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Chapter XII

Love and Lust

THE picnic party had moved on while they talked, but a multitude of sitters and walkers were now everywhere, particularly as they climbed the slope to the level. There the Sunday afternoon meetings were in full swing.

On platforms of varying construction, mostly humble, the champions of multitudinous creeds and opinions were holding forth to audiences which did not always greet their utterances approvingly. They stood for a while near a vigorous iconoclast, who from the top of a kitchen chair laid down the Law of the Universe as revealed by one Clifford, overwhelming with contumely a Solitary opponent in the crowd who was foolish enough to attempt to raise an argument on the subject of “atoms.” Near at hand, a wild-eyed religionary was trying to persuade a limited and drifting audience that a special dispensation had enabled him to foretell exactly the date of the Second Coming of Christ. Then came the Single Tax platform, a camp-stool with a board on it, wherefrom a slender lad, dark-eyed and good-looking, held forth, with a flow of language and a power of expression that was remarkable, upon the effectiveness of a land tax as a remedy for all social ills.

Ned had never seen such a mass of men with such variegated shades of thought assembled together before. There was a well-dressed bald-headed individual laying down the axioms of that very Socialism of which Geisner and he had been talking. There was an ascetic looking man just delivering a popular hymn, which he sang with the assistance of a few gathered round, as the conclusion of open-air church. There was the Anarchist he had seen at Paddy's Market, fervidly declaring that all government is wrong and that men are slaves and curs for enduring it and tyrants for taking part in it. There was the inevitable temperance orator, the rival touters for free trade and protection, and half-a-dozen others with an opinion to air. They harangued and shouted there amid the trees, on the grass, in the brilliant

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afternoon sunshine that already threw long shadows over the swaying, moving thousands.

It was a great crowd, a good many thousands altogether, men and women and children and lads. It was dressed in its Sunday best, in attire which fluctuated from bright tints of glaring newness to the dullness of well-brushed and obtrusive shabbiness. There were every-looking men you could think of and women and girls, young and old, pretty and plain and repulsive. But it was a working-people crowd. There was no room among it for the idlers. Probably it was not fashionable for them to be there.

And there was this about the crowd, which impressed Ned, everybody seemed dissatisfied, everybody was seeking for a new idea, for something fresh. There was no confidence in the Old, no content with what existed, no common faith in what was to come. There was on many a face the same misery that he had seen in Paddy's Market. There was no happiness, no face free from care, excepting where lovers passed arm-in-arm. There was the clash of ideas, the struggling of opinions, the blind leading the blind. He saw the socialistic orator contending with a dozen others. Who were the nostrum vendors? Which was the truth?

He turned round, agitated in thought, and his glance fell on Geisner, who was standing with bent head, his hands behind him, ugly, impassive. Geisner looked up quickly: “So you are doubting already,” he remarked.

“I am not doubting,” answered Ned. “I'm only thinking.”


“It is a good thought, that Socialism,” answered Ned slowly, as they walked on. “There's nothing in it that doesn't seem fit for men to do. It's a part with Nellie kissing that woman in the wet. What tries to make us care for each other and prevent harm being done to one another can't be very far wrong and what tries to break down the state of affairs that is must be a little right. I don't care, either, whether it's right or wrong. It feels right in my heart somehow and I'll stand by it if I'm the only man left in the world to talk up for it.”

Geisner linked his arm in Ned's.

“Remember this when you are sorrowful,” he said. “It is only through Pain that Good comes. It is only because the world suffers that Socialism is possible. It is only as we conquer our own weaknesses that we can serve the Cause.”

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They strolled on till they came to the terraced steps of the Gardens. Before them stretched in all its wondrous glory the matchless panorama of grove and garden, hill-closed sea and villa'd shore, the blue sky and the declining sun tipping with. gold and silver the dark masses of an inland cloud.

“What is Life that we should covet it?” said Geisner, halting there. “What is Death that we should fear it so? What has the world to offer that we should swerve to the right hand or the left from the path our innermost soul approves? In the whole world, there is no lovelier spot than this, no purer joy than to stand here and look. Yet, it seems to me, Paradise like this would be bought dearly by one single thought unworthy of oneself.”

“We are here to-day,” he went on, musingly. “To-morrow we are called dead. The next day men are here who never heard our names. The most famous will be forgotten even while Sydney Harbour seems unchanged. And Sydney Harbour is changing and passing, and the continent is changing and passing, and the world is changing and passing, and the whole universe is changing and passing.

“It is all change, universal change. Our religions, our civilisations, our ideas, our laws, change as do the nebulæ and the shifting continents we build on. Yet through all changes a thread of continuity runs. It is all changing and no ending. Always Law and always, so far as we can see, what we call progression. A man is a fool who cares for his life. He is the true madman who wastes his years in vain and selfish ambition.

“Listen, Ned,” he pursued, turning round. “There, ages ago, millions and millions of years ago, in the warm waters yonder, what we call Life on this earth began. Minute specks of Life appeared, born of the sunshine and the waters some say, coming in the fitness of Time from the All-Life others. And those specks of Life have changed and passed, and come and gone, unending, reproducing after their kind in modes and ways that changed and passed and still are as all things change and pass and are. And from them you and I and all the forms of Life that breathe to-day have ascended. We struggled up, obedient to the Law around us and we still struggle. That is the Past, or part of it. What is the Future, as yet no man knows. We do more than know—we feel and dream, and struggle on to our dreaming. And Life itself to the dreamer is as nothing only the struggling on.

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“And this has raised us, Ned, this has made us men and opened to us the Future, that we learned slowly and sadly to care for each other. From the mother instinct in us all good comes. This is the highest good as yet, that all men should live their life and lay down their life when need is for their fellows. With all our blindness we can see that. With all our weakness we can strive to reach nearer that ideal. It is but Just that we should live so for others since happiness is only possible where others live so for us.”

He turned again and gazed intently across the sail-dotted harbour.

“There is one thing I would like to say.” He spoke without turning. “Man without Woman is not complete. They two are but one being, complete and life-giving. Love when it comes is the keystone of this brief span of Life of ours. They who have loved have tasted truly of the best that Life can give to them. And this is the great wrong of civilisation to-day, that it takes Love from most and leaves in us only a feverish, degrading Lust. It is when we lust that Woman drags us down to the level of that Lust and blackens our souls with the blackness of hell. When we love Woman raises us to the level of Love and girds on us the armour that wards our own weakness from us.

“Love comes to few, I think. Society is all askew and, then, we have degraded women. So they are often well-nigh unfit for loving as men are often as unfit themselves. Physically unfit for motherhood, mentally unfit to cherish the monogamic idea that once was sacred with our people, sexually unfit to rouse true sex-passion—such women are being bred by the million in crowded cities and by degenerate country life. They match well with the slaves who ‘move on’ at the bidding of a policeman, or with the knaves who only see in Woman the toy of a feeble lust.

“There are two great reforms needed, Ned, two great reforms which must come if Humanity is to progress, and which must come, sooner or later, either to our race or to some other, because Humanity must progress. One reform is the Reorganisation of Industry. The other is the Recognition of Woman's Equality. These two are the practical steps by which we move up to the socialistic idea.

“If it ever comes to you to love and be loved by a true woman, Ned, let nothing stand between you and her. If you are weak and lose her you will have lost more than Life itself. If you are

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strong and win her you can never lose her again though the universe divided you and though Death itself came between you, and you will have lived indeed and found joy in living.”

“Should one give up the Cause for a woman?” asked Ned.

Geisner turned round at last and looked him full in the face.

“Lust only,” he answered, “and there is no shame to which Woman cannot drag Man. Love and there is nothing possible but what is manly and true.”

As he spoke, along the terraced path below them came Nellie, advancing towards them with her free swinging walk and tall lissom figure, noticeable even at a distance among the Sunday promenaders.

“See?” said Geisner, smiling, laying his hand on Ned's arm. “This is Paradise and there comes Eve.” note