- Author: Murray Leinster
Read book online «The Leader by Murray Leinster (most popular ebook readers TXT) 📕». Author - Murray Leinster
Illustrated by van Dongen
... The career of The Leader remains one of the mysteries of history. This man, illegitimate and uneducated, hysterical and superstitious, gathered about him a crowded following of those who had been discontented, but whom he turned into fanatics. Apparently by pure force of personality he seized without resistance the government of one of the world's great nations. So much is unlikely enough. But as the ruler of a civilized country he imposed upon its people the absolute despotism of a primitive sultanate. He honeycombed its society with spies. He imprisoned, tortured, and executed without trial or check. And while all this went on he received the most impassioned loyalty of his subjects! Morality was abandoned at his command with as much alacrity as common sense. He himself was subject to the grossest superstitions. He listened to astrologers and fortunetellers—and executed them when they foretold disaster. But it is not enough to be amazed at the man himself. The great mystery is that people of the Twentieth Century, trained in science and technically advanced, should join in this orgy of what seems mere madness ...
Concise History of Europe. Blaisdell.
Letter from Professor Albrecht Aigen, University of Brunn, to the Herr General Johann von Steppberg, retired.
My dear General von Steppberg:
It is with reluctance that I intrude upon your retirement, but at the request of the Government I have undertaken a scientific examination of the causes which brought about The Leader's rise to power, the extraordinary popularity of his regime, the impassioned loyalty he was able to evoke, and the astounding final developments.
If you can communicate to me any memories of The Leader which may aid in understanding this most bewildering period of our history, I assure you that it will be appreciated by myself, by the authorities who wish the investigation made, and I dare to hope by posterity.
I am, my dear general, (Et cetera.)
Letter from General Johann von Steppberg (Retired) to Professor Albrecht Aigen, University of Brunn.
The official yearbooks of the army contain the record of my military career. I have nothing to add to that information. You say the authorities wish more. I refuse it. If they threaten my pension, I will renounce it. If they propose other pressures, I will leave the country. In short, I refuse to discuss in any manner the subject of your recent communication.
I am, Herr Professor, (Et cetera.)
Letter from Professor Albrecht Aigen to Dr. Karl Thurn, Professor of Psychology at University of Laibach.
My dear Karl:
I hope your psionic research goes better than my official project! My business goes nowhere! I have written to generals, ministers, and all kinds of persons who held high office under The Leader. Each and every one refuses to discuss The Leader or his own experiences under him. Why? Surely no one would blame them now! We have had to agree to pretend that no one did anything improper under The Leader, or else that what anyone did was proper at the time. So why should the nabobs of that incredible period refuse to discuss what they should know better than anyone else? I am almost reduced to asking the aid of the astrologers and soothsayers The Leader listened to. Actually, I must make a note to do so in sober earnest. At least they had their own viewpoint of events.
Speaking of viewpoints, I have had some hope of clarifying The Leader's career by comparing it with that of Prime Minister Winston, in power in his country when The Leader ruled ours. His career is splendidly documented. There is astonishingly little documentation about The Leader as a person, however. That is one of the difficulties of my task. Even worse, those who should know him best lock their lips while those—
Here is an unsolicited letter from the janitor of a building in which a former Minister of Education now has his law offices. I have many letters equally preposterous....
Enclosure in letter to Dr. Karl Thurn, University of Laibach.
I am the janitor of the building in which Herr Former Minister of Education Werfen has his offices. In cleaning there I saw a letter crumpled into a ball and thrown into a corner. I learned in the time of The Leader that angry actions often mean evil intentions, so I read the letter to see if the police should be notified. It was a letter from you in which you asked Herr Former Minister of Education Werfen for his memories of The Leader.
I remember The Leader, Herr Professor. He was the most holy man who ever lived, if indeed he was only a man. Once I passed the open door of an office in the building I then worked in. I looked in the door—it was the office of the then-struggling Party The Leader had founded—and I saw The Leader sitting in a chair, thinking. There was golden light about his head, Herr Professor. I have told this to other people and they do not believe me. There were shadowy other beings in the room. I saw, very faintly, great white wings. But the other beings were still because The Leader was thinking and did not wish to be disturbed. I assure you that this is true, Herr Professor. The Leader was the holiest of men—if he was only a man.
I am most respectfully, Herr Professor, (Et cetera.)
Letter from Fraulein Lise Grauer, nurse, in the city of Bludenz, to Professor Aigen at Brunn University.
Most respected Herr Professor:
I write this at the request of the Herr Former Police Inspector Grieg, to whom you directed a letter shortly before his death. The Herr Former Police Inspector had been ill for some time. I was his nurse. I had cared for him for months and did many small services for him, such as writing letters at his direction.
When your letter came he read it and went into a black mood of deep and bitter recollection. He would not speak for hours, and I had great difficulty in getting him to take his medicines. Just before his bedtime he called me and said sardonically;
"Lise, write to this Herr Professor for me. Say to him that I was once a decent man. When The Leader took power, I received orders that I would not accept. I submitted my resignation. Then I received orders to come to The Leader. I obeyed these orders because my resignation was not yet accepted. I was received in his office. I entered it with respect and defiance—respect because he was admitted to be the ruler of our nation; defiance because I would not obey such orders as had been sent me in his name.
"The Leader spoke to me, kindly, and as he spoke all my views changed. It suddenly seemed that I had been absurd to refuse the orders sent me. They seemed right and reasonable and even more lenient than would have been justified.... I left The Leader in a state in which I could not possibly fail to do anything he wished. From that moment I obeyed his orders. I was promoted. Eventually, as you know, I was in command of the Neusatz prison camp. And you know what orders I carried out there!"
I wept, Herr Professor, because the Herr Grieg's eyes were terrible to look at. He was a gentle and kindly man, Herr Professor! I was his nurse, and he was a good patient and a good man in every way. I had heard of the things that were done at Neusatz, but I could not believe that my patient had commanded them. Now, in his eyes I saw that he remembered them and that the memory was intolerable. He said very bitterly:
"Tell the Herr Professor that I can tell him nothing more. I have no other memories that would be of service to him. I have resolved, anyhow, to get rid even of these. I have kept them too long. Say to him that his letter has decided me."
I did not understand what he meant, Herr Professor. I helped him prepare for the night, and when he seemed to be resting quietly I retired, myself. I was wakened by a very loud noise. I went to see what was the matter. The Herr Former Police Inspector Grieg had managed to get out of his bed and across the room to a bureau. He opened a drawer and took out a revolver. He made his way back to his bed. He blew out his brains.
I called the police, and after investigation they instructed me to carry out his request, which I do.
Herr Professor, I do not myself remember the times of The Leader, but they must have been very terrible. If the Herr Former Police Inspector Grieg was actually in command of the Neusatz prison camp, and did actually order the things done there,—I cannot understand it, Herr Professor! Because he was a good and kindly man! If you write of him, I beg that you will mention that he was a most amiable man. I was only his nurse, but I assure you—(Et cetera.)
Letter from Dr. Karl Thurn, University of Laibach, to Professor Albrecht Aigen, University of Brunn.
My dear friend:
I could have predicted your failure to secure co-operation from eminent figures in The Leader's regime. So long as they keep silent, together, they can pretend to be respectable. And nobody longs so passionately to be respectable as a man who has prospered by being a swine, while he awaits an opportunity to prosper again by more swinishness. I would advise you to expect your best information from little people who suffered most and most helplessly looked on or helped while enormities were committed. Such little people will either yearn over the past like your janitor, or want most passionately to understand so that nothing of the sort can ever happen again.
Winston as a parallel to The Leader? Or as a contrast? Which? I can name one marked contrast. I doubt that anybody really and passionately wishes that Winston had never been born.
You mention my researches. You should see some of our results! I have found a rat with undeniable psychokinetic power. I have seen him move a gram-weight of cheese nearly three centimeters to where he could reach it through the cage bars. I begin to suspect a certain female dog of abilities I would prefer not to name just yet. If you can find any excuse to come to Laibach, I promise you amazing demonstrations of psi phenomena. (Et cetera.)
Quotations from, "Recollections of the Earl of Humber, formerly Prime Minister Winston," by the Hon. Charles Wilberforce.
Page 231; "... This incredible event took place even while it seemed most impossible. The Prime Minister took it with his usual aplomb. I asked him what he thought of the matter a week later, at a house party in Hertfordshire. He said, 'I consider it most unfortunate. This Leader of theirs is an inherently nasty individual. Therefore he'll make nastiness the avenue to distinction so long as he's in power. The results will be tragic, because when you bottle up decency men seem to go mad. What a pity one can't bottle up nastiness! The world might become a fit place to live in!'"
Page 247; "The Prime Minister disagreed. 'There was Napoleon,' he observed. 'You might despise him, but after he talked to you you served him. He seemed to throw a spell over people. Alexander probably had the same sort of magic personality. When his personality ceased to operate, as a result of too much wine too continuously, his empire fell immediately to pieces. I've known others personally; an Afghan whom I've always thought did us a favor by getting killed by a sniper. He could have caused a great deal of trouble. I'd guess at the Khalifa. Most of the people who have this incredible persuasiveness, however, seem to set up as successful swindlers. What a pity The Leader had no taste for simple crime, and had to go in for crimes of such elaboration!'"
Letter from Professor Albrecht Aigen, University of Brunn, to Dr. Karl Thurn, University of Laibach.
My dear Karl:
You make me curious with your talk of a rat which levitates crumbs of cheese and a she-dog who displays other psi abilities. I assume that you have found the experimental conditions which let psi powers operate without hindrance. I shall hope some day to see and conceivably to understand.
My own affairs are in hopeless confusion. At the moment I am overwhelmed with material about The Leader, the value of which I cannot estimate. Strange! I ask people who should know what I am commissioned to discover, and they refuse to answer. But it becomes known that I ask, and thousands of little people write me to volunteer impassioned details of their experiences while The Leader ruled. Some are bitter because they did what they did and felt as they felt. These seem to believe in magic or demoniac possession as the reason they behaved with such conspicuous insanity. Others gloat over their deeds, which they recount with gusto—and then express pious regret with no great convincingness. Some of these accounts nauseate me. But something utterly abnormal was in operation, somehow, to cause The Leader's ascendancy!
I wish I could select the important data with certainty. Almost anything, followed up, might reveal the key. But I do not know what to follow! I plan to go to Bozen, where the new monstrous computer has been set up, and