Titles and Subjects 233
of the point till the time of its happening here has gone by,
then they must wait for many years till the same combination
occurs in some other world. Thus they say, " The next
beheading of King Charles I will be in Aid. b. x. 231-—or
whatever the name of the star may be—" on such and such
a day of such and such a year, and there will not be another
in the lifetime of any man now living/' or there will, in such
and such a star, as the case may be.
Communication with a world twenty thousand years ahead
of us might ruin the human race as effectually as if we had
fallen into the sun. It would be too wide a cross. The
people in my supposed world know this and if, for any reason,
they want to kill a civilisation, stuff it* and put it into a
museum, they tell it something that is too much ahead of
its other ideas, something that travels faster than thought,
thus setting an avalanche of new ideas tumbling in upon
it and utterly destroying everything. Sometimes they
merely introduce a little poisonous microbe of thought
which the cells in the world where it is introduced do not
know how to deal with—some such trifle as that two and
two make seven, or that you can weigh time in scales by
the pound; a single such microbe of knowledge placed in
the brain of a fitting subject would breed like wild fire and
kill all that came in contact with it.
And so on.
I knew a South Italian of the old Greek blood whose
sister told him when he was a boy that he had eyes like a
Raging with despair and grief he haunted the fountains
and looked into the mirror of their waters. " Are my eyes/'
he asked himself with horror, " are they really like the eyes
of a cow ? " " Alas ! " he was compelled to answer, " they
are only too sadly, sadly like them."
And he asked those of his playmates whom he best knew
and trusted whether it was indeed true that his eyes were
like the eyes of a cow, but he got no comfort from any of
them, for they one and all laughed at him and said that they
were not only like, but very like. Then grief consumed his