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There was a type, or at least there seemed to us to be a type—I'm a little doubtful at times now whether after all we didn't create it—for which Hatherleigh invented the nickname the “Pinky Dinkys,” intending thereby both contempt and abhorrence in almost equal measure. The Pinky Dinky summarised all that we particularly did not want to be, and also, I now perceive, much of what we were and all that we secretly dreaded becoming.
But it is hard to convey the Pinky Dinky idea, for all that it meant so much to us. We spent one evening at least during that reading party upon the Pinky Dinky; we sat about our one fire after a walk in the rain—it was our only wet day—smoked our excessively virile pipes, and elaborated the natural history of the Pinky Dinky. We improvised a sort of Pinky Dinky litany, and Hatherleigh supplied deep notes for the responses.
“The Pinky Dinky extracts a good deal of amusement from life,” said some one.
“Damned prig!” said Hatherleigh.
“The Pinky Dinky arises in the Union and treats the question with a light gay touch. He makes the weird ones mad. But sometimes he cannot go on because of the amusement he extracts.”
“I want to shy books at the giggling swine,” said Hatherleigh.
“The Pinky Dinky says suddenly while he is making the tea, 'We're all being frightfully funny. It's time for you to say something now.'”
“The Pinky Dinky shakes his head and says: 'I'm afraid I shall never be a responsible being.' And he really IS frivolous.”
“Frivolous but not vulgar,” said Esmeer.
“Pinky Dinkys are chaps who've had their buds nipped,” said Hatherleigh. “They're Plebs and they know it. They haven't the Guts to get hold of things. And so they worry up all those silly little jokes of theirs to carry it off.”...
We tried bad ones for a time, viciously flavoured.
Pinky Dinkys are due to over-production of the type that ought to keep outfitters' shops. Pinky Dinkys would like to keep outfitters' shops with whimsy 'scriptions on the boxes and make your bill out funny, and not be snobs to customers, no!—not even if they had titles.”
“Every Pinky Dinky's people are rather good people, and better than most Pinky Dinky's people. But he does not put on side.”
“Pinky Dinkys become playful at the sight of women.”
“'Croquet's my game,' said the Pinky Dinky, and felt a man condescended.”
“But what the devil do they think they're up to, anyhow?” roared old Hatherleigh suddenly, dropping plump into bottomless despair.
We felt we had still failed to get at the core of the mystery of the Pinky Dinky.
We tried over things about his religion. “The Pinky Dinky goes to King's Chapel, and sits and feels in the dusk. Solemn things! Oh HUSH! He wouldn't tell you—”
“He COULDN'T tell you.”
“Religion is so sacred to him he never talks about it, never reads about it, never thinks about it. Just feels!”
“But in his heart of hearts, oh! ever so deep, the Pinky Dinky has a doubt—”
Some one protested.
“Not a vulgar doubt,” Esmeer went on, “but a kind of hesitation whether the Ancient of Days is really exactly what one would call good form.... There's a lot of horrid coarseness got into the world somehow. SOMEBODY put it there.... And anyhow there's no particular reason why a man should be seen about with Him. He's jolly Awful of course and all that—”
“The Pinky Dinky for all his fun and levity has a clean mind.”
“A thoroughly clean mind. Not like Esmeer's—the Pig!”
“If once he began to think about sex, how could he be comfortable at croquet?”
“It's their Damned Modesty,” said Hatherleigh suddenly, “that's what's the matter with the Pinky Dinky. It's Mental Cowardice dressed up as a virtue and taking the poor dears in. Cambridge is soaked with it; it's some confounded local bacillus. Like the thing that gives a flavour to Havana cigars. He comes up here to be made into a man and a ruler of the people, and he thinks it shows a nice disposition not to take on the job! How the Devil is a great Empire to be run with men like him?”
“All his little jokes and things,” said Esmeer regarding his feet on the fender, “it's just a nervous sniggering—because he's afraid.... Oxford's no better.”
“What's he afraid of?” said I.
“God knows!” exploded Hatherleigh and stared at the fire.
“LIFE!” said Esmeer. “And so in a way are we,” he added, and made a thoughtful silence for a time.
“I say,” began Carter, who was doing the Natural Science Tripos, “what is the adult form of the Pinky Dinky?”
But there we were checked by our ignorance of the world.
“What is the adult form of any of us?” asked Benton, voicing the thought that had arrested our flow.
I do not remember that we ever lifted our criticism to the dons and the organisation of the University. I think we took them for granted. When I look back at my youth I am always astonished by the multitude of things that we took for granted. It seemed to us that Cambridge was in the order of things, for all the world like having eyebrows or a vermiform appendix. Now with the larger scepticism of middle age I can entertain very fundamental doubts about these old universities. Indeed I had a scheme—
I do not see what harm I can do now by laying bare the purpose of the political combinations I was trying to effect.
My educational scheme was indeed the starting-point of all the big project of conscious public reconstruction at which I aimed. I wanted to build up a new educational machine altogether for the governing class out of a consolidated system of special public service schools. I meant to get to work upon this whatever office I was given in the new government. I could have begun my plan from the Admiralty or the War Office quite as easily as from the Education Office. I am firmly convinced it is hopeless to think of reforming the old public schools and universities to meet the needs of a modern state, they send their roots too deep and far, the cost would exceed any good that could possibly be effected, and so I have sought a way round this invincible obstacle. I do think it would be quite practicable to side-track, as the Americans say, the whole system by creating hardworking, hard-living, modern and scientific boys' schools, first for the Royal Navy and then for the public service generally, and as they grew, opening them to the public without any absolute obligation to subsequent service. Simultaneously with this it would not be impossible to develop a new college system with strong faculties in modern philosophy, modern history, European literature and criticism, physical and biological science, education and sociology.