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The Ending Of War H. G. [Herbert George] Wells

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And then, since the American pressed his idea, the king contrived to shift the talk from the question of celebrating the epoch they were making to the question of the probabilities that lay ahead. Here every one became diffident. They could see the world unified and at peace, but what detail was to follow from that unification they seemed indisposed to discuss. This diffidence struck the king as remarkable. He plunged upon the possibilities of science. All the huge expenditure that had hitherto gone into unproductive naval and military preparations, must now, he declared, place research upon a new footing. 'Where one man worked we will have a thousand.' He appealed to Holsten. 'We have only begun to peep into these possibilities,' he said. 'You at any rate have sounded the vaults of the treasure house.'

'They are unfathomable,' smiled Holsten.

'Man,' said the American, with a manifest resolve to justify and reinstate himself after the flickering contradictions of the king, 'Man, I say, is only beginning to enter upon his heritage.'

'Tell us some of the things you believe we shall presently learn, give us an idea of the things we may presently do,' said the king to Holsten.

Holsten opened out the vistas....

'Science,' the king cried presently, 'is the new king of the world.'

'OUR view,' said the president, 'is that sovereignty resides with the people.'

'No!' said the king, 'the sovereign is a being more subtle than that. And less arithmetical. Neither my family nor your emancipated people. It is something that floats about us, and above us, and through us. It is that common impersonal will and sense of necessity of which Science is the best understood and most typical aspect. It is the mind of the race. It is that which has brought us here, which has bowed us all to its demands....'

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He paused and glanced down the table at Leblanc, and then re-opened at his former antagonist.

'There is a disposition,' said the king, 'to regard this gathering as if it were actually doing what it appears to be doing, as if we ninety-odd men of our own free will and wisdom were unifying the world. There is a temptation to consider ourselves exceptionally fine fellows, and masterful men, and all the rest of it. We are not. I doubt if we should average out as anything abler than any other casually selected body of ninety-odd men. We are no creators, we are consequences, we are salvagers--or salvagees. The thing to-day is not ourselves but the wind of conviction that has blown us hither....'

The American had to confess he could hardly agree with the king's estimate of their average.

'Holster, perhaps, and one or two others, might lift us a little,' the king conceded. 'But the rest of us?'

His eyes flitted once more towards Leblanc.

'Look at Leblanc,' he said. 'He's just a simple soul. There are hundreds and thousands like him. I admit, a certain dexterity, a certain lucidity, but there is not a country town in France where there is not a Leblanc or so to be found about two o'clock in its principal cafe. It's just that he isn't complicated or Super-Mannish, or any of those things that has made all he has done possible. But in happier times, don't you think, Wilhelm, he would have remained just what his father was, a successful epicier, very clean, very accurate, very honest. And on holidays he would have gone out with Madame Leblanc and her knitting in a punt with a jar of something gentle and have sat under a large reasonable green-lined umbrella and fished very neatly and successfully for gudgeon....'

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The World Set Free
H. G. [Herbert George] Wells

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