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Chapter 2

THE GIANT LOVERS.


I.

Now it chanced in the days when Caterham was campaigning against the
Boom-children before the General Election that was--amidst the most
tragic and terrible circumstances--to bring him into power, that the
giant Princess, that Serene Highness whose early nutrition had played so
great a part in the brilliant career of Doctor Winkles, had come from
the kingdom of her father to England, on an occasion that was deemed
important. She was affianced for reasons of state to a certain
Prince--and the wedding was to be made an event of international
significance. There had arisen mysterious delays. Rumour and Imagination
collaborated in the story and many things were said. There were
suggestions of a recalcitrant Prince who declared he would not be made
to look like a fool--at least to this extent. People sympathised with
him. That is the most significant aspect of the affair.

Now it may seem a strange thing, but it is a fact that the giant
Princess, when she came to England, knew of no other giants whatever.
She had lived in a world where tact is almost a passion and reservations
the air of one's life. They had kept the thing from her; they had
hedged her about from sight or suspicion of any gigantic form, until her
appointed coming to England was due. Until she met young Redwood she had
no inkling that there was such a thing as another giant in the world.

In the kingdom of the father of the Princess there were wild wastes of
upland and mountains where she had been accustomed to roam freely. She
loved the sunrise and the sunset and all the great drama of the open
heavens more than anything else in the world, but among a people at once
so democratic and so vehemently loyal as the English her freedom was
much restricted. People came in brakes, in excursion trains, in
organised multitudes to see her; they would cycle long distances to
stare at her, and it was necessary to rise betimes if she would walk in
peace. It was still near the dawn that morning when young Redwood came
upon her.

The Great Park near the Palace where she lodged stretched, for a score
of miles and more, west and south of the western palace gates. The
chestnut trees of its avenues reached high above her head. Each one as
she passed it seemed to proffer a more abundant wealth of blossom. For a
time she was content with sight and scent, but at last she was won over
by these offers, and set herself so busily to choose and pick that she
did not perceive young Redwood until he was close upon her.

She moved among the chestnut trees, with the destined lover drawing near
to her, unanticipated, unsuspected. She thrust her hands in among the
branches, breaking them and gathering them. She was alone in the world.
Then---

She looked up, and in that moment she was mated.

We must needs put our imaginations to his stature to see the beauty he
saw. That unapproachable greatness that prevents our immediate sympathy
with her did not exist for him. There she stood, a gracious girl, the
first created being that had ever seemed a mate for him, light and
slender, lightly clad, the fresh breeze of the dawn moulding the subtly
folding robe upon her against the soft strong lines of her form, and
with a great mass of blossoming chestnut branches in her hands. The
collar of her robe opened to show the whiteness of her neck and a soft
shadowed roundness that passed out of sight towards her shoulders. The
breeze had stolen a strand or so of her hair too, and strained its
red-tipped brown across her cheek. Her eyes were open blue, and her lips
rested always in the promise of a smile as she reached among the
branches.

She turned upon him with a start, saw him, and for a space they regarded
one another. For her, the sight of him was so amazing, so incredible, as
to be, for some moments at least, terrible. He came to her with the
shock of a supernatural apparition; he broke all the established law of
her world. He was a youth of one-and-twenty then, slenderly built, with
his father's darkness and his father's gravity. He was clad in a sober
soft brown leather, close-fitting easy garments, and in brown hose, that
shaped him bravely. His head went uncovered in all weathers. They stood
regarding one another--she incredulously amazed, and he with his heart
beating fast. It was a moment without a prelude, the cardinal meeting of
their lives.

For him there was less surprise. He had been seeking her, and yet his
heart beat fast. He came towards her, slowly, with his eyes upon her
face.

"You are the Princess," he said. "My father has told me. You are the
Princess who was given the Food of the Gods."

"I am the Princess--yes," she said, with eyes of wonder. "But--what are
you?"

"I am the son of the man who made the Food of the Gods."

"The Food of the Gods!"

"Yes, the Food of the Gods."

"But--"

Her face expressed infinite perplexity.

"What? I don't understand. The Food of the Gods?"

"You have not heard?"

"The Food of the Gods! _No_!"

She found herself trembling violently. The colour left her face. "I did
not know," she said. "Do you mean--?"

He waited for her.

"Do you mean there are other--giants?"

He repeated, "Did you not know?"

And she answered, with the growing amazement of realisation, "_No!_"

The whole world and all the meaning of the world was changing for her. A
branch of chestnut slipped from her hand. "Do you mean to say," she
repeated stupidly, "that there are other giants in the world? That some
food--?"

He caught her amazement.

"You know nothing?" he cried. "You have never heard of us? You, whom the
Food has made akin to us!"

There was terror still in the eyes that stared at him. Her hand rose
towards her throat and fell again. She whispered, "_No_."

It seemed to her that she must weep or faint. Then in a moment she had
rule over herself and she was speaking and thinking clearly. "All this
has been kept from me," she said. "It is like a dream. I have
dreamt--have dreamt such things. But waking--No. Tell me! Tell me! What
are you? What is this Food of the Gods? Tell me slowly--and clearly. Why
have they kept it from me, that I am not alone?"


II.

"Tell me," she said, and young Redwood, tremulous and excited, set
himself to tell her--it was poor and broken telling for a time--of the
Food of the Gods and the giant children who were scattered over the
world.

You must figure them both, flushed and startled in their bearing;
getting at one another's meaning through endless half-heard, half-spoken
phrases, repeating, making perplexing breaks and new departures--a
wonderful talk, in which she awakened from the ignorance of all her
life. And very slowly it became clear to her that she was no exception
to the order of mankind, but one of a scattered brotherhood, who had all
eaten the Food and grown for ever out of the little limits of the folk
beneath their feet. Young Redwood spoke of his father, of Cossar, of the
Brothers scattered throughout the country, of the great dawn of wider
meaning that had come at last into the history of the world. "We are in
the beginning of a beginning," he said; "this world of theirs is only
the prelude to the world the Food will make.

"My father believes--and I also believe--that a time will come when
littleness will have passed altogether out of the world of man,--when
giants shall go freely about this earth--their earth--doing continually
greater and more splendid things. But that--that is to come. We are not
even the first generation of that--we are the first experiments."

"And of these things," she said, "I knew nothing!"

"There are times when it seems to me almost as if we had come too soon.
Some one, I suppose, had to come first. But the world was all unprepared
for our coming and for the coming of all the lesser great things that
drew their greatness from the Food. There have been blunders; there have
been conflicts. The little people hate our kind....

"They are hard towards us because they are so little.... And because our
feet are heavy on the things that make their lives. But at any rate they
hate us now; they will have none of us--only if we could shrink back to
the common size of them would they begin to forgive....

"They are happy in houses that are prison cells to us; their cities are
too small for us; we go in misery along their narrow ways; we cannot
worship in their churches....

"We see over their walls and over their protections; we look
inadvertently into their upper windows; we look over their customs;
their laws are no more than a net about our feet....

"Every time we stumble we hear them shouting; every time we blunder
against their limits or stretch out to any spacious act....

"Our easy paces are wild flights to them, and all they deem great and
wonderful no more than dolls' pyramids to us. Their pettiness of method
and appliance and imagination hampers and defeats our powers. There are
no machines to the power of our hands, no helps to fit our needs. They
hold our greatness in servitude by a thousand invisible bands. We are
stronger, man for man, a hundred times, but we are disarmed; our very
greatness makes us debtors; they claim the land we stand upon; they tax
our ampler need of food and shelter, and for all these things we must
toil with the tools these dwarfs can make us--and to satisfy their
dwarfish fancies ...

"They pen us in, in every way. Even to live one must cross their
boundaries. Even to meet you here to-day I have passed a limit. All that
is reasonable and desirable in life they make out of bounds for us. We
may not go into the towns; we may not cross the bridges; we may not step
on their ploughed fields or into the harbours of the game they kill. I
am cut off now from all our Brethren except the three sons of Cossar,
and even that way the passage narrows day by day. One could think they
sought occasion against us to do some more evil thing ..."

"But we are strong," she said.

"We should be strong--yes. We feel, all of us--you too I know must
feel--that we have power, power to do great things, power insurgent in
us. But before we can do anything--"

He flung out a hand that seemed to sweep away a world.

"Though I thought I was alone in the world," she said, after a pause, "I
have thought of these things. They have taught me always that strength
was almost a sin, that it was better to be little than great, that all
true religion was to shelter the weak and little, encourage the weak
and little, help them to multiply and multiply until at last they
crawled over one another, to sacrifice all our strength in their cause.
But ... always I have doubted the thing they taught."

"This life," he said, "these bodies of ours, are not for dying."

"No."

"Nor to live in futility. But if we would not do that, it is already
plain to all our Brethren a conflict must come. I know not what
bitterness of conflict must presently come, before the little folks will
suffer us to live as we need to live. All the Brethren have thought of
that. Cossar, of whom I told you: he too has thought of that."

"They are very little and weak."

"In their way. But you know all the means of death are in their hands,
and made for their hands. For hundreds of thousands of years these
little people, whose world we invade, have been learning how to kill one
another. They are very able at that. They are able in many ways. And
besides, they can deceive and change suddenly.... I do not know....
There comes a conflict. You--you perhaps are different from us. For us,
assuredly, the conflict comes.... The thing they call War. We know it.
In a way we prepare for it. But you know--those little people!--we do
not know how to kill, at least we do not want to kill--"

"Look," she interrupted, and he heard a yelping horn.

He turned at the direction of her eyes, and found a bright yellow motor
car, with dark goggled driver and fur-clad passengers, whooping,
throbbing, and buzzing resentfully at his heel. He moved his foot, and
the mechanism, with three angry snorts, resumed its fussy way towards
the town. "Filling up the roadway!" floated up to him.

Then some one said, "Look! Did you see? There is the monster Princess
over beyond the trees!" and all their goggled faces came round to stare.

"I say," said another. "_That_ won't do ..."

"All this," she said, "is more amazing than I can tell."

"That they should not have told you," he said, and left his sentence
incomplete.

"Until you came upon me, I had lived in a world where I was
great--alone. I had made myself a life--for that. I had thought I was
the victim of some strange freak of nature. And now my world has
crumbled down, in half an hour, and I see another world, other
conditions, wider possibilities--fellowship--"

"Fellowship," he answered.

"I want you to tell me more yet, and much more," she said. "You know
this passes through my mind like a tale that is told. You even ... In a
day perhaps, or after several days, I shall believe in you. Now--Now I
am dreaming.... Listen!"

The first stroke of a clock above the palace offices far away had
penetrated to them. Each counted mechanically "Seven."

"This," she said, "should be the hour of my return. They will be taking
the bowl of my coffee into the hall where I sleep. The little officials
and servants--you cannot dream how grave they are--will be stirring
about their little duties."

"They will wonder ... But I want to talk to you."

She thought. "But I want to think too. I want now to think alone, and
think out this change in things, think away the old solitude, and think
you and those others into my world.... I shall go. I shall go back
to-day to my place in the castle, and to-morrow, as the dawn comes, I
shall come again--here."

"I shall be here waiting for you."

"All day I shall dream and dream of this new world you have given me.
Even now, I can scarcely believe--"

She took a step back and surveyed him from the feet to the face. Their
eyes met and locked for a moment.

"Yes," she said, with a little laugh that was half a sob. "You are real.
But it is very wonderful! Do you think--indeed--? Suppose to-morrow I
come and find you--a pigmy like the others... Yes, I must think. And so
for to-day--as the little people do--"

She held out her hand, and for the first time they touched one another.
Their hands clasped firmly and their eyes met again.

"Good-bye," she said, "for to-day. Good-bye! Good-bye, Brother Giant!"

He hesitated with some unspoken thing, and at last he answered her
simply, "Good-bye."

For a space they held each other's hands, studying each the other's
face. And many times after they had parted, she looked back half
doubtfully at him, standing still in the place where they had met....

She walked into her apartments across the great yard of the Palace like
one who walks in a dream, with a vast branch of chestnut trailing from
her hand.


III.

These two met altogether fourteen times before the beginning of the end.
They met in the Great Park or on the heights and among the gorges of
the rusty-roaded, heathery moorland, set with dusky pine-woods, that
stretched to the south-west. Twice they met in the great avenue of
chestnuts, and five times near the broad ornamental water the king, her
great-grandfather, had made. There was a place where a great trim lawn,
set with tall conifers, sloped graciously to the water's edge, and there
she would sit, and he would lie at her knees and look up in her face and
talk, telling of all the things that had been, and of the work his
father had set before him, and of the great and spacious dream of what
the giant people should one day be. Commonly they met in the early dawn,
but once they met there in the afternoon, and found presently a
multitude of peering eavesdroppers about them, cyclists, pedestrians,
peeping from the bushes, rustling (as sparrows will rustle about one in
the London parks) amidst the dead leaves in the woods behind, gliding
down the lake in boats towards a point of view, trying to get nearer to
them and hear.

It was the first hint that offered of the enormous interest the
countryside was taking in their meetings. And once--it was the seventh
time, and it precipitated the scandal--they met out upon the breezy
moorland under a clear moonlight, and talked in whispers there, for the
night was warm and still.

Very soon they had passed from the realisation that in them and through
them a new world of giantry shaped itself in the earth, from the
contemplation of the great struggle between big and little, in which
they were clearly destined to participate, to interests at once more
personal and more spacious. Each time they met and talked and looked on
one another, it crept a little more out of their subconscious being
towards recognition, that something more dear and wonderful than
friendship was between them, and walked between them and drew their
hands together. And in a little while they came to the word itself and
found themselves lovers, the Adam and Eve of a new race in the world.

They set foot side by side into the wonderful valley of love, with its
deep and quiet places. The world changed about them with their changing
mood, until presently it had become, as it were, a tabernacular beauty
about their meetings, and the stars were no more than flowers of light
beneath the feet of their love, and the dawn and sunset the coloured
hangings by the way. They ceased to be beings of flesh and blood to one
another and themselves; they passed into a bodily texture of tenderness
and desire. They gave it first whispers and then silence, and drew close
and looked into one another's moonlit and shadowy faces under the
infinite arch of the sky. And the still black pine-trees stood about
them like sentinels.

The beating steps of time were hushed into silence, and it seemed to
them the universe hung still. Only their hearts were audible, beating.
They seemed to be living together in a world where there is no death,
and indeed so it was with them then. It seemed to them that they
sounded, and indeed they sounded, such hidden splendours in the very
heart of things as none have ever reached before. Even for mean and
little souls, love is the revelation of splendours. And these were giant
lovers who had eaten the Food of the Gods ...

* * * * *

You may imagine the spreading consternation in this ordered world when
it became known that the Princess who was affianced to the Prince, the
Princess, Her Serene Highness! with royal blood in her veins!
met,--frequently met,--the hypertrophied offspring of a common professor
of chemistry, a creature of no rank, no position, no wealth, and talked
to him as though there were no Kings and Princes, no order, no
reverence--nothing but Giants and Pigmies in the world, talked to him
and, it was only too certain, held him as her lover.

"If those newspaper fellows get hold of it!" gasped Sir Arthur Poodle
Bootlick ...

"I am told--" whispered the old Bishop of Frumps.

"New story upstairs," said the first footman, as he nibbled among the
dessert things. "So far as I can make out this here giant Princess--"

"They say--" said the lady who kept the stationer's shop by the main
entrance to the Palace, where the little Americans get their tickets for
the State Apartments ...

And then:

"We are authorised to deny--" said "Picaroon" in _Gossip_.

And so the whole trouble came out.


IV.

"They say that we must part," the Princess said to her lover.

"But why?" he cried. "What new folly have these people got into their
heads?"

"Do you know," she asked, "that to love me--is high treason?"

"My dear," he cried; "but does it matter? What is their right--right
without a shadow of reason--and their treason and their loyalty to us?"
"You shall hear," she said, and told him of the things that had been
told to her.

"It was the queerest little man who came to me with a soft, beautifully
modulated voice, a softly moving little gentleman who sidled into the
room like a cat and put his pretty white hand up so, whenever he had
anything significant to say. He is bald, but not of course nakedly bald,
and his nose and face are chubby rosy little things, and his beard is
trimmed to a point in quite the loveliest way. He pretended to have
emotions several times and made his eyes shine. You know he is quite a
friend of the real royal family here, and he called me his dear young
lady and was perfectly sympathetic even from the beginning. 'My dear
young lady,' he said, 'you know--_you mustn't,'_ several times, and
then, 'You owe a duty.'"

"Where do they make such men?"

"He likes it," she said.

"But I don't see--"

"He told me serious things."

"You don't think," he said, turning on her abruptly, "that there's
anything in the sort of thing he said?"

"There's something in it quite certainly," said she.

"You mean--?"

"I mean that without knowing it we have been trampling on the most
sacred conceptions of the little folks. We who are royal are a class
apart. We are worshipped prisoners, processional toys. We pay for
worship by losing--our elementary freedom. And I was to have married
that Prince--You know nothing of him though. Well, a pigmy Prince. He
doesn't matter.... It seems it would have strengthened the bonds between
my country and another. And this country also was to profit. Imagine
it!--strengthening the bonds!"

"And now?"

"They want me to go on with it--as though there was nothing between us
two."

"Nothing!"

"Yes. But that isn't all. He said--"

"Your specialist in Tact?"

"Yes. He said it would be better for you, better for all the giants, if
we two--abstained from conversation. That was how he put it."

"But what can they do if we don't?"

"He said you might have your freedom."

"_I!_"

"He said, with a stress, 'My dear young lady, it would be better, it
would be more dignified, if you parted, willingly.' That was all he
said. With a stress on willingly."

"But--! What business is it of these little wretches, where we love, how
we love? What have they and their world to do with us?"

"They do not think that."

"Of course," he said, "you disregard all this."

"It seems utterly foolish to me."

"That their laws should fetter us! That we, at the first spring of life,
should be tripped by their old engagements, their aimless institutions I
Oh--! We disregard it."

"I am yours. So far--yes."

"So far? Isn't that all?"

"But they--If they want to part us--"

"What can they do?"

"I don't know. What _can_ they do?" "Who cares what they can do, or
what they will do? I am yours and you are mine. What is there more than
that? I am yours and you are mine--for ever. Do you think I will stop
for their little rules, for their little prohibitions, their scarlet
boards indeed!--and keep from _you_?"

"Yes. But still, what can they do?"

"You mean," he said, "what are we to do?"

"Yes."

"We? We can go on."

"But if they seek to prevent us?"

He clenched his hands. He looked round as if the little people were
already coming to prevent them. Then turned away from her and looked
about the world. "Yes," he said. "Your question was the right one. What
can they do?"

"Here la this little land," she said, and stopped.

He seemed to survey it all. "They are everywhere."

"But we might--"

"Whither?"

"We could go. We could swim the seas together. Beyond the seas--"

"I have never been beyond the seas."

"There are great and desolate mountains amidst which we should seem no
more than little people, there are remote and deserted valleys, there
are hidden lakes and snow-girdled uplands untrodden by the feet of men.
_There_--"

"But to get there we must fight our way day after day through millions
and millions of mankind."

"It is our only hope. In this crowded land there is no fastness, no
shelter. What place is there for us among these multitudes? They who are
little can hide from one another, but where are we to hide? There is no
place where we could eat, no place where we could sleep. If we
fled--night and day they would pursue our footsteps."

A thought came to him.

"There is one place," he said, "even in this island."

"Where?"

"The place our Brothers have made over beyond there. They have made
great banks about their house, north and south and east and west; they
have made deep pits and hidden places, and even now--one came over to me
quite recently. He said--I did not altogether heed what he said then.
But he spoke of arms. It may be--there--we should find shelter....

"For many days," he said, after a pause, "I have not seen our
Brothers... Dear! I have been dreaming, I have been forgetting! The days
have passed, and I have done nothing but look to see you again ... I
must go to them and talk to them, and tell them of you and of all the
things that hang over us. If they will help us, they can help us. Then
indeed we might hope. I do not know how strong their place is, but
certainly Cossar will have made it strong. Before all this--before you
came to me, I remember now--there was trouble brewing. There was an
election--when all the little people settle things, by counting heads.
It must be over now. There were threats against all our race--against
all our race, that is, but you. I must see our Brothers. I must tell
them all that has happened between us, and all that threatens now."

V.

He did not come to their next meeting until she had waited some time.
They were to meet that day about midday in a great space of park that
fitted into a bend of the river, and as she waited, looking ever
southward under her hand, it came to her that the world was very still,
that indeed it was broodingly still. And then she perceived that, spite
of the lateness of the hour, her customary retinue of voluntary spies
had failed her. Left and right, when she came to look, there was no one
in sight, and there was never a boat upon the silver curve of the
Thames. She tried to find a reason for this strange stillness in the
world....

Then, a grateful sight for her, she saw young Redwood far away over a
gap in the tree masses that bounded her view.

Immediately the trees hid him, and presently he was thrusting through
them and in sight again. She could see there was something different,
and then she saw that he was hurrying unusually and then that he limped.
He gestured to her, and she walked towards him. His face became clearer,
and she saw with infinite concern that he winced at every stride.

She ran towards him, her mind full of questions and vague fear. He drew
near to her and spoke without a greeting.

"Are we to part?" he panted.

"No," she answered. "Why? What is the matter?"

"But if we do not part--! It is _now_."

"What is the matter?"

"I do not want to part," he said. "Only--" He broke off abruptly to
ask, "You will not part from me?"

She met his eyes with a steadfast look. "What has happened?" she
pressed.

"Not for a time?"

"What time?"

"Years perhaps."

"Part! No!"

"You have thought?" he insisted.

"I will not part." She took his hand. "If this meant death, _now_, I
would not let you go."

"If it meant death," he said, and she felt his grip upon her fingers.

He looked about him as if he feared to see the little people coming as
he spoke. And then: "It may mean death."

"Now tell me," she said.

"They tried to stop my coming."

"How?"

"And as I came out of my workshop where I make the Food of the Gods for
the Cossars to store in their camp, I found a little officer of
police--a man in blue with white clean gloves--who beckoned me to stop.
'This way is closed!' said he. I thought little of that; I went round my
workshop to where another road runs west, and there was another officer.
'This road is closed!' he said, and added: 'All the roads are closed!'"

"And then?"

"I argued with him a little. 'They are public roads!' I said.

"'That's it,' said he. 'You spoil them for the public.'

"'Very well,' said I, 'I'll take the fields,' and then, up leapt others
from behind a hedge and said, 'These fields are private.'

"'Curse your public and private,' I said, 'I'm going to my Princess,'
and I stooped down and picked him up very gently--kicking and
shouting--and put him out of my way. In a minute all the fields about me
seemed alive with running men. I saw one on horseback galloping beside
me and reading something as he rode--shouting it. He finished and turned
and galloped away from me--head down. I couldn't make it out. And then
behind me I heard the crack of guns."

"Guns!"

"Guns--just as they shoot at the rats. The bullets came through the air
with a sound like things tearing: one stung me in the leg."

"And you?"

"Came on to you here and left them shouting and running and shooting
behind me. And now--"

"Now?"

"It is only the beginning. They mean that we shall part. Even now they
are coming after me."

"We will not."

"No. But if we will not part--then you must come with me to our
Brothers."

"Which way?" she said.

"To the east. Yonder is the way my pursuers will be coming. This then is
the way we must go. Along this avenue of trees. Let me go first, so that
if they are waiting--"

He made a stride, but she had seized his arm.

"No," cried she. "I come close to you, holding you. Perhaps I am royal,
perhaps I am sacred. If I hold you--Would God we could fly with my arms
about you!--it may be, they will not shoot at you--"

She clasped his shoulder and seized his hand as she spoke; she pressed
herself nearer to him. "It may be they will not shoot you," she
repeated, and with a sudden passion of tenderness he took her into his
arms and kissed her cheek. For a space he held her.

"Even if it is death," she whispered.

She put her hands about his neck and lifted her face to his.

"Dearest, kiss me once more."

He drew her to him. Silently they kissed one another on the lips, and
for another moment clung to one another. Then hand in hand, and she
striving always to keep her body near to his, they set forward if haply
they might reach the camp of refuge the sons of Cossar had made, before
the pursuit of the little people overtook them.

And as they crossed the great spaces of the park behind the castle there
came horsemen galloping out from among the trees and vainly seeking to
keep pace with their giant strides. And presently ahead of them were
houses, and men with guns running out of the houses. At the sight of
that, though he sought to go on and was even disposed to fight and push
through, she made him turn aside towards the south.

As they fled a bullet whipped by them overhead.

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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