The Man Who Was Thursday (4 of 4)


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Transcript:
THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY
A NIGHTMARE
by G. K. Chesterton
CHAPTER XII. THE EARTH IN ANARCHY
URGING the horses to a gallop, without respect to the rather rugged
descent of the road, the horsemen soon regained their advantage over the
men on the march, and at last the bulk of the first buildings of Lancy
cut off the sight of their pursuers. Nevertheless, the ride had been
a long one, and by the time they reached the real town the west was
warming with the colour and quality of sunset. The Colonel suggested
that, before making finally for the police station, they should make
the effort, in passing, to attach to themselves one more individual who
might be useful.
"Four out of the five rich men in this town," he said, "are common
swindlers. I suppose the proportion is pretty equal all over the world.
The fifth is a friend of mine, and a very fine fellow; and what is even
more important from our point of view, he owns a motor-car."
"I am afraid," said the Professor in his mirthful way, looking back
along the white road on which the black, crawling patch might appear at
any moment, "I am afraid we have hardly time for afternoon calls."
"Doctor Renard's house is only three minutes off," said the Colonel.
"Our danger," said Dr. Bull, "is not two minutes off."
"Yes," said Syme, "if we ride on fast we must leave them behind, for
they are on foot."
"He has a motor-car," said the Colonel.
"But we may not get it," said Bull.
"Yes, he is quite on your side."
"But he might be out."
"Hold your tongue," said Syme suddenly. "What is that noise?"
For a second they all sat as still as equestrian statues, and for
a second—for two or three or four seconds—heaven and earth seemed
equally still. Then all their ears, in an agony of attention, heard
along the road that indescribable thrill and throb that means only one
thing—horses!
The Colonel's face had an instantaneous change, as if lightning had
struck it, and yet left it scatheless.
"They have done us," he said, with brief military irony. "Prepare to
receive cavalry!"
"Where can they have got the horses?" asked Syme, as he mechanically
urged his steed to a canter.
The Colonel was silent for a little, then he said in a strained voice—
"I was speaking with strict accuracy when I said that the 'Soleil d'Or'
was the only place where one can get horses within twenty miles."
"No!" said Syme violently, "I don't believe he'd do it. Not with all
that white hair."
"He may have been forced," said the Colonel gently. "They must be at
least a hundred strong, for which reason we are all going to see my
friend Renard, who has a motor-car."
With these words he swung his horse suddenly round a street corner, and
went down the street with such thundering speed, that the others, though
already well at the gallop, had difficulty in following the flying tail
of his horse.
Dr. Renard inhabited a high and comfortable house at the top of a steep
street, so that when the riders alighted at his door they could once
more see the solid green ridge of the hill, with the white road across
it, standing up above all the roofs of the town. They breathed again to
see that the road as yet was clear, and they rang the bell.
Dr. Renard was a beaming, brown-bearded man, a good example of that
silent but very busy professional class which France has preserved even
more perfectly than England. When the matter was explained to him he
pooh-poohed the panic of the ex-Marquis altogether; he said, with the
solid French scepticism, that there was no conceivable probability of a
general anarchist rising. "Anarchy," he said, shrugging his shoulders,
"it is childishness!"
"Et ca," cried out the Colonel suddenly, pointing over the other's
shoulder, "and that is childishness, isn't it?"
They all looked round, and saw a curve of black cavalry come sweeping
over the top of the hill with all the energy of Attila. Swiftly as they
rode, however, the whole rank still kept well together, and they could
see the black vizards of the first line as level as a line of uniforms.
But although the main black square was the same, though travelling
faster, there was now one sensational difference which they could see
clearly upon the slope of the hill, as if upon a slanted map. The bulk
of the riders were in one block; but one rider flew far ahead of the
column, and with frantic movements of hand and heel urged his horse
faster and faster, so that one might have fancied that he was not the
pursuer but the pursued. But even at that great distance they could see
something so fanatical, so unquestionable in his figure, that they
knew it was the Secretary himself. "I am sorry to cut short a cultured
discussion," said the Colonel, "but can you lend me your motor-car now,
in two minutes?"
"I have a suspicion that you are all mad," said Dr. Renard, smiling
sociably; "but God forbid that madness should in any way interrupt
friendship. Let us go round to the garage."
Dr. Renard was a mild man with monstrous wealth; his rooms were like the
Musee de Cluny, and he had three motor-cars. These, however, he seemed
to use very sparingly, having the simple tastes of the French middle
class, and when his impatient friends came to examine them, it took them
some time to assure themselves that one of them even could be made
to work. This with some difficulty they brought round into the street
before the Doctor's house. When they came out of the dim garage
they were startled to find that twilight had already fallen with the
abruptness of night in the tropics. Either they had been longer in the
place than they imagined, or some unusual canopy of cloud had gathered
over the town. They looked down the steep streets, and seemed to see a
slight mist coming up from the sea.
"It is now or never," said Dr. Bull. "I hear horses."
"No," corrected the Professor, "a horse."
And as they listened, it was evident that the noise, rapidly coming
nearer on the rattling stones, was not the noise of the whole cavalcade
but that of the one horseman, who had left it far behind—the insane
Secretary.
Syme's family, like most of those who end in the simple life, had once
owned a motor, and he knew all about them. He had leapt at once into the
chauffeur's seat, and with flushed face was wrenching and tugging at the
disused machinery. He bent his strength upon one handle, and then said
quite quietly—
"I am afraid it's no go."
As he spoke, there swept round the corner a man rigid on his rushing
horse, with the rush and rigidity of an arrow. He had a smile that
thrust out his chin as if it were dislocated. He swept alongside of the
stationary car, into which its company had crowded, and laid his hand
on the front. It was the Secretary, and his mouth went quite straight in
the solemnity of triumph.
Syme was leaning hard upon the steering wheel, and there was no sound
but the rumble of the other pursuers riding into the town. Then there
came quite suddenly a scream of scraping iron, and the car leapt
forward. It plucked the Secretary clean out of his saddle, as a knife
is whipped out of its sheath, trailed him kicking terribly for twenty
yards, and left him flung flat upon the road far in front of his
frightened horse. As the car took the corner of the street with a
splendid curve, they could just see the other anarchists filling the
street and raising their fallen leader.
"I can't understand why it has grown so dark," said the Professor at
last in a low voice.
"Going to be a storm, I think," said Dr. Bull. "I say, it's a pity we
haven't got a light on this car, if only to see by."
"We have," said the Colonel, and from the floor of the car he fished up
a heavy, old-fashioned, carved iron lantern with a light inside it. It
was obviously an antique, and it would seem as if its original use had
been in some way semi-religious, for there was a rude moulding of a
cross upon one of its sides.
"Where on earth did you get that?" asked the Professor.
"I got it where I got the car," answered the Colonel, chuckling, "from
my best friend. While our friend here was fighting with the steering
wheel, I ran up the front steps of the house and spoke to Renard, who
was standing in his own porch, you will remember. 'I suppose,' I said,
'there's no time to get a lamp.' He looked up, blinking amiably at the
beautiful arched ceiling of his own front hall. From this was suspended,
by chains of exquisite ironwork, this lantern, one of the hundred
treasures of his treasure house. By sheer force he tore the lamp out of
his own ceiling, shattering the painted panels, and bringing down two
blue vases with his violence. Then he handed me the iron lantern, and I
put it in the car. Was I not right when I said that Dr. Renard was worth
knowing?"
"You were," said Syme seriously, and hung the heavy lantern over the
front. There was a certain allegory of their whole position in the
contrast between the modern automobile and its strange ecclesiastical
lamp. Hitherto they had passed through the quietest part of the town,
meeting at most one or two pedestrians, who could give them no hint of
the peace or the hostility of the place. Now, however, the windows in
the houses began one by one to be lit up, giving a greater sense of
habitation and humanity. Dr. Bull turned to the new detective who had
led their flight, and permitted himself one of his natural and friendly
smiles.
"These lights make one feel more cheerful."
Inspector Ratcliffe drew his brows together.
"There is only one set of lights that make me more cheerful," he said,
"and they are those lights of the police station which I can see beyond
the town. Please God we may be there in ten minutes."
Then all Bull's boiling good sense and optimism broke suddenly out of
him.
"Oh, this is all raving nonsense!" he cried. "If you really think that
ordinary people in ordinary houses are anarchists, you must be madder
than an anarchist yourself. If we turned and fought these fellows, the
whole town would fight for us."
"No," said the other with an immovable simplicity, "the whole town would
fight for them. We shall see."
While they were speaking the Professor had leant forward with sudden
excitement.
"What is that noise?" he said.
"Oh, the horses behind us, I suppose," said the Colonel. "I thought we
had got clear of them."
"The horses behind us! No," said the Professor, "it is not horses, and
it is not behind us."
Almost as he spoke, across the end of the street before them two shining
and rattling shapes shot past. They were gone almost in a flash, but
everyone could see that they were motor-cars, and the Professor stood up
with a pale face and swore that they were the other two motor-cars from
Dr. Renard's garage.
"I tell you they were his," he repeated, with wild eyes, "and they were
full of men in masks!"
"Absurd!" said the Colonel angrily. "Dr. Renard would never give them
his cars."
"He may have been forced," said Ratcliffe quietly. "The whole town is on
their side."
"You still believe that," asked the Colonel incredulously.
"You will all believe it soon," said the other with a hopeless calm.
There was a puzzled pause for some little time, and then the Colonel
began again abruptly—
"No, I can't believe it. The thing is nonsense. The plain people of a
peaceable French town—"
He was cut short by a bang and a blaze of light, which seemed close to
his eyes. As the car sped on it left a floating patch of white smoke
behind it, and Syme had heard a shot shriek past his ear.
"My God!" said the Colonel, "someone has shot at us."
"It need not interrupt conversation," said the gloomy Ratcliffe. "Pray
resume your remarks, Colonel. You were talking, I think, about the plain
people of a peaceable French town."
The staring Colonel was long past minding satire. He rolled his eyes all
round the street.
"It is extraordinary," he said, "most extraordinary."
"A fastidious person," said Syme, "might even call it unpleasant.
However, I suppose those lights out in the field beyond this street are
the Gendarmerie. We shall soon get there."
"No," said Inspector Ratcliffe, "we shall never get there."
He had been standing up and looking keenly ahead of him. Now he sat down
and smoothed his sleek hair with a weary gesture.
"What do you mean?" asked Bull sharply.
"I mean that we shall never get there," said the pessimist placidly.
"They have two rows of armed men across the road already; I can see them
from here. The town is in arms, as I said it was. I can only wallow in
the exquisite comfort of my own exactitude."
And Ratcliffe sat down comfortably in the car and lit a cigarette, but
the others rose excitedly and stared down the road. Syme had slowed down
the car as their plans became doubtful, and he brought it finally to
a standstill just at the corner of a side street that ran down very
steeply to the sea.
The town was mostly in shadow, but the sun had not sunk; wherever its
level light could break through, it painted everything a burning gold.
Up this side street the last sunset light shone as sharp and narrow as
the shaft of artificial light at the theatre. It struck the car of the
five friends, and lit it like a burning chariot. But the rest of the
street, especially the two ends of it, was in the deepest twilight, and
for some seconds they could see nothing. Then Syme, whose eyes were the
keenest, broke into a little bitter whistle, and said,
"It is quite true. There is a crowd or an army or some such thing across
the end of that street."
"Well, if there is," said Bull impatiently, "it must be something
else—a sham fight or the mayor's birthday or something. I cannot and
will not believe that plain, jolly people in a place like this walk
about with dynamite in their pockets. Get on a bit, Syme, and let us
look at them."
The car crawled about a hundred yards farther, and then they were all
startled by Dr. Bull breaking into a high crow of laughter.
"Why, you silly mugs!" he cried, "what did I tell you. That crowd's as
law-abiding as a cow, and if it weren't, it's on our side."
"How do you know?" asked the professor, staring.
"You blind bat," cried Bull, "don't you see who is leading them?"
They peered again, and then the Colonel, with a catch in his voice,
cried out—
"Why, it's Renard!"
There was, indeed, a rank of dim figures running across the road, and
they could not be clearly seen; but far enough in front to catch the
accident of the evening light was stalking up and down the unmistakable
Dr. Renard, in a white hat, stroking his long brown beard, and holding a
revolver in his left hand.
"What a fool I've been!" exclaimed the Colonel. "Of course, the dear old
boy has turned out to help us."
Dr. Bull was bubbling over with laughter, swinging the sword in his hand
as carelessly as a cane. He jumped out of the car and ran across the
intervening space, calling out—
"Dr. Renard! Dr. Renard!"
An instant after Syme thought his own eyes had gone mad in his head. For
the philanthropic Dr. Renard had deliberately raised his revolver and
fired twice at Bull, so that the shots rang down the road.
Almost at the same second as the puff of white cloud went up from this
atrocious explosion a long puff of white cloud went up also from the
cigarette of the cynical Ratcliffe. Like all the rest he turned a little
pale, but he smiled. Dr. Bull, at whom the bullets had been fired, just
missing his scalp, stood quite still in the middle of the road without
a sign of fear, and then turned very slowly and crawled back to the car,
and climbed in with two holes through his hat.
"Well," said the cigarette smoker slowly, "what do you think now?"
"I think," said Dr. Bull with precision, "that I am lying in bed at No.
217 Peabody Buildings, and that I shall soon wake up with a jump; or,
if that's not it, I think that I am sitting in a small cushioned cell in
Hanwell, and that the doctor can't make much of my case. But if you want
to know what I don't think, I'll tell you. I don't think what you think.
I don't think, and I never shall think, that the mass of ordinary men
are a pack of dirty modern thinkers. No, sir, I'm a democrat, and I
still don't believe that Sunday could convert one average navvy or
counter-jumper. No, I may be mad, but humanity isn't."
Syme turned his bright blue eyes on Bull with an earnestness which he
did not commonly make clear.
"You are a very fine fellow," he said. "You can believe in a sanity
which is not merely your sanity. And you're right enough about humanity,
about peasants and people like that jolly old innkeeper. But you're not
right about Renard. I suspected him from the first. He's rationalistic,
and, what's worse, he's rich. When duty and religion are really
destroyed, it will be by the rich."
"They are really destroyed now," said the man with a cigarette, and rose
with his hands in his pockets. "The devils are coming on!"
The men in the motor-car looked anxiously in the direction of his dreamy
gaze, and they saw that the whole regiment at the end of the road was
advancing upon them, Dr. Renard marching furiously in front, his beard
flying in the breeze.
The Colonel sprang out of the car with an intolerant exclamation.
"Gentlemen," he cried, "the thing is incredible. It must be a practical
joke. If you knew Renard as I do—it's like calling Queen Victoria a
dynamiter. If you had got the man's character into your head—"
"Dr. Bull," said Syme sardonically, "has at least got it into his hat."
"I tell you it can't be!" cried the Colonel, stamping.
"Renard shall explain it. He shall explain it to me," and he strode
forward.
"Don't be in such a hurry," drawled the smoker. "He will very soon
explain it to all of us."
But the impatient Colonel was already out of earshot, advancing towards
the advancing enemy. The excited Dr. Renard lifted his pistol again, but
perceiving his opponent, hesitated, and the Colonel came face to face
with him with frantic gestures of remonstrance.
"It is no good," said Syme. "He will never get anything out of that old
heathen. I vote we drive bang through the thick of them, bang as the
bullets went through Bull's hat. We may all be killed, but we must kill
a tidy number of them."
"I won't 'ave it," said Dr. Bull, growing more vulgar in the sincerity
of his virtue. "The poor chaps may be making a mistake. Give the Colonel
a chance."
"Shall we go back, then?" asked the Professor.
"No," said Ratcliffe in a cold voice, "the street behind us is held too.
In fact, I seem to see there another friend of yours, Syme."
Syme spun round smartly, and stared backwards at the track which they
had travelled. He saw an irregular body of horsemen gathering and
galloping towards them in the gloom. He saw above the foremost saddle
the silver gleam of a sword, and then as it grew nearer the silver gleam
of an old man's hair. The next moment, with shattering violence, he had
swung the motor round and sent it dashing down the steep side street to
the sea, like a man that desired only to die.
"What the devil is up?" cried the Professor, seizing his arm.
"The morning star has fallen!" said Syme, as his own car went down the
darkness like a falling star.
The others did not understand his words, but when they looked back at
the street above they saw the hostile cavalry coming round the corner
and down the slopes after them; and foremost of all rode the good
innkeeper, flushed with the fiery innocence of the evening light.
"The world is insane!" said the Professor, and buried his face in his
hands.
"No," said Dr. Bull in adamantine humility, "it is I."
"What are we going to do?" asked the Professor.
"At this moment," said Syme, with a scientific detachment, "I think we
are going to smash into a lamppost."
The next instant the automobile had come with a catastrophic jar against
an iron object. The instant after that four men had crawled out from
under a chaos of metal, and a tall lean lamp-post that had stood up
straight on the edge of the marine parade stood out, bent and twisted,
like the branch of a broken tree.
"Well, we smashed something," said the Professor, with a faint smile.
"That's some comfort."
"You're becoming an anarchist," said Syme, dusting his clothes with his
instinct of daintiness.
"Everyone is," said Ratcliffe.
As they spoke, the white-haired horseman and his followers came
thundering from above, and almost at the same moment a dark string of
men ran shouting along the sea-front. Syme snatched a sword, and took it
in his teeth; he stuck two others under his arm-pits, took a fourth
in his left hand and the lantern in his right, and leapt off the high
parade on to the beach below.
The others leapt after him, with a common acceptance of such decisive
action, leaving the debris and the gathering mob above them.
"We have one more chance," said Syme, taking the steel out of his mouth.
"Whatever all this pandemonium means, I suppose the police station will
help us. We can't get there, for they hold the way. But there's a pier
or breakwater runs out into the sea just here, which we could defend
longer than anything else, like Horatius and his bridge. We must defend
it till the Gendarmerie turn out. Keep after me."
They followed him as he went crunching down the beach, and in a second
or two their boots broke not on the sea gravel, but on broad, flat
stones. They marched down a long, low jetty, running out in one arm into
the dim, boiling sea, and when they came to the end of it they felt that
they had come to the end of their story. They turned and faced the town.
That town was transfigured with uproar. All along the high parade from
which they had just descended was a dark and roaring stream of humanity,
with tossing arms and fiery faces, groping and glaring towards them. The
long dark line was dotted with torches and lanterns; but even where no
flame lit up a furious face, they could see in the farthest figure, in
the most shadowy gesture, an organised hate. It was clear that they were
the accursed of all men, and they knew not why.
Two or three men, looking little and black like monkeys, leapt over the
edge as they had done and dropped on to the beach. These came ploughing
down the deep sand, shouting horribly, and strove to wade into the sea
at random. The example was followed, and the whole black mass of men
began to run and drip over the edge like black treacle.
Foremost among the men on the beach Syme saw the peasant who had driven
their cart. He splashed into the surf on a huge cart-horse, and shook
his axe at them.
"The peasant!" cried Syme. "They have not risen since the Middle Ages."
"Even if the police do come now," said the Professor mournfully, "they
can do nothing with this mob."
"Nonsense!" said Bull desperately; "there must be some people left in
the town who are human."
"No," said the hopeless Inspector, "the human being will soon be
extinct. We are the last of mankind."
"It may be," said the Professor absently. Then he added in his dreamy
voice, "What is all that at the end of the 'Dunciad'?
'Nor public flame; nor private, dares to shine; Nor human light is left, nor glimpse divine!
Lo! thy dread Empire, Chaos, is restored; Light dies before thine uncreating word:
Thy hand, great Anarch, lets the curtain fall; And universal darkness buries all.'"
"Stop!" cried Bull suddenly, "the gendarmes are out."
The low lights of the police station were indeed blotted and broken
with hurrying figures, and they heard through the darkness the clash and
jingle of a disciplined cavalry.
"They are charging the mob!" cried Bull in ecstacy or alarm.
"No," said Syme, "they are formed along the parade."
"They have unslung their carbines," cried Bull dancing with excitement.
"Yes," said Ratcliffe, "and they are going to fire on us."
As he spoke there came a long crackle of musketry, and bullets seemed to
hop like hailstones on the stones in front of them.
"The gendarmes have joined them!" cried the Professor, and struck his
forehead.
"I am in the padded cell," said Bull solidly.
There was a long silence, and then Ratcliffe said, looking out over the
swollen sea, all a sort of grey purple—
"What does it matter who is mad or who is sane? We shall all be dead
soon."
Syme turned to him and said—
"You are quite hopeless, then?"
Mr. Ratcliffe kept a stony silence; then at last he said quietly—
"No; oddly enough I am not quite hopeless. There is one insane little
hope that I cannot get out of my mind. The power of this whole planet
is against us, yet I cannot help wondering whether this one silly little
hope is hopeless yet."
"In what or whom is your hope?" asked Syme with curiosity.
"In a man I never saw," said the other, looking at the leaden sea.
"I know what you mean," said Syme in a low voice, "the man in the dark
room. But Sunday must have killed him by now."
"Perhaps," said the other steadily; "but if so, he was the only man whom
Sunday found it hard to kill."
"I heard what you said," said the Professor, with his back turned. "I
also am holding hard on to the thing I never saw."
All of a sudden Syme, who was standing as if blind with introspective
thought, swung round and cried out, like a man waking from sleep—
"Where is the Colonel? I thought he was with us!"
"The Colonel! Yes," cried Bull, "where on earth is the Colonel?"
"He went to speak to Renard," said the Professor.
"We cannot leave him among all those beasts," cried Syme. "Let us die
like gentlemen if—"
"Do not pity the Colonel," said Ratcliffe, with a pale sneer. "He is
extremely comfortable. He is—"
"No! no! no!" cried Syme in a kind of frenzy, "not the Colonel too! I
will never believe it!"
"Will you believe your eyes?" asked the other, and pointed to the beach.
Many of their pursuers had waded into the water shaking their fists,
but the sea was rough, and they could not reach the pier. Two or three
figures, however, stood on the beginning of the stone footway, and
seemed to be cautiously advancing down it. The glare of a chance lantern
lit up the faces of the two foremost. One face wore a black half-mask,
and under it the mouth was twisting about in such a madness of nerves
that the black tuft of beard wriggled round and round like a restless,
living thing. The other was the red face and white moustache of Colonel
Ducroix. They were in earnest consultation.
"Yes, he is gone too," said the Professor, and sat down on a stone.
"Everything's gone. I'm gone! I can't trust my own bodily machinery. I
feel as if my own hand might fly up and strike me."
"When my hand flies up," said Syme, "it will strike somebody else," and
he strode along the pier towards the Colonel, the sword in one hand and
the lantern in the other.
As if to destroy the last hope or doubt, the Colonel, who saw him
coming, pointed his revolver at him and fired. The shot missed Syme,
but struck his sword, breaking it short at the hilt. Syme rushed on, and
swung the iron lantern above his head.
"Judas before Herod!" he said, and struck the Colonel down upon the
stones. Then he turned to the Secretary, whose frightful mouth was
almost foaming now, and held the lamp high with so rigid and arresting
a gesture, that the man was, as it were, frozen for a moment, and forced
to hear.
"Do you see this lantern?" cried Syme in a terrible voice. "Do you see
the cross carved on it, and the flame inside? You did not make it. You
did not light it. Better men than you, men who could believe and obey,
twisted the entrails of iron and preserved the legend of fire. There is
not a street you walk on, there is not a thread you wear, that was not
made as this lantern was, by denying your philosophy of dirt and rats.
You can make nothing. You can only destroy. You will destroy mankind;
you will destroy the world. Let that suffice you. Yet this one old
Christian lantern you shall not destroy. It shall go where your empire
of apes will never have the wit to find it."
He struck the Secretary once with the lantern so that he staggered; and
then, whirling it twice round his head, sent it flying far out to sea,
where it flared like a roaring rocket and fell.
"Swords!" shouted Syme, turning his flaming face to the three behind
him. "Let us charge these dogs, for our time has come to die."
His three companions came after him sword in hand. Syme's sword was
broken, but he rent a bludgeon from the fist of a fisherman, flinging
him down. In a moment they would have flung themselves upon the face
of the mob and perished, when an interruption came. The Secretary, ever
since Syme's speech, had stood with his hand to his stricken head as if
dazed; now he suddenly pulled off his black mask.
The pale face thus peeled in the lamplight revealed not so much rage as
astonishment. He put up his hand with an anxious authority.
"There is some mistake," he said. "Mr. Syme, I hardly think you
understand your position. I arrest you in the name of the law."
"Of the law?" said Syme, and dropped his stick.
"Certainly!" said the Secretary. "I am a detective from Scotland Yard,"
and he took a small blue card from his pocket.
"And what do you suppose we are?" asked the Professor, and threw up his
arms.
"You," said the Secretary stiffly, "are, as I know for a fact, members
of the Supreme Anarchist Council. Disguised as one of you, I—"
Dr. Bull tossed his sword into the sea.
"There never was any Supreme Anarchist Council," he said. "We were all a
lot of silly policemen looking at each other. And all these nice people
who have been peppering us with shot thought we were the dynamiters.
I knew I couldn't be wrong about the mob," he said, beaming over the
enormous multitude, which stretched away to the distance on both sides.
"Vulgar people are never mad. I'm vulgar myself, and I know. I am now
going on shore to stand a drink to everybody here."
CHAPTER XIII. THE PURSUIT OF THE PRESIDENT
NEXT morning five bewildered but hilarious people took the boat for
Dover. The poor old Colonel might have had some cause to complain,
having been first forced to fight for two factions that didn't exist,
and then knocked down with an iron lantern. But he was a magnanimous old
gentleman, and being much relieved that neither party had anything to do
with dynamite, he saw them off on the pier with great geniality.
The five reconciled detectives had a hundred details to explain to each
other. The Secretary had to tell Syme how they had come to wear
masks originally in order to approach the supposed enemy as
fellow-conspirators.
Syme had to explain how they had fled with such swiftness through a
civilised country. But above all these matters of detail which could be
explained, rose the central mountain of the matter that they could not
explain. What did it all mean? If they were all harmless officers, what
was Sunday? If he had not seized the world, what on earth had he been up
to? Inspector Ratcliffe was still gloomy about this.
"I can't make head or tail of old Sunday's little game any more than
you can," he said. "But whatever else Sunday is, he isn't a blameless
citizen. Damn it! do you remember his face?"
"I grant you," answered Syme, "that I have never been able to forget
it."
"Well," said the Secretary, "I suppose we can find out soon, for
tomorrow we have our next general meeting. You will excuse me," he
said, with a rather ghastly smile, "for being well acquainted with my
secretarial duties."
"I suppose you are right," said the Professor reflectively. "I suppose
we might find it out from him; but I confess that I should feel a bit
afraid of asking Sunday who he really is."
"Why," asked the Secretary, "for fear of bombs?"
"No," said the Professor, "for fear he might tell me."
"Let us have some drinks," said Dr. Bull, after a silence.
Throughout their whole journey by boat and train they were highly
convivial, but they instinctively kept together. Dr. Bull, who had
always been the optimist of the party, endeavoured to persuade the
other four that the whole company could take the same hansom cab from
Victoria; but this was over-ruled, and they went in a four-wheeler, with
Dr. Bull on the box, singing. They finished their journey at an hotel in
Piccadilly Circus, so as to be close to the early breakfast next morning
in Leicester Square. Yet even then the adventures of the day were not
entirely over. Dr. Bull, discontented with the general proposal to go to
bed, had strolled out of the hotel at about eleven to see and taste some
of the beauties of London. Twenty minutes afterwards, however, he came
back and made quite a clamour in the hall. Syme, who tried at first to
soothe him, was forced at last to listen to his communication with quite
new attention.
"I tell you I've seen him!" said Dr. Bull, with thick emphasis.
"Whom?" asked Syme quickly. "Not the President?"
"Not so bad as that," said Dr. Bull, with unnecessary laughter, "not so
bad as that. I've got him here."
"Got whom here?" asked Syme impatiently.
"Hairy man," said the other lucidly, "man that used to be hairy
man—Gogol. Here he is," and he pulled forward by a reluctant elbow the
identical young man who five days before had marched out of the Council
with thin red hair and a pale face, the first of all the sham anarchists
who had been exposed.
"Why do you worry with me?" he cried. "You have expelled me as a spy."
"We are all spies!" whispered Syme.
"We're all spies!" shouted Dr. Bull. "Come and have a drink."
Next morning the battalion of the reunited six marched stolidly towards
the hotel in Leicester Square.
"This is more cheerful," said Dr. Bull; "we are six men going to ask one
man what he means."
"I think it is a bit queerer than that," said Syme. "I think it is six
men going to ask one man what they mean."
They turned in silence into the Square, and though the hotel was in the
opposite corner, they saw at once the little balcony and a figure that
looked too big for it. He was sitting alone with bent head, poring over
a newspaper. But all his councillors, who had come to vote him down,
crossed that Square as if they were watched out of heaven by a hundred
eyes.
They had disputed much upon their policy, about whether they should
leave the unmasked Gogol without and begin diplomatically, or whether
they should bring him in and blow up the gunpowder at once. The
influence of Syme and Bull prevailed for the latter course, though the
Secretary to the last asked them why they attacked Sunday so rashly.
"My reason is quite simple," said Syme. "I attack him rashly because I
am afraid of him."
They followed Syme up the dark stair in silence, and they all came out
simultaneously into the broad sunlight of the morning and the broad
sunlight of Sunday's smile.
"Delightful!" he said. "So pleased to see you all. What an exquisite day
it is. Is the Czar dead?"
The Secretary, who happened to be foremost, drew himself together for a
dignified outburst.
"No, sir," he said sternly "there has been no massacre. I bring you news
of no such disgusting spectacles."
"Disgusting spectacles?" repeated the President, with a bright,
inquiring smile. "You mean Dr. Bull's spectacles?"
The Secretary choked for a moment, and the President went on with a sort
of smooth appeal—
"Of course, we all have our opinions and even our eyes, but really to
call them disgusting before the man himself—"
Dr. Bull tore off his spectacles and broke them on the table.
"My spectacles are blackguardly," he said, "but I'm not. Look at my
face."
"I dare say it's the sort of face that grows on one," said the
President, "in fact, it grows on you; and who am I to quarrel with the
wild fruits upon the Tree of Life? I dare say it will grow on me some
day."
"We have no time for tomfoolery," said the Secretary, breaking in
savagely. "We have come to know what all this means. Who are you? What
are you? Why did you get us all here? Do you know who and what we are?
Are you a half-witted man playing the conspirator, or are you a clever
man playing the fool? Answer me, I tell you."
"Candidates," murmured Sunday, "are only required to answer eight out of
the seventeen questions on the paper. As far as I can make out, you want
me to tell you what I am, and what you are, and what this table is, and
what this Council is, and what this world is for all I know. Well, I
will go so far as to rend the veil of one mystery. If you want to know
what you are, you are a set of highly well-intentioned young jackasses."
"And you," said Syme, leaning forward, "what are you?"
"I? What am I?" roared the President, and he rose slowly to an
incredible height, like some enormous wave about to arch above them
and break. "You want to know what I am, do you? Bull, you are a man of
science. Grub in the roots of those trees and find out the truth about
them. Syme, you are a poet. Stare at those morning clouds. But I tell
you this, that you will have found out the truth of the last tree and
the top-most cloud before the truth about me. You will understand the
sea, and I shall be still a riddle; you shall know what the stars are,
and not know what I am. Since the beginning of the world all men have
hunted me like a wolf—kings and sages, and poets and lawgivers, all the
churches, and all the philosophies. But I have never been caught yet,
and the skies will fall in the time I turn to bay. I have given them a
good run for their money, and I will now."
Before one of them could move, the monstrous man had swung himself like
some huge ourang-outang over the balustrade of the balcony. Yet before
he dropped he pulled himself up again as on a horizontal bar, and
thrusting his great chin over the edge of the balcony, said solemnly—
"There's one thing I'll tell you though about who I am. I am the man in
the dark room, who made you all policemen."
With that he fell from the balcony, bouncing on the stones below like a
great ball of india-rubber, and went bounding off towards the corner of
the Alhambra, where he hailed a hansom-cab and sprang inside it. The six
detectives had been standing thunderstruck and livid in the light of his
last assertion; but when he disappeared into the cab, Syme's practical
senses returned to him, and leaping over the balcony so recklessly as
almost to break his legs, he called another cab.
He and Bull sprang into the cab together, the Professor and the
Inspector into another, while the Secretary and the late Gogol scrambled
into a third just in time to pursue the flying Syme, who was pursuing
the flying President. Sunday led them a wild chase towards the
north-west, his cabman, evidently under the influence of more than
common inducements, urging the horse at breakneck speed. But Syme was in
no mood for delicacies, and he stood up in his own cab shouting, "Stop
thief!" until crowds ran along beside his cab, and policemen began to
stop and ask questions. All this had its influence upon the President's
cabman, who began to look dubious, and to slow down to a trot. He opened
the trap to talk reasonably to his fare, and in so doing let the long
whip droop over the front of the cab. Sunday leant forward, seized it,
and jerked it violently out of the man's hand. Then standing up in front
of the cab himself, he lashed the horse and roared aloud, so that they
went down the streets like a flying storm. Through street after street
and square after square went whirling this preposterous vehicle, in
which the fare was urging the horse and the driver trying desperately
to stop it. The other three cabs came after it (if the phrase be
permissible of a cab) like panting hounds. Shops and streets shot by
like rattling arrows.
At the highest ecstacy of speed, Sunday turned round on the splashboard
where he stood, and sticking his great grinning head out of the cab,
with white hair whistling in the wind, he made a horrible face at
his pursuers, like some colossal urchin. Then raising his right hand
swiftly, he flung a ball of paper in Syme's face and vanished. Syme
caught the thing while instinctively warding it off, and discovered that
it consisted of two crumpled papers. One was addressed to himself, and
the other to Dr. Bull, with a very long, and it is to be feared partly
ironical, string of letters after his name. Dr. Bull's address was,
at any rate, considerably longer than his communication, for the
communication consisted entirely of the words:—
"What about Martin Tupper now?"
"What does the old maniac mean?" asked Bull, staring at the words. "What
does yours say, Syme?"
Syme's message was, at any rate, longer, and ran as follows:—
"No one would regret anything in the nature of an interference by the
Archdeacon more than I. I trust it will not come to that. But, for the
last time, where are your goloshes? The thing is too bad, especially
after what uncle said."
The President's cabman seemed to be regaining some control over his
horse, and the pursuers gained a little as they swept round into the
Edgware Road. And here there occurred what seemed to the allies a
providential stoppage. Traffic of every kind was swerving to right or
left or stopping, for down the long road was coming the unmistakable
roar announcing the fire-engine, which in a few seconds went by like a
brazen thunderbolt. But quick as it went by, Sunday had bounded out of
his cab, sprung at the fire-engine, caught it, slung himself on to it,
and was seen as he disappeared in the noisy distance talking to the
astonished fireman with explanatory gestures.
"After him!" howled Syme. "He can't go astray now. There's no mistaking
a fire-engine."
The three cabmen, who had been stunned for a moment, whipped up their
horses and slightly decreased the distance between themselves and their
disappearing prey. The President acknowledged this proximity by coming
to the back of the car, bowing repeatedly, kissing his hand, and finally
flinging a neatly-folded note into the bosom of Inspector Ratcliffe.
When that gentleman opened it, not without impatience, he found it
contained the words:—
"Fly at once. The truth about your trouser-stretchers is known.
—A FRIEND."
The fire-engine had struck still farther to the north, into a region
that they did not recognise; and as it ran by a line of high railings
shadowed with trees, the six friends were startled, but somewhat
relieved, to see the President leap from the fire-engine, though whether
through another whim or the increasing protest of his entertainers they
could not see. Before the three cabs, however, could reach up to the
spot, he had gone up the high railings like a huge grey cat, tossed
himself over, and vanished in a darkness of leaves.
Syme with a furious gesture stopped his cab, jumped out, and sprang also
to the escalade. When he had one leg over the fence and his friends
were following, he turned a face on them which shone quite pale in the
shadow.
"What place can this be?" he asked. "Can it be the old devil's house?
I've heard he has a house in North London."
"All the better," said the Secretary grimly, planting a foot in a
foothold, "we shall find him at home."
"No, but it isn't that," said Syme, knitting his brows. "I hear the most
horrible noises, like devils laughing and sneezing and blowing their
devilish noses!"
"His dogs barking, of course," said the Secretary.
"Why not say his black-beetles barking!" said Syme furiously, "snails
barking! geraniums barking! Did you ever hear a dog bark like that?"
He held up his hand, and there came out of the thicket a long growling
roar that seemed to get under the skin and freeze the flesh—a low
thrilling roar that made a throbbing in the air all about them.
"The dogs of Sunday would be no ordinary dogs," said Gogol, and
shuddered.
Syme had jumped down on the other side, but he still stood listening
impatiently.
"Well, listen to that," he said, "is that a dog—anybody's dog?"
There broke upon their ear a hoarse screaming as of things protesting
and clamouring in sudden pain; and then, far off like an echo, what
sounded like a long nasal trumpet.
"Well, his house ought to be hell!" said the Secretary; "and if it is
hell, I'm going in!" and he sprang over the tall railings almost with
one swing.
The others followed. They broke through a tangle of plants and shrubs,
and came out on an open path. Nothing was in sight, but Dr. Bull
suddenly struck his hands together.
"Why, you asses," he cried, "it's the Zoo!"
As they were looking round wildly for any trace of their wild quarry,
a keeper in uniform came running along the path with a man in plain
clothes.
"Has it come this way?" gasped the keeper.
"Has what?" asked Syme.
"The elephant!" cried the keeper. "An elephant has gone mad and run
away!"
"He has run away with an old gentleman," said the other stranger
breathlessly, "a poor old gentleman with white hair!"
"What sort of old gentleman?" asked Syme, with great curiosity.
"A very large and fat old gentleman in light grey clothes," said the
keeper eagerly.
"Well," said Syme, "if he's that particular kind of old gentleman,
if you're quite sure that he's a large and fat old gentleman in grey
clothes, you may take my word for it that the elephant has not run away
with him. He has run away with the elephant. The elephant is not made by
God that could run away with him if he did not consent to the elopement.
And, by thunder, there he is!"
There was no doubt about it this time. Clean across the space of grass,
about two hundred yards away, with a crowd screaming and scampering
vainly at his heels, went a huge grey elephant at an awful stride, with
his trunk thrown out as rigid as a ship's bowsprit, and trumpeting like
the trumpet of doom. On the back of the bellowing and plunging animal
sat President Sunday with all the placidity of a sultan, but goading the
animal to a furious speed with some sharp object in his hand.
"Stop him!" screamed the populace. "He'll be out of the gate!"
"Stop a landslide!" said the keeper. "He is out of the gate!"
And even as he spoke, a final crash and roar of terror announced that
the great grey elephant had broken out of the gates of the Zoological
Gardens, and was careening down Albany Street like a new and swift sort
of omnibus.
"Great Lord!" cried Bull, "I never knew an elephant could go so fast.
Well, it must be hansom-cabs again if we are to keep him in sight."
As they raced along to the gate out of which the elephant had vanished,
Syme felt a glaring panorama of the strange animals in the cages which
they passed. Afterwards he thought it queer that he should have seen
them so clearly. He remembered especially seeing pelicans, with their
preposterous, pendant throats. He wondered why the pelican was the
symbol of charity, except it was that it wanted a good deal of charity
to admire a pelican. He remembered a hornbill, which was simply a huge
yellow beak with a small bird tied on behind it. The whole gave him a
sensation, the vividness of which he could not explain, that Nature was
always making quite mysterious jokes. Sunday had told them that they
would understand him when they had understood the stars. He wondered
whether even the archangels understood the hornbill.
The six unhappy detectives flung themselves into cabs and followed the
elephant sharing the terror which he spread through the long stretch of
the streets. This time Sunday did not turn round, but offered them the
solid stretch of his unconscious back, which maddened them, if possible,
more than his previous mockeries. Just before they came to Baker Street,
however, he was seen to throw something far up into the air, as a boy
does a ball meaning to catch it again. But at their rate of racing it
fell far behind, just by the cab containing Gogol; and in faint hope of
a clue or for some impulse unexplainable, he stopped his cab so as to
pick it up. It was addressed to himself, and was quite a bulky parcel.
On examination, however, its bulk was found to consist of thirty-three
pieces of paper of no value wrapped one round the other. When the last
covering was torn away it reduced itself to a small slip of paper, on
which was written:—
"The word, I fancy, should be 'pink'."
The man once known as Gogol said nothing, but the movements of his hands
and feet were like those of a man urging a horse to renewed efforts.
Through street after street, through district after district, went the
prodigy of the flying elephant, calling crowds to every window, and
driving the traffic left and right. And still through all this insane
publicity the three cabs toiled after it, until they came to be regarded
as part of a procession, and perhaps the advertisement of a circus. They
went at such a rate that distances were shortened beyond belief, and
Syme saw the Albert Hall in Kensington when he thought that he was still
in Paddington. The animal's pace was even more fast and free through the
empty, aristocratic streets of South Kensington, and he finally headed
towards that part of the sky-line where the enormous Wheel of Earl's
Court stood up in the sky. The wheel grew larger and larger, till it
filled heaven like the wheel of stars.
The beast outstripped the cabs. They lost him round several corners, and
when they came to one of the gates of the Earl's Court Exhibition they
found themselves finally blocked. In front of them was an enormous
crowd; in the midst of it was an enormous elephant, heaving and
shuddering as such shapeless creatures do. But the President had
disappeared.
"Where has he gone to?" asked Syme, slipping to the ground.
"Gentleman rushed into the Exhibition, sir!" said an official in a dazed
manner. Then he added in an injured voice: "Funny gentleman, sir. Asked
me to hold his horse, and gave me this."
He held out with distaste a piece of folded paper, addressed: "To the
Secretary of the Central Anarchist Council."
The Secretary, raging, rent it open, and found written inside it:—
"When the herring runs a mile, Let the Secretary smile;
When the herring tries to fly, Let the Secretary die.
Rustic Proverb."
"Why the eternal crikey," began the Secretary, "did you let the man in?
Do people commonly come to your Exhibition riding on mad elephants? Do—"
"Look!" shouted Syme suddenly. "Look over there!"
"Look at what?" asked the Secretary savagely.
"Look at the captive balloon!" said Syme, and pointed in a frenzy.
"Why the blazes should I look at a captive balloon?" demanded the
Secretary. "What is there queer about a captive balloon?"
"Nothing," said Syme, "except that it isn't captive!"
They all turned their eyes to where the balloon swung and swelled above
the Exhibition on a string, like a child's balloon. A second afterwards
the string came in two just under the car, and the balloon, broken
loose, floated away with the freedom of a soap bubble.
"Ten thousand devils!" shrieked the Secretary. "He's got into it!" and
he shook his fists at the sky.
The balloon, borne by some chance wind, came right above them, and they
could see the great white head of the President peering over the side
and looking benevolently down on them.
"God bless my soul!" said the Professor with the elderly manner that he
could never disconnect from his bleached beard and parchment face. "God
bless my soul! I seemed to fancy that something fell on the top of my
hat!"
He put up a trembling hand and took from that shelf a piece of twisted
paper, which he opened absently only to find it inscribed with a true
lover's knot and, the words:—
"Your beauty has not left me indifferent.—From LITTLE SNOWDROP."
There was a short silence, and then Syme said, biting his beard—
"I'm not beaten yet. The blasted thing must come down somewhere. Let's
follow it!"
CHAPTER XIV. THE SIX PHILOSOPHERS
ACROSS green fields, and breaking through blooming hedges, toiled six
draggled detectives, about five miles out of London. The optimist of the
party had at first proposed that they should follow the balloon across
South England in hansom-cabs. But he was ultimately convinced of the
persistent refusal of the balloon to follow the roads, and the
still more persistent refusal of the cabmen to follow the balloon.
Consequently the tireless though exasperated travellers broke through
black thickets and ploughed through ploughed fields till each was turned
into a figure too outrageous to be mistaken for a tramp. Those green
hills of Surrey saw the final collapse and tragedy of the admirable
light grey suit in which Syme had set out from Saffron Park. His silk
hat was broken over his nose by a swinging bough, his coat-tails were
torn to the shoulder by arresting thorns, the clay of England was
splashed up to his collar; but he still carried his yellow beard forward
with a silent and furious determination, and his eyes were still fixed
on that floating ball of gas, which in the full flush of sunset seemed
coloured like a sunset cloud.
"After all," he said, "it is very beautiful!"
"It is singularly and strangely beautiful!" said the Professor. "I wish
the beastly gas-bag would burst!"
"No," said Dr. Bull, "I hope it won't. It might hurt the old boy."
"Hurt him!" said the vindictive Professor, "hurt him! Not as much as I'd
hurt him if I could get up with him. Little Snowdrop!"
"I don't want him hurt, somehow," said Dr. Bull.
"What!" cried the Secretary bitterly. "Do you believe all that tale
about his being our man in the dark room? Sunday would say he was
anybody."
"I don't know whether I believe it or not," said Dr. Bull. "But it isn't
that that I mean. I can't wish old Sunday's balloon to burst because—"
"Well," said Syme impatiently, "because?"
"Well, because he's so jolly like a balloon himself," said Dr. Bull
desperately. "I don't understand a word of all that idea of his being
the same man who gave us all our blue cards. It seems to make everything
nonsense. But I don't care who knows it, I always had a sympathy for
old Sunday himself, wicked as he was. Just as if he was a great bouncing
baby. How can I explain what my queer sympathy was? It didn't prevent my
fighting him like hell! Shall I make it clear if I say that I liked him
because he was so fat?"
"You will not," said the Secretary.
"I've got it now," cried Bull, "it was because he was so fat and so
light. Just like a balloon. We always think of fat people as heavy, but
he could have danced against a sylph. I see now what I mean. Moderate
strength is shown in violence, supreme strength is shown in levity. It
was like the old speculations—what would happen if an elephant could
leap up in the sky like a grasshopper?"
"Our elephant," said Syme, looking upwards, "has leapt into the sky like
a grasshopper."
"And somehow," concluded Bull, "that's why I can't help liking old
Sunday. No, it's not an admiration of force, or any silly thing like
that. There is a kind of gaiety in the thing, as if he were bursting
with some good news. Haven't you sometimes felt it on a spring day?
You know Nature plays tricks, but somehow that day proves they are
good-natured tricks. I never read the Bible myself, but that part they
laugh at is literal truth, 'Why leap ye, ye high hills?' The hills do
leap—at least, they try to.... Why do I like Sunday?... how can I tell
you?... because he's such a Bounder."
There was a long silence, and then the Secretary said in a curious,
strained voice—
"You do not know Sunday at all. Perhaps it is because you are better
than I, and do not know hell. I was a fierce fellow, and a trifle morbid
from the first. The man who sits in darkness, and who chose us all,
chose me because I had all the crazy look of a conspirator—because my
smile went crooked, and my eyes were gloomy, even when I smiled. But
there must have been something in me that answered to the nerves in all
these anarchic men. For when I first saw Sunday he expressed to me, not
your airy vitality, but something both gross and sad in the Nature of
Things. I found him smoking in a twilight room, a room with brown blind
down, infinitely more depressing than the genial darkness in which our
master lives. He sat there on a bench, a huge heap of a man, dark and
out of shape. He listened to all my words without speaking or even
stirring. I poured out my most passionate appeals, and asked my most
eloquent questions. Then, after a long silence, the Thing began to
shake, and I thought it was shaken by some secret malady. It shook like
a loathsome and living jelly. It reminded me of everything I had ever
read about the base bodies that are the origin of life—the deep sea
lumps and protoplasm. It seemed like the final form of matter, the most
shapeless and the most shameful. I could only tell myself, from its
shudderings, that it was something at least that such a monster could
be miserable. And then it broke upon me that the bestial mountain was
shaking with a lonely laughter, and the laughter was at me. Do you
ask me to forgive him that? It is no small thing to be laughed at by
something at once lower and stronger than oneself."
"Surely you fellows are exaggerating wildly," cut in the clear voice of
Inspector Ratcliffe. "President Sunday is a terrible fellow for one's
intellect, but he is not such a Barnum's freak physically as you make
out. He received me in an ordinary office, in a grey check coat, in
broad daylight. He talked to me in an ordinary way. But I'll tell you
what is a trifle creepy about Sunday. His room is neat, his clothes are
neat, everything seems in order; but he's absent-minded. Sometimes his
great bright eyes go quite blind. For hours he forgets that you are
there. Now absent-mindedness is just a bit too awful in a bad man. We
think of a wicked man as vigilant. We can't think of a wicked man who is
honestly and sincerely dreamy, because we daren't think of a wicked man
alone with himself. An absentminded man means a good-natured man. It
means a man who, if he happens to see you, will apologise. But how will
you bear an absentminded man who, if he happens to see you, will kill
you? That is what tries the nerves, abstraction combined with cruelty.
Men have felt it sometimes when they went through wild forests, and felt
that the animals there were at once innocent and pitiless. They might
ignore or slay. How would you like to pass ten mortal hours in a parlour
with an absent-minded tiger?"
"And what do you think of Sunday, Gogol?" asked Syme.
"I don't think of Sunday on principle," said Gogol simply, "any more
than I stare at the sun at noonday."
"Well, that is a point of view," said Syme thoughtfully. "What do you
say, Professor?"
The Professor was walking with bent head and trailing stick, and he did
not answer at all.
"Wake up, Professor!" said Syme genially. "Tell us what you think of
Sunday."
The Professor spoke at last very slowly.
"I think something," he said, "that I cannot say clearly. Or, rather,
I think something that I cannot even think clearly. But it is something
like this. My early life, as you know, was a bit too large and loose.
"Well, when I saw Sunday's face I thought it was too large—everybody
does, but I also thought it was too loose. The face was so big, that one
couldn't focus it or make it a face at all. The eye was so far away from
the nose, that it wasn't an eye. The mouth was so much by itself,
that one had to think of it by itself. The whole thing is too hard to
explain."
He paused for a little, still trailing his stick, and then went on—
"But put it this way. Walking up a road at night, I have seen a lamp
and a lighted window and a cloud make together a most complete and
unmistakable face. If anyone in heaven has that face I shall know him
again. Yet when I walked a little farther I found that there was no
face, that the window was ten yards away, the lamp ten hundred yards,
the cloud beyond the world. Well, Sunday's face escaped me; it ran away
to right and left, as such chance pictures run away. And so his face
has made me, somehow, doubt whether there are any faces. I don't know
whether your face, Bull, is a face or a combination in perspective.
Perhaps one black disc of your beastly glasses is quite close and
another fifty miles away. Oh, the doubts of a materialist are not worth
a dump. Sunday has taught me the last and the worst doubts, the doubts
of a spiritualist. I am a Buddhist, I suppose; and Buddhism is not
a creed, it is a doubt. My poor dear Bull, I do not believe that you
really have a face. I have not faith enough to believe in matter."
Syme's eyes were still fixed upon the errant orb, which, reddened in the
evening light, looked like some rosier and more innocent world.
"Have you noticed an odd thing," he said, "about all your descriptions?
Each man of you finds Sunday quite different, yet each man of you can
only find one thing to compare him to—the universe itself. Bull
finds him like the earth in spring, Gogol like the sun at noonday. The
Secretary is reminded of the shapeless protoplasm, and the Inspector
of the carelessness of virgin forests. The Professor says he is like a
changing landscape. This is queer, but it is queerer still that I also
have had my odd notion about the President, and I also find that I think
of Sunday as I think of the whole world."
"Get on a little faster, Syme," said Bull; "never mind the balloon."
"When I first saw Sunday," said Syme slowly, "I only saw his back; and
when I saw his back, I knew he was the worst man in the world. His neck
and shoulders were brutal, like those of some apish god. His head had a
stoop that was hardly human, like the stoop of an ox. In fact, I had
at once the revolting fancy that this was not a man at all, but a beast
dressed up in men's clothes."
"Get on," said Dr. Bull.
"And then the queer thing happened. I had seen his back from the street,
as he sat in the balcony. Then I entered the hotel, and coming round the
other side of him, saw his face in the sunlight. His face frightened me,
as it did everyone; but not because it was brutal, not because it was
evil. On the contrary, it frightened me because it was so beautiful,
because it was so good."
"Syme," exclaimed the Secretary, "are you ill?"
"It was like the face of some ancient archangel, judging justly after
heroic wars. There was laughter in the eyes, and in the mouth honour
and sorrow. There was the same white hair, the same great, grey-clad
shoulders that I had seen from behind. But when I saw him from behind I
was certain he was an animal, and when I saw him in front I knew he was
a god."
"Pan," said the Professor dreamily, "was a god and an animal."
"Then, and again and always," went on Syme like a man talking to
himself, "that has been for me the mystery of Sunday, and it is also the
mystery of the world. When I see the horrible back, I am sure the noble
face is but a mask. When I see the face but for an instant, I know the
back is only a jest. Bad is so bad, that we cannot but think good an
accident; good is so good, that we feel certain that evil could be
explained. But the whole came to a kind of crest yesterday when I raced
Sunday for the cab, and was just behind him all the way."
"Had you time for thinking then?" asked Ratcliffe.
"Time," replied Syme, "for one outrageous thought. I was suddenly
possessed with the idea that the blind, blank back of his head really
was his face—an awful, eyeless face staring at me! And I fancied that
the figure running in front of me was really a figure running backwards,
and dancing as he ran."
"Horrible!" said Dr. Bull, and shuddered.
"Horrible is not the word," said Syme. "It was exactly the worst instant
of my life. And yet ten minutes afterwards, when he put his head out of
the cab and made a grimace like a gargoyle, I knew that he was only like
a father playing hide-and-seek with his children."
"It is a long game," said the Secretary, and frowned at his broken
boots.
"Listen to me," cried Syme with extraordinary emphasis. "Shall I tell
you the secret of the whole world? It is that we have only known the
back of the world. We see everything from behind, and it looks brutal.
That is not a tree, but the back of a tree. That is not a cloud, but the
back of a cloud. Cannot you see that everything is stooping and hiding a
face? If we could only get round in front—"
"Look!" cried out Bull clamorously, "the balloon is coming down!"
There was no need to cry out to Syme, who had never taken his eyes off
it. He saw the great luminous globe suddenly stagger in the sky, right
itself, and then sink slowly behind the trees like a setting sun.
The man called Gogol, who had hardly spoken through all their weary
travels, suddenly threw up his hands like a lost spirit.
"He is dead!" he cried. "And now I know he was my friend—my friend in
the dark!"
"Dead!" snorted the Secretary. "You will not find him dead easily. If
he has been tipped out of the car, we shall find him rolling as a colt
rolls in a field, kicking his legs for fun."
"Clashing his hoofs," said the Professor. "The colts do, and so did
Pan."
"Pan again!" said Dr. Bull irritably. "You seem to think Pan is
everything."
"So he is," said the Professor, "in Greek. He means everything."
"Don't forget," said the Secretary, looking down, "that he also means
Panic."
Syme had stood without hearing any of the exclamations.
"It fell over there," he said shortly. "Let us follow it!"
Then he added with an indescribable gesture—
"Oh, if he has cheated us all by getting killed! It would be like one of
his larks."
He strode off towards the distant trees with a new energy, his rags
and ribbons fluttering in the wind. The others followed him in a more
footsore and dubious manner. And almost at the same moment all six men
realised that they were not alone in the little field.
Across the square of turf a tall man was advancing towards them, leaning
on a strange long staff like a sceptre. He was clad in a fine but
old-fashioned suit with knee-breeches; its colour was that shade between
blue, violet and grey which can be seen in certain shadows of the
woodland. His hair was whitish grey, and at the first glance, taken
along with his knee-breeches, looked as if it was powdered. His advance
was very quiet; but for the silver frost upon his head, he might have
been one to the shadows of the wood.
"Gentlemen," he said, "my master has a carriage waiting for you in the
road just by."
"Who is your master?" asked Syme, standing quite still.
"I was told you knew his name," said the man respectfully.
There was a silence, and then the Secretary said—
"Where is this carriage?"
"It has been waiting only a few moments," said the stranger. "My master
has only just come home."
Syme looked left and right upon the patch of green field in which
he found himself. The hedges were ordinary hedges, the trees seemed
ordinary trees; yet he felt like a man entrapped in fairyland.
He looked the mysterious ambassador up and down, but he could discover
nothing except that the man's coat was the exact colour of the purple
shadows, and that the man's face was the exact colour of the red and
brown and golden sky.
"Show us the place," Syme said briefly, and without a word the man in
the violet coat turned his back and walked towards a gap in the hedge,
which let in suddenly the light of a white road.
As the six wanderers broke out upon this thoroughfare, they saw the
white road blocked by what looked like a long row of carriages, such a
row of carriages as might close the approach to some house in Park Lane.
Along the side of these carriages stood a rank of splendid servants, all
dressed in the grey-blue uniform, and all having a certain quality of
stateliness and freedom which would not commonly belong to the servants
of a gentleman, but rather to the officials and ambassadors of a great
king. There were no less than six carriages waiting, one for each of the
tattered and miserable band. All the attendants (as if in court-dress)
wore swords, and as each man crawled into his carriage they drew them,
and saluted with a sudden blaze of steel.
"What can it all mean?" asked Bull of Syme as they separated. "Is this
another joke of Sunday's?"
"I don't know," said Syme as he sank wearily back in the cushions of his
carriage; "but if it is, it's one of the jokes you talk about. It's a
good-natured one."
The six adventurers had passed through many adventures, but not one
had carried them so utterly off their feet as this last adventure of
comfort. They had all become inured to things going roughly; but things
suddenly going smoothly swamped them. They could not even feebly imagine
what the carriages were; it was enough for them to know that they were
carriages, and carriages with cushions. They could not conceive who
the old man was who had led them; but it was quite enough that he had
certainly led them to the carriages.
Syme drove through a drifting darkness of trees in utter abandonment.
It was typical of him that while he had carried his bearded chin forward
fiercely so long as anything could be done, when the whole business was
taken out of his hands he fell back on the cushions in a frank collapse.
Very gradually and very vaguely he realised into what rich roads the
carriage was carrying him. He saw that they passed the stone gates of
what might have been a park, that they began gradually to climb a hill
which, while wooded on both sides, was somewhat more orderly than a
forest. Then there began to grow upon him, as upon a man slowly waking
from a healthy sleep, a pleasure in everything. He felt that the hedges
were what hedges should be, living walls; that a hedge is like a human
army, disciplined, but all the more alive. He saw high elms behind the
hedges, and vaguely thought how happy boys would be climbing there. Then
his carriage took a turn of the path, and he saw suddenly and quietly,
like a long, low, sunset cloud, a long, low house, mellow in the mild
light of sunset. All the six friends compared notes afterwards and
quarrelled; but they all agreed that in some unaccountable way the
place reminded them of their boyhood. It was either this elm-top or that
crooked path, it was either this scrap of orchard or that shape of a
window; but each man of them declared that he could remember this place
before he could remember his mother.
When the carriages eventually rolled up to a large, low, cavernous
gateway, another man in the same uniform, but wearing a silver star
on the grey breast of his coat, came out to meet them. This impressive
person said to the bewildered Syme—
"Refreshments are provided for you in your room."
Syme, under the influence of the same mesmeric sleep of amazement, went
up the large oaken stairs after the respectful attendant. He entered a
splendid suite of apartments that seemed to be designed specially for
him. He walked up to a long mirror with the ordinary instinct of his
class, to pull his tie straight or to smooth his hair; and there he saw
the frightful figure that he was—blood running down his face from where
the bough had struck him, his hair standing out like yellow rags of rank
grass, his clothes torn into long, wavering tatters. At once the whole
enigma sprang up, simply as the question of how he had got there, and
how he was to get out again. Exactly at the same moment a man in blue,
who had been appointed as his valet, said very solemnly—
"I have put out your clothes, sir."
"Clothes!" said Syme sardonically. "I have no clothes except these," and
he lifted two long strips of his frock-coat in fascinating festoons, and
made a movement as if to twirl like a ballet girl.
"My master asks me to say," said the attendant, "that there is a fancy
dress ball tonight, and that he desires you to put on the costume that
I have laid out. Meanwhile, sir, there is a bottle of Burgundy and some
cold pheasant, which he hopes you will not refuse, as it is some hours
before supper."
"Cold pheasant is a good thing," said Syme reflectively, "and Burgundy
is a spanking good thing. But really I do not want either of them so
much as I want to know what the devil all this means, and what sort of
costume you have got laid out for me. Where is it?"
The servant lifted off a kind of ottoman a long peacock-blue drapery,
rather of the nature of a domino, on the front of which was emblazoned
a large golden sun, and which was splashed here and there with flaming
stars and crescents.
"You're to be dressed as Thursday, sir," said the valet somewhat
affably.
"Dressed as Thursday!" said Syme in meditation. "It doesn't sound a warm
costume."
"Oh, yes, sir," said the other eagerly, "the Thursday costume is quite
warm, sir. It fastens up to the chin."
"Well, I don't understand anything," said Syme, sighing. "I have been
used so long to uncomfortable adventures that comfortable adventures
knock me out. Still, I may be allowed to ask why I should be
particularly like Thursday in a green frock spotted all over with the
sun and moon. Those orbs, I think, shine on other days. I once saw the
moon on Tuesday, I remember."
"Beg pardon, sir," said the valet, "Bible also provided for you," and
with a respectful and rigid finger he pointed out a passage in the first
chapter of Genesis. Syme read it wondering. It was that in which the
fourth day of the week is associated with the creation of the sun and
moon. Here, however, they reckoned from a Christian Sunday.
"This is getting wilder and wilder," said Syme, as he sat down in a
chair. "Who are these people who provide cold pheasant and Burgundy, and
green clothes and Bibles? Do they provide everything?"
"Yes, sir, everything," said the attendant gravely. "Shall I help you on
with your costume?"
"Oh, hitch the bally thing on!" said Syme impatiently.
But though he affected to despise the mummery, he felt a curious freedom
and naturalness in his movements as the blue and gold garment fell about
him; and when he found that he had to wear a sword, it stirred a boyish
dream. As he passed out of the room he flung the folds across his
shoulder with a gesture, his sword stood out at an angle, and he had all
the swagger of a troubadour. For these disguises did not disguise, but
reveal.
CHAPTER XV. THE ACCUSER
AS Syme strode along the corridor he saw the Secretary standing at the
top of a great flight of stairs. The man had never looked so noble. He
was draped in a long robe of starless black, down the centre of which
fell a band or broad stripe of pure white, like a single shaft of light.
The whole looked like some very severe ecclesiastical vestment. There
was no need for Syme to search his memory or the Bible in order to
remember that the first day of creation marked the mere creation of
light out of darkness. The vestment itself would alone have suggested
the symbol; and Syme felt also how perfectly this pattern of pure white
and black expressed the soul of the pale and austere Secretary, with his
inhuman veracity and his cold frenzy, which made him so easily make
war on the anarchists, and yet so easily pass for one of them. Syme was
scarcely surprised to notice that, amid all the ease and hospitality of
their new surroundings, this man's eyes were still stern. No smell
of ale or orchards could make the Secretary cease to ask a reasonable
question.
If Syme had been able to see himself, he would have realised that he,
too, seemed to be for the first time himself and no one else. For if the
Secretary stood for that philosopher who loves the original and formless
light, Syme was a type of the poet who seeks always to make the light
in special shapes, to split it up into sun and star. The philosopher may
sometimes love the infinite; the poet always loves the finite. For him
the great moment is not the creation of light, but the creation of the
sun and moon.
As they descended the broad stairs together they overtook Ratcliffe,
who was clad in spring green like a huntsman, and the pattern upon whose
garment was a green tangle of trees. For he stood for that third day
on which the earth and green things were made, and his square, sensible
face, with its not unfriendly cynicism, seemed appropriate enough to it.
They were led out of another broad and low gateway into a very large
old English garden, full of torches and bonfires, by the broken light
of which a vast carnival of people were dancing in motley dress. Syme
seemed to see every shape in Nature imitated in some crazy costume.
There was a man dressed as a windmill with enormous sails, a man dressed
as an elephant, a man dressed as a balloon; the two last, together,
seemed to keep the thread of their farcical adventures. Syme even saw,
with a queer thrill, one dancer dressed like an enormous hornbill, with
a beak twice as big as himself—the queer bird which had fixed itself on
his fancy like a living question while he was rushing down the long road
at the Zoological Gardens. There were a thousand other such objects,
however. There was a dancing lamp-post, a dancing apple tree, a dancing
ship. One would have thought that the untamable tune of some mad
musician had set all the common objects of field and street dancing an
eternal jig. And long afterwards, when Syme was middle-aged and at rest,
he could never see one of those particular objects—a lamppost, or
an apple tree, or a windmill—without thinking that it was a strayed
reveller from that revel of masquerade.
On one side of this lawn, alive with dancers, was a sort of green bank,
like the terrace in such old-fashioned gardens.
Along this, in a kind of crescent, stood seven great chairs, the thrones
of the seven days. Gogol and Dr. Bull were already in their seats;
the Professor was just mounting to his. Gogol, or Tuesday, had his
simplicity well symbolised by a dress designed upon the division of the
waters, a dress that separated upon his forehead and fell to his feet,
grey and silver, like a sheet of rain. The Professor, whose day was that
on which the birds and fishes—the ruder forms of life—were created,
had a dress of dim purple, over which sprawled goggle-eyed fishes and
outrageous tropical birds, the union in him of unfathomable fancy and
of doubt. Dr. Bull, the last day of Creation, wore a coat covered with
heraldic animals in red and gold, and on his crest a man rampant. He lay
back in his chair with a broad smile, the picture of an optimist in his
element.
One by one the wanderers ascended the bank and sat in their strange
seats. As each of them sat down a roar of enthusiasm rose from the
carnival, such as that with which crowds receive kings. Cups were
clashed and torches shaken, and feathered hats flung in the air. The
men for whom these thrones were reserved were men crowned with some
extraordinary laurels. But the central chair was empty.
Syme was on the left hand of it and the Secretary on the right. The
Secretary looked across the empty throne at Syme, and said, compressing
his lips—
"We do not know yet that he is not dead in a field."
Almost as Syme heard the words, he saw on the sea of human faces in
front of him a frightful and beautiful alteration, as if heaven had
opened behind his head. But Sunday had only passed silently along the
front like a shadow, and had sat in the central seat. He was draped
plainly, in a pure and terrible white, and his hair was like a silver
flame on his forehead.
For a long time—it seemed for hours—that huge masquerade of mankind
swayed and stamped in front of them to marching and exultant music.
Every couple dancing seemed a separate romance; it might be a fairy
dancing with a pillar-box, or a peasant girl dancing with the moon; but
in each case it was, somehow, as absurd as Alice in Wonderland, yet as
grave and kind as a love story. At last, however, the thick crowd began
to thin itself. Couples strolled away into the garden-walks, or began to
drift towards that end of the building where stood smoking, in huge pots
like fish-kettles, some hot and scented mixtures of old ale or wine.
Above all these, upon a sort of black framework on the roof of the
house, roared in its iron basket a gigantic bonfire, which lit up the
land for miles. It flung the homely effect of firelight over the face
of vast forests of grey or brown, and it seemed to fill with warmth even
the emptiness of upper night. Yet this also, after a time, was allowed
to grow fainter; the dim groups gathered more and more round the great
cauldrons, or passed, laughing and clattering, into the inner passages
of that ancient house. Soon there were only some ten loiterers in the
garden; soon only four. Finally the last stray merry-maker ran into the
house whooping to his companions. The fire faded, and the slow, strong
stars came out. And the seven strange men were left alone, like seven
stone statues on their chairs of stone. Not one of them had spoken a
word.
They seemed in no haste to do so, but heard in silence the hum of
insects and the distant song of one bird. Then Sunday spoke, but so
dreamily that he might have been continuing a conversation rather than
beginning one.
"We will eat and drink later," he said. "Let us remain together a
little, we who have loved each other so sadly, and have fought so long.
I seem to remember only centuries of heroic war, in which you were
always heroes—epic on epic, iliad on iliad, and you always brothers
in arms. Whether it was but recently (for time is nothing), or at the
beginning of the world, I sent you out to war. I sat in the darkness,
where there is not any created thing, and to you I was only a voice
commanding valour and an unnatural virtue. You heard the voice in the
dark, and you never heard it again. The sun in heaven denied it, the
earth and sky denied it, all human wisdom denied it. And when I met you
in the daylight I denied it myself."
Syme stirred sharply in his seat, but otherwise there was silence, and
the incomprehensible went on.
"But you were men. You did not forget your secret honour, though the
whole cosmos turned an engine of torture to tear it out of you. I knew
how near you were to hell. I know how you, Thursday, crossed swords with
King Satan, and how you, Wednesday, named me in the hour without hope."
There was complete silence in the starlit garden, and then the
black-browed Secretary, implacable, turned in his chair towards Sunday,
and said in a harsh voice—
"Who and what are you?"
"I am the Sabbath," said the other without moving. "I am the peace of
God."
The Secretary started up, and stood crushing his costly robe in his
hand.
"I know what you mean," he cried, "and it is exactly that that I cannot
forgive you. I know you are contentment, optimism, what do they call
the thing, an ultimate reconciliation. Well, I am not reconciled. If you
were the man in the dark room, why were you also Sunday, an offense to
the sunlight? If you were from the first our father and our friend, why
were you also our greatest enemy? We wept, we fled in terror; the iron
entered into our souls—and you are the peace of God! Oh, I can forgive
God His anger, though it destroyed nations; but I cannot forgive Him His
peace."
Sunday answered not a word, but very slowly he turned his face of stone
upon Syme as if asking a question.
"No," said Syme, "I do not feel fierce like that. I am grateful to you,
not only for wine and hospitality here, but for many a fine scamper and
free fight. But I should like to know. My soul and heart are as happy
and quiet here as this old garden, but my reason is still crying out. I
should like to know."
Sunday looked at Ratcliffe, whose clear voice said—
"It seems so silly that you should have been on both sides and fought
yourself."
Bull said—
"I understand nothing, but I am happy. In fact, I am going to sleep."
"I am not happy," said the Professor with his head in his hands,
"because I do not understand. You let me stray a little too near to
hell."
And then Gogol said, with the absolute simplicity of a child—
"I wish I knew why I was hurt so much."
Still Sunday said nothing, but only sat with his mighty chin upon his
hand, and gazed at the distance. Then at last he said—
"I have heard your complaints in order. And here, I think, comes another
to complain, and we will hear him also."
The falling fire in the great cresset threw a last long gleam, like a
bar of burning gold, across the dim grass. Against this fiery band was
outlined in utter black the advancing legs of a black-clad figure. He
seemed to have a fine close suit with knee-breeches such as that which
was worn by the servants of the house, only that it was not blue, but of
this absolute sable. He had, like the servants, a kind of sword by his
side. It was only when he had come quite close to the crescent of
the seven and flung up his face to look at them, that Syme saw, with
thunder-struck clearness, that the face was the broad, almost ape-like
face of his old friend Gregory, with its rank red hair and its insulting
smile.
"Gregory!" gasped Syme, half-rising from his seat. "Why, this is the
real anarchist!"
"Yes," said Gregory, with a great and dangerous restraint, "I am the
real anarchist."
"'Now there was a day,'" murmured Bull, who seemed really to have fallen
asleep, "'when the sons of God came to present themselves before the
Lord, and Satan came also among them.'"
"You are right," said Gregory, and gazed all round. "I am a destroyer. I
would destroy the world if I could."
A sense of a pathos far under the earth stirred up in Syme, and he spoke
brokenly and without sequence.
"Oh, most unhappy man," he cried, "try to be happy! You have red hair
like your sister."
"My red hair, like red flames, shall burn up the world," said Gregory.
"I thought I hated everything more than common men can hate anything;
but I find that I do not hate everything so much as I hate you!"
"I never hated you," said Syme very sadly.
Then out of this unintelligible creature the last thunders broke.
"You!" he cried. "You never hated because you never lived. I know what
you are all of you, from first to last—you are the people in power! You
are the police—the great fat, smiling men in blue and buttons! You are
the Law, and you have never been broken. But is there a free soul
alive that does not long to break you, only because you have never been
broken? We in revolt talk all kind of nonsense doubtless about this
crime or that crime of the Government. It is all folly! The only crime
of the Government is that it governs. The unpardonable sin of the
supreme power is that it is supreme. I do not curse you for being cruel.
I do not curse you (though I might) for being kind. I curse you for
being safe! You sit in your chairs of stone, and have never come down
from them. You are the seven angels of heaven, and you have had no
troubles. Oh, I could forgive you everything, you that rule all mankind,
if I could feel for once that you had suffered for one hour a real agony
such as I—"
Syme sprang to his feet, shaking from head to foot.
"I see everything," he cried, "everything that there is. Why does each
thing on the earth war against each other thing? Why does each small
thing in the world have to fight against the world itself? Why does a
fly have to fight the whole universe? Why does a dandelion have to fight
the whole universe? For the same reason that I had to be alone in the
dreadful Council of the Days. So that each thing that obeys law may have
the glory and isolation of the anarchist. So that each man fighting for
order may be as brave and good a man as the dynamiter. So that the real
lie of Satan may be flung back in the face of this blasphemer, so that
by tears and torture we may earn the right to say to this man, 'You
lie!' No agonies can be too great to buy the right to say to this
accuser, 'We also have suffered.'
"It is not true that we have never been broken. We have been broken
upon the wheel. It is not true that we have never descended from
these thrones. We have descended into hell. We were complaining of
unforgettable miseries even at the very moment when this man entered
insolently to accuse us of happiness. I repel the slander; we have not
been happy. I can answer for every one of the great guards of Law whom
he has accused. At least—"
He had turned his eyes so as to see suddenly the great face of Sunday,
which wore a strange smile.
"Have you," he cried in a dreadful voice, "have you ever suffered?"
As he gazed, the great face grew to an awful size, grew larger than the
colossal mask of Memnon, which had made him scream as a child. It grew
larger and larger, filling the whole sky; then everything went black.
Only in the blackness before it entirely destroyed his brain he seemed
to hear a distant voice saying a commonplace text that he had heard
somewhere, "Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of?"
* * *
When men in books awake from a vision, they commonly find themselves in
some place in which they might have fallen asleep; they yawn in a chair,
or lift themselves with bruised limbs from a field. Syme's experience
was something much more psychologically strange if there was indeed
anything unreal, in the earthly sense, about the things he had gone
through. For while he could always remember afterwards that he had
swooned before the face of Sunday, he could not remember having ever
come to at all. He could only remember that gradually and naturally he
knew that he was and had been walking along a country lane with an easy
and conversational companion. That companion had been a part of his
recent drama; it was the red-haired poet Gregory. They were walking
like old friends, and were in the middle of a conversation about some
triviality. But Syme could only feel an unnatural buoyancy in his body
and a crystal simplicity in his mind that seemed to be superior to
everything that he said or did. He felt he was in possession of some
impossible good news, which made every other thing a triviality, but an
adorable triviality.
Dawn was breaking over everything in colours at once clear and timid; as
if Nature made a first attempt at yellow and a first attempt at rose.
A breeze blew so clean and sweet, that one could not think that it blew
from the sky; it blew rather through some hole in the sky. Syme felt a
simple surprise when he saw rising all round him on both sides of the
road the red, irregular buildings of Saffron Park. He had no idea that
he had walked so near London. He walked by instinct along one white
road, on which early birds hopped and sang, and found himself outside
a fenced garden. There he saw the sister of Gregory, the girl with
the gold-red hair, cutting lilac before breakfast, with the great
unconscious gravity of a girl.
End of Chapter XV. End of the book THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY
A NIGHTMARE
by G. K. Chesterton