A thought like this happened to slip through my head by accident: How much would make you or me comfortable? A hundred thousand. Yet you are expecting two or three of--these inventions of yours to turn out some billions of money--and you are wanting them to do that. If you wanted ten millions, I could understand that--it's inside the human limits. But billions! That's clear outside the limits. There must be a definite project back of that somewhere."
The earl's interest and surprise augmented with every word, and when Hawkins finished, he said with strong admiration:
"It's wonderfully reasoned out, Washington, it certainly is. It shows what I think is quite extraordinary penetration. For you've hit it; you've driven the centre, you've plugged the bulls-eye of my dream. Now I'll tell you the whole thing, and you'll understand it. I don't need to ask you to keep it to yourself, because you'll see that the project will prosper all the better for being kept in the background till the right time. Have you noticed how many pamphlets and books I've got lying around relating to Russia?"
"Yes, I think most anybody would notice that--anybody who wasn't dead."
"Well, I've been posting myself a good while. That's a great and, splendid nation, and deserves to be set free." He paused, then added in a quite matter-of-fact way, "When I get this money I'm going to set it free."
"Why, what makes you jump like that?"
"Dear me, when you are going to drop a remark under a man's chair that is likely to blow him out through the roof, why don't you put some expression, some force, some noise unto it that will prepare him? You shouldn't flip out such a gigantic thing as this in that colorless kind of a way. You do jolt a person up, so. Go on, now, I'm all right again. Tell me all about it. I'm all interest--yes, and sympathy, too."
"Well, I've looked the ground over, and concluded that the methods of the Russian patriots, while good enough considering the way the boys are hampered, are not the best; at least not the quickest. They are trying to revolutionize Russia from within; that's pretty slow, you know, and liable to interruption all the time, and is full of perils for the workers. Do you know how Peter the Great started his army? He didn't start it on the family premises under the noses of the Strelitzes; no, he started it away off yonder, privately,--only just one regiment, you know, and he built to that. The first thing the Strelitzes knew, the regiment was an army, their position was turned, and they had to take a walk. Just that little idea made the biggest and worst of all the despotisms the world has seen. The same idea can unmake it. I'm going to prove it. I'm going to get out to one side and work my scheme the way Peter did."
"This is mighty interesting, Rossmore. What is it you are, going to do?"
"I am going to buy Siberia and start a republic."
"There,--bang you go again, without giving any notice! Going to buy it?"
"Yes, as soon as I get the money. I don't care what the price is, I shall take it. I can afford it, and I will. Now then, consider this-- and you've never thought of it, I'll warrant. Where is the place where there is twenty-five times more manhood, pluck, true heroism, unselfishness, devotion to high and noble ideals, adoration of liberty, wide education, and brains, per thousand of population, than any other domain in the whole world can show?"
"It is true; it certainly is true, but I never thought of it before."
"Nobody ever thinks of it. But it's so, just the same. In those mines and prisons are gathered together the very finest and noblest and capablest multitude of human beings that God is able to create. Now if you had that kind of a population to sell, would you offer it to a despotism? No, the despotism has no use for it; you would lose money. A despotism has no use for anything but human cattle. But suppose you want to start a republic?"
"Yes, I see.