In "The Song of Flying Fish" by G. K. Chesterton, someone was telling an old story, saying:

which happened not in India, but outside an English barrack in the most modernized part of Cairo. A sentinel was standing inside the grating of an iron gateway looking out between the bars on to the street. There appeared outside the gate a beggar, barefoot and in native rags, who asked him, in English that was startlingly distinct and refined, for a certain official document kept in the building for safety. The soldier told the man, of course, that he could not come inside; and the man answered, smiling: ‘What is inside and what is outside?’ The soldier was still staring scornfully through the iron grating when he gradually realized that, though neither he nor the gate had moved, he was actually standing in the street and looking in at the barrack yard, where the beggar stood still and smiling and equally motionless. Then, when the beggar turned towards the building, the sentry awoke to such sense as he had left, and shouted a warning to all the soldiers within the gated enclosure to hold the prisoner fast. ‘You won’t get out of there anyhow,’ he said vindictively. Then the beggar said in his silvery voice: ‘What is outside and what is inside?’ And the soldier, still glaring through the same bars, saw that they were once more between him and the street, where the beggar stood free and smiling with a paper in his hand.”

Does "awoke to such sense as he had left" mean "he completely realized what happened as the beggar left him and entered the building already"?!

2 Answers 2


The man realised that at least that something wasn't right. After all, something magical had just occurred and the soldier was confused.

He "awoke to his senses", not that he was literally asleep but he suddenly understood that one important fact: that the beggar was within the barracks, and he was without.

He "awoke to such sense as he had left". Not to all his senses; he was still confused. But he had some sense left, and he achieved that level of clearheadedness.

He didn't completely realise what had happened. We don't know exactly what happened, except that it was apparently some magic that the beggar performed.

  • So "as he had left" means "as the beggar left him and entered the building already"? Commented Jun 4, 2020 at 17:01
  • 1
    No nothing like that. editing
    – James K
    Commented Jun 4, 2020 at 18:05
  • Thank you so much Commented Jun 4, 2020 at 18:24

when the beggar turned towards the building ... woke to such sense as he had left

This means he regained the sense that he had lost earlier, when the beggar turned towards the building.

It's confusing because it's also implying/assuming that he previously left (lost) his sense - meaning he became unaware of his surroundings. And this was not explicitly said earlier in the story, probably to make the reader share the same sense of disorientation as the solider in the story.

  • so "he" in "as he had left" means the soldier himself? Commented Jun 4, 2020 at 17:11

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