The Man Who Was Thursday HTML version

4. The Tale Of A Detective
GABRIEL SYME was not merely a detective who pretended to be a poet; he was
really a poet who had become a detective. Nor was his hatred of anarchy
hypocritical. He was one of those who are driven early in life into too
conservative an attitude by the bewildering folly of most revolutionists. He had
not attained it by any tame tradition. His respectability was spontaneous and
sudden, a rebellion against rebellion. He came of a family of cranks, in which all
the oldest people had all the newest notions. One of his uncles always walked
about without a hat, and another had made an unsuccessful attempt to walk
about with a hat and nothing else. His father cultivated art and self-realisation; his
mother went in for simplicity and hygiene. Hence the child, during his tenderer
years, was wholly unacquainted with any drink between the extremes of absinth
and cocoa, of both of which he had a healthy dislike. The more his mother
preached a more than Puritan abstinence the more did his father expand into a
more than pagan latitude; and by the time the former had come to enforcing
vegetarianism, the latter had pretty well reached the point of defending
Being surrounded with every conceivable kind of revolt from infancy, Gabriel had
to revolt into something, so he revolted into the only thing left--sanity. But there
was just enough in him of the blood of these fanatics to make even his protest for
common sense a little too fierce to be sensible. His hatred of modern
lawlessness had been crowned also by an accident. It happened that he was
walking in a side street at the instant of a dynamite outrage. He had been blind
and deaf for a moment, and then seen, the smoke clearing, the broken windows
and the bleeding faces. After that he went about as usual--quiet, courteous,
rather gentle; but there was a spot on his mind that was not sane. He did not
regard anarchists, as most of us do, as a handful of morbid men, combining
ignorance with intellectualism. He regarded them as a huge and pitiless peril, like
a Chinese invasion.
He poured perpetually into newspapers and their waste-paper baskets a torrent
of tales, verses and violent articles, warning men of this deluge of barbaric
denial. But he seemed to be getting no nearer his enemy, and, what was worse,
no nearer a living. As he paced the Thames embankment, bitterly biting a cheap
cigar and brooding on the advance of Anarchy, there was no anarchist with a
bomb in his pocket so savage or so solitary as he. Indeed, he always felt that
Government stood alone and desperate, with its back to the wall. He was too
quixotic to have cared for it otherwise.
He walked on the Embankment once under a dark red sunset. The red river
reflected the red sky, and they both reflected his anger. The sky, indeed, was so
swarthy, and the light on the river relatively so lurid, that the water almost