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A Somewhat Improbable Story
by [?]

“‘If you are a kind angel,’ I said, ‘or a wise devil, or have anything in common with mankind, tell me what is this street possessed of devils.’

“After a long silence he said, ‘What do you say that it is?’

“‘It is Bumpton Street, of course,’ I snapped. ‘It goes to Oldgate Station.’

“‘Yes,’ he admitted gravely; ‘it goes there sometimes. Just now, however, it is going to heaven.’

“‘To heaven?’ I said. ‘Why?’

“‘It is going to heaven for justice,’ he replied. ‘You must have treated it badly. Remember always that there is one thing that cannot be endured by anybody or anything. That one unendurable thing is to be overworked and also neglected. For instance, you can overwork women–everybody does. But you can’t neglect women–I defy you to. At the same time, you can neglect tramps and gypsies and all the apparent refuse of the State so long as you do not overwork it. But no beast of the field, no horse, no dog can endure long to be asked to do more than his work and yet have less than his honour. It is the same with streets. You have worked this street to death, and yet you have never remembered its existence. If you had a healthy democracy, even of pagans, they would have hung this street with garlands and given it the name of a god. Then it would have gone quietly. But at last the street has grown tired of your tireless insolence; and it is bucking and rearing its head to heaven. Have you never sat on a bucking horse?’

“I looked at the long grey street, and for a moment it seemed to me to be exactly like the long grey neck of a horse flung up to heaven. But in a moment my sanity returned, and I said, ‘But this is all nonsense. Streets go to the place they have to go. A street must always go to its end.’

“‘Why do you think so of a street?’ he asked, standing very still.

“‘Because I have always seen it do the same thing,’ I replied, in reasonable anger. ‘Day after day, year after year, it has always gone to Oldgate Station; day after . . .’

“I stopped, for he had flung up his head with the fury of the road in revolt.

“‘And you?’ he cried terribly. ‘What do you think the road thinks of you? Does the road think you are alive? Are you alive? Day after day, year after year, you have gone to Oldgate Station. . . .’ Since then I have respected the things called inanimate.”

And bowing slightly to the mustard-pot, the man in the restaurant withdrew.