The Golden Age Of Science Fiction Vol Xi Part 39
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"I shall take Disease first," she said, "as it is a near relative of Crime. You look surprised. You have known life-long and incurable invalids who were not criminals. But go to the squalid portion of any of your large cities, where Poverty and Disease go hand in hand, where the child receives its life and its first nourishment from a haggard and discontented mother. Starvation is her daily dread. The little tendernesses that make home the haven of the heart, are never known to her. Ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-cherished, all that might be refined and elevated in her nature, if properly cultivated, is choked into starveling shapes by her enemy--Want.
"If you have any knowledge of nature, ask yourself if such a condition of birth and infancy is likely to produce a n.o.ble, healthy human being? Do your agriculturists expect a stunted, neglected tree to produce rare and luscious fruit?"
I was surprised at the Preceptress' graphic description of wretchedness, so familiar to all the civilized nations that I knew, and asked: "Did such a state of society ever exist in this country?"
"Ages ago it was as marked a social condition of this land as it is of your own to-day. The first great move toward eradicating disease was in providing clean and wholesome food for the ma.s.ses. It required the utmost rigor of the law to destroy the pernicious practice of adulteration. The next endeavor was to crowd poverty out of the land. In order to do this the Labor question came first under discussion, and resulted in the establishment in every state of a Board of Arbitration that fixed the price of labor on a per cent, of the profits of the business. Public and private charities were forbidden by law as having an immoral influence upon society. Charitable inst.i.tutions had long been numerous and fas.h.i.+onable, and many persons engaged in them as much for their own benefit as that of the poor. It was not always the honest and benevolent ones who became treasurers, nor were the funds always distributed among the needy and dest.i.tute, or those whom they were collected for. The law put a stop to the possibility of such frauds, and of professional impostors seeking alms. Those who needed a.s.sistance were supplied with work--respectable, independent work--furnished by the city or town in which they resided. A love of industry, its dignity and independence, was carefully instilled into every young mind. There is no country but what ought to provide for everyone of its citizens a comfortable, if not luxurious, home by humane legislation on the labor question.
"The penitentiaries were reconstructed by the female government. One half the time formerly allotted to labor was employed in compulsory education. Industrial schools were established in every State, where all the mechanical employments were taught free. Objects of charity were sent there and compelled to become self supporting. These industrial schools finally became State Colleges, where are taught, free, all the known branches of knowledge, intellectual and mechanical.
"Pauperism disappeared before the wide reaching influence of these industrial schools, but universal affluence had not come. It could not exist until education had become universal.
"With this object in view, the Government forbade the employment of any citizen under the age of twenty-one, and compelled their attendance at school up to that time. At the same time a law was pa.s.sed that authorized the furnis.h.i.+ng of all school-room necessaries out of the public funds. If a higher education were desired the State Colleges furnished it free of all expenses contingent.
"All of these measures had a marked influence in improving the condition of society, but not all that was required. The necessity for strict sanitary laws became obvious. Cities and towns and even farms were visited, and everything that could breed malaria, or produce impure air, was compelled to be removed. Personal and household cleanliness at last became an object of public interest, and inspectors were appointed who visited families and reported the condition of their homes. All kinds of out-door sports and athletic exercises were encouraged and became fas.h.i.+onable.
"All of these things combined, made a great improvement in the health and vigor of our race, but still hereditary diseases lingered.
"There were many so enfeebled by hereditary disease they had not enough energy to seek recuperation, and died, leaving offspring as wretched, who in turn followed their parents' example.
"Statistics were compiled, and physician's reports circulated, until a law was pa.s.sed prohibiting the perpetuity of diseased offspring. But, although disease became less prevalent, it did not entirely disappear. The law could only reach the most deplorable afflictions, and was eventually repealed.
"As the science of therapeutics advanced, all diseases--whether hereditary or acquired--were found to be a.s.sociated with abnormal conditions of the blood. A microscopic examination of a drop of blood enabled the scientist to determine the character and intensity of any disease, and at last to effect its elimination from the system.
"The blood is the primal element of the body. It feeds the flesh, the nerves, the muscles, the brain. Disease cannot exist when it is in a natural condition. Countless experiments have determined the exact properties of healthy blood and how to produce it. By the use of this knowledge we have eliminated hereditary diseases, and developed into a healthy and moral people. For people universally healthy is sure of being moral. Necessity begets crime. It is the wants of the ignorant and debased that suggests theft. It is a diseased fancy, or a mind ignorant of the laws that govern the development of human nature, that could attribute to offspring hated before birth: infancy and childhood neglected; starved, ill-used in every way, a disposition and character, amiable and humane and likely to become worthy members of society. The reverse is almost inevitable. Human nature relapses into the lower and baser instincts of its earlier existence, when neglected, ill-used and ignorant. All of those lovely traits of character which excite the enthusiast, such as grat.i.tude, honor, charity are the results of education only. They are not the natural instincts of the human mind, but the cultivated ones.
"The most rigid laws were pa.s.sed in regard to the practice of medicine. No physician could become a pract.i.tioner until examined and authorized to do so by the State Medical College. In order to prevent favoritism, or the furnis.h.i.+ng of diplomas to incompetent applicants, enormous penalties were incurred by any who would sign such. The profession long ago became extinct. Every mother is a family physician. That is, she obeys the laws of nature in regard to herself and her children, and they never need a doctor.
"Having become healthy and independent of charity, crime began to decrease naturally. The conditions that had bred and fostered petty crimes having ceased to exist, the natures that had inherited them rose above their influence in a few generations, and left honorable posterity.
"But crime in its grossest form is an ineradicable hereditary taint. Generation after generation may rise and disappear in a family once tainted with it, without displaying it, and then in a most unexpected manner it will spring up in some descendant, violent and unconquerable.
"We tried to eliminate it as we had disease, but failed. It was an inherited molecular structure of the brain. Science could not reconstruct it. The only remedy was annihilation. Criminals had no posterity."
"I am surprised," I interrupted, "that possessing the power to control the development of the body, you should not do so with the mind."
"If we could we would produce genius that could discover the source of all life. We can control Cause and Effect, but we cannot create Cause. We do not even know its origin. What the perfume is to the flower, the intellect is to the body; a secret that Nature keeps to herself. For a thousand years our greatest minds have sought to discover its source, and we are as far from it to-day as we were a thousand years ago."
"How then have you obtained your mental superiority?" I inquired.
"By securing to our offspring perfect, physical and mental health. Science has taught us how to evolve intellect by following demonstrated laws. I put a seed into the ground and it comes up a little green slip, that eventually becomes a tree. When I planted the seed in congenial soil, and watered and tended the slip, I a.s.sisted Nature. But I did not create the seed nor supply the force that made it develop into a tree, nor can I define that force."
"What has produced the exquisite refinement of your people?"
"Like everything else, it is the result of gradual development aiming at higher improvement. By following strictly the laws that govern the evolution of life, we control the formation of the body and brain. Strong mental traits become intensified by cultivation from generation to generation and finally culminate in one glorious outburst of power, called Genius. But there is one peculiarity about mind. It resembles that wonderful century plant which, after decades of developing, flowers and dies. Genius is the long unfolding bloom of mind, and leaves no posterity. We carefully prepare for the future development of Genius. We know that our children will be neither deformed nor imbecile, but we watch the unfolding of their intellects with the interest of a new revelation. We guide them with the greatest care.
"I could take a child of your people with inherited weakness of body and mind. I should rear it on proper food and exercise--both mental and physical--and it would have, when matured, a marked superiority to its parents. It is not what Nature has done for us, it is what we have done for her, that makes us a race of superior people."
"The qualities of mind that are the general feature of your people," I remarked, "are so very high, higher than our estimate of Genius. How was it arrived at?"
"By the processes I have just explained. Genius is always a leader. A genius with us has a subtlety of thought and perception beyond your power of appreciation. All organized social bodies move intellectually in a ma.s.s, with their leader just ahead of them."
"I have visited, as a guest, a number of your families, and found their homes adorned with paintings and sculpture that would excite wondering admiration in my own land as rare works of art, but here they are only the expression of family taste and culture. Is that a quality of intellect that has been evolved, or is it a natural endowment of your race?"
"It is not an endowment, but has been arrived at by the same process of careful cultivation. Do you see in those ancient portraits a variety of striking colors? There is not a suggestion of harmony in any of them. On the contrary, they all display violent contrasts of color. The originals of them trod this land thousands of years ago. Many of the colors, we know, were unknown to them. Color is a faculty of the mind that is wholly the result of culture. In the early ages of society, it was known only in the coa.r.s.est and most brilliant hues. A conception and appreciation of delicate harmonies in color is evidence of a superior and refined mentality. If you will notice it, the illiterate of your own land have no taste for or idea of the harmony of color. It is the same with sound. The higher we rise in culture, the more difficult we are to please in music. Our taste becomes critical."
I had been revolving some things in my mind while the Preceptress was speaking, and I now ventured to express them. I said: "You tell me that generations will come and go before a marked change can occur in a people. What good then would it do me or mine to study and labor and investigate in or to teach my people how to improve? They can not comprehend progress. They have not learned by contact, as I have in Mizora, how to appreciate it. I should only waste life and happiness in trying to persuade them to get out of the ruts they have traveled so long; they think there are no other roads. I should be reviled, and perhaps persecuted. My doctrines would be called visionary and impracticable. I think I had better use my knowledge for my own kindred, and let the rest of the world find out the best way it can."
The Preceptress looked at me with mild severity. I never before had seen so near an approach to rebuke in her grand eyes.
"What a barbarous, barbarous idea!" she exclaimed. "Your country will never rise above its ignorance and degradation, until out of its mental agony shall be evolved a nature kindled with an ambition that burns for Humanity instead of self. It will be the nucleus round which will gather the timid but anxious, and then will be lighted that fire which no waters can quench. It burns for the liberty of thought. Let human nature once feel the warmth of its beacon fires, and it will march onward, defying all obstacles, braving all perils till it be won. Human nature is ever reaching for the unattained. It is that little spark within us that has an undying life. When we can no longer use it, it flies elsewhere."
I had long contemplated a trip to the extreme southern boundary of Mizora. I had often inquired about it, and had always been answered that it was defined by an impa.s.sable ocean. I had asked them to describe it to me, for the Mizora people have a happy faculty of employing tersely expressive language when necessary; but I was always met with the surprising answer that no tongue in Mizora was eloquent enough to portray the wonders that bounded Mizora on the south. So I requested the Preceptress to permit Wauna to accompany me as a guide and companion; a request she readily complied with.
"Will you be afraid or uneasy about trusting her on so long a journey with no companion or protector but me?" I asked.
The Preceptress smiled at my question.
"Why should I be afraid, when in all the length and breadth of our land there is no evil to befall her, or you either. Strangers are friends in Mizora, in one sense of the word, when they meet. You will both travel as though among time endeared a.s.sociates. You will receive every attention, courtesy and kindness that would be bestowed upon near and intimate acquaintances. No, in this land, mothers do not fear to send their daughters alone and unrecommended among strangers."
When speed was required, the people of Mizora traveled altogether by air s.h.i.+ps. But when the pleasure of landscape viewing, and the delight and exhilaration of easy progress is desired, they use either railroad cars or carriages.
Wauna and I selected an easy and commodious carriage. It was propelled by compressed air, which Wauna said could be obtained whenever we needed a new supply at any village or country seat.
Throughout the length and breadth of Mizora the roads were artificially made. Cities, towns, and villages were provided with paved streets, which the public authorities kept in a condition of perfect cleanliness. The absence of all kinds of animals rendered this comparatively easy. In alluding to this once in the presence of the Preceptress, she startled me by the request that I should suggest to my people the advantage to be derived from subst.i.tuting machinery for animal labor.
"The a.s.sociation of animals is degrading," she a.s.serted. "And you, who still live by tilling the soil, will find a marked change economically in dispensing with your beasts of burden. Fully four-fifths that you raise on your farms is required to feed your domestic animals. If your agriculture was devoted entirely to human food, it would make it more plentiful for the poor."
I did not like to tell her that I knew many wealthy people who housed and fed their domestic animals better than they did their tenants. She would have been disgusted with such a state of barbarism.
Country roads in Mizora were usually covered with a cement that was prepared from pulverized granite. They were very durable and very hard. Owing to their solidity, they were not as agreeable for driving as another kind of cement they manufactured. I have previously spoken of the peculiar style of wheel that was used on all kinds of light conveyances in Mizora, and rendered their progress over any road the very luxury of motion.
In our journey, Wauna took me to a number of factories, where the wonderful progress they had made in science continually surprised and delighted me. The spider and the silkworm had yielded their secret to these indefatigable searchers into nature's mysteries. They could spin a thread of gossamer, or of silk from their chemicals, of any width and length, and with a rapidity that was magical. Like everything else of that nature in Mizora, these discoveries had been purchased by the Government, and then made known to all.
They also manufactured ivory that I could not tell from the real article. I have previously spoken of their success in producing various kinds of marble and stone. A beautiful table that I saw made out of artificial ivory, had a painting upon the top of it. A deep border, composed of delicate, convoluted sh.e.l.ls, extended round the top of the table and formed the sh.o.r.es of a mimic ocean, with coral reefs and tiny islands, and tangled sea-weeds and s.h.i.+ning fishes sporting about in the pellucid water. The surface was of highly polished smoothness, and I was informed that the picture was not a painting but was formed of colored particles of ivory that had been worked in before the drying or solidifying process had been applied. In the same way they formed main beautiful combinations of marbles. The magnificent marble columns that supported the portico of my friend's house were all of artificial make. The delicate green leaves and creeping vines of ivy, rose, and eglantine, with their spray-like blossoms, were colored in the manufacturing process and chiseled out of the solid marble by the skillful hand of the artist.
It would be difficult for me to even enumerate all the beautiful arts and productions of arts that I saw in Mizora. Our journey was full of incidents of this kind.
Every city and town that we visited was like the introduction of a new picture. There was no sameness between any of them. Each had aimed at picturesqueness or stately magnificence, and neither had failed to obtain it. Looking back as I now do upon Mizora, it presents itself to me as a vast and almost limitless landscape, variegated with grand cities, lovely towns and villages, majestic hills and mountains crowned with glittering snows, or deep, delightful valleys veiled in scented vines.
Kindness, cordiality and courtesy met us on every side. It was at first quite novel for me to mingle among previously unheard-of people with such sociability, but I did as Wauna did, and I found it not only convenient but quite agreeable.
"I am the daughter of the Preceptress of the National College," said Wauna; and that was the way she introduced herself.
I noticed with what honor and high esteem the name of the Preceptress was regarded. As soon as it was known that the daughter of the Preceptress had arrived, the citizens of whatever city we had stopped in hastened to extend to her every courtesy and favor possible for them to bestow. She was the daughter of the woman who held the highest and most enviable position in the Nation. A position that only great intellect could secure in that country.
As we neared the goal of our journey, I noticed an increasing warmth of the atmosphere, and my ears were soon greeted with a deep, reverberating roar like continuous thunder. I have seen and heard Niagara, but a thousand Niagaras could not equal that deafening sound. The heat became oppressive. The light also from a cause of which I shall soon speak.
We ascended a promontory that jutted out from the main land a quarter of a mile, perhaps more. Wauna conducted me to the edge of the cliff and told me to look down. An ocean of whirlpools was before us. The maddened das.h.i.+ng and thundering of the mighty waters, and the awe they inspired no words can paint. Across such an abyss of terrors it was certain no vessel could sail. We took our gla.s.ses and scanned the opposite sh.o.r.e, which appeared to be a vast cataract as though the ocean was pouring over a precipice of rock. Wauna informed me that where the sh.o.r.e was visible it was a perpendicular wall of smooth rock.
Over head an arc of fire spanned the zenith from which depended curtains of rainbows waving and fluttering, folding and floating out again with a rapid and incessant motion. I asked Wauna why they had not crossed in air-s.h.i.+ps, and she said they had tried it often but had always failed.
"In former times," she said, "when air-s.h.i.+ps first came into use it was frequently attempted, but no voyager ever returned. We have long since abandoned the attempt, for now we know it to be impossible."
I looked again at that display of uncontrollable power. As I gazed it seemed to me I would be drawn down by the resistless fascination of terror. I grasped Wauna and she gently turned my face to the smiling landscape behind us. Hills and valleys, and sparkling cities veiled in foliage, with their numberless parks and fountains and statues sleeping in the soft light, gleaming lakes and wandering rivers that glittered and danced in the glorious atmosphere like prisoned sunbeams, greeted us like the alluring smile of love, and yet, for the first time since entering this lovely land, I felt myself a prisoner. Behind me was an impa.s.sable barrier. Before me, far beyond this gleaming vision of enchantment, lay another road whose privations and dangers I dreaded to attempt.
I felt as a bird might feel who has been brought from the free expanse of its wild forest-home, and placed in a golden cage where it drinks from a jeweled cup and eats daintier food than it could obtain in its own rude haunts. It pines for that precarious life; its very dangers and privations fill its breast with desire. I began to long with unutterable impatience to see once more the wild, rough scenes of my own nativity. Memory began to recall them with softening touches. My heart yearned for my own; debased as compared with Mizora though they be, there was the congeniality of blood between us. I longed to see my own little one whose dimpled hands I had unclasped from my neck in that agonized parting. Whenever I saw a Mizora mother fondling her babe, my heart leapt with quick desire to once more hold my own in such loving embrace. The mothers of Mizora have a devotional love for their children. Their smiles and prattle and baby wishes are listened to with loving tenderness, and treated as matters of importance.
I was sitting beside a Mizora mother one evening, listening to some singing that I truly thought no earthly melody could surpa.s.s. I asked the lady if ever she had heard anything sweeter, and she answered, earnestly: "Yes, the voices of my own children."
On our homeward journey, Wauna took me to a lake from the center of which we could see, with our gla.s.ses, a green island rising high above the water like an emerald in a silver setting.
"That," said Wauna, directing my attention to it, "is the last vestige of a prison left in Mizora. Would you like to visit it?"
I expressed an eager willingness to behold so curious a sight, and getting into a small pleasure boat, we started toward it. Boats are propelled in Mizora either by electricity or compressed air, and glide through the water with soundless swiftness.
As we neared the island I could perceive the mingling of natural and artificial attractions. We moored our boat at the foot of a flight of steps, hewn from the solid rock. On reaching the top, the scene spread out like a beautiful painting. Grottos, fountains, and cascades, winding walks and vine-covered bowers charmed us as we wandered about. In the center stood a medium-sized residence of white marble. We entered through a door opening on a wide piazza. Art and wealth and taste had adorned the interior with a generous hand. A library studded with books closely shut behind gla.s.s doors had a wide window that commanded an enchanting view of the lake, with its rippling waters sparkling and dimpling in the light. On one side of the mantelpiece hung a full length portrait of a lady, painted with startling naturalness.
"That," said Wauna, solemnly, "was the last prisoner in Mizora."
I looked with interested curiosity at a relic so curious in this land. It was a blonde woman with lighter colored eyes than is at all common in Mizora. Her long, blonde hair hung straight and unconfined over a dress of thick, white material. Her att.i.tude and expression were dejected and sorrowful. I had visited prisons in my own land where red-handed murder sat smiling with indifference. I had read in newspapers, labored eloquence that described the stoicism of some hardened criminal as a trait of character to be admired. I had read descriptions where mistaken eloquence exerted itself to waken sympathy for a criminal who had never felt sympathy for his helpless and innocent victims, and I had felt nothing but creeping horror for it all. But gazing at this picture of undeniable repentance, tears of sympathy started to my eyes. Had she been guilty of taking a fellow-creature's life?
"Is she still living?" I asked by way of a preface.
"Oh, no, she has been dead for more than a century," answered Wauna.
"Was she confined here very long?"
"For life," was the reply.
"I should not believe," I said, "that a nature capable of so deep a repentance could be capable of so dark a crime as murder."
"Murder!" exclaimed Wauna in horror. "There has not been a murder committed in this land for three thousand years."
It was my turn to be astonished.
"Then tell me what dreadful crime she committed."
"She struck her child," said Wauna, sadly; "her little innocent, helpless child that Nature gave her to love and cherish, and make n.o.ble and useful and happy."
"Did she inflict a permanent injury?" I asked, with increased astonishment at this new phase of refinement in the Mizora character.
"No one can tell the amount of injury a blow does to a child. It may immediately show an obvious physical one; it may later develop a mental one. It may never seem to have injured it at all, and yet it may have shocked a sensitive nature and injured it permanently. Crime is evolved from perverted natures, and natures become perverted from ill-usage. It merges into a peculiar structure of the brain that becomes hereditary."
"What became of the prisoner's child?"
"It was adopted by a young lady who had just graduated at the State College of the State in which the mother resided. It was only five years old, and its mother's name was never mentioned to it or to anyone else. Long before that, the press had abolished the practice of giving any prominence to crime. That pernicious eloquence that in uncivilized ages had helped to nourish crime by a maudlin sympathy for the criminal, had ceased to exist. The young lady called the child daughter, and it called her mother."
"Did the real mother never want to see her child?"
"That is said to be a true picture of her," said Wauna; "and who can look at it and not see sorrow and remorse."
"How could you be so stern?" I asked, in wondering astonishment.
"Pity has nothing to do with crime," said Wauna, firmly. "You must look to humanity, and not to the sympathy one person excites when you are aiding enlightenment. That woman wandered about these beautiful grounds, or sat in this elegant home a lonely and unsympathized-with prisoner. She was furnished with books, magazines and papers, and every physical comfort. Sympathy for her lot was never offered her. Childhood is regarded by my people as the only period of life that is capable of knowing perfect happiness, and among us it is a crime greater than the heinousness of murder in your country, to deprive a human being of its childhood--in which cl.u.s.ter the only unalloyed sweets of life.
"A human being who remembers only pain, rebukes treatment in childhood, has lost the very flavor of existence, and the person who destroyed it is a criminal indeed."
There was one peculiarity about Mizora that I noticed soon after my arrival, but for various reasons have refrained from speaking of before now. It was the absence of houses devoted to religious wors.h.i.+p.
In architecture Mizora displayed the highest perfection. Their colleges, art galleries, public libraries, opera houses, and all their public buildings were grand and beautiful. Never in any country, had I beheld such splendor in design and execution. Their superior skill in this respect, led me to believe that their temples of wors.h.i.+p must be on a scale of magnificence beyond all my conceiving. I was eager to behold them. I looked often upon my first journeyings about their cities to discover them, but whenever I noticed an unusually imposing building, and asked what it was, it was always something else. I was frequently on the point of asking them to conduct me to some church that resembled my own in wors.h.i.+p, (for I was brought up in strict compliance with the creeds, dogmas, and regulations of the Russo Greek Church) but I refrained, hoping that in time, I should be introduced to their religious ceremonies.
When time pa.s.sed on, and no invitation was extended me, and I saw no house nor preparation for religious wors.h.i.+p, nor even heard mention of any, I asked Wauna for an explanation. She appeared not to comprehend me, and I asked the question: "Where do you perform your religious rites and ceremonies?"
She looked at me with surprise.
"You ask me such strange questions that sometimes I am tempted to believe you a relic of ancient mythology that has drifted down the centuries and landed on our civilized sh.o.r.es, or else have been gifted with a marvelous prolongation of life, and have emerged upon us from some cavern where you have lived, or slept for ages in unchanged possession of your ancient superst.i.tion."
"Have you, then," I asked in astonishment, "no religious temples devoted to wors.h.i.+p?"
"Oh, yes, we have temples where we wors.h.i.+p daily. Do you see that building?" nodding toward the majestic granite walls of the National College. "That is one of our most renowned temples, where the highest and the n.o.blest in the land meet and mingle familiarly with the humblest in daily wors.h.i.+p."
"I understand all that you wish to imply by that," I replied. "But have you no building devoted to divine wors.h.i.+p; no temple that belongs specially to your Deity; to the Being that created you, and to whom you owe eternal grat.i.tude and homage?"
"We have;" she answered grandly, with a majestic wave of her hand, and in that mellow, musical voice that was sweeter than the chanting of birds, she exclaimed: "This vast cathedral, boundless as our wonder; Whose s.h.i.+ning lamps yon brilliant mists[A] supply; Its choir the winds, and waves; its organ thunder; Its dome the sky."
[Footnote A: Aurora Borealis]
"Do you wors.h.i.+p Nature?" I asked.
"If we did, we should wors.h.i.+p ourselves, for we are a part of Nature."
"But do you not recognize an invisible and incomprehensible Being that created you, and who will give your spirit an abode of eternal bliss, or consign it to eternal torments according as you have glorified and served him?"
The Golden Age Of Science Fiction Vol Xi Part 39
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