Mrs. Cricklander glanced stealthily at his whimsical face, to be sure whether he were joking or no—and decided he probably was. But Mr. Hanbury-Green, so irritated by the delightful hostess’s evident penchant for his rival, allowed his ill-humor to obscure his usually keen judgment, and took the matter up in serious earnest.
“Your side would not import, but reduce us all—we who are the defenders of the people—to being slaves,” he said with some asperity. “Your class has had its innings long enough, it would be the best thing in the world for you to have to come down to doing your own housework.”
“I should make a capital cook,” said John Derringham, with smiling eyes, “but I should certainly refuse to cook for anyone but myself; and you, Mr. Green, who may be an indifferent artist in that respect, would have perhaps a bad dinner.”
“I never understand,” interrupted Mrs. Cricklander—“when everything is socialistic, shall we not be able to live in these nice houses?”
“Of course not,” said Mr. Hanbury-Green gravely. “You will have to share with less fortunate people.” And then he drew himself up ready for battle, and began.
“Why, because a man or woman is born in the gutter, should not he or she be given by the State the same chance as though born in a palace? We are all exactly the same human beings, only until now luck and circumstance have been different for us.”
“I am all for everyone having the same chance,” agreed John Derringham, allowing the smile to stay in his eyes, “although I do not admit we are all the same human beings, any more than the Derby winner is the same horse as the plow horse or the cob. They can all draw some kind of vehicle, but they cannot all win races—they have to excel, each in his different line. Give everyone a chance, by all means, and then make him come up for examination, and if found fit passed on for higher things, and if unfit, passed out! It is your tendency to pamper the unfit which I deplore. You have only one idea on your Radical Socialist side of the House, to pull down those who are in any inherited or agreeable authority—not because they are doing their work badly, but because you would prefer their place! The war-cry of boons for the people covers a multitude of objects, and is the most attractive cry for the masses to hear all over the world. The real boon for the people would be to give them more practical sound education and ruthlessly to clear out the unfit.” Then his face lost its whimsical expression and became interested.
“Let us imagine a Utopian state of republic. Let every male citizen who has reached twenty-five years, say, pass his examination in the right to live freely, regardless of class, and if he cannot do so, let him go into the ranks of the slaves, because, turn it how you will, we must have some beings to do the lowest offices in life. Who would willingly clean the drains, fill the dust-carts—and, indeed, do the hundred and one things that are simply disgusting, but which must be done?”