“Look here!” cried Turnbull, taking his turn roughly, “I’ll tell you what it’s all about. I think that there’s no God. I take it that it’s nobody’s business but mine—or God’s, if there is one. This young gentleman from the Highlands happens to think that it’s his business. In consequence, he first takes a walking-stick and smashes my shop; then he takes the same walking-stick and tries to smash me. To this I naturally object. I suggest that if it comes to that we should both have sticks. He improves on the suggestion and proposes that we should both have steel-pointed sticks. The police (with characteristic unreasonableness) will not accept either of our proposals; the result is that we run about dodging the police and have jumped over our garden wall into your magnificent garden to throw ourselves on your magnificent hospitality.”
The face of the old gentleman had grown redder and redder during this address, but it was still smiling; and when he broke out it was with a kind of guffaw.
“So you really want to fight with drawn swords in my garden,” he asked, “about whether there is really a God?”
“Why not?” said MacIan, with his simple monstrosity of speech; “all man’s worship began when the Garden of Eden was founded.”
“Yes, by——!” said Turnbull, with an oath, “and ended when the Zoological Gardens were founded.”
“In this garden! In my presence!” cried the stranger, stamping up and down the gravel and choking with laughter,” whether there is a God!” And he went stamping up and down the garden, making it echo with his unintelligible laughter. Then he came back to them more composed and wiping his eyes.
“Why, how small the world is!” he cried at last. “I can settle the whole matter. Why, I am God!”
And he suddenly began to kick and wave his well-clad legs about the lawn.
“You are what?” repeated Turnbull, in a tone which is beyond description.
“Why, God, of course!” answered the other, thoroughly amused. “How funny it is to think that you have tumbled over a garden wall and fallen exactly on the right person! You might have gone floundering about in all sorts of churches and chapels and colleges and schools of philosophy looking for some evidence of the existence of God. Why, there is no evidence, except seeing him. And now you’ve seen him. You’ve seen him dance!”
And the obliging old gentleman instantly stood on one leg without relaxing at all the grave and cultured benignity of his expression.
“I understood that this garden——” began the bewildered MacIan.
“Quite so! Quite so!” said the man on one leg, nodding gravely. “I said this garden belonged to me and the land outside it. So they do. So does the country beyond that and the sea beyond that and all the rest of the earth. So does the moon. So do the sun and stars.” And he added, with a smile of apology: “You see, I’m God.”