“Very true, sir!” I nodded. “It has always been human to admire and respect that only which is in any way different to ourselves; in archaic times those whose teachings were above men’s comprehension, or who were remarkable for any singularity of action were immediately deified. Pythagoras recognized this truth when he shrouded himself in mystery and delivered his lectures from behind a curtain, though to be sure he has come to be regarded as something of a charlatan in consequence.”
“Pray, sir,” said the Preacher, absent-mindedly puffing at his pipe again, “may I ask what you are?”
“A blacksmith, sir.”
“And where did you read of Pythagoras and the like?”
“At Oxford, sir.”
“How comes it then that I find you in the dawn, wet with rain, buffeted by wind, and—most of all—a shoer of horses?”
But, instead of answering, I pointed to a twisted figure that lay beneath the opposite hedge.
“A man!” exclaimed the Preacher, “and asleep, I think.”
“No,” said I, “not in that contorted attitude.”
“Indeed, you are right,” said the Preacher; “the man is ill—poor fellow!” And, hurrying forward, he fell on his knees beside the prostrate figure.
He was a tall man, roughly clad, and he lay upon his back, rigid and motionless, while upon his blue lips were flecks and bubbles of foam.
“Epilepsy!” said I. The Preacher nodded and busied himself with loosening the sodden neckcloth, the while I unclasped the icy fingers to relieve the tension of the muscles,
The man’s hair was long and matted, as was also his beard, and his face all drawn and pale, and very deeply lined. Now, as I looked at him, I had a vague idea that I had somewhere, at some time, seen him before.
“Sir,” said the Preacher, looking up, “will you help me to carry him to my cottage? It is not very far.”
So we presently took the man’s wasted form between us and bore it, easily enough, to where stood a small cottage bowered in roses and honeysuckle. And, having deposited our unconscious burden upon the Preacher’s humble bed, I turned to depart.
“Sir,” said the Preacher, holding out his hand, “it is seldom one meets with a blacksmith who has read the Pythagorean Philosophy —at Oxford, and I should like to see you again. I am a lonely man save for my books; come and sup with me some evening, and let us talk—”
“And smoke?” said I. The little Preacher sighed. “I will come,” said I; “thank you! and good-by!” Now, even as I spoke, chancing to cast my eyes upon the pale, still face on the bed, I felt more certain than ever that I had somewhere seen it before.
IN WHICH I COME TO A DETERMINATION
As I walked through the fresh, green world there ensued within me the following dispute, as it were, between myself and two voices; and the first voice I will call Pro, and the other Contra.