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ceased, his temptations were less frequent, and he could bear them with impunity. This idea of convents in their compassion dragging him out of the mud in which he had stuck, and by their charity bringing him to the bank, excited him. “The contemplative Orders,” said the abbé,“ are the lightning conductors of society":
“They draw on themselves the demoniacal fluid, they absorb temptations to vice, preserve by their prayers thoso who live, like ourselves, in sin; they appeas.", in fact, tho wrath of the Most High that He may not place the earth under an interdict. Ah! while the sisters who devote themselves to nursing the sick and infirm are indeed admirable, their task is easy in comparison with that undertaken by the cloistered Orders, the Orders where penance never ceases, and the very nights spent in bed are broken by sobs.”
Durtal is filled with admiration, and compares the convents and monastic establishments in which theso cloistered victims live to the forts which defend a city against the attack of the foe; they are as a cordon of spiritual forces which keep the Evil One at bay, and this not only by the fervour of their prayers, but by tho severity of the regimen to which they subject themsolves:
Their existence is so hard, that they too can atone by their prayers and good works for the crimes of the city they protect.
The abbé lays great stress upon the doctrine of substitution, although he hardly goes as far as Mr. Kegan Paul, who roundly declares in language that will cause every good Protestant to blaspheme, and make many good Catholics deplore the indiscretion of the pbrase, that “tho cloister is the divinely appointed expiation for the sins of the world.” The blessed Lidwine, whose life Durtal aspired to write, was, according to the Abbé Gévresin, the verification of that plan of substitution which was and is the glorious reason for the existence of convents. The abbé said :-.
"In all ages, nuns have offered themselves to heaven as expiatory victims. The lives of saints, both men and women, who desired these sacrifices abound, of those who atoned for the sins of others by sufferings eagerly demanded and patiently borne. But there is a task still more arduous and more painful than was desired by these admirable souls. It is not now that of purging the faults of others, but of preventing them, hindering their commission, by taking the place of those who are too weak to bear the shock.
“ Read Saint Teresa on this subject; you will see that she pained permission to take on herself, and without flinching, tho temptations of a priest who could not endure them. This substitution of a strong soul freeing one who is not strong from perils and fears is one of the great rules of mysticism.
"Sometimes this exchange is purely spiritual, sometimes on the contrary it has to do only with the ills of the body. Saint Teresa was the surrogate of souls in torment, Sister Catherine Emmerich took the place of the sick, relieved, at least, those who were most suffering; thus, for instance, she was able to undergo the agony of a woman suffering from consumption and dropsy, in order to permit her to prepare for death in peace.
“ Well, Lidwine took on herself all bodily ills, she lusted for physical suffering, and was greedy for wounds; she was, as it were, the reaper of punishments, and she was also the piteous vessel in which every one discharged the overflowings of his malady. If you would speak of her in other fashion than the poor hagiographies of our day, study first that law of substitution, that miracle of perfect charity, that superhuman triumph of Mysticism; that will be the stem of your book, and naturally, without effort, all Lidwine's acts graft themselves on it.”
The reader will naturally ask himself whether there is anything in this theory, or whether the influence of
the contemplative Orders, who are practically buried alive in their monasteries and convents, is in any real sense efficacious for the reduction of the temptations of mortals who are not cloistered from the world. Upon this subject I have only to make one passing remark, viz., that the recent investigations into the transference of pain by suggestion in the case of hypnotic subjects, and the evidence which is accumulating as to the potency of the huinan will exercised consciously or unconsciously by means of telepathy, renders it no longer possible for ans ono who has any familiarity with the phenomena of Borderland to summarily disiniss this theory of convents as if it were pure moonshine. as if it to
The power of intercessory prayers is recognised by all the Churches, but the nossibility that unknown nuns in a remote province could be turned on, so to speak, to bear the burden of temptations which would otherwise overcome the resistance of an individual in Paris or elsewhere, is : doctrine which would be very interesting if it were scientifically verified. But at present it may be noted, whether true or untrue, it is that which occupies the most prominent place in Huysmans'“ Pilgrim's Progress.” Huysmans evidently attaches considerable importance to the self-inflicted sufferings of the cloister. For instance, in speaking of the Benedictine nuns of the Blessed Sacrament of the Rue Mossier, he says: “It is said that they lead the most austere existence of any nuns; they scarcely taste flesh, they rise at two in the morning to sing matins, and lauds night and day, summer and winter they take turns before the tapers of reparation and befom the altar. Like all the other Orders, they are vowed to obedience, absolute and without reserve, they are in the hands of a superior like a block or the stalk of a res which has neither life, nor movement, nor action, or will, nor judgment.” “ But,” asks Durtal, "are there 106 some moments in which the nuns despair, in which they lament that death in life which they have made for themselves: are there not days in which their senses wake and cry aloud ?” The abbé replied :
“No doubt; in the cloistered life the age of twenty-nine is terrible to pass, then a passionate crisis arises ; if a woman doubles that cave, and she almost alvavada is safe.
“But carnal emotions are not, to speak correctly, the most troublesome assault they have to undergo. The real punishment they endure in those hours of sorrow is the ardent, wild regret for that maternity of which they are ignorant; the desolate womb of woman revolts, and full of God though she be, her heart is breaking. The child Jesus whom they have loved so well then appears so far off and so inaccessible, and His very sight would hardly satisfy them, for they have dreamed of holding Him in their arms, of swathing and rocking Him, of giving Him suck, in one word, of being mothers.
“Other nuns undergo no precise attack, no assault to which a name can be given, but without any definite reason they languish and die suddenly, like a taper, blown out. The torpor of the cloister kills them.”
Huysmans again makes the enemy to blaspheme by quoting with approval the uncompromising declaration of St. Teresa to the effect that any nun who is guilty of insubordination should be imprisoned for life in her coll:
Saint Teresa was goodness itself, but when she speaks in her “ Way of Perfection” of nuns who band themselves together to discuss the will of their mother, she shows herself inexorable, for she declares that perpetual imprisonment should be inflicted on them as soon as possible and without flinching, and in fact she is right, for every disorderly sister infects the flock, and gives the rot to souls.
This passage will not be forgotten in this country or in America when the next agitation is got up in favour of the inspection of convents.
V.-PROGRESS TO THE WICKET-GATE. Aided by the intercessory prayers or substitutional sacrifice of the nuns, Durtal began to make progress. He had long before begun to pray. It was in a little church in the Rue de la Glacière on Christmas Day, where the singing of the chants filled him with quivering emotion:
He had a real impulso, a dim need of praying to the l'nknowable; penetrated to the very marrow by this environinent of aspiration, it seemed to him that he thawed a little, and took a far-off part in the united tenderness of these bright spirits. He sought for a prayer, and recalled what St. Paphnutius taught Thais, when he cried, “Thou art not worthy to name the name of God, thou wilt pray only thus : “Qui plasmasti me miserere mei’; Thou who hast formed me have mercy on me.” He stammcred out the humble phrase, prayed not out of love or of contrition, but out of disgust with himself, unable to let himself go, regretting that he could aot love.
Before he had left the church he was filled with a desire to appeal to some one, he knew not whom, to complain of he knew not what. So he fell on his knees, crying out to the Virgin :
"Have pity on me, and hear me; I would rather anything than continue this shaken existence, these idle stages without an aim. Pardon me, Holy Virgin, unclean as I am, for I have no courage for the battle. Ah, wouldest thou grant my prayer! I know well that I am over bold in daring to ask, since I am not even resolved to turn out my soul, to empty it like a bucket of filth, to strike it on the bottom, that the lees may trickle out and the scales fall off, but .... but ..., theu knowest I am so weak, so little sure of myself, that in truth I shrink.”
The abbé urged him to read the books of the mystics, for in mysticism is the art, the science, and the very soul of the Church, Then he turned his attention to the monastic orders and interested him in the converts, took him to see a nun take the veil; but although his temptations were appeased, Durtal felt rising in him ever more and more an increasing desire to have done with these strifes and fears; but he grew pale when he thought of reversing his life once for all :
Indeed, every time he tried to examine his soul, a curtain of mist arose, and hid from him the unseen and silent approach of he knew not what. The only impression which he carried with him as he rose, was that it was less that he advanced towards the unknown, than that this unknown invaded him, penetrated him, and little by little took possession of him.
When he spoke to the abbé of this state, at once cowardly and resigned, imploring and fearful, the priest only smiled.
** Busy yourself in prayer, and bow down your back,” he said one day.
“But I am tired of bending my back, and of trampling always on the same spot," cried Durtal. “I have had enough of feeling myself taken by the shoulders and led I know not where. It is really time that in one way or another this situation came to an end."
“ Plainly.” And standing up, and looking him in the face, the abbé said, impressively
" This advance towards God which you find so obscure and so slow is, on the contrary, so luminous and so rapid that it astonishes me; only as you yourself do not move, you do Dot take account of the swiftness with which you are borne along."
The only question the abbé added was as to the recentacle in which this ripe fruit was to be placed. The abbé was not long in making up his mind as to the receptacle.
After some little time the abbé announced that it was to a small Trappist monastery of Notre Dame de l'Atre, a few leagues from Paris, that he must go for his conversion. Durtal was at first astonished, but after a little hesitation was eager to take the plunge.
VI.—IN THE MONASTERY, To the Trappist monastery, therefore, Durtal was sent. He shuddered at the thought even of the modified austerity to which he was to be subjected. He was told he need not get up at two o'clock every morning, but at three or even four, according to the day; as for food, he was allowed an egg for dinner in addition to vegetables, which were cooked in milk or water or in oil. The arguments which the priest uses to Durtal to make his way to La Trappe are on the same lines as those which led the Methodist to insist upon the penitent making his way to the penitent form. For instance, the abbé said to Durtal :
“ You declare that you are sustained by the crowds of Notre Dame des Victoires and the emanations of St. Severin. What will it be then, in the humble chapel, when you will be on the ground huddled together with the saints? I guarantee you in the name of the Lord an assistance such as you bare never had; you will be free, you can if you choose leave the monastery just as you entered it, without having confessed or approached the Sacraments, your will will be respected there, and no monk will attempt to sound it without your authority. To you only it will appertain to decide whether you will be converted or no.'
The final appeal of the abbé is practically identical with that which every revivalist makes to his penitents :
“My son, believe me that the day you go yourself to the house of God, the day you knock at its door, it will open wide, and the angels will draw aside to let you pass. The Gospel cannot lic, and it declares that there is more joy over one sinner that repents than over ninety and nine just persons who need no repentance."
Before Durtal could rouse himself to decide to go to La Trappe he weighed the pros and cons, arguing it within himself. He shuddered at the thought of having to face confession and Holy Communion; he thought that he might stand the food, especially if he could find means of smoking a cigarette by stealth in the woods. Even if he could stand confession, he shrunk from taking the Sacrament, expressing himself in terms which are almost a paraphrase of a familiar Protestant hymn, “If you tarry 'till you're better, you will never go at all”:
Communicate! But let us consider, it is certain that I shall be base in proposing to Christ that He should descend like a scavenger into my ditch; but if I wait till it is empty, I shall never be in a state to receive Him, for my bulkheads are not closed, and sins would filter through the fissures.
He went to the abbé and explained to him his difficulties. The description of the dealing of the abbé with his penitent is done extremely well, and will remind even the most bitter Protestant of the practical identity of the doctrines of the Roman and Protestant Churches. The following passage, for instance, embodies a statement the substance of which is made in every inquiry meeting held in England or America. Durtal had been objecting that he was in a wretched state to go to the monastery, that he did not love God, and that he was sure he would fall a prey to the temptations of the flesh if he were to meet his old mistress. The abbé replied:
“You declare that if you meet a certain person whose attraction is a trouble to you, you will succumb. How do you know that? Why should you take care about seductions which In this old man the soul did not even give herself the trouble to reform and ennoble his features-she contented herself in annihilating them with her rays; it was, as it were, the nimbus of the old saints, not now remaining round the head, but extending over all the features, pale and almost invisible, bathing his whole being.
He saw nothing and heard nothing; monks dragged themselves on their knees, came to warm themselves and to take shelter near him, and he never moved, dumb and deaf, so rigid that you might have believed him dead, had not his lower lip stirred now and then, lifting in this movement his long beard.
The dawn whitened the windows, and as the darkness was gradually dissipated, the other brethren were visible in turn tu Durtal; all these men, wounded by divine love, prared ardently, flashed out beyond themselves noiselessly before the altar. Some were quite young, on their knees, with their bolies upright; others, their eyeballs in ecstasy, were leaning buck, and seated on their heels; others again were making the way of the cross, and were often placed each opposite another face to face, and they looked without seeing, is with the eyes of the blind.
And among these lay brethren, some fathers buried in their great white cowls lay prostrate, and kissed the ground.
“Oh to pray, pray like these monks !" cried Durtal within himself.
He felt his unhappy soul grow slack within him; in this atmosphere of sanctity he unbent himself, and sank down on the pavement, humbly asking pardon from Christ, for having soiled by his presence the purity of this place.
He prayed long, unscaling himself for the first time, recognising his unworthiness and vileness so that he could not imagine how, in spite of this mercy, the Lord could tolerate him in the little circle of His clect.
God does not yet inflict upon you, and which He will perhaps spare you? Why doubt His mercy? Why not believe, on the contrary, that if He judge the temptation useful, He will aid you enough to prevent your sinking wwder it ?
"Finally, you say you do not love God; again I answer, what do you know about it? You have this love by the very token that you desire to have it, and that you regret you have it not: you love our Lord by the very fact that you desire to love Him."
The influence of the abbé was too strong for him. The touch of the master was soft and caressing, but it would not be gainsaid ; the other self even insisted, and he gave way. He took down with him several books, none of which he ever read, for at the monastery he found ample occupation without the perusal of the printed page.
There is no necessity to enter into the details of his life at La Trappe; suffice it to say that his day was ordered for him from four o'clo :k in the morning, when he had to rise, until a quarter to eight o'clock at night, when he retired to rest. After attending service in the evening on his arrival, being overwhelmed with the music, which convinced him that no one but the Holy Ghost itself had ever cast into the brain of man the seed of plain chant, he entered his cell full of discouragement and weighed down with a sense of his own sinfulness. He prayed long and passionately before he went to bed; but alas! there was no immediate answer to his prayer on the contrary, he passed a most miserable night. His experience was so special, so awful, that he did not remember in the whole of his existence to have endured such anguish. It was an uninterrupted succession of sudden wakings, of nightmares overpassing the linaits of
its of abomination that the most dangerous madness dreams of. Twice it happened, and twice he woke up, to experience again the impression of a shadow evaporating before he could seizo it. He sprang out of bed, dressed, and went out to smoke a cigarette, and then made his way to the chapel. The following scene is one of the most notable descriptions in the book. On entering the chapel from the darkened vestibule at four o'clock in the morning, Durtal came upon the monks at prayer:
He made a step, crossed himself, and fell back, for he had stumbled over a body; and he looked down at his feet.
He had come upon a battle-field.
On the ground human forms were lying, in the attitudes of combatants mowed down by grape-shot, some flat on their faces, others on their knees, some leaning their hands on the ground as if stricken from behind, others extended with their fingers clenched on their breast, others again holding their heads or stretching out their arms.
And from this group in their agony rose no groan, no complaint.
Durtal was stupefied as he looked at this massacre of monks, and suddenly stopped with open mouth. A shaft of light fell from a lamp which the Father Sacristan had just placed in the apse, and crossing the porch, it showed a monk on his knees before the altar dedicated to the Virgin.
He was an old man of more than four-score years; motionless as a statue, his eyes fixed, leaning forward in such an access of adoration, that the faces in ecstasy in the early masters seemed, compared with his, forced and cold.
Yet his features were vulgar, his shaven skull, without a crown, tanned by many suns and rains, wis brick-coloured, his eve was dim. covered with a film by are, his face wa wrinkled, shrivelled, stained like an old log, hidden in a thicket of white hair, while his somewhat snub nose made the general effect of the face singularly common.
But there went out, not from his eyes, nor his mouth, but from everywhere and nowhere, a kind of angelic look which was diffused over his head, and enveloped all his poor body, bowel in its heap of rags.
VII.-AT CONFESSION. As he prayed a great joy entered into his heart, but at breakfast he was suddenly confronted by the awful approach of the hour of confession. He had never confessed for years, and he shuddered at the thought of telling the confessor of all his hateful past. Without any need of probing it, his life sprang out round him in jets of filth; he had traversed all the district of sin which the Prayer Book patiently enumerated; he grew pale at the thought of detailing to another man those secret sius which he had not dared even to repeat to himself; and when the hour for confession came he could only sob out, “I have not confessed since my childhood; since then I have led a shameful life; I have committed every kind of debauch; I have done everything-everything." Then he choked, and the tears he had repressed flowed, his body was shaken, his face hidden in his hands. The confessor bending over him did not move. “I cannot!” he cried, “I cannot!” Then the confessor dismissed him, bidding him say for his penance the penitential psalms and the Ditany of the wants, and to come again on the morrow. The confessor, who was the prior of the monastery, was kind and sympathetic. “ Come,” he said, “ do not be disturbed, you are about to speak to our Saviour alone; He knows all your faults.” Durtal began, and the confessor mercifully excused him from entering into detail of his sins, merely asking, “ Am I to understand that in your relations with women you have committed every possible excess ?" Durtal made an affirmative sign, and then, as the monk remained silent, he told him about Madame Chanteluve and the black mass at which he had assisted :
The confessor was silent for some minutes, and then in a pensive voice he murmured
“I am struck, even more than yesterday, by the astonishing miracle which Heaven has worked in you.
“ You were sick, so sick that what Martha said of the body of Lazarus might truly have been said of your soul, 'Iam foetet!' And Christ has, in some manner, raised you. Only do not deceive yourself, the conversion of a sinner is not his cure, but only his convalescence; and this convalescence sometimes lasts for several years and is often long.
" It is expedient that you should determine from this moment to fortify yourself against any falling back, and to do all in your power for recovery. The preventive treatment consists of prayer, the sacrament of penance, and holy coinmunion.
** Prayer?-you know it, for without much prayer you could not have decided to come here after the troubled life you had
* Ah! but I prayed so badly!”
"It does not matter, as your wish was to pray well! Confession ?-It was painful to you; it will be less so now that you no longer have to avow the accumulated sins of years. The communion troubles me more; for it is to be feared that when you have triumphed over the flesh the Demon should await you there, and endeavour to draw you away, for he knows well that, without this divine government, no healing is possible. You will therefore have to give this matter all your attention.”
The monk reflected a minute, and then went on “The holy Eucharist . . . you will have more need of it than others for you will be more unhappy than less cultured and simpler beings. You will be tortured by the imagination. It has made you sin much; and, by a just recompense, it will make you suffer much; it will be the badly closed door of your soul by which the Demon will enter and spread himself in yoll. Watch over this, and pray fervently that the Saviour may help you.”
The monk then bade him recite for a penance ten rosaries every day for a month; then rising, the monk said, “I will say nothing of your past, as your repentance and your firm resolve to sin no more efface it; to-morrow you will receive the pledge of reconciliation--you will communicate. After so many years the Lord will set out on the way to your soul and will rest here”:
" Prepare yourself from this moment, by prayer, for this mysterious meeting of hearts which His goodness desires. Now say vonr act of contrition, and I will give you holy absolution."
The monk raised his arms, and the sleeves of his white cowl rose above him like two wings. With uplifted eyes he uttered the imperious formula which breaks the bonds, and the three Words "Ego te absolvo," spoken more distinctly and slowly, fell upon Durtal, who trembled from head to foot. He almost sank to the ground, incapable of collecting himself or understanding himself, only feeling, in the clearest manner, that Christ Himself was present, near him in that place, and finding no word of thanks, he wept, ravished and bowed down under the great sign of the cross with which the monk enveloped him
He seemed to be waking from a dream as the prior said to him
"Rejoice, your life is dead; it is buried in a cloister, and in a cloister it will be born again; it is a good omen; have confidence in our Lord and go in peace.”
VIII.-AT THE COMMUNION. When Durtal left the room, his eyes shone with ecstasy, which, however, was soon dashed by the news that the Sacrament next day would be administered by a jovial curate who was at the monastery on a visit. So Durtal complained to God,“ telling Him all the joy he might have felt in being purified and clean at last, was now gone by this disappointment." Then sick and sore at heart, he went out and began to say his rosary. He had been told to recite ten every day, and he had forgotten whether it was ten beads or ten rosaries. He came to the conclusion it was ten rosaries, which amounted to
something like five hundred prayers a day on end ; therefore, thinking it a penance, he set to work to grind off the prayers until he very nearly went to sleep or went off his head with attempting to achieve the impossible. M. Bruno, who was staying in the monastery, assured him it was the invention of the devil, who wished to make the rosaries odious by suggesting the performance of an impossible task. The prior therefore consoled him, and ordered him to take the Sacrament next day, assuring him that he would take all the responsibility himself.
In reply to a question as to the nights he had had, the prior replied, “We have long known these manifestations; they are without inminent danger, do not, therefore, let them trouble you." Durtal, however, still determined to have his first communion from the hands of a monk and not from a priest, and implored God to give him a sign of his acceptance. “Let the impossible take place, so that to-morrow it might be a monk and not this priest.” Such was the presumptuous prayer of Durtal, and to his own amazement, and that of every one else, the abbot himself came forward and administered the Sacrament. He was naturally immensely impressed:
And the abbot of La Trappe gave them the communion.
They returned to their places. Durtal was in a state of absolute torpor; the sacrament had, in a manner, anesthetised his mind: he fell on his knees at his bench, incapable even of unravelling what might be moving within him, unable to rally and pull himself together.
All around him seemed to disappear, and he cried, stammering, to Christ: “ Lord, go not far from me. Let Thy pity curb Thy justice; be unjust, forgive me; receive Thy poor bedesman for communion, the poor in spirit !”
M. Bruno touched his arm, and with a glance invited him to accompany him.
After the Communion he felt he was suffocating, and when his soul regained consciousness, he felt only an infinite melancholy, a vast sadness :
He was astonished that he had not felt an unknown transport of joy; then he dwelt on a troublesome recollection, on the all too human side of the deglutition of a God: the Host had stuck against his pelate, and he had had to seek it with his tongue and roll it about like a pancake in order to swallow it.
Ah! it was still too material! he only wanted a fluid, a perfume, a fire, a breath!
It was not as he had dreamed it would be, and he marvelled much at the strange way in which he was being led by the Lord. being led by the Lord
IX.-IN THE VALLEY OF SHADOW. Passing over rapidly one or two chapters, wherein are described the virtues of a certain saintly swineherd, he then passes through the valley of the dark shadow in which he was tormented by endless abominations. He longed to insult the Virgin and to overwhelm her statue with the abuse of a bargee. So strong was the impulse that to keep silence he was obliged to bite his lips till they bled. Doubts as to transubstantiation poured in upon him; he seemed to hear a voice suggesting all manner of doubts, questioning the very foundations of faith, confronting him with a spectacle of the misery of the world, recalling that terrible phrase of Schopenhauer's, “If God made the world, I would not be that God, for the misery of the world would break my heart." From the church he fled to the field; then to the woods, and back to his chamber, and when he fell on his knees at the bedside, memories of Florence recurred to him. He thought of the possibility of being confronted with her again, and it overwhelmed him : he became angry at the thought of having communicated while one was no more certain of the future than this; but even when he dragged himself to the church and held himself downı, assailed by fearful temptations, disgusted with himself, feeling his will yielding, wounded in every part, he cried out in agony. There was complete darkness within him. When he sought his soul by groping for it, he found it inert, without consciousness, almost icy ; he felt himself incapable of all good works, and at the same time had the conviction that God had rejected him, that God would aid him no more. Then fiercer temptations beset him and ignoble visions assailed him, burning gasps excited him, stifled him, and seemed to parch his mouth. His body was still and remained calm, but he had the impression of a real demoniac presence. His whole soul trembled, and desired to fly like a terrified bird that clings to the window panes. This horror of great darkness lasted for nine hours, nor did it pass until the choir began to sing “Salve Regina," when the elevated cordial of the chant restored him. When he told his sufferings to the father, he was congratulated. “Be happy," he told him, “for it is a great grace which Jesus does to you, and proves that your conversion is good.” “But,” said Durtal, “ I thought there was peace in the cloister.” But the Trappist replied :
“No, we are here on this earth to strive, and it is just in the loister that the Lowest works; there, souls escape him, and he will at all price conquer them. No place on earth is more haunted by him than a cell-no one is more harassed than a monk.”
But there is only one remedy for all those things, which is the Sacrament. He communicated his trials to the prior, who told him that the weapon of contempt was the best for conquering the assault of scruples, and if that failed, to have immediate recourse to a confessor. “Steep yourself,” said the monk, “in this truth, that besides prayer there exists but one efficacious remedy against this evil--to despiss it. Satan is pride; despise him, and at once his audacity gives way. He speaks. Shrug your shoulders, and he is silent. You must not discuss with him. Do not reply. Refuse the strife. But the only arm which can save you is prayer.” Receiving absolution the second time, the good prior said:
“Have confidence, do not attempt to present yourself before God all neat and trim; go to Him simply, naturally, in undress even, just as you are; do not forget that if you are a servant you are also a son; have good courage, our Lord will dispel all these nightmares.
The second time when he communicated he experienced a sensation of stilling, as if his heart were too large when he returned to his place. When that ended he escaped to the park ;
Then gently, without sensible effects, the Sacrament worked ; Christ opened, little by little, his closed house and gave it air. light entered into Durtal in a flood. From the windows of his senses which had looked till then into he knew not what cesspool, into what inclosure, dank, and steeped in shadow, he now looked suddenly, through a burst of light, on a vista which lost itself in Heaven.
His vision of nature was modified; the surroundings were transformed; the fog of sadness which visited them vanished; the sudden clearness of his soul was repeated in its surroundings.
He walked about, lifted from earth by a confused joy. He grew vaporised in a sort of intoxication, in a vague etherisation, in which arose, without his even thinking of formulating words, acts of thanksgiving; it was an effort of thanks of his soul, of his body, of his whole being, to that God whom he felt living in him, and diffused in that kneeling landscape which also seemed to expand in mute hymns of gratitude.
And there we may leave him, although the story continues for some little space until he completes his retreat and returns to Paris. Durtal does not reach any point beyond this. Indeed, the rest of the book is, to a certain extent, an anti-climax, for after having led Durtal up to this point of ecstasy, he sends him back to Paris in a state of mind that does not augur very much for his usefulness when he returns to daily life. For we are told
He groaned, knowing that he should never more succeed in interesting himself in all that makes the joy of men. The uselessness of caring about any other thing than Mysticism and the liturgy, of thinking about aught else save God, implanted itself in him so firmly that he asked himself what would become of him at Paris with such ideas.
That is exactly the question which most of us who read the book will ask. Possibly Huysmans may give us a sequel to the volume in which we shall see Durtal carrying into practical effect in his daily life the lessons which he has learnt at La Trappe; but as it is, the reader closes the book with misgivings, forebodings, and doubts as to whether the convert who has made such remarkable progress from the Black Mass to the Communion at La Trappe will on his return to the world find in his new faith a stay in every time of need.
That, indeed, is the weakest part of the book. For Durtal is by no means soundly saved. He is not saved enough in his own sense to go into the cloister, and he is not saved enough in one sense to care to do his duty in the place where he naturally belonged. Indeed, it may be said that Durtal, instead of finding salvation at La Trappe, had only added another element to those which made up the distraction of his lost life. Of course, there may be a sequel. But if there is not, Huysmans has not succeeded in bringing his pilgrim out into the light and gladness of perfect day.