THE CAMP OF THE SAINTS (Le Camp des Saints) By Jean Raspail CHAPTER TWENTY NINE

Twenty-nine

The news that the fleet had passed through Gibraltar quickly spread throughout Europe. It was Spain, though, that suffered the most drastic shock. Of the famous Good Friday processions that had long lined the streets of every Spanish town, only the folklore and traditional pomp remained, as colorful as ever—hooded penitents, brass bands, priests dressed in vestments of a bygone day—all for the greater glory and profit of the chambers of commerce. People brought their children. Everyone took pictures. And only a few old women would still kneel in prayer as the cross was borne past. On that particular Good Friday, as the news blared out over every transistor, again and again, the processions, strangely, found the spirit they had long since lost. The transformation wouldn’t last. But as long as it did, the crowds fell to their knees and sang the old hymns. Those who didn’t remember the Latin words weren’t ashamed just to hum. Rosaries, long ornamental, took on new life, as their beads passed, one by one, between the joined hands and trembling fingers of blackgarbed penitents. Then, in no time, the streets were deserted. Everyone went back home, shutters closed, as whole families huddled around their TVs and radios. Bishops proclaimed their messages of charity, and the ruling leftist cliques droned on in the name of universal harmony and brotherly love. But even as the Spanish government spoke of peace and calm, the highways out of every city along the Mediterranean—Málaga, Almería, Cartagena, Alicante, Valencia, all the way to Barcelona—were jammed with cars packed with baggage and children. Two streams, in fact, were cutting across Spain, in opposite directions. One, a river of words, rolling down to the sea and the Ganges fleet beyond. The other, a river of life, flowing inland, away from the coast. On Good Friday evening, the second stream dwindled and died: the fleet had gone by and kept its distance. It was then that the stream of words swelled into a gushing torrent, one that wouldn’t subside until Easter Monday, when, clearly, it was France that was going to be invaded …

The evening of that same day, a band of Andalusian fishermen from the little village of Gata, near AlmerIa, came upon some twenty naked corpses on the beach. Around each neck, biting into the flesh, each body still bore the tight-knotted cord that had choked off its life. Could it be that the fishermen turned and fled in panic, afraid of an epidemic? Or that the police, with the whole of the coast to patrol, simply couldn’t get involved in Gata at the moment? Be that as it may, the inquest was delayed. For reasons hard to fathom at the time. Before jumping to conclusions, the Spanish authorities insisted on bringing a team of medico-legal experts to Gata, some all the way from Madrid, which took a whole day. It wasn’t until Easter Sunday morning that they finally came out with the facts. Namely, that the corpses weren’t Hindus at all. According to the experts, most of them were white, with three Chinese thrown in, and one AfroAmerican mulatto. One of the whites was identified by a bracelet, which his killers had apparently forgotten to remove. He was a young Frenchman, a lay missionary and agricultural adviser in a village along the Ganges, who had joined the fleet and dragged all his villagers with him. The last white to see him alive had been Consul Himmans, in his office at the Belgian Consulate General, in Calcutta, a few days before the fleet would sail. But nobody knew. As with Ballan, the philosopher, murdered by the crowd on the docks by the Ganges. And the renegade writer, strangled and thrown into the sea, off São Tomé. Before the gates of the Western World, the armada sloughed off those wheeling, dealing traitors who had served it all too well. It had used them in much the same way an occupying enemy subverts and exploits its native collaborators, all judged and condemned, sooner or later. A classic situation, in which basic human justice will invariably prevail. The armada was standing forth alone now, cleansed in advance of all compromise, steeled against all illusion, its racial diamond pure and unflawed. Xenophobia, in a word.

And the word was pronounced, and written, and published. Because finally, at long last, the foes of the beast were raising their voices. And people were listening. At noon on Easter Sunday, it was Pierre Senconac, not Albert Durfort, whose voice was heard over Radio-East. The change had been smooth, with no pressure from above. Albert Durfort had merely failed to appear for his broadcast the previous evening. His telephone didn’t answer. His friends were at a loss to imagine where he was… (For the record, let’s note what actually happened, and how Zorro of the Airwaves, erstwhile idol of millions, bowed out, leaving public and microphone behind. Quite simply, by running off to Switzerland. With a few tens of thousands of francs’ worth of gold in his luggage, and a young Antillean mistress, of whom he was terribly fond, and who clung to him like glue since that moment a few days before, when he picked her up at the Martinican embassy, sticking her last little flag in the map. Since the Swiss would be slow and deliberate, as usual, in marshaling their forces, Durfort made tracks for the south, hoping to reach Geneva before the inevitable closing of the borders. Let’s add that he wasn’t alone that day, and that others, too, were speeding in the same direction…) And so, it was Pierre Senconac whose voice was heard. A sharp voice, curt and biting, almost unpleasant:

“The time has come,” he began, “to call the roll of our dead. And there’s one in particular to whom I want to pay tribute, one who died for us all some two months ago. I’m speaking of Consul Himmans, Consul General of Belgium, in the city of Calcutta. People said he was mad! They screamed it from the rooftops! You remember, I’m sure. That one man, Consul Himmans, on the docks in Calcutta, standing up to the crowd to keep them off the ships. And they trampled him to death. Mad? Consul Himmans? Then it’s time we were all acting mad, I’m afraid! … And the others? The ones killed at Gata, in Spain? A few moments ago, on another station, I heard Boris Vilsberg call them ‘martyrs to the cause of brotherhood’! That just shows you how blind we’ve become. The enemy’s henchmen have your brains in their clutches! Birdbrains, I’m sorry to say! Stop listening to them. See them for what they are, fight them off if you still have the strength. The monster is here. He’s aground off our shores, but he’s still full of life. And everywhere, the same plea to throw your doors open, to take him in. Even from the Pope. That feeble voice of the sick Christian world. Well, listen to me. For Heaven’s sake, shut them! Shut your doors! Shut them tight, if it’s not too late! Be hard, be tough. Turn a deaf ear to your heart. Remember Consul Himmans. Remember Luke Notaras …”

At noon on Easter Sunday! After so many words, and sentences, and statements, piled up over so many years … May as well try to grab at a river, and make it flow back from its mouth to its source. Too late! Too late! That too is one explanation … And who really knew what Senconac meant? Well, at least let’s admire the good people for trying. They manage to lift an enormous weight, like a corpse come suddenly to life, budging his tombstone for a moment, enough to let in a sliver of light, then plunged back into endless darkness… Josiane asks Marcel: “You know those Arabs up on the sixth floor? The eight of them in two rooms … Like, you wonder sometimes how the kids can keep so clean? … Well, all day they’ve been outside our door. The minute I open up, there’s one of them out there, staring. With our three rooms, I mean, and only the two of us … You think that’s what Senconac meant when he yelled about keeping our doors closed, Marcel? … What if we can’t keep ours closed? We’ll never be alone. Unless we move up to the sixth floor, maybe, and change places with the Arabs… But where would we put all our things? We’d never be able to fit them all in there!” That sliver of light, as the tombstone moves a crack, then falls back in place with all its weight. Too heavy, Marcel! Much, much too heavy!

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