|Chapter XIII||Contents etc.||Chapter XV|
THE NEW ORDER
ONE of our philosophers fresh from the discovery of the first of the mechanical powers, the lever, exclaimed, " Give me where I can stand and I can move the world."
And, in a similar manner, an early philosopher of Unæa seeing the extraordinary power of progression which was given in their first attempts at navigation by being on the water instead of in it, when he saw how the rudest boat or raft gave men an enormous power by the mere fact of their being in one medium and acting on another, he exclaimed, "Give me a difference and I can do anything."
It was to utilise a difference that the Unæans applied themselves, a difference indistinguishable to the senses, predicted only by an obscure theory and to be made use of only by a more obscure deduction. Yet to such efforts they set themselves. The terrible cold of the winter as it came on seemed to point with an icy finger, warning them of their danger. All over the land and most of all in the populous cities, services were daily held, and the ritual devised by Farmer carried out. As might be conjectured, the more highly educated classes were indifferent and unwilling attendants. The refuges, the vast underground chambers which Cartwright had constructed, seemed to them to afford a more rational precaution. But in ignorance and through blind obedience the masses performed their part faithfully. To active minds the restraint of ordinary occupations, the fettering of the free activities of competition, and the inculcation of mental habits as a duty was irksome in the extreme. Cartwright looked on these feelings of dissatisfaction with complacency, but refrained for the time being from all overt acts.
From the wreck of his fortunes he had managed to preserve a few rods of land containing the results of many years' experiments on the adaptation of cereals to altered conditions of heat and cold. He had succeeded in developing a variety which, under the new climatic conditions of Astria, gave a yield of undiminished prolificity, while all ordinary kinds were seriously impaired in fertility. After his brief eclipse he reappeared as the head of the influential board of directors of a Corporation for Scientific Agriculture, living in all his former state. After a meeting one day, he detained Forest.
"My daughter has told me," he said, "that you and she agreed to terminate your engagement. I can appreciate the tact which you showed. In her state of agitation, and under the influences to which she had been exposed, she was hardly herself."
"I judged that the time was inappropriate," said Forest, "but my object is unchanged."
"How deep your attachment is I judge from the terrible mistake she led you to commit. It is not certain, but quite possible, that the men I sent would have succeeded in arresting Wall at the very moment of his triumph, and all this frightful subversal would have been avoided."
"But possibly there is something in Farmer's plan."
"Really, my dear Forest, that's not worthy of you. Nothing is more certain than that space extends in only two dimensions. The very notion of a third dimension is a freak of the imagination. The only people who would tolerate the assumption for a moment are these mathematicians who love paradoxes for their own sake, and have a mania for believing things in proportion to their incredibility. Even supposing for the sake of argument such an assumption were true, the absurdity of altering the earth's course by the way you hold your head and the thoughts you think, is little short of pure insanity. No, my friend, what happened to you is what happens to many a man—you were completely carried away by a woman. We men know that that's liable to happen to all of us, the strongest and best of us—I know it of my own experience—and we make allowances, if it doesn't happen too often. Now our upstart dictator's power will collapse speedily. When we take to the refuges I have prepared, who will pay any more attention to him? Or, if we do not, if our planet sails safely past the danger point, no one will believe that his ridiculous ceremonies were the cause. He will disappear in ridicule. The people will not tolerate for long his interference with all their liberties. A military adventurer cannot hold a State like ours permanently. At present, despite his power, he is ostracized by all the best people. Laura runs no danger of meeting him, and I have found her singularly tractable. She has not seen him, or tried to correspond with him. You have her sympathy and friendship, and every opportunity. Press your advantage. I should counsel a speedy and private wedding, for there is no knowing what arbitrary acts of violence the ad-venturer may resort to if he finds his prey escaping him. At present, however, he shows no sign of making any advances. He is probably eaten up with pride in his success."
"He has appointed me Commissioner for the Alban Lake District," said Forest.
"Taking away the administration of your income, he gives you something to occupy your time, as he does so many others. The region is not so far distant, you can practically reside here."
A year had passed. Farmer, now head of the Bureau of Regulations for Religious Services, lived in Persepolis. Cartwright's home was a meeting place for all those who disapproved of the new regime, and Laura was surrounded by influences inimical to Harold. She often visited her uncle, but he, absorbed in his occupations, had only alluded to Harold indirectly, till one day their conversation took a more intimate turn.
"When will Harold come back?" asked Farmer.
"I don't know," replied Laura.
"That is strange. Hasn't he written to you lately?"
"No, Uncle, why should he?"
"But, Laura, surely nothing has come between you?"
"Harold is too severe, Uncle, the least little thing he doesn't like makes him lose his temper."
"He has a great deal to do, Laura. You should make allowances."
"I'd make allowances for him if he would make allowances for me."
"Laura, you are altered from the girl I knew, I never thought you would be fickle."
"I like Mr. Forest a great deal better than I like Harold. He tells me things that I can enter into, he's interesting."
"Forest spends half the time he ought to be looking after his section of the country in the city. You don't find Harold doing that."
"Edward has organized his work perfectly. It all goes like a machine."
"Nothing replaces the eye of the chief."
"It all depends on the amount of intelligence the chief brings to his work. Edward can arrange" everything in a very little time."
"It is extraordinary to hear you contrasting Edward's intelligence with Harold's. When no one saw anything in what I said, Harold recognised the importance of it."
"Uncle, Harold never understood one word you said, and never tried to."
Farmer rose, walked up and down, then he stood over her and said: "Laura, you are the worst girl that ever lived. It's plain to me now he did everything for love of you, and you are as untouched as a porcelain image. This is what fashion turns our women into! All they think of is to be flattered. A man who can turn a phrase and whisper soft nothings in their ear—"
"Did you ever hear Harold whisper soft nothings," asked Laura.
"No, I'm saying that he doesn't."
"It's quite time he should learn them," said Laura. "He's treated me like a stick, or log. My father trusted Agatha. He let her help him. He knows a woman's nature, but all Harold thinks of is to get his own way, and if you do the least little thing he doesn't like, he treats you like a slave."
"Laura, you are a woman with the core left out. No matter how a man loves you, if he hasn't the manners of a popinjay, he counts for nothing."
"Harold doesn't really care for anybody, all he wants is to be master. He uses you, and the Orbian, and the army, and now there's nobody but great him."
"He didn't use you."
"He didn't care enough about me to use me."
"You are a problem, Laura, the solution of which is mercifully withheld from my comprehension."
"I can understand myself perfectly well, and I can explain things to other people which you never could."
"What about my class at the school, Laura?"
"The very first word you say you puzzle the children, and they never recover all the time you are there. The last idea that comes into your head runs away with you, Do you remember how you began to teach me science? The director asked me as a particular favour to try to induce you not to go there any more and sacrifice the children to your system."
"That means they don't want my way at all. None of them believe in it."
He spoke with deep dejection. Laura was satisfied with the sadness she had plunged him into, and began to make up a little.
"Well, Uncle, I do. It seems a very round-about plan, but after a time one finds oneself thinking quite differently, one seems to feel differently. I'll take your class for you, you are a dear good uncle and shall have all your plans carried out whatever the wicked director says."
|Chapter XIII||Contents etc.||Chapter XV|