Page:HG Wells--secret places of the heart.djvu/98

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sells his coal in his own pettifogging manner... But you know of these things. You know too how we trail the coal all over the country, spoiling it as we trail it, until at last we get it into the silly coal scuttles beside the silly, wasteful, air-poisoning, fog-creating fireplace.

“And this stuff,” said Sir Richmond, bringing his hand down so smartly on the table that the startled coffee cups cried out upon the tray; “was given to men to give them power over metals, to get knowledge with, to get more power with....”

“The oil story, I suppose, is as bad.”

“The oil story is worse....

“There is a sort of cant,” said Sir Richmond in a fierce parenthesis, “that the supplies of oil are inexhaustible—that you can muddle about with oil anyhow.... Optimism of knaves and imbeciles.... They don’t want to be pulled up by any sane considerations....”

For some moments he kept silence—as if in unspeakable commination.

“Here I am with some clearness of vision—my only gift; not very clever, with a natural bad temper, and a strong sexual bias, doing what I can to get a broader handling of the fuel question—as a common interest for all mankind. And I find myself up against a lot of men, subtle men, sharp men, obstinate men, prejudiced men, able to get round me, able to get over me, able to blockade me.... Clever men—yes, and all of them ulti-