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|The Man Who Was Thursday||Gilbert K. Chesterton|
The Six Philosophers
|Page 5 of 8||
"It is a long game," said the Secretary, and frowned at his broken boots.
"Listen to me," cried Syme with extraordinary emphasis. "Shall I tell you the secret of the whole world? It is that we have only known the back of the world. We see everything from behind, and it looks brutal. That is not a tree, but the back of a tree. That is not a cloud, but the back of a cloud. Cannot you see that everything is stooping and hiding a face? If we could only get round in front--"
"Look!" cried out Bull clamorously, "the balloon is coming down!"
There was no need to cry out to Syme, who had never taken his eyes off it. He saw the great luminous globe suddenly stagger in the sky, right itself, and then sink slowly behind the trees like a setting sun.
The man called Gogol, who had hardly spoken through all their weary travels, suddenly threw up his hands like a lost spirit.
"He is dead!" he cried. "And now I know he was my friend--my friend in the dark!"
"Dead!" snorted the Secretary. "You will not find him dead easily. If he has been tipped out of the car, we shall find him rolling as a colt rolls in a field, kicking his legs for fun."
"Clashing his hoofs," said the Professor. "The colts do, and so did Pan."
"Pan again!" said Dr. Bull irritably. "You seem to think Pan is everything."
"So he is," said the Professor, "in Greek. He means everything."
"Don't forget," said the Secretary, looking down, "that he also means Panic."
Syme had stood without hearing any of the exclamations.
"It fell over there," he said shortly. "Let us follow it!"
Then he added with an indescribable gesture--
"Oh, if he has cheated us all by getting killed! It would be like one of his larks."
He strode off towards the distant trees with a new energy, his rags and ribbons fluttering in the wind. The others followed him in a more footsore and dubious manner. And almost at the same moment all six men realised that they were not alone in the little field.
Across the square of turf a tall man was advancing towards them, leaning on a strange long staff like a sceptre. He was clad in a fine but old-fashioned suit with knee-breeches; its colour was that shade between blue, violet and grey which can be seen in certain shadows of the woodland. His hair was whitish grey, and at the first glance, taken along with his knee-breeches, looked as if it was powdered. His advance was very quiet; but for the silver frost upon his head, he might have been one to the shadows of the wood.
"Gentlemen," he said, "my master has a carriage waiting for you in the road just by."
"Who is your master?" asked Syme, standing quite still.
"I was told you knew his name," said the man respectfully.
There was a silence, and then the Secretary said--
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|The Man Who Was Thursday
Gilbert K. Chesterton
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