Part 3 out of 5
"Happily," said George, "they will do no harm. They will wish
Higgs's presence to remain unknown as much as we do, and they will
be glad that he should be got out of the country immediately."
"Not so, my dear," said Yram. "'Out of the country' will not do
for those people. Nothing short of 'out of the world' will satisfy
"That," said George promptly, "must not be."
"Certainly not, my dear, but that is what they will want. I do not
like having to tell them, but I am afraid we must."
"Never mind," said the Mayor, laughing. "Tell them, and let us see
They then dressed for dinner, where Hanky and Panky were the only
guests. When dinner was over Yram sent away her other children,
George alone remaining. He sat opposite the Professors, while the
Mayor and Yram were at the two ends of the table.
"I am afraid, dear Professor Hanky," said Yram, "that I was not
quite open with you last night, but I wanted time to think things
over, and I know you will forgive me when you remember what a
number of guests I had to attend to." She then referred to what
Hanky had told her about the supposed ranger, and shewed him how
obvious it was that this man was a foreigner, who had been for some
time in Erewhon more than seventeen years ago, but had had no
communication with it since then. Having pointed sufficiently, as
she thought, to the Sunchild, she said, "You see who I believe this
man to have been. Have I said enough, or shall I say more?"
"I understand you," said Hanky, "and I agree with you that the
Sunchild will be in the temple to-morrow. It is a serious
business, but I shall not alter my sermon. He must listen to what
I may choose to say, and I wish I could tell him what a fool he was
for coming here. If he behaves himself, well and good: your son
will arrest him quietly after service, and by night he will be in
the Blue Pool. Your son is bound to throw him there as a foreign
devil, without the formality of a trial. It would be a most
painful duty to me, but unless I am satisfied that that man has
been thrown into the Blue Pool, I shall have no option but to
report the matter at headquarters. If, on the other hand, the poor
wretch makes a disturbance, I can set the crowd on to tear him in
George was furious, but he remained quite calm, and left everything
to his mother.
"I have nothing to do with the Blue Pool," said Yram drily. "My
son, I doubt not, will know how to do his duty; but if you let the
people kill this man, his body will remain, and an inquest must be
held, for the matter will have been too notorious to be hushed up.
All Higgs's measurements and all marks on his body were recorded,
and these alone would identify him. My father, too, who is still
master of the gaol, and many another, could swear to him. Should
the body prove, as no doubt it would, to be that of the Sunchild,
what is to become of Sunchildism?"
Hanky smiled. "It would not be proved. The measurements of a man
of twenty or thereabouts would not correspond with this man's. All
we Professors should attend the inquest, and half Bridgeford is now
in Sunch'ston. No matter though nine-tenths of the marks and
measurements corresponded, so long as there is a tenth that does
not do so, we should not be flesh and blood if we did not ignore
the nine points and insist only on the tenth. After twenty years
we shall find enough to serve our turn. Think of what all the
learning of the country is committed to; think of the change in all
our ideas and institutions; think of the King and of Court
influence. I need not enlarge. We shall not permit the body to be
the Sunchild's. No matter what evidence you may produce, we shall
sneer it down, and say we must have more before you can expect us
to take you seriously; if you bring more, we shall pay no
attention; and the more you bring the more we shall laugh at you.
No doubt those among us who are by way of being candid will admit
that your arguments ought to be considered, but you must not expect
that it will be any part of their duty to consider them.
"And even though we admitted that the body had been proved up to
the hilt to be the Sunchild's, do you think that such a trifle as
that could affect Sunchildism? Hardly. Sunch'ston is no match for
Bridgeford and the King; our only difficulty would lie in settling
which was the most plausible way of the many plausible ways in
which the death could be explained. We should hatch up twenty
theories in less than twenty hours, and the last state of
Sunchildism would be stronger than the first. For the people want
it, and so long as they want it they will have it. At the same
time the supposed identification of the body, even by some few
ignorant people here, might lead to a local heresy that is as well
avoided, and it will be better that your son should arrest the man
before the dedication, if he can be found, and throw him into the
Blue Pool without any one but ourselves knowing that he has been
here at all."
I need not dwell on the deep disgust with which this speech was
listened to, but the Mayor, and Yram, and George said not a word.
"But, Mayoress," said Panky, who had not opened his lips so far,
"are you sure that you are not too hasty in believing this stranger
to be the Sunchild? People are continually thinking that such and
such another is the Sunchild come down again from the sun's palace
and going to and fro among us. How many such stories, sometimes
very plausibly told, have we not had during the last twenty years?
They never take root, and die out of themselves as suddenly as they
spring up. That the man is a poacher can hardly be doubted; I
thought so the moment I saw him; but I think I can also prove to
you that he is not a foreigner, and, therefore, that he is not the
Sunchild. He quoted the Sunchild's prayer with a corruption that
can have only reached him from an Erewhonian source--"
Here Hanky interrupted him somewhat brusquely. "The man, Panky,"
said he, "was the Sunchild; and he was not a poacher, for he had no
idea that he was breaking the law; nevertheless, as you say,
Sunchildism on the brain has been a common form of mania for
several years. Several persons have even believed themselves to be
the Sunchild. We must not forget this, if it should get about that
Higgs has been here."
Then, turning to Yram, he said sternly, "But come what may, your
son must take him to the Blue Pool at nightfall."
"Sir," said George, with perfect suavity, "you have spoken as
though you doubted my readiness to do my duty. Let me assure you
very solemnly that when the time comes for me to act, I shall act
as duty may direct."
"I will answer for him," said Yram, with even more than her usual
quick, frank smile, "that he will fulfil his instructions to the
letter, unless," she added, "some black and white horses come down
from heaven and snatch poor Higgs out of his grasp. Such things
have happened before now."
"I should advise your son to shoot them if they do," said Hanky
drily and sub-defiantly.
Here the conversation closed; but it was useless trying to talk of
anything else, so the Professors asked Yram to excuse them if they
retired early, in view of the fact that they had a fatiguing day
before them. This excuse their hostess readily accepted.
"Do not let us talk any more now," said Yram as soon as they had
left the room. "It will be quite time enough when the dedication
is over. But I rather think the black and white horses will come."
"I think so too, my dear," said the Mayor laughing.
"They shall come," said George gravely; "but we have not yet got
enough to make sure of bringing them. Higgs will perhaps be able
to help me to-morrow."
* * *
"Now what," said Panky as they went upstairs, "does that woman
mean--for she means something? Black and white horses indeed!"
"I do not know what she means to do," said the other, "but I know
that she thinks she can best us."
"I wish we had not eaten those quails."
"Nonsense, Panky; no one saw us but Higgs, and the evidence of a
foreign devil, in such straits as his, could not stand for a
moment. We did not eat them. No, no; she has something that she
thinks better than that. Besides, it is absolutely impossible that
she should have heard what happened. What I do not understand is,
why she should have told us about the Sunchild's being here at all.
Why not have left us to find it out or to know nothing about it? I
do not understand it."
So true is it, as Euclid long since observed, that the less cannot
comprehend that which is the greater. True, however, as this is,
it is also sometimes true that the greater cannot comprehend the
less. Hanky went musing to his own room and threw himself into an
easy chair to think the position over. After a few minutes he went
to a table on which he saw pen, ink, and paper, and wrote a short
letter; then he rang the bell.
When the servant came he said, "I want to send this note to the
manager of the new temple, and it is important that he should have
it to-night. Be pleased, therefore, to take it to him and deliver
it into his own hands; but I had rather you said nothing about it
to the Mayor or Mayoress, nor to any of your fellow-servants. Slip
out unperceived if you can. When you have delivered the note, ask
for an answer at once, and bring it to me."
So saying, he slipped a sum equal to about five shillings into the
The servant returned in about twenty minutes, for the temple was
quite near, and gave a note to Hanky, which ran, "Your wishes shall
be attended to without fail."
"Good!" said Hanky to the man. "No one in the house knows of your
having run this errand for me?"
"No one, sir."
"Thank you! I wish you a very good night."
CHAPTER XIII: A VISIT TO THE PROVINCIAL DEFORMATORY AT FAIRMEAD
Having finished his early dinner, and not fearing that he should be
either recognised at Fairmead or again enquired after from
Sunch'ston, my father went out for a stroll round the town, to see
what else he could find that should be new and strange to him. He
had not gone far before he saw a large building with an inscription
saying that it was the Provincial Deformatory for Boys. Underneath
the larger inscription there was a smaller one--one of those
corrupt versions of my father's sayings, which, on dipping into the
Sayings of the Sunchild, he had found to be so vexatiously common.
The inscription ran:-
"When the righteous man turneth away from the righteousness that he
hath committed, and doeth that which is a little naughty and wrong,
he will generally be found to have gained in amiability what he has
lost in righteousness." Sunchild Sayings, chap. xxii. v. 15.
The case of the little girl that he had watched earlier in the day
had filled him with a great desire to see the working of one of
these curious institutions; he therefore resolved to call on the
headmaster (whose name he found to be Turvey), and enquire about
terms, alleging that he had a boy whose incorrigible rectitude was
giving him much anxiety. The information he had gained in the
forenoon would be enough to save him from appearing to know nothing
of the system. On having rung the bell, he announced himself to
the servant as a Mr. Senoj, and asked if he could see the
Almost immediately he was ushered into the presence of a beaming,
dapper-looking, little old gentleman, quick of speech and movement,
in spite of some little portliness.
"Ts, ts, ts," he said, when my father had enquired about terms and
asked whether he might see the system at work. "How unfortunate
that you should have called on a Saturday afternoon. We always
have a half-holiday. But stay--yes--that will do very nicely; I
will send for them into school as a means of stimulating their
He called his servant and told him to ring the boys into school.
Then, turning to my father he said, "Stand here, sir, by the
window; you will see them all come trooping in. H'm, h'm, I am
sorry to see them still come back as soon as they hear the bell. I
suppose I shall ding some recalcitrancy into them some day, but it
is uphill work. Do you see the head-boy--the third of those that
are coming up the path? I shall have to get rid of him. Do you
see him? he is going back to whip up the laggers--and now he has
boxed a boy's ears: that boy is one of the most hopeful under my
care. I feel sure he has been using improper language, and my
head-boy has checked him instead of encouraging him." And so on
till the boys were all in school.
"You see, my dear sir," he said to my father, "we are in an
impossible position. We have to obey instructions from the Grand
Council of Education at Bridgeford, and they have established these
institutions in consequence of the Sunchild's having said that we
should aim at promoting the greatest happiness of the greatest
number. This, no doubt, is a sound principle, and the greatest
number are by nature somewhat dull, conceited, and unscrupulous.
They do not like those who are quick, unassuming, and sincere; how,
then, consistently with the first principles either of morality or
political economy as revealed to us by the Sunchild, can we
encourage such people if we can bring sincerity and modesty fairly
home to them? We cannot do so. And we must correct the young as
far as possible from forming habits which, unless indulged in with
the greatest moderation, are sure to ruin them.
"I cannot pretend to consider myself very successful. I do my
best, but I can only aim at making my school a reflection of the
outside world. In the outside world we have to tolerate much that
is prejudicial to the greatest happiness of the greatest number,
partly because we cannot always discover in time who may be let
alone as being genuinely insincere, and who are in reality masking
sincerity under a garb of flippancy, and partly also because we
wish to err on the side of letting the guilty escape, rather than
of punishing the innocent. Thus many people who are perfectly well
known to belong to the straightforward classes are allowed to
remain at large, and may be even seen hobnobbing with the guardians
of public immorality. Indeed it is not in the public interest that
straightforwardness should be extirpated root and branch, for the
presence of a small modicum of sincerity acts as a wholesome
irritant to the academicism of the greatest number, stimulating it
to consciousness of its own happy state, and giving it something to
look down upon. Moreover, we hold it useful to have a certain
number of melancholy examples, whose notorious failure shall serve
as a warning to those who neglect cultivating that power of immoral
self-control which shall prevent them from saying, or even
thinking, anything that shall not immediately and palpably minister
to the happiness, and hence meet the approval, of the greatest
By this time the boys were all in school. "There is not one prig
in the whole lot," said the headmaster sadly. "I wish there was,
but only those boys come here who are notoriously too good to
become current coin in the world unless they are hardened with an
alloy of vice. I should have liked to show you our gambling, book-
making, and speculation class, but the assistant-master who attends
to this branch of our curriculum is gone to Sunch'ston this
afternoon. He has friends who have asked him to see the dedication
of the new temple, and he will not be back till Monday. I really
do not know what I can do better for you than examine the boys in
Counsels of Imperfection.
So saying, he went into the schoolroom, over the fireplace of which
my father's eye caught an inscription, "Resist good, and it will
fly from you. Sunchild's Sayings, xvii. 2." Then, taking down a
copy of the work just named from a shelf above his desk, he ran his
eye over a few of its pages.
He called up a class of about twenty boys.
"Now, my boys," he said, "Why is it so necessary to avoid extremes
"It is not necessary, sir," said one youngster, "and the man who
says that it is so is a scoundrel."
"Come here, my boy, and hold out your hand." When he had done so,
Mr. Turvey gave him two sharp cuts with a cane. "There now, go
down to the bottom of the class and try not to be so extremely
truthful in future." Then, turning to my father, he said, "I hate
caning them, but it is the only way to teach them. I really do
believe that boy will know better than to say what he thinks
He repeated his question to the class, and the head-boy answered,
"Because, sir, extremes meet, and extreme truth will be mixed with
"Quite right, my boy. Truth is like religion; it has only two
enemies--the too much and the too little. Your answer is more
satisfactory than some of your recent conduct had led me to
"But, sir, you punished me only three weeks ago for telling you a
"Oh yes; why, so I did; I had forgotten. But then you overdid it.
Still it was a step in the right direction."
"And now, my boy," he said to a very frank and ingenuous youth
about half way up the class, "and how is truth best reached?"
"Through the falling out of thieves, sir."
"Quite so. Then it will be necessary that the more earnest,
careful, patient, self-sacrificing, enquirers after truth should
have a good deal of the thief about them, though they are very
honest people at the same time. Now what does the man" (who on
enquiry my father found to be none other than Mr. Turvey himself)
"say about honesty?"
"He says, sir, that honesty does not consist in never stealing, but
in knowing how and where it will be safe to do so."
"Remember," said Mr. Turvey to my father, "how necessary it is that
we should have a plentiful supply of thieves, if honest men are
ever to come by their own."
He spoke with the utmost gravity, evidently quite easy in his mind
that his scheme was the only one by which truth could be
"But pray let me have any criticism you may feel inclined to make."
"I have none," said my father. "Your system commends itself to
common sense; it is the one adopted in the law courts, and it lies
at the very foundation of party government. If your academic
bodies can supply the country with a sufficient number of thieves--
which I have no doubt they can--there seems no limit to the amount
of truth that may be attained. If, however, I may suggest the only
difficulty that occurs to me, it is that academic thieves shew no
great alacrity in falling out, but incline rather to back each
other up through thick and thin."
"Ah, yes," said Mr. Turvey, "there is that difficulty; nevertheless
circumstances from time to time arise to get them by the ears in
spite of themselves. But from whatever point of view you may look
at the question, it is obviously better to aim at imperfection than
perfection; for if we aim steadily at imperfection, we shall
probably get it within a reasonable time, whereas to the end of our
days we should never reach perfection. Moreover, from a worldly
point of view, there is no mistake so great as that of being always
right." He then turned to his class and said -
"And now tell me what did the Sunchild tell us about God and
The head-boy answered: "He said that we must serve both, for no
man can serve God well and truly who does not serve Mammon a little
also; and no man can serve Mammon effectually unless he serve God
largely at the same time."
"What were his words?"
"He said, 'Cursed be they that say, "Thou shalt not serve God and
Mammon, for it is the whole duty of man to know how to adjust the
conflicting claims of these two deities."'
Here my father interposed. "I knew the Sunchild; and I more than
once heard him speak of God and Mammon. He never varied the form
of the words he used, which were to the effect that a man must
serve either God or Mammon, but that he could not serve both."
"Ah!" said Mr. Turvey, "that no doubt was his exoteric teaching,
but Professors Hanky and Panky have assured me most solemnly that
his esoteric teaching was as I have given it. By the way, these
gentlemen are both, I understand, at Sunch'ston, and I think it
quite likely that I shall have a visit from them this afternoon.
If you do not know them I should have great pleasure in introducing
you to them; I was at Bridgeford with both of them."
"I have had the pleasure of meeting them already," said my father,
"and as you are by no means certain that they will come, I will ask
you to let me thank you for all that you have been good enough to
shew me, and bid you good-afternoon. I have a rather pressing
"My dear sir, you must please give me five minutes more. I shall
examine the boys in the Musical Bank Catechism." He pointed to one
of them and said, "Repeat your duty towards your neighbour."
"My duty towards my neighbour," said the boy, "is to be quite sure
that he is not likely to borrow money of me before I let him speak
to me at all, and then to have as little to do with him as--"
At this point there was a loud ring at the door bell. "Hanky and
Panky come to see me, no doubt," said Mr. Turvey. "I do hope it is
so. You must stay and see them."
"My dear sir," said my father, putting his handkerchief up to his
face, "I am taken suddenly unwell and must positively leave you."
He said this in so peremptory a tone that Mr. Turvey had to yield.
My father held his handkerchief to his face as he went through the
passage and hall, but when the servant opened the door he took it
down, for there was no Hanky or Panky--no one, in fact, but a poor,
wizened old man who had come, as he did every other Saturday
afternoon, to wind up the Deformatory clocks.
Nevertheless, he had been scared, and was in a very wicked-fleeth-
when-no-man-pursueth frame of mind. He went to his inn, and shut
himself up in his room for some time, taking notes of all that had
happened to him in the last three days. But even at his inn he no
longer felt safe. How did he know but that Hanky and Panky might
have driven over from Sunch'ston to see Mr. Turvey, and might put
up at this very house? or they might even be going to spend the
night here. He did not venture out of his room till after seven by
which time he had made rough notes of as much of the foregoing
chapters as had come to his knowledge so far. Much of what I have
told as nearly as I could in the order in which it happened, he did
not learn till later. After giving the merest outline of his
interview with Mr. Turvey, he wrote a note as follows:- "I suppose
I must have held forth about the greatest happiness of the greatest
number, but I had quite forgotten it, though I remember repeatedly
quoting my favourite proverb, 'Every man for himself, and the devil
take the hindmost.' To this they have paid no attention."
By seven his panic about Hanky and Panky ended, for if they had not
come by this time, they were not likely to do so. Not knowing that
they were staying at the Mayor's, he had rather settled it that
they would now stroll up to the place where they had left their
hoard and bring it down as soon as night had fallen. And it is
quite possible that they might have found some excuse for doing
this, when dinner was over, if their hostess had not undesignedly
hindered them by telling them about the Sunchild. When the
conversation recorded in the preceding chapter was over, it was too
late for them to make any plausible excuse for leaving the house;
we may be sure, therefore, that much more had been said than Yram
and George were able to remember and report to my father.
After another stroll about Fairmead, during which he saw nothing
but what on a larger scale he had already seen at Sunch'ston, he
returned to his inn at about half-past eight, and ordered supper in
a public room that corresponded with the coffee-room of an English
CHAPTER XIV: MY FATHER MAKES THE ACQUAINTANCE OF MR BALMY, AND
WALKS WITH HIM NEXT DAY TO SUNCH'STON
Up to this point, though he had seen enough to shew him the main
drift of the great changes that had taken place in Erewhonian
opinions, my father had not been able to glean much about the
history of the transformation. He could see that it had all grown
out of the supposed miracle of his balloon ascent, and he could
understand that the ignorant masses had been so astounded by an
event so contrary to all their experience, that their faith in
experience was utterly routed and demoralised. It a man and a
woman might rise from the earth and disappear into the sky, what
else might not happen? If they had been wrong in thinking such a
thing impossible, in how much else might they not be mistaken also?
The ground was shaken under their very feet. understand that a
single incontrovertible miracle of the first magnitude should
uproot the hedges of caution in the minds of the common people, but
he could not understand how such men as Hanky and Panky, who
evidently did not believe that there had been any miracle at all,
had been led to throw themselves so energetically into a movement
so subversive of all their traditions, when, as it seemed to him,
if they had held out they might have pricked the balloon bubble
easily enough, and maintained everything in statu quo.
How, again, had they converted the King--if they had converted him?
The Queen had had full knowledge of all the preparations for the
ascent. The King had had everything explained to him. The workmen
and workwomen who had made the balloon and the gas could testify
that none but natural means had been made use of--means which, if
again employed any number of times, would effect a like result.
How could it be that when the means of resistance were so ample and
so easy, the movement should nevertheless have been irresistible?
For had it not been irresistible, was it to be believed that astute
men like Hanky and Panky would have let themselves be drawn into
What then had been its inner history? My father had so fully
determined to make his way back on the following evening, that he
saw no chance of getting to know the facts--unless, indeed, he
should be able to learn something from Hanky's sermon; he was
therefore not sorry to find an elderly gentleman of grave but
kindly aspect seated opposite to him when he sat down to supper.
The expression on this man's face was much like that of the early
Christians as shewn in the S. Giovanni Laterano bas-reliefs at
Rome, and again, though less aggressively self-confident, like that
on the faces of those who have joined the Salvation Army. If he
had been in England, my father would have set him down as a
Swedenborgian; this being impossible, he could only note that the
stranger bowed his head, evidently saying a short grace before he
began to eat, as my father had always done when he was in Erewhon
before. I will not say that my father had never omitted to say
grace during the whole of the last twenty years, but he said it
now, and unfortunately forgetting himself, he said it in the
English language, not loud, but nevertheless audibly.
My father was alarmed at what he had done, but there was no need,
for the stranger immediately said, "I hear, sir, that you have the
gift of tongues. The Sunchild often mentioned it to us, as having
been vouchsafed long since to certain of the people, to whom, for
our learning, he saw fit to feign that he belonged. He thus
foreshadowed prophetically its manifestation also among ourselves.
All which, however, you must know as well as I do. Can you
My father was much shocked, but he remembered having frequently
spoken of the power of speaking in unknown tongues which was
possessed by many of the early Christians, and he also remembered
that in times of high religious enthusiasm this power had
repeatedly been imparted, or supposed to be imparted, to devout
believers in the middle ages. It grated upon him to deceive one
who was so obviously sincere, but to avoid immediate discomfiture
he fell in with what the stranger had said.
"Alas! sir," said he, "that rarer and more precious gift has been
withheld from me; nor can I speak in an unknown tongue, unless as
it is borne in upon me at the moment. I could not even repeat the
words that have just fallen from me."
"That," replied the stranger, "is almost invariably the case.
These illuminations of the spirit are beyond human control. You
spoke in so low a tone that I cannot interpret what you have just
said, but should you receive a second inspiration later, I shall
doubtless be able to interpret it for you. I have been singularly
gifted in this respect--more so, perhaps, than any other
interpreter in Erewhon."
My father mentally vowed that no second inspiration should be
vouchsafed to him, but presently remembering how anxious he was for
information on the points touched upon at the beginning of this
chapter, and seeing that fortune had sent him the kind of man who
would be able to enlighten him, he changed his mind; nothing, he
reflected, would be more likely to make the stranger talk freely
with him, than the affording him an opportunity for showing off his
skill as an interpreter.
Something, therefore, he would say, but what? No one could talk
more freely when the train of his thoughts, or the conversation of
others, gave him his cue, but when told to say an unattached
"something," he could not even think of "How do you do this
morning? it is a very fine day;" and the more he cudgelled his
brains for "something," the more they gave no response. He could
not even converse further with the stranger beyond plain "yes" and
"no"; so he went on with his supper, and in thinking of what he was
eating and drinking for the moment forgot to ransack his brain. No
sooner had he left off ransacking it, than it suggested something--
not, indeed, a very brilliant something, but still something. On
having grasped it, he laid down his knife and fork, and with the
air of one distraught he said -
"My name is Norval, on the Grampian Hills
My father feeds his flock--a frugal swain."
"I heard you," exclaimed the stranger, "and I can interpret every
word of what you have said, but it would not become me to do so,
for you have conveyed to me a message more comforting than I can
bring myself to repeat even to him who has conveyed it."
Having said this he bowed his head, and remained for some time
wrapped in meditation. My father kept a respectful silence, but
after a little time he ventured to say in a low tone, how glad he
was to have been the medium through whom a comforting assurance had
been conveyed. Presently, on finding himself encouraged to renew
the conversation, he threw out a deferential feeler as to the
causes that might have induced Mr. Balmy to come to Fairmead.
"Perhaps," he said, "you, like myself, have come to these parts in
order to see the dedication of the new temple; I could not get a
lodging in Sunch'ston, so I walked down here this morning."
This, it seemed, had been Mr. Balmy's own case, except that he had
not yet been to Sunch'ston. Having heard that it was full to
overflowing, he had determined to pass the night at Fairmead, and
walk over in the morning--starting soon after seven, so as to
arrive in good time for the dedication ceremony. When my father
heard this, he proposed that they should walk together, to which
Mr. Balmy gladly consented; it was therefore arranged that they
should go to bed early, breakfast soon after six, and then walk to
Sunch'ston. My father then went to his own room, where he again
smoked a surreptitious pipe up the chimney.
Next morning the two men breakfasted together, and set out as the
clock was striking seven. The day was lovely beyond the power of
words, and still fresh--for Fairmead was some 2500 feet above the
sea, and the sun did not get above the mountains that overhung it
on the east side, till after eight o'clock. Many persons were also
starting for Sunch'ston, and there was a procession got up by the
Musical Bank Managers of the town, who walked in it, robed in rich
dresses of scarlet and white embroidered with much gold thread.
There was a banner displaying an open chariot in which the Sunchild
and his bride were seated, beaming with smiles, and in attitudes
suggesting that they were bowing to people who were below them.
The chariot was, of course, drawn by the four black and white
horses of which the reader has already heard, and the balloon had
been ignored. Readers of my father's book will perhaps remember
that my mother was not seen at all--she was smuggled into the car
of the balloon along with sundry rugs, under which she lay
concealed till the balloon had left the earth. All this went for
nothing. It has been said that though God cannot alter the past,
historians can; it is perhaps because they can be useful to Him in
this respect that He tolerates their existence. Painters, my
father now realised, can do all that historians can, with even
Women headed the procession--the younger ones dressed in white,
with veils and chaplets of roses, blue cornflower, and pheasant's
eye Narcissus, while the older women were more soberly attired.
The Bank Managers and the banner headed the men, who were mostly
peasants, but among them were a few who seemed to be of higher
rank, and these, for the most part, though by no means all of them,
wore their clothes reversed--as I have forgotten to say was done
also by Mr. Balmy. Both men and women joined in singing a litany
the words of which my father could not catch; the tune was one he
had been used to play on his apology for a flute when he was in
prison, being, in fact, none other than "Home, Sweet Home." There
was no harmony; they never got beyond the first four bars, but
these they must have repeated, my father thought, at least a
hundred times between Fairmead and Sunch'ston. "Well," said he to
himself, "however little else I may have taught them, I at any rate
gave them the diatonic scale."
He now set himself to exploit his fellow-traveller, for they soon
got past the procession.
"The greatest miracle," said he, "in connection with this whole
matter, has been--so at least it seems to me--not the ascent of the
Sunchild with his bride, but the readiness with which the people
generally acknowledged its miraculous character. I was one of
those that witnessed the ascent, but I saw no signs that the crowd
appreciated its significance. They were astounded, but they did
not fall down and worship."
"Ah," said the other, "but you forget the long drought and the rain
that the Sunchild immediately prevailed on the air-god to send us.
He had announced himself as about to procure it for us; it was on
this ground that the King assented to the preparation of those
material means that were necessary before the horses of the sun
could attach themselves to the chariot into which the balloon was
immediately transformed. Those horses might not be defiled by
contact with this gross earth. I too witnessed the ascent; at the
moment, I grant you, I saw neither chariot nor horses, and almost
all those present shared my own temporary blindness; the whole
action from the moment when the balloon left the earth, moved so
rapidly, that we were flustered, and hardly knew what it was that
we were really seeing. It was not till two or three years later
that I found the scene presenting itself to my soul's imaginary
sight in the full splendour which was no doubt witnessed, but not
apprehended, by my bodily vision."
"There," said my father, "you confirm an opinion that I have long
held.--Nothing is so misleading as the testimony of eye-witnesses."
"A spiritual enlightenment from within," returned Mr. Balmy, "is
more to be relied on than any merely physical affluence from
external objects. Now, when I shut my eyes, I see the balloon
ascend a little way, but almost immediately the heavens open, the
horses descend, the balloon is transformed, and the glorious
pageant careers onward till it vanishes into the heaven of heavens.
Hundreds with whom I have conversed assure me that their experience
has been the same as mine. Has yours been different?"
"Oh no, not at all; but I always see some storks circling round the
balloon before I see any horses."
"How strange! I have heard others also say that they saw the
storks you mention; but let me do my utmost I cannot force them
into my mental image of the scene. This shows, as you were saying
just now, how incomplete the testimony of an eye-witness often is.
It is quite possible that the storks were there, but the horses and
the chariot have impressed themselves more vividly on my mind than
anything else has."
"Quite so; and I am not without hope that even at this late hour
some further details may yet be revealed to us."
"It is possible, but we should be as cautious in accepting any
fresh details as in rejecting them. Should some heresy obtain wide
acceptance, visions will perhaps be granted to us that may be
useful in refuting it, but otherwise I expect nothing more."
"Neither do I, but I have heard people say that inasmuch as the
Sunchild said he was going to interview the air-god in order to
send us rain, he was more probably son to the air-god than to the
sun. Now here is a heresy which--"
"But, my dear sir," said Mr. Balmy, interrupting him with great
warmth, "he spoke of his father in heaven as endowed with
attributes far exceeding any that can be conceivably ascribed to
the air-god. The power of the air-god does not extend beyond our
"Pray believe me," said my father, who saw by the ecstatic gleam in
his companion's eye that there was nothing to be done but to agree
with him, "that I accept--"
"Hear me to the end," replied Mr. Balmy. "Who ever heard the
Sunchild claim relationship with the air-god? He could command the
air-god, and evidently did so, halting no doubt for this beneficent
purpose on his journey towards his ultimate destination. Can we
suppose that the air-god, who had evidently intended withholding
the rain from us for an indefinite period, should have so
immediately relinquished his designs against us at the intervention
of any less exalted personage than the sun's own offspring?
"I quite agree with you," exclaimed my father, "it is out of the--"
"Let me finish what I have to say. When the rain came so copiously
for days, even those who had not seen the miraculous ascent found
its consequences come so directly home to them, that they had no
difficulty in accepting the report of others. There was not a
farmer or cottager in the land but heaved a sigh of relief at
rescue from impending ruin, and they all knew it was the Sunchild
who had promised the King that he would make the air-god send it.
So abundantly, you will remember, did it come, that we had to pray
to him to stop it, which in his own good time he was pleased to
"I remember," said my father, who was at last able to edge in a
word, "that it nearly flooded me out of house and home. And yet,
in spite of all this, I hear that there are many at Bridgeford who
are still hardened unbelievers."
"Alas! you speak too truly. Bridgeford and the Musical Banks for
the first three years fought tooth and nail to blind those whom it
was their first duty to enlighten. I was a Professor of the
hypothetical language, and you may perhaps remember how I was
driven from my chair on account of the fearlessness with which I
expounded the deeper mysteries of Sunchildism."
"Yes, I remember well how cruelly--" but my father was not allowed
to get beyond "cruelly."
"It was I who explained why the Sunchild had represented himself as
belonging to a people in many respects analogous to our own, when
no such people can have existed. It was I who detected that the
supposed nation spoken of by the Sunchild was an invention designed
in order to give us instruction by the light of which we might more
easily remodel our institutions. I have sometimes thought that my
gift of interpretation was vouchsafed to me in recognition of the
humble services that I was hereby allowed to render. By the way,
you have received no illumination this morning, have you?"
"I never do, sir, when I am in the company of one whose
conversation I find supremely interesting. But you were telling me
about Bridgeford: I live hundreds of miles from Bridgeford, and
have never understood the suddenness, and completeness, with which
men like Professors Hanky and Panky and Dr. Downie changed front.
Do they believe as you and I do, or did they merely go with the
times? I spent a couple of hours with Hanky and Panky only two
evenings ago, and was not so much impressed as I could have wished
with the depth of their religious fervour."
"They are sincere now--more especially Hanky--but I cannot think I
am judging them harshly, if I say that they were not so at first.
Even now, I fear, that they are more carnally than spiritually
minded. See how they have fought for the aggrandisement of their
own order. It is mainly their doing that the Musical Banks have
usurped the spiritual authority formerly exercised by the
"But the straighteners," said my father, "could not co-exist with
Sunchildism, and it is hard to see how the claims of the Banks can
be reasonably gainsaid."
"Perhaps; and after all the Banks are our main bulwark against the
evils that I fear will follow from the repeal of the laws against
machinery. This has already led to the development of a
materialism which minimizes the miraculous element in the
Sunchild's ascent, as our own people minimize the material means
that were the necessary prologue to the miraculous."
Thus did they converse; but I will not pursue their conversation
further. It will be enough to say that in further floods of talk
Mr. Balmy confirmed what George had said about the Banks having
lost their hold upon the masses. That hold was weak even in the
time of my father's first visit; but when the people saw the
hostility of the Banks to a movement which far the greater number
of them accepted, it seemed as though both Bridgeford and the Banks
were doomed, for Bridgeford was heart and soul with the Banks.
Hanky, it appeared, though under thirty, and not yet a Professor,
grasped the situation, and saw that Bridgeford must either move
with the times, or go. He consulted some of the most sagacious
Heads of Houses and Professors, with the result that a committee of
enquiry was appointed, which in due course reported that the
evidence for the Sunchild's having been the only child of the sun
was conclusive. It was about this time--that is to say some three
years after his ascent--that "Higgsism," as it had been hitherto
called, became "Sunchildism," and "Higgs" the "Sunchild."
My father also learned the King's fury at his escape (for he would
call it nothing else) with my mother. This was so great that
though he had hitherto been, and had ever since proved himself to
be, a humane ruler, he ordered the instant execution of all who had
been concerned in making either the gas or the balloon; and his
cruel orders were carried out within a couple of hours. At the
same time he ordered the destruction by fire of the Queen's
workshops, and of all remnants of any materials used in making the
balloon. It is said the Queen was so much grieved and outraged
(for it was her doing that the material ground-work, so to speak,
had been provided for the miracle) that she wept night and day
without ceasing three whole months, and never again allowed her
husband to embrace her, till he had also embraced Sunchildism.
When the rain came, public indignation at the King's action was
raised almost to revolution pitch, and the King was frightened at
once by the arrival of the promised downfall and the displeasure of
his subjects. But he still held out, and it was only after
concessions on the part of the Bridgeford committee, that he at
last consented to the absorption of Sunchildism into the Musical
Bank system, and to its establishment as the religion of the
country. The far-reaching changes in Erewhonian institutions with
which the reader is already acquainted followed as a matter of
"I know the difficulty," said my father presently, "with which the
King was persuaded to allow the way in which the Sunchild's dress
should be worn to be a matter of opinion, not dogma. I see we have
adopted different fashions. Have you any decided opinions upon the
"I have; but I will ask you not to press me for them. Let this
matter remain as the King has left it."
My father thought that he might now venture on a shot. So he said,
"I have always understood, too, that the King forced the repeal of
the laws against machinery on the Bridgeford committee, as another
condition of his assent?"
"Certainly. He insisted on this, partly to gratify the Queen, who
had not yet forgiven him, and who had set her heart on having a
watch, and partly because he expected that a development of the
country's resources, in consequence of a freer use of machinery,
would bring more money into his exchequer. Bridgeford fought hard
and wisely here, but they had gained so much by the Musical Bank
Managers being recognised as the authorised exponents of
Sunchildism, that they thought it wise to yield--apparently with a
good grace--and thus gild the pill which his Majesty was about to
swallow. But even then they feared the consequences that are
already beginning to appear, all which, if I mistake not, will
assume far more serious proportions in the future."
"See," said my father suddenly, "we are coming to another
procession, and they have got some banners, let us walk a little
quicker and overtake it."
"Horrible!" replied Mr. Balmy fiercely. "You must be short-
sighted, or you could never have called my attention to it. Let us
get it behind us as fast as possible, and not so much as look at
"Oh yes, yes," said my father, "it is indeed horrible, I had not
seen what it was."
He had not the faintest idea what the matter was, but he let Mr.
Balmy walk a little ahead of him, so that he could see the banners,
the most important of which he found to display a balloon pure and
simple, with one figure in the car. True, at the top of the banner
there was a smudge which might be taken for a little chariot, and
some very little horses, but the balloon was the only thing
insisted on. As for the procession, it consisted entirely of men,
whom a smaller banner announced to be workmen from the Fairmead
iron and steel works. There was a third banner, which said,
"Science as well as Sunchildism."
CHAPTER XV: THE TEMPLE IS DEDICATED TO MY FATHER, AND CERTAIN
EXTRACTS ARE READ FROM HIS SUPPOSED SAYINGS
"It is enough to break one's heart," said Mr. Balmy when he had
outstripped the procession, and my father was again beside him.
"'As well as,' indeed! We know what that means. Wherever there is
a factory there is a hot-bed of unbelief. 'As well as'! Why it is
"What, I wonder," said my father innocently, "must the Sunchild's
feelings be, as he looks down on this procession. For there can be
little doubt that he is doing so."
"There can be no doubt at all," replied Mr. Balmy, "that he is
taking note of it, and of all else that is happening this day in
Erewhon. Heaven grant that he be not so angered as to chastise the
innocent as well as the guilty."
"I doubt," said my father, "his being so angry even with this
procession, as you think he is."
Here, fearing an outburst of indignation, he found an excuse for
rapidly changing the conversation. Moreover he was angry with
himself for playing upon this poor good creature. He had not done
so of malice prepense; he had begun to deceive him, because he
believed himself to be in danger if he spoke the truth; and though
he knew the part to be an unworthy one, he could not escape from
continuing to play it, if he was to discover things that he was not
likely to discover otherwise.
Often, however, he had checked himself. It had been on the tip of
his tongue to be illuminated with the words,
Sukoh and Sukop were two pretty men,
They lay in bed till the clock struck ten,
and to follow it up with,
Now with the drops of this most Yknarc time
My love looks fresh,
in order to see how Mr. Balmy would interpret the assertion here
made about the Professors, and what statement he would connect with
his own Erewhonian name; but he had restrained himself.
The more he saw, and the more he heard, the more shocked he was at
the mischief he had done. See how he had unsettled the little mind
this poor, dear, good gentleman had ever had, till he was now a
mere slave to preconception. And how many more had he not in like
manner brought to the verge of idiocy? How many again had he not
made more corrupt than they were before, even though he had not
deceived them--as for example, Hanky and Panky. And the young? how
could such a lie as that a chariot and four horses came down out of
the clouds enter seriously into the life of any one, without
distorting his mental vision, if not ruining it?
And yet, the more he reflected, the more he also saw that he could
do no good by saying who he was. Matters had gone so far that
though he spoke with the tongues of men and angels he would not be
listened to; and even if he were, it might easily prove that he had
added harm to that which he had done already. No. As soon as he
had heard Hanky's sermon, he would begin to work his way back, and
if the Professors had not yet removed their purchase, he would
recover it; but he would pin a bag containing about five pounds
worth of nuggets on to the tree in which they had hidden it, and,
if possible, he would find some way of sending the rest to George.
He let Mr. Balmy continue talking, glad that this gentleman
required little more than monosyllabic answers, and still more
glad, in spite of some agitation, to see that they were now nearing
Sunch'ston, towards which a great concourse of people was hurrying
from Clearwater, and more distant towns on the main road. Many
whole families were coming,--the fathers and mothers carrying the
smaller children, and also their own shoes and stockings, which
they would put on when nearing the town. Most of the pilgrims
brought provisions with them. All wore European costumes, but only
a few of them wore it reversed, and these were almost invariably of
higher social status than the great body of the people, who were
When they reached the town, my father was relieved at finding that
Mr. Balmy had friends on whom he wished to call before going to the
temple. He asked my father to come with him, but my father said
that he too had friends, and would leave him for the present, while
hoping to meet him again later in the day. The two, therefore,
shook hands with great effusion, and went their several ways. My
father's way took him first into a confectioner's shop, where he
bought a couple of Sunchild buns, which he put into his pocket, and
refreshed himself with a bottle of Sunchild cordial and water. All
shops except those dealing in refreshments were closed, and the
town was gaily decorated with flags and flowers, often festooned
into words or emblems proper for the occasion.
My father, it being now a quarter to eleven, made his way towards
the temple, and his heart was clouded with care as he walked along.
Not only was his heart clouded, but his brain also was oppressed,
and he reeled so much on leaving the confectioner's shop, that he
had to catch hold of some railings till the faintness and giddiness
left him. He knew the feeling to be the same as what he had felt
on the Friday evening, but he had no idea of the cause, and as soon
as the giddiness left him he thought there was nothing the matter
Turning down a side street that led into the main square of the
town, he found himself opposite the south end of the temple, with
its two lofty towers that flanked the richly decorated main
entrance. I will not attempt to describe the architecture, for my
father could give me little information on this point. He only saw
the south front for two or three minutes, and was not impressed by
it, save in so far as it was richly ornamented--evidently at great
expense--and very large. Even if he had had a longer look, I doubt
whether I should have got more out of him, for he knew nothing of
architecture, and I fear his test whether a building was good or
bad, was whether it looked old and weather-beaten or no. No matter
what a building was, if it was three or four hundred years old he
liked it, whereas, if it was new, he would look to nothing but
whether it kept the rain out. Indeed I have heard him say that the
mediaeval sculpture on some of our great cathedrals often only
pleases us because time and weather have set their seals upon it,
and that if we could see it as it was when it left the mason's
hands, we should find it no better than much that is now turned out
in the Euston Road.
The ground plan here given will help the reader to understand the
few following pages more easily.
N / a \
W+E / b \------------+
S / G H \ |
| C | N |
| ------------------- I |
| ------------------- |
| ------------------- |
| o' o' |
| E ||||||||||||||| ||||||||||||||||| F |
| ||||||||||||||| ||||||||||||||||| |
| e A o' B C o' D | f
| --- --- --- --- |
| --- --- --- --- |
| --- --- --- --- |
| --- o' --- --- o' --- |
| --- --- --- --- |
| --- --- --- --- |
| --- --- --- --- |
| --- o' --- --- o' --- |
| o' o' |
| g | h
| o' o' |
| |--------------------------------| |
| |-------------M------------------| |
| K |--------------------------------| L |
| |--------------------------------| |
| |--------------------------------| |
| | | |
a. Table with cashier's seat on either side, and alms-box in
front. The picture is exhibited on a scaffolding behind it.
b. The reliquary.
c. The President's chair.
d. Pulpit and lectern.
f. } Side doors.
i. Yram's seat.
k. Seats of George and the Sunchild.
A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, blocks of seats.
I. Steps leading from the apse to the nave.
K and L. Towers.
M. Steps and main entrance.
The building was led up to by a flight of steps (M), and on
entering it my father found it to consist of a spacious nave, with
two aisles and an apse which was raised some three feet above the
nave and aisles. There were no transepts. In the apse there was
the table (a), with the two bowls of Musical Bank money mentioned
on an earlier page, as also the alms-box in front of it.
At some little distance in front of the table stood the President's
chair (c), or I might almost call it throne. It was so placed that
his back would be turned towards the table, which fact again shews
that the table was not regarded as having any greater sanctity than
the rest of the temple.
Behind the table, the picture already spoken of was raised aloft.
There was no balloon; some clouds that hung about the lower part of
the chariot served to conceal the fact that the painter was
uncertain whether it ought to have wheels or no. The horses were
without driver, and my father thought that some one ought to have
had them in hand, for they were in far too excited a state to be
left safely to themselves. They had hardly any harness, but what
little there was was enriched with gold bosses. My mother was in
Erewhonian costume, my father in European, but he wore his clothes
reversed. Both he and my mother seemed to be bowing graciously to
an unseen crowd beneath them, and in the distance, near the bottom
of the picture, was a fairly accurate representation of the
Sunch'ston new temple. High up, on the right hand, was a disc,
raised and gilt, to represent the sun; on it, in low relief, there
was an indication of a gorgeous palace, in which, no doubt, the sun
was supposed to live; though how they made it all out my father
could not conceive.
On the right of the table there was a reliquary (b) of glass, much
adorned with gold, or more probably gilding, for gold was so scarce
in Erewhon that gilding would be as expensive as a thin plate of
gold would be in Europe: but there is no knowing. The reliquary
was attached to a portable stand some five feet high, and inside it
was the relic already referred to. The crowd was so great that my
father could not get near enough to see what it contained, but I
may say here, that when, two days later, circumstances compelled
him to have a close look at it, he saw that it consisted of about a
dozen fine coprolites, deposited by some antediluvian creature or
creatures, which, whatever else they may have been, were certainly
In the apse there were a few cross benches (G and H) on either
side, with an open space between them, which was partly occupied by
the President's seat already mentioned. Those on the right, as one
looked towards the apse, were for the Managers and Cashiers of the
Bank, while those on the left were for their wives and daughters.
In the centre of the nave, only a few feet in front of the steps
leading to the apse, was a handsome pulpit and lectern (d). The
pulpit was raised some feet above the ground, and was so roomy that
the preacher could walk about in it. On either side of it there
were cross benches with backs (E and F); those on the right were
reserved for the Mayor, civic functionaries, and distinguished
visitors, while those on the left were for their wives and
Benches with backs (A, B, C, D) were placed about half-way down
both nave and aisles--those in the nave being divided so as to
allow a free passage between them. The rest of the temple was open
space, about which people might walk at their will. There were
side doors (e, j, and f, h) at the upper and lower end of each
aisle. Over the main entrance was a gallery in which singers were
As my father was worming his way among the crowd, which was now
very dense, he was startled at finding himself tapped lightly on
the shoulder, and turning round in alarm was confronted by the
beaming face of George.
"How do you do, Professor Panky?" said the youth--who had decided
thus to address him. "What are you doing here among the common
people? Why have you not taken your place in one of the seats
reserved for our distinguished visitors? I am afraid they must be
all full by this time, but I will see what I can do for you. Come
"Thank you," said my father. His heart beat so fast that this was
all he could say, and he followed meek as a lamb.
With some difficulty the two made their way to the right-hand
corner seats of block C, for every seat in the reserved block was
taken. The places which George wanted for my father and for
himself were already occupied by two young men of about eighteen
and nineteen, both of them well-grown, and of prepossessing
appearance. My father saw by the truncheons they carried that they
were special constables, but he took no notice of this, for there
were many others scattered about the crowd. George whispered a few
words to one of them, and to my father's surprise they both gave up
their seats, which appear on the plan as (k).
It afterwards transpired that these two young men were George's
brothers, who by his desire had taken the seats some hours ago, for
it was here that George had determined to place himself and my
father if he could find him. He chose these places because they
would be near enough to let his mother (who was at i, in the middle
of the front row of block E, to the left of the pulpit) see my
father without being so near as to embarrass him; he could also see
and be seen by Hanky, and hear every word of his sermon; but
perhaps his chief reason had been the fact that they were not far
from the side-door at the upper end of the right-hand aisle, while
there was no barrier to interrupt rapid egress should this prove
It was now high time that they should sit down, which they
accordingly did. George sat at the end of the bench, and thus had
my father on his left. My father was rather uncomfortable at
seeing the young men whom they had turned out, standing against a
column close by, but George said that this was how it was to be,
and there was nothing to be done but to submit. The young men
seemed quite happy, which puzzled my father, who of course had no
idea that their action was preconcerted.
Panky was in the first row of block F, so that my father could not
see his face except sometimes when he turned round. He was sitting
on the Mayor's right hand, while Dr. Downie was on his left; he
looked at my father once or twice in a puzzled way, as though he
ought to have known him, but my father did not think he recognised
him. Hanky was still with President Gurgoyle and others in the
robing-room, N; Yram had already taken her seat: my father knew
her in a moment, though he pretended not to do so when George
pointed her out to him. Their eyes met for a second; Yram turned
hers quickly away, and my father could not see a trace of
recognition in her face. At no time during the whole ceremony did
he catch her looking at him again.
"Why, you stupid man," she said to him later on in the day with a
quick, kindly smile, "I was looking at you all the time. As soon
as the President or Hanky began to talk about you I knew you would
stare at him, and then I could look. As soon as they left off
talking about you I knew you would be looking at me, unless you
went to sleep--and as I did not know which you might be doing, I
waited till they began to talk about you again."
My father had hardly taken note of his surroundings when the choir
began singing, accompanied by a few feeble flutes and lutes, or
whatever the name of the instrument should be, but with no violins,
for he knew nothing of the violin, and had not been able to teach
the Erewhonians anything about it. The voices were all in unison,
and the tune they sang was one which my father had taught Yram to
sing; but he could not catch the words.
As soon as the singing began, a procession, headed by the venerable
Dr. Gurgoyle, President of the Musical Banks of the province, began
to issue from the robing-room, and move towards the middle of the
apse. The President was sumptuously dressed, but he wore no mitre,
nor anything to suggest an English or European Bishop. The Vice-
President, Head Manager, Vice-Manager, and some Cashiers of the
Bank, now ranged themselves on either side of him, and formed an
impressive group as they stood, gorgeously arrayed, at the top of
the steps leading from the apse to the nave. Here they waited till
the singers left off singing.
When the litany, or hymn, or whatever it should be called, was
over, the Head Manager left the President's side and came down to
the lectern in the nave, where he announced himself as about to
read some passages from the Sunchild's Sayings. Perhaps because it
was the first day of the year according to their new calendar, the
reading began with the first chapter, the whole of which was read.
My father told me that he quite well remembered having said the
last verse, which he still held as true; hardly a word of the rest
was ever spoken by him, though he recognised his own influence in
almost all of it. The reader paused, with good effect, for about
five seconds between each paragraph, and read slowly and very
clearly. The chapter was as follows:-
These are the words of the Sunchild about God and man. He said -
1. God is the baseless basis of all thoughts, things, and deeds.
2. So that those who say that there is a God, lie, unless they
also mean that there is no God; and those who say that there is no
God, lie, unless they also mean that there is a God.
3. It is very true to say that man is made after the likeness of
God; and yet it is very untrue to say this.
4. God lives and moves in every atom throughout the universe.
Therefore it is wrong to think of Him as 'Him' and 'He,' save as by
the clutching of a drowning man at a straw.
5. God is God to us only so long as we cannot see Him. When we
are near to seeing Him He vanishes, and we behold Nature in His
6. We approach Him most nearly when we think of Him as our
expression for Man's highest conception, of goodness, wisdom, and
power. But we cannot rise to Him above the level of our own
7. We remove ourselves most far from Him when we invest Him with
human form and attributes.
8. My father the sun, the earth, the moon, and all planets that
roll round my father, are to God but as a single cell in our bodies
9. He is as much above my father, as my father is above men and
10. The universe is instinct with the mind of God. The mind of
God is in all that has mind throughout all worlds. There is no God
but the Universe, and man, in this world is His prophet.
11. God's conscious life, nascent, so far as this world is
concerned, in the infusoria, adolescent in the higher mammals,
approaches maturity on this earth in man. All these living beings
are members one of another, and of God.
12. Therefore, as man cannot live without God in the world, so
neither can God live in this world without mankind.
13. If we speak ill of God in our ignorance it may be forgiven us;
but if we speak ill of His Holy Spirit indwelling in good men and
women it may not be forgiven us."
The Head Manager now resumed his place by President Gurgoyle's
side, and the President in the name of his Majesty the King
declared the temple to be hereby dedicated to the contemplation of
the Sunchild and the better exposition of his teaching. This was
all that was said. The reliquary was then brought forward and
placed at the top of the steps leading from the apse to the nave;
but the original intention of carrying it round the temple was
abandoned for fear of accidents through the pressure round it of
the enormous multitudes who were assembled. More singing followed
of a simple but impressive kind; during this I am afraid I must own
that my father, tired with his walk, dropped off into a refreshing
slumber, from which he did not wake till George nudged him and told
him not to snore, just as the Vice-Manager was going towards the
lectern to read another chapter of the Sunchild's Sayings--which
was as follows:-
The Sunchild also spoke to us a parable about the unwisdom of the
children yet unborn, who though they know so much, yet do not know
as much as they think they do.
"The unborn have knowledge of one another so long as they are
unborn, and this without impediment from walls or material
obstacles. The unborn children in any city form a population
apart, who talk with one another and tell each other about their
"They have no knowledge, and cannot even conceive the existence of
anything that is not such as they are themselves. Those who have
been born are to them what the dead are to us. They can see no
life in them, and know no more about them than they do of any stage
in their own past development other than the one through which they
are passing at the moment. They do not even know that their
mothers are alive--much less that their mothers were once as they
now are. To an embryo, its mother is simply the environment, and
is looked upon much as our inorganic surroundings are by ourselves.
"The great terror of their lives is the fear of birth,--that they
shall have to leave the only thing that they can think of as life,
and enter upon a dark unknown which is to them tantamount to
"Some, indeed, among them have maintained that birth is not the
death which they commonly deem it, but that there is a life beyond
the womb of which they as yet know nothing, and which is a million
fold more truly life than anything they have yet been able even to
imagine. But the greater number shake their yet unfashioned heads
and say they have no evidence for this that will stand a moment's
"'Nay,' answer the others, 'so much work, so elaborate, so wondrous
as that whereon we are now so busily engaged must have a purpose,
though the purpose is beyond our grasp.'
"'Never,' reply the first speakers; 'our pleasure in the work is
sufficient justification for it. Who has ever partaken of this
life you speak of, and re-entered into the womb to tell us of it?
Granted that some few have pretended to have done this, but how
completely have their stories broken down when subjected to the
tests of sober criticism. No. When we are born we are born, and
there is an end of us.'
"But in the hour of birth, when they can no longer re-enter the
womb and tell the others, Behold! they find that it is not so."
Here the reader again closed his book and resumed his place in the
CHAPTER XVI: PROFESSOR HANKY PREACHES A SERMON, IN THE COURSE OF
WHICH MY FATHER DECLARES HIMSELF TO BE THE SUNCHILD
Professor Hanky then went up into the pulpit, richly but soberly
robed in vestments the exact nature of which I cannot determine.
His carriage was dignified, and the harsh lines on his face gave it
a strong individuality, which, though it did not attract, conveyed
an impression of power that could not fail to interest. As soon as
he had given attention time to fix itself upon him, he began his
sermon without text or preliminary matter of any kind, and
apparently without notes.
He spoke clearly and very quietly, especially at the beginning; he
used action whenever it could point his meaning, or give it life
and colour, but there was no approach to staginess or even
oratorical display. In fact, he spoke as one who meant what he was
saying, and desired that his hearers should accept his meaning,
fully confident in his good faith. His use of pause was effective.
After the word "mistake," at the end of the opening sentence, he
held up his half-bent hand and paused for full three seconds,
looking intently at his audience as he did so. Every one felt the
idea to be here enounced that was to dominate the sermon.
The sermon--so much of it as I can find room for--was as follows:-
"My friends, let there be no mistake. At such a time, as this, it
is well we should look back upon the path by which we have
travelled, and forward to the goal towards which we are tending.
As it was necessary that the material foundations of this building
should be so sure that there shall be no subsidence in the
superstructure, so is it not less necessary to ensure that there
shall be no subsidence in the immaterial structure that we have
raised in consequence of the Sunchild's sojourn among us.
Therefore, my friends, I again say, 'Let there be no mistake.'
Each stone that goes towards the uprearing of this visible fane,
each human soul that does its part in building the invisible temple
of our national faith, is bearing witness to, and lending its
support to, that which is either the truth of truths, or the
baseless fabric of a dream.
"My friends, this is the only possible alternative. He in whose
name we are here assembled, is either worthy of more reverential
honour than we can ever pay him, or he is worthy of no more honour
than any other honourable man among ourselves. There can be no
halting between these two opinions. The question of questions is,
was he the child of the tutelary god of this world--the sun, and is
it to the palace of the sun that he returned when he left us, or
was he, as some amongst us still do not hesitate to maintain, a
mere man, escaping by unusual but strictly natural means to some
part of this earth with which we are unacquainted. My friends,
either we are on a right path or on a very wrong one, and in a
matter of such supreme importance--there must be no mistake.
"I need not remind those of you whose privilege it is to live in
Sunch'ston, of the charm attendant on the Sunchild's personal
presence and conversation, nor of his quick sympathy, his keen
intellect, his readiness to adapt himself to the capacities of all
those who came to see him while he was in prison. He adored
children, and it was on them that some of his most conspicuous
miracles were performed. Many a time when a child had fallen and
hurt itself, was he known to make the place well by simply kissing
it. Nor need I recall to your minds the spotless purity of his
life--so spotless that not one breath of slander has ever dared to
visit it. I was one of the not very many who had the privilege of
being admitted to the inner circle of his friends during the later
weeks that he was amongst us. I loved him dearly, and it will ever
be the proudest recollection of my life that he deigned to return
me no small measure of affection."
My father, furious as he was at finding himself dragged into
complicity with this man's imposture, could not resist a smile at
the effrontery with which he lowered his tone here, and appeared
unwilling to dwell on an incident which he could not recall without
being affected almost to tears, and mere allusion to which, had
involved an apparent self-display that was above all things
repugnant to him. What a difference between the Hanky of Thursday
evening with its "never set eyes on him and hope I never shall,"
and the Hanky of Sunday morning, who now looked as modest as
Cleopatra might have done had she been standing godmother to a
little blue-eyed girl--Bellerophon's first-born baby.
Having recovered from his natural, but promptly repressed, emotion,
the Professor continued:-
"I need not remind you of the purpose for which so many of us, from
so many parts of our kingdom, are here assembled. We know what we
have come hither to do: we are come each one of us to sign and
seal by his presence the bond of his assent to those momentous
changes, which have found their first great material expression in
the temple that you see around you.
"You all know how, in accordance with the expressed will of the
Sunchild, the Presidents and Vice-Presidents of the Musical Banks
began as soon as he had left us to examine, patiently, carefully,
earnestly, and without bias of any kind, firstly the evidences in
support of the Sunchild's claim to be the son of the tutelar deity
of this world, and secondly the precise nature of his instructions
as regards the future position and authority of the Musical Banks.
"My friends, it is easy to understand why the Sunchild should have
given us these instructions. With that foresight which is the
special characteristic of divine, as compared with human, wisdom,
he desired that the evidences in support of his superhuman
character should be collected, sifted, and placed on record, before
anything was either lost through the death of those who could alone
substantiate it, or unduly supplied through the enthusiasm of over-
zealous visionaries. The greater any true miracle has been, the
more certainly will false ones accrete round it; here, then, we
find the explanation of the command the Sunchild gave to us to
gather, verify, and record, the facts of his sojourn here in
Erewhon. For above all things he held it necessary to ensure that
there should be neither mistake, nor even possibility of mistake.
"Consider for a moment what differences of opinion would infallibly
have arisen, if the evidences for the miraculous character of the
Sunchild's mission had been conflicting--if they had rested on
versions each claiming to be equally authoritative, but each
hopelessly irreconcilable on vital points with every single other.
What would future generations have said in answer to those who bade
them fling all human experience to the winds, on the strength of
records written they knew not certainly by whom, nor how long after
the marvels that they recorded, and of which all that could be
certainly said was that no two of them told the same story?
"Who that believes either in God or man--who with any self-respect,
or respect for the gift of reason with which God had endowed him,
either would, or could, believe that a chariot and four horses had
come down from heaven, and gone back again with human or quasi-
human occupants, unless the evidences for the fact left no loophole
for escape? If a single loophole were left him, he would be
unpardonable, not for disbelieving the story, but for believing it.
The sin against God would lie not in want of faith, but in faith.
"My friends, there are two sins in matters of belief. There is
that of believing on too little evidence, and that of requiring too
much before we are convinced. The guilt of the latter is incurred,
alas! by not a few amongst us at the present day, but if the
testimony to the truth of the wondrous event so faithfully depicted
on the picture that confronts you had been less contemporaneous,
less authoritative, less unanimous, future generations--and it is
for them that we should now provide--would be guilty of the first-
named, and not less heinous sin if they believed at all.
"Small wonder, then, that the Sunchild, having come amongst us for
our advantage, not his own, would not permit his beneficent designs
to be endangered by the discrepancies, mythical developments,
idiosyncracies, and a hundred other defects inevitably attendant on
amateur and irresponsible recording. Small wonder, then, that he
should have chosen the officials of the Musical Banks, from the
Presidents and Vice-Presidents downwards to be the authoritative
exponents of his teaching, the depositaries of his traditions, and
his representatives here on earth till he shall again see fit to
visit us. For he will come. Nay it is even possible that he may
be here amongst us at this very moment, disguised so that none may
know him, and intent only on watching our devotion towards him. If
this be so, let me implore him, in the name of the sun his father,
to reveal himself."
Now Hanky had already given my father more than one look that had
made him uneasy. He had evidently recognised him as the supposed
ranger of last Thursday evening. Twice he had run his eye like a
searchlight over the front benches opposite to him, and when the
beam had reached my father there had been no more searching. It
was beginning to dawn upon my father that George might have
discovered that he was not Professor Panky; was it for this reason
that these two young special constables, though they gave up their
places, still kept so close to him? Was George only waiting his
opportunity to arrest him--not of course even suspecting who he
was--but as a foreign devil who had tried to pass himself off as
Professor Panky? Had this been the meaning of his having followed
him to Fairmead? And should he have to be thrown into the Blue
Pool by George after all? "It would serve me," said he to himself,
These fears which had been taking shape for some few minutes were
turned almost to certainties by the half-contemptuous glance Hanky
threw towards him as he uttered what was obviously intended as a
challenge. He saw that all was over, and was starting to his feet
to declare himself, and thus fall into the trap that Hanky was
laying for him, when George gripped him tightly by the knee and
whispered, "Don't--you are in great danger." And he smiled kindly
as he spoke.
My father sank back dumbfounded. "You know me?" he whispered in
"Perfectly. So does Hanky, so does my mother; say no more," and he
George, as my father afterwards learned, had hoped that he would
reveal himself, and had determined in spite of his mother's
instructions, to give him an opportunity of doing so. It was for
this reason that he had not arrested him quietly, as he could very
well have done, before the service began. He wished to discover
what manner of man his father was, and was quite happy as soon as
he saw that he would have spoken out if he had not been checked.
He had not yet caught Hanky's motive in trying to goad my father,
but on seeing that he was trying to do this, he knew that a trap
was being laid, and that my father must not be allowed to speak.
Almost immediately, however, he perceived that while his eyes had
been turned on Hanky, two burly vergers had wormed their way
through the crowd and taken their stand close to his two brothers.
Then he understood, and understood also how to frustrate.
As for my father, George's ascendancy over him--quite felt by
George--was so absolute that he could think of nothing now but the
exceeding great joy of finding his fears groundless, and of
delivering himself up to his son's guidance in the assurance that
the void in his heart was filled, and that his wager not only would
be held as won, but was being already paid. How they had found
out, why he was not to speak as he would assuredly have done--for
he was in a white heat of fury--what did it all matter now that he
had found that which he had feared he should fail to find? He gave
George a puzzled smile, and composed himself as best he could to
hear the continuation of Hanky's sermon, which was as follows:-
"Who could the Sunchild have chosen, even though he had been gifted
with no more than human sagacity, but the body of men whom he
selected? It becomes me but ill to speak so warmly in favour of
that body of whom I am the least worthy member, but what other is
there in Erewhon so above all suspicion of slovenliness, self-
seeking, preconceived bias, or bad faith? If there was one set of
qualities more essential than another for the conduct of the
investigations entrusted to us by the Sunchild, it was those that
turn on meekness and freedom from all spiritual pride. I believe I
can say quite truly that these are the qualities for which
Bridgeford is more especially renowned. The readiness of her
Professors to learn even from those who at first sight may seem
least able to instruct them--the gentleness with which they correct
an opponent if they feel it incumbent upon them to do so, the
promptitude with which they acknowledge error when it is pointed
out to them and quit a position no matter how deeply they have been
committed to it, at the first moment in which they see that they
cannot hold it righteously, their delicate sense of honour, their
utter immunity from what the Sunchild used to call log-rolling or
intrigue, the scorn with which they regard anything like hitting
below the belt--these I believe I may truly say are the virtues for
which Bridgeford is pre-eminently renowned."
The Professor went on to say a great deal more about the fitness of
Bridgeford and the Musical Bank managers for the task imposed on
them by the Sunchild, but here my father's attention flagged--nor,
on looking at the verbatim report of the sermon that appeared next
morning in the leading Sunch'ston journal, do I see reason to
reproduce Hanky's words on this head. It was all to shew that
there had been no possibility of mistake.
Meanwhile George was writing on a scrap of paper as though he was
taking notes of the sermon. Presently he slipped this into my
father's hand. It ran:-
"You see those vergers standing near my brothers, who gave up their
seats to us. Hanky tried to goad you into speaking that they might
arrest you, and get you into the Bank prisons. If you fall into
their hands you are lost. I must arrest you instantly on a charge
of poaching on the King's preserves, and make you my prisoner. Let
those vergers catch sight of the warrant which I shall now give
you. Read it and return it to me. Come with me quietly after
service. I think you had better not reveal yourself at all."
As soon as he had given my father time to read the foregoing,
George took a warrant out of his pocket. My father pretended to
read it and returned it. George then laid his hand on his
shoulder, and in an undertone arrested him. He then wrote on
another scrap of paper and passed it on to the elder of his two
brothers. It was to the effect that he had now arrested my father,
and that if the vergers attempted in any way to interfere between
him and his prisoner, his brothers were to arrest both of them,
which, as special constables, they had power to do.
Yram had noted Hanky's attempt to goad my father, and had not been
prepared for his stealing a march upon her by trying to get my
father arrested by Musical Bank officials, rather than by her son.
On the preceding evening this last plan had been arranged on; and
she knew nothing of the note that Hanky had sent an hour or two
later to the Manager of the temple--the substance of which the
reader can sufficiently guess. When she had heard Hanky's words
and saw the vergers, she was for a few minutes seriously alarmed,
but she was reassured when she saw George give my father the
warrant, and her two sons evidently explaining the position to the
Hanky had by this time changed his theme, and was warning his
hearers of the dangers that would follow on the legalization of the
medical profession, and the repeal of the edicts against machines.
Space forbids me to give his picture of the horrible tortures that
future generations would be put to by medical men, if these were
not duly kept in check by the influence of the Musical Banks; the
horrors of the inquisition in the middle ages are nothing to what
he depicted as certain to ensue if medical men were ever to have
much money at their command. The only people in whose hands money
might be trusted safely were those who presided over the Musical
Banks. This tirade was followed by one not less alarming about the
growth of materialistic tendencies among the artisans employed in
the production of mechanical inventions. My father, though his
eyes had been somewhat opened by the second of the two processions
he had seen on his way to Sunch'ston, was not prepared to find that
in spite of the superficially almost universal acceptance of the
new faith, there was a powerful, and it would seem growing,
undercurrent of scepticism, with a desire to reduce his escape with
my mother to a purely natural occurence.
"It is not enough," said Hanky, "that the Sunchild should have
ensured the preparation of authoritative evidence of his
supernatural character. The evidences happily exist in
overwhelming strength, but they must be brought home to minds that
as yet have stubbornly refused to receive them. During the last
five years there has been an enormous increase in the number of
those whose occupation in the manufacture of machines inclines them
to a materialistic explanation even of the most obviously
miraculous events, and the growth of this class in our midst
constituted, and still constitutes, a grave danger to the state.
"It was to meet this that the society was formed on behalf of which
I appeal fearlessly to your generosity. It is called, as most of
you doubtless know, the Sunchild Evidence Society; and his Majesty
the King graciously consented to become its Patron. This society
not only collects additional evidences--indeed it is entirely due
to its labours that the precious relic now in this temple was
discovered--but it is its beneficent purpose to lay those that have
been authoritatively investigated before men who, if left to
themselves, would either neglect them altogether, or worse still
"For the first year or two the efforts of the society met with but
little success among those for whose benefit they were more
particularly intended, but during the present year the working
classes in some cities and towns (stimulated very much by the
lectures of my illustrious friend Professor Panky) have shewn a
most remarkable and zealous interest in Sunchild evidences, and
have formed themselves into local branches for the study and
defence of Sunchild truth.
"Yet in spite of all this need--of all this patient labour and
really very gratifying success--the subscriptions to the society no
longer furnish it with its former very modest income--an income
which is deplorably insufficient if the organization is to be kept
effective, and the work adequately performed. In spite of the most
rigid economy, the committee have been compelled to part with a
considerable portion of their small reserve fund (provided by a
legacy) to tide over difficulties. But this method of balancing
expenditure and income is very unsatisfactory, and cannot be long
"I am led to plead for the society with especial insistence at the
present time, inasmuch as more than one of those whose unblemished
life has made them fitting recipients of such a signal favour, have
recently had visions informing them that the Sunchild will again
shortly visit us. We know not when he will come, but when he
comes, my friends, let him not find us unmindful of, nor ungrateful
for, the inestimable services he has rendered us. For come he
surely will. Either in winter, what time icicles hang by the wall
and milk comes frozen home in the pail--or in summer when days are
at their longest and the mowing grass is about--there will be an
hour, either at morn, or eve, or in the middle day, when he will
again surely come. May it be mine to be among those who are then
present to receive him."
Here he again glared at my father, whose blood was boiling. George
had not positively forbidden him to speak out; he therefore sprang
to his feet, "You lying hound," he cried, "I am the Sunchild, and
you know it."
George, who knew that he had my father in his own hands, made no
attempt to stop him, and was delighted that he should have declared
himself though he had felt it his duty to tell him not to do so.
Yram turned pale. Hanky roared out, "Tear him in pieces--leave not
a single limb on his body. Take him out and burn him alive." The
vergers made a dash for him--but George's brothers seized them.
The crowd seemed for a moment inclined to do as Hanky bade them,
but Yram rose from her place, and held up her hand as one who
claimed attention. She advanced towards George and my father as
unconcernedly as though she were merely walking out of church, but
she still held her hand uplifted. All eyes were turned on her, as
well as on George and my father, and the icy calm of her self-
possession chilled those who were inclined for the moment to take
Hanky's words literally. There was not a trace of fluster in her
gait, action, or words, as she said -
"My friends, this temple, and this day, must not be profaned with
blood. My son will take this poor madman to the prison. Let him
be judged and punished according to law. Make room, that he and my
son may pass."
Then, turning to my father, she said, "Go quietly with the Ranger."
Having so spoken, she returned to her seat as unconcernedly as she
had left it.
Hanky for a time continued to foam at the mouth and roar out, "Tear
him to pieces! burn him alive!" but when he saw that there was no
further hope of getting the people to obey him, he collapsed on to
a seat in his pulpit, mopped his bald head, and consoled himself
with a great pinch of a powder which corresponds very closely to
our own snuff.
George led my father out by the side door at the north end of the
western aisle; the people eyed him intently, but made way for him
without demonstration. One voice alone was heard to cry out, "Yes,
he is the Sunchild!" My father glanced at the speaker, and saw
that he was the interpreter who had taught him the Erewhonian
language when he was in prison.
George, seeing a special constable close by, told him to bid his
brothers release the vergers, and let them arrest the interpreter--
this the vergers, foiled as they had been in the matter of my
father's arrest, were very glad to do. So the poor interpreter, to
his dismay, was lodged at once in one of the Bank prison-cells,
where he could do no further harm.
CHAPTER XVII: GEORGE TAKES HIS FATHER TO PRISON, AND THERE OBTAINS
SOME USEFUL INFORMATION
By this time George had got my father into the open square, where
he was surprised to find that a large bonfire had been made and
lighted. There had been nothing of the kind an hour before; the
wood, therefore, must have been piled and lighted while people had
been in church. He had no time at the moment to enquire why this
had been done, but later on he discovered that on the Sunday
morning the Manager of the new temple had obtained leave from the
Mayor to have the wood piled in the square, representing that this
was Professor Hanky's contribution to the festivities of the day.
There had, it seemed, been no intention of lighting it until
nightfall; but it had accidentally caught fire through the
carelessness of a workman, much about the time when Hanky began to
preach. No one for a moment believed that there had been any
sinister intention, or that Professor Hanky when he urged the crowd
to burn my father alive, even knew that there was a pile of wood in
the square at all--much less that it had been lighted--for he could
hardly have supposed that the wood had been got together so soon.
Nevertheless both George and my father, when they knew all that had
passed, congratulated themselves on the fact that my father had not
fallen into the hands of the vergers, who would probably have tried
to utilise the accidental fire, though in no case is it likely they
would have succeeded.
As soon as they were inside the gaol, the old Master recognised my
father. "Bless my heart--what? You here, again, Mr. Higgs? Why,
I thought you were in the palace of the sun your father."
"I wish I was," answered my father, shaking hands with him, but he
could say no more.
"You are as safe here as if you were," said George laughing, "and
safer." Then turning to his grandfather, he said, "You have the
record of Mr. Higgs's marks and measurements? I know you have:
take him to his old cell; it is the best in the prison; and then
please bring me the record."
The old man took George and my father to the cell which he had
occupied twenty years earlier--but I cannot stay to describe his
feelings on finding himself again within it. The moment his
grandfather's back was turned, George said to my father, "And now
shake hands also with your son."
As he spoke he took my father's hand and pressed it warmly between
both his own.
"Then you know you are my son," said my father as steadily as the
strong emotion that mastered him would permit.
"But you did not know this when I was walking with you on Friday?"
"Of course not. I thought you were Professor Panky; if I had not
taken you for one of the two persons named in your permit, I should
have questioned you closely, and probably ended by throwing you
into the Blue Pool." He shuddered as he said this.
"But you knew who I was when you called me Panky in the temple?"
"Quite so. My mother told me everything on Friday evening."
"And that is why you tried to find me at Fairmead?"
"Yes, but where in the world were you?"
"I was inside the Musical Bank of the town, resting and reading."
George laughed, and said, "On purpose to hide?"
"Oh no; pure chance. But on Friday evening? How could your mother
have found out by that time that I was in Erewhon? Am I on my head
or my heels?"
"On your heels, my father, which shall take you back to your own
country as soon as we can get you out of this."
"What have I done to deserve so much goodwill? I have done you
nothing but harm?" Again he was quite overcome.
George patted him gently on the hand, and said, "You made a bet and
you won it. During the very short time that we can be together,
you shall be paid in full, and may heaven protect us both."
As soon as my father could speak he said, "But how did your mother
find out that I was in Erewhon?"
"Hanky and Panky were dining with her, and they told her some
things that she thought strange. She cross-questioned them, put
two and two together, learned that you had got their permit out of
them, saw that you intended to return on Friday, and concluded that
you would be sleeping in Sunch'ston. She sent for me, told me all,
bade me scour Sunch'ston to find you, intending that you should be
at once escorted safely over the preserves by me. I found your
inn, but you had given us the slip. I tried first Fairmead and
then Clearwater, but did not find you till this morning. For
reasons too long to repeat, my mother warned Hanky and Panky that
you would be in the temple; whereon Hanky tried to get you into his
clutches. Happily he failed, but if I had known what he was doing
I should have arrested you before the service. I ought to have
done this, but I wanted you to win your wager, and I shall get you
safely away in spite of them. My mother will not like my having
let you hear Hanky's sermon and declare yourself."
"You half told me not to say who I was."
"Yes, but I was delighted when you disobeyed me."
"I did it very badly. I never rise to great occasions, I always
fall to them, but these things must come as they come."
"You did it as well as it could be done, and good will come of it."
"And now," he continued, "describe exactly all that passed between
you and the Professors. On which side of Panky did Hanky sit, and
did they sit north and south or east and west? How did you get--oh
yes, I know that--you told them it would be of no further use to
them. Tell me all else you can."
My father said that the Professors were sitting pretty well east
and west, so that Hanky, who was on the east side, nearest the
mountains, had Panky, who was on the Sunch'ston side, on his right
hand. George made a note of this. My father then told what the
reader already knows, but when he came to the measurement of the
boots, George said, "Take your boots off," and began taking off his
own. "Foot for foot," said he, "we are not father and son, but
brothers. Yours will fit me; they are less worn than mine, but I
daresay you will not mind that."
On this George ex abundanti cautela knocked a nail out of the right
boot that he had been wearing and changed boots with my father; but
he thought it more plausible not to knock out exactly the same nail
that was missing on my father's boot. When the change was made,
each found--or said he found--the other's boots quite comfortable.
My father all the time felt as though he were a basket given to a
dog. The dog had got him, was proud of him, and no one must try to
take him away. The promptitude with which George took to him, the
obvious pleasure he had in "running" him, his quick judgement,
verging as it should towards rashness, his confidence that my
father trusted him without reserve, the conviction of perfect
openness that was conveyed by the way in which his eyes never
budged from my father's when he spoke to him, his genial, kindly,
manner, perfect physical health, and the air he had of being on the
best possible terms with himself and every one else--the
combination of all this so overmastered my poor father (who indeed
had been sufficiently mastered before he had been five minutes in
George's company) that he resigned himself as gratefully to being a
basket, as George had cheerfully undertaken the task of carrying
In passing I may say that George could never get his own boots back
again, though he tried more than once to do so. My father always
made some excuse. They were the only memento of George that he
brought home with him; I wonder that he did not ask for a lock of
his hair, but he did not. He had the boots put against a wall in
his bedroom, where he could see them from his bed, and during his
illness, while consciousness yet remained with him, I saw his eyes
continually turn towards them. George, in fact, dominated him as
long as anything in this world could do so. Nor do I wonder; on
the contrary, I love his memory the better; for I too, as will
appear later, have seen George, and whatever little jealousy I may
have felt, vanished on my finding him almost instantaneously gain
the same ascendancy over me his brother, that he had gained over
his and my father. But of this no more at present. Let me return
to the gaol in Sunch'ston.
"Tell me more," said George, "about the Professors."