The World Set Free
H.G. Wells [Herbert George Wells]
Part 3 out of 4
'WELL,' he said at last. 'And I have known nothing!'
The king smiled very cheerfully. He liked these talks with
That conference upon the Brissago meadows was one of the most
heterogeneous collections of prominent people that has ever met
together. Principalities and powers, stripped and shattered until
all their pride and mystery were gone, met in a marvellous new
humility. Here were kings and emperors whose capitals were lakes
of flaming destruction, statesmen whose countries had become
chaos, scared politicians and financial potentates. Here were
leaders of thought and learned investigators dragged reluctantly
to the control of affairs. Altogether there were ninety-three of
them, Leblanc's conception of the head men of the world. They
had all come to the realisation of the simple truths that the
indefatigable Leblanc had hammered into them; and, drawing his
resources from the King of Italy, he had provisioned his
conference with a generous simplicity quite in accordance with
the rest of his character, and so at last was able to make his
astonishing and entirely rational appeal. He had appointed King
Egbert the president, he believed in this young man so firmly
that he completely dominated him, and he spoke himself as a
secretary might speak from the president's left hand, and
evidently did not realise himself that he was telling them all
exactly what they had to do. He imagined he was merely
recapitulating the obvious features of the situation for their
convenience. He was dressed in ill-fitting white silk clothes,
and he consulted a dingy little packet of notes as he spoke.
They put him out. He explained that he had never spoken from
notes before, but that this occasion was exceptional.
And then King Egbert spoke as he was expected to speak, and
Leblanc's spectacles moistened at that flow of generous
sentiment, most amiably and lightly expressed. 'We haven't to
stand on ceremony,' said the king, 'we have to govern the world.
We have always pretended to govern the world and here is our
'Of course,' whispered Leblanc, nodding his head rapidly, 'of
'The world has been smashed up, and we have to put it on its
wheels again,' said King Egbert. 'And it is the simple common
sense of this crisis for all to help and none to seek advantage.
Is that our tone or not?'
The gathering was too old and seasoned and miscellaneous for any
great displays of enthusiasm, but that was its tone, and with an
astonishment that somehow became exhilarating it began to resign,
repudiate, and declare its intentions. Firmin, taking notes
behind his master, heard everything that had been foretold among
the yellow broom, come true. With a queer feeling that he was
dreaming, he assisted at the proclamation of the World State, and
saw the message taken out to the wireless operators to be
throbbed all round the habitable globe. 'And next,' said King
Egbert, with a cheerful excitement in his voice, 'we have to get
every atom of Carolinum and all the plant for making it, into our
Firman was not alone in his incredulity. Not a man there who was
not a very amiable, reasonable, benevolent creature at bottom;
some had been born to power and some had happened upon it, some
had struggled to get it, not clearly knowing what it was and what
it implied, but none was irreconcilably set upon its retention at
the price of cosmic disaster. Their minds had been prepared by
circumstances and sedulously cultivated by Leblanc; and now they
took the broad obvious road along which King Egbert was leading
them, with a mingled conviction of strangeness and necessity.
Things went very smoothly; the King of Italy explained the
arrangements that had been made for the protection of the camp
from any fantastic attack; a couple of thousand of aeroplanes,
each carrying a sharpshooter, guarded them, and there was an
excellent system of relays, and at night all the sky would be
searched by scores of lights, and the admirable Leblanc gave
luminous reasons for their camping just where they were and going
on with their administrative duties forthwith. He knew of this
place, because he had happened upon it when holiday-making with
Madame Leblanc twenty years and more ago. 'There is very simple
fare at present,' he explained, 'on account of the disturbed
state of the countries about us. But we have excellent fresh
milk, good red wine, beef, bread, salad, and lemons. . . . In a
few days I hope to place things in the hands of a more efficient
The members of the new world government dined at three long
tables on trestles, and down the middle of these tables Leblanc,
in spite of the barrenness of his menu, had contrived to have a
great multitude of beautiful roses. There was similar
accommodation for the secretaries and attendants at a lower level
down the mountain. The assembly dined as it had debated, in the
open air, and over the dark crags to the west the glowing June
sunset shone upon the banquet. There was no precedency now among
the ninety-three, and King Egbert found himself between a
pleasant little Japanese stranger in spectacles and his cousin of
Central Europe, and opposite a great Bengali leader and the
President of the United States of America. Beyond the Japanese
was Holsten, the old chemist, and Leblanc was a little way down
the other side.
The king was still cheerfully talkative and abounded in ideas. He
fell presently into an amiable controversy with the American, who
seemed to feel a lack of impressiveness in the occasion.
It was ever the Transatlantic tendency, due, no doubt, to the
necessity of handling public questions in a bulky and striking
manner, to over-emphasise and over-accentuate, and the president
was touched by his national failing. He suggested now that there
should be a new era, starting from that day as the first day of
the first year.
The king demurred.
'From this day forth, sir, man enters upon his heritage,' said
'Man,' said the king, 'is always entering upon his heritage. You
Americans have a peculiar weakness for anniversaries--if you will
forgive me saying so. Yes--I accuse you of a lust for dramatic
effect. Everything is happening always, but you want to say this
or this is the real instant in time and subordinate all the
others to it.'
The American said something about an epoch-making day.
'But surely,' said the king, 'you don't want us to condemn all
humanity to a world-wide annual Fourth of July for ever and ever
more. On account of this harmless necessary day of declarations.
No conceivable day could ever deserve that. Ah! you do not know,
as I do, the devastations of the memorable. My poor grandparents
were--RUBRICATED. The worst of these huge celebrations is that
they break up the dignified succession of one's contemporary
emotions. They interrupt. They set back. Suddenly out come the
flags and fireworks, and the old enthusiasms are furbished
up--and it's sheer destruction of the proper thing that ought to
be going on. Sufficient unto the day is the celebration thereof.
Let the dead past bury its dead. You see, in regard to the
calendar, I am for democracy and you are for aristocracy. All
things I hold, are august, and have a right to be lived through
on their merits. No day should be sacrificed on the grave of
departed events. What do you think of it, Wilhelm?'
'For the noble, yes, all days should be noble.'
'Exactly my position,' said the king, and felt pleased at what he
had been saying.
And then, since the American pressed his idea, the king contrived
to shift the talk from the question of celebrating the epoch they
were making to the question of the probabilities that lay ahead.
Here every one became diffident. They could see the world
unified and at peace, but what detail was to follow from that
unification they seemed indisposed to discuss. This diffidence
struck the king as remarkable. He plunged upon the possibilities
of science. All the huge expenditure that had hitherto gone into
unproductive naval and military preparations, must now, he
declared, place research upon a new footing. 'Where one man
worked we will have a thousand.' He appealed to Holsten. 'We
have only begun to peep into these possibilities,' he said. 'You
at any rate have sounded the vaults of the treasure house.'
'They are unfathomable,' smiled Holsten.
'Man,' said the American, with a manifest resolve to justify and
reinstate himself after the flickering contradictions of the
king, 'Man, I say, is only beginning to enter upon his heritage.'
'Tell us some of the things you believe we shall presently learn,
give us an idea of the things we may presently do,' said the king
Holsten opened out the vistas....
'Science,' the king cried presently, 'is the new king of the
'OUR view,' said the president, 'is that sovereignty resides with
'No!' said the king, 'the sovereign is a being more subtle than
that. And less arithmetical. Neither my family nor your
emancipated people. It is something that floats about us, and
above us, and through us. It is that common impersonal will and
sense of necessity of which Science is the best understood and
most typical aspect. It is the mind of the race. It is that
which has brought us here, which has bowed us all to its
He paused and glanced down the table at Leblanc, and then
re-opened at his former antagonist.
'There is a disposition,' said the king, 'to regard this
gathering as if it were actually doing what it appears to be
doing, as if we ninety-odd men of our own free will and wisdom
were unifying the world. There is a temptation to consider
ourselves exceptionally fine fellows, and masterful men, and all
the rest of it. We are not. I doubt if we should average out as
anything abler than any other casually selected body of
ninety-odd men. We are no creators, we are consequences, we are
salvagers--or salvagees. The thing to-day is not ourselves but
the wind of conviction that has blown us hither....'
The American had to confess he could hardly agree with the king's
estimate of their average.
'Holster, perhaps, and one or two others, might lift us a
little,' the king conceded. 'But the rest of us?'
His eyes flitted once more towards Leblanc.
'Look at Leblanc,' he said. 'He's just a simple soul. There are
hundreds and thousands like him. I admit, a certain dexterity, a
certain lucidity, but there is not a country town in France where
there is not a Leblanc or so to be found about two o'clock in its
principal cafe. It's just that he isn't complicated or
Super-Mannish, or any of those things that has made all he has
done possible. But in happier times, don't you think, Wilhelm, he
would have remained just what his father was, a successful
epicier, very clean, very accurate, very honest. And on holidays
he would have gone out with Madame Leblanc and her knitting in a
punt with a jar of something gentle and have sat under a large
reasonable green-lined umbrella and fished very neatly and
successfully for gudgeon....'
The president and the Japanese prince in spectacles protested
'If I do him an injustice,' said the king, 'it is only because I
want to elucidate my argument. I want to make it clear how small
are men and days, and how great is man in comparison....'
So it was King Egbert talked at Brissago after they had
proclaimed the unity of the world. Every evening after that the
assembly dined together and talked at their ease and grew
accustomed to each other and sharpened each other's ideas, and
every day they worked together, and really for a time believed
that they were inventing a new government for the world. They
discussed a constitution. But there were matters needing
attention too urgently to wait for any constitution. They
attended to these incidentally. The constitution it was that
waited. It was presently found convenient to keep the
constitution waiting indefinitely as King Egbert had foreseen,
and meanwhile, with an increasing self-confidence, that council
went on governing....
On this first evening of all the council's gatherings, after King
Egbert had talked for a long time and drunken and praised very
abundantly the simple red wine of the country that Leblanc had
procured for them, he fathered about him a group of congenial
spirits and fell into a discourse upon simplicity, praising it
above all things and declaring that the ultimate aim of art,
religion, philosophy, and science alike was to simplify. He
instanced himself as a devotee to simplicity. And Leblanc he
instanced as a crowning instance of the splendour of this
quality. Upon that they all agreed.
When at last the company about the tables broke up, the king
found himself brimming over with a peculiar affection and
admiration for Leblanc, he made his way to him and drew him aside
and broached what he declared was a small matter. There was, he
said, a certain order in his gift that, unlike all other orders
and decorations in the world, had never been corrupted. It was
reserved for elderly men of supreme distinction, the acuteness of
whose gifts was already touched to mellowness, and it had
included the greatest names of every age so far as the advisers
of his family had been able to ascertain them. At present, the
king admitted, these matters of stars and badges were rather
obscured by more urgent affairs, for his own part he had never
set any value upon them at all, but a time might come when they
would be at least interesting, and in short he wished to confer
the Order of Merit upon Leblanc. His sole motive in doing so, he
added, was his strong desire to signalise his personal esteem.
He laid his hand upon the Frenchman's shoulder as he said these
things, with an almost brotherly affection. Leblanc received this
proposal with a modest confusion that greatly enhanced the king's
opinion of his admirable simplicity. He pointed out that eager
as he was to snatch at the proffered distinction, it might at the
present stage appear invidious, and he therefore suggested that
the conferring of it should be postponed until it could be made
the crown and conclusion of his services. The king was unable to
shake this resolution, and the two men parted with expressions of
The king then summoned Firmin in order to make a short note of a
number of things that he had said during the day. But after about
twenty minutes' work the sweet sleepiness of the mountain air
overcame him, and he dismissed Firmin and went to bed and fell
asleep at once, and slept with extreme satisfaction. He had had
an active, agreeable day.
The establishment of the new order that was thus so humanly
begun, was, if one measures it by the standard of any preceding
age, a rapid progress. The fighting spirit of the world was
exhausted. Only here or there did fierceness linger. For long
decades the combative side in human affairs had been monstrously
exaggerated by the accidents of political separation. This now
became luminously plain. An enormous proportion of the force that
sustained armaments had been nothing more aggressive than the
fear of war and warlike neighbours. It is doubtful if any large
section of the men actually enlisted for fighting ever at any
time really hungered and thirsted for bloodshed and danger. That
kind of appetite was probably never very strong in the species
after the savage stage was past. The army was a profession, in
which killing had become a disagreeable possibility rather than
an eventful certainty. If one reads the old newspapers and
periodicals of that time, which did so much to keep militarism
alive, one finds very little about glory and adventure and a
constant harping on the disagreeableness of invasion and
subjugation. In one word, militarism was funk. The belligerent
resolution of the armed Europe of the twentieth century was the
resolution of a fiercely frightened sheep to plunge. And now that
its weapons were exploding in its hands, Europe was only too
eager to drop them, and abandon this fancied refuge of violence.
For a time the whole world had been shocked into frankness;
nearly all the clever people who had hitherto sustained the
ancient belligerent separations had now been brought to realise
the need for simplicity of attitude and openness of mind; and in
this atmosphere of moral renascence, there was little attempt to
get negotiable advantages out of resistance to the new order.
Human beings are foolish enough no doubt, but few have stopped to
haggle in a fire-escape. The council had its way with them. The
band of 'patriots' who seized the laboratories and arsenal just
outside Osaka and tried to rouse Japan to revolt against
inclusion in the Republic of Mankind, found they had
miscalculated the national pride and met the swift vengeance of
their own countrymen. That fight in the arsenal was a vivid
incident in this closing chapter of the history of war. To the
last the 'patriots' were undecided whether, in the event of a
defeat, they would explode their supply of atomic bombs or not.
They were fighting with swords outside the iridium doors, and the
moderates of their number were at bay and on the verge of
destruction, only ten, indeed, remained unwounded, when the
republicans burst in to the rescue....
One single monarch held out against the general acquiescence in
the new rule, and that was that strange survival of mediaevalism,
the 'Slavic Fox,' the King of the Balkans. He debated and
delayed his submissions. He showed an extraordinary combination
of cunning and temerity in his evasion of the repeated summonses
from Brissago. He affected ill-health and a great preoccupation
with his new official mistress, for his semi-barbaric court was
arranged on the best romantic models. His tactics were ably
seconded by Doctor Pestovitch, his chief minister. Failing to
establish his claims to complete independence, King Ferdinand
Charles annoyed the conference by a proposal to be treated as a
protected state. Finally he professed an unconvincing
submission, and put a mass of obstacles in the way of the
transfer of his national officials to the new government. In
these things he was enthusiastically supported by his subjects,
still for the most part an illiterate peasantry, passionately if
confusedly patriotic, and so far with no practical knowledge of
the effect of atomic bombs. More particularly he retained control
of all the Balkan aeroplanes.
For once the extreme naivete of Leblanc seems to have been
mitigated by duplicity. He went on with the general pacification
of the world as if the Balkan submission was made in absolute
good faith, and he announced the disbandment of the force of
aeroplanes that hitherto guarded the council at Brissago upon the
approaching fifteenth of July. But instead he doubled the number
upon duty on that eventful day, and made various arrangements for
their disposition. He consulted certain experts, and when he took
King Egbert into his confidence there was something in his neat
and explicit foresight that brought back to that ex-monarch's
mind his half-forgotten fantasy of Leblanc as a fisherman under a
About five o'clock in the morning of the seventeenth of July one
of the outer sentinels of the Brissago fleet, which was soaring
unobtrusively over the lower end of the lake of Garda, sighted
and hailed a strange aeroplane that was flying westward, and,
failing to get a satisfactory reply, set its wireless apparatus
talking and gave chase. A swarm of consorts appeared very
promptly over the westward mountains, and before the unknown
aeroplane had sighted Como, it had a dozen eager attendants
closing in upon it. Its driver seems to have hesitated, dropped
down among the mountains, and then turned southward in flight,
only to find an intercepting biplane sweeping across his bows. He
then went round into the eye of the rising sun, and passed within
a hundred yards of his original pursuer.
The sharpshooter therein opened fire at once, and showed an
intelligent grasp of the situation by disabling the passenger
first. The man at the wheel must have heard his companion cry out
behind him, but he was too intent on getting away to waste even a
glance behind. Twice after that he must have heard shots. He let
his engine go, he crouched down, and for twenty minutes he must
have steered in the continual expectation of a bullet. It never
came, and when at last he glanced round, three great planes were
close upon him, and his companion, thrice hit, lay dead across
his bombs. His followers manifestly did not mean either to upset
or shoot him, but inexorably they drove him down, down. At last
he was curving and flying a hundred yards or less over the level
fields of rice and maize. Ahead of him and dark against the
morning sunrise was a village with a very tall and slender
campanile and a line of cable bearing metal standards that he
could not clear. He stopped his engine abruptly and dropped flat.
He may have hoped to get at the bombs when he came down, but his
pitiless pursuers drove right over him and shot him as he fell.
Three other aeroplanes curved down and came to rest amidst grass
close by the smashed machine. Their passengers descended, and
ran, holding their light rifles in their hands towards the debris
and the two dead men. The coffin-shaped box that had occupied
the centre of the machine had broken, and three black objects,
each with two handles like the ears of a pitcher, lay peacefully
amidst the litter.
These objects were so tremendously important in the eyes of their
captors that they disregarded the two dead men who lay bloody and
broken amidst the wreckage as they might have disregarded dead
frogs by a country pathway.
'By God,' cried the first. 'Here they are!'
'And unbroken!' said the second.
'I've never seen the things before,' said the first.
'Bigger than I thought,' said the second.
The third comer arrived. He stared for a moment at the bombs and
then turned his eyes to the dead man with a crushed chest who lay
in a muddy place among the green stems under the centre of the
'One can take no risks,' he said, with a faint suggestion of
The other two now also turned to the victims. 'We must signal,'
said the first man. A shadow passed between them and the sun,
and they looked up to see the aeroplane that had fired the last
shot. 'Shall we signal?' came a megaphone hail.
'Three bombs,' they answered together.
'Where do they come from?' asked the megaphone.
The three sharpshooters looked at each other and then moved
towards the dead men. One of them had an idea. 'Signal that
first,' he said, 'while we look.' They were joined by their
aviators for the search, and all six men began a hunt that was
necessarily brutal in its haste, for some indication of identity.
They examined the men's pockets, their bloodstained clothes, the
machine, the framework. They turned the bodies over and flung
them aside. There was not a tattoo mark. . . . Everything was
elaborately free of any indication of its origin.
'We can't find out!' they called at last.
'Not a sign?'
'Not a sign.'
'I'm coming down,' said the man overhead....
The Slavic fox stood upon a metal balcony in his picturesque Art
Nouveau palace that gave upon the precipice that overhung his
bright little capital, and beside him stood Pestovitch, grizzled
and cunning, and now full of an ill-suppressed excitement. Behind
them the window opened into a large room, richly decorated in
aluminium and crimson enamel, across which the king, as he
glanced ever and again over his shoulder with a gesture of
inquiry, could see through the two open doors of a little azure
walled antechamber the wireless operator in the turret working at
his incessant transcription. Two pompously uniformed messengers
waited listlessly in this apartment. The room was furnished with
a stately dignity, and had in the middle of it a big green
baize-covered table with the massive white metal inkpots and
antiquated sandboxes natural to a new but romantic monarchy. It
was the king's council chamber and about it now, in attitudes of
suspended intrigue, stood the half-dozen ministers who
constituted his cabinet. They had been summoned for twelve
o'clock, but still at half-past twelve the king loitered in the
balcony and seemed to be waiting for some news that did not come.
The king and his minister had talked at first in whispers; they
had fallen silent, for they found little now to express except a
vague anxiety. Away there on the mountain side were the white
metal roofs of the long farm buildings beneath which the bomb
factory and the bombs were hidden. (The chemist who had made all
these for the king had died suddenly after the declaration of
Brissago.) Nobody knew of that store of mischief now but the king
and his adviser and three heavily faithful attendants; the
aviators who waited now in the midday blaze with their
bomb-carrying machines and their passenger bomb-throwers in the
exercising grounds of the motor-cyclist barracks below were still
in ignorance of the position of the ammunition they were
presently to take up. It was time they started if the scheme was
to work as Pestovitch had planned it. It was a magnificent plan.
It aimed at no less than the Empire of the World. The government
of idealists and professors away there at Brissago was to be
blown to fragments, and then east, west, north, and south those
aeroplanes would go swarming over a world that had disarmed
itself, to proclaim Ferdinand Charles, the new Caesar, the
Master, Lord of the Earth. It was a magnificent plan. But the
tension of this waiting for news of the success of the first blow
The Slavic fox was of a pallid fairness, he had a remarkably long
nose, a thick, short moustache, and small blue eyes that were a
little too near together to be pleasant. It was his habit to
worry his moustache with short, nervous tugs whenever his
restless mind troubled him, and now this motion was becoming so
incessant that it irked Pestovitch beyond the limits of
'I will go,' said the minister, 'and see what the trouble is with
the wireless. They give us nothing, good or bad.'
Left to himself, the king could worry his moustache without
stint; he leant his elbows forward on the balcony and gave both
of his long white hands to the work, so that he looked like a
pale dog gnawing a bone. Suppose they caught his men, what
should he do? Suppose they caught his men?
The clocks in the light gold-capped belfries of the town below
presently intimated the half-hour after midday.
Of course, he and Pestovitch had thought it out. Even if they
had caught those men, they were pledged to secrecy.... Probably
they would be killed in the catching.... One could deny anyhow,
deny and deny.
And then he became aware of half a dozen little shining specks
very high in the blue.... Pestovitch came out to him presently.
'The government messages, sire, have all dropped into cipher,' he
said. 'I have set a man----'
'LOOK!' interrupted the king, and pointed upward with a long,
Pestovitch followed that indication and then glanced for one
questioning moment at the white face before him.
'We have to face it out, sire,' he said.
For some moments they watched the steep spirals of the descending
messengers, and then they began a hasty consultation....
They decided that to be holding a council upon the details of an
ultimate surrender to Brissago was as innocent-looking a thing as
the king could well be doing, and so, when at last the ex-king
Egbert, whom the council had sent as its envoy, arrived upon the
scene, he discovered the king almost theatrically posed at the
head of his councillors in the midst of his court. The door upon
the wireless operators was shut.
The ex-king from Brissago came like a draught through the
curtains and attendants that gave a wide margin to King
Ferdinand's state, and the familiar confidence of his manner
belied a certain hardness in his eye. Firmin trotted behind him,
and no one else was with him. And as Ferdinand Charles rose to
greet him, there came into the heart of the Balkan king again
that same chilly feeling that he had felt upon the balcony--and
it passed at the careless gestures of his guest. For surely any
one might outwit this foolish talker who, for a mere idea and at
the command of a little French rationalist in spectacles, had
thrown away the most ancient crown in all the world.
One must deny, deny....
And then slowly and quite tiresomely he realised that there was
nothing to deny. His visitor, with an amiable ease, went on
talking about everything in debate between himself and Brissago
Could it be that they had been delayed? Could it be that they
had had to drop for repairs and were still uncaptured? Could it
be that even now while this fool babbled, they were over there
among the mountains heaving their deadly charge over the side of
Strange hopes began to lift the tail of the Slavic fox again.
What was the man saying? One must talk to him anyhow until one
knew. At any moment the little brass door behind him might open
with the news of Brissago blown to atoms. Then it would be a
delightful relief to the present tension to arrest this chatterer
forthwith. He might be killed perhaps. What?
The king was repeating his observation. 'They have a ridiculous
fancy that your confidence is based on the possession of atomic
King Ferdinand Charles pulled himself together. He protested.
'Oh, quite so,' said the ex-king, 'quite so.'
'What grounds?' The ex-king permitted himself a gesture and the
ghost of a chuckle--why the devil should he chuckle? 'Practically
none,' he said. 'But of course with these things one has to be
And then again for an instant something--like the faintest shadow
of derision--gleamed out of the envoy's eyes and recalled that
chilly feeling to King Ferdinand's spine.
Some kindred depression had come to Pestovitch, who had been
watching the drawn intensity of Firmin's face. He came to the
help of his master, who, he feared, might protest too much.
'A search!' cried the king. 'An embargo on our aeroplanes.'
'Only a temporary expedient,' said the ex-king Egbert, 'while the
search is going on.'
The king appealed to his council.
'The people will never permit it, sire,' said a bustling little
man in a gorgeous uniform.
'You'll have to make 'em,' said the ex-king, genially addressing
all the councillors.
King Ferdinand glanced at the closed brass door through which no
news would come.
'When would you want to have this search?'
The ex-king was radiant. 'We couldn't possibly do it until the
day after to-morrow,' he said.
'Just the capital?'
'Where else?' asked the ex-king, still more cheerfully.
'For my own part,' said the ex-king confidentially, 'I think the
whole business ridiculous. Who would be such a fool as to hide
atomic bombs? Nobody. Certain hanging if he's caught--certain,
and almost certain blowing up if he isn't. But nowadays I have to
take orders like the rest of the world. And here I am.'
The king thought he had never met such detestable geniality. He
glanced at Pestovitch, who nodded almost imperceptibly. It was
well, anyhow, to have a fool to deal with. They might have sent a
diplomatist. 'Of course,' said the king, 'I recognise the
overpowering force--and a kind of logic--in these orders from
'I knew you would,' said the ex-king, with an air of relief, 'and
so let us arrange----'
They arranged with a certain informality. No Balkan aeroplane
was to adventure into the air until the search was concluded, and
meanwhile the fleets of the world government would soar and
circle in the sky. The towns were to be placarded with offers of
reward to any one who would help in the discovery of atomic
'You will sign that,' said the ex-king.
'To show that we aren't in any way hostile to you.'
Pestovitch nodded 'yes' to his master.
'And then, you see,' said the ex-king in that easy way of his,
'we'll have a lot of men here, borrow help from your police, and
run through all your things. And then everything will be over.
Meanwhile, if I may be your guest....' When presently Pestovitch
was alone with the king again, he found him in a state of
jangling emotions. His spirit was tossing like a wind-whipped
sea. One moment he was exalted and full of contempt for 'that
ass' and his search; the next he was down in a pit of dread.
'They will find them, Pestovitch, and then he'll hang us.'
The king put his long nose into his councillor's face. 'That
grinning brute WANTS to hang us,' he said. 'And hang us he will,
if we give him a shadow of a chance.'
'But all their Modern State Civilisation!'
'Do you think there's any pity in that crew of Godless,
Vivisecting Prigs?' cried this last king of romance. 'Do you
think, Pestovitch, they understand anything of a high ambition or
a splendid dream? Do you think that our gallant and sublime
adventure has any appeal to them? Here am I, the last and
greatest and most romantic of the Caesars, and do you think they
will miss the chance of hanging me like a dog if they can,
killing me like a rat in a hole? And that renegade! He who was
once an anointed king! . . .
'I hate that sort of eye that laughs and keeps hard,' said the
'I won't sit still here and be caught like a fascinated rabbit,'
said the king in conclusion. 'We must shift those bombs.'
'Risk it,' said Pestovitch. 'Leave them alone.'
'No,' said the king. 'Shift them near the frontier. Then while
they watch us here--they will always watch us here now--we can
buy an aeroplane abroad, and pick them up....'
The king was in a feverish, irritable mood all that evening, but
he made his plans nevertheless with infinite cunning. They must
get the bombs away; there must be a couple of atomic hay lorries,
the bombs could be hidden under the hay.... Pestovitch went and
came, instructing trusty servants, planning and replanning....
The king and the ex-king talked very pleasantly of a number of
subjects. All the while at the back of King Ferdinand Charles's
mind fretted the mystery of his vanished aeroplane. There came no
news of its capture, and no news of its success. At any moment
all that power at the back of his visitor might crumble away and
It was past midnight, when the king, in a cloak and slouch hat
that might equally have served a small farmer, or any respectable
middle-class man, slipped out from an inconspicuous service gate
on the eastward side of his palace into the thickly wooded
gardens that sloped in a series of terraces down to the town.
Pestovitch and his guard-valet Peter, both wrapped about in a
similar disguise, came out among the laurels that bordered the
pathway and joined him. It was a clear, warm night, but the stars
seemed unusually little and remote because of the aeroplanes,
each trailing a searchlight, that drove hither and thither across
the blue. One great beam seemed to rest on the king for a moment
as he came out of the palace; then instantly and reassuringly it
had swept away. But while they were still in the palace gardens
another found them and looked at them.
'They see us,' cried the king.
'They make nothing of us,' said Pestovitch.
The king glanced up and met a calm, round eye of light, that
seemed to wink at him and vanish, leaving him blinded....
The three men went on their way. Near the little gate in the
garden railings that Pestovitch had caused to be unlocked, the
king paused under the shadow of an flex and looked back at the
place. It was very high and narrow, a twentieth-century rendering
of mediaevalism, mediaevalism in steel and bronze and sham stone
and opaque glass. Against the sky it splashed a confusion of
pinnacles. High up in the eastward wing were the windows of the
apartments of the ex-king Egbert. One of them was brightly lit
now, and against the light a little black figure stood very still
and looked out upon the night.
The king snarled.
'He little knows how we slip through his fingers,' said
And as he spoke they saw the ex-king stretch out his arms slowly,
like one who yawns, knuckle his eyes and turn inward--no doubt to
Down through the ancient winding back streets of his capital
hurried the king, and at an appointed corner a shabby
atomic-automobile waited for the three. It was a hackney
carriage of the lowest grade, with dinted metal panels and
deflated cushions. The driver was one of the ordinary drivers of
the capital, but beside him sat the young secretary of
Pestovitch, who knew the way to the farm where the bombs were
The automobile made its way through the narrow streets of the old
town, which were still lit and uneasy--for the fleet of airships
overhead had kept the cafes open and people abroad--over the
great new bridge, and so by straggling outskirts to the country.
And all through his capital the king who hoped to outdo Caesar,
sat back and was very still, and no one spoke. And as they got
out into the dark country they became aware of the searchlights
wandering over the country-side like the uneasy ghosts of giants.
The king sat forward and looked at these flitting whitenesses,
and every now and then peered up to see the flying ships
'I don't like them,' said the king.
Presently one of these patches of moonlight came to rest about
them and seemed to be following their automobile. The king drew
'The things are confoundedly noiseless,' said the king. 'It's
like being stalked by lean white cats.'
He peered again. 'That fellow is watching us,' he said.
And then suddenly he gave way to panic. 'Pestovitch,' he said,
clutching his minister's arm, 'they are watching us. I'm not
going through with this. They are watching us. I'm going back.'
Pestovitch remonstrated. 'Tell him to go back,' said the king,
and tried to open the window. For a few moments there was a grim
struggle in the automobile; a gripping of wrists and a blow. 'I
can't go through with it,' repeated the king, 'I can't go through
'But they'll hang us,' said Pestovitch.
'Not if we were to give up now. Not if we were to surrender the
bombs. It is you who brought me into this....'
At last Pestovitch compromised. There was an inn perhaps half a
mile from the farm. They could alight there and the king could
get brandy, and rest his nerves for a time. And if he still
thought fit to go back he could go back.
'See,' said Pestovitch, 'the light has gone again.'
The king peered up. 'I believe he's following us without a
light,' said the king.
In the little old dirty inn the king hung doubtful for a time,
and was for going back and throwing himself on the mercy of the
council. 'If there is a council,' said Pestovitch. 'By this time
your bombs may have settled it.
'But if so, these infernal aeroplanes would go.'
'They may not know yet.'
'But, Pestovitch, why couldn't you do all this without me?'
Pestovitch made no answer for a moment. 'I was for leaving the
bombs in their place,' he said at last, and went to the window.
About their conveyance shone a circle of bright light. Pestovitch
had a brilliant idea. 'I will send my secretary out to make a
kind of dispute with the driver. Something that will make them
watch up above there. Meanwhile you and I and Peter will go out
by the back way and up by the hedges to the farm....'
It was worthy of his subtle reputation and it answered passing
In ten minutes they were tumbling over the wall of the farm-yard,
wet, muddy, and breathless, but unobserved. But as they ran
towards the barns the king gave vent to something between a groan
and a curse, and all about them shone the light--and passed.
But had it passed at once or lingered for just a second?
'They didn't see us,' said Peter.
'I don't think they saw us,' said the king, and stared as the
light went swooping up the mountain side, hung for a second about
a hayrick, and then came pouring back.
'In the barn!' cried the king.
He bruised his shin against something, and then all three men
were inside the huge steel-girdered barn in which stood the two
motor hay lorries that were to take the bombs away. Kurt and
Abel, the two brothers of Peter, had brought the lorries thither
in daylight. They had the upper half of the loads of hay thrown
off, ready to cover the bombs, so soon as the king should show
the hiding-place. 'There's a sort of pit here,' said the king.
'Don't light another lantern. This key of mine releases a
For a time scarcely a word was spoken in the darkness of the
barn. There was the sound of a slab being lifted and then of feet
descending a ladder into a pit. Then whispering and then heavy
breathing as Kurt came struggling up with the first of the hidden
'We shall do it yet,' said the king. And then he gasped. 'Curse
that light. Why in the name of Heaven didn't we shut the barn
door?' For the great door stood wide open and all the empty,
lifeless yard outside and the door and six feet of the floor of
the barn were in the blue glare of an inquiring searchlight.
'Shut the door, Peter,' said Pestovitch.
'No,' cried the king, too late, as Peter went forward into the
light. 'Don't show yourself!' cried the king. Kurt made a step
forward and plucked his brother back. For a time all five men
stood still. It seemed that light would never go and then
abruptly it was turned off, leaving them blinded. 'Now,' said
the king uneasily, 'now shut the door.'
'Not completely,' cried Pestovitch. 'Leave a chink for us to go
It was hot work shifting those bombs, and the king worked for a
time like a common man. Kurt and Abel carried the great things
up and Peter brought them to the carts, and the king and
Pestovitch helped him to place them among the hay. They made as
little noise as they could....
'Ssh!' cried the king. 'What's that?'
But Kurt and Abel did not hear, and came blundering up the ladder
with the last of the load.
'Ssh!' Peter ran forward to them with a whispered remonstrance.
Now they were still.
The barn door opened a little wider, and against the dim blue
light outside they saw the black shape of a man.
'Any one here?' he asked, speaking with an Italian accent.
The king broke into a cold perspiration. Then Pestovitch
answered: 'Only a poor farmer loading hay,' he said, and picked
up a huge hay fork and went forward softly.
'You load your hay at a very bad time and in a very bad light,'
said the man at the door, peering in. 'Have you no electric
Then suddenly he turned on an electric torch, and as he did so
Pestovitch sprang forward. 'Get out of my barn!' he cried, and
drove the fork full at the intruder's chest. He had a vague idea
that so he might stab the man to silence. But the man shouted
loudly as the prongs pierced him and drove him backward, and
instantly there was a sound of feet running across the yard.
'Bombs,' cried the man upon the ground, struggling with the
prongs in his hand, and as Pestovitch staggered forward into view
with the force of his own thrust, he was shot through the body by
one of the two new-comers.
The man on the ground was badly hurt but plucky. 'Bombs,' he
repeated, and struggled up into a kneeling position and held his
electric torch full upon the face of the king. 'Shoot them,' he
cried, coughing and spitting blood, so that the halo of light
round the king's head danced about.
For a moment in that shivering circle of light the two men saw
the king kneeling up in the cart and Peter on the barn floor
beside him. The old fox looked at them sideways--snared, a
white-faced evil thing. And then, as with a faltering suicidal
heroism, he leant forward over the bomb before him, they fired
together and shot him through the head.
The upper part of his face seemed to vanish.
'Shoot them,' cried the man who had been stabbed. 'Shoot them
And then his light went out, and he rolled over with a groan at
the feet of his comrades.
But each carried a light of his own, and in another moment
everything in the barn was visible again. They shot Peter even
as he held up his hands in sign of surrender.
Kurt and Abel at the head of the ladder hesitated for a moment,
and then plunged backward into the pit. 'If we don't kill them,'
said one of the sharpshooters, 'they'll blow us to rags. They've
gone down that hatchway. Come! . . .
'Here they are. Hands up! I say. Hold your light while I
It was still quite dark when his valet and Firmin came together
and told the ex-king Egbert that the business was settled.
He started up into a sitting position on the side of his bed.
'Did he go out?' asked the ex-king.
'He is dead,' said Firmin. 'He was shot.'
The ex-king reflected. 'That's about the best thing that could
have happened,' he said. 'Where are the bombs? In that
farm-house on the opposite hill-side! Why! the place is in sight!
Let us go. I'll dress. Is there any one in the place, Firmin, to
get us a cup of coffee?'
Through the hungry twilight of the dawn the ex-king's automobile
carried him to the farm-house where the last rebel king was lying
among his bombs. The rim of the sky flashed, the east grew
bright, and the sun was just rising over the hills when King
Egbert reached the farm-yard. There he found the hay lorries
drawn out from the barn with the dreadful bombs still packed upon
them. A couple of score of aviators held the yard, and outside a
few peasants stood in a little group and stared, ignorant as yet
of what had happened. Against the stone wall of the farm-yard
five bodies were lying neatly side by side, and Pestovitch had an
expression of surprise on his face and the king was chiefly
identifiable by his long white hands and his blonde moustache.
The wounded aeronaut had been carried down to the inn. And after
the ex-king had given directions in what manner the bombs were to
be taken to the new special laboratories above Zurich, where they
could be unpacked in an atmosphere of chlorine, he turned to
these five still shapes.
Their five pairs of feet stuck out with a curious stiff
'What else was there to do?' he said in answer to some internal
'I wonder, Firmin, if there are any more of them?'
'Bombs, sir?' asked Firmin.
'No, such kings....
'The pitiful folly of it!' said the ex-king, following his
thoughts. 'Firmin,' as an ex-professor of International Politics,
I think it falls to you to bury them. There? . . . No, don't put
them near the well. People will have to drink from that well.
Bury them over there, some way off in the field.'
CHAPTER THE FOURTH
THE NEW PHASE
The task that lay before the Assembly of Brissago, viewed as we
may view it now from the clarifying standpoint of things
accomplished, was in its broad issues a simple one. Essentially
it was to place social organisation upon the new footing that the
swift, accelerated advance of human knowledge had rendered
necessary. The council was gathered together with the haste of a
salvage expedition, and it was confronted with wreckage; but the
wreckage was irreparable wreckage, and the only possibilities of
the case were either the relapse of mankind to the agricultural
barbarism from which it had emerged so painfully or the
acceptance of achieved science as the basis of a new social
order. The old tendencies of human nature, suspicion, jealousy,
particularism, and belligerency, were incompatible with the
monstrous destructive power of the new appliances the inhuman
logic of science had produced. The equilibrium could be restored
only by civilisation destroying itself down to a level at which
modern apparatus could no longer be produced, or by human nature
adapting itself in its institutions to the new conditions. It was
for the latter alternative that the assembly existed.
Sooner or later this choice would have confronted mankind. The
sudden development of atomic science did but precipitate and
render rapid and dramatic a clash between the new and the
customary that had been gathering since ever the first flint was
chipped or the first fire built together. From the day when man
contrived himself a tool and suffered another male to draw near
him, he ceased to be altogether a thing of instinct and
untroubled convictions. From that day forth a widening breach can
be traced between his egotistical passions and the social need.
Slowly he adapted himself to the life of the homestead, and his
passionate impulses widened out to the demands of the clan and
the tribe. But widen though his impulses might, the latent hunter
and wanderer and wonderer in his imagination outstripped their
development. He was never quite subdued to the soil nor quite
tamed to the home. Everywhere it needed teaching and the priest
to keep him within the bounds of the plough-life and the
beast-tending. Slowly a vast system of traditional imperatives
superposed itself upon his instincts, imperatives that were
admirably fitted to make him that cultivator, that cattle-mincer,
who was for twice ten thousand years the normal man.
And, unpremeditated, undesired, out of the accumulations of his
tilling came civilisation. Civilisation was the agricultural
surplus. It appeared as trade and tracks and roads, it pushed
boats out upon the rivers and presently invaded the seas, and
within its primitive courts, within temples grown rich and
leisurely and amidst the gathering medley of the seaport towns
rose speculation and philosophy and science, and the beginning of
the new order that has at last established itself as human life.
Slowly at first, as we traced it, and then with an accumulating
velocity, the new powers were fabricated. Man as a whole did not
seek them nor desire them; they were thrust into his hand. For a
time men took up and used these new things and the new powers
inadvertently as they came to him, recking nothing of the
consequences. For endless generations change led him very
gently. But when he had been led far enough, change quickened the
pace. It was with a series of shocks that he realised at last
that he was living the old life less and less and a new life more
Already before the release of atomic energy the tensions between
the old way of living and the new were intense. They were far
intenser than they had been even at the collapse of the Roman
imperial system. On the one hand was the ancient life of the
family and the small community and the petty industry, on the
other was a new life on a larger scale, with remoter horizons and
a strange sense of purpose. Already it was growing clear that men
must live on one side or the other. One could not have little
tradespeople and syndicated businesses in the same market,
sleeping carters and motor trolleys on the same road, bows and
arrows and aeroplane sharpshooters in the same army, or
illiterate peasant industries and power-driven factories in the
same world. And still less it was possible that one could have
the ideas and ambitions and greed and jealousy of peasants
equipped with the vast appliances of the new age. If there had
been no atomic bombs to bring together most of the directing
intelligence of the world to that hasty conference at Brissago,
there would still have been, extended over great areas and a
considerable space of time perhaps, a less formal conference of
responsible and understanding people upon the perplexities of
this world-wide opposition. If the work of Holsten had been
spread over centuries and imparted to the world by imperceptible
degrees, it would nevertheless have made it necessary for men to
take counsel upon and set a plan for the future. Indeed already
there had been accumulating for a hundred years before the crisis
a literature of foresight; there was a whole mass of 'Modern
State' scheming available for the conference to go upon. These
bombs did but accentuate and dramatise an already developing
This assembly was no leap of exceptional minds and
super-intelligences into the control of affairs. It was
teachable, its members trailed ideas with them to the gathering,
but these were the consequences of the 'moral shock' the bombs
had given humanity, and there is no reason for supposing its
individual personalities were greatly above the average. It
would be possible to cite a thousand instances of error and
inefficiency in its proceedings due to the forgetfulness,
irritability, or fatigue of its members. It experimented
considerably and blundered often. Excepting Holsten, whose gift
was highly specialised, it is questionable whether there was a
single man of the first order of human quality in the gathering.
But it had a modest fear of itself, and a consequent directness
that gave it a general distinction. There was, of course, a
noble simplicity about Leblanc, but even of him it may be asked
whether he was not rather good and honest-minded than in the
fuller sense great.
The ex-king had wisdom and a certain romantic dash, he was a man
among thousands, even if he was not a man among millions, but his
memoirs, and indeed his decision to write memoirs, give the
quality of himself and his associates. The book makes admirable
but astonishing reading. Therein he takes the great work the
council was doing for granted as a little child takes God. It is
as if he had no sense of it at all. He tells amusing trivialities
about his cousin Wilhelm and his secretary Firmin, he pokes fun
at the American president, who was, indeed, rather a little
accident of the political machine than a representative American,
and he gives a long description of how he was lost for three days
in the mountains in the company of the only Japanese member, a
loss that seems to have caused no serious interruption of the
work of the council....
The Brissago conference has been written about time after time,
as though it were a gathering of the very flower of humanity.
Perched up there by the freak or wisdom of Leblanc, it had a
certain Olympian quality, and the natural tendency of the human
mind to elaborate such a resemblance would have us give its
members the likenesses of gods. It would be equally reasonable
to compare it to one of those enforced meetings upon the
mountain-tops that must have occurred in the opening phases of
the Deluge. The strength of the council lay not in itself but in
the circumstances that had quickened its intelligence, dispelled
its vanities, and emancipated it from traditional ambitions and
antagonisms. It was stripped of the accumulation of centuries, a
naked government with all that freedom of action that nakedness
affords. And its problems were set before it with a plainness
that was out of all comparison with the complicated and
perplexing intimations of the former time.
The world on which the council looked did indeed present a task
quite sufficiently immense and altogether too urgent for any
wanton indulgence in internal dissension. It may be interesting
to sketch in a few phrases the condition of mankind at the close
of the period of warring states, in the year of crisis that
followed the release of atomic power. It was a world
extraordinarily limited when one measures it by later standards,
and it was now in a state of the direst confusion and distress.
It must be remembered that at this time men had still to spread
into enormous areas of the land surface of the globe. There were
vast mountain wildernesses, forest wildernesses, sandy deserts,
and frozen lands. Men still clung closely to water and arable
soil in temperate or sub-tropical climates, they lived abundantly
only in river valleys, and all their great cities had grown upon
large navigable rivers or close to ports upon the sea. Over great
areas even of this suitable land flies and mosquitoes, armed with
infection, had so far defeated human invasion, and under their
protection the virgin forests remained untouched. Indeed, the
whole world even in its most crowded districts was filthy with
flies and swarming with needless insect life to an extent which
is now almost incredible. A population map of the world in 1950
would have followed seashore and river course so closely in its
darker shading as to give an impression that homo sapiens was an
amphibious animal. His roads and railways lay also along the
lower contours, only here and there to pierce some mountain
barrier or reach some holiday resort did they clamber above 3000
feet. And across the ocean his traffic passed in definite lines;
there were hundreds of thousands of square miles of ocean no ship
ever traversed except by mischance.
Into the mysteries of the solid globe under his feet he had not
yet pierced for five miles, and it was still not forty years
since, with a tragic pertinacity, he had clambered to the poles
of the earth. The limitless mineral wealth of the Arctic and
Antarctic circles was still buried beneath vast accumulations of
immemorial ice, and the secret riches of the inner zones of the
crust were untapped and indeed unsuspected. The higher mountain
regions were known only to a sprinkling of guide-led climbers and
the frequenters of a few gaunt hotels, and the vast rainless
belts of land that lay across the continental masses, from Gobi
to Sahara and along the backbone of America, with their perfect
air, their daily baths of blazing sunshine, their nights of cool
serenity and glowing stars, and their reservoirs of deep-lying
water, were as yet only desolations of fear and death to the
And now under the shock of the atomic bombs, the great masses of
population which had gathered into the enormous dingy town
centres of that period were dispossessed and scattered
disastrously over the surrounding rural areas. It was as if some
brutal force, grown impatient at last at man's blindness, had
with the deliberate intention of a rearrangement of population
upon more wholesome lines, shaken the world. The great
industrial regions and the large cities that had escaped the
bombs were, because of their complete economic collapse, in
almost as tragic plight as those that blazed, and the
country-side was disordered by a multitude of wandering and
lawless strangers. In some parts of the world famine raged, and
in many regions there was plague.... The plains of north India,
which had become more and more dependent for the general welfare
on the railways and that great system of irrigation canals which
the malignant section of the patriots had destroyed, were in a
state of peculiar distress, whole villages lay dead together, no
man heeding, and the very tigers and panthers that preyed upon
the emaciated survivors crawled back infected into the jungle to
perish. Large areas of China were a prey to brigand bands....
It is a remarkable thing that no complete contemporary account of
the explosion of the atomic bombs survives. There are, of
course, innumerable allusions and partial records, and it is from
these that subsequent ages must piece together the image of these
The phenomena, it must be remembered, changed greatly from day to
day, and even from hour to hour, as the exploding bomb shifted
its position, threw off fragments or came into contact with water
or a fresh texture of soil. Barnet, who came within forty miles
of Paris early in October, is concerned chiefly with his account
of the social confusion of the country-side and the problems of
his command, but he speaks of heaped cloud masses of steam. 'All
along the sky to the south-west' and of a red glare beneath these
at night. Parts of Paris were still burning, and numbers of
people were camped in the fields even at this distance watching
over treasured heaps of salvaged loot. He speaks too of the
distant rumbling of the explosion--'like trains going over iron
Other descriptions agree with this; they all speak of the
'continuous reverberations,' or of the 'thudding and hammering,'
or some such phrase; and they all testify to a huge pall of
steam, from which rain would fall suddenly in torrents and amidst
which lightning played. Drawing nearer to Paris an observer
would have found the salvage camps increasing in number and
blocking up the villages, and large numbers of people, often
starving and ailing, camping under improvised tents because there
was no place for them to go. The sky became more and more
densely overcast until at last it blotted out the light of day
and left nothing but a dull red glare 'extraordinarily depressing
to the spirit.' In this dull glare, great numbers of people were
still living, clinging to their houses and in many cases
subsisting in a state of partial famine upon the produce in their
gardens and the stores in the shops of the provision dealers.
Coming in still closer, the investigator would have reached the
police cordon, which was trying to check the desperate enterprise
of those who would return to their homes or rescue their more
valuable possessions within the 'zone of imminent danger.'
That zone was rather arbitrarily defined. If our spectator could
have got permission to enter it, he would have entered also a
zone of uproar, a zone of perpetual thunderings, lit by a strange
purplish-red light, and quivering and swaying with the incessant
explosion of the radio-active substance. Whole blocks of
buildings were alight and burning fiercely, the trembling, ragged
flames looking pale and ghastly and attenuated in comparison with
the full-bodied crimson glare beyond. The shells of other
edifices already burnt rose, pierced by rows of window sockets
against the red-lit mist.
Every step farther would have been as dangerous as a descent
within the crater of an active volcano. These spinning, boiling
bomb centres would shift or break unexpectedly into new regions,
great fragments of earth or drain or masonry suddenly caught by a
jet of disruptive force might come flying by the explorer's head,
or the ground yawn a fiery grave beneath his feet. Few who
adventured into these areas of destruction and survived attempted
any repetition of their experiences. There are stories of puffs
of luminous, radio-active vapour drifting sometimes scores of
miles from the bomb centre and killing and scorching all they
overtook. And the first conflagrations from the Paris centre
spread westward half-way to the sea.
Moreover, the air in this infernal inner circle of red-lit ruins
had a peculiar dryness and a blistering quality, so that it set
up a soreness of the skin and lungs that was very difficult to
Such was the last state of Paris, and such on a larger scale was
the condition of affairs in Chicago, and the same fate had
overtaken Berlin, Moscow, Tokio, the eastern half of London,
Toulon, Kiel, and two hundred and eighteen other centres of
population or armament. Each was a flaming centre of radiant
destruction that only time could quench, that indeed in many
instances time has still to quench. To this day, though indeed
with a constantly diminishing uproar and vigour, these explosions
continue. In the map of nearly every country of the world three
or four or more red circles, a score of miles in diameter, mark
the position of the dying atomic bombs and the death areas that
men have been forced to abandon around them. Within these areas
perished museums, cathedrals, palaces, libraries, galleries of
masterpieces, and a vast accumulation of human achievement, whose
charred remains lie buried, a legacy of curious material that
only future generations may hope to examine....
The state of mind of the dispossessed urban population which
swarmed and perished so abundantly over the country-side during
the dark days of the autumnal months that followed the Last War,
was one of blank despair. Barnet gives sketch after sketch of
groups of these people, camped among the vineyards of Champagne,
as he saw them during his period of service with the army of
There was, for example, that 'man-milliner' who came out from a
field beside the road that rises up eastward out of Epernay, and
asked how things were going in Paris. He was, says Barnet, a
round-faced man, dressed very neatly in black--so neatly that it
was amazing to discover he was living close at hand in a tent
made of carpets--and he had 'an urbane but insistent manner,' a
carefully trimmed moustache and beard, expressive eyebrows, and
hair very neatly brushed.
'No one goes into Paris,' said Barnet.
'But, Monsieur, that is very unenterprising,' the man by the
'The danger is too great. The radiations eat into people's
The eyebrows protested. 'But is nothing to be done?'
'Nothing can be done.'
'But, Monsieur, it is extraordinarily inconvenient, this living
in exile and waiting. My wife and my little boy suffer
extremely. There is a lack of amenity. And the season advances.
I say nothing of the expense and difficulty in obtaining
provisions. . . . When does Monsieur think that something will be
done to render Paris--possible?'
Barnet considered his interlocutor.
'I'm told,' said Barnet, 'that Paris is not likely to be possible
again for several generations.'
'Oh! but this is preposterous! Consider, Monsieur! What are
people like ourselves to do in the meanwhile? I am a costumier.
All my connections and interests, above all my style, demand
Paris. . . .'
Barnet considered the sky, from which a light rain was beginning
to fall, the wide fields about them from which the harvest had
been taken, the trimmed poplars by the wayside.
'Naturally,' he agreed, 'you want to go to Paris. But Paris is
'But then, Monsieur--what is to become--of ME?'
Barnet turned his face westward, whither the white road led.
'Where else, for example, may I hope to find--opportunity?'
Barnet made no reply.
'Perhaps on the Riviera. Or at some such place as Homburg. Or
some plague perhaps.'
'All that,' said Barnet, accepting for the first time facts that
had lain evident in his mind for weeks; 'all that must be over,
There was a pause. Then the voice beside him broke out. 'But,
Monsieur, it is impossible! It leaves--nothing.'
'No. Not very much.'
'One cannot suddenly begin to grow potatoes!'
'It would be good if Monsieur could bring himself----'
'To the life of a peasant! And my wife----You do not know the
distinguished delicacy of my wife, a refined helplessness, a
peculiar dependent charm. Like some slender tropical
creeper--with great white flowers.... But all this is foolish
talk. It is impossible that Paris, which has survived so many
misfortunes, should not presently revive.'
'I do not think it will ever revive. Paris is finished. London,
too, I am told--Berlin. All the great capitals were
'But----! Monsieur must permit me to differ.'
'It is so.'
'It is impossible. Civilisations do not end in this manner.
Mankind will insist.'
'Monsieur, you might as well hope to go down the Maelstrom and
resume business there.'
'I am content, Monsieur, with my own faith.'
'The winter comes on. Would not Monsieur be wiser to seek a
'Farther from Paris? No, Monsieur. But it is not possible,
Monsieur, what you say, and you are under a tremendous
mistake.... Indeed you are in error.... I asked merely for
'When last I saw him,' said Barnet, 'he was standing under the
signpost at the crest of the hill, gazing wistfully, yet it
seemed to me a little doubtfully, now towards Paris, and
altogether heedless of a drizzling rain that was wetting him
through and through....'
This effect of chill dismay, of a doom as yet imperfectly
apprehended deepens as Barnet's record passes on to tell of the
approach of winter. It was too much for the great mass of those
unwilling and incompetent nomads to realise that an age had
ended, that the old help and guidance existed no longer, that
times would not mend again, however patiently they held out. They
were still in many cases looking to Paris when the first
snowflakes of that pitiless January came swirling about them. The
story grows grimmer....
If it is less monstrously tragic after Barnet's return to
England, it is, if anything, harder. England was a spectacle of
fear-embittered householders, hiding food, crushing out robbery,
driving the starving wanderers from every faltering place upon
the roads lest they should die inconveniently and reproachfully
on the doorsteps of those who had failed to urge them onward....
The remnants of the British troops left France finally in March,
after urgent representations from the provisional government at
Orleans that they could be supported no longer. They seem to have
been a fairly well-behaved, but highly parasitic force
throughout, though Barnet is clearly of opinion that they did
much to suppress sporadic brigandage and maintain social order.
He came home to a famine-stricken country, and his picture of the
England of that spring is one of miserable patience and desperate
expedients. The country was suffering much more than France,
because of the cessation of the overseas supplies on which it had
hitherto relied. His troops were given bread, dried fish, and
boiled nettles at Dover, and marched inland to Ashford and paid
off. On the way thither they saw four men hanging from the
telegraph posts by the roadside, who had been hung for stealing
swedes. The labour refuges of Kent, he discovered, were feeding
their crowds of casual wanderers on bread into which clay and
sawdust had been mixed. In Surrey there was a shortage of even
such fare as that. He himself struck across country to
Winchester, fearing to approach the bomb-poisoned district round
London, and at Winchester he had the luck to be taken on as one
of the wireless assistants at the central station and given
regular rations. The station stood in a commanding position on
the chalk hill that overlooks the town from the east....
Thence he must have assisted in the transmission of the endless
cipher messages that preceded the gathering at Brissago, and
there it was that the Brissago proclamation of the end of the war
and the establishment of a world government came under his hands.
He was feeling ill and apathetic that day, and he did not realise
what it was he was transcribing. He did it mechanically, as a
part of his tedious duty.
Afterwards there came a rush of messages arising out of the
declaration that strained him very much, and in the evening when
he was relieved, he ate his scanty supper and then went out upon
the little balcony before the station, to smoke and rest his
brains after this sudden and as yet inexplicable press of duty.
It was a very beautiful, still evening. He fell talking to a
fellow operator, and for the first time, he declares, 'I began to
understand what it was all about. I began to see just what
enormous issues had been under my hands for the past four hours.
But I became incredulous after my first stimulation. "This is
some sort of Bunkum," I said very sagely.
'My colleague was more hopeful. "It means an end to
bomb-throwing and destruction," he said. "It means that
presently corn will come from America."
' "Who is going to send corn when there is no more value in
money?" I asked.
'Suddenly we were startled by a clashing from the town below. The
cathedral bells, which had been silent ever since I had come into
the district, were beginning, with a sort of rheumatic
difficulty, to ring. Presently they warmed a little to the work,
and we realised what was going on. They were ringing a peal. We
listened with an unbelieving astonishment and looking into each
other's yellow faces.
' "They mean it," said my colleague.
' "But what can they do now?" I asked. "Everything is broken
And on that sentence, with an unexpected artistry, Barnet
abruptly ends his story.
From the first the new government handled affairs with a certain
greatness of spirit. Indeed, it was inevitable that they should
act greatly. From the first they had to see the round globe as
one problem; it was impossible any longer to deal with it piece
by piece. They had to secure it universally from any fresh
outbreak of atomic destruction, and they had to ensure a
permanent and universal pacification. On this capacity to grasp
and wield the whole round globe their existence depended. There
was no scope for any further performance.
So soon as the seizure of the existing supplies of atomic
ammunition and the apparatus for synthesising Carolinum was
assured, the disbanding or social utilisation of the various
masses of troops still under arms had to be arranged, the
salvation of the year's harvests, and the feeding, housing, and
employment of the drifting millions of homeless people. In
Canada, in South America, and Asiatic Russia there were vast
accumulations of provision that was immovable only because of the
breakdown of the monetary and credit systems. These had to be
brought into the famine districts very speedily if entire
depopulation was to be avoided, and their transportation and the
revival of communications generally absorbed a certain proportion
of the soldiery and more able unemployed. The task of housing
assumed gigantic dimensions, and from building camps the housing
committee of the council speedily passed to constructions of a
more permanent type. They found far less friction than might have
been expected in turning the loose population on their hands to
these things. People were extraordinarily tamed by that year of
suffering and death; they were disillusioned of their traditions,
bereft of once obstinate prejudices; they felt foreign in a
strange world, and ready to follow any confident leadership. The
orders of the new government came with the best of all
credentials, rations. The people everywhere were as easy to
control, one of the old labour experts who had survived until the
new time witnesses, 'as gangs of emigrant workers in a new land.'
And now it was that the social possibilities of the atomic energy
began to appear. The new machinery that had come into existence
before the last wars increased and multiplied, and the council
found itself not only with millions of hands at its disposal but
with power and apparatus that made its first conceptions of the
work it had to do seem pitifully timid. The camps that were
planned in iron and deal were built in stone and brass; the roads
that were to have been mere iron tracks became spacious ways that
insisted upon architecture; the cultivations of foodstuffs that
were to have supplied emergency rations, were presently, with
synthesisers, fertilisers, actinic light, and scientific
direction, in excess of every human need.
The government had begun with the idea of temporarily
reconstituting the social and economic system that had prevailed
before the first coming of the atomic engine, because it was to
this system that the ideas and habits of the great mass of the
world's dispossessed population was adapted. Subsequent
rearrangement it had hoped to leave to its successors--whoever
they might be. But this, it became more and more manifest, was
absolutely impossible. As well might the council have proposed a
revival of slavery. The capitalist system had already been
smashed beyond repair by the onset of limitless gold and energy;
it fell to pieces at the first endeavour to stand it up again.
Already before the war half of the industrial class had been out
of work, the attempt to put them back into wages employment on
the old lines was futile from the outset--the absolute shattering
of the currency system alone would have been sufficient to
prevent that, and it was necessary therefore to take over the
housing, feeding, and clothing of this worldwide multitude
without exacting any return in labour whatever. In a little while
the mere absence of occupation for so great a multitude of people
everywhere became an evident social danger, and the government
was obliged to resort to such devices as simple decorative work
in wood and stone, the manufacture of hand-woven textiles,
fruit-growing, flower-growing, and landscape gardening on a grand
scale to keep the less adaptable out of mischief, and of paying
wages to the younger adults for attendance at schools that would
equip them to use the new atomic machinery.... So quite
insensibly the council drifted into a complete reorganisation of
urban and industrial life, and indeed of the entire social
Ideas that are unhampered by political intrigue or financial
considerations have a sweeping way with them, and before a year
was out the records of the council show clearly that it was
rising to its enormous opportunity, and partly through its own
direct control and partly through a series of specific
committees, it was planning a new common social order for the
entire population of the earth. 'There can be no real social
stability or any general human happiness while large areas of the
world and large classes of people are in a phase of civilisation
different from the prevailing mass. It is impossible now to have
great blocks of population misunderstanding the generally
accepted social purpose or at an economic disadvantage to the
rest.' So the council expressed its conception of the problem it
had to solve. The peasant, the field-worker, and all barbaric
cultivators were at an 'economic disadvantage' to the more mobile
and educated classes, and the logic of the situation compelled
the council to take up systematically the supersession of this
stratum by a more efficient organisation of production. It
developed a scheme for the progressive establishment throughout
the world of the 'modern system' in agriculture, a system that
should give the full advantages of a civilised life to every
agricultural worker, and this replacement has been going on right
up to the present day. The central idea of the modern system is
the substitution of cultivating guilds for the individual
cultivator, and for cottage and village life altogether. These
guilds are associations of men and women who take over areas of
arable or pasture land, and make themselves responsible for a
certain average produce. They are bodies small enough as a rule
to be run on a strictly democratic basis, and large enough to
supply all the labour, except for a certain assistance from
townspeople during the harvest, needed upon the land farmed. They
have watchers' bungalows or chalets on the ground cultivated, but
the ease and the costlessness of modern locomotion enables them
to maintain a group of residences in the nearest town with a
common dining-room and club house, and usually also a guild house
in the national or provincial capital. Already this system has
abolished a distinctively 'rustic' population throughout vast
areas of the old world, where it has prevailed immemorially. That
shy, unstimulated life of the lonely hovel, the narrow scandals
and petty spites and persecutions of the small village, that
hoarding, half inanimate existence away from books, thought, or
social participation and in constant contact with cattle, pigs,
poultry, and their excrement, is passing away out of human
experience. In a little while it will be gone altogether. In the
nineteenth century it had already ceased to be a necessary human
state, and only the absence of any collective intelligence and an
imagined need for tough and unintelligent soldiers and for a
prolific class at a low level, prevented its systematic
replacement at that time....
And while this settlement of the country was in progress, the
urban camps of the first phase of the council's activities were
rapidly developing, partly through the inherent forces of the
situation and partly through the council's direction, into a
modern type of town....
It is characteristic of the manner in which large enterprises
forced themselves upon the Brissago council, that it was not
until the end of the first year of their administration and then
only with extreme reluctance that they would take up the manifest
need for a lingua franca for the world. They seem to have given
little attention to the various theoretical universal languages
which were proposed to them. They wished to give as little
trouble to hasty and simple people as possible, and the
world-wide alstribution of English gave them a bias for it from
the beginning. The extreme simplicity of its grammar was also in
It was not without some sacrifices that the English-speaking
peoples were permitted the satisfaction of hearing their speech
used universally. The language was shorn of a number of
grammatical peculiarities, the distinctive forms for the
subjunctive mood for example and most of its irregular plurals
were abolished; its spelling was systematised and adapted to the
vowel sounds in use upon the continent of Europe, and a process
of incorporating foreign nouns and verbs commenced that speedily
reached enormous proportions. Within ten years from the
establishment of the World Republic the New English Dictionary
had swelled to include a vocabulary of 250,000 words, and a man
of 1900 would have found considerable difficulty in reading an
ordinary newspaper. On the other hand, the men of the new time
could still appreciate the older English literature.... Certain
minor acts of uniformity accompanied this larger one. The idea of
a common understanding and a general simplification of
intercourse once it was accepted led very naturally to the
universal establishment of the metric system of weights and
measures, and to the disappearance of the various makeshift
calendars that had hitherto confused chronology. The year was
divided into thirteen months of four weeks each, and New Year's
Day and Leap Year's Day were made holidays, and did not count at
all in the ordinary week. So the weeks and the months were
brought into correspondence. And moreover, as the king put it to
Firmin, it was decided to 'nail down Easter.' . . . In these
matters, as in so many matters, the new civilisation came as a
simplification of ancient complications; the history of the
calendar throughout the world is a history of inadequate
adjustments, of attempts to fix seed-time and midwinter that go
back into the very beginning of human society; and this final
rectification had a symbolic value quite beyond its practical
convenience. But the council would have no rash nor harsh
innovations, no strange names for the months, and no alteration
in the numbering of the years.
The world had already been put upon one universal monetary basis.
For some months after the accession of the council, the world's
affairs had been carried on without any sound currency at all.
Over great regions money was still in use, but with the most
extravagant variations in price and the most disconcerting
fluctuations of public confidence. The ancient rarity of gold
upon which the entire system rested was gone. Gold was now a
waste product in the release of atomic energy, and it was plain
that no metal could be the basis of the monetary system again.
Henceforth all coins must be token coins. Yet the whole world
was accustomed to metallic money, and a vast proportion of
existing human relationships had grown up upon a cash basis, and
were almost inconceivable without that convenient liquidating
factor. It seemed absolutely necessary to the life of the social
organisation to have some sort of currency, and the council had
therefore to discover some real value upon which to rest it.
Various such apparently stable values as land and hours of work
were considered. Ultimately the government, which was now in
possession of most of the supplies of energy-releasing material,
fixed a certain number of units of energy as the value of a gold
sovereign, declared a sovereign to be worth exactly twenty marks,
twenty-five francs, five dollars, and so forth, with the other
current units of the world, and undertook, under various
qualifications and conditions, to deliver energy upon demand as
payment for every sovereign presented. On the whole, this worked
satisfactorily. They saved the face of the pound sterling. Coin
was rehabilitated, and after a phase of price fluctuations, began
to settle down to definite equivalents and uses again, with names
and everyday values familiar to the common run of people....
As the Brissago council came to realise that what it had supposed
to be temporary camps of refugees were rapidly developing into
great towns of a new type, and that it was remoulding the world
in spite of itself, it decided to place this work of
redistributing the non-agricultural population in the hands of a
compactor and better qualified special committee. That committee
is now, far more than the council of any other of its delegated
committees, the active government of the world. Developed from
an almost invisible germ of 'town-planning' that came obscurely
into existence in Europe or America (the question is still in
dispute) somewhere in the closing decades of the nineteenth
century, its work, the continual active planning and replanning
of the world as a place of human habitation, is now so to speak
the collective material activity of the race. The spontaneous,
disorderly spreadings and recessions of populations, as aimless
and mechanical as the trickling of spilt water, which was the
substance of history for endless years, giving rise here to
congestions, here to chronic devastating wars, and everywhere to
a discomfort and disorderliness that was at its best only
picturesque, is at an end. Men spread now, with the whole power
of the race to aid them, into every available region of the
earth. Their cities are no longer tethered to running water and
the proximity of cultivation, their plans are no longer affected
by strategic considerations or thoughts of social insecurity. The
aeroplane and the nearly costless mobile car have abolished trade
routes; a common language and a universal law have abolished a
thousand restraining inconveniences, and so an astonishing
dispersal of habitations has begun. One may live anywhere. And
so it is that our cities now are true social gatherings, each
with a character of its own and distinctive interests of its own,
and most of them with a common occupation. They lie out in the
former deserts, these long wasted sun-baths of the race, they
tower amidst eternal snows, they hide in remote islands, and bask
on broad lagoons. For a time the whole tendency of mankind was to
desert the river valleys in which the race had been cradled for
half a million years, but now that the War against Flies has been
waged so successfully that this pestilential branch of life is
nearly extinct, they are returning thither with a renewed
appetite for gardens laced by watercourses, for pleasant living
amidst islands and houseboats and bridges, and for nocturnal
lanterns reflected by the sea.
Man who is ceasing to be an agricultural animal becomes more and
more a builder, a traveller, and a maker. How much he ceases to
be a cultivator of the soil the returns of the Redistribution
Committee showed. Every year the work of our scientific
laboratories increases the productivity and simplifies the labour
of those who work upon the soil, and the food now of the whole
world is produced by less than one per cent. of its population, a
percentage which still tends to decrease. Far fewer people are
needed upon the land than training and proclivity dispose towards
it, and as a consequence of this excess of human attention, the
garden side of life, the creation of groves and lawns and vast
regions of beautiful flowers, has expanded enormously and
continues to expand. For, as agricultural method intensifies and
the quota is raised, one farm association after another, availing
itself of the 1975 regulations, elects to produce a public garden
and pleasaunce in the place of its former fields, and the area of
freedom and beauty is increased. And the chemists' triumphs of
synthesis, which could now give us an entirely artificial food,
remain largely in abeyance because it is so much more pleasant
and interesting to eat natural produce and to grow such things
upon the soil. Each year adds to the variety of our fruits and
the delightfulness of our flowers.
The early years of the World Republic witnessed a certain
recrudescence of political adventure. There was, it is rather
curious to note, no revival of separatism after the face of King
Ferdinand Charles had vanished from the sight of men, but in a
number of countries, as the first urgent physical needs were met,
there appeared a variety of personalities having this in common,
that they sought to revive political trouble and clamber by its
aid to positions of importance and satisfaction. In no case did
they speak in the name of kings, and it is clear that monarchy
must have been far gone in obsolescence before the twentieth
century began, but they made appeals to the large survivals of
nationalist and racial feeling that were everywhere to be found,
they alleged with considerable justice that the council was
overriding racial and national customs and disregarding religious
rules. The great plain of India was particularly prolific in such
agitators. The revival of newspapers, which had largely ceased
during the terrible year because of the dislocation of the
coinage, gave a vehicle and a method of organisation to these
complaints. At first the council disregarded this developing
opposition, and then it recognised it with an entirely
Never, of course, had there been so provisional a government. It
was of an extravagant illegality. It was, indeed, hardly more
than a club, a club of about a hundred persons. At the outset
there were ninety-three, and these were increased afterwards by
the issue of invitations which more than balanced its deaths, to
as many at one time as one hundred and nineteen. Always its
constitution has been miscellaneous. At no time were these
invitations issued with an admission that they recognised a
right. The old institution or monarchy had come out unexpectedly
well in the light of the new regime. Nine of the original members
of the first government were crowned heads who had resigned their
separate sovereignty, and at no time afterwards did the number of
its royal members sink below six. In their case there was perhaps
a kind of attenuated claim to rule, but except for them and the
still more infinitesimal pretensions of one or two ax-presidents
of republics, no member of the council had even the shade of a
right to his participation in its power. It was natural,
therefore, that its opponents should find a common ground in a
clamour for representative government, and build high hopes upon
a return, to parliamentary institutions.
The council decided to give them everything they wanted, but in a
form that suited ill with their aspirations. It became at one
stroke a representative body. It became, indeed, magnificently
representative. It became so representative that the politicians
were drowned in a deluge of votes. Every adult of either sex
from pole to pole was given a vote, and the world was divided
into ten constituencies, which voted on the same day by means of
a simple modification of the world post. Membership of the
government, it was decided, must be for life, save in the
exceptional case of a recall; but the elections, which were held
quinquenially, were arranged to add fifty members on each
occasion. The method of proportional representation with one
transferable vote was adopted, and the voter might also write
upon his voting paper in a specially marked space, the name of
any of his representatives that he wished to recall. A ruler was
recallable by as many votes as the quota by which he had been
elected, and the original members by as many votes in any
constituency as the returning quotas in the first election.
Upon these conditions the council submitted itself very
cheerfully to the suffrages of the world. None of its members
were recalled, and its fifty new associates, which included
twenty-seven which it had seen fit to recommend, were of an
altogether too miscellaneous quality to disturb the broad trend
of its policy. Its freedom from rules or formalities prevented
any obstructive proceedings, and when one of the two newly
arrived Home Rule members for India sought for information how to
bring in a bill, they learnt simply that bills were not brought
in. They asked for the speaker, and were privileged to hear much
ripe wisdom from the ex-king Egbert, who was now consciously
among the seniors of the gathering. Thereafter they were baffled
But already by that time the work of the council was drawing to
an end. It was concerned not so much for the continuation of its
construction as for the preservation of its accomplished work
from the dramatic instincts of the politician.
The life of the race becomes indeed more and more independent of
the formal government. The council, in its opening phase, was
heroic in spirit; a dragon-slaying body, it slashed out of
existence a vast, knotted tangle of obsolete ideas and clumsy and
jealous proprietorships; it secured by a noble system of
institutional precautions, freedom of inquiry, freedom of
criticism, free communications, a common basis of education and
understanding, and freedom from economic oppression. With that
its creative task was accomplished. It became more and more an
established security and less and less an active intervention.
There is nothing in our time to correspond with the continual
petty making and entangling of laws in an atmosphere of
contention that is perhaps the most perplexing aspect of
constitutional history in the nineteenth century. In that age
they seem to have been perpetually making laws when we should
alter regulations. The work of change which we delegate to these
scientific committees of specific general direction which have
the special knowledge needed, and which are themselves dominated
by the broad intellectual process of the community, was in those
days inextricably mixed up with legislation. They fought over the
details; we should as soon think of fighting over the arrangement
of the parts of a machine. We know nowadays that such things go
on best within laws, as life goes on between earth and sky. And
so it is that government gathers now for a day or so in each year
under the sunshine of Brissago when Saint Bruno's lilies are in
flower, and does little more than bless the work of its
committees. And even these committees are less originative and
more expressive of the general thought than they were at first.
It becomes difficult to mark out the particular directive
personalities of the world. Continually we are less personal.
Every good thought contributes now, and every able brain falls
within that informal and dispersed kingship which gathers
together into one purpose the energies of the race.
It is doubtful if we shall ever see again a phase of human
existence in which 'politics,' that is to say a partisan
interference with the ruling sanities of the world, will be the
dominant interest among serious men. We seem to have entered
upon an entirely new phase in history in which contention as
distinguished from rivalry, has almost abruptly ceased to be the
usual occupation, and has become at most a subdued and hidden and
discredited thing. Contentious professions cease to be an
honourable employment for men. The peace between nations is also
a peace between individuals. We live in a world that comes of
age. Man the warrior, man the lawyer, and all the bickering
aspects of life, pass into obscurity; the grave dreamers, man the
curious learner, and man the creative artist, come forward to
replace these barbaric aspects of existence by a less ignoble
There is no natural life of man. He is, and always has been, a
sheath of varied and even incompatible possibilities, a
palimpsest of inherited dispositions. It was the habit of many
writers in the early twentieth century to speak of competition
and the narrow, private life of trade and saving and suspicious
isolation as though such things were in some exceptional way
proper to the human constitution, and as though openness of mind
and a preference for achievement over possession were abnormal
and rather unsubstantial qualities. How wrong that was the
history of the decades immediately following the establishment of
the world republic witnesses. Once the world was released from
the hardening insecurities of a needless struggle for life that
was collectively planless and individually absorbing, it became
apparent that there was in the vast mass of people a long,
smothered passion to make things. The world broke out into
making, and at first mainly into aesthetic making. This phase of
history, which has been not inaptly termed the 'Efflorescence,'
is still, to a large extent, with us. The majority of our
population consists of artists, and the bulk of activity in the
world lies no longer with necessities but with their elaboration,
decoration, and refinement. There has been an evident change in
the quality of this making during recent years. It becomes more
purposeful than it was, losing something of its first elegance
and prettiness and gaining in intensity; but that is a change
rather of hue than of nature. That comes with a deepening
philosophy and a sounder education. For the first joyous
exercises of fancy we perceive now the deliberation of a more
constructive imagination. There is a natural order in these
things, and art comes before science as the satisfaction of more
elemental needs must come before art, and as play and pleasure
come in a human life before the development of a settled
For thousands of years this gathering impulse to creative work
must have struggled in man against the limitations imposed upon
him by his social ineptitude. It was a long smouldering fire
that flamed out at last in all these things. The evidence of a
pathetic, perpetually thwarted urgency to make something, is one
of the most touching aspects of the relics and records of our
immediate ancestors. There exists still in the death area about
the London bombs, a region of deserted small homes that furnish
the most illuminating comment on the old state of affairs. These
homes are entirely horrible, uniform, square, squat, hideously
proportioned, uncomfortable, dingy, and in some respects quite
filthy, only people in complete despair of anything better could
have lived in them, but to each is attached a ridiculous little
rectangle of land called 'the garden,' containing usually a prop
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