|Chapter XVII||Contents etc.||Chapter XIX|
CARTWRIGHT had turned his efforts to the moulding of public opinion, deeming that course the surest way of restoring a rational form of government, and returning himself to power. The time was approaching when astronomical observations relating to the Astrian orbit were to be given to the public. In view of that occasion he, in company with Lake, held an intimate conversation with the editor of the most widely read daily paper in Persepolis.
"There is," said Cartwright, "a certain amount of intelligence diffused through every community."
"Yes," said the editor, "it is to that, that we appeal."
"Exercises of religion," said Lake, "disproportioned to the piety of those that perform them, are exceedingly irksome."
"My staff is of one accord on that point," said the editor.
"Moreover," observed Cartwright, "a disturbance of all avocations, a subversal of all trade and business, can only be endured when the results are immediate and striking."
The three men were silent for awhile, at last the editor observed:
"The time does seem ripe for action, but there is always the danger of another suspension of our publications."
"Yes," said Cartwright, " it will be necessary to begin cautiously, but the people will not stand the suspension of the newspapers again. Such acts of violence could only be arbitrary and occasional. If all the Press is agreed, it can say what it likes, and, moreover, I have provided a fund which will ensure individual proprietors against loss."
"I see a grand day dawning for journalism," said the editor with animation.
"Yes," said Cartwright, "the peculiar faculties of the journalist can now be used for the advantage of his country."
"You should," remarked Lake, "at once set your writers to work, to get up the subject of Farmer's theories."
"You underrate their talent," said the editor, "they know enough to make any subject ridiculous at a moment's notice, laboured productions have no effect on the public mind."
"Lake," said Cartwright, "you have a mistaken idea about literature. When people read, they merely get their own ideas put into different combinations or illustrated neatly. Now Farmer's idea, besides being false, is a new idea, it has no show in print at all, we shall have it all our own way. The whole imposture will dissolve in ridicule."
"When shall we begin?" asked the editor, rubbing his hands.
"The exact computations of our position will be finished in a month," answered Cartwright. "Till that time innuendos and veiled sarcasm. After that time kick out, the whole fraud will be unmasked and the army will stand clear of the adventurer; for the sake of its own decent reputation it will not be able to support him, the nature of his crimes will stand out in a light clear as day."
Thus all was prepared. But the shaft of the ridicule suddenly broke!
Observations of the utmost precision taken daily for the space of two years, were submitted to the closest scrutiny and worked at with the utmost care by skilful calculators. And as a result it came out that the planet's course had diverged by a sensible fraction of a degree. Shown, made manifest, marked clearly as by a finger pointing to it, revealed by their changed direction in space, there came to all a consciousness of their collective will. It was as the awakening of a soul to its embodiment in a corporeal frame, the thrilling joy, the wonderful, the inexplicable power of movement—this had come to Unæa. The inhabitants of Astria knew that in their co-operation together, a being transcending them had begun its autonomous course.
The ranks of sound understanding crumbled, the platform of educated opinion was swept away.
"Et Pur se muove," the great words which mark the beginning of the apprehension of life, whether intellectual or physical, had sounded, and this planet, and all on it together, swung into their new course.
Cartwright's journalistic campaign, so elaborately prepared, was defeated before it began. It was true that the motions and movements with which the astronomers dealt were so small that some expert critics held that the whole result was doubtful, and could be accounted for by errors of observation. But such carping voices gained no hearing, for two reasons.
In the first place, the winter instead of coming in with a violent wave of cold, began mildly and pleasantly, and in the second place a change in the thought of the people took place.
This most real and living space we know can be looked on as an instance of the laws of combination and permutation, and its properties can be deduced from an algebra, or it can be looked on and loved for its own sake. The mind can grasp it more and more fully in its direct complexity, knowing it at first hand as real even if removed from sense by its amplitude in unknown directions.
But who can say which is best? The magic of algebra or the love of space?
In Astria, at any rate, it happened that all the wielders of the combinations of one and two and three, and all the designers of all the possible configurations that could happen from abstract principles in this higher space, failed to detect any hang-hold of Farmer's theory on actual fact.
But amongst those who learned by means of models, making visible and tangible the aspects and views of the higher reality, were some who sprang, with a kind of inner awakening, to the knowledge of the third dimension.
And these, feeling rather than reasoning about that higher space, realised in their inner minds what these poor dwellers in a land of two dimensions could never see or touch—the actual nature of three dimensional things moving and acting—things they could only apprehend in their plane of imagery as things succeeding things. And with this knowledge of inner sense, they brought to the examination of the minute and concealed processes which went on in nature a pattern and example which unlocked their secrets.
They found that many curious and inexplicable results, sphinx-like riddles of science, were the simplest and most to be expected consequences of the motions they inwardly realised. We see very plainly that when the particles considered are small enough, even in Astria, the movements must be three dimensional, for the things are real, and if small in a third dimension, are not vanishingly small. Thus the intimate knowledge of the third dimension was the key which unlocked the mystery of the minute. And so, guided marvellously amongst what some would consider gigantic delusions, vast mistakes, the good ship of Thought glided safe to port.
Farmer followed the work of the younger generation with interest, but also with a deepening sense of his own impotence. To himself he seemed as a man denied the blessed spark of reason, for all the things he might have discovered in his long years of search were found byothers, children to him in point of years. He left the busy city and the crowds of men and, half mortified, half amused but wholly glad for now the danger to the dear world was over, he devoted himself to his garden in far away Scythia. That rebellious and antagonistic mind forgot its struggles and vicissitudes in watching the little beads of verdure that sprang out of the dark earth.
|Chapter XVII||Contents etc.||Chapter XIX|