The only mystery is that nothing changes. Nothing really happens. Marriages, births, deaths, terrible wars had occurred but had changed nothing. War is not a change but a poor attempt to make a change. War and peace are not events.
And, strange to say, at the very moment of his remembering the distant past, the meaning of his present life became clear to him, instantly and without the least surprise as if he had known it all along but had not until now taken the trouble to know that he knew.
Yes, I did all that and succeeded in everything except believing in the Christian God—maybe you were right about one thing after all—what’s more even beat you, made more money, wrote a law book, won an honorary degree, listened to better music.
Now Marion is dead and I can’t believe I spent all those years in New York in Trusts and Estates and taking dogs down elevators and out to the park to take a crap.
In two seconds he saw that his little Yankee life had not worked after all, the nearly twenty years of making a life with a decent upstate woman and with decent Northern folk and working in an honorable Wall Street firm and making a success of it too. The whole twenty years could just as easily have been a long night’s dream, and here he was in old Carolina, thinking of Ethel Rosenblum and having fits and falling down on the golf course—what in God’s name was I doing there, and am I doing here?
After you make a living, then what do you do? How do you live?
But maybe he’s right, and it’s one way to keep from going nutty, but maybe there’s something nutty too about an Englishman puttering about his mums while the sceptered isle slowly sinks into the sea.