Monday, May 07, 2007

The Curse of the Golden Cross

I have had Chesterton to keep me company while doing laundry lately, more specifically The Incredulity of Father Brown
on Audio. So it is that I have been listening to one story The Curse of the Golden Cross ( I had listened to it multiple times
before), a story that I am very fond of. The first paragraph of the quote I am posting, is very interesting writing, and the rest
is a very cool quote.
Just in case any of you have not read the story I'll give you a little background. Smaill is an archaeologist. While exploring an
underground cavern most likely used as the catacombs were he finds a curious golden cross and is threatened with death by
an unknown person for possessing the golden cross. Many interesting events follow which you will have to read the story to learn about, but in the end he is nearly killed by the threatener, and it is while he is recovering from
the attempted murder that this scene takes place.
Nor, indeed, was it chiefly Father Brown who did the talking; for though the Professor was limited to small doses of the stimulant of conversation, he concentrated most of it upon these interviews with his clerical friend. Father Brown had a talent for being silent in an encouragingway and Smaill was encouraged by it to talk about many strangethings not always easy to talk about; such as the morbid phasesof recovery and the monstrous dreams that often accompany delirium.It is often rather an unbalancing business to recover slowlyfrom a bad knock on the head; and when the head is as interestinga head as that of Professor Smaill even its disturbancesand distortions are apt to be original and curious.His dreams were like bold and big designs rather outof drawing, as they can be seen in the strong but stiffarchaic arts that he had studied; they were full of strangesaints with square and triangular haloes, of golden out--standing crowns and glories round dark and flattened faces,of eagles out of the east and the high headdresses of beardedmen with their hair bound like women.  Only, as he toldhis friend, there was one much simpler and less entangled type,that continually recurred to his imaginative memory.Again and again all these Byzantine patterns would fade awaylike the fading gold on which they were traced as upon fire;and nothing remained but the dark bare wall of rockon which the shining shape of the fish was traced aswith a finger dipped in the phosphorescence of fishes.For that was the sign which he once looked up and saw,in the moment when he first heard round the corner of the darkpassage the voice of his enemy.
`And at last,' he said, `I think I have seen a meaning in the picture and the voice; and one that I never understood before.Why should I worry because one madman among a millionof sane men, leagued in a great society against him,chooses to brag of persecuting me or pursuing me to death?The man who drew in the dark catacomb the secret symbol of Christ was persecuted in a very different fashion.He was the solitary madman; the whole sane societywas leagued together not to save but to slay him.I have sometimes fussed and fidgeted and wondered whetherthis or that man was my persecutor; whether it was Tarrant;whether it was Leonard Smyth; whether it was any one of them.Suppose it had been all of them?  Suppose it had been all the menon the boat and the men on the train and the men in the village.Suppose, so far as I was concerned, they were all murderers.I thought I had a right to be alarmed because I was creepingthrough the bowels of the earth in the dark and there wasa man who would destroy me.  What would it have been like,if the destroyer had been up in the daylight and had ownedall the earth and commanded all the armies and the crowds?How if he had been able to stop all the earths or smoke me out ofmy hole, or kill me the moment I put my nose out in the daylight?What was it like to deal with murder on that scale?The world has forgotten these things, as until a littlewhile ago it had forgotten war.
'`Yes,' said Father Brown, `but the war came.  The fish may be driven underground again, but it will come up into the daylight once more.As St Antony of Padua humorously remarked, `It is only fisheswho survive the Deluge.'`


Lucia said...

I LOVE The Curse of the Golden Cross!

Mapaz said...

Beautiful! I don't remember reading the tale but now I'll have to look for it among the other books of my Chesterton's shelf. Thanks for posting it !