CARTWRIGHT had found a secure hiding place. He kept his finger too closely on the pulse of events to be caught like his colleagues in the net which Wall had thrown over them. With him were the historian Lake, Flower, Laura's evolutionary friend, and Agatha, who, disguised as a market woman—such was her devotion—played the part of a messenger. They were gathered about the man whom they all recognised as the ablest in the State, and who now rising in moral grandeur, as all the means and resources, parties and adherents, whom he conciliated, manipulated and controlled, were swept away, stood strong in conscious integrity, the last stay and hope of the State in its desperate danger.
"This is outrageous," said Lake, "a madness has come over our land. And what staggers me most, is the insolence of it all. It is a violation of Reason, the Reason which, not in this man or that, but in the whole of humanity, in all the efforts of the best men, has built up our institutions and State—this Reason has been violated and abused because of one erratic thinker."
"That Reason," said Cartwright, "is a mere name, standing for nothing except in so far as it is efficient in you and me, the question is, what is to be done?"
"But it's an accomplished fact."
"Then I want a more accomplished fact."
"Impossible," said Lake, "the country is handed over to superstition. Every rational man is outraged, but the army is a perfectly unreasoning instrument, and the clergy hold the masses. The force of arms and the force of the mob are both against us."
"Civilization," said Flower, "has lost more in one day than it has gained in the past thousand years. The priests will habituate the people to a blind worship and trust in the supernatural, all real liberty of thought will perish."
"What do our scientific friends say, Agatha?" asked Cartwright.
"You should have heard them pull Mr. Farmer's theories to pieces," she replied. "He addressed a meeting, he had no right to show his face in any scientific assembly, as he had resigned from all the societies long ago. But he actually put in an appearance. They asked him if science did not begin in observation and experiment. He had nothing to say. Then they asked him 'if a third dimension, why not a fourth.' You should have seen how confused he was; he began to say something about altering his weight by an effort of the will. The silence that came froze even him up. Science rebuked him, although he had the whole force of the State at his back."
Cartwright looked at Agatha. "It is curious," he said, meditatively, "that science, which is the master of force, should have none."
"It's the fault of our educational system, we should have banished everything except rational instruction," said Flower, "then the priests would not have had this opportunity."
"It is easy to say we should have done differently," said Cartwright, "I, for one, acted according to the best of my judgment. I have had my eye on this man Wall for a long time, but I underestimated his ambition. As a man of mediocre intelligence he owes everything to opportunity. Through an abominable breach of my confidence, brought about by my brother's weak folly, he obtained possession of my secret, and without thought of anything else applied it to work his personal advancement. Can you conceive anything more odious than, in this universal peril, to aim solely at one's own personal interest? While those of us who knew were absorbed in care for the world, he through a surreptitious means obtained our knowledge, and used it unscrupulously. Such a man is to be put out of existence as unhesitatingly as a mad dog. And he's the practical ruler of Astria to-day!"
"No," said Agatha, "he says he is obeying the orders of the Orbians."
"He says so," replied Cartwright, "see how long that lasts. The greatness of Astria has come to this! But I have a plan. Agatha, you are a woman, but on you depends everything—you can come and go unsuspected. You must drop all womanly weakness and work as no man ever worked for your country's salvation."
"I will do everything a woman can do," said Agatha.
"We must take a leaf out of our enemy's book," said Cartwright. "He gained his success by putting a blind force in the hands of a class—by handing over the army to the church. We must work by putting a force in the hands of an opposing class. The scientific men must save the country, and the force—it is already theirs." His listeners stared incredulously, but Cartwright continued, "The chemists have lately discovered a new explosive, ten times as powerful as the old kinds, and which can be hurled twice as far in our weapons of projection. There is one weak spot in Wall's armour, He has not removed the chemists from the arsenal. They have enough of their explosives to destroy the guards in that fortress, and to frighten anybody of troops that attacks them—its power is terrible. Now Agatha, you must go round to those whose names I give you, and tell them to collect all those scientific workers they can absolutely depend on in the neighbourhood of the arsenal. Then you will tell the experts working there what to do—they pass in and out freely, there will be no difficulty in that. At a pre-appointed time they must annihilate the garrison, the men gathered outside can enter, and science has an army which, with this new explosive, can destroy any number of troops armed with the old projectiles. The supply already in existence is ample for first operations. We will temporize for awhile until an ample supply has been made, the process of manufacture takes only three days. Then we are masters. I shall take the risk of discovery and join the crowd waiting outside the arsenal, and lead you all to victory. This plot of Wall's has grown up like a mushroom in darkness. The daylight of science will wither its poisonous growth."