“But then he came,” broke out MacIan, “and my soul said to me: ’Give up fighting, and you will become like That. Give up vows and dogmas, and fixed things, and you may grow like That. You may learn, also, that fog of false philosophy. You may grow fond of that mire of crawling, cowardly morals, and you may come to think a blow bad, because it hurts, and not because it humiliates. You may come to think murder wrong, because it is violent, and not because it is unjust. Oh, you blasphemer of the good, an hour ago I almost loved you! But do not fear for me now. I have heard the word Love pronounced in his intonation; and I know exactly what it means. On guard!’”
The swords caught on each other with a dreadful clang and jar, full of the old energy and hate; and at once plunged and replunged. Once more each man’s heart had become the magnet of a mad sword. Suddenly, furious as they were, they were frozen for a moment motionless.
“What noise is that?” asked the Highlander, hoarsely.
“I think I know,” replied Turnbull.
“What?... What?” cried the other.
“The student of Shaw and Tolstoy has made up his remarkable mind,” said Turnbull, quietly. “The police are coming up the hill.”
VI. THE OTHER PHILOSOPHER
Between high hedges in Hertfordshire, hedges so high as to create a kind of grove, two men were running. They did not run in a scampering or feverish manner, but in the steady swing of the pendulum. Across the great plains and uplands to the right and left of the lane, a long tide of sunset light rolled like a sea of ruby, lighting up the long terraces of the hills and picking out the few windows of the scattered hamlets in startling blood-red sparks. But the lane was cut deep in the hill and remained in an abrupt shadow. The two men running in it had an impression not uncommonly experienced between those wild green English walls; a sense of being led between the walls of a maze.
Though their pace was steady it was vigorous; their faces were heated and their eyes fixed and bright. There was, indeed, something a little mad in the contrast between the evening’s stillness over the empty country-side, and these two figures fleeing wildly from nothing. They had the look of two lunatics, possibly they were.
“Are you all right?” said Turnbull, with civility. “Can you keep this up?”
“Quite easily, thank you,” replied MacIan. “I run very well.”
“Is that a qualification in a family of warriors?” asked Turnbull.
“Undoubtedly. Rapid movement is essential,” answered MacIan, who never saw a joke in his life.
Turnbull broke out into a short laugh, and silence fell between them, the panting silence of runners.
Then MacIan said: “We run better than any of those policemen. They are too fat. Why do you make your policemen so fat?”