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Successes

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I find it hard to trace the accumulation of moods-355- and feelings that led Trafford and Marjorie at last to make their extraordinary raid upon Labrador. In a week more things happen in the thoughts of such a man as Trafford, changes, revocations, deflections, than one can chronicle in the longest of novels. I have already in an earlier passage of this story sought to give an image of the confused content of a modern human mind, but that pool was to represent a girl of twenty, and Trafford now was a man of nearly thirty-five, and touching life at a hundred points for one of the undergraduate Marjorie's. Perhaps that made him less confused, but it certainly made him fuller. Let me attempt therefore only the broad outline of his changes of purpose and activity until I come to the crucial mood that made these two lives a little worth telling about, amidst the many thousands of such lives that people are living to-day....
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H.G. Wells

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Marriage by H. G. Wells, is part of the HackerNoon Books Series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here. Successes

Successes

§ 1

I find it hard to trace the accumulation of moods-355- and feelings that led Trafford and Marjorie at last to make their extraordinary raid upon Labrador. In a week more things happen in the thoughts of such a man as Trafford, changes, revocations, deflections, than one can chronicle in the longest of novels. I have already in an earlier passage of this story sought to give an image of the confused content of a modern human mind, but that pool was to represent a girl of twenty, and Trafford now was a man of nearly thirty-five, and touching life at a hundred points for one of the undergraduate Marjorie's. Perhaps that made him less confused, but it certainly made him fuller. Let me attempt therefore only the broad outline of his changes of purpose and activity until I come to the crucial mood that made these two lives a little worth telling about, amidst the many thousands of such lives that people are living to-day....

It took him seven years from his conclusive agreement with Solomonson to become a rich and influential man. It took him only seven years, because already by the mere accidents of intellectual interest he was in possession of knowledge of the very greatest economic importance, and because Solomonson was full of that practical loyalty and honesty that distinguishes his race. I think that in any case Trafford's vigor and subtlety of mind would have achieved the prosperity he had found necessary to himself, but it might have been, under less favorable-356- auspices, a much longer and more tortuous struggle. Success and security were never so abundant nor so easily attained by men with capacity and a sense of proportion as they are in the varied and flexible world of to-day. We live in an affluent age with a nearly incredible continuous fresh increment of power pouring in from mechanical invention, and compared with our own, most other periods have been meagre and anxious and hard-up times. Our problems are constantly less the problems of submission and consolation and continually more problems of opportunity....

Trafford found the opening campaign, the operation with the plantation shares and his explosion of Behrens' pretensions extremely uncongenial. It left upon his mind a confused series of memories of interviews and talks in offices for the most part dingy and slovenly, of bales of press-cuttings and blue-pencilled financial publications, of unpleasing encounters with a number of bright-eyed, flushed, excitable and extremely cunning men, of having to be reserved and limited in his talk upon all occasions, and of all the worst aspects of Solomonson. All that part of the new treatment of life that was to make him rich gave him sensations as though he had ceased to wash himself mentally, until he regretted his old life in his laboratory as a traveller in a crowded night train among filthy people might regret the bathroom he had left behind him....

But the development of his manufacture of rubber was an entirely different business, and for a time profoundly interesting. It took him into a new astonishing world, the world of large-scale manufacture and industrial organization. The actual planning of the works was not in itself anything essentially new to him. So far as all that went it was scarcely-357- more than the problem of arranging an experiment upon a huge and permanent scale, and all that quick ingenuity, that freshness and directness of mind that had made his purely scientific work so admirable had ample and agreeable scope. Even the importance of cost and economy at every point in the process involved no system of considerations that was altogether novel to him. The British investigator knows only too well the necessity for husbanded material and inexpensive substitutes. But strange factors came in, a new region of interest was opened with the fact that instead of one experimenter working with the alert responsive assistance of Durgan, a multitude of human beings—even in the first drafts of his project they numbered already two hundred, before the handling and packing could be considered—had to watch, control, assist or perform every stage in a long elaborate synthesis. For the first time in his life Trafford encountered the reality of Labour, as it is known to the modern producer.

It will be difficult in the future, when things now subtly or widely separated have been brought together by the receding perspectives of time, for the historian to realize just how completely out of the thoughts of such a young man as Trafford the millions of people who live and die in organized productive industry had been. That vast world of toil and weekly anxiety, ill-trained and stupidly directed effort and mental and moral feebleness, had been as much beyond the living circle of his experience as the hosts of Genghis Khan or the social life of the Forbidden City. Consider the limitations of his world. In all his life hitherto he had never been beyond a certain prescribed area of London's immensities, except by the most casual and uninstructive straying. He knew Chelsea and Kensington and the north bank-358- and (as a boy) Battersea Park, and all the strip between Kensington and Charing Cross, with some scraps of the Strand as far as the Law Courts, a shop or so in Tottenham Court Road and fragments about the British Museum and Holborn and Regent's Park, a range up Edgware Road to Maida Vale, the routes west and south-west through Uxbridge and Putney to the country, and Wimbledon Common and Putney Heath. He had never been on Hampstead Heath nor visited the Botanical Gardens nor gone down the Thames below London Bridge, nor seen Sydenham nor Epping Forest nor the Victoria Park. Take a map and blot all he knew and see how vast is the area left untouched. All industrial London, all wholesale London, great oceans of human beings fall into that excluded area. The homes he knew were comfortable homes, the poor he knew were the parasitic and dependent poor of the West, the shops, good retail shops, the factories for the most part engaged in dressmaking.

Of course he had been informed about this vast rest of London. He knew that as a matter of fact it existed, was populous, portentous, puzzling. He had heard of "slums," read "Tales of Mean Streets," and marvelled in a shallow transitory way at such wide wildernesses of life, apparently supported by nothing at all in a state of grey, darkling but prolific discomfort. Like the princess who wondered why the people having no bread did not eat cake, he could never clearly understand why the population remained there, did not migrate to more attractive surroundings. He had discussed the problems of those wildernesses as young men do, rather confidently, very ignorantly, had dismissed them, recurred to them, and forgotten them amidst a press of other interests, but now it all suddenly became real to him-359- with the intensity of a startling and intimate contact. He discovered this limitless, unknown, greater London, this London of the majority, as if he had never thought of it before. He went out to inspect favourable sites in regions whose very names were unfamiliar to him, travelled on dirty little intraurban railway lines to hitherto unimagined railway stations, found parks, churches, workhouses, institutions, public-houses, canals, factories, gas-works, warehouses, foundries and sidings, amidst a multitudinous dinginess of mean houses, shabby back-yards, and ill-kept streets. There seemed to be no limits to this thread-bare side of London, it went on northward, eastward, and over the Thames southward, for mile after mile—endlessly. The factories and so forth clustered in lines and banks upon the means of communication, the homes stretched between, and infinitude of parallelograms of grimy boxes with public-houses at the corners and churches and chapels in odd places, towering over which rose the council schools, big, blunt, truncated-looking masses, the means to an education as blunt and truncated, born of tradition and confused purposes, achieving by accident what they achieve at all.

And about this sordid-looking wilderness went a population that seemed at first as sordid. It was in no sense a tragic population. But it saw little of the sun, felt the wind but rarely, and so had a white, dull skin that looked degenerate and ominous to a West-end eye. It was not naked nor barefooted, but it wore cheap clothes that were tawdry when new, and speedily became faded, discoloured, dusty, and draggled. It was slovenly and almost wilfully ugly in its speech and gestures. And the food it ate was rough and coarse if abundant, the eggs it consumed "tasted"—everything "tasted"; its milk, its beer, its-360- bread was degraded by base adulterations, its meat was hacked red stuff that hung in the dusty air until it was sold; east of the city Trafford could find no place where by his standards he could get a tolerable meal tolerably served. The entertainment of this eastern London was jingle, its religion clap-trap, its reading feeble and sensational rubbish without kindliness or breadth. And if this great industrial multitude was neither tortured nor driven nor cruelly treated—as the slaves and common people of other days have been—yet it was universally anxious, perpetually anxious about urgent small necessities and petty dissatisfying things....

That was the general effect of this new region in which he had sought out and found the fortunate site for his manufacture of rubber, and against this background it was that he had now to encounter a crowd of selected individuals, and weld them into a harmonious and successful "process." They came out from their millions to him, dingy, clumsy, and at first it seemed without any individuality. Insensibly they took on character, rounded off by unaccustomed methods into persons as marked and distinctive as any he had known.

There was Dowd, for instance, the technical assistant, whom he came to call in his private thoughts Dowd the Disinherited. Dowd had seemed a rather awkward, potentially insubordinate young man of unaccountably extensive and curiously limited attainments. He had begun his career in a crowded home behind and above a baker's shop in Hoxton, he had gone as a boy into the works of a Clerkenwell electric engineer, and there he had developed that craving for knowledge which is so common in poor men of the energetic type. He had gone to classes, read with a sort of fury, feeding his mind on the-361- cheap and adulterated instruction of grant-earning crammers and on stale, meretricious and ill-chosen books; his mental food indeed was the exact parallel of the rough, abundant, cheap and nasty groceries and meat that gave the East-ender his spots and dyspeptic complexion, the cheap text-books were like canned meat and dangerous with intellectual ptomaines, the rascally encyclopædias like weak and whitened bread, and Dowd's mental complexion, too, was leaden and spotted. Yet essentially he wasn't, Trafford found, by any means bad stuff; where his knowledge had had a chance of touching reality it became admirable, and he was full of energy in his work and a sort of honest zeal about the things of the mind. The two men grew from an acute mutual criticism into a mutual respect.

At first it seemed to Trafford that when he met Dowd he was only meeting Dowd, but a time came when it seemed to him that in meeting Dowd he was meeting all that vast new England outside the range of ruling-class dreams, that multitudinous greater England, cheaply treated, rather out of health, angry, energetic and now becoming intelligent and critical, that England which organized industrialism has created. There were nights when he thought for hours about Dowd. Other figures grouped themselves round him—Markham, the head clerk, the quintessence of East-end respectability, who saw to the packing; Miss Peckover, an ex-telegraph operator, a woman so entirely reliable and unobservant that the most betraying phase of the secret process could be confidently entrusted to her hands. Behind them were clerks, workmen, motor-van men, work-girls, a crowd of wage-earners, from amidst which some individual would assume temporary importance and interest by doing something wrong, getting into-362- trouble, becoming insubordinate, and having contributed a little vivid story to Trafford's gathering impressions of life, drop back again into undistinguished subordination.

Dowd became at last entirely representative.

When first Trafford looked Dowd in the eye, he met something of the hostile interest one might encounter in a swordsman ready to begin a duel. There was a watchfulness, an immense reserve. They discussed the work and the terms of their relationship, and all the while Trafford felt there was something almost threateningly not mentioned.

Presently he learnt from a Silvertown employer what that concealed aspect was. Dowd was "that sort of man who makes trouble," disposed to strike rather than not upon a grievance, with a taste for open-air meetings, a member, obstinately adherent in spite of friendly remonstrance, of the Social Democratic Party. This in spite of his clear duty to a wife and two small white knobby children. For a time he would not talk to Trafford of anything but business—Trafford was so manifestly the enemy, not to be trusted, the adventurous plutocrat, the exploiter—when at last Dowd did open out he did so defiantly, throwing opinions at Trafford as a mob might hurl bricks at windows. At last they achieved a sort of friendship and understanding, an amiability as it were, in hostility, but never from first to last would he talk to Trafford as one gentleman to another; between them, and crossed only by flimsy, temporary bridges, was his sense of incurable grievances and fundamental injustice. He seemed incapable of forgetting the disadvantages of his birth and upbringing, the inferiority and disorder of the house that sheltered him, the poor food that nourished him, the deadened air he breathed, the limited leisure, the inadequate-363- books. Implicit in his every word and act was the assurance that but for this handicap he could have filled Trafford's place, while Trafford would certainly have failed in his.

For all these things Dowd made Trafford responsible; he held him to that inexorably.

"You sweat us," he said, speaking between his teeth; "you limit us, you stifle us, and away there in the West-end, you and the women you keep waste the plunder."

Trafford attempted palliation. "After all," he said, "it's not me so particularly——"

"But it is," said Dowd.

"It's the system things go upon."

"You're the responsible part of it. You have freedom, you have power and endless opportunity—"

Trafford shrugged his shoulders.

"It's because your sort wants too much," said Dowd, "that my sort hasn't enough."

"Tell me how to organize things better."

"Much you'd care. They'll organize themselves. Everything is drifting to class separation, the growing discontent, the growing hardship of the masses.... Then you'll see."

"Then what's going to happen?"

"Overthrow. And social democracy."

"How is that going to work?"

Dowd had been cornered by that before. "I don't care if it doesn't work," he snarled, "so long as we smash up this. We're getting too sick to care what comes after."

"Dowd," said Trafford abruptly, "I'm not so satisfied with things."

Dowd looked at him askance. "You'll get reconciled to it," he said. "It's ugly here—but it's all right there—at the spending end.... Your sort-364- has got to grab, your sort has got to spend—until the thing works out and the social revolution makes an end of you."

"And then?"

Dowd became busy with his work.

Trafford stuck his hands in his pockets and stared out of the dingy factory window.

"I don't object so much to your diagnosis," he said, "as to your remedy. It doesn't strike me as a remedy."

"It's an end," said Dowd, "anyhow. My God! When I think of all the women and shirkers flaunting and frittering away there in the West, while here men and women toil and worry and starve...." He stopped short like one who feels too full for controlled speech.

"Dowd," said Trafford after a fair pause, "What would you do if you were me?"

"Do?" said Dowd.

"Yes," said Trafford as one who reconsiders it, "what would you do?"

"Now that's a curious question, Mr. Trafford," said Dowd, turning to regard him. "Meaning—if I were in your place?"

"Yes," said Trafford. "What would you do in my place?"

"I should sell out of this place jolly quick," he said.

"Sell!" said Trafford softly.

"Yes—sell. And start a socialist daily right off. An absolutely independent, unbiassed socialist daily."

"And what would that do?"

"It would stir people up. Every day it would stir people up."

"But you see I can't edit. I haven't the money-365- for half a year of a socialist daily.... And meanwhile people want rubber."

Dowd shook his head. "You mean that you and your wife want to have the spending of six or eight thousand a year," he said.

"I don't make half of that," said Trafford.

"Well—half of that," pressed Dowd. "It's all the same to me."

Trafford reflected. "The point where I don't agree with you," he said, "is in supposing that my scale of living—over there, is directly connected with the scale of living—about here."

"Well, isn't it?"

"'Directly,' I said. No. If we just stopped it—over there—there'd be no improvement here. In fact, for a time it would mean dislocations. It might mean permanent, hopeless, catastrophic dislocation. You know that as well as I do. Suppose the West-end became—Tolstoyan; the East would become chaos."

"Not much likelihood," sneered Dowd.

"That's another question. That we earn together here and that I spend alone over there, it's unjust and bad, but it isn't a thing that admits of any simple remedy. Where we differ, Dowd, is about that remedy. I admit the disease as fully as you do. I, as much as you, want to see the dawn of a great change in the ways of human living. But I don't think the diagnosis is complete and satisfactory; our problem is an intricate muddle of disorders, not one simple disorder, and I don't see what treatment is indicated."

"Socialism," said Dowd, "is indicated."

"You might as well say that health is indicated," said Trafford with a note of impatience in his voice. "Does any one question that if we could have this-366- socialist state in which every one is devoted and every one is free, in which there is no waste and no want, and beauty and brotherhood prevail universally, we wouldn't? But——. You socialists have no scheme of government, no scheme of economic organization, no intelligible guarantees of personal liberty, no method of progress, no ideas about marriage, no plan—except those little pickpocket plans of the Fabians that you despise as much as I do—for making this order into that other order you've never yet taken the trouble to work out even in principle. Really you know, Dowd, what is the good of pointing at my wife's dresses and waving the red flag at me, and talking of human miseries——"

"It seems to wake you up a bit," said Dowd with characteristic irrelevance.

§ 2

The accusing finger of Dowd followed Trafford into his dreams.

Behind it was his grey-toned, intelligent, resentful face, his smouldering eyes, his slightly frayed collar and vivid, ill-chosen tie. At times Trafford could almost hear his flat insistent voice, his measured h-less speech. Dowd was so penetratingly right,—and so ignorant of certain essentials, so wrong in his forecasts and ultimates. It was true beyond disputing that Trafford as compared with Dowd had opportunity, power of a sort, the prospect and possibility of leisure. He admitted the liability that followed on that advantage. It expressed so entirely the spirit of his training that with Trafford the noble maxim of the older socialists; "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need,"-367- received an intuitive acquiescence. He had no more doubt than Dowd that Dowd was the victim of a subtle evasive injustice, innocently and helplessly underbred, underfed, cramped and crippled, and that all his own surplus made him in a sense Dowd's debtor.

But Dowd's remedies!

Trafford made himself familiar with the socialist and labor newspapers, and he was as much impressed by their honest resentments and their enthusiastic hopefulness as he was repelled by their haste and ignorance, their cocksure confidence in untried reforms and impudent teachers, their indiscriminating progressiveness, their impulsive lapses into hatred, misrepresentation and vehement personal abuse. He was in no mood for the humours of human character, and he found the ill-masked feuds and jealousies of the leaders, the sham statecraft of G. B. Magdeberg, M.P., the sham Machiavellism of Dorvil, the sham persistent good-heartedness of Will Pipes, discouraging and irritating. Altogether it seemed to him the conscious popular movement in politics, both in and out of Parliament, was a mere formless and indeterminate aspiration. It was a confused part of the general confusion, symptomatic perhaps, but exercising no controls and no direction.

His attention passed from the consideration of this completely revolutionary party to the general field of social reform. With the naïve directness of a scientific man, he got together the published literature of half a dozen flourishing agitations and philanthropies, interviewed prominent and rather embarrassed personages, attended meetings, and when he found the speeches too tiresome to follow watched the audience about him. He even looked up Aunt Plessington's Movement, and filled her with wild hopes and premature boastings about a promising-368- convert. "Marjorie's brought him round at last!" said Aunt Plessington. "I knew I could trust my little Madge!" His impression was not the cynic's impression of these wide shallows of activity. Progress and social reform are not, he saw, mere cloaks of hypocrisy; a wealth of good intention lies behind them in spite of their manifest futility. There is much dishonesty due to the blundering desire for consistency in people of hasty intention, much artless and a little calculated self-seeking, but far more vanity and amiable feebleness of mind in their general attainment of failure. The Plessingtons struck him as being after all very typical of the publicist at large, quite devoted, very industrious, extremely presumptuous and essentially thin-witted. They would cheat like ill-bred children for example, on some petty point of reputation, but they could be trusted to expend, ineffectually indeed, but with the extremest technical integrity, whatever sums of money their adherents could get together....

He emerged from this inquiry into the proposed remedies and palliatives for Dowd's wrongs with a better opinion of people's hearts and a worse one of their heads than he had hitherto entertained.

Pursuing this line of thought he passed from the politicians and practical workers to the economists and sociologists. He spent the entire leisure of the second summer after the establishment of the factory upon sociological and economic literature. At the end of that bout of reading he attained a vivid realization of the garrulous badness that rules in this field of work, and the prevailing slovenliness and negligence in regard to it. He chanced one day to look up the article on Socialism in the new Encyclopædia Britannica, and found in its entire failure to state the case for or against modern Socialism, to trace-369- its origins, or to indicate any rational development in the movement, a symptom of the universal laxity of interest in these matters. Indeed, the writer did not appear to have heard of modern Socialism at all; he discussed collective and individualist methods very much as a rather ill-read schoolgirl in a hurry for her college debating society might have done. Compared with the treatment of engineering or biological science in the same compilation, this article became almost symbolical of the prevailing habitual incompetence with which all this system of questions is still handled. The sciences were done scantily and carelessly enough, but they admitted at any rate the possibility of completeness; this did not even pretend to thoroughness.

One might think such things had no practical significance. And at the back of it all was Dowd, remarkably more impatient each year, confessing the failure of parliamentary methods, of trades unionism, hinting more and more plainly at the advent of a permanent guerilla war against capital, at the general strike and sabotage.

"It's coming to that," said Dowd; "it's coming to that."

"What's the good of it?" he said, echoing Trafford's words. "It's a sort of relief to the feelings. Why shouldn't we?"

§ 3

But you must not suppose that at any time these huge grey problems of our social foundations and the riddle of intellectual confusion one reaches through them, and the yet broader riddles of human purpose that open beyond, constitute the whole of Trafford's life during this time. When he came back to Marjorie-370- and his home, a curtain of unreality fell between him and all these things. It was as if he stepped through such boundaries as Alice passed to reach her Wonderland; the other world became a dream again; as if he closed the pages of a vivid book and turned to things about him. Or again it was as if he drew down the blind of a window that gave upon a landscape, grave, darkling, ominous, and faced the warm realities of a brightly illuminated room....

In a year or so he had the works so smoothly organized and Dowd so reconciled, trained and encouraged that his own daily presence was unnecessary, and he would go only three and then only two mornings a week to conduct those secret phases in the preparation of his catalytic that even Dowd could not be trusted to know. He reverted more and more completely to his own proper world.

And the first shock of discovering that greater London which "isn't in it" passed away by imperceptible degrees. Things that had been as vivid and startling as new wounds became unstimulating and ineffective with repetition. He got used to the change from Belgravia to East Ham, from East Ham to Belgravia. He fell in with the unusual persuasion in Belgravia, that, given a firm and prompt Home Secretary, East Ham could be trusted to go on—for quite a long time anyhow. One cannot sit down for all one's life in the face of insoluble problems. He had a motor-car now that far outshone Magnet's, and he made the transit from west to east in the minimum of time and with the minimum of friction. It ceased to be more disconcerting that he should have workers whom he could dismiss at a week's notice to want or prostitution than that he should have a servant waiting behind his chair. Things were so. The main current of his life—and the main current of his-371- life flowed through Marjorie and his home—carried him on. Rubber was his, but there were still limitless worlds to conquer. He began to take up, working under circumstances of considerable secrecy at Solomonson's laboratories at Riplings, to which he would now go by motor-car for two or three days at a time, the possibility of a cheap, resilient and very tough substance, rubber glass, that was to be, Solomonson was assured, the road surface of the future.

§ 4

The confidence of Solomonson had made it impossible for Trafford to alter his style of living almost directly upon the conclusion of their agreement. He went back to Marjorie to broach a financially emancipated phase. They took a furnished house at Shackleford, near Godalming in Surrey, and there they lived for nearly a year—using their Chelsea home only as a town apartment for Trafford when business held him in London. And there it was, in the pretty Surrey country, with the sweet air of pine and heather in Marjorie's blood, that their second child was born. It was a sturdy little boy, whose only danger in life seemed to be the superfluous energy with which he resented its slightest disrespect of his small but important requirements.

When it was time for Marjorie to return to London, spring had come round again, and Trafford's conceptions of life were adapting themselves to the new scale upon which they were now to do things. While he was busy creating his factory in the East End, Marjorie was displaying an equal if a less original constructive energy in Sussex Square, near Lancaster Gate, for there it was the new home was to be established. She set herself to furnish and arrange-372- it so as to produce the maximum of surprise and chagrin in Daphne, and she succeeded admirably. The Magnets now occupied a flat in Whitehall Court, the furniture Magnet had insisted upon buying himself with all the occult cunning of the humorist in these matters, and not even Daphne could blind herself to the superiority both in arrangement and detail of Marjorie's home. That was very satisfactory, and so too was the inevitable exaggeration of Trafford's financial importance. "He can do what he likes in the rubber world," said Marjorie. "In Mincing Lane, where they deal in rubber shares, they used to call him and Sir Rupert the invaders; now they call them the Conquering Heroes.... Of course, it's mere child's play to Godwin, but, as he said, 'We want money.' It won't really interfere with his more important interests...."

I do not know why both those sisters were more vulgarly competitive with each other than with any one else; I have merely to record the fact that they were so.

The effect upon the rest of Marjorie's family was equally gratifying. Mr. Pope came to the house-warming as though he had never had the slightest objection to Trafford's antecedents, and told him casually after dinner that Marjorie had always been his favourite daughter, and that from the first he had expected great things of her. He told Magnet, who was the third man of the party, that he only hoped Syd and Rom would do as well as their elder sisters. Afterwards, in the drawing-room, he whacked Marjorie suddenly and very startlingly on the shoulder-blade—it was the first bruise he had given her since Buryhamstreet days. "You've made a man of him, Maggots," he said.

The quiet smile of the Christian Scientist was-373- becoming now the fixed expression of Mrs. Pope's face, and it scarcely relaxed for a moment as she surveyed her daughter's splendours. She had triumphantly refused to worry over a rather serious speculative disappointment, but her faith in her prophet's spiritual power had been strengthened rather than weakened by the manifest insufficiency of his financial prestidigitations, and she was getting through life quite radiantly now, smiling at (but not, of course, giving way to) beggars, smiling at toothaches and headaches, both her own and other people's, smiling away doubts, smiling away everything that bows the spirit of those who are still in the bonds of the flesh....

Afterwards the children came round, Syd and Rom now with skirts down and hair up, and rather stiff in the fine big rooms, and Theodore in a high collar and very anxious to get Trafford on his side in his ambition to chuck a proposed bank clerkship and go in for professional aviation....

It was pleasant to be respected by her family again, but the mind of Marjorie was soon reaching out to the more novel possibilities of her changed position. She need no longer confine herself to teas and afternoons. She could now, delightful thought! give dinners. Dinners are mere vulgarities for the vulgar, but in the measure of your brains does a dinner become a work of art. There is the happy blending of a modern and distinguished simplicity with a choice of items essentially good and delightful and just a little bit not what was expected. There is the still more interesting and difficult blending and arrangement of the diners. From the first Marjorie resolved on a round table, and the achievement of that rare and wonderful thing, general conversation. She had a clear centre, with a circle of silver bowls filled-374- with short cut flowers and low shaded, old silver candlesticks adapted to the electric light. The first dinner was a nervous experience for her, but happily Trafford seemed unconscious of the importance of the occasion and talked very easily and well; at last she attained her old ambition to see Sir Roderick Dover in her house, and there was Remington, the editor of the Blue Weekly and his silent gracious wife; Edward Crampton, the historian, full of surprising new facts about Kosciusko; the Solomonsons and Mrs. Millingham, and Mary Gasthorne the novelist. It was a good talking lot. Remington sparred agreeably with the old Toryism of Dover, flank attacks upon them both were delivered by Mrs. Millingham and Trafford, Crampton instanced Hungarian parallels, and was happily averted by Mary Gasthorne with travel experiences in the Carpathians; the diamonds of Lady Solomonson and Mrs. Remington flashed and winked across the shining table, as their wearers listened with unmistakable intelligence, and when the ladies had gone upstairs Sir Rupert Solomonson told all the men exactly what he thought of the policy of the Blue Weekly, a balanced, common-sense judgment. Upstairs Lady Solomonson betrayed a passion of admiration for Mrs. Remington, and Mrs. Millingham mumbled depreciation of the same lady's intelligence in Mary Gasthorne's unwilling ear. "She's passive," said Mrs. Millingham. "She bores him...."

For a time Marjorie found dinner-giving delightful—it is like picking and arranging posies of human flowers—and fruits—and perhaps a little dried grass, and it was not long before she learnt that she was esteemed a success as a hostess. She gathered her earlier bunches in the Carmel and Solomonson circle, with a stiffening from among the literary and-375- scientific friends of Trafford and his mother, and one or two casual and undervalued blossoms from Aunt Plessington's active promiscuities. She had soon a gaily flowering garden of her own to pick from. Its strength and finest display lay in its increasing proportion of political intellectuals, men in and about the House who relaxed their minds from the tense detailed alertness needed in political intrigues by conversation that rose at times to the level of the smarter sort of article in the half-crown reviews. The women were more difficult than the men, and Marjorie found herself wishing at times that girl novelists and playwrights were more abundant, or women writers on the average younger. These talked generally well, and one or two capable women of her own type talked and listened with an effect of talking; so many other women either chattered disturbingly, or else did not listen, with an effect of not talking at all, and so made gaps about the table. Many of these latter had to be asked because they belonged to the class of inevitable wives, sine-qua-nons, and through them she learnt the value of that priceless variety of kindly unselfish men who can create the illusion of attentive conversation in the most uncomfortable and suspicious natures without producing backwater and eddy in the general flow of talk.

Indisputably Marjorie's dinners were successful. Of course, the abundance and æsthetic achievements of Mrs. Lee still seemed to her immeasurably out of reach, but it was already possible to show Aunt Plessington how the thing ought really to be done, Aunt Plessington with her narrow, lank, austerely served table, with a sort of quarter-deck at her own end and a subjugated forecastle round Hubert. And accordingly the Plessingtons were invited and shown, and to a party, too, that restrained Aunt Plessington-376- from her usual conversational prominence....

These opening years of Trafford's commercial phase were full of an engaging activity for Marjorie as for him, and for her far more completely than for him were the profounder solicitudes of life lost sight of in the bright succession of immediate events.

Marjorie did not let her social development interfere with her duty to society in the larger sense. Two years after the vigorous and resentful Godwin came a second son, and a year and a half later a third. "That's enough," said Marjorie, "now we've got to rear them." The nursery at Sussex Square had always been a show part of the house, but it became her crowning achievement. She had never forgotten the Lee display at Vevey, the shining splendours of modern maternity, the books, the apparatus, the space and light and air. The whole second floor was altered to accommodate these four triumphant beings, who absorbed the services of two nurses, a Swiss nursery governess and two housemaids—not to mention those several hundred obscure individuals who were yielding a sustaining profit in the East End. At any rate, they were very handsome and promising children, and little Margharita could talk three languages with a childish fluency, and invent and write a short fable in either French or German—with only as much misspelling as any child of eight may be permitted....

Then there sprang up a competition between Marjorie and the able, pretty wife of Halford Wallace, most promising of under-secretaries. They gave dinners against each other, they discovered young artists against each other, they went to first-nights and dressed against each other. Marjorie was ruddy and tall, Mrs. Halford Wallace dark and animated; Halford Wallace admired Marjorie, Trafford was insensible to Mrs. Halford Wallace. They played for-377- points so vague that it was impossible for any one to say which was winning, but none the less they played like artists, for all they were worth....

Trafford's rapid prosperity and his implicit promise of still wider activities and successes brought him innumerable acquaintances and many friends. He joined two or three distinguished clubs, he derived an uncertain interest from a series of week-end visits to ample, good-mannered households, and for a time he found a distraction in little flashes of travel to countries that caught at his imagination, Morocco, Montenegro, Southern Russia.

I do not know whether Marjorie might not have been altogether happy during this early Sussex Square period, if it had not been for an unconquerable uncertainty about Trafford. But ever and again she became vaguely apprehensive of some perplexing unreality in her position. She had never had any such profundity of discontent as he experienced. It was nothing clear, nothing that actually penetrated, distressing her. It was at most an uneasiness. For him the whole fabric of life was, as it were, torn and pieced by a provocative sense of depths unplumbed that robbed it of all its satisfactions. For her these glimpses were as yet rare, mere moments of doubt that passed again and left her active and assured.

§ 5

It was only after they had been married six or seven years that Trafford began to realize how widely his attitudes to Marjorie varied. He emerged slowly from a naïve unconsciousness of his fluctuations,—a naïve unconsciousness of inconsistency that for most men and women remains throughout life. His ruling idea that she and he were friends,-378- equals, confederates, knowing everything about each other, co-operating in everything, was very fixed and firm. But indeed that had become the remotest rendering of their relationship. Their lives were lives of intimate disengagement. They came nearest to fellowship in relation to their children; there they shared an immense common pride. Beyond that was a less confident appreciation of their common house and their joint effect. And then they liked and loved each other tremendously. They could play upon each other and please each other in a hundred different ways, and they did so, quite consciously, observing each other with the completest externality. She was still in many ways for him the bright girl he had admired in the examination, still the mysterious dignified transfiguration of that delightful creature on the tragically tender verge of motherhood; these memories were of more power with him than the present realities of her full-grown strength and capacity. He petted and played with the girl still; he was still tender and solicitous for that early woman. He admired and co-operated also with the capable, narrowly ambitious, beautiful lady into which Marjorie had developed, but those remoter experiences it was that gave the deeper emotions to their relationship.

The conflict of aims that had at last brought Trafford from scientific investigation into business, had left behind it a little scar of hostility. He felt his sacrifice. He felt that he had given something for her that she had had no right to exact, that he had gone beyond the free mutualities of honest love and paid a price for her; he had deflected the whole course of his life for her and he was entitled to repayments. Unconsciously he had become a slightly jealous husband. He resented inattentions-379- and absences. He felt she ought to be with him and orient all her proceedings towards him. He did not like other people to show too marked an appreciation of her. She had a healthy love of admiration, and in addition her social ambitions made it almost inevitable that at times she should use her great personal charm to secure and retain adherents. He was ashamed to betray the resentments thus occasioned, and his silence widened the separation more than any protest could have done....

For his own part he gave her no cause for a reciprocal jealousy. Other women did not excite his imagination very greatly, and he had none of the ready disposition to lapse to other comforters which is so frequent a characteristic of the husband out of touch with his life's companion. He was perhaps an exceptional man in his steadfast loyalty to his wife. He had come to her as new to love as she had been. He had never in his life taken that one decisive illicit step which changes all the aspects of sexual life for a man even more than for a woman. Love for him was a thing solemn, simple, and unspoilt. He perceived that it was not so for most other men, but that did little to modify his own private attitude. In his curious scrutiny of the people about him, he did not fail to note the drift of adventures and infidelities that glimmers along beneath the even surface of our social life. One or two of his intimate friends, Solomonson was one of them, passed through "affairs." Once or twice those dim proceedings splashed upward to the surface in an open scandal. There came Remington's startling elopement with Isabel Rivers, the writer, which took two brilliant and inspiring contemporaries suddenly and distressingly out of Trafford's world. Trafford felt none of that rage and forced and jealous contempt-380- for the delinquents in these matters which is common in the ill-regulated, virtuous mind. Indeed, he was far more sympathetic with than hostile to the offenders. He had brains and imagination to appreciate the grim pathos of a process that begins as a hopeful quest, full of the suggestion of noble possibilities, full of the craving for missed intensities of fellowship and realization, that loiters involuntarily towards beauties and delights, and ends at last too often after gratification of an appetite, in artificially hideous exposures, and the pelting misrepresentations of the timidly well-behaved vile. But the general effect of pitiful evasions, of unavoidable meannesses, of draggled heroics and tortuously insincere explanations confirmed him in his aversion from this labyrinthine trouble of extraneous love....

But if Trafford was a faithful husband, he ceased to be a happy and confident one. There grew up in him a vast hinterland of thoughts and feelings, an accumulation of unspoken and largely of unformulated things in which his wife had no share. And it was in that hinterland that his essential self had its abiding place....

It came as a discovery; it remained for ever after a profoundly disturbing perplexity that he had talked to Marjorie most carelessly, easily and seriously, during their courtship and their honeymoon. He remembered their early intercourse now as an immense happy freedom in love. Then afterwards a curtain had fallen. That almost delirious sense of escaping from oneself, of having at last found some one from whom there need be no concealment, some one before whom one could stand naked-souled and assured of love as one stands before one's God, faded so that he scarce observed its passing, but only discovered at last that it had gone. He misunderstood and-381- met misunderstanding. He found he could hurt her by the things he said, and be exquisitely hurt by her failure to apprehend the spirit of some ill-expressed intention. And it was so vitally important not to hurt, not to be hurt. At first he only perceived that he reserved himself; then there came the intimation of the question, was she also perhaps in such another hinterland as his, keeping herself from him?

He had perceived the cessation of that first bright outbreak of self-revelation, this relapse into the secrecies of individuality, quite early in their married life. I have already told of his first efforts to bridge their widening separation by walks and talks in the country, and by the long pilgrimage among the Alps that had ended so unexpectedly at Vevey. In the retrospect the years seemed punctuated with phases when "we must talk" dominated their intercourse, and each time the impulse of that recognized need passed away by insensible degrees again—with nothing said.

§ 6

Marjorie cherished an obstinate hope that Trafford would take up political questions and go into Parliament. It seemed to her that there was something about him altogether graver and wider than most of the active politicians she knew. She liked to think of those gravities assuming a practical form, of Trafford very rapidly and easily coming forward into a position of cardinal significance. It gave her general expenditure a quality of concentration without involving any uncongenial limitation to suppose it aimed at the preparation of a statesman's circle whenever Trafford chose to adopt that assumption. Little men in great positions came to her house and talked with opaque self-confidence at her table; she-382- measured them against her husband while she played the admiring female disciple to their half-confidential talk. She felt that he could take up these questions and measures that they reduced to trite twaddle, open the wide relevancies behind them, and make them magically significant, sweep away the encrusting pettiness, the personalities and arbitrary prejudices. But why didn't he begin to do it? She threw out hints he seemed blind towards, she exercised miracles of patience while he ignored her baits. She came near intrigue in her endeavor to entangle him in political affairs. For a time it seemed to her that she was succeeding—I have already told of his phase of inquiry and interest in socio-political work—and then he relapsed into a scornful restlessness, and her hopes weakened again.

But he could not concentrate his mind, he could not think where to begin. Day followed day, each with its attacks upon his intention, its petty just claims, its attractive novelties of aspect. The telephone bell rang, the letters flopped into the hall, Malcom the butler seemed always at hand with some distracting oblong on his salver. Dowd was developing ideas for a reconstructed organization of the factory, Solomonson growing enthusiastic about rubber-glass, his house seemed full of women, Marjorie had an engagement for him to keep or the children were coming in to say good-night. To his irritated brain the whole scheme of his life presented itself at last as a tissue of interruptions which prevented his looking clearly at reality. More and more definitely he realized he wanted to get away and think. His former life of research became invested with an effect of immense dignity and of a steadfast singleness of purpose....

But Trafford was following his own lights, upon-383- his own lines. He was returning to that faith in the supreme importance of thought and knowledge, upon which he had turned his back when he left pure research behind him. To that familiar end he came by an unfamiliar route, after his long, unsatisfying examination of social reform movements and social and political theories. Immaturity, haste and presumption vitiated all that region, and it seemed to him less and less disputable that the only escape for mankind from a continuing extravagant futility lay through the attainment of a quite unprecedented starkness and thoroughness of thinking about all these questions. This conception of a needed Renascence obsessed him more and more, and the persuasion, deeply felt if indistinctly apprehended, that somewhere in such an effort there was a part for him to play....

Life is too great for us or too petty. It gives us no tolerable middle way between baseness and greatness. We must die daily on the levels of ignoble compromise or perish tragically among the precipices. On the one hand is a life—unsatisfying and secure, a plane of dulled gratifications, mean advantages, petty triumphs, adaptations, acquiescences and submissions, and on the other a steep and terrible climb, set with sharp stones and bramble thickets and the possibilities of grotesque dislocations, and the snares of such temptation as comes only to those whose minds have been quickened by high desire, and the challenge of insoluble problems and the intimations of issues so complex and great, demanding such a nobility of purpose, such a steadfastness, alertness and openness of mind, that they fill the heart of man with despair....

There were moods when Trafford would, as people say,-384- pull himself together, and struggle with his gnawing discontent. He would compare his lot with that of other men, reproach himself for a monstrous greed and ingratitude. He remonstrated with himself as one might remonstrate with a pampered child refusing to be entertained by a whole handsome nursery full of toys. Other men did their work in the world methodically and decently, did their duty by their friends and belongings, were manifestly patient through dullness, steadfastly cheerful, ready to meet vexations with a humorous smile, and grateful for orderly pleasures. Was he abnormal? Or was he in some unsuspected way unhealthy? Trafford neglected no possible explanations. Did he want this great Renascence of the human mind because he was suffering from some subtle form of indigestion? He invoked, independently of each other, the aid of two distinguished specialists. They both told him in exactly the same voice and with exactly the same air of guineas well earned: "What you want, Mr. Trafford, is a change."

Trafford brought his mind to bear upon the instances of contentment about him. He developed an opinion that all men and many women were potentially at least as restless as himself. A huge proportion of the usage and education in modern life struck upon him now as being a training in contentment. Or rather in keeping quiet and not upsetting things. The serious and responsible life of an ordinary prosperous man fulfilling the requirements of our social organization fatigues and neither completely satisfies nor completely occupies. Still less does the responsible part of the life of a woman of the prosperous classes engage all her energies or hold her imagination. And there has grown up a great informal organization of employments, games,-385- ceremonies, social routines, travel, to consume these surplus powers and excessive cravings, which might otherwise change or shatter the whole order of human living. He began to understand the forced preoccupation with cricket and golf, the shooting, visiting, and so forth, to which the young people of the economically free classes in the community are trained. He discovered a theory for hobbies and specialized interests. He began to see why people go to Scotland to get away from London, and come to London to get away from Scotland, why they crowd to and fro along the Riviera, swarm over Switzerland, shoot, yacht, hunt, and maintain an immense apparatus of racing and motoring. Because so they are able to remain reasonably contented with the world as it is. He perceived, too, that a man who has missed or broken through the training to this kind of life, does not again very readily subdue himself to the security of these systematized distractions. His own upbringing had been antipathetic to any such adaptations; his years of research had given him the habit of naked intimacy with truth, filled him with a craving for reality and the destructive acids of a relentless critical method.

He began to understand something of the psychology of vice, to comprehend how small a part mere sensuality, how large a part the spirit of adventure and the craving for illegality, may play, in the career of those who are called evil livers. Mere animal impulses and curiosities it had always seemed possible to him to control, but now he was beginning to apprehend the power of that passion for escape, at any cost, in any way, from the petty, weakly stimulating, competitive motives of low-grade and law-abiding prosperity....

For a time Trafford made an earnest effort to-386- adjust himself to the position in which he found himself, and make a working compromise with his disturbing forces. He tried to pick up the scientific preoccupation of his earlier years. He made extensive schemes, to Solomonson's great concern, whereby he might to a large extent disentangle himself from business. He began to hunt out forgotten note-books and yellowing sheets of memoranda. He found the resumption of research much more difficult than he had ever supposed possible. He went so far as to plan a laboratory, and to make some inquiries as to site and the cost of building, to the great satisfaction not only of Marjorie but of his mother. Old Mrs. Trafford had never expressed her concern at his abandonment of molecular physics for money-making, but now in her appreciation of his return to pure investigation she betrayed her sense of his departure.

But in his heart he felt that this methodical establishment of virtue by limitation would not suffice for him. He said no word of this scepticism as it grew in his mind. Marjorie was still under the impression that he was returning to research, and that she was free to contrive the steady preparation for that happier day when he should assume his political inheritance. And then presently a queer little dispute sprang up between them. Suddenly, for the first time since he took to business, Trafford found himself limiting her again. She was disposed, partly through the natural growth of her circle and her setting and partly through a movement on the part of Mrs. Halford Wallace, to move from Sussex Square into a larger, more picturesquely built house in a more central position. She particularly desired a good staircase. He met her intimations of this development with a curious and unusual irritation.-387- The idea of moving bothered him. He felt that exaggerated annoyance which is so often a concomitant of overwrought nerves. They had a dispute that was almost a quarrel, and though Marjorie dropped the matter for a time, he could feel she was still at work upon it.

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by H.G. Wells @hgwells.English novelist, journalist, sociologist, and historian best known for such science fiction novels as The Time Machine
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