"The words are rather confusing, I grant you," he said. "Will this do? The last event is an effect of the first: but the necessity for that event is a cause of the necessity for the first."
"That seems clear enough," said Lady Muriel. "Now let us have the problem."
"It's merely this. What object can we imagine in the arrangement by which each different size (roughly speaking) of living creatures has its special shape? For instance, the human race has one kind of shape--bipeds. Another set, ranging from the lion to the mouse, are quadrupeds. Go down a step or two further, and you come to insects with six legs--hexapods--a beautiful name, is it not? But beauty, in our sense of the word, seems to diminish as we go down: the creature becomes more--I won't say 'ugly' of any of God's creatures--more uncouth. And, when we take the microscope, and go a few steps lower still, we come upon animalculae, terribly uncouth, and with a terrible number of legs!"
"The other alternative," said the Earl, "would be a diminuendo series of repetitions of the same type. Never mind the monotony of it: let's see how it would work in other ways. Begin with the race of men, and the creatures they require: let us say horses, cattle, sheep, and dogs we don't exactly require frogs and spiders, do we, Muriel?"
Lady Muriel shuddered perceptibly: it was evidently a painful subject. "We can dispense with them," she said gravely.
"Well, then we'll have a second race of men, half-a-yard high--"
"--who would have one source of exquisite enjoyment, not possessed by ordinary men!" Arthur interrupted.
"What source?" said the Earl.
"Why, the grandeur of scenery! Surely the grandeur of a mountain, to me, depends on its size, relative to me? Double the height of the mountain, and of course it's twice as grand. Halve my height, and you produce the same effect."
"Happy, happy, happy Small!" Lady Muriel murmured rapturously. "None but the Short, none but the Short, none but the Short enjoy the Tall!"
"But let me go on," said the Earl. "We'll have a third race of men, five inches high; a fourth race, an inch high--"
"They couldn't eat common beef and mutton, I'm sure!" Lady Muriel interrupted.
"True, my child, I was forgetting. Each set must have its own cattle and sheep."
"And its own vegetation," I added. "What could a cow, an inch high, do with grass that waved far above its head?"
"That is true. We must have a pasture within a pasture, so to speak. The common grass would serve our inch-high cows as a green forest of palms, while round the root of each tall stem would stretch a tiny carpet of microscopic grass. Yes, I think our scheme will work fairly well. And it would be very interesting, coming into contact with the races below us. What sweet little things the inch-high bull-dogs would be! I doubt if even Muriel would run away from one of them!"
"Don't you think we ought to have a crescendo series, as well?" said Lady Muriel. "Only fancy being a hundred yards high!
One could use an elephant as a paper-weight, and a crocodile as a pair of scissors!"
"And would you have races of different sizes communicate with one another?" I enquired. "Would they make war on one another, for instance, or enter into treaties?"
"War we must exclude, I think. When you could crush a whole nation with one blow of your fist, you couldn't conduct war on equal terms. But anything, involving a collision of minds only, would be possible in our ideal world--for of course we must allow mental powers to all, irrespective of size. "Perhaps the fairest rule would be that, the smaller the race, the greater should be its intellectual development!"
"Do you mean to say," said Lady Muriel, "that these manikins of an inch high are to argue with me?"
"Surely, surely!" said the Earl. "An argument doesn't depend for its logical force on the size of the creature that utters it!"
She tossed her head indignantly. "I would not argue with any man less than six inches high!" she cried.