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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 310 pages of information about The Reason Why.

“I said purposely, ‘some other class,’ instead of ‘some class above it,’ for this reason:  it is because a certain and ever-increasing number of your class, if I may say so, are snatching—­not, indeed, from the King—­but from all classes beneath them, manners and morals, and absence of tenue, and absence of pride—­things for which their class was not fitted.  They had their own vices formerly, which only hurt each individual and not the order, as a stain will spoil the look of a bit of machinery but will not upset its working powers like a piece of grit.  What they put into the machine now is grit.  And the middle classes are snatching what they think is gentility, and ridiculous pretenses to birth and breeding; and the lower classes are snatching everything they can get from the pitiful fall of the other two, and shouting that all men are equal, when, if you come down to the practical thing, the foreman of some ironworks, say—­where the opinions were purely socialistic, in the abstract—­would give the last joined stoker a sound trouncing for aspirations in his actual work above his capabilities; because he would know that if the stoker were then made foreman the machinery could not work.  The stokers of life should first fit themselves to be foremen before they shout.”

Then, as Lady Ethelrida looked very grave, and Francis Markrute was really a whimsical person, and seldom talked so seriously to women, he went on, smiling,

“The only really perfect governments in the world are those of the Bees, and Ants, because they are both ruled with ruthless discipline and no sentiment, and every individual knows his place!”

“I read once, somewhere, that it has been discovered,” said Lady Ethelrida gently—­she never laid down the law—­“that the reason why the wonderful Greeks came to an end was not really because their system of government was not a good one, but because the mosquitoes came and gave them malaria, and enervated them and made them feeble, and so they could not stand against the stronger peoples of the North.  Perhaps,” she went on, “England has got some moral malarial mosquitoes and the scientists have not yet discovered the proper means for their annihilation.”

Here Tristram who overheard this interrupted: 

“And it would not be difficult to give the noisome insects their English names, would it, Francis?  Some of them are in the cabinet.”

And the three laughed.  But Lady Ethelrida wanted to hear something more from her left-hand neighbor, so she said,

“Then the inference to be drawn from what you have said is—­we should aim at making conditions so that it is possible for every individual to have the chance to make himself practically—­not theoretically—­fit for anything his soul aspires to.  Is that it?”

“Absolutely in a nutshell, dear lady,” Francis Markrute said, and for a minute he looked into her eyes with such respectful, intense admiration that Lady Ethelrida looked away.

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