The Garden of Survival
IT was some little time after my arrival, as I shall presently relate, that the experience I call the
thrill came to me in England--and, like all its predecessors, came through Nature. It came, that is,
through the only apparatus I possessed as yet that could respond.
The point, I think, is of special interest; I note it now, on looking back upon the series as a whole,
though at the time I did not note it.
For, compared with yourself at any rate, the aesthetic side of me is somewhat raw; of pictures,
sculpture, music I am untaught and ignorant; with other Philistines, I "know what I like," but
nothing more. It is the honest but uncultured point of view. I am that primitive thing, the mere
male animal. It was my love of Nature, therefore, that showed me beauty, since this was the only
apparatus in my temperament able to respond. Natural, simple things, as before, were the channel
through which beauty appealed to that latent store of love and wisdom in me which, it almost
seemed, were being slowly educated.
The talks and intimacies with our mother, then, were largely over; the re-knitting of an
interrupted relationship was fairly accomplished; she had asked her questions, and listened to my
answers. All the dropped threads had been picked up again, so that a pattern, similar to the one
laid aside, now lay spread more or less comfortably before us. Outwardly, things seemed much
as they were when I left home so many years ago. One might have thought the interval had been
one of months, since her attitude refused to recognize all change, and change, qud growth, was
abhorrent to her type. For whereas I had altered, she had remained unmoved.
So unsatisfying was this state of things to me, however, that I felt unable to confide my deepest,
as now I can do easily to you--so that during these few days of intercourse renewed, we had said,
it seemed, all that was to be said with regard to the past. My health was most lovingly discussed,
and then my immediate and remoter future. I was aware of this point of view--that I was, of
course, her own dear son, but that I was also England's son. She was intensely patriotic in the
insular sense; my soul, I mean, belonged to the British Empire rather than to humanity and the
world at large. Doubtless, a very right and natural way to look at things. . . . She expressed a real
desire to "see your photographs, my boy, of those outlandish places where they sent you"; then,
having asked certain questions about the few women (officers' wives and so forth) who appeared
in some of them, she leaned back in her chair, and gave me her very definite hopes about "my
value to the country," my "duty to the family traditions," even to the point, finally, of suggesting
Parliament, in what she termed with a certain touch of pride and dignity, "the true Conservative
"Men like yourself, Richard, are sorely needed now," she added, looking at me with a restrained
admiration; "I am sure the Party would nominate you for this Constituency that your father and
your grandfather both represented before you. At any rate, they shall not put you on the shelf!"