Part 5 out of 7
Then suddenly he began to declaim. "Oh! Brutes together. Apes.
Apes with knives. Have they no lord, no master, to save them from
such things? This is the life of men when no man rules. . . . When
no man rules. . . . Not even himself. . . . It is because we are
idle, because we keep our wits slack and our wills weak that these
poor devils live in hell. These things happen here and everywhere
when the hand that rules grows weak. Away in China now they are
happening. Persia. Africa. . . . Russia staggers. And I who
should serve the law, I who should keep order, wander and make
love. . . . My God! may I never forget! May I never forget!
Flies in the sunlight! That man's face. And those six men!
"Grip the savage by the throat.
"The weak savage in the foreign office, the weak savage at the party
headquarters, feud and indolence and folly. It is all one world.
This and that are all one thing. The spites of London and the
mutilations of Macedonia. The maggots that eat men's faces and the
maggots that rot their minds. Rot their minds. Rot their minds.
Rot their minds. . . ."
To Amanda it sounded like delirium.
"CHEETAH!" she said suddenly between remonstrance and a cry of
The darkness suddenly became quite still. He did not move.
She was afraid. "Cheetah!" she said again.
"What is it, Amanda?"
"I thought--. Are you all right?"
"But do you feel well?"
"I've got this cold I caught in Ochrida. I suppose I'm feverish.
But--yes, I'm well."
"You were talking."
Silence for a time.
"I was thinking," he said.
"I'm sorry," he said after another long pause.
The next morning Benham had a pink spot on either cheek, his eyes
were feverishly bright, he would touch no food and instead of coffee
he wanted water. "In Monastir there will be a doctor," he said.
"Monastir is a big place. In Monastir I will see a doctor. I want
They rode out of the village in the freshness before sunrise and up
long hills, and sometimes they went in the shade of woods and
sometimes in a flooding sunshine. Benham now rode in front,
preoccupied, intent, regardless of Amanda, a stranger, and she rode
close behind him wondering.
"When you get to Monastir, young man," she told him, inaudibly, "you
will go straight to bed and we'll see what has to be done with you."
"AMMALATO," said Giorgio confidentially, coming abreast of her.
"MEDICO IN MONASTIR," said Amanda.
"SI,--MOLTI MEDICI, MONASTIR," Giorgio agreed.
Then came the inevitable dogs, big white brutes, three in full cry
charging hard at Benham and a younger less enterprising beast
running along the high bank above yapping and making feints to
The goatherd, reclining under the shadow of a rock, awaited Benham's
embarrassment with an indolent malice.
"You UNCIVILIZED Beasts!" cried Benham, and before Amanda could
realize what he was up to, she heard the crack of his revolver and
saw a puff of blue smoke drift away above his right shoulder. The
foremost beast rolled over and the goatherd had sprung to his feet.
He shouted with something between anger and dismay as Benham,
regardless of the fact that the other dogs had turned and were
running back, let fly a second time. Then the goatherd had clutched
at the gun that lay on the grass near at hand, Giorgio was bawling
in noisy remonstrance and also getting ready to shoot, and the
horse-owner and his boy were clattering back to a position of
neutrality up the stony road. "BANG!" came a flight of lead within
a yard of Benham, and then the goatherd was in retreat behind a rock
and Giorgio was shouting "AVANTI, AVANTI!" to Amanda.
She grasped his intention and in another moment she had Benham's
horse by the bridle and was leading the retreat. Giorgio followed
close, driving the two baggage mules before him.
"I am tired of dogs," Benham said. "Tired to death of dogs. All
savage dogs must be shot. All through the world. I am tired--"
Their road carried them down through the rocky pass and then up a
long slope in the open. Far away on the left they saw the goatherd
running and shouting and other armed goatherds appearing among the
rocks. Behind them the horse-owner and his boy came riding headlong
across the zone of danger.
"Dogs must be shot," said Benham, exalted. "Dogs must be shot."
"Unless they are GOOD dogs," said Amanda, keeping beside him with an
eye on his revolver.
"Unless they are good dogs to every one," said Benham.
They rushed along the road in a turbulent dusty huddle of horses and
mules and riders. The horse-owner, voluble in Albanian, was trying
to get past them. His boy pressed behind him. Giorgio in the rear
had unslung his rifle and got it across the front of his saddle.
Far away they heard the sound of a shot, and a kind of shudder in
the air overhead witnessed to the flight of the bullet. They
crested a rise and suddenly between the tree boughs Monastir was in
view, a wide stretch of white town, with many cypress and plane
trees, a winding river with many wooden bridges, clustering minarets
of pink and white, a hilly cemetery, and scattered patches of
soldiers' tents like some queer white crop to supplement its
As they hurried down towards this city of refuge a long string of
mules burthened with great bales of green stuff appeared upon a
convergent track to the left. Besides the customary muleteers there
were, by way of an escort, a couple of tattered Turkish soldiers.
All these men watched the headlong approach of Benham's party with
apprehensive inquiry. Giorgio shouted some sort of information that
made the soldiers brighten up and stare up the hill, and set the
muleteers whacking and shouting at their convoy. It struck Amanda
that Giorgio must be telling lies about a Bulgarian band. In
another moment Benham and Amanda found themselves swimming in a
torrent of mules. Presently they overtook a small flock of
fortunately nimble sheep, and picked up several dogs, dogs that
happily disregarded Benham in the general confusion. They also
comprehended a small springless cart, two old women with bundles and
an elderly Greek priest, before their dusty, barking, shouting
cavalcade reached the outskirts of Monastir. The two soldiers had
halted behind to cover the retreat.
Benham's ghastly face was now bedewed with sweat and he swayed in
his saddle as he rode. "This is NOT civilization, Amanda," he said,
"this is NOT civilization."
And then suddenly with extraordinary pathos:
"Oh! I want to go to BED! I want to go to BED! A bed with
sheets. . . ."
To ride into Monastir is to ride into a maze. The streets go
nowhere in particular. At least that was the effect on Amanda and
Benham. It was as if Monastir too had a temperature and was
slightly delirious. But at last they found an hotel--quite a
civilized hotel. . . .
The doctor in Monastir was an Armenian with an ambition that outran
his capacity to speak English. He had evidently studied the
language chiefly from books. He thought THESE was pronounced
"theser" and THOSE was pronounced "thoser," and that every English
sentence should be taken at a rush. He diagnosed Benham's complaint
in various languages and failed to make his meaning clear to Amanda.
One combination of words he clung to obstinately, having clearly the
utmost faith in its expressiveness. To Amanda it sounded like,
"May, Ah! Slays," and it seemed to her that he sought to intimate a
probable fatal termination of Benham's fever. But it was clear that
the doctor was not satisfied that she understood. He came again
with a queer little worn book, a parallel vocabulary of half-a-dozen
He turned over the pages and pointed to a word. "May! Ah! Slays!"
he repeated, reproachfully, almost bitterly.
"Oh, MEASLES!" cried Amanda. . . .
So the spirited honeymoon passed its zenith.
The Benhams went as soon as possible down to Smyrna and thence by
way of Uskub tortuously back to Italy. They recuperated at the best
hotel of Locarno in golden November weather, and just before
Christmas they turned their faces back to England.
Benham's plans were comprehensive but entirely vague; Amanda had not
so much plans as intentions. . . .
CHAPTER THE FIFTH
THE ASSIZE OF JEALOUSY
It was very manifest in the disorder of papers amidst which White
spent so many evenings of interested perplexity before this novel
began to be written that Benham had never made any systematic
attempt at editing or revising his accumulation at all. There were
not only overlapping documents, in which he had returned again to
old ideas and restated them in the light of fresh facts and an
apparent unconsciousness of his earlier effort, but there were
mutually destructive papers, new views quite ousting the old had
been tossed in upon the old, and the very definition of the second
limitation, as it had first presented itself to the writer, had been
abandoned. To begin with, this second division had been labelled
"Sex," in places the heading remained, no effective substitute had
been chosen for some time, but there was a closely-written
memorandum, very much erased and written over and amended, which
showed Benham's early dissatisfaction with that crude rendering of
what he had in mind. This memorandum was tacked to an interrupted
fragment of autobiography, a manuscript soliloquy in which Benham
had been discussing his married life.
"It was not until I had been married for the better part of a year,
and had spent more than six months in London, that I faced the plain
issue between the aims I had set before myself and the claims and
immediate necessities of my personal life. For all that time I
struggled not so much to reconcile them as to serve them
simultaneously. . . ."
At that the autobiography stopped short, and the intercalary note
This intercalary note ran as follows:
"I suppose a mind of my sort cannot help but tend towards
simplification, towards making all life turn upon some one dominant
idea, complex perhaps in its reality but reducible at last to one
consistent simple statement, a dominant idea which is essential as
nothing else is essential, which makes and sustains and justifies.
This is perhaps the innate disposition of the human mind, at least
of the European mind--for I have some doubts about the Chinese.
Theology drives obstinately towards an ultimate unity in God,
science towards an ultimate unity in law, towards a fundamental
element and a universal material truth from which all material
truths evolve, and in matters of conduct there is the same tendency
to refer to a universal moral law. Now this may be a simplification
due to the need of the human mind to comprehend, and its inability
to do so until the load is lightened by neglecting factors. William
James has suggested that on account of this, theology may be
obstinately working away from the truth, that the truth may be that
there are several or many in compatible and incommensurable gods;
science, in the same search for unity, may follow divergent methods
of inquiry into ultimately uninterchangeable generalizations; and
there may be not only not one universal moral law, but no effective
reconciliation of the various rights and duties of a single
individual. At any rate I find myself doubtful to this day about my
own personal systems of right and wrong. I can never get all my
life into one focus. It is exactly like examining a rather thick
section with a microscope of small penetration; sometimes one level
is clear and the rest foggy and monstrous, and sometimes another.
"Now the ruling ME, I do not doubt, is the man who has set his face
to this research after aristocracy, and from the standpoint of this
research it is my duty to subordinate all other considerations to
this work of clearing up the conception of rule and nobility in
human affairs. This is my aristocratic self. What I did not grasp
for a long time, and which now grows clearer and clearer to me, is
firstly that this aristocratic self is not the whole of me, it has
absolutely nothing to do with a pain in my ear or in my heart, with
a scar on my hand or my memory, and secondly that it is not
altogether mine. Whatever knowledge I have of the quality of
science, whatever will I have towards right, is of it; but if from
without, from the reasoning or demonstration or reproof of some one
else, there comes to me clear knowledge, clarified will, that also
is as it were a part of my aristocratic self coming home to me from
the outside. How often have I not found my own mind in Prothero
after I have failed to find it in myself? It is, to be paradoxical,
my impersonal personality, this Being that I have in common with all
scientific-spirited and aristocratic-spirited men. This it is that
I am trying to get clear from the great limitations of humanity.
When I assert a truth for the sake of truth to my own discomfort or
injury, there again is this incompatibility of the aristocratic self
and the accepted, confused, conglomerate self of the unanalyzed man.
The two have a separate system of obligations. One's affections,
compounded as they are in the strangest way of physical reactions
and emotional associations, one's implicit pledges to particular
people, one's involuntary reactions, one's pride and jealousy, all
that one might call the dramatic side of one's life, may be in
conflict with the definitely seen rightnesses of one's higher
use. . . ."
The writing changed at this point.
"All this seems to me at once as old as the hills and too new to be
true. This is like the conflict of the Superior Man of Confucius to
control himself, it is like the Christian battle of the spirit with
the flesh, it savours of that eternal wrangle between the general
and the particular which is metaphysics, it was for this
aristocratic self, for righteousness' sake, that men have hungered
and thirsted, and on this point men have left father and mother and
child and wife and followed after salvation. This world-wide, ever-
returning antagonism has filled the world in every age with hermits
and lamas, recluses and teachers, devoted and segregated lives. It
is a perpetual effort to get above the simplicity of barbarism.
Whenever men have emerged from the primitive barbarism of the farm
and the tribe, then straightway there has emerged this conception of
a specialized life a little lifted off the earth; often, for the
sake of freedom, celibate, usually disciplined, sometimes directed,
having a generalized aim, beyond personal successes and bodily
desires. So it is that the philosopher, the scientifically
concentrated man, has appeared, often, I admit, quite ridiculously
at first, setting out upon the long journey that will end only when
the philosopher is king. . . .
"At first I called my Second Limitation, Sex. But from the outset I
meant more than mere sexual desire, lust and lustful imaginings,
more than personal reactions to beauty and spirited living, more
even than what is called love. On the one hand I had in mind many
appetites that are not sexual yet turn to bodily pleasure, and on
the other there are elements of pride arising out of sex and passing
into other regions, all the elements of rivalry for example, that
have strained my first definition to the utmost. And I see now that
this Second Limitation as I first imagined it spreads out without
any definite boundary, to include one's rivalries with old
schoolfellows, for example, one's generosities to beggars and
dependents, one's desire to avenge an injured friend, one's point of
honour, one's regard for the good opinion of an aunt and one's
concern for the health of a pet cat. All these things may enrich,
but they may also impede and limit the aristocratic scheme. I
thought for a time I would call this ill-defined and miscellaneous
wilderness of limitation the Personal Life. But at last I have
decided to divide this vast territory of difficulties into two
subdivisions and make one of these Indulgence, meaning thereby
pleasurable indulgence of sense or feeling, and the other a great
mass of self-regarding motives that will go with a little stretching
under the heading of Jealousy. I admit motives are continually
playing across the boundary of these two divisions, I should find it
difficult to argue a case for my classification, but in practice
these two groupings have a quite definite meaning for me. There is
pride in the latter group of impulses and not in the former; the
former are always a little apologetic. Fear, Indulgence, Jealousy,
these are the First Three Limitations of the soul of man. And the
greatest of these is Jealousy, because it can use pride. Over them
the Life Aristocratic, as I conceive it, marches to its end. It
saves itself for the truth rather than sacrifices itself
romantically for a friend. It justifies vivisection if thereby
knowledge is won for ever. It upholds that Brutus who killed his
sons. It forbids devotion to women, courts of love and all such
decay of the chivalrous idea. And it resigns--so many things that
no common Man of Spirit will resign. Its intention transcends these
things. Over all the world it would maintain justice, order, a
noble peace, and it would do this without indignation, without
resentment, without mawkish tenderness or individualized enthusiasm
or any queen of beauty. It is of a cold austere quality, commanding
sometimes admiration but having small hold upon the affections of
men. So that it is among its foremost distinctions that its heart
is steeled. . . ."
There this odd fragment ended and White was left to resume the
What moods, what passions, what nights of despair and gathering
storms of anger, what sudden cruelties and amazing tendernesses are
buried and hidden and implied in every love story! What a waste is
there of exquisite things! So each spring sees a million glorious
beginnings, a sunlit heaven in every opening leaf, warm perfection
in every stirring egg, hope and fear and beauty beyond computation
in every forest tree; and in the autumn before the snows come they
have all gone, of all that incalculable abundance of life, of all
that hope and adventure, excitement and deliciousness, there is
scarcely more to be found than a soiled twig, a dirty seed, a dead
leaf, black mould or a rotting feather. . . .
White held the ten or twelve pencilled pages that told how Benham
and Amanda drifted into antagonism and estrangement and as he held
it he thought of the laughter and delight they must have had
together, the exquisite excitements of her eye, the racing colour of
her cheek, the gleams of light upon her skin, the flashes of wit
between them, the sense of discovery, the high rare paths they had
followed, the pools in which they had swum together. And now it was
all gone into nothingness, there was nothing left of it, nothing at
all, but just those sheets of statement, and it may be, stored away
in one single mind, like things forgotten in an attic, a few
neglected faded memories. . . .
And even those few sheets of statement were more than most love
leaves behind it. For a time White would not read them. They lay
neglected on his knee as he sat back in Benham's most comfortable
chair and enjoyed an entirely beautiful melancholy.
White too had seen and mourned the spring.
Indeed, poor dear! he had seen and mourned several springs. . . .
With a sigh he took up the manuscript and read Benham's desiccated
story of intellectual estrangement, and how in the end he had
decided to leave his wife and go out alone upon that journey of
inquiry he had been planning when first he met her.
Amanda had come back to England in a state of extravagantly vigorous
womanhood. Benham's illness, though it lasted only two or three
weeks, gave her a sense of power and leadership for which she had
been struggling instinctively ever since they came together. For a
time at Locarno he was lax-minded and indolent, and in that time she
formed her bright and limited plans for London. Benham had no plans
as yet but only a sense of divergence, as though he was being pulled
in opposite directions by two irresistible forces. To her it was
plain that he needed occupation, some distinguished occupation, and
she could imagine nothing better for him than a political career.
She perceived he had personality, that he stood out among men so
that his very silences were effective. She loved him immensely, and
she had tremendous ambitions for him and through him.
And also London, the very thought of London, filled her with
appetite. Her soul thirsted for London. It was like some enormous
juicy fruit waiting for her pretty white teeth, a place almost large
enough to give her avidity the sense of enough. She felt it waiting
for her, household, servants, a carriage, shops and the jolly
delight of buying and possessing things, the opera, first-nights,
picture exhibitions, great dinner-parties, brilliant lunch parties,
crowds seen from a point of vantage, the carriage in a long string
of fine carriages with the lamplit multitude peering, Amanda in a
thousand bright settings, in a thousand various dresses. She had
had love; it had been glorious, it was still glorious, but her love-
making became now at times almost perfunctory in the contemplation
of these approaching delights and splendours and excitements.
She knew, indeed, that ideas were at work in Benham's head; but she
was a realist. She did not see why ideas should stand in the way of
a career. Ideas are a brightness, the good looks of the mind. One
talks ideas, but THE THING THAT IS, IS THE THING THAT IS. And
though she believed that Benham had a certain strength of character
of his own, she had that sort of confidence in his love for her and
in the power of her endearments that has in it the assurance of a
faint contempt. She had mingled pride and sense in the glorious
realization of the power over him that her wit and beauty gave her.
She had held him faint with her divinity, intoxicated with the pride
of her complete possession, and she did not dream that the moment
when he should see clearly that she could deliberately use these
ultimate delights to rule and influence him, would be the end of
their splendour and her power. Her nature, which was just a nest of
vigorous appetites, was incapable of suspecting his gathering
disillusionment until it burst upon her.
Now with her attention set upon London ahead he could observe her.
In the beginning he had never seemed to be observing her at all,
they dazzled one another; it seemed extraordinary now to him to note
how much he had been able to disregard. There were countless times
still when he would have dropped his observation and resumed that
mutual exaltation very gladly, but always now other things possessed
her mind. . . .
There was still an immense pleasure for him in her vigour; there was
something delightful in her pounce, even when she was pouncing on
things superficial, vulgar or destructive. She made him understand
and share the excitement of a big night at the opera, the glitter
and prettiness of a smart restaurant, the clustering little acute
adventures of a great reception of gay people, just as she had
already made him understand and sympathize with dogs. She picked up
the art world where he had laid it down, and she forced him to feel
dense and slow before he rebelled against her multitudinous
enthusiasms and admirations. South Harting had had its little group
of artistic people; it is not one of your sleepy villages, and she
slipped back at once into the movement. Those were the great days
of John, the days before the Post Impressionist outbreak. John,
Orpen, Tonks, she bought them with vigour. Artistic circles began
to revolve about her. Very rapidly she was in possession. . . .
And among other desirable things she had, it seemed, pounced upon
and captured Lady Marayne.
At any rate it was clear that that awful hostile silence and
aloofness was to end. Benham never quite mastered how it was done.
But Amanda had gone in one morning to Desborough Street, very
sweetly and chastely dressed, had abased herself and announced a
possible (though subsequently disproved) grandchild. And she had
appreciated the little lady so highly and openly, she had so
instantly caught and reproduced her tone, that her success, though
only temporary in its completeness, was immediate. In the afternoon
Benham was amazed by the apparition of his mother amidst the
scattered unsettled furnishings of the new home Amanda had chosen in
Lancaster Gate. He was in the hall, the door stood open awaiting
packing-cases from a van without. In the open doorway she shone,
looking the smallest of dainty things. There was no effect of her
coming but only of her having arrived there, as a little blue
butterfly will suddenly alight on a flower.
"Well, Poff!" said Lady Marayne, ignoring abysses, "What are you up
to now, Poff? Come and embrace me. . . ."
"No, not so," she said, "stiffest of sons. . . ."
She laid hold of his ears in the old fashion and kissed one eye.
"Congratulations, dear little Poff. Oh! congratulations! In heaps.
I'm so GLAD."
Now what was that for?
And then Amanda came out upon the landing upstairs, saw the
encounter with an involuntary cry of joy, and came downstairs with
arms wide open. It was the first intimation he had of their
previous meeting. He was for some minutes a stunned, entirely
inadequate Benham. . . .
At first Amanda knew nobody in London, except a few people in the
Hampstead Garden suburb that she had not the slightest wish to know,
and then very quickly she seemed to know quite a lot of people. The
artistic circle brought in people, Lady Marayne brought in people;
they spread. It was manifest the Benhams were a very bright young
couple; he would certainly do something considerable presently, and
she was bright and daring, jolly to look at and excellent fun, and,
when you came to talk to her, astonishingly well informed. They
passed from one hostess's hand to another: they reciprocated. The
Clynes people and the Rushtones took her up; Mr. Evesham was amused
by her, Lady Beach Mandarin proclaimed her charm like a trumpet, the
Young Liberal people made jealous advances, Lord Moggeridge found
she listened well, she lit one of the brightest weekend parties Lady
Marayne had ever gathered at Chexington. And her descriptions of
recent danger and adventure in Albania not only entertained her
hearers but gave her just that flavour of personal courage which
completes the fascination of a young woman. People in the gaps of a
halting dinner-table conversation would ask: "Have you met Mrs.
Meanwhile Benham appeared to be talking. A smiling and successful
young woman, who a year ago had been nothing more than a leggy girl
with a good lot of miscellaneous reading in her head, and vaguely
engaged, or at least friendly to the pitch of engagement, to Mr.
Rathbone-Sanders, may be forgiven if in the full tide of her success
she does not altogether grasp the intention of her husband's
discourse. It seemed to her that he was obsessed by a
responsibility for civilization and the idea that he was
aristocratic. (Secretly she was inclined to doubt whether he was
justified in calling himself aristocratic; at the best his mother
was county-stuff; but still if he did there was no great harm in it
nowadays.) Clearly his line was Tory-Democracy, social reform
through the House of Lords and friendly intimacy with the more
spirited young peers. And it was only very slowly and reluctantly
that she was forced to abandon this satisfactory solution of his
problem. She reproduced all the equipment and comforts of his
Finacue Street study in their new home, she declared constantly that
she would rather forego any old social thing than interfere with his
work, she never made him go anywhere with her without first asking
if his work permitted it. To relieve him of the burthen of such
social attentions she even made a fag or so. The making of fags out
of manifestly stricken men, the keeping of tamed and hopeless
admirers, seemed to her to be the most natural and reasonable of
feminine privileges. They did their useful little services until it
pleased the Lord Cheetah to come to his own. That was how she put
it. . . .
But at last he was talking to her in tones that could no longer be
ignored. He was manifestly losing his temper with her. There was a
novel austerity in his voice and a peculiar whiteness about his face
on certain occasions that lingered in her memory.
He was indeed making elaborate explanations. He said that what he
wanted to do was to understand "the collective life of the world,"
and that this was not to be done in a West-End study. He had an
extraordinary contempt, it seemed, for both sides in the drama of
British politics. He had extravagant ideas of beginning in some
much more fundamental way. He wanted to understand this "collective
life of the world," because ultimately he wanted to help control it.
(Was there ever such nonsense?) The practical side of this was
serious enough, however; he was back at his old idea of going round
the earth. Later on that might be rather a jolly thing to do, but
not until they had struck root a little more surely in London.
And then with amazement, with incredulity, with indignation, she
began to realize that he was proposing to go off by himself upon
this vague extravagant research, that all this work she had been
doing to make a social place for him in London was as nothing to
him, that he was thinking of himself as separable from her. . . .
"But, Cheetah! How can you leave your spotless leopard? You would
howl in the lonely jungle!"
"Possibly I shall. But I am going."
"Then I shall come."
"No." He considered her reasons. "You see you are not interested."
"But I am."
"Not as I am. You would turn it all into a jolly holiday. You
don't want to see things as I want to do. You want romance. All
the world is a show for you. As a show I can't endure it. I want
to lay hands on it."
"But, Cheetah!" she said, "this is separation."
"You will have your life here. And I shall come back."
"But, Cheetah! How can we be separated?"
"We are separated," he said.
Her eyes became round with astonishment. Then her face puckered.
"Cheetah!" she cried in a voice of soft distress, "I love you. What
do you mean?"
And she staggered forward, tear-blinded, and felt for his neck and
shoulders, so that she might weep in his arms. . . .
"Don't say we are separated," she whispered, putting her still wet
face close to his.
"No. We're mates," he answered softly, with his arm about her.
"How could we ever keep away from each uvver?" she whispered.
He was silent.
"How COULD we?"
He answered aloud. "Amanda," he said, "I mean to go round the
She disentangled herself from his arm and sat up beside him.
"What is to become of me," she asked suddenly in a voice of despair,
"while you go round the world? If you desert me in London," she
said, "if you shame me by deserting me in London-- If you leave me,
I will never forgive you, Cheetah! Never." Then in an almost
breathless voice, and as if she spoke to herself, "Never in all my
It was after that that Amanda began to talk about children. There
was nothing involuntary about Amanda. "Soon," she said, "we must
begin to think of children. Not just now, but a little later. It's
good to travel and have our fun, but life is unreal until there are
children in the background. No woman is really content until she is
a mother. . . ." And for nearly a fortnight nothing more was said
about that solitary journey round the world.
But children were not the only new topic in Amanda's talk. She set
herself with an ingenious subtlety to remind her husband that there
were other men in the world. The convenient fags, sometimes a
little embarrassed, found their inobtrusive services being brought
into the light before Benham's eyes. Most of them were much older
men than himself, elderly philanderers of whom it seemed to him no
sane man need be jealous, men often of forty or more, but one was a
contemporary, Sir Philip Easton, a man with a touch of Spanish blood
and a suggestion of Spanish fire, who quite manifestly was very much
in love with Amanda and of whom she spoke with a slight perceptible
difference of manner that made Benham faintly uneasy. He was
ashamed of the feeling. Easton it seemed was a man of a peculiarly
fine honour, so that Amanda could trust herself with him to an
extent that would have been inadvisable with men of a commoner
substance, and he had a gift of understanding and sympathy that was
almost feminine; he could cheer one up when one was lonely and
despondent. For Amanda was so methodical in the arrangement of her
time that even in the full rush of a London season she could find an
hour now and then for being lonely and despondent. And he was a
liberal and understanding purchaser of the ascendant painters; he
understood that side of Amanda's interests, a side upon which Benham
was notably deficient. . . .
"Amanda seems to like that dark boy, Poff; what is his name?--Sir
Philip Easton?" said Lady Marayne.
Benham looked at her with a slightly hostile intelligence, and said
"When a man takes a wife, he has to keep her," said Lady Marayne.
"No," said Benham after consideration. "I don't intend to be a
"Wife-herd--same as goat-herd."
"Coarse, you are sometimes, Poff--nowadays."
"It's exactly what I mean. I can understand the kind of curator's
interest an Oriental finds in shepherding a large establishment, but
to spend my days looking after one person who ought to be able to
look after herself--"
"She's very young."
"She's quite grown up. Anyhow I'm not a moral nursemaid."
"If you leave her about and go abroad--"
"Has she been talking to you, mother?"
"The thing shows."
"But about my going abroad?"
"She said something, my little Poff."
Lady Marayne suddenly perceived that beneath Benham's indifference
was something strung very tight, as though he had been thinking
inordinately. He weighed his words before he spoke again. "If
Amanda chooses to threaten me with a sort of conditional infidelity,
I don't see that it ought to change the plans I have made for my
life. . . ."
"No aristocrat has any right to be jealous," Benham wrote. "If he
chances to be mated with a woman who does not see his vision or
naturally go his way, he has no right to expect her, much less to
compel her to go his way. What is the use of dragging an unwilling
companion through morasses of uncongenial thought to unsought ends?
What is the use of dragging even a willing pretender, who has no
inherent will to seek and live the aristocratic life?
"But that does not excuse him from obedience to his own call. . . ."
He wrote that very early in his examination of the Third Limitation.
Already he had thought out and judged Amanda. The very charm of
her, the sweetness, the nearness and magic of her, was making him
more grimly resolute to break away. All the elaborate process of
thinking her over had gone on behind the mask of his silences while
she had been preoccupied with her housing and establishment in
London; it was with a sense of extraordinary injustice, of having
had a march stolen upon her, of being unfairly trapped, that Amanda
found herself faced by foregone conclusions. He was ready now even
with the details of his project. She should go on with her life in
London exactly as she had planned it. He would take fifteen hundred
a year for himself and all the rest she might spend without check or
stint as it pleased her. He was going round the world for one or
two years. It was even possible he would not go alone. There was a
man at Cambridge he might persuade to come with him, a don called
Prothero who was peculiarly useful in helping him to hammer out his
ideas. . . .
To her it became commandingly necessary that none of these things
She tried to play upon his jealousy, but her quick instinct speedily
told her that this only hardened his heart. She perceived that she
must make a softer appeal. Now of a set intention she began to
revive and imitate the spontaneous passion of the honeymoon; she
perceived for the first time clearly how wise and righteous a thing
it is for a woman to bear a child. "He cannot go if I am going to
have a child," she told herself. But that would mean illness, and
for illness in herself or others Amanda had the intense disgust
natural to her youth. Yet even illness would be better than this
intolerable publication of her husband's ability to leave her
side. . . .
She had a wonderful facility of enthusiasm and she set herself
forthwith to cultivate a philoprogenitive ambition, to communicate
it to him. Her dread of illness disappeared; her desire for
"Yes," he said, "I want to have children, but I must go round the
world none the less."
She argued with all the concentrated subtlety of her fine keen mind.
She argued with persistence and repetition. And then suddenly so
that she was astonished at herself, there came a moment when she
ceased to argue.
She stood in the dusk in a window that looked out upon the park, and
she was now so intent upon her purpose as to be still and self-
forgetful; she was dressed in a dinner-dress of white and pale
green, that set off her slim erect body and the strong clear lines
of her neck and shoulders very beautifully, some greenish stones
caught a light from without and flashed soft whispering gleams from
amidst the misty darkness of her hair. She was going to Lady
Marayne and the opera, and he was bound for a dinner at the House
with some young Liberals at which he was to meet two representative
Indians with a grievance from Bengal. Husband and wife had but a
few moments together. She asked about his company and he told her.
"They will tell you about India."
She stood for a moment looking out across the lights and the dark
green trees, and then she turned to him.
"Why cannot I come with you?" she asked with sudden passion. "Why
cannot I see the things you want to see?"
"I tell you you are not interested. You would only be interested
through me. That would not help me. I should just be dealing out
my premature ideas to you. If you cared as I care, if you wanted to
know as I want to know, it would be different. But you don't. It
isn't your fault that you don't. It happens so. And there is no
good in forced interest, in prescribed discovery."
"Cheetah," she asked, "what is it that you want to know--that I
don't care for?"
"I want to know about the world. I want to rule the world."
"So do I."
"No, you want to have the world."
"Isn't it the same?"
"No. You're a greedier thing than I am, you Black Leopard you--
standing there in the dusk. You're a stronger thing. Don't you
know you're stronger? When I am with you, you carry your point,
because you are more concentrated, more definite, less scrupulous.
When you run beside me you push me out of my path. . . . You've
made me afraid of you. . . . And so I won't go with you, Leopard.
I go alone. It isn't because I don't love you. I love you too
well. It isn't because you aren't beautiful and wonderful. . . ."
"But, Cheetah! nevertheless you care more for this that you want
than you care for me."
Benham thought of it. "I suppose I do," he said.
"What is it that you want? Still I don't understand."
Her voice had the break of one who would keep reasonable in spite of
"I ought to tell you."
"Yes, you ought to tell me."
"I wonder if I can tell you," he said very thoughtfully, and rested
his hands on his hips. "I shall seem ridiculous to you."
"You ought to tell me."
"I think what I want is to be king of the world."
She stood quite still staring at him.
"I do not know how I can tell you of it. Amanda, do you remember
those bodies--you saw those bodies--those mutilated men?"
"I saw them," said Amanda.
"Well. Is it nothing to you that those things happen?"
"They must happen."
"No. They happen because there are no kings but pitiful kings.
They happen because the kings love their Amandas and do not care."
"But what can YOU do, Cheetah?"
"Very little. But I can give my life and all my strength. I can
give all I can give."
"But how? How can you help it--help things like that massacre?"
"I can do my utmost to find out what is wrong with my world and rule
it and set it right."
"Other men do as much. Every one who does so helps others to do so.
You see-- . . . In this world one may wake in the night and one may
resolve to be a king, and directly one has resolved one is a king.
Does that sound foolishness to you? Anyhow, it's fair that I should
tell you, though you count me a fool. This--this kingship--this
dream of the night--is my life. It is the very core of me. Much
more than you are. More than anything else can be. I mean to be a
king in this earth. KING. I'm not mad. . . . I see the world
staggering from misery to misery and there is little wisdom, less
rule, folly, prejudice, limitation, the good things come by chance
and the evil things recover and slay them, and it is my world and I
am responsible. Every man to whom this light has come is
responsible. As soon as this light comes to you, as soon as your
kingship is plain to you, there is no more rest, no peace, no
delight, except in work, in service, in utmost effort. As far as I
can do it I will rule my world. I cannot abide in this smug city, I
cannot endure its self-complacency, its routine, its gloss of
success, its rottenness. . . . I shall do little, perhaps I shall
do nothing, but what I can understand and what I can do I will do.
Think of that wild beautiful country we saw, and the mean misery,
the filth and the warring cruelty of the life that lives there,
tragedy, tragedy without dignity; and think, too, of the limitless
ugliness here, and of Russia slipping from disorder to massacre, and
China, that sea of human beings, sliding steadily to disaster. Do
you think these are only things in the newspapers? To me at any
rate they are not things in newspapers; they are pain and failure,
they are torment, they are blood and dust and misery. They haunt me
day and night. Even if it is utterly absurd I will still do my
utmost. It IS absurd. I'm a madman and you and my mother are
sensible people. . . . And I will go my way. . . . I don't care
for the absurdity. I don't care a rap."
He stopped abruptly.
"There you have it, Amanda. It's rant, perhaps. Sometimes I feel
it's rant. And yet it's the breath of life to me. . . . There you
are. . . . At last I've been able to break silence and tell
you. . . ."
He stopped with something like a sob and stood regarding the dusky
mystery of her face. She stood quite still, she was just a
beautiful outline in the twilight, her face was an indistinctness
under the black shadow of her hair, with eyes that were two patches
He looked at his watch, lifting it close to his face to see the
time. His voice changed. "Well--if you provoke a man enough, you
see he makes speeches. Let it be a lesson to you, Amanda. Here we
are talking instead of going to our dinners. The car has been
waiting ten minutes."
Amanda, so still, was the most disconcerting of all Amandas. . . .
A strange exaltation seized upon her very suddenly. In an instant
she had ceased to plot against him. A vast wave of emotion swept
her forward to a resolution that astonished her.
"Cheetah!" she said, and the very quality of her voice had changed,
"give me one thing. Stay until June with me."
"Why?" he asked.
Her answer came in a voice so low that it was almost a whisper.
"Because--now--no, I don't want to keep you any more--I am not
trying to hold you any more. . . . I want. . . ."
She came forward to him and looked up closely at his face.
"Cheetah," she whispered almost inaudibly, "Cheetah--I didn't
understand. But now--. I want to bear your child."
He was astonished. "Old Leopard!" he said.
"No," she answered, putting her hands upon his shoulders and drawing
very close to him, "Queen---if I can be--to your King."
"You want to bear me a child!" he whispered, profoundly moved.
The Hindu agitators at the cavernous dinner under the House of
Commons came to the conclusion that Benham was a dreamer. And over
against Amanda at her dinner-party sat Sir Sidney Umber, one of
those men who know that their judgments are quoted.
"Who is the beautiful young woman who is seeing visions?" he asked
of his neighbour in confidential undertones. . . .
He tittered. "I think, you know, she ought to seem just SLIGHTLY
aware that the man to her left is talking to her. . . ."
A few days later Benham went down to Cambridge, where Prothero was
now a fellow of Trinity and Brissenden Trust Lecturer. . . .
All through Benham's writing there was manifest a persuasion that in
some way Prothero was necessary to his mind. It was as if he looked
to Prothero to keep him real. He suspected even while he obeyed
that upward flourish which was his own essential characteristic. He
had a peculiar feeling that somehow that upward bias would betray
him; that from exaltation he might presently float off, into the
higher, the better, and so to complete unreality. He fled from
priggishness and the terror of such sublimity alike to Prothero.
Moreover, in relation to so many things Prothero in a peculiar
distinctive manner SAW. He had less self-control than Benham, less
integrity of purpose, less concentration, and things that were
before his eyes were by the very virtue of these defects invariably
visible to him. Things were able to insist upon themselves with
him. Benham, on the other hand, when facts contradicted his purpose
too stoutly, had a way of becoming blind to them. He repudiated
inconvenient facts. He mastered and made his world; Prothero
accepted and recorded his. Benham was a will towards the universe
where Prothero was a perception and Amanda a confusing responsive
activity. And it was because of his realization of this profound
difference between them that he was possessed by the idea of taking
Prothero with him about the world, as a detachable kind of vision--
rather like that eye the Graiae used to hand one another. . . .
After the busy sunlit streets of Maytime Cambridge, Prothero's rooms
in Trinity, their windows full of Gothic perspectives and light-
soaked blue sky, seemed cool and quiet. A flavour of scholarship
pervaded them--a little blended with the flavour of innumerable
breakfasts nearly but not completely forgotten. Prothero's door had
been locked against the world, and he had appeared after a slight
delay looking a little puffy and only apprehending who his visitor
was after a resentful stare for the better part of a second. He
might have been asleep, he might have been doing anything but the
examination papers he appeared to be doing. The two men exchanged
personal details; they had not met since some months before Benham'
s marriage, and the visitor's eye went meanwhile from his host to
the room and back to his host's face as though they were all aspects
of the thing he was after, the Prothero humour, the earthly touch,
the distinctive Prothero flavour. Then his eye was caught by a
large red, incongruous, meretricious-looking volume upon the couch
that had an air of having been flung aside, VENUS IN GEM AND MARBLE,
its cover proclaimed. . . .
His host followed that glance and blushed. "They send me all sorts
of inappropriate stuff to review," he remarked.
And then he was denouncing celibacy.
The transition wasn't very clear to Benham. His mind had been
preoccupied by the problem of how to open his own large project.
Meanwhile Prothero got, as it were, the conversational bit between
his teeth and bolted. He began to say the most shocking things
right away, so that Benham's attention was caught in spite of
"Celibacy, my dear Benham, is maddening me," said Prothero. "I
can't stand it any longer."
It seemed to Benham that somewhere, very far away, in another world,
such a statement might have been credible. Even in his own life,--
it was now indeed a remote, forgotten stage--there had been
something distantly akin. . . .
"You're going to marry?"
"Who's the lady, Billy?"
"I don't know. Venus."
His little red-brown eye met his friend's defiantly. "So far as I
know, it is Venus Anadyomene." A flash of laughter passed across
his face and left it still angrier, still more indecorously defiant.
"I like her best, anyhow. I do, indeed. But, Lord! I feel that
almost any of them--"
"Tut, tut!" said Benham.
Prothero flushed deeply but stuck to his discourse.
"Wasn't it always your principle, Benham, to look facts in the face?
I am not pronouncing an immoral principle. Your manner suggests I
am. I am telling you exactly how I feel. That is how I feel. I
want--Venus. I don't want her to talk to or anything of that
sort. . . . I have been studying that book, yes, that large,
vulgar, red book, all the morning, instead of doing any work.
Would you like to see it? . . . NO! . . .
"This spring, Benham, I tell you, is driving me mad. It is a
peculiarly erotic spring. I cannot sleep, I cannot fix my mind, I
cannot attend to ordinary conversation. These feelings, I
understand, are by no means peculiar to myself. . . . No, don't
interrupt me, Benham; let me talk now that the spirit of speech is
upon me. When you came in you said, 'How are you?' I am telling
you how I am. You brought it on yourself. Well--I am--inflamed. I
have no strong moral or religious convictions to assist me either to
endure or deny this--this urgency. And so why should I deny it?
It's one of our chief problems here. The majority of my fellow dons
who look at me with secretive faces in hall and court and
combination-room are in just the same case as myself. The fever in
oneself detects the fever in others. I know their hidden thoughts.
Their fishy eyes defy me to challenge their hidden thoughts. Each
covers his miserable secret under the cloak of a wholesome manly
indifference. A tattered cloak. . . . Each tries to hide his
abandonment to this horrible vice of continence--"
"Billy, what's the matter with you?"
Prothero grimaced impatience. "Shall I NEVER teach you not to be a
humbug, Benham?" he screamed, and in screaming became calmer.
"Nature taunts me, maddens me. My life is becoming a hell of shame.
'Get out from all these books,' says Nature, 'and serve the Flesh.'
The Flesh, Benham. Yes--I insist--the Flesh. Do I look like a pure
spirit? Is any man a pure spirit? And here am I at Cambridge like
a lark in a cage, with too much port and no Aspasia. Not that I
should have liked Aspasia."
"Mutual, perhaps, Billy."
"Oh! you can sneer!"
"Well, clearly--Saint Paul is my authority--it's marriage, Billy."
Prothero had walked to the window. He turned round.
"I CAN'T marry," he said. "The trouble has gone too far. I've lost
my nerve in the presence of women. I don't like them any more.
They come at one--done up in a lot of ridiculous clothes, and
chattering about all sorts of things that don't matter. . . ." He
surveyed his friend's thoughtful attitude. "I'm getting to hate
women, Benham. I'm beginning now to understand the bitterness of
spinsters against men. I'm beginning to grasp the unkindliness of
priests. The perpetual denial. To you, happily married, a woman is
just a human being. You can talk to her, like her, you can even
admire her calmly; you've got, you see, no grudge against her. . . ."
He sat down abruptly.
Benham, upon the hearthrug before the empty fireplace, considered
"Billy! this is delusion," he said. "What's come over you?"
"I'm telling you," said Prothero.
"No," said Benham.
Prothero awaited some further utterance.
"I'm looking for the cause of it. It's feeding, Billy. It's port
and stimulants where there is no scope for action. It's idleness.
I begin to see now how much fatter you are, how much coarser."
"Idleness! Look at this pile of examination answers. Look at that
filing system like an arsenal of wisdom. Useless wisdom, I admit,
but anyhow not idleness."
"There's still bodily idleness. No. That's your trouble. You're
stuffy. You've enlarged your liver. You sit in this room of a warm
morning after an extravagant breakfast--. And peep and covet."
"Just eggs and bacon!"
"Think of it! Coffee and toast it ought to be. Come out of it,
Billy, and get aired."
"How can one?"
"Easily. Come out of it now. Come for a walk, you Pig!"
"It's an infernally warm morning.
"Walk with me to Grantchester."
"We might go by boat. You could row."
"I ought to do these papers."
"You weren't doing them."
"No. . . ."
"Walk with me to Grantchester. All this affliction of yours is--
horrid--and just nothing at all. Come out of it! I want you to
come with me to Russia and about the world. I'm going to leave my
"Leave your wife!"
"Why not? And I came here hoping to find you clear-headed, and
instead you are in this disgusting state. I've never met anything
in my life so hot and red and shiny and shameless. Come out of it,
man! How can one talk to you?"
"You pull things down to your own level," said Benham as they went
through the heat to Grantchester.
"I pull them down to truth," panted Prothero.
"Truth! As though being full of gross appetites was truth, and
discipline and training some sort of falsity!"
"Artificiality. And begetting pride, Benham, begetting a prig's
For a time there was more than the heat of the day between them. . . .
The things that Benham had come down to discuss were thrust into the
background by the impassioned materialism of Prothero.
"I'm not talking of Love," he said, remaining persistently
outrageous. "I'm talking of physical needs. That first. What is
the good of arranging systems of morality and sentiment before you
know what is physically possible. . . .
"But how can one disentangle physical and moral necessities?"
"Then why don't we up and find out?" said Billy.
He had no patience with the secrecy, the ignorance, the emotion that
surrounded these questions. We didn't worship our ancestors when it
came to building bridges or working metals or curing disease or
studying our indigestion, and why should we become breathless or
wordless with awe and terror when it came to this fundamental
affair? Why here in particular should we give way to Holy Fear and
stifled submission to traditional suppressions and the wisdom of the
ages? "What is the wisdom of the ages?" said Prothero. "Think of
the corners where that wisdom was born. . . . Flea-bitten sages in
stone-age hovels. . . . Wandering wise man with a rolling eye, a
fakir under a tree, a Jewish sheik, an Arab epileptic. . . ."
"Would you sweep away the experience of mankind?" protested Benham.
The experience of mankind in these matters had always been bitter
experience. Most of it was better forgotten. It didn't convince.
It had never worked things out. In this matter just as in every
other matter that really signified things had still to be worked
out. Nothing had been worked out hitherto. The wisdom of the ages
was a Cant. People had been too busy quarrelling, fighting and
running away. There wasn't any digested experience of the ages at
all. Only the mis-remembered hankey-pankey of the Dead Old Man.
"Is this love-making a physical necessity for most men and women or
isn't it?" Prothero demanded. "There's a simple question enough,
and is there anything whatever in your confounded wisdom of the ages
to tell me yes or no? Can an ordinary celibate be as healthy and
vigorous as a mated man? Is a spinster of thirty-eight a healthy
human being? Can she be? I don't believe so. Then why in thunder
do we let her be? Here am I at a centre of learning and wisdom and
I don't believe so; and there is nothing in all our colleges,
libraries and roomsfull of wiseacres here, to settle that plain
question for me, plainly and finally. My life is a grubby torment
of cravings because it isn't settled. If sexual activity IS a part
of the balance of life, if it IS a necessity, well let's set about
making it accessible and harmless and have done with it. Swedish
exercises. That sort of thing. If it isn't, if it can be reduced
and done without, then let us set about teaching people HOW to
control themselves and reduce and get rid of this vehement passion.
But all this muffled mystery, this pompous sneak's way we take with
"But, Billy! How can one settle these things? It's a matter of
idiosyncrasy. What is true for one man isn't true for another.
There's infinite difference of temperaments!"
"Then why haven't we a classification of temperaments and a moral
code for each sort? Why am I ruled by the way of life that is
convenient for Rigdon the vegetarian and fits Bowler the saint like
a glove? It isn't convenient for me. It fits me like a hair-shirt.
Of course there are temperaments, but why can't we formulate them
and exercise the elementary charity of recognizing that one man's
health in these matters is another man's death? Some want love and
gratification and some don't. There are people who want children
and people who don't want to be bothered by children but who are
full of vivid desires. There are people whose only happiness is
chastity, and women who would rather be courtesans than mothers.
Some of us would concentrate upon a single passion or a single idea;
others overflow with a miscellaneous--tenderness. Yes,--and you
smile! Why spit upon and insult a miscellaneous tenderness, Benham?
Why grin at it? Why try every one by the standards that suit
oneself? We're savages, Benham, shamefaced savages, still.
Shamefaced and persecuting.
"I was angry about sex by seventeen," he went on. "Every year I
live I grow angrier."
His voice rose to a squeal of indignation as he talked.
"Think," he said, "of the amount of thinking and feeling about sex
that is going on in Cambridge this morning. The hundreds out of
these thousands full of it. A vast tank of cerebration. And we put
none of it together; we work nothing out from that but poor little
couplings and casual stories, patchings up of situations,
misbehaviours, blunders, disease, trouble, escapes; and the next
generation will start, and the next generation after that will start
with nothing but your wisdom of the ages, which isn't wisdom at all,
which is just awe and funk, taboos and mystery and the secretive
cunning of the savage. . . .
"What I really want to do is my work," said Prothero, going off
quite unexpectedly again. "That is why all this business, this
incessant craving and the shame of it and all makes me so infernally
angry. . . ."
"There I'm with you," cried Benham, struggling out of the thick
torrent of Prothero's prepossessions. "What we want to do is our
He clung to his idea. He raised his voice to prevent Prothero
getting the word again.
"It's this, that you call Work, that I call--what do I call it?--
living the aristocratic life, which takes all the coarse simplicity
out of this business. If it was only submission. . . . YOU think
it is only submission--giving way. . . . It isn't only submission.
We'd manage sex all right, we'd be the happy swine our senses would
make us, if we didn't know all the time that there was something
else to live for, something far more important. And different.
Absolutely different and contradictory. So different that it cuts
right across all these considerations. It won't fit in. . . . I
don't know what this other thing is; it's what I want to talk about
with you. But I know that it IS, in all my bones. . . . YOU
know. . . . It demands control, it demands continence, it insists
But the ideas of continence and disregard were unpleasant ideas to
Prothero that day.
"Mankind," said Benham, "is overcharged with this sex. It
suffocates us. It gives life only to consume it. We struggle out
of the urgent necessities of a mere animal existence. We are not so
much living as being married and given in marriage. All life is
swamped in the love story. . . ."
"Man is only overcharged because he is unsatisfied," said Prothero,
sticking stoutly to his own view.
It was only as they sat at a little table in the orchard at
Grantchester after their lunch that Benham could make head against
Prothero and recover that largeness of outlook which had so easily
touched the imagination of Amanda. And then he did not so much
dispose of Prothero's troubles as soar over them. It is the last
triumph of the human understanding to sympathize with desires we do
not share, and to Benham who now believed himself to be loved beyond
the chances of life, who was satisfied and tranquil and austerely
content, it was impossible that Prothero's demands should seem
anything more than the grotesque and squalid squealings of the beast
that has to be overridden and rejected altogether. It is a freakish
fact of our composition that these most intense feelings in life are
just those that are most rapidly and completely forgotten; hate one
may recall for years, but the magic of love and the flame of desire
serve their purpose in our lives and vanish, leaving no trace, like
the snows of Venice. Benham was still not a year and a half from
the meretricious delights of Mrs. Skelmersdale, and he looked at
Prothero as a marble angel might look at a swine in its sty. . . .
What he had now in mind was an expedition to Russia. When at last
he could sufficiently release Prothero's attention, he unfolded the
project that had been developing steadily in him since his honeymoon
He had discovered a new reason for travelling. The last country we
can see clearly, he had discovered, is our own country. It is as
hard to see one's own country as it is to see the back of one's
head. It is too much behind us, too much ourselves. But Russia is
like England with everything larger, more vivid, cruder; one felt
that directly one walked about St. Petersburg. St. Petersburg upon
its Neva was like a savage untamed London on a larger Thames; they
were seagull-haunted tidal cities, like no other capitals in Europe.
The shipping and buildings mingled in their effects. Like London it
looked over the heads of its own people to a limitless polyglot
empire. And Russia was an aristocratic land, with a middle-class
that had no pride in itself as a class; it had a British toughness
and incompetence, a British disregard of logic and meticulous care.
Russia, like England, was outside Catholic Christendom, it had a
state church and the opposition to that church was not secularism
but dissent. One could draw a score of such contrasted parallels.
And now it was in a state of intolerable stress, that laid bare the
elemental facts of a great social organization. It was having its
South African war, its war at the other end of the earth, with a
certain defeat instead of a dubious victory. . . .
"There is far more freedom for the personal life in Russia than in
England," said Prothero, a little irrelevantly.
Benham went on with his discourse about Russia. . . .
"At the college of Troitzka," said Prothero, "which I understand is
a kind of monster Trinity unencumbered by a University, Binns tells
me that although there is a profession of celibacy within the walls,
the arrangements of the town and more particularly of the various
hotels are conceived in a spirit of extreme liberality."
Benham hardly attended at all to these interruptions.
He went on to point out the elemental quality of the Russian
situation. He led up to the assertion that to go to Russia, to see
Russia, to try to grasp the broad outline of the Russian process,
was the manifest duty of every responsible intelligence that was
free to do as much. And so he was going, and if Prothero cared to
"Yes," said Prothero, "I should like to go to Russia."
But throughout all their travel together that summer Benham was
never able to lift Prothero away from his obsession. It was the
substance of their talk as the Holland boat stood out past waiting
destroyers and winking beacons and the lights of Harwich, into the
smoothly undulating darkness of the North Sea; it rose upon them
again as they sat over the cakes and cheese of a Dutch breakfast in
the express for Berlin. Prothero filled the Sieges Allee with his
complaints against nature and society, and distracted Benham in his
contemplation of Polish agriculture from the windows of the train
with turgid sexual liberalism. So that Benham, during this period
until Prothero left him and until the tragic enormous spectacle of
Russia in revolution took complete possession of him, was as it were
thinking upon two floors. Upon the one he was thinking of the vast
problems of a society of a hundred million people staggering on the
verge of anarchy, and upon the other he was perplexed by the
feverish inattention of Prothero to the tremendous things that were
going on all about them. It was only presently when the serenity of
his own private life began to be ruffled by disillusionment, that he
began to realize the intimate connexion of these two systems of
thought. Yet Prothero put it to him plainly enough.
"Inattentive," said Prothero, "of course I am inattentive. What is
really the matter with all this--this social mess people are in
here, is that nearly everybody is inattentive. These Big Things of
yours, nobody is thinking of them really. Everybody is thinking
about the Near Things that concern himself."
"The bombs they threw yesterday? The Cossacks and the whips?"
"Nudges. Gestures of inattention. If everybody was thinking of the
Res Publica would there be any need for bombs?"
He pursued his advantage. "It's all nonsense to suppose people
think of politics because they are in 'em. As well suppose that the
passengers on a liner understand the engines, or soldiers a war.
Before men can think of to-morrow, they must think of to-day.
Before they can think of others, they must be sure about themselves.
First of all, food; the private, the personal economic worry. Am I
safe for food? Then sex, and until one is tranquil and not ashamed,
not irritated and dissatisfied, how can one care for other people,
or for next year or the Order of the World? How can one, Benham?"
He seized the illustration at hand. "Here we are in Warsaw--not a
month after bomb-throwing and Cossack charging. Windows have still
to be mended, smashed doors restored. There's blood-stains still on
some of the houses. There are hundreds of people in the Citadel and
in the Ochrana prison. This morning there were executions. Is it
anything more than an eddy in the real life of the place? Watch the
customers in the shops, the crowd in the streets, the men in the
cafes who stare at the passing women. They are all swallowed up
again in their own business. They just looked up as the Cossacks
galloped past; they just shifted a bit when the bullets spat. . . ."
And when the streets of Moscow were agog with the grotesque amazing
adventure of the Potemkin mutineers, Prothero was in the full tide
of the private romance that severed him from Benham and sent him
back to Cambridge--changed.
Before they reached Moscow Benham was already becoming accustomed to
disregard Prothero. He was looking over him at the vast heaving
trouble of Russia, which now was like a sea that tumbles under the
hurrying darknesses of an approaching storm. In those days it
looked as though it must be an overwhelming storm. He was drinking
in the wide and massive Russian effects, the drifting crowds in the
entangling streets, the houses with their strange lettering in black
and gold, the innumerable barbaric churches, the wildly driven
droshkys, the sombre red fortress of the Kremlin, with its bulbous
churches clustering up into the sky, the crosses, the innumerable
gold crosses, the mad church of St. Basil, carrying the Russian note
beyond the pitch of permissible caricature, and in this setting the
obscure drama of clustering, staring, sash-wearing peasants, long-
haired students, sane-eyed women, a thousand varieties of uniform, a
running and galloping to and fro of messengers, a flutter of little
papers, whispers, shouts, shots, a drama elusive and portentous, a
gathering of forces, an accumulation of tension going on to a
perpetual clash and clamour of bells. Benham had brought letters of
introduction to a variety of people, some had vanished, it seemed.
They were "away," the porters said, and they continued to be
"away,"--it was the formula, he learnt, for arrest; others were
evasive, a few showed themselves extraordinarily anxious to inform
him about things, to explain themselves and things about them
exhaustively. One young student took him to various meetings and
showed him in great detail the scene of the recent murder of the
Grand Duke Sergius. The buildings opposite the old French cannons
were still under repair. "The assassin stood just here. The bomb
fell there, look! right down there towards the gate; that was where
they found his arm. He was torn to fragments. He was scraped up.
He was mixed with the horses. . . ."
Every one who talked spoke of the outbreak of revolution as a matter
of days or at the utmost weeks. And whatever question Benham chose
to ask these talkers were prepared to answer. Except one. "And
after the revolution," he asked, "what then? . . ." Then they waved
their hands, and failed to convey meanings by reassuring gestures.
He was absorbed in his effort to understand this universal ominous
drift towards a conflict. He was trying to piece together a
process, if it was one and the same process, which involved riots in
Lodz, fighting at Libau, wild disorder at Odessa, remote colossal
battlings in Manchuria, the obscure movements of a disastrous fleet
lost somewhere now in the Indian seas, steaming clumsily to its
fate, he was trying to rationalize it all in his mind, to comprehend
its direction. He was struggling strenuously with the obscurities
of the language in which these things were being discussed about
him, a most difficult language demanding new sets of visual images
because of its strange alphabet. Is it any wonder that for a time
he failed to observe that Prothero was involved in some entirely
They were staying at the big Cosmopolis bazaar in the Theatre
Square. Thither, through the doors that are opened by distraught-
looking men with peacocks' feathers round their caps, came Benham's
friends and guides to take him out and show him this and that. At
first Prothero always accompanied Benham on these expeditions; then
he began to make excuses. He would stay behind in the hotel. Then
when Benham returned Prothero would have disappeared. When the
porter was questioned about Prothero his nescience was profound.
One night no Prothero was discoverable at any hour, and Benham, who
wanted to discuss a project for going on to Kieff and Odessa, was
"Moscow is a late place," said Benham's student friend. "You need
not be anxious until after four or five in the morning. It will be
quite time--QUITE time to be anxious to-morrow. He may be--close at
When Benham hunted up Prothero in his room next morning he found him
sleepy and irritable.
"I don't trouble if YOU are late," said Prothero, sitting up in his
bed with a red resentful face and crumpled hair. "I wasn't born
"I wanted to talk about leaving Moscow."
"I don't want to leave Moscow."
"But Odessa--Odessa is the centre of interest just now."
"I want to stay in Moscow."
Benham looked baffled.
Prothero stuck up his knees and rested his night-shirted arms upon
them. "I don't want to leave Moscow," he said, "and I'm not going
to do so."
"But haven't we done--"
Prothero interrupted. "You may. But I haven't. We're not after
the same things. Things that interest you, Benham, don't interest
me. I've found--different things."
His expression was extraordinarily defiant.
"I want," he went on, "to put our affairs on a different footing.
Now you've opened the matter we may as well go into it. You were
good enough to bring me here. . . . There was a sort of
understanding we were working together. . . . We aren't. . . . The
long and short of it is, Benham, I want to pay you for my journey
here and go on my own--independently."
His eye and voice achieved a fierceness that Benham found nearly
incredible in him.
Something that had got itself overlooked in the press of other
matters jerked back into Benham's memory. It popped back so
suddenly that for an instant he wanted to laugh. He turned towards
the window, picked his way among Prothero's carelessly dropped
garments, and stood for a moment staring into the square, with its
drifting, assembling and dispersing fleet of trains and its long
line of blue-coated IZVOSHTCHIKS. Then he turned.
"Billy," he said, "didn't I see you the other evening driving
towards the Hermitage?"
"Yes," said Prothero, and added, "that's it."
"You were with a lady."
"And she IS a lady," said Prothero, so deeply moved that his face
twitched as though he was going to weep.
"She's a Russian?"
"She had an English mother. Oh, you needn't stand there and look so
damned ironical! She's--she's a woman. She's a thing of
kindness. . . ."
He was too full to go on.
"Billy, old boy," said Benham, distressed, "I don't want to be
Prothero had got his voice again.
"You'd better know," he said, "you'd better know. She's one of
those women who live in this hotel."
"Live in this hotel!"
"On the fourth floor. Didn't you know? It's the way in most of
these big Russian hotels. They come down and sit about after lunch
and dinner. A woman with a yellow ticket. Oh! I don't care. I
don't care a rap. She's been kind to me; she's--she's dear to me.
How are you to understand? I shall stop in Moscow. I shall take
her to England. I can't live without her, Benham. And then-- And
then you come worrying me to come to your damned Odessa!"
And suddenly this extraordinary young man put his hands to his face
as though he feared to lose it and would hold it on, and after an
apoplectic moment burst noisily into tears. They ran between his
fingers. "Get out of my room," he shouted, suffocatingly. "What
business have you to come prying on me?"
Benham sat down on a chair in the middle of the room and stared
round-eyed at his friend. His hands were in his pockets. For a
time he said nothing.
"Billy," he began at last, and stopped again. "Billy, in this
country somehow one wants to talk like a Russian. Billy, my dear--
I'm not your father, I'm not your judge. I'm--unreasonably fond of
you. It's not my business to settle what is right or wrong for you.
If you want to stay in Moscow, stay in Moscow. Stay here, and stay
as my guest. . . ."
He stopped and remained staring at his friend for a little space.
"I didn't know," said Prothero brokenly; "I didn't know it was
possible to get so fond of a person. . . ."
Benham stood up. He had never found Prothero so attractive and so
abominable in his life before.
"I shall go to Odessa alone, Billy. I'll make things all right here
before I go. . . ."
He closed the door behind him and went in a state of profound
thought to his own room. . . .
Presently Prothero came to him with a vague inopportune desire to
explain what so evidently did not need explaining. He walked about
the room trying ways of putting it, while Benham packed.
In an unaccountable way Prothero's bristling little mind seemed to
have shrunken to something sleek and small.
"I wish," he said, "you could stay for a later train and have lunch
and meet her. She's not the ordinary thing. She's--different."
Benham plumbed depths of wisdom. "Billy," he said, "no woman IS the
ordinary thing. They are all--different. . . ."
For a time this affair of Prothero's seemed to be a matter as
disconnected from the Research Magnificent as one could imagine any
matter to be. While Benham went from Moscow and returned, and
travelled hither and thither, and involved himself more and more in
the endless tangled threads of the revolutionary movement in Russia,
Prothero was lost to all those large issues in the development of
his personal situation. He contributed nothing to Benham's thought
except attempts at discouragement. He reiterated his declaration
that all the vast stress and change of Russian national life was
going on because it was universally disregarded. "I tell you, as I
told you before, that nobody is attending. You think because all
Moscow, all Russia, is in the picture, that everybody is concerned.
Nobody is concerned. Nobody cares what is happening. Even the men
who write in newspapers and talk at meetings about it don't care.
They are thinking of their dinners, of their clothes, of their
money, of their wives. They hurry home. . . ."
That was his excuse.
Manifestly it was an excuse.
His situation developed into remarkable complications of jealousy
and divided counsels that Benham found altogether incomprehensible.
To Benham in those days everything was very simple in this business
of love. The aristocrat had to love ideally; that was all. He had
to love Amanda. He and Amanda were now very deeply in love again,
more in love, he felt, than they had ever been before. They were
now writing love-letters to each other and enjoying a separation
that was almost voluptuous. She found in the epistolatory treatment
of her surrender to him and to the natural fate of women, a
delightful exercise for her very considerable powers of expression.
Life pointed now wonderfully to the great time ahead when there
would be a Cheetah cub in the world, and meanwhile the Cheetah loped
about the wild world upon a mighty quest. In such terms she put it.
Such foolishness written in her invincibly square and youthful hand
went daily from London to Russia, and stacked up against his return
in the porter's office at the Cosmopolis Bazaar or pursued him down
through the jarring disorders of south-west Russia, or waited for
him at ill-chosen post-offices that deflected his journeyings
wastefully or in several instances went altogether astray. Perhaps
they supplied self-educating young strikers in the postal service
with useful exercises in the deciphering of manuscript English. He
wrote back five hundred different ways of saying that he loved her
extravagantly. . . .
It seemed to Benham in those days that he had found the remedy and
solution of all those sexual perplexities that distressed the world;
Heroic Love to its highest note--and then you go about your
business. It seemed impossible not to be happy and lift one's chin
high and diffuse a bracing kindliness among the unfortunate
multitudes who stewed in affliction and hate because they had failed
as yet to find this simple, culminating elucidation. And Prothero--
Prothero, too, was now achieving the same grand elementariness, out
of his lusts and protests and general physical squalor he had
flowered into love. For a time it is true it made rather an
ineffective companion of him, but this was the mere goose-stepping
for the triumphal march; this way ultimately lay exaltation. Benham
had had as yet but a passing glimpse of this Anglo-Russian, who was
a lady and altogether unlike her fellows; he had seen her for a
doubtful second or so as she and Prothero drove past him, and his
impression was of a rather little creature, white-faced with dusky
hair under a red cap, paler and smaller but with something in her, a
quiet alertness, that gave her a touch of kinship with Amanda. And
if she liked old Prothero-- And, indeed, she must like old Prothero
or could she possibly have made him so deeply in love with her?
They must stick to each other, and then, presently, Prothero's soul
would wake up and face the world again. What did it matter what she
Through stray shots and red conflict, long tediums of strained
anxiety and the physical dangers of a barbaric country staggering
towards revolution, Benham went with his own love like a lamp within
him and this affair of Prothero's reflecting its light, and he was
quite prepared for the most sympathetic and liberal behaviour when
he came back to Moscow to make the lady's acquaintance. He intended
to help Prothero to marry and take her back to Cambridge, and to
assist by every possible means in destroying and forgetting the
official yellow ticket that defined her status in Moscow. But he
reckoned without either Prothero or the young lady in this
It only got to him slowly through his political preoccupations that
there were obscure obstacles to this manifest course. Prothero
hesitated; the lady expressed doubts.
On closer acquaintance her resemblance to Amanda diminished. It was
chiefly a similarity of complexion. She had a more delicate face
than Amanda, and its youthful brightness was deadened; she had none
of Amanda's glow, and she spoke her mother's language with a pretty
halting limp that was very different from Amanda's clear decisions.
She put her case compactly.
"I would not DO in Cambridge," she said with an infinitesimal glance
"Mr. Benham," she said, and her manner had the gravity of a woman of
affairs, "now do you see me in Cambridge? Now do you see me? Kept
outside the walls? In a little DATCHA? With no occupation? Just
to amuse him."
And on another occasion when Prothero was not with her she achieved
still completer lucidity.
"I would come if I thought he wanted me to come," she said. "But
you see if I came he would not want me to come. Because then he
would have me and so he wouldn't want me. He would just have the
trouble. And I am not sure if I should be happy in Cambridge. I am
not sure I should be happy enough to make him happy. It is a very
learned and intelligent and charming society, of course; but here,
THINGS HAPPEN. At Cambridge nothing happens--there is only
education. There is no revolution in Cambridge; there are not even
sinful people to be sorry for. . . . And he says himself that
Cambridge people are particular. He says they are liberal but very,
very particular, and perhaps I could not always act my part well.
Sometimes I am not always well behaved. When there is music I
behave badly sometimes, or when I am bored. He says the Cambridge
people are so liberal that they do not mind what you are, but he
says they are so particular that they mind dreadfully how you are
what you are. . . . So that it comes to exactly the same
thing. . . ."
"Anna Alexievna," said Benham suddenly, "are you in love with
Her manner became conscientiously scientific.
"He is very kind and very generous--too generous. He keeps sending
for more money--hundreds of roubles, I try to prevent him."
"Were you EVER in love?"
"Of course. But it's all gone long ago. It was like being hungry.
Only very fine hungry. Exquisite hungry. . . . And then being
disgusted. . . ."
"He is in love with you."
"What is love?" said Anna. "He is grateful. He is by nature
grateful." She smiled a smile, like the smile of a pale Madonna who
looks down on her bambino.
"And you love nothing?"
"I love Russia--and being alone, being completely alone. When I am
dead perhaps I shall be alone. Not even my own body will touch me
Then she added, "But I shall be sorry when he goes."
Afterwards Benham talked to Prothero alone. "Your Anna," he said,
"is rather wonderful. At first, I tell you now frankly I did not
like her very much, I thought she looked 'used,' she drank vodka at
lunch, she was gay, uneasily; she seemed a sham thing. All that was
prejudice. She thinks; she's generous, she's fine."
"She's tragic," said Prothero as though it was the same thing.
He spoke as though he noted an objection. His next remark confirmed
this impression. "That's why I can't take her back to Cambridge,"
"You see, Benham," he went on, "she's human. She's not really
feminine. I mean, she's--unsexed. She isn't fitted to be a wife or
a mother any more. We've talked about the possible life in England,
very plainly. I've explained what a household in Cambridge would
mean. . . . It doesn't attract her. . . . In a way she's been let
out from womanhood, forced out of womanhood, and I see now that when
women are let out from womanhood there's no putting them back. I
could give a lecture on Anna. I see now that if women are going to
be wives and mothers and homekeepers and ladies, they must be got
ready for it from the beginning, sheltered, never really let out
into the wild chances of life. She has been. Bitterly. She's
REALLY emancipated. And it's let her out into a sort of
nothingness. She's no longer a woman, and she isn't a man. She
ought to be able to go on her own--like a man. But I can't take her
back to Cambridge. Even for her sake."
His perplexed eyes regarded Benham.
"You won't be happy in Cambridge--alone," said Benham.
"Oh, damnably not! But what can I do? I had at first some idea of
coming to Moscow for good--teaching."
He paused. "Impossible. I'm worth nothing here. I couldn't have
"Then what are you going to do, Billy?"
"I don't KNOW what I'm going to do, I tell you. I live for the
moment. To-morrow we are going out into the country."
"I don't understand," said Benham with a gesture of resignation.
"It seems to me that if a man and woman love each other--well, they
insist upon each other. What is to happen to her if you leave her
"Damnation! Is there any need to ask that?"
"Take her to Cambridge, man. And if Cambridge objects, teach
Cambridge better manners."
Prothero's face was suddenly transfigured with rage.
"I tell you she won't come!" he said.
"Billy!" said Benham, "you should make her!"
"If a man loves a woman he can make her do anything--"
"But I don't love her like that," said Prothero, shrill with anger.
"I tell you I don't love her like that."
Then he lunged into further deeps. "It's the other men," he said,
"it's the things that have been. Don't you understand? Can't you
understand? The memories--she must have memories--they come between
us. It's something deeper than reason. It's in one's spine and
under one's nails. One could do anything, I perceive, for one's
very own woman. . . ."
"MAKE her your very own woman, said the exponent of heroic love.
"I shirk deeds, Benham, but you shirk facts. How could any man make
her his very own woman now? You--you don't seem to understand--
ANYTHING. She's nobody's woman--for ever. That--that might-have-
been has gone for ever. . . . It's nerves--a passion of the nerves.
There's a cruelty in life and-- She's KIND to me. She's so kind to
me. . . ."
And then again Prothero was weeping like a vexed child.
The end of Prothero's first love affair came to Benham in broken
fragments in letters. When he looked for Anna Alexievna in
December--he never learnt her surname--he found she had left the
Cosmopolis Bazaar soon after Prothero's departure and he could not
find whither she had gone. He never found her again. Moscow and
Russia had swallowed her up.
Of course she and Prothero parted; that was a foregone conclusion.
But Prothero's manner of parting succeeded in being at every phase a
shock to Benham's ideas. It was clear he went off almost callously;
it would seem there was very little crying. Towards the end it was
evident that the two had quarrelled. The tears only came at the
very end of all. It was almost as if he had got through the passion
and was glad to go. Then came regret, a regret that increased in
geometrical proportion with every mile of distance.
In Warsaw it was that grief really came to Prothero. He had some
hours there and he prowled the crowded streets, seeing girls and
women happy with their lovers, abroad upon bright expeditions and
full of delicious secrets, girls and women who ever and again
flashed out some instant resemblance to Anna. . . .
In Berlin he stopped a night and almost decided that he would go
back. "But now I had the damned frontier," he wrote, "between us."
It was so entirely in the spirit of Prothero, Benham thought, to let
the "damned frontier" tip the balance against him.
Then came a scrawl of passionate confession, so passionate that it
seemed as if Prothero had been transfigured. "I can't stand this
business," he wrote. "It has things in it, possibilities of
emotional disturbance--you can have no idea! In the train--luckily
I was alone in the compartment--I sat and thought, and suddenly, I
could not help it, I was weeping--noisy weeping, an uproar! A
beastly German came and stood in the corridor to stare. I had to
get out of the train. It is disgraceful, it is monstrous we should
be made like this. . . .
"Here I am stranded in Hanover with nothing to do but to write to
you about my dismal feelings. . . ."
After that surely there was nothing before a broken-hearted Prothero
but to go on with his trailing wing to Trinity and a life of
inappeasable regrets; but again Benham reckoned without the
invincible earthliness of his friend. Prothero stayed three nights
"There is an extraordinary excitement about Paris," he wrote. "A
levity. I suspect the gypsum in the subsoil--some as yet
undescribed radiations. Suddenly the world looks brightly
cynical. . . . None of those tear-compelling German emanations. . . .
"And, Benham, I have found a friend.
"A woman. Of course you will laugh, you will sneer. You do not
understand these things. . . . Yet they are so simple. It was the
strangest accident brought us together. There was something that
drew us together. A sort of instinct. Near the Boulevard
Poissoniere. . . ."
"Good heavens!" said Benham. "A sort of instinct!"
"I told her all about Anna!"
"Good Lord!" cried Benham.
"She understood. Perfectly. None of your so-called 'respectable'
women could have understood. . . . At first I intended merely to
talk to her. . . ."
Benham crumpled the letter in his hand.
"Little Anna Alexievna!" he said, "you were too clean for him."