‘Progress!’ [Lord Edward] echoed, and the tone of misery and embarrassment was exchanged for one of confidence. ‘Progress! You politicians are always talking about it. As though it were going to last. Indefinitely. More motors, more babies, more food, more advertising, more money, more everything, for ever. You ought to take a few lessons in my subject. Physical biology. Progress, indeed!… That’s the trouble with you politicians. You don’t even think of the important things. Talking about progress and votes and Bolshevism and every year allowing a million tons of phosphorus pentoxide to run away into the sea. It’s idiotic, it’s criminal, it’s… it’s fiddling while Rome burns… You think we’re being progressive because we’re living on our capital. Phosphates, coal, petroleum, nitre – squander them all. That’s your policy. And meanwhile you go round trying to make our flesh creep with talk about revolutions.’
There was no breeze except the wind of the ship’s own speed; and that was like a blast from the engine-room. Stretched in their chairs Philip and Elinor watched the gradual diminution against the sky of a jagged island of bare red rock. From the deck above came the sound of people playing shuffle-board. Walking on principle or for an appetite, their fellow passengers passed and repassed with the predictability of comets.
‘The way people take exercise,’ said Elinor in a tone positively of resentment; it made her hot to look at them. ‘Even in the Red Sea.’