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HOME > Classical Novels > Kangaroo > CHAP: XVII. KANGAROO IS KILLED
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“Dear Lovat, also Mrs Lovat: I don’t think it is very nice of you that you don’t even call with a or a tube-rose, when you know I am so . Yours, Kangaroo.
P.S.—Bullets in my .”
Of course Richard went up at once: and Harriet sent a little box with all the different strange shells from the beach. They are curious and interesting for a sick man.
Somers found Kangaroo in bed, very yellow, and thin, almost lantern-jawed, with haunted, frightened eyes. The room had many flowers, and was perfumed with eau-de-cologne, but through the perfume came an unpleasant, discernable stench. The nurse had asked Richard, please to be very quiet.
Kangaroo put out a thin yellow hand. His black hair came wispily, pathetically over his forehead. But he said, with a faint, husky :
“Hello! Come at last,” and he took Somers’ hand in a damp clasp.
“I didn’t know whether you could see visitors,” said Richard.
“I can’t. Sit down. Behave yourself.”
Somers sat down, only anxious to behave himself.
“Harriet sent you such a silly present,” he said. “Just shells we have picked up from the shore. She thought you might like to play with them on the counterpane—”
“Like that Coventry Patmore poem. Let me look.”
The sick man took the little Sorrento box with its inlaid design of sirens and peered in at the shells.
“I can smell the sea in them,” he said .
And very slowly he began to look at the shells, one by one. There were black ones like buds of coal, and black ones with a white spiral thread, and funny knobbly black and white ones, and tiny purple ones, and a bright sea-orange, semi-transparent clamp shell, and little pink ones with long, sharp points, and glass ones, and lovely pearly ones, and then those that Richard had put in, worn shells like sea-ivory, marvellous substance, with all the structure showing; spirals like fairy stair-cases, and long, pure phallic pieces that were the centres of big shells, from which the whorl was all washed away: also curious flat, oval discs, with a lovely whorl traced on them, and an eye in the centre. Richard liked these especially.
Kangaroo looked at them , one by one, as if they were bits of uninteresting printed paper.
“Here, take them away,” he said, pushing the box aside. And his face had a faint spot of pink in the cheeks.
“They may amuse you some time when you are alone,” said Richard, apologetically.
“They make me know I have never been born,” said Kangaroo, huskily.
Richard was startled, and he didn’t know what to answer. So he sat still, and Kangaroo lay still, staring blankly in front of him. Somers could not detach his mind from the slight, yet sickening smell.
“My leak,” said Kangaroo, bitterly, as if divining the other’s thought.
“But they will get better,” said Richard.
The sick man did not answer, and Somers just sat still.
“Have you forgiven me?” asked Kangaroo, looking at Somers.
“There was nothing to forgive,” said Richard, his face grave and still.
“I knew you hadn’t,” said Kangaroo. Richard knitted his brows. He looked at the long, yellow face. It was so strange and so frightening to him.
“You bark at me as if I were Little Red Riding-hood,” he said, smiling. Kangaroo turned dark, inscrutable eyes on him.
“Help me!” he said, almost in a whisper. “Help me.”
“Yes,” said Richard.
Kangaroo held out his hand: and Richard took it. But not without a slight sense of . Then he listened to the faint, far-off noises of the town, and looked at the beautiful flowers in the room: violets, , tuberoses, delicate yellow and red roses, iceland poppies, orange like transmitted light, lilies. It was like a tomb, like a mortuary, all the flowers, and that other faint, sickening odour.
“I am not wrong, you know,” said Kangaroo.
“No one says you are,” laughed Richard gently.
“I am not wrong. Love is still the greatest.” His voice sank in its huskiness to a low . Richard’s heart stood still. Kangaroo lay quite motionless, but with some of the changeless pride which had lent him beauty, at times, when he was himself. The Lamb of God grown into a sheep. Yes, the nobility.
“You heard Willie Struthers’ speech?” said Kangaroo, his face changing as he looked up at Somers.
“It seemed to me logical,” said Richard, not knowing how to answer.
“Logical!” Even Kangaroo with surprise. “You and !”
“You see,” said Richard very gently, “the educated world has preached the divinity of work at the lower classes. They broke them in, like draught-horses, put them all in the collar and set them all between the . There they are, all broken in, workers. They are conscious of nothing save that they are workers. They accept the fact that nothing is divine but work: work being service, and service being love. The highest is work. Very well then, accept the conclusion if you accept the . The working classes are the highest, it is for them to inherit the earth. You can’t deny that, if you assert the sacredness of work.”
He quietly, gently. But he spoke because he felt it was kinder, even to the sick man, than to avoid discussion altogether.
“But I don’t believe in the sacredness of work, Lovat,” said Kangaroo.
“No, but they believe it themselves. And it follows from the sacredness of love.”
“I want them to be men, men, men—not at a job.” The voice was weak now, and took queer, high notes.
“Yes, I know. But men inspired by love. And love has only service as its means of expression.”
“How do you know? You never love,” said Kangaroo in a faint, sharp voice. “The joy of love is in being with the beloved—as near as you can get—‘And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me.’—For life, for life’s sake, Lovat, not for work. Lift them up, that they may live.”
Richard was silent. He knew it was no good arguing.
“Do you think it can’t be done?” asked Kangaroo, his voice growing fuller. “I hope I may live to show you. The working men have not realised yet what love is. The perfect love that men may have for one another, passing the love of women. Oh, Lovat, they still have that to experience. Don’t harden your heart. Don’t your neck before your old Jewish Kangaroo. You know it is true. Perfect love casteth out fear, Lovat. Teach a man how to love his mate, with a pure and fearless love. Oh, Lovat, think what can be done that way!”
Somers was very pale, his face set.
“Say you believe me. Say you believe me. And let us bring it to pass together. If I have you with me I know we can do it. If you had been with me this would never have happened to me.”
His face changed again as if touched with acid at the thought. Somers sat still, remote. He was , but it made him feel more remote.
“What class do you feel that you belong to, as far as you belong to any class?” asked Kangaroo, his eyes on Richard’s face.
“I don’t feel I belong to any class. But as far as I do belong—it is to the working classes. I know that. I can’t change.”
Kangaroo watched him eagerly.
“I wish I did,” he said, eagerly. Then, after a pause, he added: “They have never known the full beauty of love, the working classes. They have never admitted it. Work, bread has always stood first. But we can take away that obstacle. Teach them the beauty of love between men, Richard, teach them the highest—greater love than this hath no man—teach them how to love their own mate, and you will solve the problem of work for ever. Richard, this is true, you know it is true. How beautiful it would be! How beautiful it would be! It would complete the perfect circle—”
His voice faded down into a whisper, so that Somers seemed to hear it from far off. And it seemed like some far off voice of annunciation. Yet Richard’s face was hard and clear and sea-bitter as one of the worn shells he had brought.
“The faithful, fearless love of man for man,” whispered Kangaroo, as he lay with his dark eyes on Richard’s face, and the wisp of hair on his forehead. Beautiful, he was beautiful again, like a transfiguration.
“We’ve got to save the People, we’ve got to do it. And when shall we begin, friend, when shall we begin, you and I?” he repeated in a sudden full voice. “Only when we dare to lead them, Lovat,” he added in a . “The love of man for wife and children, the love of man for man, so that each would lay down his life for the other, then the love of man for beauty, for truth, for the Right. Isn’t that so? Destroy no love. Only open the field for further love.”
He lay still for some moments after this speech, that ended in a whisper almost. Then he looked with a wonderful smile at Somers, without saying a word, only smiling from his eyes, strangely, wonderfully. But Richard was scared.
“Isn’t that all honest injun, Lovat?” he whispered playfully.
“I believe it is,” said Richard, though with unchanging face. His eyes, however, were and .
“Of course you do. Of course you do,” said Kangaroo softly. “But you are the most little devil and child that ever opposed a wise man like me. For example, don’t you love me in your heart of hearts, only you daren’t admit it? I know you do. I know you do. But admit it, man, admit it, and the world will be a bigger place to you. You are afraid of love.”
Richard was more and more tormented in himself.
“In a way, I love you, Kangaroo,” he said. “Our souls are alike somewhere. But it is true I don’t want to love you.”
And he looked in at the other man.
Kangaroo gave a real little laugh.
“Was ever woman so coy and hard to please!” he said, in a warm, soft voice. “Why don’t you want to love me, you stiff-necked and uncircumcised ? Don’t you want to love Harriet, for example?”
“No, I don’t want to love anybody. Truly. It simply makes me and murderous to have to feel loving any more.”
“Then why did you come to me this morning?”
The question was . Richard was baffled.
“In a way,” he said , “because I love you. But love makes me feel I should die.”
“It is your refusal of it,” said Kangaroo, a little wearily. “Put your hand on my throat, it aches a little.”
He took Richard’s hand and laid it over his warm, damp, sick throat, there the pulse beat so heavy and sick, and the Adam’s apple stood out hard.
“You must be still now,” said Lovat, gentle like a physician.
“Don’t let me die!” murmured Kangaroo, almost inaudible, looking into Richard’s muted face. The white, silent face did not change, only the blue-grey eyes were abstract with thought. He did not answer. And even Kangaroo dared not ask for an answer.
At last he let go Richard’s hand from his throat. Richard withdrew it, and wanted to wipe it on his handkerchief. But he refrained, knowing the sick man would notice. He pressed it very secretly, quietly, under his , to wipe it on his trousers.
“You are tired now,” he said softly.
“I will tell the nurse to come?”
“Good-bye—be better,” said Richard sadly, the man’s cheek with his finger-tips slightly. Kangaroo opened his eyes with a smile that was dark as death. “Come again,” he whispered, closing his eyes once more. Richard went blindly to the door. The nurse was there waiting.
Poor Richard, he went away almost blinded with stress and grief and bewilderment. Was it true what Kangaroo had said? Was it true? Did he, Richard, love Kangaroo? Did he love Kangaroo, and deny it? And was the denial just a piece of fear? Was it just fear that made him hold back from admitting his love for the other man?
Fear? Yes, it was fear. But then, did he not believe also in the God of fear? There was not only one God. There was not only the God of love. To insist that there is only one God, and that God the source of Love, is perhaps as fatal as the complete denial of God, and of all mystery. He believed in the God of fear, of darkness, of passion, and of silence, the God that made a man realise his own sacred aloneness. If Kangaroo could have realised that too then Richard felt he would have loved him, in a dark, separate, other way of love. But never this all-in-all thing.
As for politics, there was so little to choose, and choice meant nothing. Kangaroo and Struthers were both right, both of them. Lords or doctors or Jewish financiers should not have more money than a simple working man, just because they were lords and doctors and financiers. If service was the all in all it was absolutely wrong. And Willie Struthers was right.
The same with Kangaroo. If love was the all in all then the great range of love was complete as he put it: a man’s love for wife and children, his sheer, confessed love for his friend, his mate, and his love for beauty and truth. Whether love was all in all or not this was the great, wonderful range of love, and love was not complete short of the whole.
But—but something else was true at the same time. Man’s was always a truth and fact, not to be forsworn. And the mystery of apartness. And the greater mystery of the dark God beyond a man, the God that gives a man passion, and the dark, unexplained blood-tenderness that is deeper than love, but so much more obscure, , and the brave, silent blood-pride, knowing his own separateness, and the sword-strength of his derivation from the dark God. This dark, religiousness and inward sense of an indwelling magnificence, direct flow from the unknowable God, this filled Richard’s heart first, and human love seemed such a fighting for candle-light, when the dark is so much better. To meet another dark worshipper, that would be the best of human meetings. But strain himself into a feeling of absolute human love, he just couldn’t do it.
Man’s ultimate love for man? Yes, yes, but only in the separate darkness of man’s love for the present, unknowable God. Human love, as a god-act, very well. Human love as a ritual offering to the God who is out of the light, well and good. But human love as an all-in-all, ah, no, the strain and the unreality of it were too great.
He thought of , and the strange, unforgettable up-tilted grin on Jack’s face as he spoke of the satisfaction of . This was true, too. As true as love and loving. , Jack was a in the name of Love. That also has come to pass again.
“It is the of the love-ideal,” said Richard to himself. “I suppose it means and . Then there will have to be chaos and anarchy: in the name of love and equality. The only thing one can stick to is one’s own being, and the God in whom it is rooted. And the only thing to look to is the God who fulfils one from the dark. And the only thing to wait for is for men to find their aloneness and their God in the darkness. Then one can meet as worshippers, in a sacred contact in the dark.”
Which being so, he proceeded, as ever, to try to disentangle himself from the white of love. Not that even now he dared quite deny love. Love is perhaps an eternal part of life. But it is only a part. And when it is treated as if it were a whole, it becomes a disease, a vast white strangling octopus. All things are relative, and have their sacredness in their true relation to all other things. And he felt the light of love dying out in his eyes, in his heart, in his soul, and a great, healing darkness taking its place, with a sweetness of aloneness, and a stirring of dark blood-tenderness, and a strange, soft iron of ruthlessness.
He fled away to be by himself as much as he could. His great relief was the shore. Sometimes the dull exploding of the waves was too much for him, like hammer-strokes on the head. He tried to flee inland. But the shore was his great , for all that. The huge white rollers of the Pacific breaking in a white, soft, snow-rushing wall, while the thin spume flew back to sea like a combed mane, combed back by the strong, cold land-wind.
The thud, the pulse of the waves: that was his nearest of emotion. The other emotions seemed to abandon him. So suddenly, and so completely, to abandon him. So it was when he got back from Sydney and, in the night of moonlight, went down the low cliff to the sand. Immediately the great rhythm and ringing of the breakers every other feeling in his breast, and his soul was a moonlit hollow with the waves striding home. Nothing else.
And in the morning the yellow sea faintly crinkled by the inrushing wind from the land, and long, straight lines on the lacquered meadow, long, straight lines that reared at last in green glass, then broke in snow, and slushed softly up the sand. Sometimes the black, of a shark. The water was very clear, very green, like bright green glass. Another big fish with humpy sort of sticking up, and horror, in the green water a big red mouth wide open. One day the fins of dolphins near, near, it seemed almost over the sea edge. And then, suddenly, oh wonder, they were caught up in the green wall of the rising water, and there for a second they hung in the , bright green of the wave, five big dark dolphins, a little crowd, with their sharp fins and blunt heads, a little sea-crowd in the thin, upreared sea. They flashed with a sharp black motion as the great wave curled to break. They flashed in-sea, flashed from the horror of the land. And there they were, black little school, away in the lacquered water, panting, Richard imagined, with the excitement of the escape. Then one of the bold came back to try again, and he jumped clean out of the water, above a wave, and kicked his heels as he dived in again.
The sea-birds were always wheeling: big, dark-backed birds like mollyhawks and albatrosses with a great spread of wings: and the white gleaming gannets, silvery as fish in the air. In they went, suddenly, like bombs into the wave, spitting back the water. Then they slipped out again, slipped out of the ocean with a sort of sly exultance.
And ships walked on the wall- of the sea, shedding black smoke. A vast, hard, high sea, with tiny clouds like islets away far, far back, beyond the edge.
So Richard knew it, as he sat and worked on the verandah or sat at table in the room and watched through the open door. But it was usually in the afternoons he went down to it.
It was his afternoon occupation to go down to the sea’s edge and wander slowly on the firm sand just at the -edge. Sometimes the great waves were turning like mill-wheels white all down the shore. Sometimes they were smaller, more confused, as the current shifted. Sometimes his eyes would be on the sand, watching the , the big bladder-weed thrown up, the little sponges like short clubs rolling in the wind, and once, only, those fairy blue wind-bags like bags of rainbow with long blue .
He knew all the places where the different shells were found, the white shells and the black and the red, the big rainbow and the innumerable little black that lived on the flat rocks in the little pools. Flat rocks ran out near the coal jetty, and between them little of black, round, crunchy coal-: sea-coal. Sometimes there would be a couple of lazy, beach-combing men picking the biggest pebbles and putting them into sacks.
On the flat rocks were pools of clear water, that many a time he stepped into, because it was invisible. The coloured pebbles shone, the red pursed themselves up. There were stumpy little fish that swift as lightning—grey, with dark stripes. An said they were called . “Yer can’t eat ’em. Kill yer if y’ do. Yer c’nt eat black fish. See me catch one o’ these toads!” All this in a high voice above the waves. Richard admired the elfish self-possession of the urchin, alone on the great shore all day, like a little wild creature himself. But so the boys were: such wonderful little self- creatures. It was as if nobody was responsible for them, so they learned to be responsible for themselves, like young elf creatures, as soon as they were hatched. They liked Richard, and patronised him in a friendly, half-shy way. But it was they who were the responsible party, the grown-up they treated with a gentle, slightly off-handed indulgence. It always amused friend Richard to see these Australian children bearing the responsibility of their parents. “He’s only a poor old Dad, you know. Young fellow like me’s got to keep an eye on him, see he’s all right.” That seemed to be the tone of the of ten and eleven. They were charming: much nicer than the older youths, or the men.
The jetty straddled its huge grey timbers, like a great bridge, across the sands and the flat rocks. Under the bridge it was rather dark, between the great trunk-timbers. But here Richard found the best of the flat, oval disc-shells with the whorl and the blue eye. By the bank hung curtains of yellowish creeper, and a big, crimson-pink convolvulus flowered in odd tones. An aloe sent up its tall , and died at its base. A little bare headland came out, and the flat rocks ran out dark to sea, where the white waves prowled on three sides.
Richard would drift out this way, right into the sea, on a sunny afternoon. On the flat rocks, all pocketed with pools, the sea-birds would sit with their backs to him, . Only an uneasy black bird with a long neck, among the , would his neck as the man approached. The gulls ran a few steps, and forgot him. They were mostly real gulls, big and pure as grey pearl, and still, with a mâte gleam, like eggs of the foam in the sun on the rocks. Slowly Richard strayed nearer. There were little browner birds , and further, one big, dark-backed bird. There they all remained, like whitish bubbles on the dark, flat, wet-rock, in the sun, in the sea sleep. The black bird rose like a duck, flying with its neck outstretched, more timid than the rest. But it came back. Richard drew nearer and nearer, within six yards of the sea-things. Beyond, the everlasting low white wall of foam, to the flat-rock. Only the sea.
The black creature rose again, showing the white at his side, and flying with a stretched-out neck, frightened-looking, like a duck. His mate rose too. And then all the gulls, flying low in a sort of protest over the foam-tips. Richard had it all to himself—the ever-unfurling water, the ragged, flat, square-holed rocks, the sands inland, the soft sand-bank, the flat grass where wandered, the low, red-painted squatting under coral trees, the of tall wire-thin trees holding their in tufts at the tips, the stalky cabbage-palms beyond in the hollow, clustering, low, whitish roofs of bungalows, at the edge of the dark trees—then the trees in darkness up to the wall of the tors, that ran a waving skyline southwards. , low, -looking bungalows with whitish roofs and scattered dark trees among. A of smoke beyond, out of the scarp front of trees. Near the sky, dark, old, rocks. Then again all the yellowish fore-front of the sea, y............
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