A young dog, inexperienced, sadly lacking in even primary education,
ambles and frisks along the footpath of Fulham Road, near the mysterious
gates of a Marist convent. He is a large puppy, on the way to be a dog
of much dignity, but at present he has little to recommend him but that
gawky elegance, and that bounding gratitude for the gift of life, which
distinguish the normal puppy. He is an ignorant fool.
He might have entered the convent of nuns and had a fine time, but instead he steps
off the pavement into the road, the road being a vast and interesting
continent imperfectly explored. His confidence in his nose, in his
agility, and in the goodness of God is touching, absolutely painful to
He glances casually at a huge, towering vermilion construction
that is whizzing towards him on four wheels, preceded by a glint of
brass and a wisp of steam; and then with disdain he ignores it as less
important than a mere speck of odorous matter in the mud. The next
instant he is lying inert in the mud. His confidence in the goodness of
God had been misplaced. Since the beginning of time God had ordained him
An impressive thing happens. The motor-bus reluctantly slackens and
stops. Not the differential brake, nor the foot-brake, has arrested the
motor-bus, but the invisible brake of public opinion, acting by
administrative transmission. There is not a policeman in sight.
Theoretically, the motor-'bus is free to whiz onward in its flight to
the paradise of Shoreditch, but in practice it is paralysed by dread. A
man in brass buttons and a stylish cap leaps down from it, and the
blackened demon who sits on its neck also leaps down from it, and they
move gingerly towards the puppy. A little while ago the motor-bus might
have overturned a human cyclist or so, and proceeded nonchalant on its
way. But now even a puppy requires a post-mortem: such is the force of
public opinion aroused. Two policemen appear in the distance.
"A street accident" is now in being, and a crowd gathers with calm joy
and stares, passive and determined. The puppy offers no sign whatever;
just lies in the road. Then a boy, destined probably to a great future
by reason of his singular faculty of initiative, goes to the puppy and
carries him by the scruff of the neck, to the shelter of the gutter.
Relinquished by the boy, the lithe puppy falls into an easy horizontal
attitude, and seems bent upon repose. The boy lifts the puppy's head to
examine it, and the head drops back wearily. The puppy is dead. No cry,
no blood, no disfigurement! Even no perceptible jolt of the wheel as it
climbed over the obstacle of the puppy's body! A wonderfully clean and
The increasing crowd stares with beatific placidity. People emerge
impatiently from the bowels of the throbbing motor-bus and slip down
from its back, and either join the crowd or vanish. The two policemen
and the crew of the motor-bus have now met in parley. The conductor and
the driver have an air at once nervous and resigned; their gestures are
quick and vivacious.
The policemen, on the other hand, indicate by their
slow and huge movements that eternity is theirs. And they could not be
more sure of the conductor and the driver if they had them manacled and
leashed. The conductor and the driver admit the absolute dominion of the
elephantine policemen; they admit that before the simple will of the
policemen inconvenience, lost minutes, shortened leisure, docked wages,
count as less than naught.
And the policemen are carelessly sublime,
well knowing that magistrates, jails, and the very Home Secretary on his
throne--yes, and a whole system of conspiracy and perjury and
brutality--are at their beck in case of need. And yet occasionally in
the demeanour of the policemen towards the conductor and the driver
there is a silent message that says: "After all, we, too, are working
men like you, over-worked and under-paid and bursting with grievances in
the service of the pitiless and dishonest public.
We, too, have wives
and children and privations and frightful apprehensions. We, too, have
to struggle desperately. Only the awful magic of these garments and of
the garter which we wear on our wrists sets an abyss between us and
you." And the conductor writes and one of the policemen writes, and they
keep on writing, while the traffic makes beautiful curves to avoid them.
The still increasing crowd continues to stare in the pure blankness of
pleasure. A close-shaved, well-dressed, middle-aged man, with a copy of
_The Sportsman_ in his podgy hand, who has descended from the motor-bus,
starts stamping his feet. "I was knocked down by a taxi last year," he
"But nobody took no notice of _that_! Are they going to
stop here all the blank morning for a blank tyke?" And for all his
respectable appearance, his features become debased, and he emits a jet
of disgusting profanity and brings most of the Trinity into the
thunderous assertion that he has paid his fare. Then a man passes
wheeling a muck-cart. And he stops and talks a long time with the other
uniforms, because he, too, wears vestiges of a uniform. And the crowd
never moves nor ceases to stare.
Then the new arrival stoops and picks
up the unclaimed, masterless puppy, and flings it, all soft and
yielding, into the horrid mess of the cart, and passes on. And only that
which is immortal and divine of the puppy remains behind, floating
perhaps like an invisible vapour over the scene of the tragedy.
The crowd is tireless, all eyes. The four principals still converse and
write. Nobody in the crowd comprehends what they are about. At length
the driver separates himself, but is drawn back, and a new parley is
commenced. But everything ends. The policemen turn on their immense
heels. The driver and conductor race towards the motor-bus.
The bell rings, the motor-bus, quite empty, disappears snorting round the corner
into Walham Green. The crowd is now lessening. But it separates with
reluctance, many of its members continuing to stare with intense
absorption at the place where the puppy lay or the place where the
policemen stood. An appreciable interval elapses before the "street
accident" has entirely ceased to exist as a phenomenon.
The members of the crowd follow their noses, and during the course of
the day remark to acquaintances:
"Saw a dog run over by a motor-bus in the Fulham Road this morning!
And that is all they do remark. That is all they have witnessed. They
will not, and could not, give intelligible and interesting particulars
of the affair (unless it were as to the breed of the dog or the number
of the bus-service). They have watched a dog run over. They analyse
neither their sensations nor the phenomenon. They have witnessed it
whole, as a bad writer uses a _cliché_. They have observed--that is to
say, they have really seen--nothing.
AS I SAID - THERE IS ART TO PLACING THE WORD ON THE PAGE - AND IT JUST DOESN'T COST THAT MUCH TO FIND OUT HOW TO DO IT PROPERLY.
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