The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth

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3.

“That’s no chick,” said Mr. Bensington’s cousin Jane.

“Well, I should think I knew a chick when I saw it,” said Mr. Bensington’s cousin Jane hotly.

“It’s too big for a chick, for one thing, and besides you can see perfectly well it isn’t a chick.

“It’s more like a bustard than a chick.”

“For my part,” said Redwood, reluctantly allowing Bensington to drag him into the argument, “I must confess that, considering all the evidence— ”

“Oh I if you do that,” said Mr. Bensington’s cousin Jane, “instead of using your eyes like a sensible person— ”

“Well, but really, Miss Bensington—!”

“Oh! Go on!” said Cousin Jane. “You men are all alike.”

“Considering all the evidence, this certainly falls within the definition— no doubt it’s abnormal and hypertrophied, but still— especially since it was hatched from the egg of a normal hen— Yes, I think, Miss Bensington, I must admit— this, so far as one can call it anything, is a sort of chick.”

“You mean it’s a chick?” said cousin Jane.

“I think it’s a chick,” said Redwood.

“What NONSENSE!” said Mr. Bensington’s cousin Jane, and “Oh!” directed at Redwood’s head, “I haven’t patience with you,” and then suddenly she turned about and went out of the room with a slam.

“And it’s a very great relief for me to see it too, Bensington,” said Redwood, when the reverberation of the slam had died away. “In spite of its being so big.”

Without any urgency from Mr. Bensington he sat down in the low arm-chair by the fire and confessed to proceedings that even in an unscientific man would have been indiscreet. “You will think it very rash of me, Bensington, I know,” he said, “but the fact is I put a little— not very much of it— but some— into Baby’s bottle, very nearly a week ago!”

“But suppose—!” cried Mr. Bensington.

“I know,” said Redwood, and glanced at the giant chick upon the plate on the table.

“It’s turned out all right, thank goodness,” and he felt in his pocket for his cigarettes.

He gave fragmentary details. “Poor little chap wasn’t putting on weight… desperately anxious.— Winkles, a frightful duffer … former pupil of mine … no good… . Mrs. Redwood— unmitigated confidence in Winkles… . You know, man with a manner like a cliff— towering… . No confidence in me, of course… . Taught Winkles… . Scarcely allowed in the nursery… . Something had to be done… . Slipped in while the nurse was at breakfast … got at the bottle.”

“But he’ll grow,” said Mr. Bensington.

“He’s growing. Twenty-seven ounces last week… . You should hear Winkles. It’s management, he said.”

“Dear me! That’s what Skinner says!”

Redwood looked at the chick again. “The bother is to keep it up,” he said. “They won’t trust me in the nursery alone, because I tried to get a growth curve out of Georgina Phyllis— you know— and how I’m to give him a second dose— ”

“Need you?”

“He’s been crying two days— can’t get on with his ordinary food again, anyhow. He wants some more now.”

“Tell Winkles.”

“Hang Winkles!” said Redwood.

“You might get at Winkles and give him powders to give the child— ”

“That’s about what I shall have to do,” said Redwood, resting his chin on his fist and staring into the fire.

Bensington stood for a space smoothing the down on the breast of the giant chick. “They will be monstrous fowls,” he said.

“They will,” said Redwood, still with his eyes on the glow.

“Big as horses,” said Bensington.

“Bigger,” said Redwood. “That’s just it!”

Bensington turned away from the specimen. “Redwood,” he said, “these fowls are going to create a sensation.”

Redwood nodded his head at the fire.

“And by Jove!” said Bensington, coming round suddenly with a flash in his spectacles, “so will your little boy!”

“That’s just what I’m thinking of,” said Redwood.

He sat back, sighed, threw his unconsumed cigarette into the fire and thrust his hands deep into his trousers pockets. “That’s precisely what I’m thinking of. This Herakleophorbia is going to be queer stuff to handle. The pace that chick must have grown at—!”

“A little boy growing at that pace,” said Mr. Bensington slowly, and stared at the chick as he spoke.

“I Say!” said Bensington, “he’ll be Big.”

“I shall give him diminishing doses,” said Redwood. “Or at any rate Winkles will.”

“It’s rather too much of an experiment.”

“Much.”

“Yet still, you know, I must confess—… Some baby will sooner or later have to try it.”

“Oh, we’ll try it on some baby— certainly.”

“Exactly so,” said Bensington, and came and stood on the hearthrug and took off his spectacles to wipe them.

“Until I saw these chicks, Redwood, I don’t think I began to realise— anything— of the possibilities of what we were making. It’s only beginning to dawn upon me … the possible consequences… .”

And even then, you know, Mr. Bensington was far from any conception of the mine that little train would fire.

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