Chapter 26a


Saint Malo, France, November 13, 10 AM


The ferry boat to Saint Malo started early.  By the time it arrived, Ivan, Jon, Tracy and Hapgood were ready.  No one was seasick, but it was a near thing. 


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 Saint Malo, 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 Saint Malo 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 Christians already.”


“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 Germanic people.”


“Doesn’t Arian mean German?” asked Tracy.


“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 Saint Malo, 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 Ireland, 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.  Saint Malo 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 experts.’”


“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.


“Not at 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 Pontius Pilate 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 into these.” 


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 boob.  Do it.” 


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 said. 


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, remember?” 


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 van. 


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 hangs out.” 


“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 butts.”


“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 Saint Malo 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 burnt out.”


“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 something.  Served the 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,” said Tracy.


“I agree,” said Hapgood.  “But it isn’t his tomb.  Don’t you know where his tomb is?”




“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 Tracy.


Meanwhile Jon was in a cellar hollowed out years out of mind ago into the solid granite beneath Saint Malo.  Gamal and an assistant were interrogating him.


“I think he is a good man,” said Gamal.  “I 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 disgust.


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 Edward Herbert 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 Loire river.  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 three o’clock,” 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.”


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