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Chapter 14

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« on: April 03, 2023, 07:58:13 am »

PHILOSOPHY and fruit continued to be the prime interests of Saurus. A new fruit always excited his attention, and when Norah brought him ripe pomegranates one morning, he consumed them thoughtfully and declared that they were full of desirable vitamins.

"Pray endeavour to procure some more if it lies in your power," he wrote. "They possess a tonic quality and may provide me with valuable brain food."

She smiled and was about to leave him, for his disquisitions often wearied her. Income-tax had risen to five and sixpence in the pound and Mrs. Hapgood was called to face various other problems that philosophy lacked any power to solve; but the iguana detained her, and she sighed and submitted to listen. It was a quality of Saurus that he always supposed any matter interesting to himself must present equal challenge for everybody else. He never knew when he bored people, his lot being happily cast among those whose ancient traditions had taught them to conceal such emotion.

After the pomegranates Saurus washed his face and hands in a little bowl of water, then dried himself and picked up a page or two of typed notes.

"I have here," he wrote, "certain ideas concerning your human ideologies. I submitted them to the professor yesterday, but he looked at his watch and much regretted that he was, as you say, 'pressed for time'. I gleaned his meaning and he hastened away. Perhaps, however, you are not 'pressed for time'? Mankind is rich in time-saving inventions, but not, as a rule, very clever at using the time they save."

Norah yielded, concealed a sigh, untruthfully declared that it would give her genuine entertainment to hear what he thought about human ideologies, was thankful that he had typed his ideas and not written them in his microscopic script and sat down to wade through them.

"An interesting fact to me," began Saurus, "is this: that countless millions of men have proudly perished for ideologies long since as dead as they are. Yet all in their turn threw up ruling spirits, who personified them in the eyes of the people. A Socialist State demands precisely the same human symbols as that of Fascist or Nazi, and the same surrender of human liberties if it is to succeed. The freedom of thought, of speech and of action represented by your democracy means, for a dictator, only pitiful waste of time, as your Cromwell discovered long ago. A dictator recognizes no party but his own and attains to immensely increased progress by purging that party of any doubtful element. He anticipates the shadow of change and often saves himself by so doing. Your clumsy and archaic system of party government, your Houses of Parliament, or Council of State, are as a theatre wherein the plays are badly written and the padding interminable. Such outworn mummery is often quite childish, and democracy pursued upon these lines becomes but another name for mediocracy and imperfection, because its pretence of freedom and equality are at variance with the facts of life. As well order the trees in a forest to attain like stature as tell the sons of men to be equal. The great spring up to their appointed height and the less find real or fancied security within their shadows. The less may slay the greater, as the ivy slays the oak; but prodigious men there will always be, and no regime is proof against them or capable of existence without them. Democracy, pushed through Socialism to Communism, blossoms into autocracy and breeds its tyrants whether a nation likes it or not, and every ideology in Europe proclaims the fact. Might will continue to be arbiter, and right can never triumph until some theory of universal and stable righteousness, above the power of any dictator to destroy, wins a welcome in the welter and a chance to show whether liberty is in truth your heritage.

"Dictators and monarchs have not seldom been noble men who began wisely and earned support, until overpowered at last by their own power. Then they plunge themselves and their nations into wickedness by developing megalomania and imparting the rabies to the people. Such men are like your gods. They lay down the law for others, but remain outside it themselves, enjoying a liberty that can only exist where kingdoms are enslaved in fear or superstition, for the machinery that keeps a tyrant on his throne is always vile.

"Far higher theories than those that inspire any living dictator await their turn of trial; but men must forgather on firmer ground and in purer air if they would prove them, or weigh the Golden Rule in the balance and discover it to be more than a phantom of impossible perfection. Yet good faith would take you half-way there.

"Good faith is a vital preliminary to progress, still rendered useless in State affairs because your dictatorial kingdoms refuse validity to their promises or sanctity to their oaths. But what would happen in a workaday world if the pledge were non-existent? Trust is at the bottom of all communion and common honesty must be the corner-stone of civilization since every rational, human relationship depends upon it. From the greatest to the least it operates; from your Stock Exchanges, where millions change hands at a spoken word, to the acrobat in mid-air, whose existence depends upon the arms stretched to receive him. Every efficient service turns upon good faith between employer and employed; yet what is instantly proclaimed as a crime leading to your law courts between man and man becomes a matter of daily commission between nation and nationóa diplomatic move to be allowed for, expected and guarded against. The lie is accepted as a counter in the game, and fidelity to your 'axis', or compact, or covenant, evaporates like a morning mist when the wind changes.

"How shall charity and good willing, truth and honour and tolerance be built upon such rascally foundations? What hope exists where falsehood and opportunism, distrust and the eternal battle for greater temporal might rule your hearts and brains until you drift again into the bloody arbitration of war? Yet where is the kingdom that desires to send its rising generation to sudden death? Why are you all wasting human labour and the world's wealth in building machinery to commit mass murderócreatures that for half a million years and more have been endowed with reasonóconscious beings who discovered a better way long centuries ago?

"Ponder now as to what would happen if, as the young prince suggested, but two of your pre-eminent world powers agreed to try the Golden Rule with whole heart between themselves, setting it higher than politics, above the chicane of the chancellories and the solemn farce of treaties only made to be broken. Conceive of absolute trust as a living, growing reality and abiding principle between the British Empire and the United States of America. Imagine the past forgotten and forgiven, the present employed in creation of such goodwill that the future must bear an evangel burning with hope for all mankind. Dream of statesmen mighty enough to bring so vast and splendid an achievement into being! Such an example of new values would alter the face of earth and take man a long march forward upon the road to a righteousness above all ideologies, and a status perhaps alone equal to facing the eternal changes that time must bring along with it. Such a union might well lead to others until dominion by fear was no longer a poison in the brain and a thorn in the flesh of man.

"As masterpieces of the Golden Age outlast the ages and defy Time, so might this discovery of the Golden Rule do likewise for you, and prove a pharos and abiding light through your darkness so long as you exist. What moral guides and ruling precepts consciousness may enjoy in greater worlds you cannot learn; but for you charity, combined with faith in yourselves and that undying hope which is implicit in all of you, may well answer every purpose and make the way saner and safer for your posterity than at present it promises to be."

Norah had nearly finished and set herself to make a final sprint over what remained; but now came an interruption, and while she heard mournful howls and a soft, heavy padding at the outer door, Saurus, though he heard nothing, was already more aware of events than she.

"It is 'Rex', the Great Dane. He is troubled and has been injured. Admit him instantly," he wrote.

Mrs. Hapgood obeyed, and a melancholy hound entered and flung himself at the iguana's feet. They were long become fast friends, and at his hour of need 'Rex' had thought upon Saurus, and in his canine fashion explained his woe. Now the superior creature set down what had happened that Norah might take needful steps.

"'Rex'," he wrote, "operating in the paddock, perceived a long and glittering object that showed hate and hissed at him. He pounced upon it, judging it an enemy from which life had better be taken as swiftly as possible, but, ignorant of its nature, he underrated its powers. He bit off the end that hissed at him and destroyed the snake, yet not before it had struck him in the breast, and now its venom is at work in his blood and he is feeling very ill indeed."

"An adder has stung him," cried Norah. "I will fetch the professor at once."

She hastened to do so, and meantime 'Rex' lay panting and much indisposed beside the little chair of Saurus, who bent down and patted him. He would have given his friend comforting and hopeful thoughts, but 'Rex' was unable to receive impressions though the proximity of the great lizard brought him trust and a doggy hope that all might yet be well.

Felix arrived with a big bowl and a bottle of whisky, while Norah poured water into the bowl and her brother added a generous amount of spirits.

"Whether he will drink it remains to be seen," said the professor; "but all may turn on that. He is a large and powerful brute and should withstand the venom; but in snakebite a good rule is to treat one poison with another, and if we can make the Dane very drunk he will probably recover. The problem is to make him drink."

"Dogs," wrote Saurus, "are better linguists than men. They understand your directions from your speech, though you have never mastered theirs. Command him to drink. Tell him that only so will his life continue and his happiness return. He is an obedient hound and will do as you bid him."

Thus encouraged, Felix urgently ordered 'Rex' to lap up the spirits, and though he coughed a little he appeared to understand the need and drank until the bowl was empty. The professor then gave him a second and a stronger dose, while Norah and Saurus waited to see the result. It soon appeared, for on a system that knew not alcohol, the second poison presently began to operate against the first. A third time the professor made his Great Dane drink, and presently, when at last 'Rex' tottered, subsided and desired to sleep, he was pronounced out of danger.

"The whisky has conquered the adder's venom," said Felix. "I think our patient will now slumber heavily for several hours and, when he awakens, may still feel poorly and very sorry for himself, but soon return to normal health."

"Leave him where he is," directed Saurus, "and I shall do nothing to disturb him."

For many hours the dog remained unconscious, but when evening came he awoke, received congratulations on his recovery and was led away to be tempted with food and rejoice in the comfort of his kennel. He often visited the iguana after this adventure, and when Saurus knew that 'Rex' was at his outer door he would open it at once and never deny him entrance.
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