Reverend Dobson paused in his daily walk and sat down on the park bench. The cool green of the park around him seemed too good to enjoy merely in passing, so he sat, pausing a moment first to thank the Creator for this rest in the midst of an Easter Sunday's tasks. He momentarily forgot Mrs. Albright, who acted so superior and left a dime in the collection plate, the worries of the coming Sunday School picnic; he meditated on the glory of God and the miracle of the resurrection.
He was a religious man with no hint of fear in his love of God. The Reverend's meditations were not to continue long, as it chanced. The interruption was the sight of a man walking toward him. The stranger was strikingly tall; his figure gave the impression of both nobility and sadness. Here, however, all resemblance to Lincoln ceased. The stranger's nobility was not that of the common man, but that of the superior one. He had a high forehead, flashing black eyes, wide mouth, and thin hawk nose. His clothes had a vaguely foreign cut, and he walked with a slight limp. It was, thought the Reverend, such a limp as might have been acquired in some battle encounter.
The Reverend decided he had never seen a man who suggested so plainly the idea of exiled aristocracy.
The stranger seated himself on the bench beside him and leaned forward, his head in his hands, and his hands on a worn but well cared-for walking stick. Reverend Dobson was a shy man by nature, but the stranger looked such an interesting person that he could not resist the temptation:
"I, er, I just love Easter Sunday. Don't you?" he finally blurted. The stranger looked up as if cold water had been dashed in his face.
"No." A decisive answer. "No I don't. It reminds me of my forced exile." Reverend Dobson noted he spoke with only the slightest trace of an accent.
"A revolution?" ventured the Reverend.
"Yes. But I was a revolutionist, not an autocrat." His eyes flamed and met the Reverend's squarely, and his voice continued:
"My country was a dictatorship. He calls it a kingdom now, and plans on his son following him, but you must understand that there is no established line preceding him. The leader, or as he calls himself, the Master, started well enough. They all do, you know. Then he worked himself into a position that would be fantastic if it were not real. The peasants are taught that to doubt him is the most hideous crime. In fact, in the last analysis, it is the only crime. He pardons whatever a man may do if only the man will apologize for it, and, of course, affirm that he is willing to die for the Master."
The Stranger turned his head, a look of despair on his face. Reverend Dobson felt he could hardly blame him.
"Tell me about the religious life in your nation," he asked, anxious to get hack on familiar ground.
"There is little to tell," said the stranger. "They worship the Master. So you see my crime wasn't only treason, but blasphemy also. I knew I had little chance at the start, but my friends and I could stand it no longer. We revolted, a pitiful handful of us. Now we are exiles. The people of my homeland have been taught to think of us as depraved monsters. I shall never see the green fertile fields of my homeland again."
"Well, I wouldn't be too sad, sir. No doubt your home is beautiful, but there are lovely sights over here too."
"You would not say that if you had seen my homeland," snapped the stranger.
"Tell me, sir, are you a Trotskite?" asked the minister. "You don't look much like a Russian."
"No, my home is more distant than Russia, and my rebellion greatly predates Trotski's." A half-smile played about the stranger's lips.
The conversation was interrupted by the sound of Easter bells from Reverend Dobson's church. The stranger arose with a start and hastily departed.
A moment later the minister left also, reflecting on the stranger's limp and concluding it was due to an artificial limb.
His left foot, the Reverend had noted, clattered almost like a hoof when it struck the pavement.