and gigantic growth. Your audibly arrogant man
exposes himself to tests: in attempting to make
an impression on others he may possibly (not always)
be made to feel his own lack of definiteness; and
the demand for definiteness is to all of us a needful
check on vague depreciation of what others do, and
vague ecstatic trust in our own superior ability.
But Lentulus was at once so unreceptive, and so little
gifted with the power of displaying his miscellaneous
deficiency of information, that there was really nothing
to hinder his astonishment at the spontaneous crop
of ideas which his mind secretly yielded. If
it occurred to him that there were more meanings than
one for the word “motive,” since it sometimes
meant the end aimed at and sometimes the feeling that
prompted the aiming, and that the word “cause”
was also of changeable import, he was naturally struck
with the truth of his own perception, and was convinced
that if this vein were well followed out much might
be made of it. Men were evidently in the wrong
about cause and effect, else why was society in the
confused state we behold? And as to motive, Lentulus
felt that when he came to write down his views he
should look deeply into this kind of subject and show
up thereby the anomalies of our social institutions;
meanwhile the various aspects of “motive”
and “cause” flitted about among the motley
crowd of ideas which he regarded as original, and pregnant
with reformative efficacy. For his unaffected
goodwill made him regard all his insight as only valuable
because it tended towards reform.
The respectable man had got into his illusory maze
of discoveries by letting go that clue of conformity
in his thinking which he had kept fast hold of in
his tailoring and manners. He regarded heterodoxy
as a power in itself, and took his inacquaintance
with doctrines for a creative dissidence. But
his epitaph needs not to be a melancholy one.
His benevolent disposition was more effective for good
than his silent presumption for harm. He might
have been mischievous but for the lack of words:
instead of being astonished at his inspirations in
private, he might have clad his addled originalities,
disjointed commonplaces, blind denials, and balloon-like
conclusions, in that mighty sort of language which
would have made a new Koran for a knot of followers.
I mean no disrespect to the ancient Koran, but one
would not desire the roc to lay more eggs and give
us a whole wing-flapping brood to soar and make twilight.
Peace be with Lentulus, for he has left us in peace.
Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains
from giving us wordy evidence of the fact—from
calling on us to look through a heap of millet-seed
in order to be sure that there is no pearl in it.
A TOO DEFERENTIAL MAN.