Part 3 out of 4
from catching the 7.45 for Paris. If he misses that he misses his
crime. He can't refuse to meet you on such a small point of time
and place. But this is what he will do. He will choose a field
somewhere near a wayside station, where he can pick up the train.
He is a very good swordsman, and he will trust to killing me in
time to catch it. But I can fence well too, and I think I can keep
him in play, at any rate, until the train is lost. Then perhaps he
may kill me to console his feelings. You understand? Very well
then, let me introduce you to some charming friends of mine," and
leading them quickly across the parade, he presented them to the
Marquis's seconds by two very aristocratic names of which they had
not previously heard.
Syme was subject to spasms of singular common sense, not otherwise
a part of his character. They were (as he said of his impulse about
the spectacles) poetic intuitions, and they sometimes rose to the
exaltation of prophecy.
He had correctly calculated in this case the policy of his
opponent. When the Marquis was informed by his seconds that Syme
could only fight in the morning, he must fully have realised that
an obstacle had suddenly arisen between him and his bomb-throwing
business in the capital. Naturally he could not explain this
objection to his friends, so he chose the course which Syme had
predicted. He induced his seconds to settle on a small meadow not
far from the railway, and he trusted to the fatality of the first
When he came down very coolly to the field of honour, no one could
have guessed that he had any anxiety about a journey; his hands
were in his pockets, his straw hat on the back of his head, his
handsome face brazen in the sun. But it might have struck a
stranger as odd that there appeared in his train, not only his
seconds carrying the sword-case, but two of his servants carrying
a portmanteau and a luncheon basket.
Early as was the hour, the sun soaked everything in warmth, and
Syme was vaguely surprised to see so many spring flowers burning
gold and silver in the tall grass in which the whole company stood
With the exception of the Marquis, all the men were in sombre and
solemn morning-dress, with hats like black chimney-pots; the little
Doctor especially, with the addition of his black spectacles,
looked like an undertaker in a farce. Syme could not help feeling a
comic contrast between this funereal church parade of apparel and
the rich and glistening meadow, growing wild flowers everywhere.
But, indeed, this comic contrast between the yellow blossoms and
the black hats was but a symbol of the tragic contrast between the
yellow blossoms and the black business. On his right was a little
wood; far away to his left lay the long curve of the railway line,
which he was, so to speak, guarding from the Marquis, whose goal
and escape it was. In front of him, behind the black group of his
opponents, he could see, like a tinted cloud, a small almond bush
in flower against the faint line of the sea.
The member of the Legion of Honour, whose name it seemed was
Colonel Ducroix, approached the Professor and Dr. Bull with great
politeness, and suggested that the play should terminate with the
first considerable hurt.
Dr. Bull, however, having been carefully coached by Syme upon this
point of policy, insisted, with great dignity and in very bad
French, that it should continue until one of the combatants was
disabled. Syme had made up his mind that he could avoid disabling
the Marquis and prevent the Marquis from disabling him for at
least twenty minutes. In twenty minutes the Paris train would have
"To a man of the well-known skill and valour of Monsieur de St.
Eustache," said the Professor solemnly, "it must be a matter of
indifference which method is adopted, and our principal has strong
reasons for demanding the longer encounter, reasons the delicacy
of which prevent me from being explicit, but for the just and
honourable nature of which I can--"
"Peste!" broke from the Marquis behind, whose face had suddenly
darkened, "let us stop talking and begin," and he slashed off the
head of a tall flower with his stick.
Syme understood his rude impatience and instinctively looked over
his shoulder to see whether the train was coming in sight. But
there was no smoke on the horizon.
Colonel Ducroix knelt down and unlocked the case, taking out a
pair of twin swords, which took the sunlight and turned to two
streaks of white fire. He offered one to the Marquis, who snatched
it without ceremony, and another to Syme, who took it, bent it,
and poised it with as much delay as was consistent with dignity.
Then the Colonel took out another pair of blades, and taking one
himself and giving another to Dr. Bull, proceeded to place the
Both combatants had thrown off their coats and waistcoats, and
stood sword in hand. The seconds stood on each side of the line
of fight with drawn swords also, but still sombre in their dark
frock-coats and hats. The principals saluted. The Colonel said
quietly, "Engage!" and the two blades touched and tingled.
When the jar of the joined iron ran up Syme's arm, all the
fantastic fears that have been the subject of this story fell
from him like dreams from a man waking up in bed. He remembered
them clearly and in order as mere delusions of the nerves--how
the fear of the Professor had been the fear of the tyrannic
accidents of nightmare, and how the fear of the Doctor had been
the fear of the airless vacuum of science. The first was the old
fear that any miracle might happen, the second the more hopeless
modern fear that no miracle can ever happen. But he saw that
these fears were fancies, for he found himself in the presence of
the great fact of the fear of death, with its coarse and pitiless
common sense. He felt like a man who had dreamed all night of
falling over precipices, and had woke up on the morning when he
was to be hanged. For as soon as he had seen the sunlight run
down the channel of his foe's foreshortened blade, and as soon as
he had felt the two tongues of steel touch, vibrating like two
living things, he knew that his enemy was a terrible fighter, and
that probably his last hour had come.
He felt a strange and vivid value in all the earth around him, in
the grass under his feet; he felt the love of life in all living
things. He could almost fancy that he heard the grass growing; he
could almost fancy that even as he stood fresh flowers were
springing up and breaking into blossom in the meadow--flowers blood
red and burning gold and blue, fulfilling the whole pageant of the
spring. And whenever his eyes strayed for a flash from the calm,
staring, hypnotic eyes of the Marquis, they saw the little tuft of
almond tree against the sky-line. He had the feeling that if by
some miracle he escaped he would be ready to sit for ever before
that almond tree, desiring nothing else in the world.
But while earth and sky and everything had the living beauty of a
thing lost, the other half of his head was as clear as glass, and
he was parrying his enemy's point with a kind of clockwork skill of
which he had hardly supposed himself capable. Once his enemy's
point ran along his wrist, leaving a slight streak of blood, but it
either was not noticed or was tacitly ignored. Every now and then
he riposted, and once or twice he could almost fancy that he felt
his point go home, but as there was no blood on blade or shirt he
supposed he was mistaken. Then came an interruption and a change.
At the risk of losing all, the Marquis, interrupting his quiet
stare, flashed one glance over his shoulder at the line of railway
on his right. Then he turned on Syme a face transfigured to that of
a fiend, and began to fight as if with twenty weapons. The attack
came so fast and furious, that the one shining sword seemed a
shower of shining arrows. Syme had no chance to look at the
railway; but also he had no need. He could guess the reason of the
Marquis's sudden madness of battle--the Paris train was in sight.
But the Marquis's morbid energy over-reached itself. Twice Syme,
parrying, knocked his opponent's point far out of the fighting
circle; and the third time his riposte was so rapid, that there
was no doubt about the hit this time. Syme's sword actually bent
under the weight of the Marquis's body, which it had pierced.
Syme was as certain that he had stuck his blade into his enemy as
a gardener that he has stuck his spade into the ground. Yet the
Marquis sprang back from the stroke without a stagger, and Syme
stood staring at his own sword-point like an idiot. There was no
blood on it at all.
There was an instant of rigid silence, and then Syme in his turn
fell furiously on the other, filled with a flaming curiosity. The
Marquis was probably, in a general sense, a better fencer than he,
as he had surmised at the beginning, but at the moment the Marquis
seemed distraught and at a disadvantage. He fought wildly and even
weakly, and he constantly looked away at the railway line, almost
as if he feared the train more than the pointed steel. Syme, on the
other hand, fought fiercely but still carefully, in an intellectual
fury, eager to solve the riddle of his own bloodless sword. For
this purpose, he aimed less at the Marquis's body, and more at his
throat and head. A minute and a half afterwards he felt his point
enter the man's neck below the jaw. It came out clean. Half mad, he
thrust again, and made what should have been a bloody scar on the
Marquis's cheek. But there was no scar.
For one moment the heaven of Syme again grew black with
supernatural terrors. Surely the man had a charmed life. But this
new spiritual dread was a more awful thing than had been the mere
spiritual topsy-turvydom symbolised by the paralytic who pursued
him. The Professor was only a goblin; this man was a devil--perhaps
he was the Devil! Anyhow, this was certain, that three times had a
human sword been driven into him and made no mark. When Syme had
that thought he drew himself up, and all that was good in him sang
high up in the air as a high wind sings in the trees. He thought of
all the human things in his story--of the Chinese lanterns in
Saffron Park, of the girl's red hair in the garden, of the honest,
beer-swilling sailors down by the dock, of his loyal companions
standing by. Perhaps he had been chosen as a champion of all these
fresh and kindly things to cross swords with the enemy of all
creation. "After all," he said to himself, "I am more than a devil;
I am a man. I can do the one thing which Satan himself cannot do--I
can die," and as the word went through his head, he heard a faint
and far-off hoot, which would soon be the roar of the Paris train.
He fell to fighting again with a supernatural levity, like a
Mohammedan panting for Paradise. As the train came nearer and
nearer he fancied he could see people putting up the floral
arches in Paris; he joined in the growing noise and the glory of
the great Republic whose gate he was guarding against Hell. His
thoughts rose higher and higher with the rising roar of the
train, which ended, as if proudly, in a long and piercing
whistle. The train stopped.
Suddenly, to the astonishment of everyone the Marquis sprang back
quite out of sword reach and threw down his sword. The leap was
wonderful, and not the less wonderful because Syme had plunged his
sword a moment before into the man's thigh.
"Stop!" said the Marquis in a voice that compelled a momentary
obedience. "I want to say something."
"What is the matter?" asked Colonel Ducroix, staring. "Has there
been foul play?"
"There has been foul play somewhere," said Dr. Bull, who was a
little pale. "Our principal has wounded the Marquis four times
at least, and he is none the worse ."
The Marquis put up his hand with a curious air of ghastly
"Please let me speak," he said. "It is rather important. Mr.
Syme," he continued, turning to his opponent, "we are fighting
today, if I remember right, because you expressed a wish (which
I thought irrational) to pull my nose. Would you oblige me by
pulling my nose now as quickly as possible? I have to catch a
"I protest that this is most irregular," said Dr. Bull
"It is certainly somewhat opposed to precedent," said Colonel
Ducroix, looking wistfully at his principal. "There is, I think,
one case on record (Captain Bellegarde and the Baron Zumpt) in
which the weapons were changed in the middle of the encounter at
the request of one of the combatants. But one can hardly call
one's nose a weapon."
"Will you or will you not pull my nose?" said the Marquis in
exasperation. "Come, come, Mr. Syme! You wanted to do it, do it!
You can have no conception of how important it is to me. Don't be
so selfish! Pull my nose at once, when I ask you!" and he bent
slightly forward with a fascinating smile. The Paris train,
panting and groaning, had grated into a little station behind the
Syme had the feeling he had more than once had in these adventures
--the sense that a horrible and sublime wave lifted to heaven was
just toppling over. Walking in a world he half understood, he took
two paces forward and seized the Roman nose of this remarkable
nobleman. He pulled it hard, and it came off in his hand.
He stood for some seconds with a foolish solemnity, with the
pasteboard proboscis still between his fingers, looking at it,
while the sun and the clouds and the wooded hills looked down
upon this imbecile scene.
The Marquis broke the silence in a loud and cheerful voice.
"If anyone has any use for my left eyebrow," he said, "he can have
it. Colonel Ducroix, do accept my left eyebrow! It's the kind of
thing that might come in useful any day," and he gravely tore off
one of his swarthy Assyrian brows, bringing about half his brown
forehead with it, and politely offered it to the Colonel, who
stood crimson and speechless with rage.
"If I had known," he spluttered, "that I was acting for a poltroon
who pads himself to fight--"
"Oh, I know, I know!" said the Marquis, recklessly throwing various
parts of himself right and left about the field. "You are making a
mistake; but it can't be explained just now. I tell you the train
has come into the station!"
"Yes," said Dr. Bull fiercely, "and the train shall go out of the
station. It shall go out without you. We know well enough for what
The mysterious Marquis lifted his hands with a desperate gesture.
He was a strange scarecrow standing there in the sun with half his
old face peeled off, and half another face glaring and grinning
"Will you drive me mad?" he cried. "The train--"
"You shall not go by the train," said Syme firmly, and grasped his
The wild figure turned towards Syme, and seemed to be gathering
itself for a sublime effort before speaking.
"You great fat, blasted, blear-eyed, blundering, thundering,
brainless, Godforsaken, doddering, damned fool!" he said without
taking breath. "You great silly, pink-faced, towheaded turnip!
"You shall not go by this train," repeated Syme.
"And why the infernal blazes," roared the other, "should I want to
go by the train?"
"We know all," said the Professor sternly. "You are going to Paris
to throw a bomb!"
"Going to Jericho to throw a Jabberwock!" cried the other, tearing
his hair, which came off easily.
"Have you all got softening of the brain, that you don't realise
what I am? Did you really think I wanted to catch that train?
Twenty Paris trains might go by for me. Damn Paris trains!"
"Then what did you care about?" began the Professor.
"What did I care about? I didn't care about catching the train; I
cared about whether the train caught me, and now, by God! it has
"I regret to inform you," said Syme with restraint, "that your
remarks convey no impression to my mind. Perhaps if you were to
remove the remains of your original forehead and some portion of
what was once your chin, your meaning would become clearer. Mental
lucidity fulfils itself in many ways. What do you mean by saying
that the train has caught you? It may be my literary fancy, but
somehow I feel that it ought to mean something."
"It means everything," said the other, "and the end of everything.
Sunday has us now in the hollow of his hand."
"Us!" repeated the Professor, as if stupefied. "What do you mean by
"The police, of course!" said the Marquis, and tore off his scalp
and half his face.
The head which emerged was the blonde, well brushed, smooth-haired
head which is common in the English constabulary, but the face was
"I am Inspector Ratcliffe," he said, with a sort of haste that
verged on harshness. "My name is pretty well known to the police,
and I can see well enough that you belong to them. But if there is
any doubt about my position, I have a card" and he began to pull a
blue card from his pocket.
The Professor gave a tired gesture.
"Oh, don't show it us," he said wearily; "we've got enough of them
to equip a paper-chase."
The little man named Bull, had, like many men who seem to be of a
mere vivacious vulgarity, sudden movements of good taste. Here he
certainly saved the situation. In the midst of this staggering
transformation scene he stepped forward with all the gravity and
responsibility of a second, and addressed the two seconds of the
"Gentlemen," he said, "we all owe you a serious apology; but I
assure you that you have not been made the victims of such a low
joke as you imagine, or indeed of anything undignified in a man of
honour. You have not wasted your time; you have helped to save the
world. We are not buffoons, but very desperate men at war with a
vast conspiracy. A secret society of anarchists is hunting us like
hares; not such unfortunate madmen as may here or there throw a
bomb through starvation or German philosophy, but a rich and
powerful and fanatical church, a church of eastern pessimism, which
holds it holy to destroy mankind like vermin. How hard they hunt us
you can gather from the fact that we are driven to such disguises
as those for which I apologise, and to such pranks as this one by
which you suffer."
The younger second of the Marquis, a short man with a black
moustache, bowed politely, and said--
"Of course, I accept the apology; but you will in your turn forgive
me if I decline to follow you further into your difficulties, and
permit myself to say good morning! The sight of an acquaintance and
distinguished fellow-townsman coming to pieces in the open air is
unusual, and, upon the whole, sufficient for one day. Colonel
Ducroix, I would in no way influence your actions, but if you feel
with me that our present society is a little abnormal, I am now
going to walk back to the town."
Colonel Ducroix moved mechanically, but then tugged abruptly at his
white moustache and broke out--
"No, by George! I won't. If these gentlemen are really in a mess
with a lot of low wreckers like that, I'll see them through it. I
have fought for France, and it is hard if I can't fight for
Dr. Bull took off his hat and waved it, cheering as at a public
"Don't make too much noise," said Inspector Ratcliffe, "Sunday may
"Sunday!" cried Bull, and dropped his hat.
"Yes," retorted Ratcliffe, "he may be with them."
"With whom?" asked Syme.
"With the people out of that train," said the other.
"What you say seems utterly wild," began Syme. "Why, as a matter of
fact--But, my God," he cried out suddenly, like a man who sees an
explosion a long way off, "by God! if this is true the whole bally
lot of us on the Anarchist Council were against anarchy! Every born
man was a detective except the President and his personal
secretary. What can it mean?"
"Mean!" said the new policeman with incredible violence. "It means
that we are struck dead! Don't you know Sunday? Don't you know that
his jokes are always so big and simple that one has never thought
of them? Can you think of anything more like Sunday than this, that
he should put all his powerful enemies on the Supreme Council, and
then take care that it was not supreme? I tell you he has bought
every trust, he has captured every cable, he has control of every
railway line--especially of that railway line!" and he pointed a
shaking finger towards the small wayside station. "The whole
movement was controlled by him; half the world was ready to rise
for him. But there were just five people, perhaps, who would have
resisted him . . . and the old devil put them on the Supreme
Council, to waste their time in watching each other. Idiots that
we are, he planned the whole of our idiocies! Sunday knew that the
Professor would chase Syme through London, and that Syme would
fight me in France. And he was combining great masses of capital,
and seizing great lines of telegraphy, while we five idiots were
running after each other like a lot of confounded babies playing
blind man's buff."
"Well?" asked Syme with a sort of steadiness.
"Well," replied the other with sudden serenity, "he has found us
playing blind man's buff today in a field of great rustic beauty
and extreme solitude. He has probably captured the world; it only
remains to him to capture this field and all the fools in it. And
since you really want to know what was my objection to the arrival
of that train, I will tell you. My objection was that Sunday or his
Secretary has just this moment got out of it."
Syme uttered an involuntary cry, and they all turned their eyes
towards the far-off station. It was quite true that a considerable
bulk of people seemed to be moving in their direction. But they
were too distant to be distinguished in any way.
"It was a habit of the late Marquis de St. Eustache," said the new
policeman, producing a leather case, "always to carry a pair of
opera glasses. Either the President or the Secretary is coming
after us with that mob. They have caught us in a nice quiet place
where we are under no temptations to break our oaths by calling
the police. Dr. Bull, I have a suspicion that you will see better
through these than through your own highly decorative spectacles."
He handed the field-glasses to the Doctor, who immediately took
off his spectacles and put the apparatus to his eyes.
"It cannot be as bad as you say," said the Professor, somewhat
shaken. "There are a good number of them certainly, but they may
easily be ordinary tourists."
"Do ordinary tourists," asked Bull, with the fieldglasses to his
eyes, "wear black masks half-way down the face?"
Syme almost tore the glasses out of his hand, and looked through
them. Most men in the advancing mob really looked ordinary enough;
but it was quite true that two or three of the leaders in front
wore black half-masks almost down to their mouths. This disguise
is very complete, especially at such a distance, and Syme found
it impossible to conclude anything from the clean-shaven jaws and
chins of the men talking in the front. But presently as they
talked they all smiled and one of them smiled on one side.
THE CRIMINALS CHASE THE POLICE
SYME put the field-glasses from his eyes with an almost ghastly
"The President is not with them, anyhow," he said, and wiped his
"But surely they are right away on the horizon," said the
bewildered Colonel, blinking and but half recovered from Bull's
hasty though polite explanation. "Could you possibly know your
President among all those people?"
"Could I know a white elephant among all those people!" answered
Syme somewhat irritably. "As you very truly say, they are on the
horizon; but if he were walking with them . . . by God! I believe
this ground would shake."
After an instant's pause the new man called Ratcliffe said with
"Of course the President isn't with them. I wish to Gemini he were.
Much more likely the President is riding in triumph through Paris,
or sitting on the ruins of St. Paul's Cathedral."
"This is absurd!" said Syme. "Something may have happened in our
absence; but he cannot have carried the world with a rush like
that. It is quite true," he added, frowning dubiously at the
distant fields that lay towards the little station, "it is
certainly true that there seems to be a crowd coming this way;
but they are not all the army that you make out."
"Oh, they," said the new detective contemptuously; "no they are
not a very valuable force. But let me tell you frankly that they
are precisely calculated to our value--we are not much, my boy,
in Sunday's universe. He has got hold of all the cables and
telegraphs himself. But to kill the Supreme Council he regards as
a trivial matter, like a post card; it may be left to his private
secretary," and he spat on the grass.
Then he turned to the others and said somewhat austerely--
"There is a great deal to be said for death; but if anyone has
any preference for the other alternative, I strongly advise him
to walk after me."
With these words, he turned his broad back and strode with silent
energy towards the wood. The others gave one glance over their
shoulders, and saw that the dark cloud of men had detached itself
from the station and was moving with a mysterious discipline
across the plain. They saw already, even with the naked eye, black
blots on the foremost faces, which marked the masks they wore.
They turned and followed their leader, who had already struck the
wood, and disappeared among the twinkling trees.
The sun on the grass was dry and hot. So in plunging into the wood
they had a cool shock of shadow, as of divers who plunge into a
dim pool. The inside of the wood was full of shattered sunlight
and shaken shadows. They made a sort of shuddering veil, almost
recalling the dizziness of a cinematograph. Even the solid figures
walking with him Syme could hardly see for the patterns of sun and
shade that danced upon them. Now a man's head was lit as with a
light of Rembrandt, leaving all else obliterated; now again he had
strong and staring white hands with the face of a negro. The
ex-Marquis had pulled the old straw hat over his eyes, and the
black shade of the brim cut his face so squarely in two that it
seemed to be wearing one of the black half-masks of their pursuers.
The fancy tinted Syme's overwhelming sense of wonder. Was he
wearing a mask? Was anyone wearing a mask? Was anyone anything?
This wood of witchery, in which men's faces turned black and white
by turns, in which their figures first swelled into sunlight and
then faded into formless night, this mere chaos of chiaroscuro
(after the clear daylight outside), seemed to Syme a perfect symbol
of the world in which he had been moving for three days, this world
where men took off their beards and their spectacles and their
noses, and turned into other people. That tragic self-confidence
which he had felt when he believed that the Marquis was a devil
had strangely disappeared now that he knew that the Marquis was
a friend. He felt almost inclined to ask after all these
bewilderments what was a friend and what an enemy. Was there
anything that was apart from what it seemed? The Marquis had taken
off his nose and turned out to be a detective. Might he not just
as well take off his head and turn out to be a hobgoblin? Was not
everything, after all, like this bewildering woodland, this dance
of dark and light? Everything only a glimpse, the glimpse always
unforeseen, and always forgotten. For Gabriel Syme had found in
the heart of that sun-splashed wood what many modern painters had
found there. He had found the thing which the modern people call
Impressionism, which is another name for that final scepticism
which can find no floor to the universe.
As a man in an evil dream strains himself to scream and wake, Syme
strove with a sudden effort to fling off this last and worst of
his fancies. With two impatient strides he overtook the man in the
Marquis's straw hat, the man whom he had come to address as
Ratcliffe. In a voice exaggeratively loud and cheerful, he broke
the bottomless silence and made conversation.
"May I ask," he said, "where on earth we are all going to?"
So genuine had been the doubts of his soul, that he was quite glad
to hear his companion speak in an easy, human voice.
"We must get down through the town of Lancy to the sea," he said.
"I think that part of the country is least likely to be with
"What can you mean by all this?" cried Syme. "They can't be
running the real world in that way. Surely not many working men
are anarchists, and surely if they were, mere mobs could not beat
modern armies and police."
"Mere mobs!" repeated his new friend with a snort of scorn. "So
you talk about mobs and the working classes as if they were the
question. You've got that eternal idiotic idea that if anarchy
came it would come from the poor. Why should it? The poor have
been rebels, but they have never been anarchists; they have more
interest than anyone else in there being some decent government.
The poor man really has a stake in the country. The rich man
hasn't; he can go away to New Guinea in a yacht. The poor have
sometimes objected to being governed badly; the rich have always
objected to being governed at all. Aristocrats were always
anarchists, as you can see from the barons' wars."
"As a lecture on English history for the little ones," said Syme,
"this is all very nice; but I have not yet grasped its application."
"Its application is," said his informant, "that most of old Sunday's
right-hand men are South African and American millionaires. That is
why he has got hold of all the communications; and that is why the
last four champions of the anti-anarchist police force are running
through a wood like rabbits."
"Millionaires I can understand," said Syme thoughtfully, "they are
nearly all mad. But getting hold of a few wicked old gentlemen with
hobbies is one thing; getting hold of great Christian nations is
another. I would bet the nose off my face (forgive the allusion)
that Sunday would stand perfectly helpless before the task of
converting any ordinary healthy person anywhere."
"Well," said the other, "it rather depends what sort of person you
"Well, for instance," said Syme, "he could never convert that
person," and he pointed straight in front of him.
They had come to an open space of sunlight, which seemed to express
to Syme the final return of his own good sense; and in the middle
of this forest clearing was a figure that might well stand for that
common sense in an almost awful actuality. Burnt by the sun and
stained with perspiration, and grave with the bottomless gravity of
small necessary toils, a heavy French peasant was cutting wood with
a hatchet. His cart stood a few yards off, already half full of
timber; and the horse that cropped the grass was, like his master,
valorous but not desperate; like his master, he was even
prosperous, but yet was almost sad. The man was a Norman, taller
than the average of the French and very angular; and his swarthy
figure stood dark against a square of sunlight, almost like some
allegoric figure of labour frescoed on a ground of gold.
"Mr. Syme is saying," called out Ratcliffe to the French Colonel,
"that this man, at least, will never be an anarchist."
"Mr. Syme is right enough there," answered Colonel Ducroix,
laughing, "if only for the reason that he has plenty of property
to defend. But I forgot that in your country you are not used to
peasants being wealthy."
"He looks poor," said Dr. Bull doubtfully.
"Quite so," said the Colonel; "that is why he is rich."
"I have an idea," called out Dr. Bull suddenly; "how much would he
take to give us a lift in his cart? Those dogs are all on foot, and
we could soon leave them behind."
"Oh, give him anything!" said Syme eagerly. "I have piles of money
"That will never do," said the Colonel; "he will never have any
respect for you unless you drive a bargain."
"Oh, if he haggles!" began Bull impatiently.
"He haggles because he is a free man," said the other. "You do
not understand; he would not see the meaning of generosity. He is
not being tipped."
And even while they seemed to hear the heavy feet of their strange
pursuers behind them, they had to stand and stamp while the French
Colonel talked to the French wood-cutter with all the leisurely
badinage and bickering of market-day. At the end of the four
minutes, however, they saw that the Colonel was right, for the
wood-cutter entered into their plans, not with the vague servility
of a tout too-well paid, but with the seriousness of a solicitor
who had been paid the proper fee. He told them that the best thing
they could do was to make their way down to the little inn on the
hills above Lancy, where the innkeeper, an old soldier who had
become devot in his latter years, would be certain to sympathise
with them, and even to take risks in their support. The whole
company, therefore, piled themselves on top of the stacks of wood,
and went rocking in the rude cart down the other and steeper side
of the woodland. Heavy and ramshackle as was the vehicle, it was
driven quickly enough, and they soon had the exhilarating
impression of distancing altogether those, whoever they were, who
were hunting them. For, after all, the riddle as to where the
anarchists had got all these followers was still unsolved. One
man's presence had sufficed for them; they had fled at the first
sight of the deformed smile of the Secretary. Syme every now and
then looked back over his shoulder at the army on their track.
As the wood grew first thinner and then smaller with distance, he
could see the sunlit slopes beyond it and above it; and across
these was still moving the square black mob like one monstrous
beetle. In the very strong sunlight and with his own very strong
eyes, which were almost telescopic, Syme could see this mass of
men quite plainly. He could see them as separate human figures;
but he was increasingly surprised by the way in which they moved
as one man. They seemed to be dressed in dark clothes and plain
hats, like any common crowd out of the streets; but they did not
spread and sprawl and trail by various lines to the attack, as
would be natural in an ordinary mob. They moved with a sort of
dreadful and wicked woodenness, like a staring army of automatons.
Syme pointed this out to Ratcliffe.
"Yes," replied the policeman, "that's discipline. That's Sunday. He
is perhaps five hundred miles off, but the fear of him is on all of
them, like the finger of God. Yes, they are walking regularly; and
you bet your boots that they are talking regularly, yes, and
thinking regularly. But the one important thing for us is that they
are disappearing regularly."
Syme nodded. It was true that the black patch of the pursuing men
was growing smaller and smaller as the peasant belaboured his
The level of the sunlit landscape, though flat as a whole, fell
away on the farther side of the wood in billows of heavy slope
towards the sea, in a way not unlike the lower slopes of the
Sussex downs. The only difference was that in Sussex the road
would have been broken and angular like a little brook, but
here the white French road fell sheer in front of them like a
waterfall. Down this direct descent the cart clattered at a
considerable angle, and in a few minutes, the road growing yet
steeper, they saw below them the little harbour of Lancy and a
great blue arc of the sea. The travelling cloud of their enemies
had wholly disappeared from the horizon.
The horse and cart took a sharp turn round a clump of elms, and
the horse's nose nearly struck the face of an old gentleman who
was sitting on the benches outside the little cafe of "Le Soleil
d'Or." The peasant grunted an apology, and got down from his
seat. The others also descended one by one, and spoke to the old
gentleman with fragmentary phrases of courtesy, for it was quite
evident from his expansive manner that he was the owner of the
He was a white-haired, apple-faced old boy, with sleepy eyes and
a grey moustache; stout, sedentary, and very innocent, of a type
that may often be found in France, but is still commoner in
Catholic Germany. Everything about him, his pipe, his pot of beer,
his flowers, and his beehive, suggested an ancestral peace; only
when his visitors looked up as they entered the inn-parlour, they
saw the sword upon the wall.
The Colonel, who greeted the innkeeper as an old friend, passed
rapidly into the inn-parlour, and sat down ordering some ritual
refreshment. The military decision of his action interested Syme,
who sat next to him, and he took the opportunity when the old
innkeeper had gone out of satisfying his curiosity.
"May I ask you, Colonel," he said in a low voice, "why we have
Colonel Ducroix smiled behind his bristly white moustache.
"For two reasons, sir," he said; "and I will give first, not the
most important, but the most utilitarian. We came here because
this is the only place within twenty miles in which we can get
"Horses!" repeated Syme, looking up quickly.
"Yes," replied the other; "if you people are really to distance
your enemies it is horses or nothing for you, unless of course
you have bicycles and motor-cars in your pocket."
"And where do you advise us to make for?" asked Syme doubtfully.
"Beyond question," replied the Colonel, "you had better make all
haste to the police station beyond the town. My friend, whom I
seconded under somewhat deceptive circumstances, seems to me to
exaggerate very much the possibilities of a general rising; but
even he would hardly maintain, I suppose, that you were not safe
with the gendarmes."
Syme nodded gravely; then he said abruptly--
"And your other reason for coming here?"
"My other reason for coming here," said Ducroix soberly, "is that
it is just as well to see a good man or two when one is possibly
near to death."
Syme looked up at the wall, and saw a crudely-painted and pathetic
religious picture. Then he said--
"You are right," and then almost immediately afterwards, "Has
anyone seen about the horses?"
"Yes," answered Ducroix, "you may be quite certain that I gave
orders the moment I came in. Those enemies of yours gave no
impression of hurry, but they were really moving wonderfully fast,
like a well-trained army. I had no idea that the anarchists had so
much discipline. You have not a moment to waste."
Almost as he spoke, the old innkeeper with the blue eyes and white
hair came ambling into the room, and announced that six horses
were saddled outside.
By Ducroix's advice the five others equipped themselves with some
portable form of food and wine, and keeping their duelling swords
as the only weapons available, they clattered away down the steep,
white road. The two servants, who had carried the Marquis's
luggage when he was a marquis, were left behind to drink at the
cafe by common consent, and not at all against their own
By this time the afternoon sun was slanting westward, and by its
rays Syme could see the sturdy figure of the old innkeeper growing
smaller and smaller, but still standing and looking after them
quite silently, the sunshine in his silver hair. Syme had a fixed,
superstitious fancy, left in his mind by the chance phrase of the
Colonel, that this was indeed, perhaps, the last honest stranger
whom he should ever see upon the earth.
He was still looking at this dwindling figure, which stood as a
mere grey blot touched with a white flame against the great green
wall of the steep down behind him. And as he stared over the top
of the down behind the innkeeper, there appeared an army of
black-clad and marching men. They seemed to hang above the good
man and his house like a black cloud of locusts. The horses had
been saddled none too soon.
THE EARTH IN ANARCHY
URGING the horses to a gallop, without respect to the rather
rugged descent of the road, the horsemen soon regained their
advantage over the men on the march, and at last the bulk of the
first buildings of Lancy cut off the sight of their pursuers.
Nevertheless, the ride had been a long one, and by the time they
reached the real town the west was warming with the colour and
quality of sunset. The Colonel suggested that, before making
finally for the police station, they should make the effort, in
passing, to attach to themselves one more individual who might be
"Four out of the five rich men in this town," he said, "are common
swindlers. I suppose the proportion is pretty equal all over the
world. The fifth is a friend of mine, and a very fine fellow; and
what is even more important from our point of view, he owns a
"I am afraid," said the Professor in his mirthful way, looking
back along the white road on which the black, crawling patch might
appear at any moment, "I am afraid we have hardly time for
"Doctor Renard's house is only three minutes off," said the
"Our danger," said Dr. Bull, "is not two minutes off."
"Yes," said Syme, "if we ride on fast we must leave them behind,
for they are on foot."
"He has a motor-car," said the Colonel.
"But we may not get it," said Bull.
"Yes, he is quite on your side."
"But he might be out."
"Hold your tongue," said Syme suddenly. "What is that noise?"
For a second they all sat as still as equestrian statues, and
for a second--for two or three or four seconds--heaven and earth
seemed equally still. Then all their ears, in an agony of
attention, heard along the road that indescribable thrill and
throb that means only one thing--horses!
The Colonel's face had an instantaneous change, as if lightning
had struck it, and yet left it scatheless.
"They have done us," he said, with brief military irony. "Prepare
to receive cavalry!"
"Where can they have got the horses?" asked Syme, as he
mechanically urged his steed to a canter.
The Colonel was silent for a little, then he said in a strained
"I was speaking with strict accuracy when I said that the 'Soleil
d'Or' was the only place where one can get horses within twenty
"No!" said Syme violently, "I don't believe he'd do it. Not with
all that white hair."
"He may have been forced," said the Colonel gently. "They must be
at least a hundred strong, for which reason we are all going to
see my friend Renard, who has a motor-car."
With these words he swung his horse suddenly round a street
corner, and went down the street with such thundering speed, that
the others, though already well at the gallop, had difficulty in
following the flying tail of his horse.
Dr. Renard inhabited a high and comfortable house at the top of a
steep street, so that when the riders alighted at his door they
could once more see the solid green ridge of the hill, with the
white road across it, standing up above all the roofs of the town.
They breathed again to see that the road as yet was clear, and they
rang the bell.
Dr. Renard was a beaming, brown-bearded man, a good example of that
silent but very busy professional class which France has preserved
even more perfectly than England. When the matter was explained to
him he pooh-poohed the panic of the ex-Marquis altogether; he said,
with the solid French scepticism, that there was no conceivable
probability of a general anarchist rising. "Anarchy," he said,
shrugging his shoulders, "it is childishness!"
"Et ca," cried out the Colonel suddenly, pointing over the other's
shoulder, "and that is childishness, isn't it?"
They all looked round, and saw a curve of black cavalry come
sweeping over the top of the hill with all the energy of Attila.
Swiftly as they rode, however, the whole rank still kept well
together, and they could see the black vizards of the first line
as level as a line of uniforms. But although the main black
square was the same, though travelling faster, there was now one
sensational difference which they could see clearly upon the slope
of the hill, as if upon a slanted map. The bulk of the riders were
in one block; but one rider flew far ahead of the column, and with
frantic movements of hand and heel urged his horse faster and
faster, so that one might have fancied that he was not the pursuer
but the pursued. But even at that great distance they could see
something so fanatical, so unquestionable in his figure, that they
knew it was the Secretary himself. "I am sorry to cut short a
cultured discussion," said the Colonel, "but can you lend me your
motor-car now, in two minutes?"
"I have a suspicion that you are all mad," said Dr. Renard, smiling
sociably; "but God forbid that madness should in any way interrupt
friendship. Let us go round to the garage."
Dr. Renard was a mild man with monstrous wealth; his rooms were
like the Musee de Cluny, and he had three motor-cars. These,
however, he seemed to use very sparingly, having the simple tastes
of the French middle class, and when his impatient friends came to
examine them, it took them some time to assure themselves that one
of them even could be made to work. This with some difficulty they
brought round into the street before the Doctor's house. When they
came out of the dim garage they were startled to find that
twilight had already fallen with the abruptness of night in the
tropics. Either they had been longer in the place than they
imagined, or some unusual canopy of cloud had gathered over the
town. They looked down the steep streets, and seemed to see a
slight mist coming up from the sea.
"It is now or never," said Dr. Bull. "I hear horses."
"No," corrected the Professor, "a horse."
And as they listened, it was evident that the noise, rapidly
coming nearer on the rattling stones, was not the noise of the
whole cavalcade but that of the one horseman, who had left it
far behind--the insane Secretary.
Syme's family, like most of those who end in the simple life, had
once owned a motor, and he knew all about them. He had leapt at
once into the chauffeur's seat, and with flushed face was wrenching
and tugging at the disused machinery. He bent his strength upon one
handle, and then said quite quietly--
"I am afraid it's no go."
As he spoke, there swept round the corner a man rigid on his
rushing horse, with the rush and rigidity of an arrow. He had a
smile that thrust out his chin as if it were dislocated. He swept
alongside of the stationary car, into which its company had
crowded, and laid his hand on the front. It was the Secretary,
and his mouth went quite straight in the solemnity of triumph.
Syme was leaning hard upon the steering wheel, and there was no
sound but the rumble of the other pursuers riding into the town.
Then there came quite suddenly a scream of scraping iron, and the
car leapt forward. It plucked the Secretary clean out of his
saddle, as a knife is whipped out of its sheath, trailed him
kicking terribly for twenty yards, and left him flung flat upon
the road far in front of his frightened horse. As the car took
the corner of the street with a splendid curve, they could just
see the other anarchists filling the street and raising their
"I can't understand why it has grown so dark," said the Professor
at last in a low voice.
"Going to be a storm, I think," said Dr. Bull. "I say, it's a pity
we haven't got a light on this car, if only to see by."
"We have," said the Colonel, and from the floor of the car he
fished up a heavy, old-fashioned, carved iron lantern with a light
inside it. It was obviously an antique, and it would seem as if
its original use had been in some way semi-religious, for there
was a rude moulding of a cross upon one of its sides.
"Where on earth did you get that?" asked the Professor.
"I got it where I got the car," answered the Colonel, chuckling,
"from my best friend. While our friend here was fighting with the
steering wheel, I ran up the front steps of the house and spoke to
Renard, who was standing in his own porch, you will remember. 'I
suppose,' I said, 'there's no time to get a lamp.' He looked up,
blinking amiably at the beautiful arched ceiling of his own front
hall. From this was suspended, by chains of exquisite ironwork,
this lantern, one of the hundred treasures of his treasure house.
By sheer force he tore the lamp out of his own ceiling, shattering
the painted panels, and bringing down two blue vases with his
violence. Then he handed me the iron lantern, and I put it in the
car. Was I not right when I said that Dr. Renard was worth
"You were," said Syme seriously, and hung the heavy lantern over
the front. There was a certain allegory of their whole position
in the contrast between the modern automobile and its strange
ecclesiastical lamp. Hitherto they had passed through the quietest
part of the town, meeting at most one or two pedestrians, who could
give them no hint of the peace or the hostility of the place. Now,
however, the windows in the houses began one by one to be lit up,
giving a greater sense of habitation and humanity. Dr. Bull turned
to the new detective who had led their flight, and permitted
himself one of his natural and friendly smiles.
"These lights make one feel more cheerful."
Inspector Ratcliffe drew his brows together.
"There is only one set of lights that make me more cheerful," he
said, "and they are those lights of the police station which I can
see beyond the town. Please God we may be there in ten minutes."
Then all Bull's boiling good sense and optimism broke suddenly out
"Oh, this is all raving nonsense!" he cried. "If you really think
that ordinary people in ordinary houses are anarchists, you must be
madder than an anarchist yourself. If we turned and fought these
fellows, the whole town would fight for us."
"No," said the other with an immovable simplicity, "the whole town
would fight for them. We shall see."
While they were speaking the Professor had leant forward with
"What is that noise?" he said.
"Oh, the horses behind us, I suppose," said the Colonel. "I thought
we had got clear of them."
"The horses behind us! No," said the Professor, "it is not horses,
and it is not behind us."
Almost as he spoke, across the end of the street before them two
shining and rattling shapes shot past. They were gone almost in a
flash, but everyone could see that they were motor-cars, and the
Professor stood up with a pale face and swore that they were the
other two motor-cars from Dr. Renard's garage.
"I tell you they were his," he repeated, with wild eyes, "and they
were full of men in masks!"
"Absurd!" said the Colonel angrily. "Dr. Renard would never give
them his cars."
"He may have been forced," said Ratcliffe quietly. "The whole town
is on their side."
"You still believe that," asked the Colonel incredulously.
"You will all believe it soon," said the other with a hopeless
There was a puzzled pause for some little time, and then the
Colonel began again abruptly--
"No, I can't believe it. The thing is nonsense. The plain people of
a peaceable French town--"
He was cut short by a bang and a blaze of light, which seemed close
to his eyes. As the car sped on it left a floating patch of white
smoke behind it, and Syme had heard a shot shriek past his ear.
"My God!" said the Colonel, "someone has shot at us."
"It need not interrupt conversation," said the gloomy Ratcliffe.
"Pray resume your remarks, Colonel. You were talking, I think,
about the plain people of a peaceable French town."
The staring Colonel was long past minding satire. He rolled his
eyes all round the street.
"It is extraordinary," he said, "most extraordinary."
"A fastidious person," said Syme, "might even call it unpleasant.
However, I suppose those lights out in the field beyond this street
are the Gendarmerie. We shall soon get there."
"No," said Inspector Ratcliffe, "we shall never get there."
He had been standing up and looking keenly ahead of him. Now he sat
down and smoothed his sleek hair with a weary gesture.
"What do you mean?" asked Bull sharply.
"I mean that we shall never get there," said the pessimist
placidly. "They have two rows of armed men across the road already;
I can see them from here. The town is in arms, as I said it was.
I can only wallow in the exquisite comfort of my own exactitude."
And Ratcliffe sat down comfortably in the car and lit a cigarette,
but the others rose excitedly and stared down the road. Syme had
slowed down the car as their plans became doubtful, and he brought
it finally to a standstill just at the corner of a side street
that ran down very steeply to the sea.
The town was mostly in shadow, but the sun had not sunk; wherever
its level light could break through, it painted everything a
burning gold. Up this side street the last sunset light shone as
sharp and narrow as the shaft of artificial light at the theatre.
It struck the car of the five friends, and lit it like a burning
chariot. But the rest of the street, especially the two ends of
it, was in the deepest twilight, and for some seconds they could
see nothing. Then Syme, whose eyes were the keenest, broke into a
little bitter whistle, and said
"It is quite true. There is a crowd or an army or some such thing
across the end of that street."
"Well, if there is," said Bull impatiently, "it must be something
else--a sham fight or the mayor's birthday or something. I cannot
and will not believe that plain, jolly people in a place like this
walk about with dynamite in their pockets. Get on a bit, Syme, and
let us look at them."
The car crawled about a hundred yards farther, and then they were
all startled by Dr. Bull breaking into a high crow of laughter.
"Why, you silly mugs!" he cried, "what did I tell you. That
crowd's as law-abiding as a cow, and if it weren't, it's on our
"How do you know?" asked the professor, staring.
"You blind bat," cried Bull, "don't you see who is leading them?"
They peered again, and then the Colonel, with a catch in his
voice, cried out--
"Why, it's Renard!"
There was, indeed, a rank of dim figures running across the road,
and they could not be clearly seen; but far enough in front to
catch the accident of the evening light was stalking up and down
the unmistakable Dr. Renard, in a white hat, stroking his long
brown beard, and holding a revolver in his left hand.
"What a fool I've been!" exclaimed the Colonel. "Of course, the
dear old boy has turned out to help us."
Dr. Bull was bubbling over with laughter, swinging the sword in
his hand as carelessly as a cane. He jumped out of the car and
ran across the intervening space, calling out--
"Dr. Renard! Dr. Renard!"
An instant after Syme thought his own eyes had gone mad in his
head. For the philanthropic Dr. Renard had deliberately raised his
revolver and fired twice at Bull, so that the shots rang down the
Almost at the same second as the puff of white cloud went up from
this atrocious explosion a long puff of white cloud went up also
from the cigarette of the cynical Ratcliffe. Like all the rest he
turned a little pale, but he smiled. Dr. Bull, at whom the bullets
had been fired, just missing his scalp, stood quite still in the
middle of the road without a sign of fear, and then turned very
slowly and crawled back to the car, and climbed in with two holes
through his hat.
"Well," said the cigarette smoker slowly, "what do you think now?"
"I think," said Dr. Bull with precision, "that I am lying in bed
at No. 217 Peabody Buildings, and that I shall soon wake up with a
jump; or, if that's not it, I think that I am sitting in a small
cushioned cell in Hanwell, and that the doctor can't make much of
my case. But if you want to know what I don't think, I'll tell you.
I don't think what you think. I don't think, and I never shall
think, that the mass of ordinary men are a pack of dirty modern
thinkers. No, sir, I'm a democrat, and I still don't believe that
Sunday could convert one average navvy or counter-jumper. No, I may
be mad, but humanity isn't."
Syme turned his bright blue eyes on Bull with an earnestness which
he did not commonly make clear.
"You are a very fine fellow," he said. "You can believe in a sanity
which is not merely your sanity. And you're right enough about
humanity, about peasants and people like that jolly old innkeeper.
But you're not right about Renard. I suspected him from the first.
He's rationalistic, and, what's worse, he's rich. When duty and
religion are really destroyed, it will be by the rich."
"They are really destroyed now," said the man with a cigarette, and
rose with his hands in his pockets. "The devils are coming on!"
The men in the motor-car looked anxiously in the direction of his
dreamy gaze, and they saw that the whole regiment at the end of the
road was advancing upon them, Dr. Renard marching furiously in
front, his beard flying in the breeze.
The Colonel sprang out of the car with an intolerant exclamation.
"Gentlemen," he cried, "the thing is incredible. It must be a
practical joke. If you knew Renard as I do--it's like calling Queen
Victoria a dynamiter. If you had got the man's character into your
"Dr. Bull," said Syme sardonically, "has at least got it into his
"I tell you it can't be!" cried the Colonel, stamping.
"Renard shall explain it. He shall explain it to me," and he strode
"Don't be in such a hurry," drawled the smoker. "He will very soon
explain it to all of us."
But the impatient Colonel was already out of earshot, advancing
towards the advancing enemy. The excited Dr. Renard lifted his
pistol again, but perceiving his opponent, hesitated, and the
Colonel came face to face with him with frantic gestures of
"It is no good," said Syme. "He will never get anything out of that
old heathen. I vote we drive bang through the thick of them, bang
as the bullets went through Bull's hat. We may all be killed, but
we must kill a tidy number of them."
"I won't 'ave it," said Dr. Bull, growing more vulgar in the
sincerity of his virtue. "The poor chaps may be making a mistake.
Give the Colonel a chance."
"Shall we go back, then?" asked the Professor.
"No," said Ratcliffe in a cold voice, "the street behind us is held
too. In fact, I seem to see there another friend of yours, Syme."
Syme spun round smartly, and stared backwards at the track which
they had travelled. He saw an irregular body of horsemen gathering
and galloping towards them in the gloom. He saw above the foremost
saddle the silver gleam of a sword, and then as it grew nearer the
silver gleam of an old man's hair. The next moment, with shattering
violence, he had swung the motor round and sent it dashing down the
steep side street to the sea, like a man that desired only to die.
"What the devil is up?" cried the Professor, seizing his arm.
"The morning star has fallen!" said Syme, as his own car went down
the darkness like a falling star.
The others did not understand his words, but when they looked back
at the street above they saw the hostile cavalry coming round the
corner and down the slopes after them; and foremost of all rode the
good innkeeper, flushed with the fiery innocence of the evening
"The world is insane!" said the Professor, and buried his face in
"No," said Dr. Bull in adamantine humility, "it is I."
"What are we going to do?" asked the Professor.
"At this moment," said Syme, with a scientific detachment, "I think
we are going to smash into a lamppost."
The next instant the automobile had come with a catastrophic jar
against an iron object. The instant after that four men had crawled
out from under a chaos of metal, and a tall lean lamp-post that had
stood up straight on the edge of the marine parade stood out, bent
and twisted, like the branch of a broken tree.
"Well, we smashed something," said the Professor, with a faint
smile. "That's some comfort."
"You're becoming an anarchist," said Syme, dusting his clothes
with his instinct of daintiness.
"Everyone is," said Ratcliffe.
As they spoke, the white-haired horseman and his followers came
thundering from above, and almost at the same moment a dark string
of men ran shouting along the sea-front. Syme snatched a sword,
and took it in his teeth; he stuck two others under his arm-pits,
took a fourth in his left hand and the lantern in his right, and
leapt off the high parade on to the beach below.
The others leapt after him, with a common acceptance of such
decisive action, leaving the debris and the gathering mob above
"We have one more chance," said Syme, taking the steel out of his
mouth. "Whatever all this pandemonium means, I suppose the police
station will help us. We can't get there, for they hold the way.
But there's a pier or breakwater runs out into the sea just here,
which we could defend longer than anything else, like Horatius and
his bridge. We must defend it till the Gendarmerie turn out. Keep
They followed him as he went crunching down the beach, and in a
second or two their boots broke not on the sea gravel, but on
broad, flat stones. They marched down a long, low jetty, running
out in one arm into the dim, boiling sea, and when they came to
the end of it they felt that they had come to the end of their
story. They turned and faced the town.
That town was transfigured with uproar. All along the high parade
from which they had just descended was a dark and roaring stream
of humanity, with tossing arms and fiery faces, groping and
glaring towards them. The long dark line was dotted with torches
and lanterns; but even where no flame lit up a furious face, they
could see in the farthest figure, in the most shadowy gesture, an
organised hate. It was clear that they were the accursed of all
men, and they knew not why.
Two or three men, looking little and black like monkeys, leapt
over the edge as they had done and dropped on to the beach. These
came ploughing down the deep sand, shouting horribly, and strove
to wade into the sea at random. The example was followed, and the
whole black mass of men began to run and drip over the edge like
Foremost among the men on the beach Syme saw the peasant who had
driven their cart. He splashed into the surf on a huge
cart-horse, and shook his axe at them.
"The peasant!" cried Syme. "They have not risen since the Middle
"Even if the police do come now," said the Professor mournfully,
"they can do nothing with this mob."
"Nonsence!" said Bull desperately; "there must be some people
left in the town who are human."
"No," said the hopeless Inspector, "the human being will soon be
extinct. We are the last of mankind."
"It may be," said the Professor absently. Then he added in his
dreamy voice, "What is all that at the end of the 'Dunciad'?
'Nor public flame; nor private, dares to shine;
Nor human light is left, nor glimpse divine!
Lo! thy dread Empire, Chaos, is restored;
Light dies before thine uncreating word:
Thy hand, great Anarch, lets the curtain fall;
And universal darkness buries all."'
"Stop!" cried Bull suddenly, "the gendarmes are out."
The low lights of the police station were indeed blotted and
broken with hurrying figures, and they heard through the darkness
the clash and jingle of a disciplined cavalry.
"They are charging the mob!" cried Bull in ecstacy or alarm.
"No," said Syme, "they are formed along the parade."
"They have unslung their carbines," cried Bull dancing with
"Yes," said Ratcliffe, "and they are going to fire on us."
As he spoke there came a long crackle of musketry, and bullets
seemed to hop like hailstones on the stones in front of them.
"The gendarmes have joined them!" cried the Professor, and struck
"I am in the padded cell," said Bull solidly.
There was a long silence, and then Ratcliffe said, looking out
over the swollen sea, all a sort of grey purple--
"What does it matter who is mad or who is sane? We shall all be
Syme turned to him and said--
"You are quite hopeless, then?"
Mr. Ratcliffe kept a stony silence; then at last he said quietly--
"No; oddly enough I am not quite hopeless. There is one insane
little hope that I cannot get out of my mind. The power of this
whole planet is against us, yet I cannot help wondering whether
this one silly little hope is hopeless yet."
"In what or whom is your hope?" asked Syme with curiosity.
"In a man I never saw," said the other, looking at the leaden sea.
"I know what you mean," said Syme in a low voice, "the man in the
dark room. But Sunday must have killed him by now."
"Perhaps," said the other steadily; "but if so, he was the only
man whom Sunday found it hard to kill."
"I heard what you said," said the Professor, with his back turned.
"I also am holding hard on to the thing I never saw."
All of a sudden Syme, who was standing as if blind with
introspective thought, swung round and cried out, like a man
waking from sleep--
"Where is the Colonel? I thought he was with us!"
"The Colonel! Yes," cried Bull, "where on earth is the Colonel?"
"He went to speak to Renard," said the Professor.
"We cannot leave him among all those beasts," cried Syme. "Let us
die like gentlemen if--"
"Do not pity the Colonel," said Ratcliffe, with a pale sneer. "He
is extremely comfortable. He is--"
"No! no! no!" cried Syme in a kind of frenzy, "not the Colonel too!
I will never believe it!"
"Will you believe your eyes?" asked the other, and pointed to the
Many of their pursuers had waded into the water shaking their
fists, but the sea was rough, and they could not reach the pier.
Two or three figures, however, stood on the beginning of the stone
footway, and seemed to be cautiously advancing down it. The glare
of a chance lantern lit up the faces of the two foremost. One face
wore a black half-mask, and under it the mouth was twisting about
in such a madness of nerves that the black tuft of beard wriggled
round and round like a restless, living thing. The other was the
red face and white moustache of Colonel Ducroix. They were in
"Yes, he is gone too," said the Professor, and sat down on a
stone. "Everything's gone. I'm gone! I can't trust my own bodily
machinery. I feel as if my own hand might fly up and strike me."
"When my hand flies up," said Syme, "it will strike somebody
else," and he strode along the pier towards the Colonel, the
sword in one hand and the lantern in the other.
As if to destroy the last hope or doubt, the Colonel, who saw him
coming, pointed his revolver at him and fired. The shot missed
Syme, but struck his sword, breaking it short at the hilt. Syme
rushed on, and swung the iron lantern above his head.
"Judas before Herod!" he said, and struck the Colonel down upon
the stones. Then he turned to the Secretary, whose frightful mouth
was almost foaming now, and held the lamp high with so rigid and
arresting a gesture, that the man was, as it were, frozen for a
moment, and forced to hear.
"Do you see this lantern?" cried Syme in a terrible voice. "Do you
see the cross carved on it, and the flame inside? You did not make
it. You did not light it. Better men than you, men who could
believe and obey, twisted the entrails of iron and preserved the
legend of fire. There is not a street you walk on, there is not a
thread you wear, that was not made as this lantern was, by denying
your philosophy of dirt and rats. You can make nothing. You can
only destroy. You will destroy mankind; you will destroy the world.
Let that suffice you. Yet this one old Christian lantern you shall
not destroy. It shall go where your empire of apes will never have
the wit to find it."
He struck the Secretary once with the lantern so that he staggered;
and then, whirling it twice round his head, sent it flying far out
to sea, where it flared like a roaring rocket and fell.
"Swords!" shouted Syme, turning his flaming face to the three
behind him. "Let us charge these dogs, for our time has come to
His three companions came after him sword in hand. Syme's sword
was broken, but he rent a bludgeon from the fist of a fisherman,
flinging him down. In a moment they would have flung themselves
upon the face of the mob and perished, when an interruption came.
The Secretary, ever since Syme's speech, had stood with his hand
to his stricken head as if dazed; now he suddenly pulled off his
The pale face thus peeled in the lamplight revealed not so much
rage as astonishment. He put up his hand with an anxious authority.
"There is some mistake," he said. "Mr. Syme, I hardly think you
understand your position. I arrest you in the name of the law."
"Of the law?" said Syme, and dropped his stick.
"Certainly!" said the Secretary. "I am a detective from Scotland
Yard," and he took a small blue card from his pocket.
"And what do you suppose we are?" asked the Professor, and threw
up his arms.
"You," said the Secretary stiffly, "are, as I know for a fact,
members of the Supreme Anarchist Council. Disguised as one of
Dr. Bull tossed his sword into the sea.
"There never was any Supreme Anarchist Council," he said. "We were
all a lot of silly policemen looking at each other. And all these
nice people who have been peppering us with shot thought we were
the dynamiters. I knew I couldn't be wrong about the mob," he said,
beaming over the enormous multitude, which stretched away to the
distance on both sides. "Vulgar people are never mad. I'm vulgar
myself, and I know. I am now going on shore to stand a drink to
THE PURSUIT OF THE PRESIDENT
NEXT morning five bewildered but hilarious people took the boat for
Dover. The poor old Colonel might have had some cause to complain,
having been first forced to fight for two factions that didn't
exist, and then knocked down with an iron lantern. But he was a
magnanimous old gentleman, and being much relieved that neither
party had anything to do with dynamite, he saw them off on the pier
with great geniality.
The five reconciled detectives had a hundred details to explain to
each other. The Secretary had to tell Syme how they had come to
wear masks originally in order to approach the supposed enemy as
Syme had to explain how they had fled with such swiftness through
a civilised country. But above all these matters of detail which
could be explained, rose the central mountain of the matter that
they could not explain. What did it all mean? If they were all
harmless officers, what was Sunday? If he had not seized the world,
what on earth had he been up to? Inspector Ratcliffe was still
gloomy about this.
"I can't make head or tail of old Sunday's little game any more
than you can," he said. "But whatever else Sunday is, he isn't
a blameless citizen. Damn it! do you remember his face?"
"I grant you," answered Syme, "that I have never been able to
"Well," said the Secretary, "I suppose we can find out soon, for
tomorrow we have our next general meeting. You will excuse me,"
he said, with a rather ghastly smile, "for being well acquainted
with my secretarial duties."
"I suppose you are right," said the Professor reflectively. "I
suppose we might find it out from him; but I confess that I should
feel a bit afraid of asking Sunday who he really is."
"Why," asked the Secretary, "for fear of bombs?"
"No," said the Professor, "for fear he might tell me."
"Let us have some drinks," said Dr. Bull, after a silence.
Throughout their whole journey by boat and train they were highly
convivial, but they instinctively kept together. Dr. Bull, who had
always been the optimist of the party, endeavoured to persuade the
other four that the whole company could take the same hansom cab
from Victoria; but this was over-ruled, and they went in a
four-wheeler, with Dr. Bull on the box, singing. They finished
their journey at an hotel in Piccadilly Circus, so as to be close
to the early breakfast next morning in Leicester Square. Yet even
then the adventures of the day were not entirely over. Dr. Bull,
discontented with the general proposal to go to bed, had strolled
out of the hotel at about eleven to see and taste some of the
beauties of London. Twenty minutes afterwards, however, he came
back and made quite a clamour in the hall. Syme, who tried at
first to soothe him, was forced at last to listen to his
communication with quite new attention.
"I tell you I've seen him!" said Dr. Bull, with thick emphasis.
"Whom?" asked Syme quickly. "Not the President?"
"Not so bad as that," said Dr. Bull, with unnecessary laughter,
"not so bad as that. I've got him here."
"Got whom here?" asked Syme impatiently.
"Hairy man," said the other lucidly, "man that used to be hairy
man--Gogol. Here he is," and he pulled forward by a reluctant
elbow the identical young man who five days before had marched
out of the Council with thin red hair and a pale face, the first
of all the sham anarchists who had been exposed.
"Why do you worry with me?" he cried. "You have expelled me as a
"We are all spies!" whispered Syme.
"We're all spies!" shouted Dr. Bull. "Come and have a drink."
Next morning the battalion of the reunited six marched stolidly
towards the hotel in Leicester Square.
"This is more cheerful," said Dr. Bull; "we are six men going to
ask one man what he means."
"I think it is a bit queerer than that," said Syme. "I think it
is six men going to ask one man what they mean."
They turned in silence into the Square, and though the hotel was
in the opposite corner, they saw at once the little balcony and a
figure that looked too big for it. He was sitting alone with bent
head, poring over a newspaper. But all his councillors, who had
come to vote him down, crossed that Square as if they were watched
out of heaven by a hundred eyes.
They had disputed much upon their policy, about whether they
should leave the unmasked Gogol without and begin diplomatically,
or whether they should bring him in and blow up the gunpowder at
once. The influence of Syme and Bull prevailed for the latter
course, though the Secretary to the last asked them why they
attacked Sunday so rashly.
"My reason is quite simple," said Syme. "I attack him rashly
because I am afraid of him."
They followed Syme up the dark stair in silence, and they all came
out simultaneously into the broad sunlight of the morning and the
broad sunlight of Sunday's smile.
"Delightful!" he said. "So pleased to see you all. What an
exquisite day it is. Is the Czar dead?"
The Secretary, who happened to be foremost, drew himself together
for a dignified outburst.
"No, sir," he said sternly "there has been no massacre. I bring you
news of no such disgusting spectacles."
"Disgusting spectacles?" repeated the President, with a bright,
inquiring smile. "You mean Dr. Bull's spectacles?"
The Secretary choked for a moment, and the President went on with
a sort of smooth appeal--
"Of course, we all have our opinions and even our eyes, but really
to call them disgusting before the man himself--"
Dr. Bull tore off his spectacles and broke them on the table.
"My spectacles are blackguardly," he said, "but I'm not. Look at
"I dare say it's the sort of face that grows on one," said the
President, "in fact, it grows on you; and who am I to quarrel
with the wild fruits upon the Tree of Life? I dare say it will
grow on me some day."
"We have no time for tomfoolery," said the Secretary, breaking in
savagely. "We have come to know what all this means. Who are you?
What are you? Why did you get us all here? Do you know who and
what we are? Are you a half-witted man playing the conspirator,
or are you a clever man playing the fool? Answer me, I tell you."
"Candidates," murmured Sunday, "are only required to answer eight
out of the seventeen questions on the paper. As far as I can make
out, you want me to tell you what I am, and what you are, and what
this table is, and what this Council is, and what this world is
for all I know. Well, I will go so far as to rend the veil of one
mystery. If you want to know what you are, you are a set of
highly well-intentioned young jackasses."
"And you," said Syme, leaning forward, "what are you?"
"I? What am I?" roared the President, and he rose slowly to an
incredible height, like some enormous wave about to arch above
them and break. "You want to know what I am, do you? Bull, you
are a man of science. Grub in the roots of those trees and find
out the truth about them. Syme, you are a poet. Stare at those
morning clouds. But I tell you this, that you will have found
out the truth of the last tree and the top-most cloud before the
truth about me. You will understand the sea, and I shall be still
a riddle; you shall know what the stars are, and not know what I
am. Since the beginning of the world all men have hunted me like
a wolf--kings and sages, and poets and lawgivers, all the
churches, and all the philosophies. But I have never been caught
yet, and the skies will fall in the time I turn to bay. I have
given them a good run for their money, and I will now."
Before one of them could move, the monstrous man had swung himself
like some huge ourang-outang over the balustrade of the balcony.
Yet before he dropped he pulled himself up again as on a horizontal
bar, and thrusting his great chin over the edge of the balcony,
"There's one thing I'll tell you though about who I am. I am the
man in the dark room, who made you all policemen."
With that he fell from the balcony, bouncing on the stones below
like a great ball of india-rubber, and went bounding off towards
the corner of the Alhambra, where he hailed a hansom-cab and sprang
inside it. The six detectives had been standing thunderstruck and
livid in the light of his last assertion; but when he disappeared
into the cab, Syme's practical senses returned to him, and leaping
over the balcony so recklessly as almost to break his legs, he
called another cab.
He and Bull sprang into the cab together, the Professor and the
Inspector into another, while the Secretary and the late Gogol
scrambled into a third just in time to pursue the flying Syme, who
was pursuing the flying President. Sunday led them a wild chase
towards the north-west, his cabman, evidently under the influence
of more than common inducements, urging the horse at breakneck
speed. But Syme was in no mood for delicacies, and he stood up in
his own cab shouting, "Stop thief!" until crowds ran along beside
his cab, and policemen began to stop and ask questions. All this
had its influence upon the President's cabman, who began to look
dubious, and to slow down to a trot. He opened the trap to talk
reasonably to his fare, and in so doing let the long whip droop
over the front of the cab. Sunday leant forward, seized it, and
jerked it violently out of the man's hand. Then standing up in
front of the cab himself, he lashed the horse and roared aloud,
so that they went down the streets like a flying storm. Through
street after street and square after square went whirling this
preposterous vehicle, in which the fare was urging the horse and
the driver trying desperately to stop it. The other three cabs
came after it (if the phrase be permissible of a cab) like panting
hounds. Shops and streets shot by like rattling arrows.
At the highest ecstacy of speed, Sunday turned round on the
splashboard where he stood, and sticking his great grinning head
out of the cab, with white hair whistling in the wind, he made a
horrible face at his pursuers, like some colossal urchin. Then
raising his right hand swiftly, he flung a ball of paper in Syme's
face and vanished. Syme caught the thing while instinctively
warding it off, and discovered that it consisted of two crumpled
papers. One was addressed to himself, and the other to Dr. Bull,
with a very long, and it is to be feared partly ironical, string
of letters after his name. Dr. Bull's address was, at any rate,
considerably longer than his communication, for the communication
consisted entirely of the words:--
"What about Martin Tupper now?"
"What does the old maniac mean?" asked Bull, staring at the words.
"What does yours say, Syme?"
Syme's message was, at any rate, longer, and ran as follows:--
"No one would regret anything in the nature of an interference by
the Archdeacon more than I. I trust it will not come to that. But,
for the last time, where are your goloshes? The thing is too bad,
especially after what uncle said."
The President's cabman seemed to be regaining some control over
his horse, and the pursuers gained a little as they swept round
into the Edgware Road. And here there occurred what seemed to the
allies a providential stoppage. Traffic of every kind was swerving
to right or left or stopping, for down the long road was coming
the unmistakable roar announcing the fire-engine, which in a few
seconds went by like a brazen thunderbolt. But quick as it went
by, Sunday had bounded out of his cab, sprung at the fire-engine,
caught it, slung himself on to it, and was seen as he disappeared
in the noisy distance talking to the astonished fireman with
"After him!" howled Syme. "He can't go astray now. There's no
mistaking a fire-engine."
The three cabmen, who had been stunned for a moment, whipped
up their horses and slightly decreased the distance between
themselves and their disappearing prey. The President
acknowledged this proximity by coming to the back of the car,
bowing repeatedly, kissing his hand, and finally flinging a
neatly-folded note into the bosom of Inspector Ratcliffe. When
that gentleman opened it, not without impatience, he found it
contained the words:--
"Fly at once. The truth about your trouser-stretchers is known.
The fire-engine had struck still farther to the north, into a
region that they did not recognise; and as it ran by a line of high
railings shadowed with trees, the six friends were startled, but
somewhat relieved, to see the President leap from the fire-engine,
though whether through another whim or the increasing protest of
his entertainers they could not see. Before the three cabs,
however, could reach up to the spot, he had gone up the high
railings like a huge grey cat, tossed himself over, and vanished
in a darkness of leaves.
Syme with a furious gesture stopped his cab, jumped out, and
sprang also to the escalade. When he had one leg over the fence
and his friends were following, he turned a face on them which
shone quite pale in the shadow.
"What place can this be?" he asked. "Can it be the old devil's
house? I've heard he has a house in North London."
"All the better," said the Secretary grimly, planting a foot in
a foothold, "we shall find him at home."
"No, but it isn't that," said Syme, knitting his brows. "I hear
the most horrible noises, like devils laughing and sneezing and
blowing their devilish noses!"
"His dogs barking, of course," said the Secretary.
"Why not say his black-beetles barking!" said Syme furiously,
"snails barking! geraniums barking! Did you ever hear a dog bark
He held up his hand, and there came out of the thicket a long
growling roar that seemed to get under the skin and freeze the
flesh--a low thrilling roar that made a throbbing in the air
all about them.
"The dogs of Sunday would be no ordinary dogs," said Gogol, and
Syme had jumped down on the other side, but he still stood
"Well, listen to that," he said, "is that a dog--anybody's dog?"
There broke upon their ear a hoarse screaming as of things
protesting and clamouring in sudden pain; and then, far off
like an echo, what sounded like a long nasal trumpet.
"Well, his house ought to be hell!" said the Secretary; "and if
it is hell, I'm going in!" and he sprang over the tall railings
almost with one swing.
The others followed. They broke through a tangle of plants and
shrubs, and came out on an open path. Nothing was in sight, but
Dr. Bull suddenly struck his hands together.
"Why, you asses," he cried, "it's the Zoo!"
As they were looking round wildly for any trace of their wild
quarry, a keeper in uniform came running along the path with a
man in plain clothes.
"Has it come this way?" gasped the keeper.
"Has what?" asked Syme.
"The elephant!" cried the keeper. "An elephant has gone mad and
"He has run away with an old gentleman," said the other stranger
breathlessly, "a poor old gentleman with white hair!"
"What sort of old gentleman?" asked Syme, with great curiosity.
"A very large and fat old gentleman in light grey clothes," said
the keeper eagerly.
"Well," said Syme, "if he's that particular kind of old gentleman,
if you're quite sure that he's a large and fat old gentleman in
grey clothes, you may take my word for it that the elephant has
not run away with him. He has run away with the elephant. The
elephant is not made by God that could run away with him if he
did not consent to the elopement. And, by thunder, there he is!"
There was no doubt about it this time. Clean across the space of
grass, about two hundred yards away, with a crowd screaming and
scampering vainly at his heels, went a huge grey elephant at an
awful stride, with his trunk thrown out as rigid as a ship's
bowsprit, and trumpeting like the trumpet of doom. On the back of
the bellowing and plunging animal sat President Sunday with all
the placidity of a sultan, but goading the animal to a furious
speed with some sharp object in his hand.
"Stop him!" screamed the populace. "He'll be out of the gate!"
"Stop a landslide!" said the keeper. "He is out of the gate!"
And even as he spoke, a final crash and roar of terror announced
that the great grey elephant had broken out of the gates of the
Zoological Gardens, and was careening down Albany Street like a
new and swift sort of omnibus.
"Great Lord!" cried Bull, "I never knew an elephant could go so
fast. Well, it must be hansom-cabs again if we are to keep him in
As they raced along to the gate out of which the elephant had
vanished, Syme felt a glaring panorama of the strange animals in
the cages which they passed. Afterwards he thought it queer that
he should have seen them so clearly. He remembered especially
seeing pelicans, with their preposterous, pendant throats. He
wondered why the pelican was the symbol of charity, except it was
that it wanted a good deal of charity to admire a pelican. He
remembered a hornbill, which was simply a huge yellow beak with a
small bird tied on behind it. The whole gave him a sensation, the
vividness of which he could not explain, that Nature was always
making quite mysterious jokes. Sunday had told them that they
would understand him when they had understood the stars. He
wondered whether even the archangels understood the hornbill.
The six unhappy detectives flung themselves into cabs and followed
the elephant sharing the terror which he spread through the long
stretch of the streets. This time Sunday did not turn round, but
offered them the solid stretch of his unconscious back, which
maddened them, if possible, more than his previous mockeries. Just
before they came to Baker Street, however, he was seen to throw
something far up into the air, as a boy does a ball meaning to
catch it again. But at their rate of racing it fell far behind,
just by the cab containing Gogol; and in faint hope of a clue or
for some impulse unexplainable, he stopped his cab so as to pick it
up. It was addressed to himself, and was quite a bulky parcel. On
examination, however, its bulk was found to consist of thirty-three
pieces of paper of no value wrapped one round the other. When the
last covering was torn away it reduced itself to a small slip of
paper, on which was written:--
"The word, I fancy, should be 'pink'."
The man once known as Gogol said nothing, but the movements of his
hands and feet were like those of a man urging a horse to renewed
Through street after street, through district after district, went
the prodigy of the flying elephant, calling crowds to every window,
and driving the traffic left and right. And still through all this
insane publicity the three cabs toiled after it, until they came to
be regarded as part of a procession, and perhaps the advertisement
of a circus. They went at such a rate that distances were shortened
beyond belief, and Syme saw the Albert Hall in Kensington when he
thought that he was still in Paddington. The animal's pace was even
more fast and free through the empty, aristocratic streets of South
Kensington, and he finally headed towards that part of the sky-line
where the enormous Wheel of Earl's Court stood up in the sky. The
wheel grew larger and larger, till it filled heaven like the wheel
The beast outstripped the cabs. They lost him round several
corners, and when they came to one of the gates of the Earl's Court
Exhibition they found themselves finally blocked. In front of them
was an enormous crowd; in the midst of it was an enormous elephant,
heaving and shuddering as such shapeless creatures do. But the
President had disappeared.
"Where has he gone to?" asked Syme, slipping to the ground.
"Gentleman rushed into the Exhibition, sir!" said an official in a
dazed manner. Then he added in an injured voice: "Funny gentleman,
sir. Asked me to hold his horse, and gave me this."
He held out with distaste a piece of folded paper, addressed: "To
the Secretary of the Central Anarchist Council."
The Secretary, raging, rent it open, and found written inside it:--
"When the herring runs a mile,
Let the Secretary smile;
When the herring tries to fly,
Let the Secretary die.
"Why the eternal crikey," began the Secretary, "did you let the
man in? Do people commonly come to you Exhibition riding on mad
"Look!" shouted Syme suddenly. "Look over there!"
"Look at what?" asked the Secretary savagely.
"Look at the captive balloon!" said Syme, and pointed in a frenzy.
"Why the blazes should I look at a captive balloon?" demanded the
Secretary. "What is there queer about a captive balloon?"
"Nothing," said Syme, "except that it isn't captive!"
They all turned their eyes to where the balloon swung and swelled
above the Exhibition on a string, like a child's balloon. A second
afterwards the string came in two just under the car, and the
balloon, broken loose, floated away with the freedom of a soap
"Ten thousand devils!" shrieked the Secretary. "He's got into it!"