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market place. Your worship, I have no mother; I have no wife. I
have only that which the poor have equally with the rich; which
the lonely have equally with the man of many friends. To me this
whole strange world is homely, because in the heart of it there
is a home; to me this cruel world is kindly, because higher than
the heavens there is something more human than humanity. If a man
must not fight for this, may he fight for anything? I would fight
for my friend, but if I lost my friend, I should still be there.
I would fight for my country, but if I lost my country, I should
still exist. But if what that devil dreams were true, I should
not be--I should burst like a bubble and be gone. I could not
live in that imbecile universe. Shall I not fight for my own
existence?"
The magistrate recovered his voice and his presence of mind. The
first part of the speech, the bombastic and brutally practical
challenge, stunned him with surprise; but the rest of Evan's
remarks, branching off as they did into theoretic phrases, gave
his vague and very English mind (full of memories of the hedging
and compromise in English public speaking) an indistinct
sensation of relief, as if the man, though mad, were not so
dangerous as he had thought. He went into a sort of weary
laughter.
"For Heaven's sake, man," he said, "don't talk so much. Let other
people have a chance (laughter). I trust all that you said about
asking Mr. Turnbull to fight, may be regarded as rubbish. In case
of accidents, however, I must bind you over to keep the peace."
"To keep the peace," repeated Evan, "with whom?"
"With Mr. Turnbull," said Vane.
"Certainly not," answered MacIan. "What has he to do with peace?"
"Do you mean to say," began the magistrate, "that you refuse
to..." The voice of Turnbull himself clove in for the first time.
"Might I suggest," he said, "That I, your worship, can settle to
some extent this absurd matter myself. This rather wild gentleman
promises that he will not attack me with any ordinary assault--
and if he does, you may be sure the police shall hear of it. But
he says he will not. He says he will challenge me to a duel; and
I cannot say anything stronger about his mental state than to say
that I think that it is highly probable that he will. (Laughter.)
But it takes two to make a duel, your worship (renewed laughter).
I do not in the least mind being described on every wall in the
world as the coward who would not fight a man in Fleet Street,
about whether the Virgin Mary had a parallel in Mesopotamian
mythology. No, your worship. You need not trouble to bind him
over to keep the peace. I bind myself over to keep the peace,
and you may rest quite satisfied that there will be no duel with
me in it."
Mr. Cumberland Vane rolled about, laughing in a sort of relief.
"You're like a breath of April, sir," he cried. "You're ozone
after that fellow. You're perfectly right. Perhaps I have taken
the thing too seriously. I should love to see him sending you
challenges and to see you smiling. Well, well."
Evan went out of the Court of Justice free, but strangely shaken,
like a sick man. Any punishment of suppression he would have felt
as natural; but the sudden juncture between the laughter of his
judge and the laughter of the man he had wronged, made him feel
suddenly small, or at least, defeated. It was really true that
the whole modern world regarded his world as a bubble. No cruelty
could have shown it, but their kindness showed it with a ghastly
clearness. As he was brooding, he suddenly became conscious of a
small, stern figure, fronting him in silence. Its eyes were grey
and awful, and its beard red. It was Turnbull.
"Well, sir," said the editor of _The Atheist_, "where is the
fight to be? Name the field, sir."
Evan stood thunderstruck. He stammered out something, he knew not
what; he only guessed it by the answer of the other.
"Do I want to fight? Do I want to fight?" cried the furious
Free-thinker. "Why, you moonstruck scarecrow of superstition, do
you think your dirty saints are the only people who can die? [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]