I tell you it is not a dream. It is reality at last. I was there too–do you not remember? You waited for me when all was over–when He was gone out–we saw Him together, you and I. We heard Him–you on the platform and I in the gallery. We saw Him again pass up the Embankment as we stood in the crowd. Then we came home and we found the priest.”
Her face was transfigured as she spoke. It was as of one who saw a Divine Vision. She spoke very quietly, without excitement or hysteria. Oliver stared at her a moment; then he bent forward and kissed her gently.
“Yes, my darling; it is true. But I want to hear it again and again. Tell me again what you saw.”
“I saw the Son of Man,” she said. “Oh! there is no other phrase. The Saviour of the world, as that paper says. I knew Him in my heart as soon as I saw Him–as we all did–as soon as He stood there holding the rail. It was like a glory round his head. I understand it all now. It was He for whom we have waited so long; and He has come, bringing Peace and Goodwill in His hands. When He spoke, I knew it again. His voice was as–as the sound of the sea–as simple as that–as–as lamentable–as strong as that.–Did you not hear it?”
Oliver bowed his head.
“I can trust Him for all the rest,” went on the girl softly. “I do not know where He is, nor when He will come back, nor what He will do. I suppose there is a great deal for Him to do, before He is fully known–laws, reforms–that will be your business, my dear. And the rest of us must wait, and love, and be content.”
Oliver again lifted his face and looked at her.
“Mabel, my dear–-”
“Oh! I knew it even last night,” she said, “but I did not know that I knew it till I awoke to-day and remembered. I dreamed of Him all night.... Oliver, where is He?”
He shook his head.
“Yes, I know where He is, but I am under oath–-”
She nodded quickly, and stood up.
“Yes. I should not have asked that. Well, we are content to wait.”
There was silence for a moment or two. Oliver broke it.
“My dear, what do you mean when you say that He is not yet known?”
“I mean just that,” she said. “The rest only know what He has done–not what He is; but that, too, will come in time.”
“Meanwhile, you must work; the rest will come by and bye. Oh! Oliver, be strong and faithful.”
She kissed him quickly, and went out.
Oliver sat on without moving, staring, as his habit was, out at the wide view beyond his windows. This time yesterday he was leaving Paris, knowing the fact indeed–for the delegates had arrived an hour before–but ignorant of the Man. Now he knew the Man as well–at least he had seen Him, heard Him, and stood enchanted under the glow of His personality. He could explain it to himself no more than could any one else–unless, perhaps, it were Mabel. The others had been as he had been: awed and overcome, yet at the same time kindled in the very depths of their souls. They had come out–Snowford, Cartwright, Pemberton, and the rest–on to the steps of Paul’s House, following that strange figure. They had intended to say something, but they were dumb as they saw the sea of white faces, heard the groan and the silence, and experienced that compelling wave of magnetism that surged up like something physical, as the volor rose and started on that indescribable progress.
Once more he had seen Him, as he and Mabel stood together on the deck of the electric boat that carried them south. The white ship had passed along overhead, smooth and steady, above the heads of that vast multitude, bearing Him who, if any had the right to that title, was indeed the Saviour of the world. Then they had come home, and found the priest.
That, too, had been a shock to him; for, at first sight, it seemed that this priest was the very man he had seen ascend the rostrum two hours before. It was an extraordinary likeness–the same young face and white hair. Mabel, of course, had not noticed it; for she had only seen Felsenburgh at a great distance; and he himself had soon been reassured. And as for his mother–it was terrible enough; if it had not been for Mabel there would have been violence done last night. How collected and reasonable she had been! And, as for his mother–he must leave her alone for the present. By and bye, perhaps, something might be done. The future! It was that which engrossed him–the future, and the absorbing power of the personality under whose dominion he had fallen last night. All else seemed insignificant now–even his mother’s defection, her illness–all paled before this new dawn of an unknown sun. And in an hour he would know more; he was summoned to Westminster to a meeting of the whole House; their proposals to Felsenburgh were to be formulated; it was intended to offer him a great position.
Yes, as Mabel had said; this was now their work–to carry into effect the new principle that had suddenly become incarnate in this grey-haired young American–the principle of Universal Brotherhood. It would mean enormous labour; all foreign relations would have to be readjusted–trade, policy, methods of government–all demanded re-statement. Europe was already organised internally on a basis of mutual protection: that basis was now gone. There was no more any protection, because there was no more any menace. Enormous labour, too, awaited the Government in other directions. A Blue-book must be prepared, containing a complete report of the proceedings in the East, together with the text of the Treaty which had been laid before them in Paris, signed by the Eastern Emperor, the feudal kings, the Turkish Republic, and countersigned by the American plenipotentiaries.... Finally, even home politics required reform: the friction of old strife between centre and extremes must cease forthwith–there must be but one party now, and that at the Prophet’s disposal.... He grew bewildered as he regarded the prospect, and saw how the whole plane of the world was shifted, how the entire foundation of western life required readjustment. It was a Revolution indeed, a cataclysm more stupendous than even invasion itself; but it was the conversion of darkness into light, and chaos into order.
He drew a deep breath, and so sat pondering.
Mabel came down to him half-an-hour later, as he dined early before starting for Whitehall.
“Mother is quieter,” she said. “We must be very patient, Oliver. Have you decided yet as to whether the priest is to come again?”
He shook his head.
“I can think of nothing,” he said, “but of what I have to do. You decide, my dear; I leave it in your hands.”
“I will talk to her again presently. Just now she can understand very little of what has happened.... What time shall you be home?”
“Probably not to-night. We shall sit all night.”
“Yes, dear. And what shall I tell Mr. Phillips?”
“I will telephone in the morning.... Mabel, do you remember what I told you about the priest?”
“His likeness to the other?”
“Yes. What do you make of that?”
“I make nothing at all of it. Why should they not be alike?”
He took a fig from the dish, and swallowed it, and stood up.
“It is only very curious,” he said. “Now, good-night, my dear.”