Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 4

REDWOOD'S TWO DAYS.


I.

So soon as Caterham knew the moment for grasping his nettle had come, he
took the law into his own hands and sent to arrest Cossar and Redwood.

Redwood was there for the taking. He had been undergoing an operation in
the side, and the doctors had kept all disturbing things from him until
his convalescence was assured. Now they had released him. He was just
out of bed, sitting in a fire-warmed room, with a heap of newspapers
about him, reading for the first time of the agitation that had swept
the country into the hands of Caterham, and of the trouble that was
darkening over the Princess and his son. It was in the morning of the
day when young Caddies died, and when the policeman tried to stop young
Redwood on his way to the Princess. The latest newspapers Redwood had
did but vaguely prefigure these imminent things. He was re-reading these
first adumbrations of disaster with a sinking heart, reading the shadow
of death more and more perceptibly into them, reading to occupy his mind
until further news should come. When the officers followed the servant
into his room, he looked up eagerly.

"I thought it was an early evening paper," he said. Then standing up,
and with a swift change of manner: "What's this?"

After that Redwood had no news of anything for two days.

They had come with a vehicle to take him away, but when it became
evident that he was ill, it was decided to leave him for a day or so
until he could be safely removed, and his house was taken over by the
police and converted into a temporary prison. It was the same house in
winch Giant Redwood had been born and in which Herakleophorbia had for
the first time been given to a human being, and Redwood had now been a
widower and had lived alone in it eight years.

He had become an iron-grey man, with a little pointed grey beard and
still active brown eyes. He was slender and soft-voiced, as he had ever
been, but his features had now that indefinable quality that comes of
brooding over mighty things. To the arresting officer his appearance was
in impressive contrast to the enormity of his offences. "Here's this
feller," said the officer in command, to his next subordinate, "has done
his level best to bust up everything, and 'e's got a face like a quiet
country gentleman; and here's Judge Hangbrow keepin' everything nice and
in order for every one, and 'e's got a 'ead like a 'og. Then their
manners! One all consideration and the other snort and grunt. Which just
shows you, doesn't it, that appearances aren't to be gone upon, whatever
else you do."

But his praise of Redwood's consideration was presently dashed. The
officers found him troublesome at first until they had made it clear
that it was useless for him to ask questions or beg for papers. They
made a sort of inspection of his study indeed, and cleared away even
the papers he had. Redwood's voice was high and expostulatory. "But
don't you see," he said over and over again, it's my Son, my only Son,
that is in this trouble. It isn't the Food I care for, but my Son."

"I wish indeed I could tell you, Sir," said the officer. "But our orders
are strict."

"Who gave the orders?" cried Redwood.

"Ah! _that_, Sir---" said the officer, and moved towards the door....

"'E's going up and down 'is room," said the second officer, when his
superior came down. "That's all right. He'll walk it off a bit."

"I hope 'e will," said the chief officer. "The fact is I didn't see it
in that light before, but this here Giant what's been going on with the
Princess, you know, is this man's son."

The two regarded one another and the third policeman for a space.

"Then it is a bit rough on him," the third policeman said.

It became evident that Redwood had still imperfectly apprehended the
fact that an iron curtain had dropped between him and the outer world.
They heard him go to the door, try the handle and rattle the lock, and
then the voice of the officer who was stationed on the landing telling
him it was no good to do that. Then afterwards they heard him at the
windows and saw the men outside looking up. "It's no good that way,"
said the second officer. Then Redwood began upon the bell. The senior
officer went up and explained very patiently that it could do no good to
ring the bell like that, and if it was rung for nothing now it might
have to be disregarded presently when he had need of something. "Any
reasonable attendance, Sir," the officer said. "But if you ring it just
by way of protest we shall be obliged, Sir, to disconnect."

The last word the officer heard was Redwood's high-pitched, "But at
least you might tell me if my Son--"


II.

After that Redwood spent, most of his time at the windows.

But the windows offered him little of the march of events outside. It
was a quiet street at all times, and that day it was unusually quiet:
scarcely a cab, scarcely a tradesman's cart passed all that morning. Now
and then men went by--without any distinctive air of events--now and
then a little group of children, a nursemaid and a woman going shopping,
and so forth. They came on to the stage right or left, up or down the
street, with an exasperating suggestion of indifference to any concerns
more spacious than their own; they would discover the police-guarded
house with amazement and exit in the opposite direction, where the great
trusses of a giant hydrangea hung across the pavement, staring back or
pointing. Now and then a man would come and ask one of the policemen a
question and get a curt reply ...

Opposite the houses seemed dead. A housemaid appeared once at a bedroom
window and stared for a space, and it occurred to Redwood to signal to
her. For a time she watched his gestures as if with interest and made a
vague response to them, then looked over her shoulder suddenly and
turned and went away. An old man hobbled out of Number 37 and came down
the steps and went off to the right, altogether without looking up. For
ten minutes the only occupant of the road was a cat....

With such events that interminable momentous morning lengthened out.

About twelve there came a bawling of newsvendors from the adjacent road;
but it passed. Contrary to their wont they left Redwood's street alone,
and a suspicion dawned upon him that the police were guarding the end of
the street. He tried to open the window, but this brought a policeman
into the room forthwith....

The clock of the parish church struck twelve, and after an abyss of
time--one.

They mocked him with lunch.

He ate a mouthful and tumbled the food about a little in order to get it
taken away, drank freely of whisky, and then took a chair and went back
to the window. The minutes expanded into grey immensities, and for a
time perhaps he slept....

He woke with a vague impression of remote concussions. He perceived a
rattling of the windows like the quiver of an earthquake, that lasted
for a minute or so and died away. Then after a silence it returned....
Then it died away again. He fancied it might be merely the passage of
some heavy vehicle along the main road. What else could it be?

After a time he began to doubt whether he had heard this sound.

He began to reason interminably with himself. Why, after all, was he
seized? Caterham had been in office two days--just long enough--to grasp
his Nettle! Grasp his Nettle! Grasp his Giant Nettle! The refrain once
started, sang through his mind, and would not be dismissed.

What, after all, could Caterham do? He was a religious man. He was
bound in a sort of way by that not to do violence without a cause.

Grasp his Nettle I Perhaps, for example, the Princess was to be seized
and sent abroad. There might be trouble with his son. In which case--!
But why had he been arrested? Why was it necessary to keep him in
ignorance of a thing like that? The thing suggested--something more
extensive.

Perhaps, for example--they meant to lay all the giants by the heels I
They were all to be arrested together. There had been hints of that In
the election speeches. And then?

No doubt they had got Cossar also?

Caterham was a religious man. Redwood clung to that. The back of his
mind was a black curtain, and on that curtain there came and went a
word--a word written in letters of fixe. He struggled perpetually
against that word. It was always as it were beginning to get written on
the curtain and never getting completed.

He faced it at last. "Massacre!" There was the word in its full
brutality.

No! No! No! It was impossible! Caterham was a religious man, a civilised
man. And besides after all these years, after all these hopes!

Redwood sprang up; he paced the room. He spoke to himself; he shouted.

"_No!_"

Mankind was surely not so mad as that--surely not! It was impossible, it
was incredible, it could not be. What good would it do to kill the giant
human when the gigantic in all the lower things had now inevitably come?
They could not be so mad as that! "I must dismiss such an idea," he
said aloud; "dismiss such an idea! Absolutely!"

He pulled up short. What was that?

Certainly the windows had rattled. He went to look out into the street.
Opposite he saw the instant confirmation of his ears. At a bedroom at
Number 35 was a woman, towel in hand, and at the dining-room of Number
37 a man was visible behind a great vase of hypertrophied maidenhair
fern, both staring out and up, both disquieted and curious. He could see
now too, quite clearly, that the policeman on the pavement had heard it
also. The thing was not his imagination.

He turned to the darkling room.

"Guns," he said.

He brooded.

"Guns?"

They brought him in strong tea, such as he was accustomed to have. It
was evident his housekeeper had been taken into consultation. After
drinking it, he was too restless to sit any longer at the window, and he
paced the room. His mind became more capable of consecutive thought.

The room had been his study for four-and-twenty years. It had been
furnished at his marriage, and all the essential equipment dated from
then, the large complex writing-desk, the rotating chair, the easy chair
at the fire, the rotating bookcase, the fixture of indexed pigeon-holes
that filled the further recess. The vivid Turkey carpet, the later
Victorian rugs and curtains had mellowed now to a rich dignity of
effect, and copper and brass shone warm about the open fire. Electric
lights had replaced the lamp of former days; that was the chief
alteration in the original equipment. But among these things his
connection with the Food had left abundant traces. Along one wall, above
the dado, ran a crowded array of black-framed photographs and
photogravures, showing his son and Cossar's sons and others of the
Boom-children at various ages and amidst various surroundings. Even
young Caddles' vacant visage had its place in that collection. In the
corner stood a sheaf of the tassels of gigantic meadow grass from
Cheasing Eyebright, and on the desk there lay three empty poppy heads as
big as hats. The curtain rods were grass stems. And the tremendous skull
of the great hog of Oakham hung, a portentous ivory overmantel, with a
Chinese jar in either eye socket, snout down above the fire....

It was to the photographs that Redwood went, and in particular to the
photographs of his son.

They brought back countless memories of things that had passed out of
his mind, of the early days of the Food, of Bensington's timid presence,
of his cousin Jane, of Cossar and the night work at the Experimental
Farm. These things came to him now very little and bright and distinct,
like things seen through a telescope on a sunny day. And then there was
the giant nursery, the giant childhood, the young giant's first efforts
to speak, his first clear signs of affection.

Guns?

It flowed in on him, irresistibly, overwhelmingly, that outside there,
outside this accursed silence and mystery, his son and Cossar's sons,
and all these glorious first-fruits of a greater age were even
now--fighting. Fighting for life! Even now his son might be in some
dismal quandary, cornered, wounded, overcome....

He swung away from the pictures and went up and down the room
gesticulating. "It cannot be," he cried, "it cannot be. It cannot end
like that!"

"What was that?"

He stopped, stricken rigid.

The trembling of the windows had begun again, and then had come a
thud--a vast concussion that shook the house. The concussion seemed to
last for an age. It must have been very near. For a moment it seemed
that something had struck the house above him--an enormous impact that
broke into a tinkle of falling glass, and then a stillness that ended at
last with a minute clear sound of running feet in the street below.

Those feet released him from his rigor. He turned towards the window,
and saw it starred and broken.

His heart beat high with a sense of crisis, of conclusive occurrence, of
release. And then again, his realisation of impotent confinement fell
about him like a curtain!

He could see nothing outside except that the small electric lamp
opposite was not lighted; he could hear nothing after the first
suggestion of a wide alarm. He could add nothing to interpret or enlarge
that mystery except that presently there came a reddish fluctuating
brightness in the sky towards the south-east.

This light waxed and waned. When it waned he doubted if it had ever
waxed. It had crept upon him very gradually with the darkling. It became
the predominant fact in his long night of suspense. Sometimes it seemed
to him it had the quiver one associates with dancing flames, at others
he fancied it was no more than the normal reflection of the evening
lights. It waxed and waned through the long hours, and only vanished at
last when it was submerged altogether under the rising tide of dawn. Did
it mean--? What could it mean? Almost certainly it was some sort of
fire, near or remote, but he could not even tell whether it was smoke or
cloud drift that streamed across the sky. But about one o'clock there
began a flickering of searchlights athwart that ruddy tumult, a
nickering that continued for the rest of the night. That too might mean
many things? What could it mean? What did it mean? Just this stained
unrestful sky he had and the suggestion of a huge explosion to occupy
his mind. There came no further sounds, no further running, nothing but
a shouting that might have been only the distant efforts of drunken
men...

He did not turn up his lights; he stood at his draughty broken window, a
distressful, slight black outline to the officer who looked ever and
again into the room and exhorted him to rest.

All night Redwood remained at his window peering up at the ambiguous
drift of the sky, and only with the coming of the dawn did he obey his
fatigue and lie down upon the little bed they had prepared for him
between his writing-desk and the sinking fire in the fireplace under the
great hog's skull.


III.

For thirty-six long hours did Redwood remain imprisoned, closed in and
shut off from the great drama of the Two Days, while the little people
in the dawn of greatness fought against the Children of the Food. Then
abruptly the iron curtain rose again, and he found himself near the very
centre of the struggle. That curtain rose as unexpectedly as it fell. In
the late afternoon he was called to the window by the clatter of a cab,
that stopped without. A young man descended, and in another minute stood
before him in the room, a slightly built young man of thirty perhaps,
clean shaven, well dressed, well mannered.

"Mr. Redwood, Sir," he began, "would you be willing to come to Mr.
Caterham? He needs your presence very urgently."

"Needs my presence!" There leapt a question into Redwood's mind, that
for a moment he could not put. He hesitated. Then in a voice that broke
he asked: "What has he done to my Son?" and stood breathless for the
reply.

"Your Son, Sir? Your Son is doing well. So at least we gather."

"Doing well?"

"He was wounded, Sir, yesterday. Have you not heard?"

Redwood smote these pretences aside. His voice was no longer coloured by
fear, but by anger. "You know I have not heard. You know I have heard
nothing."

"Mr. Caterham feared, Sir--It was a time of upheaval. Every one--taken
by surprise. He arrested you to save you, Sir, from any misadventure--"

"He arrested me to prevent my giving any warning or advice to my son. Go
on. Tell me what has happened. Have you succeeded? Have you killed them
all?"

The young man made a pace or so towards the window, and turned.

"No, Sir," he said concisely.

"What have you to tell me?"

"It's our proof, Sir, that this fighting was not planned by us. They
found us ... totally unprepared." "You mean?"

"I mean, Sir, the Giants have--to a certain extent--held their own."

The world changed, for Redwood. For a moment something like hysteria had
the muscles of his face and throat. Then he gave vent to a profound
"Ah!" His heart bounded towards exultation. "The Giants have held their
own!"

"There has been terrible fighting--terrible destruction. It is all a
most hideous misunderstanding ... In the north and midlands Giants have
been killed ... Everywhere."

"They are fighting now?"

"No, Sir. There was a flag of truce."

"From them?"

"No, Sir. Mr. Caterham sent a flag of truce. The whole thing is a
hideous misunderstanding. That is why he wants to talk to you, and put
his case before you. They insist, Sir, that you should intervene--"

Redwood interrupted. "Do you know what happened to my Son?" he asked.

"He was wounded."

"Tell me! Tell me!"

"He and the Princess came--before the--the movement to surround the
Cossar camp was complete--the Cossar pit at Chislehurst. They came
suddenly, Sir, crashing through a dense thicket of giant oats, near
River, upon a column of infantry ... Soldiers had been very nervous all
day, and this produced a panic."

"They shot him?"

"No, Sir. They ran away. Some shot at him--wildly--against orders."

Redwood gave a note of denial. "It's true, Sir. Not on account of your
son, I won't pretend, but on account of the Princess."

"Yes. That's true."

"The two Giants ran shouting towards the encampment. The soldiers ran
this way and that, and then some began firing. They say they saw him
stagger--"

"Ugh!"

"Yes, Sir. But we know he is not badly hurt."

"How?"

"He sent the message, Sir, that he was doing well!"

"To me?"

"Who else, Sir?"

Redwood stood for nearly a minute with his arms tightly folded, taking
this in. Then his indignation found a voice.

"Because you were fools in doing the thing, because you miscalculated
and blundered, you would like me to think you are not murderers in
intention. And besides--The rest?"

The young man looked interrogation.

"The other Giants?"

The young man made no further pretence of misunderstanding. His tone
fell. "Thirteen, Sir, are dead."

"And others wounded?"

"Yes, Sir."

"And Caterham," he gasped, "wants to meet me! Where are the others?"

"Some got to the encampment during the fighting, Sir ... They seem to
have known--"

"Well, of course they did. If it hadn't been for Cossar--Cossar is
there?"

"Yes, Sir. And all the surviving Giants are there--the ones who didn't
get to the camp in the fighting have gone, or are going now under the
flag of trace."

"That means," said Redwood, "that you are beaten."

"We are not beaten. No, Sir. You cannot say we are beaten. But your sons
have broken the rules of war. Once last night, and now again. After our
attack had been withdrawn. This afternoon they began to bombard
London--"

"That's legitimate!"

"They have been firing shells filled with--poison."

"Poison?"

"Yes. Poison. The Food--"

"Herakleophorbia?"

"Yes, Sir. Mr. Caterham, Sir--"

"You are beaten! Of course that beats you. It's Cossar I What can you
hope to do now? What good is it to do anything now? You will breathe it
in the dust of every street. What is there to fight for more? Rules of
war, indeed! And now Caterham wants to humbug me to help him bargain.
Good heavens, man! Why should I come to your exploded windbag? He has
played his game ... murdered and muddled. Why should I?"

The young man stood with an air of vigilant respect.

"It is a fact, Sir," he interrupted, "that the Giants insist that they
shall see you. They will have no ambassador but you. Unless you come to
them, I am afraid, Sir, there will be more bloodshed."

"On _your_ side, perhaps."

"No, Sir--on both sides. The world is resolved the thing must end."

Redwood looked about the study. His eyes rested for a moment on the
photograph of his boy. He turned and met the expectation of the young
man. "Yes," he said at last, "I will come."


IV.

His encounter with Caterham was entirely different from his
anticipation. He had seen the man only twice in his life, once at dinner
and once in the lobby of the House, and his imagination had been active
not with the man but with the creation of the newspapers and
caricaturists, the legendary Caterham, Jack the Giant-killer, Perseus,
and all the rest of it. The element of a human personality came in to
disorder all that.

Here was not the face of the caricatures and portraits, but the face of
a worn and sleepless man, lined and drawn, yellow in the whites of the
eyes, a little weakened about the mouth. Here, indeed, were the
red-brown eyes, the black hair, the distinctive aquiline profile of the
great demagogue, but here was also something else that smote any
premeditated scorn and rhetoric aside. This man was suffering; he was
suffering acutely; he was under enormous stress. From the beginning he
had an air of impersonating himself. Presently, with a single gesture,
the slightest movement, he revealed to Redwood that he was keeping
himself up with drags. He moved a thumb to his waistcoat pocket, and
then, after a few sentences more, threw concealment aside, and slipped
the little tabloid to his lips.

Moreover, in spite of the stresses upon him, in spite of the fact that
he was in the wrong, and Redwood's junior by a dozen years, that strange
quality in him, the something--personal magnetism one may call it for
want of a better name--that had won his way for him to this eminence of
disaster was with him still. On that also Redwood had failed to reckon.
From the first, so far as the course and conduct of their speech went,
Caterham prevailed over Redwood. All the quality of the first phase of
their meeting was determined by him, all the tone and procedure were
his. That happened as if it was a matter of course. All Redwood's
expectations vanished at his presence. He shook hands before Redwood
remembered that he meant to parry that familiarity; he pitched the note
of their conference from the outset, sure and clear, as a search for
expedients under a common catastrophe.

If he made any mistake it was when ever and again his fatigue got the
better of his immediate attention, and the habit of the public meeting
carried him away. Then he drew himself up--through all their interview
both men stood--and looked away from Redwood, and began to fence and
justify. Once even he said "Gentlemen!"

Quietly, expandingly, he began to talk....

There were moments when Redwood ceased even to feel himself an
interlocutor, when he became the mere auditor of a monologue. He became
the privileged spectator of an extraordinary phenomenon. He perceived
something almost like a specific difference between himself and this
being whose beautiful voice enveloped him, who was talking, talking.
This mind before him was so powerful and so limited. From its driving
energy, its personal weight, its invincible oblivion to certain things,
there sprang up in Redwood's mind the most grotesque and strange of
images. Instead of an antagonist who was a fellow-creature, a man one
could hold morally responsible, and to whom one could address
reasonable appeals, he saw Caterham as something, something like a
monstrous rhinoceros, as it were, a civilised rhinoceros begotten of the
jungle of democratic affairs, a monster of irresistible onset and
invincible resistance. In all the crashing conflicts of that tangle he
was supreme. And beyond? This man was a being supremely adapted to make
his way through multitudes of men. For him there was no fault so
important as self-contradiction, no science so significant as the
reconciliation of "interests." Economic realities, topographical
necessities, the barely touched mines of scientific expedients, existed
for him no more than railways or rifled guns or geographical literature
exist for his animal prototype. What did exist were gatherings, and
caucuses, and votes--above all, votes. He was votes incarnate--millions
of votes.

And now in the great crisis, with the Giants broken but not beaten, this
vote-monster talked.

It was so evident that even now he had everything to learn. He did not
know there were physical laws and economic laws, quantities and
reactions that all humanity voting _nemine contradicente_ cannot vote
away, and that are disobeyed only at the price of destruction. He did
not know there are moral laws that cannot be bent by any force of
glamour, or are bent only to fly back with vindictive violence. In the
face of shrapnel or the Judgment Day, it was evident to Redwood that
this man would have sheltered behind some curiously dodged vote of the
House of Commons.

What most concerned his mind now was not the powers that held the
fastness away there to the south, not defeat and death, but the effect
of these things upon his Majority, the cardinal reality in his life. He
had to defeat the Giants or go under. He was by no means absolutely
despairful. In this hour of his utmost failure, with blood and disaster
upon his hands, and the rich promise of still more horrible disaster,
with the gigantic destinies of the world towering and toppling over him,
he was capable of a belief that by sheer exertion of his voice, by
explaining and qualifying and restating, he might yet reconstitute his
power. He was puzzled and distressed no doubt, fatigued and suffering,
but if only he could keep up, if only he could keep talking--

As he talked he seemed to Redwood to advance and recede, to dilate and
contract. Redwood's share of the talk was of the most subsidiary sort,
wedges as it were suddenly thrust in. "That's all nonsense." "No." "It's
no use suggesting that." "Then why did you begin?"

It is doubtful if Caterham really heard him at all. Round such
interpolations Caterham's speech flowed indeed like some swift stream
about a rock. There this incredible man stood, on his official
hearthrug, talking, talking with enormous power and skill, talking as
though a pause in his talk, his explanations, his presentation of
standpoints and lights, of considerations and expedients, would permit
some antagonistic influence to leap into being--into vocal being, the
only being he could comprehend. There he stood amidst the slightly faded
splendours of that official room in which one man after another had
succumbed to the belief that a certain power of intervention was the
creative control of an empire....

The more he talked the more certain Redwood's sense of stupendous
futility grew. Did this man realise that while he stood and talked
there, the whole great world was moving, that the invincible tide of
growth flowed and flowed, that there were any hours but parliamentary
hours, or any weapons in the hands of the Avengers of Blood? Outside,
darkling the whole room, a single leaf of giant Virginian creeper tapped
unheeded on the pane.

Redwood became anxious to end this amazing monologue, to escape to
sanity and judgment, to that beleaguered camp, the fastness of the
future, where, at the very nucleus of greatness, the Sons were gathered
together. For that this talking was endured. He had a curious impression
that unless this monologue ended he would presently find himself carried
away by it, that he must fight against Caterham's voice as one fights
against a drug. Facts had altered and were altering beneath that spell.

What was the man saying?

Since Redwood had to report it to the Children of the Food, in a sort of
way he perceived it did matter. He would have to listen and guard his
sense of realities as well as he could.

Much about bloodguiltiness. That was eloquence. That didn't matter.
Next?

He was suggesting a convention!

He was suggesting that the surviving Children of the Food should
capitulate and go apart and form a community of their own. There were
precedents, he said, for this. "We would assign them territory--"

"Where?" interjected Redwood, stooping to argue.

Caterham snatched at that concession. He turned his face to Redwood's,
and his voice fell to a persuasive reasonableness. That could be
determined. That, he contended, was a quite subsidiary question. Then he
went on to stipulate: "And except for them and where they are we must
have absolute control, the Food and all the Fruits of the Food must be
stamped out--"

Redwood found himself bargaining: "The Princess?"

"She stands apart."

"No," said Redwood, struggling to get back to the old footing. "That's
absurd."

"That afterwards. At any rate we are agreed that the making of the Food
must stop--"

"I have agreed to nothing. I have said nothing--"

"But on one planet, to have two races of men, one great, one small!
Consider what has happened! Consider that is but a little foretaste of
what might presently happen if this Food has its way! Consider all you
have already brought upon this world! If there is to be a race of
Giants, increasing and multiplying--"

"It is not for me to argue," said Redwood. "I must go to our sons. I
want to go to my son. That is why I have come to you. Tell me exactly
what you offer."

Caterham made a speech upon his terms.

The Children of the Food were to be given a great reservation--in North
America perhaps or Africa--in which they might live out their lives in
their own fashion.

"But it's nonsense," said Redwood. "There are other Giants now abroad.
All over Europe--here and there!"

"There could be an international convention. It's _not_ impossible.
Something of the sort indeed has already been spoken of ... But in this
reservation they can live out their own lives in their own way. They may
do what they like; they may make what they like. We shall be glad if
they will make us things. They may be happy. Think!"

"Provided there are no more Children." "Precisely. The Children are for
us. And so, Sir, we shall save the world, we shall save it absolutely
from the fruits of your terrible discovery. It is not too late for us.
Only we are eager to temper expediency with mercy. Even now we are
burning and searing the places their shells hit yesterday. We can get it
under. Trust me we shall get it under. But in that way, without cruelty,
without injustice--"

"And suppose the Children do not agree?"

For the first time Caterham looked Redwood fully in the face.

"They must!"

"I don't think they will."

"Why should they not agree?" he asked, in richly toned amazement.

"Suppose they don't?"

"What can it be but war? We cannot have the thing go on. We cannot. Sir.
Have you scientific men _no_ imagination? Have you no mercy? We cannot
have our world trampled under a growing herd of such monsters and
monstrous growths as your Food has made. We cannot and we cannot! I ask
you, Sir, what can it be but war? And remember--this that has happened
is only a beginning I _This_ was a skirmish. A mere affair of police.
Believe me, a mere affair of police. Do not be cheated by perspective,
by the immediate bigness of these newer things. Behind us is the
nation--is humanity. Behind the thousands who have died there are
millions. Were it not for the fear of bloodshed, Sir, behind our first
attacks there would be forming other attacks, even now. Whether we can
kill this Food or not, most assuredly we can kill your sons! You reckon
too much on the things of yesterday, on the happenings of a mere score
of years, on one battle. You have no sense of the slow course of
history. I offer this convention for the sake of lives, not because it
can change the inevitable end. If you think that your poor two dozen of
Giants can resist all the forces of our people and of all the alien
peoples who will come to our aid; if you think you can change Humanity
at a blow, in a single generation, and alter the nature and stature of
Man--"

He flung out an arm. "Go to them now, Sir. I see them, for all the evil
they have done, crouching among their wounded--"

He stopped, as though he had glanced at Redwood's son by chance. There
came a pause. "Go to them," he said. "That is what I want to do." "Then
go now...."

He turned and pressed the button of a bell; without, in immediate
response, came a sound of opening doors and hastening feet.

The talk was at an end. The display was over. Abruptly Caterham seemed
to contract, to shrivel up into a yellow-faced, fagged-out,
middle-sized, middle-aged man. He stepped forward, as if he were
stepping out of a picture, and with a complete assumption of that,
friendliness that lies behind all the public conflicts of our race, he
held out his hand to Redwood.

As if it were a matter of course, Redwood shook hands with him for the
second time.

H.G. Wells

    Book I-The Dawn of Food

    Book II-The Food in the Village

    Book III-The Harvest of the Food

    Sorry, no summary available yet.