"HOW wonderful it is," said Wendy. "I feel this is my history. I belong to no world and no nation but this one. If England--far less `Europe'--went to war, I should feel no involvement. It would be a quarrel between two alien states. I am an Aristasian, and that is all I am."
"And yet," said Emma Kadrina, playing Devil's advocate herself, yet voicing herreal concern, "are we not more deracinated than the rest--having cast off all allegiance save to a thing we have invented? Casting off all natural ties and birthright, having no mother country but the one we have given birth to out of the womb of our own imaginations?"
"Of course," said Maria, "Only by becoming completely deracinated can one re-racinate oneself at this stage in the course of things. Only she who loses her life can save it. So long as a fragment of rootedness remains in the world that is opposed to all roots, there is no possibility of personal restitution.If you will forgive the analogy, every speck of decay must be drilled ou tbefore we can begin rebuilding the tooth. As long as we imagine there is still an England--or still anything--we are chained to the enemy's world by that link. England has gone, along with every other nation. There is only theVoid. As surely as if civilisation had been destroyed by atom bombs, the onl yinhabitable world is the world we create."
"It is true," said Alice Trent, "and it is that terrible fact which allows us to rebuild the world as we would have it."
"In all conscience," said Miss Nightwind, "we suffer enough pain and heartache from living in a voided world; let us not be shy of reaping every shred of positive advantage that the circumstance allows us by way of compensation."
"And yet," said Alice Trent, "for all the pain we certainly feel, I often wonder whether the advantage does not outweight, in many respects, the disadvantage. How else could we live a life as delightful as the one we do? How many people have lived in a world--however tiny--bound with such love and loyalty; with so little of jealousy and spite, so much pure appreciation of one another; so much rein given to the various natures of each one of us and the development of a purely feminine world, which, for such as us, must be more satisfying than any other--any `real' historical world. Have we not been blessed abundantly by our misfortunes?"
"It reminds me," said Wendy, "of how people used to say things were so much better in the War--that people were kinder and nobler and had a sense of common purpose. Being so few against a howling emptiness, can we not be purer and better and have a truer loyalty than we could in a world where sanity was simply normal and taken for granted?"
"Yet isn't there something to Emma Kadrina's worry?" asked Sinta. "Does it not make our life curiously thin and insubstantial to owe our loyalty to a country of the mind? To associate ourselves with a people of whom--well, if you do not mind my saying it, we do not even know the Facts of Life, as they are called."
"You mean we don't know how blondes and brunettes make babies?" asked Wendy.
"Precocious child," said Alice Trent. "But do you not think that is the most wonderful thing? I mean, having emerged from a quagmire where these `facts' have become so commonplace, so utterly vulgarised as to destroy every vestige of sanctity and beauty--where every hint of the real depth of the thing is buried beneath the most banal third-form literalism, rather like the bongo's picture of Nelson--isn't it the most delightful, audacious corrective of the whole nonsense to spirit ourselves into a world where no one knows the Facts of Life at all?"
"And all of us are as innocent as Arcadian adolescents. The polar opposite of what Johnny Bongo tried to make us."
"Or perhaps some wonderful, super-innocent fantasy-Quirinelle teenagers ,living in a world where a certain degree of petting occupies the mind almost constantly----"
"Speak for yourself, Miss Nightwind!"
"----but nobody goes Too Far, because nobody actually knows how to."
"Delicious! But you know, I've heard that it's something to do with the brunette's tongue----"
"Sorry, Alice Trent."
"Yes, I've heard that too, but then I've also heard----"
"Miss Nightwind, you are not too old to be spanked," said Alice Trent.
"Especially as Lindie seems to be slipping in," said Sinta with mischeivous acumen.
"Well, never mind what I've heard. We've all heard various things, but the point is, no one actually knows, does she?"
"And that," said Emma Kadrina, "together with the decorum of Aristasia, and with a respect for life and its mysteries--doesn't it make the erotic so much more exciting? Doesn't it restore the thrill to a thing that has become so plebeian and commonplace in the pit?"