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Chapter 11 WILLIE STRUTHERS AND KANGAROO

  • 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.
  • "Oh—circumstances."
  • "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."
  • "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.
  • "Why?"
  • "Oh, I know why. And what have you decided?"
  • "Nothing."
  • 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?"
  • "Treachery."
  • "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,"
  • Somers said.
  • "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."
  • "Against what?"
  • "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 me?"
  • "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.
  • And fear. One could feel such fear, in Australia.