The Golden Age Of Science Fiction Vol Xi Part 75

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Although I had now been here nearly a whole week, I had not yet had an opportunity of strolling round to see anything that might catch my fancy. Everything had been done according to the programme. Nevertheless, I had noticed a few things in the course of my daily tours which Conductor Sheep did not think worthy of comment. I got very tired of his guide-book style of explanation. Bridgetown was hardly worth the painful and systematic study which he compelled me to give to it, and I decided to go straight on to the capital in a few days.

I saw no drunken people--the regulations do not permit drunkenness. I saw no loose women in the streets. On this subject I can get no information from Sheep, but I suspect there is something to learn. There were no advertis.e.m.e.nt h.o.a.rdings. I must confess I rather missed them; they may be ugly, but they are often interesting. The shops were very dull. Nothing was displayed in the windows to tempt people to buy, and there were no people about the streets shopping in a casual way. People must know what they want, and go to the shops which specialise in the particular article. There were large stores; but even these were so divided into departments that there was little fun in shopping. Indiscriminate and casual shopping is distinctly discouraged by the State. Advertising is restricted to trade journals, except for a little in the miserable local gazettes. Only those forms of production which the State considers necessary are allowed to expand indefinitely; all the others are regulated. Consequently there are none of the incitements to expenditure which exist in most modern countries. I have never been a great shopper, but I could not have believed how much duller life was without the attractions of the shop windows and the stores, if I had not been here. For instance, I found that I had very foolishly come without a pair of bedroom slippers, so I wanted to buy a pair. I looked round naturally for a shop where I should see such things displayed in the window, but I had to go to the slipper section of the boot department of a store, choose from an ill.u.s.trated catalogue the quality I wanted, and take whatever they had.

I thought I should have seen book-shops displaying all the most recent books and publications. In other countries I found it possible to pick up a great deal of information by noticing the kind of literature exposed for sale. Booksellers' shops have always an attraction for me. To my amazement the booksellers' shops have disappeared from Meccania, yet I know from my own reading they used to be quite a feature in the life of the old Meccania. The censors.h.i.+p of the printing trade has apparently revolutionised the book-selling business. At any rate, the only place in which I could get to see books in Bridgetown was at a sort of office in the Technical College. It seems that the Publications Department of the Ministry of Culture--I think that is the right name--has in every town a public room, fitted up like a small library, in which all the current books published are exhibited for six months at a time. This is really a very useful inst.i.tution in itself, but the books exhibited were not on sale, so all the pleasurable excitement of a book-shop was wanting. To buy books one must order them through an authorised book-agent, who has a sort of monopoly. I wondered why such an extraordinary arrangement should have been made, but when I got the explanation from Sheep it was quite consistent with the general scheme of things here.

I asked him whether the Government discouraged the public from reading. He said, "Not at all. Our people are great readers; they do not need any incitements to read. They consult the lists of new books and come to the book-room to see any book in which they are interested. Then they decide whether to buy it or to borrow it from the public library."

"But why do you not permit people to open book-shops?"



"It would be a sheer waste," replied Sheep. "One book-agent can supply all the books required in Bridgetown without keeping a stock of thousands of books that would never be wanted or not wanted for years. Apply the same principle to other towns and you will see that by keeping only one central stock we effect a great economy."

I pointed out that in other countries the publishers kept the stock and supplied booksellers with what they wanted, allowing them to keep a few copies for the immediate sales; and that consequently this was almost as economical an arrangement.

"But," said Sheep, "we have no publishers in your sense of the word. When a book is written it cannot be printed without the sanction of the Government censors, who decide how many copies in the first instance are to be issued. The publishers are really printers who arrange the form and style of the book, but undertake no responsibility such as publishers in other countries undertake."

"Then the Government are really the publishers?" I suggested.

"Well," answered Sheep, "the Government are the publishers of most books. That is to say, the number of Government publications exceeds the number of private publications, but as regards the latter the publishers or printers a.s.sume the financial responsibility for the sales but are insured by the Government against loss, so long as they comply with the conditions imposed by the Publis.h.i.+ng Department."

But I have digressed too far. My interest in book-shops must be my excuse. Not only were there no casual shoppers, but I saw no one sauntering about the streets. Everybody seemed to have an object in view. There were no children playing. The children were either marching in step to or from school, or they were performing some kind of organised game--if it could be called a game--under the supervision of a teacher or guardian. The workmen going to their work, or returning, also marched in step like soldiers. The women going to market went at the appointed time and took their place in a little queue if there were more than three or four in front of them. At the theatre there was no crowd outside; every one had his numbered seat and went to it at the minute. Each man's ticket has printed on it the day of his attendance, the number of the seat and the exact time at which he must be present.

There are no such things here as football matches or other sports witnessed by crowds. The men attend military drill once a week, some on Sundays and some on Sat.u.r.days. This is in addition to their annual periods of drill. The only custom which survives from old times, resembling the customs of other countries, is that of sitting in the evening in gardens attached to restaurants. Here the people listen to bands of music whilst they drink a thin kind of liquor and smoke cigars.

The sense of orderliness is almost oppressive. Every hour of the day has been mapped out for me, except when I have been writing my journal in the evening. The day before yesterday we began to visit the State inst.i.tutions. The chief of these is the Post Office, but the most remarkable is the Time Department. The Post Office is very much like any other post office, except that it has a Censor's Department. All letters are actually read by the clerks in the Censor's Department. Sheep gave me a curious explanation in justification of this extraordinary inst.i.tution. Put briefly, his case was this. The State could not, with due regard to the interests of the community, allow all letters to go uncensored. All sorts of mischief might be hatched. If the State censors any letters it cannot logically stop short of censoring all. As to the labour involved, this pays for itself. For the public, knowing that its letters are liable to be read, does not indulge in unnecessary letter-writing. Thus time is saved, which can be devoted to more useful purposes. The statistics compiled by the Time Department have completely proved that the labour of the fifty clerks employed in censoring the letters effects a saving of more than four times the amount of time which would otherwise be spent by the public in useless letter-writing.

This Time Department is the most extraordinary inst.i.tution of all I have seen so far. Every person over ten years of age is required to fill in a diaryform each week showing the time spent daily on every separate operation. The diary form is a stout double sheet of foolscap providing four page altogether. The first page is stamped with the name, address, and other particulars of the' diarist.' The two open pages are ruled into 336 small oblong s.p.a.ces, one for each half-hour of the week. In these s.p.a.ces brief entries are made, such as' breakfast,'' tram-journey,'' conversation,'' sleeping,' etc. This part of the diary thus gives a chronological account of each day in successive half-hours. On the back page is printed a long list of about 150 categories in three columns. I noticed such headings as these:--Sleep, dressing, meals (subdivided), travelling (conveyance specified), employment (specified under many heads), study (specified), reading, letter- writing, interviews with officials, attendance at theatre, concert, church, museum, etc., conversation (subdivided into family, friends, others), other amus.e.m.e.nts (specified), public ceremonies, drill, etc. Against each of these headings the total number of minutes spent during the week is recorded.

The information derived from these diaries is scrutinised and worked up into elaborate reports and statistics for the benefit of the Sociological Department, the Police Department, the Department of Trade and Industry, and so forth. I hope to learn more of this most remarkable feature of Meccanian life when I reach the capital, where the Central Time Department carries on its work.

I have good reason to remember the Time Department, for on Sunday morning after breakfast I was sent for by the official who manages the Hotel for Foreign Observers. He told me rather curtly that he had just received a telephone message from the local office of the Time Department inquiring whether I had sent in my diary, as it had not been received. I told him I knew nothing about such a thing. He said, "Nonsense. You have had the usual instructions given to all foreigners. Look among your papers." I did look, and there, sure enough, was a sheet of instructions and three blank forms. He said, "You had better fill it up at once." So I went to the writing-room and began. But I could not remember what had happened at all clearly enough to fill the half of it in. At the end of an hour the hotel manager came to ask what I was doing all this time. I explained my difficulty. He asked if I had not kept a pocket-diary: it was indispensable. I suddenly remembered the pocketdiary Sheep had procured for me; but I had forgotten to make use of it. What a fool I was! We spent the next hour doctoring up the diary and then sent it in. He told me I should have to pay a fine of ten s.h.i.+llings for the delay. I did not mind that, but the next day I received a visit from an official from the Time Department, who came with Conductor Sheep to point out that there were many errors in the diary. The times for a number of items did not tally with those in Conductor Sheep's diary, although we had been together the whole week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. I should have to make out a fresh diary with the a.s.sistance of Conductor Sheep, and pay a fine of a1. The charge of falsifying my diary would not be made, in view of my colossal ignorance; the charge would be reduced to that of negligence to verify particulars. Conductor Sheep was rather disagreeable about the affair, as it might be considered to reflect on him. I certainly thought he might have taken the trouble to instruct me more fully upon such a momentous business. However, as I was on the point of leaving Bridgetown for Mecco, I was not much disturbed by his ill-humour.

CHAPTER III.

INTRODUCTION TO MECCO.

IT is a week since I arrived in Mecco, and for the first time I have leisure to write up my journal. The life of a Foreign Observer is very strenuous, for the Meccanian method of seeing everything according to programme and timetable is very fatiguing. Already I feel that a holiday will be welcome at the end of my tour. In the whole of this vast city of Mecco there is nothing casual, nothing incidental, nothing unprovided for. Although I am only a spectator, I feel like a little cog in the huge complicated machine. The machine seems to absorb everything; the individual counts for nothing. That is perhaps the reason why it seems impossible to get into contact with any human being other than the officials who instruct me and conduct me every moment of my time. I begin to wonder whether the individual Meccanian really exists, or whether his personality is merged in the official personality which is all that is visible to me.

To resume the record of my experiences. Before I left Bridgetown, Sub-Conductor Sheep repeated his opinion that in choosing Tour No. I, which allowed only a week for the study of an important town, I had revealed my incapacity as a Foreign Observer. He evidently put me down in one of the pigeon-holes of his mind as a mere tourist-- a creature almost extinct in Meccania. The day before my departure I paid the bill for his services, which were reckoned at the modest rate of 16s. a day. My hotel bill was also discharged, and I proceeded to my final interview with the Police Authorities. I had to submit to another disinfecting bath, but apart from this the medical examination was a formality.

At the Police Office, Inspector of Foreigners Stiff was very sarcastic at my expense. "So you think there is nothing more to be learnt in Bridgetown," he remarked. "It is not more than ten days since you left Luniland, and you think yourself qualified to proceed to the very centre of our national Culture. Evidently your stay in Luniland has not improved whatever powers of appreciation you may have possessed; but that is what one would expect from that country of amateurs, charlatans and cranks. You have seen nothing of our Museum, our Art Collections, our Libraries: you are not interested in such things. How, then, do you suppose you will be able to appreciate what you will find in Mecco? We do our best to a.s.sist all Foreign Observers, but it is rather a waste of time to provide an experienced and qualified Conductor for persons who are so clever that they only require a week to learn all there is to know in a whole city. However," he added, "the law with respect to Foreign Observers does not forbid you to proceed to Mecco. You have your medical certificate, I suppose, to show that you are still disease-free?" I produced it. "Have you notified the Railway Authority of your intention to travel to Mecco?" I had not done so.

"Turn to paragraph 44 of your Instructions and you will see that a day's notice must be given," he said brusquely. "You will have to stay another night in the hotel and travel to-morrow. Good morning."

Sheep accompanied me to the booking-office at the station, where I filled up a form of application. When this was presented to the clerk in charge, a fussy little old man in a chocolate-coloured uniform, he turned to Sheep in great excitement and whispered something which I did not hear. Then he turned indignantly to me and said, "But you are not an Amba.s.sador, nor even a Government Agent."

"No," I said; "I am merely National Councillor Ming."

"So I see," he answered testily, "but why do you wish to travel First Cla.s.s?" (I had filled in the word "First "in the s.p.a.ce for "Cla.s.s.") "Are you not aware," he said, "that only foreigners who are Amba.s.sadors are ever permitted to travel First Cla.s.s? You will travel Third Cla.s.s in the compartment for Foreign Observers."

Next morning I went to the station in good time. An attendant from the hotel brought my bags over and handed them to one of the porters. I did not see them again until I found them in the hotel at Mecco. I was handed over to an official at the station. This person looked at my travel-permit and informed me curtly that I had arrived too early. I said, "Oh, that does not matter. I can look about the station until the train starts."

"That is not permitted," he said. "You will go to the waiting-room--that is what a waiting-room is for. Your train will come in a quarter of an hour before it is due to leave, and you will then take your seat, Coach Third Cla.s.s, Compartment IV., Seat No. 12."

So I was taken to the waiting-room. Apparently I did not miss much of interest, for the station was one of the quietest and dullest I have ever seen. There is very little traffic across the frontier, so that Bridgetown station is a sort of dead-end. Only three pa.s.senger trains a day go direct to Mecco, and these are by no means crowded. I have since learnt that the restrictions on travelling in all parts of Meccania are part of the general policy designed to keep down unnecessary forms of expenditure to a minimum.

The train was due to leave at ten o'clock. At a quarter before ten exactly, as I looked through the window screen I saw it gliding along the platform into the bay. A bell rang, and my porter came to take me to my place. As I stepped across the platform I saw about a hundred people preparing to get into the train. Where they had been up to this moment I do not know. There was no bustle. Each person took his place as if he had been taking his seat in a concert-room. There was no examination of tickets. Every one had booked his seat the day before, and every seat was numbered. The train was made up of five pa.s.senger coaches, a post-office van, a baggage wagon, two wagons for perishable goods and a special coach for soldiers (privates). One of the pa.s.senger coaches painted red bore a large Roman II., indicating that it was a Second Cla.s.s coach, another painted yellow was marked III., two others painted green were marked IV., and another painted chocolate was marked V. There was no First Cla.s.s coach on this train, as there were no persons of the First Cla.s.s travelling by it. Neither, apparently, were there any Sixth or Seventh Cla.s.s pa.s.sengers. Every one travelling wore a sort of uniform overcoat of the same colour as that of the coach in which he travelled. It was only later that I was able to recognise readily and without confusion the colours appropriate to the seven social cla.s.ses, but I did notice that the Fifth Cla.s.s wore chocolate, the Fourth green, the Third yellow and the Second red or scarlet.

I was taken to a compartment temporarily set apart for foreigners in the Third Cla.s.s coach.

There was still ten minutes before the train started, so I looked out of the window and saw the porters and minor officials storing the luggage, putting in the mails, and so forth. The perishable goods had already been loaded, in a siding I suppose. No one was permitted on the platform except the railway servants, so that the station looked almost deserted. Presently the stationmaster, dressed in a green uniform with chocolate facings and a bit of gold braid on his cap, came on the platform and looked at his watch. Then, exactly as the big bell of the station clock began to strike ten, he waved a signal and the train glided out.

In a few minutes we were going at ioo miles an hour, and in less than a quarter of an hour the speed increased to 150. The track was smooth, but I began to feel dizzy when I looked out of the window. There was little to be seen, for every now and then we pa.s.sed between embankments that shut out the view. I pulled down the blinds, turned on the light and tried to read. In a short time I had almost forgotten the immense speed at which we were travelling.

I had previously learnt that if I went to Mecco by the express I should see nothing of the country, and had consequently proposed to travel by a stopping train, perhaps breaking my journey a few times. But when I mentioned this to Sheep he said it would be impossible. I could not stop at any place to make a stay of less than three days, and each of the places I stopped at would have to be notified. I must either go direct to Mecco, or to some other city. So here I was, almost flying to Mecco. After about an hour, one of the guards came in to see that everything was in order. He wore a chocolate uniform, with a number of stripes and other symbols to indicate his particular, grade, occupation and years of service. After stamping my ticket he grinned good-humouredly for a Meccanian, and said, "So you are going to see the wonders of our wonderful Mecco. Lucky man! There is nothing like it anywhere in the world."

"Indeed," I said, "you have travelled abroad a good deal, then?"

"Oh no. I have never been out of Meccania, thank G.o.d!"

"What makes you think there is nothing like it, then, in any other country?" I asked.

"Oh, the wide streets, the buildings, the gardens, the monuments, the uniforms, the music, everything--it is c-o-l-o-s-s-a-1! When you have seen the great monument, the statue of Prince Mechow! There is nothing like it anywhere. You will see! And you must not miss the Memorial Museum of Prince Mechow! I tell you it is a privilege to live in Mecco. But I must not gossip," he said, as if half ashamed; "I have many duties," and off he went. Towards the end of the journey, which lasted a little over two hours, he looked in again and said, "You must not leave Mecco until you have seen the great festival on Prince Mechow's birthday." I promised to remember it.

As we drew near to Mecco the train slackened speed, and I could see, but only for a minute or two, a great city spread over a wide plain. There were domes and towers, steeples and pinnacles, huge ma.s.ses of masonry suggesting great public buildings, then miles of houses and gardens and in the far distance warehouses and factories, but no smoke. We plunged into a tunnel and then emerged suddenly into a blaze of light. The train glided along the platform, and as I stepped out I could not help looking round in admiration at the truly magnificent arches and lofty dome of the great Central Station of Mecco. The roof seemed to be made of some wonderful prismatic gla.s.s that radiated light everywhere. The ground was covered with immense tiles in coloured patterns, all as clean as if they had been washed and scrubbed that very hour. Not a speck of dirt or smoke was to be seen. Although hundreds of people were in the station, there was no bustle. No one sauntered about; every one seemed to go just where he had business. There was no scrambling for luggage or for cabs. No one was allowed to take luggage with him unless it could be carried in one hand; the rest was all registered and sent to its destination by the railway servants. Only persons of the third or a higher cla.s.s were allowed to use motorcabs, and these were all ordered beforehand. The impression of orderliness was almost uncanny. As I reached the end of the platform I was touched on the shoulder by a man in the green uniform of the Fourth Cla.s.s, decorated with several stripes and badges. "You are National Councillor Ming," he said, "and I am Conductor of Foreign Observers Prigge."

He seemed to be in very good spirits, but this made him rather offensive than amiable. He treated me as if I were a sort of prisoner, or at any rate as if I were a very juvenile pupil. He said that as my bags had gone to the Hotel for Foreign Observers we need not go there first, but could proceed straight to the Police Office. This was not far from the station and was a large building, almost like a fortress in front. Viewed from the other side, as I afterwards saw, it was more like a set of offices with large windows.

First of all I was taken to the police doctor, who spent nearly two hours upon a minute medical examination of me. The object of this could not have been to make sure that I was "disease-free," for I had been seen the day before by the police doctor at Bridgetown. It could not have been for the purpose of identification, seeing that the authorities had obtained all the finger-prints and everything else they required, on my first arrival. I could only conclude that it was for the purpose of scientific research. I judged from the remarks made by Doctor Pincher in the course of his investigations that he was an expert anthropologist. He took samples of my hair, not only from my head, but from various parts of my body. He took a sample of my blood, and of the perspiration from several different glands. He even removed a small particle of skin, without any pain. He tested my eyesight, hearing and smell, my muscular powers, and all sorts of reactions to various stimuli. He informed me that I should require a pair of spectacles. I said I did not think it was worth while, as I had never yet experienced any discomfort. He replied that that made no difference, and proceeded to write out a prescription which he told me to take to a certain office, where, in a few days, I should be supplied with the necessary gla.s.ses. He then took a cast of my mouth and of my ears, and measured me in twenty different places. Finally he gave me a drink of what appeared to be water, but which made me unconscious for several minutes. What he did during those few minutes I do not know, and he did not deign to inform me. As I left him he smiled--I suppose he thought he was being amiable aai and said, "We do not have the pleasure of seeing a Chinaman here every day."

I was then taken to the office of Chief Inspector of Foreigners Pryer. He looked at me, asked a few trivial questions, and handed me over to a subordinate, Lower Inspector of Foreigners Bulley. This gentleman sat at a desk, and after noting the time and my name on a sort of tablet, took out a yellow form, foolscap size, upon which he proceeded to make notes of my answers to his questions. He put me through a catechism as to what I had seen in Bridgetown. Which of the local inst.i.tutions had I visited, which of the national, which of the local and national? What had I learnt of the industrial and social economy of Bridgetown? What had I learnt of the cultural inst.i.tutions? Had I made notes of my daily tours, and could I produce them? (Luckily all my notes were in a language that Inspector Bulley could not read.) He then proceeded to discuss plans for my tours of observation in Mecco. In the first place, how long did I propose to stay? I did not know. What did the length of my stay depend upon? I said it would largely depend upon my ability to stand the strain of it.

I thought this would perhaps annoy him, but on the contrary it pleased him immensely. "Good!' he said. "You are here to study the inst.i.tutions of Mecco, and you will stay as long as you have the strength to carry out your task."

That was not what I meant, but I let it pa.s.s.

"I think you had better select the preliminary six months' tour of observation," he said. "After that, you can begin the study of any special branch for which you are qualified, and for which you have an inclination; possibly industry, possibly art, possibly sociology, possibly education. We can decide that at the end of your preliminary period.

You will have for your guide, for the first few weeks, Lower Conductor Prigge. As, however, he has just been promoted to a higher rank in the police service, he will not be available after the first few weeks, but I will arrange for a suitable successor."

He then presented me with several doc.u.ments. "This," he said, handing me a thick notebook of some two hundred pages, "is the preliminary diary in which you make your notes in whatever form you like. There are four pages for each day. This is the formal diary for the Time Department, to be carefully entered up each week and posted before Sunday morning. These are the sheets of Instructions specially drawn up for Foreign Observers in Mecco; you will notice they are all marked' Tour No. 4,' and numbered consecutively. And this," handing me a thin metal plate about half the size of a postcard, "is your identification ticket."

It was now the middle of the afternoon. I had had no luncheon, so when Prigge came to take me off to the hotel, I proposed that we should have some tea. He demurred a little, as he did not drink tea, but he consented to have some coffee and a cigar in the smoke-room if I would drink my tea there. So we went on talking over our tea and coffee, and this is a specimen of the conversation:-- "You will understand," said Prigge, "that everything depends upon your own energy and intelligence. If you apply yourself thoroughly to the work before you, you will learn more in a fortnight under my guidance than in a whole year in Luniland. I have had a long experience in conducting foreigners. Most of them have no idea how to observe, especially those who come from Luniland. They want to roam about without any system or method at all. They want to see an Art Gallery one day, and a manufactory the next; or even on the same day. Then they want to see a natural history museum on the same day as an archaeological museum; they will fly from pottery to pictures, and from geology to botany. Why, I was taking one of them through our great museum ill.u.s.trative of the stages of culture, which is arranged in twenty successive centuries, and when we had reached the sixteenth he actually wanted to turn back to look at something in the twelfth!"

"I think it will be a good thing," I said, "if I ask you questions as we go along, about matters that strike me. With all your knowledge you will be able to tell me many things outside the regular routine."

"Your proposal implies," he replied, "that I shall not give you the appropriate information in proper order. If you will follow my directions you will learn more than by any amount of aimless and desultory questioning. I have studied the principles of Pedagogy as applied to conducting Foreign Observers, and I shall accommodate the presentation of new matter to the existing content of your mind, in so far as your mind has any definite content. You will not be precluded from "asking questions, but whether I shall answer them will depend upon their relevance to the subject in hand."

Before we parted he gave me some general instructions. "For the first week," he said, 'you will not be permitted to converse with other foreigners staying in the hotel. To-night you will be free to attend to your private affairs and prepare for to-morrow. We shall begin by a survey of the general geography of the city, and in the evening you will have permission to attend one of the lectures specially given to Foreign Observers by Professor Proser-Toady on Prince Mechow, the re-Founder of the Meccanian State. Professor Proser-Toady is the Professor of Historical Culture in Mecco, and this course of lectures is given periodically, so that foreigners may have no excuse for being ignorant of the true history of the rise and development of Meccanian culture."

So I spent the evening in writing letters, looking up my' Instructions,' and filling up my diary. For this day, interviews with officials accounted for at least five hours. Next morning at nine o'clock Conductor Prigge turned up, looking more perky than ever. He had all the airs of a professor, a police officer, and a drill sergeant rolled into one. "Our first business will be to study the map," he said. "To that we will give one and a half hours. After that we will ascend the look-out tower in the Meteorological Department and take a view of the city in the concrete. In the afternoon we will go by tram-car in three concentric circles, and in the evening you will attend Professor Proser- Toady's lecture."

We began with the maps. I remembered something of the maps of the old city from my geographical studies at home, and I remarked on the great changes, for hardly a vestige of the old city seemed to remain.

Prigge appeared rather pleased. "That is an instance of the superiority of our culture," he remarked. "All the other capitals of Europe," he said, "still preserve the plan of the mediaeval city, in the central parts at least. And the central parts are the most important. The authorities profess to have preserved them because of their historical interest. In reality it is because they do not know how to remodel them. Against human stupidity the very G.o.ds fight in vain, but to intelligence all things are possible. Any dolt can plan a new city, but we are the only people in Europe who know how to remodel our old cities. Now you will notice," he went on, "that we have preserved the old royal palace and several other important buildings. They do not interfere with the general plan. The large central ring, over a square mile in extent, is occupied by Government buildings; and although there is a larger number than in all the European capitals put together, they are not crowded. The square of Prince Mechow, where the great statue stands, is the largest in Europe. The ring outside that is occupied by Cultural Inst.i.tutions, Museums, Art Galleries, Libraries, the University, the Zoological Gardens, the Botanical Gardens, and so forth. Next comes a very much larger ring, occupied almost entirely by the residential quarters of the six social cla.s.ses. (In Mecco itself there are no members of the Seventh Cla.s.s.) The whole presents a superficial resemblance to a great wheel."

"Where, then, is the manufacturing quarter and the business quarter?"

"Now where would you expect?" he asked, as if to show off his own cunning.

"I saw a number of factories in the distance," I said.

"Yes," he answered, "the manufacturing quarter lies outside the ring and forms a sort of town by itself."

"And the business quarter? That must be centrally placed," I said.

"Not necessarily. If you draw a line from the centre of Mecco to the industrial quarter you will find the commercial quarter occupying a long rectangle between the second ring and the outer edge of the exterior circle. The commercial quarter thus cuts the residential ring on one side. The residential quarters of the Sixth and Fifth Cla.s.ses lie on each side of the commercial quarter and are therefore nearest to the industrial quarter.

"You will observe," he continued, "that we have no Seventh Cla.s.s in Mecco itself. We are an Imperial city, and even the servants of the well-to-do belong to the Sixth Cla.s.s. It is the greatest privilege of a Meccanian citizen to live in Mecco, and all the citizens of Mecco are, so to speak, selected. None but loyal upholders of the national and imperial ideal are allowed the privilege of living here. It would not be right. There again, it is our superior national culture that has enabled us to realise such a plan. What Government in Europe could drive out of its capital all citizens who did not actively support the State?"

"It is indeed a wonderful thing," I said. "But what becomes of such disloyal citizens when they are, shall I say, expelled or exiled?"

"Ah! You must not believe that we have had to indulge in any policy of expulsion. You will not find any disloyal element anywhere in Meccania. A few individuals you might find, but most of them are in lunatic asylums."

"But surely," I said, "I have read in the histories of Meccania, that formerly there were large numbers of people, among the working cla.s.ses chiefly, who were, well, rather revolutionary in their ideas, and whom I should not have expected to see becoming loyal to such a State as the Meccania of to-day."

He smiled a very superior smile. "Really," he said, "the ignorance of our country which foreigners betray is extraordinary. Disloyalty to the State is found in every country except Meccania. We have got rid of it long ago by the simple process of Education. If we find an odd individual who displays disloyal sentiments we regard him as a lunatic and treat him accordingly."

"How?" I asked.

"We put him in a lunatic asylum."

"And your lunatic asylums? Have you enough for the purpose?" I ventured to ask.

Conductor Prigge luckily did not see the point. "In most cases," he said, "the threat is sufficient. We require very few lunatic asylums, just as we require few prisons. But we are wandering from the subject," he remarked; and he drew out a map of the residential quarters, coloured in white, red, yellow, green, chocolate and grey, the colours of the cla.s.ses, omitting the Seventh.

I noticed that the parts coloured white, red and yellow covered about half the circle. I was going to put some questions to Prigge as to the relative numbers of the cla.s.ses, when he said, "I do not think you have yet grasped our sevenfold cla.s.sification of the citizens.h.i.+p of Meccania."

"Somewhat imperfectly, I am afraid," I replied.

"Then you have not grasped it," he said. "You cannot be said to grasp it if you are not perfectly clear about it. I will explain. Attend! Begin with the lowest. That is the logical order. The Seventh Cla.s.s consists of persons of the lowest order of intelligence who cannot profit by the ordinary instruction in the schools beyond a very moderate degree. They are not very numerous. From the age of ten they are taught to do simple work of a purely mechanical kind, and when strong enough are set to do the most menial work which requires little intelligence. A few other persons, who have failed in life through their own fault, are relegated to this cla.s.s as a punishment.

"The Sixth Cla.s.s corresponds to the unskilled labouring cla.s.s of most foreign countries. They are recruited from the children who at twelve years of age show only average ability. They are then trained to do either simple manual work, or to act as servants in families below the Second Cla.s.s.

"The Fifth is the largest cla.s.s; it is larger than the Sixth and Seventh together. We require a very large number of skilled artisans and clerks in a subordinate capacity. Consequently, we train all who are capable of profiting by a combination of theoretical and practical instruction until the age of fifteen, and even for some years after that, in industrial schools, where they study the practical aspects of mathematics and science. Consequently, they are by far the most skilled artisan cla.s.s in the world. We have no trouble in inducing them to apply themselves to study, for any member of the Fifth Cla.s.s who failed to profit by the system of instruction provided for him would soon find himself in the Sixth Cla.s.s, which enjoys much less in the shape of privileges and material well-being than the Fifth.

"The Fourth Cla.s.s includes most of the bourgeoisie, the bulk of the officials and clergy, as well as the small group of professional people who are not officials. In detail it comprises tradesmen, managers of businesses and foremen in responsible positions. All these are in the Industrial and Commercial world. Then come all Civil servants below the first grade, all non-commissioned officers in the Army and Navy, all the Clergy below the rank of Bishops. The professional people I referred to are a few who have not been absorbed in the official cla.s.s. We have no journalists in Meccania, no doctors who are not in the State service, and no lawyers who are not officials."

"Then who are these professional people?" I interrupted.

"They are merely a handful of people, mostly possessed of small private means, who write books that are never published, or cultivate art, or music, or science. They are not good enough to be taken into the State service, and they are gradually disappearing altogether.

"The Third Cla.s.s," he resumed, "corresponds partly to the Higher Bourgeoisie of other countries, but it also includes several more important elements. It comprises the richer merchants and manufacturers, who must possess an income of at least a5000 a year; the first cla.s.s of Civil servants, the Higher Clergy, those University Professors who have held their posts for ten years and are approved by the Ministry of Culture, landed proprietors who are District Councillors and Magistrates, and all Fundholders with an income of a10,000 a year.

"The Second Cla.s.s is the military cla.s.s. It includes all officers, who must be of n.o.ble birth. A few of the highest Civil servants are in this cla.s.s, but they must have previously served as officers in the Army or Navy.

"The First Cla.s.s is partly military and partly civil; but, except members of royal or ducal families, all in the First Cla.s.s have previously pa.s.sed through the Second. Amba.s.sadors are in the First Cla.s.s, but they have all served for a period as officers in the Army. Even the head of a department of State is not admitted to the First Cla.s.s unless he has previously been in the Second Cla.s.s.

"Lastly, the relative numbers of the various cla.s.ses are as follows: out of a total population of 100,000,000 only about 10,000 are in the First Cla.s.s; 4,000,000 are in the Second; 6,000,000 are in the Third; 20,000,000 are in the Fourth; 40,000,000 are in the Fifth; 20,000,000 are in the Sixth; and the rest, nearly 10,000,000, in the Seventh Cla.s.s.

"All women take the rank of their fathers or their husbands, whichever is the higher; children take the rank of their parents until their sixteenth year. Is that clear?"

"Quite clear," I replied, "except in one particular."

"What is that?"

"I take it that some, at any rate, pa.s.s from one cla.s.s to another. By what means, for example, does a person who starts life, let us say in the Fourth Cla.s.s, obtain admission to the Third?"

"We must take some particular category."

"A business man, a small manufacturer who is highly successful, perhaps makes some valuable discovery which enriches him. How does he obtain admission to the Third Cla.s.s?"

"He must have an income of at least a5000 a year, and he must have performed some service to the State," answered Prigge promptly.

"And a Civil servant?"

"If he is promoted to the first grade he also is admitted to the Third Cla.s.s, but this does not frequently happen."

"Then, on the whole, the children of those in each cla.s.s respectively remain in the cla.s.s in which they are born?"

"That is so as a rule. The percentage has been worked out carefully by the statistical branch of the Sociological Department. About 4 per cent of the Seventh Cla.s.s enter the Sixth, about 5 per cent of the Sixth enter the Fifth, about 3 per cent of the Fifth enter the Fourth, about 8 per cent of the Fourth enter the Third. No one, strictly speaking, enters the Second from the Third, but as many of the men of the Second Cla.s.s marry women in the Third Cla.s.s, which is the rich cla.s.s, the sons may enter the Second Cla.s.s, if they are suitable as officers in the Army. Also, a number of the women of the Second Cla.s.s marry men in the Third Cla.s.s, and their sons also may enter the Army."

"It is a wonderful system," I ventured to observe.

"It is simplicity itself," said Prigge, "yet no other nation has had the intelligence to discover it, nor even to copy it. As a matter of fact, it is the only logical and scientific cla.s.sification of society; it puts everybody in his proper place."

After this conversation, or rather this discourse, we walked out to ascend the look-out tower; but on the way we had to cross the great square of Prince Mechow, and there, for the first time, I saw the great monument about which I had heard so much. I had expected something extraordinary, but I was not prepared for the actual thing. It was as high as a church steeple. At the base was a huge shapeless ma.s.s of basalt. Above this rose a square granite block, twenty feet high, covered with high-relief sculptures representing in allegorical form the reconstruction of the Meccanian Super-State. At the four corners were four figures representing Arms, Intellect, Culture and Power. Above this again towered a great pedestal a hundred feet high and forty feet in diameter. On the top stood the colossal statue of Prince Mechow, a gigantic portrait-figure of a man in the uniform of the First Cla.s.s, his breast covered with decorations, a sword in one hand and a mace or some symbolical weapon in the other. The impression of brute force which it conveyed was terrific. Every person in the square, as he came within sight of it, took off his hat; those in military dress saluted it, and p.r.o.nounced the words, "Long live Meccania and G.o.d bless Prince ^Mechow!"

My first feeling on seeing it was one of intense disgust at the barbarity of the thing, and I was just going to make some satirical remark when I caught sight of Prigge's face. It wore an expression of absolute ecstasy, and the look of fierce disdain with which he said "Uncover!' was startling. He added something which sounded like "Mongolian monkey," but in the excitement of the moment I was not quite sure what he said.

I tried to pacify him by saying, in as innocent a tone as I could a.s.sume, "It is indeed the most remarkable statue I have ever seen."

"It is the most perfect embodiment of Meccanian Culture: no other country could produce such a work," he replied solemnly.

The Golden Age Of Science Fiction Vol Xi Part 75

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