The Man Who Was Thursday

by G. K. Chesterton

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Lucian Gregory is in the habit of declaiming his anarchistic views to anyone who will listen. He strikes others, particularly women, as a thrilling poet, and surely his anarchism is only a pose. By chance, Gabriel Syme happens along and disagrees thoroughly with Gregory. In Syme’s view, the real wonder lay in order; anarchists hope only to shock others and deceive themselves by their nihilistic views.

The dispute grows so intense that Gregory invites Syme to see for himself that there are real anarchists intent on destroying the world. However, Syme has to swear never to tell the authorities what Gregory will reveal.

The two take a cab to a restaurant in a poorer part of town. There, Syme is surprised to be served an excellent dinner. Then Gregory takes him down a subterranean passage lined with firearms to a council room filled with bombs. This room is the meeting place of the group of anarchists to which Gregory belongs. There is to be an election that night, and Gregory confides that he is confident that he will be elected to the post of Thursday on the Central Anarchist Council, the inner ring presided over by the redoubtable Sunday. Before the meeting convenes, Syme swears Gregory to silence and confides that he is really a police detective. Gregory is filled with confusion and makes a poor speech to the assembly. The members grow suspicious of Gregory’s private convictions and elect Syme to act as Thursday on the Council.

Syme had become a detective in an unusual way. One day, he met a police officer who had gone to school at Harrow. The officer said that he was one of the new force recruited to combat intellectuals who were out to destroy law and order. Syme, interested in joining the new force, was taken to a pitch-dark room in Scotland Yard, where a man he could not see gave him a job.

Now, as an elected member of the inner council of the anarchists, he is taken down the Thames River on a tug to a landing, where the Secretary greets him and takes him to the meeting, which is being held on a balcony in open view. Huge, menacing Sunday is presiding at the banquet table. As Syme surveys the other members, he is struck by how normal they look.

The business at hand is the assassination of the czar of Russia and the president of France. The bombing is to be done by the dapper Marquis de St. Eustache, called Wednesday. Suddenly, Sunday shuts off debate and announces that there is a spy present. He appoints Bull to finalize the plans and then unmasks Gogol as a police spy. Gogol leaves hurriedly.

As Syme leaves the meeting, he is shadowed by the aged, decrepit-seeming Professor de Worms. Despite Syme’s best efforts to elude him, he is unable to shake de Worms, and they go on an absurd chase all over London. Finally, in a tavern, de Worms tells Syme that he is really a young actor disguised as an old professor, another police spy.

Syme and de Worms resolve to visit Bull, since he is the one planning the assassination. When the conversation with Bull seems to be leading nowhere, Syme suddenly has a brilliant idea and persuades him to take off his dark spectacles. Seeing the young man’s kindly eyes, Syme declares that he cannot really be an anarchist, and Bull confesses that he, too, is a police spy.

The three Scotland Yard men follow St. Eustache to the Continent to try to stop him from bombing the...

(This entire section contains 1107 words.)

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czar and the president. They come upon St. Eustache in a café in Calais. Syme decides that his best chance to delay the Frenchman is to provoke him to a duel by trying to pull his nose. His challenge is accepted, and it is arranged that the duel be fought near a railroad station. Syme thinks the place has been chosen so that St. Eustache can board a Paris train immediately afterward. Syme does his best to prolong the duel so that St. Eustache will miss the train, but the Frenchman suddenly offers to end the duel by letting Syme pull his nose. As the train comes into the station, St. Eustache pulls off his own nose; he also pulls off his wig and various bits of padding and disguise, revealing that he, too, is a police spy. Led by the Secretary, a menacing-looking masked mob gets off the train and marches toward the men from Scotland Yard. The four confessed spies run.

The chase is a mad one. The pursued use horses and a car to seek safety with the police, but the alarmingly well-disciplined mob keeps up with them. At last, the spies find themselves crowded together on a pier. Arrayed against them is the mob, firing rifles and pistols. To their horror, they see that the police, too, have joined their enemies. As it turns out, however, it is all a misunderstanding, for the Secretary is yet another Scotland Yard man, and he has been attempting to capture the others so as to thwart the bombing. The five detectives return to London, where they pick up Gogol. They are determined to confront Sunday.

When they find him, Sunday begins to run with surprising speed and grace. He uses several hansom cabs and a fire engine in his flight, and he even commandeers an elephant from the zoo. On the outskirts of London, he jumps into the basket of a balloon and floats out of their reach.

The six spies pursue Sunday in spite of the rough countryside. When his balloon comes to earth, they think they have overtaken him at last. A servant meets them, however, and shows them to a carriage. They are taken to a nearby castle and royally received. A valet has laid out costumes for them that symbolize the days of the week and reflect their personalities. Syme is given a gown embellished with a sun and a moon; for according to Genesis, the Lord created the sun and the moon on Thursday.

They learn that Sunday is the Scotland Yard official who had initially employed them all. That evening there is a festive gathering in the garden, with the councilors seated on thrones. Sunday is gowned in pure white, symbolizing the sanctity of the Sabbath. He lectures them on the Sabbath as a holy day; they should use it to gather strength and comfort for the week’s work. When Gregory arrives at the party, he, the intellectual anarchist, is denounced as the real enemy.