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Ch. 5: The Noticeable Conduct of Professor Chadd

Basil Grant had comparatively few friends besides myself; yet he
was the reverse of an unsociable man. He would talk to any one
anywhere, and talk not only well but with perfectly genuine concern
and enthusiasm for that person's affairs. He went through the
world, as it were, as if he were always on the top of an omnibus or
waiting for a train. Most of these chance acquaintances, of course,
vanished into darkness out of his life. A few here and there got
hooked on to him, so to speak, and became his lifelong intimates,
but there was an accidental look about all of them as if they were
windfalls, samples taken at random, goods fallen from a goods train
or presents fished out of a bran-pie. One would be, let us say, a
veterinary surgeon with the appearance of a jockey; another, a mild
prebendary with a white beard and vague views; another, a young
captain in the Lancers, seemingly exactly like other captains in
the Lancers; another, a small dentist from Fulham, in all
reasonable certainty precisely like every other dentist from
Fulham. Major Brown, small, dry, and dapper, was one of these;
Basil had made his acquaintance over a discussion in a hotel
cloak-room about the right hat, a discussion which reduced the
little major almost to a kind of masculine hysterics, the compound
of the selfishness of an old bachelor and the scrupulosity of an
old maid. They had gone home in a cab together and then dined with
each other twice a week until they died. I myself was another. I
had met Grant while he was still a judge, on the balcony of the
National Liberal Club, and exchanged a few words about the weather.
Then we had talked for about an hour about politics and God; for
men always talk about the most important things to total strangers.
It is because in the total stranger we perceive man himself; the
image of God is not disguised by resemblances to an uncle or doubts
of the wisdom of a moustache.

One of the most interesting of Basil's motley group of
acquaintances was Professor Chadd. He was known to the ethnological
world (which is a very interesting world, but a long way off this
one) as the second greatest, if not the greatest, authority on the
relations of savages to language. He was known to the neighbourhood
of Hart Street, Bloomsbury, as a bearded man with a bald head,
spectacles, and a patient face, the face of an unaccountable
Nonconformist who had forgotten how to be angry. He went to and fro
between the British Museum and a selection of blameless tea-shops,
with an armful of books and a poor but honest umbrella. He was
never seen without the books and the umbrella, and was supposed (by
the lighter wits of the Persian MS. room) to go to bed with them in
his little brick villa in the neighbourhood of Shepherd's Bush.
There he lived with three sisters, ladies of solid goodness, but
sinister demeanour. His life was happy, as are almost all the lives
of methodical students, but one would not have called it
exhilarating. His only hours of exhilaration occurred when his
friend, Basil Grant, came into the house, late at night, a tornado
of conversation.

Basil, though close on sixty, had moods of boisterous babyishness,
and these seemed for some reason or other to descend upon him
particularly in the house of his studious and almost dingy friend.
I can remember vividly (for I was acquainted with both parties and
often dined with them) the gaiety of Grant on that particular
evening when the strange calamity fell upon the professor.
Professor Chadd was, like most of his particular class and type
(the class that is at once academic and middle-class), a Radical
of a solemn and old-fashioned type. Grant was a Radical himself,
but he was that more discriminating and not uncommon type of
Radical who passes most of his time in abusing the Radical party.
Chadd had just contributed to a magazine an article called "Zulu
Interests and the New Makango Frontier', in which a precise
scientific report of his study of the customs of the people of
T'Chaka was reinforced by a severe protest against certain
interferences with these customs both by the British and the
Germans. He-was sitting with the magazine in front of him, the
lamplight shining on his spectacles, a wrinkle in his forehead,
not of anger, but of perplexity, as Basil Grant strode up and down
the room, shaking it with his voice, with his high spirits and his
heavy tread.

"It's not your opinions that I object to, my esteemed Chadd," he
was saying, "it's you. You are quite right to champion the Zulus,
but for all that you do not sympathize with them. No doubt you
know the Zulu way of cooking tomatoes and the Zulu prayer before
blowing one's nose; but for all that you don't understand them as
well as I do, who don't know an assegai from an alligator. You are
more learned, Chadd, but I am more Zulu. Why is it that the jolly
old barbarians of this earth are always championed by people who
are their antithesis? Why is it? You are sagacious, you are
benevolent, you are well informed, but, Chadd, you are not savage.
Live no longer under that rosy illusion. Look in the glass. Ask
your sisters. Consult the librarian of the British Museum. Look at
this umbrella." And he held up that sad but still respectable
article. "Look at it. For ten mortal years to my certain knowledge
you have carried that object under your arm, and I have no sort of
doubt that you carried it at the age of eight months, and it never
occurred to you to give one wild yell and hurl it like a javelin--
thus--"

And he sent the umbrella whizzing past the professor's bald head,
so that it knocked over a pile of books with a crash and left a
vase rocking.

Professor Chadd appeared totally unmoved, with his face still
lifted to the lamp and the wrinkle cut in his forehead.

"Your mental processes," he said, "always go a little too fast.
And they are stated without method. There is no kind of
inconsistency"--and no words can convey the time he took to get to
the end of the word--"between valuing the right of the aborigines
to adhere to their stage in the evolutionary process, so long as
they find it congenial and requisite to do so. There is, I say, no
inconsistency between this concession which I have just described
to you and the view that the evolutionary stage in question is,
nevertheless, so far as we can form any estimate of values in the
variety of cosmic processes, definable in some degree as an
inferior evolutionary stage."

Nothing but his lips had moved as he spoke, and his glasses still
shone like two pallid moons.

Grant was shaking with laughter as he watched him.

"True," he said, "there is no inconsistency, my son of the red
spear. But there is a great deal of incompatibility of temper. I
am very far from being certain that the Zulu is on an inferior
evolutionary stage, whatever the blazes that may mean. I do not
think there is anything stupid or ignorant about howling at the
moon or being afraid of devils in the dark. It seems to me
perfectly philosophical. Why should a man be thought a sort of
idiot because he feels the mystery and peril of existence itself?
Suppose, my dear Chadd, suppose it is we who are the idiots
because we are not afraid of devils in the dark?"

Professor Chadd slit open a page of the magazine with a bone
paper-knife and the intent reverence of the bibliophile.

"Beyond all question," he said, "it is a tenable hypothesis. I
allude to the hypothesis which I understand you to entertain, that
our civilization is not or may not be an advance upon, and indeed
(if I apprehend you), is or may be a retrogression from states
identical with or analogous to the state of the Zulus. Moreover, I
shall be inclined to concede that such a proposition is of the
nature, in some degree at least, of a primary proposition, and
cannot adequately be argued, in the same sense, I mean, that the
primary proposition of pessimism, or the primary proposition of the
non-existence of matter, cannot adequately be argued. But I do not
conceive you to be under the impression that you have demonstrated
anything more concerning this proposition than that it is tenable,
which, after all, amounts to little more than the statement that it
is not a contradiction in terms."

Basil threw a book at his head and took out a cigar.

"You don't understand," he said, "but, on the other hand, as a
compensation, you don't mind smoking. Why you don't object to that
disgustingly barbaric rite I can't think. I can only say that I
began it when I began to be a Zulu, about the age of ten. What I
maintained was that although you knew more about Zulus in the sense
that you are a scientist, I know more about them in the sense that
I am a savage. For instance, your theory of the origin of language,
something about its having come from the formulated secret language
of some individual creature, though you knocked me silly with facts
and scholarship in its favour, still does not convince me, because
I have a feeling that that is not the way that things happen. If
you ask me why I think so I can only answer that I am a Zulu; and
if you ask me (as you most certainly will) what is my definition of
a Zulu, I can answer that also. He is one who has climbed a Sussex
apple-tree at seven and been afraid of a ghost in an English lane."

"Your process of thought--" began the immovable Chadd, but his
speech was interrupted. His sister, with that masculinity which
always in such families concentrates in sisters, flung open the
door with a rigid arm and said:

"James, Mr Bingham of the British Museum wants to see you again."

The philosopher rose with a dazed look, which always indicates in
such men the fact that they regard philosophy as a familiar thing,
but practical life as a weird and unnerving vision, and walked
dubiously out of the room.

"I hope you do not mind my being aware of it, Miss Chadd," said
Basil Grant, "but I hear that the British Museum has recognized
one of the men who have deserved well of their commonwealth. It is
true, is it not, that Professor Chadd is likely to be made keeper
of Asiatic manuscripts?"

The grim face of the spinster betrayed a great deal of pleasure and
a great deal of pathos also. "I believe it's true," she said. "If
it is, it will not only be great glory which women, I assure you,
feel a great deal, but great relief, which they feel more; relief
from worry from a lot of things. James' health has never been good,
and while we are as poor as we are he had to do journalism and
coaching, in addition to his own dreadful grinding notions and
discoveries, which he loves more than man, woman, or child. I have
often been afraid that unless something of this kind occurred we
should really have to be careful of his brain. But I believe it is
practically settled."

"I am delighted," began Basil, but with a worried face, "but these
red-tape negotiations are so terribly chancy that I really can't
advise you to build on hope, only to be hurled down into
bitterness. I've known men, and good men like your brother, come
nearer than this and be disappointed. Of course, if it is true--"

"If it is true," said the woman fiercely, "it means that people who
have never lived may make an attempt at living."

Even as she spoke the professor came into the room still with the
dazed look in his eyes.

"Is it true?" asked Basil, with burning eyes.

"Not a bit true," answered Chadd after a moment's bewilderment.
"Your argument was in three points fallacious."

"What do you mean?" demanded Grant.

"Well," said the professor slowly, "in saying that you could
possess a knowledge of the essence of Zulu life distinct from--"

"Oh! confound Zulu life," cried Grant, with a burst of laughter. "I
mean, have you got the post?"

"You mean the post of keeper of the Asiatic manuscripts," he said,
opening his eye with childlike wonder. "Oh, yes, I got that. But
the real objection to your argument, which has only, I admit,
occurred to me since I have been out of the room, is that it does
not merely presuppose a Zulu truth apart from the facts, but
infers that the discovery of it is absolutely impeded by the
facts."

"I am crushed," said Basil, and sat down to laugh, while the
professor's sister retired to her room, possibly, possibly not.

It was extremely late when we left the Chadds, and it is an
extremely long and tiresome journey from Shepherd's Bush to
Lambeth. This may be our excuse for the fact that we (for I was
stopping the night with Grant) got down to breakfast next day at a
time inexpressibly criminal, a time, in point of fact, close upon
noon. Even to that belated meal we came in a very lounging and
leisurely fashion. Grant, in particular, seemed so dreamy at table
that he scarcely saw the pile of letters by his plate, and I doubt
if he would have opened any of them if there had not lain on the
top that one thing which has succeeded amid modern carelessness in
being really urgent and coercive--a telegram. This he opened with
the same heavy distraction with which he broke his egg and drank
his tea. When he read it he did not stir a hair or say a word, but
something, I know not what, made me feel that the motionless figure
had been pulled together suddenly as strings are tightened on a
slack guitar. Though he said nothing and did not move, I knew that
he had been for an instant cleared and sharpened with a shock of
cold water. It was scarcely any surprise to me when a man who had
drifted sullenly to his seat and fallen into it, kicked it away
like a cur from under him and came round to me in two strides.

"What do you make of that?" he said, and flattened out the wire
in front of me.

It ran: "Please come at once. James' mental state dangerous.
Chadd."

"What does the woman mean?" I said after a pause, irritably.
"Those women have been saying that the poor old professor was mad
ever since he was born."

"You are mistaken," said Grant composedly. "It is true that all
sensible women think all studious men mad. It is true, for the
matter of that, all women of any kind think all men of any kind
mad. But they don't put it in telegrams, any more than they wire
to you that grass is green or God all-merciful. These things are
truisms, and often private ones at that. If Miss Chadd has written
down under the eye of a strange woman in a post-office that her
brother is off his head you may be perfectly certain that she did
it because it was a matter of life and death, and she can think of
no other way of forcing us to come promptly."

"It will force us of course," I said, smiling.

"Oh, yes," he replied; "there is a cab-rank near."

Basil scarcely said a word as we drove across Westminster Bridge,
through Trafalgar Square, along Piccadilly, and up the Uxbridge
Road. Only as he was opening the gate he spoke.

"I think you will take my word for it, my friend," he said; "this
is one of the most queer and complicated and astounding incidents
that ever happened in London or, for that matter, in any high
civilization."

"I confess with the greatest sympathy and reverence that I don't
quite see it," I said. "Is it so very extraordinary or complicated
that a dreamy somnambulant old invalid who has always walked on
the borders of the inconceivable should go mad under the shock of
great joy? Is it so very extraordinary that a man with a head like
a turnip and a soul like a spider's web should not find his
strength equal to a confounding change of fortunes? Is it, in
short, so very extraordinary that James Chadd should lose his wits
from excitement?"

"It would not be extraordinary in the least," answered Basil,
with placidity. "It would not be extraordinary in the least," he
repeated, "if the professor had gone mad. That was not the
extraordinary circumstance to which I referred."

"What," I asked, stamping my foot, "was the extraordinary thing?"

"The extraordinary thing," said Basil, ringing the bell, "is that
he has not gone mad from excitement."

The tall and angular figure of the eldest Miss Chadd blocked the
doorway as the door opened. Two other Miss Chadds seemed in the
same way to be blocking the narrow passage and the little parlour.
There was a general sense of their keeping something from view.
They seemed like three black-clad ladies in some strange play of
Maeterlinck, veiling the catastrophe from the audience in the
manner of the Greek chorus.

"Sit down, won't you?" said one of them, in a voice that was
somewhat rigid with pain. "I think you had better be told first
what has happened."

Then, with her bleak face looking unmeaningly out of the window,
she continued, in an even and mechanical voice:

"I had better state everything that occurred just as it occurred.
This morning I was clearing away the breakfast things, my sisters
were both somewhat unwell, and had not come down. My brother had
just gone out of the room, I believe, to fetch a book. He came back
again, however, without it, and stood for some time staring at the
empty grate. I said, `Were you looking for anything I could get?'
He did not answer, but this constantly happens, as he is often very
abstracted. I repeated my question, and still he did not answer.
Sometimes he is so wrapped up in his studies that nothing but a
touch on the shoulder would make him aware of one's presence, so I
came round the table towards him. I really do not know how to
describe the sensation which I then had. It seems simply silly, but
at the moment it seemed something enormous, upsetting one's brain.
The fact is, James was standing on one leg."

Grant smiled slowly and rubbed his hands with a kind of care.

"Standing on one leg?" I repeated.

"Yes," replied the dead voice of the woman without an inflection to
suggest that she felt the fantasticality of her statement. "He was
standing on the left leg and the right drawn up at a sharp angle,
the toe pointing downwards. I asked him if his leg hurt him. His
only answer was to shoot the leg straight at right angles to the
other, as if pointing to the other with his toe to the wall. He was
still looking quite gravely at the fireplace.

"`James, what is the matter?' I cried, for I was thoroughly
frightened. James gave three kicks in the air with the right leg,
flung up the other, gave three kicks in the air with it also and
spun round like a teetotum the other way. `Are you mad?' I cried.
`Why don't you answer me?' He had come to a standstill facing me,
and was looking at me as he always does, with his lifted eyebrows
and great spectacled eyes. When I had spoken he remained a second
or two motionless, and then his only reply was to lift his left
foot slowly from the floor and describe circles with it in the air.
I rushed to the door and shouted for Christina. I will not dwell on
the dreadful hours that followed. All three of us talked to him,
implored him to speak to us with appeals that might have brought
back the dead, but he has done nothing but hop and dance and kick
with a solemn silent face. It looks as if his legs belonged to some
one else or were possessed by devils. He has never spoken to us
from that time to this."

"Where is he now?" I said, getting up in some agitation. "We ought
not to leave him alone."

"Doctor Colman is with him," said Miss Chadd calmly. "They are in
the garden. Doctor Colman thought the air would do him good. And he
can scarcely go into the street."

Basil and I walked rapidly to the window which looked out on the
garden. It was a small and somewhat smug suburban garden; the
flower beds a little too neat and like the pattern of a coloured
carpet; but on this shining and opulent summer day even they had
the exuberance of something natural, I had almost said tropical.
In the middle of a bright and verdant but painfully circular lawn
stood two figures. One of them was a small, sharp-looking man with
black whiskers and a very polished hat (I presume Dr Colman), who
was talking very quietly and clearly, yet with a nervous twitch, as
it were, in his face. The other was our old friend, listening with
his old forbearing expression and owlish eyes, the strong sunlight
gleaming on his glasses as the lamplight had gleamed the night
before, when the boisterous Basil had rallied him on his studious
decorum. But for one thing the figure of this morning might have
been the identical figure of last night. That one thing was that
while the face listened reposefully the legs were industriously
dancing like the legs of a marionette. The neat flowers and the
sunny glitter of the garden lent an indescribable sharpness and
incredibility to the prodigy--the prodigy of the head of a hermit
and the legs of a harlequin. For miracles should always happen in
broad daylight. The night makes them credible and therefore
commonplace.

The second sister had by this time entered the room and came
somewhat drearily to the window.

"You know, Adelaide," she said, "that Mr Bingham from the Museum is
coming again at three."

"I know," said Adelaide Chadd bitterly. "I suppose we shall have to
tell him about this. I thought that no good fortune would ever come
easily to us."

Grant suddenly turned round. "What do you mean?" he said. "What
will you have to tell Mr Bingham?"

"You know what I shall have to tell him," said the professor's
sister, almost fiercely. "I don't know that we need give it its
wretched name. Do you think that the keeper of Asiatic manuscripts
will be allowed to go on like that?" And she pointed for an
instant at the figure in the garden, the shining, listening face
and the unresting feet.

Basil Grant took out his watch with an abrupt movement. "When did
you say the British Museum man was coming?" he said.

"Three o'clock," said Miss Chadd briefly.

"Then I have an hour before me," said Grant, and without another
word threw up the window and jumped out into the garden. He did
not walk straight up to the doctor and lunatic, but strolling
round the garden path drew near them cautiously and yet apparently
carelessly. He stood a couple of feet off them, seemingly counting
halfpence out of his trousers pocket, but, as I could see, looking
up steadily under the broad brim of his hat.

Suddenly he stepped up to Professor Chadd's elbow, and said, in a
loud familiar voice, "Well, my boy, do you still think the Zulus
our inferiors?"

The doctor knitted his brows and looked anxious, seeming to be
about to speak. The professor turned his bald and placid head
towards Grant in a friendly manner, but made no answer, idly
flinging his left leg about.

"Have you converted Dr Colman to your views?" Basil continued,
still in the same loud and lucid tone.

Chadd only shuffled his feet and kicked a little with the other
leg, his expression still benevolent and inquiring. The doctor cut
in rather sharply. "Shall we go inside, professor?" he said. "Now
you have shown me the garden. A beautiful garden. A most beautiful
garden. Let us go in," and he tried to draw the kicking
ethnologist by the elbow, at the same time whispering to Grant: "I
must ask you not to trouble him with questions. Most risky. He
must be soothed."

Basil answered in the same tone, with great coolness:

"Of course your directions must be followed out, doctor. I will
endeavour to do so, but I hope it will not be inconsistent with
them if you will leave me alone with my poor friend in this garden
for an hour. I want to watch him. I assure you, Dr Colman, that I
shall say very little to him, and that little shall be as soothing
as--as syrup."

The doctor wiped his eyeglass thoughtfully.

"It is rather dangerous for him," he said, "to be long in the
strong sun without his hat. With his bald head, too."

"That is soon settled," said Basil composedly, and took off his
own big hat and clapped it on the egglike skull of the professor.
The latter did not turn round but danced away with his eyes on the
horizon.

The doctor put on his glasses again, looked severely at the two
for some seconds, with his head on one side like a bird's, and
then saying, shortly, "All right," strutted away into the house,
where the three Misses Chadd were all looking out from the parlour
window on to the garden. They looked out on it with hungry eyes
for a full hour without moving, and they saw a sight which was
more extraordinary than madness itself.

Basil Grant addressed a few questions to the madman, without
succeeding in making him do anything but continue to caper, and
when he had done this slowly took a red note-book out of one
pocket and a large pencil out of another.

He began hurriedly to scribble notes. When the lunatic skipped
away from him he would walk a few yards in pursuit, stop, and
make notes again. Thus they followed each other round and round
the foolish circle of turf, the one writing in pencil with the
face of a man working out a problem, the other leaping and
playing like a child.

After about three-quarters of an hour of this imbecile scene,
Grant put the pencil in his pocket, but kept the note-book open
in his hand, and walking round the mad professor, planted himself
directly in front of him.

Then occurred something that even those already used to that wild
morning had not anticipated or dreamed. The professor, on finding
Basil in front of him, stared with a blank benignity for a few
seconds, and then drew up his left leg and hung it bent in the
attitude that his sister had described as being the first of all
his antics. And the moment he had done it Basil Grant lifted his
own leg and held it out rigid before him, confronting Chadd with
the flat sole of his boot. The professor dropped his bent leg,
and swinging his weight on to it kicked out the other behind,
like a man swimming. Basil crossed his feet like a saltire cross,
and then flung them apart again, giving a leap into the air. Then
before any of the spectators could say a word or even entertain a
thought about the matter, both of them were dancing a sort of jig
or hornpipe opposite each other; and the sun shone down on two
madmen instead of one.

They were so stricken with the deafness and blindness of
monomania that they did not see the eldest Miss Chadd come out
feverishly into the garden with gestures of entreaty, a gentleman
following her. Professor Chadd was in the wildest posture of a
pas-de-quatre, Basil Grant seemed about to turn a cart-wheel,
when they were frozen in their follies by the steely voice of
Adelaide Chadd saying, "Mr Bingham of the British Museum."

Mr Bingham was a slim, well-clad gentleman with a pointed and
slightly effeminate grey beard, unimpeachable gloves, and formal
but agreeable manners. He was the type of the over-civilized, as
Professor Chadd was of the uncivilized pedant. His formality and
agreeableness did him some credit under the circumstances. He had
a vast experience of books and a considerable experience of the
more dilettante fashionable salons. But neither branch of
knowledge had accustomed him to the spectacle of two grey-haired
middle-class gentlemen in modern costume throwing themselves
about like acrobats as a substitute for an after-dinner nap.

The professor continued his antics with perfect placidity, but
Grant stopped abruptly. The doctor had reappeared on the scene,
and his shiny black eyes, under his shiny black hat, moved
restlessly from one of them to the other.

"Dr Colman," said Basil, turning to him, "will you entertain
Professor Chadd again for a little while? I am sure that he needs
you. Mr Bingham, might I have the pleasure of a few moments'
private conversation? My name is Grant."

Mr Bingham, of the British Museum, bowed in a manner that was
respectful but a trifle bewildered.

"Miss Chadd will excuse me," continued Basil easily, "if I know
my way about the house." And he led the dazed librarian rapidly
through the back door into the parlour.

"Mr Bingham," said Basil, setting a chair for him, "I imagine that
Miss Chadd has told you of this distressing occurrence."

"She has, Mr Grant," said Bingham, looking at the table with a sort
of compassionate nervousness. "I am more pained than I can say by
this dreadful calamity. It seems quite heart-rending that the thing
should have happened just as we have decided to give your eminent
friend a position which falls far short of his merits. As it is, of
course--really, I don't know what to say. Professor Chadd may, of
course, retain--I sincerely trust he will--his extraordinarily
valuable intellect. But I am afraid--I am really afraid--that it
would not do to have the curator of the Asiatic
manuscripts--er--dancing about."

"I have a suggestion to make," said Basil, and sat down abruptly in
his chair, drawing it up to the table.

"I am delighted, of course," said the gentleman from the British
Museum, coughing and drawing up his chair also.

The clock on the mantelpiece ticked for just the moments required
for Basil to clear his throat and collect his words, and then he
said:

"My proposal is this. I do not know that in the strict use of words
you could altogether call it a compromise, still it has something
of that character. My proposal is that the Government (acting, as I
presume, through your Museum) should pay Professor Chadd L800 a
year until he stops dancing."

"Eight hundred a year!" said Mr Bingham, and for the first time
lifted his mild blue eyes to those of his interlocutor--and he
raised them with a mild blue stare. "I think I have not quite
understood you. Did I understand you to say that Professor Chadd
ought to be employed, in his present state, in the Asiatic
manuscript department at eight hundred a year?"

Grant shook his head resolutely.

"No," he said firmly. "No. Chadd is a friend of mine, and I would
say anything for him I could. But I do not say, I cannot say, that
he ought to take on the Asiatic manuscripts. I do not go so far as
that. I merely say that until he stops dancing you ought to pay
him L800 Surely you have some general fund for the endowment of
research."

Mr Bingham looked bewildered.

"I really don't know," he said, blinking his eyes, "what you are
talking about. Do you ask us to give this obvious lunatic nearly a
thousand a year for life?"

"Not at all," cried Basil, keenly and triumphantly. "I never said
for life. Not at all."

"What for, then?" asked the meek Bingham, suppressing an instinct
meekly to tear his hair. "How long is this endowment to run? Not
till his death? Till the Judgement day?"

"No," said Basil, beaming, "but just what I said. Till he has
stopped dancing." And he lay back with satisfaction and his hands
in his pockets.

Bingham had by this time fastened his eyes keenly on Basil Grant
and kept them there.

"Come, Mr Grant," he said. "Do I seriously understand you to
suggest that the Government pay Professor Chadd an extraordinarily
high salary simply on the ground that he has (pardon the phrase)
gone mad? That he should be paid more than four good clerks solely
on the ground that he is flinging his boots about in the back
yard?"

"Precisely," said Grant composedly.

"That this absurd payment is not only to run on with the absurd
dancing, but actually to stop with the absurd dancing?"

"One must stop somewhere," said Grant. "Of course."

Bingham rose and took up his perfect stick and gloves.

"There is really nothing more to be said, Mr Grant," he said
coldly. "What you are trying to explain to me may be a joke--a
slightly unfeeling joke. It may be your sincere view, in which case
I ask your pardon for the former suggestion. But, in any case, it
appears quite irrelevant to my duties. The mental morbidity, the
mental downfall, of Professor Chadd, is a thing so painful to me
that I cannot easily endure to speak of it. But it is clear there
is a limit to everything. And if the Archangel Gabriel went mad it
would sever his connection, I am sorry to say, with the British
Museum Library."

He was stepping towards the door, but Grant's hand, flung out in
dramatic warning, arrested him.

"Stop!" said Basil sternly. "Stop while there is yet time. Do you
want to take part in a great work, Mr Bingham? Do you want to help
in the glory of Europe--in the glory of science? Do you want to
carry your head in the air when it is bald or white because of the
part that you bore in a great discovery? Do you want--"

Bingham cut in sharply:

"And if I do want this, Mr Grant--"

"Then," said Basil lightly, "your task is easy. Get Chadd L800 a
year till he stops dancing."

With a fierce flap of his swinging gloves Bingham turned
impatiently to the door, but in passing out of it found it
blocked. Dr Colman was coming in.

"Forgive me, gentlemen," he said, in a nervous, confidential voice,
"the fact is, Mr Grant, I--er--have made a most disturbing
discovery about Mr Chadd."

Bingham looked at him with grave eyes.

"I was afraid so," he said. "Drink, I imagine."

"Drink!" echoed Colman, as if that were a much milder affair. "Oh,
no, it's not drink."

Mr Bingham became somewhat agitated, and his voice grew hurried and
vague. "Homicidal mania--" he began.

"No, no," said the medical man impatiently.

"Thinks he's made of glass," said Bingham feverishly, "or says he's
God--or--"

"No," said Dr Colman sharply; "the fact is, Mr Grant, my discovery
is of a different character. The awful thing about him is--"

"Oh, go on, sir," cried Bingham, in agony.

"The awful thing about him is," repeated Colman, with deliberation,
"that he isn't mad."

"Not mad!"

"There are quite well-known physical tests of lunacy," said the
doctor shortly; "he hasn't got any of them."

"But why does he dance?" cried the despairing Bingham. "Why doesn't
he answer us? Why hasn't he spoken to his family?"

"The devil knows," said Dr Colman coolly. "I'm paid to judge of
lunatics, but not of fools. The man's not mad."

"What on earth can it mean? Can't we make him listen?" said Mr
Bingham. "Can none get into any kind of communication with him?"

Grant's voice struck in sudden and clear, like a steel bell:

"I shall be very happy," he said, "to give him any message you like
to send."

Both men stared at him.

"Give him a message?" they cried simultaneously. "How will you give
him a message?"

Basil smiled in his slow way.

"If you really want to know how I shall give him your message," he
began, but Bingham cried:

"Of course, of course," with a sort of frenzy.

"Well," said Basil, "like this." And he suddenly sprang a foot
into the air, coming down with crashing boots, and then stood on
one leg.

His face was stern, though this effect was slightly spoiled by the
fact that one of his feet was making wild circles in the air.

"You drive me to it," he said. "You drive me to betray my friend.
And I will, for his own sake, betray him."

The sensitive face of Bingham took on an extra expression of
distress as of one anticipating some disgraceful disclosure.
"Anything painful, of course--" he began.

Basil let his loose foot fall on the carpet with a crash that
struck them all rigid in their feeble attitudes.

"Idiots!" he cried. "Have you seen the man? Have you looked at
James Chadd going dismally to and fro from his dingy house to
your miserable library, with his futile books and his confounded
umbrella, and never seen that he has the eyes of a fanatic? Have
you never noticed, stuck casually behind his spectacles and above
his seedy old collar, the face of a man who might have burned
heretics, or died for the philosopher's stone? It is all my
fault, in a way: I lit the dynamite of his deadly faith. I argued
against him on the score of his famous theory about language--the
theory that language was complete in certain individuals and was
picked up by others simply by watching them. I also chaffed him
about not understanding things in rough and ready practice. What
has this glorious bigot done? He has answered me. He has worked
out a system of language of his own (it would take too long to
explain); he has made up, I say, a language of his own. And he
has sworn that till people understand it, till he can speak to us
in this language, he will not speak in any other. And he shall
not. I have understood, by taking careful notice; and, by heaven,
so shall the others. This shall not be blown upon. He shall
finish his experiment. He shall have L800 a year from somewhere
till he has stopped dancing. To stop him now is an infamous war
on a great idea. It is religious persecution."

Mr Bingham held out his hand cordially.

"I thank you, Mr Grant," he said. "I hope I shall be able to answer
for the source of the L800 and I fancy that I shall. Will you come
in my cab?"

"No, thank you very much, Mr Bingham," said Grant heartily. "I
think I will go and have a chat with the professor in the garden."

The conversation between Chadd and Grant appeared to be personal
and friendly. They were still dancing when I left.

 

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

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