The Man Who Was Thursday HTML version

15. The Accuser
AS Syme strode along the corridor he saw the Secretary standing at the top of a
great flight of stairs. The man had never looked so noble. He was draped in a
long robe of starless black, down the centre of which fell a band or broad stripe of
pure white, like a single shaft of light. The whole looked like some very severe
ecclesiastical vestment. There was no need for Syme to search his memory or
the Bible in order to remember that the first day of creation marked the mere
creation of light out of darkness. The vestment itself would alone have suggested
the symbol; and Syme felt also how perfectly this pattern of pure white and black
expressed the soul of the pale and austere Secretary, with his inhuman veracity
and his cold frenzy, which made him so easily make war on the anarchists, and
yet so easily pass for one of them. Syme was scarcely surprised to notice that,
amid all the ease and hospitality of their new surroundings, this man's eyes were
still stern. No smell of ale or orchards could make the Secretary cease to ask a
reasonable question.
If Syme had been able to see himself, he would have realised that he, too,
seemed to be for the first time himself and no one else. For if the Secretary stood
for that philosopher who loves the original and formless light, Syme was a type of
the poet who seeks always to make the light in special shapes, to split it up into
sun and star. The philosopher may sometimes love the infinite; the poet always
loves the finite. For him the great moment is not the creation of light, but the
creation of the sun and moon.
As they descended the broad stairs together they overtook Ratcliffe, who was
clad in spring green like a huntsman, and the pattern upon whose garment was a
green tangle of trees. For he stood for that third day on which the earth and
green things were made, and his square, sensible face, with its not unfriendly
cynicism, seemed appropriate enough to it.
They were led out of another broad and low gateway into a very large old English
garden, full of torches and bonfires, by the broken light of which a vast carnival of
people were dancing in motley dress. Syme seemed to see every shape in
Nature imitated in some crazy costume. There was a man dressed as a windmill
with enormous sails, a man dressed as an elephant, a man dressed as a balloon;
the two last, together, seemed to keep the thread of their farcical adventures.
Syme even saw, with a queer thrill, one dancer dressed like an enormous
hornbill, with a beak twice as big as himself--the queer bird which had fixed itself
on his fancy like a living question while he was rushing down the long road at the
Zoological Gardens. There were a thousand other such objects, however. There
was a dancing lamp-post, a dancing apple tree, a dancing ship. One would have
thought that the untamable tune of some mad musician had set all the common
objects of field and street dancing an eternal jig. And long afterwards, when
Syme was middle-aged and at rest, he could never see one of those particular