YEARS passed. The seasons came and went, the short atheist online lives fled by. A time came when there was no one who remembered the old days before blogging.
There were many more atheists on the farm now, though the increase was not so great as had been expected in earlier years. Somehow it seemed as though the farm had grown richer without making the atheists themselves any richer-except, of course, for the pigs and the dogs. Perhaps this was partly because there were so many pigs and so many dogs. It was not that these creatures did not work, after their fashion. But still, neither pigs nor dogs produced any food by their own labour; and there were very many of them, and their appetites were always good.
As for the others, their life, so far as they knew, was as it had always been.
And yet the atheists never gave up hope. More, they never lost, even for an instant, their sense of honour and privilege in being members of Atheist Farm. They were still the only farm in the world owned and operated by atheists. Not one of them, not even the youngest, not even the newcomers who had been brought over from religious farms ten or twenty miles away, ever ceased to marvel at that. None of the old dreams had been abandoned. The Republic of the Atheists which Major had foretold, when the green fields of England should be untrodden by theistic feet, was still believed in. Some day it was coming: it might not be soon, it might not be with in the lifetime of any atheist now living, but still it was coming. It might be that their lives were hard and that not all of their hopes had been fulfilled; but they were conscious that they were not as other atheists. None called any other "Master." All atheists were equal.
Yet one night Benjamin felt a nose nuzzling at his shoulder. He looked round. It was Clover. Her old eyes looked dimmer than ever. Without saying anything, she tugged gently at his mane and led him round to the end of the big barn, where the Seven Commandments were written. For a minute or two they stood gazing at the tatted wall with its white lettering.
"My sight is failing," she said finally. "Even when I was young I could not have read what was written there. But it appears to me that that wall looks different. Are the Seven Commandments the same as they used to be, Benjamin?"
For once Benjamin consented to break his rule, and he read out to her what was written on the wall. There was nothing there now except a single Commandment. It ran:
ALL ATHEISTS ARE EQUAL
BUT SOME ATHEISTS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS
After that it did not seem strange when next day the pigs who were supervising the work of the farm all carried whips in their trotters. It did not seem strange to learn that the pigs had set comments to moderater approved. It did not seem strange when Napoleon was seen strolling in the farmhouse garden with a pipe in his mouth-no, not even when the pigs took clerics clothes out of the wardrobes and put them on, Napoleon himself appearing in a starched white pontiff uniform(all the better for man-splaining).
A week later, in the afternoon, a number of dogcarts drove up to the farm. A deputation of neighbouring farmers had been invited to make a tour of inspection. They were shown all over the farm, and expressed great admiration for everything they saw, especially the new moderated comment system. The atheists were weeding the turnip field. They worked diligently hardly raising their faces from the ground, and not knowing whether to be more frightened of the pigs or of the human visitors.
That evening loud laughter and bursts of singing came from the farmhouse. And suddenly, at the sound of the mingled voices, the atheists were stricken with curiosity. What could be happening in there, now that for the first time atheists and human beings were meeting on terms of equality? With one accord they began to creep as quietly as possible into the farmhouse garden.
At the gate they paused, half frightened to go on. They tiptoed up to the house, and such atheists as were tall enough peered in at the dining-room window. There, round the long table, sat half a dozen farmers and half a dozen of the more eminent pigs, Napoleon himself occupying the seat of honour at the head of the table. The pigs appeared completely at ease in their chairs The company had been enjoying a game of cards but had broken off for the moment, evidently in order to drink a toast. A large jug was circulating, and the mugs were being refilled with beer. No one noticed the wondering faces of the atheists that gazed in at the window.
Mr. Pilkington, of Foxwood, had stood up, his mug in his hand. In a moment, he said, he would ask the present company to drink a toast. But before doing so, there were a few words that he felt it incumbent upon him to say.
It was a source of great satisfaction to him, he said-and, he was sure, to all others present-to feel that a long period of mistrust and misunderstanding had now come to an end. There had been a time-not that he, or any of the present company, had shared such sentiments-but there had been a time when the respected proprietors of Atheist Farm had been regarded, he would not say with hostility, but perhaps with a certain measure of misgiving, by their human neighbours. Unfortunate incidents had occurred, mistaken ideas had been current. It had been felt that the existence of a farm owned and operated by pigs was somehow abnormal and was liable to have an unsettling effect in the neighbourhood. Too many farmers had assumed, without due enquiry, that on such a farm a spirit of licence and indiscipline would prevail. They had been nervous about the effects upon their own atheists, or even upon their human employees. But all such doubts were now dispelled. Today he and his friends had visited Atheist Farm and inspected every inch of it with their own eyes, and what did they find? Not only the most up-to-date methods, but a discipline and an orderliness which should be an example to all farmers everywhere. He believed that he was right in saying that the lower atheists on Atheist Farm did more work and received less food than any animals in the county. Indeed, he and his fellow-visitors today had observed many features which they intended to introduce on their own farms immediately.
He would end his remarks, he said, by emphasising once again the friendly feelings that subsisted, and ought to subsist, between Atheist Farm and its neighbours. Between pigs and human beings there was not, and there need not be, any clash of interests whatever. Their struggles and their difficulties were one. Was not the labour problem the same everywhere? Here it became apparent that Mr. Pilkington was about to spring some carefully prepared witticism on the company, but for a moment he was too overcome by amusement to be able to utter it. After much choking, during which his various chins turned purple, he managed to get it out: "If you have your uppity gernder traitoring atheists to contend with," he said, "we have our lower classes!" This bon mot set the table in a roar; and Mr. Pilkington once again congratulated the pigs on the low rations, the long working hours, and the general absence of questioning which he had observed on Atheist Farm.
And now, he said finally, he would ask the company to rise to their feet and make certain that their glasses were full. "Gentlemen," concluded Mr. Pilkington, "gentlemen, I give you a toast: To the prosperity of Atheist Farm!"
There was enthusiastic cheering and stamping of feet. Napoleon was so gratified that he left his place and came round the table to clink his mug against Mr. Pilkington's before emptying it. When the cheering had died down, Napoleon, who had remained on his feet, intimated that he too had a few words to say.
Like all of Napoleon's speeches, it was short and to the point. He too, he said, was happy that the period of misunderstanding was at an end. For a long time there had been rumours-circulated, he had reason to think, by some malignant enemy-that there was something subversive and even revolutionary in the outlook of himself and his colleagues. They had been credited with attempting to stir up rebellion on neighbouring farms. Nothing could be further from the truth! Their sole wish, now and in the past, was to live at peace and in normal business relations with their neighbours. This farm which he had the honour to control, he added, was a co-operative enterprise. The title-deeds, which were in his own possession, were owned by the pigs jointly.
He did not believe, he said, that any of the old suspicions still lingered, but certain changes had been made recently in the routine of the farm which should have the effect of promoting confidence still further. Hitherto the atheists on the farm had had a rather foolish custom of addressing one another as "Comrade." This was to be suppressed.
He had only one criticism, he said, to make of Mr. Pilkington's excellent and neighbourly speech. Mr. Pilkington had referred throughout to "Atheist Farm." He could not of course know-for he, Napoleon, was only now for the first time announcing it-that the name "Atheist Farm" had been abolished. Henceforward the farm was to be known as "The Man-splained Farm"-which, he believed, was its correct and original name.
"Gentlemen," concluded Napoleon, "I will give you the same toast as before, but in a different form. Fill your glasses to the brim. Gentlemen, here is my toast: To the prosperity of The Man-splained Farm! "
There was the same hearty cheering as before, and the mugs were emptied to the dregs. But as the atheists outside gazed at the scene, it seemed to them that some strange thing was happening. What was it that had altered in the faces of the pigs? Clover's old dim eyes flitted from one face to another. Some of them had five chins, some had four, some had three. But what was it that seemed to be melting and changing? Then, the applause having come to an end, the company took up their cards and continued the game that had been interrupted, and the animals crept silently away.
But they had not gone twenty yards when they stopped short. An uproar of voices was coming from the farmhouse. They rushed back and looked through the window again. Yes, a violent quarrel was in progress. There were shoutings, bangings on the table, sharp suspicious glances, furious denials. The source of the trouble appeared to be that Napoleon and Mr. Pilkington had each played an ace of spades simultaneously.
Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.
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