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-- Discussion of Chapter 8

"So the ape civilisation was no use?" said Michael. "I don't believe that the apes could saw trees."
"I wish you hadn't made Spike die", said Betty. "He was a nice gangster."
"But don't you see", said David, "that he'll have to make the other men die too? Fritz, Pyecraft and himself, they'll have to die."
"Why?" I asked.
" 'Cos you are no use. Only the young ones should live."
"But if I die", said I, "how can I end the story?"
"We could become spiritualists", chuckled Jean, "and then your ghost could come back and tell us the story. Make all the stone people come back as ghosts, and we'll fight them."
"I think", said Gordon, who had been sitting very thoughtful, "that there is one big flaw in the story. There must have been hundreds of men down in submarines, and the cloud couldn't have touched them. They would all be alive."
"Yes", I said, "I agree that that is a reasonable deduction, but again you show your ignorance of science. This cloud, which was composed mainly of SiF2(CN)2 united with the H2O of the sea and formed the chemical compunds HF and HCN, which were, if anything, more poisonous and, on the account of the SiO2 which was also formed, petrified every moist tissue they touched."
"There's no such formula", said Bunny.
I ignored the interruption.
"So that when the submarine crews came to the surface they met a sort of hanging mist that turned them into stone."
"All of them?" asked Robert. "Couldn't there be one submarine of -- say -- Franco's that stayed down long enough to come up when the mist had gone?"
"When I come to think of it", I said slowly, "I believe there was one of Franco's submarines that did survive."
"Good", said the boys together.
"You haven't had your revenge for me burning the White Horse yet", laughed Betty.
"The story is not yet ended", I said softly.
"There's not nearly enough blood in it", said Michael. "Why didn't we have fights with lions all the way to the coast? And shooting the apes with machine-guns was too easy. I want hand-to-hand battles with axes or swords. I hope Franco's submarine attacks the torpedo boat." "If I am the captain!" said David. "Box the binnacle! You don't know much about the sea, Neill. You box the compass."
"What does that mean?" I asked.
"Why", said David scornfully, "it means putting the lid on it after you have used it. You shouldn't try to tell a story of the sea if you don't know what the words mean. What's the opposite of port?"
"Claret", I said hastily, and the boys shouted: "Ses you!" and went away.
But the girls stayed.
"It isn't exactly what you would call a love story, Neill, is it?" said Betty.
"Weren't you just a little in love with Spike?" I asked.
Betty blushed.
"I liked him, but I wasn't in love with him. You can't fall in love with a man in a story. But I don't think you should have made him die to save Jean."
"Why not?" asked Jean bridling.
"I dunno. Just seems silly to have a man die for a kid like you. In the films when a chap dies, it is always 'cos he loves a woman his own age. And she never never marries, just gets old and looks at his photo every day."
"Oh, you're so mushy", said Jean with scorn, "and you're just jealous too. If I had a face like --" but I stepped in and declared the sitting ended."

On to Chapter 9

Discussion of chapter 8 of 'The Last Man Alive' by A. S. Neill. This page is copyrighted.