Welcome to the final installment of our latest Tale for Our Time - published in 1908, G K Chesterton's metaphysical thriller The Man Who Was Thursday. In tonight's concluding episode, our undercover sextet ready themselves for the final showdown with Sunday:
Along this, in a kind of crescent, stood seven great chairs, the thrones of the seven days. Gogol and Dr. Bull were already in their seats; the Professor was just mounting to his. Gogol, or Tuesday, had his simplicity well symbolised by a dress designed upon the division of the waters, a dress that separated upon his forehead and fell to his feet, grey and silver, like a sheet of rain. The Professor, whose day was that on which the birds and fishesâ€”the ruder forms of lifeâ€”were created, had a dress of dim purple, over which sprawled goggle-eyed fishes and outrageous tropical birds, the union in him of unfathomable fancy and of doubt. Dr. Bull, the last day of Creation, wore a coat covered with heraldic animals in red and gold, and on his crest a man rampant. He lay back in his chair with a broad smile, the picture of an optimist in his element.
One by one the wanderers ascended the bank and sat in their strange seats. As each of them sat down a roar of enthusiasm rose from the carnival, such as that with which crowds receive kings. Cups were clashed and torches shaken, and feathered hats flung in the air. The men for whom these thrones were reserved were men crowned with some extraordinary laurels. But the central chair was empty.
This is, on the surface, a surreal finale and, underneath it, a substantial Christian allegory, including Christ's question to James and John: "Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of?" The meaning of this concluding chapter has been argued over for a century, and I'm interested to hear listeners' own views, and perhaps we'll share some of them later in the week on The Mark Steyn Show.
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