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Chapter II.


In the office of The Outpost Mr. Blythe had just been in conversation with one of those great business men who make such deep impression on all to whom they voice their views in strict confidence. If Sir Thomas Lockit did not precisely monopolise the control of manufacture in Great Britain, he, like others, caused almost any one to think sohis knowledge was so positive and his emphasis so cold. In his view the Country must resume the position held before the Great War. It all hinged on coala question of this seven hours a day; and they were not going to have it. A shilling, perhaps two shillings, off the cost of coal. They were not going to have Europe doing without British produce. Very few people knew Sir Thomas Lockits mind; but nearly all who did were extraordinarily gratified.

Mr. Blythe, however, was biting his finger, and spitting out the result.

Who was that fellow with the grey moustache? asked Michael.

Lockit. Hes not going to have it.

Oh! said Michael, in some surprise.

One sees more and more, Mont, that the really dangerous people are not the politicians, who want things with public passionthat is, mildly, slowly; but the big business men, who want things with private passion, strenuously, quickly. They know their own minds; and if we dont look out theyll wreck the country.

What are they up to now? said Michael.

Nothing for the moment; but its brewing. One sees in Lockit the futility of will-power. Hes not going to have what its entirely out of his power to prevent. Hed like to break Labour and make it work like a nigger from sheer necessity. Before that we shall be having civil war. Some of the Labour people, of course, are just as badthey want to break everybody. Its a bee nuisance. If were all to be plunged into industrial struggles again, how are we to get on with Foggartism?

Ive been thinking about the Country, said Michael. Arent we beating the air, Blythe? Is it any good telling a man whos lost a lung, that what he wants is a new one?

Mr. Blythe puffed out one cheek.

Yes, he said, the Country had a hundred very settled yearsWaterloo to the Warto get into its present state; its got its line of life so fixed and its habits so settled that nobodyneither editors, politicians, nor business mencan think except in terms of its bloated town industrialism. The Countrys got beyond the point of balance in that hundred settled years, and itll want fifty settled years to get back to that point again. The real trouble is that were not going to get fifty settled years. Some bee thing or otherwar with Turkey or Russia, trouble in India, civil ructions, to say nothing of another general flare-upmay knock the bottom out of any settled plans any time. Weve struck a disturbed patch of history, and we know it in our bones, and live from hand to mouth, according.

Well, then! said Michael, glumly, thinking of what the Minister had said to him at Lippinghall.

Mr. Blythe puffed out the other cheek.

No backsliding, young man! In Foggartism we have the best goods we can see before us, and we must bee well deliver them, as best we can. Weve outgrown all the old hats.

Have you seen Aubrey Greenes cartoon?

I have.

Goodisnt it? But what I realty came in to tell you, is that this beastly libel case of ours will be on next week.

Mr. Blythes ears moved.

Im sorry for that. Win or losenothings worse for public life than private ructions. Youre not going to have it, are you?

We cant help it. But our defence is to be confined to an attack on the new morality.

One cant attack what isnt, said Mr. Blythe.

Dyou mean to say, said Michael, grinning, that you havent noticed the new morality?

Certainly not. Formulate it if you can.

Dont be stupid, dont be dull.

Mr. Blythe grunted. The old morality used to be: Behave like a gentleman.

Yes! But in modern thought there aint no sich an animal.

There are fragments lying about; they reconstructed Neanderthal man from half a skull.

A word thats laughed at cant be used, Blythe.

Ah! said Mr. Blythe. The chief failings of your generation, young Mont, are sensitiveness to ridicule, and terror of being behind the times. Its bee weakminded.

Michael grinned.

I know it. Come down to the House. Parshams Electrification Bill is due. We may get some lights on Unemployment.

Having parted from Mr. Blythe in the Lobby, Michael came on his father walking down a corridor with a short bright old man in a trim grey beard.

Ah! Michael, weve been seeking you. Marquess, my hopeful son! The marquess wants to interest you in electricity.

Michael removed his hat.

Will you come to the reading-room, sir?

This, as he knew, was Marjorie Ferrars grandfather, and might be useful. In a remote corner of a room lighted so that nobody could see anyone else reading, they sat down in triangular formation.

You know about electricity, Mr. Mont? said the marquess.

No, sir, except that more of it would be desirable in this room.

Everywhere, Mr. Mont. Ive read about your Foggartism; if youll allow me to say so, its quite possibly the policy of the future; but nothing will be done with it till youve electrified the country. I should like you to start by supporting this Bill of Parshams.

And, with an engaging distinction of syllable, the old peer proceeded to darken Michaels mind.

I see, sir, said Michael, at last. This Bill ought to add considerably to Unemployment.


I wonder if I ought to take on any more temporary trouble. Im finding it difficult enough to interest people in the future as it isthey seem to think the present so important.

Sir Lawrence whinnied.

You must give him time and pamphlets, Marquess. But, my dear fellow, while your Foggartism is confined to the stable, youll want a second horse.

Ive been advised already to take up the state of the traffic or penny postage. And, by the way, sir, that case of ours is coming into Court, next week.

Sir Lawrences loose eyebrow shot up:

Oh! he said. Do you remember, Marquessyour granddaughter and my daughter-inlaw? I came to you about it.

Something to do with lions? A libel, was it? said the old peer. My aunt

While Michael was trying to decide whether this was an ejaculation or the beginning of a reminiscence, his father broke in:

Ah! yes, an interesting case that, Marquessits all in Betty Montecourts Memoirs.

Libels, resumed the marquess, had flavour in those days. The words complained of were: Her crinoline covers her considerable obliquity.

If anythings to be done to save scandal, muttered Michael, it must be done now. Were at a deadlock.

Could YOU put in a word, sir? said Sir Lawrence.

The marquesss beard quivered.

I see from the papers that my granddaughter is marrying a man called MacGown, a Member of this House. Is he about?

Probably, said Michael. But I had a row with him. I think, sir, there would be more chance with her.

The marquess rose. Ill ask her to breakfast. I dislike publicity. Well, I hope youll vote for this Bill, Mr. Mont, and think over the question of electrifying the Country. We want young men interested. Im going to the Peers Gallery, now. Good-bye!

When briskly he had gone, Michael said to his father: If hes not going to have it, I wish hed ask Fleur to breakfast too. There are two parties to this quarrel.

Chapter I. CIRCUSES | The Silver Spoon | Chapter III. SOAMES DRIVES HOME