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The Club of Queer Trades Gilbert K. Chesterton

The Awful Reason of the Vicar's Visit

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"`Come along quiet, or I'll eat your heart,' cried Sam in my ear hoarsely. `Stop, or I'll flay you.' It was frightful to hear the words and see the neatly shawled old spinster who whispered them.

"I yelled, and yelled--I was in for it now. I screamed comic refrains that vulgar young men had sung, to my regret, at our village concerts; I rolled to and fro like a ninepin about to fall.

"`If you can't get your friend on quiet, ladies,' said the policeman, `I shall have to take 'er up. Drunk and disorderly she is right enough.'

"I redoubled my efforts. I had not been brought up to this sort of thing; but I believe I eclipsed myself. Words that I did not know I had ever heard of seemed to come pouring out of my open mouth.

"`When we get you past,' whispered Bill, `you'll howl louder; you'll howl louder when we're burning your feet off.'

"I screamed in my terror those awful songs of joy. In all the nightmares that men have ever dreamed, there has never been anything so blighting and horrible as the faces of those five men, looking out of their poke-bonnets; the figures of district visitors with the faces of devils. I cannot think there is anything so heart-breaking in hell.

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"For a sickening instant I thought that the bustle of my companions and the perfect respectability of all our dresses would overcome the policeman and induce him to let us pass. He wavered, so far as one can describe anything so solid as a policeman as wavering. I lurched suddenly forward and ran my head into his chest, calling out (if I remember correctly), `Oh, crikey, blimey, Bill.' It was at that moment that I remembered most dearly that I was the Vicar of Chuntsey, in Essex.

"My desperate coup saved me. The policeman had me hard by the back of the neck.

"`You come along with me,' he began, but Bill cut in with his perfect imitation of a lady's finnicking voice.

"`Oh, pray, constable, don't make a disturbance with our poor friend. We will get her quietly home. She does drink too much, but she is quite a lady--only eccentric.'

"`She butted me in the stomach,' said the policeman briefly.

"`Eccentricities of genius,' said Sam earnestly.

"`Pray let me take her home,' reiterated Bill, in the resumed character of Miss James, `she wants looking after.' `She does,' said the policeman, `but I'll look after her.'

"`That's no good,' cried Bill feverishly. `She wants her friends. She wants a particular medicine we've got.'

"`Yes,' assented Miss Mowbray, with excitement, `no other medicine any good, constable. Complaint quite unique.'

"`I'm all righ'. Cutchy, cutchy, coo!' remarked, to his eternal shame, the Vicar of Chuntsey.

"`Look here, ladies,' said the constable sternly, `I don't like the eccentricity of your friend, and I don't like 'er songs, or 'er 'ead in my stomach. And now I come to think of it, I don't like the looks of you I've seen many as quiet dressed as you as was wrong 'uns. Who are you?'

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The Club of Queer Trades
Gilbert K. Chesterton

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