“Well, I’m no economist, and I don’t know how far to trust my impressions, and you needn’t tell me I’m a rank outsider, for I know that; but coming here as an outsider, it does seem to me that it’s from the outside that any sort of helpful change in the conditions of this country has got to come. England still has military initiative, though it’s hard to see how she’s going to keep that unless she does something to stop the degeneration of the class she draws her army from; but what other kind do we hear about? Company-promoting, bee-keeping, asparagus-growing, poultry-farming for ladies, the opening of a new Oriental Tea-Pot in Regent Street, with samisen-players between four and six, and Japanese attendants who take the change on their hands and knees. London’s one great stomach—how many eating places have we passed in the last ten minutes? The place seems all taken up with inventing new ways of making rich people more comfortable and better-amused—I’m fed up with the sight of shiny carriages with cockaded flunkeys on ’em, wooden-smart, rolling about with an elderly woman and a parasol and a dog. England seems to have fallen back on itself, got content to spend the money there is in the country already; and about the only line of commercial activity the stranger sees is the onslaught on that accumulation. London isn’t the headquarters for big new developing enterprises any more. If you take out Westminster and Wallingham, London is a collection of traditions and great houses, and newspaper offices, and shops. That sort of thing can’t go on for ever. Already capital is drawing away to conditions it can find a profit in—steel works in Canada, woollen factories in Australia, jute mills in India. Do you know where the boots came from that shod the troops in South Africa? Cawnpore. The money will go, you know, and that’s a fact; the money will go, and the people will go, anyhow. It’s only a case of whether England sends them with blessing and profit and greater glory, or whether she lets them slip away in spite of her.”
“I dare say it will,” replied Hesketh; “I’ve got precious little, but what there is I’d take out fast enough, if I saw a decent chance of investing it. I sometimes think of trying my luck in the States. Two or three fellows in my year went over there and aren’t making half a bad thing of it.”
“Oh, come,” said Lorne, half-swinging round upon the other, with his hands in his pockets, “it isn’t exactly the time, is it, to talk about chucking the Empire?”
“Well, no, it isn’t,” Hesketh admitted. “One might do better to wait, I dare say. At all events, till we see what the country says to Wallingham.”
They walked on for a moment or two in silence; then Lorne broke out again.
“I suppose it’s unreasonable, but there’s nothing I hate so much as to hear Englishmen talk of settling in the United States.”
“It’s risky, I admit. And I’ve never heard anybody yet say it was comfortable.”