The Ball and The Cross
A Museum Of Souls
The man with the good hat and the jumping elbow went by very quickly; yet the
man with the bad hat, who thought he was God, overtook him. He ran after him
and jumped over a bed of geraniums to catch him.
"I beg your Majesty's pardon," he said, with mock humility, "but here is a quarrel
which you ought really to judge."
Then as he led the heavy, silk-hatted man back towards the group, he caught
MacIan's ear in order to whisper: "This poor gentleman is mad; he thinks he is
Edward VII." At this the self-appointed Creator slightly winked. "Of course you
won't trust him much; come to me for everything. But in my position one has to
meet so many people. One has to be broadminded."
The big banker in the black frock-coat and hat was standing quite grave and
dignified on the lawn, save for his slight twitch of one limb, and he did not seem
by any means unworthy of the part which the other promptly forced upon him.
"My dear fellow," said the man in the straw hat, "these two gentlemen are going
to fight a duel of the utmost importance. Your own royal position and my much
humbler one surely indicate us as the proper seconds. Seconds--yes, seconds---
-" and here the speaker was once more shaken with his old malady of laughter.
"Yes, you and I are both seconds--and these two gentlemen can obviously fight
in front of us. You, he-he, are the king. I am God; really, they could hardly have
better supporters. They have come to the right place."
Then Turnbull, who had been staring with a frown at the fresh turf, burst out with
a rather bitter laugh and cried, throwing his red head in the air:
"Yes, by God, MacIan, I think we have come to the right place!" And MacIan
answered, with an adamantine stupidity:
"Any place is the right place where they will let us do it."
There was a long stillness, and their eyes involuntarily took in the landscape, as
they had taken in all the landscapes of their everlasting combat; the bright,
square garden behind the shop; the whole lift and leaning of the side of
Hampstead Heath; the little garden of the decadent choked with flowers; the
square of sand beside the sea at sunrise. They both felt at the same moment all
the breadth and blossoming beauty of that paradise, the coloured trees, the
natural and restful nooks and also the great wall of stone--more awful than the
wall of China--from which no flesh could flee.