As this book was written during the war,
and intended prophetically, its delay until
some months after the armistice calls for a
word of explanation.
The book was ready for publication in
November, 1918, when it was discovered that
a slight alteration in the text was essential,
to safeguard it against one of the laws of the
realm. As the edition was already bound,
this alteration has naturally taken a consider-
However, as the date of the happenings
described in "What Not" is unspecified, it
may still be regarded as a prophecy, not yet
A PROPHETIC COMEDY
"NOX-COMBATANTS," "THE SIAKING OF A BIGOT," ETC.
CONSTABLE AND COMPANY LTD.
I HAVE KNOWN
"Wisdom is very unpleasant to the unlearned: he that is
without understanding will not remain with her. She will lie
upon him as a mighty stone of trial ; and he will cast her from
him ere it be long. For wisdom is according to her name, and
she is not manifest unto many. . . .
" Desire not a multitude of unprofitable children. . . ."
JESUS, SON OF SIRACH,
c. B.C. 150.
" It's domestickness of spirit, selvishnesse, which is the great
let to Armies, Religions, and Kingdomes good."
W. GREKNHILL, 1643.
" It has come to a fine thing if people cannot live in their
homes without being interfered with by the police. . . . You
are upsetting the country altogether with your Food Orders
and What Not."
DEFENDANT IN A FOOD-HOARDING CASE,
ONE cannot write for evermore of life in war-time,
even if, as at times seems possible, the war outlasts
the youngest of us. Nor can one easily write of life
as it was before this thing came upon us, for that is
a queer, half-remembered thing, to make one cry.
This is a tale of life after the war, in which alone
there is hope. So it is, no doubt, inaccurate, too
sanguine in part, too pessimistic in part, too foolish
and too far removed from life as it will be lived even
for a novel. It is a shot in the dark, a bow drawn
at a venture. But it is the best one can do in the
unfortunate circumstances, which make against all
kinds of truth, even that inferior kind which is
called accuracy. Truth, indeed, seems to be one
of the things, along with lives, wealth, joy, leisure,
liberty, and forest trees, which has to be sacrificed
on the altar of this all-taking war, this bitter un-
sparing god, which may perhaps before the end
strip us of everything we possess except the integrity
of our so fortunately situated island, our indomitable
persistence in the teeth of odds, and the unstemmed
eloquence of our leaders, all of which we shall surely
This book is, anyhow, so far as it is anything
beyond an attempt to amuse the writer, rather of
the nature of suggestion than of prophecy, and
many will think it a poor suggestion at that. The
suggestion is of a possible remedy for what appears
to have always been the chief human ailment, and
what will, probably, after these present troubles, be
even more pronounced than before. For wars do
not conduce to intelligence. They put a sudden end
to many of the best intellects, the keenest, finest
minds, which would have built up the shattered
ruins of the world in due time. And many of the
minds that are left are battered and stupefied ; the
avenues of thought are closed, and people are too
tired, too old, or too dulled by violence, to build up
anything at all. And besides these dulled and
damaged minds, there are the great mass of the
minds which neither catastrophe nor emotion nor
violence nor age nor any other creature can blunt,
because they have never been acute, have never
had an edge, can cut no ice nor hew any new roads.
So, unless something drastic is done about it, it
seems like a poor look-out.
This book contains the suggestion of a means of
cure for this world-old ill, and is offered, free, to a
probably inattentive and unresponsive Govern-
ment, a close and interested study of whom has led
the writer to believe that the erection of yet another
Department might not be wholly uncongenial.
It will be observed that the general state of the
world and of society in this so near and yet so un-
known future has been but lightly touched upon.
It is unexplored territory, too difficult for the
present writer, and must be left to the forecastings
of the better informed.
A word as to the title of this work, which may
seem vague, or even foolish. Its source I have given.
Food Orders we all know ; What Not was not
denned by the user of the phrase, except by the
remark that it upset the country. The businesses
described in this tale fulfil that definition ; and, if
they be not What Not, I do not know what is.
I. THE MINISTRY i
II. LITTLE CHANTREYS 25
III. BRAINS SUNDAY 50
IV. OUR WEEK .66
V. THE EXPLANATION CAMPAIGN .... 87
VI. THE SIMPLE HUMAN EMOTIONS . . . in
VII. THE BREAKING POINT 133
VIII. ON FIXED HEARTS AND CHANGING SCENES . 156
IX. THE COMMON HERD 177
X. A MINISTRY AT BAY 196
XI. THE STORMING OF THE HOTEL. . . .216
XII. DEBRIS 225
AFTER the Great War (but I do not say how long
after), when the tumult and the shouting had died,
and those who were left of the captains and the kings
had gone either home or to those obscure abodes
selected for them by their more successful fellows
(to allay anxiety, I hasten to mention that three
one-time Emperors were among those thus relegated
to distance and obscurity), and humanity, released
from its long torment, peered nervously into a
future darkly divined (nervously, and yet curiously,
like a man long sick who has just begun to get about
again and cannot yet make anything coherent of the
strange, disquieting, terrifying, yet enchanting
jumble which breaks upon his restored conscious-
ness) while these things happened, the trains still
ran through the Bakerloo tube, carrying people to
their day's work.
2 WHAT NOT
Compartments in tube trains are full of variety
and life more so than in trains above ground,
being more congested, and having straps, also no
class snobbery. Sv/aying on adjacent straps were a
fluffy typist, reading " The Love He Could Not
Buy," in the Daily Mirror, a spruce young civil
servant on his way to the Foreign Office, reading The
Times, a clergyman reading the Challenge, who
looked as if he was interested in the Life and Liberty
movement, another clergyman reading the Guardian,
who looked as if he wasn't, an elderly gentleman
reading the Morning Post, who looked patriotic
but soured, as if he had volunteered for National
Service during the Great War and had found it
disappointing, a young man reading the Post-War,
the alert new daily, and a citizen with a law-abiding
face very properly perusing the Hidden Hand. The
Hidden Hand was the Government daily paper.
Such a paper had for long been needed ; it is difficult
to understand why it was not started long ago. All
other papers are so unreliable, so tiresome ; a
government must have one paper on which it can
depend for unfailing support. So here was the
Hidden Hand, and its readers had no excuse for
ignorance of what the government desired them to
think about its own actions.
The carriage was full of men and women going to
their places of business. There were tired young
men, lame young men, pale and scarred young
men, brown and fit young men, bored and blase
THE MINISTRY 3
young men, jolly and amused young men, and
nearly all, however brown or fit or pale or lan-
guid or jolly or bored, bore a peculiar and un-
mistakable impress stamped, faintly or deeply, on
their faces, their eyes, their carriage, the set of
There were, among the business men and girls,
women going shopping, impassive, without news-
papers, gazing at the clothes of others, taking in
their cost, their cut, their colour. This is an en-
grossing occupation. Those who practise it sit quite
still, without a stir, a twinkle, a yawn, or a paper,
and merely look, all over, up and down, from shoes
to hat. . . . They are a strange and wonderful race
of beings, these gazing women ; one cannot see into
their minds, or beyond their roving eyes. They bear
less than any other section of the community the
stamp of public events. The representatives of the
type in the Bakerloo this morning did not carry any
apparent impress of the Great War. It would take
something more than a great war, something more
even than a food crisis, to leave its mark on these
sphinx-like and immobile countenances. Kingdoms
may rise and fall, nations may reel in the death-
grapple, but they sit gazing still, and their minds,
amid the rocking chaos, may be imagined to be
framing some such thoughts as these : " Those are
nice shoes. I wonder if they're the ones Swan and
Edgar have at 305. She's trimmed her hat herself,
and not well. That skirt is last year's shape.
4 WHAT NOT
That's a smart coat. Dear me, what stockings ;
you'd think anyone would be ashamed."
These women had not the air of reckless anticipa-
tion, of being alert for any happening, however
queer, that, in differing degrees, marked the majority
of people in these days. For that, in many, seemed
the prevailing note ; a series of events so surprising
as to kill surprise, of disasters so appalling as to
numb horror, had come and gone, leaving behind
them this reckless touch, and with it a kind of greed,
a determination to snatch whatever might be from
life before it tumbled again into chaos. They had
not been devoid of lessons in what moralists call
Making the Best of It, those staggering years when
everything had fallen and fallen, successively and
simultaneously, civilisation, and governments, and
hopes, and crowns, and nations, and soldiers, and
rain, and tears, and bombs, and buildings, only not
prices, or newspapers.
For, if everything had so fallen once, it might
even now be riding for a fall again (in spite of the
League of Nations and other devices for propping
up the unsteady framework of a lasting peace) . The
thing was to get what one could first. The thing, in
the opinion of one traveller in that train, was to
wear cap and bells, to dance through life to a barrel
organ, to defeat a foolish universe with its own
And always there was that sense in the back-
ground of a possible great disaster, of dancing on
THE MINISTRY 5
the world's thin crust that had broken once and let
one through, and might break again. Its very thin-
ness, its very fragility added a desperate gaiety to
Ivy Delmer (who was not the traveller alluded to
above, and did not consciously think or feel any of
these things) stood holding to a strap, with the
novel which she was going to change in the lunch
hour in one hand. Ivy Delmer, a shorthand typist
at the Ministry of Brains, was young, ingenuous,
soft-faced, na'ive, and the daughter of a Bucking-
hamshire vicar. The two things she loved best in
the world were marzipan and the drama. Her wide
grey eyes travelled, with innocent interest, along
the faces in the compartment ; she was seeing if she
liked them or not. Immaturely and unconsciously
sexual, she looked with more hope of satisfaction at
male faces than at female. Not but that she was
susceptible to strong admirations for her own sex ;
she had a " pash " for Miss Doris Keane and Miss
Teddie Gerrard, and, in private life, a great esteem
for Miss Grammont, at the Ministry, whose letters
she sometimes took down in shorthand. But every-
one knows there is a greater number of interesting
faces in trains belonging to another sex than to
one's own, and it is no use pretending.
Having subjected the faces within her range to
her half -unconscious judgment, and passed tuem
6 WHAT NOT
with varying degrees of credit, Miss Delmer, for lack
of anything better to do, read the advertisements
and exhortations over the windows. With satisfac-
tion she noted that she had seen all the advertised
plays. She absorbed such temporal maxims and
eternal truths as " Let Mr. Mustard mix your bath,"
" God is not mocked," and the terrifying utter-
ances of the Safety-if -Possible Council, " Is it safe ?
That is the question. No. That is the answer."
" If you hope to achieve safety in a street aero (i) Do
not alight before the aero does. (2) Do not attempt
to jump up into an aero in motion." Then a picture :
" A will be killed because he is standing immediately
beneath a descending aero bus. B will be killed
because he and others like him have shaken the
nerve of the aviator." A series of warnings which
left one certain that, wherever one might achieve
safety, it would not be in, or anywhere at all near,
a street aero. That, probably, is the object. In the
old days it was the motor bus that was thus made a
thing of terror by the princes of the nether world.
Now, even as then, their efforts met with success,
and the tubes were filled with a panic-stricken
Ivy Delmer, taking an empty seat, saw Miss
Grammont at the other side of the carriage. Miss
Grammont had the New Statesman and the Tatter
and was reading one of them. She was partial to
both, which was characteristic of her attitude
towcirds life. She was one of those who see no reason
THE MINISTRY 7
why an intelligent interest in the affairs of the world
should be incompatible with a taste for Eve. She
enjoyed both classical concerts and new revues.
She might be called a learned worldling. Ivy Delmer
was rather shy of her, because of her manner,
which could be supercilious, because of her reputed
cleverness, and because of her position at the
Ministry, which was a long way above Ivy's. On
the other hand, her clothes made one feel at home ;
they showed skill and interest ; she had not that
air of the dowd which some people who have been
to college have, and which is so estranging to normal
Kitty Grammont, something of the elegant rake,
something of the gamin, something of the adven-
turess, something of the scholar, with innocent
amber-brown eyes gazing ingenuously from under
long black lashes, a slightly cynical mouth, a small,
smooth, rounded, child's face, a travelled manner,
and an excellent brain, was adequately, as people
go, equipped for the business of living. She had
seen some life, in a past which, if chequered, had
not lacked its gaiety, meant to see much more, in a
future which she did not foresee clearly but which
she intended should be worthy of her, and was
seeing enough to go on with in a present which,
though at moments it blackly bored her (she was
very susceptible to boredom), was on the whole
Ivy Delmer, looking at her across the compart-
8 WHAT NOT
ment, with some surprise because she was so nearly
punctual this morning, this not being one of her
habits, admired her greatly, thinking how clever
she was, how clearly, how unhesitatingly, how in-
cisively her sentences came out when she was
dictating, cutting their way, in that cool, light,
dragging voice of hers, through her subject, however
intricate, as a sharp blade cuts ice ; quite different
from some people's dictation, which trails to and
fro, emending, cancelling, hesitating, indistinct,
with no edge to it, so that one's shorthand has
constantly to be altered, making a mess on the
page, and bits of it read aloud to see how it goes
now, which was a nuisance, because one can't rely
always on being able to read off even one's own
shorthand quite fluently straight away like that.
Further and this was nearer Ivy's heart Miss
Grammont wore, as a rule, charming shoes. She
also smoked extraordinarily nice cigarettes, and
often had delicious chocolates, and was generous
All this made it a grief to Ivy Delmer that Miss
Grammont's brother and his family, who lived in
her father's parish, and with whom Miss Grammont
often stayed, were not Approved Of. Into the
reasons for this it will be more appropriate to enter
later in this narrative.
THE MINISTRY 9
Oxford Circus. The hub of the world, where
seething mobs fought on the platform like wild
beasts. Piccadilly Circus. Lucky people, thought
Ivy Delmer, who got out there, all among gaiety
and theatres. Trafalgar Square. There naval
officers got out, to visit the Admiralty, or the
Nelson Column. Charing Cross. There people
had got out during the Great War, to go and
help the War Office or the Ministry of Munitions
to run the business. So much help, so much
energy, so many hotels. . . . And now there were
more than ever, because so much needed doing,
and hotels are the means heaven has given us to
do it with.
At Charing Cross Ivy Delmer and Kitty Gram-
mont got out, for, without specifying the hotel
where the Ministry of Brains carried on its labours,
it may be mentioned without indiscretion that it
was within a walk of Charing Cross.
Miss Grammont and Miss Delmer walked there,
Miss Delmer well ahead and hurrying, because to
her it seemed late, Miss Grammont behind and
sauntering because to her it seemed superfluously
early. The Ministry daily day began at 9.30, and
it was only 9.40 now.
The summer morning was glittering on the river
like laughter. A foolish thing it seemed, to be
going into an hotel on a summer morning, to be sit-
io WHAT NOT
ting down at a government desk laden with govern-
ment files, taking a government pen (which was
never a relief, only a not-exactly) and writing
pamphlets, or answers to letters which, if left long
enough, would surely answer themselves, as is the
way of letters, and all to improve the Brains of the
Nation. Bother the Brains of the Nation, thought
Miss Grammont, only she used a stronger word, as
was the custom in what Mrs. Delmer called her un-
fortunate family. Black doubt sometimes smote
her as to not so much the efficacy of the work of her
Department as its desirability if ever it should be
perfectly accomplished. Did brains matter so
greatly after all ? Were the clever happier than the
fools ? Miss Grammont, whose university career
had been a brilliant intellectual adventure, felt com-
petent to speak for both these types of humanity.
She knew herself to be happier when playing the fool
than when exerting her highly efficient brain ; the
lunatic-asylum touch gave her more joy than the
studious, and she wore learning like a cap and bells.
But stupidity was, of course, a bore. It must, of
course, be mitigated, if possible. And anyhow the
object of the Ministry of Brains was not to make
people happy (that could be left to the Directorate
of Entertainments), nor to make them good (that
was up to the Church, now, to the great benefit of
both, divorced from the State), but to further social
progress and avert another Great War.
Miss Grammont yawned, because the day was yet
THE MINISTRY u
so young, and followed Miss Delmer up the steps of
The Ministry of Brains, a vast organisation, had
many sections. There was the Propaganda Section,
which produced pamphlets and organised lectures
and cinema shows (Miss Grammont had been lent
temporarily to this section by her own branch) ;
there was the Men's Education Section, the Women's,
and the Children's ; the Section which dealt with
brain-tests, examinations, certificates, and tribunals,
and the Section which was concerned with the direc-
tion of the intellects of the Great Unborn. Ivy
Delmer was attached to this section, and Mr.
Delmer, when he heard about it, was not altogether
sure it was quite nice for her.
" She surely shouldn't know they have any," he
had said to his wife, who was weeding, and replied
absently, " Any what, dear ? Who ? "
" Intellects," the vicar said. " The Unborn. Be-
sides, they haven't." He was frowning, and jerk-
ing out dandelions from the lawn with a spud.
" Oh, that's not it, dear," Mrs. Delmer reassured
him vaguely. " Not the just unborn, you know. The
the ever so long unborn. All this arrangement
of who ought to marry who. Quite silly, of course,
but no harm for Ivy in that way. After all, there's
no reason why she shouldn't know that children
often inherit their brains from their parents."
12 WHAT NOT
The vicar admitted that, even for their precious
and very young Ivy, there was no great harm in
The Section in question was, as Mrs. Delmer had
stated, concerned with the encouragement and dis-
couragement of alliances in proportion as- they
seemed favourable or otherwise to the propagation
of intelligence in the next generation. There were
numerous and complicated regulations on the sub-
ject, which could not, of course, be enforced ; the
Ministry's methods were those of stimulation,
reward and punishment, rather than of coercion.
There were bonuses on the births of the babies of
parents conforming to the regulations, and penal
taxes on unregulated infants, taxes increasing in
proportion to the flagrancy of the parents' dis-
obedience, so that the offspring of parents of very
low mental calibre brought with them financial ruin.
Everyone held a Ministry of Brains form, showing
his or her mental category, officially ascertained and
registered. If you were classified A, your brains
were certified to be of the highest order, and you
were recommended to take a B2 or 63 partner (these
were the quite intelligent). To ally yourseJf with
another A or a Bi was regarded as wasteful, there
not being nearly enough of these to go round, and
your babies would receive much smaller bonuses.
If you were classed Ci, C2, or 3, your babies
would receive no encouragement, unless you had
diluted their folly with an A partner ; if you chose
THE MINISTRY 13
to unite with another C they were heavily fined, and
if you were below 63 (i.e. uncertificated) they were
fined still more heavily, by whomsoever diluted, and
for the third and subsequent infants born under
such conditions you would be imprisoned. (Only
the Ministry had not been working long enough for
anyone to have yet met with this fate. The children
of unions perpetrated before the Mental Progress
Act were at present exempt.) Families among the
lower grades and among the uncertificated were thus
drastically discouraged. You were uncertificated
for matrimonial purposes not only if you were very
stupid, but if, though yourself of brilliant mental
powers, you had actual deficiency in your near
family. If you were in this case, your form was
marked "A (Deficiency)."
And so on : the details of the regulations, their
intricacies and tangled knots, the endless and com-
plicated special arrangements which were made with
various groups and classes of persons, may be easily
imagined, or (rather less easily, because the index is
poor) found in the many volumes of the Ministry
of Brains Instructions.
Anyhow, to room number 13, which was among
the many rooms where this vast and intricate subject
was dealt with, Ivy Delmer was summoned this
Monday morning to take down a letter for Vernon
14 WHAT NOT
Vernon Prideaux was a fair, slim, neat, eye-glassed
young man ; his appearance and manners were ap-
proved by Ivy Delmer's standards and his capabili-
ties by the heads of his department. His intellectual
category was A ; he had an impatient temper, a
ready tongue, considerable power over papers (an
important gift, not possessed by all civil servants),
resource in emergency, competence in handling
situations and persons, decided personal charm, was
the son of one of our more notorious politicians, and
had spent most of the war in having malaria on the
Struma front, with one interesting break when he
was recalled to England by his former department
to assist in the drawing up of a new Bill, dealing with
a topic on which he was an expert. He was, after all
this, only thirty now, so had every reason for believ-
ing, as he did, that he would accomplish something
in this world before he left it. He had been sucked
into the activities of the new Ministry like so many
other able young men and women, and was finding
it both entertaining and not devoid of scope for his
Ivy Delmer admired him a good deal. She sat at
his side with her notebook and pencil, her soft, wide
mouth a little parted, waiting for him to begin. He
was turning over papers impatiently. He was in a
rather bad temper, because of his new secretary, of
whom he only demanded a little common sense and
THE MINISTRY 15
did not get it, and he would have to get rid of her,
always a tiresome process. He couldn't trust her
with anything, however simple ; she always made a
hash of it, and filled up the gaps, which were pro-
found, in her recollection of his instructions with her
own ideas, which were not. He had on Saturday
given her some forms to fill up, stock forms which
were always sent in reply to a particular kind of
letter from the public. The form was supposed
merely to say, " In reply to your letter with refer-
ence to your position as regards the tax [or bonus]
on your prospective [or potential, or existing] infant,
I am to inform you that your case is one for the
decision of the Local Tribunals set up under the
Mental Progress Act, to whom your application
should have been made." Miss Pomfrey, who was
young and full of zeal for the cause (she very reason-
ably wished that the Mental Progress Act had been
in existence before her parents had married), had
added on her own account to one such letter, " It
was the stupidity of people like you who caused the
Great War," and put it this morning with the other
forms on Prideaux's table for signing. Prideaux
had enquired, fighting against what he knew to be
a disproportionate anger with her, didn't she really
know better by now than to think that letters like
that would be sent ? Miss Pomfrey had sighed. She
did not know better than that by now. She knew
hardly anything. She was not intelligent, even as
B3's went. In fact, her category was probably a
16 WHAT NOT
mistake. Her babies, if ever she had any, would be
of a mental calibre that did not bear contemplation.
They would probably cause another Great War.
So Prideaux, who had also other worries, was out
" Sorry, Miss Delmer. . . . Ah, here we are."
He fidgeted about with a file, then began to dictate
a letter, in his quick, light, staccato voice. Ivy,
clenching the tip of her pink tongue between her
teeth, raced after him.
" In reply to your letter of 26th May with
reference to the taxation on babies born to your
employees and their consequent demand for in-
creased wages, I am instructed by the Minister of
Brains to inform you that this point is receiving his
careful attention, in connection with the general
economic question involved by the terms of Ministry
of Brains Instruction 743, paragraph 3. . . ."
Prideaux paused, and frowned nervously at his
secretary, who was conducting a fruitless conversa-
tion over his telephone, an occupation at which she
did not shine.
" Hullo . . . yes ... I can't quite hear . . .
who are you, please ? ... Oh ... yes, he's here.
. . . But rather busy, you know. . . . Dictating.
. . . Yes, dictating. . . . Who did you say wanted
him, please ? . . . Oh, I see. ..."
THE MINISTRY 17
" What is it, Miss Pomfrey ? " Prideaux broke in,
making her start.
" It's the Minister's secretary." she explained,
without covering the receiver. " He says will you
go to the Minister. There's a deputation of
bishops, I think he said. About the new Instruction
about Clergymen's Babies. . . . But I said you
were busy dictating. ..."
Prideaux had jumped to his feet, frowning, and
was at the door.
' You'd better make a note that I'm never busy
dictating or doing anything else when the Minister
sends for me," he shot at her as he left the room.
" And now he's cross," Miss Pomfrey murmured
" I daresay he's only angry at being inter-
rupted," said Ivy Delmer, who had been at the same
secretarial college as Miss Pomfrey and thought that
her days in the Ministry of Brains were numbered.
" I do make him cross," Miss Pomfrey observed,
accepting the fact with resignation, as one of the sad,
inevitable fatalities of life, and returned to her in-
dexing. She had been set to make an index of those
Ministry of Brains Instructions which had come out
that month. She had only got to the nth of the
month. The draught fluttered the pages about.
Ivy Delmer watched the Instructions waving to
and fro in the breeze number 801, Agriculturists,
798, Conscientious Obstructionists, 897, Residents in
Ireland, 674, Parents of more than three children.
i8 WHAT NOT
. . . How many there were, thought Ivy, as she
watched. How clever the people who dealt with
such things needed to be. She thought of her father's
village, and the people in it, the agriculturists, the
parents of more than three children, all the little
human community of lives who were intimately
affected by one or other of these instructions, and
the fluttering pages emerged from the dry realm to
which such as Ivy relegate printed matter and ideas,
and took vivid human life. It mattered, all this
complicated fabric of regulations and rules and
agreements and arrangements ; it touched the
living universe that she knew the courting boys
and girls on stiles in Buckinghamshire lanes, Em-
meline, the Vicarage housemaid, who had married
Sid Dean last month, Mr. and Mrs. White at the
farm, all the great stupid pathetic aggrieved public,
neatly filed letters from whom covered every table
in the Ministry, awaiting reply, their very hand-
writing and spelling calculated to touch any heart
but a civil servant's. . . .
Ivy found a moment in which to hope that every-
one in the Ministry was being very careful and
painstaking about this business, before she reverted
to wondering whether or not she liked the colour
which Miss Pomfrey had dyed her jersey.
Having decided that she didn't, and also that she
had better go away and wait for Mr. Prideaux to
send for her again, she departed.
THE MINISTRY 19
Vernon Prideaux, having given his assistance to
the Minister in the matter of the third clause of
the new Clergymen's Babies Instruction, left the
Minister and the deputation together and returned
to his room via the Propaganda Branch, which he
visited in order to ask Miss Grammont to dine
with him that evening. He and Kitty Grammont
had known one another for some years. They
had begun at Cambridge, where Prideaux had
been two years the senior, and had kept up an
intermittent friendship [ever since, which had, since
their association in the Ministry, grown into in-
Prideaux found Kitty writing a pamphlet. She
was rather good at this form of literature, having a
concise and clear-cut style and an instinct for stop-
ping on the right word. Some pamphleteers have
not this art : they add a sentence or two more, and
undo their effect. The pamphlet on which Miss
Grammont was at this moment engaged was in-
tended for the perusal of the working woman, and
bore the conversational title, " The Nation takes an
interest in Your Affairs : will You not take an
interest in the Affairs of the Nation ? " Which, as
Miss Grammont observed, took rather a long time
to say, but may have been worth it.
" Dine with you ? I'll be charmed. Where and
when ? "
20 WHAT NOT
" My rooms, eight o'clock. I've got my parents
and the Minister coming."
" Oh, the Minister."
" Do you mind ? "
" No, I'm proud to meet him. I've never yet met
him over food, so to speak, only officially. I admire
our Chester more every day he lives, don't you ?
Nature made him and then broke the die."
" Wonderful man," Prideaux agreed. " Extra-
ordinary being. ... A happy touch with bishops,
too. Picked that up in the home, no doubt ; his
father's one. Liking's another thing, of course. . . .
By the way, do you know what his category is ?
However, this is gossip. I must get back and dis-
cover what's the latest perpetration of my new
secretary. See you to-night, then."
He left the room. Kitty Grammont observed
with satisfaction, for she was critical of such things,
how well his clothes fitted him, wondered what he
had nearly told her about the Minister's category,
finished her pamphlet, and sent it out for typing.
She had an idea that this pamphlet might not get
passed by the censor, and wanted to find out. For
the censor was cautious about pamphlets, wisely
opining that you cannot be too careful. Pamphlets
may, and usually do, deal with dangerous or in-
decent topics, such as the Future. If sufficiently
dangerous and indecent, they become Leaflets, and
are suppressed on sight. There were dangerous and
explosive words, like Peace, War, and Freedom
THE MINISTRY 21
which the censor dealt with drastically. The danger
of the word Peace dated, of course, from the days
when Peace had not yet arrived and discussion of it
was therefore improper, like the discussion of an
unborn infant. By the time it did arrive, its rele-
gation to the region of Things we do not Mention
had become a habit, not lightly to be laid aside, so
that a Ministry of Brains pamphlet entitled " The
Peace of Fools " had been strangled before birth,
the censor being very naturally unable to believe
that it did not refer in some mysterious way to the
negotiations which had ended hostilities, whereas as
a matter of fact it was all about the foolish content
of stupid people who went on submitting to diseases
which a little intelligent thought would have pre-
vented. There had also perished, owing to the same
caution on the censor's part, and, it must be pre-
sumed, to the same guilty conscience on the part of
the Government, a booklet published by Messrs.
Mowbray in a purple paper cover with a gold cross
on it, called " The Peace which passeth under-
standing," not to mention a new edition of Burke's
" Regicide Peace," and one or two other works of
which the censor, whose reading was obliged to be
mainly twentieth century, mistook the date. And,
if treatises concerning Peace were suspected from
force of habit, works on War were discouraged also,
on the sound British principle that the stress of a
great Peace is not the time to talk of War ; we must
first deal with Peace, and then we may think about
22 WHAT NOT
War ; but One Thing At Once, and do not let us cry
War, War, when there is no war. But there may be
one day, argued the pamphleteers, and might it not
be well to prepare our minds for it ? To which the
answer very properly was, No ; Britons do not look
ahead. They Come Through, instead. And anyhow
it was treachery to those who were spending their
energies on this righteous peace to discuss a prema-
ture war, which could neither be just nor lasting.
Another improper subject, naturally, was Liberty.
That needs no explanation ; it has always been im-
proper in well-regulated countries, like Eugenics, or
the Poor, and has received no encouragement from
authority. Notwithstanding this, so many improper
works upon it, in every conceivable form, have
always been produced, that the censors had to
engage a special clerk, who had just obtained a first
class in English Literature at Oxford, and who
therefore had books and pamphlets of all dates
fresh in her memory, to check their researches and
inform them when their energies were superfluous.
Not that all the books of former centuries on this
topic were to be encouraged, for, after all, one period
is in some respects singularly like another, and the
same reflections strangely germane to both. Natur-
ally, therefore, when the literary clerk, seeing ad-
vertised a new and cheap edition of Robert Hall's
" Sentiments proper to the present crisis," and,
remembering the trend of this work, sent for it
(having sold her own copy at Blackwell's when she
THE MINISTRY 23
went down), and read such remarks as "Freedom,
driven from every spot on the continent, has sought
an asylum in a country which she always chose for
her favourite abode, but she is pursued even here
and threatened with destruction. ... It is for you
to decide whether this freedom shall yet survive, or
be clothed with a funeral pall and be wrapped in
eternal gloom " very properly she reported the
matter to headquarters, and the cheap edition was
Equally naturally there perished (without the help
of the literary clerk, who was not asked to judge of
twentieth century literature) various collections of
Free Verse, for which the Poetry Bookshop was
successfully raided, a tract of the sort which is
dropped about trains, published by the Evangelical
Tract Society and called " Throw off your Chains ! ",
" Citizens of a Free City," which was found at
Mowbray's, and bore on its title page the statement
" Jerusalem ... is free " (a manifest and seditious
untruth, as we, of course, held Jerusalem, in trust
for the Jews), and many others of like tendency,
such as works on Free Food, Free Drink, Free
Housing, Free Love, Free Thought, and Labour in
Chains. Even fiction was suspect. A novel entitled
The Dangers of Dora, by the well-known author of
The Perils of Pauline and The Exploits of Elaine,
was suppressed, in spite of what should have been
the reassuring fact that Dora, like Pauline and Elaine
before her, triumphantly worsted all her foes in the
24 WHAT NOT
end, and emerged smiling and safe on the last page.
Publishers were known to demand the alteration of
a title if the name Dora occurred in it, such whole-
some respect did the Censor's methods inspire.
It will therefore be readily understood that even
government departments had to go warily in this
The Minister of Brains held pamphlet propaganda
to be of the greatest importance. A week ago the
workers in the propaganda section had been sent
for and interviewed by the Minister in person. This
personal contact had, for the time being, oddly
weighted Miss Grammont's too irresponsible levity,
kindled her rather cynical coolness, given her some-
thing almost like zeal. That was one thing about
the Minister he set other people on fire. Another
was that his manners were bad but unexpected,
and a third that he looked like a cross between M.
Kerensky, a member of the Geddes family, and Mr.
Thus Miss Grammont, thoughtfully smoking a
Cyprus cigarette, summed up the Minister of Brains.
IVY DELMER went home to Little Chantreys on the
following Saturday afternoon, after a matinee and
tea in town, in the same train, though not the same
carriage as Kitty Grammont and Vernon Prideaux,
who were presumably spending the week-end at the
End House. Ivy travelled home every evening of
the week. Miss Grammont had a flat in town, but
spent the week-ends when she was not otherwise
engaged, with her brother in Little Chantreys, which
was embarrassing to Ivy.
As Ivy got out of the train she saw Miss Gram-
mont 's brother and the lady who could scarcely be
called her sister-in-law, on the platform, accom-
panied by a queer-looking man of about forty, with
ears rather like a faun's. Anyone, thought Ivy,
could have guessed which house in Little Chantreys
he was staying at. The week-end people who came
to the End House differed widely one from another
in body and soul ; some looked clever, or handsome,
others did not, some were over-dressed, some under,
some, like Miss Grammont and her brothers, just
26 WHAT NOT
right ; there were musical people, sporting people,
literary or artistic people, stagy people (these last
were the friends of Miss Pansy Ponsonby, who was
not Miss Gramrnont's sister-in-law), uncommon
people, and common people ; but they all, thought
Ivy Delmer, had two looks^n common they looked
as if they wouldn't get on very well with her father
and mother, and they looked as if they didn't read
This second look was differentiated according to
the wearer of it. Some of them (like this man to-
day) looked as if he didn't read it because it had
become so inextricably bound up with vulgar super-
stition and an impossible religion that he despised
it. Some, like Miss Grammont and her brother
Anthony, looked as if they didn't read it because
they already knew enough of it to be funny about it
when they wanted to ; others, like Miss Pansy
Ponsonby, looked as if she had really once given it
a try, but had found it dry and put off further
perusal until such time as she lay dying and might
want to do something about her future state. And
Miss Gramrnont's brother Cyril looked as if it was a
Protestant book, and rather vulgar. Some, again,
looked innocent, as if they had never heard of it,
others guilty, as if they never wanted to again.
Ivy Delmer walked home to the Vicarage, hoping
rather that the End House wouldn't come to church
to-morrow. It was taken, from time to time, with
an unaccountable fit of doing this. It made Ivy
LITTLE CHANTREYS 27
uncomfortable. Whether or not it came to pray,
she could not help having an uneasy suspicion that
it stayed to mock.
" Hullo, old dear," said Miss Pansy Ponsonby, in
her rich and resonant drawl, as Kitty and her com-
panion came out of the station. " Here we all are
again. And the Cheeper. He's a growin' boy, our
Cheeper : he puts on weight. Takes after me : I
put on weight when I forget my exercises and don't
keep an eye on myself. Don't I, Tony ? Mr.
Prideaux, isn't it ? How do, Mr. Prideaux ? Vurry
pleased you've come. You know Mr. Amherst, don't
you ? You clever folks all know each other." Miss
Ponsonby, who was not an American, had once per-
formed in the same company as Miss Lee White, and
had caught an inflexion or two. She looked with
the satisfaction of the hospitable hostess at the little
group, and added, " So here we all are. And vurry
It was, indeed, not an unpleasing group. Domi-
nating it was Miss Ponsonby herself, very tall, very
beautiful, very supple (only a year ago she had been
doing her celebrated eel-dance in " Hullo, Peace ! "),
with long and lovely violet eyes and the best kind
of Icilma skin, adorned tastefully but quite un-
necessarily with pink paint, white powder, scarlet
lip salve, and black lash-darkener. All this was
from force of habit : Miss Ponsonby was quite
23 WHAT NOT
adequately pink, white, scarlet and black in her own
person. But, as Kitty observed, having been given
by heaven such an absurd thing as a human face,
what could one do but make it yet more absurd by
these superimposed gaieties ? You cannot take a
face as a serious thing ; it is one of nature's jests,
and it is most suitably dealt with as the clown and
the pierrot deal with theirs. This was Kitty's point
of view ; Pansy had none, only habits.
Pansy was guiding and controlling a motor-pram,
in which lay the Cheeper, aged four months (he had
no Christian name, having so far evaded both the
registrar and the font, and presumably no surname,
owing to the peculiar circumstances of his parents) .
The Cheeper's father, Anthony Grammont, was a
fair, pale, good-looking, rather tired young man of
seven and twenty, with a slightly plaintive voice ;
he looked as if he shared, only with more languor,
Miss Ponsonby's placid and engaging enjoyment of
the world ; he had been in one of the hottest corners
of France through the European War, and had
emerged from it a bored and unambitious colonel,
deaf of one ear, adorned with a Military Cross, and
determined to repay himself for his expenditure of
so much time, energy and health by enjoying the
fifty or sixty years which, he piously hoped, re-
mained to him, to the full. Which he was now
doing. His professional life was passed on the
Mr. Leslie Amherst, the man like a faun, who was
staying with him, was an old friend of the Grammont
family. He wrote, and was on the staff of a weekly
journal. He was engaged just now on a series of
articles on the Forces of Darkness in Darkest
Europe. So far he had produced i. The Legisla-
ture, 2. Capitalism, 3. Industrialism, 4. National-
ism, 5. Militarism, 6. The Press, and this week he
was writing 7. Organised Religion. (It will no
doubt shock some readers to learn that these forces
had not all, in spite of the earnest hopes enter-
tained for so long for their overthrowal, yet been
overthrown ; but truth compels me to state that
they had not.) Though Amherst talked like a cynic,
and had his affectations, he was an earnest thinker,
and sometimes tired his host, who was not, and who
had been left by his years of difficult continental
sojourn with a supreme distaste for any further
probing into the problems of Darkest Europe.
Amherst had the advantage, in this matter, of
having been a Conscientious Objector to Military
Service, so the war had not tired him, and he re-
tained for home use the freshness and vigour of
attack which had, in the case of many of his fellow-
countrymen, been all used up abroad.
The End House party was completed by Kitty
Grammont, with her round, long-lashed eyes and her
air of the ingenuous rake, and Vernon Prideaux,
brisk and neat and clever. So there they all were ;
and very nice, too.
Kitty kissed her brother and Miss Ponsonby and
3 o. WHAT NOT
dug the Cheeper in the ribs in the manner he pre-
ferred. She was very fond of them all, and found
Miss Ponsonby immeasurably entertaining. Little
had she thought, when of old she used joyfully to
watch Miss Pansy Ponsonby twist and kick and curl
herself about the stage and sing fascinating inanities
in her lazy contralto, that they would ever be linked
by no common bond. Of course she had known that
her brother Anthony was showering flowers, choco-
lates, suppers, week-ends and air-trips at Miss
Ponsonby's nimble feet (the toes of which could
bend right back at the joints) but Anthony had been
known to shower these things at the feet of others.
Certainly Kitty had never expected that he would
instal this delightful and expensive being in a real
house, have a real infant, and really settle down,
albeit socially ostracised in Buckinghamshire because
Imperfectly married (that was the fault of Pansy's
husband, Mr. Jimmie Jenks, who, though he didn't
want her himself, selfishly refused to sever the con-
" What's the afternoon news ? " enquired Mr.
Amherst, as they walked up to the village.
" Haven't seen a paper for half an hour," replied
Prideaux, who kept his finger on the pulse of the
nation and liked his news up to date. " I've got two
five o'clock ones with me, though. The Leeds strike
is rather worse, the Sheffield one rather better. The
aero bus men are coming out on Monday. Dangerous
unrest among Sussex shepherds and Cotswold cow-
LITTLE CHANTREYS 31
men." (Agricultural labour was now controlled by
the State.) " Lord Backwoods has been speaking
to his constituents against the Bill for disfranchising
Conscientious Obstructionists of the Mental Progress
Acts. A thoroughly seditious speech, of course.
Poor old chap, his eldest son has just got engaged
to be married, so there'll be another family of Back-
woods babies who ought never to exist. It will hit
them heavily financially. . . . And the International
Police have found another underground gun-factory
near Munich, under a band-stand. And it's con-
firmed that old Tommy Jackson is to be Drink
" Another good butler spoilt," observed Anthony
Grammont. " He was a jolly good butler once. And
he'll be a jolly bad Drink Controller."
" Dear old Tommy," murmured Miss Ponsonby
absently, lifting the Cheeper out of his motor-pram
with one strong white hand and balancing him on
her ample shoulders. " He was vurry kind to me in
the dear old days, when I spent week-ends at Surrey
Towers. He used to give me tips on Correct Conduct.
I didn't take them ; Correct Conduct wasn't what
the people there asked me for ; but I was grateful
" If," said Anthony, " there is any member of a
government department, existing, fallen, or yet to
come, who has not in the dear old days been vurry
kind to you, my dear Pansy, I should be rather glad
to know his name."
32 WHAT NOT
" Why, certainly," returned Pansy, with cheerful |
readiness. " Nicky Chester, the Brains Minister
who's making himself such an all-round eternal
nuisance, doesn't even realise I exist, and if he did
he'd think I oughtn't."
" That's where you're wrong, Pansy," Kitty said.
" He thinks everyone ought to exist who does any-
thing as well as you do your things. You're Starred
A, aren't you ? "
"I've gone and lost the silly old bus ticket,"
said Pansy indifferently, " but that's what it said, I
think." Starred A meant (in the words of the official
definition) first-class ability at a branch of work
which would not appear to be a valuable contribu-
tion to the general efficiency of the State. The
Cheeper, child of a starred A mother and a 63 father
(Anthony's brains had been reduced by trench life ;
he had been quite intelligent at Oxford), was subject
neither to bonus nor tax.
" Anyhow," went on Pansy, grinning her wide,
sweet, leisurely grin, " I think I see Nicky Chester
sendin' me round flowers or goodies after a show !
He's seen me, you know : he was in a box the first
night of ' Hullo, Peace ! ' He laughed at the
political hits, but my turns left him cold ; I guess
they weren't brainy enough." She tossed the
Cheeper in the air and caught him, strongly and
easily. " Make him supple young," she observed,
" an' by the time he's six he'll be a star Child
Gamboller, fit for revue. He takes after me. Already
LITTLE CHANTREYS 33
he can put both his big toes in his little mouth at
" Very unusual, surely," remarked Mr. Amherst,
looking at the Cheeper through his pince-nez as if
he were an insect under a microscope. Mr. Amherst
was fellow of an Oxford college, and had the
academic touch, and was not yet entirely used to
Pansy, a type outside his previous studies, and at
no time would he be really used to anyone under
eighteen years of age, let alone six months. Possibly
this was what his reviewers meant when they said
that he lacked the touch of common humanity.
His attention was diverted from the Cheeper by
the parish church, which he inspected with the
same curiosity and distaste.
" Organised Religion, I presume," he commented.
" If you've no objection, Anthony, I will attend
morning service there to-morrow. It may provide
me with some valuable subject matter for my
" We'll all go," said Kitty. " The End House
shall set an example to the village. We'll take
Cyril, too. He can get a dispensation. It's Brains
Sunday, you know, and all patriotic clergymen will
be preaching about it. Vernon and I are officially
bound to be there."
" I don't suppose it will be amusing," said
Anthony. " But we'll go if you all want to."
" Church," said Pansy, meditatively regarding the
Early Perpendicular tower. " 7 went one Sunday
34 WHAT NOT
morning." She paused reminscently, and added,
without chagrin, " The vicar turned me down."
" He could hardly," said Mr. Amherst civilly, " do
otherwise. Your position is not one which is at
present recognised by Organised Religion."
" Oh, he recognised it all right," Pansy explained.
" That was just the trouble ; he didn't like it. ...
He's not a bad old sort. He came to call afterwards,
and told me all about it. He was quite upset. So
was I, wasn't I, old thing ? "
" Not in the least," returned Anthony placidly.
"I'd only wanted to do the proper thing," Pansy
continued her unperturbed narrative, in her singu-
larly beautiful voice. " I was always brought up to
go to church now and then. I was confirmed all right.
I like to do the proper thing. It only seems fair to
the Cheeper to bring him up in the way he should
go. I wouldn't care for him to grow up an agnogger,
like all you people. But Mr. Delmer said my way of
life was too ambiguous to square with comin' to
church. Rather a sweet word, don't you think ?
Because it isn't ambiguous really, you know ; not a
bit, I'm afraid. ... So when the Cheeper turned
up, it seemed to me he was a bit ambiguous, too, an'
that's why I haven't had him made a little Christian
yet. The vicar says he can square that up all right
he called on purpose to tell me but somehow
we've never had the time to fix it, have we, darlin' ?
Tottie O'Clare .promised me she'd be godmother if
ever I did have him done.
" Pansy," said Anthony, " you're boring Amherst
and Prideaux. They're not interested in babies, or
baptisms, or Tottie O'Clare."
Pansy smiled at them all out of her serene violet
eyes. She looked like some stately, supple Aphro-
dite ; she might, but for the delicate soupon of
powder and over-red lips, have sat for a madonna.
" Pansy," said Kitty, " it's the Sistine Madonna
you're like ; I've got it at last. You're the divine
type. You might be from heaven. You're so
restful. We all spin and buzz about, trying to
get things done, and to be clever and fussy and
efficient and you just are. You happen, like
spring, or music. You're not a bit like Chester,
but you're ever so much more important. Isn't
she, Vernon ? "
" They're both," said Prideaux tactfully, " of
enormous importance. And certainly, as you say,
not in the least alike. Chester is neither like spring
nor music, and certainly one wouldn't call him rest-
ful. And I should be a bit surprised to learn that
heaven is where he either began or will end his
career. . . . But, I ask you, look at that."
They were passing the little Town Hall, that
stood in the village market place. Its face was
plastered with an immense poster, which Prideaux
and Kitty surveyed with proprietary pride, Amherst
with cynical amusement, Anthony with bored
resignation, and Pansy and the Cheeper with placid
wonder at the world's folly.
36 WHAT NOT
" Ours is a wonderful government," Kitty com-
mented. " And we are a wonderful ministry. Think
of rural England all plastered with that. ... I
don't believe Chester laughs when he sees it, Vernon.
I'm sure he looks at it proudly, like a solemn,
earnest little boy."
" And quite right too," said Prideaux, screwing
his glass into his eye the better to read. For this
was a new Ministry of Brains poster ; new this week.
It read, in large type, " Improve your Brains ! Go
in for the Government Course of Mind Training !
It will benefit you, it will benefit your country, it
will benefit posterity. Old Age must come. But it
need not be a Doddering Old Age. Lay up Good
Mental Capacities to meet it, and make it a Fruitful
and Happy Time. See what the Mind Training
Course has done for others, and let it Do the Same
Then, in smaller type, " Here are a few reports
from those who have benefited by it.
" From a famous financier. Since I began the
Course I have doubled my income and halved those
of 750 others. I hope, by the time I have completed
the Course, to have ruined twice this number.
" From a Cabinet Minister. Owing to the Mind
Training Course I have now remained in office for
over six weeks. I hope to remain for at least three
" From a newspaper proprietor. I have started
eight new journals since I took the Course, over-
LITTLE CHANTREYS 37
turned three governments, directed four inter-
national crises, and successfully represented Great
Britain to the natives of the Pacific Islands.
' ' From the editor of a notorious weekly paper. I took
the Course because I -seemed to be losing that un-
rivalled touch which has made my paper what, I
may say, it is. Since taking it, more than my old
force has returned, so that I have libelled nine promi-
nent persons and successfully defended six libel
actions in the courts. The M.T. Course teaches one
to Live at one's Best.
" From a Civil Servant. Every time a new govern-
ment department is born I enter it, rendered com-
petent by the Mind Training Course to fill its highest
posts. When the Department falls I leave it, un-
" From a Publisher. My judgment has been so
stimulated by the Course that since taking it I have
published five novels so unpleasant that correspond-
ence still rages about them in the columns of the
Spectator, and which have consequently achieved
ten editions. The Course teaches one why some
succeed and others fail.
" From a Journalist. I now only use the words
decimated, literally, annihilated, and proletariat,
according to the meanings ascribed to them in
the dictionary, do not use pacifism more than
three times a day, nor ' very essential ' or ' rather
unique ' at all.
" From a famous Theologian. Before I undertook
the Course I was a Bishop of a disestablished Church.
Now my brain is clarified, my eyes are opened, and
I am a leader of the Coming Faith. The Course
teaches the Meaning of Life.
" From a former Secretary of State. Since taking
the Course I have recognised the importance of
keeping myself informed as to public affairs, and
now never refer in my public speeches to any speech
by another statesman without having previously
read a summary of it.
" From a poet. I can now find rhymes to nearly
all my lines, and have given up the old-fashioned
habit of free rhythms to which I have been addicted
since 1912. I can even find rhymes to indemnity,
also a rhyme to War which is neither gore, claw, nor
" From an inveterate writer of letters to newspapers.
1 no longer do this.
" From a citizen. I was engaged to be married.
Now I am not."
Then in large type again,
" All this has happened to Others ! Why should
it not happen to You ? Save yourself, save your
country, save the world ! How shall wisdom be
found, and where is the place of understanding ? So
asked the Preacher of the ancient world, and got no
answer, because then there was none. But the
answer is now forthcoming. Wisdom is to be found
in the Government Mind Training Course the
M.T.C., as it is affectionately called by thousands
LITTLE CHANTREYS 39
of men and women who are deriving benefits from
it. Enter for it to-day. For further information
apply Mind Training Section, Ministry of Brains,
Above the letterpress was a picture poster, repre-
senting two youths, and called " Before and After."
" Before " had the vacuity of the village idiot,
" After " the triumphant cunning of the maniac.
The Mind Training Course had obviously completely
overset a brain formerly harmless, if deficient.
" How long," enquired Amherst, in his best
Oxford manner, " do you give yourselves ? I
address the enquiry, as a member of the public, to
you, as servants of a government which can resort
to such methods as that."
" We have now remained in office for over six
months," said Kitty, " and we hope to remain for
at least three more. . . . But it's for us to ask you,
as a member of the public, how long you intend to
give us ? Personally I'm astonished every day that
our hotel, and all the other hotels, aren't stormed
and wrecked. I don't know why the Aero Bus
Company, while it's on strike, doesn't sail over us
and drop bombs. It shows we must be more popular
than we deserve. It shows that people really like
being coerced and improved. They know they need
it. Look at the people going about this village ;
look at their faces, I ask you. They're like ' Before.'
Look at the policeman at his door, half out of his
clothes. He's god-like to look at ; he's got a figure
40 WHAT NOT
like the Discobolus, and the brain of a Dr. Watson.
He could never track a thief. He's looking at us ;
he thinks we're thieves, probably, just because
we're ambiguous. That's the sort of mind he has.
Look at the doctor, in his absurd little Ford. How
much do you suppose he knows about curing people,
or about the science of bodies ? He patches them
up with pills and drugs, and . . . But he didn't
cut us, Tony. Why not ? "
" He and the vicar don't," explained Anthony.
" Professional attendance. There's the vicar, out-
side that cottage. See him put his hand up as we
He returned the salute with some pride, and Pansy
nodded agreeably. Amherst examined the vicar,
who was small and sturdy and had a nice kind face.
Amherst shook his head when they had left him
" Not nearly clever enough for the part," he pro-
nounced. " To organise religion a man should have
the talents of the devil, or at least of the intelligent
civil servant. Prideaux would do it quite weU ; or
Chester ; only Chester might be too erratic for the
popular taste. No wonder Christianity is the in-
effective thing it is in this country, if it's left in the
hands of officials like that. That man couldn't
organise anything ; I bet even his school treats go
wrong too few buns or something. That's the hope
for the world, that inefficiency of most religious
officials ; that's why the public will succeed before
LITTLE CHANTREYS 41
long in throwing off the whole business, even before
they succeed in downing Parliament and the British
autocracy, who are a shade more acute. From my
point of view your vicar's stupidity is all to the good.
If he preaches to-morrow as the Brains Ministry
want him to and he looks loyal and patriotic
enough to try he'll be preaching against his own
interests. But that's what all you Brains people are
doing, of course. You don't seem to see that if you
ever were to succeed in making the human race
reasonably intelligent, your number would be up ;
you wouldn't be stood for a moment longer. You're
sitting on a branch and trying to saw it off. Lucky
for you your saws aren't sharper."
" Chester would go on just the same if he did see,"
Kitty said. " He probably does. He's an idealist,
but his eye for facts is very penetrating. And he'd
think it worth while to perish in so good a cause."
" The fact is," added Prideaux, " that he never
would perish, even if the branch did fall ; he'd
climb on to another pretty quickly and rise as the
People's Saviour. Our Nicky won't go under."
They arrived at the End House, about which
there is little to say except that it lay just beyond
the straggling village, was roomy, comfortable, un-
tidy, full of dogs all named after revue stars, and
was an interesting mixture of the Grammont taste in
42 WHAT NOT
art and decoration, which was the taste of clever
people several of whom were artists, and of Pansy's
taste, which is most shortly indicated by mentioning
that if you saw the house before you saw Pansy you
were surprised, and if you had seen Pansy first you
were not. The drawing-room floor was littered
with large and comfortable and brightly-hued
cushions, obviously not mistakes but seats. This
always a little flurried the vicar and his wife when
they called ; it was, as Mrs. Delmer observed, so
very Eastern, and suggested other habits belonging
to the same dubious quarter of the globe, some of
which there was only too good reason to believe
had been adopted. The chimney-piece was worse,
being adorned by photographs of Pansy's friends
her loving Tottie, hers everlastingly, Guy, warmly
Phyllis and Harry, and so forth. (There was even
hers Jimmie, which, if Mrs. Delmer had known
rather more of Pansy's domestic circumstances than
she did, would have struck her as being in very
doubtful taste.) Some of these ladies and gentlemen,
fortunately, had elected to be taken head and
shoulders only (and quite enough too, thought Mrs.
Delmer, wondering how far below the bottom of the
photograph the ladies' clothes began) and some
showed the whole figure. (" I should think they
did ! " said Mrs. Delmer, on her first call, nervously
retreating from the chimney-piece. It may be men-
tioned that Mrs. Delmer was not in the habit of
witnessing revues, and was accustomed to an ampler
LITTLE CHANTREYS 43
mode of garment. These things are so much a
question of habit.)
These photographs, and the excellent painting in
the hall of Pansy herself in her eel dance, were among
the minor reasons why Ivy Delmer was not allowed
to enter the End House. There were three reasons
why her parents did so ; they might be stupid, but
they were of an extraordinary goodness, and could
not bear to leave sin alone, anyhow in their own
parish, where it set such an unfortunate example,
when they might, by sufficient battling, perhaps
win it over to righteousness ; also they had kind
and soft hearts, and did not like the idea of Pansy
alone all day with her infant son and the two most
notoriously ill-behaved young servants in the
village ; and finally they were Christians, and be-
lieved that the teaching of their religion on the
subject of sociability to sinners was plain. So,
swallowing their embarrassed distaste, they visited
the End House as one might visit a hospital, but
kept their children from it, because it was a hospital
whose patients might be infectious.
Into this house, standing hospitably open-doored
in the May evening, its owner and his friends entered.
It affected them in various ways. Anthony Gram-
mont was proud of his house and garden, his Pansy
and his Cheeper. He was young enough to be vain
of being head of a household, even of an ambiguous
household, and of course anyone would be proud of
the dazzling and widely-known Pansy, whose name
44 WHAT NOT
had always been one of the two in large type in
advertisements of the shows in which she figured
(she was as good as all that) ; and he was tired enough,
mentally and physically, by his life of the last few
years, its discomforts, it homelessness, its bondage,
its painful unnaturalness, to sink with relief into
Pansy's exotic cushions and all they stood for.
Kitty found the house and household inordinately
cheering and entertaining ; the mere sight of Pansy's
drawing-room could rouse her from any depres-
Vernon Prideaux shuddered a little at the row of
photographs he detested photographs on chimney-
pieces and the Eve design on the chair covers ; he
was not so good at the comic-opera touch as Kitty
was, and had a masculine sense of propriety and
good taste, and had always preferred revue stars on
the stage to off it. He had also, however, a wide
tolerance for the tastes of others, and was glad that
Tony Grammont had found domestic happiness.
Amherst's thoughts were brief and neat, and
might be summed up thus : " Forces of Darkness
number 8. The expensive, conscienceless, and un-
Pansy went upstairs to put the Cheeper to bed,
and Kitty went with her to see her nephew in his
bath, putting both his big toes into his mouth at
The only other event of importance which hap-
pened before dinner was the arrival of Cyril Gram-
LITTLE CHANTREYS ' 45
mont, a brother of Anthony's, a Cambridge friend of
Prideaux's, a Roman Catholic, a writer of epi-
grammatic essays and light verse, and a budding
publisher. He and Pansy usually quarrelled. He
had spent the war partly in Macedonia, as a member
of the Salonika Force, digging up fragments of
sculpture from Amphipolis and the other ruined
cities of those regions, tracking what he then held
to be the pernicious influence of St. Paul with the
help of a pocket atlas of his journeys and the
obviously evil habits and dispositions of the towns
which had received his attentions, and partly in
Palestine, where he had taken an extreme dislike to
both Jews and Turks, had become convinced that
they must be so wrong about everything that
mattered that Christians must be right, and was
forthwith converted from atheism to Christianity.
He considered that war-time is no time for Chris-
tians, they have to do so much either explaining or
protesting or both, so he had waited till the war was
over, and had then proceeded to investigate the
various forms into which Christianity had developed
(they all seemed a little strange to him at first), in
order to make his choice. An impartial friend with
whom he discussed the subject told him that he
would find Roman Catholicism best suited to his
precise, clear-cut, and Latin type of mind, provided
that he succeeded in avoiding all contact with the
more luscious forms of Roman devotions, which, he
was warned, would disgust him as much as patchouli,
46 WHAT NOT
or Carlo Dolci. " And anyhow," added his friend,
probably erroneously, " it will outlast the other
churches, for all its obscurantism, so if you want a
going concern, join it."
So Cyril enquired into Roman Catholicism, found
that, in its best cathedral forms, it satisfied his
artistic sense, and, in its sharply-cut dogma, his
feeling for precise form (his taste in art was violently
against the post-bellum school, which was a riot of
lazy, sloppy, and unintellectual formlessness), and
so, accepting as no stranger than most of the growths
of a strangely sprouting world the wonderful tree
which had grown from a seed so remarkably dis-
similar, he took a firm seat upon its branches,
heedless of the surprised disapproval of most of his
friends, who did not hold that any organised religion
could be called a going concern, except in the sense
that it was going to pot.
So here was Cyril, at the End House for Sunday,
neat, handsome, incisive, supercilious, very sure of
himself, and not in the least like the End House,
with its slatternly brilliance, its yapping dogs, its
absurdities, its sprawling incoherence, its cushions,
and its ambiguity.
In the evening Pansy danced her willow-tree
dance for them. Her hair tumbled down, and she
ceased to look like the Sistine Madonna and became
more like a young Bacchanal. Some of her jokes
were coarse (you have to be coarse sometimes in
revue, and cannot leave the habit entirely behind
LITTLE CHANTREYS 47
you when you come oft" the boards) and Amherst,
who was refined, was jarred. Then she quarrelled
with Cyril, because he remarked, with his cheerful
and businesslike air of finality, that of course if the
Cheeper were not baptised he would go to hell.
Upon her violent remonstrance he merely observed
that he was sorry, but facts were facts, and he
couldn't get them altered to please her. He talked
like this partly to annoy Pansy, because it amused
him to see her cross, and partly for the pleasure of
unobtrusively watching Amherst's expression when
the word hell was mentioned.
So, to unite the party, Kitty proposed that they
should play the new card game, League of Nations,
of which the point was to amass cards and go out
while presenting an appearance of doing nothing
Thus harmoniously and hilariously the night wore
on, till at last the End House, like the other Little
Chantreys houses, only much later, went to bed.
Little Chantreys slept under the May moon,
round the market square with the Ministry of
Brains poster in the middle.
The doctor slept with the sound sleep of those who
do not know the width of the gulf between what
they are and what they should be.
The sick, his patients, slept or woke, tossing un-
.48 WHAT NOT
easily, with windows closed to the soft night air.
Every now and then they would rouse and take their
medicine, with impatience, desperation, simple faith,
or dull obedience, and look in vain for a bettering of
their state. Those who considered themselves well,
never having known what welfare really was, slept
too, in stuffy, air-tight rooms, disturbed by the
wailing of babies which they had not taught not to
cry aloud, by the hopping of fleas which they had
failed to catch or to subdue, by the dancing of mice
which would never enter traps so obvious as those
which they scornfully perceived in their paths, by
Tilie crowding of children about them, too close to be
forgotten or ignored, by the dragging weight of in-
competent, unfinished yesterday and incompetent,
The vicarage slept. The vicar in his sleep had a
puzzled frown, as if life was too much for him, as if
he was struggling with forces above his comprehen-
sion and beyond his grasp, forces that should have
revolutionised Little Chantreys, but, in his hands,
wouldn't. The vicar's wife slept fitfully, waking
to worry about the new cook, whose pastry was im-
possible. She wasn't clever enough to know that
cooking shouldn't be done in this inefficient, waste-
ful way in the home, but co-operatively, in a village
kitchen, and pastry should be turned out by a
pastry machine. Mrs. Delmer had heard of this idea,
but didn't like it, because it was new. She wasn't
strong, and would die one day, worn out with
domestic worries which could have been so easily
obviated. . . .
The young Delmers slept. They always did.
They mostly ought not to have been born at all ;
they were, except Ivy, who was moderately intelli-
gent, below standard. They slept the sleep of the
The vicarage girl slept. She would sleep for some
time, because her alarum clock was smothered by a
cushion ; which would seem to indicate more
brains on her part than were to be found in the other
inmates of the vicarage.
So Little Chantreys slept, and the world slept,
governments and governed, forces of darkness and
forces of light, industry and idleness, the sad and
the gay ; pathetic, untutored children of the moment
looking neither behind nor ahead.
The morning light, opening dimly, like a faintly-
tinted flower, illumined the large red type of the
poster in the Little Chantreys market place.
" IMPROVE YOUR BRAINS ! " So Brains Sun-
day dawned upon a world which did indeed seem to
IVY DELMER had been right in her premonition.
The End*House was in church, at matins (the form
of Sunday midday worship still used in Little
Chantreys, which was old-fashioned). Ivy looked
at them as they sat in a row near the front. Mr.
Anthony Grammont and Miss Ponsonby sat next each
other and conversed together in whispers. Miss
Ponsonby was attired in pink gingham, and not
much of it (it was not the fashion to have exten-
sive clothes, or of rich materials, lest people should
point at you as a profiteer who had made money out
of the war ; even if you had done this you hid it as
far as was convenient, and what you did not hide
you said was interest on war loan). Miss Ponsonby,
with her serene smile, looked patient, resigned,
and very sweet and good. Next her was Miss
Grammont, who looked demure in a dress of
motley, and, beyond her again, Mr. Prideaux, who
looked restless and impatient, either as if he were
thinking out some departmental tangle, or as if he
thought it had been a silly idea to come to church,
BRAINS SUNDAY 51
or both. At the end of the row were Mr. Amherst,
who was studying the church, the congregation
and the service through his glasses, collecting copy
for his essay, and Mr. Cyril Grammont, who looked
like a Roman Catholic attending a Protestant
church by special dispensation. (This look cannot
be defined, but is known if seen.)
Ivy looked from the End House to her father,
surpliced at the lectern, reading the Proper Lesson
appointed for Brains Sunday, Proverbs 8 and 9.
" Shall not wisdom cry, and understanding put
forth her word ? She standeth in the top of high
places, by the way, in the places of the paths. She
crieth at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the
coming in at the doors, ... O ye simple, under-
stand wisdom, and, ye fools, be of an understand-
ing heart. . . . Wisdom hath builded her house,
she hath hewn out her seven pillars " (that was
the Ministry hotel, thought Ivy). ..." She hath
sent forth her maidens, she crieth upon the highest
place of the city " (on the walls of the Little
Chantreys town hall). " Whoso is simple, let him
turn in hither. . . . Forsake the foolish and live,
and go in the way of understanding. . . . Give
instruction to a wise man and he will get wiser ;
teach a just man and he will increase in learning.
. . . The fear of the Lord is the beginning of
wisdom, and the knowledge of the holy is under-
standing. ..." Which set Ivy Delmer wondering
a little, for she believed her parents to be holy, or
52 WHAT NOT
anyhow very, very good, and yet . . . But perhaps
they had, after all, the beginning of wisdom, only
not its middle, nor its end, if wisdom has any end.
She looked from her father, carefully closing the big
Bible and remarking that here ended the first lesson,
to her mother, carefully closing her little Bible (for
she was of those who follow lessons in books) ; her
mother, who was so wonderfully good and kind and
selfless, and to whom old age must come, and who
ought to be preparing for it by going in for the
Government Mind Training Course, but who said
she hadn't time, she was so busy in the house and
garden and parish. And half the things she did or
supervised in the house and garden ought, said the
Ministry of Brains, to be done by machinery, or
co-operation, or something. They would have been
done better so, and would have left the Delmers and
their parishioners more time. More time for what,
was the further question ? " Save time now spent
on the mere business of living, and spend it on better
things," said the Ministry pamphlets. Reading, Ivy
supposed ; thinking, talking, getting an fait with the
affairs of the world. And here was Mrs. Delmer
teaching each new girl to make pastry (no new girl
at the vicarage ever seemed to have acquired the
pastry art to Mrs. Delmer's satisfaction in her pre-
vicarage career) pastry, which should have been
turned out by the yard in a pastry machine ; and
spudding up weeds one by one, which should have
been electrocuted, like superfluous hairs, or flung
BRAINS SUNDAY 53
up by dynamite, like fish in a river. . . . But when
Mrs. Delmer heard of such new and intelligent
labour-saving devices, she was as reluctant to adopt
them as any of the poor dear stupid women in the
cottages. It was a pity, because the Church should
lead the way ; and really now that it had been set
free of the State it quite often did.
Ivy looked with puzzled, thoughtful eyes, which
this morning, unusually, were observing people
rather than their clothes, at the rest of the congrega-
tion, her own brothers and sisters first. The young
Delmers were several in number ; there was Betty,
who had just left school, and showed no signs of
" doing " anything, except her hair, the flowers, and
occasionally the lamps. For the rest, she played
tennis for prizes and hockey for Bucks, went out to
tea, and when in doubt dyed her clothes or washed
the dogs. There was Charlie, at Cambridge. Charlie
was of those for whom the Great War had been
allowed to take the place of the Littlego, which was
fortunate in his case, as he had managed to get
through the one but would probably in. no circum-
stances have got through the other. And there was
Reggie, who had got through neither, but had been
killed at Cambrai in November, 1917. There were
also some little ones, Jane and John, aged twelve
and eleven, who, though separated by the length of
a seat, still continued to hold communication by
Morse, and Jelly, who was named for a once famous
admiral and whose age cannot be specified. Jelly
54 WHAT NOT
was small and stout, sat between his mother and
Ivy and stared at his father in the choir-stalls, and
from time to time lifted up his voice and laughed,
as if he were at a Punch and Judy show.
On the whole an agreeable family, and well-
intentioned (though Ivy and Betty quarrelled con-
tinuously and stole each other's things), but certainly
to be numbered among the simple, who were urged
to get understanding. Would they ever get it ?
That was the question, for them and for the whole
congregation here present, from the smallest,
grubbiest school-child furtively sucking bulls'-eyes
aM wiping its sticky hands upon its teacher's
s._ :t, to the vicar in the pulpit, giving out his
" The fool hath said in his heart, there is no
God " ; that was the text. Ivy saw a little smile
cross the clever and conceited face of Mr. Amherst
as it was given out. He settled himself down to
listen, expectant of entertainment. He believed
that he was in luck. For Mr. Amherst, who did not
say in his heart that there was no God, because even
in his heart he scorned the affirmation of the obvious,
was of those who are sure that all members of the
Christian Church are fools (unlike Mr. Arnold
Bennett, who tries and fails, he did not even try to
think of them as intellectual equals), so he avoided,
where he could, the study of clever Christians, and
welcomed the evidences of weakness of intellect that
crossed his path. He believed that this was going
BRAINS SUNDAY 55
to be a foolish sermon, which, besides amusing
them all, would help him in his article on Organised
Ivy could not help watching the End House people.
Somehow she knew how the sermon was affecting
them. She didn't think it funny, but she suspected
that they would. Her father wasn't as clever as
they were ; that was why he failed to say anything
that could impress them except as either dull or
comic. Brains again. How much they mattered.
Clergymen ought to have brains ; it seemed very im-
portant. They ought to know how to appeal to rich
and poor, high and low, wise and simple. TK ex-
traordinary thing called religion (Ivy quite : '.ewly
and unusually saw it as extraordinary, seeing it
for a moment with the eyes of the End House, to
all of whom, -except Miss Ponsonby and, presumably,
Cyril Grammont, it was like fairy lore, like Greek
mythology, mediaeval archaic nonsense) this extra-
ordinary lore and the more extraordinary force
behind it, was in the hands, mainly (like everything
else), of incompetents, clerical and lay, who did not
understand it themselves and could not help others
to do so. They muddled about with it, as Miss
Pomfrey muddled about with office papers. ... It
would not be surprising if the force suddenly de-
molished them all, like lightning. . . .
But such speculations were foreign to Ivy, and
she forgot them in examining the hat of Mrs. Peter-
son, the grocer's wife, which was so noticeable in
56 WHAT NOT
its excessive simplicity its decoration consisted
wholly of home-grown vegetables as to convince
beholders that Mr. Peterson had not, as some falsely
said, made a fortune during the war by cornering
Mr. Delmer was talking about the worst form of
unwisdom Atheism ; a terrible subject to him,
and one he approached with diffidence but reso-
lution, in the face of the unusual pew-full just
"It is an extraordinary thing," he was saying,
" that there are those who actually deny the exist-
ence of God. We have, surely, only to think of the
immeasurable spaces of the universe the distance
He has set between one thing and another. ... It
is reported of the Emperor Napoleon that, looking
up at the stars one night, he remarked ..." Ivy,
who had heard this remark of the Emperor Napoleon's
before, let her attention wander again to the hats of
Mrs. Peterson and others. When she listened once
more, the vicar had left Napoleon, though he was
still dealing with the heavenly bodies.
"If an express train, performing sixty miles an
hour, were to start off from this planet were such
a thing possible to imagine, which of course it is not
towards the moon, and continue its journey
without stops until it arrived, it would reach its
destination, according to the calculations of scien-
BRAINS SUNDAY 57
tists, in exactly i year, 8 months, 26 days." (Ivy,
who had left school lately enough to remember the
distance set by the creator between the earth and
the moon, began to work this out in her head ; she
did not think that her father had got it quite right.)
" And, in the face of this, there are those who say
that God does not exist. A further thought, yet
more wonderful. If the same train, travelling at the
same rapid rate, were to leave this earth again, this
time for the sun, the time it would take over this
journey would be I ask you, if you can, to imagine
it, my friends no less than 175 years, i week, and
6 days." (Ivy gave it up ; it was too difficult with-
out pencil and paper.) . . . " Is it possible that,
knowing this, there are still those who doubt God ?
Yet once more. Imagine, if you can, this train
again starting forth, this time bound for the planet
Jupiter. Scientists tell us, and we must believe it "
(All right, thought Ivy, with relief, if he'd got it out
of a book), " that such a journey would take, if per-
formed when Jupiter was at its furthest, 1097 years,
9 months, 2 weeks, 5 days, 10 hours, and a fraction.
Can it really be that, confronted with the dizzy
thought of these well-nigh incredibly lengthy
journeys from one heavenly body to another, there
are yet men and women who attribute the universe
to the blind workings of what they are pleased to
call the Forces of Nature ? I ask you to consider
earnestly, could any force but God have conceived
and executed such great distances ? And Jupiter,
58 WHAT NOT
my friends, is comparatively near at hand. Take
instead one of those little (but only apparently little)
nameless stars twinkling in the firmament. Imagine
our train starting off into space once more. ..."
Ivy failed to imagine this ; her attention was
occupied with the End House seat. The train's last
journey had been too much for the tottering self-
control of the Grammont family and Vernon
Prideaux (nothing ever broke down Mr. Amherst's
self-control, and Pansy's thoughts were elsewhere).
Prideaux's head rested on his hand, as if he were lost
in thought ; Kitty and Anthony were shaking, un-
obtrusively but unmistakably, and Cyril's fine,
supercilious chin, set firmly, was quivering. Cyril
had, from childhood, had more self-control than the
other two, and he was further sustained by his con-
viction that it would be unthinkably bad form for a
Catholic to attend a Protestant service and laugh
at it in public.
They oughtn't, thought Ivy, rather indignantly,
to laugh at her father's sermon when he wasn't
meaning to be funny. If he saw he would be hurt.
One shouldn't laugh in church, anyhow ; even Jane
and John knew that. These people were no better
" This Sunday," continued the Vicar, his last star
journey safely accomplished, " is the day that has
been set aside by our country for prayer and
sermons with regard to the proposed increase in the
national brain-power. This is, indeed, a sore need :
BRAINS SUNDAY 59
but let us start on the firm foundation of religion.
\Yhat is wisdom apart from that ? Nothing but
vanity and emptiness. What is the clever godless
man but a fool from the point of view of eternity ?
What is the godly fool but a heavenly success ? "
(" He's talking sedition," whispered Kitty to
Prideaux. " He'd better have stuck to the
But, of course, the vicar continued, if one can
combine virtue and intelligence, so much the better.
It has been done. There was, e.g. Darwin. Also
General Gordon, St. Paul, and Lord Roberts,
who had said with his last breath, in June, 1915,
"We've got the men, we've got the money, we've
got the munitions ; what we now want is a nation
on its knees." (Ivy saw Prideaux sit up very
straight, as if he would have liked to inform Mr.
Delmer that this libel on a dying soldier had long
since been challenged and withdrawn.) One can,
said the vicar, find many more such examples of
this happy combination of virtue and intelligence.
There was Queen Victoria, Florence Nightingale,
and Lord Rhondda (who in the dark days of
famine had led the way in self-denial). Not,
unfortunately, the Emperor Napoleon, Friedrich
Nietzsche, or the Kaiser Wilhelm II. The good are
not always the clever, nor the clever always the
good. Some are neither, like the late Crown
Prince of Germany (who was now sharing a small
island in the Pacific with the Kaiser Wilhelm
60 WHAT NOT
and MM. Lenin and Trotzky, late of Petrograd,
and neither stupid nor exactly, let us hope, bad,
but singularly unfortunate and misguided, like so
many Russians, whom it is not for us to judge).
But we should try to be both intelligent and
good. We should take every step in our power to
improve our minds. (Prideaux began to look more
satisfied ; this was what sermons to-day ought to
be about.) It is our duty to our country to be in
telligent citizens, if we can, said the vicar. Reason
is what God has differentiated us from the lower
animals by. They have instinct, we reason. Truly
a noble heritage. We are rather clever already ;
we have discovered fire, electricity, coal, and in-
vented printing, steam engines, and flying. No
reason why we should not improve our minds
further still, and invent (under God) more things yet.
Only one thing we must affirm ; the State should
be very careful how it interferes with the domestic
lives of its citizens. The State was going rather far
in that direction ; it savoured unpleasantly of
Socialism, a tyranny to which Englishmen did not
take kindly. An Englishman's home had always
been his castle (even castles, thought some aggrieved
members of the congregation, were subject to un-
pleasant supervision by the police during food
scarcity) . No race was before us in its respect for
law, but also no race was more determined that their
personal and domestic relations should not be
tampered with. When the State endeavoured to
BRAINS SUNDAY 61
set up a Directorate of Matrimony, and penalised
those who did not conform to its regulations, the
State was, said the vicar, going too far, even for
a State. The old school of laissez-faire, long since
discredited as an economic theory, survived as
regards the private lives of citizens. It is not the
State which has ordained marriage, it is God, and
God did not say " Only marry the clever ; have no
children but clever ones." He said, speaking through
the inspired mouth of the writer of the book of
Genesis, "Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the
earth." (" And, through the inspired mouth of
Solomon, ' Desire not a multitude of unprofitable
children,' " murmured Anthony Grammont, who
knew his Bible in patches, but was apt to get the
The vicar said he was now going to say a bold
thing ; if it brought him within reach of the law he
could not help it. He considered that we ought all,
in this matter, to be what are called Conscientious
Obstructionists ; we ought to protest against this
interference, and refuse to pay the taxes levied upon
those less intelligent infants sent to us by heaven.
He did not say this without much thought and
prayer, and it was, of course, a matter for everyone's
own conscience, but he felt constrained to bear his
witness on this question.
This came to Ivy as a shock. She had not known
that her father was going to bear his witness this
morning. She watched Prideaux's face with some
62 WHAT NOT
anxiety. She admired and feared Prideaux, and
thought how angry he must be. Not Miss Gram-
mont ; Miss Grammont didn't take these things
quite seriously enough to be angry. Ivy sometimes
suspected that the whole work of the Ministry of
Brains, and, indeed, of every other Ministry, was a
joke to her.
It was a relief to Ivy when her father finished his
sermon on a more loyal note, by an urgent exhorta-
tion to everyone to go in for the Mind Training
Course. We must not be backward, he said, in
obeying our country in this righteous cause. He,
for his part, intended to go in for it, with his house-
hold (Mrs. Delmer looked resigned but a little
worried, as if she was mentally fitting in the Mind
Training Course with all the other things she had
to do, and finding it a close fit) and he hoped every-
one in the congregation would do the same. Ivy
saw Prideaux's profile become more approving.
Perhaps her father had retrieved his reputation for
patriotism after all. Anyhow at this point the And
Now brought them all to their feet, they sang a
hymn (the official hymn composed and issued by
the Brains Ministry), had a collection (for the
education of imbeciles), a prayer for the enlighten-
ment of dark minds (which perhaps meant the same),
and trooped out of church.
BRAINS SUNDAY 63
" He ought, of course," said Prideaux at lunch,
"to be reported and prosecuted for propaganda
contrary to the national interest. But we won't
report him ; he redeemed himself by his patriotic
"He is redeemed for evermore by his express
train," said Kitty.
" A most instructive morning," said Amherst.
" Protestants are wonderful people," said Cyril.
" I always said that man was a regular pet lamb,"
said Pansy. " And hadn't he pluck ! Fancy givin'
it us about that silly old baby tax with you two
representatives of the government sitting under him
an' freezin' him. I guess 111 have the Cheeper
christened first opportunity, just to please him,
what, old dear ? "
Anthony, thus addressed, said, " As soon and as
often as you like, darling. Don't mind me. Only I
suppose you realise that it will mean thinking of a
name for him Sidney, or Bert, or Lloyd George
" Montmorency," said Pansy promptly. " Monty
for short, of course That'll sound awfully well in
It should be noted as one up for Mr. Delmer that
his sermon, whether or not it brought many of his
parishioners to the Government Mind Training
64 WHAT NOT
Course, had anyhow (unless Pansy forgot again)
brought one infant soul into the Christian Church.
Mrs. Delmer said to Ivy, " I suppose we shall all
have to go in for it, dear, as father's told everyone
we're going to. But I don't quite know how I'm
going to get the time, especially with this new boy so
untrustworthy about changing the hens' water when
he feeds them and crushing up the bones for them.
Perhaps he'll be better when he's taken the course
himself. But I half suspect it's not so much
stupidity as naughtiness. . . . Well, well, if father
wants us to we must."
Jane said, kicking stones along the road as she
walked, " Shall I be top of my form when I've taken
the Course, mother ? Shall I, mother ? Will John ?
John was lower than me last week. Shall we,
mother ? "
Mrs. Delmer very sensibly observed that, if
all the other children in the parish took the
course too, as they ought, their relative capaci-
ties would remain unchanged. " But if both
you and John took a little more pains over
your home-work, Jane," she took the opportunity
to add, whereupon Jane very naturally changed
Betty's contribution was " Brains ! What a silly
fuss about them. Who wants brains ? "
BRAINS SUNDAY 65
Which was, indeed, a very pertinent question, and
one which Nicholas Chester sometimes sadly asked
Who, alas, did ?
BRAINS Week (" Our Week," as it was called by the
ladies who sold flags for it) having opened thus
auspiciously, flourished along its gallant way like a
travelling fair urging people to come and buy, like
a tank coaxing people to come in and purchase war
bonds, like the War Office before the Military Service
Acts, like the Ministry of Food before compulsory
rationing. It was, in fact, the last great appeal for
voluntary recruits for the higher intelligence ; if it
failed then compulsion would have to be resorted to.
Many people thought that compulsion should in any
case be resorted to ; what was the good of a govern-
ment if not to compel ? If the Great War hadn't
taught it that, it hadn't taught it much. This was
the view put forward in many prominent journals ;
others, who would rather see England free than
England clever, advocated with urgency the volun-
tary scheme, hoping, if it might be, to see England
It was a week of strenuous and gallant effort on
the part of the Government and its assistants.
OUR WEEK 67
Every Cinema showed dramas representing the con-
trasted fates of the Intelligent and the Stupid.
Kiosks of Propaganda and Information were set up
in every prominent shop. Trafalgar Square was
brilliant with posters, a very flower-garden. The
Ministry of Brains' artists had given of their best.
Pictorial propaganda bloomed on every city wall,
" Before and After," " The Rich Man and the Poor
Man " (the Rich Man, in a faultless fur coat, ob-
serving to the Poor Man in patched reach-me-downs,
" Yes, I was always below you at school, wasn't I ?
But since then I've taken the Mind Training Course,
and now money rolls in. Sorry you're down on your
luck, old man, but why don't you do as I've done ? ")
and a special poster for underground railways, por-
traying victims of the perils of the streets " A will
be safe because he has taken the Mind Training
Course and is consequently facing the traffic. B will
not, because he has refused to improve his mind
and has therefore alighted from a motor bus in the
wrong direction and with . his back to oncoming
traffic; he will also be crushed by a street aero,
having by his foolish behaviour excited the aviator.
B will therefore perish miserably, AND DESERVES
There were also pictures of human love, that most
moving of subjects for art. ' Yes, dear, I love you.
But we are both C2 " (they looked it). " We cannot
marry ; we must part for ever. You must marry
Miss Bryte-Braynes, who has too few teeth and
68 WHAT NOT
squints, and I must accept Mr. Brilliantine, who
puts too much oil on his hair. For beauty is only
skin-deep, but wisdom endures for ever. We must
THINK OF POSTERITY."
Nor was Commerce backward in the cause. Every
daily paper contained advertisements from our more
prominent emporiums, such as " Get tickets for the
M.T. Course at Selfswank's. Every taker of a ticket
will receive a coupon for our great 1000 lottery.
The drawing will be performed in a fortnight from
to-day, by the late Prime Minister's wife." (To
reassure the anxious it should be said that the late
Prime Minister was not Deceased but abolished ;
the country was governed by a United Council, five
minds with but a single thought if that.) " By
taking our tickets you benefit yourself, benefit
posterity, benefit your country, and stand a good
chance of winning A CASH PRIZE."
And every patriotic advertiser of clothes, furs,
jewellery, groceries, or other commodities, tacked
on to his advertisement, "Take a ticket this week
for the M.T.. Course." And every patriotic letter-
writer bought a Brains Stamp, and stamped his
envelopes with the legend " Improve your Brains
Railway bookstalls were spread with literature
on the subject. The Queen, the Gentlewoman, the
Sketch, and other such periodicals suited, one
imagines, to the simpler type of female mind, had
articles on " Why does a woman look old sooner than
OUR WEEK 69
a man ? " (the answer to this was that, though men
are usually stupid, women are often stupider still,
and have taken even less pains to improve~~their
minds), " Take care of your mind and your com-
plexion will take care of itself," " Raise yourself to
category A, and you enlarge your matrimonial field,"
" How to train Baby's intellect," and so forth. Side
by side with these journals was the current number
of the Cambridge Magazine, bearing on its cover the
legend " A Short Way with Fools ; Pogrom of the
Old Men. Everyone over forty to be shot." " We
have always said," the article under these headlines
very truly began, " and we do not hesitate to say it
again, that the only way to secure an intelligent
government or citizenship in any nation is to dis-
pose, firmly but not kindly, of the old and the
middle-aged, and to let the young have their day.
There will then be no more such hideous blunders
as those with which the diplomacy of our doddering
elders has wrecked the world again and again during
the past centuries."
The Evening News had cartoons every day of the
Combing Out of the Stupid, whom it was pleased to
call Algies and Dollies. The New Witness, on the
other hand, striking a different note, said that it was
the fine old Christian Gentile quality of stupidity
which had made Old England what it was ; the
natives of Merrie England had always resented ex-
cessive acuteness, as exhibited in the Hebrew race
at their expense. The Herald, however, rejoiced in
70 WHAT NOT
large type in the Open Door to Labour ; the Church
Times reported Brains Sunday sermons by many
divines (in most of them sounded the protest raised
by the vicar of Little Chantreys against interfer-
ence with domestic rights, the Church was obviously
going to be troublesome in this matter) and the other
journals, from the Hidden Hand down to Home Chat,
supported the cause in their varying degrees and
Among them lay the Ministry of Brains pamphlets,
" Brains. How to get and keep them," " The culti-
vation of the Mind," etc. In rows among the books
and papers hung the Great Thoughts from Great
Minds series portraits of eminent persons with
their most famous remarks on this subject inscribed
beneath them. " It is the duty of every man,
woman, and child in this country so to order their
lives in this peace crisis as to make the least possible
demand upon the intelligence of others. It is
necessary, therefore, to have some of your own."
(Aa eminent minister.) " I never had any assist-
ance beyond my wits. Through them I am what I
am. What that is, it is for others rather than for
myself to judge." (A great journalist.) " It was
lack of brains (I will ^->t say whose, but it occurred
before the first Coalition Government, mind you)
which plunged Europe into the Great War. Brains
again, mark you, I do not say whose must make
and keep the Great Peace." (One of our former
Prime Ministers.) " I have always wished I had
OUR WEEK 71
some." (A Royal Personage.) " I must by all
means have a Brains Ministry started in Liberia."
(The Liberian Ambassador.) Then, after remarks
by Shakespeare, Emerson, Carlyle, Mr. R. J. Camp-
bell, Henry James, President Wilson, Marcus
Aurelius, Solomon, Ecclesiasticus (" What is heavier
than lead, and what is the name thereof but a
fool ? ") and Miss Ella Wheeler Wilcox, the portrait
gallery concluded with Mr. Nicholas Chester, the
Minister of Brains, looking like an embittered
humorist, and remarking, " It's a damned silly
" Amen to that," Miss Kitty Grammont remarked,
stopping for a moment after buying Truth at the
bookstall and gazing solemnly into the Minister's
disillusioned eyes. " And it would be a damned
dull one if it wasn't." She sauntered out of Charing
Cross tube station and boarded an Embankment
tram. This was the Monday morning after Brams
Week had run its course.
The fact had to be faced by the Ministry : Brains
Week had proved disappointing. The public were
not playing up as they shouM. -* *
" We have said all along," said The Times (antici-
pating the Hidden Hand, which had not yet made
up its mind), " that the Government should take a
strong line in this matter. They must not trust to
voluntary effort ; we say, and we believe that, as
72 WHAT NOT
always, we voice the soundest opinion in the
country, that it is up to the Government to take the
measures which it has decided, upon mature con-
sideration, to be for the country's good. Though
we have given every possible support to the great
voluntary effort recently made, truth compels us to
state that the results are proving disappointing.
Compulsion must follow, and the sooner the Govern-
ment make up their minds to accept this fact the
better advised it will be. Surely if there is one thing
above all others which the Great War (so prolific in
lessons) has taught us, it is that compulsion is not
tyranny, nor law oppression. Let the Government,
too long vacillating, act, and act quickly, and they
will find a responsive and grateful nation ready to
Thus The Times, and thus, in a less dignified choice
of language, many lesser organs. To which the
Herald darkly rejoined, " If the Government tries
this on, let it look to itself."
" It'll have to come," said Vernon Prideaux to
Kitty Grammont at lunch. They were lunching at
one of those underground resorts about which, as
Kitty said, you never know, some being highly
respectable, while others are not. Kitty, with her
long-lashed, mossy eyes and demure expression,
looked and felt at home among divans for two,
screens, powdered waitresses, and rose-shaded lights ;
she had taken Prideaux there for fun, because among
such environment he looked a stranger and pilgrim,
OUR WEEK 73
angular, fastidious, whose home was above. Kitty
liked to study her friends in different lights, even
rose-shaded ones, and especially one who, besides
being a friend, was her departmental superior, and
a coming, even come, young man of exceptional
brilliance, who might one day be ruling the country.
"If it does," said Kitty, " we shall have to go,
that's all. No more compulsion is going to be stood
at present. Nothing short of another war, with a
military dictatorship and martial law, will save
" We stood compulsory education when there was
no war," Prideaux pointed out. " We've stood
vaccination, taxation, every conceivable form of
interference with what we are pleased to call our
liberty. This is no worse ; it's the logical outcome
of State government of the individual. Little by
little, precept upon precept, line upon line, these
things grow, till we're a serf state without realising
it. ... After all, why not ? What most people
mean by freedom would be a loathsome condition ;
freedom to behave like animals or lunatics, to annoy
each other and damage the State. What's the sense
of it ? Human beings aren't up to it, that's the
" I quite agree with you," said Kitty. " Only the
weak point is that hardly any human beings are up
to making good laws for the rest, either. We shall
slip up badly over this Mind Training Act, if we ever
get it through ; it will be as full of snags as the
74 WHAT NOT
Mental Progress Act. We shall have to take on a
whole extra Branch to deal with the exemptions
alone. Chester's clever, but he's not clever enough
to make a good Act. No one is. ... By the way,
Vernon, you nearly told me something the other day
about Chester's category. You might quite tell me
now, as we're in the Raid Shelter and not in the
" Did I ? It was only that I heard he was un-
certificated for marriage. He's got a brother and a
twin sister half-witted. I suppose he collared all
the brains that were going in his family."
" He would, of course, if he could. He's selfish."
" Selfish," Prideaux was doubtful. " If you can
call such a visionary and idealist selfish."
" Visionaries .and idealists are always selfish.
Look at Napoleon, and Wilhelm II, as Mr. Delmer
would say. Visions and ideals are the most selfish
things there are. People go about wrapped in them,
and keep themselves so warm that they forget that
other people need ordinary clothes. ... So the
Minister is uncertificated. . . . Well, I'm going up
to Regent Street to buy a birthday present for Pansy
and cigarettes for myself."
" I must get back," said Prideaux. " I've a Leeds
Manufacturers' deputation coming to see me at 2.30
about their men's wages. Leeds workmen, appar-
ently, don't let the Mental Progress Act weigh on
them at all ; they go calmly ahead with their un-
certificated marriages, and then strike for higher
OUR WEEK 75
wages in view of the taxable family they intend to
produce. These fellows coming to-day have got
wind of the new agreement with the cutlers and
want one like it. I've got to keep them at arm's
He emerged above ground, breathed more freely,
and walked briskly back to the Ministry. Kitty
went to Regent Street, and did not get back to the
office until 3.15.
Kitty had lately been returned from the Propa-
ganda Branch to her own, the Exemption Branch.
Being late, she slipped into her place unostenta-
tiously. Her in-tray contained a mass of files, as
yet undealt with. She began to look through these,
with a view to relegating the less attractive to the
bottom of the tray, where they could wait until she
had nothing better to do than to attend to them.
To-day there were a great many letters from the
public beginning " Dear Sir, Mr. Wilkinson said in
parliament on Tuesday that families should not be
reduced to destitution through the baby-taxes. ..."
That was so like Mr. Wilkinson (parliamentary
secretary to the Brains Ministry). Whenever he
thoughtlessly dropped these obiter dicta, so sweeping,
so far removed from truth, which was almost when-
ever he spoke, there was trouble. The guileless
public hung on his words, waiting to pick them up
and send them in letters to the Ministry. These
76 WHAT NOT
letters went to the bottom of the tray. They usually
only needed a stock reply, telling the applicants to
attend their local tribunal. After several of these
in succession, Kitty opened a file which had been
minuted down from another branch, M.B. 4.
Attached to it were two sheets of minutes which had
passed between various individuals regarding the
case in question ; the last minute was addressed to
M.B. 3, and said " Passed to you for information
and necessary action." It was a melancholy tale
from an aggrieved citizen concerning his infant,
who was liable to a heavy tax, and who had been
drowned by his aunt while being washed, before he
was two hours old, and the authorities still demanded
the payment of the tax. Kitty, who found the help-
lessness of M.B. 4 annoying, wrote a curt minute,
" Neither information nor action seems to us
necessary," then had to erase it because it looked
rude, and wrote instead, more mildly, " Seen,
thank you. This man appears to be covered by
M.B.I. 187, in which case his taxation is surely
quite in order and no action is possible. We see no
reason why we should deal with the case rather than
It is difficult always to be quite polite in minutes,
cheap satire costing so little and relieving the feel-
ings, but it can and should be done ; nothing so
shows true breeding in a Civil Servant.
Kitty next replied to a letter from the Admiralty,
about sailors' babies (the family arrangements of
OUR WEEK 77
sailors are, of course, complicated, owing to their
having a wife in every port). The Admiralty said
that My Lords Commissioners had read the Minister
of Brains' (i.e. Kitty's) last letter to them on this
subject with much surprise. The Admiralty's
faculty of surprise was infinitely fresh ; it seemed
new, like mercy, each returning day. The Minister
of Brains evoked it almost every time he, through
the pens of his clerks, wrote to them. My Lords
viewed with grave apprehension the line taken by
the Minister on this important subject, and They
trusted it would be reconsidered. (My Lords always
wrote of themselves with a capital They, as if they
were deities.) Kitty drafted a reply to this letter
and put it aside to consult Prideaux about. She
carried on a chronic quarrel with My Lords, doubt-
less to the satisfaction of both sides.
Soothed and stimulated by this encounter, she
was the better prepared in temper when she opened
a file in which voluminous correspondence concern-
ing two men named Stephen Williams had been
jacketed together by a guileless registry, to whom
such details as that one Stephen Williams appeared
to be a dentist's assistant and the other a young
man in the diplomatic service were as contemptible
obstacles, to be taken in an easy stride. The corre-
spondence in this file was sufficiently at cross pur-
poses to be more amusing than most correspondence.
When she had perused it, Kitty, sad that she must
tear asunder this happily linked pair, sent it down
78 WHAT NOT
to the registry with a regretful note that " These
two cases, having no connection, should be registered
separately," and fell to speculating, as she often did,
on the registry, which, amid the trials that beset
them and the sorrows they endured, and the manifold
confusions and temptations of their dim life, were so
strangely often right. They worked underground,
the registry people, like gnomes in a cave, opening
letters and registering them and filing them and
sending them upstairs, astonishingly often in the
file which belonged to them. But, mainly, looking
for papers and not finding them, and writing " No
trace," " Cannot be traced," on slips, as if the
papers were wild animals which had got loose and
had to be hunted down. A queer life, questing,
burrowing, unsatisfied, underground. ... No wonder
they made some mistakes.
Kitty opened one now a bitter complaint, which
should have gone to M.B. 5, from one who con-
sidered himself placed in a wrong category. " When
I tell you, sir," it ran, " that at the Leamington High
School I carried off two prizes (geography and recita-
tion) and was twice fourth in my form, and after
leaving have given great satisfaction (I am told) as
a solicitor's clerk, so that there has been some talk
of raising my salary, you will perhaps be surprised
to hear that the Local Intelligence Board placed me
in class Ci. I applied to the County Board, and
(owing, as I have reason to know, to local feeling
and jealousy) I was placed by them in C2. Sir, I
OUR WEEK 79
ask you for a special examination by the Central
Intelligence Board. I should be well up in Class B.
There are some walking about in this town who are
classed Bi and 2, who are the occasion of much local
feeling, as it surprises all who know them that they
should be classed so high. To my knowledge some
of these persons cannot do a sum right in their
heads, and it is thought very strange that they
should have so imposed on the Intelligence Officers,
though the reasons for this are not really far to
seek, and should be enquired into. . . ."
A gay and engaging young man with a wooden
leg (he had lost his own in 1914, and had during the
rest of the war worked at the War Office, and carried
the happy Q.M.G. touch) wandered in from M.B. 5
while Kitty was reading this, and she handed it over
to him. He glanced at it.
" We shall perhaps be surprised, shall we. . . .
How likely. . . . The public overestimate our
faculty for surprise. They have yet to learn that
the only thing which would surprise the Ministry of
Brains would be finding someone correctly classified.
... I shall tell him I'm A2 myself, though I never
.got a prize in my life for geography or recitation, and
I can't do sums in my head for nuts. I ought to be
somewhere about 63 ; I surprise all who know me.
. . . What I came in to say was, do any of you in
here want a sure tip for the Oaks ? Because
I've got one. Silly Blighter ; yes, you thought he
was an absolute outsider, didn't you, so did everyone
8o WHAT NOT
else ; but he's not. You take the tip, it's a straight
one, first hand. No, don't mention it, I always like
to do M.B. 3 a good turn, though I wouldn't do it
for everyone. . . . Well, I'm off, I'm beastly busy.
. . . Heard the latest Chester, by the way ? Some-
one tried the Wheeldon stunt on him sent him a
poisoned thorn by special messenger in a packet
"To be opened by the Minister Himself." Jervis-
Browne opened it, of course, and nearly pricked him
self. When he took it to Chester, Chester did the
Sherlock Holmes touch, and said he knew the thorn,
it came off a shrub in Central Africa or Kew Gardens
or somewhere. I think he knew the poison, too ;
he wanted Jervis-Browne to suck it, to make sure,
but J.-B. wasn't having any, and Chester didn't like
to risk himself, naturally. His little P.S. would have
done it like a shot, but they thought it would be hard
luck on the poor child's people. And while they
were discussin' it, Chester ran the thing into his own
finger by mistake. While J.-B. was waitin' to see
him swell up and turn black, and feelin' bad lest
he should be told to suck it (he knows Chester
doesn't really value him at his true worth, you see),
Chester whipped out his penknife and gouged a
great slice out of his finger as you'd cut cheese, all
round the prick. He turned as white as chalk, J.-B.
says, but never screamed, except to let out one
curse. And when he'd done it, and had the short-
hand typist in from J.-B.'s room to tie it up, he
began to giggle you know that sad, cynical giggle
OUR WEEK 81
of his that disconcerts solemn people so much and
said he'd have the beastly weapon cleaned and take
it home and frame it in glass, with the other memen-
toes of a people's hate. ... I say, I do waste your
time in here, don't I ? And my own ; that's to say
the government's. I'm off."
" Gay child," Kitty murmured to her neighbour
as he went. " He blooms in an office like an orchid
in a dust-bin. And very nice too. I remember
being nearly as bright at his age; though, for my
sins, I was never in Q.M.G. A wonderful Branch
Thereupon she threw away her cigarette, wrote
five letters with extraordinary despatch and un-
departmental conciseness of style, and went to have
tea in the canteen.
The Minister was having tea too, looking even
paler than usual, with his left hand in a sling. Kitty
put up her eye-glasses and looked at him with in-
creased interest. As ministers go, he was certainly
of an interesting appearance ; she had always
thought that. She rather liked the paradoxical
combination of shrewdness and idealism, sullenness
and humour, in his white, black-browed, clever face.
He looked patient, but patient perforce, as if he
rode natural impatience on a curb. He looked as
if he might know a desperate earnestness, but pre-
ferred to keep it at arm's length with a joke ; his
82 WHAT NOT
earnestness would be too grim and violent to be an
easy and natural companion to him. He looked as
if he might get very badly hurt, but would cut out
the hurt and throw it away with the cold prompt-
ness of the surgeon. He was not yet forty, but
looked more, perhaps because he enjoyed bad health.
At this moment he was eating a rock bun and talking
to Vernon Prideaux. One difference between them
was that Prideaux looked an intelligent success,
like a civil servant, or a rising barrister or M.P.,
and Chester looked a brilliant failure, and more like
a Sinn Feiner or a Bolshevist. Only not really like
either of these, because he didn't look as if he would
muff things. He might go under, but his revolu-
tions wouldn't. Kitty, who too greatly despised
people who muffed things, recognised the distinc-
tion. She had a friend whose revolutions, which
were many, always did go under. . . .
There was a queer, violent strength about the
But when he smiled it was as if someone had
flashed a torch on lowering cliffs, and lit them into
extraordinary and elf-like beauty. Kitty knew
already that he could be witty ; she suddenly per-
ceived now that he could be sweet a bad word, but
there seemed no other.
He ate another rock bun, and another. But they
were small. His eyes fell on Kitty, eating a jam
sandwich. But his thoughts were elsewhere.
" Yes, it was me that had to tie it up for him,"
OUR WEEK 83
Ivy Delmer was saying to another typist. " Luckily
I've done First Aid. But I felt like fainting. . . .
The blood. ... I don't like him, you know ; his
manners are so funny and his dictating is so difficult ;
but I must say I did admire his pluck. . . . He
never thanked me or anything he wouldn't, of
course. Not that I minded a scrap about that. ..."
When Kitty got home to her flat that evening, she
found the Boomerang on the floor. (It was on the
floor owing to the lack of a letter-box.) The Boom-
erang was a letter from herself, addressed to Neil
Desmond, Esq., and she wrote it and despatched it
every few months or so, whenever, in fact, she had,
at the moment, nothing better to do. On such days
as Bank Holidays, when she spent them at the office
but official work did not press, Kitty tidied the
drawers of her table and wrote to break off her
engagement. The drawers got tidied all right, but
it is doubtful whether the engagement could ever
be considered to have got broken off, owing to the
letter breaking it being a boomerang. It was a
boomerang because Neil Desmond, Esq. was a person
of no fixed address. He wrote long and thrilling
letters to Kitty (which, if her correspondence had
been raided by the police, would probably have sub-
jected her to arrest he had himself for long been
liable to almost every species of arrest, so could
84 WHAT NOT
hardly be further incriminated), but when she wrote
to the address he gave he was no longer ever there,
and so her letters returned to her like homing
pigeons. So the position was that Neil was engaged
to Kitty, and Kitty had so far failed to disengage
herself from Neil. Neil was that friend who has
been already referred to as qne whose revolutions
always went under. Kitty had met him first in
Greece, in April, 1914. She had since decided that'
he was probably at his best in Greece. In July he
had been arming to fight Carson's rebels when the
outbreak of the European War disappointed him.
The parts played by him in the European War were
many and various, and, from the British point of
view, mostly regrettable. He followed. Sir Roger
Casement through many adventures, and only just
escaped sharing in the last of all. He partook in the
Sinn Fein rising of Easter, 1916 (muffed, as usual,
Kitty had commented), and had then disappeared,
and had mysteriously emerged again in Petrograd a
year later, to help with the Russian revolution.
Wherever, in fact, a revolution was, Neil Desmond
was sure to be. He had had, as may be imagined,
a busy and satisfactory summer and autumn there,
and had many interesting, if impermanent, friends,
such as Kerensky, Protopopoff (whom, however, he
did not greatly care for), Kaledin, Lenin, Trotzky,
Mr. Arthur Ransome, and General Korniloff. (It
might be thought that the politics of this last-named
would not have been regarded by Neil with a favour-
OUR WEEK 85
able eye, but he was, anyhow, making a revolution
which did not come off.) In January, 1918, Neil had
got tired of Russia (this is liable to occur) and gone
off to America, where he had for some time been
doing something or other, no doubt discreditable,
with an Irish-American league. Then a revolution
which seemed to require his assistance broke out in
Equador, which kept him occupied for some weeks.
After that he had gone to Greece, where Kitty
vaguely believed him still to be (unless he was visit-
ing, with seditious intent, the island in the Pacific
where the world's great Have-Beens were harmoni-
" The only thing for it," Kitty observed to the
cousin with whom she lived, a willowy and lovely
young lily of the field, who had had a job once but
had lost it owing to peace, and was now having a
long rest, " The only thing for it is to put it in the
agony column of the no, not The Times, of course
he wouldn't read it, but the Irish-American Banner
or something. ' K. G. to N. D. All over.
" You'll have to marry him, darling. God means
you to," sang her cousin, hooking herself into a
flame-coloured and silver evening dress.
" It certainly looks as if he did," Kitty admitted,
and began to take her own clothes off, for she was
going to see Pansy in a new revue. (Anthony
would have been the last man to wish to tie Pansy
down to home avocations when duty called ; he was
86 WHAT NOT
much too proud of her special talents to wish her
to hide them in a napkin.)
The revue was a good one, Pansy was her best
self, lazy, sweet, facetious, and extraordinarily supple,
the other performers also performed suitably, each
in his manner, and Kitty afterwards had supper
with a party of them. These were the occasions
when office work, seen from this gayer corner of life,
seemed incredibly dusty, tedious and sad. . . .
THE EXPLANATION CAMPAIGN
IT will be generally admitted that Acts are not good
at explaining themselves, and call for words to ex-
plain them ; many words, so many that it is at
times wondered whether the Acts are worth it. It
occurred about this time to the Ministry of Brains
that more words were called for to explain both the
Mental Progress Act recently passed and the Mind
Training Act which was still a Bill. For neither of
these Acts seemed to have yet explained itself, or
been explained, to the public, in such a manner as
to give general satisfaction. And yet explanations
had to be given with care. Acts, like lawyers' deeds,
do not care to be understood through and through.
The kind of explaining they really need, as Kitty
Grammont observed, is the kind called explaining
away. For this task she considered herself pecu-
liarly fitted by training, owing to having had in her
own private career several acts which had demanded
it. It was perhaps for this reason that she was
among those chosen by the authorities for the Ex-
planation Campaign. The Explanation Campaign
88 WHAT NOT
was to be fought in the rural villages of England, by
bands of speakers chosen for their gift of the ready
word, and it would be a tough fight. The things
to be explained were the two Acts above men-
" And none of mine," Kitty remarked to Prideaux,
" ever needed so much explanation as these will. . . .
Let me see, no one ever even tried to explain any of
the Military Service Acts, did they ? At least only
in the press. The perpetrators never dared to face
the public man to man, on village greens."
" It ought to have been done more," Prideaux
said. " The Review of Exceptions, for instance.
If questions and complaints could have been got
out of the public in the open, and answered on
village greens, as you say, instead of by official
letters which only made things worse, a lot of
trouble might have been avoided. Chester is great
on these heart-to-heart talks. . . . By the way, he's
going to interview all the Explanation people in-
dividually before they start, to make sure they're
going about it in the right spirit."
"That's so like Chester; he'll go to any trouble,"
Kitty said. " I'm getting to think he's a really great
Chester really did interview them all. To Kitty,
whom already he knew personally, he talked
THE EXPLANATION CAMPAIGN 89
' You must let the people in," he said, walking
about the room, his hands in his pockets. " Don't
keep them at official arm's length. Let them feel part
of it all. . . . Make them catch fire with the idea of
it. ... It's sheer stark truth intelligence is the
thing that counts if only everyone would see it.
Make them see stupidity for the limp, hopeless, help-
less, animal thing it is an idiot drivelling on a
green " Kitty could have fancied that he shuddered
a little " make them hate it want the other
thing ; want it so much that they'll even sacrifice a
little of their personal comfort and desires to get it
for themselves and their children. They must want
it more than money, more than comfort, more than
love, more than freedom. . . . You'll have to get
hold of different people in different ways, of course ;
some have imaginations and some haven't ; those
who haven't must be appealed to through their
common sense, if any, or, failing any, their feeling
for their children, or, even, at the lowest, their fear
of consequences. . . . Tell some of them there'll be
another war if they're so stupid ; tell others they'll
never get on in the world ; anything you think will
touch the spot. But first, always, try to collar their
imaginations. . . . You've done some public speak-
ing, haven't you ? "
Kitty owned it, and he nodded.
" That's all right, then ; you'll know how to keep
your finger on the audience's pulse. . . . You'll
make them laugh, too. ..."
go WHAT NOT
Kitty was uncertain, as she left the presence,
whether this last was an instruction or a prophecy.
The other members of Kitty's party (the Campaign
was to be conducted, in parties of two or three people
each) did not belong to the Ministry ; they were
hired for it for this purpose. They were a lady
doctor, prominent on public platforms and decorated
for signal services to her country during the Great
War, and a free-lance clergyman known for his pulpit
eloquence and the caustic wit with which he lashed
the social system. He had resigned his incumbency
long ago in order to devote himself the more freely
to propaganda work for the causes he had at heart,
wrote for a labour paper, and went round the country
speaking. The Minister of Brains (who had been at
Cambridge with him, and read his articles in the
labour paper, in which he frequently stated that
muddle-headedness was the curse of the world) had,
with his usual eye for men, secured him to assist in
setting forth the merits of the Brains Acts.
They began in Buckinghamshire, which was one
of the counties assigned to them. At Gerrards Cross
and Beaconsfield it was chilly, and they held their
meetings respectively in the National School and
in the bright green Parish Hall which is the one blot
on a most picturesque city. But at Little Chantreys
it was fine, and they met at six o'clock in the broad
THE EXPLANATION CAMPAIGN 91
open space outside the church. They had a good
audience. The meeting had been well advertised, and
it seemed that the village was as anxious to hear the
Brains Acts explained as the Ministry was to explain
them. Or possibly the village, for its own part, had
something it wished to explain. Anyhow they came,
rich and poor, high and low, men, women, children,
and infants in arms (these had, for the most part,
every appearance of deserving heavy taxation ;
however, the physiognomy of infants is sometimes
misleading). Anthony Grammont and Pansy were
there, with the Cheeper, now proud in his bap-
tismal name of Montmorency. The vicar and his
wife were there too, though Mr. Delmer did not
approve much of the Reverend Stephen Dixon,
rightly thinking him a disturbing priest. It was all
very well to advocate Life and Liberty in modera-
tion (though Mr. Delmer did not himself belong to
the society for promoting these things in the Church),
but the vicar did not believe that any church could
stand, without bursting, the amount of new wine
which Stephen Dixon wished to pour into it. " He
is very much in earnest," was all the approval that
he could, in his charity, give to this priest. So he
waited a little uneasily for Dixon's remarks on the
Brains Acts, feeling that it might become his un-
gracious duty to take public exception to some of
The scene had its picturesqueness in the evening
sunshine the open space in which the narrow
9 2 WHAT NOT
village streets met, backed by the little grey church,
and with a patch of green where women and children
sat ; and in front of these people standing, leisurely,
placid, gossiping, the women innocently curious to
hear what the speakers from London had to say
about this foolish business there was such an upset
about just now ; some of the men more aggressive,
determined to stand no nonsense, with a we'll-know-
the-reason-why expression on their faces. This ex-
pression was peculiarly marked on the countenance
of the local squire, Captain Ambrose. He did not
like all this interfering, socialist what-not, which was
both upsetting the domestic arrangements of his
tenants and trying to put into their heads more
learning than was suitable for them to have. For
his part he thought every man had a right to be a
fool if he chose, yes, and to marry another fool, and
to bring up a family of fools too. Damn it all, fools
or not, hadn't they shed their blood for their country,
and where would the country have been without
them, though now the country talked so glibly of
not allowing them to reproduce themselves until
they were more intelligent. Captain Ambrose, a
fragile-looking man, burnt by Syrian suns and
crippled by British machine-guns at instruction
classes (a regrettable mistake which of course would
not have occurred had the operator been more in-
telligent), stood in the forefront of the audience with
intention to heckle. Near him stood the Delmers
and Miss Ponsonby and Anthony Grammont. Pansy
THE EXPLANATION CAMPAIGN 93
was talking, in her friendly, cheerful way, to Mrs.
Delmer about the Cheeper's food arrangements,
which were unusual in one so young.
In the middle of the square were Dr. Cross, grace-
ful, capable-looking and grey-haired ; Stephen
Dixon, lean and peculiar (so the village thought) ;
Kitty Grammont, pale after the day's heat, and
playing with her dangling pince-nez ; a tub ; and
two perambulators, each containing an infant ;
Mrs. Rose's and Mrs. Dean's, as the village knew.
The lady doctor had been round in the afternoon
looking at all the babies and asking questions, and
had finally picked these two and asked if they might
be lent for the meeting. But what use was going to
be made of the poor mites, no one knew.
Dr. Cross was on the tub. She was talking about
the already existing Act, the Mental Progress Act of
" Take some talking about, too, to make us
swallow it whole," muttered Captain Ambrose.
Dr. Cross was a gracious and eloquent speaker ;
the village rather liked her. She talked of babies,
as one who knew ; no doubt she did know, having,
as she mentioned, had two herself. She grew
pathetic in pleading for the rights of the children to
their chance in life. Some of the mothers wiped
their eyes and hugged their infants closer to them ;
they should have it, then, so they should. How,
said the doctor, were children to win any of life's
prizes without brains ? (Jane Delmer looked self-
94 WHAT NOT
conscious ; she had won a prize for drawing this
term ; she wondered if the speaker had heard this.)
Even health how could health be won and kept
without intelligent following of the laws nature has
laid down for us (" I never did none o' that, and look
at me, seventy-five next month and still fit and able,"
old William Weston was heard to remark), and how
was that to be done without intelligence ? Several
parents looked dubious ; they were not sure that
they wanted any of that in i^.eir households ; it
somehow had a vague sound of draughts. . . . After
sketching in outline the probable careers of the in-
telligent and the unintelligent infant, between which
so wide a gulf was fixed, the doctor discoursed on
heredity, that force so inadequately reckoned with,
which moulds the generations. Appealing to
Biblical lore, she enquired if figs were likely to
produce thorns, or thistles grapes. This started
William Weston, who had been a gardener, on
strange accidents he had met with in the vegetable
world ; Dr. Cross, a gardener too, listened with
interest, but observed that these were freaks and
must not, of course, be taken as the normal ; then,
to close that subject, she stepped down from the
tub, took the infants Rose and Dean out of their
perambulators, and held them up, one on each arm,
to the public gaze. Here, you have, she said, a
certificated child, whose parents received a bonus
for it, and an uncertificated child, whose parents
were taxed. Observe the difference in the two look
THE EXPLANATION CAMPAIGN 95
at the bright, noticing air of the infant Rose (" Of
course ; she's a-jogglin' of it up and down on her
arm," said a small girl who knew the infant Rose).
Observe its fine, intelligent little head (Mrs. Rose
preened, gratified). A child who is going to make a
good thing of its life. Now compare it with the
lethargy of the other baby, who lies sucking an
india-rubber sucker (a foolish and unclean habit in
itself) and taking no notice of the world about it.
" Why, the poor mite," this infant's parent ex-
claimed, pushing her way to the front, " she's been
ailing the last two days ; it's her pore little tummy,
that's all. And, if you please, ma'am, I'll take her
home now. Holdin' her up to scorn before the
village that way an' you call yourself a mother ! "
" Indeed, I meant nothing against the poor
child," Dr. Cross explained, realising that she had,
indeed, been singularly tactless. " She is merely a
type, to illustrate my meaning. . . . And, of
course, it's more than possible that if you give her
a thoroughly gflod mental training she may become
as intelligent as anyone, in spite of having been so
heavily handicapped by her parents' unregulated
marriage. That's where the Government Mind
Training Course will come in. She'll be developed
beyond all belief. ..."
" She won't," said the outraged parent, arrang-
ing her infant in her perambulator, " be developed
or anythin' else. She's comin' home to bed. And
I'd like to know what you mean, ma'am, by un-
96 WHAT NOT
regulated marriage. Our marriage was all right ;
it was 'ighly approved, and we got money by this
baby. It's my opinion you've mixed the two
children up, and are taking mine for Mrs. Rose's
there, that got taxed, pore mite, owing to Mr. and
Mrs. Rose both being in C class."
" That's right," someone else cried. " It's the
other one that was taxed and ought to be stupid ;
you've got 'em mixed, ma'am. Better luck next
Dr. Cross collapsed in some confusion, amid good-
humoured laughter, and the infant Rose was also
hastily restored to its flattered mother, who, being
only 3, did not quite grasp what had occurred ex-
cept that her baby had been held up for admiration
and Mrs. Dean's for obloquy, which was quite right
" One of nature's accidents," apologised Dr.
Cross. " They will happen sometimes, of course.
So will stupid mistakes. . . . Better luck next
time, as you say." She murmured to Stephen
Dixon, " Change the subject at once," so he got
upon the tub and began to talk about Democracy,
how it should control the state, but couldn't, of
course, until it was better educated.
" But all these marriage laws," said a painter who
was walking out with the vicarage housemaid and
foresaw financial ruin if they got married, " they
won't help, as I can see, to give us control of the
THE EXPLANATION CAMPAIGN 97
Dixon told him he must look to the future, to his
children, in fact. The painter threw a forward
glance at his children, not yet born ; it left him cold.
Anyhow, if he married Nellie they'd probably die
young, from starvation.
But, in the main, Dixon's discourse on democracy
was popular. Dixon was a popular speaker with
working-men ; he had the right touch. But squires
did not like him. Captain Ambrose disliked him
very much. It was just democracy, and all this
socialism, that was spoiling the country.
Mr. Delmer ventured to say that he thought the
private and domestic lives of the public ought not to
be tampered with.
" Why not ? " enquired Stephen Dixon, and Mr.
Delmer had not, at the moment, an answer ready.
" When everything else is being tampered with/'
added Dixon. " And surely the more we tamper
(if you put it like that) in the interests of progress,
the further removed we are from savages."
Mr. Delmer looked puzzled for a moment, then
committed himself, without sufficient preliminary
thought, to a doubtful statement, " Human love
ought to be free," which raised a cheer.
" Free love," Dixon returned promptly, " has
never, surely, been advocated by the best thinkers
of Church or State," and while Mr. Delmer blushed,
partly at his own carelessness, partly at the delicacy
of the subject, and partly because Pansy Ponsonby
was standing at his elbow, Dixon added, " Love,
9 8 WHAT NOT
like anything else, wants regulating, organising,
turning to the best uses. Otherwise, we become,
surely, no better than the other animals." . . .
" Isn't he just terribly fierce," observed Pansy
in her smiling contralto, to the world at large.
Mr. Delmer said uncomfortably, " You mistake
me, sir. I was not advocating lawless love. I am
merely maintaining that love if we must use the
word should not be shackled by laws relating to
things which are of less importance than itself, such
as the cultivation of the intelligence."
"Is it of less importance ? " Dixon challenged
; ' The greatest of these three," began the vicar,
inaptly, because he was flustered.
" Quite so," said Dixon ; " but St. Paul, I think,
doesn't include intelligence in his three. St. Paul,
I believe, was able enough himself to know how
much ability matters in the progress of religion.
And, if we are to quote St. Paul, he, of course, was
no advocate of matrimony, but I think, when
carried out at all, he would have approved of its
being carried out on the best possible principles, not
from mere casual impulse and desire. . . . Free-
dom," continued Dixon, with the dreamy and
kindled eye which always denoted with him that he
was on a pet topic, " what is freedom ? I beg I do
beg," he added hastily, " that no one will tell me it
is mastery of ourselves. I have heard that before.
It is no such thing. Mastery of ourselves is a fine
THE EXPLANATION CAMPAIGN 99
thing ; freedom is, or would be if anyone ever had
such a thing, an absurdity, a monstrosity. It would
mean that there would be nothing, either external
or internal, to prevent us doing precisely what we
like. No laws of nature, of morality, of the State,
of the Church, of Society ..."
Dr. Cross caught Kitty's eye behind him.
" He's off," she murmured. " We must stop him."
Kitty coughed twice, with meaning. It was a
signal agreed upon between the three when the
others thought that the speaker was on the wrong
tack. Dixon recalled himself from Freedom with a
jerk, and began to talk about the coming Mind
Training Act. He discoursed upon its general
advantages to the citizen, and concluded by saying
that Miss Grammont, a member of the Ministry of
Brains, would now explain to them the Act in detail,
and answer any questions they might wish to put.
This Miss Grammont proceeded to do. And this
was the critical moment of the meeting, for the
audience, who desired no Act at all, had to be per-
suaded that the Act would be a good Act. Kitty
outlined it, thinking how much weaker both Acts
and words sound on village greens than in offices,
which is certainly a most noteworthy fact, and one
to be remembered by all politicians and makers of
laws. Perhaps it is the unappreciative and un-
stimulating atmosphere of stolid distaste which is so
often, unfortunately, to be met with in villages. . . .
Villages are so stupid ; they will not take the larger
ioo WHAT NOT
view, nor see why things annoying to them person-
ally are necessary for the public welfare. Kitty
wished she were instead addressing a northern manu-
facturing town, which would have been much fiercer
but which would have understood more about it.
She dealt with emphasis on the brighter sides of
the Act, i.e. the clauses dealing with the pecuniary
compensation people would receive for the loss of
time and money which might be involved in under-
going the Training Course, and those relating to ex-
emptions. When she got to the Tribunals, a murmur
of disapproval sounded.
" They tribunals we're sick to death of them,"
someone said. " Look at the people there are walk-
ing about the countryside exempted from the
Marriage Acts, when better men and women has to
obey them. The tribunals were bad enough during
the war, everyone knows, but nothing to what they
are now. We don't want any more of those."
This was an awkward subject, as Captain Ambrose
was a reluctant chairman of .the Local Mental Pro-
gress Tribunal. He fidgeted and prodded the
ground with his stick, while Kitty said, " I quite
agree with you. We don't. But if there are to be
exemptions from the Act, local tribunals are neces-
sary. You can't have individual cases decided by
the central authorities who know nothing of the cir-
cumstances. Tribunals must be appointed who can
be relied on to grant exemptions fairly, on the
grounds specified in the Act."
THE EXPLANATION CAMPAIGN 101
She proceeded to enumerate these grounds. One
of them was such poverty of mental calibre that the
possessor was judged quite incapable of benefiting
by the course. A look of hope dawned on several
faces ; this might, it was felt, be a way out. The
applicant, Kitty explained, would be granted ex-
emption if suffering from imbecility, extreme feeble-
mindedness, any form of genuine mania, acute,
intermittent, chronic, delusional, depressive, ob-
sessional, lethargic. . . .
Dixon coughed twice, thinking the subject de-
pressing and too technical for the audience, and
Kitty proceeded to outline the various forms of
exemption which might be held, a more cheerful
topic. She concluded, remembering the Minister's
instructions, by drawing an inspiring picture of the
changed aspect life would bear after the mind had
been thus improved ; how it would become a series
of open doors, of chances taken, instead of a dull
closed house. Everything would be so amusing, so
possible, such fun. And they would get on ; they
would grow rich ; there would be perpetual peace
and progress instead of another great war, which
was, alas, all too possible if the world remained as
stupid as it had been up to the present. . . .
Here Kitty's eye lighted unintentionally on her
brother Anthony's face, with the twist of a cynical
grin on it, and she collapsed from the heights of
eloquence. It never did for the_Grammonts to en-
counter each other's eyes when they were being
102 WHAT NOT
exalted ; the memories and experiences shared by
brothers and sisters rose cynically, like rude gamins,
to mock and bring them down.
Kitty said, " If anyone would like to ask any
questions ..." and got off the tub.
Someone enquired, after the moment of blankness
which usually follows this invitation, what they
would be taught, exactly.
Kitty said there would be many different courses,
adapted to differing requirements. But, in the main,
everyone would be taught to use to the best advan-
tage such intelligence as they might have, in that
state of life to which it might please God to call
" And how," pursued the enquirer, a solid young
blacksmith, " will the teachers know what that may
Kitty explained that they wouldn't, exactly, of
course, but the minds which took the course would
be so sharpened and improved as to tackle any work
better than before. But there would also be forms
to be filled in, stating approximately what was each
individual's line in life.
After another pause a harassed-looking woman at
the back said plaintively, "I'm sure it's all very
nice, miss, but it does seem as if such things might
be left to the men. They've more time, as it were.
You see, miss, when you've done out the house and
got the children's meals and put them to bed and
cleaned up and all, not to mention washing-day, and
ironing well, you've not much time left to improve
the mind, have you ? "
It was Dr. Cross who pointed out that, the mind
once improved, these household duties would take,
at most, half the time they now did. " I know that,
ma'am," the tired lady returned. " I've known
girls who set out to improye their minds, readin'
and that, and their house duties didn't take them
any time at all, and nice it was for their families.
What I say is, mind improvement should be left to
the men, who've time for such things ; women are
mostly too busy, and if they aren't they should
Several men said " Hear, hear " to this. Rural
England, as Dr. Cross sometimes remarked, was
still regrettably eastern, or German, in its feminist
views, even now that, since the war, so many more
thousands of women were perforce independent
wage-earners, and even now that they had the same
political rights as men. Stephen flung forth a few
explosive views on invidious sex distinctions, another
pet topic of his, and remarked that, in the Christian
religion, at least, there was neither male nor female.
A shade of scepticism on the faces of several women
might be taken to hint at a doubt whether the
Christian religion, in this or in most other respects,
was life as it was lived, and at a certainty that it was
time for them to go home and get the supper. They
began to drift away, with their children round them,
gossiping to each other of more interesting things
104 WHAT NOT
than Mind Training. For, after all, if it was to be it
was, and where was the use of talking ?
It was getting dusk. The male part of the audi-
ence also fell away, to talk in the roads while supper
was preparing. Only the vicar was left, and Captain
Ambrose, and Anthony Grammont, and Pansy, who
came up to talk to Kitty.
" My dear," said Pansy, " I feel absolutely
flattened out by your preacher, with his talk of
' the other animals,' and organised love. Now
Mr. Delmer was sweet to me he said it ought to be
free, an' I know he doesn't really think so, but only
said it for my sake and Tony's. But your man's
terrifyin'. I'm almost frightened to have him sleep
at the End House to-night ; I'm afraid he'll set fire
to the sheets, he's so hot. Won't you introduce
But Dixon was at this moment engaged in talk-
ing to the vicar, who, not to be daunted and brow-
beaten by the notorious Stephen Dixon, was
manfully expounding his position to him and Dr.
Cross, while Captain Ambrose backed him up.
" They may be all night, I should judge from the
look of them," said Kitty, who by now knew her
clergyman and her doctor well. " Let's leave them
at it and come home ; Tony can bring them along
when they're ready."
THE EXPLANATION CAMPAIGN 105
The End House had offered its hospitality to- all
the three Explainers, and they were spending the
night there instead of, as usual, at the village inn.
Kitty and Pansy were overtaken before they reached
it by Anthony and Dr. Cross and Dixon.
Pansy said, with her sweet, ingratiating smile, " I
was sayin' to Kitty, Mr. Dixon, that you made me
feel quite bad with your talk about free love."
"I'm sorry," said Dixon, " but it was the vicar
who talked of that, not I. I talked of organised love.
I never talk of free love : I don't like it."
" I noticed you didn't," said Pansy. " That's
just what I felt so bad about. Mind you, I think
you're awfully right, only it takes so much livin' up
to, doesn't it ? with things tangled up as they are.
. . . Sure you don't mind stayin' with us, I sup-
pose ? " She asked it innocently, rolling at him a
sidelong glance from her beautiful music-hall eyes.
Dixon looked at sea. " Mind . . . ? "
" Well, you might, mightn't you, as ours is free."
Then, at his puzzled stare, " Why, Kitty, you surely
told him ! "
" I'm afraid I never thought of it," Kitty faltered.
'' She means," she explained, turning to the two
guests, " that she and my brother aren't exactly
married, you know. They can't be, because Pansy
has a husband somewhere. They would if they
could ; they'd prefer it."
" We'd prefer it," Pansy echoed, a note of wist-
fulness in her calm voice. " Ever so much. It's
io6 WHAT NOT
much nicer, isn't it ? as you were sayin'. We think
so too, don't we, old man ? " She turned to Anthony
but he had stalked ahead, embarrassed by the turn
the conversation was taking. He was angry with
Kitty for not having explained the situation before-
hand, angry with Pansy for explaining it now, and
angry with Dixon for not understanding without
" But I do hope," Pansy added to both her guests,
slipping on her courteous and queenly manner,
" that you will allow it to make no difference."
Dr. Cross said, "Of course not. What do you
imagine ? " She was a little worried by the intru-
sion of these irrelevant domestic details into a
hitherto interesting evening. Pansy's morals were
her own concern, but it was a pity that her taste
should allow her to make this awkward scene.
But Dixon stopped, and, looking his hostess
squarely in the face they were exactly of a height
said, " I am sorry, but I am afraid it does make
a difference. I hate being rude, and I am most
grateful to you for your hospitable invitation ; but
I must go to the inn instead."
Pansy stared back, and a slow and lovely rose
colour overspread her clear face. She was not used
to being rebuffed by men.
"I'm frightfully sorry," Stephen Dixon repeated,
reddening too. " But, you see, if I slept at your
house it would be seeming to acquiesce in something
which I believe it to be tremendously important not
THE EXPLANATION CAMPAIGN 107
to acquiesce in. ... Put it that I'm a prig . . .
anyhow, there it is. ... Will you apologise for me
to your brother ? " he added to Kitty, who was
looking on helplessly, conscious that the situation
was beyond her. " And please forgive me I know
it seems unpardonable rudeness." He held out his
hand to Pansy, tentatively. She took it, without
malice. Pansy was not a rancorous woman.
" That's all right, Mr. Dixon. If you can't
swallow our ways, you just can't, and there's an
end of it. Lots of people can't, you know. Good
night. I hope you'll be comfortable."
Kitty looked after him with a whistle.
" I'm fearfully sorry, Pansy love. I never thought
to expatiate beforehand on Tony and you. ... I
introduced you as Miss Ponsonby but I suppose
he never noticed, or thought you were the Cheeper's
governess or something. \Vho'd have thought he'd
take on like that ? But you never know, with the
clergy ; they're so unaccountable."
" I'm relieved, a bit," Pansy said. " I was fright-
ened of him, that's a fact."
Dr. Cross said, " The queer thing about Stephen
Dixon is that you never know when he'll take a
thing in this way and when he won't. I've known
him sit at tea in the houses of the lowest slum
criminals by the way, that is surely the scriptural
io8 WHAT NOT
line and I've known him cut in the street people
who were doing the same things in a different way
a sweating shopowner, for instance. I some-
times think it depends with him on the size and com-
fort of the house the criminal lives in, which is too
hopelessly illogical, you'd think, for an intelligent
man like him. I lose my patience with him some-
times, I confess. But anyhow he knows his own
" He's gone," Pansy said to Anthony, who was
waiting for them at the gate. " He thinks it's im-
portant not to acquiesce in us. So he's gone to the
inn. ... By the way, I nearly told him that the
innkeeper is leading a double life too ever so
much worse than ours but I thought it would
be too unkind, he'd have had to sleep on the
" Well," Anthony said crossly, " we can get on
without him. But another time, darling, I wish
you'd remember that there's not the least need to
explain our domestic affairs in the lane to casual
acquaintances, even if they do happen to be spend-
ing the night. It's simply not done, you know. It
makes a most embarrassing situation all round. I
know you're not shy, but you might remember that
" Sorry, old dear," said Pansy. " There's been
so much explainin' this evenin' that I suppose I
caught it. ... You people," she added to Dr. Cross
and Kitty, " have got awkwarder things to explain
THE EXPLANATION CAMPAIGN 109
than I have. I'd a long sight rather have to explain
free love than love by Act of Parliament."
" But on the whole," said the doctor, relieved to
have got on to that subject again after the rather
embarrassing interlude of private affairs, " I thought
the meeting this evening not bad. What did you
think, Miss Grammont ? "
" I should certainly," said Kitty, " have expected
it to have* been worse. If I had been one of the
audience, it would have been."
Some of the subsequent meetings of that cam-
paign, in fact, were. But not all. On the whole, as
Dr. Cross put it, they were not bad.
" It's a toss-up," said Dixon at the end, " how
the country is going to take this business. There's
a chance, a good fighting chance, that they may rise
to the idea and accept it, even if they can't like it.
It depends a lot on how it's going to be worked, and
that depends on the people at the top. And for the
people at the top, all one can say is that there's a
glimmer of hope. Chester himself has got imagina-
tion ; and as long as a man's got that he may pull
through, even if he's head of a government depart-
ment. ... Of course one main thing is not to make
pledges ; they can't be kept ; everyone knows they
can't be kept, as situations change, and when they
break there's a row. . . . Another thing the rich
no WHAT NOT
have got to set' the example ; they must drop this
having their fun and paying for it, which the poor
can't afford. If that's allowed there'll be revolu-
tion. Perhaps anyhow there'll be revolution. And
revolutions aren't always the useful things they
ought to be ; they sometimes lead to reaction. Oh,
you Brains people have got to be jolly careful."
A week later the Mind Training Bill became an Act.
It did, in fact, seem to be a toss-up how the public,
that strange, patient, unaccountable dark horse,
were going to take it. That they took it at all, and
that they continued to take the Mental Progress
Act, was ascribed by observant people largely to the
queer, growing, and quite peculiar influence of
Nicholas Chester. It was an odd influence for a
minister of the government to have in this country ;
one would have almost have supposed him instead
a power of the Press, the music-hall stage, or the
cinema world. It behoved him, as Dixon said to
be jolly careful.
THE SIMPLE HUMAN EMOTIONS
DURING the period which followed the Explanation
Campaign, Kitty Grammont was no longer bored by
her work, no longer even merely entertained. It
had acquired a new flavour ; the flavour of adven-
ture and romance which comes from a fuller under-
standing and a more personal identification; from,
in fact, knowing more about it at first-hand.
Also, she got to know the Minister better. At the
end of August they spent a week-end at the same
country house. They were a party of four, besides
their host's family ; a number which makes for in-
timacy. Their hostess was a Cambridge friend of
Kitty's, their host a man high up in the Foreign
Office, his natural force of personality obscured
pathetically by that apprehensive, defiant, defensive
manner habitual and certainly excusable in these
days in the higher officials of that department and
of some of the other old departments ; a manner that
always seemed to be saying, " All right, we know
we've made the devil of a mess for two centuries and
more, and we know you all want to be rid of us. But
H2 WHAT NOT
we'd jolly well like to know if you think you could
have worked things any better yourselves. Anyhow,
we mean to stick here till we're chucked out."
How soon would it be, wondered Kitty, before the
officials of the Ministry of Brains wore that same
look ? It must come to them ; it must come to all
who govern, excepting only the blind, the crass, the
impervious. It must have been worn by the members
of the Witan during the Danish invasions ; by
Strafford before 1642 ; by Pharaoh's councillors
when Moses was threatening plagues ; by M.
Milivkoff before March, 1917 ; by Mr. Lloyd George
during much of the Great War.
But it was not worn yet by Nicholas Chester.
He sat down by Kitty after dinner. They did not
talk shop, but they were linked by the strong bond
of shop shared and untalked. There was between
them the relationship, unlike any other (for no re-
lationship ever is particularly like any other) of
those who are doing, though on very different
planes, the same work, and both doing it well ; the
relationship, in fact, of a government official to his
intelligent subordinates. (There is also the relation-
ship of a government official to his unintelligent
subordinates ; this is a matter too painful to be
dwelt on in these pages.)
But this evening, as they talked, it became ap-
parent to Kitty that, behind the screen of this
relationship, so departmental, so friendly, so emptied
of sex, a relationship quite other and more personal
and human, which had come into embryo being
some weeks ago, was developing with rapidity. They
found pleasure in one another this evening as human
beings in the world at large, the world outside
ministry walls. That was rather fun. And next
morning Chester asked her to come a walk with him,
and on the walk the new relationship burgeoned like
flowers in spring. They did not avoid shop now that
they were alone together ; they talked of the Depart-
ment, of the new Act, of the efforts of other countries
on the same lines, of anything else they liked. They
talked of Russian politics (a conversation I cannot
record, the subject being too difficult for any but
those who have the latest developments under their
eyes, and, indeed, not always quite easy even for
them). They talked of the National Theatre, of
animals they had kept and cabinet ministers they
had known ; of poets, pictures, and potato puddings;
of, in fact, the things one does talk about on walks.
They told each other funny stories of prominent
persons ; she told him some of the funny stories
about himself which circulated in the Ministry ; he
told her about his experiences when, in order to
collect information as to the state of the intelligence
of the country before the ministry was formed, he
had sojourned in a Devonshire fishing village dis-
guised as a fisherman, and in Hackney Wick dis-
H4 WHAT NOT
guised as a Jew, and had in both places got the
better of everyone round him excepting only the
other Hackney Jews, who had got the better of him.
(It was in consequence of this that Jews such Jews
as had not yet been forcibly repatriated in the Holy
City were exempted from the provisions of the
Mental Progress Act and the Mind Training Act.
It would be a pity if Jews were to become any
It will be seen, therefore, that their conversation
was of an ordinary description, that might take
place between any two people of moderate intelli-
gence on any walk. The things chiefly to be ob-
served about it were that Chester, a silent person
when he was not in the mood to talk, talked a good
deal, as if he liked talking to-day, and that when
Kitty was talking he watched her with a curious,
interested, pleased look in his deep little eyes.
And that was all, before lunch ; the makings, in
fact, of a promising friendship.
After tea there was more. They sat in a beech
wood together, and told each other stories of their
childhoods. He did not, Kitty observed, mention
those of his family who were less intelligent than the
rest ; no doubt, with his views on the importance of
intellect, he found it too depressing a subject. And
after dinner, when they said good-night, he held her
hand but as long as all might or so very little longer,
and asked if she would dine with him on Thursday.
It was the look in his eyes at that moment which
THE SIMPLE HUMAN EMOTIONS 115
sent Kitty up to bed with the staggering perception
of the dawning of a new and third relationship not
the official relationship, and not the friendship which
had grown out of it, but something still more simple
and human. He, probably, was unaware of it ;
the simple human emotions were of no great interest
to Nicholas Chester, whose thoughts ran on other
and more complex businesses. One might surmise
that he might fall very deeply in love before he knew
anything much about it. Kitty, on the other hand,
would always know, had, in fact, always known,
everything she was doing in that way, as in most
others. She would track the submersion, step by
step, amused, interested, concerned. This way is
the best ; not only do you get more out of the affair
so, but you need not allow yourself, or the other
party concerned, to be involved more deeply than
you think advisable.
So, safe in her bedroom, standing, in fact, before
the looking-glass, she faced the glimpse of a possi-
bility that staggered her, bringing mirth to her eyes
and a flutter to her throat.
" Good God ! " (Kitty had at times an eighteenth-
century emphasis of diction, following in the steps
of the heroines of Jane Austen and Fanny Burney,
who dropped oaths elegantly, like flowers.) " Good
God ! He begins to think of me." Then, quickly,
followed the thought, to tickle her further, " Is it
right ? Is it convenable ? Should ministers look like
that at their lady clerks ? Or does he think that,
n6 WHAT NOT
as he's uncertificated and no hopes of an outcome
can be roused in me, he may look as he likes ? "
She unhooked her dress, gazing at her reflection
with solemn eyes, which foresaw the potentialities
of a remarkable situation.
But what was, in fact, quite obvious, was that no
situation could possibly be allowed to arise.
Only, if it did. . . . Well, it would have its
humours. And, after all, should one turn one's back
on life, in whatever curious guise it might offer itself ?
Kitty, at any rate, never yet had done this. She had
once accepted the invitation of a Greek brigand at
Thermopylae to show her, and her alone, his country
home in the rocky fastnesses of Velukhi, a two days'
journey from civilisation ; she had spent a week-
end as guest-in-chief of a Dervish at Yuzgat ; she
had walked unattended through the Black Forest
(with, for defence, a walking-stick and a hat-pin),
and she had become engaged to Neil Desmond.
Perhaps it was because she was resourceful and
could trust her natural wits to extricate her, that
she faced with temerity the sometimes awkward
predicaments in which she might find herself in-
volved through this habit of closing no door on life
The only precjicament from which she had not, so
far, succeeded in emerging, was her engagement ;
here she had been baffled by the elusive quality
which defeated her efforts not by resistance but by
merely slipping out of hearing.
And if this was going to turn into another situa-
THE SIMPLE HUMAN EMOTIONS 117
tion . . . well, then, she would have had one more
in her life. But, after all, very likely it wasn't.
" Ministers," Kitty soliloquised, glancing men-
tally at the queer, clever, humorous face which had
looked at her so oddly, " ministers, surely, are made
of harder stuff than that. And prouder. Ministers,
surely, even if they permit themselves to flirt a little
with the clerks of their departments, don't let it get
serious. It isn't done. You flatter yourself, my
poor child. Your head has been turned because he
laughed when you tried to be funny, and because,
for lack of better company or thinking your pink
frock would go with his complexion, he walked out
with you twice, and because he held your hand and
looked into your eyes. You are becoming one of
those girls who think that whenever a man looks at
them as if he liked the way they do their hair, he
wants to kiss them at once and marry them at
last. . . ."
" What's amusing you, Kate ? " her hostess en-
quired, coming in with her hair over her shoulders
and her Cambridge accent.
" Nothing, Anne," replied Kitty, after a medita-
tive pause, " that I can possibly ever tell you.
Merely my own low thoughts. They always were
low, as you'll remember."
" They certainly were," said Anne.
n8 WHAT NOT
This chapter, as will by this time have been ob-
served, deals with the simple human emotions, their
development and growth. But it will not be
necessary to enter into tedious detail concerning
them. They did develop ; they did grow ; and to
indicate this it will only be necessary to select a few
outstanding scenes of different dates.
On September 2nd, which was the Thursday after
the week-end above described, Kitty dined with
Chester, and afterwards they went to a picture
palace to see " The Secret of Success," one of their
own propaganda dramas. It had been composed
by the bright spirits in the Propaganda Department
of the Ministry, and was filmed and produced at
government expense. The cinematograph, the stage,
and the Press were now used extensively as organs
to express governmental points of view ; after all,
if you have to have such things, why not make them
useful ? Chester smiled sourly over it, but acqui-
esced. The chief of such organs were of course the
new State Theatre (anticipated with such hope by
earnest drama-lovers for so many years) and the
various State cinemas, and the Hidden Hand, the
government daily paper ; but even over the un-
official stage and film the shadow of the State lay
The Secret of Success depicted lurid episodes in
the careers of two young men ; the contrast was not,
THE SIMPLE HUMAN EMOTIONS 119
as in other drama, between virtue and vice, but
between Intelligence and the Reverse. Everywhere
Intelligence triumphed, and the Reverse was shamed
and defeated. Intelligence found the hidden
treasure, covered itself with glory, emerged tri-
umphant from yawning chasms, flaming buildings,
and the most suspicious situations, rose from obscure
beginnings to titles, honours and position, and finally
won the love of a pure and wealthy girl, who jilted
the brainless youth of her own social rank to whom
she had previously engaged herself but who had, in
every encounter of wits with his intelligent rival,
proved himself of no account, and who was finally
revealed in a convict's cell, landed there by his con-
spicuous lack of his rival's skill in disengaging him-
self from compromising situations. Intelligence,
with his bride on his arm, visited him in his cell,
and gazed on him with a pitying shake of the head,
observing, " But for the Government Mind Training
Course, I might be in your shoes to-day." Finally,
their two faces were thrown on the screen, immense
and remarkable, the one wearing over his ethereal
eyes the bar of Michael Angelo, the other with a
foolish, vacant eye and a rabbit mouth that was
This drama was sandwiched between The Habits
of the Kola Bear, and How his Mother-in-law Came
to Stay, and after it Chester and Kitty went out
and walked along the Embankment.
It was one of those brilliant, moonlit, raidless
120 WHAT NOT
nights which still seemed so strange, so almost rlat,
in their eventlessness. Instinctively they strained
their ears for guns ; but they heard nothing but the
rushing of traffic in earth and sky.
" The State," said Chester, " is a great debaucher.
It debauches literature, art, the press, the stage,
and the Church ; but I don't think even its worst
enemies can say it has debauched the cinema stage.
. . . What a people we are ; good Lord, what a
people ! "
" As long as we leave Revue alone, I don't much
mind what else we do," Kitty said. " Revue is
England's hope, I believe. Because it's the only art
in which all the forms of expression come in talk-
ing, music, singing, dancing, gesture standing on
your head if nothing else will express you at the
moment. ... I believe Revue is going to be tre-
mendous. Look how its stupidities and vulgarities
have been dropping away from it lately, this last
year has made a new thing of it altogether ; it's
beginning to try to show the whole of life as lived.
. . . Oh, we must leave Revue alone, ... I some-
times think it's so much the coming thing that I
can't be happy till I've chucked my job and gone
into it, as one of a chorus. I should feel I was truly
serving my country then ; it would be a real thing,
instead of this fantastic lunacy I'm involved in
THE SIMPLE HUMAN EMOTIONS 121
At times Kitty forgot she was talking to the
Minister who had created the fantastic lunacy.
" You can't leave the Ministry," said the Minister
curtly. " You can't be spared."
Kitty was annoyed with him for suddenly being
serious and literal and even cross, and was just
going to tell him she should jolly well leave the
Ministry whenever she liked, when some quality in
his abrupt gravity caught the words from her lips.
" We haven't got industrial conscription to that
extent yet," she merely said, weakly.
It was all he didn't say to her in the moment's
pause that followed which was revealing ; all that
seemed to be forced back behind his guarded lips.
What he did say, presently, was " No, more's the
pity. It'll come, no doubt."
And, talking of industrial conscription, they
What stayed with Kitty was the odd, startled,
doubtful look he had given her in that moment's
pause ; almost as if he were afraid of something.
Kitty took at this time to sleeping badly ; even
worse, that is to say, than usual. In common with
many others, she always did so when she was par-
ticularly interested in anyone. She read late, then
lay and stared into the dark, her thoughts turning
and twisting in her brain, till, for the sake of peace,
122 WHAT NOT
she turned on the light again and read something ;
something cold, soothing, remote from life as now
lived, like Aristophanes, Racine, or Bernard Shaw.
Attaining by these means to a more detached phil-
osophy, she would drift at last from the lit stage
where life chattered and gesticulated, and creep
behind the wings, and so find sleep, so little before
it was time to wake that she began the day with a
jaded feeling of having been up all night.
On one such morning she came down to find a
letter from Neil Desmond in its thin foreign en-
velope addressed in his flat, delicate hand. He wrote
from a Pacific island where he was starting a news-
paper for the benefit of the political prisoners
confined there ; it was to be called " Freedom " (in
the British Isles no paper of this name would be
allowed, but perhaps the Pacific Island censorship
was less strict) and he wanted Kitty to come and be
sub-editor. . . .
Kitty, instead of lunching out that day, took
sandwiches to the office and spent the luncheon-hour
breaking off her engagement again. The reason
why Neil never got these letters was the very reason
which impelled her to write them the lack of
force about him which made his enterprises so
ephemeral, and kept him ever moving round the
spinning world to try some new thing.
Force. How important it was. First Brains, to
perceive and know what things we ought to do,
then Power, faithfully to fulfil the same. In another
THE SIMPLE HUMAN EMOTIONS 123
twenty or thirty years, perhaps the whole British
nation would be full of both these qualities, so full
that the things in question really would get done.
And then what ? Kitty's mind boggled at the
answer to this. It might be strangely upsetting. . . .
She stamped her letter and lit a cigarette. The
room, empty but for her, had that curious, flat,
dream-like look of arrested activity which belongs
to offices in the lunch hour. If you watch an office
through that empty hour of suspension you may
decipher its silent, patient, cynical comment (slowly
growing into distinctness like invisible ink) on the
work of the morning which has been, and of the
afternoon which is to be. Kitty watched it, amused,
then yawned and read Stop It, the newest weekly
paper. It was a clever paper, for it had succeeded
so far (four numbers) in not getting suppressed, and
also in not committing itself precisely to any direct
statement as to what it wanted stopped. It was
produced by the Stop It Club, and the government
lived in hopes of discovering one day, by well-timed
police raids on the Club premises, sufficient lawless
matter to justify it in suppressing both the Club
and the paper. For Dora had recently been trying
to retrieve her character in the eyes of those who
blackened it, and was endeavouring to act in a just
and temperate manner, and only to suppress those
whose guilt was proven. Last Sunday, for instance,
a Stop It procession had been allowed to parade
through the city with banners emblazoned with the
124 WHAT NOT
ambiguous words. There were, of course, so many
things that, it was quite obvious, should be stopped ;
the command might have been addressed to those
of the public who were grumbling, or to the govern-
ment who were giving them things to grumble at ;
to writers who were producing books, journalists
producing papers, parliaments producing laws, provi-
dence producing the weather, or the agents of any
other regrettable activity at the moment in progress.
Indeed, the answer to the enquiry " Stop what ? "
might so very plausibly be " Stop it all," that it was
a profitless question.
It was just after two that the telephone on
Prideaux's table rang. (Kitty was working in
Prideaux's room now.) " Hullo," said a voice in
answer to hers, " Mr. Prideaux there ? Or anyone
else in his room I can speak to ? The Minister
Not his P.S. nor his P.A., but the Minister him-
self ; an unusual, hardly seemly occurrence, due,
no doubt, to lunch-time. Kitty was reminded of a
story someone had told her of a pert little office
flapper at one end of a telephone, chirping, " Hullo,
who is it ? " and the answer, slow, dignified, and
crushing, from one of our greater peers " Lord
Blankson . . ." (pause) " HIMSELF."
" Mr. Prideaux isn't in yet," said Kitty. " Can
I give him a message ? "
There was a moment's pause before the Minister's
voice, somehow grown remote, said, "No, thanks,
it's all right. I'll ring him up later."
THE SIMPLE HUMAN EMOTIONS 125
He rang off abruptly. (After all, how can one
ring off in any other way ?) He had said, " Or any-
one else in his room I can speak to," as if he would
have left a message with any chance clerk ; but he
had not, apparently, wished to hold any parley with
her, even over the telephone, which though it has
an intimacy of its own (marred a little by a listening
exchange) is surely a sufficiently remote form of
intercourse. But it seemed that he was avoiding
her, keeping her at a distance, ringing her off ; his
voice had sounded queer, abrupt, embarrassed, as
if he was shy of her. Perhaps he had thought
things over and perceived that he had been en-
couraging one of his clerks to step rather too far
out of her position ; perhaps he was afraid her head
might be a little turned, that she might think he
was seeking her out, . . .
Kitty sat on the edge of Prideaux's table and
swore softly. She'd jolly well show him she thought
no such thing.
" These great men," she said, " are insufferable."
When they next met it was by chance, in a street
aeroplane. The aero was full, and they didn't take
much notice of each other till something went wrong
with the machinery and they were falling street-
wards, probably on the top of that unfortunate shop,
Swan and Edgar's. In that dizzy moment the
126 WHAT NOT
Minister swayed towards Kitty and said, " Relax
the body and don't protrude the tongue/' and then
the crash came.
They only grazed Swan and Edgar's, and came
down in Piccadilly, amid a crowd of men who scat-
tered like a herd of frightened sheep. No one was
much hurt (street aeros were carefully padded and
springed, against these catastrophes), but Kitty
chanced to strike the back of her head and to be
knocked silly. It was only for a moment, and when
she recovered consciousness the Minister was bending
over her and whispering, " She's killed. She's killed.
" Not at all," said Kitty, sitting up, very white.
" It takes quite a lot more than that."
His strained face relaxed. " That's all right,
then," he said.
"I'm dining in Hampstead in about ten minutes,"
said Kitty. " I must get the tube at Leicester
" A taxi," said the Minister, " would be better.
Here is a taxi. I shall come too, in case there is
another mischance, which you will hardly be fit
for alone at present." He mopped his mouth.
" You have bitten your tongue," said Kitty, " in
spite of all you said about not protruding it."
" It was while I was saying it," said the Minister,
" that the contact occurred. Yes. It is painful."
They got into the taxi. The Minister, with his
scarlet-stained handkerchief to his lips, mumbled,
THE SIMPLE HUMAN EMOTIONS 127
" That was a very disagreeable shock. You were
very pale. I feared the worst."
" The worst," said Kitty, " always passes me by.
It always has. I am like that."
" I am not," he said. " I am not. I have
bitten my tongue and fallen in love. Both bad
He spoke so indistinctly that Kitty was not sure
she heard him rightly.
" And I," she said, " only feel a little sick. . . .
No, don't be anxious ; it won't develop."
The Minister looked at her as she powdered her
face before the strip of mirror.
" I wouldn't put that on," he advised her. " You
are looking too pale already."
" Quite," said Kitty. " It's pink powder, you
see. It will make me feel more myself."
" You need nothing," he told her gravely. " You
are all right as you are. It is fortunate that it is
3^ou and not I who are going out to dinner. I
couldn't talk. I can't talk now. I can't even tell
you what I feel about you."
" Don't try," she counselled him, putting away
her powder-puff and not looking at him.
He was leaning forward, his elbows on his knees,
looking at her with his pained-humorist's face and
" I expect you know I've fallen in love with you ? "
he mumbled. " I didn't mean to ; in fact, I've tried
not to, since I began to notice what was occurring.
128 WHAT NOT
It's excessively awkward. But ... I have not
been able to avoid it."
Kitty said " Oh," and swallowed a laugh. One
didn't laugh when one was receiving an avowal of
love, of course. She felt giddy, and seas seemed to
rush past her ears.
" There are a good many things to talk about in
connection with this," said the Minister. " But it
is no use talking about them unless I first know
what you feel about it about me, that is. Will you
tell me, if you don't mind ? "
He asked it gently, considerately, almost humbly.
Kitty, who did mind rather, said " Oh," again, and
lay back in her corner. She still felt a little dizzy,
and her head ached. It is not nice having to say
what one feels ; one would rather the other person
did it all. But this is not fair or honourable. She
remembered this and pulled herself together.
" I expect," she said, swinging her glasses by
their ribbon, cool and yet nervous, " I expect I feel
pretty much the same as you do about it."
After a moment's pause he said, " Thank you.
Thank you very much for telling me. Then it is
of use talking about it. Only not now, because I'm
afraid we're just getting there. And to-morrow I
am going to a conference at Leeds. I don't think
I can wait till the day after. May I call for you to-,
night and we'll drive back together? "
" Yes," said Kitty, and got out of the taxi.
THE SIMPLE HUMAN EMOTIONS 129
When they were in it again they comported them-
selves for a little while in the manner customary on
these occasions, deriving the usual amount of
pleasurable excitement therefrom.
Then the Minister said, " Now we must talk. All
is not easy about our situation."
" Nothing is easy about it," said Kitty. " In fact,
we're in the demon of a mess."
He looked at her, biting his lips.
' You know about me, then ? That I'm uncer-
tificated ? But of course you do. It is, I believe,
generally known. And it makes the position ex-
actly what^you say. It means ..."
" It means," said Kitty, " that we must get over
this unfortunate passion."
He shook his head, with a shrug.
" One can, you know," said Kitty. "I've been
in and out before more than once. Not so badly,
perhaps, but quite badly enough. You too, prob-
ably ? "
" Yes. Oh, yes," he admitted gloomily. " But it
wasn't like this. Neither the circumstances, nor the
Kitty said, " Probably not. Why should it be ?
Nothing ever is exactly like anything else, luckily.
. . . By the way, when did you begin to take
notice of me ? Don't worry, if you can't remember."
130 WHAT NOT
He thought for a minute, then shook his head.
"I'm bad at these things. Didn't we meet at
Prideaux's one night in the spring ? I observed you
then ; I remember you amused me. But I don't
think the impression went deep. . . . Then oh, we
met about a good deal one way and another and I
suppose it grew without my noticing it. And then
came that week-end, and that did the trick as far
as I was concerned. I knew what I was doing after
that, and I tried to stop it, but, as you see, I have
failed. This evening I told you, I suppose, under
the influence of shock. ... I am not sorry. It is
worth it, whatever comes of it."
" Nothing can come of it," said Kitty. " Not the
least thing at all. Except being friends. And you
probably won't want that. Men don't."
" No," he said. " I don't want it at all. But I
suppose I must put up with it." He began to
laugh, with his suppressed, sardonic laughter, and
Kitty laughed too.
" We're fairly hoist with our own petard, aren't
we ? " he said. " Think of the scandal we might
make, if we did what we chose now. ... I believe
it would be the coup de grace for the Brains Ministry."
He stated a simple fact, without conceit.
" It's a ro'tten position," he continued moodily.
" But there it is. ... And you're A, aren't you ?
You'll have to marry someone, eventually. If only
you were B2 or 3 only then you wouldn't be your-
self. As it is, it would be criminally immoral of me
THE SIMPLE HUMAN EMOTIONS 131
to stand in your way. The right thing, I suppose,
would be for us to clear out of each other's way and
give each other a chance to forget. The right thing.
... Oh damn it all, I'm as bad as the most muddle-
headed fool in the country, who doesn't care that
for the right thing if it fights against his individual
impulses and desires. ... I suppose moralists
would say here's my chance to bear my witness, to
stand by my own principles and show the world
they're real. . . . They are real, too ; that's the
mischief of it. I still am sure they matter more
than anything else ; but just now they bore me.
I suppose this is what a moral and law-abiding
citizen feels when he falls in love with someone
else's wife. . . . What are you laughing at now ? "
" You," said Kitty. " This is the funniest con-
versation. ... Of course it's a funny position
it's straight out of a comic opera. What a pity
Gilbert and Sullivan didn't think of it ; they'd have
done it beautifully. ... By the way, I don't think
I shall be marrying anyone anyhow, so you needn't
worry about that. I've broken off my last engage-
ment at least I've done my best to ; it became a
bore. I don't really like the idea of matrimony, you
know ; it would be too much of a tie and a settling
down. Yes, all right, I know my duty to my
country, but my duty to myself comes first. ... So
there's no harm, from my point of view, in our going
on seeing each other and taking each other out and
having as good a time as we can in the circum-
132 WHAT NOT
stances. Shall we try that way, and see if it
works ? "
" Oh, we'll try," he said, and took her again in his
arms. "It's all we can get, so we'll take it ... my
" I think it's a good deal," said Kitty. " It will
be fun. . . . You know, I'm frightfully conceited at
your liking me I can't get used to it yet ; you're
so important and superior. It isn't every day that
a Minister of a Department falls in love with one of
his clerks. It isn't really done, you know, not by
the best Ministers."
" Nor by the best clerks," he returned. " We
must face the fact that we are not the best people."
" And here's my flat. Will you come in and have
something ? There's only my cousin here, and she's
never surprised ; her own life is too odd."
" I think it would be inadvisable," said the
Minister discreetly. " ' We don't want to coddle our
reputations, but we may as well keep an eye on
On that note of compromise they parted.
THE BREAKING POINT
IT was six months later : in fact, April. It was a
Saturday afternoon, and many people were going
home from work, including Kitty Grammont and
Ivy Delmer, who were again in the Bakerloo
tube, on their way to Marylebone for Little
The same types of people were in the train who
had been in it on the Monday morning in May which
is described in the opening chapter of this work,
The same types of people always are in tube trains
(except on the air-raid nights of the Great War, when
a new and less self-contained type was introduced).
But they were the same with a difference : it was as
if some tiny wind had stirred and ruffled the face of
sleeping waters. In some cases the only difference
was a puzzled, half-awakened, rather fretful look,
where had been peace. This was to be observed in
the faces of the impassive shopping women. Still
they sat and gazed, but with a difference. Now and
then a little shiver of something almost like a thought
would nicker over the calm, observing, roving eyes,
134 WHAT NOT
which would distend a little, and darken with a faint
annoyance and fear. Then it would pass, and leave
the waters as still as death again ; but it had been
there. And it was quite certain there were fewer
of these ruminating ladies. Some had perhaps died
of the Mind Training Course, of trying to use their
brains. (They say that some poor unfortunates who
have never known the touch of soap and water on
their bodies die of their first bath on being brought
into hospital : so these.) Some who had been in the
ruminating category six months ago were now
reading papers. Some others, who still gazed at
their fellows, gazed in a different, manner ; they
would look intently at someone for half a minute,
then look away, and their lips would move, and it
was apparent that they were, not saying their
prayers, but trying to repeat to themselves every
detail of what they had seen. For this was part of
the Government Mind Training Course (observation
and accuracy). And one large and cow-like lady
with a shopping-bag containing circulating library
books and other commodities said to her com-
panion, in Kitty Grammont's hearing, two things
that accorded strangely with her aspect.
" I couldn't get anything worth reading out of the
library to-day they hadn't got any of the ones I'd
ordered. These look quite silly, I'm sure. There
aren't many good books written, do you think ? "
Doubtful she was, and questioning : but still,
she had used the word " good " and applied it to a
THE BREAKING POINT 135
book, as she might have to butter, or a housemaid,
or a hat, implying a possible, though still dimly dis-
cerned, difference between one book and another.
And presently she said a stranger thing.
" What," she enquired, " do you think about the
state of things between Bavaria and Prussia ? Re-
lations to-day seemed more strained than ever, I
Her companion could not be said to rise to this ;
she replied merely (possibly having a little missed
the drift of the unusual question) that in her view
relations were very often a nuisance, and exhausting.
So the subject was a little diverted ; it went off, in
fact, on to sisters-in-law ; but still it had been
Beyond these ladies sat another who looked as if
she had obtained exemption from the Mind Training
Course on the ground that her mind (if any) was not
susceptible of training ; and beyond her sat a little
typist eating chocolates and reading the Daily
Minor. Last May she had been reading " The love
he could not buy " ; this April she' was reading
" How to make pastry out of nuts." Possibly by
Christmas she might be reading " Which way shall
I Vote and Why ? "
Ivy Delmer, next her, was reading the notices
along the walls. Between " Ask Mr. Punch into
your home " and " Flee from the wrath to come "
there was a gap, where a Safety if Possible notice
had formerly offered the counsel " Do not sit down
136 WHAT NOT
in the street in the middle of the traffic or you may
get killed." A month ago this had been removed.
It had, apparently, been decided by the Safety if
Possible Council that the public had at last out-
grown their cruder admonitions. The number of
street accidents was, in fact, noticeably on the
decline. It seemed as if people were learning,
slowly and doubtfully, to connect cause and effect.
A was learning why he would be killed, B why he
would not. Ivy Delmer noticed the gap on the
wall, and wondered what would take its place.
Perhaps it would be another text ; but texts were
diminishing in frequency ; one seldom saw one now.
More likely it would be an exhortation to Take a
Holiday in the Clouds, or Get to Watford in five
minutes by Air (and damn the risk).
Ivy, as she had a year ago, looked round at the
faces of her fellow-travellers mostly men and girls
going home from business. Quite a lot of young
men there were in these days ; enough, you'd almost
think, for there to be one over for Ivy to marry some
day. . . . Ivy sighed a little. She hoped rather that
this would indeed prove to be so, but hoped without
conviction. After all, few girls could expect to get
married in these days. She supposed that if she
married at all, she ought to take a cripple, or a blind
one, and keep him. She knew that would be the
patriotic course ; but how much nicer it would be
to be taken by a whole one and get kept ! She looked
at the pale, maimed young men round her, and
THE BREAKING POINT 137
decided that they didn't, mostly, look like keeping
anyone at all, let alone her ; they were too tired.
The older men looked more robust ; but older men
are married. Some of them looked quite capable
and pleased with themselves, as if they were saying,
" What have I got out of it, sir ? Why, 100 more
per annum, more self-confidence, and a clearer
There was also a brilliant-looking clergyman,
engaged probably in reforming the Church ; but
clergymen are different, one doesn't marry them.
Altogether, not a hopeful collection.
The train got to Marylebone pretty quickly, be-
cause it had almost abandoned its old habit of
stopping half-way between every two stations. No
one had ever quite known why it had done this in the
past, but, with the improvement in the brains of the
employees of the electric railways, the custom had
certainly gradually decreased.
Marylebone too had undergone a change : there
was rather less running hither and thither, rather
less noise, rather less smoke, and the clock was more
nearly right. Nothing that would strike the eye of
anyone who was not looking for signs, but little mani-
festations which made the heart, for instance, of
Nicholas Chester stir within him with satisfaction
when he came that way, or the way of any other
station (excepting only the stations of the South
Eastern line, the directors and employees of which
had been exempted in large numbers from the Mind
138 WHAT NOT
Training Act by the Railway Executive Committee,
as not being likely to profit by the course).
Certainly the train to Little Chantreys ran better
than of old, and with hardly any smoke. Someone
had hit on a way of reducing the smoke nuisance ;
probably of, eventually, ending it altogether. Kitty
Grammont and Ivy Delmer found themselves in the
same compartment, and talked at intervals on the
journey. Ivy thought, as she had thought several
times during the last few months, that Kitty looked
prettier than of old, and somehow more radiant,
more lit up. They talked of whether you ought to
wear breeches as near to town as West Ealing, and
left it unsettled. They talked of where you could
get the best chocolates for the least money, and of
what was the best play on just now. They talked
of the excess of work in the office at the present
moment, caused by the new Instruction dealing
with the exemption of journalists whose mental
category was above B2. (This was part of the price
which had to be paid by the Brains Ministry for the
support of the press, which is so important.) They
began to talk, at least Ivy did, of whether you can
suitably go to church with a dog in your muff ; and
then they got to Little Chantreys.
Ivy found her parents in the garden, weeding the
paths. Jane and John were playing football, and
THE BREAKING POINT 139
Jelly was trotting a lonely trail round the domains
in a character apparently satisfactory to himself but
which would have been uncertain to an audience.
"Well, dear," said the vicar, looking up at Ivy
from his knees. The vicarage had not yet adopted
the new plan of destroying weeds by electricity ;
they had tried it once, but the electricity had some-
how gone astray and electrified Jelly instead of the
weeds, so they had given it up. The one-armed
soldier whom they employed as gardener occasion-
ally pulled up a weed, but not often, and he was off
this afternoon anyhow, somewhat to the Delmers'
relief. Of course one must employ disabled soldiers,
but the work gets on quicker without them.
" Have you had a hard day, darling ? " enquired
Mrs. Delmer, busy scrabbling with a fork between
" Rather," said Ivy, and sat down on the wheel-
barrow. " The Department's frightfully rushed just
now. . . . Mr. Prideaux says the public is in a state
of unrest. It certainly seems to be, from the number
of grumbling letters it writes us. ... You're look-
ing tired, Daddy."
" A little, dear." The vicar got up to carry away
his basket of weeds to the bonfire. Mrs. Delmer said,
" Daddy's had a worrying time in the parish. Two
more poor little abandoned babies."
" Where were they left this time ? " Ivy asked
" One at the Police Station, with a note to say the
140 WHAT NOT
government had driven the parents to this ; the
other just outside our garden door, with no note at
all, but I suppose it's the same old story. We've
no clue to either yet ; they're not from Little
Chantreys, of course, but I suppose we shall trace
them in time. Daddy's been making enquiries
among the village people ; none of them will say,
if they know, but Daddy says they're all in a sad
state of anger and discontent about the Baby Laws ;
he thinks they're working up worse every day.
There's so much talk of different laws for rich and
poor. Of course when people say that, what they
always mean is that it's the same law for both, and
ought to be different. Even that isn't true, of
course, in this case, as the taxes are in proportion
to the income ; but it certainly does come very hard
on the poor. Daddy thinks it his duty to preach
about it again to-morrow, and that worries him,
because he may get arrested and fined. But he feels
it's right. He thinks the country is in real danger
of risings and revolts if this goes on. He says the
Stop It League is doing its best to stir up rebellion,
and that would be such a calamity. And all these
poor little babies abandoned or disowned all over
the country ; it goes to one's heart. . . . Don't
talk about it, darling, it worries Daddy so. ... And
poor Brown is so little use with the vegetable garden.
His Mind Training Course seems really to have quite
upset him ; he talks and looks so strangely now.
And Daddy's worried about Mr. Hawtrey " (the
THE BREAKING POINT 141
curate), " who's joined the Church Improvement
Society and has become dreadfully restless, and
keeps saying Daddy ought to join it too."
Mrs. Delmer sighed, and changed the subject, as
the vicar came back, to the amount of blossom there
was on the white-heart cherry.
Ivy went indoors. She went up to the room she
shared with Betty. Betty was there, staining a
straw hat with Jackson's nut-brown hat-polish.
Ivy said, "A nice mess you're making. I should
think you might remember it's my room as well as
yours," and Betty said, "Socks." From which it
may be inferred that these sisters, good-humoured
in the main to others, were frequently short-tempered
to one another.
Ivy said next, opening a drawer, " I won't stand
it. You've been pinching my handkerchiefs."
Betty replied absently, and as if from habit rather
than from reflection, " Haven't been near your old
" Liar. There were twelve here this morning and
now there are only ten. I've told you before I
won't stand having my things pinched. If you're
too slack to earn enough to keep yourself in hand-
kerchiefs, you must do without, that's all."
" I suppose you'd rather I'd used my sleeve at
the Whites' tennis this morning, wouldn't you ? "
" I shouldn't care if you had. . . . Tennis in the
morning's a pretty rotten idea anyhow, if you ask
me. You're the biggest slacker I ever came across.
142 WHAT NOT
If I was Daddy I wouldn't keep you eating your head
off, even if you aren't clever. You're going on like
a girl before the war. Your Training Course doesn't
seem to have done you the slightest good, either.
It's people like you who'll rot up the whole
" It's rot anyhow," Betty returned, without in-
terest, turning her hat about critically. ' You
should just hear the way they're all going on about
it in the village. Stuff and nonsense, I call it. And
as long as people like me and the village normal,
ordinary people think it's stuff and nonsense,
. . . well, it will be stuff and nonsense, that's
" People like you," Ivy retorted witheringly, as
she changed her skirt for her country breeches.
But, after all, that retort didn't dispose of Betty,
or the people like Betty ... or the whole vicarage
family . . . or most of Little Chantreys. . . . Those
people, after all, were going to take more disposing
of than that. . . . They were, quite possibly, going
to take more disposing of than anyone yet
" Silly ass," said Ivy, but with a touch of
She thought her new green breeches were rather
nice, anyhow, and that seemed to matter more.
THE BREAKING POINT 143
Kitty found her brother Cyril at the End House.
Cyril was in a poor way. His publishing business
was on the edge of bankruptcy.
" So much for your abominable Brains Ministry,"
he complained. " The mass of safe, mediocre stuff
on which publishers count for a living while they
adventure with the risks is being gradually with-
drawn. It simply doesn't come in. Its producers
are becoming many of them just too intelligent.
I'm not imagining this ; I know of several cases in
which it has happened ; of people who have de-
veloped just enough distaste for their own work to
dry them up altogether. What's worse, there isn't
the same sale for such stuff as there was. When the
process has gone much further (if ever it does) so
far that a lot of really good stuff is turned out, and
read by large numbers of people, business will be all
right again. Till then, publishers are in a poor way.
. . . Verse is dropping off, too, like autumn leaves.
That's all to the good. ... I daresay in another
year or two (unless you're wrecked first, which
seems probable, by the way) there'll only be about
a hundred people left in the country writing any-
thing at all. ... Newspapers, of course, go on
much the same ; that's because you're afraid of
them and exempt their staff. Insignificant verse
and meaningless novels may die a natural death
(though I think it improbable), but Myosotis and the
144 WHAT NOT
Patriot and the Daily Idiot will go on for ever.
You're all such cowards at Whitehall. You dare to
ruin unoffending publishers, to browbeat the poor
and simple, and to extract gold from the innocent
babe unborn, but you daren't risk the favour of the
" No," Kitty agreed. " We certainly daren't. . . .
Not that we've got it, you know, quite the contrary ;
but we strive for it. I was reading the Herald and
Stop It in the train, till I was cold with fear. Stop It
veils its meaning delicately, as usual ; but it means
business. . . . However, I thought we should have
been downed six months ago, yet here we are still.
It's like skating on rotten ice so fast that it never
breaks. It's fun ; it's exciting. And I believe if
we go on skating fast, it won't break at all. You see,
the government are getting cleverer and cleverer
themselves, which will help them to do it skilfully.
Chester says his head really does feel clearer after
taking the Course ; he says so in private life, I mean,
not only, when he's soft-soaping the public."
" He'll need," said Anthony, " a jolly clear head
before he's through with this job. With every door-
step in our towns and villages piled with exposed
babies . . . it's worse than China. Much worse,
because I believe in China they don't get put on
door-steps, but left harmlessly out of the way in
open fields and no one meddles with them. It's
becoming a public nuisance."
"There is a new branch at the Ministry," said
THE BREAKING POINT 145
Kitty, which is concerned exclusively with Uncer-
tificated Babies, how to deal with them."
" An' how do they deal with them, the poor little
ducks ? " enquired Pansy, who had just come in
from the garden looking more than usually gay and
lovely and fantastic in a pink sunbonnet and the
kind of dress affected by milkmaids in a chorus.
Kitty looked at her thoughtfully.
" I should hardly like to tell you. You mightn't
like it. Besides, it's a private department, like the
secret room in jam factories where they make the
pips. No, Pansy love, I can't possibly tell you. . . .
But they do deal with them, quite effectively."
Pansy tossed her Cheeper up and down to a gentle
"Who'll buy babies-
Babies better dead ?
Here's every mental category,
From C3 down to Z. . . ."
It was a taking song as she crooned it on the stage,
nursing an infant on each arm, and with a baby-
chorus crying behind her.
After breakfast on Sunday morning Kitty re-
marked that she was going by train to Beaconsfield,
where she had arranged to meet Chester for a walk
through Burnham Beeches. She as a rule made no
secret of her walks with Chester, only occasionally,
146 WHAT NOT
when self-consciousness took her. After all, why
should she ? One went walks with all sorts of
people, with any man or woman who liked walking
and talking and whom one liked as a companion ;
it implied nothing. Kitty at times, with all it meant
in this instance burning and alive in her conscious-
ness, had to pause to tell herself how little it did
imply to others, how she might mention it freely
and casually, without fear. Yet might she ? The
intimacy of the Minister of a Department with one
of his clerks was, no doubt, out of the ordinary, not
quite like other intimacies ; perhaps it did seem odd,
and imply things. Perhaps Kitty might have
thought so herself, in another case.
She announced her plan this morning with an
extra note of casualness in her voice.
Pansy said, " Oh, you two. You'll be goin' baby-
huntin' in the ditches, I should think, instead of
pickin' primroses. I should say you jolly well
ought, and you'd better take the Cheeper's pram
Anthony said, " Exactly what I always try not to
do, going out on Sundays with the people from my
shop. It spoils the Sabbath rest, the Pisgah's
mountain touch. You'd much better come out with
Cyril and Pansy and me."
" I," said Cyril, in his detached manner, " shall
be going to Mass."
THE BREAKING POINT 147
They walked up through the depraved mushroom
growth round Beaconsfield station to the old town
that city set on a hill, lying wide and spacious, with
its four Ends stretched out like a cross. Old Beacons-
field is an enchanted city ; as it was in the seven-
teenth and eighteenth centuries, so it is to-day,
an ancient country town, full of brick walls and
old houses, and courtyards and coaching inns, and
dignity and romance and great elms. But they left it
behind them, and took the lane that runs to Hedger-
ley, with the cold April wind in their faces.
They came, four miles on, to the forest of great
beeches, where broad glades and grassy rides run
in and out through thickets of wild undergrowth
and bracken, and ancient twisted boles and slim
smooth grey-green stems are set close together
under a rustling singing roof of brilliant green, the
young, new-born, radiant green of beeches in April.
In every hollow and dip of the forest's mossy floor,
primroses glimmered in pale pools.
They sat down by one of these pools to have their
After lunch they lay on there and smoked.
Chester lay on his back, his hands clasped behind
his head, staring up at the green roof. Kitty, her
round chin cupped in her two hands, lay and
watched his lean, sallow, clever face, foreshortened,
148 WHAT NOT
with the shadows of the leaves moving on it and his
eyes screwed against the sun.
" Kitty," said Chester presently, " I want to talk
" M m." Kitty, having finished her cigarette,
was chewing grass.
He sat up and looked at her, and as he looked his
face grew more sallow and his smile died. He
stabbed into the soft, damp earth with his stick, and
" It's this, my dear. I can't go on any longer
with this this farce. We must end it. I've been
meaning to tell you so for some time, but I thought
I'd give it a fair trial, just to satisfy us both. Well,
we've given it a trial, and it won't work. It isn't
good enough. We've got to be more to each other
or less. This this beastly half-way house was
all right for a bit ; but we've got on too far now for
it. ... I should like to know what you think
Kitty pulled a primrose to pieces, petal by petal,
before she answered.
" One thing I think," she said slowly, " is that I'm
different from you. Or is it that women are different
from men ? Never mind ; it doesn't really matter
which. But I fancy it's women and men. Anyhow
there it is. And the difference is that for me a half-
way house would always be better than nothing,
while for you it would be worse. Men seem to value
being married so much more than women do and
THE BREAKING POINT 149
friendship, going about together, having each other
to talk to and play with, and all that, seems to
matter to them so little. Love seems to take differ-
ent forms with men and women, and to want
different ways of expression. . . . So it's not much
use trying to understand one another about it. ...
That's the chief thing I think, Nicky."
He moved impatiently.
" In fact, you're contented with the present state
" Oh, no. Not a bit. I want much more. But
if it's all we can have. ..."
" It isn't," he said. " We can get married."
She shook her head, with decision.
"No. No. No."
" Quite quietly," he pleaded. " No one would
know but ourselves and the registrar and a witness
whom we'd murder after the ceremony. Why
shouldn't we ? What are the reasons why not ?
There are only two ; you ought to marry a certifi-
cated person and have an intelligent family ; and
I oughtn't to have a family at all. Well, you say
you don't mean to marry anyone else ; so you may
as well marry me. So much for the first reason.
And of course we wouldn't have a family ; so much
for the second. Well, then ? "
" There's a third," said Kitty. " And the only
important one. There's the look of the thing. I
don't care how many people we murder, the secret
will leak out. Things always do leak out. Never,
150 WHAT NOT
in the course of twenty-nine years of endeavour,
have I been able to keep anything shady from coming
to light sooner or later. It isn't done. You ought
to know that, as a government servant. Has any
government ever succeeded in keeping its own dark
doings secret for long ? No ; they come out like
like flowers pushing up towards daylight ; and then
there's the devil to pay. All our shadiest depart-
mental transactions emerge one by one ; nothing is
hid that shall not be revealed. And our marriage
would be the same. Be sure our sin would find us
out. And that would be the end of your career, and
probably of the Ministry as well ; I believe the
Ministry will stand or fall with you ; and it's already
pretty tottery. . . . It's a pity you can't get ex-
emption ; but of course your case is one in which
it's absolutely never given. . . . No, we can't do
this thing. You're the Minister of Brains first, and
poor Nicky Chester, who would like to marry his
girl, a long, long way behind. And the poor girl who
would like to marry Nicky Chester she's not got
to count at all. ... I don't want to be high-
falutin and to talk about principles, only to have a
He was watching her moodily from under bent
brows, leaning back against a beech-trunk and
pulling up little handfuls of damp moss with his
thin, unusual fingers.
" Sense," he repeated. " It is sense, to have what
one wants, if it doesn't harm anything or anyone.
THE BREAKING POINT 151
And I'll tell you another thing not having it is
rotting me up altogether me and my work. I
didn't want to fall in love again ; I hoped I'd done
with all that ; I tried not to take any notice of you.
But it was no go, and I can't fall out again, and I'm
dead sick of going on like this. And my experience
of life, both private and public, has been longer
than yours, and, as it happens, I've known of
several transactions which haven't come to light
and never will ; I've perpetrated some myself in the
Ministry, which even that clear light which beats
upon a hotel hasn't yet exposed, and, heaven help-
ing us, won't. You don't suppose all the dark
secrets of the war ever came out ? Of course they
didn't. There are some that will wait till . . . well,
till the next war, let's say. . . . Kitty, let's try it.
It's worth the risk, surely. Let's be sporting.
We're missing we're missing the best thing in the
world, just out of funk. I thought you always did
things, just for the sake of doing them. I thought
you never turned your back on life. It isn't like
"Oh," murmured Kitty. " Life. . . . There's so
much of that. This is just one thing out of it."
" \\'hile you want it," he returned, indubitably
correct as to this, " it seems a long way the most
" It does," she agreed. ' There's no comparison
at all. . . . It's queer, isn't it, how strong it is,
this odd, desperate wanting of one person out of all
152 WHAT NOT
the world. It's an extraordinary, enormously strong
thing. . . . But there are other things. There are
jokes, and shops, and music, and plays, and pictures,
and nice clothes, and Russian politics, and absurd
people, and Greek poetry, and the world's failures
caged together on one island, and things to eat and
to drink, and our careers, and primroses in woods,
and the censor. . . . Good gracious, it's all like an
idiotic, glorified revue. We mustn't let the one thing,
just because it matters most, matter alone. It's so
commonplace. Our hearts aren't broken, and won't
break. We're out to have a good time, and we'll
let love and marriage go to the anywhere they
like, if we can't have them. ... By the way, if
it's any comfort to you (it is to me) I shouldn't make
at all a good wife ; I'm much nicer as a friend. I
want too much out of life. I'm grasping and selfish.
You'd find me tiring."
" I do," he returned. " You're tiring me to death
now. I've plenty of friends already, thank you.
And what does it matter to me what sort of a wife
you'd make ? You talk as if you were refusing a
secretarial appointment. I want you, not a wife."
" You've got me," said Kitty, " only not as a
wife. ... If that's no use to you, we'll give it up.
Nicky, I suppose we'd better give it up. It isn't
working. I'll go right away. I'll get another job."
" No," he said gloomily. " There's no need for
that. Why should you mess up your career ? We
needn't meet. We shouldn't naturally meet, unless
THE BREAKING POINT 153
we made opportunities. I think you're right, that
we'd better not meet. What's the good of meeting,
just to repeat this sort of scene again and again, and
hurt each other ? We've reached the breaking
point ; I can't bear any more. ... I think we'd
better leave it that you let me know when you
change your mind and will marry me. You will,
won't you, when you do ? "
' Yes," said Kitty, and could say no more than
that because she was on the edge of tears.
For a moment they clung together, holding each
other close. He said, " My dearest dear, I love you.
Can't you ? . . . can't you ? . . ." and she whispered,
very pale, " I love you. I think I worship you,"
and laid her cheek on his hand, so that he felt her
They walked on together through the April after-
noon, and it~cried to them like a child whom they
were betraying and forsaking. There would not be
another day like this day, through all the lovely
awakening spring and summer.
Ivy and Betty Delmer, who had been spending
the afternoon at Beaconsfield, saw them at Beacons-
Betty said, " Surely that's your Minister with Miss
Ivy looked at them, down the length of the plat-
154 WHAT NOT
form. It seemed to her that Miss Grammont's walk
with the Minister hadn't been altogether a success ;
they both looked so pale and tired, and Miss Gram-
mont, surely, had been crying.
Something suddenly passed into Ivy's conscious-
ness about these two people whom she admired, and
her soft mouth dropped open a little with the amaze-
ment of her thoughts. The Minister and Miss
Grammont ! It was surely incredible. Ministers
didn't ; they were too high, too superior. Besides,
what had love to do with this Minister, who was un-
certificated for matrimony ? Ivy told herself she
was mistaken, she had misread the look with which
they had looked at each other as they parted.
" Are they thick ? " Betty was asking, with care-
less, inquisitive interest. Betty wouldn't think it
odd ; Betty didn't know anything about ministers
in general or this minister in particular.
" Oh, I think they know each other quite well,"
replied Ivy. " Miss Grammont's jolly clever, you
know. I shouldn't wonder if he talks about quite
important things to her."
" How dull," returned Betty, swinging her prim-
roses. " Don't let's get into the same carriage as
her. I never know if I know those End House people
or not ; Daddy and mother think I don't, and it's
awkward. ... I'd rather enjoy knowing Miss
Ponsonby and that ducky baby, even if they aren't
respectable, she looks so sweet, and I'd like to hear
all about the stage. But I've no use for your Mis s
THE BREAKING POINT 155
Grammont. Her clothes are all right, but I'm sure
she's stuck up. . . . Fancy going out for Sunday
with the Minister of a government department !
Rather her than me."
Ivy said, " Don't you worry, my child. No
Minister'!] ever trouble you to go out with him. As
for Chester, I should think he'd have you executed
after one talk ; he's great on ridding the world of
the mentally deficient." But what she was think-
ing was, " How fearfully interesting if there is any-
thing between them." She wondered what the
other people at the office thought about it, or if they
had ever thought about it at all.
ON FIXED HEARTS AND CHANGING SCENES
To Kitty it was manifest that the time had come
for a change of employment. Such times came fre-
quently in her life ; often merely because she got
bored, yawned, wanted a change, heard life summon-
ing her to fresh woods and pastures new, and obeyed
the call. Many occupations she had thus thrown up
lightly ; this is one reason why those who regard
life as a variety entertainment do not really get on ;
they forget that life is real, life is earnest, and depart-
ing leave behind them no footprints on the sands of
time. They do not make a career ; they do not
make good ; they do not, in the long run, even
make much money, though that rolls in by fits and
starts, and at times plentifully. They do not so
much hide their talents in napkins as play ball with
This is as much as to say that it was not to Kitty
Grammont the effort and the wrench that it would
have been to many people to contemplate a change
of avocation. And it certainly seemed desirable.
Chester had said, " We needn't meet " ; but the fact
CHANGING SCENES 157
remained that when two people who love each other
work in the same building, however remote their
spheres, they disturb each other, are conscious of
each other's nearness. And Chester's presence per-
vaded the whole Ministry ; he had stamped himself
everywhere ; there was no getting away from him.
His name was constantly on the lips and on the
pens of his subordinates, and clicked forth from
every typewriter ; you could not so much as write
an official letter without beginning " I ani directed
by the Minister of Brains to state," and signing it
" for the Minister of Brains." Besides which, he
was to be seen going out and coming in, to be met
in passages and lifts, to be observed taking his food
in the canteen, and his Personal Assistant de-
manded continual attention to him on the telephone.
No, there was no getting away from the Minister.
And that meant no peace of mind, none of the old
careless light-hearted living and working ; nothing
but a continual, disturbing, restless, aching want.
Kitty had no intention of facing this, so she told
Vernon Prideaux that when she found another job
she was going to leave. He looked at her in annoy-
ance and dismay, and said, " Good lord, why ? "
Kitty said, "I'm bored. I want a change. I'm
tired of working for this autocratic government.
I want something with more variety in it, and more
soul a travelling circus, or a companionship to a
rich American seeing the world ; or any old thing,
so long as it amuses me."
158 WHAT NOT
" There's going to be quite enough amusement in
this circus," said Prideaux, " before we're through
with it, to satisfy anyone, I should say. . . . Really,
Kitty, I think you're foolish. You're throwing up
your chances ; you're climbing up, and will climb
higher if you stay. Even if the thing founders, as
is quite likely, you'll climb out of it into another job,
you're good enough. You ought to think of your
career. And besides, you can't be spared. Who on
earth do you think is going to do your job ? I think
you ought to see this thing through."
But Kitty did not think so. " It will' go to its
own place quite quickly enough without my help.
And as for my career funny word I'm not sure
I've got one. If I have it's such a chequered one
that a few more ups and, downs won't make much
difference to it. And as for being spared, oh anyone
can be spared, out of any ministry ; there are too
many of us. Anyhow well anyhow I must go."
Prideaux thought this so frivolous, so foolish, so
unworthy, so tiresome, and so like a woman, that
he was exasperated. He rang for a shorthand typist,
remarking, " If you must you must. Miss Egerton "
(Miss Egerton had succeeded Miss Pomfrey, and
was better), "send to the Establishment Branch for
Miss Grammont's papers sometime," which closed
the subject for the present.
Kitty went back to her table and wrote a letter
to the A.S.E. about some unfortunate agreement
which had been made with them concerning the
CHANGING SCENES 159
exemption of some of their members from the Mind
Training Course. Personally Kitty was of the
opinion that it was a pity the agreement had not
been made as extensive as the A.S.E. desired ; she
thought that this Union were already too clever by
half. She almost went to the length of thinking it
was a pity the promises made to them had not been
kept ; a revolutionary opinion which in itself indi-
cated that it was time she left. Having dealt with
the A.S.E. she turned her attention to a file sent
down from M.B. i and minuted " Passed to you to
deal with this man's imaginary grievance." The
imaginary grievance was that the wife of the man
in question had been killed by a motor bus, and he
wanted a week's postponement of his Mind Training
Course in order that he might arrange about the
funeral. M.B. i were like that ; they did not mean
to be unkind, but were a little lacking in flexibility
Ivy Delmer, who had answered Prideaux's bell,
sat with her pencil ready and her round face bent
over her notebook. She had heard Prideaux's order
to his secretary, and concluded, correctly, that Miss
Grammont was either going to have her pay raised
or to leave, and from Prideaux's manner and voice
she thought it was the second. She wondered
whether this could have anything to do with the
Minister, and what he had been saying to Miss
Grammont on Sunday. She was curious and inter-
ested, even more so than she had been on Sunday,
160 WHAT NOT
because the people to whom she had mentioned the
subject had all noticed the intimacy ; everyone
seemed to have seen the Minister out with Miss
Grammont at one time or another. No one but Ivy
thought it was anything more than friendship, but
no one else had seen them look at one another on
Beaconsfield platform. Ivy had, and said so. . . .
Kitty was right ; nothing remained hidden in
government departments, or, indeed, anywhere else-
Healthily, persistently, inevitably, everything pushed
up towards the clear light of day ; and quite right,
In the evenings Kitty, seeking jobs, studied the
advertisement columns of the daily papers. She had
always read them ; they, with Mr. Selfridge and the
Pelman system, form the lighter and more enter-
taining part of any daily paper ; .but now she took
to perusing them with care. The personal column
of the Times she found peculiarly edifying.
" Quiet, refined gentleman (served in war, musical)
would like to get into touch with bright and sympa-
thetic lady." Kitty rejected that ; she was not sure
that she was sympathetic, and the terms were too
vague. Better was " Lady, high standard of taste
and culture and large means, wants capable travel-
ling companion. Knowledge of art essential, good
breeding preferred. Must talk continental languages
fluently and understand railway guides." Kitty,
making a mental note of that (for, with the possible
exception of the breeding, she had all these quali-
fications), ran her eyes down the column, past
"Write to me, darling, all is forgiven," "Will the
lady in a fur toque riding in a Hammersmith aero
on Saturday last at 3.30 communicate with A.C.",
" No man hath seen God, at any time," until she
came to " Young, accomplished, well-educated War
Widow would like position as secretary or con-
fidential clerk to nobleman, member of parliament,
or gentleman." She rested her finger on that. " I'll
put one in like this," she remarked to her cousin.
' War Widow. That's what I've always wanted to
be. It sounds so well. Elspeth, I shall buy some
weeds and commence widow. A war widow. ..."
" If you want a new job, and a job with travel
and life in it," said her cousin, sounding her, " I
don't know why you don't go out to the Pacific
Islands and join Neil. You may be sure that wher-
ever Neil is there'll be travel enough and life enough."
She watched Kitty idly through a little whirl of
cigarette smoke. But Kitty looked no more than
bored, bending over the Times and manicuring her
" Neil would tire me. I've grown too old for Neil.
Besides, it wouldn't be proper ; I've broken off my
engagement. I've not had the last letter back yet,
you know, so he may have got it. Besides ..."
Kitty paused only for a moment, and added in the
same casual tone, " besides, I'm too much in love
i62 WHAT NOT
with Nicky Chester, though I can't have him, to
have any use for anyone else just now."
Her cousin nodded. " I knew that, darling, of
course. And so you've renounced each other. How
silly. But it won't last. It never does. Go and be
a Young Accomplished War Widow, then, to pass
But there were hours of the night when it seemed
to Kitty that she could not go and be a Young
Accomplished War Widow, that she could not be
companion, however capable, to any travelling lady
of taste, culture and means, or clerk, however con-
fidential, to any peer, M.P., or even gentleman ;
that none of these careers (were they careers ? She
still sought to define that word) would pass the time
at all ; that nothing, in fact, would pass it except
working for Nicholas Chester, seeing him some-
times, hearing his voice. . . . Always addicted to
metaphysical speculation in the night, even in
nights of anguish, she would speculate on this queer
disease, so common to the race, which had over-
taken (and not, as they had both candidly remarked,
for the first time, possibly not even for the last)
herself and Nicholas Chester. What was it, this
extraordinary driving pressure of emotion, this
quite disproportionate desire for companionship
with, for contact with, one person out of all the world
of people and things, which made, while it lasted, all
CHANGING SCENES 163
other desires, all other emotions, pale and faint
beside it ? Which so perverted and wrenched from
its bearings the mind of a man like Nicholas Chester
that he was for throwing overboard the cherished
principles which were the cargo he had for long been
so desperately bent on carrying, through storm and
stress, to the country of his dreams ? Which made
him say, " No one will find out, and if they do, let
them and be damned to them " ? . . . Desire for a
person ; it had, it had always had, an extraordi-
narily dynamic effect on the lives of men and women.
When it came into play, principle, chivalry, common
sense, intellect, humour, culture, sweetness and
light, all we call civilisation, might crumple up like
match-board so this one overwhelming desire,
shared by all the animal creation, might be satisfied.
On this rock the world, the pathetic, eager, clever,
foolish, so heavily handicapped world, might be
wrecked. It was, perhaps, this one thing that would
always prevent humanity from being, in fact, a
clever and successful race, would always keep
them down somewhere near the level of the other
Faces passed before Kitty's wakeful eyes ; the
fatuous, contented faces of mothers bending over
the rewards of love clinging to their breasts ; slow,
placid, married faces everywhere. . . . This thing
was irresistible, and certainly inevitable ; if it
ceased, humanity itself would cease, since it is the
one motive which impels the continued population
164 WHAT NOT
of the already over-populated earth. There it was ;
one had to accept it ; there was, perhaps, no one
who grew to years of maturity who escaped it, no
one whose life would not, at some period, be in some
degree disorganised by this strange force. It was
blind instinct ; its indulgence did not, in the end,
even make for good, so far as good meant adven-
ture, romance, and the gay chances of life, the
freedom of the cities of the world anything beyond
mere domesticity. For what, after all, was marriage ?
A tying down, a shutting of gates, the end of youth,
the curbing of the spirit of adventure which seeks
to claim all the four corners of the world for its
heritage. It meant a circumscribed and sober life,
in one place, in one house, with, perhaps, children
to support and to mind ; it meant becoming respect-
able, insured, mature, settled members of society,
with a stake in the country. No longer may life be
greeted with a jest and death with a grin ; both
these (of course important but not necessarily
solemn) things have come to matter too much to be
To this sedate end do the world's gay and careless
free-lances come ; they shut the door upon the
challenging spirit of life, and Settle Down. It is to
this end that instinct, not to be denied, summons
men and women, as the bit of cheese summons the
mouse into the trap.
Musing thus, Kitty turned her pillow over and
over, seeking a softer side. How she detested
CHANGING SCENES 165
stupidity ! How, even more, Nicholas Chester
loathed stupidity ! To him it was anathema, the
root of all evil, the Goliath he was out to destroy,
the blind beast squatting on men's bones, the idiot
drivelling on the village green. And here he was,
caught in the beast's destroying grip, just because
he had, as they call it, fallen in love. . . . What a
work is man ! . . . And here was Kitty herself, all
her gay love of living in danger, tottering un-
steadily on its foundations, undermined by this
secret gnawing thing.
At last, as a sop to the craving which would not
be denied, she sat up, with aching, fevered head,
and turned the light on, and wrote on a piece of
paper, " Nicky, I'll marry you any time you like, if
you want me to," and folded it up and laid it on the
table at her side, and then lay quite quiet, the rest-
less longing stilled in her, slow tears forcing them-
selves from under her closed lashes, because she
knew she would not send it. She would not send it
because Chester too, in his heart, knew that they
had better part ; he too was fighting for the cause
he believed in ; he wanted her, but wanted to
succeed in doing without her. She must give him
his chance to stick by his principles, not drag him
down below them.
There were moments when Kitty wished that she
could believe in a God, and could pray. It must, she
thought, be a comfort. She even at times wished
she were a Christian, to find fulfilment in loss.
166 WHAT NOT
That was, at least, what she supposed Christians
But she could not be a Christian, and she could
not pray ; all she could do was to nerve herself to
meet life in the spirit of the gay pierrette, with cap
and bells on her aching head, and a little powder to
hide the tears, and to try not to snap at Elspeth or
the people at the office. This last endeavour usually
failed. The little gaping messengers who answered
(when they thought they would) Miss Grammont's
bell, told each other Miss Grammont was cross.
The typists grew tired of having letters sent back
to be retyped because of some trifling misapprehen-
sion of Miss Grammont's caligraphy or some trifling
misspelling on their own account. Surely these
things could be set right with a pen and a little skill.
These moods of impatience, when frustration
vented itself in anger, alternated with the gaiety,
the irreverent and often profane levity, which was
Kitty's habitual way of braving life in its more
formidable aspects. Some people have this instinct,
to nail a flag of motley to the mast of the foundering
ship and keep it flying to the last.
While Kitty was debating as to her future, toying
with the relative advantages and entertainment to
be derived from the careers of War Widow, Con-
fidential Clerk, Travelling Companion, archaeo-
CHANGING SCENES 167
logical explorer in Macedonia or Crete, beginner on
the music-hall stage, under Pansy's auspices, all of
which seemed to have their bright sides, two sugges-
tions were made to her. One was from a cousin of
hers who was sub-editor of Stop It, and offered to get
her a place on the staff.
" Would it bind me to a point of view ? " Kitty
enquired. " I can't be bound to a point of view."
" Oh dear no," her cousin assured her. " Cer-
tainly not. Rather the contrary," and Kitty said,
" All right, I'll think it over." She was rather
attracted by the idea.
You cannot, of course, exactly call it being bound
to a point of view to be required to hint every week
that certain things want stopping, in a world whose
staunchest champions must admit that this is
Stop It was certainly eclectic, in its picking out,
from all the recognised groups associated for thought
and action, activities whose cessation seemed good
to it. The question that rather suggested itself to
its readers was, if Stop It had its way, what, if any-
thing, would be left ?
" Very little," the editor would have answered.
" A clean sheet. Then we can begin again."
Stop It had dropped some of the caution with
which it had begun : it was now quite often possible
to deduce from its still cryptic phraseology what were
some of the things it wanted stopped. Having for
some time successfully dodged Dora, it was now
168 WHAT NOT
daring her. As in all probability it would not have
a long life, and appeared to be having a merry one,
Kitty thought she might as well join it while she
To desert abruptly from the ranks of the bureau-
cracy to those of the mutineers seemed natural to
Kitty, who had always found herself at home in a
number of widely differing situations. Really this
is perhaps the only way to live, if all the various
and so greatly different needs of complicated human
nature are to be satisfied. It is very certain that
they cannot be satisfied simultaneously ; the best
way seems, therefore, to alternate. It is indeed
strange that this is not more done, that Radicals,
Tories, and Labour members, for instance, do not
more frequently interchange, play general post, to
satisfy on Tuesday that side of their souls and in-
tellects which has not been given free play on Mon-
day ; that Mr. Ramsay Macdonald and Lord Curzon
do not, from time to time, deliver each other's
speeches, not from any freakish desire to astonish,
but from the sheer necessities of their natures ;
that Mr. Massingham and Mr. Leo Maxse, or
Mr. A. G. Gardiner and Mr. Gwynne, or Mr. J. C.
Squire and Mr. J. St. Loe Strachey, or Mr. Garvin
and Mr. J. A. Spender, do not from time to time
arrange together to change offices and run each
other's papers ; or that Mr. Arthur Ransome and
Mr. Stephen Graham do not, during their tours of
Russia, sometimes change pens with each other
CHANGING SCENES 169
when they write home. There must be in many
people some undemocratic instinct of centralisation,
of autocratic subversion of the horde of their lesser
opinions and impulses to the most dominant and
commanding one, a lack of the true democrat's
desire to give a chance to them all. They say with
the Psalmist, " My heart is fixed," and " I have
chosen the way and I will run it to the end," and
this is called, by some, finding one's true self. Per-
haps it may be so ; it certainly entails the loss of
many other selves ; and possibly the dropping of
these, or rather their continual denial and gradual
atrophy, simplifies life.
But Kitty, whose heart was not fixed, entered
upon all the changing scenes of life with a readiness
to embrace any point of view, though not indeed to
be bound to it, and an even greater willingness to
tell anything in earth or heaven that it ought to be
She told Prideaux that she was considering this
offer. Prideaux said, " That thing ! Its very name
condemns it. It's on the wrong tack. You shouldn't
be out to stop things ; they've got to go on. ... If
it's journalism you want, why don't you apply for
a job on Intelligence?" Intelligence, or the Weekly
Bulletin of the Brains Ministry (to give it its sub-
title, humorously chosen by one who visualised
either the public or the Ministry as a sick man) was
a weekly journal issued by the Ministry, and its aim
was, besides reporting the Ministry's work, deci-
170 WHAT NOT
sions and pronouncements for each week, to correlate
all its local activities and keep them in touch with
headquarters, and to collect reports from over the
country as to the state of the public mind. It was
for official circulation only. " Why not ? " repeated.
Prideaux, struck by this idea. " It would be quite
enough of a change : you would probably be one
of the travelling reporters and send bright little
anecdotes from the countryside ; I know they
want some more reporters. Why don't you apply ?
I'll speak to M.B.B. about you if you like." (M.B.B.
was the department which edited the Bulletin.)
" Would it be interesting ? " Kitty wondered.
Prideaux thought it would. " Besides," he addedi
" you'd remain attached to the Ministry that way,
and could return to headquarters later on if you
wanted to. ... And meanwhile you'd see all the
fun. . . . We're in for a fairly lively time, and it
would be a pity to miss it. We're bound to slip up
over the A.S.E. before the month's over. And prob-
ably over the exemption of Imbeciles and the Aban-
doned Babies, too. And the journalists ; that's
going to be a bad snag. Oh, it'll be interesting all
right. If it wasn't for Chester's remarkable gift of
getting on people's right side, it would be a poor
look-out. But Chester'd pull most things through.
If they'd put him at the head of the Recruiting job
during the war, I believe he'd have pulled even the
Review of Exceptions through without a row. . . .
Well now, what about trying for this job ? "
CHANGING SCENES 171
" All right," Kitty agreed. " If you think there's
any chance of my getting it. I don't mind much what
I do, so long as I have a change from this hotel."
On Prideaux's recommendation she did get the
job, and was transferred from her branch to M.B.B.
as a travelling reporter for Intelligence. She re-
nounced Stop It with some regret ; there was a
whimsical element about Stop It which appealed to
her, and which must almost necessarily be lacking
in an official journal ; but the career of travelling
reporter seemed to have possibilities. Besides the
more weighty reports from the countryside, a page
of Intelligence was devoted each week to anecdotes
related in the engagingly sudden and irrelevant
manner of our cheaper daily Press ; as, " A woman
appealed before the Cuckfield Tribunal for exemption
from the Mind Training Course on the grounds that
she had made an uncertificated marriage and had
since had twins, and must, therefore, be of a mental
level which unfitted her to derive benefit from the
Course." " Three babies have been found aban-
doned in a ditch between Amersham and Chesham
Bois." " The Essex Farmers' Association have pro-
duced a strain of hens which lay an egg each day all
the year round. The farmers ascribe this to the im-
provement in their methods caused by the Mind
Training Course." " In reply to a tinplate worker
who applied for Occupational Exemption from the
Mental Progress Act, the Chairman of the Margam
Tribunal said ..." (one of the witty things which
172 WHAT NOT
chairmen do say, and which need not here be re-
ported). It was, apparently, the business of the
reporters to collect (or invent) and communicate
these trivial anecdotes, as well as more momentous
news, as of unrest at Nottingham, the state of in-
telligence or otherwise among Suffolk agriculturists,
and so forth.
Kitty rather hoped to be sent to Ireland, which
was, as often, in an interesting and dubious state.
Ireland was excluded from the Brains Acts, as from
other Acts. But she was being carefully watched,
with a view to including her when it seemed that it
might be safe to do so. Meanwhile those of her popu-
lation who were considered by the English govern-
ment to be in no need of it were profiting by the
Mind Training Course, while the mass of the peas-
antry were instructed by their priests to shun such
unholy heretic learning as they would the devil.
But on the whole it seemed possible that the strange
paths pointed out by the Brains Ministry might
eventually lead to the solution of the Irish Ques-
tion. (What the Irish Question at that moment
was, I will not here attempt to explain : it must be
sufficient to remark that there will always be one.)
But Kitty was not sent to Ireland. She was sent
about England ; first to Cambridge. Cambridge
was not averse to having its mind improved ; there
CHANGING SCENES 173
is a sweet reasonableness about Cambridge. It knows
how important brains are. Also it had an affection
for Chester, who had been at Trinity. So reports
from Cambridge as regards the Brains Acts were
on the whole favourable, in spite of some unrest (for
different reasons) at Kings, Downing, and Trinity
Hall, and slight ferment of revolt down at Barnwell.
There was, indeed, a flourishing branch of the S.I.L.
(Stop It League) in the University, but its attention
was not directed at the moment particularly to
stopping the work of the Ministry of Brains.
It was, of course, a queer and quite new Cambridge
which Kitty investigated. She had known the pre-
war Cambridge ; there had intervened the war
Cambridge, that desolated and desolating thing,
and now there had sprung up, on the other side of
that dividing gulf, a Cambridge new and without
precedent ; a Cambridge half full of young war
veterans, with the knowledge of red horizons, battle,
murder, and sudden death, in their careless, watchful,
experienced eyes ; when they lounged about the
streets or hurried to lectures, they dropped, against
their will, into step ; they were brown, and hard, and
tired, and found it hard to concentrate on books ;
they had forgotten their school knowledge, and
could not get through Littlegoes, and preferred
their beds to sleeping in the open, that joy ol pam-
pered youth which has known neither battle-fields
or Embankment seats.
The other half were the boys straight from school ;
174 WHAT NOT
and between these two divisions rolled the Great
European War, across which they could with diffi-
culty make themselves understood each by the
It was a Cambridge which had broken with
history, for neither of these sections had any links
with the past, any traditions to hand down. The
only people who had these were the dons and Fellows
and the very few undergraduates who, having
broken off their University career to fight, had, after
long years, returned to it again. These moved like
ghosts among their old haunts ; but their number
was so inconsiderable as hardly to count. It was,
to all intents and purposes, a new Cambridge, a
clean sheet ; and it was interesting to watch what
was being inscribed upon it.
But with such observations, apart from those of
them which were connected with the attitude of
Cambridge towards the Brains Ministry, neither
Kitty nor this story are concerned. The story of
the new Cambridge will have to be written some
day by a member of it, and should be well worth
From Cambridge Kitty went to travel Cam-
bridgeshire, which was in a state of quiet, albeit
grudging, East Anglian acceptance and slow assim-
Far different were the northern midlands, which
were her next destination. Here, indeed, was revolt
in process of ferment ; revolt which had to be con-
CHANGING SCENES 175
tinually uncorked and aired that it might not
ferment too much. The uncorking and airing was
done by means of conferences, at which the tyran-
nised and the tyrants each said their say. These
heart-to-heart talks have a soothing effect (some-
times) on the situation ; at other times not. As
conducted by the Minister of Brains, they certainly
had. Chester was something more than soothing ;
he was inspiring. While he was addressing a meet-
ing, he made it believe that intelligence was the
important thing ; more important than liberty,
more important than the satisfaction of immediate
desires. He made intelligence a flaming idea, like
patriotism, freedom, peace, democracy, the eight-
hour day, or God ; and incidentally he pointed out
that it would lead to most of these things ; and they
believed him. When he showed how, in the past,
the lack of intelligence had led to national ruin,
economic bondage, war, autocracy, poverty, sweat-
ing, and vice, they believed that too. When he said,
" Look at the European War," they looked. When
he went on, " Without centuries of stupidity every-
where the war would never have been ; without
stupidity the war, if it had been, would have been
very differently conducted ; without stupidity we
need never have another war, but with stupidity we
inevitably shall, League of Nations or not," they all
roared and cheered.
So he went about saying these things, convincing
and propitiating labour everywhere ; labour, that
176 WHAT NOT
formidable monster dreaded and cajoled by all good
statesmen ; labour, twice as formidable since in the
Great War it had learned the ways of battle and the
possibility and the power of the union of arms and
THE COMMON HERD
IT was after such a meeting, at Chesterfield, at the
end of July, that Kitty and the Minister next met.
Kitty was at that time writing up the Derbyshire
towns for the Bulletin. She attended the Chester-
field meeting officially. It was a good one ; Chester
spoke well, and the audience (mainly colliers)
It was a very hot evening. The Town Hall was
breathless, and full of damp, coal-grimed, imper-
fectly-cleaned faces. Kitty too was damp, though
she was wearing even less than usual. Chester was
damp and white, and looked, for all his flame and
ardour, which carried the meeting along with him,
fatigued and on edge. Kitty, herself fatigued and
on edge, watched him, seeing the way his hands
moved nervously on the table as he spoke.
It was while he was talking about the demand for
increased wages among colliers to facilitate the pay-
ment of the taxes on uncertificated babies, that he
saw Kitty. His eyes stayed on hers for a moment,
and he paused in the middle of a sentence . . .
178 WHAT NOT
" defeat the whole purpose of the Act," he finished
it, and looked elsewhere. Kitty was startled by his
pause ; it was not like him. Normally he, so used
to public speaking, so steeled against emergencies,
so accustomed to strange irruptions into the flow of
his speech, would surely have carried on without a
break or a sign. That he had not done so showed
him to be in a highly nervous state, thought Kitty,
something like her own in this hot weather, through
her continual travellings by train and staying in
lodgings and writing absurd reports.
Across the length of the hall she saw nothing now
but that thin, slouching figure, the gestures of those
nervous, flexible hands, that white, damp face, with
its crooked eyebrows and smile.
It was so long since she had seen him and spoken
to him ; something in her surged up at the sight of
him and turned her giddy and faint. It was peril-
ously hot ; the heat soaked all one's will away and
left one limp. . . . Did he too feel like that ?
He looked at her once more, just before the end,
and his eyes said, " Wait for me."
She waited, in the front of a little group by the
door through which he was to come out. He came
out with his secretary, and the mayor, and others ;
he was talking to them. When he saw her he
stopped openly, and said, so that all could hear,
THE COMMON HERD 179
" How do you do, Miss Grammont. I haven't seen
you for some time. You're doing this reporting
work for the Bulletin now, aren't you ? I want to
talk to you about that. If you'll give me the
address I'll come round in about half an hour and
see you about it."
She gave him the address of her rooms in Little
Darkgate Street, and he nodded and walked on.
He had done it well ; no one thought it strange, or
anything but all in the way of business. Ministers
have to be good at camouflage, at throwing veils over
situations ; it is part of their job.
Kitty went back to her lodgings, and washed
again, for the seventeenth time that day, and tried
if she would feel less hot and less pale and more the
captain of her soul in another and even filmier blouse.
But she grew hotter, and paler, and less the captain
of anything at all.
At 9.30 Chester came. He too was hot and pale
and captain of nothing. He had not even the com-
fort of a filmy blouse.
He said, " My dear my dear," and no more for a
little time. Then he said, " My dearest, this has got
to stop. I can't stand it. We've got to marry."
Kitty said, " Oh well. I suppose we have." She
was too hot, too limp, too tired, to suppose anything
" At once," said Chester. " I'll get a licence. . . .
\Ye must get it done at some small place in the
country where they don't know who we are. I must
i8o WHAT NOT
take another name for it. ... There's a place I
sometimes stay at, in the Chilterns. They are rather
stupid there even now," he added, with the twist
of a rueful smile. " I think it should be pretty safe.
Anyhow I don't think I much care ; we're going to
They spoke low in the dim, breathless room, with
its windows opened wide on to the breathless street.
" I have wanted you," s?id Chester. " I have
wanted you extremely badly these last three months.
I have never wanted anything so much. It has been
a a hideous time, taking it all round."
" You certainly," said Kitty, " look as if it had.
So do I don't I ? It's partly heat and dirt, with
both of us the black of this town soaks in and
partly tiredness, and partly, for you, the strain of
your ministerial responsibilities, no doubt ; but I
think a little of it is our broken hearts. . . . Nicky,
I'm too limp to argue or fight. I know it's all wrong,
what we're going to do ; but I'm like you I don't
think I much care. We'll get married in your
stupid village, under a false name. That counts,
does it ? Oh, all right. I shouldn't particularly
mind if it didn't, you know. I'll do without the
registry business altogether if you think it's safer.
After all, what's the odds ? It comes to the same
thing in the end, only with less fuss. And it's no
one's business but ours."
" No," Chester said. " I think that would be a
mistake. Wrong. I don't approve of this omitting
THE COMMON HERD 181
of the legal bond ; it argues a lack of the sense of
social ethics ; it opens the door to a state of things
which is essentially uncivilised, lacking in self-
control and intelligence. I don't like it. It always
strikes me as disagreeable and behind the times ; a
step backwards. No, we won't do that. I'd rather
take the greater -risk of publicity. I'm dropping
one principle, but I don't want to drop more than
Kitty laughed silently, and slipped her hand into
his. " All right, you shan't. We'll get tied up
properly at your country registry, and keep seme
of our principles and hang the risk. ... I oughtn't
to let you, you know. If it comes out it will wreck
your career and perhaps wreck the Ministry and
endanger the intellect of the country. We may be
sowing the seeds of another World War ; but oh,
I'm bored with being high-principled about it."
" It's too late to be that," said Chester. " We've
got to go ahead now."
He consulted his pocket-book and said that he
was free on August loth, and that they would then
get married and go to Italy for a fortnight's holiday
together. They made the other arrangements that
have to be made in these peculiar circumstances,
and then Chester went back to his hotel.
The awful, airless, panting night through which
the Chesterfield furnaces flamed, lay upon the queer,
crooked black city like a menace. Kitty, leaning
out of her window and listening to Chester's retreat-
i82 WHAT NOT
ing steps echoing up the street, ran her fingers
through her damp dark hair, because her head ached,
and murmured, " I don't care. I don't care.
What's the good of living if you can't have what
you want ? "
Which expressed an instinct common to the race,
and one which would in the end bring to nothing
the most strenuous efforts of social and ethical
They got married. Chester took, for the occa-
sion, the name of Gilbert Lewis ; it was surprising
how easy this was. The witness looked attentively
at him, but probably always looked like that at the
people getting married. Neither he nor the registrar
looked intelligent, or as if they were connecting
Chester's face with anything they had seen before.
After the performance they went to Italy for a
fortnight. Italy in August is fairly safe from
English visitors. They stayed at Cogoleto, a tiny
fishing town fifteen miles up the coast from Genoa,
shut in a little bay between the olive hills and the
sea. To this sheltered coast through the summer
months people come from the hot towns inland and
fill every lodging and inn and pitch tents on the
shore, and pass serene, lazy, amphibious days in and
out of a sea which has the inestimable advantage
over English seas that it is always at hand.
The Chesters too passed amphibious days. They
THE COMMON HERD 183
would rise early, while the sea lay cool and smooth
and pale and pearly in the morning light, and
before the sand burnt their feet as they walked on
it, and slip in off the gently shelving shore, and
swim and swim and swim. They were both good
swimmers. Chester was the stronger and faster, but
Kitty could do more tricks. She could turn somer-
saults like an eel, and sit at the bottom of the sea
playing with pebbles, with open eyes gazing up
through clear green depths. When they bathed
from a boat, she turned head over heels backwards
from the bows, and shot under the boat and came
up neatly behind the stern. Chester too could per-
form fairly well ; their energy and skill excited the
amazed admiration of the bagnanti, who seldom did
more than splash on the sea's edge or bob up and
down with swimming belts a few yards out. Chester
and Kitty would swim out for a mile, then lie on
their backs and float, gazing up into the sea-blue
sky, before the sun had climbed high enough to
burn and blind. Then they would swim back and
return to the inn and put on a very few clothes and
have their morning coffee, and then walk up the
coast, taking lunch, to some little lonely cove in the
shadow of rocks, where they would spend the heat
of the day in and out of the sea. When they came
out of the water they lay on the burning sands and
dried themselves, and talked or read. When the
heat of the day had passed a little, and the sea lay
very smooth and still in the late afternoon, with no
184 WHAT NOT
waves at all, only a gentle, whispering swaying to
and fro, they would go further afield, climbing up
the steep stone-paved mule-tracks that wound up
the hills behind, passing between grey olive groves
and lemon and orange gardens and vineyards of
ripening vines and little rough white farmhouses,
till they reached the barer, wilder hill slopes of pines
and rocks, where the hot sweetness of myrtle and
juniper stirred with each tiny moving of sea air.
They would climb often to the top of one or other
of this row of hills that guarded the bay, and from
its top, resting by some old pulley well or little shrine,
they would look down over hills and sea bathed in
evening light, and see to the east the white gleam of
Genoa shimmering like a pearl, like a ghost, between
transparent sea and sky, to the west the point of
Savona jutting dark against a flood of fire.
There was one hill they often climbed, a steep
little pine-grown mountain crested by a little old
chapel, with a well by its side. The chapel was
dedicated to the Madonna dell^Mare, and was hung
about inside with votive offerings of little ships,
presented to the Madonna by grateful sailors whom
she had delivered from the perils of the sea. Out-
side the chapel a shrine stood, painted pink, and
from it the mother and "child smiled kindly down
on the withered flowers that nearly always lay on
the ledge before them.
By the shrine and the well Chester and Kitty
would sit, while the low light died slowly from the
THE COMMON HERD 185
hills, till its lower slopes lay in evening shadow,
and only they on the summit remained, as if en-
chanted, in a circle of fairy gold.
One evening while they sat there a half-witted
contadino slouched out of the chapel and begged
from them. Chester refused sharply, and turned
his face away. The imbecile hung about, mouthed
a confused prayer, bowing and crossing, before the
shrine, got no help from that quarter either, and at
last shambled disconsolately down the hillside,
crooning an unintelligible song to himself.
Kitty, looking at Chester, saw with surprise that
his face was rigid with disgust ; he looked as if he
were trying not to shudder.
" How you hate them, Nicky," she said curiously.
He said " I do," grimly, and spoke of something
But a little later he said abruptly, " I've never
told you much about my people, Kitty, have I, or
what are called my early years ? "
' You wouldn't, of course," she replied, " any
more than I should. We're neither of us much in-
terested in the past ; you live in the future, and I
live in the present moment. . . . But I should be
interested to hear, all the same."
" That imbecile reminded me," Chester said
grimly. " I had a twin sister like that, and a brother
not very far removed from it. You know that, of
course ; but you'll never know, no one can ever
know who's not experienced it, what it was like.
186 WHAT NOT
... At first, when I began to do more than just
accept it as part of things as they were, it only made
me angry that such things should be possible, and
frightfully sorry for Joan and Gerald, who had to go
about like that, so little use to themselves or any-
one else, and so tiresome to me and Maggie (she's
my eldest sister ; I'd like you to meet her one day).
I remember even consulting Maggie as to whether
it wouldn't be a good thing to take them out into a
wood and lose them, like the babes in the wood. I
honestly thought it would be for their own good ;
I knew I should have preferred it if I had been them.
But Maggie didn't agree ; she took a more patient
line about it than I did ; she always does. Then, as
I grew older, I became angry with my parents, who
had no right, of course, to have had any children at
all ; they were first cousins, and deficiency was in the
family. ... It was that that first set me thinking
about the whole subject. I remember I asked my
father once, when I was about seventeen, how he
had reconciled it with his conscience (he was a dean
at that time) to do such a thing. I must have been
an irritating young prig, of course ; in fact, I re-
member that I was. He very properly indicated to
me that I was stepping out of my sphere in ques-
tioning him on such a point, and also that whatever
is must be sent by Providence, and therefore right.
I didn't drop it at once ; I remember I argued that
it hadn't " been " and therefore had not neces-
sarily been right, until he and my mother made it
THE COMMON HERD 187
so ; but he closed the conversation ; quite time too,
I suppose. It was difficult to argue with my father
in those days ; it's easier now, though not really
easy. I think the reduction of the worldly condition
of bishops has been good for him ; it has put him
in what I suppose is called a state of grace. I don't
believe he'd do it now, if he lived his life again.
However, he did do it, and the result was two
deficient children and one who grew up loathing
stupidity in the way some few people (conceivably)
loathe vice, when they've been brought into close
contact with its effects. It became an obsession
with me ; I seemed to see it everywhere, spoiling
everything, blocking every path, tying everyone's
hands. The Boer war happened while I was at
school. . . . Good Lord. . . . Then I went to Cam-
bridge, and it was there that I really began to think
the thing seriously out. What has always bothered
me about it is that human beings are so astound-
ingly clever ; miraculously clever, if you come to
think of it, and compare us with the other animals,
so like us in lots of ways. The things we've done ;
the animal state we've grown out of ; the things
we've discovered and created it makes one's head
reel. And if we can be clever like that, why not be
a little cleverer still ? Why be so abysmally stupid
about many things ? The waste of it. ... The
world might get anywhere if we really developed
our powers to their full extent. But we always slip
up somewhere : nothing quite comes off as it should.
i88 WHAT NOT
Think of all these thousands of years of house-
managing, and the reaJly clever arrangements which
have been made in connection with it and then
visit a set of cottages and see the mess ; a woman
trying to cook food and clean the house and look
after children and wash clothes, all by hand, and
with the most inadequate contrivances for any of
it. Why haven't we thought of some way out of
that beastly, clumsy squalor and muddle yet ? And
why do houses built and fitted like some of those
still exist ? If we're clever enough to have in-
vented and built houses at all, why not go one better
and do it properly ? It's the same with everything.
Medical science, for instance. The advances it's
made fill one with amaze and admiration ; but why
is there still disease ? And why isn't there a cure
for every disease ? And why do doctors fail so hope-
lessly to diagnose anything a little outside their
ordinary beat ? There it is ; we've been clever
about it in a way, but nothing like clever enough,
or as clever as we've got to be before we've done.
The same with statesmanship and government ;
only there we've very seldom been clever at all ;
that's still to come. And our educational system
... oh Lord. ... The mischief is that people in
general don't want other people to become too clever ;
it wouldn't suit their turn. So the popular instinct
for mucking along, for taking things as you find
them (and leaving them there), the popular taste
for superficial twaddle in literature and politics and
THE COMMON HERD 189
science and art and religion is pandered to on its
own level. . . .
" But I didn't mean to go off on to all this ; I
merely meant to tell you what first started me think-
ing of these things."
" Go on," said Kitty. " I like it. It makes me
feel at home, as if I was sitting under you at a
meeting. . . . What I infer is that if your parents
hadn't been first cousins and had deficiency in their
family, there would have been no Ministry of Brains.
I expect your father was right, and whatever is is
best. ... Of course the interesting question is,
what would happen if ever we were much cleverer
than we are now ? What would happen, that is,
besides houses being better managed and disease
better treated and locomotion improved and books
better written or not written at all, and all that ?
What would happen to nations and societies and
governments, if people in general became much more
intelligent ? I can't imagine. But I think there'd
be a jolly old row. . . . Perhaps we shall know
"No," said Chester. " \Ve shan't know that.
There may be a jolly old row ; I daresay there will ;
but it won't be because people have got too clever ;
it will be because they haven't got clever enough.
It'll be the short-sighted stupidity of people revolt-
ing against their ultimate good."
" As it might be you and me."
" Precisely. As it might be you and me. . . .
igo WHAT NOT
What we're doing is horribly typical, Kitty. Don't
let's ever blind ourselves to its nature. WV11 do it,
because we think it's worth it ; but we'll do it with
our eyes open. Thank heaven we're both clear-
headed and hard-headed enough to know what
we're doing and not to muddle ourselves with cant
about it. ... That's one of the things that I sup-
pose. I love you for, my dear your clear-headedness.
You never muddle or cant or sentimentalise. You're
hard-headed and clear-eyed."
" In fact, cynical," said Kitty.
" Yes. Rather cynical. Unnecessarily cynical, I
think. You could do with some more faith."
" Perhaps I shall catch some from you. You've
got lots, haven't you ? As the husband is the wife
is ; I am mated to, etc. . . . And you're a lot
cleverer than I am, so you're most likely right. . . .
We're awfully different, Nicky, my love, aren't
" No doubt we are. Who isn't ? "
For a while they lay silent in the warm sweetness
of the hill-top, while the golden light slipped from
them, leaving behind it the pure green stillness of
the evening ; and they looked at one another and
speculated on the strange differences of human
beings each from each, and the mystery of person-
ality, that tiny point on to which all the age-long
accumulated forces of heredity press, so that you
would suppose that the world itself could not con-
tain them, and yet they are contained in one small,
THE COMMON HERD 191
ordinary soul, which does not break under the
So they looked at one another, speculating, until
speculation faded into seeing, and instead of person-
alities they became to one another persons, and
Chester saw Kitty red-lipped and golden-eyed and
black-lashed and tanned a smooth nut-brown by
sun and sea, and Kitty saw Chester long and lean
and sallow, with black brows bent over deep, keen,
dreaming eyes, and lips carrying their queer sugges-
tion of tragedy and comedy.
" Isn't it fun," said Kitty, " that you are you and
I am I ? I think it must be (don't you ?) the greatest
fun that ever was since the world began. That's
what I think . . . and everywhere millions of
people are thinking exactly the same. We're part
of the common herd, Nicky the very, very com-
monest herd of all herds. I think I like it rather
being so common, I mean. It's amusing. Don't
you ? "
" Yes," he said, and smiled at her. " I think I do."
Still they lay there, side by side, in the extra-
ordinary hushed sweetness of the evening. Kitty's
cheek was pressed against short warm grass. Close
to her ear a cicale chirped, monotonously bright ;
far off, from every hill, the frogs began their evening
Kitty, as she sometimes did, seemed to slip sud-
denly outside the circle of the present, of her own
life and the life around her ; far off she saw it, a
192 WHAT NOT
queer little excited corner of the universe, where
people played together and were happy, where the
funny world spun round and round and laughed and
cried and ran and slept and loved and hated, and
everything mattered intensely, and yet, as seen
from outside the circle, did not matter at all. . . .
She felt like a soul unborn, or a soul long dead,
watching the world's antics with a dispassionate,
compassionate interest. . . .
The touch of Chester's hand on her cheek brought
her back abruptly into the circle again.
" Belovedest," he said, " let's come down the niil.
The light is going."
One day they had a shock ; they met someone
they knew. They met him in the sea ; at least he
was in a boat and they were in the sea. They were
swimming a mile from shore, in a pearl-smooth,
golden sea, in the eye of the rising sun. Half a mile
out from them a yacht lay, as idle as a painted ship
upon a painted ocean. From the yacht a boat shot
out, rowed by a man. It shot between the swimmers
and the rising sun. Chester and Kitty were lying
on their backs, churning up the sun's path of gold
with their feet, and Kitty was singing a little song
that Greek goat-herds sing on the hills above
Corinth in the mornings.
Leaning over the side and resting on his oars, the
man in the boat shouted, " Hullo, Chester ! "
THE COMMON HERD 193
An electric shock stabbed Kitty through at the
voice, which was Vernon Prideaux's. Losing her
nerve, her head, and her sense of the suitable, she
splashed round on to her chest, kicked herself
forward, and dived like a porpoise, travelling as
swiftly as she could from Chester, Prideaux, and the
situation. When she came up it was with a splutter,
because she had laughed. Glancing backwards over
her shoulder, she saw Chester swimming towards
the boat. What would he say ? Would he speak
<-\ r her, or wrap her in discreet silence ? And had
Prideaux recognised her or not ?
" Lunatic," said Kitty. " Of course he did. I
'<ave taken the worst way, in my excitement."
Promptly she retraced her path, this time on the
water's surface, and hailed Prideaux as she came.
" Hullo, Vernon. The top of the morning to you.
I thought I'd show you I could dive. . . . What
brings you here ? Oh the yacht, of course. ..."
She paused, wondering what was to be their line,
then struck one out on her own account. " Isn't it
odd ; Mr. Chester and I are both staying near here."
Prideaux's keen, well-bred, perfectly courteous
face looked for one moment as if it certainly was a
little odd ; then he swallowed his surprise.
" Are you ? It's a splendid coast, isn't it ?
Cogoleto in there, I suppose ? We're not stopping
at all, unfortunately ; we're going straight on to
Genoa. . . . I'm coming in."
He dived neatly from the bows, with precision
I 9 4 WHAT NOT
and power, as he wrote minutes, managed deputa-
tions, ignored odd situations, and did everything
else. One was never afraid with Prideaux ; one
could rely on him not to bungle.
They bathed together and conversed, till Kitty
said she must go in, and swam shoreward in the
detached manner of one whose people are expecting
her to breakfast. Soon afterwards she saw that
Prideaux was pulling back to the yacht, and Chester
swimming westward, as if he were staying at Varazze.
" Tact," thought Kitty. " This, I suppose, is
how people behave while conducting a vulgar in-
trigue. Ours is a vulgar marriage ; there doesn't
seem much difference. ... I rather wish we could
have told Vernon all about it ; he's safe enough,
and I should like to have heard his comments and
seen his face. How awful he would think us. ...
I don't know anyone who would disapprove more.
. . . Well, I suppose it's more interesting than a
marriage which doesn't have to be kept dark, but
it's much less peaceful."
They met at the inn, at breakfast.
" Did you have to swim right across the bay,
darling ? " Kitty enquired. " I'm so sorry. By the
way, I noticed that Vernon never asked either of us
where we were staying, nor invited us to come and
visit the yacht. Do you suppose he believed a word
we said ? "
Chester lifted his eyebrows. " His mental cate-
gory is A, I believe," he replied.
THE COMMON HERD 195
" Well," said Kitty, " anyhow he can't know
we're married, even if he does think we've arranged
to meet here. And Vernon's very discreet ; he
Chester ate a roll and a half in silence. Then he
remarked, without emotion, " Kitty, this thing is
going to come out. We may as well make up our
minds to it. We shall go on meeting people, and
they won't all be discreet. It will come out, as
certainly as flowers in spring, or the Clyde engineers
They faced one another in silence for a moment
across the coffee and rolls. Then, because there
seemed nothing else which could meet the situation,
they both began to laugh helplessly.
Three days later they returned to England, by
A MINISTRY AT BAY
THAT autumn was a feverish period in the Ministry's
career. Many persons have been called upon, for
one cause or another, to wait in nervous anticipa-
tion hour by hour for the signal which shall herald
their own destruction. Thus our ancestors at the
latter end of the tenth century waited expectantly
for the crack of doom ; but the varying emotions
with which they awaited it can only be guessed at.
More vivid to the mind and memory are the expectant
and waiting first days, of August, 1914. On the
other hand, the emotions of cabinets foreseeing
their own resignation, of the House of Lords antici-
pating abolition, of criminals awaiting sentence, of
newspapers desperately staving off extinction, of the
crews of foundered ships struggling to keep afloat,
of government departments anticipating their own
untimely end, are mysteries veiled from the outside
world, sacred ground which may not be trodden by
The Ministry of Brains that autumn was fighting
hard and gallantly for its life. It was an uphill
A MINISTRY AT BAY 197
struggle ; Sisyphus pushing up the mountain the
stone of human perverseness, human stupidity,
human self-will, which threatened all the time to
roll back and grind him to powder. Concessions
were made here, pledges given there (even, here or
there, occasionally fulfilled) . New Instructions were
issued daily, old ones amended or withdrawn, far-
reaching and complicated arrangements made with
various groups and classes of people, " little minis-
tries " set up all over the country to administrate
the acts regionally, soothing replies and promises
dropped like leaves in autumn by the Parliamentary
Secretary, to be gathered up, hoarded, and brooded
over in many a humble, many a stately home. It
is superfluous to recapitulate these well-worn, oft-
enacted, pathetic incidents of a tottering ministry.
Ministries, though each with a special stamp in
hours of ease, are all much alike when pain and
anguish wring their brows. With arts very similar
each to other they woo a public uncertain, coy and
hard to please ; a public too ready to believe the
worst of them, too pitiless and unimaginative
towards their good intentions, too extreme to mark
what is done amiss, too loth to admit success, too
ready to condemn failure without measuring the
strength of temptation.
Ministries have a bitter time ; their hand is
against every man and every man's hand against
them. For their good men return them evil and for
their evil no good. And let it not be forgotten
ig8 WHAT NOT
they are really, with all their faults, more intelligent,
and fuller of good intentions, than the vast majority
of their critics. The critics cry aloud " Get rid of
them," without always asking themselves who would
do the job any better, always providing it has to be
done. In the case of the Ministry of Brains, the
majority of the public saw no reason why the job
should be done at all, which complicated matters. It
was like the Directorate of Recruiting during the war,
or the Censor's office, or the Ministry of Food ; not
merely its method but its function was unwelcome.
As most men did not want to be recruited by law,
or to have their reading or their diet regulated by
law, so they did not want to be made intelligent by
law. All these things might be, and doubtless were,
for the ultimate good of the nation, but all were in-
convenient at the moment, and when ultimate good
(especially not necessarily one's own good) and
immediate convenience come to blows, it is not
usually ultimate good which wins.
So the Ministry of Brains, even more than other
ministries, was fighting against odds. Feverish
activity prevailed, in all departments. From
morning till night telephones telephoned, clerks
wrote, typists typed against time, deputations
deputed, committees committeed, officials conferred
with each other, messengers ran to and fro with
urgent minutes and notes by hand. Instructions and
circular letters poured forth, telegrams were de~
spatched in hot haste to the local Ministries and to
A MINISTRY AT BAY 199
the Brains Representatives on the local tribunals,
the staff arrived early and stayed late, and often
came on Sundays as well, and grew thin and
dyspeptic and nervy and irritable.
Even Ivy Delmer grew pale and depressed, not so
much from official strain as from private worries.
These she confided one day to Kitty, who had got
transferred back to headquarters, through a little
quiet wire-pulling (it is no use being married to a
Minister if little things like that cannot easily be
arranged), and was now working in her old branch.
They were travelling together one Monday morning
up from Little Chantreys.
" Now I ask you, Miss Grammont, what would
you do ? I'm 63 and he's Ci (I'm certain they've
classified him wrong, because he's not a bit stupid
really, not the way some men are, you know, he's
jolly clever at some things ideas, and that), but of
course it's against the regulations for us to marry
each other. And yet we care for each other, and we
both of us feel we always shall. And we neither of
us want a bit to marry an A person, besides, I don't
suppose an A would ever think of us in that way,
you know what I mean, Miss Grammont, don't
laugh, and to give each other up would mean spoiling
both our lives. . . . Yet I suppose everyone would
think it awfully wrong if we got regularly engaged,
200 WHAT NOT
and me working at the Ministry too. I suppose I
ought to leave it really, feeling the way I do. . . .
The fact is, I've come to feel very differently about
the Ministry, now I've thought it more over, and
you'll be horrified, I know but I'm not at all sure
I approve of it."
" Good gracious no," Kitty said. " I never ap-
prove of any Ministries. That isn't what one feels
for them. Sympathy ; pity ; some affection, even ;
but approval no."
: ' Well, you see what I mean, it's all very well in
theory, but I do honestly know so many people
whose lives have been upset and spoilt by it and it
does seem hard. Heaps of people in Little Chantreys
alone ; of course we come across them rather a lot,
because they tell father and mother about it. ...
And all the poor little deserted babies. ... Oh I
suppose it's all right. . . . But I'm feeling a bit off
it just now. . . . Now I ask you, feeling as I do
about it, and meaning to do what I'm going to do
(at least we hope we're going to do it sometime),
ought I to go on at the Ministry ? Is it honest ?
Would you, Miss Grammont ? "
Kitty blushed faintly, to her own credit and a
little to Ivy's surprise. She did not associate blush-
ing with Miss Grammont, and anyhow there seemed
no occasion for it just now.
" Well, yes, I think I would. I don't see that
you're called on to give it up unless, of course,
you hate it, and want to. ... After all", one would
A MINISTRY AT BAY 201
very seldom stick to any work at all if one felt
obliged to approve entirely of it. No, I don't think
there's much in that."
' You truly don't ? Well, I expect I'll carry on
for a bit, then. I'd rather, in one way, of course,
especially as we shall need all the money we can get
if we ever do marry. Not that I'm saving ; I spend
every penny I get, I'm afraid. But of course it takes
me off father's hands. . . . Don't you feel, Miss
Grammont, that all this interference with people's
private lives is a mistake ? It's come home to me
awfully strongly lately. Only when I read the
Minister's speeches I change my mind again ; he
puts it so rippingly, and makes me feel perhaps
I'm being simply a selfish little beast. I don't
care what anybody says about him, I think he's
" I suppose he is," said Kitty.
" My word, he jolly well would, despise me if he
knew, wouldn't he ? "
" Well ..." said Kitty. And perhaps it was
well that at that moment they reached Maryle-
That conversation was typical, even as Ivy
Delmer's standpoint was itself typical, of a large
body of what, for lack of a better name, we must
call thought, all over the country. Laws were all
very well in theory, or when they only disarranged
the lives of others, but when they touched and dis-
organised one's own life hands off. Was the only
202 WHAT NOT
difference between such as Ivy Delmer and such as
Nicholas Chester that Ivy deceived herself (" It's
not that I care a bit for myself, but it's the principle
of the thing ") and that Chester fell with open eyes ?
Which was perhaps as much as to say that Ivy was
classified 63 and Chester A.
All over the country people were saying, accord-
ing to their different temperaments, one or another
of these things. " Of course I don't care for myself,
but I think the system is wrong," or (the other way
round) " It may be all right in theory, but I'm jolly
well not going to stand being inconvenienced by it,"
or " I'm not going to stand it and it's all wrong."
Of course there were also those more public-spirited
persons who said, " It's a splendid system and I'm
going to fall in with it," or " Though it's a rotten
system I suppose we must put up with it." But
these were the minority.
Up till November the campaign against the Brains
Ministry was quite impersonal, merely resentment
against a system. It was led, in the Press, by the
Labour papers, which objected to compulsion, by
the Nation, which objected to what it, rightly or
wrongly, called by that much-abused name, Prus-
sianism, by the New Witness, which objected to
interference with the happy stupidity of merry
Gentiles (making them disagreeably clever like
A MINISTRY AT BAY 203
Jews), and by Stop It, which objected to every-
thing. It was supported by the more normal organs
of opinion of the kind which used before and during
the war to be called conservative and liberal. And, of
course, through thick and thin, by the Hidden Hand.
But in the course of November a new element
came into the attack the personal element. Certain
sections of the Press which supported the Ministry
began to show discontent with the Minister. The
Times began to hint guardedly that new blood
might perhaps be desirable in certain quarters. The
Daily Mail, in its rounder and directer manner,
remarked in large head-lines that " Nicky is played
out." Ministers have to bear these intimations
about themselves as they walk about London ;
fleeing from old gentlemen selling the Daily Mail
outside Cox's, Chester was confronted in the Strand
by the Herald remarking very loudly " CHESTER
MUST GO." And then (but this was later) by the
Patriot, which was much, much worse.
The Patriot affair was* different from the others.
The Patriot was, in fact, a different paper. The
Patriot had the personal, homely touch ; it dealt
faithfully not only with the public misdemeanours
of prominent persons, but with the scandals of their
private lives. It found things out. It abounded in
implications and references, arch and jocose in
manner and not usually discreet in matter. The
Patriot had been in the law courts many times, but
as it remarked, " We are not afraid of prosecution."
204 WHAT NOT
It had each week a column of open letters adHressed
to persons of varying degrees of prominence, in
which it told them what it thought of them. The
weak point of these letters was that the Patriot was
not a paper which was read by persons of promi-
nence ; its readers were the obscure and simple,
who no doubt extracted much edification from them.
Its editor was a Mr. Percy Jenkins, a gentleman of
considerable talents, and, it was said, sufficient per-
sonal charm to be useful to him. What he lacked in
aesthetic taste he made up in energy and patriotism,
and the People hailed him affectionately as the
People's friend. Throughout October Mr. Jenkins
suffered apparently from a desire to have a personal
interview with the Minister of Brains. He ad-
dressed private letters to him, intimating this desire ,
which were answered by his secretary in a chilly
negative strain. He telephoned, enquiring when, if at
all, he could have the pleasure of seeing the Minister,
and was informed that the Minister had, unfortu-
nately, no time for pleasures just now. He called at
the Ministry and sent up his card, but was told that, as
he had no appointment it was regretted that he could
not penetrate further into the Ministry than the
waiting-room. He called in the evening at the
Minister's private address, but found him engaged.
After that, however, the Minister apparently
relented, for Mr. Jenkins received a letter from his
secretary informing him that, if he wished to see
the Minister, he might call at his house at 9.30 p.m.
A MINISTRY AT BAY 205
on the following Monday. Mr. Jenkins did so. He
was shown into the Minister's study. Chester was
sitting by the fire, reading Tales of my Grandfather.
He was never found writing letters, as one might
expect a public man to be found ; his secretary
wrote all his official letters, and his unofficial letters
were not written at all, Chester being of the opinion
that if you leave the letters you receive long enough
they answer themselves.
Mr. Jenkins, having been invited to sit down,
did so, and said, " Very kind of you to give me this
Chester did not commit himself, however, to any
further kindness, but said stiffly, " I have very little
time. I am, as you see, occupied " he indicated
Tales of my Grandfather " and I shall be glad if
you will state your business at once, sir, and as
plainly as you can."
Mr. Jenkins murmured pleasantly, " Well, we
needn't be blunt, exactly. . . . But you are quite
right, sir ; I have business. As you are no doubt
aware, I edit a paper the Patriot it is possible
that you are acquainted with it."
" On the contrary," said Chester, " such an ac-
quaintance would be quite impossible. But I have
heard of it. I know to what paper you refer. Please
" Everybody," retorted Mr. Jenkins, a little nettled,
" does not find close acquaintance with the Patriot
at all impossible. Its circulation ..."
206 WHAT NOT
" We need not, I think, have that, Mr. Jenkins.
Will you kindly go on with your business ? "
Mr. Jenkins shrugged his shoulders.
" Your time appears to be extremely limited,
" All time," returned the Minister, relapsing, as
was often his habit, into metaphysics, " is limited.
Limits are, in fact, what constitute time. What
' extremely limited ' may mean, I cannot say. But
if you mean that I desire this interview to be short,
you are correct."
Mr. Jenkins hurried on.
" The Patriot, as you may have heard, sir, deals
with truth. Its aim is to disseminate correct in-
formation with regard to all matters, public and
private. This, I may say, it is remarkably success-
ful in doing. Well, Mr. Chester, as of course you are
aware, the public are very much interested in your-
self. There is no one at the present moment who
is more to the fore, or if I may say so, more dis-
cussed. Naturally, therefore, I should be glad if I
could provide some items of public interest on this
subject, and I should be very grateful for any assist-
ance you could give me. . . . Now, Mr. Chester, I
have heard lately a very interesting piece of news
about you. People are saying that you are being
seen a great deal in the company of a certain lady."
" Go on," said Chester.
" It has even been said," continued Mr. Jenkins,
A MINISTRY AT BAY 207
" that you have been seen staying in the country
together . . . alone together, that is ... for week-
ends. . . ."
" Go on," said Chester.
Mr. Jenkins went on. " Other things are said ;
but I daresay they are mere rumour. Queer things
get said about public men. I met someone the other
day who lives in Buckinghamshire, somewhere in
the Chilterns, and who has a curious and no doubt
entirely erroneous idea about you. . . . Well, in
the interests of the country, Mr. Chester (I have the
welfare of the Ministry of Brains very much at heart,
I may say ; I am entirely with you in regarding
intelligence as the Coming Force) , I should like to be
in a position to discredit these rumours. If you
won't mind my saying so, they tell against you very
seriously. You see, it is generally known that you
are uncertificated for matrimony and' parentage, if
I may mention it. And once people get into their
heads the idea that, while forcing these laws on
others, you are evading them yourself . . . well,
you may imagine it might damage your work con-
siderably. You and I, Mr. Chester, know what
the public are. ... I should be glad to have
your authority to contradict these rumours, there-
Chester said, " Certainly. You may contradict
anything you please. I shall raise no objection. Is
that all ? "
208 WHAT NOT
Mr. Jenkins hesitated. " I cannot, of course,
contradict the rumours without some assurance
that they are false. ..."
They had an interesting conversation on this topic
for ten minutes more, which I do not intend to
record in these pages.
So many conversations are, for various reasons,
not recorded. Conversations, for instance, at
Versailles, when the allied powers of the world sit
together there behind impenetrable curtains, through
the rifts of which only murmurs of the unbroken
harmony which always prevails between allies steal
through to a waiting world. Conversations between
M. Trotzky and representatives of the German
Government before the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.
Conversations between the President of the Board
of Trade and the Railway Companies when the price
of travel is being increased ; between governments
and capitalists when elections are to be fought or
newspapers to be bought ; between Jane Austen's
heroes and heroines in the hour when their passion
For quite different reasons, all these conversations
are left to the imagination, and I propose to leave
to the same department of the reader's mind the
interview between Mr. Percy Jenkins and the
Minister of Brains. I will merely mention that the
talking was, for the most part, done by Mr. Jenkins.
A MINISTRY AT BAY 209
The reasons for this were two. One was that
Mr. Jenkins was a fluent talker, and the Minister
capable of a taciturnity not invariably to be
found in our statesmen. Both have their uses in
the vicissitudes of public life. Both can be, if
used effectively, singularly baffling to those who
would probe the statesman's mind and purposes.
But fluency is, to most (it would seem) the easier
Anyhow this was how the Patriot campaign
started. It began with an Open Letter.
" To the Minister of Brains.
" Dear Mr. Nicholas Chester,
"There is a saying ' Physician, heal thyself.'
There is also, in the same book (a book which,
coming of clerical, even episcopal, parentage, you
should be acquainted with), ' Cast out the beam
which is in thine own eye, and then thou shalt see
more plainly to pull out the mote which is in thy
brother's eye.' We will on this , occasion say no
more than that we advise you to take heed to these
sayings before you issue many more orders relating
to matrimony and such domestic affairs. And yet a
third saying, ' Can the blind lead the blind ? Shall
2io WHAT NOT
they not both fall into the ditch ? ' you would do
well to ponder in your heart."
That was all, that week. But it was enough to
start speculation and talk among the Patriot's
readers. Next week and other weeks there were
further innuendoes, and more talk. One week there
v/as a picture of Chester with several unmistakable,
but also unmistakably deficient, little Chesters
clinging to his coat. This picture was called " Fol-
lowing the dear old dad. What we may expect to
see in the near future."
Mr. Percy Jenkins knew his business. And,
during his interview with the Minister of Brains, he
had conceived an extreme dislike towards him.
" He'll feel worse before I've done with him,"
Chester said to Kitty. They were sitting together
on Kitty's sofa, with a copy of the Patriot between
them. Kitty was now alone in her flat, her cousin
having suddenly taken it into her head to get
" I always said it would come out," was Kitty's
reply. " And now you see."
" Of course I knew it would come out," Chester
said calmly. " It was bound to. However, it
hasn't yet. All this is mere talk. It's more often-
A MINISTRY AT RAY 211
sive, but not really so serious, as the Labour attacks
on the Ministry, and the Stop It campaign, and the
cry for a Business Government. Business Govern-
ment, indeed ! The last word in inept futility. ..."
" All the same," Kitty said, rather gravely, " you
and I have got to be rather more careful, Nicky.
We've been careful, I think, but not enough, it
" There's no such thing," said Chester, who was
tired, " as being careful enough, in this observant
world, when one is doing wrong. You can be too
careful (don't let's, by the way) but you can't be
But Chester did not really see Kitty very often in
these days, because he had to see and confer with
so many others the Employers' Federation, and
the Doctors, and the Timber Cutters, and the
Worsted Industries, and the Farmers, and the Cotton
Spinners, and the Newspaper Staffs, and the Church,
and the Parents, and the Ministerial Council, and
the Admiralty, and the Board of Education, and
the War Office, and the Ministry of Reconstruc-
tion, and the Directorate of Propaganda. And the
It is much to be hoped that conferences are use-
ful ; if they are not, it cannot, surely, be from lack
212 WHAT NOT
Prideaux also, and the other heads of sections, on
their humbler scale received deputations and con-
ferred. Whether or not it was true to say of the
Ministry (and to do Ministries justice, these state-
ments are usually not true) that it did not try to
enter sympathetically into the difficulties and
grievances of the public, it is anyhow certain that
the difficulties and grievances entered into the
Ministry, from 9.30 a.m. until 7 p.m. After 7 no
more difficulties were permitted to enter, but the
higher staff remained often till late into the night to
grapple with those already there.
Meanwhile the government laid pledges in as many
of the hands held out to them as they could. Pledges,
in spite of a certain boomerang quality possessed
by them, are occasionally useful things. They have
various aspects ; when you give them, they mean
a little anger averted, a little content generated, a
little time gained. When you receive them, they
mean, normally, that others will (you hope) be
compelled to do something disagreeable before you
are. When others receive them, they mean that
there is unfair favouritism. When (or if) you fulfil
them, they mean that you are badly hampered
thereby in the competent handling of your job.
When you break them, they mean trouble. And
when you merely hear about them from the outside
they mean a moral lesson that promises should
be kept if made, but certainly never, never
A MINISTRY AT BAY 213
It is very certain, anyhow, that the Ministry of
Brains made at this time too many. No Ministry
could have kept so many. There was, for instance,
the Pledge to the Married Women, that the un-
married women should be called up for their Mind
Training Course before they were. There was the
Pledge to the Mining Engineers, that unskilled
labour should take the Course before skilled. There
was the Pledge to the Parents of Five, that, how-
ever high the baby taxes were raised, the parents of
six would always have to pay more on each baby.
There was the Pledge to the Deficient, that they
would not have to take the Mind Training Course
at all. This last pledge was responsible for much
agitation in Parliament. Distressing cases of
imbeciles harried and bullied by the local Brains
Boards were produced and enquired into. (Ques-
tion, " Is it not the case that the Ministry of Brains
has become absolutely soulless in this matter of
harrying the Imbecile ? " Answer, " I have received
no information to that effect." Question, " Are
enquiries being made into the case of the deficient
girl at Perivale Halt who was rejected three times
as unfit for the Course and finally examined again
and passed, and developed acute imbecility and
mumps half-way through the Course ? " Answer,
" Enquiries are being made." And so on, and so on,
and so on.)
But, in the eyes of the general public, the chief
testimony to the soullcssness of the Ministry was
214 WHAT NOT
its crushing and ignoring of the claims of the human
heart. What could one say of a Ministry who
deliberately and coldly stood between lover and
lover, and dug gulfs between parent and unborn
child, so that the child was either never born at all,
or abandoned, derelict, when born, to the tender
mercies of the state, or retained and paid for so
heavily by fine or imprisonment that the parents
might well be tempted to wonder whether after all
the unfortunate infant was worth it ?
" Him to be taxed ! " an indignant parent would
sometimes exclaim, admiring her year-old infant's
obvious talents. " Why he's as bright as anything.
Just look at him. . . . And little Albert next door,
what his parents got a big bonus for, so as you could
hear them for a week all down the street drinking
it away, he can't walk yet, nor hardly look up when
spoke to. Deficient, / calls him. It isn't fair deal-
ing, no matter what anyone says."
" All the same," said Nicholas Chester to his
colleagues, " there appears to me to be a consider-
ably higher percentage of intelligent looking infants
of under three years of age than there were for-
merly. Intelligent looking, that is to say, for
infants. Infants, of course, are not intelligent
creatures. Their mental level is low. But I observe
a distinct improvement."
A distinct improvement was, in fact, discernible.
But, among the Great Unimproved, and among
those who did not want improvement, discontent
A MINISTRY AT BAY 215
grew and spread ; the slow, aggrieved discontent of
the stupid, to whom personal freedom is as the breath
of life, to whom the welfare of the race is as an idle,
intangible dream, not worth the consideration of
practical men and women.
THE STORMING OF THE HOTEL
IN December Dora did a foolish thing. It is needless
to say that she did other foolish things in other
months ; it is to be feared that she had been born
before the Brains Acts ; her mental category must
be well below 3. But this particular folly is
selected for mention because it had a disastrous
effect on the already precarious destiny of the
Ministry of Brains. Putting out a firm and practised
hand, she laid it heavily and simultaneously upon
four journals who were taking a rebellious attitude
towards the Brains Act the Nation, Stop' It, the
Herald, and the Patriot. Thus she angered at one
blow considerable sections of the Thoughtful, the
Advanced, the Workers (commonly but erroneously
known as the proletariat) and the Vulgar.
" Confound the fools," as Chester bitterly re-
marked ; but the deed was then done.
" How long," Vernon Prideaux asked, " will it
take governments to learn that revolutionary
propaganda disseminated all over the country don't
do as much harm as this sort of action ? "
THE STORMING OF THE HOTEL 217
Chester was of opinion that, give the Ministry of
Brains its chance, let it work for, say, fifty years,
and even governments might at the end of that
time have become intelligent enough to acquire
such elementary pieces of knowledge. If only the
Ministry were given its chance, if it could weather
the present unrest, let the country get used to it. ...
Custom : that was the great thing. People settled
down under things at last. All sorts of dreadful
things. Education, vaccination, taxation, sanita-
tion, representation. ... It was only a question
of getting used to them.
Though the authorities were prepared for trouble,
they did not foresee the events of Boxing-day, that
strange day in the history of the Ministry.
The Ministry were so busy that many of the staff
took no holiday beyond Christmas Day itself. Bank
Holidays are, as everyone who has tried knows, an
excellent time for working in one's office, because
there are no interruptions from the outside world,
no telephoning, no visitors, no registry continually
sending up incoming correspondence. The clamor-
ous, persistent public fade away from sound and
sight, and ministries are left undistracted, to deal
with them for their good in the academic seclusion
of the office. If there was in this world an eternal
Bank Holiday (some, but with how little reason,
say that this awaits us in heaven) ministries would
2 i8 WHAT NOT
thrive better ; governing would then become like
pure mathematics, an abstract science unmarred
by the continual fret and jar of contact with human
demands, which drag them so roughly, so continu-
ally, down to earth.
On Boxing Day the Minister himself worked all
day, and about a quarter of the higher staff were in
their places. But by seven o'clock only the Minister
remained, talking to Prideaux in his room.
The procession, at first in the form of four clouds
each no bigger than a man's hand, trailed from out
the north, south, east and west, and coalesced in
Trafalgar Square. From there it marched down
Whitehall to Westminster, and along the Embank-
ment. It seemed harmless enough ; a holiday
crowd of men and women with banners, like the
people who used to want Votes, or Church Dis-
establishment, or Peace, or Cheap Food. The chief
difference to be observed between this and those
old processions was that a large number in this pro-
cession seemed to fall naturally and easily into step,
and marched in time, like soldiers. This was a
characteristic now of most processions ; that
soldier's trick, once learnt, is not forgotten. It
might have set an onlooker speculating on the ad-
vantages and the dangers of a nation of soldiers,
that necessary sequence to an army of citizens.
The procession drew up outside the Ministry of
Brains, and resolved itself into a meeting. It was
addressed in a short and stirring speech from the
THE STORMING OF THE HOTEL 219
Ministry steps by the president of the Stop It
League, a fiery young man with a megaphone, who
concluded his remarks with " Isn't it up to all who
love freedom, all who hate tyranny, to lose no time,
but to wreck the place where these things are done ?
That's what we're here to do to-night to smash
up this hotel and show the government what the
men and women of England mean ! Come on,
boys ! "
Too late the watching policemen knew that this
procession and this meeting meant business, and
should be broken up.
The Minister and Prideaux listened, from an
open window, to the speaking outside. " Rendle,"
said Prideaux. " Scandalous mismanagement.
What have the police been about ? It's too late
now to do much. ... Do they know we are here,
by the way ? Probably not."
" They shall," replied Chester, and stepped out
on to the balcony.
There was a hush, then a tremendous shout.
" It's the Minister ! By God, it's Nicky Chester,
the man who's made all the trouble ! "
A voice rose above the rest.
" Quiet ! Silence ! Let him speak. Let's hear
what he's got to say for himself."
Silence came, abruptly ; the queer, awful, terri-
fying silence of a waiting crowd.
Into it Chester's voice cut, sharp and incisive.
" You fools. Get out of this and go home. Don't
220 WHAT NOT
you know that you're heading for serious trouble
that you'll find yourselves in prison for this ? Get
out before it's too late. That's all I have to say."
" That's all he's got to say," the crowd took it up
like a refrain. " That's all he's got to say, after all
the trouble he's made ! "
A suave, agreeable voice rose above the rest.
" That is not quite all he's got to say. There's
something else. He's got to answer two plain
questions. Number one : Are you certificated for
marriage, Mr. Chester, or have you got mental de-
ficiency in your family ? "
There was an instant's pause. Then the Minister,
looking down from the balcony at the upturned
faces, white in the cold moonlight, said, clearly,
" I am not certificated for marriage, owing to the
cause you mention."
" Thank you," said the voice. " Have you all
noted that, boys ? The Minister of Brains is not
certificated for marriage. He has deficiency in his
family. Now, Mr. Chester, question number two,
please. Am I correct in stating that you got
married last August ? "
" You are quite correct, Mr. Jenkins."
Chester heard beside him Prideaux's mutter
" Good God ! " and then, below him, broke the roar
of the crowd.
" Come on, boys ! " someone shouted. " Come
on and wreck the blooming show, and nab the
blooming showman before he slips off ! "
THE STORMING OF THE HOTEL 221
Men flung themselves up the steps and through
the big doors, and surged up the stairs.
' This," remarked Prideaux, " is going to be
some mess. I'll go and get Rendle to see sense, if
I can. He's leading them up the stairs, probably."
" I fancy that won't be necessary," said Chester.
" Rendle and his friends are coming in here, ap-
The door was burst open, and men rushed in.
Chester and Prideaux faced them, standing before
" You fools," Chester said again. " What good
do you think you're going to do yourselves by
this ? "
" Here he is, boys ! Here's Nicky Chester, the
married man ! "
Chester and Prideaux were surrounded and
" Don't hurt him," someone exhorted. " We'll
hang him out over the balcony and ask the boys
down there what to do with him."
They dragged him on to the balcony and swung
him over the rail, dangling him by a leg and an arm.
One of them shouted, " Here's the Minister, boys !
Here's Nicky, the Minister of Brains ! "
The crowd looked up and saw him, swinging in
mid air, and a great shout went up.
" Yes," went on the speaker from the balcony,
" Here's Nicky Chester, the man who dares to
dictate to the people of Britain who they may marry
222 WHAT NOT
and what kids they may have, and then goes and
gets married himself, breaking his own laws, and
hushes it up so that he thought it would never come
out." (" I always knew it would come out," the
Minister muttered, inarticulately protesting against
this estimate of his intelligence.) " But it 7ms come
out," the speaker continued. " And now what are
we to do with him, with this man who won't submit
to the laws he forces on other people ? This man
who dares to tell other people to bear what he won't
bear himself ? What shall we do with him ? Drop
him down into the street ? "
For a moment it seemed that the Minister's fate,
like himself, hung suspended.
They swung him gently to and fro, as if to get an
impetus. . . .
Then someone shouted, " We'll let him off this
time, as he's just married. Let him go home to his
wife, and not meddle with government any more ! "
The crowd rocked with laughter ; and in that
laughter, rough, good-humoured, scornful, the
Ministry of Brains seemed to dissolve.
They drew Chester in through the window again.
Someone said, " Now we'll set the blooming hotel
on fire. No time to waste, boys."
Chester and Prideaux were dragged firmly but
not unkindly down the stairs and out through the
door. Their appearance outside the building, each
pinioned by two stalwart ex-guardsmen, was hailed
by a shout, partly of anger, but three parts laughter.
THE STORMING OF THE HOTEL 223
To Chester it was the laughter, good-humoured,
stupid, scornful, of the British public at ideas, and
particularly at ideas which had failed. But in it,
sharp and stinging, was another, more contemptuous
laughter, levelled at a man who had failed to live
up to his own ridiculous ideas, the laughter of the
none too honest world, which yet respected honesty,
at the hypocrisy and double-dealing of others.
" They're quite right to laugh," thought Chester.
" It is funny : damned funny."
And at that, standing pinioned on the steps of his
discredited Ministry, looking down on the crowd of
the injured, contemptuous British public, who were
out to wreck the things he cared for, he began to
His laughter was naturally unheard, but they
saw his face, which should have been downcast and
ashamed, twist into his familiar, sad, cynical smile,
which all who had heard him on platforms knew.
" Laughing, are you," someone shouted thickly.
'' Laughing at the people you've tricked ! You've
ruined me and my missus taken every penny we
had, just because we had twins and you you
stand there and laugh ! You you bloody married
imbecile ! "
Lurching up the steps, he flung himself upon
Chester and wrenched him from the relaxed hold of
s captors. Struggling together, the Minister and
his assailant stumbled down the steps, and then fell
headlong among the public.
224 WHAT NOT
When the mounted police finally succeeded in
dispersing the crowd, the Ministry of Brains was in
flames, like Sodom and Gomorrah, those wicked
cities. Unlike Sodom and Gomorrah, the confla-
gration was at last quenched by a fire engine. But
far into the night the red wreckage blazed, testimony
to the wrath of a great people, to the failure of a
great idea, to the downfall of him who, whatever
the weakness he shared in common with the public
who downed him, was yet a great man.
CHESTER lay with a broken head and three smashed
ribs in his flat in Mount Street. He was nursed by
his elder sister Maggie, a kind, silent, plain person
with her brother's queer smile and more than his
cynical patience. With her patience took the form
of an infinite tolerance ; the tolerance of one who
looks upon all human things and sees that they are
not much good, nor likely to be. (Chester had not
his fair share of this patience : hence his hopes and
his faiths, and hence his downfall.) She was kind
to Kitty, whose acquaintance she now made. (The
majority of the Ministry of Brains staff were having
a short holiday, during the transference to other
Maggie said to Kitty, " I'm not surprised. It
was a lot to live up to. And it's not in our family,
living up to that. Perhaps not in any family. I'm
sorry for Nicky, because he'll mind."
She did not reproach Kitty ; she took her for
granted. Such incidents as Kitty were liable to
happen, even in the best regulated lives. When
226 WHAT NOT
Kitty reproached herself, saying, " I've spoilt his
life," she merely replied tranquilly, " Nicky lets
no one but himself spoil his life. When he's deter-
mined to do a thing, he'll do it." Nor did she
commit herself to any indication as to whether she
thought that what Nicky had gained would be likely
to compensate for what he had lost.
For about what he had lost there seemed no
doubt in anyone's mind. He had lost his reputa-
tion, his office, and, for the time being, his public
life. The Ministry of Brains might continue, would
in fact, weakly continue, without power and with-
out much hope, till it trailed into ignominious death ;
even the wrecked Hotel would continue, when re-
paired ; but it was not possible that Chester should
The first thing he did, in fact, when he could do
anything at all intelligent, was to dictate a letter to
the Ministerial Council tendering his resignation
from office. There are, of course, diverse styles
adopted by the writers of such letters. In the old
days people used to write (according to the peculiar
circumstances of their case)
" Dear Prime Minister,
" Though you have long and often tried to
dissuade me from this course . . . etc., etc. ... I
think you will hardly be surprised . . . deep regret
in severing the always harmonious connection
between us . .," and so forth.
, Or else quite otherwise
" Dear Prime Minister,
' You will hardly be surprised, I imagine,
after the strange occurrence of yesterday, when I
had the interest of reading in a daily paper the first
intimation that you desired a change at the Ministry
I have the honour to adorn. ..."
Neither of these styles was used by Chester, who
wrote briefly, without committing himself to any
opinion as to the probable surprise or otherwise of
the Ministerial Council
" Dear Sirs,
" I am resigning my office as Minister of
Brains, owing to facts of which you will have
doubtless heard, and which make it obviously un-
desirable for me to continue in the post."
Having done this, he lay inert through quiet,
snow-bound days and nights, and no one knew
whether or not he was going to recover.
After a time he asked after Prideaux, and they
told him Prideaux had not been hurt, only rumpled.
" He calls to ask after you pretty often," said
Kitty. " Would you like to see him sometime ?
When the doctor says you can ? "
" I don't care," Chester said. " Yes, I may as
228 WHAT NOT
So Prideaux came one afternoon (warned not to
be political or exciting) and it was a queer meeting
between him and Chester. Chester remembered the
last shocked words he had had from Prideaux
" Good God ! " and wondered, without interest,
what Prideaux felt about it all now.
But it was not Prideaux's way to show much of
what he felt.
They talked mainly of that night's happenings.
Chester had already had full reports of these ; of
the fire, of the fight between the police and the
crowd, in which several lives had been lost, of the
arrest of the ringleaders and their trials. To Chester's
own part in the proceedings they did not refer, till,
after a pause, Chester suddenly said, " I have been
wondering, but I can't make up my mind about it.
How much difference to the business did the dis-
covery about me make ? Would they have gone to
those lengths without it ? "
Prideaux was silent. He believed that Chester
that night on the balcony, had his hands been clean,
could have held the mob.
Chester interpreted the silence.
" I suppose they wouldn't," he said impassively.
" However, I fancy it only precipitated the catas-
trophe. The Ministry was down and under, in
any case. People were determined not to stand
laws that inconvenienced them as I was. I
was merely an example, not a cause, of that
That was the nearest he ever got with Prideaux to
discussion of his own action.
" Anyhow," said Prideaux sadly, " the Ministry
is down and under now. Imagine Frankie Lyle,
poor little beggar, trying to carry on, after all this ! ''
(This gentleman had been nominated as Chester's
Chester smiled faintly. " Poor little Frankie. . . .
I hear Monk wouldn't touch it, by the way. I don't
blame him. . . . Lyle won't hold them for a week ;
he'll back out on every point."
There was regret in his tired, toneless voice, and
bitterness, because the points on which Lyle would
back out were all points which he had made. He
could have held them for a week, and more ; he
might even there would have been a fighting
chance of it have pulled the Ministry through
altogether, had things been otherwise. But things
were not otherwise, and this was not his show any
more. He looked at Prideaux half resentfully as
Prideaux rose to leave him. Prideaux had not
wrecked his own career. . . .
To Kitty, the first time he had met her after the
events of Boxing Night, Prideaux had shown more
of his mind. He had come to ask after Chester,
and had found Kitty there. He had looked at her
sharply and coolly, as if she had made a stupid
mistake over her work in the office.
" So you didn't guess, all this time," she had said
to him, coolly too, because she resented his look.
230 WHAT NOT
" Not," he had returned, " that things had gone
as far as this. I knew you were intimate, of course.
There was that time in Italy. . . . But well,
honestly, I thought better of both your brains."
She ..gave up her momentary resentment, and
slipped again into remorse.
" We thought better of them too till we did it.
. . . Have I spoilt his life, Vernon ? I suppose so."
He shrugged his shoulders. " You've spoilt, and
he's spoilt his own, career as Minister of Brains.
There are other things, of course. Chester can't go
under ; he's too good a man to lose. They'll stick
on to him somehow. . . . But . . . well, what in
heaven or earth or the other place possessed you
both to do it, Kitty ? "
To which she had no answer but " We just thought
we would," and he left her in disgust.
Even in her hour of mortification and remorse,
Kitty could still enjoy getting a rise out of Prideaux.
Pansy, who called often with showers of hot-
house flowers, which Chester detested, was much
more sympathetic. She was frankly delighted. She
could not be allowed to see Chester ; Kitty was
afraid that her exuberance might send his tempera-
" You won't mind my tellin' you now, darlin',
but I've been thinkin' it was free love all this time.
I didn't mind, you know. But this is more respect-
able. This family couldn't really properly afford
another scandal ; it might lose its good name, then
what would Cyril say ? It would come hard on the
Cheeper, too. Now this is some marriage. So
sensible of you both, to throw over those silly laws
and do the jolly thing and have a good time. As I
said to Tony, what is the good of making laws if
you can't break them yourself ? Now that your
Nicky's set a good example, it really does seem as
if all this foolishness was goin' to dwine away and be
forgotten. ... I guess it's doin' what we like and
havin' a good time that matters, in the long run,
isn't it. Not keepin' laws or improvin' the silly old
" Ask me another," said Kitty. " I haven't the
slightest idea, Pansy, my love. You're usually right,
so I daresay you're right about this. But you mustn't
talk like that to Nicky, or he'll have a relapse."
" And fancy," Pansy mused, " me havin' got the
great Minister of Brains for a brother-in-law ! Or
anyhow somethin' of the sort ; as near as makes no
difference. I shall never hear the last of it from the
girls and boys. . . . Good-bye, old thing ; I'm
ever so pleased you're a happy wife now as well
Chester handed Kitty a letter from his mother,
the wife of a struggling bishop somewhere in the
232 WHAT NOT
west country. It said, " Directly you are well
enough, dear, you must bring Kitty to stay with us ;
She won't, I am sure, mind our simple ways. . . . My
dear, we are so thankful you have found happiness.
We are distressed about your accident, and about
your loss of office, which I fear you will feel. . .
But, after all, love and happiness are so much more
important than office, are they not ? . . ."
" Important," Kitty repeated. " Queer word.
Just what love and happiness aren't, you'd think.
Comfortable jolly but not important. . . . Never
you mind, Nicky, you'll be important always :
Vernon is right about that. They'll put you some-
where where ' domestick selvishenesse ' doesn't
matter : perhaps they'll make you a peer. ..."
Chester said he would not be at all surprised.
Kitty said, " Shall we go and see your people ? "
and he replied gloomily, " I suppose we must. It
will be ... rather trying."
" Will they condole with you? " she suggested,
and he returned, " No. They'll congratulate me."
A fortnight later they went down to the west.
Bishop Chester lived in a little old house in a slum
behind his cathedral. Bishops' palaces were no
longer bishops', homes ; they had all been turned
into community houses, clergy houses, retreat
houses, alms houses, and so forth. Celibate bishops
could live in them, together with other clergy of
their diocese, but bishops with families had to find
quarters elsewhere. And, married or unmarried,
their incomes were not enough to allow of any style
of living but that apostolic simplicity which the
Church, directly it was freed from the State and
could arrange its own affairs, had decided was right
Not all bishops took kindly to the new regime ;
some resigned, and had to be replaced by bishops
of the new and sterner school. But, to give bishops
their due, which is too seldom done, they are for
the most part good Christian men, ready to do what
they believe is for the good of the Church. Many
of their detractors were surprised at the amount of
good-will and self-sacrifice revealed in the episcopal
ranks when they were put to the test. If some failed
under it well, bishops, if no worse than other men,
Bishop Chester had not failed. He had taken to
plain living and plainer thinking (how often, alas,
these two are to be found linked together !) with
resignation, as a Christian duty. If it should bring
any into the Church who had been kept outside it
by his purple and fine linen, he would feel himself
more than rewarded. . If it should not, that was not
his look-out. Which is to say that Bishop Chester
was a good man, if not clever.
He and his wife were very kind to Chester and
Kitty. Chester said he could not spare more than
a day and night ; he had to get back to town, where
he had much business on hand, including the in-
stituting of an action for malicious libel against
234 WHAT NOT
Mr. Percy Jenkins and the publishers and proprietors
of the Patriot. Kitty was not surprised at the short-
ness of the visit, for it was a humiliating visit. The
bishop and Mrs. Chester, as their son had known
they would, approved of his contravention of his
own principles. They thought them, had always
thought them, monstrous and inhuman principles.
The bishop said, " My dear boy, I can't tell you
how thankful I am that you have decided at last
to let humanity have its way with you. Humanity ;
the simple human things ; love, birth, family life.
They're the simple things, but, after all, the deep
and grand things. No laws will ever supersede
And Mrs. Chester looked at Kitty with the inde-
scribable look of mothers-in-law who hope that one
day they may be grandmothers, and whispered to
her when she said good-night, " And some day,
dear. . . ."
And they saw Chester's twin sister. She was
harmless ; she was even doing crochet work ; and
her face was the face of Chester uninformed by
thought. Mrs. Chester said, " Nicky will have told
you of our poor ailing girl. ..."
They came away next morning. They faced each
other in the train, but they read the Times (half
each) and did not meet each other's eyes. They
could not. They felt as thieves who still have con-
sciences must feel when congratulated on their
crimes by other thieves, who have not. Between
them stood and jeered a Being with a vacant face
and a phrase which it repeated with cynical reitera-
tion. ' You have let humanity have its way with
you. Humanity ; the simple human things. . .
No laws will ever supersede them. ..." And the
Being's face was as the face of Chester's twin
sister, the poor ailing girl.
To this they had come, then ; to the first of the
three simple human things mentioned by the bishop.
What now, since they had started down the long
slope of this green and easy hill, should arrest their
progress, until they arrived, brakeless and unheld,
into the valley where the other two waited, cynical,
for all their simplicity, and grim ?
Kitty, staring helplessly into the problematical
future, saw, as if someone had turned a page and
shown it to her, a domestic picture herself and
Chester (a peer, perhaps, why not ?) facing one
another not in a train but in a simple human home,
surrounded by Family Life ; two feckless, fallen
persons, who had made a holocaust of theories and
principles, who had reverted to the hand-to-mouth
shiftlessness and mental sloppiness of the primitive
Briton. Kitty could hear Chester, in that future,
vaguer, family, peer's voice that might then be his,
saying, " We must just trust to luck and muddle
236 WHAT NOT
Even to that they might come. . . .
In the next Great War and who should stay its
advent if such as these failed ? their sons would
fight, without talent, their daughters would perhaps
nurse, without skill. And so on, and so on, and so
on. . . .
So turned the world around. Individual desire
given way to, as usual, ruining principle and ideals
by its soft pressure. What would ever get done in
such a world ? Nothing, ever.
Suddenly, as if both had seen the same picture,
they met one another's eyes across the carriage, and
That, anyhow, they could always do, though
sitting among the debris of ruined careers, ruined
principles, ruined Ministries, ruined ideals. It was
something ; perhaps, in a sad and precarious world,
it was much.
WILLIAM BRENDON AND SON, LTD.
OH, MONEY! MONEY! By ELEANOR H. PORTER,
Author of "Just David," "Pollyanna," etc. 6s. net.
"This tale of an elderly millionaire who goes incognito among his
poor relations to discover to which of them he shall leave his fortune
is extraordinarily soothing in these harassed times. The relations are
most humorously studied." Westminster Gazette.
THE ANCHOR. By M. T. H. SADLER. 6s. net.
"All his people are interesting and all ring true."
Pall Mall Gazette.
ANNE'S HOUSE OF DREAMS. By L. M.
MONTGOMERY, Author of "Anne of Green Gables." 6s. net.
" Miss Montgomery has a rare knack of making simple events and
ordinary people both charming and moving ; she can make her readers
both laugh and weep." Westminster Gazette.
IMPOSSIBLE PEOPLE. By Mrs. GEORGE WEMYSS.
" It is set in a captivating way among village folk drawn from life,
treated with humour and sympathy, and decorated profusely with the
talk and doings of real and interesting children."
THE STARRY POOL and Other Tales. By
STEPHEN G. TALLENTS. 35. 6d. net.
"It belongs to the class of literature which gives an intimate picture
of the writer himself, who, in this particular case, endears himself to
the reader by his humour, which is never cynical, and by his zest for
the simple, which is never forced." Westminster Gazette.
THE WANDERERS. By MARY JOHNSTON. 7s.6d.net.
"A large theme of absorbing and growing interest is treated with
great imaginative and pictorial power ; and the writer's faith and
enthusiasm, as well as her knowledge and her skilful handicraft, are
manifest. " Scotsman.
CONSTABLE & CO. 10 Orange Street,
LIMITED. London W.C. 2.
REMNANTS. By DESMOND MACCARTHY. 53. net.
" It has its own clear point of view. It reveals an engaging person-
ality, and its contents, though dealing with subjects as diverse as
Samuel Butler, Lord George Sanger, Meredith, Dan Leno, Voltaire
and Bostock's Menagerie, are all of a piece. That is, it is a real book
of essays. " The Bookman.
BEYOND THE RHINE. Memories of Art and
Life in Germany before the War. By MARC HENRY. 6s. 6d. net.
" M. Henry discourses most entertainingly on many subjects of
German social life, and his book may be cordially recommended to
those among us who seek for enlightenment on the mentality of
our enemies. " Scotsman.
TRIVIA. By LOGAN PEARSALL SMITH. 45. 6d. net.
" It is a piece of personal good luck to have read it. One goes in
and out of one's hall door with a delicious sense of possessing a secret.
It increases one's confidence in the world. If a book like this can be
written, there is, we feel, hope for the future." The Athcnaum.
THE LAST OF THE ROMANOFS. By CHARLES
RIVET (Petrograd Correspondent of the " Temps "). 75. 6d. net
" ' The Last of the Romanofs ' can be recommended to one desirous
of understanding what has actually happened in Russia and what
caused it to happen." Globe.
ON THE EDGE OF THE WAR ZONE. By
MILDRED ALDRICH, Author of "A Hilltop on the Marne." 55. net.
"They give a picture of peace in the midst of war that is both fas-
cinating and strange ... as an intimate sketch of one corner of the
world-war, viewed at close quarters over the garden-hedge, these little
books will have earned for themselves a place apart." Punch.
CONSTABLE 6 CO. 10 Orange Street.
LIMITED London, W.C. 2.
THE POT BOILS. A Novel. By M. STORM JAMESON.
In " The Pot Boils " the author has written a. vivid and original study of the
careers and the love-story of a modern young man and woman whom we first
encounter as students at the same Northern University. Of life in this Northern
University the author gives a realistic account, and equally realistic and entertain,
ing is the description of the world of social reformers, feminists, journalists, vers-
libristes in London, to which the scene is shifted later. It is a brilliant provocative
hook which will appeal to all those who are interested in appraising the worth and
promise of modern movements and ideals.
THE SHIP OF DEATH. A Romance of the
World-War. By EDWARD STILGEBAUER, Author of
" Love's Inferno."
In "The Ship of Death," Dr. Stilgebauer has written a romance which depicts in
all its horror the havoc wrought by war upon human relationships and values
outside the actual sphere of the battle-field. The instrument of disaster is Captain
Stirn, the captain of the submarine which torpedoes the ' Lusitania,' styled here
the ' Gigantic.' The first part of the book depicts the company on board, when the
first premonitions of catastrophe are beginning to fill the air. Then comes the
catastrophe itself; and the last section of the book presents Captain Stirn in the
agony and delirium which seizes him after his deed of horror. The book is impres-
sive and absorbing both by force and vividness of the author's style and imagination
and by the vigorous sincerity and idealism which penetrate it throughout.
New Edition of a Famous Novel
THE MAKING OF AN ENGLISHMAN. By
W. L. GEORGE, New Edition with a New Preface. 6s. net.
This book was first published in 1914, and the author has now written a new
preface, explaining how the War has modified his views, but saying that whatever
the Englishman may become, he would still be " The man of my choice, with whom
I wrangle because he is my brother, far from whom I could not live, who quietly
grins at my internationalism and makes allowances for me because, Englishman
though I be, I was not born in his damned and dear little island.
CONSTABLE & CO. 10 Orange Street,
LIMITED. London, W.C. 2.
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