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Chapter 4

THE GIANT CHILDREN.


I.

For a time at least the spreading circle of residual consequences about
the Experimental Farm must pass out of the focus of our narrative--how
for a long time a power of bigness, in fungus and toadstool, in grass
and weed, radiated from that charred but not absolutely obliterated
centre. Nor can we tell here at any length how these mournful spinsters,
the two surviving hens, made a wonder of and a show, spent their
remaining years in eggless celebrity. The reader who is hungry for
fuller details in these matters is referred to the newspapers of the
period--to the voluminous, indiscriminate files of the modern Recording
Angel. Our business lies with Mr. Bensington at the focus of the
disturbance.

He had come back to London to find himself a quite terribly famous man.
In a night the whole world had changed with respect to him. Everybody
understood. Cousin Jane, it seemed, knew all about it; the people in the
streets knew all about it; the newspapers all and more. To meet Cousin
Jane was terrible, of course, but when it was over not so terrible after
all. The good woman had limits even to her power over facts; it was
clear that she had communed with herself and accepted the Food as
something in the nature of things.

She took the line of huffy dutifulness. She disapproved highly, it was
evident, but she did not prohibit. The flight of Bensington, as she must
have considered it, may have shaken her, and her worst was to treat him
with bitter persistence for a cold he had not caught and fatigue he had
long since forgotten, and to buy him a new sort of hygienic all-wool
combination underwear that was apt to get involved and turned partially
inside out and partially not, and as difficult to get into for an
absent-minded man, as--Society. And so for a space, and as far as this
convenience left him leisure, he still continued to participate in the
development of this new element in human history, the Food of the Gods.

The public mind, following its own mysterious laws of selection, had
chosen him as the one and only responsible Inventor and Promoter of this
new wonder; it would hear nothing of Redwood, and without a protest it
allowed Cossar to follow his natural impulse into a terribly prolific
obscurity. Before he was aware of the drift of these things, Mr.
Bensington was, so to speak, stark and dissected upon the hoardings. His
baldness, his curious general pinkness, and his golden spectacles had
become a national possession. Resolute young men with large
expensive-looking cameras and a general air of complete authorisation
took possession of the flat for brief but fruitful periods, let off
flash lights in it that filled it for days with dense, intolerable
vapour, and retired to fill the pages of the syndicated magazines with
their admirable photographs of Mr. Bensington complete and at home in
his second-best jacket and his slashed shoes. Other resolute-mannered
persons of various ages and sexes dropped in and told him things about
Boomfood--it was _Punch_ first called the stuff "Boomfood"--and
afterwards reproduced what they had said as his own original
contribution to the Interview. The thing became quite an obsession with
Broadbeam, the Popular Humourist. He scented another confounded thing he
could not understand, and he fretted dreadfully in his efforts to "laugh
the thing down." One saw him in clubs, a great clumsy presence with the
evidences of his midnight oil burning manifest upon his large
unwholesome face, explaining to every one he could buttonhole: "These
Scientific chaps, you know, haven't a Sense of Humour, you know. That's
what it is. This Science--kills it." His jests at Bensington became
malignant libels....

An enterprising press-cutting agency sent Bensington a long article
about himself from a sixpenny weekly, entitled "A New Terror," and
offered to supply one hundred such disturbances for a guinea, and two
extremely charming young ladies, totally unknown to him, called, and, to
the speechless indignation of Cousin Jane, had tea with him and
afterwards sent him their birthday books for his signature. He was
speedily quite hardened to seeing his name associated with the most
incongruous ideas in the public press, and to discover in the reviews
articles written about Boomfood and himself in a tone of the utmost
intimacy by people he had never heard of. And whatever delusions he may
have cherished in the days of his obscurity about the pleasantness of
Fame were dispelled utterly and for ever.

At first--except for Broadbeam--the tone of the public mind was quite
free from any touch of hostility. It did not seem to occur to the public
mind as anything but a mere playful supposition that any more
Herakleophorbia was going to escape again. And it did not seem to occur
to the public mind that the growing little band of babies now being fed
on the food would presently be growing more "up" than most of us ever
grow. The sort of thing that pleased the public mind was caricatures of
eminent politicians after a course of Boom-feeding, uses of the idea on
hoardings, and such edifying exhibitions as the dead wasps that had
escaped the fire and the remaining hens.

Beyond that the public did not care to look, until very strenuous
efforts were made to turn its eyes to the remoter consequences, and even
then for a while its enthusiasm for action was partial. "There's always
somethin' New," said the public--a public so glutted with novelty that
it would hear of the earth being split as one splits an apple without
surprise, and, "I wonder what they'll do next."

But there were one or two people outside the public, as it were, who did
already take that further glance, and some it seems were frightened by
what they saw there. There was young Caterham, for example, cousin of
the Earl of Pewterstone, and one of the most promising of English
politicians, who, taking the risk of being thought a faddist, wrote a
long article in the _Nineteenth Century and After_ to suggest its total
suppression. And--in certain of his moods, there was Bensington.

"They don't seem to realise--" he said to Cossar.

"No, they don't."

"And do we? Sometimes, when I think of what it means--This poor child of
Redwood's--And, of course, your three... Forty feet high, perhaps!
After all, _ought_ we to go on with it?"

"Go on with it!" cried Cossar, convulsed with inelegant astonishment and
pitching his note higher than ever. "Of _course_ you'll go on with it!
What d'you think you were made for? Just to loaf about between
meal-times?

"Serious consequences," he screamed, "of course! Enormous. Obviously.
Ob-viously. Why, man, it's the only chance you'll ever get of a serious
consequence! And you want to shirk it!" For a moment his indignation was
speechless, "It's downright Wicked!" he said at last, and repeated
explosively, "Wicked!"

But Bensington worked in his laboratory now with more emotion than zest.
He couldn't, tell whether he wanted serious consequences to his life or
not; he was a man of quiet tastes. It was a marvellous discovery, of
course, quite marvellous--but--He had already become the proprietor of
several acres of scorched, discredited property near Hickleybrow, at a
price of nearly 90 an acre, and at times he was disposed to think this
as serious a consequence of speculative chemistry as any unambitious
man, could wish. Of course he was Famous--terribly Famous. More than
satisfying, altogether more than satisfying, was the Fame he had
attained.

But the habit of Research was strong in him....

And at moments, rare moments in the laboratory chiefly, he would find
something else than habit and Cossar's arguments to urge him to his
work. This little spectacled man, poised perhaps with his slashed shoes
wrapped about the legs of his high stool and his hand upon the tweezer
of his balance weights, would have again a flash of that adolescent
vision, would have a momentary perception of the eternal unfolding of
the seed that had been sown in his brain, would see as it were in the
sky, behind the grotesque shapes and accidents of the present, the
coming world of giants and all the mighty things the future has in
store--vague and splendid, like some glittering palace seen suddenly in
the passing of a sunbeam far away.... And presently it would be with him
as though that distant splendour had never shone upon his brain, and he
would perceive nothing ahead but sinister shadows, vast declivities and
darknesses, inhospitable immensities, cold, wild, and terrible things.


II.

Amidst the complex and confused happenings, the impacts from the great
outer world that constituted Mr. Bensington's fame, a shining and active
figure presently became conspicuous--became almost, as it were, a leader
and marshal of these externalities in Mr. Bensington's eyes. This was
Dr. Winkles, that convincing young practitioner, who has already
appeared in this story as the means whereby Redwood was able to convey
the Food to his son. Even before the great outbreak, it was evident that
the mysterious powders Redwood had given him had awakened this
gentleman's interest immensely, and so soon as the first wasps came he
was putting two and two together.

He was the sort of doctor that is in manners, in morals, in methods and
appearance, most succinctly and finally expressed by the word "rising."
He was large and fair, with a hard, alert, superficial,
aluminium-coloured eye, and hair like chalk mud, even-featured and
muscular about the clean-shaven mouth, erect in figure and energetic in
movement, quick and spinning on the heel, and he wore long frock coats,
black silk ties and plain gold studs and chains and his silk hats had a
special shape and brim that made him look wiser and better than anybody.
He looked as young or old as anybody grown up. And after that first
wonderful outbreak he took to Bensington and Redwood and the Food of the
Gods with such a convincing air of proprietorship, that at times, in
spite of the testimony of the Press to the contrary, Bensington was
disposed to regard him as the original inventor of the whole affair.

"These accidents," said Winkles, when Bensington hinted at the dangers
of further escapes, "are nothing. Nothing. The discovery is everything.
Properly developed, suitably handled, sanely controlled, we have--we
have something very portentous indeed in this food of ours.... We must
keep our eye on it ... We mustn't let it out of control again, and--we
mustn't let it rest."

He certainly did not mean to do that. He was at Bensington's now almost
every day. Bensington, glancing from the window, would see the faultless
equipage come spanking up Sloane Street and after an incredibly brief
interval Winkles would enter the room with a light, strong motion, and
pervade it, and protrude some newspaper and supply information and make
remarks.

"Well," he would say, rubbing his hands, "how are we getting on?" and so
pass to the current discussion about it.

"Do you see," he would say, for example, "that Caterham has been talking
about our stuff at the Church Association?"

"Dear me!" said Bensington, "that's a cousin of the Prime Minister,
isn't it?"

"Yes," said Winkles, "a very able young man--very able. Quite
wrong-headed; you know, violently reactionary--but thoroughly able. And
he's evidently disposed to make capital out of this stuff of ours. Takes
a very emphatic line. Talks of our proposal to use it in the elementary
schools---"

"Our proposal to use it in the elementary schools!"

"_I_ said something about that the other day--quite in passing--little
affair at a Polytechnic. Trying to make it clear the stuff was really
highly beneficial. Not in the slightest degree dangerous, in spite of
those first little accidents. Which cannot possibly occur again.... You
know it _would_ be rather good stuff--But he's taken it up."

"What did you say?"

"Mere obvious nothings. But as you see---! Takes it up with perfect
gravity. Treats the thing as an attack. Says there is already a
sufficient waste of public money in elementary schools without this.
Tells the old stories about piano lessons again--_you_ know. No one; he
says, wishes to prevent the children of the lower classes obtaining an
education suited to their condition, but to give them a food of this
sort will be to destroy their sense of proportion utterly. Expands the
topic. What Good will it do, he asks, to make poor people six-and-thirty
feet high? He really believes, you know, that they _will_ be thirty-six
feet high."

"So they would _be_," said Bensington, "if you gave them our food at all
regularly. But nobody said anything---"

"_I_ said something." "But, my dear Winkles--!"

"They'll be Bigger, of course," interrupted Winkles, with an air of
knowing all about it, and discouraging the crude ideas of Bensington.
"Bigger indisputably. But listen to what he says! Will it make them
happier? That's his point. Curious, isn't it? Will it make them better?
Will they be more respectful to properly constituted authority? Is it
fair to the children themselves?? Curious how anxious his sort are for
justice--so far as any future arrangements go. Even nowadays, he says,
the cost, of feeding and clothing children is more than many of their
parents can contrive, and if this sort of thing is to be permitted--!
Eh?

"You see he makes my mere passing suggestion into a positive proposal.
And then he calculates how much a pair of breeches for a growing lad of
twenty feet high or so will cost. Just as though he really believed--Ten
pounds, he reckons, for the merest decency. Curious this Caterham! So
concrete! The honest, and struggling ratepayer will have to contribute
to that, he says. He says we have to consider the Rights of the Parent.
It's all here. Two columns. Every Parent has a right to have, his
children brought up in his own Size....

"Then comes the question of school accommodation, cost of enlarged desks
and forms for our already too greatly burthened National Schools. And to
get what?--a proletariat of hungry giants. Winds up with a very serious
passage, says even if this wild suggestion--mere passing fancy of mine,
you know, and misinterpreted at that--this wild suggestion about the
schools comes to nothing, that doesn't end the matter. This is a strange
food, so strange as to seem to him almost wicked. It has been scattered
recklessly--so he says--and it may be scattered again. Once you've taken
it, it's poison unless you go on with it. 'So it is,' said Bensington.
And in short he proposes the formation of a National Society for the
Preservation of the Proper Proportions of Things. Odd? Eh? People are
hanging on to the idea like anything."

"But what do they propose to do?"

Winkles shrugged his shoulders and threw out his hands. "Form a
Society," he said, "and fuss. They want to make it illegal to
manufacture this Herakleophorbia--or at any rate to circulate the
knowledge of it. I've written about a bit to show that Caterham's idea
of the stuff is very much exaggerated--very much exaggerated indeed, but
that doesn't seem to check it. Curious how people are turning against
it. And the National Temperance Association, by-the-bye, has founded a
branch for Temperance in Growth."

"Mm," said Bensington and stroked his nose.

"After all that has happened there's bound to be this uproar. On the
face of it the thing's--_startling_."

Winkles walked about the room for a time, hesitated, and departed.

It became evident there was something at the back of his mind, some
aspect of crucial importance to him, that he waited to display. One days
when Redwood and Bensington were at the flat together he gave them a
glimpse of this something in reserve.

"How's it all going?" he said; rubbing his hands together.

"We're getting together a sort of report."

"For the Royal Society?"

"Yes."

"Hm," said. Winkles, very profoundly, and walked to the hearth-rug.
"Hm. But--Here's the point. _Ought_ you?"

"Ought we--what?"

"Ought you to publish?"

"We're not in the Middle Ages," said Redwood.

"I know."

"As Cossar says, swapping wisdom--that's the true scientific method."

"In most cases, certainly. But--This is exceptional."

"We shall put the whole thing before the Royal Society in the proper
way," said Redwood.

Winkles returned to that on a later occasion.

"It's in many ways an Exceptional discovery."

"That doesn't matter," said Redwood.

"It's the sort of knowledge that could easily be subject to grave
abuse--grave dangers, as Caterham puts it."

Redwood said nothing.

"Even carelessness, you know--"

"If we were to form a committee of trustworthy people to control the
manufacture of Boomfood--Herakleophorbia, I _should_ say--we might--"

He paused, and Redwood, with a certain private discomfort, pretended
that he did not see any sort of interrogation....

Outside the apartments of Redwood and Bensington, Winkle, in spite of
the incompleteness of his instructions, became a leading authority upon
Boomfood. He wrote letters defending its use; he made notes and articles
explaining its possibilities; he jumped up irrelevantly at the meetings
of the scientific and medical associations to talk about it; he
identified himself with it. He published a pamphlet called "The Truth
about Boomfood," in which he minimised the whole of the Hickleybrow
affair almost to nothing. He said that it was absurd to say Boomfood
would make people thirty-seven feet high. That was "obviously
exaggerated." It would make them Bigger, of course, but that was all....

Within that intimate circle of two it was chiefly evident that Winkles
was extremely anxious to help in the making of Herakleophorbia, help in
correcting any proofs there might be of any paper there might be in
preparation upon the subject--do anything indeed that might lead up to
his participation in the details of the making of Herakleophorbia. He
was continually telling them both that he felt it was a Big Thing, that
it had big possibilities. If only they were--"safeguarded in some way."
And at last one day he asked outright to be told just how it was made.

"I've been thinking over what you said," said Redwood.

"Well?" said Winkles brightly.

"It's the sort of knowledge that could easily be subject to grave
abuse," said Redwood.

"But I don't see how that applies," said Winkles.

"It does," said Redwood.

Winkles thought it over for a day or so. Then he came to Redwood and
said that he doubted if he ought to give powders about which he knew
nothing to Redwood's little boy; it seemed to him it was uncommonly like
taking responsibility in the dark. That made Redwood thoughtful.

"You've seen that the Society for the Total Suppression of Boomfood
claims to have several thousand members," said Winkles, changing the
subject. "They've drafted a Bill," said Winkles. "They've got young
Caterham to take it up--readily enough. They're in earnest. They're
forming local committees to influence candidates. They want to make it
penal to prepare and store Herakleophorbia without special license, and
felony--matter of imprisonment without option--to administer
Boomfood--that's what they call it, you know--to any person under
one-and-twenty. But there's collateral societies, you know. All sorts of
people. The Society for the Preservation of Ancient Statures is going to
have Mr. Frederic Harrison on the council, they say. You know he's
written an essay about it; says it is vulgar, and entirely inharmonious
with that Revelation of Humanity that is found in the teachings of
Comte. It is the sort of thing the Eighteenth Century _couldn't_ have
produced even in its worst moments. The idea of the Food never entered
the head of Comte--which shows how wicked it really is. No one, he says,
who really understood Comte...."

"But you don't mean to say--" said Redwood, alarmed out of his disdain
for Winkles.

"They'll not do all that," said Winkles. "But public opinion is public
opinion, and votes are votes. Everybody can see you are up to a
disturbing thing. And the human instinct is all against disturbance, you
know. Nobody seems to believe Caterham's idea of people thirty-seven
feet high, who won't be able to get inside a church, or a meeting-house,
or any social or human institution. But for all that they're not so easy
in their minds about it. They see there's something--something more than
a common discovery--"

"There is," said Redwood, "in every discovery."

"Anyhow, they're getting--restive. Caterham keeps harping on what may
happen if it gets loose again. I say over and over again, it won't, and
it can't. But--there it is!"

And he bounced about the room for a little while as if he meant to
reopen the topic of the secret, and then thought better of it and went.

The two scientific men looked at one another. For a space only their
eyes spoke.

"If the worst comes to the worst," said Redwood at last, in a
strenuously calm voice, "I shall give the Food to my little Teddy with
my own hands."


III.

It was only a few days after this that Redwood opened his paper to find
that the Prime Minister had promised a Royal Commission on Boomfood.
This sent him, newspaper in hand, round to Bensington's flat.

"Winkles, I believe, is making mischief for the stuff. He plays into the
hands of Caterham. He keeps on talking about it, and what it is going to
do, and alarming people. If he goes on, I really believe he'll hamper
our inquiries. Even as it is--with this trouble about my little boy--"

Bensington wished Winkles wouldn't.

"Do you notice how he has dropped into the way of calling it Boomfood?"

"I don't like that name," said Bensington, with a glance over his
glasses.

"It is just so exactly what it is--to Winkles."

"Why does he keep on about it? It isn't his!"

"It's something called Booming," said Redwood. "_I_ don't understand. If
it isn't his, everybody is getting to think it is. Not that _that_
matters." "In the event of this ignorant, this ridiculous agitation
becoming--Serious," began Bensington.

"My little boy can't get on without the stuff," said Redwood. "I don't
see how I can help myself now. If the worst comes to the worst--"

A slight bouncing noise proclaimed the presence of Winkles. He became
visible in the middle of the room rubbing his hands together.

"I wish you'd knock," said Bensington, looking vicious over the gold
rims.

Winkles was apologetic. Then he turned to Redwood. "I'm glad to find you
here," he began; "the fact is--"

"Have you seen about this Royal Commission?" interrupted Redwood.

"Yes," said Winkles, thrown out. "Yes."

"What do you think of it?"

"Excellent thing," said Winkles. "Bound to stop most of this clamour.
Ventilate the whole affair. Shut up Caterham. But that's not what I came
round for, Redwood. The fact is--"

"I don't like this Royal Commission," said Bensington.

"I can assure you it will be all right. I may say--I don't think it's a
breach of confidence--that very possibly _I_ may have a place on the
Commission--"

"Oom," said Redwood, looking into the fire.

"I can put the whole thing right. I can make it perfectly clear, first,
that the stuff is controllable, and, secondly, that nothing short of a
miracle is needed before anything like that catastrophe at Hickleybrow
can possibly happen again. That is just what is wanted, an authoritative
assurance. Of course, I could speak with more confidence if I knew--But
that's quite by the way. And just at present there's something else,
another little matter, upon which I'm wanting to consult you. Ahem. The
fact is--Well--I happen to be in a slight difficulty, and you can help
me out."

Redwood raised his eyebrows, and was secretly glad.

"The matter is--highly confidential."

"Go on," said Redwood. "Don't worry about that."

"I have recently been entrusted with a child--the child of--of an
Exalted Personage."

Winkles coughed.

"You're getting on," said Redwood.

"I must confess it's largely your powders--and the reputation of my
success with your little boy--There is, I cannot disguise, a strong
feeling against its use. And yet I find that among the more
intelligent--One must go quietly in these things, you know--little by
little. Still, in the case of Her Serene High--I mean this new little
patient of mine. As a matter of fact--the suggestion came from the
parent. Or I should never--"

He struck Redwood as being embarrassed.

"I thought you had a doubt of the advisability of using these powders,"
said Redwood.

"Merely a passing doubt."

"You don't propose to discontinue--"

"In the case of your little boy? Certainly not!"

"So far as I can see, it would be murder."

"I wouldn't do it for the world."

"You shall have the powders," said Redwood.

"I suppose you couldn't--"

"No fear," said Redwood. "There isn't a recipe. It's no good, Winkles,
if you'll pardon my frankness. I'll make you the powders myself."

"Just as well, perhaps," said Winkles, after a momentary hard stare at
Redwood--"just as well." And then: "I can assure you I really don't mind
in the least."


IV.

When Winkles had gone Bensington came and stood on the hearth-rug and
looked down at Redwood.

"Her Serene Highness!" he remarked.

"Her Serene Highness!" said Redwood.

"It's the Princess of Weser Dreiburg!"

"No further than a third cousin."

"Redwood," said Bensington; "it's a curious thing to say, I know,
but--do you think Winkles understands?"

"What?"

"Just what it is we have made.

"Does he really understand," said Bensington, dropping his voice and
keeping his eye doorward, "that in the Family--the Family of his new
patient--"

"Go on," said Redwood.

"Who have always been if anything a little _under_--_under_--"

"The Average?"

"Yes. And so _very_ tactfully undistinguished in _any_ way, he is going
to produce a royal personage--an outsize royal personage--of _that_
size. You know, Redwood, I'm not sure whether there is not something
almost--_treasonable_ ..."

He transferred his eyes from the door to Redwood.

Redwood flung a momentary gesture--index finger erect--at the fire. "By
Jove!" he said, "he _doesn't_ know!"

"That man," said Redwood, "doesn't know anything. That was his most
exasperating quality as a student. Nothing. He passed all his
examinations, he had all his facts--and he had just as much
knowledge--as a rotating bookshelf containing the _Times Encyclopedia_.
And he doesn't know anything _now_. He's Winkles, and incapable of
really assimilating anything not immediately and directly related to his
superficial self. He is utterly void of imagination and, as a
consequence, incapable of knowledge. No one could possibly pass so many
examinations and be so well dressed, so well done, and so successful as
a doctor without that precise incapacity. That's it. And in spite of all
he's seen and heard and been told, there he is--he has no idea whatever
of what he has set going. He has got a Boom on, he's working it well on
Boomfood, and some one has let him in to this new Royal Baby--and that's
Boomier than ever! And the fact that Weser Dreiburg will presently have
to face the gigantic problem of a thirty-odd-foot Princess not only
hasn't entered his head, but couldn't--it couldn't!"

"There'll be a fearful row," said Bensington.

"In a year or so."

"So soon as they really see she is going on growing."

"Unless after their fashion--they hush it up."

"It's a lot to hush up."

"Rather!"

"I wonder what they'll do?"

"They never do anything--Royal tact."

"They're bound to do something."

"Perhaps _she_ will." "O Lord! Yes."

"They'll suppress her. Such things have been known."

Redwood burst into desperate laughter. "The redundant royalty--the
bouncing babe in the Iron Mask!" he said. "They'll have to put her in
the tallest tower of the old Weser Dreiburg castle and make holes in the
ceilings as she grows from floor to floor! Well, I'm in the very same
pickle. And Cossar and his three boys. And--Well, well."

"There'll be a fearful row," Bensington repeated, not joining in the
laughter. "A _fearful_ row."

"I suppose," he argued, "you've really thought it out thoroughly,
Redwood. You're quite sure it wouldn't be wiser to warn Winkles, wean
your little boy gradually, and--and rely upon the Theoretical Triumph?"

"I wish to goodness you'd spend half an hour in my nursery when the
Food's a little late," said Redwood, with a note of exasperation in his
voice; "then you wouldn't talk like that, Bensington. Besides--Fancy
warning Winkles... No! The tide of this thing has caught us unawares,
and whether we're frightened or whether we're not--_we've got to swim!_"

"I suppose we have," said Bensington, staring at his toes. "Yes. We've
got to swim. And your boy will have to swim, and Cossar's boys--he's
given it to all three of them. Nothing partial about Cossar--all or
nothing! And Her Serene Highness. And everything. We are going on making
the Food. Cossar also. We're only just in the dawn of the beginning,
Redwood. It's evident all sorts of things are to follow. Monstrous great
things. But I can't imagine them, Redwood. Except--"

He scanned his finger nails. He looked up at Redwood with eyes bland
through his glasses.

"I've half a mind," he adventured, "that Caterham is right. At times.
It's going to destroy the Proportions of Things. It's going to
dislocate--What isn't it going to dislocate?"

"Whatever it dislocates," said Redwood, "my little boy must have the
Food."

They heard some one falling rapidly upstairs. Then Cossar put his head
into the fiat. "Hullo!" he said at their expressions, and entering,
"Well?"

They told him about the Princess.

"_Difficult question!_" he remarked. "Not a bit of it. _She'll_ grow.
Your boy'll grow. All the others you give it to 'll grow. Everything.
Like anything. What's difficult about that? That's all right. A child
could tell you that. Where's the bother?"

They tried to make it clear to him.

"_Not go on with it!_" he shrieked. "But--! You can't help yourselves
now. It's what you're for. It's what Winkles is for. It's all right.
Often wondered what Winkles was for. _Now_ it's obvious. What's the
trouble?

"_Disturbance_? Obviously. _Upset things_? Upset everything.
Finally--upset every human concern. Plain as a pikestaff. They're going
to try and stop it, but they're too late. It's their way to be too late.
You go on and start as much of it as you can. Thank God He has a use for
you!"

"But the conflict!" said Bensington, "the stress! I don't know if you
have imagined--"

"You ought to have been some sort of little vegetable, Bensington," said
Cossar--"that's what you ought to have been. Something growing over a
rockery. Here you are, fearfully and wonderfully made, and all you think
you're made for is just to sit about and take your vittles. D'you think
this world was made for old women to mop about in? Well, anyhow, you
can't help yourselves now--you've _got_ to go on."

"I suppose we must," said Redwood. "Slowly--"

"No!" said Cossar, in a huge shout. "No! Make as much as you can and as
soon as you can. Spread it about!"

He was inspired to a stroke of wit. He parodied one of Redwood's curves
with a vast upward sweep of his arm.

"Redwood!" he said, to point the allusion, "make it SO!"


V.

There is, it seems, an upward limit to the pride of maternity, and this
in the case of Mrs. Redwood was reached when her offspring completed his
sixth month of terrestrial existence, broke down his high-class
bassinet-perambulator, and was brought home, bawling, in the milk-truck.
Young Redwood at that time weighed fifty-nine and a half pounds,
measured forty-eight inches in height, and gripped about sixty pounds.
He was carried upstairs to the nursery by the cook and housemaid. After
that, discovery was only a question of days. One afternoon Redwood came
home from his laboratory to find his unfortunate wife deep in the
fascinating pages of _The Mighty Atom_, and at the sight of him she put
the book aside and ran violently forward and burst into tears on his
shoulder.

"Tell me what you have _done_ to him," she wailed. "Tell me what you
have done." Redwood took her hand and led her to the sofa, while he
tried to think of a satisfactory line of defence.

"It's all right, my dear," he said; "it's all right. You're only a
little overwrought. It's that cheap perambulator. I've arranged for a
bath-chair man to come round with something stouter to-morrow--"

Mrs. Redwood looked at him tearfully over the top of her handkerchief.

"A baby in a bath-chair?" she sobbed.

"Well, why not?"

"It's like a cripple."

"It's like a young giant, my dear, and you've no cause to be ashamed of
him."

"You've done something to him, Dandy," she said. "I can see it in your
face."

"Well, it hasn't stopped his growth, anyhow," said Redwood heartlessly.

"I _knew_," said Mrs. Redwood, and clenched her pocket-handkerchief ball
fashion in one hand. She looked at him with a sudden change to severity.
"What have you done to our child, Dandy?"

"What's wrong with him?"

"He's so big. He's a monster."

"Nonsense. He's as straight and clean a baby as ever a woman had. What's
wrong with him?"

"Look at his size."

"That's all right. Look at the puny little brutes about us! He's the
finest baby--"

"He's _too_ fine," said Mrs. Redwood.

"It won't go on," said Redwood reassuringly; "it's just a start he's
taken."

But he knew perfectly well it would go on. And it did. By the time this
baby was twelve months old he tottered just one inch under five feet
high and scaled eight stone three; he was as big in fact as a St.
Peter's _in Vaticano_ cherub, and his affectionate clutch at the hair
and features of visitors became the talk of West Kensington. They had an
invalid's chair to carry him up and down to his nursery, and his special
nurse, a muscular young person just out of training, used to take him
for his airings in a Panhard 8 h.p. hill-climbing perambulator specially
made to meet his requirement? It was lucky in every way that Redwood had
his expert witness connection in addition to his professorship.

When one got over the shock of little Redwood's enormous size, he was, I
am told by people who used to see him almost daily teufteufing slowly
about Hyde Park, a singularly bright and pretty baby. He rarely cried or
needed a comforter. Commonly he clutched a big rattle, and sometimes he
went along hailing the bus-drivers and policemen along the road outside
the railings as "Dadda!" and "Babba!" in a sociable, democratic way.

"There goes that there great Boomfood baby," the bus-driver used to say.

"Looks 'ealthy," the forward passenger would remark.

"Bottle fed," the bus-driver would explain. "They say it 'olds a gallon
and 'ad to be specially made for 'im."

"Very 'ealthy child any'ow," the forward passenger would conclude.

When Mrs. Redwood realized that his growth was indeed going on
indefinitely and logically--and this she really did for the first time
when the motor-perambulator arrived--she gave way to a passion of grief.
She declared she never wished to enter her nursery again, wished she was
dead, wished the child was dead, wished everybody was dead, wished she
had never married Redwood, wished no one ever married anybody, Ajaxed a
little, and retired to her own room, where she lived almost exclusively
on chicken broth for three days. When Redwood came to remonstrate with
her, she banged pillows about and wept and tangled her hair.

"_He's_ all right," said Redwood. "He's all the better for being big.
You wouldn't like him smaller than other people's children."

"I want him to be _like_ other children, neither smaller nor bigger. I
wanted him to be a nice little boy, just as Georgina Phyllis is a nice
little girl, and I wanted to bring him up nicely in a nice way, and here
he is"--and the unfortunate woman's voice broke--"wearing number four
grown-up shoes and being wheeled about by--booboo!--Petroleum!

"I can never love him," she wailed, "never! He's too much for me! I can
never be a mother to him, such as I meant to be!"

But at last, they contrived to get her into the nursery, and there was
Edward Monson Redwood ("Pantagruel" was only a later nickname) swinging
in a specially strengthened rocking-chair and smiling and talking "goo"
and "wow." And the heart of Mrs. Redwood warmed again to her child, and
she went and held him in her arms and wept.

"They've done something to you," she sobbed, "and you'll grow and grow,
dear; but whatever I can do to bring you up nice I'll do for you,
whatever your father may say."

And Redwood, who had helped to bring her to the door, went down the
passage much relieved. (Eh! but it's a base job this being a man--with
women as they are!)


VI.

Before the year was out there were, in addition to Redwood's pioneer
vehicle, quite a number of motor-perambulators to be seen in the west of
London. I am told there were as many as eleven; but the most careful
inquiries yield trustworthy evidence of only six within the Metropolitan
area at that time. It would seem the stuff acted differently upon
different types of constitution. At first Herakleophorbia was not
adapted to injection, and there can be no doubt that quite a
considerable proportion of human beings are incapable of absorbing this
substance in the normal course of digestion. It was given, for example,
to Winkles' youngest boy; but he seems to have been as incapable of
growth as, if Redwood was right, his father was incapable of knowledge.
Others again, according to the Society for the Total Suppression of
Boomfood, became in some inexplicable way corrupted by it, and perished
at the onset of infantile disorders. The Cossar boys took to it with
amazing avidity.

Of course a thing of this kind never comes with absolute simplicity of
application into the life of man; growth in particular is a complex
thing, and all generalisations must needs be a little inaccurate. But
the general law of the Food would seem to be this, that when it could be
taken into the system in any way it stimulated it in very nearly the
same degree in all cases. It increased the amount of growth from six to
seven times, and it did not go beyond that, whatever amount of the Food
in excess was taken. Excess of Herakleophorbia indeed beyond the
necessary minimum led, it was found, to morbid disturbances of
nutrition, to cancer and tumours, ossifications, and the like. And once
growth upon the large scale had begun, it was soon evident that it could
only continue upon that scale, and that the continuous administration of
Herakleophorbia in small but sufficient doses was imperative.

If it was discontinued while growth was still going on, there was first
a vague restlessness and distress, then a period of voracity--as in the
case of the young rats at Hankey--and then the growing creature had a
sort of exaggerated anaemia and sickened and died. Plants suffered in a
similar way. This, however, applied only to the growth period. So soon
as adolescence was attained--in plants this was represented by the
formation of the first flower-buds--the need and appetite for
Herakleophorbia diminished, and so soon as the plant or animal was fully
adult, it became altogether independent of any further supply of the
food. It was, as it were, completely established on the new scale. It
was so completely established on the new scale that, as the thistles
about Hickleybrow and the grass of the down side already demonstrated,
its seed produced giant offspring after its kind.

And presently little Redwood, pioneer of the new race, first child of
all who ate the food, was crawling about his nursery, smashing
furniture, biting like a horse, pinching like a vice, and bawling
gigantic baby talk at his "Nanny" and "Mammy" and the rather scared and
awe-stricken "Daddy," who had set this mischief going.

The child was born with good intentions. "Padda be good, be good," he
used to say as the breakables flew before him. "Padda" was his
rendering of Pantagruel, the nickname Redwood imposed on him. And
Cossar, disregarding certain Ancient Lights that presently led to
trouble, did, after a conflict with the local building regulations, get
building on a vacant piece of ground adjacent to Redwood's home, a
comfortable well-lit playroom, schoolroom, and nursery for their four
boys--sixty feet square about this room was, and forty feet high.

Redwood fell in love with that great nursery as he and Cossar built it,
and his interest in curves faded, as he had never dreamt it could fade,
before the pressing needs of his son. "There is much," he said, "in
fitting a nursery. Much.

"The walls, the things in it, they will all speak to this new mind of
ours, a little more, a little less eloquently, and teach it, or fail to
teach it a thousand things."

"Obviously," said Cossar, reaching hastily for his hat.

They worked together harmoniously, but Redwood supplied most of the
educational theory required ...

They had the walls and woodwork painted with a cheerful vigour; for the
most part a slightly warmed white prevailed, but there were bands of
bright clean colour to enforce the simple lines of construction. "Clean
colours we _must_ have," said Redwood, and in one place had a neat
horizontal band of squares, in which crimson and purple, orange and
lemon, blues and greens, in many hues and many shades, did themselves
honour. These squares the giant children should arrange and rearrange to
their pleasure. "Decorations must follow," said Redwood; "let them first
get the range of all the tints, and then this may go away. There is no
reason why one should bias them in favour of any particular colour or
design."

Then, "The place must be full of interest," said Redwood. "Interest is
food for a child, and blankness torture and starvation. He must have
pictures galore." There were no pictures hung about the room for any
permanent service, however, but blank frames were provided into which
new pictures would come and pass thence into a portfolio so soon as
their fresh interest had passed. There was one window that looked down
the length of a street, and in addition, for an added interest, Redwood
had contrived above the roof of the nursery a camera obscura that
watched the Kensington High Street and not a little of the Gardens.

In one corner that most worthy implement, an Abacus, four feet square, a
specially strengthened piece of ironmongery with rounded corners,
awaited the young giants' incipient computations. There were few woolly
lambs and such-like idols, but instead Cossar, without explanation, had
brought one day in three four-wheelers a great number of toys (all just
too big for the coming children to swallow) that could be piled up,
arranged in rows, rolled about, bitten, made to flap and rattle, smacked
together, felt over, pulled out, opened, closed, and mauled and
experimented with to an interminable extent. There were many bricks of
wood in diverse colours, oblong and cuboid, bricks of polished china,
bricks of transparent glass and bricks of india-rubber; there were slabs
and slates; there were cones, truncated cones, and cylinders; there were
oblate and prolate spheroids, balls of varied substances, solid and
hollow, many boxes of diverse size and shape, with hinged lids and screw
lids and fitting lids, and one or two to catch and lock; there were
bands of elastic and leather, and a number of rough and sturdy little
objects of a size together that could stand up steadily and suggest the
shape of a man. "Give 'em these," said Cossar. "One at a time."

These things Redwood arranged in a locker in one corner. Along one side
of the room, at a convenient height for a six-or eight-foot child, there
was a blackboard, on which the youngsters might flourish in white and
coloured chalk, and near by a sort of drawing block, from which sheet
after sheet might be torn, and on which they could draw in charcoal, and
a little desk there was, furnished with great carpenter's pencils of
varying hardness and a copious supply of paper, on which the boys might
first scribble and then draw more neatly. And moreover Redwood gave
orders, so far ahead did his imagination go, for specially large tubes
of liquid paint and boxes of pastels against the time when they should
be needed. He laid in a cask or so of plasticine and modelling clay. "At
first he and his tutor shall model together," he said, "and when he is
more skilful he shall copy casts and perhaps animals. And that reminds
me, I must also have made for him a box of tools!

"Then books. I shall have to look out a lot of books to put in his way,
and they'll have to be big type. Now what sort of books will he need?
There is his imagination to be fed. That, after all, is the crown of
every education. The crown--as sound habits of mind and conduct are the
throne. No imagination at all is brutality; a base imagination is lust
and cowardice; but a noble imagination is God walking the earth again.
He must dream too of a dainty fairy-land and of all the quaint little
things of life, in due time. But he must feed chiefly on the splendid
real; he shall have stories of travel through all the world, travels and
adventures and how the world was won; he shall have stories of beasts,
great books splendidly and clearly done of animals and birds and plants
and creeping things, great books about the deeps of the sky and the
mystery of the sea; he shall have histories and maps of all the empires
the world has seen, pictures and stories of all the tribes and habits
and customs of men. And he must have books and pictures to quicken his
sense of beauty, subtle Japanese pictures to make him love the subtler
beauties of bird and tendril and falling flower, and western pictures
too, pictures of gracious men and women, sweet groupings, and broad
views of land and sea. He shall have books on the building of houses and
palaces; he shall plan rooms and invent cities--

"I think I must give him a little theatre.

"Then there is music!"

Redwood thought that over, and decided that his son might best begin
with a very pure-sounding harmonicon of one octave, to which afterwards
there could be an extension. "He shall play with this first, sing to it
and give names to the notes," said Redwood, "and afterwards--?"

He stared up at the window-sill overhead and measured the size of the
room with his eye.

"They'll have to build his piano in here," he said. "Bring it in in
pieces."

He hovered about amidst his preparations, a pensive, dark, little
figure. If you could have seen him there he would have looked to you
like a ten-inch man amidst common nursery things. A great rug--indeed it
was a Turkey carpet--four hundred square feet of it, upon which young
Redwood was soon to crawl--stretched to the grill-guarded electric
radiator that was to warm the whole place. A man from Cossar's hung
amidst scaffolding overhead, fixing the great frame that was to hold the
transitory pictures. A blotting-paper book for plant specimens as big as
a house door leant against the wall, and from it projected a gigantic
stalk, a leaf edge or so and one flower of chickweed, all of that
gigantic size that was soon to make Urshot famous throughout the
botanical world ...

A sort of incredulity came to Redwood as he stood among these things.

"If it really _is_ going on--" said Redwood, staring up at the remote
ceiling.

From far away came a sound like the bellowing of a Mafficking bull,
almost as if in answer.

"It's going on all right," said Redwood. "Evidently."

There followed resounding blows upon a table, followed by a vast crowing
shout, "Gooloo! Boozoo! Bzz ..."

"The best thing I can do," said Redwood, following out some divergent
line of thought, "is to teach him myself."

That beating became more insistent. For a moment it seemed to Redwood
that it caught the rhythm of an engine's throbbing--the engine he could
have imagined of some great train of events that bore down upon him.
Then a descendant flight of sharper beats broke up that effect, and were
repeated.

"Come in," he cried, perceiving that some one rapped, and the door that
was big enough for a cathedral opened slowly a little way. The new winch
ceased to creak, and Bensington appeared in the crack, gleaming
benevolently under his protruded baldness and over his glasses.

"I've ventured round to _see_," he whispered in a confidentially furtive
manner.

"Come in," said Redwood, and he did, shutting the door behind him.

He walked forward, hands behind his back, advanced a few steps, and
peered up with a bird-like movement at the dimensions about him. He
rubbed his chin thoughtfully.

"Every time I come in," he said, with a subdued note in his voice, "it
strikes me as--'_Big_.'"

"Yes," said Redwood, surveying it all again also, as if in an endeavour
to keep hold of the visible impression. "Yes. They're going to be big
too, you know."

"I know," said Bensington, with a note that was nearly awe. "_Very_
big."

They looked at one another, almost, as it were, apprehensively.

"Very big indeed," said Bensington, stroking the bridge of his nose, and
with one eye that watched Redwood doubtfully for a confirmatory
expression. "All of them, you know--fearfully big. I don't seem able to
imagine--even with this--just how big they're all going to be."

H.G. Wells

    Book I-The Dawn of Food

    Book II-The Food in the Village

    Book III-The Harvest of the Food

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