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Herbert George Wells (21 September 1866 – 13 August 1946)—known as H. G. Wells—was a prolific English writer in many genres, including the novel, history, politics, and social commentary, and textbooks and rules for war games. He is now best remembered for his science fiction novels, and Wells is called a father of science fiction. His most notable science fiction works include The Time Machine (1895), The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), and The War of the Worlds (1898).Wells's earliest specialized training was in biology, and his thinking on ethical matters took place in a specifically and fundamentally Darwinian context. He was also from an early date an outspoken socialist, often (but not always, as at the beginning of the First World War) sympathising with pacifist views. His later works became increasingly political and didactic, and he wrote little science fiction, while he sometimes indicated on official documents that his profession was that of journalist. Novels like Kipps and The History of Mr Polly, which describe lower-middle class life, led to the suggestion, when they were published, that he was a worthy successor to Charles Dickens, but Wells described a range of social strata and even attempted, in Tono-Bungay (1909), a diagnosis of English society as a whole .
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And Now What?
Block of Alabaster
Fine Point In Ethics
Advent of Uncle Hopkinshire
Rally Or Stampede
Before Zero Hour
Overture Of The Conference
The Cadi Of Clarges Street
Declaration Of Faith
Time to Burn
Mary Clarkson Was At Home
The Married Life Of Mrs Philip Kentlake
The Insatiable Mother
Uncle Robert Intervenes
Jealousy In The Night
Stella Returns To A Focus Of Human Wisdom
Uncle Robert Tells The Real Truth About University Education
Work And A Dream
The Secret Fantasy
Gavin Peters Appears
The Story Of Gavin Peters
Note Of Interrogation
The Finding Of Gemini
What Was Left Of Gemini
The Psychoanalysis Of Dr Olaf Bjorkminder
Window On Tranquillity
The Man At The Table
The Real Truth About Frightfulness And Gemini
Russia, Revolution, And Reality
1940 Is Leap Year
The Block Turns Over
Possible Path In The Wood?
It is characteristic of most literary criticism to be carelessly uncritical of the terms it uses and violently partisan and dogmatic in its statements about them. No competent Linnaeus has ever sat down to sort out the orders and classes, genera and varieties, of fiction, and no really sane man ever will. They have no fixed boundaries; all sorts interbreed as shamelessly as dogs, and they pass at last by indefinite gradations into more or less honest fact telling, into “historical reconstruction,” the roman à clef, biography, history and autobiography. So the literary critic, confronted with a miscellany of bookish expression far more various than life itself, has an excellent excuse for the looseness of his vocabulary, if not for his exaltations and condemnations. Unhappily he insists on adopting types for his preference and he follows fashions. My early life as a naive, spontaneous writer was much afflicted by the vehement advocacy by Henry James II, Joseph Conrad, Edward Garnett and Ford Madox Hueffer, of something called The Novel, and by George Moore of something called The Short Story. There were all sorts of things forbidden for The Novel; there must he no explanation of the ideas animating the characters, and the author himself had to be as invisible and unheard — of as Cod; for no conceivable reason. So far as The Short Story went, it gave George Moore the consolation of calling Kipling’s stories, and in fact any short stories that provoked his ready jealousy, “anecdotes.” Novelists were arranged in order of merit that made the intelligent reader doubt his own intelligence, and the idea of “Progress” was urged upon the imaginative writer. Conrad was understood to be in the van of progress; Robert Louis Stevenson had “put the clock back,” and so on. Quite inconspicuous young writers were able to believe that in some mysterious technical way they were leaving Defoe and Sterne far away behind them. There has been no such “progress” in human brains. Against this sort of thing, which for many reasons I found tiresome and unpalatable, I rebelled. I declared that a novel, as distinguished from the irresponsible plausibilities of romance or the invention in imaginative stories of hitherto unthought-of human circumstances, could be any sort of honest treatment of the realities of human behaviour in narrative form. Conduct was the novel’s distinctive theme. It was and is and must be, if we are to have any definition of a novel. All writing should be done as well as it can be done, wit and vigour are as Cod wills, but pretentious artistry is a minor amateurism on the flank of literature.
This present story belongs to a school to which I have always been attracted, and in which I have already written several books. The merit of my particular contributions may be infinitesimal, but that does not alter the fact that they follow in a great tradition, the tradition of discussing fundamental human problems in dialogue form.
The dialogue, written or staged, is one of the oldest forms of literary expression. Very early, men realised the impossibility of abstracting any philosophy of human behaviour from actual observable flesh and blood. As soon can you tear a brain away from its blood and membranes: it dies. Abstract philosophy is the deadest of stuff; one disintegrating hortus siccus follows another; I am astounded at the implacable Scholarly industry of those who still write Textbooks of Philosophy. And your psychological handbook is only kept alive by a stream of anecdote. The Socratic Dialogue on the other hand produces character after character to state living views, to have them ransacked by an interlocutor who is also a character subject to all the infirmities of the flesh. Plato’s dramas of the mind live to this day. They may have inspired — it is a fancy of mine for which there is only very slight justification- that kindred Socratic novel, the Book of Job. For that magnificent creation my admiration is unstinted. I have made a close study of it; I have in fact not only studied it but modernised it, traced it over, character by character and speech, in The Undying Fire. The Book of Job has been compared to a Greek tragedy, to the Prometheus Bound of Aeschylus, for example, but I see it myself, naturally enough, from the angle of the writer. It was written to be read.
Manifestly the novel of ideas and the play of ideas converge. My friend George Bernard Shaw has lived a long, vivid life putting the discussion of ideas on to the English stage, to the infinite exasperation of generation after generation of dramatic critics, who insist upon puppets with heads of solid wood. Then they can get the drama of pure situation within the compass of overnight judgments. From opposite directions Shaw and I approach what is to us and, I submit, firmly and immodestly, to all really intelligent people, the most interesting thing in the world, the problems of human life and behaviour as we find them incarnate in persons. We have no claim to be pioneers, but by an inner necessity we were revivalists. Hamlet is evidently a dramatic dialogue about suicide in face of intolerable conditions, and Julius Caesar a treatment of political assassination. But by the time Shaw began dramatic criticism ideas had vanished from the English theatre for generations. Mallock and Peacock, however, had kept the dialogue alive through the darkest period of the three-volume novel.
I found myself, and I got to the dialogue novel, through a process of trial and error. The critical atmosphere was all against me. As I felt about rebelliously among the possibilities of fiction, I found certain of my characters were displaying an irresistible tendency to break out into dissertation. Many critical readers, trained to insist on a straight story, objected to these talkers; they said they were my self-projections, author’s exponents. But in many cases these obtrusive individuals were not saying things I thought, but, what is a very different thing, things I wanted to put into shape by having them said. An early type of this sort of book was Ann Veronica. She is a young woman who soliloquises and rhapsodises incessantly, revealing the ideas of the younger intelligentsia round about 1910, which I had found very interesting indeed. Before then no one had realised there was an English intelligentsia. The book is not a dialogue, simply because no one answers Ann Veronica. It interested a number of people who did not realise fully what bad taste they showed in being interested.
I made a much nearer approach to the fully developed novel of ideas in Mr Britling Sees It Through. I was getting more cunning about the business. I made him a writer and I used the letters home of his son to say a number of things that could be said in no other way. In Joan And Peter, I did what I think was a better book than Mr Britling; it is a dialogue about education, and I centred the discussion on the perplexities of the guardian who had to find a school for these young people. All my most recent hooks, Brynhild, Dolores (apart from the scandalous misbehaviour of her dog and a few such uncontrollable incidents), The Holy Terror, are primarily discussions carried on through living characters; it is for the discussion of behaviour they were written, and to cut out the talk would be like cutting a picture out of its frame.
And now I will come to the plan and purpose of this present book, which is the most comprehensive and ambitious dialogue novel I have ever attempted. I will try to explain certain devices I have had to adopt, and certain unavoidable necessities of the treatment. At the present time a profounder change in human thought and human outlook is going on than has ever occurred before. The great literary tradition I follow demands that this be rendered in terms of living human beings. It must be shown in both word and act. This I attempt here. So far as my observation and artistry as a novelist have enabled me to achieve it, there is not a single individual in this book that you might not meet and recognise in the street. If you have had any experience in writing fiction, I think you will find that you can take any of my characters out of this book and invent a meeting between them and the real people you know. But because of the very great burden of fresh philosophical matter that this novel has to carry, I have chosen my chief individuals from among the sort of people who would be closest to that matter. I have made one main figure a psychotherapeutist who as an intrusive outside lecturer carries on a feud with the academic traditions of Cambridge. He writes, he talks, he lectures, aggressively and destructively. Very much under his intellectual influence are my central “Babes,” two keen young people, one a Newnham undergraduate and the other her lover, Gemini, an Oxford man, who writes and criticises in a “highbrow” weekly, talks abundantly and is in harsh conflict with his father, a London Police Magistrate, celebrated for his bitter utterances on the London bench, and constitutionally addicted to uttering judgments. The mother is a highly self-conscious writer of bright letters. The mental break-down of Gemini after some grim experiences in Poland and Finland bring the methods of a leading psychoanalyst and modern psychosynthesis into the story. All these people talk, write and explain, by habit, profession and necessity. I could not devise a more favourable assemblage of personalities for a modem symposium, or I would have done so. The inexpert reader might imagine that nothing remained for the novelist to do but to report their conversations.
But that is by no means the case. Let us consider for example the long conversation between Stella and Gemini after they had received Uncle Hopkinshire’s abusive threats. Everything reported of it was actually said and understood, and to both interlocutors the chastened, edited, polished conversation given in that section would certainly be acceptable as a fair rendering of their intentions. Yet it is really as different from what they actually said to one another as clear, large print is from a note scribbled in faint pencil on crumpled scraps of paper. They talked a language that was sometimes a kind of shorthand to each other. They had been educated upon parallel lines; they had read the same books; they could say much of this that is set before you, with half the words and without ever finishing a sentence; all sorts of things could be assumed between them; they could pick up and finish each other’s phrases; and if I were to write it all down verbatim you would find it, unless you were made to exactly the same pattern and belonged to the same generation, inconsecutive and incomprehensible to the extremest degree. And sometimes, when they entered upon unfamiliar territory, instead of shorthand they used a roundabout very elongated longhand, abounding in loops, digressions and corrections, while they felt their way to their meaning. Moreover, ever and again, it has been necessary, by a turn of the phrase or the neat insertion of a phrase that might be unknown to you, to get over the reality of what they said to you. Again and again, to do them justice, it has been necessary to clarify, condense, expand or underline their words. Nevertheless, what is given here is what they imagined they were saying, and what indeed they meant. And I do not know of any way of writing the novel of ideas that can dispense with such magnified and crystallised conversations and meditations. . . .
That magnification and clarification applies in a greater or lesser degree to nearly all the talk in every novel of ideas. It is the exact opposite of that “flow of consciousness” technique, with which Virginia Woolf, following in the footsteps of Dorothy Richardson, has experimented more or less successfully. Thereby personalities are supposed to be stippled out by dabs of responses, which after all have to be verbalised. Uncle Robert, when he discourses on a University Education, tells Stella a score of things that as a matter of fact he knew she knew. Later on he and Gemini perform a sort of duet of mutual information. They explain the whole gist and bearing of the new and entirely revolutionary philosophy of behaviourism to one another, cheerfully, uncivilly and without embarrassment. I know of no better way of setting out this new way of thinking. To the best of my ability I contrive a situation that makes their talk as plausible as possible, and I keep rigorously true to their mental characters. In this fashion I may manage t0 get away with the understanding reader. But against the carping realist who objects that people do not talk like this, there is no reply, except that people know what they mean much better than they say it, and that the most unrighteous thing a reporter can do to a speaker or lecturer is to report him verbatim. So I put this dialogue novel of contemporary ideas before you with characters I claim to be none the less living because through my lens you see them larger and clearer than life.
A GIRL still just short of twenty walked very gravely, lightly and happily beside her lover, a youngster of twenty-four, along an overgrown, sunken, sun-flecked lane in Suffolk. The lane ran sometimes between fields and sometimes along the boundaries of pleasant residences, and it led from the village green at the centre of all things to the cottage they occupied. It was early in June. Lilac was dropping but the may was at its last and best; and countless constellations of stitchwort, clusters and nebulae, celebrated a brief ascendency over the promiscuous profusion of the hedge-banks.
“Stellaria!” said he, “it’s just chickweed, which proves that Stella is a chick — a downy little chick.”
“We won’t always talk nonsense,” said Stella.
“When one is drunk with happiness, what else can one talk?”
“Well,” she considered. . . .
They bumped themselves against each other, summer-drunk, love-drunk, smiled into each other’s eyes, and he ran an impudent, appreciative hand over her bare shoulder. She shrank a little from that before she remembered not to shrink. His hand dropped to his side and they walked on, a little apart and with grave, preoccupied faces.
“Things that aren’t nonsense are so hard to express,” he said presently, and lapsed into another silence.
She was slight and lithe and sunburnt, with sun-bleached hair and intelligent, dark — blue eyes. She had finely modelled brows, with a faintly humorous crinkle in the broad forehead, and enough mouth for a variety of expressions; a wide mouth it was that could flash into a vivid smile or shut with considerable deliberation, which could kiss, as he knew, very delightfully but was by no means specialised for that purpose. She was wearing an exiguous pale green vest which emphasised rather than hid the points of her pretty body, a pair of grey flannel trousers, in which she evidently carried a lot of small possessions as well as her dirty little hands, and brown canvas shoes. Her third finger in her left hand pocket bore a wedding ring that would not have deceived a rabbit. A bright patterned green and gold silk handkerchief round her slim but sufficient waist completed her costume.
Her companion was perhaps four or five inches taller, and darker in complexion. He was something of a pug about the face, with disarming brown eyes, a lot of forehead and a resolute mouth. His rather crisp brown hair seemed to grow anyhow and had apparently been cut en brosse by an impatient and easily discouraged barber. This young man also wore grey slacks and canvas shoes, with a white cotton shirt that had once no doubt possessed as many buttons as any shirt, but which was now buttoned only at the right wrist. He was carrying a spike of bananas still attached to their parent stem in his left (off) hand. It was only as he walked that it became apparent that he was extremely lame.
The least worldly of people meeting this young couple would have known at once, if only by the challenging pride in their faces, that they were living in sin together, that they had been doing so for five or six days at the outside, and that they had never done anything of the sort before. But old Mrs Greedle, who did for them in Mary Clarkson’s borrowed week-end cottage, never betrayed a shadow of doubt about that very loosely fitting wedding ring. She consulted Stella upon all sorts of matronly questions and prompted her with the right answer whenever there was the least sign of hesitation. . . .
But of Mrs Greedle more later. . . .
“It is just because we are so happy,” he said, trying again.
“I know,” she agreed.
“Has anyone any right to be happy in a world like this?”
“We were foolish to get those newspapers and letters.”
“Sooner or later that had to come.”
“They had to come. And anyhow it’s been a lovely time. Such a lovely time. Such a very lovely time. Anyhow.”
“But all those other fellows all over the world. . . . ”
“We’ve only stolen a week”
“And no one can ever take it away from us. Whatever happens. There’s something unfair about our luck. Think of the ones who would — and can’t. Down here-or wherever there’s working people or out-of-works or gipsies or such-I look at them and feel a sort of thief. As though I’d stolen it from them. What right have we to our education, to the freedom in our minds, to the time and money, that makes all this possible? And our health! If we haven’t stolen, our blessed progenitors did. We are Receivers of stolen goods.”
“In a way it’s getting less and less unfair. The Evil Thing is going to catch us all sooner or later. Why shouldn’t we snatch this? At the eleventh hour?”
“To think that it’s an advantage to have had a foot crushed between a motor-bike and a tram! Luck to be a cripple! No obligation to join up. One of the exempted. The last of the free. We shall catch it with the other civilians but anyhow we’re not under orders.”
“Not so much of a cripple,” she reflected. “Anyhow I’m a woman now and grown-up and ready to look at what’s coming to us.”
“And what is coming to us?”
“It isn’t fair. Life didn’t come after our grandfathers and grandmothers and trim them up for slaughter. They had a breathing space.”
“Much good they did with it.”
“Romeo and Juliet weren’t called on for national service.”
“They didn’t get away with so very much either.”
“Just accidents and misunderstandings in their case, Gemini; they had bad luck, their people were awful people, worse than ours, and there were those mixed philtres, pure accident, and that was all there was the matter with them. But now everyone, all over the world, is being threatened, compelled, driven. Like a great hand feeling for us, catching more and more of us. It’s only God’s mercy that there isn’t some siren howling after us, or some loud-speaker bellowing A.R.P. instructions, here and now. It got us at the post office; it’s waiting for us at the cottage. . . . But I’m talking worse than you do, Gemini.”
“And saying what everyone is saying. All the same we two are the world’s pets. We’ve had education, art, literature, travel, while most of those others have been marched off long ago, trained to drudge, to obey, to trust the nice ruling classes —. Ideas kept from them. Books hard to get at. What’s the good of pretending that you and I are not the new ruling-class generation? We are. We’ve shared the loot. And what are we doing by way of thank-you for the education and the art and the literature and the travel we’ve had? Trying not to care a damn. Having as good a time as we can manage until something hits us. . . . It’s all the damned radio and the rest of it that does it. Why should I be worried because Chinese kids are being raped and disembowelled for fun by the Japs in Shanghai? Why should I be worried because they are being sold to the brothels and given syphilis and driven to death and all that, under the approving noses of our own blessed Pukka Sahibs in Hong Kong? Lousy Pukka Sahibs! Dirty old Blimps! . . . This, that and the other horror, up and down the world. That concentration camp stuff. . . . And all hammering down on our poor little brains. All the time now. All hammering down on us. Things like that have always been going on, but they didn’t worry grandfather when he walked in the lanes with grandmamma. They didn’t come after them as they come after us.”
“And they didn’t say You next.”
“Gods! Stella, and are we as bad as that? Maybe we are. Did it have to be bombs over London before any of our lot worried?”
She puckered her brows and weighed the question. She stuck her hands deeper in her trouser pockets as though that helped her thinking. “It wasn’t in the same world then,” she decided.
“Now it is. ‘Ye ken the noo,’ as the Calvinist’s God said.”
“We ken. And what are we going to do about it, Gemini? Playing bright kids won’t save us. If our sort can’t think of something, nobody will think of anything. We have to do something about it. We! You and me! And what can we do? . . . ”
“What can we do?” he echoed. “Oh hell! Stella, what can we do? Being a Communist! What’s being a Communist? What good is it? Trotsky and Stalin don’t matter a damn to me. Conscientious objectors — objectors to being alive, I suppose. This, this muddle, is life. How can we stand out of it? . . . Anti-Fascist? . . . What party is there to work with; what leader can one follow? Saying No, No, NO to everything isn’t being alive. Why haven’t we leaders to lead us somewhere? I forgot things for a bit, this last week, but that emetic speech of the Prime Minister’s friend — what was his name? Lindsey-Jump-in-the-Snow Lindsey, they call him — and that story of those Jews in No Man’s Land and that quotation from that book of Timperley’s about those Japanese atrocities. . . . It’s all come back to me, and the helplessness of it. And the sun, old fool, goes on shining. You poor old fool up there! Why don’t you go out and finish us up?”
“And none of the old religions are any good?”
“It’s the old religions and faiths and patriotisms that have brought us to just exactly where we are. Manifestly.”
“No good going back to them again.”
“No good going back to anything again. But how to get on?”
She confronted him. “Gemini,” she said, “have you no ideas?”
“Oh! the shadows of the ghosts of ideas. And a sound of claptrap in the distance”
“Gemini Jimmini — that is to say Mr James Twain — listen to me. I love you. Always have done; long before you thought of it. I am your true love. Haven’t I proved it? And also, as I warned you, I am a prig.”
“Don’t I know it? Could I love you otherwise? Go on.”
“I warn you I am going to talk like a prig. Almost like warning you I’m going to be sick. I’ve felt it coming on. Gemini, I must say it.”
“Out with it, as they say on the excursion steamboats. Sorry! Oh-out with it, Stella!”
“Well, we two are individuals of outstanding intelligence. Outstanding intelligence. Young, of course, silly in a way because we are young, but really damned intelligent. That’s generally admitted by our friends and relations. Even Aunt Ruby said that. We are bright. In the privacy of this Lovers’ Lane, need we hesitate to say as much to one another? We are. Yes. And I’m for getting on with it. You listen. For all practical purposes, about the conduct of our lives, about the conduct of life, we don’t know a blessed thing. Not a blessed real thing. You as well as me. They haven’t told us anything worth knowing. We are just bright enough to realise that. The religion and morals they fed us are exploded old rubbish. That much we’ve found out. The unbelieving way they taught it us was enough to show that. Blank. Yet we’ve got to devote ourselves to something, Gemini, all the same. We’re made that way. We’ve got to learn what we can and use it somehow. We’ve got to do whatever is in us, to save ourselves and the world. Maybe we’ll do something. Maybe we’ll do nothing at all. But we’ve got to make the effort. In a war hundreds of people have to be killed or messed-up. Even if their side is winning. Some get in the way of their own side and get done in like that. Trying to do their best. All sorts go into the boiling. But they’ve got to join up, they’ve got to try. It doesn’t matter so long as they don’t slack or hide. . . . We’re slacking, Gemini. . . . ”
She was dismayed at herself.
“I can’t go on. It’s the very life of me I’m telling you, and it sounds — rot . . . preachment. . . . Salvation indeed! . . . Salvation Army. . . . If only I hadn’t begun. I’ve never talked this way. . . . I must— with you. I’m not just talking? She was weeping.
“Darling,” he said, and kissed and embraced her.
“No need to say any of this again,” she sobbed, clinging to him. . . .
“Can I borrow your snitch-rag, Gemini?” she said presently. “I left mine at home.”
“We’ll have to talk about things,” he reflected. “I will. But it’s awful hard. We get this stuff out of books. We think of it bookishly. We have to at first. When we talk about it, it’s like bringing up partly digested print. We’ve got to talk bookish. What natural words are there? Slang, love-making, smut, games, gossip, ‘pass the mustard,’ one can talk about in a sort of natural unprintable way, but ideas. . . . We’re abashed. We’ve been trained to be abashed. My old nurse began it. ‘Don’t you talk like a book, Mr Jimmy,’ she said. ‘Don’t you go using long words.’ But suppose the short words won’t do it? You’re so right, Stella. We’ve got to talk of these things. Of course we have. There’s a sort of shyness they put upon us. . . . Even between lovers. . . . ”
She nodded. “Worse than their damned decency,” she said. She returned the handkerchief rolled into a ball. Then she remarked, apropos of nothing: “This morning I saw a big bird flying across the garden and it cuckooed as it flew. Always before, I thought they sat and did it. Did you know, Gemini, they cuckooed as they flew?”
“And sitting also. I’ve seen ’em perched on branches and doing it. . . . ”
But he did not seem to be thinking about cuckoos. Neither of them was thinking with any particular intensity about cuckoos. And the sun, the old fool, went on shining upon them.
One side of the deep lane changed its character and became highly respectable as a tall, well-trimmed hedge of yew. Presently that hedge had a lapse, where something had devoured or destroyed it and left only a stretch of oak palings to carry on in its place.
Our young people cast off the cares of the world abruptly and became gaminesque. Simultaneously they had one and the same idea. “Let’s peek at old Kalikov’s lump,” she said. “Just once more. That lovely lump.”
“Marble it is,” he said.
“Alabaster, I tell you. I know.”
“Marble. You never get alabaster in ‘normous lumps like that. Alabaster’s semi-precious or something of that sort. Just little bits.”
“Who ever saw marble all bloodshot?”
“Obstinate. Alabaster is marble.”
“Ignorance. It’s gypsum.”
“That G is hard. It’s Greek.”
“Even there you are wrong. It’s English and soft. Naturalised ages ago.”
She put out her tongue at him. That was that. . . . In the most perfect accord they crept up to the gap in the hedge and looked over. There, amidst thick grass and tall wild hemlock was a big piece of Derbyshire alabaster, twelve feet high at least.
“See that sort of dirty pink vein,” she began. . . . He laid a hand on her arm. “Sh,” he said very softly. ”He’s there. . . . There!”
They became as still and observant as startled fawns. Kalikov, a great lump of a man, with a frizzy, non-Aryan coiffure and ears that you would have thought any sensitive sculptor would have cut off or improved upon years ago, was sitting on a garden seat in the shade of a mulberry tree, brooding over his huge, clumsy block of material. There was a flavour almost of blood-relationship between him and it. He was still as death and intensely wide awake. When at last he stirred it was as eventful as if the block had stirred. He put out his hand. He moved it slowly in a curving path. Then it came to rest, extended.
He shook his head disapprovingly. He repeated his gesture. This time it passed muster. He drew it back along an invisible lower path, carefully, mystically. It was as if he caressed the invisible. It was as if he was trying to hypnotise the inanimate. Then his hand went back into his pocket and he became still again, scheming, dreaming.
The two young people looked at one another and then dropped back noiselessly into the lane.
“Like that,” she whispered.
“Then one day he will get his chisels and hammers and things and begin to hew it out,” she expanded.
“No clay model?” he queried.
“Not for him.” She was sure. Some paces further he spoke with a note of intense surprise.
“But that’s exactly how we have to do it. Exactly. Exactly what has been trying to get into my mind for weeks.”
She made an interrogative noise.
“That,” he said, with a backward toss of the head. “That behind there. It’s just exactly how I feel about things.”
“Something completely hidden. Which is there?
“Clumsy block of a world, monstrous, crushing the grass, bloodshot, and yet in it there is a world to be found, a real world, a great world.”
“Which he may find?”
“Which we may find-our sort of people — in this block of a world to-day.”
She stood regarding him with her legs wide apart, her arms akimbo and her head a little on one side.
“Gemini, you’re saying something. You talk like an evangelist tract but you’re saying something considerable. It’s a new sort of approach?
“I’ve said something that’s been in my mind in a state of helpless solution for ever so long. That, somehow, has crystallised it. The proper religion, the proper way of life, it isn’t all this everlasting squabbling of anti-this and anti-that. Newspapers, politics, churches; the whole bloody jumble. Everybody wrong and nobody right. Our sort of people and more of us and more, have been astray, getting into disputes that don’t matter a damn, blundering away at negations. That isn’t the job for us. Our job is to realise the shape in the block, to get the vision of it clearer and clearer in our heads and then to set about carving it out. Am I saying something at last?”
“Sounds to me something quite considerable?”
“I’ll have a thousand criticisms presently,” she said, “but you are saying something, Gemini. Something we can talk about for days.”
“Leave it now then for a bit,” said he, “for I’m hungry. Down here, what with the air and this love-making, I seem to be always hungry. Come on. Get to your kitchen, woman, for old mother Greedle is more of a talking heart than a head. See to things.”
And he waved his bunch of bananas towards the cottage ahead of them, and went limping in front of her.
“It’s such a consolidating idea,” she said to his back.
“It is a consolidating idea. It’s the consolidating idea. The unrevealed statue. The unrevealed new world. The right world. . . . I wonder if we shall find the unquenchable Balch on the doorstep. . . . So soon as he scents a meal afoot. . . . I’ll try this notion out on him.”
The unquenchable Balch, true to form, did not appear until the meal was ready. They went through the front room with - its big open fireplace and its incongruous array of rugs, miscellaneous chairs, stools, ornaments, allusive and entirely irrational objects and artistic impedimenta — there were two inactive grandfather clocks, two brass panoplies for cart-horses, a powder horn, but only one copper warming-pan — towards the kitchen scullery at the back. They went calling, “Hullo Mrs Greedle, what have you got to cat?” and “Mrs Greedle, is there anything to eat?”
“Bubble and squeak, you said you liked, Mrs Twain,” said Mrs Greedle. “The cabbage is all chopped. You left some bits of bacon; I can’t think ‘ow. With a bit of ‘am and a hegg or so and a nunion for taste; not ten minutes it won’t take, to ‘ave it nice and spluttering, and there’s them sardines to begin upon for an orderove and that nice fruit cake Miss Clarkson sent you down, and a nice tomato cocktail and the siphons ‘ave come.”
“Nice siphons,” whispered Gemini.
“With coffee to follow,” said the temporary Mrs Twain, hitherto known to us as Stella.
“Yes, Ma’am, nice black coffee in them little cups. As usual. Nice and ‘ot.”
“On with the frying!” cried Gemini. “We’ll eat it here. Ten minutes! I’m damned if I don’t wash my hands.”
“Me too,” said Stella. “See what a good example does!”
“How’s the whiskey?” said Gemini.
“‘S in the tantalus in the front room,” said Mrs Greedle. “I didn’t think to look ‘ow much. I do ‘ope. . . . ”
Gemini had a moment of apprehension, but he found the tantalus, which ages ago had lost its key and ceased to tantalise, still resourceful, even if Balch dropped in. “I ordered two bottles from the grocer,” said Gemini, “in case,” but Mrs Greedle seemed too preoccupied with the appetising mess in her frying pan to hear. They were busy with the sardines when Balch became audible as a copious throaty voice in the front room.
“Hoy Hoy!” it said. ”What a reek of onions, and food at large! You children seem always to be eating.”
“Bubble and squeak, Balch. You’re just in time. Come and join us.”
A large buff face with an enormous loose mouth, large grey eyes with a slight cast, and quantities of iron-grey hair, not only on the scalp but bursting generously from brows and ears, appeared in the doorway. The loose mouth was drawn down at the corners with a misleading effect of hauteur, and there was not so much a chin as a series of chin tentatives which finally gave it up and became a neck. The face radiated a sort of anxious benevolence, as though it was relieved to find things no worse than they were. It was closely followed by a body clad loosely in what was still technically a white linen suit, from_the breast pocket of which bristled a number of fountain pens, several copying-ink pencils, a spectacle-case, and a large red carpenters pencil, proclaiming an alert, various and fecund literary worker. He looked like a ham actor; he looked like an unsuccessful playwright; he looked exactly what he was — a free-lance journalist in his early fifties; the sort of man who is always getting on tremendously and volubly and never by any chance getting anywhere.
“If ever I hit this cottage between meals,” he said, “I shall put it in my diary as a notable event.”
“Join us,” said Gemini, putting out the rest of the sardines for him upon a Woolworth plate. (All the plates in the house, except the wall decorations, were Woolworth plates and all the glasses Woolworth glasses.)
“I ought not,” said Balch, and then relenting, “just to save your greedy little faces, I will.”
Mrs Greedle surveyed the consumption of her bubble and squeak with bland benevolence and felt that whatever criticisms might be passed upon her fancy dishes, her soofles, crimes, mooses, kickshaws, glasses, gallant tins, soup-raims, rag-whos, consomers, and debauches — tomato soup that latter is, with a bit of cream on the top — her arlar thises and her arlar thats-nevertheless at good old village cooking, at your bubble and squeak of your nice onion stew or your hot-pot or what not, she knew her business to a T. And in her heart she hoped that in the end the young gentleman would marry the young lady, for a nicer young lady she had never set eyes on in all her born days, speaking clearly like a lady and look you nicely in the eyes, and never getting drunk and not keeping it down like a lady should, and the mess and all of it, like so many young ladies of the best families seemed to make almost a point of doing nowadays. . . .
The nice hot coffee was served on an Indian brass tray on a lacquered Moorish table in the front room, and the voice of the unquenchable Balch, released from degustation, began to play about the world of fact and fancy in a free and fearless fashion.
He was in the habit of calling his host and hostess “The ultimate generation, the last and so far the best.” They were, he said, his ”Wunderkinds.” He combined an undisguised admiration for their youth, boldness, directness, and intelligence with an air of immense helpfulness and patronage and tutorial responsibility. And also there was a note of sadness because this world would surely be too much for them. “You two ought to write while you are fresh and young and new. And still alive. Use your baby language-for I know you have one, mum though you keep about it — and any little Joycery that comes into your heads. Write! Tell me about it, show it to me. Anything you do. I know things. I know people. If you have any ideas. I might save you endless experimenting. . . . ”
Now over the coffee Gemini unfolded his idea, and Balch interrupted, commented, and expanded, and Stella sat on the settle with her chin between her fists and her elbows on the old polished cask, resolved to let no nonsense get past her.
“We’re the heirs of a bankrupt world,” said Gemini. “The religions, the patriotisms, have all killed one another. This war, this war that is going to drink us all up, will be a war about nothing, because the sense has gone out of everything. Worse than the War to End War. Whichever way it goes, things after it will be worse than ever. One thing’s as rotten as another, and there’s nothing we can join on to. Nothing. See? Nothing. Nothing by way of a going concern. And that’s where the great idea comes in. . . . ”
“Come to the great idea,” said Balch, waving aside the preamble.
“The thing we have to serve isn’t a divinity or a church or a country or an empire or a class or a party. None of them is worth while now. None. It’s something greater.”
Balch opened his mouth to speak.
“Listen, Balch! It’s a possibility we have to serve.”
He went on, holding up a hand like a traffic policeman to restrain Balch, while he told of their glimpse of Kalikov brooding in his garden. “There’s this great block, the world, and there’s the human imagination gradually realising what it can do with it. . . . Now you have your say, Balch.”
At first he was not appreciative. “This is Utopianism, my dear chap,” he protested, “just Utopianism.”
“No. Utopia is nowhere, but the Unrevealed World is here and now. Smothered up. Embedded. It’s not a dream. It’s the possibility, close at hand, which is something quite different.”
“Your possibility isn’t everybody’s possibility,” said Balch.
“Gemini, grapple with that,” said Stella.
“I’ve thought of that. Already I’ve thought of that. While I was washing my hands. First, let me ask you a question. First, Balch, do you think that Kalikov could make anything he pleases out of that block he has? Anything?“
“Within certain limits.”
“You don’t think that?”
“But I do.”
“Then why does he sit and brood over it? Tell me that. He can make all sorts of messes of it, I admit, chip it to bits, spoil it and waste it, but there’s only one supreme thing waiting for him there. That’s what he has to get out of it. That’s why he broods. Everything else, everything else, will be failure.”
“Something in that,” said Balch. “Something in that. I give you old Kalikov. Leave him. But who’s going to imagine the hidden world in our world? You?”
“M’m?” said Stella.
“I think there is an answer to that too. The artist in front of our world is the human imagination. No! Don’t tell me human imaginations can imagine anything. I’ve had a brain-wave, about that. They can’t. Any more than Kalikov can. They may go astray. I guess Kalikov has his wandering fancies which he ‘ has to dismiss. But-here’s my second great idea — the human imagination is like the human blood corpuscle; it’s the same everywhere. Fundamentally. We aren’t all at sixes and sevens. We seem to be, but fundamentally we are not. See?”
“I don’t see,” said Balch. “No. What are you driving at?”
“This. All over the world the mass of human beings want peace. Don’t they? But their minds are confused. They are misled, miseducated. They don’t see the shape of it as a world organisation. They don’t give it a form. All over the world they are staring at this great lump of a world — all this war, all this hatred — blood-red streaks and stains-and yet with a loveliness — like Kalikov. See? But gradually, quickly or not, they will begin to realise-what is practically the same idea — the idea of a whole world in one active order. . . . ”
“H’m.” Balch weighed it profoundly. “Differences of race,” he said. “Differences of culture. Differences of tradition. Differences of colour.”
“Streaks in the alabaster,” said Stella softly. Gemini was fairly launched upon his second great idea, and he did not mean to have it set aside.
“The human brain,” he declared, “is more alike everywhere, than anything else in the human make-up. I can assure you it is. A little heavier or a little lighter. You can tell the race, the sex, of a finger or a hair, but you couldn’t tell anything about a human brain in pickle except that it was a human brain.”
“And is that so?” said Balch.
“Common knowledge,” said Gemini stoutly. “Human minds, I tell you, are more alike than human bodies. Make them think; put the same problem before them, and the harder they think the nearer they’ll come to the same answer. There’s a Common Human Imagination, waiting to be awakened. . . . ”
Balch shut his extensive mouth hard, put his head on one side, and regarded the timbered ceiling. “Now that’s a large proposition,” he considered, rallying his mind, and was glad to defer to Stella, who was preparing to point her remarks with an extended finger.
“This idea of yours, Gemini, sounded so good at first,” she said. “But is it after all even a good analogy? There’s Kalikov there with his block of alabaster — because you know, Gemini, it is alabaster — and it’s fixed. It won’t do a thing until Kalikov makes up his mind. It squats there in the grass and waits. He can go away for a holiday and forget about it, and when he comes back there it is just the same. But our block of alabaster isn’t fixed.”
“M’m,” said Twain, as if he was beginning something.
“It isn’t the least bit fixed,” she said, raising her voice by way of a protest against a possible interruption. “Our lump, our world, hangs over us, keeps heeling over us. It is moving, like a mountain moving down to crush a Swiss village. It won’t wait for anything. Kalikov can brood over his lump for a year. But our imaginations —”
“The common human imagination,” said Gemini, sticking to his second great idea.
“Of which ours are the only samples now in court. Our imaginations have no time for that sort of thing. Our mass of a world may do anything to us now. The one thing we can be sure of is that it won’t leave us alone. We carve it; it’s much more likely to carve us. It may blow us to bloody rags; it may smash us underfoot, flat as squashed ants. Kalikov can afford to say, ‘I will sleep on it. I will do it to-morrow,’ but for our block, which is in front of us and behind us and over us and under us-the word is now.”
“Yes,” she added, as rapidly as possible because Balch was making the sort of noises that preluded an emption. “And about human imaginations being all alike. If only they were. If only they were. But what sort of proof? They don’t even begin to get together. . . . The imaginations of man’s heart are only evil continually. . . . ”
But now Balch was rising to his occasion. He began to wave his hand about like a hovering wasp while Stella was speaking. He pounced on her first pause for breath. “Very good,” he said, “very good, Madam Stella. True and penetrating. But it doesn’t alter the proposition in any essential respect. Let me explain. Let me speak. The essential thing is the challenge of the block. There’s the lump you have to carve life out of. Whether it keeps still or whether it keeps sliding after you, is secondary. Secondary. Still —. Sculptor chased by a block of alabaster. Ugh? Idea in that. Short story perhaps. But it doesn’t abolish the sculpture idea. Twain, I apologise for calling this notion of yours Utopian. I do indeed. I begin to see your drift. It isn’t Utopian. Far from it. It’s immensely common-sense. I didn’t get your drift at first. I didn’t expect it from you. I wonder if you even begin to realise the importance of what you have said. The Universality! It’s an Enormous Idea. E-normous. You’ve hit on something. . . . Now I begin to think of it. . . . I wonder I never thought of it myself. It’s all very well for you to call it down, young lady, and criticise it, but don’t let her discourage you, Twain. Your mind is building better than you know.”
“I didn’t,” began Stella. . . .
“I don’t think I implied,” began Gemini. . . .
But Balch was now under way and he raised his voice, at once powerful and plaintive, so as to take complete possession of the air.
“There is a great world order here and now, hidden in our circumstances and in men’s minds. True! And you can prove it by the universal similarity of brains and cells. Good! Excellent! That’s your idea. A biological assertion of human brotherhood. Don’t you see that that is what you are saying?”
“Saying it,” protested Gemini unavailingly. . . .
“Don’t you see that this gives the preliminary concept for a new and hopeful — as far as anything can be hopeful nowadays — a new and hopeful attack on life? At the eleventh hour. It’s — it’s as fundamental. . . . It’s a new, a creative restatement of religion. It calls together everything that is progressive and constructive in life. Think what it says! Never mind what is, it says. That’s the essence of it. To hell with what is. Whatever is, is just material, stuff to be used or stuff to be thrown away. You get together sooner or later with all the other imaginations in the world that have got lit up. And the What Is, vanishes.” His arm swept the World that Is away. “It melts into the World of Heart’s Desire. What is, meanwhile can do its damnedest. It has no claim on you. The only thing that has a claim on you is this non — existent world hidden in the alabaster. Oh! a great idea. The only thing that has a hold upon you is your own free thought and free imagination about that. You are the Free Man looking for his world, the world that has to be, the world that’s been put over you. If they clap you into a uniform and put a rifle in your hand, you owe them no obedience. None. If they put an oath into your mouth it doesn’t matter. No oath can hold you that you don’t make of your own free accord. Whether you let fly at the man in front of you, or your officer, or the ammunition dump or into the air or try potting the War Boss himself, depends upon just what you think will help most to release the Unrevealed World. . . .
“Phew!” Evidently he would have liked a breathing space, but plainly he felt that Gemini or Stella might cut in if he stopped. So he just let loose a howling, tenoring sound —“Warrow. Ugh. Warrow”— until he could begin his next paragraph.
“Such an idea! Oh, such an idea! The Unrevealed World! You can state it in general terms now. It forms itself in people’s minds all over the world. Peace from pole to pole. Don’t we all want it? But we’re held up by How? How’s a mouthful. How’s the giant in the path. That’s not going to hold us up for ever. What are brains for? The service of the human spirit. All over the world people are working their brains like hell to get a practical answer to How? To conceive it and behold it. Kalikovs all. You young people may think you are the only people on earth who’ve glimpsed this idea, but I tell you there are thousands of you; there will be millions of you. Not seeing it so clearly perhaps, but feeling it, urged by it. Maybe you exaggerate the possibility of a common human imagination, Twain; maybe you do. But that is merely an exaggeration. The common human imagination is there. Ready to be lit. And it can and it shall be lit. It shall be discovered and lit. What you are proposing is a Great Possibility.”
“I said that,” Gemini half whispered.
“The Great Possibility in the Human Imagination, the Human Heart; Various, I admit, Madam, and yet the Same throughout the World. He sees sameness; you may see variety. What I see is sameness in variety. That was the discovery of all the great propagandist religions of the world. They saw it even if they lost sight of it again. Think what we mean when we say all men are Brothers. Who said that first? What anonymous Seer? But what a Leap into the light! The awakening idea of one kingdom of heaven on earth; that step by step realises itself and becomes the Great Human Reality. Ugh! Wur. I’ve been watching it grow upon people in these years we’ve lived through. For I too-I am a Kalikov. You are Kalikovs, yes; but I’ve been in this thing longer than you. I’ve watched this dream-of world unity, world justice. Not here; not there; but everywhere. World cooperation in giant undertakings, becoming real almost day by day. Why! in 1900, it was a dream, thinner than a dream, the shadow of a dream. People were too far away from one another. Now there are schemes of federalisms, schemes of alliances by the score — that book you lent me the other day, Union Now— just one sample. Everyone making schemes and plans for it, more and more practicable, closer and closer to actuality. Up and down the scale. Internationalism! The Oxford Movement. All touched by the spirit of it. Why! there’s even a sort of Cosmopolis in the Rotary Clubs. This has been going on for ages. In a sense, that is, it has been going on for ages. Dumbly. Blindly. Getting clearer — more definite. Never so swiftly. That is what Christ meant by his Kingdom. Buddha was after this! Prophets and teachers. Confucius. All of them! Pisgah! Feeling for a way out from the Thing that is. . . . Seekers all.”
He extended a waving hand and twiddled his fingers to express a great multitude of active seekers.
“Like an immense crowd feeling about in the dark, jostling against each other — but with the dawn breaking. Humanity! Dawn. Darkest hour before the Dawn! Hitler? What’s Hitler? The ultimate Cain? The last parricide? Can he prevail? Don’t tell me. Japan? A final black-out? The end of all things? No! A thousand times, No! Nerve storms. Fits of evil temper. I tell you the dawn’s breaking. Then comes this conception of the Unrevealed World. Nobody is a winner and all win. Don’t go on with anything in particular. Carve it out of everything in general. Not here. Not there. But everywhere. The Unrevealed World! Shining darkly through governments, through religions. But plainer now than it was. To think it’s got hold l of you! And so clearly that you even make it plainer to me. You brilliant kids! When I hear you saying it clear and definite, Twain, I want to get up and shout and march about. . . . ”
Never had this unquenchable Balch been quite so unquenchable. It was just his excessiveness that made him want to shout even more than he was doing. He was already definitely shouting. He was already bumping up and down in his seat. He was like a large boy who has pounced on a small boy’s new bicycle. He went on riding it round and round even \'7b when he was out of breath. They could not get in a word of their own nice clear thoughts edgeways.
Stella, silenced, regarded him grimly. She had several fine points to make. Every moment she was feeling more clearly that Gemini had jumped too confidently at that “common human imagination” of his. That had to be cleared up. But how could she collect her thoughts, much less say anything, under all this Balchery?
Gemini fretted under the torrent. Hitherto he had thought Balch a joke, a joke with a vulture’s scent for distant nourishment, but this was almost too much. “He takes anything,”
thought Gemini; “it doesn’t matter how fine and good it is, he swallows it down and he brings it up, and he turns it into this sort of spew. All the same my idea is a great one. All the same I stick to it and will look at it presently, Balchify though you will.”
“Waur! Let us think for a moment of the implication of this great movement which is as old as the hills and as new as sunrise! To which you in your turn have come. In your turn. Such a lot of people have felt it and thought it, and yet it’s only now we see clearly what it is that we have felt and thought. Citizens of a state that hasn’t arrived; advance agents of a government yet to be. All the roads and railways and mines and factories, all the arsenals, barracks, warships, all the aeroplanes and aerodromes, from end to end of the earth, are the property of our unrevealed government, are ours, but mark you, in the hands of usurpers. Our heritage-not handed over to us. Every actual government in the world, either a usurpation or a trust. Its end is to hand over or get out. All the universities and schools, all the churches and religions, are just the genus of our One Great World Teaching. Squabbling with one another, keeping us in the dark and failing to unite and develop. Slash and hammer and we clear the alabaster, dig out the shape in it. Hand over, you there, get on, or get out. Kings, Presidents, officials, Ministers, every sort of leader, hand over — get ready to hand over — or get out. Get on to the revelation of Cosmopolis or get off the earth! Some slogan that, eh? Gods! If only I could touch someone for money I’d start a newspaper, I’d start a movement, I’d start a campaign to — morrow. Right on this idea. This is what the Anarchists have been feeling their way towards. Shelley, Kropotkin. . . . If you can call Shelley an Anarchist. He used, I admit, to call the actual governments, Anarchs. Yes. Never mind. Mere matter of phraseology. He meant what I do. What we all do. He would have been with us. Your method must be so far anarchism, that it uses all governments and respects none of them.”
“There can be no idea of anarchy in a world of reasonable men,” said Gemini’s submerged voice.
“We begin to realise at last what is implied in that good old phrase, a Citizen of the World. He is the heir to the future, seeking his divided and mismanaged estate, resolved to unify it now for good and all. . . . I’m talking, I know. Too much perhaps. I can’t help talking, because the more I think of this phrase of yours — great phrase it is — the Unrevealed World, I realise that it releases all that has been accumulating in me for years. I feel as though at last I was being born again. After a sacrament of bubble and squeak. We are all being born again here and now. We are not the people we were yesterday. We slot into the new order. Now. . . .
“Think of the new behaviour our great idea demands. Because we new people are the real kings, the rightful owners, and our bearing must be masterly. Masterly,” he repeated, as though the timbered ceiling had contradicted him. “Just in so far as we hold to our relentless aim, just so far are we living rightly. Complaisant to all that is decent and creative in the world, but inflexible to whatever is treason to one universal citizenship. Then we must resist; then we must withstand, not seeking martyrdom but lacing it calmly, daring to say ‘I disbelieve in your encumbering, separating faiths, I disavow your irrational loyalties. . . . ’ So!”
He paused with hand extended, breathing deeply, his great face aflame with leadership and defiance.
Then he started like a man stung.
It was a minute mechanical sound that startled him. It was the click of the latch of the garden gate. He turned, extended his neck, and stared through the half-open door. An expression of consternation spread swiftly over his countenance.
“Gee-whizz, here’s the plurry parson coming up the path!” he said, clawing at the air, and vanished by way of the kitchen as they turned their heads.
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