Part 6 out of 7
Benham had a vision of Prothero returning from all this foreign
travel meekly, pensively, a little sadly, and yet not without a kind
of relief, to the grey mildness of Trinity. He saw him, capped and
gowned, and restored to academic dignity again, nodding greetings,
The little man merged again into his rare company of discreet
Benedicts and restrained celibates at the high tables. They ate on
in their mature wisdom long after the undergraduates had fled.
Presently they would withdraw processionally to the combination
room. . . .
There would be much to talk about over the wine.
Benham speculated what account Prothero would give of Moscow. . . .
He laughed abruptly.
And with that laugh Prothero dropped out of Benham's world for a
space of years. There may have been other letters, but if so they
were lost in the heaving troubles of a revolution-strained post-
office. Perhaps to this day they linger sere and yellow in some
forgotten pigeon-hole in Kishinev or Ekaterinoslav. . . .
In November, after an adventure in the trader's quarter of Kieff
which had brought him within an inch of death, and because an
emotional wave had swept across him and across his correspondence
with Amanda, Benham went back suddenly to England and her. He
wanted very greatly to see her and also he wanted to make certain
arrangements about his property. He returned by way of Hungary, and
sent telegrams like shouts of excitement whenever the train stopped
for a sufficient time. "Old Leopard, I am coming, I am coming," he
telegraphed, announcing his coming for the fourth time. It was to
be the briefest of visits, very passionate, the mutual refreshment
of two noble lovers, and then he was returning to Russia again.
Amanda was at Chexington, and there he found her installed in the
utmost dignity of expectant maternity. Like many other people he
had been a little disposed to regard the bearing of children as a
common human experience; at Chexington he came to think of it as a
rare and sacramental function. Amanda had become very beautiful in
quiet, grey, dove-like tones; her sun-touched, boy's complexion had
given way to a soft glow of the utmost loveliness, her brisk little
neck that had always reminded him of the stalk of a flower was now
softened and rounded; her eyes were tender, and she moved about the
place in the manner of one who is vowed to a great sacrifice. She
dominated the scene, and Lady Marayne, with a certain astonishment
in her eyes and a smouldering disposition to irony, was the half-
sympathetic, half-resentful priestess of her daughter-in-law's
unparalleled immolation. The MOTIF of motherhood was everywhere,
and at his bedside he found--it had been put there for him by
Amanda--among much other exaltation of woman's mission, that most
wonderful of all philoprogenitive stories, Hudson's CRYSTAL AGE.
Everybody at Chexington had an air of being grouped about the
impending fact. An epidemic of internal troubles, it is true, kept
Sir Godfrey in the depths of London society, but to make up for his
absence Mrs. Morris had taken a little cottage down by the river and
the Wilder girls were with her, both afire with fine and subtle
feelings and both, it seemed, and more particularly Betty, prepared
to be keenly critical of Benham's attitude.
He did a little miss his cue in these exaltations, because he had
returned in a rather different vein of exaltation.
In missing it he was assisted by Amanda herself, who had at moments
an effect upon him of a priestess confidentially disrobed. It was
as if she put aside for him something official, something sincerely
maintained, necessary, but at times a little irksome. It was as if
she was glad to take him into her confidence and unbend. Within the
pre-natal Amanda an impish Amanda still lingered.
There were aspects of Amanda that it was manifest dear Betty must
never know. . . .
But the real Amanda of that November visit even in her most
unpontifical moods did not quite come up to the imagined Amanda who
had drawn him home across Europe. At times she was extraordinarily
jolly. They had two or three happy walks about the Chexington
woods; that year the golden weather of October had flowed over into
November, and except for a carpet of green and gold under the horse-
chestnuts most of the leaves were still on the trees. Gleams of her
old wanton humour shone on him. And then would come something else,
something like a shadow across the world, something he had quite
forgotten since his idea of heroic love had flooded him, something
that reminded him of those long explanations with Mr. Rathbone-
Sanders that had never been explained, and of the curate in the
doorway of the cottage and his unaccountable tears.
On the afternoon of his arrival at Chexington he was a little
surprised to find Sir Philip Easton coming through the house into
the garden, with an accustomed familiarity. Sir Philip perceived
him with a start that was instantly controlled, and greeted him with
Sir Philip, it seemed, was fishing and reading and playing cricket
in the neighbourhood, which struck Benham as a poor way of spending
the summer, the sort of soft holiday a man learns to take from
scholars and literary men. A man like Sir Philip, he thought, ought
to have been aviating or travelling.
Moreover, when Sir Philip greeted Amanda it seemed to Benham that
there was a flavour of established association in their manner. But
then Sir Philip was also very assiduous with Lady Marayne. She
called him "Pip," and afterwards Amanda called across the tennis-
court to him, "Pip!" And then he called her "Amanda." When the
Wilder girls came up to join the tennis he was just as brotherly. . . .
The next day he came to lunch.
During that meal Benham became more aware than he had ever been
before of the peculiar deep expressiveness of this young man's eyes.
They watched him and they watched Amanda with a solicitude that
seemed at once pained and tender. And there was something about
Amanda, a kind of hard brightness, an impartiality and an air of
something undefinably suspended, that gave Benham an intuitive
certitude that that afternoon Sir Philip would be spoken to
privately, and that then he would pack up and go away in a state of
illumination from Chexington. But before he could be spoken to he
contrived to speak to Benham.
They were left to smoke after lunch, and then it was he took
advantage of a pause to commit his little indiscretion.
"Mrs. Benham," he said, "looks amazingly well--extraordinarily well,
don't you think?"
"Yes," said Benham, startled. "Yes. She certainly keeps very
"She misses you terribly," said Sir Philip; "it is a time when a
woman misses her husband. But, of course, she does not want to
hamper your work. . . ."
Benham felt it was very kind of him to take so intimate an interest
in these matters, but on the spur of the moment he could find no
better expression for this than a grunt.
"You don't mind," said the young man with a slight catch in the
breath that might have been apprehensive, "that I sometimes bring
her books and flowers and things? Do what little I can to keep life
interesting down here? It's not very congenial. . . . She's so
wonderful--I think she is the most wonderful woman in the world."
Benham perceived that so far from being a modern aristocrat he was
really a primitive barbarian in these matters.
"I've no doubt," he said, "that my wife has every reason to be
grateful for your attentions."
In the little pause that followed Benham had a feeling that Sir
Philip was engendering something still more personal. If so, he
might be constrained to invert very gently but very firmly the bowl
of chrysanthemums over Sir Philip's head, or kick him in an
improving manner. He had a ridiculous belief that Sir Philip would
probably take anything of the sort very touchingly. He scrambled in
his mind for some remark that would avert this possibility.
"Have you ever been in Russia?" he asked hastily. "It is the most
wonderful country in Europe. I had an odd adventure near Kiev.
During a pogrom."
And he drowned the developing situation in a flood of description. . . .
But it was not so easy to drown the little things that were
presently thrown out by Lady Marayne. They were so much more in the
air. . . .
Sir Philip suddenly got out of the picture even as Benham had
"Easton has gone away," he remarked three days later to Amanda.
"I told him to go. He is a bore with you about. But otherwise he
is rather a comfort, Cheetah." She meditated upon Sir Philip. "And
he's an HONOURABLE man," she said. "He's safe. . . ."
After that visit it was that the notes upon love and sex began in
earnest. The scattered memoranda upon the perfectness of heroic
love for the modern aristocrat ended abruptly. Instead there came
the first draft for a study of jealousy. The note was written in
pencil on Chexington notepaper and manifestly that had been
supported on the ribbed cover of a book. There was a little
computation in the corner, converting forty-five degrees Reaumur
into degrees Fahrenheit, which made White guess it had been written
in the Red Sea. But, indeed, it had been written in a rather
amateurishly stoked corridor-train on Benham's journey to the
gathering revolt in Moscow. . . .
"I think I have been disposed to underrate the force of sexual
jealousy. . . . I thought it was something essentially
contemptible, something that one dismissed and put behind oneself in
the mere effort to be aristocratic, but I begin to realize that it
is not quite so easily settled with. . . .
"One likes to know. . . . Possibly one wants to know too
much. . . . In phases of fatigue, and particularly in phases of
sleeplessness, when one is leaving all that one cares for behind, it
becomes an irrational torment. . . .
"And it is not only in oneself that I am astonished by the power of
this base motive. I see, too, in the queer business of Prothero how
strongly jealousy, how strongly the sense of proprietorship, weighs
with a man. . . .
"There is no clear reason why one should insist upon another human
being being one's ownest own--utterly one's own. . . .
"There is, of course, no clear reason for most human motives. . . .
"One does. . . .
"There is something dishonouring in distrust--to both the distrusted
and the one who distrusts. . . ."
After that, apparently, it had been too hot and stuffy to continue.
Benham did not see Amanda again until after the birth of their
child. He spent his Christmas in Moscow, watching the outbreak, the
fitful fighting and the subsequent break-up, of the revolution, and
taking care of a lost and helpless English family whose father had
gone astray temporarily on the way home from Baku. Then he went
southward to Rostov and thence to Astrakhan. Here he really began
his travels. He determined to get to India by way of Herat and for
the first time in his life rode out into an altogether lawless
wilderness. He went on obstinately because he found himself
disposed to funk the journey, and because discouragements were put
in his way. He was soon quite cut off from all the ways of living
he had known. He learnt what it is to be flea-bitten, saddle-sore,
hungry and, above all, thirsty. He was haunted by a dread of fever,
and so contrived strange torments for himself with overdoses of
quinine. He ceased to be traceable from Chexington in March, and he
reappeared in the form of a telegram from Karachi demanding news in
May. He learnt he was the father of a man-child and that all was
well with Amanda.
He had not expected to be so long away from any communication with
the outer world, and something in the nature of a stricken
conscience took him back to England. He found a second William
Porphyry in the world, dominating Chexington, and Amanda tenderly
triumphant and passionate, the Madonna enthroned. For William
Porphyry he could feel no emotion. William Porphyry was very red
and ugly and protesting, feeble and aggressive, a matter for a
skilled nurse. To see him was to ignore him and dispel a dream. It
was to Amanda Benham turned again.
For some days he was content to adore his Madonna and listen to the
familiar flatteries of her love. He was a leaner, riper man, Amanda
said, and wiser, so that she was afraid of him. . . .
And then he became aware that she was requiring him to stay at her
side. "We have both had our adventures," she said, which struck him
as an odd phrase.
It forced itself upon his obstinate incredulity that all those
conceptions of heroic love and faithfulness he had supposed to be so
clearly understood between them had vanished from her mind. She had
absolutely forgotten that twilight moment at the window which had
seemed to him the crowning instant, the real marriage of their
lives. It had gone, it had left no recoverable trace in her. And
upon his interpretations of that he had loved her passionately for a
year. She was back at exactly the ideas and intentions that ruled
her during their first settlement in London. She wanted a joint
life in the social world of London, she demanded his presence, his
attention, the daily practical evidences of love. It was all very
well for him to be away when the child was coming, but now
everything was different. Now he must stay by her.
This time he argued no case. These issues he had settled for ever.
Even an indignant dissertation from Lady Marayne, a dissertation
that began with appeals and ended in taunts, did not move him.
Behind these things now was India. The huge problems of India had
laid an unshakeable hold upon his imagination. He had seen Russia,
and he wanted to balance that picture by a vision of the east. . . .
He saw Easton only once during a week-end at Chexington. The young
man displayed no further disposition to be confidentially
sentimental. But he seemed to have something on his mind. And
Amanda said not a word about him. He was a young man above
suspicion, Benham felt. . . .
And from his departure the quality of the correspondence of these
two larger carnivores began to change. Except for the repetition of
accustomed endearments, they ceased to be love letters in any sense
of the word. They dealt chiefly with the "Cub," and even there
Benham felt presently that the enthusiasm diminished. A new amazing
quality for Amanda appeared--triteness. The very writing of her
letters changed as though it had suddenly lost backbone. Her
habitual liveliness of phrasing lost its point. Had she lost her
animation? Was she ill unknowingly? Where had the light gone? It
was as if her attention was distracted. . . . As if every day when
she wrote her mind was busy about something else.
Abruptly at last he understood. A fact that had never been stated,
never formulated, never in any way admitted, was suddenly pointed to
convergently by a thousand indicating fingers, and beyond question
perceived to be THERE. . . .
He left a record of that moment of realization.
"Suddenly one night I woke up and lay still, and it was as if I had
never seen Amanda before. Now I saw her plainly, I saw her with
that same dreadful clearness that sometimes comes at dawn, a
pitiless, a scientific distinctness that has neither light nor
shadow. . . .
"Of course," I said, and then presently I got up very softly. . . .
"I wanted to get out of my intolerable, close, personal cabin. I
wanted to feel the largeness of the sky. I went out upon the deck.
We were off the coast of Madras, and when I think of that moment,
there comes back to me also the faint flavour of spice in the air,
the low line of the coast, the cool flooding abundance of the Indian
moonlight, the swish of the black water against the side of the
ship. And a perception of infinite loss, as if the limitless
heavens above this earth and below to the very uttermost star were
just one boundless cavity from which delight had fled. . . .
"Of course I had lost her. I knew it with absolute certainty. I
knew it from her insecure temperament, her adventurousness, her
needs. I knew it from every line she had written me in the last
three months. I knew it intuitively. She had been unfaithful. She
must have been unfaithful.
"What had I been dreaming about to think that it would not be so?"
"Now let me write down plainly what I think of these matters. Let
me be at least honest with myself, whatever self-contradictions I
may have been led into by force of my passions. Always I have
despised jealousy. . . .
"Only by the conquest of four natural limitations is the
aristocratic life to be achieved. They come in a certain order, and
in that order the spirit of man is armed against them less and less
efficiently. Of fear and my struggle against fear I have told
already. I am fearful. I am a physical coward until I can bring
shame and anger to my assistance, but in overcoming fear I have been
helped by the whole body of human tradition. Every one, the basest
creatures, every Hottentot, every stunted creature that ever
breathed poison in a slum, knows that the instinctive constitution
of man is at fault here and that fear is shameful and must be
subdued. The race is on one's side. And so there is a vast
traditional support for a man against the Second Limitation, the
limitation of physical indulgence. It is not so universal as the
first, there is a grinning bawling humour on the side of grossness,
but common pride is against it. And in this matter my temperament
has been my help: I am fastidious, I eat little, drink little, and
feel a shivering recoil from excess. It is no great virtue; it
happens so; it is something in the nerves of my skin. I cannot
endure myself unshaven or in any way unclean; I am tormented by
dirty hands or dirty blood or dirty memories, and after I had once
loved Amanda I could not--unless some irrational impulse to get
equal with her had caught me--have broken my faith to her, whatever
breach there was in her faith to me. . . .
"I see that in these matters I am cleaner than most men and more
easily clean; and it may be that it is in the vein of just that
distinctive virtue that I fell so readily into a passion of
resentment and anger.
"I despised a jealous man. There is a traditional discredit of
jealousy, not so strong as that against cowardice, but still very
strong. But the general contempt of jealousy is curiously wrapped
up with the supposition that there is no cause for jealousy, that it
is unreasonable suspicion. Given a cause then tradition speaks with
an uncertain voice. . . .
"I see now that I despised jealousy because I assumed that it was
impossible for Amanda to love any one but me; it was intolerable to
imagine anything else, I insisted upon believing that she was as
fastidious as myself and as faithful as myself, made indeed after my
image, and I went on disregarding the most obvious intimations that
she was not, until that still moment in the Indian Ocean, when
silently, gently as a drowned body might rise out of the depths of a
pool, that knowledge of love dead and honour gone for ever floated
up into my consciousness.
"And then I felt that Amanda had cheated me! Outrageously.
"Now, so far as my intelligence goes, there is not a cloud upon this
question. My demand upon Amanda was outrageous and I had no right
whatever to her love or loyalty. I must have that very clear. . . .
"This aristocratic life, as I conceive it, must be, except
accidentally here and there, incompatible with the domestic life.
It means going hither and thither in the universe of thought as much
as in the universe of matter, it means adventure, it means movement
and adventure that must needs be hopelessly encumbered by an
inseparable associate, it means self-imposed responsibilities that
will not fit into the welfare of a family. In all ages, directly
society had risen above the level of a barbaric tribal village, this
need of a release from the family for certain necessary types of
people has been recognized. It was met sometimes informally,
sometimes formally, by the growth and establishment of special
classes and orders, of priests, monks, nuns, of pledged knights, of
a great variety of non-family people, whose concern was the larger
collective life that opens out beyond the simple necessities and
duties and loyalties of the steading and of the craftsman's house.
Sometimes, but not always, that release took the form of celibacy;
but besides that there have been a hundred institutional variations
of the common life to meet the need of the special man, the man who
must go deep and the man who must go far. A vowed celibacy ceased
to be a tolerable rule for an aristocracy directly the eugenic idea
entered the mind of man, because a celibate aristocracy means the
abandonment of the racial future to a proletariat of base unleaderly
men. That was plain to Plato. It was plain to Campanelea. It was
plain to the Protestant reformers. But the world has never yet gone
on to the next step beyond that recognition, to the recognition of
feminine aristocrats, rulers and the mates of rulers, as
untrammelled by domestic servitudes and family relationships as the
men of their kind. That I see has always been my idea since in my
undergraduate days I came under the spell of Plato. It was a matter
of course that my first gift to Amanda should be his REPUBLIC. I
loved Amanda transfigured in that dream. . . .
"There are no such women. . . .
"It is no excuse for me that I thought she was like-minded with
myself. I had no sound reason for supposing that. I did suppose
that. I did not perceive that not only was she younger than myself,
but that while I had been going through a mill of steely education,
kept close, severely exercised, polished by discussion, she had but
the weak training of a not very good school, some scrappy reading,
the vague discussions of village artists, and the draped and
decorated novelties of the 'advanced.' It all went to nothing on
the impact of the world. . . . She showed herself the woman the
world has always known, no miracle, and the alternative was for me
to give myself to her in the ancient way, to serve her happiness, to
control her and delight and companion her, or to let her go.
"The normal woman centres upon herself; her mission is her own charm
and her own beauty and her own setting; her place is her home. She
demands the concentration of a man. Not to be able to command that
is her failure. Not to give her that is to shame her. As I had
shamed Amanda. . . ."
"There are no such women." He had written this in and struck it
out, and then at some later time written it in again. There it
stayed now as his last persuasion, but it set White thinking and
doubting. And, indeed, there was another sheet of pencilled broken
stuff that seemed to glance at quite another type of womanhood.
"It is clear that the women aristocrats who must come to the
remaking of the world will do so in spite of limitations at least as
great as those from which the aristocratic spirit of man escapes.
These women must become aristocratic through their own innate
impulse, they must be self-called to their lives, exactly as men
must be; there is no making an aristocrat without a predisposition
for rule and nobility. And they have to discover and struggle
against just exactly the limitations that we have to struggle
against. They have to conquer not only fear but indulgence,
indulgence of a softer, more insidious quality, and jealousy--
proprietorship. . . .
"It is as natural to want a mate as to want bread, and a thousand
times in my work and in my wanderings I have thought of a mate and
desired a mate. A mate--not a possession. It is a need almost
naively simple. If only one could have a woman who thought of one
and with one! Though she were on the other side of the world and
busied about a thousand things. . . .
"'WITH one,' I see it must be rather than 'OF one.' That 'of one'
is just the unexpurgated egotistical demand coming back again. . . .
"Man is a mating creature. It is not good to be alone. But mating
means a mate. . . .
"We should be lovers, of course; that goes without saying. . . .
"And yet not specialized lovers, not devoted, ATTENDING lovers.
'Dancing attendance'--as they used to say. We should meet upon our
ways as the great carnivores do. . . .
"That at any rate was a sound idea. Though we only played with it.
"But that mate desire is just a longing that can have no possible
satisfaction now for me. What is the good of dreaming? Life and
chance have played a trick upon my body and soul. I am mated,
though I am mated to a phantom. I loved and I love Arnanda, not
Easton's Amanda, but Amanda in armour, the Amanda of my dreams.
Sense, and particularly the sense of beauty, lies deeper than reason
in us. There can be no mate for me now unless she comes with
Amanda's voice and Amanda's face and Amanda's quick movements and
her clever hands. . . ."
"Why am I so ungrateful to her still for all the happiness she gave
"There were things between us two as lovers,--love, things more
beautiful than anything else in the world, things that set the mind
hunting among ineffectual images in a search for impossible
expression, images of sunlight shining through blood-red petals,
images of moonlight in a scented garden, of marble gleaming in the
shade, of far-off wonderful music heard at dusk in a great
stillness, of fairies dancing softly, of floating happiness and
stirring delights, of joys as keen and sudden as the knife of an
assassin, assassin's knives made out of tears, tears that are
happiness, wordless things; and surprises, expectations, gratitudes,
sudden moments of contemplation, the sight of a soft eyelid closed
in sleep, shadowy tones in the sound of a voice heard unexpectedly;
sweet, dear magical things that I can find no words for. . . .
"If she was a goddess to me, should it be any affair of mine that
she was not a goddess to herself; that she could hold all this that
has been between us more cheaply than I did? It does not change one
jot of it for me. At the time she did not hold it cheaply. She
forgets where I do not forget. . . ."
Such were the things that Benham could think and set down.
Yet for whole days he was possessed by the thought of killing Amanda
He did not at once turn homeward. It was in Ceylon that he dropped
his work and came home. At Colombo he found a heap of letters
awaiting him, and there were two of these that had started at the
same time. They had been posted in London on one eventful
afternoon. Lady Marayne and Amanda had quarrelled violently. Two
earnest, flushed, quick-breathing women, full of neat but belated
repartee, separated to write their simultaneous letters. Each
letter trailed the atmosphere of that truncated encounter. Lady
Marayne told her story ruthlessly. Amanda, on the other hand,
generalized, and explained. Sir Philip's adoration of her was a
love-friendship, it was beautiful, it was pure. Was there no trust
nor courage in the world? She would defy all jealous scandal. She
would not even banish him from her side. Surely the Cheetah could
trust her. But the pitiless facts of Lady Marayne went beyond
Amanda's explaining. The little lady's dignity had been stricken.
"I have been used as a cloak," she wrote.
Her phrases were vivid. She quoted the very words of Amanda, words
she had overheard at Chexington in the twilight. They were no
invention. They were the very essence of Amanda, the lover. It was
as sure as if Benham had heard the sound of her voice, as if he had
peeped and seen, as if she had crept by him, stooping and rustling
softly. It brought back the living sense of her, excited, flushed,
reckless; his wild-haired Amanda of infinite delight. . . . All day
those words of hers pursued him. All night they flared across the
black universe. He buried his face in the pillows and they
whispered softly in his ear.
He walked his room in the darkness longing to smash and tear.
He went out from the house and shook his ineffectual fists at the
stirring quiet of the stars.
He sent no notice of his coming back. Nor did he come back with a
definite plan. But he wanted to get at Amanda.
It was with Amanda he had to reckon. Towards Easton he felt
scarcely any anger at all. Easton he felt only existed for him
because Amanda willed to have it so.
Such anger as Easton did arouse in him was a contemptuous anger.
His devotion filled Benham with scorn. His determination to serve
Amanda at any price, to bear the grossest humiliations and slights
for her, his humility, his service and tenderness, his care for her
moods and happiness, seemed to Benham a treachery to human nobility.
That rage against Easton was like the rage of a trade-unionist
against a blackleg. Are all the women to fall to the men who will
be their master-slaves and keepers? But it was not simply that
Benham felt men must be freed from this incessant attendance; women
too must free themselves from their almost instinctive demand for an
attendant. . . .
His innate disposition was to treat women as responsible beings.
Never in his life had he thought of a woman as a pretty thing to be
fooled and won and competed for and fought over. So that it was
Amanda he wanted to reach and reckon with now, Amanda who had mated
and ruled his senses only to fling him into this intolerable pit of
shame and jealous fury. But the forces that were driving him home
now were the forces below the level of reason and ideas, organic
forces compounded of hate and desire, profound aboriginal urgencies.
He thought, indeed, very little as he lay in his berth or sulked on
deck; his mind lay waste under a pitiless invasion of exasperating
images that ever and again would so wring him that his muscles would
tighten and his hands clench or he would find himself restraining a
snarl, the threat of the beast, in his throat.
Amanda grew upon his imagination until she overshadowed the whole
world. She filled the skies. She bent over him and mocked him.
She became a mystery of passion and dark beauty. She was the sin of
the world. One breathed her in the winds of the sea. She had taken
to herself the greatness of elemental things. . . .
So that when at last he saw her he was amazed to see her, and see
that she was just a creature of common size and quality, a rather
tired and very frightened-looking white-faced young woman, in an
evening-dress of unfamiliar fashion, with little common trinkets of
gold and colour about her wrists and neck.
In that instant's confrontation he forgot all that had brought him
homeward. He stared at her as one stares at a stranger whom one has
greeted in mistake for an intimate friend.
For he saw that she was no more the Amanda he hated and desired to
kill than she had ever been the Amanda he had loved.
He took them by surprise. It had been his intention to take them by
surprise. Such is the inelegance of the jealous state.
He reached London in the afternoon and put up at a hotel near
Charing Cross. In the evening about ten he appeared at the house in
Lancaster Gate. The butler was deferentially amazed. Mrs. Benham
was, he said, at a theatre with Sir Philip Easton, and he thought
some other people also. He did not know when she would be back.
She might go on to supper. It was not the custom for the servants
to wait up for her.
Benham went into the study that reduplicated his former rooms in
Finacue Street and sat down before the fire the butler lit for him.
He sent the man to bed, and fell into profound meditation.
It was nearly two o'clock when he heard the sound of her latchkey
and went out at once upon the landing.
The half-door stood open and Easton's car was outside. She stood in
the middle of the hall and relieved Easton of the gloves and fan he
"Good-night," she said, "I am so tired."
"My wonderful goddess," he said.
She yielded herself to his accustomed embrace, then started, stared,
and wrenched herself out of his arms.
Benham stood at the top of the stairs looking down upon them, white-
faced and inexpressive. Easton dropped back a pace. For a moment
no one moved nor spoke, and then very quietly Easton shut the half-
door and shut out the noises of the road.
For some seconds Benham regarded them, and as he did so his spirit
changed. . . .
Everything he had thought of saying and doing vanished out of his
He stuck his hands into his pockets and descended the staircase.
When he was five or six steps above them, he spoke. "Just sit down
here," he said, with a gesture of one hand, and sat down himself
upon the stairs. "DO sit down," he said with a sudden testiness as
they continued standing. "I know all about this affair. Do please
sit down and let us talk. . . . Everybody's gone to bed long ago."
"Cheetah!" she said. "Why have you come back like this?"
Then at his mute gesture she sat down at his feet.
"I wish you would sit down, Easton," he said in a voice of subdued
"Why have you come back?" Sir Philip Easton found his voice to ask.
"SIT down," Benham spat, and Easton obeyed unwillingly.
"I came back," Benham went on, "to see to all this. Why else? I
don't--now I see you--feel very fierce about it. But it has
distressed me. You look changed, Amanda, and fagged. And your hair
is untidy. It's as if something had happened to you and made you a
stranger. . . . You two people are lovers. Very natural and
simple, but I want to get out of it. Yes, I want to get out of it.
That wasn't quite my idea, but now I see it is. It's queer, but on
the whole I feel sorry for you. All of us, poor humans--. There's
reason to be sorry for all of us. We're full of lusts and
uneasiness and resentments that we haven't the will to control.
What do you two people want me to do to you? Would you like a
divorce, Amanda? It's the clean, straight thing, isn't it? Or
would the scandal hurt you?"
Amanda sat crouched together, with her eyes on Benham.
"Give us a divorce," said Easton, looking to her to confirm him.
Amanda shook her head.
"I don't want a divorce," she said.
"Then what do you want?" asked Benham with sudden asperity.
"I don't want a divorce," she repeated. "Why do you, after a long
silence, come home like this, abruptly, with no notice?"
"It was the way it took me," said Benham, after a little interval.
"You have left me for long months."
"Yes. I was angry. And it was ridiculous to be angry. I thought I
wanted to kill you, and now I see you I see that all I want to do is
to help you out of this miserable mess--and then get away from you.
You two would like to marry. You ought to be married."
"I would die to make Amanda happy," said Easton.
"Your business, it seems to me, is to live to make her happy. That
you may find more of a strain. Less tragic and more tiresome. I,
on the other hand, want neither to die nor live for her." Amanda
moved sharply. "It's extraordinary what amazing vapours a lonely
man may get into his head. If you don't want a divorce then I
suppose things might go on as they are now."
"I hate things as they are now," said Easton. "I hate this
falsehood and deception."
"You would hate the scandal just as much," said Amanda.
"I would not care what the scandal was unless it hurt you."
"It would be only a temporary inconvenience," said Benham. "Every
one would sympathize with you. . . . The whole thing is so
natural. . . . People would be glad to forget very soon. They
did with my mother."
"No," said Amanda, "it isn't so easy as that."
She seemed to come to a decision.
"Pip," she said. "I want to talk to--HIM--alone."
Easton's brown eyes were filled with distress and perplexity. "But
why?" he asked.
"I do," she said.
"But this is a thing for US."
"Pip, I want to talk to him alone. There is something--something I
can't say before you. . . ."
Sir Philip rose slowly to his feet.
"Shall I wait outside?"
"No, Pip. Go home. Yes,--there are some things you must leave to
She stood up too and turned so that she and Benham both faced the
younger man. The strangest uneasiness mingled with his resolve to
be at any cost splendid. He felt--and it was a most unexpected and
disconcerting feeling--that he was no longer confederated with
Amanda; that prior, more fundamental and greater associations
prevailed over his little new grip upon her mind and senses. He
stared at husband and wife aghast in this realization. Then his
resolute romanticism came to his help. "I would trust you--" he
began. "If you tell me to go--"
Amanda seemed to measure her hold upon him.
She laid her hand upon his arm. "Go, my dear Pip," she said. "Go."
He had a moment of hesitation, of anguish, and it seemed to Benham
as though he eked himself out with unreality, as though somewhen,
somewhere, he had seen something of the sort in a play and filled in
a gap that otherwise he could not have supplied.
Then the door had closed upon him, and Amanda, pale and darkly
dishevelled, faced her husband, silently and intensely.
"WELL?" said Benham.
She held out her arms to him.
"Why did you leave me, Cheetah? Why did you leave me?"
Benham affected to ignore those proffered arms. But they recalled
in a swift rush the animal anger that had brought him back to
England. To remind him of desire now was to revive an anger
stronger than any desire. He spoke seeking to hurt her.
"I am wondering now," he said, "why the devil I came back."
"You had to come back to me."
"I could have written just as well about these things."
"CHEETAH," she said softly, and came towards him slowly, stooping
forward and looking into his eyes, "you had to come back to see your
old Leopard. Your wretched Leopard. Who has rolled in the dirt.
And is still yours."
"Do you want a divorce? How are we to fix things, Amanda?"
"Cheetah, I will tell you how we will fix things."
She dropped upon the step below him. She laid her hands with a
deliberate softness upon him, she gave a toss so that her disordered
hair was a little more disordered, and brought her soft chin down to
touch his knees. Her eyes implored him.
"Cheetah," she said. "You are going to forgive."
He sat rigid, meeting her eyes.
"Amanda," he said at last, "you would be astonished if I kicked you
away from me and trampled over you to the door. That is what I want
"Do it," she said, and the grip of her hands tightened. "Cheetah,
dear! I would love you to kill me."
"I don't want to kill you."
Her eyes dilated. "Beat me."
"And I haven't the remotest intention of making love to you," he
said, and pushed her soft face and hands away from him as if he
would stand up.
She caught hold of him again. "Stay with me," she said.
He made no effort to shake off her grip. He looked at the dark
cloud of her hair that had ruled him so magically, and the memory of
old delights made him grip a great handful almost inadvertently as
he spoke. "Dear Leopard," he said, "we humans are the most streaky
of conceivable things. I thought I hated you. I do. I hate you
like poison. And also I do not hate you at all."
Then abruptly he was standing over her.
She rose to her knees.
"Stay here, old Cheetah!" she said. "This is your house. I am your
He went towards the unfastened front door.
"Cheetah!" she cried with a note of despair.
He halted at the door.
"Amanda, I will come to-morrow. I will come in the morning, in the
sober London daylight, and then we will settle things."
He stared at her, and to her amazement he smiled. He spoke as one
who remarks upon a quite unexpected fact. . . .
"Never in my life, Amanda, have I seen a human being that I wanted
so little to kill."
White found a fragment that might have been written within a week of
those last encounters of Benham and Amanda.
"The thing that astonished me most in Amanda was the change in her
"With me in the old days she had always been a sincere person; she
had deceived me about facts, but she had never deceived me about
herself. Her personal, stark frankness had been her essential
strength. And it was gone. I came back to find Amanda an
accomplished actress, a thing of poses and calculated effects. She
was a surface, a sham, a Lorelei. Beneath that surface I could not
discover anything individual at all. Fear and a grasping quality,
such as God gave us all when he gave us hands; but the individual I
knew, the humorous wilful Spotless Leopard was gone. Whither, I
cannot imagine. An amazing disappearance. Clean out of space and
time like a soul lost for ever.
"When I went to see her in the morning, she was made up for a scene,
she acted an intricate part, never for a moment was she there in
reality. . . .
"I have got a remarkable persuasion that she lost herself in this
way, by cheapening love, by making base love to a lover she
despised. . . . There can be no inequality in love. Give and take
must balance. One must be one's natural self or the whole business
is an indecent trick, a vile use of life! To use inferiors in love
one must needs talk down to them, interpret oneself in their
insufficient phrases, pretend, sentimentalize. And it is clear that
unless oneself is to be lost, one must be content to leave alone all
those people that one can reach only by sentimentalizing. But
Amanda--and yet somehow I love her for it still--could not leave any
one alone. So she was always feverishly weaving nets of false
relationship. Until her very self was forgotten. So she will go on
until the end. With Easton it had been necessary for her to key
herself to a simple exalted romanticism that was entirely insincere.
She had so accustomed herself to these poses that her innate
gestures were forgotten. She could not recover them; she could not
even reinvent them. Between us there were momentary gleams as
though presently we should be our frank former selves again. They
were never more than momentary. . . ."
And that was all that this astonishing man had seen fit to tell of
his last parting from his wife.
Perhaps he did Amanda injustice. Perhaps there was a stronger
thread of reality in her desire to recover him than he supposed.
Clearly he believed that under the circumstances Amanda would have
tried to recover anybody.
She had dressed for that morning's encounter in a very becoming and
intimate wrap of soft mauve and white silk, and she had washed and
dried her dark hair so that it was a vapour about her face. She set
herself with a single mind to persuade herself and Benham that they
were inseparable lovers, and she would not be deflected by his grim
determination to discuss the conditions of their separation. When
he asked her whether she wanted a divorce, she offered to throw over
Sir Philip and banish him for ever as lightly as a great lady might
sacrifice an objectionable poodle to her connubial peace.
Benham passed through perplexing phases, so that she herself began
to feel that her practice with Easton had spoilt her hands. His
initial grimness she could understand, and partially its breakdown
into irritability. But she was puzzled by his laughter. For he
"You know, Amanda, I came home in a mood of tremendous tragedy. And
really,--you are a Lark."
And then overriding her altogether, he told her what he meant to do
about their future and the future of their little son.
"You don't want a divorce and a fuss. Then I'll leave things. I
perceive I've no intention of marrying any more. But you'd better
do the straight thing. People forget and forgive. Especially when
there is no one about making a fuss against you.
"Perhaps, after all, there is something to be said for shirking it.
We'll both be able to get at the boy then. You'll not hurt him, and
I shall want to see him. It's better for the boy anyhow not to have
"I'll not stand in your way. I'll get a little flat and I shan't
come too much to London, and when I do, you can get out of town.
You must be discreet about Easton, and if people say anything about
him, send them to me. After all, this is our private affair.
"We'll go on about money matters as we have been going. I trust to
you not to run me into overwhelming debts. And, of course, if at
any time, you do want to marry--on account of children or anything--
if nobody knows of this conversation we can be divorced then. . . ."
Benham threw out these decisions in little dry sentences while
Amanda gathered her forces for her last appeal.
It was an unsuccessful appeal, and at the end she flung herself down
before him and clung to his knees. He struggled ridiculously to get
himself clear, and when at last he succeeded she dropped prostrate
on the floor with her dishevelled hair about her.
She heard the door close behind him, and still she lay there, a dark
Guinevere, until with a start she heard a step upon the thick carpet
without. He had come back. The door reopened. There was a slight
pause, and then she raised her face and met the blank stare of the
second housemaid. There are moments, suspended fragments of time
rather than links in its succession, when the human eye is more
intelligible than any words.
The housemaid made a rapid apologetic noise and vanished with a
click of the door.
"DAMN!" said Amanda.
Then slowly she rose to her knees.
She meditated through vast moments.
"It's a cursed thing to be a woman," said Amanda. She stood up.
She put her hand on the telephone in the corner and then she forgot
about it. After another long interval of thought she spoke.
"Cheetah!" she said, "Old Cheetah! . . .
"I didn't THINK it of you. . . ."
Then presently with the even joyless movements of one who does a
reasonable business, with something indeed of the manner of one who
packs a trunk, she rang up Sir Philip Easton.
The head chambermaid on the first floor of the Westwood Hotel in
Danebury Street had a curious and perplexing glimpse of Benham's
private processes the morning after this affair.
Benham had taken Room 27 on the afternoon of his return to London.
She had seen him twice or three times, and he had struck her as a
coldly decorous person, tall, white-faced, slow speaking; the last
man to behave violently or surprise a head chambermaid in any way.
On the morning of his departure she was told by the first-floor
waiter that the occupant of Room 26 had complained of an uproar in
the night, and almost immediately she was summoned to see Benham.
He was standing facing the door and in a position which did a little
obscure the condition of the room behind him. He was carefully
dressed, and his manner was more cold and decorous than ever. But
one of his hands was tied up in a white bandage.
"I am going this morning," he said, "I am going down now to
breakfast. I have had a few little accidents with some of the
things in the room and I have cut my hand. I want you to tell the
manager and see that they are properly charged for on the
bill. . . . Thank you."
The head chambermaid was left to consider the accidents.
Benham's things were all packed up and the room had an air of having
been straightened up neatly and methodically after a destructive
cataclysm. One or two items that the chambermaid might possibly
have overlooked in the normal course of things were carefully
exhibited. For example, the sheet had been torn into half a dozen
strips and they were lying side by side on the bed. The clock on
the mantelpiece had been knocked into the fireplace and then pounded
to pieces. All the looking-glasses in the room were smashed,
apparently the electric lamp that stood on the night table by the
bedside had been wrenched off and flung or hammered about amidst the
other breakables. And there was a considerable amount of blood
splashed about the room. The head chambermaid felt unequal to the
perplexities of the spectacle and summoned her most convenient
friend, the head chambermaid on the third floor, to her aid. The
first-floor waiter joined their deliberations and several housemaids
displayed a respectful interest in the matter. Finally they invoked
the manager. He was still contemplating the scene of the disorder
when the precipitate retreat of his subordinates warned him of
Benham was smoking a cigarette and his bearing was reassuringly
"I had a kind of nightmare," he said. "I am fearfully sorry to have
disarranged your room. You must charge me for the inconvenience as
well as for the damage."
"An aristocrat cannot be a lover."
"One cannot serve at once the intricacies of the wider issues of
life and the intricacies of another human being. I do not mean that
one may not love. One loves the more because one does not
concentrate one's love. One loves nations, the people passing in
the street, beasts hurt by the wayside, troubled scoundrels and
university dons in tears. . . .
"But if one does not give one's whole love and life into a woman's
hands I do not think one can expect to be loved.
"An aristocrat must do without close personal love. . . ."
This much was written at the top of a sheet of paper. The writing
ended halfway down the page. Manifestly it was an abandoned
beginning. And it was, it seemed to White, the last page of all
this confusion of matter that dealt with the Second and Third
Limitations. Its incompleteness made its expression perfect. . . .
There Benham's love experience ended. He turned to the great
business of the world. Desire and Jealousy should deflect his life
no more; like Fear they were to be dismissed as far as possible and
subdued when they could not be altogether dismissed. Whatever
stirrings of blood or imagination there were in him after that
parting, whatever failures from this resolution, they left no trace
on the rest of his research, which was concerned with the hates of
peoples and classes and war and peace and the possibilities science
unveils and starry speculations of what mankind may do.
But Benham did not leave England again until he had had an encounter
with Lady Marayne.
The little lady came to her son in a state of extraordinary anger
and distress. Never had she seemed quite so resolute nor quite so
hopelessly dispersed and mixed. And when for a moment it seemed to
him that she was not as a matter of fact dispersed and mixed at all,
then with an instant eagerness he dismissed that one elucidatory
gleam. "What are you doing in England, Poff?" she demanded. "And
what are you going to do?
"Nothing! And you are going to leave her in your house, with your
property and a lover. If that's it, Poff, why did you ever come
back? And why did you ever marry her? You might have known; her
father was a swindler. She's begotten of deceit. She'll tell her
own story while you are away, and a pretty story she'll make of it."
"Do you want me to divorce her and make a scandal?"
"I never wanted you to go away from her. If you'd stayed and
watched her as a man should, as I begged you and implored you to do.
Didn't I tell you, Poff? Didn't I warn you?"
"But now what am I to do?"
"There you are! That's just a man's way. You get yourself into
this trouble, you follow your passions and your fancies and fads and
then you turn to me! How can I help you now, Poff? If you'd
listened to me before!"
Her blue eyes were demonstratively round.
"I warned you," she interrupted. "I warned you. I've done all I
could for you. It isn't that I haven't seen through her. When she
came to me at first with that made-up story of a baby! And all
about loving me like her own mother. But I did what I could. I
thought we might still make the best of a bad job. And then--. I
might have known she couldn't leave Pip alone. . . . But for weeks
I didn't dream. I wouldn't dream. Right under my nose. The
impudence of it!"
Her voice broke. "Such a horrid mess! Such a hopeless, horrid
She wiped away a bright little tear. . . .
"It's all alike. It's your way with us. All of you. There isn't a
man in the world deserves to have a woman in the world. We do all
we can for you. We do all we can to amuse you, we dress for you and
we talk for you. All the sweet, warm little women there are! And
then you go away from us! There never was a woman yet who pleased
and satisfied a man, who did not lose him. Give you everything and
off you must go! Lovers, mothers. . . ."
It dawned upon Benham dimly that his mother's troubles did not deal
exclusively with himself.
"But Amanda," he began.
"If you'd looked after her properly, it would have been right
enough. Pip was as good as gold until she undermined him. . . . A
woman can't wait about like an umbrella in a stand. . . . He was
just a boy. . . . Only of course there she was--a novelty. It is
perfectly easy to understand. She flattered him. . . . Men are
"Still--it's no good saying that now."
"But she'll spend all your money, Poff! She'll break your back with
debts. What's to prevent her? With him living on her! For that's
what it comes to practically."
"Well, what am I to do?"
"You aren't going back without tying her up, Poff? You ought to
stop every farthing of her money--every farthing. It's your duty."
"I can't do things like that."
"But have you no Shame? To let that sort of thing go on!"
"If I don't feel the Shame of it-- And I don't."
"And that money--. I got you that money, Poff! It was my money."
Benham stared at her perplexed. "What am I to do?" he asked.
"Cut her off, you silly boy! Tie her up! Pay her through a
solicitor. Say that if she sees him ONCE again--"
He reflected. "No," he said at last.
"Poff!" she cried, "every time I see you, you are more and more like
your father. You're going off--just as he did. That baffled,
MULISH look--priggish--solemn! Oh! it's strange the stuff a poor
woman has to bring into the world. But you'll do nothing. I know
you'll do nothing. You'll stand everything. You--you Cuckold! And
she'll drive by me, she'll pass me in theatres with the money that
ought to have been mine! Oh! Oh!"
She dabbed her handkerchief from one swimming eye to the other. But
she went on talking. Faster and faster, less and less coherently;
more and more wildly abusive. Presently in a brief pause of the
storm Benham sighed profoundly. . . .
It brought the scene to a painful end. . . .
For weeks her distress pursued and perplexed him.
He had an extraordinary persuasion that in some obscure way he was
in default, that he was to blame for her distress, that he owed her--
he could never define what he owed her.
And yet, what on earth was one to do?
And something his mother had said gave him the odd idea that he had
misjudged his father, that he had missed depths of perplexed and
kindred goodwill. He went down to see him before he returned to
India. But if there was a hidden well of feeling in Mr. Benham
senior, it had been very carefully boarded over. The parental mind
and attention were entirely engaged in a dispute in the SCHOOL WORLD
about the heuristic method. Somebody had been disrespectful to
Martindale House and the thing was rankling almost unendurably. It
seemed to be a relief to him to show his son very fully the
essentially illogical position of his assailant. He was entirely
inattentive to Benham's carefully made conversational opportunities.
He would be silent at times while Benham talked and then he would
break out suddenly with: "What seems to me so unreasonable, so
ridiculous, in the whole of that fellow's second argument--if one
can call it an argument--. . . . A man who reasons as he does is
bound to get laughed at. If people will only see it. . . ."
CHAPTER THE SIXTH
THE NEW HAROUN AL RASCHID
Benham corresponded with Amanda until the summer of 1913. Sometimes
the two wrote coldly to one another, sometimes with warm affection,
sometimes with great bitterness. When he met White in Johannesburg
during the strike period of 1913, he was on his way to see her in
London and to settle their relationship upon a new and more definite
footing. It was her suggestion that they should meet.
About her he felt an enormous, inexorable, dissatisfaction. He
could not persuade himself that his treatment of her and that his
relations to her squared with any of his preconceptions of nobility,
and yet at no precise point could he detect where he had definitely
taken an ignoble step. Through Amanda he was coming to the full
experience of life. Like all of us he had been prepared, he had
prepared himself, to take life in a certain way, and life had taken
him, as it takes all of us, in an entirely different and unexpected
way. . . . He had been ready for noble deeds and villainies, for
achievements and failures, and here as the dominant fact of his
personal life was a perplexing riddle. He could not hate and
condemn her for ten minutes at a time without a flow of exoneration;
he could not think of her tolerantly or lovingly without immediate
shame and resentment, and with the utmost will in the world he could
not banish her from his mind.
During the intervening years he had never ceased to have her in his
mind; he would not think of her it is true if he could help it, but
often he could not help it, and as a negative presence, as a thing
denied, she was almost more potent than she had been as a thing
accepted. Meanwhile he worked. His nervous irritability increased,
but it did not hinder the steady development of his Research.
Long before his final parting from Amanda he had worked out his idea
and method for all the more personal problems in life; the problems
he put together under his headings of the first three "Limitations."
He had resolved to emancipate himself from fear, indulgence, and
that instinctive preoccupation with the interests and dignity of
self which he chose to term Jealousy, and with the one tremendous
exception of Amanda he had to a large extent succeeded. Amanda.
Amanda. Amanda. He stuck the more grimly to his Research to drown
that beating in his brain.
Emancipation from all these personal things he held now to be a mere
prelude to the real work of a man's life, which was to serve this
dream of a larger human purpose. The bulk of his work was to
discover and define that purpose, that purpose which must be the
directing and comprehending form of all the activities of the noble
life. One cannot be noble, he had come to perceive, at large; one
must be noble to an end. To make human life, collectively and in
detail, a thing more comprehensive, more beautiful, more generous
and coherent than it is to-day seemed to him the fundamental
intention of all nobility. He believed more and more firmly that
the impulses to make and help and subserve great purposes are
abundantly present in the world, that they are inhibited by hasty
thinking, limited thinking and bad thinking, and that the real
ennoblement of human life was not so much a creation as a release.
He lumped the preventive and destructive forces that keep men
dispersed, unhappy, and ignoble under the heading of Prejudice, and
he made this Prejudice his fourth and greatest and most difficult
limitation. In one place he had written it, "Prejudice or
Divisions." That being subdued in oneself and in the world, then in
the measure of its subjugation, the new life of our race, the great
age, the noble age, would begin.
So he set himself to examine his own mind and the mind of the world
about him for prejudice, for hampering follies, disguised
disloyalties and mischievous distrusts, and the great bulk of the
papers that White struggled with at Westhaven Street were devoted to
various aspects of this search for "Prejudice." It seemed to White
to be at once the most magnificent and the most preposterous of
enterprises. It was indeed no less than an enquiry into all the
preventable sources of human failure and disorder. . . . And it was
all too manifest to White also that the last place in which Benham
was capable of detecting a prejudice was at the back of his own
Under this Fourth Limitation he put the most remarkable array of
influences, race-hatred, national suspicion, the evil side of
patriotism, religious and social intolerance, every social
consequence of muddle headedness, every dividing force indeed except
the purely personal dissensions between man and man. And he
developed a metaphysical interpretation of these troubles. "No
doubt," he wrote in one place, "much of the evil between different
kinds of men is due to uncultivated feeling, to natural bad feeling,
but far more is it due to bad thinking." At times he seemed on the
verge of the persuasion that most human trouble is really due to bad
metaphysics. It was, one must remark, an extraordinary journey he
had made; he had started from chivalry and arrived at metaphysics;
every knight he held must be a logician, and ultimate bravery is
courage of the mind. One thinks of his coming to this conclusion
with knit brows and balancing intentness above whole gulfs of
bathos--very much as he had once walked the Leysin Bisse. . . .
"Men do not know how to think," he insisted--getting along the
planks; "and they will not realize that they do not know how to
think. Nine-tenths of the wars in the world have arisen out of
misconceptions. . . . Misconception is the sin and dishonour of the
mind, and muddled thinking as ignoble as dirty conduct. . . .
Infinitely more disastrous."
And again he wrote: "Man, I see, is an over-practical creature, too
eager to get into action. There is our deepest trouble. He takes
conclusions ready-made, or he makes them in a hurry. Life is so
short that he thinks it better to err than wait. He has no
patience, no faith in anything but himself. He thinks he is a being
when in reality he is only a link in a being, and so he is more
anxious to be complete than right. The last devotion of which he is
capable is that devotion of the mind which suffers partial
performance, but insists upon exhaustive thought. He scamps his
thought and finishes his performance, and before he is dead it is
already being abandoned and begun all over again by some one else in
the same egotistical haste. . . ."
It is, I suppose, a part of the general humour of life that these
words should have been written by a man who walked the plank to
fresh ideas with the dizziest difficulty unless he had Prothero to
drag him forward, and who acted time after time with an altogether
Yet there was a kind of necessity in this journey of Benham's from
the cocked hat and wooden sword of Seagate and his early shame at
cowardice and baseness to the spiritual megalomania of his complete
Research Magnificent. You can no more resolve to live a life of
honour nowadays and abstain from social and political scheming on a
world-wide scale, than you can profess religion and refuse to think
about God. In the past it was possible to take all sorts of things
for granted and be loyal to unexamined things. One could be loyal
to unexamined things because they were unchallenged things. But now
everything is challenged. By the time of his second visit to
Russia, Benham's ideas of conscious and deliberate aristocracy
reaching out to an idea of universal responsibility had already
grown into the extraordinary fantasy that he was, as it were, an
uncrowned king in the world. To be noble is to be aristocratic,
that is to say, a ruler. Thence it follows that aristocracy is
multiple kingship, and to be an aristocrat is to partake both of the
nature of philosopher and king. . . .
Yet it is manifest that the powerful people of this world are by no
means necessarily noble, and that most modern kings, poor in
quality, petty in spirit, conventional in outlook, controlled and
limited, fall far short of kingship. Nevertheless, there IS
nobility, there IS kingship, or this earth is a dustbin and mankind
but a kind of skin-disease upon a planet. From that it is an easy
step to this idea, the idea whose first expression had already so
touched the imagination of Amanda, of a sort of diffused and
voluntary kingship scattered throughout mankind. The aristocrats
are not at the high table, the kings are not enthroned, those who
are enthroned are but pretenders and SIMULACRA, kings of the vulgar;
the real king and ruler is every man who sets aside the naive
passions and self-interest of the common life for the rule and
service of the world.
This is an idea that is now to be found in much contemporary
writing. It is one of those ideas that seem to appear
simultaneously at many points in the world, and it is impossible to
say now how far Benham was an originator of this idea, and how far
he simply resonated to its expression by others. It was far more
likely that Prothero, getting it heaven knows where, had spluttered
it out and forgotten it, leaving it to germinate in the mind of his
friend. . . .
This lordly, this kingly dream became more and more essential to
Benham as his life went on. When Benham walked the Bisse he was
just a youngster resolved to be individually brave; when he prowled
in the jungle by night he was there for all mankind. With every
year he became more and more definitely to himself a consecrated man
as kings are consecrated. Only that he was self-consecrated, and
anointed only in his heart. At last he was, so to speak, Haroun al
Raschid again, going unsuspected about the world, because the palace
of his security would not tell him the secrets of men's disorders.
He was no longer a creature of circumstances, he was kingly,
unknown, Alfred in the Camp of the Danes. In the great later
accumulations of his Research the personal matter, the
introspection, the intimate discussion of motive, becomes less and
less. He forgets himself in the exaltation of kingliness. He
worries less and less over the particular rightness of his definite
acts. In these later papers White found Benham abstracted, self-
forgetful, trying to find out with an ever increased self-
detachment, with an ever deepening regal solicitude, why there are
massacres, wars, tyrannies and persecutions, why we let famine,
disease and beasts assail us, and want dwarf and cripple vast
multitudes in the midst of possible plenty. And when he found out
and as far as he found out, he meant quite simply and earnestly to
apply his knowledge. . . .
The intellectualism of Benham intensified to the end. His
definition of Prejudice impressed White as being the most bloodless
and philosophical formula that ever dominated the mind of a man.
"Prejudice," Benham had written, "is that common incapacity of the
human mind to understand that a difference in any respect is not a
difference in all respects, reinforced and rendered malignant by an
instinctive hostility to what is unlike ourselves. We exaggerate
classification and then charge it with mischievous emotion by
referring it to ourselves." And under this comprehensive formula he
proceeded to study and attack Family Prejudice, National Prejudice,
Race Prejudice, War, Class Prejudice, Professional Prejudice, Sex
Prejudice, in the most industrious and elaborate manner. Whether
one regards one's self or others he held that these prejudices are
evil things. "From the point of view of human welfare they break
men up into wars and conflicts, make them an easy prey to those who
trade upon suspicion and hostility, prevent sane collective co-
operations, cripple and embitter life. From the point of view of
personal aristocracy they make men vulgar, violent, unjust and
futile. All the conscious life of the aristocrat must be a constant
struggle against false generalizations; it is as much his duty to
free himself from that as from fear, indulgence, and jealousy; it is
a larger and more elaborate task, but it is none the less cardinal
and essential. Indeed it is more cardinal and essential. The true
knight has to be not only no coward, no self-pamperer, no egotist.
He has to be a philosopher. He has to be no hasty or foolish
thinker. His judgment no more than his courage is to be taken by
"To subdue fear, desire and jealousy, is the aristocrat's personal
affair, it is his ritual and discipline, like a knight watching his
arms; but the destruction of division and prejudice and all their
forms and establishments, is his real task, that is the common work
of knighthood. It is a task to be done in a thousand ways; one man
working by persuasion, another by example, this one overthrowing
some crippling restraint upon the freedom of speech and the spread
of knowledge, and that preparing himself for a war that will shatter
a tyrannous presumption. Most imaginative literature, all
scientific investigation, all sound criticism, all good building,
all good manufacture, all sound politics, every honesty and every
reasoned kindliness contribute to this release of men from the heat
and confusions of our present world."
It was clear to White that as Benham progressed with this major part
of his research, he was more and more possessed by the idea that he
was not making his own personal research alone, but, side by side
with a vast, masked, hidden and once unsuspected multitude of
others; that this great idea of his was under kindred forms the
great idea of thousands, that it was breaking as the dawn breaks,
simultaneously to great numbers of people, and that the time was not
far off when the new aristocracy, the disguised rulers of the world,
would begin to realize their common bent and effort. Into these
latter papers there creeps more and more frequently a new
phraseology, such expressions as the "Invisible King" and the
"Spirit of Kingship," so that as Benham became personally more and
more solitary, his thoughts became more and more public and social.
Benham was not content to define and denounce the prejudices of
mankind. He set himself to study just exactly how these prejudices
worked, to get at the nature and habits and strengths of each kind
of prejudice, and to devise means for its treatment, destruction or
neutralization. He had no great faith in the power of pure
reasonableness; his psychological ideas were modern, and he had
grasped the fact that the power of most of the great prejudices that
strain humanity lies deeper than the intellectual level.
Consequently he sought to bring himself into the closest contact
with prejudices in action and prejudices in conflict in order to
discover their sub-rational springs.
A large proportion of that larger moiety of the material at
Westhaven Street which White from his extensive experience of the
public patience decided could not possibly "make a book," consisted
of notes and discussions upon the first-hand observations Benham had
made in this or that part of the world. He began in Russia during
the revolutionary trouble of 1906, he went thence to Odessa, and
from place to place in Bessarabia and Kieff, where during a pogrom
he had his first really illuminating encounter with race and culture
prejudice. His examination of the social and political condition of
Russia seems to have left him much more hopeful than was the common
feeling of liberal-minded people during the years of depression that
followed the revolution of 1906, and it was upon the race question
that his attention concentrated.
The Swadeshi outbreak drew him from Russia to India. Here in an
entirely different environment was another discord of race and
culture, and he found in his study of it much that illuminated and
corrected his impressions of the Russian issue. A whole drawer was
devoted to a comparatively finished and very thorough enquiry into
human dissensions in lower Bengal. Here there were not only race
but culture conflicts, and he could work particularly upon the
differences between men of the same race who were Hindus, Christians
and Mahometans respectively. He could compare the Bengali Mahometan
not only with the Bengali Brahminist, but also with the Mahometan
from the north-west. "If one could scrape off all the creed and
training, would one find much the same thing at the bottom, or
something fundamentally so different that no close homogeneous
social life and not even perhaps a life of just compromise is
possible between the different races of mankind?"
His answer to that was a confident one. "There are no such natural
and unalterable differences in character and quality between any two
sorts of men whatever, as would make their peaceful and kindly co-
operation in the world impossible," he wrote.
But he was not satisfied with his observations in India. He found
the prevalence of caste ideas antipathetic and complicating. He
went on after his last parting from Amanda into China, it was the
first of several visits to China, and thence he crossed to America.
White found a number of American press-cuttings of a vehemently
anti-Japanese quality still awaiting digestion in a drawer, and it
was clear to him that Benham had given a considerable amount of
attention to the development of the "white" and "yellow" race
hostility on the Pacific slope; but his chief interest at that time
had been the negro. He went to Washington and thence south; he
visited Tuskegee and Atlanta, and then went off at a tangent to
Hayti. He was drawn to Hayti by Hesketh Pritchard's vivid book,
WHERE BLACK RULES WHITE, and like Hesketh Pritchard he was able to
visit that wonderful monument to kingship, the hidden fastness of La
Ferriere, the citadel built a century ago by the "Black Napoleon,"
the Emperor Christophe. He went with a young American demonstrator
It was a memorable excursion. They rode from Cap Haytien for a
day's journey along dusty uneven tracks through a steaming plain of
luxurious vegetation, that presented the strangest mixture of
unbridled jungle with populous country. They passed countless
villages of thatched huts alive with curiosity and swarming with
naked black children, and yet all the time they seemed to be in a
wilderness. They forded rivers, they had at times to force
themselves through thickets, once or twice they lost their way, and
always ahead of them, purple and sullen, the great mountain peak
with La Ferriere upon its crest rose slowly out of the background
until it dominated the landscape. Long after dark they blundered
upon rather than came to the village at its foot where they were to
pass the night. They were interrogated under a flaring torch by
peering ragged black soldiers, and passed through a firelit crowd
into the presence of the local commandant to dispute volubly about
their right to go further. They might have been in some remote
corner of Nigeria. Their papers, laboriously got in order, were
vitiated by the fact, which only became apparent by degrees, that
the commandant could not read. They carried their point with
But they carried their point, and, watched and guarded by a hungry
half-naked negro in a kepi and the remains of a sky-blue pair of
trousers, they explored one of the most exemplary memorials of
imperialism that humanity has ever made. The roads and parks and
prospects constructed by this vanished Emperor of Hayti, had long
since disappeared, and the three men clambered for hours up ravines
and precipitous jungle tracks, occasionally crossing the winding
traces of a choked and ruined road that had once been the lordly
approach to his fastness. Below they passed an abandoned palace of
vast extent, a palace with great terraces and the still traceable
outline of gardens, though there were green things pushing between
the terrace steps, and trees thrust out of the empty windows. Here
from a belvedere of which the skull-like vestige still remained, the
negro Emperor Christophe, after fourteen years of absolute rule, had
watched for a time the smoke of the burning of his cane-fields in
the plain below, and then, learning that his bodyguard had deserted
him, had gone in and blown out his brains.
He had christened the place after the best of examples, "Sans
But the citadel above, which was to have been his last defence, he
never used. The defection of his guards made him abandon that. To
build it, they say, cost Hayti thirty thousand lives. He had the
true Imperial lavishness. So high it was, so lost in a wilderness
of trees and bush, looking out over a land relapsed now altogether
to a barbarism of patch and hovel, so solitary and chill under the
tropical sky--for even the guards who still watched over its
suspected treasures feared to live in its ghostly galleries and had
made hovels outside its walls--and at the same time so huge and
grandiose--there were walls thirty feet thick, galleries with scores
of rust-eaten cannon, circular dining-halls, king's apartments and
queen's apartments, towering battlements and great arched doorways--
that it seemed to Benham to embody the power and passing of that
miracle of human history, tyranny, the helpless bowing of multitudes
before one man and the transitoriness of such glories, more
completely than anything he had ever seen or imagined in the world
before. Beneath the battlements--they are choked above with jungle
grass and tamarinds and many flowery weeds--the precipice fell away
a sheer two thousand feet, and below spread a vast rich green plain
populous and diversified, bounded at last by the blue sea, like an
amethystine wall. Over this precipice Christophe was wont to fling
his victims, and below this terrace were bottle-shaped dungeons
where men, broken and torn, thrust in at the neck-like hole above,
starved and died: it was his headquarters here, here he had his
torture chambers and the means for nameless cruelties. . . .
"Not a hundred years ago," said Benham's companion, and told the
story of the disgraced favourite, the youth who had offended.
"Leap," said his master, and the poor hypnotized wretch, after one
questioning glance at the conceivable alternatives, made his last
gesture of servility, and then stood out against the sky, swayed,
and with a convulsion of resolve, leapt and shot headlong down
through the shimmering air.
Came presently the little faint sound of his fall.
The Emperor satisfied turned away, unmindful of the fact that this
projectile he had launched had caught among the bushes below, and
presently struggled and found itself still a living man. It could
scramble down to the road and, what is more wonderful, hope for
mercy. An hour and it stood before Christophe again, with an arm
broken and bloody and a face torn, a battered thing now but with a
faint flavour of pride in its bearing. "Your bidding has been done,
Sire," it said.
"So," said the Emperor, unappeased. "And you live? Well-- Leap
again. . . ."
And then came other stories. The young man told them as he had
heard them, stories of ferocious wholesale butcheries, of men
standing along the walls of the banqueting chamber to be shot one by
one as the feast went on, of exquisite and terrifying cruelties, and
his one note of wonder, his refrain was, "HERE! Not a hundred years
ago. . . . It makes one almost believe that somewhere things of
this sort are being done now."
They ate their lunch together amidst the weedy flowery ruins. The
lizards which had fled their coming crept out again to bask in the
sunshine. The soldier-guide and guard scrabbled about with his
black fingers in the ruinous and rifled tomb of Christophe in a
search for some saleable memento. . . .
Benham sat musing in silence. The thought of deliberate cruelty was
always an actual physical distress to him. He sat bathed in the
dreamy afternoon sunlight and struggled against the pictures that
crowded into his mind, pictures of men aghast at death, and of fear-
driven men toiling in agony, and of the shame of extorted obedience
and of cringing and crawling black figures, and the defiance of
righteous hate beaten down under blow and anguish. He saw eyes
alight with terror and lips rolled back in agony, he saw weary
hopeless flight before striding proud destruction, he saw the poor
trampled mangled dead, and he shivered in his soul. . . .
He hated Christophe and all that made Christophe; he hated pride,
and then the idea came to him that it is not pride that makes
Christophes but humility.
There is in the medley of man's composition, deeper far than his
superficial working delusion that he is a separated self-seeking
individual, an instinct for cooperation and obedience. Every
natural sane man wants, though he may want it unwittingly, kingly
guidance, a definite direction for his own partial life. At the
bottom of his heart he feels, even if he does not know it
definitely, that his life is partial. He is driven to join himself
on. He obeys decision and the appearance of strength as a horse
obeys its rider's voice. One thinks of the pride, the uncontrolled
frantic will of this black ape of all Emperors, and one forgets the
universal docility that made him possible. Usurpation is a crime to
which men are tempted by human dirigibility. It is the orderly
peoples who create tyrants, and it is not so much restraint above as
stiff insubordination below that has to be taught to men. There are
kings and tyrannies and imperialisms, simply because of the
unkingliness of men.
And as he sat upon the battlements of La Ferriere, Benham cast off
from his mind his last tolerance for earthly kings and existing
States, and expounded to another human being for the first time this
long-cherished doctrine of his of the Invisible King who is the lord
of human destiny, the spirit of nobility, who will one day take the
sceptre and rule the earth. . . . To the young American's naive
American response to any simply felt emotion, he seemed with his
white earnestness and his glowing eyes a veritable prophet. . . .
"This is the root idea of aristocracy," said Benham.
"I have never heard the underlying spirit of democracy, the real
true Thing in democracy, so thoroughly expressed," said the young
Benham's notes on race and racial cultures gave White tantalizing
glimpses of a number of picturesque experiences. The adventure in
Kieff had first roused Benham to the reality of racial quality. He
was caught in the wheels of a pogrom.
"Before that time I had been disposed to minimize and deny race. I
still think it need not prevent men from the completest social co-
operation, but I see now better than I did how difficult it is for
any man to purge from his mind the idea that he is not primarily a
Jew, a Teuton, or a Kelt, but a man. You can persuade any one in
five minutes that he or she belongs to some special and blessed and
privileged sort of human being; it takes a lifetime to destroy that
persuasion. There are these confounded differences of colour, of
eye and brow, of nose or hair, small differences in themselves
except that they give a foothold and foundation for tremendous
fortifications of prejudice and tradition, in which hostilities and
hatreds may gather. When I think of a Jew's nose, a Chinaman's eyes
or a negro's colour I am reminded of that fatal little pit which
nature has left in the vermiform appendix, a thing no use in itself
and of no significance, but a gathering-place for mischief. The
extremest case of race-feeling is the Jewish case, and even here, I
am convinced, it is the Bible and the Talmud and the exertions of
those inevitable professional champions who live upon racial
feeling, far more than their common distinction of blood, which
holds this people together banded against mankind."
Between the lines of such general propositions as this White read
little scraps of intimation that linked with the things Benham let
fall in Johannesburg to reconstruct the Kieff adventure.
Benham had been visiting a friend in the country on the further side
of the Dnieper. As they drove back along dusty stretches of road
amidst fields of corn and sunflower and through bright little
villages, they saw against the evening blue under the full moon a
smoky red glare rising from amidst the white houses and dark trees
of the town. "The pogrom's begun," said Benham's friend, and was
surprised when Benham wanted to end a pleasant day by going to see
what happens after the beginning of a pogrom.
He was to have several surprises before at last he left Benham in
disgust and went home by himself.
For Benham, with that hastiness that so flouted his exalted
theories, passed rapidly from an attitude of impartial enquiry to
active intervention. The two men left their carriage and plunged
into the network of unlovely dark streets in which the Jews and
traders harboured. . . . Benham's first intervention was on behalf
of a crouching and yelping bundle of humanity that was being dragged
about and kicked at a street corner. The bundle resolved itself
into a filthy little old man, and made off with extraordinary
rapidity, while Benham remonstrated with the kickers. Benham's
tallness, his very Gentile face, his good clothes, and an air of
tense authority about him had its effect, and the kickers shuffled
off with remarks that were partly apologies. But Benham's friend
revolted. This was no business of theirs.
Benham went on unaccompanied towards the glare of the burning
For a time he watched. Black figures moved between him and the
glare, and he tried to find out the exact nature of the conflict by
enquiries in clumsy Russian. He was told that the Jews had insulted
a religious procession, that a Jew had spat at an ikon, that the
shop of a cheating Jew trader had been set on fire, and that the
blaze had spread to the adjacent group of houses. He gathered that
the Jews were running out of the burning block on the other side
"like rats." The crowd was mostly composed of town roughs with a
sprinkling of peasants. They were mischievous but undecided. Among
them were a number of soldiers, and he was surprised to see a
policemen, brightly lit from head to foot, watching the looting of a
shop that was still untouched by the flames.
He held back some men who had discovered a couple of women's figures
slinking along in the shadow beneath a wall. Behind his
remonstrances the Jewesses escaped. His anger against disorder was
growing upon him. . . .
Late that night Benham found himself the leading figure amidst a
party of Jews who had made a counter attack upon a gang of roughs in
a court that had become the refuge of a crowd of fugitives. Some of
the young Jewish men had already been making a fight, rather a poor
and hopeless fight, from the windows of the house near the entrance
of the court, but it is doubtful if they would have made an
effective resistance if it had not been for this tall excited
stranger who was suddenly shouting directions to them in
sympathetically murdered Russian. It was not that he brought
powerful blows or subtle strategy to their assistance, but that he
put heart into them and perplexity into his adversaries because he
was so manifestly non-partizan. Nobody could ever have mistaken
Benham for a Jew. When at last towards dawn a not too zealous
governor called out the troops and began to clear the streets of
rioters, Benham and a band of Jews were still keeping the gateway of
that court behind a hasty but adequate barricade of furniture and
The ghetto could not understand him, nobody could understand him,
but it was clear a rare and precious visitor had come to their
rescue, and he was implored by a number of elderly, dirty, but very
intelligent-looking old men to stay with them and preserve them
until their safety was assured.
They could not understand him, but they did their utmost to
entertain him and assure him of their gratitude. They seemed to
consider him as a representative of the British Government, and
foreign intervention on their behalf is one of those unfortunate
fixed ideas that no persecuted Jews seem able to abandon.
Benham found himself, refreshed and tended, sitting beside a wood
fire in an inner chamber richly flavoured by humanity and listening
to a discourse in evil but understandable German. It was a
discourse upon the wrongs and the greatness of the Jewish people--
and it was delivered by a compact middle-aged man with a big black
beard and long-lashed but animated eyes. Beside him a very old man
dozed and nodded approval. A number of other men crowded the
apartment, including several who had helped to hold off the rioters
from the court. Some could follow the talk and ever again endorsed
the speaker in Yiddish or Russian; others listened with tantalized
expressions, their brows knit, their lips moving.
It was a discourse Benham had provoked. For now he was at the very
heart of the Jewish question, and he could get some light upon the
mystery of this great hatred at first hand. He did not want to hear
tales of outrages, of such things he knew, but he wanted to
understand what was the irritation that caused these things.
So he listened. The Jew dilated at first on the harmlessness and
usefulness of the Jews.
"But do you never take a certain advantage?" Benham threw out.
"The Jews are cleverer than the Russians. Must we suffer for that?"
The spokesman went on to the more positive virtues of his race.
Benham suddenly had that uncomfortable feeling of the Gentile who
finds a bill being made against him. Did the world owe Israel
nothing for Philo, Aron ben Asher, Solomon Gabriol, Halevy,
Mendelssohn, Heine, Meyerbeer, Rubinstein, Joachim, Zangwill? Does
Britain owe nothing to Lord Beaconsfield, Montefiore or the
Rothschilds? Can France repudiate her debt to Fould, Gaudahaux,
Oppert, or Germany to Furst, Steinschneider, Herxheimer, Lasker,
Auerbach, Traube and Lazarus and Benfey? . . .
Benham admitted under the pressure of urgent tones and gestures that
these names did undoubtedly include the cream of humanity, but was
it not true that the Jews did press a little financially upon the
inferior peoples whose lands they honoured in their exile?
The man with the black beard took up the challenge bravely.
"They are merciful creditors," he said. "And it is their genius to
possess and control. What better stewards could you find for the
wealth of nations than the Jews? And for the honours? That always
had been the role of the Jews--stewardship. Since the days of
Joseph in Egypt. . . ."
Then in a lower voice he went on to speak of the deficiencies of the
Gentile population. He wished to be just and generous but the truth
was the truth. The Christian Russians loved drink and laziness;
they had no sense of property; were it not for unjust laws even now
the Jews would possess all the land of South Russia. . . .
Benham listened with a kind of fascination. "But," he said.
It was so. And with a confidence that aroused a protest or so from
the onlookers, the Jewish apologist suddenly rose up, opened a safe
close beside the fire and produced an armful of documents.
"Look!" he said, "all over South Russia there are these!"
Benham was a little slow to understand, until half a dozen of these
papers had been thrust into his hand. Eager fingers pointed, and
several voices spoke. These things were illegalities that might
some day be legal; there were the records of loans and hidden
transactions that might at any time put all the surrounding soil
into the hands of the Jew. All South Russia was mortgaged. . . .
"But is it so?" asked Benham, and for a time ceased to listen and
stared into the fire.
Then he held up the papers in his hand to secure silence and,
feeling his way in unaccustomed German, began to speak and continued
to speak in spite of a constant insurgent undertone of interruption
from the Jewish spokesman.
All men, Benham said, were brothers. Did they not remember Nathan
"I did not claim him," said the spokesman, misunderstanding. "He is
a character in fiction."
But all men are brothers, Benham maintained. They had to be
merciful to one another and give their gifts freely to one another.
Also they had to consider each other's weaknesses. The Jews were
probably justified in securing and administering the property of
every community into which they came, they were no doubt right in
claiming to be best fitted for that task, but also they had to
consider, perhaps more than they did, the feelings and vanities of
the host population into which they brought these beneficent
activities. What was said of the ignorance, incapacity and vice of
the Roumanians and Russians was very generally believed and
accepted, but it did not alter the fact that the peasant, for all
his incapacity, did like to imagine he owned his own patch and hovel
and did have a curious irrational hatred of debt. . . .
The faces about Benham looked perplexed.
"THIS," said Benham, tapping the papers in his hand. "They will not
understand the ultimate benefit of it. It will be a source of anger
and fresh hostility. It does not follow because your race has
supreme financial genius that you must always follow its dictates to
the exclusion of other considerations. . . ."
The perplexity increased.
Benham felt he must be more general. He went on to emphasize the
brotherhood of man, the right to equal opportunity, equal privilege,
freedom to develop their idiosyncrasies as far as possible,
unhindered by the idiosyncrasies of others. He could feel the
sympathy and understanding of his hearers returning. "You see,"
said Benham, "you must have generosity. You must forget ancient
scores. Do you not see the world must make a fresh beginning?"
He was entirely convinced he had them with him. The heads nodded
assent, the bright eyes and lips followed the slow disentanglement
of his bad German.
"Free yourselves and the world," he said.
"And so," he said breaking unconsciously into English, "let us begin
by burning these BEASTLY mortgages!"
And with a noble and dramatic gesture Benham cast his handful on the
fire. The assenting faces became masks of horror. A score of hands
clutched at those precious papers, and a yell of dismay and anger
filled the room. Some one caught at his throat from behind. "Don't
kill him!" cried some one. "He fought for us!"