THE TALE OF THE LOST LAND
CHAPTER 10: BEGINNINGS OF CIVILIZATION
All mines were royal property, and there were a good many of them.
They had formerly been worked as savages always work mines--holes
grubbed in the earth and the mineral brought up in sacks of hide by
hand, at the rate of a ton a day; but I had begun to put the mining
on a scientific basis as early as I could.
Yes, I had made pretty handsome progress when Sir Sagramor's
challenge struck me.
Four years rolled by--and then! Well, you would never imagine
it in the world. Unlimited power is the ideal thing when it is in
safe hands. The despotism of heaven is the one absolutely perfect
government. An earthly despotism would be the absolutely perfect
earthly government, if the conditions were the same, namely, the
despot the perfectest individual of the human race, and his lease
of life perpetual. But as a perishable perfect man must die, and
leave his despotism in the hands of an imperfect successor, an
earthly despotism is not merely a bad form of government, it is
the worst form that is possible.
My works showed what a despot could do with the resources of
a kingdom at his command. Unsuspected by this dark land, I had
the civilization of the nineteenth century booming under its very
nose! It was fenced away from the public view, but there it was,
a gigantic and unassailable fact--and to be heard from, yet, if
I lived and had luck. There it was, as sure a fact and as substantial
a fact as any serene volcano, standing innocent with its smokeless
summit in the blue sky and giving no sign of the rising hell in its
bowels. My schools and churches were children four years before;
they were grown-up now; my shops of that day were vast factories
now; where I had a dozen trained men then, I had a thousand now;
where I had one brilliant expert then, I had fifty now. I stood
with my hand on the cock, so to speak, ready to turn it on and
flood the midnight world with light at any moment. But I was not
going to do the thing in that sudden way. It was not my policy.
The people could not have stood it; and, moreover, I should have
had the Established Roman Catholic Church on my back in a minute.