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Part II: The Explanations of Innocent Smith Gilbert K. Chesterton

Chapter III. The Round Road; or, the Desertion Charge

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Table Of Contents: Manalive

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"I asked him how, if he did not know the place, he would know it when he saw it. Here he suddenly ceased to be hazy, and became alarmingly minute. He gave a description of the house detailed enough for an auctioneer. I have forgotten nearly all the details except the last two, which were that the lamp-post was painted green, and that there was a red pillar-box at the corner.

"`A red pillar-box!' I cried in astonishment. `Why, the place must be in England!'

"`I had forgotten,' he said, nodding heavily. `That is the island's name.'

"`But, ~nom du nom~,' I cried testily, `you've just come from England, my boy.'

"`They SAID it was England,' said my imbecile, conspiratorially. `They said it was Kent. But Kentish men are such liars one can't believe anything they say.'

"`Monsieur,' I said, `you must pardon me. I am elderly, and the ~fumisteries~ of the young men are beyond me. I go by common sense, or, at the largest, by that extension of applied common sense called science.'

"`Science!' cried the stranger. `There is only one good things science ever discovered--a good thing, good tidings of great joy-- that the world is round.'

"I told him with civility that his words conveyed no impression to my intelligence. `I mean,' he said, `that going right round the world is the shortest way to where you are already.'

"`Is it not even shorter,' I asked, `to stop where you are?'

"`No, no, no!' he cried emphatically. `That way is long and very weary. At the end of the world, at the back of the dawn, I shall find the wife I really married and the house that is really mine. And that house will have a greener lamp-post and a redder pillar-box. Do you,' he asked with a sudden intensity, `do you never want to rush out of your house in order to find it?'

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"`No, I think not,' I replied; `reason tells a man from the first to adapt his desires to the probable supply of life. I remain here, content to fulfil the life of man. All my interests are here, and most of my friends, and--'

"`And yet,' he cried, starting to his almost terrific height, `you made the French Revolution!'

"`Pardon me," I said, `I am not quite so elderly. A relative perhaps.'

"`I mean your sort did!' exclaimed this personage. `Yes, your damned smug, settled, sensible sort made the French Revolution. Oh! I know some say it was no good, and you're just back where you were before. Why, blast it all, that's just where we all want to be--back where we were before! That is revolution--going right round! Every revolution, like a repentance, is a return.'

"He was so excited that I waited till he had taken his seat again, and then said something indifferent and soothing; but he struck the tiny table with his colossal fist and went on.

"`I am going to have a revolution, not a French Revolution, but an English Revolution. God has given to each tribe its own type of mutiny. The Frenchmen march against the citadel of the city together; the Englishman marches to the outskirts of the town, and alone. But I am going to turn the world upside down, too. I'm going to turn myself upside down. I'm going to walk upside down in the cursed upsidedownland of the Antipodes, where trees and men hang head downward in the sky. But my revolution, like yours, like the earth's, will end up in the holy, happy place-- the celestial, incredible place--the place where we were before.'

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Gilbert K. Chesterton

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