The Longest Journey
"The cow is there," said Ansell, lighting a match and holding it out over
the carpet. No one spoke. He waited till the end of the match fell off.
Then he said again, "She is there, the cow. There, now."
"You have not proved it," said a voice.
"I have proved it to myself."
"I have proved to myself that she isn't," said the voice. "The cow is not
there." Ansell frowned and lit another match.
"She's there for me," he declared. "I don't care whether she's there for
you or not. Whether I'm in Cambridge or Iceland or dead, the cow will
It was philosophy. They were discussing the existence of objects. Do
they exist only when there is some one to look at them? Or have they a
real existence of their own? It is all very interesting, but at the same time
it is difficult. Hence the cow. She seemed to make things easier. She was
so familiar, so solid, that surely the truths that she illustrated would in
time become familiar and solid also. Is the cow there or not? This was
better than deciding between objectivity and subjectivity. So at Oxford,
just at the same time, one was asking, "What do our rooms look like in
"Look here, Ansell. I'm thereÑin the meadowÑthe cow's there. You're
thereÑthe cow's there. Do you agree so far?" "Well?"
"Well, if you go, the cow stops; but if I go, the cow goes. Then what
will happen if you stop and I go?"
Several voices cried out that this was quibbling.
"I know it is," said the speaker brightly, and silence descended again,
while they tried honestly to think the matter out.
Rickie, on whose carpet the matches were being dropped, did not like
to join in the discussion. It was too difficult for him. He could not even
quibble. If he spoke, he should simply make himself a fool. He preferred
to listen, and to watch the tobacco-smoke stealing out past the window-
seat into the tranquil October air. He could see the court too, and the col-
lege cat teasing the college tortoise, and the kitchen-men with supper-