A Set of Six
believe he belonged to a noble family, and could have called himself Vicomte X de la Z
if he chose. We talked nothing but bronzes and porcelain. He was remarkably
appreciative. We parted on cordial terms.
Where he was staying I don't know. I imagine he must have been a lonely man.
Anarchists, I suppose, have no families--not, at any rate, as we understand that social
relation. Organization into families may answer to a need of human nature, but in the last
instance it is based on law, and therefore must be something odious and impossible to an
anarchist. But, indeed, I don't understand anarchists. Does a man of that--of that--
persuasion still remain an anarchist when alone, quite alone and going to bed, for
instance? Does he lay his head on the pillow, pull his bedclothes over him, and go to
sleep with the necessity of the chambardement general, as the French slang has it, of the
general blow-up, always present to his mind? And if so how can he? I am sure that if
such a faith (or such a fanaticism) once mastered my thoughts I would never be able to
compose myself sufficiently to sleep or eat or perform any of the routine acts of daily
life. I would want no wife, no children; I could have no friends, it seems to me; and as to
collecting bronzes or china, that, I should say, would be quite out of the question. But I
don't know. All I know is that Mr. X took his meals in a very good restaurant which I
With his head uncovered, the silver top-knot of his brushed-up hair completed the
character of his physiognomy, all bony ridges and sunken hollows, clothed in a perfect
impassiveness of expression. His meagre brown hands emerging from large white cuffs
came and went breaking bread, pouring wine, and so on, with quiet mechanical precision.
His head and body above the tablecloth had a rigid immobility. This firebrand, this great
agitator, exhibited the least possible amount of warmth and animation. His voice was
rasping, cold, and monotonous in a low key. He could not be called a talkative
personality; but with his detached calm manner he appeared as ready to keep the
conversation going as to drop it at any moment.
And his conversation was by no means commonplace. To me, I own, there was some
excitement in talking quietly across a dinner-table with a man whose venomous pen-stabs
had sapped the vitality of at least one monarchy. That much was a matter of public
knowledge. But I knew more. I knew of him--from my friend--as a certainty what the
guardians of social order in Europe had at most only suspected, or dimly guessed at.
He had had what I may call his underground life. And as I sat, evening after evening,
facing him at dinner, a curiosity in that direction would naturally arise in my mind. I am a
quiet and peaceable product of civilization, and know no passion other than the passion
for collecting things which are rare, and must remain exquisite even if approaching to the
monstrous. Some Chinese bronzes are monstrously precious. And here (out of my friend's
collection), here I had before me a kind of rare monster. It is true that this monster was
polished and in a sense even exquisite. His beautiful unruffled manner was that. But then
he was not of bronze. He was not even Chinese, which would have enabled one to
contemplate him calmly across the gulf of racial difference. He was alive and European;