Turnbull, still standing up, opened his lips. “Will you put me down, please?” he said, quite calmly, like on stopping an omnibus.
“Put you down—what do you mean?” cried his leader. “I am taking you to the front of the revolutionary war, where you will be one of the first of the revolutionary leaders.”
“Thank you,” replied Turnbull with the same painful constraint. “I have heard about your revolutionary war, and I think on the whole that I would rather be anywhere else.”
“Do you want to be taken to a monastery,” snarled the other, “with MacIan and his winking Madonnas.”
“I want to be taken to a madhouse,” said Turnbull distinctly, giving the direction with a sort of precision. “I want to go back to exactly the same lunatic asylum from which I came.”
“Why?” asked the unknown.
“Because I want a little sane and wholesome society,” answered Turnbull.
There was a long and peculiar silence, and then the man driving the flying machine said quite coolly: “I won’t take you back.”
And then Turnbull said equally coolly: “Then I’ll jump out of the car.”
The unknown rose to his full height, and the expression in his eyes seemed to be made of ironies behind ironies, as two mirrors infinitely reflect each other. At last he said, very gravely: “Do you think I am the devil?”
“Yes,” said Turnbull, violently. “For I think the devil is a dream, and so are you. I don’t believe in you or your flying ship or your last fight of the world. It is all a nightmare. I say as a fact of dogma and faith that it is all a nightmare. And I will be a martyr for my faith as much as St. Catherine, for I will jump out of this ship and risk waking up safe in bed.”
After swaying twice with the swaying vessel he dived over the side as one dives into the sea. For some incredible moments stars and space and planets seemed to shoot up past him as the sparks fly upward; and yet in that sickening descent he was full of some unnatural happiness. He could connect it with no idea except one that half escaped him—what Evan had said of the difference between Christ and Satan; that it was by Christ’s own choice that He descended into hell.
When he again realized anything, he was lying on his elbow on the lawn of the lunatic asylum, and the last red of the sunset had not yet disappeared.
XVII. THE IDIOT
Evan MacIan was standing a few yards off looking at him in absolute silence.
He had not the moral courage to ask MacIan if there had been anything astounding in the manner of his coming there, nor did MacIan seem to have any question to ask, or perhaps any need to ask it. The two men came slowly towards each other, and found the same expression on each other’s faces. Then, for the first time in all their acquaintance, they shook hands.