The Golden Age Of Science Fiction Vol Xi Part 36
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If the admirable economy with which every species of work was carried on in Mizora could be thoroughly comprehended, the universality of luxuries need not be wondered at. They were drilled in economy from a very early period. It was taught them as a virtue.
Machinery, with them, had become the slave of invention. I lived long enough in Mizora to comprehend that the absence of pauperism, genteel and otherwise, was largely due to the ingenious application of machinery to all kinds of physical labor. When the cost of producing luxuries decreases, the value of the luxuries produced must decrease with it. The result is they are within reach of the narrowest incomes. A life surrounded by refinement must absorb some of it.
I had a conversation with the Preceptress upon this subject, and she said: "Some natures are so undecided in character that they become only what their surroundings make them. Others only partially absorb tastes and sentiments that form the influence about them. They maintain a decided individuality; yet they are most always noticeably marked with the general character of their surroundings. It is very, very seldom that a nature is fixed from infancy in one channel."
I told her that I knew of a people whose minds from infancy to mature age, never left the grooves they were born in. They belonged to every nationality, and had palaces built for them, and attendants with cultivated intelligences employed to wait upon them.
"Are their minds of such vast importance to their nation? You have never before alluded to intellect so elevated as to command such royal homage." My friend spoke with awakened interest.
"They are of no importance at all," I answered, humiliated at having alluded to them. "Some of them have not sufficient intelligence to even feed themselves."
"And what are they?" she inquired anxiously.
"They are idiots; human vegetables."
"And you build palaces for them, and hire servants to feed and tend them, while the bright, ambitious children of the poor among you, struggle and suffer for mental advancement. How deplorably short-sighted are the wise ones of your world. Truly it were better in your country to be born an idiot than a poor genius." She sighed and looked grave.
"What should we do with them?" I inquired.
"What do you do with the useless weeds in your garden," she asked significantly. "Do you carefully tend them, while drouth and frost and lack of nourishment cause your choice plants to wither and die?"
"We are far behind you," I answered humbly. "But barbarous as you think we are, no epithet could be too scathing, too comprehensive of all that was vicious and inhuman, to apply to a person who should dare to a.s.sail the expense of those inst.i.tutions, or suggest that they be converted to the cultivation of intellect that could be improved."
My friend looked thoughtful for a long time, then she resumed her discourse at the point where I had so unfortunately interrupted it.
"No people," she said, "can rise to universal culture as long as they depend upon hand labor to produce any of the necessities of life. The absence of a demand for hand labor gives rise to an increasing demand for brain labor, and the natural and inevitable result is an increased mental activity. The discovery of a fuel that is furnished at so small a cost and with really no labor but what machinery performs, marks one grand era in our mental progress."
In mentioning the numerous uses made of gla.s.s in Mizora, I must not forget to give some notice to their water supply in large cities. Owing to their cleanly advantages, the filtering and storing of rain-water in gla.s.s-lined cisterns supplied many family uses. But drinking water was brought to their large cities in a form that did not greatly differ from those I was already familiar with, excepting in cleanliness. Their reservoirs were dug in the ground and lined with gla.s.s, and a perfectly fitting cover placed on the top. They were constructed so that the water that pa.s.sed through the gla.s.s feed pipes to the city should have a uniform temperature, that of ordinary spring water. The water in the covered reservoirs was always filtered and tested before pa.s.sing into the distributing pipes.
No citizen of Mizora ever hied to the country for pure water and fresh air. Science supplied both in a densely populated city.
When a question as to the existence of social distinctions would be asked the citizens of Mizora, the invariable answer would be--there were none; yet a long and intimate acquaintance with them a.s.sured me that there were. They had an aristocracy; but of so peculiar and amiable a kind that it deserves a special mention. It took a long time for me to comprehend the exact condition of their society in this respect. That there were really no dividing lines between the person who superintended the kitchen and the one who paid her for it, in a social point of view, I could plainly see; yet there were distinctions; and rather sharply defined ones too.
In order to explain more lucidly the peculiar social life of Mizora, I will ask you to remember some Charity Fair you have attended, perhaps partic.i.p.ated in, and which had been gotten up and managed by women of the highest social rank. If in a country where t.i.tles and social positions were hereditary, it then represented the highest aristocracy of blood. Grand dames there departed from the routine of their daily lives and a.s.sumed the lowlier occupations of others. They stood behind counters, in booths, and sold fancy articles, or dispensed ices and lemonade, or waited upon customers at the refreshment tables; bringing in trays of eatables, gathering up and removing empty dishes; performing labor that, under the ordinary circ.u.mstances of life, they would not perform in their own homes, and for their own kindred. It was all done with the same conscious dignity and ease that characterized the statelier duties of their every day life. One fact was apparent to all: they were gentlewomen still. The refinement of their home education, and the charm of nourished beauty were, perhaps, more prominent in contrast with their a.s.sumed avocation.
The Charity Fair, with its clerks and waiter girls and flower sellers called from the highest society, was a miniature picture of the actual every-day social life of Mizora. The one who ordered a dinner at their finest hotel, had it served to her by one who occupied the same social standing. Yet there was a difference; but it was the difference of mind.
The student in Sociology discovers that in all grades of society, congenial natures gravitate to a center. A differentiation of the highest mental quality was the result of this law in Mizora, and its co-ordinate part, their aristocracy.
The social organism did not need legislation to increase its benefits; it turned to Science, and, through Science, to Nature. The Laboratory of the Chemist was the focus that drew the attention of all minds. Mizora might be called a great school of Nature, whose pupils studied her every phase, and pried into her secrets with persistent activity, and obeyed her instructions as an imperative duty. They observed Nature to be an economist, and practiced economy with scrupulous exactness.
They had observed that in all grades of animal life, from the lowest form to the highest, wherever sociality had produced unity a leader was evolved, a superiority that differed in power according to the grade of development. In the earlier histories, the leaders were chosen for their prowess in arms. Great warriors became rulers, and soldiers were the aristocracy of the land. As civilization progressed and learning became more widely disseminated, the military retired before the more intellectual aristocracy of statemans.h.i.+p. Politics was the grand entrance to social eminence.
"But," said my friend, "we have arrived at a higher, n.o.bler, grander age. The military and political supremacies lived out their usefulness and decayed. A new era arrived. The differentia of mind evolved an aristocracy."
Science has long been recognized as the greatest benefactor of our race. Its investigators and teachers are our only acknowledged superiors and leaders.
Generally the grandest intellects and those which retain their creative power the longest, are of exceptionally slow development. Precocity is short lived, and brilliant rather than strong. This I knew to be true of my own race.
In Mizora, a mind that developed late lost none of the opportunities that belong exclusively to the young of my own and other countries of the outer world. Their free schools and colleges were always open: always free. For this reason, it was no unusual thing for a person in Mizora to begin life at the very lowest grade and rise to its supreme height. Whenever the desire awakened, there was a helping hand extended on every side.
The distinction between the aristocracy and the lower cla.s.s, or the great intellects and the less, was similar to the relative positions of teacher and pupil. I recognized in this social condition the great media of their marvelous approach to perfection. This aristocracy was never arrogant, never supercilious, never aggressive. It was what the philosophers of our world are: tolerant, humane, sublime.
In all communities of civilized nations marked musical talent will form social relations distinct from, but not superior to, other social relations. The leader of a musical club might also be the leader of another club devoted to exclusive literary pursuits; and both clubs possess equal social respect. Those who possess musical predilections, seek musical a.s.sociations; those who are purely literary, seek their congenials. This is true of all other mental endowments or tastes; that which predominates will seek its affinity; be it in science, literature, politics, music, painting, or sculpture. Social organizations naturally grow out of other business pursuits and vocations of all grades and kinds. The society of Mizora was divided only by such distinctions. The scientific mind had precedence of all others. In the social world, they found more congenial pleasure in one another, and they mingled more frequently among themselves. Other professions and vocations followed their example for the same reason. Yet neither was barred by social caste from seeking society where she would. If the artisan sought social intercourse with a philosopher, she was expected to have prepared herself by mental training to be congenial. When a citizen of Mizora became ambitious to rise, she did not have to struggle with every species of opposition, and contend against rebuff and repulse. Correct language, refined tastes, dignified and graceful manners were the common acquirements of all. Mental culture of so high an order--I marveled that a lifetime should be long enough to acquire it in--was universal.
Under such conditions social barriers could not be impregnable. In a world divided by poverty and opulence into all their intermediate grades, wealth must inevitably be pre-eminent. It represents refined and luxurious environments, and, if mind be there, intellectual pre-eminence also. Where wealth alone governs society it has its prerogatives.
The wealth that affords the most luxurious entertainments must be the wealth that rules. Its privilege--its duty rather--is to ignore all applicants to fraternization that cannot return what it receives. Where mind is the sole aristocracy it makes demands as rigid, though different, and mind was the aristocracy of Mizora. With them education is never at an end. I spoke of having graduated at a renowned school for young ladies, and when I explained that to graduate meant to finish one's education, it elicited a peal of silvery mirth.
"We never graduate," said Wauna. "There is my mamma's mother, two centuries old, and still studying. I paid her a visit the other day and she took me into her laboratory. She is a manufacturer of lenses, and has been experimenting on microscopes. She has one now that possesses a truly wonderful power. The leaf of a pear tree, that she had allowed to become mouldy, was under the lens, and she told me to look.
"A panorama of life and activity spread out before me in such magnitude that I can only compare it to the feeling one must possess who could be suspended in air and look down upon our world for a cycle of time.
"Immense plains were visible with animals grazing upon them, that fought with and devoured one another. They perished and sank away and immense forests sprang up like magic. They were inhabited by insects and tiny creatures resembling birds. A sigh of air moved the leaf and a tiny drop of water, scarcely discernible to the naked eye rolled over the forests and plains, and before it pa.s.sed to the other side of the leaf a great lake covered the spot. My great-great-grandmother has an acute conductor of sound that she has invented, so exquisite in mechanism as to reveal the voice of the tiniest insect. She put it to my ear, and the bellowing of the animals in battle, the chirp of the insects and the voices of the feathered mites could be clearly heard, but attenuated like the delicate note of two threads of spun gla.s.s clashed together."
"And what good," I asked, "can all this knowledge do you? Your great-great-grandmother has condensed the learning of two centuries to evolve this one discovery. Is it not so?"
"Yes," replied Wauna, and her look and tone were both solemn. "You ask me what good it can do? Reflect! If the history of a single leaf is so vast and yet ephemeral, what may not be the history of a single world? What, after all, are we when such an infinitesimal s.p.a.ce can contain such wonderful transactions in a second of time."
I shuddered at the thought she raised in my mind. But inherited beliefs are not easily dissipated, so I only sought to change the subject.
"But what is the use of studying all the time. There should be some period in your lives when you should be permitted to rest from your labors. It is truly irksome to me to see everybody still eager to learn more. The artist of the kitchen was up to the National College yesterday attending a lecture on chemistry. The artist who arranges my rooms is up there to-day listening to one on air. I can not understand why, having learned to make beds and cook to perfection, they should not be content with their knowledge and their work."
"If you were one of us you would know," said Wauna. "It is a duty with us to constantly seek improvement. The culinary artist at the house where you are visiting, is a very fine chemist. She has a predilection for a.n.a.lyzing the construction of food. She may some day discover how to produce vegetables from the elements.
"The artist who arranges your room is attending a lecture on air because her vocation calls for an accurate knowledge of it. She attends to the atmosphere in the whole house, and sees that it is in perfect health sustaining condition. Your hostess has a particular fondness for flowers and decorates all her rooms with them. All plants are not harmless occupants of livingrooms. Some give forth exhalations that are really noxious. That artist has so accurate a knowledge of air that she can keep the atmosphere of your home in a condition of perfect purity; yet she knows that her education is not finished. She is constantly studying and advancing. The time may come when she, too, will add a grand discovery to science.
"Had my ancestors thought as you do, and rested on an inferior education, I should not represent the advanced stage of development that I do. As it is, when my mind reaches the age of my mother's, it will have a larger comprehensiveness than hers. She already discerns it. My children will have intellects of a finer grade than mine. This is our system of mind culture. The intellect is of slower development than the body, and takes longer to decay. The gradations of advancement from one intellectual basis to another, in a social body, requires centuries to mark a distinct change in the earlier ages of civilization, but we have now arrived at a stage when advancement is clearly perceptible between one generation and the next."
Wauna's mother added: "Universal education is the great destroyer of castes. It is the conqueror of poverty and the foundation of patriotism. It purifies and strengthens national, as well as individual character. In the earlier history of our race, there were social conditions that rendered many lives wretched, and that the law would not and, in the then state of civilization, could not reach. They were termed "domestic miseries," and disappeared only under the influence of our higher intellectual development. The nation that is wise will educate its children."
"Alas! alas!" was my own silent thought. "When will my country rise to so grand an idea. When will wealth open the doors of colleges, academies, and schools, and make the Fountain of Knowledge as free as the G.o.d-given water we drink."
And there rose a vision in my mind--one of those day dreams when fancy upon the wing takes some definite course--and I saw in my own land a Temple of Learning rise, grand in proportion, complete in detail, with a broad gateway, over whose wide-open majestic portal was the significant inscription: "ENTER WHO WILL: NO WARDER STANDS WATCH AT THE GATE."
The Government of Mizora not being of primary importance in the estimation of the people, I have not made more than a mere mention of it heretofore. In this respect I have conformed to the generally expressed taste of the Mizora people. In my own country the government and the aristocracy were identical. The government offices and emoluments were the highest pinnacles of ambition.
I mentioned the disparity of opinion between Mizora and all other countries I had known in regard to this. I could not understand why politics in Mizora should be of so small importance. The answer was, that among an educated and highly enlightened people, the government will take care of itself. Having been perfected by wise experience, the people allow it to glide along in the grooves that time has made for it.
In form, the government of Mizora was a Federal Republic. The term of office in no department exceeded the limit of five years. The Presidential term of office was for five years.
They had one peculiar--exceedingly peculiar--law in regard to politics. No candidate could come before the public seeking office before having a certificate from the State College to which she belonged, stating her examination and qualifications to fill such an office.
Just like examining for school-teachers, I thought. And why not? Making laws for a State is of far more importance than making them for a few dozen scholars. I remembered to have heard some of my American acquaintances say that in their country it was not always qualifications that get a candidate into office. Some of the ways were devious and not suitable for publicity. Offices were frequently filled by incompetent men. There had been congressmen and other offices of higher and more responsible duties, filled by persons who could not correctly frame a sentence in their native language, who could not spell the simplest words as they were spelled in the dictionary, unless it were an accident.
To seek the office of President, or any other position under the General Government, required an examination and certificate from the National College. The examinations were always public, and conducted in such a manner that imposture was impossible. Const.i.tuents could attend if they chose, and decide upon the qualifications of a favorite candidate. In all the public schools, politics--to a certain extent--formed part of the general education of every child. Beyond that, any one having a predilection for politics could find in the State Colleges and National Colleges the most liberal advantages for acquiring a knowledge of political economy, political arithmetic, and the science of government.
Political campaigns, (if such a term could be applicable to the politics of Mizora) were of the mildest possible character. The papers published the names of the candidates and their examinations in full. The people read and decided upon their choice, and, when the time came, voted. And that was the extent of the campaign enthusiasm.
I must mention that the examinations on the science of government were not conducted as are ordinary examinations in any given study that consists of questions and answers. That was the preliminary part. There followed a thorough, practical test of their ability to discharge the duties of office with wisdom. No matter which side the sympathies or affections might be enlisted upon, the stern decree of justice was what the Mizorean abided by. From earliest infancy their minds were trained in that doctrine. In the discharge of all public duties especially, it seemed to be the paramount consideration. Certainly no government machinery ever could move with more ease, or give greater satisfaction to the people, than that of Mizora.
They never appeared to be excited or uneasy about the result of the elections. I never heard an animated political argument, such as I used to read about in America. I asked a politician one day what she thought of the probable success of the opposite party. She replied that it would not make any difference to the country as both candidates were perfectly competent to fill the office.
"Do you never make disparaging statements about the opposing candidate?" was my inquiry.
"How could we?" she asked in surprise, "when there are none to make."
"You might a.s.sume a few for the time being; just to make her lose votes."
"That would be a crime worthy of barbarians."
"Do you never have any party issues?"
"No. There is never anything to make an issue of. We all work for the good of the people, and the whole people. There is no greed of glory or gain; no personal ambition to gratify. Were I to use any artifice to secure office or popularity, I should be instantly deprived of public esteem and notice. I do my duty conscientiously; that is the aim of public life. I work for the public good and my popularity comes as it is earned and deserved. I have no fear of being slighted or underrated. Every politician feels and acts the same way."
"Have politicians ever bought votes with money, or offered bribes by promising positions that it would be in their official power to grant when elected?"
"Never! There is not a citizen of Mizora who would not scorn an office obtained in such a way. The profession of politics, while not to be compared in importance with the sciences, is yet not devoid of dignity. It is not necessary to make new laws. They were perfected long ago, and what has been proven good we have no desire to change. We manage the government according to a conscientious interpretation of the law. We have repealed laws that were in force when our Republic was young, and dropped them from the statute books. They were laws unworthy of our civilization. We have laws for the protection of property and to regulate public morals, and while our civilization is in a state of advancement that does not require them, yet we think it wisdom to let them remain. The people know that we have such laws and live up to them without surveillance. They would abide by the principles of justice set forth in them just as scrupulously if we should repeal them.
"You spoke of bribes. In remote ages, when our country was emerging from a state of semi-barbarism, such things were in common practice. Political chicanery was a name given to various underhand and dishonest maneuvers to gain office and public power. It was frequently the case that the most responsible positions in the Government would be occupied by the basest characters, who used their power only for fraud to enrich themselves and their friends by robbing the people. They deceived the ma.s.ses by preaching purity. They were never punished. If they were accused and brought to trial, the wealth they had stolen from the government purchased their acquittal, and then they posed as martyrs. The form of government was then, as now, a Federal Republic, but the people had very little to do with it. They were merely the tools of unscrupulous politicians. In those days a sensitively honest person would not accept office, because the name politician was a synonym for flexible principles. It was derogatory to one's character to seek office."
"Was dishonesty more prominent in one party than another?" I asked, thinking how very Americanish this history sounded.
"We, who look back upon the conditions of those times and view it with dispa.s.sionate judgment, can perceive corruption in both political parties. The real welfare of the country was the last thing considered by a professional politician. There was always something that was to benefit the people brought forward as a party issue, and used as a means of working up the enthusiasm or fears of the people, and usually dropped after the election.
"The candidate for election in those days might be guilty of heinous crimes, yet the party covered them all, and over that covering the partisan newspaper spread every virtue in the calendar. A stranger to the country and its customs reading one of their partisan newspapers during a political campaign, might conclude that the party it advocated was composed of only the virtues of the country, and their leader an epitome of the supremest excellence.
"Reading in the same paper a description of the opposing party, the stranger might think it composed of only the degraded and disreputable portion of the nation, and its leader the sc.u.m of all its depravity. If curiosity should induce a perusal of some partisan paper of the other party, the same thing could be read in its columns, with a change of names. It would be the opposite party that was getting represented in the most despicable character, and their leader was the only one who possessed enough honesty and talent to keep the country from going to wreck. The other party leader was the one who was guilty of all the crimes in the calendar. A vast number of people were ignorant enough to cling blindly to one party and to believe every word published by its partisan papers. This superst.i.tious party faith was what the unscrupulous politicians handled dexterously for their own selfish ends. It was not until education became universal, and a higher culture was forced upon the majority--the working cla.s.ses--that politics began to purify itself, and put on the dignity of real virtue, and receive the respect that belongs to genuine justice.
"The people became disgusted with defamatory political literature, and the honorable members of both parties abjured it altogether. In such a government as this, two great parties could not exist, where one was altogether bad and the other altogether good. It became apparent to the people that there was good in both parties, and they began to elect it irrespective of party prejudice. Politicians began to work for their country instead of themselves and their party, and politics took the n.o.ble position that the rights of humanity designed it for. I have been giving you quite a history of our ancient politics. Our present condition is far different. As the people became enlightened to a higher degree, the government became more compact. It might now be compared to a large family. There are one hundred States in the Union. There was a time when every State made its own laws for its own domestic government. One code of laws is now enforced in every State. In going from one State to another citizens now suffer no inconvenience from a confusion of laws. Every State owes allegiance to the General Government. No State or number of States could set up an independent government without obtaining the consent and legal dissolution from the General Government. But such a thing will never be thought of. We have prospered as a great united Nation. Our union has been our strength, our prosperity."
I visited with Wauna a number of the States' Capitals. In architecture the Mizora people display an excellent taste. Their public buildings might all be called works of art. Their government buildings, especially, were on a scale of magnificent splendor. The hollow square seemed to be a favorite form. One very beautiful capitol building was of crystal gla.s.s, with facing and cornices of marble onyx. It looked more like a gigantic gem than anything I could compare it to, especially when lighted up by great globes of white fire suspended from every ceiling.
Upon my entrance into Mizora, I was led into the belief that I had arrived at a female seminary, because the dining and sleeping accommodations for the stateswoman were all in the Capitol building. I observed that the State Capitols were similarly accommodated. In Mizora the home is the heart of all joy, and wherever a Mizora woman goes, she endeavors to surround herself with its comforts and pleasures. That was the reason that the splendid Capitol building had its home-like appointments, was a Nation of women exclusively--at least as far as I had as yet been able to discover.
Another reason for the homes of all officials of the Government being within the public buildings, was because all the personal expenses, excepting clothing, were paid by the Government. The salaries of Government positions were not large, compared with those of the sciences; but as their social and political dues were paid out of the public treasury, the salaries might be considered as net profit. This custom had originated many centuries in the past. In those early days, when a penurious character became an inc.u.mbent of public office, the social obligations belonging to it were often but n.i.g.g.ardly requited. Sometimes business embarra.s.sments and real necessity demanded economy; so, at last, the Government a.s.sumed all the expenses contingent upon every office, from the highest to the lowest. By this means the occupant of a Government office was freed from every care but those of state.
The number and style of all social entertainments that were obligatory of the occupant of a public office, were regulated by law. As the people of Mizora believed in enjoyment, the entertainments provided by the Government as the necessary social dues of its officers, were not few, nor scantily furnished.
The artificial light in Mizora puzzled me longest to understand. When I first noticed it, it appeared to me to have no apparent source. At the touch of a delicate hand, it blazed forth like a star in the center of the ceiling. It diffused a soft and pleasing brilliancy that lent a charm to everything it revealed. It was a dreamy daylight, and was produced by electricity.
In large halls, like a theatre or opera house, the light fell in a soft and penetrating radiance from the center of the dome. Its source was not visible to either audience or actresses, and, in consequence, occasioned no discomfort to the eyes. The light that illuminated the stage was similarly arranged. The footlights were not visible. They were in the rear of the stage. The light came upward like the rays of the setting sun, revealing the setting of the stage with vivid distinctness. I can best describe the effect of this singular arrangement by calling attention to the appearance of the sun when declining behind a small elevation. How sharply every object is outlined before it? How soft and delicate is the light in which everything is bathed? Every cloud that floats has all of its fleecy loveliness limned with a radiant clearness.
I was very desirous to know how this singular effect was produced, and at my request was taken to the stage. An opening in the back part of it was covered with pink colored gla.s.s. Powerful electric lights from below the stage were reflected through this gla.s.s upon it. The gla.s.s was highly refractive and so perfectly translucent, I at first thought there was none there, and when I stood upon its edge, and looked down into a fiery gulf below, I instinctively thought of the "Lost People," who are said to wander amid torturing yet unconsumable flames. But, happily, the ones I gazed upon were harmless ones.
The street lights of Mizora were at a considerable elevation from the ground. They were in, or over, the center of the street, and of such diffuse brilliancy as to render the city almost as light as day. They were in the form of immense globes of soft, white fire, and during the six months that answered to the Mizora night, were kept constantly burning. It was during this period that the Aurora Borealis shone with such marvelous brilliancy.
Generally, its display was heralded by an arc of delicate green-tinted light, that spanned the heavens. The green tint deepened into emerald, a.s.suming a delicate rose hue as it faded upward into rays that diverged from the top until the whole resembled a gigantic crown. Every ray became a panorama of gorgeous colors, resembling tiny sparks, moving hither and thither with inconceivable swiftness. Sometimes a veil of mist of delicate green hue depended from the base of the crown, and swayed gently back and forth. As soon as the swaying motion commenced, the most gorgeous colors were revealed. Myriads of sparks, no larger than snow-flakes, swarmed across the delicate green curtain in every conceivable color and shade, but always of that vapory, vivid softness that is indescribable. The dancing colors resembled gems encased in a film of mist.
One display that I witnessed I shall attempt to describe. The arc of delicate green appeared first, and shot upward diverging rays of all the warm, rich hues of red. They formed a vast crown, outlined with a delicate halo of fire. A veil of misty green fluttered down from its base, and, instantly, tiny crowns, composed of every brilliant color, with a tracery of fire defining every separate one, began to chase one another back and forth with bewildering rapidity. As the veil swayed to and fro, it seemed to shake the crowns into skeins of fire, each thread strung with countless minute globes of every conceivable color and hue. Those fiery threads, aerial as thistle down, wove themselves in and out in a tangled ma.s.s of gorgeous beauty. Suddenly the beads of color fell in a shower of gems, topaz and emerald, ruby and sapphire, amethyst and pearly crystals of dew. I looked upward, where the rays of variegated colors were sweeping the zenith, and high above the first crown was a second more vivid still. Myriads of rainbows, the colors broad and intense, fluttered from its base, the whole outlined by a halo of fire. It rolled together in a huge scroll, and, in an instant, fell apart a shower of flakes, minute as snow, but of all the gorgeous, dazzling hues of earth and sky combined. They disappeared in the mystery of s.p.a.ce to instantly form into a fluttering, waving banner of delicate green mist and--vanish; only to repeat itself.
The display of the Aurora Borealis was always an exhibition of astonis.h.i.+ng rapidity of motion of intense colors. The most glorious sunset--where the vapory billows of the sky have caught the bloom of the dying Autumn--cannot rival it. All the precious gems of earth appear to have dissolved into mist, to join in a wild and aerial dance. The people of Mizora attributed it entirely to electricity.
Although the sun never rose or set in Mizora, yet for six months in a year, that country had the heart of a voluptuous summer. It beat with a strong, warm pulse of life through all nature. The orchards budded and bloomed, and mellowed into perfect fruition their luscious globes. The fields laughed in the warm, rich light, and smiled on the harvest. I could feel my own blood bound as with a new lease of life at the first breath of spring.
The winters of Mizora had clouds and rain and sleet and snow, and sometimes, especially near the circular sea, the fury of an Arctic snow storm; but so well prepared were they that it became an amus.e.m.e.nt. Looking into the chaos of snow flakes, driven hither and thither by fierce winds, the pedestrians in the street presented no painful contrast to the luxury of your own room, with its balmy breath and cheerful flowers. You saw none but what were thoroughly clad, and you knew that they were hurrying to homes that were bright and attractive, if not as elegant as yours; where loving welcomes were sure to greet them and happiness would sit with them at the feast; for the heart that is pure has always a kingly guest for its company.
A wonderful discovery that the people of Mizora had made was the power to annihilate s.p.a.ce as an impediment to conversation. They claimed that the atmosphere had regular currents of electricity that were accurately known to them. They talked to them by means of simply constructed instruments, and the voice would be as audible and as easily recognized at three thousand miles distant as at only three feet. Stations were built similar to our telegraph offices, but on high elevations. I understood that they could not be used upon the surface. Every private and public house, however, had communication with the general office, and could converse with friends at a distance whenever desirable. Public speakers made constant use of it, but in connection with another extraordinary apparatus which I regret my inability to perfectly describe.
I saw it first from the dress circle of a theater. It occupied the whole rear of the stage, and from where I sat, looked like a solid wall of polished metal. But it had a wonderful function, for immediately in front of it, moving, speaking and gesturing, was the figure of a popular public lecturer, so life-like in appearance that I could scarcely be convinced that it was only a reflection. Yet such it was, and the original was addressing an audience in person more than a thousand miles distant.
It was no common thing for a lecturer to address a dozen or more audiences at the same time, scattered over an area of thousands of miles, and every one listening to and observing what appeared to be the real speaker. In fact, public speakers in Mizora never traveled on pure professional business. It was not necessary. They prepared a room in their own dwelling with the needful apparatus, and at the time specified delivered a lecture in twenty different cities.
I was so interested in this very remarkable invention that I made vigorous mental exertions to comprehend it sufficiently to explain its mechanism and philosophical principles intelligently; but I can only say that it was one of the wonders those people produced with electricity. The mechanism was simple, but the science of its construction and workings I could not comprehend. The grasp of my mind was not broad enough. The instrument that transmitted the voice was entirely separate.
I must not neglect to mention that all kinds of public entertainments, such as operas, concerts and dramas, could be and were repeated to audiences at a distance from where the real transaction was taking place. I attended a number of operas that were only the reflex of others that were being presented to audiences far distant.
These repet.i.tions were always marvels of accuracy of vividness.
Small reflecting apparatus were to be found in every dwelling and business house. It is hardly necessary to state that letter-writing was an unknown accomplishment in Mizora. The person who desired to converse with another, no matter how far distant, placed herself in communication with her two instruments and signaled. Her friend appeared upon the polished metal surface like the figure in a mirror, and spoke to her audibly, and looked at her with all the naturalness of reality.
I have frequently witnessed such interviews between Wauna and her mother, when we were visiting distant cities. It was certainly a more satisfactory way of communicating than by letter. The small apparatus used by private families and business houses were not like those used in public halls and theaters. In the former, the reflection was exactly similar to the image of a mirror; in the latter, the figure was projected upon the stage. It required more complicated machinery to produce, and was not practicable for small families or business houses. I now learned that on my arrival in Mizora I had been taken to one of the largest apparatus and put in communication with it. I was informed by Wauna that I had been exhibited to every college and school in the country by reflex representation. She said that she and her mother had seen me distinctly and heard my voice. The latter had been so uncongenial in accent and tone that she had hesitated about becoming my instructor on that account. It was my evident appreciation of my deficiencies as compared to them that had enlisted her sympathy.
Now, in my own country, my voice had attracted attention by its smoothness and modulation, and I was greatly surprised to hear Wauna speak of its unmusical tone as really annoying. But then in Mizora there are no voices but what are sweet enough to charm the birds.
The Golden Age Of Science Fiction Vol Xi Part 36
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The Golden Age Of Science Fiction Vol Xi Part 36 summary
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