Obscurely it seems to me that the dominant concern of that world was to produce a new human type, capable of greater powers of intelligence and sensibility, and also of spiritual insight. Obscurely I see that the new type was indeed produced; for I have a darkling vision of a prolonged and tense yet temperate divergence of will between the primary human race and the secondary, more developed race which the primaries had so lovingly conceived and patiently actualized. The disagreement was about the goal of human co-operative endeavour. The secondaries advocated some re-orientation of world policy which to the primaries was repugnant. The nature of this re-orientation I could not determine. I suspect that the whole primary population were incapable of comprehending it, and that they resisted it simply because it conflicted with their own world-policy. But it seemed to me that in the end they were persuaded to accept this re-orientation, humbly acknowledging that if the secondaries willed it, it must be the way of the light. Thenceforth the primary human race gradually withdrew from active control of human destiny. For a while it continued to reproduce itself, though at a steadily decreasing rate, and continued to perform minor functions within the new world economy; but its status was something between that of the aged parent, the pensioned family-nurse, and the conquered ‘aboriginals’. Its young people found themselves unable to keep pace with the young of the new type. They came into a world which could never be their own world, though they obscurely recognized it as a world ruled by the very same light that ruled in their own hearts. In these conditions the primary population inevitably dwindled into extinction. The secondaries possessed the earth and proceeded in the way that seemed good to them.
But it became clear that the American renaissance somehow lacked vitality. Somehow the old American forcefulness and drive had waned. On the surface all seemed well, and indeed Utopian. The population lived in security and frugal comfort. Class differences had almost wholly vanished. Education was consciously directed towards the creation of responsible citizens. European classical and Christian culture was studied afresh, with a new zeal and a new critical judgment; for it was realized that in the European tradition lay the true antidote to the new-fangled barbarism. Yet in spite of all this manifestation of sanity and good will, something was lacking. The American example appealed only to those who were already well-disposed. The great mass of mankind remained unimpressed. Many observers conceded that North America was a comfortable and amiable society; but it was stagnant, they said, and mediocre. It was incapable of giving a lead to a troubled world. No doubt this general ineffectiveness was partly due to the decline of average intelligence which North America shared with Europe. There was a lack of able leaders and men of far-reaching vision; and the average citizen, though well trained in citizenship, was mentally sluggish and incapable of clear-headed devotion to the ideals of his state. The new Russian imperialism, on the other hand, in spite of all its faults, combined the crusading and at heart mystical fervour of the short-lived German Fourth Reich with some measure at least of the fundamental rightness the original Russian revolution. In competition with the vigour and glamour of Russia, the American example had little power to attract men. Even in the South American continent the lead given by the North Americans proved after all ineffective. One by one the Southern states turned increasingly to Russia for guidance, or were forcibly annexed.
Asked whether men might have an inborn advantage at the piano, Ruth denies the suggestion vigorously. "Of course not," she replies. "I can't imagine why a man should play the piano better than a woman. At West Point, the women do everything the same as the male cadets except boxing and wrestling. Women might have smaller fingers on the average, but as far as strength, speed, and dexterity are concerned, it's impossible to listen to a recording and guess whether it was played by a man or a woman."
The ruins of the motel were black and hideous, and a ghostly wisp of smoke rose straight up into the still air from the remains of the lobby block. I went back into the cabin and had a shower and began briskly to pack my things into my two saddlebags. Then I saw the letter on the dressing table and I went and sat on the bed and read it.
I am thus one of the very few examples, in this country, of one who has, not thrown off religious belief, but never had it: I grew up in a negative state with regard to it. I looked upon the modern exactly as I did upon the ancient religion, as something which in no way concerned me. It did not seem to me more strange that English people should believe what I did not, than that the men I read of in Herodotus should have done so. History had made the variety of opinions among mankind a fact familiar to me, and this was but a prolongation of that fact. This point in my early education had, however, incidentally One bad consequence deserving notice. In giving me an opinion contrary to that of the world, my father thought it necessary to give it as one which could not prudently be avowed to the world. This lesson of keeping my thoughts to myself, at that early age, was attended with some moral disadvantages; though my limited intercourse with strangers, especially such as were likely to speak to me on religion, prevented me from being placed in the alternative of avowal or hypocrisy. I remember two occasions in my boyhood, on which I felt myself in this alternative, and in both cases I avowed my disbelief and defended it. My opponents were boys, considerably older than myself: one of them I certainly staggered at the time, but the subject was never renewed between us: the other who was surprised, and somewhat shocked, did his best to convince me for some time, without effect.
The principal covering consisted of a long clinging robe of a bright green. Around the bust was wrapped white gauze, of the slightest texture; its folds so arranged, as to resemble, as much as possible, the crested foam of ocean; from which, the head, neck, and arms, seemed, as it were, emerging; while a part of the same drapery fell over one shoulder, and floated loosely behind the figure, like the line of light on divided waters. Through various parts of the dress was twisted bright scarlet coral, intermingled with tufts of sea-weeds, bound together by clusters of the most brilliant emeralds, seemingly unset, and mixed with small shells, to give their grouping a natural appearance; while over all were scattered costly pearls, innumerable, neither strung nor set. The feet and ankles, in particular, were entirely encrusted with ornaments of this mixed description, as if the accumulation had been collected, by treading the rocks and caverns of the fathomless deep, among Neptune’s hidden treasures.
But my chief work was the investigating of complaints made by the public as to postal matters. The practice of the office was and is to send one of its servants to the spot to see the complainant and to inquire into the facts, when the complainant is sufficiently energetic or sufficiently big to make himself well heard. A great expense is often incurred for a very small object; but the system works well on the whole, as confidence is engendered, and a feeling is produced in the country that the department has eyes of its own and does keep them open. This employment was very pleasant, and to me always easy, as it required at its close no more than the writing of a report. There were no accounts in this business, no keeping of books, no necessary manipulation of multitudinous forms. I must tell of one such complaint and inquiry, because in its result I think it was emblematic of many.
Chapter 2 Flirting