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Chapter 7

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« on: April 03, 2023, 12:32:56 am »

NORAH'S confident hopes suffered disappointment in one particular, and when she and her brother met at luncheon some few days later it was Mrs. Hapgood who found herself a little pensive. She spoke of other things during the meal, mentioned a letter from Mildred and regretted that she seemed to be seeing a great deal of the Russian attaché.

"Nothing would please me less than an alliance of that sort," she declared. "The Russians have always been our natural enemies, and our present friendship is utterly unholy, in my opinion. Why do we have anything to do with people whose secret ambition is to ruin us and flood the world with their godless opinions?"

"Commerce demands that we bow the knee to them," explained Felix. "'Big business' and the prosperity it may bring to our working classes is the all-important consideration. We overlook their avowed principles for the sake of trade. But one sees how these political moves often bear Dead Sea fruit. The cynical might smile to reflect that it was Germany who suffered Lenin and his friends to enter Russia. And now it is Germany who cries out loudest about the monster at her elbow."

"Germany needn't pretend to be frightened," declared Mrs. Hapgood. "Russia loses all her wars as a matter of course, and the last thing she dreams about is any attack on the Germans. Russians are not a warlike people. Germany is the hornets' nest; Germany is ruining all the other nations by creating the necessity to arm against her. If there is to be any more fighting on earth, only Germany will begin it."

"Do not worry yourself, my love. Tell me of your morning's experience," he begged.

"Well," she said. "Of course, if you're going to start out to teach, you must also start out to learn. I can't say that I've taught our little friend much so far, but I have begun to learn something about him. One channel from which I had hoped a good deal is done for. I took a volume of your classic to show him—that including the iguana family with the beautiful coloured plates of them—and I'm sorry to say it meant nothing whatever to him. He doesn't understand pictures any better than any other animal. You might as well have shown it to 'Rex' or 'Sally'."

"Animals have never learned to understand pictures; but, given reason, the young quickly understand them as a rule," he said.

"I know. Quite small babies understand them. But he didn't in the least."

"It gives us a line, and perhaps explains the lack of pictures in the shell."

"On the other hand he appeared to perceive what was infinitely more advanced and difficult," she continued. "I showed him the alphabet; then I showed him some large print of words in one syllable and pointed to the letters in the alphabet as forming the words. This interested him and kept him quiet. He was sitting in my lap at the time, and presently he discriminated, pointed at the letter in the alphabet and then pointed to it in the one-syllable words. Had one been able to sound them he would have got on quite fast; but I believe he is naturally studious. I took him a clockwork mouse and a lot of small toys that I bought in the village. He looked at each and handled it; but the clockwork mouse was the one he stuck to. I wound it up and let it run twice. Then he wound it up and let it run. When he got drowsy he took it to bed with him and went to sleep with it between his hands."

"The bent may be mechanical," thought Felix. "Probably the mechanical arts are far advanced among those who sent him."

"Perhaps their idea was that his inherited genius will develop and teach us how to communicate with them," she suggested.

"If so, a senseless idea," he answered, "for the reason that we have no knowledge of where they may be. And that he cannot know any more than we do."

"We don't know what he knows yet," she said. "But it isn't going to be a very slow business finding out. He eats enormously and his head seems to grow bigger every day."

A week later the home of the lizard was in course of erection and he went sometimes to watch it growing. It seemed that he understood in some mysterious fashion that it was connected with him and he had responded readily to other immediate contrivances for his comfort. He sat at a low table provided for him and took his meals upon it. He handled a spoon and when his hands became wet with fruit juice, he wiped them on a small napkin. When he was tired, he went to a little bed and drew up an eider-down quilt about him before he slept.

"Before all else he must have warmth," explained Mrs. Hapgood. "He can't be too hot, but he hates the cold, as far as one can say he hates anything."

"He neither loves nor hates," declared Felix. "He is as yet too young to display emotion; but I feel confident we are going to find that he is passionless. Reason has either outstripped our reactions to feeling in his case and no doubt in his race, or else consciousness has proceeded on other lines and created a being independent of good or evil."

"We can't imagine such a being," she answered, but he saw no impossibility.

"We can imagine such a being," he replied, "because the world is full of such beings; but we find it difficult, of course, to imagine a conscious being ignorant either of goodness or badness. Knowledge of the one entails recognition of the other, but it is not beyond the scope of even my scant imagination to suppose a creature evolved to a height of consciousness along lines where neither good nor evil had any meaning."

Norah, however, failed to comprehend such a creature.

"He is exceedingly good so far," she said. "He is naturally good, like many children; but he must have some of the old Adam in him somewhere. If he were never naughty, he would be a monster."

"Only from our point of view," explained the professor. "Anything that exceeds our experience we are too apt to call a monster at once. I myself on first seeing him supposed him to be deformed, because he was unlike those iguanas to which I have accustomed myself. Now I know that his seeming deformity was a brain—vast by comparison with the brain of our terrestrial lizards. Our minds are swiftly trained to accept reality when confronted with it; and what I thought monstrous, I now perceive to be seemly and inevitable. Consciousness demands a brain, and a skilled biologist might have read the possibilities that such a head foretold far better than did we."

The lizard's house was built largely of glass for his dwelling-room and treated with a system of hot-water pipes throughout. Norah no longer talked of a day and night nursery, because it was apparent that the visitor already began to grow out of childhood. He proved absolutely amenable and revealed to an increasing and puzzling extent a foreknowledge of what they wished and a willingness to obey.

"He'll explain it some day, when he has learned to write," promised Norah. "That is the only way in which he can ever communicate his wishes and opinions to us, but I am certain he has some means of gathering our wishes and opinions already. There are many things it's no good trying to teach him, but there are other things that he is learning far faster than any normal child possibly could."

She had placed paper before the iguana and written words upon it, and she had provided him with a small pencil and invited him to do the like. The pencil had proved by far his greatest interest. It shared his supreme attachment with the clockwork mouse and other mechanical toys. He was learning the meaning of words and the construction of sentences. In truth he promised very soon to be able to read. Felix watched over his studies and himself essayed an attempt to see if figures would be likely to lie in the lizard's power. The result amazed him, for it was clear that the creature already possessed a mentality capable of receiving the principles of arithmetic.

"He grasped the numerals with astounding rapidity," declared the professor. "He took his pencil and copied them after I had written them down. Then I set 'one' above 'one', drew a line and put a 'two' beneath. He watched with the deepest attention. Then I set 'one' with 'two' above, drew a line and wrote a 'three' beneath; and so on. Presently I put 'four' above 'one', drew a line and gave him the pencil. He reflected for a moment, then wrote a tiny 'five'! I nodded, he nodded. I believe he perceived that I was gratified, but cannot be certain as to that. Our emotions, which are so readily understood by a growing child, because he already begins to share them, will be much harder for the iguana to fathom, because in all probability he can never share them. Anger or pleasure are likely to mean nothing to him; but being conscious, he must sooner or later reflect, and as all reflection means wonder, he will be conscious of wonder and doubtless inquire the meaning of the different expressions that light our faces under different mental or physical conditions. Thus he will put two and two together and glean whether we are feeling troubled, or amused, or happy and content."

"A dog can do that," said Norah.

"He can; but the lizard will go deeper. We may find him worthy of confidence and capable of realizing some of our difficulties and problems—our aches and pains of mind and body in this strange world; but what I think far more probable is that he will prove quite incapable of understanding them, since they belong to a being so completely outside the experience of his race. If he is neither good nor bad, he cannot be expected to show any sympathy for, or great interest in, a being largely under the sway of circumstances where good or bad predominate and are in ceaseless opposition. He may take a scientific interest in us, as we take in him; but I suspect his inherited instincts will preclude any power to share either our hopes, ambitions or disabilities."

"He's going to be enthusiastic about knowledge," declared Mrs. Hapgood. "At least, he shows what we should call 'enthusiasm'. I don't know, of course, what he would call it. He's learning to read and write, and you say he's going to learn to do sums. That's pretty good for a start, and when he once finds out the subjects that interest him most and can tell us what they are, then we shall be able to help him a great deal."

"Books will be his stronghold, and out of books he may in time excite his mind to some useful purpose," hoped Felix. "He is more intelligent than I expected. His brain I judge to be made of finer spun and more exquisitely constructed fabric than our own. He can, of course, only acquire such knowledge as we are able to provide for him; but, on the basis of that knowledge, it is possible that he may advance and reach to higher results and clearer vision than most of us, just as outstanding human beings have done. It seems a grotesque suggestion and I should not venture on anything so wild save to you. But for you, my love, as you know well, I reserve speculations and flights of fancy that would be unseemly and awake suspicion in less kindly ears."

"I know. I should hate it if you never broke loose with me," she said. "Nobody understands you half as well as I do, and I know, with scientists, you can't do anything more than creep along and watch your step, like a cat on a wall. They're cowardly and frightened of everything that is worth while. The lizard may come from a purely scientific world—in which case God help him. I suppose you'll read another paper about him soon?"

"I design a paper at the autumn meeting of the Zoological Society," he answered. "I have warned them, and scepticism is rife, as you would expect it to be; but certain men are coming to see him soon and they cannot fail to recognize the extraordinary truth. They will probably have many suggestions to make; but I am disposed to wait until the lizard himself is capable of hearing how we stand and the possibilities that the scientific world has to offer him. It must be impressed upon him that he is free to do as he will and determine his future actions according to his native bent. He must doubtless have some sort of character and will let us know its nature when he is competent to do so."

"He may have no more character than a sewing-machine," argued Norah. "He may have immense brains and prodigious powers of learning, but no initiative whatever and nothing to get hold of in the way of character."

"How did he like the house?" asked Felix, for that morning Mrs. Hapgood had brought the lizard into Applewood and shown him the apartments, writing down the names for him to read as she went from room to room.

"He was attentive and observant," she answered. "When we went from the drawing-room into the aviary, he watched the budgerigars for some time, but, of course, you never know what he is thinking. Two things interested him particularly in your study: the almanac with the big figures which hangs on the wall—I believe he loves figures if he loves anything—and the big globe of the world in the corner. He was greatly taken with that. I wrote 'The Earth', and he nodded and turned the globe round. Then I pointed to the blue and wrote 'Sea' and to the continents and wrote 'Land'. And I'm sure he understood."

"If his strong suit is mathematics," said Felix, "then it will be necessary to hire a tutor for him, because no subject exists of which I know so little."

"We mustn't kill him with work, however," declared Norah. "I was wondering if it will prove possible presently to teach him to play games. No outdoor games, of course; but indoor games—dominoes, perhaps, or cards, or even chess."

"I very much doubt if he will have any use whatever for games," answered Felix. "He is not naturally playful. I should describe him as serious-minded, if we can apply any human adjective to him. Games would be likely to bore him as waste of time. I can conceive it possible that we might sink in his estimation if we tried to teach him a pastime of any kind."

"Perhaps we might," she admitted. "Of course, he may be able to tell us presently what he thinks of us, and it will be very interesting to know, and still more so to find whether he is capable of gratitude, or affection, or anything of that sort."

"You mustn't expect it," warned Felix. "Tender emotions may, of course, awaken; but he is not a creature of instinct and familiar through a long heredity with man. Dogs evince affection and something closely akin to gratitude; but the iguana has no ancestral memories of us, and what his reason may lead him to conclude from a merely personal experience remains to be seen. It may be that, as in Holy Writ, the seed of the serpent will bruise the human heel if equal to the task."

"Don't imagine anything of the sort," she said. "I'm sure he won't want to bruise anybody. To begin with, he is not a serpent. It seems almost rude to call him even a reptile. He is a conscious young person with a keen intellect and naturally good manners. When he grows older and hears his extraordinary history as far as we know it, he cannot fail to see how nice we have been and what a tremendous lot of trouble we have taken on his account. Then he will realize his obligations and never do anything to make us anxious and worry us."

"It may be so," he said. "I should guess that he will naturally be attracted by the subject of his own origin and starting-place."

"I believe he'll prove much too sensible to bother about them," she answered. "Those he can never know."

"But his theories might be highly instructive," thought Felix, "though it is impossible to tell as yet whether he will appreciate our theories."

"You are looking too far ahead," declared his sister. "We must be fair to him. The whole of our system of education might be utterly wrong from his point of view. We have a great deal to learn about what is going on in his own head, and my feeling is that until he has mastered reading and writing, so that he can communicate with us, we ought not to try and cram him."

But the lizard's thirst for knowledge appeared insatiable, and it was clear that he would soon get into touch with mankind. Words now interested him above all else, and he would sit for hours turning over the pages of a dictionary and copying them with the little pencil provided. Norah wrote for him in the simplest language at her command and she soon found that he was beginning to read easily. Then Felix bought a typewriter, which proved a source of immense interest to the student, and in an astonishingly short time he understood the machine and was able to use it. Still he strangely anticipated the words they now wrote and the directions they were apt to give him; but the discovery to which this curious fact led presently formed an important part of the professor's next paper upon him and will be recorded there.

An oculist of note examined the iguana's eyes and ascertained amazing properties in these organs that Felix was also able to announce. The creature advanced in knowledge with startling speed, showing rare aptitude for certain subjects and complete indifference and lack of perception concerning others. His health continued excellent, but he cared very little for exercise and did not appear to need it. When his habitation was completed, he took up his new quarters with evident satisfaction and much appreciated the high temperature that central heating provided. He showed method and kept regular hours; but he was disposed to sleep more by day than night and pursued his studies long after everybody else but the owls had gone to bed. He comprehended the electric light quickly and learned to turn it off and on, but he did not depend upon it and was evidently able to read in the dark when he desired to do so. A glassed passage-way joined the lizard's dwelling to Applewood and an electric bell, rung from his sitting-room, sounded in the professor's. The meaning of this was explained to him, and he had now reached a height of apprehension when he could understand this and much else. He still wrote, but turned more and more to the typewriter and began to use it with precision and speed. Indeed he showed a lizard quickness of hand and foot, and though, as summer waned, he ceased to go out, he moved rapidly from one apartment to another and slept much less than formerly. They abandoned the business of feeding him at stated times but left a large glass salver of mixed fruit at his elbow, with plates, spoons and a small silver knife and fork. Having seen Norah use these things he grasped their purpose and ate in very orderly fashion. He drank very little and only water. Felix tried him with milk and weak tea and coffee, but he rejected all of these. Fruit and green salads amply sufficed him, and when dried fruits were added to his table he welcomed them, and ate date, fig and raisin.

Then came a time of increased advance and a remarkable discovery. Felix's note-book was already bulging, and many other savants had visited the iguana and found themselves able to converse with him and read the replies that he wrote or typed. He now knew as much as the average secondary schoolboy and ceased not to study at all times. He revealed no inclination to amuse himself, and his sole occupations were eating, sleeping and reading the books provided; but his tastes had now become definite and determined, and his subjects of interest were limited to three. For these he displayed a huge appetite and remarkable powers of memory. From elementary works he passed to primers and text-books, and for the most part had educated himself entirely by reading; but an accomplished young mathematician was engaged from Redchester and the iguana proved astonishingly adept.

Mildred Hapgood came to spend a week-end with her mother before Professor Toddleben went to London, and the lizard welcomed her with his usual courtesy. She experienced a new sensation and reported the beginning of his own original theories.

"Naturally," she told her uncle, after an hour with their visitor, "he thinks first of himself. He is reading all about us in his books, but they can't tell him anything about himself. I asked him what the idea was behind his arrival, and I found that he had thought it out. One approaches him entirely through the channel of mind, and he understands and answers through the channel of writing, which is the only possible one he has got. And he wrote this."

Mildred read from a typed sheet she had brought back with her.

"The reason may be that my fellow creatures, seeing earth with their telescopes, thought that it was inhabited by conscious lizards like themselves. The idea of anything but a lizard being conscious probably never struck them. They may not imagine there are any other creatures in the solar system but lizards. Or, assuming that there are mammals in their world, they are possibly of such a kind that the thought of reason in connection with them would not arise."

"Then I asked him where he imagined that his world was likely to be," continued Mildred, "and he wrote how this was the very question he was hoping to answer when he knew how. He seemed pretty sure that he would find out some day."

"That conscious lizards like himself may have despatched him, and not some other being as we imagined, is quite feasible," declared Felix. "Nay, it is reasonable, and they probably thought, as he suggests, that he would find himself in a new world tenanted by his own species."

"They surely wouldn't have sent him if they had realized how deadly lonely he was going to be," suggested his niece.

"How do you like him—just for himself!" asked Mrs. Hapgood, and Milly shrugged her shoulders.

"You can't like him, or dislike him, any more than you like, or dislike, the multiplication table," she said. "He's a machine without any human attributes whatever. You know that he's got a mind hidden away somewhere, but it's built on quite a different plan from ours. I expect his dreadful country is all machine-made and too boring for words. I tried a human touch. You can't flirt with him, of course, but I was slightly coy. However, you might as well be coy with the village pump."

"You forget that he isn't six months old," said Norah.

"Naturally, because time is something utterly different to him than it is to us," answered the girl. "We don't know how old he really is."

"I should judge him to be about five-and-twenty of our years," declared the professor. "At which rate," he added, "when he attains the age of two, should he live to do so, he will be a hundred."

Milly made another interesting remark.

"I said that he ought to be called something definite, because it would be more respectful," she told them. "I said: 'We can't call you a human name exactly, because to call you "Charles", or "Henry", or "Thomas" would be absurd and also rather rude. Have you any idea what you would wish to be called?' He had actually thought of it himself!"

"Most interesting," declared Norah. "And what did he suggest?"

A perfect name, as you would expect from such an orderly creature. He said, "I am a saurian. Therefore let me be called 'Saurus'. Not 'Mister Saurus', or 'Professor Saurus', or 'Sir Saurus', after the earthly manner, but just 'Saurus'."

"So we will," promised Mrs. Hapgood, and Felix approved.
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