Mr. Propter pain no attention, but continued to lead him towards the back of the house. “It’s a gadget that Abbot of the Smithsonian has been working on for some time,” he continued. “A thing for making use of solar energy.” He interrupted himself for a moment to call back to the others to follow him; then turned around again to Mr Stoyte and resumed the conversation. “Much more compact than anything of the kind that’s ever been made before,” he said. “Much more efficient, too.” And he went on to describe the system of trough-shaped reflectors, the tubes of oil heated to a temperature of four or five hundred degrees Fahrenheit; the boiler for raising steam, if you wanted to run a low pressure engine; the cooking range and water heater, if you were using it only for domestic purposes. “Pity the sun’s down,” he said, as they stood in front of the machine. “I’d have like to show you the way it works the engine. I’ve had two horse-power , eight hours a day, ever since I got the thing working last week. Not bad considering we’re still in January. We’ll have her working overtime all summer.”
Mr. Stoyte had intended to persist in silence—just to show Bill that he was still angry, that he hadn’t forgiven him; but his interest in the machine and, above all, his exasperated concern with Bill’s idiotic, crackpot notions were too much for him. “What the hell do you want to do with two horse-power, eight hours a day?” he asked.
“To run my electric generator.”
“But what do you want with an electric generator? Haven’t you got your current wired in from the city?”
“Of course. And I’m trying to see how far I can be independent of the city.”
“But what for?”
Mr. Propter uttered a little laugh. “Because I believe in Jeffersonian democracy.”
“What the hell has Jeffersonian democracy got to do wit it?” said Mr. Stoyte with mounting irritation. “Can’t you believe in Jefferson and have your current wired in from the city?”
“That’s exactly it,” said Mr. Propter; “you almost certainly can’t.”
“What do you mean?”
“What I say,” Mr. Propter answered mildly.
“I believe in democracy too,” Mr Stoyte announced with a look of defiance.
“I know you do. And you also believe in being the undisputed boss in all your businesses.”
“I should hope so!”
“There’s another name for an undisputed boss,” said Mr Propter. “‘Dictator.'”
“What are you trying to get at?”
“Merely the facts. You believe in democracy; but you’re at the head of businesses which have to be run dictatorially. And your subordinates have to accept your dictatorship because they’re dependent on you for their living. In Russia they’d depend on government officials for their living. Perhaps you think that’s an improvement,” he added, turning to Pete.
(To be continued)
After Many a Summer Dies the Swan
Aldous Huxley 1939