Father Forbes paused, then added with a twinkle in his eye: “That peroration is from an old sermon of mine, in the days when I used to preach. I remember rather liking it, at the time.”
“But you still preach?” asked the Rev. Mr. Ware, with lifted brows.
“No! no more! I only talk now and again,” answered the priest, with what seemed a suggestion of curtness. He made haste to take the conversation back again. “The names of these dead-and-gone things are singularly pertinacious, though. They survive indefinitely. Take the modern name Marmaduke, for example. It strikes one as peculiarly modern, up-to-date, doesn’t it? Well, it is the oldest name on earth—thousands of years older than Adam. It is the ancient Chaldean Meridug, or Merodach. He was the young god who interceded continually between the angry, omnipotent Ea, his father, and the humble and unhappy Damkina, or Earth, who was his mother. This is interesting from another point of view, because this Merodach or Marmaduke is, so far as we can see now, the original prototype of our ‘divine intermediary’ idea. I daresay, though, that if we could go back still other scores of centuries, we should find whole receding series of types of this Christ-myth of ours.”
Theron Ware sat upright at the fall of these words, and flung a swift, startled look about the room—the instinctive glance of a man unexpectedly confronted with peril, and casting desperately about for means of defence and escape. For the instant his mind was aflame with this vivid impression—that he was among sinister enemies, at the mercy of criminals. He half rose under the impelling stress of this feeling, with the sweat standing on his brow, and his jaw dropped in a scared and bewildered stare.
Then, quite as suddenly, the sense of shock was gone; and it was as if nothing at all had happened. He drew a long breath, took another sip of his coffee, and found himself all at once reflecting almost pleasurably upon the charm of contact with really educated people. He leaned back in the big chair again, and smiled to show these men of the world how much at his ease he was. It required an effort, he discovered, but he made it bravely, and hoped he was succeeding.