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Chapter 3

YOUNG CADDIES IN LONDON.


I.

All unaware of the trend of events, unaware of the laws that were
closing in upon all the Brethren, unaware indeed that there lived a
Brother for him on the earth, young Caddies chose this time to come out
of his chalk pit and see the world. His brooding came at last to that.
There was no answer to all his questions in Cheasing Eyebright; the new
Vicar was less luminous even than the old, and the riddle of his
pointless labour grew at last to the dimensions of exasperation. "Why
should I work in this pit day after day?" he asked. "Why should I walk
within bounds and be refused all the wonders of the world beyond there?
What have I done, to be condemned to this?"

And one day he stood up, straightened his back, and said in a loud
voice, "No!

"I won't," he said, and then with great vigour cursed the pit.

Then, having few words, he sought to express his thought in acts. He
took a track half filled with chalk, lifted it, and flung it, smash,
against another. Then he grasped a whole row of empty trucks and spun
them down a bank. He sent a huge boulder of chalk bursting among them,
and then ripped up a dozen yards of rail with a mighty plunge of his
foot. So he commenced the conscientious wrecking of the pit.

"Work all my days," he said, "at this!"

It was an astonishing five minutes for the little geologist he had, in
his preoccupation, overlooked. This poor little creature having dodged
two boulders by a hairbreadth, got out by the westward corner and fled
athwart the hill, with flapping rucksack and twinkling knicker-bockered
legs, leaving a trail of Cretaceous echinoderms behind him; while young
Caddies, satisfied with the destruction he had achieved, came striding
out to fulfil his purpose in the world.

"Work in that old pit, until I die and rot and stink I ... What worm did
they think was living in my giant body? Dig chalk for God knows what
foolish purpose I Not _I!_"

The trend of road and railway perhaps, or mere chance it was, turned his
face to London, and thither he came striding; over the Downs and athwart
the meadows through the hot afternoon, to the infinite amazement of the
world. It signified nothing to him that torn posters in red and white
bearing various names flapped from every wall and barn; he knew nothing
of the electoral revolution that had flung Caterham, "Jack the
Giant-killer," into power. It signified nothing to him that every police
station along his route had what was known as Caterham's ukase upon its
notice board that afternoon, proclaiming that no giant, no person
whatever over eight feet in height, should go more than five miles from
his "place of location" without a special permission. It signified
nothing to him that on his wake belated police officers, not a little
relieved to find themselves belated, shook warning handbills at his
retreating back. He was going to see what the world had to show him,
poor incredulous blockhead, and he did not mean that occasional spirited
persons shouting "Hi!" at him should stay his course. He came on down by
Rochester and Greenwich towards an ever-thickening aggregation of
houses, walking rather slowly now, staring about him and swinging his
huge chopper.

People in London had heard something of him before, how that he was
idiotic but gentle, and wonderfully managed by Lady Wondershoot's agent
and the Vicar; how in his dull way he revered these authorities and was
grateful to them for their care of him, and so forth. So that when they
learnt from the newspaper placards that afternoon that he also was "on
strike," the thing appeared to many of them as a deliberate, concerted
act.

"They mean to try our strength," said the men in the trains going home
from business.

"Lucky we have Caterham."

"It's in answer to his proclamation."

The men in the clubs were better informed. They clustered round the tape
or talked in groups in their smoking-rooms.

"He has no weapons. He would have gone to Sevenoaks if he had been put
up to it."

"Caterham will handle him...."

The shopmen told their customers. The waiters in restaurants snatched a
moment for an evening paper between the courses. The cabmen read it
immediately after the betting news....

The placards of the chief government evening paper were conspicuous with
"Grasping the Nettle." Others relied for effect on: "Giant Redwood
continues to meet the Princess." The _Echo_ struck a line of its own
with: "Rumoured Revolt of Giants in the North of England. The Sunderland
Giants start for Scotland." The, _Westminster Gazette_ sounded its usual
warning note. "Giants Beware," said the _Westminster Gazette_, and tried
to make a point out of it that might perhaps serve towards uniting the
Liberal party--at that time greatly torn between seven intensely
egotistical leaders. The later newspapers dropped into uniformity. "The
Giant in the New Kent Road," they proclaimed.

"What I want to know," said the pale young man in the tea shop, "is why
we aren't getting any news of the young Cossars. You'd think they'd be
in it most of all ..."

"They tell me there's another of them young giants got loose," said the
barmaid, wiping out a glass. "I've always said they was dangerous things
to 'ave about. Right away from the beginning ... It ought to be put a
stop to. Any'ow, I 'ope 'e won't come along 'ere."

"I'd like to 'ave a look at 'im," said the young man at the bar
recklessly, and added, "I _seen_ the Princess."

"D'you think they'll 'urt 'im?" said the barmaid.

"May 'ave to," said the young man at the bar, finishing his glass.

Amidst a hum of ten million such sayings young Caddies came to London...


II.

I think of young Caddies always as he was seen in the New Kent Road, the
sunset warm upon his perplexed and staring face. The Road was thick with
its varied traffic, omnibuses, trams, vans, carts, trolleys, cyclists,
motors, and a marvelling crowd--loafers, women, nurse-maids, shopping
women, children, venturesome hobble-dehoys--gathered behind his
gingerly moving feet. The hoardings were untidy everywhere with the
tattered election paper. A babblement of voices surged about him. One
sees the customers and shopmen crowding in the doorways of the shops,
the faces that came and went at the windows, the little street boys
running and shouting, the policemen taking it all quite stiffly and
calmly, the workmen knocking off upon scaffoldings, the seething
miscellany of the little folks. They shouted to him, vague
encouragement, vague insults, the imbecile catchwords of the day, and he
stared down at them, at such a multitude of living creatures as he had
never before imagined in the world.

Now that he had fairly entered London he had had to slacken his pace
more and more, the little folks crowded so mightily upon him. The crowd
grew denser at every step, and at last, at a corner where two great ways
converged, he came to a stop, and the multitude flowed about him and
closed him in.

There he stood, with his feet a little apart, his back to a big corner
gin palace that towered twice his height and ended In a sky sign,
staring down at the pigmies and wondering--trying, I doubt not, to
collate it all with the other things of his life, with the valley among
the downlands, the nocturnal lovers, the singing in the church, the
chalk he hammered daily, and with instinct and death and the sky, trying
to see it all together coherent and significant. His brows were knit. He
put up his huge paw to scratch his coarse hair, and groaned aloud.

"I don't see It," he said.

His accent was unfamiliar. A great babblement went across the open
space--a babblement amidst which the gongs of the trams, ploughing their
obstinate way through the mass, rose like red poppies amidst corn. "What
did he say?" "Said he didn't see." "Said, where is the sea?" "Said,
where is a seat?" "He wants a seat." "Can't the brasted fool sit on a
'ouse or somethin'?"

"What are ye for, ye swarming little people? What are ye all doing, what
are ye all for?

"What are ye doing up here, ye swarming little people, while I'm
a-cuttin' chalk for ye, down in the chalk pits there?"

His queer voice, the voice that had been so bad for school discipline at
Cheasing Eyebright, smote the multitude to silence while it sounded and
splashed them all to tumult at the end. Some wit was audible screaming
"Speech, speech!" "What's he saying?" was the burthen of the public
mind, and an opinion was abroad that he was drunk. "Hi, hi, hi," bawled
the omnibus-drivers, threading a dangerous way. A drunken American
sailor wandered about tearfully inquiring, "What's he want anyhow?" A
leathery-faced rag-dealer upon a little pony-drawn cart soared up over
the tumult by virtue of his voice. "Garn 'ome, you Brasted Giant!" he
brawled, "Garn 'Ome! You Brasted Great Dangerous Thing! Can't you see
you're a-frightening the 'orses? Go _'ome_ with you! 'Asn't any one 'ad
the sense to tell you the law?" And over all this uproar young Caddies
stared, perplexed, expectant, saying no more.

Down a side road came a little string of solemn policemen, and threaded
itself ingeniously into the traffic. "Stand back," said the little
voices; "keep moving, please."

Young Caddles became aware of a little dark blue figure thumping at his
shin. He looked down, and perceived two white hands gesticulating.
"_What_?" he said, bending forward.

"Can't stand about here," shouted the inspector.

"No! You can't stand about here," he repeated.

"But where am I to go?"

"Back to your village. Place of location. Anyhow, now--you've got to
move on. You're obstructing the traffic."

"What traffic?"

"Along the road."

"But where is it going? Where does it come from? What does it mean?
They're all round me. What do they want? What are they doin'? I want to
understand. I'm tired of cuttin' chalk and bein' all alone. What are
they doin' for me while I'm a-cuttin' chalk? I may just as well
understand here and now as anywhere."

"Sorry. But we aren't here to explain things of that sort. I must arst
you to move on."

"Don't you know?"

"I must arst you to move on--_if_ you please ... I'd strongly advise you
to get off 'ome. We've 'ad no special instructions yet--but it's against
the law ... Clear away there. Clear away."

The pavement to his left became invitingly bare, and young Caddles went
slowly on his way. But now his tongue was loosened.

"I don't understand," he muttered. "I don't understand." He would appeal
brokenly to the changing crowd that ever trailed beside him and behind.
"I didn't know there were such places as this. What are all you people
doing with yourselves? What's it Jail for? What is it all for, and where
do I come in?"

He had already begotten a new catchword. Young men of wit and spirit
addressed each other in this manner, "Ullo 'Arry O'Cock. Wot's it all
_for_? Eh? Wot's it all bloomin' well _for_?"

To which there sprang up a competing variety of repartees, for the most
part impolite. The most popular and best adapted for general use appears
to have been "_Shut_ it," or, in a voice of scornful detachment--"_Gam
I_"

There were others almost equally popular.


III.

What was he seeking? He wanted something the pigmy world did not give,
some end which the pigmy world prevented his attaining, prevented even
his seeing clearly, which he was never to see clearly. It was the whole
gigantic social side of this lonely dumb monster crying out for his
race, for the things akin to him, for something he might love and
something he might serve, for a purpose he might comprehend and a
command he could obey. And, you know, all this was _dumb_, raged dumbly
within him, could not even, had he met a fellow giant, have found outlet
and expression in speech. All the life he knew was the dull round of the
village, all the speech he knew was the talk of the cottage, that failed
and collapsed at the bare outline of his least gigantic need. He knew
nothing of money, this monstrous simpleton, nothing of trade, nothing of
the complex pretences upon which the social fabric of the little folks
was built. He needed, he needed--Whatever he needed, he never found his
need.

A11 through the day and the summer night he wandered, growing hungry but
as yet untired, marking the varied traffic of the different streets, the
inexplicable businesses of all these infinitesimal beings. In the
aggregate it had no other colour than confusion for him....

He is said to have plucked a lady from her carriage in Kensington, a
lady in evening dress of the smartest sort, to have scrutinised her
closely, train and shoulder blades, and to have replaced her--a little
carelessly--with the profoundest sigh. For that I cannot vouch. For an
hour or so he watched people fighting for places in the omnibuses at the
end of Piccadilly. He was seen looming over Kennington Oval for some
moments in the afternoon, but when he saw these dense thousands were
engaged with the mystery of cricket and quite regardless of him he went
his way with a groan.

He came back to Piccadilly Circus between eleven and twelve at nights
and found a new sort of multitude. Clearly they were very intent: full
of things they, for inconceivable reasons, might do, and of others they
might not do. They stared at him and jeered at him and went their way.
The cabmen, vulture-eyed, followed one another continually along the
edge of the swarming pavement. People emerged from the restaurants or
entered them, grave, intent, dignified, or gently and agreeably excited
or keen and vigilant--beyond the cheating of the sharpest waiter born.
The great giant, standing at his corner, peered at them all. "What is it
all for?" he murmured in a mournful vast undertone, "What is it all
for? They are all so earnest. What is it I do not understand?"

And none of them seemed to see, as he could do, the drink-sodden
wretchedness of the painted women at the corner, the ragged misery that
sneaked along the gutters, the infinite futility of all this employment.
The infinite futility! None of them seemed to feel the shadow of that
giant's need, that shadow of the future, that lay athwart their paths...

Across the road high up mysterious letters flamed and went, that might,
could he have read them, have measured for him the dimensions of human
interest, have told him of the fundamental needs and features of life as
the little folks conceived it. First would come a flaming

T;

Then U would follow,

TU;

Then P,

TUP;

Until at last there stood complete, across the sky, this cheerful
message to all who felt the burthen of life's earnestness:

TUPPER'S TONIC WINE FOR VIGOUR.

Snap! and it had vanished into night, to be followed in the same slow
development by a second universal solicitude:

BEAUTY SOAP.

Not, you remark, mere cleansing chemicals, but something, as they say,
"ideal;" and then, completing the tripod of the little life:

TANKER'S YELLOW PILLS.

After that there was nothing for it but Tupper again, in naming crimson
letters, snap, snap, across the void.

T U P P....

Early in the small hours it would seem that young Caddies came to the
shadowy quiet of Regent's Park, stepped over the railings and lay down
on a grassy slope near where the people skate in winter time, and there
he slept an hour or so. And about six o'clock in the morning, he was
talking to a draggled woman he had found sleeping in a ditch near
Hampstead Heath, asking her very earnestly what she thought she was
for....


IV.

The wandering of Caddies about London came to a head on the second day
in the morning. For then his hunger overcame him. He hesitated where the
hot-smelling loaves were being tossed into a cart, and then very
quietly knelt down and commenced robbery. He emptied the cart while the
baker's man fled for the police, and then his great hand came into the
shop and cleared counter and cases. Then with an armful, still eating,
he went his way looking for another shop to go on with his meal. It
happened to be one of those seasons when work is scarce and food dear,
and the crowd in that quarter was sympathetic even with a giant who took
the food they all desired. They applauded the second phase of his meal,
and laughed at his stupid grimace at the policeman.

"I woff hungry," he said, with his mouth full.

"Brayvo!" cried the crowd. "Brayvo!"

Then when he was beginning his third baker's shop, he was stopped by
half a dozen policemen hammering with truncheons at his shins. "Look
here, my fine giant, you come along o' me," said the officer in charge.
"You ain't allowed away from home like this. You come off home with me."
They did their best to arrest him. There was a trolley, I am told,
chasing up and down streets at that time, bearing rolls of chain and
ship's cable to play the part of handcuffs in that great arrest. There
was no intention then of killing him. "He is no party to the plot,"
Caterham had said. "I will not have innocent blood upon my hands." And
added: "--until everything else has been tried."

At first Caddies did not understand the import of these attentions. When
he did, he told the policemen not to be fools, and set off in great
strides that left them all behind. The bakers' shops had been in the
Harrow Road, and he went through canal London to St. John's Wood, and
sat down in a private garden there to pick his teeth and be speedily
assailed by another posse of constables.

"You lea' me alone," he growled, and slouched through the
gardens--spoiling several lawns and kicking down a fence or so, while
the energetic little policemen followed him up, some through the
gardens, some along the road in front of the houses. Here there were one
or two with guns, but they made no use of them. When he came out into
the Edgware Road there was a new note and a new movement in the crowd,
and a mounted policeman rode over his foot and got upset for his pains.

"You lea' me alone," said Caddies, facing the breathless crowd. "I ain't
done anything to you." At that time he was unarmed, for he had left his
chalk chopper in Regent's Park. But now, poor wretch, he seems to have
felt the need of some weapon. He turned back towards the goods yard of
the Great Western Railway, wrenched up the standard of a tall arc light,
a formidable mace for him, and flung it over his shoulder. And finding
the police still turning up to pester him, he went back along the
Edgware Road, towards Cricklewood, and struck off sullenly to the north.

He wandered as far as Waltham, and then turned back westward and then
again towards London, and came by the cemeteries and over the crest of
Highgate about midday into view of the greatness of the city again. He
turned aside and sat down in a garden, with his back to a house that
overlooked all London. He was breathless, and his face was lowering, and
now the people no longer crowded upon him as they had done when first he
came to London, but lurked in the adjacent garden, and peeped from
cautious securities. They knew by now the thing was grimmer than they
had thought. "Why can't they lea' me alone?" growled young Caddies. "I
_mus'_ eat. Why can't they lea' me alone?"

He sat with a darkling face, gnawing at his knuckles and looking down
over London. All the fatigue, worry, perplexity, and impotent wath of
his wanderings was coming to a head in him. "They mean nothing," he
whispered. "They mean nothing. And they _won't_ let me alone, and they
_will_ get in my way." And again, over and over to himself, "Meanin'
nothing.

"Ugh! the little people!"

He bit harder at his knuckles and his scowl deepened. "Cuttin' chalk
for 'em," he whispered. "And all the world is theirs! _I_ don't come
in--nowhere."

Presently with a spasm of sick anger he saw the now familiar form of a
policeman astride the garden wall.

"Lea' me alone," grunted the giant. "Lea' me alone."

"I got to do my duty," said the little policeman, with a face that was
white and resolute.

"You lea' me alone. I got to live as well as you. I got to think. I got
to eat. You lea' me alone."

"It's the Law," said the little policeman, coming no further. "We never
made the Law."

"Nor me," said young Caddies. "You little people made all that before I
was born. You and your Law! What I must and what I mustn't! No food for
me to eat unless I work a slave, no rest, no shelter, nothin', and you
tell me--"

"I ain't got no business with that," said the policeman. "I'm not one to
argue. All I got to do is to carry out the Law." And he brought his
second leg over the wall and seemed disposed to get down. Other
policemen appeared behind him.

"I got no quarrel with _you_--mind," said young Caddies, with his grip
tight upon his huge mace of iron, his face pale, and a lank explanatory
great finger to the policeman. "I got no quarrel with you. But--_You
lea' me alone."_

The policeman tried to be calm and commonplace, with a monstrous tragedy
clear before his eyes. "Give me the proclamation," he said to some
unseen follower, and a little white paper was handed to him.

"Lea' me alone," said Caddies, scowling, tense, and drawn together.

"This means," said the policeman before he read, "go 'ome. Go 'ome to
your chalk pit. If not, you'll be hurt."

Caddies gave an inarticulate growl.

Then when the proclamation had been read, the officer made a sign. Four
men with rifles came into view and took up positions of affected ease
along the wall. They wore the uniform of the rat police. At the sight of
the guns, young Caddies blazed into anger. He remembered the sting of
the Wreckstone farmers' shot guns. "You going to shoot off those at me?"
he said, pointing, and it seemed to the officer he must be afraid.

"If you don't march back to your pit--"

Then in an instant the officer had slung himself back over the wall, and
sixty feet above him the great electric standard whirled down to his
death. Bang, bang, bang, went the heavy guns, and smash! the shattered
wall, the soil and subsoil of the garden flew. Something flew with it,
that left red drops on one of the shooter's hands. The riflemen dodged
this way and that and turned valiantly to fire again. But young Caddies,
already shot twice through the body, had spun about to find who it was
had hit him so heavily in the back. Bang! Bang! He had a vision of
houses and greenhouses and gardens, of people dodging at windows, the
whole swaying fearfully and mysteriously. He seems to have made three
stumbling strides, to have raised and dropped his huge mace, and to have
clutched his chest. He was stung and wrenched by pain.

What was this, warm and wet, on his hand?

One man peering from a bedroom window saw his face, saw him staring,
with a grimace of weeping dismay, at the blood upon his hand, and then
his knees bent under him, and he came crashing to the earth, the first
of the giant nettles to fall to Caterham's resolute clutch, the very
last that he had reckoned would come into his hand.

H.G. Wells

    Book I-The Dawn of Food

    Book II-The Food in the Village

    Book III-The Harvest of the Food

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