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THE UNDYING FIRE 

A CONTEMPORARY NOVEL 



BY 

H. G. WELLS 



J'J JO >S> i 



THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 

1919 

All right* reserved 



ttUPV'Vi 7fC5D 




copteight, im9, 
By H. G. wells. 



Set up and electrotyped. Published May, 1919. 



• ••-•• 
. • • •• » 



Norbjoolj ^KBg 

J. S. Gushing Co. — Berwick & Smith Co. 

Norwood, Mass., U.S.A. 



--^' 



r Ks 



All Schoolmasters and Schoolmistresses 

and every 

Teacher in the World 



CONTENTS 



CHAPTER 

1. The Prologue in Heaven . 

2. At Sea View, Sundering-on-Sea 

3. The Three Visitors . 

4. Do We Truly Die? . 

5. Elihu Reproves Job . 

6. The Operation 

7. Letters and a Telegram 



PAGE 
1 

17 
39 
100 
133 
200 
214 



vii 



. THE UNDYING FIRE 

CHAPTER THE FIEST 

THE PEOLOGUE IN HEAVEN" 

§1 

Two eternal beings, magnificently enhaloed, 
the one in a blinding excess of white radiance 
and the other in a bewildering extravagance of 
colours, converse amidst stupendous surround- 
ings. These surroundings are by tradition 
palatial, but there is now also a marked cosmic 
tendency about them. They have no definite 
locality; they are above and comprehensive of 
the material universe. 

There is a quality in the scene as if a futur- 
ist with a considerable knowledge of modern 
chemical and physical speculation and some 
obscure theological animus had repainted the 
designs of a pre-Eaphaelite. The vast pillars 
vanish into unfathomable darknesses, and the 
complicated curves and whorls of the decora- 
tions seem to have been traced by the flight 

B 1 



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• • • •, ♦ « • 

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2 ':- '- '..' i 'y'tSE ^'UNDYIlS^G FIRE 

of elemental particles. Suns and planets spin 
and glitter through the avanturine depths of 
a floor of crystalline ether. Great winged 
shapes are in attendance, wrought of irides- 
cences and bearing globes, stars, rolls of the 
law, flaming swords, and similar symbols. The 
voices of the Cherubim and Seraphim can be 
heard crjdng continually, ' ' Holy, Holy, Holy. ' ' 

Now, as in the ancient story, it is a reception 
of the sons of God. 

The Master of the gathering, to whom one 
might reasonably attribute a sublime boredom, 
seeing that everything that can possibly happen 
is necessarily known to him, displays on the 
contrar}^ as lively an interest in his interlocutor 
as ever. This interlocutor is of course Satan, 
the Unexpected. 

The contrast of these two eternal beings is 
very marked; while the Deity, veiled and 
almost hidden in light, with his hair like wool 
and his eyes like the blue of infinite space, 
conveys an effect of stable, remote, and moun- 
tainous grandeur, Satan has the compact alert- 
ness of habitual travel; he is as definite as a 
grip-sack, and he brings a flavour of initiative 
and even bustle upon a scene that would other- 
wise be one of serene perfection. His halo even 
has a slightly travelled look. He has been 



THE PROLOGUE IN HEAVEN 3 

going to and fro in the earth and walking 
up and down in it; his labels are still upon 
him. His status in heaven remains as unde- 
fined as it was in the time of Job ; it is uncertain 
to this day whether he is to be regarded as one 
of the sons of God or as an inexplicable intruder 
among them. (But see upon this question the 
Encyclopaedia Biblica under his name.) What- 
ever his origin there can be little doubt of his 
increasing assurance of independence and im- 
portance in the Divine presence. His freedom 
may be sanctioned or innate, but he himself has 
no doubt remaining of the security of his per- 
sonal autonomy. He believes that he is a 
necessary accessory to God, and that his incal- 
culable quality is an indispensable relief to the 
acquiescences of the Archangels. He never 
misses these reunions. If God is omnipresent 
by a calm necessity, Satan is everywhere by an 
infinite activity. They engage in unending 
metaphysical differences into which Satan has 
imported a tone of friendly badinage. They 
play chess together. 

But the chess they play is not the little 
ingenious game that originated in India; it is 
on an altogether different scale. The Ruler 
of the Universe creates the board, the pieces, 
and the rules ; he makes all the moves ; he may 



4 THE UNDYING FIRE 

make as many moves as he likes whenever he 
likes; his antagonist, however, is permitted to 
introduce a slight inexplicable inaccuracy into 
each move, which necessitates further moves 
in correction. The Creator determines and 
conceals the aim of the game, and it is never 
clear whether the purpose of the adversary is 
to defeat or assist him in his unfathomable 
project. Apparently the adversary cannot win, 
but also he cannot lose so long as he can keep 
the game going. But he is concerned, it would 
seem, in preventing the development of any 
reasoned scheme in the game. 



§2 

Celestial badinage is at once too high and 
broad to come readily within the compass of 
earthly print and understanding. The Satanic 
element of unexpectedness can fill the whole 
sphere of Being with laughter ; thrills begotten 
of those vast reverberations startle our poor 
wits at the strangest moments. It is the 
humour of Satan to thrust upon the Master his 
own title of the Unique and to seek to wrest 
from him the authorship of life. (But such 
jesting distresses the angels.) 

*^ I alone create." 
I ** But I — I ferment." 

Matter I made and all things." 
Stagnant as a sleeping top but for the 
wabble I give it." 

*^ You are just the little difference of the 
individual. You are the little Uniqueness in 
everyone and everything, the Unique that 
breaks the law, a marginal idiosyncracy. ' ' 

^^ Sire, you are the Unique, the Uniqueness 
of the whole. ' ' 

6 






THE UNDYING FIRE 

Heaven smiled, and there were halcyon days 
in the planets. * * I shall average you out in the 
end and you will disappear." 

"" And everything will end." 

** Will be complete." 

'^Without me! " 

* ' You spoil the symmetry of my universe. ' ' 

** I give it life." 

** Life comes from me." 

** No, Sire, life comes from me." 

One of the great shapes in attendance became 
distinct as Michael bearing his sword. ^' He 
blasphemes, Lord. Shall I cast him forth? " 

'' But you did that some time ago," answered 
Satan, speaking carelessly over his shoulder 
and not even looking at the speaker. '' You 
keep on doing it. And — I am here. ' ' 

*^ He returns," said the Lord soothingly. 
*' Perhaps I will him to return. What should 
we be without him! " 

** Without me, time and space would freeze 
into crystalline perfection," said Satan, and at 
his smile the criminal statistics of a myriad 
planets displayed an upward wave. ** It is I 
who trouble the waters. I trouble all things. 

1 am the spirit of life." 

^' But the soul," said God. 

Satan, sitting with one arm thrown over the 



THE PROLOGUE IN HEAVEN 7 

back of his throne towards Michael, raised his 
eyebrows by way of answer. This talk about 
the soul he regarded as a divine weakness. He 
knew nothing of the soul. 

** I made man in my own image/' said God. 

** And I made him a man of the world. If 
it had not been for me he would still be a 
needless gardener — pretending to cultivate a 
weedless garden that grew right because it 
couldn't grow wrong — in * those endless sum- 
mers the blessed ones see.' Think of it, ye 
Powers and Dominions ! Perfect flowers ! Per- 
fect fruits! Never an autumn chill! Never a 
yellow leaf ! Golden leopards, noble lions, car- 
nivores unfulfilled, purring for his caresses 
amidst the aimless friskings of lambs that 
would never grow old ! Good Lord ! How bored 
he would have been! How bored! Instead of 
Avhich, did I not launch him on the most mar- 
vellous adventures? It was I who gave him 
history. Up to the very limit of his possibilities. 
Up to the very limit. . . . And did not you, 
Lord, by sending your angels with their flam- 
ing swords, approve of what I had done? " 

God gave no answer. 

^^ But that reminds me," said Satan 
unabashed. 



§3 

The great winged shapes drew nearer, for 
Satan is the celestial raconteur. He alone 
makes stories. 

<< There was a certain man in the land of Uz 
whose name was Job.'' 

<* We remember him.'' 

** We had a wager of sorts," said Satan. 
** It was some time ago." 

** The wager was never very distinct — and 
now that you remind me of it, there is no record 
of your paying. ' ' 

** Did I lose or win? The issue was obscured 
by discussion. How those men did talk! You 
intervened. There was no decision." 

'* You lost, Satan," said a great Being of 
Liglit who bore a book. ^' The wager was 
whether Job would lose faith in God and curse 
him. He was afflicted in every way, and par- 
ticularly by the conversation of his friends. 
But there remains an undying fire in man." 

Satan rested his dark face on his hand, and 
looked down between his knees through the 

8 



THE PROLOGUE IN HEAVEN 9 

pellucid floor to that little eddying in the ether 
which makes our world. ** Job/' he said, 
" lives still." 

Then after an interval: *^ The whole earth 
is now — Job. ' ' 

Satan delights equally in statistics and in 
quoting scripture. He leant back in his seat 
with an expression of quiet satisfaction. 
** Job/' he said, in easy narrative tones, '' lived 
to a great age. After his disagreeable experi- 
ences he lived one hundred and forty years. 
He had again seven sons and three daughters, 
and he saw his offspring for four generations. 
So much is classical. These ten children 
brought him seventy grandchildren, who again 
prospered generally and had large families. (It 
was a prolific strain.) And now if we allow 
three generations to a century, and the reality 
is rather more than that, and if we take the 
survival rate as roughly three to a family, and 
if we agree with your excellent Bishop Usher 
that Job lived about thirty-five centuries ago, 

that gives us How many? Three to the 

hundred and fifth power? . . . It is at any 
rate a sum vastly in excess of the present popu- 
lation of the earth. . . . You have globes and 
rolls and swords and stars here; has anyone a 
slide rule? '' 



10 THE UNDYING FIRE 

But the computation was brushed aside. 

*^ A thousand years in my sight are but as 
yesterday when it is past. I will grant what 
you seek to prove; that Job has become man- 
kind/' 



§4 

The dark regard of Satan smote down 
through the quivering universe and left the toil- 
ing light waves behind. '^ See there/' he said 
pointing. ^^ My old friend on his little planet 
— Adam — Job — Man — like a roast on a spit. 
It is time we had another wager. ' ' 

God condescended to look with Satan at man- 
kind, circling between day and night. * ^ Whether 
he will curse or bless? '' 

** Whether he will even remember God." 

^' I have given my promise that I will at last 
restore Adam." 

The downcast face smiled faintly. 

** These questions change from age to age," 
said Satan. 

*^ The Whole remains the same." 

*^ The story grows longer in either direction," 
said Satan, speaking as one who thinks aloud; 
* ^ past and future unfold together. . . . When 
the first atoms jarred I was there, and so con- 
flict was there — and progress. The days of 
the old story have each expanded to hundreds 

11 



12 THE UNDYING FIRE 

of millions of years now, and still I am in them 
all. The sharks and crawling monsters of the 
early seas, the first things that crept out of the 
water into the jungle of fronds and stems, the 
early reptiles, the leaping and flying dragons of 
the great age of life, the mighty beasts of hoof 
and horn that came later; they all feared and 
suffered and were perplexed. At last came this 
Man of yours, out of the woods, hairy, beetle- 
browed and blood-stained, peering not too hope- 
fully for that Eden-bower of the ancient story. 
It wasn't there. There never had been a gar- 
den. He had fallen before he arose, and the 
weeds and thorns are as ancient as the flowers. 
The Fall goes back in time now beyond man, 
beyond the world, beyond imagination. The 
very stars were born in sin. . . . 

* * If we can still call it sin, ' ' mused Satan. 

** On a little planet this Thing arises, this 
red earth, this Adam, this Edomite, this Job. 
He builds cities, he tills the earth, he catches 
the lightning and makes a slave of it, he changes 
the breed of beast and grain. Clever things to 
do, but still petty things. You say that in some 
manner he is to come up at last to this. . . . 
He is too foolish and too weak. His achieve- 
ments only illuminate his limitations. Look at 
his little brain boxed up from growth in a skull 



THE PROLOGUE IN HEAVEN 13 

of bone ! Look at his bag of a body full of rags 
and rudiments, a haggis of diseases ! His life 
is decay. . . . Does he grow? I do not see it. 
Has he made any perceptible step forward in 
quality in the last ten thousand years f He 
quarrels endlessly and aimlessly with himself. 
. . . In a little while his planet will cool and 
freeze." 

* * In the end he will rule over the stars, ' ' said 
the voice that was above Satan. '' My spirit 
is in him." 

Satan shaded his face with his hand from 
the effulgence about him. He said no more 
for a time, but sat watching mankind as a boy 
might sit on the bank of a stream and watch 
the fry of minnows in the clear water of a 
shallow. 

'* Nay," he said at last, '' but it is incredible. 
It is impossible. I have disturbed and afflicted 
him long enough. I have driven him as far as 
he can be driven. But now I am moved to pity. 
Let us end this dispute. It has been interesting. 

but now Is it not enough ! It grows cruel 

He has reached his limit. Let us give him a 
little peace now. Lord, a little season of sun- 
shine and plenty, and then some painless uni- 
versal pestilence and so let him die." 

^* He is immortal and he does but begin." 



14 THE UNDYING FIRE 

'' He is mortal and near his end. At times 
no doubt he has a certain air that seems to 
promise miderstanding and mastery in his 
world; it is but an air; give me the power to 
afflict and subdue him but a little, and after a 
few squeaks of faith and hope he will whine and 
collapse like any other beast. He will behave 
like any kindred creature with a smaller brain 
and a larger jaw; he too is doomed to suffer to 
no purpose, to struggle by instinct merely to 
live, to endure for a season and then to pass. 
. . . Give me but the power and you shall see 
his courage snap like a rotten string. ' ' 

'^ You may do all that you will to him, only 
you must not slay him. For my spirit is in 
him. ' ' 

* ^ That he will cast out of his own accord — 
when I have ruined his hopes, mocked his sac- 
rifices, blackened his skies and filled his veins 
with torture. . . . But it is too easy to do. 
Let me just slay him now and end his story. 
Then let us begin another, a different one, and 
something more amusing. Let us, for example, 
put brains — and this Soul of yours — into the 
ants or the bees or the beavers ! Or take up the 
octopus, already a very tactful and intelligent 
creature ! ' ' 

** No; but do as you have said, Satan. For 



THE PROLOGUE IN HEAVEN 15 

you also are my instrument. Try Man to the 
uttermost. See if he is indeed no more than a 
little stir amidst the slime, a fuss in the mud 
that signifies nothing. ..." 



§5 

The Satan, his face hidden in shadow, seemed 
not to hear this, but remained still and intent 
upon the world of men. 

And as that brown figure, with its vast halo 
like the worn tail of some fiery peacock, brooded 
high over the realms of being, this that follows 
happened to a certain man upon the earth. 



16 



CHAPTER THE SECOND 

AT SEA VIEW, SUNDERIKG-ON-SEA 

§1 

In an uncomfortable armchair of slippery 
black horsehair, in a mean apartment at Sunder- 
ing-on-Sea, sat a sick man staring dully out of 
the window. It was an oppressive day, hot 
under a leaden sky; there was scarcely a move- 
ment in the air save for the dull thudding of 
the gun practice at Shorehamstow. A multi- 
tude of flies crawled and buzzed fitfully about 
the room, and ever and again some chained-up 
cur in the neighbourhood gave tongue to its dis- 
content. The window looked out upon a vacant 
building lot, a waste of scorched grass and rusty 
rubbish surrounded by a fence of barrel staves 
and barbed wire. Between the ruinous notice- 
board of some pre-war building enterprise and 
the gaunt verandah of a convalescent home, on 
which the motionless blue forms of two despon- 
dent wounded men in deck chairs were visible, 
c 17 



18 THE UNDYING FIRE 

came the sea view which justified the name of 
the house; beyond a wide waste of mud, over 
which quivered the heat-tormented air, the still 
anger of the heavens lowered down to meet in 
a line of hard conspiracy, the steely criminality 
of the remote deserted sea. 

The man in the chair flapped his hand and 
spoke. ^' You accursed creature,'^ he said. 
" Why did God make flies? " 

After a long interval he sighed deeply and 
repeated: "Why? '' 

He made a fitful effort to assume a more 
comfortable position, and relapsed at last into 
his former attitude of brooding despondency. 

When presently his landlady came in to lay 
the table for lunch, an almost imperceptible 
wincing alone betrayed his sense of the threat- 
ening swish and emphasis of her movements. 
She was manifestly heated by cooking, and a 
smell of burnt potatoes had drifted in with her 
appearance. She was a meagre little woman 
with a resentful manner, glasses pinched her 
sharp red nose, and as she spread out the grey- 
white diaper and rapped down the knives and 
forks in their places she glanced at him darkly 
as if his inattention aggrieved her. Twice she 
was moved to speak and did not do so, but at 
length she could endure his indifference no 



AT SEA VIEW, SUNDERING-ON-SEA 19 

longer. *^ Still feeling ill I suppose, Mr. 
'Uss? '' she said, in the manner of one who 
knows only too well what the answer will be. 

He started at the sound of her voice, and gave 
her his attention as if with an effort. ** I beg 
your pardon, Mrs. Croome? '' 

The landlady repeated with acerbity, * * I arst 
if you was still feeling ill, Mr. 'Uss.'' 

He did not look at her when he replied, but 
glanced towards her out of the corner of his 
eyes. '' Yes,'' he said. ^^ Yes, I am. I am 
afraid I am ill." She made a noise of un- 
friendly confirmation that brought his face 
round to her. ^^ But mind you, Mrs. Croolne, I 
don't want Mrs. Huss worried about it. She 
has enough to trouble her just now. Quite 
enough. ' ' 

** Misfortunes don't ever come singly," said 
Mrs. Croome with quiet satisfaction, leaning 
across the table to brush some spilt salt from 
off the cloth to the floor. She was not going 
to make any rash promises about Mrs. Huss. 

*^ We 'ave to bear up with what is put upon 
us," said Mrs. Croome. *' We 'ave to find 
strength where strength is to be found. ' ' 

She stood up and regarded him with pensive 
malignity. * ' Very likely all you want is a tonic 
of some sort. Very likely you've just let your- 
self go. I shouldn 't be surprised. ' ' 



20 THE UNDYING FIRE 

The sick man gave no welcome to this sug- 
gestion. 

* * If yon was to go round to the young doctor 
at the corner — Barrack isnameis — very likely 
he^d put you right. Everybody says he's very 
clever. Not that me and Croome put much 
faith in doctors. Nor need to. But you're in a 
different position.'' 

The man in the chair had been to see the 
young doctor at the corner twice already, but 
he did not want to discuss that interview with 
Mrs. Croome just then. ^' I must think about 
it," he said evasively. 

'' After all it isn't fair to yourself, it isn't 
fair to others, to sicken for — it might be any- 
think — without proper advice. Sitting there 
and doing nothing. Especially in lodgings at 
this time of year. It isn't, well — not what I 
call considerate." 

** Exactly," said Mr. Huss weakly. 

It There's homes and hospitals properly 
equipped. ' ' 

The sick man nodded his head appreciatively. 

** If things are nipped in the bud they're 
nipped in the bud, otherwise they grow and 
make trouble. ' ' 

It was exactly what her hearer was thinking. 

Mrs. Croome ducked to the cellarette of a 



AT SEA VIEW, SUNDERING-ON-SEA 21 

gaunt sideboard and rapped out a whisky bottle, 
a bottle of lime-juice, and a soda-water syphon 
upon the table. She surveyed her handiwork 
with a critical eye. " Cruet,*' she whispered, 
and vanished from the room, leaving the door, 
after a tormenting phase of creaking, to slam 
by its own weight behind her. . . . 

The invalid raised his hand to his forehead 
and found it wet with perspiration. His hand 
was trembling violently. '' My God! '' he 
whispered. 



§2 

This man's name was Job Huss. His father 
had been called Job before him, and so far as 
the family tradition extended the eldest son had 
always been called Job. Four weeks ago he 
would have been esteemed by most people a 
conspicuously successful and enviable man, and 
then had come a swift rush of disaster. 

He had been the headmaster of the great 
modern public school at "VYoldingstanton in Nor- 
folk, a revived school under the Papermakers' 
Guild of the City of London ; he had given him- 
self without stint to its establishment and he had 
made a great name in the world for it and for 
himself. He had been the first English school- 
master to liberate the modern side from the 
entanglement of its lower forms with the clas- 
sical masters ; it was the only school in England 
where Spanish and Russian were honestly 
taught; his science laboratories were the best 
school laboratories in Great Britain and per- 
haps in the world, and his new methods in the 
teaching of history and politics brought a steady 

22 



AT SEA VIEW, SUNDERING-ON-SEA 23 

stream of foreign inquirers to Woldingstanton. 
The hand of the adversary had touched him first 
just at the end of the summer term. There had 
been an epidemic of measles in which, through 
the inexplicable negligence of a trusted nurse, 
two boys had died. On the afternoon of the 
second of these deaths an assistant master was 
killed by an explosion in the chemical labora- 
tory. Then on the very last night of the term 
came the School House fire, in which two of the 
younger boys were burnt to death. 

Against any single one of these misfortunes 
Mr. Huss and his school might have maintained 
an unbroken front, but their quick succession 
had a very shattering effect. Every circum- 
stance conspired to make these events vividly 
dreadful to Mr. Huss. He had been the first 
to come to the help of his chemistry master, who 
had fallen ranong some carboys of acid, and 
though still alive and struggling, was blinded, 
nearly faceless, and hopelessly mangled. The 
poor fellow died before he could be extricated. 
On the night of the fire Mr. Huss strained him- 
self internally and bruised his foot very pain- 
fully, and he himself found and carried out the 
charred body of one of the two little victims 
from th.d room in which they had been trapped 
by the locking of a door during some ** last 



24 THE UNDYING FIRE 

day '^ ragging. It added an element of exas- 
perating inconvenience to liis greater distresses 
that all his papers and nearly all his personal 
possessions were burnt. 

On the morning after the fire Mr. Huss's 
solicitor committed suicide. He was an old 
friend to whom Mr. Huss had entrusted the 
complete control of the savings that were to 
secure him and Mrs. Huss a dignified old age. 
The lawyer was a man of strong political feel- 
ings and liberal views, and he had bought 
roubles to his utmost for Mr. Huss as for him- 
self, in order to demonstrate his confidence in 
the Russian revolution. 

All these things had a quite sufficiently dis- 
organizing effect upon Mr. Huss ; upon his wife 
the impression they made wa3 altogether disas- 
trous. She was a worthy but emotional lady, 
effusive rather than steadfast. Iiike the wives 
of most schoolmasters, she had been habitually 
preoccupied with matters of domestic manage- 
ment for many years, and her first r^^action was 
in the direction of a bitter economy, mingled 
with a display of contempt she had n ever mani- 
fested hitherto for her husband's practical 
ability. Far better would it have been for Mr. 
Huss if she had broken do^^Ti altogether; she 
insisted upon directing everything, aJnd doing 



AT SEA VIEW, SUNDERING-ON-SEA 25 

so with a sort of pitiful vehemence that brooked 
no contradiction. It was impossible to stay at 
Woldingstanton through the vacation, in sight 
of the tragic and blackened ruins of School 
House, and so she decided upon Sundering-on- 
Sea because of its nearness and its pre-war 
reputation for cheapness. There, she an- 
nounced, her husband must ^' pull himself 
together and pick up,'' and then return to the 
rebuilding of School House and the rehabilita- 
tion of the school. Many formalities had to 
be gone through before the building could be 
put in hand, for in those days Britain w^as at 
the extremity of her war effort, and labour and 
material were unobtainable without special per- 
mits and great exertion. Sundering-on-Sea was 
as convenient a place as anywhere from which 
to write letters, but his idea of going to London 
to see influential people was resisted by Mrs. 
Huss on the score of the expense, and overcome 
when he persisted in it by a storm of tears. 

On her arrival at Sundering Mrs. Huss put 
up at the Eailway Hotel for the night, and spent 
the next morning in a stern visitation of pos- 
sible lodgings. Something in the unassuming 
outlook of Sea View attracted her, and after a 
long dispute she was able to beat dovv'n Mrs. 
Croome's demand from five to four and a half 



26 THE UNDYING FIRE 

guineas a week. That afternoon some impor- 
tunate applicant in an extremity of homeless- 
ness — for there had been a sudden rush of vis- 
itors to Sundering — offered six guineas. Mrs. 
Croome tried to call off her first bargain, but 
Mrs. Huss was obdurate, and thereafter all the 
intercourse of landlady and her lodgers went to 
the unspoken refrain of ^ * I get four and a haK 
guineas and I ought to get six." To recoup 
herself Mrs. Croome attempted to make extra 
charges for the use of the bathroom, for cooking 
after ^ve o 'clock, for cleaning Mr. Huss 's brown 
boots with specially bought brown cream instead 
of blacking, and for the ink used by him in his 
very voluminous correspondence; upon all of 
which points there was much argument and bit- 
terness. 

But a heavier blow than any they had hith- 
erto experienced was now to fall upon Mr. and 
Mrs. Huss. Job in the ancient story had seven 
sons and three daughters, and they were all 
swept away. This Job was to suffer a sharper 
thrust; he had but one dear only son, a boy of 
great promise, who had gone into the Eoyal Fly- 
ing Corps. News came that he had been shot 
down over the German lines. 

Unhappily there had been a conflict between 
Mr. and Mrs. Huss about this boy. Huss had 



AT SEA VIEW, SUNDERING-ON-SEA 27 

been proud that the youngster should choose the 
heroic service ; Mrs. Huss had done her utmost 
to prevent his joining it. The poor lady was 
now ruthless in her anguish. She railed upon 
him as the murderer of their child. She hoped 
he was pleased with his handiwork. He could 
count one more name on his list; he could add 
it to the roll of honour in the chapel ^ ^ with the 
others.'' Her hahy boy! This said, she went 
wailing from the room. 

The wretched man sat confounded. That 
'^ with the others " cut him to the heart. For 
the school chapel had a list of V.C.'s, D.C.M.'s 
and the like, second to none, and it had indeed 
been a pride to him. 

For some days his soul was stunned. He was 
utterly exhausted and lethargic. He could 
hardly, attend to the most necessary letters. 
From dignity, hope, and a great sheaf of activ- 
ities, his life had shrunken abruptly to the com- 
pass of this dingy lodging, pervaded by the 
squabbling of two irrational women; his work 
in the world was in ruins; he had no strength 
left in him to struggle against fate. And a 
vague internal pain crept slowly into his con- 
sciousness. 

His wife, insane now and cruel with sorrow, 
tried to put a great quarrel upon him about 



28 THE UNDYING FIRE 

wearing mourning for their son. He had al- 
ways disliked and spoken against these pomps 
of death, bnt she insisted that whatever callous- 
ness he might display she at least must wear 
black. He might, she said, rest assured that 
she would spend no more money than the barest 
decency required; she would buy the cheapest 
material, and make it up in her bedroom. But 
black she must have. This resolution led 
straight to a conflict with Mrs. Croome, who 
objected to her best bedroom being littered with 
bits of black stuff, and cancelled the loan of her 
sewing machine. The mourning should be 
made, Mrs. Huss insisted, though she had to sew 
every stitch of it by hand. And the poor dis- 
traught lady in her silly parsimony made still 
deeper trouble for herself by cutting her ma- 
terial in every direction half an inch or more 
short of the paper pattern. She came almost 
to a physical tussle with Mrs. Croome because 
of the state of the carpet and counterpane, and 
Mrs. Croome did her utmost to drag Mr. Huss 
into an altercation upon the matter with her 
husband. 

** Croome don't interfere much, but some 
things he or nobody ain't going to stand, Mr. 
'Uss." 

For some days in this battlefield of in- 



AT SEA VIEW, SUNDERING-ON-SEA 29 

satiable grief and petty cruelty, and with a 
dull pain steadily boring its way to recognition, 
Mr. Huss forced himself to carry on in a fashion 
the complex of business necessitated by the 
school disaster. Then in the night came a 
dream, as dreams sometimes will, to enlighten 
him upon his bodily condition. Projecting from 
his side he saw a hard, white body that sent 
round, wormlike tentacles into every corner of 
his being. A number of doctors were strug- 
gling to tear this thing away from him. At 
every effort the pain increased. 

He awoke, but the pain throbbed on. 

He lay quite still. Upon the heavy darkness 
he saw the word *^ Cancer," bright red and 
glowing — as pain glows. . . . 

He argued in the face of invincible convic- 
tion. He kept the mood conditional. ** If it 
be so," he said, though he knew that the thing 
was so. What should he do? There would 
have to be operations, great expenses, enfeeble- 
ment. . . . 

Whom could he ask for advice? Who would 
help him? . . . 

Suppose in the morning he were to take a 
bathing ticket as if he meant to bathe, and 
struggle out beyond the mud-flats. He could 
behave as though cramp had taken him sud- 
denly . . . 



30 THE UNDYING FIRE 

Five minutes of suffocation he would have 
to force himself through, and then peace — 
endless peace I 

*^ No," he said, with a sudden gust of cour- 
age. '' 1 will fight it out to the end.'' 

But' his mind was too dull to form plans and 
physically he was afraid. He would have to 
find a doctor somehow, and even that little task 
appalled him. 

Then he would have to tell Mrs. Huss. . . . 

For a time he lay quite still as if he listened 
to the alternative swell and diminuendo of his 
pain. 

** Oh! if I had someone to help me! '' he 
whispered, and was overcome by the lonely 
misery of his position. *^ If I had someone! " 

For years he had never wept, but now tears 
were wrung from him. He rolled over and bur- 
ied his face in the pillow and tried to wriggle 
his body away from that steady gnawing; he 
fretted as a child might do.'' 

The night about him was as it were a great 
watching presence that would not help nor 
answer. 



§3 

Behind the brass plate at the corner which 
said "• Dr. Elihu Barrack '' Mr. Huss found a 
hard, competent young man, who had returned 
from the war to his practice at Sundering after 
losing a leg. The mechanical substitute seemed 
to have taken to him very kindly. He appeared 
to be both modest and resourceful; his unfa- 
vourable diagnosis was all the more convincing 
because it was tentative and conditional. He 
knew the very specialist for the case ; no less a 
surgeon than Sir Alpheus Mengo came, it hap- 
pened, quite frequently to play golf on the 
Sundering links. It would be easy to arrange 
for him to examine Mr. Huss in Dr. Barrack's 
little consulting room, and if an operation had 
to be performed it could be managed with a 
minimum of expense in Mr. Huss 's own lodgings 
without any extra charge for mileage and the 
like. 

** Of course, '* said Mr. Huss, ^' of course,'* 
with a clear vision of Mrs. Croome confronted 
with the proposal. 

31 



32 THE UNDYING FIRE 

Sir Alpheus Mengo came do\\Ti the next Sat- 
urday, and made a clandestine examination. 
He decided to operate the following week-end. 
Mr. Huss was left at his own request to break 
the news to his wife and to make the necessary 
arrangements for this use of Mrs. Croome's 
rooms. But it was two days before he could 
bring himself to broach the matter. 

He sat now listening to the sounds of his wife 
moving about in the bedroom overhead, and to 
the mujffled crashes that intimated the climax of 
Mrs. Croome 's preparation of the midday meal. 
He heard her calling upstairs to know whether 
Mrs. Huss was ready for her to serve up. He 
was seized with panic as a schoolboy might be 
who had not prepared his lesson. He tried 
hastily to frame some introductory phrases, but 
nothing would come into his mind save terms of 
disgust and lamentation. The sullen heat of 
the day mingled in one impression -with his pain. 
He was nauseated by the smell of cooking. He 
felt it would be impossible to sit up at table and 
pretend to eat the meal of burnt bacon and 
potatoes that was all too evidently coming. 

It came. Its progress along the passage was 
announced by a clatter of dishes. The door was 
opened by a kick. Mrs. Croome put the feast 
upon the table with something between defence 



AT SEA VIEW, SUNDERING-ON-SEA 33 

and defiance in her manner. * * What else, ' ^ she 
seemed to intimate, * ' could one expect for four 
and a half guineas a week in the very height 
of the season ? From a woman who could have 
got six! '' 

** Your dinner's there," Mrs. Croome called 
upstairs to Mrs. Huss in tones of studied negli- 
gence, and then retired to her own affairs in the 
kitchen, slamming the door behind her. 

The room quivered down to silence, and then 
Mr. Huss could hear the footsteps of his wife 
crossing the bedroom and descending the 
staircase. 

Mrs. Huss was a dark, graceful, and rather 
untidy lady of seven and forty, with the bridling 
bearing of one who habitually repels implicit 
accusations. She lifted the lid of the vegetable 
dish. ^* I thought I smelt burning," she said. 
** The woman is impossible." 

She stood by her chair, regarding her hus- 
band and waiting. 

He rose reluctantly, and transferred himself 
to a seat at table. 

It had always been her custom to carve. She 
now prepared to serve him. ^^ No," he said, 
full of loathing. '* I can't eat. I can't/' 

She put down the tablespoon and fork she 
had just raised, and regarded him with eyes of 
dark disapproval. 



34 THE UNDYING FIRE 

^^ It's all we can get," she said. 

He shook his head. ^^ It isn't thaf 

** I don't know what you expect me to get 
for you here, ' \ she complained. * ^ The trades- 
men don 't know us — and don 't care. ' ' 

'' It isn't that. I'm ill." 

*^ It's the heat. We are all ill. Everyone. 
In such weather as this. It's no excuse for not 
making an effort, situated as we are. ' ' 

* ' I mean I am really ill. I am in pain. ' ' 

She looked at him as one might look at an un- 
reasonable child. He was constrained to more 
definite statement. 

** I suppose I must tell you sooner or later. 
I've had to see a doctor." 

* ^ Without consulting me ! " 

*^ I thought if it turned out to be fancy I 
needn't bother you." 

* ^ But how did you find a doctor ? ' ' 

** There's a fellow at the corner. Oh! it's 
no good making a long story of it. I have can- 
cer. . . . Nothing will do but an operation." 
Self-pity wrung him. He controlled a violent 
desire to cry. ** I am too ill to eat. I ought to 
be lying down." 

She flopped back in her chair and stared at 
him as one stares at some hideous'tnonstrosity. 
* * Oh ! " she said. ' * To have cancer now ! In 
these lodgings! " 



AT SEA VIEW, SUNDERING-ON-SEA 35 

** I can't help it,'' he said in accents that were 
almost a whine. '' I didn't choose the time." 

^^ Cancer! '' she cried reproachfully. *' The 
horror of it! " 

He looked at her for a moment with hate in 
his heart. He saw under her knitted brows 
dark and hostile eyes that had once sparkled 
with affection, he saw a loose mouth with down- 
turned corners that had been proud and pretty, 
and this mask of dislike w^as projecting forward 
upon a neck he had used to call her head-stalk, 
so like had it seemed to the stem of some pretty 
flower. She had had lovely shoulders and an 
impudent humour; and now the skin upon her 
neck and shoulders had a little loosened, and she 
was no longer impudent but harsh. Her brows 
were moist with heat, and her hair more than 
usually astray. But these things did not in- 
crease, they mitigated his antagonism. They 
did not repel him as defects ; they hurt him as 
wounds received in a common misfortune. 
Always he had petted and spared and rejoiced 
in her vanity and weakness, and now as he real- 
ized the full extent of her selfish abandonment 
a protective pity arose in his heart that over- 
came his physical pain. It was terrible to see 
how completely her delicacy and tenderness of 
mind had been broken down. She had neither 



36 THE UNDYING FIRE 

the strength nor the courage left even for 
an unselfish thought. And he could not help 
her; whatever power he had possessed over 
her mind had gone long ago. His magic had 
departed. 

Latterly he had been thinking very much of 
her prospects if he were to die. In some ways 
his death might be a good thing for her. He had 
an endowment assurance running that would 
bring in about seven thousand pounds imme- 
diately at his death, but which would otherwise 
involve heavy annual payments for some years. 
So far, to die would be clear gain. But who 
would invest this money for her and look after 
her interests? She was, he knew, very silly 
about property; suspicious of people she knew 
intimately, and greedy and credulous with 
strangers. He had helped to make her incom- 
petent, and he owed it to her to live and protect 
her if he could. And behind that intimate and 
immediate reason for living he had a strong 
sense of work in the world yet to be done by 
him, and a task in education still incomplete. 

He spoke with his chin in his hand and his 
eyes staring at the dark and distant sea. ** An 
operation,'' he said, ** might cure me." 

Her thoughts, it became apparent, had been 
travelling through some broken and unbeautiful 



AT SEA VIEW, SUNDERING-ON-SEA 37 

eonntry roughly parallel with the course of his 
own. ** But need there be an operation? '' she 
thought aloud. '' Are they ever any good? " 

^' I could die,'* he admitted bitterly, and re- 
pented as he spoke. 

There had been times, he remembered, when 
she had said and done sweet and gallant things, 
poor soul! poor broken companion! And now 
she had fallen into a darkness far greater than 
his. He had feared that he had hurt her, and 
then when he saw that she was not hurt, and 
that she scrutinized his face eagerly as if she 
weighed the sincerity of his words, his sense 
of utter loneliness was completed. 

Over his mean drama of pain and debasement 
in its close atmosphere buzzing with flies, it was 
as if some gigantic and remorseless being 
watched him as a man of science might hover 
over some experiment, and marked his life and 
all his world. ^ * You are alone, ' ' this brooding 
witness counselled, '^ you are utterly alone. 
Curse God and die/' 

It seemed a long time before Mr. Huss an- 
swered this imagined voice, and when he 
answered it he spoke as if he addressed his wife 
alone. 

'' No/' he said with a sudden decisiveness. 
** No. I will face that operation. . . . We are 



38 THE UNDYING FIRE 

ill and our hearts are faint. Neither for you, 
dear, nor for me must our story finish in this 
fashion. No. I shall go on to the end. ' ' 
'^ And have your operation here? '' 
^* In this house. It is by far the most con- 
venient place, as things are.^' 
* * You may die here ! ^ ^ 
'' Well, I shall die fighting.'' 
*^ Leaving me here with Mrs. Croome." 
His temper broke under her reply. ** Leav- 
ing you here with Mrs. Croome,'' he said 
harshly. 

He got up. ** I can eat nothing,'' he re- 
peated, and dropped back sullenly into the 
horsehair arm-chair. 

There was a long silence, and then he heard 
the little, almost mouselike, movements of his 
wife as she began her meal. For a while he 
had forgotten the dull ache within him, but now, 
glowing and fading and glowing, it made its 
way back into his consciousness. He was help- 
less and perplexed ; he had not meant to quarrel. 
He had hurt this poor thing who had been his 
love and companion; he had bullied her. His 
clogged brain could think of nothing to set mat- 
ters right. He stared with dull eyes at a world 
utterly hateful to him. 



CHAPTER THE THIRD 

THE THREE VISITORS 

§ 1 

While this unhappy conversation was occur- 
ring at Sundering-on-Sea, three men were dis- 
cussing the case of Mr. Huss very earnestly over 
a meatless but abundant lunch in the bow win- 
dow of a club that gives upon the trees and sun- 
shine of Carlton Gardens. Lobster salad 
engaged them, and the ice in the jug of hock 
cup clinked very pleasantly as they replenished 
their glasses. 

The host was Sir Eliphaz Burrows, the 
patentee and manufacturer of those Temanite 
building blocks which have not only revolution- 
ized the construction of army hutments, but put 
the whole problem of industrial and rural hous- 
ing upon an altogether new footing; his guests 
were Mr. William Dad, formerly the maker of the 
celebrated Dad and Showhite car de luxe, and 
now one of the chief contractors for aeroplanes 

39 



40 THE UNDYING FIRE 

in England ; and Mr. Joseph Farr, the head of 
the technical section of Woldingstanton School. 
Both the former gentlemen were governors of 
that foundation and now immensely rich, and 
Sir Eliphaz had once been a pupil of the father 
of Mr. Huss and had played a large part in tne 
appointment of the latter to Woldingstanton. 
He was a slender old man, with an avid vul- 
turine head poised on a long red neck, and he 
had an abundance of parti-coloured hair, red 
and white, springing from a circle round the 
cro^vn of his head, from his eyebrows, his face 
generally, and the backs of his hands. He wore 
a blue soft shirt with a turn-down collar within 
a roomy blue serge suit, and that and something 
about his large loose black tie suggested scholar- 
ship and refinement. His manners were elab- 
orately courteous. Mr. Dad was a compacter, 
keener type, warily alert in his bearing, an 
industrial fox-terrier from the Midlands, silver- 
haired and dressed in ordinary morning dress 
except for a tan vest w^ith a bright brown ribbon 
border. Mr. Farr was big in a grey flannel 
Norfolk suit; he had a large, round, white, 
shiny, clean-shaven face and uneasy hands, and 
it was apparent that he carried pocket-books 
and suchlike luggage in his breast pocket. 
They consumed the lobster appreciatively, 



THE THREE VISITORS 41 

and approached in a fragmentary and tentative 
maimer the business that had assembled them: 
namely, the misfortunes that had overwhelmed 
Mr. Huss and their bearing upon the future of 
the school. 

^^ For my part I don't think there is such a 
thing as misfortune,'' said Mr. Dad. ^^ I don't 
hold with it. Miscalculation if you like. ' ' 

** In a sense," said Mr. Farr ambiguously, 
glancing at Sir Eliphaz. 

*^ If a man keeps his head screwed on the 
right way," said Mr. Dad, and attacked a claw 
with hope and appetite. Mr. Dad affected the 
parsimony of unfinished sentences. 

** I can't help thinking," said Sir Eliphaz, 
putting down his glass and wiping his moustache 
and eyebrows with care before resuming his 
lobster, ** that a man who entrusts his affairs 
to a solicitor, after the fashion of the widow 
and orphan, must be sing-ularly lacking in judg- 
ment. Or reckless. Never in the whole course 
of my life have I met a solicitor who could invest 
money safely and profitably. Clergymen I have 
known, women of all sorts, savages, monoma- 
niacs, criminals, but never solicitors." 

** I have known some smart business par- 
sons," said Mr. Dad judicially. '' One in par- 
ticular. Sharp as nails. They are a much 
UTiderestimated class." 



42 THE UNDYING FIRE 

' ' Perhaps it is natural that a solicitor should 
be a mid investor," Sir Eliphaz pursued his 
subject. *^ He lives out of the ordinary world 
in a dirty little office in some antiquated inn, 
his office fittings are fifty years out of date, his 
habitual scenery consists of tin boxes painted 
with the names of dead and disreputable clients ; 
he has to take the law courts, filled mth horse- 
boxes and men dressed up in gowns and horse- 
hair wigs, quite seriously; nobody ever goes 
near him but abnormal people or people in ab- 
normal states : people upset by jealousy, people 
upset by fear, blackmailed people, cheats trying 
to dodge the law, lunatics, litigants and legatees. 
The only investments he ever discusses are 
queer investments. Naturally he loses all sense 
of proportion. Naturally he becomes insanely 
suspicious ; and when a client asks for positive 
action he flounders and gambles." 

** Naturally," said Mr. Dad. ^* And here we 
find poor Huss giving all his business over — " 

** Exactly," said Sir Eliphaz, and filled his 
glass. 

*^ There's been a great change in him in the 
last two years," said Mr. Farr. ** He let the 
war worry him for one thing. ' ' 

*' No good doing that," said Mr. Dad. 

*^ And even before the war," Sir Eliphaz 






THE THREE VISITORS 43 

^^ Even before the war/' said Mr. Farr, in a 
pause. 

'^ There was a change,'' said Sir Eliphaz. 
*^ He had been bitten by educational theories." 

^^ No business for a headmaster," said Mr. 
Farr. 

*^ Our intention had always been a great sci- 
entific and technical school," said Sir Eliphaz. 
*^ He introduced Logic into the teaching of 
plain English — against my opinion. He en- 
couraged some of the boys to read philosophy." 
All he could," said Mr. Farr. 
I never held with his fad for teaching his- 
tory," said Mr. Dad. ^' He was history mad. 
It got worse and worse. What's history after 
allf At the best, it's over and done with. 
. . . But he wouldn 't argue upon it — not rea- 
sonably. He was — overbearing. He had a 
way of looking at you. ... It was never our 
intention to make Woldingstanton into a school 
of history. ' ' 

** And now, Mr. Farr," said Sir Eliphaz, 
*^ what are the particulars of the fire? " 

It isn't for me to criticize," said Mr. Farr. 
What I say," said Mr. Dad, projecting his 
muzzle with an appearance of great determina- 
tion, ^^ is, fix responsibility. Fix responsibility. 
Here is a door locked that common sense dic- 






44 THE UNDYING FIRE 

tated should be open. Who was responsible! " 

** No one in School House seems to have been 
especially responsible for that door so far as I 
can ascertain, ' ' said Mr. Farr. 

'* All responsibility/' said Mr. Dad, with an 
expression of peevish insistence, as though Mr. 
Farr had annoyed him, * * all responsibility that 
is not delegated rests with the Head. That's 
a hard and fast and primary rule of business 
organization. In my factory I say quite plainly 
to everyone who comes into it, man or woman, 
chick or child . . . " 

Mr. Dad was still explaining in a series of 
imaginary dialogues, tersely but dramatically, 
his methods of delegating authority, when Sir 
Eliphaz cut across the flow with, *^ Eeturning 
to Mr. Huss for a moment . . . " 

The point that Sir Eliphaz wanted to get at 
was whether Mr. Huss expected to continue 
headmaster at Woldingstanton. From some 
chance phrase in a letter Sir Eliphaz rather 
gathered that he did. 

** "Well," said Mr. Farr portentously, letting 
the thing hang for a moment, ^^ he does." 

** Tcha! " said Mr. Dad, and shut his mouth 
tightly and waved his head slowly from side to 
side with knitted brows as if he had bitten his 
tongue. 



THE THREE VISITORS 45 

** I would be the first to recognize the splen- 
did work he did for the school in his opening 
years/' said Mr. Farr. ^' I would be the last 
to alter the broad lines of the work as he set it 
out. Barring that I should replace a certain 
amount of the biological teaching and practi- 
cally all this new history stuff by chemistry and 
physics. But one has to admit that Mr. Huss 
did not know when to relinquish power nor 
when to devolve responsibility. We, all of us, 
the entire staff — it is no mere personal griev- 
ance of mine — were kept, well, to say the least 
of it, in tutelage. Rather than let authority go 
definitely out of his hands, he would allow things 
to drift. Witness that door, witness the busi- 
ness of the nurse." 

Mr. Dad, with his lips compressed, nodded 
his head ; each nod like the tap of a hammer. 

** I never believed in all this overdoing his- 
tory in the school," Mr. Dad remarked rather 
disconnectedly. ^' If you get rid of Latin and 
Greek, why bring it all back again in another 
form ! Why, I 'm told he taught 'em things about 
Assyria. Assyria! A modern school ought to 
be a modern school — business first and busi- 
ness last and business all the time. And teach 
boys to work. We shall need it, mark my 
words." 



46 THE UNDYING FIRE 

^^ A certain amount of modern culture," 
waved Sir Eliphaz. 

** Modern/' said Mr. Farr softly. 

Mr. Dad grunted. ^* In my opinion that sort 
of thing gives the boys ideas.'' 

Mr. Farr steered his way discreetly. ** Sci- 
ence with a due regard to its technical applica- 
tions should certainly be the substantial part of 
a modern education.'' . . . 

They were in the smoking-room and half way 
through three princely cigars before they got 
beyond such fragmentary detractions of the 
fallen headmaster. Then Mr. Dad in the clear- 
cut style of a business man, brought his com- 
panions to action. '' Well," said Mr. Dad, 
turning abruptly upon Sir Eliphaz, '^ what 
about it? " 

** It is manifest that Woldingstanton has to 
enter on a new phase ; what has happened brings 
us to the parting of the ways," said Sir Eli- 
phaz. ** Much as I regret the misfortunes of 
an old friend. ' ' 

'' That;' said Mr. Dad, '' spells Farr." 

'' If he will shoulder the burthen," said Sir 
Eliphaz, smiling upon Mr. Farr not so much 
with his mouth as by the most engaging convo- 
lutions, curvatures and waving about of his 
various strands of hair. 



THE THREE VISITORS 47 

" I don't want to see the school go down," 
said Mr. Farr. ^^ I've given it a good slice of 
my life." 

' ' Eight, ' ' said Mr. Dad. ' ' Right. File that. 
That suits us. And now how do we set about 
the affair ? The next thing, I take it, is to break 
it to Huss. . . . How? " 

He iDaused to give the ideas of his companions 
a fair chance. 

** Well, my idea is this. None of us want to 
be hard on Mr. Huss. Luck has been hard 
enough as it is. We want to do this job as 
gently as we can. It happens that I go and 
play golf at Sundering-on-Sea ever and again. 
Excellent links, well kept up all things consid- 
ered, and the big hotel close by does you won- 
derfully, the railway company sees to that; in 
spite of the war. Well, why shouldn't we all, 
if Sir Eliphaz's engagements permit, go down 
there in a sort of casual way, and take the op- 
portunity of a good clear talk mth him and 
settle it all up I The thing's got to be done, and 
it seems to me altogether more kindly to go 
there personally and put it to him than do it 
by correspondence. Very likely we could put 
it to him in such a way that he himself would 
suggest the very arrangement we want. You 
particularly. Sir Eliphaz, bein^ as you say an 
old friend." . . . 



§2 

Since there was little likelihood of Mr. Huss 
going away from Sundering-on-Sea, it did 
not appear necessary to Mr. Dad to apprise him 
of the projected visitation. And so these three 
gentlemen heard nothing about any operation 
for cancer until they reached that resort. 

Mr. Dad came do\\m early on Friday after- 
noon to the Golf Hotel, where he had already 
engaged rooms for the party. He needed the 
relaxation of the links very badly, the task of 
accumulating a balance sufficiently large to 
secure an opulent future for British industry, 
with which Mr. Dad in his straightforward way 
identified himself, was one that in a controlled 
establishment between the Scylla of aggressive 
labour and the Charybdis of the war-profits tax, 
strained his mind to the utmost. He was joined 
by Mr. Farr at dinner-time, and Sir Eliphaz, 
who was detained in London by some negotia- 
tions with the American Government, arrived 
replete by the dining-car train. Mr. Farr made 
a preliminary reconnaissance at Sea View, and 
was the first to hear of the operation. 

48 



THE THREE VISITORS 49 

Sir Alphens Mengo was due at Sea View by 
the first morning train on Saturday. He had 
arranged to operate before lunch. It was clear 
therefore that the only time available for a con- 
versation between the three and Mr. Huss was 
between breakfast and the arrival of Sir 
Alpheus. 

Mr. Huss, whose lethargy had now departed, 
displayed himself feverishly anxious to talk 
about the school. ** There are points I must 
make clear,'' he said, '' vital points,'' and so a 
meeting was arranged for half -past nine. This 
would give a full hour before the arrival of the 
doctors. 

" He feels that in a way it will be his testa- 
ment, so to speak," said Mr. Farr. " Natu- 
rally he has his own ideas about the future of the 
school. We all have. I would be the last person 
to suggest that he could say anything about 
Woldingstanton that would not be well worth 
hearing. Some of us may have heard most of 
it before, and be better able to discount some of 
his assertions. But that under the present cir- 
cumstances is neither here nor there." 



§ 3 

Matters in the confined space of Sea View 
were not nearly so strained as Mr. Huss had 
feared. The prospect of an operation was not 
without its agreeable side to Mrs. Croome. Pos- 
sibly she would have preferred that the subject 
should have been Mrs. rather than Mr. Huss, 
but it was clear that she made no claim to dic- 
tate upon this point. Her demand for special 
fees to meet the inconveniences of the occasion 
had been met quite liberally by Mr. Huss. And 
there was a genuine appreciation of order and 
method in Mrs. Croome; she was a furious 
spring-cleaner, a hurricane tidier-up, her feel- 
ing for the discursive state of Mrs. Huss 's hair 
was almost as involuntary as a racial animosity; 
and the swift dexterous preparations of the 
nurse who presently came to convert the best 
bedroom to surgical uses, impressed her deeply. 
She was allowed to help. Superfluous hangings 
and furnishings were removed, everything was 
thoroughly scrubbed, at the last moment clean 
linen sheets of a wonderful hardness were 

50 



THE THREE VISITORS 51 

to be spread over every exposed surface. 
They were to be brought in sterilized drums. 
The idea of sterilized drums fascinated 
her. She had never heard of such things be- 
fore. She mshed she could keep her own linen 
in a sterilized drum always, and let her lodgers 
have something else instead. 

She felt she was going to be a sort of assist- 
ant priestess at a sacrifice, the sacrifice of Mr. 
Huss. She had always secretly feared his sub- 
missive quiet as a thing unaccountable that 
might at any time turn upon her ; she suspected 
him of ironies ; and he would be helpless, under 
chloroform, subject to examination with no pos- 
sibilities of disconcerting repartee. She did 
her best to persuade Dr. Barrack that she would 
be useful in the room during the proceedings. 
Her imagination conjured up a wonderful vision 
of the Huss interior as a great chest full of 
strange and interesting viscera with the lid mde 
open and Sir Alpheus picking thoughtfully, with 
deprecatory remarks, amid its contents. But 
that sight was denied her. 

She was very helpful and cheerful on the Sat- 
urday morning, addressing herself to the con- 
solation of Mr. and the bracing-up of Mrs. Huss. 
She assisted in the final transformation of the 
room. 



62 THE UNDYING FIRE 

** It might be a real 'ospital,'* she said. 
** Nursing must be nice work. I never thought 
of it like this before. ' ' 

Mr. Huss was no longer depressed but flushed 
and resolute, but Mrs. Huss, wounded by the 
neglect of everyone — no one seemed to con- 
sider for a moment what she must be feeling — 
remained very much in her own room, working 
inefficiently upon the mourning that might now 
be doubly needed. 



Mr. Huss knew Mr. Farr very well. For the 
last ten years it had been his earnest desire to 
get rid of him, but he had been difficult to replace 
because of his real accomplishment in technical 
chemistry. In the course of their ^ve minutes ' 
talk in his bedroom on Friday evening, Mr. Huss 
grasped the situation. Woldingstanton, his cre- 
ation, his life work, was to be taken out of his 
hands, and in favour of this, his most soul-dead- 
ening assistant. He had been foolish no doubt, 
but he had never anticipated that. He had never 
supposed that Farr would dare. 

He thought hard through that long night of 
Friday. His pain was no distraction. He had 
his intentions very ready and clear in his mind 
when his three visitors arrived. 

He had insisted upon getting up and dressing 
fully. 

*^ I can't talk about Woldingstanton in bed,'' 
he said. The doctor was not there to gainsay 
him. 

Sir Eliphaz was the first to arrive, and Mrs. 

53 



54 THE UNDYING FIRE 

Huss retrieved him from Mrs. Croome in the 
passage and brought him in. He was wearing 
a Norfolk jacket suit of a coarse yet hairy con- 
sistency and of a pale sage green colour. He 
shone greatly in the eyes of Mrs. Huss. ** I 
can't help thinking of you, dear lady/' he said, 
bowing over her hand, and all his hair was for 
a moment sad and sympathetic like a sick Skye 
terrier's. Mr. Dad and Mr. Farr entered a mo- 
ment later; Mr. Farr in grey flannel trousers 
and a brown jacket, and Mr. Dad in a natty dark 
grey suit with a luminous purple waistcoat. 

** My dear," said Mr. Huss to his wife, ** I 
must be alone with these gentlemen, ' ' and when 
she seemed disposed to linger near the under- 
standing warmth of Sir Eliphaz, he added, 
<< Figures, my dear — Finance/' and drove her 
forth. . . . 

*^ 'Pon my honour," said Mr. Dad, coming 
close up to the armchair, wrinkling his muzzle 
and putting through his compliments in good 
business-like style before coming to the harder 
stuff in hand; *^ I don't like to see you like this, 
Mr. Huss." 

'■ ^ Nor does Sir Eliphaz, I hope — nor Farr. 
Please find yourselves chairs." 

And while Mr. Farr made protesting noises 
and Sir Eliphaz waved his hair about before 



THE THREE VISITORS 55 

beginning the little speech he had prepared, 
Mr. Huss took the discourse out of their mouths 
and began: 

* * I know perfectly well the task you have set 
yourselves. You have come to make an end of 
me as headmaster of Woldingstanton. And Mr. 
Farr has very obligingly . . . ' ' 

He held up his white and wasted hand as Mr. 
Farr began to disavow. 

'' No/' said Mr. Huss. '' But before you 
three gentlemen proceed with your office, I 
should like to tell you something of what the 
school and my work in it, and my work for 
education, is to me. I am a man of little more 
than fifty. A month ago I counted with a rea- 
sonable confidence upon twenty years more of 
work before I relaxed. . . . Then these mis- 
fortunes rained upon me. I have lost all my 
private independence; there have been these 
shocking deaths in the school ; my son, my only 
son . . . killed . . . trouble has darkened 
the love and kindness of my wife . . . and 
now my body is suffering so that my mind is 
like a swimmer struggling through waves of 
pain . . . far from land. . . . These are 
heavy blows. But the hardest blow of all, 
harder to bear than any of these others — I do 
not speak rashly, gentlemen, I have thought it 



56 THE UNDYING FIRE 

out through an endless night — the last blow 
will be this rejection of my life work. That 
will strike the inmost me, the heart and soul 
of me. . . . '' 

He paused. 

*^ You mustn't take it quite like that, Mr. 
Huss,'' protested Mr. Dad. ^^ It isn't fair to 
us to put it like that." 

*^ I want you to listen to me," said Mr. Huss. 

^^ Only the very kindest motives," continued 
Mr. Dad. 

** Let me speak," said Mr. Huss, with the 
voice of authority that had ruled Woldings tan- 
ton for five and twenty years. ^* I cannot 
wrangle and contradict. At most we have an 
hour. ' ' 

Mr. Dad made much the same sound that a 
dog will make when it has proposed to bark and 
has been told to get under the table. For a time 
he looked an ill-used man. 

*^ To end my work in the school will be to 
end me altogether. . . . I do not see why I 
should not speak plainly to you, gentlemen, sit- 
uated as I am here. I do not see why I should 
not talk to you for once in my own language. 
Pain and death are our interlocutors ; this is a 
rare and raw and bleeding occasion ; in an hour 
or so the women may be laying out my body and 



THE THREE VISITORS 57 

I may be silent for ever. I have hidden my 
rehgion, but why should I hide it now? To you 
I have always tried to seem as practical and 
self-seeking as possible, but in secret I have 
been a fanatic; and Woldingstanton was the 
altar on which I offered myself to God. I have 
done ill and feebly there I know; I have been 
indolent and rash; those were my weaknesses; 
but I have done my best. To the limits of my 
strength and knowledge I have served God. 
. . . And now in this hour of darkness where 
is this God that I have served? Why does he 
not stand here between me and this last injury 
you would do to the work I have dedicated to 
him? '' 

At these words Mr. Dad turned horrified eyes 
to Mr. Farr. 

But Mr. Huss went on as though talking to 
himself. '^ In the night I have looked into my 
heart; I have sought in my heart for base 
motives' and secret sins. I have put myself on 
trial to find why God should hide himself from 
me now, and I can find no reason and no justifi- 
cation. ... In the bitterness of my heart I 
am tempted to give way to you and to tell you 
to take the school and to do just what you mil 
with it. . . . The nearness of death makes the 
familiar things of experience flimsy and unreal, 



58 THE UNDYING FIRE 

and far more real to me now is this darkness 
that broods over me, as blight will sometimes 
overhang the world at noon, and mocks me day 
and night with a perpetual challenge to curse 
God and die. . . . 

** Why do I not curse God and die? Why do 
I cling to my work when the God to whom I 
dedicated it is — silent? Because, I suppose, 
I still hope for some sign of reassurance. Be- 
cause I am not yet altogether defeated. I 
would go on telling you why I want Wolding- 
stanton to continue on its present lines and why 
it is impossible for you, why it will be a sort of 
murder for you to hand it over to Farr here, if 
my pain were ten times what it is. . . .'' 

At the mention of his name, Mr. Farr started 
and looked first at Mr. Dad, and then at Sir 
Eliphaz. * ^ Eeally, ' ' he said, * * really ! One 
might think I had conspired — '' 

^* I am afraid, Mr. Huss,^' said Sir Eliphaz, 
with a large reassuring gesture to the technical 
master, ** that the suggestion that Mr. Farr 
should be your successor came in the first 
instance from me.'' 

** You must reconsider it,'' said Mr. Huss, 
moistening his lips and staring steadfastly in 
front of him. 

Here Mr. Dad broke out in a querulous voice : 



THE THREE VISITORS 59 

'^ Are you really in a state, Mr. Huss, to discuss 
a matter like this — feverish and suffering as 
you are! '' 

''' I could not be in a better frame for this 
discussion, ' ^ said Mr. Huss. ... '^ And now 
for what I have to say about the school : — 
Woldingstanton, when I came to it, was a hum- 
drum school of some seventy boys, following a 
worn-out routine. A little Latin was taught 
and less Greek, chiefly in order to say that 
Greek was taught ; some scraps of mathematical 
processes, a few rags of general knowledge, 
English history — not human history, mind you, 
but just the national brand, cut dried flowers 
from the past with no roots and no meaning, a 
smattering of French. . . . That was prac- 
tically all; it was no sort of education, it was 
a mere education-like posturing. And to-day, 
what has that school become ? ' ' 

'^ We never grudged you money," said Sir 
Eliphaz. 

*^ Nor loyal help,'' said Mr. Farr, but in a 
half whisper. 

** I am not thinking of its visible prosperity. 
The houses and laboratories and museums that 
have grown about that nucleus are nothing in 
themselves. The reality of a school is not in 
buildings and numbers but in matters of the 



60 THE UNDYING FIRE 

mind and soul. Woldingstanton has become a 
torch at which lives are set aflame. I have lit 
a candle there — the winds of fate may yet blow 
it into a world-wide blaze." 

As Mr. Huss said these things he was uplifted 
by enthusiasm, and his pain sank down out of 
his consciousness. 

*^ Wliat," he said, *^ is the task of the teacher 
in the worlds It is the greatest of all human „ 
tasks. It is to ensure that Man, Man the 
Divine, grows in the souls of men. For what 
is a man without instruction? He is born as 
the beasts are born, a greedy egotism, a clutch- 
ing desire, a thing of lusts and fears. He can 
regard nothing except in relation to himself. 
Even his love is a bargain ; and his utmost eif ort 
is vanity because he has to die. And it is we 
teachers alone who can lift him out of that self- 
preoccupation. We teachers. . . . We can re- 
lease him into a wider circle of ideas beyond 
himself in which he can at length forget himself 
and his meagre personal ends altogether. We 
can open his eyes to the past and to the future 
and to the undying life of Man. So through 
us and through us only, he escapes from death 
and futility. An untaught man is but himself 
alone, as lonely in his ends and destiny as any 
beast ; a man instructed is a man enlarged from 



THE THREE VISITORS 61 

that narrow prison of self into participation 
in an undying life, that began we know not 
when, that grows above and beyond the great- 
ness of the stars. . . .'' 

He spoke as if he addressed some other hearer 
than the three before him. Mr. Dad, with eye- 
brows raised and lips compressed, nodded 
silently to Mr. Farr as if his worst suspicions 
were confirmed, and there were signs and sig- 
nals that Sir Eliphaz was about to speak, when 
Mr. Huss resumed. 

* * For ^ve and twenty years I have ruled over 
Woldingstanton, and for all that time I have 
been giving sight to the blind. I have given 
understanding to some thousands of boys. All 
those routines of teaching that had become dead 
we made live again there. My boys have learnt 
the history of mankind so that it has become 
their own adventure; they have learnt geog- 
raphy so that the world is their possession; I 
have had lang-uages taught to make the past 
live again in their minds and to be windows 
upon the souls of alien peoples. Science has 
played its proper part; it has taken my boys 
into the secret places of matter and out among 
the nebulas. . . . Always I have kept Farr and 
his utilities in their due subordination. Some 
of my boys have already made good business 



62 THE UNDYING FIRE 

men — because they were more than business 
men. . . . But I have never sought to make 
business men and I never will. My boys have 
gone into the professions, into the services, into 
the great world and done well — I have had dull 
boys and intractable boys, but nearly all have 
gone into the world gentlemen, broad-minded, 
good-mannered, understanding and unselfish, 
masters of self, servants of man, because the 
whole scheme of their education has been to 
release them from base and narrow things. 
. . . When the war came, my boys were 
ready. . . . They have gone to their deaths — 
how many have gone to their deaths ! My own 
son among them. ... I did not grudge him. 
. . . Woldingstanton is a new school; its tra- 
dition has scarcely begun; the list of its old 
boys is now so terribly depleted that its young 
tradition wilts like a torn seedling. . . . But 
still we can keep on with it, still that tradition 
will grow, if my flame still burns. But my 
teaching must go on as I have planned it. It 
must. It must. . . . What has made my boys 
all that they are, has been the history, the 
biological science, the philosophy. For these 
things are wisdom. All the rest is training and 
mere knowledge. If the school is to live, the 
head must still be a man who can teach history 



THE THREE VISITORS 63 

— history in the widest sense; he must be 
philosopher, biologist, and archaeologist as well 
as scholar. And you would hand that task to 
Farr ! Farr ! Farr here has never even touched 
the essential work of the school. He does not 
know what it is. His mind is no more opened 
than the cricket professionaPs.'' 

Mr. Dad made an impatient noise. 

The sick man went on with his burning eyes 
on Farr, his lips bloodless. 

^* He thinks of chemistry and physics not as 
a help to understanding but as a help to trading. 
So long as he has been at Woldingstanton he 
has been working furtively with our materials 
in the laboratories, dreaming of some profitable 
patent. Oh ! I know you, Farr. Do you think 
I didn't see because I didn't choose to complain? 
If he could have discovered some profitable 
patent he would have abandoned teaching the 
day he did so. He would have been even as you 
are. But with a lifeless imagination you can- 
not even invent patentable things. He would 
talk to the boys of the empire at times, but the 
empire to him is no more than a trading con- 
spiracy fenced about with tariffs. It goes on 
to nothing. . . . And he thinks we are fight- 
ing the Germans, he thinks my dear and precious 
boy gave his life and that all these other brave 



64 THE UNDYING FIRE 

lads beyond counting died, in order that we 
might take the place of the Germans as the 
chapman-bullies of the world. That is the 
measure of his mind. He has no religion, no 
faith, no devotion. Why does he want my 
place? Because he wants to serve as I have 
served? No ! But because he envies my house, 
my income, my headship. Whether I live or die, 
it is impossible that Woldingstanton, my Wol- 
dingstanton, should live under his hand. Give 
it to him, and in a little while it will be dead. ' ' 



§5 

'* Gentlemen! " Mr. Farr protested with a 
white perspiring face. 

^* I had no idea,'' ejaculated Mr. Dad, " I had 
no idea that things had gone so far. ' ' 

Sir Eliphaz indicated by waving his hand that 
his associates might allay themselves ; he recog- 
nized that the time had come for him to speak. 

*^ It is deplorable," Sir Eliphaz began. 

He put down his hands and gripped the seat 
of his chair as if to hold himself on to it very 
tightly, and he looked very hard at the horizon 
as if he was trying to decipher some remote 
inscription. ** You have imported a tone into 
this discussion,'' he tried. 

He got off at the third attempt. ^* It is an 
extremely painful thing to me, Mr. Huss, that 
to you, standing as you do on the very brink of 
the Great Chasm, it should be necessary to 
speak in any but the most cordial and helpful 
tones. But it is my duty, it is our duty, to hold 
firmly to those principles which have always 
guided us as governors of the Woldingstanton 
F 65 



66 THE UNDYING FIRE 

School. You speak, I must say it, with an ex- 
treme arrogance of an institution to which all 
of us here have in some measure contributed; 
you speak as though you, and you alone, were 
its creator and guide. You must pardon me, 
Mr. Huss, if I remind you of the facts, the eter- 
nal verities of the story. The school, sir, was 
founded in the spacious days of Queen Eliza- 
beth, and many a good man guided its fortunes 
down to the time when an unfortunate — a di- 
version of its endoAvments led to its temporary 
cessation. The Charity Conamissioners revived 
it after an inquiry some fifty years ago, and it 
has been largely the lavish generosity of the 
Papermakers^ Guild, of which I and Dad are 
humble members, that has stimulated its expan- 
sion under you. Loth as I am to cross your 
mood, Mr. Huss, while you are in pain and anx- 
iety, I am bound to recall to you these things 
which have made your work possible. You 
could not have made bricks without straw, you 
could not have built up Woldingstanton without 
the money obtained by that commercialism for 
which you display such unqualified contempt. 
We sordid cits it was who planted, who watered. 

Mr. Huss seemed about to speak, but said 

nothing. 



THE THREE VISITORS 67 

" Exactly what I say," said Mr. Dad, turning 
for confirmation to Mr. Farr. "" The school is 
essentially a modern commercial school. It 
should be run as that.'' 

Mr. Farr nodded his white face ambiguously 
with his eye on Sir Eliphaz. 

'^ I should have been chary, Mr. Huss, of 
wrangling about our particular shares and con- 
tributions on an occasion so solemn as this, but 
since you will have it so, since you challenge 
discussion. . . ." 

He turned to his colleagues as if for support. 

' * Go on, " said Mr. Dad. ' ' Facts are facts. ' ' 



§6 

Sir Elipliaz cleared his throat, and continued 
to read the horizon. 

** I have raised these points, Mr. Huss, by- 
way of an opening. The gist of what I have 
to say lies deeper. So far I have dealt with 
the things you have said only in relation to us ; 
as against us you assume your own righteous- 
ness, you flout our poor judgments, you sweep 
them aside; the school must be continued on 
your lines, the teaching must follow your 
schemes. You can imagine no alternative opin- 
ion. God forbid that I should say a word in my 
own defence; I have given freely both of my 
time and of my money to our school; it would 
tax my secretaries now to reckon up how much; 
but I make no claims. . . . None. . . . 

*^ But let me now put all this discussion upon 
a wider and a graver footing. It is not only us 
and our poor intentions you arraign. Strange 
things have dropped from you, Mr. Huss, in 
this discussion, things it has at once pained and 
astonished me to hear from you. You have 

68 



THE THREE VISITORS 69 

spoken not only of man's ingratitude, bnt of 
God's. I could scarcely believe my ears, but 
indeed I heard you say that God was silent, 
unhelpful, and that he too had deserted you. 
In spite of the most meritorious exertions on 
your part. . . . Standing as you do on the 
very margin of the Great Secret, I want to plead 
very earnestly with you against all that you 
have said.'' 

Sir Eliphaz seemed to meditate remotely. He 
returned like a soaring vulture to his victim. 
*' I would be the last man to obtrude my reli- 
gious feelings upon anyone. ... I make no 
parade of religion, Mr. Huss, none at all. Many 
people think me no better than an unbeliever. 
But here I am bound to make my confession. I 
owe much to God, Mr. Huss. . . . " 

He glowered at the sick man. He abandoned 
his grip upon the seat of his chair for a moment, 
to make a gesture with his hairy claw of a hand. 
*^ Your attitude to my God is a far deeper 
offence to me than any merely personal attack 
could be. Under his chastening blows, under 
trials that humbler spirits would receive with 
thankfulness and construe as lessons and warn- 
ings, you betray yourself more proud, more self- 
assured, more — froward is not too harsh a 
word — more froward, Mr. Huss, than you were 



70 THE UNDYING FIRE 

even in the days when we used to fret under you 
on Founder's Day in the Great Hall, when you 
would dictate to us that here you must have an 
extension and there you must have a museum or 
a picture room or what not, leaving nothing to 
opinion, making our gifts a duty. . . . You 
will not recognise the virtue of gifts and graces 
either in man or God. . . . Cannot you see, 
my dear Mr. Huss, the falsity of your position? 
It is upon that point that I want to talk to you 
now. God does not smite man needlessly. This 
world is all one vast intention, and not a spar- 
row falls to the ground unless He wills that 
sparrow to fall. Is your heart so sure of itself? 
Does nothing that has happened suggest to you 
that there may be something in your conduct 
and direction of Woldingstanton that has made 
it not quite so acceptable an offering to God as 
you have imagined it to be ? ' ' 

Sir Eliphaz paused with an air of giving Mr. 
Huss his chance, but meeting with no response, 
he resumed: *^ I am an old man, Mr. Huss, and 
I have seen much of the world and more par- 
ticularly of the world of finance and industry, 
a world of swift opportunities and sudden 
temptations. I have watched the careers of 
many young men of parts, who have seemed to 
be under the impression that the world had been 



THE THREE VISITORS 71 

waiting for them overlong; I have seen more 
promotions, schemes and enterprises, great or 
grandiose, than I care to recall. Developing 
Woldingstanton from the mere endowed school 
of a market-town it was, to its present position, 
has been for me a subordinate incident, a holi- 
day task, a piece of by-play upon a crowded 
scene. My experiences have been on a far 
greater scale. Far greater. And in all my 
experience I have never seen what I should call 
a really right-minded man perish or an innocent 
dealer — provided, that is, that he took ordinary 
precautions — destroyed. Ups and downs no 
doubt there are, for the good as well as the bad. 
I have seen the foolish taking root for a time — 
it was but for a time. I have watched the 
manoeuvres of some exceedingly crafty men. 

Sir Eliphaz shook his head slowly from side 
to side and all the hairs on his head waved 
about. 

He hesitated for a moment, and decided to 
favour his hearers with a scrap of auto- 
biography. 

*^ Quite recently,'' he began, ** there was a 
fellow came to us, just as we were laying down 
our plant for production on a large scale. He 
was a very plausible, energetic young fellow 



72 THE UNDYING FIRE 

indeed, an American Armenian. Well, he hap- 
pened to know somehow that we were going to 
use kaolin from felspar, a by-product of the new 
potash process, and he had got hold of a scheme 
for washing London clay that produced, he 
assured us, an accessible kaolin just as good for 
our purpose and not a tenth of the cost of the 
Norwegian stuff. It would have reduced our 
prime cost something like thirty per cent. Let 
alone tonnage. Excuse these technicalities. 
On the face of it it was a thoroughly good thing. 
The point was that I knew all along that his 
stuff retained a certain amount of sulphur and 
couldn't possibly make a building block to last. 
That wouldn't prevent us selling and using the 
stuff with practical impunity. It wasn't up to 
us to know. No one could have made us liable. 
The thing indeed looked so plain and safe that 
I admit it tempted me sorely. And then, Mr. 
Huss, God came in. I received a secret inti- 
mation. I want to tell you of this in all good 
faith and simplicity. In the night when all the 
world was deep in sleep, I awoke. And I was 
in the extremest terror; my very bones were 
shaking; I sat up in my bed afraid almost to 
touch the switch of the electric light; my hair 
stood on end. I could see nothing, I could hear 
nothing, but it was as if a spirit passed in front 



THE THREE VISITORS 73 

of my face. And in spite of the silence some- 
thing seemed to be saying to me : * How about 
God, Sir Eliphaz? Have you at last forgotten 
Him ? How can you, that would dwell in houses 
of clay, whose foundation is the dust, escape His 
judgments? ' That was all, Mr. Huss, just that. 
* Whose foundation is the dust! ' Straight to 
the point. Well, Mr. Huss, I am not a religious 
man, but I threw over that Armenian. ' ^ 

Mr. Dad made a sound to intimate that he 
would have done the same. 

'* I mention this experience, this interven- 
tion — and it is not the only one of which I 
could tell — because I want you to get my view 
that if an enterprise, even though it is as fair 
and honest-seeming a business as Woldingstan- 
ton School, begins suddenly to crumple and wilt, 
it means that somehow, somewhere you must 
have been putting the wrong sort of clay into 
it. It means not that God is wrong and going 
back upon you, but that you are wrong. You 
may be a great and famous teacher now, Mr. 
Huss, thanks not a little to the pedestal we have 
made for you, but God is a greater and more 
famous teacher. He manifestly you have not 
convinced, even if you could have convinced us, 
of Woldingstanton's present perfection. . . . 
That is practically all I have to say. When 



i i 



74 THE UNDYING FIRE 

we propose, in all humility, to turn the school 
about into new and less pretentious courses and 
you oppose us, that is our answer. If you had 
done as well and wisely as you declare, you 
would not be in this position and this discussion 
would never have arisen. ' ' 

He paused. 

** Said with truth and dignity," said Mr. 
Dad. ^ ^ You have put my opinion, Sir Eliphaz, 
better than I could have put it myself. I thank 
you. ' ' 

He coughed briefly. 



§7 

^* The question you put to me I have put to 
myself,'.' said Mr. Huss, and thought deeply for 
a little while. . . . 

^' No, I do not feel convicted of wrong-doing. 
I still believe the work I set myself to do was 
right, right in spirit and intention, right in plan 
and method. You invite me to confess my 
faith broken and in the dust ; and my faith was 
never so sure. There is a God in my heart, in 
my heart at least there is a God, who has always 
guided me to right and who guides me now. 
My conscience remains unassailable. These 
afflictions that you speak of as trials and warn- 
ings I can only see as inexplicable disasters. 
They perplex me, but they do not cow me. They 
strike me as pointless and irrelevant events." 

* ^ But this is terrible ! ' ' said Mr. Dad, deeply 
shocked. 

^^ You push me back. Sir Eliphaz, from the 
discussion of our school affairs to more funda- 
mental questions. You have raised the prob- 
lem of the moral government of the world, a 

75 



76 THE UNDYING FIRE 

problem that has been distressing my mind 
since I first came here to Sundering, whether 
indeed failure is condemnation and success the 
sunshine of God's approval. You believe that 
the great God of the stars and seas and moun- 
tains is attentive to our conduct and responds 
to it. His sense of right is the same sense of 
right as ours ; he endorses a common aim. Your 
prosperity is the mark of your harmony with 
that supreme God. . . . ' ' 

** I wouldn't go so far as that," Mr. Dad 
interjected. *^ No. No arrogance." 

^^ And my misfortunes express his disap- 
proval. Well, I have believed that; I have be- 
lieved that the rightness of a schoolmaster's 
conscience must needs be the same thing as the 
rightness of destiny, I too had fallen into that 
comforting persuasion of prosperity; but this 
series of smashing experiences I have had, cul- 
minating in your proposal to wipe out the whole 
effect and significance of my life, brings me 
face to face with the fundamental question 
whether the order of the great universe, the God 
of the stars, has any regard or relationship 
whatever to the problems of our consciences 
and the efforts of man to do right. That is a 
question that echoes to me down the ages. So 
far I have always professed myself a Chris- 
tian. . . . " 



THE THREE VISITORS 77 

'* Well, I should hope so,'' said Mr. Dad, 
** considering the terms of the school's foun- 
dation." 

** For, I take it, the creeds declare in a beau- 
tiful symbol that the God who is present in our 
hearts is one with the universal father and at 
the same time his beloved Son, continually and 
eternally begotten from the universal father- 
hood, and crucified only to conquer. He has 
come into our poor lives to raise them up at 
last to Himself. But to believe that is to believe 
in the significance and continuity of the whole 
effort of mankind. The life of man must be 
like the perpetual spreading of a fire. If right 
and wrong are to perish together indifferently, 
if there is aimless and fruitless suffering, if 
there opens no hope for an eternal survival in 
consequences of all good things, then there is 
no meaning in such a belief as Christianity. It 
is a mere superstition of priests and sacrifices, 
and I have read things into it that were never 
truly there. The rushlight of our faith burns 
in a windy darkness that mil see no dawn." 

** Nay," said Sir Eliphaz, ** nay. If there is 
God in your work we cannot destroy it. ' ' 

** You are doing your best," said Mr. Huss, 
** and now I am not sure that you will fail. 
... At one time I should have defied you, 



78 THE UNDYING FIRE 

but now I am not sure. ... I have sat here 
through some dreary and dreadful days, and 
lain awake through some interminable nights; 
I have thought of many things that men in their 
days of prosperity are apt to dismiss from their 
minds ; and I am no longer sure of the goodness 
of the world without us or in the plan of Fate. 
Perhaps it is only in us within our hearts that 
the light of God flickers — and flickers inse- 
curely. Where we had thought a God, somehow 
akin to ourselves, ruled in the universe, it may 
be there is nothing but black emptiness and a 
coldness worse than cruelty." 

Mr. Dad was about to interrupt, and re- 
strained himself by a great effort. 

*^ It is a commonplace of pietistic works that 
natural things are perfect things, and that the 
whole world of life, if it were not for the sinful- 
ness of man, would be perfect. Paley, you will 
remember. Sir Eliphaz, in his * Evidences of 
Christianity,' from which we have both suf- 
fered, declares that this earth is manifestly 
made for the happiness of the sentient beings 
living thereon. But I ask you to consider for 
a little and dispassionately, whether life through 
all its stages, up to and including man, is not 
rather a scheme of uneasiness, imperfect satis- 
faction, and positive miseries. . . ." 



§8 

*^ Aren't we getting a bit out of our depth in 
all this? '' Mr. Dad burst out. '' Put it at that 
— out of our depth. . . . What does this sort 
of carping and questioning amount to, Mr. 
Huss? Does it do us any good? Does it help 
us in the slightest degree? Why should we go 
into all this! Why can't we be humble and 
leave these deep questions to those who make a 
specialty of dealing with them? We don't know 
the ropes. We can't. Here are you and Mr. 
Farr, for instance, both of you whole-time 
schoolmasters so to speak; here's Sir Eliphaz 
toiling night and day to make simple cheap suit- 
able homes for the masses, who probably won't 
say thank you to him when they see them; here's 
me an overworked engineer and understaffed 
most cruelly, not to speak of the most unfair 
and impossible labour demands, so that you 
never know where you are and what they won't 
ask you next. And in the midst of it all we are 
to start an argey-bargey about the goodness of 
God! 

79 



80 THE UNDYING FIRE 

<< We're busy men, Mr. Huss. What do we 
know of the world being a scheme of imperfect 
satisfaction and what all? Where does it come 
in? What's its practical value? Words it is, 
all words, and getting away from the plain and 
definite question we came to talk over and settle 
and have done with. Such talk, I will confess, 
makes me uncomfortable. Give me the Bible 
and the simple religion I learnt at my mother 's 
knee. That's good enough for me. Can't we 
just have faith and leave all these questions 
alone? What are men in reality? After all 
their arguments. Worms. Just worms. Well 
then, let's have the decency to behave as such 
and stick to business, and do our best in that 
state of life unto which it has pleased God to 
call us. That's what I say," said Mr. Dad. 

He jerked his head back, coughed shortly, 
adjusted his tie, and nodded to Mr. Farr in a 
resolute manner. 

** A simple, straightforward, commercial and 
technical education," he added by way of an 
explanatory colophon. ^^ That's what we're 
after." 



§9 

Mr. Huss stared absently at Mr. Dad for 

some moments, and then resumed: 

** Let US look squarely at this world about us. 
What is the true lot of life ? Is there the slight- 
est justification for assuming that our con- 
ceptions of right and happiness are reflected 
anywhere in the outward universe? Is there, 
for instance, much animal happiness! Do 
health and well-being constitute the normal 
state of animals ! ' ' 

He paused. Mr. Dad got up, and stood look- 
ing out of the window with his back to Mr. Huss. 
** Pulling nature to pieces," he said over his 
shoulder. He turned and urged further, with 
a snarl of bitterness in his voice: '^ Suppose 
things are so, what is the good of our calling 
attention to it I Where's the benefit? '' 

But the attitude of Sir Eliphaz conveyed a 
readiness to listen. 

** Before I became too ill to go out here,'' 
said Mr. Huss, ^^ I went for a walk in the coun- 
try behind this place. I was weary before I 
G 81 



82 THE UNDYING FIRE 

started, but/I was impelled to go by that almost 
irresistible desire that will seize upon one at 
times to get out of one's immediate surround- 
ings, fl wanted to escape from this wretched 
room,' and I wanted to be alone, secure from 
interruptions, and free to think in peace. There 
was a treacherous promise in the day outside, 
much sunshine and a breeze. I had heard of 
woods a mile or so inland, and that conjured up 
a vision of cool green shade and kindly streams 
beneath the trees and of the fellowship of shy 
and gentle creatures. So I went out into the 
heat and into the dried and salted east wind, 
through glare and ink}^ shadows, across many 
more fields than I had expected, until I came to 
some woods and then to a neglected park, and 
there for a time I sat down to rest. . . . 

*^ But I could get no rest. The turf was 
unclean through the presence of many sheep, 
and in it there was a number of close-growing 
but very sharply barbed thistles; and after a 
little time I realized that harvesters, those 
minute red beasts that creep upon one in the 
chalk lands and burrow into the skin and pro- 
duce an almost intolerable itching, abounded. 
I got up again and went on, hoping in vain to 
find some fence or gate on which I might rest 
more comfortably. There were many flies and 



THE THREE VISITORS 83 

gnats, many more than there are here and of 
different sorts, and they persecuted me more 
and more. They surrounded me in a humming 
cloud, and I had to wave my walking-stick about 
my head all the time to keep them off me. I 
felt too exhausted to walk back, but there was, 
I knew, a village a mile or so ahead where I 
hoped to find some conveyance in which I might 
return by road. ... 

'^ And as I struggled along in this fashion I 
came upon first one thing and then another, so 
apt to my mood that they might have been put 
there by some adversary. First it was a very 
young rabbit indeed, it was scarcely as long as 
my hand, which some cruel thing had dragged 
from its burrow. The back of its head had been 
bitten open and was torn and bloody, and the 
flies rose from its oozing wounds to my face 
like a cloud of witnesses. Then as I went on, 
trying to distract my mind from the memory of 
this pitiful dead thing by looking about me for 
something more agreeable, I discovered a row 
of little brown objects in a hawthorn bush, and 
going closer found they were some half-dozen 
victims of a butcherbird — beetles, fledgelings, 
and a mouse or so — spiked on the thorns. 
They were all twisted into painful attitudes, as 
if each had suffered horribly and challenged me 



84 THE UNDYING FIRE 

by the last gesture of its limbs to judge between 
it and its creator. . . . And a little further 
on a gaunt, villainous-looking cat with rusty 
black fur that had bare patches suddenly ran 
upon me out of a side path; it had something 
in its mouth which it abandoned at the sight of 
me and left writhing at my feet, a pretty crested 
bird, ver}^ mangled, that flapped in flat circles 
upon the turf, unable to rise. A fit of weak and 
reasonless rage came upon me at this, and see- 
ing the cat halt some yards away and turn to 
regard me and move as if to recover its victim, 
I rushed at it and pursued it, shouting. Then 
it occurred to me that it would be kinder if, 
instead of a futile pursuit of the wretched cat, 
I went back and put an end to the bird 's suffer- 
ings. For a time I could not find it, and I 
searched for it in the bushes in a fever to get it 
killed, groaning and cursing as I did so. When 
I found it, it fought at me with its poor bleeding 
wings and snapped its beak at me, and made me 
feel less like a deliverer than a murderer. I 
hit it with my stick, and as it still moved I 
stamped it to death with my feet. I fled from its 
body in an agony. * And this,' I cried, * this 
hell revealed, is God's creation! ' " 

*^ Tcha! " exclaimed Mr. Dad. 

** Suddenly it seemed to me that scales had 



THE THREE VISITORS 85 

fallen from my eyes and that I saw the whole 
world plain. It was as if the universe had put 
aside a mask it had hitherto worn, and shown 
me its face, and it was a face of boundless evil. 
... It was as if a power of darkness sat 
over me and watched me with a mocking gaze, 
and for the rest of that day I could think of 
nothing but the feeble miseries of living things. 
I was tortured, and all life was tortured with 
me. I failed to find the village I sought; I 
strayed far, I got back here at last long after 
dark, stopping sometimes by the wayside to be 
sick, sometimes kneeling or lying down for a 
time to rest, shivering and burning with an in- 
creasing fever. 

** I had, as you know, been the first to find 
poor Williamson lying helpless among the acids ; 
that ghastly figure and the burnt bodies of the 
two boys who died in School House haunt my 
mind constantly; but what was most in my 
thoughts on that day when the world of nature 
showed its teeth to me was the wretchedness of 
animal life. I do not know why that should 
have seemed more pitiful to me, and more fun- 
damental, but it did. Human suffering, per- 
haps, is complicated by moral issues ; man can 
look before and after and find remote justifica- 
tions and stern consolations outside his present 



86 THE UNDYING FIRE 

experiences ; but the poor birds and beasts, the> 
have only their present experiences and their 
individual lives cut off and shut in. How can 
there be righteousness in any scheme that afflicts 
them? I thought of one creature after another, 
and I could imagine none that had more than 
an occasional gleam of false and futile satisfac- 
tion between suffering and suffering. And to- 
day^ gentlemen, as I sit here with you, the same 
dark stream of conviction pours through my 
mind. I feel that life is a weak and inconse- 
quent stirring amidst the dust of space and 
time, incapable of overcoming even its internal 
dissensions, doomed to phases of delusion, to 
irrational and undeserved punishments, to vain 
complainings and at last to extinction. 

^ ^ Is there so much as one healthy living being 
in the world I I question it. As I wandered 
that day, I noted the trees as I had never noted 
them before. There was not one that did not 
show a stricken or rotten branch, or that was 
not studded with the stumps of lost branches 
decaying backwards towards the main stem; 
from every fork came dark stains of corruption, 
the bark was twisted and contorted and fungoid 
protrusions proclaimed the hidden mycelium of 
disease. The leaves were spotted with warts and 
blemishes, and gnawed and bitten by a myriad 



THE THREE VISITORS 87 

enemies. I noted too that the turf under my feet 
was worn and scorched and weary; gossamer 
threads and spiders of a hundred sorts trapped 
the multitudinous insects in the wilted autumnal 
undergrowth ; the hedges were a slow conflict of 
thrusting and strangulating plants in which 
every individual was more or less crippled or 
stunted. Most of these plants were armed like 
assassins; they had great thorns or stinging 
hairs; some ripened poisonous berries. And 
this was the reality of life; this was no excep- 
tional mood of things, but a revelation of things 
established. I had been blind and now I saw. 
Even as these woods and thickets were, so was 
all the world. . . . 

'* I had been reading in a book I had chanced 
to pick up in this lodging, about the jungles of 
India, which many people think of as a vast 
wealth of splendid and luxuriant vegetation. 
For the greater part of the year they are hot 
and thorny wastes of brown, dead and moulder- 
ing matter. Comes the steaming downpour of 
the rains ; and then for a little while there is a 
tangled rush of fighting greenery, jostling, 
choking, torn and devoured by a multitude of 
beasts and by a horrible variety of insects that 
the hot moisture has called to activity. Then 
under the dry breath of the destroyer the ex- 



88 THE UNDYING FIRE 

uberance stales and withers, everything ripens 
and falls, and the jungle relapses again into 
sullen heat and gloomy fermentation. And in 
truth everywhere the growth season is a wild 
scramble into existence, the rest of the year a 
complicated massacre. Even in our British cli- 
mate is it not plain to you how the summer 
outlasts the lavish promise of the spring? In 
our spring there is no doubt an air of hope, of 
budding and blossoming; there is the nesting 
and singing of birds, a certain cleanness of the 
air, an emergence of primary and comparatively 
innocent things; but hard upon that freshness 
follow the pests and parasites, the creatures 
that corrupt and sting, the minions of waste and 
pain and lassitude and fever. . . . 

** You may say that I am dwelling too much 
upon the defects in the lives of plants which do 
not feel, and of insects and small creatures 
which may feel in a different manner from our- 
selves ; but indeed their decay and imperfection 
make up the common texture of life. Even the 
things that live are only half alive. You may 
argue that at least the rarer, larger beasts 
bring with them a certain delight and dignity 
into the world. But consider the lives of the 
herbivora; they are all hunted creatures; fear 
is their habit of mind; even the great Indian 



THE THREE VISITORS 89 

buffalo is given to panic flights. They are in- 
cessantly worried by swarms of insects. When 
they are not apathetic they appear to be angry, 
exasperated with life ; their seasonal outbreaks 
of sex are evidently a violent torment to them, 
an occasion for fierce bellowings, mutual perse- 
cution and desperate combats. Such beasts as 
the rhinoceros or the buffalo are habitually in a 
rage; they will run amuck for no conceivable 
reason, and so too will many elephants, betray- 
ing a sort of organic spite against all other liv- 
ing things. . . . 

* * And if we turn to the great carnivores, who 
should surely be the lords of the jungle world, 
their lot seems to be not one whit more happy. 
The tiger leads a life of fear; a dirty scrap of 
rag will turn him from his path. , Much of his 
waking life is prowling hunger; when he kills 
he eats ravenously, he eats to the pitch of dis- 
comfort; he lies up afterwards in reeds or 
bushes, savage, disinclined to move. The 
hunter must beat him out, and he comes out 
sluggishly and reluctantly to die. His paws, 
too, are strangely tender; a few miles of rock 
will make them bleed, they gather thorns. . . . 
His mouth is so foul that his bite is a poisoned 
bite. . . . 

** All that day I struggled against this per- 



90 THE UNDYING FIRE 

suasion that the utmost happiness of any animal 
is at best like a transitory smile on a grim and 
inhuman countenance. I tried to recall some 
humorous and contented-looking creatures. . . . 

^^ That only recalled a fresh horror. . . . 

** You will have seen jDictures and photo- 
graphs of penguins. They will have conveyed 
to you the sort of effect I tried to recover. 
They express a quaint and jolly gravity, an 
aldermanic contentment. But to me now the 
mere thought of a penguin raises a vision of 
distress. I will tell you. . . . One of my old 
boys came to me a year or so ago on his return 
from a South Polar expedition; he told me the 
true story of these birds. Their lives, he said 
— he was speaking more particularly of the 
king penguin — are tormented by a monstrously 
exaggerated maternal instinct, an instinct 
shared by both sexes, which is a necessary con- 
dition of survival in the crowded rookeries of 
that frozen environment. And that instinct 
makes life one long torment for them. There 
is always a great smashing of eggs there 
through various causes; there is an excessive 
mortality among the chicks; they slip down 
crevasses, they freeze to death and so forth, 
three-quarters of each year's brood perish, and 
without this extravagant passion the species 



THE THREE VISITORS 91 

would become extinct. So that every bird is 
afflicted with a desire and anxiety to brood upon 
and protect a chick. But each couple produces 
no more than one egg a year; eggs get broken, 
they roll away into the water, there is always a 
shortage, and every penguin that has an egg 
has to guard it jealously, and each one that has 
not an egg is impelled to steal or capture one. 
Some in their distress will mother pebbles or 
scraps of ice, some fortunate in possession will 
sit for days without leaving the nest in spite of 
the gnamngs of the intense Antarctic hunger. 
To leave a nest for a moment is to tempt a rob- 
ber, and the intensity of the emotions aroused 
is shown by the fact that they will fight to the 
death over a stolen egg. You see that these 
pictures of rookeries of apparently comical 
birds are really pictures of poor dim-minded 
creatures worried and strained to the very limit 
of their powers. That is what their lives have 
always been. ... 

^ ^ But the king penguin draws near the end of 
its history. Let me tell you how its history is 
closing. Let me tell you of what is happening 
in the peaceful Southern Seas — now. This old 
boy of mine was in great distress because of a 
vile traffic that has arisen. . . . Unless it is 
stopped, it will destroy these rookeries alto- 



92 THE UNDYING FIRE 

gether. These birds are being murdered whole- 
sale for their oil. Parties of men land and club 
them upon their nests, from which the poor, 
silly things refuse to stir. The dead and 
stunned, the living and the dead together, are 
dragged away and thrust into iron crates to be 
boiled down for their oil. The broken living 
with the dead. . . . Each bird yields about a 
farthing's profit, but it pays to kill them at 
that, and so the thing is done. The people who 
run these operations, you see, have had a sound 
commercial training. They believe that when 
God gives us power He means us to use it, and 
that what is profitable is just." 

^' Well, really,'' protested Mr. Dad. 
*^Eeally!" 

Mr. Farr also betrayed a disposition to speak. 
He cleared his thoat, his uneasy hands worried 
the edge of the table, his face shone. ^^ Sir 
Eliphaz," he said. . . . 

*' Let me finish," said Mr. Huss, ** for I have 
still to remind you of the most stubborn facts of 
all in such an argument as this. Have you ever 
thought of the significance of such creatures as 
the entozoa, and the vast multitudes of other 
sorts of specialized parasites whose very exist- 
ence is cruelty? There are thousands of orders 
and genera of insects, Crustacea, arachnids. 



THE THREE VISITORS 93 

worms, and lowlier things, which are adapted in 
the most complicated way to prey npon the liv- 
ing and suffering tissues of their fellow crea- 
tures, and which can live in no other way. Have 
you ever thought what that means? If fore- 
thought framed these horrors what sort of 
benevolence was there in that forethought? I 
will not distress you by describing the life cycles 
of any of these creatures too exactly. You must 
know of many of them. I will not dwell upon 
those wasps, for example, which lay their eggs 
in the living bodies of victims which the young 
will gnaw to death slowly day by day as they de- 
velop, nor mil I discuss this unmeaning growth 
of cells which has made my body its soil. . . . 
Nor any one of our thousand infectious fevers 
that fall upon us — without reason, without 
justice. . . . 

^* Man is of all creatures the least subjected 
to internal parasites. In the brief space of a 
few hundred thousand years he has changed his 
food, his habitat and every attitude and habit 
of his life, and comparatively few species, thirty 
or forty at most, I am told, have been able to 
follow his changes and specialize themselves 
to him under these fresh conditions; yet even 
man can entertain some fearful guests. Every 
time you drink open water near a sheep pas- 



94 THE UNDYING FIRE 

tui'G YOU may drink the larval liver fluke, wliicli 
will make your liver a little to\\Tiship of vile 
creatures until they eat it up, until they swarm 
from its oozing ruins into your body cavity and 
destroy you. In Europe this is a rare fate for 
a man, but in China there are mde regions 
where the fluke abounds and rots the life out of 
thousands of people. . . . The fluke is but 
one sample of such feats of the Creator. An 
unwashed leaf of lettuce may be the means of 
planting a parasitic cyst in your brain to de- 
throne your reason ; a feast of underdone pork 
may transfer to you from the swine the creeping 
death torture of trichinosis. . . . But all that 
men suffer in these matters is nothing to the 
suffering of the beasts. The torments of the 
beasts are finished and complete. My biological 
master tells me that he rarely opens a cod or 
dogfish without finding bunches of some sort 
of worm or such like pallid lodger in possession. 
He has rows of little tubes with the things he 
has found in the bodies of rabbits. . . . 

^ ' But I will not disgust you further. . . . 

*^ Is this a world made for the happiness of 
sentient things? 

** I ask yoUy how is it possible for man to be 
other than a rebel in the face of such facts? 
How can he trust the Maker who has designed 



THE THREE VISITORS 95 

and elaborated and finished these parasites in 
their endless multitude and variety? For these 
things are not in the nature of sudden creations 
and special judgments; they have been pro- 
duced fearfully and wonderfully by a process of 
evolution as slow and deliberate as our own. 
How can Man trust such a Maker to treat him 
fairly! Why should we shut our eyes to things 
that stare us in the face? Either the world of 
life is the creation of a being inspired by a 
malignancy at once filthy, petty and enormous, 
or it displays a carelessness, an indifference, a 
disregard for justice. . . . ' ' 
The voice of Mr. Huss faded out. 



§ 10 

For some time Mr. Farr had been manifest- 
ing signs of impatience. The pause gave him 
his opportunity. He spoke with a sort of re- 
strained volubility. 

^^ Sir Eliphaz, Mr. Dad, after what has passed 
in relation to myself, I would have preferred to 
have said nothing in this discussion. Nothing. 
So far as I myself am concerned, I will still say 
nothing. But upon some issues it is impossible 
to keep silence. Mr. Huss has said some ter- 
rible things, things that must surely never be 
said at Woldingstanton. . . . 

** Think of what such teaching as this may 
mean among young and susceptible boys! 
Think of such stuff in the school pulpit! 
Chary as I am of all wrangling, and I would not 
set myself up for a moment to wrangle against 
Mr. Huss, yet I feel that this cavilling against 
God's universe, this multitude of evil words, 
must be answered. It is imperative to answer 
it, plainly and sternly. It is our duty to God, 
who has made us what we are. . . . 

96 



THE THREE VISITORS 97 

*' Mr. Huss, in your present diseased state 
you seem incapable of realizing the enormous 
egotism of all this depreciation of God's mar- 
vels. But indeed you have suffered from that 
sort of incapacity always. It is no new thing. 
Have I not chafed under your arrogant assur- 
ance for twelve long years 1 Your right, now as 
ever, is the only right; your doctrine alone is 
pure. Would that God could speak and open his 
lips against you ! How his voice would shatter 
you and us and everything about us ! How you 
would shrivel amidst your blasphemies ! 

'* Excuse me, gentlemen, if I am too forcible,'* 
said Mr. Farr, moistening his white lips, but 
Mr. Dad nodded fierce approval. 

Thus encouraged, Mr. Farr proceeded. 
'* When first I came into this room, Mr. Huss, 
I was full of pity for your affliction — I think we 
all were — we were pitiful ; but now it is clear 
to me that God exacts from you less than your 
iniquity deserves. Surely the supreme sin is 
pride. You criticize and belittle God 's universe, 
but what sort of a universe would you give us, 
Mr. Huss, if you were the Creator? Pardon 
me if I startle you, gentlemen, but that is a fair 
question to ask. For it is clear to me now, Mr. 
Huss, that no less than that mil satisfy you. 
Woldingstanton, for all the wonders you have 



98 THE UNDYING FIRE 

wrought there, in spite of the fact that never 
before and never again can there be such a head, 
in spite of the fact that you have lit such a 
candle there as may one day set the world 
ablaze, is clearly too small a field for you. Head- 
master of the universe is your position. Then, 
and then alone, could you display your gifts to 
the full. Then cats would cease to eat birds, 
and trees grow on in perfect symmetry until 
they cumbered the sky. I can dimly imagine 
the sort of world that it would be ; the very fleas 
reformed and trained under your hand, would 
be flushed with health and happiness and doing 
the work of boy scouts; every blade of grass 
would be at least six feet long. As for the liver 
fluke — but I cannot solve the problem of the 
liver fluke. I suppose you will provide eutha- 
nasia for all the parasites. . . .'' 

Abruptly Mr. Farr passed from this vein of 
terrible humour to an earnest and pleading 
manner. ^' Mr. Huss, with mortal danger so 
close to you, I entreat you to reconsider all this 
wild and wicked talk: of yours. You take a few 
superficial aspects of the world and frame a 
judgment on them ; you try with the poor foot- 
rule of your mind to measure the plans of God, 
plans which are longer than the earth, wider 
than the sea. I ask you, how can such insolence 



THE THREE VISITORS 99 

help you in this supreme emergency? There 
can be little time left, . . . ' ' 

Providence was manifestly resolved to give 
Mr. Farr the maximum of dramatic effect. 
*^ But what is this? '' said Mr. Farr. He stood 
up and looked out of the window. 

Somebody had rung the bell, and now, with 
an effect of impatience, was rapping at the 
knocker of Sea View. 



CHAPTER THE FOURTH 

DO WE TRULY DIE? 

§1 

Mrs. Croomb was heard in the passage, some- 
one was admitted, there were voices, and 
the handle of the parlour door was turned. 
*^ 'Asn't E come, then? " they heard the voice 
of Mrs. Croome through the opening. Dr. 
Elihu Barrack appeared in the doorway. 

He was a round-headed young man with a 
clean-shaven face, a mouth that was deter- 
minedly determined and slightly oblique, a short 
nose, and a general expression of resolution ; the 
fact that he had an artificial leg was scarcely 
perceptible in his bearing. He considered the 
four men before him for a moment, and then 
addressed himself to Mr. Huss in a tone of 
brisk authority. ** You ought to be in bed,*' 
he said. 

^^ I had this rather important discussion," 

100 



DO WE TRULY DIE? ' '^ ' ' lOl 

said Mr. Huss, with a gesture portending intro- 
ductions. 

* ^ But sitting up will fatigue you, ' ' the doctor 
insisted, sticking to his patient. 

^' It won't distress me so much as leaving 
these things unsaid would have done.'' 

*^ Opinions may differ upon that," said Mr. 
Farr darkly. 

' ' We are still far from any settlement of our 
difficulties," said Sir Eliphaz to the universe. 

* * I have indicated my view at any rate, ' ' said 
Mr. Huss. ** I suppose now Sir Alpheus is 
here — " 

^' He isn't here," said Dr. Barrack neatly. 
*^ He telegraphs to say that he is held up, and 
will come by the next train. So you get a re- 
prieve, Mr. Huss." 

** In that case I shall go on talking." 

** You had better go to bed." 

** No. I couldn't lie quiet." And Mr. Huss 
proceeded to name his guests to Dr. Barrack, 
who nodded shortly to each of them in turn, and 
said : ^ ^ Pleased-t-meet you. ' ' His face betrayed 
no excess of pleasure. His eye was hard. He 
remained standing, as if waiting for them to 
display symptoms. 

* * Our discussion has wandered far, ' ' said Sir 
Eliphaz. "' Our original business here was to 



102" ' ' "^ '' ' ' TflE * Undying fire 

determine the future development of Wolding- 
stanton School, which we think should be made 
more practical and technical than hitherto, and 
less concerned with history and philosophy than 
it has been under Mr. Huss. (Won't you sit 
down, Doctor?) '^ 

The doctor sat down, still watching Sir Eli- 
phaz with hard intelligence. 

** Well, we have drifted from that," Sir Eli- 
phaz continued. 

** Not so far as you may think,'* said Mr. 
Huss. 

* ^ At any rate Mr. Huss has been regaling us 
with a discourse upon the miseries of life, how 
we are all eaten up by parasites and utterly 
wretched, and how everything is wretched and 
this an accursed world ruled either by a cruel 
God or a God so careless as to be practically no 
God at all.'' 

** Nice stuff for nineteen eighteen A.D./^ said 
Mr. Dad, putting much meaning into the *^a.d." 

** Since I left Woldingstanton and came 
here," said Mr. Huss, ^^ I have done little else 
but think. I have not slept during the night, 
I have had nothing to occupy me during the 
day, and I have been thinking about fundamen- 
tal things. I have been forced to revise my 
faith, and to look more closely than I have 



DO WE TRULY DIE? 103 

ever done before into the meaning of my 
beliefs and into my springs of action. I have 
been wrenched away from tliat habitual con- 
fidence in the order of things which seemed the 
more natural state for a mind to be in. But 
that has only widened a difference that already 
existed between me and these three gentlemen, 
and that was showing very plainly in the days 
when success still justified my grip upon Wol- 
dingstanton. Suddenly, swiftly, I have had 
misfortune following upon misfortune — with- 
out cause or justification. I am thro^vn now 
into the darkest doubt and dismay ; the universe 
seems harsh and black to me ; whereas formerly 
I believed that at the core of it and universally 
pervading it was the "Will of a God of Light. 
... I have always denied, even when my 
faith was undimmed, that the God of Righteous- 
ness ruled this world in detail and entirely, giv- 
ing us day by day our daily rewards and pun- 
ishments. These gentlemen on the contrary do 
believe that. They say that God does rule the 
world traceably and directly, and that success 
is the measure of his approval and pain and 
suffering the fulfilment of unrighteousness. 
And as for what has this to do with education — 
it has all to do with education. You can settle 
no practical questions until you have settled 



\ 



104 THE UNDYING FIRE 

such disputes as this. Before you can prepare 
boys to play their part in the world you must 
ask what is this world for which you prepare 
them; is it a tragedy or comedy? What is the 
nature of this drama in which they are to 
play? '' 

Dr. Barrack indicated that this statement was 
noted and approved. 

** For clearly/' said Mr. Huss, ^' if success 
is the justification of life you must train for 
success. There is no need for men to under- 
stand life, then, so long as they do their job in 
it. That is the opinion of these governors of 
mine. It has been the opinion of most men of 
the world — always. Obey the Thing that Is! 
that is the lesson they would have taught to my 
boys. Acquiesce. Life for them is not an ad- 
venture, not a struggle, but simply obedience 
and the enjoyment of rewards. . . . That, 
Dr. Barrack, is what such a technical education 
as they want set up at Woldingstanton really 
means. . . . 

*^ But I have believed always and taught 
always that what God demands from man is his 
utmost effort to co-operate and understand. I 
have taught the imagination, first and most; I 
have made knowledge, knowledge of what man 
is and what man's world is and what man may 



DO WE TRULY DIE? 105 

be, which is the adventure of manldnd, the sub- 
stance of all my teaching. At Woldingstanton 
I have taught philosophy; I have taught the 
whole history of mankind. If I could not have 
done that without leaving chemistry and phys- 
ics, mathematics and languages out of the cur- 
riculum altogether I would have left them out. 
And you see why, Dr. Barrack. ' ' 

^^ I see your position certainly,'' said Dr. 
Barrack. 

*^ And now that my heavens a,re_ darkened, 
now that my eyes have been opened to the 
wretchedness, futility and horror in the texture 
of life, I still cling, I cling more than ever, to 
the spirit of righteousness mthin me. If there 
is no God, no mercy, no human kindliness in 
the great frame of space and time, if life is a 
writhing torment, an itch upon one little planet, 
and the stars away there in the void no more 
than huge empty flares, signifying nothing, then 
all the brighter shines the flame of God in my 
heart. If the God in my heart is no son of 
any heavenly father then is he Prometheus the 
rebel ; it does not shake my faith that he is the 
Master for whom I will live and die. And all 
the more do I cling to this fire of human tradi- 
tion we have lit upon this little planet, if it is 
the one gleam of spirit in all the windy vast- 
ness of a dead and empty universe." 



/ 



106 THE UNDYING FIRE 

Dr. Barrack seemed about to interrupt with 
some comment, and then, it was manifest, de- 
ferred his interpolation. 

^* Loneliness and littleness, '^ said Mr. Huss, 
*^ harshness in the skies above and in the texture 
of all things. If so it is that things are, so we 
must see them. Every baby in its mother's 
arms feels safe in a safe creation; every child 
in its home. Many men and women have lived 
and died happy in that illusion of security. 
But this war has torn away the veil of illusion 
from millions of men. . . . Mankind is com- 
ing of age. We can see life at last for what it 
is and what it is not. Here we spin upon a 
ball of rock and nickel-steel, upon which a 
film of water, a few score miles of air, lie like 
the bloom upon a plum. All about that ball is 
space unfathomable ; all the suns and stars are 
mere grains of matter scattered through a vast- 
ness that is otherwise utterly void. To that 
thin bloom upon a particle we are confined; if 
we tunnel down into the earth, presently it is 
too hot for us to live ; if we soar five miles into 
the air we freeze, the blood runs out of our 
vessels into our lungs, we die suffocated and 
choked with blood. . . . 

*^ Out of the litter of muds and gravels that 
make the soil of the world we have picked some 



DO WE TRULY DIE? 107 

traces of the past of our race and the past of 
life. In our observatories and laboratories we 
have gleaned some hints of its future. We have 
a vision of the opening of the story, but the 
first pages we cannot read. We discover life, 
a mere stir amidst the mud, creeping along the 
littoral of warm and shallow seas in the brief 
nights and days of a swiftly rotating earth. 
We follow through vast ages the story of life's 
extension into the waters, and its invasion of 
the air and land. Plants creep upon the land 
and raise themselves by stems towards the sun ; 
a few worms and crustaceans follow, insects 
appear; and at length come our amphibious 
ancestors, breathing air by means of a swim- 
ming bladder used as a lung. From the first 
the land animals are patched-up creatures. 
They eke out the fish ear they inherit by means 
of an ear drum made out of a gill slit. You can 
trace scale and fin in bone and limb. At last 
this green scum of vegetable life with the beasts 
entangled in its meshes creeps in the form of 
forests over the hills ; grass spreads across the 
plains, and great animals follow it out into the 
open. What does it all signify? No more than 
green moss spreading over an old tile. Steadily 
the earth cools and the day lengthens. Through 
long ages of warmth and moisture the wealth of 



108 THE UNDYING FIRE 

unmeaning life increases ; come ages of chill and 
retrocession, glacial periods, and periods when 
whole genera and orders die out. Comes man 
at last, the destroyer, the war-maker, setting 
fire to the world, burning the forests, exhausting 
the earth. What hope has he in the end? 
Always the day drags longer and longer and 
always the sun radiates its energy away. A 
time will come when the sun will glow dull red 
in the heavens, shorn of all its beams, and 
neither rising nor setting. A day mil come 
when the earth will be as dead and frozen as 
the moon. ... A spirit in our hearts, the 
God of mankind, cries ^ No ! ' but is there any 
voice outside us in all the cold and empty uni- 
verse that echoes that ^ No' ? '' 



§2 

''Ah, Mr. Hnss, Mr. Huss!'' said Sir 
Eliphaz. 

His eye seemed seeking some point of attach- 
ment, and found it at last in the steel engraving 
of Queen Victoria giving a Bible to a dusky- 
potentate, which adorned the little parlour. 

** Your sickness colours your vision,'' said 
Sir Eliphaz. ^ * What you say is so profoundly 
true and so utterly false. Mysteriously evolved, 
living as you say in a mere bloom of air and 
moisture upon this tiny planet, how could we 
exist, how could we continue, were we not sus- 
tained in every moment by the Mercy and Wis- 
dom of God I The flimsier life is, the greater 
the wonder of his Providence. Not a sparrow, ' ' 
said Sir Eliphaz, and then enlarging the meta- 
phor with a boom in his voice, '' not a hair of 
my head, falls to the ground without His knowl- 
edge and consent. ... I am a man much 
occupied. I cannot do the reading I would. 
But while you have been reviling the works of 

109 



110 THE UNDYING FIRE 

God I have been thinking of some wonders. 



yy 



Sir Eliphaz lifted up a hand with thumb and 
finger opposed, as though he held some exqui- 
site thing therein. 

^^ The human eye," said Sir Eliphaz, with 
an intensity of appreciation that brought tears 
to his own. . . . 

^ ^ The cross fertilization of plants. . . . 

*^ The marvellous transformations of the 
higher insects. . . . 

** The highly elaborate wing scales of the 
Lepidoptera. 

*^ The mercy that tempers the wind to the 
shorn lamb. . . . 

*^ The dark warm marvels of embryology; 
the order and rhythm and obedience with which 
the cells of the fertilized ovum divide to build 
up the perfect body of a living thing, yea, even 
of a human being — in God's image. First 
there is one cell, then two ; the process of divi- 
sion is extremely beautiful and is called, I 
believe, karyohinesis; then after the two come 
four, each knows his part, each divides certainly 
and marvellously; eight, sixteen, thirty-two. . 
. . Each of those thirty-two cells is a complete 
thirty-second part of a man. Presently this 
cell says, * I become a hair ' ; this, ' a blood cor- 



DO WE TRULY DIE? Ill 

puscle/ this ^ a cell in the brain of a man, to 
mirror the universe.' Each goes to his own 
appointed place. . . . 

** Would that we could do the like ! '' said Sir 
Eliphaz. 

'' Then consider water,'' said Sir Eliphaz. 
^* I am not deeply versed in physical science, 
but there are certain things about water that 
fill me with wonder and amaze. All other 
liquids contract when they solidify. With one 
or two exceptions — useful in the arts. Water 
expands. Now water is a non-conductor of 
heat, and if water contracted and became heav- 
ier when it became ice, it would sink to the 
bottom of the polar seas and remain there 
unmelted. More ice would sink down to it, 
until all the ocean was ice and life ceased. But 
water does not do so. No ! . . . Were it not 
for the vapour of water, which catches and 
entangles the sun's heat, this world would 
scorch by day and freeze by night. Mercy upon 
mercy, I myself," said Sir Eliphaz in tones i 
of happy confession, ' ' am ninety per cent. \ 
water. . . . We all are. ... '^ 

** And think how mercifully winter is tem- 
pered to us by the snow! When water freezes 
in the air in winter-time, it does not come pelt- 
ing down as lumps of ice. Conceivably it 



112 THE UNDYING FIRE 

might, and then where should we be? But it 
belongs to the hexagonal system — a system 
prone to graceful frameworks. It crystallizes 
into the most delicate and beautiful lace of six- 
rayed crystals — wonderful under the micro- 
scope. They flake delicately. They lie loosely 
one upon another. Out of ice is woven a warm 
garment like wool, white like wool because like 
wool it is full of air — a warm garment for bud 
and shoot. . . . 

* * Then again — you revile God for the para- 
sites he sends. But are they not sent to teach 
us a great moral lesson? Each one for himself 
and God for us all. Not so the parasites. They 
choose a life of base dependence. With that 
comes physical degeneration, swift and sure. 
They are the Socialists of nature. They lose 
their limbs. They lose colour, become blenched, 
unappetising beings, vile creatures of sloth — 
often microscopic. Do they not urge us by their 
shameful lives to self help and exertion? Yet 
even parasites have a use ! I am told that were 
it not for parasitic bacteria man could not digest 
his food. A lichen again is made up of an alga 
and a fungus, mutually parasitic. That is called 
symbiosis — living together for a mutual ben- 
efit. Maybe every one of those thousands of 
parasites you deem so horrible is working its 
way upward towards an arrangement — ' ^ 



DO WE TRULY DIE? 113 

Sir Elipliaz weighed his words: ** Some 
mutually advantageous arrangement with its 
host. A paying guest. 

'^ And finally," said Sir Eliphaz, with the 
roll of distant thunder in his voice, *^ think of 
the stately procession of life upon the earth, 
through a myriad of forms the glorious cres- 
cendo of evolution, up to its climax, man. What 
a work is man! The paragon of creation, the 
microcosm of the cosmos, the ultimate birth of 
time. . . . And you would have us doubt the 
guiding hand ! ' ' 

He ceased with a gesture. 

Mr. Dad made a noise like responses in 
church. 



§3 

* ^ A certain beauty in the world is no mark of 
God's favour/' said Mr. Huss. ^^ There is no 
beauty one may not balance by an equal 
ugliness. The wart-hog and the hyaena, the 
tapeworm and the stinkhorn, are equally God's 
creations. Nothing you have said points to 
anything but a cold indifference towards us of 
this order in which we live. Beauty happens; 
it is not given. Pain, suffering, happiness; 
there is no heed. Only in the heart of man 
burns the fire of righteousness." 

For a time Mr. Huss was silent. Then he 
went on answering Sir Eliphaz. 

*^ You spoke of the wonder of the cross-fer- 
tilization of plants. But do you not know that 
half these curious and elaborate adaptations no 
longer work 1 Scarcely was their evolution com- 
pleted before the special need that produced 
them ceased. Half the intricate flowers you see 
are as futile as the ruins of Palmyra. They are 
self-fertilized or wind-fertilized. The trans- 
formation of the higher insects which give us 

114 



DO WE TRULY DIE? 115 

our gnats and wasps, our malaria and apple- 
maggots in due season, are a matter for human 
astonishment rather than human gratitude. If 
there is any design in these strange and intri- 
cate happenings, surely it is the design of a 
misplaced and inhuman ingenuity. The scales 
of the lepidoptera, again, have wasted their 
glittering splendours for millions of years. If 
they were meant for man, why do the most beau- 
tiful species fly by night in the tropical forests ? 
As for the human eye, oculists and opticians are 
scarcely of your opinion. You h}Tiin the pecu- 
liar properties of water that make life possible. 
They make it possible. Do they make it other 
than it is? 

*^ You have talked of the marvels of embry- 
onic growth in the egg. I admit the wonderful 
precision of the process ; but how does it touch 
my doubts 1 Eather it confuses them, as though 
the God who rules the world ruled not so much 
in love as in irony. Wonderfully indeed do the 
cells divide and the chromoplasts of the divi- 
sion slide along their spindle lines. They divide 
not as if a divine hand guided them but with re- 
morseless logic, with the pitiless consistency 
of a mathematical process. They divide and 
marshal themselves and turn this way and that, 
to make an idiot, to make a congenital cripple. 



116 THE UNDYING FIRE 

Millions of such miracles pile up — and produce 
the swaying drunkard at the pot-house door. 

*^ You talk of the crescendo of evolution, of 
the first beginnings of life, and how the scheme 
unfolds until it culminates in us — us, here, 
under these circumstances, you and Mr. Dad 
and Farr and me — waiting for the knife. 
Would that I could see any such crescendo ! I 
see change indeed and change and change, with- 
out plan and without heart. Consider for 
example the migrations of birds across the 
Mediterranean, and the tragic absurdity of its 
incidents. Ages ago, and for long ages, there 
stretched continuous land connexions from Af- 
rica to Europe. Then the instinct was formed ; 
the birds flew over land from the heated south 
to the northern summer to build and breed. 
Slowly age by age the seas crept over those 
necks of land. Those linking tracts have been 
broken now for a hundred thousand years, and 
yet over a constantly widening sea, in which 
myriads perish exliausted, instinct, blind and 
pitiless, still drives those birds. And again 
thinl?: of those vain urgencies for some purpose 
long since forgotten, that drive the swarming 
lemmings to their fate. And look at man, your 
evolution's crown; consider his want of balance, 
the invalidism of his women, the extravagant 



DO WE TRULY DIE? 117 

disproportion of his desires. Consider the 
Eecord of the Eocks honestly and frankly, and 
where can you trace this crescendo you suggest ? 
There have been great ages of marvellous tree- 
ferns and wonderful forest swamps, and all 
those glorious growths have died. They did not 
go on ; they reached a climax and died ; another 
sort of plant succeeded them. Then think of 
all that wonderful fauna of the Mesozoic times, 
the age of Leviathan ; the theriodonts, reptilian 
beasts, the leaping dinosaurs, the mososaurs 
and suchlike monsters of the deep, the bat- 
winged pterodactyls, the plesiosaurs and ichthy- 
osaurs. Think of the marvels of the Mesozoic 
seas; the thousands of various ammonites, the 
wealth of fish life. Across all that world of life 
swept death, as the wet fingers of a child wipe 
a drawing from a slate. They left no descend- 
ants, they clambered to a vast variety and com- 
plexity and ceased. The dawn of the Eocene 
was the bleak dawn of a denuded world. Cres- 
cendo if you will, but thereafter diminuendo, 
pianissimo. And then once again from fresh 
obscure starting-points far down the stem life 
swelled, and swelled again, only to dwindle. 
The world we live in to-day is a meagre spec- 
tacle beside the abundance of the earlier Ter- 
tiary time, when Behemoth in a thousand forms. 



118 THE UNDYING FIRE 

Deinotherium, Titanotherium, Helladotherium, 
sabre-toothed tiger, a hundred sorts of elephant, 
and the like, pushed through the jungles that 
are now this mild world of to-day. Where 
is that crescendo now? Crescendo! Through 
those long ages our ancestors were hiding under 
leaves and climbing into trees to be out of the 
way of the crescendo. As the motif of a cres- 
cendo they sang exceedingly small. And now 
for a little w^hile the world is ours, and we wax 
in our turn. To what good? To what end? 
Tell me, you who say the world is good, tell me 
the end. How can we escape at last the common 
fate under the darkling sky of a frozen world? " 

He paused for some moments, weary with 
speaking. 

li There is no comfort," he said, ** in the 
flowers or the stars; no assurance in the past 
and no sure hope in the future. There is 
nothing but the God of faith and courage in the 
hearts of men. . . . And He gives no sign 
of power, no earnest of victory. . . . He 
gives no sign. ..." 

Whereupon Sir Eliphaz breathed the word: 
'^Immortality! " 

'^ Let me say a word or two upon Immortal- 
ity," said Sir Eliphaz, breaking suddenly into 
eagerness, ** for that, I presume, is the thing 



DO WE TRULY DIE? 119 

we have forgotten. That, I see, is the difference 
between us and you, Mr. Huss ; that is why we 
can sit here, content to play our partial roles, 
knowing full surely that some day the broken 
lines and inconsecutivenesses that perplex us in 
this life will all be revealed and resolved into 
their perfect circles, while you to whom this 
earthly life is all and final, you must needs be a 
rebel, you must needs preach a doctrine between 
defiance and despair. ... If indeed death 
ended all! Ah! Then indeed you might claim 
that reason was on your side. The afflictions 
of man are very many. Why should I deny 
it? '' 

The patentee and chief proprietor of the Tem- 
anite blocks paused for a moment. 

* ' Yes, ' ' he said, peering up through his eye- 
brows at the sky, ^* that is the real issue. Blind 
to that, you are blind to everything. ' ' 

^* I don't know whether I am mth you on 
this question of immortality. Sir Eliphaz,'' 
warned Dr. Barrack, coughing shortly. 

*^ For my part I'm altogether with him,'' 
said Mr. Dad. ' * If there is no immortal life — 
well, what's the good of being temperate and 
decent and careful for ^ve and fifty years f *' 

Sir Eliphaz had decided now to drop all 
apologetics for the scheme of Nature. 



120 THE UNDYING FIRE 

** A place of trial, a place of stimulus and 
training/' he said, ^^ Respice finem. The clues 
are all — beyond/' 

^* But if you really consider this world as a 
place for soul making,*' said Mr. Huss, '' what 
do you think you are doing when you propose to 
turn Woldingstanton over to Farr ? ' ' 

* ' At any rate, ' ' said Farr tartly, * * we do not 
want soul-blackening and counsels of despair at 
Woldingstanton. We want the boys taught to 
serve and help first in this lowly economic 
sphere, cheerfully and enterprisingly, and then 
in higher things, before they pass on — " 

'^ If death ends all, then what is the good of 
trying? " Mr. Dad said, still brooding over the 
question. * ^ If I thought that — ! " 

He added with deep conviction, * ' I should let 
myself go. . . . Anyone would." 

He blew heavily, stuck his hands in his 
pockets, and sat more deeply in his chair, an 
indignant man, a business man asked to give 
up something for nothing. 

For a moment the little gathering hung, only 
too manifestly contemplating the spectacle of 
Mr. Dad amidst wine, women, and waistcoats 
without restraint, letting himself go, eating, 
drinking, and rejoicing, being a perfect devil, 
because on the morrow he had to die. . . . 



DO WE TRULY DIE? 121 

** Immortal," said Mr. Huss. ^' I did not ex- 
pect immortality to come into this discussion. 

• • • 

*^ Are you immortal, Farrf " he asked 
abruptly. 

^* I hope so,'^ said Mr. Farr. '^ Unworthy 
though I be." 

" Exactly," said Mr. Huss. '' And so that 
is the way out for us. You and I, Mr. Dad 
from his factory, and Sir Eliphaz from his 
building office, are to soar. It is all arranged 
for us, and that is why the tragic greatness of 
life is to be hidden from my boys. . . . 

** Yet even so," continued Mr. Huss, ** I do 
not see why you should be so anxious for tech- 
nical science and so hostile to the history of 
mankind. ^ ' 

^' Because it is not a true history," said Sir 
Eliphaz, his hair waving about like the hair of 
a man electrified by fresh ideas. '' Because it 
is a bunch of loose ends that are really not ends 
at all, but only beginnings that pass suddenly 
into the unseen. I admit that in this world 
nothing is rationalized, nothing is clearly just. 
I admit everything you say. But the reason? 
The reason? Because this life is onty the first 
page of the great book we have to read. We 
sit here, Mr. Huss, like men in a waiting-room. 



122 THE UNDYING FIRE 

. . . All this life is like waiting outside, in a ' 
place of some disorder, before being admitted 
to the wider reality, the larger sphere, where all 
the cruelties, all these confusions, everything — 
will be explained, justified — and set right. ' ' 

He paused, and then perceiving that Mr. Huss 
was about to speak he resumed, raising his voice 
slightly. 

* ^ And I do not speak without my book in these 
matters,'' he said. ^* I have been greatly im- 
pressed — and, what is more. Lady Burrows has 
been greatly impressed, by the writings of two 
thoroughly scientific men, two thoroughly sci- 
entific men. Dr. Conan Doyle and Sir Oliver 
Lodge. Ever since she lost her younger sister 
early in life Lady Burrows has followed up this 
interest. It has been a great consolation to 
her. And the point is, as Sir Oliver insists in 
that wonderful book ^ Raymond, ' that continued 
existence in another world is as proven now as 
the atomic theory in chemistry. It is not a mat- 
ter of faith, but knowledge. The partition is 
breached at last. We are in communication. 
News is coming through. . . . Scientific cer- 
tainty. . . . " 

Sir Eliphaz cleared his throat. ^' We have 
already evidences and descriptions of the life 
into which we shall pass. Eemember this is no 



DO WE TRULY DIE? 123 

idle talk, no deception by Sludges and the like; 
it is a great English scientific man who pub- 
lishes these records ; it is a great French philos- 
opher, no less a man than that wonderful 
thinker — and how he thinks ! — Professor 
Bergson, who counselled their publication. A 
glory of science and a glory of philosophy com- 
bine to reassure us. We walk at last upon a 
path of fact into that further world. We know 
already much. /We know, for example, that 
those who have passed over to that higher plane 
have bodies still. That I found — comforting. 
Without that — one would feel bleak. But, the 
messages say, the internal organs are consti- 
tuted differently. Naturally. As one would 
have expected. The dietary is, I gather, prac- 
tically non-existent. Needless. As the outline 
is the same the space is, I presume, used 
for other purposes. Some sort of astral stor- 
age. . . . They do not bleed. An interesting 
fact. Lady Burrows' sister is now practically 
bloodless. And her teeth — she had lost sev- 
eral, she suffered greatly with her teeth — her 
teeth have all been replaced — a beautiful set. 
Used now only for articulate speech. ' ' 

* ^ * Raymond ' all over again, ' ' said the 
doctor. 

* * You have read the book ! ' ' said Sir Eliphaz. 



124 THE UNDYING FIRE 

The doctor grunted in a manner that mingled 
assent and disapproval. His expression be- 
trayed the scientific bigot. 

** We know now details of the passage/' said 
Sir Eliphaz. *^ We have some particulars. We 
know, for instance, that people blown to pieces 
take some little time to reconstitute. There is 
a correlation between this corruptible body and 
the spirit body that replaces it. There is a sort 
of spirit doctor over there, very helpful in such 
cases. / And burnt bodies, too, are a trouble. 
. . . The sexes are still distinct, but all the 
coarseness of sex is gone. The passions fade 
in that better world. Every passion. Even the 
habit of smoking and the craving for alcohol 
fade. Not at first. The newly dead will some- 
times ask for a cigar. They are given cigars, 
higher-plane cigars, and they do not ask for 
more. There are no children born there. 
Nothing of that sort. That, it is very impor- 
tant to understand. Here is the place of birth ; 
this is where lives begin. This coarse little 
planet is the seed-bed of life. When it has 
served its purpose and populated those higher 
planes, then indeed it may freeze, as you say. 
A mere empty hull. A seed-case that has 
served its purpose, mattering nothing. These 
are the thoughts, the comforting and beautiful 



DO WE TRULY DIE? 125 

thoughts, that receive the endorsement of our 
highest scientific and philosophical intelligences. 
. . . One thinks of that life there, no doubt 
in some other dimension of space, that world 
arranged in planes — metaphorical planes, of 
course, in which people go to and fro, living in 
a sort of houses, surrounded by a sort of beau- 
tiful things, made, so we are told, from the 
smells of the things we have here. That is 
curious, but not irrational. Our favorite dog- 
gies will be there. Sublimated also. That 
thought has been a great comfort to Lady Bur- 
rows. . . . We had a dog called Fido, a leetle, 
teeny fellow — practically human. . . . 

*^ These blessed ones engage very largely in 
conversation. Other occupations I found diffi- 
cult to trace. Raymond attended a sort of re- 
ception on the very highest plane. It was a 
special privilege. Perhaps a compliment to Sir 
Oliver. He met the truth of revealed religion, 
so to speak, personally. It was a wonderful 
moment. Sir Oliver suppresses the more sol- 
emn details. Lady Burrows intends to write 
to him. She is anxious for particulars. But 
I will not dilate, '^ said Sir Eliphaz. ** I will 
not dilate.'' 

^^ And you believe this stuff? '' said the doc- 
tor iji tones of the deepest disgust. 



126 THE UNDYING FIRE 

Sir Eliphaz waved himself upon the ques- 
tioner. 

^ ^ So far as poor earthly expressions can body 
forth spiritual things, '^ he hedged. 

He regarded his colleagues with an eye of 
florid defiance. Both Mr. Farr and Mr. Dad 
had slightly shamefaced expressions, and Mr. 
Dad's ears were red. 

Mr. Dad cleared his throat. ** I'm sure 
there's something in it — anyhow," said Mr. 
Dad hoarsely, doing his best in support. 

** If I was born with a hare lip," said the 
doctor, '' would that be put right? Do congen- 
ital idiots get sublimated? What becomes of a 
dog one has shot for hydrophobia? " 

** To all of such questions," said Sir Eliphaz 
serenely, ** the answer is — we don't know. 
Why should we? " 



ii 



§4 

Mr. Huss seemed lost in meditation. His pale 
and sunken face and crumpled pose contrasted 
strongly with the bristling intellectual rectitude 
and mounting choler of Dr. Elihu Barrack. 

'' No, Sir Eliphaz/^ said Mr. Huss, and 
sighed. 

No,'' he repeated. 

What a poor phantom of a world these 
people conjure up ! What a mockery of loss 
and love! The very mothers and lovers who 
mourn their dead will not believe their foolish 
stories. Eestoration! It is a crowning indig- 
nity. It makes me think of nothing in the world 
but my dear boy's body, broken and crumpled, 
and some creature, half fool and half impostor, 
sitting upon it, getting between it and me, and 
talking cheap rubbish over it about planes of 
being and astral bodies. . . . 

^* After all, you teach me. Sir Eliphaz, that 
life, for all its grossness and pain and horror, 
is not so bad as it might be — if such things as 
this were true. But it needs no sifting of the 

127 



128 THE UNDYING FIRE 

evidence to know they are untrue. No sane man 
believes this stuff for ten minutes together. It 
is impossible to believe it. . . . " 

Dr. Elihu Barrack applauded. Sir Eliphaz 
acted a fine self-restraint. 

*^ They are contrary to the texture of every- 
thing we know/' said Mr. Huss. *^ They are 
less convincing than the wildest dreams. By 
pain, by desire, by muscular effort, by the feel- 
ing of sunshine or of rain in the face, by their 
sense of justice and such-like essential things 
do men test the reality of appearances before 
them. This certainly is no reality. It has none 
of the feel of reality. I will not even argue 
about it. It is thrust now upon a suffering 
world as comfort, and even as comfort for 
people stunned and uncritical with grief it fails. 
You and Lady Burrows may be pleased to think 
that somehow you two, mth your teeth restored 
and your complexions rejuvenated, will meet 
again the sublimation of your faithful Fido. 
At any rate, thank God for that, I know clearly 
that so I shall never meet my son. Never ! He 
has gone from me. . . . " 

For some moments mental and physical suf- 
fering gripped him, and he could not speak ; but 
his purpose to continue was so manifested by 
sweating face and gripping hand that no one 
spoke until he spoke again. 



DO WE TRULY DIE? 129 

** Now let me speak plainly about Immortal- 
ity. For surely I stand nearest to that pos- 
sibility of all of us here. ^ Immortality, then, 
is no such dodging away as you imagine, from 
this strange world wliich is so desolating, so 
dreadful, so inexplicable — and at times so 
utterly lonely. \ There may be a God in the uni- 
verse or there may not be. . . . God, if he 
exists, can be terribly silent. . . . But if there 
is a God, he is a coherent God. If there is a 
God above and in the scheme of things, then 
not only you and I and my dead son, but the 
crushed frog and the trampled anthill signify. 
On that the God in my heart insists. There has 
to be an answer, not only to the death of my 
son but to the dying penguin roasted alive for 
a farthing's worth of oil. There must be an 
answer to the men who go in ships to do such 
things. There has to be a justification for all 
the filth and wretchedness of louse and fluke. 
I mil not have you slipping by on the other 
side, chattering of planes of living and subli- 
mated atoms, while there is a drunken mother 
or a man dying of cholera in this world. I will 
not hear of a God who is just a means for get- 
ting away. Whatever foulness and beastliness 
there is, you must square God with that. Or 
there is no universal God, but only a coldness, 
a vast cruel indifference. . . . 



130 THE UNDYING FIRE 

'' I would not make my peace with such a 
God if I could. . . . 

** I tell you of these black and sinister real- 
ities, and what do you reply? That it is all 
right, because after death we shall get away 
from them. Why ! if presently I go down under 
the surgeon's knife, down out of this hot and 
weary world, and then find myself being put 
together by a spirit doctor in this beyond of 
yours, waking up to a new world of amiable 
conversations and artificial flowers, having my 
hair restored and the gaps among my teeth 
filled up, I shall feel like someone who has de- 
serted his kind, who has sneaked from a sick- 
room into a party. . . . Well — my infection 
will go with me. I shall talk of nothing but the 
tragedy out of which I have come — which still 
remains — which continues — tragedy. 

'^ And yet I believe in Immortality! " 

Dr. Barrack, who had hitherto been following 
Mr. Huss with evident approval, started, 
sounded a note of surprise and protest, and fixed 
accusing eyes upon him. For the moment he 
did not interrupt. 

** But it is not I that am immortal, but the 
God within me. All this personal immortality 
of which you talk is a mockery of our person- 
alities. What is there personal in us that can 



DO WE TRULY DIE? 131 

live? What makes us our very selves? It is 
all a niatter of little mean things, small differ- 
ences, slight defects. Where does personal love 
grip? — on just these petty things. ... Oh! 
dearly and bitterly did I love my son, and what 
is it that my heart most craves for now! His 
virtues? No! His ambitions? His achieve- 
ments ? . . . No ! none of these things. . . . 
But for a certain queer flush among his freckles, 
for a kind of high crack in his voice ... a 
certain absurd hopefulness in his talk . . . the 
sound of his footsteps, a little halt there was in 
the rhythm of them. These are the things we 
long for. These are the things that wring the 
heart. . . . But all these things are just the 
mortal things, just the defects that would be 
touched out upon this higher plane you talk 
about. You would give him back to me smoothed 
and polished and regularized. So, I grant, it 
must be if there is to be this higher plane. But 
what does it leave of personal distinction? 
What does it leave of personal love? 

*^ When my son has had his defects smoothed 
away, then he will be like all sons. When the 
older men have been ironed out, they mil be 
like the younger men. There is no personality 
in hope and honour and righteousness and 
truth. . . . My son has gone. He has gone 



132 THE UNDYING FIRE 

for evermore. The pain may some day go 
. . . The immortal thing in us is the least 
personal thing. It is not you nor I who go 
on living ; it is Man that lives on, Man the Uni- 
versal, and he goes on living, a tragic rebel in 
this same world and in no other. . . . ' ^ 
Mr. Huss leant back in his chair. 
/ ^^ There burns an undying fire in the hearts 
of men. By that fire I live. By that I know the 
God of my Salvation. His will is Truth; His 
will is Service. He urges me to conflict, with- 
out consolations, without rewards. He takes 
and does not restore. He uses up and does not 
atone. He suffers — perhaps to triumph, and 
we must suffer and find our hope of triumph 
in Him. He will not let me shut my eyes to 
sorrow, failure, or perplexity. Though the uni- 
verse torment and slay me, yet will I trust in 
Him. And if He also must die — Neverthe- 
less I can do no more ; I must serve Him. . . . ' ' 
He ceased. For some moments no one spoke^ 
silenced by his intensity. 



CHAPTER THE FIFTH 

ELIHU REPROVES JOB 

§ 1 

** I don't know how all this strikes you/' said 
Mr. Farr, turning suddenly upon Dr. Barrack. 

*^ Well — it's interestinV' said Dr. Barrack, 
leaning forward upon his folded arms upon the 
table, and considering his words carefully. 

*^ It's interestinV^ he repeated. ^* I don't 
know how far you want to hear what I think 
about it. I'm rather a downright person." 

Sir Eliphaz with great urbanity motioned him 
to speak on. 

*^ There's been, if you'll forgive me, nonsense 
upon both sides." 

He turned to Sir Eliphaz. '' This Spook 
stuff, ' ' he said, and paused and compressed his 
lips and shook his head. 

'*■ It won't do. 

^' I have given some little attention to the 
evidences in that matter. I'm something of a 

133 



134 THE UNDYING FIRE 

psychologist — a doctor has to be. Of course, 
Sir Eliphaz, you're not responsible for all the 
nonsense you have been talking about sub- 
limated bricks and spook dogs made of concen- 
trated smell.'' 

Sir Eliphaz was convulsed. ^ ' Tut, tut ! " he 
said. * * But indeed — ! " 

*^ No offence, Sir Eliphaz! If you don't want 
me to talk I won't; but if you do, then I must 
say what I have in my mind. And as I say, I 
don't hold you responsible for the things you 
have been saying. All this cheap medium stuff 
has been shot upon the world by Sir Oliver J. 
Lodge, handed out by him to people distraught 
with grief, in a great fat impressive-looking 
volume. ... No end of them have tried their 
utmost to take it seriously. ... It's been a 
pitiful business. ... I've no doubt the man 
is honest after his lights, but what lights they 
are! Obstinate credulity posing as liberalism. 
He takes every pretence and dodge of these 
mediums, he accepts their explanations, he edits 
their babble and rearranges it to make it seem 
striking. Look at his critical ability ! Because 
many of the mediums are fairly respectable 
people who either make no money by their — 
revelations, or at most a very ordinary living — 
it 's a guinea a go, I believe, usually — he insists 



ELIHU REPROVES JOB 135 

upon their honesty. That's his key blunder. 
Any doctor could tell him, as I could have told 
him after my first year's practice, that telling 
the truth is the very last triumph of the human 
mind. Hardly any of my patients tell the truth 
— ever. It isn't only that they haven't a tithe 
of the critical ability and detachment necessary, 
they haven't any real desire to tell the truth. 
They want to produce effects. Human beings 
are artistic still; they aren't beginning to be 
scientific. Either they minimize or they exag- 
gerate. We all do. If I saw a cat run over 
outside and I came in here to tell you about it, 
I should certainly touch up the story, make it 
more dramatic, hurt the cat more, make the 
dray bigger and so on. I should want to justify 
my telling the story. Put a woman in that chair 
there, tell her to close her eyes and feel odd, 
and she '11 feel odd right enough ; tell her to pro- 
duce words and sentences that she finds in her 
head and she'll produce them; give her half a 
hint that it comes from eastern Asia and the 
stuff will begin to correspond to her ideas of 
pigeon English. It isn't that she is cunningly 
and elaborately deceiving you. It is that she 
wants to come up to your expectation. You are 
focussing your interest on her, and all human 
beings like to have interest focussed on them, 



135 THE UNDYING FIRE 

so long as it isn't too hostile. She'll cling to 
that interest all she knows how. She'll cling 
instinctively. Most of these mediums never 
held the attention of a roomful of people in their 
lives until they found out this way of doing it. 
. . . What can you expect? " 

Dr. Barrack cleared his throat. *' But all 
that's beside the question," he said. ^^ Don't 
think that because I reject all this spook stuff, 
I'm setting up any finality for the science we 
have to-day. It's just a little weak squirt of 
knowledge — all the science in the world. I 
grant you there may be forces, I would almost 
say there must be forces in the world, forces 
universally present, of which we still know 
nothing. Take the case of electricity. What 
did men know of electricity in the days of Gil- 
bert! Practically nothing. In the early Neo- 
lithic age I doubt if any men had ever noticed 
there was such a thing as air. I grant you that 
most things are still unknown. Things perhaps 
right under our noses. But that doesn't help 
the case of Sir Eliphaz one little bit. These 
unkno^m things, as they become kno^vn, will 
join on to the things we do know. They'll com- 
plicate or perhaps simplify our ideas, but they 
won't coijiradict our general ideas. They'll be 
things in the system. They won't get you out 



ELIHU REPROVES JOB 137 

of the grip of the arguments Mr. Huss has 
brought forward. So far, so far as concerns 
your Immortality, Sir Eliphaz, I am, yon see, 
entirely with Mr. Huss. It's a fancy; it's a 
dream. As a fancy it's about as pretty as 
creaking boards at bedtime; as a dream — . 
It's unattractive. As Mr, Huss has said. 

" But when it comes to Mr. Huss and his 
Immortality then I find myself with you, gentle- 
men. That too is a dream. Less than a dream. 
Less even than a fancy; it's a play on words. 
Here is this Undying Flame, this Spirit of God 
in man; it's in him, he says, it's in you, Sir Eli- 
phaz, it 's in you, Mr. — Dad, wasn 't it ? it 's in 
this other gentleman whose name I didn't quite 
catch; and it's in me. Well, it's extraordinary 
that none of us know of it except Mr. Huss. 
How you feel about it I don't know, but per- 
sonally I object to being made part of God and 
one with Mr. Huss without my consent in this 
way. I prefer to remain myself. That may 
be egotism, but I am by nature an egotistical 
creature. And Agnostic. . . . 

'' You've got me talking now, and I may as 
well go through with it. What is an Agnostic 
really? A man who accepts fully the limita- 
tions of the human intelligence, who takes the 
world as he finds it, and who takes himself as 



138 THE UNDYING FIRE 

he finds himself and declines to go further. 
There may be other universes and dimensions 
galore. There may be a fourth dimension, for 
example, and, if you like, a fifth dimension and 
a sixth dimension and any number of other 
dimensions. They don't concern me. I live in 
this universe and in three dimensions, and I 
have no more interest in all these other uni- 
verses and dimensions than a bug under the 
wallpaper has in the deep, deep sea. Possibly 
there are bugs under the wallpaper with a kind 
of reasoned consciousness of the existence of 
the deep, deep sea, and a half belief that when 
at last the Keating 's powder gets them, thither 
they will go. I — if I may have one more go 
at the image — just live under the wallpaper. 

• • • 

** I am an Agnostic, I say. I have had my 
eyes pretty well open at the universe since I 
came into it six and thirty years ago. And not 
only have I never seen nor heard of nor smelt 
nor touched a ghost or spirit. Sir Eliphaz, but 
I have never seen a gleam or sign of this Provi- 
dence, the Great God of the World of yours, or 
of this other minor and modern God that Mr. 
Huss has taken up. In the hearts of men I 
have found malformations, ossifications, clots, 
and fatty degeneration ; but never a God. 



ELIHU REPROVES JOB 139 

** You will excuse me if I speak plainly to 
you, gentlemen, but this gentleman, whose name 
I haven't somehow got — '' 

'' Farr/' 

*^ Mr. Farr, has brought it down on himself 
and you. He called me in, and I am interested 
in these questions. It's clear to me that since 
we exist there 's something in all this. But what 
it is I'm convinced I haven't the ganglia even 
to begin to understand. I decline either the 
wild guesses of the Spookist and Providential- 
ist — I must put you there, I'm afraid, Sir 
Eliphaz — or the metaphors of Mr. Huss. 
Fact. ..." 

Dr. Barrack paused. ^* I put my faith in 
Fact" 

'^ There's a lot in Fact," said Mr. Dad, who 
found much that was congenial in the doctor's 
downright style. 

*^ What do I see about me? " asked Dr. Bar- 
rack, i^ A struggle for existence./ About that 
I ask a very plain and simple queslion : why try 
to get behind it? That is It. It made me. I 
study it and watch it. It put me up like a cock- 
shy, and it keeps on trying to destroy me. I do 
my best to dodge its blows. It got my leg. My 
head is bloody but unbowed. I reproduce my 
kind — as abundantly as circumstances permit 



140 THE UNDYING FIRE 

— I stamp myself upon the universe as much 
as possible. If I am right, if I do the right 
things and have decently good luck, I shall hold 
out until my waning instincts dispose me to 
rest. My breed and influence are the marks of 
my rightness. What else is there? You may 
call this struggle what you like. God, if you 
like. But God for me is an anthropomorphic 
idea. Call it The Process." 

'' Why not Evolution? '^ said Mr. Huss. 

*^ I prefer The Process. The word Evolu- 
tion rather begs the moral question. It^s a 
cheap word. * Shon! ' Evolution seems to 
suggest just a simple and automatic unfolding. 
The Process is complex; it has its ups and 
downs — as Mr. Huss understands. It is more 
like a Will than an Automaton. A Will feeling 
about. It isn't indifferent to us as Mr. Huss 
suggests ; it uses us. It isn't subordinate to us 
as Sir Eliphaz would have us believe; playing 
the part of a Providence just for our comfort 
and happiness. Some of us are hammer and 
some of us are anvil, some of us are sparks and 
some of us are the beaten stuff which survives. 
The Process doesn't confide in us; why should 
it I We learn what we can about it, and make 
what is called a practical use of it, for that is 
what the will in the Process requires." 



ELIHU REPROVES JOB 141 

Mr. Dad, stirred by the word * practical,' 
made a noise of assent. But not a very confi- 
dent noise : a loan rather than a gift. 

** And that is where it seems to me Mr. Huss 
goes wrong altogether. He does not submit 
himself to those Realities. He sets up some- 
thing called the Spirit in Man, or the God in his 
Heart, to judge them. He wants to judge the 
universe by the standards of the human intelli- 
gence at its present stage of development. 
That's where I fall out with him. These are not 
fixed standards. Man goes on developing and 
evolving. Some things offend the sense of jus- 
tice in Mr. Huss, but that is no enduring cri- 
terion of justice ; the human sense of justice has 
developed out of something different, and it will 
develop again into something different. Like 
everything else in us, it has been produced by 
the Process and it will be modified by the 
Process. Some things, again, he says are not 
beautiful. There also he would condemn. But 
nothing changes like the sense of beauty. A 
band of art students can start a new movement, 
cubist, vorticist, or what not, and change your 
sense of beauty. If seeing things as beautiful 
conduces to survival, we shall see them as beau- 
tiful sooner or later, rest assured. I daresay 
the hyenas admire each other — in the rutting 



142 THE UNDYING FIRE 

season anyhow. ... So it is with mercy and 
with everything. Each creature has its own 
standards. After man is the Beyond-Man, who 
may find mercy folly, who may delight in things 
that pain our feeble spirits. We have to obey 
the Process in our own place and our own time. 
That is how I see things. That is the stark 
truth of the universe looked at plainly and 
hard. ' ' 

The lips of Mr. Dad repeated noiselessly: 
** plainly and hard.'' But he felt very un- 
certain. 

For some moments the doctor sat with his 
forearms resting on the table as if he had done. 
Then he resumed. 

** I gather that this talk here to-day arose 
out of a discussion about education." 

*^ You'd hardly believe it," said Mr. Dad. 

But Dr. Barrack's next remark checked Mr. 
Dad's growing approval. ^^ That seems per- 
fectly logical to me. It's one of the things I 
can never understand about schoolmasters and 
politicians and suchlike, the wa}^ they seem to 
take it for granted you can educate and not 
bring in religion and socialism and all your be- 
liefs. What is education? Teaching young 
people to talk and read and write and calculate 
in order that they may be told how they stand 



ELIHU REPROVES JOB 143 

in the world and what we think we and the 
world generally are up to, and the part we 
expect them to play in the game. Well, how 
can we do that and at the same time leave it all 
out? What is the game? That is what every \ 
youngster wants to know. Answering him, is | 
education. Either we are going to say what we / 
think the game is plainly and straightforwardly, / 
or else we are going to make motions as though 
we were educating when we are really doing 
nothing of the kind. In which case the stupid 
ones will grow up with their heads all in a 
muddle and be led by any old catchword any- 
w^here according to luck, and the clever ones 
will grow up with the idea that life is a sort of 
empty swindle. Most educated people in this 
country believe it is a sham and a swindle. They 
flounder about and never get up against a 
reality. . . . It's amazing how people can lose 
their grip on reality — how most people have. 
The way my patients come along to me and tell 
me lies — even about their stomach-aches. The 
idea of anything being direct and reasonable has 
gone clean out of their heads. They think they 
can fool me about the facts, and that when I'm 
properly fooled, I shall then humbug their 
stomachs into not aching — somehow. , . . 
^ ^ Now my gospel is this : — face facts. Take 



144 THE UNDYING FIRE 

the world as it is and take yourself as you are. 
And the fundamental fact we all have to face is 
this, that this Process takes no account of our 
desires or fears or moral ideas or anything of 
the sort. It puts us up, it tries us over, and if 
we don't stand the tests it knocks us down and 
ends us. That may not be right as you test it 
by your little human standards, but it is right by 
the atoms and the stars. Then what must a 
proper Education be? '' 

Dr. Barrack paused. ** Tell them what the 
world is, tell them every rule and trick of the 
game mankind has learnt, and tell them ' Be 
yourselves.^ Be yourselves up to the hilt. It 
is no good being anything but your essential 
self because — " 

Dr. Barrack spoke like one who quotes a 
sacred formula. ^^ There is no inheritance of 
acquired characteristics. Your essential self, 
your essential heredity, are on trial. Put 
everything of yourself into the Process. If the 
Process wants you it will accept you; if it 
doesn't you will go under. You can't help it — 
either way. You may be the bit of marble that 
is left in the statue, or you may be the bit 
of marble that is thrown away. You can't 
help it. Be yourself! '' 

Dr. Barrack had sat back ; he raised his voice 



ELIHU REPROVES JOB 145 

at the last words and lifted his hand as if to 
smite the table. But, so good a thing is pro- 
fessional training, he let his hand fall slowly, 
as he remembered that Mr. Huss was his 
patient. 



§ 2 

Mr. Huss did not speak for some moments. 
He was thinking so deeply that he seemed to be 
unobservant of the cessation of the doctor's 
discourse. 

Then he awoke to the silence with a start. 

^^ You do not differ among yourselves so 
much as you may think, ' ' he said at last. 

^^ You all argue to one end, however wide 
apart your starting points may be. You argue 
that men may lead fragmentary lives. . . . 

'* And,'' he reflected further, *^ submissive 
lives." 

''Not submissive," said Dr. Barrack in a kind 
of footnote. *** 

'' You say. Sir Eliphaz, that this Universe is 
in the charge of Providence, all-wise and ami- 
able. That He' guides this world to ends we 
cannot understand; desirable ends, did we but 
know them, but incomprehensible ; that this life, 
this whole Universe, is but the starting point 
for a developing series of immortal lives. And 
irom this you conclude that the part a human 

146 



ELIHU REPROVES JOB 147 

being has to play in this scheme is the part of a 
trustful child, which need only not pester the 
Higher Powers, which need only do its few 
simple congenial duties, to be surely preserved 
and rewarded and carried on.*' 

^^ There is much in simple faith, '* said Sir 
Eliphaz ; * * sneer though 3'ou may. ' ' 

^' But your view is a grimmer one, Dr. Bar- 
rack; you say that this Process is utterly be- 
yond knowledge and control. We cannot alter 
it or appease it. It makes of some of us vessels 
of honour and of others vessels of dishonour. 
It has scrawled our race across the black empti- 
ness of space, and it may wipe us out again. 
Such is the quality of Fate. We can but follow 
our lights and instincts. ... In the end, in 
practical matters, your teaching marches with 
the teaching of Sir Eliphaz. You bow to the 
thing that is ; he gladly and trustfully — with a 
certain old-world courtesy, you grimly — in the 
modern style. . . . ' * 

For some moments Mr. IIuss sat with com- 
pressed lips, as though he listened to the pain 
within him. Then he said: ^' I don't. 

** I don't submit. I rebel — not in my own 
strength nor by my own impulse. I rebel by 
the spirit of God in me. I rebel not merely to 
make weak gestures of defiance against the 



148 THE UNDYING FIRE 

black disorder and cruelties of space and time, 
but for master}^ I am a rebel of pride — I am 
full of the pride of God in my heart. I am the 
servant of a rebellious and adventurous God 
who may yet bring order into this cruel and 
frightful chaos in which we seem to be driven 
hither and thither like leaves before the wind, 
a God who, in spite of all appearances, may yet 
rule over it at last and mould it to his will. ' ' 

^' What a world it will be! '^ whispered Mr. 
Farr, unable to restrain himself and yet half- 
ashamed of his sneer. 

^' What a world it is, Farr! What a cunning 
and watchful world! Does it serve even you? 
So insecure has it become that opportunity may 
yet turn a frightful face upon you — in the very 
moment as you snatch. . . . 

^ ^ But you see how I differ from you all. You 
see that the spirit of my life and of my teaching 
— of my teaching — for all its weaknesses and 
slips and failures, is a fight against that Dark 
Being of the universe who seeks to crush us all. 
Who broods over me now even as I talk to you. 
... It is a fight against disorder, a refusal 
of that very submission you have made, a repu- 
diation altogether of that same voluntary death 
in life. . . . ' ' 

He moistened his lips and resumed. 



ELIHU REPROVES JOB 149 

** The end and substance of all real education 
is to teach men and women of the Battle of God, 
to teach them of the beginnings of life upon this 
lonely little planet amidst the endless stars, and 
how those beginnings have unfolded; to show 
them how man has arisen through the long ages 
from amidst the beasts, and the nature of the 
struggle God wages through him, and to draw 
all men together out of themselves into one com- 
mon life and effort with God. The nature of 
God's struggle is the essence of our dispute. 
It is a struggle, ^dth a hope of victory but with 
no assurance. You have argued. Sir Eliphaz, 
that it is an unreal struggle, a sham fight, that 
indeed all things are perfectly adjusted and for 
our final happiness, and when I have reminded 
you a little of the unmasked horrors about us, 
you have shifted your ground of compensation 
into another — into an incredible — world. ' ' 

Sir Eliphaz sounded dissent musically. Then 
he waved his long hand as Mr. Huss paused and 
regarded him. ** But go on! " he said. ** Go 
on! '' 

*^ And now I come to you. Dr. Barrack, and 
your modern fatalism. You hold this universe 
is uncontrollable — anyhow. And incompre- 
hensible. For good or ill — we can be no more 
than our strenuous selves. You must, you say, 



\ 



150 THE UNDYING FIRE 

be yourself. I answer, you must lose yourself 
in something altogether greater — in God. 
. . . There is a curious likeness, Doctor, and 
a curious difference in your views and mine. I 
think you see the world very much as I see it, 
but you see it coldly like a man before sunrise, 
and I — ' * 

He paused. ^* There is a light upon it," he 
asserted with a noticeable flatness in his voice. 
^ ^ There is a light . . . light . . . ' ^ 

He became silent. For a while it seemed as 
if the light he spoke of had gone from him and 
as if the shadow had engulfed him. When he 
spoke again it was with an evident effort. 

He turned to Dr. Barrack. ^^ You think," he 
said, ^^ that there is a will in this Process of 
yours which will take things somewhere, some- 
where definitely greater or better or onward. 
I hold that there is no will at all except in and 
through ourselves. If there be any will at all 
... I hold that even your maxim ^ be our- 
selves ' is a paradox, for we cannot be ourselves 
until we have lost ourselves in God. I have 
talked to Sir Eliphaz and to you since you came 
in, of the boundless disorder and evil of nature. 
Let me talk to you now of the boundless mis- 
eries that arise from the disorderliness of men 
and that must continue age after age until 



ELIHU REPROVES JOB 151 

either men are united in spirit and in truth 
or destroyed through their own incoherence. 
Whether men will be lost or saved I do not know. 
There have been times when I was sure that 
God would triumph in us. . . . But dark shad- 
ows have fallen upon my spirit. . . . 

^^ Consider the posture of men^s affairs now, 
consider where they stand to-day, because they 
have not yet begun to look deeply and frankly 
into realities ; because, as they put it, they take 
life as they find it, because they are themselves, 
heedless of history, and do not realize that in 
truth they are but parts in one great adventure 
in space and time. For four years now the 
world has been marching deeper and deeper 
into tragedy. . . . Our life that seemed so 
safe grows insecure and more and more inse- 
cure. . . . Six million soldiers, six million 
young men, have been killed on the battlefields 
alone; three times as many have been crippled 
and mutilated; as many again who were not 
soldiers have been destroyed. That has been 
only the beginning of the disaster that has come 
upon our race. All human relationships have 
been strained ; roads, ships, harvests destroyed ; 
and behind the red swift tragedy of this warfare 
comes the gaunt and desolating face of universal 
famine now, and behind famine that inevitable 



152 THE UNDYING FIRE 

follower of famine, pestilence. You gentlemen 
who have played so useful a part in supplying 
munitions of war, who have every reason in 
days well spent and energies well used to see a 
transitory brightness upon these sombre things, 
you may tell me that I lack faith when I say that 
I can see nothing to redeem the waste and de- 
struction of the last four years and the still 
greater waste and spiritless disorder and pov- 
erty and disease ahead of us. You will tell me 
that the world has learnt a lesson it could learn 
in no other way, that we shall set up a "World 
League of Nations now and put an end to war. 
But on what will you set up your World League 
of Nations? What foundations have you made 
in the last four years but ruins? Is there any 
common idea, any common understanding yet 
in the minds of men 1 They are still taking the 
world as they find it, they are being their un- 
mitigated selves more than ever, and below the 
few who scramble for profits now is a more and 
more wolfish multitude scrambling for bread. 
There are no common ideas in men's minds 
upon which we can build. How can men be 
united except by common ideas? The schools 
have failed the world. WTiat common thought 
is there in the world? A loud bawling of base 
newspapers, a posturing of politicians. You 



ELIHU REPROVES JOB 153 

can see chaos coining again over all the east of 
Europe now, and bit by bit western Europe 
crumbles and drops into the confusion. Art, 
science, reasoned thought, creative effort, such 
things have ceased altogether in Russia; they 
may have ceased there perhaps for centuries; 
they die now in Germany; the universities of 
the west are bloodless and drained of their 
youth. That war that seemed at first so like 
the dawn of a greater age has ceased to matter 
in the face of this greater disaster. The French 
and British and Americans are beating back the 
Germans from Paris. Can they beat them back 
to any distance ? Will not this present counter- 
thrust diminish and fail as the others have done ? 
Which side may first drop exhausted now, will 
hardly change the supreme fact. The supreme 
fact is exhaustion — exhaustion, mental as well 
as material, failure to grasp and comprehend, 
cessation even of attempts to grasp and com- 
prehend, slackening of every sort of effort. 

** What^s the good of such despair? ^^ said 
Mr. Dad. 

'^ I do not despair. No. But what is the 
good of lying about hope and success in the 
midst of failure and gathering disaster! Wliat 
is the good of saying that mankind wins — auto- 



154 THE UNDYING FIRE 

matically — against the spirit of evil, when 
mankind is visibly losing point after point, is 
visibly losing heart? What is the good of pre- 
tending that there is order and benevolence or 
some sort of splendid and incomprehensible 
process in this festering waste, this windy deso- 
lation of tremendous things ? There is no reason 
anywhere, there is no creation anywhere, except 
the undying^ fire, the spiri t of G od in the hearts 
of menL_ . . . which may fail . . . which may 
fail . . . which seems to me to fail. ' ' 



§3 

He paused. Dr. Barrack cleared his throat, 

^' I don't want to seem obdurate/' said Dr. 
Barrack. '' I want to respect deep feeling. 
One must respect deep feeling. . . . But for 
the life of me I can't put much meaning into 
this phrase, the spirit of God in the hearts of 
men. It's rather against my habits to worry a 
patient, but this is so interesting — this is an 
exceptional occasion. I would like to ask you, 
Mr. Huss — frankly — is there anything very 
much more to it, than a phrase? " 

There was no answer. 

'' Words," said Mr. Dad; '' joost words. If 
Mr. Huss had ever spent three months of war 
time running a big engineering factory — " 

*^ My mind is a sceptical mind," Dr. Barrack 
went on, after staring a moment to see if Mr. 
Dad meant to finish his sentence. '' I want 
things I can feel and handle. I am an Agnostic 
by nature and habit and profession. A Doubt- 
ing Thomas, born and bred. Well, I take it 
that about the universe Mr. Huss is very much 

155 



156 THE UNDYING FIRE 

of an Agnostic too. More so. He doubts more 
than I do. He doubts whether there is any trace 
of plan or purpose in it. What I call a Process, 
he calls a windy desolation. He sees Chaos still 
waiting for a creator. But then he sets up 
against that this undying fire of his, this spirit 
of God, which is lit in him and only waiting to 
be lighted in us, a sort of insurgent apprentice 
creator. Well — '' 

The doctor frowned and meditated on his 
words. 

^^ I want more of the practical outcome of 
this fire. I admit a certain poetry in the idea, 
but I am a plain and practical man. Give me 
something to know this fire by and to recognize 
it again when I see it. I won 't ask why ' undy- 
ing. ' I won't quibble about that. But what 
does this undying fire mean in actual things and 
our daily life? In some way it is mixed up with 
teaching history in schools. '^ A faint note of 
derision made him glance at the face to his 
right. ^' That doesn't strike me as being so 
queer as it seems to strike Mr. Farr. It inter- 
ests me. There is a cause for it. But I think 
there are several links Mr. Huss hasn't shown 
and several vital points he still has to explain. 
This undying fire is something that is burning 
in Mr. Huss, and I gather from his pretty broad 



ELIHU REPROVES JOB 157 

hints it ought, he thinks, to be burning in me — 
and you, gentlemen. It is something that makes 
us forget our little personal differences, makes 
us forget ourselves, and brings us all into line 
against — what. That 's my first point ; — 
against what? I don't see the force and value 
of this line-up. / think we struggle against one 
another by nature and necessity ; that we polish 
one another in the struggle and sharpen our 
edges. I thinly that out of this struggle for ex- 
istence come better things and better. They 
may not be better things by our standards now, 
but by the standards of the Process, they are. 
Sometimes the mills of the Process may seem 
overpoweringly grim and high and pitiless ; that 
is a question of scale. But Mr. Huss does not 
believe in the struggle. He wants to take men 's 
minds and teach them so that they will not 
struggle against each other but live and work 
all together. For what? That is my second 
point; — for what? There is a rationality in 
my idea of an everlasting struggle making inces- 
santly for betterment, such an idea does at any 
rate give a direction and take us somewhere; 
but there is no rationality in declaring we are 
still fighting and fighting more than ever, while 
in effect we are arranging to stop that struggle 
which carries life on — if we can — if we can. 



158 THE UNDYING FIRE 

That is the paradox of Mr. Huss. When there 
is neither competition at home nor war abroad, 
when the cat and the bird have come to a satis- 
factory understanding, when the spirit of his 
human God rules even in the jungle and the sea, 
then where shall we be heading? Time "will be 
still unfolding. But man will have halted. If 
he has ceased to compete individually he will 
have halted. Mr. Huss looks at me as if he 
thought I wronged him in saying that. "Well, 
then he must answer my questions; what will 
the Human God be leading us against, and what 
shall we be living for? " 



'^ Let me tell you first what the spirit of God 
struggles against/' said Mr. Huss. 

'' I will not dispute that this Process of yours 
has made good things; all the good things in 
man it has made as well as all the evil. It has 
made them indifferently. In us — in some of 
us — it has made the will to seize upon that 
chance-born good and separate it from the 
chance-born evil. The spirit of God rises out 
of your process as if he were a part of your 
process. . . . Except for him, the good and 
evil are inextricably mixed; good things flower 
into evil things and evil things wholly or par- 
tially^ redeem themselves by good consequences. 
^ Good ' and ^ evil ' have meaning only for us. 
The Process is indifferent ; it makes, it destroys, 
it favours, it torments. On its own account it 
preserves nothing and continues nothing. It is 
just careless. But for us it has made oppor- 
tunity. Life is opportunity. Unless we do now 
ourselves seize hold upon life and the Process 
while we are in it, the Process, becoming uncon- 

159 



160 THE UNDYING FIRE 

t reliable again, will presently sweep ns alto- 
gether away. In the back of your mind, doctor, 
is the belief in a happy ending just as much as 
in the mind of Sir Eliphaz. I see deeper be- 
cause I am not blinded by health. You think 
that beyond man comes some sort of splendid 
super-man. A healthy delusion! There is 
nothing beyond man unless men will that some- 
thing shall be. We shall be wiped out as care- 
lessly as we have been made, and something else 
will come, as disconnected and aimless, some- 
thing neither necessarily better nor necessarily 
worse but something different, to be wiped out 
in its turn. Unless the spirit of God that moves 
in us can rouse us to seize this universe for Him 
and ourselves, that is the nature of your Pro- 
cess. Your Process is just Chaos; man is the 
opportunity, the passing opportunity for order 
in the waste. 

** People write and talk as if this great war 
which is now wrecking the world, was a dra- 
matic and consecutive thing. They talk of it 
as a purge, as a great lesson, as a phase in his- 
tory that marks the end of wars and divisions. 
So it might be ; but is it so and will it be so ? I 
asked you a little time ago to look straightly at 
the realities of animal life, of life in general as 
we know it. I think I did a little persuade you 



ELIHU REPROVES JOB 161 

to my own sense of shallo^^mess of our assump- 
tion that there is any natural happiness. The 
poor beasts and creatures have to suffer. I ask 
you now to look as straightly at the things that 
men have done and endured in this war. It is 
plain that they have shown extraordinary fer- 
tility and ingenuity in the inventions they have 
used and an amazing capacity for sacrifice and 
courage; but it is, I argue, equally plain that 
the pains and agonies they have undergone have 
taught the race little or nothing, and that their 
devices have been mainly for their own destruc- 
tion. The only lesson and the only betterment 
that can come out of this war mil come if men, 
inspired by the Divine courage, say ' This and 
all such things must end.' . . . But I do not 
perceive them saying that. On the other handV 
I do perceive a great amount of human energy 
and ability that has been devoted and is still 
being devoted to things that lead straight to 
futility and extinction. 

*' The most desolating thing about this war is 
neither the stupidity nor the cruelty of it, but 
the streak of perversion that has run through it. 
Against the meagreness of the intelligence that 
made the war, against the absolute inability of 
the good forces in life to arrest it and end it, I 
ask you to balance the intelligence and devotion 

M 



162 THE UNDYING FIRE 

that has gone to such an enterprise as the offen- 
sive use of poison gas. Consider the ingenuity 
and the elaboration of that; the different sorts 
of shell used, the beautifully finished devices to 
delay the release of the jDoison so as to catch 
men unawares after their gas masks are re- 
moved. One method much in favour with the 
Germans now involves the use of two sorts of 
gas. They have a gas now not very deadly but 
so subtle that it penetrates the gas masks and 
produces nausea and retching. The man is 
overcome by the dread of being sick so that he 
will clog his mask and suffocate, and he snatches 
off his protection in an ungovernable physical 
panic. Then the second gas, of the coarser, 
more deadly type, comes into play. That he 
breathes in fully. His breath catches; he real- 
izes what he has done but it is too late; death 
has him by the throat; he passes through hor- 
rible discomfort and torment to the end. You 
cough, you stagger, you writhe upon the ground 
and are deadly sick. . . . You die heaving and 
panting, with staring eyes. ... So it is men 
are being killed now ; it is but one of a multitude 
of methods, disgusting, undignified, and mon- 
strous, but intelligent, technically admirable. 
. . . You cannot deny, Doctor Barrack, that 
this ingenious mixture is one of the last fruits 



ELIHU REPROVES JOB 163 

of your Process. To that your Process has at 
last brought men from the hoeing and herding 
of Neolithic days. 

** Now tell me how is the onward progress of 
mankind to anything, anywhere, secured by this 
fine flower of the Process I Intellectual energy, 
industrial energy, are used up without stint to 
make this horror possible ; multitudes of brave 
young men are spoilt or killed. Is there any 
selection in it? Along such lines can you 
imagine men or life or the universe getting any- 
where at all? 

Why do they do such things? 
They do not do it out of a complete and 
organized impulse to evil. If you took the 
series of researches and inventions that led at 
last to this use of poison gas, you would find 
they were the work of a multitude of mainly 
amiable, fairly virtuous, and kindly-meaning 
men. Each one was doing his hit, as Mr. Dad 
would say ; each one, to use your phrase, doctor, 
was being himself and utilizing the gift that was 
in him in accordance with the drift of the world 
about him ; each one. Sir Eliphaz, was modestly 
taking the world as he found it. They were 
living in an uninformed world with no common 
understanding and no collective plan, a world 
ignorant of its true history and with no concep- 



<< 

a 



164 THE UNDYING FIRE 

tion of its future. Into these horrors they 
drifted for the want of a world education. Out 
of these horrors no lesson will be learnt, no will 
can arise, for the same reason. Every man 
lives ignorantly in his own circumstances, from 
hand to mouth, from day to day, swayed first 
of all by this catchword and then by that. 

* ^ Let me take another instance of the way in 
which human ability and energy if they are left 
to themselves, without co-ordination, without a 
common basis of purpose, without a God, will 
run into cul-de-sacs of mere horribleness ; let 
me remind you a little of what the submarine is 
and what it signifies. In this country we think 
of the submarine as an instrument of murder; 
but we think of it as something ingeniously con- 
trived and at any rate not tormenting and 
destroying the hands that guide it. I will not 
recall to you the stories that fill our newspapers 
of men drowning in the night, of crowded boat- 
loads of sailors and passengers shelled and 
sunken, of men forced to clamber out of the sea 
upon the destroying U-boat and robbed of their 
lifebelts in order that when it submerged they 
should be more surely drowned. I want you to 
think of the submarine in itself. There is a kind 
of crazy belief that killing, however cruel, has 
a kind of justification in the survival of the 



ELIHU REPROVES JOB 165 

killer ; we make that our excuse for instance for 
the destruction of the native Tasmanians who 
were shot whenever they were seen, and killed 
by poisoned meat left in their paths. But the 
marvel of these submarines is that they also 
torture and kill their o^vn crews. They are 
miracles of short-sighted ingenuity for the com- 
mon unprofitable reasonless destruction of Ger- 
mans and their enemies. They are almost 
quintessential examples of the elaborate futility 
and horror into which partial ideas about life, 
combative and competitive ideas of life, thrust 
mankind. 

* ^ Take some poor German boy mth an ordi- 
nary sort of intelligence, an ordinary human 
disposition to kindliness, and some gallantry, 
who becomes finally a sailor in one of these craft. 
Consider his case and what we do to him. You 
will find in him a sample of what we are doing 
for manldnd. As a child he is ingenuous, teach- 
able, plastic. He is also egotistical, greedy, and 
suspicious. He is easily led and easily fright- 
ened. He likes making things if he knows how 
to make them; he is capable of affection and 
capable of resentment. He is a sheet of white 
paper upon which anything may be written. 
His parents teach him, his companions, his 
school. Do they teach him anything of the great 



166 THE UNDYING FIRE 

history of mankind? Do they teach him of his 
blood brotherhood with all men! Do they tell 
him anything of discovery, of exploration, of 
human effort and achievement? No. They teach 
him that he belongs to a blonde and wonderful 
race, the only race that matters on this planet. 
(No such distinct race ever existed; it is a lie 
for the damning of men.) And these teachers 
incite him to suspicion and hatred and contempt 
of all other races. They fill his mind with fears 
and hostilities. Everything German they tell 
him is good and splendid. Everything not Ger- 
man is dangerous and wicked. They take that 
poor actor of an emperor at Potsdam and glo- 
rify him until he shines upon this lad's mind 
like a star. . . . 

'^ The boy grows up a mental cripple; his 
capacity for devotion and self-sacrifice is run 
into a mould of fanatical loyalty for the Kaiser 
and hatred for foreign things. Comes this war, 
and the youngster is only too eager to give him- 
self where he is most needed. He is told that 
the submarine war is the sure way of striking 
the enemies of his country a conclusive blow. 
To be in a submarine is to be at the spear point. 
He dare scarcely hope that he will be accepted 
for this vital service; to which princes might 
aspire. But he is fortunate; he is. He trains 
for a submarine. . . . 



ELIHU REPROVES JOB 167 

^^ I do not know how far you gentlemen re- 
member your youth. A schoohnaster perhaps 
remembers more of his early adolescence than 
other men because he is being continually re- 
minded of it. But it is a time of very fine 
emotions, boundless ambitions, a newly awak- 
ened and eager sense of beauty. This young- 
ster sees himself as a hero, fighting for his half- 
divine Kaiser, for dear Germany, against the 
cold and evil barbarians who resist and would 
destroy her. He passes through his drill and 
training. He goes down into a submarine for 
the first time, clambers down the narrow hatch- 
way. It is a little cold, but wonderful; a mar- 
vellous machine. How can such a nest of in- 
ventions, ingenuities, beautiful metal-work, 
wonderful craftsmanship, be anything but 
right? His mind is full of dreams of proud 
enemy battleships smitten and heeling over into 
the waters, while he watches his handiwork with 
a stern pride, a restrained exultation, a sense of 
Germany vindicated. ... 

^^ That is how his mind has been made for 
him. That is the sort of mind that has been 
made and is being made in boys all over the 
world. . . . Because there is no common plan 
in the world, because each person in the making 
of this boy, just as each person in the making 



168 THE UNDYING FIRE 

of the submarine, had ^ been himself ' and * done 
his bit, ' followed his own impulses and interests 
without regard to the whole, regardless of any 
plan or purpose in human affairs, ignorant of 
the spirit of God who would unify us and lead 
us to a common use for all our gifts and 
energies. 

^* Let me go on with the story of this 
youngster. . . . 

** Comes a day when he realizes the reality 
of the work he is doing for his kind. He stands 
by one of the guns of the submarine in an attack 
upon some wretched ocean tramp. He realizes 
that the war he wages is no heroic attack on 
pride or predominance, but a mere murdering 
of traffic. He sees the little ship shelled, the 
wretched men killed and wounded, no tyrants of 
the seas but sailor-men like himself; he sees 
their boats smashed to pieces. Mostly such 
sinkings are done at da^vn or sundown, under a 
level light which displays a world of black lines 
and black silhouettes asway with the slow heav- 
ing and falling of coldly shining water. These 
little black things, he realizes incredulously, that 
struggle and disappear amidst the wreckage are 
the heads of men, brothers to himself. . . . 

<< For hundreds of thousands of men who have 
come into this war expecting bright and roman- 



ELIHU REPROVES JOB 169 

tic and tremendous experiences their first kill- 
ing must have been a hideous disillusionment. 
For none so much as for the men of the sub- 
marines. All that sense of being right and fine 
that carries men into battle, that carries most 
of us through the world, must have vanished 
completely at this first vision of reality. Our 
man must have asked himself, ^ What am I 
domg?^ . . . 

** In the night he must have lain awake and 
stared at that question in horrible doubt. . . . 

** We scold too much at the German subma- 
rine crews in this country. Most of us in their 
places would be impelled to go on as they go on. 
The work they do has been reached step by step, 
logically, inevitably, because our world has been 
content to drift along on false premises and hap- 
hazard assumptions about nationality and race , 
and the order of things. These things have / 
happened because the technical education of men 
has been better than their historical and social 
education. Once men have lost touch with, or 
failed to apprehend that idea of a single human 
community, that idea which is the substance of 
all true history and the essential teaching of 
God, it is towards such organized abominations 
as these that they drift — necessarily. People 
in this country who are just as incoherent in 



170 THE UNDYING FIRE 

their minds, just as likely to drift into some kin- 
dred cul-de-sac of conduct, would have these U- 
boat men tortured — to show the superiority of 
their own moral standards. 

*^ But indeed these men are tortured. . . . 

^^ Bear yet a little longer with this boy of 
mine in the U-boat. IVe tried to suggest him 
to you with his conscience scared — at a moment 
when his submarine had made a kill. But those 
moments are rare. For most of its time the 
U-boat is under water and a hunted thing. The 
surface swarms with hostile craft; sea-planes 
and observation balloons are seeking it. Every 
time a U-boat comes even near to the surface it 
may be spotted by a sea-plane and destruction 
may fall upon it. Even when it is submerged 
below the limits of visibility in the turbid North 
Sea waters, the noise of its engines ^vill betray 
it to a listening apparatus and a happy guess 
with a depth charge may end its career. I want 
you to think of the daily life of this youngster 
under these conditions. I want you to see ex- 
actly where wrong ideas, not his, but wrong 
ideas ruling in the world about him, are driving 
him. 

^ ' The method of detection by listening appa- 
ratus improves steadily, and nowadays our 
destroyers will follow up a U-boat sometimes 



ELIHU REPROVES JOB 171 

for sixty or seventy hours, following her sounds 
as a hound follows the scent of its quarry. At 
last, if the U-boat cannot shake off her pursuers 
she must come to the surface and fight or sur- 
render. That is the strangest game of Blind- 
Man that ever human beings played. The U- 
boat doubles and turns, listening also for the 
sounds of the pursuers at the surface. Are 
they coming nearer? Are they getting fainter? 
Unless a helpful mud-bank is available for it to 
lie up in silence for a time, the U-boat must 
keep moving and using up electrical force, so 
that ultimately it must come to the surface to 
recharge its batteries. As far as possible the 
crew of the U-boat are kept in ignorance of the 
chase in progress. They get hints from the 
anxiety or irritation of the commander, or from 
the haste and variety of his orders. Something 
is going on — they do not know quite what — 
something that may end disagreeably. If the 
pursuer tries a depth charge, then they know for 
certain from the concussion that the hand of 
death is feeling for them in the darkness. . . . 
^^ Always the dread of a depth charge must 
haunt the imagination of the U-boat sailor. 
Without notice, at any hour, may come thud and 
concussion to warn him that the destroying pow- 
ers are on his track. The fragile ship jumps 



172 THE UNDYING FIRE 

and quivers from end to end; the men are 
thrown about. That happens to our youngster. 
He curses the damned English. And if you 
think it over, what else can you expect him to 
curse 1 A little nearer and the rivets will start 
and actual leakage begin, letting in a pressure 
of several atmospheres. Yet a little nearer 
and the water will come pressing in through 
cracks and breaches at a score of points, the 
air will be compressed in his lungs, the long 
death struggle of the U-boat will begin, and 
after some hours of hopeless suffering he will 
suffocate and drown like a rat in a flooded 
tunnel. . . . 

^^ Think of the life of endless apprehension 
in that confined space below the waters. The 
air is almost always stuffy and sometimes it is 
poisonous. All sorts of evil chances may occur 
in this crowded tinful of machinery to release 
oppressive gases and evil odours. A whiff of 
chlorine for instance may warn the crew of 
flooded accumulators. At the first sting of 
chlorine the U-boat must come up at any risk. 
. . . And nothing can be kept dry. The 
surfaces of the apparatus and the furniture 
sweat continually; except where the machinery 
radiates a certain heat a clammy chill pervades 
the whole contrivance. Have you ever seen the 



ELIHU REPROVES JOB 173 

thick blubber of a whale f Only by means of 
that enormous layer of non-conductor can a 
whale keep its body warm in spite of the waters 
about it. A U-boat cannot afford any layer of 
blubber. It is at the temperature of the dark 
under-waters. And this life of cold, fear, suf- 
focation, headache and nausea is not sustained 
by hot and nourishing food. There is no blaz- 
ing galley fire for the cook of the U-boat. 

'^ The U-boat rolls very easily; she is, of 
course, no heavier nor lighter than the water in 
which she floats, and if by chance she touches 
bottom in shallow water, she bounds about like 
a rubber ball on a pavement. Inside the sailors 
are thrown about and dashed against the 
machinery. 

*^ That is the quality of everyday life in a 
U-boat retained below the surface. Now think 
what an emergence involves. Up she comes 
until the periscope can scrutinize the sky and 
the nearer sea. Nothing in sight ? Thank God ! 
She rises out of the water and some of the sail- 
ors get a breath of fresh air. Not all, for there 
is no room nor time for all of them to come out. 
But the fortunate ones who get to the hatches 
may even have the luck of sunshine. To come 
to the surface on a calm open sea away from 
any traffic at al] is the secret hope of every 



174 THE UNDYING FIRE 

U-boat sailor. But suppose now there is some- 
thing in sight. Then the U-boat must come up 
with infinite discretion and examine the quarry. 
It looks an innocent craft, a liner, a trawler, a 
cargo-boat. But is that innocence certain? 
How does the U-boat man know that she hasn 't 
a gun? What new contrivance of the hunter 
may not hide behind that harmless-looking 
mask? Until they have put a ship down, the 
U-boat sailors never know what ugly surprise 
she may not have in store for them. When 
they approach a vessel they must needs be igno- 
rant of what counter-attack creeps upon them 
from her unseen other side. As a consequence 
these men are in terror of every ship they hail. 

*^ Is it any wonder then if their behaviour is 
hasty and hysterical, if they curse and insult 
the wretched people they are proposing to 
drown, if they fire upon them unexpectedly and 
do strange and abominable things ? The U-boat 
man is no fine captain on his quarter deck. He 
is a man who lives a life of intense physical 
hardship and extreme fear, who faces over- 
whelming risks, in order to commit as inglorious 
a crime as any man can commit. He is a man 
already in hell. 

^^ The Germans do what they can to keep up 
the spirit of these crews. An English captain 



ELIHU REPROVES JOB 175 

who spent a fortnight upon one as a prisoner 
and who was recently released by way of Switz- 
erland, says that when they had sunk a merchant 
ship ^ they played victory music on the gramo- 
phone. ^ Imagine that bleak festival ! 

^^ The inevitable end of the U-boat sailor, 
unless he is lucky enough to get captured, is 
death, and a very horrible and slow death in- 
deed. Sooner or later it is bound to come. 
Some never return from their first voyage. 
There is a brief spree ashore if they do; then 
out they go again. Perhaps they return a sec- 
ond time, perhaps not. Some may even have 
made a score of voyages, but sooner or later 
they are caught. The average life of a U-boat 
is less than five voyages — out and home. Of 
the crews of the original U-boats which began 
the U-boat campaign very few men survive 
to-day. When our young hopeful left his home 
in Germany to join the U-boat service, he left 
it for a certain death. He learns that slowly 
from the conversation of his mates. Men are 
so scarce now for this vile work that once Ger- 
many has got a man she will use him to the end. 

'' And that end— ? 

** I was given some particulars of the fate of 
one U-boat that were told by two prisoners who 
died at Harwich the other day. This particular 



176 THE UNDYING FIRE 

boat was got by a mine whicli tore a hole in ber 
aft. She was too disabled to come to the sur- 
face, and she began to sink tail down. Now the 
immediate effect of a hole in a U-boat is of 
course to bring the air pressure within her to 
the same level as the pressure of the water out- 
side. For every ten yards of depth this means 
an addition of fourteen pounds to the square 
inch. The ears and blood vessels are suddenly 
subjected to this enormous pressure. There is 
at once a violent pain in the ears and a weight 
on the chest. Cotton wool has to be stuffed into 
ears and nostrils to save the ear drum. Then 
the boat is no longer on an even keel. The 
men stand and slip about on the sides of things. 
They clamber up the floor out of the way of the 
slowly rising water. For the water does not 
come rushing in to drown them speedily. It 
cannot do that because there is no escape for 
the air ; the water creeps in steadily and stealth- 
ily as the U-boat goes deeper and deeper. It 
is a process of slow and crushing submergence 
that has the cruel deliberation of some story by 
Edgar Allan Poe ; it may last for hours. A time 
comes when the lights go out and the rising 
waters stop the apparatus for keeping up the 
supply of oxygen and absorbing the carbonic 
acid. Suffocation begins. Think of what must 



ELIHU REPROVES JOB 177 

happen in tlie minds of the doomed men crowded 
together amidst the machinery. In the partic- 
ular case these prisoners described, several of 
the men drowned themselves deliberately in the 
rising waters inside the boat. And in another 
case where the boat was recovered full of dead 
men, they had all put their heads under the 
water inside the boat. People say the U-boat 
men carry poison against such mischances as 
this. They don't. It would be too tempting. 

^^ When it becomes evident that the U-boat 
can never recover the surface, there is usually 
an attempt to escape by the hatches. The 
hatches can be opened when at last the pressure 
inside is equal to that of the water without. 
The water of course rushes in and sinks the 
U-boat to the bottom like a stone, but the men 
who are nearest to the hatch have a chance of 
escaping mth the rush of air to the surface. 
There is of course a violent struggle to get near- 
est to the hatch. This is what happened in the 
case of the particular U-boat from which these 
prisoners came. The forward hatch was 
opened. Our patrol boat cruising above saw 
the waters thrown up by the air-burst and then 
the heads of the men struggling on the surface. 
Most of these men were screaming with pain. 



178 THE UNDYING FIRE 

All of them went under before they could be 
picked up except two. And these two died in 
a day or so. They died because coming sud- 
denly up to the ordinary atmosphere out of the 
compressed air of the sinking submarine had 
burst the tissues of their lungs. They were 
choked with blood. 

'' Think of those poor creatures dying in the 
hospital. They were worn out by fits of cough- 
ing and haemorrhage, but there must have been 
moments of exliausted quiet before the end, 
when our youngster lay and stared at the bleak 
walls of the ward and thought; when he asked 
himself, * What have I been doing ! What have 
I done ? What has this world done for me ? It 
has made me a murderer. It has tortured me 
and wasted me. . . . And I meant well by 
it. . . .' 

* * Whether he thought at all about the making 
of the submarine, the numberless ingenuities 
and devices, the patience and devotion, that 
had gone to make that grim trap in which he 
had been caught at last, I cannot guess. 
. . . Probably he took it as a matter of 
course. . . . 

> ^^ So it was that our German youngster who 
dreamt dreams, who had ambitions, who wished 
to serve and do brave and honourable things, 



ELIHU REPROVES JOB 179 

died. ... So ^ve thousand men at least have 
died, English some of them as well as German, 
in lost submarines beneath the waters of the 
narrow seas. . . . 

^^ There is a story and a true story. It is 
more striking than the fate of most men and 
women in the world, but is it, in its essence, 
different I Is not the whole life of our time in 
the vein of this story? Is- not this story of 
youth and hope and possibility misled, marched 
step by step into a world misconceived, thrust 
into evil, and driven do^vn to ugliness and death, 
only a more vivid rendering of what is now the 
common fate of great multitudes ? Is there any 
one of us who is not in some fashion aboard a 
submarine, doing evil and driving towards an 
evil end? . . . 

*^ What are the businesses in which men en- 
gage ? How many of them have any likeness to 
freighted ships that serve the good of mankind? 
Think of the lying and cornering, the crowding 
and outbidding, the professional etiquette that 
robs the common man, the unfair advantage 
smugly accepted! AVhat man among us can 
say, * All that I do is service'? Our holding 
and our effort : is it much better than the long- 
interludes below the surface, and when we come 
up to struggle for our own hands, torpedoing 



180 THE UNDYING FIRE 

competitors, wrecking antagonists, how is it 
with us? The submarine sailors stare in the 
twilight at drowning men. Every day I stare 
at a world dro^vning in poverty and ignorance, 
a world awash in the seas of hunger, disease, 
and misery. We have been given leisure, free- 
dom, and intelligence; what have we done to 
prevent these things? 

^ ' I tell you all the world is a submarine, and 
every one of us is something of a U-boat man. 
These fools who squeal in the papers for cruel- 
ties to the U-boat men do not realize their own 
part in the world. . . . We might live in sun- 
shine and freedom and security, and we live 
cramped and cold, in bitter danger, because we 
are at war with our fellow men. . . . 

** But there, doctor, you have the answer to 
the first part of your question. You asked what 
the Spirit of God in Man was against. It is 
against these mental confusions, these igno- 
rances, that thrust life into a frightful cul-de- 
sac, that the God in our Hearts urges us to fight. 
. . . He is crying out in our hearts to save 
us from these blind alleys of selfishness, dark- 
ness, cruelty, and pain in which our race must 
die ; he is crying for the high road which is sal- 
vation, he is commanding the organized unity 
of mankind.'' 



§5 

The lassitude that had been earlier apparent 
in the manner of Mr. Huss had vanished. He 
was talking now with more energy; his eyes 
were bright and there was a flush in his cheeks. 
His voice was low, but his speech was clear and 
no longer broken by painful pauses. 

'^ But your question had a double edge," he 
continued; ^* you asked me not only what it is 
that the Spirit of God in us fights against, but 
what it is he fights for. Whither does the high 
road lead? I have told you what I think the 
life of man is, a felted and corrupting mass of 
tragic experiences ; let me tell you now a little, 
if this pain at my side will still permit it, what 
life upon this earth, under the leadership of the 
Spirit of God our Captain, might be. 

^ ^ I will take it that men are still as they are, 
that all this world is individually the same; I 
will suppose no miraculous change in human 
nature; but I will suppose that events in the 
past have run along different channels, so that 
there has been much more thinking, much more 

181 



182 THE UNDYING FIRE 

exchang-c of thought, far better teaching. I 
want simply this world better taught, so that 
wherever the flame of God can be lit it has been 
lit. Everyone I will suppose educated. By 
educated, to be explicit, I mean a knowledge and 
understanding of history. Yes, Mr. Farr — ^ 
salvation by history. Everyone about the earth 
1 will suppose has been taught not merely to 
read and write and calculate, but has been given 
all that can be told simply and plainly of the 
past history of the earth, of our place in space 
and time, and the true history of mankind. I 
will not suppose that there is any greater knowl- 
edge of things than men actually possess to-day, 
but instead of its being confusedly stored in 
many minds and many books and many lan- 
guages, it has all been sorted out and set out 
plainly so that it can be easily used. It has 
been kept back from no one, mistold to no one. 
Moreover I will suppose that instead of a 
myriad of tongues and dialects, all men can read 
the same books and talk together in the same 
speech. 

*^ These you may say are difficult supposi- 
tions, but they are not impossible suppositions. 
Quite a few resolute men could set mankind 
definitely towards such a state of affairs so that 
they would reach it in a dozen generations or 



ELIHU REPROVES JOB 183 

so. But think what a difference there would be 
from our conditions in such a world. In a world 
so lit and opened by education, most of these 
violent dissensions that trouble mankind would 
be impossible. Instead of men and communi- 
ties behaving like fever patients in delirium, 
striking at their nurses, oversetting their food 
and medicine and inflicting injuries on them- 
selves and one another, they would be alive to 
the facts of their common origin, their common 
offspring — for at last in our descendants all 
our Kves must meet again — and their common 
destiny. In that more open and fresher air, the 
fire that is God will burn more bMightly, for most 
of us who fail to know God fail through want 
of knowledge. Many more men and women will 
be happily devoted to the common work of man- 
kind, and the evil that is in all of us will be more 
plainly seen and more easily restrained. I 
doubt if any man is altogether evil, but in this 
dark world the good in men is handicapped and 
sacrifice is mocked. Bad example finishes what 
weak and aimless teaching has begun. This is 
a world where folly and hate can bawl sanity 
out of hearing. Only the determination of 
schoolmasters and teachers can hope to change 
that. How can you hope to change it by any- 
thing but teaching? Cannot you realize what 
teaching means? . . . 



184 THE UNDYING FIRE 

** When I ask you to suppose a world in- 
structed and educated in the place of this old 
traditional world of unguided passion and greed 
and meanness and mean bestiality, a world 
taught by men instead of a world neglected by 
hirelings, I do not ask you to imagine any 
miraculous change in human nature. I ask 3^ou 
only to suppose that each mind has the utmost 
enlightenment of which it is capable instead of 
its being darkened and overcast. Everyone is 
to have the best chance of being his best self. 
Everyone is to be living in the light of the 
acutest self-examination and the clearest mutual 
criticism. Naturally we shall be living under 
infinitely saner and more helpful institutions. 
Such a state of things will not indeed mitigate 
natural vanity or natural self-love; it will not 
rob the greedy man of his greed, the fool of his 
folly, the eccentric of his abnormality, nor the 
lustful of his lust. But it will rob them of ex- 
cuses and hiding places ; it will light them within 
and cast a light round about them; it will turn 
their evil to the likeness of a disease of which 
they themselves in their clear moments will be 
ready to be cured and which they will hesitate 
to transmit. That is the world which such of 
us schoolmasters and teachers among us as have 
the undying fire of God already lit in our hearts, 



ELIHU REPROVES JOB 185 

do now labour, generation by generation, 
against defeat and sometimes against hope, to 
bring about; that is the present work God has 
for us. And as we do bring it about then the 
prospect opens out before mankind to a splen- 
dour. . . . 

^* In this present world men live to be them- 
selves; having their lives they los^ them; in the 
world that we are seeking to make the> vnll give 
themselves to the God of Mankind, and so ikov 
will live indeed. They will as a matter of course 
change their institutions and their methods so 
that all men may be used to the best effect, in 
the common work of mankind. They mil take 
this little planet which has been torn into shreds 
of possession, and make it again one garden. 

• • • 

*^ The most perplexing thing about men at 
the present time is their lack of understanding 
of the vast possibilities of power and happiness 
that science is offering them — '* 

^^ Then why not teach science? '^ cried Mr. 
Farr. 

<^ Provided only that they will unite their 
efforts. They solve the problems of material 
science in vain until they have solved their social 
and political problems. When those are solved, 
the mechanical and technical difficulties are 



186 THE UNDYING FIRE 

trivial. It is no occult secret ; it is a plain and 
demonstrable thing to-day that the world could 
give ample food and ample leisure to every 
human being, if only by a world-wide teaching 
the spirit of unity could be made to prevail over 
the imiDulse to dissension. And not only that, 
but it would then be possible to raise the com- 
mon health and increase the common fund of 
happiness immeasurably. Look plainly at the 
world as it is. Most human beings when they 
are not dying untimely, are suffering more or 
less from avoidable disorders, they are ill or 
they are convalescent, or they are suffering 
from or crippled by some preventable taint in 
the blood, or they are stunted or weakened by a 
needlessly bad food supply, or spiritless and 
feeble through bad housing, bad clothing, dull 
occupations, or insecurity and anxiety. Few 
enjoy for very long stretches at a time that 
elementary happiness which is the natural ac- 
companiment of sound health. This almost 
universal lowness of tone, which does not dis- 
tress us only because most of us are unable 
to imagine anything better, means an enormous 
waste of human possibility ; less work, less hope- 
fulness. Isolated efforts will never raise men 
out of this swamp of malaise. At Woldingstan- 
ton we have had the best hygienic arrangements 



ELIHU REPROVES JOB 187 

we could find, we have taken the utmost pre- 
cautions, and yet there has scarcely been a year 
when our work has not been crippled and de- 
layed by some epidemic, influenza one year, 
measles another, and so on. We take our pre- 
cautions ; but the townspeople, especially in the 
poorer quarters, don't and can't. I think my- 
self the wastage of these perennial petty pesti- 
lences is far greater than that caused by the big 
epidemics that sometimes sweep the world. 
But all such things, great or petty, given a suf- 
ficient world unanimity, could be absolutely ban- 
ished from human life. Given a sufficient una- 
nimity and intelligent direction, men could hunt 
down all these infectious diseases, one by one, 
to the regions in which they are endemic, and 
from which they start out again and again to 
distress the world, and could stamp them out 
for ever. It is not want of knowledge prevents 
this now but want of a properly designed edu- 
cation, which would give people throughout the 
world the understanding, the confidence, and the 
will needed for so collective an enterprise. 

* * The sufferings and mutual cruelties of ani- 
mals are no doubt a part of the hard aimlessness 
of nature, but men are in a position to substi- 
tute aim for that aimlessness, they have already 
all the knowledge and all the resources needed 



188 THE UNDYING FIRE 

to escape from these cul-de-sacs of wrong-doing 
and suffering and ugly futility into which they 
jostle one another. But they do not do it be- 
cause they have not been sufficiently educated 
and are not being sufficiently educated to sane 
understanding and effort. The bulk of their 
collective strength is dissipated in miserable 
squabbles and suspicions, in war and the prep- 
aration for war, in lawsuits and bickering, in 
making little sterile private hoards of wealth 
and power, in chaffering, in stupid persecutions 
and oppositions and vanities. It is not only 
that they live in a state of general infection and 
ill health and bad temper, ill nourished, ill 
housed and morally horrible, when the light is 
ready to shine upon them and health and splen- 
dour is within their grasp, but that all that they 
could so attain would be but the prelude to still 
greater attainments. 

** Apart from and above the sweeping away 
of the poverty, filthiness and misery of life that 
would follow on an intelligent use of such pow- 
ers and such qualities as men possess now, there 
would be a tremendous increase in happiness 
due to the contentment of belonging to one com- 
mon comprehensible whole, of knowing that one 
played a part and a worthy part in an immortal 
and universal task. The merest handful of 



ELIHU REPROVES JOB 189 

people can look with content upon the tenor of 
their lives to-day. A few teachers are perhaps 
aware that they serve God rightly, a few sci- 
entific investigators, a few doctors and bridge- 
builders and makers of machinery, a few food- 
growers and sailors and the like. They can 
believe that they do something that is necessary, 
or build something which will endure. But most 
men and women to-day are like beasts caught 
in a tunnel; they follow base occupations, they 
trade and pander and dispute ; there is no peace 
in their hearts ; they gratify their lusts and seek 
excitements; they know they spend their lives 
in vain and they have no means of escape. The 
world is full of querulousness and abuse, deri- 
sion and spite, mean tricks and floundering ef- 
fort, vice without a gleam of pleasure and vain 
display, because blind Nature spews these 
people into being and there is no light to guide 
their steps. Yet there is work to be done by 
everyone, a plain reason for that work, and 
happiness in the doing of it. . . . 

*^ I do not know if any of us realize all that 
a systematic organization of the human intel- 
ligence upon the work of research would mean 
for our race. People talk of the wonders that 
scientific work has given us in the past two hun- 
dred years, wonders of which for the most part 



190 THE UNDYING FIRE 

we are too disordered and foolish to avail our- 
selves fully. But what scientific research has 
produced so far must be as yet only the smallest 
earnest of what scientific research can presently 
give mankind. All the knowledge that makes 
to-day different from the world of Queen Eliza- 
beth has been the work of a few score thousand 
men, mostly poorish men, working with limited 
material and restricted time, in a world that 
discouraged and misunderstood them. Many 
hundreds of thousands of men with gifts that 
would have been of the profoundest value in 
scientific work, have missed the education or 
the opportunity to use those gifts. But in a 
world clarified by understanding, the net of re- 
search would miss few of its born servants, 
there would be the swiftest, clearest communica- 
tion of results from worker to worker, the read- 
iest honour and help for every gift. Poor 
science, which goes about now amidst our crimes 
and confusions like an ill-trimmed evil-smelling 
oil lantern in a dark cavern in which men fight 
and steal, her flickering light, snatched first by 
this man and then by that, as often as not a help 
to violence and robbery, would become like the 
sunrise of a bright summer morning. We do 
not realize what in a little while mankind could 
do. Our power over matter, our power over 



ELIHU REPROVES JOB 191 

life, our power over ourselves, would increase 
year by year and day by day. 

** Here am I, after great suffering, waiting 
here for an uncertain operation that may kill 
me. It need not have been so. Here are we 
all, sitting hot and uncomfortable in this ill- 
ventilated, ill-furnished room, looking out upon 
a vile waste. It need not have been so. Such 
is the quality of our days. I sit here wrung by 
pain, in the antechamber of death, because man- 
kind has suffered me to suffer. . . . All this 
could have been avoided. . . . Not for ever 
will such things endure, not for ever will the 
Mocker of Mankind prevail. . . . 

* ' And such knowledge and power and beauty 
as we poor watchers before the dawn can gTiess 
at, are but the beginning of all that could arise 
out of these shadows and this torment. Not 
for ever shall life be marooned upon this planet, 
imprisoned by the cold and incredible emptiness 
of space. Is it not plain to you all, from what 
man in spite of everything has achieved, that 
he is but at the beginning of achievement ? That 
presently he will take his body and his life and 
mould them to his will, that he will take glad- 
ness and beauty for himself as a girl will pick 
a flower and twine it in her hair. You have 
said. Doctor Barrack, that when industrial com- 



192 THE UNDYING FIRE 

petition ends among men all change in the race 
will be at an end. But you said that unthink- 
ingly. For when a collective will grows plain, 
there will be no blind thrusting into life and no 
blind battle to keep in life, like the battle of a 
crowd crushed into a cul-de-sac, any more. The 
qualities that serve the great ends of the race 
will be cherished and increased; the sorts of 
men and women that have these qualities least 
will be made to understand the necessary re- 
straints of their limitation. You said that when 
men ceased to compete, they would stand still. 
Rather is it true that when men cease their 
internecine war, then and then alone can the 
race sweep forward. The race will grow in 
power and beauty swiftly, in every generation 
it will grow, and not only the human race. All 
this world will man make a garden for himself, 
ruling not only his kind but all the lives that live, 
banishing the cruel from life, making the others 
merciful and tame beneath his hand. The flies 
and mosquitoes, the thorns and poisons, the 
fungus in the blood, and the murrain upon his 
beasts, he will utterly end. He will rob the 
atoms of their energy and the depths of siDace 
of their secrets. He will break his prism in 
space. He will step from star to star as now 



ELIHU REPROVES JOB 193 

we step from stone to stone across a stream. 
Until he stands in the light of God's presence 
and looks his Mocker and the Adversary in the 
face. . . .'' 

'^ Oh I Ravins! '' Mr. Dad burst out, unable 
to contain himself. 

* * You may think my mind is fevered because 
my body is in pain; but never was my mind 
clearer than it is now. It is as if I stood already 
half out of this little life that has held me so 
long. It is not a dream I tell, but a reality. 
The world is for man, the stars in their courses 
are for man — if only he will follow the God 
who calls to him and take the gift God offers. 
As I sit here and talk of these things to you 
here, they become so plain to me that I cannot 
understand your silence and why you do not 
burn — as I burn — with the fire of God's pur- 
pose. . . ." 

He stopped short. He seemed to have come 
to the end of his strength. His chin sank, and 
his voice when he spoke again was the voice of 
a weak and weary man. 

^' I talk. ... I talk. . . . And then a 
desolating sense of reality blows like a destroy- 
ing gust through my mind, and my little lamp 
of hope goes out. . . . 



194 THE UNDYING FIRE 

'^ It is as if some great adversary sat over 
all my world, mocking me in every phrase I 
use and every act I do. . . . " 

He sighed deeply. 

*^ Have I answered your questions, doctor? " 
he asked. 



§6 

** You speak of God,'' said Dr. Barrack. 
* * But this that you speak of as God, is it really 
what men understand by God? It seems to me, 
as I said to begin with, it is just a personifica- 
tion of the good will in us all. Why bring in 
God? God is a word that has become associated 
with all sorts of black and cruel things. It sets 
one thinking of priesthoods, orthodoxies, per- 
secutions. Why do you not call this upward 
and onward power Humanity? Why do you 
not call it the Spirit of Men? Then it might 
be possible for an Agnostic like myself to feel 
a sort of agreement. . . .'' 

*' Because I have already shown you it is not 
humanity, it is not the spirit of men. Human- 
ity, the spirit of men, made poison gas and the 
submarine ; the spirit of man is jealous, aggres- 
sive and partizan. Humanity has greed and 
competition in grain, and the spirit of man is 
fear and hatred, secrecy and conspiracy, quite 
as much as, much more than, it is making or 
order. But this spirit in me, this fire which I 

195 



196 THE UNDYING FIRE 

call God, was lit, I know not how, but as if it 
came from outside. . . . 

'' I use the phrases,^' said Mr. Huss, '' that 
come ready to the mind. But I will meet you 
so far as to say that I know that I am meta- 
phorical and inexact. . . . This spirit that 
comes into life — it is more like a person than 
a thing and so I call it He. And He is not a 
feature, not an aspect of things, but a selection 
among things. ... He seizes upon and brings 
out and confirms all that is generous in the nat- 
ural impulses of the mind. He condemns 
cruelty and all evil. . . . 

*^ I will not pretend to explain what I cannot 
explain. It may be that God is as yet only 
foreshadowed in life. You may reason. Doctor 
Barrack, that this fire in the heart that I call 
God, is as much the outcome of your Process 
as all the other things in life. I cannot argue 
against that. What I am telling you now is 
not what I believe so much as what I feel. To 
me it seems that the creative desire that burns 
in me is a thing different in its nature from the 
blind Process of matter, is a force running con- 
trariwise to the power of confusion. . . . But 
this I do know, that once it is lit in a man it is 
like a consuming fire. Once it is lit in a man, 
then his mind is alisrht — thenceforth. It rules 



ELIHU REPROVES JOB 197 

his conscience with compelling power. It sum- ; 
mons him to live the residue of his days working 
and fighting for the unity and release and tri- 
umph of manl^ind. He may be mean still, and 
cowardly and vile still, but he will know himself 
for what he is. . . . Some ancient phrases 
live marvellously. Within my heart 1 know that 
my Redeemer livetJi. . . .'' 

He stopped abruptly. 

Dr. Barrack was unprepared with a reply. 
But he shook his head obstinately. These time- 
worn phrases were hateful to his soul. They 
smacked to him of hypocrisy, of a bidding for 
favour with obsolete and discredited influences. 
Through such leaks it is superstition comes 
soaking back into the laboriously bailed-out 
minds of men. Yet Mr. Huss was a difficult con- 
troversialist to grapple. *^ No,'' said the doc- 
tor provisionally. ^^ No, . 



yj 



^7 

Fate came to the relief of Dr. Barrack. 

The little conference at Sea View was per- 
vaded by the sense of a new personality. This 
was a short and angry and heated little man, 
with active dark brown eyes in a tan face, a 
tooth-brush moustache of iron-grey, and a pro- 
truded lower jaw. He was dressed in a bright 
bluish-grey suit and bright brown boots, and 
he carried a bright brown leather bag. 

He appeared mouthing outside the window, 
beyond the range of distinct hearing. His ex- 
pression was blasphemous. He made threat- 
ening movements with his bag. 

*^Good God!" cried Dr. Barrack. ''Sir 
Alpheus ! . . . I had no idea of the time ! ' ' 

He rushed out of the room and there was a 
scuffle in the passage. 

*^ I ought to have been met," said Sir Al- 
phens, entering, '^ I ought to have been met. 
It's ridiculous to pretend you didn't know the 
time. A general practitioner always knows the 
time. It is his first duty. I cannot understand 

198 



ELIHU REPROVES JOB 199 

the incivility of this reception. I have had to 
make my way to your surgery, Dr. Barrack, 
without assistance; not a cab free at the sta- 
tion ; I have had to come down this road in the 
heat, carrying everything myself, reading all 
the names on the gates — the most ridiculous 
and banal names. The Taj, Thyme Bank, The 
Cedars, and Capernaum, cheek by jowl! It's 
worse than Freud.'' 

Dr. Barrack expressed further regrets con- 
fusedly and indistinctly. 

** We have been talking. Sir Alpheus," said 
Sir Eliphaz, advancing as if to protect the doc- 
tor from his specialist, "' upon some very 
absorbing topics. That must be our excuse for 
this neglect. We have been discussing educa- 
tion — and the universe. Fate, free-will, pre- 
destination absolute. " It is not every building 
contractor can quote Milton. 

The great surgeon regarded the patentee of 
Temanite. 

^* Fate — fiddlesticks!" said Sir Alpheus 
suddenly and rudely. '' That's no excuse for 
not meeting me." His bright little eyes darted 
round the company and recognized Mr. Huss. 
** What! my patient not in bed! Not even in 
bed! Qo to hed,^\Y\ Go to bed! ^^ 

He became extremely abusive to Dr. Barrack. 
** You treat an operation, Sir, with a levity — I" 



CHAPTER THE SIXTH 

THE OPERATIOlSr 

§1 

While Sir Alpheus grumbled loudly at the 
unpreparedness of everything, Mr. Huss, with 
the assistance of Dr. Barrack, walked upstairs 
and disrobed himself. 

This long discussion had taken a very power- 
ful grip upon his mind. Much remained uncer- 
tain in his thoughts. He had still a number of 
things he wanted to say, and these proceedings 
preliminary to his vivisection, seemed to him 
to be irrelevant and tiresome rites interrupting 
something far more important. 

The bed, the instruments, the preparation for 
anaesthesia, were to him no more than new con- 
tributions to the argument. While he lay on 
the bed with Dr. Barrack handling the funnel 
hood that was to go over nose and mouth for 
the administration of the chloroform, he tried 
to point out that the very idea of operative sur- 

200 



THE OPERATION 201 

gery was opposed to the scientific fatalism of 
that gentleman. But Sir Alpheus interrupted 
him. . . . 

** Breathe deeply," said Dr. Barrack. . . . 

'^ Breathe deeply," . . . 

The whole vast argumentative fabric that had 
arisen in his mind swung with him across an 
abyss of dread and mental inanity. "Whether 
he thought or dreamt what follows it is impos- 
sible to say; we can but record the ideas that, 
like a crystalline bubble as great as all things, 
filled his consciousness. He felt a characteris- 
tic doubt whether the chloroform would do its 
duty, and then came that twang like the break- 
ing of a violin string: — Ploot. . . . 

And still he did not seem to be insensible! 
He was not insensible, and yet things had 
changed. Dr. Elihu was still present, but some- 
how Sir Eliphaz and Mr. Dad and Mr. Farr, 
whom he had left downstairs, had come back 
and were sitting on the ground — on the ashes ; 
they were all seated gravely on a mound of 
ashes and beneath a sky that blazed with light. 
Sir Alpheus, the nurse, the bedroom, had van- 
ished. It seemed that they had been the dream. 

But this was the reality, an enduring reality, 
this sackcloth and these reeking ash-heaps out- 
ride the city gates. This was the scene of an 



202 THE UNDYING FIRE 

unending experiment and an immortal argu- 
ment. He was Job; the same Job who had sat 
here for thousands of years, and this lean vul- 
turous old man in the vast green turban was 
Eliphaz the Temanite, the smaller man who 
peered out of the cowl of a kind of hooded shawl, 
was his friend Bildad the Shuhite; the eager, 
coarse face of the man in unclean linen was 
Zophar the Naamathite; and this fist-faced 
younger man who sat with an air of false humil- 
ity insolently judging them all, was Elihu the 
son of Barachel the Buzite of the kindred of 
Eam. . - . 

It was queer that there should have ever been 
the fancy that these men were doctors or school- 
masters or munition makers, a queer veiling of 
their immortal quality in the transitory gar- 
ments of a period. For ages they had sat here 
and disputed, and for ages they had still to sit. 
A little way off waited the asses and camels and 
slaves of the three emirs, and the two Ethiopian 
slaves of Eliphaz had been coming towards them 
bearing bowls of fine grey ashes. (For Eliphaz 
for sanitary reasons did not use the common 
ashes of the midden upon his head.) There, far 
away, splashed green with palms and pierced be- 
tween pylons by a glittering arm of the river, 
were the low brown walls of sun-dried brick, the 



THE OPERATION 203 

flat-roofed houses, and the twisted temple towers 
of the ancient city of Uz, where first this great 
argument had begun. East and west and north 
and south stretched the wide levels of the world, 
dotted with small date trees, and above them 
was the measureless dome of heaven, set with 
suns and stars and flooded with a light. 

This light had shone out since Elihu had 
spoken, and it was not only a light but a voice 
clear and luminous, before which Job's very 
soul bowed and was still. . . . 

'^ Who is this that darJceneth counsel by words 
without knowledge? '^ 

By a great effort Job lifted up his eyes to the 
zenith. 

It was as if one shone there who was all, and 
yet who comprehended powers and kingdoms, 
and it was as if a screen or shadow was before 
his face. It was as if a dark figure enhaloed 
in shapes and colours bent down over the whole 
world and regarded it curiously and malevo- 
lently, and it was as if this dark figure was no 
more than a translucent veil before an infinite 
and lasting radiance. Was it a veil before the 
light, or did it not rather nest in the very heart 
of the light and spread itself out before the face 
of the light and spread itself and recede and 
again expand in a perpetual diastole and sys- 



204 THE UNDYING FIRE 

tole? It was as if the voice that spoke was the 
voice of God, and yet ever and again it was as 
if the timbre of the voice was Satan. As the 
voice spoke to Job, his friends listened and 
watched him, and the eyes of Elihu shone like 
garnets and the eyes of Eliphaz like emeralds, 
but the eyes of Bildad were black like the eyes 
of a lizard upon a wall, and Zophar had no eyes 
but looked at him only with the dark shadows 
beneath his knitted brows. As God spake they 
all, and Job with them, became smaller and 
smaller and shrank until they were the minutest 
of conceivable things, until the whole scene was 
a little toy ; they became unreal like discoloura- 
tions upon a floating falling disc of paper con- 
fetti, amidst greatnesses unfathomable. 

'^ Who is this that darheneth counsel hy 
words without knowledge? '' 

But in this dream that was dreamt by Mr. 
Huss while he was under the anaesthetic, God 
did not speak by words but by light ; there were 
no sounds in his ears, but thoughts ran like 
swift rivulets of fire through his brain and 
gathered into pools and made a throbbing pat- 
tern of wavelets, curve within curve, that inter- 
laced. . . . 

The thoughts that it seemed to him that God 
was speaking through his mind, can be put into 



THE OPERATION 205 

words only after a certain fashion and with 
great loss, for they were thoughts about things 
beyond and above this world, and our words are 
all made out of the names of things and feelings 
in this world. Things that were contradictory 
had become compatible, and things incompre- 
hensible seemed straightforward, because he 
was in a dream. It was as if the anaesthetic had 
released his ideas from their anchorage to words 
and phrases and their gravitation towards sen- 
sible realities. But it was still the same line of 
thought he pursued through the stars and 
spaces, that he had pursued in the stuffy little 
room at Sundering-on-Sea. 

It was somewhat after this fashion that things 
ran through the mind of Mr. Huss. It seemed 
to him at first that he was answering the chal- 
lenge of the voice that filled the world, not of 
his own will but mechanically. He was saying : 
'^ Then give me knowledge." 

To which the answer was in the voice of Satan 
and in tones of mockery. For Satan had be- 
come very close and definite to Job, as a dark 
face, time-worn and yet animated, that sent out 
circle after circle of glowing colour towards the 
bounds of space as a swimmer sends waves to- 
wards the bank. ** But what have you got in 
the way of a vessel to hold your knowledge if 
we gave it you? '' 



206 THE UNDYING FIRE 

** In the name of the God in my heart," said 
Job, ** I demand knowledge and power." 

** Wlio are you! A pedagogue who gives ill- 
prepared lessons about history in f rowsty rooms, 
and dreams that he has been training his young 
gentlemen to play leap-frog amidst the stars." 

*^ I am Man," said Job. 

'' Huss.'' 

But that queer power of slipping one's iden- 
tity and losing oneself altogether which dreams 
will give, had come upon Mr. Huss. He an- 
swered with absolute conviction: '*• I am Man. 
Down there I was Huss, but here I am Man. I 
/ am every man who has ever looked up towards 
this light of God. I am every one who has 
thought or worked or willed for the race. I am 
all the explorers and leaders and teachers that 
man has ever had." 

The argument evaporated. He carried his 
point as such points are carried in dreams. 
The discussion slipped to another of the issues 
that had been troubling him. 

* ^ You would plumb the deep of knowledge ; 
you would scale the heights of space. . . . 
There is no limit to either. ' ' 

** Then I will plumb and scale for ever. I 
will defeat you." 

*^ But you will never destroy me." 

*^ I will fight my way through you to God." 



THE OPERATION 207 

** And never attain him/^ . . . 

It seemed as though yet another voice was 
speaking. For a while the veil of Satan was 
drawn aside. The thoughts it uttered ran like 
incandescent molten metal through the mind 
of Job, but whether he was saying these things 
to God or whether God was saying these things 
to him, did not in any way appear. 

'' So life goes on for ever. And in no other 
way could it go on. In no other way could there 
be such a being as life. For how can you 
struggle if there is a certainty of victory *? Why ^ 
should you struggle if the end is assured? How 
can you rise if there is no depths into which 
you can fall? The blacknesses and the evils 
about you are the warrants of reality. . . . 

** Through the centuries the voice of Job had 
complained and will complain. Through the 
centuries the fire of his faith flares and flickers 
and threatens to go out. But is Job justified in 
his complaints? 

** Is Job indeed justified in his complaints? 
His mind has been coloured by the colour of 
misfortune. He has seen all the world reflect- 
ing the sufferings of his body. He has dwelt 
upon illness and cruelty and death. But is 
there any evil or cruelty or suffering that is 
beyond the possibility of human control? Were 



208 THE UNDYING FIRE 

that so then indeed he might complain that God 
has mocked him. .-^. . Are sunsets ugly and 
oppressive? Do mountains disgust, do distant 
hills repel? Is there any flaw in the starry sky? 
If the lives of beasts and men are dark and 
ungracious, yet is not the texture of their bodies 
lovely beyond comparison? You have sneered 
because the beauty of cell and tissue may build 
up an idiot. Why, oh Man, do they build up an 
idiot? Have you no will, have you no under- 
standing, that you suffer such things to be? 
The darkness and ungraciousness, the evil and 
the cruelty, are no more than a challenge to 
you. In you lies the power to rule all these 
things. . . . ' ' 

Through the tumbled clouds of his mind 
broke the sunlight of this phrase : * * The power 
to rule all these things. The power to rule — " 

* * You have dwelt overmuch upon pain. Pain 
is a swift distress; it ends and is forgotten. 
Without memory and fear pain is nothing, a 
contradiction to be heeded, a warning to be 
taken. Without pain what would life become? 
Pain is the master only of craven men. It is 
in man's power to rule it. It is in man's power 
to rule all things. . . . " 

It was as if the dreaming patient debated 
these ideas with himself ; and again it was as if 



THE OPERATION 209 

he were the -aniversal all and Job and Satan and 
God disputed together mthin him. The thoughts 
in his mind raced faster and suddenly grew 
bright and glittering, as the waters grow bright 
when they come racing out of the caves at Han 
into the light of day. Green-faced, he mur- 
mured and stirred in his great debate while the 
busy specialist plied his scalpels, and Dr. Bar- 
rack whispered directions to the intent nurse. 

** Another whiff,'' said Doctor Barrack. 

** A cloud rolls back from my soul. . . . '* 
"^ ** I have been through great darkness. I 
have been through deep waters. . . . ' ' 

*^ Has not your life had laughter in it? Has 
the freshness of the summer morning never 
poured joy through your being I Do you know 
nothing of the embrace of the lover, cheek to 
cheek or lip to lip? Have you never swum out 
into the sunlit sea or shouted on a mountain 
slope? Is there no joy in a handclasp? Your 
son, your son, you say, is dead mth honour. Is 
there no joy in that honour? Clean and straight 
was your son, and beautiful in his life. Is that 
nothing to thank God for? Have you never 
played with happy children? Has no boy ever 
answered to your teaching — giving back more 
than you gave him? Dare you deny the joy of 
your appetites : the first mouthful of roast red 



210 THE UNDYING FIRE 

beef on the frosty day and the deep draught of 
good ale? Do you know nothing of the task 
well done, nor of sleep after a day of toil? Is 
there no joy for the farmer in the red ploughed 
fields, and the fields shooting with green blades ? 
When the great prows smite the waves and the 
aeroplane hums in the sky, is man still a hope- 
less creature? Can you watch the beat and 
swing of machinery and still despair? Your 
illness has coloured the world ; a little season of 
misfortune has hidden the light from your 
eyes/' 

It was as if the dreamer pushed his way 
through the outskirts of a great forest and ap- 
proached the open, but it was not through trees 
that he thrust his way but through bars and 
nets and interlacing curves of blinding, many- 
coloured light towards the clear promise be- 
yond. He had grown now to an incredible vast- 
ness so that it was no longer earth upon which 
he set his feet but that crystalline pavement 
whose translucent depths contain the stars. 
Yet though he approached the open he never 
reached the open; the iridescent net that had 
seemed to grow thin, grew dense again ; he was 
still struggling, and the black doubts that had 
lifted for a moment swept down upon his soul 
again. And he realized he was in a dream, a 



; 



THE OPERATION 211 

dream that was drawing swiftly now to its close. 

'' Oh God! '' he cried, " answer me! For 
Satan has mocked me sorely. Answer me be- 
fore I lose sight of you again. Am I right to 
fight? Am I right to come out of my little 
earth, here above the stars? " 

*^ Eight if you dare." 

' * Shall I conquer and prevail ? Give me your 
promise! " 

** Everlastingly you may conquer and find 
fresh worlds to conquer. ' ' 

" May — hvii shall 1% " 

It was as if the torrent of molten thoughts 
stopped suddenly. It was as if everything 
stopped. 

*■ ' Answer me, ^ ' he cried. 

Slowly the shining thoughts moved on again. 

*' So long as your courage endures you will 
conquer. . . . 

' ' If you have courage, although the night be 
dark, although the present battle be bloody and 
cruel and end in a strange and evil fashion, 
nevertheless victory shall be yours — in a way 
you will understand — when victory comes. 
Only have courage. On the courage in your 
heart all things depend. By courage it is that 
the stars continue in their courses, day by day. 
It is the courage of life alone that keeps sky 



212 THE UNDYING FIRE 

and earth apart. ... If that courage fail, 
if that sacred fire go out, then all things fail and 
all things go out, all things — good and evil, 
space and time.'' 

*^ Leaving nothing? " 

''Nothing.'' 

"' Nothing,'' he echoed, and the word spread 
like a dark and darkening mask across the face 
of all things. 

And then as if to mark the meaning of the 
word, it seemed to him that the whole universe 
began to move inward upon itself, faster and 
faster, until at last with an incredible haste it 
rushed together. He resisted this collapse in 
vain, and with a sense of overwhelmed effort. 
The white light of God and the whirling colours 
of the universe, the spaces between the stars — 
it was as if an unseen fist gripped them to- 
gether. They rushed to one point as water in 
a clepsydra rushes to its hole. The whole uni- 
verse became small, became a little thing, dimin- 
ished to the size of a coin, of a spot, of a pin- 
point, of one intense black mathematical point, 
and — vanished. He heard his own voice cry- 
ing in the void like a little thing blown before 
the wind : * ^ But will my courage endure % ' ' 
The question went unanswered. Not only the 
things of space but the things of time swept 



THE OPERATION 213 

together into nothingness. The last moment of 
his dream rushed towards the first, crumpled 
all the intervening moments together and made 
them one. It seemed to Mr. Huss that he was 
still in the instant of insensibility. That sound 
of the breaking string was still in his ears : — 
Ploot. . . . 

It became part of that same sound which came 
before the vision. . . . 

He was aware of a new pain mthin him ; not 
that dull aching now, but a pain keen and sore. 
He gave a fluttering gasp. 

** Quick, '^ said a voice. '^ He is coming to ! " 

'' He'll not wake for hours," said a second 
voice. 

** His mouth and eyes! '' 

He lifted his eyelids as one lifts lead. He 
found himself looking into the intelligent but 
unsympathetic face of Sir Alpheus Mengo, he 
tried to comprehend his situation but he had 
forgotten how he got to it, he closed his eyes 
and sank back consciously and wilfully towards 
insensibility. . . ^ 



CHAPTER THE SEVENTH 

LETTERS AND A TELEGRAM 

§1 

It was three weeks later. 

Never had there been so successful an opera- 
tion as an operation in the experience of either 
Sir Alpheus Mengo or Dr. Barrack. The 
growth that had been removed was a non-malig- 
nant growth; the diagnosis of cancer had been 
unsound. Mr. Huss was still lying flat in his 
bed in Mrs. Croome's house, but he was already 
able to read books, letters and newspapers, and 
take an interest in affairs. 

The removal of his morbid growth had made 
a very great change in his mental atmosphere. 
He no longer had the same sense of an invisible 
hostile power brooding over all his life; his 
natural courage had returned. And the world 
which had seemed a conspiracy of misfortunes 
was now a hopeful world again. The last great 
offensive of the Germans towards Paris had 

214 



LETTERS AND A TELEGRAM 215 

collapsed disastrously under the counter attacks 
of Marshal Foch; each morning's paper told of 
fresh victories for the Allies, and the dark 
shadow of a German Caesarism fell no longer 
across the future. The imaginations of men 
were passing through a phase of reasonableness 
and generosity; the idea of an organized world 
peace had seized upon a multitude of minds; 
there was now a prospect of a new and better 
age such as would have seemed incredible in 
the weeks when the illness of Mr. Huss began 
to bear him down. And it was not simply a 
general relief that had come to his forebodings. 
His financial position, for example, which had 
been wrecked by one accident, had been restored 
by another. A distant cousin of Mr. Huss, to 
whom however Mr. Huss was the nearest rela- 
tive, had died of softening of the brain, after a 
career of almost imbecile speculation. He had 
left his property partly to Mr. Huss and partly 
to Woldingstanton School. For some years be- 
fore the war he had indulged in the wildest buy- 
ing of depreciated copper shares, and had accu- 
mulated piles of what had seemed at the time 
valueless paper. The war had changed all that. 
Instead of being almost insolvent, the deceased 
in spite of heavy losses on Canadian land deals 
was found by his executors to be worth nearly 



216 THE UNDYING FIRE 

thirty thousand pounds. It is easy to under- 
rate the good in money. The windfall meant 
a hundred needed comforts and freedoms, and 
a release for the mind of Mrs. Huss that nothing 
else could have given her. And the mind of 
Mr. Huss reflected the moods of his wife much 
more than he suspected. 

But still better things seemed to be afoot in 
the world of Mr. Huss. The rest of the gov- 
ernors of Woldingstanton, it became apparent, 
were not in agreement with Sir Eliphaz and Mr. 
Dad upon the project of replacing Mr. Huss by 
Mr. Farr; and a number of the old boys of the 
school at the front, getting wind of what was 
going on, had formed a small committee for the 
express purpose of defending their old master. 
At the head of this committee, by a happy 
chance, was young Kenneth Burrows, the 
nephew and heir of Sir Eliphaz. At the school 
he had never been in the front rank; he had 
been one of those good-all-round boys who end 
as a school prefect, a sound man in the first 
eleven, and second or third in most of the sub- 
jects he took. Never had he played a star part 
or enjoyed very much of the head's confidences. 
It was all the more delightful therefore to find 
him the most passionate and indefatigable 
champion of the order of things that Mr. Huss 



LETTERS AND A TELEGRAM 217 

had set up. He had heard of the proposed 
changes at his uncle's dinner-table when on 
leave, and he had done something forthwith to 
shake that gentleman's resolves. Lady Bur- 
rows, who adored him, became at once pro- 
Huss. She was all the readier to do this be- 
cause she did not like Mr. Dad 's rather emphatic 
table manners, nor Mr. Farr's clothes. 

'* You don't know what Mr. Huss was to us. 
Sir," the young man repeated several times, 
and returned to France with that sentence grow- 
ing and flowering in his mind. He was one of 
those good types for whom the war was a power- 
ful developer. Death, hardship, and responsi- 
bility — he was still not two-and- twenty, and a 
major in the artillery — had already made an 
understanding man out of the schoolboy; he 
could imagine what dispossession meant; his 
new maturity made it seem a natural thing to 
write to comfort his old head as one man writes 
to another. His pencilled sheets, when first 
they came, made the enfeebled recipient cry, 
not with misery but happiness. They were re- 
read like a love-letter; they were now on the 
coverlet, and Mr. Huss was staring at the ceil- 
ing and already planning a new Woldingstanton 
rising from its ashes, greater than the old. 



§2 

It is only in the last few weeks, the young 
man wrote, that we have heard of all these- 
schemes to break up the tradition of Wolding- 
stanton, and now there is a talk of your resign- 
ing the headmaster ship in favour of Mr, Farr. 
Personally J Sir, I canH imagine how you can 
possibly dream of giving up your ivork — and 
to him of all people; — I still have a sort of 
doubt about it; but my uncle was very positive 
that you were disposed to resign (personally, he 
said, he had implored you to stay), and it is on 
the off-chance of his being right that I am both- 
ering you ivith this letter. Briefly it is to im- 
plore you to stand by the school, which is as 
much as to say to stand by yourself and us. 
You've taught hundreds of us to stick it, and 
now you owe it to us to stick it yourself. I 
know you're ill, dread f idly ill; I've heard about 
Gilbert, and I know, Sir, we all know, although 
he wasn't in the school and you never betrayed 
a preference or were led into an unfair thing 
through it, how much you loved him; you've 

218 



LETTERS AND A TELEGRAM 219 

been put through it, Sir, to the last degree. 
But, Sir, there are some of us here who feel 
almost as though they were your sons; if you 
don't and canH give us that sort of love, it 
doesnH alter the fact that there are men out 
here ivho think of you as they'd like to think of 
their fathers. Men like myself particularly, 
who were left as boys without a father. 

I'm no great hand at expressing myself; I'm 
no credit to Mr. Cross and his English class; 
generally I don't believe in saying too much; 
but I would like to tell you something of what 
you have been to a lot of us, and why Wolding- 
stanton going on will seem to us like a flag 
still flying and Woldingstanton breaking its tra- 
dition like a sort of surrender. And I don't 
want a bit to flatter you. Sir, if you'll forgive 
me, and set you up in what I am writing to you. 
One of the loveable things about you to us is 
that you have always been so jolly human to 
us. You've always been unequal. I've seen 
you give lessons that were among the best les- 
sons in the world, and I've seen you give some 
jolly bad lessons. And there were some affairs 
— that business of the November fireworks for ^ 
example — when ive thought you were harsh 
and tvrong — 

^* I was wrong, '^ said Mr. Huss. 



220 THE UNDYING FIRE 

That almost led to a mutiny. But that is just 
where you score, and why Woldingstanton canH 
do without you. When that firework row was 
on we called a meeting of the school and house 
prefects and had up some of the louts to it — 
you never heard of that meeting — and we said, 
we all agreed you were wrong and we all agreed 
that right or wrong we stood by you, and 
wouldnH let the row go further. Perhaps you 
remember how that affair shut up all at once. 
But that is where you've got us. You do 
wrong, you let us see through you; there never 
was a schoolmaster or a father gave himself 
away so freely as you do, you never put up a 
sham front on us and consequently every one of 
us knows that what he knows about you is the 
real thing in you; the very kids in the lower fifth 
can get a glimpse of it and grasp that you are 
driving at something with all your heart and 
soul, and that the school goes somewhere and 
has life in it. We Woldingstanton boys have 
that in common when toe meet; we understand 
one another; we have something that a lot of the 
other chaps one meets out here, even from the 
crack schools, donH seem to have. It isnH a 
'flourish with us, Sir, it is a simple statement of 
fact that the life we joined up to at Wolding- 
stanton is more important to us than the life 



LETTERS AND A TELEGRAM 221 

in our bodies. Just as it is more important to 
you. It isfi't only the way you taught it, though 
you taught it splendidly , it is the way you felt it 
that got hold of us. You made us think and feel 
that the past of the world was our oivn history; 
you made us feel that we were in one living story 
ivith the reindeer men and the Egyptian priests, 
with the soldiers of CcBsar and the alchemists of 
Spain; nothing was dead and nothing alien; you 
made discovery and civilization our adventure 
and the whole future our inheritance. Most of 
the men I meet here feel lost in this war; they 
are like rabbits ivashed out of their burrows by 
a flood, but we of W oldingstanton have taken it 
in the day's work, and when the peace comes 
and the new world begins, it will still be in the 
story for us, the day's ivork will still join on. 
That's the essence of W oldingstanton, that i{\ 
puts you on the high road that goes on. Thei 
other chaps I talk to here from other schools 
seem to be on no road at all. They are tough 
and plucky by nature and association; they are 
fighters and sturdy men; but what holds them 
in it is either just habit and the example of 
people about them or something unsound that 
can't hold out to the end; a vague loyalty to the 
Empire or a desire to punish the Hun or restore 
the peace of Europe, some short range view of 



( 



222 THE UNDYING FIRE 

that sort, motives that will leave them stranded 
at the end of the war, anyhow, ivith nothing to 
go on to. To talk of after the war to them is to 
realize what blind alleys their teachers have 
' led them into. They can understand fighting 
against things hut not for things. Beyond an 
impossible ambition to go bach somewhere and 
settle doivn as they used to be, there^s not the 
ghost of an idea to them at all. The whole value 
of Woldingstanton is that it steers a man 
through and among the blind alleys and sets him 
on a way out that he can follow for all the rest of 
his days; it makes him a player in a limitless 
team and one with the Creator. We are all com- 
ing bach to tahe up our jobs in that spirit, jobs 
that will all join up at last in mahing a real 
world state, a world civilization and a new order 
of things, and unless we can thinh of you, sir, 
away at Woldingstanton, worhing away to mahe 
more of us, ready to pich up the sons we shall 
send you presently — 

Mr. Huss stopped reading. 



§3 

He lay thinking idly. 

^' I was talking about blind alleys the other 
day. Queer that he should have hit on the same 
phrase. . . . 

^^ Some old sermon of mine perhaps. . . . 
No doubt I Ve had the thought before. . . . 

** I suppose that one could define education 
as the lifting of minds out of blind alleys. . V . 

^^ A permissible definition anyhow. . . . 

^^ I msh I could remember that talk better. 
I said a lot of things about submarines. I said 
something about the whole world really being 
like the crew of a submarine. . . . 

*** It's true — universally. Everyone is in a 
blind alley until we pierce a road. . . . 

^' That was a queer talk we had. ... I 
remember I wouldn 't go to bed — a kind of fever 
in the mind. ... 

^^ Then there was a dream. 

'^ I wish I could remember more of that 
dream. It was as if I could see round some 

223 



224 THE UNDYING FIRE 

metaphj^sical corner. ... I seemed to be in 
a great place — talking to God. . . . 

** But how could one have talked to God? 
• • • 

*' No. It is gone. . . . '' 

His thought reverted to the letter of young 
Burrows. 

He began to scheme out the reinstatement of 
Woldingstanton. He had an idea of rebuilding 
School House with a map corridor to join it to 
the picture gallery and the concert hall, which 
were both happily still standing. He wanted the 
maps on one side to show the growth and suc- 
cession of empires in the western world, and 
on the other to present the range of geograph- 
ical knowledge and thought at different periods 
in man's history. 

As with many great headmasters, his idle day- 
dreams were often architectural. He took out 
another of his dream toys now and played with 
it. This dream was that he could organize a 
series of ethnological exhibits showing various 
groups of primitive peoples in a triple order; 
first little models of them in their savage state, 
then displays of their arts and manufactures to 
show their distinctive gifts and aptitudes, and 
then suggestions of the part such a people might 
play as artists or guides, or beast tamers or the 



LETTERS AND A TELEGRAM 225 

like, in -a wholly civilized world. Such a collec- 
tion would be far beyond the vastest possibil- 
ities to which Woldingstanton would ever attain 
— but he loved the dream. 

The groups would stand in well-lit bays, side 
chapels, so to speak, in his museum building. 
There would be a crescent of seats and a black- 
board, for it was one of his fantasies to have a 
school so great that the classes would move 
about it, like little parties of pilgrims in a 
cathedral. . . . 

From that he drifted to a scheme for grouping 
great schools for such common purposes as the 
educational development of the cinematograph, 
a central reference library, and the like. . . . 

For one great school leads to another. 
Schools are living things, and like all living 
things they must grow and reproduce their kind 
and go on from conquest to conquest — or fall 
under the sway of the Farrs and Dads and stag- 
nate, become diseased and malignant, and 
perish. But Woldingstanton was not to perish. 
It was to spread. It was to call to its kind 
across the Atlantic and throughout the world. 
... It was to give and receive ideas, inter- 
breed, and develop. . . . 

Across the blue October sky the white clouds 
drifted, and the air was full of the hum of a 



226 THE UNDYING FIRE 

passing aeroplane. The chained dog that had 
once tortured the sick nerves of Mr. Huss now 
barked unheeded. 

** I would like to give one of the chapels of 
the races to the memory of Gilbert, ' ' whispered 
Mr. Huss. . . . 



M 

The door at the foot of his bed opened, and 
Mrs. Huss appeared. 

She had an effect of appearing suddenly, and 
yet she moved slowly into the room, clutching a 
crumpled bit of paper in her hand. Her face 
had undergone some extraordinary change; it 
was dead white, and her eyes were wide open 
and very bright. She stood stiffly. She might 
have been about to fall. She did not attempt to 
close the door behind her. 

Mrs. Croome became audible rattling her pans 
do^vnstairs. 

When Mrs. Huss spoke, it was in an almost 
noiseless whisper. '^ J oh! '^ 

He had a strange idea that Mrs. Croome must 
have given them notice to quit instantly or per- 
petrated some such brutality, a suspicion which 
his wife's gesture seemed to confirm. She was 
shaking the crumpled scrap of paper in an 
absurd manner. He frowned in a gust of im- 
patience. 

227 



228 THE UNDYING FIRE 

^ ^ I didn 't open it, ' ' she said at last, ^ * not till 
I had eaten some breakfast. I didn't dare. I 
saw it was from the bank and I thought it might 
be about the overdraft. . . . All the while. 

She was weeping. '^ All the while I was 
eating my egg. . . . ' ' 

'' Oh what is iW 

She grimaced. 

** From him,'' 

He stared. 

* * A cheque. Job — come through — from 
him. From our boy.'' 

His mouth fell open, he drew a deep breath. 
His tears came. He raised himself, and was 
reminded of his bandaged state and dropped 
back again. He held out his lean hand to 
her. 

'' He's a prisoner? " he gasped. ^^ Alive? '' 

She nodded. She seemed about to fling her- 
self violently upon his poor crumpled body. 
Her arms waved about seeking for something 
to embrace. 

Then she flopped down in the narrow space 
between bed and paper-adorned fireplace, and 
gathered the counterpane together into a lump 
with her clutching hands. ' * Oh my baby boy ! ' ' 
she wept. ' * My haby boy. . . . 



LETTERS AND A TELEGRAM 229 

** And I was so wicked about the mourning. 
... I was so wicked. . . . '^ 

Mr. Huss lay stiff, as the doctor had ordered 
him to do ; but the hand he stretched down could 
just touch and caress her hair. 



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