Chapter 19

CHAPTER XX

EFFICACY OF PRAYER

URGEN went in a tremble to the Cathedral of the Sacred Thorn in Cameliard. All night Jurgen prayed there, not in repentance, but in terror. For his dead he prayed , that they should not have been blotted out in nothingness, for the dead among his kindred whom he had loved in boyhood, and for these only. About the men and women whom he had known since then he did not seem to care, or not at least so vitally. But he put up a sort of prayer for Dame Lisa -- wherever my dear wife may be, and, 0 God, grant that may come to her at last, and be forgiven he wailed, and wondered if he really meant it.

He had forgotten about Guenevere. And nobody knows what were that night the thoughts of the young Princess, nor if she offered any prayers, in the deserted Hall of judgment.

In the morning a sprinkling of persons came to early , mass. Jurgen attended with fervour, and started doorward with the others. just before him a merchant stopped to get a pebble from his shoe, and the merchant's wife went forward to the holy-water fo nt.

"Madame, permit me," said a handsome young esquire, and offered her holy water.

"At eleven," said the merchant's wife, in low tones. "He will be out all day."

"My dear," says her husband, as he rejoined her, "and who was the young gentleman?"

"Why, I do not know, darling. I never saw him before."

"He was certainly very civil. I wish there were. more like him. And a fine-looking young fellow, too!"

"Was he? I did not notice," said the merchant's wife, indifferently.

And Jurgen saw and heard and regarded the departing trio ruefully. It seemed to him incredible the world should be going on just as it went before he ventured into the Druid forest.

He paused before a crucifix, and he knelt and looked up wistfully. "If one could only know," says Jurgen, "what really happened in Judea! How immensely would matters be simplified, if anyone but knew the truth about You, Man upon the Cro ss!"

Now the Bishop of Merion passed him, coming from celebration of the early mass. "My Lord Bishop," says Jurgen, simply, "can you tell me the truth about this Christ?"

"Why, indeed, Messire de Logreus," replied the Bishop, "one cannot but sympathise with Pilate in thinking that the truth about Him is very hard to get at, even nowadays. Was He Melchisedek, or Shem, or Adam? or was He verily the Logos? a nd in that event, what sort of a something was the Logos? Granted He was a god, were the Arians or the Sabellians in the right? had He existed always, co-substantial with the Father and the Holy Spirit, or was He a creation of the Father, a kind of Israel itic Zagreus? Was He the husband of Acharamoth, that degraded Sophia, as the Valentinians aver? or the son of Pantherus, as say the Jews? or Kalakau, as contends Basilides? or was it, as the Docetes taught, only a tinted cloud in the shape of a man that w ent from Jordan to Golgotha? Or were the Merinthians right? These are a few of the questions, Messire de Logreus, which naturally arise. And not all of them are to be settled out of hand."

Thus speaking, the gallant prelate bowed, then raised three fingers in benediction, and so quitted Jurgen, who was still kneeling before the crucifix.

"Ali, ah!" says Jurgen, to himself, "but what a variety of interesting problems are, in point of fact, suggested by religion. And what delectable exercise would the settling of these problems, once for all, afford the mind of a monstrous clever fellow! Come now, it might be well for me to enter the priesthood. It may be that I have a call."

But people were shouting in the street. So Jurgen rose and dusted his knees. And as Jurgen came out of the Cathedral of the Sacred Thorn the cavalcade was passing that bore away Dame Guenevere to the arms and throne of her appointed husband. Jurgen sto od upon the Cathedral porch, his mind in part pre-occupied by theology, but still not failing to observe how beautiful was this young princess, as she rode by on her white palfrey, green-garbed and crowned and a-glitter with jewels. She was smiling as she passed him, bowing her small tenderly coloured young countenance this way and that way, to the shouting people, and not seeing Jurgen at all.

Thus she went to her bridal, that Guenevere who was the symbol of all beauty and purity to the chivalrous people of Glathion. The mob worshipped her; and they spoke as though it were an angel who passed.

"Our beautiful young Princess!"

"Ali, there is none like her anywhere!"

"And never a harsh word for anyone, they say-- !"

"Oh, but she is the most admirable of ladies-!"

"And so brave too, that lovely smiling child who is leaving her home for ever!"

"And so very, very pretty!"

"-So generous!"

"King Arthur will be hard put to it to deserve her!"

Said Jurgen: "Now it is droll that to these truths I have but to add another truth in order to have large paving-stones flung at her! and to have myself tumultuously torn into fragments, by those unpleasantly sweaty persons who, thank Heaven, are no longer jostling me!"

For the Cathedral porch had suddenly emptied, because as the procession passed heralds were scattering silver among the spectators.

"Arthur will have a very lovely queen," says a soft lazy voice.

And Jurgen turned and saw that beside him was Dame Anaitis, whom people called the Lady of the Lake.

"Yes, he is greatly to be envied," says Jurgen, politely.

"But do you not ride with them to London?"

"Why, no," says the Lady of the Lake, "because my part in this bridal was done when I mixed the stirrup-cup of which the Princess and young Lancelot drank this morning. He is the son of King Ban of Benwick, that tall young fellow in blue armour. I am partial to Lancelot, for I reared him, at the bottom of a lake that belongs to me, and I consider he does me credit. I also believe that Madame Guenevere by this time agrees with me. And so, my part being done to serve my creator, I am off f or Cocaigne."

"And what is this Cocaigne?"

"It is an island wherein I rule."

"I did not know you were a queen, madame."

"Why, indeed there are a many things unknown to you, Messire de Logreus, in a world where nobody gets any assuredness of knowledge about anything. For it is a world wherein all men that live have but a little while to live, and none knows his fate thereafter. So that a man possesses nothing certainly save a brief loan of his own body: and yet the body of man is capable of much curious pleasure."

"I believe," said Jurgen, as his thoughts shuddered away from what he had seen and heard in the Druid forest, "that you speak wisdom."

"Then in Cocaigne we are all wise: for that is our religion. But of what are you thinking, Duke of Logreus?"

"I was thinking," says Jurgen, "that your eyes are unlike the eyes of any other woman that I have ever seen."

Smilingly the dark woman asked him wherein they differed, and smilingly he said he did not know. They were looking at each other warily. In each glance an experienced gamester acknowledged a worthy opponent.

"Why, then you must come with me into Cocaigne," says Anaitis, "and see if you cannot discover wherein lies that difference. For it is not a matter I would care to leave unsettled."

"Well, that seems only just to you," says Jurgen.

"Yes, certainly I must deal fairly with you."

Then they left the Cathedral of the Sacred Thorn, walking together. The folk who went toward London were now well out of sight and hearing, which possibly accounts for the fact that Jurgen was now in no wise thinking of Guenevere. So it was that Guenev ere rode out of Jurgen's life for a while: and as she rode she talked with Lancelot.

Chapter 21