`Beer! So be it! Let us drink and be merry, for we are strong, and tomorrow we die.'
He busied himself with putting on his boots, and talked meanwhile in his curt, resolute tones.
`What's the matter with you, Ossipon? You look glum and seek even my company. I hear that you are seen constantly in places where men utter foolish things over glasses of liquor. Why? Have you abandoned your collection of women? They are the weak who feed the strong - eh?'
He stamped one foot, and picked up his other laced boot, heavy, thick-soled, unblacked, mended many times. He smiled to himself grimly.
`Tell me, Ossipon, terrible man, has ever one of your victims killed herself for you - or are your triumphs so far incomplete - for blood alone puts a seal on greatness? Blood. Death. Look at history.'
`You be damned,' said Ossipon, without turning his head.
`Why? Let that be the hope of the weak, whose theology has invented hell for the strong. Ossipon, my feeling for you is amicable contempt. You couldn't kill a fly.'
But rolling to the feast on the top of the omnibus the Professor lost his high spirits. The contemplation of the multitudes thronging the pavements extinguished his assurance under a load of doubt and uneasiness which he could shake off after a period of seclusion in the room with the large cupboard closed by an enormous padlock.
`And so,' said over his shoulder Comrade Ossipon, who sat on the seat behind. `And so Michaelis dreams of a world like a beautiful and cheery hospital.'
`Just so. An immense charity for the healing of the weak,' assented the Professor, sardonically.
`That's silly,' admitted Ossipon. `You can't heal weakness. But after all Michaelis may not be so far wrong. In two hundred years doctors will rule the world. Science reigns already. It reigns in the shade maybe - but it reigns. And all science must culminate at last in the science of healing - not the weak, but the strong. Mankind wants to live - to live.'
`Mankind,' asserted the Professor with a self-confident glitter of his iron-rimmed spectacles, `does not know what it wants.'
`But you do,' growled Ossipon. `Just now you've been crying for time - time. Well, the doctors will serve you out your time - if you are good. You profess yourself to be one of the strong - because you carry in your pocket enough stuff to send yourself and, say, twenty other people into eternity. But eternity is a damned hole. It's time that you need. You - if you met a man who could give you for certain ten years of time, you would call him your master.'
`My device is: No God! No master,' said the Professor, sententiously, as he rose to get off the bus.
Ossipon followed. `Wait till you are lying flat on your back at the end of your time,' he retorted, jumping off the footboard after the other. `Your scurvy, shabby, mangy little bit of time,' he continued across the street, and hopping on to the kerbstone.
`Ossipon, I think you are a humbug,' the Professor said, opening masterfully the doors of the renowned Silenus. And when they had established themselves at a little table he developed further this gracious thought. `You are not even a doctor. But you are funny. Your notion of a humanity universally putting out the tongue and taking the pill from pole to pole at the bidding of a few solemn jokers is worthy of the prophet. Prophecy! What's the good of thinking of what will be!' He raised his glass. `To the destruction of what is,' he said, calmly.
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