Written by: Chesterton, Gilbert K. Posted on: 02/03/2004
Category: Classic Christian Library
by G. K. Chesterton
First published 1912 by Thomas Nelson and Sons
Electronic edition MANALIV0 published 1993 by Jim Henry III
Edited by Martin Ward (Martin.Ward@durham.ac.uk)
PLEASE report any typos you may happen to notice, such as misplaced
punctuation and the like, to
Martin Ward (Martin.Ward@durham.ac.uk)
Jim Henry III 405 Gardner Road Stockbridge, GA 30281-1515
Or send email to JIM HENRY on
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Thank you! I hope you enjoy reading _Manalive_ as much as I have.
I will soon be releasing _Tales of the Long Bow_, also by G. K. Chesterton.
Table of Contents
Part I: The Enigmas of Innocent Smith
I. How the Great Wind Came to Beacon House
II. The Luggage of an Optimist
III. The Banner of Beacon
IV. The Garden of the God
V. The Allegorical Practical Joker
Part II: The Explanations of Innocent Smith
I. The Eye of Death; or, the Murder Charge
II. The Two Curates; or, the Burglary Charge
III. The Round Road; or, the Desertion Charge
IV. The Wild Weddings; or, the Polygamy Charge
V. How the Great Wind went from Beacon House
The Enigmas of Innocent Smith
How the Great Wind Came
to Beacon House
A wind sprang high in the west, like a wave of unreasonable happiness,
and tore eastward across England, trailing with it the frosty
scent of forests and the cold intoxication of the sea.
It a million holes and corners it refreshed a man like a flagon,
and astonished him like a blow. In the inmost chambers of
intricate and embowered houses it woke like a domestic explosion,
littering the floor with some professor's papers till they seemed
as precious as fugitive, or blowing out the candle by which a
boy read "Treasure Island" and wrapping him in roaring dark.
But everywhere it bore drama into undramatic lives,
and carried the trump of crisis across the world.
Many a harassed mother in a mean backyard had looked at
a five dwarfish shirts on the clothes-line as at some small,
sick tragedy; it was as if she had hanged her five children.
The wind came, and they were full and kicking as if five fat
imps had sprung into them; and far down in her oppressed
subconscious she half-remembered those coarse comedies of her
fathers when the elves still dwelt in the homes of men.
Many an unnoticed girl in a dank walled garden had tossed
herself into the hammock with the same intolerant gesture
with which she might have tossed herself into the Thames;
and that wind rent the waving wall of woods and lifted
the hammock like a balloon, and showed her shapes of quaint
clouds far beyond, and pictures of bright villages far below,
as if she rode heaven in a fairy boat. Many a dusty clerk
or cleric, plodding a telescopic road of poplars, thought for
the hundredth time that they were like the plumes of a hearse;
when this invisible energy caught and swung and clashed them
round his head like a wreath or salutation of seraphic wings.
There was in it something more inspired and authoritative even
than the old wind of the proverb; for this was the good wind
that blows nobody harm.
The flying blast struck London just where it scales the northern heights,
terrace above terrace, as precipitous as Edinburgh. It was round
about this place that some poet, probably drunk, looked up astonished
at all those streets gone skywards, and (thinking vaguely of glaciers
and roped mountaineers) gave it the name of Swiss Cottage, which it has
never been able to shake off. At some stage of those heights a terrace
of tall gray houses, mostly empty and almost as desolate as the Grampians,
curved round at the western end, so that the last building, a boarding
establishment called "Beacon House," offered abruptly to the sunset its high,
narrow and towering termination, like the prow of some deserted ship.
The ship, however, was not wholly deserted. The proprietor
of the boarding-house, a Mrs. Duke, was one of those helpless
persons against whom fate wars in vain; she smiled vaguely both
before and after all her calamities; she was too soft to be hurt.
But by the aid (or rather under the orders) of a strenuous niece
she always kept the remains of a clientele, mostly of young
but listless folks. And there were actually five inmates
standing disconsolately about the garden when the great gale
broke at the base of the terminal tower behind them, as the sea
bursts against the base of an outstanding cliff.
All day that hill of houses over London had been domed and sealed up with
cold cloud. Yet three men and two girls had at last found even the gray
and chilly garden more tolerable than the black and cheerless interior.
When the wind came it split the sky and shouldered the cloudland left
and right, unbarring great clear furnaces of evening gold. The burst of light
released and the burst of air blowing seemed to come almost simultaneously;
and the wind especially caught everything in a throttling violence.
The bright short grass lay all one way like brushed hair.
Every shrub in the garden tugged at its roots like a dog at the collar,
and strained every leaping leaf after the hunting and exterminating element.
Now and again a twig would snap and fly like a bolt from an arbalist.
The three man stood stiffly and aslant against the wind, as if leaning against
a wall. The two ladies disappeared into the house; rather, to speak truly,
they were blown into the house. Their two frocks, blue and white,
looked like two big broken flowers, driving and drifting upon the gale.
Nor is such a poetic fancy inappropriate, for there was something
oddly romantic about this inrush of air and light after a long,
leaden and unlifting day. Grass and garden trees seemed glittering
with something at once good and unnatural, like a fire from fairyland.
It seemed like a strange sunrise at the wrong end of the day.
The girl in white dived in quickly enough, for she wore
a white hat of the proportions of a parachute, which might
have wafted her away into the coloured clouds of evening.
She was their one splash of splendour, and irradiated wealth
in that impecunious place (staying there temporarily with a
friend), an heiress in a small way, by name Rosamund Hunt,
brown-eyed, round-faced, but resolute and rather boisterous.
On top of her wealth she was good-humoured and rather good-looking;
but she had not married, perhaps because there was always
a crowd of men around her. She was not fast (though some
might have called her vulgar), but she gave irresolute youths
an impression of being at once popular and inaccessible.
A man felt as if he had fallen in love with Cleopatra,
or as if he were asking for a great actress at the stage door.
Indeed, some theatrical spangles seemed to cling about Miss Hunt;
she played the guitar and the mandoline; she always wanted charades;
and with that great rending of the sky by sun and storm,
she felt a girlish melodrama swell again within her.
To the crashing orchestration of the air the clouds rose
like the curtain of some long-expected pantomime.
Nor, oddly, was the girl in blue entirely unimpressed by this
apocalypse in a private garden; though she was one of most prosaic
and practical creatures alive. She was, indeed, no other than
the strenuous niece whose strength alone upheld that mansion of decay.
But as the gale swung and swelled the blue and white skirts till they
took on the monstrous contours of Victorian crinolines, a sunken memory
stirred in her that was almost romance--a memory of a dusty volume
in _Punch_ in an aunt's house in infancy: pictures of crinoline hoops
and croquet hoops and some pretty story, of which perhaps they were a part.
This half-perceptible fragrance in her thoughts faded almost instantly,
and Diana Duke entered the house even more promptly than her companion.
Tall, slim, aquiline, and dark, she seemed made for such swiftness.
In body she was of the breed of those birds and beasts that are at once
long and alert, like greyhounds or herons or even like an innocent snake.
The whole house revolved on her as on a rod of steel. It would
be wrong to say that she commanded; for her own efficiency was so
impatient that she obeyed herself before any one else obeyed her.
Before electricians could mend a bell or locksmiths open a door,
before dentists could pluck a tooth or butlers draw a tight cork,
it was done already with the silent violence of her slim hands.
She was light; but there was nothing leaping about her lightness.
She spurned the ground, and she meant to spurn it. People talk
of the pathos and failure of plain women; but it is a more terrible
thing that a beautiful woman may succeed in everything but womanhood.
"It's enough to blow your head off," said the young woman in white,
going to the looking-glass.
The young woman in blue made no reply, but put away her gardening gloves,
and then went to the sideboard and began to spread out an afternoon
cloth for tea.
"Enough to blow your head off, I say," said Miss Rosamund Hunt,
with the unruffled cheeriness of one whose songs and speeches
had always been safe for an encore.
"Only your hat, I think," said Diana Duke, "but I dare say that it
sometimes more important."
Rosamund's face showed for an instant the offence of a
spoilt child, and then the humour of a very healthy person.
She broke into a laugh and said, "Well, it would have to be a big
wind to blow your head off."
There was another silence; and the sunset breaking more and more from
the sundering clouds, filled the room with soft fire and painted the dull
walls with ruby and gold.
"Somebody once told me," said Rosamund Hunt, "that it's easier
to keep one's head when one has lost one's heart."
"Oh, don't talk such rubbish," said Diana with savage sharpness.
Outside, the garden was clad in a golden splendour;
but the wind was still stiffly blowing, and the three men
who stood their ground might also have considered the problem
of hats and heads. And, indeed, their position, touching hats,
was somewhat typical of them. The tallest of the three abode
the blast in a high silk hat, which the wind seemed to charge
as vainly as that other sullen tower, the house behind him.
The second man tried to hold on a stiff straw hat at all angles,
and ultimately held it in his hand. The third had no hat, and,
by his attitude, seemed never to have had one in his life.
Perhaps this wind was a kind of fairy wand to test men and women,
for there was much of the three men in this difference.
The man in the solid silk hat was the embodiment of silkiness and solidity.
He was a big, bland, bored and (as some said) boring man, with flat
fair hair and handsome heavy features; a prosperous young doctor
by the name of Warner. But if his blondness and blandness seemed
at first a little fatuous, it is certain that he was no fool.
If Rosamund Hunt was the only person there with much money,
he was the only person who had as yet found any kind of fame.
His treatise on "The Probable Existence of Pain in the Lowest Organisms"
had been universally hailed by the scientific world as at once solid
and daring. In short, he undoubtedly had brains; and perhaps it was
not his fault if they were the kind of brains that most men desire
to analyze with a poker.
The young man who put his hat off and on was a scientific amateur in a
small way, and worshipped the great Warner with a solemn freshness.
It was, in fact, at his invitation that the distinguished doctor
was present; for Warner lived in no such ramshackle lodging-house,
but in a professional palace in Harley Street. This young
man was really the youngest and best-looking of the three.
But he was one of those persons, both male and female,
who seem doomed to be good-looking and insignificant.
Brown-haired, high-coloured, and shy, he seemed to lose
the delicacy of his features in a sort of blur of brown
and red as he stood blushing and blinking against the wind.
He was one of those obvious unnoticeable people:
every one knew that he was Arthur Inglewood, unmarried, moral,
decidedly intelligent, living on a little money of his own,
and hiding himself in the two hobbies of photography and cycling.
Everybody knew him and forgot him; even as he stood there in the
glare of golden sunset there was something about him indistinct,
like one of his own red-brown amateur photographs.
The third man had no hat; he was lean, in light, vaguely
sporting clothes, and the large pipe in his mouth made him look
all the leaner. He had a long ironical face, blue-black hair,
the blue eyes of an Irishman, and the blue chin of an actor.
An Irishman he was, an actor he was not, except in the old
days of Miss Hunt's charades, being, as a matter of fact,
an obscure and flippant journalist named Michael Moon. He had
once been hazily supposed to be reading for the Bar;
but (as Warner would say with his rather elephantine wit)
it was mostly at another kind of bar that his friends found him.
Moon, however, did not drink, nor even frequently get drunk;
he simply was a gentleman who liked low company.
This was partly because company is quieter than society:
and if he enjoyed talking to a barmaid (as apparently
he did), it was chiefly because the barmaid did the talking.
Moreover he would often bring other talent to assist her.
He shared that strange trick of all men of his type, intellectual and
without ambition--the trick of going about with his mental inferiors.
There was a small resilient Jew named Moses Gould in the same
boarding-house, a man whose negro vitality and vulgarity amused
Michael so much that he went round with him from bar to bar,
like the owner of a performing monkey.
The colossal clearance which the wind had made of that cloudy sky grew
clearer and clearer; chamber within chamber seemed to open in heaven.
One felt one might at last find something lighter than light.
In the fullness of this silent effulgence all things collected their
colours again: the gray trunks turned silver, and the drab gravel gold.
One bird fluttered like a loosened leaf from one tree to another,
and his brown feathers were brushed with fire.
"Inglewood," said Michael Moon, with his blue eye on the bird,
"have you any friends?"
Dr. Warner mistook the person addressed, and turning a broad
beaming face, said,--
"Oh yes, I go out a great deal."
Michael Moon gave a tragic grin, and waited for his real informant,
who spoke a moment after in a voice curiously cool, fresh and young,
as coming out of that brown and even dusty interior.
"Really," answered Inglewood, "I'm afraid I've lost touch with
my old friends. The greatest friend I ever had was at school,
a fellow named Smith. It's odd you should mention it, because I
was thinking of him to-day, though I haven't seen him for seven
or eight years. He was on the science side with me at school--
a clever fellow though queer; and he went up to Oxford when I
went to Germany. The fact is, it's rather a sad story.
I often asked him to come and see me, and when I heard nothing I
made inquiries, you know. I was shocked to learn that poor Smith
had gone off his head. The accounts were a bit cloudy, of course,
some saying that he had recovered again; but they always say that.
About a year ago I got a telegram from him myself. The telegram,
I'm sorry to say, put the matter beyond a doubt."
"Quite so," assented Dr. Warner stolidly; "insanity is generally incurable."
"So is sanity," said the Irishman, and studied him with a dreary eye.
"Symptoms?" asked the doctor. "What was this telegram?"
"It's a shame to joke about such things," said Inglewood, in his honest,
embarrassed way; "the telegram was Smith's illness, not Smith. The actual
words were, `Man found alive with two legs.'"
"Alive with two legs," repeated Michael, frowning. "Perhaps a version
of alive and kicking? I don't know much about people out of their senses;
but I suppose they ought to be kicking."
"And people in their senses?" asked Warner, smiling.
"Oh, they ought to be kicked," said Michael with sudden heartiness.
"The message is clearly insane," continued the impenetrable Warner.
"The best test is a reference to the undeveloped normal type.
Even a baby does not expect to find a man with three legs."
"Three legs," said Michael Moon, "would be very convenient in this wind."
A fresh eruption of the atmosphere had indeed almost thrown them
off their balance and broken the blackened trees in the garden.
Beyond, all sorts of accidental objects could be seen scouring
the wind-scoured sky--straws, sticks, rags, papers, and, in the distance,
a disappearing hat. Its disappearance, however, was not final;
after an interval of minutes they saw it again, much larger and closer,
like a white panama, towering up into the heavens like a balloon,
staggering to and fro for an instant like a stricken kite,
and then settling in the centre of their own lawn as falteringly
as a fallen leaf.
"Somebody's lost a good hat," said Dr. Warner shortly.
Almost as he spoke, another object came over the garden wall,
flying after the fluttering panama. It was a big green umbrella.
After that came hurtling a huge yellow Gladstone bag,
and after that came a figure like a flying wheel of legs,
as in the shield of the Isle of Man.
But though for a flash it seemed to have five or six legs,
it alighted upon two, like the man in the queer telegram.
It took the form of a large light-haired man in gay green holiday clothes.
He had bright blonde hair that the wind brushed back like a German's,
a flushed eager face like a cherub's, and a prominent pointing nose,
a little like a dog's. His head, however, was by no means cherubic
in the sense of being without a body. On the contrary, on his vast
shoulders and shape generally gigantesque, his head looked oddly
and unnaturally small. This have rise to a scientific theory
(which his conduct fully supported) that he was an idiot.
Inglewood had a politeness instinctive and yet awkward.
His life was full of arrested half gestures of assistance.
And even this prodigy of a big man in green, leaping the wall
like a bright green grasshopper, did not paralyze that small
altruism of his habits in such a matter as a lost hat.
He was stepping forward to recover the green gentleman's
head-gear, when he was struck rigid with a roar like a bull's.
"Unsportsmanlike!" bellowed the big man. "Give it fair play,
give it fair play!" And he came after his own hat quickly
but cautiously, with burning eyes. The hat had seemed at first
to droop and dawdle as in ostentatious langour on the sunny lawn;
but the wind again freshening and rising, it went dancing down
the garden with the devilry of a ~pas de quatre~. The eccentric went
bounding after it with kangaroo leaps and bursts of breathless speech,
of which it was not always easy to pick up the thread:
"Fair play, fair play... sport of kings... chase their crowns...
quite humane... tramontana... cardinals chase red hats... old
English hunting... started a hat in Bramber Combe... hat at bay...
mangled hounds... Got him!"
As the winds rose out of a roar into a shriek, he leapt into the sky
on his strong, fantastic legs, snatched at the vanishing hat,
missed it, and pitched sprawling face foremost on the grass.
The hat rose over him like a bird in triumph. But its triumph
was premature; for the lunatic, flung forward on his hands,
threw up his boots behind, waved his two legs in the air
like symbolic ensigns (so that they actually thought again
of the telegram), and actually caught the hat with his feet.
A prolonged and piercing yell of wind split the welkin from end to end.
The eyes of all the men were blinded by the invisible blast,
as by a strange, clear cataract of transparency rushing between
them and all objects about them. But as the large man fell back
in a sitting posture and solemnly crowned himself with the hat,
Michael found, to his incredulous surprise, that he had been
holding his breath, like a man watching a duel.
While that tall wind was at the top of its sky-scraping energy,
another short cry was heard, beginning very querulous, but ending
very quick, swallowed in abrupt silence. The shiny black cylinder
of Dr. Warner's official hat sailed off his head in the long,
smooth parabola of an airship, and in almost cresting a garden
tree was caught in the topmost branches. Another hat was gone.
Those in that garden felt themselves caught in an unaccustomed eddy
of things happening; no one seemed to know what would blow away next.
Before they could speculate, the cheering and hallooing hat-hunter
was already halfway up the tree, swinging himself from fork to fork
with his strong, bent, grasshopper legs, and still giving forth
his gasping, mysterious comments.
"Tree of life... Ygdrasil... climb for centuries perhaps... owls nesting
in the hat... remotest generations of owls... still usurpers... gone
to heaven... man in the moon wears it... brigand... not yours... belongs
to depressed medical man... in garden... give it up... give it up!"
The tree swung and swept and thrashed to and fro in the thundering
wind like a thistle, and flamed in the full sunshine like a bonfire.
The green, fantastic human figure, vivid against its autumn red and gold,
was already among its highest and craziest branches, which by bare luck did
not break with the weight of his big body. He was up there among the last
tossing leaves and the first twinkling stars of evening, still talking
to himself cheerfully, reasoningly, half apologetically, in little gasps.
He might well be out of breath, for his whole preposterous raid had
gone with one rush; he had bounded the wall once like a football,
swept down the garden like a slide, and shot up the tree like a rocket.
The other three men seemed buried under incident piled on incident--
a wild world where one thing began before another thing left off.
All three had the first thought. The tree had been there for the five years
they had known the boarding-house. Each one of them was active and strong.
No one of them had even thought of climbing it. Beyond that,
Inglewood felt first the mere fact of colour. The bright brisk leaves,
the bleak blue sky, the wild green arms and legs, reminded him irrationally
of something glowing in his infancy, something akin to a gaudy man
on a golden tree; perhaps it was only painted monkey on a stick.
Oddly enough, Michael Moon, though more of a humourist, was touched on
a tenderer nerve, half remembered the old, young theatricals with Rosamund,
and was amused to find himself almost quoting Shakespeare--
"For valour. Is not love a Hercules,
Still climbing trees in the Hesperides?"
Even the immovable man of science had a bright, bewildered sensation
that the Time Machine had given a great jerk, and gone forward
with rather rattling rapidity.
He was not, however, wholly prepared for what happened next.
The man in green, riding the frail topmost bough like a witch on a very risky
broomstick, reached up and rent the black hat from its airy nest of twigs.
It had been broken across a heavy bough in the first burst of its passage,
a tangle of branches in torn and scored and scratched it in every direction,
a clap of wind and foliage had flattened it like a concertina; nor can it
be said that the obliging gentleman with the sharp nose showed any adequate
tenderness for its structure when he finally unhooked it from its place.
When he had found it, however, his proceedings were by some counted singular.
He waved it with a loud whoop of triumph, and then immediately appeared
to fall backwards off the tree, to which, however, he remained
attached by his long strong legs, like a monkey swung by his tail.
Hanging thus head downwards above the unhelmed Warner, he gravely proceeded
to drop the battered silk cylinder upon his brows. "Every man a king,"
explained the inverted philosopher, "every hat (consequently) a crown.
But this is a crown out of heaven."
And he again attempted the coronation of Warner, who, however, moved away
with great abruptness from the hovering diadem; not seeming, strangely enough,
to wish for his former decoration in its present state.
"Wrong, wrong!" cried the obliging person hilariously.
"Always wear uniform, even if it's shabby uniform!
Ritualists may always be untidy. Go to a dance with soot on
your shirt-front; but go with a shirt-front. Huntsman wears old coat,
but old pink coat. Wear a topper, even if it's got no top.
It's the symbol that counts, old cock. Take your hat,
because it is your hat after all; its nap rubbed all off
by the bark, dears, and its brim not the least bit curled;
but for old sakes' sake it is still, dears, the nobbiest tile
in the world."
Speaking thus, with a wild comfortableness, he settled or smashed
the shapeless silk hat over the face of the disturbed physician,
and fell on his feet among the other men, still talking,
beaming and breathless.
"Why don't they make more games out of wind?" he asked in some excitement.
"Kites are all right, but why should it only be kites? Why, I thought
of three other games for a windy day while I was climbing that tree.
Here's one of them: you take a lot of pepper--"
"I think," interposed Moon, with a sardonic mildness,
"that your games are already sufficiently interesting.
Are you, may I ask, a professional acrobat on a tour,
or a travelling advertisement of Sunny Jim? How and why do you
display all this energy for clearing walls and climbing trees
in our melancholy, but at least rational, suburbs?"
The stranger, so far as so loud a person was capable of it,
appeared to grow confidential.
"Well, it's a trick of my own," he confessed candidly.
"I do it by having two legs."
Arthur Inglewood, who had sunk into the background of this scene of folly,
started and stared at the newcomer with his short-sighted eyes screwed up
and his high colour slightly heightened.
"Why, I believe you're Smith," he cried with his fresh, almost boyish voice;
and then after an instant's stare, "and yet I'm not sure."
"I have a card, I think," said the unknown, with baffling solemnity--"a card
with my real name, my titles, offices, and true purpose on this earth."
He drew out slowly from an upper waistcoat pocket a scarlet
card-case, and as slowly produced a very large card.
Even in the instant of its production, they fancied it was
of a queer shape, unlike the cards of ordinary gentlemen.
But it was there only for an instant; for as it passed from
his fingers to Arthur's, one or another slipped his hold.
The strident, tearing gale in that garden carried away
the stranger's card to join the wild waste paper of the universe;
and that great western wind shook the whole house and passed.
The Luggage of an Optimist
We all remember the fairy tales of science in our infancy, which played
with the supposition that large animals could jump in the proportion
of small ones. If an elephant were as strong as a grasshopper, he could
(I suppose) spring clean out of the Zoological Gardens and alight
trumpeting upon Primrose Hill. If a whale could leap from the sea
like a trout, perhaps men might look up and see one soaring above
Yarmouth like the winged island of Laputa. Such natural energy,
though sublime, might certainly be inconvenient, and much of this
inconvenience attended the gaiety and good intentions of the man in green.
He was too large for everything, because he was lively as well as large.
By a fortunate physical provision, most very substantial creatures
are also reposeful; and middle-class boarding-houses in the lesser
parts of London are not built for a man as big as a bull and excitable
as a kitten.
When Inglewood followed the stranger into the boarding-house,
he found him talking earnestly (and in his own opinion privately)
to the helpless Mrs. Duke. That fat, faint lady could only
goggle up like a dying fish at the enormous new gentleman,
who politely offered himself as a lodger, with vast gestures
of the wide white hat in one hand, and the yellow Gladstone bag
in the other. Fortunately, Mrs. Duke's more efficient niece
and partner was there to complete the contract; for, indeed,
all the people of the house had somehow collected in the room.
This fact, in truth, was typical of the whole episode.
The visitor created an atmosphere of comic crisis; and from
the time he came into the house to the time he left it, he somehow
got the company to gather and even follow (though in derision)
as children gather and follow a Punch and Judy. An hour ago,
and for four years previously, these people had avoided
each other, even when they
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