"Paradox has been defined as 'Truth standing on her head to attract attention.' Paradox has been defended; on the ground that so many fashionable fallacies still stand firmly on their feet, because they have no heads to stand on."
- "When Doctors Agree"
As Chesterton's fellow members of the Detection Club, Sayers and Christie, could tell you, his chief tool in the gentle art of misdirection - getting the reader running the wrong way - was the paradox. The Pond stories are only a few of the many examples of Chesterton's tricks in that line. Several have opening statements about paradoxes in general that are worth reading, over and above the cleverness of the mysteries or Chesterton's lyrical touch with language. (Like Lord Dunsany, Chesterton likes to illuminate the romance and poetry of quite ordinary settings and prosaic-seeming people.)
Mr. Pond is a bureaucrat who, wanting to cut his stories short, often produces odd paradoxical statements, which defeat the purpose as everyone then badgers him into telling the whole story. His closest friends are a pair of extremes. Sir Hubert Wotton, a colleague in Pond's nameless department, has no nonsense about him. Gahagan, on the other hand, has a robust '18th century' turn of phrase, and plays up to the image of a colorful Irish wit as definitely Wotton plays to that of English stolidity.
"The Three Horsemen of the Apocalypse" The Prussian marshal had both feet firmly on the ground, espousing the principle that the world is affected not by what people believe or say, but by what is *done*. Observing the practical effect of a great poet and musician upon the conquered citizenry, the Marshal paid his greatest compliment to the arts in sending a courier with a sentence of death. His plan might have worked just fine, if he hadn't had not one, but *two* soldiers who obeyed orders.
"The Crime of Captain Gahagan" Gahagan is popularly supposed in love with Joan Varney, but he's been spending an awful lot of time hanging around Olivia Malone Feversham, the actress. Her husband is 'something worse than an unsuccessful actor; he was one who had been successful'. In sort, Feversham doesn't bother with his career anymore, but only cares about suing people in the law courts for spoiling his chances. Not a good man to cross - and someone fatally stabbed him in his own garden. What looks worst for Gahagan is that 3 young ladies - among them the Varney sisters - have reported 3 different stories he told them of where he was bound that night.
"When Doctors Agree" Talking shop - international politics - with his friends, after Gahagan chaffs Wotton, saying he thinks everyone who isn't English is as alike as Tweedledum and Tweedledee, Pond steps in, saying that how lucky it is that people generally go on disagreeing, and how he once knew two men who came to agree so completely that one murdered the other.
"Pond the Pantaloon" The background of this story is very cool: a conspiracy aiming at a coup d'etat, which was so widespread that Pond and company had to smuggle important documents from a northern port to a government department in London, while on the surface life was just as usual. In an unusual turn, Gahagan, after becoming entangled in Pond's talk of red pencils leaving black marks, goes to Wotton for the story. Pond, in charge of seeing that the documents arrived safely, said he shouldn't show any particular care in this case.
"The Unmentionable Man" Mr. Pond recollects a visit to one of those little monarchies that, when it became a republic, didn't magically solve all its problems. In fact, they acquired a lot of Marxist revolutionary types that the government tried to suppress, including some almost professional agitators. One of the government's most troubling problems was that they couldn't deport a desirable alien. 'You mean an *un*desirable alien.' Here we go again...
"Ring of Lovers" Gahagan tells of an incident at a stag party he attended the previous night, where the distinguished guests appeared to have nothing in common, involving the disappearance a valuable ring bearing a romantic inscription. The incident would be enough for a story, but here it is wielded beautifully to make Gahagan realize that he's taken a wrong turning in his life. (He doesn't lose his sense of humor, thank God.)
"The Terrible Troubadour" This, the third time Gahagan is mixed up in a mess, shows Chesterton's talent for dealing with continuing characters: talk is beginning to spread about Gahagan's suspicious previous history. :) The incident happened some years back, when Gahagan was on leave from the Great War - a holiday from hell, as he puts it - and flamboyantly competing with a rival to impress a vicar's daughter, climbing balconies and so on. The rival disappeared...
The biologist Paul Green, an expert on natural selection, is a recurring type in Chesterton's stories - G.K., speaking through Pond, disagreed with the science on religious principles.
"A Tall Story" This begins with an echo of the oncoming Holocaust; the story itself is set in a major seaport, like Brighton, during the WWI rather than WWII. Mr. Pond had an office there, and kept track of secret plans and possible spies. The paradoxes here are that a man too tall to be seen murdered one of Pond's colleagues, and that a tiresome woman, seeing spies under every bed, provides the key clue. The German governess in the story is contrasted with a certain type of Latin; the other half of the comparison can be found in the beautiful young Italian actress in "The Actor and the Alibi", in _The Secret of Father Brown_.