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The Ball and The Cross

The Dream Of Turnbull
Turnbull was walking rather rampantly up and down the garden on a gusty
evening chewing his cigar and in that mood when every man suppresses an
instinct to spit. He was not, as a rule, a man much acquainted with moods; and
the storms and sunbursts of MacIan's soul passed before him as an impressive
but unmeaning panorama, like the anarchy of Highland scenery. Turnbull was
one of those men in whom a continuous appetite and industry of the intellect
leave the emotions very simple and steady. His heart was in the right place; but
he was quite content to leave it there. It was his head that was his hobby. His
mornings and evenings were marked not by impulses or thirsty desires, not by
hope or by heart-break; they were filled with the fallacies he had detected, the
problems he had made plain, the adverse theories he had wrestled with and
thrown, the grand generalizations he had justified. But even the cheerful inner life
of a logician may be upset by a lunatic asylum, to say nothing of whiffs of
memory from a lady in Jersey, and the little red-bearded man on this windy
evening was in a dangerous frame of mind.
Plain and positive as he was, the influence of earth and sky may have been
greater on him than he imagined; and the weather that walked the world at that
moment was as red and angry as Turnbull. Long strips and swirls of tattered and
tawny cloud were dragged downward to the west exactly as torn red raiment
would be dragged. And so strong and pitiless was the wind that it whipped away
fragments of red-flowering bushes or of copper beech, and drove them also
across the garden, a drift of red leaves, like the leaves of autumn, as in parody of
the red and driven rags of cloud.
There was a sense in earth and heaven as of everything breaking up, and all the
revolutionist in Turnbull rejoiced that it was breaking up. The trees were breaking
up under the wind, even in the tall strength of their bloom: the clouds were
breaking up and losing even their large heraldic shapes. Shards and shreds of
copper cloud split off continually and floated by themselves, and for some reason
the truculent eye of Turnbull was attracted to one of these careering cloudlets,
which seemed to him to career in an exaggerated manner. Also it kept its shape,
which is unusual with clouds shaken off; also its shape was of an odd sort.
Turnbull continued to stare at it, and in a little time occurred that crucial instant
when a thing, however incredible, is accepted as a fact. The copper cloud was
tumbling down towards the earth, like some gigantic leaf from the copper
beeches. And as it came nearer it was evident, first, that it was not a cloud, and,
second, that it was not itself of the colour of copper; only, being burnished like a
mirror, it had reflected the red-brown colours of the burning clouds. As the thing
whirled like a windswept leaf down towards the wall of the garden it was clear
that it was some sort of air-ship made of metal, and slapping the air with big
broad fins of steel. When it came about a hundred feet above the garden, a
shaggy, lean figure leapt up in it, almost black against the bronze and scarlet of