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sauntered with his friends, and said good-bye to everything. When he had gone away for the Christmas holidays it was not to begin a really new life; in a few weeks he had come back, and the life as a master had seemed in all essentials the same. Now everything was to be changed, scene, friends, occupations—and, yes, something greater, more momentous, something that would change everything with it.
Most boys leaving school to go to the University are elated with the sense of emancipation; to Fernando after half a year of mastership the change to Oxford was more like going back to being a schoolboy.
Those farewells to the familiar and wellloved places were more wistful than elated. The known and tried had come to a stop, the unknown in front had not begun.
It seemed strange too, presently, to be going again along the often-travelled homeward road, and for the last time-to know that the journey he had a few months back looked forward to making all the rest of his life never would be made again: as it never has been. Thirty-six years have gone by since that July evening, and evening, and Fernando
has never travelled an inch of that road again.
It was on the Sunday night, two days before, that he had gone to Benediction at the Catholic Church of the village, two miles from the college, where he had very often been on half-holiday afternoons to make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament.
When first he used to go there he believed that the Blessed Sacrament was present at every "celebration" in the College Chapel; only it was not reserved there. Now that belief had withered away, and it was only in the church at Castle Talbot (as we will call the place) that he could feel sure; and he could not receive the Eucharist there, but he could go and worship.
Often he had gone, during those last doubting months, and there he had never doubted. In the empty little church there was no emptiness, and the silence held the echo of a Voice full of an old and tender invitation, bidding the tired and the burdened wayfarer come and find His rest.
In that place it had often seemed that faith had nothing to do; there had been a clear consciousness and realization of the near
Presence of our Master that mere sight could not have raised or bettered.
People think sometimes that it is only to the strong in faith and spirit, to them in whom there is some great achievement of virtue, that this absolute realization of Christ's presence in the Eucharist is vouchsafed. It is not so. It is given to those who need rather than to those who deserve it. The Divine Lover does not woo where He has already won; but He pours out his ungrudging sweetness to the wayward and far off, as the prodigal's father left the good son, to run out to meet the miserable ingrate one.
Fernando, I say, kneeling alone in that quiet church over and over again felt and knew that a dozen feet away was the Most Beautiful of the Children of Men. If He had pushed open the door and left the Tabernacle ; if He had shown Himself in full stature of a man, smiling as He smiled upon the children that played about Him as He taught; if the smell of His raiment could have crept to the lad's nostrils, the whispered sighing of His voice crept to the lad's ears, saying, as He said before "Neither do I condemn thee" ; if the lad could have seen the beating of that infinite Heart as Its pulsing stirred His
garment, it could not have added one feature of reality, or enhanced by one iota the impregnable conviction the lad had without all those things.
If the lad could have had those things for the choosing he would not have chosen them. The offering of them would have seemed but a reproach, as though without them he could not believe. Thomas would not believe till he saw, and he was allowed to see, to touch, too, if he would; but the blessing was to them who never should have seen and yet should believe.
I have said how empty the place was and how silent. No recollection comes of anything in it, picture or statue, or carven niche; nor any memory of any sound of whispering leaf or breeze, outside. Nothing. Nothing but the One Thing. The Presence.
The lad's thoughts wandered; but in a circle, always with that ineffable, poignant, infinite Centre.
He would think, suddenly, of the Holy Grail. Of the exquisite story of its Quest. How it eluded some. How it showed itself to some. And, after all, it was but the Grail. Here were the hands that had held it,
that first Mass-night in the awestruck room on the city wall. Here the lips whose word had changed its wine into Himself. Here the infinite Heart that had conceived that supreme proof, so inconceivable by any other heart but His, that half the world has for ever failed to accept and hold it.
Only a few had been suffered after long quest and prayer and fast to see the Grail. Himself He gives to all: the reluctance is to receive Him.
The lad's thoughts wandered to the hardness of the world's heart that will not believe.
Fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets had said of Him, He had Himself called them who had seen His coming and the world's wise fools will not believe what He said of Himself and of His staying. They cry out against the Veiled Presence of the Eucharist as not simple, contrary to the simplicity of the rest of His story—as if God unborn in a Maiden's bosom, God in a cradle, God learning to walk and speak, God in bonds, God smitten on the cheek, God spat upon and buffeted and hustled in a crowd, God on a felon's cross, were all simple ideas, such as any man might have conceived, and