Besides, is it not wonderful to realise that the methods of the sportsmen are the only conceivable methods by which trout could be taken without unnecessary suffering ? Imprisonment in a net would prolong their terror more than the sportsman does. Damming a stream in order to leave them defenceless on the dry bed below, or liberating the waters of a lake for a similar purpose, would entail the death of many more fish than were wanted, and could be frequently repeated only at the sacrifice of the whole stock. Painless death would follow a handful of dynamite hurled into a pool; but, whilst only a few of the fish in the pool might be wanted, all of them would perish. By throwing lime into the water, you could easily poison a stream for miles. On the other hand, the methods of capture adopted by the sportsman seem to be exactly in accord with the balance of nature. They prevent overstocking and degeneration ; and, as general experience shows, they do not unduly reduce the numbers of the trout. Then, what of the sportsman's methods ? Was it only by a blind accident that the First Cause, providing that trout during the months when they are fit to be the food of man should feed liberally on flies, provided also that man, who, in common with all animals, is instinctively a hunter, should find feathers and other materials out of which exact imitations of the flies could be made ?
This could be affirmed only on the assumption that the First Cause lacked foresight. If the imitation flies were foreseen, they were ordained: in the Omnipotent foresight and ordination are indistinguishable.
This thought is open to the objection that it would make the First Cause responsible for the evil that men do as well as for their harmless or praiseworthy actions. The Omniscient, that is to say, must have foreseen evil as well as good, and, if foresight and ordination are ultimately indistinguishable, must have ordained evil as well as good. Thus, clearly, the argument from Design is not a complete explanation of the universe.
It stops short just where successful progress into the past would begin to render it absolutely convincing. Still, as far as it goes, the Argument is held in general respect, and it may not be profitless to pursue for a few sentences farther its bearing upon our subject.
It might be said that in relation to the trout the Argument from Design, even with the modification which we have seen to be necessary, would break down completely if the people suddenly resolved upon abolition of the Game Laws. This would exemplify a strangely persistent error of the human understanding. There is nothing that we know of to render impossible a snowstorm that would blot out the whole of the peoples of Europe; yet the snowstorm does not come. Twenty thousand citizens of London marching against St. Paul's would, by the impact of their own mass, bring the Cathedral to the ground ; yet the march is not undertaken. As some men die by their own hands, it is conceivable that nations might so die; but nations never do. Similarly, there is never a protest against the Game Laws sufficient to bring about their repeal. Clearly, then, the preservation of game is as directly referable to the scheme of creation as are the preservations of humanity in Europe from the snows, St. Paul's Cathedral from the mob, and nations from the impulse to suicide. It is only to those who think in 'isms, or do not think at all, that this statement will be startling or incredible. All things in this world are wonderful; and sometimes familiar things, seen in their true relations, are the most wonderful of all.
Often, however, it is very difficult to perceive the true relations. This is notably the case in human society. Some social phenomena are more puzzling than any to be witnessed among the lower animals. As far as one can make out, these do not habitually do anything without a cause; but men are different Dogs, for example, never bark merely for the sake of barking; but men frequently speak merely for the sake of speaking. Even as the literary style of gentlemen who despise syntax is full of unrelated participles, the colloquial style of others is full of things that have no perceptible connection with reason.
Of this I had a striking series of illustrations on returning to Town after a long absence in an almost uninhabited land. In St. James's Street, on my way to the Club, I met a man, and he said, " There's air !" " Doubtless," I answered, without understanding. My friend was a very well-known artist, none other than Mr. C-W-, who, after the exchange of a few words on the weather, words of a more definite kind, passed on. Immediately on his going, I met another man, a man for whom I have a very high regard, Mr. J-A-G-, head of a department in Science and Art at South Kensington, who greeted me with an astonishing statement. " What ho ! she bumps !" quoth he. Not comprehending, I changed the subject, and asked whether he had taken any steps concerning the seat in Parliament towards which I had long been urging him. He invited me to lunch at his house three days thence, as of yore, and went his way. Before I reached my destination, not more than two hundred yards off, the strange announcements were repeatedly insisted on.
Lord A- O- and his rival in foreign travel and adventure Mr. T-C--positively assured me that there was air; and just as I was turning to the steps of the Club Mr. M- Wthrust his beaming countenance out of a hansom cabriolet, and shouted the tidings that she bumped. "O, Monty, kindly go to the devil!" I implored, entering the stately asylum. It turned out to be an asylum in more than one sense. Old habit led my footsteps towards the round table in a corner of the coffee-room, and, seeing friendly faces there, I sat down for luncheon at the accustomed place. The talk was about politics, and much of it I could follow; but there was one constantly recurring word of which I could make nothing. "Efficiency," "Efficiency," "Efficiency." It was sprinkled over the dialogue of my much absorbed companions, and from all the tables in the room the earnest sibilants penetrated the cheerful chatter of the mid-day meal. In the smoking-room shortly afterwards I narrated to Mr. G-B-the strange things I had heard, and asked whether he could explain. His answer did but darken counsel. It was in music. Lifting up his voice, G- B- chaunted : " Some one | ought to | speak to | Mister | Hodgson | Some one | ought to | tell him | what to | do-oo!" "Evidently there are rogues about," I said to myself, moving off towards a shady corner in which I had espied Dagonet, in an armchair, meditatively flourishing a large cigar. Dagonet is an encyclopaedic Briton, and very humane: I dared say he could and would explain the words that had puzzled me on my return to Town.