“No,” said Miltoun, “no! The scaffolding, as you call it, is the material projection of the architect’s conception, without which the temple does not and cannot rise; and the architect is God, working through the minds and spirits most akin to Himself.”
“We are now at the bed-rock,” cried Courtier, “your God is outside this world. Mine within it.”
“And never the twain shall meet!”
In the silence that followed Miltoun saw that they were in Leicester Square, all quiet as yet before the theatres had disgorged; quiet yet waiting, with the lights, like yellow stars low-driven from the dark heavens, clinging to the white shapes of music-halls and cafes, and a sort of flying glamour blanching the still foliage of the plane trees.
“A ’whitely wanton’—this Square!” said Courtier: “Alive as a face; no end to its queer beauty! And, by Jove, if you went deep enough, you’d find goodness even here.”
“And you’d ignore the vice,” Miltoun answered.
He felt weary all of a sudden, anxious to get to his rooms, unwilling to continue this battle of words, that brought him no nearer to relief. It was with strange lassitude that he heard the voice still speaking:
“We must make a night of it, since to-morrow we die.... You would curb licence from without—I from within. When I get up and when I go to bed, when I draw a breath, see a face, or a flower, or a tree—if I didn’t feel that I was looking on the Deity, I believe I should quit this palace of varieties, from sheer boredom. You, I understand, can’t look on your God, unless you withdraw into some high place. Isn’t it a bit lonely there?”
“There are worse things than loneliness.” And they walked on, in silence; till suddenly Miltoun broke out:
“You talk of tyranny! What tyranny could equal this tyranny of your freedom? What tyranny in the world like that of this ‘free’ vulgar, narrow street, with its hundred journals teeming like ants’ nests, to produce-what? In the entrails of that creature of your freedom, Courtier, there is room neither for exaltation, discipline, nor sacrifice; there is room only for commerce, and licence.”
There was no answer for a moment; and from those tall houses, whose lighted windows he had apostrophized, Miltoun turned away towards the river. “No,” said the voice beside him, “for all its faults, the wind blows in that street, and there’s a chance for everything. By God, I would rather see a few stars struggle out in a black sky than any of your perfect artificial lighting.”
And suddenly it seemed to Miltoun that he could never free himself from the echoes of that voice—it was not worth while to try. “We are repeating ourselves,” he said, dryly.