Meda: a Tale of the Future/Part IX
IN the morning I awoke very early, quite refreshed. From my window I could see the sun just peeping over the distant hills. While I lay thus awake I thought over all I had seen, of my own old world times, and of all that had taken place there. I wondered what had become of my old friends and companions. I wondered if I would ever see them again; I wondered, if such was my lot, what I would think of them and their surroundings. After living with the people I was now among, I feared that I would despise my former friends, and that I would detect sin, and greed, and selfishness in all they did. I feared that in conversing with anyone my first thought would be, "Is he trying to cheat me? What selfish end has he in view?" I could not think of such things any longer; they were too painful, too distressing. So I bounded out of bed, without thinking what I was doing. I lighted on the floor with a leap, and rebounded, hopping about like a ball; I soon, however, came to rest in the centre of the floor with all thoughts of the old world, old friends, and old deceits dashed out of me. I fully realised now that I was amid new scenes, in what was to me a new world, and among a new people—a people so full of interest, so full of wisdom, so devoted to science and art, and apparently so devoid of vice, that I believed that the human race had at last arrived at something nearly approaching perfection, if not perfection itself. After this reflection, I got into my bath, had a refreshing roll on the water's surface, and then began to dress.
It now for the first time occurred to me that I had lain down with my garment and my leg weights on, while I now saw that they were on the chair, and that a light coverlet had been placed over me. This made me exclaim: "These are truly a strange and impertinent people, they have been having another congress over my poor body." I sat down and wept for very shame, and cried out: "Why had I a liver? Oh, why had I these organs that held me up to the derision of all men?"
My cry brought the Recorder into the room; he looked sad and said: "What has grieved my poor Specimen? Oh, I see what has been passing through your mind, but it is not as you think, you were not examined medically last night. I came in to see if you rested, and finding that you had not taken off your clothing, I removed it while you slept, and placed the coverlet over you. You see," he continued, "now that we have the model we instruct our people from it, not from you."
This man's kind benevolent face, and his reassuring manner, quite restored me to good spirits, and I thanked him for the great interest he took in me. He said:—
"Do not thank me, for although I like you much on your own account, and believe that my liking may grow to love for you, as I would love a son, yet remember that I deserve no thanks for what I have done. It has all come from my desire for information on a subject that has presented no end of doubt to my mind for many years. The information I have gained by meeting with you has placed me under an obligation that I never can repay. Come with me now, the ladies wait our presence."
In the reception room we found the ladies who had provided my simple meal, which I ate and enjoyed. I had a long and very interesting conversation with the Recorder's wife, the daughter joining in occasionally. They told me of many curious adventures that they had had when travelling, many of them arising from their leg weights, or generators getting out of order. In my day, ladies would have dilated on accidents arising from restive or runaway horses, railway collisions, bursting of boilers, or shipwrecks at sea, but now it would appear that it was faulty generators that was the cause of all their ills. This appeared very strange to one, who, like myself, was new to modern life, but after yesterday's experience, when I had my leg weights first coupled, I could say that I quite believe that a restive leg weight would make one nervous, and that a runaway leg weight would simply mean utter destruction. "Only think," I said, "of one of these instruments being determined to go one way, while another determined to go the other. What would it end in?" But the ladies only laughed at these suggested troubles, and told me that everyone was familiar with the construction of these generators, and while they sometimes got them into ridiculous fixes, and caused them great inconvenience, they soon learned to get hold of some object, such as a tree, that enabled them to come to rest; and then by taking the wires off, and re-adjusting them, they easily put all to rights.
The Recorder now came to us, bearing two small satchels in his hands, one he secured to my back, and the other to his own, saying: "This is our baggage, my Specimen. As we will be away a few days we require a change of raiment."
All preparations being now made, my wires were connected. We bade adieu to the ladies, and started off. Knowing, as I now did, what country we were in, I tried to recognise it as we passed along. I had known it well in days of yore, and I found that my recollections had not failed me. The hills and valleys were all the same, and the rivers and streams still ran in the same courses, but otherwise the country was entirely changed. The vegetation was much more luxuriant, the villages and towns, the iron-works, the factories, the railways, and the canals were all gone, and in their places was an endless number of little modest-looking villas, such as the one I had slept in last night, surrounded by gardens laid out with the utmost care. Here you would see a great clump of magnificent forest trees, and yonder, a number of patches of flowering shrubs all arranged with a view to effective landscape decoration. There was a master-hand visible in the whole, but there was no stereotyped regularity. If you could imagine some great being taking up handfuls of landscape, all beautiful in themselves, and casting them broadcast over the country, then you would in a small measure be able to realise what I saw as I passed along.
We met hundreds of people going to and fro in every direction, all on some errand. Sometimes they came singly, and sometimes in batches. Many were singing, many were playing on instruments, and all seemed happy. The Recorder explained to me on the way, while he held me by the arm, that there were three classes of people: first, there was the class to which he belonged, who corresponded with nobles in rank; then, there was the class represented by the sages, the clerks and message operators, possessed of considerable intellect, but not of great learning; then, there were people of the guide class, such as I had met first, whose intellects were far from brilliant, and whose physical strength was very inferior. They were wanting in learning, and were altogether of a lower type, having remained the same for generations, never advancing or falling behind. They took the place of lower gardeners, and were useful in their station of life. Occasionally some of this class showed abilities, and were advanced to a higher grade.
Conversing in this way we did not feel the journey to Edinburgh a long one, in fact it only lasted forty minutes. The Recorder said he would not take me through the ruined city as it was not considered elevating to visit the seats of ancient iniquity. We, however, saw the ruins as we skirted them. There was the old rock on which the castle once stood; there was the Calton Hill, but one looked in vain for a trace of the monuments that once stood there. It was truly not now modern Athens, but an ancient Athens. The whole place was completely in ruins. The sad thoughts that flocked in swarms through my brain made me silent. I remembered well the many pleasant days I had spent in this picturesque city, and I felt inclined to rebel against this new order of things. I had no unpleasant recollections of Edinburgh. All my visits there were of a holiday nature, and I had not noticed much sin or depravity. Then why should all be ruin and desolation now? Did man get so very bad after my day as to deserve this annihilation of his works?
We came to a stand on a hill that I recognised to be Arthur's Seat, and we were about to proceed towards a large, low building on the top, when I begged the Recorder to give me a few explanations of how Edinburgh was ruined, but his answer was simply:—
"I will tell you all about this terrible calamity in good time, but not now, the one story will do for all the cities, they were all ruined at the same time."
"But," I said, "you seem to condemn all the men of my time, and in doing so you appear to me unjust. I have known many good and kind hearted merchants, engineers, lawyers, clergymen, sailors, and soldiers, that would not do a wrong thing if they were aware of it, to save their lives."
He replied:—"My Specimen, you misunderstand me if you think I meant to say all were bad. Did I not tell you that while to a common observer all might appear bad, many good people were left. Had this not been the case we would not now be in existence. I know that all this change, all the desolation of these great cities, the total disappearance of what you considered the great works of your engineers, must to you appear sad, but if you had had the means of following up the events of this world, as I have followed them, and as all of this generation have followed them, by a long life of study, you would not be either astonished or grieved, you would rejoice as we now rejoice that things are so much better than they were in your day. But, my Specimen, if you but think of the temptations that surrounded the people of your time, you will see the tremendous difficulties a good man had to contend with, if he wished to remain good. You have mentioned merchants. When you think that they had to gain a living by watching some opportunity of taking advantage of their fellow merchants' weakness or ignorance, or of stealing a march on them; when you remember that a very shady piece of covert deceit was considered but the action to be expected of a smart business man; when you think of the questionable devices that were resorted to, to run up or beat down prices; when you think of the companies that were floated by making use of false statements, skilfully worded to evade the law, by men holding what in your day were considered honourable positions; when you recollect the hundreds of thousands of poor widows and inexperienced people who were taken in by these devices, I think you will agree with me in saying that it was difficult to get a good man filling such a position. But far be it from me to say that all business men were bad. They must not be judged by our present standard of goodness. No, I would rather say that they should be judged more by a standard that will make allowance for the terrible temptations and necessities with which they were surrounded. Where a good, true and honourable man did exist, he was assuredly deserving of far greater credit for being good and true, than any good man of the present day. We do not now work for our individual gain, we work for the good of the whole community, and not being surrounded by temptation we are not as liable to fall into the same errors. Lawyers in your day were men that had a very trying position to fill. They often had to advocate the cause of men that they believed were guilty, and although knowing that they were advocating a bad cause, they had to try and prove their clients innocent. Thus they used their intellectual power in many cases to prove that an innocent man was guilty. Still, amid all this, I agree with you that there were many good lawyers in your day, but you must admit that a state of society that does not require such men's services is preferable.
"Your engineers and other scientific men you are proud of—I do not hesitate to say that you have considerable and just reason for this pride. They did much for the advancement of science, and even in our day the inventions they schemed and carried out are looked on with admiration. Considering the age of darkness in which they were invented, and the means at their disposal, their works certainly were deserving of much credit. But there is one thing that they deserve censure for in our eyes, and that is the pains, trouble and stupidities they went into to destroy nature. This was not so confirmed in your day, but about a hundred years later the face of the earth was thoroughly disfigured, the ocean was begrimed with clouds of smoke, steamers were steaming in all directions, and the land was covered with railroads. Factories of all kinds were dotted over the earth, smoke and dirt was everywhere. The consumption of fuel was wasteful to a degree. The coal fields were exhausted, and all the oil bearing strata were pumped dry. Your engineers never thought of the people that were to come after them, they only thought of the present, leaving to providence the future supplies for unborn generations. Such a state of things could never last, nature could not stand it, vegetation would have been banished from the face of the earth. Fortunately the supply of smoke-producing fuel was exhausted, the engineers had to restrict their operations, and the exhaustion of nature's stores of fuel gave her time to regain strength. It appears to us now that these men were stupid to a degree to keep so religiously moving in the same groove, using a power that was detrimental to nature, while nature had provided an enormous supply of power ready to their hand, free from all nature-destroying objections. Of course it is easy for us of the present day to find fault with what was done by the ancients, and you are no doubt correct in saying that I judge harshly. Perhaps the inhabitants of this earth, three thousand years hence, may speak of us in the same strains as we now do of the people that existed three thousand years ago. Such is life, and the progress of science and intelligence, my Specimen. We must all try and do what little we can to improve the existing state of things, always bearing in mind that we owe a debt of gratitude to our fellows of the past for what they have done, and a thought for the requirements of those that will follow us."
With such conversation as this we proceeded slowly towards the building on the top of the hill. I somehow felt a sadness creeping over me. I again began to think of what had become of all the people that inhabited the earth when I was on it. What had become of all those who had been born and died since I had left it? What was it all to come to? Where was it all to end? I got lost in thought; I began to think, and found that this state of doubt and suspense was more than I could bear. My mind could not grasp the situation, and I felt miserable to a degree. I saw the Recorder was watching me, and I could see that he could read my inmost thoughts. I could stand my mental agony no longer, and sitting down on a stone I wept, with bitter feelings of sorrow—sorrow that was so deep and sad and searching that it racked and tore my frame, and seemed as though its force would sever me. I lost all control of myself; I neither knew nor cared where I was. Such was my humiliation and grief that my consciousness left me, and I would have fainted away, had not the Recorder taken me by the hand, and in a kindly loving voice said: "My son, my son, do not give way so."
Whether it was the soothing, compassionate, kindly and almost loving tone of his voice, or whether it was the energy that was flowing into me through his hand that revived and reassured me, I cannot tell, but I soon began to recover my self-possession. The Recorder did not speak again for a long time, but continued holding my hand. At last, when he saw that I was once more calm, he said:—
"I called you my son, because I see that you are in great grief, and because I have a great regard for you. Now I want you to be calm for a little while, while I speak quietly to you. I find that I have over-estimated your strength of mind and understanding; I have not fully realised the magnitude of the change that you are experiencing; I have omitted to realise that your mind cannot grasp the possibility of all that has taken place since your day. This conduct is inexcusable in me. I should have known better, but it is only another illustration of the weakness and inconsiderateness of the finite mind. I hope you will forgive me."
I could not reply. So he continued: "My son, I have been watching the working of your thoughts; I see they are craving for information that in this world can never be given; you are wondering what has become of the men of your day, and those that have been born and have died since then. This, my son, is information that has been denied to the finite by the Infinite. If it is His will that this information should be withheld from us during life, what right have we to inquire into mysteries that He thinks should be withheld? He has told us that we will rise again, and that the just shall be rewarded. If we doubt this we are not worthy of Him, or of the reward that is in store for the just. You must remember what you have seen at the Observatory; you must continue to contemplate His works; you must try and realise the power of a being that is capable of controlling the Universe; and you must examine such questions with all the wisdom you can bring to bear on this mysterious subject, to enable you to realise the greatness of that power. When you think you have brought your mind to conceive this greatness, then ask yourself the question, 'What am I that I should try to penetrate that which He has willed I should not know?' My son, you must have faith and trust in Him, and believe that what He has said will be fulfilled. Our generation has had over three thousand years' more experience and education than yours, yet we know not what will take place, or where our spirits shall reside. Many theories have been propounded. Some say our spirits will migrate to other planets, where they will live on in happiness and everlasting joy; but this mystery is a sealed book that no man can open until the appointed time. So now, my son, be comforted, and be calm; live in trust, in hope, and in faith; improve your mind and study nature, which is the only study worthy of intellectual beings. I had hoped, my Specimen, to take you through the seat of government here to-day, and also the school of art and science, but I find that I have been working you rather hard. We will, therefore, first give you a good refreshing rest to restore your nerves and mind to a proper state of health, and then visit these places."
He now took me up to a door, the same in appearance as the one to which the guides at first took me. He knocked; the door was opened; and we were received by a Sage, much of the same stamp as the other men I have described; he, also, had a message stool. The Recorder went up to him and talked, while the orthodox plate was produced. This man evidently had not got very good manners, as he came up to me and stared at me in amazement, making no secret of his curiosity. I felt quite annoyed, but the Recorder came to me, and taking my arm, led me through a door into another room; here we were met by a fine looking man of the same high order of mankind as the Recorder himself. He gave us a very hearty welcome. I found he was chief Recorder for this district, which was evidently a position of great honour. As I felt fatigued, I was requested to go into an adjoining room, where I found a couch on which I lay down and slept.