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8. The Professor Explains (continued)
"But perhaps I misunderstood the delicacies of your German philosophy. Perhaps policeman is a relative term. In an evolutionary sense, sir, the ape fades so gradually into the policeman, that I myself can never detect the shade. The monkey is only the policeman that may be. Perhaps a maiden lady on Clapham Common is only the policeman that might have been. I don't mind being the policeman that might have been. I don't mind being anything in German thought."
"Are you in the police service?" said the old man, ignoring all Syme's improvised and desperate raillery. "Are you a detective?"
Syme's heart turned to stone, but his face never changed.
"Your suggestion is ridiculous," he began. "Why on earth--"
The old man struck his palsied hand passionately on the rickety table, nearly breaking it.
"Did you hear me ask a plain question, you pattering spy?" he shrieked in a high, crazy voice. "Are you, or are you not, a police detective?"
"No!" answered Syme, like a man standing on the hangman's drop.
"You swear it," said the old man, leaning across to him, his dead face becoming as it were loathsomely alive. "You swear it! You swear it! If you swear falsely, will you be damned? Will you be sure that the devil dances at your funeral? Will you see that the nightmare sits on your grave? Will there really be no mistake? You are an anarchist, you are a dynamiter! Above all, you are not in any sense a detective? You are not in the British police?"
He leant his angular elbow far across the table, and put up his large loose hand like a flap to his ear.
"I am not in the British police," said Syme with insane calm.
Professor de Worms fell back in his chair with a curious air of kindly collapse.
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