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

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

Page 6 of 13

Table Of Contents: Manalive

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"He sat with his dreamy eyes on the dark circles of the plains, where the only moving thing was the long and labouring trail of smoke out of the railway engine, violet in tint, volcanic in outline, the one hot and heavy cloud of that cold clear evening of pale green.

"`Yes,' he said with a huge sigh, `I am free in Russia. You are right. I could really walk into that town over there and have love all over again, and perhaps marry some beautiful woman and begin again, and nobody could ever find me. Yes, you have certainly convinced me of something.'

"His tone was so queer and mystical that I felt impelled to ask him what he meant, and of what exactly I had convinced him.

"`You have convinced me,' he said with the same dreamy eye, `why it is really wicked and dangerous for a man to run away from his wife.'

"`And why is it dangerous?' I inquired.

"`Why, because nobody can find him,' answered this odd person, `and we all want to be found.'

"`The most original modern thinkers,' I remarked, `Ibsen, Gorki, Nietzsche, Shaw, would all rather say that what we want most is to be lost: to find ourselves in untrodden paths, and to do unprecedented things: to break with the past and belong to the future.'

"He rose to his whole height somewhat sleepily, and looked round on what was, I confess, a somewhat desolate scene--the dark purple plains, the neglected railroad, the few ragged knots of malcontents. `I shall not find the house here,' he said. `It is still eastward-- further and further eastward.'

"Then he turned upon me with something like fury, and struck the foot of his pole upon the frozen earth.

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"`And if I do go back to my country,' he cried, `I may be locked up in a madhouse before I reach my own house. I have been a bit unconventional in my time! Why, Nietzsche stood in a row of ramrods in the silly old Prussian army, and Shaw takes temperance beverages in the suburbs; but the things I do are unprecedented things. This round road I am treading is an untrodden path. I do believe in breaking out; I am a revolutionist. But don't you see that all these real leaps and destructions and escapes are only attempts to get back to Eden-- to something we have had, to something we at least have heard of? Don't you see one only breaks the fence or shoots the moon in order to get HOME?'

"`No,' I answered after due reflection, `I don't think I should accept that.'

"`Ah,' he said with a sort of a sigh, `then you have explained a second thing to me.'

"`What do you mean?' I asked; `what thing?'

"`Why your revolution has failed,' he said; and walking across quite suddenly to the train he got into it just as it was steaming away at last. And as I saw the long snaky tail of it disappear along the darkening flats.

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Gilbert K. Chesterton

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