Melbourne and Mars/Chapter 13

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CHAPTER XIII.


To the Metropolis. Sidonia.

FOR two days our train ran along the main line, stopping only to recharge the accumulators. This takes but a few minutes, and occurs at about the end of each five hundred miles. Grayson and I had many interesting conversations, and I profited not a little by association with a man who knew so much and had so ripe a mind. It appeared as if we could touch upon no topic with which he was not thoroughly acquainted. Though we were travelling underground he could tell me all about the surface above each part. He described it an being generally unequal and cavernous. He said that small plantations were placed on the summits for the purpose of growing wood, and that the slopes were mostly used for fruit growing. Reservoirs occupied all the spaces that could be conveniently dammed, and the plains and valleys were irrigated wherever water could be applied with advantage. Altogether he showed plainly enough that without labor and constant attention the land on this side the ocean would be about as useless as that on the other side before Weston's scheme was worked out. I more and more admire my fellow humans when I see how rich and productive they have made a little third rate and cold planet by their labor alone.

'Metropolitan Central.' As our train slowed down I saw these two words in large letters on a distant wall, not painted nor gilded, but written in light. We had travelled a week and come nearly half way round the planet, Grayson did not want to part with me, and I felt that I had found a second father, so we went together to his house. He promised to introduce me to the Earthborn's Club after dinner, when many of the members would have finished work for the day and would be found there. I had no hesitation in accepting Grayson's hospitality, for he, having the freedom of the planet cannot be put to any expense.

Having performed my ablutions and made a few changes, my first action was a walk through a small part of the museum. I say a small part, for it will take weeks to visit all of it. The first thing to which I gave serious attention was a map of the metropolis. As I have to complete my studies here, and probably make this my home for many years, I wish to know all I can about it. It is a most magnificent capital. It is rectangular in shape, and the equator crosses its centre. From the equator it extends fire hundred miles north and south, and its width is five hundred miles.

The Grand Avenue follows the equator for five hundred miles, and is crossed at exactly its centre by the Central Avenue, which runs a thousand miles in a straight line north and south; each of these avenues is a quarter of a mile wide. At night these, and in fact all the streets, are lit by the electric light. Having seen the supply for Granby I began to wonder what would be required for this city.

I remembered reading somewhere about our next neighbour's astronomers having found a long, straight line on Mars, something that indicated human handiwork: Can they have seen our city lit up? or was the line our avenue which must be visible with a good telescope? We can see things on their surface far smaller than that, and when the Earth is nearest to us its back is turned; still anything brilliant on the night side would be best seen then. If they had such a street we should know.

The city has been laid off by mathematicians, and has been rebuilt hundreds of times. Its form is now finally settled; at least we think so, and communication with every part is perfect. Only the great main thoroughfares, those that cut the city into blocks of ten miles square, one hundred square miles, are right lines, the rest are curves of many different kinds. It was found that a constant succession of straight streets produced in some people a kind of insanity. With regard to the formation of streets and the structure of houses the rule now is endless variety.

Our city is a huge garden; it is also a great orchard; millions of tons of vegetables are grown inside its boundaries. Its grain of various kinds has to come from outside as well as fish and preserved foods. Fowls are not permitted in the city except those of the air and of doves and songsters there are millions. None are imprisoned.

There is no vehicular traffic in the streets. In spring and summer the open spaces are kept as parks and the footways are mostly like those I have mentioned as used in Port Howard and Granby. Here, however, the paths are wide and at least six of them run in parallel lines; with trees, shrubs, and irregular little clumps of flower gardens between them. There is no noise in the streets and dust is a thing unknown. As the rainfall in this region is very slight irrigation has to take its place. For this purpose water has to be brought great distances but very little serves. We have not a hot sun drinking up every drop of moisture, and our plants are like our people in consuming very little water. I am told that on earth man consumes more fluid than three Martials.

There is a good deal of traffic by air boat. There are regular lines along the great avenues and streets; most of the boats will carry twenty passengers. There is also a great railway traffic. Stations are placed at every mile within fifty miles of the central square: this is the Urban Radius; outside this the stations are two miles apart. Underneath the Grand and Central avenues there are four lines of railways the central lines being for express traffic. The trains on the side lines stop at every station; those running on the middle lines only stop at the ten-mile intersections.

In order to get from the street to the railway line passengers have to step inside a double railed space on the second footpath in the wide street. About every two minutes the inner railing and the portion of flooring it encloses descends and becomes part of the railway platform. Those going away walk off at one end while those coming up walk on at the other and then the platform becomes footpath once more. The outer railing is a guard to keep people from falling about thirty feet into the lower way.

Travelling accounts with people are very easily kept. Persons wanting tickets by air boat or rail get them at the depôt where they make their usual purchases and they go to the years debit. In thousand of cases, I may say in millions, an annual ticket is issued for a man who has to make a certain journey twice daily, from home to work and back again. No attempts are ever made to defraud the traffic departments; if people were not above such trickery the old plan of paying coin would have to be resorted to. Mistakes are very rarely made with regard to the names of people; for with the name is given the section of the district in which you may reside. If there are two or three of a name they are known by a number.

There is a great difference in the mode of getting supplies in the metropolis and in the rural districts such as I came from. There all we want is got from one depôt; here the depôts are much more numerous and each one has only a certain class of goods. Male clothing at one; female clothing at another and we can go to any and get what we like from any after we are registered as responsible persons at the office for the purpose. Minors have to get their supplies through the head of the family. My badge will get me whatever I require anywhere, and at any time.

The great railway lines are so constructed that lighting wires, speaking wires, water piping and drainage service can be carried on and each properly supervised by the men appointed; along most lines there is a pneumatic service also. By the use of the latter small articles can go from one end of the city to the other in an hour. At one time human beings wished to be shot along these tubes, but it was found that such rapid movement, although not felt, had an injurious effect, and it was therefore abolished. 'Why so fast?' said our statesmen, and our movements were limited to the average rate of one hundred miles an hour. We all agree now that that is fast enough. There is no need to push through to-day as if there was no to-morrow. Our lives are happy and full of leisure because we gave up hurrying. The hurrying would have kept us in a constant fever, and nothing would have been gained by it. Five hours' work is pleasant, and enables work that must go on constantly, as for instance railway service, to be divided into five changes of men. In this metropolis the trains run for passengers fifteen hours and ten hours during the night for goods; five changes of men are required.

The Martial man is a very clean man, and he makes no waste. The metropolitan district is dry, hence there is little need for drainage, but what little waste there is is removed during the day in which it occurs. Nothing that can make the air impure is allowed to remain a single day where it can do harm. Anything that can give off a smell is deodorised at once, and removed and dessicated in a few hours. Dried sewerage is taken to the agricultural districts; not a single particle is wasted. No foul water is allowed to lodge for a day; every part of the surface of the land is kept clean. There is no dust in the streets, and they are made so pleasant that walking is a most agreeable and delightful exercise. Our young people think nothing of walking five or ten miles, for they are light and muscular, and there is no disagreeable heat or dust to annoy them. The railways and air boats are used more by elders and by those who have plenty of work without walking.

We have very little disease, and infant mortality is almost unknown even here where a thousand million of people are brought together. The schools have ample space about them, and are of every kind and the recreation grounds; the breathing spaces are well kept. The great aim in keeping them is to make them natural. Even in shape and size no two parks are alike.

The government buildings occupy a block ten miles square. The planetary library has a mile of front to the Grand Avenue and three miles to the Central Avenue. The College of Surgeons has a front of two miles, and many other buildings are quite a mile in length. The height of our buildings is three stories, and sometimes a perfect uniformity of structure will prevail for several miles. Very high buildings were at one time fashionable, but they seemed to shut out the day from the streets, and we found that their great shadows robbed vegetation of its color and made the streets unpleasant to travellers.

There are many hostels, and some of them are very great buildings. As is the case all over, they are owned by the government, and the bills are charged to debit of annual accounts. The rank of hostel used has to correspond with the rank of worker. There is no attempt made to draw caste lines; indeed, the object of social life is to abolish them, but in spite of all that can be done the workers of certain ranks prefer to associate with their companions in labor. They are not at home with the workers of other ranks, who of necessity know more, and are more polite in demeanor. We are all altruistic socialists, all democrats; all either as individuals or as classes willing to waive our own rights in favor of others, and yet we cannot be equal. Andrew Grayson is not even 'Sir' or 'Esq.' and yet he stands in the first rank, and all bow to him as a scholar in his line.

The clerk in charge of our depôt advised me to report myself at the Equatorial hostel in the metropolis. It is the largest in existence. It has four stories and a basement, and has a solid stone front calculated to last a thousand years. There are ten thousand rooms in it, and its corridors are traversed by some twenty miles of tram lines. It is always full, and the overflow of its residents fill several thousand rooms built in the rear, half a mile from the Grand Avenue, to which the main building has a mile of frontage. To describe this hostel with its fountains and gardens, its courts, gymnasium, music rooms, lecture hall, theatre, church; its suites of private rooms, its furniture, its balconies, its gardens and summer houses on the roof is to describe a city in miniature. It is easy to spend years in it and not see half its beauties and advantages. Its rooms are all in communication with the entrance hall, and a visitor can instantly ascertain if the person he calls to see is at home.

After getting at the Museum the little information given above I entered my name at the Equatorial, and according to promise went to dine with Grayson. For the next year I will spend my time in the centre of the Great City. Five hours daily at the College of Engineers, some hours of leisure with the Grayson family. The rest of my time will probably be divided amongst the Museums, Libraries, Art Galleries, the Earthborn's Club and at the hostel, where I intend to sleep. I will write to my parents once a week, and I already begin to long for the company of father, mother, and my dear sister Emma.