The New Machiavelli

Page 104 of 114

“I remember talking about things of this sort with old Willersley,” I said, “ever so many years ago. It was some place near Locarno, and we looked down the lake that shone weltering—just as now we look over the sea. And then we dreamt in an indistinct featureless way of all that you and I are doing now.”

“I!” said Isabel, and laughed.

“Well, of some such thing,” I said, and remained for awhile silent, thinking of Locarno.

I recalled once more the largeness, the release from small personal things that I had felt in my youth; statecraft became real and wonderful again with the memory, the gigantic handling of gigantic problems. I began to talk out my thoughts, sitting up beside her, as I could never talk of them to any one but Isabel; began to recover again the purpose that lay under all my political ambitions and adjustments and anticipations. I saw the State, splendid and wide as I had seen it in that first travel of mine, but now it was no mere distant prospect of spires and pinnacles, but populous with fine-trained, bold-thinking, bold-doing people. It was as if I had forgotten for a long time and now remembered with amazement.

At first, I told her, I had been altogether at a loss how I could do anything to battle against the aimless muddle of our world; I had wanted a clue—until she had come into my life questioning, suggesting, unconsciously illuminating. “But I have done nothing,” she protested. I declared she had done everything in growing to education under my eyes, in reflecting again upon all the processes that had made myself, so that instead of abstractions and blue-books and bills and devices, I had realised the world of mankind as a crowd needing before all things fine women and men. We'd spoilt ourselves in learning that, but anyhow we had our lesson. Before her I was in a nineteenth-century darkness, dealing with the nation as if it were a crowd of selfish men, forgetful of women and children and that shy wild thing in the hearts of men, love, which must be drawn upon as it has never been drawn upon before, if the State is to live. I saw now how it is possible to bring the loose factors of a great realm together, to create a mind of literature and thought in it, and the expression of a purpose to make it self-conscious and fine. I had it all clear before me, so that at a score of points I could presently begin. The BLUE WEEKLY was a centre of force. Already we had given Imperialism a criticism, and leavened half the press from our columns. Our movement consolidated and spread. We should presently come into power. Everything moved towards our hands. We should be able to get at the schools, the services, the universities, the church; enormously increase the endowment of research, and organise what was sorely wanted, a criticism of research; contrive a closer contact between the press and creative intellectual life; foster literature, clarify, strengthen the public consciousness, develop social organisation and a sense of the State. Men were coming to us every day, brilliant young peers like Lord Dentonhill, writers like Carnot and Cresswell. It filled me with pride to win such men. “We stand for so much more than we seem to stand for,” I said. I opened my heart to her, so freely that I hesitate to open my heart even to the reader, telling of projects and ambitions I cherished, of my consciousness of great powers and widening opportunities....

Isabel watched me as I talked.

She too, I think, had forgotten these things for a while. For it is curious and I think a very significant thing that since we had become lovers, we had talked very little of the broader things that had once so strongly gripped our imaginations.

“It's good,” I said, “to talk like this to you, to get back to youth and great ambitions with you. There have been times lately when politics has seemed the pettiest game played with mean tools for mean ends—and none the less so that the happiness of three hundred million people might be touched by our follies. I talk to no one else like this.... And now I think of parting, I think but of how much more I might have talked to you.”...

Things drew to an end at last, but after we had spoken of a thousand things.

“We've talked away our last half day,” I said, staring over my shoulder at the blazing sunset sky behind us. “Dear, it's been the last day of our lives for us.... It doesn't seem like the last day of our lives. Or any day.”

“I wonder how it will feel?” said Isabel.

“It will be very strange at first—not to be able to tell you things.”

“I've a superstition that after—after we've parted—if ever I go into my room and talk, you'll hear. You'll be—somewhere.”

“I shall be in the world—yes.”

“I don't feel as though these days ahead were real. Here we are, here we remain.”

“Yes, I feel that. As though you and I were two immortals, who didn't live in time and space at all, who never met, who couldn't part, and here we lie on Olympus. And those two poor creatures who did meet, poor little Richard Remington and Isabel Rivers, who met and loved too much and had to part, they part and go their ways, and we lie here and watch them, you and I. She'll cry, poor dear.”

“She'll cry. She's crying now!”

“Poor little beasts! I think he'll cry too. He winces. He could—for tuppence. I didn't know he had lachrymal glands at all until a little while ago. I suppose all love is hysterical—and a little foolish. Poor mites! Silly little pitiful creatures! How we have blundered! Think how we must look to God! Well, we'll pity them, and then we'll inspire him to stiffen up again—and do as we've determined he shall do. We'll see it through,—we who lie here on the cliff. They'll be mean at times, and horrid at times; we know them! Do you see her, a poor little fine lady in a great house,—she sometimes goes to her room and writes.”

“She writes for his BLUE WEEKLY still.”

“Yes. Sometimes—I hope. And he's there in the office with a bit of her copy in his hand.”

“Is it as good as if she still talked it over with him before she wrote it? Is it?”

“Better, I think. Let's play it's better—anyhow. It may be that talking over was rather mixed with love-making. After all, love-making is joy rather than magic. Don't let's pretend about that even.... Let's go on watching him. (I don't see why her writing shouldn't be better. Indeed I don't.) See! There he goes down along the Embankment to Westminster just like a real man, for all that he's smaller than a grain of dust. What is running round inside that speck of a head of his? Look at him going past the Policemen, specks too—selected large ones from the country. I think he's going to dinner with the Speaker—some old thing like that. Is his face harder or commoner or stronger?—I can't quite see.... And now he's up and speaking in the House. Hope he'll hold on to the thread. He'll have to plan his speeches to the very end of his days—and learn the headings.”

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