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Chapter 4 "MAN—A GREAT LITTLE BUG"

  • And what of Charley Huyck? It was his anticipation, and his training whic_eaves us here to tell the story. Were it not for the strange manner of hi_earing, and the keen faith and appreciation of Dr. Hobold there would be to- day no tale to tell. The little incident of the burning-glass had grown. I_here is no such thing as Fate there is at least something that comes ver_lose to being Destiny.
  • On this night we find Charley at the observatory in Arizona. He is a grown ma_nd a great one, and though mature not so very far drawn from the lad we me_n the street selling papers. Tall, slender, very slightly stooped and wit_he same idealistic, dreaming eyes of the poet. Surely no one at first glanc_ould have taken him for a scientist. Which he was and was not.
  • Indeed, there is something vastly different about the science of Charle_uyck. Science to be sure, but not prosaic. He was the first and perhaps th_ast of the school of Dr. Robold, a peculiar combination of poetry and fact, _an of vision, of vast, far-seeing faith and idealism linked and based on th_oldest and sternest truths of materialism. A peculiar tenet of the theory o_obold: "True science to be itself should be half poetry." Which any of us wh_ave read or been at school know it is not. It is a peculiar theory and thoug_ather wild still with some points in favor.
  • We all of us know our schoolmasters; especially those of science and what the_tand for. Facts, facts, nothing but facts; no dreams or romance. Looking bac_e can grant them just about the emotions of cucumbers. We remember thei_old, hard features, the prodding after fact, the accumulation of data. Surel_here is no poetry in them.
  • Yet we must not deny that they have been by far the most potent of all men i_he progress of civilzation. Not even Robold would deny it.
  • The point is this:
  • The doctor maintained that from the beginning the progress of materia_ivilization had been along three distinct channels; science, invention, an_dministration. It was simply his theory that the first two should be one; that the scientist deal not alone with dry fact but with invention, and tha_he inventor, unless he is a scientist, has mastered but half his trade. "Th_eally great scientist should be a visionary," said Robold, "and an invento_s merely a poet, with tools."
  • Which is where we get Charley Huyck. He was a visionary, a scientist, a poe_ith tools, the protégé of Dr. Robold. He dreamed things that no scientist ha_hought of. And we are thankful for his dreaming.
  • The one great friend of Huyck was Professor Williams, a man from Charley'_ome city, who had known him even back in the days of selling papers. They ha_een cronies in boyhood, in their teens, and again at College. In after years, when Huyck had become the visionary, the mysterious Man of the Mountain, an_illiams a great professor of astronomy, the friendship was as strong as ever.
  • But there was a difference between them. Williams was exact to acuteness, wit_ot a whit of vision beyond pure science. He had been reared in the old stone- cold theory of exactness; he lived in figures. He could not understand Huyc_r his reasoning. Perfectly willing to follow as far as facts permitted, h_efused to step off into speculation.
  • Which was the point between them. Charley Huyck had vision; although exact a_ny man, he had ever one part of his mind soaring out into speculation. Wha_s, and what might be, and the gulf between. To bridge the gulf was the lif_ork of Charley Huyck.
  • In the snug little office in Arizona we find them; Charley with his fee_oised on the desk and Williams precise and punctilious, true to his training, defending the exactness of his philosophy. It was the cool of the evening; th_un was just mellowing the heat of the desert. Through the open door an_indows a cool wind was blowing. Charley was smoking; the same old pipe ha_een the bane of Williams's life at college.
  • "Then we know?" he was asking.
  • "Yes," spoke the professor, "what we know, Charley, we know; though of cours_t is not much. It is very hard, nay impossible, to deny figures. We have no_nly the proofs of geology but of astronomical calculation, we have facts an_igures plus our sidereal relations all about us.
  • "The world must come to an end. It is a hard thing to say it, but it is a fac_f science. Slowly, inevitably, ruthlessly, the end will come. A mere questio_f arithmetic."
  • Huyck nodded. It was his special function in life to differ with his forme_oommate. He had come down from his own mountain in Colorado just for th_elight of difference.
  • "I see. Your old calculations of tidal retardation. Or if that doesn't wor_he loss of oxygen and the water."
  • "Either one or the other; a matter of figures; the earth is being drawn ever_ay by the sun: its rotation is slowing up; when the time comes it will act t_he sun in exactly the same manner as the moon acts to the earth to-day."
  • "I understand. It will be a case of eternal night for one side of the earth, and eternal day for the other. A case of burn up or freeze up."
  • "Exactly. Or if it doesn't reach to that, the water gas will gradually los_ut into sidereal space and we will go to desert. Merely a question of the ol_ynamical theory of gases; of the molecules to be in motion, to be foreve_olliding and shooting out into variance.
  • "Each minute, each hour, each day we are losing part of our atmospheri_nvelope. In course of time it will all be gone; when it is we shall be al_esert. For intance, take a look outside. This is Arizona. Once it was th_ottom of a deep blue sea. Why deny when we can already behold the beginning."
  • The other laughed.
  • "Pretty good mathematics at that, professor. Only—"
  • "Only?"
  • "That it is merely mathematics."
  • "Merely mathematics?" The professor frowned slightly. "Mathematics do not lie, Charlie, you cannot get away from them. What sort of fanciful argument are yo_ringing up now?"
  • "Simply this," returned the other, "that you depend too much on figures. The_re material and in the nature of things can only be employed in a calculatio_f what may happen in the future. You must have premises to stand on, facts.
  • Your figures are rigid; they have no elasticity. Unless your foundations ar_ermanent and faultless your deductions will lead you only into error."
  • "Granted; just the point: we know where we stand. Wherein are we in error?"
  • It was the old point of difference. Huyck was ever crashing down the idols o_ure materialism. Williams was of the world-wide school.
  • "You are in error, my dear professor, in a very little thing and a very larg_ne."
  • "What is that?"
  • "Man."
  • "Man?"
  • "Yes. He's a great little bug. You have left him out of your calculation—whic_e will upset."
  • The professor smiled indulgently. "I'll allow; he is at least a conceited bug; but you surely cannot grant him much when pitted against the Universe."
  • "No? Did it ever occur to you, Professor, what the Universe is? The stars fo_nstance? Space, the immeasurable distance of Infinity. Have you neve_reamed?"
  • Williams could not quite grasp him. Huyck had a habit that had grown out o_hildhood. Always he would allow his opponent to commit himself. The professo_id not answer. But the other spoke.
  • "Ether. You know it. Whether mind or granite. For instance, your desert." H_laced his finger to his forehead. "Your mind, my mind—localized ether."
  • "What are you driving at?"
  • "Merely this. Your universe has intelligence. It has mind as well as matter.
  • The little knot called the earth is becoming conscious. Your deductions ar_ncompetent unless they embrace mind as well as matter, and they cannot do it.
  • Your mathematics are worthless."
  • The professor bit his lip.
  • "Always fanciful.." he commented, "and visionary. Your argument is beautiful, Charley, and hopeful. I would that it were true. But all things must mature.
  • Even an earth must die."
  • "Not our earth. You look into the past, professor, for your proof, and I loo_nto the future. Give a planet long enough time in maturing and it wil_evelop life; give it still longer and it will produce intelligence. Our ow_arth is just coming into consciousness; it has thirty million years, a_east, to run."
  • "You mean?"
  • "This. That man is a great little bug. Mind: the intelligence of the earth."
  • This of course is a bit dry. The conversation of such men very often is t_hose who do not care to follow them. But it is very pertinent to what cam_fter. We know now, everyone knows, that Charley Huyck was right. Eve_rofessor Williams admits it. Our earth is conscious. In less than twenty-fou_ours, it had to employ its consciousness to save itself from destruction.
  • A bell rang. It was the private wire that connected the office with th_esidence. The professor picked up the receiver. "Just a minute. Yes? Al_ight." Then to his companion: "I must go over to the house, Charley. We hav_lenty of time. Then we can go up to the observatory."
  • Which shows how little we know about ourselves. Poor Professor Williams!
  • Little did he think that those casual words were the last he would ever spea_o Charley Huyck.
  • The whole world seething! The beginning of the end! Charley Huyck in th_ortex. The next few hours were to be the most strenuous of the planet'_istory.