Meda: a Tale of the Future/Introduction
HOW curious are the incidents that occur in all lives, and how often is it that the most important amongst them may take its rise in the merest trifle!
In looking backward on a life's history we find that our most important actions have been influenced and our life's path determined by an accident.
Like the waters of some little spring situated on an elevated ridge of ground dividing two valleys, a twig, a stone, a growth of herbage may direct their course into one valley or the other, this accident making this spring perhaps the fountain head of a great river flowing down the valley that leads to the south; while, had this accidental obstruction been placed on the other side, its waters would have been delivered into the other valley and thus caused to flow in an entirely opposite direction.
When we come to think of it, a spring and river would be a not inapt illustration of the source of life and life's stream. From life's first dawn it must flow onward and onward without ceasing, its course at one time or another being diverted by the twig, the stone, or the herbage of life's accidents. So it continues its way, now winding, twisting, and buffeting with rocks and crags, while in yonder pool it is calm, peaceful, and placid, yes, and too often stagnant, while anon we hear it moan and groan in agony, as it rushes into some death-like cavern of sorrow, after a time to arise again in sportive joy, and meander through the lovely valley of pleasure further down.
It is ever changing, yet ever falling, until it arrives at that boundless ocean of death—the common receiver of all streams of life—no matter what their origin or course may have been.
It was a slight incident in my life that led me to discover the contents of one of life's caverns, that proved of the greatest interest to me, and which, I think, may possibly also interest others.
I was walking near a large manufacturing city in a district well in the country and full of pretty villas, when I noticed a tall delicate-looking man in front of me. He walked with the assistance of a stick, and had evidently just recovered from a serious illness, for he seemed to get along with great difficulty. I thought he was about to faint, and, rushing forward, I caught hold of him, thinking he would fall. He turned his face, and looking at me said, "Thank you, friend; I am very feeble, and shall be much obliged, if you will kindly assist me to my home, which is not far off." While slowly walking along, holding my arm, he continued;—I have just recovered from a very curious and serious illness. Feeling better this morning, I thought I was strong enough to venture for a short turn outside my own garden, but alas! my estimate of my strength was too high. I had only got a short way, when I discovered my mistake and turned, and, kind friend, had it not been for your timely aid, I most certainly would have fallen."
My new friend was a man of about forty years with very deep-set thoughtful eyes. They were those dreamy, interesting dark eyes that seem to speak as they look at you. There was something very pleasing in his expression, and something very kindly and truthful in his manner, that made me take to him at once, and by the time we reached his house, I felt as though he were an old and tried friend. On arriving at his gate, he insisted on my going in, saying that he was sure his wife would be pleased to see me. I somehow felt I would like to know more about him, and gladly accepted his invitation. I found his wife to be a pleasant looking woman of about thirty-five. She was hunting about the garden for him, and hailed his appearance with a good-natured scolding. By way of explanation, she said, "You see, sir, I left him sitting on that seat, while I went in to look after the house and servants, and when I came out again, I found he had flown. I thought some spirits had come," she said laughing, "and carried him away with them, since of late he thinks so much about them. But I now know, my dear Kenneth," she continued looking at him, "that you were just tired of your old wife, and thought you were strong enough to do without her help, and this is the result." "There now," said my friend, still holding my arm, "just you hear how my dear Mary can scold; she is a cruel woman, and has been very hard on me, telling me that ever since my illness, my head has been brimful of the greatest nonsense. But, my dear sir, it is no nonsense. I have been privileged to see strange things in spite of all my dear wife says."
I got him seated in his garden, and we three became very friendly. I lived not far from my new friends, and visited them almost every day, as I took a great interest in the invalid. During my visits he repeatedly hinted at what he had seen, but if his wife were present she would hold up her finger as a warning to me not to encourage him to talk about this mystery, whatever it was. I must say I began to grow very curious. His wife seemed to think that there was something wrong with his mind, from the effects of his illness. But this was not the case, the man's mind was as sound in all respects as my own. I found his name to be Kenneth Folingsby. He was an artist of no mean ability, in fact his pictures were sought after, and fetched large prices. He was well-to-do, and had a very nice house. He was a man who thought it his duty to try to elevate the intellectual standard of the working classes, and he devoted most of his evenings, when in health, to the furtherance of this object. Being a Conservative in politics, he espoused that cause with great earnestness, because he believed it to be the best for the people; and I found that it was during an election contest, throughout which he had worked almost without ceasing, that he had contracted his illness. His party would he feared be defeated, and whether it was from fear of this, or from some other cause I can't say, but after the result became evident, he fell ill.
When talking with him one day during his wife's absence, he said;—"My dear friend, I have often hinted to you that I had seen some strange things. My dear wife thinks when I tell her of them that my mind is deranged, but I am as sane as any living man, and I hope some day to be able to commit all my curious adventures to paper. But while we artists are very quick with the brush, we are but poor scribes. I feel if I were to attempt to write the recollections of my adventures in my present state of health that I should undoubtedly break down; and if I broke down, I might never again be able to resume the work the performance of which I feel to be a duty to mankind."
I had become more and more interested in this man and his mystery, and being a good shorthand writer I offered to take down all his experiences in shorthand, and then transcribe them for him. To this he at once assented, and though his wife, on hearing of our compact, at first objected, yet she came to see that it was better that her husband should get this weight off his mind, as he felt that he would not fully recover until he had done so. I was glad I had carried my point, and at once began what was to me a most pleasant and interesting task.
It was about two months after I first met Folingsby, that on a fine summer afternoon we were seated under a tree in his pleasant little garden. The air was still to a degree, not a sound could be heard save the humming of a bee, or the chirping of the birds in the trees over our heads. My friend, still weak from his late illness, was lounging in an easy chair, while I was seated beside a garden table with my note book in hand ready to take down his words. Folingsby looked very solemn when he began, saying by way of introduction:—
"This is a strange, a very strange story that I am going to relate to you. Like my dear wife Mary, you may think it all the outcome of my fancy. But I can assure you that its reality is to me too patent, and that it is too distinctly impressed on my memory for me ever to allow any one to make light of my conviction of its truth. I believe that I have been allowed to see into futurity for some good purpose, and I feel that should I neglect to commit my recollections of what I have seen to writing that I should fail in my duty to posterity."
Heaving a sigh, he began a narrative that took me many days to transcribe. It ran as follows:—