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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesCrome Yellow - Chapter XXV
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Crome Yellow - Chapter XXV Post by :medcop Category :Long Stories Author :Aldous Huxley Date :February 2011 Read :3066

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Crome Yellow - Chapter XXV

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"I hope you all realise," said Henry Wimbush during dinner, "that
next Monday is Bank Holiday, and that you will all be expected to
help in the Fair."

"Heavens!" cried Anne. "The Fair--I had forgotten all about it.
What a nightmare! Couldn't you put a stop to it, Uncle Henry?"

Mr. Wimbush sighed and shook his head. "Alas," he said, "I fear
I cannot. I should have liked to put an end to it years ago; but
the claims of Charity are strong."

"It's not charity we want," Anne murmured rebelliously; "it's
justice."

"Besides," Mr. Wimbush went on, "the Fair has become an
institution. Let me see, it must be twenty-two years since we
started it. It was a modest affair then. Now..." he made a
sweeping movement with his hand and was silent.

It spoke highly for Mr. Wimbush's public spirit that he still
continued to tolerate the Fair. Beginning as a sort of glorified
church bazaar, Crome's yearly Charity Fair had grown into a noisy
thing of merry-go-rounds, cocoanut shies, and miscellaneous side
shows--a real genuine fair on the grand scale. It was the local
St. Bartholomew, and the people of all the neighbouring villages,
with even a contingent from the county town, flocked into the
park for their Bank Holiday amusement. The local hospital
profited handsomely, and it was this fact alone which prevented
Mr. Wimbush, to whom the Fair was a cause of recurrent and never-
diminishing agony, from putting a stop to the nuisance which
yearly desecrated his park and garden.

"I've made all the arrangements already," Henry Wimbush went on.
"Some of the larger marquees will be put up to-morrow. The
swings and the merry-go-round arrive on Sunday."

"So there's no escape," said Anne, turning to the rest of the
party. "You'll all have to do something. As a special favour
you're allowed to choose your slavery. My job is the tea tent,
as usual, Aunt Priscilla..."

"My dear," said Mrs. Wimbush, interrupting her, "I have more
important things to think about than the Fair. But you need have
no doubt that I shall do my best when Monday comes to encourage
the villagers."

"That's splendid," said Anne. "Aunt Priscilla will encourage the
villagers. What will you do, Mary?"

"I won't do anything where I have to stand by and watch other
people eat."

"Then you'll look after the children's sports."

"All right," Mary agreed. "I'll look after the children's
sports."

"And Mr. Scogan?"

Mr. Scogan reflected. "May I be allowed to tell fortunes?" he
asked at last. "I think I should be good at telling fortunes."

"But you can't tell fortunes in that costume!"

"Can't I?" Mr. Scogan surveyed himself.

"You'll have to be dressed up. Do you still persist?"

"I'm ready to suffer all indignities."

"Good!" said Anne; and turning to Gombauld, "You must be our
lightning artist," she said. "'Your portrait for a shilling in
five minutes.'"

"It's a pity I'm not Ivor," said Gombauld, with a laugh. "I
could throw in a picture of their Auras for an extra sixpence."

Mary flushed. "Nothing is to be gained," she said severely, "by
speaking with levity of serious subjects. And, after all,
whatever your personal views may be, psychical research is a
perfectly serious subject."

"And what about Denis?"

Denis made a deprecating gesture. "I have no accomplishments,"
he said, "I'll just be one of those men who wear a thing in their
buttonholes and go about telling people which is the way to tea
and not to walk on the grass."

"No, no," said Anne. "That won't do. You must do something more
than that."

"But what? All the good jobs are taken, and I can do nothing but
lisp in numbers."

"Well, then, you must lisp," concluded Anne. "You must write a
poem for the occasion--an 'Ode on Bank Holiday.' We'll print it
on Uncle Henry's press and sell it at twopence a copy."

"Sixpence," Denis protested. "It'll be worth sixpence."

Anne shook her head. "Twopence," she repeated firmly. "Nobody
will pay more than twopence."

"And now there's Jenny," said Mr Wimbush. "Jenny," he said,
raising his voice, "what will you do?"

Denis thought of suggesting that she might draw caricatures at
sixpence an execution, but decided it would be wiser to go on
feigning ignorance of her talent. His mind reverted to the red
notebook. Could it really be true that he looked like that?

"What will I do," Jenny echoed, "what will I do?" She frowned
thoughtfully for a moment; then her face brightened and she
smiled. "When I was young," she said, "I learnt to play the
drums."

"The drums?"

Jenny nodded, and, in proof of her assertion, agitated her knife
and fork, like a pair of drumsticks, over her plate. "If there's
any opportunity of playing the drums..." she began.

"But of course," said Anne, "there's any amount of opportunity.
We'll put you down definitely for the drums. That's the lot,"
she added.

"And a very good lot too," said Gombauld. "I look forward to my
Bank Holiday. It ought to be gay."

"It ought indeed," Mr Scogan assented. "But you may rest assured
that it won't be. No holiday is ever anything but a
disappointment."

"Come, come," protested Gombauld. "My holiday at Crome isn't
being a disappointment."

"Isn't it?" Anne turned an ingenuous mask towards him.

"No, it isn't," he answered.

"I'm delighted to hear it."

"It's in the very nature of things," Mr. Scogan went on; "our
holidays can't help being disappointments. Reflect for a moment.
What is a holiday? The ideal, the Platonic Holiday of Holidays
is surely a complete and absolute change. You agree with me in
my definition?" Mr. Scogan glanced from face to face round the
table; his sharp nose moved in a series of rapid jerks through
all the points of the compass. There was no sign of dissent; he
continued: "A complete and absolute change; very well. But
isn't a complete and absolute change precisely the thing we can
never have--never, in the very nature of things?" Mr. Scogan
once more looked rapidly about him. "Of course it is. As
ourselves, as specimens of Homo Sapiens, as members of a society,
how can we hope to have anything like an absolute change? We are
tied down by the frightful limitation of our human faculties, by
the notions which society imposes on us through our fatal
suggestibility, by our own personalities. For us, a complete
holiday is out of the question. Some of us struggle manfully to
take one, but we never succeed, if I may be allowed to express
myself metaphorically, we never succeed in getting farther than
Southend."

"You're depressing," said Anne.

"I mean to be," Mr. Scogan replied, and, expanding the fingers of
his right hand, he went on: "Look at me, for example. What sort
of a holiday can I take? In endowing me with passions and
faculties Nature has been horribly niggardly. The full range of
human potentialities is in any case distressingly limited; my
range is a limitation within a limitation. Out of the ten
octaves that make up the human instrument, I can compass perhaps
two. Thus, while I may have a certain amount of intelligence, I
have no aesthetic sense; while I possess the mathematical
faculty, I am wholly without the religious emotions; while I am
naturally addicted to venery, I have little ambition and am not
at all avaricious. Education has further limited my scope.
Having been brought up in society, I am impregnated with its
laws; not only should I be afraid of taking a holiday from them,
I should also feel it painful to try to do so. In a word, I have
a conscience as well as a fear of gaol. Yes, I know it by
experience. How often have I tried to take holidays, to get away
from myself, my own boring nature, my insufferable mental
surroundings!" Mr. Scogan sighed. "But always without success,"
he added, "always without success. In my youth I was always
striving--how hard!--to feel religiously and aesthetically.
Here, said I to myself, are two tremendously important and
exciting emotions. Life would be richer, warmer, brighter,
altogether more amusing, if I could feel them. I try to feel
them. I read the works of the mystics. They seemed to me
nothing but the most deplorable claptrap--as indeed they always
must to anyone who does not feel the same emotion as the authors
felt when they were writing. For it is the emotion that matters.
The written work is simply an attempt to express emotion, which
is in itself inexpressible, in terms of intellect and logic. The
mystic objectifies a rich feeling in the pit of the stomach into
a cosmology. For other mystics that cosmology is a symbol of the
rich feeling. For the unreligious it is a symbol of nothing, and
so appears merely grotesque. A melancholy fact! But I
divagate." Mr. Scogan checked himself. "So much for the
religious emotion. As for the aesthetic--I was at even greater
pains to cultivate that. I have looked at all the right works of
art in every part of Europe. There was a time when, I venture to
believe, I knew more about Taddeo da Poggibonsi, more about the
cryptic Amico di Taddeo, even than Henry does. To-day, I am
happy to say, I have forgotten most of the knowledge I then so
laboriously acquired; but without vanity I can assert that it was
prodigious. I don't pretend, of course, to know anything about
nigger sculpture or the later seventeenth century in Italy; but
about all the periods that were fashionable before 1900 I am, or
was, omniscient. Yes, I repeat it, omniscient. But did that
fact make me any more appreciative of art in general? It did
not. Confronted by a picture, of which I could tell you all the
known and presumed history--the date when it was painted, the
character of the painter, the influences that had gone to make it
what it was--I felt none of that strange excitement and
exaltation which is, as I am informed by those who do feel it,
the true aesthetic emotion. I felt nothing but a certain
interest in the subject of the picture; or more often, when the
subject was hackneyed and religious, I felt nothing but a great
weariness of spirit. Nevertheless, I must have gone on looking
at pictures for ten years before I would honestly admit to myself
that they merely bored me. Since then I have given up all
attempts to take a holiday. I go on cultivating my old stale
daily self in the resigned spirit with which a bank clerk
performs from ten till six his daily task. A holiday, indeed!
I'm sorry for you, Gombauld, if you still look forward to having
a holiday."

Gombauld shrugged his shoulders. "Perhaps," he said, "my
standards aren't as elevated as yours. But personally I found
the war quite as thorough a holiday from all the ordinary
decencies and sanities, all the common emotions and
preoccupations, as I ever want to have."

"Yes," Mr. Scogan thoughtfully agreed. "Yes, the war was
certainly something of a holiday. It was a step beyond Southend;
it was Weston-super-Mare; it was almost Ilfracombe."

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