CHESTERTON-ALARM AND SIDISCUTIO - The Field of Blood
In my daily paper this morning I read the following interesting
paragraphs, which take my mind back to an England which I do not
remember and which, therefore (perhaps), I admire.
"Nearly sixty years ago--on 4 September, 1850--the Austrian
General Haynau, who had gained an unenviable fame throughout the world
by his ferocious methods in suppressing the Hungarian revolution in 1849,
while on a visit to this country, was belaboured in the streets
of London by the draymen of Messrs. Barclay, Perkins and Co.,
whose brewery he had just inspected in company of an adjutant.
Popular delight was so great that the Government of the time
did not dare to prosecute the assailants, and the General--
the 'women-flogger,' as he was called by the people--had to leave
these shores without remedy.
"He returned to his own country and settled upon his estate at Szekeres,
which is close to the commune above-mentioned. By his will the estate
passed to his daughter, after whose death it was to be presented
to the commune. This daughter has just died, but the Communal Council,
after much deliberation, has declined to accept the gift,
and ordered that the estate should be left to fall out of cultivation,
and be called the 'Bloody Meadow.'"
Now that is an example of how things happen under an honest democratical
impulse. I do not dwell specially on the earlier part of the story,
though the earlier part of the story is astonishingly interesting.
It recalls the days when Englishmen were potential lighters; that is,
potential rebels. It is not for lack of agonies of intellectual anger:
the Sultan and the late King Leopold have been denounced as heartily
as General Haynau. But I doubt if they would have been physically
thrashed in the London streets.
It is not the tyrants that are lacking, but the draymen. Nevertheless, it
is not upon the historic heroes of Barclay, Perkins and Co. that I build
all my hope. Fine as it was, it was not a full and perfect revolution.
A brewer's drayman beating an eminent European General with a stick,
though a singularly bright and pleasing vision, is not a complete one.
Only when the brewer's drayman beats the brewer with a stick shall
we see the clear and radiant sunrise of British self-government.
The fun will really start when we begin to thump the oppressors
of England as well as the oppressors of Hungary. It is, however,
a definite decline in the spiritual character of draymen that
now they can thump neither one nor the other.
But, as I have already suggested, my real quarrel is not
about the first part of the extract, but about the second.
Whether or no the draymen of Barclay and Perkins have degenerated,
the Commune which includes Szekeres has not degenerated.
By the way, the Commune which includes Szekeres is called
Kissekeres; I trust that this frank avowal will excuse me from
the necessity of mentioning either of these places again by name.
The Commune is still capable of performing direct democratic actions,
if necessary, with a stick.
I say with a stick, not with sticks, for that is the whole argument
about democracy. A people is a soul; and if you want to know
what a soul is, I can only answer that it is something that can
sin and that can sacrifice itself. A people can commit theft;
a people can confess theft; a people can repent of theft.
That is the idea of the republic. Now, most modern people have got
into their heads the idea that democracies are dull, drifting things,
a mere black swarm or slide of clerks to their accustomed doom.
In most modern novels and essays it is insisted (by way of contrast)
that a walking gentleman may have ad-ventures as he walks.
It is insisted that an aristocrat can commit crimes, because an aristocrat
always cultivates liberty. But, in truth, a people can have adventures,
as Israel did crawling through the desert to the promised land.
A people can do heroic deeds; a people can commit crimes;
the French people did both in the Revolution; the Irish people
have done both in their much purer and more honourable progress.
But the real answer to this aristocratic argument which seeks to
identify democracy with a drab utilitarianism may be found in action
such as that of the Hungarian Commune--whose name I decline to repeat.
This Commune did just one of those acts that prove that a separate
people has a separate personality; it threw something away.
A man can throw a bank note into the fire. A man can fling a sack
of corn into the river. The bank-note may be burnt as a satisfaction
of some scruple; the corn may be destroyed as a sacrifice to some god.
But whenever there is sacrifice we know there is a single will.
Men may be disputatious and doubtful, may divide by very narrow
majorities in their debate about how to gain wealth. But men have
to be uncommonly unanimous in order to refuse wealth. It wants
a very complete committee to burn a bank note in the office grate.
It needs a highly religious tribe really to throw corn into the river.
This self-denial is the test and definition of self-government.
I wish I could feel certain that any English County Council
or Parish Council would be single enough to make that strong
gesture of a romantic refusal; could say, "No rents shall
be raised from this spot; no grain shall grow in this spot;
no good shall come of this spot; it shall remain sterile for a sign."
But I am afraid they might answer, like the eminent sociologist
in the story, that it was "wiste of spice."
The Strangeness of Luxury
It is an English misfortune that what is called "public spirit"
is so often a very private spirit; the legitimate but strictly
individual ideals of this or that person who happens to have
the power to carry them out. When these private principles are held
by very rich people, the result is often the blackest and most
repulsive kind of despotism, which is benevolent despotism.
Obviously it is the public which ought to have public spirit.
But in this country and at this epoch this is exactly what it has
not got. We shall have a public washhouse and a public kitchen
long before we have a public spirit; in fact, if we had a public
spirit we might very probably do without the other things.
But if England were properly and naturally governed by the
English, one of the first results would probably be this:
that our standard of excess or defect in property would be changed
from that of the plutocrat to that of the moderately needy man.
That is, that while property might be strictly respected, everything that
is necessary to a clerk would be felt and considered on quite a
different plane from anything which is a very great luxury to a clerk.
This sane distinction of sentiment is not instinctive at present,
because our standard of life is that of the governing class,
which is eternally turning luxuries into necessities as fast as pork
is turned into sausages; and which cannot remember the beginning
of its needs and cannot get to the end of its novelties.
Take, for the sake of argument, the case of the motor.
Doubtless the duke now feels it as necessary to have a motor as to have
a roof, and in a little while he may feel it equally necessary to have
a flying ship. But this does not prove (as the reactionary sceptics
always argue) that a motor really is just as necessary as a roof.
It only proves that a man can get used to an artificial life:
it does not prove that there is no natural life for him to get used to.
In the broad bird's-eye view of common sense there abides
a huge disproportion between the need for a roof and the need
for an aeroplane; and no rush of inventions can ever alter it.
The only difference is that things are now judged by the abnormal
needs, when they might be judged merely by the normal needs.
The best aristocrat sees the situation from an aeroplane.
The good citizen, in his loftiest moments, goes no further than
seeing it from the roof.
It is not true that luxury is merely relative. It is not true
that it is only an expensive novelty which we may afterwards come
to think a necessity. Luxury has a firm philosophical meaning;
and where there is a real public spirit luxury is generally
allowed for, sometimes rebuked, but always recognized instantly.
To the healthy soul there is something in the very nature of certain
pleasures which warns us that they are exceptions, and that if they
become rules they will become very tyrannical rules.
Take a harassed seamstress out of the Harrow Road and give her one
lightning hour in a motorcar, and she will probably feel it as splendid,
but strange, rare, and even terrible. But this is not (as the
relativists say) merely because she has never been in a car before.
She has never been in the middle of a Somerset cowslip meadow before;
but if you put her there she does not think it terrifying
or extraordinary, but merely pleasant and free and a little lonely.
She does not think the motor monstrous because it is new.
She thinks it monstrous because she has eyes in her head; she thinks it
monstrous because it is monstrous. That is, her mothers and grandmothers,
and the whole race by whose life she lives, have had, as a matter
of fact, a roughly recognizable mode of living; sitting in a green
field was a part of it; travelling as quick as a cannon ball was not.
And we should not look down on the seamstress because she mechanically
emits a short sharp scream whenever the motor begins to move.
On the contrary, we ought to look up to the seamstress, and regard her
cry as a kind of mystic omen or revelation of nature, as the old Goths
used to consider the howls emitted by chance females when annoyed.
For that ritual yell is really a mark of moral health--of swift
response to the stimulations and changes of life. The seamstress
is wiser than all the learned ladies, precisely because she can
still feel that a motor is a different sort of thing from a meadow.
By the accident of her economic imprisonment it is even possible
that she may have seen more of the former than the latter.
But this has not shaken her cyclopean sagacity as to which is
the natural thing and which the artificial. If not for her,
at least for humanity as a whole, there is little doubt about
which is the more normally attainable. It is considerably cheaper
to sit in a meadow and see motors go by than to sit in a motor
and see meadows go by.
To me personally, at least, it would never seem needful to own a motor,
any more than to own an avalanche. An avalanche, if you have luck,
I am told, is a very swift, successful, and thrilling way of coming
down a hill. It is distinctly more stirring, say, than a glacier,
which moves an inch in a hundred years. But I do not divide these
pleasures either by excitement or convenience, but by the nature
of the thing itself. It seems human to have a horse or bicycle,
because it seems human to potter about; and men cannot work horses,
nor can bicycles work men, enormously far afield of their ordinary
haunts and affairs.
But about motoring there is something magical, like going to the moon;
and I say the thing should be kept exceptional and felt
as something breathless and bizarre. My ideal hero would own
his horse, but would have the moral courage to hire his motor.
Fairy tales are the only sound guidebooks to life; I like the
Fairy Prince to ride on a white pony out of his father's stables,
which are of ivory and gold. But if in the course of his adventures
he finds it necessary to travel on a flaming dragon, I think he ought
to give the dragon back to the witch at the end of the story.
It is a mistake to have dragons about the place.
For there is truly an air of something weird about luxury; and it is
by this that healthy human nature has always smelt and suspected it.
All romances that deal in extreme luxury, from the "Arabian Nights"
to the novels of Ouida and Disraeli, have, it may be noted,
a singular air of dream and occasionally of nightmare. In such
imaginative debauches there is something as occasional as
intoxication; if that is still counted occasional. Life in
those preposterous palaces would be an agony of dullness;
it is clear we are meant to visit them only as in a flying vision.
And what is true of the old freaks of wealth, flavour and fierce
colour and smell, I would say also of the new freak of wealth,
which is speed. I should say to the duke, when I entered his house
at the head of an armed mob, "I do not object to your having
exceptional pleasures, if you have them exceptionally. I do not mind
your enjoying the strange and alien energies of science, if you feel
them strange and alien, and not your own. But in condemning you
(under the Seventeenth Section of the Eighth Decree of the Republic)
to hire a motor-car twice a year at Margate, I am not the enemy
of your luxuries, but, rather, the protector of them."
That is what I should say to the duke. As to what the duke would
say to me, that is another matter, and may well be deferred.
Doubtless the unsympathetic might state my doctrine that one should
not own a motor like a horse, but rather use it like a flying dragon
in the simpler form that I will always go motoring in somebody
else's car. My favourite modern philosopher (Mr. W. W. Jacobs)
describes a similar case of spiritual delicacy misunderstood.
I have not the book at hand, but I think that Job Brown was reproaching
Bill Chambers for wasteful drunkenness, and Henery Walker spoke up
for Bill, and said he scarcely ever had a glass but what somebody
else paid for it, and there was "unpleasantness all round then."
Being less sensitive than Bill Chambers (or whoever it was)
I will risk this rude perversion of my meaning, and concede that I
was in a motor-car yesterday, and the motor-car most certainly was
not my own, and the journey, though it contained nothing that is
specially unusual on such journeys, had running through it a strain
of the grotesque which was at once wholesome and humiliating.
The symbol of that influence was that ancient symbol of the humble
and humorous--a donkey.
When first I saw the donkey I saw him in the sunlight as the
unearthly gargoyle that he is. My friend had met me in his car
(I repeat firmly, in his car) at the little painted station in the middle
of the warm wet woods and hop-fields of that western country.
He proposed to drive me first to his house beyond the village
before starting for a longer spin of adventure, and we rattled
through those rich green lanes which have in them something
singularly analogous to fairy tales: whether the lanes produced
the fairies or (as I believe) the fairies produced the lanes.
All around in the glimmering hop-yards stood those little hop-kilns
like stunted and slanting spires. They look like dwarfish churches--
in fact, rather like many modern churches I could mention,
churches all of them small and each of them a little crooked.
In this elfin atmosphere we swung round a sharp corner and half-way
up a steep, white hill, and saw what looked at first like a tall,
black monster against the sun. It appeared to be a dark and dreadful
woman walking on wheels and waving long ears like a bat's. A
second glance told me that she was not the local witch in a state
of transition; she was only one of the million tricks of perspective.
She stood up in a small wheeled cart drawn by a donkey;
the donkey's ears were just set behind her head, and the whole
was black against the light.
Perspective is really the comic element in everything.
It has a pompous Latin name, but it is incurably Gothic and grotesque.
One simple proof of this is that it is always left out of all dignified
and decorative art. There is no perspective in the Elgin Marbles,
and even the essentially angular angels in mediaeval stained glass
almost always (as it says in "Patience") contrive to look both
angular and flat. There is something intrinsically disproportionate
and outrageous in the idea of the distant objects dwindling and
growing dwarfish, the closer objects swelling enormous and intolerable.
There is something frantic in the notion that one's own father by
walking a little way can be changed by a blast of magic to a pigmy.
There is something farcical in the fancy that Nature keeps one's uncle
in an infinite number of sizes, according to where he is to stand.
All soldiers in retreat turn into tin soldiers; all bears in rout
into toy bears; as if on the ultimate horizon of the world everything
was sardonically doomed to stand up laughable and little against heaven.
It was for this reason that the old woman and her donkey
struck us first when seen from behind as one black grotesque.
I afterwards had the chance of seeing the old woman, the cart,
and the donkey fairly, in flank and in all their length.
I saw the old woman and the donkey PASSANT, as they might have
appeared heraldically on the shield of some heroic family.
I saw the old woman and the donkey dignified, decorative, and flat,
as they might have marched across the Elgin Marbles. Seen thus
under an equal light, there was nothing specially ugly about them;
the cart was long and sufficiently comfortable; the donkey was
stolid and sufficiently respectable; the old woman was lean but
sufficiently strong, and even smiling in a sour, rustic manner.
But seen from behind they looked like one black monstrous animal;
the dark donkey cars seemed like dreadful wings, and the tall
dark back of the woman, erect like a tree, seemed to grow taller
and taller until one could almost scream.
Then we went by her with a blasting roar like a railway train,
and fled far from her over the brow of the hill to my friend's home.
There we paused only for my friend to stock the car with some kind
of picnic paraphernalia, and so started again, as it happened,
by the way we had come. Thus it fell that we went shattering down
that short, sharp hill again before the poor old woman and her donkey
had managed to crawl to the top of it; and seeing them under a
different light, I saw them very differently. Black against the sun,
they had seemed comic; but bright against greenwood and grey cloud,
they were not comic but tragic; for there are not a few things
that seem fantastic in the twilight, and in the sunlight are sad.
I saw that she had a grand, gaunt mask of ancient honour
and endurance, and wide eyes sharpened to two shining points,
as if looking for that small hope on the horizon of human life.
I also saw that her cart contained carrots.
"Don't you feel, broadly speaking, a beast," I asked my friend,
"when you go so easily and so fast?" For we had crashed by so that
the crazy cart must have thrilled in every stick of it.
My friend was a good man, and said, "Yes. But I don't think it
would do her any good if I went slower."
"No," I assented after reflection. "Perhaps the only pleasure we can
give to her or any one else is to get out of their sight very soon."
My friend availed himself of this advice in no niggard spirit;
I felt as if we were fleeing for our lives in throttling fear after
some frightful atrocity. In truth, there is only one difference
left between the secrecy of the two social classes: the poor hide
themselves in darkness and the rich hide themselves in distance.
They both hide.
As we shot like a lost boat over a cataract down into a whirlpool of
white roads far below, I saw afar a black dot crawling like an insect.
I looked again: I could hardly believe it. There was the slow old
woman, with her slow old donkey, still toiling along the main road.
I asked my friend to slacken, but when he said of the car,
"She's wanting to go," I knew it was all up with him. For when
you have called a thing female you have yielded to it utterly.
We passed the old woman with a shock that must have shaken the earth:
if her head did not reel and her heart quail, I know not what they
were made of. And when we had fled perilously on in the gathering dark,
spurning hamlets behind us, I suddenly called out, "Why, what
asses we are! Why, it's She that is brave--she and the donkey.
We are safe enough; we are artillery and plate-armour: and she stands up
to us with matchwood and a snail! If you had grown old in a quiet valley,
and people began firing cannon-balls as big as cabs at you in your
seventieth year, wouldn't you jump--and she never moved an eyelid.
Oh! we go very fast and very far, no doubt--"
As I spoke came a curious noise, and my friend, instead of going fast,
began to go very slow; then he stopped; then he got out.
Then he said, "And I left the Stepney behind."
The grey moths came out of the wood and the yellow stars came
out to crown it, as my friend, with the lucidity of despair,
explained to me (on the soundest scientific principles, of course)
that nothing would be any good at all. We must sleep the night
in the lane, except in the very unlikely event of some one coming
by to carry a message to some town. Twice I thought I heard
some tiny sound of such approach, and it died away like wind
in the trees, and the motorist was already asleep when I heard
it renewed and realized. Something certainly was approaching.
I ran up the road--and there it was. Yes, It--and She.
Thrice had she come, once comic and once tragic and once heroic.
And when she came again it was as if in pardon on a pure errand of prosaic
pity and relief. I am quite serious. I do not want you to laugh.
It is not the first time a donkey has been received seriously,
nor one riding a donkey with respect.
In a quiet and rustic though fairly famous church in my neighbourhood
there is a window supposed to represent an Angel on a Bicycle.
It does definitely and indisputably represent a nude youth sitting
on a wheel; but there is enough complication in the wheel and sanctity
(I suppose) in the youth to warrant this working description.
It is a thing of florid Renascence outline, and belongs to the highly
pagan period which introduced all sorts of objects into ornament:
personally I can believe in the bicycle more than in the angel.
Men, they say, are now imitating angels; in their flying-machines,
that is: not in any other respect that I have heard of. So perhaps
the angel on the bicycle (if he is an angel and if it bicycle)
was avenging himself by imitating man. If so, he showed that high order
of intellect which is attributed to angels in the mediaeval books,
though not always (perhaps) in the mediaeval pictures.
For wheels are the mark of a man quite as much as wings are the mark
of an angel. Wheels are the things that are as old as mankind and yet
are strictly peculiar to man, that are prehistoric but not pre-human.
A distinguished psychologist, who is well acquainted with physiology,
has told me that parts of himself are certainly levers,
while other parts are probably pulleys, but that after feeling
himself carefully all over, he cannot find a wheel anywhere.
The wheel, as a mode of movement, is a purely human thing.
On the ancient escutcheon of Adam (which, like much of the rest
of his costume, has not yet been discovered) the heraldic emblem
was a wheel--passant. As a mode of progress, I say, it is unique.
Many modern philosophers, like my friend before mentioned,
are ready to find links between man and beast, and to show that man
has been in all things the blind slave of his mother earth.
Some, of a very different kind, are even eager to show it;
especially if it can be twisted to the discredit of religion.
But even the most eager scientists have often admitted in my hearing
that they would be surprised if some kind of cow approached them
moving solemnly on four wheels. Wings, fins, flappers, claws,
hoofs, webs, trotters, with all these the fantastic families
of the earth come against us and close around us, fluttering and
flapping and rustling and galloping and lumbering and thundering;
but there is no sound of wheels.
I remember dimly, if, indeed, I remember aright, that in some of
those dark prophetic pages of Scripture, that seem of cloudy purple
and dusky gold, there is a passage in which the seer beholds a violent
dream of wheels. Perhaps this was indeed the symbolic declaration
of the spiritual supremacy of man. Whatever the birds may do above
or the fishes beneath his ship, man is the only thing to steer;
the only thing to be conceived as steering. He may make the birds
his friends, if he can. He may make the fishes his gods, if he chooses.
But most certainly he will not believe a bird at the masthead;
and it is hardly likely that he will even permit a fish at the helm.
He is, as Swinburne says, helmsman and chief: he is literally
the Man at the Wheel.
The wheel is an animal that is always standing on its head;
only "it does it so rapidly that no philosopher has ever found
out which is its head." Or if the phrase be felt as more exact,
it is an animal that is always turning head over heels and progressing
by this principle. Some fish, I think, turn head over heels
(supposing them, for the sake of argument, to have heels);
I have a dog who nearly did it; and I did it once myself when I
was very small. It was an accident, and, as delightful novelist,
Mr. De Morgan, would say, it never can happen again. Since then
no one has accused me of being upside down except mentally:
and I rather think that there is something to be said for that;
especially as typified by the rotary symbol. A wheel is the
sublime paradox; one part of it is always going forward and the other
part always going back. Now this, as it happens, is highly similar
to the proper condition of any human soul or any political state.
Every sane soul or state looks at once backwards and forwards;
and even goes backwards to come on.
For those interested in revolt (as I am) I only say meekly that one cannot
have a Revolution without revolving. The wheel, being a logical thing,
has reference to what is behind as well as what is before. It has
(as every society should have) a part that perpetually leaps helplessly
at the sky and a part that perpetually bows down its head into the dust.
Why should people be so scornful of us who stand on our heads?
Bowing down one's head in the dust is a very good thing,
the humble beginning of all happiness. When we have bowed
our heads in the dust for a little time the happiness comes;
and then (leaving our heads' in the humble and reverent position)
we kick up our heels behind in the air. That is the true origin
of standing on one's head; and the ultimate defence of paradox.
The wheel humbles itself to be exalted; only it does it a little
quicker than I do.
Life is full of a ceaseless shower of small coincidences:
too small to be worth mentioning except for a special purpose,
often too trifling even to be noticed, any more than we notice
one snowflake falling on another. It is this that lends
a frightful plausibility to all false doctrines and evil fads.
There are always such crowds of accidental arguments for anything.
If I said suddenly that historical truth is generally told
by red-haired men, I have no doubt that ten minutes' reflection
(in which I decline to indulge) would provide me with a handsome
list of instances in support of it. I remember a riotous argument
about Bacon and Shakespeare in which I offered quite at random
to show that Lord Rosebery had written the works of Mr. W. B. Yeats.
No sooner had I said the words than a torrent of coincidences
rushed upon my mind. I pointed out, for instance, that Mr. Yeats's
chief work was "The Secret Rose." This may easily be paraphrased
as "The Quiet or Modest Rose"; and so, of course, as the Primrose.
A second after I saw the same suggestion in the combination of "rose"
and "bury." If I had pursued the matter, who knows but I might have
been a raving maniac by this time.
We trip over these trivial repetitions and exactitudes at
every turn, only they are too trivial even for conversation.
A man named Williams did walk into a strange house and murder
a man named Williamson; it sounds like a sort of infanticide.
A journalist of my acquaintance did move quite unconsciously
from a place called Overstrand to a place called Overroads.
When he had made this escape he was very properly pursued by a
voting card from Battersea, on which a political agent named
Burn asked him to vote for a political candidate named Burns.
And when he did so another coincidence happened to him:
rather a spiritual than a material coincidence; a mystical thing,
a matter of a magic number.
For a sufficient number of reasons, the man I know went up to vote
in Battersea in a drifting and even dubious frame of mind.
As the train slid through swampy woods and sullen skies there came
into his empty mind those idle and yet awful questions which come when
the mind is empty. Fools make cosmic systems out of them; knaves make
profane poems out of them; men try to crush them like an ugly lust.
Religion is only the responsible reinforcement of common courage
and common sense. Religion only sets up the normal mood of health
against the hundred moods of disease.
But there is this about such ghastly empty enigmas, that they always
have an answer to the obvious answer, the reply offered by daily reason.
Suppose a man's children have gone swimming; suppose he is
suddenly throttled by the senseless--fear that they are drowned.
The obvious answer is, "Only one man in a thousand has his
children drowned." But a deeper voice (deeper, being as deep
as hell) answers, "And why should not you--be the thousandth man?"
What is true of tragic doubt is true also of trivial doubt.
The voter's guardian devil said to him, "If you don't vote
to-day you can do fifteen things which will quite certainly do
some good somewhere, please a friend, please a child, please a
maddened publisher. And what good do you expect to do by voting?
You don't think your man will get in by one vote, do you?"
To this he knew the answer of common sense, "But if everybody
said that, nobody would get in at all." And then there came
that deeper voice from Hades, "But you are not settling what
everybody shall do, but what one person on one occasion shall do.
If this afternoon you went your way about more solid things,
how would it matter and who would ever know?" Yet somehow the voter
drove on blindly through the blackening London roads, and found
somewhere a tedious polling station and recorded his tiny vote.
The politician for whom the voter had voted got in by five hundred
and fifty-five votes. The voter read this next morning at breakfast,
being in a more cheery and expansive mood, and found something
very fascinating not merely in the fact of the majority, but even
in the form of it. There was something symbolic about the three
exact figures; one felt it might be a sort of motto or cipher.
In the great book of seals and cloudy symbols there is just such
a thundering repetition. Six hundred and sixty-six was the Mark
of the Beast. Five hundred and fifty-five is the Mark of the Man;
the triumphant tribune and citizen. A number so symmetrical as that
really rises out of the region of science into the region of art.
It is a pattern, like the egg-and-dart ornament or the Greek key.
One might edge a wall-paper or fringe a robe with a recurring decimal.
And while the voter luxuriated in this light exactitude of the numbers,
a thought crossed his mind and he almost leapt to his feet.
"Why, good heavens!" he cried. "I won that election; and it was
won by one vote! But for me it would have been the despicable,
broken-backed, disjointed, inharmonious figure five hundred
and fifty-four. The whole artistic point would have vanished.
The Mark of the Man would have disappeared from history. It was I
who with a masterful hand seized the chisel and carved the hieroglyph--
complete and perfect. I clutched the trembling hand of Destiny when it
was about to make a dull square four and forced it to make a nice
curly five. Why, but for me the Cosmos would have lost a coincidence!"
After this outburst the voter sat down and finished his breakfast.
CHESTERTON-ALARM AND SIDISCUTIO - The Field of Blood