A Modern Utopia

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Women in a modern utopia 1.

But though I have come to a point where the problem of a Utopia has resolved itself very simply into the problem of government and direction, I find I have not brought the botanist with me. Frankly he cannot think so steadily onward as I can. I feel to think, he thinks to feel. It is I and my kind that have the wider range, because we can be impersonal as well as personal. We can escape ourselves. In general terms, at least, I understand him, but he does not understand me in any way at all. He thinks me an incomprehensible brute because his obsession is merely one of my incidental interests, and wherever my reasoning ceases to be explicit and full, the slightest ellipsis, the most transitory digression, he evades me and is back at himself again. He may have a personal liking for me, though I doubt it, but also he hates me pretty distinctly, because of this bias he cannot understand. My philosophical insistence that things shall be reasonable and hang together, that what can be explained shall be explained, and that what can be done by calculation and certain methods shall not be left to chance, he loathes. He just wants adventurously to feel. He wants to feel the sunset, and he thinks that on the whole he would feel it better if he had not been taught the sun was about ninety-two million miles away. He wants to feel free and strong, and he would rather feel so than be so. He does not want to accomplish great things, but to have dazzling things occur to him. He does not know that there are feelings also up in the clear air of the philosophic mountains, in the long ascents of effort and design. He does not know that thought itself is only a finer sort of feeling than his—good hock to the mixed gin, porter and treacle of his emotions, a perception of similitudes and oppositions that carries even thrills. And naturally he broods on the source of all his most copious feelings and emotions, women, and particularly upon the woman who has most made him feel. He forces me also to that.

Our position is unfortunate for me. Our return to the Utopian equivalent of Lucerne revives in him all the melancholy distresses that so preoccupied him when first we were transferred to this better planet. One day, while we are still waiting there for the public office to decide about us, he broaches the matter. It is early evening, and we are walking beside the lake after our simple dinner. “About here,” he says, “the quays would run and all those big hotels would be along here, looking out on the lake. It's so strange to have seen them so recently, and now not to see them at all… . Where have they gone?”

“Vanished by hypothesis.”

“What?”

“Oh! They're there still. It's we that have come hither.”

“Of course. I forgot. But still― You know, there was an avenue of little trees along this quay with seats, and she was sitting looking out upon the lake… . I hadn't seen her for ten years.”

He looks about him still a little perplexed. “Now we are here,” he says, “it seems as though that meeting and the talk we had must have been a dream.”

He falls musing.

Presently he says: “I knew her at once. I saw her in profile. But, you know, I didn't speak to her directly. I walked past her seat and on for a little way, trying to control myself… . Then I turned back and sat down beside her, very quietly. She looked up at me. Everything came back—everything. For a moment or so I felt I was going to cry… .”

That seems to give him a sort of satisfaction even in the reminiscence.

“We talked for a time just like casual acquaintances—about the view and the weather, and things like that.”

He muses again.

“In Utopia everything would have been different,” I say.

“I suppose it would.”

He goes on before I can say anything more.

“Then, you know, there was a pause. I had a sort of intuition that the moment was coming. So I think had she. You may scoff, of course, at these intuitions―”

I don't, as a matter of fact. Instead, I swear secretly. Always this sort of man keeps up the pretence of highly distinguished and remarkable mental processes, whereas—have not I, in my own composition, the whole diapason of emotional fool? Is not the suppression of these notes my perpetual effort, my undying despair? And then, am I to be accused of poverty?

But to his story.

“She said, quite abruptly, ‘I am not happy,’ and I told her, ‘I knew that the instant I saw you.’ Then, you know, she began to talk to me very quietly, very frankly, about everything. It was only afterwards I began to feel just what it meant, her talking to me like that.”

I cannot listen to this!

“Don't you understand,” I cry, “that we are in Utopia. She may be bound unhappily upon earth and you may be bound, but not here. Here I think it will be different. Here the laws that control all these things will be humane and just. So that all you said and did, over there, does not signify here—does not signify here!”

He looks up for a moment at my face, and then carelessly at my wonderful new world.

“Yes,” he says, without interest, with something of the tone of an abstracted elder speaking to a child, “I dare say it will be all very fine here.” And he lapses, thwarted from his confidences, into musing.

There is something almost dignified in this withdrawal into himself. For a moment I entertain an illusion that really I am unworthy to hear the impalpable inconclusiveness of what he said to her and of what she said to him.

I am snubbed. I am also amazed to find myself snubbed. I become breathless with indignation. We walk along side by side, but now profoundly estranged.

I regard the façade of the Utopian public offices of Lucerne—I had meant to call his attention to some of the architectural features of these—with a changed eye, with all the spirit gone out of my vision. I wish I had never brought this introspective carcass, this mental ingrate, with me.

I incline to fatalistic submission. I suppose I had no power to leave him behind… . I wonder and I wonder. The old Utopists never had to encumber themselves with this sort of man.

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