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Title:      The Paradoxes of Mr Pond (1937)
Author:     G. K. Chesterton
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Title:      The Paradoxes of Mr Pond (1937)
Author:     G. K. Chesterton


I.  The Three Horsemen of Apocalypse

II.  The Crime of Captain Gahagan

III.  When Doctors Agree

IV.  Pond the Pantaloon

V.  The Unmentionable Man

VI.  Ring of Lovers

VII.  The Terrible Troubadour

VIII.  A Tall Story


The curious and sometimes creepy effect which Mr. Pond produced
upon me, despite his commonplace courtesy and dapper decorum, was
possibly connected with some memories of childhood; and the vague
verbal association of his name.  He was a Government official who
was an old friend of my father; and I fancy my infantile
imagination had somehow mixed up the name of Mr. Pond with the pond
in the garden.  When one came to think of it, he was curiously like
the pond in the garden.  He was so quiet at all normal times, so
neat in shape and so shiny, so to speak, in his ordinary
reflections of earth and sky and the common daylight.  And yet I
knew there were some queer things in the pond in the garden.  Once
in a hundred times, on one or two days during the whole year, the
pond would look oddly different; or there would come a flitting
shadow or a flash in its flat serenity; and a fish or a frog or
some more grotesque creature would show itself to the sky.  And I
knew there were monsters in Mr. Pond also: monsters in his mind
which rose only for a moment to the surface and sank again.  They
took the form of monstrous remarks, in the middle of all his mild
and rational remarks.  Some people thought he had suddenly gone mad
in the midst of his sanest conversation.  But even they had to
admit that he must have suddenly gone sane again.

Perhaps, again, this foolish fantasy was fixed in the youthful mind
because, at certain moments, Mr. Pond looked rather like a fish
himself.  His manners were not only quite polite but quite
conventional; his very gestures were conventional, with the
exception of one occasional trick of plucking at his pointed beard
which seemed to come on him chiefly when he was at last forced to
be serious about one of his strange and random statements.  At such
moments he would stare owlishly in front of him and pull his beard,
which had a comic effect of pulling his mouth open, as if it were
the mouth of a puppet with hairs for wires.  This odd, occasional
opening and shutting of his mouth, without speech, had quite a
startling similarity to the slow gaping and gulping of a fish.  But
it never lasted for more than a few seconds, during which, I
suppose, he swallowed the unwelcome proposal of explaining what on
earth he meant.

He was talking quite quietly one day to Sir Hubert Wotton, the well-
known diplomatist; they were seated under gaily-striped tents or
giant parasols in our own garden, and gazing towards the pond which
I had perversely associated with him.  They happened to be talking
about a part of the world that both of them knew well, and very few
people in Western Europe at all: the vast flats fading into fens
and swamps that stretch across Pomerania and Poland and Russia and
the rest; right away, for all I know, into the Siberian deserts.
And Mr. Pond recalled that, across a region where the swamps are
deepest and intersected by pools and sluggish rivers, there runs a
single road raised on a high causeway with steep and sloping sides:
a straight path safe enough for the ordinary pedestrian, but barely
broad enough for two horsemen to ride abreast.  That is the
beginning of the story.

It concerned a time not very long ago, but a time in which horsemen
were still used much more than they are at present, though already
rather less as fighters than as couriers.  Suffice it to say that
it was in one of the many wars that have laid waste that part of
the world--in so far as it is possible to lay waste such a
wilderness.  Inevitably it involved the pressure of the Prussian
system on the nation of the Poles, but beyond that it is not
necessary to expound the politics of the matter, or discuss its
rights and wrongs here.  Let us merely say, more lightly, that Mr.
Pond amused the company with a riddle.

"I expect you remember hearing," said Pond, "of all the excitement
there was about Paul Petrowski, the poet from Cracow, who did two
things rather dangerous in those days: moving from Cracow and going
to live in Poznan; and trying to combine being a poet with being a
patriot.  The town he was living in was held at the moment by the
Prussians; it was situated exactly at the eastern end of the long
causeway; the Prussian command having naturally taken care to hold
the bridgehead of such a solitary bridge across such a sea of
swamps.  But their base for that particular operation was at the
western end of the causeway; the celebrated Marshal Von Grock was
in general command; and, as it happened, his own old regiment,
which was still his favourite regiment, the White Hussars, was
posted nearest to the beginning of the great embanked road.  Of
course, everything was spick and span, down to every detail of the
wonderful white uniforms, with the flame-coloured baldrick slung
across them; for this was just before the universal use of colours
like mud and clay for all the uniforms in the world.  I don't blame
them for that; I sometimes feel the old epoch of heraldry was a
finer thing than all that epoch of imitative colouring, that came
in with natural history and the worship of chameleons and beetles.
Anyhow, this crack regiment of cavalry in the Prussian service
still wore its own uniform; and, as you will see, that was another
element in the fiasco.  But it wasn't only the uniforms; it was the
uniformity.  The whole thing went wrong because the discipline was
too good.  Grock's soldiers obeyed him too well; so he simply
couldn't do a thing he wanted."

"I suppose that's a paradox," said Wotton, heaving a sigh.  "Of
course, it's very clever and all that; but really, it's all
nonsense, isn't it?  Oh, I know people say in a general way that
there's too much discipline in the German army.  But you can't have
too much discipline in an army."

"But I don't say it in a general way," said Pond plaintively.  "I
say it in a particular way, about this particular case.  Grock
failed because his soldiers obeyed him.  Of course, if ONE of his
soldiers had obeyed him, it wouldn't have been so bad.  But when
TWO of his soldiers obeyed him--why, really, the poor old devil had
no chance."

Wotton laughed in a guttural fashion.  "I'm glad to hear your new
military theory.  You'd allow one soldier in a regiment to obey
orders; but two soldiers obeying orders strikes you as carrying
Prussian discipline a bit too far."

"I haven't got any military theory.  I'm talking about a military
fact," replied Mr. Pond placidly.  "It is a military fact that
Grock failed, because two of his soldiers obeyed him.  It is a
military fact that he might have succeeded, if one of them had
disobeyed him.  You can make up what theories you like about it

"I don't go in much for theories myself," said Wotton rather
stiffly, as if he had been touched by a trivial insult.

At this moment could be seen striding across the sun-chequered
lawn, the large and swaggering figure of Captain Gahagan, the
highly incongruous friend and admirer of little Mr. Pond.  He had a
flaming flower in his buttonhole and a grey top-hat slightly
slanted upon his ginger-haired head; and he walked with a swagger
that seemed to come out of an older period of dandies and
duellists, though he himself was comparatively young.  So long as
his tall, broad-shouldered figure was merely framed against the
sunlight, he looked like the embodiment of all arrogance.  When he
came and sat down, with the sun on his face, there was a sudden
contradiction of all this in his very soft brown eyes, which looked
sad and even a little anxious.

Mr. Pond, interrupting his monologue, was almost in a twitter of
apologies:  "I'm afraid I'm talking too much, as usual; the truth
is I was talking about that poet, Petrowski, who was nearly
executed in Poznan--quite a long time ago.  The military
authorities on the spot hesitated and were going to let him go,
unless they had direct orders from Marshal Von Grock or higher; but
Marshal Von Grock was quite determined on the poet's death; and
sent orders for his execution that very evening.  A reprieve was
sent afterwards to save him; but as the man carrying the reprieve
died on the way, the prisoner was released, after all."

"But as--" repeated Wotton mechanically.

"The man carrying the REPRIEVE," added Gahagan somewhat

"Died on the way," muttered Wotton.

"Why then, of course, the prisoner was released," observed Gahagan
in a loud and cheerful voice.  "All as clear as clear can be.  Tell
us another of those stories, Grandpapa."

"It's a perfectly true story," protested Pond, "and it happened
exactly as I say.  It isn't any paradox or anything like that.
Only, of course, you have to know the story to see how simple it

"Yes," agreed Gahagan.  "I think I should have to know the story,
before realizing how simple it is."

"Better tell us the story and have done with it," said Wotton

Paul Petrowski was one of those utterly unpractical men who are of
prodigious importance in practical politics.  His power lay in the
fact that he was a national poet but an international singer.  That
is, he happened to have a very fine and powerful voice, with which
he sang his own patriotic songs in half the concert halls of the
world.  At home, of course, he was a torch and trumpet of
revolutionary hopes, especially then, in the sort of international
crisis in which practical politicians disappear, and their place is
taken by men either more or less practical than themselves.  For
the true idealist and the real realist have at least the love of
action in common.  And the practical politician thrives by offering
practical objections to any action.  What the idealist does may be
unworkable, and what the man of action does may be unscrupulous;
but in neither trade can a man win a reputation by doing nothing.
It is odd that these two extreme types stood at the two extreme
ends of that one ridge and road among the marshes--the Polish poet
a prisoner in the town at one end, the Prussian soldier a commander
in the camp at the other.

For Marshal Von Grock was a true Prussian, not only entirely
practical but entirely prosaic.  He had never read a line of poetry
himself; but he was no fool.  He had the sense of reality which
belongs to soldiers; and it prevented him from falling into the
asinine error of the practical politician.  He did not scoff at
visions; he only hated them.  He knew that a poet or a prophet
could be as dangerous as an army.  And he was resolved that the
poet should die.  It was his one compliment to poetry; and it was

He was at the moment sitting at a table in his tent; the spiked
helmet that he always wore in public was lying in front of him; and
his massive head looked quite bald, though it was only closely
shaven.  His whole face was also shaven; and had no covering but a
pair of very strong spectacles, which alone gave an enigmatic look
to his heavy and sagging visage.  He turned to a Lieutenant
standing by, a German of the pale-haired and rather pudding-faced
variety, whose blue saucer-eyes were staring vacantly.

"Lieutenant Von Hocheimer," he said, "did you say His Highness
would reach the camp to-night?"

"Seven forty-five, Marshal," replied the Lieutenant, who seemed
rather reluctant to speak at all, like a large animal learning a
new trick of talking.

"Then there is just time," said Grock, "to send you with that order
for execution, before he arrives.  We must serve His Highness in
every way, but especially in saving him needless trouble.  He will
be occupied enough reviewing the troops; see that everything is
placed at His Highness's disposal.  He will be leaving again for
the next outpost in an hour."

The large Lieutenant seemed partially to come to life and made a
shadowy salute.  "Of course, Marshal, we must all obey His

"I said we must all serve His Highness," said the Marshal.

With a sharper movement than usual, he unhooked his heavy
spectacles and rapped them down upon the table.  If the pale blue
eyes of the Lieutenant could have seen anything of the sort, or if
they could have opened any wider even if they had, they might as
well have opened wide enough at the transformation made by the
gesture.  It was like the removal of an iron mask.  An instant
before, Marshal Von Grock had looked uncommonly like a rhinoceros,
with his heavy folds of leathery cheek and jaw.  Now he was a new
kind of monster: a rhinoceros with the eyes of an eagle.  The bleak
blaze of his old eyes would have told almost anybody that he had
something within that was not merely heavy; at least, that there
was a part of him made of steel and not only of iron.  For all men
live by a spirit, though it were an evil spirit, or one so strange
to the commonalty of Christian men that they hardly know whether it
be good or evil.

"I said we must all serve His Highness," repeated Grock.  "I will
speak more plainly, and say we must all save His Highness.  Is it
not enough for our kings that they should be our gods?  Is it not
enough for them to be served and saved?  It is we who must do the
serving and saving."

Marshal Von Grock seldom talked, or even thought, as more
theoretical people would count thinking.  And it will generally be
found that men of his type, when they do happen to think aloud,
very much prefer to talk to the dog.  They have even a certain
patronizing relish in using long words and elaborate arguments
before the dog.  It would be unjust to compare Lieutenant Von
Hocheimer to a dog.  It would be unjust to the dog, who is a much
more sensitive and vigilant creature.  It would be truer to say
that Grock in one of his rare moments of reflection, had the
comfort and safety of feeling that he was reflecting aloud in the
presence of a cow or a cabbage.

"Again and again, in the history of our Royal House, the servant
has saved the master," went on Grock, "and often got little but
kicks for it, from the outer world at least, which always whines
sentimentalism against the successful and the strong.  But at least
we were successful and we were strong.  They cursed Bismarck for
deceiving even his own master over the Ems telegram; but it made
that master the master of the world.  Paris was taken; Austria
dethroned; and we were safe.  To-night Paul Petrowski will be dead;
and we shall again be safe.  That is why I am sending you with his
death-warrant at once.  You understand that you are bearing the
order for Petrowski's instant execution--and that you must remain
to see it obeyed?"

The inarticulate Hocheimer saluted; he could understand that all
right.  And he had some qualities of a dog, after all: he was as
brave as a bulldog; and he could be faithful to the death.

"You must mount and ride at once," went on Grock, "and see that
nothing delays or thwarts you.  I know for a fact that fool Arnheim
is going to release Petrowski to-night, if no message comes.  Make
all speed."

And the Lieutenant again saluted and went out into the night; and
mounting one of the superb white chargers that were part of the
splendour of that splendid corps, began to ride along the high,
narrow road along the ridge, almost like the top of a wall, which
overlooked the dark horizon, the dim patterns and decaying colours
of those mighty marshes.

Almost as the last echoes of his horse's hoofs died away along the
causeway, Von Grock rose and put on his helmet and his spectacles
and came to the door of his tent; but for another reason.  The
chief men of his staff, in full dress, were already approaching
him; and all along the more distant lines there were the sounds of
ritual salutation and the shouting of orders.  His Highness the
Prince had come.

His Highness the Prince was something of a contrast, at least in
externals, to the men around him; and, even in other things,
something of an exception in his world.  He also wore a spiked
helmet, but that of another regiment, black with glints of blue
steel; and there was something half incongruous and half
imaginatively appropriate, in some antiquated way, in the
combination of that helmet with the long, dark, flowing beard, amid
all those shaven Prussians.  As if in keeping with the long, dark,
flowing beard, he wore a long, dark, flowing cloak, blue with one
blazing star on it of the highest Royal Order; and under the blue
cloak he wore a black uniform.  Though as German as any man, he was
a very different kind of German; and something in his proud but
abstracted face was consonant with the legend that the one true
passion of his life was music.

In truth, the grumbling Grock was inclined to connect with that
remote eccentricity the, to him, highly irritating and exasperating
fact that the Prince did not immediately proceed to the proper
review and reception by the troops, already drawn out in all the
labyrinthine parade of the military etiquette of their nation; but
plunged at once impatiently into the subject which Grock most
desired to see left alone: the subject of this infernal Pole, his
popularity and his peril; for the Prince had heard some of the
man's songs sung in half the opera-houses of Europe.

"To talk of executing a man like that is madness," said the Prince,
scowling under his black helmet.  "He is not a common Pole.  He is
a European institution.  He would be deplored and deified by our
allies, by our friends, even by our fellow-Germans.  Do you want to
be the mad women who murdered Orpheus?"

"Highness," said the Marshal, "he would be deplored; but he would
be dead.  He would be deified; but he would be dead.  Whatever he
means to do, he would never do it.  Whatever he is doing, he would
do no more.  Death is the fact of all facts; and I am rather fond
of facts."

"Do you know nothing of the world?" demanded the Prince.

"I care nothing for the world," answered Grock, "beyond the last
black and white post of the Fatherland."

"God in heaven," cried His Highness, "you would have hanged Goethe
for a quarrel with Weimar!"

"For the safety of your Royal House," answered Grock, "without one
instant's hesitation."

There was a short silence and the Prince said sharply and suddenly:
"What does this mean?"

"It means that I had not an instant's hesitation," replied the
Marshal steadily.  "I have already myself sent orders for the
execution of Petrowski."

The Prince rose like a great dark eagle, the swirl of his cloak
like the sweep of mighty wings; and all men knew that a wrath
beyond mere speech had made him a man of action.  He did not even
speak to Von Grock; but talking across him, at the top of his
voice, called out to the second in command, General Von Voglen, a
stocky man with a square head, who had stood in the background as
motionless as a stone.

"Who has the best horse in your cavalry division, General?  Who is
the best rider?"

"Arnold Von Schacht has a horse that might beat a racehorse,"
replied the General promptly.  "And rides it as well as a jockey.
He is of the White Hussars."

"Very well," said the Prince, with the same new ring in his voice.
"Let him ride at once after the man with this mad message and stop
him.  I will give him authority, which I think the distinguished
Marshal will not dispute.  Bring me pen and ink."

He sat down, shaking out the cloak, and they brought him writing
materials; and he wrote firmly and with a flourish the order,
overriding all other orders, for the reprieve and release of
Petrowski the Pole.

Then amid a dead silence, in the midst of which old Grock stood
with an unblinking stare like a stone idol of prehistoric times, he
swept out of the room, trailing his mantle and sabre.  He was so
violently displeased that no man dared to remind him of the formal
reviewing of the troops.  But Arnold Von Schacht, a curly-haired
active youth, looking more like a boy, but wearing more than one
medal on the white uniform of the Hussars, clicked his heels, and
received the folded paper from the Prince; then, striding out, he
sprang on his horse and flew along the high, narrow road like a
silver arrow or a shooting star.

The old Marshal went back slowly and calmly to his tent, slowly and
calmly removed his spiked helmet and his spectacles, and laid them
on the table as before.  Then he called out to an orderly just
outside the tent; and bade him fetch Sergeant Schwartz of the White
Hussars immediately.

A minute later, there presented himself before the Marshal a gaunt
and wiry man, with a great scar across his jaw, rather dark for a
German, unless all his colours had been changed by years of smoke
and storm and bad weather.  He saluted and stood stiffly at
attention, as the Marshal slowly raised his eyes to him.  And vast
as was the abyss between the Imperial Marshal, with Generals under
him, and that one battered non-commissioned officer, it is true
that of all the men who have talked in this tale, these two men
alone looked and understood each other without words.

"Sergeant," said the Marshal, curtly, "I have seen you twice
before.  Once, I think, when you won the prize of the whole army
for marksmanship with the carbine."

The sergeant saluted and said nothing.

"And once again," went on Von Grock, "when you were questioned for
shooting that damned old woman who would not give us information
about the ambush.  The incident caused considerable comment at the
time, even in some of our own circles.  Influence, however, was
exerted on your side.  My influence."

The sergeant saluted again; and was still silent.  The Marshal
continued to speak in a colourless but curiously candid way.

"His Highness the Prince has been misinformed and deceived on a
point essential to his own safety and that of the Fatherland.
Under this error, he has rashly sent a reprieve to the Pole
Petrowski, who is to be executed to-night.  I repeat: who is to be
executed to-night.  You must immediately ride after Von Schacht,
who carried the reprieve, and stop him."

"I can hardly hope to overtake him, Marshal," said Sergeant
Schwartz.  "He has the swiftest horse in the regiment, and is the
finest rider."

"I did not tell you to overtake him.  I told you to stop him," said
Grock.  Then he spoke more slowly:  "A man may often be stopped or
recalled by various signals: by shouting or shooting."  His voice
dragged still more ponderously, but without a pause.  "The
discharge of a carbine might attract his attention."

And then the dark sergeant saluted for the third time; and his grim
mouth was again shut tight.

"The world is changed," said Grock, "not by what is said, or what
is blamed or praised, but by what is done.  The world never
recovers from what is done.  At this moment the killing of a man is
a thing that must be done."  He suddenly flashed his brilliant eyes
of steel at the other, and added:  "I mean, of course, Petrowski."

And Sergeant Schwartz smiled still more grimly; and he also,
lifting the flap of the tent, went out into the darkness and
mounted his horse and rode.

The last of the three riders was even less likely than the first to
indulge in imaginative ideas for their own sake.  But because he
also was in some imperfect manner human, he could not but feel, on
such a night and such an errand, the oppressiveness of that inhuman
landscape.  While he rode along that one abrupt ridge, there spread
out to infinity all round him something a myriad times more inhuman
than the sea.  For a man could not swim in it, nor sail boats on
it, nor do anything human with it; he could only sink in it, and
practically without a struggle.  The sergeant felt vaguely the
presence of some primordial slime that was neither solid nor liquid
nor capable of any form; and he felt its presence behind the forms
of all things.

He was atheist, like so many thousands of dull, clever men in
Northern Germany; but he was not that happier sort of pagan who can
see in human progress a natural flowering of the earth.  That world
before him was not a field in which green or living things evolved
and developed and bore fruit; it was only an abyss in which all
living things would sink for ever as in a bottomless pit; and the
thought hardened him for all the strange duties he had to do in so
hateful a world.  The grey-green blotches of flattened vegetation,
seen from above like a sprawling map, seemed more like the chart of
a disease than a development; and the land-locked pools might have
been of poison rather than water.  He remembered some humanitarian
fuss or other about the poisoning of pools.

But the reflections of the sergeant, like most reflections of men
not normally reflective, had a root in some subconscious strain on
his nerves and his practical intelligence.  The truth was that the
straight road before him was not only dreary, but seemed
interminably long.  He would never have believed he could have
ridden so far without catching some distant glimpse of the man he
followed.  Von Schacht must indeed have the fleetest of horses to
have got so far ahead already; for, after all, he had only started,
at whatever speed, within a comparatively short time.  As Schwartz
had said, he hardly expected to overtake him; but a very realistic
sense of the distances involved had told him that he must very soon
come in sight of him.  And then, just as despair was beginning to
descend and spread itself vaguely over the desolate landscape, he
saw him at last.

A white spot, which slightly, slowly, enlarged into something like
a white figure, appeared far ahead, riding furiously.  It enlarged
to that extent because Schwartz managed a spurt of riding furiously
himself; but it was large enough to show the faint streak of orange
across the white uniform that marked the regiment of the Hussars.
The winner of the prize for shooting, in the whole army, had hit
the white of smaller targets than that.

He unslung his carbine; and a shock of unnatural noise shook up all
the wild fowl for miles upon the silent marshes.  But Sergeant
Schwartz did not trouble about them.  What interested him was that,
even at such a distance, he could see the straight, white figure
turn crooked and alter in shape, as if the man had suddenly grown
deformed.  He was hanging like a humpback over the saddle; and
Schwartz, with his exact eye and long experience, was certain that
his victim was shot through the body; and almost certain that he
was shot through the heart.  Then he brought the horse down with a
second shot; and the whole equestrian group heeled over and slipped
and slid and vanished in one white flash into the dark fenland

The hard-headed sergeant was certain that his work was done.  Hard-
headed men of his sort are generally very precise about what they
are doing; that is why they are so often quite wrong about what
they do.  He had outraged the comradeship that is the soul of
armies; he had killed a gallant officer who was in the performance
of his duty; he had deceived and defied his sovereign and committed
a common murder without excuse of personal quarrel; but he had
obeyed his superior officer and he had helped to kill a Pole.
These two last facts for the moment filled his mind; and he rode
thoughtfully back again to make his report to Marshal Von Grock.
He had no doubts about the thoroughness of the work he had done.
The man carrying the reprieve was certainly dead; and even if by
some miracle he were only dying, he could not conceivably have
ridden his dead or dying horse to the town in time to prevent the
execution.  No; on the whole it was much more practical and prudent
to get back under the wing of his protector, the author of the
desperate project.  With his whole strength he leaned on the
strength of the great Marshal.

And truly the great Marshal had this greatness about him; that
after the monstrous thing he had done, or caused to be done, he
disdained to show any fear of facing the facts on the spot or the
compromising possibilities of keeping in touch with his tool.  He
and the sergeant, indeed, an hour or so later, actually rode along
the ridge together, till they came to a particular place where the
Marshal dismounted, but bade the other ride on.  He wished the
sergeant to go forward to the original goal of the riders, and see
if all was quiet in the town after the execution, or whether there
remained some danger from popular resentment.

"Is it here, then, Marshal?" asked the sergeant in a low voice.  "I
fancied it was further on; but it's a fact the infernal road seemed
to lengthen out like a nightmare."

"It is here," answered Grock, and swung himself heavily from saddle
and stirrup, and then went to the edge of the long parapet and
looked down.

The moon had risen over the marshes and gone up strengthening in
splendour and gleaming on dark waters and green scum; and in the
nearest clump of reeds, at the foot of the slope, there lay, as in
a sort of luminous and radiant ruin, all that was left of one of
those superb white horses and white horsemen of his old brigade.
Nor was the identity doubtful; the moon made a sort of aureole of
the curled golden hair of young Arnold, the second rider and the
bearer of the reprieve; and the same mystical moonshine glittered
not only on baldrick and buttons, but on the special medals of the
young soldier and the stripes and signs of his degree.  Under such
a glamorous veil of light, he might almost have been in the white
armour of Sir Galahad; and there could scarcely have been a more
horrible contrast than that between such fallen grace and youth
below and the rocky and grotesque figure looking down from above.
Grock had taken off his helmet again; and though it is possible
that this was the vague shadow of some funereal form of respect,
its visible effect was that the queer naked head and neck like that
of a pachyderm glittered stonily in the moon, like the hairless
head and neck of some monster of the Age of Stone.  Rops, or some
such etcher of the black, fantastic German schools, might have
drawn such a picture: of a huge beast as inhuman as a beetle
looking down on the broken wings and white and golden armour of
some defeated champion of the Cherubim.

Grock said no prayer and uttered no pity; but in some dark way his
mind was moved, as even the dark and mighty swamp will sometimes
move like a living thing; and as such men will, when feeling for
the first time faintly on their defence before they know not what,
he tried to formulate his only faith and confront it with the stark
universe and the staring moon.

"After and before the deed the German Will is the same.  It cannot
be broken by changes and by time, like that of those others who
repent.  It stands outside time like a thing of stone, looking
forward and backward with the same face."

The silence that followed lasted long enough to please his cold
vanity with a certain sense of portent; as if a stone figure had
spoken in a valley of silence.  But the silence began to thrill
once more with a distant whisper which was the faint throb of
horsehoofs; and a moment later the sergeant came galloping, or
rather racing, back along the uplifted road, and his scarred and
swarthy visage was no longer merely grim but ghastly in the moon.

"Marshal," he said, saluting with a strange stiffness, "I have seen
Petrowski the Pole!"

"Haven't they buried him yet?" asked the Marshal, still staring
down and in some abstraction.

"If they have," said Schwartz, "he has rolled the stone away and
risen from the dead."

He stared in front of him at the moon and marshes; but, indeed,
though he was far from being a visionary character, it was not
these things that he saw, but rather the things he had just seen.
He had, indeed, seen Paul Petrowski walking alive and alert down
the brilliantly illuminated main avenue of that Polish town to the
very beginning of the causeway; there was no mistaking the slim
figure with plumes of hair and tuft of Frenchified beard which
figured in so many private albums and illustrated magazines.  And
behind him he had seen that Polish town aflame with flags and
firebrands and a population boiling with triumphant hero-worship,
though perhaps less hostile to the government than it might have
been, since it was rejoicing at the release of its popular hero.

"Do you mean," cried Grock with a sudden croaking stridency of
voice, "that they have dared to release him in defiance of my

Schwartz saluted again and said:

"They had already released him and they have received no message."

"Do you ask me, after all this," said Grock, "to believe that no
messenger came from our camp at all?"

"No messenger at all," said the sergeant.

There was a much longer silence, and then Grock said, hoarsely:
"What in the name of hell has happened?  Can you think of anything
to explain it all?"

"I have seen something," said the sergeant, "which I think does
explain it all."

When Mr. Pond had told the story up to this point, he paused with
an irritating blankness of expression.

"Well," said Gahagan impatiently, "and do YOU know anything that
would explain it all?"

"Well, I think I do," said Mr. Pond meekly.  "You see, I had to
worry it out for myself, when the report came round to my
department.  It really did arise from an excess of Prussian
obedience.  It also arose from an excess of another Prussian
weakness: contempt.  And of all the passions that blind and madden
and mislead men, the worst is the coldest: contempt.

"Grock had talked much too comfortably before the cow, and much too
confidently before the cabbage.  He despised stupid men even on his
own staff; and treated Von Hocheimer, the first messenger, as a
piece of furniture merely because he looked like a fool; but the
Lieutenant was not such a fool as he looked.  He also understood
what the great Marshal meant, quite as well as the cynical
sergeant, who had done such dirty work all his life.  Hocheimer
also understood the Marshal's peculiar moral philosophy: that an
act is unanswerable even when it is indefensible.  He knew that
what his commander wanted was simply the corpse of Petrowski; that
he wanted it anyhow, at the expense of any deception of princes or
destruction of soldiers.  And when he heard a swifter horseman
behind him, riding to overtake him, he knew as well as Grock
himself that the new messenger must be carrying with him the
message of the mercy of the Prince.  Von Schacht, that very young
but gallant officer, looking like the very embodiment of all that
more generous tradition of Germany that has been too much neglected
in this tale, was worthy of the accident that made him the herald
of a more generous policy.  He came with the speed of that noble
horsemanship that has left behind it in Europe the very name of
chivalry, calling out to the other in a tone like a herald's
trumpet to stop and stand and turn.  And Von Hocheimer obeyed.  He
stopped, he reined in his horse, he turned in his saddle; but his
hand held the carbine levelled like a pistol, and he shot the boy
between the eyes.

"Then he turned again and rode on, carrying the death-warrant of
the Pole.  Behind him horse and man had crashed over the edge of
the embankment, so that the whole road was clear.  And along that
clear and open road toiled in his turn the third messenger,
marvelling at the interminable length of his journey; till he saw
at last the unmistakable uniform of a Hussar like a white star
disappearing in the distance, and he shot also.  Only he did not
kill the second messenger, but the first.

"That was why no messenger came alive to the Polish town that
night.  That was why the prisoner walked out of his prison alive.
Do you think I was quite wrong in saying that Von Grock had two
faithful servants, and one too many?"


It must be confessed that some people thought Mr. Pond a bore.  He
had a weakness for long speeches, not out of self-importance, but
because he had an old-fashioned taste in literature; and had
unconsciously inherited the habit of Gibbon or Butler or Burke.
Even his paradoxes were not what are called brilliant paradoxes.
The word brilliant has long been the most formidable weapon of
criticism; but Mr. Pond could not be blasted and withered with a
charge of brilliancy.  Thus, in the case now to be considered, when
Mr. Pond said (referring, I grieve to say, to the greater part of
the female sex, at least in its most modern phase):  "They go so
fast that they get no farther," he did not mean it as an epigram.
And somehow it did not sound epigrammatic; but only odd and
obscure.  And the ladies to whom he said it, notably the Hon.
Violet Varney, could see no sense in it.  They thought Mr. Pond,
when he was not boring, was only bewildering.

Anyhow, Mr. Pond did sometimes indulge in long speeches.  Triumph
therefore and great glory belongs to anyone who could successfully
stop Mr. Pond from making long speeches; and this laurel is for the
brows of Miss Artemis Asa-Smith, of Pentapolis, Pa.  She came to
interview Mr. Pond for The Live Wire, touching his alleged views on
the Haggis Mystery; and she did not let him get a word in edgeways.

"I believe," began Mr. Pond, rather nervously, "that your paper is
inquiring about what some call Private Execution, and I call
murder, but--"

"Forget it," said the young lady briefly.  "It's just too wonderful
for me to be sitting here next to all secrets of your government;

She continued her monologue; though in a style of dots and dashes.
As she would not let Mr. Pond interrupt her, she seemed to think it
only fair to interrupt herself.  Somehow it seemed at once as if
her speech would never end; and not one sentence of it was ever

We have all heard of American interviewers who rip up family
secrets, break down bedroom doors and collect information in the
manner of burglars.  There are some; but there are also others.
There are, or were, when the writer remembers them, a very large
number of intelligent men ready to discuss intelligent things; and
there was Miss Asa-Smith.  She was small and dark; she was rather
pretty and would have been very pretty if she had not dipped her
lipstick in hues of earthquake and eclipse.  Her finger-nails were
painted five different colours, looking like the paints in a
child's paintbox; and she was as innocent as a child.  She was also
as garrulous as a child.  She felt something paternal about Mr.
Pond and told him everything.  He did not have to tell her
anything.  No buried tragedies of the Pond family were dug up; no
secrets of the crimes committed behind Mr. Pond's bedroom door.
Conversation, so to describe it, revolved largely round her early
days in Pennsylvania; her first ambitions and ideals; which two
things, like many of her local traditions, she seemed to imagine to
be the same.  She was a Feminist and had stood up with Ada P. Tuke
against clubs and saloons and the selfishness of man.  She had
written a play; and she just longed to read it to Mr. Pond.

"About that question of Private Execution," said Mr. Pond politely,
"I suppose we've all been tempted in desperate moments--"

"Well, I'm just desperate to read you this play, and--you know how
it is.  You see, my play's awfully MODERN.  But even the modernest
people haven't done just that--I mean, beginning in the water and

"Beginning in the water?" inquired Mr. Pond.

"Yes, isn't it just too--oh, you know.  I suppose they will have
all characters in bathing dresses soon--but they'll only just enter
L. or R.; come on at the side, you know--and all the old stuff.  My
characters enter from above, diving, with a splash--Well, that'll
be a splash, won't it?  I mean to say, it begins like that."  She
began to read very rapidly:

"Scene, sea outside the Lido.

"Voice of Tom Toxin (from above):  'See me make a splash, if--'
(Toxin dives from above to stage in pea-green bathing-suit).

"Voice of Duchess (from above):  'Only sort of splash you'll ever
make, you--'  (Duchess dives from above in scarlet bathing-suit).

"Toxin (coming up spluttering):  'Splutter as splutter . . . splosh
is the only splash by your--.'

"Duchess:  'Oh, Grandpa!'"

"She calls him Grandpa, you see, because 'splosh' means money in
that ever-so-old comic song--they're quite young really, of course,
and rather . . . you know.  But--"

Mr. Pond interposed with delicacy and firmness:  "I wonder whether
you would be so very kind, Miss Asa-Smith, as to leave the
manuscript with me or send me a copy, so that I can enjoy it at
leisure.  It reads rather quickly for old buffers like me; and
nobody ever seems to finish a sentence.  But do you think you can
persuade our leading actors and actresses to dive from great
heights into a stage sea?"

"Oh, I dare say some of the old-stagers would be stuffy about it,"
she replied, "because--can't fancy your great tragedienne, Olivia
Feversham--though she's not so old really and just lovely still,
only--but so Shakespearian!  But I've got the Honourable Violet
Varney to PROMISE, and her sister's quite a friend of mine, though
of course not so--and lots of amateurs would do it for fun.  That
Gahagan guy is a good swimmer, and he's acted, too, and--oh, well,
he'd click if Joan Varney's in it."

The face of Mr. Pond, hitherto patient and stoical, became quite
silently alert and alive.  He said with a new gravity:

"Captain Gahagan is a great friend of mine, and he has introduced
me to Miss Varney.  As to her sister, the one on the stage--"

"Not a patch on Joan, is she?  But--" said Miss Asa-Smith.

Mr. Pond had formed an impression.  He liked Miss Asa-Smith.  He
liked her very much.  And the thought of the Honourable Violet
Varney, that English aristocrat, made him like the American even
more.  The Honourable Violet was one of those wealthy women who pay
to act badly; and blackleg the poorer people who might have been
paid to act well.  She certainly was quite capable of diving in a
bathing dress, or in anything or nothing, if it were the only way
to the stage and the spot-light.  She was quite capable of helping
Miss Asa-Smith in her absurd play and talking similar nonsense
about being modern and independent of selfish man.  But there was a
difference; and it was not to the advantage of the Honourable
Violet.  Poor Artemis followed idiotic fashions because she was a
hard-working journalist who had to earn her living; and Violet
Varney only took away other people's living.  They both spoke in
the style that was a string of unfinished sentences.  It was the
one language Mr. Pond thought that might truly be called broken
English.  But Violet dropped the tail of a sentence as if she were
too tired to finish it; Artemis did so as if she were really too
eager to get on to the next.  There was within her, somehow, a
thing, a spirit of life, which survives every criticism of America.

"Joan Varney's much nicer," continued Artemis, "and you bet your
friend Gahagan thinks so.  Do you think they'll really hitch up?
He's a queer fellow, you know."

Mr. Pond did not deny it.  Captain Gahagan, that swaggering and
restless and sometimes sullen man-about-town, was queer in many
ways; and in none more than in his almost incongruous affection for
the precise and prosaic Mr. Pond.

"Some say he's a rotter," said the candid American.  "I don't say
that; but I do say he's a dark horse.  And he does shilly-shally
about Joan Varney, doesn't he?  Some say he's really in love with
the great Olivia--your only tragic actress.  Only she's so jolly

"God send she doesn't play in a real tragedy," said Pond.

He knew what he meant; but he had not the faintest foreshadowing of
the awful tragedy of real life and death in which Olivia Feversham
was to play within the next twenty-four hours.

He was only thinking of his Irish friend as he knew him; and he was
near enough to know all that he did not know.  Peter Patrick
Gahagan lived the modern life, perhaps to excess, was a prop of
nightclubs and a driver of sports cars, still comparatively young;
but, for all that, he was a survival.  He belonged to the times of
a more Byronic pose.  When Mr. W. B. Yeats wrote:  "Romantic
Ireland's dead and gone; it's with O'Leary in the grave," he had
never met Gahagan, who was not yet in the grave.  He was of that
older tradition by a hundred tests; he had been a cavalry soldier
and also a member of Parliament; the last to follow the old Irish
orators with their rounded periods.  Like all these, for some
reason, he adored Shakespeare.  Isaac Butt filled speeches with
Shakespeare; Tim Healy could quote the poet so that his poetry
seemed part of the living talk at table; Russell of Killowen read
no other book.  But he, like they, was Shakespearian in an
eighteenth-century way: the way of Garrick; and that eighteenth
century that he recalled had a pretty pagan side to it.  Pond could
not dismiss the chances of Gahagan having an affair with Olivia or
anyone else; and if so a storm might be brewing.  For Olivia was
married; and to no complaisant husband, either.

Frederick Feversham was something worse than an unsuccessful actor;
he was one who had been successful.  He was now forgotten in the
theatre and remembered only in the law-courts.  A dark and crabbed
man, still haggardly handsome, he had become famous, or familiar,
as a sort of permanent litigant.  He was eternally bringing actions
against people whom he charged with trivial tricks and distant and
disputable wrongs: managers and rivals and the rest.  He had as yet
no special quarrel with his wife, younger than himself and still
popular in the profession.  But he was much less intimate with his
wife than with his solicitor.

Through court after court Feversham passed, pursuing his rights and
followed like a shadow by his solicitor, Luke, of the firm of
Masters, Luke and Masters; a young man with flat, yellow hair and a
rather wooden face.  What he thought of his client's feuds and how
far he ventured to restrain them, that wooden face would never
reveal.  But he worked well for his client; and the two had
necessarily become in a way companions-in-arms.  Of one thing Pond
was certain.  Neither Feversham nor Luke was likely to spare
Gahagan, if that erratic gentleman put himself in the wrong.  But
this part of the problem was destined to find a worse solution than
he dreamed of.  Twenty-four hours after Pond's talk with the
interviewer, he learned that Frederick Feversham was dead.

Like other litigious persons, Mr. Feversham had left a legal
problem behind him, to feed many lawyers with fees.  But it was not
the problem of an ill-drawn will or a dubious signature.  It was
the problem of a stiff and staring corpse, lying just inside a
garden-gate and nailed there by a fencing-sword with the button
broken off.  Frederick Feversham, that legalist, had suffered at
least one final and indisputable illegality; he had been stabbed to
death as he entered his own home.

Long before certain facts, slowly collected, were put before the
police, they were put before Mr. Pond.  This may seem odd, but
there were reasons; indeed Mr. Pond, like many other Government
officials, had rather secret and unsuspected spheres of influence;
his public powers were very private.  Younger and more conspicuous
men had even been known to stand in a certain awe of him, owing to
special circumstances.  But to explain all that is to explore the
labyrinth of the most unconstitutional of all constitutions.  In
any case, his first warning of the trouble took the commonplace
form of an ordinary legal letter, with the heading of the well-
known firm of Masters, Luke and Masters, expressing the hope that
Mr. Luke might be allowed to discuss certain information with Mr.
Pond, before it was necessary for it to reach the police
authorities or the Press.  Mr. Pond replied equally formally that
he would be delighted to receive Mr. Luke at a certain hour upon
the following day.  Then he sat and stared into vacancy, with that
rather goggling expression which led some of his friends to compare
him to a fish.

He had already thought of about two-thirds of what the solicitor
was going to tell him.

"The truth is, Mr. Pond," said the solicitor, in a confidential but
still careful voice, when he was at length deposited on the other
side of Mr. Pond's table next day.  "The truth is that the
possibilities of this affair, painful in any case, may be specially
painful for you.  Most of us find it impossible to imagine that a
personal friend might come under suspicion in such matters."

The mild eyes of Mr. Pond opened very wide, and even his mouth made
the momentary movement which some thought so very fishy.  The
lawyer probably assumed that he was shocked at the first suggestion
of his friend being affected; in fact, he was mildly amazed to
suppose that anybody had not entertained the idea long ago.  He
knew that words to that effect were common in the more conventional
detective stories, which he heartily enjoyed, as a change from
Burke and Gibbon.  He could see the printed words on a hundred
pages:  "None of us could believe that this handsome young
cricketer had committed a crime," or:  "It seemed absurd to connect
murder with a man like Captain Pickleboy, the most popular figure
in Society." He had always wondered what the words meant.  To his
simple and sceptical eighteenth-century mind, they seemed to mean
nothing at all.  Why should not pleasant and fashionable men commit
murders, like anybody else?  He was very much upset himself,
inside, about this particular case; but he still did not understand
that way of talking.

"I am sorry to say," continued the lawyer in a low voice, "that
private investigation which we have already made, on our own
account, places your friend, Captain Gahagan, in a position
requiring explanation."

"Yes," thought Pond, "and, my God, Gahagan really does require
explanation!  That's exactly the difficulty about him--but, Lord,
how slow this fellow is!"  In short, the real trouble was that Pond
was very fond of Captain Gahagan; but in so far as one could ask
whether men were capable of murder, he was rather inclined to think
that Gahagan WAS capable of murder--more capable of murder than of
meanness to a cabman.

Suddenly, with extraordinary vividness, the image of Gahagan
himself sprang up in Pond's memory: Gahagan as he had last seen him
lounging with his large shoulders and long stride, and strange dark-
red hair under the rather rakishly tilted grey top-hat, and behind
him a space of sunset where the evening clouds passed in a sort of
crumbling purple pomp, rather like the pomp of poor Gahagan
himself.  No; the Irishman was a man seventy-and-seven times to be
forgiven; but not a man to be lightly acquitted.

"Mr. Luke," said Pond suddenly, "will it save time if I tell you,
to start with, what I know there is against Gahagan?  He was
hanging round Mrs. Feversham, the great actress; I don't know why
he was; my own belief is that he is really in love with another
woman.  Yet he did unquestionably give the actress a huge amount of
his time: hours and hours and late hours too.  But if Feversham
caught him doing anything unconventional, Feversham was not the man
to let him off without a lawsuit and a scandal and God knows what.
I don't want to criticize your client; but, speaking crudely, he
almost lived on lawsuits and scandals all his life.  And if
Feversham was the man to threaten or blackmail, I give it you
frankly that Gahagan was the man to hit him back in a bodily
fashion; and perhaps kill him, especially if a lady's name were
involved.  That is the case against Captain Gahagan; and I tell you
at the start that I don't believe in it."

"Unfortunately it is not the whole case against Captain Gahagan,"
replied Luke smoothly, "and I fear the full statement may make even
you believe it.  Perhaps the most serious result of our
investigations is this.  It is now quite clearly established that
Captain Gahagan gave three quite contrary and inconsistent accounts
of his movements, or proposed movements, on the evening of the
murder.  Allowing him the highest possible marks for truthfulness
in the matter, he must at least have told two lies to one truth."

"I have always found Gahagan truthful enough," replied Pond,
"except when he was telling lies for amusement; which is really
rather the mark of a man who doesn't prostitute the sublime art of
lying to the base uses of necessity.  About all ordinary practical
things, I have found him not only frank but also rather precise."

"Even accepting what you say," answered Mr. Luke dubiously, "we
should still have to answer:  If he was commonly candid and
truthful, it must have been a mortal and desperate occasion that
made him lie."

"To whom did he tell these lies?" asked Pond.

"That is where the whole matter is so painful and delicate," said
the lawyer, shaking his head.  "That afternoon, it seems, Gahagan
had been talking to several ladies."

"He generally has," said Pond.  "Or was it they who were talking to
him?  If one of them happened, for instance, to be that very
charming lady, Miss Asa-Smith of Pentapolis, I would venture to
guess that it was she who was talking to him."

"This is rather extraordinary," said Luke in some surprise.  "I do
not know if it was a guess; but one of them certainly was a Miss
Asa-Smith of Pentapolis.  The other two were the Hon. Violet Varney
and, last but not least, the Hon. Joan Varney.  As a matter of
fact, it was the last that he spoke to first; which, I suppose, was
only natural.  It is notable, on your own suggestion, that he is
really attached to this last lady, that his statement to her was
apparently much the nearest to the truth."

"Ah," said Mr. Pond, and pulled his beard thoughtfully.

"Joan Varney," observed the lawyer gravely, "stated most
definitely, before she knew that there was any trouble or tragedy
in this case, that Captain Gahagan had left the house saying:  'I
am going round to the Fevershams'.'"

"And you say that is contradicted by his statement to the others,"
said Mr. Pond.

"Most emphatically," replied Luke.  "The other sister, well known
on the stage as Violet Varney, stopped him as he was going out and
they exchanged a little light conversation.  But, as he left, he
distinctly said to her:  'I'm not going to the Fevershams'; they're
still at Brighton,' or something like that."

"And now we come," said Mr. Pond, smiling, "to my young friend from
Pentapolis.  What was she doing there, by the way?"

"He found her on the doorstep when he opened the front door,"
replied Mr. Luke, also smiling.  "She had arrived in a rush of
enthusiasm to interview Violet Varney as 'Comedienne and Social
Leader.'  Neither she nor Gahagan are the sort of people not to be
noticed; or to fail to notice each other.  So Gahagan had a little
talk with her, too; at the end of which he departed, with a
flourish of his grey top-hat, telling her that he was going
immediately to the club."

"Are you certain of that?" asked Pond, frowning.

"She was certain of it; because she was in a red-hot rage about
it," replied Luke.  "It seems that she has some feminist fad on the
subject.  She thinks all male persons who go to clubs go there to
tell slanderous anecdotes about women and then drink themselves
under the table.  She may have had a little professional feeling
about it too; perhaps she would have liked to have a longer
interview, either for herself or The Live Wire.  But I'll swear
she's quite honest."

"Oh, yes," said Mr. Pond emphatically but rather gloomily, "she's
absolutely honest."

"Well, there it is," said Luke, speaking also not without a decent
gloom.  "It seems to me that the psychology's only too obvious
under the circumstances.  He blurted out where he was really going
to the girl he was accustomed to confide in; perhaps he didn't
really plan the crime till later; or perhaps it wasn't entirely
planned or premeditated.  But by the time he talked to less
friendly people he saw how unwise it would be to say he was going
to the Fevershams'.  His first impulse is to say, hastily and too
crudely, that he was NOT going to the Fevershams'.  Then, by the
third interview, he thinks of a really good lie, normal and
sufficiently vague, and says he is going to the club."

"It might be like that," replied Pond, "or it might--"  And Mr.
Pond fell for the first time into the lax habit of Miss Asa-Smith,
and failed to finish his sentence.  Instead he sat staring at the
distance with his rather goggle-eyed and fish-like gaze; then he
put his head on his hands, said apologetically:  "Please pardon me
if I think for a minute," and buried his bald brows once more.

The bearded fish came to the surface again with a somewhat new
expression, and said with a brisk and almost sharp tone:

"You seem very much bent on bringing the crime home to poor

For the first time Luke's features stiffened to hardness, or even
harshness.  "We naturally wish to bring the murderer of our client
to justice."

Pond bent forward and his eyes were penetrating as he repeated:
"But you will have it that the murderer was Gahagan."

"I've given you the evidence," said Luke, lowering; "you know the

"And yet, oddly enough," said Pond very slowly, "you haven't
mentioned the really damning thing against him in the report of
those witnesses."

"It's damning enough--what do you mean?" snapped the lawyer.

"I mean the fact that they are UNWILLING witnesses," replied Pond.
"It couldn't be a conspiracy.  My little Yank is as honest as the
day and would never join a conspiracy.  He's the sort of man women
like.  Even Violet Varney likes him.  Joan Varney loves him.  And
yet they all give evidence to contradict him or, at least, show he
contradicted himself.  And yet they're all wrong."

"What the devil do you mean," cried Luke with sudden impatience,
"by saying they're all wrong?"

"They're all wrong about what he said," answered Pond.  "Did you
ask them if he said anything else?"

"What else is needed?" cried the lawyer, now really angry.  "They
could all swear he said what I say.  Going to the Fevershams'; not
going to the Fevershams'; going to some unnamed club--and then
bolting down the street so as to leave a lady in a rage."

"Precisely," said Pond.  "You say he said three different things.
I say he said the same thing to all three.  He turned it the other
way round and made it the same."

"He turned it the other way round all right," retorted Luke almost
viciously.  "But if he goes into the witness-box, he'll find out
whether the law of perjury says that turning a thing round makes it
the same."

There was a pause and then Mr. Pond said serenely:

"So now we know all about the Crime of Captain Gahagan."

"Who says we know all about anything?  I don't.  Do you?"

"Yes," said Mr. Pond.  "The Crime of Captain Gahagan was that he
didn't understand women; especially modern women.  These men with a
vague air of being lady-killers seldom do.  Don't you know that
dear old Gahagan is really your great-great-grandfather?"

Mr. Luke made a movement as of sudden and sincere alarm; he was not
the first man to fancy for a moment that Mr. Pond was mad.

"Can't you see," went on Pond, "that he belongs to the school of
the old bucks and beaux who called her 'Woman, Lovely Woman,' and
knew nothing whatever about her--to the considerable increase of
her power?  But how they could pay compliments!  'Stand close
about, you Stygian set. . . .'  But perhaps, as you seem to
suggest, it is not quite relevant.  But you see what I mean by
Gahagan being the old sort of lady-killer?"

"I know he's a very old sort of gentleman-killer," cried Luke quite
violently, "and that he killed the worthy and greatly wronged
gentleman who was my client and friend!"

"You seem a little annoyed," said Mr. Pond.  "Have you tried
reading Dr. Johnson's Vanity of Human Wishes?  Very soothing.
Believe me, those eighteenth-century writers I wanted to quote are
very soothing.  Have you read Addison's play about Cato?"

"You appear to be mad," said the lawyer, now positively pale.

"Or again," continued Mr. Pond in a chatty way, "have you read Miss
Asa-Smith's play about the duchess in the bathing-suit?  All the
sentences curiously cut short--like the bathing-suit."

"Do you mean anything whatever?" asked the lawyer in a low voice.

"Oh, yes, I mean a great deal," replied Pond.  "But it takes quite
a long time to explain--like the Vanity of Human Wishes.  What I
mean is this.  My friend Gahagan is very fond of those old wits and
orators, just as I am; speeches where you have to wait for the
peroration; epigrams with the sting in the tail.  That's how we
first became friends, by both being fond of the eighteenth-century
style; balance and antithesis and all that.  Now if you have this
habit and read, say, the hackneyed lines in Cato:  ''Tis not in
mortals to command success; but we'll do more, Sempronius, we'll
deserve it'--well, it may be good or bad; but you've got to wait
for the end of the sentence; because it begins with a platitude and
ends with a point.  But the modern sort of sentence never ends; and
nobody waits for it to end.

"Now women were always a little like that.  It isn't that they
don't think, they think quicker than we do.  They often talk
better.  But they don't LISTEN so well.  They leap so quickly upon
the first point; they see so much more in it; and go off in a
gallop of inference about it--so that they sometimes don't notice
the rest of the speech at all.  But Gahagan, being of the other
sort, the old oratorical sort, would always end his sentence
properly, and be as careful to say what he meant at the end as the

"I suggest to you, as the barristers say, that what Captain Gahagan
really said to Joan in the first case was this:  'I'm going round
to the Fevershams'; I don't believe they are back from Brighton
yet, but I'll just look in and see.  If they're not.  I'll go on to
the club.'  That is what Peter Gahagan said; but that is not what
Joan Varney heard.  She heard about going to the Fevershams' and
felt at once that she knew all about it--far too much about it--to
the not unnatural tune of 'He's going to see that woman'; even
though his next words were that the woman almost certainly wasn't
there.  Stuff about Brighton and the club didn't interest her, and
she didn't even remember it.  Very well, let us go on to the next
case.  What Gahagan said to Violet Varney was this:  'It's no good
going to the Fevershams' really; they're not back from Brighton;
but perhaps I'll look in and see; if they're not back, I shall go
on to the club.'  Violet is much less truthful and careful than
Joan; and she was jealous of Olivia herself, but in a much
shallower way, Violet supposing herself to be an actress.  She also
heard the word Feversham and remembered vaguely that he said it was
no good going there; that is, that he was not going there.  She was
pleased at this and condescended to chat with him; but did not
condescend to pay any attention whatever to anything else he said.

"Now for the third case.  What Gahagan said to Miss Artemis Asa-
Smith on the doorstep was this:  'I'm going to the club; I promised
to look in on some friends of mine on the way, the Fevershams; but
I don't believe they're back from Brighton.'  That's what he said.
What Artemis heard, saw and blasted with her blazing eye, was a
typical insolent, selfish, self-indulgent male brazenly bragging in
the open street of his intention to go to his infamous club, where
women are slandered and men drugged with alcohol.  After the shock
of this shameless avowal, of course she could not stoop to pick up
the pieces of any other silly things he had said.  He was simply
the man who went to the club.

"Now all those three real statements of Gahagan are exactly the
same.  They all mean the same thing; map out the same course of
action; give the same reasons for the same acts.  But they sound
totally different according to which sentence comes first;
especially to these rather jumpy modern girls, accustomed only to
jump at the sentence that comes first--very often because there
isn't any thing at all to come after it.  The Asa-Smith school of
drama, in which every sentence stops as soon as it starts, if it
doesn't strike you as having much to do with the Tragedy of Cato,
has had a very great deal to do with the Tragedy of Captain
Gahagan.  They might have hanged my friend between them, with the
best intentions in the world, simply and solely because they will
think only in half-sentences.  Broken necks, broken hearts, broken
lives, and all because they won't learn any language but broken
English.  Don't you think there's something to be said for that
musty old taste of his and mine, for the sort of literature that
makes you read all that a man writes and listen to all that he
says?  Wouldn't you rather have an important statement made to you
in the language of Addison or Johnson than in the splutterings of
Mr. Toxin and the Diving Duchess?"

During this monologue, certainly rather long, the lawyer had grown
more and more restless and full of nervous irritation.

"This is all fancywork," he said almost feverishly.  "You haven't
proved any of this."

"No," said Pond gravely, "as you say, I fancied it.  At least I
guessed it.  But I did ring up Gahagan and hear something of the
truth of his words and movements that afternoon."

"Truth!" cried Luke, with very extraordinary bitterness.

Pond looked at him curiously.  That woodenness of visage which was
the first impression produced by Mr. Luke was found on examination
to consist mostly of a rather forced look of fixity, combined with
the rigid smoothness of his head and hair, the latter looking as if
it had been painted on with some rather sticky yellow paint: a
gummy gamboge.  His eyelids indeed were cold and often partially
closed; but inside them the grey-green eyes seemed strangely small,
as if they were distant; and they were dancing and darting about
like microscopic green flies.  The more Mr. Pond looked at those
veiled but restless eyes, the less he liked them.  The old fancy
came back to him about an actual conspiracy against Gahagan; though
certainly not one worked by Artemis or Joan.  At last he broke the
silence very abruptly.

"Mr. Luke," he said, "you are naturally concerned for your late
client; but some might feel you had a more than professional
interest.  Since you study his interests so deeply, can you give me
a piece of information about him?  DID Mr. Feversham and his wife
come back from Brighton that day?  Was Mrs. Feversham at the house
that afternoon, whether Gahagan went there, or not?"

"She was not," said Luke shortly.  "They were both expected to
return next morning.  I have no idea why Feversham himself did
return that night."

"Looks almost as if somebody had sent for him," said Mr. Pond.

Mr. Luke the solicitor rose abruptly from his seat and turned away.
"I cannot see any use in all these speculations of yours," he said,
and, making a stiff salute, he took his top-hat and was gone from
the house with a swiftness that seemed hardly normal.

Next day Mr. Pond clad himself even more conventionally and
carefully than usual, and proceeded to pay a round of calls on a
series of ladies: a frivolous solemnity which with him was by no
means usual.  The first lady he waited upon was the Hon. Violet
Varney, whom he had hitherto only seen in the distance, and was
gently depressed at having to see so close.  She was what he
believed, in these latter days, to be described as a platinum
blonde.  It was doubtless a graceful reminiscence of her own name
which led her to tint her mouth and cheeks with a colour that was
rather violet than purple, giving an effect which her friends
called ghostly and her foes ghastly.  Even from this listless
lady he did extract some admissions lending to help in the
reconstruction of Gahagan's real remarks; though the lady's own
remarks had their usual air of expiring with a gasp before they
were really finished.  Then he had another interview with her
sister, Joan, and marvelled inwardly at the strange thing which is
human personality and stands apart from modes and manners.  For
Joan had very much the same tricks of style; the same rather high,
well-bred voice, the same sketchy, uncompleted sentences; but,
fortunately, not the same purple powder and not in the least the
same eyes or gestures or mind or immortal soul.  Mr. Pond, with all
his old-fashioned prejudices, knew at once that in this other girl
the new virtues were virtues, whether or not they were new.  She
really was brave and generous and fond of the truth, though the
Society papers did say so.  "She's all right," said Mr. Pond to
himself.  "She's as good as gold.  A great deal better than gold.
And oh, how much better than platinum!"

Stopping at the next stage of his pilgrimage, he visited the
monstrous and ludicrous large hotel which had the honour of housing
Miss Artemis Asa-Smith of Pennsylvania.  She received him with the
rather overwhelming enthusiasm which bore her everywhere through
the world; and Mr. Pond had very little difficulty in her case in
extracting an admission that even a man who goes to a club may
happen not to be a murderer.  Though this explanation was naturally
less personal and intimate than his interview with Joan (about
which he always refused to say a word to anybody), the ardent
Artemis continued to earn his approval by her reserves of good
sense and good nature.  She saw the point about the order of the
topics mentioned, and its probable effect on her own mind; and so
far the diplomacy of Mr. Pond had been successful.  All the three
ladies, with whatever degrees of seriousness or concentration, had
listened to his theory of what Gahagan had said; and had all agreed
that he might very probably have said it.  This part of his task
being done, Mr. Pond paused a little, and perhaps rather pulled
himself together, before approaching his last duty--which also took
the form of calling on a lady.  He might be excused; for it also
involved passing through that grim garden where a man had lain
murdered, to that high and sinister house where his widow was still
living alone: the great Olivia, queen of tragedy, now tragic by a
double claim.

He stepped, not without repugnance, across that dark corner inside
the gate and under the holly tree where poor Fred Feversham had
been spiked to the earth by a mere splinter of a sword; and as he
climbed the crooked path to the doorway in the narrow and bare
brick house that stood above him like a tower, dark against the
stars, he revolved difficulties much deeper than had yet troubled
him in the more trifling matter of the supposed inconsistencies of
Gahagan's conversation.  There was a real question behind all that
nonsense; and it demanded an answer.  Somebody had murdered the
unfortunate Frederick Feversham; and there were some real reasons
for directing the suspicion upon Gahagan.  After all, he had been
in the habit of spending whole days, or half of the nights as well,
with this actress; nothing seemed more horribly natural, more
repulsively probable, than that they had been surprised by
Feversham and had taken the bloody way out.  Mrs. Feversham had
often been compared to Mrs. Siddons.  Her own external behaviour
had always been full of dignity and discretion.  A scandal for her
was not an advertisement, as it would be for Violet Varney.  She
had really the stronger motive of the two . . . but, good God, this
would never do!  Suppose Gahagan really was innocent--but at that
price!  Whatever his weaknesses, he was just the man to be hanged
like a gentleman rather than let The Lady--He looked up with
growing terror at the tower of dark brick, wondering if he were to
meet the murderess. . . .  Then he furiously flung off the
morbidity, and tried again to fix himself on the facts.  After all,
what was there against Gahagan or the widow?  It seemed to him, as
he forced himself to colder considerations, that it really resolved
itself into a matter of time.

Gahagan had certainly spent a huge amount of TIME with Olivia; that
was really the only external proof of his passion for her.  The
proofs of his passion for Joan were very external indeed.  Pond
could have sworn that the Irishman was really in love with Joan.
He threw himself at her head; and she, on the accepted standards of
modern youth, threw herself back at him.  But these encounters, one
might say collisions, were as brief as they were brilliant.  Why
did a lover full of such triumphs want to go off and spend such a
lot of TIME with a much older woman? . . .  These broodings had
turned him into an automaton and brought him unconsciously past the
servants and up the stairs and into the very room where he was
asked to wait for Mrs. Feversham.  He nervously picked up an old
battered book, apparently dating from the time when the actress was
a schoolgirl, for the flyleaf showed in a very schoolgirl hand:
"Olivia Malone."  Perhaps the great Shakespearian actress claimed
descent from the great Shakespearian critic.  But, anyhow, she must
be Irish--at least by tradition. . . .

As he bent over the shabby book in the dusky anteroom, there shot
into his mind a white ray of serene and complete understanding: so
far as this tale goes, the last of the paradoxes of Mr. Pond.  He
felt full and complete certainty; and yet the only words to express
it wrote themselves rapidly across his brain with the bewildering
brevity of a hieroglyphic.

"Love never needs time.  But Friendship always needs time.  More
and more and more time, up to long past midnight."

When Gahagan had done those crazy things that blazoned his devotion
to Joan Varney, they had hardly occupied any time.  When he fell on
her from a parachute as she came out of church at Bournemouth, the
fall was naturally very rapid.  When he tore up a return ticket
costing hundreds of pounds to stay with her half an hour longer in
Samoa, it was only half an hour longer.  When he swam the
Hellespont in imitation of Leander, it was only for exactly thirty-
five minutes' conversation with Hero.  But Love is like that.  It
is a thing of great moments; and it lives on the memory of moments.
Perhaps it is a fragile illusion; perhaps, on the other hand, it is
eternal and beyond time.  But Friendship eats up time.  If poor
Gahagan had a real intellectual friendship, then he would go on
talking till long past midnight.  And with whom would Gahagan be so
likely to have one as with an Irish actress who was chiefly
interested in Shakespeare?  Even as he had the thought, he heard
the rich and faintly Irish voice of Olivia welcoming him; and he
knew he was right.

"Don't you know," asked the widow with a mournful smile, when he
had tactfully steered the conversation past condolences to Captain
Gahagan, "don't you know we poor Irishes have a secret vice?  It's
called Poetry; or perhaps I ought to say it's generally called
Recitation.  It's been suppressed by the police in all the English
salons; and that's the worst of the Irish wrongs.  People in London
are not allowed to recite poems to each other all night, as they do
in Dublin.  Poor Peter used to come to me and talk Shakespeare till
morning; but I had to turn him out at last.  When a man calls on
ME, and tries to recite the whole of Romeo and Juliet, it gets past
a joke.  But you see how it was.  The English won't allow the poor
fellow to recite Shakespeare."

Mr. Pond did indeed see how it was.  He knew enough about men to
know that a man must have a friend, if possible a female friend, to
talk to till all is blue.  He knew enough about Dubliners to know
that neither devils nor dynamite will stop them from reciting
verse.  All the black clouds of morbid brooding on the murder which
had oppressed him in the garden had rolled away at the first sound
of this strong, good-humoured Irishwoman's voice.  But after a
little while they began to gather again, though more remotely.
After all, as he had said before, SOMEBODY had killed poor Fred

He was quite certain now that it was not Feversham's wife.  He was
practically certain it was not Gahagan.  He went home that night
turning the question over and over; but he had only one night's
unrest.  For the next day's paper contained the news of the
unexplained suicide of Mr. Luke, of the well-known firm of Masters,
Luke and Masters; and Mr. Pond sat gently chiding himself, because
he had not thought of the obvious fact that a man who is always
tearing and rending people because he has been swindled, may
possibly discover one day that he has been swindled by his own
solicitor.  Feversham had summoned Luke to that midnight meeting in
the garden, in order to tell him so; but Mr. Luke, a man careful of
his professional standing, had taken very prompt steps to prevent
Mr. Feversham telling anybody else.

"It makes me feel very bad," said Mr. Pond, meekly and almost
tremulously.  "At that last meeting of ours I could see he was
awfully frightened already; and, do you know, I'm very much afraid
that it was I who frightened him."


Mr. Pond's paradoxes were of a very peculiar kind.  They were indeed
paradoxical defiances even of the law of paradox.  Paradox has been
defined as "Truth standing on her head to attract attention."
Paradox has been defended; on the ground that so many fashionable
fallacies still stand firmly on their feet, because they have no
heads to stand on.  But it must be admitted that writers, like
other mendicants and mountebanks, frequently do try to attract
attention.  They set out conspicuously, in a single line in a play,
or at the head or tail of a paragraph, remarks of this challenging
kind; as when Mr. Bernard Shaw wrote:  "The Golden Rule is that
there is no Golden Rule"; or Oscar Wilde observed:  "I can resist
everything except temptation"; or a duller scribe (not to be named
with these and now doing penance for his earlier vices in the
nobler toil of celebrating the virtues of Mr. Pond) said in defence
of hobbies and amateurs and general duffers like himself:  "If a
thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly."  To these things do
writers sink; and then the critics tell them that they "talk for
effect"; and then the writers answer:  "What the devil else should
we talk for?  Ineffectualness?"  It is a sordid scene.

But Mr. Pond belonged to a more polite world and his paradoxes were
quite different.  It was quite impossible to imagine Mr. Pond
standing on his head.  But it was quite as easy to imagine him
standing on his head as to imagine him trying to attract attention.
He was the quietest man in the world to be a man of the world; he
was a small, neat Civil Servant; with nothing notable about him
except a beard that looked not only old-fashioned but vaguely
foreign, and perhaps a little French, though he was as English as
any man alive.  But, for that matter, French respectability is far
more respectable than English; and Mr. Pond, though in some ways
cosmopolitan, was completely respectable.  Another thing that was
faintly French about him was the level ripple of his speech: a
tripping monotone that never tripped over a single vowel.  For the
French carry their sense of equality even to the equality of
syllables.  With this equable flow, full of genteel gossip on
Vienna, he was once entertaining a lady; and five minutes later she
rejoined her friends with a very white face; and whispered to them
the shocking secret that the mild little man was mad.

The peculiarity of his conversation was this: in the middle of a
steady stream of sense, there would suddenly appear two or three
words which seemed simply to be nonsense.  It was as if something
had suddenly gone wrong with the works of a gramophone.  It was
nonsense which the speaker never seemed to notice himself; so that
sometimes his hearers also hardly noticed that speech so natural
was nonsensical.  But to those who did notice, he seemed to be
saying something like, "Naturally, having no legs, he won the
walking-race easily," or "As there was nothing to drink, they all
got tipsy at once."  Broadly speaking, two kinds of people stopped
him with stares or questions: the very stupid and the very clever.
The stupid because the absurdity alone stuck out from a level of
intelligence that baffled them; it was indeed in itself an example
of the truth in paradox.  The only part of his conversation they
could understand was the part they could not understand.  And the
clever stopped him because they knew that, behind each of these
queer compact contradictions, there was a very queer story--like
the queer story to be narrated here.

His friend Gahagan, that ginger-haired giant and somewhat flippant
Irish dandy, declared that Pond put in these senseless phrases
merely to find out whether his listeners were listening.  Pond
never said so; and his motive remained rather a mystery.  But
Gahagan declared that there is a whole tribe of modern intellectual
ladies, who have learned nothing except the art of turning on a
talker a face of ardour and attention, while their minds are so
very absent that some little phrase like, "Finding himself in
India, he naturally visited Toronto," will pass harmlessly in at
one ear and out at the other, without disturbing the cultured mind

It was at a little dinner given by old Wotton to Gahagan and Pond
and others, that we first got a glimpse of the real meaning of
these wild parentheses of so tame a talker.  The truth was, to
begin with, that Mr. Pond, in spite of his French beard, was very
English in his habit of assuming that he ought to be a little dull,
in deference to other people.  He disliked telling long and largely
fantastic stories about himself, such as his friend Gahagan told,
though Pond thoroughly enjoyed them when Gahagan told them.  Pond
himself had had some very curious experiences; but, as he would not
turn them into long stories, they appeared only as short stories;
and the short stories were so very short as to be quite
unintelligible.  In trying to explain the eccentricity, it is best
to begin with the simplest example, like a diagram in a primer of
logic.  And I will begin with the short story, which was concealed
in the shorter phrase, which puzzled poor old Wotton so completely
on that particular evening.  Wotton was an old-fashioned
diplomatist, of the sort that seemed to grow more national by
trying to be international.  Though far from militarist, he was
very military.  He kept the peace by staccato sentences under a
stiff grey moustache.  He had more chin than forehead.

"They tell me," Wotton was saying, "that the Poles and Lithuanians
have come to an agreement about Wilno.  It was an old row, of
course; and I expect it was six to one and half a dozen to the

"You are a real Englishman, Wotton," said Gahagan, "and you say in
your heart, 'All these foreigners are alike.'  You're right enough
if you mean that we're all unlike you.  The English are the
lunatics of the earth, who know that everybody else is mad.  But we
do sometimes differ a little from each other, you know.  Even we in
Ireland have been known to differ from each other.  But you see the
Pope denouncing the Bolshevists, or the French Revolution rending
the Holy Roman Empire, and you still say in your hearts, 'What can
the difference be betwixt Tweedledum and Tweedledee?'"

"There was no difference," said Pond, "between Tweedledum and
Tweedledee.  You will remember that it is distinctly recorded that
they agreed.  But remember what they agreed about."

Wotton looked a little baffled and finally grunted:  "Well, if
these fellows have agreed, I suppose there will be a little peace."

"Funny things, agreements," said Pond.  "Fortunately people
generally go on disagreeing, till they die peacefully in their
beds.  Men very seldom do fully and finally agree.  I did know two
men who came to agree so completely that one of them naturally
murdered the other; but as a rule . . ."

"'Agreed so completely,'" said Wotton thoughtfully.  "Don't you--
are you quite sure you don't mean:  'Disagreed so completely'?"

Gahagan uttered a sort of low whoop of laughter.  "Oh, no," he
said, "he doesn't mean that.  I don't know what the devil he does
mean; but he doesn't mean anything so sensible as that."

But Wotton, in his ponderous way, still attempted to pin down the
narrator to a more responsible statement; and the upshot of it was
that Mr. Pond was reluctantly induced to explain what he really
meant and let us hear the whole story.

The mystery was involved at first in another mystery: the strange
murder of Mr. James Haggis, of Glasgow, which filled the Scottish
and English newspapers not many years ago.  On the face of it, the
thing was a curious story; to introduce a yet more curious sequel.
Haggis had been a prominent and wealthy citizen, a bailie of the
city and an elder of the kirk.  Nobody denied that even in these
capacities he had sometimes been rather unpopular; but, to do him
justice, he had often been unpopular through his loyalty to
unpopular causes.  He was the sort of old Radical who is more rigid
and antiquated than any Tory; and, maintaining in theory the cause
of Retrenchment and Reform, he managed to suggest that almost any
Reform was too expensive for the needs of Retrenchment.  Thus he
had stood alone in opposition to the universal support given to old
Dr. Campbell's admirable campaign for fighting the epidemic in the
slums during the slump.  But to deduce from his economics that he
was a demon delighting in the sight of poor children dying of
typhoid was perhaps an exaggerated inference.  Similarly, he was
prominent in the Presbyterian councils as refusing all modern
compromise with the logic of Calvinism; but to infer that he
actually hoped all his neighbours were damned before they were born
is too personal an interpretation of theological theory.

On the other side, he was admittedly honest in business and
faithful to his wife and family; so that there was a general
reaction in favour of his memory when he was found stabbed to the
heart in the meagre grass of the grim little churchyard that
adjoined his favourite place of worship.  It was impossible to
imagine Mr. Haggis as involved in any romantic Highland feud
calling for the dirk, or any romantic assignation interrupted with
the stiletto; and it was generally felt that to be knifed and left
unburied among the buried dead was an exaggerated penalty for being
a rather narrow Scottish merchant of the old school.

It happened that Mr. Pond himself had been present at a little
party where there was high debate about the murder as a mystery.
His host, Lord Glenorchy, had a hobby of reading books on
criminology; his hostess, Lady Glenorchy, had the less harmful
hobby of reading those much more solid and scientific books which
are called detective stories.  There were present, as the society
papers say, Major MacNabb, the Chief Constable, and Mr. Lancelot
Browne, a brilliant London barrister who found it much more of a
bore to be a lawyer than to pretend to be a detective; also, among
those present, was the venerable and venerated Dr. Campbell, whose
work among the poor has already been inadequately commended, and a
young friend of his named Angus, whom he was understood to be
coaching and instructing generally for his medical examinations and
his scientific career.

Responsible people naturally love to be irresponsible.  All these
persons delighted to throw theories about in private which they
need not answer for in public.  The barrister, being a humane man,
was delighted to prosecute somebody whom he would not have to hang.
The criminologist was enchanted to analyse the lunacy of somebody
he could never have proved to be a lunatic.  And Lady Glenorchy was
charmed at the chance of considering poor Mr. Haggis (of all
people) as the principal character in a shocker.  Hilarious
attempts were made to fix the crime on the United Presbyterian
minister, a notorious Sublapsarian, naturally, nay inevitably,
impelled to stick a dirk in a Supralapsarian.  Lord Glenorchy was
more serious, not to say monotonous.  Having learnt from his books
of criminology the one great discovery of that science, that mental
and moral deformity are found only among poor people, he suspected
a plot of local Communists (all with the wrong-shaped thumb and
ear) and picked for his fancy a Socialist agitator of the city.
Mr. Angus made bold to differ; his choice was an old lag, or
professional criminal, known to be in the place, who had been
almost everything that is alarming except a Socialist agitator.
Then it was that the point was referred, not without a certain
reverence, to the white-haired and wise old physician, who had now
behind him a whole lifetime of charity and good works.  One of the
many ways in which Dr. Campbell seemed to have emerged from an
elder and perhaps honester world was the fact that he not only
spoke with a Scottish accent but he spoke Scottish.  His speech
will, therefore, be rendered here with difficulty and in doubt and

"Weel, ye will a' be asking wha dirked Jamie Haggis?  And I'll tell
ye fair at the start that I winna gie a bawbee to ken wha dirked
Jamie Haggis.  Gin I kent, I wadna' say.  It's a sair thing, na
doot, that the freens and benefactors o' puir humanity should no be
named and fitly celebrated; but like the masons that built our
gran' cathedral and the gran' poets that wrote our ballads of
Otterburn and Sir Patrick Spens, the man that achieved the virtuous
act o' killing Jamie Haggis will ha'e nae pairsonal credit for't in
this world; it is even possible he might be a wee bit inconvenienced.
So ye'll get nae guesses out of me; beyond saying I've lang been
seekin' a man of sic prudence and public spirit."

There followed that sort of silence in which people are not certain
whether to laugh, at a deliberate stroke of wit; but before they
could do so, young Angus, who kept his eyes fixed on his venerable
preceptor, had spoken with the eagerness of the ardent student.

"But you'll not say, Dr. Campbell, that murder is right because
some acts or opinions of the murdered man are wrong?"

"Aye, if they're wrang enough," replied the benevolent Dr. Campbell
blandly.  "After all, we've nae ither test o' richt and wrang.
Salus populi suprema lex."

"Aren't the Ten Commandments a bit of a test?" asked the young man,
with a rather heated countenance, emphasized by his red hair, that
stood up on his head like stiff flames.

The silver-haired saint of sociology continued to regard him with a
wholly benevolent smile; but there was an odd gleam in his eye as
he answered:

"Aye, the Ten Commandments are a test.  What we doctors are
beginning to ca' an Intelligence Test."

Whether it was an accident, or whether the intuitions of Lady
Glenorchy were a little alarmed by the seriousness of the subject,
it was at this point that she struck in.

"Well, if Dr. Campbell won't pronounce for us, I suppose we must
all stick to our own suspicions.  I don't know whether you like
cigarettes in the middle of dinner; it's a fashion I can't get used
to myself."

At this point in his narrative, Mr. Pond threw himself back in his
chair with a more impatient movement than he commonly permitted

"Of course, they will do it," he said, with a mild explosiveness.
"They're admired and thought very tactful when they do it."

"When who do what?" said Wotton.  "What on earth are you talking
about now?"

"I'm talking about hostesses," said Pond, with an air of pain.
"Good hostesses.  Really successful hostesses.  They will cut into
conversation, on the theory that it can be broken off anywhere.
Just as it's quite the definition of a good hostess to make two
people talk when they hate it, and part them when they are
beginning to like it.  But they sometimes do the most deadly and
awful damage.  You see, they stop conversations that are not worth
starting again.  And that's horrible, like murder."

"But if the conversation's not worth starting again, why is it
horrible to stop it?" asked the conscientious Wotton, still
laboriously in pursuit.

"Why, THAT'S why it's horrible to stop it," answered Pond, almost
snappishly for so polite a person.  "Talk ought to be sacred
because it is so light, so tenuous, so trivial, if you will;
anyhow, so frail and easy to destroy.  Cutting short its life is
worse than murder; it's infanticide.  It's like killing a baby
that's trying to come to life.  It can never be restored to life,
though one rose from the dead.  A good light conversation can never
be put together again when it's broken to pieces; because you can't
get all the pieces.  I remember a splendid talk at Trefusis's
place, that began because there was a crack of thunder over the
house and a cat howled in the garden, and somebody made a rather
crude joke about a catastrophe.  And then Gahagan here had a
perfectly lovely theory that sprang straight out of cats and
catastrophes and everything, and would have started a splendid talk
about a political question on the Continent."

"The Catalonian question, I suppose," said Gahagan, laughing, "but
I fear I've quite forgotten my lovely theory."

"That's just what I say," said Pond, gloomily.  "It could only have
been started then; it ought to have been sacred because it wasn't
worth starting again.  The hostess swept it all out of our heads,
and then had the cheek to say afterwards that we could talk about
it some other time.  Could we?  Could we make a contract with a
cloud to break just over the roof, and tie a cat up in the garden
and pull its tail at the right moment, and give Gahagan just enough
champagne to inspire him with a theory so silly that he's forgotten
it already?  It was then or never with that debate being started;
and yet bad results enough followed from it being stopped.  But
that, as they say, is another story."

"You must tell it to us another time," said Gahagan.  "At present I
am still curious about the man who murdered another man because he
agreed with him."

"Yes," assented Wotton, "we've rather strayed from the subject,
haven't we?"

"So Mrs. Trefusis said," murmured Mr. Pond sadly.  "I suppose we
can't all feel the sanctity of really futile conversation.  But if
you're really interested in the other matter, I don't mind telling
you all about it; though I'd rather not tell you exactly how I came
to know all about it.  That was rather a confidential matter--what
they call a confession.  Pardon my little interlude on the tactful
hostess; it had something to do with what followed and I have a
reason for mentioning it.

"Lady Glenorchy quite calmly changed the subject from murder to
cigarettes; and everybody's first feeling was that we had been done
out of a very entertaining little tiff about the Ten Commandments.
A mere trifle, too light and airy to recur to our minds at any
other time.  But there was another trifle that did recur to my own
mind afterwards; and kept my attention on a murder of which I might
have thought little enough at the time, as De Quincey says.  I
remembered once looking up Glenorchy in Who's Who, and seeing that
he had married the daughter of a very wealthy squire near Lowestoft
in Suffolk."

"Lowestoft, Suffolk.  These are dark hints," said Gahagan.  "Do
these in themselves point to some awful and suspicious fact?"

"They point," said Pond, "to the awful fact that Lady Glenorchy is
not Scottish.  If she had introduced the cigarettes at her father's
dinner-table in Suffolk, such trifles as the Ten Commandments would
instantly have been tossed away from everyone's mind and memory.
But I knew I was in Scotland and that the story had only just
begun.  I have told you that old Campbell was tutoring or coaching
young Angus for his medical degree.  It was a great honour for a
lad like Angus to have Campbell for a coach; but it must have been
quite agreeable even to an authority like Campbell to have Angus
for a pupil.  For he had always been a most industrious and
ambitious and intelligent pupil, and one likely to do the old man
credit; and after the time I speak of, he seemed to grow more
industrious and ambitious than ever.  In fact, he shut himself up
so exclusively with his coach that he failed in his examination.
That was what first convinced me that my guess was right."

"And very lucid, too," said Gahagan with a grin.  "He worked so
hard with his coach that he failed in his examination.  Another
statement that might seem to some to require expansion."

"It's very simple, really," said Mr. Pond innocently.  "But in
order to expand it, we must go back for a moment to the mystery of
Mr. Haggis's murder.  It had already spread a sort of detective
fever in the neighbourhood; for all the Scots love arguing and it
really was rather a fascinating riddle.  One great point in the
mystery was the wound, which seemed at first to have been made by a
dirk or dagger of some kind but was afterwards found by the experts
to demand a different instrument of rather peculiar shape.
Moreover, the district had been combed for knives and daggers; and
temporary suspicion fixed on any wild youths from beyond the
Highland line, who might retain an historic tenderness for the
possession of dirks.  All the medical authorities agreed that the
instrument had been something more subtle than a dirk, though no
medical authorities would consent even to guess what it was.
People were perpetually ransacking the churchyard and the church in
search of clues.  And just about this time young Angus, who had
been a strict supporter of this particular church, and had even
once induced his old tutor and friend to sit under its minister for
one evening service, suddenly left off going there; indeed, he left
off going to any church at all.  So I realized that I was still on
the right track."

"Oh," said Wotton blankly, "so you realized that you were still on
the right track."

"I fear I did not realize that you were on any track," said
Gahagan.  "To speak with candour, my dear Pond, I should say that
of all the trackless and aimless and rambling human statements I
have ever heard, the most rambling was the narrative we have just
been privileged to hear from you.  First you tell us that two
Scotsmen began a conversation about the morality of murder and
never finished it; then you go off on a tirade against society
hostesses; then you reveal the horrid fact that one of them came
from Lowestoft; then you go back to one of the Scotsmen and say he
failed to pass his examination because he worked so hard with his
tutor; then, pausing for a moment upon the peculiar shape of an
undiscovered dagger, you tell us that the Scotsman has left off
going to church and you are on the right track.  Frankly, if you
really do find something sacred about futile conversation, I should
say that you were on the track of that all right."

"I know," said Mr. Pond patiently, "all I've said is quite relevant
to what really happened; but, of course, you don't know what really
happened.  A story always does seem rambling and futile if you
leave out what really happened.  That's why newspapers are so dull.
All the political news, and much of the polite news (though rather
higher in tone than the other), is made quite bewildering and
pointless by the necessity of telling stories without telling the

"Well, then," said Gahagan, "let us try to get some sense out of
all this nonsense, which has not even the excuses of newspaper
nonsense.  To take one of your nonsense remarks as a test, why do
you say that Angus failed to pass because he worked so much with
his coach?"

"Because he didn't work with his coach," replied Pond.  "Because I
didn't say he worked with his coach.  At least I didn't say he
worked for the examination.  I said he was with his coach.  I said
he spent days and nights with his coach; but they weren't preparing
for any examination."

"Well, what were they doing?" asked Wotton gruffly.

"They were going on with the argument," cried Pond, in a squeak
that was almost shrill.  "They hardly stopped to sleep or eat; but
they went on with the argument; the argument interrupted at the
dinner-table.  Have you never known any Scotsmen?  Do you suppose
that a woman from Suffolk with a handful of cigarettes, and a
mouthful of irrelevance, can stop two Scotsmen from going on with
an argument when they've started it?  They began it again when they
were getting their hats and coats; they were at it hammer and tongs
as they went out of the gate, and only a Scottish poet can describe
what they did then:

     And the tane went hame with the ither; and then,
     The tither went hame with the ither again.

"And for hours and weeks and months they never turned aside from
the same interminable debate on the thesis first propounded by Dr.
Campbell: that when a good man is well and truly convinced that a
bad man is actively bad for the community, and is doing evil on a
large scale which cannot be checked by law or any other action, the
good man has a moral right to murder the bad man, and thereby only
increases his own goodness."

Pond paused a moment, pulling his beard and staring at the table;
then he began again:

"For reasons I've already mentioned but not explained--"

"That's what's the matter with you, my boy," said Gahagan genially.
"There are always such a damned lot of things you have mentioned
but not explained."

"For those reasons," went on Pond deliberately, "I happen to know a
great deal about the stages of that stubborn and forcible
controversy, about which nobody else knew anything at all.  For
Angus was a genuine truth-seeker who wished to satisfy his soul and
not merely to make his name; and Campbell was enough of a great man
to be quite as anxious to convince a pupil as to convince a crowd
in a lecture-room.  But I am not going to tell you about those
stages of the controversy at any great length.  To tell the truth,
I am not what people call impartial on this controversy.  How any
man can form any conviction, and remain what they call impartial on
any controversy, is more than I have ever understood.  But I
suppose they would say I couldn't describe the debate fairly;
because the side I sympathize with was not the side that won.

"Society hostesses, especially when they come from near Lowestoft,
do not know where an argument is tending.  They will drop not only
bricks but bombshells; and then expect them not to explode.
Anyhow, I knew where that argument at Glenorchy's table was
tending.  When Angus made a test of the Ten Commandments, and
Campbell said they were an Intelligence Test, I knew what would
come next.  In another minute, he would be saying that nobody of
intelligence now troubles about the Ten Commandments.

"What a disguise there is in snowy hair and the paternal stoop of
age!  Dickens somewhere describes a patriarch who needed no virtue
except his white hair.  As Dr. Campbell smiled across the table at
Angus, most people saw nothing in that smile but patriarchal and
parental kindness.  But I happened to see also a glint in the eye,
which told me that the old man was quite as much of a fighter as
the red-haired boy who had rashly challenged him.  In some odd way,
indeed, I seemed suddenly to see old age itself as a masquerade.
The white hair had turned into a white wig, the powder of the
eighteenth century; and the smiling face underneath it was the face
of Voltaire.

"Dr. Andrew Glenlyon Campbell was a real philanthropist; so was
Voltaire.  It is not always certain whether philanthropy means a
love of men, or of man, or of mankind.  There is a difference.  I
think he cared less about the individual than about the public or
the race; hence doubtless his gentle eccentricity of defending an
act of private execution.  But anyhow, I knew he was one of the
grim line of Scottish sceptics, from Hume down to Ross or
Robertson.  And, whatever else they are, they are stubborn and
stick to their point.  Angus also was stubborn, and as I have
already said, he was a devout worshipper in the same dingy kirk as
the late James Haggis; that is, one of the extreme irreconcilable
sectaries of the seventeenth-century Puritanism.  And so the
Scottish atheist and the Scottish Calvinist argued and argued and
argued, until milder races might have expected them to drop down
dead with fatigue.  But it was not of disagreement that either of
them died.

"But the advantage was with the older and more learned man in his
attack; and you must remember that the younger man had only a
rather narrow and provincial version of the creed to defend.  As I
say, I will not bore you with the arguments; I confess they rather
bore me.  Doubtless Dr. Campbell said that the Ten Commandments
could not be of divine origin, because two of them are mentioned by
the virtuous Emperor Foo Chi, in the Second Dynasty; or one of them
is paraphrased by Synesius of Samothrace and attributed to the lost
code of Lycurgus."

"Who was Synesius of Samothrace?" inquired Gahagan, with an
appearance of sudden and eager curiosity.

"He was a mythical character of the Minoan Age first discovered in
the twentieth century A.D.," replied the unruffled Pond.  "I made
him up just now; but you know the sort of thing I mean--the
mythical nature of Mount Sinai proved from the parallel myth that
the ark rested on Mount Ararat, and the mountain that would not
come to Mahomet.  But all this textual criticism really affects a
religion only founded on texts.  I knew how the fight was going;
and I knew when it ended.  I knew when Robert Angus left off going
to kirk on the Sabbath."

The end of the debate may best be described more directly; for,
indeed, Mr. Pond described it himself with a strange sort of
directness; almost as if he had unaccountably been present, or had
seen it in a vision.  Anyhow, it appears that the operating-theatre
of the medical schools was the scene of the final phase of
disagreement and agreement.  They had gone back there very late at
night, when the schools were closed and the theatre deserted,
because Angus fancied he had left some of his instruments there,
which it would be more neat and proper to lock up.  There was no
sound in that hollow place but the echo of their own footsteps, and
very little light save a faint moonshine that trickled through the
cracks between the curtained windows.  Angus had retrieved his
operating-tool, and was turning again towards the steep stairs that
climbed through the semi-circular rows of seats, when Campbell said
to him casually.

"Ye'll find the facts I mentioned aboot the Aztec hymns in the--"

Angus tossed the tool on the table like a man throwing down his
sword, and turned on his companion with a new and transfigured air
of candour and finality.

"You needn't trouble about hymns any more; I may as well tell you
that I've done with them, for one.  You're too strong for me--or,
rather, the truth is too strong for me.  I've defended my own
nursery nightmare as long as I could; but you've woken me up at
last.  You are right, you must be right; I don't see any way out of

After a silence, Campbell answered very softly:  "I'll no mak'
apologies for fighting for the truth; but, man, ye made a real
bonny fight for the falsehood."

It might well have seemed that the old blasphemer had never spoken
on the topic in a tone so delicate and respectful; and it seemed
strange that his new convert did not respond to the appeal.
Looking up, Campbell saw that his new convert's attention had been
abruptly abstracted; he was standing staring at the implement in
his hand: a surgical knife made upon an odd pattern for special
purposes.  At last he said in a hoarse and almost inaudible voice:

"A knife of an unusual shape."

"See report o' inquest on Jamie Haggis," said the old man, nodding
benevolently.  "Aye, ye've guessed richt, I'm thinking."  Then,
after a pause, he added, with equal calm:

"Noo that we are agreed, and a' of one mind, aboot the need for sic
social surgery, it's as weel ye should know the hale truth.  Aye,
lad, I did it mysel'; and with a blade like yon.  That nicht ye
took me to the kirk--weel, it's the fairst time, I hope, I've ever
been hypocreetical; but I stayed behind to pray, and I think ye had
hopes of my convairsion.  But I prayed because Jamie prayed; and
when he rose from his prayers, I followed him and killed him i' the

Angus was still looking at the knife in silence; then he said
suddenly:  "Why did you kill him?"

"Ye needna ask, noo we are agreed in moral philosophy," replied the
old doctor simply.  "It was just plain surgery.  As we sacrifice a
finger to save the body, so we maun sacrifice a man to save the
body politic.  I killed him because he was doing evil, and
inhumanly preventing what was guid for humanity: the scheme for the
slums and the lave.  And I understand that, upon reflection, ye tak
the same view."

Angus nodded grimly.

The proverb asks:  "Who shall decide when doctors disagree?"  But
in that dark and ominous theatre of doctoring the doctors agreed.

"Yes," said Angus, "I take the same view.  Also, I have had the
same experience."

"And what's that?" inquired the other.

"I have had daily dealings with a man I thought was doing nothing
but evil," answered Angus.  "I still think you were doing evil;
even though you were serving truth.  You have convinced me that my
beliefs were dreams; but not that dreaming is worse than waking up.
You brutally broke the dreams of the humble, sneered at the weak
hopes of the bereaved.  You seem cruel and inhuman to me, just as
Haggis seemed cruel and inhuman to you.  You are a good man by your
own code, but so was Haggis a good man by his code.  He did not
pretend to believe in salvation by good works, any more than you
pretended to believe in the Ten Commandments.  He was good to
individuals, but the crowd suffered; you are good to the crowd and
an individual suffered.  But, after all, you also are only an

Something in the last words, that were said very softly, made the
old doctor stiffen suddenly and then start backwards towards the
steps behind.  Angus sprang like a wildcat and pinned him to his
place with a choking violence; still talking, but now at the top of
his voice.

"Day after day, I have itched and tingled to kill you; and been
held back only by the superstition you have destroyed tonight.  Day
after day, you have been battering down the scruples which alone
defended you from death.  You wise thinker; you wary reasoner; you
fool!  It would be better for you to-night if I still believed in
God and in his Commandment against murder."

The old man twisted speechlessly in the throttling grip, but he was
too feeble, and Angus flung him with a crash across the operating-
table, where he lay as if fainting.  Round them and above them the
empty tiers of concentric seats glimmered in the faint and frigid
moonlight as desolate as the Colosseum under the moon; a deserted
amphitheatre where there was no human voice to cry "Habet!"  The
red-haired slayer stood with the knife uplifted, as strange in
shape as the flint knife of some prehistoric sacrifice; and still
he talked on in the high tones of madness.

"One thing alone protected you and kept the peace between us: that
we disagreed.  Now we agree, now we are at one in thought--and
deed, I can do as you would do.  I can do as you have done.  We are
at peace."

And with the sound of that word he struck; and Andrew Campbell
moved for the last time.  In his own cold temple, upon his own
godless altar . . . he stirred and then lay still; and the murderer
bent and fled from the building and from the city and across the
Highland line at night, to hide himself in the hills.

When Pond had told this story, Gahagan rose slowly to his gigantic
height and knocked out his cigar in an ashtray:  "I darkly suspect,
Pond," he said, "that you are not quite so irrelevant as you sound.
Not quite irrelevant, I mean, even to our opening talk about
European affairs."

"Tweedledum and Tweedledee agreed--to have a battle," said Pond.
"We are rather easily satisfied with saying that some people like
Poles or Prussians or other foreigners have agreed.  We don't often
ask what they've agreed on.  But agreement can be rather risky,
unless it's agreement with the truth."

Wotton looked at him with a smouldering suspicion; but finally
decided, with a sigh of relief, that it was only metaphysics.


"No, no, no," said Mr. Pond, with a gentle shrillness which he
occasionally showed, when any doubt was thrown on the prosaic
precision of his statements or arguments.  "I did not say it was a
red pencil, and that was why it made such black marks.  I said it
was relatively a red pencil, or resembled a red pencil, as compared
with Wotton's view in regarding it as a blue pencil; and THAT was
why it made such black marks.  The distinction may seem a small
one; but I assure you the most enormous errors arise out of this
habit of taking a remark out of its context, and then stating it
not quite correctly.  The most ordinary and obvious truths, when
reported in that way, may be made to sound almost absurd."

"Almost," said Captain Gahagan, nodding gravely and gazing at the
little man opposite him, rather as if he were a mysterious monster
in a tank.

Mr. Pond was in his private tank, or private office, in a hive of
Government offices, sitting at a desk and busy at the work of blue-
pencilling the proofs of some official report; whence had arisen
the talk about the colour of the pencil.  Pond, in short, was doing
his morning's work as usual; Peter Gahagan was doing nothing, also
as usual; his large figure lounged in a chair that looked too small
for him; he was attached to Mr. Pond and even more attached to
watching other people work.

"I may resemble Polonius," said Pond, modestly; and, indeed, his
old-fashioned beard, owlish expression and official courtliness
made the comparison almost apt.  "I may be like Polonius; but I am
not Polonius--which is just the point I wish to illustrate.  Hamlet
told Polonius that a cloud in the sky was like a camel.  The effect
would have been somewhat different if Hamlet had stated, seriously
and scientifically, that he had seen a camel in the sky.  In that
case, Polonius might have been pardoned in regarding the Prince's
madness as finally proved.  Touchy officials have been known to
express the view that you, my dear Gahagan, come into this office
like a buffalo, and there 'lie wallowing through the long summer
day,' as an outmoded poet puts it.  But if the authorities of the
Zoo sent for you on the ground that you actually WERE a buffalo,
the department would hardly move in the matter without further

"No doubt you have my dossier," said Gahagan, "with official
calculations and statistics about the number of my legs, not to
mention my horns; all annotated with blue and red pencil--and most
certainly with some very black marks against my name.  But that
brings me back to the original subject of my simple wonder.  You
hardly seem to have noticed what was really peculiar in your own
remark.  In any case, I do not quite understand what you mean by a
pencil being relatively red. . . ."

"Even that phrase might be defended," observed Mr. Pond, with a
faint smile.  "You would say, for instance, that my notes on this
proof are in blue pencil; and yet--"  He held out a pencil with its
red chalk point towards the other.  It looked like a mild conjuring
trick, until he twiddled it so as to show it was one of those
pencils sold by most stationers, with red at one end and blue at
the other.  "Now suppose I wear down the blue point till it has
nearly gone (and really the misprints they can put into a simple
report on Baluchistan Bimetallism are incredible), then you would
say the pencil was relatively red, though still perhaps rather
blue.  If the red end were worn away, you would say it was mostly
blue, though a little red."

"I should say nothing of the sort," exclaimed Gahagan with abrupt
impatience.  "I should say what I said before; that the queer thing
about you is that you are quite blind to what was really mad in
your statement.  You can't see the paradox in your own remark.  You
can't see the point of your own remark."

"The point of my remark," said Mr. Pond, with dignity, "which I
thought I had made sufficiently clear, was that people are very
inexact in reporting statements, as in cases like a camel and
'something like a camel.'"

Peter Gahagan continued to stare with round eyes at his friend,
like a buffalo in a very ruminant phase; and eventually heaved
himself up, collecting his grey top-hat and walking-stick with a
sort of clatter.

"No," he said, "I will not point out the point.  It would be
breaking a crystal or shattering a perfectly rounded soap-bubble.
To pierce the pure and spherical perfection of your maniacal calm
would be like invading the innocence of a child.  If you really and
truly do not know when you are talking nonsense, if you do not even
notice what part of it is nonsense, I feel I must leave your
nonsensical intellect intact.  I will go and talk it over with
Wotton.  As he has often breezily observed, there is no nonsense
about him."

And he sauntered out of the room, swinging his stick, in the
direction of the very important department presided over by Sir
Hubert Wotton; that he might enjoy the inspiriting spectacle of
another friend doing his day's work and being interrupted by an
idle man.

Sir Hubert Wotton, however, was of a type somewhat different from
Mr. Pond; in that, even if he was busy, he was never fussy.  Mr.
Pond was bent over the poised point of his blue pencil; Sir Hubert
was first visible behind the red end of a cigar, which he was
puffing, with a frown of reflection, as he turned over the papers
on his desk.  He recognized the entry of the beaming Captain with a
grim but not ungracious smile, and waved him to a seat.

Gahagan sat down with his hands crossed on his stick and thumped it
on the floor.

"Wotton," he said, "I've solved the problem of the Paradoxes of
Pond.  He doesn't know when he's said these crazy things.  There's
a blind spot on his excellent brain, or a cloud comes over his mind
for a moment; and he forgets that he's even said anything peculiar.
He goes on arguing about the reasonable part of his speech; he
never stops to explain the only thing that was really unreasonable.
He talked to me quite sensibly about a pencil that was bright red,
or something like it, and therefore marked very black on the paper.
I tried to nail him to that piece of inconsequence; and he
completely eluded me.  He went on talking about when a blue pencil
was not a blue pencil; but he somehow forgot all about the black

"Black marks!" said Wotton; and sat up so abruptly that he spilt
the ash of his cigar over his usually immaculate waistcoat.  He
dusted off the defilement with a frown; and then, after a pause,
spoke in the staccato fashion that occasionally revealed that he
was much less conventional than he looked.

"Most fellows who talk paradoxes are only trying to show off.  It's
not like that with Pond; he does it because he's trying NOT to show
off.  You see--he looks a very sedentary, scientific little cuss,
as if he'd never been unhooked from a desk or a typewriter; but
he's really had some very extraordinary experiences.  He doesn't
talk about them; he doesn't want to talk about them; but he does
want to talk about reason and philosophy and theoretical things in
books; you know he loves reading all the rational eighteenth-
century literature.  But when, in the course of talking in the
abstract, he comes on some concrete thing that he has actually DONE--
well, I can only say he crumples it up.  He tries to crush it into
a small space and it simply sounds contradictory.  Almost every one
of those crazy sentences simply stands for one of the adventures in
what would be called by most people a very unadventurous life."

"I think I see what you mean," said Gahagan, after a pause of
radiant reflection.  "Yes, you're right.  You can't expect me to be
taken in, mind you, by most of your swagger of stoicism in the
English public-school man.  Half the time they are simply showing
off by not showing off.  But in Pond it's genuine.  He really does
hate the limelight; in that way you may say he was made for the
Secret Service.  And you mean that he only becomes mysterious, in
this particular manner, when he really does want to keep the secret
of his services.  In other words, you mean there is a story behind
every paradox of Pond.  Certainly that is true--of all those cases
when I have been told the story."

"I know all about this story," said Wotton, "and it was one of the
most remarkable things that Pond ever did.  It was a matter of
immense importance--the sort of public affair that has to be kept a
very private affair.  Pond gave two pieces of advice, which some
thought very odd and which turned out exactly right; and he ended
by making a rather extraordinary discovery.  I don't know how he
came to mention it just now; but I'm pretty sure it was by
accident.  When it turned up, he tried to tuck it away again in a
hurry and change the subject.  But he certainly saved England; also
he nearly got killed."

"What!" exclaimed Gahagan with some astonishment.

"The fellow must have fired five times at him," said Wotton
reminiscently, "before he turned the sixth shot on himself."

"Well, I'm blowed," said the Captain elegantly.  "I always thought
Pond the most charming of tea-table comedies; I never knew he
figured in a melodrama.  I should as soon have thought of his
figuring in a fairy-pantomime.  But he seems somehow associated
with theatrical things at the moment.  He asked me himself if he
was like Polonius; and I suppose some malicious people would say he
was more like Pantaloon.  I like the notion of you and he magically
transplanted to a Christmas pantomime:  'Harlequin Hubert and the
Fairies' Pond,' all ending with a real Harlequinade, with red fire
and the Pantaloon falling over the Policeman.  Pardon my talking
nonsense--you know my unfortunate mind only becomes fertile about
impossible things."

"It's curious you should call it impossible," said Sir Hubert
Wotton, knitting his brows, "because that's almost exactly what
really happened to us."

Sir Hubert Wotton showed a certain reticence and deliberate
vagueness about the official details of the story; even in telling
it after so many years to an intimate friend.  In England
especially, there are enormous events which never get into the
newspapers, and are apparently intended never to get into the
history-books.  It may be enough to say here that there was at one
time under the surface, but very near to the surface, a conspiracy
aiming at a coup d'tat, which was backed by a Continental Power of
similar leanings.  Gun-running, secret drilling and plans for
stealing State documents were involved; and it was feared that a
certain number of minor officials had been corrupted or converted
by the conspirators.  Hence, when it was a question of sending
certain very private official documents (about the nature of which
Wotton remained somewhat hazy to the end) from one of the great
northern ports to a particular Government department in London, the
first Council was a very small and select one, presided over by Sir
Hubert and held in the smaller office of Mr. Pond.  Indeed, Mr.
Pond was the official in charge of the job.  The only other person
permanently present was one of the first officials from Scotland
Yard; Wotton had brought his clerk with him to arrange and explain
certain matters; but had later made an excuse for sending the man
out on an errand.  Dyer, the detective from the Yard, a heavy-
shouldered, hard-headed person with a toothbrush moustache,
explained methodically, if a little mechanically, the precautions
and arrangements he would consider necessary for protecting the
transport of the papers to their destination.  He wanted an
armoured car with a machine-gun, a certain number of men carrying
concealed arms, a police search of everybody involved in first
dispatching and in finally receiving the box or parcel--and several
other conditions of the kind.

"Pond will think all this terribly expensive," said Wotton, with a
sad smile.  "Pond is quite the Old Liberal in the matter of economy
and retrenchment.  But he will agree that we are all bound to show
particular care in this case."

"N-no," said Mr. Pond, pursing his lips dubiously.  "I don't think
I should show any particular care in this case."

"Not show any particular care!" repeated the astonished Wotton.

"I certainly shouldn't SHOW it," said Mr. Pond.  "In such cases,
nobody of sense would take such particular precautions, any more
than anybody would send an important letter by registered post."

"Well, you must pardon my dullness," said Sir Hubert, "but, as a
matter of fact, I have heard of people sending an important letter
by registered post."

"It is done, I believe," said Mr. Pond, with distant disparagement.
"But that is when you are trying to prevent a letter being lost.
Just now you are trying to prevent a letter being found."

"That sounds rather interesting," said Dyer, with some restrained

"Don't you see?  It's quite simple," answered Pond.  "If you want
to prevent a document from being dropped down a drain, or thrown
into a dustbin, or used to light the fire or to make a bird's nest,
or any other accident of neglect, then it is a good thing to draw
attention to it, by stamping or sealing or safeguarding it in some
particular way.  But if you want to prevent it from being tracked
and spotted and snatched out of your hands, by violence or
stratagem, then it's the worst thing in the world to mark it in a
particular way.  Registration, for instance, doesn't mean that your
messenger can't be knocked on the head or have his pocket picked.
It only means that your messenger or his department can be held
responsible; may have to apologize or compensate.  But you don't
want apologies or compensations; you want the letter.  I should say
it would be far safer from a watchful enemy, if it were unmarked
and sent along with a thousand others looking exactly the same."

It is a tribute to the essential shrewdness, underlying the
apparent woodenness of Wotton and Dyer, that the paradox of Pond
prevailed.  The documents, however, were too bulky to be treated as
ordinary letters; and after some discussion, they were placed in
one of a large number of white wooden boxes, light and not very
large, which were in general use for sending chocolate and other
provisions to the army or navy or some branches of the public
service.  The only part of his original program on which the hard-
headed Dyer continued to insist was that of putting guards and
searchers at essential points of the route of travel.

"I suppose there'll be some damned fuss about it afterwards," he
said, "and people will pester us about interfering with the liberty
of the subject.  We're handicapped in this confounded constitutional
country.  Now if we were in--"

He shut his mouth rather sharply, as a discreet knock sounded on
the door, and Sir Hubert's clerk glided in to say he had discharged
his commission.  Sir Hubert did not see him at first, his frowning
gaze being fixed on the railway-map of the route to be pursued; and
Dyer happened at the moment to be examining very closely the white
deal box, which had already been selected and sent in as a sample.
But Mr. Pond noticed the clerk; and could not help thinking that he
was rather worth noticing.  He was a young man named Franks, with
fair hair correctly flattened, and neat enough in figure and
costume; but his wide face had that indescribable look which is
sometimes seen, of which we can only say that it suggests the large
head on the little figure of a dwarf, or perhaps that sunken
between the shoulders of a hunchback; the face is not normal, even
upon a normal figure.  But the other causes which arrested Mr.
Pond's eye for a moment were, first, the fact that the clerk was
noticeably ill at ease when he silently handed papers to his
superior; and, last but not least, that he had started visibly when
he saw the detective from Scotland Yard.

The second Council, if it may be called so, was held in what all
agreed was the strategical centre of the whole manoeuvre: a certain
railway-junction in the Midlands.  It so happened that the
consignment of boxes, along with mailbags and similar things, had
to be shifted here from one train to another, which came up
afterwards to the same platform.  It was at this point that there
was most possibility of any interference from outside; and it is to
be feared that Dyer stretched several points in his reluctant
compromise with the British Constitution, in the matter of police
orders which stopped, detained or examined persons attempting to
enter or leave the station.

"I have told our people they mustn't even let US out of the
station," he said, "without close examination, for fear somebody
should have a fancy for dressing up as Mr. Pond."

"It has quite a festive sound, so near Christmas," said Mr. Pond
dolefully.  "So I take it that for the present we must stay on the
station; and one can hardly say it looks particularly festive."

Nothing, indeed, can well look more desolate than one of the
numerous side platforms of an empty railway-station on a dreary
winter day; unless it is the empty Third Class Waiting-Room which
is provided to be a human refuge from the winter blast.  Somehow
the waiting-room looks even less human than the platform from which
it is a refuge; hung with a few printed notices that nobody could
possibly read, tables of trains or dusty plans of railways,
equipped in one corner with broken pens with which nobody could
write, and dried inkstands containing no ink to write with; with
one dab of dull colours, the faded advertisement of an insurance
company.  It certainly seemed to the casual mind a godforsaken
place to be spending any part of Christmas; but Mr. Pond had a
stoical cheerfulness under such circumstances which rather
surprised those who only knew his catlike love of comfortable
domestic routine.

He entered this empty and unsightly apartment with a brisk step,
stopping for a moment to stare reflectively at the dried ink and
broken pens on the corner table.

"Well," he said, turning away, "they couldn't do very much with
those, anyhow; but, of course, they might have pencils or fountain-
pens.  I'm rather glad I did it, on the whole."

"Pond," said Wotton gravely, "this is in your department anyhow;
and I'm sure that Dyer will agree that we've done well to follow
your advice so far.  But I hope you don't mind my having a mild
curiosity about what it is that you've done."

"Not at all," replied Pond.  "Perhaps I ought to have told you
about it before.  Very likely I ought to have done it before.  But
just after you'd been good enough to let me have my own way, about
sending it along with all the other stuff in plain identical boxes,
I sat down and had a hard think about what would be the next best
precaution following on that.  I'm pretty certain that if it had
been taken in a special car by armed men, that car would have been
wrecked and those armed men perhaps robbed by force of arms;
anyhow, there was too much of a risk of it.  There's a much more
elaborate gangster organization working against us already than
most people have any notion of; and to multiply purchases and
preparations is to multiply clues and transactions for their spies
to trail.  But I don't think the gangs could possibly get in here,
especially now that the police are holding the gates of all these
stations like fortresses.  An isolated man or so could do very
little against them.  But what could an isolated man do?"

"Well," said Wotton rather impatiently.  "What could he do?"

"As I say," continued Mr. Pond calmly, "I sat down and had a good
think about what a spy or stray intruder might do, in a quiet way
without any noise of battle, murder or sudden death, if he did
manage somehow to spot the right box.  So I got on to the private
telephone to headquarters; and told them to see that the postal and
transport authorities held up every one of the boxes or packages on
which the address seemed to have been altered; anything crossed out
or anything substituted.  A man might conceivably snatch a moment
to re-direct a box to some of his friends in London; though he
could never take the box out of the station without being searched.
That's what I did; and it was these broken-down penholders that
reminded me of it.  It's a pretty broken-down place to spend
Christmas in, as you say; they have given us a sort of a fire,
which is more than some waiting-rooms do; but it looks as if it
were dying of depression; and I don't wonder."

He stirred up the neglected fire, making quite a creditable blaze,
with his usual instinct for the comforts of life; then he added:
"I hope you don't disagree with that second precaution of mine."

"No; I think that also is a very sensible precaution; though I hope
there is no chance of anybody hitting on the right box, even by
accident."  Hubert Wotton frowned a moment at the renewed flame and
the dancing sparks, and then said gloomily, "This is about the time
when people at Christmas are going to the pantomime.  Or, at any
rate, to the pictures."

Mr. Pond nodded; he seemed to be suddenly smitten with a fit of
abstraction.  At last he said:

"I sometimes wonder whether things weren't better when pictures
meant the pictures in the fire, instead of the pictures on the

Sir Hubert Wotton gruffly suggested, in a general way, that the
dingy fire in a Third Class Waiting-Room was not one in which he
would prefer to look for pictures.

"The fire pictures, like the cloud pictures," went on Mr. Pond,
"are just incomplete enough to call out the imagination to complete
them.  Besides," he added, cheerfully poking the fire, "you can
stick a poker into the coals and break them up into a different
picture; whereas, if you push a great pole through the screen
because you don't like the face of a film-star, there is all sorts
of trouble."

Dyer, who had stamped out on to the platform during this
imaginative interlude, returned at this moment with highly
practical news.  By exploring many tunnels, and scouring many
platforms on that labyrinthine junction, he had found that there
really was a remote refreshment-room, in which it was possible to
have some sort of lunch; which had been a silent problem for all
three of the officials involved.

"I'll stay on this platform," he said; "in fact I shall stay on
this platform all night if necessary.  This is my particular job.
But you go and get your lunch first and come back; and I'll see if
I can get some afterwards.  Never mind about the trains; I've
arranged for all that; and, anyhow, I shall be there when the only
possible moment of danger comes."

In fact, his last words were almost drowned in the throb and racket
of the approach of the first train.  They all saw the mailbags and
boxes and packages duly put out on the platform; and then Wotton, a
man of regular habits, who was beginning to feel rather peckish,
was easily persuaded by Dyer to accept his arrangement and go in
search of a bite of food.  Wotton and Pond dispatched their rather
meagre lunch with reasonable rapidity; but even so had occasion to
quicken their footsteps as they came within sight of their own
original platform; since a train, which was apparently the second
train, was beginning to shift and puff out of the station; and when
they rejoined their companion, the platform was already bare.

"All safe," said Dyer, with satisfaction.  "I saw all the boxes and
things into the van myself; and nobody's been here to interfere
with them.  Our main trouble is really over; and I shouldn't mind
having a little lunch myself."

He grinned at them, rubbing his hands in a congratulatory manner;
and as he turned towards the subterranean passages, they turned
once more with the intention of returning to the hollow and smoky
cell of the waiting-room.

"It does seem as if there were nothing more for us to do here,"
said Wotton.  "It rather increases the freezing futility of this

"I consider it quite a Christmas triumph," said Mr. Pond, with
undiminished cheerfulness, "that we have managed to keep the fire
in, anyhow. . . .  Why, I believe it's begun to snow."

For some time they had noted that the afternoon, already darkening
towards the early winter evening, had something of that lurid
greenish light which often glows under the load of snow-clouds; a
sprinkling began to fall as they went along the apparently
interminable platform; and by the time they reached the austere
waiting-room, its roof and doorway were powdered with silver.  The
fire was burning briskly inside; Dyer had evidently been keeping
himself warm.

"It's devilish queer," said Wotton, "but the whole thing is really
beginning to look like a Christmas card.  Our dismal salle
d'attente will soon be a parody of Father Christmas's cottage in a

"The whole thing is like the parody of a pantomime," said Pond in a
lower and more disquieted tone, "and as you say, it is very queer."

After a pause, Wotton added abruptly:

"What is worrying you, Pond?"

"I'm wondering, if not worrying," answered Pond, "about exactly
what a man WOULD do to intercept or misdirect that box, in a place
like this, with no pens or anything. . . .  Of course, there's not
much in that; he might have a fountain-pen or a pencil."

"Oh, you've settled all that; you seem to be mad on pencils," said
Wotton impatiently.  "It comes of always blue-pencilling those
everlasting proofs of yours."

"It wouldn't be a blue pencil," said Pond, shaking his head.  "I
was thinking of something more like a red pencil; which would mark
very black indeed.  But what bothers me is that there are always
more ways of doing anything than you'd fancy, even in a place like

"But you've blocked all that already," insisted the other; "by
telephoning as you did."

"Well," said Pond obstinately, "and what would they do then; if
they knew I'd telephoned?"

Wotton looked puzzled; and Pond sat down in silence, stirring the
fire and staring at it.

After a silence he said abruptly:  "I wish Dyer were back."

"What do you want him now for?" asked his friend.  "I should say
he'd earned a little late lunch.  As far as I can see, he's
finished the business; and it's all over here."

"I fear," said Pond, without taking his head out of the fireplace,
"that it's only just going to begin."

There was another silence of growing mystification, like the
gathering darkness outside.  And then Pond observed suddenly:

"I suppose we've come back to the right platform."

Wotton's face only expressed the stolid stupefaction natural under
the circumstances; but in his depths, which were deeper than some
supposed, an unearthly chill touched him for the first time.
Nightmare stirred in its sleep; not the mere practical perplexity
of a problem, but all those doubts beyond reason which revolve
round place and time.  Before he could speak, Pond added:

"This is a different shaped poker."

"What the devil do you mean?" exploded Wotton at last.  "They have
locked up the station; and there is nobody on it but ourselves;
except that girl in the bar.  You don't imagine she has put a new
set of furniture and fire-irons in all the waiting-rooms?"

"No," said Mr. Pond.  "I didn't say a new poker.  I said a new
shape of poker."

Almost as he spoke, he leapt away from the fireplace, leaving the
poker in the fire, and ran to the doorway, craning out his head and
listening.  His companion listened also; and recognized as an
objective reality, which was no nightmare, a noise of scrambling
footsteps somewhere on the platform.  But, when they ran out, the
platform appeared to be perfectly empty, now a blank and solid
table of snow; and they began to realize that the noise came from
underneath their feet.  Looking over the railing, they saw that the
whole raised woodwork of the station was intercepted at one point
by a belt of grassy embankment, very grey and discoloured with the
smoke; they were just in time to see a dark lean figure scramble up
this bank and dive under the platform, in such a manner that he was
able the next moment to crawl out on the line.  Then he calmly
mounted the platform, and stood there like a passenger waiting for
a train.

Apart from the fact that the stranger had practically burgled the
station, against such very special difficulties, Wotton's mind,
already full of suspicions, decided at a glance that he was very
much of a dark horse.  Curiously enough, he looked a little like a
horse, having a long equine visage and a strange sort of stoop; he
was swarthy and haggard and his hollow eyes were such dense patches
of shadow that it was a sort of shock to realize that the eyes
within were glaring.  He was dressed with the last extreme of
shabbiness, in a long threadbare and almost ragged waterproof; and
they thought they had never seen before a face and figure so
symbolic of desolation and dreary tragedy.  It seemed to Wotton
that he himself had his first real glimpse of those depths in which
despair manufactures the many revolutionary movements which it had
been his duty to combat; but, of necessity, his duty prevailed.

He stepped up to the man, asking him who and what he was, and why
he had thus evaded the police blockade.  The man appeared to ignore
the other questions for the moment; but in answer to the question
about what he was, his tragic lantern-jaw moved and emitted a very
unexpected reply.

"I am a Clown," he said in a depressed voice.

At this answer Mr. Pond seemed to start with altogether a new sort
of surprise.  He had ruminated on the puzzles hitherto, like one
pursuing the study of things which some might find surprising, but
at which he himself was no longer very much surprised.  But he
gaped helplessly at this as a man does at a miracle; or still more,
in a case like this, at a coincidence.  Then another and yet more
undignified change came over him.  It can only be said that, having
begun by goggling, he ended by giggling.

"Oh, Lord, this is an extra!" he exclaimed, and seemed once more
broken up by almost senile laughter.  "This has nothing to do with
the story; but it is a marvellous addition to the pantomime.  I
always noticed that the chief features in the pantomime had nothing
to do with the story."

But Sir Hubert Wotton was having no more for the moment of Mr.
Pond's fanciful mysteries; least of all, of the last and most
mysterious, the mystery of his mirth.  He had already begun to
cross-examine the stranger in the style of the police; and the
stranger stood up to him with gloomy but unshaken lucidity.  His
name, by his own account, was Hankin, and he was a public
entertainer who also gave private entertainments; who was, indeed,
only too glad to give any entertainments, in the depressed
condition of his state of livelihood.  He had an engagement to
perform as clown at a children's party that evening, and had
insisted on the necessity of catching a particular train; nor had
he been cheered by the assurance of the police at the entrance that
regular trains for passengers would be running again in an hour, at
a time that would make him too late for his appointment; and lose
him the first few shillings he had earned in many months.  He had
done what many such people would probably have been glad to do, if
they had had the activity and audacity, and had climbed into the
station by an unguarded loophole.  This statement was made with
firmness and simplicity, and Pond evidently believed it; but Wotton
was still smouldering with some suspicions.

"I must ask you to come with us to the waiting-room," he said.
"Have you anything about you to confirm your story?"

"I haven't got my visiting-card," said the sombre Mr. Hankin.  "I
lost it along with my Rolls-Royce and my little castle in Scotland.
But you can see me in my resplendent and fashionable evening-dress,
if you like.  I think that ought to convince you."

The man was carrying a shabby and misshapen bag, which he lugged
along to the waiting-room; and there, before the staring eyes of
Wotton, he stripped off his waterproof and appeared in a sort of
white circus dress, but for retaining his shabby boots and
trousers.  Then he dived into the bag and brought out a monstrous
grinning and glaring white mask, picked out with red ornaments, and
fitted it on his head.  And there, solid and seemingly incredible
before their eyes, was the genuine clown of the old-fashioned
pantomime, such as they had been discussing.

"He came up through a trapdoor, I suppose we must say," murmured
the awestruck Mr. Pond.  "But I feel as if he had fallen out of the
sky like the snow.  Fate or the fairies have added this final
touch; see how they built up gradually round us the whole palace of
pantomime in this wilderness; first the firelight and then the snow
and now the only original 'Here We Are Again!'  Such a cosy happy
Christmas!  Screams of joy from all the tiny tots. . . .  Oh, my
God, how ghastly it all is!"

His friend looked at him and received a second shock in realizing
that the bearded face, though it still wore the elfish look of its
first amusement at the accident, was in fact terribly pale.

"And the ghastliest part of it," said Mr. Pond, "is that I am going
to complete your costume, Sir."

He suddenly plucked out the poker, from where it was standing in
the fire, and it emerged already red-hot.  He handed it politely to
the Clown.

"I may look like a pantaloon," he said, "but this will obviously be
more suitable to the Clown.  This is the red-hot poker, with which
you make the Policeman jump."

Wotton stared at a scene to which he had now entirely lost the
clue; and in the silence that followed, the long platform outside
resounded with a firm and heavy stride coming nearer and nearer.
The large figure of Dyer the detective appeared framed in the
doorway; and he stood as if turned to stone by what he saw.

Wotton was not astonished at his astonishment.  He presumed that it
was an astonishment like his own, at the irrelevant intrusion of
the pantomime figure.  But Pond was watching more closely; and for
Pond that moment was the confirmation of the creeping suspicion
that had worked its way into his mind for the last hour or so.
Nobody could have been surprised at Dyer staring at the Clown.  But
Dyer was not staring at the Clown.  Nor was Dyer merely astonished;
perhaps the most astonishing thing was that he was not exactly
astonished.  He was staring only at the poker; and he obviously saw
nothing funny about it.  His face was distorted by almost demoniac
fear and fury; and he looked at the red pantomime poker rather as
if it had been the flaming sword of an accusing angel.

"Yes, it's the red-hot poker," said Pond, in a low and almost
forced voice, "and it does make the policeman jump."

The policeman jumped; he jumped back three paces, and as he leapt
he loosened a big official revolver and fired at Mr. Pond again and
again; the shocks of explosion shaking the thin shanty in which
they stood.  The first shot buried itself in the wall about an inch
from Mr. Pond's dome-like forehead; the other four went rather
wild; for Wotton and the stranger had woken up to the situation and
were struggling with the would-be assassin, and forcing his hand
away.  Finally, he managed to wrench his hand loose again and twist
the pistol inwards upon himself; the body of the big man stiffened
in their arms; and Dyer of the detective service lay dead on the
floor before the dancing fire.

The explanation of events was given by Mr. Pond some time later;
for his first action after the catastrophe left no time for
explanations.  He had repeatedly, at intervals, looked at the clock
in the waiting-room, and seemed satisfied; but he was leaving
nothing to chance.  He darted out of the door, raced down the
platform, and found his way to the telephone-box he had used
earlier in the day.  He came out wiping his brow, in spite of the
cold; but wearing a smile of relative relief in the midst of the
tragedy.  When asked what he was doing, he answered simply: "I was
telephoning a description of the package.  It'll be all right now;
they will hold it up."

"Do you mean THE package?" asked Wotton.  "I thought that was just
like all the rest."

"I'll tell you all about it presently," replied Pond.  "Let us go
and take a polite farewell of the public entertainer, who has given
us such a delightful entertainment.  I really think we ought to
give him a fiver or so in compensation."

Wotton was very much the gentleman, in the more generous sense, and
he heartily agreed to this; and, though it was difficult for the
melancholy man with the horse-face to produce anything nearer to a
laugh than a neigh, he was manifestly much cheered internally and
his gaunt face was cracked with a crooked smile.  Then, by way of
finishing their Christmas feast on this curious scene of festivity,
the two friends adjourned to the one and only refreshment-room and
sat down behind two tall glasses of beer; having no taste for
warming their hands at that rather too blood-red fire that still
burned in the sinister waiting-room.

"It was curious you were able to corner Dyer like that," said
Wotton.  "I never had a thought of him."

"I never had a thought of him either," said Pond, "and he cornered
himself, just as he killed himself.  I fancy many conspirators are
really chasing themselves into corners like that.  Don't you see
that he locked himself into a logical prison, when he would empty
and close the whole station, to impress us with his efficiency.  By
the way, I ought to have guessed there was a double meaning in his
dictatorial ways and demands to override the Constitution; he was
talking exactly as our enemies and their foreign friends talk.  But
the point is this.  I wasn't thinking about him particularly; I
never thought of him at all until I found him wandering about
inside the logical square or enclosure, like a rectangle in
geometry.  I was thinking all the time about one thing: what would
these people probably do to divert or intercept the box, now that
they could hardly do it by direct attack or anything that made a
noise?  I was more and more convinced they would try to redirect it
somehow, so that its going normally through the post would serve
them and not us.  So I warned the authorities to stop all altered
addresses on suspicion; and I said to myself:  What will the enemy
do now?  What can he do, shut up in this enormous shed, bare of all
conveniences and appliances?  But don't you see that with that very
thought came the overpowering suspicion of who the enemy was?

"Nobody was there but you and Dyer when I said I had 'phoned to
stop all altered addresses.  I know in a mystery story I should
have to allow for the station being thronged with silent
eavesdroppers, a spy up the chimney and another crawling out of the
luggage; but in practical life it doesn't happen.  We heard the one
and only intruder, when he began to scramble up from the street.
The man who did hear it was Dyer; and notice that he almost
immediately wandered away up the platform, professing to find our
luncheon place for us; but really striding up and down and brooding
upon what the devil he should do next, for I am sure his original
plan had been to alter the address as I suggested.  Was there
anything else in that bare beastly place he could use for the same
purpose, or another similar purpose?  There was.  But I never
guessed what it was, until I came back to the waiting-room and
happened to look at the poker.  I saw it was twisted at a slightly
different angle; that could only mean it had been red-hot and
hammered half crooked like a horseshoe on the anvil.  And then, of
course, I realized that a red-hot poker would serve as well as a
pen or pencil, or rather better, for altering an inscription on a
wooden box.  A pen could only cross it out; but a poker could burn
it out.  Managed neatly, it might well remove all trace of there
ever having been any label or previous inscription at all.  But it
would do a great deal more than that.  The clown is not the only
artist who wields a poker; there is the whole elegant craft called
poker-work.  It would be quite easy to change the whole appearance
of a white deal box, so that it would no longer be classed with the
other boxes; running a black border round it, covering it with a
pattern, perhaps blackening it almost entirely.  Then in one blank
space left he would brand the address he wanted it to reach, very
plain in black block letters, avoiding incidentally all the dangers
of being traced by handwriting.  The thing would have gone through
the post to that address as a separate thing in an ordinary way;
and our scheme for posting it in an ordinary way would have
recoiled on our heads.  As it was, I was just in time to describe
the poker-work box and stop it.  I made a silly joke about a red
pencil marking black; but even then I had barely begun to suspect
Dyer; I'm ashamed to say the only person I began by suspecting was
your unfortunate clerk Franks, who is rather exceptionally

"Franks!" exclaimed Wotton.  "Why on earth did you suspect him?"

"Because I was an ass," said Pond, "and much more like a Pantaloon
than you may imagine.  He's a queer-looking fellow; but I ought
to have known that suffering sort of look is more often
conscientiousness than unconscientiousness.  But where I was a
priceless ass was when I looked at the suspect instead of looking
at the detective.  At that moment, Dyer was holding the box up,
looking at it very closely; and Franks, from the other side, could
see that he made a minute mark on it, very unobtrusively; so that
he would know it again.  Franks knew about the box scheme; and
seeing that very swift and furtive act, he started and stared; and
I don't wonder.  In fact, Franks was the real detective and was far
ahead of me, for I hadn't suspected Dyer at all.  Not till, so to
speak, I actually found him like a burglar on the premises.  I
might say on the logical premises."  He coughed slightly.  "Pray
excuse the pun."

"Well," said Captain Gahagan, when Wotton had told him the story
long afterwards.  "My favourite character in your drama is the
Clown.  He is so irrelevant.  I am like that myself.  I am so

"You are," said Sir Hubert Wotton, and resumed the study of his

"He is like the Clown in Shakespeare," went on Gahagan with
unchanged buoyancy.  "The Clown in Shakespeare seems to be there by
accident unconnected with the story and yet he is the chorus of the
tragedy.  The Fool is like a fantastic dancing flame lighting up
the features and furniture of the dark house of death.  Perhaps we
may connect Pond and Polonius after all."  And he continued to
illustrate his theory of the buffoons in Shakespeare, a dramatic
poet to whom he was fervently devoted, quoting large portions of
the plays in question in the old oratorical Irish fashion, to the
no small aid and acceleration of the business of the department,
busy at the moment with oppressing and delicate problems about
American claims concerning the commerce of Vancouver.


Mr. Pond was eating oysters--a serious and improving sight.  His
friend Wotton did not care for oysters; saying he could not see the
sense of swallowing something you could hardly taste.  He often
said he could not see the sense of things; and was deaf to the
wistful questions of his friend Gahagan, about whether he might
perhaps see the nonsense.  There was no nonsense about Sir Hubert
Wotton; and there was a great deal of nonsense about Captain
Gahagan.  Gahagan enjoyed oysters, yet one could not say he cared
for them, being a careless card; and the towers of oyster-shells
before him showed that he had enjoyed them rapidly and recklessly,
as a mere hors d'oeuvre.  But Mr. Pond was really caring for
oysters: counting them like sheep and consuming them with the
utmost care.

"It is comparatively little known," observed Gahagan, "that Pond
actually is an oyster.  He builds up out of oysters the permanent
type or image.  Hasty naturalists (I need only name the impetuous
Pilk) have repeated the report that he resembles a fish.  But what
a fish!  It was left to the researches of Nibbles, in his epoch-
making work, Pondus Ostroanthropus, or The Human Oyster Revealed,
to give our friend his high and rightful rank in the biological
order.  I need not trouble you with the arguments.  Pond wears a
beard.  He and the oyster alone confront the world of modern
fashions with such a decoration.  When he shuts up his head he is
as close as an oyster.  When he persuades us to swallow something,
it is only afterwards (as we have often agreed) that we realize
what a monster of the deep we have swallowed.  But, above all,
within that oyster are the paradoxes; which are pearls of great
price."  And he waved a glass towards Pond, as if concluding a
speech and proposing a toast.

Mr. Pond bowed gravely and swallowed another oyster.  "As a matter
of fact, I was reminded of something relevant to the discussion by
the sight of the oysters; or, more strictly, of the oyster-shells.
This question of deporting dangerous characters, even when they are
only suspects, has some curious and baffling problems.  I remember
one rather queer case, in which a government had to consider the
deporting of a desirable alien--"

"I suppose you mean an undesirable alien," said Wotton.

Mr. Pond digested another oyster with an unobtrusive gulp and
continued:  ". . . the deporting of a desirable alien; and it found
that the difficulties were really quite insurmountable.  I assure
you I am describing the peculiar position in perfectly appropriate
terms.  If any point might be questioned, it is not so much the
word 'desirable' as the word 'alien.'  In one sense, he might have
been described as a very desirable native."

"Oysters," said Gahagan mournfully.  "The Mind is still brooding
upon oysters.  They are certainly very desirable natives."

"If he was not desirable, he was at least desired," continued the
unruffled Pond.  "No, my dear Gahagan, when I say 'desired,' I do
not mean 'wanted by the police.'  I mean that nearly everybody
wanted him to stay, and that was why it seemed obvious that he must
go.  He was something which, without profanity, I trust, I might
call the desire of all nations; or what poets have described as the
world's desire.  And yet he was not deported.  Although he was
desired, he was not deported.  That is the only real paradox."

"Oh," said the staring Wotton.  "So that's the real paradox."

"You should remember something of the case, Wotton," went on Mr.
Pond.  "It was about that time when we went over to Paris together
about a rather delicate--"

"Pond in Paris," murmured Gahagan.  "Pond in his Pagan Youth, when
(as Swinburne says so beautifully) 'Love was the pearl of his
oyster and Venus rose red out of wine.'"

"Paris is on the way to many capitals," replied Pond with
diplomatic reserve.  "In any case, there is no need to define the
precise scene of this little international problem.  Suffice it to
say that it was one of those many modern States in which a
Republic, resting on representative and democratic claims, has now
long replaced a Monarchy which disappeared somehow amid all the
modern wars and revolutions.  Like many such, it did not find all
its troubles were over with the establishment of political
equality; in face of a world deeply disturbed about economic
equality.  When I went there, a strike in the transport services
had brought the life of the capital to a deadlock; the Government
was accused of being under the influence of a millionaire named
Kramp, who controlled the lines involved; and the crisis was the
more alarming because it was insisted (on the Government side) that
the strike was secretly engineered by the famous terrorist,
Tarnowski, sometimes called the Tiger of Tartary, who having been
exiled from his own part of Eastern Europe, was believed to be
spreading conspiracies from some unknown hiding-place in the West."
Mr. Pond then proceeded to narrate his little experience, which,
when purged of Gahagan's interruptions and Pond's somewhat needless
exactitudes, was substantially this.

Pond was rather lonely in this strange capital; for Wotton had gone
elsewhere on the other delicate mission; and, having no friends,
Pond picked up only a few acquaintances.  But he picked up at least
three acquaintances who turned out to be rather interesting in
various ways.  The first case was commonplace enough, it might
seem; consisting merely of talking to a bookseller who was
otherwise a fairly ordinary shopkeeper, but well acquainted with
early eighteenth-century scientific books; and the period was a
hobby with Pond.  Otherwise Mr. Huss was highly bourgeois, with a
heavy frockcoat and long, antiquated whiskers which met under his
chin in a patriarchal beard.  When he went outside his shop, which
was not often, he wore a funereal chimney-pot hat.  Scientific
studies seemed to have left in him the sort of stagnant atheism
that is at once respectable and depressing; but beyond that there
was nothing to distinguish him from countless Continental
shopkeepers.  The next man with whom Pond fell into any sort of
conversation, in a caf, was much more vigorous and vigilant, and
belonged to a younger world.  But he also was very serious; a dark,
strenuous young man who was a Government official actually
believing in the Government; or at least in the principles of the
Government; and he was the sort of man who thinks first about
principles.  He denounced the strike and even the trade union; not
because he was a snob, for he lived as simply as a workman; but
because he really did believe in the old individualistic theory of
what he called free contract.  The type is almost unknown in
England; the theory is more common in America.  But nobody who
looked at the baldish, rather corrugated brow that bulged between
the streaks of black hair, and the anxious, though angry, eyes,
could doubt that he was in fanatical good faith.  His name was
Marcus, and he held a minor Government office, in which he could
survey with satisfaction the principles of the Republic, without
being admitted to its counsels.  It was while talking outside a
caf with this second acquaintance, that Mr. Pond became conscious
of the third, who was by far the most extraordinary of the three.

This man was a sort of magnet for the human eye; Pond soon realized
that this was true of everybody's eyes and not merely his own.  One
way or another, a current of communications seemed to be always
circling round the little table where the man sat smoking a
cigarette and sipping black coffee and benedictine.  At the moment
when Pond first saw him, a group of young men was breaking up after
some tangle of talk and laughter; they seemed to have stopped by
the table merely for the sake of the talk.  The next moment a
string of gutter-children invaded his solitude and received the
pieces of sugar not used for his coffee; then a hulking and rather
sulky-looking labourer came up and talked to him, for a much longer
time than any of the others.  Strangest of all, a lady, of the
stiff aristocratic sort seldom seen outside the house in such
countries, actually got out of a carriage and stood staring at the
strange gentleman; and then got into the carriage again.  These
things alone might have led Pond to look at the person in question;
but in fact, for some reason or other, he had looked at him with
great curiosity from the first.

The man wore a wide white hat and a rather shabby dark blue suit;
he had a high-bridged nose and a pale yellow beard brushed to a
point.  He had long, bony, but elegant, hands, on one of which was
a ring with a stone coloured like a kingfisher, the only spot of
luxury on what was otherwise a rather threadbare appearance; and in
the grey shadow of the white hat his eyes shone as blue as the
stone.  There was nothing in his position that claimed prominence;
he did not sit in the front but up against the wall of the caf,
just under a creeper and a fire-escape.  Despite the little crowds
that clustered round him, he had in the intervals an odd air of
preferring to be alone.  Pond made many inquiries, then and
afterwards, about his name; but learnt nothing except that he was
commonly called M. Louis; but whether that was his real surname, or
perhaps the adaptation of some foreign surname, or whether his
queer and eccentric popularity led everybody to use his Christian
name, did not very clearly emerge.

"Marcus," said Mr. Pond to his young companion, "who IS this man?"

"Everybody knows him and nobody knows who he is," replied Marcus in
a rather grating voice.  "But I'm jolly well going to find out."

As he spoke, the hawkers of the revolutionary paper, published by
the strikers and conspicuous by being printed on vivid scarlet
paper, were distributing it among a considerable number of
purchasers in the crowd outside the caf; a black block thus
rapidly diversified with blots of blood-red colour.  Some, indeed,
looked at the paper only to jeer at it; some with a colder
curiosity, perhaps only a few with the respect of real sympathizers.
Among those reading it with detachment, but not apparently with
definite disapproval, was the gentleman with the beard and the blue
ring: M. Louis.

"Well," said Marcus, with a darkening brow.  "Let them.  It's their
last chance, I suppose."

"Why, what do you mean?" inquired Pond.

The brow of Marcus became still more corrugated and troubled; at
length he said in a gruff and rather reluctant manner:  "I'm bound
to say I don't approve of it myself.  I can't see how the Republic
can reconcile it with its liberal principles to suppress
newspapers.  But they're going to suppress that newspaper.  They've
been a good deal goaded.  I don't believe the Prime Minister
himself really likes the suppression; but the Minister of the
Interior is a fiery little devil and generally gets his own way.
Anyhow, they're going to raid the offices with police to-morrow;
and that's probably the last issue."

M. Marcus proved himself a true prophet, so far as concerned the
general situation next morning.

There had apparently been another issue; but if it had ever been
displayed it had not been successfully distributed; the police had
seized all copies of it everywhere; and the black-clad bourgeoisie
sitting outside the caf were now blameless and unspotted with any
hues of blood; save in one corner under the fire-escape and the
creeper, where M. Louis was reading his copy of the sanguinary
sheet in complete indifference to the change.  Some of those around
him eyed him slightly askance; and Pond specially noticed Mr. Huss,
the bookseller, complete with black top-hat and white whiskers,
seated at a table close by and eyeing the reader of the red paper
with bristling suspicion.

Marcus and Pond took their seats at their own original table; and
even as they did so, a contingent of police came by, marching very
rapidly, cleaning up the streets.  There marched with them, with
yet more furious rapidity, a squat, square man with arrogant
moustaches, wearing an official decoration and flourishing an
umbrella like a sabre.  This was the eminent and highly militant
Dr. Koch, the Minister of the Interior; he had been presiding over
the police raid, and his rolling eye instantly spotted the one red
spot in the corner of the crowded caf.  He planted himself before
M. Louis; and shouted as if on parade:

"You are forbidden to read that paper.  It contains direct
incitement to crime."

"And how," asked M. Louis courteously, "and how can I discover this
deplorable fact except by reading it?"

Something in that polite tone seemed, for some odd reason, to cause
the Minister of the Interior to fly, as the phrase goes, right off
the handle.  Pointing his umbrella at the man in the caf, he
vociferated with a violent distinctness:

"You could be arrested, you could be deported; and you know why.
Not for all that bloody nonsense.  You don't need that scrap of a
scarlet rag to mark you out among decent citizens."

"Because my own sins are as scarlet," said the other, gently
inclining his head, "the scandal of my presence here is indeed
highly scandalous.  And why don't you arrest me?"

"You wait and see whether we arrest you," said the Minister
grinding his teeth.  "Anyhow, you shan't arrest us or hold up the
whole machinery of society by a trick like this.  Do you think we
will let that sort of dirty little red rusty nail in the road stop
all the wheels of progress?"

"And do you think," answered the other sternly, "that all the
wheels of your sort of progress have ever done anything yet but
grind the faces of the poor?  No; I have not the honour of being
one of the citizens of your State; one of those happy, joyful, well-
fed, wealthy citizens one sees standing about in the street, on
whom you wage war by hunger.  But I am not a subject of any foreign
State; and you will have quite a peculiar difficulty in deporting
me back to my own country."

The Minister took one furious step forward; and then stopped.  Then
he walked off twirling his moustaches, as if suddenly forgetting
the very existence of the other; and followed in the track of the

"There seem to be a number of mysteries here," said Mr. Pond to his
friend.  "First, why should he be deported?  Second, why shouldn't
he be deported?"

"I don't know," said Marcus, and stood up stiff and frowning.

"All the same," said Mr. Pond, "I am beginning to have a sort of
fancy about who he is."

"Yes," said Marcus grimly, "and I'm beginning to have a fancy about
what he is.  Not a nice fancy."  And he strode abruptly away from
the table and up the street alone.

Mr. Pond remained seated in a condition of profound thought.  After
some minutes he rose and made his way towards the table where his
friend the bookseller, the excellent Huss, was still seated in
somewhat darkling majesty.

Even as he crossed the crowded trottoir, a roar broke from the
street behind him, which was filling with twilight; and he realized
that the great grey crowd of the strikers was on the march past,
following the same route as the police who had just cleared out
their offices.  But the cause of the cry was more particular and
even personal.  The sardonic eyes of the semi-starving mob had
swept the whole dark and decorous crowd of respectable people
outside the caf, and marked the absence of their proscribed paper;
then they had suddenly perceived the familiar red flare of its
fluttering pages in the hands of M. Louis, who was continuing to
read it with unaltered calm.  All the strikers stood still, halting
and saluting like an army; and a great shout, seeming to shake the
lamp-posts and little trees, went up for the one man who remained
faithful to the red rag.  M. Louis rose and gravely bowed to the
applauding mob.  Mr. Pond sat down opposite his friend the
bookseller and scrutinized his whiskered face with interest.

"Well," said Mr. Pond, "our friend over there looks as if he might
soon be the leader of the revolutionary party."

This remark had a rather strange effect on Mr. Huss; he started as
in disorder by saying:  "No, no"; controlled his countenance, and
then enunciated a number of short sentences with an extraordinary

"Myself of the bourgeoisie, I have yet remained apart from
politics.  I have taken no part in any class-war proceeding under
present conditions.  I have no reason to identify myself either
with the protest of the proletariat or with the present phase of

"Oh," said Mr. Pond; and an understanding began to dawn in his
eyes.  After a moment he said:  "I apologize most sincerely, old
man.  I didn't know you were a Communist."

"I have confessed to nothing of the sort," said Huss heatedly; then
he added abruptly:  "You will say somebody has betrayed me."

"Your speech betrays you, like the Galilean," said Pond.  "Every
sect talks its own language.  You could tell a man was a Buddhist
from his way of saying he was not a Buddhist.  It's no business of
mine; and I won't mention it to a soul, if you prefer not.  I only
ventured to say that the man over there seems to be very popular
with the strikers, and might lead the movement."

"No, no, no," cried Huss, beating on the table with his two fists.
"Never, never, shall he lead the movement!  Understand me!  We are
a scientific movement.  We are not moral.  We have done with
bourgeois ideologies of right and wrong.  We are Realpolitik.  What
helps the program of Marx is alone good.  What hinders the program
of Marx is alone evil.  But there are limits.  There are names so
infamous, there are persons so infamous, that they must always be
excluded from the Party."

"You mean somebody is so wicked that he has awakened a dormant
moral sense even in a Bolshevist bookseller," said Pond.  "Why,
what has he done?"

"It is not only what he does but what he is," said Mr. Huss.

"Curious that you should say that," said Pond.  "For I have just
made a sort of a guess about what he is."

He took a newspaper-cutting from his waistcoat pocket and pushed it
across to the other, remarking casually:  "You will note that
Tarnowski the Terrorist is now said to be fomenting strikes and
revolutions not only in this country but definitely in this
capital.  Well, our friend in the white hat seems to me to be
rather an old hand."

Huss was still drumming faintly on the table and obscurely
muttering:  "Never, never, shall he be the leader."

"But suppose he is the leader?" said Pond.  "He obviously has a
sort of habit of old leadership about him; a sort of gesture of
authority.  Isn't he going on exactly as Tarnowski the Tiger
probably would go on?"

Mr. Pond may have expected to surprise the bookseller; but it was
Mr. Pond who got the surprise.  The effect on the bookseller was
such that surprise would be a comically inadequate description.
Mr. Huss stiffened and sat as still as a stone idol; but the change
in the face of the graven image was appalling.  It suggested some
nightmare story of a man at a solitary table finding he was dining
with a devil.

"My God," said the atheist at last, in a small, weak rather squeaky
voice, "and so you think HE is Tarnowski!"  And with that, the
bookseller in the top-hat suddenly went off into hoots of hollow
laughter, like the dismal noises of an owl, shrill and monotonous
and apparently to be repeated indefinitely without control.

"Well," interrupted Pond, mildly exasperated, "how can you possibly
know that he is not Tarnowski?"

"Only because I am Tarnowski," said the bookseller, with sudden
sobriety.  "You say you are not a spy.  But you can betray me if
you choose."

"I assure Your Excellency," said Mr. Pond, "that I am not a spy or
even, what is worse, a gossip.  I am only a tourist who is not
talkative and a traveller who tells no traveller's tales.  Besides,
I owe a debt to Your Excellency, for having illuminated my mind
with an important principle.  I never saw it so clearly before.  A
man always says exactly what he means; but especially when he hides

"That," observed the other with guttural slowness, "is what I think
you call a paradox."

"Oh, don't say that," groaned Mr. Pond.  "Everybody in England says
that.  And I have honestly no notion of what it means."

"But in that case," said Mr. Pond to himself, "who on earth IS the
man in the white hat?  What crime has he committed?  What crime is
it for which he can be arrested or deported?  Or again, what crime
is it for which he CAN'T be arrested or deported?"

It was in a burst of splendid sunshine, on the following morning,
that Pond sat at his little table in the caf ruminating on the
renewed difficulties of the problem.  The sun gave a sort of golden
gaiety to a scene that had lately looked rather sombre, and even
black, bloodshot with the glimpses of the Bolshevist journal.  In
the social sense at least, there seemed to be a clearance in the
storm, of the strikers if not the strike; the threat of riots had
been outmanoeuvred; and the police were picketed at intervals down
the street; but seemed in the tranquil sunshine as harmless as the
toy trees and the painted lamp-posts.  Mr. Pond felt an irrational
return of that vague exhilaration which an Englishman sometimes
feels in the mere fact of being abroad; the smell of the French
coffee affected him as some are affected by the smell of hayfields
or the sea.  M. Louis had resumed his amiable hobby of distributing
sugar to the gamins; and the very shape of those oblong blocks of
beetroot-sugar pleased Mr. Pond in the same manner.  He had a hazy
feeling that he was looking at the scene through the eyes of one of
the children.  Even the gendarmes posted along the pavement amused
him in a merely nonsensical manner, as if they had been dolls or
dummies in some delightful puppet-play; their cocked hats carrying
a vague memory of the beadle in a Punch-and-Judy show.  Through all
this coloured comedy there advanced the rigid figure of M. Marcus,
with a visage which announced vividly that that political Puritan
did not believe in puppet-shows.

"Well," he said, glaring at Pond with a sort of controlled rage, "I
fancy I can guess the truth about HIM."

Pond made polite inquiries; and was answered by an unexpectedly
ugly and jeering laugh.

"What sort of man is it," asked Marcus, "who is received everywhere
with bows and smiles?  Who is it to whom everybody is always so
courteous and complimentary?  What generous Friend of the People?
What holy Father of the Poor?  Deported!  That sort of fellow ought
to be hanged."

"I fear I do not understand anything yet," answered Pond mildly,
"except that for some reason he cannot even be deported."

"Looks very patriarchal, doesn't he, sitting in the sunshine and
playing with the children?  It was darker last night and I caught
him in a darker piece of business. . . .  Listen to this, first of
all.  It was at the end of dusk, yesterday evening; and but for
myself, he was alone in the caf; I don't think he saw me; but I
don't know if he would care.  There drove up a dark, closely
curtained carriage; and that lady we saw once before got out; a
very grand lady, I am sure, though I fancy not so rich as she had
been.  She had an interview with this man, in which she actually
went on her knees to him on the muddy pavement, begging him for
something; and he only sat there and smiled.  What sort of a man is
it who sees ladies grovelling before him and only grins like a
demon and doesn't even take off his hat?  What sort of man is it
who can play the Sultan in society and be sure that everybody will
smile and be polite?  Only the very basest sort of criminal."

"In plain words," said Mr. Pond, "you mean he ought to be arrested
because he's a blackmailer.  You also mean he can't be arrested
because he's a blackmailer."

For the first time the rage of Marcus seemed mixed with a sort of
embarrassment, almost amounting to shame, as he looked down
scowling at the table.

"It has no doubt occurred to you," proceeded Pond placidly, "that
the second inference involves some suggestions that are rather
delicate; especially if I may say so, for a man in your position."

Marcus remained in a silence swollen with anger; then at last he
broke out abruptly, as if beyond control:  "I'll swear the Prime
Minister is perfectly honest."

"I do not think," said Mr. Pond, "that I have ever regaled you with
any scandals about the Prime Minister."

"And I can't believe the little doctor is really in it," went on
Marcus savagely.  "I've always thought it was just sincerity that
made him spluttering and spiteful.  It was just trying to be
straight amid all this--"

"All this what?" asked Mr. Pond.

Marcus turned in his chair with an abrupt gesture of the elbow,
saying:  "Oh, you don't understand."

"On the contrary," replied Pond.  "I think I do understand."

There was a lengthy silence and then Pond resumed:

"I understand the horrid truth that you yourself are a perfectly
honourable and high-minded person and that your own problem is
extremely difficult to solve.  I assure you that I am quite
incapable of taunting you with it.  It was to the Republic, to the
idea of equality and justice, that you swore loyalty; and to that
you have been loyal."

"You had better say what you think." said Marcus gloomily.  "You
mean that I am really only serving a gang of crooks, whom any
blackguard can blackmail."

"No, I will not ask you to admit that now," answered Pond.  "Just
now I wanted to ask you quite another question.  Can't you imagine
a man sympathizing with the strikers, or even being a sincere

"Well," replied Marcus, after a spasm of concentration, "I suppose
one ought to imagine.  I suppose he might hold that, the Republic
resting on the Social Contract, it might supersede even free

"Thank you," said Mr. Pond with satisfaction, "that is exactly what
I wanted.  It is an important contribution to Pond's Law of
Paradox, if I may be pardoned for expressing myself so playfully.
And now let us go and talk to M. Louis."

He stood up before the astonished official, who had no apparent
alternative but to follow him as he passed swiftly across the caf.
Some vivacious and talkative young men were taking leave of M.
Louis, who courteously invited the newcomers to the empty chairs,
saying something about "my young friends often enliven my solitude
with their rather Socialistic views."

"I should not agree with your young friends," said Marcus curtly,
"I am so old-fashioned as to believe in free contract."

"I, being older, perhaps believe in it even more," answered M.
Louis smiling.  "But surely it is a very old principle of law that
a leonine contract is not a free contract.  And it is hypocrisy to
pretend that a bargain between a starving man and a man with all
the food is anything but a leonine contract."  He glanced up at the
fire-escape, a ladder leading up to the balcony of a very high
attic above.  "I live in that garret; or rather on that balcony.
If I fell off the balcony and hung on a spike, so far from the
steps that somebody with a ladder could offer to rescue me if I
gave him a hundred million francs, I should be quite morally
justified in using his ladder and then telling him to go to hell
for his hundred million.  Hell, indeed, is not out of the picture;
for it is a sin of injustice to force an advantage against the
desperate.  Well, all those poor men are desperate; they all hang
starving on spikes.  If they must not bargain collectively, they
cannot bargain at all.  You are not supporting contract; you are
opposing all contract; for yours cannot be a real contract at all."

While the smoke of his cigarette mounted towards the balcony, Mr.
Pond's eye followed it and found the balcony fitted out with what
looked like a bedstead, a screen, and an old looking-glass, all
very shabby.  The only other object was a dusty old cross-hilted
sword, such as might have come from a curiosity shop.  Mr. Pond
eyed this last object with considerable curiosity.

"Please permit me to play the host," said M. Louis affably.
"Perhaps you would like a cocktail or something; I stick to a
little benedictine."

As he turned in his chair towards the waiter, a shot rang through
the caf and the little glass before him lay in a star of
splinters.  The bullet that spilt the drink had missed the drinker
by half a yard.  Marcus looked wildly round; the caf was deserted,
for it was already late; no figure was in sight but the solid back
of the gendarme standing outside.  But Marcus went white with
horror; for M. Louis made one quaint little gesture which, if it
meant anything, could only mean that the policeman himself had
turned for an instant and fired.

"A little reminder, perhaps, that it is time to go to bed," said M.
Louis gaily.  "I go up by the fire-escape and I sleep on the
balcony.  Doctors think so much of this open-air treatment.  Well,
my people have always gone to bed in public; so many tramps do,
don't they?  Good night, gentlemen."

He lightly scaled the iron ladder and began on the balcony, before
their astonished eyes, to assume a capacious dressing-gown and
prepare for slumber.

"Pond," said Marcus, "we are in a nightmare of nonsense."

"No," replied Pond, "for the first time it begins to make sense.  I
have been stupid; but I am beginning at last to see what it all
means."  After ruminating a moment, he resumed rather apologetically:

"Forgive me if I refer again to my foolish jest about Pond's Law.
I think I have discovered a rather useful principle.  It is this.
Men may argue FOR principles not entirely their own, for various
reasons; as a joke in a rag debate, or covered by professional
etiquette, like a barrister, or merely exaggerating something
neglected and needing emphasis; long before we come to those who do
it hypocritically or for hire.  A man can argue FOR principles not
his own.  But a man cannot argue FROM principles not his own; the
first principles he assumes, even for sophistry or advocacy, will
probably be his own fundamental first principles.  The very
language he uses will betray him.  That Bolshevist bookseller
professed to be a bourgeois; but he talked like a Bolshevist about
a bourgeois.  He talked about exploitation and the class-war.  So
you tried to imagine yourself a Socialist; but you did not talk
like a Socialist.  You talked about the Social Contract, like old
Rousseau.  Now our friend M. Louis was defending his sympathy with
strikers and even Socialists.  But he used the oldest and most
traditional argument of all, older than the Roman Law.  The idea
about leonine contract is as old as Leo and a long sight older than
Leo XIII.  Therefore, he represents something even older than your
Rousseau and your Revolution.  I knew after five words that he was
not the blackmailing blackguard of romance; and yet he is romantic.
And he could be legally arrested; but only for a rather curious
crime.  And yet again, he cannot be arrested.  He can only be

"The blackmail charge rests on one scene, in which a lady knelt to
him in the street.  You argued truly that ladies in your country
think so much of formality and propriety, that they could never do
this except in some extreme of agony and despair.  It did not occur
to you that, perhaps, it might be only an extreme of formality and

Marcus began slowly:  "What the devil--"  And then Mr. Pond rapped
out quite smartly:  "And then the sword.  What is a sword FOR?
It's absurd to say for fighting; he wouldn't wave a medival sword
against people shooting him with guns.  If it were for duels he
would have a duelling-sword; and probably two in a case.  What else
can you do with a sword?  Well, you can swallow it; and at one time
I really had a fancy he might be a conjurer.  But it's too big a
swallow; so is the notion.  What CAN be done with a sword, but not
with a spear or gun or battle-axe?  Have you heard of the Accolade?
Long ago a man could be knighted by any knight; but by all modern
custom it can only be done--"

"Only--" began Marcus, beginning to stare.

"Only by a King," said Pond.  And the young Republican sprang up
rigid at the challenge.

"Yes," continued Pond, "the King has crept back among you.  It is
not your fault.  Republics might be all right if Republicans were
as honourable as you are; but you have confessed that they are
not . . . and that's what he meant about going to bed in public.
You know the old kings really did.  But he had another reason.  He
had one real fear; that they might deport him secretly.  They could
deport him technically, of course; all these Republics have laws
against Royalist claimants remaining in the realm.  But if they did
it publicly, he would proclaim himself and--"

"Why don't they do it publicly?" asked the Republican explosively.

"Politicians do not understand much; but politicians do understand
politics," said Pond pensively.  "I mean they do understand the
IMMEDIATE effect on mobs and movements.  Somehow he had slipped in
and started a campaign of private popularity before they even knew
who he was.  When once he was popular, they were helpless.  How
could they say:  'Yes, he is popular, he is on the side of the
people and the poor; the young men accept his leadership; but he is
the King and therefore he must go'?  They know how horribly near
the world is to answering:  'Yes; he is the King and, by God, he
shall stay.'"

Mr. Pond had told this story, at somewhat greater length but in far
more classic diction; and by that time had actually finished the
oysters.  He gazed pensively at the shells and added:  "You will of
course recall the meaning of the word ostracism.  It meant that in
ancient Athens a man was sometimes exiled merely for being
important; and the votes were recorded by oyster-shells.  In this
case he should have been exiled for being important; but he was so
very important that nobody could be told of his importance."


"As I said before," observed Mr. Pond, towards the end of one of
his lucid but rather lengthy speeches, "our friend Gahagan here is
a very truthful man and tells wanton and unnecessary lies.  But
this very truthfulness--"

Captain Gahagan waved a gloved hand as in courteous acknowledgement
of anything anybody liked to say; he had an especially flamboyant
flower in his coat and looked unusually gay.  But Sir Hubert
Wotton, the third party at the little conference, sat up.  For he
followed the flow of words with tireless, intelligent attention,
while Gahagan, though radiant, seemed rather abstracted; and these
abrupt absurdities always brought Sir Hubert up standing.

"Say that again," he said, not without sarcasm.

"Surely that is obvious enough," pleaded Mr. Pond.  "A real liar
does not tell wanton and unnecessary lies.  He tells wise and
necessary lies.  It was not necessary for Gahagan to tell us once
that he had seen not one sea-serpent but six sea-serpents, each
larger than the last; still less to inform us that each reptile in
turn swallowed the last one whole; and that the last of all was
opening its mouth to swallow the ship, when he saw it was only a
yawn after too heavy a meal, and the monster suddenly went to
sleep.  I will not dwell on the mathematical symmetry with which
snake within snake yawned, and snake within snake went to sleep,
all except the smallest, which had had no dinner and walked out to
look for some.  It was not, I say, necessary for Gahagan to tell
this story.  It was hardly even wise.  It is very unlikely that it
would promote his worldly prospects, or gain him any rewards or
decorations for scientific research.  The official scientific
world, I know not why, is prejudiced against any story even of one
sea-serpent, and would be the less likely to accept the narrative
in its present form.

"Or again, when Captain Gahagan told us he had been a Broad
Church missionary, and had readily preached in the pulpits of
Nonconformists, then in the mosques of Moslems, then in the
monasteries of Tibet, but was most warmly welcomed by a mystical
sect of Theists in those parts, people in a state of supreme
spiritual exaltation who worshipped him like a god, until he found
they were enthusiasts for Human Sacrifice and he was the victim.
This statement was also quite unnecessary.  To have been a
latitudinarian clergyman is but little likely to advance him in his
present profession, or to fit him for his present pursuits.  I
suspect the story was partially a parable or allegory.  But anyhow,
it was quite unnecessary and it was obviously untrue.  And when a
thing is obviously untrue, it is obviously not a lie."

"Suppose," said Gahagan abruptly, "suppose I were to tell you a
story that really is true?"

"I should regard it with great suspicion," said Wotton grimly.

"You mean you would think I was still romancing.  But why?"

"Because it would be so very like a romance," retorted Wotton.

"But don't you think," asked the Captain thoughtfully, "that real
life sometimes is like a romance?"

"I think," replied Wotton, with a certain genuine shrewdness that
lay very deep in him, "that I could always really tell the

"You are right," said Pond; "and it seems to me the difference is
this.  Life is artistic in parts, but not as a whole; it's like
broken bits of different works of art.  When everything hangs
together, and it all fits in, we doubt.  I might even believe that
Gahagan saw six sea-serpents; but not that each was larger than the
last.  If he'd said there was first a large one and then a little
one and then a larger one, he might have taken us in.  We often say
that one social situation is like being in a novel; but it doesn't
finish like the novel--at least, not the same novel."

"Pond," said Gahagan, "I sometimes think you are inspired, or
possessed of a devil in a quiet way.  It's queer you should say
that; because my experience was just like that.  With this
difference; each familiar melodrama broke off; but only turned to
blacker melodrama--or tragedy.  Again and again, in this affair, I
thought I was in a magazine story; and then it turned to quite
another story.  Sort of dissolving view, or a nightmare.
Especially a nightmare."

"And why especially?" asked Wotton.

"It's a horrible story," said Gahagan, lowering his voice.  "But
it's not so horrible now."

"Of course," said Mr. Pond, nodding.  "You are happy and wish to
tell us a horrible story."

"And what does THAT mean?" demanded Wotton.

"It means," said Gahagan, "that I got engaged to be married this

"The devil you--I beg your pardon," said Wotton, very red in the
face.  "Congratulations, of course, and all that.  But what has it
to do with the nightmare?"

"There is a connexion," said Gahagan dreamily.  "But you want the
horrible story and not the happy one.  Well, it was a bit of a
mystery, at least to me; but I understood it at last."

"And when you've done mystifying us, you will tell us the

"No; Pond will tell you the solution," said Gahagan maliciously.
"He's already puffed up because he guessed the kind of story,
before he even heard it.  If he can't finish the story, when he has
heard it--"

He broke off and then resumed more solidly:

"It began with a dinner-party, what they call a stag-party, given
by Lord Crome, following on a cocktail-party mostly given by Lady
Crome.  Lady Crome was a tall and swift and graceful person with a
small dark head.  Lord Crome was quite the reverse; he was in every
way, physical and mental, a 'long-headed' person.  You've heard of
a hatchet-face; his was a hatchet that cut off his own head--or
rather his own body, abolishing the slighter and more insignificant
figure.  He is an economist and he gave one the impression of being
distrait and rather bored with all the ladies who swam about in the
wake of his wonderful wife, that darting swan; and perhaps that was
why he wanted the cooler society of his own sex.  Anyhow, he kept
some of his male guests for a little dinner after the at-home was
over.  I happened to be one of them; but, in spite of that, it was
a select company.

"It was a select company; and yet it hardly seemed to have been
selected.  They were mostly well-known men, and yet it looked as if
Crome had taken their names out of a hat.  The first person I ran
into was Captain Blande, supposed to be one of the biggest officers
in the British Army, and I should think the stupidest, for any
strategic purposes.  Of course he looks magnificent--like a
chryselephantine statue of Hercules, and about as useful in time of
war.  I once used the word 'chryselephantine,' meaning gold and
ivory; and he thought I was calling him elephantine.  Classical
education of the pukka sahib.  Well, the man he was put next to was
Count Kranz, the Hungarian scientist and social reformer.  He
speaks twenty-seven languages, including philosophical language.  I
wonder what language he talked to Captain Blande in.  Just beyond
the Count was another fellow more of Blande's sort; but darker and
leaner and livelier; a fellow called Wooster of some Bengal
regiment.  His language also would be limited: the Latin verb polo,
polas, polat; I play polo, thou playest polo, he plays polo, or
(more devastatingly) he does not play polo.  But just as polo
itself was an Asiatic game, and can be traced through the gilded
jungle of Persian and Indian illuminations, so there was something
faintly Eurasian about this man Wooster; he was like a dark-striped
tiger and one could fancy him gliding through a jungle.  That pair
at least looked a little more well-matched; for Kranz also was dark
and good-looking, with arched, black, Assyrian eyebrows and a long,
dark beard, spreading like a fan or the forked tail of a bird.  I
sat next, and got on with Wooster pretty well; on the other side of
me was Sir Oscar Marvell, the great actor-manager, all very fine
and large, with the Olympian curls and the Roman nose.  Here also
there was some lack of rapport.  Sir Oscar Marvell didn't want to
talk about anything but Sir Oscar Marvell; and the other men didn't
want to talk about Sir Oscar Marvell at all.  The three remaining
men were the new Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Pitt-Palmer,
a very frigid-looking young man like the bust of Augustus Csar--
and indeed HE was classical enough, and could have quoted the
classics all right; one Italian singer, whose name I could not
remember, and one Polish diplomat, whose name nobody could
remember.  And I was saying to myself all the time:  'What a funny

"I know this story," said Wotton positively.  "A humorous host
collects a lot of incompatible people for the pleasure of hearing
them quarrel.  Done very well in one of Anthony Berkeley's
detective stories."

"No," replied Gahagan.  "I think their incompatibility was quite
accidental, and I know that Crome didn't use it to make them
quarrel.  As a matter of fact, he was a most tactful host, and it
would be truer to say he prevented them from quarrelling.  He did
it rather cleverly, too, by beginning to talk about heirlooms and
family jewels and so on.  Different as they were, most of them were
well-off, and what is called of a good family; and it was about as
close to common ground as they could get.  The Pole, who was a
baldish but graceful person, with very charming manners, and much
the wittiest man at table, was giving an amusing account of the
adventures of a medal of Sobieski when it fell into the hands first
of a Jew, and then of a Prussian, and then of a Cossack.  In
contrast to the Pole, who was hairless and talkative, the Italian
beyond him was silent, and rather sulky, under his bush of black

"'That's an interesting-looking ring you are wearing yourself, Lord
Crome,' said the Pole politely.  'Those heavy rings are generally
historic.  I think I should really like to wear an episcopal ring
or, better still, a Papal ring.  But then there are all those
tiresome preliminaries about being made Pope; it involves celibacy;
and I--'  And he shrugged his shoulders.

"'Very annoying, no doubt,' said Lord Crome, smiling at him grimly.
'As for this ring here--well, it is rather interesting in a way, in
that sort of family way, of course.  I don't know the details, but
it is obviously sixteenth century.  Care to look at it?'  And he
slipped off his finger a heavy ring with a red stone and passed it
to the Pole, who was sitting next to him.  It proved on examination
to be set with a cluster of extremely fine rubies and carved with a
central device of a heart inside a rose.  I saw it myself, since it
was handed round the table; and there was some lettering in old
French which meant something like 'From the lover only and only to
the beloved.'

"'A romance in your family history, I suppose?' suggested the
Hungarian Count.  'And about the sixteenth century.  But you do not
know the story?'"

"'No,' said Crome, 'but I suppose it was, as you say, a romance in
the family.'

"They began talking about sixteenth-century romances, at some
length; and at last Crome asked very courteously if everybody had
seen the ring."

"Oh," cried Wotton, with a deep breath, rather like a schoolboy at
a conjurer's performance.  "I know THIS story, anyhow.  This is a
magazine story, if you like!  The ring wasn't returned and
everybody was searched or somebody refused to be searched; and
there was some awfully romantic reason for his refusing to be

"You are right," said Gahagan.  "Right, up to a point.  The ring
was not returned.  We were all searched.  We all insisted on being
searched.  Nobody refused to be searched.  But the ring was gone."

Gahagan turned rather restlessly and threw an elbow over the back
of his chair; after a moment he went on:

"Please don't imagine I didn't feel all you say; that we seemed to
have got inside a novel; and not a very novel sort of novel.  But
the difference was exactly what Pond says: that the novel didn't
finish properly, but seemed to go on to something else.  We had
just reached about the coffee stage of the dinner, while this fuss
about the first discovery of the loss was being discussed.  But all
the nonsense about searching was really very swift and simple; and
the coffee hadn't even got cold in the interlude, though Crome
offered to send for some more.  We all said that of course it
didn't matter; but Crome summoned the butler who'd been handing it
round; and they whispered together in what was obviously a rather
agitated conversation.  Then, just as Pitt-Palmer was lifting his
coffee cup to his lips, Lord Crome sprang up stiff and bristling
and called out like the crack of a whip:

"'Gentlemen, do not touch this coffee.  It is poisoned.'"

"But dash it all," interrupted Wotton, "that's a different story!
I say, Gahagan, are you sure you didn't dream all this?  After
reading through a stack of out-of-date magazines and mixing up all
the results?  Of course we know the story about a whole company
laid out with poison--"

"The results in this case were rather more extraordinary," said
Gahagan calmly.  "Most of us naturally sat like stone statues under
such a thunder-bolt of a threat.  But young Pitt-Palmer, with his
cold, clean-cut, classical face, rose to his feet with the coffee
cup in his hand and said in the coolest way:

"'Awfully sorry; but I do hate letting my coffee get cold.'

"And he drained his cup; and, as God sees me, his face turned black
or a blend of dreadful colours; and after horrible and inhuman
noises, he fell down as in a fit before our eyes.

"Of course, we were not certain at first.  But the Hungarian
scientist had a doctor's degree; and what he reported was confirmed
by the local doctor, who was sent for at once.  There was no doubt
that he was dead."

"You mean," said Wotton, "that the doctors agreed that he was

Gahagan shook his head and repeated:  "I said they agreed that he
was dead."

"But why should he be dead unless he was poisoned?"

"He was choked," said Gahagan; and for one instant a shudder caught
his whole powerful frame.

After a silence that seemed suddenly imposed by his agitation,
Wotton said at last:

"I don't understand a word you say.  Who poisoned the coffee?"

"Nobody poisoned the coffee; because it wasn't poisoned," answered
Gahagan.  "The only reason for saying that was to make sure the
coffee should remain in the cup, to be analysed just as it was.
Poor Pitt-Palmer had put in a very large lump of sugar just before;
but the sugar would melt.  Some things do not melt."

Sir Hubert Wotton stared for some seconds into vacancy; and then
his eyes began to glow with his own very real though not very rapid

"You mean," he said, "that Pitt-Palmer somehow dropped the ring
into the black coffee, where it wouldn't be seen, before he was
searched.  In other words, Pitt-Palmer was the thief?"

"Pitt-Palmer is dead," said Gahagan very gravely, "and it is the
more my duty to defend his memory.  What he did was doubtless
wrong, as I have come to see more clearly than I did; but not worse
than many a man has done.  You may say what you like about that
very common sort of wrong-doing.  But he was not a thief."

"Will you or will you not explain what all this means?" cried
Wotton with abrupt annoyance.

"No," replied Gahagan, with a sudden air of relapsing into laziness
and fatigue.  "Mr. Pond will now oblige."

"Pond wasn't there, was he?" asked Wotton sharply.

"Oh, no," answered Gahagan, rather with the air of one about to go
to sleep.  "But I can see by his eyebrows that he knows all about
it.  Besides, it's somebody else's turn."

He closed his eyes with so hopeless a placidity that the baffled
Wotton was forced to turn on the third party, rather like a
bewildered bull.

"Do you really know anything about this?" he demanded.  "What does
he mean by saying that the man who hid the ring wasn't a thief?"

"Well, perhaps I can guess a little," said Mr. Pond modestly.  "But
that's only because I've kept in mind what we said at the beginning--
about the misleading way in which things remind us of romantic
things; only they are never rounded off like the romance.  You see,
the trouble is that, when a real event reminds us of a novel, we
unconsciously think we know all about it, because we know all about
the novel.  We have got into a groove or rut of familiar fiction;
and we can't help thinking the groove runs forward and backward as
it does in fiction.  We've got the whole background of the story at
the back of our minds; and we can't believe that we're really in
another story.  We always assume something that is assumed in the
fictional story; and it isn't true.  Once assume the wrong
beginning, and you'll not only give the wrong answer but you ask
the wrong question.  In this case, you've got a mystery; but you've
got hold of the wrong mystery."

"Gahagan said you would explain everything," said Wotton, with
controlled satire.  "May I ask if this is the explanation?  Is this
the solution or the mystery?"

"The real mystery of the ring," said Pond gravely, "is not where it
went to, but where it came from."

Wotton stared at him steadily for an instant, and then said in
rather a new voice:  "Go on."

Mr. Pond went on.  "Gahagan has said very truly that poor Pitt-
Palmer was not the thief.  Pitt-Palmer did not steal the ring."

"Then," exploded Wotton, "who the devil was it who stole the ring?"

"Lord Crome stole the ring," said Mr. Pond.

There was a silence upon the whole group for a brief space; and
then the somnolent Gahagan stirred and said:  "I knew you would see
the point."

By way of making things clearer, Mr. Pond added almost

"But, you see, he had to hand it round, to find out whom he had
stolen it from."

After a moment he resumed in his usual logical but laborious
manner:  "Don't you see, as I said, you assume something at the
start, simply because it is in all the stories?  You assume that
when a host hands round something at dinner, it's something
belonging to him and his household, probably an old family
possession; because that is in all the stories.  But Lord Crome
meant something much blacker and bitterer than that when he said,
with a dreadful irony, that it commemorated a romance in his

"Lord Crome had stolen that ring by intercepting correspondence;
or, in other words, tearing open an envelope addressed to his wife
and containing nothing but the ring.  The address was typewritten;
nor indeed did he know all the handwritings involved.  But he knew
the very ancient writing engraved on that ring; which was such that
it could only have been given with one purpose.  He assembled those
men to find out who was the sender; or, in other words, who was the
owner.  He knew the owner would somehow attempt to reclaim his
possession, if he possibly could; to stop the scandal and remove
the evidence.  And indeed the man who did so, though he might be a
blackguard, would certainly not be a thief.  As a matter of fact,
after a heathen fashion, he was a bit of a hero.  Perhaps it was
not for nothing that he had that cold, strong face that is the
stone mask of Augustus.  He took, first of all, the simple but
sensible course of slipping the ring into his black coffee, under
cover of a gesture of taking sugar.  There it would not be seen,
for the moment, anyhow; and he could safely offer himself to be
searched.  That demented moment, which really seemed to turn the
whole thing into a frightful dream, when Crome screamed out that
the coffee was poisoned, was only Crome's desperate counterstroke
when he had guessed the trick; to make sure that the coffee should
be left alone and the ring recovered.  But that young man with the
cold face preferred to die in that dreadful fashion: by swallowing
the heavy ring and choking; on the chance that his secret, or
rather Lady Crome's secret, might yet be overlooked.  It was a
desperate chance, anyway; but of all the courses open to him, that
being his object, it was probably the best he could have taken.  In
any case, I feel that we must all support Gahagan in saying, very
properly, that the poor fellow's memory should be protected from
any baser suggestions, and that a gentleman is certainly not a
robber when he prefers to choke himself with his own ring."

Mr. Pond coughed delicately, having brought his argument to a
close; and Sir Hubert Wotton remained staring at him, rather more
bewildered by the solution than by the problem.  When he rose
slowly to his feet, it was with the air of one shaking off
something that was still an evil dream, even when he knew that it
had happened.

"Well, I've got to be going, anyhow," he said, with an air of heavy
relief.  "Got to look in at Whitehall and I fancy I'm late already.
By the way, if what you say is true, this must have happened very
lately.  So far as I know, the news of Pitt-Palmer's suicide hasn't
come through yet--at least it hadn't come through this morning."

"It happened last night," said Gahagan, and rose from the chair
where he had been sprawling, to take leave of his friend.

When Wotton had departed, a long silence fell upon the two other
friends who remained looking gravely at each other.

"It happened last night," repeated Gahagan.  "That is why I told
you it had something to do with what happened this morning.  I got
engaged to Joan Varney this morning."

"Yes," said Mr. Pond gently.  "I think I understand."

"Yes, I think you do," said Gahagan, "but I am going to try to
explain, for all that.  Do you know there was one thing almost more
awful than that poor fellow's death?  And it only hit me when I was
half a mile from that accursed house.  I knew why I had been one of
the guests."

He was standing and staring out of the window, with his broad back
turned to Pond; and after the last words he was silent and
continued to stare at the stormy landscape outside.  Perhaps
something in it stirred another memory, for when he spoke again, it
was as if he started a new subject, though it was another aspect of
the same one.

"I didn't tell you anything much about the sort of garden party,
with cocktails, that they had that afternoon before the dinner,
because I felt that until one realized the climax, one couldn't
realize anything; it would all sound like vapouring about the
weather.  But it was rather rum sort of weather yesterday, as it
still is; only it was stormier, and I think the storm has passed
over now.  And it was a rum sort of atmosphere, too; though the
weather was only a coincidence, of course, it does sometimes happen
that meteorological conditions make men more conscious of moral
conditions.  There was a queer, lurid sort of sky over the garden,
though there was a fair amount of fitful sunshine almost as
capricious as lightning.  A huge great mountain of cloud, coloured
like ink and indigo, was coming up behind the pale, pillared faade
of the house, which was still in a wan flush of light; and I
remember even then being chilled by a childish fancy that Pitt-
Palmer was a pale marble statue and part of the building.  But
there was little else to give any hint of the secret; nobody could
say that Lady Crome was like a statue; for she went flying and
flaunting about like a bird of paradise.  But, whether you believe
it or not, I did from the first feel an oppression, both physical
and psychical; especially psychical.  It increased when we went
indoors and the dining-room curtains cut us off from any actual
sight of the storm.  They were old-fashioned, dark-red curtains,
with heavy, gilded tassels; and it was as if everything was steeped
in the same dye.  You've heard of a man seeing red; well, what I
saw was dark red.  That's as near as I can get to the feeling; for
it was a feeling from the first; and I guessed nothing.

"And then that sinister and revolting thing happened before my eyes
at the table; I can see the dark red wine in the port decanters and
the dull glow of the lampshades.  And still it seemed as if I were
invisible and impersonal; I was hardly conscious of myself.  Of
course, we all had to answer some questions about ourselves; but I
need not tell you about the trail of official fussing that crossed
the track of the tragedy.  It did not take long, since it was so
obviously a case of suicide; and the party broke up, straggling out
into the stormy night through the garden.  As they passed out, they
seemed to have taken on new shapes, new outlines.  Between the hot
night and the horrible death and that foul fog of throttling hatred
in which we had tried to breathe, I began to see something else
about them; perhaps to see them as they were.  They were no longer
incongruous but grotesquely congruous; as in a hideous camaraderie.
Of course, this was a mood, and a morbid one; they really had been
different enough; but they had something in common.

"I liked the Pole best; he had a sense of humour, and admirable
manners; but I knew what he meant when he so courteously declined
the position of Pope, because it would involve celibacy.  Crome
knew it too, and grinned back at him like a demon.  The other one I
liked was Major Wooster, the Anglo-Indian; but something told me
that he was really of the jungle; a shikar not only hunting tigers,
a tiger not only hunting deer.  Then there was the titled doctor
with the Assyrian brows and beard; I bet he was more Semitic than
Magyar.  But anyhow, he had thick lips in his thick beard, and a
look in his almond eyes that I did not like at all.  One of the
worst of them, I should say.  I wouldn't say anything worse of
Blande than that he's probably too stupid to understand anything
but his own body.  He hasn't enough mind to know that he has a
mind.  We all know Sir Oscar Marvell; I remember him marching out,
his furred cloak flapping as if it trailed behind in infinite
echoes of the harmless applause of flappers--but of more foolish
women as well.  As to the Italian tenor, he was uncommonly like the
English actor.  One could not say any worse of him than that.

"Yes; they were, after all, a very select company.  They were
selected by a clever if nearly crazy man as being the six men in
London most likely to lay a plot to seduce his wife.  Then, with a
great shock, I quite literally came to myself.  I actually realized
my own presence.  I was there, too.  Crome had made up a choice
party of profligates and picked them carefully.  And he had
honoured ME with an invitation to the feast.

"That was what I was.  That, at least, was what I was supposed to
be.  A damned dandy and dawdling blackguard, always dangling after
other men's wives. . . .  You know, Pond, that I was not really so
bad as all that; but then, perhaps, neither were they.  We were all
innocent in this case; and yet the thundercloud upon the garden
rested on us like a judgment.  So was I innocent, in that case you
remember, when I nearly got hanged for hanging round a woman I
really didn't care about.  But it served us right; it was our
atmosphere that was all wrong--what quaint old people used to call
the state of our souls, what the unspeakable bounders in the papers
call sex-appeal.  That was why I nearly got hanged; and why there
was a corpse in the house behind me.  And there went through my
head like the tramp of armies, old lines written long ago, about
what is in legend the noblest of all lawless loves, when Guinevere,
refusing Lancelot at the last, says in words that had for me a ring
of iron:

     "For well ye wot that of this life
     There comes but lewd and bitter strife
     And death of men and great travail.

"I had hung round all that sort of thing, and yet never quite
clearly seen myself doing it; till two judgments struck me like the
storm out of the sky.  I nearly received a sentence from a judge in
a black cap and blood-red robes, that I should be hanged by the
neck until I was dead.  And, worse still, I received an invitation
from Lord Crome."

He continued to gaze out of the window; but Pond heard him mutter
again, like the faint grumbling of the thunder:  "And death of men
and great travail."

In the vast silence that followed, Mr. Pond said in a very small

"What was the matter with you was that you liked being libelled."

Gahagan faced about, almost with the gesture of throwing up his
hands, which seemed to fill the frame of the window with his own
gigantic frame; but he was noticeably pale.

"Kamerad, yes," he said.  "I was as small as that."

He smiled at his friend, but with a glassy and rather ghastly
smile, and then went on:

"Yes; I cared more for that dirty rag of vanity, worse than any
vice, than I did for any vices.  How many men have sold their souls
to be admired by fools?  I nearly did it, merely to be suspected by
fools.  To be the dangerous man, the dark horse, the man of whom
families should be afraid--that is the sort of abject ambition for
which I wasted so much of my life, and nearly lost the fulfilment
of my love.  I dawdled, I lounged about, because I could not give
up a bad name.  And, by God, it nearly hanged the dog."

"That is what I supposed," said Mr. Pond in his most prime and
polite manner.  And then Gahagan broke out again:

"I was better than I seemed.  But what did that mean, except the
spiritual blasphemy that I wanted to seem worse than I was?  What
could it mean, except that, far worse than one who practised vice,
I admired it?  Yes, admired it in myself; even when it wasn't
there.  I was the new hypocrite; but mine was the homage that
virtue pays to vice."

"I understand, however," said Mr. Pond, in that curiously cold and
distant tone, which had yet a very soothing effect on everybody,
"that you are now effectually cured."

"I am cured," said Gahagan grimly.  "But it took two dead men and a
gallows to cure me.  But the point is, what was I cured of?  You
have diagnosed it exactly right, my dear doctor, if I may call you
so.  I could not give up the secret pleasure of being slandered."

"By this time, however," said Mr. Pond, "other considerations have
come in and induced you to support the insupportable charge of

Gahagan suddenly laughed, harshly and yet, somehow, heartily.  Some
would count his first comment a peculiar extension of the laugh.
"I went to confession and the rest of it this morning," he said,
"and in a vaguer sort of way I've come to confession to you.  To
confess that I didn't kill the man.  To confess that I never made
love to the man's wife.  In short, to confess that I was a humbug.
To confess that I am not a dangerous man . . . well, anyhow, after
I'd done all that, I went on whistling, and as happy as a bird, to--
well, I think you know where I went to.  There's a girl I ought to
have fixed things up with long ago; and I always wanted to do it;
that's the paradox.  But a damned sight sillier paradox than any of
your paradoxes, Pond."

Mr. Pond laughed gently, as he generally did when somebody had told
him, at considerable length, all that he knew already.  And he was
not so old, nor despite his manner so cold, as not to form some
sort of guess about the actual termination of the rather
exasperating romance of Captain Gahagan.

This story started with some statements about the way in which
stories tend to get into a tangle, one tale being mixed up with
another tale, especially when they are true tales.  This story also
started, and ought also presumably to stop, with the very
extraordinary tragedy and scandal in the house of Lord Crome, when
that promising young politician, Mr. Pitt-Palmer, unaccountably
tumbled down dead.  It ought really to end with a proper account of
his impressive public funeral; of the chorus of praise devoted to
him in the Press; and the stately compliments laid on his tomb like
flowers from the leaders of all the parties in Parliament; from
those eloquent words of the Leader of the Opposition beginning
"Much as we may have differed in politics," to those (if possible)
still more eloquent observations of the Leader of the House,
beginning "Confident as I am that our cause is independent even of
the noblest personality, I yet have to lament, etc."

Anyhow, it is really very irrelevant to the central plot of this
story that it should stray from the funeral of Pitt-Palmer to the
wedding of Gahagan.  It will be enough to say that, as already
hinted, the actual effect of this shocking incident on Gahagan was
to drive him back to an old love; an old love who was still
conveniently young.  A certain Miss Violet Varney was at that time
prominent on the stage; the word "prominent" has been selected with
some care from other possible adjectives.  In the general view of
society, Miss Joan Varney was the sister of Miss Violet Varney.  In
the perverse and personal view of Captain Gahagan, Miss Violet
Varney was the sister of Miss Joan Varney; nor was he eager to
insist on this relationship.  He loved Joan but he did not even
like Violet; but there is no need to enter on the entanglements of
that other story here.  Are not all these things written in the
Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?

It is enough to say that on that particular morning, swept clear
and shining after the storm, Captain Gahagan came out of the church
in the little by-street and very cheerfully took the road to the
house of the Varney family, where he found Miss Joan Varney
pottering about in the garden with a spud, and told her several
things of some importance to both of them.  When Miss Violet Varney
heard that her younger sister was engaged to Captain Gahagan, she
went off with admirable promptitude to a theatrical club and got
engaged to one of the numerous noodles of more or less noble birth
who could be used for the purpose.  She very sensibly broke off
this engagement about a month afterwards; but she got HER
engagement into the society papers first.


"In nature you must go very low to find things that go so high."

This was commonly included by collectors among the Paradoxes of Mr.
Pond; for it came towards the end of a rather dull and eminently
sensible discourse, and it made no sense.  And these were
recognized as the stigmata of the stylistic methods of Mr. Pond.
But in this case, as a fact, he had plagiarized from his old
acquaintance Dr. Paul Green, author of The Dog or the Monkey,
Studies in the Domestication of Anthropoids, Notes on Neanderthal
Development, etc., etc.

Dr. Paul Green was a smallish man, pale, slender and slightly lame;
but his activity, even in bodily movement, was relatively
remarkable, and his mind moved as quickly as a quick-firing gun.

It was this old acquaintance who, on one sunny afternoon, came out
of Mr. Pond's past to bring him shocking and even nerve-shattering
news; a report as alarming as the report of a gun.

But when Mr. Pond was told, on such very solid authority, that his
friend Captain Gahagan was an escaped murderer, after all, he said,
"Tut, tut."  He was given to what is called understatement; of
which he knew the Greek name, but did not employ it needlessly.
The conversation, indeed, had opened casually enough, turning from
the doctor's health to the doctor's hobby of studying animal
habits.  A little light talk about Eohippus; some airy badinage
about Homo Kanensis; a little bright back-chat about Vialleton's
tudes sur les Reflexes des Animaux Ttrapodes; rising to a certain
sharpness of dialogue, for on this point of Darwin and Natural
Selection the two friends had never agreed.

"I never can see," said Mr. Pond, "how a change, that might have
helped an animal if it came quickly, could have helped him if it
came slowly.  And came to his great-grandchild, long after he ought
to have perished without leaving any grandchildren.  It might be
better if I had three legs, say, in order to stand firmly on two
while kicking a fellow bureaucrat with the third.  It might be
better if I had three legs; but it wouldn't be better if I only had
a rudimentary leg."

"It might be better if I had two legs," said the doctor grimly,
"instead of one lame leg that is hardly a leg at all.  And yet I
find it fairly useful."

Mr. Pond, who was commonly very tactful, chid himself softly for
tactlessness in forgetting that his old acquaintance was lame.
But, at least, he was far too tactful to apologize, or even too
obviously to change the subject.

He proceeded in his mild and fluent way:  "I mean that till a leg
is long enough to run or climb, it would only be an extra weight
for the runner or climber to carry."

"It's pretty queer," said the doctor, "that we should have started
off talking about running and climbing.  I didn't come here to
discuss Darwinism or anything half so sane and sensible.  But if
you think I'm suspect, as the atrocious atheist, I may explain that
I don't want you just now to listen to me, but to my friend the
vicar of Hanging Burgess, the Reverend Cyprian Whiteways, whose
views are probably quite as anti-scientific as your own.  I don't
suppose he's a Darwinian; but, anyhow, I promised to introduce him
to you, and he wants to tell you about things that happened rather
later than the later Stone Age."

"Then, what do you mean," asked Pond, "by talking about running and

"I meant, I am sorry to say," replied Dr. Green, "that the vicar
has a pretty bad story about that friend of yours, Captain Gahagan,
whose legs seem to be very good at climbing, and still better at
running away."

"It's a serious thing," said Pond, gravely, "to accuse a soldier of
running away."

"It's a much more serious thing of which the vicar accuses him,"
said Green.  "He accuses him of climbing a balcony and shooting a
rival, and then running away.  But it's not my story; I'm not the
story, but only the introduction."

"Climbing a balcony," mused Mr. Pond; "for a vicar it sounds rather
a romantic story."

"I know," said the doctor, "the sort of story that begins with a
rope-ladder and ends with a rope."

Mr. Pond, as he heard the unequal step of his lame friend echoing
away down the paved paths of the garden, relapsed into a gloomy
mood.  He was quite willing to accept his medical friend merely as
a letter of introduction.  But it was a rather black-edged and
tragic sort of letter of introduction.  Whatever story the Rev.
Cyprian was going to tell, it was another story against his
unfortunate friend Peter Gahagan.  And Gahagan was so very
unfortunate as to suggest to some a wild doubt about whether he was
merely unfortunate.  Some had the sudden and horrible thought that,
perhaps, he was fortunate.  Twice before, he had been mixed up in
matters involving a mysterious and violent death; with, at least, a
savour of murder.  In both cases he had been cleared.  But three is
an unlucky number.

Finally, the Rev. Cyprian Whiteways was a shock; a shock because of
his frankness and fair-mindedness.

Mr. Pond would never, at any time, have stooped to the stupid idea
that clergymen are stupid.  He did not take his ideas of real life
from farces like The Private Secretary.  But the Rev. Cyprian was
so very much the reverse of stupid; a man with a rugged face like
old red sandstone; and, indeed, he suggested a rock of that rich
colouring which glows with the past; he carried his English
countryside with him in an indescribable suggestion of depth and
background; he could not talk of common things without, somehow,
suggesting the weather or the turn of night or day; he was a born
descriptive writer who only talked.  But nobody could doubt that it
was truth; or, at least, truthfulness.

It was so substantial a witness who told Mr. Pond in considerable
detail the black and bloody story of Gahagan's hidden sin.  And the
curious effect of all this on Mr. Pond was to make him jump up
briskly with a broad smile of relief on his bearded and somewhat
owlish visage; declaring with unusual cheeriness that it was quite
all right, they had only to ask Gahagan himself, and he would tell
them all about it.  Confrontation, it was sometimes called.

As for Dr. Green, with the letter of introduction, his job was
done, and he was somewhat impatient of Pond's formalities; he
stumped off, merely warning the vicar that he had better have a
lawyer, if he was to confront that plausible Irish rogue.

So, when the scientist was already far away, reabsorbed in the
study of a pithecanthropos as a pet, all that remained of his
intervention was a solicitor named Luke Little, very much on the

Mr. Pond's friend, Sir Hubert Wotton, the well-known diplomatist,
took the chair; but Mr. Little did not mind who took chairs so long
as he took charge.

"This is a very irregular inquiry, gentlemen," he said.  "Only a
special assurance would have induced me to place my client's case
before it.  Sir Hubert and Mr. Pond declare, I understand, that an
explanation will be demanded here and now."

Then he added:  "It is a painful matter, as I think Mr. Pond will

"It is a very painful matter, indeed," replied Pond, gravely, "that
an old friend of mine should be under suspicion of a horrible

His friend, Wotton, looked at Pond for a moment with a frosty stare
of surprise; but he stared a great deal more when he was startled
by Gahagan himself, speaking, suddenly, for the first and last time
in all the first hours of the interview.

"Yes," he said, with a grim and inscrutable visage.  "It is
certainly a horrible story."

"In any case, then," resumed the lawyer, "I can now ask my client,
without prejudice, to repeat the story."

"It's an ugly story," said the clergyman in his honest way, "and
I'll tell it as shortly as I can."

Pond had heard the story, already, told in a way at once looser and
more elaborate, and allowing of more descriptive detail or
inference than the statement made under such very legal
supervision.  But even as he heard it again in more exact form, he
could not get rid of a feeling that the scene described was
unnaturally vivid to him, but with the vividness of a nightmare.

There was no particular reason, at that stage, for comparing the
story to a nightmare; except that the two principal incidents
happened at night.

They happened in the vicar's garden, close to the balcony of the
vicar's house; and perhaps the impression, which was rather like an
oppression, was somehow connected with another night darkening the
night; a living night of vegetation; for it was suggested,
throughout, that the balcony was loaded with pots and palms and
clutched by climbing plants with heavy and pendent leaves.

Perhaps, after all, it was only some vague, verbal association with
the name of Hanging Burgess; as if the mystery were somehow
associated with the hanging gardens of Babylon.  Perhaps, again, it
was partly the irrational trail of the talk with Dr. Green, with
his creed of blind growth and a groping life-force in a godless
dark; for Green developed his view of development with every fancy
from botany as well as biology.

On the whole, however, Mr. Pond concluded that his own queer mood
was the result of the one fact, which it had really been necessary
to describe in detail.  For the vicar had been obliged to explain,
on both occasions, in order to make his tale intelligible, that the
front of the balcony was scaled from below by a titanic, tropical
creeper, with ribbed and interlaced limbs and large, fantastic
leaves.  It is not altogether an exaggeration to say that the
creeper was the principal character in the story.

"This business happened during the Great War," explained the
clergyman, "when my daughter and I were living in my house at
Hanging Burgess.  But the two houses on each side of us were empty,
due to the drainage of human material common at the time.  At
least, they were both empty for a considerable period, though they
were handsome houses with large gardens, sloping down to the river.
Then my friend Dr. Green came down to be my next-door neighbour and
prosecute his scientific researches in a quiet place.  He was
writing a book, you know, on the domestication of animals; dogs and
cats and pet marmosets and monkeys, and so on; and my daughter, who
is interested in such pets, helped him a little with his work.

"It is a happy time to look back upon, for us who were old cronies;
perhaps because it was a quiet time.

"And then our solitude was broken, as it seemed by accident, and
all the trouble and tragedy began.

"First of all, a young artist of the name of Albert Ayres rented
the house next door, though he seemed to want it mostly for a base
in which to leave his baggage, for he was wandering over the
country making sketches; and it is only fair, as you will see
presently, to admit that he did say, once, that he would start
straight away next morning on one of his sketching tours.  I mean
that we cannot, in any case, actually prove what became of him.
Unfortunately, I know only too well what became of him.

"He was an interesting individual; perhaps a little too like the
old notion of an artist; the sort one can hardly call either
carelessly or carefully picturesque; with a halo of yellow hair
which the sympathetic might connect with Galahad and the
unsympathetic with Struwwelpeter.  Mind you, there was nothing
about him effeminate, and nothing false about his position in
relation to the war.  He had been invalided out, and what he was
doing was a necessary job and not a funk-hole; and, at the moment,
he was enjoying a short and very well-earned holiday.

"It is only fair to Captain Gahagan to say that, even in their
subsequent quarrel, even in the last, blackest days of hatred, and,
I hope, of madness, which ended in murder, the Captain never
sneered at his rival upon that point, or assumed anything like the
swagger of khaki.  But, at the time, Captain Gahagan was still in
khaki, having a very short leave from the front, which he was
supposed to spend at the neighbouring inn, but did spend mostly in
my house.

"You will understand my reluctance in speaking of the matter; the
fact that he was on short leave may have given a certain impatience
to his rather headlong courtship of my daughter, for it could be
called nothing else.  Some say that women do not specially object
to that; but I would much prefer not to presume on any speculations
about that matter.  But to deal entirely with the facts.  They are
as follows:

"One evening, just after sunset, or about dusk, I was walking in my
garden with the doctor, and we were joined, shortly afterwards, by
Albert Ayres.  I had just asked my friend Green to drop in and take
some dinner with us; but he happened to be rather exhausted with a
heavy day of his scientific work; he looked pale and tired; and he
declined in a rather distant and distracted manner.  In fact, I
thought he was looking ill."

"He has not very good health," interposed Mr. Pond, suddenly.  "He
doesn't go about very much.  You must remember he is lame."  The
others stared at him again, as if not seeing any importance in the
interruption; and again they were still more puzzled by his further
comment; for he added quite calmly:

"The clue to all this mystery is the fact that Dr. Green is lame."

"I have not the wildest notion what you mean," said the vicar of
Hanging Burgess briskly.  "But, anyhow, I had better get on and
tell you what really happened; and you will see that it certainly
had nothing to do with either lameness or Dr. Green.

"In strolling round the garden we had paused under the giant
creeper that grows out of the flower-bed and shoots right up to the
balcony; and Ayres was just remarking on its unique strength and
luxuriousness, when we all had a sort of a shock.  For we saw the
whole creeper move and twist like a monstrous serpent, in that
still garden; every limb of it heaved and writhed and the whole
framework of its foliage was shaken as by some impossibly localized
earthquake.  Then we saw that long legs like a giant's were
swinging downwards and kicking wildly above our heads; and Captain
Gahagan, missing his last foothold, fell on his feet on the gravel
path and faced us with a broad grin.

"'Pray forgive me,' he said, 'I have been paying an afternoon call.
I dropped in to tea, or perhaps I should say, hopped up to tea; and
I have just dropped out again.'

"I told him, perhaps a little frigidly, that we were always pleased
to receive visitors, but that they generally came in by the front
door.  He asked me, in a rather brazen way, if I had no poetic
sympathy with Romeo and the romance of climbing balconies.  I
preferred not to reply; but my friend, the doctor, was staring
curiously at the creeper, probably in some freak of his merely
botanical curiosity; and he said, with his faintly acid humour:
'Isn't there rather a satire on Romeo in the fact that a weed like
that can climb a balcony?  It isn't quite so common to see a
tropical plant ringing the bell and coming in at the front door.
Climbing doesn't seem a safe way of classifying.  In nature, you
must go very low to find things that go so high.'"

Mr. Pond sat up abruptly and seemed to exhale a breath; but all he
said was, "I thought so."

"The artist named Ayres," continued the vicar, "seemed more annoyed
than either of us at this absurd adventure; and his comment was
really much more provocative, though he only said, coolly:  'Well,
it looks an easy thing to climb; as easy as a great, green ladder.
I fancy I could climb it myself, if it came to that.'

"Then I realized for the first time, for I'm rather slow in these
things, that Gahagan was glaring at him, as he answered sharply:
'Am I to understand that it may come to that?'  And then I realized
that they were both glaring at each other; and I guessed, for the
first time, why they hated each other; and what was the meaning of
that scene in my quiet garden.

"Well, I will get on as quickly as I can to the culmination of
these rash boasts, or challenges, of the two tragic rivals.  For,
indeed, I do not know which of them had the worst tragedy.  Night
had fallen and the moon had risen, though it was not very much
later, cutting up the shady garden into a new pattern of shadows,
when I happened to look out of my study window, which is on an
upper floor.

"I was smoking and reading a book, when a noise like a dog barking,
or rather howling, made me put my head, more or less carelessly,
out of the window; I assumed that it was one of Dr. Green's dogs
and did not think much of the matter; subconsciously, perhaps,
something spectral about the moonstruck garden and the mood that it
stirred, or some more mysterious premonition of what was to follow,
made the howl sound more hollow and even horrible than it really

"A clear moon was rising high behind me; most of the shady garden
was in all the denser shade; but there were large, pale patches and
squares of moonshine on the paths and the wall in front of me, cut
out as sharply as the pasteboard frame of some shadow-pantomime.
Perhaps the parallel seized on my fancy, partly because light and
shadow were thus bent or doubled into different planes, vertical or
horizontal, like the black and white paper from which children cut
out the figures for such a play.  Anyhow, I did think, instantly
and very vividly, of a shadow-pantomime; and, the next instant, I
saw one of the pantomime figures passing in black silhouette across
the wall.

"I knew at once whose shadow it was.  Of course, it was drawn out
and distorted; you know how deceptive shadows are; but I could see
the straggling tufts that reminded one of Struwwelpeter; and I
think I told you before that Ayres, the artist, was a little too
like the traditional artist who hasn't had his hair cut.  Also, he
affected that sort of languid stoop that such artists assume; and
there was the high-shouldered stoop exaggerated, as shadows do

"The next moment, another of these dark caricatures had appeared on
the wall; and it was even more unmistakable.  It was also more
active; it was not only a shadow-pantomime but--in a pretty creepy
sense--a knockabout pantomime."

"Shadows are very deceptive," said Mr. Pond; and again his friends
stared at him, not because his intervention was important, but
because it seemed trivial and totally unnecessary.  But before he
relapsed again into silence, he added:

"The most deceptive thing about a shadow is that it may be quite

"Well, really!" exploded Wotton; but his moderately mild explosion
was overshadowed by one of the abrupt movements which once or twice
moved the gigantic Gahagan to overwhelming but rather baffling
gestures, to detached and yet outrageous interventions.  He turned
to his accuser with a bow of overbearing courtesy, or even
courtliness, and said:

"You need not be alarmed, sir.  That is one of Mr. Pond's
paradoxes.  We are all very proud of our Pond and of his paradoxes.
Try them in your bath.  Pond's paradoxes are in every home.  What
would Mother do without Pond's--"

"Don't be a fool, Gahagan!" said Hubert Wotton; and his voice had a
ring of steel which his friends had always respected.  There was a
silence, in which Mr. Pond said simply:

"I never uttered a paradox in my life.  What I said was a truism."

The vicar of Hanging Burgess looked considerably baffled, but did
not lose his composure, and continued his story.

"I'm afraid all this seems to me rather off the point; especially
as I haven't come to the point.  I mean the point of my story.  Of
course, it doesn't matter whether the shadows were deceptive or
not; because I saw the real people a minute or two afterwards.
It's true I only saw one of them for a minute, you might say for a
flash; but the other I saw plainly enough.

"The first figure, the long-haired figure I had already identified
with the artist, ran very quickly across the moonlit patch and
vanished into the vast shadow of the creeper that climbed the
balcony; but there is no doubt that he began to climb the creeper.

"The second figure stood for a moment, staring, in the full stare
of the moon; and there was no doubt about him at all.  It was
Captain Gahagan, in khaki, and he already had his big service
revolver in his hand.  In a high, unnatural voice he cried after
and cursed the other unfortunate troubadour, who had climbed his
romantic rope-ladder of leaves, exactly as he had climbed it

"At that instant the whole situation became finally clear; for I
saw the hairy head of the unfortunate artist rising out of the
tangle of tropical leaves, in shadow, but all the more unmistakable
for being haloed in the moonshine.  But the same moonshine fell
full on the face of the Captain, as glaring as a photographic
portrait; and it glared with a frightful grin or grimace of

Mr. Pond again interposed gently, but with the general effect of a
jerk:  "You say it was hatred.  Are you sure it was not horror?"

The vicar was very intelligent, and thought before he answered,
even when he did not in the least understand.  Then he said:  "I
think so.  Besides, why should Captain Gahagan be horrified merely
at seeing Mr. Ayres?"

"Perhaps," said Pond, after a pause, "because he had not had his
hair cut."

"Pond!" said Wotton very sharply.  "Do you fancy this is a case for
jokes?  You seem to have forgotten that you said, yourself, it was
a painful matter."

"I said it was a painful matter," said Pond, "to think a horrible
thing was done by an old friend."  Then he said, after one of his
sudden pauses:  "But I wasn't thinking of Gahagan."

The stupefied vicar seemed to have given up everything but the
stubborn pursuit of his story.

"As I have told you, Captain Gahagan cursed his rival from below,
and called on him to come down; but he did not attempt to climb the
creeper himself, though he had already shown how quickly he could
do it.  Unfortunately, he did something else; which he could do
much more quickly.  I saw the blue flash of the pistol-barrel in
the moon, as he lifted it; and then the red flash; and then a puff
of smoke detached itself and climbed the sky, like a cloud; and the
man on the green ladder fell crashing like a stone through the
thrashing great leaves to the dark space below.

"I could not see so clearly what was happening in that dark space;
but I knew, for all practical purposes, that the man was dead; for
his slayer laid hold of one leg of the corpse and dragged it away
down the darkling and descending paths of the garden.  And when I
heard a distant splash, I knew he had thrown the corpse into the

"Well, as I told you before, that is my very serious testimony to
what I saw and knew; but I give it only from a sense of social duty
to any individuals who may be involved; I admit the circumstances
are such that legal proof would be very difficult now.

"Albert Ayres had entirely disappeared by next morning; but it is
true, as I have said, that he had once spoken of going off on a
sketching-tour very early.

"Captain Gahagan had also entirely disappeared by next morning; but
I believe it is true that his leave was practically up, that in any
case he had to return to the front; and it was utterly hopeless to
raise a question--which would, already, be called a doubtful
question--at a moment when every man was needed, when common
convicts were already working out their expiation in the field; and
when all information had to be hampered, and a veil hung between us
and all that vast labyrinth called 'somewhere in France.'  But
hearing that, for personal reasons, it was essential that Captain
Gahagan should be asked to clear or explain his record, I have
brought the matter up again now.  And I have stated nothing that I
did not see."

"You have stated it very clearly," said Mr. Pond.  "More clearly
than you know.  But even on the clearest moonlight night, as we
agreed, shadows can be very deceptive."

"You've said that before," said Sir Hubert rather irritably.

"And, as I have also said before," observed the unruffled Mr. Pond,
"a shadow is most misleading when it is precisely correct."

Silence suddenly fell on the group; and the silence became more and
more tense, for, after these random shots, which seemed so very
random, fired by Mr. Pond as he retired from the argument, everyone
felt that nothing could now delay the main action.  For some time
it looked rather like inaction; for Gahagan, who had been growing
gloomier and gloomier, still sat kicking his heels, as if he had
nothing to say.  And indeed, when sharply called on by Sir Hubert
for his statement, he was, at first, understood to declare
seriously, not to say grimly, that he had nothing to say.

"What can I say, except what they call pleading guilty?  What can I
say, except that I did do a horrible thing; I did commit a hateful
crime; and my sin is ever before me."

The solicitor seemed suddenly to bristle with electric needles of a
sort of cold excitement.

"Pardon me, pardon me!" he cried.  "Before you say any more, before
you say a word more, it must be understood that it may be necessary
to take note of it in a legal manner.  On some minor matters we are
permitted a certain discretion; but if we are to listen to an
actual confession of murder--"

Gahagan shouted; he shouted so loud that the others were almost too
surprised to notice that it was a shout of laughter, but not very
genial laughter.

"What!" he cried.  "Do you think I'm confessing to a murder?  Oh,
this is getting tiresome!  Of course I never committed any murder.
I said I committed a crime; but it's not to any damned little
lawyer that I have to apologize for it."

He swung round, facing the clergyman; and his whole bodily and
mental attitude seemed to alter; so that, when he spoke at last, it
was like a new man speaking.

"I mean, it's for you.  What can I say to you?  It's personal for
you; I mean, it's real.  It's no good talking at large about such
things.  It's no good hiding in a crowd; or saying that the crime
was committed by a lot of poor devils on leave from hell; to whom a
holiday was heaven; only it was a very earthly paradise; a little
too like a Moslem paradise.  I did make love to your daughter when
I had no right to, for I didn't really know my own mind.  None of
us had any mind on those holidays from hell.  And it's true that I
did have a rival.  It's true I was in a rage with my rival; I'm
still in a rage with him, when I think of what he did.  Only--"  He
paused, as with a new embarrassment.

"Go on," said Mr. Pond gently.

"Only my rival wasn't the artist with the long hair," said Gahagan.

Hubert Wotton again looked up sharply, with a frowning stare; but
he spoke quietly as he directed Gahagan to tell his story properly
from the start.

"I had better start," said Gahagan, "where the other story started:
just about the time when we both heard the howl of a dog in the
dark garden.  I may explain that I was actually staying with Ayres,
the artist, for that night; we had become quite good friends,
really; though there may have been a bit of romantic swagger about
the troubadour business at an earlier time.

"I was packing up and sorting out some of my light luggage; that is
how I happened to be cleaning my service revolver.  Ayres was
looking through some of his sketch-books; and I left him at it when
I went out, just as Mr. Whiteways looked out, in casual curiosity,
over that sudden noise in the night.  Only I heard what he did not
hear.  I not only heard what sounded like the howl of a dog, but I
also heard a whistle, such as a man uses when calling a dog.

"Also, I saw what he did not see.  For an instant, in a gap in the
trellis and tracery of a vine, I saw, very white in the moonlight,
the face of Paul Green, that distinguished man of science.  He is
distinguished and he looks distinguished; I remember thinking, at
the time, what a fine head he had, and that the silver moulding of
his features under the moon made them quite beautiful.  I had a
reason for having my attention thus arrested by that silvery mask,
for, at that precise moment, it wore a sort of smile of hatred that
turned one's blood cold.

"Then the face vanished; and again my experience was much like the
vicar's, except that I did not see everything which happened just
behind my back.  But I swung round in time to see that somebody had
run across the path, and begun to climb the creeper.  He climbed it
very quickly, much quicker than I had done, but it was not easy to
see him or recognize him in the dark shadow of the leaves.

"I had an idea that he was long in the limbs and had the sort of
high-shouldered stoop that has been described; then I saw, as the
vicar did, the head emerge clear of the foliage, only outlined by
the moon with a sort of bristly halo of hair.  Only then, for the
second time that night, I saw what the vicar did not see.  The
Romeo, the climbing troubadour, turned his head, and, for a moment,
I saw it in profile, a black shape against the moon.  And I said to
myself:  'My God!  It's a dog, after all.'"

The vicar echoed the invocation faintly; the lawyer made a sharp
movement as if to intervene; and Wotton told his friend rather
brusquely to go on; which had the effect of producing a sort of
abrupt languor, alarmingly like a disposition to leave off.

"Rather interesting man, Marco Polo," said Captain Gahagan, in a
vaguely conversational tone.  "I think it was Marco Polo, the
Venetian; anyhow, it was one of those early medival travellers.
You know everybody used to say they told nothing but tall stories
about mandrakes and mermaids; but, in many cases, it has been found
since that their tall tales were true.  Anyhow, this chap said
there were men walking about with the heads of dogs.  Now, if
you'll look at one of the larger apes, like the baboon, you'll see
that his head really is very like a dog's; not nearly so much like
a man's as the head of one of the smaller monkeys."

Mr. Little, the lawyer, was rapidly turning over some of his
papers, with a shrewd frown and a sharp, alert manner.

"One moment, Captain Gahagan," he interposed.  "I have a fancy that
you are rather a traveller, yourself; and have picked up
travellers' tales in many different places.  It looks to me as if
you had picked up this one in the Rue Morgue."

"I wish I had," replied the Captain.

"In the story there," pursued the solicitor, "I think there was an
escaped anthropoid ape who disobeyed his master and would not

"Yes," said Mr. Pond, in a low voice, rather like a groan.  "But in
this case it was not disobeying its master."

"You had better tell the rest of this story, Pond," said the
Captain, with one of his curious collapses into irresponsible
repose.  "You evidently guessed the real story, I don't know how,
before I began to tell it."

Mr. Little appeared to be somewhat annoyed, and snapped out:  "I
consider the Captain told this curious tale, for what it is worth,
in a very melodramatic and misleading manner.  I have it, in my
notes, that he certainly said that 'Somebody ran across the path
and began to climb the creeper.'"

"I was quite pedantically correct," said Gahagan, waving his hand,
condescendingly.  "I was careful to state that some BODY ran and
climbed.  I attempted no theological or metaphysical speculations
about the soul of an ape."

"But this is perfectly ghastly!" cried the clergyman, who was
deeply shaken.  "Are you sure the thing I saw was an ape?"

"I was quite close," said the Captain.  "I saw the shape and you
only saw the shadow."

"No," said Pond softly, "he saw the shape and could not believe it
because it was the shadow.  That is what I meant by saying a shadow
can deceive by accuracy.  Nine times out of ten, a shadow is out of
drawing.  But it can happen, in special circumstances, that it is
an exact silhouette.  Only we always expect it to be distorted; and
so we are deceived by its not being distorted.  The vicar was not
surprised that the hairy, high-shouldered Mr. Ayres should throw a
shadow looking like a shambling hunchback or a bristly, humped
figure.  But in reality it WAS a bristly, humped figure.  I guessed
that when he first said, just afterwards, that your own figure was
much more unmistakable.  Why should it be unmistakable, unless the
other was a mistake?"

"From where I was, there could be no mistake," said Gahagan.  "I
knew it was an ape, and I guessed it was from the cages or kennels
of the eminent biologist next door.  I had a wild hope it might
have been meant as some ghastly joke; but I wasn't taking any
risks; I happen to know that sort of anthropoid is no joke.  At the
best, he might easily bite and then--well, there were all sorts of
nightmare notions half-formed in one's mind.

"There was another side to your biological friend's interest in
pets; vivisection, inoculation, intoxication, drugs--Lord knows
what might be mixed up in it.  So I shot the brute dead, and I'm
afraid I can't apologize.  I threw the body into the river; as you
know, it's a very rapid and rushing river, and, so far as I know,
nothing more was ever heard of it.  Certainly, Dr. Paul Green did
not venture to advertise for it in the papers."

The solid and deep-chested rustic parson suddenly shuddered from
head to foot.  The spasm passed and he said, heavily, that it was
an awful business.

"And THAT is what I meant," said Mr. Pond, "by saying how bad it is
to hear an old acquaintance accused of a horrible action.  It was,
also, what I meant by saying that the key to all this riddle is the
fact that Dr. Green is lame."

"Even now," muttered the vicar, "I'm not so clear what you mean by

"It's all ugly enough," answered Pond, "but I suppose we may fairly
say that the doctor is, in a rather literal sense, a mad doctor.
The point is that I think I know what finally drove him mad.  He
had a remarkable personality; he was in love with the lady at the
Vicarage and had got a good deal of influence there; as Gahagan
truly says, he's really a very fine-looking fellow and, naturally,
quite active; only everything was conditioned by the accident that
he was lame.

"What put the finishing touch to his madness, on that terrible
summer night under the moon, was something that I think one can
partly understand, with a little imagination; something not
altogether unnatural, if anything ending in such insanity can be
anything but unnatural.  He heard his rivals boasting about doing
the one thing he could not do.  First, one of the young men
swaggered about having done it--you do swagger, Gahagan, and it's
no good saying you don't.  And the other young man was worse; for
he actually sneered at doing it because it was so easy to do when,
for Green, it was impossible to do.

"Naturally, a mind like his leapt, as we know it did leap, even in
conversation, to the retort that climbing is no great sign of
superiority; that a brainless creeper can climb; that an ape can
climb better than a man.  'You have to go very low to find things
that go so high.'  Considered as a logical repartee, it was quite a
good one.  But his mind was not running merely on logic and
repartee; he was blind and boiling with jealousy and passion, and
he was a little cracked.  Let's hope he only meant to make a sort
of demonstration; but, anyhow, that was what he was trying to

Mr. Little, the lawyer, still turned a flinty face to the company;
he had obviously taken a dislike to Gahagan, who had a way of
irritating legal and law-abiding persons.

"I do not know if we are required to accept this extraordinary
story, on the strength of Mr. Pond's ingenious hypothesis," he said
rather sharply; "but there is one more question I should like to

He looked down at his papers, as if consulting them, and then
looked up again, saying, still more sharply, in the style he had
learnt from cross-examinations:  "Is it not true, Captain Gahagan,
that you are rather famous for telling remarkable stories?  I have
it in my notes that you once delighted the company by saying you
had seen six great sea-serpents, each swallowing the last.  You
reported a remarkable little incident of a giant who was buried up
to the eyebrows in Muswell Hill; and you are supposed to have given
a very vivid description of a water-spout frozen all the way up to
the sky.  Your interesting account of the discovery of the ruins of
the Tower of Babel--"

Sir Hubert Wotton, with all his apparent simplicity, had a quality
of sense that sometimes struck like a sledge-hammer.  He had
preserved the silence of perfect impartiality throughout; but he
suddenly stopped the last splutter of the solicitor's spitefulness,
as if he had struck him physically dumb.

"I cannot have all this," he said.  "We know Gahagan; and his yarns
are all nonsense, and your trying to turn them against him is worse
nonsense.  So long as you had a serious charge to bring, we gave
you every opportunity to prove it.  If you are going to talk about
things that nobody alive ever took seriously, least of all Gahagan,
I rule them out."

"Very well," snapped Mr. Little, "my last question shall be a very
practical one.  If Captain Gahagan only did what he says he did,
why the devil didn't he say so?  Why did he disappear?  Why did he
do a bolt early next morning?"

Peter Gahagan lifted his large figure laboriously out of the seat;
he did not even look at the lawyer; but his eyes were fixed on the
old clergyman, with a profound expression of sorrow.

"There is an answer to that," he said.  "But I would much rather
give it to anybody except Mr. Whiteways."

And, strangely enough perhaps, the moment Mr. Whiteways heard this
refusal he rose also and held out his hand to Gahagan.

"I believe you," he said.  "It's just that last sentence that has
made me believe you."

The scornful solicitor, being thus deserted by his own client,
stuffed his papers back into his little black bag; and the
irregular conference broke up.

Gahagan did tell the truth about the last question afterwards, to
the person to whom he told everything, to Joan Varney, to whom he
was engaged.  And, queer as it sounded, she seemed to understand.

"If you like to put it so," he said, "I didn't run away from the
police; I ran away from the girl.  And I know it sounds mad; but I
really felt at the moment I was doing my best for her, in a beastly
situation and among a lot of beastly alternatives.  I knew by next
morning that the vicar was saying he had seen me commit murder.
Suppose I contradicted it--well, to begin with, she would have to
know that her old friend, the friend of her pets, was a horrible
lunatic who had offered her a sort of disgusting insult at the

"But it wasn't only that.  I had behaved as badly as anybody; I was
in a shamefully false position; and, if I remained, there was
nothing before us but crawling through all that mire of miserable
explanation and hopeless remorse, in which it is hard to say
whether the man or the woman has the worst of it.  And then a queer
thought came to me--a secret, almost subconscious thought; but I
couldn't get rid of the notion.  Suppose she went on thinking, and
remembered afterwards, in calmer times, that one man had killed
another for her.  She would be horrified; but she would not be
humiliated.  A mad whisper kept on repeating to me that in the long
run she would be--a little proud."

"I think you're right about her," said Joan, in her straight way.
"But, all the same, you ought to have told her the truth."

"Joan," he said, "I simply hadn't the courage."

"I know," she said.  "I also know all about your having the D.S.O.;
and I've seen you, myself, jump a chasm it made me sick to look at.
But that's what's the matter with all you fine, fighting
gentlemen."  Her head lifted very slightly.  "You haven't the


They had been discussing the new troubles in Germany: the three old
friends, Sir Hubert Wotton, the famous official; Mr. Pond, the
obscure official; and Captain Gahagan, who never did a stroke of
work in the way of putting pen to paper, but liked making up the
most fantastic stories on the spur of the moment.  On this
occasion, however, the group was increased to four; for Gahagan's
wife was present, a candid-looking young woman with light-brown
hair and dark-brown eyes.  They had only just recently been
married; and the presence of Joan Gahagan still stimulated the
Captain to rather excessive flights of showing-off.

Captain Gahagan looked like a Regency buck; Mr. Pond looked like a
round-eyed fish, with the beard and brow of Socrates; Sir Hubert
Wotton looked like Sir Hubert Wotton--it summed up a very sound and
virile quality in him, for which his friends had a great respect.

"It's an infernal shame," Wotton was saying, "the way these fellows
have treated the Jews: perfectly decent and harmless Jews, who were
no more Communists than I am; little men who'd worked their way up
by merit and industry, all kicked out of their posts without a
penny of compensation.  Surely you agree with that, Gahagan?"

"Of course I do," replied Gahagan.  "I never kicked a Jew.  I can
distinctly remember three and a half occasions on which I
definitely refrained from doing so.  As for all those hundreds and
thousands of poor little fiddlers and actors and chess-players, I
think it was a damned shame that they should be kicked out or
kicked at all.  But I fancy they must be kicking themselves, for
having been so faithful to Germany and even, everywhere else,
pretty generally pro-German."

"Even that can be exaggerated," said Mr. Pond.  "Do you remember
the case of Carl Schiller, that happened during the War?  It was
all kept rather quiet, as I have reason to know; for the thing
happened, in some sense, in my department.  I have generally found
spy stories the dullest of all forms of detective fiction; in my
own modest researches into the light literature of murder, I
invariably avoid them.  But this story really did have an
unexpected and rather astonishing ending.  Of course, you know that
in wartime the official dealing with these things is very much
exposed to amateurs, as the Duke of Wellington was exposed to
authors.  We persecuted the spies; and the spy-maniacs persecuted
us.  They were always coming to us to say they had seen certain
persons who looked like spies.  We vainly assured them that spies
do not look like spies.  As a matter of fact, the enemy was pretty
ingenious in keeping the really suspicious character just out of
sight; sometimes by his being ordinary; sometimes actually by his
being extraordinary; one would be too small to be noticed, another
too tall to be seen; one was apparently paralysed in a hospital and
got out of the window at night--"

Joan looked across at him with a troubled expression in her honest
brown eyes.

"Please, Mr. Pond, do tell us what you mean by a man being too tall
to be seen."

Gahagan's spirits, already high, soared into laughter and light

"These things do happen, my dear girl," he said.  "I can throw out
a thousand instances that would meet the case.  Take, for example,
the case of my unfortunate friends the Balham-Browns who lived at
Muswell Hill.  Mr. Balham-Brown had just come home from the office
(of the Imperial and International Lead-Piping Company) and was
exercising the lawn-mower in the usual manner, when he noticed in
the grass a growth not green but reddish-brown and resembling
animal hair; nay, even human hair.  My friend Mr. Pond, whose
private collection of Giant Whiskers is unrivalled (except, of
course, by the unique collection of Sir Samuel Snodd), was able to
identify it with the long hair of the Anakin; and judged by its
vigour, the son of Anak was buried but still alive.  With the
spitefulness of the scientific world, Professor Pooter countered
with the theory that Jupiter buried the Titans, one under Etna,
another under Ossa, and a third under Muswell Hill.  Anyhow, the
villa of my ill-fated friends the Balham-Browns was ruined, and the
whole suburb overturned as by an earthquake, in order to excavate
the monster.  When his head alone emerged, it was like a colossal
sphinx; and Mrs. Balham-Brown complained to the authorities that
the face frightened her, because it was too large.  Mr. Pond, who
happened to be passing at the moment, immediately produced a
paradox (of which he always carries a small supply) and said that,
on the contrary, they would soon find that the face was too small.
To cut a long story short--"

"Or a tall story shorter," said Joan in a trenchant manner.

"When the Titan was extricated, he was so tall that by the common
converging laws of perspective, his head in the remote sky was a
mere dot.  It was impossible to discern or recall one feature of
that old familiar face.  He strode away; and fortunately decided to
walk across the Atlantic, where even he was apparently submerged.
It is believed that the unfortunate creature was going to give
lectures in America; driven by that mysterious instinct which leads
any person who is notorious for any reason to adopt that course."

"Well, have you done?" demanded Joan.  "We know all about you and
your yarns; and they don't mean anything.  But when Mr. Pond says
that somebody was too tall to be seen, he does mean something.  And
what can he possibly mean?"

"Well," said Mr. Pond, coughing slightly, "it was really a part of
the story to which I was alluding just now.  I did not notice
anything odd about the expression when I used it; but I recognize,
on second thought, that it is, perhaps, a phrase requiring
explanation."  And he proceeded, in his slightly pedantic way, to
narrate the story which is now retold here.

It all happened in a fashionable watering-place, which was also a
famous seaport, and, therefore, naturally a place of concentration
for all the vigilance against spies, whether official or amateur.
Sir Hubert Wotton was in general charge of the district, but Mr.
Pond was in more practical though private occupation of the town,
watching events from a narrow house in a back street, an upper room
of which had been unobtrusively turned into an office; and he had
two assistants under him; a sturdy and very silent young man named
Butt, bull-necked and broad-shouldered, but quite short; and a much
taller and more talkative and elegant government-office clerk named
Travers, but referred to by nearly everybody as Arthur.  The
stalwart Butt commonly occupied a desk on the ground floor,
watching the door and anyone who entered it; while Arthur Travers
worked in the office upstairs, where there were some very valuable
State papers, including the only plan of the mines in the harbour.

Mr. Pond himself always spent several hours in the office, but he
had more occasion than the others to pay visits in the town, and
had a general grasp of the neighbourhood.  It was a very shabby
neighbourhood; indeed, it consisted of a few genteel, old-fashioned
houses, now mostly shuttered and empty, standing on the very edge
of a sort of slum of small houses, at that time riddled with what
is called Unrest in a degree very dangerous, especially in time of
war.  Immediately outside his door, he found but few things that
could be called features in that featureless street; but there was
an old curiosity shop opposite, with a display of ancient Asiatic
weapons; and there was Mrs. Hartog-Haggard next door, more alarming
than all the weapons of the world.

Mrs. Hartog-Haggard was one of those persons, to be found here and
there, who look like the conventional caricature of the spinster,
though they are in fact excellent mothers of families.  Rather in
the same way, she looked very like the sort of lady who is horribly
in earnest at Pacifist meetings; yet, as a matter of fact, she was
passionately patriotic, not to say militaristic.  And, indeed, it
is often true that those two extremes lend themselves to the same
sort of fluent fanaticism.  Poor Mr. Pond had reason to remember
the woeful day when he first saw her angular and agitated figure
darkening his doorway as she entered out of the street, peering
suspiciously through her curious square spectacles.  There was
apparently some slight delay about her entrance; some repairs were
being done to the porch and some loose board or pole was not
removed sufficiently promptly from her path: was, in fact, as she
declared, removed reluctantly and in a grumbling spirit by the
workmen employed on the job; and by the time she had reached the
responsible official, a theory had fully formed and hardened in her

"That man is a SOCIALIST, Mr. Pond," she declared in the ear of
that unfortunate functionary.  "I heard him with my own ears mutter
something about what his Trade Union would say.  What is he doing
so near to your office?"

"We must distinguish," said Mr. Pond.  "A Trade Unionist, even a
militant Trade Unionist, is not necessarily a Socialist; a
Socialist is not necessarily a Pacifist, still less a Pro-German.
In my opinion, the chief S.D.F. men are the most extreme Marxians
in England; and they are all out for the Allies.  One of the Dock
Strike leaders is in a mood to make recruiting speeches all over
the Empire."

"I'm sure he's not English; he doesn't look a bit English," said
the lady, still thinking of her wicked proletarian without.

"Thank you, Mrs. Hartog-Haggard," said Pond, patiently.  "I will
certainly make a note of your warning and see that inquiries are
made about it."

And so he did, with the laborious precision of one who could not
leave any loophole unguarded.  Certainly the man did not look very
English; though perhaps rather Scandinavian than German.  His name
was Peterson: it was possible that it was really Petersen.  But
that was not all.  Mr. Pond had learned the last lesson of the wise
man: that the fool is sometimes right.

He soon forgot the incident in the details of his work; and next
day it was with a start that he looked up from his desk, or rather
from Mr. Butt's desk which he was using at the moment, and saw once
again the patriotic lady hovering like an avenging shadow in the
doorway.  This time she glided swiftly in, unchecked by any
Socialist barricade, and warned him that she had news of the most
terrible kind.  She seemed to have forgotten all about her last
suspicions; and, in truth, her new ones were naturally more
important to her.  This time she had warmed the viper on her own
hearth.  She had suddenly become conscious of the existence of her
own German governess, whom she had never especially noticed before.
Pond himself had noticed the alien in question with rather more
attention; he had seen her, a dumpy lady with pale hair, returning
with Mrs. Hartog-Haggard's three little girls and one little boy
from the pantomime of Puss-in-Boots that was being performed on the
pier.  He had even heard her instructing her charges, and saying
something educational about a folk-tale; and had smiled faintly at
that touch of Teutonic pedantry that talks about a folk-tale when
we would talk about a fairy-tale.  But he knew a good deal about
the lady; and saw no reason to move in the matter.

"She shuts herself up for hours in her room and won't come out,"
Mrs. Hartog-Haggard was already breathing hoarsely in his ear.  "Do
you think she is signalling, or does she climb down the fire-
escape?  What do you think it means, Mr. Pond?"

"Hysterics," said Mr. Pond.  "What, do you think the poor lady
cannot be hysterical, because she does not scream the house down?
But any doctor will tell you that hysteria is mostly secretive and
silent.  And there really is a vein of hysteria in a great many of
the Germans; it is at the very opposite extreme to the external
excitability of the Latins.  No, madam, I do not think she is
climbing down the fire-escape.  I think she is saying that her
pupils do not love her, and thinking about weltschmerz and suicide.
And really, poor woman, she is in a very hard position."

"She won't come to family prayers," continued the patriotic matron,
not to be turned from her course, "because we pray for a British

"You had better pray," said Mr. Pond, "for all the unhappy
Englishwomen stranded in Germany by poverty or duty or dependence.
If she loves her native land, it only shows she is a human being.
If she expresses it by ostentatious absences or sulks or banging
doors, that may show she is too much of a German.  It also shows
she is not much of a German spy."

Here again, however, Mr. Pond was careful not to ignore or entirely
despise the warning; he kept an eye on the German governess, and
even engaged that learned lady in talk upon some trivial pretext--
if anything she touched could remain trivial.

"Your study of our national drama," he said gravely, "must
sometimes recall to you the greatest and noblest work that ever
came out of Germany."

"You refer to Goethe's Faust, I presume," she replied.

"I refer to Grimm's Fairy-Tales," said Mr. Pond.  "I fear I have
forgotten for the moment whether the story we call Puss-in-Boots
exists in Grimm's collection in the same form; but I am pretty
certain there is some variant of it.  It always seems to me about
the best story in the world."

The German governess obliged him with a short lecture on the
parallelism of folk-lore; and Pond could not help feeling faintly
amused at the idea of this ethnological and scientific treatment of
a folk-tale which had just been presented on the pier by Miss Patsy
Pickles, in lights and various other embellishments, supported by
that world-famed comedian who called himself Alberto Tizzi and was
born in the Blackfriars Road.

When he returned to his office at twilight, and, turning, beheld
the figure of Mrs. Hartog-Haggard again hovering without, Mr. Pond
began to think he was in a nightmare.  He wondered wildly whether
she had drawn some dark conclusions from his own meeting with the
Teutonic teacher of youth.  Perhaps he, Mr. Pond, was a German spy,
too.  But he ought to have known his neighbour better; for when
Mrs. Hartog-Haggard spoke she had once again forgotten, for the
moment, her last cause of complaint.  But she was more excited than
ever; she ducked under the frame of scaffolding and darted into the
room, crying out as she came:

"Mr. Pond, do you know what is right opposite your own house?"

"Well, I think so," said Mr. Pond, doubtfully, "more or less."

"I never read the name over the shop before!" cried the lady.  "You
know it is all dark and dirty and obliterated--that curiosity shop,
I mean; with all the spears and daggers.  Think of the impudence of
the man!  He's actually written up his name there:  'C. Schiller.'"

"He's written up C. Schiller; I'm not so sure he's written up his
name," said Mr. Pond.

"Do you mean," she cried, "that you actually know he goes by two
names?  Why, that makes it worse than ever!"

"Well," said Mr. Pond, rising suddenly, and with a curtness that
cut all his own courtesy, "I'll see what I can do about it."

And for the third time did Mr. Pond take some steps to verify the
Hartog-Haggard revelations.  He took the ten or twelve steps
necessary to take him across the road and into the shop of C.
Schiller, amid all the shining sabres and yataghans.  It was a very
peaceable-looking person who waited behind all this array of arms;
not to say a rather smooth and sleek one; and Pond, leaning across
the counter, addressed him in a low and confidential voice.

"Why the dickens do you people do it?  It will be more than half
your own fault if there's a row of some kind and a Jingo mob comes
here and breaks your windows for your absurd German name.  I know
very well this is no quarrel of yours.  I am well aware," Mr. Pond
continued with an earnest gaze, "that you never invaded Belgium.  I
am fully conscious that your national tastes do not lie in that
direction.  I know you had nothing to do with burning the Louvain
Library or sinking the Lusitania.  Then why the devil can't you say
so?  Why can't you call yourself Levy, like your fathers before you--
your fathers who go back to the most ancient priesthood of the
world?  And you'll get into trouble with the Germans, too, some
day, if you go about calling yourself Schiller.  You might as well
go and live in Stratford-on-Avon and call yourself Shakespeare."

"There'th a lot of prejudith againth my rathe," said the warden of
the armoury.

"There'll be a lot more, unless you take my advice," said Mr. Pond
with unusual brevity; and left the shop to return to the office.

The square figure of Mr. Butt, who was sitting at the desk looking
towards the doorway, rose at his entrance; but Pond waved him to
his seat again and, lighting a cigarette, began to moon about the
room in a rather moody fashion.  He did not believe that there was
anything very much in any of the three avenues of suspicion that
had been opened to him; though he owned that there were indirect
possibilities about the last.  Mr. Levy was certainly not a German;
and it was very improbable that he was a real enthusiast for
Germany; but it was not altogether impossible to suppose, in the
tangle and distraction of all the modern international muddle, that
he might be some sort of tool, conscious or unconscious, of a real
German conspiracy.  So long as that was possible, he must be
watched.  Mr. Pond was very glad that Mr. Levy lived in the shop
exactly opposite.

Indeed, he found himself gazing across the street in the gathering
dusk with feelings which he found it hard to analyse.  He could
still see the shop, with its pattern of queer, archaic weapons,
through the frame of the last few poles left in the low scaffolding
round the porch; for the workmen's business had been entirely
limited to the porch itself and the props were mostly cleared away,
the work being practically over; but there was just enough
suggestion of a cluster or network of lines to confuse the prospect
at that very confusing turn of the twilight.  Once he fancied he
saw something flicker behind them, as if a shadow had shifted; and
there arose within him the terror of Mrs. Hartog-Haggard, which is
the terror of boredom and a sort of paralysed impatience, one of
the worst of the woes of life.

Then he saw that the shifting shadow must have been produced by the
fact that the lights had been turned up in the shop opposite; and
he saw again, and now much more clearly, the queer outline of all
those alien Asiatic weapons, the crooked darts and monstrous
missiles, the swords with a horrid resemblance to hooks or the
blades that bent back and forth like snakes of iron. . . .  He
became dreamily conscious of the chasm between Christendom and that
great other half of human civilization; so dreamily that he hardly
knew which was a torture implement and which was a tool.  Whether
the thought was mingled with his own belief that he was fighting a
barbarism at heart as hostile, or whether he had caught a whiff of
the strange smell of the East from that apparently harmless human
accident who kept the shop, he could hardly be certain himself; but
he felt the peculiar oppression of his work as he had never felt it

Then he shook himself awake, telling himself sharply that his
business was working and not worrying about the atmosphere of the
work; and that he should be ashamed to idle when his two
subordinates were still busy, Butt behind him, and Travers in the
office above.  He was all the more surprised, when he turned
sharply around, to find that Butt was not working at all; but, like
himself, was staring, not to say glaring, as in a congested
mystification, into the twilight.  Butt was commonly the most calm
and prosaic of subordinates; but the look on his face was quite
enough to prove that something was really the matter.

"Is anything bothering you?" asked Pond, in a gentle voice which
people found very encouraging.

"Yes, sir," said Mr. Butt.  "I'm bothering about whether I'm going
to be a beast or not.  It's a beastly caddish thing to say a word,
or hint a word, against your comrades or anybody connected with
them.  But after all--well, sir, there is the country, isn't

"There is certainly the country," said Mr. Pond, very seriously.

"Well," Butt blurted out at last, "I'm not a bit comfortable about

Then, after a sort of gasp, he tried again:  "At least, it isn't so
much Arthur as Arthur's . . . what Arthur's doing.  It makes it all
the nastier to have put it like that.  But you know he got engaged
last week.  Have you met his fiance, sir?"

"I have not yet had the honour," replied Pond, in his punctilious

"Well, sir, Arthur brought her in here to-day while you were out;
he'd just taken her to the pantomime of Puss-in-Boots on the pier,
and they were laughing like anything.  Of course, that's quite all
right; it was his off time; but it seemed to me it wasn't quite all
right that she walked straight upstairs without any invitation,
even from him, to the private office where we don't allow visitors
to go.  Of course, that's about the only possible case where I
could hardly prevent it.  In the ordinary way, we're perfectly
safe; I mean the documents are perfectly safe.  There's only one
door, and you or I are always sitting bang in front of it; and
there's only one staircase, and nobody uses it but we three.  Of
course, she might have done it in all innocence; that's what made
it seem quite too ghastly to snub her.  And yet. . . .  Well, she's
a very nice-looking girl, and no doubt a very nice girl; but
somehow that's just the one word that wouldn't jump to my mind
about her--innocence."

"Why, what sort of a girl is she?" asked Pond.

"Well," said Mr. Butt, gloomily seeking words, "we all know that
making-up and even dyeing your hair doesn't mean what it once did;
lots of women do it who are perfectly decent; but not those who
are--well, utterly inexperienced.  It seemed to me that, while she
might be perfectly honest, she WOULD know very decidedly whether a
thing is done or not."

"If she is engaged to him," said Pond, with a rather unusual
severity, "she must know that he is here on highly confidential
work, and she must be as anxious to protect his honour as we are.
I'm afraid that I shall have to ask you for some sort of

"Well," said Butt, "she's very tall and elegant, or . . . no,
elegant is exactly the word.  She has beautiful golden hair--very
beautiful golden hair--and very beautiful long dark eyes that make
it look rather like a gilded wig.  She has high cheekbones, not in
the way that Scotch girls have, but somehow as if it were part of
the shape of the skull; and though she's not at all long in the
tooth, in any sense, her teeth are just a little to the fore."

"Did he meet her in Besanon, near Belfort?"

"Pretty rum you should say that," said Butt, miserably; "because he

Mr. Pond received the news in silence.

"I hope, sir, you won't assume anything against Arthur," said Butt,
huskily.  "I'm sure I'd do anything to clear him of any--"

As he spoke, the ceiling above them shook with a thud like thunder;
then there was a sound of scampering feet; and then utter
stillness.  No one acquainted with Mr. Pond's usual process of
ambulation could have believed that he flew up the staircase as he
did just then.

They flung open the door, and they saw all that was to be seen.
All that was to be seen was Arthur Travers stretched out face
downwards on the ground, and between his shoulder-blades stood out
the very long hilt of a very strange-looking sword.  Butt
impetuously laid hold of it, and was startled to find that it was
sunk so deep in the corpse and the carpeted floor that he could not
have plucked it out without the most violent muscular effort.  Pond
had already touched the wrist and felt the rigidity of the muscles
and he waved his subordinate away.

"I am sorry to say that our friend is certainly dead," he said
steadily.  "In that case, you had better not touch things till they
can be properly examined."  Then, looking at Butt very solemnly, he

"You said you would do anything to clear him.  One thing is
certain: that he is quite cleared."

Pond then walked in silence to the desk, which contained the secret
drawer and the secret plan of the harbour.  He only compressed his
lips when he saw that the drawer was empty.

Pond walked to the telephone and issued orders to about six
different people.  He did about twenty things, but he did not speak
again for about three-quarters of an hour.  It was only about the
same time that the stunned and bewildered Butt stumbled into

"I simply can't make head or tail of anything.  That woman had
gone; and, besides, no woman could have nailed him to the floor
like that."

"And with such an extraordinary nail," said Pond, and was silent
once more.

And indeed the riddle revolved more and more on the one thing that
thief and murderer had left behind him: the enormous misshapen
weapon.  It was not difficult to guess why he had left it behind;
it was so difficult to tug out of the floor that he probably had no
time to try effectually, hearing Pond clattering up the stairs; he
thought it wiser to escape somehow, presumably through the window.
But about the nature of the thing itself it was hard to say
anything, for it seemed quite abnormal.  It was as long as a
claymore; yet it was not upon the pattern of any known sword.  It
had no guard or pommel of any kind.  The hilt was as long as the
blade; the blade was twice as broad as the hilt; at least, at its
base, whence it tapered to a point in a sort of right-angled
triangle, only the outer edge or hypotenuse being sharpened.  Pond
gazed musingly at this uncouth weapon, which was made very rudely
of iron and wood painted with garish colours; and his thoughts
crept slowly back to that shop across the road that was hung with
strange and savage weapons.  Yet this seemed to be in a somewhat
cruder and gaudier style.  Mr. Schiller-Levy naturally denied all
knowledge of it, which he would presumably have done in any case;
but what was much more cogent, all the real authorities on such
barbaric or Oriental arms said that they had never seen such a
thing before.

Touching many other things, the darkness began to thin away to a
somewhat dreary dawn.  It was ascertained that poor Arthur's
equivocal fiance had indeed fled; very possibly in company with
the missing plan.  She was known by this time to be a woman quite
capable of stealing a document or even stabbing a man.  But it was
doubtful whether any woman was capable of stabbing a man, with that
huge and heavy and clumsy instrument, so as to fix him to the
floor; and quite impossible to imagine why she should select it for
the purpose.

"It would all be as clear as death," said Mr. Butt, bitterly,
"except for that lumbering, long-hilted short-sword, or whatever it
is.  It never was in Levy's shop.  It never was in Asia or Africa
or any of the tribes the learned jossers tell us about.  It's the
real remaining mystery of the whole thing."

Mr. Pond seemed to be waking up slowly from a trance of hours or

"Oh, THAT," he said, "that's the only thing about it I'm really
beginning to understand."

It has been hinted, with every delicacy, we may hope, that the
attitude of Mr. Pond towards the visits of Mrs. Hartog-Haggard was,
perhaps, rather passive than receptive; that he did not look
forward to them as pants the hart for cooling streams; and that for
him they rather resembled getting into hot water.  It is all the
more worthy of record that, on the last occasion of her bringing
him a new tale of woe, he actually leapt to his feet with an air of
excitement and even of triumph.  He had been right in his
premonitions about the wisdom of folly; and the triumph was truly
the triumph of the fool.  Mrs. Hartog-Haggard gave him the clue
after all.

She darted in under the scaffolding by the doorway, the same dark
and almost antic figure.  Full of the Cause, she was utterly
oblivious of such trifles as the murder of his friend.  She had now
reverted to her original disapproval of her own governess.  She had
altered nothing, except all her reasons for disapproving of her
governess.  On the former occasion she had appeared to claim the
fairy-tale used for pantomimes as exclusively English and part of
the healthy innocence of the stately homes of England.  Now she was
denouncing the German woman for taking the children to the
pantomime at all; regarding it as a ruse for filling them with the
gruesome tales of Grimm and the terrors of the barbaric forest.

"They're SENT to do that," she repeated in the fierce, confidential
voice she used in such cases.  "They're sent here to undermine all
our children's nerves and minds.  Could any other nation be such
fiends, Mr. Pond?  She's been poisoning their poor little minds
with horrors about magicians and magic cats; and now the worst has
happened, as I knew it would.  Well--YOU haven't done anything to
stop it; and my life is simply ruined.  My three girls are all
twittering with terror; and my boy is mad."

The symptoms of Mr. Pond were still mainly those of fatigue; and
she rapped out a repetition.

"He is MAD, I tell you, Mr. Pond; he is actually SEEING things out
of those horrible German fairy-tales; says he saw a giant with a
great knife walking through the town by moonlight . . . a GIANT,
Mr. Pond."

Mr. Pond staggered to his feet and for once really goggled and
gulped like a fish.  Mrs. Hartog-Haggard watched him with wild
eyes, intermittently exclaiming:  "Have you no word of consolation
for a mother?"

Mr. Pond abruptly controlled himself and managed to recapture, at
least, a hazy courtesy.

"Yes, madam," he said.  "I have the best possible consolation for a
mother.  Your son is not mad."

He looked more judicial, and even severe, when he next sat in
consultation with Mr. Butt, Sir Hubert Wotton, and Inspector Grote,
the leading detective of the district.

"What it comes to is this," said Mr. Pond, very sternly: "that you
do not really know the story of Puss-in-Boots.  And they talk about
this as an epoch of Education."

"Oh, I know it's about a clever cat and all the rest of it," said
Butt, vaguely.  "A cat that helps its master to get things--"

The Inspector smote his knee with a smack that rang through the

"A cat burglar!" he cried.  "So that's what you mean.  I fancied at
first there was something wrong about that bit of scaffolding round
the door; but I soon saw it was far too low and small for anybody
to climb up to the window by it.  But, of course, if we're talking
about a really clever cat burglar, there's always some chance that--"

"Pardon me," said Mr. Pond, "does a cat burglar, or for that matter
any burglar, any more than any cat, load himself with a gigantic
knife rather bigger than a garden spade?  Nobody carries a gigantic
knife except a giant.  This crime was committed by a giant."

They all stared at him; but he resumed with the same air of frigid

"What I remark upon, what I regret and regard as symptomatic of
serious intellectual decay, is that you apparently do not know that
the story of Puss-in-Boots includes a giant.  He is also a
magician; but he is always depicted, in pictures and pantomimes, as
an ogre with a large knife.  Signor Alberto Tizzi, that somewhat
dubious foreign artist, enacts the part on the pier by the usual
expedient of walking on very high stilts, covered by very long
trousers.  But he sometimes walks about on the stilts and dispenses
with the trousers; taking a walk through the almost entirely
deserted streets at night.  Just round here, especially, the
chances are against his being even seen; all the big houses are
shut up, except ours and Mrs. Hartog-Haggard's, which only looks on
the street through a landing window; through which her little boy
(probably in his nightgown) peered and beheld a real ogre, with a
great gory knife, and, perhaps, a great grinning mask, walking
majestically under the moon--rather a fine sight to put among the
memories of childhood.  For the rest, all the poor houses are low
houses of one storey; and the people would see nothing but his
legs, or rather his stilts, even if they did look out; and they
probably didn't.  The really native poor, in these seaport towns,
have country habits; and generally go to bed early.  But it
wouldn't really have been fatal to his plans even if he had been
seen.  He was a recognized public entertainer, dressed in his
recognized part; and there is nothing illegal in walking about on
stilts.  The really clever part of it was the trick by which he
could leave the stilts standing, and climb out of them on to any
ledge or roof or other upper level.  So he left them standing
outside our doorway, among the poles of the little scaffolding,
while he climbed in at the upper window and killed poor Travers."

"If you are sure of this," cried Sir Hubert Wotton, starting to his
feet hastily, "you ought to act on it at once!"

"I did act on it at once," replied Pond, with a slight sigh.  "This
morning two or three clowns with white faces were going about on
stilts on the beach, distributing leaflets of the pantomime.  One
of them was arrested and found to be Signor Tizzi.  He was also
found, I am glad to say, to be still in possession of the plans."
But he sighed again.

"For after all," as Mr. Pond observed, in telling the tale long
after, "though we did manage to save the secret plans, the incident
was much more of a tragedy than a triumph.  And what I most
intensely disliked about the tragedy was the irony--what I believe
is called the tragic irony, or, alternatively, the Greek irony.  We
felt perfectly certain we were guarding the only entrance to the
office, because we sat staring at the street between two little
clusters of sticks, which we knew were a temporary part of the
furniture.  We didn't count the sticks; we didn't know when there
happened to be two more wooden poles standing up among the other
wooden poles.  We certainly had no notion of what was on top of
those two poles; nor would our fancy have easily entertained the
idea that it was a pantomime giant.  We ought to have seen him--
only," said Mr. Pond, ending, as he had begun, with an apologetic
little laugh, "he was too tall to be seen."

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The Paradoxes of Mr Pond by G. K. Chesterton

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