“In spite of all these diseases, and of all the new ones that continued to arise, there were more and more men in the world. This was because it was easy to get food. The easier it was to get food, the more men there were; the more men there were, the more thickly were they packed together on the earth; and the more thickly they were packed, the more new kinds of germs became diseases. There were warnings. Soldervetzsky, as early as 1929, told the bacteriologists that they had no guaranty against some new disease, a thousand times more deadly than any they knew, arising and killing by the hundreds of millions and even by the billion. You see, the micro-organic world remained a mystery to the end. They knew there was such a world, and that from time to time armies of new germs emerged from it to kill men.
“And that was all they knew about it. For all they knew, in that invisible micro-organic world there might be as many different kinds of germs as there are grains of sand on this beach. And also, in that same invisible world it might well be that new kinds of germs came to be. It might be there that life originated—the ‘abysmal fecundity,’ Soldervetzsky called it, applying the words of other men who had written before him….”
It was at this point that Hare-Lip rose to his feet, an expression of huge contempt on his face.
“Granser,” he announced, “you make me sick with your gabble. Why don’t you tell about the Red Death? If you ain’t going to, say so, an’ we’ll start back for camp.”
The old man looked at him and silently began to cry. The weak tears of age rolled down his cheeks and all the feebleness of his eighty-seven years showed in his grief-stricken countenance.
“Sit down,” Edwin counselled soothingly. “Granser’s all right. He’s just gettin’ to the Scarlet Death, ain’t you, Granser? He’s just goin’ to tell us about it right now. Sit down, Hare-Lip. Go ahead, Granser.”
The old man wiped the tears away on his grimy knuckles and took up the tale in a tremulous, piping voice that soon strengthened as he got the swing of the narrative.