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HOME > Classical Novels > Kangaroo > CHAP: XV. JACK SLAPS BACK
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 Chapter follows chapter, and nothing doing. But man is a thought-adventurer, and his falls into the Charybdis of , and his on the rocks of ages, and his kisses across , and his on a : surely these are as thrilling as most things.  
To be brief, there was a Harriet, a Kangaroo, a and a Jaz and a Vicky, let alone a number of Australians. But you know as well as I do that Harriet is quite happy rubbing her hair with hair-wash and brushing it over her forehead in the sun and looking at the threads of gold and gun-metal, and the few threads, , of silver and tin, with . And Kangaroo has just got a very serious brief, with thousands and thousands of pounds at stake in it. Of course he is occupied keeping them at stake, till some of them wander into his pocket. And Jack and Vicky have gone down to her father’s for the week-end, and he’s out fishing, and has already landed a rock-cod, a leather-jacket, a large schnapper, a rainbow-fish, seven black-fish, and a cuttle fish. So what’s wrong with him? While she is over on a to have a look at an old sweetheart who is much too young to be neglected. And Jaz is arguing with a man about the freight-rates. And all the Australians are just having a bet on something or other. So what’s wrong with Richard’s climbing a mental minaret or two in the ? Of course there isn’t any interim. But you know that Harriet is brushing her hair in the sun, and Kangaroo looking at huge sums of money on paper, and Jack fishing, and Vicky , and Jaz bargaining, so what more do you want to know? We can’t be at a stretch of tension all the time, like the E string on a . If you don’t like the novel, don’t read it. If the pudding doesn’t please you, leave it, leave it. I don’t mind your plate. I know too well that you can bring an to water, etc.
As for gods, thought Richard, there are gods of . “For I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God.” So true. A jealous God, and a vengeful—“Visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.” Of course. The fathers get off. You don’t begin to pay the penalty till the second and third generation. That is something for us to put in our pipes and smoke. Because we are the second generation, and it was our fathers who had a nice time among the flesh-pots, cooking themselves the tit-bits of this newly-gutted globe of ours. They cooked the tit-bits, we are left with the .
“The Lord thy God am a jealous God.”
So he is. The Lord thy God is the invisible stranger at the gate in the night, knocking. He is the mysterious life-suggestion, tapping for admission. And the Victorian Age managed to fasten the door so tight, and light up the compound so brilliantly with electric light, that really, there was no outside, it was all in. The unknown became a joke: is still a joke.
Yet there it is, outside the gate, getting angry. “Behold I stand at the gate and knock.” “Knock away,” said , humanity, which had just discovered its own monkey origin to account for its own monkey tricks. “Knock away, nobody will hinder you from knocking.”
And Holman Hunt paints a pretty picture of a man with a Stars-and-Stripes lantern and a red beard, knocking. But whoever it is that’s knocking had been knocking for three generations now, and he’s got sick of it. He’ll be kicking the door in just now.
“For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God.”
It is not that He is jealous of Thor or Zeus or Bacchus or Venus. The great dark God outside the gate is all these gods. You open the gate, and sometimes in rushes Thor and gives you a bang on the head with a hammer; or Bacchus comes mysteriously through, and your mind goes dark and your knees and begin to glow; or it is Venus, and you close your eyes and open your to a perfume, like a bull. All the gods. When they come through the gate they are personified. But outside the gate it is one dark God, the Unknown. And the Unknown is a terribly jealous God, and vengeful. A fearfully vengeful god: Moloch, Astarte, Ashtaroth, and Baal. That is why we dare not open now. It would be a hell-god, and we know it. We are the second generation. Our children are the third. And our children’s children are the fourth. Eheu! Eheu! Who knocks?
Jack over to Coo-ee on the Sunday afternoon, when he was staying with his wife’s people. He knew Richard and Harriet would most probably be at home: they didn’t like going out on Sundays, when all the world and his wife, in their exceedingly Sunday clothes, on the face of the earth.
Yes, they were at home: sitting on the verandah, a bit of rain spitting from the grey sky, and the sea gone colourless and small. Suddenly, there stood Jack. He had come round the corner on to the grass. Somers started as if an enemy were upon him. Jack looked very tall and wiry, in an old grey suit. He hesitated before coming forward, as if measuring the pair of unsuspecting turtle doves on the loggia, and on his face was a faint grin. His eyes were dark and grinning too, as he hung back there. Somers watched him quickly. Harriet looked over her shoulder.
“Oh, Mr Callcott—why—how do you do?” And she got up, startled, and went across the loggia holding out her hand, to shake hands. So Jack had to come forward. Richard, very silent, shook hands also, and went indoors to fetch a chair and a cup and a plate, while Jack made his explanation to Harriet. He was quite friendly with her.
“Such a long time since we saw you,” she was saying. “Why didn’t Mrs Callcott come, I should have liked so much to see her?”
“Ah—you see I came over on the pony. Doesn’t look very weather.” And he looked away across the sea, his face.
“No—and the terrible cold winds! I’m so glad if it will rain. I simply love the smell of rain in the air: especially here in Australia. It makes the air seem so much kinder, not so dry and savage—”
“Ah—yes—it does,” he said , still averting his face from her. He seemed strange to her. And his face looked different—as if he had been drinking, or as if he had indigestion.
The two men were like two strange tom-cats.
“Were you disgusted with Lovat when he didn’t turn up the other Saturday?” said Harriet. “I do hope you weren’t sitting waiting for him.”
“Well—er—yes, we did wait up a while for him.”
“Oh, but what a shame! But you know by now he’s the most undependable creature on earth. I wish you’d be angry with him. It’s no good what I say.”
“No,” said he—the slow Cockney no—“I’m not angry with him.”
“But you should be,” cried Harriet. “It would be good for him.”
“Would it?” smiled Jack. His eyes were dark and , and there seemed a devil in his long, wiry body. He did not look at Somers.
“You know of course what happened?” said Harriet.
“When Lovat went to see Mr Cooley.”
Again that peculiar Australian no, like a that stings with its tail.
“Didn’t Mr Cooley tell you?” cried Harriet.
“No.” There was indescribable in the monosyllable.
“Didn’t he—!” cried Harriet, and she hesitated.
“You be quiet,” said Lovat crossly, to her. “Of course you’d have to rush in.”
“You think angels would fear to tread in such a delicate mess?” said Harriet, with a flash of mocking wit that sent a faint smile up Jack’s face, like a red flame. His nose, his mouth were reddened. He liked Harriet’s attacks. He looked at her with dark, eyes. Then he turned vaguely to Somers.
“What was it?” he asked.
“Nothing at all new,” said Somers. “You know he and I start to quarrel the moment we set eyes on one another.”
“They might be man and wife,” mocked Harriet, and again Jack turned to her a look of black, smiling, recognition.
“Another quarrel?” he said quietly.
But Somers was almost sure he knew all about it, and had only come like a spy to take soundings.
“Another quarrel,” he replied, smiling, fencing. “And once more shown the door.”
“I should think,” said Harriet, “you’d soon know that door when you see it.”
“Oh, yes,” said Richard. He had not told her the worst of the encounter. He never told her the worst, nor her nor anybody.
Jack was looking from one to the other to see how much each knew.
“Was it a bad blow-up?” he said, in his quiet voice, that had a tone of in it.
“Oh, yes, final,” laughed Richard. “I am even going to leave Australia.”
“I think in six weeks.”
There was a silence for some moments.
“You’ve not booked your yet?” asked Jack.
“No. I must go up to Sydney.”
Again Jack waited before he . Then he said:
“What’s made you settle on going?”
“I don’t know. I feel it’s my fate to go now.”
“Ha, your fate!” said Harriet. “It’s always your fate with you. If it was me it would be my foolish restlessness.”
Jack looked at her with another quick smile, and a curious glance of dark recognition in his eyes, almost like a . Strangely apart, too, as if he and she were in an inner dark circle, and Somers was away outside.
“Don’t you want to go, Mrs Somers?” he asked.
“Of course I don’t. I love Australia,” she protested.
“Then don’t you go,” said Jack. “You stop behind.”
When he lowered his voice it took on a faint, indescribable huskiness. It made Harriet a little uneasy. She watched Lovat. She did not like Jack’s new turn of husky . She wanted Richard to rescue her.
“Ha!” she said. “He’d never be able to get through the world without me.”
“Does it matter?” said Jack, grinning faintly at her and keeping the husky note in his voice. “He knows his own mind—or his fate. You stop here. We’ll look after you.”
But she watched Richard. He was hardly listening. He was thinking again that Jack was feeling towards him, wanting to destroy him, as in those early days when they used to play chess together.
“No,” said Harriet, watching Lovat’s face. “I suppose I shall have to trail myself along, poor woman, till I see the end of him.”
“He’ll lead you many a dance before that happens,” grinned Richard. He rather enjoyed Jack’s this time.
“Ha, you’ve led me all your dances that you know,” she retorted. “I know there’ll be nothing new, unfortunately.”
“Why don’t you stay in Australia?” Jack said to her, with the same quiet, husky note of intimacy, , and the reddish light on his face.
She was somewhat startled and offended. Wasn’t the man sober, or what?
“Oh, he wouldn’t give me any money, and I haven’t a sou of my own,” she said lightly, laughing it off.
“You wouldn’t be short of money,” said Jack. “Plenty of money.”
“You see I couldn’t just live on charity, could I?” she rep............
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