Turnbull was the first to leap into the garden, with an earth-spurning leap like that of one who could really spread his wings and fly. MacIan, who came an instant after, was less full of mere animal gusto and fuller of a more fearful and quivering pleasure in the clear and innocent flower colours and the high and holy trees. With one bound they were in that cool and cleared landscape, and they found just outside the door the black-clad gentleman with the cloven chin smilingly regarding them; and his chin seemed to grow longer and longer as he smiled.
Just behind him stood two other doctors: one, the familiar Dr. Quayle, of the blinking eyes and bleating voice; the other, a more commonplace but much more forcible figure, a stout young doctor with short, well-brushed hair and a round but resolute face. At the sight of the escape these two subordinates uttered a cry and sprang forward, but their superior remained motionless and smiling, and somehow the lack of his support seemed to arrest and freeze them in the very gesture of pursuit.
“Let them be,” he cried in a voice that cut like a blade of ice; and not only of ice, but of some awful primordial ice that had never been water.
“I want no devoted champions,” said the cutting voice; “even the folly of one’s friends bores one at last. You don’t suppose I should have let these lunatics out of their cells without good reason. I have the best and fullest reason. They can be let out of their cell today, because today the whole world has become their cell. I will have no more medieval mummery of chains and doors. Let them wander about the earth as they wandered about this garden, and I shall still be their easy master. Let them take the wings of the morning and abide in the uttermost parts of the sea—I am there. Whither shall they go from my presence and whither shall they flee from my spirit? Courage, Dr. Quayle, and do not be downhearted; the real days of tyranny are only beginning on this earth.”
And with that the Master laughed and swung away from them, almost as if his laugh was a bad thing for people to see.
“Might I speak to you a moment?” said Turnbull, stepping forward with a respectful resolution. But the shoulders of the Master only seemed to take on a new and unexpected angle of mockery as he strode away.
Turnbull swung round with great abruptness to the other two doctors, and said, harshly: “What in snakes does he mean—and who are you?”
“My name is Hutton,” said the short, stout man, “and I am—well, one of those whose business it is to uphold this establishment.”
“My name is Turnbull,” said the other; “I am one of those whose business it is to tear it to the ground.”
The small doctor smiled, and Turnbull’s anger seemed suddenly to steady him.
“But I don’t want to talk about that,” he said, calmly; “I only want to know what the Master of this asylum really means.”