“Did you know,” he asked, “that that man Gogol was one of us?”
“I? No, I didn’t know it,” answered Syme in some surprise.
“But didn’t you?”
“I knew no more than the dead,” replied the man who called
himself de Worms. “I thought the President was talking about me,
and I rattled in my boots.”
“And I thought he was talking about me,” said Syme, with his rather
reckless laughter. “I had my hand on my revolver all the time.”
“So had I,” said the Professor grimly; “so had Gogol evidently.”
Syme struck the table with an exclamation.
“Why, there were three of us there!” he cried. “Three out of seven
is a fighting number. If we had only known that we were three!”
The face of Professor de Worms darkened, and he did not look up.
“We were three,” he said. “If we had been three hundred we could
still have done nothing.”
“Not if we were three hundred against four?” asked Syme,
jeering rather boisterously.
“No,” said the Professor with sobriety, “not if we were three
hundred against Sunday.”
And the mere name struck Syme cold and serious; his laughter
had died in his heart before it could die on his lips.
The face of the unforgettable President sprang into his mind
as startling as a coloured photograph, and he remarked this
difference between Sunday and all his satellites, that their faces,
however fierce or sinister, became gradually blurred by memory
like other human faces, whereas Sunday’s seemed almost to grow
more actual during absence, as if a man’s painted portrait
should slowly come alive.
They were both silent for a measure of moments, and then Syme’s
speech came with a rush, like the sudden foaming of champagne.
“Professor,” he cried, “it is intolerable. Are you afraid of this man?”
The Professor lifted his heavy lids, and gazed at Syme with large,
wide-open, blue eyes of an almost ethereal honesty.
“Yes, I am,” he said mildly. “So are you.”
Syme was dumb for an instant. Then he rose to his feet erect,
like an insulted man, and thrust the chair away from him.
“Yes,” he said in a voice indescribable, “you are right.
I am afraid of him. Therefore I swear by God that I will seek out
this man whom I fear until I find him, and strike him on the mouth.
If heaven were his throne and the earth his footstool, I swear
that I would pull him down.”
“How?” asked the staring Professor. “Why?”
“Because I am afraid of him,” said Syme; “and no man should leave
in the universe anything of which he is afraid.”
De Worms blinked at him with a sort of blind wonder.
He made an effort to speak, but Syme went on in a low voice,
but with an undercurrent of inhuman exaltation–
“Who would condescend to strike down the mere things that he does not fear?
Who would debase himself to be merely brave, like any common prizefighter?
Who would stoop to be fearless–like a tree? Fight the thing that you fear.
You remember the old tale of the English clergyman who gave the last rites
to the brigand of Sicily, and how on his death-bed the great robber said,
‘I can give you no money, but I can give you advice for a lifetime:
your thumb on the blade, and strike upwards.’ So I say to you,
strike upwards, if you strike at the stars.”
The other looked at the ceiling, one of the tricks of his pose.
“Sunday is a fixed star,” he said.
“You shall see him a falling star,” said Syme, and put on his hat.
~G.K. Chesterton, from chapter VIII: The Professor Explains of The Man Who was Thursday