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Full text of "What not, a prophetic comedy"

WHAT 
NOT 

** 

ROSE 
MACAULAY 



NOTE. 

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- 
able time. 

However, as the date of the happenings 
described in "What Not" is unspecified, it 
may still be regarded as a prophecy, not yet 
disproved. 

R. M. 



March, 1919 



WHAT NOT 



WHAT NOT 

A PROPHETIC COMEDY 



BY 

ROSE MAGAULAY 

AUTHOR OI' 
"NOX-COMBATANTS," "THE SIAKING OF A BIGOT," ETC. 



LONDON 
CONSTABLE AND COMPANY LTD. 

1918 



TO 

CIVIL SERVANTS 
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, 
January, 1918. 



APOLOGY 

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 
retain. 

ix 



x APOLOGY 

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 



APOLOGY xi 

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. 

April, 1918. 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

APOLOGY ix 

CHAPTER 

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 



Mil 



WHAT NOT 

CHAPTER I 

THE MINISTRY 
I 

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 
their shoulders. 

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 
weapons. 

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 
the dance. 



2 

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 
mob. 

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 
people. 

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 
decidedly entertaining. 

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 
with both. 

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 

3 

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 hotel. 

4 

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 
this. 

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 
Prideaux. 



14 WHAT NOT 

5 

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 
talents. 

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 
of temper. 

" 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. 

" Sir, 

" 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 
sadly. 

" 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. 
c 



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 

6 

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- 
timacy. 

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 



I 



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 
called in. 

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 
matter. 

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. 
Nelson Keys. 

Thus Miss Grammont, thoughtfully smoking a 
Cyprus cigarette, summed up the Minister of Brains. 



CHAPTER II 

LITTLE CHANTREYS 

I 

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 

25 



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 
the Bible. 

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 
nice too." 

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 
Stock Exchange. 

Mr. Leslie Amherst, the man like a faun, who was 



LITTLE CHANTREYS 



29 



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- 
nection irrevocably). 

" 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 
Controller." 

" 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 
to Tommy." 

" 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 
once." 

" 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 
article." 

" 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. 



LITTLE CHANTREYS 



35 



" 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 
for You." 

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 
more. 

" 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- 
damaged. 

" 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 



38 WHATNOT 

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 
star. 

" 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, 
S.W. i." 

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 
pass him." 

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 
behind. 

" 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." 



3 

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- 
sion. 

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- 
thinking female." 

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 
once. 

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 
at all. 

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. 



4 

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, 
unbegun to-morrow. 

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 



LITTLE CHANTREYS 



49 



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 
unthinking. 

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 
need it. 



CHAPTER III 

BRAINS SUNDAY 

I 

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, 

5 



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 
text. 

" 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 
Religion. 

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 
margarine. 

2 

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 
below him. 

"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 
than Jelly. 

" 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 
trains.") 

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 
authorship wrong.) 

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 



3 

" 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 
finish." 

"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 
or something." 

" Montmorency," said Pansy promptly. " Monty 
for short, of course That'll sound awfully well in 
revue." 

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. 



4 

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 
the subject. 

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 
himself. 

Who, alas, did ? 



CHAPTER IV 

OUR WEEK 



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 
both. 

It was a week of strenuous and gallant effort on 
the part of the Government and its assistants. 

66 



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 
TO." 

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 
now." 

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 
characteristic voices. 

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 
world." 

2 

" 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 
obey." 

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 
us." 

" 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 
fact." 

" 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 
Office." 

" 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 
length." 

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. 

3 

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 
you." 

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 
that is." 

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. 

4 

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 
Minister. 

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. ..." 



5 

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- 
ously segregated). 

" 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. 
Regret/ " 

" 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. . . . 



CHAPTER V 

THE EXPLANATION CAMPAIGN 

I 

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 

87 



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- 
tioned. 

" 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 
man." 

2 

Chester really did interview them all. To Kitty, 
whom already he knew personally, he talked 
freely. 



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. 



3 

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 
them. 

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 
last year. 

" 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 
time." 

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 
and proper. 

" 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 
state." 



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 
him. 

; ' 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 
them. 

" And how," pursued the enquirer, a solid young 
blacksmith, " will the teachers know what that may 
be?" 

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 



103 

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 
be." ' 

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 ? 



4 

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 
me? " 

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 
explanation. 

" 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." 



5 

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 
mind." 

" 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 
green." 

" 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 
I am." 

" 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." 



6 

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. 



CHAPTER VI 

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 

in 



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 
cleverer.) 

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. . . ." 

3 

" 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 

4 

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 
black. 

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 
ever agape. 

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. 

5 

" 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 
now. ..." 



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 
walked back. 

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. 



6 

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 
speaking." 

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." 



7 

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. 
Oh God." 

" 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 
Square." 

" 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 
things." 

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 
watchful eyes. 

" 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 



8 

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 
the emotion." 

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 
dear." 

" 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 
them.' " 

On that note of compromise they parted. 



CHAPTER VII 

THE BREAKING POINT 

I 

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 
Chantreys. 

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, 

133 



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 
thought." 

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 
raised. 

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 
head." 

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 
paving-stones. 

" 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 
with interest. 

" 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 
drawer." 

" 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 
plan." 

" 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 
all." 

" 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 
knew. 

" Silly ass," said Ivy, but with a touch of 
doubt. 

She thought her new green breeches were rather 
nice, anyhow, and that seemed to matter more. 



THE BREAKING POINT 143 

3 

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 
press." 

" 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 
music-hall ditty. 

"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. 



4 

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 
with you." 

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 



5 . 

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 
lunch. 

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 
to you." 

" 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 
frowned. 

" 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 
about it." 

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 
of things." 

" 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 
little sense." 

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 
you." 

"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 
important thing." 

" 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 
tears. 

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. 



6 

Ivy and Betty Delmer, who had been spending 
the afternoon at Beaconsfield, saw them at Beacons- 
field station. 

Betty said, " Surely that's your Minister with Miss 
Grammont." 

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. 



CHAPTER VIII 

ON FIXED HEARTS AND CHANGING SCENES 

I 

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 
them. 

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 

156 



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 
and imagination. 

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, 
too. 

2 

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, 



[ANGING SCENES 

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 
nails. 

" 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 

M 



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 
the time." 

3 

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 
animals. 

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 
played with. 

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 
to do. 

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. 



4 

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 
indeed so. 

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 
could. 

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 
stopped. 

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.) 



5 

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 
other. 

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 
reading. 

From Cambridge Kitty went to travel Cam- 
bridgeshire, which was in a state of quiet, albeit 
grudging, East Anglian acceptance and slow assim- 
ilation. 

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 man. 



CHAPTER IX 

THE COMMON HERD 

I 

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) 
listened well. 

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 . . . 
N 177 



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 ? 



2 

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 
else. 

" 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 
do it." 

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 
I need." 

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 
reformers. 

3 

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 
else. 

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 
before long." 

"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 
we?" 

" 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 
weight. 

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 
singing. 

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." 

4 

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 
won't babble." 

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 
next week." 

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 
different routes. 



CHAPTER X 

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 multitude. 

The Ministry of Brains that autumn was fighting 
hard and gallantly for its life. It was an uphill 

196 



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 
wonderful." 

" 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- 
bone. 

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. 



3 

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 
interview, sir." 

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 
go on." 

" 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, 
sir." 

" 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." 
He paused. 

" 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- 
fore." 

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 
is declared. 

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 
course. 

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. 



4 

" 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 
married. 

" 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 
seems." 

" 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 
careful enough." 



5 

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 
A.S.E. 

It is much to be hoped that conferences are use- 
ful ; if they are not, it cannot, surely, be from lack 
of practice. 



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 
made. 



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. 



CHAPTER XI 

THE STORMING OF THE HOTEL 

I 

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 ? " 

216 



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. 

2 

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- 
parently." 

The door was burst open, and men rushed in. 
Chester and Prideaux faced them, standing before 
the door. 

" 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 
pinioned. 

" 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 
laugh himself. 

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 

3 

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. 



CHAPTER XII 

DEBRIS 

I 

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 
premises.) 

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 
Q 225 



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 
continue. 

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. 



DEBRIS 227 

, 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. 



2 

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 
well." 



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 
disease. 



DEBRIS 229 

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 
successor.) 

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. 



3 

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- 
ture up. 

" You won't mind my tellin' you now, darlin', 
but I've been thinkin' it was free love all this time. 



DEBRIS 231 

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 
world." 

" 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 
as me." 

4 

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, 



DEBRIS 233 

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 
and suitable. 

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, 
are human. 

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 
them." 

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. ..." 



5 

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 



DEBRIS 235 

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 
through somehow." 



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 
laughed ruefully. 

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. 



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