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I.3. The Banner of Beacon
All next day at Beacon House there was a crazy sense that it was everybody's
birthday. It is the fashion to talk of institutions as cold and cramping things. The
truth is that when people are in exceptionally high spirits, really wild with freedom
and invention, they always must, and they always do, create institutions. When
men are weary they fall into anarchy; but while they are gay and vigorous they
invariably make rules. This, which is true of all the churches and republics of
history, is also true of the most trivial parlour game or the most unsophisticated
meadow romp. We are never free until some institution frees us; and liberty
cannot exist till it is declared by authority. Even the wild authority of the harlequin
Smith was still authority, because it produced everywhere a crop of crazy
regulations and conditions. He filled every one with his own half-lunatic life; but it
was not expressed in destruction, but rather in a dizzy and toppling construction.
Each person with a hobby found it turning into an institution. Rosamund's songs
seemed to coalesce into a kind of opera; Michael's jests and paragraphs into a
magazine. His pipe and her mandoline seemed between them to make a sort of
smoking concert. The bashful and bewildered Arthur Inglewood almost struggled
against his own growing importance. He felt as if, in spite of him, his photographs
were turning into a picture gallery, and his bicycle into a gymkhana. But no one
had any time to criticize these impromptu estates and offices, for they followed
each other in wild succession like the topics of a rambling talker.
Existence with such a man was an obstacle race made out of pleasant obstacles.
Out of any homely and trivial object he could drag reels of exaggeration, like a
conjurer. Nothing could be more shy and impersonal than poor Arthur's
photography. Yet the preposterous Smith was seen assisting him eagerly
through sunny morning hours, and an indefensible sequence described as "Moral
Photography" began to unroll about the boarding-house. It was only a version of
the old photographer's joke which produces the same figure twice on one plate,