Puslapio vaizdai

astonished counselor, "for the first time in my life I am going to be a king. I am going to lead, and lead by my own authority. For a dozen generations my family has been a set of dummies in the hands of their advisers. Now I am going to be a real king, and I am going to-to abolish, dispose of, finish, the crown to which I have been a slave. But what a world of paralyzing shame this roaring stuff has ended! The rigid old world is in the melting-pot again, and I, who seemed to be no more than the stuffing inside a regal robe-I am a king among kings. I have to play my part at the head of things and put an end to blood and fire and idiot disorder."

"But, sir" protested Firmin.

"This man Leblanc is right. The whole world has got to be a republic, one and indivisible. You know that, and my duty is to make that easy. A king should lead his people; you want me to stick on their backs like some Old Man of the Sea.

To-day must be a sacrament of kings. Our trust for mankind is done with and ended. We must part our robes among them, we must part our kingship among them, and say to them all, now the king in every one must rule the world. Have you no sense of the magnificence of this occasion? You want me, Firminyou want me to go up there and haggle like some damned little solicitor for some price, some compensation, some qualification."

Firmin shrugged his shoulders and assumed an expression of despair. Meanwhile, he conveyed, one must eat.

For a time neither spoke, and the king ate, and turned over in his mind the phrases of the speech he intended to make to the conference. By virtue of the antiquity of his crown he was to preside, and he intended to make his presidency memorable. Reassured of his eloquence, he considered the desponded and sulky Firmin for a space.

"Firmin," he said, "you have idealized kingship."

"It has been my dream, sir," said Firmin, sorrowfully, "to serve."

"At the levers, Firmin," said the king. ," said the king. "You are pleased to be unjust," said Firmin, deeply hurt.

"I am pleased to be getting out of it," said the king. "Firmin," he went on,

"have you no thought for me? Will you never realize that I am not only flesh and blood, but an imagination-with its rights? I am a king in revolt against that fetter they put upon my head. I am a king awake. My reverend grandparents never in all their august lives had a waking moment. They loved the job that you, you advisers, gave them; they never had a doubt of it. It was like giving a doll to a woman who ought to have a child. They delighted in processions, and opening things, and being read addresses to, and visiting triplets and nonagenarians, and all that sort of thing. They used to keep albums of cuttings from all the illustrated papers showing them at it, and if the press-cutting parcels grew thin, they were worried. It was all that ever worried them. But there is something atavistic in me; I hark back to unconstitutional monarchs. They christened me too retrogressively I think. I wanted to get things done. I was bored. I might have fallen into vice,-most intelligent and energetic princes do, but the palace precautions were unusually thorough. I was brought up in the purest court the world has ever seen. So I read books, Firmin, and went about asking questions. The thing was bound to happen to one of us sooner or later. Perhaps, too, very likely I'm not vicious. I don't think I am.”

Firmin cleared his throat.

"I don't think you are, sir," he said. "You prefer-” He stopped short. He had been going to say "talking." He substituted "ideas."

"That world of royalty!" the king went on. "In a little while no one will understand it any more. It will become a riddle.

"Among other things, it was a world of perpetual best clothes. Everything was in its best clothes for us, and usually wearing bunting. With a cinema watching to see we took it properly. If you are a king, Firmin, and you go and look at a regiment, it instantly stops whatever it is doing, changes into full uniform, and presents arms. When my august parents went in a train, the coal in the tender used to be whitened. It did, Firmin, and if coal had been white instead of black, I have no doubt the authorities would have blackened it. That was the spirit of our treatment. People were always walking

about with their faces to us. One never saw anything in profile. One got an impression of a world that was insanely focused on ourselves. And when I began to poke my little questions into the lord chancellor and the archbishop and all the rest of them, they thought I was n't displaying the royal tact expected of me."

He meditated for a time.

"The spirit of kingship is a fine thing, Firmin. I feel it in my bones; I do not know what I might not be if I were not a king. I could die for my people, Firmin, and you could n't. No, don't say you could die for me, because I know better. Don't think I forget my kingship, Firmin; don't imagine that. I am a king, a kingly king, by right divine. The fact that I am also a chattering young man makes not the slightest difference to that."

Firmin turned himself round and faced his royal master.

"What do you intend to do, sir?" he asked. "If you will not listen to me, what do you propose to do this afternoon?"

"Manifestly war has to stop forever, Firmin. Manifestly this can be done only by putting all the world under one government. Our crowns and flags are in the way. Manifestly they must go."

"Yes, sir," interrupted Firmin, "but what government? I don't see what government you get by a universal abdication!"

"Well," said the king, with his hands about his knees, "we shall be the government."

"The conference?" exclaimed Firmin. "Who else?" asked the king, simply. "It's perfectly simple," he added to Firmin's tremendous silence.

"But," cried Firmin, "you must have sanctions. Will there be no form of elec

tion, for example?" "Why should there be?" asked the king with intelligent curiosity.

"The consent of the governed."

"Firmin, we are just going to lay down our differences and take our government. Without any election at all. Without my sanction. The governed will show their consent by silence. If any effective opposition arises, we shall ask it to come in and help. The true sanction of kingship is the grip upon the scepter. We are n't going to worry people to vote for us.

I'm certain the mass of men does not want to be bothered with such things. We'll contrive a way for any one interested to join in. That 's quite enough in the way of democracy. Perhaps later, when things don't matter- We shall govern all right, Firmin. Government becomes difficult only when the lawyers get hold of it, and since these troubles began, the lawyers are shy. Indeed, come to think of it, I wonder where all the lawyers are. Where are they? A lot, of course, were bagged, some of the worst ones, when they blew up my legislature. You never knew the late lord chancellor—

"Necessities bury rights. Lawyers live on rights. We 've done with that way of living. We won't have more law than a code can cover, and beyond that government will be free.

"Before the sun sets to-day, Firmin, trust me, we shall have made our abdications, all of us, and declared the world republic, supreme and indivisible. I wonder what my august grandmother would have made of it. All my rights! And then we shall go on governing. What else is there to do?

"All over the world we shall declare that there is no longer mine or thine, but ours. China, the United States, two thirds of Europe, will certainly fall in and obey. They will have to do so. What else can they do? Their official rulers are here with us. They won't be able to get together any sort of idea of not obeying us. Then we shall declare that every sort of property is held in trust for the republic."

He stood up.

Firmin, forgetting the habits of a score of years, remained seated. At last he said:

"And I have known nothing!" The king smiled very cheerfully. He liked these talks with Firmin.


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 marvelous 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 at last to the realization of the simple truths that the indefatigable Leblanc had hammered into them; and drawing his resources from the King of Italy, he had provisioned it with a generous simplicity quite in accordance with the rest of his character, and here he made his astonishing and entirely rational appeal.

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 have n'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 opportunity."

"Of course," whispered Leblanc, nodding his head rapidly, "of course."

"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.

Firmin was not alone in his incredulity. There was 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 aeroplanes, each carrying a sharp-shooter, 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.

The members of the new world government dined at three long tables on trestles, and down the middle of these tables Leblanc, despite the barrenness of his menu, had contrived to have set 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 this epochmaking 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 on 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 overemphasize and overaccentuate, 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 the American.


"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. 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."

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.

aspect. It is the mind of the race. It is that which has brought us here, which has bowed us all to its demands."

He paused, glanced down the table at Leblanc and then reopened 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 creatures; we are consequences, we are salvagers-or salvagees. The thing today is not ourselves, but the wind of conviction that has blown us hither. greatest thing about me is my manhood, the least thing is myself."



So it was that 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 one another, and sharpened one another's ideas, and every day they worked

"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 treasurehouse." "They are unfathomable," said Hol- together and really for a time believed sten, and smiled.

"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 to Holsten.

that they were inventing a new government for the world. They discovered 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 selfconfidence, that council went on govern

Holsten opened out the vistas. "Science," the king cried presently, "is ing. the new king of the world."

"Our view," said the President, "is that sovereignty resides with the people." "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

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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 subtropical 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 mosquitos, 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 sea-shore 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 three thousand 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 guideled 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 per

fect air, their daily baths of blazing sunshine, their nights of cool serenity and glowing stars, and their reservoirs of deeplying water, were as yet only desolations of fear and death to the common imagination.


FROM the first the new government handled affairs with a certain greatness of spirit. Indeed, it was inevitable that they would 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 generally from any fresh outbreak of atomic destruction, and they had to insure 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.


THE disbanding of social utilization 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 were 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 every

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