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"Stop a minute," said Blair, as the other turned away.
"Haven't you any sort of public news as well as private news?
How are things going in the political world?"
"Expressed in mathematical formula," replied Pierce over his shoulder,
"the political news is MP squared plus LSD over U equals L. L
let loose. L upon earth, my boy."
And he climbed again into his castle of the air.
Oliver Green stood staring at the crumbled paper and suddenly began
to straighten it out.
"Mr. Blair," he said, "I am terribly ashamed of myself. When I
see you living here like a hermit in the mountains and scrawling
your calculations, so to speak, on the rocks of the wilderness,
devoted to your great abstract idea, vowed to a great cause,
it makes me feel very small to have entangled you and your friends
in my small affairs. Of course, the affair isn't at all small to me;
but it must seem very small to you."
"I don't know very precisely," answered Blair, "what was the nature
of the affair. But that is emphatically your affair. For the rest,
I assure you we're delighted to have you, apart from your valuable
services as a calculating machine."
Bellew Blair, the last and, in the worldly sense, by far the ablest
of the recruits of the Long Bow, was a man in early middle age,
square built, but neat in figure and light on his feet, clad in a
suit of leather. He mostly moved about so quickly that his figure
made more impression than his face; but when he sat down smoking,
in one of his rare moments of leisure, as now, it could be remarked
that his face was rather calm than vivacious; a short square face
with a short resolute nose, but reflective eyes much lighter than
his close black hair.
"It's quite Homeric," he added, "the two armies fighting for
the body of an astronomer. You would be a sort of symbol anyhow,
since they started that insanity of calling you insane. Nobody has
any business to bother you about the personal side of the matter."
Green seemed to be ruminating, and the last phrase awoke him
to a decision. He began to talk. Quite straightforwardly,
though with a certain schoolboy awkwardness, he proceeded to tell
his friend the whole of his uncouth love-story--the overturning
of his spiritual world to the tune the old cow died of, or rather
danced to.
"And I've let you in for hiding me like a murderer," he concluded.
"For the sake of something that must seem to you, not even like
a cow jumping over the moon, but more like a calf falling over
the milking-stool. Perhaps people vowed to a great work like this
ought to leave all that sort of thing behind them."
"Well, I don't see anything to be ashamed of," said Blair,
"and in this case I don't agree with what you say about leaving
those things behind. Of some sorts of work it's true; but not this.
Shall I tell you a secret?"
"If you don't mind."
"The cow never does jump over the moon," said Blair gravely.
"It's one of the sports of the bulls of the herd."
"I'm afraid I don't know what you mean," said the Professor.
"I mean that women can't be kept out of this war, because it's
a land war," answered Blair. "If it were really a war in the air,
you could have done it all by yourself. But in all wars of peasants
defending their farms and homes, women have been very much on
the spot; as they used to pour hot water out of windows during
the Irish evictions. Look here, I'll tell you a story. It's relevant
because it has a moral. After all, it's my turn, so to speak.
You've told me the true story of the Cow that Jumped over the Moon.
It's time I told you the true story of the Castle in the Air."
He smoked silently for a moment, and then said:
"You may have wondered how a very prosaic practical Scotch
engineer like myself ever came to make a thing like that pantomime
palace over there, as childish as a child's coloured balloon.
Well, the answer is the same; because in certain circumstances
a man may be very different from himself. At a certain period of
the old war preparations, I was doing some work for the government
in a secluded part of the western coast of Ireland. There were
very few people for me to talk to; but one of them was the daughter
of a bankrupt squire named Malone; and I talked to her a good deal.
I was about as mechanical a mechanic as you could dig out anywhere;
grimy, grumpy, tinkering about with dirty machinery. She was
really like those princesses you read about in the Celtic poems;
with a red crown made of curling elf-locks like little flames,
and a pale elfin face that seemed somehow thin and luminous
like glass; and she could make you listen to silence like a song.
It wasn't a pose with her, it was a poem; there are people like that,
but very few of them like her. I tried to keep up my end by telling
her about the wonders of science, and the great new architecture
of the air. And then Sheila used to say, 'And what is the good
of them to me, when you HAVE built them. I can see a castle
build itself without hands out of gigantic rocks of clear jewels
in the sky every night.' And she would point to where crimson
or violet clouds hung in the green after-glow over the great Atlantic.
"You would probably say I was mad, if you didn't happen to have
been mad yourself. But I was wild with the idea that there was
something she admired and that she thought science couldn't do.
I was as morbid as a boy; I half thought she despised me; and I wanted
half to prove her wrong and half to do whatever she thought right.
I resolved my science should beat the clouds at their own game; and I
laboured till I'd actually made a sort of rainbow castle that would
ride on the air. I think at the back of my mind there was some sort
of crazy idea of carrying her off into the clouds she lived among,
as if she were literally an angel and ought to dwell on wings. It never
quite came to that, as you will hear, but as my experiments progressed
my romance progressed too. You won't need any telling about that;
I only want to tell you the end of the story because of the moral.
We made arrangements to get married; and I had to leave a good
many of the arrangements to her, while I completed my great work.
Then at last it was ready and I came to seek her like a pagan
god descending in a cloud to carry a nymph up to Olympus. [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]