Jaz took Somers to the famous Canberra House, in Sydney, where the Socialist_nd Labour people had their premises: offices, meeting-rooms, club-rooms, quite an establishment. There was a lively feeling about the place, in spit_f various down-at-heel malcontents who stood about in the passage and outsid_n the pavement. A business-like air.
The two men were conducted into an inner room where a man sat at a desk. H_as very dark, red-faced, and thin, with deep lines in his face, a tight shut, receding mouth, and black, burning eyes. He reminded Somers of the portrait_f Abraham Lincoln, the same sunken cheeks and deep, cadaverous lines and bi_lack eyes. But this man, Willie Struthers, lacked that look of humour an_lmost of sweetness that one can find in Abraham Lincoln's portraits. Instead, he was suspicious, and seemed as if he were brooding an inner wrong.
He was a born Australian, had knocked about the continent, and spent man_ears on the goldfields. According to report, he was just comfortably well- off—not rich. He looked rather shabby, seedy; his clothes had that look as i_e had just thrown them on his back, after picking them off the floor. Als_ne of his thin shoulders was noticeably higher than the other. But he was _istinct Australian type, thin, hollow-cheeked, with a brightish brittle, re_kin on his face, and big, dark, incensed-looking eyes. He nodded to the tw_en as they entered, but did not speak nor rise from his desk.
"This is Mr. Somers," said Jaz. "You've read his book on democracy."
"Yes, I've read it," said Struthers. "Take a seat."
He spoke with a pronounced Australian accent—a bad cockney. He stared a_omers for a few seconds, then looked away.
He asked the usual questions, how Richard liked Australia, how long he ha_een there, how long he thought of staying. The two didn't get into any eas_armony.
Then he began to put a few shrewd questions concerning the Fascisti an_ocialisti in Italy, the appropriation of the land by the peasants, and so on; then about Germany, the actual temper of the working people, the quality o_heir patriotism since the war, and so on.
"You understand," said Somers, "I don't pretend to give anything but persona_mpressions. I have no claim to knowledge, whatever."
"That's all right, Mr. Somers. I want your impressions. What they cal_nowledge is like any other currency, it's liable to depreciate. Soun_aluable knowledge to-day may not be worth the paper it's printed on to- morrow—like the Austrian krone. We're no slaves to facts. Give us you_mpressions."
He spoke with a peculiar kind of bitterness, that showed passion too. The_alked about Europe for some time. The man could listen: listen with his blac_yes too. Watchful, always watchful, as if he expected some bird to fl_uddenly out of the speaker's face. He was well-informed, and seemed to weig_nd judge everything he heard as he heard it.
"Why, when I left Europe it seemed to me socialism was losing groun_verywhere—in Italy especially. In 1920 it was quite a living, exciting thing, in Italy. It made people insolent, usually, but it lifted them up as well.
Then it sort of fizzled down, and last year there was only the smoke of it: and a nasty sort of disappointment and disillusion, a grating sort o_rritation. Florence, Siena—hateful! The Fascisti risen up and taking on airs, all just out of a sort of spite. The Dante festival at Florence, and the Kin_here, for example. Just set your teeth on edge, ugh!—with their "Savoia!" Al_alse and out of spite."
"And what do you attribute that to, Mr. Somers?"
"Why, I think the Socialists didn't QUITE believe in their own socialism, s_verybody felt let down. In Italy, particularly, it seemed to me they were o_he brink of a revolution. And the King was ready to abdicate, and the Churc_as ready to make away with its possessions: I know that. Everything ready fo_ flight. And then the Socialists funked. They just funked. They daren't mak_ revolution, because then they'd be responsible for the country. And the_AREN'T. And so the Fascisti, seeing the Socialists in a funk, got up an_egan to try to kick their behinds."
Mr. Struthers nodded his head slowly.
"I suppose that is so," he said. "I suppose that's what it amounts to, the_idn't believe in what they were doing. But then they're a childish, excitabl_eople, with no stability."
"But it seems to me socialism hasn't got the spark in it to make a revolution.
Not in any country. It hasn't got the spunk, either. There's no spunk in it."
"What is there any spunk in?" asked the other man, a sort of bitter fir_orroding in his eyes. "Where do you find any spunk?"
"Oh, nowhere," said Richard.
There was a silence. Struthers looked out of the window as if he didn't kno_hat to say next, and he played irritably with a blotter on the desk, with hi_ight hand. Richard also sat uncomfortably silent.
"Nowhere any spunk?" said Struthers, in his flat metallic voice.
"No," said Richard.
And again the uncomfortable silence.
"There was plenty of spunk in the war," said Struthers.
"Of a sort. And because they felt they HAD to, not from choice."
"And mayn't they feel they HAVE to again?" said Struthers, smiling rathe_rimly.
The two men eyed one another.
"What'll make them?" asked Richard.
"Ah well—if circumstances." Richard was almost rude. "I know if it was _uestion of WAR the majority of returned soldiers would join up in a month—i_ week. You hear it over and over again from the Diggers here. The war was th_nly time they ever felt properly alive. But then they moved because the_ated the Germans—self-righteously hated them. And they can't quite bring i_ff, to hate the capitalist with a self-righteous hate. They don't hate him.
They know that if they themselves got a chance to make a pile of money and b_apitalists, they'd JUMP at it. You can't work up a hate except on fear. An_hey DON'T fear the capitalist, and you can't make them. The most they'll d_s sneer about him."
Struthers still fidgetted with the blotter, with his thin, very red, hair_and, and abstractedly stared at the desk in front of him.
"And what does all that mean, in your estimation, Mr. Somers?" he asked dryly, looking nervously up.
"That you'll never get them to act. You'll never get Labour, or any of th_ocialists, to make a revolution. They just won't act. Only the Anarchist_ight—and they're too few."
"I'm afraid they are growing more."
"Are they? Of that I know nothing. I should have thought they were growin_ewer."
Mr. Struthers did not seem to hear this. At least he did not answer. He sa_ith his head dropped, fingering the blotter, rather like a boy who is bein_old things he hates to hear, but which he doesn't deny.
At last he looked up, and the fighting look was in the front of his eyes.
"It may be as you say, Mr. Somers," he replied. "Men may not be ready yet fo_ny great change. That does not make the change less inevitable. It's coming, and it's got to come. If it isn't here to-day, it will be here next century, at least. Whatever you may say, the socialistic and communal ideal is a grea_deal, which will be fulfilled when men are ready. We aren't impatient. I_evolution seems a premature jump—and perhaps it does—then we can go on, ste_y step, towards where we intend to arrive at last. And that is, Stat_wnership, and International Labour Control. The General Confederation o_abour, as perhaps you know, does not aim at immediate revolutions. It want_o make the great revolution by degrees. Step by step, by winning politica_ictories in each country, by having new laws passed by our insistence, w_ntend to advance more slowly, but more surely towards the goal we have i_ight.
"Now, Mr. Somers, you are no believer in capitalism, and in this industria_ystem as we have it. If I judge you correctly from your writings, you are n_over of the great Washed Middle Classes. They are more than washed, they ar_ashed out. And I think in your writings you say as much. You want a ne_pirit in society, a new bond between men. You want a new bond between men.
Well, so do I, so do we. We realise that if we are going to go ahead we nee_irst and foremost SOLIDARITY. Where we fail in our present position is in ou_ack of solidarity.
"And how are we to get it? You suggest us the answer in your writings. We mus_ave a new bond between men, the bond of real brotherhood. And why don't w_ind that bond sufficiently among us? Because we have been brought up fro_hildhood to mistrust ourselves and to mistrust each other. We have bee_rought up in a kind of fetish worship. We are like tribes of savages wit_heir witch-doctors. And who are our witch-doctors, our medicine-men? Why, they are professors of science and professors of medicine and professors o_aw and professors of religion, all of whom thump on their tom-tom drums an_verawe us and take us in. And they take us in with the clever cry, "Listen t_s, and you will get on, get on, get on, you will rise up into the middl_lasses and become one of the great washed."
"The trick of this only educated men like yourself see through. The workin_an can't see through it. HE can't see that, for every one that GETS ON, yo_ust have five hundred fresh slavers and toilers to produce the graft. Temp_ll men to get on, and it's like holding a carrot in front of five thousan_sses all harnessed to your machine. One ass gets the carrot, and all th_thers have done your pulling for you.
"Now what we want is a new bond between fellow-men. We've got to knock dow_he middle-class fetish and the middle-class medicine-men. But you've got t_uild up as you knock down. You've got to build up the real fellow-feelin_etween fellow-men. You've got to teach us working men to trust one another, absolutely trust one another, and to take all our trust away from the Grea_ashed and their medicine men who bleed us like leeches. Let us mistrus_hem—but let us trust one another. First and foremost, let us trust on_nother, we working men.
"Now Mr. Somers, you are a working man's son. You know what I'm talking about.
Isn't it right, what I say? And isn't it feasible?"
A strange glow had come into his large black eyes, something glistening an_alf-sweet, fixing itself on you. You felt drawn towards a strang_weetness—perhaps poisonous. Yet it touched Richard on one of his quiverin_trings—the latent power that is in man to-day, to love his near mate with _assionate, absolutely trusting love. Whitman says the love of comrades. W_ay, the mate love. "He is my mate." A depth of unfathomed, unrealised lov_an go into that phrase! "My mate is waiting for me," a man says, and turn_way from wife, children, mother and all. The love of a man for his mate.
Now Richard knew what Struthers wanted. He wanted this love, this mate-trus_alled into consciousness and highest honour. He wanted to set it wher_hitman tried to set his Love of Comrades. It was to be the new tie betwee_en, in the new democracy. It was to be the new passional bond in the ne_ociety. The trusting love of a man for his mate.
Our society is based on the family, the love of a man for his wife and hi_hildren, or for his mother and brothers. The family is our social bedrock an_imit. Whitman said the next, broader, more unselfish rock should be the Lov_f Comrades. The sacred relation of a man to his mate, his fellow man.
If our society is going to develop a new great phase, developing from where w_tand now, it must accept this new relationship as the new sacred social bond, beyond the family. You can't make bricks without straw. That is, you can'_old together the friable mixture of modern mankind without a new cohesiv_rinciple, a new unifying passion. And this will be the new passion of a man'_bsolute trust in his mate, his love for his mate.
Richard knew this. But he had learned something else as well. He had learne_he great danger of the new passion, which as yet lay only half realised an_alf recognised, half effective.
Human love, human trust, are always perilous, because they break down. Th_reater the love, the greater the trust, and the greater the peril, th_reater the disaster. Because to place absolute trust on another human bein_s in itself a disaster, both ways, since each human being is a ship that mus_ail its own course, even if it go in company with another ship. Two ships ma_ail together to the world's end. But lock them together in mid-ocean and tr_o steer both with one rudder, and they will smash one another to bits. So i_s when one individual seeks absolutely to love, or trust, another. Absolut_overs always smash one another, absolute trusters the same. Since man ha_een trying absolutely to love women, and women to love man, the human specie_as almost wrecked itself. If now we start a still further campaign of me_oving and absolutely trusting each other, comrades or mates, heaven knows th_orror we are laying up.
And yet, love is the greatest thing between human beings, men and women, me_nd men, women and women, when it is love, when it happens. But when huma_ove starts out to lock individuals together, it is just courting disaster.
Man-and-woman love is a disaster nowadays. What a holy horror man-and-man lov_ould be: mates or comrades!
What is it then that is wrong? Why, human beings CAN'T absolutely love on_nother. Each man DOES kill the thing he loves, by sheer dint of loving it. I_ove then just a horror in life?
Ah no. This individuality which each of us has got and which makes him _ayward, wilful, dangerous, untrustworthy quantity to every other individual, because every individuality is bound to react at some time against every othe_ndividuality, without exception—or else lose its own integrity; because o_he inevitable necessity of each individual to react away from any othe_ndividual, at certain times, human love is truly a relative thing, not a_bsolute. It CANNOT be absolute.
Yet the human heart must have an absolute. It is one of the conditions o_eing human. The only thing is the God who is the source of all passion. Onc_o down before the God-passion and human passions take their right rhythm. Bu_uman love without the God-passion always kills the thing it loves. Man an_oman virtually are killing each other with the love-will now. What would i_e when mates, or comrades, broke down in their absolute love and trust?
Because, without the polarized God-passion to hold them stable at the centre, break down they would. With no deep God who is source of all passion and lif_o hold them separate and yet sustained in accord, the loving comrades woul_mash one another, and smash all love, all feeling as well. It would be a rar_ruesome sight.
Any more love is a hopeless thing, till we have found again, each of us fo_imself, the great dark God who alone will sustain us in loving one another.
Till then, best not play with more fire.
Richard knew this, and it came to him again powerfully, under the dark eyes o_r. Struthers.
"Yes," he answered slowly. "I know what you mean, and you know I know. An_t's probably your only chance of carrying Socialism through. I don't reall_now how much it is feasible. But—."
"Wait a minute, Mr. Somers. You are the man I have been waiting for: al_xcept the but. Listen to me a moment further. You know our situation here i_ustralia. You know that Labour is stronger here, perhaps, more unopposed tha_n any country in the world. We might do anything. Then why do we do nothing?
You know as well as I do. Because there is no real unifying principle amon_s. We're not together, we aren't one. And probably you never WILL be able t_nite Australians on the wage question and the State Ownership question alone.
They don't care enough. It doesn't really touch them emotionally. And the_eed to be touched emotionally, brought together that way. Once that was done, we'd be a grand, solid working-class people; grand, unselfish: a real PEOPLE.
"When wilt thou save the People, Oh God of Israel, when?" It looks as if th_od of Israel would never save them. We've got to save ourselves.
"Now you know quite well, Mr. Somers, we're an unstable, unreliable body to- day, the Labour Party here in Australia. And why? Because in the first plac_e haven't got any voice. We want a voice. Think of it, we've got no rea_abour newspaper in Sydney—or in Australia. How CAN we be united? We've n_oice to call us together. And why don't we have a paper of our own? Well, why? Nobody has the initiative. What would be the good, over here, of _rievance-airing rag like your London Daily Herald? It wouldn't be taken an_ore seriously than any other rag. It would have no real effect. Australian_re a good bit subtler and more disillusioned than the English workin_lasses. You can throw Australians chaff, and they'll laugh at it. They ma_ven pretend to peck it up. But all the time they KNOW, and they're not take_n. The Bulletin would soon help them out, if they were. They've got a natura_arcastic turn, have the Australians. They'll do imbecile things: because on_hing is pretty well as good as another, to them. They don't care.
"Then what's the good starting another Red rag, if the bull won't run at it?
And this Australian bull may play about with a red rag, but it won't get hi_eal dander up.
"No, you've got to give them something to appeal to the deeper man in them.
That deeper man is waiting to be appealed to. And we're waiting for the righ_ndividual to come along to put the appeal to them.
"Now, Mr. Somers, here's your chance. I'm in a position to ask you, won't yo_elp us to bring out a sincere, CONSTRUCTIVE Socialist paper, not a grievanc_irer, but a paper that calls to the constructive spirit in men? Deep callet_o deep. And the trouble with us here is, no one calls to our deeps, they li_here stagnant. I can't do it, I'm too grimy. It wants a deep, fresh nature, and I'm too stale.
"Now Mr. Somers, you're the son of a working man. You were born of the People.
You haven't turned your back on them, have you, now that you're a well-know_entleman?"
"No, no," said Richard, laughing at the irony.
"Then here is your work before you. Come and breathe the breath of life int_s, through the printed word. Come and take charge of a true People's pape_or us. We needn't make it a daily. Make it a twice-weekly. And let it appea_o the Australian, to his heart, for his heart is the right place to appea_o. Let it breathe the new air of trust and comradeship into us. We are read_or it: dying for it. Show us how to BELIEVE in one another, with all ou_earts. Show us that the issue isn't just the wage issue, or who holds th_oney. It's brother-love at last, on which Christ's Democracy is bound t_est. It's the living People. It is man to man at last."
The red face of Willie Struthers seemed to glow with fire, and his black eye_ad a strange glisten as he watched Richard's face. Richard's pale, sombr_ace showed that he was moved. There was a strange excitement, a deep, exciting vibration in the air, as if something secret were taking place. Ja_n his corner sat silent as a mouse, his knees wide apart, his elbows on hi_nees, his head dropped. Richard's eyes at length met the black, excited, glistening eyes of the other man, and he felt that something in the gliste_as bearing him down, as a snake bears down a bird. Himself the bird.
But his heart was big within him, swollen in his breast. Because in truth h_id love the working people, he did know them capable of a great, generou_ove for one another. And he did also believe, in a way, that they wer_apable of building up this great Church of Christ, the great beauty of _eople, upon the generous passion of mate-love. All this theoretical socialis_tarted by Jews like Marx, and appealing only to the will-to-power in th_asses, making money the whole crux, this has cruelly injured the workin_eople of Europe. For the working people of Europe were generous by nature, and money was not their prime passion. All this political socialism—al_olitics, in fact—has conspired to make money the only god. It has been _reat treacherous conspiracy against the generous heart of the people. An_hat heart is betrayed: and knows it.
Then can't the injury be remedied? Can't the working men be called back, ma_o man, to a generous opening of the heart to one another, money forgotten?
Can't a new great inspiration of belief in the love of mates be breathed int_he white Peoples of the world, and a new day be built on this belief?
It can be done. It could be done. Only, the terrible stress, the strain on th_earts of men, if as human beings the whole weight of the living world is t_est on them. Each man with the poles of the world resting on his heart. Me_ould go mad.
"You see," stammered Richard, "it needs more than a belief of men in eac_ther."
"But what else is there to believe in? Quacks? Medicinemen? Scientists an_oliticians?"
"It DOES need some sort of religion."
"Well then—well then—the religious question is ticklish, especially here i_ustralia. But all the churches are established on Christ. And Christ say_ove one another."
Richard laughed suddenly.
"That makes Christ into another political agent," he said.
"Well then—I'm not deep enough for these matters. But surely you know how t_quare it with religion. Seems to me it IS religion—love one another."
"Without a God."
"Well—as I say—it's Christ's teaching, and that ought to be God enough."
Richard was silent, his heart heavy. It all seemed so far from the dark God h_ished to serve, the God from whom the dark, sensual passion of love emanates, not only the spiritual love of Christ. He wanted men once more to refer th_ensual passion of love sacredly to the great dark God, the ithyphallic, o_he first dark religions. And how could that be done, when each dry littl_ndividual ego was just mechanically set against any such dark flow, suc_ncient submission? As for instance Willie Struthers at this minute. Struther_idn't mind Christ. Christ could easily be made to subserve his egoisti_urpose. But the first, dark, ithyphallic God whom men had once known s_remendous—Struthers had no use for Him.
"I don't think I can do it. I don't think I've the right touch," said Richar_lowly.
"Nay, Mr. Somers, don't you be a funker, now. This is the work you were bor_or. Don't leave us in the lurch."
"I shouldn't be doing what you want me to do."
"Do what seems best to yourself. We'll risk it. Make your own conditions. _now as far as money goes you won't be hard. But take the job on, now. It'_een waiting for you, waiting for you to come out here. Don't funk at the las_inute."
"I won't promise at this minute," said Richard, rising to escape. "I want t_o now. I will tell you within a week. You might send me details of you_cheme for the paper. Will you? And I'll think about it hard."
Mr. Struthers watched him as if he would read his soul. But Richard wasn'_oing to have his soul read by force.
"Very well. I'll see you have the whole scheme of the proposal to-morrow. _on't think you'll be able to run away from it."
Richard was thankful to get out of Canberra Hall. It was like escaping fro_ne of the medical-examination rooms in the war. He and Jaz went in silenc_own the crowded, narrow pavement of George Street, towards the Circular Quay.
Richard called at the General Post-office in Martin Place. As he came ou_gain, and stood on the steps folding the stamps he had bought, seeing the su_own Pitt Street, the people hurrying, the flowers at the corner, the pin_pread of Bulletins for sale at the corner of George Street, the hansom-cab_nd taxis standing peacefully in the morning shadow of the post-office, suddenly the whole thing switched right away from him. He hailed a hansom.
"Jaz," he said, "I want to drive round the Botanical Gardens and round th_pit there—and I want to look at the peacocks and cockatoos."
Jaz climbed in with him. "Right-O!" said the cabby, hearing the order, an_hey clock-clocked away up the hill to Macquarie Street.
"You know, Jaz," said Richard, looking with joy at the blue harbour inlet, where the Australian "fleet" lay rusting to bits, with a few gay flags; "yo_now, Jaz, I shan't do it. I shan't do anything. I just don't care about it."
"You don't?" said Jaz, with a sudden winsome smile.
"I try to kid myself that I care about mankind and its destiny. And I hav_its of wistful love for the working men. But at the bottom I'm as hard as _ango nut. I don't care about them all. I don't really care about anything, n_ don't. I just don't care, so what's the good of fussing."
"Why no," said Jaz, again with a quick smile.
"I feel neither good nor bad. I feel like a fox that has gnawed his tail of_nd so escaped out of a trap. It seems like a trap to me, all this socia_usiness and this saving mankind. Why can't mankind save itself? It can if i_ants to. I'm a fool. I neither want love nor power. I like the world and _ike to be alone in it, by myself. What do you want, Jaz?"
Richard was like a child escaped from school, escaped from his necessity to B_omething and to DO something. They had jogged past the palm trees and th_rass of the gardens, and the blue wrens had cocked their preposterous tails.
They jogged to the end of the promontory, under wild trees, and Richard looke_t the two lobes of the harbour, blue water on either side, and another par_f the town beyond.
"Now take us back to the cockatoos," he said to the cabby.
Richard loved the look of Australia, that marvellous soft flower-blue of th_ir, and the sombre grey of the earth, the foliage, the brown of the lo_ocks: like the dull pelts of kangaroos. It had a wonder and a far-awayness, even here in the heart of Sydney. All the shibboleths of mankind are s_rumpery. Australia is outside everything.
"I couldn't exactly say," Jaz answered. "You've got a bit of an Australia_ook this morning about you," he added with a smile.
"I feel Australian. I feel a new creature. But what's the outcome?"
"Oh, you'll come back to caring, I should think: for the sake of havin_omething to care about. That's what most of them do. They want to tur_ushrangers for six months, and then they get frightened of themselves, an_ome back and want to be good citizens."
"Bushranger? But Australia's like an open door with the blue beyond. You jus_alk out of the world and into Australia. And it's just somewhere else. Al_hose nations left behind in their schoolrooms, fussing. Let them fuss. Thi_s Australia, where one can't care."
Jaz sat rather pale, and ten times more silent than ever.
"I expect you've got yourself to reckon with, no matter where you are. That'_hy most Australians have to fuss about something—politics, or horse-racing, or football. Though a man can go empty in Australia, if he likes: as you'v_aid yourself," replied he.
"Then I'll go empty," said Richard. "What makes YOU fuss with Kangaroo an_truthers, Jaz?"
"Me?" The smile was slow and pale. "Go into the middle of Australia and se_ow empty it is. You can't face emptiness long. You have to come back and d_omething to keep from being frightened at your own emptiness, and everythin_lse's emptiness. It may be empty. But it's wicked, and it'll kill you if i_an. Something comes out of the emptiness, to kill you. You have to come bac_nd do things with mankind, to forget."
"It's wonderful to be empty. It's wonderful to feel this blue globe o_mptiness of the Australian air. It shuts everything out," protested Richard.
"You'll be an Aussie yet," smiled Jaz slowly.
"Shall I regret it?" asked Richard.
The eyes of the two men met. In the pale grey eyes of Jaz something lurking, like an old, experienced consciousness looking across at the childis_onsciousness of Somers, almost compassionately: and half in mockery.
"You'll change back before you regret it," he said.
"Are you wise, Jaz? And am I childish?" Richard's look suddenly changed als_o mockery. "If you're wise, Jaz, why do you wander round like a lost soul?
Because you do. And what takes you to Struthers, if you belong to Kangaroo?"
"I'm secretary for the coal- and timber-merchants' union," said Jaz quietly.
They got out of the cab to look at the aviaries. Wonderful, brilliant-coloure_ittle birds, the love-birds self-consciously smirking. "Hello!"—pronounce_ure Australian-cockney: "Helleow! Hello! Hello! Hello Cocky! What yer want?"
This in a more-than-human voice from a fine sulphur-crested cockatoo. "Hell_ocky!" His thick black tongue worked in his narrow mouth. So absolutely huma_he sound, and yet a bird's. It was startling, and very funny. The two me_alked to the cockatoos, fascinated and amused, for a quarter of an hour. Th_mu came prancing up, with his alert, large, sticking-out eyes and hi_hiskers. An alert gentleman, with the dark Australian eye. Very wide-awake, and yet far off in the past. And a remote, alert, sharp gentleness belongin_o far past twilight ages, before enemies and iron weapons were perfected. _ery remote, dirt-brown gentleman from the lost plains of time. The peacoc_ustling his blue fireworks seemed a sort of nouveau-riche in comparison.
Somers went in the evening of this memorable day to dine with Kangaroo. Th_ther man was quiet, and seemed preoccupied.
"I went to Willie Struthers this morning," Somers said.
Kangaroo looked at him sharply through his pince-nez. On the subtle face o_omers a small, wicked smile hovered like a half visible flame. But it was hi_live, beautiful face. And his whole person seemed magnetic.
"Who took you there?" asked Kangaroo sharply.
"Jaz is a meddlesome-Patty. Well, and what then?"
"I think Willie is rather a terror. I wouldn't like to have to spend my lif_ith him. But he's shrewd. Only I don't like him physically—something thin an_airy and spiderish. I didn't want to touch him. But he's a force, he'_OMETHING."
Kangaroo looked puzzled, and his face took a heavy, stupid look.
"He wouldn't want you to touch him," he barked. "He didn't offer to shak_ands, did he?"
"No, thank goodness," said Somers, thinking of the red, dry, thin-skinne_and.
There was a hostile silence from Kangaroo. He knew that this subtle, attractive Somers with the faint glow about him, like an aura, was venomous.
And yet he was helplessly attracted to him.
"And what do you mean about his being something? Some more Trewhella?"
"Perhaps. I couldn't help feeling that Struthers was shrewder than you are—i_ way baser—but for that reason more likely to be effectual."
Kangaroo watched Richard for a long time in silence.
"I know why Trewhella took you there," he said sulkily.
"Oh, I know why. And what have you decided?"
There was a long and obstinate silence. The two men were at loggerheads, an_either would make the first move.
"You seem very thick with Trewhella," said Kangaroo at last.
"Not thick," said Richard. "Celts—Cornish, Irish—they always interest me. Wha_o you imagine is at the bottom of Jaz?"
"Oh, not only," laughed Somers.
"Then why do you ask me, if you know better?"
"Because I don't really get to the bottom of him."
"There is no bottom to get to—he's the instinctive traitor, as they all are."
"Oh, surely not only that."
"I see nothing else. They would like the white civilisation to be trample_nderfoot piecemeal. And at the same time they live on us like parasites."
Kangaroo glowered fiercely.
"There's something more," replied Richard. "They don't believe in our gods, i_ur ideals. They remember older gods, older ideals, different gods: before th_ews invented a mental Jehovah, and a spiritual Christ. They are nearer th_agic of the animal world."
"Magic of the animal world!" roared Kangaroo. "What does that nonsense mean?
Are you traitor to your own human intelligence?"
"All too human," smiled Richard.
Kangaroo sat up very straight, and looked at Somers. Somers still smile_aintly and luminously.
"Why are you so easily influenced?" said Kangaroo, with a certain col_eproof. "You are like a child. I know that is part of the charm of you_ature, that you are naive like a child, but sometimes you are childish rathe_han childlike. A perverse child."
"Let me be a perverse child then," laughed Somers, with a flash of attractiv_aughter at Kangaroo. It frightened the big man, this perverse mood. If onl_e could have got the wicked light out of Lovat's face, and brought back th_ire of earnestness. And yet, as an individual, he was attracted to the littl_ellow now, like a moth to a candle: a great lumbering moth to a small, bu_angerous flame of a candle.
"I'm sure it's Struthers' turn to set the world right, before it's yours,"
"Why are you sure?"
"I don't know. I thought so when I saw him. You're too human."
Kangaroo was silent, and offended.
"I don't think that is a final reason," he replied.
"For me it is. No, I want one of the olives that the man took away. You giv_ne such good food, one forgets deep questions in your lovely salad. Why don'_ou do as Jaz says, and back up the Reds for the time being. Play your pawn_nd your bishops."
"You know that a bite from a hyaena means blood-poisoning," said Kangaroo.
"Don't be solemn. You mean Willie Struthers? Yes, I wouldn't want to b_itten. But if you are so sure of love as an all-ruling influence, and so sur_f the fidelity of the Diggers, through love, I should agree with Jaz. Pus_truthers where he wants to go. Let him proclaim the rule of the People: le_im nationalise all industries and resources, and confiscate property above _ertain amount: and bring the world about his ears. Then you step in like _aviour. It's much easier to point to a wrecked house, if you want to buil_omething new, than to persuade people to pull the house down and build it u_n a better style."
Kangaroo was deeply offended, mortified. Yet he listened.
"You are hopelessly facile, Lovat," he said gently. "In the first place, th_reatest danger to the world to-day is anarchy, not bolshevism. It is anarch_nd unrule that are coming on us—and that is what I, as an order-loving Je_nd one of the half-chosen people, do not want. I want one central principl_n the world: the principle of love, the maximum of individual liberty, th_inimum of human distress. Lovat, you know I am sincere, don't you?"
There was a certain dignity and pathos in the question.
"I do," replied Somers sincerely. "But I am tired of one central principle i_he world."
"Anything else means chaos."
"There has to be chaos occasionally. And then, Roo, if you DO want _enevolent fatherly autocracy, I'm sure you'd better step in after there'_een a bit of chaos."
Kangaroo shook his head.
"Like a wayward child! Like a wayward child!" he murmured. "You are not such _ool, Lovat, that you can't see that once you break the last restraints o_umanity to-day, it is the end. It is the end. Once burst the flood-gates, an_ou'll never get the water back into control. Never."
"Then let it distil up to heaven. I really don't care."
"But man, you are PERVERSE. What's the matter with you?" suddenly bellowe_angaroo.
They had gone into the study for coffee. Kangaroo stood with his head droppe_nd his feet apart, his back to the fire. And suddenly he roared like a lio_t Somers. Somers started, then laughed.
"Even perversity has its points," he said.
Kangaroo glowered like a massive cloud. Somers was standing staring at th_urer etching of St. Jerome: he loved Durer. Suddenly, with a great massiv_ovement, Kangaroo caught the other man to his breast.
"Don't Lovat," he said, in a much moved voice, pressing the slight body of th_esser man against his own big breast and body. "Don't!" he said, with _onvulsive tightening of the arm.
Somers, squeezed so that he could hardly breathe, kept his face fro_angaroo's jacket and managed to ejaculate:
"All right. Let me go and I won't."
"Don't thwart me," pleaded Kangaroo. "Don't—or I shall have to break al_onnection with you, and I love you so. I love you so. Don't be perverse, an_ut yourself against me."
He still kept Somers clasped against him, but not squeezed so hard. And Somer_eard over his own head the voice speaking with a blind yearning. Not t_imself. No. It was speaking over his head, to the void, to the infinite o_omething tiresome like that. Even the words: "I love you so. I love you so."
They made the marrow in Lovat's bones melt, but they made his heart flicke_ven more devilishly.
"It is an impertinence, that he says he loves me," he thought to himself. Bu_e did not speak, out of regard for Kangaroo's emotion, which was massive an_enuine, even if Somers felt it missed his own particular self completely.
In those few moments when he was clasped to the warm, passionate body o_angaroo, Somers' mind flew with swift thought. "He doesn't love ME," h_hought to himself. "He just turns a great general emotion on me, like a tap.
I feel as cold as steel, in his clasp—and as separate. It is presumption, hi_oving me. If he was in any way really AWARE of me, he'd keep at the other en_f the room, as if I was a dangerous little animal. He wouldn't be hugging m_f I were a scorpion. And I AM a scorpion. So why doesn't he know it. Damn hi_ove. He wants to FORCE me."
After a few minutes Kangaroo dropped his arm and turned his back. He stoo_here, a great, hulked, black back. Somers thought to himself: "If I were _estrel I'd stoop and strike him straight in the back of the neck, and he'_ie. He ought to die." Then he went and sat in his chair. Kangaroo left th_oom.
He did not come back for some time, and Lovat began to grow uncomfortable. Bu_he devilishness in his heart continued, broken by moments of tenderness o_ity or self-doubt. The gentleness was winning, when Kangaroo came in again.
And one look at the big, gloomy figure set the devil alert like a flame agai_n the other man's heart.
Kangaroo took his place before the fire again, but looked aside.
"Of course you understand," he began in a muffled voice, "that it must be on_hing or the other. Either you are with me, and I FEEL you with me: or yo_ease to exist for me."
Somers listened with wonder. He admired the man for his absoluteness, and hi_trange blind heroic obsession.
"I'm not really against you, am I?" said Somers. And his own heart answered, YES YOU ARE!
"You are not WITH me," said Kangaroo, bitterly.
"No," said Somers slowly.
"Then why have you deceived me, played with me," suddenly roared Kangaroo. "_ould have killed you."
"Don't do that," laughed Somers, rather coldly.
But the other did not answer. He was like a black cloud.
"I want to hear," said Kangaroo, "your case against me."
"It's not a case, Kangaroo," said Richard, "it's a sort of instinct."
"Why, against your ponderousness. And against your insistence. And against th_hole sticky stream of love, and the hateful will-to-love. It's the will-to- love that I hate, Kangaroo."
"In us all. I just hate it. It's a sort of syrup we HAVE to stew in, and it'_oathsome. Don't love me. Don't want to save mankind. You're so awfull_ENERAL, and your love is so awfully general: as if one were only a cherry i_he syrup. Don't love me. Don't want me to love you. Let's be hard, separat_en. Let's understand one another deeper than love."
"Two human ants, in short," said Kangaroo, and his face was yellow.
"No, no. Two men. Let us go to the understanding that is deeper than love."
"Is any understanding deeper than love?" asked Kangaroo with a sneer.
"Why, yes, you know it is. At least between men."
"I'm afraid I don't know it. I know the understanding that is much LESS tha_ove. If you want me to have a merely commonplace acquaintance with you, _efuse. That's all."
"We are neither of us capable of a quite commonplace acquaintance."
"Oh yes, I am," barked Kangaroo.
"I'm not. But you're such a Kangaroo, wanting to carry mankind in your belly- pouch, cosy, with its head and long ears peeping out. You sort of figur_ourself a Kangaroo of Judah, instead of a Lion of Judah: Jehovah with a grea_eavy tail and a belly-pouch. Let's get off it, and be men, with the god_eyond us. I DON'T want to be godlike, Kangaroo. I like to know the god_eyond me. Let's start as men, with the great gods beyond us."
He looked up with a beautiful candour in his face, and a diabolic bit o_ockery in his soul. For Kangaroo's face had gone like an angry wax mask, wit_ortification. An angry wax mask of mortification, haughty with a stiff, wooden haughtiness, and two little near-set holes for eyes, behind glas_ince-nez. Richard had a moment of pure hate for him. in the silence. Fo_angaroo refused to answer.
"What's the good, men trying to be gods?" said Richard. "You're a Jew, and yo_ust be Jehovah or nothing. We're Christians, all little Christs walkin_ithout our crucifixes. Jaz is quite right to play us one against the other.
Struthers is the anti-christ, preaching love alone. I'm tired, tired. I wan_o be a man, with the gods beyond me, greater than me. I want the great gods, and my own mere manliness."
"It's that treacherous Trewhella," Kangaroo murmured to himself. Then h_eemed to be thinking hard.
And then at last he lifted his head and looked at Somers. And now Somer_penly hated him. His face was arrogant, insolent, righteous.
"I am sorry I have made a mistake in you," he said. "But we had better settl_he matter finally here. I think the best thing you can do is to leav_ustralia. I don't think you can do me any serious damage with your talk. _ould ask you—before I warn you—not to try. That is all. I should prefer no_o be alone."
He had become again hideous, with a long yellowish face and black eyes clos_ogether, and a cold, mindless, dangerous hulk to his shoulders. For a momen_omers was afraid of him, as of some great ugly idol that might strike. H_elt the intense hatred of the man coming at him in cold waves. He stood up i_ kind of horror, in front of the great, close-eyed horrible thing that wa_ow Kangaroo. Yes, a thing, not a whole man. A great Thing, a horror.
"I am sorry if I have been foolish," he said, backing away from the Thing. An_s he went out of the door he made a quick movement, and his heart melted i_orror lest the Thing Kangaroo should suddenly lurch forward and clutch him.
If that happened, Kangaroo would have blood on his hands. But Somers kept al_is wits about him, and quickly, quietly got his hat and walked to the hal_oor. It seemed like a dream, as if it were miles to the outer door, as if hi_eart would burst before he got there, as if he would never be able to und_he fastening of the door.
But he kept all his wits about him, and as by inspiration managed the thre_eparate locks of the strong door. Kangaroo had followed slowly, awfully, behind, like a madman. If he came near enough to touch!
Somers had the door opened, and looked round. The huge figure, the white fac_ith the two eyes close together, like a spider, approaching with awfu_tillness. If the stillness suddenly broke, and he struck out!
"Good-night!" said Somers, at the blind, horrible-looking face. And he move_uickly down the stairs, though still not apparently in flight, but going i_hat quick, controlled way that acts as a check on an onlooker.
He was thankful for the streets, for the people. But by bad luck, it wa_aturday night, when Sydney is all shut up, and the big streets seem dark an_reary, though thronging with people. Dark streets, dark, streaming people.