OVER THE RANGE
PREFACETO THE FIRST EDITION
The Authorwishes it to be understood that Erewhon is pronounced asa word ofthree syllablesall short--thusE-re-whon.
PREFACETO SECOND EDITION
Havingbeen enabled by the kindness of the public to get through anunusuallylarge edition of "Erewhon" in a very short timeI havetaken theopportunity of a second edition to make some necessarycorrectionsand to add a few passages where it struck me that theywould beappropriately introduced; the passages are fewand it ismy fixedintention never to touch the work again.
I mayperhaps be allowed to say a word or two here in reference to"TheComing Race" to the success of which book "Erewhon"has beenverygenerally set down as due. This is a mistakethough aperfectlynatural one. The fact is that "Erewhon" was finishedwith theexception of the last twenty pages and a sentence or twoinsertedfrom time to time here and there throughout the bookbefore thefirst advertisement of "The Coming Race" appeared. Afriendhaving called my attention to one of the first of theseadvertisementsand suggesting that it probably referred to a workof similarcharacter to my ownI took "Erewhon" to a well-knownfirm ofpublishers on the 1st of May 1871and left it in theirhands forconsideration. I then went abroadand on learning thatthepublishers alluded to declined the MS.I let it alone for sixor sevenmonthsandbeing in an out-of-the-way part of Italynever sawa single review of "The Coming Race" nor a copy of thework. On my returnI purposely avoided looking into it until Ihad sentback my last revises to the printer. Then I had muchpleasurein reading itbut was indeed surprised at the many littlepoints ofsimilarity between the two booksin spite of theirentireindependence to one another.
I regretthat reviewers have in some cases been inclined to treatthechapters on Machines as an attempt to reduce Mr. Darwin'stheory toan absurdity. Nothing could be further from myintentionand few things would be more distasteful to me than anyattempt tolaugh at Mr. Darwin; but I must own that I have myselfto thankfor the misconceptionfor I felt sure that my intentionwould bemissedbut preferred not to weaken the chapters byexplanationand knew very well that Mr. Darwin's theory would takeno harm. The only question in my mind was how far I could affordto bemisrepresented as laughing at that for which I have the mostprofoundadmiration. I am surprisedhoweverthat the book atwhich suchan example of the specious misuse of analogy would seemmostnaturally levelled should have occurred to no reviewer;neithershall I mention the name of the book herethough I shouldfancy thatthe hint given will suffice.
I havebeen held by some whose opinions I respect to have deniedmen'sresponsibility for their actions. He who does this is anenemy whodeserves no quarter. I should have imagined that I hadbeensufficiently explicitbut have made a few additions to thechapter onMalcontentswhich willI thinkserve to renderfurthermistake impossible.
Ananonymous correspondent (by the hand-writing presumably aclergyman)tells me that in quoting from the Latin grammar I shouldat anyrate have done so correctlyand that I should have written"agricolas"instead of "agricolae". He added something about anyboy in thefourth form&c.&c.which I shall not quotebutwhich mademe very uncomfortable. It may be said that I must havemisquotedfrom designfrom ignoranceor by a slip of the pen; butsurely inthese days it will be recognised as harsh to assignlimits tothe all-embracing boundlessness of truthand it will bemorereasonably assumed that EACH of the three possible causes ofmisquotationmust have had its share in the apparent blunder. Theart ofwriting things that shall sound right and yet be wrong hasmade somany reputationsand affords comfort to such a largenumber ofreadersthat I could not venture to neglect it; theLatingrammarhoweveris a subject on which some of the youngermembers ofthe community feel stronglyso I have now written"agricolas". I have also parted with the word "infortuniam"(thoughnot without regret)but have not dared to meddle withothersimilar inaccuracies.
For theinconsistencies in the bookand I am aware that there arenot a fewI must ask the indulgence of the reader. The blamehoweverlies chiefly with the Erewhonians themselvesfor theywerereally a very difficult people to understand. The mostglaringanomalies seemed to afford them no intellectualinconvenience;neitherprovided they did not actually see themoneydropping out of their pocketsnor suffer immediate physicalpainwould they listen to any arguments as to the waste of moneyandhappiness which their folly caused them. But this had aneffect ofwhich I have little reason to complainfor I was allowedalmost tocall them life-long self-deceivers to their facesandthey saidit was quite truebut that it did not matter.
I must notconclude without expressing my most sincere thanks to mycriticsand to the public for the leniency and consideration withwhich theyhave treated my adventures.
PREFACETO THE REVISED EDITION
Mypublisher wishes me to say a few words about the genesis of theworkarevised and enlarged edition of which he is herewith layingbefore thepublic. I therefore place on record as much as I canrememberon this head after a lapse of more than thirty years.
The firstpart of "Erewhon" written was an article headed "Darwinamong theMachines" and signed Cellarius. It was written in theUpperRangitata district of the Canterbury Province (as it thenwas) ofNew Zealandand appeared at Christchurch in the PressNewspaperJune 131863. A copy of this article is indexed undermy booksin the British Museum catalogue. In passingI may saythat theopening chapters of "Erewhon" were also drawn from theUpperRangitata districtwith such modifications as I foundconvenient.
A secondarticle on the same subject as the one just referred toappearedin the Press shortly after the firstbut I have no copy.It treatedMachines from a different point of viewand was thebasis ofpp. 270-274 of the present edition of "Erewhon."Thisviewultimately led me to the theory I put forward in "Life andHabit"published in November 1877. I have put a bare outline ofthistheory (which I believe to be quite sound) into the mouth ofanErewhonian philosopher in Chapter XXVII. of this book.
In 1865 Irewrote and enlarged "Darwin among the Machines" for theReasonera paper published in London by Mr. G. J. Holyoake. ItappearedJuly 11865under the heading"The MechanicalCreation"and can be seen in the British Museum. I again rewroteandenlarged ittill it assumed the form in which it appeared inthe firstedition of "Erewhon."
The nextpart of "Erewhon" that I wrote was the "World of theUnborn"a preliminary form of which was sent to Mr. Holyoake'spaperbutas I cannot find it among those copies of the Reasonerthat arein the British MuseumI conclude that it was notaccepted. I havehoweverrather a strong fancy that it appearedin someLondon paper of the same character as the Reasonernotvery longafter July 11865but I have no copy.
I alsowrote about this time the substance of what ultimatelybecame theMusical Banksand the trial of a man for being in aconsumption. These four detached papers wereI believeall thatwaswritten of "Erewhon" before 1870. Between 1865 and1870 Iwrotehardly anythingbeing hopeful of attaining that success as apainterwhich it has not been vouchsafed me to attainbut in theautumn of1870just as I was beginning to get occasionally hung atRoyalAcademy exhibitionsmy friendthe late Sir F. N. (then Mr.)Broomesuggested to me that I should add somewhat to the articlesI hadalready writtenand string them together into a book. I wasratherfired by the ideabut as I only worked at the MS. onSundays itwas some months before I had completed it.
I see frommy second Preface that I took the book to Messrs.Chapman &Hall May 11871and on their rejection of itunder theadvice ofone who has attained the highest rank among livingwritersIlet it sleeptill I took it to Mr. Trubner early in1872. As regards its rejection by Messrs. Chapman & HallIbelievetheir reader advised them quite wisely. They told me hereportedthat it was a philosophical worklittle likely to bepopularwith a large circle of readers. I hope that if I had beentheirreaderand the book had been submitted to myselfI shouldhaveadvised them to the same effect.
"Erewhon"appeared with the last day or two of March 1872. Iattributeits unlooked-for success mainly to two early favourablereviews--thefirst in the Pall Mall Gazette of April 12and thesecond inthe Spectator of April 20. There was also another cause.I wascomplaining once to a friend that though "Erewhon" had metwith sucha warm receptionmy subsequent books had been all ofthempractically still-born. He said"You forget one charmthat'Erewhon'hadbut which none of your other books can have." Iaskedwhat? and was answered"The sound of a new voiceand of anunknownvoice."
The firstedition of "Erewhon" sold in about three weeks; I had nottakenmouldsand as the demand was strongit was set up againimmediately. I made a few unimportant alterations and additionsand addeda Prefaceof which I cannot say that I am particularlyproudbutan inexperienced writer with a head somewhat turned byunexpectedsuccess is not to be trusted with a preface. I made afewfurther very trifling alterations before moulds were takenbutsince thesummer of 1872as new editions were from time to timewantedthey have been printed from stereos then made.
HavingnowI fearat too great length done what I was asked todoIshould like to add a few words on my own account. I am stillfairlywell satisfied with those parts of "Erewhon" that wererepeatedlyrewrittenbut from those that had only a single writingI wouldgladly cut out some forty or fifty pages if I could.
Thishowevermay not befor the copyright will probably expirein alittle over twelve years. It was necessarythereforetorevise thebook throughout for literary inelegancies--of which Ifound manymore than I had expected--and also to make suchsubstantialadditions as should secure a new lease of life--at anyrate forthe copyright. Iftheninstead of cutting outsayfiftypagesI have been compelled to add about sixty invitaMinerva--theblame rests neither with my publisher nor with mebutwith thecopyright laws. Nevertheless I can assure the readerthatthough I have found it an irksome task to take up work whichI thoughtI had got rid of thirty years agoand much of which I amashamedofI have done my best to make the new matter savour somuch ofthe better portions of the oldthat none but the bestcriticsshall perceive at what places the gaps of between thirtyand fortyyears occur.
Lastlyifmy readers note a considerable difference between theliterarytechnique of "Erewhon" and that of "ErewhonRevisited" Iwouldremind them thatas I have just shown"Erewhon" looksomethinglike ten years in writingand even so was written withgreatdifficultywhile "Erewhon Revisited" was written easilybetweenNovember 1900 and the end of April 1901. There is nocentralidea underlying "Erewhon" whereas the attempt to realisethe effectof a single supposed great miracle dominates the wholeof itssuccessor. In "Erewhon" there was hardly any storyandlittleattempt to give life and individuality to the characters; Ihope thatin "Erewhon Revisited" both these defects have been ingreatmeasure avoided. "Erewhon" was not an organic whole"ErewhonRevisited" may fairly claim to be one. Neverthelessthough inliterary workmanship I do not doubt that this last-namedbook is animprovement on the firstI shall be agreeably surprisedif I amnot told that "Erewhon" with all its faultsis the betterreading ofthe two.
If thereader will excuse meI will say nothing of my antecedentsnor of thecircumstances which led me to leave my native country;thenarrative would be tedious to him and painful to myself.Sufficeitthat when I left home it was with the intention ofgoing tosome new colonyand either findingor even perhapspurchasingwaste crown land suitable for cattle or sheep farmingby whichmeans I thought that I could better my fortunes morerapidlythan in England.
It will beseen that I did not succeed in my designand thathowevermuch I may have met with that was new and strangeI havebeenunable to reap any pecuniary advantage.
It istrueI imagine myself to have made a discovery whichif Ican be thefirst to profit by itwill bring me a recompense beyondall moneycomputationand secure me a position such as has notbeenattained by more than some fifteen or sixteen personssincethecreation of the universe. But to this end I must possessmyself ofa considerable sum of money: neither do I know how toget itexcept by interesting the public in my storyand inducingthecharitable to come forward and assist me. With this hope I nowpublish myadventures; but I do so with great reluctancefor Ifear thatmy story will be doubted unless I tell the whole of it;and yet Idare not do solest others with more means than mineshould getthe start of me. I prefer the risk of being doubted tothat ofbeing anticipatedand have therefore concealed mydestinationon leaving Englandas also the point from which Ibegan mymore serious and difficult journey.
My chiefconsolation lies in the fact that truth bears its ownimpressand that my story will carry conviction by reason of theinternalevidences for its accuracy. No one who is himself honestwill doubtmy being so.
I reachedmy destination in one of the last months of 1868but Idare notmention the seasonlest the reader should gather in whichhemisphereI was. The colony was one which had not been opened upeven tothe most adventurous settlers for more than eight or nineyearshaving been previously uninhabitedsave by a few tribes ofsavageswho frequented the seaboard. The part known to Europeansconsistedof a coast-line about eight hundred miles in length(affordingthree or four good harbours)and a tract of countryextendinginland for a space varying from two to three hundredmilesuntil it a reached the offshoots of an exceedingly loftyrange ofmountainswhich could be seen from far out upon theplainsand were covered with perpetual snow. The coast wasperfectlywell known both north and south of the tract to which Ihavealludedbut in neither direction was there a single harbourfor fivehundred milesand the mountainswhich descended almostinto theseawere covered with thick timberso that none wouldthink ofsettling.
With thisbay of landhoweverthe case was different. Theharbourswere sufficient; the country was timberedbut not tooheavily;it was admirably suited for agriculture; it also containedmillionson millions of acres of the most beautifully grassedcountry inthe worldand of the best suited for all manner ofsheep andcattle. The climate was temperateand very healthy;there wereno wild animalsnor were the natives dangerousbeingfew innumber and of an intelligent tractable disposition.
It may bereadily understood that when once Europeans set foot uponthisterritory they were not slow to take advantage of itscapabilities. Sheep and cattle were introducedand bred withextremerapidity; men took up their 50000 or 100000 acres ofcountrygoing inland one behind the othertill in a few yearsthere wasnot an acre between the sea and the front ranges whichwas nottaken upand stations either for sheep or cattle werespottedabout at intervals of some twenty or thirty miles over thewholecountry. The front ranges stopped the tide of squatters forsomelittle time; it was thought that there was too much snow uponthem fortoo many months in the year--that the sheep would getlosttheground being too difficult for shepherding--that theexpense ofgetting wool down to the ship's side would eat up thefarmer'sprofits--and that the grass was too rough and sour forsheep tothrive upon; but one after another determined to try theexperimentand it was wonderful how successfully it turned out.Men pushedfarther and farther into the mountainsand found a veryconsiderabletract inside the front rangebetween it and anotherwhich wasloftier stillthough even this was not the highestthegreatsnowy one which could be seen from out upon the plains. Thissecondrangehoweverseemed to mark the extreme limits ofpastoralcountry; and it was hereat a small and newly foundedstationthat I was received as a cadetand soon regularlyemployed. I was then just twenty-two years old.
I wasdelighted with the country and the manner of life. It was mydailybusiness to go up to the top of a certain high mountainanddown oneof its spurs on to the flatin order to make sure that nosheep hadcrossed their boundaries. I was to see the sheepnotnecessarilyclose at handnor to get them in a single mobbut tosee enoughof them here and there to feel easy that nothing hadgonewrong; this was no difficult matterfor there were not aboveeighthundred of them; andbeing all breeding ewesthey wereprettyquiet.
There werea good many sheep which I knewas two or three blackewesanda black lamb or twoand several others which had somedistinguishingmark whereby I could tell them. I would try and seeall theseand if they were all thereand the mob looked largeenoughImight rest assured that all was well. It is surprisinghow soonthe eye becomes accustomed to missing twenty sheep out oftwo orthree hundred. I had a telescope and a dogand would takebread andmeat and tobacco with me. Starting with early dawnitwould benight before I could complete my round; for the mountainover whichI had to go was very high. In winter it was coveredwith snowand the sheep needed no watching from above. If I wereto seesheep dung or tracks going down on to the other side of themountain(where there was a valley with a stream--a mere cul desac)Iwas to follow themand look out for sheep; but I never sawanythesheep always descending on to their own sidepartly fromhabitandpartly because there was abundance of good sweet feedwhich hadbeen burnt in the early springjust before I cameandwas nowdeliciously green and richwhile that on the other sidehad neverbeen burntand was rank and coarse.
It was amonotonous lifebut it was very healthy and one does notmuch mindanything when one is well. The country was the grandestthat canbe imagined. How often have I sat on the mountain sideandwatched the waving downswith the two white specks of huts inthedistanceand the little square of garden behind them; thepaddockwith a patch of bright green oats above the hutsand theyards andwool-sheds down on the flat below; all seen as throughthe wrongend of a telescopeso clear and brilliant was the airor as upona colossal model or map spread out beneath me. Beyondthe downswas a plaingoing down to a river of great sizeon thefartherside of which there were other high mountainswith thewinter'ssnow still not quite melted; up the riverwhich ranwinding inmany streams over a bed some two miles broadI lookedupon thesecond great chainand could see a narrow gorge where theriverretired and was lost. I knew that there was a range stillfartherback; but except from one place near the very top of my ownmountainno part of it was visible: from this pointhoweverIsawwhenever there were no cloudsa single snow-clad peakmanymilesawayand I should think about as high as any mountain in theworld. Never shall I forget the utter loneliness of the prospect--only thelittle far-away homestead giving sign of human handiwork;--thevastness of mountain and plainof river and sky; themarvellousatmospheric effects--sometimes black mountains against awhite skyand then againafter cold weatherwhite mountainsagainst ablack sky--sometimes seen through breaks and swirls ofcloud--andsometimeswhich was best of allI went up my mountainin a fogand then got above the mist; going higher and higherIwould lookdown upon a sea of whitenessthrough which would bethrustinnumerable mountain tops that looked like islands.
I am therenowas I write; I fancy that I can see the downsthehutstheplainand the river-bed--that torrent pathway ofdesolationwith its distant roar of waters. Ohwonderful!wonderful!so lonely and so solemnwith the sad grey clouds aboveand nosound save a lost lamb bleating upon the mountain sideasthough itslittle heart were breaking. Then there comes some leanandwithered old ewewith deep gruff voice and unlovely aspecttrottingback from the seductive pasture; now she examines thisgullyandnow thatand now she stands listening with upliftedheadthatshe may hear the distant wailing and obey it. Aha! theyseeandrush towards each other. Alas! they are both mistaken;the ewe isnot the lamb's ewethey are neither kin nor kind to oneanotherand part in coldness. Each must cry louderand wanderfartheryet; may luck be with them both that they may find theirown atnightfall. But this is mere dreamingand I must proceed.
I couldnot help speculating upon what might lie farther up theriver andbehind the second range. I had no moneybut if I couldonly findworkable countryI might stock it with borrowed capitalandconsider myself a made man. Truethe range looked so vastthat thereseemed little chance of getting a sufficient roadthrough itor over it; but no one had yet explored itand it iswonderfulhow one finds that one can make a path into all sorts ofplaces(and even get a road for pack-horses)which from a distanceappearinaccessible; the river was so great that it must drain aninnertract--at least I thought so; and though every one said itwould bemadness to attempt taking sheep farther inlandI knewthat onlythree years ago the same cry had been raised against thecountrywhich my master's flock was now overrunning. I could notkeep thesethoughts out of my head as I would rest myself upon themountainside; they haunted me as I went my daily roundsand grewupon mefrom hour to hourtill I resolved that after shearing Iwouldremain in doubt no longerbut saddle my horsetake as muchprovisionwith me as I couldand go and see for myself.
But overand above these thoughts came that of the great rangeitself. What was beyond it? Ah! who could say? There was no onein thewhole world who had the smallest ideasave those who werethemselveson the other side of it--ifindeedthere was any oneat all. Could I hope to cross it? This would be the highesttriumphthat I could wish for; but it was too much to think of yet.I wouldtry the nearer rangeand see how far I could go. Even ifI did notfind countrymight I not find goldor diamondsorcopperorsilver? I would sometimes lie flat down to drink out ofa streamand could see little yellow specks among the sand; werethesegold? People said no; but then people always said there wasno golduntil it was found to be abundant: there was plenty ofslate andgranitewhich I had always understood to accompany gold;and eventhough it was not found in paying quantities hereitmight beabundant in the main ranges. These thoughts filled myheadandI could not banish them.
IN THE WOOL-SHED
At lastshearing came; and with the shearers there was an oldnativewhom they had nicknamed Chowbok--thoughI believehisreal namewas Kahabuka. He was a sort of chief of the nativescouldspeak a little Englishand was a great favourite with themissionaries. He did not do any regular work with the shearersbutpretended to help in the yardshis real aim being to get thegrogwhich is always more freely circulated at shearing-time: hedid notget muchfor he was apt to be dangerous when drunk; andverylittle would make him so: still he did get it occasionallyand if onewanted to get anything out of himit was the best bribeto offerhim. I resolved to question himand get as muchinformationfrom him as I could. I did so. As long as I kept toquestionsabout the nearer rangeshe was easy to get on with--hehad neverbeen therebut there were traditions among his tribe tothe effectthat there was no sheep-countrynothingin factbutstuntedtimber and a few river-bed flats. It was very difficult toreach;still there were passes: one of them up our own riverthough notdirectly along the river-bedthe gorge of which was notpracticable;he had never seen any one who had been there: wasthere tonot enough on this side? But when I came to the mainrangehismanner changed at once. He became uneasyand began toprevaricateand shuffle. In a very few minutes I could see that ofthis toothere existed traditions in his tribe; but no efforts orcoaxingcould get a word from him about them. At last I hintedaboutgrogand presently he feigned consent: I gave it him; butas soon ashe had drunk it he began shamming intoxicationand thenwent tosleepor pretended to do soletting me kick him prettyhard andnever budging.
I wasangryfor I had to go without my own grog and had gotnothingout of him; so the next day I determined that he shouldtell mebefore I gave him anyor get none at all.
Accordinglywhen night came and the shearers had knocked off workand hadtheir supperI got my share of rum in a tin pannikin andmade asign to Chowbok to follow me to the wool-shedwhich hewillinglydidslipping out after meand no one taking any noticeof eitherof us. When we got down to the wool-shed we lit a tallowcandleand having stuck it in an old bottle we sat down upon thewool balesand began to smoke. A wool-shed is a roomy placebuiltsomewhaton the same plan as a cathedralwith aisles on eitherside fullof pens for the sheepa great naveat the upper end ofwhich theshearers workand a further space for wool sorters andpackers. It always refreshed me with a semblance of antiquity(preciousin a new country)though I very well knew that theoldestwool-shed in the settlement was not more than seven yearsoldwhilethis was only two. Chowbok pretended to expect his grogat oncethough we both of us knew very well what the other wasafterandthat we were each playing against the otherthe one forgrog theother for information.
We had ahard fight: for more than two hours he had tried to putme offwith lies but had carried no conviction; during the wholetime wehad been morally wrestling with one another and had neitherof usapparently gained the least advantage; at lengthhoweverIhad becomesure that he would give in ultimatelyand that with alittlefurther patience I should get his story out of him. As upona cold dayin winterwhen one has churned (as I had often had todo)andchurned in vainand the butter makes no sign of comingat lastone tells by the sound that the cream has gone to sleepand thenupon a sudden the butter comesso I had churned atChowbokuntil I perceived that he had arrivedas it wereat thesleepystageand that with a continuance of steady quiet pressurethe daywas mine. On a suddenwithout a word of warningherolled twobales of wool (his strength was very great) into themiddle ofthe floorand on the top of these he placed anothercrosswise;he snatched up an empty wool-packthrew it like amantleover his shouldersjumped upon the uppermost baleand satupon it. In a moment his whole form was changed. His highshouldersdropped; he set his feet close togetherheel to heel andtoe totoe; he laid his arms and hands close alongside of his bodythe palmsfollowing his thighs; he held his head high but quitestraightand his eyes stared right in front of him; but he frownedhorriblyand assumed an expression of face that was positivelyfiendish. At the best of times Chowbok was very uglybut he nowexceededall conceivable limits of the hideous. His mouth extendedalmostfrom ear to eargrinning horribly and showing all histeeth; hiseyes glaredthough they remained quite fixedand hisforeheadwas contracted with a most malevolent scowl.
I amafraid my description will have conveyed only the ridiculousside ofhis appearance; but the ridiculous and the sublime arenearandthe grotesque fiendishness of Chowbok's face approachedthis lastif it did not reach it. I tried to be amusedbut Ifelt asort of creeping at the roots of my hair and over my wholebodyas Ilooked and wondered what he could possibly be intendingtosignify. He continued thus for about a minutesitting boltuprightas stiff as a stoneand making this fearful face. Thenthere camefrom his lips a low moaning like the windrising andfalling byinfinitely small gradations till it became almost ashriekfrom which it descended and died away; after thathejumpeddown from the bale and held up the extended fingers of bothhis handsas one who should say "Ten" though I did not thenunderstandhim.
For myselfI was open-mouthed with astonishment. Chowbok rolledthe balesrapidly into their placeand stood before me shudderingas ingreat fear; horror was written upon his face--this time quiteinvoluntarily--asthough the natural panic of one who had committedan awfulcrime against unknown and superhuman agencies. He noddedhis headand gibberedand pointed repeatedly to the mountains. Hewould nottouch the grogbutafter a few seconds he made a runthroughthe wool-shed door into the moonlight; nor did he reappeartill nextday at dinner-timewhen he turned uplooking verysheepishand abject in his civility towards myself.
Of hismeaning I had no conception. How could I? All I couldfeelsure ofwasthat he had a meaning which was true and awful tohimself. It was enough for me that I believed him to have given methe besthe had and all he had. This kindled my imagination morethan if hehad told me intelligible stories by the hour together.I knew notwhat the great snowy ranges might concealbut I couldno longerdoubt that it would be something well worth discovering.
I keptaloof from Chowbok for the next few daysand showed nodesire toquestion him further; when I spoke to him I called himKahabukawhich gratified him greatly: he seemed to have becomeafraid ofmeand acted as one who was in my power. Havingthereforemade up my mind that I would begin exploring as soon asshearingwas overI thought it would be a good thing to takeChowbokwith me; so I told him that I meant going to the nearerranges fora few days' prospectingand that he was to come too. Imade himpromises of nightly grogand held out the chances offindinggold. I said nothing about the main rangefor I knew itwouldfrighten him. I would get him as far up our own river as Icouldandtrace it if possible to its source. I would then eithergo on bymyselfif I felt my courage equal to the attemptorreturnwith Chowbok. Soas soon as ever shearing was over and thewool sentoffI asked leave of absenceand obtained it. AlsoIbought anold pack-horse and pack-saddleso that I might takeplenty ofprovisionsand blanketsand a small tent. I was toride andfind fords over the river; Chowbok was to follow and leadthepack-horsewhich would also carry him over the fords. Mymaster letme have tea and sugarship's biscuitstobaccoandsaltmuttonwith two or three bottles of good brandy; foras thewool wasnow sent downabundance of provisions would come up withthe emptydrays.
Everythingbeing now readyall the hands on the station turned outto see usoffand we started on our journeynot very long afterthe summersolstice of 1870.
UP THE RIVER
The firstday we had an easy timefollowing up the great flats bythe riversidewhich had already been twice burnedso that therewas nodense undergrowth to check usthough the ground was oftenroughandwe had to go a good deal upon the riverbed. Towardsnightfallwe had made a matter of some five-and-twenty milesandcamped atthe point where the river entered upon the gorge.
Theweather was delightfully warmconsidering that the valley inwhich wewere encamped must have been at least two thousand feetabove thelevel of the sea. The river-bed was here about a mileand a halfbroad and entirely covered with shingle over which theriver ranin many winding channelslookingwhen seen from abovelike atangled skein of ribbonand glistening in the sun. We knewthat itwas liable to very sudden and heavy freshets; but even hadwe notknown itwe could have seen it by the snags of treeswhichmust havebeen carried long distancesand by the mass of vegetableandmineral debris which was banked against their lower sideshowingthat at times the whole river-bed must be covered with aroaringtorrent many feet in depth and of ungovernable fury. Atpresentthe river was lowthere being but five or six streamstoodeep andrapid for even a strong man to ford on footbut to becrossedsafely on horseback. On either side of it there were stilla fewacres of flatwhich grew wider and wider down the rivertill theybecame the large plains on which we looked from mymaster'shut. Behind us rose the lowest spurs of the second rangeleadingabruptly to the range itself; and at a distance of half amile beganthe gorgewhere the river narrowed and becameboisterousand terrible. The beauty of the scene cannot beconveyedin language. The one side of the valley was blue witheveningshadowthrough which loomed forest and precipicehillsideandmountain top; and the other was still brilliant with the sunsetgold. The wide and wasteful river with its ceaseless rushing--thebeautifulwater-birds toowhich abounded upon the islets and wereso tamethat we could come close up to them--the ineffable purityof theair--the solemn peacefulness of the untrodden region--couldthere be amore delightful and exhilarating combination?
We setabout making our campclose to some large bush which camedown fromthe mountains on to the flatand tethered out our horsesuponground as free as we could find it from anything round whichthey mightwind the rope and get themselves tied up. We dared notlet themrun looselest they might stray down the river homeagain. We then gathered wood and lit the fire. We filled a tinpannikinwith water and set it against the hot ashes to boil. Whenthe waterboiled we threw in two or three large pinches of tea andlet thembrew.
We hadcaught half a dozen young ducks in the course of the day--aneasymatterfor the old birds made such a fuss in attempting todecoy usaway from them--pretending to be badly hurt as they saythe ploverdoes--that we could always find them by going about intheopposite direction to the old bird till we heard the young onescrying: then we ran them downfor they could not fly though theywerenearly full grown. Chowbok plucked them a little and singedthem agood deal. Then we cut them up and boiled them in anotherpannikinand this completed our preparations.
When wehad done supper it was quite dark. The silence andfreshnessof the nightthe occasional sharp cry of the wood-henthe ruddyglow of the firethe subdued rushing of the riverthesombreforestand the immediate foreground of our saddles packsandblanketsmade a picture worthy of a Salvator Rosa or a NicolasPoussin. I call it to mind and delight in it nowbut I did notnotice itat the time. We next to never know when we are well off:but thiscuts two ways--for if we didwe should perhaps knowbetterwhen we are ill off also; and I have sometimes thought thatthere areas many ignorant of the one as of the other. He whowrote"Ofortunatos nimium sua si bona norint agricolas" mighthavewritten quite as truly"O infortunatos nimium sua si malanorint";and there are few of us who are not protected from thekeenestpain by our inability to see what it is that we have donewhat weare sufferingand what we truly are. Let us be gratefulto themirror for revealing to us our appearance only.
We foundas soft a piece of ground as we could--though it was allstony--andhaving collected grass and so disposed of ourselves thatwe had alittle hollow for our hip-boneswe strapped our blanketsaround usand went to sleep. Waking in the night I saw the starsoverheadand the moonlight bright upon the mountains. The riverwas everrushing; I heard one of our horses neigh to its companionand wasassured that they were still at hand; I had no care of mindor bodysave that I had doubtless many difficulties to overcome;there cameupon me a delicious sense of peacea fulness ofcontentmentwhich I do not believe can be felt by any but those whohave spentdays consecutively on horsebackor at any rate in theopen air.
Nextmorning we found our last night's tea-leaves frozen at thebottom ofthe pannikinsthough it was not nearly the beginning ofautumn; webreakfasted as we had suppedand were on our way by sixo'clock. In half an hour we had entered the gorgeand turninground acorner we bade farewell to the last sight of my master'scountry.
The gorgewas narrow and precipitous; the river was now only a fewyardswideand roared and thundered against rocks of many tons inweight;the sound was deafeningfor there was a great volume ofwater. We were two hours in making less than a mileand that withdangersometimes in the river and sometimes on the rock. Therewas thatdamp black smell of rocks covered with slimy vegetationas nearsome huge waterfall where spray is ever rising. The airwas clammyand cold. I cannot conceive how our horses managed tokeep theirfootingespecially the one with the packand I dreadedthe havingto return almost as much as going forward. I supposethislasted three milesbut it was well midday when the gorge gota littlewiderand a small stream came into it from a tributaryvalley. Farther progress up the main river was impossiblefor thecliffsdescended like walls; so we went up the side streamChowbokseeming tothink that here must be the pass of which reportsexistedamong his people. We now incurred less of actual dangerbut morefatigueand it was only after infinite troubleowing tothe rocksand tangled vegetationthat we got ourselves and ourhorsesupon the saddle from which this small stream descended; bythat timeclouds had descended upon usand it was raining heavily.Moreoverit was six o'clock and we were tired outhaving madeperhapssix miles in twelve hours.
On thesaddle there was some coarse grass which was in full seedandtherefore very nourishing for the horses; also abundance ofanise andsow-thistleof which they are extravagantly fondso weturnedthem loose and prepared to camp. Everything was soaking wetand wewere half-perished with cold; indeed we were veryuncomfortable. There was brushwood aboutbut we could get no firetill wehad shaved off the wet outside of some dead branches andfilled ourpockets with the dry inside chips. Having done this wemanaged tostart a firenor did we allow it to go out when we hadoncestarted it; we pitched the tent and by nine o'clock werecomparativelywarm and dry. Next morning it was fine; we brokecampandafter advancing a short distance we found thatbydescendingover ground less difficult than yesterday'swe shouldcome againupon the river-bedwhich had opened out above thegorge; butit was plain at a glance that there was no availablesheepcountrynothing but a few flats covered with scrub on eitherside theriverand mountains which were perfectly worthless. Butwe couldsee the main range. There was no mistake about this. Theglacierswere tumbling down the mountain sides like cataractsandseemedactually to descend upon the river-bed; there could be noseriousdifficulty in reaching them by following up the riverwhich waswide and open; but it seemed rather an objectless thingto doforthe main range looked hopelessand my curiosity aboutthe natureof the country above the gorge was now quite satisfied;there wasno money in it whateverunless there should be mineralsof which Isaw no more signs than lower down.
HoweverIresolved that I would follow the river upand notreturnuntil I was compelled to do so. I would go up every branchas far asI couldand wash well for gold. Chowbok liked seeing medo thisbut it never came to anythingfor we did not even findthecolour. His dislike of the main range appeared to have wornoffandhe made no objections to approaching it. I think hethoughtthere was no danger of my trying to cross itand he wasnot afraidof anything on this side; besideswe might find gold.But thefact was that he had made up his mind what to do if he sawme gettingtoo near it.
We passedthree weeks in exploringand never did I find time gomorequickly. The weather was finethough the nights got verycold. We followed every stream but oneand always found it leadus to aglacier which was plainly impassableat any rate without alargerparty and ropes. One stream remainedwhich I should havefollowedup alreadyhad not Chowbok said that he had risen earlyonemorning while I was yet asleepand after going up it for threeor fourmileshad seen that it was impossible to go farther. Ihad longago discovered that he was a great liarso I was bent ongoing upmyself: in briefI did so: so far from beingimpossibleit was quite easy travelling; and after five or sixmiles Isaw a saddle at the end of itwhichthough covered deepin snowwas not glacieredand which did verily appear to be partof themain range itself. No words can express the intensity of mydelight. My blood was all on fire with hope and elation; but onlookinground for Chowbokwho was behind meI saw to my surpriseand angerthat he had turned backand was going down the valley ashard as hecould. He had left me.
I cooeyedto himbut he would not hear. I ran after himbut hehad gottoo good a start. Then I sat down on a stone and thoughtthe mattercarefully over. It was plain that Chowbok haddesignedlyattempted to keep me from going up this valleyyet hehad shownno unwillingness to follow me anywhere else. What couldthis meanunless that I was now upon the route by which alone themysteriesof the great ranges could be revealed? What then shouldI do? Go back at the very moment when it had become plain that Iwas on theright scent? Hardly; yet to proceed alone would be bothdifficultand dangerous. It would be bad enough to return to mymaster'srunand pass through the rocky gorgeswith no chance ofhelp fromanother should I get into a difficulty; but to advancefor anyconsiderable distance without a companion would be nextdoor tomadness. Accidents which are slight when there is anotherat hand(as the spraining of an ankleor the falling into someplacewhence escape would be easy by means of an outstretched handand a bitof rope) may be fatal to one who is alone. The more Iponderedthe less I liked it; and yetthe less could I make up mymind toreturn when I looked at the saddle at the head of thevalleyand noted the comparative ease with which its smooth sweepof snowmight be surmounted: I seemed to see my way almost from mypresentposition to the very top. After much thoughtI resolvedto goforward until I should come to some place which was reallydangerousbut then to return. I should thusI hopedat any ratereach thetop of the saddleand satisfy myself as to what might beon theother side.
I had notime to losefor it was now between ten and eleven in themorning. Fortunately I was well equippedfor on leaving the campand thehorses at the lower end of the valley I had provided myself(accordingto my custom) with everything that I was likely to wantfor fouror five days. Chowbok had carried halfbut had droppedhis wholeswag--I supposeat the moment of his taking flight--forI cameupon it when I ran after him. I hadthereforehisprovisionsas well as my own. AccordinglyI took as many biscuitsas Ithought I could carryand also some tobaccoteaand a fewmatches. I rolled all these things (together with a flask nearlyfull ofbrandywhich I had kept in my pocket for fear lest Chowbokshould gethold of it) inside my blanketsand strapped them verytightlymaking the whole into a long roll of some seven feet inlength andsix inches in diameter. Then I tied the two endstogetherand put the whole round my neck and over one shoulder.This isthe easiest way of carrying a heavy swagfor one can restone's selfby shifting the burden from one shoulder to the other.I strappedmy pannikin and a small axe about my waistand thusequippedbegan to ascend the valleyangry at having been misled byChowbokbut determined not to return till I was compelled to doso.
I crossedand recrossed the stream several times withoutdifficultyfor there were many good fords. At one o'clock I wasat thefoot of the saddle; for four hours I mountedthe last twoon thesnowwhere the going was easier; by fiveI was within tenminutes ofthe topin a state of excitement greaterI thinkthanI had everknown before. Ten minutes moreand the cold air fromthe otherside came rushing upon me.
A glance. I was NOT on the main range.
Anotherglance. There was an awful rivermuddy and horriblyangryroaring over an immense riverbedthousands of feet belowme.
It wentround to the westwardand I could see no farther up thevalleysave that there were enormous glaciers which must extendround thesource of the riverand from which it must spring.
Anotherglanceand then I remained motionless.
There wasan easy pass in the mountains directly opposite to methroughwhich I caught a glimpse of an immeasurable extent of blueanddistant plains.
Easy? Yesperfectly easy; grassed nearly to the summitwhichwasas itwerean open path between two glaciersfrom which aninconsiderablestream came tumbling down over rough but verypossiblehillsidestill it got down to the level of the greatriverandformed a flat where there was grass and a small bush ofstuntedtimber.
Almostbefore I could believe my eyesa cloud had come up from thevalley onthe other sideand the plains were hidden. Whatwonderfulluck was mine! Had I arrived five minutes laterthecloudwould have been over the passand I should not have known ofitsexistence. Now that the cloud was thereI began to doubt mymemoryand to be uncertain whether it had been more than a blueline ofdistant vapour that had filled up the opening. I couldonly becertain of this muchnamelythat the river in the valleybelow mustbe the one next to the northward of that which flowedpast mymaster's station; of this there could be no doubt. CouldIhoweverimagine that my luck should have led me up a wrongriver insearch of a passand yet brought me to the spot where Icoulddetect the one weak place in the fortifications of a morenorthernbasin? This was too improbable. But even as I doubtedthere camea rent in the cloud oppositeand a second time I sawblue linesof heaving downsgrowing gradually fainterandretiringinto a far space of plain. It was substantial; there hadbeen nomistake whatsoever. I had hardly made myself perfectlysure ofthisere the rent in the clouds joined up again and Icould seenothing more.
Whatthenshould I do? The night would be upon me shortlyand Iwasalready chilled with standing still after the exertion ofclimbing. To stay where I was would be impossible; I must eithergobackwards or forwards. I found a rock which gave me shelterfrom theevening windand took a good pull at the brandy flaskwhichimmediately warmed and encouraged me.
I askedmyselfCould I descend upon the river-bed beneath me? Itwasimpossible to say what precipices might prevent my doing so.If I wereon the river-beddare I cross the river? I am anexcellentswimmeryetonce in that frightful rush of watersIshould behurled whithersoever it willedabsolutely powerless.Moreoverthere was my swag; I should perish of cold and hunger ifI left itbut I should certainly be drowned if I attempted tocarry itacross the river. These were serious considerationsbutthe hopeof finding an immense tract of available sheep country(which Iwas determined that I would monopolise as far as Ipossiblycould) sufficed to outweigh them; andin a few minutesIfeltresolved thathaving made so important a discovery as a passinto acountry which was probably as valuable as that on our ownside ofthe rangesI would follow it up and ascertain its valueeventhough I should pay the penalty of failure with life itself.The more Ithoughtthe more determined I became either to win fameandperhaps fortuneby entering upon this unknown worldor giveup life inthe attempt. In factI felt that life would be nolongervaluable if I were to have seen so great a prize and refusedto graspat the possible profits therefrom.
I hadstill an hour of good daylight during which I might begin mydescent onto some suitable camping-groundbut there was not amoment tobe lost. At first I got along rapidlyfor I was on thesnowandsank into it enough to save me from fallingthough Iwentforward straight down the mountain side as fast as I could;but therewas less snow on this side than on the otherand I hadsoon donewith itgetting on to a coomb of dangerous and verystonygroundwhere a slip might have given me a disastrous fall.But I wascareful with all my speedand got safely to the bottomwherethere were patches of coarse grassand an attempt here andthere atbrushwood: what was below this I could not see. Iadvanced afew hundred yards fartherand found that I was on thebrink of afrightful precipicewhich no one in his senses wouldattemptdescending. I bethought mehoweverto try the creekwhichdrained the coomband see whether it might not have madeitself asmoother way. In a few minutes I found myself at theupper endof a chasm in the rockssomething like Twll Dhuonly ona greatlylarger scale; the creek had found its way into itandhad worn adeep channel through a material which appeared softerthan thatupon the other side of the mountain. I believe it musthave beena different geological formationthough I regret to saythat Icannot tell what it was.
I lookedat this rift in great doubt; then I went a little way oneitherside of itand found myself looking over the edge ofhorribleprecipices on to the riverwhich roared some four or fivethousandfeet below me. I dared not think of getting down at allunless Icommitted myself to the riftof which I was hopeful whenIreflected that the rock was softand that the water might haveworn itschannel tolerably evenly through the whole extent. Thedarknesswas increasing with every minutebut I should havetwilightfor another half-hourso I went into the chasm (though byno meanswithout fear)and resolved to return and campand trysome otherpath next dayshould I come to any serious difficulty.In aboutfive minutes I had completely lost my head; the side ofthe riftbecame hundreds of feet in heightand overhung so that Icould notsee the sky. It was full of rocksand I had many fallsandbruises. I was wet through from falling into the waterofwhichthere was no great volumebut it had such force that I coulddo nothingagainst it; once I had to leap down a not inconsiderablewaterfallinto a deep pool belowand my swag was so heavy that Iwas verynearly drowned. I had indeed a hair's-breadth escape;butasluck would have itProvidence was on my side. ShortlyafterwardsI began to fancy that the rift was getting widerandthat therewas more brushwood. Presently I found myself on an opengrassyslopeand feeling my way a little farther along the streamI cameupon a flat place with woodwhere I could camp comfortably;which waswellfor it was now quite dark.
My firstcare was for my matches; were they dry? The outside of myswag hadgot completely wet; buton undoing the blanketsI foundthingswarm and dry within. How thankful I was! I lit a fireandwasgrateful for its warmth and company. I made myself some teaand atetwo of my biscuits: my brandy I did not touchfor I hadlittleleftand might want it when my courage failed me. All thatI didIdid almost mechanicallyfor I could not realise mysituationto myselfbeyond knowing that I was aloneand thatreturnthrough the chasm which I had just descended would beimpossible. It is a dreadful feeling that of being cut off fromall one'skind. I was still full of hopeand built golden castlesfor myselfas soon as I was warmed with food and fire; but I do notbelievethat any man could long retain his reason in such solitudeunless hehad the companionship of animals. One begins doubtingone's ownidentity.
I rememberderiving comfort even from the sight of my blanketsandthe soundof my watch ticking--things which seemed to link me tootherpeople; but the screaming of the wood-hens frightened measalso achattering bird which I had never heard beforeand whichseemed tolaugh at me; though I soon got used to itand beforelong couldfancy that it was many years since I had first heard it.
I took offmy clothesand wrapped my inside blanket about metillmy thingswere dry. The night was very stilland I made a roaringfire; so Isoon got warmand at last could put my clothes onagain. Then I strapped my blanket round meand went to sleep asnear thefire as I could.
I dreamedthat there was an organ placed in my master's wool-shed:thewool-shed faded awayand the organ seemed to grow and growamid ablaze of brilliant lighttill it became like a golden cityupon theside of a mountainwith rows upon rows of pipes set incliffs andprecipicesone above the otherand in mysteriouscavernslike that of Fingalwithin whose depths I could see theburnishedpillars gleaming. In the front there was a flight ofloftyterracesat the top of which I could see a man with his headburiedforward towards a key-boardand his body swaying from sideto sideamid the storm of huge arpeggioed harmonies that camecrashingoverhead and round. Then there was one who touched me ontheshoulderand said"Do you not see? it is Handel";--but Ihadhardlyapprehendedand was trying to scale the terracesand getnear himwhen I awokedazzled with the vividness and distinctnessof thedream.
A piece ofwood had burned throughand the ends had fallen intothe asheswith a blaze: thisI supposedhad both given me mydream androbbed me of it. I was bitterly disappointedandsitting upon my elbowcame back to reality and my strangesurroundingsas best I could.
I wasthoroughly aroused--moreoverI felt a foreshadowing asthough myattention were arrested by something more than the dreamalthoughno sense in particular was as yet appealed to. I held mybreath andwaitedand then I heard--was it fancy? Nay; I listenedagain andagainand I DID hear a faint and extremely distant soundof musiclike that of an AEolian harpborne upon the wind whichwasblowing fresh and chill from the opposite mountains.
The rootsof my hair thrilled. I listenedbut the wind had died;andfancying that it must have been the wind itself--no; on asudden Iremembered the noise which Chowbok had made in the wool-shed. Yes; it was that.
ThankHeavenwhatever it wasit was over now. I reasoned withmyselfand recovered my firmness. I became convinced that I hadonly beendreaming more vividly than usual. Soon I began even tolaughandthink what a fool I was to be frightened at nothingremindingmyself that even if I were to come to a bad end it wouldbe no suchdreadful matter after all. I said my prayersa dutywhich Ihad too often neglectedand in a little time fell into areallyrefreshing sleepwhich lasted till broad daylightandrestoredme. I roseand searching among the embers of my fireIfound afew live coals and soon had a blaze again. I gotbreakfastand was delighted to have the company of several smallbirdswhich hopped about me and perched on my boots and hands. Ifeltcomparatively happybut I can assure the reader that I hadhad a farworse time of it than I have told him; and I stronglyrecommendhim to remain in Europe if he can; orat any rateinsomecountry which has been explored and settledrather than gointoplaces where others have not been before him. Exploring isdelightfulto look forward to and back uponbut it is notcomfortableat the timeunless it be of such an easy nature as notto deservethe name.
THE RIVER AND THE RANGE
My nextbusiness was to descend upon the river. I had lost sightof thepass which I had seen from the saddlebut had made suchnotes ofit that I could not fail to find it. I was bruised andstiffandmy boots had begun to givefor I had been going onroughground for more than three weeks; butas the day wore onand Ifound myself descending without serious difficultyI becameeasier. In a couple of hours I got among pine forests where therewas littleundergrowthand descended quickly till I reached theedge ofanother precipicewhich gave me a great deal of troublethough Ieventually managed to avoid it. By about three or fouro'clock Ifound myself on the river-bed.
Fromcalculations which I made as to the height of the valley onthe otherside the saddle over which I had comeI concluded thatthe saddleitself could not be less than nine thousand feet high;and Ishould think that the river-bedon to which I now descendedwas threethousand feet above the sea-level. The water had aterrificcurrentwith a fall of not less than forty to fifty feetper mile. It was certainly the river next to the northward of thatwhichflowed past my master's runand would have to go through animpassablegorge (as is commonly the case with the rivers of thatcountry)before it came upon known parts. It was reckoned to benearly twothousand feet above the sea-level where it came out ofthe gorgeon to the plains.
As soon asI got to the river side I liked it even less than Ithought Ishould. It was muddybeing near its parent glaciers.The streamwas widerapidand roughand I could hear the smallerstonesknocking against each other under the rage of the watersasupon aseashore. Fording was out of the question. I could notswim andcarry my swagand I dared not leave my swag behind me.My onlychance was to make a small raft; and that would bedifficultto makeand not at all safe when it was made--not forone man insuch a current.
As it wastoo late to do much that afternoonI spent the rest ofit ingoing up and down the river sideand seeing where I shouldfind themost favourable crossing. Then I camped earlyand had aquietcomfortable night with no more musicfor which I wasthankfulas it had haunted me all dayalthough I perfectly wellknew thatit had been nothing but my own fancybrought on by thereminiscenceof what I had heard from Chowbok and by the over-excitementof the preceding evening.
Next day Ibegan gathering the dry bloom stalks of a kind of flagoriris-looking plantwhich was abundantand whose leaveswhentorn intostripswere as strong as the strongest string. Ibroughtthem to the watersideand fell to making myself a kind ofroughplatformwhich should suffice for myself and my swag if Icould onlystick to it. The stalks were ten or twelve feet longand verystrongbut light and hollow. I made my raft entirely ofthembinding bundles of them at right angles to each otherneatlyandstronglywith strips from the leaves of the same plantandtyingother rods across. It took me all day till nearly fouro'clock tofinish the raftbut I had still enough daylight forcrossingand resolved on doing so at once.
I hadselected a place where the river was broad and comparativelystillsome seventy or eighty yards above a furious rapid. At thisspot I hadbuilt my raft. I now launched itmade my swag fast tothemiddleand got on to it myselfkeeping in my hand one of thelongestblossom stalksso that I might punt myself across as longas thewater was shallow enough to let me do so. I got on prettywell fortwenty or thirty yards from the shorebut even in thisshortspace I nearly upset my raft by shifting too rapidly from oneside tothe other. The water then became much deeperand I leanedover sofar in order to get the bloom rod to the bottom that I hadto staystillleaning on the rod for a few seconds. Thenwhen Ilifted upthe rod from the groundthe current was too much for meand Ifound myself being carried down the rapid. Everything in asecondflew past meand I had no more control over the raft;neithercan I remember anything except hurryand noiseand waterswhich inthe end upset me. But it all came rightand I foundmyselfnear the shorenot more than up to my knees in water andpulling myraft to landfortunately upon the left bank of theriverwhich was the one I wanted. When I had landed I found thatI wasabout a mileor perhaps a little lessbelow the point fromwhich Istarted. My swag was wet upon the outsideand I wasmyselfdripping; but I had gained my pointand knew that mydifficultieswere for a time over. I then lit my fire and driedmyself;having done so I caught some of the young ducks and sea-gullswhich were abundant on and near the river-bedso that I hadnot only agood mealof which I was in great wanthaving had aninsufficientdiet from the time that Chowbok left mebut was alsowellprovided for the morrow.
I thoughtof Chowbokand felt how useful he had been to meand inhow manyways I was the loser by his absencehaving now to do allsorts ofthings for myself which he had hitherto done for meandcould doinfinitely better than I could. MoreoverI had set myheart uponmaking him a real convert to the Christian religionwhich hehad already embraced outwardlythough I cannot think thatit hadtaken deep root in his impenetrably stupid nature. I usedtocatechise him by our camp fireand explain to him the mysteriesof theTrinity and of original sinwith which I was myselffamiliarhaving been the grandson of an archdeacon by my mother'ssidetosay nothing of the fact that my father was a clergyman oftheEnglish Church. I was therefore sufficiently qualified for thetaskandwas the more inclined to itover and above my realdesire tosave the unhappy creature from an eternity of torturebyrecollectingthe promise of St. Jamesthat if any one converted asinner(which Chowbok surely was) he should hide a multitude ofsins. I reflectedthereforethat the conversion of Chowbok mightin somedegree compensate for irregularities and short-comings inmy ownprevious lifethe remembrance of which had been more thanonceunpleasant to me during my recent experiences.
Indeedonone occasion I had even gone so far as to baptize himas well asI couldhaving ascertained that he had certainly notbeen bothchristened and baptizedand gathering (from his tellingme that hehad received the name William from the missionary) thatit wasprobably the first-mentioned rite to which he had beensubjected. I thought it great carelessness on the part of themissionaryto have omitted the secondand certainly moreimportantceremony which I have always understood precedeschristeningboth in the case of infants and of adult converts; andwhen Ithought of the risks we were both incurring I determinedthat thereshould be no further delay. Fortunately it was not yettwelveo'clockso I baptized him at once from one of the pannikins(the onlyvessels I had) reverentlyandI trustefficiently. Ithen setmyself to work to instruct him in the deeper mysteries ofourbeliefand to make himnot only in namebut in heart aChristian.
It is truethat I might not have succeededfor Chowbok was veryhard toteach. Indeedon the evening of the same day that Ibaptizedhim he tried for the twentieth time to steal the brandywhich mademe rather unhappy as to whether I could have baptizedhimrightly. He had a prayer-book--more than twenty years old--which hadbeen given him by the missionariesbut the only thing init whichhad taken any living hold upon him was the title ofAdelaidethe Queen Dowagerwhich he would repeat whenever stronglymoved ortouchedand which did really seem to have some deepspiritualsignificance to himthough he could never completelyseparateher individuality from that of Mary Magdalenewhose namehad alsofascinated himthough in a less degree.
He wasindeed stony groundbut by digging about him I might haveat anyrate deprived him of all faith in the religion of his tribewhichwould have been half way towards making him a sincereChristian;and now all this was cut off from meand I couldneither beof further spiritual assistance to him nor he of bodilyprofit tomyself: besidesany company was better than being quitealone.
I got verymelancholy as these reflections crossed mebut when Ihad boiledthe ducks and eaten them I was much better. I had alittle tealeft and about a pound of tobaccowhich should last meforanother fortnight with moderate smoking. I had also eight shipbiscuitsandmost precious of allabout six ounces of brandywhich Ipresently reduced to fourfor the night was cold.
I rosewith early dawnand in an hour I was on my wayfeelingstrangenot to say weakfrom the burden of solitudebut full ofhope whenI considered how many dangers I had overcomeand thatthis dayshould see me at the summit of the dividing range.
After aslow but steady climb of between three and four hoursduringwhich I met with no serious hindranceI found myself upon atablelandand close to a glacier which I recognised as marking thesummit ofthe pass. Above it towered a succession of ruggedprecipicesand snowy mountain sides. The solitude was greater thanI couldbear; the mountain upon my master's sheep-run was a crowdedthoroughfarein comparison with this sombre sullen place. The airmoreoverwas dark and heavywhich made the loneliness even moreoppressive. There was an inky gloom over all that was not coveredwith snowand ice. Grass there was none.
Eachmoment I felt increasing upon me that dreadful doubt as to myownidentity--as to the continuity of my past and presentexistence--whichis the first sign of that distraction which comeson thosewho have lost themselves in the bush. I had foughtagainstthis feeling hithertoand had conquered it; but theintensesilence and gloom of this rocky wilderness were too muchfor meand I felt that my power of collecting myself was beginningto beimpaired.
I restedfor a little whileand then advanced over very roughgrounduntil I reached the lower end of the glacier. Then I sawanotherglacierdescending from the eastern side into a smalllake. I passed along the western side of the lakewhere theground waseasierand when I had got about half way I expectedthat Ishould see the plains which I had already seen from theoppositemountains; but it was not to be sofor the clouds rolledup to thevery summit of the passthough they did not overlip iton to theside from which I had come. I therefore soon foundmyselfenshrouded by a cold thin vapourwhich prevented my seeingmore thana very few yards in front of me. Then I came upon alargepatch of old snowin which I could distinctly trace thehalf-meltedtracks of goats--and in one placeas it seemed to methere hadbeen a dog following them. Had I lighted upon a land ofshepherds? The groundwhere not covered with snowwas so poorand stonyand there was so little herbagethat I could see nosign of apath or regular sheep-track. But I could not helpfeelingrather uneasy as I wondered what sort of a reception Imight meetwith if I were to come suddenly upon inhabitants. I wasthinkingof thisand proceeding cautiously through the mistwhenI began tofancy that I saw some objects darker than the cloudlooming infront of me. A few steps brought me nearerand ashudder ofunutterable horror ran through me when I saw a circle ofgiganticformsmany times higher than myselfupstanding grim andgreythrough the veil of cloud before me.
I supposeI must have faintedfor I found myself some timeafterwardssitting upon the groundsick and deadly cold. Therewere thefiguresquite still and silentseen vaguely through thethickgloombut in human shape indisputably.
A suddenthought occurred to mewhich would have doubtless struckme at oncehad I not been prepossessed with forebodings at the timethat Ifirst saw the figuresand had not the cloud concealed themfrom me--Imean that they were not living beingsbut statues. Ideterminedthat I would count fifty slowlyand was sure that theobjectswere not alive if during that time I could detect no signof motion.
Howthankful was I when I came to the end of my fifty and there hadbeen nomovement!
I counteda second time--but again all was still.
I thenadvanced timidly forwardand in another moment I saw thatmy surmisewas correct. I had come upon a sort of Stonehenge ofrude andbarbaric figuresseated as Chowbok had sat when Iquestionedhim in the wool-shedand with the same superhumanlymalevolentexpression upon their faces. They had been all seatedbut twohad fallen. They were barbarous--neither EgyptiannorAssyriannor Japanese--different from any of theseand yet akinto all. They were six or seven times larger than lifeof greatantiquityworn and lichen grown. They were ten in number. Therewas snowupon their heads and wherever snow could lodge. Eachstatue hadbeen built of four or five enormous blocksbut howthese hadbeen raised and put together is known to those alone whoraisedthem. Each was terrible after a different kind. One wasragingfuriouslyas in pain and great despair; another was leanandcadaverous with famine; another cruel and idioticbut with thesilliestsimper that can be conceived--this one had fallenandlookedexquisitely ludicrous in his fall--the mouths of all weremore orless openand as I looked at them from behindI saw thattheirheads had been hollowed.
I was sickand shivering with cold. Solitude had unmanned mealreadyand I was utterly unfit to have come upon such an assemblyof fiendsin such a dreadful wilderness and without preparation. Iwould havegiven everything I had in the world to have been back atmymaster's station; but that was not to be thought of: my headwasfailingand I felt sure that I could never get back alive.
Then camea gust of howling windaccompanied with a moan from oneof thestatues above me. I clasped my hands in fear. I felt likea ratcaught in a trapas though I would have turned and bitten atwhateverthing was nearest me. The wildness of the wind increasedthe moansgrew shrillercoming from several statuesand swellinginto achorus. I almost immediately knew what it wasbut thesound wasso unearthly that this was but little consolation. Theinhumanbeings into whose hearts the Evil One had put it toconceivethese statueshad made their heads into a sort of organ-pipesothat their mouths should catch the wind and sound with itsblowing. It was horrible. However brave a man might behe couldneverstand such a concertfrom such lipsand in such a place. Iheapedevery invective upon them that my tongue could utter as Irushedaway from them into the mistand even after I had lostsight ofthemand turning my head round could see nothing but thestorm-wraithsdriving behind meI heard their ghostly chantingand feltas though one of them would rush after me and grip me inhis handand throttle me.
I may sayhere thatsince my return to EnglandI heard a friendplayingsome chords upon the organ which put me very forcibly inmind ofthe Erewhonian statues (for Erewhon is the name of thecountryupon which I was now entering). They rose most vividly tomyrecollection the moment my friend began. They are as followsand are bythe greatest of all musicians:-
[Musicscore which cannot be reproduced]
And now Ifound myself on a narrow path which followed a smallwatercourse. I was too glad to have an easy track for my flightto layhold of the full significance of its existence. Thethoughthoweversoon presented itself to me that I must be in aninhabitedcountrybut one which was yet unknown. Whatthenwasto be myfate at the hands of its inhabitants? Should I be takenandoffered up as a burnt-offering to those hideous guardians ofthe pass? It might be so. I shuddered at the thoughtyet thehorrors ofsolitude had now fairly possessed me; and so dazed wasIandchilledand woebegonethat I could lay hold of no ideafirmlyamid the crowd of fancies that kept wandering in upon mybrain.
I hurriedonward--downdowndown. More streams came in; thenthere wasa bridgea few pine logs thrown over the water; but theygave mecomfortfor savages do not make bridges. Then I had atreat suchas I can never convey on paper--a momentperhapsthemoststriking and unexpected in my whole life--the one I thinkthatwithsome three or four exceptionsI would most gladly haveagainwere I able to recall it. I got below the level of thecloudsinto a burst of brilliant evening sunshineI was facingthenorth-westand the sun was full upon me. Ohhow its lightcheeredme! But what I saw! It was such an expanse as wasrevealedto Moses when he stood upon the summit of Mount Sinaiandbeheldthat promised land which it was not to be his to enter. Thebeautifulsunset sky was crimson and gold; bluesilverandpurple;exquisite and tranquillising; fading away therein wereplainsonwhich I could see many a town and citywith buildingsthat hadlofty steeples and rounded domes. Nearer beneath me layridgebehind ridgeoutline behind outlinesunlight behind shadowand shadowbehind sunlightgully and serrated ravine. I saw largepineforestsand the glitter of a noble river winding its way upontheplains; also many villages and hamletssome of them quite nearat hand;and it was on these that I pondered most. I sank upon theground atthe foot of a large tree and thought what I had best do;but Icould not collect myself. I was quite tired out; andpresentlyfeeling warmed by the sunand quietedI fell off intoa profoundsleep.
I wasawoke by the sound of tinkling bellsand looking upI sawfour orfive goats feeding near me. As soon as I movedthecreaturesturned their heads towards me with an expression ofinfinitewonder. They did not run awaybut stood stock stillandlooked atme from every sideas I at them. Then came the sound ofchatteringand laughterand there approached two lovely girlsofaboutseventeen or eighteen years olddressed each in a sort oflinengaberdinewith a girdle round the waist. They saw me. Isat quitestill and looked at themdazzled with their extremebeauty. For a moment they looked at me and at each other in greatamazement;then they gave a little frightened cry and ran off ashard asthey could.
"Sothat's that" said I to myselfas I watched them scampering.I knewthat I had better stay where I was and meet my fatewhateverit was to beand even if there were a better courseIhad nostrength left to take it. I must come into contact with theinhabitantssooner or laterand it might as well be sooner.Better notto seem afraid of themas I should do by running awayand beingcaught with a hue and cry to-morrow or next day. So Iremainedquite still and waited. In about an hour I heard distantvoicestalking excitedlyand in a few minutes I saw the two girlsbringingup a party of six or seven menwell armed with bows andarrows andpikes. There was nothing for itso I remained sittingquitestilleven after they had seen meuntil they came close up.Then weall had a good look at one another.
Both thegirls and the men were very dark in colourbut not moreso thanthe South Italians or Spaniards. The men wore no trousersbut weredressed nearly the same as the Arabs whom I have seen inAlgeria. They were of the most magnificent presencebeing no lessstrong andhandsome than the women were beautiful; and not onlythisbuttheir expression was courteous and benign. I think theywould havekilled me at once if I had made the slightest show ofviolence;but they gave me no impression of their being likely tohurt me solong as I was quiet. I am not much given to likinganybody atfirst sightbut these people impressed me much morefavourablythan I should have thought possibleso that I could notfear themas I scanned their faces one after another. They wereallpowerful men. I might have been a match for any one of themsinglyfor I have been told that I have more to glory in the fleshthan inany other respectbeing over six feet and proportionatelystrong;but any two could have soon mastered meeven were I not sobereft ofenergy by my recent adventures. My colour seemed tosurprisethem mostfor I have light hairblue eyesand a freshcomplexion. They could not understand how these things could be;my clothesalso seemed quite beyond them. Their eyes keptwanderingall over meand the more they looked the less theyseemedable to make me out.
At last Iraised myself upon my feetand leaning upon my stickIspokewhatever came into my head to the man who seemed foremostamongthem. I spoke in Englishthough I was very sure that hewould notunderstand. I said that I had no idea what country I wasin; that Ihad stumbled upon it almost by accidentafter a seriesofhairbreadth escapes; and that I trusted they would not allow anyevil toovertake me now that I was completely at their mercy. Allthis Isaid quietly and firmlywith hardly any change ofexpression. They could not understand mebut they lookedapprovinglyto one anotherand seemed pleased (so I thought) thatI showedno fear nor acknowledgment of inferiority--the fact beingthat I wasexhausted beyond the sense of fear. Then one of thempointed tothe mountainin the direction of the statuesand madea grimacein imitation of one of them. I laughed and shudderedexpressivelywhereon they all burst out laughing tooandchatteredhard to one another. I could make out nothing of whatthey saidbut I think they thought it rather a good joke that Ihad comepast the statues. Then one among them came forward andmotionedme to followwhich I did without hesitationfor I darednot thwartthem; moreoverI liked them well enoughand felttolerablysure that they had no intention of hurting me.
In about aquarter of an hour we got to a small Hamlet built on theside of ahillwith a narrow street and houses huddled uptogether. The roofs were large and overhanging. Some few windowswereglazedbut not many. Altogether the village was exceedinglylike oneof those that one comes upon in descending the less knownpassesover the Alps on to Lombardy. I will pass over theexcitementwhich my arrival caused. Suffice itthat though therewasabundance of curiositythere was no rudeness. I was taken totheprincipal housewhich seemed to belong to the people who hadcapturedme. There I was hospitably entertainedand a supper ofmilk andgoat's flesh with a kind of oatcake was set before meofwhich Iate heartily. But all the time I was eating I could nothelpturning my eyes upon the two beautiful girls whom I had firstseenandwho seemed to consider me as their lawful prize--whichindeed Iwasfor I would have gone through fire and water foreither ofthem.
Then camethe inevitable surprise at seeing me smokewhich I willspare thereader; but I noticed that when they saw me strike amatchthere was a hubbub of excitement whichit struck mewasnotaltogether unmixed with disapproval: whyI could not guess.Then thewomen retiredand I was left alone with the menwhotried totalk to me in every conceivable way; but we could come tonounderstandingexcept that I was quite aloneand had come froma long wayover the mountains. In the course of time they grewtiredandI very sleepy. I made signs as though I would sleep onthe floorin my blanketsbut they gave me one of their bunks withplenty ofdried fern and grasson to which I had no sooner laidmyselfthan I fell fast asleep; nor did I awake till well into thefollowingdaywhen I found myself in the hut with two men keepingguard overme and an old woman cooking. When I woke the men seemedpleasedand spoke to me as though bidding me good morning in apleasanttone.
I went outof doors to wash in a creek which ran a few yards fromthehouse. My hosts were as engrossed with me as ever; they nevertook theireyes off mefollowing every action that I didnomatter howtriflingand each looking towards the other for hisopinion atevery touch and turn. They took great interest in myablutionsfor they seemed to have doubted whether I was in allrespectshuman like themselves. They even laid hold of my arms andoverhauledthemand expressed approval when they saw that theywerestrong and muscular. They now examined my legsandespeciallymy feet. When they desisted they nodded approvingly toeachother; and when I had combed and brushed my hairandgenerallymade myself as neat and well arranged as circumstanceswouldallowI could see that their respect for me increasedgreatlyand that they were by no means sure that they had treatedme withsufficient deference--a matter on which I am not competenttodecide. All I know is that they were very good to mefor whichI thankedthem heartilyas it might well have been otherwise.
For my ownpartI liked them and admired themfor their quietself-possessionand dignified ease impressed me pleasurably atonce. Neither did their manner make me feel as though I werepersonallydistasteful to them--only that I was a thing utterly newandunlooked forwhich they could not comprehend. Their type wasmore thatof the most robust Italians than any other; their mannersalso wereeminently Italianin their entire unconsciousness ofself. Having travelled a good deal in ItalyI was struck withlittlegestures of the hand and shoulderswhich constantlyremindedme of that country. My feeling was that my wisest planwould beto go on as I had begunand be simply myself for betteror worsesuch as I wasand take my chance accordingly.
I thoughtof these things while they were waiting for me to havedonewashingand on my way back. Then they gave me breakfast--hotbread andmilkand fried flesh of something between mutton andvenison. Their ways of cooking and eating were Europeanthoughthey hadonly a skewer for a forkand a sort of butcher's knife tocut with. The more I looked at everything in the housethe more Iwas struckwith its quasi-European character; and had the wallsonly beenpasted over with extracts from the Illustrated LondonNews andPunchI could have almost fancied myself in a shepherd'shut uponmy master's sheep-run. And yet everything was slightlydifferent. It was much the same with the birds and flowers on theothersideas compared with the English ones. On my arrival I hadbeenpleased at noticing that nearly all the plants and birds werevery likecommon English ones: thusthere was a robinand alarkanda wrenand daisiesand dandelions; not quite the sameas theEnglishbut still very like them--quite like enough to becalled bythe same name; so nowherethe ways of these two menand thethings they had in the housewere all very nearly the sameas inEurope. It was not at all like going to China or Japanwhereeverything that one sees is strange. I wasindeedat oncestruckwith the primitive character of their appliancesfor theyseemed tobe some five or six hundred years behind Europe in theirinventions;but this is the case in many an Italian village.
All thetime that I was eating my breakfast I kept speculating asto whatfamily of mankind they could belong to; and shortly therecame anidea into my headwhich brought the blood into my cheekswithexcitement as I thought of it. Was it possible that theymight bethe lost ten tribes of Israelof whom I had heard both mygrandfatherand my father make mention as existing in an unknowncountryand awaiting a final return to Palestine? Was it possiblethat Imight have been designed by Providence as the instrument oftheirconversion? Ohwhat a thought was this! I laid down myskewer andgave them a hasty survey. There was nothing of a Jewishtype aboutthem: their noses were distinctly Grecianand theirlipsthough fullwere not Jewish.
How couldI settle this question? I knew neither Greek nor Hebrewand evenif I should get to understand the language here spokenIshould beunable to detect the roots of either of these tongues. Ihad notbeen long enough among them to ascertain their habitsbutthey didnot give me the impression of being a religious people.This toowas natural: the ten tribes had been always lamentablyirreligious. But could I not make them change? To restore thelost tentribes of Israel to a knowledge of the only truth: herewould beindeed an immortal crown of glory! My heart beat fast andfurious asI entertained the thought. What a position would it notensure mein the next world; or perhaps even in this! What follyit wouldbe to throw such a chance away! I should rank next to theApostlesif not as high as they--certainly above the minorprophetsand possibly above any Old Testament writer except MosesandIsaiah. For such a future as this I would sacrifice all that Ihavewithout a moment's hesitationcould I be reasonably assuredof it. I had always cordially approved of missionary effortsandhad attimes contributed my mite towards their support andextension;but I had never hitherto felt drawn towards becoming amissionarymyself; and indeed had always admiredand enviedandrespectedthemmore than I had exactly liked them. But if thesepeoplewere the lost ten tribes of Israelthe case would be widelydifferent: the opening was too excellent to be lostand Iresolvedthat should I see indications which appeared to confirm myimpressionthat I had indeed come upon the missing tribesI wouldcertainlyconvert them.
I may heremention that this discovery is the one to which Ialluded inthe opening pages of my story. Time strengthened theimpressionmade upon me at first; andthough I remained in doubtforseveral monthsI feel now no longer uncertain.
When I haddone eatingmy hosts approachedand pointed down thevalleyleading to their own countryas though wanting to show thatI must gowith them; at the same time they laid hold of my armsand madeas though they would take mebut used no violence. Ilaughedand motioned my hand across my throatpointing down thevalley asthough I was afraid lest I should be killed when I gotthere. But they divined me at onceand shook their heads withmuchdecisionto show that I was in no danger. Their manner quitereassuredme; and in half an hour or so I had packed up my swagand waseager for the forward journeyfeeling wonderfullystrengthenedand refreshed by good food and sleepwhile my hopeandcuriosity were aroused to their very utmost by theextraordinaryposition in which I found myself.
Butalready my excitement had begun to cool and I reflected thatthesepeople might not be the ten tribes after all; in which case Icould notbut regret that my hopes of making moneywhich had ledme into somuch trouble and dangerwere almost annihilated by thefact thatthe country was full to overflowingwith a people whohadprobably already developed its more available resources.Moreoverhow was I to get back? For there was something about myhostswhich told me that they had got meand meant to keep meinspite ofall their goodness.
Wefollowed an Alpine path for some four milesnow hundreds offeet abovea brawling stream which descended from the glaciersandnow nearlyalongside it. The morning was cold and somewhat foggyfor theautumn had made great strides latterly. Sometimes we wentthroughforests of pineor rather yew treesthough they lookedlike pine;and I remember that now and again we passed a littlewaysideshrinewherein there would be a statue of great beautyrepresentingsome figuremale or femalein the very heyday ofyouthstrengthand beautyor of the most dignified maturity andold age. My hosts always bowed their heads as they passed one oftheseshrinesand it shocked me to see statues that had noapparentobjectbeyond the chronicling of some unusual individualexcellenceor beautyreceive so serious a homage. HoweverIshowed nosign of wonder or disapproval; for I remembered that tobe allthings to all men was one of the injunctions of the GentileApostlewhich for the present I should do well to heed. Shortlyafterpassing one of these chapels we came suddenly upon a villagewhichstarted up out of the mist; and I was alarmed lest I shouldbe made anobject of curiosity or dislike. But it was not so. Myguidesspoke to many in passingand those spoken to showed muchamazement. My guideshoweverwere well knownand the naturalpolitenessof the people prevented them from putting me to anyinconvenience;but they could not help eyeing menor I them. Imay aswell say at once what my after-experience taught me--namelythat withall their faults and extraordinary obliquity of mentalvisionupon many subjectsthey are the very best-bred people thatI everfell in with.
Thevillage was just like the one we had leftonly rather larger.Thestreets were narrow and unpavedbut very fairly clean. Thevine grewoutside many of the houses; and there were some withsign-boardson which was painted a bottle and a glassthat mademe feelmuch at home. Even on this ledge of human society therewas astunted growth of shopletswhich had taken root andvegetatedsomehowthough as in an air mercantile of the bleakest.It washere as hitherto: all things were generically the same asin Europethe differences being of species only; and I was amusedat seeingin a window some bottles with barley-sugar and sweetmeatsforchildrenas at home; but the barley-sugar was in platesnotin twistedsticksand was coloured blue. Glass was plentiful inthe betterhouses.
LastlyIshould say that the people were of a physical beautywhich wassimply amazing. I never saw anything in the leastcomparableto them. The women were vigorousand had a mostmajesticgaittheir heads being set upon their shoulders with agracebeyond all power of expression. Each feature was finishedeyelidseyelashesand ears being almost invariably perfect.Theircolour was equal to that of the finest Italian paintings;being ofthe clearest oliveand yet ruddy with a glow of perfecthealth. Their expression was divine; and as they glanced at metimidlybut with parted lips in great bewildermentI forgot allthoughtsof their conversion in feelings that were far moreearthly. I was dazzled as I saw one after the otherof whom Icould onlyfeel that each was the loveliest I had ever seen. Evenin middleage they were still comelyand the old grey-haired womenat theircottage doors had a dignitynot to say majestyof theirown.
The menwere as handsome as the women beautiful. I have alwaysdelightedin and reverenced beauty; but I felt simply abashed inthepresence of such a splendid type--a compound of all that isbest inEgyptianGreek and Italian. The children were infinite innumberand exceedingly merry; I need hardly say that they came infor theirfull share of the prevailing beauty. I expressed bysigns myadmiration and pleasure to my guidesand they weregreatlypleased. I should add that all seemed to take a pride intheirpersonal appearanceand that even the poorest (and noneseemedrich) were well kempt and tidy. I could fill many pageswith adescription of their dress and the ornaments which theyworeanda hundred details which struck me with all the force ofnovelty;but I must not stay to do so.
When wehad got past the village the fog roseand revealedmagnificentviews of the snowy mountains and their nearerabutmentswhile in front I could now and again catch glimpses ofthe greatplains which I had surveyed on the preceding evening.Thecountry was highly cultivatedevery ledge being planted withchestnutswalnutsand apple-trees from which the apples were nowgathering. Goats were abundant; also a kind of small black cattlein themarshes near the riverwhich was now fast wideningandrunningbetween larger flats from which the hills receded more andmore. I saw a few sheep with rounded noses and enormous tails.Dogs werethere in plentyand very English; but I saw no catsnorindeed arethese creatures knowntheir place being supplied by asort ofsmall terrier.
In aboutfour hours of walking from the time we startedand afterpassingtwo or three more villageswe came upon a considerabletownandmy guides made many attempts to make me understandsomethingbut I gathered no inkling of their meaningexcept thatI need beunder no apprehension of danger. I will spare the readeranydescription of the townand would only bid him think ofDomodossolaor Faido. Suffice it that I found myself taken beforethe chiefmagistrateand by his orders was placed in an apartmentwith twoother peoplewho were the first I had seen lookinganythingbut well and handsome. In factone of them was plainlyvery muchout of healthand coughed violently from time to time inspite ofmanifest efforts to suppress it. The other looked paleand illbut he was marvellously self-containedand it wasimpossibleto say what was the matter with him. Both of themappearedastonished at seeing one who was evidently a strangerbutthey weretoo ill to come up to meand form conclusions concerningme. These two were first called out; and in about a quarter of anhour I wasmade to follow themwhich I did in some fearand withmuchcuriosity.
The chiefmagistrate was a venerable-looking manwith white hairand beardand a face of great sagacity. He looked me all over forabout fiveminutesletting his eyes wander from the crown of myhead tothe soles of my feetup and downand down and up; neitherdid hismind seem in the least clearer when he had done lookingthan whenhe began. He at length asked me a single short questionwhich Isupposed meant "Who are you?" I answered in Englishquitecomposedlyas though he would understand meand endeavoured to bemy verymost natural self as well as I could. He appeared more andmorepuzzledand then retiredreturning with two others much likehimself. Then they took me into an inner roomand the two fresharrivalsstripped mewhile the chief looked on. They felt mypulsethey looked at my tonguethey listened at my chesttheyfelt allmy muscles; and at the end of each operation they lookedat thechief and noddedand said something in a tone quitepleasantas though I were all right. They even pulled down myeyelidsand lookedI supposeto see if they were bloodshot; butit was notso. At length they gave up; and I think that all weresatisfiedof my being in the most perfect healthand very robustto boot. At last the old magistrate made me a speech of about fiveminuteslongwhich the other two appeared to think greatly to thepointbutfrom which I gathered nothing. As soon as it was endedtheyproceeded to overhaul my swag and the contents of my pockets.This gaveme little uneasinessfor I had no money with menoranythingwhich they were at all likely to wantor which I caredaboutlosing. At least I fancied sobut I soon found my mistake.
They goton comfortably at firstthough they were much puzzledwith mytobacco-pipe and insisted on seeing me use it. When I hadshown themwhat I did with itthey were astonished but notdispleasedand seemed to like the smell. But by and by they cameto mywatchwhich I had hidden away in the inmost pocket that Ihadandhad forgotten when they began their search. They seemedconcernedand uneasy as soon as they got hold of it. They thenmade meopen it and show the works; and when I had done so theygave signsof very grave displeasurewhich disturbed me all themorebecause I could not conceive wherein it could have offendedthem.
I rememberthat when they first found it I had thought of Paleyand how hetells us that a savage on seeing a watch would at onceconcludethat it was designed. Truethese people were notsavagesbut I none the less felt sure that this was the conclusionthey wouldarrive at; and I was thinking what a wonderfully wisemanArchbishop Paley must have beenwhen I was aroused by a lookof horrorand dismay upon the face of the magistratea look whichconveyedto me the impression that he regarded my watch not ashavingbeen designedbut rather as the designer of himself and oftheuniverse; or as at any rate one of the great first causes ofallthings.
Then itstruck me that this view was quite as likely to be taken asthe otherby a people who had no experience of Europeancivilisationand I was a little piqued with Paley for having ledme so muchastray; but I soon discovered that I had misinterpretedtheexpression on the magistrate's faceand that it was one not offearbuthatred. He spoke to me solemnly and sternly for two orthreeminutes. Thenreflecting that this was of no usehe causedme to beconducted through several passages into a large roomwhich Iafterwards found was the museum of the townand wherein Ibeheld asight which astonished me more than anything that I hadyet seen.
It wasfilled with cases containing all manner of curiosities--suchasskeletonsstuffed birds and animalscarvings in stone (whereofI sawseveral that were like those on the saddleonly smaller)but thegreater part of the room was occupied by broken machineryof alldescriptions. The larger specimens had a case tothemselvesand tickets with writing on them in a character which Icould notunderstand. There were fragments of steam enginesallbroken andrusted; among them I saw a cylinder and pistona brokenfly-wheeland part of a crankwhich was laid on the ground bytheirside. Againthere was a very old carriage whose wheels inspite ofrust and decayI could seehad been designed originallyfor ironrails. Indeedthere were fragments of a great many ofour ownmost advanced inventions; but they seemed all to be severalhundredyears oldand to be placed where they werenot forinstructionbut curiosity. As I said beforeall were marred andbroken.
We passedmany casesand at last came to one in which there wereseveralclocks and two or three old watches. Here the magistratestoppedand opening the case began comparing my watch with theothers. The design was differentbut the thing was clearly thesame. On this he turned to me and made me a speech in a severe andinjuredtone of voicepointing repeatedly to the watches in thecaseandto my own; neither did he seem in the least appeaseduntil Imade signs to him that he had better take my watch and putit withthe others. This had some effect in calming him. I saidin English(trusting to tone and manner to convey my meaning) thatI wasexceedingly sorry if I had been found to have anythingcontrabandin my possession; that I had had no intention of evadingtheordinary tollsand that I would gladly forfeit the watch if mydoing sowould atone for an unintentional violation of the law. Hebeganpresently to relentand spoke to me in a kinder manner. Ithink hesaw that I had offended without knowledge; but I believethe chiefthing that brought him round was my not seeming to beafraid ofhimalthough I was quite respectful; thisand my havinglight hairand complexionon which he had remarked previously bysignsasevery one else had done.
Iafterwards found that it was reckoned a very great merit to havefair hairthis being a thing of the rarest possible occurrenceandgreatly admired and envied in all who were possessed of it.Howeverthat might bemy watch was taken from me; but our peacewas madeand I was conducted back to the room where I had beenexamined. The magistrate then made me another speechwhereon Iwas takento a building hard bywhich I soon discovered to be thecommonprison of the townbut in which an apartment was assignedmeseparate from the other prisoners. The room contained a bedtableandchairsalso a fireplace and a washing-stand. There wasanotherdoorwhich opened on to a balconywith a flight of stepsdescendinginto a walled garden of some size. The man whoconductedme into this room made signs to me that I might go downand walkin the garden whenever I pleasedand intimated that Ishouldshortly have something brought me to eat. I was allowed toretain myblanketsand the few things which I had wrapped insidethembutit was plain that I was to consider myself a prisoner--for howlong a period I could not by any means determine. He thenleft mealone.
And nowfor the first time my courage completely failed me. It isenough tosay that I was pennilessand a prisoner in a foreigncountrywhere I had no friendnor any knowledge of the customs orlanguageof the people. I was at the mercy of men with whom I hadlittle incommon. And yetengrossed as I was with my extremelydifficultand doubtful positionI could not help feeling deeplyinterestedin the people among whom I had fallen. What was themeaning ofthat room full of old machinery which I had just seenand of thedispleasure with which the magistrate had regarded mywatch? The people had very little machinery now. I had beenstruckwith this over and over againthough I had not been morethanfour-and-twenty hours in the country. They were about as faradvancedas Europeans of the twelfth or thirteenth century;certainlynot more so. And yet they must have had at one time thefullestknowledge of our own most recent inventions. How could ithavehappened that having been once so far in advance they were nowas muchbehind us? It was evident that it was not from ignorance.They knewmy watch as a watch when they saw it; and the care withwhich thebroken machines were preserved and ticketedproved thatthey hadnot lost the recollection of their former civilisation.The more Ithoughtthe less I could understand it; but at last Iconcludedthat they must have worked out their mines of coal andirontilleither none were leftor so fewthat the use of thesemetals wasrestricted to the very highest nobility. This was theonlysolution I could think of; andthough I afterwards found howentirelymistaken it wasI felt quite sure then that it must bethe rightone.
I hadhardly arrived at this opinion for above four or fiveminuteswhen the door openedand a young woman made herappearancewith a trayand a very appetising smell of dinner. Igazed uponher with admiration as she laid a cloth and set asavoury-lookingdish upon the table. As I beheld her I felt asthough myposition was already much amelioratedfor the very sightof hercarried great comfort. She was not more than twentyratherabove themiddle heightactive and strongbut yet most delicatelyfeatured;her lips were full and sweet; her eyes were of a deephazelandfringed with long and springing eyelashes; her hair wasneatlybraided from off her forehead; her complexion was simplyexquisite;her figure as robust as was consistent with the mostperfectfemale beautyyet not more so; her hands and feet mighthaveserved as models to a sculptor. Having set the stew upon thetablesheretired with a glance of pitywhereon (rememberingpity'skinsman) I decided that she should pity me a little more.Shereturned with a bottle and a glassand found me sitting on thebed withmy hands over my facelooking the very picture of abjectmiseryandlike all picturesrather untruthful. As I watchedherthrough my fingersout of the room againI felt sure thatshe wasexceedingly sorry for me. Her back being turnedI set towork andate my dinnerwhich was excellent.
Shereturned in about an hour to take away; and there came with hera man whohad a great bunch of keys at his waistand whose mannerconvincedme that he was the jailor. I afterwards found that hewas fatherto the beautiful creature who had brought me my dinner.I am not amuch greater hypocrite than other peopleand do what IwouldIcould not look so very miserable. I had already recoveredfrom mydejectionand felt in a most genial humour both with myjailor andhis daughter. I thanked them for their attentiontowardsme; andthough they could not understandthey looked atoneanother and laughed and chattered till the old man saidsomethingor other which I suppose was a joke; for the girl laughedmerrilyand ran awayleaving her father to take away the dinnerthings. Then I had another visitorwho was not so prepossessingand whoseemed to have a great idea of himself and a small one ofme. He brought a book with himand pens and paper--all veryEnglish;and yetneither papernor printingnor bindingnorpennorinkwere quite the same as ours.
He gave meto understand that he was to teach me the language andthat wewere to begin at once. This delighted meboth because Ishould bemore comfortable when I could understand and make myselfunderstoodand because I supposed that the authorities wouldhardlyteach me the language if they intended any cruel usagetowards meafterwards. We began at onceand I learnt the names ofeverythingin the roomand also the numerals and personalpronouns. I found to my sorrow that the resemblance to Europeanthingswhich I had so frequently observed hithertodid not holdgood inthe matter of language; for I could detect no analogywhateverbetween this and any tongue of which I have the slightestknowledge--athing which made me think it possible that I might belearningHebrew.
I mustdetail no longer; from this time my days were spent with amonotonywhich would have been tedious but for the society of Yramthejailor's daughterwho had taken a great fancy for me andtreated mewith the utmost kindness. The man came every day toteach methe languagebut my real dictionary and grammar wereYram; andI consulted them to such purpose that I made the mostextraordinaryprogressbeing able at the end of a month tounderstanda great deal of the conversation which I overheardbetweenYram and her father. My teacher professed himself wellsatisfiedand said he should make a favourable report of me to theauthorities. I then questioned him as to what would probably bedone withme. He told me that my arrival had caused greatexcitementthroughout the countryand that I was to be detained acloseprisoner until the receipt of advices from the Government.My havinghad a watchhe saidwas the only damaging feature inthe case. And thenin answer to my asking why this should be sohe gave mea long story of which with my imperfect knowledge of thelanguage Icould make nothing whateverexcept that it was a veryheinousoffencealmost as bad (at leastso I thought I understoodhim) ashaving typhus fever. But he said he thought my light hairwould saveme.
I wasallowed to walk in the garden; there was a high wall so thatI managedto play a sort of hand fiveswhich prevented my feelingthe badeffects of my confinementthough it was stupid workplayingalone. In the course of time people from the town andneighbourhoodbegan to pester the jailor to be allowed to see meand onreceiving handsome fees he let them do so. The people weregood tome; almost too goodfor they were inclined to make a lionof mewhich I hated--at least the women were; only they had tobeware ofYramwho was a young lady of a jealous temperamentandkept asharp eye both on me and on my lady visitors. HoweverIfelt sokindly towards herand was so entirely dependent upon herfor almostall that made my life a blessing and a comfort to methat Itook good care not to vex herand we remained excellentfriends. The men were far less inquisitiveand would notIbelievehave come near me of their own accord; but the women madethem comeas escorts. I was delighted with their handsome mienandpleasant genial manners.
My foodwas plainbut always varied and wholesomeand the goodred winewas admirable. I had found a sort of wort in the gardenwhich Isweated in heaps and then driedobtaining thus asubstitutefor tobacco; so that what with Yramthe languagevisitorsfives in the gardensmokingand bedmy time slipped bymorerapidly and pleasantly than might have been expected. I alsomademyself a small flute; and being a tolerable playeramusedmyself attimes with playing snatches from operasand airs such as"Owhere and oh where" and "Homesweet home." This was of greatadvantageto mefor the people of the country were ignorant of thediatonicscale and could hardly believe their ears on hearing someof ourmost common melodies. Oftentoothey would make me sing;and Icould at any time make Yram's eyes swim with tears by singing"Wilkinsand his Dinah" "Billy Taylor" "The Ratcatcher'sDaughter"or as much of them as I could remember.
I had oneor two discussions with them because I never would singon Sunday(of which I kept count in my pocket-book)except chantsand hymntunes; of these I regret to say that I had forgotten thewordssothat I could only sing the tune. They appeared to havelittle orno religious feelingand to have never so much as heardof thedivine institution of the Sabbathso they ascribed myobservanceof it to a fit of sulkinesswhich they remarked ascomingover me upon every seventh day. But they were verytolerantand one of them said to me quite kindly that she knew howimpossibleit was to help being sulky at timesonly she thought Iought tosee some one if it became more serious--a piece of advicewhich Ithen failed to understandthough I pretended to take itquite as amatter of course.
Once onlydid Yram treat me in a way that was unkind andunreasonable--atleast so I thought it at the time. It happenedthus. I had been playing fives in the garden and got much heated.Althoughthe day was coldfor autumn was now advancingand ColdHarbour(as the name of the town in which my prison was should betranslated)stood fully 3000 feet above the seaI had playedwithout mycoat and waistcoatand took a sharp chill on restingmyself toolong in the open air without protection. The next day Ihad asevere cold and felt really poorly. Being little used evento thelightest ailmentsand thinking that it would be rather niceto bepetted and cossetted by YramI certainly did not make myselfout to beany better than I was; in factI remember that I madethe worstof thingsand took it into my head to consider myselfupon thesick list. When Yram brought me my breakfast I complainedsomewhatdolefully of my indispositionexpecting the sympathy andhumouringwhich I should have received from my mother and sistersat home. Not a bit of it. She fired up in an instantand askedme what Imeant by itand how I dared to presume to mention such athingespecially when I considered in what place I was. She hadthe bestmind to tell her fatheronly that she was afraid theconsequenceswould be so very serious for me. Her manner was soinjuredand decidedand her anger so evidently unfeignedthat Iforgot mycold upon the spotbegging her by all means to tell herfather ifshe wished to do soand telling her that I had no ideaof beingshielded by her from anything whatever; presentlymollifyingafter having said as many biting things as I couldIasked herwhat it was that I had done amissand promised amendmentas soon asever I became aware of it. She saw that I was reallyignorantand had had no intention of being rude to her; whereon itcame outthat illness of any sort was considered in Erewhon to behighlycriminal and immoral; and that I was liableeven forcatchingcoldto be had up before the magistrates and imprisonedfor aconsiderable period--an announcement which struck me dumbwithastonishment.
I followedup the conversation as well as my imperfect knowledge ofthelanguage would allowand caught a glimmering of her positionwithregard to ill-health; but I did not even then fully comprehenditnorhad I as yet any idea of the other extraordinaryperversionsof thought which existed among the Erewhoniansbutwith whichI was soon to become familiar. I proposethereforetomake nomention of what passed between us on this occasionsavethat wewere reconciledand that she brought me surreptitiously ahot glassof spirits and water before I went to bedas also a pileof extrablanketsand that next morning I was quite well. I neverrememberto have lost a cold so rapidly.
Thislittle affair explained much which had hitherto puzzled me.It seemedthat the two men who were examined before the magistrateson the dayof my arrival in the countryhad been given in chargeon accountof ill healthand were both condemned to a long term ofimprisonmentwith hard labour; they were now expiating theiroffence inthis very prisonand their exercise ground was a yardseparatedby my fives wall from the garden in which I walked. Thisaccountedfor the sounds of coughing and groaning which I had oftennoticed ascoming from the other side of the wall: it was highand I hadnot dared to climb it for fear the jailor should see meand thinkthat I was trying to escape; but I had often wonderedwhat sortof people they could be on the other sideand hadresolvedon asking the jailor; but I seldom saw himand Yram and Igenerallyfound other things to talk about.
Anothermonth flew byduring which I made such progress in thelanguagethat I could understand all that was said to meandexpressmyself with tolerable fluency. My instructor professed tobeastonished with the progress I had made; I was careful toattributeit to the pains he had taken with me and to his admirablemethod ofexplaining my difficultiesso we became excellentfriends.
Myvisitors became more and more frequent. Among them there weresomebothmen and womenwho delighted me entirely by theirsimplicityunconsciousness of selfkindly genial mannersandlastbutnot leastby their exquisite beauty; there came otherslesswell-bredbut still comely and agreeable peoplewhile somewere snobspure and simple.
At the endof the third month the jailor and my instructor cametogetherto visit me and told me that communications had beenreceivedfrom the Government to the effect that if I had behavedwell andseemed generally reasonableand if there could be nosuspicionat all about my bodily health and vigourand if my hairwas reallylightand my eyes blue and complexion freshI was tobe sent upat once to the metropolis in order that the King andQueenmight see me and converse with me; but that when I arrivedthere Ishould be set at libertyand a suitable allowance would bemade me. My teacher also told me that one of the leading merchantshad sentme an invitation to repair to his house and to considermyself hisguest for as long a time as I chose. "He is adelightfulman" continued the interpreter"but has sufferedterriblyfrom" (here there came a long word which I could not quitecatchonly it was much longer than kleptomania)"and has butlatelyrecovered from embezzling a large sum of money undersingularlydistressing circumstances; but he has quite got over itand thestraighteners say that he has made a really wonderfulrecovery;you are sure to like him."
TO THE METROPOLIS
With theabove words the good man left the room before I had timeto expressmy astonishment at hearing such extraordinary languagefrom thelips of one who seemed to be a reputable member ofsociety. "Embezzle a large sum of money under singularlydistressingcircumstances!" I exclaimed to myself"and ask ME togo andstay with him! I shall do nothing of the sort--compromisemyself atthe very outset in the eyes of all decent peopleandgive thedeath-blow to my chances of either converting them if theyare thelost tribes of Israelor making money out of them if theyare not! No. I will do anything rather than that." And when Inext sawmy teacher I told him that I did not at all like the soundof whathad been proposed for meand that I would have nothing todo withit. For by my education and the example of my own parentsand Itrust also in some degree from inborn instinctI have a verygenuinedislike for all unhandsome dealings in money mattersthoughnone can have a greater regard for money than I haveif itbe gotfairly.
Theinterpreter was much surprised by my answerand said that Ishould bevery foolish if I persisted in my refusal.
Mr.Nosniborhe continued"is a man of at least 500000 horse-power"(for their way of reckoning and classifying men is by thenumber offoot pounds which they have money enough to raiseormoreroughly by their horse-power)"and keeps a capital table;besideshis two daughters are among the most beautiful women inErewhon."
When Iheard all thisI confess that I was much shakenandinquiredwhether he was favourably considered in the best society.
"Certainly"was the answer; "no man in the country stands higher."
He thenwent on to say that one would have thought from my mannerthat myproposed host had had jaundice or pleurisy or beengenerallyunfortunateand that I was in fear of infection.
"I amnot much afraid of infection" said Iimpatiently"but Ihave someregard for my character; and if I know a man to be anembezzlerof other people's moneybe sure of itI will give himas wide aberth as I can. If he were ill or poor--"
"Illor poor!" interrupted the interpreterwith a face of greatalarm. "So that's your notion of propriety! You would consortwith thebasest criminalsand yet deem simple embezzlement a bartofriendly intercourse. I cannot understand you."
"ButI am poor myself" cried I.
"Youwere" said he; "and you were liable to be severelypunishedforit--indeedat the council which was held concerning youthisfact wasvery nearly consigning you to what I should myselfconsider awell-deserved chastisement" (for he was getting angryand so wasI); "but the Queen was so inquisitiveand wanted somuch tosee youthat she petitioned the King and made him give youhispardonand assign you a pension in consideration of yourmeritoriouscomplexion. It is lucky for you that he has not heardwhat youhave been saying nowor he would be sure to cancel it."
As I heardthese words my heart sank within me. I felt the extremedifficultyof my positionand how wicked I should be in runningcounter toestablished usage. I remained silent for severalminutesand then said that I should be happy to accept theembezzler'sinvitation--on which my instructor brightened and saidI was asensible fellow. But I felt very uncomfortable. When hehad leftthe roomI mused over the conversation which had justtakenplace between usbut I could make nothing out of itexceptthat itargued an even greater perversity of mental vision than Ihad beenyet prepared for. And this made me wretched; for I cannotbearhaving much to do with people who think differently frommyself. All sorts of wandering thoughts kept coming into my head.I thoughtof my master's hutand my seat upon the mountain sidewhere Ihad first conceived the insane idea of exploring. Whatyears andyears seemed to have passed since I had begun my journey!
I thoughtof my adventures in the gorgeand on the journey hitherand ofChowbok. I wondered what Chowbok told them about me when hegotback--he had done well in going backChowbok had. He was nothandsome--nayhe was hideous; and it would have gone hardly withhim. Twilight drew onand rain pattered against the windows.Never yethad I felt so unhappyexcept during three days of sea-sicknessat the beginning of my voyage from England. I sat musingand ingreat melancholyuntil Yram made her appearance with lightandsupper. She toopoor girlwas miserable; for she had heardthat I wasto leave them. She had made up her mind that I was toremainalways in the towneven after my imprisonment was over; andI fancyhad resolved to marry me though I had never so much ashinted ather doing so. So what with the distressingly strangeconversationwith my teachermy own friendless conditionandYram'smelancholyI felt more unhappy than I can describeandremainedso till I got to bedand sleep sealed my eyelids.
On awakingnext morning I was much better. It was settled that Iwas tomake my start in a conveyance which was to be in waiting forme atabout eleven o'clock; and the anticipation of change put mein goodspiritswhich even the tearful face of Yram could hardlyaltogetherderange. I kissed her again and againassured her thatwe shouldmeet hereafterand that in the meanwhile I should beevermindful of her kindness. I gave her two of the buttons off mycoat and alock of my hair as a keepsaketaking a goodly curl fromher ownbeautiful head in return: and sohaving said good-bye ahundredtimestill I was fairly overcome with her great sweetnessand hersorrowI tore myself away from her and got down-stairs tothecaleche which was in waiting. How thankful I was when it wasall overand I was driven away and out of sight. Would that Icould havefelt that it was out of mind also! Pray heaven that itis so nowand that she is married happily among her own peopleand hasforgotten me!
And nowbegan a long and tedious journey with which I should hardlytroublethe reader if I could. He is safehoweverfor the simplereasonthat I was blindfolded during the greater part of the time.A bandagewas put upon my eyes every morningand was only removedat nightwhen I reached the inn at which we were to pass the night.Wetravelled slowlyalthough the roads were good. We drove butone horsewhich took us our day's journey from morning tilleveningabout six hoursexclusive of two hours' rest in themiddle ofthe day. I do not suppose we made above thirty orthirty-fivemiles on an average. Each day we had a fresh horse.As I havesaid alreadyI could see nothing of the country. I onlyknow thatit was leveland that several times we had to crosslargerivers in ferry-boats. The inns were clean and comfortable.In one ortwo of the larger towns they were quite sumptuousandthe foodwas good and well cooked. The same wonderful health andgrace andbeauty prevailed everywhere.
I foundmyself an object of great interest; so much sothat thedrivertold me he had to keep our route secretand at times to goto placesthat were not directly on our roadin order to avoid thepress thatwould otherwise have awaited us. Every evening I had areceptionand grew heartily tired of having to say the same thingsover andover again in answer to the same questionsbut it wasimpossibleto be angry with people whose manners were sodelightful. They never once asked after my healthor even whetherI wasfatigued with my journey; but their first question was almostinvariablyan inquiry after my temperthe naivete of whichastonishedme till I became used to it. One daybeing tired andcoldandweary of saying the same thing over and over againIturned alittle brusquely on my questioner and said that I wasexceedinglycrossand that I could hardly feel in a worse humourwithmyself and every one else than at that moment. To mysurpriseI was met with the kindest expressions of condolenceandheard itbuzzed about the room that I was in an ill temper; whereonpeoplebegan to give me nice things to smell and to eatwhichreally didseem to have some temper-mending quality about themforI soonfelt pleased and was at once congratulated upon beingbetter. The next morning two or three people sent their servantsto thehotel with sweetmeatsand inquiries whether I had quiterecoveredfrom my ill humour. On receiving the good things I feltin half amind to be ill-tempered every evening; but I disliked thecondolencesand the inquiriesand found it most comfortable tokeep mynatural temperwhich is smooth enough generally.
Amongthose who came to visit me were some who had received aliberaleducation at the Colleges of Unreasonand taken thehighestdegrees in hypotheticswhich are their principal study.Thesegentlemen had now settled down to various employments in thecountryas straightenersmanagers and cashiers of the MusicalBankspriests of religionor what notand carrying theireducationwith them they diffused a leaven of culture throughoutthecountry. I naturally questioned them about many of the thingswhich hadpuzzled me since my arrival. I inquired what was theobject andmeaning of the statues which I had seen upon the plateauof thepass. I was told that they dated from a very remote periodand thatthere were several other such groups in the countrybutnone soremarkable as the one which I had seen. They had areligiousoriginhaving been designed to propitiate the gods ofdeformityand disease. In former times it had been the custom tomakeexpeditions over the rangesand capture the ugliest ofChowbok'sancestors whom they could findin order to sacrificethem inthe presence of these deitiesand thus avert ugliness anddiseasefrom the Erewhonians themselves. It had been whispered(but myinformant assured me untruly) that centuries ago they hadevenoffered up some of their own people who were ugly or out ofhealthinorder to make examples of them; these detestablecustomshoweverhad been long discontinued; neither was there anypresentobservance of the statues.
I had thecuriosity to inquire what would be done to any ofChowbok'stribe if they crossed over into Erewhon. I was told thatnobodyknewinasmuch as such a thing had not happened for ages.They wouldbe too ugly to be allowed to go at largebut not somuch so asto be criminally liable. Their offence in having comewould be amoral one; but they would be beyond the straightener'sart. Possibly they would be consigned to the Hospital forIncurableBoresand made to work at being bored for so many hoursa day bythe Erewhonian inhabitants of the hospitalwho areextremelyimpatient of one another's boredombut would soon die ifthey hadno one whom they might bore--in factthat they would bekept asprofessional borees. When I heard thisit occurred to methat somerumours of its substance might perhaps have becomecurrentamong Chowbok's people; for the agony of his fear had beentoo greatto have been inspired by the mere dread of being burntalivebefore the statues.
I alsoquestioned them about the museum of old machinesand thecause ofthe apparent retrogression in all artssciencesandinventions. I learnt that about four hundred years previouslythestate ofmechanical knowledge was far beyond our ownand wasadvancingwith prodigious rapidityuntil one of the most learnedprofessorsof hypothetics wrote an extraordinary book (from which Ipropose togive extracts later on)proving that the machines wereultimatelydestined to supplant the race of manand to becomeinstinctwith a vitality as different fromand superior tothatofanimalsas animal to vegetable life. So convincing was hisreasoningor unreasoningto this effectthat he carried thecountrywith him; and they made a clean sweep of all machinery thathad notbeen in use for more than two hundred and seventy-one years(whichperiod was arrived at after a series of compromises)andstrictlyforbade all further improvements and inventions under painof beingconsidered in the eye of the law to be labouring undertyphusfeverwhich they regard as one of the worst of all crimes.
This isthe only case in which they have confounded mental andphysicaldiseasesand they do it even here as by an avowed legalfiction. I became uneasy when I remembered about my watch; buttheycomforted me with the assurance that transgression in thismatter wasnow so unheard ofthat the law could afford to belenienttowards an utter strangerespecially towards one who hadsuch agood character (they meant physique)and such beautifullighthair. Moreover the watch was a real curiosityand would bea welcomeaddition to the metropolitan collection; so they did notthink Ineed let it trouble me seriously.
I willwritehowevermore fully upon this subject when I dealwith theColleges of Unreasonand the Book of the Machines.
In about amonth from the time of our starting I was told that ourjourneywas nearly over. The bandage was now dispensed withforit seemedimpossible that I should ever be able to find my way backwithoutbeing captured. Then we rolled merrily along through thestreets ofa handsome townand got on to a longbroadand levelroadwithpoplar trees on either side. The road was raisedslightlyabove the surrounding countryand had formerly been arailway;the fields on either side were in the highest conceivablecultivationbut the harvest and also the vintage had been alreadygathered. The weather had got cooler more rapidly than could bequiteaccounted for by the progress of the season; so I ratherthoughtthat we must have been making away from the sunand weresomedegrees farther from the equator than when we started. Evenhere thevegetation showed that the climate was a hot oneyetthere wasno lack of vigour among the people; on the contrarytheywere avery hardy raceand capable of great endurance. For thehundredthtime I thought thattake them all roundI had neverseen theirequals in respect of physiqueand they looked as good-natured asthey were robust. The flowers were for the most partoverbuttheir absence was in some measure compensated for by aprofusionof delicious fruitclosely resembling the figspeachesand pearsof Italy and France. I saw no wild animalsbut birdswereplentiful and much as in Europebut not tame as they had beenon theother side the ranges. They were shot at with the cross-bowand witharrowsgunpowder being unknownor at any rate not inuse.
We werenow nearing the metropolis and I could see great towers andfortificationsand lofty buildings that looked like palaces. Ibegan tobe nervous as to my reception; but I had got on very wellso farand resolved to continue upon the same plan as hitherto--namelytobehave just as though I were in England until I saw thatI wasmaking a blunderand then to say nothing till I could gatherhow theland lay. We drew nearer and nearer. The news of myapproachhad got abroadand there was a great crowd collected oneitherside the roadwho greeted me with marks of most respectfulcuriositykeeping me bowing constantly in acknowledgement fromside toside.
When wewere about a mile offwe were met by the Mayor and severalCouncillorsamong whom was a venerable old manwho was introducedto me bythe Mayor (for so I suppose I should call him) as thegentlemanwho had invited me to his house. I bowed deeply and toldhim howgrateful I felt to himand how gladly I would accept hishospitality. He forbade me to say moreand pointing to hiscarriagewhich was close at handhe motioned me to a seattherein. I again bowed profoundly to the Mayor and Councillorsand droveoff with my entertainerwhose name was Senoj Nosnibor.Afterabout half a mile the carriage turned off the main roadandwe droveunder the walls of the town till we reached a palazzo on aslighteminenceand just on the outskirts of the city. This wasSenojNosnibor's houseand nothing can be imagined finer. It wassituatednear the magnificent and venerable ruins of the oldrailwaystationwhich formed an imposing feature from the gardensof thehouse. The groundssome ten or a dozen acres in extentwere laidout in terraced gardensone above the otherwithflights ofbroad steps ascending and descending the declivity ofthegarden. On these steps there were statues of most exquisiteworkmanship. Besides the statues there were vases filled withvariousshrubs that were new to me; and on either side the flightsof stepsthere were rows of old cypresses and cedarswith grassyalleysbetween them. Then came choice vineyards and orchards offruit-treesin full bearing.
The houseitself was approached by a court-yardand round it was acorridoron to which rooms openedas at Pompeii. In the middle ofthe courtthere was a bath and a fountain. Having passed the courtwe came tothe main body of the housewhich was two stories inheight. The rooms were large and lofty; perhaps at first theylookedrather bare of furniturebut in hot climates peoplegenerallykeep their rooms more bare than they do in colder ones.I missedalso the sight of a grand piano or some similarinstrumentthere being no means of producing music in any of therooms savethe larger drawing-roomwhere there were half a dozenlargebronze gongswhich the ladies used occasionally to beatabout atrandom. It was not pleasant to hear thembut I haveheardquite as unpleasant music both before and since.
Mr.Nosnibor took me through several spacious rooms till we reacheda boudoirwhere were his wife and daughtersof whom I had heardfrom theinterpreter. Mrs. Nosnibor was about forty years oldandstillhandsomebut she had grown very stout: her daughters werein theprime of youth and exquisitely beautiful. I gave thepreferencealmost at once to the youngerwhose name was Arowhena;for theelder sister was haughtywhile the younger had a verywinningmanner. Mrs. Nosnibor received me with the perfection ofcourtesyso that I must have indeed been shy and nervous if I hadnot atonce felt welcome. Scarcely was the ceremony of myintroductionwell completed before a servant announced that dinnerwas readyin the next room. I was exceedingly hungryand thedinner wasbeyond all praise. Can the reader wonder that I begantoconsider myself in excellent quarters? "That man embezzlemoney?"thought I to myself; "impossible."
But Inoticed that my host was uneasy during the whole mealandthat heate nothing but a little bread and milk; towards the end ofdinnerthere came a tall lean man with a black beardto whom Mr.Nosniborand the whole family paid great attention: he was thefamilystraightener. With this gentleman Mr. Nosnibor retired intoanotherroomfrom which there presently proceeded a sound ofweepingand wailing. I could hardly believe my earsbut in a fewminutes Igot to know for a certainty that they came from Mr.Nosniborhimself.
"Poorpapa" said Arowhenaas she helped herself composedly to thesalt"howterribly he has suffered."
"Yes"answered her mother; "but I think he is quite out of dangernow."
Then theywent on to explain to me the circumstances of the caseand thetreatment which the straightener had prescribedand howsuccessfulhe had been--all which I will reserve for anotherchapterand put rather in the form of a general summary of theopinionscurrent upon these subjects than in the exact words inwhich thefacts were delivered to me; the readerhoweverisearnestlyrequested to believe that both in this next chapter andin thosethat follow it I have endeavoured to adhere mostconscientiouslyto the strictest accuracyand that I have neverwillinglymisrepresentedthough I may have sometimes failed tounderstandall the bearings of an opinion or custom.
This iswhat I gathered. That in that country if a man falls intoillhealthor catches any disorderor fails bodily in any waybefore heis seventy years oldhe is tried before a jury of hiscountrymenand if convicted is held up to public scorn andsentencedmore or less severely as the case may be. There aresubdivisionsof illnesses into crimes and misdemeanours as withoffencesamongst ourselves--a man being punished very heavily forseriousillnesswhile failure of eyes or hearing in one oversixty-fivewho has had good health hithertois dealt with by fineonlyorimprisonment in default of payment. But if a man forges achequeorsets his house on fireor robs with violence from thepersonordoes any other such things as are criminal in our owncountryhe is either taken to a hospital and most carefully tendedat thepublic expenseor if he is in good circumstanceshe letsit beknown to all his friends that he is suffering from a severefit ofimmoralityjust as we do when we are illand they come andvisit himwith great solicitudeand inquire with interest how itall cameaboutwhat symptoms first showed themselvesand soforth--questionswhich he will answer with perfect unreserve; forbadconductthough considered no less deplorable than illness withourselvesand as unquestionably indicating something seriouslywrong withthe individual who misbehavesis nevertheless held tobe theresult of either pre-natal or post-natal misfortune.
Thestrange part of the storyhoweveris that though they ascribemoraldefects to the effect of misfortune either in character orsurroundingsthey will not listen to the plea of misfortune incases thatin England meet with sympathy and commiseration only.Ill luckof any kindor even ill treatment at the hands of othersisconsidered an offence against societyinasmuch as it makespeopleuncomfortable to hear of it. Loss of fortunethereforeorloss ofsome dear friend on whom another was much dependentispunishedhardly less severely than physical delinquency.
Foreignindeedas such ideas are to our owntraces of somewhatsimilaropinions can be found even in nineteenth-century England.If aperson has an abscessthe medical man will say that itcontains"peccant" matterand people say that they have a "bad"arm orfingeror that they are very "bad" all overwhen theyonlymean"diseased." Among foreign nations Erewhonian opinionsmay bestill moreclearly noted. The Mahommedansfor exampleto thisdaysendtheir female prisoners to hospitalsand the New ZealandMaoriesvisit any misfortune with forcible entry into the house oftheoffenderand the breaking up and burning of all his goods.TheItaliansagainuse the same word for "disgrace" and"misfortune." I once heard an Italian lady speak of a young friendwhom shedescribed as endowed with every virtue under heaven"ma"sheexclaimed"povero disgraziatoha ammazzato suo zio." ("Poorunfortunatefellowhe has murdered his uncle.")
Onmentioning thiswhich I heard when taken to Italy as a boy bymy fatherthe person to whom I told it showed no surprise. Hesaid thathe had been driven for two or three years in a certaincity by ayoung Sicilian cabdriver of prepossessing manners andappearancebut then lost sight of him. On asking what had becomeof himhewas told that he was in prison for having shot at hisfatherwith intent to kill him--happily without serious result.Some yearslater my informant again found himself warmly accostedby theprepossessing young cabdriver. "Ahcaro signore" heexclaimed"sono cinque anni che non lo vedo--tre anni di militaree due annidi disgrazia" &c. ("My dear sirit is fiveyearssince Isaw you--three years of military serviceand two ofmisfortune")--duringwhich last the poor fellow had been in prison.Of moralsense he showed not so much as a trace. He and his fatherwere nowon excellent termsand were likely to remain so unlesseither ofthem should again have the misfortune mortally to offendthe other.
In thefollowing chapter I will give a few examples of the way inwhich whatwe should call misfortunehardshipor disease aredealt withby the Erewhoniansbut for the moment will return totheirtreatment of cases that with us are criminal. As I havealreadysaidthesethough not judicially punishablearerecognisedas requiring correction. Accordinglythere exists aclass ofmen trained in soul-craftwhom they call straightenersas nearlyas I can translate a word which literally means "one whobends backthe crooked." These men practise much as medical men inEnglandand receive a quasi-surreptitious fee on every visit.They aretreated with the same unreserveand obeyed as readilyasour owndoctors--that is to sayon the whole sufficiently--becausepeopleknow that it is their interest to get well as soon as theycanandthat they will not be scouted as they would be if theirbodieswere out of ordereven though they may have to undergo averypainful course of treatment.
When I saythat they will not be scoutedI do not mean that anErewhonianwill suffer no social inconvenience in consequencewewill sayof having committed fraud. Friends will fall away fromhimbecause of his being less pleasant companyjust as weourselvesare disinclined to make companions of those who areeitherpoor or poorly. No one with any sense of self-respect willplacehimself on an equality in the matter of affection with thosewho areless lucky than himself in birthhealthmoneygoodlookscapacityor anything else. Indeedthat dislike and evendisgustshould be felt by the fortunate for the unfortunateor atany ratefor those who have been discovered to have met with any ofthe moreserious and less familiar misfortunesis not onlynaturalbut desirable for any societywhether of man or brute.
The factthereforethat the Erewhonians attach none of that guiltto crimewhich they do to physical ailmentsdoes not prevent themoreselfish among them from neglecting a friend who has robbed abankforinstancetill he has fully recovered; but it doespreventthem from even thinking of treating criminals with thatcontemptuoustone which would seem to say"Iif I were youshould bea better man than you are" a tone which is held quitereasonablein regard to physical ailment. Hencethough theyconcealill health by every cunning and hypocrisy and artificewhich theycan devisethey are quite open about the most flagrantmentaldiseasesshould they happen to existwhich to do thepeoplejustice is not often. Indeedthere are some who areso tospeakspiritual valetudinariansand who make themselvesexceedinglyridiculous by their nervous supposition that they arewickedwhile they are very tolerable people all the time. Thishowever isexceptional; and on the whole they use much the samereserve orunreserve about the state of their moral welfare as wedo aboutour health.
Hence allthe ordinary greetings among ourselvessuch asHow doyou do?and the likeare considered signs of gross ill-breeding;nor do thepoliter classes tolerate even such a commoncomplimentaryremark as telling a man that he is looking well.Theysalute each other with"I hope you are good this morning;"or"Ihope you have recovered from the snappishness from which youweresuffering when I last saw you;" and if the person saluted hasnot beengoodor is still snappishhe says so at once and iscondoledwith accordingly. Indeedthe straighteners have gone sofar as togive names from the hypothetical language (as taught attheColleges of Unreason)to all known forms of mentalindispositionand to classify them according to a system of theirownwhichthough I could not understand itseemed to work wellinpractice; for they are always able to tell a man what is thematterwith him as soon as they have heard his storyand theirfamiliaritywith the long names assures him that they thoroughlyunderstandhis case.
The readerwill have no difficulty in believing that the lawsregardingill health were frequently evaded by the help ofrecognisedfictionswhich every one understoodbut which it wouldbeconsidered gross ill-breeding to even seem to understand. Thusa day ortwo after my arrival at the Nosnibors'one of the manyladies whocalled on me made excuses for her husband's only sendinghis cardon the ground that when going through the public market-place thatmorning he had stolen a pair of socks. I had alreadybeenwarned that I should never show surpriseso I merelyexpressedmy sympathyand said that though I had only been in thecapital soshort a timeI had already had a very narrow escapefromstealing a clothes-brushand that though I had resistedtemptationso farI was sadly afraid that if I saw any object ofspecialinterest that was neither too hot nor too heavyI shouldhave toput myself in the straightener's hands.
Mrs.Nosniborwho had been keeping an ear on all that I had beensayingpraised me when the lady had gone. Nothingshe saidcould havebeen more polite according to Erewhonian etiquette. Shethenexplained that to have stolen a pair of socksor "to have thesocks"(in more colloquial language)was a recognised way ofsayingthat the person in question was slightly indisposed.
In spiteof all this they have a keen sense of the enjoymentconsequentupon what they call being "well." They admire mentalhealth andlove it in other peopleand take all the pains they can(consistentlywith their other duties) to secure it for themselves.They havean extreme dislike to marrying into what they considerunhealthyfamilies. They send for the straightener at oncewheneverthey have been guilty of anything seriously flagitious--often evenif they think that they are on the point of committingit; andthough his remedies are sometimes exceedingly painfulinvolvingclose confinement for weeksand in some cases the mostcruelphysical torturesI never heard of a reasonable Erewhonianrefusingto do what his straightener told himany more than of areasonableEnglishman refusing to undergo even the most frightfuloperationif his doctors told him it was necessary.
We inEngland never shrink from telling our doctor what is thematterwith us merely through the fear that he will hurt us. Welet him dohis worst upon usand stand it without a murmurbecause weare not scouted for being illand because we know thatthe doctoris doing his best to cure usand that he can judge ofour casebetter than we can; but we should conceal all illness ifwe weretreated as the Erewhonians are when they have anything thematterwith them; we should do the same as with moral andintellectualdiseases--we should feign health with the mostconsummatearttill we were found outand should hate a singleflogginggiven in the way of mere punishment more than theamputationof a limbif it were kindly and courteously performedfrom awish to help us out of our difficultyand with the fullconsciousnesson the part of the doctor that it was only by anaccidentof constitution that he was not in the like plighthimself. So the Erewhonians take a flogging once a weekand adiet ofbread and water for two or three months togetherwhenevertheirstraightener recommends it.
I do notsuppose that even my hoston having swindled a confidingwidow outof the whole of her propertywas put to more actualsufferingthan a man will readily undergo at the hands of anEnglishdoctor. And yet he must have had a very bad time of it.The soundsI heard were sufficient to show that his pain wasexquisitebut he never shrank from undergoing it. He was quitesure thatit did him good; and I think he was right. I cannotbelievethat that man will ever embezzle money again. He may--butit will bea long time before he does so.
During myconfinement in prisonand on my journeyI had alreadydiscovereda great deal of the above; but it still seemedsurpassinglystrangeand I was in constant fear of committing somepiece ofrudenessthrough my inability to look at things from thesamestand-point as my neighbours; but after a few weeks' stay withtheNosniborsI got to understand things betterespecially onhavingheard all about my host's illnessof which he told me fullyandrepeatedly.
It seemedthat he had been on the Stock Exchange of the city formany yearsand had amassed enormous wealthwithout exceeding thelimits ofwhat was generally considered justifiableor at anyratepermissible dealing; but at length on several occasions hehad becomeaware of a desire to make money by fraudulentrepresentationsand had actually dealt with two or three sums in away whichhad made him rather uncomfortable. He had unfortunatelymade lightof it and pooh-poohed the ailmentuntil circumstanceseventuallypresented themselves which enabled him to cheat upon averyconsiderable scale;--he told me what they wereand they wereabout asbad as anything could bebut I need not detail them;--heseized theopportunityand became awarewhen it was too latethat hemust be seriously out of order. He had neglected himselftoo long.
He drovehome at oncebroke the news to his wife and daughters asgently ashe couldand sent off for one of the most celebratedstraightenersof the kingdom to a consultation with the familypractitionerfor the case was plainly serious. On the arrival ofthestraightener he told his storyand expressed his fear that hismoralsmust be permanently impaired.
Theeminent man reassured him with a few cheering wordsand thenproceededto make a more careful diagnosis of the case. Heinquiredconcerning Mr. Nosnibor's parents--had their moral healthbeengood? He was answered that there had not been anythingseriouslyamiss with thembut that his maternal grandfatherwhomhe wassupposed to resemble somewhat in personhad been aconsummatescoundrel and had ended his days in a hospital--while abrother ofhis father'safter having led a most flagitious lifefor manyyearshad been at last cured by a philosopher of a newschoolwhich as far as I could understand it bore much the samerelationto the old as homoeopathy to allopathy. The straightenershook hishead at thisand laughingly replied that the cure musthave beendue to nature. After a few more questions he wrote aprescriptionand departed.
I saw theprescription. It ordered a fine to the State of doublethe moneyembezzled; no food but bread and milk for six monthsanda severeflogging once a month for twelve. I was surprised to seethat nopart of the fine was to be paid to the poor woman whosemoney hadbeen embezzledbut on inquiry I learned that she wouldhave beenprosecuted in the Misplaced Confidence Courtif she hadnotescaped its clutches by dying shortly after she had discoveredher loss.
As for Mr.Nosniborhe had received his eleventh flogging on theday of myarrival. I saw him later on the same afternoonand hewas stilltwinged; but there had been no escape from following outthestraightener's prescriptionfor the so-called sanitary laws ofErewhonare very rigorousand unless the straightener wassatisfiedthat his orders had been obeyedthe patient would havebeen takento a hospital (as the poor are)and would have beenmuch worseoff. Such at least is the lawbut it is nevernecessaryto enforce it.
On asubsequent occasion I was present at an interview between Mr.Nosniborand the family straightenerwho was considered competentto watchthe completion of the cure. I was struck with thedelicacywith which he avoided even the remotest semblance ofinquiryafter the physical well-being of his patientthough therewas acertain yellowness about my host's eyes which argued abilioushabit of body. To have taken notice of this would havebeen agross breach of professional etiquette. I was toldhoweverthat a straightener sometimes thinks it right to glance atthepossibility of some slight physical disorder if he finds itimportantin order to assist him in his diagnosis; but the answerswhich hegets are generally untrue or evasiveand he forms his ownconclusionsupon the matter as well as he can. Sensible men havebeen knownto say that the straightener should in strict confidencebe told ofevery physical ailment that is likely to bear upon thecase; butpeople are naturally shy of doing thisfor they do notlikelowering themselves in the opinion of the straightenerandhisignorance of medical science is supreme. I heard of one ladyindeedwho had the hardihood to confess that a furious outbreak ofill-humourand extravagant fancies for which she was seeking advicewaspossibly the result of indisposition. "You should resistthat"said the straightenerin a kindbut grave voice; "we cando nothingfor the bodies of our patients; such matters are beyondourprovinceand I desire that I may hear no further particulars."The ladyburst into tearsand promised faithfully that she wouldnever beunwell again.
But toreturn to Mr. Nosnibor. As the afternoon wore on manycarriagesdrove up with callers to inquire how he had stood hisflogging. It had been very severebut the kind inquiries uponevery sidegave him great pleasureand he assured me that he feltalmosttempted to do wrong again by the solicitude with which hisfriendshad treated him during his recovery: in this I need hardlysay thathe was not serious.
During theremainder of my stay in the country Mr. Nosnibor wasconstantlyattentive to his businessand largely increased hisalreadygreat possessions; but I never heard a whisper to theeffect ofhis having been indisposed a second timeor made moneyby otherthan the most strictly honourable means. I did hearafterwardsin confidence that there had been reason to believe thathis healthhad been not a little affected by the straightener'streatmentbut his friends did not choose to be over-curious uponthesubjectand on his return to his affairs it was by commonconsentpassed over as hardly criminal in one who was otherwise somuchafflicted. For they regard bodily ailments as the more venialinproportion as they have been produced by causes independent oftheconstitution. Thus if a person ruin his health by excessiveindulgenceat the table or by drinkingthey count it to be almosta part ofthe mental disease which brought it aboutand so it goesforlittlebut they have no mercy on such illnesses as fevers orcatarrhsor lung diseaseswhich to us appear to be beyond thecontrol ofthe individual. They are only more lenient towards thediseasesof the young--such as measleswhich they think to be likesowingone's wild oats--and look over them as pardonableindiscretionsif they have not been too seriousand if they areatoned forby complete subsequent recovery.
It ishardly necessary to say that the office of straightener isone whichrequires long and special training. It stands to reasonthat hewho would cure a moral ailment must be practicallyacquaintedwith it in all its bearings. The student for theprofessionof straightener is required to set apart certain seasonsfor thepractice of each vice in turnas a religious duty. Theseseasonsare called "fasts" and are continued by the student untilhe findsthat he really can subdue all the more usual vices in hisownpersonand hence can advise his patients from the results ofhis ownexperience.
Those whointend to be specialistsrather than generalpractitionersdevote themselves more particularly to the branch inwhichtheir practice will mainly lie. Some students have beenobliged tocontinue their exercises during their whole livesandsomedevoted men have actually died as martyrs to the drinkorgluttonyor whatever branch of vice they may have chosen for theirespecialstudy. The greater numberhowevertake no harm by theexcursionsinto the various departments of vice which it isincumbentupon them to study.
For theErewhonians hold that unalloyed virtue is not a thing to beimmoderatelyindulged in. I was shown more than one case in whichthe realor supposed virtues of parents were visited upon thechildrento the third and fourth generation. The straighteners saythat themost that can be truly said for virtue is that there is aconsiderablebalance in its favourand that it is on the whole agood dealbetter to be on its side than against it; but they urgethat thereis much pseudo-virtue going aboutwhich is apt to letpeople invery badly before they find it out. Those menthey sayare bestwho are not remarkable either for vice or virtue. I toldthem aboutHogarth's idle and industrious apprenticesbut they didnot seemto think that the industrious apprentice was a very niceperson.
SOME EREWHONIAN TRIALS
In Erewhonas in other countries there are some courts of justicethat dealwith special subjects. Misfortune generallyas I haveaboveexplainedis considered more or less criminalbut it admitsofclassificationand a court is assigned to each of the mainheadsunder which it can be supposed to fall. Not very long afterI hadreached the capital I strolled into the Personal BereavementCourtandwas much both interested and pained by listening to thetrial of aman who was accused of having just lost a wife to whomhe hadbeen tenderly attachedand who had left him with threelittlechildrenof whom the eldest was only three years old.
Thedefence which the prisoner's counsel endeavoured to establishwasthatthe prisoner had never really loved his wife; but itbroke downcompletelyfor the public prosecutor called witnessafterwitness who deposed to the fact that the couple had beendevoted toone anotherand the prisoner repeatedly wept asincidentswere put in evidence that reminded him of the irreparablenature ofthe loss he had sustained. The jury returned a verdictof guiltyafter very little deliberationbut recommended theprisonerto mercy on the ground that he had but recently insuredhis wife'slife for a considerable sumand might be deemed luckyinasmuchas he had received the money without demur from theinsurancecompanythough he had only paid two premiums.
I havejust said that the jury found the prisoner guilty. When thejudgepassed sentenceI was struck with the way in which theprisoner'scounsel was rebuked for having referred to a work inwhich theguilt of such misfortunes as the prisoner's wasextenuatedto a degree that roused the indignation of the court.
"Weshall have" said the judge"these crude and subversionarybooks fromtime to time until it is recognised as an axiom ofmoralitythat luck is the only fit object of human veneration. Howfar a manhas any right to be more lucky and hence more venerablethan hisneighboursis a point that always has beenand alwayswill besettled proximately by a kind of higgling and haggling ofthemarketand ultimately by brute force; but however this may beit standsto reason that no man should be allowed to be unlucky tomore thana very moderate extent."
Thenturning to the prisonerthe judge continued:- "You havesuffered agreat loss. Nature attaches a severe penalty to suchoffencesand human law must emphasise the decrees of nature. Butfor therecommendation of the jury I should have given you sixmonths'hard labour. I willhowevercommute your sentence to oneof threemonthswith the option of a fine of twenty-five per cent.of themoney you have received from the insurance company."
Theprisoner thanked the judgeand said that as he had no one tolook afterhis children if he was sent to prisonhe would embracethe optionmercifully permitted him by his lordshipand pay thesum he hadnamed. He was then removed from the dock.
The nextcase was that of a youth barely arrived at man's estatewho wascharged with having been swindled out of large propertyduring hisminority by his guardianwho was also one of hisnearestrelations. His father had been long deadand it was forthisreason that his offence came on for trial in the PersonalBereavementCourt. The ladwho was undefendedpleaded that hewas younginexperiencedgreatly in awe of his guardianandwithoutindependent professional advice. "Young man" saidthejudgesternly"do not talk nonsense. People have no right to beyounginexperiencedgreatly in awe of their guardiansandwithoutindependent professional advice. If by such indiscretionstheyoutrage the moral sense of their friendsthey must expect tosufferaccordingly." He then ordered the prisoner to apologise tohisguardianand to receive twelve strokes with a cat-of-nine-tails.
But Ishall perhaps best convey to the reader an idea of the entireperversionof thought which exists among this extraordinary peoplebydescribing the public trial of a man who was accused ofpulmonaryconsumption--an offence which was punished with deathuntilquite recently. It did not occur till I had been some monthsin thecountryand I am deviating from chronological order ingiving ithere; but I had perhaps better do so in order that I mayexhaustthis subject before proceeding to others. Moreover Ishouldnever come to an end were I to keep to a strictly narrativeformanddetail the infinite absurdities with which I daily cameincontact.
Theprisoner was placed in the dockand the jury were sworn muchas inEurope; almost all our own modes of procedure werereproducedeven to the requiring the prisoner to plead guilty ornotguilty. He pleaded not guiltyand the case proceeded. Theevidencefor the prosecution was very strong; but I must do thecourt thejustice to observe that the trial was absolutelyimpartial. Counsel for the prisoner was allowed to urge everythingthat couldbe said in his defence: the line taken was that theprisonerwas simulating consumption in order to defraud aninsurancecompanyfrom which he was about to buy an annuityandthat hehoped thus to obtain it on more advantageous terms. Ifthis couldhave been shown to be the case he would have escaped acriminalprosecutionand been sent to a hospital as for a moralailment. The viewhoweverwas one which could not be reasonablysustainedin spite of all the ingenuity and eloquence of one ofthe mostcelebrated advocates of the country. The case was onlytoo clearfor the prisoner was almost at the point of deathandit wasastonishing that he had not been tried and convicted longpreviously. His coughing was incessant during the whole trialandit was allthat the two jailors in charge of him could do to keephim on hislegs until it was over.
Thesumming up of the judge was admirable. He dwelt upon everypoint thatcould be construed in favour of the prisonerbut as heproceededit became clear that the evidence was too convincing toadmit ofdoubtand there was but one opinion in the court as totheimpending verdict when the jury retired from the box. Theywereabsent for about ten minutesand on their return the foremanpronouncedthe prisoner guilty. There was a faint murmur ofapplausebut it was instantly repressed. The judge then proceededtopronounce sentence in words which I can never forgetand whichI copiedout into a note-book next day from the report that waspublishedin the leading newspaper. I must condense it somewhatandnothing which I could say would give more than a faint idea ofthesolemnnot to say majesticseverity with which it wasdelivered. The sentence was as follows:-
"Prisonerat the baryou have been accused of the great crime oflabouringunder pulmonary consumptionand after an impartial trialbefore ajury of your countrymenyou have been found guilty.Againstthe justice of the verdict I can say nothing: the evidenceagainstyou was conclusiveand it only remains for me to pass sucha sentenceupon youas shall satisfy the ends of the law. Thatsentencemust be a very severe one. It pains me much to see onewho is yetso youngand whose prospects in life were otherwise soexcellentbrought to this distressing condition by a constitutionwhich Ican only regard as radically vicious; but yours is no caseforcompassion: this is not your first offence: you have ledacareer ofcrimeand have only profited by the leniency shown youupon pastoccasionsto offend yet more seriously against the lawsandinstitutions of your country. You were convicted of aggravatedbronchitislast year: and I find that though you are now onlytwenty-threeyears oldyou have been imprisoned on no less thanfourteenoccasions for illnesses of a more or less hatefulcharacter;in factit is not too much to say that you have spentthegreater part of your life in a jail.
"Itis all very well for you to say that you came of unhealthyparentsand had a severe accident in your childhood whichpermanentlyundermined your constitution; excuses such as these aretheordinary refuge of the criminal; but they cannot for one momentbelistened to by the ear of justice. I am not here to enter uponcuriousmetaphysical questions as to the origin of this or that--questionsto which there would be no end were their introductiononcetoleratedand which would result in throwing the only guilton thetissues of the primordial cellor on the elementary gases.There isno question of how you came to be wickedbut only this--namelyare you wicked or not? This has been decided in theaffirmativeneither can I hesitate for a single moment to say thatit hasbeen decided justly. You are a bad and dangerous personand standbranded in the eyes of your fellow-countrymen with one ofthe mostheinous known offences.
"Itis not my business to justify the law: the law may in somecases haveits inevitable hardshipsand I may feel regret at timesthat Ihave not the option of passing a less severe sentence than Iamcompelled to do. But yours is no such case; on the contraryhad notthe capital punishment for consumption been abolishedIshouldcertainly inflict it now.
"Itis intolerable that an example of such terrible enormity shouldbe allowedto go at large unpunished. Your presence in the societyofrespectable people would lead the less able-bodied to think morelightly ofall forms of illness; neither can it be permitted thatyou shouldhave the chance of corrupting unborn beings who mighthereafterpester you. The unborn must not be allowed to come nearyou: and this not so much for their protection (for they are ournaturalenemies)as for our own; for since they will not beutterlygainsaidit must be seen to that they shall be quarteredupon thosewho are least likely to corrupt them.
"Butindependently of this considerationand independently of thephysicalguilt which attaches itself to a crime so great as yoursthere isyet another reason why we should be unable to show youmercyeven if we were inclined to do so. I refer to the existenceof a classof men who lie hidden among usand who are calledphysicians. Were the severity of the law or the current feeling ofthecountry to be relaxed never so slightlythese abandonedpersonswho are now compelled to practise secretly and who can beconsultedonly at the greatest riskwould become frequent visitorsin everyhousehold; their organisation and their intimateacquaintancewith all family secrets would give them a powerbothsocial andpoliticalwhich nothing could resist. The head of thehouseholdwould become subordinate to the family doctorwho wouldinterferebetween man and wifebetween master and servantuntilthedoctors should be the only depositaries of power in the nationand haveall that we hold precious at their mercy. A time ofuniversaldephysicalisation would ensue; medicine-vendors of allkindswould abound in our streets and advertise in all ournewspapers. There is one remedy for thisand one only. It isthat whichthe laws of this country have long received and acteduponandconsists in the sternest repression of all diseaseswhatsoeveras soon as their existence is made manifest to the eyeof thelaw. Would that that eye were far more piercing than it is.
"ButI will enlarge no further upon things that are themselves soobvious. You may say that it is not your fault. The answer isreadyenough at handand it amounts to this--that if you had beenborn ofhealthy and well-to-do parentsand been well taken care ofwhen youwere a childyou would never have offended against thelaws ofyour countrynor found yourself in your presentdisgracefulposition. If you tell me that you had no hand in yourparentageand educationand that it is therefore unjust to laythesethings to your chargeI answer that whether your being in aconsumptionis your fault or noit is a fault in youand it is myduty tosee that against such faults as this the commonwealth shallbeprotected. You may say that it is your misfortune to becriminal;I answer that it is your crime to be unfortunate.
"LastlyI should point out that even though the jury had acquittedyou--asupposition that I cannot seriously entertain--I should havefelt it myduty to inflict a sentence hardly less severe than thatwhich Imust pass at present; for the more you had been foundguiltlessof the crime imputed to youthe more you would have beenfoundguilty of one hardly less heinous--I mean the crime of havingbeenmaligned unjustly.
"I donot hesitate therefore to sentence you to imprisonmentwithhardlabourfor the rest of your miserable existence. During thatperiod Iwould earnestly entreat you to repent of the wrongs youhave donealreadyand to entirely reform the constitution of yourwholebody. I entertain but little hope that you will payattentionto my advice; you are already far too abandoned. Did itrest withmyselfI should add nothing in mitigation of thesentencewhich I have passedbut it is the merciful provision ofthe lawthat even the most hardened criminal shall be allowed someone of thethree official remedieswhich is to be prescribed atthe timeof his conviction. I shall therefore order that youreceivetwo tablespoonfuls of castor oil dailyuntil the pleasureof thecourt be further known."
When thesentence was concluded the prisoner acknowledged in a fewscarcelyaudible words that he was justly punishedand that he hadhad a fairtrial. He was then removed to the prison from which hewas neverto return. There was a second attempt at applause whenthe judgehad finished speakingbut as before it was at oncerepressed;and though the feeling of the court was strongly againsttheprisonerthere was no show of any violence against himif onemay excepta little hooting from the bystanders when he was beingremoved inthe prisoners' van. Indeednothing struck me moreduring mywhole sojourn in the countrythan the general respectfor lawand order.
I confessthat I felt rather unhappy when I got homeand thoughtmoreclosely over the trial that I had just witnessed. For thetime I wascarried away by the opinion of those among whom I was.They hadno misgivings about what they were doing. There did notseem to bea person in the whole court who had the smallest doubtbut thatall was exactly as it should be. This universalunsuspectingconfidence was imparted by sympathy to myselfinspite ofall my training in opinions so widely different. So it iswith mostof us: that which we observe to be taken as a matter ofcourse bythose around uswe take as a matter of course ourselves.And afterallit is our duty to do thissave upon grave occasion.
But when Iwas aloneand began to think the trial overitcertainlydid strike me as betraying a strange and untenableposition. Had the judge said that he acknowledged the probabletruthnamelythat the prisoner was born of unhealthy parentsorhad beenstarved in infancyor had met with some accidents whichhaddeveloped consumption; and had he then gone on to say thatthough heknew all thisand bitterly regretted that the protectionof societyobliged him to inflict additional pain on one who hadsufferedso much alreadyyet that there was no help for itIcould haveunderstood the positionhowever mistaken I might havethoughtit. The judge was fully persuaded that the infliction ofpain uponthe weak and sickly was the only means of preventingweaknessand sickliness from spreadingand that ten times thesufferingnow inflicted upon the accused was eventually warded offfromothers by the present apparent severity. I could thereforeperfectlyunderstand his inflicting whatever pain he might considernecessaryin order to prevent so bad an example from spreadingfurtherand lowering the Erewhonian standard; but it seemed almostchildishto tell the prisoner that he could have been in goodhealthifhe had been more fortunate in his constitutionand beenexposed toless hardships when he was a boy.
I writewith great diffidencebut it seems to me that there is nounfairnessin punishing people for their misfortunesor rewardingthem fortheir sheer good luck: it is the normal condition ofhuman lifethat this should be doneand no right-minded personwillcomplain of being subjected to the common treatment. There isnoalternative open to us. It is idle to say that men are notresponsiblefor their misfortunes. What is responsibility? Surelyto beresponsible means to be liable to have to give an answershould itbe demandedand all things which live are responsiblefor theirlives and actions should society see fit to question themthroughthe mouth of its authorised agent.
What isthe offence of a lamb that we should rear itand tend itand lullit into securityfor the express purpose of killing it?Itsoffence is the misfortune of being something which societywants toeatand which cannot defend itself. This is ample. Whoshalllimit the right of society except society itself? And whatconsiderationfor the individual is tolerable unless society be thegainerthereby? Wherefore should a man be so richly rewarded forhavingbeen son to a millionairewere it not clearly provable thatthe commonwelfare is thus better furthered? We cannot seriouslydetractfrom a man's merit in having been the son of a rich fatherwithoutimperilling our own tenure of things which we do not wishtojeopardise; if this were otherwise we should not let him keephis moneyfor a single hour; we would have it ourselves at once.Forproperty is robberybut thenwe are all robbers or would-berobberstogetherand have found it essential to organise ourthievingas we have found it necessary to organise our lust andourrevenge. Propertymarriagethe law; as the bed to the riverso ruleand convention to the instinct; and woe to him who tamperswith thebanks while the flood is flowing.
But toreturn. Even in England a man on board a ship with yellowfever isheld responsible for his mischanceno matter what hisbeing keptin quarantine may cost him. He may catch the fever anddie; wecannot help it; he must take his chance as other people do;but surelyit would be desperate unkindness to add contumely to ourself-protectionunlessindeedwe believe that contumely is oneof ourbest means of self-protection. Againtake the case ofmaniacs. We say that they are irresponsible for their actionsbutwe takegood careor ought to take good carethat they shallanswer tous for their insanityand we imprison them in what wecall anasylum (that modern sanctuary!) if we do not like theiranswers. This is a strange kind of irresponsibility. What weought tosay is that we can afford to be satisfied with a lesssatisfactoryanswer from a lunatic than from one who is not madbecauselunacy is less infectious than crime.
We kill aserpent if we go in danger by itsimply for being suchand such aserpent in such and such a place; but we never say thattheserpent has only itself to blame for not having been a harmlesscreature. Its crime is that of being the thing which it is: butthis is acapital offenceand we are right in killing it out ofthe wayunless we think it more danger to do so than to let itescape;nevertheless we pity the creatureeven though we kill it.
But in thecase of him whose trial I have described aboveit wasimpossiblethat any one in the court should not have known that itwas but byan accident of birth and circumstances that he was nothimselfalso in a consumption; and yet none thought that itdisgracedthem to hear the judge give vent to the most crueltruismsabout him. The judge himself was a kind and thoughtfulperson. He was a man of magnificent and benign presence. He wasevidentlyof an iron constitutionand his face wore an expressionof thematurest wisdom and experience; yet for all thisold andlearned ashe washe could not see things which one would havethoughtwould have been apparent even to a child. He could notemancipatehimself fromnayit did not even occur to him to feelthebondage of the ideas in which he had been born and bred.
So was italso with the jury and bystanders; and--most wonderful ofall--sowas it even with the prisoner. Throughout he seemed fullyimpressedwith the notion that he was being dealt with justly: hesawnothing wanton in his being told by the judge that he was to bepunishednot so much as a necessary protection to society(althoughthis was not entirely lost sight of)as because he hadnot beenbetter born and bred than he was. But this led me to hopethat hesuffered less than he would have done if he had seen thematter inthe same light that I did. Andafter alljustice isrelative.
I may heremention that only a few years before my arrival in thecountrythe treatment of all convicted invalids had been much morebarbarousthan nowfor no physical remedy was providedandprisonerswere put to the severest labour in all sorts of weatherso thatmost of them soon succumbed to the extreme hardships whichtheysuffered; this was supposed to be beneficial in some waysinasmuchas it put the country to less expense for the maintenanceof itscriminal class; but the growth of luxury had induced arelaxationof the old severityand a sensitive age would no longertoleratewhat appeared to be an excess of rigoureven towards themostguilty; moreoverit was found that juries were less willingtoconvictand justice was often cheated because there was noalternativebetween virtually condemning a man to death and lettinghim gofree; it was also held that the country paid in recommittalsfor itsover-severity; for those who had been imprisoned even fortriflingailments were often permanently disabled by theirimprisonment;and when a man had been once convictedit wasprobablethat he would seldom afterwards be off the hands of thecountry.
Theseevils had long been apparent and recognised; yet people weretooindolentand too indifferent to suffering not their owntobestirthemselves about putting an end to themuntil at last abenevolentreformer devoted his whole life to effecting thenecessarychanges. He divided all illnesses into three classes--thoseaffecting the headthe trunkand the lower limbs--andobtainedan enactment that all diseases of the headwhetherinternalor externalshould be treated with laudanumthose of thebody withcastor-oiland those of the lower limbs with anembrocationof strong sulphuric acid and water.
It may besaid that the classification was not sufficientlycarefuland that the remedies were ill chosen; but it is a hardthing toinitiate any reformand it was necessary to familiarisethe publicmind with the principleby inserting the thin end ofthe wedgefirst: it is notthereforeto be wondered at thatamong sopractical a people there should still be some room forimprovement. The mass of the nation are well pleased with existingarrangementsand believe that their treatment of criminals leaveslittle ornothing to be desired; but there is an energetic minoritywho holdwhat are considered to be extreme opinionsand who arenot at alldisposed to rest contented until the principle latelyadmittedhas been carried further.
I was atsome pains to discover the opinions of these menandtheirreasons for entertaining them. They are held in great odiumby thegenerality of the publicand are considered as subvertersof allmorality whatever. The malcontentson the other handassertthat illness is the inevitable result of certain antecedentcauseswhichin the great majority of caseswere beyond thecontrol ofthe individualand that therefore a man is only guiltyfor beingin a consumption in the same way as rotten fruit isguilty forhaving gone rotten. Truethe fruit must be thrown onone sideas unfit for man's useand the man in a consumption mustbe put inprison for the protection of his fellow-citizens; buttheseradicals would not punish him further than by loss of libertyand astrict surveillance. So long as he was prevented frominjuringsocietythey would allow him to make himself useful bysupplyingwhatever of society's wants he could supply. If hesucceededin thus earning moneythey would have him made ascomfortablein prison as possibleand would in no way interferewith hisliberty more than was necessary to prevent him fromescapingor from becoming more severely indisposed within theprisonwalls; but they would deduct from his earnings the expensesof hisboardlodgingsurveillanceand half those of hisconviction. If he was too ill to do anything for his support inprisonthey would allow him nothing but bread and waterand verylittle ofthat.
They saythat society is foolish in refusing to allow itself to bebenefitedby a man merely because he has done it harm hithertoandthatobjection to the labour of the diseased classes is onlyprotectionin another form. It is an attempt to raise the naturalprice of acommodity by saying that such and such personswho areable andwilling to produce itshall not do sowhereby every onehas to paymore for it.
Besidesso long as a man has not been actually killed he is ourfellow-creaturethough perhaps a very unpleasant one. It is in agreatdegree the doing of others that he is what he isor in otherwordsthesociety which now condemns him is partly answerableconcerninghim. They say that there is no fear of any increase ofdiseaseunder these circumstances; for the loss of libertythesurveillancethe considerable and compulsory deduction from theprisoner'searningsthe very sparing use of stimulants (of whichthey wouldallow but little to anyand none to those who did notearnthem)the enforced celibacyand above allthe loss ofreputationamong friendsare in their opinion as ample safeguardsto societyagainst a general neglect of health as those nowresortedto. A mantherefore(so they say) should carry hisprofessionor trade into prison with him if possible; if nothemust earnhis living by the nearest thing to it that he can; but ifhe be agentleman born and bred to no professionhe must pickoakumorwrite art criticisms for a newspaper.
Thesepeople say furtherthat the greater part of the illnesswhichexists in their country is brought about by the insane mannerin whichit is treated.
Theybelieve that illness is in many cases just as curable as themoraldiseases which they see daily cured around thembut that agreatreform is impossible till men learn to take a juster view ofwhatphysical obliquity proceeds from. Men will hide theirillnessesas long as they are scouted on its becoming known thatthey areill; it is the scoutingnot the physicwhich producestheconcealment; and if a man felt that the news of his being inill-healthwould be received by his neighbours as a deplorablefactbutone as much the result of necessary antecedent causes asthough hehad broken into a jeweller's shop and stolen a valuablediamondnecklace--as a fact which might just as easily havehappenedto themselvesonly that they had the luck to be betterborn orreared; and if they also felt that they would not be mademoreuncomfortable in the prison than the protection of societyagainstinfection and the proper treatment of their own diseaseactuallydemandedmen would give themselves up to the police asreadily onperceiving that they had taken small-poxas they go nowto thestraightener when they feel that they are on the point offorging awillor running away with somebody else's wife.
But themain argument on which they rely is that of economy: forthey knowthat they will sooner gain their end by appealing tomen'spocketsin which they have generally something of their ownthan totheir headswhich contain for the most part little butborrowedor stolen property; and alsothey believe it to be thereadiesttest and the one which has most to show for itself. If acourse ofconduct can be shown to cost a country lessand this bynodishonourable saving and with no indirectly increasedexpenditurein other waysthey hold that it requires a good dealto upsetthe arguments in favour of its being adoptedand whetherrightly orwrongly I cannot pretend to saythey think that themoremedicinal and humane treatment of the diseased of which theyare theadvocates would in the long run be much cheaper to thecountry: but I did not gather that these reformers were opposed tomeetingsome of the more violent forms of illness with the cat-of-nine-tailsor with death; for they saw no so effectual way ofcheckingthem; they would therefore both flog and hangbut theywould doso pitifully.
I haveperhaps dwelt too long upon opinions which can have nopossiblebearing upon our ownbut I have not said the tenth partof whatthese would-be reformers urged upon me. I feelhoweverthat Ihave sufficiently trespassed upon the attention of thereader.
THE VIEWS OF THE EREWHONIANS CONCERNING DEATH
TheErewhonians regard death with less abhorrence than disease. Ifit is anoffence at allit is one beyond the reach of the lawwhich istherefore silent on the subject; but they insist that thegreaternumber of those who are commonly said to diehave neveryet beenborn--notat leastinto that unseen world which is aloneworthy ofconsideration. As regards this unseen world I understandthem tosay that some miscarry in respect to it before they haveevenreached the seenand some afterwhile few are ever trulyborn intoit at all--the greater part of all the men and women overthe wholecountry miscarrying before they reach it. And they saythat thisdoes not matter so much as we think it does.
As forwhat we call deaththey argue that too much has been madeof it. The mere knowledge that we shall one day die does not makeus veryunhappy; no one thinks that he or she will escapeso thatnone aredisappointed. We do not care greatly even though we knowthat wehave not long to live; the only thing that would seriouslyaffect uswould be the knowing--or rather thinking that we know--theprecise moment at which the blow will fall. Happily no one canevercertainly know thisthough many try to make themselvesmiserableby endeavouring to find it out. It seems as though therewere somepower somewhere which mercifully stays us from puttingthat stinginto the tail of deathwhich we would put there if wecouldandwhich ensures that though death must always be abugbearit shall never under any conceivable circumstances be morethan abugbear.
For eventhough a man is condemned to die in a week's time and isshut up ina prison from which it is certain that he cannot escapehe willalways hope that a reprieve may come before the week isover. Besidesthe prison may catch fireand he may be suffocatednot with aropebut with common ordinary smoke; or he may bestruckdead by lightning while exercising in the prison yards.When themorning is come on which the poor wretch is to be hangedhe maychoke at his breakfastor die from failure of the heart'sactionbefore the drop has fallen; and even though it has fallenhe cannotbe quite certain that he is going to diefor he cannotknow thistill his death has actually taken placeand it will betoo latethen for him to discover that he was going to die at theappointedhour after all. The Erewhoniansthereforehold thatdeathlike lifeis an affair of being more frightened than hurt.
They burntheir deadand the ashes are presently scattered overany pieceof ground which the deceased may himself have chosen. Noone ispermitted to refuse this hospitality to the dead: peoplethereforegenerally choose some garden or orchard which they mayhave knownand been fond of when they were young. Thesuperstitioushold that those whose ashes are scattered over anylandbecome its jealous guardians from that time forward; and thelivinglike to think that they shall become identified with this orthatlocality where they have once been happy.
They donot put up monumentsnor write epitaphsfor their deadthough informer ages their practice was much as oursbut theyhave acustom which comes to much the same thingfor the instinctofpreserving the name alive after the death of the body seems tobe commonto all mankind. They have statues of themselves madewhile theyare still alive (thosethat iswho can afford it)andwriteinscriptions under themwhich are often quite as untruthfulas are ourown epitaphs--only in another way. For they do nothesitateto describe themselves as victims to ill temperjealousycovetousnessand the likebut almost always lay claim to personalbeautywhether they have it or notandoftento the possessionof a largesum in the funded debt of the country. If a person isugly hedoes not sit as a model for his own statuealthough itbears hisname. He gets the handsomest of his friends to sit forhimandone of the ways of paying a compliment to another is toask him tosit for such a statue. Women generally sit for theirownstatuesfrom a natural disinclination to admit the superiorbeauty ofa friendbut they expect to be idealised. I understoodthat themultitude of these statues was beginning to be felt as anencumbrancein almost every familyand that the custom wouldprobablybefore long fall into desuetude.
Indeedthis has already come about to the satisfaction of everyoneasregards the statues of public men--not more than three ofwhich canbe found in the whole capital. I expressed my surpriseat thisand was told that some five hundred years before my visitthe cityhad been so overrun with these peststhat there was nogettingaboutand people were worried beyond endurance by havingtheirattention called at every touch and turn to somethingwhichwhen theyhad attended to itthey found not to concern them. Mostof thesestatues were mere attempts to do for some man or womanwhat ananimal-stuffer does more successfully for a dogor birdor pike. They were generally foisted on the public by some coteriethat wastrying to exalt itself in exalting some one elseand notunfrequentlythey had no other inception than desire on the part ofsomemember of the coterie to find a job for a young sculptor towhom hisdaughter was engaged. Statues so begotten could never beanythingbut deformitiesand this is the way in which they aresure to bebegottenas soon as the art of making them at all hasbecomewidely practised.
I know notwhybut all the noblest arts hold in perfection but fora verylittle moment. They soon reach a height from which theybegin todeclineand when they have begun to decline it is a pitythat theycannot be knocked on the head; for an art is like alivingorganism--better dead than dying. There is no way of makingan agedart young again; it must be born anew and grow up frominfancy asa new thingworking out its own salvation from effortto effortin all fear and trembling.
TheErewhonians five hundred years ago understood nothing of allthis--Idoubt whether they even do so now. They wanted to get thenearestthing they could to a stuffed man whose stuffing should notgrowmouldy. They should have had some such an establishment asour MadameTussaud'swhere the figures wear real clothesand arepainted upto nature. Such an institution might have been madeself-supportingfor people might have been made to pay beforegoing in. As it wasthey had let their poor cold grimy colourlessheroes andheroines loaf about in squares and in corners of streetsin allweatherswithout any attempt at artistic sanitation--forthere wasno provision for burying their dead works of art out oftheirsight--no drainageso to speakwhereby statues that hadbeensufficiently assimilatedso as to form part of the residuaryimpressionof the countrymight be carried away out of the system.Hence theyput them up with a light heart on the cackling of theircoteriesand they and their children had to liveoften enoughwith somewordy windbag whose cowardice had cost the country untoldloss inblood and money.
At lastthe evil reached such a pitch that the people roseandwithindiscriminate fury destroyed good and bad alike. Most ofwhat wasdestroyed was badbut some few works were goodand thesculptorsof to-day wring their hands over some of the fragmentsthat havebeen preserved in museums up and down the country. For acouple ofhundred years or sonot a statue was made from one endof thekingdom to the otherbut the instinct for having stuffedmen andwomen was so strongthat people at length again began totry tomake them. Not knowing how to make themand having noacademicsto mislead themthe earliest sculptors of this periodthoughtthings out for themselvesand again produced works thatwere fullof interestso that in three or four generations theyreached aperfection hardly if at all inferior to that of severalhundredyears earlier.
On thisthe same evils recurred. Sculptors obtained high prices--the artbecame a trade--schools arose which professed to sell theholyspirit of art for money; pupils flocked from far and near tobuy itinthe hopes of selling it later onand were struckpurblindas a punishment for the sin of those who sent them.Beforelong a second iconoclastic fury would infallibly havefollowedbut for the prescience of a statesman who succeeded inpassing anAct to the effect that no statue of any public man orwomanshould be allowed to remain unbroken for more than fiftyyearsunless at the end of that time a jury of twenty-four mentaken atrandom from the street pronounced in favour of its beingallowed asecond fifty years of life. Every fifty years thisreconsiderationwas to be repeatedand unless there was a majorityofeighteen in favour of the retention of the statueit was to bedestroyed.
Perhaps asimpler plan would have been to forbid the erection of astatue toany public man or woman till he or she had been dead atleast onehundred yearsand even then to insist on reconsiderationof theclaims of the deceased and the merit of the statue everyfiftyyears--but the working of the Act brought about results thaton thewhole were satisfactory. For in the first placemanypublicstatues that would have been voted under the old systemwere notorderedwhen it was known that they would be almostcertainlybroken up after fifty yearsand in the secondpublicsculptorsknowing their work to be so ephemeralscamped it to anextentthat made it offensive even to the most uncultured eye.Hencebefore long subscribers took to paying the sculptor for thestatue oftheir dead statesmenon condition that he did not makeit. The tribute of respect was thus paid to the deceasedthepublicsculptors were not mulctedand the rest of the publicsufferedno inconvenience.
I wastoldhoweverthat an abuse of this custom is growing upinasmuchas the competition for the commission not to make a statueis sokeenthat sculptors have been known to return a considerablepart ofthe purchase money to the subscribersby an arrangementmade withthem beforehand. Such transactionshoweverare alwaysclandestine. A small inscription is let into the pavementwherethe publicstatue would have stoodwhich informs the reader thatsuch astatue has been ordered for the personwhoever he or shemay bebut that as yet the sculptor has not been able to completeit. There has been no Act to repress statues that are intended forprivateconsumptionbut as I have saidthe custom is falling intodesuetude.
Returningto Erewhonian customs in connection with deaththere isone whichI can hardly pass over. When any one diesthe friendsof thefamily write no letters of condolenceneither do theyattend thescatteringnor wear mourningbut they send littleboxesfilled with artificial tearsand with the name of the senderpaintedneatly upon the outside of the lid. The tears vary innumberfrom two to fifteen or sixteenaccording to degree ofintimacyor relationship; and people sometimes find it a nice pointofetiquette to know the exact number which they ought to send.Strange asit may appearthis attention is highly valuedand itsomissionby those from whom it might be expected is keenly felt.Thesetears were formerly stuck with adhesive plaster to the cheeksof thebereavedand were worn in public for a few months after thedeath of arelative; they were then banished to the hat or bonnetand arenow no longer worn.
The birthof a child is looked upon as a painful subject on whichit iskinder not to touch: the illness of the mother is carefullyconcealeduntil the necessity for signing the birth-formula (ofwhichhereafter) renders further secrecy impossibleand for somemonthsbefore the event the family live in retirementseeing verylittlecompany. When the offence is over and done withit iscondonedby the common want of logic; for this merciful provisionof naturethis buffer against collisionsthis friction whichupsets ourcalculations but without which existence would beintolerablethis crowning glory of human invention whereby we canbe blindand see at one and the same momentthis blessedinconsistencyexists here as elsewhere; and though the strictestwriters onmorality have maintained that it is wicked for a womanto havechildren at allinasmuch as it is wrong to be out ofhealththat good may comeyet the necessity of the case has causeda generalfeeling in favour of passing over such events in silenceand ofassuming their non-existence except in such flagrant casesas forcethemselves on the public notice. Against these thecondemnationof society is inexorableand if it is believed thattheillness has been dangerous and protractedit is almostimpossiblefor a woman to recover her former position in society.
The aboveconventions struck me as arbitrary and cruelbut theyput a stopto many fancied ailments; for the situationso far frombeingconsidered interestingis looked upon as savouring more orlessdistinctly of a very reprehensible condition of thingsandthe ladiestake care to conceal it as long as they can even fromtheir ownhusbandsin anticipation of a severe scolding as soon asthemisdemeanour is discovered. Also the baby is kept out ofsightexcept on the day of signing the birth-formulauntil it canwalk andtalk. Should the child unhappily diea coroner's inquestisinevitablebut in order to avoid disgracing a family which mayhave beenhitherto respectedit is almost invariably found thatthe childwas over seventy-five years oldand died from the decayof nature.
Icontinued my sojourn with the Nosnibors. In a few days Mr.Nosniborhad recovered from his floggingand was looking forwardwith gleeto the fact that the next would be the last. I did notthink thatthere seemed any occasion even for this; but he said itwas betterto be on the safe sideand he would make up the dozen.He nowwent to his business as usual; and I understood that he wasnever moreprosperousin spite of his heavy fine. He was unableto give memuch of his time during the day; for he was one of thosevaluablemen who are paidnot by the yearmonthweekor daybut by theminute. His wife and daughtershowevermade much ofmeandintroduced me to their friendswho came in shoals to callupon me.
One ofthese persons was a lady called Mahaina. Zulora (the elderof myhost's daughters) ran up to her and embraced her as soon assheentered the roomat the same time inquiring tenderly after her"poordipsomania." Mahaina answered that it was just as bad asever; shewas a perfect martyr to itand her excellent health wasthe onlything which consoled her under her affliction.
Then theother ladies joined in with condolences and the never-failingsuggestions which they had ready for every mental malady.Theyrecommended their own straightener and disparaged Mahaina's.Mrs.Nosnibor had a favourite nostrumbut I could catch little ofitsnature. I heard the words "full confidence that the desiretodrink willcease when the formula has been repeated * * * thisconfidenceis EVERYTHING * * * far from undervaluing a thoroughdeterminationnever to touch spirits again * * * fail too often * ** formulaa CERTAIN CURE (with great emphasis) * * * prescribedform * * *full conviction." The conversation then became moreaudibleand was carried on at considerable length. I shouldperplexmyself and the reader by endeavouring to follow theingeniousperversity of all they said; enoughthat in the courseof timethe visit came to an endand Mahaina took her leavereceivingaffectionate embraces from all the ladies. I hadremainedin the background after the first ceremony ofintroductionfor I did not like the looks of Mahainaand theconversationdispleased me. When she left the room I had someconsolationin the remarks called forth by her departure.
At firstthey fell to praising her very demurely. She was all thisthat andthe othertill I disliked her more and more at everywordandinquired how it was that the straighteners had not beenable tocure her as they had cured Mr. Nosnibor.
There wasa shade of significance on Mrs. Nosnibor's face as I saidthiswhich seemed to imply that she did not consider Mahaina'scase to bequite one for a straightener. It flashed across me thatperhapsthe poor woman did not drink at all. I knew that I oughtnot tohave inquiredbut I could not help itand asked pointblankwhether she did or not.
"Wecan none of us judge of the condition of other people" saidMrs.Nosnibor in a gravely charitable tone and with a look towardsZulora.
"Ohmamma" answered Zulorapretending to be half angry butrejoicedat being able to say out what she was already longing toinsinuate;"I don't believe a word of it. It's all indigestion. Irememberstaying in the house with her for a whole month lastsummerand I am sure she never once touched a drop of wine orspirits. The fact isMahaina is a very weakly girland shepretendsto get tipsy in order to win a forbearance from herfriends towhich she is not entitled. She is not strong enough forhercalisthenic exercisesand she knows she would be made to dothemunless her inability was referred to moral causes."
Here theyounger sisterwho was ever sweet and kindremarked thatshethought Mahaina did tipple occasionally. "I also think"sheadded"that she sometimes takes poppy juice."
"Wellthenperhaps she does drink sometimes" said Zulora; "butshe wouldmake us all think that she does it much oftener in orderto hideher weakness."
And sothey went on for half an hour and morebandying about thequestionas to how far their late visitor's intemperance was realor no. Every now and then they would join in some charitablecommonplaceand would pretend to be all of one mind that Mahainawas aperson whose bodily health would be excellent if it were notfor herunfortunate inability to refrain from excessive drinking;but assoon as this appeared to be fairly settled they began to beuncomfortableuntil they had undone their work and left someseriousimputation upon her constitution. At lastseeing that thedebate hadassumed the character of a cyclone or circular stormgoinground and round and round and round till one could never saywhere itbegan nor where it endedI made some apology for anabruptdeparture and retired to my own room.
Here atleast I was alonebut I was very unhappy. I had fallenupon a setof people whoin spite of their high civilisation andmanyexcellenceshad been so warped by the mistaken viewspresentedto them during childhood from generation to generationthat itwas impossible to see how they could ever clear themselves.Was therenothing which I could say to make them feel that theconstitutionof a person's body was a thing over which he or shehad had atany rate no initial control whateverwhile the mind wasaperfectly different thingand capable of being created anew anddirectedaccording to the pleasure of its possessor? Could I neverbring themto see that while habits of mind and character wereentirelyindependent of initial mental force and early educationthe bodywas so much a creature of parentage and circumstancesthat nopunishment for ill-health should be ever tolerated save asaprotection from contagionand that even where punishment wasinevitableit should be attended with compassion? Surelyif theunfortunateMahaina were to feel that she could avow her bodilyweaknesswithout fear of being despised for her infirmitiesand ifthere weremedical men to whom she could fairly state her caseshewould nothesitate about doing so through the fear of taking nastymedicine. It was possible that her malady was incurable (for I hadheardenough to convince me that her dipsomania was only a pretenceand thatshe was temperate in all her habits); in that case shemightperhaps be justly subject to annoyances or even to restraint;but whocould say whether she was curable or notuntil she wasable tomake a clean breast of her symptoms instead of concealingthem? In their eagerness to stamp out diseasethese peopleovershottheir mark; for people had become so clever atdissembling--theypainted their faces with such consummate skill--theyrepaired the decay of time and the effects of mischance withsuchprofound dissimulation--that it was really impossible to saywhetherany one was well or ill till after an intimate acquaintanceof monthsor years. Even then the shrewdest were constantlymistakenin their judgementsand marriages were often contractedwith mostdeplorable resultsowing to the art with which infirmityhad beenconcealed.
Itappeared to me that the first step towards the cure of diseaseshould bethe announcement of the fact to a person's near relationsandfriends. If any one had a headachehe ought to be permittedwithinreasonable limits to say so at onceand to retire to hisownbedroom and take a pillwithout every one's looking grave andtearsbeing shed and all the rest of it. As it waseven uponhearing itwhispered that somebody else was subject to headachesawholecompany must look as though they had never had a headache intheirlives. It is true they were not very prevalentfor thepeoplewere the healthiest and most comely imaginableowing to theseveritywith which ill health was treated; stilleven the bestwereliable to be out of sorts sometimesand there were fewfamiliesthat had not a medicine-chest in a cupboard somewhere.
THE MUSICAL BANKS
On myreturn to the drawing-roomI found that the Mahaina currenthadexpended itself. The ladies were just putting away their workandpreparing to go out. I asked them where they were going. Theyansweredwith a certain air of reserve that they were going to thebank toget some money.
Now I hadalready collected that the mercantile affairs of theErewhonianswere conducted on a totally different system from ourown; Ihadhowevergathered little hithertoexcept that they hadtwodistinct commercial systemsof which the one appealed morestronglyto the imagination than anything to which we areaccustomedin Europeinasmuch as the banks that were conductedupon thissystem were decorated in the most profuse fashionandallmercantile transactions were accompanied with musicso thatthey werecalled Musical Banksthough the music was hideous to aEuropeanear.
As for thesystem itself I never understood itneither can I do sonow: they have a code in connection with itwhich I have not theslightestdoubt that they understandbut no foreigner can hope todo so. One rule runs intoand againstanother as in a mostcomplicatedgrammaror as in Chinese pronunciationwherein I amtold thatthe slightest change in accentuation or tone of voicealters themeaning of a whole sentence. Whatever is incoherent inmydescription must be referred to the fact of my never havingattainedto a full comprehension of the subject.
So farhoweveras I could collect anything certainI gatheredthat theyhave two distinct currencieseach under the control ofits ownbanks and mercantile codes. One of these (the one with theMusicalBanks) was supposed to be THE systemand to give out thecurrencyin which all monetary transactions should be carried on;and as faras I could seeall who wished to be consideredrespectablekept a larger or smaller balance at these banks. Onthe otherhandif there is one thing of which I am more sure thananotherit is that the amount so kept had no direct commercialvalue inthe outside world; I am sure that the managers andcashiersof the Musical Banks were not paid in their own currency.Mr.Nosnibor used to go to these banksor rather to the greatmotherbank of the citysometimes but not very often. He was apillar ofone of the other kind of banksthough he appeared tohold someminor office also in the musical ones. The ladiesgenerallywent alone; as indeed was the case in most familiesexcept onstate occasions.
I had longwanted to know more of this strange systemand had thegreatestdesire to accompany my hostess and her daughters. I hadseen themgo out almost every morning since my arrival and hadnoticedthat they carried their purses in their handsnot exactlyostentatiouslyyet just so as that those who met them should seewhitherthey were going. I had neverhoweveryet been asked togo withthem myself.
It is noteasy to convey a person's manner by wordsand I canhardlygive any idea of the peculiar feeling that came upon me whenI saw theladies on the point of starting for the bank. There wasasomething of regreta something as though they would wish totake mewith thembut did not like to ask meand yet as though Iwerehardly to ask to be taken. I was determinedhowevertobringmatters to an issue with my hostess about my going with themand aftera little parleyingand many inquiries as to whether Iwasperfectly sure that I myself wished to goit was decided thatI might doso.
We passedthrough several streets of more or less considerablehousesand at last turning round a corner we came upon a largepiazzaatthe end of which was a magnificent buildingof astrangebut noble architecture and of great antiquity. It did notopendirectly on to the piazzathere being a screenthrough whichwas anarchwaybetween the piazza and the actual precincts of thebank. On passing under the archway we entered upon a green swardroundwhich there ran an arcade or cloisterwhile in front of usuprose themajestic towers of the bank and its venerable frontwhich wasdivided into three deep recesses and adorned with allsorts ofmarbles and many sculptures. On either side there werebeautifulold trees wherein the birds were busy by the hundredanda numberof quaint but substantial houses of singularly comfortableappearance;they were situated in the midst of orchards andgardensand gave me an impression of great peace and plenty.
Indeed ithad been no error to say that this building was one thatappealedto the imagination; it did more--it carried bothimaginationand judgement by storm. It was an epic in stone andmarbleand so powerful was the effect it produced on methat as Ibeheld itI was charmed and melted. I felt more conscious of theexistenceof a remote past. One knows of this alwaysbut theknowledgeis never so living as in the actual presence of somewitness tothe life of bygone ages. I felt how short a space ofhuman lifewas the period of our own existence. I was moreimpressedwith my own littlenessand much more inclinable tobelievethat the people whose sense of the fitness of things wasequal tothe upraising of so serene a handiworkwere hardly likelyto bewrong in the conclusions they might come to upon any subject.My feelingcertainly was that the currency of this bank must be theright one.
We crossedthe sward and entered the building. If the outside hadbeenimpressive the inside was even more so. It was very lofty anddividedinto several parts by walls which rested upon massivepillars;the windows were filled with stained glass descriptive oftheprincipal commercial incidents of the bank for many ages. In aremotepart of the building there were men and boys singing; thiswas theonly disturbing featurefor as the gamut was stillunknownthere was no music in the country which could be agreeableto aEuropean ear. The singers seemed to have derived theirinspirationsfrom the songs of birds and the wailing of the windwhich lastthey tried to imitate in melancholy cadences that attimesdegenerated into a howl. To my thinking the noise washideousbut it produced a great effect upon my companionswhoprofessedthemselves much moved. As soon as the singing was overthe ladiesrequested me to stay where I was while they went insidethe placefrom which it had seemed to come.
Duringtheir absence certain reflections forced themselves upon me.
In thefirst placeit struck me as strange that the buildingshould beso nearly empty; I was almost aloneand the few besidesmyself hadbeen led by curiosityand had no intention of doingbusinesswith the bank. But there might be more inside. I stoleup to thecurtainand ventured to draw the extreme edge of it onone side. Nothere was hardly any one there. I saw a largenumber ofcashiersall at their desks ready to pay chequesandone or twowho seemed to be the managing partners. I also saw myhostessand her daughters and two or three other ladies; also threeor fourold women and the boys from one of the neighbouringCollegesof Unreason; but there was no one else. This did not lookas thoughthe bank was doing a very large business; and yet I hadalwaysbeen told that every one in the city dealt with thisestablishment.
I cannotdescribe all that took place in these inner precinctsforasinister-looking person in a black gown came and made unpleasantgesturesat me for peeping. I happened to have in my pocket one oftheMusical Bank pieceswhich had been given me by Mrs. Nosniborso I triedto tip him with it; but having seen what it washebecame soangry that I had to give him a piece of the other kind ofmoney topacify him. When I had done this he became civildirectly. As soon as he was gone I ventured to take a second lookand sawZulora in the very act of giving a piece of paper whichlookedlike a cheque to one of the cashiers. He did not examineitbutputting his hand into an antique coffer hard byhe pulledout aquantity of metal pieces apparently at randomand handedthem overwithout counting them; neither did Zulora count thembutput theminto her purse and went back to her seat after dropping afew piecesof the other coinage into an alms box that stood by thecashier'sside. Mrs. Nosnibor and Arowhena then did likewisebuta littlelater they gave all (so far as I could see) that they hadreceivedfrom the cashier back to a vergerwho I have no doubt putit backinto the coffer from which it had been taken. They thenbeganmaking towards the curtain; whereon I let it drop andretreatedto a reasonable distance.
They soonjoined me. For some few minutes we all kept silencebutat last Iventured to remark that the bank was not so busy to-dayas itprobably often was. On this Mrs. Nosnibor said that it wasindeedmelancholy to see what little heed people paid to the mostpreciousof all institutions. I could say nothing in replybut Ihave everbeen of opinion that the greater part of mankind doapproximatelyknow where they get that which does them good.
Mrs.Nosnibor went on to say that I must not think there was anywant ofconfidence in the bank because I had seen so few peoplethere; theheart of the country was thoroughly devoted to theseestablishmentsand any sign of their being in danger would bringin supportfrom the most unexpected quarters. It was only becausepeopleknew them to be so very safethat in some cases (as shelamentedto say in Mr. Nosnibor's) they felt that their support wasunnecessary. Moreover these institutions never departed from thesafest andmost approved banking principles. Thus they neverallowedinterest on deposita thing now frequently done by certainbubblecompanieswhich by doing an illegitimate trade had drawnmanycustomers away; and even the shareholders were fewer thanformerlyowing to the innovations of these unscrupulous personsfor theMusical Banks paid little or no dividendbut divided theirprofits byway of bonus on the original shares once in every thirtythousandyears; and as it was now only two thousand years sincethere hadbeen one of these distributionspeople felt that theycould nothope for another in their own time and preferredinvestmentswhereby they got some more tangible return; all whichshe saidwas very melancholy to think of.
Havingmade these last admissionsshe returned to her originalstatementnamelythat every one in the country really supportedthesebanks. As to the fewness of the peopleand the absence oftheable-bodiedshe pointed out to me with some justice that thiswasexactly what we ought to expect. The men who were mostconversantabout the stability of human institutionssuch as thelawyersmen of sciencedoctorsstatesmenpaintersand thelikewerejust those who were most likely to be misled by theirownfancied accomplishmentsand to be made unduly suspicious bytheirlicentious desire for greater present returnwhich was atthe rootof nine-tenths of the opposition; by their vanitywhichwouldprompt them to affect superiority to the prejudices of thevulgar;and by the stings of their own consciencewhich wasconstantlyupbraiding them in the most cruel manner on account oftheirbodieswhich were generally diseased.
Let aperson's intellect (she continued) be never so soundunlesshis bodyis in absolute healthhe can form no judgement worthhaving onmatters of this kind. The body is everything: it neednotperhaps be such a strong body (she said this because she sawthat I wasthinking of the old and infirm-looking folks whom I hadseen inthe bank)but it must be in perfect health; in this casethe lessactive strength it had the more free would be the workingof theintellectand therefore the sounder the conclusion. Thepeoplethenwhom I had seen at the bank were in reality the veryones whoseopinions were most worth having; they declared itsadvantagesto be incalculableand even professed to consider theimmediatereturn to be far larger than they were entitled to; andso she ranonnor did she leave off till we had got back to thehouse.
She mightsay what she pleasedbut her manner carried noconvictionand later on I saw signs of general indifference tothesebanks that were not to be mistaken. Their supporters oftendenied itbut the denial was generally so couched as to addanotherproof of its existence. In commercial panicsand in timesof generaldistressthe people as a mass did not so much as eventhink ofturning to these banks. A few might do sosome fromhabit andearly trainingsome from the instinct that prompts us tocatch atany straw when we think ourselves drowningbut few from agenuinebelief that the Musical Banks could save them fromfinancialruinif they were unable to meet their engagements inthe otherkind of currency.
Inconversation with one of the Musical Bank managers I ventured tohint thisas plainly as politeness would allow. He said that ithad beenmore or less true till lately; but that now they had putfreshstained glass windows into all the banks in the countryandrepairedthe buildingsand enlarged the organs; the presidentsmoreoverhad taken to riding in omnibuses and talking nicely topeople inthe streetsand to remembering the ages of theirchildrenand giving them things when they were naughtyso thatall wouldhenceforth go smoothly.
"Buthaven't you done anything to the money itself?" said Itimidly.
"Itis not necessary" he rejoined; "not in the leastnecessaryIassureyou."
And yetany one could see that the money given out at these bankswas notthat with which people bought their breadmeatandclothing. It was like it at a first glanceand was stamped withdesignsthat were often of great beauty; it was notagainaspuriouscoinagemade with the intention that it should bemistakenfor the money in actual use; it was more like a toy moneyor thecounters used for certain games at cards; fornotwithstandingthe beauty of the designsthe material on whichthey werestamped was as nearly valueless as possible. Some werecoveredwith tin foilbut the greater part were frankly of a cheapbase metalthe exact nature of which I was not able to determine.Indeedthey were made of a great variety of metalsorperhapsmoreaccuratelyalloyssome of which were hardwhile otherswould bendeasily and assume almost any form which their possessormightdesire at the moment.
Of courseevery one knew that their commercial value was nilbutall thosewho wished to be considered respectable thought itincumbentupon them to retain a few coins in their possessionandto letthem be seen from time to time in their hands and purses.Not onlythisbut they would stick to it that the current coin ofthe realmwas dross in comparison with the Musical Bank coinage.Perhapshoweverthe strangest thing of all was that these verypeoplewould at times make fun in small ways of the whole system;indeedthere was hardly any insinuation against it which theywould nottolerate and even applaud in their daily newspapers ifwrittenanonymouslywhile if the same thing were said withoutambiguityto their faces--nominative case verb and accusative beingall intheir right placesand doubt impossible--they wouldconsiderthemselves very seriously and justly outragedand accusethespeaker of being unwell.
I nevercould understand (neither can I quite do so nowthough Ibegin tosee better what they mean) why a single currency shouldnotsuffice them; it would seem to me as though all their dealingswould havebeen thus greatly simplified; but I was met with a lookof horrorif ever I dared to hint at it. Even those who to mycertainknowledge kept only just enough money at the Musical Banksto swearbywould call the other banks (where their securitiesreallylay) colddeadeningparalysingand the like.
I noticedanother thingmoreoverwhich struck me greatly. I wastaken tothe opening of one of these banks in a neighbouring townand saw alarge assemblage of cashiers and managers. I satoppositethem and scanned their faces attentively. They did notplease me;they lackedwith few exceptionsthe true Erewhonianfrankness;and an equal number from any other class would havelookedhappier and better men. When I met them in the streets theydid notseem like other peoplebut hadas a general ruleacrampedexpression upon their faces which pained and depressed me.
Those whocame from the country were better; they seemed to havelived lessas a separate classand to be freer and healthier; butin spiteof my seeing not a few whose looks were benign and nobleI couldnot help asking myself concerning the greater number ofthose whomI metwhether Erewhon would be a better country iftheirexpression were to be transferred to the people in general.I answeredmyself emphaticallyno. The expression on the faces ofthe highYdgrunites was that which one would wish to diffuseandnot thatof the cashiers.
A man'sexpression is his sacrament; it is the outward and visiblesign ofhis inward and spiritual graceor want of grace; and as Ilooked atthe a majority of these menI could not help feelingthat theremust be a something in their lives which had stuntedtheirnatural developmentand that they would have been morehealthilyminded in any other profession. I was always sorry forthemforin nine cases out of ten they were well-meaning persons;they werein the main very poorly paid; their constitutions were asa ruleabove suspicion; and there were recorded numberlessinstancesof their self-sacrifice and generosity; but they had hadthemisfortune to have been betrayed into a false position at anage forthe most part when their judgement was not maturedandafterhaving been kept in studied ignorance of the realdifficultiesof the system. But this did not make their positionthe less afalse oneand its bad effects upon themselves wereunmistakable.
Few peoplewould speak quite openly and freely before themwhichstruck meas a very bad sign. When they were in the room every onewould talkas though all currency save that of the Musical Banksshould beabolished; and yet they knew perfectly well that even thecashiersthemselves hardly used the Musical Bank money more thanotherpeople. It was expected of them that they should appear todo sobutthis was all. The less thoughtful of them did not seemparticularlyunhappybut many were plainly sick at heartthoughperhapsthey hardly knew itand would not have owned to being so.Some fewwere opponents of the whole system; but these were liableto bedismissed from their employment at any momentand thisrenderedthem very carefulfor a man who had once been cashier ata MusicalBank was out of the field for other employmentand wasgenerallyunfitted for it by reason of that course of treatmentwhich wascommonly called his education. In fact it was a careerfrom whichretreat was virtually impossibleand into which youngmen weregenerally induced to enter before they could be reasonablyexpectedconsidering their trainingto have formed any opinionsof theirown. Not unfrequentlyindeedthey were inducedby whatwe inEngland should call undue influenceconcealmentand fraud.Few indeedwere those who had the courage to insist on seeing bothsides ofthe question before they committed themselves to what waspracticallya leap in the dark. One would have thought thatcaution inthis respect was an elementary principle--one of thefirstthings that an honourable man would teach his boy tounderstand;but in practice it was not so.
I even sawcases in which parents bought the right of presenting tothe officeof cashier at one of these bankswith the fixeddeterminationthat some one of their sons (perhaps a mere child)shouldfill it. There was the lad himself--growing up with everypromise ofbecoming a good and honourable man--but utterly withoutwarningconcerning the iron shoe which his natural protector wasprovidingfor him. Who could say that the whole thing would notend in alife-long lieand vain chafing to escape? I confess thatthere werefew things in Erewhon which shocked me more than this.
Yet we dosomething not so very different from this even inEnglandand as regards the dual commercial systemall countrieshaveandhave hada law of the landand also another lawwhichthoughprofessedly more sacredhas far less effect on their dailylife andactions. It seems as though the need for some law overand aboveand sometimes even conflicting withthe law of thelandmustspring from something that lies deep down in man'snature;indeedit is hard to think that man could ever have becomeman atallbut for the gradual evolution of a perception thatthoughthis world looms so large when we are in itit may seem alittlething when we have got away from it.
When manhad grown to the perception that in the everlasting Is-and-Is-Notof naturethe world and all that it containsincludingmanis atthe same time both seen and unseenhe felt the need oftwo rulesof lifeone for the seenand the other for the unseenside ofthings. For the laws affecting the seen world he claimedthesanction of seen powers; for the unseen (of which he knowsnothingsave that it exists and is powerful) he appealed to theunseenpower (of whichagainhe knows nothing save that it existsand ispowerful) to which he gives the name of God.
SomeErewhonian opinions concerning the intelligence of the unbornembryothat I regret my space will not permit me to lay before thereaderhave led me to conclude that the Erewhonian Musical Banksandperhaps the religious systems of all countriesare now more orless of anattempt to uphold the unfathomable and unconsciousinstinctivewisdom of millions of past generationsagainst thecomparativelyshallowconsciously reasoningand ephemeralconclusionsdrawn from that of the last thirty or forty.
The savingfeature of the Erewhonian Musical Bank system (asdistinctfrom the quasi-idolatrous views which coexist with itandon which Iwill touch later) was that while it bore witness to theexistenceof a kingdom that is not of this worldit made noattempt topierce the veil that hides it from human eyes. It ishere thatalmost all religions go wrong. Their priests try to makeus believethat they know more about the unseen world than thosewhose eyesare still blinded by the seencan ever know--forgettingthat whileto deny the existence of an unseen kingdom is badtopretendthat we know more about it than its bare existence is nobetter.
Thischapter is already longer than I intendedbut I should liketo saythat in spite of the saving feature of which I have justspokenIcannot help thinking that the Erewhonians are on the eveof somegreat change in their religious opinionsor at any rate inthat partof them which finds expression through their MusicalBanks. So far as I could seefully ninety per cent. of thepopulationof the metropolis looked upon these banks with somethingnot farremoved from contempt. If this is soany such startlingevent asis sure to arise sooner or latermay serve as nucleus toa neworder of things that will be more in harmony with both theheads andhearts of the people.
The readerwill perhaps have learned by this time a thing which Ihad myselfsuspected before I had been twenty-four hours in Mr.Nosnibor'shouse--I meanthat though the Nosnibors showed me everyattentionI could not cordially like themwith the exception ofArowhenawho was quite different from the rest. They were not fairsamples ofErewhonians. I saw many families with whom they were onvisitingtermswhose manners charmed me more than I know how tosaybut Inever could get over my original prejudice against Mr.Nosniborfor having embezzled the money. Mrs. Nosnibortoowas averyworldly womanyet to hear her talk one would have thoughtthat shewas singularly the reverse; neither could I endure Zulora;Arowhenahowever was perfection.
She it waswho ran all the little errands for her mother and Mr.Nosniborand Zuloraand gave those thousand proofs of sweetnessandunselfishness which some one member of a family is generallyrequiredto give. All day long it was Arowhena thisand Arowhenathat; butshe never seemed to know that she was being put uponandwas alwaysbright and willing from morning till evening. Zuloracertainlywas very handsomebut Arowhena was infinitely the moregracefulof the two and was the very ne plus ultra of youth andbeauty. I will not attempt to describe herfor anything that Icould saywould fall so far short of the reality as only to misleadthereader. Let him think of the very loveliest that he canimagineand he will still be below the truth. Having said thismuchIneed hardly say that I had fallen in love with her.
She musthave seen what I felt for herbut I tried my hardest notto let itappear even by the slightest sign. I had many reasonsfor this. I had no idea what Mr. and Mrs. Nosnibor would say toit; and Iknew that Arowhena would not look at me (at any rate notyet) ifher father and mother disapprovedwhich they probablywouldconsidering that I had nothing except the pension of about apound aday of our money which the King had granted me. I did notyet knowof a more serious obstacle.
In themeantimeI may say that I had been presented at courtandwas toldthat my reception had been considered as singularlygracious;indeedI had several interviews both with the King andQueenatwhich from time to time the Queen got everything from methat I hadin the worldclothes and allexcept the two buttons Ihad givento Yramthe loss of which seemed to annoy her a gooddeal. I was presented with a court suitand her Majesty had myoldclothes put upon a wooden dummyon which they probably remainunlessthey have been removed in consequence of my subsequentdownfall. His Majesty's manners were those of a cultivated Englishgentleman. He was much pleased at hearing that our government wasmonarchicaland that the mass of the people were resolute that itshould notbe changed; indeedI was so much encouraged by theevidentpleasure with which he heard methat I ventured to quoteto himthose beautiful lines of Shakespeare's -
"There'sa divinity doth hedge a kingRoughhew him how we may;"
but I wassorry I had done so afterwardsfor I do not think hisMajestyadmired the lines as much as I could have wished.
There isno occasion for me to dwell further upon my experience ofthe courtbut I ought perhaps to allude to one of my conversationswith theKinginasmuch as it was pregnant with the most importantconsequences.
He hadbeen asking me about my watchand enquiring whether suchdangerousinventions were tolerated in the country from which Icame. I owned with some confusion that watches were not uncommon;butobserving the gravity which came over his Majesty's face Ipresumedto say that they were fast dying outand that we had fewif anyother mechanical contrivances of which he was likely todisapprove. Upon his asking me to name some of our most advancedmachinesI did not dare to tell him of our steam-engines andrailroadsand electric telegraphsand was puzzling my brains tothink whatI could saywhenof all things in the worldballoonssuggestedthemselvesand I gave him an account of a veryremarkableascent which was made some years ago. The King was toopolite tocontradictbut I felt sure that he did not believe meand fromthat day forward though he always showed me the attentionwhich wasdue to my genius (for in this light was my complexionregarded)he never questioned me about the manners and customs ofmycountry.
To returnhoweverto Arowhena. I soon gathered that neither Mr.nor Mrs.Nosnibor would have any objection to my marrying into thefamily; aphysical excellence is considered in Erewhon as a set offagainstalmost any other disqualificationand my light hair wassufficientto make me an eligible match. But along with thiswelcomefact I gathered another which filled me with dismay: I wasexpectedto marry Zulorafor whom I had already conceived a greataversion. At first I hardly noticed the little hints and theartificeswhich were resorted to in order to bring us togetherbutafter atime they became too plain. Zulorawhether she was inlove withme or notwas bent on marrying meand I gathered intalkingwith a young gentleman of my acquaintance who frequentlyvisitedthe house and whom I greatly dislikedthat it wasconsidereda sacred and inviolable rule that whoever married into afamilymust marry the eldest daughter at that time unmarried. Theyounggentleman urged this upon me so frequently that I at last sawhe was inlove with Arowhena himselfand wanted me to get Zuloraout of theway; but others told me the same story as to the customof thecountryand I saw there was a serious difficulty. My onlycomfortwas that Arowhena snubbed my rival and would not look athim. Neither would she look at me; nevertheless there was adifferencein the manner of her disregard; this was all I could getfrom her.
Not thatshe avoided me; on the contrary I had many a tete-a-tetewith herfor her mother and sister were anxious for me to depositsome partof my pension in the Musical Banksthis being inaccordancewith the dictates of their goddess Ydgrunof whom bothMrs.Nosnibor and Zulora were great devotees. I was not surewhether Ihad kept my secret from being perceived by Arowhenaherselfbut none of the others suspected meso she was set uponme to getme to open an accountat any rate pro formawith theMusicalBanks; and I need hardly say that she succeeded. But I didnot yieldat once; I enjoyed the process of being argued with tookeenly tolose it by a prompt concession; besidesa littlehesitationrendered the concession itself more valuable. It was inthe courseof conversations on this subject that I learned the moredefinedreligious opinions of the Erewhoniansthat coexist withtheMusical Bank systembut are not recognised by those curiousinstitutions. I will describe them as briefly as possible in thefollowingchapters before I return to the personal adventures ofArowhenaand myself.
They wereidolatersthough of a comparatively enlightened kind;but hereas in other thingsthere was a discrepancy between theirprofessedand actual belieffor they had a genuine and potentfaithwhich existed without recognition alongside of their idolworship.
The godswhom they worship openly are personifications of humanqualitiesas justicestrengthhopefearlove&c.&c. Thepeoplethink that prototypes of these have a real objectiveexistencein a region far beyond the cloudsholdingas did theancientsthat they are like men and women both in body andpassionexcept that they are even comelier and more powerfulandalso thatthey can render themselves invisible to human eyesight.They arecapable of being propitiated by mankind and of coming totheassistance of those who ask their aid. Their interest in humanaffairs iskeenand on the whole beneficent; but they become veryangry ifneglectedand punish rather the first they come uponthan theactual person who has offended them; their fury beingblind whenit is raisedthough never raised without reason. Theywill notpunish with any less severity when people sin against themfromignoranceand without the chance of having had knowledge;they willtake no excuses of this kindbut are even as the Englishlawwhichassumes itself to be known to every one.
Thus theyhave a law that two pieces of matter may not occupy thesame spaceat the same momentwhich law is presided over andadministeredby the gods of time and space jointlyso that if aflyingstone and a man's head attempt to outrage these godsby"arrogatinga right which they do not possess" (for so it iswritten inone of their books)and to occupy the same spacesimultaneouslya severe punishmentsometimes even death itselfis sure tofollowwithout any regard to whether the stone knewthat theman's head was thereor the head the stone; this at leastis theirview of the common accidents of life. Moreoverthey holdtheirdeities to be quite regardless of motives. With them it isthe thingdone which is everythingand the motive goes fornothing.
Thus theyhold it strictly forbidden for a man to go without commonair in hislungs for more than a very few minutes; and if by anychance hegets into the waterthe air-god is very angryand willnot sufferit; no matter whether the man got into the water byaccidentor on purposewhether through the attempt to save a childor throughpresumptuous contempt of the air-godthe air-god willkill himunless he keeps his head high enough out of the waterand thusgives the air-god his due.
This withregard to the deities who manage physical affairs. Overand abovethese they personify hopefearloveand so forthgivingthem temples and priestsand carving likenesses of them instonewhich they verily believe to be faithful representations oflivingbeings who are only not human in being more than human. Ifany onedenies the objective existence of these divinitiesandsays thatthere is really no such being as a beautiful woman calledJusticewith her eyes blinded and a pair of scalespositivelyliving andmoving in a remote and ethereal regionbut that justiceis onlythe personified expression of certain modes of humanthoughtand action--they say that he denies the existence ofjustice indenying her personalityand that he is a wantondisturberof men's religious convictions. They detest nothing somuch asany attempt to lead them to higher spiritual conceptions ofthedeities whom they profess to worship. Arowhena and I had apitchedbattle on this pointand should have had many more but formyprudence in allowing her to get the better of me.
I am surethat in her heart she was suspicious of her own positionfor shereturned more than once to the subject. "Can you not see"I hadexclaimed"that the fact of justice being admirable will notbeaffected by the absence of a belief in her being also a livingagent? Can you really think that men will be one whit lesshopefulbecause they no longer believe that hope is an actualperson?" She shook her headand said that with men's belief inthepersonality all incentive to the reverence of the thing itselfas justiceor hopewould cease; men from that hour would never beeitherjust or hopeful again.
I couldnot move hernorindeeddid I seriously wish to do so.Shedeferred to me in most thingsbut she never shrank frommaintainingher opinions if they were put in question; nor does sheto thisday abate one jot of her belief in the religion of herchildhoodthough in compliance with my repeated entreaties she hasallowedherself to be baptized into the English Church. She hashowevermade a gloss upon her original faith to the effect thather babyand I are the only human beings exempt from the vengeanceof thedeities for not believing in their personality. She isquiteclear that we are exempted. She should never have so strongaconviction of it otherwise. How it has come about she does notknowneither does she wish to know; there are things which it isbetter notto know and this is one of them; but when I tell herthat Ibelieve in her deities as much as she does--and that it is adifferenceabout wordsnot thingsshe becomes silent with aslightemphasis.
I own thatshe very nearly conquered me once; for she asked me whatI shouldthink if she were to tell me that my Godwhose nature andattributesI had been explaining to herwas but the expression forman'shighest conception of goodnesswisdomand power; that inorder togenerate a more vivid conception of so great and gloriousa thoughtman had personified it and called it by a name; that itwas anunworthy conception of the Deity to hold Him personalinasmuchas escape from human contingencies became thus impossible;that thereal thing men should worship was the Divinewhereinsoeverthey could find it; that "God" was but man's way ofexpressinghis sense of the Divine; that as justicehopewisdom&c.were all parts of goodnessso God was the expression whichembracedall goodness and all good power; that people would no morecease tolove God on ceasing to believe in His objectivepersonalitythan they had ceased to love justice on discoveringthat shewas not really personal; naythat they would never trulylove Himtill they saw Him thus.
She saidall this in her artless wayand with none of thecoherencewith which I have here written it; her face kindledandshe feltsure that she had convinced me that I was wrongand thatjusticewas a living person. Indeed I did wince a little; but Irecoveredmyself immediatelyand pointed out to her that we hadbookswhose genuineness was beyond all possibility of doubtasthey werecertainly none of them less than 1800 years old; that inthesethere were the most authentic accounts of men who had beenspoken toby the Deity Himselfand of one prophet who had beenallowed tosee the back parts of God through the hand that was laidover hisface.
This wasconclusive; and I spoke with such solemnity that she was alittlefrightenedand only answered that they too had their booksin whichtheir ancestors had seen the gods; on which I saw thatfurtherargument was not at all likely to convince her; and fearingthat shemight tell her mother what I had been sayingand that Imight losethe hold upon her affections which I was beginning tofeelpretty sure that I was obtainingI began to let her have herown wayand to convince me; neither till after we were safelymarrieddid I show the cloven hoof again.
Neverthelessher remarks have haunted meand I have since metwith manyvery godly people who have had a great knowledge ofdivinitybut no sense of the divine: and againI have seen aradianceupon the face of those who were worshipping the divineeither inart or nature--in picture or statue--in field or cloud orsea--inmanwomanor child--which I have never seen kindled byanytalking about the nature and attributes of God. Mention butthe worddivinityand our sense of the divine is clouded.
YDGRUN AND THE YDGRUNITES
In spiteof all the to-do they make about their idolsand thetemplesthey buildand the priests and priestesses whom theysupportIcould never think that their professed religion was morethanskin-deep; but they had another which they carried with theminto alltheir actions; and although no one from the outside ofthingswould suspect it to have any existence at allit was inrealitytheir great guidethe mariner's compass of their lives; sothat therewere very few things which they ever either didorrefrainedfrom doingwithout reference to its precepts.
Now Isuspected that their professed faith had no great hold uponthem--firstlybecause I often heard the priests complain of theprevailingindifferenceand they would hardly have done so withoutreason;secondlybecause of the show which was madefor there wasnone ofthis about the worship of the goddess Ydgrunin whom theyreally didbelieve; thirdlybecause though the priests wereconstantlyabusing Ydgrun as being the great enemy of the godsitwas wellknown that she had no more devoted worshippers in thewholecountry than these very personswho were often priests ofYdgrunrather than of their own deities. Neither am I by any meanssure thatthese were not the best of the priests.
Ydgruncertainly occupied a very anomalous position; she was heldto be bothomnipresent and omnipotentbut she was not an elevatedconceptionand was sometimes both cruel and absurd. Even her mostdevotedworshippers were a little ashamed of herand served hermore withheart and in deed than with their tongues. Theirs was nolipservice; on the contraryeven when worshipping her mostdevoutlythey would often deny her. Take her all in allhowevershe was abeneficent and useful deitywho did not care how muchshe wasdenied so long as she was obeyed and fearedand who kepthundredsof thousands in those paths which make life tolerablyhappywhowould never have been kept there otherwiseand overwhom ahigher and more spiritual ideal would have had no power.
I greatlydoubt whether the Erewhonians are yet prepared for anybetterreligionand though (considering my gradually strengthenedconvictionthat they were the representatives of the lost tribes ofIsrael) Iwould have set about converting them at all hazards had Iseen theremotest prospect of successI could hardly contemplatethedisplacement of Ydgrun as the great central object of theirregardwithout admitting that it would be attended with frightfulconsequences;in fact were I a mere philosopherI should say thatthegradual raising of the popular conception of Ydgrun would bethegreatest spiritual boon which could be conferred upon themandthatnothing could effect this except example. I generally foundthat thosewho complained most loudly that Ydgrun was not highenough forthem had hardly as yet come up to the Ydgrun standardand Ioften met with a class of men whom I called to myself "highYdgrunites"(the rest being Ydgrunitesand low Ydgrunites)whoin thematter of human conduct and the affairs of lifeappeared tome to havegot about as far as it is in the right nature of man togo.
They weregentlemen in the full sense of the word; and what has onenot saidin saying this? They seldom spoke of Ydgrunor evenalluded toherbut would never run counter to her dictates withoutamplereason for doing so: in such cases they would override herwith dueself-relianceand the goddess seldom punished them; forthey arebraveand Ydgrun is not. They had most of them asmatteringof the hypothetical languageand some few more thanthisbutonly a few. I do not think that this language has hadmuch handin making them what they are; but rather that the fact oftheirbeing generally possessed of its rudiments was one greatreason forthe reverence paid to the hypothetical language itself.
Beinginured from youth to exercises and athletics of all sortsand livingfearlessly under the eye of their peersamong whomthereexists a high standard of couragegenerosityhonourandevery goodand manly quality--what wonder that they should havebecomesoto speaka law unto themselves; andwhile taking anelevatedview of the goddess Ydgrunthey should have graduallylost allfaith in the recognised deities of the country? Thesethey donot openly disregardfor conformity until absolutelyintolerableis a law of Ydgrunyet they have no real belief in theobjectiveexistence of beings which so readily explain themselvesasabstractionsand whose personality demands a quasi-materialismwhich itbaffles the imagination to realise. They keep theiropinionshowevergreatly to themselvesinasmuch as most of theircountrymenfeel strongly about the godsand they hold it wrong togive painunless for some greater good than seems likely to arisefrom theirplain speaking.
On theother handsurely those whose own minds are clear about anygivenmatter (even though it be only that there is littlecertainty)should go so far towards imparting that clearness toothersasto say openly what they think and why they think itwheneverthey can properly do so; for they may be sure that theyowe theirown clearness almost entirely to the fact that othershave donethis by them: after allthey may be mistakenand ifsoit isfor their own and the general well-being that they shouldlet theirerror be seen as distinctly as possibleso that it maybe moreeasily refuted. I ownthereforethat on this one point Idisapprovedof the practice even of the highest Ydgrunitesandobjectedto it all the more because I knew that I should find myown futuretask more easy if the high Ydgrunites had alreadyunderminedthe belief which is supposed to prevail at present.
In otherrespects they were more like the best class of Englishmenthan anywhom I have seen in other countries. I should have likedto havepersuaded half-a-dozen of them to come over to England andgo uponthe stagefor they had most of them a keen sense of humourand ataste for acting: they would be of great use to us. Theexample ofa real gentleman isif I may say so without profanitythe bestof all gospels; such a man upon the stage becomes a potenthumanisinginfluencean Ideal which all may look upon for ashilling.
I alwaysliked and admired these menand although I could not helpdeeplyregretting their certain ultimate perdition (for they had nosense of ahereafterand their only religion was that of self-respectand consideration for other people)I never dared to takeso great aliberty with them as to attempt to put them inpossessionof my own religious convictionsin spite of my knowingthat theywere the only ones which could make them really good andhappyeither here or hereafter. I did try sometimesbeingimpelledto do so by a strong sense of dutyand by my deep regretthat somuch that was admirable should be doomed to ages if noteternityof torture; but the words stuck in my throat as soon as Ibegan.
Whether aprofessional missionary might have a better chance I knownot; suchpersons must doubtless know more about the science ofconversion: for myselfI could only be thankful that I was in therightpathand was obliged to let others take their chance as yet.If theplan fails by which I propose to convert them myselfIwouldgladly contribute my mite towards the sending two or threetrainedmissionarieswho have been known as successful convertersof Jewsand Mahometans; but such have seldom much to glory in thefleshandwhen I think of the high Ydgrunitesand of the figurewhich amissionary would probably cut among themI cannot feelsanguinethat much good would be arrived at. Still the attempt isworthmakingand the worst danger to the missionaries themselveswould bethat of being sent to the hospital where Chowbok wouldhave beensent had he come with me into Erewhon.
Takingthen their religious opinions as a wholeI must own thattheErewhonians are superstitiouson account of the views whichthey holdof their professed godsand their entirely anomalous andinexplicableworship of Ydgruna worship at once the mostpowerfulyet most devoid of formalismthat I ever met with; butinpractice things worked better than might have been expectedandtheconflicting claims of Ydgrun and the gods were arranged byunwrittencompromises (for the most part in Ydgrun's favour)whichinninety-nine cases out of a hundred were very well understood.
I couldnot conceive why they should not openly acknowledge highYdgrunismand discard the objective personality of hopejustice&c.;but whenever I so much as hinted at thisI found that I wasondangerous ground. They would never have it; returningconstantlyto the assertion that ages ago the divinities werefrequentlyseenand that the moment their personality wasdisbelievedinmen would leave off practising even those ordinaryvirtueswhich the common experience of mankind has agreed on asbeing thegreatest secret of happiness. "Who ever heard" theyaskedindignantly"of such things as kindly traininga goodexampleand an enlightened regard to one's own welfarebeing ableto keepmen straight?" In my hurryforgetting things which Iought tohave rememberedI answered that if a person could not bekeptstraight by these thingsthere was nothing that couldstraightenhimand that if he were not ruled by the love and fearof menwhom he had seenneither would he be so by that of the godswhom hehad not seen.
At onetime indeed I came upon a small but growing sect whobelievedafter a fashionin the immortality of the soul and theresurrectionfrom the dead; they taught that those who had beenborn withfeeble and diseased bodies and had passed their lives inailingwould be tortured eternally hereafter; but that those whohad beenborn strong and healthy and handsome would be rewarded forever andever. Of moral qualities or conduct they made no mention.
Bad asthis wasit was a step in advanceinasmuch as they didhold out afuture state of some sortand I was shocked to findthat forthe most part they met with oppositionon the score thattheirdoctrine was based upon no sort of foundationalso that itwasimmoral in its tendencyand not to be desired by anyreasonablebeings.
When Iasked how it could be immoralI was answeredthat iffirmlyheldit would lead people to cheapen this present lifemaking itappear to be an affair of only secondary importance; thatit wouldthus distract men's minds from the perfecting of thisworld'seconomyand was an impatient cuttingso to speakof theGordianknot of life's problemswhereby some people might gainpresentsatisfaction to themselves at the cost of infinite damageto others;that the doctrine tended to encourage the poor in theirimprovidenceand in a debasing acquiescence in ills which theymight wellremedy; that the rewards were illusory and the resultafter allof luckwhose empire should be bounded by the grave;that itsterrors were enervating and unjust; and that even the mostblessedrising would be but the disturbing of a still more blessedslumber.
To allwhich I could only say that the thing had been actuallyknown tohappenand that there were several well-authenticatedinstancesof people having died and come to life again--instanceswhich noman in his senses could doubt.
"Ifthis be so" said my opponent"we must bear it as best wemay."
I thentranslated for himas well as I couldthe noble speech ofHamlet inwhich he says that it is the fear lest worse evils maybefall usafter death which alone prevents us from rushing intodeath'sarms.
"Nonsense"he answered"no man was ever yet stopped from cuttinghis throatby any such fears as your poet ascribes to him--and yourpoetprobably knew this perfectly well. If a man cuts his throathe is atbayand thinks of nothing but escapeno matter whitherprovidedhe can shuffle off his present. No. Men are kept attheirpostsnot by the fear that if they quit them they may quit afrying-panfor a firebut by the hope that if they hold onthefire mayburn less fiercely. 'The respect' to quote your poet'thatmakes calamity of so long a life' is the consideration thatthoughcalamity may live longthe sufferer may live longer still."
On thisseeing that there was little probability of our coming toanagreementI let the argument dropand my opponent presentlyleft mewith as much disapprobation as he could show without beingovertlyrude.
I heardwhat follows not from Arowhenabut from Mr. Nosnibor andsome ofthe gentlemen who occasionally dined at the house: theytold methat the Erewhonians believe in pre-existence; and not onlythis (ofwhich I will write more fully in the next chapter)buttheybelieve that it is of their own free act and deed in apreviousstate that they come to be born into this world at all.They holdthat the unborn are perpetually plaguing and tormentingthemarried of both sexesfluttering about them incessantlyandgivingthem no peace either of mind or body until they haveconsentedto take them under their protection. If this were not so(this atleast is what they urge)it would be a monstrous freedomfor oneman to take with anotherto say that he should undergo thechancesand changes of this mortal life without any option in thematter. No man would have any right to get married at allinasmuchas he can never tell what frightful misery his doing somay entailforcibly upon a being who cannot be unhappy as long ashe doesnot exist. They feel this so strongly that they areresolvedto shift the blame on to other shoulders; and havefashioneda long mythology as to the world in which the unbornpeopleliveand what they doand the arts and machinations towhich theyhave recourse in order to get themselves into our ownworld. But of this more anon: what I would relate here is theirmanner ofdealing with those who do come.
It is adistinguishing peculiarity of the Erewhonians that whentheyprofess themselves to be quite certain about any matterandavow it asa base on which they are to build a system of practicetheyseldom quite believe in it. If they smell a rat about theprecinctsof a cherished institutionthey will always stop theirnoses toit if they can.
This iswhat most of them did in this matter of the unbornfor Icannot(and never could) think that they seriously believed intheirmythology concerning pre-existence: they did and they didnot; theydid not know themselves what they believed; all they didknow wasthat it was a disease not to believe as they did. Theonly thingof which they were quite sure was that it was thepesteringof the unborn which caused them to be brought into thisworldandthat they would not have been here if they would haveonly letpeaceable people alone.
It wouldbe hard to disprove this positionand they might have agood caseif they would only leave it as it stands. But this theywill notdo; they must have assurance doubly sure; they must havethewritten word of the child itself as soon as it is borngivingtheparents indemnity from all responsibility on the score of itsbirthandasserting its own pre-existence. They have thereforedevisedsomething which they call a birth formula--a document whichvaries inwords according to the caution of parentsbut is muchthe samepractically in all cases; for it has been the business oftheErewhonian lawyers during many ages to exercise their skill inperfectingit and providing for every contingency.
Theseformulae are printed on common paper at a moderate cost forthe poor;but the rich have them written on parchment andhandsomelyboundso that the getting up of a person's birthformula isa test of his social position. They commence by settingforthThat whereas A. B. was a member of the kingdom of theunbornwhere he was well provided for in every wayand had nocause ofdiscontent&c.&c.he did of his own wanton depravityandrestlessness conceive a desire to enter into this presentworld;that thereon having taken the necessary steps as set forthin laws ofthe unborn kingdomhe did with malice aforethought sethimself toplague and pester two unfortunate people who had neverwrongedhimand who were quite contented and happy until heconceivedthis base design against their peace; for which wrong henow humblyentreats their pardon.
Heacknowledges that he is responsible for all physical blemishesanddeficiencies which may render him answerable to the laws of hiscountry;that his parents have nothing whatever to do with any ofthesethings; and that they have a right to kill him at once ifthey be somindedthough he entreats them to show their marvellousgoodnessand clemency by sparing his life. If they will do thishepromises to be their most obedient and abject creature duringhisearlier yearsand indeed all his lifeunless they should seefit intheir abundant generosity to remit some portion of hisservicehereafter. And so the formula continuesgoing sometimesinto veryminute detailsaccording to the fancies of familylawyerswho will not make it any shorter than they can help.
The deedbeing thus preparedon the third or fourth day after thebirth ofthe childor as they call itthe "final importunity"thefriends gather togetherand there is a feast heldwhere theyare allvery melancholy--as a general ruleI believequite trulyso--andmake presents to the father and mother of the child inorder toconsole them for the injury which has just been done themby theunborn.
By-and-bythe child himself is brought down by his nurseand thecompanybegin to rail upon himupbraiding him for hisimpertinenceand asking him what amends he proposes to make forthe wrongthat he has committedand how he can look for care andnourishmentfrom those who have perhaps already been injured by theunborn onsome ten or twelve occasions; for they say of people withlargefamiliesthat they have suffered terrible injuries from theunborn;till at lastwhen this has been carried far enoughsomeonesuggests the formulawhich is brought out and solemnly read tothe childby the family straightener. This gentleman is alwaysinvited onthese occasionsfor the very fact of intrusion into apeacefulfamily shows a depravity on the part of the child whichrequireshis professional services.
On beingteased by the reading and tweaked by the nursethe childwillcommonly begin to crywhich is reckoned a good signasshowing aconsciousness of guilt. He is thereon askedDoes heassent tothe formula? on whichas he still continues crying andcanobviously make no answersome one of the friends comes forwardandundertakes to sign the document on his behalffeeling sure (sohe says)that the child would do it if he only knew howand thathe willrelease the present signer from his engagement on arrivingatmaturity. The friend then inscribes the signature of the childat thefoot of the parchmentwhich is held to bind the child asmuch asthough he had signed it himself.
Even thishoweverdoes not fully content themfor they feel alittleuneasy until they have got the child's own signature afterall. So when he is about fourteenthese good people partly bribehim bypromises of greater liberty and good thingsand partlyintimidatehim through their great power of making themselvesactivelyunpleasant to himso that though there is a show offreedommadethere is really none; they also use the offices oftheteachers in the Colleges of Unreasontill at lastin one wayoranotherthey take very good care that he shall sign the paperby whichhe professes to have been a free agent in coming into theworldandto take all the responsibility of having done so on tohis ownshoulders. And yetthough this document is obviously themostimportant which any one can sign in his whole lifethey willhave himdo so at an age when neither they nor the law will formany ayear allow any one else to bind him to the smallestobligationno matter how righteously he may owe itbecause theyhold himtoo young to know what he is aboutand do not consider itfair thathe should commit himself to anything that may prejudicehim inafter years.
I own thatall this seemed rather hardand not of a piece with themanyadmirable institutions existing among them. I once venturedto say apart of what I thought about it to one of the ProfessorsofUnreason. I did it very tenderlybut his justification of thesystem wasquite out of my comprehension. I remember asking himwhether hedid not think it would do harm to a lad's principlesbyweakeninghis sense of the sanctity of his word and of truthgenerallythat he should be led into entering upon a solemndeclarationas to the truth of things about which all that he cancertainlyknow is that he knows nothing--whetherin facttheteacherswho so led himor who taught anything as a certainty ofwhich theywere themselves uncertainwere not earning their livingbyimpairing the truth-sense of their pupils (a delicateorganisationmostly)and by vitiating one of their most sacredinstincts.
TheProfessorwho was a delightful personseemed greatlysurprisedat the view which I tookbut it had no influence withhimwhatsoever. No onehe answeredexpected that the boy eitherwould orcould know all that he said he knew; but the world wasfull ofcompromises; and there was hardly any affirmation whichwould bearbeing interpreted literally. Human language was toogross avehicle of thought--thought being incapable of absolutetranslation. He addedthat as there can be no translation fromonelanguage into another which shall not scant the meaningsomewhator enlarge upon itso there is no language which canrenderthought without a jarring and a harshness somewhere--and soforth; allof which seemed to come to this in the endthat it wasthe customof the countryand that the Erewhonians were aconservativepeople; that the boy would have to begin compromisingsooner orlaterand this was part of his education in the art. Itwasperhaps to be regretted that compromise should be as necessaryas it was;still it was necessaryand the sooner the boy got tounderstandit the better for himself. But they never tell this tothe boy.
From thebook of their mythology about the unborn I made theextractswhich will form the following chapter.
THE WORLD OF THE UNBORN
TheErewhonians say that we are drawn through life backwards; oragainthat we go onwards into the future as into a dark corridor.Time walksbeside us and flings back shutters as we advance; butthe lightthus given often dazzles usand deepens the darknesswhich isin front. We can see but little at a timeand heed thatlittle farless than our apprehension of what we shall see next;everpeering curiously through the glare of the present into thegloom ofthe futurewe presage the leading lines of that which isbefore usby faintly reflected lights from dull mirrors that arebehindand stumble on as we may till the trap-door opens beneathus and weare gone.
They sayat other times that the future and the past are as apanoramaupon two rollers; that which is on the roller of thefutureunwraps itself on to the roller of the past; we cannothasten itand we may not stay it; we must see all that is unfoldedto uswhether it be good or ill; and what we have seen once we maysee againno more. It is ever unwinding and being wound; we catchit intransition for a momentand call it present; our flusteredsensesgather what impression they canand we guess at what iscoming bythe tenor of that which we have seen. The same hand haspaintedthe whole pictureand the incidents vary little--riverswoodsplainsmountainstowns and peopleslovesorrowanddeath: yet the interest never flagsand we look hopefully forsome goodfortuneor fearfully lest our own faces be shown us asfiguringin something terrible. When the scene is past we think weknow itthough there is so much to seeand so little time to seeitthatour conceit of knowledge as regards the past is for themost partpoorly founded; neither do we care about it greatlysavein so faras it may affect the futurewherein our interest mainlylies.
TheErewhonians say it was by chance only that the earth and starsand allthe heavenly worlds began to roll from east to westandnot fromwest to eastand in like manner they say it is by chancethat manis drawn through life with his face to the past instead ofto thefuture. For the future is there as much as the pastonlythat wemay not see it. Is it not in the loins of the pastandmust notthe past alter before the future can do so?
Sometimesagainthey say that there was a race of men tried uponthe earthoncewho knew the future better than the pastbut thatthey diedin a twelvemonth from the misery which their knowledgecausedthem; and if any were to be born too prescient nowhe wouldbe culledout by natural selectionbefore he had time to transmitsopeace-destroying a faculty to his descendants.
Strangefate for man! He must perish if he get thatwhich he mustperish ifhe strive not after. If he strive not after it he is nobetterthan the brutesif he get it he is more miserable than thedevils.
Havingwaded through many chapters like the aboveI came at lastto theunborn themselvesand found that they were held to be soulspure andsimplehaving no actual bodiesbut living in a sort ofgaseousyet more or less anthropomorphic existencelike that of aghost;they have thus neither flesh nor blood nor warmth.Neverthelessthey are supposed to have local habitations and citieswhereinthey dwellthough these are as unsubstantial as theirinhabitants;they are even thought to eat and drink some thinambrosialsustenanceand generally to be capable of doing whatevermankindcan doonly after a visionary ghostly fashion as in adream. On the other handas long as they remain where they arethey neverdie--the only form of death in the unborn world beingtheleaving it for our own. They are believed to be extremelynumerousfar more so than mankind. They arrive from unknownplanetsfull grownin large batches at a time; but they can onlyleave theunborn world by taking the steps necessary for theirarrivalhere--which isin factby suicide.
They oughtto be an exceedingly happy peoplefor they have noextremesof good or ill fortune; never marryingbut living in astate muchlike that fabled by the poets as the primitive conditionofmankind. In spite of thishoweverthey are incessantlycomplaining;they know that we in this world have bodiesandindeedthey know everything else about usfor they move among uswhithersoeverthey willand can read our thoughtsas well assurvey ouractions at pleasure. One would think that this shouldbe enoughfor them; and most of them are indeed alive to thedesperaterisk which they will run by indulging themselves in thatbody with"sensible warm motion" which they so much desire;neverthelessthere are some to whom the ennui of a disembodiedexistenceis so intolerable that they will venture anything for achange; sothey resolve to quit. The conditions which they mustaccept areso uncertainthat none but the most foolish of theunbornwill consent to them; and it is from theseand these onlythat ourown ranks are recruited.
When theyhave finally made up their minds to leavethey must gobefore themagistrate of the nearest townand sign an affidavit oftheirdesire to quit their then existence. On their having donethisthemagistrate reads them the conditions which they mustacceptand which are so long that I can only extract some of theprincipalpointswhich are mainly the following:-
Firstthey must take a potion which will destroy their memory andsense ofidentity; they must go into the world helplessandwithout awill of their own; they must draw lots for theirdispositionsbefore they goand take themsuch as they areforbetter orworse--neither are they to be allowed any choice in thematter ofthe body which they so much desire; they are simplyallottedby chanceand without appealto two people whom it istheirbusiness to find and pester until they adopt them. Who theseare to bewhether rich or poorkind or unkindhealthy ordiseasedthere is no knowing; they havein factto entrustthemselvesfor many years to the care of those for whose goodconstitutionand good sense they have no sort of guarantee.
It iscurious to read the lectures which the wiser heads give tothose whoare meditating a change. They talk with them as we talkwith aspendthriftand with about as much success.
"Tobe born" they say"is a felony--it is a capital crimeforwhichsentence may be executed at any moment after the commissionof theoffence. You may perhaps happen to live for some seventy oreightyyearsbut what is thatcompared with the eternity you nowenjoy? And even though the sentence were commutedand you wereallowed tolive on for everyou would in time become so terriblyweary oflife that execution would be the greatest mercy to you.
"Considerthe infinite risk; to be born of wicked parents andtrained invice! to be born of silly parentsand trained tounrealities!of parents who regard you as a sort of chattel orpropertybelonging more to them than to yourself! Againyou maydrawutterly unsympathetic parentswho will never be able tounderstandyouand who will do their best to thwart you (as a henwhen shehas hatched a duckling)and then call you ungratefulbecauseyou do not love them; oragainyou may draw parents wholook uponyou as a thing to be cowed while it is still younglestit shouldgive them trouble hereafter by having wishes and feelingsof itsown.
"Inlater lifewhen you have been finally allowed to pass musteras a fullmember of the worldyou will yourself become liable tothepesterings of the unborn--and a very happy life you may be ledinconsequence! For we solicit so strongly that a few only--northese thebest--can refuse us; and yet not to refuse is much thesame asgoing into partnership with half-a-dozen different peopleabout whomone can know absolutely nothing beforehand--not evenwhetherone is going into partnership with men or womennor withhow manyof either. Delude not yourself with thinking that youwill bewiser than your parents. You may be an age in advance ofthose whomyou have pesteredbut unless you are one of the greatones youwill still be an age behind those who will in their turnpesteryou.
"Imaginewhat it must be to have an unborn quartered upon youwhois of anentirely different temperament and disposition to yourown; nayhalf-a-dozen suchwho will not love you though you havestintedyourself in a thousand ways to provide for their comfortandwell-being--who will forget all your self-sacrificeand ofwhom youmay never be sure that they are not bearing a grudgeagainstyou for errors of judgement into which you may have fallenthough youhad hoped that such had been long since atoned for.Ingratitudesuch as this is not uncommonyet fancy what it must beto bear! It is hard upon the duckling to have been hatched by ahenbutis it not also hard upon the hen to have hatched theduckling?
"Considerit againwe pray younot for our sake but for your own.Yourinitial character you must draw by lot; but whatever it isitcan onlycome to a tolerably successful development after longtraining;remember that over that training you will have nocontrol. It is possibleand even probablethat whatever you mayget inafter life which is of real pleasure and service to youwill haveto be won in spite ofrather than by the help ofthosewhom youare now about to pesterand that you will only win yourfreedomafter years of a painful struggle in which it will be hardto saywhether you have suffered most injuryor inflicted it.
"Rememberalsothat if you go into the world you will have freewill; thatyou will be obliged to have it; that there is noescapingit; that you will be fettered to it during your wholelifeandmust on every occasion do that which on the whole seemsbest toyou at any given timeno matter whether you are right orwrong inchoosing it. Your mind will be a balance forconsiderationsand your action will go with the heavier scale.How itshall fall will depend upon the kind of scales which you mayhave drawnat birththe bias which they will have obtained by useand theweight of the immediate considerations. If the scales weregood tostart withand if they have not been outrageously tamperedwith inchildhoodand if the combinations into which you enter areaverageonesyou may come off well; but there are too many 'ifs'in thisand with the failure of any one of them your misery isassured. Reflect on thisand remember that should the ill comeupon youyou will have yourself to thankfor it is your ownchoice tobe bornand there is no compulsion in the matter.
"Notthat we deny the existence of pleasures among mankind; thereis acertain show of sundry phases of contentment which may evenamount tovery considerable happiness; but mark how they aredistributedover a man's lifebelongingall the keenest of themto thefore partand few indeed to the after. Can there be anypleasureworth purchasing with the miseries of a decrepit age? Ifyou aregoodstrongand handsomeyou have a fine fortune indeedat twentybut how much of it will be left at sixty? For you mustlive onyour capital; there is no investing your powers so that youmay get asmall annuity of life for ever: you must eat up yourprincipalbit by bitand be tortured by seeing it grow continuallysmallerand smallereven though you happen to escape being rudelyrobbed ofit by crime or casualty.
"Remembertoothat there never yet was a man of forty who wouldnot comeback into the world of the unborn if he could do so withdecencyand honour. Being in the world he will as a general rulestay tillhe is forced to go; but do you think that he wouldconsent tobe born againand re-live his lifeif he had the offerof doingso? Do not think it. If he could so alter the past asthat heshould never have come into being at alldo you not thinkthat hewould do it very gladly?
"Whatwas it that one of their own poets meantif it was not thiswhen hecried out upon the day in which he was bornand the nightin whichit was said there is a man child conceived? 'For now' hesays'Ishould have lain still and been quietI should haveslept;then had I been at rest with kings and counsellors of theearthwhich built desolate places for themselves; or with princesthat hadgoldwho filled their houses with silver; or as an hiddenuntimelybirthI had not been; as infants which never saw light.There thewicked cease from troublingand the weary are at rest.'Be verysure that the guilt of being born carries this punishmentat timesto all men; but how can they ask for pityor complain ofanymischief that may befall themhaving entered open-eyed intothe snare?
"Oneword more and we have done. If any faint remembranceas of adreamflit in some puzzled moment across your brainand you shallfeel thatthe potion which is to be given you shall not have doneits workand the memory of this existence which you are leavingendeavoursvainly to return; we say in such a momentwhen youclutch atthe dream but it eludes your graspand you watch itasOrpheuswatched Eurydicegliding back again into the twilightkingdomfly--fly--if you can remember the advice--to the haven ofyourpresent and immediate dutytaking shelter incessantly in thework whichyou have in hand. This much you may perhaps recall; andthisifyou will imprint it deeply upon your every facultywillbe mostlikely to bring you safely and honourably home through thetrialsthat are before you."
This isthe fashion in which they reason with those who would beforleaving thembut it is seldom that they do much goodfor nonebut theunquiet and unreasonable ever think of being bornandthose whoare foolish enough to think of it are generally foolishenough todo it. Findingthereforethat they can do no morethefriendsfollow weeping to the courthouse of the chief magistratewhere theone who wishes to be born declares solemnly and openlythat heaccepts the conditions attached to his decision. On thishe ispresented with a potionwhich immediately destroys hismemory andsense of identityand dissipates the thin gaseoustenementwhich he has inhabited: he becomes a bare vitalprinciplenot to be perceived by human sensesnor to be by anychemicaltest appreciated. He has but one instinctwhich is thathe is togo to such and such a placewhere he will find twopersonswhom he is to importune till they consent to undertake him;butwhether he is to find these persons among the race of Chowbokor theErewhonians themselves is not for him to choose.
WHAT THEY MEAN BY IT
I havegiven the above mythology at some lengthbut it is only asmall partof what they have upon the subject. My first feeling onreading itwas that any amount of folly on the part of the unbornin cominghere was justified by a desire to escape from suchintolerableprosing. The mythology is obviously an unfair andexaggeratedrepresentation of life and things; and had its authorsbeen sominded they could have easily drawn a picture which woulderr asmuch on the bright side as this does on the dark. NoErewhonianbelieves that the world is as black as it has been herepaintedbut it is one of their peculiarities that they very oftendo notbelieve or mean things which they profess to regard asindisputable.
In thepresent instance their professed views concerning the unbornhavearisen from their desire to prove that people have beenpresentedwith the gloomiest possible picture of their ownprospectsbefore they came here; otherwisethey could hardly sayto onewhom they are going to punish for an affection of the heartor brainthat it is all his own doing. In practice they modifytheirtheory to a considerable extentand seldom refer to thebirthformula except in extreme cases; for the force of habitorwhat notgives many of them a kindly interest even in creatureswho haveso much wronged them as the unborn have done; and though amangenerally hates the unwelcome little stranger for the firsttwelvemonthshe is apt to mollify (according to his lights) astime goesonand sometimes he will become inordinately attached tothe beingswhom he is pleased to call his children.
Of courseaccording to Erewhonian premisesit would serve peopleright tobe punished and scouted for moral and intellectualdiseasesas much as for physicaland I cannot to this dayunderstandwhy they should have stopped short half way. NeitheragaincanI understand why their having done so should have beenas itcertainly wasa matter of so much concern to myself. Whatcould itmatter to me how many absurdities the Erewhonians mightadopt? Nevertheless I longed to make them think as I didfor thewish tospread those opinions that we hold conducive to our ownwelfare isso deeply rooted in the English character that few of uscan escapeits influence. But let this pass.
In spiteof not a few modifications in practice of a theory whichis itselfrevoltingthe relations between children and parents inthatcountry are less happy than in Europe. It was rarely that Isaw casesof real hearty and intense affection between the oldpeople andthe young ones. Here and there I did soand was quitesure thatthe childreneven at the age of twentywere fonder oftheirparents than they were of any one else; and that of their owninclinationbeing free to choose what company they wouldtheywouldoften choose that of their father and mother. Thestraightener'scarriage was rarely seen at the door of thosehouses. I saw two or three such cases during the time that Iremainedin the countryand cannot express the pleasure which Iderivedfrom a sight suggestive of so much goodness and wisdom andforbearanceso richly rewarded; yet I firmly believe that the samethingwould happen in nine families out of ten if the parents weremerely toremember how they felt when they were youngand actuallyto behavetowards their children as they would have had their ownparentsbehave towards themselves. But thiswhich would appear tobe sosimple and obviousseems also to be a thing which not one ina hundredthousand is able to put in practice. It is only the verygreat andgood who have any living faith in the simplest axioms;and thereare few who are so holy as to feel that 19 and 13 make 32ascertainly as 2 and 2 make 4.
I am quitesure that if this narrative should ever fall intoErewhonianhandsit will be said that what I have written abouttherelations between parents and children being seldomsatisfactoryis an infamous perversion of factsand that in truththere arefew young people who do not feel happier in the societyof theirnearest relations than in any other. Mr. Nosniborwould besure to say this. Yet I cannot refrain from expressing anopinionthat he would be a good deal embarrassed if his deceasedparentswere to reappear and propose to pay him a six months'visit. I doubt whether there are many things which he would regardas agreater infliction. They had died at a ripe old age sometwentyyears before I came to know himso the case is an extremeone; butsurely if they had treated him with what in his youth hehad feltto be true unselfishnesshis face would brighten when hethought ofthem to the end of his life.
In the oneor two cases of true family affection which I met withI am surethat the young people who were so genuinely fond of theirfathersand mothers at eighteenwould at sixty be perfectlydelightedwere they to get the chance of welcoming them as theirguests. There is nothing which could please them betterexceptperhaps towatch the happiness of their own children andgrandchildren.
This ishow things should be. It is not an impossible ideal; it isone whichactually does exist in some few casesand might exist inalmostallwith a little more patience and forbearance upon theparents'part; but it is rare at present--so rare that they have aproverbwhich I can only translate in a very roundabout waybutwhich saysthat the great happiness of some people in a futurestate willconsist in watching the distress of their parents onreturningto eternal companionship with their grandfathers andgrandmothers;whilst "compulsory affection" is the idea which liesat theroot of their word for the deepest anguish.
There isno talisman in the word "parent" which can generatemiraclesof affectionand I can well believe that my own childmight findit less of a calamity to lose both Arowhena and myselfwhen he issix years oldthan to find us again when he is sixty--asentencewhich I would not pen did I not feel that by doing so Iwas givinghim something like a hostageor at any rate putting aweaponinto his hands against meshould my selfishness exceedreasonablelimits.
Money isat the bottom of all this to a great extent. If theparentswould put their children in the way of earning a competenceearlierthan they dothe children would soon become self-supportingand independent. As it isunder the present systemthe youngones get old enough to have all manner of legitimatewants(that isif they have any "go" about them) before theyhavelearnt themeans of earning money to pay for them; hence they musteither dowithout themor take more money than the parents can beexpectedto spare. This is due chiefly to the schools of Unreasonwhere aboy is taught upon hypothetical principlesas I willexplainhereafter; spending years in being incapacitated for doingthisthator the other (he hardly knows what)during all whichtime heought to have been actually doing the thing itselfbeginningat the lowest gradespicking it up through actualpracticeand rising according to the energy which is in him.
Theseschools of Unreason surprised me much. It would be easy tofall intopseudo-utilitarianismand I would fain believe that thesystem maybe good for the children of very rich parentsor forthose whoshow a natural instinct to acquire hypothetical lore; butthe miserywas that their Ydgrun-worship required all people withanypretence to respectability to send their children to some oneor otherof these schoolsmulcting them of years of money. Itastonishedme to see what sacrifices the parents would make inorder torender their children as nearly useless as possible; andit washard to say whether the old suffered most from the expensewhich theywere thus put toor the young from being deliberatelyswindledin some of the most important branches of human inquiryanddirected into false channels or left to drift in the greatmajorityof cases.
I cannotthink I am mistaken in believing that the growing tendencyto limitfamilies by infanticide--an evil which was causing generalalarmthroughout the country--was almost entirely due to the way inwhicheducation had become a fetish from one end of Erewhon to theother. Granted that provision should be made whereby every childshould betaught readingwritingand arithmeticbut herecompulsorystate-aided education should endand the child shouldbegin(with all due precautions to ensure that he is notoverworked)to acquire the rudiments of that art whereby he is toearn hisliving.
He cannotacquire these in what we in England call schools oftechnicaleducation; such schools are cloister life as against therough andtumble of the world; they unfitrather than fit for workin theopen. An art can only be learned in the workshop of thosewho arewinning their bread by it.
Boysas arulehate the artificialand delight in the actual;give themthe chance of earningand they will soon earn. Whenparentsfind that their childreninstead of being madeartificiallyburdensomewill early begin to contribute to thewell-beingof the familythey will soon leave off killing themand willseek to have that plenitude of offspring which they nowavoid. As things arethe state lays greater burdens on parentsthan fleshand blood can bearand then wrings its hands over anevil forwhich it is itself mainly responsible.
With theless well-dressed classes the harm was not so great; foramongtheseat about ten years oldthe child has to begin doingsomething: if he is capable he makes his way up; if he is notheis at anyrate not made more incapable by what his friends arepleased tocall his education. People find their level as a rule;and thoughthey unfortunately sometimes miss itit is in the maintrue thatthose who have valuable qualities are perceived to havethem andcan sell them. I think that the Erewhonians are beginningto becomeaware of these thingsfor there was much talk aboutputting atax upon all parents whose children were not earning acompetenceaccording to their degrees by the time they were twentyyearsold. I am sure that if they will have the courage to carryit throughthey will never regret it; for the parents will takecare thatthe children shall begin earning money (which means"doinggood" to society) at an early age; then the children will beindependentearlyand they will not press on the parentsnor theparents onthemand they will like each other better than they donow.
This isthe true philanthropy. He who makes a colossal fortune inthehosiery tradeand by his energy has succeeded in reducing theprice ofwoollen goods by the thousandth part of a penny in thepound--thisman is worth ten professional philanthropists. Sostronglyare the Erewhonians impressed with thisthat if a man hasmade afortune of over 20000 pounds a year they exempt him fromalltaxationconsidering him as a work of artand too precious tobe meddledwith; they say"How very much he must have done forsocietybefore society could have been prevailed upon to give himso muchmoney;" so magnificent an organisation overawes them; theyregard itas a thing dropped from heaven.
"Money"they say"is the symbol of dutyit is the sacrament ofhavingdone for mankind that which mankind wanted. Mankind may notbe a verygood judgebut there is no better." This used to shockme atfirstwhen I remembered that it had been said on highauthoritythat they who have riches shall enter hardly into thekingdom ofheaven; but the influence of Erewhon had made me beginto seethings in a new lightand I could not help thinking thatthey whohave not riches shall enter more hardly still.
Peopleoppose money to cultureand imply that if a man has spenthis timein making money he will not be cultivated--fallacy offallacies! As though there could be a greater aid to culture thanthe havingearned an honourable independenceand as though anyamount ofculture will do much for the man who is pennilessexceptmake himfeel his position more deeply. The young man who was toldto sellall his goods and give to the poormust have been anentirelyexceptional person if the advice was given wiselyeitherfor him orfor the poor; how much more often does it happen that weperceive aman to have all sorts of good qualities except moneyand feelthat his real duty lies in getting every half-penny thathe canpersuade others to pay him for his servicesand becomingrich. It has been said that the love of money is the root of allevil. The want of money is so quite as truly.
The abovemay sound irreverentbut it is conceived in a spirit ofthe mostutter reverence for those things which do alone deserveit--thatisfor the things which arewhich mould us and fashionusbethey what they may; for the things that have power to punishusandwhich will punish us if we do not heed them; for ourmasterstherefore. But I am drifting away from my story.
They haveanother plan about which they are making a great noiseand fussmuch as some are doing with women's rights in England. Aparty ofextreme radicals have professed themselves unable todecideupon the superiority of age or youth. At present all goeson thesupposition that it is desirable to make the young old assoon aspossible. Some would have it that this is wrongand thatthe objectof education should be to keep the old young as long aspossible. They say that each age should take it turn in turnaboutweek by weekone week the old to be topsawyersand theother theyoungdrawing the line at thirty-five years of age; buttheyinsist that the young should be allowed to inflict corporalchastisementon the oldwithout which the old would be quiteincorrigible. In any European country this would be out of thequestion;but it is not so therefor the straighteners areconstantlyordering people to be floggedso that they are familiarwith thenotion. I do not suppose that the idea will be ever actedupon; butits having been even mooted is enough to show the utterperversionof the Erewhonian mind.
THE COLLEGES OF UNREASON
I had nowbeen a visitor with the Nosnibors for some five or sixmonthsand though I had frequently proposed to leave them and takeapartmentsof my ownthey would not hear of my doing so. Isupposethey thought I should be more likely to fall in love withZulora ifI remainedbut it was my affection for Arowhena thatkept me.
During allthis time both Arowhena and myself had been dreaminganddrifting towards an avowed attachmentbut had not dared toface thereal difficulties of the position. Graduallyhowevermatterscame to a crisis in spite of ourselvesand we got to seethe truestate of the caseall too clearly.
Oneevening we were sitting in the gardenand I had been trying ineverystupid roundabout way to get her to say that she should be atany ratesorry for a manif he really loved a woman who would notmarryhim. I had been stammering and blushingand been as sillyas any onecould beand I suppose had pained her by fishing forpity formyself in such a transparent wayand saying nothing abouther ownneed of it; at any rateshe turned all upon me with asweet sadsmile and said"Sorry? I am sorry for myself; I amsorry foryou; and I am sorry for every one." The words had nosoonercrossed her lips than she bowed her headgave me a look asthough Iwere to make no answerand left me.
The wordswere few and simplebut the manner with which they wereutteredwas ineffable: the scales fell from my eyesand I feltthat I hadno right to try and induce her to infringe one of themostinviolable customs of her countryas she needs must do if shewere tomarry me. I sat for a long while thinkingand when Irememberedthe sin and shame and misery which an unrighteousmarriage--foras such it would be held in Erewhon--would entailIbecamethoroughly ashamed of myself for having been so long self-blinded. I write coldly nowbut I suffered keenly at the timeand shouldprobably retain a much more vivid recollection of what Ifelthadnot all ended so happily.
As forgiving up the idea of marrying Arowhenait never so much asentered myhead to do so: the solution must be found in some otherdirectionthan this. The idea of waiting till somebody marriedZulora wasto be no less summarily dismissed. To marry Arowhena atonce inErewhon--this had already been abandoned: there remainedthereforebut one alternativeand that was to run away with herand gether with me to Europewhere there would be no bar to ourunion savemy own impecuniositya matter which gave me nouneasiness.
To thisobvious and simple plan I could see but two objections thatdeservedthe name--the firstthat perhaps Arowhena would notcome; thesecondthat it was almost impossible for me to escapeevenalonefor the king had himself told me that I was to considermyself aprisoner on paroleand that the first sign of myendeavouringto escape would cause me to be sent to one of thehospitalsfor incurables. BesidesI did not know the geography ofthecountryand even were I to try and find my way backI shouldbediscovered long before I had reached the pass over which I hadcome. How then could I hope to be able to take Arowhena with me?For daysand days I turned these difficulties over in my mindandat lasthit upon as wild a plan as was ever suggested by extremity.This wasto meet the second difficulty: the first gave me lessuneasinessfor when Arowhena and I next met after our interview inthe gardenI could see that she had suffered not less acutely thanmyself.
I resolvedthat I would have another interview with her--the lastfor thepresent--that I would then leave herand set to work uponmaturingmy plan as fast as possible. We got a chance of beingalonetogetherand then I gave myself the loose reinand told herhowpassionately and devotedly I loved her. She said little inreturnbut her tears (which I could not refrain from answeringwith myown) and the little she did say were quite enough to showme that Ishould meet with no obstacle from her. Then I asked herwhethershe would run a terrible risk which we should share incommonifin case of successI could take her to my own peopleto thehome of my mother and sisterswho would welcome her verygladly. At the same time I pointed out that the chances of failurewere fargreater than those of successand that the probabilitywas thateven though I could get so far as to carry my design intoexecutionit would end in death to us both.
I was notmistaken in her; she said that she believed I loved heras much asshe loved meand that she would brave anything if Icould onlyassure her that what I proposed would not be thoughtdishonourablein England; she could not live without meand wouldrather diewith me than alone; that death was perhaps the best forus both;that I must planand that when the hour came I was tosend forherand trust her not to fail me; and so after many tearsandembraceswe tore ourselves away.
I thenleft the Nosniborstook a lodging in the townand becamemelancholyto my heart's content. Arowhena and I used to see eachothersometimesfor I had taken to going regularly to the MusicalBanksbutMrs. Nosnibor and Zulora both treated me withconsiderablecoldness. I felt sure that they suspected me.Arowhenalooked miserableand I saw that her purse was now alwaysas full asshe could fill it with the Musical Bank money--muchfullerthan of old. Then the horrible thought occurred to me thather healthmight break downand that she might be subjected to acriminalprosecution. Oh! how I hated Erewhon at that time.
I wasstill received at courtbut my good looks were beginning tofail meand I was not such an adept at concealing the effects ofpain asthe Erewhonians are. I could see that my friends began tolookconcerned about meand was obliged to take a leaf out ofMahaina'sbookand pretend to have developed a taste for drinking.I evenconsulted a straightener as though this were soandsubmittedto much discomfort. This made matters better for a timebut Icould see that my friends thought less highly of myconstitutionas my flesh began to fall away.
I was toldthat the poor made an outcry about my pensionand I sawa stingingarticle in an anti-ministerial paperin which thewriterwent so far as to say that my having light hair reflectedlittlecredit upon meinasmuch as I had been reported to have saidthat itwas a common thing in the country from which I came. Ihavereason to believe that Mr. Nosnibor himself inspired thisarticle. Presently it came round to me that the king had begun todwell uponmy having been possessed of a watchand to say that Iought tobe treated medicinally for having told him a lie about theballoons. I saw misfortune gathering round me in every directionand feltthat I should have need of all my wits and a good manymoreif Iwas to steer myself and Arowhena to a good conclusion.
There weresome who continued to show me kindnessand strange tosayIreceived the most from the very persons from whom I shouldhave leastexpected it--I mean from the cashiers of the MusicalBanks. I had made the acquaintance of several of these personsand nowthat I frequented their bankthey were inclined to make agood dealof me. One of themseeing that I was thoroughly out ofhealththough of course he pretended not to notice itsuggestedthat Ishould take a little change of air and go down with him toone of theprincipal townswhich was some two or three days'journeyfrom the metropolisand the chief seat of the Colleges ofUnreason;he assured me that I should be delighted with what I sawand that Ishould receive a most hospitable welcome. I determinedthereforeto accept the invitation.
We startedtwo or three days laterand after a night on the roadwe arrivedat our destination towards evening. It was now fullspringand as nearly as might be ten months since I had startedwithChowbok on my expeditionbut it seemed more like ten years.The treeswere in their freshest beautyand the air had becomewarmwithout being oppressively hot. After having lived so manymonths inthe metropolisthe sight of the countryand the countryvillagesthrough which we passed refreshed me greatlybut I couldnot forgetmy troubles. The last five miles or so were the mostbeautifulpart of the journeyfor the country became moreundulatingand the woods were more extensive; but the first sightof thecity of the colleges itself was the most delightful of all.I cannotimagine that there can be any fairer in the whole worldand Iexpressed my pleasure to my companionand thanked him forhavingbrought me.
We droveto an inn in the middle of the townand thenwhile itwas stilllightmy friend the cashierwhose name was Thimstookme for astroll in the streets and in the court-yards of theprincipalcolleges. Their beauty and interest were extreme; it wasimpossibleto see them without being attracted towards them; and Ithought tomyself that he must be indeed an ill-grained andungratefulperson who can have been a member of one of thesecollegeswithout retaining an affectionate feeling towards it forthe restof his life. All my misgivings gave way at once when Isaw thebeauty and venerable appearance of this delightful city.Forhalf-an-hour I forgot both myself and Arowhena.
Aftersupper Mr. Thims told me a good deal about the system ofeducationwhich is here practised. I already knew a part of what Iheardbutmuch was new to meand I obtained a better idea of theErewhonianposition than I had done hitherto: nevertheless therewere partsof the scheme of which I could not comprehend thefitnessalthough I fully admit that this inability was probablythe resultof my having been trained so very differentlyand to mybeing thenmuch out of sorts.
The mainfeature in their system is the prominence which they giveto a studywhich I can only translate by the word "hypothetics."They arguethus--that to teach a boy merely the nature of thethingswhich exist in the world around himand about which he willhave to beconversant during his whole lifewould be giving himbut anarrow and shallow conception of the universewhich it isurgedmight contain all manner of things which are not now to befoundtherein. To open his eyes to these possibilitiesand so topreparehim for all sorts of emergenciesis the object of thissystem ofhypothetics. To imagine a set of utterly strange andimpossiblecontingenciesand require the youths to giveintelligentanswers to the questions that arise therefromisreckonedthe fittest conceivable way of preparing them for theactualconduct of their affairs in after life.
Thus theyare taught what is called the hypothetical language formany oftheir best years--a language which was originally composedat a timewhen the country was in a very different state ofcivilisationto what it is at presenta state which has long sincedisappearedand been superseded. Many valuable maxims and noblethoughtswhich were at one time concealed in it have become currentin theirmodern literatureand have been translated over and overagain intothe language now spoken. Surely then it would seemenoughthat the study of the original language should be confinedto the fewwhose instincts led them naturally to pursue it.
But theErewhonians think differently; the store they set by thishypotheticallanguage can hardly be believed; they will even giveany one amaintenance for life if he attains a considerableproficiencyin the study of it; naythey will spend years inlearningto translate some of their own good poetry into thehypotheticallanguage--to do so with fluency being reckoned adistinguishingmark of a scholar and a gentleman. Heaven forbidthat Ishould be flippantbut it appeared to me to be a wantonwaste ofgood human energy that men should spend years and years intheperfection of so barren an exercisewhen their owncivilisationpresented problems by the hundred which cried aloudforsolution and would have paid the solver handsomely; but peopleknow theirown affairs best. If the youths chose it for themselvesI shouldhave wondered less; but they do not choose it; they haveit thrustupon themand for the most part are disinclined towardsit. I can only say that all I heard in defence of the system wasinsufficientto make me think very highly of its advantages.
Thearguments in favour of the deliberate development of theunreasoningfaculties were much more cogent. But here they departfrom theprinciples on which they justify their study ofhypothetics;for they base the importance which they assign tohypotheticsupon the fact of their being a preparation for theextraordinarywhile their study of Unreason rests upon itsdevelopingthose faculties which are required for the daily conductofaffairs. Hence their professorships of Inconsistency andEvasionin both of which studies the youths are examined beforebeingallowed to proceed to their degree in hypothetics. The moreearnestand conscientious students attain to a proficiency in thesesubjectswhich is quite surprising; there is hardly anyinconsistencyso glaring but they soon learn to defend itorinjunctionso clear that they cannot find some pretext fordisregardingit.
Lifetheyurgewould be intolerable if men were to be guided inall theydid by reason and reason only. Reason betrays men intothedrawing of hard and fast linesand to the defining bylanguage--languagebeing like the sunwhich rears and thenscorches. Extremes are alone logicalbut they are always absurd;the meanis illogicalbut an illogical mean is better than thesheerabsurdity of an extreme. There are no follies and nounreasonablenessesso great as those which can apparently beirrefragablydefended by reason itselfand there is hardly anerror intowhich men may not easily be led if they base theirconductupon reason only.
Reasonmight very possibly abolish the double currency; it mightevenattack the personality of Hope and Justice. Besidespeoplehave sucha strong natural bias towards it that they will seek itforthemselves and act upon it quite as much as or more than isgood forthem: there is no need of encouraging reason. Withunreasonthe case is different. She is the natural complement ofreasonwithout whose existence reason itself were non-existent.
Ifthenreason would be non-existent were there no such thing asunreasonsurely it follows that the more unreason there isthemorereason there must be also? Hence the necessity for thedevelopmentof unreasoneven in the interests of reason herself.TheProfessors of Unreason deny that they undervalue reason: nonecan bemore convinced than they arethat if the double currencycannot berigorously deduced as a necessary consequence of humanreasonthe double currency should cease forthwith; but they saythat itmust be deduced from no narrow and exclusive view of reasonwhichshould deprive that admirable faculty of the one-half of itsownexistence. Unreason is a part of reason; it must therefore beallowedits full share in stating the initial conditions.
THE COLLEGES OF UNREASON--Continued
Of geniusthey make no accountfor they say that every one is ageniusmore or less. No one is so physically sound that no partof himwill be even a little unsoundand no one is so diseased butthat somepart of him will be healthy--so no man is so mentally andmorallysoundbut that he will be in part both mad and wicked; andno man isso mad and wicked but he will be sensible and honourablein part. In like manner there is no genius who is not also a fooland nofool who is not also a genius.
When Italked about originality and genius to some gentlemen whom Imet at asupper party given by Mr. Thims in my honourand saidthatoriginal thought ought to be encouragedI had to eat my wordsat once. Their view evidently was that genius was like offences--needs mustthat it comebut woe unto that man through whom itcomes. A man's businessthey holdis to think as his neighboursdoforHeaven help him if he thinks good what they count bad. Andreally itis hard to see how the Erewhonian theory differs from ourownforthe word "idiot" only means a person who forms hisopinionsfor himself.
Thevenerable Professor of Worldly Wisdoma man verging on eightybut stillhalespoke to me very seriously on this subject inconsequenceof the few words that I had imprudently let fall indefence ofgenius. He was one of those who carried most weight intheuniversityand had the reputation of having done more perhapsthan anyother living man to suppress any kind of originality.
"Itis not our business" he said"to help students to thinkforthemselves. Surely this is the very last thing which one whowishesthem well should encourage them to do. Our duty is toensurethat they shall think as we door at any rateas we holditexpedient to say we do." In some respectshoweverhe wasthought tohold somewhat radical opinionsfor he was President oftheSociety for the Suppression of Useless Knowledgeand for theCompleterObliteration of the Past.
As regardsthe tests that a youth must pass before he can get adegreeIfound that they have no class listsand discourageanythinglike competition among the students; thisindeedtheyregard asself-seeking and unneighbourly. The examinations areconductedby way of papers written by the candidate on setsubjectssome of which are known to him beforehandwhile othersaredevised with a view of testing his general capacity and savoirfaire.
My friendthe Professor of Worldly Wisdom was the terror of thegreaternumber of students; andso far as I could judgehe verywell mightbefor he had taken his Professorship more seriouslythan anyof the other Professors had done. I heard of his havingpluckedone poor fellow for want of sufficient vagueness in hissavingclauses paper. Another was sent down for having written anarticle ona scientific subject without having made free enough useof thewords "carefully" "patiently" and "earnestly." One manwasrefused a degree for being too often and too seriously in therightwhile a few days before I came a whole batch had beenpluckedfor insufficient distrust of printed matter.
About thisthere was just then rather a fermentfor it seems thattheProfessor had written an article in the leading universitymagazinewhich was well known to be by himand which abounded inall sortsof plausible blunders. He then set a paper whichaffordedthe examinees an opportunity of repeating these blunders--whichbelieving the article to be by their own examinerthey ofcoursedid. The Professor plucked every single one of thembuthis actionwas considered to have been not quite handsome.
I toldthem of Homer's noble line to the effect that a man shouldstriveever to be foremost and in all things to outvie his peers;but theysaid that no wonder the countries in which such adetestablemaxim was held in admiration were always flying at oneanother'sthroats.
"Why"asked one Professor"should a man want to be better thanhisneighbours? Let him be thankful if he is no worse."
I venturedfeebly to say that I did not see how progress could bemade inany art or scienceor indeed in anything at allwithoutmore orless self-seekingand hence unamiability.
"Ofcourse it cannot" said the Professor"and therefore weobjecttoprogress."
Afterwhich there was no more to be said. Later onhoweverayoungProfessor took me aside and said he did not think I quiteunderstoodtheir views about progress.
"Welike progress" he said"but it must commend itself to thecommonsense of the people. If a man gets to know more than hisneighbourshe should keep his knowledge to himself till he hassoundedthemand seen whether they agreeor are likely to agreewith him. He said it was as immoral to be too far in front ofone's ownageas to lag too far behind it. If a man can carry hisneighbourswith himhe may say what he likes; but if notwhatinsult canbe more gratuitous than the telling them what they donot wantto know? A man should remember that intellectual over-indulgenceis one of the most insidious and disgraceful forms thatexcess cantake. Granted that every one should exceed more orlessinasmuch as absolutely perfect sanity would drive any man madthe momenthe reached itbut . . . "
He was nowwarming to his subject and I was beginning to wonder howI shouldget rid of himwhen the party broke upand though Ipromisedto call on him before I leftI was unfortunatelypreventedfrom doing so.
I have nowsaid enough to give English readers some idea of thestrangeviews which the Erewhonians hold concerning unreasonhypotheticsand education generally. In many respects they weresensibleenoughbut I could not get over the hypotheticsespeciallythe turning their own good poetry into the hypotheticallanguage. In the course of my stay I met one youth who told methat forfourteen years the hypothetical language had been almostthe onlything that he had been taughtalthough he had never (tohiscreditas it seemed to me) shown the slightest proclivitytowardsitwhile he had been endowed with not inconsiderableabilityfor several other branches of human learning. He assuredme that hewould never open another hypothetical book after he hadtaken hisdegreebut would follow out the bent of his owninclinations. This was well enoughbut who could give him hisfourteenyears back again?
Isometimes wondered how it was that the mischief done was not moreclearlyperceptibleand that the young men and women grew up assensibleand goodly as they didin spite of the attempts almostdeliberatelymade to warp and stunt their growth. Some doubtlessreceiveddamagefrom which they suffered to their life's end; butmanyseemed little or none the worseand somealmost the better.The reasonwould seem to be that the natural instinct of the ladsin mostcases so absolutely rebelled against their trainingthatdo whatthe teachers might they could never get them to pay seriousheed toit. The consequence was that the boys only lost theirtimeandnot so much of this as might have been expectedfor intheirhours of leisure they were actively engaged in exercises andsportswhich developed their physical natureand made them at anyratestrong and healthy.
Moreoverthose who had any special tastes could not be restrainedfromdeveloping them: they would learn what they wanted to learnand likedin spite of obstacles which seemed rather to urge themon than todiscourage themwhile for those who had no specialcapacitythe loss of time was of comparatively little moment; butin spiteof these alleviations of the mischiefI am sure that muchharm wasdone to the children of the sub-wealthy classesby thesystemwhich passes current among the Erewhonians as education.Thepoorest children suffered least--if destruction and death haveheard thesound of wisdomto a certain extent poverty has done soalso.
And yetperhapsafter allit is better for a country that itsseats oflearning should do more to suppress mental growth than toencourageit. Were it not for a certain priggishness which theseplacesinfuse into so great a number of their alumnigenuine workwouldbecome dangerously common. It is essential that by far thegreaterpart of what is said or done in the world should be soephemeralas to take itself away quickly; it should keep good fortwenty-fourhoursor even twice as longbut it should not be goodenough aweek hence to prevent people from going on to somethingelse. No doubt the marvellous development of journalism inEnglandas also the fact that our seats of learning aim rather atfosteringmediocrity than anything higheris due to oursubconsciousrecognition of the fact that it is even more necessaryto checkexuberance of mental development than to encourage it.There canbe no doubt that this is what our academic bodies doandthey do itthe more effectually because they do it onlysubconsciously. They think they are advancing healthy mentalassimilationand digestionwhereas in reality they are littlebetterthan cancer in the stomach.
Let mereturnhoweverto the Erewhonians. Nothing surprised memore thanto see the occasional flashes of common sense with whichone branchof study or another was lit upwhile not a single rayfell uponso many others. I was particularly struck with this onstrollinginto the Art School of the University. Here I found thatthe courseof study was divided into two branches--the practicaland thecommercial--no student being permitted to continue hisstudies inthe actual practice of the art he had taken upunlesshe madeequal progress in its commercial history.
Thus thosewho were studying painting were examined at frequentintervalsin the prices which all the leading pictures of the lastfifty or ahundred years had realisedand in the fluctuations intheirvalues when (as often happened) they had been sold and resoldthree orfour times. The artistthey contendis a dealer inpicturesand it is as important for him to learn how to adapt hiswares tothe marketand to know approximately what kind of apicturewill fetch how muchas it is for him to be able to paintthepicture. ThisI supposeis what the French mean by laying somuchstress upon "values."
As regardsthe city itselfthe more I saw the more enchanted Ibecame. I dare not trust myself with any description of theexquisitebeauty of the different collegesand their walks andgardens. Truly in these things alone there must be a hallowing andrefininginfluence which is in itself half an educationand whichno amountof error can wholly spoil. I was introduced to many oftheProfessorswho showed me every hospitality and kindness;neverthelessI could hardly avoid a sort of suspicion that some ofthose whomI was taken to see had been so long engrossed in theirown studyof hypothetics that they had become the exact antithesesof theAthenians in the days of St. Paul; for whereas the Atheniansspenttheir lives in nothing save to see and to hear some newthingthere were some here who seemed to devote themselves to theavoidanceof every opinion with which they were not perfectlyfamiliarand regarded their own brains as a sort of sanctuarytowhich ifan opinion had once resortednone other was to attack it.
I shouldwarn the readerhoweverthat I was rarely sure what themen whom Imet while staying with Mr. Thims really meant; for therewas nogetting anything out of them if they scented even asuspicionthat they might be what they call "giving themselvesaway." As there is hardly any subject on which this suspicioncannotariseI found it difficult to get definite opinions fromany ofthemexcept on such subjects as the weathereating anddrinkingholiday excursionsor games of skill.
If theycannot wriggle out of expressing an opinion of some sortthey willcommonly retail those of some one who has already writtenupon thesubjectand conclude by saying that though they quiteadmit thatthere is an element of truth in what the writer hassaidthere are many points on which they are unable to agree withhim. Which these points wereI invariably found myself unable todetermine;indeedit seemed to be counted the perfection ofscholarshipand good breeding among them not to have--much less toexpress--anopinion on any subject on which it might prove laterthat theyhad been mistaken. The art of sitting gracefully on afence hasneverI should thinkbeen brought to greater perfectionthan atthe Erewhonian Colleges of Unreason.
Even whenwriggle as they maythey find themselves pinned down tosomeexpression of definite opinionas often as not they willargue insupport of what they perfectly well know to be untrue. Irepeatedlymet with reviews and articles even in their bestjournalsbetween the lines of which I had little difficulty indetectinga sense exactly contrary to the one ostensibly putforward. So well is this understoodthat a man must be a meretyro inthe arts of Erewhonian polite societyunless heinstinctivelysuspects a hidden "yea" in every "nay" that meetshim. Granted that it comes to much the same in the endfor itdoes notmatter whether "yea" is called "yea" or "nay"so long asit isunderstood which it is to be; but our own more direct way ofcalling aspade a spaderather than a rakewith the intentionthat everyone should understand it as a spadeseems moresatisfactory. On the other handthe Erewhonian system lendsitselfbetter to the suppression of that downrightness which itseems theexpress aim of Erewhonian philosophy to discountenance.
Howeverthis may bethe fear-of-giving-themselves-away disease wasfatal tothe intelligence of those infected by itand almost everyone at theColleges of Unreason had caught it to a greater or lessdegree. After a few years atrophy of the opinions invariablysupervenedand the sufferer became stone dead to everything exceptthe moresuperficial aspects of those material objects with whichhe camemost in contact. The expression on the faces of thesepeople wasrepellent; they did nothoweverseem particularlyunhappyfor they none of them had the faintest idea that they werein realitymore dead than alive. No cure for this disgusting fear-of-giving-themselves-awaydisease has yet been discovered.
* * *
It wasduring my stay in City of the Colleges of Unreason--a citywhoseErewhonian name is so cacophonous that I refrain from givingit--that Ilearned the particulars of the revolution which hadended inthe destruction of so many of the mechanical inventionswhich wereformerly in common use.
Mr. Thimstook me to the rooms of a gentleman who had a greatreputationfor learningbut who was alsoso Mr. Thims told merather adangerous personinasmuch as he had attempted tointroducean adverb into the hypothetical language. He had heardof mywatch and been exceedingly anxious to see mefor he wasaccountedthe most learned antiquary in Erewhon on the subject ofmechanicallore. We fell to talking upon the subjectand when Ileft hegave me a reprinted copy of the work which brought therevolutionabout.
It hadtaken place some five hundred years before my arrival:people hadlong become thoroughly used to the changealthough atthe timethat it was made the country was plunged into the deepestmiseryand a reaction which followed had very nearly provedsuccessful. Civil war raged for many yearsand is said to havereducedthe number of the inhabitants by one-half. The partieswerestyled the machinists and the anti-machinistsand in the endas I havesaid alreadythe latter got the victorytreating theiropponentswith such unparalleled severity that they extirpatedeverytrace of opposition.
The wonderwas that they allowed any mechanical appliances toremain inthe kingdomneither do I believe that they would havedone sohad not the Professors of Inconsistency and Evasion made astandagainst the carrying of the new principles to theirlegitimateconclusions. These Professorsmoreoverinsisted thatduring thestruggle the anti-machinists should use every knownimprovementin the art of warand several new weaponsoffensiveanddefensivewere inventedwhile it was in progress. I wassurprisedat there remaining so many mechanical specimens as areseen inthe museumsand at students having rediscovered their pastuses socompletely; for at the time of the revolution the victorswreckedall the more complicated machinesand burned all treatisesonmechanicsand all engineers' workshops--thusso they thoughtcuttingthe mischief out root and branchat an incalculable costof bloodand treasure.
Certainlythey had not spared their labourbut work of thisdescriptioncan never be perfectly achievedand whensome twohundredyears before my arrivalall passion upon the subject hadcooleddownand no one save a lunatic would have dreamed ofreintroducingforbidden inventionsthe subject came to be regardedas acurious antiquarian studylike that of some long-forgottenreligiouspractices among ourselves. Then came the careful searchforwhatever fragments could be foundand for any machines thatmight havebeen hidden awayand also numberless treatises werewrittenshowing what the functions of each rediscovered machinehad been;all being done with no idea of using such machineryagainbutwith the feelings of an English antiquarian concerningDruidicalmonuments or flint arrow heads.
On myreturn to the metropolisduring the remaining weeks orratherdays of my sojourn in Erewhon I made a resume in English ofthe workwhich brought about the already mentioned revolution. Myignoranceof technical terms has led me doubtless into many errorsand I haveoccasionallywhere I found translation impossiblesubstitutedpurely English names and ideas for the originalErewhonianonesbut the reader may rely on my general accuracy. Ihavethought it best to insert my translation here.
THE BOOK OF THE MACHINES
The writercommences:- "There was a timewhen the earth was to allappearanceutterly destitute both of animal and vegetable lifeandwhenaccording to the opinion of our best philosophers it wassimply ahot round ball with a crust gradually cooling. Now if ahumanbeing had existed while the earth was in this state and hadbeenallowed to see it as though it were some other world withwhich hehad no concernand if at the same time he were entirelyignorantof all physical sciencewould he not have pronounced itimpossiblethat creatures possessed of anything like consciousnessshould beevolved from the seeming cinder which he was beholding?Would henot have denied that it contained any potentiality ofconsciousness? Yet in the course of time consciousness came. Isit notpossible then that there may be even yet new channels dugout forconsciousnessthough we can detect no signs of them atpresent?
"Again. Consciousnessin anything like the present acceptation ofthe termhaving been once a new thing--a thingas far as we canseesubsequent even to an individual centre of action and to areproductivesystem (which we see existing in plants withoutapparentconsciousness)--why may not there arise some new phase ofmind whichshall be as different from all present known phasesasthe mindof animals is from that of vegetables?
"Itwould be absurd to attempt to define such a mental state (orwhateverit may be called)inasmuch as it must be something soforeign toman that his experience can give him no help towardsconceivingits nature; but surely when we reflect upon the manifoldphases oflife and consciousness which have been evolved alreadyit wouldbe rash to say that no others can be developedand thatanimallife is the end of all things. There was a time when firewas theend of all things: another when rocks and water were so."
Thewriterafter enlarging on the above for several pagesproceededto inquire whether traces of the approach of such a newphase oflife could be perceived at present; whether we could seeanytenements preparing which might in a remote futurity be adaptedfor it;whetherin factthe primordial cell of such a kind oflife couldbe now detected upon earth. In the course of his workheanswered this question in the affirmative and pointed to thehighermachines.
"Thereis no security"--to quote his own words--"against theultimatedevelopment of mechanical consciousnessin the fact ofmachinespossessing little consciousness now. A mollusc has notmuchconsciousness. Reflect upon the extraordinary advance whichmachineshave made during the last few hundred yearsand note howslowly theanimal and vegetable kingdoms are advancing. The morehighlyorganised machines are creatures not so much of yesterdayas of thelast five minutesso to speakin comparison with pasttime. Assume for the sake of argument that conscious beings haveexistedfor some twenty million years: see what strides machineshave madein the last thousand! May not the world last twentymillionyears longer? If sowhat will they not in the end become?Is it notsafer to nip the mischief in the bud and to forbid themfurtherprogress?
"Butwho can say that the vapour engine has not a kind ofconsciousness? Where does consciousness beginand where end? Whocan drawthe line? Who can draw any line? Is not everythinginterwovenwith everything? Is not machinery linked with animallife in aninfinite variety of ways? The shell of a hen's egg ismade of adelicate white ware and is a machine as much as an egg-cup is: the shell is a device for holding the eggas much as theegg-cupfor holding the shell: both are phases of the samefunction;the hen makes the shell in her insidebut it is purepottery. She makes her nest outside of herself for convenience'sakebutthe nest is not more of a machine than the egg-shell is.A'machine' is only a 'device.'"
Thenreturning to consciousnessand endeavouring to detect itsearliestmanifestationsthe writer continued:-
"Thereis a kind of plant that eats organic food with its flowers:when a flysettles upon the blossomthe petals close upon it andhold itfast till the plant has absorbed the insect into itssystem;but they will close on nothing but what is good to eat; ofa drop ofrain or a piece of stick they will take no notice.Curious!that so unconscious a thing should have such a keen eye toits owninterest. If this is unconsciousnesswhere is the use ofconsciousness?
"Shallwe say that the plant does not know what it is doing merelybecause ithas no eyesor earsor brains? If we say that it actsmechanicallyand mechanically onlyshall we not be forced toadmit thatsundry other and apparently very deliberate actions arealsomechanical? If it seems to us that the plant kills and eats aflymechanicallymay it not seem to the plant that a man must killand eat asheep mechanically?
"Butit may be said that the plant is void of reasonbecause thegrowth ofa plant is an involuntary growth. Given earthairandduetemperaturethe plant must grow: it is like a clockwhichbeing oncewound up will go till it is stopped or run down: it islike thewind blowing on the sails of a ship--the ship must go whenthe windblows it. But can a healthy boy help growing if he havegood meatand drink and clothing? can anything help going as longas it iswound upor go on after it is run down? Is there not awinding upprocess everywhere?
"Evena potato in a dark cellar has a certain lowcunning abouthim whichserves him in excellent stead. He knows perfectly wellwhat hewants and how to get it. He sees the light coming from thecellarwindow and sends his shoots crawling straight thereto: theywill crawlalong the floor and up the wall and out at the cellarwindow; ifthere be a little earth anywhere on the journey he willfind itand use it for his own ends. What deliberation he mayexercisein the matter of his roots when he is planted in the earthis a thingunknown to usbut we can imagine him saying'I willhave atuber here and a tuber thereand I will suck whatsoeveradvantageI can from all my surroundings. This neighbour I willovershadowand that I will undermine; and what I can do shall bethe limitof what I will do. He that is stronger and better placedthan Ishall overcome meand him that is weaker I will overcome.'
"Thepotato says these things by doing themwhich is the best oflanguages. What is consciousness if this is not consciousness? Wefind itdifficult to sympathise with the emotions of a potato; sowe do withthose of an oyster. Neither of these things makes anoise onbeing boiled or openedand noise appeals to us morestronglythan anything elsebecause we make so much about our ownsufferings. Sincethenthey do not annoy us by any expression ofpain wecall them emotionless; and so qua mankind they are; butmankind isnot everybody.
If it beurged that the action of the potato is chemical andmechanicalonlyand that it is due to the chemical and mechanicaleffects oflight and heatthe answer would seem to lie in aninquirywhether every sensation is not chemical and mechanical initsoperation? whether those things which we deem most purelyspiritualare anything but disturbances of equilibrium in aninfiniteseries of leversbeginning with those that are too smallformicroscopic detectionand going up to the human arm and theapplianceswhich it makes use of? whether there be not a molecularaction ofthoughtwhence a dynamical theory of the passions shallbededucible? Whether strictly speaking we should not ask whatkind oflevers a man is made of rather than what is histemperament? How are they balanced? How much of such and suchwill ittake to weigh them down so as to make him do so and so?"
The writerwent on to say that he anticipated a time when it wouldbepossibleby examining a single hair with a powerful microscopeto knowwhether its owner could be insulted with impunity. He thenbecamemore and more obscureso that I was obliged to give up allattempt attranslation; neither did I follow the drift of hisargument. On coming to the next part which I could construeIfound thathe had changed his ground.
"Either"he proceeds"a great deal of action that has been calledpurelymechanical and unconscious must be admitted to contain moreelementsof consciousness than has been allowed hitherto (and inthis casegerms of consciousness will be found in many actions ofthe highermachines)--Or (assuming the theory of evolution but atthe sametime denying the consciousness of vegetable andcrystallineaction) the race of man has descended from things whichhad noconsciousness at all. In this case there is no a prioriimprobabilityin the descent of conscious (and more than conscious)machinesfrom those which now existexcept that which is suggestedby theapparent absence of anything like a reproductive system inthemechanical kingdom. This absence however is only apparentasI shallpresently show.
"Donot let me be misunderstood as living in fear of any actuallyexistingmachine; there is probably no known machine which is morethan aprototype of future mechanical life. The present machinesare to thefuture as the early Saurians to man. The largest ofthem willprobably greatly diminish in size. Some of the lowestvertebrateattained a much greater bulk than has descended to theirmorehighly organised living representativesand in like manner adiminutionin the size of machines has often attended theirdevelopmentand progress.
"Takethe watchfor example; examine its beautiful structure;observethe intelligent play of the minute members which composeit: yet this little creature is but a development of the cumbrousclocksthat preceded it; it is no deterioration from them. A daymay comewhen clockswhich certainly at the present time are notdiminishingin bulkwill be superseded owing to the universal useofwatchesin which case they will become as extinct asichthyosauriwhile the watchwhose tendency has for some yearsbeen todecrease in size rather than the contrarywill remain theonlyexisting type of an extinct race.
"Butreturning to the argumentI would repeat that I fear none oftheexisting machines; what I fear is the extraordinary rapiditywith whichthey are becoming something very different to what theyare atpresent. No class of beings have in any time past made sorapid amovement forward. Should not that movement be jealouslywatchedand checked while we can still check it? And is it notnecessaryfor this end to destroy the more advanced of the machineswhich arein use at presentthough it is admitted that they are inthemselvesharmless?
"Asyet the machines receive their impressions through the agencyof man'ssenses: one travelling machine calls to another in ashrillaccent of alarm and the other instantly retires; but it isthroughthe ears of the driver that the voice of the one has actedupon theother. Had there been no driverthe callee would havebeen deafto the caller. There was a time when it must have seemedhighlyimprobable that machines should learn to make their wantsknown bysoundeven through the ears of man; may we not conceivethenthata day will come when those ears will be no longerneededand the hearing will be done by the delicacy of themachine'sown construction?--when its language shall have beendevelopedfrom the cry of animals to a speech as intricate as ourown?
"Itis possible that by that time children will learn thedifferentialcalculus--as they learn now to speak--from theirmothersand nursesor that they may talk in the hypotheticallanguageand work rule of three sumsas soon as they are born;but thisis not probable; we cannot calculate on any correspondingadvance inman's intellectual or physical powers which shall be aset-offagainst the far greater development which seems in storefor themachines. Some people may say that man's moral influencewillsuffice to rule them; but I cannot think it will ever be safeto reposemuch trust in the moral sense of any machine.
"Againmight not the glory of the machines consist in their beingwithoutthis same boasted gift of language? 'Silence' it has beensaid byone writer'is a virtue which renders us agreeable to ourfellow-creatures.'"
"Butother questions come upon us. What is a man's eye but amachinefor the little creature that sits behind in his brain tolookthrough? A dead eye is nearly as good as a living one forsome timeafter the man is dead. It is not the eye that cannotseebutthe restless one that cannot see through it. Is it man'seyesoris it the big seeing-engine which has revealed to us theexistenceof worlds beyond worlds into infinity? What has made manfamiliarwith the scenery of the moonthe spots on the sunor thegeographyof the planets? He is at the mercy of the seeing-enginefor thesethingsand is powerless unless he tack it on to his ownidentityand make it part and parcel of himself. Oragainis itthe eyeor the little see-enginewhich has shown us the existenceofinfinitely minute organisms which swarm unsuspected around us?
"Andtake man's vaunted power of calculation. Have we not engineswhich cando all manner of sums more quickly and correctly than wecan? What prizeman in Hypothetics at any of our Colleges ofUnreasoncan compare with some of these machines in their own line?In factwherever precision is required man flies to the machine atonceasfar preferable to himself. Our sum-engines never drop afigurenor our looms a stitch; the machine is brisk and activewhen theman is weary; it is clear-headed and collectedwhen theman isstupid and dull; it needs no slumberwhen man must sleep ordrop; everat its postever ready for workits alacrity neverflagsitspatience never gives in; its might is stronger thancombinedhundredsand swifter than the flight of birds; it canburrowbeneath the earthand walk upon the largest rivers and sinknot. This is the green tree; what then shall be done in the dry?
"Whoshall say that a man does see or hear? He is such a hive andswarm ofparasites that it is doubtful whether his body is not moretheirsthan hisand whether he is anything but another kind ofant-heapafter all. May not man himself become a sort of parasiteupon themachines? An affectionate machine-tickling aphid?
"Itis said by some that our blood is composed of infinite livingagentswhich go up and down the highways and byways of our bodiesas peoplein the streets of a city. When we look down from a highplace uponcrowded thoroughfaresis it possible not to think ofcorpusclesof blood travelling through veins and nourishing theheart ofthe town? No mention shall be made of sewersnor of thehiddennerves which serve to communicate sensations from one partof thetown's body to another; nor of the yawning jaws of therailwaystationswhereby the circulation is carried directly intotheheart--which receive the venous linesand disgorge thearterialwith an eternal pulse of people. And the sleep of thetownhowlife-like! with its change in the circulation."
Here thewriter became again so hopelessly obscure that I wasobliged tomiss several pages. He resumed:-
"Itcan be answered that even though machines should hear never sowell andspeak never so wiselythey will still always do the oneor theother for our advantagenot their own; that man will be therulingspirit and the machine the servant; that as soon as amachinefails to discharge the service which man expects from itit isdoomed to extinction; that the machines stand to man simplyin therelation of lower animalsthe vapour-engine itself beingonly amore economical kind of horse; so that instead of beinglikely tobe developed into a higher kind of life than man'stheyowe theirvery existence and progress to their power of ministeringto humanwantsand must therefore both now and ever be man'sinferiors.
"Thisis all very well. But the servant glides by imperceptibleapproachesinto the master; and we have come to such a pass thateven nowman must suffer terribly on ceasing to benefit themachines. If all machines were to be annihilated at one momentsothat not aknife nor lever nor rag of clothing nor anythingwhatsoeverwere left to man but his bare body alone that he wasborn withand if all knowledge of mechanical laws were taken fromhim sothat he could make no more machinesand all machine-madefooddestroyed so that the race of man should be left as it werenaked upona desert islandwe should become extinct in six weeks.A fewmiserable individuals might lingerbut even these in a yearor twowould become worse than monkeys. Man's very soul is due tothemachines; it is a machine-made thing: he thinks as he thinksand feelsas he feelsthrough the work that machines have wroughtupon himand their existence is quite as much a sine qua non forhisashis for theirs. This fact precludes us from proposing thecompleteannihilation of machinerybut surely it indicates that weshoulddestroy as many of them as we can possibly dispense withlest theyshould tyrannise over us even more completely.
"Truefrom a low materialistic point of viewit would seem thatthosethrive best who use machinery wherever its use is possiblewithprofit; but this is the art of the machines--they serve thatthey mayrule. They bear no malice towards man for destroying awhole raceof them provided he creates a better instead; on thecontrarythey reward him liberally for having hastened theirdevelopment. It is for neglecting them that he incurs their wrathor forusing inferior machinesor for not making sufficientexertionsto invent new onesor for destroying them withoutreplacingthem; yet these are the very things we ought to doanddoquickly; for though our rebellion against their infant powerwill causeinfinite sufferingwhat will not things come toifthatrebellion is delayed?
"Theyhave preyed upon man's grovelling preference for his materialover hisspiritual interestsand have betrayed him into supplyingthatelement of struggle and warfare without which no race canadvance. The lower animals progress because they struggle with oneanother;the weaker diethe stronger breed and transmit theirstrength. The machines being of themselves unable to strugglehave gotman to do their struggling for them: as long as hefulfilsthis function dulyall goes well with him--at least hethinks so;but the moment he fails to do his best for theadvancementof machinery by encouraging the good and destroying thebadhe isleft behind in the race of competition; and this meansthat hewill be made uncomfortable in a variety of waysandperhapsdie.
"Sothat even now the machines will only serve on condition ofbeingservedand that too upon their own terms; the moment theirterms arenot complied withthey jiband either smash boththemselvesand all whom they can reachor turn churlish and refuseto work atall. How many men at this hour are living in a state ofbondage tothe machines? How many spend their whole livesfromthe cradleto the gravein tending them by night and day? Is itnot plainthat the machines are gaining ground upon uswhen wereflect onthe increasing number of those who are bound down tothem asslavesand of those who devote their whole souls to theadvancementof the mechanical kingdom?
"Thevapour-engine must be fed with food and consume it by fireeven asman consumes it; it supports its combustion by air as mansupportsit; it has a pulse and circulation as man has. It may begrantedthat man's body is as yet the more versatile of the twobut thenman's body is an older thing; give the vapour-engine buthalf thetime that man has hadgive it also a continuance of ourpresentinfatuationand what may it not ere long attain to?
"Thereare certain functions indeed of the vapour-engine which willprobablyremain unchanged for myriads of years--which in fact willperhapssurvive when the use of vapour has been superseded: thepiston andcylinderthe beamthe fly-wheeland other parts ofthemachine will probably be permanentjust as we see that man andmany ofthe lower animals share like modes of eatingdrinkingandsleeping;thus they have hearts which beat as oursveins andarterieseyesearsand noses; they sigh even in their sleepandweep andyawn; they are affected by their children; they feelpleasureand painhopefearangershame; they have memory andprescience;they know that if certain things happen to them theywill dieand they fear death as much as we do; they communicatetheirthoughts to one anotherand some of them deliberately act inconcert. The comparison of similarities is endless: I only makeit becausesome may say that since the vapour-engine is not likelyto beimproved in the main particularsit is unlikely to behenceforwardextensively modified at all. This is too good to betrue: it will be modified and suited for an infinite variety ofpurposesas much as man has been modified so as to exceed thebrutes inskill.
"Inthe meantime the stoker is almost as much a cook for his engineas our owncooks for ourselves. Consider also the colliers andpitmen andcoal merchants and coal trainsand the men who drivethemandthe ships that carry coals--what an army of servants dothemachines thus employ! Are there not probably more men engagedin tendingmachinery than in tending men? Do not machines eat asit were bymannery? Are we not ourselves creating our successorsin thesupremacy of the earth? daily adding to the beauty anddelicacyof their organisationdaily giving them greater skill andsupplyingmore and more of that self-regulating self-acting powerwhich willbe better than any intellect?
"Whata new thing it is for a machine to feed at all! The ploughthe spadeand the cart must eat through man's stomach; the fuelthat setsthem going must burn in the furnace of a man or ofhorses. Man must consume bread and meat or he cannot dig; thebread andmeat are the fuel which drive the spade. If a plough bedrawn byhorsesthe power is supplied by grass or beans or oatswhichbeing burnt in the belly of the cattle give the power ofworking: without this fuel the work would ceaseas an enginewould stopif its furnaces were to go out.
"Aman of science has demonstrated 'that no animal has the power oforiginatingmechanical energybut that all the work done in itslife byany animaland all the heat that has been emitted from itand theheat which would be obtained by burning the combustiblematterwhich has been lost from its body during lifeand byburningits body after deathmake up altogether an exactequivalentto the heat which would be obtained by burning as muchfood as ithas used during its lifeand an amount of fuel whichwouldgenerate as much heat as its body if burned immediately afterdeath.' I do not know how he has found this outbut he is a manofscience--how then can it be objected against the future vitalityof themachines that they arein their present infancyat thebeck andcall of beings who are themselves incapable of originatingmechanicalenergy?
"Themain pointhoweverto be observed as affording cause foralarm isthat whereas animals were formerly the only stomachs ofthemachinesthere are now many which have stomachs of their ownandconsume their food themselves. This is a great step towardstheirbecomingif not animateyet something so near akin to itas not todiffer more widely from our own life than animals do fromvegetables. And though man should remainin some respectsthehighercreatureis not this in accordance with the practice ofnaturewhich allows superiority in some things to animals whichhaveonthe wholebeen long surpassed? Has she not allowed theant andthe bee to retain superiority over man in the organisationof theircommunities and social arrangementsthe bird intraversingthe airthe fish in swimmingthe horse in strength andfleetnessand the dog in self-sacrifice?
"Itis said by some with whom I have conversed upon this subjectthat themachines can never be developed into animate or quasi-animateexistencesinasmuch as they have no reproductive systemnor seemever likely to possess one. If this be taken to mean thattheycannot marryand that we are never likely to see a fertileunionbetween two vapour-engines with the young ones playing aboutthe doorof the shedhowever greatly we might desire to do soIwillreadily grant it. But the objection is not a very profoundone. No one expects that all the features of the now existingorganisationswill be absolutely repeated in an entirely new classof life. The reproductive system of animals differs widely fromthat ofplantsbut both are reproductive systems. Has natureexhaustedher phases of this power?
"Surelyif a machine is able to reproduce another machinesystematicallywe may say that it has a reproductive system. Whatis areproductive systemif it be not a system for reproduction?And howfew of the machines are there which have not been producedsystematicallyby other machines? But it is man that makes them doso. Yes; but is it not insects that make many of the plantsreproductiveand would not whole families of plants die out iftheirfertilisation was not effected by a class of agents utterlyforeign tothemselves? Does any one say that the red clover has noreproductivesystem because the humble bee (and the humble beeonly) mustaid and abet it before it can reproduce? No one. Thehumble beeis a part of the reproductive system of the clover.Each oneof ourselves has sprung from minute animalcules whoseentity wasentirely distinct from our ownand which acted aftertheir kindwith no thought or heed of what we might think about it.Theselittle creatures are part of our own reproductive system;then whynot we part of that of the machines?
"Butthe machines which reproduce machinery do not reproducemachinesafter their own kind. A thimble may be made by machinerybut it wasnot made byneither will it ever makea thimble.Hereagainif we turn to nature we shall find abundance ofanalogieswhich will teach us that a reproductive system may be infull forcewithout the thing produced being of the same kind asthat whichproduced it. Very few creatures reproduce after theirown kind;they reproduce something which has the potentiality ofbecomingthat which their parents were. Thus the butterfly lays aneggwhichegg can become a caterpillarwhich caterpillar canbecome achrysaliswhich chrysalis can become a butterfly; andthough Ifreely grant that the machines cannot be said to have morethan thegerm of a true reproductive system at presenthave we notjust seenthat they have only recently obtained the germs of amouth andstomach? And may not some stride be made in thedirectionof true reproduction which shall be as great as thatwhich hasbeen recently taken in the direction of true feeding?
"Itis possible that the system when developed may be in many casesavicarious thing. Certain classes of machines may be alonefertilewhile the rest discharge other functions in the mechanicalsystemjust as the great majority of ants and bees have nothing todo withthe continuation of their speciesbut get food and storeitwithout thought of breeding. One cannot expect the parallel tobecomplete or nearly so; certainly not nowand probably never;but isthere not enough analogy existing at the present momenttomake usfeel seriously uneasy about the futureand to render itour dutyto check the evil while we can still do so? Machines canwithincertain limits beget machines of any classno matter howdifferentto themselves. Every class of machines will probablyhave itsspecial mechanical breedersand all the higher ones willowe theirexistence to a large number of parents and not to twoonly.
"Weare misled by considering any complicated machine as a singlething; intruth it is a city or societyeach member of which wasbred trulyafter its kind. We see a machine as a wholewe call itby a nameand individualise it; we look at our own limbsand knowthat thecombination forms an individual which springs from asinglecentre of reproductive action; we therefore assume thatthere canbe no reproductive action which does not arise from asinglecentre; but this assumption is unscientificand the barefact thatno vapour-engine was ever made entirely by anotherortwoothersof its own kindis not sufficient to warrant us insayingthat vapour-engines have no reproductive system. The truthis thateach part of every vapour-engine is bred by its own specialbreederswhose function it is to breed that partand that onlywhile thecombination of the parts into a whole forms anotherdepartmentof the mechanical reproductive systemwhich is atpresentexceedingly complex and difficult to see in its entirety.
"Complexnowbut how much simpler and more intelligibly organisedmay it notbecome in another hundred thousand years? or in twentythousand? For man at present believes that his interest lies inthatdirection; he spends an incalculable amount of labour and timeandthought in making machines breed always better and better; hehasalready succeeded in effecting much that at one time appearedimpossibleand there seem no limits to the results of accumulatedimprovementsif they are allowed to descend with modification fromgenerationto generation. It must always be remembered that man'sbody iswhat it is through having been moulded into its presentshape bythe chances and changes of many millions of yearsbutthat hisorganisation never advanced with anything like therapiditywith which that of the machines is advancing. This is themostalarming feature in the caseand I must be pardoned forinsistingon it so frequently."
Herefollowed a very long and untranslatable digression about thedifferentraces and families of the then existing machines. Thewriterattempted to support his theory by pointing out thesimilaritiesexisting between many machines of a widely differentcharacterwhich served to show descent from a common ancestor. Hedividedmachines into their generasubgeneraspeciesvarietiessubvarietiesand so forth. He proved the existence of connectinglinksbetween machines that seemed to have very little in commonand showedthat many more such links had existedbut had nowperished. He pointed out tendencies to reversionand the presenceofrudimentary organs which existed in many machines feeblydevelopedand perfectly uselessyet serving to mark descent fromanancestor to whom the function was actually useful.
I left thetranslation of this part of the treatisewhichby thewaywasfar longer than all that I have given herefor a lateropportunity. UnfortunatelyI left Erewhon before I could returnto thesubject; and though I saved my translation and other papersat thehazard of my lifeI was a obliged to sacrifice the originalwork. It went to my heart to do so; but I thus gained ten minutesofinvaluable timewithout which both Arowhena and myself musthavecertainly perished.
I rememberone incident which bears upon this part of the treatise.Thegentleman who gave it to me had asked to see my tobacco-pipe;heexamined it carefullyand when he came to the littleprotuberanceat the bottom of the bowl he seemed much delightedandexclaimed that it must be rudimentary. I asked him what hemeant.
"Sir"he answered"this organ is identical with the rim at thebottom ofa cup; it is but another form of the same function. Itspurposemust have been to keep the heat of the pipe from markingthe tableupon which it rested. You would findif you were tolook upthe history of tobacco-pipesthat in early specimens thisprotuberancewas of a different shape to what it is now. It willhave beenbroad at the bottomand flatso that while the pipe wasbeingsmoked the bowl might rest upon the table without marking it.Use anddisuse must have come into play and reduced the function toitspresent rudimentary condition. I should not be surprisedsir"he continued"ifin the course of timeit were to becomemodifiedstill fartherand to assume the form of an ornamentalleaf orscrollor even a butterflywhilein some casesit willbecomeextinct."
On myreturn to EnglandI looked up the pointand found that myfriend wasright.
Returninghoweverto the treatisemy translation recommences asfollows:-
"Maywe not fancy that ifin the remotest geological periodsomeearly formof vegetable life had been endowed with the power ofreflectingupon the dawning life of animals which was coming intoexistencealongside of its ownit would have thought itselfexceedinglyacute if it had surmised that animals would one daybecomereal vegetables? Yet would this be more mistaken than itwould beon our part to imagine that because the life of machinesis a verydifferent one to our ownthere is therefore no higherpossibledevelopment of life than ours; or that because mechanicallife is avery different thing from ourstherefore that it is notlife atall?
"ButI have heard it said'granted that this is soand that thevapour-enginehas a strength of its ownsurely no one will saythat ithas a will of its own?' Alas! if we look more closelyweshall findthat this does not make against the supposition that thevapour-engineis one of the germs of a new phase of life. What isthere inthis whole worldor in the worlds beyond itwhich has awill ofits own? The Unknown and Unknowable only!
"Aman is the resultant and exponent of all the forces that havebeenbrought to bear upon himwhether before his birth orafterwards. His action at any moment depends solely upon hisconstitutionand on the intensity and direction of the variousagenciesto which he isand has beensubjected. Some of thesewillcounteract each other; but as he is by natureand as he hasbeen actedonand is now acted on from withoutso will he doascertainlyand regularly as though he were a machine.
"Wedo not generally admit thisbecause we do not know the wholenature ofany onenor the whole of the forces that act upon him.We see buta partand being thus unable to generalise humanconductexcept very roughlywe deny that it is subject to anyfixed lawsat alland ascribe much both of a man's character andactions tochanceor luckor fortune; but these are only wordswhereby weescape the admission of our own ignorance; and a littlereflectionwill teach us that the most daring flight of theimaginationor the most subtle exercise of the reason is as muchthe thingthat must ariseand the only thing that can by anypossibilityariseat the moment of its arisingas the falling ofa deadleaf when the wind shakes it from the tree.
"Forthe future depends upon the presentand the present (whoseexistenceis only one of those minor compromises of which humanlife isfull--for it lives only on sufferance of the past andfuture)depends upon the pastand the past is unalterable. Theonlyreason why we cannot see the future as plainly as the pastisbecause weknow too little of the actual past and actual present;thesethings are too great for usotherwise the futurein itsminutestdetailswould lie spread out before our eyesand weshouldlose our sense of time present by reason of the clearnesswith whichwe should see the past and future; perhaps we should notbe evenable to distinguish time at all; but that is foreign. Whatwe do knowisthat the more the past and present are knownthemore thefuture can be predicted; and that no one dreams ofdoubtingthe fixity of the future in cases where he is fullycognisantof both past and presentand has had experience of theconsequencesthat followed from such a past and such a present onpreviousoccasions. He perfectly well knows what will happenandwill stakehis whole fortune thereon.
"Andthis is a great blessing; for it is the foundation on whichmoralityand science are built. The assurance that the future isnoarbitrary and changeable thingbut that like futures willinvariablyfollow like presentsis the groundwork on which we layall ourplans--the faith on which we do every conscious action ofourlives. If this were not so we should be without a guide; weshouldhave no confidence in actingand hence we should never actfor therewould be no knowing that the results which will follownow willbe the same as those which followed before.
"Whowould plough or sow if he disbelieved in the fixity of thefuture? Who would throw water on a blazing house if the action ofwater uponfire were uncertain? Men will only do their utmost whenthey feelcertain that the future will discover itself against themif theirutmost has not been done. The feeling of such a certaintyis aconstituent part of the sum of the forces at work upon themand willact most powerfully on the best and most moral men. Thosewho aremost firmly persuaded that the future is immutably bound upwith thepresent in which their work is lyingwill best husbandtheirpresentand till it with the greatest care. The future mustbe alottery to those who think that the same combinations cansometimesprecede one set of resultsand sometimes another. Iftheirbelief is sincere they will speculate instead of working:theseought to be the immoral men; the others have the strongestspur toexertion and moralityif their belief is a living one.
"Thebearing of all this upon the machines is not immediatelyapparentbut will become so presently. In the meantime I mustdeal withfriends who tell me thatthough the future is fixed asregardsinorganic matterand in some respects with regard to manyet thatthere are many ways in which it cannot be considered asfixed. Thusthey say that fire applied to dry shavingsand wellfed withoxygen gaswill always produce a blazebut that a cowardbroughtinto contact with a terrifying object will not alwaysresult ina man running away. Neverthelessif there be twocowardsperfectly similar in every respectand if they besubjectedin a perfectly similar way to two terrifying agentswhich arethemselves perfectly similarthere are few who will notexpect aperfect similarity in the running awayeven though athousandyears intervene between the original combination and itsbeingrepeated.
"Theapparently greater regularity in the results of chemical thanof humancombinations arises from our inability to perceive thesubtledifferences in human combinations--combinations which areneveridentically repeated. Fire we knowand shavings we knowbut no twomen ever were or ever will be exactly alike; and thesmallestdifference may change the whole conditions of the problem.Ourregistry of results must be infinite before we could arrive ata fullforecast of future combinations; the wonder is that there isas muchcertainty concerning human action as there is; andassuredlythe older we grow the more certain we feel as to whatsuch andsuch a kind of person will do in given circumstances; butthis couldnever be the case unless human conduct were under theinfluenceof lawswith the working of which we become more andmorefamiliar through experience.
"Ifthe above is soundit follows that the regularity with whichmachineryacts is no proof of the absence of vitalityor at leastof germswhich may be developed into a new phase of life. At firstsight itwould indeed appear that a vapour-engine cannot help goingwhen setupon a line of rails with the steam up and the machineryin fullplay; whereas the man whose business it is to drive it canhelp doingso at any moment that he pleases; so that the first hasnospontaneityand is not possessed of any sort of free willwhile thesecond has and is.
"Thisis true up to a certain point; the driver can stop the engineat anymoment that he pleasesbut he can only please to do so atcertainpoints which have been fixed for him by othersor in thecase ofunexpected obstructions which force him to please to do so.Hispleasure is not spontaneous; there is an unseen choir ofinfluencesaround himwhich make it impossible for him to act inany otherway than one. It is known beforehand how much strengthmust begiven to these influencesjust as it is known beforehandhow muchcoal and water are necessary for the vapour-engine itself;andcuriously enough it will be found that the influences broughtto bearupon the driver are of the same kind as those brought tobear uponthe engine--that is to sayfood and warmth. The driverisobedient to his mastersbecause he gets food and warmth fromthemandif these are withheld or given in insufficient quantitieshe willcease to drive; in like manner the engine will cease towork if itis insufficiently fed. The only difference isthat theman isconscious about his wantsand the engine (beyond refusingto work)does not seem to be so; but this is temporaryand hasbeen dealtwith above.
"Accordinglythe requisite strength being given to the motivesthat areto drive the driverthere has neveror hardly everbeenaninstance of a man stopping his engine through wantonness. Butsuch acase might occur; yesand it might occur that the engineshouldbreak down: but if the train is stopped from some trivialmotive itwill be found either that the strength of the necessaryinfluenceshas been miscalculatedor that the man has beenmiscalculatedin the same way as an engine may break down from anunsuspectedflaw; but even in such a case there will have been nospontaneity;the action will have had its true parental causes:spontaneityis only a term for man's ignorance of the gods.
"Istherethenno spontaneity on the part of those who drive thedriver?"
Herefollowed an obscure argument upon this subjectwhich I havethought itbest to omit. The writer resumes:- "After all then itcomes tothisthat the difference between the life of a man andthat of amachine is one rather of degree than of kindthoughdifferencesin kind are not wanting. An animal has more provisionforemergency than a machine. The machine is less versatile; itsrange ofaction is narrow; its strength and accuracy in its ownsphere aresuperhumanbut it shows badly in a dilemma; sometimeswhen itsnormal action is disturbedit will lose its headand gofrom badto worse like a lunatic in a raging frenzy: but hereagainweare met by the same consideration as beforenamelythatthemachines are still in their infancy; they are mere skeletonswithoutmuscles and flesh.
"Forhow many emergencies is an oyster adapted? For as many as arelikely tohappen to itand no more. So are the machines; and sois manhimself. The list of casualties that daily occur to manthroughhis want of adaptability is probably as great as thatoccurringto the machines; and every day gives them some greaterprovisionfor the unforeseen. Let any one examine the wonderfulself-regulatingand self-adjusting contrivances which are nowincorporatedwith the vapour-enginelet him watch the way in whichitsupplies itself with oil; in which it indicates its wants tothose whotend it; in whichby the governorit regulates itsapplicationof its own strength; let him look at that store-houseof inertiaand momentum the fly-wheelor at the buffers on arailwaycarriage; let him see how those improvements are beingselectedfor perpetuity which contain provision against theemergenciesthat may arise to harass the machinesand then let himthink of ahundred thousand yearsand the accumulated progresswhich theywill bring unless man can be awakened to a sense of hissituationand of the doom which he is preparing for himself.
"Themisery is that man has been blind so long already. In hisrelianceupon the use of steam he has been betrayed into increasingandmultiplying. To withdraw steam power suddenly will not havethe effectof reducing us to the state in which we were before itsintroduction;there will be a general break-up and time of anarchysuch ashas never been known; it will be as though our populationweresuddenly doubledwith no additional means of feeding theincreasednumber. The air we breathe is hardly more necessary forour animallife than the use of any machineon the strength ofwhich wehave increased our numbersis to our civilisation; it isthemachines which act upon man and make him manas much as manwho hasacted upon and made the machines; but we must choosebetweenthe alternative of undergoing much present sufferingorseeingourselves gradually superseded by our own creaturestill werank nohigher in comparison with themthan the beasts of thefield withourselves.
"Hereinlies our danger. For many seem inclined to acquiesce in sodishonourablea future. They say that although man should becometo themachines what the horse and dog are to usyet that he willcontinueto existand will probably be better off in a state ofdomesticationunder the beneficent rule of the machines than in hispresentwild condition. We treat our domestic animals with muchkindness. We give them whatever we believe to be the best forthem; andthere can be no doubt that our use of meat has increasedtheirhappiness rather than detracted from it. In like mannerthere isreason to hope that the machines will use us kindlyfortheirexistence will be in a great measure dependent upon ours;they willrule us with a rod of ironbut they will not eat us;they willnot only require our services in the reproduction andeducationof their youngbut also in waiting upon them asservants;in gathering food for themand feeding them; inrestoringthem to health when they are sick; and in either buryingtheir deador working up their deceased members into new forms ofmechanicalexistence.
"Thevery nature of the motive power which works the advancement ofthemachines precludes the possibility of man's life being renderedmiserableas well as enslaved. Slaves are tolerably happy if theyhave goodmastersand the revolution will not occur in our timenor hardlyin ten thousand yearsor ten times that. Is it wise tobe uneasyabout a contingency which is so remote? Man is not asentimentalanimal where his material interests are concernedandthoughhere and there some ardent soul may look upon himself andcurse hisfate that he was not born a vapour-engineyet the massof mankindwill acquiesce in any arrangement which gives thembetterfood and clothing at a cheaper rateand will refrain fromyieldingto unreasonable jealousy merely because there are otherdestiniesmore glorious than their own.
"Thepower of custom is enormousand so gradual will be thechangethat man's sense of what is due to himself will be at notimerudely shocked; our bondage will steal upon us noiselessly andbyimperceptible approaches; nor will there ever be such a clashingof desiresbetween man and the machines as will lead to anencounterbetween them. Among themselves the machines will wareternallybut they will still require man as the being throughwhoseagency the struggle will be principally conducted. In pointof factthere is no occasion for anxiety about the future happinessof man solong as he continues to be in any way profitable to themachines;he may become the inferior racebut he will beinfinitelybetter off than he is now. Is it not then both absurdandunreasonable to be envious of our benefactors? And should wenot beguilty of consummate folly if we were to reject advantageswhich wecannot obtain otherwisemerely because they involve agreatergain to others than to ourselves?
"Withthose who can argue in this way I have nothing in common. Ishrinkwith as much horror from believing that my race can ever besupersededor surpassedas I should do from believing that even attheremotest period my ancestors were other than human beings.Could Ibelieve that ten hundred thousand years ago a single one ofmyancestors was another kind of being to myselfI should lose allself-respectand take no further pleasure or interest in life. Ihave thesame feeling with regard to my descendantsand believe itto be onethat will be felt so generally that the country willresolveupon putting an immediate stop to all further mechanicalprogressand upon destroying all improvements that have been madefor thelast three hundred years. I would not urge more than this.We maytrust ourselves to deal with those that remainand though Ishouldprefer to have seen the destruction include another twohundredyearsI am aware of the necessity for compromisingandwould sofar sacrifice my own individual convictions as to becontentwith three hundred. Less than this will be insufficient."
This wasthe conclusion of the attack which led to the destructionofmachinery throughout Erewhon. There was only one seriousattempt toanswer it. Its author said that machines were to beregardedas a part of man's own physical naturebeing reallynothingbut extra-corporeal limbs. Manhe saidwas a machinatemammal. The lower animals keep all their limbs at home in theirownbodiesbut many of man's are looseand lie about detachednow hereand now therein various parts of the world--some beingkeptalways handy for contingent useand others being occasionallyhundredsof miles away. A machine is merely a supplementary limb;this isthe be all and end all of machinery. We do not use our ownlimbsother than as machines; and a leg is only a much betterwooden legthan any one can manufacture.
"Observea man digging with a spade; his right fore-arm has becomeartificiallylengthenedand his hand has become a joint. Thehandle ofthe spade is like the knob at the end of the humerus; theshaft isthe additional boneand the oblong iron plate is the newform ofthe hand which enables its possessor to disturb the earthin a wayto which his original hand was unequal. Having thusmodifiedhimselfnot as other animals are modifiedbycircumstancesover which they have had not even the appearance ofcontrolbut havingas it weretaken forethought and added acubit tohis staturecivilisation began to dawn upon the racethesocialgood officesthe genial companionship of friendsthe artofunreasonand all those habits of mind which most elevate manabove thelower animalsin the course of time ensued.
"Thuscivilisation and mechanical progress advanced hand in handeachdeveloping and being developed by the otherthe earliestaccidentaluse of the stick having set the ball rollingand theprospectof advantage keeping it in motion. In factmachines areto beregarded as the mode of development by which human organismis nowespecially advancingevery past invention being an additionto theresources of the human body. Even community of limbs isthusrendered possible to those who have so much community of soulas to ownmoney enough to pay a railway fare; for a train is only aseven-leaguedfoot that five hundred may own at once."
The oneserious danger which this writer apprehended was that themachineswould so equalise men's powersand so lessen the severityofcompetitionthat many persons of inferior physique would escapedetectionand transmit their inferiority to their descendants. Hefearedthat the removal of the present pressure might cause adegeneracyof the human raceand indeed that the whole body mightbecomepurely rudimentarythe man himself being nothing but soulandmechanisman intelligent but passionless principle ofmechanicalaction.
"Howgreatly" he wrote"do we not now live with our externallimbs? We vary our physique with the seasonswith agewithadvancingor decreasing wealth. If it is wet we are furnished withan organcommonly called an umbrellaand which is designed for thepurpose ofprotecting our clothes or our skins from the injuriouseffects ofrain. Man has now many extra-corporeal memberswhichare ofmore importance to him than a good deal of his hairor atany ratethan his whiskers. His memory goes in his pocket-book.He becomesmore and more complex as he grows older; he will then beseen withsee-enginesor perhaps with artificial teeth and hair:if he be areally well-developed specimen of his racehe will befurnishedwith a large box upon wheelstwo horsesand acoachman."
It wasthis writer who originated the custom of classifying men bytheirhorse-powerand who divided them into generaspeciesvarietiesand subvarietiesgiving them names from thehypotheticallanguage which expressed the number of limbs whichthey couldcommand at any moment. He showed that men became morehighly anddelicately organised the more nearly they approached thesummit ofopulenceand that none but millionaires possessed thefullcomplement of limbs with which mankind could becomeincorporate.
"Thosemighty organisms" he continued"our leading bankers andmerchantsspeak to their congeners through the length and breadthof theland in a second of time; their rich and subtle souls candefy allmaterial impedimentwhereas the souls of the poor arecloggedand hampered by matterwhich sticks fast about them astreacle tothe wings of a flyor as one struggling in a quicksand:their dullears must take days or weeks to hear what another wouldtell themfrom a distanceinstead of hearing it in a second as isdone bythe more highly organised classes. Who shall deny that onewho cantack on a special train to his identityand go wheresoeverhe willwhensoever he pleasesis more highly organised than hewhoshould he wish for the same powermight wish for the wings ofa birdwith an equal chance of getting them; and whose legs are hisonly meansof locomotion? That old philosophic enemymattertheinherentlyand essentially evilstill hangs about the neck of thepoor andstrangles him: but to the richmatter is immaterial; theelaborateorganisation of his extra-corporeal system has freed hissoul.
"Thisis the secret of the homage which we see rich men receivefrom thosewho are poorer than themselves: it would be a graveerror tosuppose that this deference proceeds from motives which weneed beashamed of: it is the natural respect which all livingcreaturespay to those whom they recognise as higher thanthemselvesin the scale of animal lifeand is analogous to thevenerationwhich a dog feels for man. Among savage races it isdeemedhighly honourable to be the possessor of a gunandthroughoutall known time there has been a feeling that those whoare worthmost are the worthiest."
And so hewent on at considerable lengthattempting to show whatchanges inthe distribution of animal and vegetable life throughoutthekingdom had been caused by this and that of man's inventionsand inwhat way each was connected with the moral and intellectualdevelopmentof the human species: he even allotted to some thesharewhich they had had in the creation and modification of man'sbodyandthat which they would hereafter have in its destruction;but theother writer was considered to have the best of itand inthe endsucceeded in destroying all the inventions that had beendiscoveredfor the preceding 271 yearsa period which was agreedupon byall parties after several years of wrangling as to whethera certainkind of mangle which was much in use among washerwomenshould besaved or no. It was at last ruled to be dangerousandwas justexcluded by the limit of 271 years. Then came thereactionarycivil wars which nearly ruined the countrybut whichit wouldbe beyond my present scope to describe.
THE VIEWS OF AN EREWHONIAN PROPHET CONCERNING THE
It will beseen from the foregoing chapters that the Erewhoniansare a meekand long-suffering peopleeasily led by the noseandquick tooffer up common sense at the shrine of logicwhen aphilosopherarises among themwho carries them away through hisreputationfor especial learningor by convincing them that theirexistinginstitutions are not based on the strictest principles ofmorality.
The seriesof revolutions on which I shall now briefly touch showsthis evenmore plainly than the way (already dealt with) in whichat a laterdate they cut their throats in the matter of machinery;for if thesecond of the two reformers of whom I am about to speakhad hadhis way--or rather the way that he professed to have--thewhole racewould have died of starvation within a twelve-month.Happilycommon sensethough she is by nature the gentlest creaturelivingwhen she feels the knife at her throatis apt to developunexpectedpowers of resistanceand to send doctrinaires flyingeven whenthey have bound her down and think they have her at theirmercy. What happenedso far as I could collect it from the bestauthoritieswas as follows:-
Some twothousand five hundred years ago the Erewhonians were stilluncivilisedand lived by huntingfishinga rude system ofagricultureand plundering such few other nations as they had notyetcompletely conquered. They had no schools or systems ofphilosophybut by a kind of dog-knowledge did that which was rightin theirown eyes and in those of their neighbours; the commonsensethereforeof the public being as yet unvitiatedcrime anddiseasewere looked upon much as they are in other countries.
But withthe gradual advance of civilisation and increase inmaterialprosperitypeople began to ask questions about thingsthat theyhad hitherto taken as matters of courseand one oldgentlemanwho had great influence over them by reason of thesanctityof his lifeand his supposed inspiration by an unseenpowerwhose existence was now beginning to be felttook it intohis headto disquiet himself about the rights of animals--aquestionthat so far had disturbed nobody.
Allprophets are more or less fussyand this old gentleman seemsto havebeen one of the more fussy ones. Being maintained at thepublicexpensehe had ample leisureand not content with limitinghisattention to the rights of animalshe wanted to reduce rightand wrongto rulesto consider the foundations of duty and of goodand eviland otherwise to put all sorts of matters on a logicalbasiswhich people whose time is money are content to accept on nobasis atall.
As amatter of coursethe basis on which he decided that dutycouldalone rest was one that afforded no standing-room for many oftheold-established habits of the people. Thesehe assured themwere allwrongand whenever any one ventured to differ from himhereferred the matter to the unseen power with which he alone wasin directcommunicationand the unseen power invariably assuredhim thathe was right. As regards the rights of animals he taughtasfollows:-
"Youknowhe said"how wicked it is of you to kill one another.Once upona time your fore-fathers made no scruple about not onlykillingbut also eating their relations. No one would now go backto suchdetestable practicesfor it is notorious that we havelived muchmore happily since they were abandoned. From thisincreasedprosperity we may confidently deduce the maxim that weshould notkill and eat our fellow-creatures. I have consulted thehigherpower by whom you know that I am inspiredand he hasassured methat this conclusion is irrefragable.
"Nowit cannot be denied that sheepcattledeerbirdsandfishes areour fellow-creatures. They differ from us in somerespectsbut those in which they differ are few and secondarywhilethose that they have in common with us are many andessential. My friendsif it was wrong of you to kill and eat yourfellow-menit is wrong also to kill and eat fishfleshand fowl.Birdsbeastsand fisheshave as full a right to live as long asthey canunmolested by manas man has to live unmolested by hisneighbours. These wordslet me again assure youare not minebut thoseof the higher power which inspires me.
"Igrant" he continued"that animals molest one anotherandthatsome ofthem go so far as to molest manbut I have yet to learnthat weshould model our conduct on that of the lower animals. Weshouldendeavourratherto instruct themand bring them to abettermind. To kill a tigerfor examplewho has lived on theflesh ofmen and women whom he has killedis to reduce ourselvesto thelevel of the tigerand is unworthy of people who seek to beguided bythe highest principles in allboth their thoughts andactions.
"Theunseen power who has revealed himself to me alone among youhas toldme to tell you that you ought by this time to haveoutgrownthe barbarous habits of your ancestors. Ifas youbelieveyou know better than theyyou should do better. Hecommandsyouthereforeto refrain from killing any living beingfor thesake of eating it. The only animal food that you may eatis theflesh of any birdsbeastsor fishes that you may come uponas havingdied a natural deathor any that may have been bornprematurelyor so deformed that it is a mercy to put them out oftheirpain; you may also eat all such animals as have committedsuicide. As regards vegetables you may eat all those that will letyou eatthem with impunity."
So wiselyand so well did the old prophet argueand so terriblewere thethreats he hurled at those who should disobey himthat inthe end hecarried the more highly educated part of the people withhimandpresently the poorer classes followed suitor professedto do so. Having seen the triumph of his principleshe wasgatheredto his fathersand no doubt entered at once into fullcommunionwith that unseen power whose favour he had already sopre-eminentlyenjoyed.
He hadnothoweverbeen dead very longbefore some of his moreardentdisciples took it upon them to better the instruction oftheirmaster. The old prophet had allowed the use of eggs andmilkbuthis disciples decided that to eat a fresh egg was todestroy apotential chickenand that this came to much the same asmurderinga live one. Stale eggsif it was quite certain thatthey weretoo far gone to be able to be hatchedwere grudginglypermittedbut all eggs offered for sale had to be submitted to aninspectorwhoon being satisfied that they were addledwouldlabel them"Laid not less than three months" from the datewhateverit might happen to be. These eggsI need hardly saywere onlyused in puddingsand as a medicine in certain caseswhere anemetic was urgently required. Milk was forbidden inasmuchas itcould not be obtained without robbing some calf of itsnaturalsustenanceand thus endangering its life.
It will beeasily believed that at first there were many who gavethe newrules outward observancebut embraced every opportunity ofindulgingsecretly in those flesh-pots to which they had beenaccustomed. It was found that animals were continually dyingnaturaldeaths under more or less suspicious circumstances.Suicidalmaniaagainwhich had hitherto been confined exclusivelytodonkeysbecame alarmingly prevalent even among such for themost partself-respecting creatures as sheep and cattle. It wasastonishinghow some of these unfortunate animals would scent out abutcher'sknife if there was one within a mile of themand runright upagainst it if the butcher did not get it out of their wayin time.
Dogsagainthat had been quite law-abiding as regards domesticpoultrytame rabbitssucking pigsor sheep and lambssuddenlytook tobreaking beyond the control of their mastersand killinganythingthat they were told not to touch. It was held that anyanimalkilled by a dog had died a natural deathfor it was thedog'snature to kill thingsand he had only refrained frommolestingfarmyard creatures hitherto because his nature had beentamperedwith. Unfortunately the more these unruly tendenciesbecamedevelopedthe more the common people seemed to delight inbreedingthe very animals that would put temptation in the dog'sway. There is little doubtin factthat they were deliberatelyevadingthe law; but whether this was so or no they sold or ateeverythingtheir dogs had killed.
Evasionwas more difficult in the case of the larger animalsforthemagistrates could not wink at all the pretended suicides ofpigssheepand cattle that were brought before them. Sometimesthey hadto convictand a few convictions had a very terrorisingeffect--whereasin the case of animals killed by a dogthe marksof thedog's teeth could be seenand it was practically impossibleto provemalice on the part of the owner of the dog.
Anotherfertile source of disobedience to the law was furnished bya decisionof one of the judges that raised a great outcry amongthe morefervent disciples of the old prophet. The judge held thatit waslawful to kill any animal in self-defenceand that suchconductwas so natural on the part of a man who found himselfattackedthat the attacking creature should be held to have died anaturaldeath. The High Vegetarians had indeed good reason to bealarmedfor hardly had this decision become generally known beforea numberof animalshitherto harmlesstook to attacking theirownerswith such ferocitythat it became necessary to put them toa naturaldeath. Againit was quite common at that time to seethecarcase of a calflambor kid exposed for sale with a labelfrom theinspector certifying that it had been killed in self-defence. Sometimes even the carcase of a lamb or calf was exposedas"warranted still-born" when it presented every appearanceofhavingenjoyed at least a month of life.
As for theflesh of animals that had bona fide died a naturaldeaththepermission to eat it was nugatoryfor it was generallyeaten bysome other animal before man got hold of it; or failingthis itwas often poisonousso that practically people were forcedto evadethe law by some of the means above spoken ofor to becomevegetarians. This last alternative was so little to the taste oftheErewhoniansthat the laws against killing animals were fallingintodesuetudeand would very likely have been repealedbut forthebreaking out of a pestilencewhich was ascribed by the priestsandprophets of the day to the lawlessness of the people in thematter ofeating forbidden flesh. On thisthere was a reaction;stringentlaws were passedforbidding the use of meat in any formor shapeand permitting no food but grainfruitsand vegetablesto be soldin shops and markets. These laws were enacted about twohundredyears after the death of the old prophet who had firstunsettledpeople's minds about the rights of animals; but they hadhardlybeen passed before people again began to break them.
I was toldthat the most painful consequence of all this folly didnot lie inthe fact that law-abiding people had to go withoutanimalfood--many nations do this and seem none the worseand eveninflesh-eating countries such as ItalySpainand Greecethepoorseldom see meat from year's end to year's end. The mischieflay in thejar which undue prohibition gave to the consciences ofall butthose who were strong enough to know that though conscienceas a ruleboonsit can also bane. The awakened conscience of anindividualwill often lead him to do things in haste that he hadbetterhave left undonebut the conscience of a nation awakened byarespectable old gentleman who has an unseen power up his sleevewill pavehell with a vengeance.
Youngpeople were told that it was a sin to do what their fathershad doneunhurt for centuries; thosemoreoverwho preached tothem aboutthe enormity of eating meatwere an unattractiveacademicfolkand though they over-awed all but the bolder youthsthere werefew who did not in their hearts dislike them. Howevermuch theyoung person might be shieldedhe soon got to know thatmen andwomen of the world--often far nicer people than theprophetswho preached abstention--continually spoke sneeringly ofthe newdoctrinaire lawsand were believed to set them aside insecretthough they dared not do so openly. Small wonderthenthat themore human among the student classes were provoked by thetouch-nottaste-nothandle-not precepts of their rulersintoquestioningmuch that they would otherwise have unhesitatinglyaccepted.
One sadstory is on record about a young man of promising amiabledispositionbut cursed with more conscience than brainswho hadbeen toldby his doctor (for as I have above said disease was notyet heldto be criminal) that he ought to eat meatlaw or no law.He wasmuch shocked and for some time refused to comply with whathe deemedthe unrighteous advice given him by his doctor; at lasthoweverfinding that he grew weaker and weakerhe stole secretlyon a darknight into one of those dens in which meat wassurreptitiouslysoldand bought a pound of prime steak. He tookit homecooked it in his bedroom when every one in the house hadgone torestate itand though he could hardly sleep for remorseand shamefelt so much better next morning that he hardly knewhimself.
Three orfour days laterhe again found himself irresistibly drawnto thissame den. Again he bought a pound of steakagain hecooked andate itand againin spite of much mental tortureonthefollowing morning felt himself a different man. To cut thestoryshortthough he never went beyond the bounds of moderationit preyedupon his mind that he should be driftingas he certainlywasintothe ranks of the habitual law-breakers.
All thetime his health kept on improvingand though he felt surethat heowed this to the beefsteaksthe better he became in bodythe morehis conscience gave him no rest; two voices were for everringing inhis ears--the one saying"I am Common Sense and Nature;heed meand I will reward you as I rewarded your fathers beforeyou." But the other voice said: "Let not that plausible spiritlure youto your ruin. I am Duty; heed meand I will reward youas Irewarded your fathers before you."
Sometimeshe even seemed to see the faces of the speakers. CommonSenselooked so easygenialand sereneso frank and fearlessthat dowhat he might he could not mistrust her; but as he was onthe pointof following herhe would be checked by the austere faceof Dutyso gravebut yet so kindly; and it cut him to the heartthat fromtime to time he should see her turn pitying away from himas hefollowed after her rival.
The poorboy continually thought of the better class of his fellow-studentsand tried to model his conduct on what he thought wastheirs. "They" he said to himself"eat a beefsteak? Never."But theymost of them ate one now and againunless it was a muttonchop thattempted them. And they used him for a model much as hedid them. "He" they would say to themselves"eat a muttonchop?Never." One nighthoweverhe was followed by one of theauthoritieswho was always prowling about in search of law-breakersand was caught coming out of the den with half a shoulderof muttonconcealed about his person. On thiseven though he hadnot beenput in prisonhe would have been sent away with hisprospectsin life irretrievably ruined; he therefore hanged himselfas soon ashe got home.
THE VIEWS OF AN EREWHONIAN PHILOSOPHER CONCERNING
THERIGHTS OF VEGETABLES
Let meleave this unhappy storyand return to the course of eventsamong theErewhonians at large. No matter how many laws theypassedincreasing the severity of the punishments inflicted onthose whoate meat in secretthe people found means of settingthem asideas fast as they were made. At timesindeedthey wouldbecomealmost obsoletebut when they were on the point of beingrepealedsome national disaster or the preaching of some fanaticwouldreawaken the conscience of the nationand people wereimprisonedby the thousand for illicitly selling and buying animalfood.
About sixor seven hundred yearshoweverafter the death of theoldpropheta philosopher appearedwhothough he did not claimto haveany communication with an unseen powerlaid down the lawwith asmuch confidence as if such a power had inspired him. Manythink thatthis philosopher did not believe his own teachingandbeing insecret a great meat-eaterhad no other end in view thanreducingthe prohibition against eating animal food to anabsurditygreater even than an Erewhonian Puritan would be able tostand.
Those whotake this view hold that he knew how impossible it wouldbe to getthe nation to accept legislation that it held to besinful; heknew also how hopeless it would be to convince peoplethat itwas not wicked to kill a sheep and eat itunless he couldshow themthat they must either sin to a certain extentor die.Hethereforeit is believedmade the monstrous proposals ofwhich Iwill now speak.
He beganby paying a tribute of profound respect to the oldprophetwhose advocacy of the rights of animalshe admittedhaddone muchto soften the national characterand enlarge its viewsabout thesanctity of life in general. But he urged that times hadnowchanged; the lesson of which the country had stood in need hadbeensufficiently learntwhile as regards vegetables much hadbecomeknown that was not even suspected formerlyand whichifthe nationwas to persevere in that strict adherence to the highestmoralprinciples which had been the secret of its prosperityhithertomust necessitate a radical change in its attitude towardsthem.
It wasindeed true that much was now known that had not beensuspectedformerlyfor the people had had no foreign enemiesandbeing bothquick-witted and inquisitive into the mysteries ofnaturehad made extraordinary progress in all the many branches ofart andscience. In the chief Erewhonian museum I was shown amicroscopeof considerable powerthat was ascribed by theauthoritiesto a date much about that of the philosopher of whom Iam nowspeakingand was even supposed by some to have been theinstrumentwith which he had actually worked.
Thisphilosopher was Professor of botany in the chief seat oflearningthen in Erewhonand whether with the help of themicroscopestill preservedor with anotherhad arrived at aconclusionnow universally accepted among ourselves--I meanthatallbothanimals and plantshave had a common ancestryand thathence thesecond should be deemed as much alive as the first. Hecontendedthereforethat animals and plants were cousinsandwould havebeen seen to be soall alongif people had not made anarbitraryand unreasonable division between what they chose to callthe animaland vegetable kingdoms.
Hedeclaredand demonstrated to the satisfaction of all those whowere ableto form an opinion upon the subjectthat there is nodifferenceappreciable either by the eyeor by any other testbetween agerm that will develop into an oaka vinea roseandone that(given its accustomed surroundings) will become a mouseanelephantor a man.
Hecontended that the course of any germ's development was dictatedby thehabits of the germs from which it was descended and of whoseidentityit had once formed part. If a germ found itself placed asthe germsin the line of its ancestry were placedit would do asitsancestors had doneand grow up into the same kind of organismastheirs. If it found the circumstances only a little differentit wouldmake shift (successfully or unsuccessfully) to modify itsdevelopmentaccordingly; if the circumstances were widelydifferentit would dieprobably without an effort at self-adaptation. Thishe arguedapplied equally to the germs ofplants andof animals.
Hetherefore connected allboth animal and vegetable developmentwithintelligenceeither spent and now unconsciousor stillunspentand conscious; and in support of his view as regardsvegetablelifehe pointed to the way in which all plants haveadaptedthemselves to their habitual environment. Granting thatvegetableintelligence at first sight appears to differ materiallyfromanimalyethe urgedit is like it in the one essential factthatthough it has evidently busied itself about matters that arevital tothe well-being of the organism that possesses itit hasnevershown the slightest tendency to occupy itself with anythingelse. Thishe insistedis as great a proof of intelligence asany livingbeing can give.
"Plants"said he"show no sign of interesting themselves in humanaffairs. We shall never get a rose to understand that five timesseven arethirty-fiveand there is no use in talking to an oakaboutfluctuations in the price of stocks. Hence we say that theoak andthe rose are unintelligentand on finding that they do notunderstandour business conclude that they do not understand theirown. But what can a creature who talks in this way know aboutintelligence? Which shows greater signs of intelligence? Heorthe roseand oak?
"Andwhen we call plants stupid for not understanding our businesshowcapable do we show ourselves of understanding theirs? Can weform eventhe faintest conception of the way in which a seed from arose-treeturns earthairwarmth and water into a rose full-blown? Where does it get its colour from? From the earthair&c.? Yes--but how? Those petals of such ineffable texture--thathue thatoutvies the cheek of a child--that scent again? Look atearthairand water--these are all the raw material that the rosehas got towork with; does it show any sign of want of intelligencein thealchemy with which it turns mud into rose-leaves? Whatchemistcan do anything comparable? Why does no one try? Simplybecauseevery one knows that no human intelligence is equal to thetask. We give it up. It is the rose's department; let the roseattend toit--and be dubbed unintelligent because it baffles us bythemiracles it worksand the unconcerned business-like way inwhich itworks them.
"Seewhat painsagainplants take to protect themselves againsttheirenemies. They scratchcutstingmake bad smellssecretethe mostdreadful poisons (which Heaven only knows how theycontriveto make)cover their precious seeds with spines likethose of ahedgehogfrighten insects with delicate nervous systemsbyassuming portentous shapeshide themselvesgrow ininaccessibleplacesand tell lies so plausibly as to deceive eventheirsubtlest foes.
"Theylay traps smeared with bird-limeto catch insectsandpersuadethem to drown themselves in pitchers which they have madeof theirleavesand fill with water; others make themselvesas itwereintoliving rat-trapswhich close with a spring on anyinsectthat settles upon them; others make their flowers into theshape of acertain fly that is a great pillager of honeyso thatwhen thereal fly comes it thinks that the flowers are bespokeandgoes onelsewhere. Some are so clever as even to overreachthemselveslike the horse-radishwhich gets pulled up and eatenfor thesake of that pungency with which it protects itself againstundergroundenemies. Ifon the other handthey think that anyinsect canbe of service to themsee how pretty they makethemselves.
"Whatis to be intelligent if to know how to do what one wants todoand todo it repeatedlyis not to be intelligent? Some saythat therose-seed does not want to grow into a rose-bush. Whytheninthe name of all that is reasonabledoes it grow? Likelyenough itis unaware of the want that is spurring it on to action.We have noreason to suppose that a human embryo knows that itwants togrow into a babyor a baby into a man. Nothing evershowssigns of knowing what it is either wanting or doingwhen itsconvictionsboth as to what it wantsand how to get ithave beensettledbeyond further power of question. The less signs livingcreaturesgive of knowing what they doprovided they do itand doitrepeatedly and wellthe greater proof they give that in realitythey knowhow to do itand have done it already on an infinitenumber ofpast occasions.
"Someone may say" he continued"'What do you mean by talkingabout aninfinite number of past occasions? When did a rose-seedmakeitself into a rose-bush on any past occasion?'
"Ianswer this question with another. 'Did the rose-seed ever formpart ofthe identity of the rose-bush on which it grew?' Who cansay thatit did not? Again I ask: 'Was this rose-bush ever linkedby allthose links that we commonly consider as constitutingpersonalidentitywith the seed from which it in its turn grew?'Who cansay that it was not?
"Thenif rose-seed number two is a continuation of the personalityof itsparent rose-bushand if that rose-bush is a continuation ofthepersonality of the rose-seed from which it sprangrose-seednumber twomust also be a continuation of the personality of theearlierrose-seed. And this rose-seed must be a continuation ofthepersonality of the preceding rose-seed--and so back and back adinfinitum. Hence it is impossible to deny continued personalitybetweenany existing rose-seed and the earliest seed that can becalled arose-seed at all.
"Theanswerthento our objector is not far to seek. The rose-seed didwhat it now does in the persons of its ancestors--to whomit hasbeen so linked as to be able to remember what thoseancestorsdid when they were placed as the rose-seed now is. Eachstage ofdevelopment brings back the recollection of the coursetaken inthe preceding stageand the development has been so oftenrepeatedthat all doubt--and with all doubtall consciousness ofaction--issuspended.
"Butan objector may still say'Granted that the linking betweenallsuccessive generations has been so close and unbrokenthateach oneof them may be conceived as able to remember what it didin thepersons of its ancestors--how do you show that it actuallydidremember?'
"Theanswer is: 'By the action which each generation takes--anactionwhich repeats all the phenomena that we commonly associatewithmemory--which is explicable on the supposition that it hasbeenguided by memory--and which has neither been explainednorseems everlikely to be explained on any other theory than thesuppositionthat there is an abiding memory between successivegenerations.'
"Willany one bring an example of any living creature whose actionwe canunderstandperforming an ineffably difficult and intricateactiontime after timewith invariable successand yet notknowinghow to do itand never having done it before? Show me theexampleand I will say no morebut until it is shown meI shallcreditaction where I cannot watch itwith being controlled by thesame lawsas when it is within our ken. It will become unconsciousas soon asthe skill that directs it has become perfected. Neitherrose-seedthereforenor embryo should be expected to show signsof knowingthat they know what they know--if they showed such signsthe factof their knowing what they wantand how to get itmightmorereasonably be doubted."
Some ofthe passages already given in Chapter XXIII were obviouslyinspiredby the one just quoted. As I read itin a reprint shownme by aProfessor who had edited much of the early literature onthesubjectI could not but remember the one in which our Lordtells Hisdisciples to consider the lilies of the fieldwhoneithertoil nor spinbut whose raiment surpasses even that ofSolomon inall his glory.
"Theytoil notneither do they spin?" Is that so? "Toilnot?"Perhapsnotnow that the method of procedure is so well known asto admitof no further question--but it is not likely that liliescame tomake themselves so beautifully without having ever takenany painsabout the matter. "Neither do they spin?" Notwith aspinning-wheel;but is there no textile fabric in a leaf?
What wouldthe lilies of the field say if they heard one of usdeclaringthat they neither toil nor spin? They would sayI takeitmuchwhat we should if we were to hear of their preachinghumilityon the text of Solomonsand saying"Consider theSolomonsin all their glorythey toil not neither do they spin."We shouldsay that the lilies were talking about things that theydid notunderstandand that though the Solomons do not toil norspinyetthere had been no lack of either toiling or spinningbeforethey came to be arrayed so gorgeously.
Let me nowreturn to the Professor. I have said enough to show thegeneraldrift of the arguments on which he relied in order to showthatvegetables are only animals under another namebut have notstated hiscase in anything like the fullness with which he laid itbefore thepublic. The conclusion he drewor pretended to drawwas thatif it was sinful to kill and eat animalsit was not lesssinful todo the like by vegetablesor their seeds. None suchhesaidshould be eatensave what had died a natural deathsuch asfruit thatwas lying on the ground and about to rotor cabbage-leavesthat had turned yellow in late autumn. These and other likegarbage hedeclared to be the only food that might be eaten with aclearconscience. Even so the eater must plant the pips of anyapples orpears that he may have eatenor any plum-stonescherry-stonesand the likeor he would come near to incurring the guiltofinfanticide. The grain of cerealsaccording to himwas out ofthequestionfor every such grain had a living soul as much as manhadandhad as good a right as man to possess that soul in peace.
Havingthus driven his fellow countrymen into a corner at the pointof alogical bayonet from which they felt that there was no escapeheproposed that the question what was to be done should bereferredto an oracle in which the whole country had the greatestconfidenceand to which recourse was always had in times ofspecialperplexity. It was whispered that a near relation of thephilosopher'swas lady's-maid to the priestess who delivered theoracleand the Puritan party declared that the strangelyunequivocalanswer of the oracle was obtained by backstairsinfluence;but whether this was so or nothe response as nearly asI cantranslate it was as follows:-
"Hewho sins aughtSinsmore than he ought;But hewho sins noughtHasmuch to be taught.Beat orbe beatenEat orbe eatenBekilled or kill;Choosewhich you will."
It wasclear that this response sanctioned at any rate thedestructionof vegetable life when wanted as food by man; and soforciblyhad the philosopher shown that what was sauce forvegetableswas so also for animalsthatthough the Puritan partymade afurious outcrythe acts forbidding the use of meat wererepealedby a considerable majority. Thusafter several hundredyears ofwandering in the wilderness of philosophythe countryreachedthe conclusions that common sense had long since arrivedat. Even the Puritans after a vain attempt to subsist on a kind ofjam madeof apples and yellow cabbage leavessuccumbed to theinevitableand resigned themselves to a diet of roast beef andmuttonwith all the usual adjuncts of a modern dinner-table.
One wouldhave thought that the dance they had been led by the oldprophetand that still madder dance which the Professor of botanyhadgravelybut as I believe insidiouslyproposed to lead themwould havemade the Erewhonians for a long time suspicious ofprophetswhether they professed to have communications with anunseenpower or no; but so engrained in the human heart is thedesire tobelieve that some people really do know what they saythey knowand can thus save them from the trouble of thinking forthemselvesthat in a short time would-be philosophers and faddistsbecamemore powerful than everand gradually led their countrymento acceptall those absurd views of lifesome account of which Ihave givenin my earlier chapters. Indeed I can see no hope fortheErewhonians till they have got to understand that reasonuncorrectedby instinct is as bad as instinct uncorrected byreason.
Thoughbusily engaged in translating the extracts given in the lastfivechaptersI was also laying matters in train for my escapewithArowhena. And indeed it was high timefor I received anintimationfrom one of the cashiers of the Musical Banksthat Iwas to beprosecuted in a criminal court ostensibly for measlesbut reallyfor having owned a watchand attempted thereintroductionof machinery.
I askedwhy measles? and was told that there was a fear lestextenuatingcircumstances should prevent a jury from convicting meif I wereindicted for typhus or small-poxbut that a verdictwouldprobably be obtained for measlesa disease which could besufficientlypunished in a person of my age. I was given tounderstandthat unless some unexpected change should come over themind ofhis MajestyI might expect the blow to be struck within avery fewdays.
My planwas this--that Arowhena and I should escape in a balloontogether. I fear that the reader will disbelieve this part of mystoryyetin no other have I endeavoured to adhere moreconscientiouslyto factsand can only throw myself upon hischarity.
I hadalready gained the ear of the Queenand had so worked uponhercuriosity that she promised to get leave for me to have aballoonmade and inflated; I pointed out to her that no complicatedmachinerywould be wanted--nothingin factbut a large quantityof oiledsilka cara few ropes&c.&c.and some light kind ofgassuchas the antiquarians who were acquainted with the meansemployedby the ancients for the production of the lighter gasescouldeasily instruct her workmen how to provide. Her eagerness tosee sostrange a sight as the ascent of a human being into the skyovercameany scruples of conscience that she might have otherwisefeltandshe set the antiquarians about showing her workmen how tomake thegasand sent her maids to buyand oila very largequantityof silk (for I was determined that the balloon should be abig one)even before she began to try and gain the King'spermission;thishowevershe now set herself to dofor I hadsent herword that my prosecution was imminent.
As formyselfI need hardly say that I knew nothing aboutballoons;nor did I see my way to smuggling Arowhena into the car;neverthelessknowing that we had no other chance of getting awayfromErewhonI drew inspiration from the extremity in which wewereplacedand made a pattern from which the Queen's workmen wereable towork successfully. Meanwhile the Queen's carriage-buildersset aboutmaking the carand it was with the attachments of thisto theballoon that I had the greatest difficulty; I doubtindeedwhether Ishould have succeeded herebut for the greatintelligenceof a foremanwho threw himself heart and soul intothematterand often both foresaw requirementsthe necessity forwhich hadescaped meand suggested the means of providing forthem.
Ithappened that there had been a long droughtduring the latterpart ofwhich prayers had been vainly offered up in all the templesof the airgod. When I first told her Majesty that I wanted aballoonIsaid my intention was to go up into the sky and prevailupon theair god by means of a personal interview. I own that thispropositionbordered on the idolatrousbut I have long sincerepentedof itand am little likely ever to repeat the offence.Moreoverthe deceitserious though it waswill probably lead totheconversion of the whole country.
When theQueen told his Majesty of my proposalhe at first notonlyridiculed itbut was inclined to veto it. Beinghoweveraveryuxorious husbandhe at length consented--as he eventuallyalways didto everything on which the Queen had set her heart. Heyieldedall the more readily nowbecause he did not believe in thepossibilityof my ascent; he was convinced that even though theballoonshould mount a few feet into the airit would collapseimmediatelywhereon I should fall and break my neckand he shouldbe rid ofme. He demonstrated this to her so convincinglythatshe wasalarmedand tried to talk me into giving up the ideabuton findingthat I persisted in my wish to have the balloon madesheproduced an order from the King to the effect that allfacilitiesI might require should be afforded me.
At thesame time her Majesty told me that my attempted ascent wouldbe made anarticle of impeachment against me in case I did notsucceed inprevailing on the air god to stop the drought. NeitherKing norQueen had any idea that I meant going right away if Icould getthe wind to take menor had he any conception of theexistenceof a certain steady upper current of air which was alwayssetting inone directionas could be seen by the shape of thehighercloudswhich pointed invariably from south-east to north-west. I had myself long noticed this peculiarity in the climateandattributed itI believe justlyto a trade-wind which wasconstantat a few thousand feet above the earthbut was disturbedby localinfluences at lower elevations.
My nextbusiness was to break the plan to Arowhenaand to devisethe meansfor getting her into the car. I felt sure that she wouldcome withmebut had made up my mind that if her courage failedherthewhole thing should come to nothing. Arowhena and I hadbeen inconstant communication through her maidbut I had thoughtit bestnot to tell her the details of my scheme till everythingwassettled. The time had now arrivedand I arranged with themaid thatI should be admitted by a private door into Mr.Nosnibor'sgarden at about dusk on the following evening.
I came atthe appointed time; the girl let me into the garden andbade mewait in a secluded alley until Arowhena should come. Itwas nowearly summerand the leaves were so thick upon the treesthat eventhough some one else had entered the garden I could haveeasilyhidden myself. The night was one of extreme beauty; the sunhad longsetbut there was still a rosy gleam in the sky over theruins ofthe railway station; below me was the city alreadytwinklingwith lightswhile beyond it stretched the plains formany aleague until they blended with the sky. I just noted thesethingsbut I could not heed them. I could heed nothingtillasI peeredinto the darkness of the alleyI perceived a white figureglidingswiftly towards me. I bounded towards itand ere thoughtcouldeither prompt or checkI had caught Arowhena to my heart andcoveredher unresisting cheek with kisses.
Sooverjoyed were we that we knew not how to speak; indeed I do notknow whenwe should have found words and come to our sensesif themaid hadnot gone off into a fit of hystericsand awakened us tothenecessity of self-control; thenbriefly and plainlyIunfoldedwhat I proposed; I showed her the darkest sidefor I feltsure thatthe darker the prospect the more likely she was to come.I told herthat my plan would probably end in death for both of usand that Idared not press it--that at a word from her it should beabandoned;still that there was just a possibility of our escapingtogetherto some part of the world where there would be no bar toourgetting marriedand that I could see no other hope.
She madeno resistancenot a sign or hint of doubt or hesitation.She woulddo all I told herand come whenever I was ready; so Ibade hersend her maid to meet me nightly--told her that she mustput a goodface onlook as bright and happy as she couldso as tomake herfather and mother and Zulora think that she was forgettingme--and beready at a moment's notice to come to the Queen'sworkshopsand be concealed among the ballast and under rugs in thecar of theballoon; and so we parted.
I hurriedmy preparations forwardfor I feared rainand also thatthe Kingmight change his mind; but the weather continued dryandin anotherweek the Queen's workmen had finished the balloon andcarwhilethe gas was ready to be turned on into the balloon atanymoment. All being now prepared I was to ascend on thefollowingmorning. I had stipulated for being allowed to takeabundanceof rugs and wrappings as protection from the cold of theupperatmosphereand also ten or a dozen good-sized bags ofballast.
I hadnearly a quarter's pension in handand with this I fee'dArowhena'smaidand bribed the Queen's foreman--who wouldIbelievehave given me assistance even without a bribe. He helpedme tosecrete food and wine in the bags of ballastand on themorning ofmy ascent he kept the other workmen out of the way whileI gotArowhena into the car. She came with early dawnmuffled upand in hermaid's dress. She was supposed to be gone to an earlyperformanceat one of the Musical Banksand told me that sheshould notbe missed till breakfastbut that her absence must thenbediscovered. I arranged the ballast about her so that it shouldconcealher as she lay at the bottom of the carand covered herwithwrappings. Although it still wanted some hours of the timefixed formy ascentI could not trust myself one moment from thecarso Igot into it at onceand watched the gradual inflation oftheballoon. Luggage I had nonesave the provisions hidden in theballastbagsthe books of mythologyand the treatises on themachineswith my own manuscript diaries and translations.
I satquietlyand awaited the hour fixed for my departure--quietoutwardlybut inwardly I was in an agony of suspense lestArowhena'sabsence should be discovered before the arrival of theKing andQueenwho were to witness my ascent. They were not dueyet foranother two hoursand during this time a hundred thingsmighthappenany one of which would undo me.
At lastthe balloon was full; the pipe which had filled it wasremovedthe escape of the gas having been first carefullyprecluded. Nothing remained to hinder the balloon from ascendingbut thehands and weight of those who were holding on to it withropes. I strained my eyes for the coming of the King and Queenbut couldsee no sign of their approach. I looked in the directionof Mr.Nosnibor's house--there was nothing to indicate disturbancebut it wasnot yet breakfast time. The crowd began to gather; theywere awarethat I was under the displeasure of the courtbut Icoulddetect no signs of my being unpopular. On the contraryIreceivedmany kindly expressions of regard and encouragementwithgoodwishes as to the result of my journey.
I wasspeaking to one gentleman of my acquaintanceand telling himthesubstance of what I intended to do when I had got into thepresenceof the air god (what he thought of me I cannot guessforI am surethat he did not believe in the objective existence of theair godnor that I myself believed in it)when I became aware ofa smallcrowd of people running as fast as they could from Mr.Nosnibor'shouse towards the Queen's workshops. For the moment mypulseceased beatingand thenknowing that the time had come whenI musteither do or dieI called vehemently to those who wereholdingthe ropes (some thirty men) to let go at onceand madegesturessignifying dangerand that there would be mischief ifthey heldon longer. Many obeyed; the rest were too weak to holdon to theropesand were forced to let them go. On this theballoonbounded suddenly upwardsbut my own feeling was that theearth haddropped off from meand was sinking fast into the openspacebeneath.
Thishappened at the very moment that the attention of the crowdwasdividedthe one half paying heed to the eager gestures ofthosecoming from Mr. Nosnibor's houseand the other to theexclamationsfrom myself. A minute more and Arowhena woulddoubtlesshave been discoveredbut before that minute was overIwas atsuch a height above the city that nothing could harm meandeverysecond both the town and the crowd became smaller and moreconfused. In an incredibly short timeI could see little but avast wallof blue plains rising up against metowards whicheverside Ilooked.
At firstthe balloon mounted vertically upwardsbut after aboutfiveminuteswhen we had already attained a very great elevationI fanciedthat the objects on the plain beneath began to move fromunder me. I did not feel so much as a breath of windand couldnotsuppose that the balloon itself was travelling. I wasthereforewondering what this strange movement of fixed objectscouldmeanwhen it struck me that people in a balloon do not feelthe windinasmuch as they travel with it and offer it noresistance. Then I was happy in thinking that I must now havereachedthe invariable trade wind of the upper airand that Ishould bevery possibly wafted for hundreds or even thousands ofmilesfarfrom Erewhon and the Erewhonians.
Already Ihad removed the wrappings and freed Arowhena; but I sooncoveredher up with them againfor it was already very coldandshe washalf stupefied with the strangeness of her position.
And nowbegan a timedream-like and deliriousof which I do notsupposethat I shall ever recover a distinct recollection. Somethings Ican recall--as that we were ere long enveloped in vapourwhichfroze upon my moustache and whiskers; then comes a memory ofsittingfor hours and hours in a thick foghearing no sound but myownbreathing and Arowhena's (for we hardly spoke) and seeing nosight butthe car beneath us and beside usand the dark balloonabove.
Perhapsthe most painful feeling when the earth was hidden was thattheballoon was motionlessthough our only hope lay in our goingforwardwith an extreme of speed. From time to time through a riftin theclouds I caught a glimpse of earthand was thankful toperceivethat we must be flying forward faster than in an expresstrain; butno sooner was the rift closed than the old conviction ofour beingstationary returned in full forceand was not to bereasonedwith: there was another feeling also which was nearly asbad; foras a child that fears it has gone blind in a long tunnelif thereis no lightso ere the earth had been many minuteshiddenIbecame half frightened lest we might not have broken awayfrom itclean and for ever. Now and againI ate and gave food toArowhenabut by guess-work as regards time. Then came darknessadreadfuldreary timewithout even the moon to cheer us.
With dawnthe scene was changed: the clouds were gone and morningstars wereshining; the rising of the splendid sun remains stillimpressedupon me as the most glorious that I have ever seen;beneath usthere was an embossed chain of mountains with snow freshfallenupon them; but we were far above them; we both of us feltourbreathing seriously affectedbut I would not allow the balloonto descenda single inchnot knowing for how long we might notneed allthe buoyancy which we could command; indeed I was thankfulto findthatafter nearly four-and-twenty hourswe were still atso great aheight above the earth.
In acouple of hours we had passed the rangeswhich must have beensomehundred and fifty miles acrossand again I saw a tract oflevelplain extending far away to the horizon. I knew not where wewereanddared not descendlest I should waste the power of theballoonbut I was half hopeful that we might be above the countryfrom whichI had originally started. I looked anxiously for anysign bywhich I could recognise itbut could see nothingandfearedthat we might be above some distant part of Erewhonor acountryinhabited by savages. While I was still in doubttheballoonwas again wrapped in cloudsand we were left to blankspace andto conjectures.
The wearytime dragged on. How I longed for my unhappy watch! Ifelt asthough not even time was movingso dumb and spell-boundwere oursurroundings. Sometimes I would feel my pulseand countits beatsfor half-an-hour together; anything to mark the time--toprove thatit was thereand to assure myself that we were withintheblessed range of its influenceand not gone adrift into thetimelessnessof eternity.
I had beendoing this for the twentieth or thirtieth timeand hadfalleninto a light sleep: I dreamed wildly of a journey in anexpresstrainand of arriving at a railway station where the airwas fullof the sound of locomotive engines blowing off steam witha horribleand tremendous hissing; I woke frightened and uneasybut thehissing and crashing noises pursued me now that I wasawakeandforced me to own that they were real. What they were Iknew notbut they grew gradually fainter and fainterand after atime werelost. In a few hours the clouds brokeand I saw beneathme thatwhich made the chilled blood run colder in my veins. I sawthe seaand nothing but the sea; in the main blackbut fleckedwith whiteheads of storm-tossedangry waves.
Arowhenawas sleeping quietly at the bottom of the carand as Ilooked ather sweet and saintly beautyI groanedand cursedmyself forthe misery into which I had brought her; but there wasnothingfor it now.
I sat andwaited for the worstand presently I saw signs as thoughthat worstwere soon to be at handfor the balloon had begun tosink. On first seeing the sea I had been impressed with the ideathat wemust have been fallingbut now there could be no mistakewe weresinkingand that fast. I threw out a bag of ballastandfor a timewe rose againbut in the course of a few hours thesinkingrecommencedand I threw out another bag.
Then thebattle commenced in earnest. It lasted all that afternoonandthrough the night until the following evening. I had seennever asail nor a sign of a sailthough I had half blinded myselfwithstraining my eyes incessantly in every direction; we hadpartedwith everything but the clothes which we had upon our backs;food andwater were goneall thrown out to the wheelingalbatrossesin order to save us a few hours or even minutes fromthe sea. I did not throw away the books till we were within a fewfeet ofthe waterand clung to my manuscripts to the very last.Hope thereseemed none whatever--yetstrangely enough we wereneither ofus utterly hopelessand even when the evil that wedreadedwas upon usand that which we greatly feared had comewesat in thecar of the balloon with the waters up to our middleandstillsmiled with a ghastly hopefulness to one another.
* * *
He who hascrossed the St. Gothard will remember that belowAndermattthere is one of those Alpine gorges which reach the veryutmostlimits of the sublime and terrible. The feelings of thetravellerhave become more and more highly wrought at every stepuntil atlast the naked and overhanging precipices seem to closeabove hisheadas he crosses a bridge hung in mid-air over aroaringwaterfalland enters on the darkness of a tunnelhewn outof therock.
What canbe in store for him on emerging? Surely something evenwilder andmore desolate than that which he has seen already; yethisimagination is paralysedand can suggest no fancy or vision ofanythingto surpass the reality which he had just witnessed. Awedandbreathless he advances; when lo! the light of the afternoon sunwelcomeshim as he leaves the tunneland behold a smiling valley--a babblingbrooka village with tall belfriesand meadows ofbrilliantgreen--these are the things which greet himand hesmiles tohimself as the terror passes away and in another momentisforgotten.
So faredit now with ourselves. We had been in the water some twoor threehoursand the night had come upon us. We had saidfarewellfor the hundredth timeand had resigned ourselves to meetthe end;indeed I was myself battling with a drowsiness from whichit wasonly too probable that I should never wake; when suddenlyArowhenatouched me on the shoulderand pointed to a light and toa darkmass which was bearing right upon us. A cry for help--loudand clearand shrill--broke forth from both of us at once; and inanotherfive minutes we were carried by kind and tender hands on tothe deckof an Italian vessel.
The shipwas the Principe Umbertobound from Callao to Genoa; shehadcarried a number of emigrants to Riohad gone thence toCallaowhere she had taken in a cargo of guanoand was now on herway home. The captain was a certain Giovanni Giannia native ofSestri; hehas kindly allowed me to refer to him in case the truthof mystory should be disputed; but I grieve to say that I sufferedhim tomislead himself in some important particulars. I should addthat whenwe were picked up we were a thousand miles from land.
As soon aswe were on boardthe captain began questioning us aboutthe siegeof Parisfrom which city he had assumed that we musthave comenotwithstanding our immense distance from Europe. Asmay besupposedI had not heard a syllable about the war betweenFrance andGermanyand was too ill to do more than assent to allthat hechose to put into my mouth. My knowledge of Italian isveryimperfectand I gathered little from anything that he said;but I wasglad to conceal the true point of our departureandresolvedto take any cue that he chose to give me.
The linethat thus suggested itself was that there had been ten ortwelveothers in the balloonthat I was an English MilordandArowhena aRussian Countess; that all the others had been drownedand thatthe despatches which we had carried were lost. I cameafterwardsto learn that this story would not have been crediblehad notthe captain been for some weeks at seafor I found thatwhen wewere picked upthe Germans had already long been mastersof Paris. As it wasthe captain settled the whole story for meand I waswell content.
In a fewdays we sighted an English vessel bound from Melbourne toLondonwith wool. At my earnest requestin spite of stormyweatherwhich rendered it dangerous for a boat to take us from oneship tothe otherthe captain consented to signal the Englishvesseland we were received on boardbut we were transferred withsuchdifficulty that no communication took place as to the mannerof ourbeing found. I did indeed hear the Italian mate who was incharge ofthe boat shout out something in French to the effect thatwe hadbeen picked up from a balloonbut the noise of the wind wasso greatand the captain understood so little French that hecaughtnothing of the truthand it was assumed that we were twopersonswho had been saved from shipwreck. When the captain askedme in whatship I had been wreckedI said that a party of us hadbeencarried out to sea in a pleasure-boat by a strong currentandthatArowhena (whom I described as a Peruvian lady) and I werealonesaved.
There wereseveral passengerswhose goodness towards us we canneverrepay. I grieve to think that they cannot fail to discoverthat wedid not take them fully into our confidence; but had wetold themallthey would not have believed usand I wasdeterminedthat no one should hear of Erewhonor have the chanceof gettingthere before meas long as I could prevent it. Indeedtherecollection of the many falsehoods which I was then obliged totellwould render my life miserable were I not sustained by theconsolationsof my religion. Among the passengers there was a mostestimableclergymanby whom Arowhena and I were married within avery fewdays of our coming on board.
After aprosperous voyage of about two monthswe sighted theLand'sEndand in another week we were landed at London. Aliberalsubscription was made for us on board the shipso that wefoundourselves in no immediate difficulty about money. Iaccordinglytook Arowhena down into Somersetshirewhere my motherandsisters had resided when I last heard of them. To my greatsorrow Ifound that my mother was deadand that her death had beenacceleratedby the report of my having been killedwhich had beenbrought tomy employer's station by Chowbok. It appeared that hemust havewaited for a few days to see whether I returnedthat hethenconsidered it safe to assume that I should never do soandhadaccordingly made up a story about my having fallen into awhirlpoolof seething waters while coming down the gorge homeward.Search wasmade for my bodybut the rascal had chosen to drown mein a placewhere there would be no chance of its ever beingrecovered.
My sisterswere both marriedbut neither of their husbands wasrich. No one seemed overjoyed on my return; and I soon discoveredthat whena man's relations have once mourned for him as deadtheyseldomlike the prospect of having to mourn for him a second time.
AccordinglyI returned to London with my wifeand through theassistanceof an old friend supported myself by writing good littlestoriesfor the magazinesand for a tract society. I was wellpaid; andI trust that I may not be considered presumptuous insayingthat some of the most popular of the brochures which aredistributedin the streetsand which are to be found in thewaiting-roomsof the railway stationshave proceeded from my pen.During thetime that I could spareI arranged my notes and diarytill theyassumed their present shape. There remains nothing forme to addsave to unfold the scheme which I propose for theconversionof Erewhon.
Thatscheme has only been quite recently decided upon as the onewhichseems most likely to be successful.
It will beseen at once that it would be madness for me to go withten or adozen subordinate missionaries by the same way as thatwhich ledme to discover Erewhon. I should be imprisoned fortyphusbesides being handed over to the straighteners for havingrun awaywith Arowhena: an even darker fateto which I darehardlyagain alludewould be reserved for my devoted fellow-labourers. It is plainthereforethat some other way must befound forgetting at the Erewhoniansand I am thankful to say thatsuchanother way is not wanting. One of the rivers which descendsfrom theSnowy Mountainsand passes through Erewhonis known tobenavigable for several hundred miles from its mouth. Its upperwatershave never yet been exploredbut I feel little doubt thatit will befound possible to take a light gunboat (for we mustprotectourselves) to the outskirts of the Erewhonian country.
I proposethereforethat one of those associations should beformed inwhich the risk of each of the members is confined to theamount ofhis stake in the concern. The first step would be todraw up aprospectus. In this I would advise that no mentionshould bemade of the fact that the Erewhonians are the losttribes. The discovery is one of absorbing interest to myselfbutit is of asentimental rather than commercial valueand businessisbusiness. The capital to be raised should not be less thanfiftythousand poundsand might be either in five or ten poundshares ashereafter determined. This should be amply sufficientfor theexpenses of an experimental voyage.
When themoney had been subscribedit would be our duty to chartera steamerof some twelve or fourteen hundred tons burdenand withaccommodationfor a cargo of steerage passengers. She should carrytwo orthree guns in case of her being attacked by savages at themouth ofthe river. Boats of considerable size should be alsoprovidedand I think it would be desirable that these also shouldcarry twoor three six-pounders. The ship should be taken up theriver asfar as was considered safeand a picked party should thenascend inthe boats. The presence both of Arowhena and myselfwould benecessary at this stageinasmuch as our knowledge of thelanguagewould disarm suspicionand facilitate negotiations.
We shouldbegin by representing the advantages afforded to labourin thecolony of Queenslandand point out to the Erewhonians thatbyemigrating thitherthey would be able to amasseach and all ofthemenormous fortunes--a fact which would be easily provable by areferenceto statistics. I have no doubt that a very great numbermight bethus induced to come back with us in the larger boatsandthat wecould fill our vessel with emigrants in three or fourjourneys.
Should webe attackedour course would be even simplerfor theErewhonianshave no gunpowderand would be so surprised with itseffectsthat we should be able to capture as many as we chose; inthis casewe should feel able to engage them on more advantageoustermsforthey would be prisoners of war. But even though we wereto meetwith no violenceI doubt not that a cargo of seven oreighthundred Erewhonians could be inducedwhen they were once onboard thevesselto sign an agreement which should be mutuallyadvantageousboth to us and them.
We shouldthen proceed to Queenslandand dispose of our engagementwith theErewhonians to the sugar-growers of that settlementwhoare ingreat want of labour; it is believed that the money thusrealisedwould enable us to declare a handsome dividendand leaveaconsiderable balancewhich might be spent in repeating ouroperationsand bringing over other cargoes of Erewhonianswithfreshconsequent profits. In fact we could go backwards andforwardsas long as there was a demand for labour in Queenslandorindeed inany other Christian colonyfor the supply of Erewhonianswould beunlimitedand they could be packed closely and fed at averyreasonable cost.
It wouldbe my duty and Arowhena's to see that our emigrants shouldbe boardedand lodged in the households of religious sugar-growers;thesepersons would give them the benefit of that instructionwhereofthey stand so greatly in need. Each dayas soon as theycould bespared from their work in the plantationsthey would beassembledfor praiseand be thoroughly grounded in the ChurchCatechismwhile the whole of every Sabbath should be devoted tosingingpsalms and church-going.
This mustbe insisted uponboth in order to put a stop to anyuneasyfeeling which might show itself either in Queensland or inthe mothercountry as to the means whereby the Erewhonians had beenobtainedand also because it would give our own shareholders thecomfort ofreflecting that they were saving souls and filling theirownpockets at one and the same moment. By the time the emigrantshad gottoo old for work they would have become thoroughlyinstructedin religion; they could then be shipped back to Erewhonand carrythe good seed with them.
I can seeno hitch nor difficulty about the matterand trust thatthis bookwill sufficiently advertise the scheme to insure thesubscriptionof the necessary capital; as soon as this isforthcomingI will guarantee that I convert the Erewhonians notonly intogood Christians but into a source of considerable profitto theshareholders.
I shouldadd that I cannot claim the credit for having originatedthe abovescheme. I had been for months at my wit's endformingplan afterplan for the evangelisation of Erewhonwhen by one ofthosespecial interpositions which should be a sufficient answer tothescepticand make even the most confirmed rationalistirrationalmy eye was directed to the following paragraph in theTimesnewspaperof one of the first days in January 1872:-
"POLYNESIANSIN QUEENSLAND.--The Marquis of Normanbythe newGovernorof Queenslandhas completed his inspection of thenortherndistricts of the colony. It is stated that at Mackayoneof thebest sugar-growing districtshis Excellency saw a good dealof thePolynesians. In the course of a speech to those whoentertainedhim therethe Marquis said:- 'I have been told thatthe meansby which Polynesians were obtained were not legitimatebut I havefailed to perceive thisin so far at least asQueenslandis concerned; andif one can judge by the countenancesandmanners of the Polynesiansthey experience no regret at theirposition.' But his Excellency pointed out the advantage of givingthemreligious instruction. It would tend to set at rest an uneasyfeelingwhich at present existed in the country to know that theywereinclined to retain the Polynesiansand teach them religion."
I feelthat comment is unnecessaryand will therefore concludewith oneword of thanks to the reader who may have had the patienceto followme through my adventures without losing his temper; butwith twofor any who may write at once to the Secretary of theErewhonEvangelisation Companylimited (at the address which shallhereafterbe advertised)and request to have his name put down asashareholder.
P.S.--Ihad just received and corrected the last proof of theforegoingvolumeand was walking down the Strand from Temple Barto CharingCrosswhen on passing Exeter Hall I saw a number ofdevout-lookingpeople crowding into the building with faces full ofinterestedand complacent anticipation. I stoppedand saw anannouncementthat a missionary meeting was to be held forthwithand thatthe native missionarythe Rev. William Habakkukfrom--(thecolony from which I had started on my adventures)would beintroducedand make a short address. After some little difficultyI obtainedadmissionand heard two or three speecheswhich wereprefatoryto the introduction of Mr. Habakkuk. One of these struckme asperhaps the most presumptuous that I had ever heard. Thespeakersaid that the races of whom Mr. Habakkuk was a specimenwere inall probability the lost ten tribes of Israel. I dared notcontradicthim thenbut I felt angry and injured at hearing thespeakerjump to so preposterous a conclusion upon such insufficientgrounds. The discovery of the ten tribes was mineand mine only.I wasstill in the very height of indignationwhen there was amurmur ofexpectation in the halland Mr. Habakkuk was broughtforward. The reader may judge of my surprise at finding that hewas noneother than my old friend Chowbok!
My jawdroppedand my eyes almost started out of my head withastonishment. The poor fellow was dreadfully frightenedand thestorm ofapplause which greeted his introduction seemed only to addto hisconfusion. I dare not trust myself to report his speech--indeed Icould hardly listen to itfor I was nearly choked withtrying tosuppress my feelings. I am sure that I caught the words"Adelaidethe Queen Dowager" and I thought that I heard "MaryMagdalene"shortly afterwardsbut I had then to leave the hall forfear ofbeing turned out. While on the staircaseI heard anotherburst ofprolonged and rapturous applauseso I suppose theaudiencewere satisfied.
Thefeelings that came uppermost in my mind were hardly of a verysolemncharacterbut I thought of my first acquaintance withChowbokof the scene in the woodshedof the innumerable lies hehad toldmeof his repeated attempts upon the brandyand of manyanincident which I have not thought it worth while to dwell upon;and Icould not but derive some satisfaction from the hope that myownefforts might have contributed to the change which had beendoubtlesswrought upon himand that the rite which I hadperformedhowever unprofessionallyon that wild upland river-bedhad notbeen wholly without effect. I trust that what I havewrittenabout him in the earlier part of my book may not belibellousand that it may do him no harm with his employers. Hewas thenunregenerate. I must certainly find him out and have atalk withhim; but before I shall have time to do so these pageswill be inthe hands of the public.
At thelast moment I see a probability of a complication whichcauses memuch uneasiness. Please subscribe quickly. Address totheMansion-Housecare of the Lord Mayorwhom I will instruct toreceivenames and subscriptions for me until I can organise acommittee.
"Heknows what's whatand that's as highAsmetaphysic wit can fly."