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 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...
(The entire section is 1,107 words.)