Almost as if this were a kind of unconscious signal, it brought Dr. Quayle bounding out of a door and running across the lawn.
“Oh, there you are!” he exclaimed with a relieved giggle. “Will you come inside, please? I want to speak to you both.”
They followed him into his shiny wooden office where their damning record was kept. Dr. Quayle sat down on a swivel chair and swung round to face them. His carved smile had suddenly disappeared.
“I will be plain with you gentlemen,” he said, abruptly; “you know quite well we do our best for everybody here. Your cases have been under special consideration, and the Master himself has decided that you ought to be treated specially and—er—under somewhat simpler conditions.”
“You mean treated worse, I suppose,” said Turnbull, gruffly.
The doctor did not reply, and MacIan said: “I expected this.” His eyes had begun to glow.
The doctor answered, looking at his desk and playing with a key: “Well, in certain cases that give anxiety—it is often better——”
“Give anxiety,” said Turnbull, fiercely. “Confound your impudence! What do you mean? You imprison two perfectly sane men in a madhouse because you have made up a long word. They take it in good temper, walk and talk in your garden like monks who have found a vocation, are civil even to you, you damned druggists’ hack! Behave not only more sanely than any of your patients, but more sanely than half the sane men outside, and you have the soul-stifling cheek to say that they give anxiety.”
“The head of the asylum has settled it all,” said Dr. Quayle, still looking down.
MacIan took one of his immense strides forward and stood over the doctor with flaming eyes.
“If the head has settled it let the head announce it,” he said. “I won’t take it from you. I believe you to be a low, gibbering degenerate. Let us see the head of the asylum.”
“See the head of the asylum,” repeated Dr. Quayle. “Certainly not.”
The tall Highlander, bending over him, put one hand on his shoulder with fatherly interest.
“You don’t seem to appreciate the peculiar advantages of my position as a lunatic,” he said. “I could kill you with my left hand before such a rat as you could so much as squeak. And I wouldn’t be hanged for it.”
“I certainly agree with Mr. MacIan,” said Turnbull with sobriety and perfect respectfulness, “that you had better let us see the head of the institution.”
Dr. Quayle got to his feet in a mixture of sudden hysteria and clumsy presence of mind.
“Oh, certainly,” he said with a weak laugh. “You can see the head of the asylum if you particularly want to.” He almost ran out of the room, and the two followed swiftly on his flying coat tails. He knocked at an ordinary varnished door in the corridor. When a voice said, “Come in,” MacIan’s breath went hissing back through his teeth into his chest. Turnbull was more impetuous, and opened the door.