The Garden of Survival HTML version

Chapter 6
I RETURNED to England with an expectant hunger born of this love of beauty that was now
ingrained in me. I came home with the belief that my yearning would be satisfied in a deeper
measure; and more--that, somehow, it would be justified and explained. I may put it plainly, if
only to show how difficult this confession would have been to any one but yourself; it sounds so
visionary from a mere soldier and man of action such as I am. For my belief included a singular
dream that, in the familiar scenes I now revisited, some link, already half established, would be
strengthened, and might probably be realized, even proved.
In Africa, as you know, I had been set upon the clue at home in England. Among the places and
conditions where this link had been first established in the flesh, must surely come a fuller
revelation. Beauty, the channel of my inspiration, but this time the old sweet English beauty, so
intimate, so woven through with the fresh wonder of earliest childhood days, would reveal the
cause of my first failure to respond, and so, perhaps, the intention of those final pathetic
sentences that still haunted me with their freight of undelivered meaning. In England, T believed,
my "thrill" must bring authentic revelation.
I came back, that precarious entity, a successful man. I was to be that thing we used to laugh
about together in your Cambridge days, a distinguished personality; I should belong to the breed
of little lions. Yet, during the long, tedious voyage, I realized that this held no meaning for me; I
did not feel myself a little lion, the idea only proved that the boy in me was not yet dead. My one
desire, though inarticulate until this moment of confessing it, was to renew the thrills, and so to
gather from an intenser, sweeter beauty some measure of greater understanding they seemed to
promise. It was a personal hope, a personal desire; and, deep at the heart of it, Memory,
passionate though elusive, flashed her strange signal of a personal love. In this dream that
mocked at time, this yearning that forgot the intervening years, I nursed the impossible illusion
that, somehow or other, I should become aware of Marion.
Now, I have treated you in this letter as though you were a woman who reads a novel, for in my
first pages I have let you turn to the end and see that the climax is a happy one, lest you should
faint by the way and close my story with a yawn. You need not do that, however, since you
already know this in advance. You will bear with me, too, when I tell you that my return to
England was in the nature of a failure that, at first, involved sharpest disappointment. I was
unaware, as a whole, of the thrills I had anticipated with such longing. The sweet picture of
English loveliness I had cherished with sentimental passion during my long exile hardly
That I was not a lion, but an insignificant quasi-colonial adventurer among many others, may
have sprinkled acid upon my daily diet of sensation, but you will do me the justice to believe that
this wounded vanity was the smallest item in my disenchantment. Ten years, especially in
primitive, godforsaken Africa, is a considerable interval; I found the relationship between myself
and my beloved home-land changed, and in an unexpected way.