The Project Gutenberg eBook of The Man Who Was Thursday, by G. K. Chesterton (2022)

The Project Gutenberg eBook of The Man Who Was Thursday, by G. K. Chesterton

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Title: The Man Who Was Thursday
A Nightmare

Author: G. K. Chesterton

Release Date: April, 1999 [eBook #1695]
[Most recently updated: September 23, 2021]

Language: English

Character set encoding: UTF-8

Produced by: Harry Plantinga and David Widger

*** START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY ***

The Project Gutenberg eBook of The Man Who Was Thursday, by G. K. Chesterton (1)

A Nightmare

by G. K. Chesterton

Contents

A WILD, MAD, HILARIOUS AND PROFOUNDLY MOVING TALE
THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY
CHAPTER I. THE TWO POETS OF SAFFRON PARK
CHAPTER II. THE SECRET OF GABRIEL SYME
CHAPTER III. THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY
CHAPTER IV. THE TALE OF A DETECTIVE
CHAPTER V. THE FEAST OF FEAR
CHAPTER VI. THE EXPOSURE
CHAPTER VII. THE UNACCOUNTABLE CONDUCT OF PROFESSOR DE WORMS
CHAPTER VIII. THE PROFESSOR EXPLAINS
CHAPTER IX. THE MAN IN SPECTACLES
CHAPTER X. THE DUEL
CHAPTER XI. THE CRIMINALS CHASE THE POLICE
CHAPTER XII. THE EARTH IN ANARCHY
CHAPTER XIII. THE PURSUIT OF THE PRESIDENT
CHAPTER XIV. THE SIX PHILOSOPHERS
CHAPTER XV. THE ACCUSER

A WILD, MAD, HILARIOUS AND PROFOUNDLY MOVING TALE

It is very difficult to classify THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY. It is possible tosay that it is a gripping adventure story of murderous criminals and brilliantpolicemen; but it was to be expected that the author of the Father Brownstories should tell a detective story like no-one else. On this level,therefore, THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY succeeds superbly; if nothing else, it is amagnificent tour-de-force of suspense-writing.

However, the reader will soon discover that it is much more than that. Carriedalong on the boisterous rush of the narrative by Chesterton’s wonderfulhigh-spirited style, he will soon see that he is being carried into much deeperwaters than he had planned on; and the totally unforeseeable denouement willprove for the modern reader, as it has for thousands of others since 1908 whenthe book was first published, an inevitable and moving experience, as theinvestigators finally discover who Sunday is.

THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY
A NIGHTMARE

To Edmund Clerihew Bentley

A cloud was on the mind of men, and wailing went the weather,
Yea, a sick cloud upon the soul when we were boys together.
Science announced nonentity and art admired decay;
The world was old and ended: but you and I were gay;
Round us in antic order their crippled vices came—
Lust that had lost its laughter, fear that had lost its shame.
Like the white lock of Whistler, that lit our aimless gloom,
Men showed their own white feather as proudly as a plume.
Life was a fly that faded, and death a drone that stung;
The world was very old indeed when you and I were young.
They twisted even decent sin to shapes not to be named:
Men were ashamed of honour; but we were not ashamed.
Weak if we were and foolish, not thus we failed, not thus;
When that black Baal blocked the heavens he had no hymns from us
Children we were—our forts of sand were even as weak as we,
High as they went we piled them up to break that bitter sea.
Fools as we were in motley, all jangling and absurd,
When all church bells were silent our cap and bells were heard.

Not all unhelped we held the fort, our tiny flags unfurled;
Some giants laboured in that cloud to lift it from the world.
I find again the book we found, I feel the hour that flings
Far out of fish-shaped Paumanok some cry of cleaner things;
And the Green Carnation withered, as in forest fires that pass,
Roared in the wind of all the world ten million leaves of grass;
Or sane and sweet and sudden as a bird sings in the rain—
Truth out of Tusitala spoke and pleasure out of pain.
Yea, cool and clear and sudden as a bird sings in the grey,
Dunedin to Samoa spoke, and darkness unto day.
But we were young; we lived to see God break their bitter charms.
God and the good Republic come riding back in arms:
We have seen the City of Mansoul, even as it rocked, relieved—
Blessed are they who did not see, but being blind, believed.

This is a tale of those old fears, even of those emptied hells,
And none but you shall understand the true thing that it tells—
Of what colossal gods of shame could cow men and yet crash,
Of what huge devils hid the stars, yet fell at a pistol flash.
The doubts that were so plain to chase, so dreadful to withstand—
Oh, who shall understand but you; yea, who shall understand?
The doubts that drove us through the night as we two talked amain,
And day had broken on the streets e’er it broke upon the brain.
Between us, by the peace of God, such truth can now be told;
Yea, there is strength in striking root and good in growing old.
We have found common things at last and marriage and a creed,
And I may safely write it now, and you may safely read.

G. K. C.

CHAPTER I.
THE TWO POETS OF SAFFRON PARK

The suburb of Saffron Park lay on the sunset side of London, as red and raggedas a cloud of sunset. It was built of a bright brick throughout; its sky-linewas fantastic, and even its ground plan was wild. It had been the outburst of aspeculative builder, faintly tinged with art, who called its architecturesometimes Elizabethan and sometimes Queen Anne, apparently under the impressionthat the two sovereigns were identical. It was described with some justice asan artistic colony, though it never in any definable way produced any art. Butalthough its pretensions to be an intellectual centre were a little vague, itspretensions to be a pleasant place were quite indisputable. The stranger wholooked for the first time at the quaint red houses could only think how veryoddly shaped the people must be who could fit in to them. Nor when he met thepeople was he disappointed in this respect. The place was not only pleasant,but perfect, if once he could regard it not as a deception but rather as adream. Even if the people were not “artists,” the whole wasnevertheless artistic. That young man with the long, auburn hair and theimpudent face—that young man was not really a poet; but surely he was apoem. That old gentleman with the wild, white beard and the wild, whitehat—that venerable humbug was not really a philosopher; but at least hewas the cause of philosophy in others. That scientific gentleman with the bald,egg-like head and the bare, bird-like neck had no real right to the airs ofscience that he assumed. He had not discovered anything new in biology; butwhat biological creature could he have discovered more singular than himself?Thus, and thus only, the whole place had properly to be regarded; it had to beconsidered not so much as a workshop for artists, but as a frail but finishedwork of art. A man who stepped into its social atmosphere felt as if he hadstepped into a written comedy.

More especially this attractive unreality fell upon it about nightfall, whenthe extravagant roofs were dark against the afterglow and the whole insanevillage seemed as separate as a drifting cloud. This again was more stronglytrue of the many nights of local festivity, when the little gardens were oftenilluminated, and the big Chinese lanterns glowed in the dwarfish trees likesome fierce and monstrous fruit. And this was strongest of all on oneparticular evening, still vaguely remembered in the locality, of which theauburn-haired poet was the hero. It was not by any means the only evening ofwhich he was the hero. On many nights those passing by his little back gardenmight hear his high, didactic voice laying down the law to men and particularlyto women. The attitude of women in such cases was indeed one of the paradoxesof the place. Most of the women were of the kind vaguely called emancipated,and professed some protest against male supremacy. Yet these new women wouldalways pay to a man the extravagant compliment which no ordinary woman everpays to him, that of listening while he is talking. And Mr. Lucian Gregory, thered-haired poet, was really (in some sense) a man worth listening to, even ifone only laughed at the end of it. He put the old cant of the lawlessness ofart and the art of lawlessness with a certain impudent freshness which gave atleast a momentary pleasure. He was helped in some degree by the arrestingoddity of his appearance, which he worked, as the phrase goes, for all it wasworth. His dark red hair parted in the middle was literally like awoman’s, and curved into the slow curls of a virgin in a pre-Raphaelitepicture. From within this almost saintly oval, however, his face projectedsuddenly broad and brutal, the chin carried forward with a look of cockneycontempt. This combination at once tickled and terrified the nerves of aneurotic population. He seemed like a walking blasphemy, a blend of the angeland the ape.

This particular evening, if it is remembered for nothing else, will beremembered in that place for its strange sunset. It looked like the end of theworld. All the heaven seemed covered with a quite vivid and palpable plumage;you could only say that the sky was full of feathers, and of feathers thatalmost brushed the face. Across the great part of the dome they were grey, withthe strangest tints of violet and mauve and an unnatural pink or pale green;but towards the west the whole grew past description, transparent andpassionate, and the last red-hot plumes of it covered up the sun like somethingtoo good to be seen. The whole was so close about the earth, as to expressnothing but a violent secrecy. The very empyrean seemed to be a secret. Itexpressed that splendid smallness which is the soul of local patriotism. Thevery sky seemed small.

I say that there are some inhabitants who may remember the evening if only bythat oppressive sky. There are others who may remember it because it marked thefirst appearance in the place of the second poet of Saffron Park. For a longtime the red-haired revolutionary had reigned without a rival; it was upon thenight of the sunset that his solitude suddenly ended. The new poet, whointroduced himself by the name of Gabriel Syme was a very mild-looking mortal,with a fair, pointed beard and faint, yellow hair. But an impression grew thathe was less meek than he looked. He signalised his entrance by differing withthe established poet, Gregory, upon the whole nature of poetry. He said that he(Syme) was poet of law, a poet of order; nay, he said he was a poet ofrespectability. So all the Saffron Parkers looked at him as if he had thatmoment fallen out of that impossible sky.

In fact, Mr. Lucian Gregory, the anarchic poet, connected the two events.

“It may well be,” he said, in his sudden lyrical manner, “itmay well be on such a night of clouds and cruel colours that there is broughtforth upon the earth such a portent as a respectable poet. You say you are apoet of law; I say you are a contradiction in terms. I only wonder there werenot comets and earthquakes on the night you appeared in this garden.”

The man with the meek blue eyes and the pale, pointed beard endured thesethunders with a certain submissive solemnity. The third party of the group,Gregory’s sister Rosamond, who had her brother’s braids of redhair, but a kindlier face underneath them, laughed with such mixture ofadmiration and disapproval as she gave commonly to the family oracle.

Gregory resumed in high oratorical good humour.

“An artist is identical with an anarchist,” he cried. “Youmight transpose the words anywhere. An anarchist is an artist. The man whothrows a bomb is an artist, because he prefers a great moment to everything. Hesees how much more valuable is one burst of blazing light, one peal of perfectthunder, than the mere common bodies of a few shapeless policemen. An artistdisregards all governments, abolishes all conventions. The poet delights indisorder only. If it were not so, the most poetical thing in the world would bethe Underground Railway.”

“So it is,” said Mr. Syme.

“Nonsense!” said Gregory, who was very rational when anyone elseattempted paradox. “Why do all the clerks and navvies in the railwaytrains look so sad and tired, so very sad and tired? I will tell you. It isbecause they know that the train is going right. It is because they know thatwhatever place they have taken a ticket for that place they will reach. It isbecause after they have passed Sloane Square they know that the next stationmust be Victoria, and nothing but Victoria. Oh, their wild rapture! oh, theireyes like stars and their souls again in Eden, if the next station wereunaccountably Baker Street!”

“It is you who are unpoetical,” replied the poet Syme. “Ifwhat you say of clerks is true, they can only be as prosaic as your poetry. Therare, strange thing is to hit the mark; the gross, obvious thing is to miss it.We feel it is epical when man with one wild arrow strikes a distant bird. Is itnot also epical when man with one wild engine strikes a distant station? Chaosis dull; because in chaos the train might indeed go anywhere, to Baker Streetor to Bagdad. But man is a magician, and his whole magic is in this, that hedoes say Victoria, and lo! it is Victoria. No, take your books of mere poetryand prose; let me read a time table, with tears of pride. Take your Byron, whocommemorates the defeats of man; give me Bradshaw, who commemorates hisvictories. Give me Bradshaw, I say!”

“Must you go?” inquired Gregory sarcastically.

“I tell you,” went on Syme with passion, “that every time atrain comes in I feel that it has broken past batteries of besiegers, and thatman has won a battle against chaos. You say contemptuously that when one hasleft Sloane Square one must come to Victoria. I say that one might do athousand things instead, and that whenever I really come there I have the senseof hairbreadth escape. And when I hear the guard shout out the word‘Victoria,’ it is not an unmeaning word. It is to me the cry of aherald announcing conquest. It is to me indeed ‘Victoria’; it isthe victory of Adam.”

Gregory wagged his heavy, red head with a slow and sad smile.

“And even then,” he said, “we poets always ask the question,‘And what is Victoria now that you have got there?’ You thinkVictoria is like the New Jerusalem. We know that the New Jerusalem will only belike Victoria. Yes, the poet will be discontented even in the streets ofheaven. The poet is always in revolt.”

“There again,” said Syme irritably, “what is there poeticalabout being in revolt? You might as well say that it is poetical to besea-sick. Being sick is a revolt. Both being sick and being rebellious may bethe wholesome thing on certain desperate occasions; but I’m hanged if Ican see why they are poetical. Revolt in the abstract is—revolting.It’s mere vomiting.”

The girl winced for a flash at the unpleasant word, but Syme was too hot toheed her.

“It is things going right,” he cried, “that is poetical! Ourdigestions, for instance, going sacredly and silently right, that is thefoundation of all poetry. Yes, the most poetical thing, more poetical than theflowers, more poetical than the stars—the most poetical thing in theworld is not being sick.”

“Really,” said Gregory superciliously, “the examples youchoose—”

“I beg your pardon,” said Syme grimly, “I forgot we hadabolished all conventions.”

For the first time a red patch appeared on Gregory’s forehead.

“You don’t expect me,” he said, “to revolutionisesociety on this lawn?”

Syme looked straight into his eyes and smiled sweetly.

“No, I don’t,” he said; “but I suppose that if you wereserious about your anarchism, that is exactly what you would do.”

Gregory’s big bull’s eyes blinked suddenly like those of an angrylion, and one could almost fancy that his red mane rose.

“Don’t you think, then,” he said in a dangerous voice,“that I am serious about my anarchism?”

“I beg your pardon?” said Syme.

“Am I not serious about my anarchism?” cried Gregory, with knottedfists.

“My dear fellow!” said Syme, and strolled away.

With surprise, but with a curious pleasure, he found Rosamond Gregory still inhis company.

“Mr. Syme,” she said, “do the people who talk like you and mybrother often mean what they say? Do you mean what you say now?”

Syme smiled.

“Do you?” he asked.

“What do you mean?” asked the girl, with grave eyes.

“My dear Miss Gregory,” said Syme gently, “there are manykinds of sincerity and insincerity. When you say ‘thank you’ forthe salt, do you mean what you say? No. When you say ‘the world isround,’ do you mean what you say? No. It is true, but you don’tmean it. Now, sometimes a man like your brother really finds a thing he doesmean. It may be only a half-truth, quarter-truth, tenth-truth; but then he saysmore than he means—from sheer force of meaning it.”

She was looking at him from under level brows; her face was grave and open, andthere had fallen upon it the shadow of that unreasoning responsibility which isat the bottom of the most frivolous woman, the maternal watch which is as oldas the world.

“Is he really an anarchist, then?” she asked.

“Only in that sense I speak of,” replied Syme; “or if youprefer it, in that nonsense.”

She drew her broad brows together and said abruptly—

“He wouldn’t really use—bombs or that sort of thing?”

Syme broke into a great laugh, that seemed too large for his slight andsomewhat dandified figure.

“Good Lord, no!” he said, “that has to be doneanonymously.”

And at that the corners of her own mouth broke into a smile, and she thoughtwith a simultaneous pleasure of Gregory’s absurdity and of his safety.

Syme strolled with her to a seat in the corner of the garden, and continued topour out his opinions. For he was a sincere man, and in spite of hissuperficial airs and graces, at root a humble one. And it is always the humbleman who talks too much; the proud man watches himself too closely. He defendedrespectability with violence and exaggeration. He grew passionate in his praiseof tidiness and propriety. All the time there was a smell of lilac all roundhim. Once he heard very faintly in some distant street a barrel-organ begin toplay, and it seemed to him that his heroic words were moving to a tiny tunefrom under or beyond the world.

He stared and talked at the girl’s red hair and amused face for whatseemed to be a few minutes; and then, feeling that the groups in such a placeshould mix, rose to his feet. To his astonishment, he discovered the wholegarden empty. Everyone had gone long ago, and he went himself with a ratherhurried apology. He left with a sense of champagne in his head, which he couldnot afterwards explain. In the wild events which were to follow this girl hadno part at all; he never saw her again until all his tale was over. And yet, insome indescribable way, she kept recurring like a motive in music through allhis mad adventures afterwards, and the glory of her strange hair ran like a redthread through those dark and ill-drawn tapestries of the night. For whatfollowed was so improbable, that it might well have been a dream.

When Syme went out into the starlit street, he found it for the moment empty.Then he realised (in some odd way) that the silence was rather a living silencethan a dead one. Directly outside the door stood a street lamp, whose gleamgilded the leaves of the tree that bent out over the fence behind him. About afoot from the lamp-post stood a figure almost as rigid and motionless as thelamp-post itself. The tall hat and long frock coat were black; the face, in anabrupt shadow, was almost as dark. Only a fringe of fiery hair against thelight, and also something aggressive in the attitude, proclaimed that it wasthe poet Gregory. He had something of the look of a masked bravo waiting swordin hand for his foe.

He made a sort of doubtful salute, which Syme somewhat more formally returned.

“I was waiting for you,” said Gregory. “Might I have amoment’s conversation?”

“Certainly. About what?” asked Syme in a sort of weak wonder.

Gregory struck out with his stick at the lamp-post, and then at the tree.

“About this and this,” he cried; “about orderand anarchy. There is your precious order, that lean, iron lamp, ugly andbarren; and there is anarchy, rich, living, reproducing itself—there isanarchy, splendid in green and gold.”

“All the same,” replied Syme patiently, “just at present youonly see the tree by the light of the lamp. I wonder when you would ever seethe lamp by the light of the tree.” Then after a pause he said,“But may I ask if you have been standing out here in the dark only toresume our little argument?”

“No,” cried out Gregory, in a voice that rang down the street,“I did not stand here to resume our argument, but to end it forever.”

The silence fell again, and Syme, though he understood nothing, listenedinstinctively for something serious. Gregory began in a smooth voice and with arather bewildering smile.

“Mr. Syme,” he said, “this evening you succeeded in doingsomething rather remarkable. You did something to me that no man born of womanhas ever succeeded in doing before.”

“Indeed!”

“Now I remember,” resumed Gregory reflectively, “one otherperson succeeded in doing it. The captain of a penny steamer (if I remembercorrectly) at Southend. You have irritated me.”

“I am very sorry,” replied Syme with gravity.

“I am afraid my fury and your insult are too shocking to be wiped outeven with an apology,” said Gregory very calmly. “No duel couldwipe it out. If I struck you dead I could not wipe it out. There is only oneway by which that insult can be erased, and that way I choose. I am going, atthe possible sacrifice of my life and honour, to prove to you that youwere wrong in what you said.”

“In what I said?”

“You said I was not serious about being an anarchist.”

“There are degrees of seriousness,” replied Syme. “I havenever doubted that you were perfectly sincere in this sense, that you thoughtwhat you said well worth saying, that you thought a paradox might wake men upto a neglected truth.”

Gregory stared at him steadily and painfully.

“And in no other sense,” he asked, “you think me serious? Youthink me a flâneur who lets fall occasional truths. You do not thinkthat in a deeper, a more deadly sense, I am serious.”

Syme struck his stick violently on the stones of the road.

“Serious!” he cried. “Good Lord! is this street serious? Arethese damned Chinese lanterns serious? Is the whole caboodle serious? One comeshere and talks a pack of bosh, and perhaps some sense as well, but I shouldthink very little of a man who didn’t keep something in the background ofhis life that was more serious than all this talking—something moreserious, whether it was religion or only drink.”

“Very well,” said Gregory, his face darkening, “you shall seesomething more serious than either drink or religion.”

Syme stood waiting with his usual air of mildness until Gregory again openedhis lips.

“You spoke just now of having a religion. Is it really true that you haveone?”

“Oh,” said Syme with a beaming smile, “we are all Catholicsnow.”

“Then may I ask you to swear by whatever gods or saints your religioninvolves that you will not reveal what I am now going to tell you to any son ofAdam, and especially not to the police? Will you swear that! If you will takeupon yourself this awful abnegation if you will consent to burden your soulwith a vow that you should never make and a knowledge you should never dreamabout, I will promise you in return—”

“You will promise me in return?” inquired Syme, as the otherpaused.

“I will promise you a very entertaining evening.” Syme suddenlytook off his hat.

“Your offer,” he said, “is far too idiotic to be declined.You say that a poet is always an anarchist. I disagree; but I hope at leastthat he is always a sportsman. Permit me, here and now, to swear as aChristian, and promise as a good comrade and a fellow-artist, that I will notreport anything of this, whatever it is, to the police. And now, in the name ofColney Hatch, what is it?”

“I think,” said Gregory, with placid irrelevancy, “that wewill call a cab.”

He gave two long whistles, and a hansom came rattling down the road. The twogot into it in silence. Gregory gave through the trap the address of an obscurepublic-house on the Chiswick bank of the river. The cab whisked itself awayagain, and in it these two fantastics quitted their fantastic town.

CHAPTER II.
THE SECRET OF GABRIEL SYME

The cab pulled up before a particularly dreary and greasy beershop, into whichGregory rapidly conducted his companion. They seated themselves in a close anddim sort of bar-parlour, at a stained wooden table with one wooden leg. Theroom was so small and dark, that very little could be seen of the attendant whowas summoned, beyond a vague and dark impression of something bulky andbearded.

“Will you take a little supper?” asked Gregory politely. “Thepâté de foie gras is not good here, but I can recommend the game.”

Syme received the remark with stolidity, imagining it to be a joke. Acceptingthe vein of humour, he said, with a well-bred indifference—

“Oh, bring me some lobster mayonnaise.”

To his indescribable astonishment, the man only said “Certainly,sir!” and went away apparently to get it.

“What will you drink?” resumed Gregory, with the same careless yetapologetic air. “I shall only have a crême de menthe myself; Ihave dined. But the champagne can really be trusted. Do let me start you with ahalf-bottle of Pommery at least?”

“Thank you!” said the motionless Syme. “You are verygood.”

His further attempts at conversation, somewhat disorganised in themselves, werecut short finally as by a thunderbolt by the actual appearance of the lobster.Syme tasted it, and found it particularly good. Then he suddenly began to eatwith great rapidity and appetite.

“Excuse me if I enjoy myself rather obviously!” he said to Gregory,smiling. “I don’t often have the luck to have a dream like this. Itis new to me for a nightmare to lead to a lobster. It is commonly the otherway.”

“You are not asleep, I assure you,” said Gregory. “You are,on the contrary, close to the most actual and rousing moment of your existence.Ah, here comes your champagne! I admit that there may be a slightdisproportion, let us say, between the inner arrangements of this excellenthotel and its simple and unpretentious exterior. But that is all our modesty.We are the most modest men that ever lived on earth.”

“And who are we?” asked Syme, emptying his champagne glass.

“It is quite simple,” replied Gregory. “We are theserious anarchists, in whom you do not believe.”

“Oh!” said Syme shortly. “You do yourselves well indrinks.”

“Yes, we are serious about everything,” answered Gregory.

Then after a pause he added—

“If in a few moments this table begins to turn round a little,don’t put it down to your inroads into the champagne. I don’t wishyou to do yourself an injustice.”

“Well, if I am not drunk, I am mad,” replied Syme with perfectcalm; “but I trust I can behave like a gentleman in either condition. MayI smoke?”

“Certainly!” said Gregory, producing a cigar-case. “Try oneof mine.”

Syme took the cigar, clipped the end off with a cigar-cutter out of hiswaistcoat pocket, put it in his mouth, lit it slowly, and let out a long cloudof smoke. It is not a little to his credit that he performed these rites withso much composure, for almost before he had begun them the table at which hesat had begun to revolve, first slowly, and then rapidly, as if at an insaneseance.

“You must not mind it,” said Gregory; “it’s a kind ofscrew.”

“Quite so,” said Syme placidly, “a kind of screw. How simplethat is!”

The next moment the smoke of his cigar, which had been wavering across the roomin snaky twists, went straight up as if from a factory chimney, and the two,with their chairs and table, shot down through the floor as if the earth hadswallowed them. They went rattling down a kind of roaring chimney as rapidly asa lift cut loose, and they came with an abrupt bump to the bottom. But whenGregory threw open a pair of doors and let in a red subterranean light, Symewas still smoking with one leg thrown over the other, and had not turned ayellow hair.

Gregory led him down a low, vaulted passage, at the end of which was the redlight. It was an enormous crimson lantern, nearly as big as a fireplace, fixedover a small but heavy iron door. In the door there was a sort of hatchway orgrating, and on this Gregory struck five times. A heavy voice with a foreignaccent asked him who he was. To this he gave the more or less unexpected reply,“Mr. Joseph Chamberlain.” The heavy hinges began to move; it wasobviously some kind of password.

Inside the doorway the passage gleamed as if it were lined with a network ofsteel. On a second glance, Syme saw that the glittering pattern was really madeup of ranks and ranks of rifles and revolvers, closely packed or interlocked.

“I must ask you to forgive me all these formalities,” said Gregory;“we have to be very strict here.”

“Oh, don’t apologise,” said Syme. “I know your passionfor law and order,” and he stepped into the passage lined with the steelweapons. With his long, fair hair and rather foppish frock-coat, he looked asingularly frail and fanciful figure as he walked down that shining avenue ofdeath.

They passed through several such passages, and came out at last into a queersteel chamber with curved walls, almost spherical in shape, but presenting,with its tiers of benches, something of the appearance of a scientificlecture-theatre. There were no rifles or pistols in this apartment, but roundthe walls of it were hung more dubious and dreadful shapes, things that lookedlike the bulbs of iron plants, or the eggs of iron birds. They were bombs, andthe very room itself seemed like the inside of a bomb. Syme knocked his cigarash off against the wall, and went in.

“And now, my dear Mr. Syme,” said Gregory, throwing himself in anexpansive manner on the bench under the largest bomb, “now we are quitecosy, so let us talk properly. Now no human words can give you any notion ofwhy I brought you here. It was one of those quite arbitrary emotions, likejumping off a cliff or falling in love. Suffice it to say that you were aninexpressibly irritating fellow, and, to do you justice, you are still. I wouldbreak twenty oaths of secrecy for the pleasure of taking you down a peg. Thatway you have of lighting a cigar would make a priest break the seal ofconfession. Well, you said that you were quite certain I was not a seriousanarchist. Does this place strike you as being serious?”

“It does seem to have a moral under all its gaiety,” assented Syme;“but may I ask you two questions? You need not fear to give meinformation, because, as you remember, you very wisely extorted from me apromise not to tell the police, a promise I shall certainly keep. So it is inmere curiosity that I make my queries. First of all, what is it really allabout? What is it you object to? You want to abolish Government?”

“To abolish God!” said Gregory, opening the eyes of a fanatic.“We do not only want to upset a few despotisms and police regulations;that sort of anarchism does exist, but it is a mere branch of theNonconformists. We dig deeper and we blow you higher. We wish to deny all thosearbitrary distinctions of vice and virtue, honour and treachery, upon whichmere rebels base themselves. The silly sentimentalists of the French Revolutiontalked of the Rights of Man! We hate Rights as we hate Wrongs. We haveabolished Right and Wrong.”

“And Right and Left,” said Syme with a simple eagerness, “Ihope you will abolish them too. They are much more troublesome to me.”

“You spoke of a second question,” snapped Gregory.

“With pleasure,” resumed Syme. “In all your present acts andsurroundings there is a scientific attempt at secrecy. I have an aunt who livedover a shop, but this is the first time I have found people living frompreference under a public-house. You have a heavy iron door. You cannot pass itwithout submitting to the humiliation of calling yourself Mr. Chamberlain. Yousurround yourself with steel instruments which make the place, if I may say so,more impressive than homelike. May I ask why, after taking all this trouble tobarricade yourselves in the bowels of the earth, you then parade your wholesecret by talking about anarchism to every silly woman in Saffron Park?”

Gregory smiled.

“The answer is simple,” he said. “I told you I was a seriousanarchist, and you did not believe me. Nor do they believe me. Unless Itook them into this infernal room they would not believe me.”

Syme smoked thoughtfully, and looked at him with interest. Gregory went on.

“The history of the thing might amuse you,” he said. “Whenfirst I became one of the New Anarchists I tried all kinds of respectabledisguises. I dressed up as a bishop. I read up all about bishops in ouranarchist pamphlets, in Superstition the Vampire and Priests ofPrey. I certainly understood from them that bishops are strange andterrible old men keeping a cruel secret from mankind. I was misinformed. Whenon my first appearing in episcopal gaiters in a drawing-room I cried out in avoice of thunder, ‘Down! down! presumptuous human reason!’ theyfound out in some way that I was not a bishop at all. I was nabbed at once.Then I made up as a millionaire; but I defended Capital with so muchintelligence that a fool could see that I was quite poor. Then I tried being amajor. Now I am a humanitarian myself, but I have, I hope, enough intellectualbreadth to understand the position of those who, like Nietzsche, admireviolence—the proud, mad war of Nature and all that, you know. I threwmyself into the major. I drew my sword and waved it constantly. I called out‘Blood!’ abstractedly, like a man calling for wine. I often said,‘Let the weak perish; it is the Law.’ Well, well, it seems majorsdon’t do this. I was nabbed again. At last I went in despair to thePresident of the Central Anarchist Council, who is the greatest man inEurope.”

“What is his name?” asked Syme.

“You would not know it,” answered Gregory. “That is hisgreatness. Caesar and Napoleon put all their genius into being heard of, andthey were heard of. He puts all his genius into not being heard of, andhe is not heard of. But you cannot be for five minutes in the room with himwithout feeling that Caesar and Napoleon would have been children in hishands.”

He was silent and even pale for a moment, and then resumed—

“But whenever he gives advice it is always something as startling as anepigram, and yet as practical as the Bank of England. I said to him,‘What disguise will hide me from the world? What can I find morerespectable than bishops and majors?’ He looked at me with his large butindecipherable face. ‘You want a safe disguise, do you? You want a dresswhich will guarantee you harmless; a dress in which no one would ever look fora bomb?’ I nodded. He suddenly lifted his lion’s voice. ‘Why,then, dress up as an anarchist, you fool!’ he roared so that theroom shook. ‘Nobody will ever expect you to do anything dangerousthen.’ And he turned his broad back on me without another word. I tookhis advice, and have never regretted it. I preached blood and murder to thosewomen day and night, and—by God!—they would let me wheel theirperambulators.”

Syme sat watching him with some respect in his large, blue eyes.

“You took me in,” he said. “It is really a smartdodge.”

Then after a pause he added—

“What do you call this tremendous President of yours?”

“We generally call him Sunday,” replied Gregory with simplicity.“You see, there are seven members of the Central Anarchist Council, andthey are named after days of the week. He is called Sunday, by some of hisadmirers Bloody Sunday. It is curious you should mention the matter, becausethe very night you have dropped in (if I may so express it) is the night onwhich our London branch, which assembles in this room, has to elect its owndeputy to fill a vacancy in the Council. The gentleman who has for some timepast played, with propriety and general applause, the difficult part ofThursday, has died quite suddenly. Consequently, we have called a meeting thisvery evening to elect a successor.”

He got to his feet and strolled across the room with a sort of smilingembarrassment.

“I feel somehow as if you were my mother, Syme,” he continuedcasually. “I feel that I can confide anything to you, as you havepromised to tell nobody. In fact, I will confide to you something that I wouldnot say in so many words to the anarchists who will be coming to the room inabout ten minutes. We shall, of course, go through a form of election; but Idon’t mind telling you that it is practically certain what the resultwill be.” He looked down for a moment modestly. “It is almost asettled thing that I am to be Thursday.”

“My dear fellow.” said Syme heartily, “I congratulate you. Agreat career!”

Gregory smiled in deprecation, and walked across the room, talking rapidly.

“As a matter of fact, everything is ready for me on this table,” hesaid, “and the ceremony will probably be the shortest possible.”

Syme also strolled across to the table, and found lying across it awalking-stick, which turned out on examination to be a sword-stick, a largeColt’s revolver, a sandwich case, and a formidable flask of brandy. Overthe chair, beside the table, was thrown a heavy-looking cape or cloak.

“I have only to get the form of election finished,” continuedGregory with animation, “then I snatch up this cloak and stick, stuffthese other things into my pocket, step out of a door in this cavern, whichopens on the river, where there is a steam-tug already waiting for me, andthen—then—oh, the wild joy of being Thursday!” And he claspedhis hands.

Syme, who had sat down once more with his usual insolent languor, got to hisfeet with an unusual air of hesitation.

“Why is it,” he asked vaguely, “that I think you are quite adecent fellow? Why do I positively like you, Gregory?” He paused amoment, and then added with a sort of fresh curiosity, “Is it because youare such an ass?”

There was a thoughtful silence again, and then he cried out—

“Well, damn it all! this is the funniest situation I have ever been in inmy life, and I am going to act accordingly. Gregory, I gave you a promisebefore I came into this place. That promise I would keep under red-hot pincers.Would you give me, for my own safety, a little promise of the same kind?”

“A promise?” asked Gregory, wondering.

“Yes,” said Syme very seriously, “a promise. I swore beforeGod that I would not tell your secret to the police. Will you swear byHumanity, or whatever beastly thing you believe in, that you will not tell mysecret to the anarchists?”

“Your secret?” asked the staring Gregory. “Have you got asecret?”

“Yes,” said Syme, “I have a secret.” Then after apause, “Will you swear?”

Gregory glared at him gravely for a few moments, and then said abruptly—

“You must have bewitched me, but I feel a furious curiosity about you.Yes, I will swear not to tell the anarchists anything you tell me. But looksharp, for they will be here in a couple of minutes.”

Syme rose slowly to his feet and thrust his long, white hands into his long,grey trousers’ pockets. Almost as he did so there came five knocks on theouter grating, proclaiming the arrival of the first of the conspirators.

“Well,” said Syme slowly, “I don’t know how to tell youthe truth more shortly than by saying that your expedient of dressing up as anaimless poet is not confined to you or your President. We have known the dodgefor some time at Scotland Yard.”

Gregory tried to spring up straight, but he swayed thrice.

“What do you say?” he asked in an inhuman voice.

“Yes,” said Syme simply, “I am a police detective. But Ithink I hear your friends coming.”

From the doorway there came a murmur of “Mr. Joseph Chamberlain.”It was repeated twice and thrice, and then thirty times, and the crowd ofJoseph Chamberlains (a solemn thought) could be heard trampling down thecorridor.

CHAPTER III.
THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY

Before one of the fresh faces could appear at the doorway, Gregory’sstunned surprise had fallen from him. He was beside the table with a bound, anda noise in his throat like a wild beast. He caught up the Colt’s revolverand took aim at Syme. Syme did not flinch, but he put up a pale and politehand.

“Don’t be such a silly man,” he said, with the effeminatedignity of a curate. “Don’t you see it’s not necessary?Don’t you see that we’re both in the same boat? Yes, and jollysea-sick.”

Gregory could not speak, but he could not fire either, and he looked hisquestion.

“Don’t you see we’ve checkmated each other?” criedSyme. “I can’t tell the police you are an anarchist. Youcan’t tell the anarchists I’m a policeman. I can only watch you,knowing what you are; you can only watch me, knowing what I am. In short,it’s a lonely, intellectual duel, my head against yours. I’m apoliceman deprived of the help of the police. You, my poor fellow, are ananarchist deprived of the help of that law and organisation which is soessential to anarchy. The one solitary difference is in your favour. You arenot surrounded by inquisitive policemen; I am surrounded by inquisitiveanarchists. I cannot betray you, but I might betray myself. Come, come! waitand see me betray myself. I shall do it so nicely.”

Gregory put the pistol slowly down, still staring at Syme as if he were asea-monster.

“I don’t believe in immortality,” he said at last, “butif, after all this, you were to break your word, God would make a hell only foryou, to howl in for ever.”

“I shall not break my word,” said Syme sternly, “nor will youbreak yours. Here are your friends.”

The mass of the anarchists entered the room heavily, with a slouching andsomewhat weary gait; but one little man, with a black beard and glasses—aman somewhat of the type of Mr. Tim Healy—detached himself, and bustledforward with some papers in his hand.

“Comrade Gregory,” he said, “I suppose this man is adelegate?”

Gregory, taken by surprise, looked down and muttered the name of Syme; but Symereplied almost pertly—

“I am glad to see that your gate is well enough guarded to make it hardfor anyone to be here who was not a delegate.”

The brow of the little man with the black beard was, however, still contractedwith something like suspicion.

“What branch do you represent?” he asked sharply.

“I should hardly call it a branch,” said Syme, laughing; “Ishould call it at the very least a root.”

“What do you mean?”

“The fact is,” said Syme serenely, “the truth is I am aSabbatarian. I have been specially sent here to see that you show a dueobservance of Sunday.”

The little man dropped one of his papers, and a flicker of fear went over allthe faces of the group. Evidently the awful President, whose name was Sunday,did sometimes send down such irregular ambassadors to such branch meetings.

“Well, comrade,” said the man with the papers after a pause,“I suppose we’d better give you a seat in the meeting?”

“If you ask my advice as a friend,” said Syme with severebenevolence, “I think you’d better.”

When Gregory heard the dangerous dialogue end, with a sudden safety for hisrival, he rose abruptly and paced the floor in painful thought. He was, indeed,in an agony of diplomacy. It was clear that Syme’s inspired impudence waslikely to bring him out of all merely accidental dilemmas. Little was to behoped from them. He could not himself betray Syme, partly from honour, butpartly also because, if he betrayed him and for some reason failed to destroyhim, the Syme who escaped would be a Syme freed from all obligation of secrecy,a Syme who would simply walk to the nearest police station. After all, it wasonly one night’s discussion, and only one detective who would know of it.He would let out as little as possible of their plans that night, and then letSyme go, and chance it.

He strode across to the group of anarchists, which was already distributingitself along the benches.

“I think it is time we began,” he said; “the steam-tug iswaiting on the river already. I move that Comrade Buttons takes thechair.”

This being approved by a show of hands, the little man with the papers slippedinto the presidential seat.

“Comrades,” he began, as sharp as a pistol-shot, “our meetingtonight is important, though it need not be long. This branch has always hadthe honour of electing Thursdays for the Central European Council. We haveelected many and splendid Thursdays. We all lament the sad decease of theheroic worker who occupied the post until last week. As you know, his servicesto the cause were considerable. He organised the great dynamite coup ofBrighton which, under happier circumstances, ought to have killed everybody onthe pier. As you also know, his death was as self-denying as his life, for hedied through his faith in a hygienic mixture of chalk and water as a substitutefor milk, which beverage he regarded as barbaric, and as involving cruelty tothe cow. Cruelty, or anything approaching to cruelty, revolted him always. Butit is not to acclaim his virtues that we are met, but for a harder task. It isdifficult properly to praise his qualities, but it is more difficult to replacethem. Upon you, comrades, it devolves this evening to choose out of the companypresent the man who shall be Thursday. If any comrade suggests a name I willput it to the vote. If no comrade suggests a name, I can only tell myself thatthat dear dynamiter, who is gone from us, has carried into the unknowableabysses the last secret of his virtue and his innocence.”

There was a stir of almost inaudible applause, such as is sometimes heard inchurch. Then a large old man, with a long and venerable white beard, perhapsthe only real working-man present, rose lumberingly and said—

“I move that Comrade Gregory be elected Thursday,” and satlumberingly down again.

“Does anyone second?” asked the chairman.

A little man with a velvet coat and pointed beard seconded.

“Before I put the matter to the vote,” said the chairman, “Iwill call on Comrade Gregory to make a statement.”

Gregory rose amid a great rumble of applause. His face was deadly pale, so thatby contrast his queer red hair looked almost scarlet. But he was smiling andaltogether at ease. He had made up his mind, and he saw his best policy quiteplain in front of him like a white road. His best chance was to make a softenedand ambiguous speech, such as would leave on the detective’s mind theimpression that the anarchist brotherhood was a very mild affair after all. Hebelieved in his own literary power, his capacity for suggesting fine shades andpicking perfect words. He thought that with care he could succeed, in spite ofall the people around him, in conveying an impression of the institution,subtly and delicately false. Syme had once thought that anarchists, under alltheir bravado, were only playing the fool. Could he not now, in the hour ofperil, make Syme think so again?

“Comrades,” began Gregory, in a low but penetrating voice,“it is not necessary for me to tell you what is my policy, for it is yourpolicy also. Our belief has been slandered, it has been disfigured, it has beenutterly confused and concealed, but it has never been altered. Those who talkabout anarchism and its dangers go everywhere and anywhere to get theirinformation, except to us, except to the fountain head. They learn aboutanarchists from sixpenny novels; they learn about anarchists fromtradesmen’s newspapers; they learn about anarchists from AllySloper’s Half-Holiday and the Sporting Times. They never learnabout anarchists from anarchists. We have no chance of denying the mountainousslanders which are heaped upon our heads from one end of Europe to another. Theman who has always heard that we are walking plagues has never heard our reply.I know that he will not hear it tonight, though my passion were to rend theroof. For it is deep, deep under the earth that the persecuted are permitted toassemble, as the Christians assembled in the Catacombs. But if, by someincredible accident, there were here tonight a man who all his life had thusimmensely misunderstood us, I would put this question to him: ‘When thoseChristians met in those Catacombs, what sort of moral reputation had they inthe streets above? What tales were told of their atrocities by one educatedRoman to another? Suppose’ (I would say to him), ‘suppose that weare only repeating that still mysterious paradox of history. Suppose we seem asshocking as the Christians because we are really as harmless as the Christians.Suppose we seem as mad as the Christians because we are really asmeek.”’

The applause that had greeted the opening sentences had been gradually growingfainter, and at the last word it stopped suddenly. In the abrupt silence, theman with the velvet jacket said, in a high, squeaky voice—

“I’m not meek!”

“Comrade Witherspoon tells us,” resumed Gregory, “that he isnot meek. Ah, how little he knows himself! His words are, indeed, extravagant;his appearance is ferocious, and even (to an ordinary taste) unattractive. Butonly the eye of a friendship as deep and delicate as mine can perceive the deepfoundation of solid meekness which lies at the base of him, too deep even forhimself to see. I repeat, we are the true early Christians, only that we cometoo late. We are simple, as they revere simple—look at ComradeWitherspoon. We are modest, as they were modest—look at me. We aremerciful—”

“No, no!” called out Mr. Witherspoon with the velvet jacket.

“I say we are merciful,” repeated Gregory furiously, “as theearly Christians were merciful. Yet this did not prevent their being accused ofeating human flesh. We do not eat human flesh—”

“Shame!” cried Witherspoon. “Why not?”

“Comrade Witherspoon,” said Gregory, with a feverish gaiety,“is anxious to know why nobody eats him (laughter). In our society, atany rate, which loves him sincerely, which is founded upon love—”

“No, no!” said Witherspoon, “down with love.”

“Which is founded upon love,” repeated Gregory, grinding his teeth,“there will be no difficulty about the aims which we shall pursue as abody, or which I should pursue were I chosen as the representative of thatbody. Superbly careless of the slanders that represent us as assassins andenemies of human society, we shall pursue with moral courage and quietintellectual pressure, the permanent ideals of brotherhood andsimplicity.”

Gregory resumed his seat and passed his hand across his forehead. The silencewas sudden and awkward, but the chairman rose like an automaton, and said in acolourless voice—

“Does anyone oppose the election of Comrade Gregory?”

The assembly seemed vague and sub-consciously disappointed, and ComradeWitherspoon moved restlessly on his seat and muttered in his thick beard. Bythe sheer rush of routine, however, the motion would have been put and carried.But as the chairman was opening his mouth to put it, Syme sprang to his feetand said in a small and quiet voice—

“Yes, Mr. Chairman, I oppose.”

The most effective fact in oratory is an unexpected change in the voice. Mr.Gabriel Syme evidently understood oratory. Having said these first formal wordsin a moderated tone and with a brief simplicity, he made his next word ring andvolley in the vault as if one of the guns had gone off.

“Comrades!” he cried, in a voice that made every man jump out ofhis boots, “have we come here for this? Do we live underground like ratsin order to listen to talk like this? This is talk we might listen to whileeating buns at a Sunday School treat. Do we line these walls with weapons andbar that door with death lest anyone should come and hear Comrade Gregorysaying to us, ‘Be good, and you will be happy,’ ‘Honesty isthe best policy,’ and ‘Virtue is its own reward’? There wasnot a word in Comrade Gregory’s address to which a curate could not havelistened with pleasure (hear, hear). But I am not a curate (loud cheers), and Idid not listen to it with pleasure (renewed cheers). The man who is fitted tomake a good curate is not fitted to make a resolute, forcible, and efficientThursday (hear, hear).”

“Comrade Gregory has told us, in only too apologetic a tone, that we arenot the enemies of society. But I say that we are the enemies of society, andso much the worse for society. We are the enemies of society, for society isthe enemy of humanity, its oldest and its most pitiless enemy (hear, hear).Comrade Gregory has told us (apologetically again) that we are not murderers.There I agree. We are not murderers, we are executioners (cheers).”

Ever since Syme had risen Gregory had sat staring at him, his face idiotic withastonishment. Now in the pause his lips of clay parted, and he said, with anautomatic and lifeless distinctness—

“You damnable hypocrite!”

Syme looked straight into those frightful eyes with his own pale blue ones, andsaid with dignity—

“Comrade Gregory accuses me of hypocrisy. He knows as well as I do that Iam keeping all my engagements and doing nothing but my duty. I do not mincewords. I do not pretend to. I say that Comrade Gregory is unfit to be Thursdayfor all his amiable qualities. He is unfit to be Thursday because of hisamiable qualities. We do not want the Supreme Council of Anarchy infected witha maudlin mercy (hear, hear). This is no time for ceremonial politeness,neither is it a time for ceremonial modesty. I set myself against ComradeGregory as I would set myself against all the Governments of Europe, becausethe anarchist who has given himself to anarchy has forgotten modesty as much ashe has forgotten pride (cheers). I am not a man at all. I am a cause (renewedcheers). I set myself against Comrade Gregory as impersonally and as calmly asI should choose one pistol rather than another out of that rack upon the wall;and I say that rather than have Gregory and his milk-and-water methods on theSupreme Council, I would offer myself for election—”

His sentence was drowned in a deafening cataract of applause. The faces, thathad grown fiercer and fiercer with approval as his tirade grew more and moreuncompromising, were now distorted with grins of anticipation or cloven withdelighted cries. At the moment when he announced himself as ready to stand forthe post of Thursday, a roar of excitement and assent broke forth, and becameuncontrollable, and at the same moment Gregory sprang to his feet, with foamupon his mouth, and shouted against the shouting.

“Stop, you blasted madmen!” he cried, at the top of a voice thattore his throat. “Stop, you—”

But louder than Gregory’s shouting and louder than the roar of the roomcame the voice of Syme, still speaking in a peal of pitiless thunder—

“I do not go to the Council to rebut that slander that calls usmurderers; I go to earn it (loud and prolonged cheering). To the priest whosays these men are the enemies of religion, to the judge who says these men arethe enemies of law, to the fat parliamentarian who says these men are theenemies of order and public decency, to all these I will reply, ‘You arefalse kings, but you are true prophets. I am come to destroy you, and to fulfilyour prophecies.’”

The heavy clamour gradually died away, but before it had ceased Witherspoon hadjumped to his feet, his hair and beard all on end, and had said—

“I move, as an amendment, that Comrade Syme be appointed to thepost.”

“Stop all this, I tell you!” cried Gregory, with frantic face andhands. “Stop it, it is all—”

The voice of the chairman clove his speech with a cold accent.

“Does anyone second this amendment?” he said. A tall, tired man,with melancholy eyes and an American chin beard, was observed on the back benchto be slowly rising to his feet. Gregory had been screaming for some time past;now there was a change in his accent, more shocking than any scream. “Iend all this!” he said, in a voice as heavy as stone.

“This man cannot be elected. He is a—”

“Yes,” said Syme, quite motionless, “what is he?”Gregory’s mouth worked twice without sound; then slowly the blood beganto crawl back into his dead face. “He is a man quite inexperienced in ourwork,” he said, and sat down abruptly.

Before he had done so, the long, lean man with the American beard was againupon his feet, and was repeating in a high American monotone—

“I beg to second the election of Comrade Syme.”

“The amendment will, as usual, be put first,” said Mr. Buttons, thechairman, with mechanical rapidity.

“The question is that Comrade Syme—”

Gregory had again sprung to his feet, panting and passionate.

“Comrades,” he cried out, “I am not a madman.”

“Oh, oh!” said Mr. Witherspoon.

“I am not a madman,” reiterated Gregory, with a frightful sinceritywhich for a moment staggered the room, “but I give you a counsel whichyou can call mad if you like. No, I will not call it a counsel, for I can giveyou no reason for it. I will call it a command. Call it a mad command, but actupon it. Strike, but hear me! Kill me, but obey me! Do not elect thisman.” Truth is so terrible, even in fetters, that for a momentSyme’s slender and insane victory swayed like a reed. But you could nothave guessed it from Syme’s bleak blue eyes. He merely began—

“Comrade Gregory commands—”

Then the spell was snapped, and one anarchist called out to Gregory—

“Who are you? You are not Sunday;” and another anarchist added in aheavier voice, “And you are not Thursday.”

“Comrades,” cried Gregory, in a voice like that of a martyr who inan ecstacy of pain has passed beyond pain, “it is nothing to me whetheryou detest me as a tyrant or detest me as a slave. If you will not take mycommand, accept my degradation. I kneel to you. I throw myself at your feet. Iimplore you. Do not elect this man.”

“Comrade Gregory,” said the chairman after a painful pause,“this is really not quite dignified.”

For the first time in the proceedings there was for a few seconds a realsilence. Then Gregory fell back in his seat, a pale wreck of a man, and thechairman repeated, like a piece of clock-work suddenly started again—

“The question is that Comrade Syme be elected to the post of Thursday onthe General Council.”

The roar rose like the sea, the hands rose like a forest, and three minutesafterwards Mr. Gabriel Syme, of the Secret Police Service, was elected to thepost of Thursday on the General Council of the Anarchists of Europe.

Everyone in the room seemed to feel the tug waiting on the river, thesword-stick and the revolver, waiting on the table. The instant the electionwas ended and irrevocable, and Syme had received the paper proving hiselection, they all sprang to their feet, and the fiery groups moved and mixedin the room. Syme found himself, somehow or other, face to face with Gregory,who still regarded him with a stare of stunned hatred. They were silent formany minutes.

“You are a devil!” said Gregory at last.

“And you are a gentleman,” said Syme with gravity.

“It was you that entrapped me,” began Gregory, shaking from head tofoot, “entrapped me into—”

“Talk sense,” said Syme shortly. “Into what sort ofdevils’ parliament have you entrapped me, if it comes to that? You mademe swear before I made you. Perhaps we are both doing what we think right. Butwhat we think right is so damned different that there can be nothing between usin the way of concession. There is nothing possible between us but honour anddeath,” and he pulled the great cloak about his shoulders and picked upthe flask from the table.

“The boat is quite ready,” said Mr. Buttons, bustling up. “Begood enough to step this way.”

With a gesture that revealed the shop-walker, he led Syme down a short,iron-bound passage, the still agonised Gregory following feverishly at theirheels. At the end of the passage was a door, which Buttons opened sharply,showing a sudden blue and silver picture of the moonlit river, that looked likea scene in a theatre. Close to the opening lay a dark, dwarfish steam-launch,like a baby dragon with one red eye.

Almost in the act of stepping on board, Gabriel Syme turned to the gapingGregory.

“You have kept your word,” he said gently, with his face in shadow.“You are a man of honour, and I thank you. You have kept it even down toa small particular. There was one special thing you promised me at thebeginning of the affair, and which you have certainly given me by the end ofit.”

“What do you mean?” cried the chaotic Gregory. “What did Ipromise you?”

“A very entertaining evening,” said Syme, and he made a militarysalute with the sword-stick as the steamboat slid away.

CHAPTER IV.
THE TALE OF A DETECTIVE

Gabriel Syme was not merely a detective who pretended to be a poet; he wasreally a poet who had become a detective. Nor was his hatred of anarchyhypocritical. He was one of those who are driven early in life into tooconservative an attitude by the bewildering folly of most revolutionists. Hehad not attained it by any tame tradition. His respectability was spontaneousand sudden, a rebellion against rebellion. He came of a family of cranks, inwhich all the oldest people had all the newest notions. One of his unclesalways walked about without a hat, and another had made an unsuccessful attemptto walk about with a hat and nothing else. His father cultivated art andself-realisation; his mother went in for simplicity and hygiene. Hence thechild, during his tenderer years, was wholly unacquainted with any drinkbetween the extremes of absinth and cocoa, of both of which he had a healthydislike. The more his mother preached a more than Puritan abstinence the moredid his father expand into a more than pagan latitude; and by the time theformer had come to enforcing vegetarianism, the latter had pretty well reachedthe point of defending cannibalism.

Being surrounded with every conceivable kind of revolt from infancy, Gabrielhad to revolt into something, so he revolted into the only thingleft—sanity. But there was just enough in him of the blood of thesefanatics to make even his protest for common sense a little too fierce to besensible. His hatred of modern lawlessness had been crowned also by anaccident. It happened that he was walking in a side street at the instant of adynamite outrage. He had been blind and deaf for a moment, and then seen, thesmoke clearing, the broken windows and the bleeding faces. After that he wentabout as usual—quiet, courteous, rather gentle; but there was a spot onhis mind that was not sane. He did not regard anarchists, as most of us do, asa handful of morbid men, combining ignorance with intellectualism. He regardedthem as a huge and pitiless peril, like a Chinese invasion.

He poured perpetually into newspapers and their waste-paper baskets a torrentof tales, verses and violent articles, warning men of this deluge of barbaricdenial. But he seemed to be getting no nearer his enemy, and, what was worse,no nearer a living. As he paced the Thames embankment, bitterly biting a cheapcigar and brooding on the advance of Anarchy, there was no anarchist with abomb in his pocket so savage or so solitary as he. Indeed, he always felt thatGovernment stood alone and desperate, with its back to the wall. He was tooquixotic to have cared for it otherwise.

He walked on the Embankment once under a dark red sunset. The red riverreflected the red sky, and they both reflected his anger. The sky, indeed, wasso swarthy, and the light on the river relatively so lurid, that the wateralmost seemed of fiercer flame than the sunset it mirrored. It looked like astream of literal fire winding under the vast caverns of a subterraneancountry.

Syme was shabby in those days. He wore an old-fashioned black chimney-pot hat;he was wrapped in a yet more old-fashioned cloak, black and ragged; and thecombination gave him the look of the early villains in Dickens and BulwerLytton. Also his yellow beard and hair were more unkempt and leonine than whenthey appeared long afterwards, cut and pointed, on the lawns of Saffron Park. Along, lean, black cigar, bought in Soho for twopence, stood out from betweenhis tightened teeth, and altogether he looked a very satisfactory specimen ofthe anarchists upon whom he had vowed a holy war. Perhaps this was why apoliceman on the Embankment spoke to him, and said “Good evening.”

Syme, at a crisis of his morbid fears for humanity, seemed stung by the merestolidity of the automatic official, a mere bulk of blue in the twilight.

“A good evening is it?” he said sharply. “You fellows wouldcall the end of the world a good evening. Look at that bloody red sun and thatbloody river! I tell you that if that were literally human blood, spilt andshining, you would still be standing here as solid as ever, looking out forsome poor harmless tramp whom you could move on. You policemen are cruel to thepoor, but I could forgive you even your cruelty if it were not for yourcalm.”

“If we are calm,” replied the policeman, “it is the calm oforganised resistance.”

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“Eh?” said Syme, staring.

“The soldier must be calm in the thick of the battle,” pursued thepoliceman. “The composure of an army is the anger of a nation.”

“Good God, the Board Schools!” said Syme. “Is thisundenominational education?”

“No,” said the policeman sadly, “I never had any of thoseadvantages. The Board Schools came after my time. What education I had was veryrough and old-fashioned, I am afraid.”

“Where did you have it?” asked Syme, wondering.

“Oh, at Harrow,” said the policeman

The class sympathies which, false as they are, are the truest things in so manymen, broke out of Syme before he could control them.

“But, good Lord, man,” he said, “you oughtn’t to be apoliceman!”

The policeman sighed and shook his head.

“I know,” he said solemnly, “I know I am not worthy.”

“But why did you join the police?” asked Syme with rude curiosity.

“For much the same reason that you abused the police,” replied theother. “I found that there was a special opening in the service for thosewhose fears for humanity were concerned rather with the aberrations of thescientific intellect than with the normal and excusable, though excessive,outbreaks of the human will. I trust I make myself clear.”

“If you mean that you make your opinion clear,” said Syme, “Isuppose you do. But as for making yourself clear, it is the last thing you do.How comes a man like you to be talking philosophy in a blue helmet on theThames embankment?”

“You have evidently not heard of the latest development in our policesystem,” replied the other. “I am not surprised at it. We arekeeping it rather dark from the educated class, because that class containsmost of our enemies. But you seem to be exactly in the right frame of mind. Ithink you might almost join us.”

“Join you in what?” asked Syme.

“I will tell you,” said the policeman slowly. “This is thesituation: The head of one of our departments, one of the most celebrateddetectives in Europe, has long been of opinion that a purely intellectualconspiracy would soon threaten the very existence of civilisation. He iscertain that the scientific and artistic worlds are silently bound in a crusadeagainst the Family and the State. He has, therefore, formed a special corps ofpolicemen, policemen who are also philosophers. It is their business to watchthe beginnings of this conspiracy, not merely in a criminal but in acontroversial sense. I am a democrat myself, and I am fully aware of the valueof the ordinary man in matters of ordinary valour or virtue. But it wouldobviously be undesirable to employ the common policeman in an investigationwhich is also a heresy hunt.”

Syme’s eyes were bright with a sympathetic curiosity.

“What do you do, then?” he said.

“The work of the philosophical policeman,” replied the man in blue,“is at once bolder and more subtle than that of the ordinary detective.The ordinary detective goes to pot-houses to arrest thieves; we go to artistictea-parties to detect pessimists. The ordinary detective discovers from aledger or a diary that a crime has been committed. We discover from a book ofsonnets that a crime will be committed. We have to trace the origin of thosedreadful thoughts that drive men on at last to intellectual fanaticism andintellectual crime. We were only just in time to prevent the assassination atHartlepool, and that was entirely due to the fact that our Mr. Wilks (a smartyoung fellow) thoroughly understood a triolet.”

“Do you mean,” asked Syme, “that there is really as muchconnection between crime and the modern intellect as all that?”

“You are not sufficiently democratic,” answered the policeman,“but you were right when you said just now that our ordinary treatment ofthe poor criminal was a pretty brutal business. I tell you I am sometimes sickof my trade when I see how perpetually it means merely a war upon the ignorantand the desperate. But this new movement of ours is a very different affair. Wedeny the snobbish English assumption that the uneducated are the dangerouscriminals. We remember the Roman Emperors. We remember the great poisoningprinces of the Renaissance. We say that the dangerous criminal is the educatedcriminal. We say that the most dangerous criminal now is the entirely lawlessmodern philosopher. Compared to him, burglars and bigamists are essentiallymoral men; my heart goes out to them. They accept the essential ideal of man;they merely seek it wrongly. Thieves respect property. They merely wish theproperty to become their property that they may more perfectly respect it. Butphilosophers dislike property as property; they wish to destroy the very ideaof personal possession. Bigamists respect marriage, or they would not gothrough the highly ceremonial and even ritualistic formality of bigamy. Butphilosophers despise marriage as marriage. Murderers respect human life; theymerely wish to attain a greater fulness of human life in themselves by thesacrifice of what seems to them to be lesser lives. But philosophers hate lifeitself, their own as much as other people’s.”

Syme struck his hands together.

“How true that is,” he cried. “I have felt it from myboyhood, but never could state the verbal antithesis. The common criminal is abad man, but at least he is, as it were, a conditional good man. He says thatif only a certain obstacle be removed—say a wealthy uncle—he isthen prepared to accept the universe and to praise God. He is a reformer, butnot an anarchist. He wishes to cleanse the edifice, but not to destroy it. Butthe evil philosopher is not trying to alter things, but to annihilate them.Yes, the modern world has retained all those parts of police work which arereally oppressive and ignominious, the harrying of the poor, the spying uponthe unfortunate. It has given up its more dignified work, the punishment ofpowerful traitors in the State and powerful heresiarchs in the Church. Themoderns say we must not punish heretics. My only doubt is whether we have aright to punish anybody else.”

“But this is absurd!” cried the policeman, clasping his hands withan excitement uncommon in persons of his figure and costume, “but it isintolerable! I don’t know what you’re doing, but you’rewasting your life. You must, you shall, join our special army against anarchy.Their armies are on our frontiers. Their bolt is ready to fall. A moment more,and you may lose the glory of working with us, perhaps the glory of dying withthe last heroes of the world.”

“It is a chance not to be missed, certainly,” assented Syme,“but still I do not quite understand. I know as well as anybody that themodern world is full of lawless little men and mad little movements. But,beastly as they are, they generally have the one merit of disagreeing with eachother. How can you talk of their leading one army or hurling one bolt. What isthis anarchy?”

“Do not confuse it,” replied the constable, “with thosechance dynamite outbreaks from Russia or from Ireland, which are really theoutbreaks of oppressed, if mistaken, men. This is a vast philosophic movement,consisting of an outer and an inner ring. You might even call the outer ringthe laity and the inner ring the priesthood. I prefer to call the outer ringthe innocent section, the inner ring the supremely guilty section. The outerring—the main mass of their supporters—are merely anarchists; thatis, men who believe that rules and formulas have destroyed human happiness.They believe that all the evil results of human crime are the results of thesystem that has called it crime. They do not believe that the crime creates thepunishment. They believe that the punishment has created the crime. Theybelieve that if a man seduced seven women he would naturally walk away asblameless as the flowers of spring. They believe that if a man picked a pockethe would naturally feel exquisitely good. These I call the innocentsection.”

“Oh!” said Syme.

“Naturally, therefore, these people talk about ‘a happy timecoming’; ‘the paradise of the future’; ‘mankind freedfrom the bondage of vice and the bondage of virtue,’ and so on. And soalso the men of the inner circle speak—the sacred priesthood. They alsospeak to applauding crowds of the happiness of the future, and of mankind freedat last. But in their mouths”—and the policeman lowered hisvoice—“in their mouths these happy phrases have a horrible meaning.They are under no illusions; they are too intellectual to think that man uponthis earth can ever be quite free of original sin and the struggle. And theymean death. When they say that mankind shall be free at last, they mean thatmankind shall commit suicide. When they talk of a paradise without right orwrong, they mean the grave.

“They have but two objects, to destroy first humanity and thenthemselves. That is why they throw bombs instead of firing pistols. Theinnocent rank and file are disappointed because the bomb has not killed theking; but the high-priesthood are happy because it has killed somebody.”

“How can I join you?” asked Syme, with a sort of passion.

“I know for a fact that there is a vacancy at the moment,” said thepoliceman, “as I have the honour to be somewhat in the confidence of thechief of whom I have spoken. You should really come and see him. Or rather, Ishould not say see him, nobody ever sees him; but you can talk to him if youlike.”

“Telephone?” inquired Syme, with interest.

“No,” said the policeman placidly, “he has a fancy for alwayssitting in a pitch-dark room. He says it makes his thoughts brighter. Do comealong.”

Somewhat dazed and considerably excited, Syme allowed himself to be led to aside-door in the long row of buildings of Scotland Yard. Almost before he knewwhat he was doing, he had been passed through the hands of about fourintermediate officials, and was suddenly shown into a room, the abruptblackness of which startled him like a blaze of light. It was not the ordinarydarkness, in which forms can be faintly traced; it was like going suddenlystone-blind.

“Are you the new recruit?” asked a heavy voice.

And in some strange way, though there was not the shadow of a shape in thegloom, Syme knew two things: first, that it came from a man of massive stature;and second, that the man had his back to him.

“Are you the new recruit?” said the invisible chief, who seemed tohave heard all about it. “All right. You are engaged.”

Syme, quite swept off his feet, made a feeble fight against this irrevocablephrase.

“I really have no experience,” he began.

“No one has any experience,” said the other, “of the Battleof Armageddon.”

“But I am really unfit—”

“You are willing, that is enough,” said the unknown.

“Well, really,” said Syme, “I don’t know any professionof which mere willingness is the final test.”

“I do,” said the other—“martyrs. I am condemning you todeath. Good day.”

Thus it was that when Gabriel Syme came out again into the crimson light ofevening, in his shabby black hat and shabby, lawless cloak, he came out amember of the New Detective Corps for the frustration of the great conspiracy.Acting under the advice of his friend the policeman (who was professionallyinclined to neatness), he trimmed his hair and beard, bought a good hat, cladhimself in an exquisite summer suit of light blue-grey, with a pale yellowflower in the button-hole, and, in short, became that elegant and ratherinsupportable person whom Gregory had first encountered in the little garden ofSaffron Park. Before he finally left the police premises his friend providedhim with a small blue card, on which was written, “The LastCrusade,” and a number, the sign of his official authority. He put thiscarefully in his upper waistcoat pocket, lit a cigarette, and went forth totrack and fight the enemy in all the drawing-rooms of London. Where hisadventure ultimately led him we have already seen. At about half-past one on aFebruary night he found himself steaming in a small tug up the silent Thames,armed with swordstick and revolver, the duly elected Thursday of the CentralCouncil of Anarchists.

When Syme stepped out on to the steam-tug he had a singular sensation ofstepping out into something entirely new; not merely into the landscape of anew land, but even into the landscape of a new planet. This was mainly due tothe insane yet solid decision of that evening, though partly also to an entirechange in the weather and the sky since he entered the little tavern some twohours before. Every trace of the passionate plumage of the cloudy sunset hadbeen swept away, and a naked moon stood in a naked sky. The moon was so strongand full that (by a paradox often to be noticed) it seemed like a weaker sun.It gave, not the sense of bright moonshine, but rather of a dead daylight.

Over the whole landscape lay a luminous and unnatural discoloration, as of thatdisastrous twilight which Milton spoke of as shed by the sun in eclipse; sothat Syme fell easily into his first thought, that he was actually on someother and emptier planet, which circled round some sadder star. But the more hefelt this glittering desolation in the moonlit land, the more his own chivalricfolly glowed in the night like a great fire. Even the common things he carriedwith him—the food and the brandy and the loaded pistol—took onexactly that concrete and material poetry which a child feels when he takes agun upon a journey or a bun with him to bed. The sword-stick and thebrandy-flask, though in themselves only the tools of morbid conspirators,became the expressions of his own more healthy romance. The sword-stick becamealmost the sword of chivalry, and the brandy the wine of the stirrup-cup. Foreven the most dehumanised modern fantasies depend on some older and simplerfigure; the adventures may be mad, but the adventurer must be sane. The dragonwithout St. George would not even be grotesque. So this inhuman landscape wasonly imaginative by the presence of a man really human. To Syme’sexaggerative mind the bright, bleak houses and terraces by the Thames looked asempty as the mountains of the moon. But even the moon is only poetical becausethere is a man in the moon.

The tug was worked by two men, and with much toil went comparatively slowly.The clear moon that had lit up Chiswick had gone down by the time that theypassed Battersea, and when they came under the enormous bulk of Westminster dayhad already begun to break. It broke like the splitting of great bars of lead,showing bars of silver; and these had brightened like white fire when the tug,changing its onward course, turned inward to a large landing stage ratherbeyond Charing Cross.

The great stones of the Embankment seemed equally dark and gigantic as Symelooked up at them. They were big and black against the huge white dawn. Theymade him feel that he was landing on the colossal steps of some Egyptianpalace; and, indeed, the thing suited his mood, for he was, in his own mind,mounting to attack the solid thrones of horrible and heathen kings. He leaptout of the boat on to one slimy step, and stood, a dark and slender figure,amid the enormous masonry. The two men in the tug put her off again and turnedup stream. They had never spoken a word.

CHAPTER V.
THE FEAST OF FEAR

At first the large stone stair seemed to Syme as deserted as a pyramid; butbefore he reached the top he had realised that there was a man leaning over theparapet of the Embankment and looking out across the river. As a figure he wasquite conventional, clad in a silk hat and frock-coat of the more formal typeof fashion; he had a red flower in his buttonhole. As Syme drew nearer to himstep by step, he did not even move a hair; and Syme could come close enough tonotice even in the dim, pale morning light that his face was long, pale andintellectual, and ended in a small triangular tuft of dark beard at the verypoint of the chin, all else being clean-shaven. This scrap of hair almostseemed a mere oversight; the rest of the face was of the type that is bestshaven—clear-cut, ascetic, and in its way noble. Syme drew closer andcloser, noting all this, and still the figure did not stir.

At first an instinct had told Syme that this was the man whom he was meant tomeet. Then, seeing that the man made no sign, he had concluded that he was not.And now again he had come back to a certainty that the man had something to dowith his mad adventure. For the man remained more still than would have beennatural if a stranger had come so close. He was as motionless as a wax-work,and got on the nerves somewhat in the same way. Syme looked again and again atthe pale, dignified and delicate face, and the face still looked blankly acrossthe river. Then he took out of his pocket the note from Buttons proving hiselection, and put it before that sad and beautiful face. Then the man smiled,and his smile was a shock, for it was all on one side, going up in the rightcheek and down in the left.

There was nothing, rationally speaking, to scare anyone about this. Many peoplehave this nervous trick of a crooked smile, and in many it is even attractive.But in all Syme’s circumstances, with the dark dawn and the deadly errandand the loneliness on the great dripping stones, there was something unnervingin it.

There was the silent river and the silent man, a man of even classic face. Andthere was the last nightmare touch that his smile suddenly went wrong.

The spasm of smile was instantaneous, and the man’s face dropped at onceinto its harmonious melancholy. He spoke without further explanation orinquiry, like a man speaking to an old colleague.

“If we walk up towards Leicester Square,” he said, “we shalljust be in time for breakfast. Sunday always insists on an early breakfast.Have you had any sleep?”

“No,” said Syme.

“Nor have I,” answered the man in an ordinary tone. “I shalltry to get to bed after breakfast.”

He spoke with casual civility, but in an utterly dead voice that contradictedthe fanaticism of his face. It seemed almost as if all friendly words were tohim lifeless conveniences, and that his only life was hate. After a pause theman spoke again.

“Of course, the Secretary of the branch told you everything that can betold. But the one thing that can never be told is the last notion of thePresident, for his notions grow like a tropical forest. So in case youdon’t know, I’d better tell you that he is carrying out his notionof concealing ourselves by not concealing ourselves to the most extraordinarylengths just now. Originally, of course, we met in a cell underground, just asyour branch does. Then Sunday made us take a private room at an ordinaryrestaurant. He said that if you didn’t seem to be hiding nobody huntedyou out. Well, he is the only man on earth, I know; but sometimes I reallythink that his huge brain is going a little mad in its old age. For now weflaunt ourselves before the public. We have our breakfast on a balcony—ona balcony, if you please—overlooking Leicester Square.”

“And what do the people say?” asked Syme.

“It’s quite simple what they say,” answered his guide.“They say we are a lot of jolly gentlemen who pretend they areanarchists.”

“It seems to me a very clever idea,” said Syme.

“Clever! God blast your impudence! Clever!” cried out the other ina sudden, shrill voice which was as startling and discordant as his crookedsmile. “When you’ve seen Sunday for a split second you’llleave off calling him clever.”

With this they emerged out of a narrow street, and saw the early sunlightfilling Leicester Square. It will never be known, I suppose, why this squareitself should look so alien and in some ways so continental. It will never beknown whether it was the foreign look that attracted the foreigners or theforeigners who gave it the foreign look. But on this particular morning theeffect seemed singularly bright and clear. Between the open square and thesunlit leaves and the statue and the Saracenic outlines of the Alhambra, itlooked the replica of some French or even Spanish public place. And this effectincreased in Syme the sensation, which in many shapes he had had through thewhole adventure, the eerie sensation of having strayed into a new world. As afact, he had bought bad cigars round Leicester Square ever since he was a boy.But as he turned that corner, and saw the trees and the Moorish cupolas, hecould have sworn that he was turning into an unknown Place de something orother in some foreign town.

At one corner of the square there projected a kind of angle of a prosperous butquiet hotel, the bulk of which belonged to a street behind. In the wall therewas one large French window, probably the window of a large coffee-room; andoutside this window, almost literally overhanging the square, was a formidablybuttressed balcony, big enough to contain a dining-table. In fact, it didcontain a dining-table, or more strictly a breakfast-table; and round thebreakfast-table, glowing in the sunlight and evident to the street, were agroup of noisy and talkative men, all dressed in the insolence of fashion, withwhite waistcoats and expensive button-holes. Some of their jokes could almostbe heard across the square. Then the grave Secretary gave his unnatural smile,and Syme knew that this boisterous breakfast party was the secret conclave ofthe European Dynamiters.

Then, as Syme continued to stare at them, he saw something that he had not seenbefore. He had not seen it literally because it was too large to see. At thenearest end of the balcony, blocking up a great part of the perspective, wasthe back of a great mountain of a man. When Syme had seen him, his firstthought was that the weight of him must break down the balcony of stone. Hisvastness did not lie only in the fact that he was abnormally tall and quiteincredibly fat. This man was planned enormously in his original proportions,like a statue carved deliberately as colossal. His head, crowned with whitehair, as seen from behind looked bigger than a head ought to be. The ears thatstood out from it looked larger than human ears. He was enlarged terribly toscale; and this sense of size was so staggering, that when Syme saw him all theother figures seemed quite suddenly to dwindle and become dwarfish. They werestill sitting there as before with their flowers and frock-coats, but now itlooked as if the big man was entertaining five children to tea.

As Syme and the guide approached the side door of the hotel, a waiter came outsmiling with every tooth in his head.

“The gentlemen are up there, sare,” he said. “They do talkand they do laugh at what they talk. They do say they will throw bombs at zeking.”

And the waiter hurried away with a napkin over his arm, much pleased with thesingular frivolity of the gentlemen upstairs.

The two men mounted the stairs in silence.

Syme had never thought of asking whether the monstrous man who almost filledand broke the balcony was the great President of whom the others stood in awe.He knew it was so, with an unaccountable but instantaneous certainty. Syme,indeed, was one of those men who are open to all the more namelesspsychological influences in a degree a little dangerous to mental health.Utterly devoid of fear in physical dangers, he was a great deal too sensitiveto the smell of spiritual evil. Twice already that night little unmeaningthings had peeped out at him almost pruriently, and given him a sense ofdrawing nearer and nearer to the head-quarters of hell. And this sense becameoverpowering as he drew nearer to the great President.

The form it took was a childish and yet hateful fancy. As he walked across theinner room towards the balcony, the large face of Sunday grew larger andlarger; and Syme was gripped with a fear that when he was quite close the facewould be too big to be possible, and that he would scream aloud. He rememberedthat as a child he would not look at the mask of Memnon in the British Museum,because it was a face, and so large.

By an effort, braver than that of leaping over a cliff, he went to an emptyseat at the breakfast-table and sat down. The men greeted him withgood-humoured raillery as if they had always known him. He sobered himself alittle by looking at their conventional coats and solid, shining coffee-pot;then he looked again at Sunday. His face was very large, but it was stillpossible to humanity.

In the presence of the President the whole company looked sufficientlycommonplace; nothing about them caught the eye at first, except that by thePresident’s caprice they had been dressed up with a festiverespectability, which gave the meal the look of a wedding breakfast. One manindeed stood out at even a superficial glance. He at least was the common orgarden Dynamiter. He wore, indeed, the high white collar and satin tie thatwere the uniform of the occasion; but out of this collar there sprang a headquite unmanageable and quite unmistakable, a bewildering bush of brown hair andbeard that almost obscured the eyes like those of a Skye terrier. But the eyesdid look out of the tangle, and they were the sad eyes of some Russian serf.The effect of this figure was not terrible like that of the President, but ithad every diablerie that can come from the utterly grotesque. If out of thatstiff tie and collar there had come abruptly the head of a cat or a dog, itcould not have been a more idiotic contrast.

The man’s name, it seemed, was Gogol; he was a Pole, and in this circleof days he was called Tuesday. His soul and speech were incurably tragic; hecould not force himself to play the prosperous and frivolous part demanded ofhim by President Sunday. And, indeed, when Syme came in the President, withthat daring disregard of public suspicion which was his policy, was actuallychaffing Gogol upon his inability to assume conventional graces.

“Our friend Tuesday,” said the President in a deep voice at once ofquietude and volume, “our friend Tuesday doesn’t seem to grasp theidea. He dresses up like a gentleman, but he seems to be too great a soul tobehave like one. He insists on the ways of the stage conspirator. Now if agentleman goes about London in a top hat and a frock-coat, no one need knowthat he is an anarchist. But if a gentleman puts on a top hat and a frock-coat,and then goes about on his hands and knees—well, he may attractattention. That’s what Brother Gogol does. He goes about on his hands andknees with such inexhaustible diplomacy, that by this time he finds it quitedifficult to walk upright.”

“I am not good at concealment,” said Gogol sulkily, with a thickforeign accent; “I am not ashamed of the cause.”

“Yes you are, my boy, and so is the cause of you,” said thePresident good-naturedly. “You hide as much as anybody; but youcan’t do it, you see, you’re such an ass! You try to combine twoinconsistent methods. When a householder finds a man under his bed, he willprobably pause to note the circumstance. But if he finds a man under his bed ina top hat, you will agree with me, my dear Tuesday, that he is not likely evento forget it. Now when you were found under Admiral Biffin’sbed—”

“I am not good at deception,” said Tuesday gloomily, flushing.

“Right, my boy, right,” said the President with a ponderousheartiness, “you aren’t good at anything.”

While this stream of conversation continued, Syme was looking more steadily atthe men around him. As he did so, he gradually felt all his sense of somethingspiritually queer return.

He had thought at first that they were all of common stature and costume, withthe evident exception of the hairy Gogol. But as he looked at the others, hebegan to see in each of them exactly what he had seen in the man by the river,a demoniac detail somewhere. That lop-sided laugh, which would suddenlydisfigure the fine face of his original guide, was typical of all these types.Each man had something about him, perceived perhaps at the tenth or twentiethglance, which was not normal, and which seemed hardly human. The only metaphorhe could think of was this, that they all looked as men of fashion and presencewould look, with the additional twist given in a false and curved mirror.

Only the individual examples will express this half-concealed eccentricity.Syme’s original cicerone bore the title of Monday; he was the Secretaryof the Council, and his twisted smile was regarded with more terror thananything, except the President’s horrible, happy laughter. But now thatSyme had more space and light to observe him, there were other touches. Hisfine face was so emaciated, that Syme thought it must be wasted with somedisease; yet somehow the very distress of his dark eyes denied this. It was nophysical ill that troubled him. His eyes were alive with intellectual torture,as if pure thought was pain.

He was typical of each of the tribe; each man was subtly and differently wrong.Next to him sat Tuesday, the tousle-headed Gogol, a man more obviously mad.Next was Wednesday, a certain Marquis de St. Eustache, a sufficientlycharacteristic figure. The first few glances found nothing unusual about him,except that he was the only man at table who wore the fashionable clothes as ifthey were really his own. He had a black French beard cut square and a blackEnglish frock-coat cut even squarer. But Syme, sensitive to such things, feltsomehow that the man carried a rich atmosphere with him, a rich atmosphere thatsuffocated. It reminded one irrationally of drowsy odours and of dying lamps inthe darker poems of Byron and Poe. With this went a sense of his being clad,not in lighter colours, but in softer materials; his black seemed richer andwarmer than the black shades about him, as if it were compounded of profoundcolour. His black coat looked as if it were only black by being too dense apurple. His black beard looked as if it were only black by being too deep ablue. And in the gloom and thickness of the beard his dark red mouth showedsensual and scornful. Whatever he was he was not a Frenchman; he might be aJew; he might be something deeper yet in the dark heart of the East. In thebright coloured Persian tiles and pictures showing tyrants hunting, you may seejust those almond eyes, those blue-black beards, those cruel, crimson lips.

Then came Syme, and next a very old man, Professor de Worms, who still kept thechair of Friday, though every day it was expected that his death would leave itempty. Save for his intellect, he was in the last dissolution of senile decay.His face was as grey as his long grey beard, his forehead was lifted and fixedfinally in a furrow of mild despair. In no other case, not even that of Gogol,did the bridegroom brilliancy of the morning dress express a more painfulcontrast. For the red flower in his button-hole showed up against a face thatwas literally discoloured like lead; the whole hideous effect was as if somedrunken dandies had put their clothes upon a corpse. When he rose or sat down,which was with long labour and peril, something worse was expressed than mereweakness, something indefinably connected with the horror of the whole scene.It did not express decrepitude merely, but corruption. Another hateful fancycrossed Syme’s quivering mind. He could not help thinking that wheneverthe man moved a leg or arm might fall off.

Right at the end sat the man called Saturday, the simplest and the mostbaffling of all. He was a short, square man with a dark, square faceclean-shaven, a medical practitioner going by the name of Bull. He had thatcombination of savoir-faire with a sort of well-groomed coarseness whichis not uncommon in young doctors. He carried his fine clothes with confidencerather than ease, and he mostly wore a set smile. There was nothing whateverodd about him, except that he wore a pair of dark, almost opaque spectacles. Itmay have been merely a crescendo of nervous fancy that had gone before, butthose black discs were dreadful to Syme; they reminded him of half-rememberedugly tales, of some story about pennies being put on the eyes of the dead.Syme’s eye always caught the black glasses and the blind grin. Had thedying Professor worn them, or even the pale Secretary, they would have beenappropriate. But on the younger and grosser man they seemed only an enigma.They took away the key of the face. You could not tell what his smile or hisgravity meant. Partly from this, and partly because he had a vulgar virilitywanting in most of the others it seemed to Syme that he might be the wickedestof all those wicked men. Syme even had the thought that his eyes might becovered up because they were too frightful to see.

CHAPTER VI.
THE EXPOSURE

Such were the six men who had sworn to destroy the world. Again and again Symestrove to pull together his common sense in their presence. Sometimes he sawfor an instant that these notions were subjective, that he was only looking atordinary men, one of whom was old, another nervous, another short-sighted. Thesense of an unnatural symbolism always settled back on him again. Each figureseemed to be, somehow, on the borderland of things, just as their theory was onthe borderland of thought. He knew that each one of these men stood at theextreme end, so to speak, of some wild road of reasoning. He could only fancy,as in some old-world fable, that if a man went westward to the end of the worldhe would find something—say a tree—that was more or less than atree, a tree possessed by a spirit; and that if he went east to the end of theworld he would find something else that was not wholly itself—a tower,perhaps, of which the very shape was wicked. So these figures seemed to standup, violent and unaccountable, against an ultimate horizon, visions from theverge. The ends of the earth were closing in.

Talk had been going on steadily as he took in the scene; and not the least ofthe contrasts of that bewildering breakfast-table was the contrast between theeasy and unobtrusive tone of talk and its terrible purport. They were deep inthe discussion of an actual and immediate plot. The waiter downstairs hadspoken quite correctly when he said that they were talking about bombs andkings. Only three days afterwards the Czar was to meet the President of theFrench Republic in Paris, and over their bacon and eggs upon their sunnybalcony these beaming gentlemen had decided how both should die. Even theinstrument was chosen; the black-bearded Marquis, it appeared, was to carry thebomb.

Ordinarily speaking, the proximity of this positive and objective crime wouldhave sobered Syme, and cured him of all his merely mystical tremors. He wouldhave thought of nothing but the need of saving at least two human bodies frombeing ripped in pieces with iron and roaring gas. But the truth was that bythis time he had begun to feel a third kind of fear, more piercing andpractical than either his moral revulsion or his social responsibility. Verysimply, he had no fear to spare for the French President or the Czar; he hadbegun to fear for himself. Most of the talkers took little heed of him,debating now with their faces closer together, and almost uniformly grave, savewhen for an instant the smile of the Secretary ran aslant across his face asthe jagged lightning runs aslant across the sky. But there was one persistentthing which first troubled Syme and at last terrified him. The President wasalways looking at him, steadily, and with a great and baffling interest. Theenormous man was quite quiet, but his blue eyes stood out of his head. And theywere always fixed on Syme.

Syme felt moved to spring up and leap over the balcony. When thePresident’s eyes were on him he felt as if he were made of glass. He hadhardly the shred of a doubt that in some silent and extraordinary way Sundayhad found out that he was a spy. He looked over the edge of the balcony, andsaw a policeman, standing abstractedly just beneath, staring at the brightrailings and the sunlit trees.

Then there fell upon him the great temptation that was to torment him for manydays. In the presence of these powerful and repulsive men, who were the princesof anarchy, he had almost forgotten the frail and fanciful figure of the poetGregory, the mere aesthete of anarchism. He even thought of him now with an oldkindness, as if they had played together when children. But he remembered thathe was still tied to Gregory by a great promise. He had promised never to dothe very thing that he now felt himself almost in the act of doing. He hadpromised not to jump over that balcony and speak to that policeman. He took hiscold hand off the cold stone balustrade. His soul swayed in a vertigo of moralindecision. He had only to snap the thread of a rash vow made to a villainoussociety, and all his life could be as open and sunny as the square beneath him.He had, on the other hand, only to keep his antiquated honour, and be deliveredinch by inch into the power of this great enemy of mankind, whose veryintellect was a torture-chamber. Whenever he looked down into the square he sawthe comfortable policeman, a pillar of common sense and common order. Wheneverhe looked back at the breakfast-table he saw the President still quietlystudying him with big, unbearable eyes.

In all the torrent of his thought there were two thoughts that never crossedhis mind. First, it never occurred to him to doubt that the President and hisCouncil could crush him if he continued to stand alone. The place might bepublic, the project might seem impossible. But Sunday was not the man who wouldcarry himself thus easily without having, somehow or somewhere, set open hisiron trap. Either by anonymous poison or sudden street accident, by hypnotismor by fire from hell, Sunday could certainly strike him. If he defied the manhe was probably dead, either struck stiff there in his chair or long afterwardsas by an innocent ailment. If he called in the police promptly, arrestedeveryone, told all, and set against them the whole energy of England, he wouldprobably escape; certainly not otherwise. They were a balconyful of gentlemenoverlooking a bright and busy square; but he felt no more safe with them thanif they had been a boatful of armed pirates overlooking an empty sea.

There was a second thought that never came to him. It never occurred to him tobe spiritually won over to the enemy. Many moderns, inured to a weak worship ofintellect and force, might have wavered in their allegiance under thisoppression of a great personality. They might have called Sunday the super-man.If any such creature be conceivable, he looked, indeed, somewhat like it, withhis earth-shaking abstraction, as of a stone statue walking. He might have beencalled something above man, with his large plans, which were too obvious to bedetected, with his large face, which was too frank to be understood. But thiswas a kind of modern meanness to which Syme could not sink even in his extrememorbidity. Like any man, he was coward enough to fear great force; but he wasnot quite coward enough to admire it.

The men were eating as they talked, and even in this they were typical. Dr.Bull and the Marquis ate casually and conventionally of the best things on thetable—cold pheasant or Strasbourg pie. But the Secretary was avegetarian, and he spoke earnestly of the projected murder over half a rawtomato and three quarters of a glass of tepid water. The old Professor had suchslops as suggested a sickening second childhood. And even in this PresidentSunday preserved his curious predominance of mere mass. For he ate like twentymen; he ate incredibly, with a frightful freshness of appetite, so that it waslike watching a sausage factory. Yet continually, when he had swallowed a dozencrumpets or drunk a quart of coffee, he would be found with his great head onone side staring at Syme.

“I have often wondered,” said the Marquis, taking a great bite outof a slice of bread and jam, “whether it wouldn’t be better for meto do it with a knife. Most of the best things have been brought off with aknife. And it would be a new emotion to get a knife into a French President andwriggle it round.”

“You are wrong,” said the Secretary, drawing his black browstogether. “The knife was merely the expression of the old personalquarrel with a personal tyrant. Dynamite is not only our best tool, but ourbest symbol. It is as perfect a symbol of us as is incense of the prayers ofthe Christians. It expands; it only destroys because it broadens; even so,thought only destroys because it broadens. A man’s brain is abomb,” he cried out, loosening suddenly his strange passion and strikinghis own skull with violence. “My brain feels like a bomb, night and day.It must expand! It must expand! A man’s brain must expand, if it breaksup the universe.”

“I don’t want the universe broken up just yet,” drawled theMarquis. “I want to do a lot of beastly things before I die. I thought ofone yesterday in bed.”

“No, if the only end of the thing is nothing,” said Dr. Bull withhis sphinx-like smile, “it hardly seems worth doing.”

The old Professor was staring at the ceiling with dull eyes.

“Every man knows in his heart,” he said, “that nothing isworth doing.”

There was a singular silence, and then the Secretary said—

“We are wandering, however, from the point. The only question is howWednesday is to strike the blow. I take it we should all agree with theoriginal notion of a bomb. As to the actual arrangements, I should suggest thattomorrow morning he should go first of all to—”

The speech was broken off short under a vast shadow. President Sunday had risento his feet, seeming to fill the sky above them.

“Before we discuss that,” he said in a small, quiet voice,“let us go into a private room. I have something very particular tosay.”

Syme stood up before any of the others. The instant of choice had come at last,the pistol was at his head. On the pavement before he could hear the policemanidly stir and stamp, for the morning, though bright, was cold.

A barrel-organ in the street suddenly sprang with a jerk into a jovial tune.Syme stood up taut, as if it had been a bugle before the battle. He foundhimself filled with a supernatural courage that came from nowhere. Thatjingling music seemed full of the vivacity, the vulgarity, and the irrationalvalour of the poor, who in all those unclean streets were all clinging to thedecencies and the charities of Christendom. His youthful prank of being apoliceman had faded from his mind; he did not think of himself as therepresentative of the corps of gentlemen turned into fancy constables, or ofthe old eccentric who lived in the dark room. But he did feel himself as theambassador of all these common and kindly people in the street, who every daymarched into battle to the music of the barrel-organ. And this high pride inbeing human had lifted him unaccountably to an infinite height above themonstrous men around him. For an instant, at least, he looked down upon alltheir sprawling eccentricities from the starry pinnacle of the commonplace. Hefelt towards them all that unconscious and elementary superiority that a braveman feels over powerful beasts or a wise man over powerful errors. He knew thathe had neither the intellectual nor the physical strength of President Sunday;but in that moment he minded it no more than the fact that he had not themuscles of a tiger or a horn on his nose like a rhinoceros. All was swallowedup in an ultimate certainty that the President was wrong and that thebarrel-organ was right. There clanged in his mind that unanswerable andterrible truism in the song of Roland—

“Païens ont tort et Chrétiens ont droit,”

which in the old nasal French has the clang and groan of great iron. Thisliberation of his spirit from the load of his weakness went with a quite cleardecision to embrace death. If the people of the barrel-organ could keep theirold-world obligations, so could he. This very pride in keeping his word wasthat he was keeping it to miscreants. It was his last triumph over theselunatics to go down into their dark room and die for something that they couldnot even understand. The barrel-organ seemed to give the marching tune with theenergy and the mingled noises of a whole orchestra; and he could hear deep androlling, under all the trumpets of the pride of life, the drums of the pride ofdeath.

The conspirators were already filing through the open window and into the roomsbehind. Syme went last, outwardly calm, but with all his brain and bodythrobbing with romantic rhythm. The President led them down an irregular sidestair, such as might be used by servants, and into a dim, cold, empty room,with a table and benches, like an abandoned boardroom. When they were all in,he closed and locked the door.

The first to speak was Gogol, the irreconcilable, who seemed bursting withinarticulate grievance.

“Zso! Zso!” he cried, with an obscure excitement, his heavy Polishaccent becoming almost impenetrable. “You zay you nod ’ide. You zayyou show himselves. It is all nuzzinks. Ven you vant talk importance you runyourselves in a dark box!”

The President seemed to take the foreigner’s incoherent satire withentire good humour.

“You can’t get hold of it yet, Gogol,” he said in a fatherlyway. “When once they have heard us talking nonsense on that balcony theywill not care where we go afterwards. If we had come here first, we should havehad the whole staff at the keyhole. You don’t seem to know anything aboutmankind.”

“I die for zem,” cried the Pole in thick excitement, “and Islay zare oppressors. I care not for these games of gonzealment. I would zmiteze tyrant in ze open square.”

“I see, I see,” said the President, nodding kindly as he seatedhimself at the top of a long table. “You die for mankind first, and thenyou get up and smite their oppressors. So that’s all right. And now may Iask you to control your beautiful sentiments, and sit down with the othergentlemen at this table. For the first time this morning something intelligentis going to be said.”

Syme, with the perturbed promptitude he had shown since the original summons,sat down first. Gogol sat down last, grumbling in his brown beard aboutgombromise. No one except Syme seemed to have any notion of the blow that wasabout to fall. As for him, he had merely the feeling of a man mounting thescaffold with the intention, at any rate, of making a good speech.

“Comrades,” said the President, suddenly rising, “we havespun out this farce long enough. I have called you down here to tell yousomething so simple and shocking that even the waiters upstairs (long inured toour levities) might hear some new seriousness in my voice. Comrades, we werediscussing plans and naming places. I propose, before saying anything else,that those plans and places should not be voted by this meeting, but should beleft wholly in the control of some one reliable member. I suggest ComradeSaturday, Dr. Bull.”

They all stared at him; then they all started in their seats, for the nextwords, though not loud, had a living and sensational emphasis. Sunday struckthe table.

“Not one word more about the plans and places must be said at thismeeting. Not one tiny detail more about what we mean to do must be mentioned inthis company.”

Sunday had spent his life in astonishing his followers; but it seemed as if hehad never really astonished them until now. They all moved feverishly in theirseats, except Syme. He sat stiff in his, with his hand in his pocket, and onthe handle of his loaded revolver. When the attack on him came he would sellhis life dear. He would find out at least if the President was mortal.

Sunday went on smoothly—

“You will probably understand that there is only one possible motive forforbidding free speech at this festival of freedom. Strangers overhearing usmatters nothing. They assume that we are joking. But what would matter, evenunto death, is this, that there should be one actually among us who is not ofus, who knows our grave purpose, but does not share it, who—”

The Secretary screamed out suddenly like a woman.

“It can’t be!” he cried, leaping. “Therecan’t—”

The President flapped his large flat hand on the table like the fin of somehuge fish.

“Yes,” he said slowly, “there is a spy in this room. There isa traitor at this table. I will waste no more words. His name—”

Syme half rose from his seat, his finger firm on the trigger.

“His name is Gogol,” said the President. “He is that hairyhumbug over there who pretends to be a Pole.”

Gogol sprang to his feet, a pistol in each hand. With the same flash three mensprang at his throat. Even the Professor made an effort to rise. But Syme sawlittle of the scene, for he was blinded with a beneficent darkness; he had sunkdown into his seat shuddering, in a palsy of passionate relief.

CHAPTER VII.
THE UNACCOUNTABLE CONDUCT OF PROFESSOR DE WORMS

“Sit down!” said Sunday in a voice that he used once or twice inhis life, a voice that made men drop drawn swords.

The three who had risen fell away from Gogol, and that equivocal person himselfresumed his seat.

“Well, my man,” said the President briskly, addressing him as oneaddresses a total stranger, “will you oblige me by putting your hand inyour upper waistcoat pocket and showing me what you have there?”

The alleged Pole was a little pale under his tangle of dark hair, but he puttwo fingers into the pocket with apparent coolness and pulled out a blue stripof card. When Syme saw it lying on the table, he woke up again to the worldoutside him. For although the card lay at the other extreme of the table, andhe could read nothing of the inscription on it, it bore a startling resemblanceto the blue card in his own pocket, the card which had been given to him whenhe joined the anti-anarchist constabulary.

“Pathetic Slav,” said the President, “tragic child of Poland,are you prepared in the presence of that card to deny that you are in thiscompany—shall we say de trop?

“Right oh!” said the late Gogol. It made everyone jump to hear aclear, commercial and somewhat cockney voice coming out of that forest offoreign hair. It was irrational, as if a Chinaman had suddenly spoken with aScotch accent.

“I gather that you fully understand your position,” said Sunday.

“You bet,” answered the Pole. “I see it’s a fair cop.All I say is, I don’t believe any Pole could have imitated my accent likeI did his.”

“I concede the point,” said Sunday. “I believe your ownaccent to be inimitable, though I shall practise it in my bath. Do you mindleaving your beard with your card?”

“Not a bit,” answered Gogol; and with one finger he ripped off thewhole of his shaggy head-covering, emerging with thin red hair and a pale, pertface. “It was hot,” he added.

“I will do you the justice to say,” said Sunday, not without a sortof brutal admiration, “that you seem to have kept pretty cool under it.Now listen to me. I like you. The consequence is that it would annoy me forjust about two and a half minutes if I heard that you had died in torments.Well, if you ever tell the police or any human soul about us, I shall have thattwo and a half minutes of discomfort. On your discomfort I will not dwell. Goodday. Mind the step.”

The red-haired detective who had masqueraded as Gogol rose to his feet withouta word, and walked out of the room with an air of perfect nonchalance. Yet theastonished Syme was able to realise that this ease was suddenly assumed; forthere was a slight stumble outside the door, which showed that the departingdetective had not minded the step.

“Time is flying,” said the President in his gayest manner, afterglancing at his watch, which like everything about him seemed bigger than itought to be. “I must go off at once; I have to take the chair at aHumanitarian meeting.”

The Secretary turned to him with working eyebrows.

“Would it not be better,” he said a little sharply, “todiscuss further the details of our project, now that the spy has leftus?”

“No, I think not,” said the President with a yawn like anunobtrusive earthquake. “Leave it as it is. Let Saturday settle it. Imust be off. Breakfast here next Sunday.”

But the late loud scenes had whipped up the almost naked nerves of theSecretary. He was one of those men who are conscientious even in crime.

“I must protest, President, that the thing is irregular,” he said.“It is a fundamental rule of our society that all plans shall be debatedin full council. Of course, I fully appreciate your forethought when in theactual presence of a traitor—”

“Secretary,” said the President seriously, “if you’dtake your head home and boil it for a turnip it might be useful. I can’tsay. But it might.”

The Secretary reared back in a kind of equine anger.

“I really fail to understand—” he began in high offense.

“That’s it, that’s it,” said the President, nodding agreat many times. “That’s where you fail right enough. You fail tounderstand. Why, you dancing donkey,” he roared, rising, “youdidn’t want to be overheard by a spy, didn’t you? How do you knowyou aren’t overheard now?”

And with these words he shouldered his way out of the room, shaking withincomprehensible scorn.

Four of the men left behind gaped after him without any apparent glimmering ofhis meaning. Syme alone had even a glimmering, and such as it was it froze himto the bone. If the last words of the President meant anything, they meant thathe had not after all passed unsuspected. They meant that while Sunday could notdenounce him like Gogol, he still could not trust him like the others.

The other four got to their feet grumbling more or less, and betook themselveselsewhere to find lunch, for it was already well past midday. The Professorwent last, very slowly and painfully. Syme sat long after the rest had gone,revolving his strange position. He had escaped a thunderbolt, but he was stillunder a cloud. At last he rose and made his way out of the hotel into LeicesterSquare. The bright, cold day had grown increasingly colder, and when he cameout into the street he was surprised by a few flakes of snow. While he stillcarried the sword-stick and the rest of Gregory’s portable luggage, hehad thrown the cloak down and left it somewhere, perhaps on the steam-tug,perhaps on the balcony. Hoping, therefore, that the snow-shower might beslight, he stepped back out of the street for a moment and stood up under thedoorway of a small and greasy hair-dresser’s shop, the front window ofwhich was empty, except for a sickly wax lady in evening dress.

Snow, however, began to thicken and fall fast; and Syme, having found oneglance at the wax lady quite sufficient to depress his spirits, stared outinstead into the white and empty street. He was considerably astonished to see,standing quite still outside the shop and staring into the window, a man. Histop hat was loaded with snow like the hat of Father Christmas, the white driftwas rising round his boots and ankles; but it seemed as if nothing could tearhim away from the contemplation of the colourless wax doll in dirty eveningdress. That any human being should stand in such weather looking into such ashop was a matter of sufficient wonder to Syme; but his idle wonder turnedsuddenly into a personal shock; for he realised that the man standing there wasthe paralytic old Professor de Worms. It scarcely seemed the place for a personof his years and infirmities.

Syme was ready to believe anything about the perversions of this dehumanizedbrotherhood; but even he could not believe that the Professor had fallen inlove with that particular wax lady. He could only suppose that the man’smalady (whatever it was) involved some momentary fits of rigidity or trance. Hewas not inclined, however, to feel in this case any very compassionate concern.On the contrary, he rather congratulated himself that the Professor’sstroke and his elaborate and limping walk would make it easy to escape from himand leave him miles behind. For Syme thirsted first and last to get clear ofthe whole poisonous atmosphere, if only for an hour. Then he could collect histhoughts, formulate his policy, and decide finally whether he should or shouldnot keep faith with Gregory.

He strolled away through the dancing snow, turned up two or three streets, downthrough two or three others, and entered a small Soho restaurant for lunch. Hepartook reflectively of four small and quaint courses, drank half a bottle ofred wine, and ended up over black coffee and a black cigar, still thinking. Hehad taken his seat in the upper room of the restaurant, which was full of thechink of knives and the chatter of foreigners. He remembered that in old dayshe had imagined that all these harmless and kindly aliens were anarchists. Heshuddered, remembering the real thing. But even the shudder had the delightfulshame of escape. The wine, the common food, the familiar place, the faces ofnatural and talkative men, made him almost feel as if the Council of the SevenDays had been a bad dream; and although he knew it was nevertheless anobjective reality, it was at least a distant one. Tall houses and populousstreets lay between him and his last sight of the shameful seven; he was freein free London, and drinking wine among the free. With a somewhat easieraction, he took his hat and stick and strolled down the stair into the shopbelow.

When he entered that lower room he stood stricken and rooted to the spot. At asmall table, close up to the blank window and the white street of snow, sat theold anarchist Professor over a glass of milk, with his lifted livid face andpendent eyelids. For an instant Syme stood as rigid as the stick he leant upon.Then with a gesture as of blind hurry, he brushed past the Professor, dashingopen the door and slamming it behind him, and stood outside in the snow.

“Can that old corpse be following me?” he asked himself, biting hisyellow moustache. “I stopped too long up in that room, so that even suchleaden feet could catch me up. One comfort is, with a little brisk walking Ican put a man like that as far away as Timbuctoo. Or am I too fanciful? Was hereally following me? Surely Sunday would not be such a fool as to send a lameman?”

He set off at a smart pace, twisting and whirling his stick, in the directionof Covent Garden. As he crossed the great market the snow increased, growingblinding and bewildering as the afternoon began to darken. The snow-flakestormented him like a swarm of silver bees. Getting into his eyes and beard,they added their unremitting futility to his already irritated nerves; and bythe time that he had come at a swinging pace to the beginning of Fleet Street,he lost patience, and finding a Sunday teashop, turned into it to take shelter.He ordered another cup of black coffee as an excuse. Scarcely had he done so,when Professor de Worms hobbled heavily into the shop, sat down with difficultyand ordered a glass of milk.

Syme’s walking-stick had fallen from his hand with a great clang, whichconfessed the concealed steel. But the Professor did not look round. Syme, whowas commonly a cool character, was literally gaping as a rustic gapes at aconjuring trick. He had seen no cab following; he had heard no wheels outsidethe shop; to all mortal appearances the man had come on foot. But the old mancould only walk like a snail, and Syme had walked like the wind. He started upand snatched his stick, half crazy with the contradiction in mere arithmetic,and swung out of the swinging doors, leaving his coffee untasted. An omnibusgoing to the Bank went rattling by with an unusual rapidity. He had a violentrun of a hundred yards to reach it; but he managed to spring, swaying upon thesplash-board and, pausing for an instant to pant, he climbed on to the top.When he had been seated for about half a minute, he heard behind him a sort ofheavy and asthmatic breathing.

Turning sharply, he saw rising gradually higher and higher up the omnibus stepsa top hat soiled and dripping with snow, and under the shadow of its brim theshort-sighted face and shaky shoulders of Professor de Worms. He let himselfinto a seat with characteristic care, and wrapped himself up to the chin in themackintosh rug.

Every movement of the old man’s tottering figure and vague hands, everyuncertain gesture and panic-stricken pause, seemed to put it beyond questionthat he was helpless, that he was in the last imbecility of the body. He movedby inches, he let himself down with little gasps of caution. And yet, unlessthe philosophical entities called time and space have no vestige even of apractical existence, it appeared quite unquestionable that he had run after theomnibus.

Syme sprang erect upon the rocking car, and after staring wildly at the wintrysky, that grew gloomier every moment, he ran down the steps. He had repressedan elemental impulse to leap over the side.

Too bewildered to look back or to reason, he rushed into one of the littlecourts at the side of Fleet Street as a rabbit rushes into a hole. He had avague idea, if this incomprehensible old Jack-in-the-box was really pursuinghim, that in that labyrinth of little streets he could soon throw him off thescent. He dived in and out of those crooked lanes, which were more like cracksthan thoroughfares; and by the time that he had completed about twentyalternate angles and described an unthinkable polygon, he paused to listen forany sound of pursuit. There was none; there could not in any case have beenmuch, for the little streets were thick with the soundless snow. Somewherebehind Red Lion Court, however, he noticed a place where some energetic citizenhad cleared away the snow for a space of about twenty yards, leaving the wet,glistening cobble-stones. He thought little of this as he passed it, onlyplunging into yet another arm of the maze. But when a few hundred yards fartheron he stood still again to listen, his heart stood still also, for he heardfrom that space of rugged stones the clinking crutch and labouring feet of theinfernal cripple.

The sky above was loaded with the clouds of snow, leaving London in a darknessand oppression premature for that hour of the evening. On each side of Syme thewalls of the alley were blind and featureless; there was no little window orany kind of eve. He felt a new impulse to break out of this hive of houses, andto get once more into the open and lamp-lit street. Yet he rambled and dodgedfor a long time before he struck the main thoroughfare. When he did so, hestruck it much farther up than he had fancied. He came out into what seemed thevast and void of Ludgate Circus, and saw St. Paul’s Cathedral sitting inthe sky.

At first he was startled to find these great roads so empty, as if a pestilencehad swept through the city. Then he told himself that some degree of emptinesswas natural; first because the snow-storm was even dangerously deep, andsecondly because it was Sunday. And at the very word Sunday he bit his lip; theword was henceforth for hire like some indecent pun. Under the white fog ofsnow high up in the heaven the whole atmosphere of the city was turned to avery queer kind of green twilight, as of men under the sea. The sealed andsullen sunset behind the dark dome of St. Paul’s had in it smoky andsinister colours—colours of sickly green, dead red or decaying bronze,that were just bright enough to emphasise the solid whiteness of the snow. Butright up against these dreary colours rose the black bulk of the cathedral; andupon the top of the cathedral was a random splash and great stain of snow,still clinging as to an Alpine peak. It had fallen accidentally, but just sofallen as to half drape the dome from its very topmost point, and to pick outin perfect silver the great orb and the cross. When Syme saw it he suddenlystraightened himself, and made with his sword-stick an involuntary salute.

He knew that that evil figure, his shadow, was creeping quickly or slowlybehind him, and he did not care.

It seemed a symbol of human faith and valour that while the skies weredarkening that high place of the earth was bright. The devils might havecaptured heaven, but they had not yet captured the cross. He had a new impulseto tear out the secret of this dancing, jumping and pursuing paralytic; and atthe entrance of the court as it opened upon the Circus he turned, stick inhand, to face his pursuer.

Professor de Worms came slowly round the corner of the irregular alley behindhim, his unnatural form outlined against a lonely gas-lamp, irresistiblyrecalling that very imaginative figure in the nursery rhymes, “thecrooked man who went a crooked mile.” He really looked as if he had beentwisted out of shape by the tortuous streets he had been threading. He camenearer and nearer, the lamplight shining on his lifted spectacles, his lifted,patient face. Syme waited for him as St. George waited for the dragon, as a manwaits for a final explanation or for death. And the old Professor came right upto him and passed him like a total stranger, without even a blink of hismournful eyelids.

There was something in this silent and unexpected innocence that left Syme in afinal fury. The man’s colourless face and manner seemed to assert thatthe whole following had been an accident. Syme was galvanised with an energythat was something between bitterness and a burst of boyish derision. He made awild gesture as if to knock the old man’s hat off, called out somethinglike “Catch me if you can,” and went racing away across the white,open Circus. Concealment was impossible now; and looking back over hisshoulder, he could see the black figure of the old gentleman coming after himwith long, swinging strides like a man winning a mile race. But the head uponthat bounding body was still pale, grave and professional, like the head of alecturer upon the body of a harlequin.

This outrageous chase sped across Ludgate Circus, up Ludgate Hill, round St.Paul’s Cathedral, along Cheapside, Syme remembering all the nightmares hehad ever known. Then Syme broke away towards the river, and ended almost downby the docks. He saw the yellow panes of a low, lighted public-house, flunghimself into it and ordered beer. It was a foul tavern, sprinkled with foreignsailors, a place where opium might be smoked or knives drawn.

A moment later Professor de Worms entered the place, sat down carefully, andasked for a glass of milk.

CHAPTER VIII.
THE PROFESSOR EXPLAINS

When Gabriel Syme found himself finally established in a chair, and opposite tohim, fixed and final also, the lifted eyebrows and leaden eyelids of theProfessor, his fears fully returned. This incomprehensible man from the fiercecouncil, after all, had certainly pursued him. If the man had one character asa paralytic and another character as a pursuer, the antithesis might make himmore interesting, but scarcely more soothing. It would be a very small comfortthat he could not find the Professor out, if by some serious accident theProfessor should find him out. He emptied a whole pewter pot of ale before theprofessor had touched his milk.

One possibility, however, kept him hopeful and yet helpless. It was justpossible that this escapade signified something other than even a slightsuspicion of him. Perhaps it was some regular form or sign. Perhaps the foolishscamper was some sort of friendly signal that he ought to have understood.Perhaps it was a ritual. Perhaps the new Thursday was always chased alongCheapside, as the new Lord Mayor is always escorted along it. He was justselecting a tentative inquiry, when the old Professor opposite suddenly andsimply cut him short. Before Syme could ask the first diplomatic question, theold anarchist had asked suddenly, without any sort of preparation—

“Are you a policeman?”

Whatever else Syme had expected, he had never expected anything so brutal andactual as this. Even his great presence of mind could only manage a reply withan air of rather blundering jocularity.

“A policeman?” he said, laughing vaguely. “Whatever made youthink of a policeman in connection with me?”

“The process was simple enough,” answered the Professor patiently.“I thought you looked like a policeman. I think so now.”

“Did I take a policeman’s hat by mistake out of therestaurant?” asked Syme, smiling wildly. “Have I by any chance gota number stuck on to me somewhere? Have my boots got that watchful look? Whymust I be a policeman? Do, do let me be a postman.”

The old Professor shook his head with a gravity that gave no hope, but Syme ranon with a feverish irony.

“But perhaps I misunderstood the delicacies of your German philosophy.Perhaps policeman is a relative term. In an evolutionary sense, sir, the apefades so gradually into the policeman, that I myself can never detect theshade. The monkey is only the policeman that may be. Perhaps a maiden lady onClapham Common is only the policeman that might have been. I don’t mindbeing the policeman that might have been. I don’t mind being anything inGerman thought.”

“Are you in the police service?” said the old man, ignoring allSyme’s improvised and desperate raillery. “Are you adetective?”

Syme’s heart turned to stone, but his face never changed.

“Your suggestion is ridiculous,” he began. “Why onearth—”

The old man struck his palsied hand passionately on the rickety table, nearlybreaking it.

“Did you hear me ask a plain question, you pattering spy?” heshrieked in a high, crazy voice. “Are you, or are you not, a policedetective?”

“No!” answered Syme, like a man standing on the hangman’sdrop.

“You swear it,” said the old man, leaning across to him, his deadface 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 devildances 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 Britishpolice?”

He leant his angular elbow far across the table, and put up his large loosehand 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 kindlycollapse.

“That’s a pity,” he said, “because I am.”

Syme sprang up straight, sending back the bench behind him with a crash.

“Because you are what?” he said thickly. “You arewhat?”

“I am a policeman,” said the Professor with his first broad smile,and beaming through his spectacles. “But as you think policeman only arelative term, of course I have nothing to do with you. I am in the Britishpolice force; but as you tell me you are not in the British police force, I canonly say that I met you in a dynamiters’ club. I suppose I ought toarrest you.” And with these words he laid on the table before Syme anexact facsimile of the blue card which Syme had in his own waistcoat pocket,the symbol of his power from the police.

Syme had for a flash the sensation that the cosmos had turned exactly upsidedown, that all trees were growing downwards and that all stars were under hisfeet. Then came slowly the opposite conviction. For the last twenty-four hoursthe cosmos had really been upside down, but now the capsized universe had comeright side up again. This devil from whom he had been fleeing all day was onlyan elder brother of his own house, who on the other side of the table lay backand laughed at him. He did not for the moment ask any questions of detail; heonly knew the happy and silly fact that this shadow, which had pursued him withan intolerable oppression of peril, was only the shadow of a friend trying tocatch him up. He knew simultaneously that he was a fool and a free man. Forwith any recovery from morbidity there must go a certain healthy humiliation.There comes a certain point in such conditions when only three things arepossible: first a perpetuation of Satanic pride, secondly tears, and thirdlaughter. Syme’s egotism held hard to the first course for a few seconds,and then suddenly adopted the third. Taking his own blue police ticket from hisown waist coat pocket, he tossed it on to the table; then he flung his headback until his spike of yellow beard almost pointed at the ceiling, and shoutedwith a barbaric laughter.

Even in that close den, perpetually filled with the din of knives, plates,cans, clamorous voices, sudden struggles and stampedes, there was somethingHomeric in Syme’s mirth which made many half-drunken men look round.

“What yer laughing at, guv’nor?” asked one wondering labourerfrom the docks.

“At myself,” answered Syme, and went off again into the agony ofhis ecstatic reaction.

“Pull yourself together,” said the Professor, “oryou’ll get hysterical. Have some more beer. I’ll join you.”

“You haven’t drunk your milk,” said Syme.

“My milk!” said the other, in tones of withering and unfathomablecontempt, “my milk! Do you think I’d look at the beastly stuff whenI’m out of sight of the bloody anarchists? We’re all Christians inthis room, though perhaps,” he added, glancing around at the reelingcrowd, “not strict ones. Finish my milk? Great blazes! yes, I’llfinish it right enough!” and he knocked the tumbler off the table, makinga crash of glass and a splash of silver fluid.

Syme was staring at him with a happy curiosity.

“I understand now,” he cried; “of course, you’re not anold man at all.”

“I can’t take my face off here,” replied Professor de Worms.“It’s rather an elaborate make-up. As to whether I’m an oldman, that’s not for me to say. I was thirty-eight last birthday.”

“Yes, but I mean,” said Syme impatiently, “there’snothing the matter with you.”

“Yes,” answered the other dispassionately. “I am subject tocolds.”

Syme’s laughter at all this had about it a wild weakness of relief. Helaughed at the idea of the paralytic Professor being really a young actordressed up as if for the foot-lights. But he felt that he would have laughed asloudly if a pepperpot had fallen over.

The false Professor drank and wiped his false beard.

“Did you know,” he asked, “that that man Gogol was one ofus?”

“I? No, I didn’t know it,” answered Syme in some surprise.“But didn’t you?”

“I knew no more than the dead,” replied the man who called himselfde Worms. “I thought the President was talking about me, and I rattled inmy boots.”

“And I thought he was talking about me,” said Syme, with his ratherreckless laughter. “I had my hand on my revolver all the time.”

“So had I,” said the Professor grimly; “so had Gogolevidently.”

Syme struck the table with an exclamation.

“Why, there were three of us there!” he cried. “Three out ofseven is a fighting number. If we had only known that we were three!”

The face of Professor de Worms darkened, and he did not look up.

“We were three,” he said. “If we had been three hundred wecould still have done nothing.”

“Not if we were three hundred against four?” asked Syme, jeeringrather boisterously.

“No,” said the Professor with sobriety, “not if we were threehundred against Sunday.”

And the mere name struck Syme cold and serious; his laughter had died in hisheart before it could die on his lips. The face of the unforgettable Presidentsprang into his mind as startling as a coloured photograph, and he remarkedthis difference between Sunday and all his satellites, that their faces,however fierce or sinister, became gradually blurred by memory like other humanfaces, whereas Sunday’s seemed almost to grow more actual during absence,as if a man’s painted portrait should slowly come alive.

They were both silent for a measure of moments, and then Syme’s speechcame with a rush, like the sudden foaming of champagne.

“Professor,” he cried, “it is intolerable. Are you afraid ofthis man?”

The Professor lifted his heavy lids, and gazed at Syme with large, wide-open,blue eyes of an almost ethereal honesty.

“Yes, I am,” he said mildly. “So are you.”

Syme was dumb for an instant. Then he rose to his feet erect, like an insultedman, and thrust the chair away from him.

“Yes,” he said in a voice indescribable, “you are right. I amafraid of him. Therefore I swear by God that I will seek out this man whom Ifear until I find him, and strike him on the mouth. If heaven were his throneand the earth his footstool, I swear that I would pull him down.”

“How?” asked the staring Professor. “Why?”

“Because I am afraid of him,” said Syme; “and no man shouldleave in the universe anything of which he is afraid.”

De Worms blinked at him with a sort of blind wonder. He made an effort tospeak, but Syme went on in a low voice, but with an undercurrent of inhumanexaltation—

“Who would condescend to strike down the mere things that he does notfear? Who would debase himself to be merely brave, like any commonprizefighter? Who would stoop to be fearless—like a tree? Fight the thingthat you fear. You remember the old tale of the English clergyman who gave thelast rites to the brigand of Sicily, and how on his death-bed the great robbersaid, ‘I can give you no money, but I can give you advice for a lifetime:your thumb on the blade, and strike upwards.’ So I say to you, strikeupwards, if you strike at the stars.”

The other looked at the ceiling, one of the tricks of his pose.

“Sunday is a fixed star,” he said.

“You shall see him a falling star,” said Syme, and put on his hat.

The decision of his gesture drew the Professor vaguely to his feet.

“Have you any idea,” he asked, with a sort of benevolentbewilderment, “exactly where you are going?”

“Yes,” replied Syme shortly, “I am going to prevent this bombbeing thrown in Paris.”

“Have you any conception how?” inquired the other.

“No,” said Syme with equal decision.

“You remember, of course,” resumed the soi-disant de Worms, pullinghis beard and looking out of the window, “that when we broke up ratherhurriedly the whole arrangements for the atrocity were left in the privatehands of the Marquis and Dr. Bull. The Marquis is by this time probablycrossing the Channel. But where he will go and what he will do it is doubtfulwhether even the President knows; certainly we don’t know. The only manwho does know is Dr. Bull.”

“Confound it!” cried Syme. “And we don’t know where heis.”

“Yes,” said the other in his curious, absent-minded way, “Iknow where he is myself.”

“Will you tell me?” asked Syme with eager eyes.

“I will take you there,” said the Professor, and took down his ownhat from a peg.

Syme stood looking at him with a sort of rigid excitement.

“What do you mean?” he asked sharply. “Will you join me? Willyou take the risk?”

“Young man,” said the Professor pleasantly, “I am amused toobserve that you think I am a coward. As to that I will say only one word, andthat shall be entirely in the manner of your own philosophical rhetoric. Youthink that it is possible to pull down the President. I know that it isimpossible, and I am going to try it,” and opening the tavern door, whichlet in a blast of bitter air, they went out together into the dark streets bythe docks.

Most of the snow was melted or trampled to mud, but here and there a clot of itstill showed grey rather than white in the gloom. The small streets were sloppyand full of pools, which reflected the flaming lamps irregularly, and byaccident, like fragments of some other and fallen world. Syme felt almost dazedas he stepped through this growing confusion of lights and shadows; but hiscompanion walked on with a certain briskness, towards where, at the end of thestreet, an inch or two of the lamplit river looked like a bar of flame.

“Where are you going?” Syme inquired.

“Just now,” answered the Professor, “I am going just roundthe corner to see whether Dr. Bull has gone to bed. He is hygienic, and retiresearly.”

“Dr. Bull!” exclaimed Syme. “Does he live round thecorner?”

“No,” answered his friend. “As a matter of fact he lives someway off, on the other side of the river, but we can tell from here whether hehas gone to bed.”

Turning the corner as he spoke, and facing the dim river, flecked with flame,he pointed with his stick to the other bank. On the Surrey side at this pointthere ran out into the Thames, seeming almost to overhang it, a bulk andcluster of those tall tenements, dotted with lighted windows, and rising likefactory chimneys to an almost insane height. Their special poise and positionmade one block of buildings especially look like a Tower of Babel with ahundred eyes. Syme had never seen any of the sky-scraping buildings in America,so he could only think of the buildings in a dream.

Even as he stared, the highest light in this innumerably lighted turretabruptly went out, as if this black Argus had winked at him with one of hisinnumerable eyes.

Professor de Worms swung round on his heel, and struck his stick against hisboot.

“We are too late,” he said, “the hygienic Doctor has gone tobed.”

“What do you mean?” asked Syme. “Does he live over there,then?”

“Yes,” said de Worms, “behind that particular window whichyou can’t see. Come along and get some dinner. We must call on himtomorrow morning.”

Without further parley, he led the way through several by-ways until they cameout into the flare and clamour of the East India Dock Road. The Professor, whoseemed to know his way about the neighbourhood, proceeded to a place where theline of lighted shops fell back into a sort of abrupt twilight and quiet, inwhich an old white inn, all out of repair, stood back some twenty feet from theroad.

“You can find good English inns left by accident everywhere, likefossils,” explained the Professor. “I once found a decent place inthe West End.”

“I suppose,” said Syme, smiling, “that this is thecorresponding decent place in the East End?”

“It is,” said the Professor reverently, and went in.

Video: The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton - Intro:To Edmund Clerihew Bentley

In that place they dined and slept, both very thoroughly. The beans and bacon,which these unaccountable people cooked well, the astonishing emergence ofBurgundy from their cellars, crowned Syme’s sense of a new comradeshipand comfort. Through all this ordeal his root horror had been isolation, andthere are no words to express the abyss between isolation and having one ally.It may be conceded to the mathematicians that four is twice two. But two is nottwice one; two is two thousand times one. That is why, in spite of a hundreddisadvantages, the world will always return to monogamy.

Syme was able to pour out for the first time the whole of his outrageous tale,from the time when Gregory had taken him to the little tavern by the river. Hedid it idly and amply, in a luxuriant monologue, as a man speaks with very oldfriends. On his side, also, the man who had impersonated Professor de Worms wasnot less communicative. His own story was almost as silly as Syme’s.

“That’s a good get-up of yours,” said Syme, draining a glassof Macon; “a lot better than old Gogol’s. Even at the start Ithought he was a bit too hairy.”

“A difference of artistic theory,” replied the Professor pensively.“Gogol was an idealist. He made up as the abstract or platonic ideal ofan anarchist. But I am a realist. I am a portrait painter. But, indeed, to saythat I am a portrait painter is an inadequate expression. I am aportrait.”

“I don’t understand you,” said Syme.

“I am a portrait,” repeated the Professor. “I am a portraitof the celebrated Professor de Worms, who is, I believe, in Naples.”

“You mean you are made up like him,” said Syme. “Butdoesn’t he know that you are taking his nose in vain?”

“He knows it right enough,” replied his friend cheerfully.

“Then why doesn’t he denounce you?”

“I have denounced him,” answered the Professor.

“Do explain yourself,” said Syme.

“With pleasure, if you don’t mind hearing my story,” repliedthe eminent foreign philosopher. “I am by profession an actor, and myname is Wilks. When I was on the stage I mixed with all sorts of Bohemian andblackguard company. Sometimes I touched the edge of the turf, sometimes theriff-raff of the arts, and occasionally the political refugee. In some den ofexiled dreamers I was introduced to the great German Nihilist philosopher,Professor de Worms. I did not gather much about him beyond his appearance,which was very disgusting, and which I studied carefully. I understood that hehad proved that the destructive principle in the universe was God; hence heinsisted on the need for a furious and incessant energy, rending all things inpieces. Energy, he said, was the All. He was lame, shortsighted, and partiallyparalytic. When I met him I was in a frivolous mood, and I disliked him so muchthat I resolved to imitate him. If I had been a draughtsman I would have drawna caricature. I was only an actor, I could only act a caricature. I made myselfup into what was meant for a wild exaggeration of the old Professor’sdirty old self. When I went into the room full of his supporters I expected tobe received with a roar of laughter, or (if they were too far gone) with a roarof indignation at the insult. I cannot describe the surprise I felt when myentrance was received with a respectful silence, followed (when I had firstopened my lips) with a murmur of admiration. The curse of the perfect artisthad fallen upon me. I had been too subtle, I had been too true. They thought Ireally was the great Nihilist Professor. I was a healthy-minded young man atthe time, and I confess that it was a blow. Before I could fully recover,however, two or three of these admirers ran up to me radiating indignation, andtold me that a public insult had been put upon me in the next room. I inquiredits nature. It seemed that an impertinent fellow had dressed himself up as apreposterous parody of myself. I had drunk more champagne than was good for me,and in a flash of folly I decided to see the situation through. Consequently itwas to meet the glare of the company and my own lifted eyebrows and freezingeyes that the real Professor came into the room.

“I need hardly say there was a collision. The pessimists all round melooked anxiously from one Professor to the other Professor to see which wasreally the more feeble. But I won. An old man in poor health, like my rival,could not be expected to be so impressively feeble as a young actor in theprime of life. You see, he really had paralysis, and working within thisdefinite limitation, he couldn’t be so jolly paralytic as I was. Then hetried to blast my claims intellectually. I countered that by a very simpledodge. Whenever he said something that nobody but he could understand, Ireplied with something which I could not even understand myself. ‘Idon’t fancy,’ he said, ‘that you could have worked out theprinciple that evolution is only negation, since there inheres in it theintroduction of lacuna, which are an essential of differentiation.’ Ireplied quite scornfully, ‘You read all that up in Pinckwerts; the notionthat involution functioned eugenically was exposed long ago by Glumpe.’It is unnecessary for me to say that there never were such people as Pinckwertsand Glumpe. But the people all round (rather to my surprise) seemed to rememberthem quite well, and the Professor, finding that the learned and mysteriousmethod left him rather at the mercy of an enemy slightly deficient in scruples,fell back upon a more popular form of wit. ‘I see,’ he sneered,‘you prevail like the false pig in Æsop.’ ‘And youfail,’ I answered, smiling, ‘like the hedgehog in Montaigne.’Need I say that there is no hedgehog in Montaigne? ‘Your claptrap comesoff,’ he said; ‘so would your beard.’ I had no intelligentanswer to this, which was quite true and rather witty. But I laughed heartily,answered, ‘Like the Pantheist’s boots,’ at random, and turnedon my heel with all the honours of victory. The real Professor was thrown out,but not with violence, though one man tried very patiently to pull off hisnose. He is now, I believe, received everywhere in Europe as a delightfulimpostor. His apparent earnestness and anger, you see, make him all the moreentertaining.”

“Well,” said Syme, “I can understand your putting on hisdirty old beard for a night’s practical joke, but I don’tunderstand your never taking it off again.”

“That is the rest of the story,” said the impersonator. “WhenI myself left the company, followed by reverent applause, I went limping downthe dark street, hoping that I should soon be far enough away to be able towalk like a human being. To my astonishment, as I was turning the corner, Ifelt a touch on the shoulder, and turning, found myself under the shadow of anenormous policeman. He told me I was wanted. I struck a sort of paralyticattitude, and cried in a high German accent, ‘Yes, I am wanted—bythe oppressed of the world. You are arresting me on the charge of being thegreat anarchist, Professor de Worms.’ The policeman impassively consulteda paper in his hand, ‘No, sir,’ he said civilly, ‘at least,not exactly, sir. I am arresting you on the charge of not being the celebratedanarchist, Professor de Worms.’ This charge, if it was criminal at all,was certainly the lighter of the two, and I went along with the man, doubtful,but not greatly dismayed. I was shown into a number of rooms, and eventuallyinto the presence of a police officer, who explained that a serious campaignhad been opened against the centres of anarchy, and that this, my successfulmasquerade, might be of considerable value to the public safety. He offered mea good salary and this little blue card. Though our conversation was short, hestruck me as a man of very massive common sense and humour; but I cannot tellyou much about him personally, because—”

Syme laid down his knife and fork.

“I know,” he said, “because you talked to him in a darkroom.”

Professor de Worms nodded and drained his glass.

CHAPTER IX.
THE MAN IN SPECTACLES

“Burgundy is a jolly thing,” said the Professor sadly, as he sethis glass down.

“You don’t look as if it were,” said Syme; “you drinkit as if it were medicine.”

“You must excuse my manner,” said the Professor dismally, “myposition is rather a curious one. Inside I am really bursting with boyishmerriment; but I acted the paralytic Professor so well, that now I can’tleave off. So that when I am among friends, and have no need at all to disguisemyself, I still can’t help speaking slow and wrinkling myforehead—just as if it were my forehead. I can be quite happy, youunderstand, but only in a paralytic sort of way. The most buoyant exclamationsleap up in my heart, but they come out of my mouth quite different. You shouldhear me say, ‘Buck up, old cock!’ It would bring tears to youreyes.”

“It does,” said Syme; “but I cannot help thinking that apartfrom all that you are really a bit worried.”

The Professor started a little and looked at him steadily.

“You are a very clever fellow,” he said, “it is a pleasure towork with you. Yes, I have rather a heavy cloud in my head. There is a greatproblem to face,” and he sank his bald brow in his two hands.

Then he said in a low voice—

“Can you play the piano?”

“Yes,” said Syme in simple wonder, “I’m supposed tohave a good touch.”

Then, as the other did not speak, he added—

“I trust the great cloud is lifted.”

After a long silence, the Professor said out of the cavernous shadow of hishands—

“It would have done just as well if you could work a typewriter.”

“Thank you,” said Syme, “you flatter me.”

“Listen to me,” said the other, “and remember whom we have tosee tomorrow. You and I are going tomorrow to attempt something which is verymuch more dangerous than trying to steal the Crown Jewels out of the Tower. Weare trying to steal a secret from a very sharp, very strong, and very wickedman. I believe there is no man, except the President, of course, who is soseriously startling and formidable as that little grinning fellow in goggles.He has not perhaps the white-hot enthusiasm unto death, the mad martyrdom foranarchy, which marks the Secretary. But then that very fanaticism in theSecretary has a human pathos, and is almost a redeeming trait. But the littleDoctor has a brutal sanity that is more shocking than the Secretary’sdisease. Don’t you notice his detestable virility and vitality. Hebounces like an india-rubber ball. Depend on it, Sunday was not asleep (Iwonder if he ever sleeps?) when he locked up all the plans of this outrage inthe round, black head of Dr. Bull.”

“And you think,” said Syme, “that this unique monster will besoothed if I play the piano to him?”

“Don’t be an ass,” said his mentor. “I mentioned thepiano because it gives one quick and independent fingers. Syme, if we are to gothrough this interview and come out sane or alive, we must have some code ofsignals between us that this brute will not see. I have made a roughalphabetical cypher corresponding to the five fingers—like this,see,” and he rippled with his fingers on the wooden table—“BA D, bad, a word we may frequently require.”

Syme poured himself out another glass of wine, and began to study the scheme.He was abnormally quick with his brains at puzzles, and with his hands atconjuring, and it did not take him long to learn how he might convey simplemessages by what would seem to be idle taps upon a table or knee. But wine andcompanionship had always the effect of inspiring him to a farcical ingenuity,and the Professor soon found himself struggling with the too vast energy of thenew language, as it passed through the heated brain of Syme.

“We must have several word-signs,” said Symeseriously—“words that we are likely to want, fine shades ofmeaning. My favourite word is ‘coeval’. What’s yours?”

“Do stop playing the goat,” said the Professor plaintively.“You don’t know how serious this is.”

“‘Lush’ too,” said Syme, shaking his head sagaciously,“we must have ‘lush’—word applied to grass, don’tyou know?”

“Do you imagine,” asked the Professor furiously, “that we aregoing to talk to Dr. Bull about grass?”

“There are several ways in which the subject could be approached,”said Syme reflectively, “and the word introduced without appearingforced. We might say, ‘Dr. Bull, as a revolutionist, you remember that atyrant once advised us to eat grass; and indeed many of us, looking on thefresh lush grass of summer...’”

“Do you understand,” said the other, “that this is atragedy?”

“Perfectly,” replied Syme; “always be comic in a tragedy.What the deuce else can you do? I wish this language of yours had a widerscope. I suppose we could not extend it from the fingers to the toes? Thatwould involve pulling off our boots and socks during the conversation, whichhowever unobtrusively performed—”

“Syme,” said his friend with a stern simplicity, “go tobed!”

Syme, however, sat up in bed for a considerable time mastering the new code. Hewas awakened next morning while the east was still sealed with darkness, andfound his grey-bearded ally standing like a ghost beside his bed.

Syme sat up in bed blinking; then slowly collected his thoughts, threw off thebed-clothes, and stood up. It seemed to him in some curious way that all thesafety and sociability of the night before fell with the bedclothes off him,and he stood up in an air of cold danger. He still felt an entire trust andloyalty towards his companion; but it was the trust between two men going tothe scaffold.

“Well,” said Syme with a forced cheerfulness as he pulled on histrousers, “I dreamt of that alphabet of yours. Did it take you long tomake it up?”

The Professor made no answer, but gazed in front of him with eyes the colour ofa wintry sea; so Syme repeated his question.

“I say, did it take you long to invent all this? I’m consideredgood at these things, and it was a good hour’s grind. Did you learn itall on the spot?”

The Professor was silent; his eyes were wide open, and he wore a fixed but verysmall smile.

“How long did it take you?”

The Professor did not move.

“Confound you, can’t you answer?” called out Syme, in asudden anger that had something like fear underneath. Whether or no theProfessor could answer, he did not.

Syme stood staring back at the stiff face like parchment and the blank, blueeyes. His first thought was that the Professor had gone mad, but his secondthought was more frightful. After all, what did he know about this queercreature whom he had heedlessly accepted as a friend? What did he know, exceptthat the man had been at the anarchist breakfast and had told him a ridiculoustale? How improbable it was that there should be another friend there besideGogol! Was this man’s silence a sensational way of declaring war? Wasthis adamantine stare after all only the awful sneer of some threefold traitor,who had turned for the last time? He stood and strained his ears in thisheartless silence. He almost fancied he could hear dynamiters come to capturehim shifting softly in the corridor outside.

Then his eye strayed downwards, and he burst out laughing. Though the Professorhimself stood there as voiceless as a statue, his five dumb fingers weredancing alive upon the dead table. Syme watched the twinkling movements of thetalking hand, and read clearly the message—

“I will only talk like this. We must get used to it.”

He rapped out the answer with the impatience of relief—

“All right. Let’s get out to breakfast.”

They took their hats and sticks in silence; but as Syme took his sword-stick,he held it hard.

They paused for a few minutes only to stuff down coffee and coarse thicksandwiches at a coffee stall, and then made their way across the river, whichunder the grey and growing light looked as desolate as Acheron. They reachedthe bottom of the huge block of buildings which they had seen from across theriver, and began in silence to mount the naked and numberless stone steps, onlypausing now and then to make short remarks on the rail of the banisters. Atabout every other flight they passed a window; each window showed them a paleand tragic dawn lifting itself laboriously over London. From each theinnumerable roofs of slate looked like the leaden surges of a grey, troubledsea after rain. Syme was increasingly conscious that his new adventure hadsomehow a quality of cold sanity worse than the wild adventures of the past.Last night, for instance, the tall tenements had seemed to him like a tower ina dream. As he now went up the weary and perpetual steps, he was daunted andbewildered by their almost infinite series. But it was not the hot horror of adream or of anything that might be exaggeration or delusion. Their infinity wasmore like the empty infinity of arithmetic, something unthinkable, yetnecessary to thought. Or it was like the stunning statements of astronomy aboutthe distance of the fixed stars. He was ascending the house of reason, a thingmore hideous than unreason itself.

By the time they reached Dr. Bull’s landing, a last window showed them aharsh, white dawn edged with banks of a kind of coarse red, more like red claythan red cloud. And when they entered Dr. Bull’s bare garret it was fullof light.

Syme had been haunted by a half historic memory in connection with these emptyrooms and that austere daybreak. The moment he saw the garret and Dr. Bullsitting writing at a table, he remembered what the memory was—the FrenchRevolution. There should have been the black outline of a guillotine againstthat heavy red and white of the morning. Dr. Bull was in his white shirt andblack breeches only; his cropped, dark head might well have just come out ofits wig; he might have been Marat or a more slipshod Robespierre.

Yet when he was seen properly, the French fancy fell away. The Jacobins wereidealists; there was about this man a murderous materialism. His position gavehim a somewhat new appearance. The strong, white light of morning coming fromone side creating sharp shadows, made him seem both more pale and more angularthan he had looked at the breakfast on the balcony. Thus the two black glassesthat encased his eyes might really have been black cavities in his skull,making him look like a death’s-head. And, indeed, if ever Death himselfsat writing at a wooden table, it might have been he.

He looked up and smiled brightly enough as the men came in, and rose with theresilient rapidity of which the Professor had spoken. He set chairs for both ofthem, and going to a peg behind the door, proceeded to put on a coat andwaistcoat of rough, dark tweed; he buttoned it up neatly, and came back to sitdown at his table.

The quiet good humour of his manner left his two opponents helpless. It waswith some momentary difficulty that the Professor broke silence and began,“I’m sorry to disturb you so early, comrade,” said he, with acareful resumption of the slow de Worms manner. “You have no doubt madeall the arrangements for the Paris affair?” Then he added with infiniteslowness, “We have information which renders intolerable anything in thenature of a moment’s delay.”

Dr. Bull smiled again, but continued to gaze on them without speaking. TheProfessor resumed, a pause before each weary word—

“Please do not think me excessively abrupt; but I advise you to alterthose plans, or if it is too late for that, to follow your agent with all thesupport you can get for him. Comrade Syme and I have had an experience which itwould take more time to recount than we can afford, if we are to act on it. Iwill, however, relate the occurrence in detail, even at the risk of losingtime, if you really feel that it is essential to the understanding of theproblem we have to discuss.”

He was spinning out his sentences, making them intolerably long and lingering,in the hope of maddening the practical little Doctor into an explosion ofimpatience which might show his hand. But the little Doctor continued only tostare and smile, and the monologue was uphill work. Syme began to feel a newsickness and despair. The Doctor’s smile and silence were not at all likethe cataleptic stare and horrible silence which he had confronted in theProfessor half an hour before. About the Professor’s makeup and all hisantics there was always something merely grotesque, like a gollywog. Symeremembered those wild woes of yesterday as one remembers being afraid of Bogyin childhood. But here was daylight; here was a healthy, square-shouldered manin tweeds, not odd save for the accident of his ugly spectacles, not glaring orgrinning at all, but smiling steadily and not saying a word. The whole had asense of unbearable reality. Under the increasing sunlight the colours of theDoctor’s complexion, the pattern of his tweeds, grew and expandedoutrageously, as such things grow too important in a realistic novel. But hissmile was quite slight, the pose of his head polite; the only uncanny thing washis silence.

“As I say,” resumed the Professor, like a man toiling through heavysand, “the incident that has occurred to us and has led us to ask forinformation about the Marquis, is one which you may think it better to havenarrated; but as it came in the way of Comrade Syme rather thanme—”

His words he seemed to be dragging out like words in an anthem; but Syme, whowas watching, saw his long fingers rattle quickly on the edge of the crazytable. He read the message, “You must go on. This devil has sucked medry!”

Syme plunged into the breach with that bravado of improvisation which alwayscame to him when he was alarmed.

“Yes, the thing really happened to me,” he said hastily. “Ihad the good fortune to fall into conversation with a detective who took me,thanks to my hat, for a respectable person. Wishing to clinch my reputation forrespectability, I took him and made him very drunk at the Savoy. Under thisinfluence he became friendly, and told me in so many words that within a day ortwo they hope to arrest the Marquis in France.

“So unless you or I can get on his track—”

The Doctor was still smiling in the most friendly way, and his protected eyeswere still impenetrable. The Professor signalled to Syme that he would resumehis explanation, and he began again with the same elaborate calm.

“Syme immediately brought this information to me, and we came heretogether to see what use you would be inclined to make of it. It seems to meunquestionably urgent that—”

All this time Syme had been staring at the Doctor almost as steadily as theDoctor stared at the Professor, but quite without the smile. The nerves of bothcomrades-in-arms were near snapping under that strain of motionless amiability,when Syme suddenly leant forward and idly tapped the edge of the table. Hismessage to his ally ran, “I have an intuition.”

The Professor, with scarcely a pause in his monologue, signalled back,“Then sit on it.”

Syme telegraphed, “It is quite extraordinary.”

The other answered, “Extraordinary rot!”

Syme said, “I am a poet.”

The other retorted, “You are a dead man.”

Syme had gone quite red up to his yellow hair, and his eyes were burningfeverishly. As he said he had an intuition, and it had risen to a sort oflightheaded certainty. Resuming his symbolic taps, he signalled to his friend,“You scarcely realise how poetic my intuition is. It has that suddenquality we sometimes feel in the coming of spring.”

He then studied the answer on his friend’s fingers. The answer was,“Go to hell!”

The Professor then resumed his merely verbal monologue addressed to the Doctor.

“Perhaps I should rather say,” said Syme on his fingers,“that it resembles that sudden smell of the sea which may be found in theheart of lush woods.”

His companion disdained to reply.

“Or yet again,” tapped Syme, “it is positive, as is thepassionate red hair of a beautiful woman.”

The Professor was continuing his speech, but in the middle of it Syme decidedto act. He leant across the table, and said in a voice that could not beneglected—

“Dr. Bull!”

The Doctor’s sleek and smiling head did not move, but they could havesworn that under his dark glasses his eyes darted towards Syme.

“Dr. Bull,” said Syme, in a voice peculiarly precise and courteous,“would you do me a small favour? Would you be so kind as to take off yourspectacles?”

The Professor swung round on his seat, and stared at Syme with a sort of frozenfury of astonishment. Syme, like a man who has thrown his life and fortune onthe table, leaned forward with a fiery face. The Doctor did not move.

For a few seconds there was a silence in which one could hear a pin drop, splitonce by the single hoot of a distant steamer on the Thames. Then Dr. Bull roseslowly, still smiling, and took off his spectacles.

Syme sprang to his feet, stepping backwards a little, like a chemical lecturerfrom a successful explosion. His eyes were like stars, and for an instant hecould only point without speaking.

The Professor had also started to his feet, forgetful of his supposedparalysis. He leant on the back of the chair and stared doubtfully at Dr. Bull,as if the Doctor had been turned into a toad before his eyes. And indeed it wasalmost as great a transformation scene.

The two detectives saw sitting in the chair before them a very boyish-lookingyoung man, with very frank and happy hazel eyes, an open expression, cockneyclothes like those of a city clerk, and an unquestionable breath about him ofbeing very good and rather commonplace. The smile was still there, but it mighthave been the first smile of a baby.

“I knew I was a poet,” cried Syme in a sort of ecstasy. “Iknew my intuition was as infallible as the Pope. It was the spectacles that didit! It was all the spectacles. Given those beastly black eyes, and all the restof him his health and his jolly looks, made him a live devil among deadones.”

“It certainly does make a queer difference,” said the Professorshakily. “But as regards the project of Dr. Bull—”

“Project be damned!” roared Syme, beside himself. “Look athim! Look at his face, look at his collar, look at his blessed boots! Youdon’t suppose, do you, that that thing’s an anarchist?”

“Syme!” cried the other in an apprehensive agony.

“Why, by God,” said Syme, “I’ll take the risk of thatmyself! Dr. Bull, I am a police officer. There’s my card,” and heflung down the blue card upon the table.

The Professor still feared that all was lost; but he was loyal. He pulled outhis own official card and put it beside his friend’s. Then the third manburst out laughing, and for the first time that morning they heard his voice.

“I’m awfully glad you chaps have come so early,” he said,with a sort of schoolboy flippancy, “for we can all start for Francetogether. Yes, I’m in the force right enough,” and he flicked ablue card towards them lightly as a matter of form.

Clapping a brisk bowler on his head and resuming his goblin glasses, the Doctormoved so quickly towards the door, that the others instinctively followed him.Syme seemed a little distrait, and as he passed under the doorway he suddenlystruck his stick on the stone passage so that it rang.

“But Lord God Almighty,” he cried out, “if this is all right,there were more damned detectives than there were damned dynamiters at thedamned Council!”

“We might have fought easily,” said Bull; “we were fouragainst three.”

The Professor was descending the stairs, but his voice came up from below.

“No,” said the voice, “we were not four againstthree—we were not so lucky. We were four against One.”

The others went down the stairs in silence.

The young man called Bull, with an innocent courtesy characteristic of him,insisted on going last until they reached the street; but there his own robustrapidity asserted itself unconsciously, and he walked quickly on ahead towardsa railway inquiry office, talking to the others over his shoulder.

“It is jolly to get some pals,” he said. “I’ve beenhalf dead with the jumps, being quite alone. I nearly flung my arms round Gogoland embraced him, which would have been imprudent. I hope you won’tdespise me for having been in a blue funk.”

“All the blue devils in blue hell,” said Syme, “contributedto my blue funk! But the worst devil was you and your infernal goggles.”

The young man laughed delightedly.

“Wasn’t it a rag?” he said. “Such a simpleidea—not my own. I haven’t got the brains. You see, I wanted to gointo the detective service, especially the anti-dynamite business. But for thatpurpose they wanted someone to dress up as a dynamiter; and they all swore byblazes that I could never look like a dynamiter. They said my very walk wasrespectable, and that seen from behind I looked like the British Constitution.They said I looked too healthy and too optimistic, and too reliable andbenevolent; they called me all sorts of names at Scotland Yard. They said thatif I had been a criminal, I might have made my fortune by looking so like anhonest man; but as I had the misfortune to be an honest man, there was not eventhe remotest chance of my assisting them by ever looking like a criminal. Butat last I was brought before some old josser who was high up in the force, andwho seemed to have no end of a head on his shoulders. And there the others alltalked hopelessly. One asked whether a bushy beard would hide my nice smile;another said that if they blacked my face I might look like a negro anarchist;but this old chap chipped in with a most extraordinary remark. ‘A pair ofsmoked spectacles will do it,’ he said positively. ‘Look at himnow; he looks like an angelic office boy. Put him on a pair of smokedspectacles, and children will scream at the sight of him.’ And so it was,by George! When once my eyes were covered, all the rest, smile and bigshoulders and short hair, made me look a perfect little devil. As I say, it wassimple enough when it was done, like miracles; but that wasn’t the reallymiraculous part of it. There was one really staggering thing about thebusiness, and my head still turns at it.”

“What was that?” asked Syme.

“I’ll tell you,” answered the man in spectacles. “Thisbig pot in the police who sized me up so that he knew how the goggles would gowith my hair and socks—by God, he never saw me at all!”

Syme’s eyes suddenly flashed on him.

“How was that?” he asked. “I thought you talked tohim.”

“So I did,” said Bull brightly; “but we talked in apitch-dark room like a coalcellar. There, you would never have guessedthat.”

“I could not have conceived it,” said Syme gravely.

“It is indeed a new idea,” said the Professor.

Their new ally was in practical matters a whirlwind. At the inquiry office heasked with businesslike brevity about the trains for Dover. Having got hisinformation, he bundled the company into a cab, and put them and himself insidea railway carriage before they had properly realised the breathless process.They were already on the Calais boat before conversation flowed freely.

“I had already arranged,” he explained, “to go to France formy lunch; but I am delighted to have someone to lunch with me. You see, I hadto send that beast, the Marquis, over with his bomb, because the President hadhis eye on me, though God knows how. I’ll tell you the story some day. Itwas perfectly choking. Whenever I tried to slip out of it I saw the Presidentsomewhere, smiling out of the bow-window of a club, or taking off his hat to mefrom the top of an omnibus. I tell you, you can say what you like, that fellowsold himself to the devil; he can be in six places at once.”

“So you sent the Marquis off, I understand,” asked the Professor.“Was it long ago? Shall we be in time to catch him?”

“Yes,” answered the new guide, “I’ve timed it all.He’ll still be at Calais when we arrive.”

“But when we do catch him at Calais,” said the Professor,“what are we going to do?”

At this question the countenance of Dr. Bull fell for the first time. Hereflected a little, and then said—

“Theoretically, I suppose, we ought to call the police.”

“Not I,” said Syme. “Theoretically I ought to drown myselffirst. I promised a poor fellow, who was a real modern pessimist, on my word ofhonour not to tell the police. I’m no hand at casuistry, but Ican’t break my word to a modern pessimist. It’s like breakingone’s word to a child.”

“I’m in the same boat,” said the Professor. “I tried totell the police and I couldn’t, because of some silly oath I took. Yousee, when I was an actor I was a sort of all-round beast. Perjury or treason isthe only crime I haven’t committed. If I did that I shouldn’t knowthe difference between right and wrong.”

“I’ve been through all that,” said Dr. Bull, “andI’ve made up my mind. I gave my promise to the Secretary—you knowhim, man who smiles upside down. My friends, that man is the most utterlyunhappy man that was ever human. It may be his digestion, or his conscience, orhis nerves, or his philosophy of the universe, but he’s damned,he’s in hell! Well, I can’t turn on a man like that, and hunt himdown. It’s like whipping a leper. I may be mad, but that’s how Ifeel; and there’s jolly well the end of it.”

“I don’t think you’re mad,” said Syme. “I knewyou would decide like that when first you—”

“Eh?” said Dr. Bull.

“When first you took off your spectacles.”

Dr. Bull smiled a little, and strolled across the deck to look at the sunlitsea. Then he strolled back again, kicking his heels carelessly, and acompanionable silence fell between the three men.

“Well,” said Syme, “it seems that we have all the same kindof morality or immorality, so we had better face the fact that comes ofit.”

“Yes,” assented the Professor, “you’re quite right; andwe must hurry up, for I can see the Grey Nose standing out from France.”

“The fact that comes of it,” said Syme seriously, “is this,that we three are alone on this planet. Gogol has gone, God knows where;perhaps the President has smashed him like a fly. On the Council we are threemen against three, like the Romans who held the bridge. But we are worse offthan that, first because they can appeal to their organization and we cannotappeal to ours, and second because—”

“Because one of those other three men,” said the Professor,“is not a man.”

Syme nodded and was silent for a second or two, then he said—

“My idea is this. We must do something to keep the Marquis in Calais tilltomorrow midday. I have turned over twenty schemes in my head. We cannotdenounce him as a dynamiter; that is agreed. We cannot get him detained on sometrivial charge, for we should have to appear; he knows us, and he would smell arat. We cannot pretend to keep him on anarchist business; he might swallow muchin that way, but not the notion of stopping in Calais while the Czar wentsafely through Paris. We might try to kidnap him, and lock him up ourselves;but he is a well-known man here. He has a whole bodyguard of friends; he isvery strong and brave, and the event is doubtful. The only thing I can see todo is actually to take advantage of the very things that are in theMarquis’s favour. I am going to profit by the fact that he is a highlyrespected nobleman. I am going to profit by the fact that he has many friendsand moves in the best society.”

“What the devil are you talking about?” asked the Professor.

“The Symes are first mentioned in the fourteenth century,” saidSyme; “but there is a tradition that one of them rode behind Bruce atBannockburn. Since 1350 the tree is quite clear.”

“He’s gone off his head,” said the little Doctor, staring.

“Our bearings,” continued Syme calmly, “are ‘argent achevron gules charged with three cross crosslets of the field.’ The mottovaries.”

The Professor seized Syme roughly by the waistcoat.

“We are just inshore,” he said. “Are you seasick or joking inthe wrong place?”

“My remarks are almost painfully practical,” answered Syme, in anunhurried manner. “The house of St. Eustache also is very ancient. TheMarquis cannot deny that he is a gentleman. He cannot deny that I am agentleman. And in order to put the matter of my social position quite beyond adoubt, I propose at the earliest opportunity to knock his hat off. But here weare in the harbour.”

They went on shore under the strong sun in a sort of daze. Syme, who had nowtaken the lead as Bull had taken it in London, led them along a kind of marineparade until he came to some cafés, embowered in a bulk of greenery andoverlooking the sea. As he went before them his step was slightly swaggering,and he swung his stick like a sword. He was making apparently for the extremeend of the line of cafés, but he stopped abruptly. With a sharp gesture hemotioned them to silence, but he pointed with one gloved finger to a café tableunder a bank of flowering foliage at which sat the Marquis de St. Eustache, histeeth shining in his thick, black beard, and his bold, brown face shadowed by alight yellow straw hat and outlined against the violet sea.

CHAPTER X.
THE DUEL

Syme sat down at a café table with his companions, his blue eyes sparkling likethe bright sea below, and ordered a bottle of Saumur with a pleased impatience.He was for some reason in a condition of curious hilarity. His spirits werealready unnaturally high; they rose as the Saumur sank, and in half an hour histalk was a torrent of nonsense. He professed to be making out a plan of theconversation which was going to ensue between himself and the deadly Marquis.He jotted it down wildly with a pencil. It was arranged like a printedcatechism, with questions and answers, and was delivered with an extraordinaryrapidity of utterance.

“I shall approach. Before taking off his hat, I shall take off my own. Ishall say, ‘The Marquis de Saint Eustache, I believe.’ He will say,‘The celebrated Mr. Syme, I presume.’ He will say in the mostexquisite French, ‘How are you?’ I shall reply in the mostexquisite Cockney, ‘Oh, just the Syme—’”

“Oh, shut it,” said the man in spectacles. “Pull yourselftogether, and chuck away that bit of paper. What are you really going todo?”

“But it was a lovely catechism,” said Syme pathetically. “Dolet me read it you. It has only forty-three questions and answers, and some ofthe Marquis’s answers are wonderfully witty. I like to be just to myenemy.”

“But what’s the good of it all?” asked Dr. Bull inexasperation.

“It leads up to my challenge, don’t you see,” said Syme,beaming. “When the Marquis has given the thirty-ninth reply, whichruns—”

“Has it by any chance occurred to you,” asked the Professor, with aponderous simplicity, “that the Marquis may not say all the forty-threethings you have put down for him? In that case, I understand, your own epigramsmay appear somewhat more forced.”

Syme struck the table with a radiant face.

“Why, how true that is,” he said, “and I never thought of it.Sir, you have an intellect beyond the common. You will make a name.”

“Oh, you’re as drunk as an owl!” said the Doctor.

“It only remains,” continued Syme quite unperturbed, “toadopt some other method of breaking the ice (if I may so express it) betweenmyself and the man I wish to kill. And since the course of a dialogue cannot bepredicted by one of its parties alone (as you have pointed out with suchrecondite acumen), the only thing to be done, I suppose, is for the one party,as far as possible, to do all the dialogue by himself. And so I will, byGeorge!” And he stood up suddenly, his yellow hair blowing in the slightsea breeze.

A band was playing in a café chantant hidden somewhere among the trees,and a woman had just stopped singing. On Syme’s heated head the bray ofthe brass band seemed like the jar and jingle of that barrel-organ in LeicesterSquare, to the tune of which he had once stood up to die. He looked across tothe little table where the Marquis sat. The man had two companions now, solemnFrenchmen in frock-coats and silk hats, one of them with the red rosette of theLegion of Honour, evidently people of a solid social position. Besides theseblack, cylindrical costumes, the Marquis, in his loose straw hat and lightspring clothes, looked Bohemian and even barbaric; but he looked the Marquis.Indeed, one might say that he looked the king, with his animal elegance, hisscornful eyes, and his proud head lifted against the purple sea. But he was noChristian king, at any rate; he was, rather, some swarthy despot, half Greek,half Asiatic, who in the days when slavery seemed natural looked down on theMediterranean, on his galley and his groaning slaves. Just so, Syme thought,would the brown-gold face of such a tyrant have shown against the dark greenolives and the burning blue.

“Are you going to address the meeting?” asked the Professorpeevishly, seeing that Syme still stood up without moving.

Syme drained his last glass of sparkling wine.

“I am,” he said, pointing across to the Marquis and his companions,“that meeting. That meeting displeases me. I am going to pull thatmeeting’s great ugly, mahogany-coloured nose.”

He stepped across swiftly, if not quite steadily. The Marquis, seeing him,arched his black Assyrian eyebrows in surprise, but smiled politely.

“You are Mr. Syme, I think,” he said.

Syme bowed.

“And you are the Marquis de Saint Eustache,” he said gracefully.“Permit me to pull your nose.”

He leant over to do so, but the Marquis started backwards, upsetting his chair,and the two men in top hats held Syme back by the shoulders.

“This man has insulted me!” said Syme, with gestures ofexplanation.

“Insulted you?” cried the gentleman with the red rosette,“when?”

“Oh, just now,” said Syme recklessly. “He insulted mymother.”

“Insulted your mother!” exclaimed the gentleman incredulously.

“Well, anyhow,” said Syme, conceding a point, “myaunt.”

“But how can the Marquis have insulted your aunt just now?” saidthe second gentleman with some legitimate wonder. “He has been sittinghere all the time.”

“Ah, it was what he said!” said Syme darkly.

“I said nothing at all,” said the Marquis, “except somethingabout the band. I only said that I liked Wagner played well.”

“It was an allusion to my family,” said Syme firmly. “My auntplayed Wagner badly. It was a painful subject. We are always being insultedabout it.”

“This seems most extraordinary,” said the gentleman who wasdécoré, looking doubtfully at the Marquis.

“Oh, I assure you,” said Syme earnestly, “the whole of yourconversation was simply packed with sinister allusions to my aunt’sweaknesses.”

“This is nonsense!” said the second gentleman. “I for onehave said nothing for half an hour except that I liked the singing of that girlwith black hair.”

“Well, there you are again!” said Syme indignantly. “Myaunt’s was red.”

“It seems to me,” said the other, “that you are simplyseeking a pretext to insult the Marquis.”

“By George!” said Syme, facing round and looking at him,“what a clever chap you are!”

The Marquis started up with eyes flaming like a tiger’s.

“Seeking a quarrel with me!” he cried. “Seeking a fight withme! By God! there was never a man who had to seek long. These gentlemen willperhaps act for me. There are still four hours of daylight. Let us fight thisevening.”

Syme bowed with a quite beautiful graciousness.

“Marquis,” he said, “your action is worthy of your fame andblood. Permit me to consult for a moment with the gentlemen in whose hands Ishall place myself.”

In three long strides he rejoined his companions, and they, who had seen hischampagne-inspired attack and listened to his idiotic explanations, were quitestartled at the look of him. For now that he came back to them he was quitesober, a little pale, and he spoke in a low voice of passionate practicality.

“I have done it,” he said hoarsely. “I have fixed a fight onthe beast. But look here, and listen carefully. There is no time for talk. Youare my seconds, and everything must come from you. Now you must insist, andinsist absolutely, on the duel coming off after seven tomorrow, so as to giveme the chance of preventing him from catching the 7.45 for Paris. If he missesthat he misses his crime. He can’t refuse to meet you on such a smallpoint of time and place. But this is what he will do. He will choose a fieldsomewhere near a wayside station, where he can pick up the train. He is a verygood swordsman, and he will trust to killing me in time to catch it. But I canfence well too, and I think I can keep him in play, at any rate, until thetrain is lost. Then perhaps he may kill me to console his feelings. Youunderstand? Very well then, let me introduce you to some charming friends ofmine,” and leading them quickly across the parade, he presented them tothe Marquis’s seconds by two very aristocratic names of which they hadnot previously heard.

Syme was subject to spasms of singular common sense, not otherwise a part ofhis character. They were (as he said of his impulse about the spectacles)poetic intuitions, and they sometimes rose to the exaltation of prophecy.

He had correctly calculated in this case the policy of his opponent. When theMarquis was informed by his seconds that Syme could only fight in the morning,he must fully have realised that an obstacle had suddenly arisen between himand his bomb-throwing business in the capital. Naturally he could not explainthis objection to his friends, so he chose the course which Syme had predicted.He induced his seconds to settle on a small meadow not far from the railway,and he trusted to the fatality of the first engagement.

When he came down very coolly to the field of honour, no one could have guessedthat he had any anxiety about a journey; his hands were in his pockets, hisstraw hat on the back of his head, his handsome face brazen in the sun. But itmight have struck a stranger as odd that there appeared in his train, not onlyhis seconds carrying the sword-case, but two of his servants carrying aportmanteau and a luncheon basket.

Early as was the hour, the sun soaked everything in warmth, and Syme wasvaguely surprised to see so many spring flowers burning gold and silver in thetall grass in which the whole company stood almost knee-deep.

With the exception of the Marquis, all the men were in sombre and solemnmorning-dress, with hats like black chimney-pots; the little Doctor especially,with the addition of his black spectacles, looked like an undertaker in afarce. Syme could not help feeling a comic contrast between this funerealchurch parade of apparel and the rich and glistening meadow, growing wildflowers everywhere. But, indeed, this comic contrast between the yellowblossoms and the black hats was but a symbol of the tragic contrast between theyellow blossoms and the black business. On his right was a little wood; faraway to his left lay the long curve of the railway line, which he was, so tospeak, guarding from the Marquis, whose goal and escape it was. In front ofhim, behind the black group of his opponents, he could see, like a tintedcloud, a small almond bush in flower against the faint line of the sea.

The member of the Legion of Honour, whose name it seemed was Colonel Ducroix,approached the Professor and Dr. Bull with great politeness, and suggested thatthe play should terminate with the first considerable hurt.

Dr. Bull, however, having been carefully coached by Syme upon this point ofpolicy, insisted, with great dignity and in very bad French, that it shouldcontinue until one of the combatants was disabled. Syme had made up his mindthat he could avoid disabling the Marquis and prevent the Marquis fromdisabling him for at least twenty minutes. In twenty minutes the Paris trainwould have gone by.

“To a man of the well-known skill and valour of Monsieur de St.Eustache,” said the Professor solemnly, “it must be a matter ofindifference which method is adopted, and our principal has strong reasons fordemanding the longer encounter, reasons the delicacy of which prevent me frombeing explicit, but for the just and honourable nature of which Ican—”

Peste!” broke from the Marquis behind, whose face hadsuddenly darkened, “let us stop talking and begin,” and he slashedoff the head of a tall flower with his stick.

Syme understood his rude impatience and instinctively looked over his shoulderto see whether the train was coming in sight. But there was no smoke on thehorizon.

Colonel Ducroix knelt down and unlocked the case, taking out a pair of twinswords, which took the sunlight and turned to two streaks of white fire. Heoffered one to the Marquis, who snatched it without ceremony, and another toSyme, who took it, bent it, and poised it with as much delay as was consistentwith dignity.

Then the Colonel took out another pair of blades, and taking one himself andgiving another to Dr. Bull, proceeded to place the men.

Both combatants had thrown off their coats and waistcoats, and stood sword inhand. The seconds stood on each side of the line of fight with drawn swordsalso, but still sombre in their dark frock-coats and hats. The principalssaluted. The Colonel said quietly, “Engage!” and the two bladestouched and tingled.

When the jar of the joined iron ran up Syme’s arm, all the fantasticfears that have been the subject of this story fell from him like dreams from aman waking up in bed. He remembered them clearly and in order as mere delusionsof the nerves—how the fear of the Professor had been the fear of thetyrannic accidents of nightmare, and how the fear of the Doctor had been thefear of the airless vacuum of science. The first was the old fear that anymiracle might happen, the second the more hopeless modern fear that no miraclecan ever happen. But he saw that these fears were fancies, for he found himselfin the presence of the great fact of the fear of death, with its coarse andpitiless common sense. He felt like a man who had dreamed all night of fallingover precipices, and had woke up on the morning when he was to be hanged. Foras soon as he had seen the sunlight run down the channel of his foe’sforeshortened blade, and as soon as he had felt the two tongues of steel touch,vibrating like two living things, he knew that his enemy was a terriblefighter, and that probably his last hour had come.

He felt a strange and vivid value in all the earth around him, in the grassunder his feet; he felt the love of life in all living things. He could almostfancy that he heard the grass growing; he could almost fancy that even as hestood fresh flowers were springing up and breaking into blossom in themeadow—flowers blood red and burning gold and blue, fulfilling the wholepageant of the spring. And whenever his eyes strayed for a flash from the calm,staring, hypnotic eyes of the Marquis, they saw the little tuft of almond treeagainst the sky-line. He had the feeling that if by some miracle he escaped hewould be ready to sit for ever before that almond tree, desiring nothing elsein the world.

But while earth and sky and everything had the living beauty of a thing lost,the other half of his head was as clear as glass, and he was parrying hisenemy’s point with a kind of clockwork skill of which he had hardlysupposed himself capable. Once his enemy’s point ran along his wrist,leaving a slight streak of blood, but it either was not noticed or was tacitlyignored. Every now and then he riposted, and once or twice he couldalmost fancy that he felt his point go home, but as there was no blood on bladeor shirt he supposed he was mistaken. Then came an interruption and a change.

At the risk of losing all, the Marquis, interrupting his quiet stare, flashedone glance over his shoulder at the line of railway on his right. Then heturned on Syme a face transfigured to that of a fiend, and began to fight as ifwith twenty weapons. The attack came so fast and furious, that the one shiningsword seemed a shower of shining arrows. Syme had no chance to look at therailway; but also he had no need. He could guess the reason of theMarquis’s sudden madness of battle—the Paris train was in sight.

But the Marquis’s morbid energy over-reached itself. Twice Syme,parrying, knocked his opponent’s point far out of the fighting circle;and the third time his riposte was so rapid, that there was no doubtabout the hit this time. Syme’s sword actually bent under the weight ofthe Marquis’s body, which it had pierced.

Syme was as certain that he had stuck his blade into his enemy as a gardenerthat he has stuck his spade into the ground. Yet the Marquis sprang back fromthe stroke without a stagger, and Syme stood staring at his own sword-pointlike an idiot. There was no blood on it at all.

There was an instant of rigid silence, and then Syme in his turn fell furiouslyon the other, filled with a flaming curiosity. The Marquis was probably, in ageneral sense, a better fencer than he, as he had surmised at the beginning,but at the moment the Marquis seemed distraught and at a disadvantage. Hefought wildly and even weakly, and he constantly looked away at the railwayline, almost as if he feared the train more than the pointed steel. Syme, onthe other hand, fought fiercely but still carefully, in an intellectual fury,eager to solve the riddle of his own bloodless sword. For this purpose, heaimed less at the Marquis’s body, and more at his throat and head. Aminute and a half afterwards he felt his point enter the man’s neck belowthe jaw. It came out clean. Half mad, he thrust again, and made what shouldhave been a bloody scar on the Marquis’s cheek. But there was no scar.

For one moment the heaven of Syme again grew black with supernatural terrors.Surely the man had a charmed life. But this new spiritual dread was a moreawful thing than had been the mere spiritual topsy-turvydom symbolised by theparalytic who pursued him. The Professor was only a goblin; this man was adevil—perhaps he was the Devil! Anyhow, this was certain, that threetimes had a human sword been driven into him and made no mark. When Syme hadthat thought he drew himself up, and all that was good in him sang high up inthe air as a high wind sings in the trees. He thought of all the human thingsin his story—of the Chinese lanterns in Saffron Park, of the girl’sred hair in the garden, of the honest, beer-swilling sailors down by the dock,of his loyal companions standing by. Perhaps he had been chosen as a championof all these fresh and kindly things to cross swords with the enemy of allcreation. “After all,” he said to himself, “I am more than adevil; I am a man. I can do the one thing which Satan himself cannot do—Ican die,” and as the word went through his head, he heard a faint andfar-off hoot, which would soon be the roar of the Paris train.

He fell to fighting again with a supernatural levity, like a Mohammedan pantingfor Paradise. As the train came nearer and nearer he fancied he could seepeople putting up the floral arches in Paris; he joined in the growing noiseand the glory of the great Republic whose gate he was guarding against Hell.His thoughts rose higher and higher with the rising roar of the train, whichended, as if proudly, in a long and piercing whistle. The train stopped.

Suddenly, to the astonishment of everyone the Marquis sprang back quite out ofsword reach and threw down his sword. The leap was wonderful, and not the lesswonderful because Syme had plunged his sword a moment before into theman’s thigh.

“Stop!” said the Marquis in a voice that compelled a momentaryobedience. “I want to say something.”

“What is the matter?” asked Colonel Ducroix, staring. “Hasthere been foul play?”

“There has been foul play somewhere,” said Dr. Bull, who was alittle pale. “Our principal has wounded the Marquis four times at least,and he is none the worse.”

The Marquis put up his hand with a curious air of ghastly patience.

“Please let me speak,” he said. “It is rather important. Mr.Syme,” he continued, turning to his opponent, “we are fightingtoday, if I remember right, because you expressed a wish (which I thoughtirrational) to pull my nose. Would you oblige me by pulling my nose now asquickly as possible? I have to catch a train.”

“I protest that this is most irregular,” said Dr. Bull indignantly.

“It is certainly somewhat opposed to precedent,” said ColonelDucroix, looking wistfully at his principal. “There is, I think, one caseon record (Captain Bellegarde and the Baron Zumpt) in which the weapons werechanged in the middle of the encounter at the request of one of the combatants.But one can hardly call one’s nose a weapon.”

“Will you or will you not pull my nose?” said the Marquis inexasperation. “Come, come, Mr. Syme! You wanted to do it, do it! You canhave no conception of how important it is to me. Don’t be so selfish!Pull my nose at once, when I ask you!” and he bent slightly forward witha fascinating smile. The Paris train, panting and groaning, had grated into alittle station behind the neighbouring hill.

Syme had the feeling he had more than once had in these adventures—thesense that a horrible and sublime wave lifted to heaven was just toppling over.Walking in a world he half understood, he took two paces forward and seized theRoman nose of this remarkable nobleman. He pulled it hard, and it came off inhis hand.

He stood for some seconds with a foolish solemnity, with the pasteboardproboscis still between his fingers, looking at it, while the sun and theclouds and the wooded hills looked down upon this imbecile scene.

The Marquis broke the silence in a loud and cheerful voice.

“If anyone has any use for my left eyebrow,” he said, “he canhave it. Colonel Ducroix, do accept my left eyebrow! It’s the kind ofthing that might come in useful any day,” and he gravely tore off one ofhis swarthy Assyrian brows, bringing about half his brown forehead with it, andpolitely offered it to the Colonel, who stood crimson and speechless with rage.

“If I had known,” he spluttered, “that I was acting for apoltroon who pads himself to fight—”

“Oh, I know, I know!” said the Marquis, recklessly throwing variousparts of himself right and left about the field. “You are making amistake; but it can’t be explained just now. I tell you the train hascome into the station!”

“Yes,” said Dr. Bull fiercely, “and the train shall go out ofthe station. It shall go out without you. We know well enough for whatdevil’s work—”

The mysterious Marquis lifted his hands with a desperate gesture. He was astrange scarecrow standing there in the sun with half his old face peeled off,and half another face glaring and grinning from underneath.

“Will you drive me mad?” he cried. “The train—”

“You shall not go by the train,” said Syme firmly, and grasped hissword.

The wild figure turned towards Syme, and seemed to be gathering itself for asublime effort before speaking.

“You great fat, blasted, blear-eyed, blundering, thundering, brainless,Godforsaken, doddering, damned fool!” he said without taking breath.“You great silly, pink-faced, towheaded turnip! You—”

“You shall not go by this train,” repeated Syme.

“And why the infernal blazes,” roared the other, “should Iwant to go by the train?”

“We know all,” said the Professor sternly. “You are going toParis to throw a bomb!”

“Going to Jericho to throw a Jabberwock!” cried the other, tearinghis hair, which came off easily.

“Have you all got softening of the brain, that you don’t realisewhat I am? Did you really think I wanted to catch that train? Twenty Paristrains might go by for me. Damn Paris trains!”

“Then what did you care about?” began the Professor.

“What did I care about? I didn’t care about catching the train; Icared about whether the train caught me, and now, by God! it has caughtme.”

“I regret to inform you,” said Syme with restraint, “thatyour remarks convey no impression to my mind. Perhaps if you were to remove theremains of your original forehead and some portion of what was once your chin,your meaning would become clearer. Mental lucidity fulfils itself in many ways.What do you mean by saying that the train has caught you? It may be my literaryfancy, but somehow I feel that it ought to mean something.”

“It means everything,” said the other, “and the end ofeverything. Sunday has us now in the hollow of his hand.”

“Us!” repeated the Professor, as if stupefied. “What do youmean by ‘us’?”

“The police, of course!” said the Marquis, and tore off his scalpand half his face.

The head which emerged was the blonde, well brushed, smooth-haired head whichis common in the English constabulary, but the face was terribly pale.

“I am Inspector Ratcliffe,” he said, with a sort of haste thatverged on harshness. “My name is pretty well known to the police, and Ican see well enough that you belong to them. But if there is any doubt about myposition, I have a card,” and he began to pull a blue card from hispocket.

The Professor gave a tired gesture.

“Oh, don’t show it us,” he said wearily; “we’vegot enough of them to equip a paper-chase.”

The little man named Bull, had, like many men who seem to be of a merevivacious vulgarity, sudden movements of good taste. Here he certainly savedthe situation. In the midst of this staggering transformation scene he steppedforward with all the gravity and responsibility of a second, and addressed thetwo seconds of the Marquis.

“Gentlemen,” he said, “we all owe you a serious apology; butI assure you that you have not been made the victims of such a low joke as youimagine, or indeed of anything undignified in a man of honour. You have notwasted your time; you have helped to save the world. We are not buffoons, butvery desperate men at war with a vast conspiracy. A secret society ofanarchists is hunting us like hares; not such unfortunate madmen as may here orthere throw a bomb through starvation or German philosophy, but a rich andpowerful and fanatical church, a church of eastern pessimism, which holds itholy to destroy mankind like vermin. How hard they hunt us you can gather fromthe fact that we are driven to such disguises as those for which I apologise,and to such pranks as this one by which you suffer.”

The younger second of the Marquis, a short man with a black moustache, bowedpolitely, and said—

“Of course, I accept the apology; but you will in your turn forgive me ifI decline to follow you further into your difficulties, and permit myself tosay good morning! The sight of an acquaintance and distinguishedfellow-townsman coming to pieces in the open air is unusual, and, upon thewhole, sufficient for one day. Colonel Ducroix, I would in no way influenceyour actions, but if you feel with me that our present society is a littleabnormal, I am now going to walk back to the town.”

Colonel Ducroix moved mechanically, but then tugged abruptly at his whitemoustache and broke out—

“No, by George! I won’t. If these gentlemen are really in a messwith a lot of low wreckers like that, I’ll see them through it. I havefought for France, and it is hard if I can’t fight forcivilization.”

Dr. Bull took off his hat and waved it, cheering as at a public meeting.

“Don’t make too much noise,” said Inspector Ratcliffe,“Sunday may hear you.”

“Sunday!” cried Bull, and dropped his hat.

“Yes,” retorted Ratcliffe, “he may be with them.”

“With whom?” asked Syme.

“With the people out of that train,” said the other.

“What you say seems utterly wild,” began Syme. “Why, as amatter of fact—But, my God,” he cried out suddenly, like a man whosees an explosion a long way off, “by God! if this is true the wholebally lot of us on the Anarchist Council were against anarchy! Every born manwas a detective except the President and his personal secretary. What can itmean?”

“Mean!” said the new policeman with incredible violence. “Itmeans that we are struck dead! Don’t you know Sunday? Don’t youknow that his jokes are always so big and simple that one has never thought ofthem? Can you think of anything more like Sunday than this, that he should putall his powerful enemies on the Supreme Council, and then take care that it wasnot supreme? I tell you he has bought every trust, he has captured every cable,he has control of every railway line—especially of that railwayline!” and he pointed a shaking finger towards the small wayside station.“The whole movement was controlled by him; half the world was ready torise for him. But there were just five people, perhaps, who would have resistedhim... and the old devil put them on the Supreme Council, to waste their timein watching each other. Idiots that we are, he planned the whole of ouridiocies! Sunday knew that the Professor would chase Syme through London, andthat Syme would fight me in France. And he was combining great masses ofcapital, and seizing great lines of telegraphy, while we five idiots wererunning after each other like a lot of confounded babies playing blindman’s buff.”

“Well?” asked Syme with a sort of steadiness.

“Well,” replied the other with sudden serenity, “he has foundus playing blind man’s buff today in a field of great rustic beauty andextreme solitude. He has probably captured the world; it only remains to him tocapture this field and all the fools in it. And since you really want to knowwhat was my objection to the arrival of that train, I will tell you. Myobjection was that Sunday or his Secretary has just this moment got out ofit.”

Syme uttered an involuntary cry, and they all turned their eyes towards thefar-off station. It was quite true that a considerable bulk of people seemed tobe moving in their direction. But they were too distant to be distinguished inany way.

Video: The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton - Chapter 1

“It was a habit of the late Marquis de St. Eustache,” said the newpoliceman, producing a leather case, “always to carry a pair of operaglasses. Either the President or the Secretary is coming after us with thatmob. They have caught us in a nice quiet place where we are under notemptations to break our oaths by calling the police. Dr. Bull, I have asuspicion that you will see better through these than through your own highlydecorative spectacles.”

He handed the field-glasses to the Doctor, who immediately took off hisspectacles and put the apparatus to his eyes.

“It cannot be as bad as you say,” said the Professor, somewhatshaken. “There are a good number of them certainly, but they may easilybe ordinary tourists.”

“Do ordinary tourists,” asked Bull, with the fieldglasses to hiseyes, “wear black masks half-way down the face?”

Syme almost tore the glasses out of his hand, and looked through them. Most menin the advancing mob really looked ordinary enough; but it was quite true thattwo or three of the leaders in front wore black half-masks almost down to theirmouths. This disguise is very complete, especially at such a distance, and Symefound it impossible to conclude anything from the clean-shaven jaws and chinsof the men talking in the front. But presently as they talked they all smiledand one of them smiled on one side.

CHAPTER XI.
THE CRIMINALS CHASE THE POLICE

Syme put the field-glasses from his eyes with an almost ghastly relief.

“The President is not with them, anyhow,” he said, and wiped hisforehead.

“But surely they are right away on the horizon,” said thebewildered Colonel, blinking and but half recovered from Bull’s hastythough polite explanation. “Could you possibly know your President amongall those people?”

“Could I know a white elephant among all those people!” answeredSyme somewhat irritably. “As you very truly say, they are on the horizon;but if he were walking with them... by God! I believe this ground wouldshake.”

After an instant’s pause the new man called Ratcliffe said with gloomydecision—

“Of course the President isn’t with them. I wish to Gemini he were.Much more likely the President is riding in triumph through Paris, or sittingon the ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral.”

“This is absurd!” said Syme. “Something may have happened inour absence; but he cannot have carried the world with a rush like that. It isquite true,” he added, frowning dubiously at the distant fields that laytowards the little station, “it is certainly true that there seems to bea crowd coming this way; but they are not all the army that you makeout.”

“Oh, they,” said the new detective contemptuously; “no, theyare not a very valuable force. But let me tell you frankly that they areprecisely calculated to our value—we are not much, my boy, inSunday’s universe. He has got hold of all the cables and telegraphshimself. But to kill the Supreme Council he regards as a trivial matter, like apost card; it may be left to his private secretary,” and he spat on thegrass.

Then he turned to the others and said somewhat austerely—

“There is a great deal to be said for death; but if anyone has anypreference for the other alternative, I strongly advise him to walk afterme.”

With these words, he turned his broad back and strode with silent energytowards the wood. The others gave one glance over their shoulders, and saw thatthe dark cloud of men had detached itself from the station and was moving witha mysterious discipline across the plain. They saw already, even with the nakedeye, black blots on the foremost faces, which marked the masks they wore. Theyturned and followed their leader, who had already struck the wood, anddisappeared among the twinkling trees.

The sun on the grass was dry and hot. So in plunging into the wood they had acool shock of shadow, as of divers who plunge into a dim pool. The inside ofthe wood was full of shattered sunlight and shaken shadows. They made a sort ofshuddering veil, almost recalling the dizziness of a cinematograph. Even thesolid figures walking with him Syme could hardly see for the patterns of sunand shade that danced upon them. Now a man’s head was lit as with a lightof Rembrandt, leaving all else obliterated; now again he had strong and staringwhite hands with the face of a negro. The ex-Marquis had pulled the old strawhat over his eyes, and the black shade of the brim cut his face so squarely intwo that it seemed to be wearing one of the black half-masks of their pursuers.The fancy tinted Syme’s overwhelming sense of wonder. Was he wearing amask? Was anyone wearing a mask? Was anyone anything? This wood of witchery, inwhich men’s faces turned black and white by turns, in which their figuresfirst swelled into sunlight and then faded into formless night, this mere chaosof chiaroscuro (after the clear daylight outside), seemed to Syme a perfectsymbol of the world in which he had been moving for three days, this worldwhere men took off their beards and their spectacles and their noses, andturned into other people. That tragic self-confidence which he had felt when hebelieved that the Marquis was a devil had strangely disappeared now that heknew that the Marquis was a friend. He felt almost inclined to ask after allthese bewilderments what was a friend and what an enemy. Was there anythingthat was apart from what it seemed? The Marquis had taken off his nose andturned out to be a detective. Might he not just as well take off his head andturn out to be a hobgoblin? Was not everything, after all, like thisbewildering woodland, this dance of dark and light? Everything only a glimpse,the glimpse always unforeseen, and always forgotten. For Gabriel Syme had foundin the heart of that sun-splashed wood what many modern painters had foundthere. He had found the thing which the modern people call Impressionism, whichis another name for that final scepticism which can find no floor to theuniverse.

As a man in an evil dream strains himself to scream and wake, Syme strove witha sudden effort to fling off this last and worst of his fancies. With twoimpatient strides he overtook the man in the Marquis’s straw hat, the manwhom he had come to address as Ratcliffe. In a voice exaggeratively loud andcheerful, he broke the bottomless silence and made conversation.

“May I ask,” he said, “where on earth we are all goingto?”

So genuine had been the doubts of his soul, that he was quite glad to hear hiscompanion speak in an easy, human voice.

“We must get down through the town of Lancy to the sea,” he said.“I think that part of the country is least likely to be with them.”

“What can you mean by all this?” cried Syme. “Theycan’t be running the real world in that way. Surely not many working menare anarchists, and surely if they were, mere mobs could not beat modern armiesand police.”

“Mere mobs!” repeated his new friend with a snort of scorn.“So you talk about mobs and the working classes as if they were thequestion. You’ve got that eternal idiotic idea that if anarchy came itwould come from the poor. Why should it? The poor have been rebels, but theyhave never been anarchists; they have more interest than anyone else in therebeing some decent government. The poor man really has a stake in the country.The rich man hasn’t; he can go away to New Guinea in a yacht. The poorhave sometimes objected to being governed badly; the rich have always objectedto being governed at all. Aristocrats were always anarchists, as you can seefrom the barons’ wars.”

“As a lecture on English history for the little ones,” said Syme,“this is all very nice; but I have not yet grasped itsapplication.”

“Its application is,” said his informant, “that most of oldSunday’s right-hand men are South African and American millionaires. Thatis why he has got hold of all the communications; and that is why the last fourchampions of the anti-anarchist police force are running through a wood likerabbits.”

“Millionaires I can understand,” said Syme thoughtfully,“they are nearly all mad. But getting hold of a few wicked old gentlemenwith hobbies is one thing; getting hold of great Christian nations is another.I would bet the nose off my face (forgive the allusion) that Sunday would standperfectly helpless before the task of converting any ordinary healthy personanywhere.”

“Well,” said the other, “it rather depends what sort ofperson you mean.”

“Well, for instance,” said Syme, “he could never convert thatperson,” and he pointed straight in front of him.

They had come to an open space of sunlight, which seemed to express to Syme thefinal return of his own good sense; and in the middle of this forest clearingwas a figure that might well stand for that common sense in an almost awfulactuality. Burnt by the sun and stained with perspiration, and grave with thebottomless gravity of small necessary toils, a heavy French peasant was cuttingwood with a hatchet. His cart stood a few yards off, already half full oftimber; and the horse that cropped the grass was, like his master, valorous butnot desperate; like his master, he was even prosperous, but yet was almost sad.The man was a Norman, taller than the average of the French and very angular;and his swarthy figure stood dark against a square of sunlight, almost likesome allegoric figure of labour frescoed on a ground of gold.

“Mr. Syme is saying,” called out Ratcliffe to the French Colonel,“that this man, at least, will never be an anarchist.”

“Mr. Syme is right enough there,” answered Colonel Ducroix,laughing, “if only for the reason that he has plenty of property todefend. But I forgot that in your country you are not used to peasants beingwealthy.”

“He looks poor,” said Dr. Bull doubtfully.

“Quite so,” said the Colonel; “that is why he is rich.”

“I have an idea,” called out Dr. Bull suddenly; “how muchwould he take to give us a lift in his cart? Those dogs are all on foot, and wecould soon leave them behind.”

“Oh, give him anything!” said Syme eagerly. “I have piles ofmoney on me.”

“That will never do,” said the Colonel; “he will never haveany respect for you unless you drive a bargain.”

“Oh, if he haggles!” began Bull impatiently.

“He haggles because he is a free man,” said the other. “Youdo not understand; he would not see the meaning of generosity. He is not beingtipped.”

And even while they seemed to hear the heavy feet of their strange pursuersbehind them, they had to stand and stamp while the French Colonel talked to theFrench wood-cutter with all the leisurely badinage and bickering of market-day.At the end of the four minutes, however, they saw that the Colonel was right,for the wood-cutter entered into their plans, not with the vague servility of atout too-well paid, but with the seriousness of a solicitor who had been paidthe proper fee. He told them that the best thing they could do was to maketheir way down to the little inn on the hills above Lancy, where the innkeeper,an old soldier who had become dévot in his latter years, would becertain to sympathise with them, and even to take risks in their support. Thewhole company, therefore, piled themselves on top of the stacks of wood, andwent rocking in the rude cart down the other and steeper side of the woodland.Heavy and ramshackle as was the vehicle, it was driven quickly enough, and theysoon had the exhilarating impression of distancing altogether those, whoeverthey were, who were hunting them. For, after all, the riddle as to where theanarchists had got all these followers was still unsolved. One man’spresence had sufficed for them; they had fled at the first sight of thedeformed smile of the Secretary. Syme every now and then looked back over hisshoulder at the army on their track.

As the wood grew first thinner and then smaller with distance, he could see thesunlit slopes beyond it and above it; and across these was still moving thesquare black mob like one monstrous beetle. In the very strong sunlight andwith his own very strong eyes, which were almost telescopic, Syme could seethis mass of men quite plainly. He could see them as separate human figures;but he was increasingly surprised by the way in which they moved as one man.They seemed to be dressed in dark clothes and plain hats, like any common crowdout of the streets; but they did not spread and sprawl and trail by variouslines to the attack, as would be natural in an ordinary mob. They moved with asort of dreadful and wicked woodenness, like a staring army of automatons.

Syme pointed this out to Ratcliffe.

“Yes,” replied the policeman, “that’s discipline.That’s Sunday. He is perhaps five hundred miles off, but the fear of himis on all of them, like the finger of God. Yes, they are walking regularly; andyou bet your boots that they are talking regularly, yes, and thinkingregularly. But the one important thing for us is that they are disappearingregularly.”

Syme nodded. It was true that the black patch of the pursuing men was growingsmaller and smaller as the peasant belaboured his horse.

The level of the sunlit landscape, though flat as a whole, fell away on thefarther side of the wood in billows of heavy slope towards the sea, in a waynot unlike the lower slopes of the Sussex downs. The only difference was thatin Sussex the road would have been broken and angular like a little brook, buthere the white French road fell sheer in front of them like a waterfall. Downthis direct descent the cart clattered at a considerable angle, and in a fewminutes, the road growing yet steeper, they saw below them the little harbourof Lancy and a great blue arc of the sea. The travelling cloud of their enemieshad wholly disappeared from the horizon.

The horse and cart took a sharp turn round a clump of elms, and thehorse’s nose nearly struck the face of an old gentleman who was sittingon the benches outside the little café of “Le Soleil d’Or.”The peasant grunted an apology, and got down from his seat. The others alsodescended one by one, and spoke to the old gentleman with fragmentary phrasesof courtesy, for it was quite evident from his expansive manner that he was theowner of the little tavern.

He was a white-haired, apple-faced old boy, with sleepy eyes and a greymoustache; stout, sedentary, and very innocent, of a type that may often befound in France, but is still commoner in Catholic Germany. Everything abouthim, his pipe, his pot of beer, his flowers, and his beehive, suggested anancestral peace; only when his visitors looked up as they entered theinn-parlour, they saw the sword upon the wall.

The Colonel, who greeted the innkeeper as an old friend, passed rapidly intothe inn-parlour, and sat down ordering some ritual refreshment. The militarydecision of his action interested Syme, who sat next to him, and he took theopportunity when the old innkeeper had gone out of satisfying his curiosity.

“May I ask you, Colonel,” he said in a low voice, “why wehave come here?”

Colonel Ducroix smiled behind his bristly white moustache.

“For two reasons, sir,” he said; “and I will give first, notthe most important, but the most utilitarian. We came here because this is theonly place within twenty miles in which we can get horses.”

“Horses!” repeated Syme, looking up quickly.

“Yes,” replied the other; “if you people are really todistance your enemies it is horses or nothing for you, unless of course youhave bicycles and motor-cars in your pocket.”

“And where do you advise us to make for?” asked Syme doubtfully.

“Beyond question,” replied the Colonel, “you had better makeall haste to the police station beyond the town. My friend, whom I secondedunder somewhat deceptive circumstances, seems to me to exaggerate very much thepossibilities of a general rising; but even he would hardly maintain, Isuppose, that you were not safe with the gendarmes.”

Syme nodded gravely; then he said abruptly—

“And your other reason for coming here?”

“My other reason for coming here,” said Ducroix soberly, “isthat it is just as well to see a good man or two when one is possibly near todeath.”

Syme looked up at the wall, and saw a crudely-painted and pathetic religiouspicture. Then he said—

“You are right,” and then almost immediately afterwards, “Hasanyone seen about the horses?”

“Yes,” answered Ducroix, “you may be quite certain that Igave orders the moment I came in. Those enemies of yours gave no impression ofhurry, but they were really moving wonderfully fast, like a well-trained army.I had no idea that the anarchists had so much discipline. You have not a momentto waste.”

Almost as he spoke, the old innkeeper with the blue eyes and white hair cameambling into the room, and announced that six horses were saddled outside.

By Ducroix’s advice the five others equipped themselves with someportable form of food and wine, and keeping their duelling swords as the onlyweapons available, they clattered away down the steep, white road. The twoservants, who had carried the Marquis’s luggage when he was a marquis,were left behind to drink at the café by common consent, and not at all againsttheir own inclination.

By this time the afternoon sun was slanting westward, and by its rays Symecould see the sturdy figure of the old innkeeper growing smaller and smaller,but still standing and looking after them quite silently, the sunshine in hissilver hair. Syme had a fixed, superstitious fancy, left in his mind by thechance phrase of the Colonel, that this was indeed, perhaps, the last honeststranger whom he should ever see upon the earth.

He was still looking at this dwindling figure, which stood as a mere grey blottouched with a white flame against the great green wall of the steep downbehind him. And as he stared over the top of the down behind the innkeeper,there appeared an army of black-clad and marching men. They seemed to hangabove the good man and his house like a black cloud of locusts. The horses hadbeen saddled none too soon.

CHAPTER XII.
THE EARTH IN ANARCHY

Urging the horses to a gallop, without respect to the rather rugged descent ofthe 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 theirpursuers. Nevertheless, the ride had been a long one, and by the time theyreached the real town the west was warming with the colour and quality ofsunset. The Colonel suggested that, before making finally for the policestation, they should make the effort, in passing, to attach to themselves onemore individual who might be useful.

“Four out of the five rich men in this town,” he said, “arecommon 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 moreimportant from our point of view, he owns a motor-car.”

“I am afraid,” said the Professor in his mirthful way, looking backalong the white road on which the black, crawling patch might appear at anymoment, “I am afraid we have hardly time for afternoon calls.”

“Doctor Renard’s house is only three minutes off,” said theColonel.

“Our danger,” said Dr. Bull, “is not two minutes off.”

“Yes,” said Syme, “if we ride on fast we must leave thembehind, 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 thatnoise?”

For a second they all sat as still as equestrian statues, and for asecond—for two or three or four seconds—heaven and earth seemedequally still. Then all their ears, in an agony of attention, heard along theroad that indescribable thrill and throb that means only onething—horses!

The Colonel’s face had an instantaneous change, as if lightning hadstruck 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 hemechanically 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 ‘Soleild’Or’ was the only place where one can get horses within twentymiles.”

“No!” said Syme violently, “I don’t believe he’ddo it. Not with all that white hair.”

“He may have been forced,” said the Colonel gently. “Theymust be at least a hundred strong, for which reason we are all going to see myfriend Renard, who has a motor-car.”

With these words he swung his horse suddenly round a street corner, and wentdown the street with such thundering speed, that the others, though alreadywell 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 solidgreen ridge of the hill, with the white road across it, standing up above allthe roofs of the town. They breathed again to see that the road as yet wasclear, and they rang the bell.

Dr. Renard was a beaming, brown-bearded man, a good example of that silent butvery busy professional class which France has preserved even more perfectlythan England. When the matter was explained to him he pooh-poohed the panic ofthe ex-Marquis altogether; he said, with the solid French scepticism, thatthere was no conceivable probability of a general anarchist rising.“Anarchy,” he said, shrugging his shoulders, “it ischildishness!”

Et ça,” cried out the Colonel suddenly, pointing over theother’s shoulder, “and that is childishness, isn’t it?”

They all looked round, and saw a curve of black cavalry come sweeping over thetop 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 vizardsof the first line as level as a line of uniforms. But although the main blacksquare was the same, though travelling faster, there was now one sensationaldifference which they could see clearly upon the slope of the hill, as if upona slanted map. The bulk of the riders were in one block; but one rider flew farahead of the column, and with frantic movements of hand and heel urged hishorse faster and faster, so that one might have fancied that he was not thepursuer but the pursued. But even at that great distance they could seesomething so fanatical, so unquestionable in his figure, that they knew it wasthe Secretary himself. “I am sorry to cut short a cultureddiscussion,” said the Colonel, “but can you lend me your motor-carnow, in two minutes?”

“I have a suspicion that you are all mad,” said Dr. Renard, smilingsociably; “but God forbid that madness should in any way interruptfriendship. Let us go round to the garage.”

Dr. Renard was a mild man with monstrous wealth; his rooms were like the Muséede Cluny, and he had three motor-cars. These, however, he seemed to use verysparingly, having the simple tastes of the French middle class, and when hisimpatient friends came to examine them, it took them some time to assurethemselves that one of them even could be made to work. This with somedifficulty 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 twilighthad already fallen with the abruptness of night in the tropics. Either they hadbeen longer in the place than they imagined, or some unusual canopy of cloudhad gathered over the town. They looked down the steep streets, and seemed tosee 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 onthe rattling stones, was not the noise of the whole cavalcade but that of theone horseman, who had left it far behind—the insane Secretary.

Syme’s family, like most of those who end in the simple life, had onceowned a motor, and he knew all about them. He had leapt at once into thechauffeur’s seat, and with flushed face was wrenching and tugging at thedisused machinery. He bent his strength upon one handle, and then said quitequietly—

“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 chinas if it were dislocated. He swept alongside of the stationary car, into whichits 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 therumble of the other pursuers riding into the town. Then there came quitesuddenly a scream of scraping iron, and the car leapt forward. It plucked theSecretary 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 theroad far in front of his frightened horse. As the car took the corner of thestreet with a splendid curve, they could just see the other anarchists fillingthe street and raising their fallen leader.

“I can’t understand why it has grown so dark,” said theProfessor 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 seeby.”

“We have,” said the Colonel, and from the floor of the car hefished 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 beenin some way semi-religious, for there was a rude moulding of a cross upon oneof 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 thesteering wheel, I ran up the front steps of the house and spoke to Renard, whowas standing in his own porch, you will remember. ‘I suppose,’ Isaid, ‘there’s no time to get a lamp.’ He looked up, blinkingamiably at the beautiful arched ceiling of his own front hall. From this wassuspended, by chains of exquisite ironwork, this lantern, one of the hundredtreasures of his treasure house. By sheer force he tore the lamp out of his ownceiling, shattering the painted panels, and bringing down two blue vases withhis violence. Then he handed me the iron lantern, and I put it in the car. WasI not right when I said that Dr. Renard was worth knowing?”

“You were,” said Syme seriously, and hung the heavy lantern overthe front. There was a certain allegory of their whole position in the contrastbetween the modern automobile and its strange ecclesiastical lamp. Hithertothey had passed through the quietest part of the town, meeting at most one ortwo pedestrians, who could give them no hint of the peace or the hostility ofthe place. Now, however, the windows in the houses began one by one to be litup, giving a greater sense of habitation and humanity. Dr. Bull turned to thenew detective who had led their flight, and permitted himself one of hisnatural 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,” hesaid, “and they are those lights of the police station which I can seebeyond the town. Please God we may be there in ten minutes.”

Then all Bull’s boiling good sense and optimism broke suddenly out ofhim.

“Oh, this is all raving nonsense!” he cried. “If you reallythink that ordinary people in ordinary houses are anarchists, you must bemadder than an anarchist yourself. If we turned and fought these fellows, thewhole town would fight for us.”

“No,” said the other with an immovable simplicity, “the wholetown would fight for them. We shall see.”

While they were speaking the Professor had leant forward with suddenexcitement.

“What is that noise?” he said.

“Oh, the horses behind us, I suppose,” said the Colonel. “Ithought we had got clear of them.”

“The horses behind us! No,” said the Professor, “it is nothorses, and it is not behind us.”

Almost as he spoke, across the end of the street before them two shining andrattling shapes shot past. They were gone almost in a flash, but everyone couldsee that they were motor-cars, and the Professor stood up with a pale face andswore that they were the other two motor-cars from Dr. Renard’s garage.

“I tell you they were his,” he repeated, with wild eyes, “andthey were full of men in masks!”

“Absurd!” said the Colonel angrily. “Dr. Renard would nevergive them his cars.”

“He may have been forced,” said Ratcliffe quietly. “The wholetown is on their side.”

“You still believe that,” asked the Colonel incredulously.

“You will all believe it soon,” said the other with a hopelesscalm.

There was a puzzled pause for some little time, and then the Colonel beganagain abruptly—

“No, I can’t believe it. The thing is nonsense. The plain people ofa peaceable French town—”

He was cut short by a bang and a blaze of light, which seemed close to hiseyes. As the car sped on it left a floating patch of white smoke behind it, andSyme 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 theplain people of a peaceable French town.”

The staring Colonel was long past minding satire. He rolled his eyes all roundthe street.

“It is extraordinary,” he said, “most extraordinary.”

“A fastidious person,” said Syme, “might even call itunpleasant. However, I suppose those lights out in the field beyond this streetare the Gendarmerie. We shall soon get there.”

“No,” said Inspector Ratcliffe, “we shall never getthere.”

He had been standing up and looking keenly ahead of him. Now he sat down andsmoothed his sleek hair with a weary gesture.

“What do you mean?” asked Bull sharply.

“I mean that we shall never get there,” said the pessimistplacidly. “They have two rows of armed men across the road already; I cansee them from here. The town is in arms, as I said it was. I can only wallow inthe exquisite comfort of my own exactitude.”

And Ratcliffe sat down comfortably in the car and lit a cigarette, but theothers rose excitedly and stared down the road. Syme had slowed down the car astheir plans became doubtful, and he brought it finally to a standstill just atthe 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 levellight could break through, it painted everything a burning gold. Up this sidestreet the last sunset light shone as sharp and narrow as the shaft ofartificial light at the theatre. It struck the car of the five friends, and litit like a burning chariot. But the rest of the street, especially the two endsof it, was in the deepest twilight, and for some seconds they could seenothing. Then Syme, whose eyes were the keenest, broke into a little bitterwhistle, and said,

“It is quite true. There is a crowd or an army or some such thing acrossthe end of that street.”

“Well, if there is,” said Bull impatiently, “it must besomething else—a sham fight or the mayor’s birthday or something. Icannot and will not believe that plain, jolly people in a place like this walkabout with dynamite in their pockets. Get on a bit, Syme, and let us look atthem.”

The car crawled about a hundred yards farther, and then they were all startledby Dr. Bull breaking into a high crow of laughter.

“Why, you silly mugs!” he cried, “what did I tell you. Thatcrowd’s as law-abiding as a cow, and if it weren’t, it’s onour side.”

“How do you know?” asked the professor, staring.

“You blind bat,” cried Bull, “don’t you see who isleading them?”

They peered again, and then the Colonel, with a catch in his voice, criedout—

“Why, it’s Renard!”

There was, indeed, a rank of dim figures running across the road, and theycould not be clearly seen; but far enough in front to catch the accident of theevening light was stalking up and down the unmistakable Dr. Renard, in a whitehat, stroking his long brown beard, and holding a revolver in his left hand.

“What a fool I’ve been!” exclaimed the Colonel. “Ofcourse, the dear old boy has turned out to help us.”

Dr. Bull was bubbling over with laughter, swinging the sword in his hand ascarelessly as a cane. He jumped out of the car and ran across the interveningspace, calling out—

“Dr. Renard! Dr. Renard!”

An instant after Syme thought his own eyes had gone mad in his head. For thephilanthropic Dr. Renard had deliberately raised his revolver and fired twiceat Bull, so that the shots rang down the road.

Almost at the same second as the puff of white cloud went up from thisatrocious explosion a long puff of white cloud went up also from the cigaretteof the cynical Ratcliffe. Like all the rest he turned a little pale, but hesmiled. 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 thenturned very slowly and crawled back to the car, and climbed in with two holesthrough his hat.

“Well,” said the cigarette smoker slowly, “what do you thinknow?”

“I think,” said Dr. Bull with precision, “that I am lying inbed 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 cellin Hanwell, and that the doctor can’t make much of my case. But if youwant to know what I don’t think, I’ll tell you. I don’t thinkwhat you think. I don’t think, and I never shall think, that the mass ofordinary men are a pack of dirty modern thinkers. No, sir, I’m ademocrat, and I still don’t believe that Sunday could convert one averagenavvy 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 notcommonly make clear.

“You are a very fine fellow,” he said. “You can believe in asanity which is not merely your sanity. And you’re right enough abouthumanity, about peasants and people like that jolly old innkeeper. Butyou’re not right about Renard. I suspected him from the first. He’srationalistic, and, what’s worse, he’s rich. When duty and religionare really destroyed, it will be by the rich.”

“They are really destroyed now,” said the man with a cigarette, androse 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 uponthem, 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 apractical joke. If you knew Renard as I do—it’s like calling QueenVictoria a dynamiter. If you had got the man’s character into yourhead—”

“Dr. Bull,” said Syme sardonically, “has at least got it intohis hat.”

“I tell you it can’t be!” cried the Colonel, stamping.

“Renard shall explain it. He shall explain it to me,” and he strodeforward.

“Don’t be in such a hurry,” drawled the smoker. “Hewill very soon explain it to all of us.”

But the impatient Colonel was already out of earshot, advancing towards theadvancing enemy. The excited Dr. Renard lifted his pistol again, but perceivinghis opponent, hesitated, and the Colonel came face to face with him withfrantic gestures of remonstrance.

“It is no good,” said Syme. “He will never get anything outof that old heathen. I vote we drive bang through the thick of them, bang asthe bullets went through Bull’s hat. We may all be killed, but we mustkill a tidy number of them.”

“I won’t ’ave it,” said Dr. Bull, growing more vulgarin 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 usis 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 hadtravelled. He saw an irregular body of horsemen gathering and galloping towardsthem in the gloom. He saw above the foremost saddle the silver gleam of asword, 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 andsent it dashing down the steep side street to the sea, like a man that desiredonly 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 downthe darkness like a falling star.

The others did not understand his words, but when they looked back at thestreet above they saw the hostile cavalry coming round the corner and down theslopes after them; and foremost of all rode the good innkeeper, flushed withthe fiery innocence of the evening light.

“The world is insane!” said the Professor, and buried his face inhis 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, “Ithink we are going to smash into a lamppost.”

The next instant the automobile had come with a catastrophic jar against aniron object. The instant after that four men had crawled out from under a chaosof metal, and a tall lean lamp-post that had stood up straight on the edge ofthe marine parade stood out, bent and twisted, like the branch of a brokentree.

“Well, we smashed something,” said the Professor, with a faintsmile. “That’s some comfort.”

“You’re becoming an anarchist,” said Syme, dusting hisclothes with his instinct of daintiness.

“Everyone is,” said Ratcliffe.

As they spoke, the white-haired horseman and his followers came thundering fromabove, and almost at the same moment a dark string of men ran shouting alongthe sea-front. Syme snatched a sword, and took it in his teeth; he stuck twoothers under his arm-pits, took a fourth in his left hand and the lantern inhis 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 hismouth. “Whatever all this pandemonium means, I suppose the police stationwill help us. We can’t get there, for they hold the way. Butthere’s a pier or breakwater runs out into the sea just here, which wecould defend longer than anything else, like Horatius and his bridge. We mustdefend it till the Gendarmerie turn out. Keep after me.”

They followed him as he went crunching down the beach, and in a second or twotheir boots broke not on the sea gravel, but on broad, flat stones. Theymarched down a long, low jetty, running out in one arm into the dim, boilingsea, and when they came to the end of it they felt that they had come to theend of their story. They turned and faced the town.

That town was transfigured with uproar. All along the high parade from whichthey had just descended was a dark and roaring stream of humanity, with tossingarms and fiery faces, groping and glaring towards them. The long dark line wasdotted with torches and lanterns; but even where no flame lit up a furiousface, they could see in the farthest figure, in the most shadowy gesture, anorganised hate. It was clear that they were the accursed of all men, and theyknew not why.

Two or three men, looking little and black like monkeys, leapt over the edge asthey had done and dropped on to the beach. These came ploughing down the deepsand, shouting horribly, and strove to wade into the sea at random. The examplewas followed, and the whole black mass of men began to run and drip over theedge like black treacle.

Foremost among the men on the beach Syme saw the peasant who had driven theircart. He splashed into the surf on a huge cart-horse, and shook his axe atthem.

“The peasant!” cried Syme. “They have not risen since theMiddle 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 peopleleft in the town who are human.”

“No,” said the hopeless Inspector, “the human being will soonbe extinct. We are the last of mankind.”

“It may be,” said the Professor absently. Then he added in hisdreamy 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 withhurrying figures, and they heard through the darkness the clash and jingle of adisciplined 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 withexcitement.

“Yes,” said Ratcliffe, “and they are going to fire onus.”

As he spoke there came a long crackle of musketry, and bullets seemed to hoplike hailstones on the stones in front of them.

“The gendarmes have joined them!” cried the Professor, and struckhis forehead.

“I am in the padded cell,” said Bull solidly.

There was a long silence, and then Ratcliffe said, looking out over the swollensea, all a sort of grey purple—

“What does it matter who is mad or who is sane? We shall all be deadsoon.”

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 littlehope that I cannot get out of my mind. The power of this whole planet isagainst us, yet I cannot help wondering whether this one silly little hope ishopeless 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 inthe dark room. But Sunday must have killed him by now.”

“Perhaps,” said the other steadily; “but if so, he was theonly 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 theColonel?”

“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 theColonel too! I will never believe it!”

“Will you believe your eyes?” asked the other, and pointed to thebeach.

Many of their pursuers had waded into the water shaking their fists, but thesea 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 becautiously advancing down it. The glare of a chance lantern lit up the faces ofthe two foremost. One face wore a black half-mask, and under it the mouth wastwisting about in such a madness of nerves that the black tuft of beardwriggled round and round like a restless, living thing. The other was the redface 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 ownbodily machinery. I feel as if my own hand might fly up and strike me.”

“When my hand flies up,” said Syme, “it will strike somebodyelse,” and he strode along the pier towards the Colonel, the sword in onehand 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 hissword, breaking it short at the hilt. Syme rushed on, and swung the ironlantern above his head.

“Judas before Herod!” he said, and struck the Colonel down upon thestones. Then he turned to the Secretary, whose frightful mouth was almostfoaming now, and held the lamp high with so rigid and arresting a gesture, thatthe 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 notmake it. You did not light it. Better men than you, men who could believe andobey, twisted the entrails of iron and preserved the legend of fire. There isnot a street you walk on, there is not a thread you wear, that was not made asthis lantern was, by denying your philosophy of dirt and rats. You can makenothing. You can only destroy. You will destroy mankind; you will destroy theworld. Let that suffice you. Yet this one old Christian lantern you shall notdestroy. It shall go where your empire of apes will never have the wit to findit.”

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 itflared like a roaring rocket and fell.

“Swords!” shouted Syme, turning his flaming face to the threebehind him. “Let us charge these dogs, for our time has come todie.”

His three companions came after him sword in hand. Syme’s sword wasbroken, 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 andperished, when an interruption came. The Secretary, ever since Syme’sspeech, had stood with his hand to his stricken head as if dazed; now hesuddenly pulled off his black mask.

The pale face thus peeled in the lamplight revealed not so much rage asastonishment. He put up his hand with an anxious authority.

“There is some mistake,” he said. “Mr. Syme, I hardly thinkyou 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 fromScotland Yard,” and he took a small blue card from his pocket.

“And what do you suppose we are?” asked the Professor, and threw uphis arms.

“You,” said the Secretary stiffly, “are, as I know for afact, 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. “Wewere all a lot of silly policemen looking at each other. And all these nicepeople who have been peppering us with shot thought we were the dynamiters. Iknew I couldn’t be wrong about the mob,” he said, beaming over theenormous multitude, which stretched away to the distance on both sides.“Vulgar people are never mad. I’m vulgar myself, and I know. I amnow 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. Thepoor old Colonel might have had some cause to complain, having been firstforced to fight for two factions that didn’t exist, and then knocked downwith an iron lantern. But he was a magnanimous old gentleman, and being muchrelieved that neither party had anything to do with dynamite, he saw them offon 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 inorder to approach the supposed enemy as fellow-conspirators.

Syme had to explain how they had fled with such swiftness through a civilisedcountry. But above all these matters of detail which could be explained, rosethe central mountain of the matter that they could not explain. What did it allmean? If they were all harmless officers, what was Sunday? If he had not seizedthe world, what on earth had he been up to? Inspector Ratcliffe was stillgloomy about this.

“I can’t make head or tail of old Sunday’s little game anymore than you can,” he said. “But whatever else Sunday is, heisn’t a blameless citizen. Damn it! do you remember his face?”

“I grant you,” answered Syme, “that I have never been able toforget it.”

“Well,” said the Secretary, “I suppose we can find out soon,for tomorrow we have our next general meeting. You will excuse me,” hesaid, with a rather ghastly smile, “for being well acquainted with mysecretarial duties.”

“I suppose you are right,” said the Professor reflectively.“I suppose we might find it out from him; but I confess that I shouldfeel 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 theoptimist of the party, endeavoured to persuade the other four that the wholecompany 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. Theyfinished their journey at an hotel in Piccadilly Circus, so as to be close tothe early breakfast next morning in Leicester Square. Yet even then theadventures of the day were not entirely over. Dr. Bull, discontented with thegeneral proposal to go to bed, had strolled out of the hotel at about eleven tosee 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 atfirst to soothe him, was forced at last to listen to his communication withquite new attention.

“I tell you I’ve seen him!” said Dr. Bull, with thickemphasis.

“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 behairy man—Gogol. Here he is,” and he pulled forward by a reluctantelbow the identical young man who five days before had marched out of theCouncil with thin red hair and a pale face, the first of all the shamanarchists who had been exposed.

“Why do you worry with me?” he cried. “You have expelled meas a spy.”

“We are all spies!” whispered Syme.

“We’re all spies!” shouted Dr. Bull. “Come and have adrink.”

Next morning the battalion of the reunited six marched stolidly towards thehotel in Leicester Square.

“This is more cheerful,” said Dr. Bull; “we are six men goingto ask one man what he means.”

“I think it is a bit queerer than that,” said Syme. “I thinkit is six men going to ask one man what they mean.”

They turned in silence into the Square, and though the hotel was in theopposite corner, they saw at once the little balcony and a figure that lookedtoo 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 asif they were watched out of heaven by a hundred eyes.

They had disputed much upon their policy, about whether they should leave theunmasked Gogol without and begin diplomatically, or whether they should bringhim in and blow up the gunpowder at once. The influence of Syme and Bullprevailed for the latter course, though the Secretary to the last asked themwhy they attacked Sunday so rashly.

“My reason is quite simple,” said Syme. “I attack him rashlybecause I am afraid of him.”

They followed Syme up the dark stair in silence, and they all came outsimultaneously into the broad sunlight of the morning and the broad sunlight ofSunday’s smile.

“Delightful!” he said. “So pleased to see you all. What anexquisite day it is. Is the Czar dead?”

The Secretary, who happened to be foremost, drew himself together for adignified outburst.

“No, sir,” he said sternly “there has been no massacre. Ibring you news of no such disgusting spectacles.”

“Disgusting spectacles?” repeated the President, with a bright,inquiring smile. “You mean Dr. Bull’s spectacles?”

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The Secretary choked for a moment, and the President went on with a sort ofsmooth appeal—

“Of course, we all have our opinions and even our eyes, but really tocall 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’mnot. Look at my face.”

“I dare say it’s the sort of face that grows on one,” saidthe President, “in fact, it grows on you; and who am I to quarrel withthe wild fruits upon the Tree of Life? I dare say it will grow on me someday.”

“We have no time for tomfoolery,” said the Secretary, breaking insavagely. “We have come to know what all this means. Who are you? Whatare you? Why did you get us all here? Do you know who and what we are? Are youa half-witted man playing the conspirator, or are you a clever man playing thefool? Answer me, I tell you.”

“Candidates,” murmured Sunday, “are only required to answereight 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 willgo 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 anincredible 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. Grubin the roots of those trees and find out the truth about them. Syme, you are apoet. Stare at those morning clouds. But I tell you this, that you will havefound out the truth of the last tree and the top-most cloud before the truthabout me. You will understand the sea, and I shall be still a riddle; you shallknow what the stars are, and not know what I am. Since the beginning of theworld all men have hunted me like a wolf—kings and sages, and poets andlawgivers, all the churches, and all the philosophies. But I have never beencaught yet, and the skies will fall in the time I turn to bay. I have giventhem a good run for their money, and I will now.”

Before one of them could move, the monstrous man had swung himself like somehuge ourang-outang over the balustrade of the balcony. Yet before he dropped hepulled himself up again as on a horizontal bar, and thrusting his great chinover the edge of the balcony, said solemnly—

“There’s one thing I’ll tell you though about who I am. I amthe man in the dark room, who made you all policemen.”

With that he fell from the balcony, bouncing on the stones below like a greatball 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 beenstanding thunderstruck and livid in the light of his last assertion; but whenhe disappeared into the cab, Syme’s practical senses returned to him, andleaping over the balcony so recklessly as almost to break his legs, he calledanother cab.

He and Bull sprang into the cab together, the Professor and the Inspector intoanother, while the Secretary and the late Gogol scrambled into a third just intime to pursue the flying Syme, who was pursuing the flying President. Sundayled them a wild chase towards the north-west, his cabman, evidently under theinfluence 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 cabshouting, “Stop thief!” until crowds ran along beside his cab, andpolicemen began to stop and ask questions. All this had its influence upon thePresident’s cabman, who began to look dubious, and to slow down to atrot. He opened the trap to talk reasonably to his fare, and in so doing letthe 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 frontof the cab himself, he lashed the horse and roared aloud, so that they wentdown the streets like a flying storm. Through street after street and squareafter square went whirling this preposterous vehicle, in which the fare wasurging the horse and the driver trying desperately to stop it. The other threecabs 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 wherehe stood, and sticking his great grinning head out of the cab, with white hairwhistling in the wind, he made a horrible face at his pursuers, like somecolossal urchin. Then raising his right hand swiftly, he flung a ball of paperin Syme’s face and vanished. Syme caught the thing while instinctivelywarding it off, and discovered that it consisted of two crumpled papers. Onewas addressed to himself, and the other to Dr. Bull, with a very long, and itis to be feared partly ironical, string of letters after his name. Dr.Bull’s address was, at any rate, considerably longer than hiscommunication, 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 theArchdeacon more than I. I trust it will not come to that. But, for the lasttime, where are your goloshes? The thing is too bad, especially after whatuncle said.”

The President’s cabman seemed to be regaining some control over hishorse, and the pursuers gained a little as they swept round into the EdgwareRoad. And here there occurred what seemed to the allies a providentialstoppage. Traffic of every kind was swerving to right or left or stopping, fordown 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 wentby, 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 distancetalking 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 horsesand slightly decreased the distance between themselves and their disappearingprey. The President acknowledged this proximity by coming to the back of thecar, bowing repeatedly, kissing his hand, and finally flinging a neatly-foldednote into the bosom of Inspector Ratcliffe. When that gentleman opened it, notwithout impatience, he found it contained the words:—

“Fly at once. The truth about your trouser-stretchers isknown.—A FRIEND.”

The fire-engine had struck still farther to the north, into a region that theydid not recognise; and as it ran by a line of high railings shadowed withtrees, the six friends were startled, but somewhat relieved, to see thePresident leap from the fire-engine, though whether through another whim or theincreasing protest of his entertainers they could not see. Before the threecabs, however, could reach up to the spot, he had gone up the high railingslike a huge grey cat, tossed himself over, and vanished in a darkness ofleaves.

Syme with a furious gesture stopped his cab, jumped out, and sprang also to theescalade. When he had one leg over the fence and his friends were following, heturned a face on them which shone quite pale in the shadow.

“What place can this be?” he asked. “Can it be the olddevil’s house? I’ve heard he has a house in North London.”

“All the better,” said the Secretary grimly, planting a foot in afoothold, “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 andblowing 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 likethat?”

He held up his hand, and there came out of the thicket a long growling roarthat seemed to get under the skin and freeze the flesh—a low thrillingroar that made a throbbing in the air all about them.

“The dogs of Sunday would be no ordinary dogs,” said Gogol, andshuddered.

Syme had jumped down on the other side, but he still stood listeningimpatiently.

“Well, listen to that,” he said, “is that adog—anybody’s dog?”

There broke upon their ear a hoarse screaming as of things protesting andclamouring in sudden pain; and then, far off like an echo, what sounded like along nasal trumpet.

“Well, his house ought to be hell!” said the Secretary; “andif it is hell, I’m going in!” and he sprang over the tall railingsalmost with one swing.

The others followed. They broke through a tangle of plants and shrubs, and cameout on an open path. Nothing was in sight, but Dr. Bull suddenly struck hishands together.

“Why, you asses,” he cried, “it’s the Zoo!”

As they were looking round wildly for any trace of their wild quarry, a keeperin 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 madand run away!”

“He has run away with an old gentleman,” said the other strangerbreathlessly, “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,” saidthe keeper eagerly.

“Well,” said Syme, “if he’s that particular kind of oldgentleman, if you’re quite sure that he’s a large and fat oldgentleman in grey clothes, you may take my word for it that the elephant hasnot run away with him. He has run away with the elephant. The elephant is notmade by God that could run away with him if he did not consent to theelopement. And, by thunder, there he is!”

There was no doubt about it this time. Clean across the space of grass, abouttwo hundred yards away, with a crowd screaming and scampering vainly at hisheels, went a huge grey elephant at an awful stride, with his trunk thrown outas 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 allthe placidity of a sultan, but goading the animal to a furious speed with somesharp object in his hand.

“Stop him!” screamed the populace. “He’ll be out of thegate!”

“Stop a landslide!” said the keeper. “He is out of thegate!”

And even as he spoke, a final crash and roar of terror announced that the greatgrey elephant had broken out of the gates of the Zoological Gardens, and wascareening down Albany Street like a new and swift sort of omnibus.

“Great Lord!” cried Bull, “I never knew an elephant could goso fast. Well, it must be hansom-cabs again if we are to keep him insight.”

As they raced along to the gate out of which the elephant had vanished, Symefelt 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. Heremembered especially seeing pelicans, with their preposterous, pendantthroats. He wondered why the pelican was the symbol of charity, except it wasthat it wanted a good deal of charity to admire a pelican. He remembered ahornbill, which was simply a huge yellow beak with a small bird tied on behindit. The whole gave him a sensation, the vividness of which he could notexplain, that Nature was always making quite mysterious jokes. Sunday had toldthem that they would understand him when they had understood the stars. Hewondered whether even the archangels understood the hornbill.

The six unhappy detectives flung themselves into cabs and followed the elephantsharing 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 hisunconscious back, which maddened them, if possible, more than his previousmockeries. Just before they came to Baker Street, however, he was seen to throwsomething 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 containingGogol; and in faint hope of a clue or for some impulse unexplainable, hestopped his cab so as to pick it up. It was addressed to himself, and was quitea bulky parcel. On examination, however, its bulk was found to consist ofthirty-three pieces of paper of no value wrapped one round the other. When thelast covering was torn away it reduced itself to a small slip of paper, onwhich was written:—

“The word, I fancy, should be ‘pink’.”

The man once known as Gogol said nothing, but the movements of his hands andfeet were like those of a man urging a horse to renewed efforts.

Through street after street, through district after district, went the prodigyof the flying elephant, calling crowds to every window, and driving the trafficleft and right. And still through all this insane publicity the three cabstoiled after it, until they came to be regarded as part of a procession, andperhaps the advertisement of a circus. They went at such a rate that distanceswere shortened beyond belief, and Syme saw the Albert Hall in Kensington whenhe thought that he was still in Paddington. The animal’s pace was evenmore fast and free through the empty, aristocratic streets of South Kensington,and he finally headed towards that part of the sky-line where the enormousWheel of Earl’s Court stood up in the sky. The wheel grew larger andlarger, till it filled heaven like the wheel of stars.

The beast outstripped the cabs. They lost him round several corners, and whenthey came to one of the gates of the Earl’s Court Exhibition they foundthemselves finally blocked. In front of them was an enormous crowd; in themidst of it was an enormous elephant, heaving and shuddering as such shapelesscreatures 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 adazed 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 theSecretary 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 letthe 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 theSecretary. “What is there queer about a captive balloon?”

“Nothing,” said Syme, “except that it isn’tcaptive!”

They all turned their eyes to where the balloon swung and swelled above theExhibition on a string, like a child’s balloon. A second afterwards thestring came in two just under the car, and the balloon, broken loose, floatedaway with the freedom of a soap bubble.

“Ten thousand devils!” shrieked the Secretary. “He’sgot into it!” and he shook his fists at the sky.

The balloon, borne by some chance wind, came right above them, and they couldsee the great white head of the President peering over the side and lookingbenevolently down on them.

“God bless my soul!” said the Professor with the elderly mannerthat 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 ofmy 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’sknot and, the words:—

“Your beauty has not left me indifferent.—FromLITTLE 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 draggleddetectives, about five miles out of London. The optimist of the party had atfirst proposed that they should follow the balloon across South England inhansom-cabs. But he was ultimately convinced of the persistent refusal of theballoon to follow the roads, and the still more persistent refusal of thecabmen to follow the balloon. Consequently the tireless though exasperatedtravellers broke through black thickets and ploughed through ploughed fieldstill 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 admirablelight grey suit in which Syme had set out from Saffron Park. His silk hat wasbroken over his nose by a swinging bough, his coat-tails were torn to theshoulder by arresting thorns, the clay of England was splashed up to hiscollar; but he still carried his yellow beard forward with a silent and furiousdetermination, 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 hurtthe old boy.”

“Hurt him!” said the vindictive Professor, “hurt him! Not asmuch 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 allthat tale about his being our man in the dark room? Sunday would say he wasanybody.”

“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 oldSunday’s balloon to burst because—”

“Well,” said Syme impatiently, “because?”

“Well, because he’s so jolly like a balloon himself,” saidDr. Bull desperately. “I don’t understand a word of all that ideaof his being the same man who gave us all our blue cards. It seems to makeeverything nonsense. But I don’t care who knows it, I always had asympathy for old Sunday himself, wicked as he was. Just as if he was a greatbouncing baby. How can I explain what my queer sympathy was? It didn’tprevent my fighting him like hell! Shall I make it clear if I say that I likedhim because he was so fat?”

“You will not,” said the Secretary.

“I’ve got it now,” cried Bull, “it was because he wasso fat and so light. Just like a balloon. We always think of fat people asheavy, 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. Itwas like the old speculations—what would happen if an elephant could leapup in the sky like a grasshopper?”

“Our elephant,” said Syme, looking upwards, “has leapt intothe sky like a grasshopper.”

“And somehow,” concluded Bull, “that’s why Ican’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 hewere bursting with some good news. Haven’t you sometimes felt it on aspring day? You know Nature plays tricks, but somehow that day proves they aregood-natured tricks. I never read the Bible myself, but that part they laugh atis literal truth, ‘Why leap ye, ye high hills?’ The hills doleap—at least, they try to.... Why do I like Sunday?... how can I tellyou?... because he’s such a Bounder.”

There was a long silence, and then the Secretary said in a curious, strainedvoice—

“You do not know Sunday at all. Perhaps it is because you are better thanI, and do not know hell. I was a fierce fellow, and a trifle morbid from thefirst. The man who sits in darkness, and who chose us all, chose me because Ihad 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 somethingin me that answered to the nerves in all these anarchic men. For when I firstsaw Sunday he expressed to me, not your airy vitality, but something both grossand sad in the Nature of Things. I found him smoking in a twilight room, a roomwith brown blind down, infinitely more depressing than the genial darkness inwhich our master lives. He sat there on a bench, a huge heap of a man, dark andout of shape. He listened to all my words without speaking or even stirring. Ipoured 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 wasshaken by some secret malady. It shook like a loathsome and living jelly. Itreminded me of everything I had ever read about the base bodies that are theorigin of life—the deep sea lumps and protoplasm. It seemed like thefinal form of matter, the most shapeless and the most shameful. I could onlytell myself, from its shudderings, that it was something at least that such amonster could be miserable. And then it broke upon me that the bestial mountainwas shaking with a lonely laughter, and the laughter was at me. Do you ask meto forgive him that? It is no small thing to be laughed at by something at oncelower and stronger than oneself.”

“Surely you fellows are exaggerating wildly,” cut in the clearvoice of Inspector Ratcliffe. “President Sunday is a terrible fellow forone’s intellect, but he is not such a Barnum’s freak physically asyou make out. He received me in an ordinary office, in a grey check coat, inbroad daylight. He talked to me in an ordinary way. But I’ll tell youwhat 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 greatbright eyes go quite blind. For hours he forgets that you are there. Nowabsent-mindedness is just a bit too awful in a bad man. We think of a wickedman as vigilant. We can’t think of a wicked man who is honestly andsincerely dreamy, because we daren’t think of a wicked man alone withhimself. An absentminded man means a good-natured man. It means a man who, ifhe happens to see you, will apologise. But how will you bear an absentmindedman who, if he happens to see you, will kill you? That is what tries thenerves, abstraction combined with cruelty. Men have felt it sometimes when theywent through wild forests, and felt that the animals there were at onceinnocent and pitiless. They might ignore or slay. How would you like to passten 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 notanswer at all.

“Wake up, Professor!” said Syme genially. “Tell us what youthink 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 somethinglike 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 toolarge—everybody does, but I also thought it was too loose. The face wasso big, that one couldn’t focus it or make it a face at all. The eye wasso far away from the nose, that it wasn’t an eye. The mouth was so muchby itself, that one had to think of it by itself. The whole thing is too hardto 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 anda lighted window and a cloud make together a most complete and unmistakableface. If anyone in heaven has that face I shall know him again. Yet when Iwalked a little farther I found that there was no face, that the window was tenyards 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 chancepictures run away. And so his face has made me, somehow, doubt whether thereare any faces. I don’t know whether your face, Bull, is a face or acombination in perspective. Perhaps one black disc of your beastly glasses isquite close and another fifty miles away. Oh, the doubts of a materialist arenot worth a dump. Sunday has taught me the last and the worst doubts, thedoubts of a spiritualist. I am a Buddhist, I suppose; and Buddhism is not acreed, it is a doubt. My poor dear Bull, I do not believe that you really havea face. I have not faith enough to believe in matter.”

Syme’s eyes were still fixed upon the errant orb, which, reddened in theevening light, looked like some rosier and more innocent world.

“Have you noticed an odd thing,” he said, “about all yourdescriptions? Each man of you finds Sunday quite different, yet each man of youcan only find one thing to compare him to—the universe itself. Bull findshim like the earth in spring, Gogol like the sun at noonday. The Secretary isreminded of the shapeless protoplasm, and the Inspector of the carelessness ofvirgin forests. The Professor says he is like a changing landscape. This isqueer, but it is queerer still that I also have had my odd notion about thePresident, and I also find that I think of Sunday as I think of the wholeworld.”

“Get on a little faster, Syme,” said Bull; “never mind theballoon.”

“When I first saw Sunday,” said Syme slowly, “I only saw hisback; and when I saw his back, I knew he was the worst man in the world. Hisneck and shoulders were brutal, like those of some apish god. His head had astoop that was hardly human, like the stoop of an ox. In fact, I had at oncethe revolting fancy that this was not a man at all, but a beast dressed up inmen’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 otherside of him, saw his face in the sunlight. His face frightened me, as it dideveryone; but not because it was brutal, not because it was evil. On thecontrary, it frightened me because it was so beautiful, because it was sogood.”

“Syme,” exclaimed the Secretary, “are you ill?”

“It was like the face of some ancient archangel, judging justly afterheroic wars. There was laughter in the eyes, and in the mouth honour andsorrow. There was the same white hair, the same great, grey-clad shoulders thatI had seen from behind. But when I saw him from behind I was certain he was ananimal, and when I saw him in front I knew he was a god.”

“Pan,” said the Professor dreamily, “was a god and ananimal.”

“Then, and again and always,” went on Syme like a man talking tohimself, “that has been for me the mystery of Sunday, and it is also themystery of the world. When I see the horrible back, I am sure the noble face isbut a mask. When I see the face but for an instant, I know the back is only ajest. Bad is so bad, that we cannot but think good an accident; good is sogood, that we feel certain that evil could be explained. But the whole came toa kind of crest yesterday when I raced Sunday for the cab, and was just behindhim all the way.”

“Had you time for thinking then?” asked Ratcliffe.

“Time,” replied Syme, “for one outrageous thought. I wassuddenly possessed with the idea that the blind, blank back of his head reallywas his face—an awful, eyeless face staring at me! And I fancied that thefigure running in front of me was really a figure running backwards, anddancing as he ran.”

“Horrible!” said Dr. Bull, and shuddered.

“Horrible is not the word,” said Syme. “It was exactly theworst instant of my life. And yet ten minutes afterwards, when he put his headout of the cab and made a grimace like a gargoyle, I knew that he was only likea father playing hide-and-seek with his children.”

“It is a long game,” said the Secretary, and frowned at his brokenboots.

“Listen to me,” cried Syme with extraordinary emphasis.“Shall I tell you the secret of the whole world? It is that we have onlyknown the back of the world. We see everything from behind, and it looksbrutal. That is not a tree, but the back of a tree. That is not a cloud, butthe back of a cloud. Cannot you see that everything is stooping and hiding aface? If we could only get round in front—”

“Look!” cried out Bull clamorously, “the balloon is comingdown!”

There was no need to cry out to Syme, who had never taken his eyes off it. Hesaw the great luminous globe suddenly stagger in the sky, right itself, andthen 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 myfriend—my friend in the dark!”

“Dead!” snorted the Secretary. “You will not find him deadeasily. If he has been tipped out of the car, we shall find him rolling as acolt rolls in a field, kicking his legs for fun.”

“Clashing his hoofs,” said the Professor. “The colts do, andso did Pan.”

“Pan again!” said Dr. Bull irritably. “You seem to think Panis everything.”

“So he is,” said the Professor, “in Greek. He meanseverything.”

“Don’t forget,” said the Secretary, looking down, “thathe also means Panic.”

Syme had stood without hearing any of the exclamations.

“It fell over there,” he said shortly. “Let us followit!”

Then he added with an indescribable gesture—

“Oh, if he has cheated us all by getting killed! It would be like one ofhis larks.”

He strode off towards the distant trees with a new energy, his rags and ribbonsfluttering in the wind. The others followed him in a more footsore and dubiousmanner. And almost at the same moment all six men realised that they were notalone in the little field.

Across the square of turf a tall man was advancing towards them, leaning on astrange long staff like a sceptre. He was clad in a fine but old-fashioned suitwith knee-breeches; its colour was that shade between blue, violet and greywhich can be seen in certain shadows of the woodland. His hair was whitishgrey, and at the first glance, taken along with his knee-breeches, looked as ifit was powdered. His advance was very quiet; but for the silver frost upon hishead, he might have been one to the shadows of the wood.

“Gentlemen,” he said, “my master has a carriage waiting foryou 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 foundhimself. The hedges were ordinary hedges, the trees seemed ordinary trees; yethe felt like a man entrapped in fairyland.

He looked the mysterious ambassador up and down, but he could discover nothingexcept 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 andgolden sky.

“Show us the place,” Syme said briefly, and without a word the manin the violet coat turned his back and walked towards a gap in the hedge, whichlet in suddenly the light of a white road.

As the six wanderers broke out upon this thoroughfare, they saw the white roadblocked by what looked like a long row of carriages, such a row of carriages asmight close the approach to some house in Park Lane. Along the side of thesecarriages stood a rank of splendid servants, all dressed in the grey-blueuniform, and all having a certain quality of stateliness and freedom whichwould not commonly belong to the servants of a gentleman, but rather to theofficials and ambassadors of a great king. There were no less than sixcarriages waiting, one for each of the tattered and miserable band. All theattendants (as if in court-dress) wore swords, and as each man crawled into hiscarriage 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 thecushions of his carriage; “but if it is, it’s one of the jokes youtalk about. It’s a good-natured one.”

The six adventurers had passed through many adventures, but not one had carriedthem so utterly off their feet as this last adventure of comfort. They had allbecome inured to things going roughly; but things suddenly going smoothlyswamped them. They could not even feebly imagine what the carriages were; itwas enough for them to know that they were carriages, and carriages withcushions. They could not conceive who the old man was who had led them; but itwas quite enough that he had certainly led them to the carriages.

Syme drove through a drifting darkness of trees in utter abandonment. It wastypical of him that while he had carried his bearded chin forward fiercely solong as anything could be done, when the whole business was taken out of hishands he fell back on the cushions in a frank collapse.

Very gradually and very vaguely he realised into what rich roads the carriagewas carrying him. He saw that they passed the stone gates of what might havebeen a park, that they began gradually to climb a hill which, while wooded onboth sides, was somewhat more orderly than a forest. Then there began to growupon him, as upon a man slowly waking from a healthy sleep, a pleasure ineverything. 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 sawhigh elms behind the hedges, and vaguely thought how happy boys would beclimbing there. Then his carriage took a turn of the path, and he saw suddenlyand quietly, like a long, low, sunset cloud, a long, low house, mellow in themild light of sunset. All the six friends compared notes afterwards andquarrelled; but they all agreed that in some unaccountable way the placereminded them of their boyhood. It was either this elm-top or that crookedpath, it was either this scrap of orchard or that shape of a window; but eachman of them declared that he could remember this place before he could rememberhis 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 breastof his coat, came out to meet them. This impressive person said to thebewildered Syme—

“Refreshments are provided for you in your room.”

Syme, under the influence of the same mesmeric sleep of amazement, went up thelarge oaken stairs after the respectful attendant. He entered a splendid suiteof apartments that seemed to be designed specially for him. He walked up to along mirror with the ordinary instinct of his class, to pull his tie straightor to smooth his hair; and there he saw the frightful figure that hewas—blood running down his face from where the bough had struck him, hishair 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 ofhow he had got there, and how he was to get out again. Exactly at the samemoment a man in blue, who had been appointed as his valet, said verysolemnly—

“I have put out your clothes, sir.”

“Clothes!” said Syme sardonically. “I have no clothes exceptthese,” and he lifted two long strips of his frock-coat in fascinatingfestoons, and made a movement as if to twirl like a ballet girl.

“My master asks me to say,” said the attendant, “that thereis a fancy dress ball tonight, and that he desires you to put on the costumethat I have laid out. Meanwhile, sir, there is a bottle of Burgundy and somecold pheasant, which he hopes you will not refuse, as it is some hours beforesupper.”

“Cold pheasant is a good thing,” said Syme reflectively, “andBurgundy is a spanking good thing. But really I do not want either of them somuch as I want to know what the devil all this means, and what sort of costumeyou have got laid out for me. Where is it?”

The servant lifted off a kind of ottoman a long peacock-blue drapery, rather ofthe nature of a domino, on the front of which was emblazoned a large goldensun, and which was splashed here and there with flaming stars and crescents.

“You’re to be dressed as Thursday, sir,” said the valetsomewhat affably.

“Dressed as Thursday!” said Syme in meditation. “Itdoesn’t sound a warm costume.”

“Oh, yes, sir,” said the other eagerly, “the Thursday costumeis 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 comfortableadventures knock me out. Still, I may be allowed to ask why I should beparticularly like Thursday in a green frock spotted all over with the sun andmoon. 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 foryou,” and with a respectful and rigid finger he pointed out a passage inthe first chapter of Genesis. Syme read it wondering. It was that in which thefourth 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 achair. “Who are these people who provide cold pheasant and Burgundy, andgreen clothes and Bibles? Do they provide everything?”

“Yes, sir, everything,” said the attendant gravely. “Shall Ihelp 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 andnaturalness in his movements as the blue and gold garment fell about him; andwhen he found that he had to wear a sword, it stirred a boyish dream. As hepassed 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 agreat flight of stairs. The man had never looked so noble. He was draped in along robe of starless black, down the centre of which fell a band or broadstripe of pure white, like a single shaft of light. The whole looked like somevery severe ecclesiastical vestment. There was no need for Syme to search hismemory or the Bible in order to remember that the first day of creation markedthe mere creation of light out of darkness. The vestment itself would alonehave suggested the symbol; and Syme felt also how perfectly this pattern ofpure white and black expressed the soul of the pale and austere Secretary, withhis inhuman veracity and his cold frenzy, which made him so easily make war onthe anarchists, and yet so easily pass for one of them. Syme was scarcelysurprised to notice that, amid all the ease and hospitality of their newsurroundings, this man’s eyes were still stern. No smell of ale ororchards 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 Secretarystood for that philosopher who loves the original and formless light, Syme wasa type of the poet who seeks always to make the light in special shapes, tosplit 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 creationof light, but the creation of the sun and moon.

As they descended the broad stairs together they overtook Ratcliffe, who wasclad in spring green like a huntsman, and the pattern upon whose garment was agreen tangle of trees. For he stood for that third day on which the earth andgreen things were made, and his square, sensible face, with its not unfriendlycynicism, seemed appropriate enough to it.

They were led out of another broad and low gateway into a very large oldEnglish garden, full of torches and bonfires, by the broken light of which avast carnival of people were dancing in motley dress. Syme seemed to see everyshape in Nature imitated in some crazy costume. There was a man dressed as awindmill with enormous sails, a man dressed as an elephant, a man dressed as aballoon; the two last, together, seemed to keep the thread of their farcicaladventures. Syme even saw, with a queer thrill, one dancer dressed like anenormous hornbill, with a beak twice as big as himself—the queer birdwhich had fixed itself on his fancy like a living question while he was rushingdown the long road at the Zoological Gardens. There were a thousand other suchobjects, however. There was a dancing lamp-post, a dancing apple tree, adancing ship. One would have thought that the untamable tune of some madmusician had set all the common objects of field and street dancing an eternaljig. And long afterwards, when Syme was middle-aged and at rest, he could neversee one of those particular objects—a lamppost, or an apple tree, or awindmill—without thinking that it was a strayed reveller from that revelof masquerade.

On one side of this lawn, alive with dancers, was a sort of green bank, likethe terrace in such old-fashioned gardens.

Along this, in a kind of crescent, stood seven great chairs, the thrones of theseven days. Gogol and Dr. Bull were already in their seats; the Professor wasjust mounting to his. Gogol, or Tuesday, had his simplicity well symbolised bya dress designed upon the division of the waters, a dress that separated uponhis forehead and fell to his feet, grey and silver, like a sheet of rain. TheProfessor, whose day was that on which the birds and fishes—the ruderforms of life—were created, had a dress of dim purple, over whichsprawled goggle-eyed fishes and outrageous tropical birds, the union in him ofunfathomable fancy and of doubt. Dr. Bull, the last day of Creation, wore acoat covered with heraldic animals in red and gold, and on his crest a manrampant. He lay back in his chair with a broad smile, the picture of anoptimist in his element.

One by one the wanderers ascended the bank and sat in their strange seats. Aseach of them sat down a roar of enthusiasm rose from the carnival, such as thatwith which crowds receive kings. Cups were clashed and torches shaken, andfeathered hats flung in the air. The men for whom these thrones were reservedwere men crowned with some extraordinary laurels. But the central chair wasempty.

Syme was on the left hand of it and the Secretary on the right. The Secretarylooked 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 ofhim a frightful and beautiful alteration, as if heaven had opened behind hishead. But Sunday had only passed silently along the front like a shadow, andhad sat in the central seat. He was draped plainly, in a pure and terriblewhite, and his hair was like a silver flame on his forehead.

For a long time—it seemed for hours—that huge masquerade of mankindswayed and stamped in front of them to marching and exultant music. Everycouple dancing seemed a separate romance; it might be a fairy dancing with apillar-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 lovestory. At last, however, the thick crowd began to thin itself. Couples strolledaway into the garden-walks, or began to drift towards that end of the buildingwhere stood smoking, in huge pots like fish-kettles, some hot and scentedmixtures of old ale or wine. Above all these, upon a sort of black framework onthe roof of the house, roared in its iron basket a gigantic bonfire, which litup the land for miles. It flung the homely effect of firelight over the face ofvast forests of grey or brown, and it seemed to fill with warmth even theemptiness of upper night. Yet this also, after a time, was allowed to growfainter; the dim groups gathered more and more round the great cauldrons, orpassed, laughing and clattering, into the inner passages of that ancient house.Soon there were only some ten loiterers in the garden; soon only four. Finallythe last stray merry-maker ran into the house whooping to his companions. Thefire faded, and the slow, strong stars came out. And the seven strange men wereleft alone, like seven stone statues on their chairs of stone. Not one of themhad spoken a word.

They seemed in no haste to do so, but heard in silence the hum of insects andthe distant song of one bird. Then Sunday spoke, but so dreamily that he mighthave been continuing a conversation rather than beginning one.

“We will eat and drink later,” he said. “Let us remaintogether a little, we who have loved each other so sadly, and have fought solong. I seem to remember only centuries of heroic war, in which you were alwaysheroes—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 theworld, I sent you out to war. I sat in the darkness, where there is not anycreated thing, and to you I was only a voice commanding valour and an unnaturalvirtue. You heard the voice in the dark, and you never heard it again. The sunin 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 theincomprehensible went on.

“But you were men. You did not forget your secret honour, though thewhole cosmos turned an engine of torture to tear it out of you. I knew how nearyou were to hell. I know how you, Thursday, crossed swords with King Satan, andhow you, Wednesday, named me in the hour without hope.”

There was complete silence in the starlit garden, and then the black-browedSecretary, implacable, turned in his chair towards Sunday, and said in a harshvoice—

“Who and what are you?”

“I am the Sabbath,” said the other without moving. “I am thepeace 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 thatthat I cannot forgive you. I know you are contentment, optimism, what do theycall the thing, an ultimate reconciliation. Well, I am not reconciled. If youwere the man in the dark room, why were you also Sunday, an offense to thesunlight? If you were from the first our father and our friend, why were youalso our greatest enemy? We wept, we fled in terror; the iron entered into oursouls—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 uponSyme as if asking a question.

“No,” said Syme, “I do not feel fierce like that. I amgrateful to you, not only for wine and hospitality here, but for many a finescamper and free fight. But I should like to know. My soul and heart are ashappy and quiet here as this old garden, but my reason is still crying out. Ishould like to know.”

Sunday looked at Ratcliffe, whose clear voice said—

“It seems so silly that you should have been on both sides andfought yourself.”

Bull said—

“I understand nothing, but I am happy. In fact, I am going tosleep.”

“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 tohell.”

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, andgazed at the distance. Then at last he said—

“I have heard your complaints in order. And here, I think, comes anotherto complain, and we will hear him also.”

The falling fire in the great cresset threw a last long gleam, like a bar ofburning gold, across the dim grass. Against this fiery band was outlined inutter black the advancing legs of a black-clad figure. He seemed to have a fineclose suit with knee-breeches such as that which was worn by the servants ofthe house, only that it was not blue, but of this absolute sable. He had, likethe servants, a kind of sword by his side. It was only when he had come quiteclose to the crescent of the seven and flung up his face to look at them, thatSyme saw, with thunder-struck clearness, that the face was the broad, almostape-like face of his old friend Gregory, with its rank red hair and itsinsulting smile.

“Gregory!” gasped Syme, half-rising from his seat. “Why, thisis the real anarchist!”

“Yes,” said Gregory, with a great and dangerous restraint, “Iam the real anarchist.”

“‘Now there was a day,’” murmured Bull, who seemedreally to have fallen asleep, “‘when the sons of God came topresent themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also amongthem.’”

“You are right,” said Gregory, and gazed all round. “I am adestroyer. I would destroy the world if I could.”

A sense of a pathos far under the earth stirred up in Syme, and he spokebrokenly and without sequence.

“Oh, most unhappy man,” he cried, “try to be happy! You havered hair like your sister.”

“My red hair, like red flames, shall burn up the world,” saidGregory. “I thought I hated everything more than common men can hateanything; but I find that I do not hate everything so much as I hateyou!”

“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. Iknow what you are all of you, from first to last—you are the people inpower! 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 alivethat does not long to break you, only because you have never been broken? We inrevolt talk all kind of nonsense doubtless about this crime or that crime ofthe Government. It is all folly! The only crime of the Government is that itgoverns. The unpardonable sin of the supreme power is that it is supreme. I donot curse you for being cruel. I do not curse you (though I might) for beingkind. I curse you for being safe! You sit in your chairs of stone, and havenever come down from them. You are the seven angels of heaven, and you have hadno troubles. Oh, I could forgive you everything, you that rule all mankind, ifI could feel for once that you had suffered for one hour a real agony such asI—”

Syme sprang to his feet, shaking from head to foot.

“I see everything,” he cried, “everything that there is. Whydoes each thing on the earth war against each other thing? Why does each smallthing in the world have to fight against the world itself? Why does a fly haveto fight the whole universe? Why does a dandelion have to fight the wholeuniverse? For the same reason that I had to be alone in the dreadful Council ofthe Days. So that each thing that obeys law may have the glory and isolation ofthe anarchist. So that each man fighting for order may be as brave and good aman as the dynamiter. So that the real lie of Satan may be flung back in theface of this blasphemer, so that by tears and torture we may earn the right tosay to this man, ‘You lie!’ No agonies can be too great to buy theright to say to this accuser, ‘We also have suffered.’

“It is not true that we have never been broken. We have been broken uponthe wheel. It is not true that we have never descended from these thrones. Wehave descended into hell. We were complaining of unforgettable miseries even atthe very moment when this man entered insolently to accuse us of happiness. Irepel the slander; we have not been happy. I can answer for every one of thegreat guards of Law whom he has accused. At least—”

He had turned his eyes so as to see suddenly the great face of Sunday, whichwore a strange smile.

“Have you,” he cried in a dreadful voice, “have you eversuffered?”

As he gazed, the great face grew to an awful size, grew larger than thecolossal mask of Memnon, which had made him scream as a child. It grew largerand larger, filling the whole sky; then everything went black. Only in theblackness before it entirely destroyed his brain he seemed to hear a distantvoice saying a commonplace text that he had heard somewhere, “Can yedrink of the cup that I drink of?”

When men in books awake from a vision, they commonly find themselves in someplace in which they might have fallen asleep; they yawn in a chair, or liftthemselves with bruised limbs from a field. Syme’s experience wassomething much more psychologically strange if there was indeed anythingunreal, in the earthly sense, about the things he had gone through. For whilehe could always remember afterwards that he had swooned before the face ofSunday, he could not remember having ever come to at all. He could onlyremember that gradually and naturally he knew that he was and had been walkingalong a country lane with an easy and conversational companion. That companionhad been a part of his recent drama; it was the red-haired poet Gregory. Theywere walking like old friends, and were in the middle of a conversation aboutsome triviality. But Syme could only feel an unnatural buoyancy in his body anda crystal simplicity in his mind that seemed to be superior to everything thathe 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 ifNature made a first attempt at yellow and a first attempt at rose. A breezeblew so clean and sweet, that one could not think that it blew from the sky; itblew rather through some hole in the sky. Syme felt a simple surprise when hesaw rising all round him on both sides of the road the red, irregular buildingsof Saffron Park. He had no idea that he had walked so near London. He walked byinstinct along one white road, on which early birds hopped and sang, and foundhimself outside a fenced garden. There he saw the sister of Gregory, the girlwith the gold-red hair, cutting lilac before breakfast, with the greatunconscious gravity of a girl.

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