Upton Sinclair, ed. (18781968). The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest. 1915.
By Upton Sinclair
(Prince Hagen, ruler of the Nibelungs, a race of gold-hoarding gnomes, comes up to visit the land of the earth-men, and study Christian civilization. He finds a number of ideas worth taking back to his underground home)
PRINCE HAGEN paused for a moment and puffed in silence; then suddenly he remarked: Do you know that it is a very wonderful ideathat immortality? Did you ever think about it?
I tell you, the man who got that up was a world-genius. When I saw how it worked, it was something almost too much for me to believe; and still I find myself wondering if it can last. For you know if you can once get a man believing in immortality, there is no more left for you to desire; you can take everything in the world he ownsyou can skin him alive if it pleases youand he will bear it all with perfect good humor. I tell you what, I lie awake at night and dream about the chances of getting the Nibelungs to believe in immortality; I dont think I can manage it, but it is a stake worth playing for. I say the phrases over to myselfyou know them allIt is better to give than to receiveLay not up for yourself treasures on earthTake no heed, saying what shall ye eat! As a matter of fact, I fancy the Nibelungs will prove pretty tough at reforming, but it is worth any amount of labor. Suppose I could ever get them to the self-renouncing point! Just fancy the self-renunciation of a man with a seventy-mile tunnel full of gold!
Prince Hagens eyes danced; his face was a study. I watched him wonderingly. Why do you go to all that bother? I demanded, suddenly. If you want the gold, why dont you simply kill the Nibelungs and take it?
I have thought of that, he replied; I might easily manage it all with a single revolver. But why should I kill the geese that lay me golden eggs? I want not only the gold they have, but the gold that they will dig through the centuries that are to come; for I know that the resources of Nibelheim, if they could only be properly developed, would be simply infinite. So I have made up my mind to civilize the people and develop their souls.
Just as the capitalist is getting it in New York, was the response. At present the Nibelungs hide their wealth; I mean to broaden their minds, and establish a system of credit. I mean to teach them ideals of usefulness and service, to establish the arts and sciences, to introduce machinery and all the modern improvements that tend to increase the centralization of power; I shall be masterjust as I am herebecause I am the strongest, and because I am not a dupe.
Yes, said he, I know; it is the whole course of history to be lived over again. But there will be no mistakes and no groping in this case, for I know the way, and I am king. It will be a sort of benevolent despotismthe ideal form of government, as I believe.
I have been down to Nibelheim twice since the death of dear grandpa, said the prince. The first time, as you imagine, there was tremendous excitement, for all Nibelheim knew what a bad person I had been, and stood in terror of my return. I got them all together and told them the truththat I had become wise and virtuous, that I meant to respect every mans property, and that I meant to consecrate my whole endeavor to the developing of the resources of my native land. And then you should have witnessed the scene! They went half wild with rejoicing; they fell down on their knees and thanked me with tears in their eyes: I played the pater patriae in a fashion to take away your breath. And afterwards I went on to explain to them that I had discovered very many wonderful things up on the earth; that I was going to make a law forbidding any of them to go there, because it was so dangerous, but that I myself was going to brave all the perils for their sakes. I told them about a wonderful animal that was called a steam-drill, and that ate fire, and dug out gold with swiftness beyond anything they could imagine. I said that I was going to empty all my royal treasure caves, and take my fortune and some of theirs to the earth to buy a few thousand of these wonderful creatures; and I promised them that I would give them to the Nibelungs to use, and they might have twice as much gold as they would have dug with their hands, provided they would give me the balance. Of course they agreed to it with shouts of delight, and the contracts were signed then and there. They helped me get out all my gold, and I took them down the steam-drills, and showed them how to manage them; so before very long I expect to have quite a snug little income.