He had a vague feeling that a very delightful and wonderful dream was slipping from him. He tried to keep on with the dream and not to open his eyes. It was about a great world of beautiful people who had freed themselves from a thousand earthly troubles. But it dissolved and faded from his mind. It was not often nowadays that dreams came to Mr. Barnstaple. He lay very still with his eyes closed, reluctantly coming awake to the affairs of every day.
The cares and worries of the last fortnight resumed their sway. Would he ever be able to get away for a holiday by himself? Then he remembered that he had already got his valise stowed away in the Yellow Peril. But surely that was not last night; that was the night before last, and he had started—he remembered now starting and the little thrill of getting through the gate before Mrs. Barnstaple suspected anything. He opened his eyes and fixed them on a white ceiling, trying to recall that journey. He remembered turning into the Camberwell New Road and the bright exhilaration of the morning, Vauxhall Bridge and that nasty tangle of traffic at Hyde Park Corner. He always maintained that the west of London was far more difficult for motoring than the east. Then—had he gone to Uxbridge? No. He recalled the road to Slough and then came a blank in his mind.
What a very good ceiling this was! Not a crack nor a stain!
But how had he spent the rest of the day? He must have got somewhere because here he was in a thoroughly comfortable bed—an excellent bed. With a thrush singing. He had always maintained that a good thrush could knock spots off a nightingale, but this thrush was a perfect Caruso. And another answering it! In July! Pangbourne and Caversham were wonderful places for nightingales. In June. But this was July—and thrushes. . . . Across these drowsy thought-phantoms came the figure of Mr. Rupert Catskill, hands on hips, face and head thrust forward speaking, saying astonishing things. To a naked seated figure with a grave intent face. And other figures. One with a face like the Delphic Sibyl. Mr. Barnstaple began to remember that in some way he had got himself mixed up with a week-end party at Taplow Court. Now had this speech been given at Taplow Court? At Taplow Court they wear clothes. But perhaps the aristocracy in retirement and privacy—?
Utopia? . . . But was it possible?
Mr. Barnstaple sat up in his bed in a state of extreme amazement. “Impossible!” he said. He was lying in a little loggia half open to the air. Between the slender pillars of fluted glass he saw a range of snow-topped mountains, and in the foreground a great cluster of tall spikes bearing deep red flowers. The bird was still singing—a glorified thrush, in a glorified world. Now he remembered everything. Now it was all clear. The sudden twisting of the car, the sound like the snapping of a fiddle string and—Utopia! Now he had it all, from the sight of sweet dead Greenlake to the bringing in of Lord Barralonga under the strange unfamiliar stars. It was no dream. He looked at his hand on the exquisitely fine coverlet. He felt his rough chin. It was a world real enough for shaving—and for a very definite readiness for breakfast. Very—for he had missed his supper. And as if in answer to his thought a smiling girl appeared ascending the steps to his sleeping-place and bearing a little tray. After all, there was much to be said for Mr. Burleigh. To his swift statesmanship it was that Mr. Barnstaple owed this morning cup of tea.
“Good morning,” said Mr. Barnstaple.
“Why not?” said the young Utopian, and put down his tea and smiled at him in a motherly fashion and departed.
“Why not a good morning, I suppose,” said Mr. Barnstaple and meditated for a moment, chin on knees, and then gave his attention to the bread-and-butter and tea.
The little dressing-room in which he found his clothes lying just as he had dumped them overnight, was at once extraordinarily simple and extraordinarily full of interest for Mr. Barnstaple. He paddled about it humming as he examined it.
The bath was much shallower than an ordinary earthly bath; apparently the Utopians did not believe in lying down and stewing. And the forms of everything were different, simpler and more graceful. On earth he reflected art was largely wit. The artist had a certain limited selection of obdurate materials and certain needs, and his work was a clever reconciliation of the obduracy and the necessity and of the idiosyncrasy of the substance to the aesthetic preconceptions of the human mind. How delightful, for example, was the earthly carpenter dealing cleverly with the grain and character of this wood or that. But here the artist had a limitless control of material, and that element of witty adaptation had gone out of his work. His data were the human mind and body. Everything in this little room was unobtrusively but perfectly convenient—and difficult to misuse. If you splashed too much a thoughtful outer rim tidied things up for you.
In a tray by the bath was a very big fine sponge. So either Utopians still dived for sponges or they grew them or trained them (who could tell?) to come up of their own accord.
As he set out his toilet things a tumbler was pushed off a glass shelf on to the floor and did not break. Mr. Barnstaple in an experimental mood dropped it again and still it did not break.
He could not find taps at first though there was a big washing basin as well as a bath. Then he perceived a number of studs on the walls with black marks that might be Utopian writing. He experimented. He found very hot water and then very cold water filling his bath, a fountain of probably soapy warm water, and other fluids,—one with an odour of pine and one with a subdued odour of chlorine. The Utopian characters on these studs set him musing for a time; they were the first writing he had seen; they appeared to be word characters, but whether they represented sounds or were greatly simplified hieroglyphics he could not imagine. Then his mind went off at a tangent in another direction because the only metal apparent in this dressing-room was gold. There was, he noted, an extraordinary lot of gold in the room. It was set and inlaid in gold. The soft yellow lines gleamed and glittered. Gold evidently was cheap in Utopia. Perhaps they knew how to make it.
He roused himself to the business of his toilet. There was no looking-glass in the room, but when he tried what he thought was the handle of a cupboard door, he found himself opening a triple full-length mirror. Afterwards he was to discover that there were no displayed mirrors in Utopia; Utopians, he was to learn, thought it indecent to be reminded of themselves in that way. The Utopian method was to scrutinize oneself, see that one was all right and then forget oneself for the rest of the day. He stood now surveying his pyjamad and unshaven self with extreme disfavour. Why do respectable citizens favour such ugly pink-striped pyjamas? When he unpacked his nail-brush and tooth-brush, shaving-brush and washing-glove, they seemed to him to have the coarseness of a popular burlesque. His tooth-brush was a particularly ignoble instrument. He wished now he had bought a new one at the chemist’s shop near Victoria Station.
And what nasty queer things his clothes were!
He had a fantastic idea of adopting Utopian ideas of costume, but a reflective moment before his mirror restrained him. Then he remembered that he had packed a silk tennis shirt and flannels. Suppose he wore those, without a collar stud or tie—and went bare-footed?
He surveyed his feet. As feet went on earth they were not unsightly feet. But on earth they had been just wasted.
A particularly clean and radiant Mr. Barnstaple, white-clad, bare-necked and bare-footed, presently emerged into the Utopian sunrise. He smiled, stretched his arms and took a deep breath of the sweet air. Then suddenly his face became hard and resolute.
From another little sleeping house not two hundred yards away Father Amerton was emerging. Intuitively Mr. Barnstaple knew he meant either to forgive or be forgiven for the overnight quarrel. It would be a matter of chance whether he would select the role of offender or victim; what was certain was that he would smear a dreary mess of emotional personal relationship over the jewel-like clearness and brightness of the scene. A little to the right of Mr. Barnstaple and in front of him were wide steps leading down towards the lake. Three strides and he was going down these steps two at a time. It may have been his hectic fancy, but it seemed to him that he heard the voice of Father Amerton, “Mr. Barn—staple,” in pursuit.
Mr. Barnstaple doubled and doubled again and crossed a bridge across an avalanche gully, a bridge with huge masonry in back and roof and with delicate pillars of prismatic glass towards the lake. The sunlight entangled in these pillars broke into splashes of red and blue and golden light. Then at a turfy corner gay with blue gentians, he narrowly escaped a collision with Mr. Rupert Catskill. Mr. Catskill was in the same costume that he had worn on the previous day except that he was without his grey top hat. He walked with his hands clasped behind him.
“Hullo!” he said. “What’s the hurry? We seem to be the first people up.”
“I saw Father Amerton—”
“That accounts for it. You were afraid of being caught up in a service, Matins or Prime or whatever he calls it. Wise man to run. He shall pray for the lot of us. Me too.”
He did not wait for any endorsement from Mr. Barnstaple, but went on talking.
“You have slept well? What did you think of the old fellow’s answer to my speech. Eh? Evasive cliches. When in doubt, abuse the plaintiff’s attorney. We don’t agree with him because we have bad hearts.”
“What old fellow do you mean?”
“The worthy gentleman who spoke after me.”
“Urthred! But he’s not forty.”
“He’s seventy-three. He told us afterwards. They live long here, a lingering business. Our lives are a fitful hectic fever from their point of view. But as Tennyson said, ‘Better fifty years of Europe than a cycle of Cathay!’ H’m? He evaded my points. This is Lotus Land, Sunset Land; we shan’t be thanked for disturbing its slumbers.”
“I doubt their slumbers.”
“Perhaps the Socialist bug has bit you too. Yes—I see it has! Believe me this is the most complete demonstration of decadence it would be possible to imagine. Complete. And we shall disturb their slumbers, never fear. Nature, you will see, is on our side—in a way no one has thought of yet.”
“But I don’t see the decadence,” said Mr. Barnstaple.
“None so blind as those who won’t see. It’s everywhere. Their large flushed pseudo-health. Like fatted cattle. And their treatment of Barralonga. They don’t know how to treat him. They don’t even arrest him. They’ve never arrested anyone for a thousand years. He careers through their land, killing and slaying and frightening and disturbing and they’re flabbergasted, Sir, simply flabbergasted. It’s like a dog running amuck in a world full of sheep. If he hadn’t had a side-slip I believe he would be hooting and snorting and careering along now—killing people. They’ve lost the instinct of social defence.”
“A very good attitude of mind. If indulged in, in moderation. But when your wondering is over, you will begin to see that I am right. H’m? Ah! There on that terrace! Isn’t that my Lord Barralonga and his French acquaintance? It is. Inhaling the morning air. I think with your permission I will go on and have a word with them. Which way did you say Father Amerton was? I don’t want to disturb his devotions. This way? Then if I go to the right—”
He grimaced amiably over his shoulder.
Mr. Barnstaple came upon two Utopians gardening. They had two light silvery wheelbarrows, and they were cutting out old wood and overblown clusters from a line of thickets that sprawled over a rough-heaped ridge of rock and foamed with crimson and deep red roses. These gardeners had great leather gauntlets and aprons of tanned skin, and they carried hooks and knives.
Mr. Barnstaple had never before seen such roses as they were tending here; their fragrance filled the air. He did not know that double roses could be got in mountains; bright red single sorts he had seen high up in Switzerland, but not such huge loose-flowered monsters as these. They dwarfed their leaves. Their wood was in long, thorny, snaky-red streaked stems that writhed wide and climbed to the rocky lumps over which they grew. Their great petals fell like red snow and like drifting moths and like blood upon the soft soil that sheltered amidst the brown rocks.
“You are the first Utopians I have actually seen at work,” he said.
“This isn’t our work,” smiled the nearer of the two, a fair-haired, freckled, blue-eyed youth. “But as we are for these roses we have to keep them in order.”
“Are they your roses?”
“Many people think these double mountain roses too much trouble and a nuisance with their thorns and sprawling branches, and many people think only the single sorts of roses ought to be grown in these high places and that this lovely sort ought to be left to die out up here. Are you for our roses?”
“Such roses as these?” said Mr. Barnstaple. “Altogether.”
“Good! Then just bring me up my barrow closer for all this litter. We’re responsible for the good behaviour of all this thicket reaching right down there almost to the water.”
“And you have to see to it yourselves?”
“But couldn’t you get someone—pay someone to see to it for you?”
“Oh, hoary relic from the ancient past!” the young man replied. “Oh, fossil ignoramus from a barbaric universe! Don’t you realize that there is no working class in Utopia? It died out fifteen hundred years or so ago. Wages-slavery, pimping and so forth are done with. We read about them in books. Who loves the rose must serve the rose—himself.”
“But you work.”
“Not for wages. Not because anyone else loves or desires something else and is too lazy to serve it or get it himself. We work, part of the brain, part of the will, of Utopia.”
“May I ask at what?”
“I explore the interior of our planet. I study high-pressure chemistry. And my friend—”
He interrogated his friend, whose dark face and brown eyes appeared suddenly over a foam of blossom. “I do Food.”
“Of sorts. Just now I am seeing to your Earthling dietary. It’s most interesting and curious—but I should think rather destructive. I plan your meals. . . . I see you look anxious, but I saw to your breakfast last night.” He glanced at a minute wrist-watch under the gauntlet of his gardening glove. “It will be ready in about an hour. How was the early tea?”
“Excellent,” said Mr. Barnstaple.
“Good,” said the dark young man. “I did my best. I hope the breakfast will be as satisfactory. I had to fly two hundred kilometres for a pig last night and kill it and cut it up myself, and find out how to cure it. Eating bacon has gone out of fashion in Utopia. I hope you will find my rashers satisfactory.”
“It seems very rapid curing—for a rasher,” said Mr. Barnstaple. “We could have done without it.”
“Your spokesman made such a point of it.”
The fair young man struggled out of the thicket and wheeled his barrow away. Mr. Barnstaple wished the dark young man “Good morning.”
“Why shouldn’t it be?” asked the dark young man.
He discovered Ridley and Penk approaching him. Ridley’s face and ear were still adorned with sticking-plaster and his bearing was eager and anxious. Penk followed a little way behind him, holding one hand to the side of his face. Both were in their professional dress, white-topped caps, square-cut leather coats and black gaiters; they had made no concessions to Utopian laxity.
Ridley began to speak as soon as he judged Mr. Barnstaple was within earshot.
“You don’t ’appen to know, Mister, where these ’ere decadents shoved our car?”
“I thought your car was all smashed up.”
“Not a Rolls-Royce—not like that. Wind-screen, mud-guards and the on-footboard perhaps. We went over sideways. I want to ’ave a look at it. And I didn’t turn the petrol off. The carburettor was leaking a bit. My fault. I ’adn’t been careful enough with the strainer. If she runs out of petrol, where’s one to get more of it in this blasted Elysium? I ain’t seen a sign anywhere. I know if I don’t get that car into running form before Lord Barralonga wants it there’s going to be trouble.”
Mr. Barnstaple had no idea where the cars were.
“’Aven’t you a car of your own?” asked Ridley reproachfully.
“I have. But I’ve never given it a thought since I got out of it.”
“Owner-driver,” said Ridley bitterly.
“Anyhow, I can’t help you find your cars. Have you asked any of the Utopians?”
“Not us. We don’t like the style of ’em,” said Ridley.
“They’ll tell you.”
“And watch us—whatever we do to our cars. They don’t get a chance of looking into a Rolls-Royce every day in the year. Next thing we shall have them driving off in ’em. I don’t like the place, and I don’t like these people. They’re queer. They ain’t decent. His lordship says they’re a lot of degenerates, and it seems to me his lordship is about right. I ain’t a Puritan, but all this running about without clothes is a bit too thick for me. I wish I knew where they’d stowed those cars.”
Mr. Barnstaple was considering Penk. “You haven’t hurt your face?” he asked.
“Nothing to speak of,” said Penk. “I suppose we ought to be getting on.”
Ridley looked at Penk and then at Mr. Barnstaple. “He’s had a bit of a contoosion,” he remarked, a faint smile breaking through his sourness.
“We better be getting on if we’re going to find those cars,” said Penk.
A grin of intense enjoyment appeared upon Ridley’s face. “’E’s bumped against something.”
“Oh—shut it!” said Penk.
But the thing was too good to keep back. “One of these girls ’it ’im.”
“What do you mean?” said Mr. Barnstaple. “You haven’t been taking liberties—?”
“I ’ave not,” said Penk. “But as Mr. Ridley’s been so obliging as to start the topic I suppose I got to tell wot ’appened. It jest illustrates the uncertainties of being among a lot of arf-savage, arf-crazy people, like we got among.”
Ridley smiled and winked at Mr. Barnstaple. “Regular ’ard clout she gave ’im. Knocked him over. ’E put ’is ’and on ’er shoulder and clop! over ’e went. Never saw anything like it.”
“Rather unfortunate,” said Mr. Barnstaple.
“It all ’appened in a second like.”
“It’s a pity it happened.”
“Don’t you go making any mistake about it, Mister, and don’t you go running off with any false ideas about it,” said Penk. “I don’t want the story to get about—it might do me a lot of ’arm with Mr. Burleigh. Pity Mr. Ridley couldn’t ’old ’is tongue. What provoked her I do not know. She came into my room as I was getting up, and she wasn’t what you might call wearing anything, and she looked a bit saucy, to my way of thinking, and—well, something come into my head to say to her, something—well, just the least little bit sporty, so to speak. One can’t always control one’s thoughts—can one? A man’s a man. If a man’s expected to be civil in his private thoughts to girls without a stitch, so to speak—well! I dunno. I really do not know. It’s against nature. I never said it, whatever it was I thought of. Mr. Ridley ’ere will bear me out. I never said a word to her. I ’adn’t opened my lips when she hit me. Knocked me over, she did—like a ninepin. Didn’t even seem angry about it. A ’ook-’it—sideways. It was surprise as much as anything floored me.”
“But Ridley says you touched her.”
“Laid me ’and on ’er shoulder perhaps, in a sort of fatherly way. As she was turning to go—not being sure whether I wasn’t going to speak to her, I admit. And there you are! If I’m to get into trouble because I was wantonly ’it—”
Penk conveyed despair of the world by an eloquent gesture.
Mr. Barnstaple considered. “I shan’t make trouble,” he said. “But all the same I think we must all be very careful with these Utopians. Their ways are not our ways.”
“Thank God!” said Ridley. “The sooner I get out of this world back to Old England, the better I shall like it.”
He turned to go.
“You should ’ear ’is lordship,” said Ridley over his shoulder. “’E says it’s just a world of bally degenerates—rotten degenerates—in fact, if you’ll excuse me—@*@*!*!*$*$*! degenerates. Eh? That about gets ’em.”
“The young woman’s arm doesn’t seem to have been very degenerate,” said Mr. Barnstaple, standing the shock bravely.
“Don’t it?” said Ridley bitterly. “That’s all you know. Why! if there’s one sign more sure than another about degeneration it’s when women take to knocking men about. It’s against instink. In any respectable decent world such a thing couldn’t possibly ’ave ’appened. No ’ow!”
“No—’ow,” echoed Penk.
“In our world, such a girl would jolly soon ’ave ’er lesson. Jolly soon. See?”
But Mr. Barnstaple’s roving eye had suddenly discovered Father Amerton approaching very rapidly across a wide space of lawn and making arresting gestures. Mr. Barnstaple perceived he must act at once.
“Now here’s someone who will certainly be able to help you find your cars, if he cares to do so. He’s a most helpful man—Father Amerton. And the sort of views he has about women are the sort of views you have. You are bound to get on together. If you will stop him and put the whole case to him—plainly and clearly.”
He set off at a brisk pace towards the lake shore.
He could not be far now from the little summer-house that ran out over the water against which the gaily coloured boats were moored.
If he were to get into one of these and pull out into the lake he would have Father Amerton at a very serious disadvantage. Even if that good man followed suit. One cannot have a really eloquent emotional scene when one is pulling hard in pursuit of another boat.
As Mr. Barnstaple untied the bright white canoe with the big blue eye painted at its prow that he had chosen, Lady Stella appeared on the landing-stage. She came out of the pavilion that stood over the water, and something in her quick movement as she emerged suggested to Mr. Barnstaple’s mind that she had been hiding there. She glanced about her and spoke very eagerly. “Are you going to row out upon the lake, Mr. Bastaple? May I come?”
She was attired, he noted, in a compromise between the Earthly and the Utopian style. She was wearing what might have been either a very simple custard-coloured tea-robe or a very sophisticated bath-wrap; it left her slender, pretty arms bare and free except for a bracelet of amber and gold, and on her bare feet—and they were unusually shapely feet—were sandals. Her head was bare, and her dark hair very simply done with a little black and gold fillet round it that suited her intelligent face. Mr. Barnstaple was an ignoramus about feminine costume, but he appreciated the fact that she had been clever in catching the Utopian note.
He helped her into the canoe. “We will paddle right out—a good way,” she said with another glance over her shoulder, and sat down.
For a time Mr. Barnstaple paddled straight out so that he had nothing before him but sunlit water and sky, the low hills that closed in the lake towards the great plain, the huge pillars of the distant dam, and Lady Stella. She affected to be overcome by the beauty of the Conference garden slope with its houses and terraces behind him, but he could see that she was not really looking at the scene as a whole, but searching it restlessly for some particular object or person.
She made conversational efforts, on the loveliness of the morning and on the fact that birds were singing—“in July.”
“But here it is not necessarily July,” said Mr. Barnstaple.
“How stupid of me! Of course not.”
“We seem to be in a fine May.”
“It is probably very early,” she said. “I forgot to wind my watch.”
“Oddly enough we seem to be at about the same hours in our two worlds,” said Mr. Barnstaple. “My wrist-watch says seven.”
“No,” said Lady Stella, answering her own thoughts and with her eyes on the distant gardens. “That is a Utopian girl. Have you met any others—of our party—this morning?”
Mr. Barnstaple brought the canoe round so that he too could look at the shore. From here they could see how perfectly the huge terraces and avalanche walls and gullies mingled and interwove with the projecting ribs and cliffs of the mountain masses behind. The shrub tangles passed up into hanging pinewoods; the torrents and cascades from the snow-field above were caught and distributed amidst the emerald slopes and gardens of the Conference Park. The terraces that retained the soil and held the whole design spread out on either hand to a great distance and were continued up into the mountain substance; they were built of a material that ranged through a wide variety of colours from a deep red to a purple-veined white, and they were diversified by great arches over torrents and rock gullies, by huge round openings that spouted water and by cascades of steps. The buildings of the place were distributed over these terraces and over the grassy slopes they contained, singly or in groups and clusters, buildings of purple and blue and white as light and delicate as the Alpine flowers about them. For some moments Mr. Barnstaple was held silent by this scene, and then he attended to Lady Stella’s question. “I met Mr. Rupert Catskill and the two chauffeurs,” he said, “and I saw Father Amerton and Lord Barralonga and M. Dupont in the distance. I’ve seen nothing of Mr. Mush or Mr. Burleigh.”
“Mr. Cecil won’t be about for hours yet. He will lie in bed until ten or eleven. He always takes a good rest in the morning when there is any great mental exertion before him.”
The lady hesitated and then asked: “I suppose you haven’t seen Miss Greeta Grey?”
“No,” said Mr. Barnstaple. “I wasn’t looking for our people. I was just strolling about—and avoiding somebody.”
“The censor of manners and costumes?”
“Yes. . . . That, in fact, is why I took to this canoe.”
The lady reflected and decided on a confidence.
“I was running away from someone too.”
“Not the preacher?”
Lady Stella apparently went off at a tangent. “This is going to be a very difficult world to stay in. These people have very delicate taste. We may easily offend them.”
“They are intelligent enough to understand.”
“Do people who understand necessarily forgive? I’ve always doubted that proverb.”
Mr. Barnstaple did not wish the conversation to drift away into generalities, so he paddled and said nothing.
“You see Miss Grey used to play Phryne in a Revue.”
“I seem to remember something about it. There was a fuss in the newspapers.”
“That perhaps gave her a bias.”
Three long sweeps with the paddle.
“But this morning she came to me and told me that she was going to wear complete Utopian costume.”
“A little rouge and face powder. It doesn’t suit her the least little bit, Mr. Bastaple. It’s a faux pas. It’s indecent. But she’s running about the gardens—. She might meet anyone. It’s lucky Mr. Cecil isn’t up. If she meets Father Amerton—! But it’s best not to think of that. You see, Mr. Bastaple, these Utopians and their sun-brown bodies—and everything, are in the picture. They don’t embarrass me. But Miss Grey—. An earthly civilized woman taken out of her clothes looks taken out of her clothes. Peeled. A sort of bleached white. That nice woman who seems to hover round us, Lychnis, when she advised me what to wear, never for one moment suggested anything of the sort.... But, of course, I don’t know Miss Grey well enough to talk to her and besides, one never knows how a woman of that sort is going to take a thing. . . . ”
Mr. Barnstaple stared shoreward. Nothing was to be seen of an excessively visible Miss Greeta Grey. Then he had a conviction. “Lychnis will take care of her,” he said.
“I hope she will. Perhaps, if we stay out here for a time—”
“She will be looked after,” said Mr. Barnstaple. “But I think Miss Grey and Lord Barralonga’s party generally are going to make trouble for us. I wish they hadn’t come through with us.”
“Mr. Cecil thinks that,” said Lady Stella.
“Naturally we shall all be thrown very much together and judged in a lump.”
“Naturally,” Lady Stella echoed.
She said no more for a little while. But it was evident that she had more to say. Mr. Barnstaple paddled slowly.
“Mr. Bastaple,” she began presently.
Mr. Barnstaple’s paddle became still.
“Mr. Bastaple—are you afraid?”
Mr. Barnstaple judged himself. “I have been too full of wonder to be afraid.”
Lady Stella decided to confess. “I am afraid,” she said. “I wasn’t at first. Everything seemed to go so easily and simply. But in the night I woke up—horribly afraid.”
“No,” considered Mr. Barnstaple. “No. It hasn’t taken me like that—yet. . . . Perhaps it will.”
Lady Stella leant forward and spoke confidentially, watching the effect of her words on Mr. Barnstaple. “These Utopians—I thought at first they were just simple, healthy human beings, artistic and innocent. But they are not, Mr. Bastaple. There is something hard and complicated about them, something that goes beyond us and that we don’t understand. And they don’t care for us. They look at us with heartless eyes. Lychnis is kind, but hardly any of the others are the least bit kind. And I think they find us inconvenient.”
Mr. Barnstaple thought it over. “Perhaps they do. I have been so preoccupied with admiration—so much of this is fine beyond dreaming—that I have not thought very much how we affected them. But—yes—they seem to be busy about other things and not very attentive to us. Except the ones who have evidently been assigned to watch and study us. And Lord Barralonga’s headlong rush through the country must certainly have been inconvenient.”
“He killed a man.”
They remained thoughtfully silent for some moments.
“And there are other things,” Lady Stella resumed. “They think quite differently from our way of thinking. I believe they despise us already. I noted something. . . . Last evening you were not with us by the lake when Mr. Cecil asked them about their philosophy. He told them things about Hegel and Bergson and Lord Haldane and his own wonderful scepticism. He opened out—unusually. It was very interesting—to me. But I was watching Urthred and Lion and in the midst of it I saw—I am convinced—they were talking to each other in that silent way they have, about something quite different. They were just shamming attention. And when Freddy Mush tried to interest them in Neo-Georgian poetry and the effect of the war upon literature, and how he hoped that they had something half as beautiful as the Iliad in Utopia, though he confessed he couldn’t believe they had, they didn’t even pretend to listen. They did not answer him at all. . . . Our minds don’t matter a bit to them.”
“In these subjects. They are three thousand years further on. But we might be interesting as learners.”
“Would it have been interesting to have taken a Hottentot about London explaining things to him—after one had got over the first fun of showing off his ignorance? Perhaps it would. But I don’t think they want us here very much and I don’t think they are going to like us very much, and I don’t know what they are likely to do to us if we give too much trouble. And so I am afraid.”
She broke out in a new place. “In the night I was reminded of my sister Mrs. Kelling’s monkeys.
“It’s a mania with her. They run about the gardens and come into the house and the poor things are always in trouble. They don’t quite know what they may do and what they may not do; they all look frightfully worried and they get slapped and carried to the door and thrown out and all sorts of things like that. They spoil things and make her guests uneasy. You never seem to know what a monkey’s going to do. And everybody hates to have them about except my sister. And she keeps on scolding them. ‘Come down, Jacko! Put that down, Sadie’!”
Mr. Barnstaple laughed. “It isn’t going to be quite so bad as that with us, Lady Stella. We are not monkeys.”
She laughed too. “Perhaps it isn’t. But all the same—in the night—I felt it might be. We are inferior creatures, One has to admit it. . . . ”
She knitted her brows. Her pretty face expressed great intellectual effort. “Do you realize how we are cut off? . . . Perhaps you will think it silly of me, Mr. Bastaple, but last night before I went to bed I sat down to write my sister a letter and tell her all about things while they were fresh in my mind. And suddenly realized I might as well write—to Julius Caesar.”
Mr. Barnstaple hadn’t thought of that.
“That’s a thing I can’t get out of my head, Mr. Bastaple—no letters, no telegrams, no newspapers, no Bradshaw in Utopia. All the things we care for really— All the people we live for. Cut off! I don’t know for how long. But completely cut off. . . . How long are they likely to keep us here?”
Mr. Barnstaple’s face became speculative.
“Are you sure they can ever send us back?” the lady asked.
“There seems to be some doubt. But they are astonishingly clever people.”
“It seemed so easy coming here—just as if one walked round a corner—but, of course, properly speaking we are out of space and time. . . . More out of it even than dead people. . . . The North Pole or Central Africa is a whole universe nearer home than we are. . . . It’s hard to grasp that. In this sunlight it all seems so bright and familiar. . . . Yet last night there were moments when I wanted to scream. . . . ”
She stopped short and scanned the shore. Then very deliberately she sniffed.
Mr. Barnstaple became aware of a peculiarly sharp and appetizing smell drifting across the water to him.
“Yes,” he said.
“It’s breakfast bacon!” cried Lady Stella with a squeak in her voice.
“Exactly as Mr. Burleigh told them,” said Mr. Barnstaple mechanically turning the canoe shoreward.
“Breakfast bacon! That’s the most reassuring thing that has happened yet. . . . Perhaps after all it was silly to feel frightened. And there they are signalling to us!” She waved her arm.
“Greeta in a white robe—as you prophesied—and Mr. Mush in a sort of toga talking to her. . . . Where could he have got that toga?”
A faint sound of voices calling reached them.
“Com—ing!” cried Lady Stella.
“I hope I haven’t been pessimistic,” said Lady Stella. “But I felt horrid in the night.”