Part 1 out of 4
Produced by Audrey Longhurst, Mary Meehan and the Online Distributed
A TRAGI-FARCICAL TRACT
BY ROSE MACAULAY
Author of 'What Not,' etc.
TO THE UNSENTIMENTAL PRECISIANS IN THOUGHT, WHO HAVE, ON THIS CONFUSED,
INACCURATE, AND EMOTIONAL PLANET, NO FIT HABITATION
'They contract a Habit of talking loosely and confusedly.'--J. CLARKE.
'My dear friend, clear your mind of cant.... Don't _think_ foolishly.'
'On the whole we are
No, no, no, not intelligent.'--W.S. GILBERT.
'Truth may perhaps come to the price of a Pearle, that sheweth best by
day; But it will not rise to the price of a Diamond or Carbuncle, that
sheweth best in varied lights. A mixture of a Lie doth ever adde
Pleasure. Doth any man doubt, that if there were taken out of men's
mindes Vaine Opinions, Blattering Hopes, False Valuations, Imaginations
as one would, and the like, but it would leave the Mindes of a Number of
Men poore shrunken Things, full of Melancholy and Indisposition and
unpleasing to themselves?'--FRANCIS BACON.
'What is it that smears the windows of the senses? Thought, convention,
self-interest.... We see the narrow world our windows show us not in
itself, but in relation to our own needs, moods, and preferences ... for
the universe of the natural man is strictly egocentric.... Unless we
happen to be artists--and then but rarely--we never know the "thing seen"
in its purity; never from birth to death, look at it with disinterested
eyes.... It is disinterestedness, the saint's and poet's love of things
for their own sakes ... which is the condition of all real knowledge....
When ... the verb "to have" is ejected from the centre of your
consciousness ... your attitude to life will cease to be commercial and
become artistic. Then the guardian at the gate, scrutinising and sorting
the incoming impressions, will no longer ask, "What use is this to
_me?_"... You see things at last as the artist does, for their sake, not
for your own.'--EVELYN UNDERHILL.
PART I.--TOLD BY R.M.
IV. JANE AND CLARE
PART II.--TOLD BY GIDEON
II. DINING WITH THE HOBARTS
III. SEEING JANE
PART III.--TOLD BY LELIA YORKE
I. THE TERRIBLE TRAGEDY ON THE STAIRS
II. AN AWFUL SUSPICION
PART IV.--TOLD BY KATHERINE VARICK
A BRANCH OF STUDY
PART V.--TOLD BY JUKE
PART VI.--TOLD BY R.M.
I. THE END OF A POTTER MELODRAMA
II. ENGAGED TO BE MARRIED
III. THE PRECISIAN AT WAR WITH THE WORLD
IV. RUNNING AWAY
V. A PLACARD FOR THE PRESS
TOLD BY R.M.
Johnny and Jane Potter, being twins, went through Oxford together. Johnny
came up from Rugby and Jane from Roedean. Johnny was at Balliol and Jane
at Somerville. Both, having ambitions for literary careers, took the
Honours School of English Language and Literature. They were ordinary
enough young people; clever without being brilliant, nice-looking without
being handsome, active without being athletic, keen without being
earnest, popular without being leaders, open-handed without being
generous, as revolutionary, as selfish, and as intellectually snobbish as
was proper to their years, and inclined to be jealous one of the other,
but linked together by common tastes and by a deep and bitter distaste
for their father's newspapers, which were many, and for their mother's
novels, which were more. These were, indeed, not fit for perusal at
Somerville and Balliol. The danger had been that Somerville and Balliol,
till they knew you well, should not know you knew it.
In their first year, the mother of Johnny and Jane ('Leila Yorke,' with
'Mrs. Potter' in brackets after it), had, after spending Eights Week at
Oxford, announced her intention of writing an Oxford novel. Oh God, Jane
had cried within herself, not that; anything but that; and firmly she
and Johnny had told her mother that already there were _Keddy_, and
_Sinister Street_, and _The Pearl_, and _The Girls of St. Ursula's_ (by
Annie S. Swan: 'After the races were over, the girls sculled their
college barge briskly down the river,'), and that, in short, the thing
had been done for good and all, and that was that.
Mrs. Potter still thought she would like to write an Oxford novel.
Because, after all, though there might be many already, none of them were
quite like the one she would write. She had tea with Jane in the
Somerville garden on Sunday, and though Jane did not ask any of her
friends to meet her (for they might have got put in) she saw them all
about, and thought what a nice novel they would make. Jane knew she was
thinking this, and said, 'They're very commonplace people,' in a
discouraging tone. 'Some of them,' Jane added, deserting her own
snobbishness, which was intellectual, for her mother's, which was social,
'are also common.'
'There must be very many,' said Mrs. Potter, looking through her
lorgnette at the garden of girls, 'who are neither.'
'Fewer,' said Jane, stubbornly, 'than you would think. Most people are
one or the other, I find. Many are both.'
'Try not to be cynical, my pet,' said Leila Yorke, who was never this.
That was in June, 1912. In June, 1914, Jane and Johnny went down.
Their University careers had been creditable, if not particularly
conspicuous. Johnny had been a fluent speaker at the Union, Jane at the
women's intercollegiate Debating Society, and also in the Somerville
parliament, where she had been the leader of the Labour Party. Johnny had
for a time edited the _Isis_, Jane the _Fritillary_. Johnny had done
respectably in Schools, Jane rather better. For Jane had always been just
a shade the cleverer; not enough to spoil competition, but enough to give
Johnny rather harder work to achieve the same results. They had probably
both got firsts, but Jane's would be a safe thing, and Johnny would be
likely to have a longish _viva_.
Anyhow, here they were, just returned to Potter's Bar, Herts (where Mr.
Percy Potter, liking the name of the village, had lately built a lordly
mansion). Excellent friends they were, but as jealous as two little dogs,
each for ever on the look-out to see that the other got no undue
advantage. Both saw every reason why they should make a success of life.
But Jane knew that, though she might be one up on Johnny as regards
Oxford, owing to slightly superior brain power, he was one up on her as
regards Life, owing to that awful business sex. Women were handicapped;
they had to fight much harder to achieve equal results. People didn't
give them jobs in the same way. Young men possessed the earth; young
women had to wrest what they wanted out of it piecemeal. Johnny might end
a cabinet minister, a notorious journalist, a Labour leader, anything....
Women's jobs were, as a rule, so dowdy and unimportant. Jane was bored to
death with this sex business; it wasn't fair. But Jane was determined to
live it down. She wouldn't be put off with second-rate jobs; she wouldn't
be dowdy and unimportant, like her mother and the other fools; she would
have the best that was going.
The family dined. At one end of the table was Mr. Potter; a small,
bird-like person, of no presence; you had not thought he was so great
a man as Potter of the Potter Press. For it was a great press; though
not so great as the Northcliffe Press, for it did not produce anything
so good as the _Times_ or so bad as the _Weekly Dispatch_; it was more
of a piece.
Both commonplace and common was Mr. Percy Potter (according to some
standards), but clever, with immense patience, a saving sense of humour,
and that imaginative vision without which no newspaper owner, financier,
general, politician, poet, or criminal can be great. He was, in fact,
greater than the twins would ever be, because he was not at odds with his
material: he found such stuff as his dreams were made of ready to his
hand, in the great heart of the public--the last place where the twins
would have thought of looking.
So did his wife. She was pink-faced and not ill-looking, with the cold
blue eyes and rather set mouth possessed (inexplicably) by many writers
of fiction. If I have conveyed the impression that Leila Yorke was in
the lowest division of this class, I have done her less than justice;
quite a number of novelists were worse. This was not much satisfaction
to her children. Jane said, 'If you do that sort of thing at all, you
might as well make a job of it, and sell a million copies. I'd rather
be Mrs. Barclay or Ethel Dell or Charles Garvice or Gene Stratton
Porter or Ruby Ayres than mother. Mother's merely commonplace; she's
not even a by-word--quite. I admire dad more. Dad anyhow gets there.
His stuff sells.'
Mrs. Potter's novels, as a matter of fact, sold quite creditably. They
were pleasant to many, readable by more, and quite unmarred by any
spark of cleverness, flash of wit, or morbid taint of philosophy.
Gently and unsurprisingly she wrote of life and love as she believed
these two things to be, and found a home in the hearts of many
fellow-believers. She bored no one who read her, because she could be
relied on to give them what they hoped to find--and of how few of us,
alas, can this be said! And--she used to say it was because she was a
mother--her books were safe for the youngest _jeune fille_, and in
these days (even in those days it was so) of loose morality and frank
realism, how important this is.
'I hope I am as modern as any one,' Mrs. Potter would say, 'but I see no
call to be indecent.'
So many writers do see, or rather hear, this call, and obey it
faithfully, that many a parent was grateful to Leila Yorke. (It is only
fair to record here that in the year 1918 she heard it herself, and
became a psychoanalyst. But the time for this was not yet.)
On her right sat her eldest son, Frank, who was a curate in Pimlico. In
Frank's face, which was sharp and thin, like his father's, were the
marks of some conflict which his father's did not know. You somehow felt
that each of the other Potters had one aim, and that Frank had, or,
anyhow, felt that he ought to have, another besides, however feebly he
aimed at it.
Next him sat his young wife, who had, again, only the one. She was pretty
and jolly and brunette, and twisted Frank round her fingers.
Beyond her sat Clare, the eldest daughter, and the daughter at home. She
read her mother's novels, and her father's papers, and saw no harm in
either. She thought the twins perverse and conceited, which came from
being clever at school and college. Clare had never been clever at
anything but domestic jobs and needlework. She was a nice, pretty girl,
and expected to marry. She snubbed Jane, and Jane, in her irritating and
nonchalant way, was rude to her.
On the other side of the table sat the twins, stocky and square-built,
and looking very young, with broad jaws and foreheads and wide-set gray
eyes. Jane was, to look at, something like an attractive little plump
white pig. It is not necessary, at the moment, to say more about her
appearance than this, except that, when the time came to bob the hair,
she bobbed it.
Johnny was as sturdy but rather less chubby, and his chin stuck out
farther. They had the same kind of smile, and square white teeth, and
were greedy. When they had been little, they had watched each other's
plates with hostile eyes, to see that neither got too large a helping.
Those of us who are old enough will remember that in June and July 1914
the conversation turned largely and tediously on militant suffragists,
Irish rebels, and strikers. It was the beginning of the age of violent
enforcements of decision by physical action which has lasted ever since
and shows as yet no signs of passing. The Potter press, like so many
other presses, snubbed the militant suffragists, smiled half approvingly
on Carson's rebels, and frowned wholly disapprovingly on the strikers. It
was a curious age, so near and yet so far, when the ordered frame of
things was still unbroken, and violence a child's dream, and poetry and
art were taken with immense seriousness. Those of us who can remember it
should do so, for it will not return. It has given place to the age of
melodrama, when nothing is too strange to happen, and no one is ever
surprised. That, too, may pass, but probably will not, for it is
primeval. The other was artificial, a mere product of civilisation, and
could not last.
It was in the intervals of talking about the militants (a conversation
much like other conversations on the same topic, which were tedious even
at the time, and now will certainly not bear recording) that Mrs. Frank
said to the twins, 'What are you two going to play at now?'
So extensive a question, opening such vistas. It would have taken, if not
less time, anyhow less trouble, to have told Mrs. Frank what they were
_not_ going to play at.
The devil of mischief looked out of Johnny's gray eyes, as he nearly
said, 'We are going to fight Leila Yorke fiction and the Potter press.'
Choking it back, he said, succinctly, 'Publishing, journalism, and
writing. At least, I am.'
'He means,' Mr. Potter interpolated, in his small, nasal voice, 'that
he has obtained a small and subordinate job with a firm of publishers,
and hopes also to contribute to an obscure weekly paper run by a
friend of his.'
'Oh,' said Mrs. Frank. 'Not one of _your_ papers, pater? Can't be, if
it's obscure, can it?'
'No, not one of my papers. A periodical called, I believe, the _Weekly
Comment_, with which you may or may not be familiar.'
'Never heard of it, I'm afraid,' Mrs. Frank confessed, truly. 'Why don't
you go on to one of the family concerns, Johnny? You'd get on much
quicker there, with pater to shove you.'
'Probably,' Johnny agreed.
'My papers,' said Mr. Potter dryly, 'are not quite up to Johnny's
intellectual level. Nor Jane's. Neither do they accord with their
'Oh, I forgot you two were silly old Socialists. Never mind, that'll pass
when they grow up, won't it, Frank?'
Secretly, Mrs. Frank thought that the twins had the disease because the
Potter family, however respectable now, wasn't really 'top-drawer.'
Funny old pater had, every one knew, begun his career as a reporter on a
provincial paper. If funny old pater had been just a shade less clever or
enterprising, his family would have been educated at grammar schools and
gone into business in their teens. Of course, Mrs. Potter had pulled the
social level up a bit; but what, if you came to that, had Mrs. Potter
been? Only the daughter of a country doctor; only the underpaid secretary
of a lady novelist, for all she was so conceited now.
So naturally Socialism, that disease of the underbred, had taken hold of
the less careful of the Potter young.
'And are you going to write for this weekly what-d'you-call-it too,
Jane?' Mrs. Frank inquired.
'No. I've not got a job yet. I'm going to look round a little first.'
'Oh, that's sense. Have a good time at home for a bit. Well, it's time
you had a holiday, isn't it? I wish old Frank could. He's working like an
old horse. He may slave himself to death for those Pimlico pigs, for all
any of them care. It's never "thank you"; it's always "more, more, more,"
with them. That's your Socialism, Johnny.'
The twins got on very well with their sister-in-law, but thought her a
fool. When, as she was fond of doing, she mentioned Socialism, they,
rightly believing her grasp of that economic system to be even less
complete than that of most people, always changed the subject.
But on this occasion they did not have time to change it before Clare
said, 'Mother's writing a novel about Socialism. She shows it up like
Mrs. Potter smiled.
'I confess I am trying my hand at the burning subject. But as for
showing it up--well, I am being fair to both sides, I think. I don't
feel I can quite condemn it wholesale, as Peggy does. I find it very
difficult to treat anything like that--I can't help seeing all round a
thing. I'm told it's a weakness, and that I should get on better if I
saw everything in black and white, as so many people do, but it's no use
my trying to alter, at my time of life. One has to write in one's own
way or not at all.'
'Anyhow,' said Clare, 'it's going to be a ripping book, _Socialist
Cecily_; quite one of your best, mother.'
Clare had always been her mother's great stand-by in the matter of
literature. She was also useful as a touchstone, as what her mother did
not call a foolometer. If a book went with Clare, it went with Leila
Yorke's public beyond. Mr. Potter was a less satisfactory reader; he
regarded his wife's books as goods for sale, and his comments were, 'That
should go all right. That's done it,' which attitude, though commercially
helpful, was less really satisfying to the creator than Clare's
uncritical absorption in the characters and the story. Clare was, in
fact, the public, while Mr. Potter was more the salesman.
And the twins were neither, but more like the less agreeable type of
reviewer, when they deigned to read or comment on their mother's books at
all, which was not always. Johnny's attitude towards his mother suggested
that he might say politely, if she mentioned her books, 'Oh, do you
write? Why?' Mrs. Potter was rather sadly aware that she made no appeal
to the twins. But then, as Clare reminded her, the twins, since they had
gone to Oxford, never admitted that they cared for any books that normal
people cared for. They were like that; conceited and contrary.
To change the subject (so many subjects are the better for being changed,
as all those who know family life will agree) Jane said, 'Johnny and I
are going on a reading-party next month.'
'A little late in the day, isn't it?' commented Frank, the only one who
knew Oxford habits. 'Unless it's to look up all the howlers you've made.'
'Well,' Jane admitted, 'it won't be so much reading really as observing.
It's a party of investigation, as a matter of fact.'
'What do you investigate? Beetles, or social conditions?'
'People. Their tastes, habits, outlook, and mental diseases. What they
want, and why they want it, and what the cure is. We belong to a society
for inquiring into such things.'
'You would,' said Clare, who always rose when the twins meant her to.
'Aren't they cautions,' said Mrs. Frank, more good-humouredly.
Mrs. Potter said, 'That's a very interesting idea. I think I must join
this society. It would help me in my work. What is it called, children?'
'Oh,' said Jane, and had the grace to look ashamed, 'it really hardly
But as she said it she met the sharp and shrewd eyes of Mr. Potter, and
knew that he knew she was referring to the Anti-Potter League.
Mr. Potter would not, indeed, have been worthy of his reputation had he
not been aware, from its inception, of the existence of this League.
Journalists have to be aware of such things. He in no way resented the
League; he brushed it aside as of no account. And, indeed, it was not
aimed at him personally, nor at his wife personally, but at the great
mass of thought--or of incoherent, muddled emotion that passed for
thought--which the Anti-Potters had agreed, for brevity's sake, to call
'Potterism.' Potterism had very certainly not been created by the
Potters, and was indeed no better represented by the goods with which
they supplied the market than by those of many others; but it was a handy
name, and it had taken the public fancy that here you had two Potters
linked together, two souls nobly yoked, one supplying Potterism in
fictional, the other in newspaper, form. So the name caught, about the
The twins both heard it used at Oxford, in their second year. They
recognised its meaning without being told. And both felt that it was up
to them to take the opportunity of testifying, of severing any connection
that might yet exist in any one's mind between them and the other
products of their parents. They did so, with the uncompromising decision
proper to their years, and with, perhaps, the touch of indecency,
regardlessness of the proprieties, which was characteristic of them.
Their friends soon discovered that they need not guard their tongues in
speaking of Potterism before the Potter twins. The way the twins put it
was, 'Our family is responsible for more than its share of the beastly
thing; the least we can do is to help to do it in,' which sounded
chivalrous. And another way they put it was, 'We're not going to have any
one connecting _us_ with it,' which sounded sensible.
So they joined the Anti-Potter League, not blind to the piquant humour of
their being found therein.
Mr. Potter said to the twins, in his thin little voice, 'Don't mind
mother and me, children. Tell us all about the A.P.L. It may do us good.'
But the twins knew it would not do their mother good. It would need too
much explanation; and then she would still not understand. She might even
be very angry, as she was (though she pretended she was only amused) with
some reviewers.... If your mother is Leila Yorke, and has hard blue eyes
and no sense of humour, but a most enormous sense of importance, you
cannot, or you had better not, even begin to explain to her things like
Potterism, or the Anti-Potter League, and still less how it is that you
belong to the latter.
The twins, who had got firsts in Schools, knew this much.
Johnny improvised hastily, with innocent gray eyes on his father's, 'It's
one of the rules that you mayn't talk about it outside. Anti-Propaganda
League, it is, you see ... for letting other people alone....'
'Well,' said Mr. Potter, who was not spiteful to his children, and
preferred his wife unruffled, 'we'll let you off this time. But you can
take my word for it, it's a silly business. Mother and I will last a
great deal longer than it does. Because we take our stand on human
nature, and you won't destroy that with Leagues.'
Sometimes the twins were really almost afraid they wouldn't.
'You're all very cryptic to-night,' Frank said, and yawned.
Then Mrs. Potter and the girls left the dining-room, and Frank and his
father discussed the disestablishment of the Church in Wales, a measure
which Frank thought would be a pity, but which was advocated by the
Johnny cracked nuts in silence. He thought the Church insincere, a put-up
job, but that dissenters were worse. They should all be abolished, with
other shams. For a short time at Oxford he had given the Church a trial,
even felt real admiration for it, under the influence of his friend Juke,
and after hearing sermons from Father Waggett, Dr. Dearmer, and Canon
Adderley. But he had soon given it up, seen it wouldn't do; the
above-mentioned priests were not representative; the Church as a whole
canted, was hypocritical and Potterish, and must go.
The quest of Potterism, its causes and its cure, took the party of
investigation first to the Cornish coast. Partly because of bathing and
boating, and partly because Gideon, the organiser of the party, wanted to
find out if there was much Potterism in Cornwall, or if Celticism had
withstood it. For Potterism, they had decided, was mainly an Anglo-Saxon
disease. Worst of all in America, that great home of commerce, success,
and the booming of the second-rate. Less discernible in the Latin
countries, which they hoped later on to explore, and hardly existing in
the Slavs. In Russia, said Gideon, who loathed Russians, because he was
half a Jew, it practically did not exist. The Russians were without shame
and without cant, saw things as they were, and proceeded to make them a
good deal worse. That was barbarity, imbecility, and devilishness, but it
was not Potterism, said Gideon grimly. Gideon's grandparents had been
massacred in an Odessa pogrom; his father had been taken at the age of
five to England by an aunt, become naturalised, taken the name of Sidney,
married an Englishwoman, and achieved success and wealth as a banker. His
son Arthur was one of the most brilliant men of his year at Oxford,
regarded Russians, Jews, and British with cynical dislike, and had, on
turning twenty-one, reverted to his family name in its English form,
finding it a Potterish act on his father's part to have become Sidney.
Few of his friends remembered to call him by his new name, and his
parents ignored it, but to wear it gave him a grim satisfaction.
Such was Arthur Gideon, a lean-faced, black-eyed man, biting his nails
like Fagin when he got excited.
The other man, besides Johnny Potter, was the Honourable Laurence Juke, a
Radical of moderately aristocratic lineage, a clever writer and actor,
who had just taken deacon's orders. Juke had a look at once languid and
amused, a well-shaped, smooth brown head, blunt features, the
introspective, wide-set eyes of the mystic, and the sweet, flexible voice
of the actor (his mother had, in fact, been a well-known actress of the
The two women were Jane Potter and Katherine Varick. Katherine Varick had
frosty blue eyes, a pale, square-jawed, slightly cynical face, a first in
Natural Science, and a chemical research fellowship.
In those happy days it was easy to stay in places, even by the sea, and
they stayed first at the fishing village of Mevagissey. Gideon was the
only one who never forgot that they were to make observations and write a
book. He came of a more hard-working race than the others did. Often the
others merely fished, boated, bathed, and walked, and forgot the object
of their tour. But Gideon, though he too did these things, did them, so
to speak, notebook in hand. He was out to find and analyse Potterism, so
much of it as lay hid in the rocky Cornish coves and the grave Cornish
people. Katherine Varick was the only member of the party who knew that
he was also seeking and finding it in the hidden souls of his
They would meet in the evening with the various contributions to the
subject which they had gathered during the day. The Urban District
Council, said Johnny, wanted to pull down the village street and build an
esplanade to attract visitors; all the villagers seemed pleased. That was
Potterism, the welcoming of ugliness and prosperity; the antithesis of
the artist's spirit, which loved beauty for what it was, and did not want
to exploit it.
Their landlady, said Juke, on Sunday, had looked coldly on him when he
went out with his fishing rod in the morning. This would not have been
Potterism, but merely a respectable bigotry, had the lady had genuine
conscientious scruples as to this use of Sunday morning by the clergy,
but Juke had ascertained tactfully that she had no conscientious
scruples about anything at all. So it was merely propriety and cant, in
brief, Potterism. Later, he had landed at a village down the coast and
been to church.
'That church,' he said, 'is the most unpleasant piece of Potterism I have
seen for some time. Perpendicular, but restored fifty years ago,
according to the taste of the period. Vile windows; painted deal pews;
incredible braying of bad chants out of tune; a sermon from a pie-faced
fellow about going to church. Why should they go to church? He didn't
tell them; he just said if they didn't, some being he called God would be
angry with them. What did he mean by God? I'm hanged if he'd ever
thought it out. Some being, apparently, like a sublimated Potterite, who
rejoices in bad singing, bad art, bad praying, and bad preaching, and
sits aloft to deal out rewards to those who practise these and
punishments to those who don't. The Potter God will save you if you
please him; that means he'll save your body from danger and not let you
starve. Potterism has no notion of a God who doesn't care a twopenny damn
whether you starve or not, but does care whether you're following the
truth as you see it. In fact, Potterism has no room for Christianity; it
prefers the God of the Old Testament. Of course, with their abominable
cheek, the Potterites have taken Christianity and watered it down to suit
themselves, till they've produced a form of Potterism which they call by
its name; but they wouldn't know the real thing if they saw it.... The
Pharisees were Potterites....'
The others listened to Juke on religious Potterism tolerantly. None of
them (with the doubtful exception of Johnny, who had not entirely made up
his mind) believed in religion; they were quite prepared to agree that
most of its current forms were soaked in Potterism, but they could not be
expected to care, as Juke did.
Gideon said he had heard a dreadful band on the beach, and heard a
dreadful fellow proclaiming the Precious Blood. That was Potterism,
because it was an appeal to sentiment over the head, or under the head,
of reason. Neither the speaker nor any one else probably had the least
idea what he was talking about or what he meant.
'He had the kind of face which is always turned away from facts,' Gideon
said. 'Facts are too difficult, too complicated for him. Hard, jolly
facts, with clear sharp edges that you can't slur and talk away.
Potterism has no use for them. It appeals over their heads to prejudice
and sentiment.... It's the very opposite to the scientific temper. No
good scientist could conceivably be a Potterite, because he's concerned
with truth, and the kind of truth, too, that it's difficult to arrive at.
Potterism is all for short and easy cuts and showy results. Science has
to work its way step by step, and then hasn't much to show for it. It
isn't greedy. Potterism plays a game of grab all the time--snatches at
success in a hurry.... It's greedy,' repeated Gideon, thinking it out,
watching Jane's firm little sun-browned hand with its short square
fingers rooting in the sand for shells.
Jane had visited the stationer, who kept a circulating library, and seen
holiday visitors selecting books to read. They had nearly all chosen the
most Potterish they could see, and asked for some more Potterish still,
leaving Conrad and Hardy despised on the shelves. But these people were
not Cornish, but Saxon visitors.
And Katherine had seen the local paper, but it had been much less
Potterish than most of the London papers, which confirmed them in their
theory about Celts.
Thus they talked and discussed and played, and wrote their book in
patches, and travelled from place to place, and thought that they found
things out. And Gideon, because he was the cleverest, found out the most;
and Katherine, because she was the next cleverest, saw all that Gideon
found out; and Juke, because he was religious, was for ever getting on to
Potterism its cure, before they had analysed the disease; and the twins
enjoyed life in their usual serene way, and found it very entertaining to
be Potters inquiring into Potterism. The others were scrupulously fair
in not attributing to them, because they happened to be Potters by birth,
more Potterism than they actually possessed. A certain amount, said Juke,
is part of the make-up of very nearly every human being; it has to be
fought down, like the notorious ape and tiger. But he thought that Gideon
and Katherine Varick had less of it than any one else he knew; the
mediocre was repellent to them; cant and sentiment made them sick; they
made a fetish of hard truth, and so much despised most of their
neighbours that they would not experience the temptation to grab at
popularity. In fact, they would dislike it if it came.
_Socialist Cecily_ came out while they were at Lyme Regis. Mrs. Potter
sent the twins a copy. In their detached way, the twins read it, and gave
it to the others to look at.
'Very typical stuff,' Gideon summed it up, after a glance. 'It will no
doubt have an excellent sale.... It must be interesting for you to watch
it being turned out. I wish you would ask me to stay with you some time.
Yours must be an even more instructive household than mine.'
Gideon was a Russian Jew on his father's side, and a Harrovian. He had no
decency and no manners. He made Juke, who was an Englishman and an
Etonian, and had more of both, uncomfortable sometimes. For, after all,
the rudiments of family loyalty might as well be kept, among the general
destruction which he, more sanguinely than Gideon, hoped for.
But the twins did not bother. Jane said, in her equable way, 'You'll be
bored to death; angry, too; but come if you like.... We've a sister, more
Potterish than the parents. She'll hate you.'
Gideon said, 'I expect so,' and they left his prospective visit at that,
with Jane chuckling quietly at her private vision of Gideon and Clare in
But _Socialist Cecily_ did not have a good sale after all. It was
guillotined, with many of its betters, by the European war, which began
while the Anti-Potters were at Swanage, a place replete with Potterism.
Potterism, however, as a subject for investigation, had by this time
given place to international diplomacy, that still more intriguing study.
The Anti-Potters abused every government concerned, and Gideon said, on
August 1st, 'We shall be fools if we don't come in.'
Juke was still dubious. He was a good Radical, and good Radicals were
dubious on this point until the invasion of Belgium.
'To throw back the world a hundred years....'
Gideon shrugged his shoulders. He belonged to no political party, and had
the shrewd, far-seeing eyes of his father's race.
'It's going to be thrown back anyhow. Germany will see to that. And if we
keep out of it, Germany will grab Europe. We've got to come in, if we can
get a decent pretext.'
The decent pretext came in due course, and Gideon said, 'So that's that.'
He added to the Potters, 'For once I am in agreement with your father's
press. We should be lunatics to stand out of this damnable mess.'
Juke also was now, painful to him though it was to be so, in agreement
with the Potter press. To him the war had become a crusade, a fight for
decency against savagery.
'It's that,' said Gideon. 'But that's not all. This isn't a show any
country can afford to stand out of. It's Germany against Europe, and if
Europe doesn't look sharp, Germany's going to win. _Germany._ Nearly as
bad as Russia.... One would have to emigrate to another hemisphere....
No, we've got to win this racket.... But, oh, Lord, what a mess!' He fell
to biting his nails, savage and silent.
Jane thought all the time, beneath her other thoughts about it, 'To have
a war, just when life was beginning and going to be such fun.'
Beneath her public thoughts about the situation, she felt this deep
private disgust gnawing always, as of one defrauded.
They did not know then about people in general going to the war. They
thought it was just for the army and navy, not for ordinary people. That
idea came a little later, after the Anti-Potter party had broken up and
The young men began to enlist and get commissions. It was done; it was
the correct idea. Johnny Potter, who belonged to an O.T.C., got a
Jane said within herself, 'Johnny can go and I can't.' She knew she was
badly, incredibly left. Johnny was in the movement, doing the thing that
mattered. Further, Johnny might ultimately be killed in doing it; her
Johnny. Everything else shrank and was little. What were books? What was
anything? Jane wanted to fight in the war. The war was damnable, but it
was worse to be out of it. One was such an utter outsider. It wasn't
fair. She could fight as well as Johnny could. Jane went about white and
sullen, with her world tumbling into bits about her.
Mr. Potter said in the press, and Mrs. Potter in the home, 'The people of
England have a great opportunity before them. We must all try to rise to
it'--as if the people of England were fishes and the opportunity a fly.
Opportunity, thought Jane. Where is it? I see none. It was precisely
opportunity which the war had put an end to.
'The women of England must now prove that they are worthy of their men,'
said the Potter press.
'I dare say,' thought Jane. Knitting socks and packing stores and
learning first aid. Who wanted to do things like that, when their
brothers had a chance to go and fight in France? Men wouldn't stand it,
if it was the other way round. Why should women always get the dull jobs?
It was because they bore them cheerfully; because they didn't really, for
the most part, mind, Jane decided, watching the attitude of her mother
and Clare. The twins, profoundly selfish, but loving adventure and
placidly untroubled by nerves or the prospect of physical danger, saw no
hardship in active service. (This was before the first winter and the
development of trench warfare, and people pictured to themselves
skirmishes in the open, exposed to missiles, but at least keeping warm).
Every one one knew was going. Johnny said to Jane, 'War is beastly, but
one's got to be in it.' He took that line, as so many others did. 'Juke's
going,' he said. 'As a combatant, I mean, not a padre. He thinks the war
could have been prevented with a little intelligence; so it could, I dare
say; but as there wasn't a little intelligence and it wasn't prevented,
he's going in. He says it will be useful experience for him--help him in
his profession; he doesn't believe in parsons standing outside things and
only doing soft jobs. I agree with him. Every one ought to go.'
'Every one can't,' said Jane morosely.
But to Johnny every one meant all young men, and he took no heed.
Gideon went. It might, he said to Juke, be a capitalists' war or any one
else's; the important thing was not whose war it was but who was going
to win it.
He added, 'Great Britain is, on this occasion, on the right side.
There's no manner of doubt about it. But even if she wasn't, it's
important for all her inhabitants that she should be on the winning
side.... Oh, she will be, no doubt, we've the advantage in numbers and
wealth, if not in military organisation or talent.... If only the
Potterites wouldn't jabber so. It's a unique opportunity for them, and
they're taking it. What makes me angriest is the reasons they vamp up
why we're fighting. For the sake of democracy, they say. Democracy be
hanged. It's a rotten system, anyhow, and how this war is going to do
anything for it I don't know. If I thought it was, I wouldn't join. But
there's no fear. And other people say we're fighting "so that our
children won't have to." Rot again. Every war makes other wars more
likely. Why can't people say simply that the reason why we're fighting
is partly to uphold decent international principles, and mainly to win
the war--to be a conquering nation, not a conquered one, and to save
ourselves from having an ill-conditioned people like the Germans
strutting all over us. It's a very laudable object, and needs no
camouflage. Sheer Potterism, all this cant and posturing. I'd rather
say, like the _Daily Mail_, that we're fighting to capture the Hun's
trade; that's a lie, but at least it isn't cant.'
'Let them talk,' said Juke lazily. 'Let them jabber and cant. What does
it matter? We're in this thing up to the neck, and every one's got to
relieve themselves in their own way. As long as we get the job done
somehow, a little nonsense-talk more or less won't make much difference
to this mighty Empire, which has always indulged in plenty. It's the rash
coming out; good for the system.'
So, each individual in his own way, the nation entered into the worst
period of time of which Europe has so far had experience, and on which I
do not propose to dwell in these pages except in its aspect of a source
of profit to those who sought profit; its more cheerful aspect, in fact.
Mrs. Potter put away the writing of fiction, as unsuitable in these
dark days. (It may be remembered that there was a period at the
beginning of the war when it was erroneously supposed that fiction
would not sell until peace returned). Mrs. Potter, like many other
writers, took up Y.M.C.A. canteen work, and went for a time to France.
There she wrote _Out There_, an account of the work of herself and her
colleagues in Rouen, full of the inimitable wit and indomitable courage
of soldiers, the untiring activities of canteen workers, and the
affectionate good-fellowship which existed between these two classes.
The world was thus shown that Leila Yorke was no mere _flaneuse_ of
letters, but an Englishwoman who rose to her country's call and was
worthy of her men-folk.
Clare became a V.A.D., and went up to town every day to work at an
officers' hospital. It was a hospital maintained partly by Mr. Potter,
and she got on very well there. She made many pleasant friends, and hoped
to get out to France later.
Frank tried for a chaplaincy.
'It isn't a bit that he wants excitement, or change of air, or a free
trip to France, or to feel grand, like some of them do,' explained Mrs.
Frank. 'Only, what's the good of keeping a man like him slaving away in a
rotten parish like ours, when they want good men out there? I tell Frank
all he's got to do to get round the C.G. is to grow a moustache and learn
up the correct answers to a few questions--like "What would you do if you
had to attend a dying soldier?" Answer--"Offer to write home for him." A
lot of parsons don't know that, and go telling the C.G. they'd give him
communion, or hear his confession or something, and that knocks them out
first round. Frank knows better. There are no flies on old Frank. All the
same, pater, you might do a little private wire-pulling for him, if it
comes in handy.'
But, unfortunately, owing to a recent though quite temporary coldness
between the Chaplain-General and the Potter press, Mr. Potter's
wire-pulling was ineffectual. The Chaplain-General did not entertain
Frank's offer favourably, and regretted that his appointment as chaplain
to His Majesty's forces was at present impracticable. So Frank went on in
Pimlico, and was cynical and bitter about those clergymen who succeeded
in passing the C.G.'s tests.
'Why don't you join up as a combatant?' Johnny asked him, seeing his
discontent. 'Some parsons do.'
'The bishops have forbidden it,' said Frank.
'Oh, well, I suppose so. Does it matter particularly?'
'My dear Johnny, there is discipline in the Church as well as in the
army, you know. You might as well ask would it matter if you were to
disobey _your_ superior officers.'
'Well, you see, I'd have something happen to me if I did. Parsons don't.
You'd only be reprimanded, I suppose, and get into a berth all right when
you came back--if you did come back.'
'That's got nothing to do with it. The Church would never hold together
if her officers were to break the rules whenever they felt like it. That
friend of yours, Juke, hasn't a leg to stand on; he's merely in revolt.'
'Oh, old Juke always is, of course. Against every kind of authority, but
particularly against bishops. He's always got his knife into them, and I
dare say he's glad of the chance of flouting them. High Church parsons
are, aren't they? I expect if you were a bit higher you'd flout them too.
And if you were a bit lower, the C.G.'d take you as a padre. You're just
the wrong height, old thing, that's what's the matter.'
Thus Johnny, now a stocky lieutenant on leave from France, diagnosed
his brother's case. Wrongly, because High Church parsons weren't
actually enlisting any more than any other kind; they did not, mostly,
believe it to be their business; quite sincerely and honestly they
thought it would be wrong for them, though right for laymen, to
undertake combatant service.
Anyhow, as to height, Frank knew himself to be of a height acceptable in
benefices, and that was something. Besides, it was his own height.
'Sorry I can't change to oblige you, old man,' he said. 'Or desert my
post and pretend to be a layman. I am a man under authority, like you. I
wish the powers that be would send me out there, but it's for them to
judge, and if they think I should be of less use as a padre than all the
Toms, Dicks, and Harrys they are sending, it's not for me to protest.
They may be right. I may be absolutely useless as a chaplain. On the
other hand, I may not. They apparently don't intend to give themselves a
chance of finding out. Very well. It's nothing to me, either way.'
'Oh, that's all right then,' Johnny said.
No one could say that the Potter press did not rise to the great
opportunity. The press seldom fails to do this. The Potter press
surpassed itself; it nearly surpassed its great rival presses. With
energy and whole-heartedness it cheered, comforted, and stimulated the
people. It never failed to say how well the Allies were getting on, how
much ammunition they had, how many men, what indomitable tenacity and
cheerful spirits enlivened the trenches. The correspondents it employed
wrote home rejoicing; its leading articles were noble hymns of praise. In
times of darkness and travail one cannot but be glad of such a press as
this. So glad were the Government of it that Mr. Potter became, at the
end of 1916, Lord Pinkerton, and his press the Pinkerton press. Of
course, that was not the only reward he obtained for his services; he
figured every new year in the honours' list, and collected in succession
most of the letters of the alphabet after his name. With it all, he
remained the same alert, bird-like, inconspicuous person, with the same
unswerving belief in his own methods and his own destinies, a belief
which never passed from self-confidence to self-importance. Unless you
were so determined a hater of Potterism as to be blindly prejudiced, you
could not help liking Lord Pinkerton.
Jane, sulking because she could not fight, thought for a short time that
she would nurse, and get abroad that way. Then it became obvious that too
many fools were scrambling to get sent abroad, and anyhow, that, if Clare
was nursing, it must be a mug's game, and that there must be a better
field for her own energies elsewhere. With so many men going, there would
be empty places to fill.... That thought came, perhaps, as soon to Jane
as to any one in the country.
Her father's lady secretary went nursing, and Lord Pinkerton, well aware
of his younger daughter's clearheaded competence, offered Jane the job,
at a larger salary.
'Your shorthand would soon come back if you took it up,' he told her. For
he had had all his children taught shorthand at a young age; in his view
it was one of the essentials of education; he had learned it himself at
the age of thirteen, and insulted his superior young gentlemen private
secretaries by asking them if they knew it. Jane and Johnny, who had been
in early youth very proficient at it, had, since they were old enough to
know it was a sort of low commercial cunning, the accomplishment of the
slave, hidden their knowledge away like a vice. When concealed from
observation and pressed for time, they had furtively taken down lecture
notes in it at Oxford, but always with a consciousness of guilt.
Jane had declined the secretaryship. She did not mean to be that sort
of low secretary that takes down letters, she did not mean to work for
the Potter press, and she thought it would be needlessly dull to work
for her father. She said, 'No, thank you, dad. I'm thinking of the
That was early in 1915, when women had only just begun to think of, or
be thought of, by the Civil Service. Jane did not think of it with
enthusiasm; she wanted to be a journalist and to write; but it would do
for the time, and would probably be amusing. So, owing to the helpful
influence of Mr. Potter, and a good degree, Jane obtained a quite good
post at the Admiralty, which she had to swear never to mention, and went
into rooms in a square off Fleet Street with Katherine Varick, who had a
research fellowship in chemistry and worked in a laboratory in
The Admiralty was all right. It was interesting as such jobs go, and
Jane, who was clear-headed, did it well. She got to know a few men and
women who, she considered, were worth knowing, though, in technical
departments such as the Admiralty, the men were apt to be superior to the
women; the women Jane met there were mostly non-University lower-grade
clerks, and so forth, nice, cheery young things, but rather stupid, who
thought it jolly for Jane to be connected with Leila Yorke and the Potter
press, and were scarcely worth undeceiving. And naval officers, though
charming, were apt to be a little elementary, Jane discovered, in their
However, the job was all right; not a bad plum to have picked out of the
hash, on the whole. And the life was all right. The rooms were jolly
(only the new geyser exploded too often), and Katherine Varick, though
she made stinks in the evenings, not bad to live with, and money not too
scarce, as money goes, and theatres and dinners frequent. Doing one's
bit, putting one's shoulder to the wheel, proving the mettle of the women
of England, certainly had its agreeable side.
In intervals of office work and social life, Jane was writing odds and
ends, and planning the books she meant to write after the war. She
hadn't settled her line yet. Articles on social and industrial questions
for the papers, she hoped, for one thing; she had plenty to say on this
head. Short stories. Poems. Then, perhaps, a novel.... About the nature
of the novel Jane was undecided, except that it would be more unlike the
novels of Leila Yorke than any novels had ever been before. Perhaps a
sarcastic, rather cynical novel about human nature, of which Jane did
not think much. Perhaps a serious novel, dealing with social or
political conditions. Perhaps an impressionist novel, like Dorothy
Richardson's. Only they were getting common; they were too easy. One
could hardly help writing like that, unless one tried not to, if one had
lately read any of them.
Most contemporary novels Jane found very bad, not worth writing. Those
solemn and childish novels about public schools, for instance, written by
young men. Jane wondered what a novel about Roedean or Wycombe Abbey
would be like. The queer thing was that some young woman didn't write
one; it need be no duller than the young men's. Rather duller, perhaps,
because schoolgirls were more childish than schoolboys, the problems of
their upbringing less portentous. But there were many of the same
ingredients--the exaltation of games, hero-worship, rows, the clever new
literary mistress who made all the stick-in-the-mud other mistresses
angry.... Only were the other mistresses at girls' schools
stick-in-the-mud? No, Jane thought not; quite a decent modern set, on the
whole, for people of their age. Better than schoolmasters, they must be.
How dull it all was! Some woman ought to do it, but not Jane.
Jane was inclined, in her present phase, to think the Russians and the
French the only novelists. They had manner and method. But they were both
too limited in their field, too much concerned with sexual relations,
that most tedious of topics (in literature, not life), the very thought
of which made one yawn. Queer thing, how novelists couldn't leave it
alone. It was, surely, like eating and drinking, a natural element in
life, which few avoid; but the most exciting, jolly, interesting,
entertaining things were apart from it. Not that Jane was not quite
willing to accept with approval, as part of the game of living, such
episodes in this field as came her way; but she could not regard them as
important. As to marriage, it was merely dowdy. Domesticity; babies;
servants; the companionship of one man. The sort of thing Clare would go
in for, no doubt. Not for Jane, before whom the world lay, an oyster
asking to be opened.
She saw herself a journalist; a reporter, perhaps: (only the stories
women were sent out on were usually dull), a special correspondent, a
free-lance contributor, a leader writer, eventually an editor.... Then
she could initiate a policy, say what she thought, stand up against the
Or one might be a public speaker, and get into Parliament later on, when
women were admitted. One despised Parliament, but it might be fun.
Not a permanent Civil Servant; one could not work for this ludicrous
government more than temporarily, to tide over the Great Interruption.
So Jane looked with calm, weighing, critical eyes at life and its
chances, and saw that they were not bad, for such as her. Unless, of
course, the Allies were beaten.... This contingency seemed often
possible, even probable. Jane's faith in the ultimate winning power of
numbers and wealth was at times shaken, not by the blunders of
governments or the defection of valuable allies, but by the unwavering
optimism of her parent's press.
'But,' said Katherine Varick, 'it's usually right, your papa's press.
That's the queer thing about it. It sounds always wildly wrong, like an
absurd fairy story, and all the sane, intelligent people laugh at it, and
then it turns out to have been right. Look at the way it used to say that
Germany was planning war; it was mostly the stupid people who believed
it, and the intelligent people who didn't; but all the time Germany was.'
'Partly because people like daddy kept saying so, and planning to get
'Not much. Germany was really planning: we were only talking.... I
believe in the Pinkerton press, and the other absurd presses. They have
the unthinking rightness of the fool. Of course they have. Because the
happenings of the world are caused by people--the mass of people--and the
Pinkerton press knows them and represents them. Intellectual people are
always thinking above the heads of the people who make movements, so
they're nearly always out. The Pinkerton press _is_ the people, so it
gets there every time. Potterism will outlive all the reformers and
idealists. If Potterism says we're going to have a war, we have it; if it
says we're going to win a war, we shall win it. "If you see it in _John
Bull_, it _is_ so."'
It was not often that Katherine spoke of Potterism, but when she did it
was with conviction.
Gideon was home, wounded. He had nearly died, but not quite. He had lost
his right foot, and would have another when the time was ripe. He was
discharged, and became, later on, assistant editor of a new weekly paper
that was started.
He dined with Jane and Katherine at their flat, soon after he could get
about. He was leaner than ever, white and gaunt, and often ill-tempered
from pain. Johnny was there too, a major on leave, stuck over with
coloured ribbons. Jane called him a pot-hunter.
They laughed and talked and joked and dined. When Gideon and Johnny had
gone, and Katherine and Jane were left smoking last cigarettes and
finishing the chocolates, Jane said, lazily, and without chagrin, 'How
Arthur does hate us all, in these days.'
Katherine said, 'True. He finds us profiteers.'
'So we are,' said Jane. 'Not you, but most of us. I am.... You're one of
the few people he respects. Some day, perhaps, you'll have to marry him,
and cure him of biting his nails when he's cross.... He thinks Johnny's a
profiteer, too, because of the ribbons and things. Johnny is. It's in the
blood. We're grabbers. Can't be helped.... Do you want the last walnut
chocolate, old thing? If so, you're too late.'
JANE AND CLARE
In the autumn of 1918, Jane, when she went home for week-ends, frequently
found one Oliver Hobart there. Oliver Hobart was the new editor of Lord
Pinkerton's chief daily paper, and had been exempted from military
service as newspaper staff. He was a Canadian; he had been educated at
McGill University, admired Lord Pinkerton, his press, and the British
Empire, and despised (in this order) the Quebec French, the Roman
Catholic Church, newspapers which did not succeed, Little Englanders, and
'A really beautiful face,' said Lady Pinkerton, and so he had. Jane had
seen it, from time to time during the last year, when she had called to
see her father in the office of the _Daily Haste_.
One hot Saturday afternoon in August, 1918, she found him having tea with
her family, in the shadow of the biggest elm. Jane looked at them in her
detached way; Lord Pinkerton, neat and little, his white-spatted feet
crossed, his head cocked to one side, like an intelligent sparrow's; Lady
Pinkerton, tall and fair and powdered, in a lilac silk dress, her large
white hands all over rings, amethysts swinging from her ears; Clare (who
had given up nursing owing to the strain, and was having a rest), slim
and rather graceful, a little flushed from the heat, lying in a deck
chair and swinging a buckled shoe, saying something ordinary and
Clare-ish; Hobart sitting by her, a pale, Gibson young man, with his
smooth fair hair brushed back, and lavender socks with purple clocks, and
a clear, firm jaw. He was listening to Clare with a smile. You could not
help liking him; his was the sort of beauty which, when found in either
man or woman, makes so strong an appeal to the senses of the sex other
than that of the possessor that reason is all but swamped. Besides, as
Lord Pinkerton said, Hobart was a dear, nice fellow.
He was at Sherards for that week-end because Lord Pinkerton was just
making him editor of the _Daily Haste_. Before that, he had been on the
staff, a departmental editor, and a leader-writer. ('Mr. Hobart will go
far,' said Lady Pinkerton sometimes, when she read the leaders. 'I
hope, on the contrary,' said Lord Pinkerton, 'that he will stay where
he is. It is precisely the right spot. That was the trouble with
Carruthers; he went too far. So he had to go altogether.' He gave his
thin little snigger).
Anyhow, here was Hobart, this Saturday afternoon, having tea in the
garden. Jane saw him through the mellow golden sweetness of shadow
'Here is Jane,' said Lady Pinkerton.
Jane's dark hair fell in damp waves over her hot, square, white forehead;
her blue cotton dress was crumpled and limp. How neat, how cool, was this
Hobart! Could a man have a Gibson face like that, like a young man on the
cover of an illustrated magazine, and not be a ninny? Did he take the
Pinkerton press seriously, or did he laugh? Both, probably, like most
journalists. He wouldn't laugh to Lord Pinkerton, or to Lady Pinkerton,
or to Clare. But he might laugh to Jane, when she showed him he might.
Jane, eating jam sandwiches, looking like a chubby school child, with her
round face and wide eyes and bobbed hair and cotton frock, watched the
beautiful young man with her solemn unwinking stare that disconcerted
self-conscious people, while Lady Pinkerton talked to him about some
On Sunday, people came over to lunch, and they played tennis. Clare and
Hobart played together. 'Oh, well up, partner,' Jane could hear him say,
all the time. Or else it was 'Well tried. Too bad.' Clare's happy eyes
shone, brown and clear in her flushed face, like agates. Rather a pretty
thing, Clare, if dull.
The Franks were there, too.
'Old Clare having a good time,' said Mrs. Frank to Jane, during a set
they weren't playing in. Her merry dark eyes snapped. Instinctively, she
usually said something to disparage the good time of other girls. This
time it was, 'That Hobart thinks he's doing himself a good turn with
pater, making up to Clare like that. Oh, he's a cunning fellow. Isn't he
handsome, Jane? I hate these handsome fellows, they always know it so
well. Nothing in his face really, if you come to look, is there? I'd
rather have old Frank's, even if he does look like a half-starved bird.'
Jane was calmly rude to Hobart, showing him she despised his paper, and
him for editing it. She let him see it all, and he was imperturbably,
courteously amused, and, in turn, showed that he despised her for
belonging to the 1917 Club.
'_You_ don't,' he said, turning to Clare.
'Gracious, no. I don't belong to a club at all. I go with mother to the
Writers' sometimes, though; that's not bad fun. Mother often speaks
there, you know, and I go and hear. Jolly good she is, too. She read a
ripping paper last week on the "Modern Heroine."'
Jane's considering eyes weighed Hobart, whose courtesy was still
impregnable. How far was he the complete Potterite, identified with his
absurd press? Did he even appreciate Leila Yorke? She would have liked to
know. But, it seemed, she was not to know from him.
The Armistice came.
Then the thing was to get to Paris somehow. Jane had, unusually, not
played her cards well. She had neglected the prospect of peace, which,
after all, must come. When she had, in May, at last taken thought for the
morrow, and applied at the Foreign Office for one of those secret jobs
which could not be mentioned because they prepared the doers to play
their parts after the great unmentionable event, she was too late. The
Foreign Office said they could not take over people from other government
So, when the unmentionable took place, Jane was badly left. The Foreign
Office Library Department people, many of them Jane's contemporaries at
Oxford and Cambridge, were hurried across the Channel into Life, for
which they had been prepared by a course of lectures on the Dangers of
Paris. There also went the confidential secretaries, the clerks and
shorthand typists, in their hundreds; degreeless, brainless beings, but
wise in their generation.
'I wish I was a shorthand typist,' Jane grumbled, brooding with Katherine
over their fire.
'Paris,' Katherine turned over the delightful word consideringly, finding
it wanting. 'The last place in the world I should choose to be in just
now. Fuss and foolishness. Greed and grabbing. The centre of the lunacies
and crimes of the next six months. Politicians assembled together....
It's infinitely common to go there. All the vulgarest people.... You'd be
more select at Southend or Blackpool.'
'History is being made there,' said Jane, quoting from her
'Thank you; I'd rather go to Birmingham and make something clean and
useful, like glass.'
But Jane wanted to make history in Paris. She felt out of it, left, as
she had felt when other people went to the war and she stayed at home.
On a yellow, foggy day just before Christmas, Lord Pinkerton, with whom
Jane was lunching at his club (Lord Pinkerton was quite good to lunch
with; you got a splendid feed for nothing), said, 'I shall be going
over to Paris next month, Babs.' (That was what he called her). 'D'you
want to come?'
'Well, I should say so. Don't rub it in, dad.'
Lord Pinkerton looked at her, with his whimsical, affectionate paternity.
'You can come if you like, Babs. I want another secretary. Must have one.
If you'll do some of the shorthand typing and filing, you can come
along. How about it?'
Jane thought for exactly thirty seconds, weighing the shorthand typing
against Paris and the Majestic and Life. Life had it, as usual.
'Right-o, daddy. I'll come along. When do we go over?'
That afternoon Jane gave notice to her department, and in the middle of
January Lord Pinkerton and his bodyguard of secretaries and assistants
went to Paris.
That was Life. Trousseaux, concerts, jazzing, dinners, marble bathrooms,
notorious persons as thick as thieves in corridors and on the stairs,
dangers of Paris surging outside, disappointed journalists besieging
proud politicians in vain, the Council of Four sitting in perfect harmony
behind thick curtains, Signor Orlando refusing to play, but finding they
went on playing without him and coming back, Jugo-Slavs walking about
under the aegis of Mr. Wickham Steed, smiling sweetly and triumphantly at
the Italians, going to the theatre and coming out because the jokes
seemed to them dubious, Sir George Riddell and Mr. G.H. Mair desperately
controlling the press, Lord Pinkerton flying to and fro, across the
Channel and back again, while his bodyguard remained in Paris. There also
flew to and fro Oliver Hobart, the editor of the _Daily Haste_. He would
drop in on Jane, sitting in her father's outer office, card-indexing,
opening and entering letters, and what not.
'Good-morning, Miss Potter. Lord Pinkerton in the office this morning?'
'He's in the building somewhere. Talking to Sir George, I think.... Did
you fly this time?'
Whether he had flown or whether he had come by train and boat, he always
looked the same, calm, unruffled, tidy, the exquisite nut.
'Pretty busy?' he would say, with his half-indulgent smile at the
round-faced, lazy, drawling child who was so self-possessed, sometimes so
impudent, often so sarcastic, always so amusingly different from her
slim, pretty and girlish elder sister.
'Pretty well,' Jane would reply. 'I don't overwork, though.'
'I don't believe you do,' Hobart said, looking down at her amusedly.
'Father does, though. That's why he's thin and I'm fat. What's the use?
It makes no difference.'
'You're getting reconciled, then,' said Hobart, 'to working for the
Jane secretly approved his discernment. But all she said was, with her
cool lack of stress, 'It's not so bad.'
Usually when Hobart was in Paris he would dine with them.
Lady Pinkerton and Clare came over for a week. They stayed in rooms, in
the Avenue de l'Opera. They visited shops, theatres, and friends, and
Lady Pinkerton began a novel about Paris life. Clare had been run down
and low-spirited, and the doctor had suggested a change of scene. Hobart
was in Paris for the week-end; he dined with the Pinkertons and went to
the theatre with them. But on Monday he had to go back to London.
On Monday morning Clare came to her father's office, and found Jane
taking down letters from Lord Pinkerton's private secretary, a young man
who had been exempted from military service through the war on the
grounds that he was Lord Pinkerton's right hand.
Clare sat and waited, and looked round the room for violets, while this
young gentleman dictated. His letters were better worded than Lord
Pinkerton's, because he was better at the English language. Lord
Pinkerton would fall into commercialisms; he would say 're' and 'same'
and 'to hand,' and even sometimes 'your favour of the 16th.' His
secretary knew that that was not the way in which a great newspaper chief
should write. Himself he dictated quite a good letter, but annoyed Jane
by putting in the punctuation, as if she was an imbecile. Thus he was
saying now, pacing up and down the room, plunged in thought:--
'Lord Pinkerton is not comma however comma averse to' (Jane wrote 'from')
'entertaining your suggestions comma and will be glad if you can make it
convenient to call to-morrow bracket Tuesday close the bracket afternoon
comma between three and five stop.'
He could not help it; one must make allowances for those who dictate. But
Clare saw Jane's teeth release her clenched tongue to permit it to form
silently the word 'Ninny.'
The private secretary retired into his chief's inner sanctum.
'Morning, old thing,' said Jane to Clare, uncovering her typewriter
without haste and yawning, because she had been up late last night.
'Morning,' Clare yawned too. She was warm and pretty, in a spring
costume, with a big bunch of sweet violets at her waist. She
'Aren't they top-hole. Mr. Hobart left them this morning before he went.
Jolly decent of him to think of it, getting off in a hurry like he
was.... He's not a bad young thing, do you think.'
'Not so bad.' Jane extracted carbons from a drawer and fitted them to her
paper. Then she stretched, like a cat.
'Oh, I'm sleepy.... Don't feel like work to-day. For two pins I'd cut it
and go out with you and mother. The sun's shining, isn't it?'
Clare stood by the window, and swung the blind-tassel. They had five days
of Paris before them, and Paris suddenly seemed empty....
'We're going to have a topping week,' she said.
Then Lord Pinkerton came in.
'Hobart gone?' he asked Jane.
'Majendie in my room?'
Lord Pinkerton patted Clare's shoulder as he passed her.
'Send Miss Hope in to me when she comes, Babs,' he said, and disappeared
through the farther door.
Jane began to type. It bored her, but she was fairly proficient at it.
Her childhood's training stood her in good stead.
'Mr. Hobart must have run his train pretty fine, if he came in here on
the way,' said Clare, twirling the blind-tassel.
'He wasn't going till twelve,' said Jane, typing.
'Oh, I see. I thought it was ten.... I suppose he found he couldn't get
that one, and had to see dad first. What a bore for him.... Well, I'm off
to meet mother. See you this evening, I suppose.'
Clare went out into Paris and the March sunshine, whistling softly.
That night she lay awake in her big bed, as she had lain last night.
She lay tense and still, and stared at the great gas globe that looked
in through the open window from the street. Her brain formed phrases
'That day on the river.... Those Sundays.... That lunch at the
Florence.... "What attractive shoes those are."... My gray suedes, I
had.... "I love these Sunday afternoons."... "You're one of the few
girls who are jolly to watch when they run."... "Just you and me;
wouldn't it be rather nice? I should like it, anyhow."... He kept
looking.... Whenever I looked up he was looking.... his eyes awfully
blue, with black edges to them.... Peggy said he blacked them.... Peggy
was jealous because he never looked at her.... I'm jealous now because
... No, I'm not, why should I be? He doesn't like fat girls, he said....
He watches her.... He looks at her when there's a joke.... He bought me
violets, but he went to see her.... He keeps coming over to Paris.... I
never see him.... I don't get a chance.... He cared, he did care....
He's forgetting because I don't get a chance.... She's stealing him....
She was always a selfish little cad, grabbing, and not really caring.
She can't care as I do, she's not made that way.... She cares for
nothing but herself.... She gets everything, just by sitting still and
not bothering.... College makes girls awful.... Peggy says men don't
like them, but they do. They seem not to care about men, but they care
just the same. They don't bother, but they get what they want....
Pig.... Oh, I can't bear it. Why should I?... I love him, I love him, I
love him.... Oh, I must go to sleep. I shall go mad if I have another
night like last night.'
Clare got out of bed, stumbled to the washstand, splashed her burning
head and face with cold water, then lay shivering.
It may or may not be true that the power to love is to be found in the
human being in inverse ratio to the power to think. Probably it is not;
these generalisations seldom are. Anyhow, Clare, like many others, could
not understand, but loved.
Lady Pinkerton said to her lord next day, 'How much longer will the peace
take being made, Percy?'
'My dear, I can't tell you. Even I don't know everything. There are many
little difficulties, which have to be smoothed down. Allies stand in a
curious and not altogether easy relation to one another.'
'Italy, of course....'
'And not only Italy, dearest.'
'Of course, China is being very tiresome.'
'Ah, if it were only China!'
Lady Pinkerton sighed.
'Well, it is all very sad. I do hope, Percy, that after this war we
English will never again forget that we hate _all_ foreigners.'
'I hope not, my dear. I am afraid before the war I was
largely responsible for encouraging these fraternisations and
discriminations. A mistake, no doubt. But one which did credit to our
hearts. One must always remember about a great people like ourselves
that the heart leads.'
'Thank God for that,' said Leila Yorke, illogically. Then Lady Pinkerton
added, 'But this peace takes too long.... I suppose a lasting and
righteous peace must ... Shall you have to be running to and fro like
this till it's signed, dear?'
'To and fro, yes. I must keep an office going here.'
'Jane is enjoying it,' said Lady Pinkerton. 'She sees a lot of Oliver
Hobart, I suppose, doesn't she?'
'He's in and out, of course. He and the child get on better than
they used to.'
'There is no doubt about that,' said Lady Pinkerton. 'If you don't know
it, Percy, I had better tell you. Men never see these things. He is
falling in love with her.'
Lord Pinkerton fidgeted about the room.
'Rilly. Rilly. Very amusing. You used to think it was Clare, dearest.'
He cocked his head at her accusingly, convicting her of being a woman
'Oh, you dear novelists!' he said, and shook a finger at her.
'Nonsense, Percy. It is perfectly obvious. He used to be attracted by
Clare, and now he is attracted by Jane. Very strange: such different
types. But life _is_ strange, and particularly love. Oh, I don't say it's
love yet, but it's a strong attraction, and may easily lead to it. The
question is, are we to let it go on, or shall we head him back to Clare,
who has begun to care, I am afraid, poor child?'
'Certainly head him back if you like and can, darling. I don't suppose
Babs wants him, anyhow.'
'That is just it. If Jane did, I shouldn't interfere. Her happiness is
as dear to me as Clare's, naturally. But Jane is not susceptible; she
has a colder temperament; and she is often quite rude to Oliver Hobart.
Look how different their views about everything are. He and Clare agree
'Very well, mother. You're the doctor. I'll do my best not to throw them
together when next Hobart comes over. But we must leave the children to
settle their affairs for themselves. If he really wants fat little Babs
we can't stop him trying for her.'
'Life is difficult,' Lady Pinkerton sighed. 'My poor little Clare is
looking like a wilted flower.'
'Poor little girl. M'm yes. Poor little girl. Well, well, we'll see what
can be done.... I'll see if I can take Janet home for a bit, perhaps--get
her out of the way. She's very useful to me here, though. There are no
flies on Jane. She's got the Potter wits all right.'
But Lady Pinkerton loved better Clare, who was like a flower, Clare, whom
she had created, Clare, who might have come--if any girl could have
come--out of a Leila Yorke novel.
'I shall say a word to Jane,' Lady Pinkerton decided. 'Just to
But, after all, it was Jane who said the word. She said it that evening,
in her cool, leisurely way.
'Oliver Hobart asked me to marry him yesterday morning. I wrote to-day to
tell him I would.'
I append now the personal records of various people concerned in this
story. It seems the best way.
TOLD BY GIDEON
Nothing that I or anybody else did in the spring and summer of 1919 was
of the slightest importance. It ought to have been a time for great
enterprises and beginnings; but it emphatically wasn't. It was a queer,
inconclusive, lazy, muddled, reckless, unsatisfactory, rather ludicrous
time. It seemed as if the world was suffering from vertigo. I have seen
men who have been badly hit spinning round and round madly, like dancing
dervishes. That was, I think, what we were all doing for some time after
the war--spinning round and round, silly and dazed, without purpose or
power. At least the only purpose in evidence was the fierce quest of
enjoyment, and the only power that of successfully shirking facts. We
were like bankrupts, who cannot summon energy to begin life and work
again in earnest. And we were represented by the most comic parliament
that ever sat in Westminster, upon which it would be too painful here to
One didn't know what had happened, or what was happening, or what was
going to happen. We had won the war. But what was that going to mean?
What were we going to get out of it? What did we want the new world to
be? What did we want this country to be? Every one shouted a different
answer. The December elections seemed to give one answer. But I don't
think it was a true one. The public didn't really want the England of
_John Bull_ and Pemberton Billing; they showed that later.
A good many people, of course, wanted and want revolution and the
International. I don't, and never did. I hate red-flaggery, and all other
flaggery. The sentimentalism of Bob Smillie is as bad as the
sentimentalism of the Pinkerton press; as untruthful, as greedy, as
muddle-headed. Smillie's lot are out to get, and the Potterites out to
keep. The under-dog is more excusable in its aims, but its methods aren't
any more attractive. Juke can swallow it all. But Jukie has let his
naturally clear head get muddled by a mediaeval form of religion.
Religion is like love; it plays the devil with clear thinking. Juke
pretended not to hate even Smillie's interview with the coal dukes. He
applauded when Smillie quoted texts at them. Though I know, of course,
that that sort of thing is mainly a pose on Juke's part, because it
amuses him. Besides, one of the dukes was a cousin of his, who bored him,
so of course he was pleased.
But those texts damned Smillie for ever in my eyes. He had those poor
imbeciles at his mercy--and he gave his whole case away by quoting
irrelevant remarks from ancient Hebrew writers. I wish I had had his
chance for ten minutes; I would have taken it. But the Labour people are
always giving themselves away with both hands to the enemy. I suppose
facts have hit them too hard, and so they shrink away from them--pad them
with sentiment, like uneducated women in villas. They all need--so do the
women--a legal training, to make their minds hard and clear and sharp.
So do journalists. Nearly the whole press is the same, dealing in
emotions and stunts, unable to face facts squarely, in a calm spirit.
It seemed to some of us that spring that there was a chance for
unsentimental journalism in a new paper, that should be unhampered by
tradition. That was why the _Weekly Fact_ (unofficially called the
Anti-Potterite) was started. All the other papers had traditions; their
past principles dictated their future policy. The _Fact_ (except that it
was up against Potterism) was untrammelled; it was to judge of each issue
as it turned up, on its own merits, in the light of fact. That, of
course, was in itself the very essence of anti-Potterism, which was
incapable of judging or considering anything whatever, and whose only
light was a feeble emotionalism The light of fact was to Potterites but a
The _Fact_ wasn't to be labelled Liberal or Labour or Tory or Democratic
or anti-Democratic or anything at all. All these things were to vary
with the immediate occasions. I know it sounds like Lloyd George, but
there were at least two very important differences between the _Fact_
and the Prime Minister. One was that the _Fact_ employed experts who
always made a very thorough and scientific investigation of every
subject it dealt with before it took up a line; it cared for the truth
and nothing but the truth. The other was that the _Fact_ took in nearly
every case the less popular side, not, of course, because it was less
popular (for to do that would have been one of the general principles of
which we tried to steer clear), but it so happened that we came to the
conclusion nearly always that the majority were wrong. The fact is that
majorities nearly always are. The heart of the people may be usually in
the right place (though, personally, I doubt this, for the heart of man
is corrupt) but their head can, in most cases, be relied on to be in the
wrong one. This is an important thing for statesmen to remember;
forgetfulness of it has often led to disaster; ignorance of it has
created Potterism as an official faith.
Anyhow, the _Fact_ (again unlike the Prime Minister) could afford to
ignore the charges of flightiness and irresponsibility which, of course,
were flung at it. It could afford to ignore them because of the good and
solid excellence of its contents, and the reputations of many of its
contributors. And that, of course, was due to the fact that it had plenty
of money behind it. A great many people know who backs the _Fact_, but,
all the same, I cannot, of course, give away this information to the
public. I will only say that it started with such a good financial
backing that it was able to afford the best work, able even to afford the
truth. Most of the good weeklies, certainly, speak the truth as they see
it; they are, in fact, a very creditable section of our press; but the
idea of the _Fact_ was to be absolutely unbiased on each issue that
turned up by anything it had ever thought before. Of course, you may say
that a man will be likely, when a case comes before his eyes, to come to
the same conclusion about it that he came to about a similar case not
long before. But, as a matter of fact, it is surprising how some slight
difference in the circumstances of a case may, if a man keeps an open
mind, alter his whole judgment of it. The _Fact_ was a scientific, not a
sentimental paper. If our investigations led us into autocracy, we were
to follow them there; if to a soviet state, still we were to follow
them. And we might support autocracy in one state and soviets in another,
if it seemed suitable. Again this sounds like some of our more notorious
politicians--Carson, for instance; but the likeness is superficial.
We began in March. Peacock and I were the editors. We didn't, and don't,
always agree. Peacock, for instance, believes in democracy. Peacock also
accepts poetry; poetry about the war, by people like Johnny Potter. Every
one knows that school of poetry by heart now; of course it was
particularly fashionable immediately after the war. Johnny Potter did it
much like other men. Any one can do it. One takes some dirty, horrible
incident or sight of the battle-front and describes it in loathsome
detail, and then, by way of contrast, describes some fat and incredibly
bloodthirsty woman or middle-aged clubman at home, gloating over the
glorious war. I always thought it a great bore, and sentimental at that.
But it was the thing for a time, and people seemed to be impressed by it,
and Peacock, who encouraged young men, often to their detriment, would
take it for the _Fact_, though that sort of cheap and popular appeal to
sentiment was the last thing the _Fact_ was out for.
Johnny Potter, like other people, was merely exploiting his experiences.
Johnny would. He's a nice chap, and a cleverish chap, in the shrewd,
unimaginative Potter way--Jane's way, too--only she's a shade
cleverer--but chiefly he's determined to get there somehow. That's
Potter, again. And that's where Jane and Johnny amuse me. They're up
against what we agreed to call Potterism--the Potterism, that is, of
second-rate sentimentalism and cheap short-cuts and mediocrity; they
stand for brain and clear thinking against muddle and cant; but they're
fighting it with Potterite weapons--self-interest, following things for
what they bring them rather than for the things in themselves. John would
never write the particular kind of stuff he does for the love of writing
it; he'll only do it because it's the stunt of the moment. That's why
he'll never be more than cleverish and mediocre, never the real thing. In
his calm, unexcited way, he worships success, and he'll get it, like old
Pinkerton. Though of course he's met plenty of the bloodthirsty
non-combatants he writes about, he takes most of what he says about them
second-hand from other people. It's not first-hand observation. If it
was, he would have to include among his jingoes and Hun-haters some
fighting men too. I know it's entirely against popular convention to say
so, but some of the most bloodthirsty fire-eaters I met during the war
were among the fighting men. Of course there were plenty of them at home
too, and plenty of peaceable and civilised people at the front, but it's
the most absurd perversion of facts to make out that all our combatants
were full of sweet reasonableness (any one who knows anything about the
psychological effects of fighting will know that this is improbable), and
all our non-combatants bloody-minded savages. Though I don't say there's
nothing in the theory one heard that the natural war rage of
non-combatants, not having the physical outlet the fighters had for
theirs, became in some few of them a suppressed Freudian complex and
made them a little insane. I don't know. Anyhow to say this became the
stunt among a certain section, so it was probably as inaccurate as
popular sayings usually are; as inaccurate as the picture drawn by
another section--the Potter press section--of an army going rejoicing
into the fight for right.
What one specially resented was the way the men who had been killed, poor
devils, were exploited by the makers of speeches and the writers of
articles. First, they'd perhaps be called 'the fallen,' instead of 'the
killed' (it's a queer thing how 'fallen,' in the masculine means killed
in the war, and the feminine given over to a particular kind of vice),
and then the audience, or the readers, would be told that they died for
democracy, or a cleaner world, when very likely many of them hated the
first and never gave an hour's thought to the second. I could imagine
their indignant presences in the Albert Hall at Gray's big League of
Nations meeting in May, listening to Clynes's reasons why they died. I
can hear dear old Peter Clancy on why he died. 'Democracy? A cleaner
world? No. Why? I suppose I died because I inadvertently got in the way
of some flying missile; I know no other reason. And I suppose I was there
to get in its way because it's part of belonging to a nation to fight its
battles when required--like paying its taxes or keeping its laws. Why go
groping for far-fetched reason? Who wants democracy, any old way? And the
world was good enough for me as it was, thank you. No, of course it isn't
clean, and never will be; but no war is going to make it cleaner. It's
not a way wars have. These talkers make me sick.'
If Clancy--the thousands of Clancys--could have been there, I think that
is the sort of thing they would have been saying. Anyhow, personally, I
certainly didn't lose my foot for democracy or for a cleaner world. I
lost it in helping to win the war--a quite necessary thing in the
But every one seemed, during and after the war, to want to prove that
the fighters thought in the particular way they thought themselves;
they seemed to think it immeasurably strengthened their case. Heaven
only knows why, when the fighting men were just the men who hadn't time
or leisure to think at all. They were, as the Potterites put it so
truly, doing the job. The thinking, such as it was, was done by the
people at home--the politicians, the clergy, the writers, the women,
the men with 'A' certificates in Government offices; and precious poor
thinking it was, too.
We all settled down to life and work again, as best we could. Johnny
Potter went into a publisher's office, and also got odd jobs of reviewing
and journalism, besides writing war verse and poetry of passion (of which
confusing if attractive subject, he really knew little). Juke was
demobilised early too, commenced clergyman again, got a job as curate in
a central London parish, and lived in rooms in a slummy street. He and I
saw a good deal of each other.
One day in March, Juke and I were lunching together at the 1917 Club,
when Johnny came in and joined us. He looked rather queer, and amused
too. He didn't tell us anything till we were having coffee. Then Juke or
I said, 'How's Jane getting on in Paris? Not bored yet?'
Johnny said, 'I should say not. She's been and gone and done it. She's
got engaged to Hobart. I heard from the mater this morning.'
I don't think either of us spoke for a moment. Then Juke gave a long
whistle, and said, 'Good Lord!'
'Exactly,' said Johnny, and grinned.
'It's no laughing matter,' said Juke blandly. 'Jane is imperilling her
immortal soul. She is yoking together with an unbeliever; she is forming
an unholy alliance with mammon. We must stop it.'
'Stop Jane,' said Johnny. 'You might as well try and stop a young tank.'
He meditated for a moment.
'The funny thing is,' he added, 'that we all thought it was Clare he
'Now that,' Juke said judicially, 'would have been all right. Your elder
sister could have had Hobart and the _Daily Haste_ without betraying her
principles. But _Jane_--Jane, the anti-Potterite ... I say, why is she
Johnny drew a letter from his pocket and consulted it.
'The mater doesn't say. ... I suppose the usual reasons. Why do people
do it? I don't; nor do you; nor does Gideon. So we can't explain. ... I
didn't think Jane would do it either; it always seemed more in Clare's
line, somehow. Jane and I always thought Clare would marry, she's the
sort. Feminine and all that, you know. Upon my word, I thought Jane was
too much of a sportsman to go tying herself up with husbands and babies
and servants and things. What the devil will happen to all she meant to
_do_--writing, public speaking, and all the rest of it? I suppose a
girl can carry on to a certain extent, though, even if she is married,
'Jane will,' I said. 'Jane won't give up anything she wants to do for a
trifle like marriage.' I was sure of that.
'I believe you're right,' Johnny agreed. 'But it will be jolly awkward
being married to Hobart and writing in the anti-Potter press.'
'She'll write for the _Daily Haste_,' Juke said. 'She'll make Hobart give
her a job on it. Having begun to go down the steep descent, she won't
stop till she gets to the bottom. Jane's thorough.'
But that was precisely what I didn't think Jane was. She is, on the
other hand, given to making something good out of as many worlds as she
can simultaneously. Martyrs and Irishmen, fanatics and Juke, are
thorough; not Jane.
We couldn't stay gossiping over the engagement any longer, so we left it
at that. The man lunching at the next table might have concluded that
Johnny's sister had got engaged to a scoundrel, instead of to the
talented, promising, and highly virtuous young editor of a popular daily
paper. Being another member of the 1917, I dare say he understood.
But no one had tried to answer Juke's question, 'Why is she doing it?'
Johnny had supposed 'for the usual reasons.' That opens a probably
unanswerable question. What the devil _are_ the usual reasons?
I met Lady Pinkerton and her elder daughter in the muzzle department of
the Army and Navy Stores the next week. That was one of the annoying
aspects of the muzzling order; one met in muzzle shops people with whom
neither temperament nor circumstances would otherwise have thrown one.
I have a particular dislike for Lady Pinkerton, and she for me. I hate
those cold, shallow eyes, and clothes drenched in scent, and basilisk
pink faces whitened with powder which such women have or develop. When I
look at her I think of all her frightful books, and the frightful serial
she has even now running in the _Pink Pictorial_, and I shudder
(unobtrusively, I hope), and look, away. When she looks at me, she thinks
'dirty Jew,' and she shudders (unobtrusively, too), and looks over my
head. She did so now, no doubt, as she bowed.
'Dreadfully tahsome, this muzzling order,' she said, originally. 'We have
two Pekingese, a King Charles, and a pug, and their poor little faces
don't fit any muzzle that's made.'
I answered with some inanity about my mother's Poltalloch, and we talked
for a moment. She said she hoped I was quite all right again, and I
suppose I said I was, with my leg shooting like a gathered tooth (it was
pretty bad all that spring).
Suddenly I felt her wanting badly to tell me the news about Jane. She
wanted to tell me because she thought she would be scoring off me,
knowing that what she would call my 'influence' over Jane had always been
used against all that Hobart stands for. I felt her longing to throw me
the triumphant morsel of news--'Jane has deserted you and all your
tiresome, conceited, disturbing clique, and is going to marry the
promising young editor of her father's chief paper.' But something
restrained her. I caught the advance and retreat of her intention, and
connected it with her daughter, who stood by her, silent, with an absurd
Pekingese in her arms.
Anyhow, Lady Pinkerton held in her news, and I left them. I dislike
Lady Pinkerton, as I have said; but on this occasion I disliked her a
little less than usual, for that maternal instinct which had robbed her
of her triumph.
I went to see Katherine Varick that evening. I often do when I have been
meeting women like Lady Pinkerton, because there is a danger that that
kind of woman, so common and in a sense so typical, may get to bulk too
large in one's view of women, and lead one into the sin of
generalisation. So many women are such very dreadful fools--men too, for
that matter, but more women--that one needs to keep in pretty frequent
touch with those who aren't, with the women whose brains, by nature and
training, grip and hold. Of these, Katherine Varick has as fine and keen
a mind and as good a head as any I know. She isn't touched anywhere with
Potterism; she has the scientific temperament. Katherine and I are great
friends. From the first she did a good deal of work for the
_Fact_--reviews of scientific books, mostly. I went to see her, to get
the taste of Lady Pinkerton out of my mouth.
I found her doing something with test-tubes and bottles--some experiment
with carbohydrates, I think it was. I watched her till she was through
with it, then we talked. That is the way one puts it, but as a matter of
fact Katherine seldom does much of the talking; one talks to her. She
listens, and puts in from time to time some critical comment that often
extraordinarily clears up any subject one is talking round. She
contributes as much as any one I know to the conversation, but in such
condensed tabloids that it doesn't take her long. Most things don't seem
to her to be worth saying. She'll let, for instance, a chatterbox like
Juke say a hundred words to her one, and still she'll get most said,
though Jukie's not a vapid talker either.
'Jane,' she told me, 'is coming back next week. The marriage is to be at
the end of April.'
'A rapidity worthy of the Hustling Press. Jukie will be sorry. He hopes
yet to wrest her as a brand from the burning.'
Katherine smiled at Juke's characteristic sanguineness.
'Jukie won't do that. If Jane means to do a thing she does it. Jane knows
what she wants.'
'And she wants Hobart?' I pondered it, turning it over, still puzzled.
'She wants Hobart,' Katherine agreed. 'And all that Hobart will let
her in to.'
'The _Daily Haste_? The society of the Pinkerton journalists?'
'And of a number of other people. Some of them fairly important people,
you know. The editor of the _Daily Haste_ has to transact business with a
good many notorious persons, no doubt. That would amuse Jane. She's all
for life. I dare say the wife of the editor of the _Haste_ has a pretty
good front window for the show. Jane likes playing about with people, as
you like playing with ideas, and I with chemicals.... Besides, beauty
counts with Jane. It does with every one. She's probably fallen in love.'
That was all we said about it. We talked for the rest of the evening
about the _Fact_.
But when I went to Jane's wedding, I understood about the 'number of
other people' that Hobart let Jane in to. They had been married that
afternoon by the Registrar, Jane having withstood the pressure of her
parents, who preferred weddings to be in churches. Hobart didn't much
care; he was, he said, a Presbyterian by upbringing, but sat loosely to
it, and didn't care for fussy weddings. Jane frankly disbelieved in what
she called 'all that sort of thing.' So they went before the Registrar,
and gave a party in the evening at the Carlton.
We all went, even Juke, who had failed to snatch Jane from the burning. I
don't know that it was a much queerer party than other wedding parties,
which are apt to be an ill-assorted mixture of the bridegroom's circle
and the bride's. And, except for Jane's own personal friends, these two
circles largely overlapped in this case. The room was full of
journalists, important and unimportant, business people, literary people,
and a few politicians of the same colour as the Pinkerton press. There
were a lot of dreadful women, who, I supposed, were Lady Pinkerton's
friends (probably literary women; one of them was introduced to Juke as
'the editress of _Forget-me-not_'), and a lot of vulgar men, many of whom
looked like profiteers. But, besides all these, there were undoubtedly
interesting people and people of importance. And I realised that the
editor of the _Haste_, like the other editors of important papers, must,
of necessity, as Katherine had said, have a lot to do with such people.
And there, in the middle of a group of journalists, was Jane; Jane, in a
square-cut, high-waisted, dead white frock, with her firm, round, young
shoulders and arms, and her firm, round, young face, and her dark hair