Richard Lovat Somers registered a new vow: not to take things with to_verwhelming an amount of emotional seriousness, but to accept everything tha_ame along with a certain sang froid, and not to sit frenziedly in judgmen_efore he had heard the case. He had come to the end of his own tether, so wh_hould he go off into tantrums if other folks strayed about with the broke_its of their tethers trailing from their ankles? Is it better to be savagel_ugging at the end of your rope, or to wander at random tetherless? Matter o_hoice!
But the day of the absolute is over, and we're in for the strange gods onc_ore. "But when you get to the end of your tether you've nothing to do bu_ie"—so sings an out-of-date vulgar song. But is it so? Why not all? When yo_ome to the end of your tether you break the rope. When you come to the end o_he lane you straggle on into the bush and beat about till you find a new wa_hrough, and no matter if you raise vipers or goannas or wallabies, or eve_nly a stink. And if you see a man beating about for a new track you don'_mmediately shout, "Perverted wretch!" or "Villain!" or "Vicious creature!" o_ven merely "The fool," or mildly: "Poor dear!" You have to let him try.
Anything is better than stewing in your own juice, or grinding at the end o_our tether, or tread-milling away at a career. Better a "wicked creature" an_ay, than a mechanical tread-miller of a careerist. Better anything on eart_han the millions of human ants.
In this way Mr. Somers had to take himself to task, for his Pommy stupidit_nd his pommigrant superiority, and kick himself rather severely, looking a_he ends of the tether he presumed he had just broken. Why should people wh_re tethered to a post be so God-Almighty puffed up about their posts? I_eems queer. Yet there they are, going round and round at the ends of thei_ethers, and being immensely sniffy about the people who stray loose trailin_he broken end of their old rope, and looking for a new way through the bush.
Yet so men are. They will set up inquisitions and every manner of tortur_hamber to COMPEL people to refrain from breaking their tethers. But once ma_as broken any old particular hobble-line, not God Himself can safely knot i_ogether again.
Somers now left off standing on his head in front of the word love, an_ooking at it calmly, decided he didn't care vastly either way. Harriet had o_er dressing-table tray a painted wooden heart, painted red with dots roun_t, a Black Forest trifle which she had bought in Baden-Baden for a penny. O_t was the motto:
Dem Mutigen gehort die Welt.
That was the motto to have on one's red heart: not Love or Hope or any o_hose aspiring emotions: "The world belongs to the courageous." To be sure, i_as a rather two-edged motto just now for Germany. And Somers was not quit_ure that it was the "world" that he wanted.
Yes it was. Not the tuppenny social world of present mankind: but the genuin_orld, full of life and eternal creative surprises, including of cours_estructive surprises: since destruction is part of creation. Somers did wan_he world. He did want to take it away from all the teeming human ants, huma_laves, and all the successful, empty careerists. He wanted little that th_resent society can give. But the lovely other world that is in spite of th_ocial man of to-day: that he wanted, to clear it, to free it.—Freedom! No_or this subnormal slavish humanity of democratic antics. But for the worl_tself, and the Mutigen.
Mut! Muth! A good word. Better even than "courage". Virtue, virtus, manliness.
Mut—manliness. Not braggaccio or insolence. De l'audace, at de l'audace, a_ncore de l'audace! Danton's word. But it was more than daring. It was Mut, profound manliness, that is not afraid of anything except of being cowardly o_arren.
Dem Mutigen gehort die Welt. To the manly brave belongs the world.
Somers wrote to Kangaroo, and enclosed the red wooden heart, which had _ittle loop of ribbon so that it could be hung on the wall.
"Dear Kangaroo—I send you my red heart (never mind that it is wood, the woo_nce lived and was the tree of life) with its motto. I hope you will accep_t, after all my annoying behaviour. It is not the love, but the Mut that _elieve in, and join you in. Love may be an ingredient in Mut, so you have i_ll your own way. Anyhow, I send you my red motto-heart, and if you don't wan_t you can send it back—I will be your follower, in reverence for you_irtue—Virtus. And you may command me."
The following day came the answer, in Kangaroo's difficult scrawl:
"Dear Lovat—Love is in your name, notwithstanding. I accept the red hear_ladly, and when I win, I will wear it for my Order of Merit, pinned on m_welling chest.
"But you are the one person in the world I can never command. I knew it woul_e so. Yet I am unspeakably glad to have your approval, and perhaps you_llegiance.
"Come and see me as soon as it is your wish to do so: I won't invite you, les_orse befall me. For you are either a terrible disappointment to me, or _reat blessing in store. I wait for you."
Somers also wrote to Jack, to ask him to come down with Victoria for the week- end. But Jack replied that he couldn't get away this week-end, there was s_uch doing. Somers then invited him for the following one.
The newspapers were at this time full of the pending strike of coal-miners an_hearers: that is, the Australian papers. The European papers were in _errific stew about finance, and the German debt, and the more imposing Allie_ebt to America. Bolshevism, Communism, Labour, had all sunk into a sort o_nsignificance. The voice of mankind was against them for the time being, no_ow in hate and fear, as previously, but in a kind of bitter contempt: th_ind of feeling one has when one has accepted a glib individual as a seriou_nd remarkable man, only to find that he is a stupid vulgarian. Communism wa_ bubble that would never even float free and iridescent from the nasty pip_f the theorist.
What then? Nothing evident. There came dreary and fatuous letters from friend_n England, refined young men of the upper middle-class writing with a guarde_ind of friendliness, gentle and sweet, of course, but as dozy as ripe pear_n their laisser aller heaviness. That was what it amounted to: they wer_ver-ripe, they had been in the sun of prosperity too long, and all thei_issues were soft and sweetish. How could they react with any sharpness to an_ppeal on earth? They wanted just to hang against the warmest wall they coul_ind, as long as ever they could, till some last wind of death or disturbanc_hook them down into earth, mushy and overripe. A sardonic letter from _ewish friend in London, amusing but a bit dreadful. Letters from women i_ondon, friendly but irritable. "I have decided I am a comfort-lovin_onventional person, with just a dash of the other thing to keep m_idgety"—then accounts of buying old furniture, and gossip about everybody:
"Verden Grenfel in a restaurant with TWO bottles of champagne, so he must b_ffluent just now." A girl taking her honeymoon trip to Naples by one of th_rient boats, third class: "There are 800 people on board, but room fo_nother 400, so that on account of the missing 400 we have a six-berth cabi_o ourselves. It is a bit noisy and not luxurious, but clean and comfortable, and you can imagine what it is to me, to be on the glorious sea, and to g_shore at wonderful Gibraltar, and to see the blue hills of Spain in th_istance. Frederick is struggling with a mass of Italian irregular verbs a_he moment." And in spite of all Somers' love of the Mediterranean, th_hought of sitting on a third class deck with eight hundred emigrants, including babies, made him almost sick. "The glorious sea—wonderfu_ibraltar." It takes quite a good eyesight even to SEE the sea from the dec_f a liner, let alone out of the piled mass of humanity on the third-clas_eck. A letter from Germany, about a wedding and a pending journey int_ustria and friends, written with a touch of philosophy that comes to a ma_hen he's fallen down and bumped himself, and strokes the bruise. A cheque fo_ifteen pounds seventeen shillings and fourpence, from a publisher: "Kindl_cknowledge." A letter from a farming friend who had changed places: "A Majo_shworth has got the farm, and has spent about 600 pounds putting it in order.
He has started as a poultry-farm, but has had bad luck in losing 400 chick_traight away, with the cold weather. I hope our spell of bad luck doesn'_till hang over the place. I wish you would come back to England for th_ummer. Viv talks of getting a caravan, and then we might get two. Cold an_et weather for weeks. All work and no play, not good enough." A letter fro_aris, artist friends: "I have sold one of the three pictures that are in th_ast Salon." A letter from Somers' sister: "Louis has been looking roun_verywhere to buy a little farm, but there doesn't seem to be a bit of land t_e got anywhere. What do you think of our coming to Australia? I wish yo_ould look for something for us, for we are terribly fed up with this place, nothing doing at all." A letter from Sicily: "I have had my father an_tepmother over from New York. I had got them rooms here, but when I said so, the face of Anna, my stepmother, was a sight. She took me aside and told m_hat father was spoiling the trip entirely by his economies, and that she ha_et her heart on the Villa Igeia. Then Dad took me aside and said that h_idn't wish to be reckless, but he didn't want to thwart Anna's wishe_ntirely, and was there nothing in the way of compromise? It ended by thei_taying two days here, and Anna said she thought it was very nice FOR ME. The_hey went to the Palmes, which is entirely up to Anna's ideas of luxury, an_he is delighted."
Somers had fourteen letters by this mail. He read them with a sort o_oathing, one after the other, piling them up on his left hand for Harriet, and throwing the envelopes in the fire. By the time he had done he wished tha_very mail-boat would go down that was bringing any letter to him, that _lood would rise and cover Europe entirely, that he could have a littl_peration performed that would remove from him for ever his memory of Europ_nd everything in it—and so on. Then he went out and looked at the Pacific. H_adn't even the heart to bathe, and he felt so trite, with all those letters; he felt quite capable of saying "Good dog" to the sea: to quote one of th_uips from the Bulletin. The sea that had been so full of potency, before th_ostman rode up on his pony and whistled with his policeman's whistle fo_omers to come to the gate for that mass of letters. Never had Richard Lova_omers felt so filled with spite against everybody he had ever known in th_ld life, as now.
"And there was I, knave, fool, and ninny, whining to go back to Europe, an_busing Australia for not being like it. That horrible, horrible staleness o_urope, and all their trite consciousness, and their dreariness. Th_reariness? The sterility of their feelings? And here was I carping a_angaroo and at Jack Callcott, who are golden wonders compared with anything _ave known in the old world. Australia has got some real, positiv_ndifference to "questions", but Europe is one big wriggling question an_othing else. A tangle of quibbles. I'd rather be shot here next week, tha_uibble the rest of my life away in over-upholstered Europe."
He left off kicking himself, and went down to the shore to get away fro_imself. After all, he knew the endless water would soon make him forget. I_ad a language which spoke utterly without concern of him, and this utte_nconcern gradually soothed him of himself and his world. He began to forget.
There had been a squall in the night. At the tip of the rock-shelves above th_aves men and youths, with bare, reddish legs, were fishing with lines fo_lackfish. They looked like animal creatures perching there, and lik_reatures they were passive or darting in their movements. A big albatros_wung slowly down the surf: albatross or mollyhawk, with wide, waving wings.
The sea had thrown up, all along the surf-line, queer glittery creatures tha_ooked like thin blown glass. They were bright transparent bladders of th_ost delicate ink-blue, with a long crest of deeper blue, and blind ends o_ranslucent purple. And they had bunches of blue, blue strings, and one lon_lue string that trailed almost a yard across the sand, straight and blue an_ranslucent. They must have been some sort of little octopus, with the brigh_lass bladder, big as smallish narrow pears, with a blue frill along the to_o float them, and the strings to feel with—and perhaps the long string t_nchor by. Who knows? Yet there they were, soft, brilliant, like pouches o_railest sea-glass. It reminded Somers of the glass they blow at Butano, a_enice. But there they never get the lovely soft texture and the colour.
The sky was tufted with cloud, and in the afternoon veils of rain swept her_nd there across the sea, in a changing wind. But then it cleared again, an_omers and Harriet walked along the sands, watching the blue sky mirror purpl_nd the white clouds mirror warm on the wet sand. The sea talked and talke_ll the time, in its disintegrative, elemental language. And at last it talke_ts way into Somers' soul, and he forgot the world again, the babel. Th_implicity came back, and with it the inward peace. The world had left hi_gain. He had been thinking, in his anger of the morning, that he would ge_ack to teach him to shoot with a rifle and a revolver, so that he might tak_is part. He had never shot with a gun in his life, so he had thought it wa_igh time to begin. But now he went back on his thoughts. What did he wan_ith guns or revolvers? Nothing. He had nothing to do with them, as he ha_othing to do with so much that is in the world of man. When he was trul_imself he had a quiet stillness in his soul, an inward trust. Faith, undefined and undefinable. Then he was at peace with himself. Not content, bu_eace like a river, something flowing and full. A stillness at the very core.
But faith in what? In himself, in mankind, in the destiny of mankind? No, no.
In Providence, in Almighty God? No, not even that. He tried to think of th_ark God he declared he served. But he didn't want to. He shrank away from th_ffort. The fair morning seaward world, full of bubbles of life.
So again came back to him the ever-recurring warning that SOME men must o_heir own choice and will listen only to the living life that is a rising tid_n their own being, and listen, listen, listen for the injunctions, and giv_eed and know and speak and obey all they can. Some men must live by thi_nremitting inwardness, no matter what the rest of the world does. They mus_ot let the rush of the world's "outwardness" sweep them away: or if they ar_wept away, they must struggle back. Somers realised that he had had a frigh_gainst being swept away, because he half wanted to be swept away: but tha_ow, thank God, he was flowing back. Not like the poor, weird "ink-bubbles", left high and dry on the sands.
Now he could remember the frenzied outward rushing of the vast masses o_eople, away from themselves, without being driven mad by it. But it seeme_trange to him that they should rush like this in their vast herds, outwards, outwards, always frenziedly outwards, like souls with hydrophobia rushing awa_rom the pool of water. He himself, when he was caught up in the rush, fel_ortured and maddened, it was an agony of irritation to him till he could fee_imself drifting back again like a creature into the sea. The sea of his ow_nward soul, his own unconscious faith, over which his will had no exercise.
Why did the mass of people not want this stillness and this peace with thei_wn being? Why did they want cinemas and excitements? Excitements are a_auseous as sea-sickness. Why does the world want them?
It is their problem. They must go their way. But some men, some women mus_tay by their own inmost being, in peace, and without envy. And there in th_tillness listen, listen, and try to know, and try to obey. From th_nnermost, not from the outside. It is so lovely, the peace. But poor dea_ichard, he was only resting and basking in the old sunshine just now, afte_is fray. The fight would come again, and only in the fight would his sou_urn its way once more to the knowledge, the intense knowledge of his "dar_od". The other was so much sweeter and easier, while it lasted.
At tea-time it began to rain again. Somers sat on the verandah looking at th_ark green sea, with its films of floating yellow light between the ruffle_aves. Far back, in the east, was a cloud that was a rainbow. It was a piec_f rainbow, but not sharp, in a band; it was a tall fume far back among th_louds of the sea-wall.
"Who is there that you feel you are with, besides me—or who feel themselve_ith you?" Harriet was asking.
"No one," he replied. And at the same moment he looked up and saw the rainbo_ume beyond the sea. But it was on a dark back ground, like a coloure_arkness. The rainbow was always a symbol to him—a good symbol: of this peace.
A pledge of unbroken faith, between the universe and the innermost. And th_ery moment he said "No one," he saw the rainbow for an answer.
Many times in his life he had seen a rainbow. The last had been on his arriva_n Sydney. For some reason he felt absolutely wretched and dismal on tha_aturday morning when the ship came into Sydney harbour. He had an unspeakabl_esire not to get out of the ship, not to go down on to the quay and into tha_own. The having to do it was a violation of himself. When he came on dec_fter breakfast and the ship had stopped, it was pouring with rain, the P. an_. wharf looked black and dismal, empty. It might almost have been a_bandoned city. He walked round to the starboard side, to look towards th_nimposing hillock of the city and the Circular Quay. Black, all black an_nutterably dismal in the pouring rain, even the green grass of the Botanica_ardens, and the bits of battlement of the Conservatorium. Unspeakabl_orlorn. Yet over it all, spanning the harbour, the most magnificent grea_ainbow. His mood was so miserable he didn't want to see it. But it wa_navoidable. A huge, brilliant, supernatural rainbow, spanning all Sydney.
He was thinking of this, and still watching the dark-green, yellow-reflectin_ea, that was like a northern sea, a Whitby sea, and watching the far-off fum_f a dark rainbow apparition, when Harriet heard somebody at the door. It wa_illiam James, who had an hour to wait for his train, and thought the_ouldn't mind if he looked in. They were pleased, and Harriet brought him _up and plate.
Thank goodness he, too, came in a certain stillness of spirit, saying ver_ittle, but being a quiet, grateful presence. When the tea was finished he an_omers sat back on the verandah out of the wind, and watched the yellow, cloudy evening sink. They hardly spoke, but lay lying back in the deckchairs.
"I was wondering," said Somers, "whom Kangaroo depends on mostly for hi_ollowing."
William James looked back at him, with quiet, steady eyes.
"On the diggers—the returned soldiers chiefly: and the sailors."
"Of what class?"
"Of any class. But there aren't many rich ones. Mostly like me and Jack, no_uite simple working men. A few doctors and architects and that sort."
"And do you think it means much to them?"
Jaz shifted his thick body uneasily in his chair.
You never can tell," he said.
"That's true," said Somers. "I don't really know how much Jack Callcott cares.
I really can't make out."
"He cares as much as about anything," said Jaz. "Perhaps a bit more. It's mor_xciting."
"Do you think it IS the excitement they care about chiefly?"
"I should say so. You can die in Australia if you don't get a bit o_xcitement." There was silence for a minute or two.
"In my opinion," said Somers, "it has to go deeper than excitement." Again Ja_hifted uneasily in his chair.
"Oh, well—they don't set much store on deepness over here. It's easy come, easy go, as a rule. Yet they're staunch chaps while the job lasts, you know.
They are true to their mates, as a rule."
"I believe they are. It's the afterwards."
"Oh, well—afterwards is afterwards, as Jack always says." Again the two me_ere silent.
"If they cared deeply—" Somers began slowly—but he did not continue, it seeme_atuous. Jaz did not answer for some time.
"You see, it hasn't come to that with them," he said. "It might, perhaps, onc_hey'd actually done the thing. It might come home to them then; they migh_AVE to care. It might be a force-put. THEN they'd need a man."
"They've got Kangaroo," said Somers.
"You think Kangaroo would get them over the fence?" said Jaz carefully, looking up at Somers.
"He seems as if he would. He's a wonderful person. And there seems n_lternative to him."
"Oh yes, he's a wonderful person. Perhaps a bit too much of a wonder. _atchet doesn't look anything like so spanking as a lawn-mower, does it now, but it'll make a sight bigger clearing."
"That's true," said Somers, laughing. "But Kangaroo isn't a lawn-mower."
"Oh, I don't say so," smiled Jaz fidgeting on his chair. "I should like t_ear your rock-bottom opinion of him though."
"I should like to hear yours," said Somers, "You know him much better than _o. I haven't got a rock-bottom opinion of him yet."
"It's not a matter of the time you've known him," said Jaz. He was manifestl_edging, and trying to get at something. "You know I belong to his gang, don'_ou?"
"Yes," said Somers, wondering at the word "gang".
"And for that reason I oughtn't to criticize him, ought I?"
Somers reflected for some moments.
"There's no oughts, if you FEEL critical," he answered.
"I think you feel critical of him yourself at times," said Jaz, looking u_ith a slow, subtle smile of cunning: like a woman's disconcerting intuitiv_nowledge. It laid Somers' soul bare for the moment. He reflected. He ha_ledged no allegiance to Kangaroo.
"Yet," he said aloud to Jaz, "if I HAD joined him I wouldn't want to hinde_im."
"No, we don't want to hinder him. But we need to know where we are. Supposin_ou were in my position—and you DIDN'T feel sure of things! A man has to loo_hings in the face. You yourself, now—you're holding back, aren't you?"
"I suppose I am," said Richard, "But then I hold back from everything."
Jaz looked at him searchingly.
You don't like to commit yourself?" he said, with a sly smile.
"Not altogether that. I'd commit myself, if I could. It's just somethin_nside me shakes its head and holds back."
Jaz studied his knuckles for some time.
"Yes," he said slowly. "Perhaps you can afford to stand out. You've got you_ife in other things. Some of us feel we haven't got any life if we're not—i_e're not mixed up in something." He paused, and Richard waited. "But th_oint is this—" Jaz looked up again with his light-grey, serpent's eyes. "D_ou yourself see Kangaroo pulling it off?" There was a subtle mockery in th_uestion.
"Why—you know. This revolution, and this new Australia. Do you see hi_iguring on the Australian postage stamps—and running the country like a ne_erusalem?"
"The eyes watched Richard fixedly.
"If he's got a proper backing, why not?" Somers answered.
"I don't say why not. I ask you, WILL HE? Won't you say how you feel?"
Richard sat quite still, not even thinking, but suspending himself. And in th_uspense his heart went sad, oh so empty, inside him. He looked at Jaz, an_he two men read the meaning in each other's eyes.
"You think he won't?" said Jaz, triumphing.
"No, I think he won't," said Richard. "There now. I knew you felt like that."
"And yet," said Richard, "if men were men still—if they had any of that belie_n love they pretend to have—if they were FIT to follow Kangaroo," he adde_iercely, feeling grief in his heart.
Jaz dropped his head and studied his knuckles, a queer, blank smile settin_ound his mouth.
"You have to take things as they are," he said in a small voice.
Richard sat silent, his heart for the moment broken again.
"And," added Jaz, looking up with a slow, subtle smile, "if men aren't wha_angaroo wants them to be, why should they be? If they don't want a ne_erusalem, why should they have it? It's another catch. They like to hea_angaroo's sweet talk—and they'll probably follow him if he'll bring off _ood big row, and they think he can make it all pretty afterwards." Again h_miled, but bitterly, mockingly. "I don't know why I say these things to you, I'm sure. But it's as well for a man to get to the bottom of what he thinks, isn't it? And I feel, you know, that you and me think alike, if we allo_urselves to think."
Richard looked at him, but never answered. He felt somehow treacherous.
"Kangaroo's clever," resumed Jaz. "He's a Jew, and he's damn clever. Mayb_e's the cleverest. I'll tell you why. You're not offended now at what I say, are you?"
"What's the good of being offended by anything, if it's a genuine opinion?"
"Well now, that's what I mean. And I say Kangaroo is cleverer than the Re_eople, because he can make it look as if it would be all rosy afterwards, yo_now, everything as good as apple pie. I tell you what. All these Reds an_.W.W.'s and all, why don't they make their revolution? Because they'r_rightened of it when they've made it. They're not frightened of hanging al_he capitalists and such. But they're frightened to death of having to kee_hings going afterwards. They're frightened to death." Jaz smiled to himsel_ith a chuckle. "Nothing frightens them so much as the thought of having t_ook after things when their revolution is made. It frightens them to death.
And that's why they won't make their grand revolution. Never. Unless somebod_hoves them into it. That's why they've got this new cry: Make the revolutio_y degrees, through winning in politics. But that's no revolution, you know.
It's the same old thing with a bit of difference, such a small bit o_ifference that you'd never notice it if you weren't made to."
"I think that's true," said Richard. "Nobody's more frightened of a Re_evolution than the Reds themselves. They just absolutely funk it."
"There now—that's the word—they funk it. Yet, you know, they're all ready fo_t. And if you got them started, if you could, they'd make a clearance, lik_hey did in Russia. And we could do with that, don't you think?"
"I do," said Richard, sighing savagely.
"Well now, my idea's this. Couldn't we get Kangaroo—to join the Reds—th_.W.W.'s and all? Couldn't we get him to use all his men to back Red Labour i_his country, and blow a cleavage through the old system. Because, you kno_e's got the trump cards in his hands. These Diggers' Clubs, they've got al_he army men, dying for another scrap. And then a sort of secret organisatio_as ten times the hold over men than just a Labour Party, or a Trades Union.
He's damned clever, he's got a wonderful scheme ready. But he'll spoil it, because he'll want it all to happen without hurting anybody. Won't he now?"
"Except a few."
"Oh yes—maybe four of his enemies. But he wants to blow the house up withou_reaking the windows. He thinks he can turn the country upside-down withou_pilling milk, let alone blood. Now the Reds, let them loose, would make _ole in things. Only they'll never move on their own responsibility. The_aven't got the guts, the stomach, the backbone."
"You're so clever, Jaz. I wonder you're not a leader yourself."
"Me?" A slow ironical smile wreathed his face. "You're being sarcastic wit_e, Mr. Somers." "Not at all. I think you're amazing."
Jaz only smiled sceptically still.
"You take what I mean, though, do you?"
"And what do you think of it?"
"But isn't it feasible? You get Kangaroo, with his Diggers—the cleverest ide_n the country, really—to quietly come in with the Reds, and explode _evolution over here. You could soon do it, in the cities: and the countr_ouldn't help itself. You let the Reds appear in the front, and take all th_hine. You keep a bit of a brake on them. You let them call a Soviet, o_hatever they want, and get into a real mess over it. And then Kangaroo step_n with the balm of Gilead and the New Jerusalem. But let them play Old Tomm_enkins first with Capital and State Industries and the free press an_eligious sects. And then Kangaroo steps in like a redeeming angel, an_eminds us that it's God's Own Country, so we're God's Own People, and make_s feel good again. Like Solomon, when David has done the dirty work."
"The only point," said Somers smiling, "is that an Australian Lenin and a_ustralian Trotsky might pop up in the scrimmage, and then Kangaroo could tak_o the bush again.
Jaz shook his head.
"They wouldn't," he said. "There's nobody with any grip. And you'd see, i_his country, people would soon want to be good again, because it costs the_east effort."
"Perhaps Kangaroo is right, and they don't want to be anything BUT good."
Jaz shook his head.
"It's not goodness they're after just now," he said. "They want to rip thing_p, or they want nothing. They aren't ready to come under Kangaroo's lovin_ing just yet. They'd as leave be under King George's thumb, they can peep ou_asier. It seems to me, it's SPITE that's at the bottom, with most men. An_hey've got to let it out before anything's any good."
Somers began to feel tired now.
"But after all, Jaz," he said, "what have I got to do with it?"
"You can put it to Kangaroo. You can make him see it. And you can keep him t_t, if you promise him you'll stick to him."
"Me a power behind the throne?" protested the truly sceptical Richard.
"I take it you don't want to sit on the throne yourself," smiled Jaz. "An_angaroo's got more the figure. But what do you think of it?"
Somers was silent. He now was smiling subtly and ironically, and Jaz wa_atching him sharply, like a man who wants something. Jaz waited.
"I'm afraid, Jaz," said Somers, "that, like Nietzsche, I no longer believe i_reat events. The war was a great event—and it made everything more pretty. _oubt if I care about the mass of mankind, Jaz. You make them more than eve_istasteful to me.
"Oh, you know, you needn't commit yourself. You've only to be friendly wit_angaroo, and work him into it. You know you said yourself you'd give anythin_o have a clearance made, in the world."
"I know. Sometimes I feel I'd give anything, soul and body, for a smash up i_his social-industrial world we're in. And I would. And then when I realis_eople—just people—the same people after it as before—why, Jaz, then I don'_are any more, and feel it's time to turn to the gods."
"You feel there's any gods to turn to, do you?" asked Jaz, with the sarcasm o_isappointment.
"I feel it would probably be like Messina before and after the earthquake.
Before the earthquake it was what is called a fine town, but commercial, low, and hateful. You felt you'd be glad if it was wiped out. After the earthquak_t was horrible heaps of mortar and rubble, and now it's rows and rows of woo_nd tin shanties, streets of them, and more commercial, lower than ever, an_nfinitely more ugly. That would probably be the world after your revolution.
No, Jaz, I leave mankind to its own contrivances, and turn to the gods."
"But you'll say a word to Kangaroo?" said Jaz, persistent.
"Yes, if I feel like it," said Richard.
Darkness had almost fallen, and Somers shivered as he rose to go indoors.
Next morning, when Somers had made the coffee, he and Harriet sat on th_oggia at breakfast. It rained in the night, and the sea was whitish, sluggish, with soft, furry waves that had no plunge. The last thin flush o_oam behaved queerly, running along with a straight, swift splash, just a_hen a steel rope rips out of water, as a tug hauls suddenly, jerking up _hite splash that runs along its length.
"What had William James so much to say about?" asked Harriet, on the warpath.
"Why don't you have the strength of mind not to ask?" he replied. "You kno_t's better you left it alone: that I'm not supposed to blab."
She gave him one fierce look, then went pale with anger. She was silent fo_ome time. Then she burst out:
"Pah, as if I cared to know! What is all their revolution bosh to me! Ther_ave been revolutions enough, in my opinion, and each one more foolish tha_he last. And this will be the most foolish of the lot. And what have YOU go_o do with revolutions, you petty and conceited creature? You and revolutions!
You're not big enough, not grateful enough to do anything real. I give you m_nergy and my life, and you want to put me aside as if I was a charwoman.
Acknowledge ME first, before you can be any good." With which she swallowe_er coffee and rose from the table.
He finished too, and got up to carry in the cups and do the few chores tha_emained for his share. He always got up in the morning, made the fire, swep_he room, and tidied roughly. Then he brought in coal and wood, made th_reakfast, and did any little out-door job. After breakfast he helped to was_p, and settled the fire. Then he considered himself free to his own devices.
Harriet could see to the rest.
His devices were not very many. He tried to write, that being his job. Bu_sually, nowadays, when he tapped his unconscious, he found himself in _eethe of steady fury, general rage. He didn't hate anybody in particular, no_ven any class or body of men. He loathed politicians, and the well-bre_arling young men of the well-to-do middle classes made his bile stir. But h_idn't fret himself about them specially. The off-hand self-assertive workin_eople of Australia made him feel diabolic on their score sometimes. But as _ule the particulars were not in evidence, all the rocks were submerged, an_is bile swirled diabolically for no particular reason at all. He just fel_enerally diabolical, and tried merely to keep enough good sense not to tur_is temper in any particular direction.
"You think that nothing but goodness and virtue and wonderfulness comes out o_ou," was one of Harriet's accusations against him. "You don't know how smal_nd mean and ugly you are to other people."
"Which means I am small and ugly and mean in her eyes," he thought to himself.
"All because of this precious gratitude which I am supposed to feel toward_er, I suppose. Damn her and her gratitude. When she thwarts me and puts me i_ temper I DON'T feel anything but spite. Damn her impudent gratitude."
But Harriet was not going to be ignored: no, she was not. She was not going t_ink herself to the level of a convenience. She didn't really wan_rotestations of gratitude or love. They only puzzled her and confused her.
But she wanted him INWARDLY to keep a connection with her. Silently, he mus_aintain the flow between him and her, and safeguard it carefully. It is _hing which a man cannot do with his head: it isn't REMEMBERING. And it is _hing which a woman cannot explain or understand, because it is quit_rrational. But it is one of the deepest realities in life. When a man an_oman truly come together, when there is a marriage, then an unconscious, vital connection is established between them, like a throbbing blood-circuit.
A man may forget a woman entirely with his head, and fling himself with energ_nd fervour into whatever job he is tackling, and all is well, all is good, i_e does not break that inner vital connection which is the mystery o_arriage. But let him once get out of unison, out of conjunction, let hi_nwardly break loose and come apart, let him fall into that worst of mal_ices, the vice of abstraction and mechanisation, and have a concert o_orking ALONE and of himself, then he commits the breach. He hurts the woma_nd he hurts himself, though neither may know why. The greatest hero that eve_xisted was heroic only whilst he kept the throbbing inner union wit_omething, God, or Fatherland, or woman. The most immediate is woman, th_ife. But the most grovelling wife-worshippers are the foulest of traitors an_enegades to the inner unison. A man must strive onward, but from the root o_arriage, marriage with God, with wife, with mankind. Like a tree that i_ooted, always growing and flowering away from its root, so is a vitall_ctive man. But let him take some false direction, and there is tortur_hrough the whole organism, roots and all. The woman suffers blindly from th_an's mistaken direction, and reacts blindly.
Now in this revolution stunt, and his insistence on "male" activity, Somer_ad upturned the root flow, and Harriet was a devil to him—quite rightly—fo_e knew that inside himself he was devilish. She tried to keep her kindnes_nd happiness. But no, it was false when the inner connection was betrayed. S_er silent rage accumulated, and it was no good playing mental tricks o_uppression with it. As for him, he was forced to recognize the devil in hi_wn belly. He just felt devilish. While Harriet went about trying to be fai_nd happy, he realised that it was awful for him to be there, as black insid_s an ink-bottle; however, he practised being nice. Theoretically he wa_rateful to her, and all that. But nothing conjured away that bellyful o_lack devilishness with which he was enceinte. He really felt like a woman wh_s with child by a corrosive fiend. In his lower man, just girning an_emoniacal. No good pretending otherwise. No good playing tricks of bein_ice. Seven-thousand devils!
When he saw a motor-car parked in the waste lot next to Coo-ee, and saw tw_omen in twelve-guinea black coats and skirts hobbling across the grass to th_ungalow farther down, perhaps wanting to hire it: then the devil came and sa_lack and naked in his eyes. They hobbled along the uneven place so commonly, they looked so crassly common in spite of their tailors' bills, so LOW, i_pite of their motor-car, that the devil in him fairly lashed its tail like _at. And yet, he knew, they were probably just two nice, kindly women, as th_orld goes. And truly, even the devil in him did not want to do them an_ERSONAL harm. If they had fallen, or got into difficulty, he would have gon_ut at once to help them all he could. And yet, at the sight of their backs i_heir tailored "costumes" hobbling past the bushes, the devil in him lashe_ts tail till he writhed.
So there you are. Or rather, there was Richard Lovat Somers. He tried t_quare accounts with himself. Surely, he said to himself, I am not just merel_ sort of human bomb, all black inside, waiting to explode I don't know whe_r how or where. That's what I seem like to myself, nowadays. Yet surely it i_ot the only truth about me. When I feel at peace with myself, and, as i_ere, so quietly at the CENTRE of things—like last evening, for example—surel_hat is also me. Harriet seems fairly to detest me for having this nic_eeling all to myself. Well, it wasn't my fault if I had it. I did have it.
What does she want? She won't leave a fellow alone. I felt fairly beatifi_ast evening—I felt I could swim Australia into a future, and that Jaz wa_onderful, and I was a sort of central angel. So now I must admit I a_labbergasted at finding my devil coiled up exultant like a black cat in m_elly this morning, purring all the more loudly because of my "goodness" o_ast evening, and lashing his tail so venomously at the sight of the two wome_n the black "costumes". Is this devil after all my god? Do I stand with th_ebbil-debbil worshippers, in spite of all my efforts and protestations?
This morning I do, and I admit it. I can't help it: it is so, then let it b_o. I shall change again, I know. I shall feel white again, and like a pearl, suave and quiet within the oyster of time. I shall feel again that, given bu_he ANSWER, the black poisonous bud will burst into a lovely new, unknow_lower in me. The bud is deadly poison: the flower will be the flower of th_ree of life. If Harriet let me alone, and people like Jaz really believed i_e! Because they have a right to believe in me when I am at my best. O_erhaps he believes in me when I am my worst, and Kangaroo likes me when I a_ood. Yet I don't really like Kangaroo. The devil in me fairly hates him. Hi_nd everybody. Well, all right then, if I AM finally a sort of human bomb, black inside, and primed; I hope the hour and the place will come for my goin_ff: for my exploding with the maximum amount of havoc. SOME men have to b_ombs, to explode and make breaches in the walls that shut life in. Blind, havoc-working bombs too. Then so be it.
That morning as luck would have it Somers read an article by A. Meston in a_ld Sydney Daily Telegraph, headed:
IS AUSTRALIA SAFE?
The fact that Australia so far has had no trouble with volcanoes o_arthquakes, and appears to be the most immune country in the world, account_or our entire indifference to the whole subject. But here are phases of thi_roblem entitled to some serious consideration by those in whom the thinkin_nd observant faculties are not altogether dormant, and who have not a calm, cool disregard of very ominous inexorable facts. Australia is a very peacefu_eposeful area, with the serious volcanoes of New Zealand on one side, and th_till more serious volcanoes of Java on the other. We live in a soft flower_eadow between two jungles, a lion in one and a tiger in the other, but a_either animal has chased or bitten us, up to the present time, we go calml_o sleep quite satisfied they are harmless.
Now the line of volcanic action on the east coast of Australia is very clearl_efined, from the basalt of Illawarra, north to the basalt within three mile_f Cape York. The chief areas over all that distance are the Big Scrub on th_ichmond River, the Darling Downs, and the Atherton Tableland, behind Cairns.
These are the largest basalt areas in Australia, the Darling Downs an_therton containing each about 2,000,000 acres of basalt, the one chiefl_lack, and the other all red. The other conspicuous areas are the red basal_sis and Woongarra scrubs, and north of Atherton the next basalt area is o_he McIvor and Morgan Rivers, 40 miles north of Cooktown. From there I saw n_asalt on the coast of the Peninsula, until somewhat surprised to find grea_iles of black basaltic stone, like artificial quarry heaps, in the dens_eaforthia palm scrubs ten miles west of Somerset.
Here, then, is a clearly defined but very intermittent line of volcanic actio_long our entire east coast for over two thousand miles. Yet to-day there i_ot only not one active volcano on the whole of that area, but not even on_learly authentic dead one. There is nothing to show whence came the basalt o_he Darling Downs, the Big Scrub, or the Atherton Tableland, unless in th_ast case the two deep freshwater lakes, Barrine and Eacham, the Barrang an_eetcham of the aboriginals, represent the craters of extinct volcanoes.
Whence, then, came the basalt spread along a narrow line of our east coast fo_wo thousand miles, and all of it east of the Dividing Range? There is a lo_f room for theories…
When the late Captain Audley Coote was laying the cable from New Caledonia t_andy Cape, at the north end of Fraser Island, on the South Queensland coast, he passed a submerged mountain 6,000 feet in height, and found a tremendou_hasm, so deep that they could find no bottom, and had to work the cable roun_he edge. When he reached the coast of Fraser Island he got the same sounding_s Cook and Flinders and the Admiralty survey in the 'sixties, six to eigh_athoms, but there came a break in the cable in after years, located in tha_ix and eight fathom area, and they found the broken cable hanging over _ubmarine precipice of eight hundred feet.
That I read in Captain Coote's own manuscript journal, and it was confirmed b_aptain John Mackay, the Brisbane harbourmaster, who assured me that an 80_eet chasm had suddenly formed there in the bottom of the ocean!
On the coast of Japan, the ocean bottoms sank in one place suddenly from fou_r five fathoms to 4,000 feet.
The old Fraser Island aboriginals told me that the deep blue lake, two mile_rom the White Cliffs, was once a level plateau, on which their fathers hel_ights and corroborees, and that it sank in one night. On the North Queenslan_oast, there is fairly shallow water from the seashore out to the edge of th_arrier, and then the ocean goes down to depths up to two and three thousan_eet, so if the sea were removed you would look down from the outer Barrie_nto a tremendous valley with a wall of granite cliffs.
When the town of Port Royal in Jamaica was destroyed by an earthquake on Jun_, 1692, the houses all disappeared into an ocean chasm 300 feet in depth; an_n the terrible earthquake at Lisbon, 1755, destroying 2,000 houses and 5,00_eople, the wharves and piers, and even the vessels lying beside them, disappeared into some tremendous gulf, leaving no trace whatever.
It is a singular fact that the heights of the loftiest mountains correspon_ith the depths of the deepest seas, and that the 29,000 feet of Mount Everes_s equal with what is known as the "Tuscarora Deep", fathomed by the U.S.A.
ISLANDS THAT VANISHED.
From the days of Seneca there are records of islands suddenly appearing befor_stonished mariners, and others disappearing suddenly before mariners equall_stonished. In the dreadful volcanic explosion of Krakatoa in August, 1883, one mountain peak was blown to pieces, while others were thrown up from th_cean. The tidal wave created by Krakatoa destroyed 40,000 people, and the ai_ave from the concussion pulsated three times round the world. And Krakato_nd the Javanese volcanoes are only a short distance from the coast o_ustralia!
Doubtless many of the ships that have mysteriously disappeared, leaving n_race, have gone down in the vortex of a submarine earthquake, or a chas_reated by a sudden shrinkage in the bottom of the ocean. From the facts abov_vailable it is reasonable to believe that the present continent of Australi_s only a portion of the original, and that in some remote period it extende_undreds or thousands of miles to the eastward, probably including Lord How_nd Norfolk Islands and New Zealand, possibly New Caledonia. How came th_ncient Cretaceous Ocean, which once covered all Central Australia, from th_ulf to the Bight, to withdraw from the land, leaving nothing but marin_ossils in the desert sandstone?
Was the Cretaceous Ocean shallow all round this continent, and did it suddenl_ubside to fill some tremendous chasm caused by a sudden submarine shrinkag_f the earth's crust, followed by the inland sea which naturally rushed ou_nto the vacancy?
What seems the only real danger to Australia lies not in the eruptions of som_uddenly created new volcano, or any ordinary earthquake, but in just suc_hrinkages in the sea bottom as occurred on the coast of Japan, off Frase_sland, and many other localities, including Lisbon and Port Royal.
If such a subsidence were to come under Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide o_risbane, it might be of such a magnitude that the whole city would disappea_nto the gulf.
We know nothing whatever of the awful forces at work beneath the crust of th_arth, and nothing of the internal fires, or that awful subterranean abod_here Shelley said "the old earthquake Demon nurses her young Ruin". Th_istory of volcanoes and earthquakes is an appalling record of lost countles_illions of lives and awful destruction.
One Peking earthquake destroyed 300,000 people, one in Naples 70,000, anothe_t Naples 40,000; and we are not far from July, 1902, when the volcano o_ount Pelee, in the island of Martinique, wiped out the town of St. Pierre an_0,000 inhabitants.
Still nearer is that 18th April, 1906, when the San Francisco earthquak_illed over a thousand people, and did damage to the extent of sixty millions.
And so far in Australian history we have not had an earthquake that woul_apsize a tumbler of hot punch.
Why hot punch, thought Somers, why not hot bitters or ice-cream soda, whic_re much more Austral and to the point? But he had read this almost thrillin_it of journalism with satisfaction. If the mother earth herself is s_nstable, and upsets the applecart without caring a straw, why, what can a ma_ay to himself if he DOES happen to have a devil in his belly!
And he looked at the ocean uneasily moving, and wondered when next it woul_hrust an angry shoulder out of the watery bed-covering, to give things _ittle jog. Or when his own devil would get a leg up into affairs.