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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Longest Journey - PART 1 - CAMBRIDGE - Chapter 15
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The Longest Journey - PART 1 - CAMBRIDGE - Chapter 15 Post by :ianherculson Category :Long Stories Author :E M Forster Date :March 2011 Read :812

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The Longest Journey - PART 1 - CAMBRIDGE - Chapter 15

The sense of purity is a puzzling and at times a fearful thing.
It seems so noble, and it starts as one with morality. But it is
a dangerous guide, and can lead us away not only from what is
gracious, but also from what is good. Agnes, in this tangle, had
followed it blindly, partly because she was a woman, and it meant
more to her than it can ever mean to a man; partly because,
though dangerous, it is also obvious, and makes no demand upon
the intellect. She could not feel that Stephen had full human
rights. He was illicit, abnormal, worse than a man diseased. And
Rickie remembering whose son he was, gradually adopted her
opinion. He, too, came to be glad that his brother had passed
from him untried, that the symbolic moment had been rejected.
Stephen was the fruit of sin; therefore he was sinful, He, too,
became a sexual snob.

And now he must hear the unsavoury details. That evening they sat
in the walled garden. Agues, according to arrangement, left him
alone with his aunt. He asked her, and was not answered.

"You are shocked," she said in a hard, mocking voice, "It is very
nice of you to be shocked, and I do not wish to grieve you
further. We will not allude to it again. Let us all go on just as
we are. The comedy is finished."

He could not tolerate this. His nerves were shattered, and all
that was good in him revolted as well. To the horror of Agnes,
who was within earshot, he replied, "You used to puzzle me, Aunt
Emily, but I understand you at last. You have forgotten what
other people are like. Continual selfishness leads to that. I am
sure of it. I see now how you look at the world. 'Nice of me to
be shocked!' I want to go tomorrow, if I may."

"Certainly, dear. The morning trains are the best." And so the
disastrous visit ended.

As he walked back to the house he met a certain poor woman, whose
child Stephen had rescued at the level-crossing, and who had
decided, after some delay, that she must thank the kind gentleman
in person. "He has got some brute courage," thought Rickie, "and
it was decent of him not to boast about it." But he had labelled
the boy as "Bad," and it was convenient to revert to his good
qualities as seldom as possible. He preferred to brood over his
coarseness, his caddish ingratitude, his irreligion. Out of these
he constructed a repulsive figure, forgetting how slovenly his
own perceptions had been during the past week, how dogmatic and
intolerant his attitude to all that was not Love.

During the packing he was obliged to go up to the attic to find
the Dryad manuscript which had never been returned. Leighton came
too, and for about half an hour they hunted in the flickering
light of a candle. It was a strange, ghostly place, and Rickie
was quite startled when a picture swung towards him, and he saw
the Demeter of Cnidus, shimmering and grey. Leighton suggested
the roof. Mr. Stephen sometimes left things on the roof. So they
climbed out of the skylight--the night was perfectly still--and
continued the search among the gables. Enormous stars hung
overhead, and the roof was bounded by chasms, impenetrable and
black. "It doesn't matter," said Rickie, suddenly convinced of
the futility of all that he did. "Oh, let us look properly," said
Leighton, a kindly, pliable man, who had tried to shirk coming,
but who was genuinely sympathetic now that he had come. They were
rewarded: the manuscript lay in a gutter, charred and smudged.

The rest of the year was spent by Rickie partly in bed,--he had a
curious breakdown,--partly in the attempt to get his little
stories published. He had written eight or nine, and hoped they
would make up a book, and that the book might be called "Pan
Pipes." He was very energetic over this; he liked to work, for
some imperceptible bloom had passed from the world, and he no
longer found such acute pleasure in people. Mrs. Failing's old
publishers, to whom the book was submitted, replied that, greatly
as they found themselves interested, they did not see their way
to making an offer at present. They were very polite, and singled
out for special praise "Andante Pastorale," which Rickie had
thought too sentimental, but which Agnes had persuaded him to
include. The stories were sent to another publisher, who
considered them for six weeks, and then returned them. A fragment
of red cotton, Placed by Agnes between the leaves, had not
shifted its position.

"Can't you try something longer, Rickie?" she said;
"I believe we're on the wrong track. Try an out--and--out
love-story."

"My notion just now," he replied, "is to leave the passions on
the fringe." She nodded, and tapped for the waiter: they had met
in a London restaurant. "I can't soar; I can only indicate.
That's where the musicians have the pull, for music has wings,
and when she says 'Tristan' and he says 'Isolde,' you are on the
heights at once. What do people mean when they call love music
artificial?"

"I know what they mean, though I can't exactly explain. Or
couldn't you make your stories more obvious? I don't see any harm
in that. Uncle Willie floundered hopelessly. He doesn't read
much, and he got muddled. I had to explain, and then he was
delighted. Of course, to write down to the public would be quite
another thing and horrible. You have certain ideas, and you must
express them. But couldn't you express them more clearly?"

"You see--" He got no further than "you see."

"The soul and the body. The soul's what matters," said Agnes, and
tapped for the waiter again. He looked at her admiringly, but
felt that she was not a perfect critic. Perhaps she was too
perfect to be a critic. Actual life might seem to her so real
that she could not detect the union of shadow and adamant that
men call poetry. He would even go further and acknowledge that
she was not as clever as himself--and he was stupid enough! She
did not like discussing anything or reading solid books, and she
was a little angry with such women as did. It pleased him to make
these concessions, for they touched nothing in her that he
valued. He looked round the restaurant, which was in Soho and
decided that she was incomparable.

"At half-past two I call on the editor of the 'Holborn.' He's got
a stray story to look at, and he's written about it."

"Oh, Rickie! Rickie! Why didn't you put on a boiled shirt!"

He laughed, and teased her. "'The soul's what matters. We
literary people don't care about dress."

"Well, you ought to care. And I believe you do. Can't you
change?"

"Too far." He had rooms in South Kensington. "And I've forgot my
card-case. There's for you!"

She shook her head. "Naughty, naughty boy! Whatever will you do?"

"Send in my name, or ask for a bit of paper and write it. Hullo!
that's Tilliard!"

Tilliard blushed, partly on account of the faux pas he had made
last June, partly on account of the restaurant. He explained how
he came to be pigging in Soho: it was so frightfully convenient
and so frightfully cheap.

"Just why Rickie brings me," said Miss Pembroke.

"And I suppose you're here to study life?" said Tilliard, sitting
down.

"I don't know," said Rickie, gazing round at the waiters and the
guests.

"Doesn't one want to see a good deal of life for writing? There's
life of a sort in Soho,--Un peu de faisan, s'il vows plait."

Agnes also grabbed at the waiter, and paid. She always did the
paying, Rickie muddled with his purse.

"I'm cramming," pursued Tilliard, "and so naturally I come into
contact with very little at present. But later on I hope to see
things." He blushed a little, for he was talking for Rickie's
edification. "It is most frightfully important not to get a
narrow or academic outlook, don't you think? A person like
Ansell, who goes from Cambridge, home--home, Cambridge--it must
tell on him in time."

"But Mr. Ansell is a philosopher."

"A very kinky one," said Tilliard abruptly. "Not my idea of a
philosopher. How goes his dissertation?"

"He never answers my letters," replied Rickie. "He never would.
I've heard nothing since June."

"It's a pity he sends in this year. There are so many good people
in. He'd have afar better chance if he waited."

"So I said, but he wouldn't wait. He's so keen about this
particular subject."

"What is it?" asked Agnes.

"About things being real, wasn't it, Tilliard?"

"That's near enough."

"Well, good luck to him!" said the girl. "And good luck to you,
Mr. Tilliard! Later on, I hope, we'll meet again."

They parted. Tilliard liked her, though he did not feel that she
was quite in his couche sociale. His sister, for instance,
would never have been lured into a Soho restaurant--except for
the experience of the thing. Tilliard's couche sociale permitted
experiences. Provided his heart did not go out to the poor and
the unorthodox, he might stare at them as much as he liked. It
was seeing life.

Agnes put her lover safely into an omnibus at Cambridge Circus.
She shouted after him that his tie was rising over his collar,
but he did not hear her. For a moment she felt depressed, and
pictured quite accurately the effect that his appearance would
have on the editor. The editor was a tall neat man of forty, slow
of speech, slow of soul, and extraordinarily kind. He and Rickie
sat over a fire, with an enormous table behind them whereon stood
many books waiting to be reviewed.

"I'm sorry," he said, and paused.

Rickie smiled feebly.

"Your story does not convince." He tapped it. "I have read it
with very great pleasure. It convinces in parts, but it does not
convince as a whole; and stories, don't you think, ought to
convince as a whole?"

"They ought indeed," said Rickie, and plunged into
self-depreciation. But the editor checked him.

"No--no. Please don't talk like that. I can't bear to hear any
one talk against imagination. There are countless openings for
imagination,--for the mysterious, for the supernatural, for all
the things you are trying to do, and which, I hope, you will
succeed in doing. I'm not OBJECTING to imagination; on the
contrary, I'd advise you to cultivate it, to accent it. Write a
really good ghost story and we'd take it at once. Or"--he
suggested it as an alternative to imagination--"or you might get
inside life. It's worth doing."

"Life?" echoed Rickie anxiously.

He looked round the pleasant room, as if life might be fluttering
there like an imprisoned bird. Then he looked at the editor:
perhaps he was sitting inside life at this very moment.
"See life, Mr. Elliot, and then send us another story." He held
out his hand. "I am sorry I have to say 'No, thank you'; it's so
much nicer to say, 'Yes, please.'" He laid his hand on the young
man's sleeve, and added, "Well, the interview's not been so
alarming after all, has it?"

"I don't think that either of us is a very alarming person," was
not Rickie's reply. It was what he thought out afterwards in the
omnibus. His reply was "Ow," delivered with a slight giggle.

As he rumbled westward, his face was drawn, and his eyes moved
quickly to the right and left, as if he would discover something
in the squalid fashionable streets some bird on the wing, some
radiant archway, the face of some god beneath a beaver hat. He
loved, he was loved, he had seen death and other things; but the
heart of all things was hidden. There was a password and he could
not learn it, nor could the kind editor of the "Holborn" teach
him. He sighed, and then sighed more piteously. For had he not
known the password once--known it and forgotten it already?
But at this point his fortunes become intimately connected with
those of Mr. Pembroke.

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