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5. In The Land Of The Forgotten Peoples H. G. [Herbert George] Wells

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Sir Richmond stopped short.

"When they go wrong it is generally her fault," the doctor sounded.

"Almost always."

"But if they don't?" said the psychiatrist.

"It is difficult to describe. . . . The essential incompatibility of the whole thing comes out."

The doctor maintained his expression of intelligent interest.

"She wants to go on with her work. She is able to work anywhere. All she wants is just cardboard and ink. My mind on the other hand turns back to the Fuel Commission . . . ."

"Then any little thing makes trouble."

"Any little thing makes trouble. And we always drift round to the same discussion; whether we ought really to go on together."

"It is you begin that?"

"Yes, I start that. You see she is perfectly contented when I am about. She is as fond of me as I am of her."

"Fonder perhaps."

'I don't know. But she is--adhesive. Emotionally adhesive. All she wants to do is just to settle down when I am there and go on with her work. But then, you see, there is MY work."

"Exactly. . . . After all it seems to me that your great trouble is not in yourselves but in social institutions. Which haven't yet fitted themselves to people like you two. It is the sense of uncertainty makes her, as you say, adhesive. Nervously so. If we were indeed living in a new age Instead of the moral ruins of a shattered one--"

"We can't alter the age we live in," said Sir Richmond a little testily.

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"No. Exactly. But we CAN realize, in any particular situation, that it is not the individuals to blame but the misfit of ideas and forms and prejudices."

"No," said Sir Richmond, obstinately rejecting this pacifying suggestion; "she could adapt herself. If she cared enough."

"But how?"

"She will not take the slightest trouble to adjust herself to the peculiarities of our position. . . . She could be cleverer. Other women are cleverer. Any other woman almost would be cleverer than she is."

"But if she was cleverer, she wouldn't be the genius she is. She would just be any other woman."

"Perhaps she would," said Sir Richmond darkly and desperately. "Perhaps she would. Perhaps it would be better if she was."

Dr. Martineau raised his eyebrows in a furtive aside.

"But here you see that it is that in my case, the fundamental incompatibility between one's affections and one's wider conception of duty and work comes in. We cannot change social institutions in a year or a lifetime. We can never change them to suit an individual case. That would be like suspending the laws of gravitation in order to move a piano. As things are, Martin is no good to me, no help to me. She is a rival to my duty. She feels that. She is hostile to my duty. A definite antagonism has developed. She feels and treats fuel--and everything to do with fuel as a bore. It is an attack. We quarrel on that. It isn't as though I found it so easy to stick to my work that I could disregard her hostility. And I can't bear to part from her. I threaten it, distress her excessively and then I am overcome by sympathy for her and I go back to her. . . . In the ordinary course of things I should be with her now."

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The Secret Places of the Heart
H. G. [Herbert George] Wells

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