“Yes,” agreed Smith; “but—what of it?”
Kinney went on unheeding. “As for volcanoes—probably the same explanation accounts for the lack of these also. You know how the earth, even, is rapidly coming to the end of her ‘volcanic period.’ Time was when there were volcanoes almost everywhere on the earth.
“The same is likely true of Sanus as well. The point is,” and the doctor paused significantly, “there have been no volcanic eruptions, and no lightning discharges within the memory of Sanusian man!”
What was he getting at? The others eyed him closely. Neither Van Emmon nor Smith could guess what he meant; but Billie, her intuition wide awake, gave a great jump in her chair.
“I know!” she cried. A flood of light came to her face. “The Sanusians— no wonder they let the bees put it over on them!
“They haven’t got fire! They’ve never had it!”
From the corner of his eyes Kinney saw Van Emmon turn a gaze of frank admiration at his wife. It lasted only a second, however; the geologist remembered, and masked the expression before Billie could detect it.
Smith had been electrified by the idea.
“By George!” he exclaimed two or three times. “Why didn’t I think of that? It’s simple as A, B, C now!”
“Why,” Van Emmon exulted, “all we’ve got to do is put the idea of fire into their heads, and the job is done!” He jumped around in his chair. “Darn those bees, anyhow!”
“And yet,” observed the doctor, “it’s not quite as simple as we may think. Of course it’s true that once they have fire, the humans ought to assert themselves. We’ll let that stand without argument.”
“Will we?” Smith didn’t propose to back down that easy. “Do you mean to say that fire, and nothing more than fire, can bring about human ascendency?”
The doctor felt sure. “All the other animals are afraid of fire. Such exceptions as the moth are really not exceptions at all; the moth is simply driven so mad by the sight of flame that it commits suicide in it. Horses sometimes do the same.
“Humans are the only creatures that do not fear fire! Even a tiny baby will show no fear at the sight of it.”
“Which ought to prove,” Van Emmon cut in to silence Smith, “that superiority is due to fire, rather than fire due to superiority, for the simple reason that a newborn child is very low in the scale of evolution.” Smith decided not to say what he intended to say. Van Emmon concluded:
“We’ve just got to give ’em fire! What’s the first step?”
“I propose,” from the doctor, “that when we get in touch this time we concentrate on the idea of fire. We’ve got to give them the notion first.”
“Would you rather,” inquired Billie, “that I kept the idea from Supreme?”
“Thanks,” returned her husband, icily, “but you might just as well tell her, too. It’ll make her afraid in advance, all the better!”