The Man Who Was Thursday
14. The Six Philosophers
ACROSS green fields, and breaking through blooming hedges, toiled six
draggled detectives, about five miles out of London. The optimist of the party had
at first proposed that they should follow the balloon across South England in
hansom-cabs. But he was ultimately convinced of the persistent refusal of the
balloon to follow the roads, and the still more persistent refusal of the cabmen to
follow the balloon. Consequently the tireless though exasperated travellers broke
through black thickets and ploughed through ploughed fields till each was turned
into a figure too outrageous to be mistaken for a tramp. Those green hills of
Surrey saw the final collapse and tragedy of the admirable light grey suit in which
Syme had set out from Saffron Park. His silk hat was broken over his nose by a
swinging bough, his coat-tails were torn to the shoulder by arresting thorns, the
clay of England was splashed up to his collar; but he still carried his yellow beard
forward with a silent and furious determination, and his eyes were still fixed on
that floating ball of gas, which in the full flush of sunset seemed coloured like a
"After all," he said, "it is very beautiful!"
"It is singularly and strangely beautiful!" said the Professor. "I wish the beastly
gas-bag would burst!"
"No," said Dr. Bull, "I hope it won't. It might hurt the old boy."
"Hurt him!" said the vindictive Professor, "hurt him! Not as much as I'd hurt him if
I could get up with him. Little Snowdrop!"
"I don't want him hurt, somehow," said Dr. Bull.
"What!" cried the Secretary bitterly. "Do you believe all that tale about his being
our man in the dark room? Sunday would say he was anybody."
"I don't know whether I believe it or not," said Dr. Bull. "But it isn't that that I
mean. I can't wish old Sunday's balloon to burst because--"
"Well," said Syme impatiently, "because?"
"Well, because he's so jolly like a balloon himself," said Dr. Bull desperately. "I
don't understand a word of all that idea of his being the same man who gave us
all our blue cards. It seems to make everything nonsense. But I don't care who
knows it, I always had a sympathy for old Sunday himself, wicked as he was.
Just as if he was a great bouncing baby. How can I explain what my queer