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A Set of Six

AN ANARCHIST - A Desperate Tale
That year I spent the best two months of the dry season on one of the estates--in fact, on
the principal cattle estate--of a famous meat-extract manufacturing company.
B.O.S. Bos. You have seen the three magic letters on the advertisement pages of
magazines and newspapers, in the windows of provision merchants, and on calendars for
next year you receive by post in the month of November. They scatter pamphlets also,
written in a sickly enthusiastic style and in several languages, giving statistics of
slaughter and bloodshed enough to make a Turk turn faint. The "art" illustrating that
"literature" represents in vivid and shining colours a large and enraged black bull
stamping upon a yellow snake writhing in emerald-green grass, with a cobalt-blue sky for
a background. It is atrocious and it is an allegory. The snake symbolizes disease,
weakness--perhaps mere hunger, which last is the chronic disease of the majority of
mankind. Of course everybody knows the B. O. S. Ltd., with its unrivalled products:
Vinobos, Jellybos, and the latest unequalled perfection, Tribos, whose nourishment is
offered to you not only highly concentrated, but already half digested. Such apparently is
the love that Limited Company bears to its fellowmen--even as the love of the father and
mother penguin for their hungry fledglings.
Of course the capital of a country must be productively employed. I have nothing to say
against the company. But being myself animated by feelings of affection towards my
fellow-men, I am saddened by the modern system of advertising. Whatever evidence it
offers of enterprise, ingenuity, impudence, and resource in certain individuals, it proves
to my mind the wide prevalence of that form of mental degradation which is called
gullibility.
In various parts of the civilized and uncivilized world I have had to swallow B. O. S. with
more or less benefit to myself, though without great pleasure. Prepared with hot water
and abundantly peppered to bring out the taste, this extract is not really unpalatable. But I
have never swallowed its advertisements. Perhaps they have not gone far enough. As far
as I can remember they make no promise of everlasting youth to the users of B. O. S., nor
yet have they claimed the power of raising the dead for their estimable products. Why
this austere reserve, I wonder? But I don't think they would have had me even on these
terms. Whatever form of mental degradation I may (being but human) be suffering from,
it is not the popular form. I am not gullible.
I have been at some pains to bring out distinctly this statement about myself in view of
the story which follows. I have checked the facts as far as possible. I have turned up the
files of French newspapers, and I have also talked with the officer who commands the
military guard on the Ile Royale, when in the course of my travels I reached Cayenne. I
believe the story to be in the main true. It is the sort of story that no man, I think, would
ever invent about himself, for it is neither grandiose nor flattering, nor yet funny enough
to gratify a perverted vanity.
 
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