CHAPTER THE FIFTH
THE LAST DAYS OF MARCUS KARENIN
The second operation upon Marcus Karenin was performed at the new
station for surgical work at Paran, high in the Himalayas above
the Sutlej Gorge, where it comes down out of Thibet.
It is a place of such wildness and beauty as no other scenery in
the world affords. The granite terrace which runs round the four
sides of the low block of laboratories looks out in every
direction upon mountains. Far below in the hidden depths of a
shadowy blue cleft, the river pours down in its tumultuous
passage to the swarming plains of India. No sound of its roaring
haste comes up to those serenities. Beyond that blue gulf, in
which whole forests of giant deodars seem no more than small
patches of moss, rise vast precipices of many-coloured rock,
fretted above, lined by snowfalls, and jagged into pinnacles.
These are the northward wall of a towering wilderness of ice and
snow which clambers southward higher and wilder and vaster to the
culminating summits of our globe, to Dhaulagiri and Everest.
Here are cliffs of which no other land can show the like, and
deep chasms in which Mt. Blanc might be plunged and hidden. Here
are icefields as big as inland seas on which the tumbled boulders
lie so thickly that strange little flowers can bloom among them
under the untempered sunshine. To the northward, and blocking
out any vision of the uplands of Thibet, rises that citadel of
porcelain, that gothic pile, the Lio Porgyul, walls, towers, and
peaks, a clear twelve thousand feet of veined and splintered rock
above the river. And beyond it and eastward and westward rise
peaks behind peaks, against the dark blue Himalayan sky. Far
away below to the south the clouds of the Indian rains pile up
abruptly and are stayed by an invisible hand.
Hither it was that with a dreamlike swiftness Karenin flew high
over the irrigations of Rajputana and the towers and cupolas of
the ultimate Delhi; and the little group of buildings, albeit the
southward wall dropped nearly five hundred feet, seemed to him as
he soared down to it like a toy lost among these mountain
wildernesses. No road came up to this place; it was reached only
His pilot descended to the great courtyard, and Karenin assisted
by his secretary clambered down through the wing fabric and made
his way to the officials who came out to receive him.
In this place, beyond infections and noise and any distractions,
surgery had made for itself a house of research and a healing
fastness. The building itself would have seemed very wonderful to
eyes accustomed to the flimsy architecture of an age when power
was precious. It was made of granite, already a little roughened
on the outside by frost, but polished within and of a tremendous
solidity. And in a honeycomb of subtly lit apartments, were the
spotless research benches, the operating tables, the instruments
of brass, and fine glass and platinum and gold. Men and women
came from all parts of the world for study or experimental
research. They wore a common uniform of white and ate at long
tables together, but the patients lived in an upper part of the
buildings, and were cared for by nurses and skilled
The first man to greet Karenin was Ciana, the scientific director
of the institution. Beside him was Rachel Borken, the chief
organiser. 'You are tired?' she asked, and old Karenin shook his
'Cramped,' he said. 'I have wanted to visit such a place as
He spoke as if he had no other business with them.
There was a little pause.
'How many scientific people have you got here now?' he asked.
'Just three hundred and ninety-two,' said Rachel Borken.
'And the patients and attendants and so on?'
'Two thousand and thirty.'
'I shall be a patient,' said Karenin. 'I shall have to be a
be a patient.'
'You will come to my rooms?' suggested Ciana.
'And then I must talk to this doctor of yours,' said Karenin.
'But I would like to see a bit of this place and talk to some of
your people before it comes to that.'
He winced and moved forward.
'I have left most of my work in order,' he said.
'You have been working hard up to now?' asked Rachel Borken.
'Yes. And now I have nothing more to do-and it seems strange…
And it's a bother, this illness and having to come down to
oneself. This doorway and the row of windows is well done; the
gray granite and just the line of gold, and then those mountains
beyond through that arch. It's very well done…'
Karenin lay on the bed with a soft white rug about him, and
Fowler, who was to be his surgeon sat on the edge of the bed and
talked to him. An assistant was seated quietly in the shadow
behind the bed. The examination had been made, and Karenin knew
what was before him. He was tired but serene.
'So I shall die,' he said, 'unless you operate?'
Fowler assented. 'And then,' said Karenin, smiling, 'probably I
'Even if I do not die; shall I be able to work?'
'There is just a chance…'
'So firstly I shall probably die, and if I do not, then perhaps I
shall be a useless invalid?'
'I think if you live, you may be able to go on-as you do now.'
'Well, then, I suppose I must take the risk of it. Yet couldn't
you, Fowler, couldn't you drug me and patch me instead of all
this-vivisection? A few days of drugged and active life-and
then the end?'
Fowler thought. 'We are not sure enough yet to do things like
that,' he said.
'But a day is coming when you will be certain.'
'You make me feel as though I was the last of
deformity-Deformity is uncertainty-inaccuracy. My body works
doubtfully, it is not even sure that it will die or live. I
suppose the time is not far off when such bodies as mine will no
longer be born into the world.'
'You see,' said Fowler, after a little pause, 'it is necessary
that spirits such as yours should be born into the world.'
'I suppose,' said Karenin, 'that my spirit has had its use. But
mistaken. There is no peculiar virtue in defect. I have always
chafed against-all this. If I could have moved more freely and
lived a larger life in health I could have done more. But some
day perhaps you will be able to put a body that is wrong
altogether right again. Your science is only beginning. It's a
subtler thing than physics and chemistry, and it takes longer to
produce its miracles. And meanwhile a few more of us must die in
'Fine work is being done and much of it,' said Fowler. 'I can
say as much because I have nothing to do with it. I can
understand a lesson, appreciate the discoveries of abler men and
use my hands, but those others, Pigou, Masterton, Lie, and the
others, they are clearing the ground fast for the knowledge to
come. Have you had time to follow their work?'
Karenin shook his head. 'But I can imagine the scope of it,' he
'We have so many men working now,' said Fowler. 'I suppose at
present there must be at least a thousand thinking hard,
observing, experimenting, for one who did so in nineteen
'Not counting those who keep the records?'
'Not counting those. Of course, the present indexing of research
is in itself a very big work, and it is only now that we are
getting it properly done. But already we are feeling the benefit
of that. Since it ceased to be a paid employment and became a
devotion we have had only those people who obeyed the call of an
aptitude at work upon these things. Here-I must show you it
to-day, because it will interest you-we have our copy of the
encyclopaedic index-every week sheets are taken out and replaced
by fresh sheets with new results that are brought to us by the
aeroplanes of the Research Department. It is an index of
'When I came into the education committee,' said Karenin, 'that
index of human knowledge seemed an impossible thing. Research had
produced a chaotic mountain of results, in a hundred languages
and a thousand different types of publication…' He smiled
at his memories. 'How we groaned at the job!'
'Already the ordering of that chaos is nearly done. You shall
'I have been so busy with my own work--Yes, I shall be glad to
The patient regarded the surgeon for a time with interested eyes.
'You work here always?' he asked abruptly.
'No,' said Fowler.
'But mostly you work here?'
'I have worked about seven years out of the past ten. At times I
go away-down there. One has to. At least I have to. There is a
sort of grayness comes over all this, one feels hungry for life,
real, personal passionate life, love-making, eating and drinking
for the fun of the thing, jostling crowds, having adventures,
laughter-above all laughter--'
'Yes,' said Karenin understandingly.
'And then one day, suddenly one thinks of these high mountains
'That is how I would have lived, if it had not been for
my-defects,' said Karenin. 'Nobody knows but those who have
borne it the exasperation of abnormality. It will be good when
you have nobody alive whose body cannot live the wholesome
everyday life, whose spirit cannot come up into these high places
as it wills.'
'We shall manage that soon,' said Fowler.
'For endless generations man has struggled upward against the
known them. They've taken more time than all your holidays. It
is true, is it not, that every man is something of a cripple and
something of a beast? I've dipped a little deeper than most;
that's all. It's only now when he has fully learnt the truth of
that, that he can take hold of himself to be neither beast nor
cripple. Now that he overcomes his servitude to his body, he can
for the first time think of living the full life of his body…
Before another generation dies you'll have the thing in hand.
You'll do as you please with the old Adam and all the vestiges
from the brutes and reptiles that lurk in his body and spirit.
Isn't that so?'
'You put it boldly,' said Fowler.
Karenin laughed cheerfully at his caution… 'When,' asked
Karenin suddenly, 'when will you operate?'
'The day after to-morrow,' said Fowler. 'For a day I want you to
drink and eat as I shall prescribe. And you may think and talk
as you please.'
'I should like to see this place.'
'You shall go through it this afternoon. I will have two men
carry you in a litter. And to-morrow you shall lie out upon the
terrace. Our mountains here are the most beautiful in the
The next morning Karenin got up early and watched the sun rise
over the mountains, and breakfasted lightly, and then young
Gardener, his secretary, came to consult him upon the spending of
within him too much to permit him to do that?
'I'd like to talk,' said Karenin. 'There must be all sorts of
lively-minded people here. Let them come and gossip with me. It
will distract me-and I can't tell you how interesting it makes
everything that is going on to have seen the dawn of one's own
'Your last day!'
'Fowler will kill me.'
'But he thinks not.'
'Fowler will kill me. If he does not he will not leave very much
of me. So that this is my last day anyhow, the days afterwards if
they come at all to me, will be refuse. I know…'
Gardener was about to speak when Karenin went on again.
'I hope he kills me, Gardener. Don't be-old-fashioned. The
on-a scarred salvage of suffering stuff. And then-all the
things I have hidden and kept down or discounted or set right
afterwards will get the better of me. I shall be peevish. I may
lose my grip upon my own egotism. It's never been a very firm
grip. No, no, Gardener, don't say that! You know better, you've
had glimpses of it. Suppose I came through on the other side of
this affair, belittled, vain, and spiteful, using the prestige I
have got among men by my good work in the past just to serve some
small invalid purpose…'
He was silent for a time, watching the mists among the distant
precipices change to clouds of light, and drift and dissolve
before the searching rays of the sunrise.
'Yes,' he said at last, 'I am afraid of these anaesthetics and
these fag ends of life. It's life we are all afraid of.
Death!-nobody minds just death. Fowler is clever-but some day
surgery will know its duty better and not be so anxious just to
save something… provided only that it quivers. I've tried to
hold my end up properly and do my work. After Fowler has done
there for me?… I know I shall not be fit for work…
'I do not see why life should be judged by its last trailing
thread of vitality… I know it for the splendid thing it is-I
who have been a diseased creature from the beginning. I know it
Gardener, if presently my heart fails me and I despair, and if I
go through a little phase of pain and ingratitude and dark
forgetfulness before the end… Don't believe what I may say at
the last… If the fabric is good enough the selvage doesn't
matter. It can't matter. So long as you are alive you are just
the moment, perhaps, but when you are dead then you are all your
life from the first moment to the last…'
Presently, in accordance with his wish, people came to talk to
him, and he could forget himself again. Rachel Borken sat for a
long time with him and talked chiefly of women in the world, and
with her was a girl named Edith Haydon who was already very well
known as a cytologist. And several of the younger men who were
working in the place and a patient named Kahn, a poet, and
Edwards, a designer of plays and shows, spent some time with him.
The talk wandered from point to point and came back upon itself,
and became now earnest and now trivial as the chance suggestions
determined. But soon afterwards Gardener wrote down notes of
things he remembered, and it is possible to put together again
about many of the principal things in life.
'Our age,' he said, 'has been so far an age of scene-shifting. We
have been preparing a stage, clearing away the setting of a drama
that was played out and growing tiresome… If I could but sit
out the first few scenes of the new spectacle…
ailing with a growth of unmeaning things. It was entangled,
feverish, confused. It was in sore need of release, and I suppose
that nothing less than the violence of those bombs could have
released it and made it a healthy world again. I suppose they
were necessary. Just as everything turns to evil in a fevered
body so everything seemed turning to evil in those last years of
the old time. Everywhere there were obsolete organisations
seizing upon all the new fine things that science was giving to
the world, nationalities, all sorts of political bodies, the
churches and sects, proprietorship, seizing upon those treat
powers and limitless possibilities and turning them to evil uses.
And they would not suffer open speech, they would not permit of
education, they would let no one be educated to the needs of the
new time… You who are younger cannot imagine the mixture of
desperate hope and protesting despair in which we who could
believe in the possibilities of science lived in those years
before atomic energy came…
'It was not only that the mass of people would not attend, would
and the things meant nothing to them…
'I have been reading some old papers lately. It is wonderful how
work-a pitiful handful… "Don't find out anything about us,"
they said to them; "don't inflict vision upon us, spare our
do tricks for us, little limited tricks. Give us cheap lighting.
And cure us of certain disagreeable things, cure us of cancer,
cure us of consumption, cure our colds and relieve us after
repletion…" We have changed all that, Gardener. Science is no
longer our servant. We know it for something greater than our
and in a little while--In a little while--I wish indeed I
could watch for that little while, now that the curtain has
'While I lie here they are clearing up what is left of the bombs
in London,' he said. 'Then they are going to repair the ruins
and make it all as like as possible to its former condition
before the bombs fell. Perhaps they will dig out the old house in
St John's Wood to which my father went after his expulsion from
Russia… That London of my memories seems to me like a place in
another world. For you younger people it must seem like a place
that could never have existed.'
'Is there much left standing?' asked Edith Haydon.
'Square miles that are scarcely shaken in the south and
north-west, they say; and most of the bridges and large areas of
dock. Westminster, which held most of the government offices,
suffered badly from the small bomb that destroyed the Parliament,
there are very few traces of the old thoroughfare of Whitehall or
the Government region thereabout, but there are plentiful
drawings to scale of its buildings, and the great hole in the
east of London scarcely matters. That was a poor district and
very like the north and the south… It will be possible to
reconstruct most of it… It is wanted. Already it becomes
difficult to recall the old time-even for us who saw it.'
'It seems very distant to me,' said the girl.
'It was an unwholesome world,' reflected Karenin. 'I seem to
remember everybody about my childhood as if they were ill. They
were ill. They were sick with confusion. Everybody was anxious
about money and everybody was doing uncongenial things. They ate
a queer mixture of foods, either too much or too little, and at
odd hours. One sees how ill they were by their advertisements.
All this new region of London they are opening up now is
plastered with advertisements of pills. Everybody must have been
taking pills. In one of the hotel rooms in the Strand they have
found the luggage of a lady covered up by falling rubble and
unburnt, and she was equipped with nine different sorts of pill
and tabloid. The pill-carrying age followed the weapon-carrying
age. They are equally strange to us. People's skins must have
been in a vile state. Very few people were properly washed; they
carried the filth of months on their clothes. All the clothes
they wore were old clothes; our way of pulping our clothes again
after a week or so of wear would have seemed fantastic to them.
Their clothing hardly bears thinking about. And the congestion
of them! Everybody was jostling against everybody in those awful
towns. In an uproar. People were run over and crushed by the
hundred; every year in London the cars and omnibuses alone killed
or disabled twenty thousand people, in Paris it was worse; people
used to fall dead for want of air in the crowded ways. The
irritation of London, internal and external, must have been
maddening. It was a maddened world. It is like thinking of a
sick child. One has the same effect of feverish urgencies and
acute irrational disappointments.
'All history,' he said, 'is a record of a childhood…
'And yet not exactly a childhood. There is something clean and
keen about even a sick child-and something touching. But so much
of the old times makes one angry. So much they did seems grossly
stupid, obstinately, outrageously stupid, which is the very
opposite to being fresh and young.
'I was reading only the other day about Bismarck, that hero of
nineteenth-century politics, that sequel to Napoleon, that god of
blood and iron. And he was just a beery, obstinate, dull man.
Indeed, that is what he was, the commonest, coarsest man, who
ever became great. I looked at his portraits, a heavy, almost
froggish face, with projecting eyes and a thick moustache to hide
a poor mouth. He aimed at nothing but Germany, Germany
emphasised, indurated, enlarged; Germany and his class in
Germany; beyond that he had no ideas, he was inaccessible to
ideas; his mind never rose for a recorded instant above a
bumpkin's elaborate cunning. And he was the most influential man
in the world, in the whole world, no man ever left so deep a mark
on it, because everywhere there were gross men to resonate to the
heavy notes he emitted. He trampled on ten thousand lovely
things, and a kind of malice in these louts made it pleasant to
them to see him trample. No-he was no child; the dull, national
aggressiveness he stood for, no childishness. Childhood is
promise. He was survival.
'All Europe offered its children to him, it sacrificed education,
art, happiness and all its hopes of future welfare to follow the
clatter of his sabre. The monstrous worship of that old fool's
"blood and iron" passed all round the earth. Until the atomic
bombs burnt our way to freedom again…'
one of the young men.
'From first to last mankind made three million big guns and a
hundred thousand complicated great ships for no other purpose but
'Were there no sane men in those days,' asked the young man, 'to
stand against that idolatry?'
'He is so far off-and there are men alive still who were alive
when Bismarck died!'… said the young man…
age; we stand upon a common stock of thought and we fancy we
stand upon the ground. I met a pleasant man the other day, a
Maori, whose great-grandfather was a cannibal. It chanced he had
a daguerreotype of the old sinner, and the two were marvellously
alike. One felt that a little juggling with time and either
might have been the other. People are cruel and stupid in a
stupid age who might be gentle and splendid in a gracious one.
The world also has its moods. Think of the mental food of
Bismarck's childhood; the humiliations of Napoleon's victories,
the crowded, crowning victory of the Battle of the Nations…
Everybody in those days, wise or foolish, believed that the
division of the world under a multitude of governments was
inevitable, and that it was going on for thousands of years more.
It WAS inevitable until it was impossible. Any one who had denied
that inevitability publicly would have been counted-oh! a SILLY
fellow. Old Bismarck was only just a little-forcible, on the
there had to be national governments he would make one that was
strong at home and invincible abroad. Because he had fed with a
kind of rough appetite upon what we can see now were very stupid
ideas, that does not make him a stupid man. We've had advantages;
we've had unity and collectivism blasted into our brains. Where
should we be now but for the grace of science? I should have been
an embittered, spiteful, downtrodden member of the Russian
Intelligenza, a conspirator, a prisoner, or an assassin. You, my
dear, would have been breaking dingy windows as a suffragette.'
'NEVER,' said Edith stoutly…
For a time the talk broke into humorous personalities, and the
young people gibed at each other across the smiling old
administrator, and then presently one of the young scientific men
gave things a new turn. He spoke like one who was full to the
'You know, sir, I've a fancy-it is hard to prove such
things-that civilisation was very near disaster when the atomic
bombs came banging into it, that if there had been no Holsten and
no induced radio-activity, the world would have-smashed-much as
it did. Only instead of its being a smash that opened a way to
better things, it might have been a smash without a recovery. It
is part of my business to understand economics, and from that
point of view the century before Holsten was just a hundred
years' crescendo of waste. Only the extreme individualism of that
period, only its utter want of any collective understanding or
purpose can explain that waste. Mankind used up
material-insanely. They had got through three-quarters of all
the coal in the planet, they had used up most of the oil, they
had swept away their forests, and they were running short of tin
and copper. Their wheat areas were getting weary and populous,
and many of the big towns had so lowered the water level of their
available hills that they suffered a drought every summer. The
whole system was rushing towards bankruptcy. And they were
spending every year vaster and vaster amounts of power and energy
upon military preparations, and continually expanding the debt of
industry to capital. The system was already staggering when
Holsten began his researches. So far as the world in general went
there was no sense of danger and no desire for inquiry. They had
no belief that science could save them, nor any idea that there
was a need to be saved. They could not, they would not, see the
gulf beneath their feet. It was pure good luck for mankind at
large that any research at all was in progress. And as I say,
sir, if that line of escape hadn't opened, before now there might
have been a crash, revolution, panic, social disintegration,
famine, and-it is conceivable-complete disorder… The
rails might have rusted on the disused railways by now, the
telephone poles have rotted and fallen, the big liners dropped
into sheet-iron in the ports; the burnt, deserted cities become
the ruinous hiding-places of gangs of robbers. We might have been
brigands in a shattered and attenuated world. Ah, you may smile,
but that had happened before in human history. The world is still
studded with the ruins of broken-down civilisations. Barbaric
bands made their fastness upon the Acropolis, and the tomb of
Hadrian became a fortress that warred across the ruins of Rome
against the Colosseum… Had all that possibility of reaction
ended so certainly in 1940? Is it all so very far away even
'It seems far enough away now,' said Edith Haydon.
'But forty years ago?'
'No,' said Karenin with his eyes upon the mountains, 'I think you
underrate the available intelligence in those early decades of
the twentieth century. Officially, I know, politically, that
intelligence didn't tell-but it was there. And I question your
hypothesis. I doubt if that discovery could have been delayed.
There is a kind of inevitable logic now in the progress of
research. For a hundred years and more thought and science have
been going their own way regardless of the common events of life.
You see-they have got loose. If there had been no Holsten there
would have been some similar man. If atomic energy had not come
in one year it would have come in another. In decadent Rome the
march of science had scarcely begun… Nineveh, Babylon, Athens,
Syracuse, Alexandria, these were the first rough experiments in
association that made a security, a breathing-space, in which
inquiry was born. Man had to experiment before he found out the
way to begin. But already two hundred years ago he had fairly
begun… The politics and dignities and wars of the nineteenth
and twentieth centuries were only the last phoenix blaze of the
former civilisation flaring up about the beginnings of the new.
Which we serve… 'Man lives in the dawn for ever,' said
Karenin. 'Life is beginning and nothing else but beginning. It
begins everlastingly. Each step seems vaster than the last, and
does but gather us together for the nest. This Modern State of
ours, which would have been a Utopian marvel a hundred years ago,
is already the commonplace of life. But as I sit here and dream
of the possibilities in the mind of man that now gather to a head
beneath the shelter of its peace, these great mountains here seem
but little things…'
About eleven Karenin had his midday meal, and afterwards he slept
among his artificial furs and pillows for two hours. Then he
awoke and some tea was brought to him, and he attended to a small
difficulty in connection with the Moravian schools in the
Labrador country and in Greenland that Gardener knew would
interest him. He remained alone for a little while after that,
and then the two women came to him again. Afterwards Edwards and
Kahn joined the group, and the talk fell upon love and the place
of women in the renascent world. The cloudbanks of India lay
under a quivering haze, and the blaze of the sun fell full upon
the eastward precipices. Ever and again as they talked, some vast
splinter of rock would crack and come away from these, or a wild
rush of snow and ice and stone, pour down in thunder, hang like a
wet thread into the gulfs below, and cease…
For a time Karenin said very little, and Kahn, the popular poet,
talked of passionate love. He said that passionate, personal
love had been the abiding desire of humanity since ever humanity
had begun, and now only was it becoming a possible experience. It
had been a dream that generation after generation had pursued,
that always men had lost on the verge of attainment. To most of
those who had sought it obstinately it had brought tragedy. Now,
lifted above sordid distresses, men and women might hope for
realised and triumphant love. This age was the Dawn of Love…
Karenin remained downcast and thoughtful while Kahn said these
things. Against that continued silence Kahn's voice presently
seemed to beat and fail. He had begun by addressing Karenin, but
presently he was including Edith Haydon and Rachel Borken in his
appeal. Rachel listened silently; Edith watched Karenin and very
deliberately avoided Kahn's eyes.
'I know,' said Karenin at last, 'that many people are saying this
sort of thing. I know that there is a vast release of
love-making in the world. This great wave of decoration and
elaboration that has gone about the world, this Efflorescence,
has of course laid hold of that. I know that when you say that
the world is set free, you interpret that to mean that the world
is set free for love-making. Down there,-under the clouds, the
lovers foregather. I know your songs, Kahn, your half-mystical
songs, in which you represent this old hard world dissolving into
a luminous haze of love-sexual love… I don't think you are
right or true in that. You are a young, imaginative man, and you
see life-ardently-with the eyes of youth. But the power that
has brought man into these high places under this blue-veiled
blackness of the sky and which beckons us on towards the immense
and awful future of our race, is riper and deeper and greater
than any such emotions…
'All through my life-it has been a necessary part of my work-I
have had to think of this release of sexual love and the riddles
that perfect freedom and almost limitless power will put to the
ecstasy of waste; "Let us sing and rejoice and be lovely and
wonderful."… The orgy is only beginning, Kahn… It was
inevitable-but it is not the end of mankind…
'Think what we are. It is but a yesterday in the endlessness of
forgot itself as it dreamt, its lives, its individual instincts,
its moments, were born and wondered and played and desired and
hungered and grew weary and died. Incalculable successions of
vision, visions of sunlit jungle, river wilderness, wild forest,
eager desire, beating hearts, soaring wings and creeping terror
flamed hotly and then were as though they had never been. Life
was an uneasiness across which lights played and vanished. And
then we came, man came, and opened eyes that were a question and
not when men die, but lives and increases for ever, an over-mind,
a dominating will, a question and an aspiration that reaches to
the stars… Hunger and fear and this that you make so much of,
this sex, are but the elementals of life out of which we have
arisen. All these elementals, I grant you, have to be provided
for, dealt with, satisfied, but all these things have to be left
'But Love,' said Kahn.
'I speak of sexual love and the love of intimate persons. And
that is what you mean, Kahn.'
Karenin shook his head. 'You cannot stay at the roots and climb
the tree,' he said…
'No,' he said after a pause, 'this sexual excitement, this love
been almost altogether adolescent, plays and stories, delights
and hopes, they have all turned on that marvellous discovery of
the love interest, but life lengthens out now and the mind of
adult humanity detaches itself. Poets who used to die at thirty
live now to eighty-five. You, too, Kahn! There are endless years
yet for you-and all full of learning… We carry an excessive
burden of sex and sexual tradition still, and we have to free
in a thousand different ways to hold back death, and this sex,
which in the old barbaric days was just sufficient to balance our
dying, is now like a hammer that has lost its anvil, it plunges
through human life. You poets, you young people want to turn it
to delight. Turn it to delight. That may be one way out. In a
little while, if you have any brains worth thinking about, you
will be satisfied, and then you will come up here to the greater
things. The old religions and their new offsets want still, I
see, to suppress all these things. Let them suppress. If they
can suppress. In their own people. Either road will bring you
here at last to the eternal search for knowledge and the great
adventure of power.'
'But incidentally,' said Rachel Borken; 'incidentally you have
half of humanity, you have womankind, very much specialised
for-for this love and reproduction that is so much less needed
than it was.'
'Both sexes are specialised for love and reproduction,' said
'But the women carry the heavier burden.'
'Not in their imaginations,' said Edwards.
'And surely,' said Kahn, 'when you speak of love as a
phase-isn't it a necessary phase? Quite apart from reproduction
the love of the sexes is necessary. Isn't it love, sexual love,
which has released the imagination? Without that stir, without
that impulse to go out from ourselves, to be reckless of
ourselves and wonderful, would our lives be anything more than
the contentment of the stalled ox?'
'The key that opens the door,' said Karenin, 'is not the goal of
'But women!' cried Rachel. 'Here we are! What is our future-as
women? Is it only that we have unlocked the doors of the
imagination for you men? Let us speak of this question now. It
of us? You who must have thought so much of these perplexities.'
Karenin seemed to weigh his words. He spoke very deliberately.
'I do not care a rap about your future-as women. I do not care
a rap about the future of men-as males. I want to destroy these
peculiar futures. I care for your future as intelligences, as
parts of and contribution to the universal mind of the race.
Humanity is not only naturally over-specialised in these matters,
but all its institutions, its customs, everything, exaggerate,
intensify this difference. I want to unspecialise women. No new
idea. Plato wanted exactly that. I do not want to go on as we go
now, emphasising this natural difference; I do not deny it, but I
want to reduce it and overcome it.'
'And-we remain women,' said Rachel Borken. 'Need you remain
'It is forced upon us,' said Edith Haydon.
'I do not think a woman becomes less of a woman because she
dresses and works like a man,' said Edwards. 'You women here, I
mean you scientific women, wear white clothing like the men,
twist up your hair in the simplest fashion, go about your work as
though there was only one sex in the world. You are just as much
women, even if you are not so feminine, as the fine ladies down
below there in the plains who dress for excitement and display,
whose only thoughts are of lovers, who exaggerate every
difference… Indeed we love you more.'
'But we go about our work,' said Edith Haydon.
'So does it matter?' asked Rachel.
'If you go about your work and if the men go about their work
then for Heaven's sake be as much woman as you wish,' said
the abolition of sex, but the abolition of the irksome,
restricting, obstructive obsession with sex. It may be true that
sex made society, that the first society was the sex-cemented
first laws sexual taboos. Until a few years ago morality meant
proper sexual behaviour. Up to within a few years of us the
chief interest and motive of an ordinary man was to keep and rule
a woman and her children and the chief concern of a woman was to
get a man to do that. That was the drama, that was life. And the
jealousy of these demands was the master motive in the world. You
said, Kahn, a little while ago that sexual love was the key that
let one out from the solitude of self, but I tell you that so far
it has only done so in order to lock us all up again in a
solitude of two… All that may have been necessary but it is
necessary no longer. All that has changed and changes still very
swiftly. Your future, Rachel, AS WOMEN, is a diminishing future.'
'Karenin?' asked Rachel, 'do you mean that women are to become
'Men and women have to become human beings.'
'You would abolish women? But, Karenin, listen! There is more
than sex in this. Apart from sex we are different from you. We
take up life differently. Forget we are-females, Karenin, and
still we are a different sort of human being with a different
use. In some things we are amazingly secondary. Here am I in
this place because of my trick of management, and Edith is here
because of her patient, subtle hands. That does not alter the
fact that nearly the whole body of science is man made; that does
not alter the fact that men do so predominatingly make history,
that you could nearly write a complete history of the world
without mentioning a woman's name. And on the other hand we have
a gift of devotion, of inspiration, a distinctive power for truly
loving beautiful things, a care for life and a peculiar keen
these last matters. You know they are restless-and fitful. We
have a steadfastness. We may never draw the broad outlines nor
discover the new paths, but in the future isn't there a
confirming and sustaining and supplying role for us? As
important, perhaps, as yours? Equally important. We hold the
world up, Karenin, though you may have raised it.'
not thinking of the abolition of woman. But I do want to
abolish-the heroine, the sexual heroine. I want to abolish the
woman whose support is jealousy and whose gift possession. I
want to abolish the woman who can be won as a prize or locked up
as a delicious treasure. And away down there the heroine flares
like a divinity.'
'In America,' said Edwards, 'men are fighting duels over the
praises of women and holding tournaments before Queens of
'I saw a beautiful girl in Lahore,' said Kahn, 'she sat under a
golden canopy like a goddess, and three fine men, armed and
dressed like the ancient paintings, sat on steps below her to
show their devotion. And they wanted only her permission to fight
'That is the men's doing,' said Edith Haydon.
'I SAID,' cried Edwards, 'that man's imagination was more
specialised for sex than the whole being of woman. What woman
would do a thing like that? Women do but submit to it or take
advantage of it.'
'There is no evil between men and women that is not a common
evil,' said Karenin. 'It is you poets, Kahn, with your love
songs which turn the sweet fellowship of comrades into this
woman-centred excitement. But there is something in women, in
many women, which responds to these provocations; they succumb to
a peculiarly self-cultivating egotism. They become the subjects
of their own artistry. They develop and elaborate themselves as
scarcely any man would ever do. They LOOK for golden canopies.
And even when they seem to react against that, they may do it
still. I have been reading in the old papers of the movements to
emancipate women that were going on before the discovery of
atomic force. These things which began with a desire to escape
from the limitations and servitude of sex, ended in an inflamed
assertion of sex, and women more heroines than ever. Helen of
Holloway was at last as big a nuisance in her way as Helen of
out a finger at Rachel and smiled gently-'instead of thinking of
yourselves as intelligent beings, you will be in danger
consequence. You have to learn to think of yourselves-for our
sakes and your own sakes-in relation to the sun and stars. You
have to cease to be our adventure, Rachel, and come with us upon
our adventures…' He waved his hand towards the dark sky above
the mountain crests.
'These questions are the next questions to which research will
bring us answers,' said Karenin. 'While we sit here and talk
idly and inexactly of what is needed and what may be, there are
hundreds of keen-witted men and women who are working these
things out, dispassionately and certainly, for the love of
knowledge. The next sciences to yield great harvests now will be
psychology and neural physiology. These perplexities of the
situation between man and woman and the trouble with the
obstinacy of egotism, these are temporary troubles, the issue of
our own times. Suddenly all these differences that seem so fixed
will dissolve, all these incompatibles will run together, and we
shall go on to mould our bodies and our bodily feelings and
personal reactions as boldly as we begin now to carve mountains
and set the seas in their places and change the currents of the
'It is the next wave,' said Fowler, who had come out upon the
terrace and seated himself silently behind Karenin's chair.
'Of course, in the old days,' said Edwards, 'men were tied to
their city or their country, tied to the homes they owned or the
work they did…'
man's power of self-modification.
'There is none,' said Fowler, walking forward and sitting down
upon the parapet in front of Karenin so that he could see his
power… I hope you do not tire yourself talking.'
'I am interested,' said Karenin. 'I suppose in a little while
men will cease to be tired. I suppose in a little time you will
give us something that will hurry away the fatigue products and
restore our jaded tissues almost at once. This old machine may
be made to run without slacking or cessation.'
'That is possible, Karenin. But there is much to learn.'
'And all the hours we give to digestion and half living; don't
you think there will be some way of saving these?'
Fowler nodded assent.
'And then sleep again. When man with his blazing lights made an
end to night in his towns and houses-it is only a hundred years
or so ago that that was done-then it followed he would presently
resent his eight hours of uselessness. Shan't we presently take
a tabloid or lie in some field of force that will enable us to do
with an hour or so of slumber and rise refreshed again?'
'Frobisher and Ameer Ali have done work in that direction.'
'And then the inconveniences of age and those diseases of the
system that come with years; steadily you drive them back and you
lengthen and lengthen the years that stretch between the
passionate tumults of youth and the contractions of senility. Man
who used to weaken and die as his teeth decayed now looks forward
And all those parts of him that once gathered evil against him,
the vestigial structures and odd, treacherous corners of his
body, you know better and better how to deal with. You carve his
body about and leave it re-modelled and unscarred. The
psychologists are learning how to mould minds, to reduce and
remove bad complexes of thought and motive, to relieve pressures
and broaden ideas. So that we are becoming more and more capable
of transmitting what we have learnt and preserving it for the
race. The race, the racial wisdom, science, gather power
continually to subdue the individual man to its own end. Is that
Fowler said that it was, and for a time he was telling Karenin of
new work that was in progress in India and Russia. 'And how is
it with heredity?' asked Karenin.
Fowler told them of the mass of inquiry accumulated and arranged
by the genius of Tchen, who was beginning to define clearly the
laws of inheritance and how the sex of children and the
complexions and many of the parental qualities could be
'He can actually DO--?'
'It is still, so to speak, a mere laboratory triumph,' said
Fowler, 'but to-morrow it will be practicable.'
'You see,' cried Karenin, turning a laughing face to Rachel and
Edith, 'while we have been theorising about men and women, here
is science getting the power for us to end that old dispute for
ever. If woman is too much for us, we'll reduce her to a
minority, and if we do not like any type of men and women, we'll
have no more of it. These old bodies, these old animal
limitations, all this earthly inheritance of gross
inevitabilities falls from the spirit of man like the shrivelled
cocoon from an imago. And for my own part, when I hear of these
things I feel like that-like a wet, crawling new moth that still
fears to spread its wings. Because where do these things take
'Beyond humanity,' said Kahn.
'No,' said Karenin. 'We can still keep our feet upon the earth
that made us. But the air no longer imprisons us, this round
planet is no longer chained to us like the ball of a galley
'In a little while men who will know how to bear the strange
gravitations, the altered pressures, the attenuated, unfamiliar
gases and all the fearful strangenesses of space will be
venturing out from this earth. This ball will be no longer enough
little argosy will go glittering up into the sky, twinkling and
glittering smaller and smaller until the blue swallows it up.
They may succeed out there; they may perish, but other men will
'It is as if a great window opened,' said Karenin.
As the evening drew on Karenin and those who were about him went
up upon the roof of the buildings, so that they might the better
watch the sunset and the flushing of the mountains and the coming
of the afterglow. They were joined by two of the surgeons from
the laboratories below, and presently by a nurse who brought
Karenin refreshment in a thin glass cup. It was a cloudless,
windless evening under the deep blue sky, and far away to the
north glittered two biplanes on the way to the observatories on
Everest, two hundred miles distant over the precipices to the
east. The little group of people watched them pass over the
mountains and vanish into the blue, and then for a time they
talked of the work that the observatory was doing. From that they
passed to the whole process of research about the world, and so
the great future that was opening upon man's imagination. He
asked the surgeons many questions upon the detailed possibilities
of their science, and he was keenly interested and excited by the
things they told him. And as they talked the sun touched the
mountains, and became very swiftly a blazing and indented
hemisphere of liquid flame and sank.
Karenin looked blinking at the last quivering rim of
incandescence, and shaded his eyes and became silent.
Presently he gave a little start.
'What?' asked Rachel Borken.
'I had forgotten,' he said.
'What had you forgotten?'
'I had forgotten about the operation to-morrow. I have been so
interested as Man to-day that I have nearly forgotten Marcus
Karenin. Marcus Karenin must go under your knife to-morrow,
Fowler, and very probably Marcus Karenin will die.' He raised
his slightly shrivelled hand. 'It does not matter, Fowler. It
scarcely matters even to me. For indeed is it Karenin who has
been sitting here and talking; is it not rather a common mind,
Fowler, that has played about between us? You and I and all of
nor me. What is true we all have; when the individual has
altogether brought himself to the test and winnowing of
expression, then the individual is done. I feel as though I had
already been emptied out of that little vessel, that Marcus
Karenin, which in my youth held me so tightly and completely.
Your beauty, dear Edith, and your broad brow, dear Rachel, and
you, Fowler, with your firm and skilful hands, are now almost as
much to me as this hand that beats the arm of my chair. And as
resolves to do, that spirit that lives and has talked in us
to-day, lived in Athens, lived in Florence, lives on, I know, for
'And you, old Sun, with your sword of flame searing these poor
eyes of Marcus for the last time of all, beware of me! You think
you. I have threatened you for ten thousand years, and soon I
disguises thrown away. Very soon now, old Sun, I shall launch
myself at you, and I shall reach you and I shall put my foot on
your spotted face and tug you about by your fiery locks. One step
I shall take to the moon, and then I shall leap at you. I've
talked to you before, old Sun, I've talked to you a million
ago, before I had stripped off a few thousand generations, dust
now and forgotten, I was a hairy savage and I pointed my hand at
forgotten that, old Sun?…
'Old Sun, I gather myself together out of the pools of the
individual that have held me dispersed so long. I gather my
billion thoughts into science and my million wills into a common
purpose. Well may you slink down behind the mountains from me,
well may you cower…'
before he returned to the cell in which he was to sleep. He was
given relief for a pain that began to trouble him and wrapped
warmly about with furs, for a great coldness was creeping over
all things, and so they left him, and he sat for a long time
watching the afterglow give place to the darkness of night.
It seemed to those who had to watch over him unobtrusively lest
he should be in want of any attention, that he mused very deeply.
The white and purple peaks against the golden sky sank down into
cold, blue remoteness, glowed out again and faded again, and the
burning cressets of the Indian stars, that even the moonrise
cannot altogether quench, began their vigil. The moon rose
behind the towering screen of dark precipices to the east, and
long before it emerged above these, its slanting beams had filled
the deep gorges below with luminous mist and turned the towers
and pinnacles of Lio Porgyul to a magic dreamcastle of radiance
Came a great uprush of ghostly light above the black rim of
rocks, and then like a bubble that is blown and detaches itself
the moon floated off clear into the unfathomable dark sky…
And then Karenin stood up. He walked a few paces along the
terrace and remained for a time gazing up at that great silver
disc, that silvery shield that must needs be man's first conquest
in outer space…
Presently he turned about and stood with his hands folded behind
him, looking at the northward stars…
At length he went to his own cell. He lay down there and slept
peacefully till the morning. And early in the morning they came
to him and the anaesthetic was given him and the operation
It was altogether successful, but Karenin was weak and he had to
lie very still; and about seven days later a blood clot detached
itself from the healing scar and travelled to his heart, and he
died in an instant in the night.