A Modern Utopia

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5.

It is pleasant to think of one's puzzling the organised wisdom of so superior a planet as this Utopia, this moral monster State my Frankenstein of reasoning has made, and to that pitch we have come. When we are next in the presence of our Lucerne official, he has the bearing of a man who faces a mystification beyond his powers, an incredible disarrangement of the order of Nature. Here, for the first time in the records of Utopian science, are two cases—not simply one but two, and these in each other's company!—of duplicated thumb-marks. This, coupled with a cock-and-bull story of an instantaneous transfer from some planet unknown to Utopian astronomy. That he and all his world exists only upon a hypothesis that would explain everyone of these difficulties absolutely, is scarcely likely to occur to his obviously unphilosophic mind.

The official eye is more eloquent than the official lips and asks almost urgently, “What in this immeasurable universe have you managed to do to your thumbs? And why?” But he is only a very inferior sort of official indeed, a mere clerk of the post, and he has all the guarded reserve of your thoroughly unoriginal man. “You are not the two persons I ascertained you were,” he says, with the note of one resigned to communion with unreason; “because you”—he indicates me—“are evidently at your residence in London.” I smile. “That gentleman”—he points a pen at the botanist in a manner that is intended to dismiss my smile once for all—“will be in London next week. He will be returning next Friday from a special mission to investigate the fungoid parasites that have been attacking the cinchona trees in Ceylon.”

The botanist blesses his heart.

“Consequently”—the official sighs at the burthen of such nonsense, “you will have to go and consult with—the people you ought to be.”

I betray a faint amusement.

“You will have to end by believing in our planet,” I say.

He waggles a negation with his head. He would intimate his position is too responsible a one for jesting, and both of us in our several ways enjoy the pleasure we poor humans have in meeting with intellectual inferiority. “The Standing Committee of Identification,” he says, with an eye on a memorandum, “has remitted your case to the Research Professor of Anthropology in the University of London, and they want you to go there, if you will, and talk to him.”

“What else can we do?” says the botanist.

“There's no positive compulsion,” he remarks, “but your work here will probably cease. Here―” he pushed the neat slips of paper towards us—“are your tickets for London, and a small but sufficient supply of money,”—he indicates two piles of coins and paper on either hand of him—“for a day or so there.” He proceeds in the same dry manner to inform us we are invited to call at our earliest convenience upon our doubles, and upon the Professor, who is to investigate our case.

“And then?”

He pulls down the corners of his mouth in a wry deprecatory smile, eyes us obliquely under a crumpled brow, shrugs his shoulders, and shows us the palms of his hands.

On earth, where there is nationality, this would have been a Frenchman—the inferior sort of Frenchman—the sort whose only happiness is in the routine security of Government employment.

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