One of his old acquaintances he saw oftener than he did others. This was a scholar, a writer, an encyclopedist of to-morrow who liked the big Scot and to be in his company. One day, chance met, they leaned together upon the parapet of a bridge, and watched the crossing throng. “One’s own particles in transit! Can you grasp that, Deschamps?”
“I have heard it advanced. No. It is hard to hold.”
“It is like a mighty serpent. You would think you had it and then it is gone.... If one could hold it it would transform the world.”
“Yes, it would. At what are you staring?”
“The serpent is gone. I thought that I saw one whom I do not hold to be art and part with me.” He gazed after a crossing horseman. “No! There was merely a trick of him. It is some other.”
“The man for whom you are waiting?”
Deschamps returned to the subject of a moment before. “It is likely that language bewrays much more than we think it does. I say ’the man.’ You echo it. And I am ‘man.’ And you are ‘man.’ ‘Man’—’Man’! Every instant it is said. Yet the identity that we state we never assume!”
“I said that we could not hold the serpent.”
Ten days afterward he did see Ian. The latter, after a slow and difficult progress through France, came afoot into Paris. He sought, and was glad enough to find, an old acquaintance and sometime fellow-conspirator—Warburton.
“Blessed friendship!” he said, and warmed himself by Warburton’s fire. Something within him winced, and would, if it could, have put forward a different phrase.
Warburton poured wine for him. “Now tell your tale! For months those of us who remained in Paris have heard nothing but Trojan woes!”
Ian told. Culloden and after—Edinburgh—Lisbon—Vigo—travel in Spain—Senor Nobody—
“That was a curious adventure! And you don’t know the ransomer’s name?”
“Not I! Senor Nobody he rests.”
“Well, and after that?”
Ian related his wanderings from the Pyrenees up to Paris. Scotland, Spain, and France, the artist in him painted pictures for Warburton—painted with old ableness and abandon, and, Warburton thought, with a new subtlety. The friend hugged his knees and enjoyed it like a well-done play. Here was Rullock’s ancient spirit, grown more richly appealing! Trouble at least had not downed him. Warburton, who in the past year had been thrown in contact with a number whom it had downed, and who had suffered depression thereby, felt gratitude to Ian Rullock for being larger, not smaller, than usual.
At last, the fire still burning, Ian warmed and refreshed, they wheeled from retrospect into the present. Warburton revealed how thoroughly shattered were Stewart hopes.
“I begin to see, Rullock, that we’ve simply passed those things by. We can’t go back to that state of mind and affairs.”