‘Well, what’s marriage?’ I returned. ’He’s a public danger—he and his kind.’
Katherine said truly, ’There are so many public dangers. There really isn’t time to get agitated about them all.’ Her mind seemed still to be running on marriage, for she added presently, ’I think he’ll find that he’s bitten off rather more than he can chew, in Jane.’
‘Jane can go to the devil in her own way,’ I said, for I was angry with Jane too. ’She’s married a second-rate fellow for what she thinks he’ll bring her. I dare say she has her reward.... Katherine, I believe that’s the very essence of Potterism—going for things for what they’ll bring you, what they lead to, instead of for the thing-in-itself. Artists care for the thing-in-itself; Potterites regard things as railway trains, always going somewhere, getting somewhere. Artists, students, and the religious—they have the single eye. It’s the opposite to the commercial outlook. Artists will look at a little fishing town or country village, and find it a thing of beauty and a joy for ever, and leave it to itself—unless they yield to the devil and paint it or write about it. Potterites will exploit it, commercialise it, bring the railway to it—and the thing is spoilt. Oh, the Potterites get there all right, confound them. They’re the progressives of the world. They—they have their reward.’
(It’s a queer thing how Jews can’t help quoting the New Testament—even Jews without religion.)
‘We seem to have decided,’ Katherine said, ‘that Jane is a Potterite.’
’Morally she is. Not intellectually. You can be a Potterite in many ways. Jane accepts the second-rate, though she recognises it as such.... The plain fact is,’ I was in a fit of savage truth-speaking, ’that Jane is second-rate.’
The gesture of Katherine’s square shoulders may have meant several things—’Aren’t we all?’ or ‘Surely that’s very obvious,’ or ’I can’t be bothered to consider Jane any more,’ or merely ’After all, we’ve just dined there.’
Anyhow, Katherine got off the bus at this point.
I was left repeating to myself, as if it had been a new discovery, which it wasn’t, ‘Jane is second-rate....’
Jane was taking the chair at a meeting of a section of the Society for Equal Citizenship. The speakers were all girls under thirty who wanted votes. They spoke rather well. They weren’t old enough to have become sentimental, and they were mostly past the conventional cliches of the earlier twenties. In extreme youth one has to be second-hand; one doesn’t know enough, one hasn’t lived or learnt enough, to be first-hand; and one lacks self-confidence. But by five or six-and-twenty one should have left that behind. One should know what one thinks and what one means, and be able to state it in clear terms. That is what these girls—mostly University girls—did.