I can understand the botanist this afternoon; for once we are in the same key. My own mental temper has gone for the day, and I know what it means to be untempered. Here is a world and a glorious world, and it is for me to take hold of it, to have to do with it, here and now, and behold! I can only think that I am burnt and scarred, and there rankles that wretched piece of business, the mean unimaginative triumph of my antagonist―
I wonder how many men have any real freedom of mind, are, in truth, unhampered by such associations, to whom all that is great and noble in life does not, at times at least, if not always, seem secondary to obscure rivalries and considerations, to the petty hates that are like germs in the blood, to the lust for self-assertion, to dwarfish pride, to affections they gave in pledge even before they were men.
The botanist beside me dreams, I know, of vindications for that woman.
All this world before us, and its order and liberty, are no more than a painted scene before which he is to meet Her at last, freed from “that scoundrel.”
He expects “that scoundrel” really to be present and, as it were, writhing under their feet… .
I wonder if that man was a scoundrel. He has gone wrong on earth, no doubt, has failed and degenerated, but what was it sent him wrong? Was his failure inherent, or did some net of cross purposes tangle about his feet? Suppose he is not a failure in Utopia!…
I wonder that this has never entered the botanist's head.
He, with his vaguer mind, can overlook—spite of my ruthless reminders—all that would mar his vague anticipations. That, too, if I suggested it, he would overcome and disregard. He has the most amazing power of resistance to uncongenial ideas; amazing that is, to me. He hates the idea of meeting his double, and consequently so soon as I cease to speak of that, with scarcely an effort of his will, it fades again from his mind.
Down below in the gardens two children pursue one another, and one, near caught, screams aloud and rouses me from my reverie.
I follow their little butterfly antics until they vanish beyond a thicket of flowering rhododendra, and then my eyes go back to the great façade of the University buildings.
But I am in no mood to criticise architecture.
Why should a modern Utopia insist upon slipping out of the hands of its creator and becoming the background of a personal drama—of such a silly little drama?
The botanist will not see Utopia in any other way. He tests it entirely by its reaction upon the individual persons and things he knows; he dislikes it because he suspects it of wanting to lethal chamber his aunt's “dear old doggie,” and now he is reconciled to it because a certain “Mary” looks much younger and better here than she did on earth. And here am I, near fallen into the same way of dealing!
We agreed to purge this State and all the people in it of traditions, associations, bias, laws, and artificial entanglements, and begin anew; but we have no power to liberate ourselves. Our past, even its accidents, its accidents above all, and ourselves, are one.