S. Fowler Wright's Short Stories
Professor Brisket, President of the first Scientist government, sat in his new Studio of Contemplation, one morning in the early spring of 1990, considering the possibilities of the unprecedented power which the advance of knowledge, and the events of the last year, had placed in his somewhat bony hands.
It was six months since the suppression of the rebellion of 1989, in which the last traditions of barbarism had gone down, drowned in the blood of millions.
It was a crisis which had been inevitable for fifty years, though there were few who had foreseen, even a year ago, how near it was, and how decisive it must be.
A year ago, in spite of the changes and developments of half-a-century, the grotesque custom had persisted which decided the government of the country by the equal votes of its adult inhabitants, there being no distinction between youth and age, between folly and wisdom, between knowledge and ignorance - not even the simplest distinction between the cranial capacities of the voters, no disability being recognised except that of certified lunacy, or definite conviction of criminality. It was scarcely more than fifty years since there had been the grotesque spectacle of an eminent scientist being summoned before a magistrate, with no University qualifications whatever, to account for the possession of a stolen dog, and for the uses to which he had put it.
Since then, scientific knowledge had been powerful enough to influence successive governments, in spite of the comic method of their appointment, in ways which had brought incalculable benefits to mankind.
And then (as the obstinate mule had died just as it had been successfully reduced to the daily diet of a single straw), from one absurd triviality, the whole country had leapt into a sudden flame of war, with all its horrors.
It was a woman, as usual, who was the first cause of the crisis. A woman who had been fond of turnips. A woman with an infatuated husband, who had actually grown them for her, on a strip of hidden land behind his dwelling, in excess of the regulated dietary, and in contempt of the balance of vitamins on which their health, if not their lives, depended.
Worse than that, after the crime had been detected and punished, mildly enough, by the painless amputation of his left ear, he had contumaciously repeated the offence, attempting to grow the forbidden vegetable in an unoccupied cellar.
Being again detected, and knowing that he could hope for no further mercy, he had resisted arrest with such violence that his captors had brought him to the dock with broken heads, and one of them having a damaged mouth, and a denture smashed beyond remedy.
There had been no demonstration at the trial, of which there had been no public report (which was prohibited for certain of the grosser forms of obscenity), and there had been no sign of previous agitation to forecast the riot which had demolished the vehicle intended to convey him to the port of banishment, and rescued him from it.
A week later, the city of Nottingham, in which the incident had occurred, was in a state of open rebellion, refusing to surrender the culprit, and demanding repeal of the legislation which had occasioned the trouble.
And then, while the government hesitated and temporised, using such intermittent severities as exasperated without suppressing a revolt which threatened to spread from the midland to the northern counties, Professor Brisket, until then only known as holding the chair of Homology at the London University, had called a conference of twenty of the leading scientists, and, three days later, it was announced to an astounded world that the Government had resigned, and that the Council of Twenty-One had assumed responsibility for the control of the country.
Open war followed. War that was fierce, and short and sanguinary. The usurpation was resisted by nine-tenths of the population, including almost the whole of its (comparatively) illiterate, its political, its religious, and the majority of its literary and journalistic elements. But the scientists and their followers, banding in instant opposition to the forces of prejudice and reaction, opposed a hundred devices, secret, subtle, and deadly, to the crude violence of high-explosive, and the vain defences of trench and steel.
The proletariat fought with the obsolete weapons with which they had been furnished by the subservient scientists of an earlier century; the scientists retaliated with a variety of deaths, insanities and diseases, of which the origin was often indiscoverable, and from which there was no defence, nor any road of escape which would be found by those upon whom they fell.
Yet so bitter was the enmity which had leapt to light from the tiny spark which had kindled it, so hopeless did the rebels feel that their fate would be, should they resign themselves to submission; so sure, on the other hand, were the ranks of the scientists that they fought for all the possibilities of the mind of man, and that failure would frustrate all their work, and lead the world backward, even to the monkey-twilight of their aboriginal ancestors, that it seemed for a time that extermination only would be sufficient to decide its issue.
The rebels had been encouraged, almost at the first, by the defection of one of the leading scientists of the day, Dr. Shercliff Binyon, whose teaching had always been of a heretical kind, as he had held that while the pursuit of knowledge is among the noblest occupations of the
human mind, the idea that the created can be equal, by the application of such knowledge, to take the part of the Creator a presumptuous folly which could only end in such disaster as would revert the world to an elementary barbarism. He had even suggested that this result, and the recurrence of such results, might be the Divine method by which the earth was continually refitted for its purpose as a training-ground for the spirit of man.
But his support, however morally important, had had little practical result beyond the momentary heartening of the rebels, for his learning was not of a kind which could be used for the discomfiture of their enemies; and the scientists, infuriated by the unexpected stubbornness of the resistance which they encountered, and by the desertion of one of their own body, decided to strike with a severity which would end the conflict.
When Professor Brisket had given the members of the previous government an ultimatum of two hours to resign their offices, it had been with a warning that, should they refuse or hesitate, they would be smitten by a disease which would render them pestilent beyond endurance of any human associates.
Now he had warned the champions of ignorance and reaction that unless there should be surrender, absolute and abject, within twelve hours, they would learn, in the desolation of a city, the irresistible powers which they had defied so vainly.
The rebels had replied by marshalling a cloud of fighting planes which held the air from Southampton to Lowestoft in one unbroken line of heroic purpose, and by the up-thrown mouths of ten-thousand anti-aircraft guns. But the planes had held their line unchallenged, and the guns had remained silent. Only, when the next morning came Bristol had ceased to be. It had dissolved into air or ground before chemical agent so powerful, so silent, and so swift, that no sound disturbed the serenity of the surrounding country, no light of ruin flickered over the Channel waters. Simply, the city lights went out. Simply, the ground where once the city stood showed bare and burnt, and of a somewhat crocus aspect purple and yellow-streaked when the dawn found it. But of the city that had been, of life or building or garden, even of Clifton Bridge, there was no trace at all.
After that, there had been no more trouble.
Professor - now President - Brisket smiled silently, recalling the incidence that Dr. Binyon had happened to be in the city which been selected for the required example. His hesitations had ceased from troubling.
Power had come to the President, as it may never have come to earlier potentate in the history of the world. There was only the Council of the Twenty-One, and to each of these he had allotted their appropriate occupations.
Seventeen of them would continue the conquest of knowledge, by the power of which the world lay at their feet already; and the whole Universe was yielding, one by one, its cryptic secrets to their insatiate importunities. Of the other three, two were occupied in executive work as his enthusiastic subordinates. There was no danger from them. Professor Borthin? Well, he was not immortal. There might be a vacancy on the Council of Twenty-One. It might be very soon.
The President sat in his star-domed Studio of Contemplation, over the aromatic darkness of which its vault of stars gave the impression of the depths of space, without the risk of rain or cold or tempest, so that he might think without any triviality of distraction, and with the vast realm always before him - the realm of blind, unchanging law which lay, in its vast unconsciousness, awaiting the control of the advancing minds of men.
The hours passed, and he did not move. He was facing the most momentous decision of his life. More gigantic in possibilities, more fatal should his judgement err, than had been that which had established him as the head of the first purely scientific government that the earth had known.
It was three years ago that he had casually discovered, when his investigations were directed to quite other ends, the substance which stimulates the cerebral processes, and controls the functioning of the brain. He had been cautious in its application, because the occasion of his discovery had suggested that its use might not be without danger to a mammalian subject, and an injection into a young dog had produced a condition of such uncontrollable ferocity as to be indistinguishable from actual madness.
A viper, receiving a small, and then a larger injection, had shown no sign of any effect whatever. On receiving a third, it had died within a few hours.
The first real success had been with a minnow, one of five in a glass tank, to which he had given an infinitesimal injection. Two days afterwards, when he went to scatter their food on the water in the usual corner, he found that it was surrounded by a barrier of the floating weed which the tank contained, through which there was only one passage left, and that somewhat tortuous.
Through this passage the inoculated minnow darted swiftly, reaching the food sufficiently before its baffled companions to get the largest share of the meal.
He had disturbed the weed, and had found it rearranged on the next morning.
Disturbing it again, he had watched, and seen the fish actually tugging the floating weed to the required position.
After that, he had fed the fish on whatever part of the surface might be clear, lest the other four should be starved entirely.
Four days later, he had found three of them dead in the water, each with a wound behind the neck, the inoculated fish having evidently decided that one companion would be sufficient for its requirements, and would allow it to eat its fill.
This experiment had shown that he had been right in his judgement as to the nature of the substance which he had isolated, and, learning this, he had destroyed the too-intelligent minnow, and burnt its body, these precautions being taken because he was not sure whether the acquired characteristic, being physical in its basis, might not be transmitted to a succeeding generation, nor even whether there might not be a possibility that it might be transmissible to another fish which might swallow one which had benefited from the inoculation. He had no wish to create a race of pike with approximately human cunning.
Since that time he had made some fresh discoveries as to the nature and effects of the secretion and modifications in its preparation, which, he believed, would render it suitable for injection into the blood of the mammalia, and, specifically, into the human blood which was to be its ultimate destination.
But he had still much to learn as to its effects, and as to the dose which could be safely given, as to whether such effects were permanent, and concerning that most important question of whether it would be transmitted to the children of those who might benefit from it.
He had also perfected another injection, which could be relied upon to produce in those who received it a docility so great that all other passions or proclivities would be subdued by the desire to act at the call of duty, or to fulfil the wishes of those about them. On this latter preparation he relied with a reasonable confidence to control any unruly symptoms which might result from the major experiment.
Now he sat, in the artificial unchanging night of the studio, considering the conditions of his next experiment, and on whom or what it should be made.
It was a matter on which he had no confidant. It was a power too great to share. The time might come for its announcement, even for doling it out to others, in some lesser degree than his own benefit from it. It would make his dominance absolute. It would bring, no doubt, the worship which must be paid, sooner or later, to the Lord of Science who will control the world. But that time was not yet.
. . . At last, he rose, and passed out of the studio. His course was clearly determined. He summoned Wilkins, who superintended the scientific diet which had maintained his health so well, until he was now on the threshold of his eighty-second year.
"Wilkins," said the Premier, "I want you to speak to the farmer who supplies the eggs and milk for my own table. I want him to procure me a young sow-pig. The breed doesn't matter, and I will pay his price. But it must be healthy, intelligent, and good-tempered."
"Yes, that's very important. It's not for the laboratory."
"No, I shall want two other pigs sent there. Two with good foreheads. I may want a look at their brains. But I want this one sent to Berkhampsted. I shall be going down on Tuesday. I know there are some good sties there; though we haven't used them. You can give instructions about the details."
He turned his attention to more immediate things.
The young sow came out eagerly at the splashing sound of the pig-wash. The abnormal activity of her brain had not resulted in any emaciation of her inferior organs, nor of the adipose tissues which have been so successfully cultivated by a thousand ancestral generations. She was still growing, and the excitements of motherhood were yet before her. She was well-fed, sleek, and supple in movement; her rapid growth, and a restless activity somewhat infrequent in her kind, having delayed the more extreme corpulence for which her race is so justly famed.
She would have been outside her sleeping-compartment before the opening of the sty door, and the tilt of the bucket, but that she did not wish to show any interest in the condition of the fastenings of that door, which she felt sure would be carefully examined. It was true that they were quite in order, but it would have been a needless ordeal to have met the suspicious glances of Billy Tedman, who regarded her with a mixture of fear and admiration, which would have been insufficient to condone the delinquency of the early morning.
But what proof was there?
A brood of seven tiny goslings running through the dewy grass, toward the sanctuary of the coop three yards away, from which their mother stretched an anxious neck. Strong jaws that snapped five times - that snapped and swallowed - and two goslings only that tumbled clumsily over the wooden edge of the coop into the safety of the familiar straw.
No one had seen it. And Billy Tedman knew that the young sow could open the wooden latch of the sty door, and that she was always to be found wandering loose should he omit to slide the lower bolt which had been added a few weeks ago - knew with equal certainty that she could not open that lower bolt, and that she was never found loose now, unless he should forget to slide it.
The five goslings had been only ten days old, and their fluffy bodies had done little to reduce the healthy appetite with which she plunged her snout into the creamy mess which had descended from Billy's bucket. Sharps are good, and skim-milk can be sucked up very pleasantly. But why, oh why, had she been such a fool as to tell Professor Brisket that she liked barley-meal best?
Now she knew that, after she had enjoyed an hour of happy dozing in the straw of her sleeping-quarters, a panel would slide back in the furthest wall, and she would have to rise and go out into a covered yard, where the Professor and she would commune together for an uncertain period, during which she would have to reply to his questions with exasperating slowness - a slowness which was, however, often less exasperating than the fatuous questions themselves - by indicating successive letters from an alphabet which was neatly painted upon the ground between them.
She knew already that he was a slow-brained old fossil, whose mind or eye would fail to follow her spelling if she quickened the motions of foot or snout, but she did not know why he had been foolish enough to discourage a simple suggestion that they should substitute a series of symbols for the more frequent words.
Here she erred, supposing him to be more stupid than he really was; the fact being that he only held the conversations at all to test the degree of intelligence with which he had endowed her, and that he intended her to go to the butcher immediately she had supplied him with a litter of young pigs which would enable him to judge the effects of his experiment upon the next generation.
Also, he destined her bacon for his own exclusive consumption, which would test the possibility of the transmission of this new brain-stimulus by the medium of eaten flesh. There must be tests also of the consumption of blood, of uncooked meat, particularly of uncooked brains. Professor Brisket would not have attained his present eminence had he not been careful and unhurried in his experiments.
His brain might be less agile, his perceptions slower, than those of the stimulated ganglia of his protagonist, but, from the advantage of his greater knowledge, his longer experience, and his somewhat different personality (though this last difference should not be too generously assessed), he was able, not merely to conceal his ultimate purpose, but the impulses also that prompted the questions which seemed so foolish to his pachydermatous protégé, and the opinions which he formed upon them.
He had already made one observation, of the first importance. The improvement in the faculties and functioning of the brain which he had been able to induce did not result in any change in the nature of the individual who received advantage from them.
The sow did not forget the swill-trough to observe the stars.
It was the nature of her kind to be cunning, cowardly, and greedful, and these characteristics continued. She had improved, beyond his utmost anticipation, in memory, in power of deductive reasoning, in alertness of mental anticipation, but he had no reason to doubt that, if one of her children should be stillborn, she would proceed to eat it, as her mother had done before her; he knew that she would answer his questions with diligence solely because she would get no barleymeal in the afternoon should she show any indisposition to do so.
On the day which we are now considering, the Professor brought to its intended climax a line of inquiry which he had been pursuing for a previous week, during which he had explained very frankly to this intelligent animal the nature of the relations which had existed between her race and his own for so long a period. He had done this with some curiosity, if not trepidation, as to the reactions which it would arouse in the mind of his auditor, and had not been without the protection of a lethal weapon of recent invention, very swift and deadly in its action, which had lain ready to his hand on the little table which divided her from him, on which he was accustomed to make notes of the morning's conversations, and beyond which was the alphabet set in the ground, by which the young sow was enabled to reply to his questions, despite the deficiency in the construction of her vocal chords, which reduced the possibilities of oral intercourse.
But the animal had taken his explanation in a very sensible way.
She saw at once that it was natural that all creatures should eat each other as opportunity offered, and safety permitted. It was the only law of life which she would ever be likely to understand, even though her brain were stimulated a hundredfold. She saw how greatly it was to the advantage of the young of her kind that they should receive (as it were) an insurance policy from the human race giving to each of them at the least a few months of happy carefree life, rather than that they should be exposed to the savage chances of the wilds, to precarious uncertainties of food and climate, and to the decimations of a hundred accidents. She saw at once that men would still have been able to kill pigs, had they done nothing to protect and cherish. When she learnt the almost incredible millions which are maintained in a princely indolence, she saw that the world was theirs, and that the greed and stupidity of mankind had been successfully exploited by the farsighted cunning of her kind. When the professor explained that, though the majority of any litter might be destined to an early end, yet it frequently happened that the best among them would be selected to remain alive and continue the generations, and that she herself was one who had been so favoured, it seemed a particularly admirable arrangement, of which she approved most heartily.
The Professor was somewhat disconcerted by the certainty with which her mind perceived that the human race has made itself subservient to her own, until he recollected that she was a pig still, though she might be a very intelligent one, and that her conclusions might naturally be influenced by this deficiency.
Professor Borthin, having no star-domed Studio of Contemplation in which to ponder, was pacing one of the longer corridors of Buckingham Palace. He was thirty-two, the youngest and most brilliant member of the Council of Twenty-One. A man of restless, drug-stimulated energy, he found that he could think best when his legs were moving.
He had a deep contempt for President Brisket, who had been allowed his position through the paltry claim of seniority (senility would have been a better word!) when it had been decided that the scientists should assert their power. What was Brisket? A sentimentalist. A dreamer. A man knowing no more mathematics than a nineteenth-century schoolgirl.
Even the occasion of the revolution had been an absurdity. What did it matter if women ate turnips? Or prussic acid? Most men and women were of no value, except for experimental purposes.
Now this brain-grafting. . . . He wanted a dozen babies of each sex, every month for a year, if the experiment were to be carried out with sufficient variations to make it interesting. Two or three hundred children's bodies growing up with the brains of dogs. . . . Two or three hundred bodies of dogs directed by the brains of children. It was fascinating in its possibilities. And some of the brains could be transferred back after a time. . . .
And the old fool had delayed permission! It was to be "discussed at the Council."
But there would be something else to be discussed at the Council. There would be a surprise for Brisket. . . . Or did he guess it? "Space lying curved in the arms of Time." That had been his expression when he had been perorating at the last meeting. Drivelling old fool! Did he not know that Space and Time is one and indissoluble?
He had spoken as though Time had pre-existed Space, and the heavy lids of Professor Sturmie's eyes had lifted for a moment, and surveyed him with a puzzled wonder. He didn't often show his ignorance in that assembly by talking outside the limits of his own Homology.
Even to the untrained mind to attempt imagination of Space without Time, or of Time without Space, should be enough to show its absurdity. Even Einstein's elementary speculations of sixty years ago had passed the bounds of such childlishness.
He had roused Professor Sturmie to bring up the subject. Sturmie cared for no one, if his own subjects were left alone, but he had a gift of sarcasm, which had made him dreaded in controversy. He could be trusted to make the President look the fool he was. And when that had happened, what influence would he have left?
After that episode, he would ask for an order for the children he needed. If it were refused . . . ? He would claim a vote. It was the kind of point on which he would be sure to get it.
Then he would suggest the propriety of resignation. Probably, after that, there would be swift deaths on the Council. Well, if so, he had his own secret powers. He would not be unready. . . .
Thirty years ago Queen Hermione had presented Buckingham Palace to the nation (perhaps not very willingly) as a home for South American monkeys whose gland-extractions were required to increase the virility of members of the House of Commons.
Professor Borthin ceased his activities in the corridor. He went to look at the monkeys.
The silent occupant of the Studio of Contemplation was not unaware of his danger.
He had regretted that florescence of oratory the moment that he had met the sardonic glance of Professor Sturmie's heavy eyes, as they had been lifted toward him.
Professor Sturmie seldom looked, or spoke, or voted.
His attendants wheeled his chair into position at the Council table, and he sat there, his hands motionless before him, his face a blank passivity, till the proceedings ended.
But he was held in a very great respect. He was supposed to know more on each of his colleagues' subjects than they knew themselves.
Twenty years ago as Principal of the Birmingham University, it had become known that, in case of sudden indisposition, he could take the place of any of his professors, and lecture brilliantly on their own subjects at a moment's notice. There had been plots to test this capacity, but he had always been equal to them.
If he should now be roused to attack the intellectual eminence of the President, that gentleman knew that the assault could be delivered from no deadlier quarter.
He knew that there were other members of the Council whose knowledge both of Physics and Mathematics was greater than his own. There was nothing in that. Each man specialised, and was supreme in his own dominion. But he was not expected to talk dogmatic fallacies upon his neighbours' subjects. And the position of a President was different from that of others. He, of all men, must not be open to ridicule.
But, after all, it had only hastened the conflict, which was inevitable. Borthin meant to rule and the difference was not of men only. It was one of fundamental principles. Professor Brisket had never been known as a sentimentalist. He would pour human blood on the altars of Science as readily as he would have sacrificed a mangel-wurzel. He had not hesitated to give the order which had evaporated Bristol. But he believed in a vague way, that all he did was for the Higher Good of Humanity.
Professor Borthin had no such illusion, and no such object. For the Higher Good of Humanity he did not care a bean. He worshipped Science for its own sake, and it was its own justification.
To him, President Brisket was a sentimentalist, and an obstruction, and the time had come to remove him.
The two men were thus of one mind as to the necessity for removing the other. They were united in decision that the time had come. They were agreed as to the time and place of the conflict. They were alike in thinking that the first step must be to discredit the adversary before the Council. They only differed in the fact that the younger man was the attacker, that he fought from a less vulnerable situation, and that he was confident of success, whereas his older and more cautious opponent was aware of being forced to give battle on ground which he had not chosen, and was very far from comfortable as to the defence he could offer, or the strength of the counter-attack which he must be prepared to deliver. . . .
And yet his mind held to the point that Space and Time were not identical. They were not merely two aspects of one quality. There was an absolute difference. But how could he prove it in a way which would convince the Council, and confound his opponents? Of the difference he was convinced. Of his own random metaphor - of the pre-existence of Time - he was much less confident.
He reflected that Space is motionless. It remains. It must have been - always. Full or empty, it must have been there. Timeless, perhaps, but there. Was this not the very opposite of the idea which he had advanced so randomly?
Must have been, if it had no conscious occupants? Yes, surely.
Then how about Time? A condition of Time of which there had never been, now would be, conscious knowledge vexed his mind with a lack of reality. He was less sure.
Supposing that there were two separate realms of consciousness, not adjoining. Would not the unconscious interval be a Space, although it had no conscious occupant? Was it so in itself, or was it made such by the facts of the conscious realms which were contiguous to it? But he had first postulated that Space. . . . He became aware that he was speculating vaguely, whereas the thoughts of Professor Sturmie on such a subject would be clear and sure, and his words decisive.
It was not thus that he would be armed for conquest. He must be prepared not only to resist, but to rout with a returning ridicule. He could not afford to fail. He could not even afford an indecisive contest.
If his brain were stimulated. . . . He saw that the time had come to call in the aid of the unsuspected power which he held reserved. Surely, after all his experiments . . . ? He would try an infinitesimal dose at first, and then a larger one, when he had experienced its effects.
It was about half an hour before he felt the effect of the injection. Then he became aware of an increased clarity of vision, by which the minor details of the objects around him, which he had previously overlooked, were thrown into a vivid prominence. Then he was conscious of a new mental energy, and a quickened perception of abstract things. It was absurd that he should have been troubled by the sluggish cerebrations of Professor Sturmie, who had a mind that floundered like a hippopotamus. And the problem itself was of a childish simplicity. Quiescent Space could have no Time at all. Therefore they could not be identical.
Space must be invaded by Energy: then Time was needed for its operations. Time commenced with its own occasion.
That was the sequence. Space must first exist. Then there must be the invasion of Energy. Then there must be Time for its operations.
So far he saw - or thought he saw - very clearly. But there was something further. Something behind, and beyond, of which his mind was aware, but which it could not reach. Something that vexed and baffled, like a half-faded dream. Something which, could he grasp it, would bring conviction to all who heard, and confound his opponents with a swift derision.
He saw that he would need a further injection before he would be able to overwhelm his enemies. With the experience which he had gained, he no longer feared it. He resolved to take the Council into a partial confidence. He would tell them of the discovery he had made. He would take a further injection before their eyes. He would discourse upon it for half an hour, telling of the experiments which he had made already - telling everything but the formula itself offering to share his discovery with his colleagues, and to confine it to them, so that, even among their fellow-scientists, they would be assured of a continued supremacy.
Meanwhile, the injection would operate in him, and would demonstrate the miracle which he had achieved.
After that, he would know how to deal with Borthin, even with Sturmie, should they dare to attack him. Should they be silent, he would also deal with them, quickly and quietly, after the Council had risen.
Meanwhile, he could put the question from his mind entirely. He was disposed to experiment with the second preparation, to ascertain its effects upon those who had been exhilarated by the first already. Not, of course, upon himself. He went to the laboratory, filled a syringe, and went down to the pigsty.
He entered it by the sliding door, at the back of the sleeping-compartment. The sow, sprawled in clean straw, after a heavy lunch of her beloved barley-meal, was snoring happily. He applied the syringe behind her ear, and gave her an ample dose. The ear flicked, as though a fly had vexed it, but the sow did not waken.
President Brisket was not lacking in self-control, and there were probably few men who were less under the domination of the physical. Yet he had developed certain habits of which he vaguely disapproved, and against which he fought a desultory battle, in which he was never decisively victorious.
Among these habits was one of muttering to himself, more or less audibly, when he imagined himself to be alone, and sometimes even when those were present before whom a firmer restraint was desirable.
It was unfortunate for himself, and of momentous consequence to the world, that he had been particularly injudicious on more than one occasion when he had been lost in thought, sitting at the table, or pacing the private yard, after he had finished one of his instructive interviews with the animal intelligence that he had stimulated, and after the sow had retired to her own quarters. With all his wisdom, he had not considered that the hearing of a sow is more acute than that of a man, and that the alertness of the senses of this particular animal rendered the closing of the partition a useless obstacle to the hearing of the words which he subsequently muttered, however indistinctly.
It followed that the animal had been able to supplement the information which he thought well to give her with a knowledge of the preparations he was using, and of his hopes and plans, which he would have found very disconcerting, had he been aware of this development, and still more so had he suspected the conclusions to which they had led her.
As we have remarked already, although she had become a pig of very exceptional intelligence, she was a pig still. She was not concerned with the stars, nor with the good of humanity, nor with the pursuit of science, nor even with the good of her own kind. She was concerned solely and entirely with her own physical welfare. Because she had learnt of the general destiny of pigs without resentment, it did not follow that she was willing to feel a knife in her own neck. Rather, she recognised that this was the one problem with which it was essential that she should deal successfully. It did not appear that it was of an immediate urgency, but it was of an overwhelming importance.
When the self-communings of the President had informed her of the nature of the cultures which he had produced, and of his intentions concerning them, she had seen at once that her ultimate hope must lie in the second of these preparations, which, administered at the right time, and to the right individual, could hardly fail to direct his mind to a universal benevolence, from which she would benefit, in common with all the other creatures around him.
But she was too clear-sighted to minimise the difficulties of such a programme. She was aware of her physical limitations, and she felt no assurance, even should she be able to obtain and secrete some of the drug or culture in question (she was not very clear as to its exact nature), that the final assault upon herself would give her an opportunity of using it successfully.
She was, as we know, a very sensible animal, and she could not imagine a murderous-minded butcher, who might be short either of time or temper, delaying operations at her request, so that she might give him an injection in the right arm.
Beyond that, the mutterings of President Brisket had left her in doubt as to how soon the injection would take effect, and it is obvious that time would be of vital importance under such conditions as she had imagined.
She had a very practical mind, and it would have been no consolation to her to know that a repentant butcher would wreathe her corpse with flowers.
Finally, she had decided that her best hope lay in causing the President to take a sufficient dose of the second preparation to cause him to become of an overwhelming amiability, in which case the beneficence of his disposition could hardly fail to favour one who had been brought into such close and intellectually intimate relations with him.
That, at least, seemed her best hope, and she had now been watching for some weeks for an opportunity of putting into operation the simple but audacious plan by which she hoped to insure her safety.
This plan was to penetrate into the President's laboratory, and so to mix or interchange the cultures as to insure that when, as she had learnt from his own lips that he intended, he should aim to inoculate himself with the first, he should actually take an injection of the second. But in this enterprise she could not afford to fail, and as she did not consider it urgent, she had delayed for choice of opportunity, until, as we have seen, President Brisket had already commenced the process of brain-stimulation which it was her object to complicate.
She went first into the outer sty, to observe the position of the sun, from which she was able to estimate the time - about three hours - which would elapse before her snout would sink suckingly into the ecstasy of the evening meal. Then she returned, somewhat uncertainly, to the inner sty. She had a vague impulse of beneficence, such as she had never known before, causing her to feel that her time was wasted unless she were doing good to someone.
Someone certainly included herself. When she remembered the project that had recently possessed her mind, it had acquired an even greater importance than it had had previously. She observed that the absentminded President had failed to close the sliding hatch from which he had entered to disturb her sleep so momentously.
She knew that she had only to cross the yard to gain the stairway door through which he was accustomed to descend upon her. She did not suppose that it would be locked, and there were few forms of latch which she had not learnt to manipulate. . . .
It would be little consonant with a narrative of such events as those that we are now approaching to give a detailed observation to the movements of a domestic pig, however intelligent.
It is sufficient to say that she must have succeeded in her purpose, which is not entirely surprising when her abnormal intelligence is considered, together with the fact that she was impulsed by an altruistic exaltation of mind, induced by the last injection she had received, and very foreign to her natural propensities, and, finally, that she was equipped by nature with a highly-sensitive snout, capable, even with the less intelligent of her kind, of operations of almost manual dexterity, and to which feet and teeth could give very useful support at need.
But it is evident, from the sequel, that she must have found some human or mechanical obstacle, such as that of a closed door, which prevented her return to her sty by the direct way when she had completed her enterprise; for we next observe her in Berkhampsted High Street, where she was brought up short by encountering a certain carpenter, a Mr. Jubbins, who turned suddenly from a side-street, with his bag of tools on his shoulder.
It is evident that the carpenter must have been fond of pork (or perhaps bacon is indicated), and that the sight of this sleek-sided specimen of her kind must have awakened certain acquisitive, if not actually gluttonous instincts in a corrupt mind, which must have communicated themselves to an animal in which the drug was still working most potently, so that it had become an uncontrollable impulse to gratify the desires of those among whom she moved.
"Can you direct me," she inquired fatuously, "to a really good butcher?"
We know that her articulation of human speech was not clear, but Mr. Jubbins seems to have caught her meaning immediately.
"Come this way," he said genially, with a persuasive hand on the ear that was nearer. He scratched her back very comfortably. He felt that he would be able to do all that was necessary.
. . . He doubted whether a saw would be mutually satisfactory, but perhaps a chisel . . . ?
They entered his workshop side by side, and the subsequent events may best be indicated by "noises off stage." Actually, I do not know what happened. I believe that the effects of the injection, which was certainly not as permanent in its nature as the first one, were beginning to clear as the carpenter turned the key on the inside of his workshop-door, but beyond that . . . well, she was a very intelligent animal.
We are dealing with the events of 1990, which I may not live to investigate, but should I attain to such great longevity, I shall make a point of penetrating that side-turning from the Berkhampsted High Street. It would he nice to know.
The Council of Twenty-One met in a plainly-furnished room in the London University buildings. They had no need of the vulgarity of material ostentation. Individual members might indulge in castle or park or palace, and none would stay them, for the earth was theirs, and common men lived or died at their pleasure, but collectively their power needed no pomp to display it. It lay in formulae which only they - or perhaps only some of them - could read: in powerhouse and test tube: most of all, in the fear of the unknown that lay, like a shadow of death, over the ignorant populace that they ruled and exploited.
Once before, in the twilight of the middle ages, this shadow had lengthened across the world, but the people of that time had struck viciously with fire and cord, and had stamped back into smouldering ash the threat that might otherwise have won, even then, its dark dominion over them.
Now it had triumphed, and not only the members of the Council, but their meanest student could walk securely among a host of common men, though he knew there was not one but would have slain him gladly. They were the terror that walked at noon, and there was none so bold as to lift even a glance of hatred against them.
President Brisket sat at the table's head, with the Secretary of the Council, Dr. Acton-Shaw, at his right hand.
Dr. Acton-Shaw was himself one of the Council, as it was not considered expedient that its minutes should be in the hands of an official of inferior status or responsibility, nor were these minutes, dealing largely, as they did, with the application of the abstruser sciences, always easy to take.
The Secretary was a small man, with a very wizened face, and a habit of peering, as though he suffered from partial blindness. In fact, his sight was excellent, his observation abnormal, and his memory for fact or face an amazement, even to the trained minds that were round him. With these qualities he made no enemies, for he expressed no opinions. No one knew what he thought. So far, there had been no evidence that he thought at all.
There are many battles that are decided before the moment of actual conflict, by the courage or cowardice of those who approach to the encounter. Men defeat themselves more often than they are defeated by the assault of circumstance. But, on this occasion, a psychologist, investigating the mental confidence of either side, or observing the careful preparations on which such confidence rested, might have foretold their victory with an equal certainty.
The agenda which the Secretary had prepared from the President's instructions, and from the requisitions of members, included the name of Dr. Sturmie for the first time in the history of the Council.
Dr. P. A. Sturmie to address the Council on FUNDAMENTALS, and to move a resolution.
Immediately after, there came the name of Professor Borthin to address the Council on the progress of BRAIN-GRAFTING, and to move a resolution.
The atmosphere, as the scientists entered, one by one, and took their accustomed seats, was oppressive with the sense of a coming storm. The majority were not men of aggressive temperament. They only wanted to be left alone to the pursuit of their own researches. Now that the earth was theirs, and they could demand what they would for apparatus or experiment they had no wish but to be left in quietness to cultivate the opportunity which life had offered.
But they knew, all of them more or less, of the conflict which was impending. And there were only seven members who had not some private knowledge in reserve of swift and secret ways by which he might destroy his colleagues should he be disposed to do so.
President Brisket came late. He entered with an almost jaunty confidence. He glanced down the agenda which lay before him, with light words of bantering comment.
"Dr. Sturmie! . . . Always glad to hear Sturmie. . . . Quite a lightweight subject for you, doctor. Almost skittish. . . . Borthin? . . . Oh, yes. I remember. The babies' brains. . . . Always enterprising."
Then his manner changed. He drew a small tube from his pocket, and laid it on the table before him.
He spoke now with a grave elation. "Gentlemen, when these routine matters are over, I've something of real importance to tell you. An avenue is opening before us of unimagined life and power. I am going to show you an experiment on myself, and I am going to offer its benefits to you also, when I have demonstrated what they are. . . . But we'll get through the agenda first, and we'll try to make it as short as possible. . . . Dr. Sturmie will address us on - what is it? Oh, yes. FUNDAMENTALS."
Dr. Sturmie did not rise. His age and infirmities excused him from such an ordeal. He had shown no sign of hearing what had been said, but now he began to speak. At first, his tone was low, an indistinct rumbling from the depths of his massive chest. He looked at no one. He seemed to be unaware of the audience by which he was surrounded.
But as he went on, his voice became louder, his articulation clearer. Much that he said was difficult to understand, even to the select audience he addressed. Members leant forward eagerly to catch the pregnant sentences as they fell. Now and then he became strangely lucid, so that, though he spoke of things which are beyond the ordinary imaginations of men, a child could have understood him. The listeners felt that he spoke of things that they had always known, but that they had never been able to formulate, to articulate, previously. Had he concluded by moving that President Brisket should be sent to an Infants' School, it is doubtful whether there would have been less than nineteen votes to support him; but his motion was simply this: That any member, after this date, who shall speak on subjects of which he is ignorant, shall be dismissed from the Council.
Hearing the resolution, the President decided instantly to ignore the fact that it was so clearly aimed at himself, and to put it without discussion. He did not merely ignore the attack, he swept it contemptuously back. Since he had taken that injection three days ago, his brain felt equal to anything.
"Well, gentlemen," he said briefly, "we've all enjoyed the address, but we've got some important business coming, so I'll put the resolution at once. It seems a good one to me, though we should all be sorry if Sturmie should have to leave us in consequence. Oh, you never know." - As the astonished Sturmie, really roused for once, turned a heavy contemptuous glance in his direction. - "I've got something to say about Space and Time myself before we part this afternoon. But that will come later. The resolution is . . . carried unanimously, of course. And now we'll hear about Borthin's brains. . . . Professor Borthin will address the meeting."
Professor Borthin rose quietly. Whatever he may have thought of the way in which the meeting was going, he gave no sign of perturbation. He began his address by explaining the progress which had been made in his laboratories in the processes of brain-grafting under prolonged anaesthetised conditions, with local stimulations to the growth of connecting tissue, so that after a period of unconsciousness, lasting from ten to fourteen days, the subject of the experiment would awake with an alien brain (or an alien body, if you should prefer so to express it), functioning smoothly and well. At this stage, he produced a guinea-pig in a cage with climbing-bars, which he explained had been supplied with a brain from one of the smaller monkeys, and which now disported itself among the bars with a clumsy agility, giving somewhat the impression of a performing bear.
He had completed his preparations, he went on to explain, some weeks ago, for the transposition of the brains of children and dogs on a scale which could not fail to produce results of unusual interest. He had little doubt that the children would be able to contrive some measure of articulate speech from the throats of their new dwellings: he was hopeful that the dogs could be trained to use the power of speech which their new bodies would render available to them.
He wanted a large number of babies - healthy examples, the children of various sections of the community, professional, commercial, military, naval, artisan - even specimens of the superstitious religious sects which still lurked and lingered obscurely - so that their various reactions could be comprehensively studied. For this purpose he required power to make requisition among the babies which should be born during the next twelve months, including, if necessary, the power to order that such babies should be produced by suitable couples - the Council did not need his reminder that some sections of the community had almost ceased to produce children, unless ordered to do so under sufficient penalties, and he did not blind himself to the fact that the authority he was seeking might tend to make them additionally obstinate in such abstentions - so that, in twelve months' time, he could, he had no reason to doubt, make such report to the Council, and exhibit such infant and canine specimens, as would abundantly justify the experiment on which he was occupied.
He knew - he was sorry to know - that their esteemed President had not received his first request with the cordiality which he might have reasonably expected, but the claims of Science were paramount - surely, in that assembly, there was no need to urge it - and he appealed with confidence to the Council for the support he needed.
He moved his resolution accordingly.
He had scarcely resumed his seat when the President rose.
"I propose," he said, "to move the postponement of this resolution - not because I doubt the value of our friend's experiments, not because I doubt that the claims of Science are paramount, not because I doubt that many human brains may find congenial shelter in the skulls of dogs, but because I have also something to tell you of the development of the human brain, and because I believe, if you accept the offer which I am able to make, we shall all be better fitted when next we meet to decide this question wisely."
Briefly and clearly, he proceeded to tell them of the nature of this discovery, of the injection which he had already taken, and of the further one which he would administer to himself in their presence. Amid a watchful silence, he drove the needle again into his own arm.
"In half an hour," he went on, "you may expect its effects to be apparent. In the meantime, I shall explain to you, in greater detail, the nature and qualities of the preparation, and the experiments that I have made already. After that, I shall propose to reply to Dr. Sturmie's somewhat violent attack upon myself. Should I succeed in convincing you that he is in error, you will recognise the value of the brain-stimulus which I have discovered.
"Gentlemen," he went on, his voice falling to a note of earnestness, and of apparent sincerity, "we are inclined to distrust one another. I know that there is more than one here who fancies himself secure in the belief that he could destroy me with impunity in three seconds from where he sits, should he decide to do so (he is mistaken, but never mind that), but I ask you this - if I offer to share this new power equally with you all, if I propose that it be confined to members of the Council, so that you will be supreme among all men, do I not show my loyalty and my goodwill, and do I not provide a basis on which a new standard of reciprocal loyalty may be established among us?"
Here he paused, and looked round for the applause which was not slow to respond. For the moment, he had gained the ear of the Council. He had only to justify his boast to establish his supremacy. Only Sturmie sat silent and contemptuous, digesting the insult which he had received. Professor Borthin, with an expressionless face, joined in the applause. He was not deceived. He knew that one of them must be doomed. But he would wait his time. The experiment had not yet succeeded.
Silent and watchful, he heard the President go on to the detailed explanations which he had promised, while the clock on the wall behind him ticked out the half hour for which they waited.
Twenty minutes passed, and he became aware, with a quickened interest, that President Brisket was changing. But it was not to any apparent advance in intellectual alertness, not in the clarity or profundity of the remarks he was making, but there was a change, both in voice and manner. Even his face seemed different. He was smiling fatuously. What was he saying now?
Dr. Acton-Shaw, who was listening with his usual intentness, his wizened face slightly lifted sideways to the speaker, pushed his chair a little back from the table.
"You know," President Brisket was saying, "we don't love humanity as we ought. We don't even love each other. There's Borthin here, one of the best, who doesn't trust me as he should. He's got something up his sleeve now that he thinks could kill me. - And, gentlemen - I know I shall feel better when I've confessed it - I've got a little arrangement of my own that would hit back automatically if he tried it, and would kill you all, if I wished. . . . No, don't move. You're quite safe. I'm sure Borthin wouldn't hurt a fly. . . . But, if he did try, even I couldn't save you. You'd go so quickly you wouldn't know how you died. . . . Now we've got to alter all that. We've got to love each other, and the poor dogs, and Dr. Sturmie, and the dear little guinea-pigs. We mustn't think of ourselves. Sturmie thinks that I ought to resign, and, of course, I will. I know he didn't mean to be rude. He just hadn't thought of the Invasion of Energy, and what a difference it might make. It's almost sure to. . . . But Professor Borthin looks as though he's got something to say, and, of course, he shall. . . . Professor Borthin will address the meeting."
Professor Borthin rose. "Gentlemen," he said briefly, "you have heard our esteemed President tender his resignation. Before we deal with the previous resolution, I move that the resignation be now accepted."
The President rose to reply. There was the same deprecating fatuous smile on his face, and he did not appear to resent the resolution which had been put forward so abruptly.
"Gentlemen, of course I'll resign. But we'd better have the resolutions one at a time, hadn't we? I'm sure Borthin doesn't really want the babies. . . . You didn't think of their mothers, did you, Borthin? . . . And we don't want to hurt the little doggies either. The resolution is . . . Those against?"
He looked round the wondering faces of the Council, but not a hand was lifted.
"I know I needn't put the affirmative. I'm sure no one will vote for a resolution like that," he went on, with a plaintive confidence.
Dr. Sturmie turned his huge head slowly from right to left, reading the faces of those around him. His voice rumbled out contemptuously.
"After this exhibition of senile decay - unless anyone else wants a dose of the same kind - I think we'd better have the resolution properly. It has been moved That Professor Borthin have power to examine all babies which may be born during the next twelve months within thirty-five miles of London, and to retain as many as he may select for experimental purposes, and further that he may require that those whom he may nominate shall provide him with babies of their own breeding within twelve months of such order, under such penalties as he may consider suitable, should they fail to do so. Those in favour? Carried nem. con. The President and Secretary not voting."
President Brisket got to his feet unsteadily. His eyes had a curiously pathetic look, as of one who has lost his way in the dark.
Dr. Acton-Shaw looked at him again, and pushed his chair a little further back from the table.
"Oh, no, gentlemen," he began plaintively, "you don't really mean that. You couldn't mean it, you know. Oh, no, Sturmie dear. I'm not an old fool, really. But I'm not sure we oughtn't to end at once, really I'm not. I think we must have gone the wrong way. . . ."
He sat down uncertainly, and as he did so, Dr. Acton-Shaw pushed his chair further back, till it was clear of the central patterning of the floor on which the table stood.
A professor of chemistry, a dark slim man, younger than most, sitting halfway down the table, who had not spoken previously, interposed.
"Mr. President, I don't think you're quite yourself this afternoon. Won't you . . . " He may have been about to ask him to adjourn the meeting, but the sentence was never finished.
The President had been scraping with his foot under the table. Once to the left - once forward - twice to the right. He might be feeling a bit queer, but he hadn't forgotten that. It would be best for the race, and oh, so much for themselves !
Dr. Sturmie looked at him intently, and half leapt from his chair, with an agility which he had not shown for the past ten years, but he was too late. The great body collapsed so heavily that the chair cracked audibly in the sudden silence of the room.
Dr. Acton-Shaw, still pushing his chair backward as he rose, the minute-book carefully retained beneath his arm, observed his twenty colleagues sagging around the table in attitudes which looked uncomfortable, but which they appeared to endure very patiently.
He was not greatly surprised, and not at all disconcerted.
They were clever men, but he had been led to wonder for some months past, as he had recorded their decisions, whether there might not be higher powers than they.
"There'll be bonfires tomorrow," he said thoughtfully. "I suppose I'd better clear." And then, with a new decision: "No, I won't do that. I expect I can do something to help. I'll ring up Wyndham."
He went out quietly, to ring up the Premier who had been deposed by Professor Brisket a ghastly year ago.
* * * * *
End of this file.