The ferry boat to SaintMalo started early.By the time it arrived, Ivan, Jon, Tracy and Hapgood were
ready.No one was seasick, but it was a
They had been safe enough in England, but in France they would be under threat again.It seemed prudent not to do the obvious and
go by air or take the channel tunnel or a boat from Dover to Calais.So they took
a ferry boat to the island of Alderney.They spent
the night there in the town of Braye and continued on to France the next morning.
As they approached the town
they could see high ramparts, crenellated towers, lookout points and the other
architectural features of an old fortified town.It looked very romantic, as if the very
towers battlements should be singing the “Marseilles”. Chateaubriand, the first French romantic, had
come from this town.
“It looks like it’s in such
good condition,” said Tracy.“As if it had not had a battle since it was built.”
“It hasn’t,” said Hapgood. “It was
occupied by the Germans during World War II, and allied raids reduced it to
pebbles.After the war the French
rebuilt it, replacing every street, every building, every
wall.It looks as if it just stepped out
of a time machine.In fact it is probably
neater than ever.”
“It would be fun to hang out
there,” said Jon.“But what we
have to do is rent a car and drive down to Carcassonne before they find us.”
Ivan said, “Maybe we better rent three cars.They won’t expect that.”
“Who was SaintMalo, anyway,” asked Tracy?“Patron Saint of Marshes?”
“No.Mallow is a color, kind of red purple,” said Ivan.
“In Latin ‘mallum’ means apple, and ‘mallus’
means bad,” said Hapgood, “So you can take your pick
of meanings.They do make apple cider
around here, just as they do up at Glastonbury.But SaintMalo was a Christian missionary, who came over from Britain to Christianize France in the sixth century AD.”
“Did they throw him to the
lions?” asked Tracy.
“Rome had already fallen.”
“Then they had to be
“With the fall of Rome, Christianity went into a decline.Early on there had been persecutions of
Christians by the pagan emperors.Later
Christianity had become the official religion, but then as now it was not a
united church.In the East, in Constantinople, the Orthodox Christian church dated its organization
to the time of Constantine.He was the
emperor who converted to Christianity.He grew up in York, by the way.The Orthodox Church developed into branches like the Greek Orthodox and
Russian Orthodox.Early on they had
serious divisions between people who kept icons, little religious paintings,
and people who thought such things were idolatry.
“Here in the west part of Europe
the most serious conflict was between the Arians and the Athanasians.Both Arius and Athanasius were from Alexandria.The
difference was that the Arians taught that Jesus was something part way between
God and human, while Athanasius
taught that Jesus was God, period.The
Arians were more powerful early on, but the Athanasians
managed to become the standard.You
could call them “trinitarians” or you could call them
“catholic” with a small c or Sabellians.”
“The Arian doctrine has
better support from scripture, but both the Orthodox and Roman Catholic
churches take the Athanasian position.Ditto a lot of Protestant churches.The “great schism,” the split between the
Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church would not occur for
centuries.But there were already those
who took the Patriarch in Constantinople to be the head of their church, since it went
straight back to Imperial Rome, and those who took the Pope at Rome to be the head of their church.They, and apparently that did exist, were a
small group around Rome herself.They had
few books and made none, including Bibles.And then there were Arians, mostly I believe among
“Doesn’t Arian mean German?”
“You are thinking of the word
‘Aryan.’That refers to the
Indo-European language group.A lot of languages
from Scandinavia to India are closely related.Some people believe that there must have been an original Indo-European
race that spoke such a language.Hitler
said as much.But whether they ever
existed or not, no evidence but the language has ever turned up that they
did.So they can’t have been much of a
super race.It’s just an unfortunate
coincidence that the words are so similar.
“But to get back to SaintMalo, as I said Christianity was in eclipse.There were a few monasteries on the continent
and still some trade in books, but the only source of new books was Ireland, where manuscripts were still being copied.
“Then there were pagans.Of the few surviving Romans, a large
proportion still worshipped Jupiter and Apollo and the other classical
gods.And among the barbarian tribes,
the Goths, Vandals, Alans and so
forth, they were mostly pagans of the Teutonic tradition.They worshipped Thor, Odin, Loki and the other gods we often think of as Norse.But actually they were more or less common to
all the Germanic tribes, and of course they were closely related to the
pantheon of classical pagan gods and of the pantheon of Celtic gods, who also
had a large following.
“Then I suppose there were
pagans in the modern sense, people who did not worship a specific set of gods
but had a more general sense of the holiness of nature.They left no records, so we are not very
clear about them.But at all events they
were not officially Christian.
“And of course there were the
Jews, most notably in the south of France and in Spain.
“So although there were some
Christians left of the continent, for almost a hundred years they were in siege
mode, holding out in monasteries, buying the occasional book they could afford,
but with neither the resources nor the impulse to reclaim Europe
to her Christian past.
“Then there was Saint Columba, who was born a Pictish
prince in northern
was educated as a Druid and then converted to Christianity; he had a moment of
ill judgment and worse temper and killed a few thousand people, and that got
him banished.He went to the Island of Iona, established a monastery, and from there the movement
spread.He had established sixty more
monasteries by the time he died.SaintMalo was the leading part of a wave of missionaries who
would ultimately return Christianity to the European continent.This is where he landed.”
“And as soon as they took
over, the Christians started persecuting the pagans,” said Tracy.“They called
them witches and burned them by the millions.”
“Actually their first concern
was persecuting each other.Early on the
Arians persecuted the Athanasians.But later the Athanasians
persecuted Arians.The laws that
permitted the persecution of those accused of witchcraft had been established
as laws against heresy – against Arian teachings.They were just applied to witches.Now a heretic is someone who is baptized Christian but who believes something other than the official
church line.Assuming that there really
were pagans – modern sense pagans as worshipers of something holy in nature –
then technically one might call them heretics.But it’s really nonsense.Without
full time paid professionals to outline the theological details they couldn’t
really have had a fully developed theology.So they couldn’t actually have been heretics.”
“You know,” said Tracy.“I think most
of my friends would say that of course Jesus was closer to God than we are.But he prayed to God.”
“More crypto Arians,” said Hapgood.“Your friends and Newton.”
“I mean they just don’t think
about it that much.”
“And no real reason why they
should,” said Hapgood.
“Unless there is an inquisition
that drags you in and starts asking you tricky questions and is going to burn
you at the stake if you get it wrong,” said Jon.
“Even then your safest
defense is probably to answer the easy questions and if there is any problem just say, ‘I leave that kind of things to the
“So many people killed over
such subtle things,” said Tracy.
“It may have been no more subtle
than people looking for power,” said Hapgood.“And they are all ambiguous issues.People can ask questions as to whether Christ
was son of God or son of Joseph or son of somebody we don’t know.They can ask whether salvation comes through
belief, through good works, through faith or through the grace of God.People can ask if he was God, man or both or
something in between or if we are all both.Or you can disbelieve in God or your own consciousness.About the only thing you can really be sure of
is that he really was king.”
“You mean that figuratively,
of course,” said Jon.
all.If he was king figuratively, then you could
argue about what that means.In fact he
was rightful king of the Jews.His
descent is through the male line all the way back to King David and before.No
other king has ever been able to claim a genealogy like that.That is unless you believe – as few do – that
Charlemagne was in the direct male line from Jesus or one of his brothers.And the
Davidic line was and is well documented.
“He was recognized as king at
his birth, and PontiusPilate wrote as much on his cross.When somebody objected, he was slapped down
at once.Whatever you say about Jesus’ origin, Joseph’s line is impeccable, and Joseph claimed him as son.As rightful
king himself, Joseph had that power.So that is the one truly fixed point in all of Christianity.”
“And nobody knows it,” said Ivan.
“Or cares,” said Jon.
They could see Mount St.
Michelle out toward the channel.
The party made landfall.They could look at the pier and see the tide
coming up at about one inch a second.In
the middle ages English knights from Mount St. Michelle would fight French knights in the tidal
flats.It was doubly dangerous, as the
tide would come in faster than a horse could gallop.More recently, the first tidal electric power
generating station had been built nearby.
The car rental place was out
of town; it wasn’t convenient to fit it into a medieval city.They caught a cab that took them over a causeway
to where the rentals were in a modern business district.
They rented three cars.Ivan left in
one.Jon left in another.Tracy told Hapgood to go buy some
clothes for them and then she went shopping.They met back at the car.
Tracy pushed a bundle into Hap’s hands and said, “Change
When they got back to the
car, they climbed in and Hapgood started the engine.He was wearing a pink silk full shirt
unbuttoned to the navel with ruffled sleeves and a fur vest.He had on several tasteless gold chains,
balloon pants and high heeled boots.It
was all topped with an enormous hat and plume.Tracy was wearing a sequined blouse and a miniskirt.Hapgood said, “I
look like a pimp.’”
Tracy said, “Open your mouth.Wide.”
Hapgood did.Then Tracy put her hand behind his head and pulled him in.She put her lips between his.She tried blowing air but nothing moved so
she held his nose a moment.As soon as
he tried to breathe, she let go and was able to talk into his mouth, “Keep your
throat open so I can breathe and talk.”
Hapgood managed it.
“Good.Keep it that way,” she spoke into the cavern
of his mouth.“Preachers aren’t supposed
to know how pimps dress.”
Hapgood thought that preachers are supposed to know how
preachers dress, and this definitely was not it.But under the circumstances he was obliged to
keep his peace.
Tracy spoke again.“Somebody’s watching us.Push me
down so your hat covers our faces.”Hapgood did so, reflecting that he had not done anything
like this since his wife had died.A
shadow passed over them as a face peered curiously in the window.
“Put your hand inside my
blouse,” said Tracy.“Grab my
Hapgood did so.The
shadow promptly passed away.Tracy released him, pushed him off and then slapped him on
the face.“I didn’t say pinch it,” she
Instead of protesting, Hapgood slammed the car into gear and burned rubber out of
the lot and onto the street.
“You don’t have to drive like
a moron,” said Tracy.
“Yes I do.Got to make it look
believable.You slapped me,
When Jon left the lot he made his way toward route 137 and Rennes, not to be confused with Rennes
le Chateau.After a few blocks he noticed
the car handling badly.He got out to look and saw that he had a flat tire.Before Jon could decide between limping back to the rental agency and changing
the tire, two young men with pistols took him prisoner and put him into a
Hapgood and Tracy got lost
and found themselves traveling eastward along some tidal marshes.Hapgood was saying,
“I really feel stupid in this.My gut
“So you’re a pimp.So what?” said Tracy.“It’s a
living.You’d be surprised what you’d do
to make a living if you had to.”
“I’m not sure,” said Hapgood.
“Right.You’re so high
and noble.You look down on me because I
make a living taking my shirt off.”
“That’s not true.You do what you think is right.But for me, I would scrub a mean floor before
I started doing something like that.Call me bashful.”
“Scrub floors.Scrub floors.That’s all you think women are good for.You want to see us down on our hands and knees so you can look at our
“I was actually thinking more
about looking down your bosom.”
“Same view upside down.”
When Ivan left the lot he went back across the causeway to SaintMalo itself.It
would be easier to see if he was being followed in the narrow confines of the
old city.As he got into town, workmen
placed a detour sign and waved him down an alley.A car entered the alley behind him.A car moving slowly down the alley in front
of him stopped.Young men got out with
AK 47’s, and Ivan was captive.
Hapgood and Tracy finally
found their way to Rennes – not to be confused with Rheims, where there is a great cathedral.On either side of the great doors were carved
scenes from the Last Judgment.On one
side sinners including thieves, publicans and the wretched of the earth are
being marched into the mouth of an awaiting devil.On the other side of the door are sinners who
are evidently church officials, posing in the most oh so sanctimonious and self
righteous way in their clerical garb.They, too, are being marched into the mouth of a devil, but this devil
is far more fearsome and is grinning as he waits.
At some time in the past,
crowds vandalized the cathedral, effacing the sinners by way of showing that
those images certainly did not represent themselves.But they did not spare the more obviously
culpable sinners in the garb of the righteous.Evidently the mob missed the point.
Rennes – not Rheims - was on the great circle, but from Rennes the two turned westward to follow the coast and
approach Carcassonne by a round about way and return to the line.On the way to the coast they stopped at the
great forest Font de Paimpont, where Merlin’s tomb is
said to be.
They found the tomb on a
hillside.The legendary magician’s small
grave was littered with little offerings.It was not a pleasant sight.“It
feels bad,” said Tracy.“It’s all
“You know who Merlin was.”
“Sure, he was an old man who
fell in love with a young woman.She
stole his powers and shut him up alive in a hollow tree or a cave or
old lecher right.”
“He was King Arthur’s magician.His origin, in one story, is that he was sired by a devil.The devils decided that Christ
had been such a success that they needed a virgin birth of their own, so they
arranged it.So Merlin’s mother was
without sin, which meant he became a good man.But his father was a devil, so there was always something frightening
about him.And although he had great
magical powers, his goodness and his ability to see the divine plan were no
better than that of many other men.”
“I don’t like the place,”
“I agree,” said Hapgood.“But it
isn’t his tomb.Don’t you know where his
“Can’t you feel it?”
“Look down across that meadow.”
At the bottom of the hill,
next the road, there was a copse of saplings.Half concealed by the young trees was a dark, massive ancient tumulus of
Neolithic style.“What do you think of
that?” asked Hapgood pointing.
“Let’s get out of here,” said
Meanwhile Jon was in a cellar hollowed out years out of mind ago into the solid
granite beneath SaintMalo.Gamal and an assistant were interrogating him.
“I think he is a good man,”
think we should be kind to him.”
“I say we ought to castrate
him and take his eyes out,” said the other.“Our superiors will thank us for sparing them the effort.”
“Well do not do it while I am
present,” said Gamal.“I shall report your insubordination.”
“No, no, you’re getting it
all wrong,” said Jon.“Don’t you
know what you’re doing?”
The two Arab men looked at
him puzzled.“No, what?” asked Gamal.
“You’re playing good cop, bad
cop.It’s the oldest trick in the
book.One of you pretends to be a sadist
and one of you pretends to be my friend.Then I confide in the friend, and you get the information you want
without having to go to the trouble of torturing me.And what you get is more reliable, since a
man being tortured will say anything, just like a man being drugged.You wouldn’t know what to believe.”
The two men glared at him.
“You are playing good
cop.You are obviously in charge.I can tell that even before you let it
out.But as good cop, you should play
the weaker one.It ought to be like you
would like to help me if you could, but the other guy intimidates you.Instead you’re standing there like a marine
sergeant.And anyone could tell by the
look on your face that you hate my guts.”
The two men simply glared.
“And you playing bad
cop.You’re cringing in the corner.You may hate me or be afraid of me, but you
are a lot more afraid of your boss here.You need to walk up and put your face in mine.Be belligerent.Talk to me about what you are supposed to
want to do with me, not him.Don’t let
me think you’re afraid of anything.And
don’t give reasons.You are supposed to
be brutal but hopelessly stupid.Make me
think I can outsmart you.”
The two interrogators left in
Tracy and Hapgood continued
toward the coast.In order to keep up
the appearance of being tourists, they stopped at Carnac to visit the field of megaliths.Although the term “megalith” means a big
stone, not all the stones in the field were very large.The biggest collection was rank upon rank
extending far across the landscape.But
while the stones at one end of the long array were quite large, they gradually
decreased in size so that the stones at the other end were small.
The result was that from the
proper vantage point the field of stones looked far longer than it actually was
although it was certainly an impressive achievement from any viewpoint.
Much the same idea had been
used during the Italian renaissance. It
was the “vanishing” school or architecture.A hall would be tapered both in height and breath, and the decorations
so proportioned that the distortion was not immediately obvious.As a result, the hall looked much longer than
it actually was, and the people at the head of the hall looked larger and more
imposing.And of course many theaters to
this day have a similar design.
The technique was used at the
legendary birthplace of Arthur at a castle in Cornwall.The ruins of
the great hall of the castle show that at least the breadth of the hall was
tapered in the same way.
“Must have been for worship,”
said Tracy.“Some kind of ritual.”
“We know little at all about
the people who did it,” said Hapgood.“But if they were like everybody else, they
had a perception of God, and this would have been a way to express it.”
“There you go again with your
idea that everybody talks to God,” said Tracy.
“Actually it’s not my
idea.It was first proposed by a
philosopher, poet, diplomat and duelist named EdwardHerbert in the seventeenth century.He is also credited with creating, or at
least creating in England, the concept of Deism.That means God created the world and then
stepped back to let it run itself, and people to run themselves,
without Him constantly moving in to manipulate things.
“A lot of people have thought
his ideas were good.Newton and Darwin were among them.”
“Let’s get out of here.”
They reached the valley of
the Loireriver.Many of the most beautiful castles in the
world line the Loire, and it is a favorite tourist route.Long ago it was the ancestral home of Henry the Second, the Duke of Anjou and Plantagenet who had reformed English law.
“Bandits at ,” said Tracy.
Sure enough, two men lounging
against a parked car glanced at them curiously.The men looked like they might be Arab.Hapgood and Tracy pretended not to notice.As
soon as they were passed, Tracy said, “Pull off the road and hide.”