Meda: a Tale of the Future/Part II
HAS the reader ever suffered from a serious illness? If so, does he remember the first peaceful, painless, restful sleep that came after that illness, and the delightful sense of pleasure that he experienced when waking up from this slumber. Dear reader, if you have not had this experience, it is almost worth your while to get seriously ill, in order that you may enjoy it, but if you do make up your mind to try the experiment, take care that you get ill in the spring of the year, and let your home be in the country. Town people know nothing of this pleasure, or if they do, they do so only in a very limited degree.
I have come through this experience, and though I was but nine years old at the time, I never shall forget my intense enjoyment, when I awoke from my first painless sleep. Strength of constitution, medical skill, and a mother's devoted nursing had pulled me through.
The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and the creepers that clung round the window were in bright green leaf. My poor enfeebled frame was gaining strength, and all seemed bright, happy and peaceful. My fond and loving mother's face was bright with joy; she thought not of the troubled and weary nights and days of watching that she had passed through; she thought not of the fatigue that had left its mark in care-worn lines on that thoughtful loving face. And then, to add to my enjoyment, there were the brothers, sisters, and the friends that came with their kind and loving congratulations, who brought lovely innocent flowers,—the emblems of that purity and beauty that we should live to attain.
Afterwards there came the days of convalescence. I was well wrapped up, carried into the garden, and placed in a low chair. Ah! what a pleasure was this, what enjoyment was there here, for one who had been snatched from the grave's very brink, and restored by a merciful and kind providence, to life, health and happiness. The seeds that I had planted in my little garden before my illness were now strong plants. The primroses and lilies are in bloom. Under yon great evergreen tree, see the robin hopping about while warbling to his mate; and look at the rays of sunlight penetrating the thick foliage, giving every shade of color, from the darkest olive almost down to the brightest of yellow. Everything to my eyes and thoughts and feelings was beaming with an untold richness of beauty and enjoyment. I have, since those happy days, often thought why it was that the pleasure of those moments was so intense, so truly enjoyable. I suppose it was because the mind that had been an utter blank for some months, on its re-opening to life, had a vividness of perception that acted as a stimulant to the observation of nature's beauties. And thus there was engendered an enjoyment, and a true appreciation, of the harmonious beauty of the works of the Great Creator, that has been a lasting impression on my mind, as distinct, lovely, and enjoyable now, as it was thirty years ago.
How long I had lain on the couch in the Recorder's hall I cannot say, but when he passed me from sleep's repose to activity I experienced the same pleasant feelings as already referred to when a child, although the surroundings were different, so different as to make a comparison seem absurd.
When I wakened, my friend the Recorder was standing by my side. He said, "Wake up, my Specimen, you have had sufficient slumber, and you will now bathe, and change those garments that you wear for some more in keeping with the habits of the people with whom you now reside!" Up to this moment I had never given any thought to my garments. They consisted of an ordinary suit of grey tweed, with strong boots and a soft felt hat. I got up, and my venerable friend led me to a room that was entered by one of the side doors off the Recorder's hall. In the centre of this room was a bath, made of white marble, sunk below the level of the floor, and through which a stream of water continually flowed. The bath was very spacious, and I should say measured about twelve feet by eight and was about four feet deep. On a chair near were towels and a suit of clothing similar to the Recorder's. He left me alone, closing the door, and I undressed and proceeded to get into the bath. In doing so I went down the marble steps at the middle. When I put my feet into the water, I was surprised at its great buoyancy. I had only gone down four steps, when I found I could hardly stand; while I was stooping down to feel the water with my hands, I lost my footing and fell right into the bath, the displacement of my feet and legs seeming to heave me upwards. I fully expected that I should go right to the bottom, but such was not the case. I lighted head foremost in the water and floated about like a cork on the surface, not more than one fourth of my body being immersed.
I tasted the water to know if it were salt, as I knew that it is much easier to float in salt water, but I found it was quite fresh. To get myself wet all over I rolled round and round on the surface, and after I was thoroughly bathed, got out and dried myself. I then attempted to put on my new garments, but as this was no easy task, I sat down on the chair to work out this problem. Looking at the clothing I found it to consist of one piece of a white silkish cloth, pleated at one end in the form of a kilt. I at last solved the difficulty, by fastening the latter portion round my loins, and disposing of the remainder as best I could around my body and shoulders.
If not exactly correct in the disposition of my clothing, I had at least made a fairly good attempt at dressing for the first time in a modern costume. I found that a pair of light shoes was also provided for my use, and these I got on my feet with some difficulty, as they were rather small. There were also two leg weights the same as those my guides wore, but I did not put them on, as I thought they would only be an encumbrance.
When my toilet was completed, I sat down and ran over in my mind the entire circumstances of my extraordinary position, but gave up all explanations in despair. The Recorder, I remembered had said that we were now in the year of our Lord 5575. Could this be? If so, I must have been dead for over three thousand years, and he also said we were in England, and that he belonged to the English nation. He called me a "Specimen," at which I was not a bit annoyed, though if one of the sages outside had addressed me by that name, I should most certainly have been in a rage with him. But my new friend was so different from the others, his face was so benevolent, and the power of his intelligence or will so intense, that I somehow felt that he might say or do anything he liked with me.
In a short time my friend entered again, and came over to me, saying:—
"How did you enjoy your bath?"
I answered, "Very much indeed; but what buoyant water you have."
"Oh!" he replied, "the water has just the same specific gravity as it ever had, which remains constant; but the force of intelligence that now reigns has made your body like ours, very light. But, my Specimen, I shall explain all these matters to you later on." Then he looked at me in a kindly searching way, and continued:—
"You have large digestive organs; do you not hunger?"
This caused me to think when I had last partaken of food, and I answered,—"By your account it must be more than three thousand years since I have had aught to eat."
"Yes," he said, smiling, "it must be more than that; but still, Specimen, you have these organs, which are large ones, and until they have been reduced to modern dimensions, it is well that you should partake slightly of food, so follow me!"
He moved towards the end of the bathroom, and passing through another door, we entered a little room which he said was his private study. He placed his hand on an ivory button in a kind of writing desk that stood in the middle of the room. This immediately opened from the centre, the portions of the top folding back, apparently without any assistance, exposing a tray on which was placed bread, fruit, and two glasses of water. He invited me to partake of the bread and fruit, while he sipped the water. I began to eat, although I did not feel the least hungry, and I also sipped a little water. I did not like the idea of eating alone, and asked my friend why he did not keep me company. He said,—"You see I am a modern man, and have no need of food; I simply take a little water to moisten my lips and maintain the moisture of the body, but, otherwise, all mankind now live by breathing a pure and nourishing atmosphere." Placing his hands on his stomach, or where it should be, he continued, "I did not speak quite correctly, when I said I have no digestive organs, but I was not far off the truth, because the advancement of science and intelligence has proved that by generations of training, along with a change of atmosphere that took place, these organs could be almost entirely dispensed with. We have worked in this direction for thousands of years, and the result has been that we now live purely by respiration, and have reduced their functions to that of supplying moisture to the body. You will notice that our chests are very large, because we require greater lung power, now that we have dispensed with solid food. This organ of respiration has been increased by nature to meet the requirements of the new conditions under which we live. In the present age it is only the lower animal creation that eat, and need the power of digestion, but how this came about requires much explanation, which I shall give you later on. You must not be too anxious, my Specimen, to know everything at once. Only think that your day is more than three thousand years past, and remember, that even in your short life you saw great changes made, such as the introduction of steam, the telegraph, the telephone, and the electric light. Bear in mind that through all those ages science has been at work, and that intelligence and brain power have been advancing in an increasing degree with every year. When your mind enlarges, which I hope it will, under my instruction, you will see and appreciate with clearer eye and understanding, what has taken place through these many generations. I have, owing to the nature of my office in the state, an intimate knowledge of ancient history and ancient tongues, and when I have time, I shall instruct you further. Now, if you have appeased your appetite, I shall take you over this branch of our state offices. You must walk quietly with me. Express astonishment with nothing you see, but notice everything. Do not ask me questions, even outside the buildings, if you can possibly avoid doing so. Where opportunity occurs I shall volunteer explanations. Just let me arrange your costume before we go out, as you have not quite managed to adjust it according to our custom. You will find that your strange features, figure, and complexion will draw quite enough curiosity towards you without having an ill-arranged costume. Oh! by the way, I notice that you have not put on your 'leg-weights' as you call them; you will require them, I assure you. Allow me to fetch them, later on I shall explain their use."
I stooped and put them on, as I had seen them on the guides, and I noticed that the recorder also wore his. I then walked about to accustom myself to their use. At first I went clink, clink, knocking one against the other, but in a short time I managed to keep my legs far enough apart to keep clear of striking them against one another as I walked. They certainly looked to me but a poor outcome of the intelligence of this boasted modern race. If they really required weights, they might have made them of such a shape as would have allowed one to walk without carrying his legs like the letter A.
The Recorder said, "Now we shall start. From the outside, this building must have looked to you very small." I remarked that it did. "Now," he said, "how soon you forget my instructions. I told you I would do all the speaking while we were inside. Don't forget that again. You speak so loudly that you would startle numbers of our people, many of whom belong to a lower type of intelligence, and are therefore incapable of allowing for the difference of customs that existed in past ages. This building that we are in is the seat of the Nor-West Provincial Grand Council of Britain, and the Executive sit here regularly to administer the business of the district. We are now going into the hall of despatch. All messages on matters relating to the State are despatched from this hall." We entered a large hall where there were at least one hundred figures sitting in rows along low benches formed of stone. Opposite each figure was a message stool exactly similar to those I had noticed before. Each stool bore a letter and a number. On coming closer to the figures, I saw that they were all women. They were dressed in the same light sort of silky material, and appeared intent on their work. They were of various ages, some had dark, others light hair, but the majority had grey. One stately personage sat on an elevated stool, and directed the entire operations in this department. The younger girls were many of them pretty, but the large heads, big chests and long small bodies gave them a curious uncouth look. There was, however, one thing that impressed me greatly, the brilliancy of their eyes. The expression of their faces struck me as sad, but when the Recorder spoke to them their faces brightened up, and their smile was most fascinating. That they were intelligent beyond any women that I had had experience of, there could be no doubt. Intelligence was depicted in every line of their features. The Recorder spoke to them in an unknown tongue, so I did not understand what he said, but from the sly and inquisitive glances that were cast at me from time to time, I could plainly discover that the "Specimen" was the subject of conversation. The remarks of the Recorder, however, consisted of very few words, so we passed through the despatch rooms very quickly, considering the number of operators he spoke to in passing. The quantity of despatches that came in and went out was something prodigious, one line of stools seemed to be receiving while the other was delivering. All the messages came on little metal plates, the same as those I previously described. I was most anxious to ask the Recorder how these despatches were transmitted, but his injunctions about speaking were so strong, that I refrained.
We now entered what he explained to me was the Court of Justice, a very small chamber, not more than twenty feet square. There were three venerable looking judges sitting on the bench, and one clerk sitting at the end of a table facing the judges. In front of him were a number of metal plates on which he was busy writing. There was a man on each side of the table, one of whom was answering questions put to him by one of the judges. After we came out, the Recorder informed me that these two men had some dispute, which the judges, after hearing the case, would settle. "In your day," he went on to say, "this pleading used to be done by lawyers or advocates, but intelligence has put an end to that business, and a good thing it is too. Many lawyers in your day, as far as I can judge from records of the past, lived on the poor, mystifying justice, leading even judges astray; but all were not bad.
"I am now going to take you to the legislative assembly hall. We have an outer and an inner house. The outer house consists of thirty members, fifteen men and fifteen women. The inner house consists of ten members who have the right to elect three of their number to sit in the Grand National Council that assembles near the capital. Women are not allowed to sit in the inner house." On entering, we found the whole thirty members present, and four clerks sat at the central table. One fine looking man was addressing them evidently with great and powerful arguments. His face was a perfect picture of energy and force. Although I could not understand one word he said, I could imagine I did, because of his earnest voice and expressive features, and yet he never raised his voice much above a loud whisper. It was evidently the rule to speak in whispers in modern society. After this orator had finished, a lady rose to address the house. She was really a splendid looking creature. There was a dignity and solemnity about her bearing that was something grand to contemplate. She was tall as compared with the rest of this curious race, but the intensity and winning force of her expression made a deep impression on me. I said to myself: "Truly if this is a specimen of our race as now developed, intelligence has improved it, beyond all conception, except in the matter of form."
Other men and women got up and spoke while we were there; and the Recorder lingered a long time. He was evidently interested in the arguments that he heard, at which I do not wonder, because I, who understood them not, was fascinated by what I saw and heard. All the men and women were dressed in the same material, and the costumes were cut in the same way, the only difference being that the females wore the kilted portion of the costume reaching down nearly to their feet. All, however, wore the leg weights that I was so curious about.
After we got out the Recorder said,—"The first two that spoke are two of our most profound thinkers and best orators." We now entered the inner house, where we found the ten members were sitting. There were only two clerks at the central table in this house. The members of the inner house, I noticed, were much older men than those of the outer house, and very grave and dignified in their demeanour. They did not stand while they spoke, but remained sitting. We did nothing more than peep into this house, the Recorder remarking that there was nothing of much interest going on. I noticed, however, when I entered with my companion, that I was attracting attention, but all here were of the highest type of the people, they were evidently too well bred to take any marked notice of me.
My companion now said that he would take me to the department of science and arts in another building hard by. So for the first time since entering this building, I was again in the open air. Being now outside I ventured to address the Recorder. I asked him how long I had slept, and he replied, "You slept two days and three nights." "But," I said, "I have never seen night in this curious country yet." "No," he replied, "that is true, but you must remember that you have not been awake any night since you arrived." Then I asked,—"How is it that the inside of these buildings is so light while there are no visible windows?" "That is arranged by a series of reflectors placed on the roof which transmit the light to the ceilings, and the ceilings reflect it down towards the floor. The ceilings are constructed of a material discovered by one of our great scientists in the year 4562, which has the extraordinary power of absorbing the light of the sun; and, by another ingenious invention of the same great man, the discharge of this stored light can be controlled in such a way that it is only given off as we require it. A ceiling absorbs enough light in one day to light the building with a moderate, pleasant light for three days and three nights. After this invention all other forms of lighting became obsolete. I do not object to your speaking when we are outside, but please speak as low as you can. Our hearing is very acute, and it is not the custom to speak so loudly as you did in the year 1888. The human organs of hearing must in your day have been but crude instruments, if it required so much exertion on the part of the speaker to make others hear." As I now saw a number of the same type of mortals as those that had acted as my guides gliding about, I asked the Recorder what position these people occupied in society, and he said,—"These people correspond with the uneducated working classes and the people of inferior intellectual capacity of your day. They are intellectually a much lower class of beings compared with those, for example, you saw in the outer and inner houses. We try to elevate them, but in vain. It has been the same in all ages, and it will, I fear, be the same to the end of time. In man the Creator has decreed that all shall not have mental equality; one mind must predominate over another. You will find hundreds of men of equal bodily strength, but I have never yet met with two minds that could be said to be on a mental equality. The mind seems to me to be a power within us that is possessed within itself of a creative power, and this again appears to be a power that is forced by its own individuality to strive to outshine all others. So long as we live, mind is storing up knowledge—not to be used in the identical form in which it is acquired, as parrots repeat the words they learn—No! a great mind absorbs all it hears, and reads, and sees, giving out nothing in the same words or form in which it had been absorbed. When a great mind speaks or writes, it expresses something original, influenced no doubt by the stored knowledge, but it comes out in a new and a bright garb that is most refreshing.
"But inferior minds can only shine in quoting the sayings or in relating the doings of others. These are of the parrot type; they amuse for a time, but when their store of quotations is exhausted they are like the water tank that has run dry, and has to await refilling. They can create nothing fresh or new. So it is, and so it must remain. That cry about equality that has so often made a noise in the world is a snare and a delusion. Human intelligence cannot be equal, and so the inevitable must remain. 'Tis the will of the Creator, and we cannot, with our poor intellectual power, alter it even if it were desirable to do so."
We had by this time passed through a door in the outer wall that surrounded the courts of the executive, at the opposite side to that by which I had entered. We were now quite in the country, and the Recorder pointed to a mountain at a considerable distance off, and said,—"That is the Society of Arts which I referred to." I replied, "That is not hard by." "Oh yes, it is. It will not take us long to get there; give me your arm." The minute he touched my arm, even through the clothing, that curious thrill, which I previously had experienced, shot through me. It was just as pleasant as before, but not so gruesome. I asked him what it meant. "That is," he said, "a power that we of this generation possess. It is the power of storing energy, and the power of transmitting that energy to others. The greater the intellectual power of the individual is, the greater his power of storage and of transmission. It is, in fact, a measure of intellect; but we must be moving." I now saw him casting a lot of gravel out of a pocket in his kilt; and he remarked, "This is 'lightening' for the journey." I said, "Why not cast off these leg weights?" By way of reply he simply smiled, and said, "Come along." Off we started, skipping and bounding over the ground, clearing everything before us with an amazing rapidity, that made our flight quite exhilarating. We passed several parties moving in the opposite direction. To many of these my friend nodded and exchanged a friendly greeting, that they seemed to understand; but to me the pace was so great that I could only see something like a great white bird skipping along the ground, no sooner in sight than it had passed. Yet, the Recorder would say, "Here is a fine intellect coming our way; remarkable man that; of great value to the State," and so on. He must have recognised his friends miles ahead, long before my vision could see them.
Our journey was over in about ten minutes. We were now on the top of a hill in front of a large building with a flat roof. I could not refrain from looking round, and prayed my companion to allow me to ask him some questions before I went in, as I was thirsting for explanation and knowledge. He saw I was anxious, and looking at me compassionately, he said,—"My poor Specimen, I know all you are thinking of. I know all that is passing through your mind, or to speak correctly, I should have said nearly all, but your mind is not yet in a fit state to receive what I have to tell you. I only beg again that you consider the changes three thousand years will work, and thus prepare your mind for that which is yet to be told. You are anxious to know all about that ruined city—rest assured that that sad story will be related to you in good time—it is of the past, while we are dealing with the present."