home   |   -   |   A-Z   |  


CHAPTER THE FIFTH


THE LAST DAYS OF MARCUS KARENIN

Section 1

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

by flight.

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

attendants

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

head.

'Cramped,' he said. 'I have wanted to visit such a place as

this.'

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

patient. But I should like to see things first. Presently I will

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'

Section 2

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

shall die.'

'Not certainly.'

'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.'

Fowler nodded.

'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

if you think that is because my body is as it is I think you are

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

patience.'

'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

said.

'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

hundred.'

'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

knowledge that growscontinually, an index that becomes

continuallytruer. There was never anything like it before.'

'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

see.'

'I have been so busy with my own work--Yes, I shall be glad to

see.'

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

again'

'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

indignities of his body-and the indignities of his soul. Pains,

incapacities, vile fears, black moods, despairs. How well I've

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

world'

Section 3

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

his day. Would he care to see people? Or was this gnawing pain

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

last day.'

'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

thing Iam most afraid of is that last rag of life. I may just go

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

with me Iam certain I shall be unfit for work-and what else is

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

well enough not to confuse it with its husks. Remember that,

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'

Section 4

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

the outlook of Karenin upon the world and how he thought and felt

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

'How encumbered the world had become! It was ailing as Iam

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

not understand, but that those who did understand lacked the

power of real belief. They said the things, they saw the things,

and the things meant nothing to them

'I have been reading some old papers lately. It is wonderful how

our fathers bore themselves towards science. They hated it. They

feared it. They permitted a few scientific men to exist and

work-a pitiful handful "Don't find out anything about us,"

they said to them; "don't inflict vision upon us, spare our

little ways of life from the fearful shaft of understanding. But

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

little individual selves. It is the awakeningmind of the race,

and in a little while--In a little while--I wish indeed I

could watch for that little while, now that the curtain has

risen

'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 thinks of him now as one thinks of the megatherium,' said

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

war.'

'Were there no sane men in those days,' asked the young man, 'to

stand against that idolatry?'

'In a state of despair,' said Edith Haydon.

'He is so far off-and there are men alive still who were alive

when Bismarck died!' said the young man

Section 5

'And yet it may be Iam unjust to Bismarck,' said Karenin,

following his own thoughts. 'You see, men belong to their own

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

lines of the accepted ideas. That is all. He thought that since

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

brim.

'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

now?'

'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'

Section 6

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

Section 7

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

soul of our race. I can see now, all over the world, a beautiful

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

time that life was a dreaming thing, dreaming so deeply that it

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

hands that were a demand and began a mind and memory that dies

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

behind.'

'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

story, is just a part of growing up and we grow out of it. So far

literature and art and sentiment and all our emotionalforms have

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

ourselves from it. We do free ourselves from it. We have learnt

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

Karenin.

'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

the journey.'

'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

is a thing constantly in my thoughts, Karenin. What do you think

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

thinking of yourselves as women?'

'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

Karenin. 'When I ask you to unspecialise, Iamthinking not of

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

family, the first state a confederacy of blood relations, the

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?'

'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

close eye for behaviour. You know men are blind beside us in

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.'

'You know very well, Rachel, that I believe as you believe. Iam

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

Beauty.'

'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

for her.'

'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

Troy, and so long as you think of yourselves as women'-he held

out a finger at Rachel and smiled gently-'instead of thinking of

yourselves as intelligent beings, you will be in danger

of-Helenism. To think of yourselves as women is to think of

yourselves in relation to men. You can't escape that

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.

Section 8

'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

wind.'

'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'

'I do not see,' said Karenin, 'that there is any final limit to

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

face. 'There is no absolutelimit to either knowledge or

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

to a continually lengthening, continually fuller term of years.

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

not so?'

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

determined.

'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

us?'

'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

slave

'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

for us; our spirit will reach out Cannot you see how that

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

follow them

'It is as if a great window opened,' said Karenin.

Section 9

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

Karenin's thoughts returned again to the mind of the world and

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

us have added thought to thought, but the thread is neither you

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

little me. And the spirit that desires to know, the spirit that

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

ever

'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

I die-and indeed Iam only taking off one more coat to get at

you. I have threatened you for ten thousand years, and soon I

warn you I shall be coming. When Iam altogether stripped and my

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

times, and now Iam beginning to remember. Yes-long ago, long

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

you and-clearly I remember it!-I saw you in a net. Have you

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'

Section 10

Karenin desired that he might dreamalone for a little while

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

and wonder

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

performed.

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.


The End


CHAPTER THE FOURTH THE NEW PHASE | The World Set Free |