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|The Club of Queer Trades||Gilbert K. Chesterton|
The Painful Fall of a Great Reputation
|Page 3 of 11||
"But if you never saw him before--" I began.
"In God's name, look at his face," cried out Basil in a voice that startled the driver. "Look at the eyebrows. They mean that infernal pride which made Satan so proud that he sneered even at heaven when he was one of the first angels in it. Look at his moustaches, they are so grown as to insult humanity. In the name of the sacred heavens look at his hair. In the name of God and the stars, look at his hat."
I stirred uncomfortably.
"But, after all," I said, "this is very fanciful--perfectly absurd. Look at the mere facts. You have never seen the man before, you--"
"Oh, the mere facts," he cried out in a kind of despair. "The mere facts! Do you really admit--are you still so sunk in superstitions, so clinging to dim and prehistoric altars, that you believe in facts? Do you not trust an immediate impression?"
"Well, an immediate impression may be," I said, "a little less practical than facts."
"Bosh," he said. "On what else is the whole world run but immediate impressions? What is more practical? My friend, the philosophy of this world may be founded on facts, its business is run on spiritual impressions and atmospheres. Why do you refuse or accept a clerk? Do you measure his skull? Do you read up his physiological state in a handbook? Do you go upon facts at all? Not a scrap. You accept a clerk who may save your business--you refuse a clerk that may rob your till, entirely upon those immediate mystical impressions under the pressure of which I pronounce, with a perfect sense of certainty and sincerity, that that man walking in that street beside us is a humbug and a villain of some kind."
"You always put things well," I said, "but, of course, such things cannot immediately be put to the test."
Basil sprang up straight and swayed with the swaying car.
"Let us get off and follow him," he said. "I bet you five pounds it will turn out as I say."
And with a scuttle, a jump, and a run, we were off the car.
The man with the curved silver hair and the curved Eastern face walked along for some time, his long splendid frock-coat flying behind him. Then he swung sharply out of the great glaring road and disappeared down an ill-lit alley. We swung silently after him.
"This is an odd turning for a man of that kind to take," I said.
"A man of what kind?" asked my friend.
"Well," I said, "a man with that kind of expression and those boots. I thought it rather odd, to tell the truth, that he should be in this part of the world at all."
"Ah, yes," said Basil, and said no more.
We tramped on, looking steadily in front of us. The elegant figure, like the figure of a black swan, was silhouetted suddenly against the glare of intermittent gaslight and then swallowed again in night. The intervals between the lights were long, and a fog was thickening the whole city. Our pace, therefore, had become swift and mechanical between the lamp-posts; but Basil came to a standstill suddenly like a reined horse; I stopped also. We had almost run into the man. A great part of the solid darkness in front of us was the darkness of his body.
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|The Club of Queer Trades
Gilbert K. Chesterton
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