Meanwhile, by H. G. Wells

§ 12

Mrs. Rylands read over her husband’s letter and re-read her husband’s letter a very great deal before she set herself to answer it. In many ways he had astonished her. His lucidity struck her as extraordinary. It was not as if he was learning to express himself; it was as if he had been released from some paralysing inhibition. Evidently he had been reading enormously as well as talking, and particularly he had been saturating himself in the wisdom of Mr. Sempack. At times he passed from pure colloquialism to phrases and ideas that instantly recalled Mr. Sempack’s utterances. Perhaps it was better that he should learn to write from Mr. Sempack than from a schoolmaster, even though it was an Eton schoolmaster. The spirit of all he said was quite after her own heart. How could she ever have doubted that there was all this and more also beneath his darkness and his quiet?

To her his vision of affairs seemed fresh and powerful and broad. How much he knew that he had never spoken of before! His implicit knowledge of the sequence and meaning of strikes and Royal Commissions made her feel not only ignorant but unobservant. She must have read of all these things at the time — or failed to read of them. And she had led debates at Somerville and passed muster as a girl with an exceptional grasp of social questions!

Well, she must read again and read better. She had thought — before all her thoughts were submerged in her personal passion for him — of some such fellowship as this that was now beginning between them. In discovering Philip anew she was being restored to herself. He wrote of his futility, but in every page she found him feeling his way to action. Futility! She turned over that self-revealing sheet with the word “Organisation” upon it. Half his dreams he had not told her yet because as yet they were untellable.

She turned the sheets over again and again. He was a stronger beast than she was: it showed in every line. His handwriting had a certain weakness or immaturity; he spelt wildly ever and again, but these were such little things beside his steadfast march to judgments. He saw and thought and said it plain. “He’s a man,” she said and fell to thinking of what virility meant.

Comparatively she was all receptiveness. She perceived for the first time that there was initiative even in thought. For example, the things he said about Lord Edensoke were exactly the things she had always been disposed to think but she reflected with a startled and edified observation that she had never actually thought them. It was not merely that there was virility and decisiveness in action, there was virility and decisiveness even in mental recognition. To judge was an act. Always her judgments were timid and slow. He crouched and watched and leapt and behold! there was fact in his grip. Her role was circumspection until the lead was given her. And behind his judgments even in this first letter there was the suggestion of action gathering.

That afternoon and later and the next day she wrote him her own first real letter in reply to his. The conclusion of his came so near to the matter of Mr. Sempack’s last talk that she thought she could do no better than write a description of that gentleman’s return to Casa Terragena and of how he had argued with himself and her about the relations of thought to activity. She got all that she felt pretty clear. She hoped that he would look up Philip in London, for she was quite sure they would both be ready to meet again and exchange ideas amidst that conflict of witless realities. She tried to be very simple and earnest about Mr. Sempack and his views, but when she told of him and Lady Catherine, the humourist and novelist latent in every intelligent woman, found release. She thought she would write about his new tie and then she decided not to write about his new tie and finally she wrote about it rather amusingly at some length. And afterwards she was inclined to regret having written about that new tie. She felt she ought never to have noted his new tie. But the letter had gone before this last decision was made.

At the end of her letter she found herself beginning afresh after Philip’s own manner.

“About what you say of getting together, of organisation, of sane organisation, I find my mind almost too excited to write. It is work in that way that has to be done now. Manifestly, ‘Fascists of the Light’ is a great phrase. Who would have thought of you my dear dear Man as a maker of phrases? Before we have done, perhaps we shall make many things. You and I, I hope, but I begin to see it will be mainly you. I am torn my dearest between the desire to do and a fear of vain gestures that we cannot justify. I send my heart to you. I wish I had you here just for a moment to kiss your ear and put my cheek against yours. I wish I could put my arm across your broad shoulders. I am very well, I am flourishing here, my dear Man. I glow. I grow. I am a water melon in the sun. A wonderful nurse from Ulster comes to-morrow. Stella Binny is bringing her. It is early to bring her yet, but she is free and must be secured. McManus her name is. In a little while, I gather, Casa Terragena will belong to Mrs. McManus and Bombaccio will do her reverence. Stella has given up Theosophy now, by the bye, and is a fully fledged R.C. She was ‘received’ in Rome. Much fuss over her, to judge by her letters. They always make a fuss at first. We shan’t argue much. She will just drop the McManus and pass on. Four long weeks more, my dear. When all this is over I will work for you, with you and for you, my dear. Philip, my darling, my Man, I love you and that is the beginning and the end and beginning over again of all I have to say to you.”

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