There had once occurred to him as he rode, and thereafter had persisted and accumulated, the feeling that, on the daily, solitary passage between Tidborough and Penny Green, he was mysteriously detached from, mysteriously suspended between, the two centres that were his two worlds,—his business world and his home world.
With its daily recurrence the thought developed: it enlarged to the whimsical notion that here, on his bicycle on the road, he was magically escaped out of his two worlds, not belonging to or responsible to either of his two worlds, which amounted to delicious detachment from all the universe. A mysteriously aloof, free, irresponsible attitude of mind was thus obtained: it was a condition in which—as one looking down from a high tower on scurrying, antlike human beings—their oddness, their futility, the apparent aimlessness of their excited scurrying became apparent; hence frequent thought, on these rides, on the rather odd thing that life was.
He was not in the least aware that so simple, so practical and so obviously essential a thing as his daily ride—as simple, practical and obviously essential as getting out of bed in the morning and returning to bed at night—was moulding a mind always prone to develop meditative grooves. But it did develop his mind in the extraordinary way in which minds are moulded by the most simple habits. In this mere matter of conveyance a philosopher might trace back a singularly brutal and callous murder to the moulding into callous and brutal regard of other people’s sufferings rendered into a perfectly gentle mind by the habit of daily travelling to business in London on the top of a motor omnibus. It would only need to be shown that the gentle mind secured his seat with dignity and comfort at the bus’s starting point and daily for years watched with amusement, and then with callousness and so with brutality the struggles of the unhappy fellow creatures who fought to assail it at its stopping places on the way to the City.
Mark Sabre was not in the least aware of any steadily permeating influence from his sense of detachment on this daily habit of years. But he was influenced. On entering his Penny Green world on the return home, or on entering his Tidborough office world, on the way out, he had sometimes a curious feeling of descending into this odd affair of life to which he did not really belong. And for the few moments while the feeling persisted he sometimes, more or less unconsciously, took towards affairs a rather whimsical attitude, as though they did not really matter: an irritating attitude, unpractical, it was sometimes hinted by his partners; an irritating attitude—“You really are very difficult to understand sometimes”—it was often told him by Mabel.
This very matter of the bicycle ride, indeed, apart altogether from its effect upon his mood, supplied an instance of the kind of thing Mabel found it so difficult to understand in her husband.