THE PERILS OF MANSOUL
The Government to Blame.—You are thinking, I daresay, what a rich and beautiful country Mansoul must be! But, like most other lands, it is subject to many perils. Unlike most other lands, however, Mansoul has means of escape from the perils that threaten it from time to time. In other countries, we hear the government blamed if poor people have not bread, and if rich people are annoyed by the crowing of a cock. This is usually great nonsense, but it is not nonsense to blame the government of Mansoul for the evils that occur in that country, for it has large power to prevent those evils. How the country is governed you shall hear later. Meantime, learn something of the perils which may overtake poor Mansoul and all that are in it.
Peril of Sloth.—Perhaps the most common evil is a sort of epidemic of sloth that spreads over the whole country. The scavengers sit with heavy eyes and folded arms, and let refuse and filth accumulate in the streets. The farmers and their labourers say, ‘What’s the good?’ and fail to go out with the plough or to sow the seed. Fruit drops from the trees and rots because no one cares to pick it up.
The ships lie idle in the harbours because nobody wants anything from abroad. The libraries let their books be buried in the dust and devoured by insects, and neglect their duty of gathering more. The pictures grow dim and tattered for want of care; and nobody in the whole country thinks it worth while to do anything at all.
Sometimes the people still care to play; but play without work becomes dill after a time, and soon comes to a stop. And so the people, whatever be their business in Mansoul, sit or lounge about with dull eyes, folded arms, and hanging heads.
Peril of Fire.—Another risk that Mansoul runs is that of great conflagrations. Sometimes an incendiary will land at one of its ports from some foreign country, perhaps with the express purpose of setting fire to what is best in Mansoul; but perhaps a man sets fire to things by accident because he does not know how inflammable they are. The fire once begun, the wind carries the flames over many miles of country; noble buildings, precious works of art, farmsteads with stacks of corn, everything is consumed, and ruin follows the track of the fire. Sometimes these fires arise in Mansoul itself. I have told you that the country has great beds of underlying fuel. Here and there inflammable gases break out on the surface, and a spark, dropped in the region of these gases, is sufficient to cause a wide conflagration. But Mansoul ought to be as careful as people in Switzerland are when a hot wind called the Föhn blows, and orders are issued that everyone is to put out his fires and lights.
Perils of Plague, Flood, and Famine.—Sometimes there is a visitation of the plague, because
dwelling-houses, streets, and out-buildings are not kept clean and wholesome, and the drains are allowed to get into disorder.
Sometimes the springs swell in the hills, the rivers overflow, and there is a flood; but this is not always a misfortune in the end, because much that is rotten and unclean is swept away, and lands washed by a flood are very fertile afterwards.
Again, it may happen that the crops fall, through the land has been diligently tilled and good seed sown. But neighbouring States are kind, and help the following year are generally abundant.
Peril of Discord.—Another cause of occasional misery in Mansoul is that a spirit of discord breaks out now and then among the members of the community, and becomes sometimes so violent as to lead to a devastating civil war. The servants and workmen will not obey the masters, and the masters will not consider their servants, and are at feud among themselves; one member of the ministry chooses to attend to the work of some other member; all useful employments are neglected, and the people are a prey to envy and discontent.
I might tell you of some other causes of misery in Mansoul, but shall mention only one more, which is by far the worst that ever overtakes the State.
Peril of Darkness.—Lovely and smiling as the country is when it is well ordered, mists at times emanate from it, chilling, soaking mists, dense and black; not a ray of the sun can penetrate these mists, no light, no warmth; there is no seeing of one’s way; so that the people say, ‘There is no sun,’ and some of the more foolish add, ‘There never was a sun
in heaven, and there never will be.’ When they cannot see the sun, of course they cannot see each other, and blunder against one another in the darkness. You will say that many lands, especially low lands, are subject to blinding mists, but nowhere can they be so thick and heave, and nowhere do they lie so long, as in the Kingdom of Mansoul. One quite exceptional thing about these mists is, that they also are largely under control of the government, especially of the Prime Minister. How this can be so I cannot fully explain here, but you will understand later.
Because all these things can happen to Mansoul, we just not run away with the idea that it is an unhappy country. One the contrary, it is radiant and lovely, busy and gay, full of many interests and of joyous life,—so long as the government attends to its duties.