Page:Essays and phantasies by James Thomson.djvu/227

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215
SAYINGS OF SIGVAT.

true to themselves, nor succumb to the amiable cowardice of seeking to pretend to believe otherwise than they really do believe, for the sake of fellowship and communion. For the real brothers on this earth are seldom gathered around one family hearth, but are in general widely scattered throughout the kingdoms and nations, and yet more widely scattered throughout the centuries.

He went on: That man was but too correct who exclaimed, "In this wide world of ours there is no creature who has either the will or the power to help another." And it being objected to him: Why then do you, having no faith in the improvability of man by man, sometimes work hard as if to help and improve your fellows? he answered equally: First and foremost, because "it is my nature to." And he added: One works, one cannot but work, as his being ordains, exercising the faculties and attempting to gratify the desires thereof, whether he thinks that such exercise will produce what other people call good or ill, that such gratification implies what other people call happiness or misery. If one is a musket, he will shoot, and is right to shoot; if one is a dirk, he will stab, and is right to stab. When the antelope complained against the tiger's ferocity, the tiger answered: Why have I claws but to seize and rend? why have I teeth but to bite? why have I hunger but to eat? why do you suit me and why do I meet you but that I should eat you? You are right to complain, my poor swift-footed dinner, for the case is very hard for you; I am equally right to devour, else the case would be very hard for me.—So much for Bentham and Mill, for the greatest happiness theory, for universal philanthropy and sublime utilitarianism, added Sigvat cheerfully.

I remember that it was once asked of him: If you saw one drowning whom you knew to be a rogue, a fool, a pest, would you risk your own life in the attempt to save him?