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

Chapter II. The Two Curates; or, the Burglary Charge

Page 6 of 17

Table Of Contents: Manalive

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"A fog was coming up the street, and that last lost lamp-post faded behind us in a way that certainly depressed the mind. The large man in front of us looked larger and larger in the haze. He did not turn round, but he said with his huge back to us, `All that talking's no good; we want a little practical Socialism.'

"`I quite agree,' said Percy; `but I always like to understand things in theory before I put them into practice.'

"`Oh, you just leave that to me,' said the practical Socialist, or whatever he was, with the most terrifying vagueness. `I have a way with me. I'm a Permeator.'

"`I could not imagine what he meant, but my companion laughed, so I was sufficiently reassured to continue the unaccountable journey for the present. It led us through most singular ways; out of the lane, where we were already rather cramped, into a paved passage, at the end of which we passed through a wooden gate left open. We then found ourselves, in the increasing darkness and vapour, crossing what appeared to be a beaten path across a kitchen garden. I called out to the enormous person going on in front, but he answered obscurely that it was a short cut.

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"I was just repeating my very natural doubt to my clerical companion when I was brought up against a short ladder, apparently leading to a higher level of road. My thoughtless companion ran up it so quickly that I could not do otherwise than follow as best I could. The path on which I then planted my feet was quite unprecedentedly narrow. I had never had to walk along a thoroughfare so exiguous. Along one side of it grew what, in the dark and density of air, I first took to be some short, strong thicket of shrubs. Then I saw that they were not short shrubs; they were the tops of tall trees. I, an English gentleman and clergyman of the Church of England--I was walking along the top of a garden wall like a tom cat.

"I am glad to say that I stopped within my first five steps, and let loose my just reprobation, balancing myself as best I could all the time.

"`It's a right-of-way,"' declared my indefensible informant. `It's closed to traffic once in a hundred years.'

"`Mr. Percy, Mr. Percy!' I called out; `you are not going on with this blackguard?'

"`Why, I think so,' answered my unhappy colleague flippantly. `I think you and I are bigger blackguards than he is, whatever he is.'

"`I am a burglar,' explained the big creature quite calmly. `I am a member of the Fabian Society. I take back the wealth stolen by the capitalist, not by sweeping civil war and revolution, but by reform fitted to the special occasion--here a little and there a little. Do you see that fifth house along the terrace with the flat roof? I'm permeating that one to-night.'

"`Whether this is a crime or a joke,' I cried, `I desire to be quit of it.'

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Gilbert K. Chesterton

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