Part 2 out of 4
knocked me up on receipt of your cable. It is my professional affair
to know these facts, Miss Hunt; and there's no more doubt about them
than about the Bradshaw down at the depot. This man has hitherto escaped
the law, through his admirable affectations of infancy or insanity.
But I myself, as a specialist, have privately authenticated notes
of some eighteen or twenty crimes attempted or achieved in this manner.
He comes to houses as he has to this, and gets a grand popularity.
He makes things go. They do go; when he's gone the things are gone.
Gone, Miss Hunt, gone, a man's life or a man's spoons, or more often a woman.
I assure you I have all the memoranda."
"I have seen them," said Warner solidly, "I can assure you
that all this is correct."
"The most unmanly aspect, according to my feelings," went on the American
doctor, "is this perpetual deception of innocent women by a wild simulation
of innocence. From almost every house where this great imaginative devil
has been, he has taken some poor girl away with him; some say he's got
a hypnotic eye with his other queer features, and that they go like automata.
What's become of all those poor girls nobody knows. Murdered, I dare say;
for we've lots of instances, besides this one, of his turning his hand
to murder, though none ever brought him under the law. Anyhow, our most
modern methods of research can't find any trace of the wretched women.
It's when I think of them that I am really moved, Miss Hunt. And I've
really nothing else to say just now except what Dr. Warner has said."
"Quite so," said Warner, with a smile that seemed moulded in marble--"that
we all have to thank you very much for that telegram."
The little Yankee scientist had been speaking with such evident
sincerity that one forgot the tricks of his voice and manner--
the falling eyelids, the rising intonation, and the poised
finger and thumb--which were at other times a little comic.
It was not so much that he was cleverer than Warner;
perhaps he was not so clever, though he was more celebrated.
But he had what Warner never had, a fresh and unaffected seriousness--
the great American virtue of simplicity. Rosamund knitted
her brows and looked gloomily toward the darkening house
that contained the dark prodigy.
Broad daylight still endured; but it had already changed from gold to silver,
and was changing from silver to gray. The long plumy shadows of the one or
two trees in the garden faded more and more upon a dead background of dusk.
In the sharpest and deepest shadow, which was the entrance to the house
by the big French windows, Rosamund could watch a hurried consultation
between Inglewood (who was still left in charge of the mysterious captive)
and Diana, who had moved to his assistance from without. After a few minutes
and gestures they went inside, shutting the glass doors upon the garden;
and the garden seemed to grow grayer still.
The American gentleman named Pym seemed to be turning and on the move
in the same direction; but before he started he spoke to Rosamund with a
flash of that guileless tact which redeemed much of his childish vanity,
and with something of that spontaneous poetry which made it difficult,
pedantic as he was, to call him a pedant.
"I'm vurry sorry, Miss Hunt," he said; "but Dr. Warner and I,
as two quali-FIED practitioners, had better take Mr. Smith
away in that cab, and the less said about it the better.
Don't you agitate yourself, Miss Hunt. You've just got to think
that we're taking away a monstrosity, something that oughtn't to be
at all--something like one of those gods in your Britannic Museum,
all wings, and beards, and legs, and eyes, and no shape.
That's what Smith is, and you shall soon be quit of him."
He had already taken a step towards the house, and Warner was about
to follow him, when the glass doors were opened again and Diana Duke
came out with more than her usual quickness across the lawn.
Her face was aquiver with worry and excitement, and her dark earnest
eyes fixed only on the other girl.
"Rosamund," she cried in despair, "what shall I do with her?"
"With her?" cried Miss Hunt, with a violent jump. "O lord,
he isn't a woman too, is he?"
"No, no, no," said Dr. Pym soothingly, as if in common fairness.
"A woman? no, really, he is not so bad as that."
"I mean your friend Mary Gray," retorted Diana with equal tartness.
"What on earth am I to do with her?"
"How can we tell her about Smith, you mean," answered Rosamund, her face
at once clouded and softening. "Yes, it will be pretty painful."
"But I HAVE told her," exploded Diana, with more than her
congenital exasperation. "I have told her, and she doesn't seem to mind.
She still says she's going away with Smith in that cab."
"But it's impossible!" ejaculated Rosamund. "Why, Mary is
really religious. She--"
She stopped in time to realize that Mary Gray was comparatively
close to her on the lawn. Her quiet companion had come down very
quietly into the garden, but dressed very decisively for travel.
She had a neat but very ancient blue tam-o'-shanter on her head,
and was pulling some rather threadbare gray gloves on to her hands.
Yet the two tints fitted excellently with her heavy copper-coloured hair;
the more excellently for the touch of shabbiness: for a woman's clothes
never suit her so well as when they seem to suit her by accident.
But in this case the woman had a quality yet more unique and attractive.
In such gray hours, when the sun is sunk and the skies are
already sad, it will often happen that one reflection at some
occasional angle will cause to linger the last of the light.
A scrap of window, a scrap of water, a scrap of looking-glass,
will be full of the fire that is lost to all the rest of the earth.
The quaint, almost triangular face of Mary Gray was like some
triangular piece of mirror that could still repeat the splendour
of hours before. Mary, though she was always graceful,
could never before have properly been called beautiful; and yet
her happiness amid all that misery was so beautiful as to make
a man catch his breath.
"O Diana," cried Rosamund in a lower voice and altering her phrase;
"but how did you tell her?"
"It is quite easy to tell her," answered Diana sombrely;
"it makes no impression at all."
"I'm afraid I've kept everything waiting," said Mary Gray apologetically,
"and now we must really say good-bye. Innocent is taking me to his aunt's
over at Hampstead, and I'm afraid she goes to bed early."
Her words were quite casual and practical, but there was a sort
of sleepy light in her eyes that was more baffling than darkness;
she was like one speaking absently with her eye on some
very distant object.
"Mary, Mary," cried Rosamund, almost breaking down, "I'm so sorry about it,
but the thing can't be at all. We--we have found out all about Mr. Smith."
"All?" repeated Mary, with a low and curious intonation;
"why, that must be awfully exciting."
There was no noise for an instant and no motion except that
the silent Michael Moon, leaning on the gate, lifted his head,
as it might be to listen. Then Rosamund remaining speechless,
Dr. Pym came to her rescue in a definite way.
"To begin with," he said, "this man Smith is constantly attempting murder.
The Warden of Brakespeare College--"
"I know," said Mary, with a vague but radiant smile.
"Innocent told me."
"I can't say what he told you," replied Pym quickly, "but I'm very much
afraid it wasn't true. The plain truth is that the man's stained
with every known human crime. I assure you I have all the documents.
I have evidence of his committing burglary, signed by a most eminent
English curate. I have--"
"Oh, but there were two curates," cried Mary, with a certain gentle eagerness;
"that was what made it so much funnier."
The darkened glass doors of the house opened once more,
and Inglewood appeared for an instant, making a sort of signal.
The American doctor bowed, the English doctor did not,
but they both set out stolidly towards the house.
No one else moved, not even Michael hanging on the gate;
but the back of his head and shoulders had still an indescribable
indication that he was listening to every word.
"But don't you understand, Mary," cried Rosamund in despair; "don't you
know that awful things have happened even before our very eyes.
I should have thought you would have heard the revolver shots upstairs."
"Yes, I heard the shots," said Mary almost brightly; "but I was busy packing
just then. And Innocent had told me he was going to shoot at Dr. Warner;
so it wasn't worth while to come down."
"Oh, I don't understand what you mean," cried Rosamund Hunt,
stamping, "but you must and shall understand what I mean.
I don't care how cruelly I put it, if only I can save you.
I mean that your Innocent Smith is the most awfully wicked
man in the world. He has sent bullets at lots of other men
and gone off in cabs with lots of other women. And he seems
to have killed the women too, for nobody can find them."
"He is really rather naughty sometimes," said Mary Gray,
laughing softly as she buttoned her old gray gloves.
"Oh, this is really mesmerism, or something," said Rosamund,
and burst into tears.
At the same moment the two black-clad doctors appeared out
of the house with their great green-clad captive between them.
He made no resistance, but was still laughing in a groggy
and half-witted style. Arthur Inglewood followed in the rear,
a dark and red study in the last shades of distress and shame.
In this black, funereal, and painfully realistic style the exit
from Beacon House was made by a man whose entrance a day before
had been effected by the happy leaping of a wall and the hilarious
climbing of a tree. No one moved of the groups in the garden
except Mary Gray, who stepped forward quite naturally,
calling out, "Are you ready, Innocent? Our cab's been waiting
such a long time."
"Ladies and gentlemen," said Dr. Warner firmly, "I must insist on asking
this lady to stand aside. We shall have trouble enough as it is,
with the three of us in a cab."
"But it IS our cab," persisted Mary. "Why, there's Innocent's yellow
bag on the top of it."
"Stand aside," repeated Warner roughly. "And you, Mr. Moon,
please be so obliging as to move a moment. Come, come! the sooner
this ugly business is over the better--and how can we open the gate
if you will keep leaning on it?"
Michael Moon looked at his long lean forefinger, and seemed
to consider and reconsider this argument. "Yes, he said at last;
"but how can I lean on this gate if you keep on opening it?"
"Oh, get out of the way!" cried Warner, almost good-humouredly.
"You can lean on the gate any time."
"No," said Moon reflectively. "Seldom the time and the place
and the blue gate altogether; and it all depends whether you
come of an old country family. My ancestors leaned on gates
before any one had discovered how to open them."
"Michael!" cried Arthur Inglewood in a kind of agony, "are you going to get
out of the way?"
"Why, no; I think not," said Michael, after some meditation,
and swung himself slowly round, so that he confronted the company,
while still, in a lounging attitude, occupying the path.
"Hullo!" he called out suddenly; "what are you doing to Mr. Smith?"
"Taking him away," answered Warner shortly, "to be examined."
"Matriculation?" asked Moon brightly.
"By a magistrate," said the other curtly.
"And what other magistrate," cried Michael, raising his voice,
"dares to try what befell on this free soil, save only the ancient
and independent Dukes of Beacon? What other court dares to try
one of our company, save only the High Court of Beacon? Have you
forgotten that only this afternoon we flew the flag of independence
and severed ourselves from all the nations of the earth?"
"Michael," cried Rosamund, wringing her hands, "how can you stand
there talking nonsense? Why, you saw the dreadful thing yourself.
You were there when he went mad. It was you that helped the doctor
up when he fell over the flower-pot."
"And the High Court of Beacon," replied Moon with hauteur,
"has special powers in all cases concerning lunatics,
flower-pots, and doctors who fall down in gardens.
It's in our very first charter from Edward I: `Si medicus
quisquam in horto prostratus--'"
"Out of the way!" cried Warner with sudden fury, "or we will force
you out of it."
"What!" cried Michael Moon, with a cry of hilarious fierceness.
"Shall I die in defence of this sacred pale? Will you paint
these blue railings red with my gore?" and he laid hold of one
of the blue spikes behind him. As Inglewood had noticed earlier
in the evening, the railing was loose and crooked at this place,
and the painted iron staff and spearhead came away in Michael's
hand as he shook it.
"See!" he cried, brandishing this broken javelin in the air,
"the very lances round Beacon Tower leap from their places to defend it.
Ah, in such a place and hour it is a fine thing to die alone!"
And in a voice like a drum he rolled the noble lines of Ronsard--
"Ou pour l'honneur de Dieu, ou pour le droit de mon prince, Navre,
poitrine ouverte, au bord de mon province."
"Sakes alive!" said the American gentleman, almost in an awed tone.
Then he added, "Are there two maniacs here?"
"No; there are five," thundered Moon. "Smith and I are the only
sane people left."
"Michael!" cried Rosamund; "Michael, what does it mean?"
"It means bosh!" roared Michael, and slung his painted spear
hurtling to the other end of the garden. "It means that doctors
are bosh, and criminology is bosh, and Americans are bosh--
much more bosh than our Court of Beacon. It means, you fatheads,
that Innocent Smith is no more mad or bad than the bird
on that tree."
"But, my dear Moon," began Inglewood in his modest manner, "these gentlemen--"
"On the word of two doctors," exploded Moon again,
without listening to anybody else, "shut up in a private hell
on the word of two doctors! And such doctors! Oh, my hat!
Look at 'em!--do just look at 'em! Would you read a book,
or buy a dog, or go to a hotel on the advice of twenty such?
My people came from Ireland, and were Catholics. What would
you say if I called a man wicked on the word of two priests?"
"But it isn't only their word, Michael," reasoned Rosamund;
"they've got evidence too."
"Have you looked at it?" asked Moon.
"No," said Rosamund, with a sort of faint surprise; "these gentlemen
are in charge of it."
"And of everything else, it seems to me," said Michael. "Why, you
haven't even had the decency to consult Mrs. Duke."
"Oh, that's no use," said Diana in an undertone to Rosamund; "Auntie can't
say `Bo!' to a goose."
"I am glad to hear it," answered Michael, "for with such a flock of geese
to say it to, the horrid expletive might be constantly on her lips.
For my part, I simply refuse to let things be done in this light
and airy style. I appeal to Mrs. Duke--it's her house."
"Mrs. Duke?" repeated Inglewood doubtfully.
"Yes, Mrs. Duke," said Michael firmly, "commonly called the Iron Duke."
"If you ask Auntie," said Diana quietly, "she'll only be for doing nothing
at all. Her only idea is to hush things up or to let things slide.
That just suits her."
"Yes," replied Michael Moon; "and, as it happens, it just suits
all of us. You are impatient with your elders, Miss Duke;
but when you are as old yourself you will know what Napoleon knew--
that half one's letters answer themselves if you can only refrain
from the fleshly appetite of answering them."
He was still lounging in the same absurd attitude, with his elbow
on the grate, but his voice had altered abruptly for the third time;
just as it had changed from the mock heroic to the humanly indignant,
it now changed to the airy incisiveness of a lawyer giving
good legal advice.
"It isn't only your aunt who wants to keep this quiet if
she can," he said; "we all want to keep it quiet if we can.
Look at the large facts--the big bones of the case. I believe
those scientific gentlemen have made a highly scientific mistake.
I believe Smith is as blameless as a buttercup. I admit
buttercups don't often let off loaded pistols in private houses;
I admit there is something demanding explanation.
But I am morally certain there's some blunder, or some joke,
or some allegory, or some accident behind all this.
Well, suppose I'm wrong. We've disarmed him; we're five men
to hold him; he may as well go to a lock-up later on as now.
But suppose there's even a chance of my being right.
Is it anybody's interest here to wash this linen in public?
"Come, I'll take each of you in order. Once take Smith outside that gate,
and you take him into the front page of the evening papers. I know;
I've written the front page myself. Miss Duke, do you or your aunt want
a sort of notice stuck up over your boarding-house--`Doctors shot here.'
No, no--doctors are rubbish, as I said; but you don't want the rubbish
shot here. Arthur, suppose I am right, or suppose I am wrong.
Smith has appeared as an old schoolfellow of yours. Mark my words,
if he's proved guilty, the Organs of Public Opinion will say you
introduced him. If he's proved innocent, they will say you helped
to collar him. Rosamund, my dear, suppose I am right or wrong.
If he's proved guilty, they'll say you engaged your companion to him.
If he's proved innocent, they'll print that telegram.
I know the Organs, damn them."
He stopped an instant; for this rapid rationalism left him more
breathless than had either his theatrical or his real denunciation.
But he was plainly in earnest, as well as positive and lucid;
as was proved by his proceeding quickly the moment he had
found his breath.
"It is just the same," he cried, "with our medical friends.
You will say that Dr. Warner has a grievance. I agree.
But does he want specially to be snapshotted by all the
journalists ~prostratus in horto~? It was no fault of his,
but the scene was not very dignified even for him.
He must have justice; but does he want to ask for justice,
not only on his knees, but on his hands and knees?
Does he want to enter the court of justice on all fours?
Doctors are not allowed to advertise; and I'm sure no
doctor wants to advertise himself as looking like that.
And even for our American guest the interest is the same.
Let us suppose that he has conclusive documents.
Let us assume that he has revelations really worth reading.
Well, in a legal inquiry (or a medical inquiry, for that matter)
ten to one he won't be allowed to read them. He'll be tripped
up every two or three minutes with some tangle of old rules.
A man can't tell the truth in public nowadays. But he can
still tell it in private; he can tell it inside that house."
"It is quite true," said Dr. Cyrus Pym, who had listened throughout
the speech with a seriousness which only an American could have retained
through such a scene. "It is true that I have been per-ceptibly less
hampered in private inquiries."
"Dr. Pym!" cried Warner in a sort of sudden anger.
"Dr. Pym! you aren't really going to admit--"
"Smith may be mad," went on the melancholy Moon in a monologue
that seemed as heavy as a hatchet, "but there was something
after all in what he said about Home Rule for every home.
Yes, there is something, when all's said and done, in the High Court
of Beacon. It is really true that human beings might often get
some sort of domestic justice where just now they can only get
legal injustice--oh, I am a lawyer too, and I know that as well.
It is true that there's too much official and indirect power.
Often and often the thing a whole nation can't settle is just the thing
a family could settle. Scores of young criminals have been fined
and sent to jail when they ought to have been thrashed and sent to bed.
Scores of men, I am sure, have had a lifetime at Hanwell when they
only wanted a week at Brighton. There IS something in Smith's
notion of domestic self-government; and I propose that we put it
into practice. You have the prisoner; you have the documents.
Come, we are a company of free, white, Christian people,
such as might be besieged in a town or cast up on a desert island.
Let us do this thing ourselves. Let us go into that house there
and sit down and find out with our own eyes and ears whether this
thing is true or not; whether this Smith is a man or a monster.
If we can't do a little thing like that, what right have we to put
crosses on ballot papers?"
Inglewood and Pym exchanged a glance; and Warner, who was no fool,
saw in that glance that Moon was gaining ground. The motives that led
Arthur to think of surrender were indeed very different from those
which affected Dr. Cyrus Pym. All Arthur's instincts were on the side
of privacy and polite settlement; he was very English and would often
endure wrongs rather than right them by scenes and serious rhetoric.
To play at once the buffoon and the knight-errant, like his Irish friend,
would have been absolute torture to him; but even the semi-official
part he had played that afternoon was very painful. He was not likely
to be reluctant if any one could convince him that his duty was to let
sleeping dogs lie.
On the other hand, Cyrus Pym belonged to a country in which things are
possible that seem crazy to the English. Regulations and authorities exactly
like one of Innocent's pranks or one of Michael's satires really exist,
propped by placid policemen and imposed on bustling business men.
Pym knew whole States which are vast and yet secret and fanciful;
each is as big as a nation yet as private as a lost village, and as
unexpected as an apple-pie bed. States where no man may have a cigarette,
States where any man may have ten wives, very strict prohibition States,
very lax divorce States--all these large local vagaries had prepared
Cyrus Pym's mind for small local vagaries in a smaller country.
Infinitely more remote from England than any Russian or Italian,
utterly incapable of even conceiving what English conventions are,
he could not see the social impossibility of the Court of Beacon. It is
firmly believed by those who shared the experiment, that to the very
end Pym believed in that phantasmal court and supposed it to be
some Britannic institution.
Towards the synod thus somewhat at a standstill there approached
through the growing haze and gloaming a short dark figure with a walk
apparently founded on the imperfect repression of a negro breakdown.
Something at once in the familiarity and the incongruity of this
being moved Michael to even heartier outbursts of a healthy
and humane flippancy.
"Why, here's little Nosey Gould," he exclaimed. "Isn't the mere
sight of him enough to banish all your morbid reflections?"
"Really," replied Dr. Warner," I really fail to see how Mr. Gould
affects the question; and I once more demand--"
"Hello! what's the funeral, gents?" inquired the newcomer with the air
of an uproarious umpire. "Doctor demandin' something? Always the way
at a boarding-house, you know. Always lots of demand. No supply."
As delicately and impartially as he could, Michael restated his position,
and indicated generally that Smith had been guilty of certain dangerous
and dubious acts, and that there had even arisen an allegation that
he was insane.
"Well, of course he is," said Moses Gould equably; "it don't
need old 'Olmes to see that. The 'awk-like face of 'Olmes,"
he added with abstract relish, "showed a shide of disappointment,
the sleuth-like Gould 'avin' got there before 'im."
"If he is mad," began Inglewood.
"Well," said Moses, "when a cove gets out on the tile the first night
there's generally a tile loose."
"You never objected before," said Diana Duke rather stiffly,
"and you're generally pretty free with your complaints."
"I don't compline of him," said Moses magnanimously, "the poor chap's
'armless enough; you might tie 'im up in the garden her and 'e'd make
noises at the burglars."
"Moses," said Moon with solemn fervour, "you are the incarnation
of Common Sense. You think Mr. Innocent is mad. Let me introduce you
to the incarnation of Scientific Theory. He also thinks Mr. Innocent
is mad.--Doctor, this is my friend Mr. Gould.--Moses, this is the celebrated
Dr. Pym." The celebrated Dr. Cyrus Pym closed his eyes and bowed.
He also murmured his national war-cry in a low voice, which sounded
like "Pleased to meet you."
"Now you two people," said Michael cheerfully, "who both think our poor
friend mad, shall jolly well go into that house over there and prove him mad.
What could be more powerful than the combination of Scientific Theory
with Common Sense? United you stand; divided you fall. I will not be
so uncivil as to suggest that Dr. Pym has no common sense; I confine myself
to recording the chronological accident that he has not shown us any so far.
I take the freedom of an old friend in staking my shirt that Moses has no
scientific theory. Yet against this strong coalition I am ready to appear,
armed with nothing but an intuition--which is American for a guess."
"Distinguished by Mr. Gould's assistance," said Pym, opening his
eyes suddenly. "I gather that though he and I are identical
in primary di-agnosis there is yet between us something that
cannot be called a disagreement, something which we may perhaps
call a--" He put the points of thumb and forefinger together,
spreading the other fingers exquisitely in the air, and seemed
to be waiting for somebody else to tell him what to say.
"Catchin' flies?" inquired the affable Moses.
"A divergence," said Dr. Pym, with a refined sigh of relief; "a divergence.
Granted that the man in question is deranged, he would not necessarily
be all that science requires in a homicidal maniac--"
"Has it occurred to you," observed Moon, who was leaning on the gate again,
and did not turn round, "that if he were a homicidal maniac he might have
killed us all here while we were talking."
Something exploded silently in all their minds, like sealed
dynamite in some forgotten cellars. They all remembered
for the first time for some hour or two that the monster
of whom they were talking was standing quietly among them.
They had left him in the garden like a garden statue; there might
have been a dolphin coiling round his legs, or a fountain
pouring out of his mouth, for all the notice they had taken
of Innocent Smith. He stood with his crest of blonde, blown hair
thrust somewhat forward, his fresh-coloured, rather short-sighted
face looking patiently downwards at nothing in particular,
his huge shoulders humped, and his hands in his trousers pockets.
So far as they could guess he had not moved at all.
His green coat might have been cut out of the green turf
on which he stood. In his shadow Pym had expounded and
Rosamund expostulated, Michael had ranted and Moses had ragged.
He had remained like a thing graven; the god of the garden.
A sparrow had perched on one of his heavy shoulders; and then,
after correcting its costume of feathers, had flown away.
"Why," cried Michael, with a shout of laughter, "the Court of Beacon
has opened--and shut up again too. You all know now I am right.
Your buried common sense has told you what my buried common sense has
told me. Smith might have fired off a hundred cannons instead of a pistol,
and you would still know he was harmless as I know he is harmless.
Back we all go to the house and clear a room for discussion.
For the High Court of Beacon, which has already arrived at its decision,
is just about to begin its inquiry."
"Just a goin' to begin!" cried little Mr. Moses in an extraordinary
sort of disinterested excitement, like that of an animal during music
or a thunderstorm. "Follow on to the 'Igh Court of Eggs and Bacon;
'ave a kipper from the old firm! 'Is Lordship complimented
Mr. Gould on the 'igh professional delicacy 'e had shown,
and which was worthy of the best traditions of the Saloon Bar--
and three of Scotch hot, miss! Oh, chase me, girls!"
The girls betraying no temptation to chase him, he went away in a
sort of waddling dance of pure excitement; and has made a circuit
of the garden before he reappeared, breathless but still beaming.
Moon had known his man when he realized that no people presented
to Moses Gould could be quite serious, even if they were
quite furious. The glass doors stood open on the side nearest
to Mr. Moses Gould; and as the feet of that festive idiot were
evidently turned in the same direction, everybody else went
that way with the unanimity of some uproarious procession.
Only Diana Duke retained enough rigidity to say the thing that had
been boiling at her fierce feminine lips for the last few hours.
Under the shadow of tragedy she had kept it back as unsympathetic.
"In that case," she said sharply, "these cabs can be sent away."
"Well, Innocent must have his bag, you know," said Mary with a smile.
"I dare say the cabman would get it down for us."
"I'll get the bag," said Smith, speaking for the first time in hours;
his voice sounded remote and rude, like the voice of a statue.
Those who had so long danced and disputed round his immobility
were left breathless by his precipitance. With a run and spring
he was out of the garden into the street; with a spring and
one quivering kick he was actually on the roof of the cab.
The cabman happened to be standing by the horse's head, having just
removed its emptied nose-bag. Smith seemed for an instant to be
rolling about on the cab's back in the embraces of his Gladstone bag.
The next instant, however, he had rolled, as if by a royal luck,
into the high seat behind, and with a shriek of piercing and
appalling suddenness had sent the horse flying and scampering
down the street.
His evanescence was so violent and swift, that this time it
was all the other people who were turned into garden statues.
Mr. Moses Gould, however, being ill-adapted both physically and morally
for the purposes of permanent sculpture, came to life some time before
the rest, and, turning to Moon, remarked, like a man starting chattily
with a stranger on an omnibus, "Tile loose, eh? Cab loose anyhow."
There followed a fatal silence; and then Dr. Warner said, with a sneer
like a club of stone,--
"This is what comes of the Court of Beacon, Mr. Moon. You have let
loose a maniac on the whole metropolis."
Beacon House stood, as has been said, at the end of a long crescent
of continuous houses. The little garden that shut it in ran out into
a sharp point like a green cape pushed out into the sea of two streets.
Smith and his cab shot up one side of the triangle, and certainly
most of those standing inside of it never expected to see him again.
At the apex, however, he turned the horse sharply round and drove with equal
violence up the other side of the garden, visible to all those in the group.
With a common impulse the little crowd ran across the lawn as if to stop him,
but they soon had reason to duck and recoil. Even as he vanished up
street for the second time, he let the big yellow bag fly from his hand,
so that it fell in the centre of the garden, scattering the company
like a bomb, and nearly damaging Dr. Warner's hat for the third time.
Long before they had collected themselves, the cab had shot away with a
shriek that went into a whisper.
"Well," said Michael Moon, with a queer note in his voice;
"you may as well all go inside anyhow. We've got two relics
of Mr. Smith at least; his fiancee and his trunk."
"Why do you want us to go inside?" asked Arthur Inglewood,
in whose red brow and rough brown hair botheration seemed
to have reached its limit.
"I want the rest to go in," said Michael in a clear voice,
"because I want the whole of this garden in which to talk to you."
There was an atmosphere of irrational doubt; it was really getting colder,
and a night wind had begun to wave the one or two trees in the twilight.
Dr. Warner, however, spoke in a voice devoid of indecision.
"I refuse to listen to any such proposal," he said; "you have lost
this ruffian, and I must find him."
"I don't ask you to listen to any proposal," answered Moon quietly;
"I only ask you to listen."
He made a silencing movement with his hand, and immediately
the whistling noise that had been lost in the dark streets on one side
of the house could be heard from quite a new quarter on the other side.
Through the night-maze of streets the noise increased with incredible
rapidity, and the next moment the flying hoofs and flashing wheels had
swept up to the blue-railed gate at which they had originally stood.
Mr. Smith got down from his perch with an air of absent-mindedness,
and coming back into the garden stood in the same elephantine
attitude as before.
"Get inside! get inside!" cried Moon hilariously, with the air
of one shooing a company of cats. "Come, come, be quick about it!
Didn't I tell you I wanted to talk to Inglewood?"
How they were all really driven into the house again it would
have been difficult afterwards to say. They had reached the point
of being exhausted with incongruities, as people at a farce
are ill with laughing, and the brisk growth of the storm among
the trees seemed like a final gesture of things in general.
Inglewood lingered behind them, saying with a certain amicable
exasperation, "I say, do you really want to speak to me?"
"I do," said Michael, "very much."
Nigh had come as it generally does, quicker than the twilight had seemed
to promise. While the human eye still felt the sky as light gray, a very
large and lustrous moon appearing abruptly above a bulk of roofs and trees,
proved by contrast that the sky was already a very dark gray indeed.
A drift of barren leaves across the lawn, a drift of riven clouds across
the sky, seemed to be lifted on the same strong and yet laborious wind.
"Arthur," said Michael, "I began with an intuition; but now I am sure.
You and I are going to defend this friend of yours before the blessed Court
of Beacon, and to clear him too--clear him of both crime and lunacy.
Just listen to me while I preach to you for a bit." They walked up
and down the darkening garden together as Michael Moon went on.
"Can you," asked Michael, "shut your eyes and see some of those queer old
hieroglyphics they stuck up on white walls in the old hot countries.
How stiff they were in shape and yet how gaudy in colour.
Think of some alphabet of arbitrary figures picked out in black and red,
or white and green, with some old Semitic crowd of Nosey Gould's
ancestors staring at it, and try to think why the people put it
up at all."
Inglewood's first instinct was to think that his perplexing friend
had really gone off his head at last; there seemed so reckless
a flight of irrelevancy from the tropic-pictured walls he was
asked to imagine to the gray, wind-swept, and somewhat chilly
suburban garden in which he was actually kicking his heels.
How he could be more happy in one by imagining the other he could
not conceive. Both (in themselves) were unpleasant.
"Why does everybody repeat riddles," went on Moon abruptly,
"even if they've forgotten the answers? Riddles are easy to remember
because they are hard to guess. So were those stiff old symbols
in black, red, or green easy to remember because they had been hard
to guess. Their colours were plain. Their shapes were plain.
Everything was plain except the meaning."
Inglewood was about to open his mouth in an amiable protest, but Moon
went on, plunging quicker and quicker up and down the garden and smoking
faster and faster. "Dances, too," he said; "dances were not frivolous.
Dances were harder to understand than inscriptions and texts.
The old dances were stiff, ceremonial, highly coloured but silent.
Have you noticed anything odd about Smith?"
"Well, really," cried Inglewood, left behind in a collapse of humour,
"have I noticed anything else?"
"Have you noticed this about him," asked Moon, with unshaken persistency,
"that he has done so much and said so little? When first he came he talked,
but in a gasping, irregular sort of way, as if he wasn't used to it.
All he really did was actions--painting red flowers on black gowns or throwing
yellow bags on to the grass. I tell you that big green figure is figurative--
like any green figure capering on some white Eastern wall."
"My dear Michael," cried Inglewood, in a rising irritation which increased
with the rising wind, "you are getting absurdly fanciful."
"I think of what has just happened," said Michael steadily.
"The man has not spoken for hours; and yet he has been speaking
all the time. He fired three shots from a six-shooter and then
gave it up to us, when he might have shot us dead in our boots.
How could he express his trust in us better than that?
He wanted to be tried by us. How could he have shown it better
than by standing quite still and letting us discuss it?
He wanted to show that he stood there willingly,
and could escape if he liked. How could he have shown it
better than by escaping in the cab and coming back again?
Innocent Smith is not a madman--he is a ritualist. He wants to
express himself, not with his tongue, but with his arms and legs--
with my body I thee worship, as it says in the marriage service.
I begin to understand the old plays and pageants. I see why
the mutes at a funeral were mute. I see why the mummers were mum.
They MEANT something; and Smith means something too.
All other jokes have to be noisy--like little Nosey Gould's jokes,
for instance. The only silent jokes are the practical jokes.
Poor Smith, properly considered, is an allegorical practical joker.
What he has really done in this house has been as frantic
as a war-dance, but as silent as a picture."
"I suppose you mean," said the other dubiously, "that we have got to find out
what all these crimes meant, as if they were so many coloured picture-puzzles.
But even supposing that they do mean something--why, Lord bless my soul!--"
Taking the turn of the garden quite naturally, he had lifted
his eyes to the moon, by this time risen big and luminous,
and had seen a huge, half-human figure sitting on the garden wall.
It was outlined so sharply against the moon that for the first flash
it was hard to be certain even that it was human: the hunched
shoulders and outstanding hair had rather the air of a colossal cat.
It resembled a cat also in the fact that when first startled it
sprang up and ran with easy activity along the top of the wall.
As it ran, however, its heavy shoulders and small stooping head
rather suggested a baboon. The instant it came within reach
of a tree it made an ape-like leap and was lost in the branches.
The gale, which by this time was shaking every shrub in the garden,
made the identification yet more difficult, since it melted
the moving limbs of the fugitive in the multitudinous moving
limbs of the tree.
"Who is there?" shouted Arthur. "Who are you? Are you Innocent?"
"Not quite," answered an obscure voice among the leaves.
"I cheated you once about a penknife."
The wind in the garden had gathered strength, and was throwing the tree
backwards and forwards with the man in the thick of it, just as it
had on the gay and golden afternoon when he had first arrived.
"But are you Smith?" asked Inglewood as in an agony.
"Very nearly," said the voice out of the tossing tree.
"But you must have some real names," shrieked Inglewood in despair.
"You must call yourself something."
"Call myself something," thundered the obscure voice, shaking the tree
so that all its ten thousand leaves seemed to be talking at once.
"I call myself Roland Oliver Isaiah Charlemagne Arthur Hildebrand
Homer Danton Michaelangelo Shakespeare Brakespeare--"
"But, manalive!" began Inglewood in exasperation.
"That's right! that's right!" came with a roar out of the rocking tree;
"that's my real name." And he broke a branch, and one or two autumn
leaves fluttered away across the moon.
The Explanations of Innocent Smith
The Eye of Death;
or, the Murder Charge
The dining-room of the Dukes had been set out for the Court
of Beacon with a certain impromptu pomposity that seemed somehow
to increase its cosiness. The big room was, as it were,
cut up into small rooms, with walls only waist high--the sort
of separation that children make when they are playing at shops.
This had been done by Moses Gould and Michael Moon
(the two most active members of this remarkable inquiry)
with the ordinary furniture of the place. At one end of the long
mahogany table was set the one enormous garden chair, which was
surmounted by the old torn tent or umbrella which Smith himself
had suggested as a coronation canopy. Inside this erection
could be perceived the dumpy form of Mrs. Duke, with cushions
and a form of countenance that already threatened slumber.
At the other end sat the accused Smith, in a kind of dock;
for he was carefully fenced in with a quadrilateral of light
bedroom chairs, any of which he could have tossed out the window
with his big toe. He had been provided with pens and paper,
out of the latter of which he made paper boats, paper darts,
and paper dolls contentedly throughout the whole proceedings.
He never spoke or even looked up, but seemed as unconscious
as a child on the floor of an empty nursery.
On a row of chairs raised high on the top of a long settee sat
the three young ladies with their backs up against the window,
and Mary Gray in the middle; it was something between a jury
box and the stall of the Queen of Beauty at a tournament.
Down the centre of the long table Moon had built a low barrier
out of eight bound volumes of "Good Words" to express the moral
wall that divided the conflicting parties. On the right side
sat the two advocates of the prosecution, Dr. Pym and Mr. Gould;
behind a barricade of books and documents, chiefly (in the case
of Dr. Pym) solid volumes of criminology. On the other side,
Moon and Inglewood, for the defence, were also fortified
with books and papers; but as these included several old yellow
volumes by Ouida and Wilkie Collins, the hand of Mr. Moon
seemed to have been somewhat careless and comprehensive.
As for the victim and prosecutor, Dr. Warner, Moon wanted at first
to have him kept entirely behind a high screen in the court,
urging the indelicacy of his appearance in court, but privately
assuring him of an unofficial permission to peep over the top
now and then. Dr. Warner, however, failed to rise to the chivalry
of such a course, and after some little disturbance and discussion
he was accommodated with a seat on the right side of the table
in a line with his legal advisers.
It was before this solidly-established tribunal that Dr. Cyrus Pym,
after passing a hand through the honey-coloured hair over each ear,
rose to open the case. His statement was clear and even restrained,
and such flights of imagery as occurred in it only attracted attention
by a certain indescribable abruptness, not uncommon in the flowers
of American speech.
He planted the points of his ten frail fingers on the mahogany,
closed his eyes, and opened his mouth. "The time has gone by,"
he said, "when murder could be regarded as a moral and individual act,
important perhaps to the murderer, perhaps to the murdered.
Science has profoundly..." here he paused, poising his compressed
finger and thumb in the air as if he were holding an elusive idea
very tight by its tail, then he screwed up his eyes and said
"modified," and let it go--"has profoundly Modified our view of death.
In superstitious ages it was regarded as the termination of life,
catastrophic, and even tragic, and was often surrounded by solemnity.
Brighter days, however, have dawned, and we now see death as universal
and inevitable, as part of that great soul-stirring and heart-upholding
average which we call for convenience the order of nature.
In the same way we have come to consider murder socially.
Rising above the mere private feelings of a man while being forcibly
deprived of life, we are privileged to behold murder as a mighty whole,
to see the rich rotation of the cosmos, bringing, as it brings
the golden harvests and the golden-bearded harvesters, the return
for ever of the slayers and the slain."
He looked down, somewhat affected with his own eloquence, coughed slightly,
putting up four of his pointed fingers with the excellent manners
of Boston, and continued: "There is but one result of this happier
and humaner outlook which concerns the wretched man before us.
It is that thoroughly elucidated by a Milwaukee doctor,
our great secret-guessing Sonnenschein, in his great work,
`The Destructive Type.' We do not denounce Smith as a murderer,
but rather as a murderous man. The type is such that its very life--
I might say its very health--is in killing. Some hold that it is
not properly an aberration, but a newer and even a higher creature.
My dear old friend Dr. Bulger, who kept ferrets--" (here Moon
suddenly ejaculated a loud "hurrah!" but so instantaneously
resumed his tragic expression that Mrs. Duke looked everywhere
else for the sound); Dr. Pym continued somewhat sternly--"who,
in the interests of knowledge, kept ferrets, felt that the creature's
ferocity is not utilitarian, but absolutely an end in itself.
However this may be with ferrets, it is certainly so with the prisoner.
In his other iniquities you may find the cunning of the maniac;
but his acts of blood have almost the simplicity of sanity.
But it is the awful sanity of the sun and the elements--a cruel,
an evil sanity. As soon stay the iris-leapt cataracts of our virgin
West as stay the natural force that sends him forth to slay.
No environment, however scientific, could have softened him.
Place that man in the silver-silent purity of the palest cloister,
and there will be some deed of violence done with the crozier or the alb.
Rear him in a happy nursery, amid our brave-browed Anglo-Saxon infancy,
and he will find some way to strangle with the skipping-rope
or brain with the brick. Circumstances may be favourable,
training may be admirable, hopes may be high, but the huge elemental
hunger of Innocent Smith for blood will in its appointed season
burst like a well-timed bomb."
Arthur Inglewood glanced curiously for an instant at the huge creature
at the foot of the table, who was fitting a paper figure with a cocked hat,
and then looked back at Dr. Pym, who was concluding in a quieter tone.
"It only remains for us," he said, "to bring forward actual evidence
of his previous attempts. By an agreement already made with the Court
and the leaders of the defence, we are permitted to put in evidence authentic
letters from witnesses to these scenes, which the defence is free to examine.
Out of several cases of such outrages we have decided to select one--
the clearest and most scandalous. I will therefore, without further delay,
call on my junior, Mr. Gould, to read two letters--one from the Sub-Warden and
the other from the porter of Brakespeare College, in Cambridge University."
Gould jumped up with a jerk like a jack-in-the-box, an academic-looking
paper in his hand and a fever of importance on his face.
He began in a loud, high, cockney voice that was as abrupt
as a cock-crow:--
"Sir,--Hi am the Sub-Warden of Brikespeare College, Cambridge--"
"Lord have mercy on us," muttered Moon, making a backward movement as men
do when a gun goes off.
"Sir,--Hi am the Sub-Warden of Brikespeare College, Cambridge,"
proclaimed the uncompromising Moses, "and I can endorse the description
you gave of the un'appy Smith. It was not alone my unfortunate duty
to rebuke many of the lesser violences of his undergraduate period,
but I was actually a witness to the last iniquity which terminated
that period. Hi happened to passing under the house of my friend
the Warden of Brikespeare, which is semi-detached from the College
and connected with it by two or three very ancient arches or props,
like bridges, across a small strip of water connected with the river.
To my grave astonishment I be'eld my eminent friend suspended in mid-air
and clinging to one of these pieces of masonry, his appearance and
attitude indicatin' that he suffered from the grivest apprehensions.
After a short time I heard two very loud shots, and distinctly perceived
the unfortunate undergraduate Smith leaning far out of the Warden's
window and aiming at the Warden repeatedly with a revolver.
Upon seeing me, Smith burst into a loud laugh (in which
impertinence was mingled with insanity), and appeared to desist.
I sent the college porter for a ladder, and he succeeded in detaching
the Warden from his painful position. Smith was sent down.
The photograph I enclose is from the group of the University Rifle Club
prizemen, and represents him as he was when at the College.--Hi am,
your obedient servant, Amos Boulter."
"The other letter," continued Gould in a glow of triumph, "is from the porter,
and won't take long to read.
"Dear Sir,--It is quite true that I am the porter of Brikespeare College,
and that I 'elped the Warden down when the young man was shooting at him,
as Mr. Boulter has said in his letter. The young man who was shooting at
him was Mr. Smith, the same that is in the photograph Mr. Boulter sends.--
Yours respectfully, Samuel Barker."
Gould handed the two letters across to Moon, who examined them.
But for the vocal divergences in the matter of h's and a's,
the Sub-Warden's letter was exactly as Gould had rendered it;
and both that and the porter's letter were plainly genuine.
Moon handed them to Inglewood, who handed them back in silence
to Moses Gould.
"So far as this first charge of continual attempted murder is concerned,"
said Dr. Pym, standing up for the last time, "that is my case."
Michael Moon rose for the defence with an air of depression which gave
little hope at the outset to the sympathizers with the prisoner.
He did not, he said, propose to follow the doctor into doctor
into the abstract questions. "I do not know enough to be
an agnostic," he said, rather wearily, "and I can only master
the known and admitted elements in such controversies.
As for science and religion, the known and admitted facts
are plain enough. All that the parsons say is unproved.
All that the doctors say is disproved. That's the only difference
between science and religion there's ever been, or will be.
Yet these new discoveries touch me, somehow," he said,
looking down sorrowfully at his boots. "They remind me of a dear
old great-aunt of mine who used to enjoy them in her youth.
It brings tears to my eyes. I can see the old bucket by the garden
fence and the line of shimmering poplars behind--"
"Hi! here, stop the 'bus a bit," cried Mr. Moses Gould, rising in a sort
of perspiration. "We want to give the defence a fair run--like gents,
you know; but any gent would draw the line at shimmering poplars."
"Well, hang it all," said Moon, in an injured manner, "if Dr. Pym
may have an old friend with ferrets, why mayn't I have an old
aunt with poplars?"
"I am sure," said Mrs. Duke, bridling, with something almost
like a shaky authority, "Mr. Moon may have what aunts he likes."
"Why, as to liking her," began Moon, "I--but perhaps,
as you say, she is scarcely the core of the question.
I repeat that I do not mean to follow the abstract speculation.
For, indeed, my answer to Dr. Pym is simple and severely concrete.
Dr. Pym has only treated one side of the psychology of murder.
If it is true that there is a kind of man who has a natural
tendency to murder, is it not equally true"--here he lowered
his voice and spoke with a crushing quietude and earnestness--"is
it not equally true that there is a kind of man who has
a natural tendency to get murdered? Is it not at least
a hypothesis holding the field that Dr. Warner is such a man?
I do not speak without the book, any more than my learned friend.
The whole matter is expounded in Dr. Moonenschein's monumental work,
`The Destructible Doctor,' with diagrams, showing the various ways
in which such a person as Dr. Warner may be resolved into his elements.
In the light of these facts--"
"Hi, stop the 'bus! stop the 'bus!" cried Moses, jumping up and down and
gesticulating in great excitement. "My principal's got something to say!
My principal wants to do a bit of talkin'."
Dr. Pym was indeed on his feet, looking pallid and rather vicious.
"I have strictly CON-fined myself," he said nasally,
"to books to which immediate reference can be made.
I have Sonnenschein's `Destructive Type' here on the table,
if the defence wish to see it. Where is this wonderful work
on Destructability Mr. Moon is talking about? Does it exist?
Can he produce it?"
"Produce it!" cried the Irishman with a rich scorn.
"I'll produce it in a week if you'll pay for the ink and paper."
"Would it have much authority?" asked Pym, sitting down.
"Oh, authority!" said Moon lightly; "that depends on a fellow's religion."
Dr. Pym jumped up again. "Our authority is based on masses
of accurate detail," he said. "It deals with a region in which
things can be handled and tested. My opponent will at least
admit that death is a fact of experience."
"Not of mine," said Moon mournfully, shaking his head.
"I've never experienced such a thing in all my life."
"Well, really," said Dr. Pym, and sat down sharply amid a crackle of papers.
"So we see," resumed Moon, in the same melancholy voice, "that a
man like Dr. Warner is, in the mysterious workings of evolution,
doomed to such attacks. My client's onslaught, even if it occurred,
was not unique. I have in my hand letters from more than one acquaintance
of Dr. Warner whom that remarkable man has affected in the same way.
Following the example of my learned friends I will read only two of them.
The first is from an honest and laborious matron living off the Harrow Road.
"Mr. Moon, Sir,--Yes, I did throw a sorsepan at him. Wot then?
It was all I had to throw, all the soft things being porned,
and if your Docter Warner doesn't like having sorsepans thrown at him,
don't let him wear his hat in a respectable woman's parler, and tell
him to leave orf smiling or tell us the joke.--Yours respectfully,
"The other letter is from a physician of some note in Dublin,
with whom Dr. Warner was once engaged in consultation.
He writes as follows:--
"Dear Sir,--The incident to which you refer is one which I regret,
and which, moreover, I have never been able to explain.
My own branch of medicine is not mental; and I should be glad to have
the view of a mental specialist on my singular momentary and indeed
almost automatic action. To say that I `pulled Dr. Warner's nose,'
is, however, inaccurate in a respect that strikes me as important.
That I punched his nose I must cheerfully admit (I need not say with
what regret); but pulling seems to me to imply a precision of objective
with which I cannot reproach myself. In comparison with this, the act
of punching was an outward, instantaneous, and even natural gesture.--
Believe me, yours faithfully, Burton Lestrange.
"I have numberless other letters," continued Moon, "all bearing witness
to this widespread feeling about my eminent friend; and I therefore think
that Dr. Pym should have admitted this side of the question in his survey.
We are in the presence, as Dr. Pym so truly says, of a natural force.
As soon stay the cataract of the London water-works as stay
the great tendency of Dr. Warner to be assassinated by somebody.
Place that man in a Quakers' meeting, among the most peaceful of Christians,
and he will immediately be beaten to death with sticks of chocolate.
Place him among the angels of the New Jerusalem, and he will be stoned
to death with precious stones. Circumstances may be beautiful and wonderful,
the average may be heart-upholding, the harvester may be golden-bearded,
the doctor may be secret-guessing, the cataract may be iris-leapt,
the Anglo-Saxon infant may be brave-browed, but against and above
all these prodigies the grand simple tendency of Dr. Warner to get
murdered will still pursue its way until it happily and triumphantly
succeeds at last."
He pronounced this peroration with an appearance of strong emotion.
But even stronger emotions were manifesting themselves on the other
side of the table. Dr. Warner had leaned his large body quite across
the little figure of Moses Gould and was talking in excited whispers
to Dr. Pym. That expert nodded a great many times and finally started
to his feet with a sincere expression of sternness.
"Ladies and gentlemen," he cried indignantly, "as my colleague has said,
we should be delighted to give any latitude to the defence--if there
were a defence. But Mr. Moon seems to think he is there to make jokes--
very good jokes I dare say, but not at all adapted to assist his client.
He picks holes in science. He picks holes in my client's social popularity.
He picks holes in my literary style, which doesn't seem to suit his high-toned
European taste. But how does this picking of holes affect the issue?
This Smith has picked two holes in my client's hat, and with an inch better
aim would have picked two holes in his head. All the jokes in the world
won't unpick those holes or be any use for the defence."
Inglewood looked down in some embarrassment, as if shaken by the evident
fairness of this, but Moon still gazed at his opponent in a dreamy way.
"The defence?" he said vaguely--"oh, I haven't begun that yet."
"You certainly have not," said Pym warmly, amid a murmur of applause
from his side, which the other side found it impossible to answer.
"Perhaps, if you have any defence, which has been doubtful from
the very beginning--"
"While you're standing up," said Moon, in the same almost sleepy style,
"perhaps I might ask you a question."
"A question? Certainly," said Pym stiffly. "It was distinctly
arranged between us that as we could not cross-examine
the witnesses, we might vicariously cross-examine each other.
We are in a position to invite all such inquiry."
"I think you said," observed Moon absently, "that none of the prisoner's
shots really hit the doctor."
"For the cause of science," cried the complacent Pym, "fortunately not."
"Yet they were fired from a few feet away."
"Yes; about four feet."
"And no shots hit the Warden, though they were fired quite close
to him too?" asked Moon.
"That is so," said the witness gravely.
"I think," said Moon, suppressing a slight yawn, "that your Sub-Warden
mentioned that Smith was one of the University's record men for shooting."
"Why, as to that--" began Pym, after an instant of stillness.
"A second question," continued Moon, comparatively curtly.
"You said there were other cases of the accused trying to kill people.
Why have you not got evidence of them?"
The American planted the points of his fingers on the table again.
"In those cases," he said precisely, "there was no evidence from outsiders,
as in the Cambridge case, but only the evidence of the actual victims."
"Why didn't you get their evidence?"
"In the case of the actual victims," said Pym, "there was some difficulty
and reluctance, and--"
"Do you mean," asked Moon, "that none of the actual victims would
appear against the prisoner?"
"That would be exaggerative," began the other.
"A third question," said Moon, so sharply that every one jumped.
"You've got the evidence of the Sub-Warden who heard some shots;
where's the evidence of the Warden himself who was shot at?
The Warden of Brakespeare lives, a prosperous gentleman."
"We did ask for a statement from him," said Pym a little nervously;
"but it was so eccentrically expressed that we suppressed it out
of deference to an old gentleman whose past services to science
have been great."
Moon leaned forward. "You mean, I suppose," he said, "that his statement
was favourable to the prisoner."
"It might be understood so," replied the American doctor;
"but, really, it was difficult to understand at all.
In fact, we sent it back to him."
"You have no longer, then, any statement signed by the Warden of Brakespeare."
"I only ask," said Michael quietly, "because we have.
To conclude my case I will ask my junior, Mr. Inglewood,
to read a statement of the true story--a statement attested
as true by the signature of the Warden himself."
Arthur Inglewood rose with several papers in his hand, and though
he looked somewhat refined and self-effacing, as he always did,
the spectators were surprised to feel that his presence was,
upon the whole, more efficient and sufficing than his leader's. He was,
in truth, one of those modest men who cannot speak until they are told
to speak; and then can speak well. Moon was entirely the opposite.
His own impudences amused him in private, but they slightly
embarrassed him in public; he felt a fool while he was speaking,
whereas Inglewood felt a fool only because he could not speak.
The moment he had anything to say he could speak;
and the moment he could speak, speaking seemed quite natural.
Nothing in this universe seemed quite natural to Michael Moon.
"As my colleague has just explained," said Inglewood, "there are
two enigmas or inconsistencies on which we base the defence.
The first is a plain physical fact. By the admission of everybody,
by the very evidence adduced by the prosecution, it is clear
that the accused was celebrated as a specially good shot.
Yet on both the occasions complained of he shot from a distance of four
or five feet, and shot at him four or five times, and never hit him once.
That is the first startling circumstance on which we base our argument.
The second, as my colleague has urged, is the curious fact that we cannot
find a single victim of these alleged outrages to speak for himself.
Subordinates speak for him. Porters climb up ladders to him.
But he himself is silent. Ladies and gentlemen, I propose to explain
on the spot both the riddle of the shots and the riddle of the silence.
I will first of all read the covering letter in which the true account
of the Cambridge incident is contained, and then that document itself.
When you have heard both, there will be no doubt about your decision.
The covering letter runs as follows:--
"Dear Sir,--The following is a very exact and even vivid account of the
incident as it really happened at Brakespeare College. We, the undersigned,
do not see any particular reason why we should refer it to any
isolated authorship. The truth is, it has been a composite production;
and we have even had some difference of opinion about the adjectives.
But every word of it is true.--We are, yours faithfully,
"Wilfred Emerson Eames,
"Warden of Brakespeare College, Cambridge.
"The enclosed statement," continued Inglewood, "runs as follows:--
"A celebrated English university backs so abruptly on the river,
that it has, so to speak, to be propped up and patched
with all sorts of bridges and semi-detached buildings.
The river splits itself into several small streams and canals,
so that in one or two corners the place has almost the look
of Venice. It was so especially in the case with which we
are concerned, in which a few flying buttresses or airy ribs of stone
sprang across a strip of water to connect Brakespeare College
with the house of the Warden of Brakespeare.
"The country around these colleges is flat; but it does not
seem flat when one is thus in the midst of the colleges.
For in these flat fens there are always wandering lakes and lingering
rivers of water. And these always change what might have been
a scheme of horizontal lines into a scheme of vertical lines.
Wherever there is water the height of high buildings is doubled,
and a British brick house becomes a Babylonian tower.
In that shining unshaken surface the houses hang head
downwards exactly to their highest or lowest chimney.
The coral-coloured cloud seen in that abyss is as far
below the world as its original appears above it.
Every scrap of water is not only a window but a skylight.
Earth splits under men's feet into precipitous aerial perspectives,
into which a bird could as easily wing its way as--"
Dr. Cyrus Pym rose in protest. The documents he had put
in evidence had been confined to cold affirmation of fact.
The defence, in a general way, had an indubitable right to put
their case in their own way, but all this landscape gardening
seemed to him (Dr. Cyrus Pym) to be not up to the business.
"Will the leader of the defence tell me," he asked, "how it can
possibly affect this case, that a cloud was cor'l-coloured,
or that a bird could have winged itself anywhere?"
"Oh, I don't know," said Michael, lifting himself lazily;
"you see, you don't know yet what our defence is.
Till you know that, don't you see, anything may be relevant.
Why, suppose," he said suddenly, as if an idea had struck him,
"suppose we wanted to prove the old Warden colour-blind.
Suppose he was shot by a black man with white hair, when he
thought he was being shot by a white man with yellow hair!
To ascertain if that cloud was really and truly coral-coloured
might be of the most massive importance."
He paused with a seriousness which was hardly generally shared,
and continued with the same fluence: "Or suppose we wanted to
maintain that the Warden committed suicide--that he just got Smith
to hold the pistol as Brutus's slave held the sword. Why, it would
make all the difference whether the Warden could see himself plain
in still water. Still water has made hundreds of suicides:
one sees oneself so very--well, so very plain."
"Do you, perhaps," inquired Pym with austere irony, "maintain that your client
was a bird of some sort--say, a flamingo?"
"In the matter of his being a flamingo," said Moon with sudden severity,
"my client reserves his defence."
No one quite knowing what to make of this, Mr. Moon resumed his seat
and Inglewood resumed the reading of his document:--
"There is something pleasing to a mystic in such a land of mirrors.
For a mystic is one who holds that two worlds are better than one.
In the highest sense, indeed, all thought is reflection.
"This is the real truth, in the saying that second thoughts are best.
Animals have no second thoughts; man alone is able to see his own
thought double, as a drunkard sees a lamp-post; man alone is able
to see his own thought upside down as one sees a house in a puddle.
This duplication of mentality, as in a mirror, is (we repeat)
the inmost thing of human philosophy. There is a mystical, even a
monstrous truth, in the statement that two heads are better than one.
But they ought both to grow on the same body.'"
"I know it's a little transcendental at first," interposed Inglewood,
beaming round with a broad apology, "but you see this document was written
in collaboration by a don and a--"
"Drunkard, eh?" suggested Moses Gould, beginning to enjoy himself.
"I rather think," proceeded Inglewood with an unruffled
and critical air, "that this part was written by the don.
I merely warn the Court that the statement, though indubitably accurate,
bears here and there the trace of coming from two authors."
"In that case," said Dr. Pym, leaning back and sniffing,
"I cannot agree with them that two heads are better than one."
"The undersigned persons think it needless to touch on a kindred
problem so often discussed at committees for University Reform:
the question of whether dons see double because they are drunk,
or get drunk because they see double. It is enough for them
(the undersigned persons) if they are able to pursue their own peculiar
and profitable theme--which is puddles. What (the undersigned
persons ask themselves) is a puddle? A puddle repeats infinity,
and is full of light; nevertheless, if analyzed objectively,
a puddle is a piece of dirty water spread very thin on mud.
The two great historic universities of England have all this large
and level and reflective brilliance. Nevertheless, or, rather, on the
other hand, they are puddles--puddles, puddles, puddles, puddles.
The undersigned persons ask you to excuse an emphasis inseparable
from strong conviction."
Inglewood ignored a somewhat wild expression on the faces of some present,
and continued with eminent cheerfulness:--
"Such were the thoughts that failed to cross the mind of
the undergraduate Smith as he picked his way among the stripes
of canal and the glittering rainy gutters into which the water
broke up round the back of Brakespeare College. Had these thoughts
crossed his mind he would have been much happier than he was.
Unfortunately he did not know that his puzzles were puddles.
He did not know that the academic mind reflects infinity and is full
of light by the simple process of being shallow and standing still.
In his case, therefore, there was something solemn, and even evil
about the infinity implied. It was half-way through a starry
night of bewildering brilliancy; stars were both above and below.
To young Smith's sullen fancy the skies below seemed even hollower
than the skies above; he had a horrible idea that if he counted
the stars he would find one too many in the pool.
"In crossing the little paths and bridges he felt like one stepping
on the black and slender ribs of some cosmic Eiffel Tower. For to him,
and nearly all the educated youth of that epoch, the stars were cruel things.
Though they glowed in the great dome every night, they were an enormous
and ugly secret; they uncovered the nakedness of nature; they were a glimpse
of the iron wheels and pulleys behind the scenes. For the young men
of that sad time thought that the god always comes from the machine.
They did not know that in reality the machine only comes from the god.
IN short, they were all pessimists, and starlight was atrocious to them--
atrocious because it was true. All their universe was black with white spots.
"Smith looked up with relief from the glittering pools below
to the glittering skies and the great black bulk of the college.
The only light other than stars glowed through one peacock-green
curtain in the upper part of the building, marking where
Dr. Emerson Eames always worked till morning and received
his friends and favourite pupils at any hour of the night.
Indeed, it was to his rooms that the melancholy Smith was bound.
Smith had been at Dr. Eames's lecture for the first half of the morning,
and at pistol practice and fencing in a saloon for the second half.
He had been sculling madly for the first half of the afternoon
and thinking idly (and still more madly) for the second half.
He had gone to a supper where he was uproarious, and on to a debating
club where he was perfectly insufferable, and the melancholy
Smith was melancholy still. Then, as he was going home to his
diggings he remembered the eccentricity of his friend and master,
the Warden of Brakespeare, and resolved desperately to turn
in to that gentleman's private house.
"Emerson Eames was an eccentric in many ways, but his throne
in philosophy and metaphysics was of international eminence;
the university could hardly have afforded to lose him, and, moreover,
a don has only to continue any of his bad habits long enough
to make them a part of the British Constitution. The bad habits
of Emerson Eames were to sit up all night and to be a student
of Schopenhauer. Personally, he was a lean, lounging sort of man,
with a blond pointed beard, not so very much older than his
pupil Smith in the matter of mere years, but older by centuries
in the two essential respects of having a European reputation
and a bald head.
"`I came, against the rules, at this unearthly hour,' said Smith, who was
nothing to the eye except a very big man trying to make himself small,
`because I am coming to the conclusion that existence is really too rotten.
I know all the arguments of the thinkers that think otherwise--bishops,
and agnostics, and those sort of people. And knowing you were the greatest
living authority on the pessimist thinkers--'
"`All thinkers,' said Eames, `are pessimist thinkers.'
"After a patch of pause, not the first--for this depressing conversation
had gone on for some hours with alternations of cynicism and silence--
the Warden continued with his air of weary brilliancy: `It's all a question
of wrong calculation. The most flies into the candle because he doesn't
happen to know that the game is not worth the candle. The wasp gets
into the jam in hearty and hopeful efforts to get the jam into him.
IN the same way the vulgar people want to enjoy life just as they want
to enjoy gin--because they are too stupid to see that they are paying too big
a price for it. That they never find happiness--that they don't even know
how to look for it--is proved by the paralyzing clumsiness and ugliness
of everything they do. Their discordant colours are cries of pain.
Look at the brick villas beyond the college on this side of the river.
There's one with spotted blinds; look at it! just go and look at it!'
"`Of course,' he went on dreamily, `one or two men see the sober
fact a long way off--they go mad. Do you notice that maniacs mostly
try either to destroy other things, or (if they are thoughtful)
to destroy themselves? The madman is the man behind the scenes,
like the man that wanders about the coulisse of a theater.
He has only opened the wrong door and come into the right place.
He sees things at the right angle. But the common world--'
"`Oh, hang the common world!' said the sullen Smith, letting his fist
fall on the table in an idle despair.
"`Let's give it a bad name first,' said the Professor calmly,
`and then hang it. A puppy with hydrophobia would probably struggle
for life while we killed it; but if we were kind we should kill it.
So an omniscient god would put us out of our pain.
He would strike us dead.'
"`Why doesn't he strike us dead?' asked the undergraduate abstractedly,
plunging his hands into his pockets.
"`He is dead himself,' said the philosopher; `that is where
he is really enviable.'
"`To any one who thinks,' proceeded Eames, `the pleasures of life,
trivial and soon tasteless, and bribes to bring us into a torture chamber.
We all see that for any thinking man mere extinction is the... What
are you doing?... Are you mad?... Put that thing down.'
"Dr. Eames had turned his tired but still talkative head over his shoulder,
and had found himself looking into a small round black hole, rimmed by a
six-sided circlet of steel, with a sort of spike standing up on the top.
It fixed him like an iron eye. Through those eternal instants during
which the reason is stunned he did not even know what it was.
Then he saw behind it the chambered barrel and cocked hammer of
a revolver, and behind that the flushed and rather heavy face of Smith,
apparently quite unchanged, or even more mild than before.
"`I'll help you out of your hole, old man,' said Smith,
with rough tenderness. `I'll put the puppy out of his pain.'
"Emerson Eames retreated towards the window. `Do you mean
to kill me?' he cried.
"`It's not a thing I'd do for every one,' said Smith with emotion;
`but you and I seem to have got so intimate to-night, somehow.
I know all your troubles now, and the only cure, old chap.'
"`Put that thing down,' shouted the Warden.
"`It'll soon be over, you know,' said Smith with the air of a
sympathetic dentist. And as the Warden made a run for the window
and balcony, his benefactor followed him with a firm step
and a compassionate expression.
"Both men were perhaps surprised to see that the gray and white
of early daybreak had already come. One of them, however,
had emotions calculated to swallow up surprise. Brakespeare College
was one of the few that retained real traces of Gothic ornament,
and just beneath Dr. Eames's balcony there ran out what had perhaps
been a flying buttress, still shapelessly shaped into gray beasts
and devils, but blinded with mosses and washed out with rains.
With an ungainly and most courageous leap, Eames sprang out on this
antique bridge, as the only possible mode of escape from the maniac.
He sat astride of it, still in his academic gown, dangling his
long thin legs, and considering further chances of flight.
The whitening daylight opened under as well as over him that
impression of vertical infinity already remarked about the little
lakes round Brakespeare. Looking down and seeing the spires
and chimneys pendent in the pools, they felt alone in space.
They felt as if they were looking over the edge from the North Pole
and seeing the South Pole below.
"`Hang the world, we said,' observed Smith, `and the world is hanged.
"He has hanged the world upon nothing," says the Bible. Do you like being
hanged upon nothing? I'm going to be hanged upon something myself.
I'm going to swing for you... Dear, tender old phrase,' he murmured;
`never true till this moment. I am going to swing for you.
For you, dear friend. For your sake. At your express desire.'
"`Help!' cried the Warden of Brakespeare College; `help!'
"`The puppy struggles,' said the undergraduate, with an eye of pity,
`the poor puppy struggles. How fortunate it is that I am wiser
and kinder than he,' and he sighted his weapon so as exactly to cover
the upper part of Eames's bald head.
"`Smith,' said the philosopher with a sudden change to a sort
of ghastly lucidity, `I shall go mad.'
"`And so look at things from the right angle,' observed Smith,
sighing gently. `Ah, but madness is only a palliative at best,
a drug. The only cure is an operation--an operation that is
always successful: death.'
"As he spoke the sun rose. It seemed to put colour into everything,
with the rapidity of a lightning artist. A fleet of little
clouds sailing across the sky changed from pigeon-gray to pink.
All over the little academic town the tops of different buildings
took on different tints: here the sun would pick out the green
enameled on a pinnacle, there the scarlet tiles of a villa;
here the copper ornament on some artistic shop, and there
the sea-blue slates of some old and steep church roof.
All these coloured crests seemed to have something oddly
individual and significant about them, like crests of famous
knights pointed out in a pageant or a battlefield: they each
arrested the eye, especially the rolling eye of Emerson Eames
as he looked round on the morning and accepted it as his last.
Through a narrow chink between a black timber tavern and a big
gray college he could see a clock with gilt hands which the
sunshine set on fire. He stared at it as though hypnotized;
and suddenly the clock began to strike, as if in personal reply.
As if at a signal, clock after clock took up the cry:
all the churches awoke like chickens at cockcrow.
The birds were already noisy in the trees behind the college.
The sun rose, gathering glory that seemed too full for the deep
skies to hold, and the shallow waters beneath them seemed golden
and brimming and deep enough for the thirst of the gods.
Just round the corner of the College, and visible from his crazy perch,
were the brightest specks on that bright landscape, the villa
with the spotted blinds which he had made his text that night.
He wondered for the first time what people lived in them.
"Suddenly he called out with mere querulous authority,
as he might have called to a student to shut a door.
"`Let me come off this place,' he cried; `I can't bear it.'
"`I rather doubt if it will bear you,' said Smith critically;
`but before you break your neck, or I blow out your brains,
or let you back into this room (on which complex points I
am undecided) I want the metaphysical point cleared up.
Do I understand that you want to get back to life?'
"`I'd give anything to get back,' replied the unhappy professor.
"`Give anything!' cried Smith; `then, blast your impudence,
give us a song!'
"`What song do you mean?' demanded the exasperated Eames; `what song?'
"`A hymn, I think, would be most appropriate,' answered the other gravely.
`I'll let you off if you'll repeat after me the words--
"`I thank the goodness and the grace
That on my birth have smiled.
And perched me on this curious place,
A happy English child.'
"Dr. Emerson Eames having briefly complied, his persecutor abruptly
told him to hold his hands up in the air. Vaguely connecting this
proceeding with the usual conduct of brigands and bushrangers,
Mr. Eames held them up, very stiffly, but without marked surprise.
A bird alighting on his stone seat took no more notice of him
than of a comic statue.
"`You are now engaged in public worship,' remarked Smith severely,
`and before I have done with you, you shall thank God for the very ducks
on the pond.'
"`The celebrated pessimist half articulately expressed his perfect
readiness to thank God for the ducks on the pond.
"`Not forgetting the drakes,' said Smith sternly.
(Eames weakly conceded the drakes.) `Not forgetting anything, please.
You shall thank heaven for churches and chapels and villas
and vulgar people and puddles and pots and pans and sticks
and rags and bones and spotted blinds.'
"`All right, all right,' repeated the victim in despair;
`sticks and rags and bones and blinds.'
"`Spotted blinds, I think we said,' remarked Smith with a
rogueish ruthlessness, and wagging the pistol-barrel at him
like a long metallic finger.
"`Spotted blinds,' said Emerson Eames faintly.
"`You can't say fairer than that,' admitted the younger man,
`and now I'll just tell you this to wind up with.
If you really were what you profess to be, I don't see that it
would matter to snail or seraph if you broke your impious stiff
neck and dashed out all your drivelling devil-worshipping brains.
But in strict biographical fact you are a very nice fellow,
addicted to talking putrid nonsense, and I love you like a brother.
I shall therefore fire off all my cartridges round your head
so as not to hit you (I am a good shot, you may be glad to hear),
and then we will go in and have some breakfast.'
"He then let off two barrels in the air, which the Professor
endured with singular firmness, and then said, `But don't fire
them all off.'
"`Why not' asked the other buoyantly.
"`Keep them,' asked his companion, `for the next man you meet
who talks as we were talking.'
"It was at this moment that Smith, looking down, perceived apoplectic
terror upon the face of the Sub-Warden, and heard the refined shriek
with which he summoned the porter and the ladder.
"It took Dr. Eames some little time to disentangle himself from
the ladder,and some little time longer to disentangle himself
from the Sub-Warden. But as soon as he could do so unobtrusively,
he rejoined his companion in the late extraordinary scene.
He was astonished to find the gigantic Smith heavily shaken,
and sitting with his shaggy head on his hands. When addressed,
he lifted a very pale face.
"`Why, what is the matter?' asked Eames, whose own nerves had by this
time twittered themselves quiet, like the morning birds.
"`I must ask your indulgence,' said Smith, rather brokenly.
`I must ask you to realize that I have just had an escape from death.'
"`YOU have had an escape from death?' repeated the Professor
in not unpardonable irritation. `Well, of all the cheek--'
"`Oh, don't you understand, don't you understand?' cried the pale young
man impatiently. `I had to do it, Eames,; I had to prove you wrong or die.
When a man's young, he nearly always has some one whom he thinks the top-water
mark of the mind of man--some one who knows all about it, if anybody knows.
"`Well, you were that to me; you spoke with authority,
and not as the scribes. Nobody could comfort me if YOU
said there was no comfort. If you really thought there was
nothing anywhere, it was because you had been there to see.
Don't you see that I HAD to prove you didn't really mean it?--
or else drown myself in the canal.'
"`Well,' said Eames hesitatingly, `I think perhaps you confuse--'
"`Oh, don't tell me that!' cried Smith with the sudden clairvoyance
of mental pain; `don't tell me I confuse enjoyment of existence
with the Will to Live! That's German, and German is High Dutch,
and High Dutch is Double Dutch. The thing I saw shining in your
eyes when you dangled on that bridge was enjoyment of life "the
Will to Live." What you knew when you sat on that damned gargoyle
was that the world, when all is said and done, is a wonderful and
beautiful place; I know it, because I knew it at the same minute.
I saw the gray clouds turn pink, and the little gilt clock in the crack
between the houses. It was THOSE things you hated leaving, not Life,
whatever that is. Eames, we've been to the brink of death together;
won't you admit I'm right?'
"`Yes, said Eames very slowly, `I think you are right.
You shall have a First!'
"`Right!' cried Smith, springing up reanimated. `I've passed with honours,
and now let me go and see about being sent down.'
"`You needn't be sent down,' said Eames with the quiet
confidence of twelve years of intrigue. `Everything with us
comes from the man on top to the people just round him:
I am the man on top, and I shall tell the people round
me the truth.'
"`The massive Mr. Smith rose and went firmly to the window,
but he spoke with equal firmness. `I must be sent down,'
he said, `and the people must not be told the truth.'
"`And why not' asked the other.
"`Because I mean to follow your advice,' answered the massive youth,
`I mean to keep the remaining shots for people in the shameful state
you and I were in last night--I wish we could even plead drunkenness.
I mean to keep those bullets for pessimists--pills for pale people.
And in this way I want to walk the world like a wonderful surprise--
to float as idly as the thistledown, and come as silently as the sunrise;
not to be expected any more than the thunderbolt, not to be
recalled any more than the dying breeze. I don't want people to
anticipate me as a well-known practical joke. I want both my gifts
to come virgin and violent, the death and the life after death.
I am going to hold a pistol to the head of the Modern Man. But I
shall not use it to kill him--only to bring him to life.
I begin to see a new meaning in being the skeleton at the feast.'
"`You could scarcely be called a skeleton,' said Dr. Eames, smiling.
"`That comes of being so much at the feast,' answered the massive youth.
`No skeleton can keep his figure if he is always dining out.
But that is not quite what I meant: what I mean is that I caught
a kind of glimpse of the meaning of death and all that--the skull
and cross-bones, the ~memento mori~. It isn't only meant to remind
us of a future life, but to remind us of a present life too.
With our weak spirits we should grow old in eternity if we were not kept
young by death. Providence has to cut immortality into lengths for us,
as nurses cut the bread and butter into fingers.'
"Then he added suddenly in a voice of unnatural actuality,
`But I know something now, Eames. I knew it when I saw
the clouds turn pink.'
"`What do you mean?' asked Eames. `What did you know?'
"`I knew for the first time that murder is really wrong.'
"He gripped Dr. Eames's hand and groped his way somewhat unsteadily
to the door. Before he had vanished through it he had added,
`It's very dangerous, though, when a man thinks for a split second
that he understands death.'
"Dr. Eames remained in repose and rumination some hours after his
late assailant had left. Then he rose, took his hat and umbrella,
and went for a brisk if rotatory walk. Several times,
however, he stood outside the villa with the spotted blinds,
studying them intently with his head slightly on one side.
Some took him for a lunatic and some for an intending purchaser.
He is not yet sure that the two characters would be widely different.
"The above narrative has been constructed on a principle which is,
in the opinion of the undersigned persons, new in the art of letters.
Each of the two actors is described as he appeared to the other.
But the undersigned persons absolutely guarantee the exactitude
of the story; and if their version of the thing be questioned, they,
the undersigned persons, would deucedly well like to know who does
know about it if they don't.
"The undersigned persons will now adjourn to `The Spotted Dog'
for beer. Farewell.
"(Signed) James Emerson Eames,
"Warden of Brakespeare College, Cambridge.
The Two Curates;
or, the Burglary Charge
Arthur Inglewood handed the document he had just read to the leaders
of the prosecution, who examined it with their heads together.
Both the Jew and the American were of sensitive and excitable stocks,
and they revealed by the jumpings and bumpings of the black head and the
yellow that nothing could be done in the way of denial of the document.
The letter from the Warden was as authentic as the letter from the
Sub-Warden, however regrettably different in dignity and social tone.
"Very few words," said Inglewood, "are required to conclude
our case in this matter. Surely it is now plain that our client
carried his pistol about with the eccentric but innocent
purpose of giving a wholesome scare to those whom he regarded
as blasphemers. In each case the scare was so wholesome
that the victim himself has dated from it as from a new birth.
Smith, so far from being a madman, is rather a mad doctor--
he walks the world curing frenzies and not distributing them.
That is the answer to the two unanswerable questions which I
put to the prosecutors. That is why they dared not produce
a line by any one who had actually confronted the pistol.
All who had actually confronted the pistol confessed that they
had profited by it. That was why Smith, though a good shot,
never hit anybody. He never hit anybody because he was a good shot.
His mind was as clear of murder as his hands are of blood.
This, I say, is the only possible explanation of these facts
and of all the other facts. No one can possibly explain
the Warden's conduct except by believing the Warden's story.
Even Dr. Pym, who is a very factory of ingenious theories,
could find no other theory to cover the case."
"There are promising per-spectives in hypnotism and dual personality,"
said Dr. Cyrus Pym dreamily; "the science of criminology is in
its infancy, and--"
"Infancy!" cried Moon, jerking his red pencil in the air with a gesture
of enlightenment; "why, that explains it!"
"I repeat," proceeded Inglewood, "that neither Dr. Pym nor any one else
can account on any other theory but ours for the Warden's signature,
for the shots missed and the witnesses missing."
The little Yankee had slipped to his feet with some return
of a cock-fighting coolness. "The defence," he said,
"omits a coldly colossal fact. They say we produce none of
the actual victims. Wal, here is one victim--England's celebrated
and stricken Warner. I reckon he is pretty well produced.
And they suggest that all the outrages were followed
by reconciliation. Wal, there's no flies on England's Warner;
and he isn't reconciliated much."
"My learned friend," said Moon, getting elaborately to his feet,
"must remember that the science of shooting Dr. Warner is in its infancy.
Dr. Warner would strike the idlest eye as one specially difficult to startle
into any recognition of the glory of God. We admit that our client,
in this one instance, failed, and that the operation was not successful.
But I am empowered to offer, on behalf of my client, a proposal
for operating on Dr. Warner again, at his earliest convenience,
and without further fees."
"'Ang it all, Michael," cried Gould, quite serious for the first time
in his life, "you might give us a bit of bally sense for a chinge."
"What was Dr. Warner talking about just before the first shot?"
asked Moon sharply.
"The creature," said Dr. Warner superciliously, "asked me,
with characteristic rationality, whether it was my birthday."
"And you answered, with characteristic swank," cried Moon, shooting out
a long lean finger, as rigid and arresting as the pistol of Smith,
"that you didn't keep your birthday."
"Something like that," assented the doctor.
"Then," continued Moon, "he asked you why not, and you said it was because you
didn't see that birth was anything to rejoice over. Agreed? Now is there
any one who doubts that our tale is true?"
There was a cold crash of stillness in the room; and Moon said, "Pax populi
vox Dei; it is the silence of the people that is the voice of God. Or in
Dr. Pym's more civilized language, it is up to him to open the next charge.
On this we claim an acquittal."
It was about an hour later. Dr. Cyrus Pym had remained for an unprecedented
time with his eyes closed and his thumb and finger in the air.
It almost seemed as if he had been "struck so," as the nurses say;
and in the deathly silence Michael Moon felt forced to relieve
the strain with some remark. For the last half-hour or so the eminent
criminologist had been explaining that science took the same view
of offences against property as id did of offences against life.
"Most murder," he had said, "is a variation of homicidal mania,
and in the same way most theft is a version of kleptomania.
I cannot entertain any doubt that my learned friends opposite
adequately con-ceive how this must involve a scheme of punishment
more tol'rant and humane than the cruel methods of ancient codes.
They will doubtless exhibit consciousness of a chasm so eminently yawning,
so thought-arresting, so--" It was here that he paused and indulged
in the delicate gesture to which allusion has been made; and Michael
could bear it no longer.
"Yes, yes," he said impatiently, "we admit the chasm.
The old cruel codes accuse a man of theft and send him
to prison for ten years. The tolerant and humane ticket
accuses him of nothing and sends him to prison for ever.
We pass the chasm."
It was characteristic of the eminent Pym, in one of his trances
of verbal fastidiousness, that he went on, unconscious not only
of his opponent's interruption, but even of his own pause.
"So stock-improving," continued Dr. Cyrus Pym, "so fraught
with real high hopes of the future. Science therefore
regards thieves, in the abstract, just as it regards murderers.
It regards them not as sinners to be punished for an arbitrary period,
but as patients to be detained and cared for," (his first two digits
closed again as he hesitated)--"in short, for the required period.
But there is something special in the case we investigate here.
Kleptomania commonly con-joins itself--"
"I beg pardon," said Michael; "I did not ask just now because,
to tell the truth, I really though Dr. Pym, though seemingly vertical,
was enjoying well-earned slumber, with a pinch in his fingers
of scentless and delicate dust. But now that things are moving
a little more, there is something I should really like to know.
I have hung on Dr. Pym's lips, of course, with an interest that it
were weak to call rapture, but I have so far been unable to form
any conjecture about what the accused, in the present instance,
is supposed to have been and gone and done."
"If Mr. Moon will have patience," said Pym with dignity, "he will find
that this was the very point to which my exposition was di-rected.
Kleptomania, I say, exhibits itself as a kind of physical attraction
to certain defined materials; and it has been held (by no less a man
than Harris) that this is the ultimate explanation of the strict
specialism and vurry narrow professional outlook of most criminals.
One will have an irresistible physical impulsion towards pearl
sleeve-links, while he passes over the most elegant and celebrated
diamond sleeve-links, placed about in the most conspicuous locations.
Another will impede his flight with no less than forty-seven buttoned boots,
while elastic-sided boots leave him cold, and even sarcastic.
The specialism of the criminal, I repeat, is a mark rather of insanity
than of any brightness of business habits; but there is one kind
of depredator to whom this principle is at first sight hard to apply.
I allude to our fellow-citizen the housebreaker.
"It has been maintained by some of our boldest young
truth-seekers, that the eye of a burglar beyond the back-garden
wall could hardly be caught and hypnotized by a fork
that is insulated in a locked box under the butler's bed.
They have thrown down the gauntlet to American science on this point.
They declare that diamond links are not left about in conspicuous
locations in the haunts of the lower classes, as they were
in the great test experiment of Calypso College. We hope this
experiment here will be an answer to that young ringing challenge,
and will bring the burglar once more into line and union
with his fellow criminals."
Moon, whose face had gone through every phase of black bewilderment
for five minutes past, suddenly lifted his hand and struck the table
in explosive enlightenment.
"Oh, I see!" he cried; "you mean that Smith is a burglar."
"I thought I made it quite ad'quately lucid," said Mr. Pym,
folding up his eyelids. It was typical of this topsy-turvy private
trial that all the eloquent extras, all the rhetoric or digression
on either side, was exasperating and unintelligible to the other.
Moon could not make head or tail of the solemnity of a new civilization.
Pym could not make head or tail of the gaiety of an old one.
"All the cases in which Smith has figured as an expropriator,"
continued the American doctor, "are cases of burglary.
Pursuing the same course as in the previous case, we select
the indubitable instance from the rest, and we take the most
correct cast-iron evidence. I will now call on my colleague,
Mr. Gould, to read a letter we have received from the earnest,
unspotted Canon of Durham, Canon Hawkins."
Mr. Moses Gould leapt up with his usual alacrity to read the letter from
the earnest and unspotted Hawkins. Moses Gould could imitate a farmyard well,
Sir Henry Irving not so well, Marie Lloyd to a point of excellence, and the
new motor horns in a manner that put him upon the platform of great artists.
But his imitation of a Canon of Durham was not convincing; indeed, the sense
of the letter was so much obscured by the extraordinary leaps and gasps of his
pronunciation that it is perhaps better to print it here as Moon read it when,
a little later, it was handed across the table.
"Dear Sir,--I can scarcely feel surprise that the incident
you mention, private as it was, should have filtered through
our omnivorous journals to the mere populace; for the position
I have since attained makes me, I conceive, a public character,
and this was certainly the most extraordinary incident
in a not uneventful and perhaps not an unimportant career.
I am by no means without experience in scenes of civil tumult.
I have faced many a political crisis in the old Primrose League
days at Herne Bay, and, before I broke with the wilder set,
have spent many a night at the Christian Social Union. But this
other experience was quite inconceivable. I can only describe
it as the letting loose of a place which it is not for me,
as a clergyman, to mention.
"It occurred in the days when I was, for a short period,
a curate at Hoxton; and the other curate, then my colleague,
induced me to attend a meeting which he described, I must say
profanely described, as calculated to promote the kingdom
of God. I found, on the contrary, that it consisted entirely
of men in corduroys and greasy clothes whose manners were coarse
and their opinions extreme.
"Of my colleague in question I wish to speak with the fullest
respect and friendliness, and I will therefore say little.
No one can be more convinced than I of the evil of politic
in the pulpit; and I never offer my congregation any advice
about voting except in cases in which I feel strongly that they
are likely to make an erroneous selection. But, while I do
not mean to touch at all upon political or social problems,
I must say that for a clergyman to countenance, even in jest,
such discredited nostrums of dissipated demagogues as Socialism