A Passage to India CHAPTER XXXVII

Friends again, yet aware that they could meet no more, Aziz and Fielding went for their last ride in the Mau jungles. The floods had abated and the Rajah was officially dead, so the Guest House party were departing next morning, as decorum required. What with the mourning and the festival, the visit was a failure.

Fielding had scarcely seen Godbole, who promised every day to show him over the King-Emperor George Fifth High School, his main objective, but always made some excuse. This afternoon Aziz let out what had happened: the King-Emperor had been converted into a granary, and the Minister of Education did not like to admit this to his former Principal. The school had been opened only last year by the Agent to the Governor-General, and it still flourished on paper; he hoped to start it again before its absence was remarked and to collect its scholars before they produced children of their own. Fielding laughed at the tangle and waste of energy, but he did not travel as lightly as in the past; education was a continuous concern to him, because his income and the comfort of his family depended on it. He knew that few Indians think education good in itself, and he deplored this now on the widest grounds. He began to say something heavy on the subject of Native States, but the friendliness of Aziz distracted him. This reconciliation was a success, anyhow. After the funny shipwreck there had been no more nonsense or bitterness, and they went back laughingly to their old relationship as if nothing had happened. Now they rode between jolly bushes and rocks. Presently the ground opened into full sunlight and they saw a grassy slope bright with butterflies, also a cobra, which crawled across doing nothing in particular, and disappeared among some custard apple trees. There were round white clouds in the sky, and white pools on the earth; the hills in the distance were purple. The scene was as park-like as England, but did not cease being queer. They drew rein, to give the cobra elbow-room, and Aziz produced a letter that he wanted to send to Miss Quested. A charming letter. He wanted to thank his old enemy for her fine behaviour two years back: perfectly plain was it now that she had behaved well. “As I fell into our largest Mau tank under circumstances our other friends will relate, I thought how brave Miss Quested was, and decided to tell her so, despite my imperfect English. Through you I am happy here with my children instead of in a prison, of that I make no doubt. My children shall be taught to speak of you with the greatest affection and respect.”

“Miss Quested will be greatly pleased. I am glad you have seen her courage at last.”

“I want to do kind actions all round and wipe out the wretched business of the Marabar for ever. I have been so disgracefully hasty, thinking you meant to get hold of my money: as bad a mistake as the cave itself.”

“Aziz, I wish you would talk to my wife. She too believes that the Marabar is wiped out.”

“How so?”

“I don’t know, perhaps she might tell you, she won’t tell me. She has ideas I don’t share—indeed, when I’m away from her I think them ridiculous. When I’m with her, I suppose because I’m fond of her, I feel different, I feel half dead and half blind. My wife’s after something. You and I and Miss Quested are, roughly speaking, not after anything. We jog on as decently as we can, you a little in front—a laudable little party. But my wife is not with us.”

“What are you meaning? Is Stella not faithful to you, Cyril? This fills me with great concern.”

Fielding hesitated. He was not quite happy about his marriage. He was passionate physically again—the final flare-up before the clinkers of middle age—and he knew that his wife did not love him as much as he loved her, and he was ashamed of pestering her. But during the visit to Mau the situation had improved. There seemed a link between them at last—that link outside either participant that is necessary to every relationship. In the language of theology, their union had been blessed. He could assure Aziz that Stella was not only faithful to him, but likely to become more so; and trying to express what was not clear to himself, he added dully that different people had different points of view. “If you won’t talk about the Marabar to Stella, why won’t you talk to Ralph? He is a wise boy really. And (same metaphor) he rides a little behind her, though with her.”

“Tell him also, I have nothing to say to him, but he is indeed a wise boy and has always one Indian friend. I partly love him because he brought me back to you to say good-bye. For this is good-bye, Cyril, though to think about it will spoil our ride and make us sad.”

“No, we won’t think about it.” He too felt that this was their last free intercourse. All the stupid misunderstandings had been cleared up, but socially they had no meeting-place. He had thrown in his lot with Anglo-India by marrying a countrywoman, and he was acquiring some of its limitations, and already felt surprise at his own past heroism. Would he to-day defy all his own people for the sake of a stray Indian? Aziz was a memento, a trophy, they were proud of each other, yet they must inevitably part. And, anxious to make what he could of this last afternoon, he forced himself to speak intimately about his wife, the person most dear to him. He said: “From her point of view, Mau has been a success. It calmed her—both of them suffer from restlessness. She found something soothing, some solution of her queer troubles here.” After a silence—myriads of kisses around them as the earth drew the water in—he continued: “Do you know anything about this Krishna business?”

“My dear chap, officially they call it Gokul Ashtami. All the State offices are closed, but how else should it concern you and me?”

“Gokul is the village where Krishna was born—well, more or less born, for there’s the same hovering between it and another village as between Bethlehem and Nazareth. What I want to discover is its spiritual side, if it has one.”

“It is useless discussing Hindus with me. Living with them teaches me no more. When I think I annoy them, I do not. When I think I don’t annoy them, I do. Perhaps they will sack me for tumbling on to their dolls’-house; on the other hand, perhaps they will double my salary. Time will prove. Why so curious about them?”

“It’s difficult to explain. I never really understood or liked them, except an occasional scrap of Godbole. Does the old fellow still say ‘Come, come?’”

“Oh, presumably.”

Fielding sighed, opened his lips, shut them, then said with a little laugh, “I can’t explain, because it isn’t in words at all, but why do my wife and her brother like Hinduism, though they take no interest in its forms? They won’t talk to me about this. They know I think a certain side of their lives is a mistake, and are shy. That’s why I wish you would talk to them, for at all events you’re Oriental.”

Aziz refused to reply. He didn’t want to meet Stella and Ralph again, knew they didn’t want to meet him, was incurious about their secrets, and felt good old Cyril to be a bit clumsy. Something—not a sight, but a sound—flitted past him, and caused him to re-read his letter to Miss Quested. Hadn’t he wanted to say something else to her? Taking out his pen, he added: “For my own part, I shall henceforth connect you with the name that is very sacred in my mind, namely, Mrs. Moore.” When he had finished, the mirror of the scenery was shattered, the meadow disintegrated into butterflies. A poem about Mecca—the Caaba of Union—the thorn-bushes where pilgrims die before they have seen the Friend—they flitted next; he thought of his wife; and then the whole semi-mystic, semi-sensuous overturn, so characteristic of his spiritual life, came to end like a landslip and rested in its due place, and he found himself riding in the jungle with his dear Cyril.

“Oh, shut up,” he said. “Don’t spoil our last hour with foolish questions. Leave Krishna alone, and talk about something sensible.”

They did. All the way back to Mau they wrangled about politics. Each had hardened since Chandrapore, and a good knock about proved enjoyable. They trusted each other, although they were going to part, perhaps because they were going to part. Fielding had “no further use for politeness,” he said, meaning that the British Empire really can’t be abolished because it’s rude. Aziz retorted, “Very well, and we have no use for you,” and glared at him with abstract hate. Fielding said: “Away from us, Indians go to seed at once. Look at the King-Emperor High School! Look at you, forgetting your medicine and going back to charms. Look at your poems.”—“Jolly good poems, I’m getting published Bombay side.”—“Yes, and what do they say? Free our women and India will be free. Try it, my lad. Free your own lady in the first place, and see who’ll wash Ahmed Karim and Jamila’s faces. A nice situation!”

Aziz grew more excited. He rose in his stirrups and pulled at his horse’s head in the hope it would rear. Then he should feel in a battle. He cried: “Clear out, all you Turtons and Burtons. We wanted to know you ten years back—now it’s too late. If we see you and sit on your committees, it’s for political reasons, don’t you make any mistake.” His horse did rear. “Clear out, clear out, I say. Why are we put to so much suffering? We used to blame you, now we blame ourselves, we grow wiser. Until England is in difficulties we keep silent, but in the next European war—aha, aha! Then is our time.” He paused, and the scenery, though it smiled, fell like a gravestone on any human hope. They cantered past a temple to Hanuman—God so loved the world that he took monkey’s flesh upon him—and past a Saivite temple, which invited to lust, but under the semblance of eternity, its obscenities bearing no relation to those of our flesh and blood. They splashed through butterflies and frogs; great trees with leaves like plates rose among the brushwood. The divisions of daily life were returning, the shrine had almost shut.

“Who do you want instead of the English? The Japanese?” jeered Fielding, drawing rein.

“No, the Afghans. My own ancestors.”

“Oh, your Hindu friends will like that, won’t they?”

“It will be arranged—a conference of Oriental statesmen.”

“It will indeed be arranged.”

“Old story of ‘We will rob every man and rape every woman from Peshawar to Calcutta,’ I suppose, which you get some nobody to repeat and then quote every week in the Pioneer in order to frighten us into retaining you! We know!” Still he couldn’t quite fit in Afghans at Mau, and, finding he was in a corner, made his horse rear again until he remembered that he had, or ought to have, a mother-land. Then he shouted: “India shall be a nation! No foreigners of any sort! Hindu and Moslem and Sikh and all shall be one! Hurrah! Hurrah for India! Hurrah! Hurrah!”

India a nation! What an apotheosis! Last comer to the drab nineteenth-century sisterhood! Waddling in at this hour of the world to take her seat! She, whose only peer was the Holy Roman Empire, she shall rank with Guatemala and Belgium perhaps! Fielding mocked again. And Aziz in an awful rage danced this way and that, not knowing what to do, and cried: “Down with the English anyhow. That’s certain. Clear out, you fellows, double quick, I say. We may hate one another, but we hate you most. If I don’t make you go, Ahmed will, Karim will, if it’s fifty five-hundred years we shall get rid of you, yes, we shall drive every blasted Englishman into the sea, and then”—he rode against him furiously—“and then,” he concluded, half kissing him, “you and I shall be friends.”

“Why can’t we be friends now?” said the other, holding him affectionately. “It’s what I want. It’s what you want.”

But the horses didn’t want it—they swerved apart; the earth didn’t want it, sending up rocks through which riders must pass single file; the temples, the tank, the jail, the palace, the birds, the carrion, the Guest House, that came into view as they issued from the gap and saw Mau beneath: they didn’t want it, they said in their hundred voices, “No, not yet,” and the sky said, “No, not there.”

Weybridge, 1924.


“A remarkable book. Not often has the reviewer to welcome a new writer and a new novel so directly conveying the impression of power and an easy mastery of material. Here there are qualities of style and thought which awaken a sense of satisfaction and delight; a taste in the selection of words; a keen insight into the humour (and not merely the humours) of life; and a challenge to its accepted courses. It is told with a deftness, a lightness, a grace of touch, and a radiant atmosphere of humour which mark a strength and capacity giving large promise for the future.”—Daily News.

“Mr. Forster has succeeded, with a cleverness that is almost uncanny, in illustrating the tragic possibilities that reside in insignificant and unimportant characters when they seek to emancipate themselves from the bondage of convention, or to control those who are dominated by a wholly different set of traditions.”—Spectator.

“This novel is a very remarkable and distinguished piece of work. This new book is one of the most promising we have read from a young writer, not only for many publishing seasons, but even for many years. Its abundant cleverness fills even the more strenuous passages with vivacity. The strength of the book consists in its implicit indictment of the mean conventional, self-deceitful insincerity of so much of modern English educated middle-class life. This is certainly one of the cleverest and most original books that have appeared from a new writer since George Meredith first took the literary critics into his confidence.”—Daily Telegraph.

“It is interesting and living and amusing.”—The Times.

“Mr. Forster’s new novel is not only much the best of the three he has written, but it clearly admits him to the limited class of writers who stand above and apart from the manufacturers of contemporary fiction.”—Spectator.

“It is packed with wonderful impressions and radiant sayings.”—Evening Standard.

“This is one of the cleverest and most entertaining novels we have read for some time. The characters are as clear and salient as a portrait by Sargent, and there are many of them. One is continually moved to appreciative smiles by clever little touches of description and enlightenment. The story, too, is interesting and real.”—Daily Mail.

“This odd title suggests a story rather out of the common, and it does not prove in the least misleading. The book is both original and delightful, presenting scenes of everyday life almost commonplace sometimes in their fidelity to nature, but chronicled in such a happy vein of quiet humour and with such penetrating observation as makes each little incident and dialogue a source of sheer joy to the reader. The characters are admirably drawn.”—Pall Mall Gazette.

“We have originality and observation, and a book as clever as the other books that Mr. Forster has written already.”—Times.

“Mr. Forster has earned the right to serious criticism. His work has revealed individuality, distinction, and a power of suggestion which opens large issues. ‘A Room with a View’ might stand for a title of all his work. There is a spirit of high comedy in it. Mr. Forster can describe with sure touch the queer satisfactions and still queerer repugnances which make up the strange region of modern things. Had this element been there alone, the book would have been merely an excellent satirical judgment of manners and conventions. Had the other elements stood alone—the revelation of the hidden life—it would have been mystical, intangible, illusory. By the fusion of the one with the other, he is able to present work humorous and arresting, with a curious element in it of compelling strength and emotion.”—Nation.

“‘Howards End’ is packed full of good things. It stands out head and shoulders above the great mass of fiction now claiming a hearing. The autumn season has brought us some good novels, but this is, so far, the best of them. ‘Howards End’ raises its author to a place among contemporary novelists which few even of those whose earlier work shows promise succeed in attaining.”—Daily Mail.

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“Mr. E. M. Forster has now done what critical admirers of his foregoing novels have confidently looked for—he has written a book in which his highly original talent has found full and ripe expression. A very remarkable and original book.”—The Times.

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“‘Howards End’ is a novel of high talent—the highest.”—Daily Graphic.

“This novel, taken with its three predecessors, assures its author a place amongst the handful of living writers who count.”—Athenæum.