“However, his wife was his funeral, not mine, and I said nothing and presently he settled himself down and we began talking. At least he did. He’s got some ideas, old Sabre has. He didn’t talk about the war. He talked a lot about the effect of the war, on people and on institutions, and that sort of guff. Devilish deep, devilishly interesting. I won’t push it on to you. You’re one of those soulless, earth-clogged natures.
“Tell you one thing, though, just to give you an idea of the way he’s been developing all these years. He talked about how sickened he was with all this stuff in the papers and in the pulpits about how the nation, in this war, is passing through the purging fires of salvation and is going to emerge with higher, nobler, purer ideals, and all that. He said not so. He quoted a thing at me out of one of his books. Something about (as well as I can remember it) something about how ’Those waves of enthusiasm on whose crumbling crests we sometimes see nations lifted for a gleaming moment are wont to have a gloomy trough before and behind.’ And he said:
“’That’s what it is with us, Hapgood. We’ve been high on those crests in this war and already they’re crumbling. When the peace comes, you look out for the glide down into the trough. They talk about the nation, under this calamity, turning back to the old faiths, to the old simple beliefs, to the old earnest ways, to the old God of their fathers. Man,’ he said, ’what can you see already? Temples everywhere to a new God—Greed—Profit—Extortion. All out for it. All out for it,’ I remember him saying, ‘all out to get the most and do the least.’
“He got up and hobbled about, excited, flushed, and talked like a man who uses his headpiece for thinking. ‘Where’s that making to, Hapgood?’ he asked. ‘I’ll tell you,’ he said. ’You’ll get the people finding there’s a limit to the high prices they can demand for their labour: apparently none to those the employers can go on piling up for their profits. You’ll get growing hatred by the middle classes with fixed incomes of the labouring classes whose prices for their labour they’ll see—and feel—going up and up; and you’ll get the same growing hatred by the labouring classes for the capitalists. We’ve been nearly four years on the crest, Hapgood,—on the crest of the war—and it’s been all classes as one class for the common good. I tell you, Hapgood, the trough’s ahead; we’re steering for it; and it’s rapid and perilous sundering of the classes.
“‘The new God,’ old Sabre said. ’High prices, high prices: the highest that can be squeezed. Temples to it everywhere. Ay, and sacrifices, Hapgood. Immolations. Offering up of victims. No thought of those who cannot pay the prices. Pay the prices, or get them, or go under. That’s the new God’s creed.’
“I said to him, ‘What’s the remedy, Sabre?’