CHAPTER II. THE SECRET OF GABRIEL SYME
THE cab pulled up before a particularly dreary
and greasy beershop, into which Gregory rapidly conducted his companion
. They seated themselves in a close and dim
sort of bar-parlour, at a stained wooden table
with one wooden leg. The room was so small and dark, that very little could be seen of the attendant
who was summoned, beyond a vague
and dark impression
of something bulky
"Will you take a little supper?" asked Gregory politely. "The pate de foie gras is not good here, but I can recommend
Syme received the with stolidity, imagining it to be a joke. Accepting the vein
of humour, he said, with a well-bred indifference
"Oh, bring me some lobster
To his indescribable astonishment
, the man only said "Certainly, sir!" and went away apparently
to get it.
"What will you drink?" resumed Gregory, with the same careless
air. "I shall only have a creme de menthe myself; I have dined. But the champagne can really be trusted. Do let me start you with a half-bottle of Pommery at least?"
"Thank you!" said the motionless
Syme. "You are very good."
His further attempts at conversation
, somewhat disorganised in themselves, were cut short finally as by a thunderbolt by the actual appearance
of the lobster
. Syme tasted it, and found it particularly
good. Then he suddenly
began to eat with great rapidity and appetite
"Excuse me if I enjoy
myself rather obviously
!" he said to Gregory, smiling. "I don't often have the luck to have a dream
like this. It is new to me for a nightmare to lead to a lobster
. It is commonly the other way."
"And who are we?" asked Syme, emptying his champagne glass.
"It is quite simple
," replied Gregory. "We are the serious
anarchists, in whom you do not believe."
"Oh!" said Syme shortly. "You do yourselves well in drinks."
"Yes, we are serious
about everything," answered Gregory.
Then after a pause
"If in a few moments this table
begins to turn round a little, don't put it down to your inroads into the champagne. I don't wish you to do yourself an injustice
"Well, if I am not drunk, I am mad
," replied Syme with perfect
calm; "but I trust
I can behave
like a gentleman in either condition
. May I smoke?"
"Certainly!" said Gregory, producing a cigar-case. "Try one of mine
Syme took the cigar, clipped the end off with a cigar-cutter out of his waistcoat pocket, put it in his mouth, lit it slowly, and let out a long cloud of smoke. It is not a little to his credit
that he performed these rites with so much composure
, for almost before he had begun them the table
at which he sat had begun to revolve
, first slowly, and then rapidly, as if at an insane
"You must not mind
it," said Gregory; "it's a kind of screw."
"Quite so," said Syme placidly
, "a kind of screw. How simple
The next moment
the smoke of his cigar, which had been wavering across the room in snaky twists, went straight
up as if from a factory chimney
, and the two, with their chairs and table
, shot down through
the floor as if the earth
had swallowed them. They went rattling
down a kind of roaring chimney
as rapidly as a lift cut loose, and they came with an abrupt
bump to the bottom. But when Gregory threw open a pair
of doors and let in a red subterranean
light, Syme was still smoking with one leg thrown over the other, and had not turned a yellow hair.
Gregory led him down a low, vaulted passage
, at the end of which was the red light. It was an enormous crimson lantern
, nearly as big as a fireplace, fixed over a small but heavy iron
door. In the door there was a sort of hatchway or grating, and on this Gregory struck five times. A heavy voice with a foreign accent
asked him who he was. To this he gave the more or less unexpected reply, "Mr. Joseph Chamberlain." The heavy hinges began to move; it was obviously
some kind of password.
Inside the doorway the passage
gleamed as if it were lined with a network
of steel. On a second glance
, Syme saw that the glittering pattern
was really made up of ranks and ranks of rifles and revolvers, closely packed or interlocked.
"I must ask you to forgive me all these formalities," said Gregory; "we have to be very strict
"Oh, don't apologise," said Syme. "I know your passion
for law and order," and he stepped into the passage
lined with the steel weapons. With his long, fair
hair and rather foppish
frock-coat, he looked a singularly frail
and fanciful figure
as he walked down that shining avenue of death.
They passed through several
such passages, and came out at last into a queer steel chamber
with curved walls, almost spherical
, but presenting, with its tiers of benches, something of the appearance
of a scientific
lecture-theatre. There were no rifles or pistols in this apartment, but round the walls of it were hung more dubious
shapes, things that looked like the bulbs of iron
plants, or the eggs of iron
birds. They were bombs, and the very room itself seemed like the inside of a bomb. Syme knocked his cigar ash
off against the wall, and went in.
"And now, my dear Mr. Syme," said Gregory, throwing himself in an expansive
manner on the bench under the largest bomb, "now we are quite cosy, so let us talk properly. Now no human
words can give you any notion
of why I brought you here. It was one of those quite arbitrary
emotions, like jumping off a cliff
or falling in love. Suffice it to say that you were an inexpressibly irritating fellow, and, to do you justice
, you are still. I would break twenty oaths of secrecy
for the pleasure of taking you down a peg. That way you have of lighting a cigar would make a priest
break the seal of confession
. Well, you said that you were quite certain
I was not a serious anarchist
. Does this place strike
you as being serious
"It does seem to have a moral
under all its gaiety
," assented Syme; "but may I ask you two questions? You need
not fear to give me information
, because, as you remember
, you very wisely extorted from me a promise
not to tell the police, a promise
I shall certainly
keep. So it is in mere curiosity
that I make my queries. First of all, what is it really all about? What is it you object
to? You want to abolish
God!" said Gregory, opening the eyes of a fanatic
. "We do not only want to upset
a few despotisms and police regulations; that sort of anarchism does exist
, but it is a mere branch
of the Nonconformists. We dig deeper and we blow you higher. We wish to deny
all those arbitrary
distinctions of vice
, honour and treachery
, upon which mere
themselves. The silly sentimentalists of the French Revolution talked of the Rights of Man! We hate Rights as we hate Wrongs. We have abolished Right and Wrong."
"With pleasure," resumed Syme. "In all your present acts and surroundings there is a scientific attempt
. I have an aunt who lived over a shop, but this is the first time I have found people living from preference
under a public-house. You have a heavy iron
door. You cannot pass it without submitting to the humiliation
of calling yourself Mr. Chamberlain. You surround
yourself with steel instruments which make the place, if I may say so, more impressive
than homelike. May I ask why, after taking all this trouble to barricade
yourselves in the bowels of the earth
, you then parade
your whole secret by talking about anarchism to every silly woman in Saffron Park?"
"The answer is simple
," he said. "I told you I was a serious anarchist
, and you did not believe me. Nor do they believe me. Unless I took them into this infernal
room they would not believe me."
Syme smoked thoughtfully, and looked at him with interest
. Gregory went on.
"The history of the thing might amuse
you," he said. "When first I became one of the New Anarchists I tried all kinds of respectable
disguises. I dressed up as a bishop. I read up all about bishops in our anarchist
pamphlets, in Superstition the Vampire and Priests of Prey. I certainly
understood from them that bishops are strange
and terrible old men keeping a cruel
secret from mankind. I was misinformed. When on my first appearing in episcopal gaiters in a drawing-room I cried out in a voice of thunder, 'Down! down! presumptuous human reason
!' they found out in some way that I was not a bishop at all. I was nabbed at once. Then I made up as a millionaire; but I defended Capital with so much intelligence
that a fool could see that I was quite poor. Then I tried being a major
. Now I am a humanitarian
myself, but I have, I hope, enough intellectual breadth
the position of those who, like Nietzsche, admire
war of Nature and all that, you know. I threw myself into the major
. I drew my sword and waved it constantly. I called out 'Blood!' abstractedly, like a man calling for wine. I often said, 'Let the weak perish
; it is the Law.' Well, well, it seems majors don't do this. I was nabbed again. At last I went in despair
to the President of the Central Anarchist Council, who is the greatest man in Europe."
"What is his name?" asked Syme.
"You would not know it," answered Gregory. "That is his greatness. Caesar and Napoleon put all their genius
into being heard of, and they were heard of. He puts all his genius
into not being heard of, and he is not heard of. But you cannot be for five minutes in the room with him without feeling that Caesar and Napoleon would have been children in his hands."
He was silent and even pale
for a moment
, and then resumed-
"But whenever he gives advice
it is always something as startling as an epigram
, and yet as practical
as the Bank of England. I said to him, 'What disguise
me from the world? What can I find more respectable
than bishops and majors?' He looked at me with his large but indecipherable
face. 'You want a safe disguise
, do you? You want a dress which will guarantee
you harmless; a dress in which no one would ever look for a bomb?' I nodded. He suddenly
lifted his lion's voice. 'Why, then, dress up as an anarchist
, you fool!' he roared so that the room shook. 'Nobody will ever expect you to do anything dangerous
then.' And he turned his broad
back on me without another word. I took his advice
, and have never regretted it. I preached blood and murder
to those women day and night, and-by God!-they would let me wheel their perambulators."
Syme sat watching him with some respect
in his large, blue eyes.
"You took me in," he said. "It is really a smart dodge
Then after a pause
"What do you call this tremendous
President of yours?"
"We generally call him Sunday," replied Gregory with simplicity
. "You see, there are seven members of the Central Anarchist Council, and they are named after days of the week. He is called Sunday, by some of his admirers Bloody Sunday. It is curious
you should mention
, because the very night you have dropped in (if I may so express
it) is the night on which our London branch
, which assembles in this room, has to elect
its own deputy
to fill a vacancy
in the Council. The gentleman who has for some time past played, with propriety
and general applause
, the difficult
part of Thursday, has died quite suddenly
. Consequently, we have called a meeting this very evening to elect
He got to his feet and strolled across the room with a sort of smiling embarrassment
"I feel somehow as if you were my mother, Syme," he continued casually. "I feel that I can confide
anything to you, as you have promised to tell nobody. In fact
, I will confide
to you something that I would not say in so many words to the anarchists who will be coming to the room in about ten minutes. We shall, of course, go through
a form of election
; but I don't mind
telling you that it is practically certain
what the result
will be." He looked down for a moment
modestly. "It is almost a settled thing that I am to be Thursday."
Syme also strolled across to the table
, and found lying across it a walking-stick, which turned out on examination
to be a sword-stick, a large Colt's revolver, a sandwich case, and a formidable
flask of brandy. Over the chair, beside the table
, was thrown a heavy-looking cape or cloak
"I have only to get the form of election
finished," continued Gregory with animation
, "then I snatch
up this cloak
and stick, stuff these other things into my pocket, step out of a door in this cavern
, which opens on the river, where there is a steam-tug already waiting for me, and then-then-oh, the wild joy of being Thursday!" And he clasped his hands.
There was a thoughtful silence
again, and then he cried out-
"Well, damn it all! this is the funniest situation
I have ever been in in my life, and I am going to act accordingly
. Gregory, I gave you a promise
before I came into this place. That promise
I would keep under red-hot pincers. Would you give me, for my own safety, a little promise
of the same kind?"
?" asked Gregory, wondering.
"Yes," said Syme very seriously, "a promise
. I swore before God that I would not tell your secret to the police. Will you swear
by Humanity, or whatever beastly thing you believe in, that you will not tell my secret to the anarchists?"
"Your secret?" asked the staring Gregory. "Have you got a secret?"
"Yes," said Syme, "I have a secret." Then after a pause
, "Will you swear
Gregory glared at him gravely for a few moments, and then said abruptly
"You must have bewitched me, but I feel a furious curiosity
about you. Yes, I will swear
not to tell the anarchists anything you tell me. But look sharp
, for they will be here in a couple
Syme rose slowly to his feet and thrust
his long, white hands into his long, grey trousers' pockets. Almost as he did so there came five knocks on the outer grating, proclaiming the arrival of the first of the conspirators.
"Well," said Syme slowly, "I don't know how to tell you the truth more shortly than by saying that your expedient
of dressing up as an aimless
poet is not confined
to you or your President. We have known the dodge
for some time at Scotland Yard."
Gregory tried to spring up straight
, but he swayed thrice
"What do you say?" he asked in an inhuman
"Yes," said Syme simply, "I am a police detective
. But I think I hear your friends coming."