Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Best Part: "Flying Dutch," by Tom Holt

“Have you ever actually asked yourself what’s so utterly terrible about Montalban’s conspiracy, or whatever it is?” [Jane asked]

Danny stared. “Are you serious?” he said. “It’s a conspiracy. It’s a fundamental threat to the liberty of the free world. It’s . . .” 

“It’s the way things have been run for the last three hundred odd years,” Jane said thoughtfully. “True, I never liked it much myself, but I don’t think the fact that it’s an organized scheme by a really quite pleasant old Spanish gentleman in Cirencester, rather than the accumulated megalomania and negligence of generations or world statesman, makes it any the more terrible, do you? I mean, Montalban isn’t planning to overthrow democracy or annexe the Sudetenland, he’s just trying to get rid of a smell. Will it really be so awful if he succeeds?” 

“But . . ." Danny spluttered. He knew exactly why it was so pernicious and so wrong, but he couldn’t quite find the words. “But he’s just one man, one selfish individual, and he’s controlling the lives of millions and millions of people. You can’t do that. It’s not right.”

“I see,” Jane said. “So if we have third-world poverty and nuclear weapons and East-West hostility and economic depressions, but all brought about by means of the democratic process, then that’s all right, but if just one man is responsible then it’s tyranny. Sorry, I never did history at school, I don’t understand these things.” 

“Don’t be stupid,” Danny said, “you entirely fail to grasp . . .” 

“Very likely,” Jane said sweetly. “But before you found out about Montalban, you would have given your life to defend the fundamental basics of our society and our way of life against the Montalbans of this world; the status quo, you’d probably call it. And now it turns out to be all his doing, you suddenly realise it’s evil and it’s got to go. Please explain.”

Danny glared at her and drew in a deep breath. “So you’re on his side now, are you? I see.” 

Jane shook her head. “I’m not on anybody’s side. You make it all sound like hockey matches at school. I don’t care at all whether Montalban gets rid of his smell or not – or rather, I do; I think it must be rather awful to smell and besides, if he finds a cure for it then Vanderdecker will be cured too, and I . . . well, I like him. And I also don’t want to see some sort of dreadful Wall Street Crash, and everybody jumping out of windows the length and breadth of King William Street, because that isn’t going to help anyone, now is it? Whereas – “ Jane suddenly realized that she’d just used the word ‘whereas’ in conversation, and didn’t know whether to feel ashamed or proud – “whereas if everybody’s sensible and we all act like grown-ups, we can all sort things out and everyone can have what they want.”

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