There was a moment's pause.
"0h, Lovat, don't be so silly. You know you don't think your essays rubbish," put in Harriet. "They're about life, and democracy, and equality, and all that sort of thing," Harriet explained.
"Oh, yes?" said Jack. "I'd like to read some."
"Well," hesitated Harriet. "He can lend you a volume—you've got some with you, haven't you?" she added, turning to Somers.
"I've got one," admitted that individual, looking daggers at her.
"Well, you'll lend it to Mr Callcott, won't you?"
"If he wants it. But it will only bore him."
"I might rise up to it, you know," said Jack laconically, "it I bring all my mental Weight to bear on it."
Somers flushed, and laughed at the contradiction in metaphor.
"It's not the loltiness," he said, rather amused. "It's that people just don't care to hear some things."
"Well, let me try," said Jack. "We're a new country —and we're out to learn."
"That's exactly what we're not," broke out William James, with a Cornish accent and a blurt of a laugh. "We're out to show to everybody that we know everything there is to be known."
"That's some of us," said Jack.
"And most of us," said William James.
"Have it your own way, boy. But let us speak for the minority. And there's a minority that knows we've got to learn a big lesson—and that's willing to learn it."
Again there was silence. The women seemed almost effaced.
"There's one thing," thought Somers to himself, "when these Colonials do speak seriously, they speak like men, not like babies." He looked up at Jack.
"It's the world that's got to learn a lesson," he said. "Not only Australia." His tone was acid and sinister. And he looked with his hard, pale blue eyes at Calleott. Calleott's eyes, brown and less concentrated, less hard, looked back curiously at the other man.
"Possibly it is," he said. "But my job is Australia."