In "The Oracle of the Dog" by G. K. Chesterton, the author was talking about a secretary of a murdered colonel, who was very active and always doing everybody’s work, saying (emphasis added):

"It would be a joy to you to watch him make things hum, as he calls it. He made the house of mourning hum. He filled the funeral with all the snap and zip of the brightest sporting event. There was no holding him, after something had really happened. I’ve told you how he used to oversee the gardener as he did the garden, and how he instructed the lawyer in the law."

What's meant here by "after something had really happened", as I don't see anything in the whole paragraph to indicate this particular "thing"?

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The phrase is not referring to a specific thing, but rather to the general idea of that a significant event had happened. "Really" isn't being used to indicate the truthfulness of the event, such as you might have if a child is telling their parent, "No, the dog really ate my homework," but rather the thing that had happened was "really something". I believe that the intended effect of the sentence was to differentiate him from a more common sort of administrator who spends a great deal of effort on very small things that aren't important, but rather that he's the sort who works on things that are actually important, and makes them that much better.


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