Mr. Wimbush had taken them to see the sights of the Home Farm,
and now they were standing, all six of them--Henry Wimbush, Mr.
Scogan, Denis, Gombauld, Anne, and Mary--by the low wall of the
piggery, looking into one of the styes.
"This is a good sow," said Henry Wimbush. "She had a litter of
"Fourteen?" Mary echoed incredulously. She turned astonished
blue eyes towards Mr. Wimbush, then let them fall onto the
seething mass of elan vital that fermented in the sty.
An immense sow reposed on her side in the middle of the pen. Her
round, black belly, fringed with a double line of dugs, presented
itself to the assault of an army of small, brownish-black swine.
With a frantic greed they tugged at their mother's flank. The
old sow stirred sometimes uneasily or uttered a little grunt of
pain. One small pig, the runt, the weakling of the litter, had
been unable to secure a place at the banquet. Squealing shrilly,
he ran backwards and forwards, trying to push in among his
stronger brothers or even to climb over their tight little black
backs towards the maternal reservoir.
"There ARE fourteen," said Mary. "You're quite right. I
counted. It's extraordinary."
"The sow next door," Mr. Wimbush went on, "has done very badly.
She only had five in her litter. I shall give her another
chance. If she does no better next time, I shall fat her up and
kill her. There's the boar," he pointed towards a farther sty.
"Fine old beast, isn't he? But he's getting past his prime.
He'll have to go too."
"How cruel!" Anne exclaimed.
"But how practical, how eminently realistic!" said Mr. Scogan.
"In this farm we have a model of sound paternal government. Make
them breed, make them work, and when they're past working or
breeding or begetting, slaughter them."
"Farming seems to be mostly indecency and cruelty," said Anne.
With the ferrule of his walking-stick Denis began to scratch the
boar's long bristly back. The animal moved a little so as to
bring himself within easier range of the instrument that evoked
in him such delicious sensations; then he stood stock still,
softly grunting his contentment. The mud of years flaked off his
sides in a grey powdery scurf.
"What a pleasure it is," said Denis, "to do somebody a kindness.
I believe I enjoy scratching this pig quite as much as he enjoys
being scratched. If only one could always be kind with so little
expense or trouble..."
A gate slammed; there was a sound of heavy footsteps.
"Morning, Rowley!" said Henry Wimbush.
"Morning, sir," old Rowley answered. He was the most venerable
of the labourers on the farm--a tall, solid man, still unbent,
with grey side-whiskers and a steep, dignified profile. Grave,
weighty in his manner, splendidly respectable, Rowley had the air
of a great English statesman of the mid-nineteenth century. He
halted on the outskirts of the group, and for a moment they all
looked at the pigs in a silence that was only broken by the sound
of grunting or the squelch of a sharp hoof in the mire. Rowley
turned at last, slowly and ponderously and nobly, as he did
everything, and addressed himself to Henry Wimbush.
"Look at them, sir," he said, with a motion of his hand towards
the wallowing swine. "Rightly is they called pigs."
"Rightly indeed," Mr. Wimbush agreed.
"I am abashed by that man," said Mr. Scogan, as old Rowley
plodded off slowly and with dignity. "What wisdom, what
judgment, what a sense of values! 'Rightly are they called
swine.' Yes. And I wish I could, with as much justice, say,
'Rightly are we called men.'"
They walked on towards the cowsheds and the stables of the cart-
horses. Five white geese, taking the air this fine morning, even
as they were doing, met them in the way. They hesitated,
cackled; then, converting their lifted necks into rigid,
horizontal snakes, they rushed off in disorder, hissing horribly
as they went. Red calves paddled in the dung and mud of a
spacious yard. In another enclosure stood the bull, massive as a
locomotive. He was a very calm bull, and his face wore an
expression of melancholy stupidity. He gazed with reddish-brown
eyes at his visitors, chewed thoughtfully at the tangible
memories of an earlier meal, swallowed and regurgitated, chewed
again. His tail lashed savagely from side to side; it seemed to
have nothing to do with his impassive bulk. Between his short
horns was a triangle of red curls, short and dense.
"Splendid animal," said Henry Wimbush. "Pedigree stock. But
he's getting a little old, like the boar."
"Fat him up and slaughter him," Mr. Scogan pronounced, with a
delicate old-maidish precision of utterance.
"Couldn't you give the animals a little holiday from producing
children?" asked Anne. "I'm so sorry for the poor things."
Mr. Wimbush shook his head. "Personally," he said, "I rather
like seeing fourteen pigs grow where only one grew before. The
spectacle of so much crude life is refreshing."
"I'm glad to hear you say so," Gombauld broke in warmly. "Lots
of life: that's what we want. I like pullulation; everything
ought to increase and multiply as hard as it can."
Gombauld grew lyrical. Everybody ought to have children--Anne
ought to have them, Mary ought to have them--dozens and dozens.
He emphasised his point by thumping with his walking-stick on the
bull's leather flanks. Mr. Scogan ought to pass on his
intelligence to little Scogans, and Denis to little Denises. The
bull turned his head to see what was happening, regarded the
drumming stick for several seconds, then turned back again
satisfied, it seemed, that nothing was happening. Sterility was
odious, unnatural, a sin against life. Life, life, and still
more life. The ribs of the placid bull resounded.
Standing with his back against the farmyard pump, a little apart,
Denis examined the group. Gombauld, passionate and vivacious,
was its centre. The others stood round, listening--Henry
Wimbush, calm and polite beneath his grey bowler; Mary, with
parted lips and eyes that shone with the indignation of a
convinced birth-controller. Anne looked on through half-shut
eyes, smiling; and beside her stood Mr. Scogan, bolt upright in
an attitude of metallic rigidity that contrasted strangely with
that fluid grace of hers which even in stillness suggested a soft
Gombauld ceased talking, and Mary, flushed and outraged, opened
her mouth to refute him. But she was too slow. Before she could
utter a word Mr. Scogan's fluty voice had pronounced the opening
phrases of a discourse. There was no hope of getting so much as
a word in edgeways; Mary had perforce to resign herself.
"Even your eloquence, my dear Gombauld," he was saying--"even
your eloquence must prove inadequate to reconvert the world to a
belief in the delights of mere multiplication. With the
gramophone, the cinema, and the automatic pistol, the goddess of
Applied Science has presented the world with another gift, more
precious even than these--the means of dissociating love from
propagation. Eros, for those who wish it, is now an entirely
free god; his deplorable associations with Lucina may be broken
at will. In the course of the next few centuries, who knows? the
world may see a more complete severance. I look forward to it
optimistically. Where the great Erasmus Darwin and Miss Anna
Seward, Swan of Lichfield, experimented--and, for all their
scientific ardour, failed--our descendants will experiment and
succeed. An impersonal generation will take the place of
Nature's hideous system. In vast state incubators, rows upon
rows of gravid bottles will supply the world with the population
it requires. The family system will disappear; society, sapped
at its very base, will have to find new foundations; and Eros,
beautifully and irresponsibly free, will flit like a gay
butterfly from flower to flower through a sunlit world."
"It sounds lovely," said Anne.
"The distant future always does."
Mary's china blue eyes, more serious and more astonished than
ever, were fixed on Mr. Scogan. "Bottles?" she said. "Do you
really think so? Bottles..."
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