Beverly's Bomb Synchronizer

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Beverly's Bomb Synchronizer

BY THOMAS A. JANVIER

"ALL that you have been telling us about Origen, Bishop," said the Colonel, rousing himself as the Bishop paused in his discourse, "has interested me profoundly."

"As I have inferred, Colonel," rejoined the Bishop, in acid tones, "from your closed eyes and your attitude of pleasingly complete repose."

"My eyes are smarting to-day. No doubt it's the dust," the Colonel explained. And continued: "He seems to have been a most explosive sort of person."

"Guncotton wouldn't have been in it with him," interjected the Doctor.

"Precisely," assented the Colonel. "And that tendency on his part—to go off suddenly and with great violence against things generally—very pointedly reminds me of one of the most curious and most interesting of the many extraordinary inventions of my friend Mr. Beverly. I allude, of course, to his ingeniously contrived Dynamite-bomb Synchronizer: a device that I can imagine—from what we have heard about his methods—Origen would have been disposed to employ as a practical eliminator of Patristic opposition to his somewhat extreme views. Mr. Beverly's Synchronizer, as its name implies, had for its purpose—"

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"Pardon my interruption, Colonel," interposed the Bishop, "but I beg to call your attention to the fact—naturally unnoted by you in your slumber—that at the moment of your waking I had just completed my summarized presentment of the several doctrinal postulates—heretical or orthodox, according to the viewpoint—advanced by Origen in his philosophic and dogmatic De Principiis and enlarged upon in his exegetical Hexapla over which arose the great controversy—leadingly sustained on the one side by Jerome and on the other by Rufinus, the pupil of Origen—that so shook the Church in the latter half of the fourth and the early years of the fifth centuries; and from this presentment I was about to continue—basing my remarks mainly upon the catena of passages from later Patristic writers collected by Petavius—by developing what I venture to regard as my not uninteresting conclusions concerning the action—still mooted, so far as Origen is affected—taken in the succeeding century by the (Ecumenical Council of the year 553 toward allaying this particular doctrinal conflict along with the other equally ardent dissensions—over Nestorianism, only partially quieted by the Council of Chalcedon, Eutychianism, etc.—of those troublous times. The Council to which I refer, as you all know, was the Second of Constantinople. It was convened—"

"My dear Bishop," said the Judge, speaking kindly but firmly, "I beg that you will permit me to break for a moment the thread of your deeply interesting discourse with what I assure you is a well-meant interpellative suggestion. With submission I venture to assert that the intercalation, as I may term it, of some other topic in your Patristic deliverances—especially of such a topic as the racy bit about dynamite bombs that the Colonel seems disposed to lay before us—will tend to whet, rather than to dull, our pleased attention to your remarks. It will have the same arousing and stimulating effect," the Judge continued, genially, "that is produced on somewhat jaded appetites by an ice served in the middle of a long dinner. After the Colonel has shaken us up, as I may say, with his dynamite, we shall listen to what more you have to tell about Origen with a freshened power of apprehension and a livelier zest."

"Don't count on any freshened apprehension and livelier zest from me," said the Doctor; "I'm fed up on Origen. But I'm with the Judge for changing off to dynamite bombs. Bombs ought to keep us awake, anyway. Crack ahead, Colonel. How did old Beverly happen to turn anarchist? I shouldn't have thought he was that kind."

"Mr. Beverly did not turn anarchist, sir," replied the Colonel, severely. "His disposition toward anarchical principles, if they may be termed principles, was that of severe reprobation. But primarily—"

"The doubt about the action taken in regard to Origen by the General Council of the year 553 arises—"

"But primarily and above all else," continued the Colonel, speaking with an energetic insistence that overbore the Bishop's attempted utterance, "Mr. Beverly was an inventor. As such, urged by the genius that constantly impelled him to create needed labor-saving and time-saving devices in every sphere of human activity, he set himself to create, and did create, a device for synchronizing the explosions of any required number of bombs at any designated future moment—the date of the explosion being predetermined with a most exact nicety—that the particular needs of any group of active patriots or of active labor-leaders might require: with the result—the possibility being eliminated of a well-arranged bomb project going wrong because of explosive irregularity, and uniformity of action at a precisely fixed time being assured—that practical anarchists, political or industrial, would be enabled to carry out their corrective undertakings with a greatly increased accuracy and despatch. His device for effecting these obvious improvements in practical bombing—while of an admirable simplicity—was absolutely adequate to the accomplishment of the results that it was designed to produce."

My cloth compels me to condemn in explicit terms the pernicious outlet that Mr. Beverly gave in this instance to his inventive faculty," observed the Bishop. "And now, as we have had the refreshing and zest-giving ice, to use the Judge's humorous simile, I resume: The matter to which I was about to call your attention—a matter over which the schoolmen have argued for more than twelve centuries—was whether the Constantinople Council of the year 553 did or did not specifically anathematize Origen's doctrines. In its Eleventh Anathem the text now stands—"

"Pardon me, Bishop," said the Colonel, "if I add, before we return to Origen, a few more words. As I was saying, Mr. Beverly's Dynamite-bomb Synchronizer was intended—as is implied in the name given by him to his device—so to synchronize the explosion of any desired number of bombs, at any desired point or points, at any desired moment, as to make their destructive work simultaneously effective. This result was produced by charging them, in association with explosive material of a suitable nature, with suitable chemicals suitably combined to assure a strictly regulated decomposition—that could be accelerated or retarded with the utmost accuracy—productive of ignition: with the outcome that the whole baking of bombs, as he playfully phrased it, wherever placed would explode at precisely the same predetermined instant in time.

"The practical usefulness of Mr. Beverly's device is obvious. Let us suppose, for instance, an acute issue between capital and labor such as arises in the case of a railway strike—attended, as usual, by a desire, on the part of the strikers, argumentatively to blow up railway bridges. Ordinarily, as we know, bridge destruction of this sort is in detail. One bridge after another is dealt with until the cogency of the argument is recognized—with a resulting useless and annoying delay in arriving at a composition. Mr. Beverly's invention, you will observe, eliminated the element of delay. Using synchronized bombs—so dated, explosively, as to afford time for their appropriate distribution—all of the bridges involved in the controversy simultaneously would be reduced to fragments: with a resulting emphasis of the argument that could be relied upon to produce an immediate adjustment of the conflicting interests—attended by no delay whatever save that incidentally involved in rebuilding the bridges before normal traffic conditions could be resumed. In like manner, as you readily will perceive, factories, dams, etc., could be treated with an equal simultaneity of disintegration leading to equally satisfactory results.

"It was in their employment for political purposes, however, that Mr. Beverly saw for his synchronized bombs their widest field of practical usefulness. Dynamiting reigning sovereigns one at a time—in accordance with the established custom—is less effective even than is the dynamiting in detail of railway bridges. When such incidents occur all the other sovereigns interestedly put forth the full power of their several governments to allay the resulting ebullition. As Mr. Beverly recognized, the simultaneous dynamiting of the whole bunch of potentates—the annihilation of all of them, in their respective several capitols, at precisely the same instant in time—would create a situation that really would give the anarchists a chance.

"Again I must affirm that Mr. Beverly's disposition toward anarchists was that of the most severe reprobation. But, as I also have said, primarily he was a great inventor—with all of the ardent desire felt by every great inventor to see in practical every-day use the proficuous devices evolved by his teeming genius. In a way, also, his broad-mindedness compelled him to recognize the fact that anarchists, as such, never had been accorded an adequate opportunity to apply their advanced theories on a scale sufficing to produce convincing results.

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"Holding these liberal views—but, above all, thrilling with an eager longing to see his perfected invention in triumphant operation—Mr. Beverly engaged in correspondence with the more responsible anarchical leaders throughout the world: with the result that the anarchical leaders—readily perceiving the immense possibilities in simultaneous potentate-extinction—promptly gave him an order for as many bombs as there were potentates, with a small surplus by way of provision against errors in delivery or other similar incidental mischance."

"Permit me, sir," said the Bishop, "at this point in your presentment of Mr. Beverly's most reprehensible doings to observe that the parallel which you have seen fit to institute between his explosiveness and the explosiveness of Origen is nothing short of a vilifying outrage upon the memory of that great Father of the Church. Had Mr. Beverly's nefarious conduct been brought for judgment before the Constantinople Council there assuredly would be no dubiety in the records as to its action. In the case of Origen, however, our uncertainty—aside from that due to our insufficient knowledge of how far he carried his use of Greek philosophy as a propædeutic for Christianity—arises, as I have pointed out, from the possibility of textual error in the present reading of the Eleventh Anathema. As I shall explain to you—"

"Matters being thus arranged," continued the Colonel, firmly, "Mr. Beverly set himself to filling the very considerable order for synchronized bombs that the necessities of the case demanded: primarily engaging in most painstakingly exact calculations in regard to time as affected by longitude; and continuing, when this governing factor was established, with a like painstakingly accurate preparation of the decomposing combination of chemicals, the igniting element, in a manner that would assure the exactly synchronized explosion of all the bombs—widely placed and under widely varying climatic conditions—at precisely the same moment on the same day. You will be interested in knowing, because of its bearing on a very generally distributed popular superstition, that—at the especial request of their intending users—the bombs uniformly were timed to operate at the noon of a Friday falling on the thirteenth of a specified month."

"Setting aside the moral bearings of this exceptionally curious undertaking," observed the Bishop, "I agree with you, Colonel, in regarding as most interesting the selection of that ill-boding date for its violent culmination. Even in Origen's time Friday was regarded—by no means universally, but very generally—as a day of misfortune; and I am disposed to hold that equally in his time, notwithstanding the then and now current belief in the beneficent influence exerted, as such, by odd numbers—reference to which, as you will remember, is made by Vergil in his Eighth Eclogue—a like feeling generally obtained in regard to the number thirteen. We even may permit ourselves, in a playful spirit, to entertain the fanciful surmise that the Council of the year 553 was convened on a Friday falling on a thirteenth—and that the regrettable obscurity of its records is to be attributed to that malefic chronological mischance. Certainly—speaking again in all seriousness—it is our doubt concerning the purity of the text of the Eleventh Anathema, as that text has come down to us, that leaves the action of the Council in regard to Origen undetermined."

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"Such being the case, Bishop, and the matter being determined, as you point out, by its inherent indeterminativeness, I resume: Having completed, as I have said, the delicately exact adjustment of the decomposing chemical combination ignitive of his bombs to the specified time limit for their explosion, Mr. Beverly—"

"Pardon me, Colonel, but you must permit me, before you proceed, to correct your very marked misapprehension of my words. Undetermined the action of the Council admittedly is; but not, I venture to think, as you have put it, indeterminable. In the existing text of the Eleventh Anathema we find Origen's name—together with the names of Arms, Nestorius, Eutyches, and others—included in a general doctrinal condemnation. But even in this dubious text—upheld by Hefele, I concede, but sharply, and I think justly, rejected by Garnier—no specific doctrine of Origen's is condemned in specific terms. In fairness I also concede that some attention is due to the plausible suggestion made by the Ballerini: to the effect that certain of the acts of the Council have perished, including an Anathema condemning Origen in precise terms. Evagrius, you will remember, is the principal witness produced in support of this specious, but in my opinion groundless, contention. Touching this point, I hold with a strong conviction the opinion that Evagrius—even supposing his record to be otherwise correct—confused the Constantinople Council of the year 553 with the Council of only a slightly later date held in the same city; and I therefore am so far in agreement with Hefele that I accept his conclusion, embodied in his monumental Conciliengeschichte—"

"You will pardon, I trust, Bishop," said the Colonel, "my somewhat abrupt departure. The remainder of my little story is quite unimportant—and I have a sudden and irresistible longing for fresh air. With your permission I will bid you good day."

"I will accompany you, Colonel," said the Judge. "I have an irresistible longing for fresh air myself. Good day, Bishop."

"And you can bet your bottom dollar," said the Doctor, "that I'm going to get out of this in a hurry, too. So long, Bish."

This work was published before January 1, 1923, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.