"The cow is there," said Ansell, lighting a match and holding it out over the carpet. No one spoke. He waited till the end of the match fell off. Then he said again, "She is there, the cow. There, now."
"You have not proved it," said a voice.
"I have proved it to myself."
"I have proved to myself that she isn't," said the voice. "The cow is not there." Ansell frowned and lit another match.
"She's there for me," he declared. "I don't care whether she's there for you or not. Whether I'm in Cambridge or Iceland or dead, the cow will be there."
It was philosophy. They were discussing the existence of objects. Do they exist only when there is someone to look at them? Or have they a real existence of their own? It is all very interesting, but at the same time it is difficult. Hence the cow. She seemed to make things easier. She was so familiar, so solid, that surely the truths that she illustrated would in time become familiar and solid also. Is the cow there or not? This was better than deciding between objectivity and subjectivity. . .
"Look here, Ansell. I'm there--in the meadow--the cow's there. You're there--the cow's there. Do you agree so far?"
"Well, if you go, the cow stops; but if I go, the cow goes. Then what will happen if you stop and I go?"
Several voices cried out that this was quibbling.
"I know it is," said the speaker brightly, and silence descended again, while they tried honestly to think the matter out.
Rickie, on whose carpet the matches were being dropped, did not like to join in the discussion. It was too difficult for him. He could not even quibble. If he spoke, he should simply make himself a fool. He preferred to listen. . . (pp. 1-2, emphases mine)These are the first few paragraphs of the book that I bought because, standing in the dusty aisles of the used bookstore, I was shaking with laughter, overcome by the solid, hopeful cow, and feeling a sudden comradeship with Rickie.
Poor Rickie, who doesn't understand but listens while his carpet becomes ashen with castoff ideas. Hopeful cow, who ought definitely to be allowed to exist.
I hope Forster doesn't disappoint me.