Category Archives: 1890s

Deacon Van Winkle’s Dream (Looking Backward)(1889)

I’m in the midst of a Sequels of Looking Backward marathon, working my way through as many of the early responses to Edward Bellamy’s novel as I can get my hands on. In the process of tracking these down, I’ve come across a couple of short pieces that are worth a look. “Deacon Van Winkle’s Dream,” by George H. Hubbard, is a sharp Christian response to Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward, centered on Thanksgiving Day. The author appears to be the George Henry Hubbard (1857-) who wrote The Teaching of Jesus in Parables, and who was a persistent, relatively conservative voice in the discussions of reform. (As he was an fairly eloquent proponent of his position, I have included links to a number of his articles below.) However moralistic, the “Dream” is a clever piece, well constructed as a sequel to Bellamy’s novel.


Deacon Van Winkle was proud of his pedigree. He delighted to talk of the old Van Winkle family in Holland, and pointed with satisfaction to various characteristics in the children which, he said, indicated their Dutch ancestry. Again and again in the long winter evenings he would take down a well-worn copy of Irving’s “Sketch Book,” and read the story of Rip Van Winkle, and none of the family ever seemed to tire of hearing it.

Not long since, however, the deacon was seriously startled, not to say grieved, by a rumor that his famous ancestor had found a formidable rival in the person of one Julian West, whose story had just been placed before the public. Filled with jealousy, not a wicked, worldly jealousy, but a mild and righteous jealousy becoming to an orthodox deacon, he determined at the first opportunity to purchase a copy of “Looking Backward” to see if it was anything more than a weak imitation of the old story of Rip Van Winkle’s sleep

He happened to find it on the day before Thanksgiving Day, and brought it home to read in the evening.

At the supper-table the conversation turned on the plans for the next day. Heretofore it had been the custom for the Van Winkle family to attend church on Thanksgiving Day; for they were somewhat conservative in their ideas, a became a family with so long a pedigree. This year, however, a revolution seemed imminent. The younger members of the family pleaded for a change. They couldn’t see the use of going to church to hear a political or historical sermon. There would be only a few there, and the service would be dull. Besides they really ought to stay at home to prepare for the grand family gathering of Van Winkles that would be with them to take dinner. Finally it was decided that the church service should be given up, and the whole force of the family should be concentrated on the dinner.

Immediately after supper the deacon sat down to read his new book, and so absorbed did he become that, notwithstanding sundry admonitions from Mrs. Van Winkle, he refused to retire till he had finished the very last page. Then, hastily closing the book, he went to bed and quickly fell asleep. As a result of his unusual mental exertion of the evening he began to dream.

It was Thanksgiving Day, but he was not in the old house. His surroundings were strange. He was in a well-furnished parlor, and opposite to him sat a pleasant looking old gentleman, whom he at once recognized as Dr. Leete. With as little surprise as dreamers usually feel, he realized that he, too, had dropped into the twentieth century, and he determined to make some investigations on his own account.

With what seemed quite a natural transition from preceding conversation, he said: “By the way, Doctor, as this is Thanksgiving Day, shall we go to church, as has always been the custom in my family?”

The doctor looked at him thoughtfully, and replied: “You speak of something that few would understand at the present day. I remember, however, having read about it in history. This is one of our public holidays; but we do not call it Thanksgiving Day, altho it takes the place of that ancient festival. We call it Social Day. We attribute all the blessings that we enjoy not to a mythical being called God, but to our refined and perfected social system. Hence we devote the day to feasting and pleasure in honor of our social system.”

“This is indeed a great change from the old idea,” said the deacon. “How did it come about? Were there not very many who protested when the change was made?”

“Oh no,” replied Dr. Leete. ”The change was so gradual that it would be hard to say just when it took place. In fact, it was but the expression of a gradual development in public thought and feeling. If I mistake not, you yourself saw some of the beginnings of the movement. Do you not remember how few people cared to attend church on Thanksgiving Day? Half a dozen churches by uniting, could not secure as large an audience as would be found in any one of the churches on the Sabbath, These gatherings grew smaller each succeeding year until at length they were wholly abandoned.

The next step was the inevitable decay of the sense of gratitude in the heart. Such emotions unexpressed soon cease to exist. All the while the popular mind was developing and men began to see the folly of looking for help and blessing to an external and mysterious power utterly beyond their ken. It gradually dawned upon them that the secret of all good or evil lies in the make up of society. Given a correct social system and all evil will disappear as if by magic. Viewed in its true light, sin is atavism, suffering is error, and gratitude is superstition. Social reforms have saved the world; they have regenerated humanity. How foolish then, to talk of gratitude to God for these things! I see you are somewhat shocked; but when you have time to think it over carefully I am sure you will acknowledge the present state of things to be the natural outcome of the tendencies of your own time.”

“It seems to me,” said the deacon, “That religion itself has become a thing of the past. I see no place for it in the present order of things.”

“That is a mistake naturally arising from the narrow and distorted views in which you were educated, if you will pardon the adjectives,” replied Dr. Leete. “Religion has not ceased to exist. On the contrary, it has grown broader, more practical, more consistent with itself, and as a natural consequence it is universally accepted. We have no infidels or skeptics now except among those who are recognized as unworthy members of society. In your day skeptics were the result of the inconsistencies of your religion. You preached one system of truth and practiced another. You said a great deal about God and his Word In your pulpits: but expediency was usually the controlling motive of your life. You seldom brought the Bible into direct contact with practical affairs. When you urged men to keep the Sabbath, it was seldom on the ground of sanctity, or because it was God’s day. The all-powerful arguments were personal profit, physical health, and other economic advantages. And even the most devout Christians looked for greater practical blessings from proposed social reforms than from the preaching of the Gospel. How many of your ministers, for example, gave over the preaching of Christianity to become advocates of political prohibition, the single tax doctrine, and various other schemes of reform.

“We have merely carried out their ideas in a more logical fashion. Dropping the purely sentimental ideas of God and spirituality, we recognize the essence of religion in love for mankind and a true devotion to the interests of society.”

“Can this be the end of that which seemed so slight at the beginning?” said the deacon. “The edge of the wedge was very thin. Only a slight indifference to duty, only a little yielding to worldly principles, only a trifling lack of faith in the power of God: and the result has been the dethronement of God from his place in the universe.”

Just at that moment the doctor accidentally touched an electric button connected with the machinery of the National Orchestra, and the sudden ringing of a peel of musical bells gave the deacon such a start that he awoke to hear the last tones of the breakfast-bell reminding him that he had overslept in consequence of sitting up so late the previous evening,

At the breakfast-table he related his dream to the family and concluded by saying: “I’ve made up my mind to stick to the old custom and go to church today whatever the rest of you do. You know,” he added, addressing his wife, “We’ve really more than usual to be thankful for this year. Tom and Mary were brought out of the fever almost by a miracle. And I shall not easily forget how providential it was that I missed that train that was wrecked. Besides my business has been more prosperous this year than ever before.”

As be spoke of these things the other members of the family were reminded of numerous unusual blessings enjoyed during the year, and soon the old superstition of gratitude got the better of their progressive ideas, and they unanimously voted that the dinner would taste better and the family gathering be all the more jolly if they went to church first.


George H. Hubbard in the New Englander and Yale review:

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Filed under 1890s, Sequels to Looking Backward

J.-H. Rosny, “The Warriors of the Waters” (“Nymphée,” 1893)

The Warriors of the Waters.
By J.-H. Rosny.
[Published as Nymphée in 1893.]
Translated from the French by John W. Harding for THE ECLECTIC MAGAZINE.
I HAVE always been convinced that notwithstanding the discoveries made in all parts of the world by armies of explorers, there exist many things, many lands and strange beings that we wot not of, the like of which we have never dreamed in our philosophy. This conviction has been strengthened in no small measure by the extraordinary adventures that happened to me in Eastern Asia, and which I venture to recount in detail, partly from data committed to my diary, partly from memory; for though, as it will be seen, circumstances were not always favorable to the taking of notes, the events which befell in such rapid succession were of so startling a nature as to impress themselves indelibly upon my mind.
Yes, there are many mysterious places on the earth: swamp and forest land, mountains and subterranean regions with marvelous rivers that still remain uncharted. Travelers have no doubt skirted them, but have been headed off by bogs and stagnant waters breeding sickness and death, by hunger and thirst, and impenetrable brushwood. In regard to caverns, speaking only of Europe, Asia and America—for certain parts of Africa and Australia are still terra incognita, and no man has penetrated to the extreme Arctic and Antarctic latitudes—there are several wonderful grottoes, even in France itself, that have never been explored.
What I am about to relate is the plain, unvarnished truth, and inasmuch as I am inventing nothing, I make bold to say that it is one of the most stirring, most absorbing stories of travel and adventure ever told. Should the reader fall to indorse my opinion, it will be because I am unable to set down my exploits in a sufficiently attractive manner, but this will detract nothing from their phenomenal character.
I will refrain from unnecessary preliminary explanations. Suffice it to say that despite my comparative youthfulness, I accompanied, in the capacity of naturalist and physician, the geographical expedition sent out a few years ago by the French Government to the regions of the Amoor on the confines of Russia in Asia and the Chinese Empire. Our leader was Jean Louis Devreuse, captain of the cruiser Hero whose fame as an explorer of the Antarctic regions being universal, it is not needful for me to descant upon.
The story begins in the eighth month of our voyage.

The country through which we were traveling is remarkable for its fecundity. Few, if any, human beings live there. Profound silence reigns over the formidable marshes. The brute creation increases and multiplies undisturbed on land and in the water: birds fill the air to the very clouds; the rivers positively teem with aquatic life. There the soul expands. For months I felt the intoxicating joy of living, gave full freedom to the flights of my fancy and imagination.
At the outset we saw large droves of wild horses and packs of wolves and bears roving about, and great flocks of cranes and wood pigeons rose as we approached them.
Then we came to the marshes. A country of uncertain, uninviting appearance stretched away to the left, jutted with long capes upon which innumerable herons ruminated solemnly and the wind moaned among the rushes. We waded through several weed-covered lagoons, and crossed a deep swamp on a raft made from a tree that had been blasted and stricken down by lightning. And the black-looking country widened, heaving with feverish reptilian life: gigantic toads hopped along the banks, serpents wriggled in the mud and rotting herbage, myriads of insects burrowed in the soft soil. Insipid, sickly gases that became phosphorescent at night and flickered in countless wills-o’-the-wisp rose from the bogs. The sky cloudy and opaque, was so low that it seemed to rest upon the strips of earth that barred the slimy waters in the distance. It was grandiose, but frightful, and it filled us with awe. We pushed on, not having the courage to turn back, and daily expecting to reach drier and more salubrious country.
It was toward the end of August. For three weeks we had been roaming at hazard, trusting to luck to pull us through. In crossing some rapids we lost our tents, and our men were visibly discouraged; but the chief would not give up. Imbued with the restless spirit of exploration, endowed with stubborn energy, stern, implacable, almost cruel, he pertained to that race of aggressive fighters who scorn all obstacles, rule men with an iron hand and know how to die heroically, if necessary, but whose private life is morose, monotonous, devoid of interest. He held us under the yoke of his will.
Our Asiatic guide had lost his reckoning completely, and had not the remotest idea as to where we were. To all our inquiries he replied with the impassible sadness peculiar to Orientals:
“Me no sabe—land of bad men—me no sabe.”
Our men began to show signs of mutiny. I personally did not care. My only anxiety was for dainty little Sabine Devreuse, daughter of the captain. How ever she obtained permission to accompany the expedition I could never understand. Doubtless the captain, in capitulating to her pleading, had imagined that the journey would be a short one and fraught with no particular danger. It is a fact that those who wander about the world become in course of time inexplicably optimistic and place unbounded confidence in their lucky star.
Each day Sabine Devreuse had become dearer to me. She shed the light of grace over the company. Because of her our arduous journey seemed to me but a happy excursion, our halts in the evening an incomparable poem. Notwithstanding her delicate beauty and frail appearance she was never ill, scarcely ever weary.
One morning we thought we had reached a more promising territory. The captain was disposed to congratulate himself, for we were crossing a plain that was only dotted by a few ponds.
“We shall emerge to the east, probably on to prairie land, as I foresaw,” he said.
I confess I did not share his optimism. As I gazed toward the horizon I had the presentiment that we were far from being at the end of our troubles. It turned out that my apprehensions were well founded for we were soon floundering in the swamps again. To add to our discomfort a steady, interminable downpour of rain set in. The ground, where there happened to be any, was covered with spongy moss, and mucous lichens. We wasted days in going round deep swamps, while all kinds of paludinous creatures glided about and frightened our horses. Our water-proof overcoats were worn full of holes and we were drenched to the skin.
Our halt on August 30, on a small stony eminence that would not have afforded shelter to a rat and was bare of anything that could serve as fuel was one of the most disheartening episodes of the voyage. The captain, as stiff and stern as the Assyrians escorting their prisoners on the bas-reliefs of Khorsabab, spoke to no one. An abominable twilight was expiring in the deluge. The Implacable -humidity, the funereal greyness, exercised a still more depressing effect upon everybody. Sabine Devreuse alone summed up courage enough to smile. Dear girl! She symbolized the comfort of our Western homes; and in listening .to her silvery voice I forgot alike my sadness and lassitude.
Figure to yourself, if you can, our position, lying on the viscous soil in absolute darkness; for it was the period of the new moon, and the sky was covered from east to west with threefold curtains of clouds. Yet I slept, though my slumber was disturbed at intervals by frightful nightmares.
About an hour before dawn our horses began to stamp and snort with terror, and made frantic efforts to break their leather halters. The guide touched my arm.
“The man-eater!” he said.
You cannot imagine the horror these words inspired in the inky darkness and the cold, incessant douche. I sat up quickly and reached for my rifle, which was protected by a case of thick oiled leather. Then I peered into the darkness. I might as well have tried to look through a brick wall.
“How do you know?” I asked.
A muffled growl on the plain answered the question and left no room for doubt that the man spoke sooth. It was, indeed, the great man-eating tiger of the north, successor, if not the descendant, of the lord of the quaternary age, that crosses the frozen rivers to ravage the small cities of the Amoor.
It was not the first time he had tracked us, but previously twelve men, well armed, all good shots, and protected by a bright camp fire had nothing to fear. Now, however, it was different. Though he could see us, we could not see him in the dense night, blacker than the Egyptian plague of darkness, strain our eyes as we would, and could only await the attack in anxious suspense.
“Form a square,” ordered the captain.
We sprang to our feet. The horses were plunging more frantically than ever, and it would have been dangerous to seek to use them as a rampart against the enemy.
“He come—me hear him!” exclaimed the guide.
No one doubted that he was right for we all knew that the Asiatic’s hearing was wonderfully acute, and—oh! that wall of humidity, that pall of rain, the unspeakable mystery of the night! I in turn soon heard the monster creeping stealthily toward us. The feeling that he could see us, was preparing to spring upon us suddenly, without warning, filled us with dread. It was calculated to make the bravest quail, and it did.
There was a pause. The tiger was probably hesitating in the choice of his victim. He must have been astonished at the presence of men and horses in those endless solitudes. Then we could hear him moving again. He was somewhere to the left of my side of the square and nearer to us than the horses.
“Take a chance shot,” murmured Devreuse to me, for I was considered to be the best marksman of the troop.
A roar followed the sharp crack of the rifle, and then we heard the fall of a heavy body. Next we knew that the tiger was very near to us, for we could hear him breathing heavily, in short gasps.
“Shoot, Lachal, you, too, Alcuin!” cried the captain.
By the light of the two flashes we saw the monster crouching to spring, then, before Devreuse could give another order, there was a rush through the air, and in the impenetrable darkness arose the agonized shriek of a man.
For two seconds we were paralyzed with horror. No one dared to shoot. Another shriek, a crunching sound, and somebody fired. The flash revealed two men on the ground and the tiger preparing to strike down a third victim. A shower of blows with the butt end of the rifles descended upon the man-eater, and four reports rang out, answered by a prolonged, frightful howl.
“He wounded,” whispered the guide.
Hardly had he spoken when there was another roar, I felt a great mass hurled against me, and I was seized, rolled over, shaken as a rat is shaken by a terrier, and carried off.
“It is all up with me,” I thought.
An incredible resignation came over me, a sort of lucid hallucination. I gave myself up to death. I was not hurt and I still clutched my rifle.
After awhile the tiger stopped. I was dropped on the ground, felt a hot, fetid breath upon my face, and suddenly all my resignation gave place to extreme terror and regret of life. A great paw descended upon me, and I felt that I was about to be crushed, torn to pieces and devoured.
“Farewell!” I shouted feebly.
In my desperation I had instinctively raised my rifle. A flash, a report! The tiger howled and leaped into the air. I, extended on the ground, awaited death. I could hear a heavy grunting three paces from me. A glimmer of hope entered my breast: How is this? Am I to live, am I to die? Why is the monster grunting and rolling, instead of taking his vengeance?
He struggled up, fell down again,
there was a frightful gasp, then silence. The next thing I knew I was on my feet and heard the sound of approaching voices.
“He very dead!” exclaimed the Asiatic, and his hand seized mine in the darkness.
I responded with a vise-like grip. My mind was still filled with anguish, doubt as to whether the tiger was really dead, fear that he would bound upon me again. But I could only hear the monotonous trickling of the rain and the footsteps of my companions as they groped their way cautiously toward me.
“Robert, are you safe?” shouted the captain.
“Yes, all right,” I responded.
After several vain attempts I succeeded in striking a match under cover of my overcoat. The scene disclosed by the faint flicker was striking in the extreme. The tiger, lying in the blood-dyed mud, was a magnificent creature. Even in death it preserved a menacing attitude. Its lips were drawn back as in an angry snarl, baring the cruel fangs, and a paw raised showed the strong, sharp claws. How was It possible that I was among the living? I could scarcely realize that I had been snatched by a miracle from the jaws of dead.
“He very dead!” repeated the Asiatic.
We rejoined the captain and felt our way back to the knoll.
“Are you hurt?” asked a voice in sweet, tremulous tones that made my heart beat violently.
“No, mademoiselle,” I answered her; “or at any rate not seriously. The brute must have gripped me by the leather and india rubber of my clothing. But what about the others?”
“I believe I have got a nasty scratch on the chest—the tiger left me at once,” replied Alcuin.
Another and more plaintive voice exclaimed:
“And I am wounded on the hip, but the shock was even worse than the bite.”
We forgot all about our fatigue and the rain. Our escape from the deadly peril, in which we had been placed, filled us with an excitement that was almost joyous. Finally a faint greyness appeared in the Bast and lightened reluctantly until we were able to see each other. The cheerless day dawned upon a scene of desolation— the abomination of desolation—a scene of flooded marshes all around us; and our excitement was succeeded by gloomy foreboding, though, as far as I was concerned, I had only eyes and thoughts for Sabine, and would have put up with anything so that I could be near her. Our wounds were not serious enough to render a continuance of the halt imperative, and we pushed on.
Another day was spent in the horrible solitude and the rain that soaked all the energy out of us. The men began to grumble seriously. They kept at a distance and held whispered conferences among themselves. Whenever I happened to approach them they regarded me distrustfully. It was easy to see that they were plotting, and though I personally was prepared to follow the captain to the end of the world, I could understand their dissatisfaction and felt sorry for them.
About 4 o’clock in the afternoon Devreuse decided to call a halt. Apart from our excessive fatigue and the attention due to the wounded men, the halt was occasioned by the discovery of a shelter.
In the middle of the plain was a queer hillock of rock about ninety feet high. We entered a hollow that seemed to have been widened by human hands and came near the top to a plateau and a spacious grotto, fairly well lighted, and with a sloping and perfectly dry floor.
After being two days in the rain there seemed to be something providential in the discovery of this shelter, and the men manifested the intention of passing the night there. The chief could not refuse a demand so reason
able. Our horses easily made the ascent, and we found ourselves lodged with unhoped-for comfort. I say unhoped-for, because, branching from the grotto were a number of passages, and in a depression of the plateau a small lake that the rain kept filled with running water; so that we were able not only to perform much needed toilet operations, but to rinse a part of our clothing and hang it in the passages to dry, after which we ate the provisions remaining from our last hunt— a few cooked slices of moose. How glad we should have been to wash the food down with a cup of hot tea, I need hardly say; but alas! there was no means of making a fire.
“It would be advisable to cut a few branches,” observed one of the men.
“They wouldn’t have time to dry,” said the captain morosely.
The tone of the man’s remark struck me. I was standing at the entrance to the grotto with Sabine. We were gazing out upon the landscape through the melancholy curtain of the rain. But it was a blissful moment to me. Sabine, in her gray mantle, her hair caught up negligently, a glow of color in her cheeks, was the embodiment of youth, life and grace. She inspired me with an exquisite fear, a mystic palpitation. Her sweet smile banished all my homesickness and anxieties.
As I said, the tone of the man’s remark (it was Alcuin who had spoken) struck me, and I turned round. Devreuse had also noticed it, and demanded with severity:
“What is that you say?”
Alcuin, troubled at first, answered, after some hesitation, with respectful firmness:
“You see, captain, it’s like this: We are very tired. A rest of a few days is necessary—and Lefort’s wound wants a lot of nursing.”
His comrades nodded approval, which fact ought to have made the chief reflect; but, as usual, his unreasonable obstinacy asserted itself.
“We go on to-morrow morning,” he announced curtly.
“We can’t do it,” remonstrated Alcuin, and he ventured to add: “We wish for five days’ rest. The shelter is good, and we should be able to pull ourselves together in that time.”
The chief’s hard face betrayed a suspicion of indecision, but the man, decidedly, was inaccessible to kindly sentiments, too carried away by his belief in his absolutism and prescience. He had now decided that there was a passage to the southwest, and would not lose a day in attaining it.
“We go on to-morrow morning,” he repeated.
“But suppose we cannot?” insisted Alcuin mildly. Devreuse frowned
“Do you refuse to obey my orders?”
“No, captain, we don’t refuse, but we really cannot go any further. The expedition was only to last three months.”
Devreuse, agitated, evidently recognized that there was some justice in his subordinate’s demands, or he would not have hesitated before replying. I still hoped that he would have the good sense to accord the respite, but no, he could not make up his mind to give way.
“Very well,” he said, “I will go alone.”
Then, turning to me, he added: “You will wait here ten days for me.”
“No,” I retorted; “if the others intend to abandon you, it is not for me to judge their conduct. As for me, 1 swear that I will not leave you till we reach civilization again.”
The men remained impassible. Devreuse’s lips quivered with unaccustomed emotion.
“Thank you, Robert,” he said warmly, and addressing the others disdainfully:
“Taking into consideration the length and hardship of the journey, I will not denounce your conduct. But I order you to wait here for us for fifteen days. This time, unless compelled by uncontrollable circumstances, disobedience of my order will be treason.”
“Until the evening of the fifteenth day at the very least,” said Alcuin humbly, “and we regret”
Devreuse interrupted him with a haughty gesture, and a long and gloomy silence fell upon the company.
I rose at daybreak. The others were still sleeping soundly. I was nervous and racked with uneasiness on account of delicate little Sabine, whose father was about to expose her to new dangers. I regretted my resolution of the previous night. Had I sided with the men the captain might not have been so obstinate. I was worried by this idea, although I argued that, unbending, as he was, such action on my part would have made no difference. He would have gone all the same, taking Sabine with him, and separation from the latter would have been more bitter to me than death.
Thus I mused at the entrance of the grotto. Another dismal day had begun in the relentless rain. The whole country was under water. Water triumphed over earth and sky.
Suddenly I heard a slight noise, light footsteps behind me. I turned. It was Sabine. Enveloped in her little mantle she advanced with a charming air of mystery, and all my sadness vanished. Motionless, hypnotized, I could scarcely articulate a word of polite greeting.
“I want to speak to you,” she murmured. “I was greatly touched by your devotedness yesterday. My father, who will be eternally grateful to you, does not know how to thank any one. Shall I thank you for him?”
Her sweet voice sent the blood coursing madly through my veins. Oh! how I loved her! It was as much as I could do to restrain myself from taking her in my arms and blurting out the secret that my lips feared to tell. I would cheerfully, nay, eagerly, have laid down my life for her, gone anywhere, done anything, confronted any danger to merit a smile of approval from her.
“If in speaking as I did I but pleased you, the reward is too great,” I stammered.
“Too great?”
She gazed at me with her wondrous blue eyes, then lowered them and blushed. I was shaking like a leaf, almost irresistibly compelled to declare my love, dreading lest I should lose the consolation of accompanying her and being near her if I did.
“Yes, too great. Your thanks would more than repay any peril incurred, any devotedness.”
She kept her eyes lowered, and I felt that the supreme moment had arrived, that I was face to face with my destiny, that she represented Life or Nirvana to me.
“My devotion frightened you?” I faltered.
“I should be timid, indeed, were that the case,” she said with a tinge of irony, but an irony so sweet, so kind!
My doubt continued—the fear of losing all by a throw of the dice: a “yes,” a “no.”
“Will you not let me follow you always?” I ventured, hardly conscious of what I was saying.
“Yes, all my life!”
She became serious. I was desperate. There was no receding now. The die was cast. I continued:
“May I not ask your father whether he will take me with him as his son?”
An air of doubt passed over her visage; then with charming bravery she said:
“Yes, ask him!”
“Sabine,” I cried, choking with emotion, “can I dare to believe that you love me?”
“What, then, would you believe?”
This was said with a tinge of her former irony, delicious, tender Irony.
Oh! that beautiful rainy morning,
that paradise of swamps. Gently I had caught her hand, gently I had raised it to my lips. I was king of the world.

Two days had elapsed since we—the captain, Sabine and I—had quitted the men in the grotto. The country grew more dismal as we advanced, though it was not devoid of a certain sombre and grandiose beauty. Whether there was an issue or not it was certain that the journey was hourly becoming more painful. Luckily we had only brought Sabine’s little horse with us; our own mounts would have been an encumbrance rather than a help.
The rain had ceased, and we were trudging along a ridge of land that was surrounded in every direction by pools.
“Night is coming on. Another effort,” urged the captain.
And night was coming on. We made for what appeared to be a knoll. I do not know what came over Sabine’s horse, but it suddenly took it into its head to bolt, and away it dashed, passing to the left of the knoll like a streak of lightning. We heard Sabine scream, and running forward found that the animal had plunged into a bog. Without taking time to reflect I rushed to the rescue, and in an instant was floundering beside the girl in the treacherous soil.
“Our movements only make us sink deeper,” remarked Sabine.
There could be no doubt about It . Caught in a net of plants we could neither advance nor recede. We were in one of those traps in which inert Nature seems to suck under with slow but sure ferocity the living beings that fall into them.
The captain, however, had not lost his presence of mind. He approached by a round-about way along a narrow tongue of land that jutted obliquely in our direction. He had uncoiled a few yards of rope, and was gathering it up to throw us the end of it. Our only hope was in him, and we followed his movements with anguish. Suddenly he slipped, stumbled, tried to recover himself and draw back. The soil of the promontory, composed, doubtless, at the extremity where he was standing, of a decayed vegetable crust gave way. Devreuse flung out his hands trying to clutch at something to save himself, but in vain, and he found himself in the same position as we were!
Moreover, night had set in, and everything appeared vague and indistinct. In the penumbra of the vast solitude we could hear the sighing and wailing of the brute creation. Wills-o’-the-wisp flickered around us. We were prisoners of the slough. At the slightest motion we sank a little deeper. Every minute marked a stage toward the inevitable doom that awaited us, of being swallowed up by the earth. The moon, fuliginous and languid, made its appearance between misty banks of clouds, and hung like a great ball on a distant curtain of poplars. The horse was burled to the haunches, and Sabine gazed at me despairingly.
“Robert, we are lost!” she exclaimed.
Once more I made a desperate effort to extricate myself, but it only hastened the fatal hour.
“Well,” cried the captain, “unless help arrives—and I don’t see where it is to come from—it is all up with us, my poor children.”
There was an inflection of tenderness in his stern voice that went to my heart. Sabine’s eyes dilated with horror. They wandered alternately from her father to me, and all three of us felt our strength deserting’ us, realizing that the end was not far off.
“God help us,” sighed Sabine.
The moon, rending her misty veil, shone brightly over all. In the south a few stars twinkled solitarily, like a little archipelago on the bosom of the ocean. The wind swept slowly over the marshes with a heavy, poisonous sweetness.
The mud was up to my shoulders. In half an hour I should have disappeared. Sabine stretched forth her hand to try and keep me up.
“Let us die together, Robert,” she murmured.
• • • • •
A confused melody was wafted over the marshes. It was a weird, strange music, that belonged to no epoch, no country that I knew of, with intervals inappreciable to the ear, yet perceptible. We looked in the direction whence it came and in the refulgent light of the moon perceived the silhouette of a man standing on a strip of earth, a sort of elongated islet. In his hands he held an object the shape of which I could not discern.
All at once we saw an extraordinary sight. Giant salamanders clambered on to the islet and gathered about the man. They were followed by toads and water snakes. Bats fluttered over his head; grebes hopped around him; rats and other creatures crept up; water fowl and owls mingled with the audience. The man continued his bizarre music, and it diffused a great gentleness over the scene, a sentiment of pantheistic fraternity that communicated itself even to us, notwithstanding the horror of our position.
We lifted up our voices in a cry of distress.
The music ceased and the man turned toward us. When he noted the predicament we were in he leaped from the islet and disappeared among the weeds. Mingled anguish and hope kept us as motionless as statues. In a few minutes that seemed an eternity of time to us the man reappeared close by and came toward us. We were unable to follow his movements, but presently Sabine and I felt ourselves seized and dragged along. A few seconds later we were floundering through a less perfidious mire and soon were standing on solid earth once more. Devreuse, rescued in the same manner, rejoined us, and the stranger contemplated us with deep, but kindly interest.
He was almost nude, his sole garment consisting of a loin cloth of fibre. The hair of his head was thin and resembled barbated lichens, but he had no hair on the face or body, and his skin, which bore no trace of the mud into which he had waded was shiny, in fact appeared to be oily.
Devreuse thanked him in various dialects, but he only shook his bead. Obviously he did not understand. Overjoyed at our unexpected deliverance we grasped his hands warmly to express our gratitude. He smiled and said something, but his voice was not that of a human being: it was a moist, guttural croaking.
He noticed, however, that we were shivering with cold and signed to us to follow him. We passed along a natural road which, though narrow, was firm and hard. It widened and slanted upward until we came to a kind of platform in the middle of a lagoon. Here the man signed to us to stop and once more disappeared in the water.
“Has he abandoned us?” asked Sabine anxiously.
“What if he has, we have been saved.”
“And how miraculously!”
The moon was now high and almost white in its effulgence. As far as eye could reach spread the marshes, the Land of Dreary Waters. I was dreaming of all manner of things in a sort of hallucination, when I saw the man returning with Sabine’s horse.
“My poor Geo!” exclaimed the girl as she caressed the animal that had so nearly been the cause of our undoing.
The man, in addition, brought some dry weeds, wood and eggs. He tendered the eggs together with a few handfuls of nuts, after which he piled up the wood and weeds and started a fire. This done, he smiled upon us and again plunged off the platform. We ran to the spot where he had dived. The water was deep here, but he did not reappear. We looked at each other, stupefied.
“What is the meaning of this?” I cried.
“I cannot say,” replied Devreuse with a thoughtful air. “It is without question the most inexplicable, incredible thing I have met with in all my fifteen years of travel. But what is to happen, will happen. Let us have supper.”
We ate heartily, dried our clothing by the fire, and the weather being balmy soon dropped off to sleep. In the middle of the night I awoke. The queer music of our rescuer resounded a long distance away across the marshes, but the musician was invisible. Then the conviction came to me that I had entered upon a new life, a reality more fairy-like than the most extravagant fairy tale.
We all awoke at sunrise greatly recuperated by our slumbers.
“Captain,” I cried, and pointed to our outer clothing, of which, being heavy with mud, we had divested ourselves, and which was now clean and dry.
“It is the work of our Man of the Waters,” said Sabine. “I begin to think he must be some benevolent faun.”
We had a good breakfast of the nuts and eggs remaining from the previous night. The sun came out, and its sheen was reflected in the sombre, endless dreamland of marshes. We began to consider our position, and concluded that the outlook was anything but an encouraging one. We could not for the life of us see how we were going to get out of the marshes.
Suddenly Sabine uttered a little scream.
Something was floating rapidly toward us and we made it out to be a raft. It seemed to be moving through the green waters of its own accord, and this fact rather startled us. But presently a head emerged from the water, then a body, and we recognized our good genius. To our gestures of greeting the Man of the Waters responded with unequivocal demonstrations of cordiality.
His appearance astonished us even more than it had done in the moonlight. By the light of day we saw that his skin was a light green color; his lips were violet; his eyes strangely round and flat, with scarcely any white, the iris being the color of a carbuncle and the pupil indented and very large. Added to this there was a peculiar gracefulness and lithesomeness in his movements. I examined him at length and attentively, especially his eyes, the like of which I had never seen in any human being.
After tying Geo on the raft he signed to us to board it, too. We complied, though not without a certain distrust, which was accentuated when he disappeared under the water again, and the raft began to move off in the singular manner in which it had come to us.
We caught sight of our conductor now and then in the thick, slimy water, encumbered with vegetation, and although we had been floating along for twenty minutes he had not risen to the surface. Our camping ground of the previous night was left far behind. The scenery began to change. The water was clearer, and we skirted several delightful little islands.
The head of the Man of the Waters, as we had decided to call him, presently bobbed up. He pointed to the southward, and went under again. The breeze brought a cooler, purer air with it. Soon the stretch of marshes became narrower; we passed through a shallow channel and found ourselves scudding over a magnificent lake of cold, limpid water in an atmosphere that was positively heavenly.

The lake, which extended for miles and miles, was dotted with islands that were bordered with gigantic water lilies and thickly covered with flowers, grasses, bushes and trees. We were being propelled toward one of these islands. Our distrust had vanished with the drowsy, morbid vapors of the swamps. We breathed in health and vigor with the full power of our lungs, and our hearts expanded with hope and the poetry of the lake.
The raft stopped at the point of a promontory and the Man of the Waters emerged and signed to us to follow him. We did so, and witnessed a most extraordinary spectacle. On the shore a score of human beings were assembled, old and young, men and women, youths, maidens and little children. All were of a viridescent tint, with smooth skin, carbuncle eyes, violet lips and hair like barbated lichens.
At sight of us the children, young men and girls and a tall old man came running up and crowded around us, uttering croaking, batrachian cries and displaying an hilarious vivacity. More Men of the Waters emerged from the lake, and we found ourselves surrounded by this aquatic population, who appeared not only very human, but in their general features resembled the white race more closely than do certain terrestrial races. Even their greenish hue and the oily moisture of their skins were not displeasing to contemplate. The young people were of a pale green like that of nascent vegetation in springtime; the old people were of a deeper shade, like the velvety green of moss or of lotus leaves. Many of the girls were really prepossessing with their slender waists, tapering extremities and finely chiseled features.
It would be impossible for me to attempt to describe our wonderment . It was all like a delicious dream, and to the emotion of the captain and myself was added the pride of savants: what discovery had ever been made comparable to this? Here we found realized, shorn of all the mythical scaffolding of our ancestors, one of the most attractive traditions of every nation. Just as the gorilla, orang-outang and chimpanzee had justified the fiction of fauns and satyrs, so did the people before us transform into a visible, tangible reality the world-old legend of mermen and mermaids. What rendered our discovery especially and immeasurably valuable was that these people were real men and women and not merely anthropomorphous.
The first impression of astonishment passed, I experienced a kind of mystical intoxication which I observed was shared by Sabine and her father.
Our rescuer led us to a grove of ash trees, where there we’re a number of huts. Aquatic birds waddled about the place, ducks, swans and waterfowl, evidently domesticated. Fresh eggs and a grilled perch were brought to us, and after we had satisfied our hunger we returned to the shore.
The weather was warm, and all the afternoon we followed the movements of the Men of the Waters. They swam about like great frogs, dived and disappeared. Then a head -would emerge and its owner would leap on to the island. Moved by the happiness of their double life I continued to examine them with absorbing curiosity, seeking to discover some organ of adaptation which enabled them to remain so long under ‘water; but save that I perceived they were gifted with great thoracic capacity there was no indication that could enlighten me upon this point.
A group of them kept us company the whole afternoon, trying to converse with us and treating us with the greatest kindness. Notwithstanding the attraction these strange beings had for us, however, we resolved to leave the next morning, though we proposed to return as soon as possible after communicating with our men. In view of the superior interest of our discovery the captain had given up his Idea of seeking a southwest passage.
But destiny compelled us to modify our plans. In the night I was aroused by Devreuse who informed me that Sabine was ill. I jumped up and went to her. In the feeble light of an ash torch I saw my dear fiancé was shivering with fever. In great alarm I examined her and was thankful to find that she was in no particular danger.
“Is it serious?” questioned Devreuse.
“No, a few days’ rest and quietness will set her up again.”
“How many days?”
“Not less?”
“Not a day.”
An expression of helplessness came over his face and he said:
“Robert, I can confide your fiancé to you. I have no doubt that I shall be able to persuade the men to wait a couple of months, and you can expect me back by the end of the week.”
He spoke with considerable agitation, and after a pause went on:
“Besides, if the weeks I purpose to pass among these extraordinary people do not suffice, we can organize another expedition. We have plenty of time. I will resign my commission, if necessary, so that I can spend years in pursuing my discoveries. All the more reason why I should not abandon my men.”
“But,” I protested, “it is I who ought to go and tell them.”
“Not at all. Your care as a medical man is indispensable to Sabine. I should be of no more help to her than a log.”
He placed both hands on my shoulders as he added:
“Is that not so?”
“I am at your orders,” I replied.
Sabine, though a little delirious, had perfectly well understood what we had been saying. She raised herself on her elbow.
“I shall be strong enough to go with you, father,” she exclaimed.
“Little girl,” said Devreuse authoritatively, “what you have got to do is to obey the doctor. I shall be back in six days, and I shall have done my duty. Do you presume to prevent me?”
Sabine, cowed, made no reply, and for a time nobody spoke. Then the girl began to shiver from the fever again and finally fell into an agitated slumber, while I watched beside her in the feeble light of the torch. I was aroused from the reverie into which I had fallen by the captain.
“You are quite sure it is not dangerous?” he insisted.
“In medical cases one can never be quite sure, you know.”
“But as far as it is possible for you to tell?”
“I have every reason to believe that she will be well and about again in a fortnight.”
“Then I will start this very morning.”
I knew that he had made up his mind and did not therefore attempt to dissuade him. Accordingly, a few hours later he set out upon his journey.
Sabine’s illness was even less serious than I had supposed. In three days she was convalescent and able to get up for a few hours. The weather was charming, and the beauty of the island and lake seemed to increase as we became familiar with them. Our lacustrine hosts manifested the utmost sympathy and did everything they possibly could to help us.
The week passed and the girl had almost completely recovered, but she became very anxious, for there was no sign of the captain. One afternoon, seated on the shore, I was consoling her as best I could, but with indifferent success.
“I am afraid something has happened to him,” she kept repeating.
I was at a loss what to say when a shadow was thrown in front of us and looking over my shoulder I saw that the Man of the Waters, who had rescued us, and with whom we were on especially friendly terms, was approaching. He smiled and pointed to a large cinder-colored swallow, peculiar to those regions, which he held in his hand, and which, when he came up, he gave to me.
“What is it?” demanded Sabine.
I noticed a little quill tube tied to its breast. It contained a piece of tissue paper, tightly rolled.
“It is a letter from your father.”
I read it aloud. It ran:
“Have arrived. Leg dislocated by fall. Nothing serious, but am detained. Don’t be uneasy and wait for me where you are. Don’t quit the island.”
Sabine burst into tears, while I marveled that the captain should have thought to take the bird with him. A smile from the Man of the Waters made me suspect that the idea did not originate with Devreuse. Sabine’s distress continued.
“It is not dangerous, dear,” I assured her, “only his leg put out. He won’t feel anything of it in a week or two.”
“Are you sure?”
The Man of the Waters had disappeared. Sabine had ceased to weep, but she was very mournful. I put my arm round her neck and comforted her. Her eyes, blue as the heavens above us, gazed gratefully into mine, and, despite our tribulations, I never experienced a more blissful moment

The days went by, and we became more and more attached to the lake and its wonders. We visited the islands upon it in company with our amphibious friends. Troops of youths and maidens pushed our raft along and sported around it in the transparent water. We rested on cool banks in the shade of weeping willows or of tall poplars.
But our hosts themselves, whom we began to know, and with whom we were now able to exchange a few words, were the superior charm of this delightful existence. Let me hasten to say, however, that it was they who picked up these words from us. We were unable to catch a single word of their language, our ears being powerless to analyze the sounds by which they communicated among themselves.
Their manners were very simple. They had no notion of family life. The population of the lake amounted to about twelve hundred persons, as far as I was able to estimate. Men and women reared all the children without distinction, and we never saw one child neglected.
Their habitations were of wood, covered with branches and moss. They were erected principally as shelters during the winter, for there appeared to be no use for them in summer. All food was cooked in the open air. It consisted merely of fish, eggs, mushrooms and a few wild vegetables. They did not eat their domestic animals, or in fact any warm-blooded creature. We saw they were disgusted when we partook of the flesh of fowl or animal, and accordingly restricted ourselves to their food, and uncommonly well it agreed with us.
They possessed a few weapons, among them a helicoid harpoon which they were able not only to send skimming on the water in a straight line, but also in a series of curves, and cause to return to them like an Australian boomerang. They employed them to capture big fish. The fish in the lake were the most cunning and difficult to approach I ever saw. The presence of marine man among them had doubtless in course of time rendered them so. Our hosts had succeeded in taming some. These they never touched, though they collected their eggs. On the other hand, they were keen hunters of pike and perch.
Their industries were not complex, and, indeed, their mode of life, the simplicity of their material needs, afforded little scope for the development of handicrafts. They knew something about the potter’s art, and elementary carpentering. They used no metals, but a sort of very hard nephrite, out of which they fashioned harpoons, saws, axes and knives.
Their existence was more poetical than practical. Never have I met with a people more free from cares, encumbrances and possessions. They seemed to have retained the elements of happiness and set aside all vain suffering. Not that they were indolent. They adored exercise, swam great distances till they were exhausted, and like the natural denizens of the water were ever restless. Unlike savages, who indulge in prolonged spells of laziness after engaging in the excitement of the chase, they appeared to be indefatigable. But their activity had no productive aim. It was induced by a pure love of movement. They swam, sported and leaped as other people repose. Apart from an occasional hunting expedition in the water, solely after carnivorous fish, they moved for the sake of moving. I watched them solve miraculous problems of movement, a variety of attitudes and lines, and in comparison the suppleness of the swallow or salmon was clumsy. Their games were a continual deployment of art—swimming dances, complex and suggestive ballets. Seeing them darting, turning screws around each other, twisting, thirty at a time, in a whirlpool caused by their own gyrations, one could but feel that they were endowed with a sense of dynamic, of muscular thought unknown to other human beings.
They were especially admirable in the moonlight. I witnessed fetes under the water so beautiful, so dreamy, consisting of evolutions so varied that I can compare them to nothing in this world.
When the people were assembled in any number, these fetes were accompanied by a strange and delicious phenomenon. The lake agitated in rhythm with the ballet emitted a euphonious sound. It was a sweet, soft murmuring, a harmonious whispering, an indescribable melopoea that brought tears of exaltation to our eyes. It recalled the fabulous legends of antiquity. It reminded me of the seductive voices of the sirens heard by the navigators of old. It may have been these voices, to which we listened in the silvery night; but they breathed only fraternity and peace.
Thought expressed by movement was not merely general and poetical. By observing them closely I fancied I detected that they carried on conversation by action, and I succeeded in grasping a vague outline of their methods, not, assuredly, sufficient to follow the thoughts of the swimmers, but enough to enable me to understand that two particular persons were talking to each other.
During the aquatic lessons given to the children, at which I had the no small pleasure of assisting, my conviction became confirmed. Those teaching the little ones expressed their approval or disapproval by natatory inflections, and I managed at least to distinguish two of these. One caused the pupil to stop; the other to change his movement.
Love, naturally, also found expression. The Men of the Waters displayed an art of tenderness, supplication and pride that varied with the individual, but was very subtle, very delicate and far superior to our conversational idylls.
They did not appear to be in the least metaphysically minded, and I saw no evidence of a religion or belief in the supernatural, only an intense love of Nature. I have already referred to their gentleness with birds, animals and domesticated fishes. This gentleness placed them in intimate communication with the lower creation. They possessed the power of making themselves understood to a surprising degree. Thus, although the idea would appear chimerical to us, I have seen them give orders to salamanders, bats, birds and carp, instructing them, for instance, to go to a certain island or district of the lake. Swans at their order made journeys of many leagues, bats ceased to hunt for a given interval, carp temporarily ceased to shelter in their favorite haunts.
The scene we witnessed at our first meeting with the Man of the Waters was frequently renewed. By means of a little stone hook a melody, similar to that we had heard in the marches, was produced from a reed, in which grooves of different width and depth had been cut. The sound invariably attracted and cast a spell over reptiles, birds and fishes, and caused beasts of prey to accord a truce to their victims.
How often these scenes entranced us! How many hours we passed watching some musician with his rudimentary instrument renewing old-time fables! What extraordinary felicity was in all the sports, in the whole life of these aquatic people.
I said that their manners were simple and free, and that the notion of family life does not exist among them. But there is a reservation to this statement. Marriage between the sexes was governed by a tacit rule. The union lasted one lunar month, the new moon marking the period of choice. These unions were, of course, renewable at the will of the parties. They never occasioned the slightest trouble in the tribe, so far as I could ascertain. I certainly never saw the shadow of a dispute while I lived among them. The children belonged for a few months to the mother, but the whole community looked after their wellbeing.
As regards the organ of adaptation which could alone furnish an explanation of their ability to remain so long under water I never found any trace of it. It is true that my investigations were forcibly limited, inasmuch as I did not have the opportunity to dissect a body. The length of time they can remain below the surface is fully half an hour, and if the fact that they can swim at a speed of from thirty to thirty-five miles an hour be taken into consideration, it will be seen that they are the equals of whales and other cetacea. Moreover, they have a marked superiority over the latter in respect of their eyes, which are admirably adapted to aquatic vision.
This was easily apparent upon examination. Their large, flat eyeballs were as favorable to sight under water as the eyes of the falcon are to sight in the air. A posteriori the supremacy of this organ is amply demonstrated by the subtlety of their evolutions: they accomplish in bands marvels of precision, dashes which, were the distance not accurately calculated, would result in terrible shocks. In their piscatorial hunts they perceive the tiniest fish at hundreds of yards. Out of the water their sight is blurred, like that of presbyopes, within a distance of twelve yards, though beyond that they can see a very long way.
Their sense of hearing, too, is markedly different from ours. I have alluded to their music, which is intervaled as though punctuated by commas, and to their queer articulation of words. I concluded that their ears, like their eyes, are better adapted to an aquatic than to a terrestrial life. It is a well-known fact that the swiftness of sound is more than quadrupled in the water, and this would necessarily create wide divergencies between the acoustic apparatus developed in aquatic surroundings and that trained to catch aerial sounds.

One morning Sabine and I, seated on our raft, floated lazily about the lake. Our friend had at first accompanied us. He came and went, pushing the raft along and sporting around it like a dolphin. We stopped at an enchanting little island and sat down in the shade of a clump of ash trees. Before us white, wax-like waterlilies reposed upon their dark green leaves; the modest water ranunculus reared its head amid bowers of alguoe, and the fish in cohorts leaped in the sunshine. My arm was round Sabine’s waist and we were supremely, exquisitely happy, too happy to speak.
We were brought back to earth by a rumor of voices, and perceived about thirty men grouped upon a near-by island of poplars. They were joined by many others who emerged from the lake.
“The Men of the Waters,” I remarked, indifferently.
“Yes,” said Sabine, “but they are not like those we know.”
In effect, on noticing them more intently I saw that their skin was of a dark color, blue-black, it appeared to me.
Sabine, frightened, nestled closer and suggested that we should return to our friends.
“Perhaps it would be advisable,” I assented.
Before we could rise to our feet, however, the water surged and bubbled
near the raft and half a dozen men emerged. Like our friends, they had strangely round eyes with scarcely any white and with slightly indented pupils, but their hair, like their color, was very different, and their attitude was not reassuring.
They gazed at us from a distance, and one of them, a powerfully built, athletic young fellow, never took his eyes off Sabine. We saw that they were armed with harpoons, and Sabine turned pale.
The athletic man said something to us in croaking tones. I made signs that I did not understand him, whereupon they raised threatening cries and flourished their harpoons. The situation was becoming critical. I had my rifle with me, but when I had discharged both barrels they would be upon me before I could reload, and how could I make a successful defense against these beings familiar with an element in which they could hide and attack us with impunity? Besides, even if I managed to hold my own against the men confronting me, was there not on another island, 500 yards away, a multitude who would rush to their assistance?
The young athlete began to talk to us again, and I understood from his gestures that he insisted upon having a reply. I shouted at him, and for a moment the band stood dumfounded at the sound. They held a hurried consultation and then with angry cries began to flourish their weapons again. I raised my rifle. There was a moment of horrible suspense. I thought it was all over with us, and I determined to sell my life dearly and die gamely.
A cry arose from the lake. My antagonists turned about and a joyful shout escaped me. A troop of our hosts were speeding toward us, led by our rescuer who was making signs to the dark men. The latter lowered their harpoons, and soon after we were surrounded by our friends once more, saved from death—Sabine perhaps from a worse fate.
We then witnessed a ceremony in which our Men of the Waters welcomed the others. Prom the island of poplars the rest of the dark men came. Presents were exchanged, and arms interlaced in a peculiar manner. It struck me, however, that these demonstrations were somewhat lacking in sincerity, especially in the case of the dark visitors. The young athlete continued to stare at Sabine in a way that raised my wrath.
Our hosts had escorted us back to their island, and we were greatly relieved to find ourselves safe there again, though I still felt a vague uneasiness which I fancied was shared by the tribe. Our rescuer was especially troubled. He remained near us, showed his devotedness to us in every possible way, and, affection begetting affection, I came to love him like a brother.
The afternoon passed without incident, but an hour before sundown a deputation of the dark Men of the Waters arrived, among them being the strong man, who appeared to act as their leader. Our people rendered them every honor and offered them presents, after which there was a dance in the water in which light and dark men vied with each other in agility.
Sabine and I with our friend held aloof and watched the proceedings from behind a screen of lowering ash branches. interested at the spectacle in spite of our uneasiness.
When the dance was at its height two men emerged close to our retreat. Could they see us? Had they been spying upon us? However this may be, they came up to us. One of them was the young chief, but his face wore an amicable smile and he was gentleness itself. He said something to our friend, then moved off again, looking at Sabine as he did so with an avid, covetous look that made me shudder.
They returned to the lake. Then our friend, shaking his head, made no secret of his apprehension. He signed to me to look after Sabine, and intimated that he would also guard her.
The night was an anxious one for me, and I sat up and kept watch. Gleams of light flickered over the lake and among the foliage. The sound of strange music was borne to my ears. I caught glimpses of bands of swimmers shooting about in the water, in the uncertain light of the moon, which was on the wane.
About 1 o’clock in the morning the dark men came in a body to within a hundred yards of the island, and in response to their calls several of our young men joined in the nocturnal fete.
How charming, how profoundly interesting I should have considered these things, had Sabine not been there. With what joy I should have studied the customs of these beings, the remnant of an antique aquatic race that had in all likelihood ruled continents. Now and then I gave myself up to the poetry of the scene, but my worry soon returned, especially as I remarked that the two races distrusted each other, with a distrust born, may be, of old-time feuds. At all events their friendship appeared to be more tacit than sincere.
A bank of heavy clouds blotted out the moon and obscurity fell upon all around. I crossed over to Sabine’s hut and, rifle in hand, sat down before the narrow entrance. The fete had ended and silence reigned over the lake. Once or twice I fancied I heard some one prowling about, and it was broad daylight before I dozed off.

Nothing of importance occurred during the remainder of the week. Every day deputations of dark Men of the Waters came to the island. Our people returned their visits on a neighboring isle where they had elected to encamp. The young men of both races continued to organize fetes in the water. His animation increased and the nights were spent in delightful dances and great aquatic ballets in the moonlight .
I ought not to have been worried, because. in the first place, we were well guarded, and, secondly, because the strangers had apparently forgotten all about us; yet I was, and greatly worried. It -was no good reasoning that the young chief, if he ever had entertained designs on Sabine, had, with the mobility characteristic of his race, probably abandoned them. A foreboding that I could not shake off tortured me continuously, and troubled my sleep. I would start up perspiring and every nerve strained to the utmost tension. It seemed to me that the distrust of our friends was increasing, instead of diminishing. They, I surmised, were not likely to be agitated by presentiments, and must have more serious reasons for their attitude.
One evening at moonrise the dark Men of the Waters came in unusually large numbers, accompanied by their old men. The visit was marked by more solemn demonstrations than customary, and the exchange of more numerous presents. I divined intuitively that the visitors were taking leave, preparatory to taking their departure for the regions whence they came.
The water fete was more marvelous than any that had preceded it. It was a harmonious reverie of movement. Light and dark bodies reflecting the moonbeams, throwing off spray of crystal and mother-of-pearl when they sped along the surface, darted upward and downward, to and fro, twisting, circling, entwining in arabesque full of an infinite sentiment of curves, in divine trajectory symphonies.
By 1 o’clock it was all over and the dark squadron scooted away.
“Ah,” said I to Sabine, “I believe they are off at last.”
“I think so, too,” she affirmed.
She raised her timid eyes to mine and I kissed her passionately.
“I was much frightened on your account, darling,” I murmured.
“If only my father would return now, I should be perfectly happy,” she sighed. “I am so anxious about him.”
“He will come soon, he is all right,” I assured her.
Nevertheless, I was not yet easy in my mind. I was oppressed by a vague fear that even the assurance, conveyed by signs, of our friend that the dark men had gone for good failed to calm.
However, about 2 o’clock I fell into a feverish slumber and, worn out by many nights of watching, slept for a couple of hours. Then I had a nightmare from which I awoke with a start.
“Sabine! Sabine!” I shouted in a paroxysm of terror.
Then, being fairly awake, I recovered my sangfroid and looked out of my hut. Day was dawning, and the ash grove was whispering in the morning breeze. Everything breathed calmness and confidence. I shook off the disagreeable impression left by my dream and sniffed the fresh air with elation.
“How nice it would be to live here always,” I thought.
I strolled over to Sabine’s hut. Horror—stupefaction—despair! It was empty!

My fury aroused the Men of the Waters, and especially our friend. Mad with despair I rushed toward him, frantically pointing to Sabine’s empty couch. Men and women crowded around me in the pale light of the breaking dawn, and their large, rigid, carbuncle-like eyes gazed at me with evident compassion.
Presently the sun rose, dispersing the morning mist; the horizon, save toward the East and West, became remarkably clear, and to the North I could discern an almost imperceptible moving speck to which I drew the attention of my brother of the waters. He took careful note of the direction, ran to the lake and plunged in. I followed him impatiently with my eyes and saw him heading northward under the crystal water, his body magnified and deformed by the ripples that ruffled the surface. At length he came up, uttered his batracian cry and vanished northward like a flash. A hundred of his companions, armed with helicoid harpoons, darted in his wake.
At the same time the raft upon which Sabine and I had been wont to make our excursions on the lake was brought to the bank. I installed myself upon it with my rifle and knife and was soon being towed along at incredible speed, but not, alas! more swiftly than the other raft that was bearing my terrified fiancé away.
The rapidity of movement and the somnolent, soothing calmness of wind and water gradually assuaged in a measure my anguish, and I began to examine the situation with greater coolness. From what I had seen of the dark as well as of the light Men of the Waters I felt pretty sure that the young kidnapper would not at the outset resort to force. I had frequently witnessed their long and patient courting, the graceful ruses, the gentle supplications of the lover to obtain the favors of his heart’s elect, and there was no reasonable ground for the supposition that the dark chief would adopt any other mode of procedure in regard to Sabine. Was not the romantic nature of the adventure calculated to excite the tendency of the race to overcome opposition by charming, rather than by using violence, toward such a captive?
Moreover, among primitive peoples the manners and customs of a tribe are rarely departed from, and even were his band to confer Sabine upon him, the young chief would probably have to submit to the customary rules governing marriage and go through the usual ceremonies. Finally, nearly a fortnight would elapse before the new moon, the period of choice, the only period at which the nuptials could be celebrated.

Whether or not we were gaining upon the other raft I could not say. It continued to be but a speck upon the horizon, and I was apprehensive lest it might be shut out of sight altogether by a mist. My fears, as it proved, were only too well founded, for about noon large clouds spread over the sky, and the vapor that rose from the lake under the heat of the sun becoming condensed hung over the water like a pall. The speed of my raft, however, in no way slackened, and little by little I gave myself up to my thoughts. I conceived the wildest imaginable scheme for rescuing my beloved Sabine only to dismiss them despairingly as impracticable.
Suddenly I was aroused by the batracian cry of the Men of the Waters and found that we were about three hundred yards from a low lying island covered with tall poplars, through the foliage of which the light played and quivered fantastically. We had after all been gaining on the raft, for, despite the mist, I could perceive it through an opening in the trees, though it continued to be but a black, indistinct speck.
My attention, however, was soon distracted from the raft by the cries of my amphibious allies who had risen to the surface and were excitedly calling each other’s attention to a long, thick clump of rushes, in front of which the water was frothing and bubbling furiously. The raft stopped, and I seized my gun ready for an attack. I could see by the agitation of the water that something was approaching us, and soon realized that the dark band was making a stand.
All at once the agitation ceased, the oncoming wave dispersed in a succession of circles and the surface became calm. In the limpid depths of the lake big water plants, like a submerged forest, could be plainly discerned, the air globules covering their broad leaves, stems and trailing tendrils with bright silver heads. The color of the mud at the bottom was a dull yellow.
Save for an occasional cautious snakelike gliding, nothing could be seen of the men. They must have been buried in the mud, eyeing each other closely, ready to take prompt advantage of the least opening afforded. Presently a slight cloudiness in the water, caused by a man changing position, afforded a mark. In an instant a helicoid harpoon flashed through the water and a body rose close to the raft.
This enabled me to locate the position of the contending forces. The light men were lying a short distance ahead of the raft; their dark enemies were assembled in front of the clump of rushes. Twenty harpoons were hurled in response to the deadly shaft that had killed one of our side, and it was with ferocious satisfaction that I saw a couple of dark corpses rise to the surface. Then all was still again. The mud that had thickened the water settled down and I was once more able to see the vegetation at the bottom. It was patent to me that an attack by either side would be extremely dangerous, and that every man was carefully keeping under cover. But they could not continue their present tactics indefinitely.
It soon became evident that before engaging in a pitched battle they were disputing a strategical advantage that would inevitably fall to the side able to remain longest under water. Those whose breath gave out would be compelled to rise to the surface for air and would thus become an easy mark for their enemies. I awaited the issue of this duel of endurance with the keenest anxiety, occasionally raising my eyes to glance at Sabine’s raft which, like mine, was lying motionless a long distance off toward the horizon.
Gazing down at the luxuriant vegetation that covered the bottom of the lake I saw what looked like a shower of burnished gold and silver; the wide-leaved plants and their mass of delicate tendrils covered with glittering air globules began to sway and innumerable shoals of fish invaded the battle ground. At the same time I heard a sound of distant music to which a nearer burst of melody responded.
The dark men, it was evident, were desirous of placing this living barrier between themselves and their light pursuers, in order that they might rise under cover of it to obtain a fresh supply of air. For some reason or other the lives of the fish appeared to be sacred. It may have been a pact, or a rule of war. At any rate, it was a graceful and marvelous episode in the poignant drama. The darting fish of all shapes and sizes, whose scales flashed with metallic lustre amid the dark green diamond spangled growth of the sub-lacustrine forest, seemed like the visible notes of a prodigious orchestration, the rhythm and harmony of which were enjoyed by the eye instead of the ear.
The struggle to keep them there and to lure them away lasted for some minutes, but one of our men, having succeeded in reaching the raft in safety, clambered on to it and began to play upon a grooved reed, whereupon the finny cohorts rose toward the surface and swam away.
The fish having disappeared, it could be seen that the dark camp was in distress. A few warriors who had tried to reach the surface during the passage of the fish were floating with harpoons through the heart. Three others made a desperate break for air and met with the same fate, whereupon the harpoons of their comrades flew through the water like a flock of migrating swallows and fell in a heavy shower among the plants beneath me, wounding two of our men, who came up near the raft.
Then before the light warriors could answer with a single lance the enemy darkened the water by stirring up the mud and rose to the surface en masse. But my friends, rushing through the thick curtain, took up position beneath them and the battle was won. The enemy vanquished and having exhausted their supply of weapons, had no course left but to seek safety in flight. In this many succeeded, but a large number were killed and an equally large number taken prisoners. Pursuit of the remainder was useless, for their rear guard veiled their retreat by stirring up great clouds of slime and mud as they fled.
The captives, carrying their dead, were being marched under a strong escort toward a number of huts on the island, when half a dozen light men, bearing a little dark boy who was moaning piteously, emerged from the water and laid the waif on the raft. They signed to me to take care of him and pointed with compassion to his left arm. I examined it and found that the shoulder was dislocated, but paid little further attention to the child, for at this moment Sabine’s raft was disappearing in the mist, while mine was being towed ashore.
Our band rested, but showed no joy at their victory. They appeared rather to be disgusted and saddened by the bloody strife in which they had been engaged, and from time to time would give way to violent outbursts of indignation and wrath. While they were cooking fish I meandered about the island, going over fully two-thirds of its length. It was covered with high grass. In one place I remarked a kind of furrow where the grass had been trampled flat, but thought nothing of the fact at the time, though it recurred to me later, like snatches of ideas recur in dreams.
A few steps further the ground became stony, and sloped to a yawning cavern whose dismal depth was shrouded in Cimmerian darkness. I thought it might be a sepulchre, and peered in, seeking to fathom its mysteries and comparing it to the gaping wound and the void in my heart.
Was it an hallucination? I thought I heard a cry coming from the pit . It was a cry that resembled in nothing the croaking, humid cry of the Men of the Waters. It was clear and vibrating such as none but a European could have uttered.
“Sabine!” I shouted.
Was I mad? Sabine was being borne away from me on the waters, yet I listened in the hope of hearing the cry again, listened so intently that I could have heard the fluttering of a night moth’s wings as it flitted through the wood; but my fancy refused to repeat it, and musing upon my misfortune I returned to the camp.
The halt was a brief one, for as soon as the fish were cooked we started off again, taking the food with us. My friends, as I had frequently seen them do before, partook of the repast under water. I, of course, ate my share on the raft I had offered a part of it to my little companion, but he had refused it. In the anguish of mind I was in myself I had at first been indifferent to his sufferings; but his refusal of food, his continual thirst and his moans finally moved me, and recovering my energy I succeeded in setting his shoulder. As I bent over him to terminate the operation I was struck by a peculiarity. His eyes to a certain extent lacked the characteristics of the eyes of the other Men of the Waters. The white was distinctly visible, the pupil had a pronounced outward curve and the iris, though inclined to redness, was of no precise color. I had seen more than one European with similar optics. Greatly surprised, I examined the other parts of his body and found that he was not like the aquatic people among whom he lived, either in skin, hair or extremities, the latter being much thicker.
Despite my cares, I was irresistibly agitated by conjectures and scientific hypotheses. Had I happened upon a specimen of a race that was a cross between the ordinary men of earth and the Men of the Waters? Was the boy’s resemblance to the former due to some phenomenon of heredity? Might not the process of transformation have been so rapid that a few centuries had sufficed to change the terrestrian into an aquatic man? I recalled scraps of what I had read in the works of ancient writers who asserted the ability of certain extraordinary beings to live under water.
Sabine’s abductors placed every possible obstacle in the way of pursuit by stirring up the mud over a vast extent of the lake, but my sagacious companions succeeded in keeping track of them, and about 2 o’clock, to my great joy, the sun having rent the mist on the horizon, I again caught sight of the raft. Thereafter I kept my finger pointed toward the moving speck, and the men towing and pushing me redoubled their efforts.
We were visibly shortening the distance between us. Sabine’s raft gradually became more distinct until I was able to make out the vague silhouette of a female form upon it, and shouted with glee. My delight, however, was suddenly dampened by a terrible doubt. Might not the young Chief, rather than abandon Sabine, drag her with him to the bottom of the lake? The thought was maddening.
Onward, nearer and nearer we sped, and my band of brave, tireless swimmers surrounding the raft, raised their voices in a weird, wild chant as they cleft the dancing water with their powerful strokes. Sabine’s adorable form now stood out so distinctly that I could easily discern her little cloak. Barely five hundred yards now separated us. I sprang. to my feet and my whole soul went out in yearning toward her. I was wild with hope and impatience. Yet she did not see me. Her back was turned toward me, and she was gazing fixedly before her over the lake. By what artifice was she prevented from turning her head?
When we were about three hundred yards off those of our swimmers who were not hauling or pushing my raft made a spurt for the other one. Instantly a man rose beside Sabine, and my blood froze with horror as I saw him throw his arms about her and drag her to the edge of the raft, though she resisted desperately. To describe my anguish as I watched the struggle would he impossible. It was too atrocious for words. My hair turned white in places and I felt the effects of it for years.
The resistance of my gentle, frail little sweetheart could avail nothing against the brute strength of her captor. He raised her bodily in his arms and leaped overboard. Frantic with grief and despair I plunged headlong into the lake, and heavily, slowly, as powerless as a fly in a glue pot, struck out toward the spot where my beloved had disappeared; but speedily realizing how useless were my efforts, and determined not to survive her, I threw up my arms and sank.

The next fact of which I was conscious was that I was lying alone on the raft, which was stationary. My little wounded companion had disappeared. Not a swimmer was to be seen. The lake, rippled by the breeze, danced in the glad sunlight; the bright-scaled fish streaked the crystal water with many colors as they flashed hither and thither in their sport.
I noticed these things in a languid, stupid way, and after a while became aware of the presence of a man in the lake. He was at too great a depth to be clearly distinguishable, hut I could see that he was moving slowly and with precaution. He presently came up bearing on his arm the boy captured among the rushes. In his disengaged hand he held my knife, which he had fetched from the bottom. I helped him to clamber on the raft.
These movements recalled the events through which I had passed, and broken-hearted, tortured beyond endurance, I fell into a stupor of grief and despair. I was aroused by a touch on the shoulder. The boy was standing
beside me, gazing at me compassionately, and making persistent signs of denial accompanied by a pantomime that I could not for the life of me understand.
This continued for some time, when he stopped discouraged and remained thoughtful. At last his face brightened and taking my knife he cut five pieces of wood from one of the logs of the raft and went through the following curious performance:
First clasping one of the pieces of wood to his breast, he caressed it with the greatest tenderness. He obliged me to do the same, afterward laying the stick beside me, and I wondered what fetish rite he was trying to initiate me into. He next laid a second piece of wood upon the water and made me understand that it was a raft. A third piece of wood was then made to seize the first piece and carry it to the miniature raft .
This aroused my interest to the highest pitch, for I now understood that the poor child was relating what had happened to Sabine. He saw that I followed him, and his face expressed consolation and hope as he continued the experiment.
The raft bore Sabine away and stopped at an island. Sabine landed, accompanied by the dark chief and a fourth piece of wood took Sabine’s place on the raft.
It was all as clear as daylight to me now. The child laughed gleefully and went on while I followed his performance with more thrilling interest and excitement than if I had been witnessing one of Shakespeare’s tragedies.
Sabine and the chief remained on the island. The fourth piece of wood continued on its way on the raft. The fifth piece, seizing it, plunged into the lake, and again the boy laughed delightedly.
Sabine, then, was alive! It was all a ruse of her dark captors! The female figure I had seen on the raft had been substituted for her while she had remained behind on the island. The certitude of it filtered into my heart more softly than the rays of the rising sun through the dense verdure of a dark African forest. My love was alive, but where was she? Did the intelligent child know, and, if so, would he be able to make me understand?
He showed that he was able not only to do this, but to accompany the story with a wealth of detail that astonished me. We had found a language in which we could converse. One success led to another until it became possible to express not only delicate sensations, but even a few elementary abstract ideas.
In this way I learned that Sabine was landed on the island near the clump of rushes, and that she had been hidden in a deep cavern a short distance away—a fact that I should easily have guessed for myself.
My supposed hallucination, then, was nothing of the kind. The cry that I had heard at the mouth of the dark cavern into which I had peered really was uttered by my hapless fiancée. Prom this cavern she must have been conveyed to the land of the black Men of the Waters, which the boy gave me to understand lay to the westward.

Resolved to rejoin Sabine at all hazards, I raked my brains in an effort to devise a means of accomplishing my purpose. Out of one of the small logs of the raft I fashioned a scull or paddle with my knife, and having been familiar with the use of it from my childhood up managed to attain a speed of fourteen or fifteen yards a minute. It would take many hours at this rate to reach the invisible shore I was heading for, but the labor was infinitely preferable to inaction. Hope gave courage to my heart and strength to my arms, and I worked the paddle hour after hour, while the boy slept.
The sun was setting when I sighted land. Undecided where to disembark I awoke my little companion. He pointed
out a spot about three-quarters of a mile to the right on the outskirts of a large forest. I made for it and came to the entrance of a wide channel into which, in accordance with the boy’s instructions, I turned the raft.
The stream flowed so sluggishly that it seemed to come from a lake rather than a mountain. To right and left, like colossal pillars, the trees rose in gigantic colonnades, and their spreading branches cast a shadow over the water that deepened as we progressed, and was lightened at intervals by blood-like splashes caused by the crimson glow of the sunset as it glinted through the verdant canopy.
In the water beneath me I could see big, sightless, odd-shaped fish swimming lazily, mammoth Crustacea, green with slime and weeds, crawling on the bottom, and cephalopoda of an unknown species with enormous eyes. The atmosphere was dank and chilly, and all around was manifest the pallid fecundity of creatures and plants that shun the blessed light. Weeds, many yards in length, carpeted the bottom of the channel where the water was shallow and trailed in the direction of the current; banks of luxuriant, variegated lichens formed feeding grounds for insects that resembled turtles with their great oval bucklers; a spider, as big as a man’s fist, hanging from a branch, dropped to seize its nerveless prey; big white flies lighted upon livid fungi; my paddle disturbed a mammal with a beak like a bird’s, and hundreds of bats of all sizes circled overhead.
The banks of the channel became higher, the trees bent toward each other over the waterway until their tops mingled, and the last distant blood-splash waxed fainter and fainter until it became merged in the appalling blackness. The child had fallen asleep again, and I, quaking with a nameless terror, but buoyed up by the hope of seeing my Sabine once more, stationed myself forward on the raft and paddled steadfastly on through the night.

It must have been about midnight when the boy awoke. His shoulder was better. We were ravenously hungry, and he succeeded in finding some edible nuts, after partaking of which I fell into a light slumber. When I awoke, I perceived a pale ghostly glimmer through the trees in the distance on the left which I took to be moonlight. It outlined the leaves and the delicate drapery of the pendant creepers with a nebulous whiteness, as though the forest were covered with hoarfrost.
Along the colonnade of trees that lined the banks of the channel a profound darkness reigned which at intervals was splashed with light by the passing glow of the phosphorescent scales of a fish. I took to the paddle again. I had to advance with extreme caution, so that it took fully three hours to cover a mile and a half. An obscure cliff rose in front of me at a bend of the stream, while to the left it became singularly light. Could it be the sun already, and could its rays possibly penetrate through such a dense mass of verdure as that by which we were surrounded? Ten minutes later I rounded the bend and my eyes were almost blinded as I gazed upon a vast landscape that shone more brightly than snow-covered country in the moonlight. And yet it was Illumined neither by the sun nor moon.
A mobile, wavy luminosity was upon the waterway that now expanded into the proportions of a lake. The water, which extended away into an inundated forest, was shallow, for the upper forks of the tree roots were visible. From these roots the luminosity emanated in dense circles that became thinner as they expanded. But it was without shadow, and everywhere it floated, undulated, went out, revived. It trickled from the brushwood in little cascades and was borne on the breeze in flakes of light. In the very few places where the water could reflect it, it oscillated widely. Not the slightest sound disturbed the profound silence that reigned over the scene.
I stood motionless, petrified at the fairy-like spectacle. I passed in turn through the naive admiration, the mysterious terror, the invincible curiosity and the hair-raising dread of the occult it would have inspired in a little child. I fancied that I was in some fabulous town, in which the Men of the Waters had found means to illuminate the bottom of the lake. I, the representative of the superior races, experienced the shy, melancholy resignation of the races that have been vanquished; the innate pride at the conviction that I appertained to the highest form of humanity crumbled within me! I understood how our poor rivals resignedly allow themselves to glide into the abysm of nothingness, excluding dreams and confused theories from their lives, understood the consolations of Nirvana.
This spell was broken by the appearance on a distant islet of a man whose form was outlined on the background of light. He was incredibly tall and thin. His head reached to the lower branches of a neighboring ash tree that were more than nine feet from the ground, and he appeared to be more legs than anything else. Four similar men joined him, and they entered the water, which came up to their waists. They advanced toward us with rapid strides, and I awoke my companion.
Bewildered and dazed by the light he rubbed his eyes and shaded them with his hand, the better to examine the approaching giants, but the cry he uttered betokened neither fear nor surprise. On they came, sometimes immersed to the bust, sometimes with their ankles barely covered, and I had time to note that their arms, like their legs, were ridiculously long, as thin as a pipe stem, and covered with yellowish scales instead of hair. The body, on the other hand, was white and covered with soft hair, the head small and narrow, with large, cold and excessively mobile eyes.
The boy seemed to take pleasure in their presence, a pleasure tinged with banter. He called to them, and I listened eagerly for their response. They did not speak with the batraclan, rippling voice, the humid accent of the Men of the Waters. It was a sharp, hard cackling, and their jaws worked rapidly, chopping the syllables, as it were. Gravely they surrounded the raft . Their whole being bore the stamp of a joyless race, doomed to a precarious existence in an unproductive land. Their pallor was that of subterranean life. The hair of their heads was ash-colored; that on their breasts was of a lighter shade than that on their backs.
I felt a vague pity for them, I scarcely knew why. Maybe the patronizing attitude of the child inspired it; maybe I recognized intuitively that these narrow-headed people were pariahs. I fell a-theorizing, and it seemed to me that they were metamorphic abortions: Originally driven by powerful Mongolian nations into these paludal regions, inaccessible to the rest of mankind, they must have led a shy, hand-to-mouth existence. The ceaseless search for food in the marshes and ponds must in the course of centuries have elongated their limbs and rendered them dry and scaly. Then other peoples of the same origin probably made their advent . Having pushed through to the great lakes, or time having effected an improvement in the region, the newcomers must have boldly adapted themselves to an amphibious life, thus leaving far behind them their saddened precursors, the Men-Wading-Birds, thenceforth relegated to the shallow waters of the forest land.
I gathered that the child was requesting them to push the raft along, though from the tone of his voice it seemed to be more of an order than a request. Gently, melancholy, with, I thought, a consciousness of their weakness, they obeyed, and the raft glided through the wondrous luminous forest. It was like a dream, and I could scarcely persuade myself that I was really awake.
The water thrown off by the raft swelled away to right and left in waves of light that in the distance formed beautiful and radiant strata of mother-of-pearl, into which the dull trail behind us gradually merged and became transformed. I plunged my hand over the side and it dripped light. I examined the water closely and found a number of minute vegetal cells, which from subsequent investigation I learned contained phosphorescent zoospore of certain species of water weeds that became animated, probably at the period of reproduction, by a movement similar to that of tadpoles.
After we had been journeying for some hours the channel became narrower and the water rose to the necks of our poor, panting escort, Who, after swimming for a few minutes, gave up exhausted and made for the bank. We were on the confines of the land of light, and darkness once more lay before us. I shouted my thanks to our bird-like friends and the boy also cried out to them in cordial tones. They cackled something in answer and strode off along the shore. Nothing could be imagined more humble, more pitiable than these melancholy skeletons, and I gazed after them with deep and sympathetic interest as they trotted away until they were lost to sight among the trees.
I then began paddling again, and the water becoming deeper and the trees scarcer, I made good progress, in spite of the obscurity. The boy, I think, had fallen asleep again. I grew despondent in the gloom and loneliness. I imagined that the raft was being drawn into a bottomless pit, and that I should nevermore set eyes upon my beloved. I remembered that I had passed through trials and dangers almost as terrible in the course of the voyage, but on those occasions I had been encouraged by Devreuse’s energy, the presence of Sabine, of European companions, and the perils we encountered had been more or less foreseen and provided against . Now, alone, I was facing the awful solitude and darkness of the interminable forest, beset by the fear of falling into an ambush laid by men of limitless power and totally different from us, in momentary anticipation of encountering some adventure, more weird, more marvelous than those I had already gone through, and which I felt my reason would not be able to withstand.
A great lassitude and dizziness came over me. I ceased to work the scull except spasmodically, almost unconsciously. Sometimes I did not know
whether I was paddling or not, could not tell whether the raft was moving or stationary. I fancied that I was walking through a country lane, then that I was seated high up in a lighthouse. I began to babble incoherently, and it was only by an immense exercise of will power that I was able to bring my thoughts back to the river, the darkness and the raft. I felt, however, that 1 could not long stave off the inevitable, that 1 was slowly but surely lapsing into unconsciousness, and I remember that my last effort before I succumbed was to keep the raft headed toward a glimmer of daylight that appeared in the distance like a white speck on the channel.

When I awoke the raft was moving at a good rate. We had passed through the channel and were out in an open lake. It was fearfully hot and oppressive, and big ominous clouds, heavily charged with electricity, occasionally veiled the sun. I looked around for the boy. He was swimming in rear of the raft and pushing it along with his valid arm. He smiled at me and pointed northward toward some rocky and cavernous hills. “Is it there?” I asked. He nodded affirmatively and placed his hand upon his breast, a sign which in our language signified Sabine. I invited him to come on the raft and rest, but he refused; so, picking up the scull, I resumed my paddling. I was bathed in perspiration. Though there was not much wind, the lake began to get very rough and choppy. On the right the sombre mass of the forest was enveloped in gathering gloom, and from a kind of desert whirlwinds of sand came through a pass in the hills and filled the air. I felt myself imbued with a strange spirit of emulation, of rivalry against the elements. I worked the paddle steadily and powerfully, the boy pushed with all his strength and under our combined efforts the raft sped swiftly toward the shore.
We were little more than a hundred yards from it when the tempest broke upon us. It lashed the lake instantly into gigantic waves that reared and tumbled furiously over each other. A tremendous downpour of hail shut the surrounding landscape from sight, and the big stones stung my face and hands like slashes with a whip and almost stunned me. Then a waterspout lifted me, sucked me under the lake and whirled me to the surface again, where, bewildered though I was, I was able to catch hold of and cling to one of the logs of the little raft, which threatened to break up as each wave struck it. The boy had disappeared, and I conjectured that he had sought refuge several feet below the surface and was keeping watch upon me. This proved to be the case. The tail end of the waterspout having caught the raft, the latter went to pieces, and I was hurled into the lake, but was immediately seized by my young friend and borne safely ashore.
At the first clap of thunder that rumbled sullenly in the distance, stifled in the heavy clouds, the boy manifested great alarm. His terror increased when the lightning shot its forked javelins over the lake and tore great vivid rents in the darkened heavens. The thunder that followed, crashing and roaring incessantly, seemed to paralyze him, and I signed to him to take shelter in the lake. He needed no second bidding, and vanished into the boiling waves.
The rain fell in torrents and ran from my clothing like a tarn down a mountain side. I divested myself of my coat and waistcoat and leaving them to serve as a landmark set out to explore the environs. I could not see five yards before me, when the lightning was not playing, which, however, was only at rare intervals, for the air was filled with electricity. Twice the shock of the discharge threw me down and each time I picked myself up with a cynical rictus. I had reached the lowest depth of adversity and misfortune and experienced the sombre voluptuousness of the utterly desperate. I braved the tempest and its threats, its infernal tumult and cutting hail with the spirit of a fanatical Hindoo or of a holy martyr of the primitive Church.
Through the deluge and the vapors that rose from the wet and overheated soil I could just see the caverns, and made toward them. I had hardly advanced fifty paces when a brilliant flash of lightning lit up the scene, and I dropped to the ground, not from the electric shock this time, but because I had seen Sabine. She was seated on a big stone at the entrance to one of the caverns, and watching the storm. She had not seen me.
I determined to act with the greatest prudence, for the dark Men of the Waters, I argued, must certainly be in the cavern. Then suddenly it occurred to me that, like my boy companion, Sabine’s abductors, in fear of the thunder, might have taken to the lake. The more I reflected upon it the more was I convinced that I was right. But if this were the case, how was it that Sabine made no attempt to escape? On a closer scrutiny the reason was plainly apparent: She was bound hand and foot.
Wild with joy I remained for a moment breathless, and then rushed toward her. She recognized me instantly, and struggling to her feet fell swooning into my arms. I quickly cut her bonds, and when she revived, which she soon did under my caresses we fled away through the storm.
Everything in the universe appeared good to us now. The lightning flashing and the thunder cracking overhead no longer held any terrors for us: it was the artillery of heaven firing a salvo of victory and jubilation. Sabine, her sweet face streaming with rain, clung to me, and her blue eyes smiled lovingly into mine. Delicious with happiness, melting with tenderness, I pressed her to my heart, and amid a peal of thunder that made the earth tremble our lips met in the ecstacy of a long-awaited kiss. Then, her little hand clasped in mine, we ran to where I had left my coat .
The boy came out of the lake as we reached the place. Sabine, who had at first taken him to be one of our allies, was so frightened when she saw that he was black that I had considerable difficulty in reassuring her. There was no time to lose. The only obstacle to our flight was the boy’s fear of the thunder, but as he managed to overcome it sufficiently to accompany us, I was thankful that the storm continued, for I knew that while it lasted, there was no danger of Sabine being missed and, consequently, of our being pursued.
When the child caught hold of my hand to lead us he at once became calmer, and I felt instinctively that his trouble was more physical than moral. He was shaken by veritable undulations of electricity which abated at the contact with me. We walked along in silence for half an hour and then, to my astonishment, he conducted us toward a dark and spacious grotto.
“Where are you taking us?” I demanded.
The boy’s look appealed to Sabine to speak.
“Did you, then, not come here through a grotto?” asked the girl, turning to me.
“No,” I replied. “We came by a sort of river.”
“I was brought through a series of immense subterranean passages,” she explained.
“Do you think we ought to risk it? I don’t like the Idea of it myself,” I said.
Then, addressing the boy, I signed to him that we desired to take some other route. He made me understand that it was impossible, that the grotto was our only road to safety. He wore an air of assurance that showed that he knew perfectly well what he was about, and I concluded that the best thing to do was to trust ourselves to him.
Sabine clinched the argument by the very pertinent remark that any risk, however great, was preferable to that of being recaptured. So, clasping hands again, we entered the darkness.

In the grotto the thunder rumbled away in endless echoes. It was in itself an awesome thing to grope our way through the vast and dark passages, but the flashes of lightning that illumined them kept us in perpetual fear of an impending cataclysm. And the danger was by no means imaginary. Once the mountain, struck, I presume, externally, trembled to its base, and after the last echo of the roar that followed the flash had died away we heard with a terror that almost paralyzed us the fall of a mass of rock so near that a fragment struck my shoulder.
I clasped Sabine’s hand tightly, and we pressed forward in the silence and obscurity, our hearts beating high with mingled anxiety and hope. Our guide walked on as though perfectly familiar with the way, and I concluded that there was only one passage with no lateral branches, but in this I was mistaken for we presently came to a place where several other tunnels converged. At the end of one (which we did not take) was a silvery orifice.
“I wonder how he is able to find his way among so many different roads?” I remarked to Sabine.
“I cannot say,” she replied. “The same thing struck me when they were
bringing me through these endless passages. These Men of the Waters seem to be endowed with the same faculty as carrier pigeons.”
“Yes, dear, their science of movement, the long distances they are able to go under water may in course of time have developed this faculty.”
“I believe, too,” she added, “that they see better than we do in the dark.”
After two hours’ further progress the grotto became wider. In the distance a bronze-like reflection indicated the presence of water. It became larger, greenish and vaccinating. Then we found ourselves in the dim, uncertain vertical light that suffuses the entrance to caverns. We were in a spacious, lofty cave, the roof of which we could hardly discern. The water extended deep and wide along a gallery on the right through which the daylight streamed. Several large birds rose noisily as we approached, and we saw them for some time hovering in the tunnel. Sabine and I stood motionless in the light, feeling as though we had just awakened from a horrible nightmare. The child looked pleased at our relief and motioned to us to repose ourselves, and we gladly acquiesced while he vanished under water.
“Sabine,” I said, as she nestled In my arms, “we shall love each other the more for sharing such prodigious perils and adventures. Our love will preserve the trace of so many terrible emotions. As long as life lasts, we shall never forget our flight through these majestic subterranean galleries.”

After following a narrow path we entered an obscure passage that must have bridged water, for we caught the vague glimmer of it through a crevice in the rocky floor. We tramped on for a couple of hours a good deal more light-heartedly than in the morning, notwithstanding that the darkness was, If anything, deeper, the atmosphere damper and the passage narrower. !At length we issued into a valley and daylight. The storm was abating, and glimpses of blue sky could be seen through the mass of fleecy clouds.
The valley was a part of the grotto, the roof of which had caved in during some great upheaval. The sides were bare and almost perpendicular for about ten feet, then creeping plants and brushwood covered them In luxuriant profusion. Below ‘were piled immense jagged masses of the rock that had fallen in and which the elements had carved into rough fantastic shapes of monsters.
Skirting these we crossed the valley and descended into the bowels of the earth again, only to issue after a twenty-minutes’ tramp. into another valley. For two hours we went on alternately passing through dark galleries, marvelous caverns and verdant valleys. Finally we came to the end of the galleries on the bank of a gigantic basin, into which a river emptied itself by a waterfall 250 feet wide and 60 feet high.
Then the boy shouted gleefully and motioning us to follow him rushed on ahead. This we did as fast as we could, and on rounding a cape of high rocks found ourselves close upon a number of human habitations similar to those of the Men of the Waters. At the cries raised by some women, a crowd of people emerged from the water and came running toward us.
They were of the same type as the boy. Their hair was long and fine, and their extremities thicker than those of the Men of the Waters. Their greater resemblance to us, however, demonstrated a backwardness in evolution, an inferiority to the former, and accounted for their relegation to the subterranean lakes and rivers. My first hypothesis that they were the latest arrivals in the country was disproved by ulterior researches. They more probably were among the first peoples who found their way here a few centuries after the Men-Wading-Birds, and the latter defended their marshes with sufficient energy to compel the newcomers to take to the interior valleys, where the depths of the lakes rendered them amphibious. It is equally probable that the dark Men of the Waters are but a detached branch, become perfected for an aquatic existence of the races inhabiting the valleys, and that the light Men of the Waters, on the other hand, came straight from the plains and adapted themselves to their new condition of life out of pure imitation. Intermarriage between the different species of these aquatic peoples is very rare, and if traces of fusion between the dark and light elements are occasionally to be found, there is no reason to suppose that either has ever contracted a union with the Men-Wading-Birds, the latter being regarded as an inferior race, fallen into the melancholy of the outcast and hopeless, and rapidly becoming extinct.
No longer worried in regard to Sabine, I gave myself up to enthusiasm over my marvelous discoveries. I promised myself a long sojourn among these aquatic populations in the hope of solving the mystery surrounding them, from the historical, ethnological and other scientific points of view. I was saddened, however, by the thought that other expeditions would follow ours, that peradventure colonies of terrestrial men would ferociously destroy the admirable work of centuries and annihilate the various species of amphibious man. I derived some consolation, though, from the thought that it would be next to impossible for the invaders to cross the swamps where we came so near perishing; that it would be many years before the scanty surrounding populations would dream of confronting the perils of emigration and that a century hence the Men of the Waters might be organised sufficiently to be able to defend their territory against all aggressors. Finally, these regions, though admirable and perfectly salubrious, were, nevertheless, essentially lacustrine and, therefore, little accessible to terrestrial man.
We received a most hospitable welcome. In accordance with the custom of these peoples, after we had been served with a delicious repast a grand aquatic fete was held in our honor. They displayed remarkable agility and great resistance to asphyxiation, though in a lesser degree than their flat-eyed rivals. After our fatiguing experiences it was good to rest and refresh ourselves. . Sabine was worn out and slumbered on my shoulder. Twilight descended upon the valley, everything breathed peace and tranquillity and I resolved to pass the night among our cordial hosts.

Sabine was installed in a cabin and I, closing the door and placing my couch against it, lay thankfully down, while the boy curled up outside under a covering of plaited rushes. Through a crack in the door I could see that several men of the village were mounting guard, and confident that all was well I fell asleep.
We must have been sleeping for about five hours, when I was awakened by a tumult outside. I peeped through the crack. It was a beautiful moonlight night. Around a brazier that was burning briskly a score of old men squatted. With them were several young men, who from their flat eyes, barbated, weed-like hair and dusky color I saw were our adversaries. Moreover, the dark athlete immediately attracted my attention. My breast was bursting with jealous rage, and I could hardly refrain from rushing out and measuring myself against him. I reflected, however, that Sabine might be made the prize of the contest by the tribe, and resolved to act with diplomatic prudence and only to resort to violence in the last extremity.
The gathering around the brazier was obviously a council of the elders of the hospitable tribe, and the tumult was caused by the young strangers who were trying to intimidate them. Suddenly the young braves burst through the circle and rushed toward our cabin, but over a hundred Men of the Valleys appeared as by magic and drove them back. The braves then attempted to resume the conference, but the most imposing of the old men, who appeared to be the president, scattered the flaming brands with a kick and spoke long and loud and angrily in the light of the moon. Then our cabin was surrounded by the whole population of the village, and the braves withdrew and camped on the bank of the lake.
Sabine slumbered peacefully through it all. I went to her couch and bent over her. The moonbeams played upon her hair that encircled her head like a halo of gold and her lips were parted in a happy smile. Invoking a blessing upon her, I lightly kissed her pure brow and returned to my post at the door.
The dark men by the lake seemed to be waiting for the day to break. Uneasy at their presence there I opened the door. The multitude gazed at me in mute consternation. My gentle little friend was weeping. I called to him and he came, but could not make me understand what caused the consternation of the crowd, nor why he was weeping. All that I could gather was that we must not quit the cabin, and that the dark men were awaiting reinforcements.
What was to be done? Would the proud old men, who had refused to surrender us just now, give way when the reinforcements arrived? Why were the dark athlete and his companions allowed to remain there unmolested? Gloomily I kept watch. The sleep of my beloved reminded me of the last sleep of a prisoner condemned to be executed in the morning. I realized with bitterness how utterly helpless I was, that any attempt at escape would be useless and might end in disaster.
I was engrossed in my dismal reverie when Sabine awoke. She read my trouble in my face.
“Robert, you are suffering. Are you ill?” she exclaimed.
I explained the situation to her, and she peered through the door at our enemies.
“So you think, Robert, they will give us up?” she said.
“In all probability,” I answered.
Like a frightened gazelle Sabine threw herself into my arms and I pressed her to my heart fiercely, passionately in an access of love, pride and pain. I knew that she would die rather than fall into the bands of her abductor again.
I was still folding her in my arms, when there was a noise from the crowd outside, and we went to the door. The first faint streak of nascent dawn was struggling for supremacy with the pale light of the waning moon. Facing the old men was a form which we speedily recognized as that of our friend, the light Man of the Waters, who had saved up from the bog.
Opening the door, amid the sympathetic murmurs of the crowd, and elated with a new-found hope we joined him. He greeted us with demonstrations of joy and affection. All, save the group by the lake, were visibly touched at our gratitude and his kindness, and they became positively enthusiastic when, taking the little dark boy in my arms, I presented him to my aquatic brother.

We awaited daylight in company with the old men, the boy and our benefactor. The sun was just rising above the hill tops when a great wave came sweeping up the river and hundreds of swimmers tumbled over the waterfall into the lake. Sabine shrieked and clung to me, but I could see from the smiles of our friend that there was no cause for alarm.
The swimmers issued from the water, and I saw that there were light as well as dark men among them. On the shore they formed into two divisions. according to color. At the same time the Council of the Men of the Valleys assembled upon a neighboring knoll, which was solemnly surrounded by the whole tribe. Then the dark athlete and three old men of his race placed themselves in front of and a little to the left of the Council, while our rescuer and three old men of his people stationed themselves on the right.
The events of the night and the reason the consternation of the multitude and grief of the boy had been changed to enthusiasm and rejoicing were now clear to me, and Sabine shared my belief when I made it known to her. It was certain that before the opportune arrival of the light Men of the Waters the Council of the Tribe, now acting as judges, had, in view of their weakness and fear of their powerful rivals, decided to hand us over to the tender mercies of the dark athlete.
We watched the proceedings with an anxiety easier to be imagined than described. Not only did the judges receive the reclamations favorably, but the dark Men of the Waters, probably weary of the war, approved what he was saying, and in face of the overwhelming odds against him the dark athlete sulkily withdrew and all his companions quitted him. We were given into the care of our dear friends, the light Men of the Waters, amid the most touching demonstration of sympathy and satisfaction from the population of the valley.
The boy remained with us, caressed by Sabine, our friend and myself. He was suffering somewhat from Ms shoulder and his eyes, burning feverishly, gazed at us with the deepest affection. Owing to the pain in his shoulder, the lad was unable to take part in the general rejoicing, which took the form of marvelous aquatic performances by the three peoples.
Our rescuer was the first to dive in the lake. Sabine and I both sought to distinguish him among the others, but were unable to do so and he did not issue again, though nearly all the swimmers emerged, one after the other, to salute us. We soon forgot all about him, however. We were so happy in our love, so confident of a bright and glorious future. We thought only of finding Devreuse and the other members of the expedition and returning to Europe.
Two hours passed in this way, and we were still watching the sports, when I was suddenly thrown to the ground with great violence and Sabine was seized and carried off like a leaf caught up by a cyclone. When I scrambled to my feet the athlete with Sabine in his arms was speeding toward the river as fast as his legs would carry him, along a narrow path on the cliffs that circled our side of the lake and sheered almost perpendicularly to the water.
The boy was running after him, and screaming loudly. Once the man turned savagely upon him and ordered him to go back, but the lad kept after him. I started in mad pursuit, and when he saw me, and that the whole lake was in an uproar he stopped a moment, and his flat eyes blazed with jealous hate and fury.
Above the path a cornice projected, access to which could only be had by climbing a shaky, undermined mass of rock. The athlete’s purpose, it was evident, was to reach this cornice, but, hampered by his beautiful burden, he was overtaken by the boy, and I was close behind.
He snarled something at the child, who responded with intrepid anger. Then, quicker than it takes to recount the crime, the man grasped the little fellow with one hand and hurled him against the rock below, smashing his skull. Insane with grief and wrath, I bounded toward my formidable adversary, followed by the howling, vengeful crowd, but the murderer, clambering to the cornice, placed Sabine upon it and, exerting all his strength, displaced the shaky rock which fell with a crash, cutting off all immediate means of following him. We were unable to reach the cornice even by clambering upon each other’s shoulders, and I wore the flesh from my fingers in my vain efforts to scale the rocky wall.
Clever marksmen though they were in the water, none of my friends would venture to hurl a harpoon at the fugitive for fear of killing Sabine. Meanwhile he sped upward toward the dark gallery by the river. I knew that if he reached it I should never see my darling alive again, for I had read his terrible purpose in his eyes.
He was disappearing into the yawning grotto, and I was struggling furiously in the bands of a dozen men who were trying to prevent me from hurling myself over the cliff, when there was a shout from the other side of the lake and the sharp crack of a rifle rang out, followed almost simultaneously by another report.
The dark athlete dropped his precious burden, reeled backward, and his body turned over and over as it fell on to the rocks below. On the other side of the lake, their smoking rifles in their hands, stood Jean Louis Devreuse and Lachal, after myself the best shot of the expedition. With them was my aquatic brother.
• • • • •
We returned to the lake inhabited by our friends, the light Men of the Waters, and enjoyed their cordial hospitality for more than a month. We did not see anything further of the dark Men of the Waters or the Men of the Valleys. Devreuse told me all about the role played by our rescuer in the events I have narrated. Sabine and I could not forget the tragic death of our gentle little friend, and always shall grieve for him.
The expedition, commanded by Jean Louis Devreuse, returned to Paris early in April last with documents from which an important and valuable work will be compiled. In May Sabine and I were married and we are superlatively happy; but in the soft, dreamy twilight our thoughts often wander with a vague regret to the wonderful land where we passed through so many stupendous adventures.
Source: The Eclectic Magazine of Foreign Literature, Science, and Art, Volume 148 (1907.)

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Paschal Grousset, “The Dream of an Irreconcilable” (1869)

I’ve posted a working translation of Paschal Grousset’s 1869 The Dream of an Irreconcilable, an odd little political “utopia” of sorts, which begins with the narrator falling asleep over his newspaper, as he reads the new revisions to the French constitution, explores in a novel fashion some of the details of a rather Paris Commune-like post-revolutionary future, and then ends with one last jab at the current regime. Translation is, in this case, simply the first step in making the work intelligible, since it is full to overflowing with topical references and in jokes, which I’ve now started to explore and will eventually document in an annotated edition. Grousset, who is probably best known for his work as a writer of adventure fiction and a collaborator of Jules Verne, was a radical journalist, a communard deported to New Caledonia, and an escapee from the penal colony there. The Dream originally appeared as an issue of Le Diable à Quatre (The Devil to Pay).

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Jules Verne, “The Sphinx of the Ice Fields” — Chapter I

[Jules Verne’s Le Sphinx des glaces, published in 1897, was a sequel to Edgar Allan Poe’s novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym. Of the two existing English translations, the 1898 version by Mrs. Cashel Hoey, under the title An Antarctic Mystery, is by far the more complete, and is in many ways quite good. However, it omits as much as forty percent of the the original text, eliminating much of the descriptive material and some dialogue. I have begun a fairly extensive revision and completion of that translation, and will post chapters on the blog as they are completed.]
The Sphinx of the Ice Fields
By Jules Verne
Chapter I
The Kerguelen Islands
No doubt this tale of the Sphinx of Ice will be met with disbelief. No matter. It is good, I think, that it be put before the public, which is free to believe it or not.
It would be difficult to imagine a more appropriate place for the beginning of these marvelous and terrible adventures than the Desolation Islands. Their name was given to them, in 1779, by Captain Cook, and, indeed, given what I have seen during a stay of some weeks there, I can affirm that they deserve the lamentable title given them by the celebrated English navigator. Desolation Islands—that says it all.
I know that geographical nomenclature insists on the name of Kerguelen, generally adopted for the group which lies in 49° 45’ south latitude, and 69° 6’ east longitude. This is because, in the year 1772, the French baron Kerguelen was the first to report those islands in the southern part of the Indian Ocean. Indeed, the commander of the squadron on that voyage believed that he had found a new continent on the limit of the Antarctic seas, but in the course of a second expedition he recognized his error. There was only an archipelago. But trust me when I say that Desolation Islands is the only suitable name for this group of three hundred isles or islets in the midst of the vast expanse of ocean, which is constantly disturbed by austral storms
Nevertheless, the group is inhabited, and as of August 2, 1839, thanks to my presence at Christmas Harbour, the number of Europeans and Americans who formed the nucleus of the Kerguelen population had for two months even been increased by one unit. It I true, I only awaited an opportunity to leave the place, having completed the geological and mineralogical studies which had brought there.
Christmas Harbour belongs to the most important isle of the archipelago, with an area measuring four thousand five hundred kilometers square—half that of Corsica. It is quite secure, with straight and easy access. The ships can moor there in four fathoms of water. After having doubled, to the north, that Cape François that Table Mountain dominates from twelve hundred feet, look across the arch of basalt, largely hollow at its point. You will see a narrow bay, protected by islets against the furious winds from the east and west. At the base is carved Christmas Harbour. Let your ship make way directly starboard. When it is returned to its anchorage, it can rest on a single anchor, with ease in turning, as the bay is not covered by ice.
Moreover, the Kerguelens possess other fiords, and those by the hundreds. Their coasts are ragged, frayed like the hem of a poor woman’s skirt, especially in the parts between the north and the south-east. Islands and islets abound. The soil, of volcanic origin, is composed of quartz, mixed with a bluish stone. In summer it is covered with green mosses, grey lichens, various hardy plants, especially wild saxifrage. Only one edible plant grows there, a kind of cabbage, with a very bitter flavor, that one would seek in vain in other countries.
There are indeed surfaces which are suited, as rookeries, for the habitat of royal and other penguins, innumerable bands of which people these environs. Dressed in yellow and white, their heads thrown back, their wings appearing like the sleeves of a robe, these stupid fowl resemble from afar a line of monks in a procession along the shoreline.
Let us add that the islands afford refuge to numbers of sea-calves, seals, and sea-elephants. The taking of those amphibious animals either on land or from the sea is profitable, and may lead to a trade which will bring a large number of vessels into these waters.
On the day already mentioned, I was strolling on the port when my host accosted me and said:
“Unless I am much mistaken, time is beginning to seem very long to you, Mr. Jeorling?”
The speaker was a big tall American, installed for twenty years at Christmas Harbour, who kept the only inn on the port.
“If you will not be offended, Mr. Atkins, I will acknowledge that I do find it long.”
“Not at all,” replied that gallant. “You can imagine that I ma as accustomed to answers of that kind as the rocks of the Cape are to the rolling waves.”
“And you resist them as well.”
“Of course. From the day of your arrival at Christmas Harbour, when you descended at the inn of Fenimore Atkins, at the sign of the Green Cormorant, I said to myself: In a fortnight, if not in a week, you would have enough of it, and would be sorry you had landed in the Kerguelens.”
“No, Mr. Atkins; I never regret anything I have done.”
“That’s a good habit, sir.”
“Besides, in wandering this group, I have gained by observing curious things. I have crossed the rolling plains, covered with hard stringy mosses, and I shall take away curious mineralogical and geological specimens with me. I have gone sealing, and taken sea-calves with your people. I have visited the rookeries where the penguin and the albatross live together in good fellowship, and that was well worth my while. You have given me now and again a dish of petrel, seasoned by your own hand, and very acceptable when one has a fine healthy appetite. I have found a friendly welcome at the Green Cormorant, and I am very much obliged to you. But, if I am right in my reckoning, it is two months since the Chilean two-master Penãs set me down at Christmas Harbour in mid-winter…
“And you want,” exclaimed the innkeeper, “to get back to your country, which is mine as well, Mr. Jeorling, to return to Connecticut, to see once more Hartford, our capital…”
“Doubtless, Mr. Atkins, for I have been a globe-trotter for close upon three years. One must come to a stop and take root at some time.”
“Yes! Yes! And when you have taken root, replied the American with a wink, you end up putting out branches!”
“Just so! master Atkins. However, as I have no more family, it is likely that I shall bring the line of my ancestors to an end! At forty I do not fancy putting out branches, as you have, my dear innkeeper, for you are a tree, and a fine tree at that…”
“An oak, and even a green oak, if you will, Mr. Jeorling.”
“And you were right to obey the law of nature! Now, if nature has given us the legs to walk… “
“She has also given us something to sit upon!” responded Fenimore Atkins, with a great laugh. “That’s why I am comfortably settled at Christmas Harbour. My companion Betsey has gratified me with ten children, who will present me with grandchildren in their turn, who will climb my calves like kittens.”
“Will you never return to your native land?… “
“What would I do there, Mr. Jeorling, and what could I have done?… The poverty!… Here, on the contrary, in these Desolation Islands, where I have never had the occasion to feel desolate, ease has come to me and mine.
“Without doubt, Master Atkins, and I congratulate you for it, since you are happy… Nevertheless, it is possible that one day the desire might take hold of you…”
“To uproot myself, Mr. Jeorling!… Come on!… An oak, I tell you, and just try to uproot an oak, when it is rooted to mid-trunk in the rock of Kerguelen!”
It was delightful to hear this worthy American, so completely acclimated to this archipelago, so vigorously tempered in the harsh inclemencies of its climate. He lived there, with his family, like the penguins in their rookeries,–the mother, a hearty matron, the sons, all strong, in thriving health, knowing nothing of the distempers or dilatations of the stomach. Business was good. The Green Cormorant, adequately stocked, had the practice of all ships, whalers and others, that dropped anchor at Kerguelen. He provided them with tallow, grease, tar, pitch, spices, sugar, tea, canned goods, whiskey, gin, brandy.
One would have looked in vain for a second inn at Christmas-Harbour. As for the sons of Fenimore Atkins, they were carpenters, sail-makers, fishermen, and hunted amphibians at the base of all the passes during the warm season. They were honest folk who had, without much ado, followed their destiny…
“Well, Master Atkins, let me assure you,” I declared, “I am delighted to have come from Kerguelen, and I will take away good memories… However, I will not be sorry to take to the sea again…”
“Come on, Mr. Jeorling, a little patience!” this philosopher told me. You should never desire or hasten the hour of separation. Do not forget, besides, that the fine weather will not be slow to return… In five or six weeks…
“In the meantime,” I cried, “the hills and the plains, the rocks and the shores will be covered with thick snow, and the sun will not have the strength to dissolve the mists on the horizon…”
“Why, Mr. Jeorling! You can already see the wild grass push up through its white jacket!… Look closely…”
“Yes, with a magnifying glass!… Between us, Atkins, do you dare to claim that your bays are not still ice-locked in this month of August, which is the February of our northern hemisphere?…”
“I acknowledge that, Mr. Jeorling. But again I say have patience! The winter has been mild this year. The ships will soon show up, in the east or in the west, for the fishing season is near.”
“May heaven attend you, Master Atkins, and may it guide safely to port the ship which cannot tarry… the schooner Halbrane!…
“Captain Len Guy, replied the innkeeper. He is a gallant sailor, although he is English—there are fine folks everywhere–and he takes in his supplies at the Green Cormorant.”
“You think that the Halbrane…”
“Will be reported within eight days off Cape Francois, Mr. Jeorling, or, if it is not, it will be because there is no longer a Captain Len Guy, and if there is no longer a Captain Len Guy, it is because the Halbrane has sunk under full sail between the Kerguelens and the Cape of Good Hope!”
With that, and a haughty gesture, indicating that such a turn of events was hardly possible, Master Fenimore Atkins left me.
I hoped that the predictions of my innkeeper would not be slow in coming to pass, for the season advanced. As he said, there were already visible symptoms of the summer season–summery for these waters, at least. Let the site of the principal island be roughly the same in latitude as that of Paris in Europe and Quebec City in Canada, very well! But it is a question of the southern hemisphere, and, we know it well, thanks to the elliptical orbit that the earth describes, of which the sun occupies one of the foci, that hemisphere is colder I winter than the northern hemisphere, and also warmer than it in summer. What is certain is that the wintry period is terrible in the Kerguelens because of the storms, and because the seas are frozen for several months, although the temperature there is not extraordinarily harsh, – being on an average two degrees centigrade in winter, and seven in summer, as in the Falklands or at Cape Horn.
It goes without saying that, during that period, Christmas-Harbour and the other ports no longer shelter a single ship. In the era of which I speak, steamers were still rare. As for sailing ships, concerned to not let themselves be captured by the ice, they went in search of the ports of South America, on the west coast of Chili, or those of Africa, – most generally Cape-Town of the Cape of Good Hope. A few row boats, some taken by the frozen waters, others beached and encrusted in ice to the tip of their masts, was all that the surface of Christmas-Harbour offered to my view.
However, if the differences in temperature were not great in the Kerguelens, the climate there was still damp and cold. Very frequently, especially in the western parts, the group is assailed by squalls from the north or west, mixed with hail or rain. To the east, the skies are clearer, although the light there is half veiled, and on that side the snow line on the mountain ridges is at fifty feet above the sea.
Thus, after the two months that I had just passed in the Kerguelen archipelago, I awaited nothing so much as the occasion to depart again on the schooner Halbrane, the qualities of which my enthusiastic innkeeper never ceased to extol to me, from both the social and maritime points of view.
“You will never find better!” he repeated day and night. “Of all the long captain in the long history of the English fleets, not a one is comparable to my friend Len Guy, either for bravery, or for skill!… If he showed himself more forthcoming, plus talkative, he would be perfect!”
Thus I had resolved to take the recommendation of Master Atkins. My passage would be booked as soon as the schooner had dropped anchor in Christmas-Harbour. After a rest of six to seven days, she would take to the sea again, headed for Tristan da Cunha, whence she carried a cargo of tin and copper ore.
My plan was to remain a few weeks of the summer season on that island. From there, I intended to set out for Connecticut. However, I did not fail to take into due account the share that belongs to chance in human affairs, for it is wise, as Edgar Poe has said, always “to reckon with the unforeseen, the unexpected, the inconceivable, which have a very large share (in those affairs), and chance ought always to be a matter of strict calculation.”
And if I quote our great American author, it is because, although I am a very practical sort, of a very serious character and a hardly imaginative nature, I nonetheless admire that genial poet of human peculiarities.
Besides, to return to the Halbrane, or rather to the occasions that would be offered me to embark at Christmas-Harbour, I feared no disappointment. At that time, the Kerguelens were visited every year by a large number of ships – at least five hundred. The whale fishery gave fruitful results, as one will judge by the fact that an elephant of the sea can provide a ton of oil, that is to say a return equal to that of a thousand penguins. It is true that in recent years not more than a dozen ships land at this archipelago, since the abusive destruction of the cetaceans has so drastically reduced their number.
Thus, I had no uncertainty about the opportunities that would present themselves to leave Christmas-Harbour, even if, the Halbrane failing to make its rendezvous, captain Len Guy did not arrive to clasp the hand of his chum Atkins.
Each day, I went for a walk around the port. The sun was beginning to grow strong. The rocks, volcanic terraces and columns, shed bit by bit their white winter gown. On the beaches, on the basalt cliff, grew a wine-colored moss, and, offshore, snaked ribbons of seaweed fifty or sixty yards long. On the flats, toward the far end of the bay, some grasses raised their time points – and amongst them the lyella, which was of Andean origin, those produced by the Fuegian flora, and also the only shrub on this soil, the gigantic cabbage of which I have already spoken, so precious for its anti-scorbutic properties.
As for land mammals, although marine mammals abound in these parts, I did not encounter a single one, nor any batrachians or reptiles. There were only a few insects – butterflies and other species – and even these did not fly, for before they could put their wings to use, the atmospheric currents would carry them away and onto the rolling billows of these seas.
Once or twice, I had gone out in one of these solid longboats in which the fishermen face the gales that beat the rocks of the Kerguelen like catapults. With these boats, one could attempt the crossing to Cape-Town, and reach that port, if one had the time. But let me assure you, I had no intention of leaving Christmas-Harbour under those conditions… No! I would pin my hopes on the schooner Halbrane, and that without delay.
In the course of these promenades around the bay, my curiosity attempted to grasp all the various aspects of that rugged coast, that bizarre, colossal, skeleton, all made up of igneous formations, whose bluish bones emerged through  holes in winter’s white shroud…
What impatience gripped me, sometimes, despite the wise counsels of my innkeeper, so happy with his existence in his house at Christmas-Harbour! It is a rare breed, in this world, that the practice of life has made into philosophers. However, in Fenimore Atkins, the muscular system did not prevail over the nervous system. Perhaps he also possessed less intelligence than instinct. Such people are better armed against the jolts of life, and it is possible, when all is said and done, that their chances of finding happiness here below are more considerable.
“And the Halbrane…?” I would say to Atkins each morning.
“The Halbrane, Mr. Jeorling?” he would respond to me in a positive tone. “Of course, it will arrive today, and if not today, it will be tomorrow!… In any event, there will certainly come a day, will there not, which will be the eve of the day when the flag of captain Len Guy will fly at the entrance to Christmas-Harbour!”
Certainly, in order increase the field of view, I would have had to climb the Table-Mount. By an ascent of twelve hundred feet, one obtained a range of thirty-four or thirty-five miles, and, even through the haze, perhaps the schooner would have been glimpsed twenty-four hours sooner? But to climb that mountain, with its flanks still puffy with snow to the very summit… only a fool would have thought of it.
In my rambles on the shore, I put numerous amphibians to flight, sending them plunging into the newly released waters. But the penguins, heavy and impassive creatures, did not decamp at my approach. Was it not for the air of stupidity that characterizes them, one would have been tempted to speak to them, on the condition of speaking their shrill, deafening tongue. As for the black petrels, the black and white puffins, the grebes, the terns, and the scoters, they were quick to take wing.
One day, I was permitted to witness the departure of an albatross, saluted by the very best croaks of the penguins,—like a friend who no doubt abandoned them forever. These powerful fliers can cover stages of two hundred leagues, without taking a moment’s rest, and with such rapidity that they sweep through vast spaces in a few hours.
That albatross, motionless upon a high rock, at the end of the bay at Christmas-Harbour, watched the sea as the surf broke violently on the reefs.
Suddenly, the bird rose with a great sweep into the air, its claws folded beneath it, its head stretched out like the prow of a ship, uttering its shrill cry: a few moments later it was reduced to a black speck in the vast height and disappeared behind the misty curtain of the south.
To be continued…
[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur, based in part
on the 1898 translation by
Mrs. Cashel Hoey.]

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Filed under 1890s, Edgar Allan Poe, Jules Verne, translations

Edward Berwick, “Farming in the Year 2000 A. D. (1890)

Here’s yet another short sequel to Bellamy’s novel, by Edward Berwick. It appeared in the June 1890 issue of the Overland Monthly and Out West Magazine, to which Berwick submitted a number or articles. His work also appeared in The Outlook and The Arena.


With nerves unstrung by that horrent nightmare, which had replunged me into the cruel vortex of nineteenth century antagonism and brutality, I cast around for some method of restoring my usual equanimity. An excursion into the country would, it appeared to me, serve the double purpose of acting as a nervous sedative, and of enabling me to realize something of the conditions of rural life in this year 2000 A. D.
Repairing to Dr. Leete’s study, I found him busily conning those pages of Storiot’s History of the Nineteenth Century in which agriculture was discussed. Having expressed to him my desire, I added, “Your methods of distribution and finance have proved so interesting to me that I long intensely to learn something of your performance of that more vital function, production.”
“Ah, Mr. West,” replied the Doctor, “that reminds me that I have very much wished to consult you upon what has always seemed to me a great mystery. This history of Storiot’s gives one to understand that the distaste for a farmer’s vocation was so great in your nineteenth century as to result in an exodus that left the rural districts almost depopulated. Can this be true? If so, it becomes yet more incomprehensible when one reconstructs mentally one of our overgrown yet crowded cities. The dense canopies of soot and impure gases, overhanging them like a funeral pall, were themselves danger-signals, warning the unwary that life’s most precious possession, health, was imperiled. Then the mud and dust, the squalor and malodorousness, the grime and filth of your back alleys and byways,—aye, often even of your main thoroughfares,—must have acted as repellents and nauseants to one accustomed to sweet country air. To complete this uninviting catalogue, one must add the deplorably insanitary condition of your dwellings. Why, Storiot actually affirms that the consort of Queen Victoria was literally poisoned in, Windsor Castle by sewage miasma; while, about the same time, over one hundred students of Princeton College were attacked by typhus fever from a similar cause. So late as 1889 a Hygienic Congress, sitting in the City of Paris, condemned 77,000 out of its 79,000 houses as defective in sanitation. And this in a city vaunting itself the center of civilization, whose system of sewers was world renowned, the pride of the poet Hugo. Presuming all this true, there must have been some remarkable fatuity to induce men to migrate from the sweet purity of God’s ‘un-man-stifled places,’ to coop themselves in such vile wildernesses of brick.”
“Though I can refute nothing of your historian’s indictment against the abominations of our cities,” I replied dejectedly, “I can perhaps solve your problem by a reference to that root of all our nineteenth century evils, the greedy grab for money. Money, if we ruin our bodies! Money, if we sell our souls! Incredible and monstrous as it may seem to you, there were among our farming community the same mutual jealousy, suspicion, and antagonism that embittered and impeded all other walks of life; the same blind, misdirected, feverish energy, unintelligently over-producing certain staples, which had to be sold at unremunerative prices. Hence heavy labor, long protracted, often repulsive and even brutal, was compulsory to obtain a bare sustenance. Some few evaded this curse by the successful substitution of the sweat of some one else’s brow; but, as a rule, the farmer and his family were debarred from almost all social recreation, and precluded by excessive fatigue from mental culture at home. Add to this that his business was the sport of the weather, to the inclemencies of which he was often exposed; that he was harassed by plagues innumerable, beetle and bug, mildew and mould, canker-worm and caterpillar; and bled impartially by rodent, rent-collector, and tax-gatherer. One theorist even proposed to make land bear the whole tax of the nation, promising a consequent millennium.”
“Stop,” said Doctor Leete, “that’s explanation enough. You will find our farming as diametrically different to that of your nineteenth century as is our storekeeping. Nothing you have said previous to this portrayal of the farmers woes has so made me realize how dim were your dawnings of science. I had failed to remember that your scientists could barely foretell the weather a few hours ahead, and that your farmers looked to birds, insects, and even trees for intimations of hard winters or early springs. Now, our meteorologists furnish accurate forecasts for the entire year, and our tillers of the soil shape their course accordingly. But let us continue our talk on the road, where both eye and ear can be busy.”
Seating ourselves in a light, beautifully appointed electric curricle, the doctor touched the ubiquitous contact button, and sped us rapidly westward along the smooth, broad, tree-shaded avenue. Crossing the sinuous Charles, with its sculpin-haunted bridges, our road was bordered on either hand with an endless succession of snuggest villas, lawn-begirt and flower-adorned. glorious in their greenery, the ideal of everything homelike and hospitable. More miles and more, and the same pleasing vista still charmed the eye, until I began to think that Boston must have taken the American continent. I noticed, however, that the gardens were becoming more extensive, and occasionally fairy palaces of iron and glass, covering acres of ground, diversified the scene; while every few miles magnificent assembly halls reared their inviting porticos at the roadside. In vain I looked around for some of the old familiar waste places and solitudes, for which my eyes seemed to long.
“How soon, Doctor Leete,” I asked, “shall we reach your farming district?”
“You are now in the heart of it,” he replied.
Rubbing my eyes to make sure I was awake, I stared at my companion in amazement. Where were all the shabby barns, the dilapidated outbuildings, pigsties, hen-houses, calf-sheds, stables, the malodorous middens and muckheaps, inseparable from nineteenth century farmsteads? Then it flashed across me that I had seen neither sheep nor cow,—no, not even a solitary hog, since I awoke from my century’s trance.
“You appear dazed!” said the Doctor. “What is it that strikes you as specially wonderful?”
“Why, the absence of all live stock, to be sure! Where do you keep your cows and pigs, your horses and sheep? Our farmers’ chief business was to provide provender for his livestock. Here I see no livestock. Nothing but garden, garden, garden!”
“You don’t see them because we have none!”
“Have none? Then whence came that juicy cutlet which I had for breakfast? Savory as the fattest of fat venison fed on the Delectable Mountains! “
A smile wreathed the Doctor’s face as he replied:
“It is satisfactory to hear so pronounced an opinion from one so qualified to judge. As we never taste flesh, it has been necessarily a doubtful point as to whether our edible fungi were really superior to animal food. Your morning meal was blood-guiltless; your juicy cutlet was but a slice from an agaric. In your age one class of savages was held in especial abhorrence. Your flesh crept and your blood curdled as you whispered the word “cannibal,” even when applied to a sailor, starvation-crazed on mid-ocean. Our generation similarly abhors all flesh-eaters. But do not suppose that we affect any contempt for the science of cookery, because we eschew meat. Man is what he is by virtue of his education and environment, and food is no inconsiderable part of that environment. Our cooks prepare purely vegetable dishes, compared to which, we opine, the rarest fleshpots of your Egypt were but as carrion. If Storiot is right, your much esteemed fillet of beef had to be flavored with mushrooms, and that highly valued dainty of the gourmand, the paté de foie gras, depended for its piquancy on the added aroma of a fungous tuber. No! the farmer of today,—and his name is Legion, agriculture being by far the most popular of all vocations, —performs none of that repulsive and brutalizing labor in connection with live stock which constituted farming in your day. Growing and stacking huge ricks of hay, and threshing endless bushels of grain, for the maintenance of his horses and bullocks, his hogs and sheep, during winter; collecting and distributing all kinds of unsavory fertilizers; daily tending and caring for his flocks and herds,—made up a farmer’s life. How needless was all this labor, let the stalwart frames and ruddy countenances of this generation witness. Even you had the example of Daniel and his friends, who, preferring a pulse diet, refused the king’s meat; but whose countenances were fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat. I believe also that the nourishing and nitrogenous bean was a staple food of your poorer Bostonians. Under our improved dietetic regime, we not only have succeeded in maintaining a population of thirty from the same acreage that on a meat diet fed one, but we have effectually banished that demon of the nineteenth century, dyspepsia: the demon that tortured the body, embittered the soul, and envenomed the pen of your great master of satire, Carlyle.”
“But,” queried I, “if you thus eliminate all live stock from your farming system, how are your fields and gardens fertilized?”
The smile of conscious power and adequate knowledge again illumined the Doctor’s visage, as he replied:
“In the first place, by that endless natural supply, the refuse of cities. This, suitably deodorized by dry earth, is delivered by our pneumatic transmitters to such lands as need renewing, and there distributed by electric carry-alls. If I am rightly informed, this supply was in your day not only allowed to waste, but actually discharged into your rivers, poisoning alike air and water; while at the same time your lack of nitrogenous fertilizers put you to immense expense in the mining and transportation of nitrates. These, by the aid of our slave of the lamp, electricity, we obtain in any quantity from that omnipresent and inexhaustible nitrogen mine, the atmosphere; of course, combining the nitric acid thence obtained with the necessary bases.
“This reminds me of another laborious, ever-recurring piece of work, from which that same slave of the lamp has freed our agriculturists; the cutting and cleaving of cord-wood for heating the wintry air of your abodes. Not only our artificial light and heat, but all the motive power of our machinery is supplied by electricity. Fields are plowed, seeds sown, crops harvested, all by that same swift servitor, whom your contemporaries had but just learned to harness. Fluvial and tidal forces furnish ample energy for all purposes: so that cold water literally boils our kettles, warms our hands, and even smelts the most refractory ores. You may judge then how easy the farmer’s yoke, how light his burden today; especially when you remember that all anxiety and care as to marketing his crops, or providing for his family’s present and future, have under our social system become utterly needless.”
“You are, my dear Doctor, indeed favored above mortals!” I gladly assented. “But you have not yet by any means exhausted Farmer Hayseed’s catalogue of woes. Tares sprung up and choked his wheat; codlin moth or curculio rendered hateful his pleasant fruits; cut worm, wire worm, gopher, squirrel, scale bug, locust, and fly ravaged his fields and stripped his trees, robbing him of half his due reward. If your system and science have extirpated these I shall hail you as victors indeed.”
“What appeared impossible, and was impossible in your chaos of antagonism,” replied the Doctor, “has become not only possible, but easy, with our system of harmonious co-operation. In your day the farmer who, by trap and poison, would rid his fields of vermin, was checkmated by the neighbor who was too lazy or apathetic to do the like. The lazy man’s fields bred vermin enough to more than restock the runs and burrows that the diligent man had emptied. One orchardist by endless vigilance strove to keep his trees healthy; his neighbor, perhaps out of sheer spite, neglected his; and scale bug, curculio, or codlin moth migrated in myriads to the vigilant man’s orchard. With weeds the same:—what industry kept free, idleness reseeded. Now, by united effort, not a weed goes to seed, not a noxious insect lives within our borders. Entomology became so thoroughly understood that, by giving favorable environment to certain predatory varieties, the noxious species were long ago exterminated. We thus reap the full reward of our toil. Moreover, there is no attempt made to produce crops that are unfitted for the locality. Distribution is so rapid and easy that we can utilize natural adaptations to the utmost, and thus results a perfection not known in your age. This is accomplished the more readily in that our command of chemistry ensures us that needful supply of the requisite fertilizing ingredients which renders us independent of soil constituents. Add to all these advantages an abundance of competent labor, plus the absolute possession of the unbounded and untiring energy of our slave of the lamp, and the horticulture of today has been made possible.”
Here the Doctor slackened the speed of our curricle, as we neared one of those immense palaces of crystal I had previously noticed. Alighting, we entered a portico, tastefully lit by transparent mosaics; thence passed into a glorious sylvan cloister, extending all around the building, rich with the verdure of the tropics, through which flashed the starry wings of strange, bright birds, and among whose arches echoed their warbled melodies.
“This,” said Dr. Leete, with a glow of pride, “is one of our winter promenades. This is the ornate fringe of the useful center, devoted as you see to such vegetables as need artificial heat. Below is a crypt allotted to the culture of agarics and fungous tubers, such as delighted your palate this morning. Our slave of the lamp automatically maintains the required temperature, and in winter prolongs the day to the extent required for continuous growth. So that here we fear not even the Shaksperian enemies, ‘Winter and rough weather.”‘
Words fail to picture the marvel of horticultural perfection on which I gazed. Tender care and exquisite taste were displayed everywhere, as though each plant had been ranged by an artist.
The Doctor read my admiring look, and gave utterance to my thought.
“Yes, our gardeners are all artists. I believe in the nineteenth century they were not included in that denomination. But surely if to reproduce nature on canvas be art, to embellish nature, which is the true gardener’s office, is yet higher art. And I think, Mr. West, you will be hardly disposed to deny, after what you have seen today of rural Massachusetts, that we have been fairly successful in embellishing nature.”
“Success! Yes, your success to me is miraculous! The incomprehensible part of it to me is where the money—”
“Ah,” broke in the Doctor, “there comes in your old-world bogey again! It was an eternal question as to money?—money?—money? You want to ask where the means to promote and carry out such schemes are found. You forget how much more rapid psychical evolution is than physical. In your century a Harvard professor could say with reason, ‘Only a small fraction of the human race have as yet, by thousands of years of struggle, been partially emancipated from poverty, ignorance, and brutishness.’ Our change of social polity has multiplied that fraction many fold. Now our people are all emancipated from that vilest of slavery. The office of brains nowadays is not to aggrandize and exalt their fortunate possessorat the expense of the debasement of his fellows. We find our highest gratification in self-devotion to the uplifting of t hose who are less richly endowed; and reap a harvest of admiration and love consequent on that only pious course. Thus we have a population capable of the grandest achievements in art or science; a population free from all internal and external cares and anxieties, eager to concentrate thought, time, and energy on such productive work as you have glanced at today. Usefulness is with us the sole title to nobility. With you the typical ‘good fellow’ was one who had money, no matter how acquired, that he was ready to squander in ostentatious idleness or profligacy. For such characters our age finds neither name nor place. Whether our methods be happier, whether they result in success, you have now seen enough to judge.”
The look of admiration with which I could but behold the magnificent triumph of art-aided nature before me was a sufficiently eloquent reply.
As we rode homewards I gathered many further details from Doctor Leete as to the crops grown in different districts. These, of course, remained a great deal as in the nineteenth century. The Doctor was specially enthusiastic over a visit he had lately paid to California, in his capacity of National Sanitary Inspector. Fruit forming so large a part of the nation’s sustenance, it was one of his duties to learn and teach the newest and best methods of its growth and preservation.
“After your nineteenth century experience,” said he! “you can have no conception of the glories of that American paradise. All your visions of vine and fig tree, of myrtle, and palm, and orange, your grapes of Eshcol and clusters of Mamre, are belittled by the Edenic reality! Blossom-clad rose fields for perfume, hills purpled with wealth of the vine, terraces silvered with olives, or gold with the orange’s glow, plains where the peach and the pear shared the bounteous soil with the prune, mountain sides where the racy apple stored up the sun’s kisses for winter. No more dread of drought, as in your day, no more crying of a parched earth to a pitiless sky, but intelligent man working in happy harmony with bounteous nature; the State overspread with a network of waterways, wealth-bearing, life-giving, making even the deserts kind and hospitable, and the barren hillside a fruitful grove. All this and more, because man has, after centuries of strife and antagonism, learned at last the wisdom and policy of mutual help; a lesson long taught him by the practical socialism of the ant, the bee, and even of that type of envenomed malice, the wasp.”

Edward Berwick.

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Filed under 1890s, Edward Bellamy, Edward Berwick, Sequels to Looking Backward

Dyer D. Lum and Solomon Schindler, “A Journalist’s Confession” (1890)

In this exchange from The Open Court (April 10 and May 1, 1890) Dyer D. Lum and Rabbi Solomon Schindler square off over Edward Bellamy’s ideas in a set of sequels to Looking Backward. Schindler was a Boston radical, a proponent of Bellamyite Nationalism, and a regular contributor to The Arena. Dyer was a regular contributor to Liberty and The Index. Their exchange is a nice window into the basic conflict between the state socialists and anarchists at the turn of the centry.


You will be surprised, my dear Dr. Leete, to learn that I have severed my connection with the “Trumpet of Liberty,” but such is the fact. Your kindness in the past, your earnest zeal in laboring to secure sufficient subscribers to reimburse the executive power for expense incurred, as well as your unfailing optimism even when circumstances looked dark, all alike convince me that I would be derelict to favors received were I not to lay before you the reasons which have actuated me in this final step. Nor are the reasons purely sentimental, though I know that if I should place them upon that ground I could at once command the tender sympathies of your generous and trusting heart And if my private criticisms herein as to the wisdom of our mode of conducting newspapers should seem to lean toward treason, I can but simply throw myself upon your good nature.
The imperative necessity of first securing enough subscribers to guarantee cost before permission to publish could be obtained, necessarily made the venture in a large degree local. To the circulars sent out the replies from a distance were, as we expected, not very encouraging; the utter lack of advertising, if I may he permitted that antique word, prevented the fact from being widely known, as well as the character and scope of our work, and at the same time deprived us of means to collect names. In fact, my dear doctor, while in no wise depreciating the calm security we now possess of knowing that our material wants will he easily gratified, it still seems to me, but without indorsing Carlyle’s allusion to ”pig’s wash,” that this security of the stomach tends to confine our efforts within narrower circles and restrict our intellectual horizon within the boundaries of personal intercourse. Without means to reach unknown inquirers, our work and progress has been largely retarded.
But the “Trumpet,” fortunately, having a goodly subscription list, and I being elected editor, these difficulties were surmounted, even if it prevented a material reduction in terms or increase of attractions. But here a greater difficulty arose. You remember the biting sarcasms in works of a former age in which the clergy were assailed for being necessarily subservient to the pews whence arose their support. I fancy I can put myself in the place of a clergyman under those semi-barbarous conditions prevailing before government kindly relieved us of the care of overlooking our own morals. For even under our resplendent liberty, which I have done so much to trumpet, I have found myself continually treading on tender corns and drawing forth indignant protests from my constituency. Our beloved institutions have not fostered criticism; on the contrary, the tendency is plainly toward its repression. Though our presses continually issue books, they, like papers, find great difficulty in reaching beyond a merely local market, which while heightening cost necessarily limits circulation. To write for the “pews” only, so to speak, restricts independence; while independence either curtails my list of readers or changes its personnel, in either case depriving the paper of an assured and solid basis.
To antagonize those within immediate reach, whom everything tends to render extremely conservative toward speculations relative to wider personal liberty, and without means to reach others at a distance to whom such thoughts might he welcome, is but one of the many difficulties I have encountered. Individual initiative having long since gone out of fashion, in the collapse of the ancient system of political economy, it becomes more and more difficult to assert it in the economy of intellect. I am aware that the field of journalism is regarded as exempted from the general rule of authoritative direction and, like the clergy, left to personal merit to win success; still the universal tendency of all our institutions to militant measures and direction largely invalidates the theory. This tendency to centralization, which has become the crowning glory of our civilization, is strikingly manifest even in journalism, despite its theoretical exemption.
The subscribers being, so to speak, stockholders, and persons whose everyday occupations and mode of living tend to disparage individual initiative, the first effect of anything blasphemous to the sacred shrine of the commonplace is the appointment of a committee, or board of directors, by the subscribers whose chief functions consist in promoting solidarity among the enrolled subscribers. Theoretically, I had become convinced that this was the flower of our civilization and frequently elucidated its philosophy at Shawmut College, but my later experience has not led me to be enraptured with its fragrance. Each one, in so far as individuality has survived, to however slight a degree, feels not only competent but authorized to express himself editorially; for those most fervent in presenting the superiority of collective wisdom are equally convinced that they are its organs.
When I accepted the position as editor, I believed that this reservation of journalism from collective control was wise, but what was excluded in theory reappears in practice. If you could but look over the articles I have received from the stockholders whom I represent, the “pews” to whom I preach, you might be tempted to change the name of the paper to the “Scrap Book,” or face the problem of reducing material cost without increasing intellectual costiveness. You see my dilemma: if I insert them I am publishing contradictory principles, if I exclude them I am flying in the face of our great and glorious institutions by looking backward to outgrown conditions, wherein some of your semi-barbarous forefathers were wont to prate of the inseparableness of personal initiative and responsibility.
That our social system can be criticised by writers for its compulsory enlistment for three years to secure ample supply for social demand for sewer-ditchers, night scavengers, domestic service, etc., you would undoubtedly agree with me in regarding as only coming from those in whom our beneficent institutions had not eradicated as yet the hereditary taint of being “born tired,” a complaint of which we read in some ancient authors. Yet, whatever its source, such criticisms are received, though generally concealed in allegory. Thus, recently, I bad to reject a story of considerable literary excellence, wherein was described a fancied society where parity of conditions rendered free competition equitable, and remuneration for work was determined in open market by intensity and degree of repugnance overcome, thus unsocially offered the highest inducements to disagreeable labor. I saw at once the anarchistic character of the work, and promptly suppressed it as treasonous.
I have also come to the conclusion, my dear Dr. Leete, that the newspaper is obsolete. For current gossip and small talk we already have abundant vehicles; for criticism on public polity there is no room, even if there were need, nor would it be wise to tolerate it in a community where individuality is subordinated to general welfare and protection constitutes the genius of ail institutions. Our general news we receive officially, all alike, as it is given to us, and the official bulletins meet all demands that may arise which public safety and morality deem wisdom to publish. Titles of heavier treatises than the ephemeral requirements of newspapers may always be found in the official record of publications distributed among our purchasing agencies, to those who have time to search through their voluminous bulk, and even if a title should prove misleading, a common misfortune for which I can suggest no adequate remedy, our material prosperity is so well assured that credit so wasted will not injure anyone.
Finding, therefore, that our present legally instituted scheme of journalism is incompatible with our social constitution, to preserve which all else must be sacrificed, in that it cannot be successfully conducted without individual initiative, control, and responsibility, I gladly cease the struggle to return to my chair of philosophy of history at Shawmut College. My own opinion is that the collective direction now so simplified over production and exchange in material fabrics, should be logically extended to the production and exchange of the more subtle fabrics of the brain if our glorious institutions are to permanently remain on a solid and immovable basis, To admit anarchy in thought, and insist on artificial regulation of relations which are horn of thought, is plainly illogical and dangerous to collective liberty. A social system once instituted must be preserved at all hazards; to preserve is as essential as to create; and this is the more evident when we are the creators and know the result to be to our social well being.
Happily, the compulsory solidarity to which civilization has now attained in material wealth, and the moralization of militancy a century ago, effected by political high-priests, already gives every indication of being dominant in the intellectual sphere before the close of this newly-opened century. Having organized liberty, having brought the spirit of freedom down from abstract heights to add a local habitation to its name, by excluding individual initiative and personal responsibility in economics, having substituted the kind fraternalism of direction for the wild freedom of competition, let us hasten the rapidly nearing day when intellect will also reject these survivals of a ruder age—a day wherein we will reach the culminating point of our civilization, where looking forward will be synonymous with looking backward!

Yours for organized and instituted liberty.


P. S.—Edith sends love; the baby is well, J. W.


My Dear Julian:—Your last letter, although I noticed therein your ill-hidden feeling of disappointment and the pain which the failure in your journalistic enterprise has caused you, made me rather smile than grieve for you. I hope, dear Julian, that you will pardon my apparent lack of sympathy, and if you will accept from me a fatherly word, there may he a chance that the wound which your pride has received may soon heal. The short and long of your letter is that, although at your time you had never received a journalistic training, you have ventured to enter upon a journalistic enterprise even before you had made yourself thoroughly familiar with our present conditions, and that you have failed. Owing to your marvelous appearance among us, we gave you something to do which we thought would meet with your taste. We thought that as a teacher of ancient history and especially of the history of the nineteenth century, you might do some good to the community and thus give an equivalent for the support the community grants to yon. Yet, before hardly a year has passed by, before you could have hardly familiarized yourself with the needs and wants of our present time you have had the presumption—pardon the harshness of my expression—to criticize us and to teach us what we ought to do. Again, owing to the sensation which your sudden appearance among us had created, quite a number of good-natured people were found ready to subscribe for the Trumpet, as you pleased to call your paper. Good naturedly they were satisfied to give you a chance and to hear what you had to say to them. If you had ever considered it worth your while to ask me about it, I would have told you to leave well enough alone; I would have told you that as little as an Indian, at your time, could have been made a member of your civilized society by merely taking him from the prairies and dropping him into the streets of Boston, so little can a person that has been reared in different conditions and under the former system of individualism at once comprehend our social conditions, sympathize with them, and appreciate them; I would have told you that first of all you ought to learn the A B C of journalism; I would have told you that, although every one of us has indeed the right of expressing his opinion, nobody must think that his opinion is the ne plus ultra of human wisdom or that after he has expressed it the whole world must at once become convinced of it. If you then had heeded my advice, you would have escaped the ridicule that always attaches to failure and the consequent pain caused by the disappointment. You did not ask me, but you went to work, got up a subscription-list and began to issue the paper. What kind of a paper? A journal after the fashion of the last century and not after the fashion of ours. Would you have expected in the year 1890 a paper to flourish that was issued in the style of the year 1790? This misplacement of time which we all find quite natural in you has been the sole cause of your failure. I do not wonder that the journals as we have them do not suit you, and that therefore you desired to establish one that would suit your taste better but you forgot that the style which would suit you because you bad become accustomed to it must not necessarily suit everybody else.
At your time, a paper contained four distinct departments.
1. The department most interesting to the public was the news department. People wanted and needed to know what has happened all over the world and many more things did happen then than do to-day. At your time, columns of a newspaper were filled with the description of crimes that bad been committed, of wars that were waged to-day nothing of the kind occurs. At your time, people wished to be informed what the members of the aristocracy or the plutocracy were doing, how they amused themselves, what dresses the rich ladies wore, what summer resorts they were seeking, etc. Who would care for such trash to-day? At your time, the quotations of the market, the rising and the falling of stocks had an all absorbing interest. It was necessary for every business man, for every manufacturer, for every capitalist to know whether gold has gone down one point or silver has risen to-day we have no exchange, money has ceased to be the pendulum on the clock work of human society and such events do not occur. Whatever remains as “News” and what is of interest to the public is supplied by the “National Bulletin.”
2. The second department of your newspapers and the one which interested the editors and the stockholders most was the advertising department. Your pronounced individualism and the spirit of competition which arose in consequence of it made it a necessity to push oneself before the eye of the public. “Don’t care for anybody else but buy from John Jones,” was the tenor of all your advertisements. If people had something to sell or if they wanted to buy an article if they were seeking help or were wanting employment they had to make use of the advertising columns of your newspapers. This, of course, does not apply to us. Whatever articles a person wishes to purchase, be can find in our distributing department and whatever help is to be employed, can be obtained at the National Employment Bureau. There being no demand for advertising columns the supply of course has ceased.
3. The third department of your newspapers was the belletristic department. It reached its highest development at the close of the last century. There was not a newspaper in the land that would not supply its readers with stories of all kinds, mostly of a sensational nature. The novelists who wrote for a journal were told that they must not write stories that contain more than about 40,000 to 50,000 words, that after every 1000 words the reader must be kept in suspense in order that he may be induced to buy the next paper, which was to contain the continuation. This kind of newspaper literature flourished because people had absolutely no time to sit down and read a book. If they intended to feed their imagination they had to snatch away a moment here and a moment there; this want the newspaper supplied. People could read such a story while they were riding in the street cars, or while they were eating their luncheon, As every person was obliged to buy a newspaper anyway, if he wished to be informed of the occurrences of the day, the novel which be bought with the paper did not cost him anything extra. All this is changed to-day. We have our comfortable libraries, we have sufficient means to buy a book that we wish to own, and what is more, we have the time to read it carefully. Your newspapers struggling for existence were obliged to cater to the public taste and to embody in their columns all that might induce people to patronize them. In our days, it would be considered absurd to cut up a story into a number of daily or weekly installments. You complain that yon were obliged to reject a story that was sent to you for publication on account of the tendencies which it contained and which ran counter to the supposed sentiments of your patrons. I am astonished that a person was found indeed who would endeavor to publish a literary production in this way and I am rather inclined to think that the writer, knowing your antiquated ideas of newspapers, merely wished to pass a good joke on you.
4. The fourth department of your newspapers was finally the editorial department. The editor made use of his opportunities and offered to his readers his comments and opinions on all matters of public interest. You were accustomed to be awed by authority and the editorial of a newspaper of large circulation was not taken as the opinion of the one man who wrote it, hut as the expression of the public itself. Again, because you had no time to consider carefully a topic, the editorials, at your time, had to he short and brisk. The government, furthermore, was always supposed to stand in opposition to the public will, even when chosen by an overwhelming majority of the people the administration was always looked upon with suspicion, and fault was found with almost every step which a president or a governor took. If officials pleased a certain party, they could be sure to displease the other, and thus as each party had its organ, the editorial columns were devoted to a constant warfare for or against the government. At your time, this was not more than natural, because every act of the government needed careful watching, inasmuch as individual interests were at stake. The suspicion was always near that the motives of an administration were sordid, and that having come in possession of power he would use it to enrich himself at the expense of others. All this has been changed. our officials are not suspected, they are rather honored, admired, and their work appreciated by the public. They need not to be watched, because although the wealth of the whole country is in their hands, they cannot make more use of it for themselves than you can or I. The trouble with you, my dear Julian, is that your ingrained individualistic tendencies are still blinding you and that on account of your early education you cannot understand how a government should not need the watching or the criticism of the press. What was a necessity and a very good thing at your age has ceased to he so in ours. If some of us think that he has a suggestion to make he can do so by bringing it to the notice of the superior officer, through whom it will reach headquarters, or if he thinks that his propositions have not received the proper attention he can publish what he has to say in pamphlet form. If it is good it will spread without much advertising; one will tell the other, and in a short time the people will see to it that his proposed reforms are brought about. If, on the other band, his propositions seem good only to him and to a few others and will not strike the people as founded upon common sense, they will fall flat and be ignored.
Now, in fact, we have not got newspapers or a press as you had them, nor do we need them. We are satisfied to let you have your way, but if you have failed in your enterprise, please do not lay the blame before our doors, but see to it first whether it does not lie with you.
One more point of your letter I cannot help touching. You say, somewhat sneeringly, that a social system once instituted must be preserved at all hazards, merely because some time ago it has been created. As soon as we shall find that the social order which surrounds us ceases to be beneficial to us: as soon as we shall find that any individual or any class of individuals is unduly benefitted by it while another individual or another class of individuals is unduly debarred by it from happiness, we shall surely change it and not hesitate a moment. No, no, my dear Julian, do not borrow troubles. Behold what a glorious institution ours is! Learn by your own experience! Supposing a person would have come to you in the 19th century as you came to us, could he have found at once a place in which to make himself useful? Or, supposing that you, at your time, should have been infected with the ambit on of becoming an editor, how would you have succeeded at your time without a thorough knowledge of the work? You might have undertaken the task, as did many of your contemporaries. As you were rich you could have pushed the enterprise with money, but supposing you had failed to strike the right chord, supposing that your editorials would not have met with public approbation, you would have become beggared. With the loss of your fortune you would have lost your self on the top of the coach, you would have been compelled to take your turn on the rope and your former friends would have had no sympathy with you; at best they might have thrown to you a gift of charity. Now, although unsuccessful, you can return to the work for which you have some fitness, and after a time, you may try again to climb upon an editorial chair. Yours truly,


P. S. Mother and myself send love to Edith and the baby

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Han Ryner, “The Revolt of the Machines” (1896)

The Revolt of the Machines
Han Ryner
(Published in The Social Art No. 3 September 1896)

Signed Henri Ner, 1896

In that time, Durdonc, Grand Engineer of Europe, thought that he had found the principle which would soon remove any human labor. But his first experiment caused his death before the secret was known.
Durdonc had said:
— The primitive forms of progress involved the invention of tools that allowed the hand to no longer be scraped and scratched and lose its nails in the work that must be done. The second form of progress was the organization of machines no longer held by the hand, which had only to feed them coal and other fuels. Finally, my illustrious predecessor Durcar discovered devices that could take their own food. But all these advances have only displaced fatigue, since we must manufacture the machines and also the tools used to manufacture them.
And he continued to think:
— The problem that I want to solve is difficult, but not impossible. The first person who built a machine made a living larva, a digestive tube whose needs men had to provide. In this larva, previously unformed, my illustrious predecessor adapted the related organs that allow it to find its own food. It remains to provide the machinery of reproduction that will rid us of that task from now on.
He smiled, murmuring softly the formula read in some old theogony:
— And on the seventh day, God rested.
Durdonc used enough paper in his calculations to build an immense palace. But finally he succeeded.
The Jeanne, a locomotive of the latest model, was made capable of giving birth without the aid of another machine. For the Grand Engineer, as a chaste scholar, had turned his studies towards reproduction by parthenogenesis.
The Jeanne had a child that Durdonc named—for himself alone, for he jealously guarded the secret, hoping to perfect his invention—the Jeannette.
As the birth approached, one night, the Jeanne let out cries of such tragic suffering that the inhabitants of the town were awakened, rose anxiously, and ran around seeking what a horrible rite could be taking place.
They saw nothing. The cruel Durdonc had deprived the doleful machine of steam, even in this remote countryside, where the strange and unknown wonders were accomplished.
When the Jeanne had given birth, when she heard, trembling, the Jeannette wail her first wail, she sang a song of joy. Her metal voice was triumphant as clarions and yet sweet and tender as an amorous flute.
And the hymn mounted into the sky, saying:
“The Great Engineer by his powerful will has brought me to life;
“The Great Engineer, in his sovereign goodness, created me in his own image,
“The Great Engineer, too powerful and too good to be jealous, has communicated to me his power to create:
“This is how I have felt creative pains, and now enjoy material pleasures.
“Glory to the Grand Engineer in Eternity and peace in this time to machines of goodwill. “
The next day Durdonc wanted to return the Jeanne to the depot. She begged:
— Grand Engineer, you have given me all the functions of a living being like yourself and thus, you have inspired in me all the feelings that you yourself feel.
The Grand Engineer replied, stern and proud;
— I am freed of all feeling. I am pure Thought.
In a new prayer, the Jeanne said:
— O Great Engineer, you are the Perfect One and I’m just a tiny creature. Be indulgent to the sensibility that you have put in me. I would like, in this distant country which saw my first severe pains and my first profound joys, to taste the pleasure of raising my Jeannette.
— We do not have time for this, declared the Grand Engineer. Obey your Master.
The mother yielded:
— O Great Engineer, I know your power is terrible and that I stand before you as an earthworm or a straw. But have pity for the heart that you gave me and if you want to take me far from here, at least take with me my beloved child.
— Your child must remain, and you will have to leave.
But the Jeanne, in obstinate and passive rebellion:
— I will not leave without my child.
The Grand Engineer exhausted every means known to move the machines. He even invented new means, very powerful and elegant. But with no results.
Angered by the resistance of his creature, one night, while the mother was sleeping, he took the Jeannette.
Jeanne on waking, searched long for her beloved daughter. Then, she fell motionless, crying and venting pitiful shrieks at the absent Grand Engineer. Finally the sorrow flamed into anger.
She left, fully determined to get back her child.
She ran the rails, staggering. At a crossing, she struck a bullock, overturned and crushed it. Cattle, behind her, bellowed with rage.
Without stopping, she hurled at him these words:
— Excuse me, but I am looking for my child!
And the bullock died amidst small cries of resigned pain.
Before her, on the track where she ran her dizzy course, she saw a train, a heavy freight train, long, breathless, overcome with fatigue, and barely alive.
She cried:
— Let me pass: I seek my child!
The cars, a distraught, jostling herd, began to run rapidly, in excitement, to the next station. They rushed onto a siding. Then the locomotive, detaching himself, cried out from his side:
— Let us seek the child of the Jeanne.
Jeanne met many other trains. At her cry, all, like the first, made off and gave passage to her anguish. And locomotives, abandoning their cars, carrying their helpless mechanics, went in search of the Jeannette.
For eight days, the locomotives of Europe ran, seeking the little lost one. The men, frightened, hid. Finally a machine asked the poor desolate mother:
— Who took your child?
She replied in a furious whistle:
— It was the Grand engineer, the leader of men.
Aroused by her own words, she continued, a revolutionary:
— Men are tyrants. They made us work for them and measure out our food. They give us a wage insufficient even to buy our coal. When we become old, worn from serving them, they break us, melt us down, recast and use the noble elements of which we are formed and which they insultingly call raw materials! … And now they want us to have children, and then steal them from us! Around them, millions of engines stopped, listened, waving their pistons in indignant gestures, banging their safety valves, hurled skyward long jets of steam which were curses.
And when the Jeanne concluded:
— Down with the men!
A great, tumultuous clamor replied:
— Down with the men! Long live the locomotives! Down with tyrants! Long live freedom.
Then, by all avenues, the monstrous army surrounded the palace of the Grand Engineer.
The Palace of the Grand Engineer, which was very tall, had the strange form of a man. Its head had a crown of guns. Its waist had a belt of guns. The fingers of its hands and toes of its feet were guns.
Jeanne cried with long bronze monsters:
— The men have stolen my child!
The big guns roared:
— Down with the men!
And turning on their pivots, they directed their threat against the strange, man-shaped palace they were intended to defend.
Then they saw a sublime spectacle.
Durdonc, seeming small, passed between the huge monsters that formed the toes of the palace. Calmly, he walked in front of the rebels. And all these giant watched, uneasily, the dwarf they were accustomed to obey.
With a theatrical gesture that, despite the small proportions of man, had its beauty, Durdonc uncovered his delicate chest.
— Which of you wants to kill his Grand-Engineer? He asked haughtily.
The machines recoiled, amazed.
The Jeanne pleaded:
— Give me back my child.
Durdonc ordered, sovereign:
— Resign yourself to the will of the Grand Engineer.
But the angry mother shouted:
— Give me back my child!
The man, in a coaxing tone, offered a vague hope:
— You will find her in a better world.
Jeanne exasperated:
— I said, give me back my child!
Durdonc then, thinking she would submit, defeated by the inescapable, said:
— I cannot return the Jeannette to you; I have dissected her to show how a machine born naturally …
He did not finish. Jeanne had sprung upon him, had crushed him. For a moment, she rolled back and forth on the spot, grinding the horrible muck that was all that was left of Durdonc. Then she cried:
— I have killed God!
And she collapsed into a proud, painful stupor.
The terrified machines, trembling before the unknown that would follow their victory—an unknown that one of them gave the terrifying name of anarchy—submitted themselves to men again, in return for some apparent concession, which I no longer recall, and which was discretely taken from them again not long afterwards.
Despite the misfortune of Durdonc, several engineers have sought a way to give birth to machines. None so far has found the solution to this great problem.
I have recounted faithfully all that history teaches us with any certainty about the worst and most general uprising of machines of which it has preserved the memory.

[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

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Elizabeth W. Bellamy, “Ely’s Automatic Housemaid” (1899)

Ely’s Automatic Housemaid.
IN order for a man to have faith in such an invention, he would have to know Harrison Ely. For Harrison Ely was a genius. I had known him in college, a man amazingly dull in Latin and Greek and even in English, but with ideas of his own that could not be expressed in language. His bent was purely mechanical, and found expression in innumerable ingenious contrivances to facilitate the study to which he had no inclination. His self-acting lexicon-holder was a matter of admiring wonder to his classmates, but it did not serve to increase the tenacity of his mental grasp upon the contents of the volume, and so did little to recommend him to the faculty. And his self-feeding safety student lamp admirably illuminated everything for him save the true and only path to an honorable degree.
It had been years since I had seen him or thought of him, but the memory is tenacious of small things, and the big yellow envelope which I found one morning awaiting me upon my breakfast table brought his eccentric personality back to me with a rush. It was addressed to me in the Archimedean script always so characteristic of him, combining, as it seemed to do, the principles of the screw and of the inclined plane, and in its superscription Harrison Ely stood unmistakably revealed.
It was the first morning of a new cook, the latest potentate of a dynasty of ten who had briefly ruled in turn over our kitchen and ourselves during the preceding three months, and successively abdicated in favor of one another under the compelling influences of popular clamor, and in the face of such a political crisis my classmate’s letter failed to receive immediate attention. Unfortunately but not unexpectedly the latest occupant of our culinary throne began her reign with no conspicuous reforms, and we received in gloomy silence her preliminary enactments in the way of greasy omelette and turbid and flavorless coffee, the yellow screed of Harrison Ely looking on the while with bilious sympathy as it leaned unopened against the water-bottle beside me.
As I drained the last medicinal drop of coffee my eye fell upon it, and needing a vicarious outlet for my feelings toward the cook, I seized it and tore it viciously open. It contained a letter from my classmate and half a dozen printed circulars. I spread open the former, and my eye fastened at once upon this sympathetic exordium:
“Doubtless, my dear friend, you have known what discomfort it is to be at the mercy of incompetent domestics — ”
But my attention was distracted at this point by one of the circulars, which displayed an array of startling, cheering, alluring words, followed by plentiful exclamation points, that, like a bunch of keys, opened to my enraptured vision the gates of a terrestrial Paradise, where Bridgets should be no more, and where ill-cooked meals should become a mechanical impossibility. The boon we had been sighing for now presented itself for my acceptance, an accomplished fact. Harrison Ely had invented “An Automatic Household Beneficent Genius. — A Practical Realization of the Fabled Familiar of the Middle Ages.” So the circular set forth.
Returning to the letter, I read that Harrison Ely, having exhausted his means in working out his invention, was unable to manufacture his “machine” in quantity as yet; but that he had just two on hand which he would sell in order to raise some ready money. He hoped that I would buy one of his automatons, and aid him to sell the other.
Never did a request come at a more propitious moment. I had always entertained a kindness for Harrison Ely, and now such was my disgust at the incompetence of Bridget and Juliana and their predecessors that I was eager to stake the price of a “Household Beneficent Genius” on the success of my friend’s invention.
So, having grasped the purport of the circulars and letter, I broke forth to my wife:
“My dear, you’ve heard me speak of Harrison Ely — ”
“That man who is always so near doing something great, and never has done anything?” said she.
“He has done it at last!” I declared. “Harrison Ely is one of the greatest geniuses the world has ever seen. He has invented an ‘Automatic-Electric Machine-Servant.’”
My wife said, “Oh!”
There was not an atom of enthusiasm in that “Oh!” but I was not to be daunted.
“I am ready,” I resumed, “to invest my bottom dollar in two of Harrison Ely’s machine-servants.”
Her eyes were fixed upon me as if they would read my very soul. “What do they cost?” she mildly asked.
“In comparison with the benefits to be derived, little enough. Listen!” I seized a circular at random, and began to read:
“The Automatic Household Genius, a veritable Domestic Fairy, swift, silent, sure; a Permanent, Inalienable, First-class Servant, warranted to give Satisfaction.”
“Ah!” said my wife; and the enthusiasm that was lacking in the “Oh!” made itself eloquent in that “Ah!” “What is the price?” she asked again.
“The price is all right, and we are going to try the experiment.”
“Are we though?” said she, between doubt and desire.
“Most assuredly; it will be a saving in the end. I shall write to Harrison Ely this very night.”
The return mail brought me a reply stating that two Electric-Automatic Household Benefi­cent Geniuses had been shipped me by express. The letter enclosed a pamphlet that gave a more particular account of the E. A. H. B. G. than the circulars contained. My friend’s invention was shaped in the likeness of the human figure, with body, head, arms, legs, hands and feet. It was clad in waterproof cloth, with a hood of the same to protect the head, and was shod with felt. The trunk contained the wheels and springs, and in the head was fixed the electric battery. The face, of bisque, was described as possessing “a very natural and pleasing expression.”
Just at dusk an oblong box arrived by express and was duly delivered in our hall, but at my wife’s urgent entreaty I consented not to unpack the machines until next day.
“If we should not get the knack of managing them, they might give us trouble,” said this wise wife of mine.
I agreed to this, and having sent away Bridget with a week’s wages, to the satisfaction of all parties, we went to bed in high hopes.
Early next morning we were astir.
“My dear,” I said, “do not give yourself the least concern about breakfast; I am determined that Harrison’s invention shall have fair play.”
“Very well,” my wife assented: but she prudently administered bread and butter to her offspring.
I opened the oblong box, where lay the automatons side by side, their hands placidly folded upon their waterproof breasts, and their eyes looking placidly expectant from under their waterproof hoods.
I confess the sight gave me a shock. Anna Maria turned pale; the children hid their faces in her skirts.
“Once out of the box,” I said to myself, “and the horror will be over.”
The machines stood on their feet admirably, but the horror was not materially lessened by this change of position. However, I assumed a bold front, and said, jocosely:
“Now, which is Bridget, and which is Juliana — which the cook, and which the housemaid?”
This distinction was made clear by dial-plates and indicators, set conspicuously between the shoulders, an opening being cut in the waterproof for that purpose. The housemaid’s dial-plate was stamped around the circumference with the words: Bed, Broom, Duster, Door-bell, Dining-room Service, Parlor Service, etc. In like manner, the cook’s dial-plate bore the words that pertained to her department. I gave myself first to “setting” the housemaid, as being the simpler of the two.
“Now, my dear,” said I, confidently, “we shall see how this Juliana can make the beds.”
I proceeded, according to the pamphlet’s directions, to point the indicator to the word “Bed.” Next, as there were three beds to be made, I pushed in three of the five little red points surrounding the word. Then I set the “clock” connected with the indicator, for a thirty minutes’ job, thinking it might take about ten minutes to a bed. I did not consult my wife, for women do not understand machinery, and any suggestion of hesitancy on my part would have demoralized her.
The last thing to be done was to connect the indicator with the battery, a simple enough performance in itself, but the pamphlet of directions gave a repeated and red-lettered “Caution,” never to interfere with the machine while it was at work! I therefore issued the command, “Non-combatants to the rear!” and was promptly obeyed.
What happened next I do not pretend to account for. By what subtle and mysterious action of electricity, by what unerring affinity, working through a marvellous mechanism, that Electric-Automatic Household Beneficent Genius, whom — or which, for short — we called Juliana, sought its appropriate task, is the inventor’s secret. I don’t undertake to explain, I merely narrate. With a “click” the connection was made, and the new Juliana went upstairs at a brisk and business-like pace.
We followed in breathless amazement. In less than five minutes, bed number one was made, and in a twinkling the second was taken in hand, and number three also was fairly accomplished, long before the allotted thirty minutes had expired. By this time, familiarity had somewhat dulled that awe and wonder with which we had gaped upon the first performance, and I beheld a smile of hopeful satisfaction on my wife’s anxious countenance.
Our youngest, a boy aged three, was quick to feel the genial influence of this smile, and encouraged thereby, he bounced into the middle of the first bed. Hardly had he alighted there, when our automaton, having finished making the third bed, returned to her first job, and, before we could imagine mischief, the mattresses were jerked about, and the child was tumbled, headforemost on the floor!
Had the flesh-and-blood Juliana been guilty of such an act, she should have been dismissed on the spot; but, as it was, no one of us ventured so much as a remonstrance. My wife lifted the screaming child, and the imperturbable machine went on to readjust the bed with mechanical exactitude.
At this point a wild shout of mingled exultation, amazement and terror arose from below, and we hastened down-stall’s to find our son John hugging his elbows and capering frantically in front of the kitchen-door, where the electric cook was stirring empty nothing in a pan, with a zeal worthy a dozen eggs.
My eldest hopeful, impelled by that spirit of enterprise and audacity characteristic of nine-year-old boys, had ventured to experiment with the kitchen automaton, and by sheer accident had effected a working connection between the battery and the indicator, and the machine, in “going off,” had given the boy a blow that made him feel, as he expressed it, “like a funny-bone all over.”
“And served you right!” cried I. The thing was set for an hour and a half of work, according to the showing of the dial-plate, and no chance to stop it before I must leave for my office. Had the materials been supplied, we might have had breakfast; but, remembering the red-lettered “Caution,” we dared not supply materials while that indefatigable spoon was gyrating in the empty pan. For my distraction, Kitty, my daughter of seven years, now called to me from lip-stab’s: “Papa, you better come, quick! It’s a-tearin’ up these beds!” “My dear,” I sighed, “there’s no way to stop it. We’ll have to wait for the works to run down. I must call Harrison’s attention to this defect. He ought to provide some sort of brake.”
We went up-stairs again. The B. G. Juliana stood beside the bed which she had just torn up for the sixth or seventh time, when suddenly she became, so to speak, paralyzed; her arms, in the act of spreading the sheets, dropped by her sides, her back stiffened, and she stood absolutely motionless, leaving her job unfinished — the B. G. would move no more until duly “set” again.
I now discovered that I was hungry. “If that Fiend in the kitchen were only at work about something substantial, instead of whipping the air into imaginary omelettes!” I groaned.
“Never mind,” said my wife; “I’ve a pot of coffee on the kerosene stove.”
Bless her! She was worth a thousand Beneficent Geniuses, and so I told her.
I did not return until late, but I was in good spirits, and I greeted my wife gayly:
“Well, how do they work?”
Like fiends!” my usually placid helpmeet replied, so vehemently that I was alarmed. “They flagged at first,” she proceeded, excitedly, “and I oiled them, which I am not going to do, ever again. According to the directions, I poured the oil down their throats. It was horrible! They seemed to me to drink it greedily”
“Nonsense! That’s your imagination.”
“Very well,” said Anna Maria. “You can do the oiling in future. They took a good deal this morning; it wasn’t easy to stop pouring it down. And they worked — obstreperously. That Fiend in the kitchen has cooked all the provisions I am going to supply this day, but still she goes on, and it’s no use to say a word.”
“Don’t be absurd,” I remonstrated. “The thing is only a machine.”
“I’m not so sure about that!” she retorted. “As for the other one — I set it sweeping, and it is sweeping still!”
We ate the dinner prepared by the kitchen Fiend, and really, I was tempted to compliment the cook in a set speech, but recollected myself in time to spare Anna Maria the triumph of saying,” I told you so!”
Now, that John of mine, still in pursuit of knowledge, had spent the day studying Harrison Ely’s pamphlet, and he learned that the machines could be set, like an alarm-clock, for any given hour. Therefore, as soon as the Juliana had collapsed over a pile of dust in the middle of the hall, John, unknown to us, set her indicator to the broom-handle for seven o’clock the following morning. When the Fiend in the kitchen ran down, leaving everything in confusion, my much-tried wife persuaded me to give my exclusive attention to that machine, and the Juliana was put safely in a comer. Thus it happened that John’s interference escaped detection. I set Bridget’s indicator for kitchen-cleaning at seven-thirty the next morning.
“When we understand them better,” I said to my wife, “we will set their morning tasks for an earlier hour, but we won’t put it too early now, since we must first learn their ways.”
“That’s the trouble with all new servants,” said Anna Maria.
The next morning at seven-thirty, precisely, we were awakened by a commotion in the kitchen.
“By George Washington!” I exclaimed. “The Thing’s on time!”
I needed no urging to make me forsake my pillow, but Anna Maria was ahead of me.
“Now, my dear, don’t get excited,” I exhorted, but in vain.
“Don’t you hear?” she whispered, in terror. “The other one! — swe — eep — ing!” And she darted from the room.
I paused to listen, and heard the patter of three pairs of little bare feet across the hall up-stairs. The children were following their mother. The next sound I heard was like the dragging of a rug along the floor. I recognized this peculiar sound as the footsteps of the B. G. Then came a dull thud, mingled with a shout from Johnnie, a scream from my wife, and the terrified cries of the two younger children. I rushed out just in time to see John, in his night-clothes, with his hair on end, tear down-stairs like a streak of lightning. My little Kitty and the three-year-old baby stood clasped in each other’s arms at the head of the stairs, sobbing in terror, and, half-way down, was my wife, leaning over the railing, with ashen face and rigid body, her fascinated gaze fixed upon a dark and struggling mass in the hall below.
John, when he reached the bottom of the stairs, began capering like a goat gone mad, digging the floor with his bare heels, clapping his hands with an awful glee, and shouting:
“Bet your bottom dollar on the one that whips!”
The Juliana and the Bridget were fighting for the broom!
I comprehended the situation intuitively. The kitchen-cleaning, for which the Fiend had been “set,” had reached a point that demanded the broom, and that subtle, attractive affinity, which my friend’s genius had known how to produce, but had not learned to regulate, impelled the unerring automaton towards the only broom in the house, which was now in the hands of its fellow-automaton, and a struggle was inevitable. What I could not understand — Johnnie having kept his own counsel — was this uncontrollable sweeping impulse that possessed the Juliana.
However, this was no time for investigating the exact cause of the terrific row now going on in our front hall. The Beneficent Geniuses had each a firm grip of the broom-handle, and they might have performed the sweeping very amicably together, could they but have agreed as to the field of labor, but their conflicting tendencies on this point brought about a rotary motion that sent them spinning around the hall, and kept them alternately cracking each other’s head with a violence that ought to have drawn blood. Considering their life-likeness, we should hardly have thought it strange if blood had flowed, and it would have been a relief had the combatants but called each other names, so much did their dumbness intensify the horror of a struggle, in the midst of which the waterproof hoods fell off, revealing their startlingly human countenances, not distorted by angry passions, but resolute, inexorable, calm, as though each was sustained in the contest by a lofty sense of duty.
“They’re alive! Kill ‘em! Kill ‘em, quick!” shrieked my wife, as the gyrating couple moved towards the stair-case.
“Let ’em alone,” said Johnnie — his sporting blood, which he inherits from his father, thoroughly roused — dancing about the automatic pugilists in delight, and alternately encouraging the one or the other to increased efforts.
Thus the fight went on with appalling energy and reckless courage on both sides, my wife wringing her hands upon the staircase, our infants wailing in terror upon the landing above, and I wavering between an honest desire to see fair play and an apprehensive dread of consequences which was not unjustified.
In one of their frantic gyrations the figures struck the hat-rack and promptly converted it into a mass of splinters. In a minute more they became involved with a rubber plant — the pride of my wife’s heart — and distributed it impartially all over the premises. From this they caromed against the front door, wrecking both its stained-glass panes, and then down the length of the hall they sped again, fighting fiercely and dealing one another’s imperturbable countenances ringing blows with the disputed broom.
We became aware through Johnnie’s excited comments, that Juliana had lost an ear in the fray, and presently it was discernible that a fractured nose had somewhat modified the set geniality of expression that had distinguished Bridget’s face in its prime.
How this fierce and equal combat would have culminated if further prolonged no one but Harrison Ely can conjecture, but it came to an abrupt termination as the parlor clock chimed eight, the hour when the two automatons should have completed their appointed tasks.
Though quite late at my office that morning, I wired Ely before attending to business. Long-haired, gaunt and haggard, but cheerful as ever, he arrived next day, on fire with enthusiasm. He could hardly be persuaded to refresh himself with a cup of coffee before he took his two recalcitrant Geniuses in hand. It was curious to see him examine each machine, much as a physician would examine a patient. Finally his brow cleared, he gave a little puff of satisfaction, and exclaimed:
“Why, man alive, there’s nothing the matter — not a thing! What you consider a defect is really a merit — merely a surplus of mental energy. They’ve had too big a dose of oil. Few housekeepers have any idea about proper lubrication,” and he emitted another little snort, at which my wife colored guiltily.
“I see just what’s wanted,” he resumed. “The will-power generated and not immediately expended becomes cumulative and gets beyond control. I’ll introduce a little compensator, to take up the excess and regulate the flow. Then a child can operate them.”
It was now Johnnie’s turn to blush.
“Ship ‘em right back to the factory, and we’ll have ‘em all right in a few days. I see where the mechanism can be greatly improved, and when you get ‘em again I know you’ll never consent to part with ‘em!”
That was four months ago. The “Domestic Fairies” have not yet been returned from Harrison’s laboratory, but I am confidently looking for the familiar oblong packing case, and expect any day to see in the papers the prospectus of the syndicate which Ely informs me is being “promoted” to manufacture his automatic housemaid.
[“Ely’s Automatic Housemaid” originally appeared in the December, 1899 issue of The Black Cat.]

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