The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth

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4.

The wandering of Caddies about London came to a head on the second day in the morning. For then his hunger overcame him. He hesitated where the hot-smelling loaves were being tossed into a cart, and then very quietly knelt down and commenced robbery. He emptied the cart while the baker’s man fled for the police, and then his great hand came into the shop and cleared counter and cases. Then with an armful, still eating, he went his way looking for another shop to go on with his meal. It happened to be one of those seasons when work is scarce and food dear, and the crowd in that quarter was sympathetic even with a giant who took the food they all desired. They applauded the second phase of his meal, and laughed at his stupid grimace at the policeman.

“I woff hungry,” he said, with his mouth full.

“Brayvo!” cried the crowd. “Brayvo!”

Then when he was beginning his third baker’s shop, he was stopped by half a dozen policemen hammering with truncheons at his shins. “Look here, my fine giant, you come along o’ me,” said the officer in charge. “You ain’t allowed away from home like this. You come off home with me.” They did their best to arrest him. There was a trolley, I am told, chasing up and down streets at that time, bearing rolls of chain and ship’s cable to play the part of handcuffs in that great arrest. There was no intention then of killing him. “He is no party to the plot,” Caterham had said. “I will not have innocent blood upon my hands.” And added: “— until everything else has been tried.”

At first Caddies did not understand the import of these attentions. When he did, he told the policemen not to be fools, and set off in great strides that left them all behind. The bakers’ shops had been in the Harrow Road, and he went through canal London to St. John’s Wood, and sat down in a private garden there to pick his teeth and be speedily assailed by another posse of constables.

“You lea’ me alone,” he growled, and slouched through the gardens— spoiling several lawns and kicking down a fence or so, while the energetic little policemen followed him up, some through the gardens, some along the road in front of the houses. Here there were one or two with guns, but they made no use of them. When he came out into the Edgware Road there was a new note and a new movement in the crowd, and a mounted policeman rode over his foot and got upset for his pains.

“You lea’ me alone,” said Caddies, facing the breathless crowd. “I ain’t done anything to you.” At that time he was unarmed, for he had left his chalk chopper in Regent’s Park. But now, poor wretch, he seems to have felt the need of some weapon. He turned back towards the goods yard of the Great Western Railway, wrenched up the standard of a tall arc light, a formidable mace for him, and flung it over his shoulder. And finding the police still turning up to pester him, he went back along the Edgware Road, towards Cricklewood, and struck off sullenly to the north.

He wandered as far as Waltham, and then turned back westward and then again towards London, and came by the cemeteries and over the crest of Highgate about midday into view of the greatness of the city again. He turned aside and sat down in a garden, with his back to a house that overlooked all London. He was breathless, and his face was lowering, and now the people no longer crowded upon him as they had done when first he came to London, but lurked in the adjacent garden, and peeped from cautious securities. They knew by now the thing was grimmer than they had thought. “Why can’t they lea’ me alone?” growled young Caddies. “I mus’ eat. Why can’t they lea’ me alone?”

He sat with a darkling face, gnawing at his knuckles and looking down over London. All the fatigue, worry, perplexity, and impotent wath of his wanderings was coming to a head in him. “They mean nothing,” he whispered. “They mean nothing. And they won’t let me alone, and they will get in my way.” And again, over and over to himself, “Meanin’ nothing.

“Ugh! the little people!”

He bit harder at his knuckles and his scowl deepened. “Cuttin’ chalk for ’em,” he whispered. “And all the world is theirs! I don’t come in— nowhere.”

Presently with a spasm of sick anger he saw the now familiar form of a policeman astride the garden wall.

“Lea’ me alone,” grunted the giant. “Lea’ me alone.”

“I got to do my duty,” said the little policeman, with a face that was white and resolute.

“You lea’ me alone. I got to live as well as you. I got to think. I got to eat. You lea’ me alone.”

“It’s the Law,” said the little policeman, coming no further. “We never made the Law.”

“Nor me,” said young Caddies. “You little people made all that before I was born. You and your Law! What I must and what I mustn’t! No food for me to eat unless I work a slave, no rest, no shelter, nothin’, and you tell me— ”

“I ain’t got no business with that,” said the policeman. “I’m not one to argue. All I got to do is to carry out the Law.” And he brought his second leg over the wall and seemed disposed to get down. Other policemen appeared behind him.

“I got no quarrel with you— mind,” said young Caddies, with his grip tight upon his huge mace of iron, his face pale, and a lank explanatory great finger to the policeman. “I got no quarrel with you. But—You lea’ me alone."

The policeman tried to be calm and commonplace, with a monstrous tragedy clear before his eyes. “Give me the proclamation,” he said to some unseen follower, and a little white paper was handed to him.

“Lea’ me alone,” said Caddies, scowling, tense, and drawn together.

“This means,” said the policeman before he read, “go ’ome. Go ’ome to your chalk pit. If not, you’ll be hurt.”

Caddies gave an inarticulate growl.

Then when the proclamation had been read, the officer made a sign. Four men with rifles came into view and took up positions of affected ease along the wall. They wore the uniform of the rat police. At the sight of the guns, young Caddies blazed into anger. He remembered the sting of the Wreckstone farmers’ shot guns. “You going to shoot off those at me?” he said, pointing, and it seemed to the officer he must be afraid.

“If you don’t march back to your pit— ”

Then in an instant the officer had slung himself back over the wall, and sixty feet above him the great electric standard whirled down to his death. Bang, bang, bang, went the heavy guns, and smash! the shattered wall, the soil and subsoil of the garden flew. Something flew with it, that left red drops on one of the shooter’s hands. The riflemen dodged this way and that and turned valiantly to fire again. But young Caddies, already shot twice through the body, had spun about to find who it was had hit him so heavily in the back. Bang! Bang! He had a vision of houses and greenhouses and gardens, of people dodging at windows, the whole swaying fearfully and mysteriously. He seems to have made three stumbling strides, to have raised and dropped his huge mace, and to have clutched his chest. He was stung and wrenched by pain.

What was this, warm and wet, on his hand?

One man peering from a bedroom window saw his face, saw him staring, with a grimace of weeping dismay, at the blood upon his hand, and then his knees bent under him, and he came crashing to the earth, the first of the giant nettles to fall to Caterham’s resolute clutch, the very last that he had reckoned would come into his hand.

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