On the Eve: A Dialogue [with Vivien Eliot]
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572 ] On the Eve: A Dialogue [with Vivien Eliot]1 The Criterion: A Quarterly Review, 3 (Jan 1925) 278-81 “PANCAKES!” exclaimed Horace as Rose handed him the dish. “Ah, pancakes,” murmured Alexander. “I must have one, I don’t care what happens,” said Agatha recklessly. They squeezed lemon-juice on their pancakes and covered them with sugar. Horace rolled his up in a neat roll, and began to eat it with gusto. Rose left the room looking pleased and complacent. The pancakes had been her idea – “and it makes a nice change for them,” she thought. “But, Alexander,” said Agatha, continuing a discussion arising out of her country-house visit, which had begun before the arrival of the pancakes, “what I want to know is where they keep their money. It can’t be in this country or they wouldn’t be trying to work up a revolution.” “Ah,” said Horace in a sinister voice, “that’s about the size of it.” “And if they had it invested in another country,” went on Agatha; “do listen, Alexander — ” “America,” said Horace. “ – then how did they get it there? I mean, how could they manage to sell their horrible stocks over here and get the cash to invest in America?” “Or Canada,” said Horace. “I mean to say, well, God knows I never can sell anything. My few bits of stuff which pay me about twopence a year are all absolutely unsaleable – and we all know, don’t we, Alexander? that we shall be completely and utterly ruined if there is an extreme socialist government. We shall be destitute . But they won’t suffer. That’s obvious. They go on spending just as much, living in the lap, and yet their one interest and amusement is to pull down and shatter England.” Horace looked ferocious as he took another pancake from the dish on the sideboard. “Curse them,” he said bitterly, “but you know, Agatha, you do have bad luck in always hobbing and nobbing with those sort of piefaced blokes. There are, I assure you, a few stoutish fellows left – more than a few in fact – more than you imagine.” “But not enough to save England,” said Agatha in a low voice. “Besides, they have no confidence in themselves — ” [ 573 On the Eve: A Dialogue “Oh, I don’t know. Because they’re not always blustering and bleating and showing off — ” “The fact is,” said Alexander at last, looking up from his plate. “But I must just tell you,” interrupted Agatha, “Tilly said, the other night, ‘after all, the Russian Loan would not have cost so much as a General Election!’” and she imitated Tilly’s drawl. “Pooh – bosh,” said Horace, “but talking of Russia, I’ll tell you what old Sir Charles Allwell actually did say to me only the other night at the club,” he went on eagerly, “and this’ll show you, because, mind you, he is an absolute Whig and they always have been for centuries – well, he said that in his opinion the two great menaces to civilisation were England and Russia.” “Oh, I know,” groaned Agatha, “I know that’s true.” “Well, the fact is,” said Alexander again, rather crossly. “Yes, what is the fact?” asked Agatha ironically. “That’s what I’m trying to tell you. These friends of Agatha’s – Tilly and Corrie and Lord John, and their like – are the remains of what Disraeli, I believe, called a desperate oligarchy ready, in their desire for a power they were incompetent to use, to sacrifice the laws, the empire, and the religion of England. They are ‘capitalists’ because they live upon a civilisation to which they contribute nothing – and they are ‘anarchists’ because they are ready to destroy the civilisation which bore and nourished them. There is a certain irony, of course, about the fate of these Gadarene swine. They have always stood for ‘progress’ – and the progress which they set in motion is on the point of obliterating them for ever — ” “You might just ring the bell, will you, Horace,” said Agatha. “They have stood for the extension of democracy – and now that democracy is extended to the utmost, democracy is on the point of deposing them in favour of a new oligarchy stronger and more terrible than their own — ” “Are you ready for the coffee, ’m?” asked Rose. “Yes, please.” “Yes, because I’ve got to be off, you know,” added Horace. “They cling, at the last, to the paltry...


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