Part 1 out of 4
by G. K. Chesterton
First published 1912 by Thomas Nelson and Sons
Electronic edition MANALIV0 published 1993 by Jim Henry III
Edited by Martin Ward (Martin.Ward@durham.ac.uk)
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punctuation and the like, to
Martin Ward (Martin.Ward@durham.ac.uk)
Jim Henry III 405 Gardner Road Stockbridge, GA 30281-1515
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Thank you! I hope you enjoy reading _Manalive_ as much as I have.
I will soon be releasing _Tales of the Long Bow_, also by G. K. Chesterton.
Table of Contents
Part I: The Enigmas of Innocent Smith
I. How the Great Wind Came to Beacon House
II. The Luggage of an Optimist
III. The Banner of Beacon
IV. The Garden of the God
V. The Allegorical Practical Joker
Part II: The Explanations of Innocent Smith
I. The Eye of Death; or, the Murder Charge
II. The Two Curates; or, the Burglary Charge
III. The Round Road; or, the Desertion Charge
IV. The Wild Weddings; or, the Polygamy Charge
V. How the Great Wind went from Beacon House
The Enigmas of Innocent Smith
How the Great Wind Came
to Beacon House
A wind sprang high in the west, like a wave of unreasonable happiness,
and tore eastward across England, trailing with it the frosty
scent of forests and the cold intoxication of the sea.
It a million holes and corners it refreshed a man like a flagon,
and astonished him like a blow. In the inmost chambers of
intricate and embowered houses it woke like a domestic explosion,
littering the floor with some professor's papers till they seemed
as precious as fugitive, or blowing out the candle by which a
boy read "Treasure Island" and wrapping him in roaring dark.
But everywhere it bore drama into undramatic lives,
and carried the trump of crisis across the world.
Many a harassed mother in a mean backyard had looked at
a five dwarfish shirts on the clothes-line as at some small,
sick tragedy; it was as if she had hanged her five children.
The wind came, and they were full and kicking as if five fat
imps had sprung into them; and far down in her oppressed
subconscious she half-remembered those coarse comedies of her
fathers when the elves still dwelt in the homes of men.
Many an unnoticed girl in a dank walled garden had tossed
herself into the hammock with the same intolerant gesture
with which she might have tossed herself into the Thames;
and that wind rent the waving wall of woods and lifted
the hammock like a balloon, and showed her shapes of quaint
clouds far beyond, and pictures of bright villages far below,
as if she rode heaven in a fairy boat. Many a dusty clerk
or cleric, plodding a telescopic road of poplars, thought for
the hundredth time that they were like the plumes of a hearse;
when this invisible energy caught and swung and clashed them
round his head like a wreath or salutation of seraphic wings.
There was in it something more inspired and authoritative even
than the old wind of the proverb; for this was the good wind
that blows nobody harm.
The flying blast struck London just where it scales the northern heights,
terrace above terrace, as precipitous as Edinburgh. It was round
about this place that some poet, probably drunk, looked up astonished
at all those streets gone skywards, and (thinking vaguely of glaciers
and roped mountaineers) gave it the name of Swiss Cottage, which it has
never been able to shake off. At some stage of those heights a terrace
of tall gray houses, mostly empty and almost as desolate as the Grampians,
curved round at the western end, so that the last building, a boarding
establishment called "Beacon House," offered abruptly to the sunset its high,
narrow and towering termination, like the prow of some deserted ship.
The ship, however, was not wholly deserted. The proprietor
of the boarding-house, a Mrs. Duke, was one of those helpless
persons against whom fate wars in vain; she smiled vaguely both
before and after all her calamities; she was too soft to be hurt.
But by the aid (or rather under the orders) of a strenuous niece
she always kept the remains of a clientele, mostly of young
but listless folks. And there were actually five inmates
standing disconsolately about the garden when the great gale
broke at the base of the terminal tower behind them, as the sea
bursts against the base of an outstanding cliff.
All day that hill of houses over London had been domed and sealed up with
cold cloud. Yet three men and two girls had at last found even the gray
and chilly garden more tolerable than the black and cheerless interior.
When the wind came it split the sky and shouldered the cloudland left
and right, unbarring great clear furnaces of evening gold. The burst of light
released and the burst of air blowing seemed to come almost simultaneously;
and the wind especially caught everything in a throttling violence.
The bright short grass lay all one way like brushed hair.
Every shrub in the garden tugged at its roots like a dog at the collar,
and strained every leaping leaf after the hunting and exterminating element.
Now and again a twig would snap and fly like a bolt from an arbalist.
The three man stood stiffly and aslant against the wind, as if leaning against
a wall. The two ladies disappeared into the house; rather, to speak truly,
they were blown into the house. Their two frocks, blue and white,
looked like two big broken flowers, driving and drifting upon the gale.
Nor is such a poetic fancy inappropriate, for there was something
oddly romantic about this inrush of air and light after a long,
leaden and unlifting day. Grass and garden trees seemed glittering
with something at once good and unnatural, like a fire from fairyland.
It seemed like a strange sunrise at the wrong end of the day.
The girl in white dived in quickly enough, for she wore
a white hat of the proportions of a parachute, which might
have wafted her away into the coloured clouds of evening.
She was their one splash of splendour, and irradiated wealth
in that impecunious place (staying there temporarily with a
friend), an heiress in a small way, by name Rosamund Hunt,
brown-eyed, round-faced, but resolute and rather boisterous.
On top of her wealth she was good-humoured and rather good-looking;
but she had not married, perhaps because there was always
a crowd of men around her. She was not fast (though some
might have called her vulgar), but she gave irresolute youths
an impression of being at once popular and inaccessible.
A man felt as if he had fallen in love with Cleopatra,
or as if he were asking for a great actress at the stage door.
Indeed, some theatrical spangles seemed to cling about Miss Hunt;
she played the guitar and the mandoline; she always wanted charades;
and with that great rending of the sky by sun and storm,
she felt a girlish melodrama swell again within her.
To the crashing orchestration of the air the clouds rose
like the curtain of some long-expected pantomime.
Nor, oddly, was the girl in blue entirely unimpressed by this
apocalypse in a private garden; though she was one of most prosaic
and practical creatures alive. She was, indeed, no other than
the strenuous niece whose strength alone upheld that mansion of decay.
But as the gale swung and swelled the blue and white skirts till they
took on the monstrous contours of Victorian crinolines, a sunken memory
stirred in her that was almost romance--a memory of a dusty volume
in _Punch_ in an aunt's house in infancy: pictures of crinoline hoops
and croquet hoops and some pretty story, of which perhaps they were a part.
This half-perceptible fragrance in her thoughts faded almost instantly,
and Diana Duke entered the house even more promptly than her companion.
Tall, slim, aquiline, and dark, she seemed made for such swiftness.
In body she was of the breed of those birds and beasts that are at once
long and alert, like greyhounds or herons or even like an innocent snake.
The whole house revolved on her as on a rod of steel. It would
be wrong to say that she commanded; for her own efficiency was so
impatient that she obeyed herself before any one else obeyed her.
Before electricians could mend a bell or locksmiths open a door,
before dentists could pluck a tooth or butlers draw a tight cork,
it was done already with the silent violence of her slim hands.
She was light; but there was nothing leaping about her lightness.
She spurned the ground, and she meant to spurn it. People talk
of the pathos and failure of plain women; but it is a more terrible
thing that a beautiful woman may succeed in everything but womanhood.
"It's enough to blow your head off," said the young woman in white,
going to the looking-glass.
The young woman in blue made no reply, but put away her gardening gloves,
and then went to the sideboard and began to spread out an afternoon
cloth for tea.
"Enough to blow your head off, I say," said Miss Rosamund Hunt,
with the unruffled cheeriness of one whose songs and speeches
had always been safe for an encore.
"Only your hat, I think," said Diana Duke, "but I dare say that it
sometimes more important."
Rosamund's face showed for an instant the offence of a
spoilt child, and then the humour of a very healthy person.
She broke into a laugh and said, "Well, it would have to be a big
wind to blow your head off."
There was another silence; and the sunset breaking more and more from
the sundering clouds, filled the room with soft fire and painted the dull
walls with ruby and gold.
"Somebody once told me," said Rosamund Hunt, "that it's easier
to keep one's head when one has lost one's heart."
"Oh, don't talk such rubbish," said Diana with savage sharpness.
Outside, the garden was clad in a golden splendour;
but the wind was still stiffly blowing, and the three men
who stood their ground might also have considered the problem
of hats and heads. And, indeed, their position, touching hats,
was somewhat typical of them. The tallest of the three abode
the blast in a high silk hat, which the wind seemed to charge
as vainly as that other sullen tower, the house behind him.
The second man tried to hold on a stiff straw hat at all angles,
and ultimately held it in his hand. The third had no hat, and,
by his attitude, seemed never to have had one in his life.
Perhaps this wind was a kind of fairy wand to test men and women,
for there was much of the three men in this difference.
The man in the solid silk hat was the embodiment of silkiness and solidity.
He was a big, bland, bored and (as some said) boring man, with flat
fair hair and handsome heavy features; a prosperous young doctor
by the name of Warner. But if his blondness and blandness seemed
at first a little fatuous, it is certain that he was no fool.
If Rosamund Hunt was the only person there with much money,
he was the only person who had as yet found any kind of fame.
His treatise on "The Probable Existence of Pain in the Lowest Organisms"
had been universally hailed by the scientific world as at once solid
and daring. In short, he undoubtedly had brains; and perhaps it was
not his fault if they were the kind of brains that most men desire
to analyze with a poker.
The young man who put his hat off and on was a scientific amateur in a
small way, and worshipped the great Warner with a solemn freshness.
It was, in fact, at his invitation that the distinguished doctor
was present; for Warner lived in no such ramshackle lodging-house,
but in a professional palace in Harley Street. This young
man was really the youngest and best-looking of the three.
But he was one of those persons, both male and female,
who seem doomed to be good-looking and insignificant.
Brown-haired, high-coloured, and shy, he seemed to lose
the delicacy of his features in a sort of blur of brown
and red as he stood blushing and blinking against the wind.
He was one of those obvious unnoticeable people:
every one knew that he was Arthur Inglewood, unmarried, moral,
decidedly intelligent, living on a little money of his own,
and hiding himself in the two hobbies of photography and cycling.
Everybody knew him and forgot him; even as he stood there in the
glare of golden sunset there was something about him indistinct,
like one of his own red-brown amateur photographs.
The third man had no hat; he was lean, in light, vaguely
sporting clothes, and the large pipe in his mouth made him look
all the leaner. He had a long ironical face, blue-black hair,
the blue eyes of an Irishman, and the blue chin of an actor.
An Irishman he was, an actor he was not, except in the old
days of Miss Hunt's charades, being, as a matter of fact,
an obscure and flippant journalist named Michael Moon. He had
once been hazily supposed to be reading for the Bar;
but (as Warner would say with his rather elephantine wit)
it was mostly at another kind of bar that his friends found him.
Moon, however, did not drink, nor even frequently get drunk;
he simply was a gentleman who liked low company.
This was partly because company is quieter than society:
and if he enjoyed talking to a barmaid (as apparently
he did), it was chiefly because the barmaid did the talking.
Moreover he would often bring other talent to assist her.
He shared that strange trick of all men of his type, intellectual and
without ambition--the trick of going about with his mental inferiors.
There was a small resilient Jew named Moses Gould in the same
boarding-house, a man whose negro vitality and vulgarity amused
Michael so much that he went round with him from bar to bar,
like the owner of a performing monkey.
The colossal clearance which the wind had made of that cloudy sky grew
clearer and clearer; chamber within chamber seemed to open in heaven.
One felt one might at last find something lighter than light.
In the fullness of this silent effulgence all things collected their
colours again: the gray trunks turned silver, and the drab gravel gold.
One bird fluttered like a loosened leaf from one tree to another,
and his brown feathers were brushed with fire.
"Inglewood," said Michael Moon, with his blue eye on the bird,
"have you any friends?"
Dr. Warner mistook the person addressed, and turning a broad
beaming face, said,--
"Oh yes, I go out a great deal."
Michael Moon gave a tragic grin, and waited for his real informant,
who spoke a moment after in a voice curiously cool, fresh and young,
as coming out of that brown and even dusty interior.
"Really," answered Inglewood, "I'm afraid I've lost touch with
my old friends. The greatest friend I ever had was at school,
a fellow named Smith. It's odd you should mention it, because I
was thinking of him to-day, though I haven't seen him for seven
or eight years. He was on the science side with me at school--
a clever fellow though queer; and he went up to Oxford when I
went to Germany. The fact is, it's rather a sad story.
I often asked him to come and see me, and when I heard nothing I
made inquiries, you know. I was shocked to learn that poor Smith
had gone off his head. The accounts were a bit cloudy, of course,
some saying that he had recovered again; but they always say that.
About a year ago I got a telegram from him myself. The telegram,
I'm sorry to say, put the matter beyond a doubt."
"Quite so," assented Dr. Warner stolidly; "insanity is generally incurable."
"So is sanity," said the Irishman, and studied him with a dreary eye.
"Symptoms?" asked the doctor. "What was this telegram?"
"It's a shame to joke about such things," said Inglewood, in his honest,
embarrassed way; "the telegram was Smith's illness, not Smith. The actual
words were, `Man found alive with two legs.'"
"Alive with two legs," repeated Michael, frowning. "Perhaps a version
of alive and kicking? I don't know much about people out of their senses;
but I suppose they ought to be kicking."
"And people in their senses?" asked Warner, smiling.
"Oh, they ought to be kicked," said Michael with sudden heartiness.
"The message is clearly insane," continued the impenetrable Warner.
"The best test is a reference to the undeveloped normal type.
Even a baby does not expect to find a man with three legs."
"Three legs," said Michael Moon, "would be very convenient in this wind."
A fresh eruption of the atmosphere had indeed almost thrown them
off their balance and broken the blackened trees in the garden.
Beyond, all sorts of accidental objects could be seen scouring
the wind-scoured sky--straws, sticks, rags, papers, and, in the distance,
a disappearing hat. Its disappearance, however, was not final;
after an interval of minutes they saw it again, much larger and closer,
like a white panama, towering up into the heavens like a balloon,
staggering to and fro for an instant like a stricken kite,
and then settling in the centre of their own lawn as falteringly
as a fallen leaf.
"Somebody's lost a good hat," said Dr. Warner shortly.
Almost as he spoke, another object came over the garden wall,
flying after the fluttering panama. It was a big green umbrella.
After that came hurtling a huge yellow Gladstone bag,
and after that came a figure like a flying wheel of legs,
as in the shield of the Isle of Man.
But though for a flash it seemed to have five or six legs,
it alighted upon two, like the man in the queer telegram.
It took the form of a large light-haired man in gay green holiday clothes.
He had bright blonde hair that the wind brushed back like a German's,
a flushed eager face like a cherub's, and a prominent pointing nose,
a little like a dog's. His head, however, was by no means cherubic
in the sense of being without a body. On the contrary, on his vast
shoulders and shape generally gigantesque, his head looked oddly
and unnaturally small. This have rise to a scientific theory
(which his conduct fully supported) that he was an idiot.
Inglewood had a politeness instinctive and yet awkward.
His life was full of arrested half gestures of assistance.
And even this prodigy of a big man in green, leaping the wall
like a bright green grasshopper, did not paralyze that small
altruism of his habits in such a matter as a lost hat.
He was stepping forward to recover the green gentleman's
head-gear, when he was struck rigid with a roar like a bull's.
"Unsportsmanlike!" bellowed the big man. "Give it fair play,
give it fair play!" And he came after his own hat quickly
but cautiously, with burning eyes. The hat had seemed at first
to droop and dawdle as in ostentatious langour on the sunny lawn;
but the wind again freshening and rising, it went dancing down
the garden with the devilry of a ~pas de quatre~. The eccentric went
bounding after it with kangaroo leaps and bursts of breathless speech,
of which it was not always easy to pick up the thread:
"Fair play, fair play... sport of kings... chase their crowns...
quite humane... tramontana... cardinals chase red hats... old
English hunting... started a hat in Bramber Combe... hat at bay...
mangled hounds... Got him!"
As the winds rose out of a roar into a shriek, he leapt into the sky
on his strong, fantastic legs, snatched at the vanishing hat,
missed it, and pitched sprawling face foremost on the grass.
The hat rose over him like a bird in triumph. But its triumph
was premature; for the lunatic, flung forward on his hands,
threw up his boots behind, waved his two legs in the air
like symbolic ensigns (so that they actually thought again
of the telegram), and actually caught the hat with his feet.
A prolonged and piercing yell of wind split the welkin from end to end.
The eyes of all the men were blinded by the invisible blast,
as by a strange, clear cataract of transparency rushing between
them and all objects about them. But as the large man fell back
in a sitting posture and solemnly crowned himself with the hat,
Michael found, to his incredulous surprise, that he had been
holding his breath, like a man watching a duel.
While that tall wind was at the top of its sky-scraping energy,
another short cry was heard, beginning very querulous, but ending
very quick, swallowed in abrupt silence. The shiny black cylinder
of Dr. Warner's official hat sailed off his head in the long,
smooth parabola of an airship, and in almost cresting a garden
tree was caught in the topmost branches. Another hat was gone.
Those in that garden felt themselves caught in an unaccustomed eddy
of things happening; no one seemed to know what would blow away next.
Before they could speculate, the cheering and hallooing hat-hunter
was already halfway up the tree, swinging himself from fork to fork
with his strong, bent, grasshopper legs, and still giving forth
his gasping, mysterious comments.
"Tree of life... Ygdrasil... climb for centuries perhaps... owls nesting
in the hat... remotest generations of owls... still usurpers... gone
to heaven... man in the moon wears it... brigand... not yours... belongs
to depressed medical man... in garden... give it up... give it up!"
The tree swung and swept and thrashed to and fro in the thundering
wind like a thistle, and flamed in the full sunshine like a bonfire.
The green, fantastic human figure, vivid against its autumn red and gold,
was already among its highest and craziest branches, which by bare luck did
not break with the weight of his big body. He was up there among the last
tossing leaves and the first twinkling stars of evening, still talking
to himself cheerfully, reasoningly, half apologetically, in little gasps.
He might well be out of breath, for his whole preposterous raid had
gone with one rush; he had bounded the wall once like a football,
swept down the garden like a slide, and shot up the tree like a rocket.
The other three men seemed buried under incident piled on incident--
a wild world where one thing began before another thing left off.
All three had the first thought. The tree had been there for the five years
they had known the boarding-house. Each one of them was active and strong.
No one of them had even thought of climbing it. Beyond that,
Inglewood felt first the mere fact of colour. The bright brisk leaves,
the bleak blue sky, the wild green arms and legs, reminded him irrationally
of something glowing in his infancy, something akin to a gaudy man
on a golden tree; perhaps it was only painted monkey on a stick.
Oddly enough, Michael Moon, though more of a humourist, was touched on
a tenderer nerve, half remembered the old, young theatricals with Rosamund,
and was amused to find himself almost quoting Shakespeare--
"For valour. Is not love a Hercules,
Still climbing trees in the Hesperides?"
Even the immovable man of science had a bright, bewildered sensation
that the Time Machine had given a great jerk, and gone forward
with rather rattling rapidity.
He was not, however, wholly prepared for what happened next.
The man in green, riding the frail topmost bough like a witch on a very risky
broomstick, reached up and rent the black hat from its airy nest of twigs.
It had been broken across a heavy bough in the first burst of its passage,
a tangle of branches in torn and scored and scratched it in every direction,
a clap of wind and foliage had flattened it like a concertina; nor can it
be said that the obliging gentleman with the sharp nose showed any adequate
tenderness for its structure when he finally unhooked it from its place.
When he had found it, however, his proceedings were by some counted singular.
He waved it with a loud whoop of triumph, and then immediately appeared
to fall backwards off the tree, to which, however, he remained
attached by his long strong legs, like a monkey swung by his tail.
Hanging thus head downwards above the unhelmed Warner, he gravely proceeded
to drop the battered silk cylinder upon his brows. "Every man a king,"
explained the inverted philosopher, "every hat (consequently) a crown.
But this is a crown out of heaven."
And he again attempted the coronation of Warner, who, however, moved away
with great abruptness from the hovering diadem; not seeming, strangely enough,
to wish for his former decoration in its present state.
"Wrong, wrong!" cried the obliging person hilariously.
"Always wear uniform, even if it's shabby uniform!
Ritualists may always be untidy. Go to a dance with soot on
your shirt-front; but go with a shirt-front. Huntsman wears old coat,
but old pink coat. Wear a topper, even if it's got no top.
It's the symbol that counts, old cock. Take your hat,
because it is your hat after all; its nap rubbed all off
by the bark, dears, and its brim not the least bit curled;
but for old sakes' sake it is still, dears, the nobbiest tile
in the world."
Speaking thus, with a wild comfortableness, he settled or smashed
the shapeless silk hat over the face of the disturbed physician,
and fell on his feet among the other men, still talking,
beaming and breathless.
"Why don't they make more games out of wind?" he asked in some excitement.
"Kites are all right, but why should it only be kites? Why, I thought
of three other games for a windy day while I was climbing that tree.
Here's one of them: you take a lot of pepper--"
"I think," interposed Moon, with a sardonic mildness,
"that your games are already sufficiently interesting.
Are you, may I ask, a professional acrobat on a tour,
or a travelling advertisement of Sunny Jim? How and why do you
display all this energy for clearing walls and climbing trees
in our melancholy, but at least rational, suburbs?"
The stranger, so far as so loud a person was capable of it,
appeared to grow confidential.
"Well, it's a trick of my own," he confessed candidly.
"I do it by having two legs."
Arthur Inglewood, who had sunk into the background of this scene of folly,
started and stared at the newcomer with his short-sighted eyes screwed up
and his high colour slightly heightened.
"Why, I believe you're Smith," he cried with his fresh, almost boyish voice;
and then after an instant's stare, "and yet I'm not sure."
"I have a card, I think," said the unknown, with baffling solemnity--"a card
with my real name, my titles, offices, and true purpose on this earth."
He drew out slowly from an upper waistcoat pocket a scarlet
card-case, and as slowly produced a very large card.
Even in the instant of its production, they fancied it was
of a queer shape, unlike the cards of ordinary gentlemen.
But it was there only for an instant; for as it passed from
his fingers to Arthur's, one or another slipped his hold.
The strident, tearing gale in that garden carried away
the stranger's card to join the wild waste paper of the universe;
and that great western wind shook the whole house and passed.
The Luggage of an Optimist
We all remember the fairy tales of science in our infancy, which played
with the supposition that large animals could jump in the proportion
of small ones. If an elephant were as strong as a grasshopper, he could
(I suppose) spring clean out of the Zoological Gardens and alight
trumpeting upon Primrose Hill. If a whale could leap from the sea
like a trout, perhaps men might look up and see one soaring above
Yarmouth like the winged island of Laputa. Such natural energy,
though sublime, might certainly be inconvenient, and much of this
inconvenience attended the gaiety and good intentions of the man in green.
He was too large for everything, because he was lively as well as large.
By a fortunate physical provision, most very substantial creatures
are also reposeful; and middle-class boarding-houses in the lesser
parts of London are not built for a man as big as a bull and excitable
as a kitten.
When Inglewood followed the stranger into the boarding-house,
he found him talking earnestly (and in his own opinion privately)
to the helpless Mrs. Duke. That fat, faint lady could only
goggle up like a dying fish at the enormous new gentleman,
who politely offered himself as a lodger, with vast gestures
of the wide white hat in one hand, and the yellow Gladstone bag
in the other. Fortunately, Mrs. Duke's more efficient niece
and partner was there to complete the contract; for, indeed,
all the people of the house had somehow collected in the room.
This fact, in truth, was typical of the whole episode.
The visitor created an atmosphere of comic crisis; and from
the time he came into the house to the time he left it, he somehow
got the company to gather and even follow (though in derision)
as children gather and follow a Punch and Judy. An hour ago,
and for four years previously, these people had avoided
each other, even when they had really liked each other.
They had slid in and out of dismal and deserted rooms in search
of particular newspapers or private needlework. Even now they
all came casually, as with varying interests; but they all came.
There was the embarrassed Inglewood, still a sort of red shadow;
there was the unembarrassed Warner, a pallid but solid substance.
There was Michael Moon offering like a riddle the contrast
of the horsy crudeness of his clothes and the sombre sagacity
of his visage. He was now joined by his yet more comic crony,
Moses Gould. Swaggering on short legs with a prosperous
purple tie, he was the gayest of godless little dogs;
but like a dog also in this, that however he danced and
wagged with delight, the two dark eyes on each side of his
protuberant nose glistened gloomily like black buttons.
There was Miss Rosamund Hunt, still with the find white hat
framing her square, good-looking face, and still with her native
air of being dressed for some party that never came off.
She also, like Mr. Moon, had a new companion, new so far as this
narrative goes, but in reality an old friend and a protegee.
This was a slight young woman in dark gray, and in no way
notable but for a load of dull red hair, of which the shape
somehow gave her pale face that triangular, almost peaked,
appearance which was given by the lowering headdress and deep rich
ruff of the Elizabethan beauties. Her surname seemed to be Gray,
and Miss Hunt called her Mary, in that indescribable tone
applied to a dependent who has practically become a friend.
She wore a small silver cross on her very business-like
gray clothes, and was the only member of the party who went
to church. Last, but the reverse of least, there as Diana Duke,
studying the newcomer with eyes of steel, and listening
carefully to every idiotic word he said. As for Mrs. Duke,
she smiled up at him, but never dreamed of listening to him.
She had never really listened to any one in her life; which, some said,
was why she had survived.
Nevertheless, Mrs. Duke was pleased with her new guest's
concentration of courtesy upon herself; for no one ever spoke
seriously to her any more than she listened seriously to any one.
And she almost beamed as the stranger, with yet wider and almost
whirling gestures of explanation with his huge hat and bag,
apologized for having entered by the wall instead of the front door.
He was understood to put it down to an unfortunate family tradition
of neatness and care of his clothes.
"My mother was rather strict about it, to tell the truth,"
he said, lowering his voice, to Mrs. Duke. "She never liked
me to lose my cap at school. And when a man's been taught
to be tidy and neat it sticks to him."
Mrs. Duke weakly gasped that she was sure he must have had a good mother;
but her niece seemed inclined to probe the matter further.
"You've got a funny idea of neatness," she said, "if it's
jumping garden walls and clambering up garden trees.
A man can't very well climb a tree tidily."
"He can clear a wall neatly," said Michael Moon; "I saw him do it."
Smith seemed to be regarding the girl with genuine astonishment.
"My dear young lady," he said, "I was tidying the tree. You don't want
last year's hats there, do you, any more than last year's leaves?
The wind takes off the leaves, but it couldn't manage the hat; that wind,
I suppose, has tidied whole forests to-day. Rum idea this is, that tidiness
is a timid, quiet sort of thing; why, tidiness is a toil for giants.
You can't tidy anything without untidying yourself; just look at my trousers.
Don't you know that? Haven't you ever had a spring cleaning?"
"Oh yes, sir," said Mrs. Duke, almost eagerly. "You will find
everything of that sort quite nice." For the first time she
had heard two words that she could understand.
Miss Diana Duke seemed to be studying the stranger with a sort of spasm
of calculation; then her black eyes snapped with decision, and she said
that he could have a particular bedroom on the top floor if he liked:
and the silent and sensitive Inglewood, who had been on the rack through
these cross-purposes, eagerly offered to show him up to the room.
Smith went up the stairs four at a time, and when he bumped his head
against the ultimate ceiling, Inglewood had an odd sensation that the tall
house was much shorter than it used to be.
Arthur Inglewood followed his old friend--or his new friend,
for he did not very clearly know which he was. The face looked
very like his old schoolfellow's at one second and very unlike
at another. And when Inglewood broke through his native
politeness so far as to say suddenly, "Is your name Smith?"
he received only the unenlightening reply, "Quite right;
quite right. Very good. Excellent!" Which appeared to Inglewood,
on reflection, rather the speech of a new-born babe accepting
a name than of a grown-up man admitting one.
Despite these doubts about identity, the hapless Inglewood
watched the other unpack, and stood about his bedroom in all
the impotent attitudes of the male friend. Mr. Smith unpacked
with the same kind of whirling accuracy with which he climbed
a tree--throwing things out of his bag as if they were rubbish,
yet managing to distribute quite a regular pattern all round
him on the floor.
As he did so he continued to talk in the same somewhat gasping manner
(he had come upstairs four steps at a time, but even without this his style
of speech was breathless and fragmentary), and his remarks were still
a string of more or less significant but often separate pictures.
"Like the day of judgement," he said, throwing a bottle
so that it somehow settled, rocking on its right end.
"People say vast universe... infinity and astronomy;
not sure... I think things are too close together... packed up;
for travelling... stars too close, really... why, the sun's
a star, too close to be seen properly; the earth's a star,
too close to be seen at all... too many pebbles on the beach;
ought all to be put in rings; too many blades of grass to study...
feathers on a bird make the brain reel; wait till the big bag
is unpacked... may all be put in our right places then."
Here he stopped, literally for breath--throwing a shirt to the other end
of the room, and then a bottle of ink so that it fell quite neatly beyond it.
Inglewood looked round on this strange, half-symmetrical disorder with
an increasing doubt.
In fact, the more one explored Mr. Smith's holiday luggage,
the less one could make anything of it. One peculiarity of it
was that almost everything seemed to be there for the wrong reason;
what is secondary with every one else was primary with him.
He would wrap up a pot or pan in brown paper; and the unthinking
assistant would discover that the pot was valueless or even unnecessary,
and that it was the brown paper that was truly precious.
He produced two or three boxes of cigars, and explained
with plain and perplexing sincerity that he was no smoker,
but that cigar-box wood was by far the best for fretwork.
He also exhibited about six small bottles of wine, white and red,
and Inglewood, happening to note a Volnay which he knew to be excellent,
supposed at first that the stranger was an epicure in vintages.
He was therefore surprised to find that the next bottle was a vile sham
claret from the colonies, which even colonials (to do them justice)
do not drink. It was only then that he observed that all six
bottles had those bright metallic seals of various tints,
and seemed to have been chosen solely because they have the three
primary and three secondary colours: red, blue, and yellow;
green, violet and orange. There grew upon Inglewood an almost
creepy sense of the real childishness of this creature.
For Smith was really, so far as human psychology can be, innocent.
He had the sensualities of innocence: he loved the stickiness of gum,
and he cut white wood greedily as if he were cutting a cake.
To this man wine was not a doubtful thing to be defended or denounced;
it was a quaintly coloured syrup, such as a child sees in a shop window.
He talked dominantly and rushed the social situation;
but he was not asserting himself, like a superman in a modern play.
He was simply forgetting himself, like a little boy at a party.
He had somehow made the giant stride from babyhood to manhood,
and missed that crisis in youth when most of us grow old.
As he shunted his big bag, Arthur observed the initials
I. S. printed on one side of it, and remembered that Smith had
been called Innocent Smith at school, though whether as a formal
Christian name or a moral description he could not remember.
He was just about to venture another question, when there was a knock
at the door, and the short figure of Mr. Gould offered itself,
with the melancholy Moon, standing like his tall crooked shadow,
behind him. They had drifted up the stairs after the other two
men with the wandering gregariousness of the male.
"Hope there's no intrusion," said the beaming Moses with a glow
of good nature, but not the airiest tinge of apology.
"The truth is," said Michael Moon with comparative courtesy,
"we thought we might see if they had made you comfortable.
Miss Duke is rather--"
"I know," cried the stranger, looking up radiantly from his bag;
"magnificent, isn't she? Go close to her--hear military music going by,
like Joan of Arc."
Inglewood stared and stared at the speaker like one who has
just heard a wild fairy tale, which nevertheless contains
one small and forgotten fact. For he remembered how he had
himself thought of Jeanne d'Arc years ago, when, hardly more
than a schoolboy, he had first come to the boarding-house. Long
since the pulverizing rationalism of his friend Dr. Warner had
crushed such youthful ignorances and disproportionate dreams.
Under the Warnerian scepticism and science of hopeless
human types, Inglewood had long come to regard himself as
a timid, insufficient, and "weak" type, who would never marry;
to regard Diana Duke as a materialistic maidservant;
and to regard his first fancy for her as the small,
dull farce of a collegian kissing his landlady's daughter.
And yet the phrase about military music moved him queerly,
as if he had heard those distant drums.
"She has to keep things pretty tight, as is only natural," said Moon,
glancing round the rather dwarfish room, with its wedge of slanted ceiling,
like the conical hood of a dwarf.
"Rather a small box for you, sir," said the waggish Mr. Gould.
"Splendid room, though," answered Mr. Smith enthusiastically, with his
head inside his Gladstone bag. "I love these pointed sorts of rooms,
like Gothic. By the way," he cried out, pointing in quite a startling way,
"where does that door lead to?"
"To certain death, I should say," answered Michael Moon, staring up at
a dust-stained and disused trapdoor in the sloping roof of the attic.
"I don't think there's a loft there; and I don't know what else it could
lead to." Long before he had finished his sentence the man at the door
in the ceiling, swung himself somehow on to the ledge beneath it,
wrenched it open after a struggle, and clambered through it.
For a moment they saw the two symbolic legs standing like a truncated statue;
then they vanished. Through the hole thus burst in the roof appeared
the empty and lucid sky of evening, with one great many-coloured cloud
sailing across it like a whole county upside down.
"Hullo, you fellows!" came the far cry of Innocent Smith,
apparently from some remote pinnacle. "Come up here;
and bring some of my things to eat and drink. It's just the spot
for a picnic."
With a sudden impulse Michael snatched two of the small
bottles of wine, one in each solid fist; and Arthur Inglewood,
as if mesmerized, groped for a biscuit tin and a big jar of ginger.
The enormous hand of Innocent Smith appearing through the aperture,
like a giant's in a fairy tale, received these tributes and bore them
off to the eyrie; then they both hoisted themselves out of the window.
They were both athletic, and even gymnastic; Inglewood through his
concern for hygiene, and Moon through his concern for sport, which was
not quite so idle and inactive as that of the average sportsman.
Also they both had a light-headed burst of celestial sensation when
the door was burst in the roof, as if a door had been burst in the sky,
and they could climb out on to the very roof of the universe.
They were both men who had long been unconsciously imprisoned in
the commonplace, though one took it comically, and the other seriously.
They were both men, nevertheless, in whom sentiment had never died.
But Mr. Moses Gould had an equal contempt for their suicidal athletics
and their subconscious transcendentalism, and he stood and laughed
at the thing with the shameless rationality of another race.
When the singular Smith, astride of a chimney-pot, learnt that Gould
was not following, his infantile officiousness and good nature
forced him to dive back into the attic to comfort or persuade;
and Inglewood and Moon were left alone on the long gray-green
ridge of the slate roof, with their feet against gutters and their
backs against chimney-pots, looking agnostically at each other.
Their first feeling was that they had come out into eternity,
and that eternity was very like topsy-turvydom. One definition
occurred to both of them--that he had come out into the light
of that lucid and radiant ignorance in which all beliefs had begun.
The sky above them was full of mythology. Heaven seemed deep
enough to hold all the gods. The round of the ether turned
from green to yellow gradually like a great unripe fruit.
All around the sunken sun it was like a lemon; round all the east
it was a sort of golden green, more suggestive of a greengage;
but the whole had still he emptiness of daylight and none of the secrecy
of dusk. Tumbled here and there across this gold and pale green
were shards and shattered masses of inky purple cloud, which seemed
falling towards the earth in every kind of colossal perspective.
One of them really had the character of some many-mitred, many-bearded,
many-winged Assyrian image, huge head downwards, hurled out of heaven--
a sort of false Jehovah, who was perhaps Satan. All the other clouds
had preposterous pinnacled shapes, as if the god's palaces had been
flung after him.
And yet, while the empty heaven was full of silent catastrophe, the height
of human buildings above which they sat held here and there a tiny trivial
noise that was the exact antithesis; and they heard some six streets below
a newsboy calling, and a bell bidding to chapel. They could also hear
talk out of the garden below; and realized that the irrepressible Smith
must have followed Gould downstairs, for his eager and pleading accents
could be heard, followed by the half-humourous protests of Miss Duke
and the full and very youthful laughter of Rosamund Hunt. The air had
that cold kindness that comes after a storm. Michael Moon drank it in with
as serious a relish as he had drunk the little bottle of cheap claret,
which he had emptied almost at a draught. Inglewood went on eating ginger
very slowly and with a solemnity unfathomable as the sky above him.
There was still enough stir in the freshness of the atmosphere to make them
almost fancy they could smell the garden soil and the last roses of autumn.
Suddenly there came from the darkening room a silvery ping and pong which
told them that Rosamund had brought out the long-neglected mandoline.
After the first few notes there was more of the distant bell-like laughter.
"Inglewood," said Michael Moon, "have you ever heard that I
am a blackguard?"
"I haven't heard it, and I don't believe it," answered Inglewood,
after an odd pause. "But I have heard you were--what they
call rather wild."
"If you have heard that I am wild, you can contradict the rumour,"
said Moon, with an extraordinary calm; "I am tame.
I am quite tame; I am about the tamest beast that crawls.
I drink too much of the same kind of whisky at the same time
every night. I even drink about the same amount too much.
I go to the same number of public-houses. I meet the same damned
women with mauve faces. I hear the same number of dirty stories--
generally the same dirty stories. You may assure my friends,
Inglewood, that you see before you a person whom civilization
has thoroughly tamed."
Arthur Inglewood was staring with feelings that made him nearly
fall off the roof, for indeed the Irishman's face, always sinister,
was now almost demoniacal.
"Christ confound it!" cried out Moon, suddenly clutching the empty
claret bottle, "this is about the thinnest and filthiest wine
I ever uncorked, and it's the only drink I have really enjoyed
for nine years. I was never wild until just ten minutes ago."
And he sent the bottle whizzing, a wheel of glass, far away beyond
the garden into the road, where, in the profound evening silence,
they could even hear it break and part upon the stones.
"Moon," said Arthur Inglewood, rather huskily, "you mustn't be
so bitter about it. Everyone has to take the world as he finds it;
of course one often finds it a bit dull--"
"That fellow doesn't," said Michael decisively; "I mean that
fellow Smith. I have a fancy there's some method in his madness.
It looks as if he could turn into a sort of wonderland any minute by taking
one step out of the plain road. Who would have thought of that trapdoor?
Who would have thought that this cursed colonial claret could taste quite
nice among the chimney-pots? Perhaps that is the real key of fairyland.
Perhaps Nosey Gould's beastly little Empire Cigarettes ought only to
be smoked on stilts, or something of that sort. Perhaps Mrs. Duke's
cold leg of mutton would seem quite appetizing at the top of a tree.
Perhaps even my damned, dirty, monotonous drizzle of Old Bill Whisky--"
"Don't be so rough on yourself," said Inglewood, in serious distress.
"The dullness isn't your fault or the whisky's. Fellows who don't--
fellows like me I mean--have just the same feeling that it's all rather
flat and a failure. But the world's made like that; it's all survival.
Some people are made to get on, like Warner; and some people are
made to stick quiet, like me. You can't help your temperament.
I know you're much cleverer than I am; but you can't help having
all the loose ways of a poor literary chap, and I can't help
having all the doubts and helplessness of a small scientific chap,
any more than a fish can help floating or a fern can help curling up.
Humanity, as Warner said so well in that lecture, really consists
of quite different tribes of animals all disguised as men."
In the dim garden below the buzz of talk was suddenly broken
by Miss Hunt's musical instrument banging with the abruptness
of artillery into a vulgar but spirited tune.
Rosamund's voice came up rich and strong in the words of some fatuous,
fashionable coon song--
"Darkies sing a song on the old plantation,
Sing it as we sang it in days long since gone by."
Inglewood's brown eyes softened and saddened still more as he continued
his monologue of resignation to such a rollicking and romantic tune.
But the blue eyes of Michael Moon brightened and hardened with a light
that Inglewood did not understand. Many centuries, and many villages
and valleys, would have been happier if Inglewood or Inglewood's countrymen
had ever understood that light, or guessed at the first blink that it
was the battle star of Ireland.
"Nothing can ever alter it; it's in the wheels of the universe,"
went on Inglewood, in a low voice: "some men are weak and some strong,
and the only thing we can do is to know that we are weak.
I have been in love lots of times, but I could not do anything,
for I remembered my own fickleness. I have formed opinions, but I
haven't the cheek to push them, because I've so often changed them.
That's the upshot, old fellow. We can't trust ourselves--
and we can't help it."
Michael had risen to his feet, and stood poised in a perilous position
at the end of the roof, like some dark statue hung above its gable.
Behind him, huge clouds of an almost impossible purple turned slowly
topsy-turvy in the silent anarchy of heaven. Their gyration made
the dark figure seem yet dizzier.
"Let us..." he said, and was suddenly silent.
"Let us what?" asked Arthur Inglewood, rising equally quick though somewhat
more cautiously, for his friend seemed to find some difficulty in speech.
"Let us go and do some of these things we can't do," said Michael.
At the same moment there burst out of the trapdoor below them
the cockatoo hair and flushed face of Innocent Smith, calling to
them that they must come down as the "concert" was in full swing,
and Mr. Moses Gould was about to recite "Young Lochinvar."
As they dropped into Innocent's attic they nearly tumbled over its
entertaining impedimenta again. Inglewood, staring at the littered floor,
thought instinctively of the littered floor of a nursery.
He was therefore the more moved, and even shocked, when his eye fell
on a large well-polished American revolver.
"Hullo!" he cried, stepping back from the steely glitter as men step back
from a serpent; "are you afraid of burglars? or when and why do you deal
death out of that machine gun?"
"Oh, that!" said Smith, throwing it a single glance; "I deal life
out of that," and he went bounding down the stairs.
The Banner of Beacon
All next day at Beacon House there was a crazy sense that it was
everybody's birthday. It is the fashion to talk of institutions
as cold and cramping things. The truth is that when people are in
exceptionally high spirits, really wild with freedom and invention,
they always must, and they always do, create institutions.
When men are weary they fall into anarchy; but while they are gay
and vigorous they invariably make rules. This, which is true of all
the churches and republics of history, is also true of the most
trivial parlour game or the most unsophisticated meadow romp.
We are never free until some institution frees us; and liberty
cannot exist till it is declared by authority. Even the wild
authority of the harlequin Smith was still authority, because it
produced everywhere a crop of crazy regulations and conditions.
He filled every one with his own half-lunatic life; but it was not
expressed in destruction, but rather in a dizzy and toppling construction.
Each person with a hobby found it turning into an institution.
Rosamund's songs seemed to coalesce into a kind of opera;
Michael's jests and paragraphs into a magazine. His pipe and her
mandoline seemed between them to make a sort of smoking concert.
The bashful and bewildered Arthur Inglewood almost struggled against his
own growing importance. He felt as if, in spite of him, his photographs
were turning into a picture gallery, and his bicycle into a gymkhana.
But no one had any time to criticize these impromptu estates and offices,
for they followed each other in wild succession like the topics
of a rambling talker.
Existence with such a man was an obstacle race made out of
pleasant obstacles. Out of any homely and trivial object he could
drag reels of exaggeration, like a conjurer. Nothing could
be more shy and impersonal than poor Arthur's photography.
Yet the preposterous Smith was seen assisting him eagerly through
sunny morning hours, and an indefensible sequence described
as "Moral Photography" began to unroll about the boarding-house.
It was only a version of the old photographer's joke which
produces the same figure twice on one plate, making a man
play chess with himself, dine with himself, and so on.
But these plates were more hysterical and ambitious--as, "Miss Hunt
forgets Herself," showing that lady answering her own too
rapturous recognition with a most appalling stare of ignorance;
or "Mr. Moon questions Himself," in which Mr. Moon appeared as one
driven to madness under his own legal cross-examination, which was
conducted with a long forefinger and an air of ferocious waggery.
One highly successful trilogy--representing Inglewood recognizing
Inglewood, Inglewood prostrating himself before Inglewood,
and Inglewood severely beating Inglewood with a stick--
Innocent Smith wanted to have enlarged and put up in the hall,
like a sort of fresco, with the inscription,--
"Self-reverence, self-knowledge, self-control--
These three alone will make a man a prig."
Nothing, again, could be more prosaic and impenetrable than
the domestic energies of Miss Diana Duke. But Innocent had somehow
blundered on the discovery that her thrifty dressmaking went
with a considerable feminine care for dress--the one feminine thing
that had never failed her solitary self-respect. In consequence Smith
pestered her with a theory (which he really seemed to take seriously)
that ladies might combine economy with magnificence if they would
draw light chalk patterns on a plain dress and then dust them
off again. He set up "Smith's Lightning Dressmaking Company,"
with two screens, a cardboard placard, and box of bright soft crayons;
and Miss Diana actually threw him an abandoned black overall
or working dress on which to exercise the talents of a modiste.
He promptly produced for her a garment aflame with red and gold sunflowers;
she held it up an instant to her shoulders, and looked like an empress.
And Arthur Inglewood, some hours afterwards cleaning his bicycle
(with his usual air of being inextricably hidden in it), glanced up;
and his hot face grew hotter, for Diana stood laughing for one
flash in the doorway, and her dark robe was rich with the green
and purple of great decorative peacocks, like a secret garden
in the "Arabian Nights." A pang too swift to be named pain
or pleasure went through his heart like an old-world rapier.
He remembered how pretty he thought her years ago, when he was
ready to fall in love with anybody; but it was like remembering
a worship of some Babylonian princess in some previous existence.
At his next glimpse of her (and he caught himself awaiting it)
the purple and green chalk was dusted off, and she went by quickly
in her working clothes.
As for Mrs. Duke, none who knew that matron could conceive her as
actively resisting this invasion that had turned her house upside down.
But among the most exact observers it was seriously believed that she
liked it. For she was one of those women who at bottom regard all
men as equally mad, wild animals of some utterly separate species.
And it is doubtful if she really saw anything more eccentric or
inexplicable in Smith's chimney-pot picnics or crimson sunflowers
than she had in the chemicals of Inglewood or the sardonic speeches
of Moon. Courtesy, on the other hand, is a thing that anybody
can understand, and Smith's manners were as courteous as they
were unconventional. She said he was "a real gentleman," by which she
simply meant a kind-hearted man, which is a very different thing.
She would sit at the head of the table with fat, folded hands and a fat,
folded smile for hours and hours, while every one else was talking at once.
At least, the only other exception was Rosamund's companion,
Mary Gray, whose silence was of a much more eager sort. Though she
never spoke she always looked as if she might speak any minute.
Perhaps this is the very definition of a companion. Innocent Smith
seemed to throw himself, as into other adventures, into the adventure
of making her talk. He never succeeded, yet he was never snubbed;
if he achieved anything, it was only to draw attention to this quiet figure,
and to turn her, by ever so little, from a modesty to a mystery.
But if she was a riddle, every one recognized that she was a fresh
and unspoilt riddle, like the riddle of the sky and the woods in spring.
Indeed, though she was rather older than the other two girls,
she had an early morning ardour, a fresh earnestness of youth,
which Rosamund seemed to have lost in the mere spending of money,
and Diana in the mere guarding of it. Smith looked at her again and again.
Her eyes and mouth were set in her face the wrong way--which was really
the right way. She had the knack of saying everything with her face:
her silence was a sort of steady applause.
But among the hilarious experiments of that holiday
(which seemed more like a week's holiday than a day's)
one experiment towers supreme, not because it was any sillier
or more successful than the others, but because out of this
particular folly flowed all of the odd events that were to follow.
All the other practical jokes exploded of themselves, and left vacancy;
all the other fictions returned upon themselves, and were finished
like a song. But the string of solid and startling events--
which were to include a hansom cab, a detective, a pistol,
and a marriage licence--were all made primarily possible
by the joke about the High Court of Beacon.
It had originated, not with Innocent Smith, but with Michael Moon. He was
in a strange glow and pressure of spirits, and talked incessantly;
yet he had never been more sarcastic, and even inhuman.
He used his old useless knowledge as a barrister to talk
entertainingly of a tribunal that was a parody on the pompous
anomalies of English law. The High Court of Beacon, he declared,
was a splendid example of our free and sensible constitution.
It had been founded by King John in defiance of the Magna Carta,
and now held absolute power over windmills, wine and spirit licences,
ladies traveling in Turkey, revision of sentences for dog-stealing
and parricide, as well as anything whatever that happened in the town of
Market Bosworth. The whole hundred and nine seneschals of the High Court
of Beacon met once in every four centuries; but in the intervals
(as Mr. Moon explained) the whole powers of the institution were vested
in Mrs. Duke. Tossed about among the rest of the company, however,
the High Court did not retain its historical and legal seriousness,
but was used somewhat unscrupulously in a riot of domestic detail.
If somebody spilt the Worcester Sauce on the tablecloth, he was quite
sure it was a rite without which the sittings and findings of the Court
would be invalid; or if somebody wanted a window to remain shut,
he would suddenly remember that none but the third son of the lord
of the manor of Penge had the right to open it. They even went
to the length of making arrests and conducting criminal inquiries.
The proposed trial of Moses Gould for patriotism was rather
above the heads of the company, especially of the criminal;
but the trial of Inglewood on a charge of photographic libel,
and his triumphant acquittal upon a plea of insanity, were admitted
to be in the best tradition of the Court.
But when Smith was in wild spirits he grew more and more serious, not more and
more flippant like Michael Moon. This proposal of a private court of justice,
which Moon had thrown off with the detachment of a political humourist,
Smith really caught hold of with the eagerness of an abstract philosopher.
It was by far the best thing they could do, he declared, to claim sovereign
powers even for the individual household.
"You believe in Home Rule for Ireland; I believe in Home Rule for homes,"
he cried eagerly to Michael. "It would be better if every father
COULD kill his son, as with the old Romans; it would be better,
because nobody would be killed. Let's issue a Declaration
of Independence from Beacon House. We could grow enough greens
in that garden to support us, and when the tax-collector comes let's
tell him we're self-supporting, and play on him with the hose.
...Well, perhaps, as you say, we couldn't very well have a hose,
as that comes from the main; but we could sink a well in this chalk,
and a lot could be done with water-jugs... Let this really be
Beacon House. Let's light a bonfire of independence on the roof,
and see house after house answering it across the valley of
the Thames! Let us begin the League of the Free Families! Away with
Local Government! A fig for Local Patriotism! Let every house
be a sovereign state as this is, and judge its own children by its
own law, as we do by the Court of Beacon. Let us cut the painter,
and begin to be happy together, as if we were on a desert island."
"I know that desert island," said Michael Moon; "it only
exists in the `Swiss Family Robinson.' A man feels a strange
desire for some sort of vegetable milk, and crash comes down
some unexpected cocoa-nut from some undiscovered monkey.
A literary man feels inclined to pen a sonnet, and at once
an officious porcupine rushes out of a thicket and shoots out
one of his quills."
"Don't you say a word against the `Swiss Family Robinson,'"
cried Innocent with great warmth. "It mayn't be
exact science, but it's dead accurate philosophy.
When you're really shipwrecked, you do really find what you want.
When you're really on a desert island, you never find it a desert.
If we were really besieged in this garden, we'd find a hundred
English birds and English berries that we never knew were here.
If we were snowed up in this room, we'd be the better for reading
scores of books in that bookcase that we don't even know are there;
we'd have talks with each other, good, terrible talks, that we shall
go to the grave without guessing; we'd find materials for everything--
christening, marriage, or funeral; yes, even for a coronation--
if we didn't decide to be a republic."
"A coronation on `Swiss Family' lines, I suppose," said Michael, laughing.
"Oh, I know you would find everything in that atmosphere. If we wanted
such a simple thing, for instance, as a Coronation Canopy, we should
walk down beyond the geraniums and find the Canopy Tree in full bloom.
If we wanted such a trifle as a crown of gold, why, we should be
digging up dandelions, and we should find a gold mine under the lawn.
And when we wanted oil for the ceremony, why I suppose a great storm
would wash everything on shore, and we should find there was a Whale
on the premises."
"And so there IS a whale on the premises for all you know,"
asseverated Smith, striking the table with passion.
"I bet you've never examined the premises! I bet you've
never been round at the back as I was this morning--
for I found the very thing you say could only grow on a tree.
There's an old sort of square tent up against the dustbin;
it's got three holes in the canvas, and a pole's broken,
so it's not much good as a tent, but as a Canopy--" And his
voice quite failed him to express its shining adequacy;
then he went on with controversial eagerness: "You see I
take every challenge as you make it. I believe every blessed
thing you say couldn't be here has been here all the time.
You say you want a whale washed up for oil. Why, there's oil
in that cruet-stand at your elbow; and I don't believe
anybody has touched it or thought of it for years.
And as for your gold crown, we're none of us wealthy here,
but we could collect enough ten-shilling bits from our own
pockets to string round a man's head for half an hour;
or one of Miss Hunt's gold bangles is nearly big enough to--"
The good-humoured Rosamund was almost choking with laughter.
"All is not gold that glitters," she said, "and besides--"
"What a mistake that is!" cried Innocent Smith,
leaping up in great excitement. "All is gold that glitters--
especially now we are a Sovereign State. What's the good
of a Sovereign State if you can't define a sovereign?
We can make anything a precious metal, as men could in the morning
of the world. They didn't choose gold because it was rare;
your scientists can tell you twenty sorts of slime much rarer.
They chose gold because it was bright--because it was
a hard thing to find, but pretty when you've found it.
You can't fight with golden swords or eat golden biscuits;
you can only look at it--an you can look at it out here."
With one of his incalculable motions he sprang back and burst open
the doors into the garden. At the same time also, with one of his
gestures that never seemed at the instant so unconventional as they were,
he stretched out his hand to Mary Gray, and led her out on to the lawn
as if for a dance.
The French windows, thus flung open, let in an evening even lovelier than that
of the day before. The west was swimming with sanguine colours, and a sort
of sleepy flame lay along the lawn. The twisted shadows of the one or two
garden trees showed upon this sheen, not gray or black, as in common daylight,
but like arabesques written in vivid violet ink on some page of Eastern gold.
The sunset was one of those festive and yet mysterious conflagrations in
which common things by their colours remind us of costly or curious things.
The slates upon the sloping roof burned like the plumes of a vast peacock,
in every mysterious blend of blue and green. The red-brown bricks of
the wall glowed with all the October tints of strong ruby and tawny wines.
The sun seemed to set each object alight with a different coloured flame,
like a man lighting fireworks; and even Innocent's hair, which was of a rather
colourless fairness, seemed to have a flame of pagan gold on it as he strode
across the lawn towards the one tall ridge of rockery.
"What would be the good of gold," he was saying, "if it did not glitter?
Why should we care for a black sovereign any more than for a
black sun at noon? A black button would do just as well.
Don't you see that everything in this garden looks like a jewel?
And will you kindly tell me what the deuce is the good of a jewel
except that it looks like a jewel? Leave off buying and selling,
and start looking! Open your eyes, and you'll wake up in
the New Jerusalem.
"All is gold that glitters--
Tree and tower of brass;
Rolls the golden evening air
Down the golden grass.
Kick the cry to Jericho,
How yellow mud is sold,
All is gold that glitters,
For the glitter is the gold."
"And who wrote that?" asked Rosamund, amused.
"No one will ever write it," answered Smith, and cleared the rockery
with a flying leap.
"Really," said Rosamund to Michael Moon, "he ought to be sent to an asylum.
Don't you think so?"
"I beg your pardon," inquired Michael, rather sombrely; his long,
swarthy head was dark against the sunset, and, either by accident or mood,
he had the look of something isolated and even hostile amid the social
extravagance of the garden.
"I only said Mr. Smith ought to go to an asylum," repeated the lady.
The lean face seemed to grow longer and longer, for Moon was
unmistakably sneering. "No," he said; "I don't think it's
at all necessary."
"What do you mean?" asked Rosamund quickly. "Why not?"
"Because he is in one now," answered Michael Moon, in a quiet but ugly voice.
"Why, didn't you know?"
"What?" cried the girl, and there was a break in her voice;
for the Irishman's face and voice were really almost creepy.
With his dark figure and dark sayings in all that sunshine
he looked like the devil in paradise.
"I'm sorry," he continued, with a sort of harsh humility.
"Of course we don't talk about it much... but I thought we
all really knew."
"Well," answered Moon, "that Beacon House is a certain rather singular
sort of house--a house with the tiles loose, shall we say? Innocent Smith
is only the doctor that visits us; hadn't you come when he called before?
As most of our maladies are melancholic, of course he has to be extra cheery.
Sanity, of course, seems a very bumptious eccentric thing to us.
Jumping over a wall, climbing a tree--that's his bedside manner."
"You daren't say such a thing!" cried Rosamund in a rage.
"You daren't suggest that I--"
"Not more than I am," said Michael soothingly; "not more than the rest of us.
Haven't you ever noticed that Miss Duke never sits still--a notorious sign?
Haven't you ever observed that Inglewood is always washing his hands--
a known mark of mental disease? I, of course, am a dipsomaniac."
"I don't believe you," broke out his companion, not without agitation.
"I've heard you had some bad habits--"
"All habits are bad habits," said Michael, with deadly calm.
"Madness does not come by breaking out, but by giving in; by settling down
in some dirty, little, self-repeating circle of ideas; by being tamed.
YOU went mad about money, because you're an heiress."
"It's a lie," cried Rosamund furiously. "I never was mean about money."
"You were worse," said Michael, in a low voice and yet violently.
"You thought that other people were. You thought every man who came near
you must be a fortune-hunter; you would not let yourself go and be sane;
and now you're mad and I'm mad, and serve us right."
"You brute!" said Rosamund, quite white. "And is this true?"
With the intellectual cruelty of which the Celt is capable
when his abysses are in revolt, Michael was silent for
some seconds, and then stepped back with an ironical bow.
"Not literally true, of course," he said; "only really true.
An allegory, shall we say? a social satire."
"And I hate and despise your satires," cried Rosamund Hunt,
letting loose her whole forcible female personality like a cyclone,
and speaking every word to wound. "I despise it as I despise
your rank tobacco, and your nasty, loungy ways, and your snarling,
and your Radicalism, and your old clothes, and your potty
little newspaper, and your rotten failure at everything.
I don't care whether you call it snobbishness or not, I like
life and success, and jolly things to look at, and action.
You won't frighten me with Diogenes; I prefer Alexander."
"Victrix causa deae--" said Michael gloomily; and this angered
her more, as, not knowing what it meant, she imagined it
to be witty.
"Oh, I dare say you know Greek," she said, with cheerful inaccuracy;
"you haven't done much with that either." And she crossed the garden,
pursuing the vanished Innocent and Mary.
In doing so she passed Inglewood, who was returning to the house slowly,
and with a thought-clouded brow. He was one of those men who are
quite clever, but quite the reverse of quick. As he came back
out of the sunset garden into the twilight parlour, Diana Duke
slipped swiftly to her feet and began putting away the tea things.
But it was not before Inglewood had seen an instantaneous picture so unique
that he might well have snapshotted it with his everlasting camera.
For Diana had been sitting in front of her unfinished work with her chin
on her hand, looking straight out of the window in pure thoughtless thought.
"You are busy," said Arthur, oddly embarrassed with what he had seen,
and wishing to ignore it.
"There's no time for dreaming in this world," answered the young lady
with her back to him.
"I have been thinking lately," said Inglewood in a low voice,
"that there's no time for waking up."
She did not reply, and he walked to the window and looked out on the garden.
"I don't smoke or drink, you know," he said irrelevantly,
"because I think they're drugs. And yet I fancy all hobbies,
like my camera and bicycle, are drugs too. Getting under a
black hood, getting into a dark room--getting into a hole anyhow.
Drugging myself with speed, and sunshine, and fatigue, and fresh air.
Pedalling the machine so fast that I turn into a machine myself.
That's the matter with all of us. We're too busy to wake up."
"Well," said the girl solidly, "what is there to wake up to?"
"There must be!" cried Inglewood, turning round in a singular
excitement--"there must be something to wake up to!
All we do is preparations--your cleanliness, and my healthiness,
and Warner's scientific appliances. We're always preparing
for something--something that never comes off. I ventilate
the house, and you sweep the house; but what is going to HAPPEN
in the house?"
She was looking at him quietly, but with very bright eyes,
and seemed to be searching for some form of words which she
could not find.
Before she could speak the door burst open, and the boisterous Rosamund Hunt,
in her flamboyant white hat, boa, and parasol, stood framed in the doorway.
She was in a breathing heat, and on her open face was an expression of
the most infantile astonishment.
"Well, here's a fine game!" she said, panting. "What am I to do now,
I wonder? I've wired for Dr. Warner; that's all I can think of doing."
"What is the matter?" asked Diana, rather sharply, but moving
forward like one used to be called upon for assistance.
"It's Mary," said the heiress, "my companion Mary Gray:
that cracked friend of yours called Smith has proposed to her
in the garden, after ten hours' acquaintance, and he wants
to go off with her now for a special licence."
Arthur Inglewood walked to the open French windows and looked
out on the garden, still golden with evening light.
Nothing moved there but a bird or two hopping and twittering;
but beyond the hedge and railings, in the road outside
the garden gate, a hansom cab was waiting, with the yellow
Gladstone bag on top of it.
The Garden of the God
Diana Duke seemed inexplicably irritated at the abrupt entrance
and utterance of the other girl.
"Well," she said shortly, "I suppose Miss Gray can decline him if she
doesn't want to marry him."
"But she DOES want to marry him!" cried Rosamund in exasperation.
"She's a wild, wicked fool, and I won't be parted from her."
"Perhaps," said Diana icily, "but I really don't see what we can do."
"But the man's balmy, Diana," reasoned her friend angrily.
"I can't let my nice governess marry a man that's balmy!
You or somebody MUST stop it!--Mr. Inglewood, you're a man;
go and tell them they simply can't."
"Unfortunately, it seems to me they simply can," said Inglewood,
with a depressed air. "I have far less right of intervention
than Miss Duke, besides having, of course, far less moral
force than she."
"You haven't either of you got much," cried Rosamund,
the last stays of her formidable temper giving way;
"I think I'll go somewhere else for a little sense and pluck.
I think I know some one who will help me more than you do,
at any rate... he's a cantankerous beast, but he's a man,
and has a mind, and knows it..." And she flung out into the garden,
with cheeks aflame, and the parasol whirling like a Catherine wheel.
She found Michael Moon standing under the garden tree, looking over
the hedge; hunched like a bird of prey, with his large pipe hanging down
his long blue chin. The very hardness of his expression pleased her,
after the nonsense of the new engagement and the shilly-shallying
of her other friends.
"I am sorry I was cross, Mr. Moon," she said frankly. "I hated you
for being a cynic; but I've been well punished, for I want a cynic
just now. I've had my fill of sentiment--I'm fed up with it.
The world's gone mad, Mr. Moon--all except the cynics, I think.
That maniac Smith wants to marry my old friend Mary, and she--
and she--doesn't seem to mind."
Seeing his attentive face still undisturbedly smoking, she added smartly,
"I'm not joking; that's Mr. Smith's cab outside. He swears he'll
take her off now to his aunt's, and go for a special licence.
Do give me some practical advice, Mr. Moon."
Mr. Moon took his pipe out of his mouth, held it in his hand
for an instant reflectively, and then tossed it to the other side
of the garden. "My practical advice to you is this," he said:
"Let him go for his special licence, and ask him to get another
one for you and me."
"Is that one of your jokes?" asked the young lady.
"Do say what you really mean."
"I mean that Innocent Smith is a man of business,"
said Moon with ponderous precision--"a plain, practical man:
a man of affairs; a man of facts and the daylight.
He has let down twenty ton of good building bricks suddenly
on my head, and I am glad to say they have woken me up.
We went to sleep a little while ago on this very lawn, in this
very sunlight. We have had a little nap for five years or so,
but now we're going to be married, Rosamund, and I can't see
why that cab..."
"Really," said Rosamund stoutly, "I don't know what you mean."
"What a lie! cried Michael, advancing on her with brightening eyes.
"I'm all for lies in an ordinary way; but don't you see that to-night
they won't do? We've wandered into a world of facts, old girl.
That grass growing, and that sun going down, and that cab at the door,
are facts. You used to torment and excuse yourself by saying I
was after your money, and didn't really love you. But if I stood
here now and told you I didn't love you--you wouldn't believe me:
for truth is in this garden to-night."
"Really, Mr. Moon..." said Rosamund, rather more faintly.
He kept two big blue magnetic eyes fixed on her face.
"Is my name Moon?" he asked. "Is your name Hunt? On my honour,
they sound to me as quaint and as distant as Red Indian names.
It's as if your name was `Swim' and my name was `Sunrise.' But our
real names are Husband and Wife, as they were when we fell asleep."
"It is no good," said Rosamund, with real tears in her eyes;
"one can never go back."
"I can go where I damn please," said Michael, "and I can carry
you on my shoulder."
"But really, Michael, really, you must stop and think!"
cried the girl earnestly. "You could carry me off my feet, I dare say,
soul and body, but it may be bitter bad business for all that.
These things done in that romantic rush, like Mr. Smith's, they--
they do attract women, I don't deny it. As you say, we're all
telling the truth to-night. They've attracted poor Mary, for one.
They attract me, Michael. But the cold fact remains:
imprudent marriages do lead to long unhappiness and disappointment--
you've got used to your drinks and things--I shan't be
pretty much longer--"
"Imprudent marriages!" roared Michael. "And pray where in earth
or heaven are there any prudent marriages? Might as well talk
about prudent suicides. You and I have dawdled round each other
long enough, and are we any safer than Smith and Mary Gray,
who met last night? You never know a husband till you marry him.
Unhappy! of course you'll be unhappy. Who the devil are you
that you shouldn't be unhappy, like the mother that bore you?
Disappointed! of course we'll be disappointed. I, for one,
don't expect till I die to be so good a man as I am at this minute--
a tower with all the trumpets shouting."
"You see all this," said Rosamund, with a grand sincerity in her solid face,
"and do you really want to marry me?"
"My darling, what else is there to do?" reasoned the Irishman. "What other
occupation is there for an active man on this earth, except to
marry you? What's the alternative to marriage, barring sleep?
It's not liberty, Rosamund. Unless you marry God, as our nuns do in Ireland,
you must marry Man--that is Me. The only third thing is to marry yourself--
yourself, yourself, yourself--the only companion that is never satisfied--
and never satisfactory."
"Michael," said Miss Hunt, in a very soft voice, "if you won't talk so much,
I'll marry you."
"It's no time for talking," cried Michael Moon; singing is the only thing.
Can't you find that mandoline of yours, Rosamund?"
"Go and fetch it for me," said Rosamund, with crisp and sharp authority.
The lounging Mr. Moon stood for one split second astonished;
then he shot away across the lawn, as if shod with the feathered
shoes out of the Greek fairy tale. He cleared three yards
and fifteen daisies at a leap, out of mere bodily levity;
but when he came within a yard or two of the open parlour windows,
his flying feet fell in their old manner like lead;
he twisted round and came back slowly, whistling. The events
of that enchanted evening were not at an end.
Inside the dark sitting-room of which Moon had caught a glimpse a curious
thing had happened, almost an instant after the intemperate exit
of Rosamund. It was something which, occurring in that obscure parlour,
seemed to Arthur Inglewood like heaven and earth turning head over heels,
the sea being the ceiling and the stars the floor. No words can express
how it astonished him, as it astonishes all simple men when it happens.
Yet the stiffest female stoicism seems separated from it only by a sheet of
paper or a sheet of steel. It indicates no surrender, far less any sympathy.
The most rigid and ruthless woman can begin to cry, just as the most
effeminate man can grow a beard. It is a separate sexual power,
and proves nothing one way or the other about force of character.
But to young men ignorant of women, like Arthur Inglewood, to see Diana Duke
crying was like seeing a motor-car shedding tears of petrol.
He could never have given (even if his really manly modesty had permitted it)
any vaguest vision of what he did when he saw that portent. He acted
as men do when a theatre catches fire--very differently from how they
would have conceived themselves as acting, whether for better or worse.
He had a faint memory of certain half-stifled explanations, that the heiress
was the one really paying guest, and she would go, and the bailiffs
(in consequence) would come; but after that he knew nothing of his own
conduct except by the protests it evoked.
"Leave me alone, Mr. Inglewood--leave me alone; that's not the way to help."
"But I can help you," said Arthur, with grinding certainty;
"I can, I can, I can..."
"Why, you said," cried the girl, "that you were much weaker than me."
"So I am weaker than you," said Arthur, in a voice that went
vibrating through everything, "but not just now."
"Let go my hands!" cried Diana. "I won't be bullied."
In one element he was much stronger than she--the matter of humour.
This leapt up in him suddenly, and he laughed, saying: "Well, you are mean.
You know quite well you'll bully me all the rest of my life.
You might allow a man the one minute of his life when he's allowed to bully."
It was as extraordinary for him to laugh as for her to cry,
and for the first time since her childhood Diana was entirely
off her guard.
"Do you mean you want to marry me?" she said.
"Why, there's a cab at the door!" cried Inglewood, springing up
with an unconscious energy and bursting open the glass doors
that led into the garden.
As he led her out by the hand they realized somehow for the first time
that the house and garden were on a steep height over London. And yet,
though they felt the place to be uplifted, they felt it also to be secret:
it was like some round walled garden on the top of one of the
turrets of heaven.
Inglewood looked around dreamily, his brown eyes devouring
all sorts of details with a senseless delight. He noticed for
the first time that the railings of the gate beyond the garden
bushes were moulded like little spearheads and painted blue.
He noticed that one of the blue spears was loosened in its place,
and hung sideways; and this almost made him laugh. He thought it
somehow exquisitely harmless and funny that the railing should
be crooked; he thought he should like to know how it happened,
who did it, and how the man was getting on.
When they were gone a few feet across that fiery grass realized
that they were not alone. Rosamund Hunt and the eccentric
Mr. Moon, both of whom they had last seen in the blackest
temper of detachment, were standing together on the lawn.
They were standing in quite an ordinary manner, and yet they
looked somehow like people in a book.
"Oh," said Diana, "what lovely air!"
"I know," called out Rosamund, with a pleasure so positive
that it rang out like a complaint. "It's just like that horrid,
beastly fizzy stuff they gave me that made me feel happy."
"Oh, it isn't like anything but itself!" answered Diana, breathing deeply.
"Why, it's all cold, and yet it feels like fire."
"Balmy is the word we use in Fleet Street,"
said Mr. Moon. "Balmy--especially on the crumpet."
And he fanned himself quite unnecessarily with his straw hat.
They were all full of little leaps and pulsations of objectless
and airy energy. Diana stirred and stretched her long arms rigidly,
as if crucified, in a sort of excruciating restfulness;
Michael stood still for long intervals, with gathered muscles,
then spun round like a teetotum, and stood still again;
Rosamund did not trip, for women never trip, except when they
fall on their noses, but she struck the ground with her foot
as she moved, as if to some inaudible dance tune; and Inglewood,
leaning quite quietly against a tree, had unconsciously
clutched a branch and shaken it with a creative violence.
Those giant gestures of Man, that made the high statues
and the strokes of war, tossed and tormented all their limbs.
Silently as they strolled and stood they were bursting like
batteries with an animal magnetism.
"And now," cried Moon quite suddenly, stretching out a hand on each side,
"let's dance round that bush!"
"Why, what bush do you mean?" asked Rosamund, looking round with a sort
of radiant rudeness.
"The bush that isn't there," said Michael--"the Mulberry Bush."
They had taken each other's hands, half laughing and quite ritually;
and before they could disconnect again Michael spun them all round,
like a demon spinning the world for a top. Diana felt, as the circle of
the horizon flew instantaneously around her, a far aerial sense of the ring
of heights beyond London and corners where she had climbed as a child;
she seemed almost to hear the rooks cawing about the old pines on Highgate,
or to see the glowworms gathering and kindling in the woods of Box Hill.
The circle broke--as all such perfect circles of levity must break--
and sent its author, Michael, flying, as by centrifugal force, far away
against the blue rails of the gate. When reeling there he suddenly
raised shout after shout of a new and quite dramatic character.
"Why, it's Warner!" he shouted, waving his arms. "It's jolly old Warner--
with a new silk hat and the old silk moustache!"
"Is that Dr. Warner?" cried Rosamund, bounding forward in a
burst of memory, amusement, and distress. "Oh, I'm so sorry!
Oh, do tell him it's all right!"
"Let's take hands and tell him," said Michael Moon. For indeed,
while they were talking, another hansom cab had dashed up behind
the one already waiting, and Dr. Herbert Warner, leaving a companion
in the cab, had carefully deposited himself on the pavement.
Now, when you are an eminent physician and are wired for by
an heiress to come to a case of dangerous mania, and when,
as you come in through the garden to the house, the heiress
and her landlady and two of the gentlemen boarders join hands
and dance round you in a ring, calling out, "It's all right! it's
all right!" you are apt to be flustered and even displeased.
Dr. Warner was a placid but hardly a placable person.
The two things are by no means the same; and even when Moon explained
to him that he, Warner, with his high hat and tall, solid figure,
was just such a classic figure as OUGHT to be danced round
by a ring of laughing maidens on some old golden Greek seashore--
even then he seemed to miss the point of the general rejoicing.
"Inglewood!" cried Dr. Warner, fixing his former disciple with a stare,
"are you mad?"
Arthur flushed to the roots of his brown hair, but he answered,
easily and quietly enough, "Not now. The truth is, Warner, I've just
made a rather important medical discovery--quite in your line."
"What do you mean?" asked the great doctor stiffly--"what discovery?"
"I've discovered that health really is catching, like disease,"
"Yes; sanity has broken out, and is spreading," said Michael,
performing a ~pas seul~ with a thoughtful expression.
"Twenty thousand more cases taken to the hospitals;
nurses employed night and day."
Dr. Warner studied Michael's grave face and lightly moving
legs with an unfathomed wonder. "And is THIS, may I ask,"
he said, "the sanity that is spreading?"
"You must forgive me, Dr. Warner," cried Rosamund Hunt heartily.
"I know I've treated you badly; but indeed it was all a mistake.
I was in a frightfully bad temper when I sent for you, but now
it all seems like a dream--and and Mr. Smith is the sweetest,
most sensible, most delightful old thing that ever existed,
and he may marry any one he likes--except me."
"I should suggest Mrs. Duke," said Michael.
The gravity of Dr. Warner's face increased. He took a slip
of pink paper from his waistcoat pocket, with his pale
blue eyes quietly fixed on Rosamund's face all the time.
He spoke with a not inexcusable frigidity.
"Really, Miss Hunt," he said, "you are not yet very reassuring.
You sent me this wire only half an hour ago: `Come at once,
if possible, with another doctor. Man--Innocent Smith--gone mad
on premises, and doing dreadful things. Do you know anything of him?'
I went round at once to a distinguished colleague of mine, a doctor
who is also a private detective and an authority on criminal lunacy;
he has come round with me, and is waiting in the cab. Now you calmly
tell me that this criminal madman is a highly sweet and sane old thing,
with accompaniments that set me speculating on your own definition of sanity.
I hardly comprehend the change."
"Oh, how can one explain a change in sun and moon and everybody's soul?"
cried Rosamund, in despair. "Must I confess we had got so morbid
as to think him mad merely because he wanted to get married; and that we
didn't even know it was only because we wanted to get married ourselves?
We'll humiliate ourselves, if you like, doctor; we're happy enough."
"Where is Mr. Smith?" asked Warner of Inglewood very sharply.
Arthur started; he had forgotten all about the central figure of their farce,
who had not been visible for an hour or more.
"I--I think he's on the other side of the house, by the dustbin," he said.
"He may be on the road to Russia," said Warner, "but he must be found."
And he strode away and disappeared round a corner of the house
by the sunflowers.
"I hope," said Rosamund, "he won't really interfere with Mr. Smith."
"Interfere with the daisies!" said Michael with a snort.
"A man can't be locked up for falling in love--at least
I hope not."
"No; I think even a doctor couldn't make a disease out of him.
He'd throw off the doctor like the disease, don't you know?
I believe it's a case of a sort of holy well. I believe Innocent Smith
is simply innocent, and that is why he is so extraordinary."
It was Rosamund who spoke, restlessly tracing circles in the grass
with the point of her white shoe.
"I think," said Inglewood, "that Smith is not extraordinary at all.
He's comic just because he's so startlingly commonplace.
Don't you know what it is to be all one family circle, with aunts
and uncles, when a schoolboy comes home for the holidays?
That bag there on the cab is only a schoolboy's hamper.
This tree here in the garden is only the sort of tree that any
schoolboy would have climbed. Yes, that's the thing that has
haunted us all about him, the thing we could never fit a word to.
Whether he is my old schoolfellow or no, at least he is all my
old schoolfellows. He is the endless bun-eating, ball-throwing
animal that we have all been."
"That is only you absurd boys," said Diana. "I don't believe
any girl was ever so silly, and I'm sure no girl was ever
so happy, except--" and she stopped.
"I will tell you the truth about Innocent Smith," said Michael Moon in a
low voice. "Dr. Warner has gone to look for him in vain. He is not there.
Haven't you noticed that we never saw him since we found ourselves?
He was an astral baby born on all four of us; he was only our own
youth returned. Long before poor old Warner had clambered out of his cab,
the thing we called Smith had dissolved into dew and light on this lawn.
Once or twice more, by the mercy of God, we may feel the thing,
but the man we shall never see. In a spring garden before breakfast
we shall smell the smell called Smith. In the snapping of brisk twigs
in tiny fires we shall hear a noise named Smith. Everything insatiable
and innocent in the grasses that gobble up the earth like at a bun feast,
in the white mornings that split the sky as a boy splits up white firwood,
we may feel for one instant the presence of an impetuous purity;
but his innocence was too close to the unconsciousness of inanimate things
not to melt back at a mere touch into the mild hedges and heavens; he--"
He was interrupted from behind the house by a bang like that of a bomb.
Almost at the same instant the stranger in the cab sprang out of it,
leaving it rocking upon the stones of the road. He clutched the blue railings
of the garden, and peered eagerly over them in the direction of the noise.
He was a small, loose, yet alert man, very thin, with a face that seemed
made out of fish bones, and a silk hat quite as rigid and resplendent
as Warner's, but thrust back recklessly on the hinder part of his head.
"Murder!" he shrieked, in a high and feminine but very penetrating voice.
"Stop that murderer there!"
Even as he shrieked a second shot shook the lower windows
of the house, and with the noise of it Dr. Herbert Warner came
flying round the corner like a leaping rabbit. Yet before
he had reached the group a third discharge had deafened them,
and they saw with their own eyes two spots of white sky drilled
through the second of the unhappy Herbert's high hats.
The next moment the fugitive physician fell over a flowerpot,
and came down on all floors, staring like a cow. The hat with
the two shot-holes in it rolled upon the gravel path before him,
and Innocent Smith came round the corner like a railway train.
He was looking twice his proper size--a giant clad in green,
the big revolver still smoking in his hand, his face sanguine
and in shadow, his eyes blazing like all stars, and his yellow
hair standing out all ways like Struwelpeter's.
Though this startling scene hung but an instant in stillness,
Inglewood had time to feel once more what he had felt when
he saw the other lovers standing on the lawn--the sensation
of a certain cut and coloured clearness that belongs rather
to the things of art than to the things of experience.
The broken flowerpot with its red-hot geraniums, the green
bulk of Smith and the black bulk of Warner, the blue-spiked
railings behind, clutched by the stranger's yellow vulture
claws and peered over by his long vulture neck, the silk hat
on the gravel, and the little cloudlet of smoke floating
across the garden as innocently as the puff of a cigarette--
all these seemed unnaturally distinct and definite.
They existed, like symbols, in an ecstasy of separation.
Indeed, every object grew more and more particular
and precious because the whole picture was breaking up.
Things look so bright just before they burst.
Long before his fancies had begun, let alone ceased,
Arthur had stepped across and taken one of Smith's arms.
Simultaneously the little stranger had run up the steps and taken
the other. Smith went into peals of laughter, and surrendered
his pistol with perfect willingness. Moon raised the doctor
to his feet, and then went and leaned sullenly on the garden gate.
The girls were quiet and vigilant, as good women mostly
are in instants of catastrophe, but their faces showed that,
somehow or other, a light had been dashed out of the sky.
The doctor himself, when he had risen, collected his hat and wits,
and dusting himself down with an air of great disgust, turned to
them in brief apology. He was very white with his recent panic,
but he spoke with perfect self-control.
"You will excuse us, ladies," he said; "my friend and
Mr. Inglewood are both scientists in their several ways.
I think we had better all take Mr. Smith indoors, and communicate
with you later."
And under the guard of the three natural philosophers the disarmed Smith
was led tactfully into the house, still roaring with laughter.
From time to time during the next twenty minutes his distant
boom of mirth could again be heard through the half-open window;
but there came no echo of the quiet voices of the physicians.
The girls walked about the garden together, rubbing up each other's
spirits as best they might; Michael Moon still hung heavily against
the gate. Somewhere about the expiration of that time Dr. Warner
came out of the house with a face less pale but even more stern,
and the little man with the fish-bone face advanced gravely in his rear.
And if the face of Warner in the sunlight was that of a hanging judge,
the face of the little man behind was more like a death's head.
"Miss Hunt," said Dr. Herbert Warner, "I only wish to offer you my warm
thanks and admiration. By your prompt courage and wisdom in sending
for us by wire this evening, you have enabled us to capture and put out
of mischief one of the most cruel and terrible of the enemies of humanity--
a criminal whose plausibility and pitilessness have never been before
combined in flesh."
Rosamund looked across at him with a white, blank face and blinking eyes.
"What do you mean?" she asked. "You can't mean Mr. Smith?"
"He has gone by many other names," said the doctor gravely,
"and not one he did not leave to be cursed behind him. That man,
Miss Hunt, has left a track of blood and tears across the world.
Whether he is mad as well as wicked, we are trying, in the interests
of science, to discover. In any case, we shall have to take him
to a magistrate first, even if only on the road to a lunatic asylum.
But the lunatic asylum in which he is confined will have to be
sealed with wall within wall, and ringed with guns like a fortress,
or he will break out again to bring forth carnage and darkness
on the earth."
Rosamund looked at the two doctors, her face growing paler and paler.
Then her eyes strayed to Michael, who was leaning on the gate;
but he continued to lean on it without moving, with his face turned
away towards the darkening road.
The Allegorical Practical Joker
The criminal specialist who had come with Dr. Warner was a somewhat more
urbane and even dapper figure than he had appeared when clutching the railings
and craning his neck into the garden. He even looked comparatively young
when he took his hat off, having fair hair parted in the middle and carefully
curled on each side, and lively movements, especially of the hands.
He had a dandified monocle slung round his neck by a broad black ribbon,
and a big bow tie, as if a big American moth had alighted on him.
His dress and gestures were bright enough for a boy's; it was only when you
looked at the fish-bone face that you beheld something acrid and old.
His manners were excellent, though hardly English, and he had two
half-conscious tricks by which people who only met him once remembered him.
One was a trick of closing his eyes when he wished to be particularly polite;
the other was one of lifting his joined thumb and forefinger in the air as if
holding a pinch of snuff, when he was hesitating or hovering over a word.
But hose who were longer in his company tended to forget these oddities
in the stream of his quaint and solemn conversation and really singular views.
"Miss Hunt," said Dr. Warner, "this is Dr. Cyrus Pym."
Dr. Cyrus Pym shut his eyes during the introduction, rather as if he were
"playing fair" in some child's game, and gave a prompt little bow,
which somehow suddenly revealed him as a citizen of the United States.
"Dr. Cyrus Pym," continued Warner (Dr. Pym shut his eyes again), "is perhaps
the first criminological expert of America. We are very fortunate to be able
to consult with him in this extraordinary case--"
"I can't make head or tail of anything," said Rosamund. "How can
poor Mr. Smith be so dreadful as he is by your account?"
"Or by your telegram," said Herbert Warner, smiling.
"Oh, you don't understand," cried the girl impatiently.
"Why, he's done us all more good than going to church."
"I think I can explain to the young lady," said Dr. Cyrus Pym. "This criminal
or maniac Smith is a very genius of evil, and has a method of his own,
a method of the most daring ingenuity. He is popular wherever he goes,
for he invades every house as an uproarious child. People are
getting suspicious of all the respectable disguises for a scoundrel;
so he always uses the disguise of--what shall I say--the Bohemian,
the blameless Bohemian. He always carries people off their feet.
People are used to the mask of conventional good conduct.
He goes in for eccentric good-nature. You expect a Don Juan to dress
up as a solemn and solid Spanish merchant; but you're not prepared
when he dresses up as Don Quixote. You expect a humbug to behave like
Sir Charles Grandison; because (with all respect, Miss Hunt, for the deep,
tear-moving tenderness of Samuel Richardson) Sir Charles Grandison
so often behaved like a humbug. But no real red-blooded citizen is quite
ready for a humbug that models himself not on Sir Charles Grandison
but on Sir Roger de Coverly. Setting up to be a good man a little cracked
is a new criminal incognito, Miss Hunt. It's been a great notion,
and uncommonly successful; but its success just makes it mighty cruel.
I can forgive Dick Turpin if he impersonates Dr. Busby; I can't forgive
him when he impersonates Dr. Johnson. The saint with a tile loose
is a bit too sacred, I guess, to be parodied."
"But how do you know," cried Rosamund desperately, "that Mr. Smith
is a known criminal?"
"I collated all the documents," said the American, "when my friend Warner