"And woman has trivialized civilization," the doctor tried.
"She has retained her effect of being central, she still makes the social atmosphere, she raises men's instinctive hopes of help and direction. Except," the doctor stipulated, "for a few highly developed modern types, most men found the sense of achieving her a necessary condition for sustained exertion. And there is no direction in her any more.
"She spends," said the doctor, "she just spends. She spends excitingly and competitively for her own pride and glory, she drives all the energy of men over the weirs of gain....
"What are we to do with the creature?" whispered the doctor.
Apart from the procreative necessity, was woman an unavoidable evil? The doctor's untrammelled thoughts began to climb high, spin, nose dive and loop the loop. Nowadays we took a proper care of the young, we had no need for high birth rates, quite a small proportion of women with a gift in that direction could supply all the offspring that the world wanted. Given the power of determining sex that science was slowly winning today, and why should we have so many women about? A drastic elimination of the creatures would be quite practicable. A fantastic world to a vulgar imagination, no doubt, but to a calmly reasonable mind by no means fantastic. But this was where the case of Sir Richmond became so interesting. Was it really true that the companionship of women was necessary to these energetic creative types? Was it the fact that the drive of life towards action, as distinguished from contemplation, arose out of sex and needed to be refreshed by the reiteration of that motive? It was a plausible proposition: it marched with all the doctor's ideas of natural selection and of the conditions of a survival that have made us what we are. It was in tune with the Freudian analyses.
"SEX NOT ONLY A RENEWAL OF LIFE IN THE SPECIES," noted the doctor's silver pencil; "SEX MAY BE ALSO A RENEWAL OF ENERGY IN THE INDIVIDUAL."
After some musing he crossed out "sex" and wrote above it "sexual love."
"That is practically what he claims," Dr. Martineau said. "In which case we want the completest revision of all our standards of sexual obligation. We want a new system of restrictions and imperatives altogether."
It was a fixed idea of the doctor's that women were quite incapable of producing ideas in the same way that men do, but he believed that with suitable encouragement they could be induced to respond quite generously to such ideas. Suppose therefore we really educated the imaginations of women; suppose we turned their indubitable capacity for service towards social and political creativeness, not in order to make them the rivals of men in these fields, but their moral and actual helpers. "A man of this sort wants a mistress-mother," said the doctor. "He wants a sort of woman who cares more for him and his work and honour than she does for child or home or clothes or personal pride."
"But are there such women? Can there be such a woman?"
"His work needs to be very fine to deserve her help. But admitting its fineness?...
"The alternative seems to be to teach the sexes to get along without each other."
"A neutralized world. A separated world. How we should jostle in the streets! But the early Christians have tried it already. The thing is impossible."
"Very well, then, we have to make women more responsible again. In a new capacity. We have to educate them far more seriously as sources of energy—as guardians and helpers of men. And we have to suppress them far more rigorously as tempters and dissipaters. Instead of mothering babies they have to mother the race...."
A vision of women made responsible floated before his eyes.
"Is that man working better since you got hold of him? If not, why not?"
"Or again,—Jane Smith was charged with neglecting her lover to the common danger.... The inspector said the man was in a pitiful state, morally quite uncombed and infested with vulgar, showy ideas...."
The doctor laughed, telescoped his pencil and stood up.
It became evident after dinner that Sir Richmond also had been thinking over the afternoon's conversation.
He and Dr. Martineau sat in wide-armed cane chairs on the lawn with a wickerwork table bearing coffee cups and little glasses between them. A few other diners chatted and whispered about similar tables but not too close to our talkers to disturb them; the dining room behind them had cleared its tables and depressed its illumination. The moon, in its first quarter, hung above the sunset, sank after twilight, shone brighter and brighter among the western trees, and presently had gone, leaving the sky to an increasing multitude of stars. The Maidenhead river wearing its dusky blue draperies and its jewels of light had recovered all the magic Sir Richmond had stripped from it in the afternoon. The grave arches of the bridge, made complete circles by the reflexion of the water, sustained, as if by some unifying and justifying reason, the erratic flat flashes and streaks and glares of traffic that fretted to and fro overhead. A voice sang intermittently and a banjo tinkled, but remotely enough to be indistinct and agreeable.
"After all," Sir Richmond began abruptly, "the search for some sort of sexual modus vivendi is only a means to an end. One does not want to live for sex but only through sex. The main thing in my life has always been my work. This afternoon, under the Maidenhead influence, I talked too much of sex. I babbled. Of things one doesn't usually..."
"It was very illuminating," said the doctor.
"No doubt. But a temporary phase. It is the defective bearing talks.... Just now—I happen to be irritated."
The darkness concealed a faint smile on the doctor's face.
"The work is the thing," said Sir Richmond. "So long as one can keep one's grip on it."
"What," said the doctor after a pause, leaning back and sending wreaths of smoke up towards the star-dusted zenith, "what is your idea of your work? I mean, how do you see it in relation to yourself—and things generally?"
"Put in the most general terms?"
"Put in the most general terms."
"I wonder if I can put it in general terms for you at all. It is hard to put something one is always thinking about in general terms or to think of it as a whole.... Now.... Fuel?...
"I suppose it was my father's business interests that pushed me towards specialization in fuel. He wanted me to have a thoroughly scientific training in days when a scientific training was less easy to get for a boy than it is today. And much more inspiring when you got it. My mind was framed, so to speak, in geology and astronomical physics. I grew up to think on that scale. Just as a man who has been trained in history and law grows to think on the scale of the Roman empire. I don't know what your pocket map of the universe is, the map, I mean, by which you judge all sorts of other general ideas. To me this planet is a little ball of oxides and nickel steel; life a sort of tarnish on its surface. And we, the minutest particles in that tarnish. Who can nevertheless, in some unaccountable way, take in the idea of this universe as one whole, who begin to dream of taking control of it."
"That is not a bad statement of the scientific point of view. I suppose I have much the same general idea of the world. On rather more psychological lines."
"We think, I suppose, said Sir Richmond, of life as something that is only just beginning to be aware of what it is—and what it might be."
"Exactly," said the doctor. "Good."
He went on eagerly. "That is precisely how I see it. You and I are just particles in the tarnish, as you call it, who are becoming dimly awake to what we are, to what we have in common. Only a very few of us have got as far even as this. These others here, for example...."
He indicated the rest of Maidenhead by a movement.
"Desire, mutual flattery, egotistical dreams, greedy solicitudes fill them up. They haven't begun to get out of themselves."
"We, I suppose, have," doubted Sir Richmond.
The doctor had no doubt. He lay back in his chair, with his hands behind his head and his smoke ascending vertically to heaven. With the greatest contentment he began quoting himself. "This getting out of one's individuality—this conscious getting out of one's individuality—is one of the most important and interesting aspects of the psychology of the new age that is now dawning. As compared with any previous age. Unconsciously, of course, every true artist, every philosopher, every scientific investigator, so far as his art or thought went, has always got out of himself,—has forgotten his personal interests and become Man thinking for the whole race. And intimations of the same thing have been at the heart of most religions. But now people are beginning to get this detachment without any distinctively religious feeling or any distinctive aesthetic or intellectual impulse, as if it were a plain matter of fact. Plain matter of fact, that we are only incidentally ourselves. That really each one of us is also the whole species, is really indeed all life."
"A part of it."
"An integral part-as sight is part of a man... with no absolute separation from all the rest—no more than a separation of the imagination. The whole so far as his distinctive quality goes. I do not know how this takes shape in your mind, Sir Richmond, but to me this idea of actually being life itself upon the world, a special phase of it dependent upon and connected with all other phases, and of being one of a small but growing number of people who apprehend that, and want to live in the spirit of that, is quite central. It is my fundamental idea. We,—this small but growing minority—constitute that part of life which knows and wills and tries to rule its destiny. This new realization, the new psychology arising out of it is a fact of supreme importance in the history of life. It is like the appearance of self-consciousness in some creature that has not hitherto had self-consciousness. And so far as we are concerned, we are the true kingship of the world. Necessarily. We who know, are the true king....I wonder how this appeals to you. It is stuff I have thought out very slowly and carefully and written and approved. It is the very core of my life.... And yet when one comes to say these things to someone else, face to face.... It is much more difficult to say than to write."
Sir Richmond noted how the doctor's chair creaked as he rolled to and fro with the uneasiness of these intimate utterances.
"I agree," said Sir Richmond presently. "One DOES think in this fashion. Something in this fashion. What one calls one's work does belong to something much bigger than ourselves.
"Something much bigger," he expanded.
"Which something we become," the doctor urged, "in so far as our work takes hold of us."
Sir Richmond made no answer to this for a little while. "Of course we trail a certain egotism into our work," he said.
"Could we do otherwise? But it has ceased to be purely egotism. It is no longer, 'I am I' but 'I am part.'... One wants to be an honourable part."
"You think of man upon his planet," the doctor pursued. "I think of life rather as a mind that tries itself over in millions and millions of trials. But it works out to the same thing."
"I think in terms of fuel," said Sir Richmond.
He was still debating the doctor's generalization. "I suppose it would be true to say that I think of myself as mankind on his planet, with very considerable possibilities and with only a limited amount of fuel at his disposal to achieve them. Yes.... I agree that I think in that way.... I have not thought much before of the way in which I think about things—but I agree that it is in that way. Whatever enterprises mankind attempts are limited by the sum total of that store of fuel upon the planet. That is very much in my mind. Besides that he has nothing but his annual allowance of energy from the sun."
"I thought that presently we were to get unlimited energy from atoms," said the doctor.
"I don't believe in that as a thing immediately practicable. No doubt getting a supply of energy from atoms is a theoretical possibility, just as flying was in the time of Daedalus; probably there were actual attempts at some sort of glider in ancient Crete. But before we get to the actual utilization of atomic energy there will be ten thousand difficult corners to turn; we may have to wait three or four thousand years for it. We cannot count on it. We haven't it in hand. There may be some impasse. All we have surely is coal and oil,—there is no surplus of wood now—only an annual growth. And water-power is income also, doled out day by day. We cannot anticipate it. Coal and oil are our only capital. They are all we have for great important efforts. They are a gift to mankind to use to some supreme end or to waste in trivialities. Coal is the key to metallurgy and oil to transit. When they are done we shall either have built up such a fabric of apparatus, knowledge and social organization that we shall be able to manage without them—or we shall have travelled a long way down the slopes of waste towards extinction.... To-day, in getting, in distribution, in use we waste enormously....As we sit here all the world is wasting fuel fantastically."
"Just as mentally—educationally we waste," the doctor interjected.
"And my job is to stop what I can of that waste, to do what I can to organize, first of all sane fuel getting and then sane fuel using. And that second proposition carries us far. Into the whole use we are making of life.
"First things first," said Sir Richmond. If we set about getting fuel sanely, if we do it as the deliberate, co-operative act of the whole species, then it follows that we shall look very closely into the use that is being made of it. When all the fuel getting is brought into one view as a common interest, then it follows that all the fuel burning will be brought into one view. At present we are getting fuel in a kind of scramble with no general aim. We waste and lose almost as much as we get. And of what we get, the waste is idiotic.
"I won't trouble you," said Sir Richmond, "with any long discourse on the ways of getting fuel in this country. But land as you know is owned in patches and stretches that were determined in the first place chiefly by agricultural necessities. When it was divided up among its present owners nobody was thinking about the minerals beneath. But the lawyers settled long ago that the landowner owned his land right down to the centre of the earth. So we have the superficial landlord as coal owner trying to work his coal according to the superficial divisions, quite irrespective of the lie of the coal underneath. Each man goes for the coal under his own land in his own fashion. You get three shafts where one would suffice and none of them in the best possible place. You get the coal coming out of this point when it would be far more convenient to bring it out at that—miles away. You get boundary walls of coal between the estates, abandoned, left in the ground for ever. And each coal owner sells his coal in his own pettifogging manner... But you know of these things. You know too how we trail the coal all over the country, spoiling it as we trail it, until at last we get it into the silly coal scuttles beside the silly, wasteful, airpoisoning, fog-creating fireplace.
"And this stuff," said Sir Richmond, bringing his hand down so smartly on the table that the startled coffee cups cried out upon the tray; "was given to men to give them power over metals, to get knowledge with, to get more power with."
"The oil story, I suppose, is as bad."
"The oil story is worse....
"There is a sort of cant," said Sir Richmond in a fierce parenthesis, "that the supplies of oil are inexhaustible—that you can muddle about with oil anyhow.... Optimism of knaves and imbeciles.... They don't want to be pulled up by any sane considerations...."
For some moments he kept silence—as if in unspeakable commination.
"Here I am with some clearness of vision—my only gift; not very clever, with a natural bad temper, and a strong sexual bias, doing what I can to get a broader handling of the fuel question—as a common interest for all mankind. And I find myself up against a lot of men, subtle men, sharp men, obstinate men, prejudiced men, able to get round me, able to get over me, able to blockade me.... Clever men—yes, and all of them ultimately damned—oh! utterly damned—fools. Coal owners who think only of themselves, solicitors who think backwards, politicians who think like a game of cat's-cradle, not a gleam of generosity not a gleam."
"What particularly are you working for?" asked the doctor.
"I want to get the whole business of the world's fuel discussed and reported upon as one affair so that some day it may be handled as one affair in the general interest."
"The world, did you say? You meant the empire?"
"No, the world. It is all one system now. You can't work it in bits. I want to call in foreign representatives from the beginning."
"No. With powers. These things interlock now internationally both through labour and finance. The sooner we scrap this nonsense about an autonomous British Empire complete in itself, contra mundum, the better for us. A world control is fifty years overdue. Hence these disorders."
"Still—it's rather a difficult proposition, as things are."
"Oh, Lord! don't I know it's difficult!" cried Sir Richmond in the tone of one who swears. "Don't I know that perhaps it's impossible! But it's the only way to do it. Therefore, I say, let's try to get it done. And everybody says, difficult, difficult, and nobody lifts a finger to try. And the only real difficulty is that everybody for one reason or another says that it's difficult. It's against human nature. Granted! Every decent thing is. It's socialism. Who cares? Along this line of comprehensive scientific control the world has to go or it will retrogress, it will muddle and rot...."
"I agree," said Dr. Martineau.
"So I want a report to admit that distinctly. I want it to go further than that. I want to get the beginnings, the germ, of a world administration. I want to set up a permanent world commission of scientific men and economists—with powers, just as considerable powers as I can give them—they'll be feeble powers at the best—but still some sort of SAY in the whole fuel supply of the world. A say—that may grow at last to a control. A right to collect reports and receive accounts for example, to begin with. And then the right to make recommendations.... You see?... No, the international part is not the most difficult part of it. But my beastly owners and their beastly lawyers won't relinquish a scrap of what they call their freedom of action. And my labour men, because I'm a fairly big coal owner myself, sit and watch and suspect me, too stupid to grasp what I am driving at and too incompetent to get out a scheme of their own. They want a world control on scientific lines even less than the owners. They try to think that fuel production can carry an unlimited wages bill and the owners try to think that it can pay unlimited profits, and when I say; 'This business is something more than a scramble for profits and wages; it's a service and a common interest,' they stare at me—" Sir Richmond was at a loss for an image. "Like a committee in a thieves' kitchen when someone has casually mentioned the law."
"But will you ever get your Permanent Commission?"
"It can be done. If I can stick it out."
"But with the whole Committee against you!"
"The curious thing is that the whole Committee isn't against me. Every individual is...."
Sir Richmond found it difficult to express. "The psychology of my Committee ought to interest you.... It is probably a fair sample of the way all sorts of things are going nowadays. It's curious.... There is not a man on that Committee who is quite comfortable within himself about the particular individual end he is there to serve. It's there I get them. They pursue their own ends bitterly and obstinately I admit, but they are bitter and obstinate because they pursue them against an internal opposition—which is on my side. They are terrified to think, if once they stopped fighting me, how far they might not have to go with me."
"A suppressed world conscience in fact. This marches very closely with my own ideas."
"A world conscience? World conscience? I don't know. But I do know that there is this drive in nearly every member of the Committee, some drive anyhow, towards the decent thing. It is the same drive that drives me. But I am the most driven. It has turned me round. It hasn't turned them. I go East and they go West. And they don't want to be turned round. Tremendously, they don't."
"Creative undertow," said Dr. Martineau, making notes, as it were. "An increasing force in modern life. In the psychology of a new age strengthened by education—it may play a directive part."
"They fight every little point. But, you see, because of this creative undertow—if you like to call it that—we do get along. I am leader or whipper-in, it is hard to say which, of a bolting flock....I believe they will report for a permanent world commission; I believe I have got them up to that; but they will want to make it a bureau of this League of Nations, and I have the profoundest distrust of this League of Nations. It may turn out to be a sort of side-tracking arrangement for all sorts of important world issues. And they will find they have to report for some sort of control. But there again they will shy. They will report for it and then they will do their utmost to whittle it down again. They will refuse it the most reasonable powers. They will alter the composition of the Committee so as to make it innocuous."
"Get rid of the independent scientific men, load it up so far as Britain is concerned with muck of the colonial politician type and tame labour representatives, balance with shady new adventurer millionaires, get in still shadier stuff from abroad, let these gentry appoint their own tame experts after their own hearts,—experts who will make merely advisory reports, which will not be published...."
"They want in fact to keep the old system going under the cloak of YOUR Committee, reduced to a cloak and nothing more?"
"That is what it amounts to. They want to have the air of doing right—indeed they do want to have the FEEL of doing right—and still leave things just exactly what they were before. And as I suffer under the misfortune of seeing the thing rather more clearly, I have to shepherd the conscience of the whole Committee.... But there is a conscience there. If I can hold out myself, I can hold the Committee."
He turned appealingly to the doctor. "Why should I have to be the conscience of that damned Committee? Why should I do this exhausting inhuman job?.... In their hearts these others know.... Only they won't know.... Why should it fall on me?"
"You have to go through with it," said Dr. Martineau.
"I have to go through with it, but it's a hell of utterly inglorious squabbling. They bait me. They have been fighting the same fight within themselves that they fight with me. They know exactly where I am, that I too am doing my job against internal friction. The one thing before all others that they want to do is to bring me down off my moral high horse. And I loathe the high horse. I am in a position of special moral superiority to men who are on the whole as good men as I am or better. That shows all the time. You see the sort of man I am. I've a broad streak of personal vanity. I fag easily. I'm short-tempered. I've other things, as you perceive. When I fag I become obtuse, I repeat and bore, I get viciously ill-tempered, I suffer from an intolerable sense of ill usage. Then that ass, Wagstaffe, who ought to be working with me steadily, sees his chance to be pleasantly witty. He gets a laugh round the table at my expense. Young Dent, the more intelligent of the labour men, reads me a lecture in committee manners. Old Cassidy sees HIS opening and jabs some ridiculous petty accusation at me and gets me spluttering self-defence like a fool. All my stock goes down, and as my stock goes down the chances of a good report dwindle. Young Dent grieves to see me injuring my own case. Too damned a fool to see what will happen to the report! You see if only they can convince themselves I am just a prig and an egotist and an impractical bore, they escape from a great deal more than my poor propositions. They escape from the doubt in themselves. By dismissing me they dismiss their own consciences. And then they can scamper off and be sensible little piggy-wigs and not bother any more about what is to happen to mankind in the long run.... Do you begin to realize the sort of fight, upside down in a dustbin, that that Committee is for me?"
"You have to go through with it," Dr. Martineau repeated.
"I have. If I can. But I warn you I have been near breaking point. And if I tumble off the high horse, if I can't keep going regularly there to ride the moral high horse, that Committee will slump into utter scoundrelism. It will turn out a long, inconsistent, botched, unreadable report that will back up all sorts of humbugging bargains and sham settlements. It will contain some half-baked scheme to pacify the miners at the expense of the general welfare. It won't even succeed in doing that. But in the general confusion old Cassidy will get away with a series of hauls that may run into millions. Which will last his time—damn him! And that is where we are.... Oh! I know! I know!.... I must do this job. I don't need any telling that my life will be nothing and mean nothing unless I bring this thing through....
"But the thanklessness of playing this lone hand!"
The doctor watched his friend's resentful black silhouette against the lights on the steely river, and said nothing for awhile.
"Why did I ever undertake to play it?" Sir Richmond appealed. "Why has it been put upon me? Seeing what a poor thing I am, why am I not a poor thing altogether?"
"I think I understand that loneliness of yours, said the doctor after an interval.
"I am INTOLERABLE to myself."
"And I think it explains why it is that you turn to women as you do. You want help; you want reassurance. And you feel they can give it."
"I wonder if it has been quite like that," Sir Richmond reflected.
By an effort Dr. Martineau refrained from mentioning the mother complex. "You want help and reassurance as a child does," he said. "Women and women alone seem capable of giving that, of telling you that you are surely right, that notwithstanding your blunders you are right; that even when you are wrong it doesn't so much matter, you are still in spirit right. They can show their belief in you as no man can. With all their being they can do that."
"Yes, I suppose they could."
"They can. You have said already that women are necessary to make things real for you."
"Not my work," said Sir Richmond. "I admit that it might be like that, but it isn't like that. It has not worked out like that. The two drives go on side by side in me. They have no logical connexion. All I can say is that for me, with my bifid temperament, one makes a rest from the other, and is so far refreshment and a renewal of energy. But I do not find women coming into my work in any effectual way."
The doctor reflected further. "I suppose," he began and stopped short.
He heard Sir Richmond move in his chair, creaking an interrogation.
"You have never," said the doctor, "turned to the idea of God?"
Sir Richmond grunted and made no other answer for the better part of a minute.
As Dr. Martineau waited for his companion to speak, a falling star streaked the deep blue above them.
"I can't believe in a God," said Sir Richmond.
"Something after the fashion of a God," said the doctor insidiously.
"No," said Sir Richmond. "Nothing that reassures."
"But this loneliness, this craving for companionship...."
"We have all been through that," said Sir Richmond. "We have all in our time lain very still in the darkness with our souls crying out for the fellowship of God, demanding some sign, some personal response. The faintest feeling of assurance would have satisfied us."
"And there has never been a response?"
"Have YOU ever had a response?"
"Once I seemed to have a feeling of exaltation and security."
"Perhaps I only persuaded myself that I had. I had been reading William James on religious experiences and I was thinking very much of Conversion. I tried to experience Conversion...."
"It always fades," said Sir Richmond with anger in his voice. "I wonder how many people there are nowadays who have passed through this last experience of ineffectual invocation, this appeal to the fading shadow of a vanished God. In the night. In utter loneliness. Answer me! Speak to me! Does he answer? In the silence you hear the little blood vessels whisper in your ears. You see a faint glow of colour on the darkness...."
Dr. Martineau sat without a word.
"I can believe that over all things Righteousness rules. I can believe that. But Righteousness is not friendliness nor mercy nor comfort nor any such dear and intimate things. This cuddling up to Righteousness! It is a dream, a delusion and a phase. I've tried all that long ago. I've given it up long ago. I've grown out of it. Men do—after forty. Our souls were made in the squatting-place of the submen of ancient times. They are made out of primitive needs and they die before our bodies as those needs are satisfied. Only young people have souls, complete. The need for a personal God, feared but reassuring, is a youth's need. I no longer fear the Old Man nor want to propitiate the Old Man nor believe he matters any more. I'm a bit of an Old Man myself I discover. Yes. But the other thing still remains."
"The Great Mother of the Gods," said Dr. Martineau—still clinging to his theories.
"The need of the woman," said Sir Richmond. "I want mating because it is my nature to mate. I want fellowship because I am a social animal and I want it from another social animal. Not from any God—any inconceivable God. Who fades and disappears. No....
"Perhaps that other need will fade presently. I do not know. Perhaps it lasts as long as life does. How can I tell?"
He was silent for a little while. Then his voice sounded in the night, as if he spoke to himself. "But as for the God of All Things consoling and helping! Imagine it! That up there—having fellowship with me! I would as soon think of cooling my throat with the Milky Way or shaking hands with those stars."
CHAPTER THE FIFTH
IN THE LAND OF THE FORGOTTEN PEOPLES
A gust of confidence on the part of a person naturally or habitually reserved will often be followed by a phase of recoil. At breakfast next morning their overnight talk seemed to both Sir Richmond and Dr. Martineau like something each had dreamt about the other, a quite impossible excess of intimacy. They discussed the weather, which seemed to be settling down to the utmost serenity of which the English spring is capable, they talked of Sir Richmond's coming car and of the possible routes before them. Sir Richmond produced the Michelin maps which he had taken out of the pockets of the little Charmeuse. The Bath Road lay before them, he explained, Reading, Newbury, Hungerford, Marlborough, Silbury Hill which overhangs Avebury. Both travellers discovered a common excitement at the mention of Avebury and Silbury Hill. Both took an intelligent interest in archaeology. Both had been greatly stimulated by the recent work of Elliot Smith and Rivers upon what was then known as the Heliolithic culture. It had revived their interest in Avebury and Stonehenge. The doctor moreover had been reading Hippisley Cox's GREEN ROADS OF ENGLAND.
Neither gentleman had ever seen Avebury, but Dr. Martineau had once visited Stonehenge.
"Avebury is much the oldest," said the doctor. "They must have made Silbury Hill long before 2000 B.C. It may be five thousand years old or even more. It is the most important historical relic in the British Isles. And the most neglected."
They exchanged archaeological facts. The secret places of the heart rested until the afternoon.
Then Sir Richmond saw fit to amplify his confessions in one particular.
The doctor and his patient had discovered a need for exercise as the morning advanced. They had walked by the road to Marlow and had lunched at a riverside inn, returning after a restful hour in an arbour on the lawn of this place to tea at Maidenhead. It was as they returned that Sir Richmond took up the thread of their overnight conversation again.
"In the night," he said, "I was thinking over the account I tried to give you of my motives. A lot of it was terribly out of drawing."
"Facts?" asked the doctor.
"No, the facts were all right. It was the atmosphere, the proportions.... I don't know if I gave you the effect of something Don Juanesque?..."
"Vulgar poem," said the doctor remarkably. "I discounted that."
"Intolerable. Byron in sexual psychology is like a stink in a kitchen."
Sir Richmond perceived he had struck upon the sort of thing that used to be called a pet aversion.
"I don't want you to think that I run about after women in an habitual and systematic manner. Or that I deliberately hunt them in the interests of my work and energy. Your questions had set me theorizing about myself. And I did my best to improvise a scheme of motives yesterday. It was, I perceive, a jerry-built scheme, run up at short notice. My nocturnal reflections convinced me of that. I put reason into things that are essentially instinctive. The truth is that the wanderings of desire have no single drive. All sorts of motives come in, high and low, down to sheer vulgar imitativeness and competitiveness. What was true in it all was this, that a man with any imagination in a fatigue phase falls naturally into these complications because they are more attractive to his type and far easier and more refreshing to the mind, at the outset, than anything else. And they do work a sort of recovery in him, They send him back to his work refreshed—so far, that is, as his work is concerned."
"At the OUTSET they are easier," said the doctor.
Sir Richmond laughed. "When one is fagged it is only the outset counts. The more tired one is the more readily one moves along the line of least resistance....
"That is one footnote to what I said. So far as the motive of my work goes, I think we got something like the spirit of it. What I said about that was near the truth of things....
"But there is another set of motives altogether," Sir Richmond went on with an air of having cleared the ground for his real business, "that I didn't go into at all yesterday."
He considered. "It arises out of these other affairs. Before you realize it your affections are involved. I am a man much swayed by my affections."
Mr. Martineau glanced at him. There was a note of genuine self-reproach in Sir Richmond's voice.
"I get fond of people. It is quite irrational, but I get fond of them. Which is quite a different thing from the admiration and excitement of falling in love. Almost the opposite thing. They cry or they come some mental or physical cropper and hurt themselves, or they do something distressingly little and human and suddenly I find they've GOT me. I'm distressed. I'm filled with something between pity and an impulse of responsibility. I become tender towards them. I am impelled to take care of them. I want to ease them off, to reassure them, to make them stop hurting at any cost. I don't see why it should be the weak and sickly and seamy side of people that grips me most, but it is. I don't know why it should be their failures that gives them power over me, but it is. I told you of this girl, this mistress of mine, who is ill just now. SHE'S got me in that way; she's got me tremendously."
"You did not speak of her yesterday with any morbid excess of pity," the doctor was constrained to remark.
"I abused her very probably. I forget exactly what I said...."
The doctor offered no assistance.
"But the reason why I abuse her is perfectly plain. I abuse her because she distresses me by her misfortunes and instead of my getting anything out of her, I go out to her. But I DO go out to her. All this time at the back of my mind I am worrying about her. She has that gift of making one feel for her. I am feeling that damned carbuncle almost as if it had been my affair instead of hers.
"That carbuncle has made me suffer FRIGHTFULLY.... Why should I? It isn't mine."
He regarded the doctor earnestly. The doctor controlled a strong desire to laugh.
"I suppose the young lady—" he began.
"Oh! SHE puts in suffering all right. I've no doubt about that.
"I suppose," Sir Richmond went on, "now that I have told you so much of this affair, I may as well tell you all. It is a sort of comedy, a painful comedy, of irrelevant affections."
The doctor was prepared to be a good listener. Facts he would always listen to; it was only when people told him their theories that he would interrupt with his "Exactly."
"This young woman is a person of considerable genius. I don't know if you have seen in the illustrated papers a peculiar sort of humorous illustrations usually with a considerable amount of bite in them over the name of Martin Leeds?
"Extremely amusing stuff."
"It is that Martin Leeds. I met her at the beginning of her career. She talks almost as well as she draws. She amused me immensely. I'm not the sort of man who waylays and besieges women and girls. I'm not the pursuing type. But I perceived that in some odd way I attracted her and I was neither wise enough nor generous enough not to let the thing develop."
"H'm," said Dr. Martineau.
"I'd never had to do with an intellectually brilliant woman before. I see now that the more imaginative force a woman has, the more likely she is to get into a state of extreme self-abandonment with any male thing upon which her imagination begins to crystallize. Before I came along she'd mixed chiefly with a lot of young artists and students, all doing nothing at all except talk about the things they were going to do. I suppose I profited by the contrast, being older and with my hands full of affairs. Perhaps something had happened that had made her recoil towards my sort of thing. I don't know. But she just let herself go at me."
"Let myself go too. I'd never met anything like her before. It was her wit took me. It didn't occur to me that she wasn't my contemporary and as able as I was. As able to take care of herself. All sorts of considerations that I should have shown to a sillier woman I never dreamt of showing to her. I had never met anyone so mentally brilliant before or so helpless and headlong. And so here we are on each other's hands!"
"But the child?
"It happened to us. For four years now things have just happened to us. All the time I have been overworking, first at explosives and now at this fuel business. She too is full of her work.
"Nothing stops that though everything seems to interfere with it. And in a distraught, preoccupied way we are abominably fond of each other. 'Fond' is the word. But we are both too busy to look after either ourselves or each other.
"She is much more incapable than I am," said Sir Richmond as if he delivered a weighed and very important judgment.
"You see very much of each other?"
"She has a flat in Chelsea and a little cottage in South Cornwall, and we sometimes snatch a few days together, away somewhere in Surrey or up the Thames or at such a place as Southend where one is lost in a crowd of inconspicuous people. Then things go well—they usually go well at the start—we are glorious companions. She is happy, she is creative, she will light up a new place with flashes of humour, with a keenness of appreciation...."
"But things do not always go well?"
"Things," said Sir Richmond with the deliberation of a man who measures his words, "are apt to go wrong.... At the flat there is constant trouble with the servants; they bully her. A woman is more entangled with servants than a man. Women in that position seem to resent the work and freedom of other women. Her servants won't leave her in peace as they would leave a man; they make trouble for her.... And when we have had a few days anywhere away, even if nothing in particular has gone wrong—"
Sir Richmond stopped short.
"When they go wrong it is generally her fault," the doctor sounded.
"But if they don't?" said the psychiatrist.
"It is difficult to describe.... The essential incompatibility of the whole thing comes out."
The doctor maintained his expression of intelligent interest.
"She wants to go on with her work. She is able to work anywhere. All she wants is just cardboard and ink. My mind on the other hand turns back to the Fuel Commission...."
"Then any little thing makes trouble."
"Any little thing makes trouble. And we always drift round to the same discussion; whether we ought really to go on together."
"It is you begin that?"
"Yes, I start that. You see she is perfectly contented when I am about. She is as fond of me as I am of her."
"I don't know. But she is—adhesive. Emotionally adhesive. All she wants to do is just to settle down when I am there and go on with her work. But then, you see, there is MY work."
"Exactly.... After all it seems to me that your great trouble is not in yourselves but in social institutions. Which haven't yet fitted themselves to people like you two. It is the sense of uncertainty makes her, as you say, adhesive. Nervously so. If we were indeed living in a new age Instead of the moral ruins of a shattered one—"
"We can't alter the age we live in," said Sir Richmond a little testily.
"No. Exactly. But we CAN realize, in any particular situation, that it is not the individuals to blame but the misfit of ideas and forms and prejudices."
"No," said Sir Richmond, obstinately rejecting this pacifying suggestion; "she could adapt herself. If she cared enough."
"She will not take the slightest trouble to adjust herself to the peculiarities of our position.... She could be cleverer. Other women are cleverer. Any other woman almost would be cleverer than she is."
"But if she was cleverer, she wouldn't be the genius she is. She would just be any other woman."
"Perhaps she would," said Sir Richmond darkly and desperately. "Perhaps she would. Perhaps it would be better if she was."
Dr. Martineau raised his eyebrows in a furtive aside.
"But here you see that it is that in my case, the fundamental incompatibility between one's affections and one's wider conception of duty and work comes in. We cannot change social institutions in a year or a lifetime. We can never change them to suit an individual case. That would be like suspending the laws of gravitation in order to move a piano. As things are, Martin is no good to me, no help to me. She is a rival to my duty. She feels that. She is hostile to my duty. A definite antagonism has developed. She feels and treats fuel—and everything to do with fuel as a bore. It is an attack. We quarrel on that. It isn't as though I found it so easy to stick to my work that I could disregard her hostility. And I can't bear to part from her. I threaten it, distress her excessively and then I am overcome by sympathy for her and I go back to her.... In the ordinary course of things I should be with her now."
"If it were not for the carbuncle?"
"If it were not for the carbuncle. She does not care for me to see her disfigured. She does not understand—" Sir Richmond was at a loss for a phrase—"that it is not her good looks."
"She won't let you go to her?"
"It amounts to that.... And soon there will be all the trouble about educating the girl. Whatever happens, she must have as good a chance as—anyone...."
"Ah! That is worrying you too!"
"Frightfully at times. If it were a boy it would be easier. It needs constant tact and dexterity to fix things up. Neither of us have any. It needs attention...."
Sir Richmond mused darkly.
Dr. Martineau thought aloud. "An incompetent delightful person with Martin Leeds's sense of humour. And her powers of expression. She must be attractive to many people. She could probably do without you. If once you parted."
Sir Richmond turned on him eagerly.
"You think I ought to part from her? On her account?"
"On her account. It might pain her. But once the thing was done—"
"I want to part. I believe I ought to part."
"But then my affection comes in."
"That extraordinary—TENDERNESS of yours?"
"Anyone might get hold of her—if I let her down. She hasn't a tithe of the ordinary coolheaded calculation of an average woman.... I've a duty to her genius. I've got to take care of her."
To which the doctor made no reply.
"Nevertheless the idea of parting has been very much in my mind lately."
"Letting her go FREE?"
"You can put it in that way if you like."
"It might not be a fatal operation for either of you."
"And yet there are moods when parting is an intolerable idea. When one is invaded by a flood of affection..... And old habits of association."
Dr. Martineau thought. Was that the right word,—affection? Perhaps it was.
They had come out on the towing path close by the lock and they found themselves threading their way through a little crowd of boating people and lookers-on. For a time their conversation was broken. Sir Richmond resumed it.
"But this is where we cease to be Man on his Planet and all the rest of it. This is where the idea of a definite task, fanatically followed to the exclusion of all minor considerations, breaks down. When the work is good, when we are sure we are all right, then we may carry off things with a high hand. But the work isn't always good, we aren't always sure. We blunder, we make a muddle, we are fatigued. Then the sacrificed affections come in as accusers. Then it is that we want to be reassured."
"And then it is that Miss Martin Leeds—?"
"Doesn't," Sir Richmond snapped.
Came a long pause.
"And yet—It is extraordinarily difficult to think of parting from Martin."
In the evening after dinner Dr. Martineau sought, rather unsuccessfully, to go on with the analysis of Sir Richmond.
But Sir Richmond was evidently a creature of moods. Either he regretted the extent of his confidences or the slight irrational irritation that he felt at waiting for his car affected his attitude towards his companion, or Dr. Martineau's tentatives were ill-chosen. At any rate he would not rise to any conversational bait that the doctor could devise. The doctor found this the more regrettable because it seemed to him that there was much to be worked upon in this Martin Leeds affair. He was inclined to think that she and Sir Richmond were unduly obsessed by the idea that they had to stick together because of the child, because of the look of the thing and so forth, and that really each might be struggling against a very strong impulse indeed to break off the affair. It seemed evident to the doctor that they jarred upon and annoyed each other extremely. On the whole separating people appealed to a doctor's mind more strongly than bringing them together. Accordingly he framed his enquiries so as to make the revelation of a latent antipathy as easy as possible.
He made several not very well-devised beginnings. At the fifth Sir Richmond was suddenly conclusive. "It's no use," he said, "I can't fiddle about any more with my motives to-day."
An awkward silence followed. On reflection Sir Richmond seemed to realize that this sentence needed some apology. "I admit," he said, "that this expedition has already been a wonderfully good thing for me. These confessions have made me look into all sorts of things—squarely. But—I'm not used to talking about myself or even thinking directly about myself. What I say, I afterwards find disconcerting to recall. I want to alter it. I can feel myself wallowing into a mess of modifications and qualifications."
"I want a rest anyhow...."
There was nothing for Dr. Martineau to say to that.
The two gentlemen smoked for some time in a slightly uncomfortable silence. Dr. Martineau cleared his throat twice and lit a second cigar. They then agreed to admire the bridge and think well of Maidenhead. Sir Richmond communicated hopeful news about his car, which was to arrive the next morning before ten—he'd just ring the fellow up presently to make sure—and Dr. Martineau retired early and went rather thoughtfully to bed. The spate of Sir Richmond's confidences, it was evident, was over.
Sir Richmond's car arrived long before ten, brought down by a young man in a state of scared alacrity—Sir Richmond had done some vigorous telephoning before turning in,—the Charmeuse set off in a repaired and chastened condition to town, and after a leisurely breakfast our two investigators into the springs of human conduct were able to resume their westward journey. They ran through scattered Twyford with its pleasant looking inns and through the commonplace urbanities of Reading, by Newbury and Hungerford's pretty bridge and up long wooded slopes to Savernake forest, where they found the road heavy and dusty, still in its war-time state, and so down a steep hill to the wide market street which is Marlborough. They lunched in Marlborough and went on in the afternoon to Silbury Hill, that British pyramid, the largest artificial mound in Europe. They left the car by the roadside and clambered to the top and were very learned and inconclusive about the exact purpose of this vast heap of chalk and earth, this heap that men had made before the temples at Karnak were built or Babylon had a name.
Then they returned to the car and ran round by a winding road into the wonder of Avebury. They found a clean little inn there kept by pleasant people, and they garaged the car in the cowshed and took two rooms for the night that they might the better get the atmosphere of the ancient place. Wonderful indeed it is, a vast circumvallation that was already two thousand years old before the dawn of British history; a great wall of earth with its ditch most strangely on its inner and not on its outer side; and within this enclosure gigantic survivors of the great circles of unhewn stone that, even as late as Tudor days, were almost complete. A whole village, a church, a pretty manor house have been built, for the most part, out of the ancient megaliths; the great wall is sufficient to embrace them all with their gardens and paddocks; four cross-roads meet at the village centre. There are drawings of Avebury before these things arose there, when it was a lonely wonder on the plain, but for the most part the destruction was already done before the MAYFLOWER sailed. To the southward stands the cone of Silbury Hill; its shadow creeps up and down the intervening meadows as the seasons change. Around this lonely place rise the Downs, now bare sheep pastures, in broad undulations, with a wart-like barrow here and there, and from it radiate, creeping up to gain and hold the crests of the hills, the abandoned trackways of that forgotten world. These trackways, these green roads of England, these roads already disused when the Romans made their highway past Silbury Hill to Bath, can still be traced for scores of miles through the land, running to Salisbury and the English Channel, eastward to the crossing at the Straits and westward to Wales, to ferries over the Severn, and southwestward into Devon and Cornwall.
The doctor and Sir Richmond walked round the walls, surveyed the shadow cast by Silbury upon the river flats, strolled up the down to the northward to get a general view of the village, had tea and smoked round the walls again in the warm April sunset. The matter of their conversation remained prehistoric. Both were inclined to find fault with the archaeological work that had been done on the place. "Clumsy treasure hunting," Sir Richmond said. "They bore into Silbury Hill and expect to find a mummified chief or something sensational of that sort, and they don't, and they report nothing. They haven't sifted finely enough; they haven't thought subtly enough. These walls of earth ought to tell what these people ate, what clothes they wore, what woods they used. Was this a sheep land then as it is now, or a cattle land? Were these hills covered by forests? I don't know. These archaeologists don't know. Or if they do they haven't told me, which is just as bad. I don't believe they know.
"What trade came here along these tracks? So far as I know, they had no beasts of burthen. But suppose one day someone were to find a potsherd here from early Knossos, or a fragment of glass from Pepi's Egypt."
The place had stirred up his imagination. He wrestled with his ignorance as if he thought that by talking he might presently worry out some picture of this forgotten world, without metals, without beasts of burthen, without letters, without any sculpture that has left a trace, and yet with a sense of astronomical fact clear enough to raise the great gnomon of Silbury, and with a social system complex enough to give the large and orderly community to which the size of Avebury witnesses and the traffic to which the green roads testify.
The doctor had not realized before the boldness and liveliness of his companion's mind. Sir Richmond insisted that the climate must have been moister and milder in those days; he covered all the downlands with woods, as Savernake was still covered; beneath the trees he restored a thicker, richer soil. These people must have done an enormous lot with wood. This use of stones here was a freak. It was the very strangeness of stones here that had made them into sacred things. One thought too much of the stones of the Stone Age. Who would carve these lumps of quartzite when one could carve good oak? Or beech—a most carvable wood. Especially when one's sharpest chisel was a flint. "It's wood we ought to look for," said Sir Richmond. "Wood and fibre." He declared that these people had their tools of wood, their homes of wood, their gods and perhaps their records of wood. "A peat bog here, even a few feet of clay, might have pickled some precious memoranda.... No such luck.... Now in Glastonbury marshes one found the life of the early iron age—half way to our own times—quite beautifully pickled."
Though they wrestled mightily with the problem, neither Sir Richmond nor the doctor could throw a gleam of light upon the riddle why the ditch was inside and not outside the great wall.
"And what was our Mind like in those days?" said Sir Richmond. "That, I suppose, is what interests you. A vivid childish mind, I guess, with not a suspicion as yet that it was Man ruling his Planet or anything of that sort."
The doctor pursed his lips. "None," he delivered judicially. "If one were able to recall one's childhood—at the age of about twelve or thirteen—when the artistic impulse so often goes into abeyance and one begins to think in a troubled, monstrous way about God and Hell, one might get something like the mind of this place."
"Thirteen. You put them at that already?... These people, you think, were religious?"
"Intensely. In that personal way that gives death a nightmare terror. And as for the fading of the artistic impulse, they've left not a trace of the paintings and drawings and scratchings of the Old Stone people who came before them."
"Adults with the minds of thirteen-year-old children. Thirteen-year-old children with the strength of adults—and no one to slap them or tell them not to.... After all, they probably only thought of death now and then. And they never thought of fuel. They supposed there was no end to that. So they used up their woods and kept goats to nibble and kill the new undergrowth. DID these people have goats?"
"I don't know," said the doctor. "So little is known."
"Very like children they must have been. The same unending days. They must have thought that the world went on for ever-just as they knew it—like my damned Committee does.... With their fuel wasting away and the climate changing imperceptibly, century by century.... Kings and important men followed one another here for centuries and centuries.... They had lost their past and had no idea of any future.. .. They had forgotten how they came into the land... When I was a child I believed that my father's garden had been there for ever....
"This is very like trying to remember some game one played when one was a child. It is like coming on something that one built up with bricks and stones in some forgotten part of the garden...."
"The life we lived here," said the doctor, "has left its traces in traditions, in mental predispositions, in still unanalyzed fundamental ideas."
"Archaeology is very like remembering," said Sir Richmond. "Presently we shall remember a lot more about all this. We shall remember what it was like to live in this place, and the long journey hither, age by age out of the south. We shall remember the sacrifices we made and the crazy reasons why we made them. We sowed our corn in blood here. We had strange fancies about the stars. Those we brought with us out of the south where the stars are brighter. And what like were those wooden gods of ours? I don't remember.... But I could easily persuade myself that I had been here before."
They stood on the crest of the ancient wall and the setting sun cast long shadows of them athwart a field of springing wheat.
"Perhaps we shall come here again," the doctor carried on Sir Richmond's fancy; "after another four thousand years or so, with different names and fuller minds. And then I suppose that this ditch won't be the riddle it is now."
"Life didn't seem so complicated then," Sir Richmond mused. "Our muddles were unconscious. We drifted from mood to mood and forgot. There was more sunshine then, more laughter perhaps, and blacker despair. Despair like the despair of children that can weep itself to sleep.... It's over.... Was it battle and massacre that ended that long afternoon here? Or did the woods catch fire some exceptionally dry summer, leaving black hills and famine? Or did strange men bring a sickness—measles, perhaps, or the black death? Or was it cattle pest? Or did we just waste our woods and dwindle away before the new peoples that came into the land across the southern sea? I can't remember...."
Sir Richmond turned about. "I would like to dig up the bottom of this ditch here foot by foot—and dry the stuff and sift it—very carefully.... Then I might begin to remember things."
In the evening, after a pleasant supper, they took a turn about the walls with the moon sinking over beyond Silbury, and then went in and sat by lamplight before a brightly fussy wood fire and smoked. There were long intervals of friendly silence.
"I don't in the least want to go on talking about myself," said Sir Richmond abruptly.
"Let it rest then," said the doctor generously.
"To-day, among these ancient memories, has taken me out of myself wonderfully. I can't tell you how good Avebury has been for me. This afternoon half my consciousness has seemed to be a tattooed creature wearing a knife of stone...."
"The healing touch of history."
"And for the first time my damned Committee has mattered scarcely a rap."
Sir Richmond stretched himself in his chair and blinked cheerfully at his cigar smoke.
"Nevertheless," he said, "this confessional business of yours has been an excellent exercise. It has enabled me to get outside myself, to look at myself as a Case. Now I can even see myself as a remote Case. That I needn't bother about further.... So far as that goes, I think we have done all that there is to be done."
"I shouldn't say that—quite—yet," said the doctor.
"I don't think I'm a subject for real psychoanalysis at all. I'm not an overlaid sort of person. When I spread myself out there is not much indication of a suppressed wish or of anything masked or buried of that sort. What you get is a quite open and recognized discord of two sets of motives."
The doctor considered. "Yes, I think that is true. Your LIBIDO is, I should say, exceptionally free. Generally you are doing what you want to do—overdoing, in fact, what you want to do and getting simply tired."
"Which is the theory I started with. I am a case of fatigue under irritating circumstances with very little mental complication or concealment."
"Yes," said the doctor. "I agree. You are not a case for psychoanalysis, strictly speaking, at all. You are in open conflict with yourself, upon moral and social issues. Practically open. Your problems are problems of conscious conduct."
"As I said."
"Of what renunciations you have consciously to make."
Sir Richmond did not answer that....
"This pilgrimage of ours," he said, presently, "has made for magnanimity. This day particularly has been a good day. When we stood on this old wall here in the sunset I seemed to be standing outside myself in an immense still sphere of past and future. I stood with my feet upon the Stone Age and saw myself four thousand years away, and all my distresses as very little incidents in that perspective. Away there in London the case is altogether different; after three hours or so of the Committee one concentrates into one little inflamed moment of personality. There is no past any longer, there is no future, there is only the rankling dispute. For all those three hours, perhaps, I have been thinking of just what I had to say, just how I had to say it, just how I looked while I said it, just how much I was making myself understood, how I might be misunderstood, how I might be misrepresented, challenged, denied. One draws in more and more as one is used up. At last one is reduced to a little, raw, bleeding, desperately fighting, pin-point of SELF.... One goes back to one's home unable to recover. Fighting it over again. All night sometimes.... I get up and walk about the room and curse.... Martineau, how is one to get the Avebury frame of mind to Westminster?"
"When Westminster is as dead as Avebury," said the doctor, unhelpfully. He added after some seconds, "Milton knew of these troubles. 'Not without dust and heat' he wrote—a great phrase."
"But the dust chokes me," said Sir Richmond.
He took up a copy of THE GREEN ROADS OF ENGLAND that lay beside him on the table. But he did not open it. He held it in his hand and said the thing he had had in mind to say all that evening. "I do not think that I shall stir up my motives any more for a time. Better to go on into the west country cooling my poor old brain in these wide shadows of the past."
"I can prescribe nothing better," said Dr. Martineau. "Incidentally, we may be able to throw a little more light on one or two of your minor entanglements."
"I don't want to think of them," said Sir Richmond. "Let me get right away from everything. Until my skin has grown again."
CHAPTER THE SIXTH
THE ENCOUNTER AT STONEHENGE
Next day in the early afternoon after a farewell walk over the downs round Avebury they went by way of Devizes and Netheravon and Amesbury to Stonehenge.
Dr. Martineau had seen this ancient monument before, but now, with Avebury fresh in his mind, he found it a poorer thing than he had remembered it to be. Sir Richmond was frankly disappointed. After the real greatness and mystery of the older place, it seemed a poor little heap of stones; it did not even dominate the landscape; it was some way from the crest of the swelling down on which it stood and it was further dwarfed by the colossal air-ship hangars and clustering offices of the air station that the great war had called into existence upon the slopes to the south-west. "It looks," Sir Richmond said, "as though some old giantess had left a discarded set of teeth on the hillside." Far more impressive than Stonehenge itself were the barrows that capped the neighbouring crests.
The sacred stones were fenced about, and our visitors had to pay for admission at a little kiosk by the gate. At the side of the road stood a travel-stained middle-class automobile, with a miscellany of dusty luggage, rugs and luncheon things therein—a family automobile with father no doubt at the wheel. Sir Richmond left his own trim coupe at its tail.
They were impeded at the entrance by a difference of opinion between the keeper of the turnstile and a small but resolute boy of perhaps five or six who proposed to leave the enclosure. The custodian thought that it would be better if his nurse or his mother came out with him.
"She keeps on looking at it," said the small boy. "It isunt anything. I want to go and clean the car."
"You won't SEE Stonehenge every day, young man," said the custodian, a little piqued.
"It's only an old beach," said the small boy, with extreme conviction. "It's rocks like the seaside. And there isunt no sea."
The man at the turnstile mutely consulted the doctor.
"I don't see that he can get into any harm here," the doctor advised, and the small boy was released from archaeology.
He strolled to the family automobile, produced an EN-TOUT-CAS pocket-handkerchief and set himself to polish the lamps with great assiduity. The two gentlemen lingered at the turnstile for a moment or so to watch his proceedings. "Modern child," said Sir Richmond. "Old stones are just old stones to him. But motor cars are gods."
"You can hardly expect him to understand—at his age," said the custodian, jealous for the honor of Stonehenge....
"Reminds me of Martin's little girl," said Sir Richmond, as he and Dr. Martineau went on towards the circle. "When she encountered her first dragon-fly she was greatly delighted. 'Oh, dee' lill' a'eplane,' she said."
As they approached the grey old stones they became aware of a certain agitation among them. A voice, an authoritative bass voice, was audible, crying, "Anthony!" A nurse appeared remotely going in the direction of the aeroplane sheds, and her cry of "Master Anthony" came faintly on the breeze. An extremely pretty young woman of five or six and twenty became visible standing on one of the great prostrate stones in the centre of the place. She was a black-haired, sun-burnt individual and she stood with her arms akimbo, quite frankly amused at the disappearance of Master Anthony, and offering no sort of help for his recovery. On the greensward before her stood the paterfamilias of the family automobile, and he was making a trumpet with his hands in order to repeat the name of Anthony with greater effect. A short lady in grey emerged from among the encircling megaliths, and one or two other feminine personalities produced effects of movement rather than of individuality as they flitted among the stones. "Well," said the lady in grey, with that rising intonation of humorous conclusion which is so distinctively American, "those Druids have GOT him."
"He's hiding," said the automobilist, in a voice that promised chastisement to a hidden hearer. "That's what he is doing. He ought not to play tricks like this. A great boy who is almost six."
"If you are looking for a small, resolute boy of six," said Sir Richmond, addressing himself to the lady on the rock rather than to the angry parent below, "he's perfectly safe and happy. The Druids haven't got him. Indeed, they've failed altogether to get him. 'Stonehenge,' he says, 'is no good.' So he's gone back to clean the lamps of your car."
"Aa-oo. So THAT'S it!" said Papa. "Winnie, go and tell Price he's gone back to the car.... They oughtn't to have let him out of the enclosure...."
The excitement about Master Anthony collapsed. The rest of the people in the circles crystallized out into the central space as two apparent sisters and an apparent aunt and the nurse, who was packed off at once to supervise the lamp cleaning. The head of the family found some difficulty, it would seem, in readjusting his mind to the comparative innocence of Anthony, and Sir Richmond and the young lady on the rock sought as if by common impulse to establish a general conversation. There were faint traces of excitement in her manner, as though there had been some controversial passage between herself and the family gentleman.
"We were discussing the age of this old place," she said, smiling in the frankest and friendliest way. "How old do YOU think it is?"
The father of Anthony intervened, also with a shadow of controversy in his manner. "I was explaining to the young lady that it dates from the early bronze age. Before chronology existed.... But she insists on dates."
"Nothing of bronze has ever been found here," said Sir Richmond.
"Well, when was this early bronze age, anyhow?" said the young lady.
Sir Richmond sought a recognizable datum. "Bronze got to Britain somewhere between the times of Moses and Solomon."
"Ah!" said the young lady, as who should say, 'This man at least talks sense.'
"But these stones are all shaped," said the father of the family. "It is difficult to see how that could have been done without something harder than stone."
"I don't SEE the place," said the young lady on the stone. "I can't imagine how they did it up—not one bit."
"Did it up!" exclaimed the father of the family in the tone of one accustomed to find a gentle sport in the intellectual frailties of his womenkind.
"It's just the bones of a place. They hung things round it. They draped it."
"But what things?" asked Sir Richmond.
"Oh! they had things all right. Skins perhaps. Mats of rushes. Bast cloth. Fibre of all sorts. Wadded stuff."
"Stonehenge draped! It's really a delightful idea;" said the father of the family, enjoying it.
"It's quite a possible one," said Sir Richmond.
"Or they may have used wicker," the young lady went on, undismayed. She seemed to concede a point. "Wicker IS likelier."
"But surely," said the father of the family with the expostulatory voice and gesture of one who would recall erring wits to sanity, "it is far more impressive standing out bare and noble as it does. In lonely splendour."
"But all this country may have been wooded then," said Sir Richmond. "In which case it wouldn't have stood out. It doesn't stand out so very much even now."
"You came to it through a grove," said the young lady, eagerly picking up the idea.
"Probably beech," said Sir Richmond.
"Which may have pointed to the midsummer sunrise," said Dr. Martineau, unheeded.
"These are NOVEL ideas," said the father of the family in the reproving tone of one who never allows a novel idea inside HIS doors if he can prevent it.
"Well," said the young lady, "I guess there was some sort of show here anyhow. And no human being ever had a show yet without trying to shut people out of it in order to make them come in. I guess this was covered in all right. A dark hunched old place in a wood. Beech stems, smooth, like pillars. And they came to it at night, in procession, beating drums, and scared half out of their wits. They came in THERE and went round the inner circle with their torches. And so they were shown. The torches were put out and the priests did their mysteries. Until dawn broke. That is how they worked it."
"But even you can't tell what the show was, V.V." said the lady in grey, who was standing now at Dr. Martineau's elbow.
"Something horrid," said Anthony's younger sister to her elder in a stage whisper.
"BLUGGY," agreed Anthony's elder sister to the younger, in a noiseless voice that certainly did not reach father. "SQUEALS!...."
This young lady who was addressed as "V.V." was perhaps one or two and twenty, Dr. Martineau thought,—he was not very good at feminine ages. She had a clear sun-browned complexion, with dark hair and smiling lips. Her features were finely modelled, with just that added touch of breadth in the brow and softness in the cheek bones, that faint flavour of the Amerindian, one sees at times in American women. Her voice was a very soft and pleasing voice, and she spoke persuasively and not assertively as so many American women do. Her determination to make the dry bones of Stonehenge live shamed the doctor's disappointment with the place. And when she had spoken, Dr. Martineau noted that she looked at Sir Richmond as if she expected him at least to confirm her vision. Sir Richmond was evidently prepared to confirm it.
With a queer little twinge of infringed proprietorship, the doctor saw Sir Richmond step up on the prostrate megalith and stand beside her, the better to appreciate her point of view. He smiled down at her. "Now why do you think they came in THERE?" he asked.
The young lady was not very clear about her directions. She did not know of the roadway running to the Avon river, nor of the alleged race course to the north, nor had she ever heard that the stones were supposed to be of two different periods and that some of them might possibly have been brought from a very great distance.
Neither Dr. Martineau nor the father of the family found the imaginative reconstruction of the Stonehenge rituals quite so exciting as the two principals. The father of the family endured some further particulars with manifest impatience, no longer able, now that Sir Richmond was encouraging the girl, to keep her in check with the slightly derisive smile proper to her sex. Then he proclaimed in a fine loud tenor, "All this is very imaginative, I'm afraid." And to his family, "Time we were pressing on. Turps, we must go-o. Come, Phoebe!"
As he led his little flock towards the exit his voice came floating back. "Talking wanton nonsense.... Any professional archaeologist would laugh, simply laugh...."
He passed out of the world.
With a faint intimation of dismay Dr. Martineau realized that the two talkative ladies were not to be removed in the family automobile with the rest of the party. Sir Richmond and the younger lady went on very cheerfully to the population, agriculture, housing and general scenery of the surrounding Downland during the later Stone Age. The shorter, less attractive lady, whose accent was distinctly American, came now and stood at the doctor's elbow. She seemed moved to play the part of chorus to the two upon the stone.
"When V.V. gets going," she remarked, "she makes things come alive."
Dr. Martineau hated to be addressed suddenly by strange ladies. He started, and his face assumed the distressed politeness of the moon at its full. "Your friend," he said, "interested in archaeology?"
"Interested!" said the stouter lady. "Why! She's a fiend at it. Ever since we came on Carnac."
"You've visited Carnac?"
"That's where the bug bit her." said the stout lady with a note of querulous humour. "Directly V.V. set eyes on Carnac, she just turned against all her up-bringing. 'Why wasn't I told of this before?' she said. 'What's Notre Dame to this? This is where we came from. This is the real starting point of the MAYFLOWER. Belinda,' she said, 'we've got to see all we can of this sort of thing before we go back to America. They've been keeping this from us.' And that's why we're here right now instead of being shopping in Paris or London like decent American women."
The younger lady looked down on her companion with something of the calm expert attention that a plumber gives to a tap that is misbehaving, and like a plumber refrained from precipitate action. She stood with the backs of her hands resting on her hips.
"Well," she said slowly, giving most of the remark to Sir Richmond and the rest to the doctor. "It is nearer the beginnings of things than London or Paris."
"And nearer to us," said Sir Richmond.
"I call that just—paradoxical," said the shorter lady, who appeared to be called Belinda.
"Not paradoxical," Dr. Martineau contradicted gently. "Life is always beginning again. And this is a time of fresh beginnings."
"Now that's after V.V.'s own heart," cried the stout lady in grey. "She'll agree to all that. She's been saying it right across Europe. Rome, Paris, London; they're simply just done. They don't signify any more. They've got to be cleared away."
"You let me tell my own opinions, Belinda," said the young lady who was called V.V. "I said that if people went on building with fluted pillars and Corinthian capitals for two thousand years, it was time they were cleared up and taken away."
"Corinthian capitals?" Sir Richmond considered it and laughed cheerfully. "I suppose Europe does rather overdo that sort of thing."
"The way she went on about the Victor Emmanuele Monument!" said the lady who answered to the name of Belinda. "It gave me cold shivers to think that those Italian officers might understand English."
The lady who was called V.V. smiled as if she smiled at herself, and explained herself to Sir Richmond. "When one is travelling about, one gets to think of history and politics in terms of architecture. I do anyhow. And those columns with Corinthian capitals have got to be a sort of symbol for me for everything in Europe that I don't want and have no sort of use for. It isn't a bad sort of capital in its way, florid and pretty, but not a patch on the Doric;—and that a whole continent should come up to it and stick at it and never get past it!..."
"It's the classical tradition."
"It puzzles me."
"It's the Roman Empire. That Corinthian column is a weed spread by the Romans all over western Europe."
"And it smothers the history of Europe. You can't see Europe because of it. Europe is obsessed by Rome. Everywhere Marble Arches and ARCS DE TRIOMPHE. You never get away from it. It is like some old gentleman who has lost his way in a speech and keeps on repeating the same thing. And can't sit down. 'The empire, gentlemen—the Empire. Empire.' Rome itself is perfectly frightful. It stares at you with its great round stupid arches as though it couldn't imagine that you could possibly want anything else for ever. Saint Peter's and that frightful Monument are just the same stuff as the Baths of Caracalla and the palaces of the Caesars. Just the same. They will make just the same sort of ruins. It goes on and goes on."
"AVE ROMA IMMORTALIS," said Dr. Martineau.
"This Roman empire seems to be Europe's first and last idea. A fixed idea. And such a poor idea!... America never came out of that. It's no good-telling me that it did. It escaped from it.... So I said to Belinda here, 'Let's burrow, if we can, under all this marble and find out what sort of people we were before this Roman empire and its acanthus weeds got hold of us.'"
"I seem to remember at Washington, something faintly Corinthian, something called the Capitol," Sir Richmond reflected. "And other buildings. A Treasury."
"That is different," said the young lady, so conclusively that it seemed to leave nothing more to be said on that score.
"A last twinge of Europeanism," she vouchsafed. "We were young in those days."
"You are well beneath the marble here."
She assented cheerfully.
"A thousand years before it."
"Happy place! Happy people!"
"But even this place isn't the beginning of things here. Carnac was older than this. And older still is Avebury. Have you heard in America of Avebury? It may have predated this place, they think, by another thousand years."
"Avebury?" said the lady who was called Belinda.
"But what is this Avebury?" asked V.V. "I've never heard of the place."
"I thought it was a lord," said Belinda.
Sir Richmond, with occasional appeals to Dr. Martineau, embarked upon an account of the glory and wonder of Avebury. Possibly he exaggerated Avebury....
It was Dr. Martineau who presently brought this disquisition upon Avebury to a stop by a very remarkable gesture. He looked at his watch. He drew it out ostentatiously, a thick, respectable gold watch, for the doctor was not the sort of man to wear his watch upon his wrist. He clicked it open and looked at it. Thereby he would have proclaimed his belief this encounter was an entirely unnecessary interruption of his healing duologue with Sir Richmond, which must now be resumed.
But this action had scarcely the effect he had intended it to have. It set the young lady who was called Belinda asking about ways and means of getting to Salisbury; it brought to light the distressing fact that V.V. had the beginnings of a chafed heel. Once he had set things going they moved much too quickly for the doctor to deflect their course. He found himself called upon to make personal sacrifices to facilitate the painless transport of the two ladies to Salisbury, where their luggage awaited them at the Old George Hotel. In some way too elusive to trace, it became evident that he and Sir Richmond were to stay at this same Old George Hotel. The luggage was to be shifted to the top of the coupe, the young lady called V.V. was to share the interior of the car with Sir Richmond, while the lady named Belinda, for whom Dr. Martineau was already developing a very strong dislike, was to be thrust into an extreme proximity with him and the balance of the luggage in the dicky seat behind.
Sir Richmond had never met with a young woman with a genuine historical imagination before, and he was evidently very greatly excited and resolved to get the utmost that there was to be got out of this encounter.
Sir Richmond displayed a complete disregard of the sufferings of Dr. Martineau, shamefully compressed behind him. Of these he was to hear later. He ran his overcrowded little car, overcrowded so far as the dicky went, over the crest of the Down and down into Amesbury and on to Salisbury, stopping to alight and stretch the legs of the party when they came in sight of Old Sarum.
"Certainly they can do with a little stretching," said Dr. Martineau grimly.
This charming young woman had seized upon the imagination of Sir Richmond to the temporary exclusion of all other considerations. The long Downland gradients, quivering very slightly with the vibration of the road, came swiftly and easily to meet and pass the throbbing little car as he sat beside her and talked to her. He fell into that expository manner which comes so easily to the native entertaining the visitor from abroad.
"In England, it seems to me there are four main phases of history. Four. Avebury, which I would love to take you to see to-morrow. Stonehenge. Old Sarum, which we shall see in a moment as a great grassy mound on our right as we come over one of these crests. Each of them represents about a thousand years. Old Sarum was Keltic; it, saw the Romans and the Saxons through, and for a time it was a Norman city. Now it is pasture for sheep. Latest as yet is Salisbury,—English, real English. It may last a few centuries still. It is little more than seven hundred years old. But when I think of those great hangars back there by Stonehenge, I feel that the next phase is already beginning. Of a world one will fly to the ends of, in a week or so. Our world still. Our people, your people and mine, who are going to take wing so soon now, were made in all these places. We are visiting the old homes. I am glad I came back to it just when you were doing the same thing."
"I'm lucky to have found a sympathetic fellow traveller," she said; "with a car."
"You're the first American I've ever met whose interest in history didn't seem—" He sought for an inoffensive word.
"Silly? Oh! I admit it. It's true of a lot of us. Most of us. We come over to Europe as if it hadn't anything to do with us except to supply us with old pictures and curios generally. We come sight-seeing. It's romantic. It's picturesque. We stare at the natives—like visitors at a Zoo. We don't realize that we belong.... I know our style.... But we aren't all like that. Some of us are learning a bit better than that. We have one or two teachers over there to lighten our darkness. There's Professor Breasted for instance. He comes sometimes to my father's house. And there's James Harvey Robinson and Professor Hutton Webster. They've been trying to restore our memory."
"I've never heard of any of them," said Sir Richmond.
"You hear so little of America over here. It's quite a large country and all sorts of interesting things happen there nowadays. And we are waking up to history. Quite fast. We shan't always be the most ignorant people in the world. We are beginning to realize that quite a lot of things happened between Adam and the Mayflower that we ought to be told about. I allow it's a recent revival. The United States has been like one of those men you read about in the papers who go away from home and turn up in some distant place with their memories gone. They've forgotten what their names were or where they lived or what they did for a living; they've forgotten everything that matters. Often they have to begin again and settle down for a long time before their memories come back. That's how it has been with us. Our memory is just coming back to us."
"And what do you find you are?"
"Europeans. Who came away from kings and churches-@-and Corinthian capitals."
"You feel all this country belongs to you?"
"As much as it does to you." Sir Richmond smiled radiantly at her. "But if I say that America belongs to me as much as it does to you?"
"We are one people," she said.
"Europe. These parts of Europe anyhow. And ourselves."
"You are the most civilized person I've met for weeks and weeks."
"Well, you are the first civilized person I've met in Europe for a long time. If I understand you."
"There are multitudes of reasonable, civilized people in Europe."
"I've heard or seen very little of them.
"They're scattered, I admit."
"And hard to find."
"So ours is a lucky meeting. I've wanted a serious talk to an American for some time. I want to know very badly what you think you are up to with the world,—our world."
"I'm equally anxious to know what England thinks she is doing. Her ways recently have been a little difficult to understand. On any hypothesis—that is honourable to her."
"H'm," said Sir Richmond.
"I assure you we don't like it. This Irish business. We feel a sort of ownership in England. It's like finding your dearest aunt torturing the cat."
"We must talk of that," said Sir Richmond.
"I wish you would."
"It is a cat and a dog—and they have been very naughty animals. And poor Aunt Britannia almost deliberately lost her temper. But I admit she hits about in a very nasty fashion."
"And favours the dog."
"I want to know all you admit."
"You shall. And incidentally my friend and I may have the pleasure of showing you Salisbury and Avebury. If you are free?"
"We're travelling together, just we two. We are wandering about the south of England on our way to Falmouth. Where I join a father in a few days' time, and I go on with him to Paris. And if you and your friend are coming to the Old George—"
"We are," said Sir Richmond.
"I see no great scandal in talking right on to bedtime. And seeing Avebury to-morrow. Why not? Perhaps if we did as the Germans do and gave our names now, it might mitigate something of the extreme informality of our behaviour."
"My name is Hardy. I've been a munition manufacturer. I was slightly wounded by a stray shell near Arras while I was inspecting some plant I had set up, and also I was hit by a stray knighthood. So my name is now Sir Richmond Hardy. My friend is a very distinguished Harley Street physician. Chiefly nervous and mental cases. His name is Dr. Martineau. He is quite as civilized as I am. He is also a philosophical writer. He is really a very wise and learned man indeed. He is full of ideas. He's stimulated me tremendously. You must talk to him."