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0100_005E 6. The Encounter At Stonehenge H. G. [Herbert George] Wells

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"How many people are there in the world?" she asked abruptly.

"I don't know. Twelve hundred, fifteen hundred millions perhaps."

"And in your world?"

"I'd have two hundred and fifty millions, let us say. At most. It would be quite enough for this little planet, for a time, at any rate. Don't you think so, doctor?"

"I don't know," said Dr. Martineau. "Oddly enough, I have never thought about that question before. At least, not from this angle."

"But could you pick out two hundred and fifty million aristocrats?" began Miss Grammont. "My native instinctive democracy--"

"Need not be outraged," said Sir Richmond. "Any two hundred and fifty million would do, They'd be able to develop fully, all of them. As things are, only a minority can do that. The rest never get a chance."

"That's what I always say," said Miss Seyffert.

"A New Age," said Dr. Martineau; "a New World. We may be coming to such a stage, when population, as much as fuel, will be under a world control. If one thing, why not the other? I admit that the movement of thought is away from haphazard towards control--"

"I'm for control all the time," Miss Seyffert injected, following up her previous success.

"I admit", the doctor began his broken sentence again with marked patience, "that the movement of thought is away from haphazard towards control--in things generally. But is the movement of events?"

"The eternal problem of man," said Sir Richmond. "Can our wills prevail?"

There came a little pause.

Miss Grammont smiled an enquiry at Miss Seyffert. "If YOU are," said Belinda.

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"I wish I could imagine your world," said Miss Grammont, rising, "of two hundred and fifty millions of fully developed human beings with room to live and breathe in and no need for wars. Will they live in palaces? Will they all be healthy? . . . Machines will wait on them. No! I can't imagine it. Perhaps I shall dream of it. My dreaming self may be cleverer."

She held out her hand to Sir Richmond. Just for a moment they stood hand in hand, appreciatively. . . .

"Well!" said Dr. Martineau, as the door closed behind the two Americans, "This is a curious encounter."

"That young woman has brains," said Sir Richmond, standing before the fireplace. There was no doubt whatever which young woman he meant. But Dr. Martineau grunted.

"I don't like the American type," the doctor pronounced judicially.

"I do," Sir Richmond countered.

The doctor thought for a moment or so. "You are committed to the project of visiting Avebury?" he said.

"They ought to see Avebury, " said Sir Richmond.

"H'm," said the doctor, ostentatiously amused by his thoughts and staring at the fire. "Birth Control! I NEVER did."

Sir Richmond smiled down on the top of the doctor's head and said nothing.

"I think" said the doctor and paused. "I shall leave this Avebury expedition to you."

"We can be back in the early afternoon," said Sir Richmond. "To give them a chance of seeing the cathedral. The chapter house here is not one to miss . . . . "

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The Secret Places of the Heart
H. G. [Herbert George] Wells

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