The Devolutionist and the Emancipatrix
Chapter VII: The Missing Factor
By the time the four once more got together in the doctor’s study, each had had a chance to consider the Sanusian situation pretty thoroughly. All but Billie were convinced that the humans were deserving people, whose position was all the more regrettable because due, so far as could be seen, the insignificant little detail of the barbless sting.
Were these people doomed forever to live their lives for the sake of insects? Were they always to remain, primitive and uncultured, in ignorance of the things that civilization is built upon, obeying the orders of creatures who were content to eat, reproduce, and die? For that is all that bees know!
Perhaps it was for the best. Possibly Rolla and her friends were better off as they were. It might have been that a wise Providence, seeing how woefully the human animal had missed its privileges on other worlds, had decided to make man secondary on Sanus. Was that the reason for it all?
All but Billie scouted the idea. To them the affair was a ghastly perversion of what Nature intended. Van Emmon stated the case in a manner which showed how strongly he felt about it.
“Those folks will never get anywhere if the bees can help it!” he charged.” We’ve got to lend a hand, here, and see that they get a chance!”
Smith said that, so far as he was concerned, the bees might all be consigned to hell. “I’m not going to have anything to do with the agent I had, any more!” he declared. “I’m going to get in touch with that chap, Dulnop. What is he like, doc?”
Kinney told him, and then Van Emmon asked for details of the herdsman, Corrus. “No more bees in my young life, either. From now on it’s up to us. What do you think?” turning to his wife, and carefully avoiding any use of her name.
The architect knew well enough that the rest were wondering how she would decide. She answered with deliberation:
“I’m going to stay in touch with Supreme!”
“You are!” incredulously, from her husband.
“Yes! I’ve got a darned sight more sympathy for those bees than for the humans! The ‘fraid-cats!” disgustedly.
“But listen,” protested Van Emmon. “We can’t stand by and let those cold-blooded prisoners keep human beings, like ourselves, in rank slavery! Not much!”
Evidently he thought he needed to explain. “A human is a human, no matter where we find him! Why, how can those poor devils show what they’re good for if we don’t give ‘em a chance? That’s the only way to develop people--give ‘em a chance to show what’s in ‘em! Let the best man win!”
Billie only closed her mouth tighter; and Smith decided to say, “Billie, you don’t need to stand by your guns just because the Sanusian working class happens to be insects. Besides, we’re three to one in favor of the humans!”
“Oh, well,” she condescended, “if you put it that way I’ll agree not to interfere. Only, don’t expect me to help you any with your schemes; I’ll just keep an eye on Supreme, that’s all.”
“Then we’re agreed.” The doctor put on his bracelets. “Suppose we go into the trance state for about three minutes--long enough to learn what’s going on today.”
Shortly Billie again using the eyes and ears of the extraordinarily capable bee who ruled the rest, once more looked down upon Sanus. She saw the big “city,” which she now knew to be a vast collection of hives, built by the humans at the command of the bees. At the moment the air was thick with workers, returning with their loads of honey from the fields which the humans had been compelled to cultivate. What a diabolical reversal of the accepted order of things!
The architect had time to note something very typical of the case. On the outskirts of the city two humans were at work, erecting a new hive. Having put it together, they proceeded to lift the big box and place it near those already inhabited. They set it down in what looked like a good location, but almost immediately took it up again and shifted it a foot to one side. This was not satisfactory, either; they moved it a few inches in another direction.
All told, it took a full minute to place that simple affair where it was wanted; and all the while those two humans behaved as though some one were shouting directions to them--silent directions, as it were. Billie knew that a half-dozen soldier bees, surrounding their two heads, were coolly and unfeelingly driving them where they willed. And when, the work done, they left the spot, two soldiers went along behind them to see that they did not loiter.
As for the doctor, he came upon Rolla when the woman was deep in an experiment. She stood in front of a rude trough, one of perhaps twenty located within a large, high-walled inclosure. In the trough was a quantity of earth, through the surface of which some tiny green shoots were beginning to show.
Rolla inspected the shoots, and then, with her stone knife, she made a final notch in the wood on the edge of the trough. There were twenty-odd of these notches; whereas, on other troughs which the doctor had a chance to see, there were over thirty in many cases, and still no shoots.
The place, then, was an experimental station. This was proven by Rolla’s next move. She went outside the yard and studied five heaps of soil, each of a different appearance, also three smaller piles of pulverized mineral--nitrates, for all that the doctor knew. And before Kinney severed his connection with the Sanusian, she had begun the task of mixing up a fresh combination of these ingredients in a new trough. In the midst of this she heard a sound; and turning about, waved a hand excitedly toward a distant figure on the far side of a nearby field.
Meanwhile Smith had managed to get in touch with Dulnop. He found the young man engaged in work which did not, at first, become clear to the engineer. Then he saw that the chap was simply sorting over big piles of broken rock, selecting certain fragments which he placed in separate heaps. Not far away two assistants were pounding these fragments to powder, using rude pestles, in great, nature-made mortars--”pot-holes,” from some river-bed.
It was this powder, beyond a doubt, that Rolla was using in her work. To Smith, Dulnop’s task seemed like a ridiculously simple occupation for a nearly grown man, until he reflected that these aborigines were exactly like toddling children in intellects.
Van Emmon had no trouble in making connections with Corrus. The herdsman was in charge of a dozen cows, wild looking creatures which would have been far too much for the man had they been horned, which they were not. He handled them by sheer force, using the great club he always carried. Once while Van Emmon was watching, a cow tried to break away from the group; but Corrus, with an agility amazing in so short and heavy a man, dashed after the creature and tapped her lightly on the top of her head. Dazed and contrite, she followed him meekly back into the herd.