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Title: The White Stone
Author: France, Anatole
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Libraries.)



THE WORKS OF ANATOLE FRANCE

  IN AN ENGLISH TRANSLATION
  EDITED BY FREDERIC CHAPMAN

  THE WHITE STONE



THE WHITE STONE

  BY ANATOLE FRANCE

  A TRANSLATION BY
  CHARLES E. ROCHE

  LONDON: JOHN LANE, THE BODLEY HEAD
  NEW YORK: JOHN LANE COMPANY: MCMX

  Printed by BALLANTYNE & CO, LIMITED
  Tavistock Street, Covent Garden, London



CONTENTS


 CHAP.                       PAGE
    I.                          9
   II. GALLIO                  29
  III.                        107
   IV.                        147
    V. THROUGH THE HORN
   VI.                        237



  Καὶ ἔμοιγε δοκεῖτε ἐπὶ λευκάδα πέτρην καὶ δῆμον ὀνείρων
  καταδαρθέντες τοσαῦτα ὀνειροπολεῖν ἐν ἀκαρεῖ τῆς νυκτὸς
  οὔσης.
                      (Philopatris, xxi.)

  And to me it seems that you have fallen asleep
  upon a white rock, and in a parish of dreams, and
  have dreamt all this in a moment while it was
  night.



THE WHITE STONE

I


A few Frenchmen, united in friendship, who were spending the spring in
Rome, were wont to meet amid the ruins of the disinterred Forum. They
were Joséphin Leclerc, an Embassy Attaché on leave; M. Goubin, licencié
ès lettres, an annotator; Nicole Langelier, of the old Parisian family
of the Langeliers, printers and classical scholars; Jean Boilly, a
civil engineer, and Hippolyte Dufresne, a man of leisure, and a lover
of the fine arts.

Towards five o’clock of the afternoon of the first day of May, they
wended their way, as was their custom, through the northern door,
closed to the public, where Commendatore Boni, who superintended the
excavations, welcomed them with quiet amenity, and led them to the
threshold of his house of wood nestling in the shadow of laurel bushes,
privet hedges and cytisus, and rising above the vast trench, dug down
to the depth of the ancient Forum, in the cattle market of pontifical
Rome.

Here, they pause awhile, and look about them.

Facing them rise the truncated shafts of the Columnæ Honorariæ, and
where stood the Basilica of Julia, the eye rested on what bore the
semblance of a huge draughts-board and its draughts. Further south, the
three columns of the Temple of the Dioscuri cleave the azure of the
skies with their blue-tinted volutes. On their right, surmounting the
dilapidated Arch of Septimus Severus, the tall columns of the Temple
of Saturn, the dwellings of Christian Rome, and the Women’s Hospital
display in tiers, their facings yellower and muddier than the waters of
the Tiber. To their left stands the Palatine flanked by huge red arches
and crowned with evergreen oaks. At their feet, from hill to hill,
among the flagstones of the Via Sacra, narrow as a village street,
spring from the earth an agglomeration of brick walls and marble
foundations, the remains of buildings which dotted the Forum in the
days of Rome’s strength. Trefoil, oats, and the grasses of the field
which the wind has sown on their lowered tops, have covered them with
a rustic roof illumined by the crimson poppies. A mass of _débris_,
of crumbling entablatures, a multitude of pillars and altars, an
entanglement of steps and enclosing walls: all this indeed not stunted
but of a serried vastness and within limits.

Nicole Langelier was doubtless reviewing in his mind the host of
monuments confined in this famed space:

“These edifices of wise proportions and moderate dimensions,” he
remarked, “were separated from one another by narrow streets full of
shade. Here ran the _vicoli_ beloved in countries where the sun shines,
while the generous descendants of Remus, on their return from hearing
public speakers, found, along the walls of the temples, cool yet
foul-smelling corners, whence the rinds of water-melons and castaway
shells were never swept away, and where they could eat and enjoy their
siesta. The shops skirting the square must certainly have emitted the
pungent odour of onions, wine, fried meats, and cheese. The butchers’
stalls were laden with meats, to the delectation of the hardy citizens,
and it was from one of those butchers that Virginius snatched the knife
with which he killed his daughter. There also were doubtless jewellers
and vendors of little domestic tutelary deities, protectors of the
hearth, the ox-stall, and the garden. The citizens’ necessaries of life
were all centred in this spot. The market and the shops, the basilicas,
_i.e._, the commercial Exchanges and the civil tribunals; the Curia,
that municipal council which became the administrative power of the
universe; the prisons, whose vaults emitted their much dreaded and
fetid effluvia, and the temples, the altars, of the highest necessity
to the Italians who have ever some thing to beg of the celestial powers.

“Here it was, lastly, that during a long roll of centuries were
accomplished the vulgar or strange deeds, almost ever flat and dull,
oftentimes odious and ridiculous, at times generous, the agglomeration
of which constitutes the august life of a people.”

“What is it that one sees, in the centre of the square, fronting the
commemorative pedestals?” inquired M. Goubin, who, primed with an
eye-glass, had noticed a new feature in the ancient Forum, and was
thirsting for information concerning it.

Joséphin Leclerc obligingly answered him that they were the foundations
of the recently unearthed colossal statue of Domitian.

Thereupon he pointed out, one after the other, the monuments laid bare
by Giacomo Boni in the course of his five years’ fruitful excavations:
the fountain and the well of Juturna, under the Palatine Hill; the
altar erected on the site of Cæsar’s funeral pile, the base of which
spread itself at their feet, opposite the Rostra; the archaic stele and
the legendary tomb of Romulus over which lies the black marble slab of
the Comitium; and again, the Lacus Curtius.

The sun, which had set behind the Capitol, was striking with its
last shafts the triumphal arch of Titus on the towering Velia. The
heavens, where to the West the pearl-white moon floated, remained as
blue as at midday. An even, peaceful, and clear shadow spread itself
over the silent Forum. The bronzed navvies were delving this field of
stones, while, pursuing the work of the ancient Kings, their comrades
turned the crank of a well, for the purpose of drawing the water which
still forms the bed where slumbered, in the days of pious Numa, the
reed-fringed Velabrum.

They were performing their task methodically and with vigilance.
Hippolyte Dufresne, who had for several months been a witness of their
assiduous labour, of their intelligence and of their prompt obedience
to orders, inquired of the director of the excavations how it was that
he obtained such yeoman’s work from his labourers.

“By leading their life,” replied Giacomo Boni. “Together with them do I
turn over the soil; I impart to them what we are together seeking for,
and I impress on their minds the beauty of our common work. They feel
an interest in an enterprise the grandeur of which they apprehend but
vaguely. I have seen their faces pale with enthusiasm when unearthing
the tomb of Romulus. I am their everyday comrade, and if one of them
falls ill, I take a seat at his bedside. I place as great faith in them
as they do in me. And so it is that I boast of faithful workmen.”

“Boni, my dear Boni,” exclaimed Joséphin Leclerc, “you know full well
that I admire your labours, and that your grand discoveries fill me
with emotion, and yet, allow me to say so, I regret the days when
flocks grazed over the entombed Forum. A white ox, from whose massive
head branched horns widely apart, chewed the cud in the unploughed
field; a hind dozed at the foot of a tall column which sprang from the
sward, and one mused: Here was debated the fate of the world. The Forum
has been lost to poets and lovers from the day that it ceased to be the
Campo Formio.”

Jean Boilly dwelt on the value of these excavations, so methodically
carried out, as a contribution towards a knowledge of the past. Then,
the conversation having drifted towards the philosophy of the history
of Rome:

“The Latins,” he remarked, “displayed reason even in the matter of
their religion. Their gods were commonplace and vulgar, but full of
common sense and occasionally generous. If a comparison be drawn
between this Roman Pantheon composed of soldiers, magistrates, virgins,
and matrons and the deviltries painted on the walls of Etruscan tombs,
reason and madness will be found in juxtaposition. The infernal scenes
depicted in the mortuary chambers of Corneto represent the monstrous
creations of ignorance and fear. They seem to us as grotesque as
Orcagna’s _Day of Judgment_ in Santa Maria Novella at Florence, and the
_Dantesque Hell_ of the Campo Santo of Pisa, whereas the Latin Pantheon
reflects for ever the image of a well-organised society. The gods of
the Romans were like themselves, industrious and good citizens. They
were useful deities, each one having its proper function. The very
nymphs held civil and political offices.

“Look at Juturna, whose altar at the foot of the Palatine we have so
frequently contemplated. She did not seem fated by her birth, her
adventures, and her misfortunes to occupy a permanent post in the
city of Romulus. An incensed Rutula, beloved by Jupiter, who rewarded
her with immortality, when King Turnus fell by the hand of Æneas, as
decreed by the Fates, she flung herself into the Tiber, to escape thus
from the light of day, since it was denied her to perish with her royal
brother. Long did the shepherds of Latium tell the story of the living
nymph’s lamentations from the depths of the river. In later years, the
villagers of rural Rome, when looking down at night-time over the bank,
imagined that they could see her by the moon’s rays, lurking in her
glaucous garments among the rushes. The Romans, however, did not leave
her to the idle contemplation of her sorrows. They promptly conceived
the idea of allotting to her an important duty, and entrusted her
with the custody of their fountains, converting her into a municipal
goddess. And so it is with all their divinities. The Dioscuri, whose
temple lives in its beautiful ruins, the Dioscuri, the brothers of
Helen, the sparkling _Gemini_, were put to good use by the Romans, as
messengers of the State. The Dioscuri it was, who, mounted on a white
charger, brought to Rome the news of the victory of Lake Regillus.

“The Italians asked of their gods only temporal and substantial
benefits. In this respect, notwithstanding the Asiatic fears which have
invaded Europe, their religious sentiment has not changed. That which
they formally demanded from their gods and their genii, they nowadays
expect from the Madonna and the Saints. Every parish possesses its
Beatified patron, to whom requests are preferred just as in the case of
a Deputy. There are Saints for the vine, for cereals, for cattle, for
the colic, and for toothache. Latin imagination has repeopled Heaven
with a multitude of living bodies, and has converted Judaic monotheism
into a new polytheism. It has enlivened the Gospels with a copious
mythology; it has re-established a familiar intercourse between the
divine and the terrestrial worlds. The peasantry demand miracles of
their protecting Saints, and hurl invectives at them if the miracle is
slow of manifestation. The peasant who has in vain solicited a favour
of the Bambino, returns to the chapel, and addressing on this occasion
the Incoronata herself, exclaims:

“‘I am not speaking to you, you whoreson, but to your sainted mother.’

“The women make the Madre di Dio a confidant of their love affairs.
They believe with some show of reason that being a woman she
understands, and that there is no need to be on a footing of delicacy
with her. They have no fear of going too far--a proof of their piety.
Hence we must view with admiration the prayer which a fine lass of
the Genoese Riviera addressed to the Madonna: ‘Holy Mother of God,
who didst conceive without sin, grant me the grace of sinning without
conceiving.’”

Nicole Langelier here remarked that the religion of the Romans lent
itself to the evolution of Rome’s policy.

“Bearing the stamp of a distinctly national character,” he said, “it
was, for all that, capable of penetrating the minds of foreign nations,
and of winning them over by its sociable and tolerant spirit. It was an
administrative religion propagating itself without effort together with
the rest of the administration.”

“The Romans loved war,” said M. Goubin, who studiously avoided
paradoxes.

“They loved not war for itself,” was Jean Boilly’s rejoinder. “They
were far too reasonable for that. That military service was to them a
hardship is revealed by certain signs. Monsieur Michel Bréal tells you
that the word which primarily expressed the equipment of the soldier,
_ærumna_, subsequently assumed the general meaning of lassitude, need,
trouble, hardship, toil, pain, and distress. Those peasants were just
as other peasants. They entered the ranks merely because compelled and
forced thereto. Their very leaders, the wealthy proprietors, waged war
neither for pleasure nor for glory. Previous to entering on a campaign,
they consulted their interests twenty times over, and carefully
computed the chances.”

“True,” said M. Goubin, “but their circumstances and the state of the
world compelled them ever to be in arms. Thus it is that they carried
civilisation to the far ends of the known world. War is above all an
instrument of progress.”

“The Latins,” resumed Jean Boilly, “were agriculturists who waged
agriculturists’ wars. Their ambitions were ever agricultural. They
exacted of the vanquished, not money, but soil, the whole or part of
the territory of the subjugated confederation, generally speaking
one-third, out of friendship, as they said, and because they were
moderate in their desires. The farmer came and drove his plough over
the spot where the legionary had a short while ago planted his pike.
The tiller of the soil confirmed the soldier’s conquests. Admirable
soldiers, doubtless, well disciplined, patient, and brave, who fought
and who were sometimes beaten just like any others; yet still more
admirable peasants. If wonder is felt at their having conquered so many
lands, still more is it to be wondered at that they should have kept
them. The marvel of it is that in spite of the many battles they lost,
these stubborn peasants never yielded an acre of soil, so to speak.”

While this discussion was proceeding, Giacomo Boni was gazing with a
hostile eye at the tall brick house standing to the north of the Forum
on top of several layers of ancient substructures.

“We are about,” he said, “to explore the Curia Julia. We shall soon, I
hope, be in a position to break up the sordid building which covers its
remains. It will not cost the State much to purchase it for the spade’s
work. Buried under nine mètres of soil on which stands the Convent of
S. Adriano lie the flagstones of Diocletian, who restored the Curia
for the last time. We shall surely find among the rubbish a number
of the marble tables on which the laws were engraved. It is a matter
of interest to Rome, to Italy, nay to the whole world, that the last
vestiges of the Roman Senate should see the light of day.”

Thereupon he invited his friends into his hut, as hospitable and rustic
a one as that of Evander.

It constituted a single room wherein stood a deal table laden with
black potteries and shapeless fragments giving out an earthy smell.

“Prehistorical treasures!” sighed Joséphin Leclerc. “And so, my good
Giacomo Boni, not content with seeking in the Forum the monuments of
the Emperors, those of the Republic, and those of the Kings, you must
fain sink down into the soil which bore flora and fauna that have
vanished, drive your spade into the quaternary, and the tertiary,
penetrate the pliocene, the miocene, and the eocene; from Latin
archæology you wander to prehistoric archæology and to palæontology.
The salons are expressing alarm at the depths to which you are
venturing. Countess Pasolini would like to know where you intend to
stop, and you are represented in a little satirical sheet as coming out
at the Antipodes, breathing the words: _Adesso va bene!_”

Boni seemed not to have heard.

He was examining with deep attention a clay vessel still damp and
covered with ooze. His pale blue expressive eyes darkened while
critically examining this humble work of man for some unrevealed
trace of a mysterious past, but resumed their natural hue as the
Commendatore’s mind wandered off into a reverie.

“These remains which you have before you,” he presently remarked,
“these roughly hewn little wooden sarcophagi and these cinerary urns of
black pottery and of house-like shape containing calcined bones were
gathered under the Temple of Faustina, on the north-west side of the
Forum.

“Black urns containing ashes, and skeletons resting in their coffins
as if in a bed, are here to be met with side by side. The funeral
rites of the Greeks and the Romans included both those of burial and
of cremation. Over the whole of Europe, in prehistoric days, the two
customs were simultaneously observed, in the same city and in the same
tribe. Does this dual fashion of sepulture correspond with the ideals
of two races? I am inclined to believe so.”

Picking up, with reverential and almost ritual gesture, an urn shaped
like a dwelling and containing a small quantity of ashes, he went on:

“The men who in immemorial times gave this form to clay, believed that
the soul, being attached to the bones and the ashes, had need of a
dwelling, but that it did not require a very large house wherein to
live the abridged life of the dead. These men were of a noble race
which came from Asia. The one whose light ashes I now hold lived before
the days of Evander and of the shepherd Faustulus.”

Then, making use of the phraseology of the ancients, he added:

“Those were the days when King Vitulus, King Calf as we should say,
held peaceful sway over this country so pregnant with glory. Monotonous
pastoral times reigned over the Ausonian plain. These men were,
however, neither ignorant nor boorish. Much priceless knowledge had
come to them from their forefathers. Both the ship and the oar were
known to them. They practised the art of subjecting oxen to the yoke
and of harnessing them to the pole. They kindled at will the divine
flame. They gathered salt, wrought in gold, kneaded and baked vases
of clay. Probably too they began to till the soil. They do say that
the Latin shepherds became agricultural labourers in the fabled days
of the Calf. They cultivated millet, wheat, and spelt. They stitched
skins together with needles of bone. They wove and perchance made wool
false to its whiteness by dyeing it various colours. By the phases of
the moon did they measure time. They gazed upon the heavens but to
discover in them what was in the world below. They saw in them the
greyhound who watches for Diospiter the shepherd who tends the starry
flock. The prolific clouds were to them the Sun’s cattle, the cows
supplying milk to the cerulean countryside. They worshipped the heavens
as their Father, and the Earth as their Mother. At eventide, they heard
the chariots of the gods, like themselves migratory, roll along the
mountain roads with their ponderous wheels. They enjoyed the light of
day and pondered with sadness over the life of the souls in the Kingdom
of Shadows.

“We know that these massive-headed Aryans were fair, since their gods,
made to their own image, were fair. Indra had locks like ears of wheat
and a beard as tawny as the tiger’s coat. The Greeks conceived the
immortal gods with blue or glaucous eyes, and a head of golden hair.
The goddess Roma was _flava et candida_:

“Were it possible to make a whole out of these calcined bony fragments,
the result would be pure Aryan forms. In those massive and vigorous
skulls, in those heads as square as the primary Rome which their sons
were to build, you would recognise the ancestors of the patricians of
the Commonwealth, the long flourishing stock which produced tribunes
of the people, pontiffs, and consuls; you would be handling the
magnificent mould of the robust brains which constructed religion, the
family, the army, and the public laws of the most strongly organised
city that ever existed.”

Gently placing the bit of pottery on the rustic table, Giacomo Boni
bends over a coffin the size of a cradle, a coffin dug out of the trunk
of an oak, and similar in shape to the early canoes of man. He lifts up
the thin covering of bark and sap-wood forming the lid of that funeral
wherry, and brings to light bones as frail as a bird’s skeleton. Of
the body, there hardly remains the spinal column, and it would bear
resemblance to one of the lowest of vertebrata, such as a big saurian,
did not the fullness of the forehead reveal man. Coloured beads, which
have become detached from a necklace, are scattered over these bones
browned with age, washed by subterraneous waters, and exhumed from
clayey soil.

“Look!” says Boni, “at this little boy who was not given the honours of
cremation, but buried, and returned as a whole to the earth whence he
sprung. He is not a son of headmen, nor a noble inheritor of the traits
of a fair race. He belongs to the race indigenous to the Mediterranean,
the race which became the Roman _plebs_, and which supplies Italy to
the present day with subtile lawyers and calculating individuals. He
was born in the Palatine City of the Seven Hills, in days seen dimly
through the mist of heroic fables. It is a Romulean boy. In those
days, the Valley of the Seven Hills was a morass, and the slopes of
the Palatine were covered with reed-thatched huts only. A tiny lance
was placed on the coffin to show that the child was a male. He was
barely four years old when he fell asleep in death. Then his mother
clothed him with a beautiful tunic clasped at the neck, around which
she fastened a string of beads. The kinsmen did not begrudge him their
offerings. They deposited on his tomb, in urns of black earthenware,
milk, beans, and a bunch of grapes. I have collected these vessels and
I have fashioned similar ones out of the same clay by the heat of a
wood fire lit in the Forum at night. Previous to taking a last farewell
of him, they ate and drank together a portion of their offerings; this
funeral repast assuaged their sorrow. Child, thou who sleepest since
the days of the god Quirinus, an Empire has passed over thy agrestic
coffin, and the same stars which shone at thy birth are about to light
up the skies above us. The unfathomable space which separates the hours
of your life from those of our own constitutes but an imperceptible
moment in the life of the Universe.”

After a moment’s silence, Nicole Langelier remarked:

“It is as difficult to distinguish amid a people the races composing it
as to trace in the course of a river the streams which mingle with it.
What constitutes, moreover, a race? Do any human races really exist?
I see white men, red men, and black men. But, they do not constitute
races; they are merely varieties of the same race, of the same species,
which form together fruitful unions and intermingle without ceasing.
_A fortiori_, the man of learning knows not several yellow races or
several white races. Human beings invent, however, races in pursuance
of their vanity, their hatred, or their greed. In 1871, France became
dismembered by virtue of the rights of the Germanic race, and yet no
German race has an existence. The antiemites kindle the hatred of
Christian peoples against the Jews, and still there is no Jewish race.

“What I state on the subject, Boni, is purely speculative, and not with
the view of running counter to your ideas. How could one not believe
you! Conviction has its home on your lips. Moreover, you blend in your
thoughts the profound verities of poetry with the far-spreading truths
of science. As you truly state, the shepherds who came from Bactriana
peopled Greece and Italy. As you again say, they found there natives
of the soil. In ancient days, a belief shared in common by Italians
and Hellenes was that the first men who peopled their country were
like Erectheus, born of Mother Earth. Nor do I pretend, my dear Boni,
that you cannot trace through the centuries the antochthones of your
Ausonia, and the immigrants from the Pamir; the former, intelligent
and eloquent plebeians; the latter, patricians fully impregnated with
courage and faith. For, when all is said, if there are not, properly
speaking, several human races, and if still less so several white
races, our species assuredly comprises distinct varieties oftentimes
stamped with marked characteristics. Hence there is nothing to hinder
two or more of these varieties living for a long time side by side
without fusing, each one preserving its individual characteristics.
Nay, these differences may occasionally, in lieu of vanishing with the
course of time under the action of the plastic forces of nature, on
the contrary become accentuated more strongly through the empire of
immutable customs, and the stress of social institutions.”

“_E proprio vero_,” said Boni in a low tone, as he replaced the oaken
lid on the coffin of the Romulean child.

Then, begging his guests to be seated, he said to Nicole Langelier:

“I shall now hold you to your promise, and beg you to read to us that
story of Gallio, at which I have seen you at work in your little room
in the _Foro Traiano_. You make Romans speak in your script. This is
the spot to hear your narrative, here in a corner of the Forum, close
by the Via Sacra, between the Capitol and the Palatine. Tarry not with
your reading, so as not to be overtaken by the twilight, and lest your
voice be quickly drowned by the cries of the birds warning one another
of approaching night.”

The guests of Giacomo Boni welcomed the foregoing utterance with a
murmur of approval, and Nicole Langelier, without waiting for more
pressing entreaties, unrolled a manuscript and read aloud the following
narrative.



II

GALLIO


In the 804th year of the foundation of Rome, and the 13th of the
principality of Claudius Cæsar, Junius Annæus Novatus was proconsul of
Achaia. Born of a knightly family of Spanish origin, a son of Seneca
the Rhetor and of the chaste Helvia, a brother of Annæus Mela, and of
the famed Lucius Annæus, he bore the name of his adoptive father, the
Rhetor Gallio, exiled by Tiberius. In his mother’s veins flowed the
same blood as that of Cicero, and he had inherited from his father,
together with immense wealth, a love of letters and of philosophy. He
studied the works of the Greeks even more assiduously than those of the
Latins. His mind was a prey to noble aspiration. He was an interested
student of nature and of what appertains to her. The activity of his
intelligence was so keen that he enjoyed being read to while in his
bath, and that, even when joining in the chase, he was wont to carry
with him his tablets of wax and his stylus. During the leisure moments
which he managed to secure in the intervals of most serious duties and
most important works, he wrote books on subjects relating to nature,
and composed tragedies.

His clients and his freedmen loudly proclaimed his gentleness. His was
indeed a genial character. He had never been known to give way to a fit
of anger. He looked upon violence as the worst and most unpardonable of
weaknesses.

All deeds of cruelty were held in execration by him, save when their
true character escaped him owing to the consecration of custom and of
public opinion. He frequently discovered, amid the severities rendered
sacred by ancestral usage and sanctified by the laws, revolting
excesses against which he raised his voice in protest, and which he
would have attempted to sweep away, had not the interests of the State
and the common welfare been objected from all quarters. In those days,
conscientious magistrates and honest functionaries were not few and far
between throughout the Empire. There were indeed a number as honest and
as impartial as Gallio himself, but it is to be doubted whether another
could be found so humane.

Entrusted with the administration of that Greece despoiled of her
riches, her pristine glory departed, and fallen from her freedom so
full of life into an idle tranquillity, he remembered that she had
formerly taught the world wisdom and the fine arts, and his treatment
of her combined the vigilance of a guardian with the reverence of
a son. He respected the liberties of the cities and the rights of
individuals. He showed honour to those who were truly Greeks by birth
and education, regretting that their numbers were sorely restricted,
and that his authority extended for the greater part over an infamous
rabble of Jews and Syrians; yet he remained equitable in dealing with
these Asiatics, laying unction to his soul for what he considered a
meritorious endeavour.

He dwelt in Corinth, the richest and most densely populated city of
Roman Greece. His villa, built in the time of Augustus, enlarged
and embellished since then by the pro-consuls who had governed the
province in succession, stood on the furthermost western slopes of the
Acrocorinthus, whose foliaged summit was crowned by the Temple of Venus
and the groves where dwelt her priests. It was a somewhat spacious
mansion surrounded by gardens studded with bushy trees, watered by
springs, ornamented with statues, alcoves, gymnasia, baths, libraries,
and altars consecrated to the gods.

He was strolling in it on a certain morn, according to his wont,
with his brother Annæus Mela, discoursing on the order of nature and
the vicissitudes of fortune. The sun was rising, hazy in its white
splendour in the roseate heavens. The gentle undulations of the hills
of the Isthmus concealed the Saronic shore, the Stadium, the sanctuary
of the sports, and the eastern harbour of Cenchreæ. Between the fallow
slopes of the Geranean range and the crimson twin-peaked Helicon, one
could, however, obtain a glimpse of the quiescent blue waters of the
Alcyonium Mare. In the distance, and to the north, glistened the three
snow-capped summits of Parnassus. Gallio and Mela proceeded together
as far as the edge of the elevated foreground. At their feet spread
Corinth standing on an extensive plateau of pale yellow sand, and
sloping gently towards the spumous fringe of the Gulf. The pavements of
the forum, the columns of the basilica, the tiers of the hippodrome,
the white steps of the porches sparkled, while the gilded roofs of the
temples flashed dazzling rays. Vast and new, the town was intersected
with straight-running streets. A wide road descended to the harbour of
Lechæum, whose shore was fringed with warehouses and whose waters were
covered with ships. To the west, the atmosphere reeked with the smoke
of the iron-foundries, while the streams ran black from the pollution
of the dye-houses, and on that side, forests of pine extending to the
edge of the horizon, were lost to sight in the skies.

Gradually, the town awoke from its slumbers. The strident neighing of a
horse rent the morning calm, and soon were heard the muffled rumblings
of wheels, shouting of waggoners, and the chanting voices of women
selling herbs. Emerging from their hovels amid the ruins of the Palace
of Sisyphus, aged and blind hags bearing copper vessels on their heads,
and led by children, wended their way to draw water from the Pirene
fountain. On the flat roofs of the houses abutting the grounds of the
proconsul, Corinthian women were spreading linen to dry, and one of
them was castigating her child with leek-stalks. In the hollow road
leading to the Acropolis, a semi-nude old bronze-coloured man, prodded
the rump of an ass laden with salad herbs and chanted between the
stumps of his teeth and in his unkempt beard, a slave-song:

     “Toil, little ass,
      As I have toiled.
    Much good will it do you:
    You may be sure of it.”

Meanwhile, at the sight of the town resuming its daily labour, Gallio
fell a-musing over the earlier Corinth, the lovely Ionian city, opulent
and joyous until the day when she witnessed the massacre of her
citizens by the soldiery of Mummius, her women, the noble daughters of
Sisyphus, sold at auction, her palaces and temples the prey of flames,
her walls razed to the ground, and her riches piled away into the
Liburnian ships of the Consul.

“Hardly a century ago,” he remarked, “the work wrought by Mummius still
stood revealed in all its horror. The shore which you see, brother
mine, was more of a desert than the Libyan sands. The divine Julius
rebuilt the town wrecked by our arms, and peopled it with freedmen. On
this very strand, where the illustrious Bacchiadæ formerly revelled
in their haughty indolence, poor and rude Latins settled, and Corinth
entered upon a new lease of life. She grew rapidly, and realised how to
take advantage of her position. She levies tribute on all ships which,
whether from the East or from the West, cast anchor in her two harbours
of Lechæum and Cenchreæ. Her population and wealth increase apace under
the ægis of the Roman peace.

“What blessings has not the Empire bestowed throughout the world! To
the Empire is due the profound tranquillity which the countryside
enjoys. The seas are swept of pirates, and the highways of robbers.
From the befogged Ocean to the Permulic Gulf, from Gades to the
Euphrates, the trading of merchandise proceeds in undisturbed security.
The law protects the lives and property of all. Individual rights must
not be infringed upon. Liberty has henceforth no other limits than its
lines of defence, and is circumscribed for its own security alone.
Justice and reason rule the world.”

Unlike his two brothers, Annæus Mela had not intrigued for honours.
Those who loved him, and their name was legion, for he was ever in his
intercourse affable and extremely pleasant, attributed his detachment
from public affairs to the moderation of a mind attracted by the
blessings of tranquil obscurity, a mind which had no other care than
the study of philosophy. But those who observed him with greater
insight were under the impression that he was ambitious after his own
fashion, and that like Mæcenas, he, a simple knight, was consumed with
the envy of enjoying the same consideration as the consuls. Lastly,
certain evil-minded individuals believed that they discerned in him the
greed of the Senecas for the riches which they affected to despise, and
thus did they explain to themselves that Mela had for a long time lived
in obscurity in Betica, giving himself up entirely to the management of
his vast estates, and that subsequently summoned to Rome by his brother
the philosopher, he had devoted himself to the administration of the
finances of the Empire, rather than go in the quest of high judiciary
or military posts. His character could not be readily determined from
his utterances, for he spoke the language of the Stoics, a language
equally adapted for the concealment of the weaknesses of the mind and
the revelation of the grandeur of one’s sentiments. It was in those
days the height of elegance to utter virtuous discourse. At any rate,
there is no doubt that Mela spoke his thoughts.

He replied to his brother that, although not versed in public affairs
like himself, he had had occasion to admire the power and wisdom of the
Romans.

“They reveal themselves,” he said, “in the most remote parts of our own
Spain. But it is in a wild pass of the mountains of Thessaly that I
have been made to appreciate at its highest the beneficent majesty of
the Empire. I had come from Hypata, a town renowned for its cheeses,
and whose women were notorious for witchcraft, and I had been riding
for some hours along mountain paths, without coming across a human
face. Overcome by the heat and fatigue, I tethered my horse to a tree
by the road, and lay down under an arbutus-bush. I had been resting
there a short while only, when there came along a lean old man bowed
down under a load of branches. Utterly exhausted, he tottered in his
steps, and just as he was about to fall, exclaimed: ‘Cæsar.’ On hearing
such an invocation escape the lips of a poor woodcutter in this stony
solitude, my heart overflowed with veneration for the tutelary City,
which inspires, even unto the farthermost lands, the most rustic of
minds with so great a conception of its sovereign providence. But
sadness and a feeling of distress mingled with my admiration, brother
mine, when I reflected upon the injury and insults to which the
inheritance of Augustus and the fortune of Rome were exposed through
men’s folly and the vices of the century.”

“I have witnessed on the spot, brother mine,” replied Gallio, “the
crimes and follies which sadden your mind. My cheek has blanched under
the gaze of the victims of Caius from my seat in the Senate. I have
held my peace, as I did not despair of better days. I am of the opinion
that good citizens should serve the Republic under bad princes rather
than shirk their duty in a useless death.”

As Gallio was uttering these sentiments, two men, still in their youth
and wearing the toga, came up to him. The one was Lucius Cassius, of a
Roman family, plebeian but ancient, and having attained distinction.
The other, Marcus Lollius, son and grandson of consuls, and moreover of
a knightly family, which had sprung from the free town of Terracina.
Both had frequented the schools of Athens, and acquired a knowledge of
the laws of nature of which those Romans who had not been in Greece
were totally ignorant.

At the present moment, they were studying in Corinth the management
of public affairs, and the proconsul surrounded himself with them as
an ornamental adjunct to his magistracy. Somewhat behind them, the
Greek Apollodorus, wearing the short cape of the philosophers, bald of
head, and with Socratic beard, sauntered along, with uplifted arm and
gesticulating fingers, discussing with himself.

Gallio welcomed all three of them in kindly fashion.

“The rose of dawn is already fading,” he said, “and the sun is
beginning to shed its steeled darts. Come along, my good friends, to
the coolness of the shady foliage beyond.”

Saying this, he led them along the banks of a stream whose babbling
murmur invited peaceful reflections, until they had reached an
enclosure of verdant bushes in the midst of which lay in a hollow an
alabaster basin filled with limpid waters on whose surface floated
the feather of a dove, which had just bathed in them, and which was
now cooing plaintively from a branch. They took their seats on a
semicircular marble bench supported by griffins. Laurel and myrtle
bushes blended their shadows about it. Statues encircled the enclosure.
A wounded Amazon gracefully coiled her arm about her head. Grief
appeared a thing of beauty on her lovely face. A shaggy Satyr was
playing with a goat. A Venus, emerging from the bath, was drying her
wetted limbs along which a shudder of pleasurable emotion seemed to
run. Near by, a youthful Faun was smilingly placing a flute to his
lips. His face was partly concealed by the branches, but his shining
belly glistened amid the leafage.

“That Faun seems animated,” remarked Marcus Lollius. “One could imagine
that a gentle breathing was causing his bosom to heave.”

“He is true to life, Marcus,” said Gallio. “One expects to hear rustic
melodies flow from his flute. A Greek slave carved him out of the
marble, in imitation of an ancient model. The Greeks formerly excelled
in the making of these fanciful statues. Several of their efforts in
this style are justly renowned. There is no gainsaying it: they have
found the means of giving august traits to the gods and of expressing
in both marble and bronze the majesty of the masters of the world. Who
but admires the Olympian Zeus? And yet, who would care to be Phidias!”

“No Roman would assuredly care to be Phidias,” exclaimed Lollius,
who was spending the fortune he had inherited from his ancestry in
ornamenting his villa at Pausilypum with the masterpieces of Phidias
and Myron brought over from Greece and Asia.

Lucius Cassius was of the same opinion. He argued with some warmth that
the hands of a free man were not made to wield the sculptor’s chisel
or the painter’s brush, and that no Roman citizen would condescend to
the degrading work of casting bronze, hewing marble into shape, and
painting forms on a wall.

He professed admiration for the manners of the ancient times, and
vaunted at every opportunity the ancestral virtues.

“Men of the stamp of Curius and Fabricius cultivated their
lettuce-beds, and slept under thatched roofs,” he said. “They wot of no
other statue than the Priapus carved in the heart of a box-tree, who,
protruding his vigorous pale in the centre of their garden, threatened
pilferers with a terrible and shameful punishment.”

Mela, who was well versed in the annals of Rome, opposed to this
opinion the example of an old patrician.

“In the days of the Republic,” he pointed out, “that illustrious man,
Caius Fabius, of a family issued from Hercules and Evander, limned with
his own hand on the walls of the Temple of Salus paintings so highly
prized that their recent loss, on the destruction of the temple by
fire, has been considered a public misfortune. It is moreover related
that he did not doff his toga when painting, thus to indicate that such
work was not unworthy of a Roman citizen. He was given the surname of
Pictor, which his descendants were proud to bear.”

Lucius Cassius replied with vivacity:

“When painting victories in a temple, Caius Fabius had in mind those
victories, and not the painting of them. No painters existed in Rome
in those days. Anxious that the doughty deeds of his ancestors should
for ever be present to the gaze of the Romans, he set an example to the
artisans. But just as a pontiff or an ædile lays the first stone of
an edifice, without exercising for that the trade of a mason or of an
architect, Caius Fabius executed the first painting Rome boasted of,
without it being permissible to number him with the workmen who earn
their livelihood by painting on walls.”

Apollodorus signified approval of this speech with a nod, and, stroking
his philosophic beard, remarked:

“The sons of Ascanius are born to rule the world. Any other care would
be unworthy of them.”

Then, speaking at some length and in well-rounded sentences, he sang
the praises of the Romans. He flattered them because he feared them.
But in his innermost being, he felt nothing but contempt for their
shallow intelligences so devoid of finesse. He beslavered Gallio with
praise in these words:

“Thou hast ornamented this city with magnificent monuments. Thou hast
assured the liberty of its Senate and of its people. Thou hast decreed
excellent regulations for trade and navigation, and thou dispensest
justice with even tempered equity. Thy statue shall stand in the Forum.
The title shall be granted to you of the second founder of Corinth, or
rather Corinth shall take from you the name of Annæa. All these things
are worthy of a Roman, and worthy of Gallio. But, do not think that the
Greeks have an exaggerated affection for the manual arts. If many of
them are engaged in painting vases, in dyeing stuffs, and in modelling
figures, it is through necessity. Ulysses constructed his bed and his
ship with his own hands. At the same time, the Greeks proclaim that it
is unworthy of a wise man to give himself up to futile and gross arts.
In his youth, Socrates followed the trade of a sculptor, and modelled
an image of the Charites still to be seen on the Acropolis of Athens.
His skill was certainly not of a mediocre order, and, had he so wished,
he could, like the most renowned artists, have portrayed an athlete
throwing a discus or bandaging his head. But he abandoned like works
to devote himself to the quest of wisdom, as commanded by the oracle.
Henceforth, he attached himself to young men, not for the purpose of
measuring the proportions of their bodies but solely to teach them that
which is honest. He preferred those whose soul was beautiful to those
of perfect form, differing in this respect from sculptors, painters and
debauchees, who consider only external beauty, despising the inner
comeliness. You are aware that Phidias engraved on the great toe of his
Jupiter the name of an athlete, because he was handsome, and without
considering whether he was pure.”

“Hence it is,” was Gallio’s summing up, “that we do not sing the
praises of sculptors, while bestowing them on their works.”

“By Hercules!” exclaimed Lollius, “I do not know whether to admire most
that Venus or that Faun. The goddess seems to reflect coolness from
the water still dripping from her. She is truly the desire of gods and
men; do you not fear, Gallio, that some night, a lout concealed in your
grounds may subject her to an outrage similar to the one inflicted by a
profane youth, so it is reported, on the Aphrodite of the Cnidians? The
priestesses of her temple discovered one morning traces of the outrage
on the body of the goddess, and travellers affirm that from that day
until now she bears the indelible mark of her defilement. The audacity
of the man and the patience of the Immortal One are to be wondered at.”

“The crime did not remain unpunished,” affirmed Gallio. “The
sacrilegious profaner flung himself into the sea, and fell on the rocks
a shapeless mass. He was never again seen.”

“There can be no doubt,” resumed Lollius, “that the Venus of Cnidus
surpasses all others in beauty. But the artisan who carved the one in
your grounds, Gallio, knew how to make marble plastic. Look at that
Faun; he is laughing, and saliva moistens his teeth and his lips; his
cheeks have the fresh bloom of the apple: his whole body glistens with
youth. However, I prefer the Venus to the Faun.”

Raising his right arm, Apollodorus said:

“Most gentle Lollius, just think a bit, and you will fain admit that
a like preference is pardonable in an ignorant individual who follows
his instincts and who reasons not, but that it is not permitted to one
as wise as yourself. That Venus cannot be as beautiful as that Faun,
for the body of woman enjoys a perfection lesser than that of man, and
the copy of a thing which is less perfect can never equal in beauty the
copy of a thing that is more perfect. No doubt can assuredly exist,
Lollius, that the body of woman is less beautiful than that of man,
since it contains a less beautiful soul. Women are vain, quarrelsome,
their mind occupied with trifles and incapable of elevated thoughts,
while sickness oftentimes obscures their intellect.”

“And yet,” remarked Gallio, “both in Rome and in Athens, virgins and
matrons have been held worthy of presiding over sacred rites and of
placing offerings on the altars. Nay more, the gods have at times
selected virgins to give utterance to their oracular words, or to
reveal the future to men. Cassandra wore the bands of Apollo about her
head and prophesied the discomfiture of the Trojans. Juturna, to whom
the love of a god gave immortality, was entrusted with the guardianship
of the fountains of Rome.”

“Quite true,” replied Apollodorus. “But the gods sell dearly to virgins
the privilege of interpreting their wishes, and of announcing future
events. While conferring on them the power of seeing that which is
hidden, they deprive them of their reason and inflict madness on them.
I will, however, Gallio, grant you that some women are better than some
men and that some men are less good than some women. This arises from
the fact that the two sexes are not as distinct and separate from each
other as one would believe, and that, quite on the contrary, there
is something of man in many women, and of woman in many a man. The
following is the explanation of this commingling:

“The ancestors of the men who nowadays people the earth sprang from
the hands of Prometheus, who, to give them shape, kneaded the clay
as does the potter. He did not confine himself to shaping with his
hands a single couple. Far too prudent and too industrious to cause
the entire human race to grow from one seed and from a single vessel,
he undertook the manufacture of a multitude of women and men, in
order to secure at once to humanity the advantage of numbers. In order
better to carry out so difficult a work, he modelled separately at the
outset all the parts which were to constitute both male and female
bodies. He fashioned as many lungs, livers, hearts, brains, bladders,
spleens, intestines, matrices and generative organs as were required,
and, lastly, he made with subtle art, and in sufficient quantity,
all the organs by means of which human beings might breathe freely,
feed themselves, and enjoy the reproduction of the species. He forgot
neither muscles, tendons, bones, blood nor fluids. He next cut out
skins, intending to place in each one, as in a sack, the requisite
articles. All these component parts of men and women were duly
finished, and nothing remained but to put them together, when he was of
a sudden invited to partake of supper at the residence of Bacchus. He
went thither, crowned with roses, and indulged too freely in libations
to the god, returning with tottering steps to his workshop. His brain
befogged with the fumes of wine, his eyesight dimmed, and his hands
shaky, he resumed his task, greatly to our misfortune. The distribution
of organs among human beings seemed to him an easy enough pastime. He
knew not what he was about, and was perfectly contented with his job,
however badly he accomplished it. He was constantly and inadvertently
allotting to woman that which was proper to man, and to man the things
pertaining to woman.

“Thus it came about that our first parents were composed of
ill-assorted pieces which did not harmonise. And, having mated
by choice or at haphazard, they produced beings as incoherent as
themselves. Thus has it come about, through the Titan’s fault, that we
see so many virile women and so many effeminate men. This also explains
the contradictory characteristics to be met with in the firmest of
minds and how it is that the most determined character is perpetually
false to itself. And, finally, this is why we are all at variance with
our own selves.”

Lucius Cassius expressed condemnation of this fable, because it did not
teach man to conquer himself, but on the contrary induced him to yield
to nature.

Gallio pointed out that the poets and philosophers gave a different
interpretation as to the origin of the world and the creation of
mankind.

“The fables told by the Greeks,” he said, “should not be believed
in too blindly, nor should we hold as truthful, Apollodorus, what
they state in particular concerning the stones thrown by Pyrrha. The
philosophers are not in accord among themselves as to the principle
presiding over the creation of the world, and leave us in doubt as to
whether the earth was produced by water, by air, or, as seems more
credible, by the subtile heat. But the Greeks wish to know all things,
and so they forge ingenious falsehood. How much better it is to confess
our ignorance. The past is as much concealed from us as is the future;
we are circumscribed by two dense clouds, in the forgetfulness of
what was, and in the uncertainty of what shall be. And yet we suffer
ourselves to be the playthings of an inquisitive desire to become
acquainted with the causes of things, and a consuming anxiety incites
us to ponder over the destinies of mankind and of the world.”

“It is true,” sighed Cassius, “that we are everlastingly striving to
penetrate the impenetrable future. We toil at this quest with all our
might, and call to our aid all kinds of means. Anon we think to attain
our object by meditation; again, by prayer and ecstasy. Some of us
consult the oracles of the gods; others, fearing not to do that which
is forbidden, appeal to the augurs of Chaldæa, or try the Babylonian
spells. Futile and sacrilegious curiosity! For, of what advantage would
be to us the knowledge of future things, since they are inevitable!
Nevertheless the wise men, still more so than the vulgar herd, feel
the desire of delving into the future and of, so to speak, hurling
themselves into it. It is doubtless because they hope thus to escape
the present which inflicts on them so much that is sad and distasteful.
Why should not the men of to-day be goaded with the desire of fleeing
from these wretched times? We are living in an age replete with deeds
of cowardice, abounding in ignominious acts, and fertile in crimes.”

Cassius spoke at some length in depreciation of the times in which he
lived. He lamented the fact that the Romans, fallen from their ancient
virtues, no longer found any pleasure except in the consumption of the
oysters of the Lucrine lake and of the birds of Phasis river, and that
they had no taste except for mummers, chariot-drivers, and gladiators.
He deplored the ills which the Empire was suffering from, the insolent
luxury of the great, the contemptible avidity of the clients, and the
savage depravity of the multitude.

Gallio and his brother agreed with him. They loved virtue.
Nevertheless, they had nothing in common with the patricians of old
who, having no other care than the fattening of their swine, and the
performance of the sacred rites, conquered the world for the better
administration of their farms. This nobility of the byre, instituted
by Romulus and Remus, was long since extinct. The patrician families
created by the divine Julius and by the Emperor Augustus, had passed
away. Intelligent men from all the provinces of the Empire had stepped
into their places. Romans in Rome, they were nowhere strangers. They
greatly surpassed the old Cethegus family by their refined minds
and humane feelings. They did not regret the Republic; they did not
regret liberty, the recollection of which recalled simultaneously
proscriptions and civil wars. They honoured Cato as the heroic figure
of another age, without wishing to see so exalted a type of virtue
arise on top of fresh ruins. They looked upon the Augustan epoch and
the first years of Tiberius as the happiest the world had ever known,
since the Golden Age had existed in the imagination of the poets only.
They lamented the fact that the new order of things, which had promised
the world a long reign of felicity, should have so promptly burdened
Rome with an unheard of shame unknown even to the contemporaries of
Marius and Sulla. They had, during the madness of Caius, seen the best
citizens branded with a hot iron, sentenced to the mines, to labour on
the roads, thrown to wild beasts, fathers compelled to be present at
the agony of their children, and men shining by their virtues, such as
Cremutius Cordus, suffer themselves to die of starvation, in order to
cheat the tyrant of their death. To Rome’s shame, be it said, Caligula
respected neither his sisters nor the most illustrious dames. And, what
filled these rhetors and philosophers with as great an indignation as
the one they felt over the rape of the matrons and the assassination
of the best citizens, were the crimes perpetrated by Caius against
eloquence and letters. This madman had conceived the idea of destroying
the poems of Homer, and had caused to be removed from all bookshelves
the writings, the portraits, and the names of Virgil and of Livy.
Finally, Gallio could not forgive him for having compared the style of
Seneca to mortar without cement.

They dreaded Claudius in a somewhat lesser degree, but despised him
the more for all that. They ridiculed his pumpkin-like head and his
seal-like voice. That old savant was not a monster of wickedness.
The worst they could reproach him with was his weakness. But, in the
exercise of the sovereign power, such weakness became at times as cruel
as the cruelty of Caius. They also bore domestic grievances against
him. If Caius had held Seneca up to ridicule, Claudius had banished him
to Corsica. It is true that he had subsequently recalled him to Rome
and conferred a prætorship on him. But they showed him no gratitude
for having thus carried out the behests of Agrippina, in ignorance of
what he was commanding. Indignant but long suffering, they left it
to the Empress to determine the fate of the aged man, and the choice
of the new prince. Many rumours were current to the shame of the
unchaste and cruel daughter of Germanicus. They heeded them not, and
sang the praises of the illustrious woman to whom the Senecas owed
the termination of their misfortune and their rise in honours. As
will oftentimes happen, their convictions were in harmony with their
interests. A painful experience of public life had left unshaken their
trust in the _régime_ established by the divine Augustus, a _régime_
placed on a firmer basis by Tiberius, and under which they filled high
positions. They were reckoning on a new master to redress the evils
engendered by the masters of the Empire.

Gallio produced from the folds of his toga a roll of papyrus.

“Dear friends,” he said, “I have learnt this morning, through letters
from Rome, that our young prince has married Octavia, the daughter of
Cæsar.”

A murmur of approval greeted the news.

“We should indeed,” continued Gallio, “congratulate ourselves over
a union, by virtue of which the prince, combining with his former
qualifications those of husband and of son-in-law, becomes henceforth
the equal of Britannicus. My brother Seneca never ceases praising in
his letters to me the eloquence and gentleness of his pupil who sheds
lustre on his youth by pleading before the Senate in the presence of
the Emperor. He has not yet completed his sixteenth year, yet he has
already won the cases of three unfortunate or guilty cities--Ilion,
Bolonia, and Apamea.”

“He has not then,” asked Lucius Cassius, “inherited the evil
disposition of the Domitians, his ancestors?”

“Indeed he has not,” replied Gallio. “It is Germanicus who lives anew
in him.”

Annæus Mela, who was not looked upon as a sycophant, joined in the
praise of the son of Agrippina. His praises appeared affecting and
sincere, since he pledged them, so to speak, on the head of his son,
who was still of tender age.

“Nero is chaste, modest, of a kindly disposition, and religious. My
little Lucan, who is dearer to me than my eyes, was his play- and
school-mate. Together they practised declamation in the Greek and Latin
languages. Together they attempted to indite verse. Never did Nero, in
the course of these contests of skill at versification, manifest the
slightest symptom of jealousy. Quite the contrary, he enjoyed praising
his rival’s verses, which, in spite of his tender age, revealed traces
here and there of a consuming energy. He sometimes seemed happy to be
surpassed by the nephew of his teacher. Such was the charming modesty
of the prince of youth! Poets will some day compare the friendship of
Nero and Lucan with that of Euryalus and Nisus.”

“Nero,” the proconsul went on to say, “displays with the ardour of
youth a gentle and merciful spirit. Time will but strengthen such
virtues.

“Claudius, when adopting him, has wisely acquiesced in the hope
expressed by the Senate and the wish of the people. In so doing, he has
removed from the Imperial succession a child overwhelmed by the shame
of his mother, and has now, by giving Octavia to Nero, secured the
accession of a youthful Cæsar whom Rome will delight in. The respectful
son of an honoured mother, the zealous disciple of a philosopher, Nero,
whose adolescence is illumined with the most agreeable qualities, Nero,
our hope and the hope of the world, will remember, when clad in purple,
the teachings of the Portico, and will rule the universe with justice
and moderation.”

“We welcome the omen,” remarked Lollius. “May an era of happiness dawn
upon the human race!”

“’Tis difficult to predict the future,” said Gallio. “Still, we
experience no doubts regarding the eternity of the City. The oracles
have promised Rome an empire without end, and it would be sacrilegious
not to put our faith in the gods. Shall I reveal to you my fondest
hope? I joyfully expect the time when peace will reign for ever on the
earth, following upon the chastising of the Parthians. Yes indeed, we
may, without fear of deceiving ourselves, herald the end of war so
hated by mothers. Who is there to disturb the Roman peace henceforth?
Our eagles have spread to the confines of the universe. All the nations
have experienced our strength and our mercy. The Arab, the Sabæan,
the dweller on the slopes of the Hæmus, the Sarmatian who quenches
his thirst with the blood of his steed, the Sygambri of the curly
locks, the woolly-headed Ethiopian, all come in hordes to worship Rome
their protectress. Whence would new barbarians spring? Is it likely
that the icy plains of the North or the burning sands of Libya hold
in store enemies of the Roman nation? All Barbarians, won over to
our friendship, will lay down their arms, and Rome, the white-haired
great-grandmother, tranquil in her old age, will see the nations
respectfully grouped about her as her adopted children, dwelling in
harmony and love.”

All signified their approval of the foregoing sentiments, excepting
Cassius, who shook his head in disagreement.

He felt a pride in his military ancestry while the glory of arms, so
greatly extolled by poets and rhetors, kindled his enthusiasm.

“I doubt, my friend Gallio,” he commented, “that nations will ever
cease to hate and fear one another. To tell the truth, I should not
desire such a consummation. Did war cease, what would become of
strength of character, grandeur of soul, and love of country? Courage
and devotion would be virtues out of date.”

“Rest assured, Lucius,” said Gallio, “that when men shall cease to
conquer one another, they will strive to subdue their own selves. That
is the most virtuous attempt they can make, and the most noble use
to which they can put their bravery and magnanimity. Yes indeed, the
august mother whose wrinkles and whose hairs, blanched by centuries, we
worship, Rome, will establish universal peace. Then shall the enjoyment
of life be realised. Life under certain conditions is worth living.
Life is a tiny flame between two infinite shadows; ’tis our share of
the divine essence. During the term of his life, a man is similar to
the gods.”

While Gallio was thus discoursing, a dove perched itself on the
shoulder of the Venus, whose marble contours gleamed among the myrtles.

“My dear Gallio,” said Lollius with a smile, “the bird of Aphrodite
takes delight in thy words. They are gentle and full of gracefulness.”

A slave approached, bearing cool wine, and the friends of the proconsul
discoursed of the gods. Apollodorus was of opinion that it was not easy
to grasp their nature. Lollius doubted their very existence.

“When thunder peals,” he said, “it all depends upon the philosopher
whether it is the cloud or the god who has thundered.”

Cassius, however, did not countenance such thoughtless arguments. He
believed in the gods of the Republic. While entertaining doubts as to
the extent of their providence, he asserted their existence, as he
did not wish to differ from humanity on an essential point. And to
support his belief in the faith of his ancestors, he had recourse to an
argument he had learnt from the Greeks.

“The gods exist,” he said. “Men have formed their idea of what they are
like. Now, it is impossible to conceive an image not based on reality.
How would it be possible to see Minerva, Neptune, and Mercury, were
there neither Mercury, nor Neptune, nor Minerva?”

“You have convinced me,” said Lollius mockingly. “The old woman who
sells honey-cakes in the Forum, outside the basilica, has seen the
god Typhon, he with the shaggy head of an ass, and a monster belly.
He threw her on her back, threw her clothes over her ears, chastised
her while keeping time to each resounding blow, and left her for dead,
after polluting her in a disgusting fashion. She has herself told how,
even as Antiope, she had been favoured with the visit of an immortal
god. It is certain that the god Typhon exists, since he committed an
outrage on an old cake-selling hag.”

“In spite of thy mockery, Marcus, I do not doubt the existence of the
gods,” resumed Cassius. “And I believe that they enjoy a human form,
since it is under that form that they always show themselves to us,
whether we slumber or whether we are awake.”

“It would be better,” remarked Apollodorus, “to say that men possess
the divine form, since the gods existed before them.”

“My dear Apollodorus,” exclaimed Lollius. “You forget that Diana was
first worshipped under the form of a tree, and that several important
gods have the shape of an unhewn stone. Cybele is represented, not as a
woman should be, with two breasts, but with several teats like a bitch
or a sow. The sun is a god, but being too hot to assume the human form,
he has taken the shape of a ball; he is a round god.”

Annæus Mela gently censured this academic jesting.

“All that is related about the gods,” he said, “should not be taken
literally. The vulgar herd calls wheat Ceres, and wine Bacchus. But
where is to be found the man crazy enough to believe that he drinks and
eats a god? Let us indulge in a more exalted knowledge of the divine
nature. The gods are but the several parts of nature, and they are all
lost in one god, who is nature in its entirety.”

The proconsul signified his approval of the words of his brother, and
speaking in a serious strain, defined the attributes of divinity.

“God is the soul of the world; this soul spreads to all parts of the
universe, infusing motion and life into it. This soul, a creative
flame, penetrating the inert mass of matter, gave shape to the world,
governing and preserving it. Divinity, an active force, is essentially
good. The matter which it has put to good use, being inert and passive,
is bad in certain of its parts. God has been powerless to change its
nature. This explains the origin of the evil in the world. Our souls
are particles of the divine fire into which they will some day be
merged. Consequently, God is within us and he dwells in particular in
the virtuous man whose soul is not hampered with gross materialism.
This wise man, in whom God dwells, is God’s equal. He should not
implore him, but contain him within himself. And what madness it
is to pray to God! What an act of impiety it is to petition him!
It is tantamount to believing that it is possible to enlighten his
intelligence, to change his heart, and to persuade him to mend his
behaviour. It is displaying ignorance of the necessity governing his
immutable wisdom. He is subjected to Destiny, or, to be more accurate,
he is Destiny. His ways are laws to which he is like ourselves
subjected. For once that he commands, he obeys for ever. Free and
powerful in his submission, it is to himself that he shows obedience.
All the happenings in the world are the manifestations of sovereign
intentions originating with himself. His helplessness against himself
is infinite.”

Gallio’s speech was applauded by his hearers. Apollodorus, however,
craved permission to submit a few objections.

“You are right, Gallio,” he said, “when you believe that Jupiter is
at the mercy of Anankè and I hold with you that Anankè is the first
among the immortal goddesses. But it appears to me that your god,
above all admirable in his compass and his perpetuity, had better
intentions than luck when he created the world, since he found nothing
better wherewith to knead it than a rebellious and ingrate substance,
and that the material betrays the workman. I cannot but feel for him
over his discomfiture. The potters of Athens are more fortunate. They
procure, for the purpose of making vases, a delicate and plastic clay
which readily takes and preserves the contours they give it. Hence do
their goblets and amphoræ present an agreeable form. Their curves are
graceful, and the painter limns with ease figures pleasing to the
eye, such as old Silenus bestriding his ass, the toilet of Aphrodite,
and the chaste Amazons. When I come to think of it, Gallio, I am of
the opinion that if your god was less fortunate than the potters of
Athens, ’tis for the reason that he lacked wisdom and that he was a
poor artisan. The material at his disposal was not of the best. Still,
it was not devoid of all serviceable properties, as you have yourself
confessed. Nothing is absolutely good or absolutely bad. A thing may be
bad if put to a certain use, while it may be excellent in some other.
It would be waste of time to plant olive-trees in the clay used in
fashioning amphoræ. The tree of Pallas would not grow in the light and
pure soil of which are made the beautiful vases which our victorious
athletes receive, blushing the while with pride and modesty. It seems
to me, Gallio, that your god, when fashioning the world with a material
that was not suitable for the undertaking, was guilty of the mistake
which a vine-dresser of Megara would be committing, were he to plant
a vine in modelling clay, or were some worker in ceramics to select
for the making of amphoræ the stony soil which affords nutriment to
the clusters of the grape-vine. Your god, you say, made the universe.
He ought certainly to have given form to some other thing, in order
to make suitable use of his material. Since the substance, as you
assert, proved rebellious to him, either through its inherent inertia,
or through some other bad quality, should he have persisted in putting
it to a use it could not respond to, and, as the saying goes, carve
his bow out of a cypress? The secret of industry does not consist in
accomplishing much, but in doing good work. Why did he not content
himself with creating some small thing, say a gnat, or a drop of water,
but finish it to perfection?

“I might add further remarks about your god, Gallio, and ask you, for
instance, if you do not entertain a fear that from his constant rubbing
against matter, he may wear out, just as a millstone becomes worn in
the long run in the course of grinding wheat. But such questions are
not to be solved in a hurry, and the time of a proconsul is precious.
Permit me at least to say to you that you are not justified in
believing that your god rules and preserves the world, since, according
to your own admission, he deprived himself of intelligence after having
become acquainted with all things; of will-power, after having willed
all things, and of power, following upon his ability to do what he
saw fit. Herein again lay, on his part, a serious mistake, for he was
thus an instrument in depriving himself of the means of correcting his
imperfect work. So far as I am concerned, I am inclined to believe that
god is in reality, not the one you have conceived, but indeed the
matter he discovered on a certain day, and which the Greeks have styled
chaos. You are mistaken in your belief that matter is inert. It is ever
in motion, and its perpetual activity keeps life a-going throughout the
universe.”

Thus spake the philosopher Apollodorus. Gallio, who had listened to
his speech with some degree of impatience, denied that he had fallen a
victim to the mistakes and contradictions with which the Greek charged
him. But he failed in refuting successfully the arguments of his
opponent, as his intellect was not a subtle one and because he demanded
principally of philosophy the means of rendering men virtuous, and
because he was interested in useful truths only.

“Try to grasp, Apollodorus,” he said, “that God is none other than
nature. Nature and himself are one. God and Nature are the two names of
a single being, just as Novatus and Gallio designate one and the same
man. God, if you prefer, is divine reason commingling with the earth.
You need have no fear that he will wear out through this amalgamation,
since his tenuous substance participates of the fire which consumes all
matter while remaining unchanged.

“But should, nevertheless,” proceeded Gallio, “my doctrine embrace
ill-assorted ideas, do not blame me for it, my dear Apollodorus, but
rather give me praise because I suffer a few contradictions to find
a place in my mind. Were I not conciliatory as regards my own ideas,
were I to confer upon a single system an exclusive preference, I could
no longer tolerate the freedom of every opinion; having destroyed my
own freedom of thought, I could not readily tolerate it in the case
of others, and I should forfeit the respect due to every doctrine
established or professed by a sincere man. The gods forbid that I
should see my opinion prevail to the exclusion of any other, and
exercise an absolute sway on other minds. Conjure up a picture, my
dear friends, of the state of manners and morals, were a sufficient
number of men firmly to believe that they were the sole possessors
of the truth, if, by some impossible chance, they were thoroughly
agreed as to that truth. A too narrow piety among the Athenians, who
are nevertheless full of wisdom and of doubt, was the cause of the
banishment of Anaxagoras and of the death of Socrates. What would
happen were millions of men enslaved by one solitary idea concerning
the nature of the gods? The genius of the Greeks and the prudence of
our ancestors made allowance for doubt, and tolerated the worship of
Jupiter under several names. No sooner should a powerful sect come on
this ailing earth and proclaim that Jupiter has one name only, than
blood would flow the world over, and no longer would there be but
one Caius whose madness should threaten the human race with death.
All the men of such a sect would be so many Caiuses. They would face
death for a name. For a name, they would kill, since it is rather in
the nature of men to kill than to die on behalf of what seems to them
true and most excellent. Hence it is better to base public order on
the diversity of opinions, than to seek to establish it on a universal
consent to one and the same belief. A like unanimous consent could
never be realised, and in seeking to obtain it, men would become stupid
and maddened. For, indeed, the most patent truth is but a vain jangle
of words to the men on whom it is attempted to impose it. You would
compel me to believe a thing which you understand, but which passes my
understanding. You would thus be forcing upon me not a thing that is
intelligible, but one that is incomprehensible. And I am nearer you
when holding a different belief, one which I understand. For, in that
case, both of us are making use of our reason, and we both possess an
intelligent comprehension of our own belief.”

“Enough of all this,” remarked Lollius. “Educated men will never
combine for the purpose of stifling all other doctrines to the
advantage of a single one. As to the vulgar herd, who cares to teach
it that Jupiter has six hundred names, or a single one?”

Cassius, slow of utterance, and of a serious turn of mind, spoke next.

“Beware, Gallio,” he said, “lest the existence of God, such as
expounded by you, be not in contradiction with the beliefs of our
forefathers. It matters little, after all, whether your arguments are
better or worse than those of Apollodorus. What we have to consider
is the fatherland. To its religion does Rome owe her virtues and her
power. To destroy our gods is to compass our own destruction.”

“You need not fear, my friend,” rejoined Gallio with some show of
animation, “have no fear, I repeat, that I deny in an insolent spirit
the heavenly protectors of the Empire. The only divinity which the
philosophers acknowledge embodies within itself all the gods, just as
humanity embraces all men. The gods whose worship was instituted by the
wisdom of our forefathers, Jupiter, Juno, Mars, Minerva, Quirinus, and
Hercules, constitute the most august parts of the universal providence,
and no less than the whole do these parts exist. No, indeed, I am not
an impious man, nor inimical to the laws. None respects the sacred
things more than Gallio.”

No one seemed disposed to dispute these ideas. Thereupon Lollius,
bringing the conversation back to its starting-point, remarked:

“We have been seeking to penetrate the veil of the future. What are
man’s destinies, according to you, my friends, after his demise?”

In reply to this question, Annæus Mela promised immortality to heroes
and wise men, while denying it to the common of mankind.

“It passes belief,” he said, “that misers, gluttons, and mean-spirited
men should possess an immortal soul. Could so singular a privilege
be the portion of coarse and silly oafs? I cannot entertain such a
thought. It would be an insult to the majority of the gods to believe
that they have decreed the immortality of the boor who wots only of his
goats and cheeses, or of the freedman, richer than Crœsus, who had no
other cares in the world than to check the accounts of his stewards.
Why, good gods, should they be provided with a soul? What sort of a
figure would they present among heroes and wise men in the Elysian
fields? These wretches, like so many others here below, are incapable
of realising humanity’s short-spanned life. How could they realise a
life of longer duration? Vulgar souls are snuffed out at the hour of
death, or they may for a while whirl about our globe, to vanish in the
dense strata of the atmosphere. Virtue only, by making man the equal of
the gods, makes them participate in their immortality. To quote the
poet:

    “‘Illustrious virtue never descends into the Stygian shades.
    Lead a hero’s life, and the fates will not consign thee to the
    pitiless river of forgetfulness. When comes thy last day, glory
    will open to thee the path of heaven.’

“Let us realise our condition. We must all die, and all that we are
must die. The man of shining virtue simply escapes the common destiny
by becoming god, and by obtaining his admission into Olympus among the
Heroes and the Gods.”

“But he is not conscious of his own apotheosis,” said Marcus Lollius.
“There does not exist upon earth a slave or a barbarian who is not
aware that Augustus is a god. But Augustus knows it not. Hence it is
that our Cæsars journey reluctantly towards the constellations, and
even now we see Claudius near with blanched face these shadowy honours.”

Gallio shook his head, and remarked, “The poet Euripides has said:

    “‘We love the life which is revealed unto us upon earth,
    since we know of no other.’

“Everything that is related concerning the dead is open to doubt, and
is bound up with fables and falsehoods. Nevertheless, I believe that
virtuous men attain an immortality of which they are fully cognisant.
Let it be clearly understood that they achieve it by their own efforts,
and not as a recompense conferred by the gods. By what right should
the immortal gods degrade a virtuous man to the extent of rewarding
him? The leading of a blameless life is its own reward, and no prize is
there worthy of virtue, which is its own reward. Let us leave to vulgar
souls, that they may thereby sustain their wretched fortitude, the
dread of punishment, and the hope of a reward. Let us love virtue for
its own sake. Gallio, if what the poets tell of the infernal regions
be true, if after your death you are arraigned before the tribunal of
Minos, you may say to him: “Minos shall not judge me. By my actions
have I been judged.””

“How,” inquired Apollodorus the philosopher, “can the gods give to men
an immortality they themselves do not enjoy?”

Apollodorus, indeed, did not believe in the immortality of the gods, or
rather that their sway over the world should be exercised for all time.

He proceeded to develop the reasons for his belief.

“The reign of Jupiter,” he said, “began after the Golden Age. We know
through the traditions preserved for us by the poets that the son of
Saturn succeeded to his father in the governing of the world. Now,
everything that had a beginning must have an end. It is foolish to
suppose that anything finite in one part can be infinite in another. It
would then become necessary to call it finite and infinite as a whole,
which would be absurd. Anything possessed of an extreme point can be
measured from that point itself, and could not in any way cease to be
measured at any point of its extent, without changing its nature, and
the proper of what is measurable is to be comprised between two extreme
points. We may therefore make up our minds that the reign of Jupiter
will end just as did that of Saturn. As Æschylus has said:

    “‘Jupiter is subordinate to Anankè. He cannot escape his
    fate.’”

Gallio thought the same, for reasons derived from the observation of
nature.

“I consider with you, Apollodorus, that the reigns of the gods are
not immortal, and the observation of the celestial phenomena inclines
me to this belief. The heavens, as well as the earth, are subject
to corruption, and the divine palaces, liable to ruin just as the
dwellings of mankind, crumble under the weight of the centuries. I have
seen stones fall from the aerial regions. They were blackened and
corroded by fire, and bore testimony to a celestial conflagration.

“The bodies of the gods, Apollodorus, are not any more exempt from
injury than their dwellings. If it be true, as Homer teaches, that the
gods, inhabitants of Olympus, impregnate the flanks of goddesses and
mortal women, it is assuredly because they are not themselves immortal,
in spite of their life’s span being greater than that of mankind,
and hence it is patent that fate subjects them to the necessity of
transmitting a life which they may not enjoy for ever.

“In truth,” said Lollius, “it is hardly to be conceived that immortals
should produce children in the same way as human beings and animals,
or even that they should possess organs adapted to such a purpose. But
perhaps the loves of the gods owe their origin to the mendacity of the
poets.”

Apollodorus persisted in his assertion that the reign of Jupiter
would some day cease, supporting his opinion with subtile reasons. He
prophesied that Prometheus would succeed the son of Saturn.

“Prometheus,” replied Gallio, “was set free by Hercules with the
consent of Jupiter, and he enjoys in Olympus the happiness he owes to
his foresight and to his love of mankind. Nothing will ever happen to
change his happy fate.”

Apollodorus asked him:

“Who then, according to you, Gallio, shall inherit the thunder which
sets the world a-quaking?”

“Although it may seem audacious to answer this question,” replied
Gallio, “I think I am competent to do so, and to name Jove’s successor.”

As he spoke, an officer of the basilica, whose duty it was to call
cases, approached him, and informed him that some suitors were waiting
for him in court.

The proconsul asked if the matter was one of paramount importance.

“It is a most petty case, Gallio,” replied the officer of the basilica.
“A man from the harbour of Cenchreæ has just dragged a stranger before
your tribunal. They are both Jews and of humble condition. They are
quarrelling over some barbarian custom or some gross superstition, as
is the wont of Syrians. Here is the minute of their case. It is all
Punic to the clerk who wrote it.

“The plaintiff sets forth, Gallio, that he is the head of the assembly
of the Jews or, as one says in Greek, of the synagogue, and he begs
justice of you against a man from Tarsus, who, recently settled at
Cenchreæ, goes every Saturday to the synagogue, for the purpose of
speaking against the Jewish law. ‘It is a scandal and an abomination,
which thou shalt put an end to,’ says the plaintiff, and he clamours
for the integrity of the privileges belonging to the children of
Israel. The defendant claims for all those who believe his teachings
adoption and incorporation into the family of a man named Abraham, and
he threatens the plaintiff with the divine ire. You see, Gallio, that
the case is a petty and ambiguous one. It rests with you to decide
whether you will take the case yourself, or whether you will leave it
to be judged by a lesser magistrate.”

The proconsul’s friends begged him not to disturb himself for so
miserable an affair.

“I make it my duty,” he said in response to their prayers, “to follow
in this respect the rules laid down by the divine Augustus. I must
therefore try personally, not only important cases, but also smaller
ones, when the jurisprudence concerning them has not been determined.
Certain light cases recur daily and are of importance, if only for
their frequency. It is meet that I should personally try one of each
class. A judgment rendered by a proconsul serves as an example, and
establishes a precedent in law.”

“You deserve praise, Gallio,” said Lollius, “for the zeal you display
in the fulfilment of your consular duties. But, acquainted as I am with
your wisdom, I doubt whether it is agreeable for you to render justice.
That which men honour with this title is really an administration of
base prudence and of cruel revenge. Human laws are the daughters of
fear and anger.”

Gallio protested feebly against this definition. He did not admit that
human laws bore the character of real justice, saying:

“The punishment of crime consists in its commission. The penalty
added thereto by the laws is superfluous, and does not fit the crime.
However, since through the fault of mankind laws there are, we should
apply them equitably.”

Thereupon he told the officer of the court that he would proceed to the
tribunal very shortly, and, turning towards his friends, he said:

“To speak truly, I have a special reason for looking into this case
with my own eyes. I must not neglect any opportunity of keeping an eye
on these Jews of Cenchreæ, a turbulent, rancorous race, which shows
contempt for the laws, and which it is not easy to hold in check. If
ever the peace of Corinth should be troubled, it will be by them. This
port, where all the ships of the East come to anchor, conceals amid a
congested mass of warehouses and taverns, a countless horde of thieves,
eunuchs, soothsayers, sorcerers, lepers, desecraters of graves, and
assassins. It is the haunt of every abomination and of every form of
superstition. Isis, Eschmoun, the Phœnician Venus, and the god of the
Jews, are all worshipped there. I am alarmed at seeing those unclean
Jews multiply, rather in the way of fishes than in that of mankind.
They swarm about the miry streets of the harbour like crabs under the
rocks.”

“What is more dreadful is that they infest Rome to a like extent,”
exclaimed Lucius Cassius. “To great Pompey’s own door must be laid
the crime of introducing this plague of leprosy into the City. He it
was who committed the wrong of not treating as did our ancestors the
prisoners he brought from Judæa for his triumphal entry into the City,
and they have peopled the right bank of the Tiber with their base
spawn. Dwelling about the base of the Janiculum, amid the tanneries,
the gut-works, and the fermenting-troughs, in the suburbs whither
flock all the abominations and horrors of the world, they earn their
livelihood at the vilest of trades, unloading lighters, selling rags
and refuse, and exchanging matches for broken glasses. Their women tell
fortunes in the houses of the wealthy; their children beg from the
frequenters of Egeria’s groves. As you rightly said, Gallio, hostile to
the human race and to themselves, they are ever fomenting sedition. A
few years back, the followers of a certain Chrestus or Cherestus raised
bloody riots among the Jews. The Porta Portuensis was put to fire and
sword, and Cæsar was compelled to exercise severe repression, in spite
of his forbearance. He expelled from Rome the leaders of the movement.”

“Full well do I know it,” said Gallio. “Several of these exiles came to
Cenchreæ, among others a Jew and a Jewess from the Pontus, who still
dwell there, following some humble trade. I believe that they weave
the coarse stuffs of Cilicia. I have not learnt anything noteworthy
in regard to the partisans of Chrestus. As to Chrestus himself, I am
ignorant of what has become of him, and whether he is still of this
world.”

“I am as ignorant on this score as you are, Gallio,” resumed Lucius
Cassius, “and no one will ever know it. These vile wretches do not so
much as attain celebrity in the annals of crime. Moreover, there are so
many slaves of the name of Chrestus that it would be no easy matter to
distinguish a particular one amid the throng.

“It is but a trifling matter that the Jews should cause tumult within
the low purlieus where their number and their lowliness protect
them from supervision. They swarm through the city, they ingratiate
themselves into families, and are everywhere a source of trouble. They
shout in the Forum on behalf of the agitators who pay them, and these
despicable foreigners incite the citizens to a hatred of one another.
Too long have we endured their presence in popular assemblages, and
for a long time now have public speakers avoided running counter to the
opinion of these wretches, for fear of their insults. Obstinate in the
observance of their barbarian law, they wish to subject others to it,
and they find adepts among the Asiatics, and even among the Greeks.
And, what is hardly to be credited, they impose their customs on the
Latins themselves. There are, in the City, whole quarters where all the
shops are closed on their Sabbath day. Oh the shame of Rome! And, while
corrupting the lowly folk among whom they dwell, their kings, admitted
into Cæsar’s palace, insolently practise their superstitions, and
set to all citizens a detestable and noted example. Thus do the Jews
inoculate Italy on all sides with an oriental venom.”

Annæus Mela, who had travelled over the whole of the Roman world,
sought to make his friends realise the extent of the evil they deplored.

“The Jews corrupt the whole world,” he said. “There is not a Greek
city, there are hardly any barbarian towns where work does not cease
on the seventh day, where lamps are not lit, where their keeping of
fast-days is not followed, and where the abstaining from the flesh of
certain animals is not observed in imitation of them.

“I have met in Alexandria an aged Jew not lacking in intelligence, who
was even versed in Greek literature. He rejoiced at the progress of
his religion in the Empire. ‘In proportion to the knowledge foreigners
acquire of our laws,’ he told me, ‘do they find them pleasant, and they
conform readily to them, both Romans and Greeks, those who dwell on
the mainland and the people of the isles, Eastern and Western nations,
Europe and Asia.’ The ancient one spoke perhaps with some degree of
exaggeration. Still one sees a number of Greeks yielding to the beliefs
of the Jews.”

Apollodorus sharply denied such to be the case.

“The Greeks who judaise,” he said, “are not to be met with except
amid the dregs of the populace, and among the barbarians wandering
about Greece, as brigands and tramps. The followers of the Stammerer
may, however, have persuaded some few ignorant Greeks, by inducing
them to believe that the ideas of Plato are to be found in the Hebrew
scriptures. Such is the lie which they strive to spread.”

“It is a fact,” replied Gallio, “that the Jews recognise an only,
invisible, almighty god, who has created the earth. But they are far
from worshipping him with wisdom. They publicly proclaim that this god
is the enemy of all that is not Jewish, and that he will not tolerate
in his temple either the effigies of the other gods, or the statue of
Cæsar, or his own images. They regard as impious those who fashion
out of perishable matter a god the image of man. Various reasons, some
of them good and in harmony with the ideas which we conceive in regard
to the divine providence, are adduced why this god should not be given
expression to in marble or in bronze. But what can be thought, dear
Apollodorus, of a god sufficiently inimical to the Republic that he
will not admit in his sanctuary the statues of the Prince? How conceive
a god who takes offence at the honours rendered to other gods? And
what opinion can one have of a nation which credits its gods with like
sentiments! The Jews look upon the gods of the Latins, Greeks and
Barbarians as hostile gods, and they carry superstition to the point of
believing that they possess a full and complete knowledge of God, one
to which nothing can be added, and from which nothing can be subtracted.

“As you are aware, my dear friends, it is not sufficient to tolerate
every religion; we should honour them all, believe that all are sacred,
that they are all coequal in the sincerity of those professing them,
and that similar to arrows shot from various points towards the same
goal, they all meet in the bosom of God. Alone the religion which only
tolerates itself, cannot be endured. Were it to be permitted to spread,
it would absorb all others. Nay, so unsociable a religion is not a
religion, but rather an abligion, and no longer a bond that unites
pious men, but one severing that sacred bond. It is the most impious
of things. Can, indeed, a greater insult be offered to the deity than
to worship it under a particular form, while at one and the same time
dooming it to execration under all the other forms it assumes in the
eyes of men?

“What! Because I sacrifice to Jupiter crowned with a bushel, I am
to forbid a foreigner from sacrificing to a Jupiter whose head of
hair, similar to the flower of the hyacinth, drops uncrowned over his
shoulders; and that, impious man that I should be, I should still
consider myself a worshipper of Jupiter! No, by all means no! The
religious man bound to the immortal gods is equally bound to all men by
the religion which embraces both the earth and the heavens. Odious is
the error of the Jews who believe they are pious in that they worship
their god alone!”

“They suffer themselves to be circumcised in his honour,” spoke Annæus
Mela. “In order that this mutilation should not be noticed, it is
necessary, when frequenting the public baths, for them to conceal that
which should neither be made a display of, nor covered as a thing of
shame. For it is alike ridiculous for a man to pride himself on, or
to be ashamed of, what he shares in common with all men. We have good
cause to dread, my friends, the progress of Judaic customs in the
Empire. There is, however, no cause to fear that Romans and Greeks will
adopt circumcision. It passes belief that this custom is likely to make
its way among the Barbarians who, however, would feel the disgrace of
it to a lesser degree, since they are, for the greater part, absurd
enough to reckon as disgraceful for a man to appear before his fellow
men in a state of nudity.”

“While I think of it!” exclaimed Lollius. “When our gentle Canidia,
the flower of the matrons of the Esquiline, sends her beautiful slaves
to the hot baths, she compels them to wear drawers, as she grudges
everybody even a view of what is most dear to her about their bodies.
By Pollux, she will be the cause of their being taken for Jews, an
insulting supposition, even for a slave.”

Lucius Cassius resumed, revealing the irritation which consumed him:

“I cannot say whether the Jewish folly will overtake the whole world.
But it is past endurance that this madness should spread among the
ignorant, that it should be tolerated in the Empire, that this fœtid
race, which has descended to every form of turpitude, absurd and
sordid in its manners and customs, impious and villainous in its laws,
and execrated by the immortal gods, should be suffered to exist. The
obscene Syrian is corrupting the City of Rome. We have cast aside with
contempt our ancient usages, and the salutary methods of discipline
of our ancestors. We no longer serve these masters of the earth, who
conquered it for us. Which of us still believes in the haruspices? Who
is there with any respect for the augurs? Who shows reverence to Mars
and the divine Twins? Oh the sad neglect of our religious duties! Italy
has repudiated her indigenous gods, and her tutelary genii. She is
henceforth on all sides at the mercy of foreign superstitions, and is
handed over defenceless to the impure horde of oriental priests. Alas,
did Rome conquer the world only to be conquered by the Jews? Warnings
have assuredly not been lacking. The overflowing of the Tiber and the
grain famine are certainly not doubtful manifestations of the divine
ire. No day passes without its sinister presage. The earth quakes, the
sun is veiled, while lightning flashes in a clear sky. Wonders follow
upon wonders. Birds of ill omen have been seen to perch on the summit
of the Capitol. An ox has been heard to speak on the Etruscan shore.
Women have brought forth monsters; a wailing voice has sounded amid the
recreations of the theatre. The statue of Victory has dropped the reins
of her chariot.”

“The hosts of the celestial palaces,” remarked Lollius, “have strange
ways of making themselves heard. If they desire a little more incense,
or sigh for a few more fat offerings, let them say so plainly, instead
of expressing their wishes by means of thunder, clouds, crows, bronze
statues, and two-headed children. Moreover, you must admit, Lucius,
theirs is a far too one-sided part when they presage the evils
threatening us, since, in the natural course of things, not a day goes
by but what brings some individual or public misfortune.”

Gallio exhibited distress at the sorrows of Cassius.

“Claudius,” he remarked, “Claudius, although he is always dozing, has
deeply felt this great peril. He has complained to the Senate of the
contempt into which ancient usages have been suffered to fall. Alarmed
at the progress of foreign superstitions, the Senate has, on his
recommendation, re-established haruspices. But it is not sufficient
that the observance of the ceremonial rites of worship should be
restored; rather is it necessary once more to instil into men’s hearts
their primitive purity. The souls of virtuous men constitute the proper
shrine of the gods in this world. Give a home within your hearts to
past virtues once more, simplicity, good faith, love of the public
welfare, and the gods will immediately re-enter them. You shall then
yourselves be temples and altars.”

He spoke, and, taking leave of his friends, entered his litter, which,
for some little time past, had been awaiting him near a clump of
myrtle-bushes to convey him to the tribunal.

His friends had risen from their seats, and leaving the grounds,
followed leisurely behind him under a double portico, so disposed as to
afford shadow at all hours of the day, and leading from the walls of
the villa to the basilica where the proconsul dispensed justice.

By the way, Lucius Cassius expressed to Mela his regret at the oblivion
into which the ancient methods of discipline had fallen.

Marcus Lollius, placing a hand on the shoulder of Apollodorus, said:

“It seems to me that neither our gentle Gallio nor Mela, nor even
Cassius, have stated their reasons for their deep hatred of the Jews.
I think I know, and I am going to tell you, most dear Apollodorus.
The Romans who offer up to the gods a white sow ornamented with white
bands, execrate the Jews who refuse to partake of pork. It is not in
vain that the fates sent to the pious Æneas a white female boar as a
presage. Had the gods not studded with oaks the wild realms of Evander
and Turnus, Rome would not be to-day the mistress of the world. The
acorns of Latium fattened the swine whose flesh has alone appeased
the insatiable hunger of the magnanimous descendants of Remus. Our
Italians, whose bodies are built on boars and pigs, feel offended
at the proud abstinence of the Jews, who persist in casting aside as
unclean victuals the fat sounders, beloved of old Cato, which furnish
food to the masters of the Universe.”

Thus discoursing pleasantly, and enjoying the kindly shade, the four
friends reached the furthermost end of the portico, when of a sudden
the Forum appeared before them in a glitter of light.

At that early hour, it was all astir with the coming and going of
noisy crowds. In the centre of the square stood a bronze Minerva on a
pedestal on which were sculptured the Muses, and to the right and to
the left stood a Mercury and a bronze Apollo, the work of Hermogenes of
Cythera. A Neptune with a green beard arose from the centre of a basin.
At the feet of the god, a dolphin vomited forth water.

The Forum was surrounded in all directions by monuments, the
high columns and the arches of which revealed the Roman style of
architecture. Facing the portico by way of which Mela and his friends
had come, the Propylæ, surmounted by two gilded chariots, formed the
boundary of the public square, and led, by way of marble steps, to the
broad and straight road of the harbour of Lechæum. On either side of
these heroic gates rose in kingly fashion the painted pediments of the
sanctuaries, the Pantheon, and the temple of Artemis of Ephesus. The
temple of Octavia, the sister of Augustus, dominated the Forum, and
looked upon the sea.

Between it and the basilica ran an insignificant little street. The
building rose over two stories of arcades supported by pillars flanked
with Doric half-columns forming a square. The Roman style, which
stamped its character upon all the other buildings of the city, was
patent. There remained of the pristine Corinth nothing but the calcined
ruins of an old temple.

The lower arcades of the basilica were open and served as shops
to sellers of fruit, vegetables, oil, wine and fried foods, to
bird-fanciers, jewellers, booksellers, and barbers. Money-changers sat
at little tables laden with gold and silver coins. From the gloomy
hollow of these stalls emerged shouts, laughter, hailings, the noise
of disputes, and pungent odours. On the marble steps, wherever their
slabs were tinted blue by the shade, loafers shook dice or tossed
knuckle-bones, suitors paced to and fro with anxious mien, sailors
gravely looked for the pleasures upon which they should squander
their wages, while quidnuncs read news from Rome written for them
by frivolous Greeks. Blended with this crowd of Corinthians and
foreigners, numerous blind beggars persistently obtruded themselves, as
well as callow and rouged youths, matchsellers and crippled sailors
from whose necks depended a picture of the wreck of their ships. Doves
flew in flocks from the roof of the basilica down to the large open
spaces on which the sun shone, and picked up grain between the cracks
of the heated flagstones.

A girl of twelve, dark and velvety as a pansy of Xanthus, placed on
the ground her little brother, as yet unable to walk, put beside him a
chipped bowl filled with porridge and a wooden spoon, saying to him:

“Eat, Comatas, eat and keep quiet, or that red horse will have you.”

Then, holding an obolus in her hand, she ran towards the fish-dealer,
whose wrinkled face and naked breast, the colour of saffron, appeared
amid baskets lined with seaweed.

While she was thus engaged, a dove hovering about the little Comatas
got its talons entangled in the child’s locks. The boy began to cry,
and to call his sister to his help, screaming in a voice choked with
sobs:

“Joessa! Joessa!”

But Joessa heard him not. She was rummaging in the old man’s baskets,
amid the fish and the shell-fish, for something that would improve the
taste of her stale bread. Naturally she did not pick out a peacock-fish
or a smaris, whose flesh is most delicate, but which cost money. She
brought away in the hollow of her gown, which she had tucked up, three
handfuls of sea-urchins and sticklebacks.

Meanwhile little Comatas, his mouth wide open, and drinking his own
tears, was still bawling:

“Joessa! Joessa!”

Unlike Jove’s eagle, the bird of Venus did not carry off little Comatas
into the glorious skies. It left him on the earth, taking with it in
its flight, between its pink talons, three golden hairs from his matted
locks.

The child, with cheeks glistening with tears and begrimed with dust,
clenching his wooden spoon in his tiny fists, was sobbing beside his
overturned bowl.

Annæus Mela, followed by his three friends, had reached the top of the
basilica’s steps. Alike heedless of the noise and stir of the idle
multitude, he was imparting information to Cassius in regard to the
future renovation of the universe.

“On a day determined by the gods,” he said, “the things existing
to-day, whose order and disposition claim our attention, will be
destroyed. Stars will clash with stars, all matters composing the
earth, the air, and the waters will be consumed in one conflagration.
Human souls, imperceptible _débris_ amid the universal destruction,
will be resolved anew into their primitive elements. An entirely new
world....”

As he uttered the words, Annæus Mela stumbled against a sleeper
stretched out in the shade. It was an old man who had artistically
gathered about his dust-covered body the ragged remnants of his cloak.
His wallet, his sandals, and his stick lay beside him.

The proconsul’s brother, ever courteous and kindly, even to men of the
lowliest class, was about to apologise, but the recumbent individual
did not allow him time to do so.

“Try and see where you put your feet, you brute,” he exclaimed, “and
give alms to the philosopher Posocharis.”

“I perceive a wallet and a stick,” smilingly replied the Roman, “but so
far I do not see any philosopher.”

Just as he was about to toss a piece of silver to Posocharis,
Apollodorus stayed his hand, saying:

“Do not give him anything, Annæus. It is not a philosopher; nay, not
even a man.”

“But I am one,” replied Mela, “if I give him money, and he is a man if
he takes this coin. For, alone among all animals, man does both these
things. And can you not see that for the sake of a small coin I satisfy
myself that I am a better man than he? Your master teaches that he who
gives is better than he who receives.”

Posocharis took the coin. Then he hurled coarse invectives at Annæus
Mela and his companions, stigmatising them as arrogant and as
debauchees, and referring them to the jugglers and harlots who walked
past them with undulating hips. Then, baring to the navel his hairy
body, and drawing over his face his tattered cloak, he once more
stretched himself out at full length on the pavement.

“Would it not interest you,” asked Lollius of his companions, “to hear
those Jews expound their dispute in the prætorium?”

They replied that they entertained no such curiosity, preferring to
stroll under the portico, while waiting for the proconsul, who would
doubtless not be long in coming out.

“I am with you, my friends,” said Lollius. “We shall not miss anything
very interesting.”

“Moreover,” he went on to say, “the Jews who have come from Cenchreæ to
accompany the suitors are not all in the basilica. Here comes one who
is recognisable by his beaked nose and his forked beard. He is in as
fine a state of frenzy as Pythia herself.”

Lollius was pointing with both look and finger at a lean stranger,
poorly clad, who was vociferating under the portico, in the midst of a
railing mob.

“Men of Corinth, you place a vain trust in your wisdom, which is naught
but madness. You follow blindly the precepts of your philosophers who
teach you death, and not life. You do not observe the natural law, and
in order to punish you, God has delivered you unto unnatural vices....”

A sailor, who had just joined the group of spectators, recognised the
man, for, with a shrug of the shoulders, he muttered:

“Why, ’tis Stephanas, the Jew of Cenchreæ, who brings once more some
extraordinary piece of news from his trip to the skies, into which he
ascended, if we are to credit him.”

And Stephanas was teaching the people.

“The Christian is not bound by law and concupiscence. He is exempt from
damnation through the mercy of God, who sent his only son to assume a
sinful body, in order to destroy sin. But ye shall only be delivered
if, breaking with the flesh, you live according to the spirit.

“The Jews observe the laws, and believe that they are saved by their
works. But it is their faith which saves them, and not their works. Of
what use is it to them to be circumcised in fact, if their heart is
uncircumcised?

“Men of Corinth, glory in the faith, and ye shall be incorporated into
the family of Abraham.”

The mob was beginning to laugh and jeer at these obscure utterances.
Still the Jew continued prophesying in hollow tones. He was announcing
a great manifestation of wrath and the all-destroying fire which was to
consume the earth.

“And these things shall come to pass in my lifetime,” he cried, “and
I shall witness them with mine own eyes. The hour has come for us to
awaken from our sleep. The night has passed, and the day is dawning.
The Saints will rejoice in Heaven, and those who have not believed in
Jesus crucified shall perish.”

Then, promising the resurrection of the body, he invoked Anastasis,
amid the jeers of the hilarious crowd.

Just then, a leather-lunged man, Milo the baker, a member of the
Corinthian Senate, who for some time past had been listening to the Jew
with impatience, came up to him, took him by the arm, and shaking him
roughly said:

“Cease, you wretch, spouting idle words. All this is children’s fables
and nonsense fit to capture a woman’s mind. How canst thou, on the
strength of thy dreams, indulge in such foolery, casting aside all
that is beautiful, and taking pleasure in what is evil only, without
even deriving any advantage from thy hatred? Renounce your strange
phantasies, your perverse designs, your gloomy forebodings, lest a god
abandon you to the crows, to punish you for your imprecations against
this city and the Empire.”

The citizens applauded Milo’s speech.

“He speaks truly,” they shouted. “Those Syrians have but one design:
they seek to weaken our fatherland. They are the enemies of Cæsar.”

A number of them abstracted from the fruiterers’ stalls gourds and
locust-beans, others picked up oyster-shells, and flung them at the
apostle, who was still vaticinating.

Thrown down the steps of the portico, he wended his way through the
Forum, shouting, amid a storm of hooting, insults, and blows, pelted
with dirt, bleeding, and half naked:

“My Master has said it, we are the sweepings of the world.”

And he exulted in his joy.

The children pursued him on the Cenchreæ road, yelling.

“Anastasis! Anastasis!”

Posocharis was not sleeping. Hardly had the friends of the proconsul
gone away, when he raised himself upon his elbow. Seated on a step,
a short distance from him, the swarthy Joessa was crunching between
her teeth the shell of a sea-urchin. The cynic hailed her and showed
her the glittering piece of silver he had just received. Then, having
readjusted his rags and tatters, he rose, slipped his feet into his
sandals, picked up his stick and wallet, and went down the steps.
Joessa went up to him, relieved him of his wallet full of holes, which
she gravely placed on her shoulder, as if to carry it as an offering
to the august Cypris, and followed the old man.

Apollodorus saw them taking the Cenchreæ road with the object of
reaching the cemetery of the slaves, and the place of execution
conspicuous from afar by the swarms of crows which hovered over the
crosses. The philosopher and the young girl knew there a clump of
arbutus always deserted, and favourable to dalliance with Eros.

At the sight of this, Apollodorus, pulling Mela by the flap of his
toga, remarked:

“Just look. No sooner has that cur received your alms than he decoys a
child, in order to mate with her.”

“Which goes to prove,” answered Mela, “that I gave money to the kind of
man who knows full well what to do with it.”

Meanwhile, the brat Comatas, squatting on the heated flagstone and
sucking his thumbs, was laughing at the sight of a pebble glistening in
the sun.

“Besides,” resumed Mela, “you must admit, Apollodorus, that the way
in which Posocharis makes love is not a bit philosophical. The dog is
assuredly wiser than our young debauchees of the Palatine, who love
amid perfumes, tears, and laughter, with languor or with passion...”

As he spoke, a hoarse clamour arose in the prætorium, deafening to the
ears of the Greek and the three Romans.

“By Pollux!” exclaimed Lollius, “the suitors whose case our friend
Gallio is trying are shouting like dockers, and it seems to me that
together with their growls a stench of sweat and onions reaches us.”

“Nothing is more true,” quoth Apollodorus. “But, were Posocharis a
philosopher instead of the dog he is, far from sacrificing to the Venus
of the cross-roads, he would flee from the whole breed of women, and
attach himself solely to some youth, whose eternal comeliness he would
contemplate merely as the expression of an inner beauty more noble and
more precious.”

“Love,” resumed Mela, “is an abject passion. It disturbs the reason,
destroys noble impulses, and diverts the most elevated ideas to the
vilest cares. It has no place in a sensible mind. As the poet Euripides
teaches us....”

Mela did not finish his sentence. Preceded by lictors, who pushed the
crowd aside, the proconsul came out of the basilica, and went up to his
friends.

“I have not been away from you long,” he said. “The case which I was
summoned to try was as meagre as could be, and ridiculous in the
extreme. On entering the prætorium, I found it invaded by a motley
crowd of the Jews who, in their sordid shops along the wharves of the
harbour of Cenchreæ, sell carpets, stuffs, and petty articles of
silver and gold jewellery to the sailors. The atmosphere was filled
with their shrill yelping, and with a pungent odour of goat. It was
with difficulty that I could grasp the meaning of their words, and it
cost me an effort to understand that one of those Jews, Sosthenes by
name, who styled himself the chief of the synagogue, was charging with
impiety another Jew, the latter, repulsively ugly, bandy-legged, and
blear-eyed, and named Paul or Saul, a native of Tarsus, who has for
some time past been exercising in Corinth his trade of weaver, and has
gone into partnership with certain Jews expelled from Rome, for the
weaving of tent-cloths and Cilician garments in goat-hair. They all
spoke at once, and in very bad Greek. I made out, however, that this
Sosthenes imputed as a crime to this Paul that he had entered the house
wherein the Jews of Corinth are in the habit of meeting every Saturday,
and had spoken with the object of seducing his co-religionists, and of
persuading them to worship their god in a fashion contrary to their
law. I had heard enough. So having, not without difficulty, silenced
them, I informed them that had they come to me to complain of some
matter of wrong or of some deed of violence wherefrom they might have
suffered injury, I should have listened to them with patience, and
with all the necessary attention; but, since their case turned simply
upon a question of words, and a disagreement in regard to their law,
it concerned me not, and that I could not be judge of such matters. I
thereupon dismissed them with these words: ‘Settle your quarrels among
yourselves, as best you see fit.’”

“What did they say to that?” asked Cassius. “Did they submit with good
grace to so wise a decision?”

“It is not in the nature of brutes,” replied the proconsul, “to relish
wisdom. Those fellows greeted my decision with harsh murmurings of
which, as you may well imagine, I took no notice. I left them shouting
and struggling at the foot of the tribunal. From what I could see,
most of the blows fell to the plaintiff. He will be left for dead, if
my lictors do not interfere. These Jews from the harbour are great
ignoramuses, and like most ignorant people, not enjoying the faculty of
supporting with arguments the truth of what they believe, they know no
other argument than kicks and fisticuffs.

“The friends of that little deformed and blear-eyed Jew named Paul seem
to be particularly clever at that kind of controversy. Ye gods! How
they got the better of the chief of the synagogue, raining blows on
him, and trampling him under their feet! But I do not doubt that had
the friends of Sosthenes been the stronger of the two parties, they
would have treated Paul as the friends of Paul treated Sosthenes.”

Mela congratulated the proconsul.

“You were right, brother mine, in sending those wretched litigants
about their business.”

“Could I do otherwise?” replied Gallio. “How could I have decided
between that Sosthenes and that Paul who are the one as stupid and
as rabid as the other?... If I treat them with contempt, do not, my
friends, think that is because they are poor and humble, because
Sosthenes reeks of salted fish, or for the reason that Paul’s fingers
have become worn in weaving carpets and tent-cloth. No, Philemon and
Baucis were poor, yet worthy of the highest honours. The gods did not
disdain being entertained at their frugal board. Wisdom raises a slave
above his master. Nay, a virtuous slave is superior to the gods. If
he is their equal in wisdom, he surpasses them in the beauty of the
accomplishment. Those Jews are to be despised simply because they are
boorish, and that no image of the divinity is reflected in them.”

A smile overspread the countenance of Marcus Lollius at these word.

“Truly, the gods,” he said, “would hardly frequent the Syrians who
infest the harbours, amid the sellers of fruit and the strumpets.”

“The Barbarians themselves,” resumed the proconsul, “possess some
knowledge of the gods. Not to mention the Egyptians, who, in the olden
days, were men filled with piety, there is not in wealthy Asia a
nation which has not worshipped Diana, Vulcan, Juno, or the mother of
the Æneædes. They give these divinities strange names, confused forms,
and sometimes offer up to them human sacrifices, but they recognise
their power. Alone are the Jews ignorant of the providence of the gods.
I know not whether that Paul, whom the Syrians also call Saul, is as
superstitious as the others, and as obstinate in his errors. I know
not what obscure idea he conceives of the immortal gods, and to tell
the truth, I am not concerned to know it. What is there to be learned
of those who know nothing! It amounts, to put it plainly, to educating
oneself in ignorance. I gathered from some of his confused expressions
in my presence and in reply to his accuser, that he joins issue with
the priests of his nation, that he repudiates the religion of the
Jews, and that he worships Orpheus under an assumed name which has
escaped me. What makes me suppose this, is that he speaks with respect
of a god, or rather of a hero, who is supposed to have descended into
Hades, and to have reascended into the heavens, after having wandered
among the pallid shades of the dead. He may perhaps have set himself
to worship some subterranean Mercury. I should, however, feel more
inclined to believe that he worships Adonis, for I think I heard him
say that, following in the steps of the women of Byblos, he wept over
the sufferings and the death of a god.

“These youthful gods, who die and come to life again, abound on Asiatic
soil. The Syrian courtesans have brought several of them to Rome, and
these celestial youths please, more than is proper, our respectable
women. Our matrons do not blush to celebrate their mysterious rites in
private. My Julia, so prudent and so self-contained, has repeatedly
asked me how much should be believed of them. ‘What kind of a god,’
have I answered her with indignation, ‘what can be the god who takes
delight in the stealthy homage of a married dame? A woman should know
no other friends than those of her husband. And do not the gods stand
first in order among our friends?’”

“Does not this man of Tarsus,” inquired the philosopher Apollodorus,
“pay reverence rather to Typhon, whom the Egyptians call Sethon? It
is said that a god with an ass’s head is shown honour by a certain
Jewish sect. This god can be no other than Typhon, and I should not be
surprised if the weavers of Cenchreæ held a secret intercourse with the
Immortal, who, according to our gentle Marcus, committed so disgusting
an outrage on the old woman who sold cakes.”

“I know not,” resumed Gallio. “They do indeed say that a number of
Syrians meet to celebrate in secret the worship of a god with a
donkey’s head. It may be that Paul is one of them. But what matters
the Adonis, the Mercury, the Orpheus, or the Typhon of that Jew? He
will never reign over any but the female fortune-tellers, the usurers,
and the sordid traders who spoil the sailors in seaports. At the very
utmost will he be able to win over, in the suburbs of the big cities, a
few handfuls of slaves.”

“Oho! Oho!” exclaimed Marcus Lollius in an outburst of laughter, “can
you see that hideous Paul founding a religion of slaves? By Castor,
it would indeed be a miraculous novelty! Should perchance the god of
the slaves (may Jove avert the omen!) climb up into Olympus and expel
therefrom the gods of the empire, what would he do in turn? In what way
would he exercise his power over the astonished world? I should enjoy
seeing him at work. He would no doubt keep up the Saturnalia during the
entire course of the year. He would open to gladiators the road to the
highest honours, establish the prostitutes of the Suburra in the temple
of Vesta, and perhaps make of some wretched straggling village in Syria
the capital of the world.”

Lollius might have followed up his jest for some time had Gallio not
interrupted him.

“Marcus,” he said, “do not entertain the hope of witnessing these
marvellous novelties. Although men are capable of stupendous acts of
folly, it is not a little Jew weaver who could seduce them with his bad
Greek and his tales about a Syrian Orpheus. The slaves’ god could but
foment uprisings and servile wars, which would be promptly put down in
blood, and he would soon perish himself, together with his worshippers,
in an amphitheatre, under the teeth of wild beasts, to the plaudits of
the Roman people.

“Enough of Paul and Sosthenes. Their mind would not be of any help to
us in the quest we were engaged upon ere they so untowardly interrupted
us. We were seeking to know the future the gods have in store for us,
not for you, dear friends, or for me in particular (for we are prepared
to endure all that is to be), but for the fatherland and for the human
race which we love and towards which we feel kindly. It is not that Jew
weaver, with his inflamed eyelids, who could tell us, whatever Marcus
may think, the name of the god who is to dethrone Jupiter.”

Gallio broke off his speech to dismiss the lictors, who stood
motionless in line before him, shouldering their fasces.

“We require neither the rods nor the axes,” he remarked with a smile.
“Speech is our only weapon. May the day come when the universe shall
know no others. If you are not tired, my friends, let us walk towards
the Pirene fountain. We shall find midway an old fig-tree under which,
so it is related, the betrayed Medea meditated her cruel revenge. The
Corinthians hold the tree in reverence, in memory of that jealous
queen, and suspend votive tablets from its branches, for Medea never
brought them but good. It has cleft the earth with its branches,
which have thrown out roots, and it is still crowned with a luxuriant
foliage. Seated in its shade, we can while away time with conversation
till our bath-hour.”

The children, weary of pursuing Stephanas, were playing at
knuckle-bones by the roadside. The apostle was striding along rapidly,
when he came across, near the place of execution, a band of Jews, who
had come up from Cenchreæ to ascertain the judgment rendered by the
proconsul in regard to the synagogue. They were friends of Sosthenes,
and were greatly irritated against the Jew of Tarsus and his adherents
because they sought to change the law. Noticing the man, who was
wiping with his sleeve his eyes blinded with blood, they thought they
recognised him, and one of them, pulling him by the beard, asked him if
he were not Stephanas, the companion of Paul.

Proudly he answered:

“Behold him!”

He was quickly thrown to the ground, and trampled under foot. The Jews
were picking up stones and shouting:

“He is a blasphemer! Stone him!”

A couple of the most zealous tore up the milestone sunk by the Romans,
and were endeavouring to heave it at him. The stones fell with a dull
thud on the skinny bones of the apostle, who yelled:

“Oh the delight of these wounds! Oh the joy of these sufferings! Oh the
refreshment of this torture! I behold Jesus.”

A few steps farther off, under an arbutus, and to the murmurings of a
spring, old Posocharis was pressing in his arms the smooth flanks of
Joessa. Annoyed at the disturbance, he growled with a choking voice,
with head buried in the hair of the young girl:

“Begone, you low brutes, and do not trouble a philosopher’s pastime.”

After a few minutes, a centurion who was passing along the now deserted
road, raised Stephanas from the ground, made him swallow a mouthful of
wine, and gave him linen wherewith to bandage his wounds.

While this was going on, Gallio, sitting with his friends under Medea’s
tree, was saying:

“If you wish to know the successor of the master of gods and men,
meditate the words of the poet:

    “‘Jove’s spouse shall bring forth a son more powerful than
    his father.’

“This line designates, not the august Juno, but the most illustrious
among the noble women with whom consorted the Olympian who so often
changed his form and his loves. It seems to me assured that the
government of the universe is to fall to the lot of Hercules. This
opinion has long since taken root in my mind, by reasons derived not
only from the poets, but from philosophers and men of science. I have,
so to speak, greeted by anticipation the accession of the son of
Alcmene, in the climax of my tragedy of _Hercules on Œta_, ending with
the following words:

    “‘Hail, great conqueror of monsters, and pacifier of the world;
    be propitious unto us! Cast thy gaze upon the earth, and if
    some monster of a new kind strike terror into mankind, destroy
    it with a thunderbolt. Better than thy father wilt thou know
    how to hurl thunder.’

“I augur favourably of the coming reign of Hercules. During his life
upon earth, he displayed a spirit patient and inclined to elevated
thoughts. When the time comes for thunder to arm his hand, he will not
suffer a new Caius to govern the Empire with impunity. Virtue, ancient
simplicity, courage, innocence, and peace will reign with him. Thus do
I prophesy.”

And Gallio, having risen, took leave of his friends with these words:

“Fare ye well, and love me.”



III


As Nicole Langelier came to the end of his reading, the birds heralded
by Giacomo Boni filled the deserted Forum with their friendly cries.

The sky was spreading over the Roman ruins the ash-tinted veil of
evening; the young laurel-bushes planted along the Via Sacra lifted up
into the diaphanous atmosphere their branches black as antique bronzes,
while the flanks of the Palatine were clothed in azure.

“Langelier,” spoke M. Goubin, who was not easily deceived, “you did
not invent that story. The suit brought by Sosthenes against St. Paul
before Gallio, proconsul of Achaia, is to be found in the _Acts of the
Apostles_.”

Nichole Langelier readily admitted the fact.

“The story is told,” he said, “in chapter xviii., and occupies verses
12 to 17 inclusively, which I am able to read to you, for I copied them
on to a sheet of my manuscript.”

Whereupon he read:

    “‘12. And when Gallio was the deputy of Achaia, the Jews made
    insurrection with one accord against Paul, and brought him to
    the judgment seat,

    “‘13. Saying, This _fellow_ persuadeth men to worship God
    contrary to the law.

    “‘14. And when Paul was now about to open _his_ mouth, Gallio
    said unto the Jews, If it were a matter of wrong or wicked
    lewdness, O _ye_ Jews, reason would that I should bear with you:

    “‘15. But if it be a question of words and names, and _of_ your
    law, look ye _to it_; for I will be no judge of such _matters_.

    “‘16. And he drove them from the judgment seat.

    “‘17. Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the chief ruler of
    the synagogue, and beat _him_ before the judgment seat. And
    Gallio cared for none of those things.’

“I have not invented anything,” added Langelier. “Little is known of
Annæus Mela, and of Gallio, his brother. It is, however, certain that
they were numbered among the most intelligent men of their day. When
Achaia, a senatorial province under Augustus, an imperial one under
Tiberius, was restored to the Senate by Claudius, Gallio was sent
thither as proconsul. He was doubtless indebted for the post to the
influence of his brother Seneca; it is possible, however, that he was
selected for his knowledge of Greek literature, and as a man agreeable
to the Athenian professors, whose intellects the Romans admired. He
was highly educated. He had written a book on physiological subjects,
and, it is believed, some few tragedies. His works are all lost, unless
something from his pen is to be met with in the collection of tragic
recitations attributed without sufficient reasons to his brother the
philosopher. I have assumed that he was a Stoic, and that he held in
many respects the same opinions as his illustrious brother. But, while
placing in his mouth words of virtue and rectitude, I have guarded
against attributing any settled doctrine to him. The Romans of those
days blended the ideas of Epicurus with those of Zenon. I was not
incurring any great risk of being mistaken, when investing Gallio with
this eclecticism. I have represented him as a kindly man. He was that,
assuredly. Seneca has said of him that no one loved him in a lukewarm
fashion. His gentleness was universal. He aspired to honours.

“Quite the contrary, his brother Annæus Mela held aloof from them. We
have on that point the testimony of Seneca the philosopher, as well as
that of Tacitus. When Helvia, the mother of the three Senecas, lost
her husband, the most famed of her sons indited a small philosophical
treatise for her. In a certain part of this work, he exhorts her to
consider, in order to reconcile her to life, that there remain unto
her sons like Gallio and Mela, differing as to character, but equally
worthy of her affection.

“‘Cast thine eyes upon my brothers,’ he says, or words to that effect.
‘Both shall, by the diversity of their virtues, charm thy weary
moments. Gallio has attained honours through his talents. Mela has
despised them in his wisdom. Derive enjoyment from the regard in which
the one is held, from the calm of the other, and from the love of both.
I know the inner sentiments of my brothers. Gallio seeks in dignities
an ornament for thyself. Mela embraces a gentle and peaceful life in
order to devote himself to thee.’

“A child during the principality of Nero, Tacitus did not know the
Senecas. He merely collected what was currently said about them in his
day. He states that if Mela held aloof from honours, it was through
a refinement of ambition, and, a simple Roman knight, to rival the
influence of the consular officers. After having administered in person
the vast estates he possessed in Boetica, Mela came to Rome, and had
himself appointed administrator of Nero’s estate. The conclusion was
drawn therefrom that he was shrewd in matters of business, and he was
even suspected of not being as disinterested as he wished to appear.
That may be. The Senecas, while parading their contempt for riches,
were possessed of great wealth, and it is very hard to believe the
tutor of Nero when, amid the luxury of his furniture and his gardens,
he represents himself as faithful to his beloved poverty. Still, the
three sons of Helvia were not ordinary souls. Mela had of Atilla,
his wife, a son, Lucan the poet. It would seem that Lucan’s talent
reflected great lustre on his father’s name. Letters were then held in
high honour, and eloquence and poetry ranked above all things.

“Seneca, Mela, Lucan, and Gallio perished with the accomplices of
Piso. Seneca the philosopher was already an aged man. Tacitus, who
had not been a witness of his death, has portrayed the scene for us.
We know how Nero’s tutor opened his veins while in his bath, and how
his young wife Paulina protested that she would die with him, and by
a similar death. By Nero’s order, Paulina’s wrists, which had been
opened at the veins, were bandaged. She lived, preserving thereafter a
deathly pallor. Tacitus records that young Lucan, whilst under torture,
denounced his mother. Even if there were confirmation of this infamous
deed, the blame for it should be laid to the tortures he underwent.
But there is certainly one reason for not believing it. If indeed pain
extorted from Lucan the names of several of the conspirators, he did
not pronounce that of Atilla, since Atilla was not molested at a time
when every information was blindly credited.

“After the death of Lucan, Mela, with too great a haste and diligence,
seized on the inheritance of his son. A friend of the young poet, who
doubtless coveted the inheritance, became the accuser of Mela. It was
alleged that the father had been initiated into the secret of the
conspiracy, and a forged letter of Lucan was brought forth. Nero, after
having read it, ordered it to be shown to Mela. Following the example
set by his brother and so many of Nero’s victims, Mela caused his veins
to be opened, after having bequeathed a large sum of money to the
freedmen of Cæsar, in order to secure the remainder of his fortunes to
the unhappy Atilla. Gallio did not survive his two brothers; he took
his own life.

“Such was the tragic end of these charming and cultured men. I have
made two of them, Gallio and Mela, speak in Corinth. Mela was a great
traveller. His son Lucan, while yet a child, was on a visit to Athens,
at the time Gallio was proconsul of Achaia. There is therefore some
show of reason for saying that Mela was then with his brother in
Corinth. I have supposed that two young Romans of illustrious birth,
and a philosopher of the Areopagus, accompanied the proconsul. In so
doing, I have not taken too great a liberty, since the intendants, the
procurators, the proprætors, and the proconsuls whom the Emperor and
the Senate respectively sent to govern the provinces, always had about
themselves the sons of great families, who came to instruct themselves
in the management of public affairs under their guidance, and that of
men of keen intellect like my Apollodorus, more frequently freedmen
acting as their secretaries. Lastly, I conceived the idea that at
the moment St. Paul was being brought before a Roman tribunal, the
proconsul and his friends were conversing freely about the most varied
subjects, art, philosophy, religion, and politics, and that there
pierced the various topics absorbing their interest a deep anxiety as
to the future. There is indeed some likelihood that on that very day,
just as well as on any other, they may have sought to discover the
future destiny of Rome and the world. Gallio and Mela stood among the
most elevated and open intellects of the day. Minds of such a calibre
are at all times inclined to delve into the present and the past for
the conditions of the future. I have noticed in the most learned and
well-informed men whom I have known, to name but Renan and Berthelot,
a pronounced tendency to interject at haphazard into a conversation
outlines of rational utopias and scientific forecasts.”

“Here then we have,” said Joséphin Leclerc, “one of the best educated
men of his day, a man versed in philosophic speculation, trained in
the conduct of public affairs, and who was of as open and broad a mind
as could be that of a Roman such as Gallio, the brother of Seneca, the
ornament and light of his century. He is concerned about the future,
he seeks to grasp the movement which is most affecting the world, and
he tries to fathom the destiny of the Empire and the gods. Just then,
by a unique stroke of fortune, he comes across St. Paul; the future
he is in quest of passes by him, and he sees it not. What an example
of the blindness which strikes, in the very presence of an unexpected
revelation, the most enlightened minds and the keenest intellects!”

“I would have you observe, my dear friend,” replied Nicole Langelier,
“that it was not a very easy matter for Gallio to converse with St.
Paul. It is not easy to conceive how they could possibly have exchanged
ideas. St. Paul had trouble in expressing himself, and it was with
great difficulty that he made himself intelligible to the folk who
lived and thought like himself. He had never spoken word of mouth to
any cultured man.

“He was nowise capable of indicating a train of thought and of
following those of an interlocutor. He was ignorant of Greek science.
Gallio, accustomed to the conversation of educated people, had long
since trained his reason to debate. He knew not the maxims of the
rabbis. What then could these two men have said to each other?

“Not that it was impossible for a Jew to converse with a Roman. The
Herods enjoyed a mode of expression which was agreeable to Tiberius
and Caligula. Flavius Josephus and Queen Berenice discoursed in terms
pleasing to Titus, the destroyer of Jerusalem. We know that bejewelled
Jews were at all times to be found in company of the antisemites. They
were _meschoumets_ (accursed unbelievers--anathema to Paul). Paul was
a _nĕbi_ (prophet). This fiery and haughty Syrian, disdainful of the
worldly goods sought for by all men, thirsting after poverty, ambitious
of insults and humiliations, rejoicing in suffering, was merely able to
proclaim his sombre and inflamed visions, his hatred of life and of the
beautiful, his absurd outbursts of anger, and his insane charity. Apart
from this, he had nothing to say. In truth, I can discover one subject
only on which he might have agreed with the proconsul of Achaia. ’Tis
Nero.

“St. Paul, at that time, could hardly have heard any mention of the
youthful son of Agrippina, but on learning that Nero was destined to
Imperial power, he would immediately become a Neronian. He became so
later on. He was still one at the time Nero poisoned Britannicus. Not
that he was capable of approving of a brother’s murder, but because he
entertained a profound respect for all government. ‘Let every soul be
subject unto the higher powers,’ he wrote to his churches. ‘For rulers
are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not
be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have
praise of the same.’ Gallio might perchance have found these maxims
somewhat simple and commonplace, but he could not have disapproved of
them as a whole. But if there is a subject which he would not have felt
tempted to approach while speaking with a Jewish weaver, it is indeed
the ruling of people and the authority of the Emperor. Once more, what
could those two men well have said to each other?

“In our own day, when a European official in Africa, let us say the
Governor-General of the Sudan for his Britannic Majesty, or our
Governor of Algeria, comes across a fakeer or a marabout, their
conversation is naturally confined within restricted limits. St. Paul
was to a proconsul what a marabout is to our civil Governor of Algeria.
A conversation between Gallio and St. Paul would have resembled only
too much, I imagine, that held by General Desaix with his famous
dervish. After the battle of the Pyramids, General Desaix, at the head
of twelve hundred cavalry, pursued into Upper Egypt the Mamelukes of
Murad Bey. On arriving at Girgeh, he heard that an old dervish, who had
acquired among the Arabs a wide reputation for learning and sanctity,
was living near that city. Desaix was endowed with both philosophy and
humanity. Desirous of making the acquaintance of a man esteemed of his
fellows, he caused the dervish to be summoned to headquarters, received
him with honour, and entered into conversation with him through an
interpreter.

“‘Venerable old man,’ he said, ‘the French have come to bring Egypt
justice and liberty.’

“‘I knew they would come,’ replied the dervish.

“‘How did you come to know it?’

“‘Through an eclipse of the sun.’

“‘How can an eclipse of the sun have informed you as to the movement of
our armies?’

“‘Eclipses are brought about by the angel Gabriel, who places himself
before the sun in order to announce to the faithful the misfortunes
which threaten them.’

“‘Venerable old man, you are ignorant of the true cause of eclipses; I
shall impart the knowledge of it to you.’

“Thereupon, taking a stump of pencil and a scrap of paper, he traced
some figures:

“‘Let A be the sun, B, the moon, C, the earth,’ and so forth...

“And when he had come to the end of his demonstration,

“‘Such,’ he said, ‘is the theory governing eclipses of the sun.’

“And as the dervish was mumbling a few words,

“‘What does he say?’ asked the General of the interpreter.

“‘General, he says that it is the angel Gabriel who causes eclipses, by
placing himself in front of the sun.’

“‘The fellow is simply naught but a fanatic!’ exclaimed Desaix.

“Whereupon he drove the dervish out with well-administered kicks.

“I imagine that had a conversation been entered into between St. Paul
and Gallio, it would have ended somewhat as did the dialogue between
the dervish and General Desaix.”

“It must, however, be pointed out,” said Joséphin Leclerc, joining
issue, “that between the Apostle Paul and the dervish of General
Desaix, there is at the very least this difference: the dervish did
not impose his faith on Europe. And you will admit that his Britannic
Majesty’s honourable Governor of the Sudan has doubtless not come
across the marabout who is to confer his name on the biggest church
in London; you must likewise admit that our civil Governor of Algeria
has never come face to face with the founder of a religion which the
majority of the French nation will some day believe and profess. These
functionaries have not seen the future arise before them under a human
form. The proconsul of Achaia did.”

“It was none the less impossible for Gallio,” replied Langelier, “to
carry on with St. Paul a steady conversation on some important subject
regarding morals or philosophy. I am well aware, and you yourselves
are not ignorant of the fact, that towards the fifth century of the
Christian Era, it was believed that Seneca had known St. Paul in
Rome, and had expressed admiration of the Apostle’s doctrines. This
fable owed its spread to the deplorable clouding of the human mind
following so closely upon the age of Tacitus and of Trajan. In order
to obtain credence for it, certain forgerers, who at that time swarmed
in Christian ranks, fabricated a correspondence which is mentioned
respectfully by St. Jerome and St. Augustine. If these letters are
those which have come unto us ascribed to Paul and Seneca, it must
be that those two Fathers did not read them, or that they greatly
lacked discernment. It is the absurd work of a Christian utterly
ignorant of everything connected with Nero’s time, and one totally
incapable of imitating Seneca’s style. Is it necessary to say that the
great divines of the Middle Ages firmly believed in the truth of the
intercourse between the two men and in the genuineness of the letters?
But the classical scholars of the Renaissance had no difficulty in
demonstrating the unlikelihood and the falsity of these inventions. It
matters little that Joseph de Maistre should have garnered by the way
this antiquated rubbish together with much of the same kind. No one any
longer heeds it, and henceforth it is only in pretty novels written
for society by skilful and mystical authors that the apostles of the
primitive Church converse freely with the philosophers and people of
fashion of Imperial Rome and expound to the delight of Petronius the
novel beauties of Christianity. The words of Gallio and his friends,
which you have just heard, are endowed with less charm and more truth.”

“I do not deny it,” replied Joséphin Leclerc, “and I believe that the
personages of the dialogue are made to think and speak as they must
actually have thought and spoken, and that the ideas entertained by
them are those of their day. Therein, it seems to me, lies the merit of
the work, and therefore do I reason about it just as if I were basing
my arguments on a historical text.”

“You may safely do so,” said Langelier. “I have not embodied in it
anything for which I have not the authority of a reference.”

“Very well then,” resumed Joséphin Leclerc, “so we have been
listening to a Greek philosopher and several Roman literati engaged
in speculation as to the future destinies of their fatherland, of
humanity, and of the earth, and seeking to discover the name of Jove’s
successor. The while they are absorbed in this perplexing quest, the
apostle of the new god appears before them, and they treat him with
contempt. I maintain that in so doing they plainly show a lack of
penetration, and lose through their own fault a unique opportunity of
becoming instructed concerning that which they felt so great a desire
to know.”

“It seems self-evident to you, my good friend,” replied Nicole
Langelier, “that Gallio, had he known how to set about it, would have
gathered from St. Paul the secret of the future. Such is perhaps the
first idea that springs to the mind, and it is one that many have
become imbued with. Renan, after having recorded, according to the
_Acts_, this singular interview between Gallio and St. Paul, is not
averse from discovering evidence of a narrow and thoughtless mind in
the contempt experienced by the proconsul for this Jew of Tarsus who
appeared before his tribunal. He seizes the opportunity thus offered to
lament the poor philosophy of the Romans. ‘What a lack of foresight,’
he exclaims, ‘is sometimes exhibited by intellectual men! In later
times, it was to be discovered that the squabble between those abject
sectarians was the great event of the century.’ Renan seems to believe
that the proconsul of Achaia had merely to listen to that weaver in
order to be there and then informed of the spiritual revolution in
course of preparation throughout the universe, and to penetrate the
secret of future humanity. And this is also no doubt what every one
thinks at first sight. Nevertheless, ere settling the point, let
us look more closely into the matter; let us examine what both men
expected, and let us find out which of the two was, when all is said
and done, the better prophet.

“In the first place, Gallio believed that the youthful Nero would be
an emperor of philosophic mind, govern according to the maxims of the
Portico, and be the delight of the human race. He was mistaken, and
the reasons for his erroneous assumption are only too patent. His
brother Seneca was the tutor of the son of Agrippina; his nephew, the
boy Lucan, lived on terms of intimacy with the young prince. Both
his family and his personal interests bound up the proconsul with
the fortunes of Nero. He believed that Nero would make an excellent
Emperor, for the wish was father to the thought. His mistake arose
rather from weakness of character than from lack of intellect. Nero,
moreover, was then a youth full of gentleness, and the early years
of his principality were not to give the lie to the hopes of the
philosophers. Secondly, Gallio believed that peace would reign over
the world after the chastisement of the Parthians. He erred owing to a
lack of knowledge of the actual dimensions of the earth. He erroneously
believed that the _orbis Romanus_ covered the whole of the globe; that
the inhabitable world ended at the burning or frozen strands, rivers,
mountains, sands, and deserts reached by the Roman eagles, and that the
Germani and Parthians peopled the confines of the universe. We know
how much weeping and blood this error, shared in common by all Romans,
cost the Empire. Thirdly, Gallio, pinning his faith to the oracles,
believed in the eternity of Rome. He was mistaken, if his prediction
is to be taken in a narrow and literal sense. But he was not so, if
one considers that Rome, the Rome of Cæsar and Trajan, has bequeathed
us its customs and laws, and that modern civilisation proceeds from
Roman civilisation. It is in the august square where we now stand that
from the height of the rostral tribune and in the Curia was debated
the fate of the universe, and the form of constitution which to the
present day governs the nations. Our science is based on Greek science
transmitted to us by Rome. The reawakening of ancient thought in the
fifteenth century in Italy, in the sixteenth century in France and
Germany, was the cause of Europe being born anew in science and in
reason. The proconsul of Achaia did not deceive himself: Rome is not
defunct, since she lives in us. Let us, in the fourth place, examine
Gallio’s philosophical ideas. No doubt he was not equipped with a very
sound natural philosophy, and he did not always interpret natural
phenomena with sufficient precision. He applied himself to metaphysics
as a Roman, _i.e._, with a lack of acuteness. At heart, he valued
philosophy merely because of its utility, and devoted himself mainly
to moral questions. I have neither betrayed nor flattered him when
placing his speeches on record. I have represented him as serious and
mediocre, and a fairly good disciple of Cicero. You may have gathered
that he reconciled, by dint of the poorest of reasoning, the doctrine
of the Stoics to the national religion. One feels that whenever he
indulges in speculation as to the nature of the gods, he is anxious to
remain a good citizen and an honest official. But, after all, he thinks
matters out, and reasons. The idea he conceives of the forces which
govern the world is, in its principle, rational and scientific and, in
this respect, it conforms to that which we have ourselves conceived of
them. He does not reason as well as his friend the Greek Apollodorus.
He does not argue any worse than the professors of our University who
teach an independent philosophy and a Christian antimaterialism. By
his open-mindedness and his strength of intelligence, he seems our
contemporary. His thoughts turn naturally in the direction followed by
the human mind at the present moment. Do not therefore let us say that
he was unable to recognise the intellectual future of humanity.

“As to St. Paul, he announced the future; none doubt the fact. And yet
he expected to see with his own eyes the world come to an end, and all
things existing engulfed in flames. This conflagration of the universe,
which Gallio and the Stoics foresaw in a future so remote that they
none the less announced the eternity of the Empire, Paul believed to
be quite close at hand, and was preparing for that great day. Herein
he was mistaken, and you will admit that this misconception is in
itself worse than all the united blunders of Gallio and his friends.
Still more serious is it that Paul did not base this extraordinary
belief on any observation or any reasoning whatever. He was ignorant
of and despised science. He gave himself up to the lowest practices of
thaumaturgy and glossology, and had no culture whatsoever.

“As a matter of fact, in regard to the future, as well as to the
present and the past, there was nothing the proconsul could learn
from the apostle, nothing but a mere name. Had he learnt that Paul was
of Christ’s religion, he would not have been any the better informed
as to the future of Christianity, which was within a few years to
disengage itself almost wholly from the ideas of Paul and of the first
apostolic men. Thus it will be seen, if one does not pin one’s opinion
to liturgical texts, and to the strictly verbal interpretations of
theologians, that St. Paul foresaw the future less accurately than
Gallio, and one will be inclined to think that were the apostle to
return to Rome nowadays, he would discover more cause for surprise than
the proconsul.

“St. Paul, in modern Rome, would no more recognise himself on the
column of Marcus Aurelius than he would recognise on the column of
Trajan his old enemy Cephas. The dome of St. Peter’s, the Stanze of
the Vatican, the splendour of the churches, and the Papal pomp, all
would offend his blinking eyes. In vain would he look for disciples in
London, Paris, or Geneva. He would not understand either Catholics or
Reformers who vie in quoting his real or supposed Epistles. Nor would
he understand the minds freed from all dogma, who base their opinion
on the two forces he hated and despised the most: science and reason.
On discovering that the Son of Man has not come, he would rend his
garments, and cover himself with ashes.”

Hippolyte Dufresne interrupted, saying:

“Whether in Paris or in Rome, there is no doubt that St. Paul would be
as an owl blinking in the sun. He would be no more fit than a Bedouin
of the desert to communicate with cultured Europeans. He would not know
himself when at a bishop’s, nor would he obtain recognition from him.
Were he to alight at the house of a Swiss pastor fed upon his writings,
he would astound him with the primitive crudity of his Christianity.
All this is true. Bear in mind, however, that he was a Semite, a
foreigner to Latin thought, to the genius of the Germani and Saxons, to
the races from which sprung those theologians who, by dint of erroneous
conceptions, mistranslations, and absurdities, discovered a meaning in
his counterfeit Epistles. You conceive him in a world which was not his
own, which can in no wise become his, and this absurd conception at
once gives birth to an agglomeration of incongruous presentments. We
picture to ourselves, to illustrate what I say, this vagabond weaver
sitting in a Cardinal’s coach, and we make merry over the appearance
presented by two human beings of so opposite a character. If you
persist in resurrecting St. Paul, pray have the good taste to restore
him to his race and country, among the Semites of the East, who have
not greatly changed these twenty centuries, and for whom the Bible and
the Talmud contain human science in its entirety. Drop him among the
Jews of Damascus or of Jerusalem. Lead him to the Synagogue. There
he will listen without astonishment to the teachings of his master,
Gamaliel. He will enter into disputation with the rabbis, will weave
goat-hair, live on dates and a little rice, observe the law faithfully,
and of a sudden undertake to destroy it. He will in turn be persecutor
and persecuted, executioner and martyr, all with equal keenness. The
Jews of the Synagogue will proceed with his excommunication, by blowing
into a ram’s horn, and by spilling drop by drop the wax of black
candles into a tub containing blood. He will endure without flinching
this horrible ceremony, and will exercise, in the course of an arduous
and continually menaced existence, the energy of a headstrong will. In
such circumstances, he will probably be known to only a few ignorant
and sordid Jews. But it will be Paul once more, and wholly Paul.”

“That may be possible,” said Joséphin Leclerc. “Yet you will grant me
that St. Paul was one of the principal founders of Christianity, and
that he might have imparted to Gallio valuable information concerning
the great religious movement of which the proconsul was entirely
ignorant.”

“He who founds a religion,” replied Langelier, “wots not what he
does. I may say almost the same of those who found great human
institutions, monastic orders, insurance companies, national guards,
banks, trusts, trade unions, academies, schools of music and the
drama, gymnastic societies, soup-kitchens, and lectures. Generally
speaking, these establishments do not for any length of time carry
out the intentions of their founders, and it sometimes happens that
they become diametrically opposed to them. It is as much as one can
do to trace after many long years a few vestiges of their founders’
original intention. In the matter of religions, at any rate among
nations whose existence is troublous and whose mind is fickle, they
undergo so incessant and so complete a transformation, according to
the feelings or interests of their faithful and their ministers, that
in the course of a few years they preserve naught of the spirit which
created them. Gods undergo more changes than men, for the reason that
their form is less precise and that they endure longer. Some there are
who improve as they grow older; others deteriorate with the years. It
takes less than a century for a god to become unrecognisable. The god
of the Christians has perhaps undergone a more complete transformation
than any other. This is doubtless attributable to the fact that he has
belonged in succession to the most varied civilisations and races, to
the Latins, to the Greeks, to the Barbarians, and to all the nations
sprung from the ruins of the Roman Empire. It is assuredly a far cry
from the wooden Apollo of Dædalus to the classical Apollo Belvedere.
Still greater a distance separates the youthful Christ of the Catacombs
from the ascetic Christ of our cathedrals. This personage of the
Christian mythology perplexes one by the number and variety of his
metamorphoses. The flamboyant Christ of St. Paul is followed, as early
as the second century, by the Christ of the Synoptic Gospels, a poor
Jew, vaguely communistic, who becomes, with the Fourth Gospel, a sort
of young Alexandrine, a milk-and-water disciple of the Gnostics. At
a later period, if we only take into account the Roman Christs and
tarry merely with the most famed of them, we have had the dominating
Christ of Gregory VII., the bloodthirsty Christ of St. Dominic, the
mob-leading Christ of Julius II., the atheistic and artistic Christ of
Leo X., the indeterminate and insipid Christ of the Jesuits, Christ the
protector of the factory, the defender of capital and the opponent of
Socialism, who flourished under the pontificate of Leo XIII., and who
still reigns. All those Christs, who have but the name in common, were
not foreseen by Paul. In reality, he knew no more than Gallio about the
future god.”

“You exaggerate,” remarked M. Goubin, who disliked exaggeration in
whatever form.

Giacomo Boni, who venerates the sacred books of all nations, here
pointed out that Gallio and the Roman philosophers and historians were
to be blamed for not having a knowledge of the Jews’ Sacred Scriptures.

“Had they been better informed,” he said, “the Romans would not have
harboured unjust prejudices against the religion of Israel; and, as
your own Renan has said, a little goodwill and a better knowledge
would perhaps have warded off fearful misunderstandings in regard
to questions of interest to the whole of humanity. There lacked not
educated Jews like Philo to explain the laws of Moses to the Romans,
had the latter been more broad-minded and possessed a more correct
presentiment of the future. The Romans experienced disgust and fear,
when face to face with Asiatic thought. Even if they were right in
fearing it, they were wrong in despising it. To despise a danger
constitutes a great blunder. Gallio displayed want of foresight when
stigmatising as criminal fancies and profanities of the vulgar the
Syrian beliefs.”

“How then could the Hellenist Jews have taught the Romans what they
were themselves ignorant of?” inquired Langelier. “How could that
honest Philo, so learned yet so shallow, have revealed to them the
obscure, confused, and fecund thought of Israel, of which he knew
nothing himself? What could he have imparted to Gallio concerning the
faith of the Jews except literary absurdities? He would have explained
to him that the doctrine of Moses harmonises with the philosophy of
Plato. Then, as always, cultured men had no idea of what was passing
through the minds of the multitudes. The ignorant mob is for ever
creating gods unknown to the literati.

“One of the strangest and most notable facts of history is the conquest
of the world by the god of a Syrian tribe, and the victory of Jehovah
over all the gods of Rome, Greece, Asia, and Egypt. Upon the whole,
Jesus was simply a _nĕbi_, and the last of the prophets of Israel.
Nothing is known about him. We are in the dark as to his life and
death, for the Evangelists are in nowise biographers. As to the moral
ideas grouped under his name, they originate in truth with the crowd of
visionaries who prophesied in the days of the Herods.

“What is called the triumph of Christianity is more accurately the
triumph of Judaism, and to Israel fell the singular privilege of giving
a god to the world. It must be admitted that Jehovah deserved his
sudden elevation in many respects. He was, when he attained to empire,
the best of the gods. He had made a very bad beginning. Of him it may
be said what historians say of Augustus, his heart softened with the
years. At the time when the Israelites settled in the Promised Land,
Jehovah was stupid, ferocious, ignorant, cruel, coarse, foul-mouthed,
indeed the most silly and most cruel of gods. But, under the influence
of the prophets, there came about a complete transformation. He ceased
being conservative and formal, and became converted to ideas of peace
and to dreams of justice. His people were wretched. He began to feel a
profound pity for all poor wretches. And although he remained at heart
very much a Jew and very patriotic, he naturally became international
when becoming revolutionary. He constituted himself the defender of
the humble and oppressed. He conceived one of those simple ideas
which captivate the world. He announced universal happiness, and the
coming of a beneficent Messiah whose reign would be peace. His prophet
Isaiah prompted him as to this admirable theme with words delightfully
poetical and of unsurpassed softness:

“‘The mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of
the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations
shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye and let
us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob;
and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for
out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from
Jerusalem. And he shall judge among nations, and shall rebuke many
people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their
spears into pruning-hooks.

“‘The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb and the leopard shall lie
down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling
together; and a little child shall lead them.’

“In the Roman Empire, the god of the Jews set himself to capture the
working classes and the social revolution. He addressed himself to the
unfortunate. Now, in the days of Tiberius and Claudius, there existed
within the Empire infinitely more unhappy than happy ones. There were
hordes of slaves. One man alone owned as many as ten thousand. These
slaves were for the most part sunk in wretchedness. Neither Jupiter,
nor Juno, nor the Dioscuri troubled themselves about them. The Latin
gods did not pity their condition. They were the gods of their masters.
When came from Judæa a god who hearkened to the complaints of the
humble, they worshipped him. So it is that the religion of Israel
became the religion of the Roman world. This is what neither St. Paul
nor Philo could explain to the proconsul of Achaia, for they themselves
did not see it clearly. And this is what Gallio could not realise.
He felt, however, that the reign of Jupiter was nearing its end, and
he predicted the coming of a better god. From love of the national
antiquities, he went for this god to the Græco-Latin Olympus, and
selected him of the blood of Jupiter, through aristocratic feeling.
Thus it is that he chose Hercules instead of Jehovah.”

“For once,” said Joséphin Leclerc, “you will admit that Gallio was
mistaken.”

“Less so than you think,” replied Langelier with a smile. “Jehovah
or Hercules, it mattered little. You may be sure of this: the son of
Alcmene would not have governed the world otherwise than the father of
Jesus. Olympian as he might be, he would have had to become the god of
the slaves, and assume the religious spirit of the new times. The gods
conform scrupulously to the sentiments of their worshippers: they have
reasons for so doing. Pay attention to this. The spirit which favoured
the accession in Rome of the god of Israel was not merely the spirit of
the masses, but also that of the philosophers. At that time, they were
nearly all Stoics, and believed in one god alone, one on whose behalf
Plato had laboured and one unconnected by tie of family or friendship
with the gods of human form of Greece and Rome. This god, through his
infinity, resembled the god of the Jews. Seneca and Epictetus, who
venerated him, would have been the first to have been surprised at
the resemblance, had they been called upon to institute a comparison.
Nevertheless, they had themselves greatly contributed towards rendering
acceptable the austere monotheism of the Judæo-Christians. Doubtless
a wide gulf separated Stoic haughtiness from Christian humility, but
Seneca’s morals, consequent upon his sadness and his contempt of
nature, were paving the way for the Evangelical morals. The Stoics had
joined issue with life and the beautiful; this rupture, attributed to
Christianity, was initiated by the philosophers. A couple of centuries
later, in the time of Constantine, both pagans and Christians will
have, so to speak, the same morals and philosophy. The Emperor Julian,
who restored to the Empire its old religion, which had been abolished
by Constantine the Apostate, is justly regarded as an opponent of
the Galilean. And, when perusing the petty treatises of Julian, one
is struck with the number of ideas this enemy of the Christians held
in common with them. He, like them, is a monotheist; with them, he
believes in the merits of abstinence, fasting, and mortification of
the flesh; with them, he despises carnal pleasures, and considers he
will rise in favour with the gods by avoiding women; finally, he pushes
Christian sentiment to the degree of rejoicing over his dirty beard and
his black finger-nails. The Emperor Julian’s morals were almost those
of St. Gregory Nazianzen. There is nothing in this but what is natural
and usual. The transformations undergone by morals and ideas are never
sudden. The greatest changes in social life are wrought imperceptibly,
and are only seen from afar. Christianity did not secure a foothold
until such time as the condition of morals accommodated itself to it,
and as Christianity itself had become adjusted to the condition of
morals. It was unable to substitute itself for paganism until such time
as paganism came to resemble it, and itself came to resemble paganism.”

“Granted,” said Joséphin Leclerc, “that neither St. Paul nor Gallio saw
into the future. No one does. Has not one of your friends said: ‘The
future is concealed even from those who shape it’?”

“Our knowledge of what the future has in store,” resumed Langelier,
“is in proportion of our acquaintance with the present and the past.
Science is prophetic. The more a science is accurate, the more can
accurate prophesies be drawn from it. Mathematics, to which alone
appertains entire accuracy, communicate a portion of their precision to
the sciences proceeding from them. Thus it is that accurate predictions
are made by means of mathematical astronomy and chemistry. One is
able to calculate eclipses millions of years ahead, without fear of
one’s calculations being found erroneous, as long as the sun, the
moon, and the earth shall preserve the same relations as to bulk and
distance. It is even permitted to us to foresee that these relations
will be modified in a far distant future. Indeed, it is prophesied,
on the strength of the celestial mechanism, that the silver hornéd
moon will not describe eternally the same circle round our globe, and
that causes now in operation will, by dint of repetition, change its
course. You may safely predict that the sun will become darkened, and
will no longer appear except a shrunken globe over our icy seas, unless
there should come to it in the interval some new alimentation, a thing
quite within the possibilities, for the sun is capable of catching
swarms of asteroids, just as a spider does flies. It is, however, safe
to predict that it will become extinguished, and that the dislocated
figures of the constellations will vanish star by star in the darkness
of space. But what does the death of a star amount to? To the fading
away of a spark. Let all the stars in the heavens die out just as
the grasses of the field wither, what matters it to universal life,
so long as the infinitely tiny elements composing them shall have
retained within themselves the force which makes and unmakes worlds?
It is safe to predict an even more complete end of the universe, the
end of the atom, the dissociation of the last elements of matter, the
times when protyle, when the amorphous fog will have reconquered its
illimitable empire over the ruins of all things. And this will form but
a breathing-spell in God’s respiration. All will begin anew.

“The worlds will again be born to life. They will live again to die.
Life and death will succeed each other for all eternity. All sorts of
combinations will become facts in the infinity of space and time, and
we shall find ourselves seated once more on the flank of the Forum in
ruins. But as we shall not know that we are ourselves, it will not be
us.”

M. Goubin wiped his eye-glass.

“Such ideas are disheartening,” he remarked.

“What then do you hope for, Monsieur Goubin,” asked Nicole Langelier,
“to gratify your wishes? Do you aspire to preserve of yourself and of
the world an eternal consciousness? Why do you wish to remember for all
time that you are Monsieur Goubin? I will not conceal it from you: the
present universe, which is far from nearing its end, does not seem to
possess the property of satisfying you in this respect. Do not place
any more store in those which are to follow, for they will doubtless
be of the same kind. Do not, however, abandon all hope. It is possible
that after an indefinite succession of universes, you shall be born
anew, Monsieur Goubin, with a recollection of your previous existences.
Renan has said that it was a risk to be taken, and that at all events
it would not be long in coming. The successions of universe will take
place for us within less than a second. Time does not count for the
dead.”

“Are you cognisant,” asked Hippolyte Dufresne, “of the
astronomical dreams of Blanqui? The aged Blanqui, a prisoner in the
Mont-Saint-Michel, could get but a glimpse of the sky through his
stopped-up window, and had the stars for his only neighbours. This
made of him an astronomer, and he based on the unity of matter and
the laws ruling it a strange theory in regard to the identity of the
worlds. I have read a sixty-page pamphlet of his wherein he sets
forth that form and life are developed in exactly the same manner in
a large number of worlds. According to him, a multitude of suns, all
similar to our own, have, do, or will shed light upon planets in every
respect similar to the planets of our own system. There is, was, and
will be, _ad infinitum_, Venuses, Mars, Saturns, and Jupiters, quite
the counterpart of our Saturn, Mars, and Venus, and worlds similar to
our own. These worlds produce exactly what our world produces, and
bear fruits, animals, and men resembling in all respects terrestrial
plants, animals, and human beings. The evolution of life in them is the
same as that on our globe. Consequently, thought the aged prisoner,
there is, was and shall be throughout the infinite space myriads of
Monts-Saint-Michel, each containing a Blanqui.”

“We know but little of the worlds whose suns shine upon our nights,”
resumed Langelier. “We perceive, however, that subjected to the same
mechanical and chemical laws, they differ from our own world and among
themselves in extent and form, and that the substances burning in them
are not distributed among all of them in the same proportions. These
differences must produce an infinity of others which we do not suspect.
A pebble is sufficient to change the fate of an Empire. Who knows?
Perchance, Monsieur Goubin, many times multiplied and disseminated
through myriads of worlds, has wiped, wipes, and shall eternally wipe
clean his eye-glass.”

Joséphin Leclerc did not suffer his friends to expatiate any further on
astronomical dreams.

“I am,” he said, “like Monsieur Goubin, of the opinion that all this
would be heartrending were it not too far from us to affect us. What is
of paramount interest for us, what we are curious to know is the fate
of those who will come immediately after us in this world.”

“There is no doubt,” said Langelier, “that the succession of worlds
only fills us with sad astonishment. We should welcome with a more
fraternal and friendly eye the future of civilisation, and the
immediate destiny of our fellow men. The closer at hand the future,
the more we are concerned about it. Unfortunately, moral and political
sciences are inaccurate, and full of uncertainty. They have but an
imperfect knowledge of the so far accomplished developments of
human evolution, and can therefore not instruct us concerning the
developments which remain to be completed. Equipped with hardly any
memory, they have little or no presentiment. This is why scientific
minds feel an insurmountable repugnance to attempt investigations, the
uselessness of which they know, and they dare not even confess to a
curiosity which they entertain no hope of satisfying. Willingly would
the task be undertaken to discover what would happen, were men to
become wiser. Plato, Sir Thomas More, Campanella, Fénelon, Cabet, and
Paul Adam[A] have reconstructed their particular city in Atlantis, in
the Island of Utopia, in the Sun, at Salentinum, in Icaria, in Malaya,
and established there an abstract social administration. Others, like
the philosopher Sébastien Mercier, and the socialist-poet William
Morris, dived into a far-off future. But they took their system of
morals with them. They discovered a new Atlantis, and it is a city
of dreamland which they have harmoniously built there. Shall I also
quote Maurice Spronck?[B] He shows us the French Republic conquered by
the Moors, in the 230th year of its foundation. He argues thus, in
order to induce us to hand over the government to the Conservatives
whom alone he considers capable of warding off so great a disaster.
Meanwhile Camille Mauclair,[C] trusting in humanity to come, reads in
the future the victorious resistance, of Socialistic Europe against
Mussulman Asia. Daniel Halévy dreads not the Moors, but, with greater
show of reason, the Russians. He narrates, in his _Histoire de quatre
ans_, the foundation, in 2001, of the United States of Europe. But
he seeks to show us more especially that the moral equilibrium of
nations is unstable, and that a facility suddenly introduced into the
conditions of life may suffice to let loose on a multitude of men the
worst scourges and the most cruel sufferings.

  [A] Paul Adam, journalist and playwright; contributor to the _Revue
      de Paris_ and the _Nouvelle Revue_.

  [B] Maurice Spronck, journalist and barrister; contributor to the
      _Journal des Débats_, the _Revue des Deux Mondes_, the _Revue
      bleue_, and the _Revue hebdomadaire_.

  [C] Camille Faust, _dit_ Camille Mauclair, art critic and lecturer;
      author of works on Greuze, Fragonard, Schumann, Rodin, and of
      _De Watteau à Whistler_.

“Few are those who have sought to know the future, out of pure
curiosity, and without moral intention or optimistic designs. I
know no other than H. G. Wells who, journeying through future ages,
has discovered for humanity a fate he did not, according to every
indication, expect; for the institution of an anthropophagous
proletariat and an edible aristocracy is a cruel solution of social
questions. Yet such is the fate H. G. Wells assigns to posterity. All
the other prophets of whom I have any knowledge content themselves
with entrusting to future centuries the realisation of their dreams.
They do not unveil the future, being satisfied with conjuring it up.

“The truth is that men do not look so far ahead without fright.
Many consider that such an investigation is not only useless, but
pernicious; while those most ready to believe that future events are
discoverable are those who would most dread to discover them. This fear
is doubtless based on profound reasons. All morals, all religions,
embody a revelation of humanity’s destiny. The greater part of men,
whether they admit it to, or conceal it from, themselves, would recoil
from investigating these august revelations, to discover the emptiness
of their anticipations. They are accustomed to endure the idea of
manners totally different from their own, if once those manners are
buried in the past. Thereupon they congratulate themselves on the
progress made by morality. But, as their morality is in the main
governed by their manners, or rather by what they allow one to see of
them, they dare not confess to themselves that morality, which has
continually changed with manners, up to their own day, will undergo
a further change when they have passed out of this life, and that
future men are liable to conceive an idea entirely at variance with
their own as to what is permissible or not. It would go against the
grain with them to admit that their virtues are merely transitory,
and their gods decrepit. And, although the past is there to point out
to them ever-changing and shifting rights and duties, they would look
upon themselves as dupes were they to foresee that future humanity is
to create for itself new rights, duties and gods. Finally, they fear
disgracing themselves in the eyes of their contemporaries, in assuming
the horrible immorality which future morality stands for. Such are the
obstacles to a quest of the future. Look at Gallio and his friends;
they would not have dared to foresee the equality of classes in the
matter of marriage, the abolition of slavery, the rout of the legions,
the fall of the Empire, the end of Rome, nor even the death of those
very gods in whom they had all but ceased to believe.”

“’Tis possible,” said Joséphin Leclerc, “but it is time for us to dine.”

And, leaving the Forum bathed in the calm light of the moon, they
wended their way through the populous streets of the city towards a
famed but cheap eating-house in the Via Condotti.



IV


The room was small, and hung with a smoke-stained paper dating from the
pontificate of Pio Nono. Ancient lithographs were dependent from the
walls, representing Cavour with his tortoise-shell-framed spectacles
and collar-like beard, the leonine visage of Garibaldi, the stupendous
moustaches of Victor Emanuel, a classic placing side by side of the
combined symbols of the revolution and of the supreme power, a popular
testimony to the Italian spirit which excels in juxtapositions, and
in whose midst, in our own day, in Rome, the fulminating Pope and the
excommunicated King daily exchange assurances of good-neighbourship,
with an exquisite grasp of politics, and not without a certain flavour
of delicate comedy. The mahogany sideboard was laden with plated
chafing-dishes and alabaster goblets. The establishment affected for
new things a contempt appropriate to long-standing renown.

Seated around a table bedecked with roses, and with flasks of Chianti
before them, the five continued their philosophic discourse.

“It is quite true,” said Nicole Langelier, “that the heart fails in
the case of many men, when gazing into the abyss of future events. It
is moreover certain that our all too imperfect knowledge of facts past
and gone does not supply us with the elements required to enable us
to determine accurately what is to succeed them. However, since the
past of human social organisations is in part known to us, the future
of those societies, a continuation and consequence of their past, is
not wholly beyond our ken. It is not impossible to observe certain
social phenomena, and to define from the conditions under which they
have already occurred, the conditions under which they will reappear.
We are not barred, when witnessing the commencement of an order of
facts, from comparing it with a past order of analogous facts, and
from deducing from the completion of the second a like completion of
the first. By way of example: when observing that the forms of labour
are changeable, that serfdom has succeeded slavery, salaried labour,
serfdom, new methods of production may be anticipated; when it is shown
that industrial capital has for barely a century taken the place of
the small artisans and peasant property, one is led to ponder over the
form which is to succeed capital; when studying the manner in which
was carried out the redemption of the feudal burdens and conditions
of servitude, one is enabled to conceive how the redemption of the
means of production nowadays constituting private ownership may some
day be carried out. By studying the great Services of the State now in
operation, it is possible to form a conception of future socialistic
methods of production; and, after having thus investigated in several
respects the present and the past of human industry, we shall, lacking
certainties, determine by aid of probabilities whether collectivism
is to be realised some day, not because it is just, for there is no
reason for believing in the triumph of justice, but because it is
the necessary sequel to the present state of things, and the fatal
consequence of capitalistic evolution.

“Let us, if you like, take another example: we possess some experience
of the life and death of religions. The end of Roman polytheism in
particular, is familiar to us. Its lamentable end enables us to imagine
that of Christianity, whose decline we are witnessing.

“We may similarly seek to find out whether future humanity will be
bellicose or peaceful.”

“I am curious to learn,” said Joséphin Leclerc, “how to set about it.”

M. Goubin shook his head, saying:

“Such a quest is useless. We know its result beforehand. War will last
as long as the world.”

“There is nothing to prove it,” replied Langelier, “and a consideration
of the past leads one to believe, on the contrary, that war is not one
of the essential conditions of social life.”

And Langelier, while waiting for the _minestra_ (soup) which was long
in making its appearance, developed the foregoing idea, without,
however, departing from the moderation characterising his mind.

“Although the early periods of the human race,” he said, “are lost to
us in impenetrable darkness, it is certain that men were not always
warlike. They were not so during the long ages of the pastoral life;
the memory of which survives only in a small number of words common
to all Indo-European languages, and which reveal innocent manners.
And there are reasons for believing that these peaceful pastoral
centuries had a far longer duration than the agricultural, industrial,
and commercial periods which, following them in a necessary progress,
brought about between tribes and nations a state of all but constant
war.

“It was by force of arms that it was most frequently sought to acquire
property, lands, women, slaves, and cattle. At first, wars were waged
between village and village. Next, the vanquished, joining hands
with the victors, formed a nation, and wars occurred between nation
and nation. Each of these peoples, in order to retain possession of
the acquired riches, or to make further acquisitions, contended with
neighbouring peoples for the possession of strongholds securing the
command of roads, mountain passes, river courses, and the seashore. In
the end, nations formed confederations, and contracted alliances. Thus
it came about that men banded together; as they increased in strength,
instead of contending for the goods of the earth, formally bartered
them. The community of sentiments and interests gradually became
broadened. A day came when Rome imagined she had established it the
world over. Augustus thought he had inaugurated the era of universal
peace.

“We know how this illusion was gradually and savagely dissipated, and
how the barbarian hordes overwhelmed the Roman peace. These barbarians,
who had settled within the Empire, cut one another’s throats on its
ruins, for a space of fourteen centuries, and founded in carnage
countries baptized in blood. Of such was the life of nations in the
Middle Ages, and the constitution of the great European monarchies.

“In those days, a state of war was alone possible and conceivable.
All the forces of the world were organised solely for the purpose of
maintaining it.

“If the reawakening of thought, at the time of the Renaissance,
permitted a few sparse minds to conceive better regulated relations
between nations, at one and the same time, the burning desire to
invent, and the thirst for knowledge supplied fresh food to the warrior
instinct. The discovery of the West Indies, the exploration of Africa,
the navigation of the Pacific Ocean, opened up vast territories
to European avidity. The white kingdoms joined issue over the
extermination of the red, yellow, and black races, and for the space of
four centuries gave themselves up madly to the pillaging of three great
divisions of the world. This is what is styled modern civilisation.

“During this uninterrupted succession of deeds of rapine and violence,
Europeans acquired a knowledge of the extent and configuration of
the earth. As they progressed in this knowledge, so did their work
of destruction proceed apace. To the present day, the whites come in
contact with the black or the yellow races but to enslave or massacre
them. The peoples whom we call barbarians know us so far through our
crimes only.

“For all that, those navigations, those explorations undertaken in
a spirit of savage cupidity, these tracks by land and by sea opened
up to conquerors, adventurers, hunters of and traders in men, these
life-destroying colonisations, this brutal impulse which has led and
still leads one-half of humanity to destroy the other, are the fatal
conditions of a further progress of civilisation, and the terrible
means which shall have prepared, for a still undetermined future, the
peace of the world.

“This time, ’tis the whole world assimilated, in spite of enormous
dissimilarities, to the state of the Roman Empire under Augustus.
The Roman peace was the fruit of conquest. Universal peace will most
assuredly not be brought about by the same means. No Empire is there
to-day which can lay claim to the hegemony of the lands and seas
covering the globe, known and surveyed at last. But, in spite of their
being less apparent than those of political and military domination,
the bonds which are beginning to unite the whole of humanity, and no
longer merely a part of humanity, are none the less real; they are both
more supple and more solid, more intimate and infinite in variety,
since they are connected, athwart the fictions of public life, with the
realities of social life.

“The increasing multiplicity of communications and exchanges, the
compulsory solidarity of the financial markets of every capital, of
commercial markets vainly striving to guarantee their independence by
recourse to unfortunate expedients, the rapid growth of international
socialism, seem likely to guarantee, sooner or later, the union of the
peoples of every continent. If at the present moment the Imperialist
spirit of the great States and the haughty ambitions of armed
nations seem to give the lie to these previsions, and to damn these
aspirations, it will be perceived that in reality modern nationalism
amounts merely to a confused aspiration towards a more and more vast
union of intellects and wills, and that the dream of a greater England,
a greater Germany, a greater America, leads, will or do whatever you
may, to the dream of a greater humanity, and to a partnership between
nations for the common exploitation of the riches of the earth....”

The speech was interrupted by the appearance of the tavern-keeper
bearing a steaming soup-tureen and grated cheese.

And, from amid the hot and aromatic vapour of the soup, Nicole
Langelier concluded his argument with these words:

“There will doubtless be further wars. The savage instincts coupled
with the natural desires, pride and hunger, which have embroiled the
world for so many centuries, will again disturb it. The human masses
have so far not found their equilibrium. The sagacity of nations is not
yet sufficiently methodical to secure the common welfare, by means of
the freedom and the facility of exchanges, man has so far not come to
be looked up to with respect everywhere by man, the several portions
of humanity are not yet about to associate harmoniously for the purpose
of building the cells and organs of one and the same body. It will not
be vouchsafed even unto the youngest of us to witness the close of the
era of arms. But, we feel within us a presentiment of these better
times which we are not to experience. If we extend into the future the
present trend, we may even now determine the establishment of more
perfect and frequent communications between all races and all nations,
a more general and stronger feeling of human solidarity, the rational
organisation of labour, and the coming of the United States of the
World.

“Universal peace will become a fact some day, not because men will
become better (’tis more than we may hope for), but because a new order
of things, a new science, and new economic necessities will force on
men the state of peace, just as formerly the very conditions of their
existence placed and kept them in a state of war.”

“Nicole Langelier, a rose has shed a leaf in your glass,” said Giacomo
Boni. “This has not taken place without the permission of the gods. Let
us drink to the future peace of the world.”

Raising his glass, Joséphin Leclerc remarked:

“This wine of Chianti has a tart savour, and a light sparkle. Let us
drink to peace, the while Russians and Japanese are waging a bitter
war in Manchuria and in Korea Bay.”

“That war,” resumed Langelier, “marks one of the great periods in the
history of the world. And, in order to grasp its meaning, we must hark
back two thousand years.

“The Romans, assuredly, did not suspect the vastness of the barbarian
world, and had no conception of those immense human reservoirs which
were to burst on them one fine day, and submerge them. They did not
suspect that there existed in the world any other than the Roman peace.
And yet, an older and vaster one there was, the Chinese peace.

“Not but what their merchants had business relations with the
merchants of Serica. The latter were wont to bring raw silk to a spot
situated to the north of the Pamir table-land, named the Tower of
Stone. The merchants of the Empire went thither. Bolder Latin traders
penetrated as far as the Gulf of Tong-King and the Chinese coasts up
to Hang-chau-fu, or Hanoi. Nevertheless, the Romans did not conceive
that Serica constituted an Empire more densely populated than their own
one, richer, and more advanced in agriculture and political economy.
The Chinese, on their part, knew the white men. Their annals mention
the fact that the Emperor An-tung, under which name we recognise
Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, despatched an embassy to them, which
was perhaps merely an expedition of navigators and merchants. But
they were ignorant of the fact that a civilisation more seething and
violent than their own, as well as more prolific and infinitely more
expansive, was spread over one of the faces of the globe of which they
covered another face: the Chinese, agriculturists and gardeners full
of experience, honest and expert merchants, led a happy life, owing to
their system of exchange and to their immense associations of credit.
Contented with their subtle science, their exquisite politeness, their
singularly human piety, and their immutable wisdom, they were doubtless
not anxious to become acquainted with the ways of life and thought
of the white men who had come from the land of Cæsar. Perchance the
ambassadors of An-tung may have seemed somewhat gross and barbarian to
them.

“The two great civilisations, the yellow and the white, continued
ignorant of each other until the day when the Portuguese, having
doubled the Cape of Good Hope, settled down to trade at Macao.
Merchants and Christian missionaries established themselves in China,
and indulged in every kind of violence and rapine. The Chinese
tolerated them, in the manner of men accustomed to works of patience,
and marvellously capable of endurance; nevertheless, they could on
occasion take life with all the refinements of cruelty. For nearly
three whole centuries the Jesuits were, in the Middle Kingdom, a source
of endless disturbances. In our own times, the Christian acquired the
habit of sending jointly or separately into that vast Empire, whenever
order was disturbed, soldiers who restored it by means of theft,
rape, pillage, murder, and incendiarism, and of proceeding at short
intervals with the pacific penetration of the country with rifles and
guns. The poorly armed Chinese either defend themselves badly or not
at all, and so they are massacred with delightful facility. They are
polite and ceremonious, but are reproached with cherishing feeble
sentiments of affection for Europeans. The grievances we have against
them are greatly of the order of those which Mr. Du Chaillu cherished
towards his gorilla. Mr. Du Chaillu, while in a forest, brought down
with his rifle the mother of a gorilla. In its death, the brute was
still pressing its young to its bosom. He tore it from this embrace,
and dragged it with him in a cage across Africa, for the purpose of
selling it in Europe. Now, the young animal gave him just cause for
complaint. It was unsociable, and actually starved itself to death.
‘I was powerless,’ says Mr. Du Chaillu, ‘to correct its evil nature.’
We complain of the Chinese with as great a show of reason as Mr. Du
Chaillu of his gorilla.

“In 1901, order having been disturbed at Peking, the troops of the
five Great Powers, under the command of a German Field-Marshal,
restored it by the customary means. Having in this fashion covered
themselves with military glory, the five Powers signed one of the
innumerable treaties by which they guarantee the integrity of the very
China whose provinces they divide among themselves.

“Russia’s share was Manchuria, and she closed Korea to Japanese trade.
Japan, which in 1894 had beaten the Chinese on land and on sea, and
had taken a part, in 1901, in the pacifying action of the Powers, saw
with concentrated fury the advance of the voracious and slow-footed
she-bear. And, while the huge brute indolently stretched out its muzzle
towards the Japanese beehive, the yellow bees, arming their wings and
stings together, riddled it with burning punctures.

“‘It is a colonial war,’ was the expression used by a high-placed
Russian official to my friend Georges Bourdon.[D] Now, the fundamental
principal of every colonial war is that the European should be more
powerful than the peoples whom he is fighting; this is as clear as
noonday. It is understood that in these kinds of wars the European is
to attack with artillery, while the Asiatic or African is of course
to defend himself with arrows, clubs, assegais and tomahawks. It
is tolerated that he should procure a few antiquated flint-locks
and cartridge-pouches; this aids in rendering colonisation more
glorious. But in no case is it permissible that he should be armed
and instructed in European fashion. His fleet must consist of junks,
canoes and ‘dug-outs.’ Should he perchance purchase ships from European
ship-owners, such ships shall naturally be unfit for use. The Chinese
who fill their arsenals with porcelain shells conform to the rules of
colonial warfare.

  [D] M. Georges Bourdon, journalist, on the staff of _Le Figaro_.

“The Japanese have departed from these rules. They wage war in
accordance with the principles taught in France by General Bonnal. They
greatly outweighed their adversaries in knowledge and intelligence.
While fighting better than Europeans, they show no respect for
consecrated usages, and act to a certain degree in a fashion contrary
to the law of nations.

“’Tis in vain that serious individuals like Monsieur Edmond Théry[E]
demonstrated to them that they were bound to be beaten, in the superior
interest of the European market and in conformity with the most firmly
established economic laws. Vainly did the proconsul of Indo-China,
Monsieur Doumer himself, call upon them to suffer, and at short notice,
decisive defeats on sea and on land. ‘What a financial sadness would
bow down our hearts,’ exclaimed this great man, ‘were Bezobrazoff and
Alexeieff not to extract another million out of the Korean forests.
They are kings. Like them, I was a king: our cause is a common one. Oh
ye Japanese! Imitate in their gentleness the copper-coloured folk over
whom I reigned so gloriously under Méline.’ In vain did Dr. Charles
Richet,[F] skeleton in hand, represent to them that being prognathous,
and not having the muscles of their calves sufficiently developed, they
were under the obligation of seeking flight in the trees when face to
face with the Russians, who are brachycephalous and as such eminently
civilising, as was demonstrated when they drowned five thousand Chinese
in the Amur. ‘Bear in mind that you are links between monkey and man,’
obligingly said to them my Lord Professor Richet, ‘as a consequence of
which, if you should defeat the Russians or Finno-Letto-Ugro-Slavs, it
would be exactly as if monkeys were to beat you. Is it not plain to
you?’ They heeded him not.

  [E] M. Edmond Théry, journalist, on the staff of _Le Figaro_.
      Has been entrusted by the French Government with several
      politico-economic missions; author of several works in this
      connection.

  [F] Dr. Charles Richet, a noted physician, who has written plays,
      and is the author of several works on physiology and sociology.

“At the present moment, the Russians are paying the penalty, in the
waters of Japan and in the gorges of Manchuria, not only of their
grasping and brutal policy in the East, but of the colonial policy of
all Europe. They are now expiating, not merely their own crimes, but
those of the whole of military and commercial Christianity. When saying
this, I do not mean to say that there is a justice in the world. But
we witness a strange whirligig of things, and brute force, up to now
the sole judge of human actions, indulges occasionally in unexpected
pranks. Its sudden starts aside destroy an equilibrium thought to be
stable. And its pranks, which are ever the work of some hidden rule,
bring about interesting results. The Japanese cross the Yalu and defeat
the Russians in good form. Their sailors annihilate artistically a
European fleet. Immediately do we discern that a danger threatens
us. If it indeed exists, who created it? It was not the Japanese who
sought out the Russians. It was not the yellow men who hunted up the
whites. We there and then make the discovery of a Yellow Peril. For
many long years have Asiatics been familiar with the White Peril. The
looting of the Summer Palace, the massacres of Pekin, the drownings of
Blagovestchenk, the dismemberment of China, were these not enough to
alarm the Chinese? As to the Japanese, could they feel secure under
the guns of Port Arthur? We created the White Peril. The White Peril
has engendered the Yellow Peril. We have here concatenations giving to
the ancient Necessity which rules the world an appearance of divine
Justice, and must perforce admire the astonishing behaviour of that
blind queen of men and gods, when seeing Japan, formerly so cruel to
the Chinese and Koreans, and the unpaid accessory to the crimes of
Europeans in China, become the avenger of China, and the hope of the
yellow race.

“It does not, however, appear at first sight that the Yellow Peril at
which European economists are terrified is to be compared to the White
Peril suspended over Asia. The Chinese do not send to Paris, Berlin,
and St. Petersburg missionaries to teach Christians the Fung-chui, and
sow disorder in European affairs. A Chinese expeditionary force did
not land in Quiberon Bay to demand of the Government of the Republic
_extra-territoriality_, _i.e._, the right of trying by a tribunal of
mandarins cases pending between Chinese and Europeans. Admiral Togo
did not come and bombard Brest roads with a dozen battleships, for the
purpose of improving Japanese trade in France. The flower of French
nationalism, the _élite_ of our Trublions, did not besiege in their
mansions in the Avenues Hoche and Marceau the Legations of China and
of Japan, and Marshal Oyama did not, for the same reason, lead the
combined armies of the Far East to the Boulevard de la Madeleine to
demand the punishment of the foreigner-hating Trublions. He did not
burn Versailles in the name of a higher civilisation. The armies of
the Great Asiatic Powers did not carry away to Tokio and Peking the
Louvre paintings and the silver service of the Elysée.

“No indeed! Monsieur Edmond Théry himself admits that the yellow men
are not sufficiently civilised to imitate the whites so faithfully. Nor
does he foresee that they will ever rise to so high a moral culture.
How could it be possible for them to possess our virtues? They are not
Christians. But men entitled to speak consider that the Yellow Peril
is none the less to be dreaded for all that it is economic. Japan, and
China organised by Japan, threaten us, in all the markets of Europe,
with a competition frightful, monstrous, enormous, and deformed, the
mere idea of which causes the hair of the economists to stand on end.
That is why Japanese and Chinese must be exterminated. There can be
no doubt about the matter. But war must also be declared against the
United States to prevent it from selling iron and steel at a lower
price than our manufacturers less well equipped in machinery.

“Let us for once admit the truth, and for a moment cease flattering
ourselves. Old Europe and new Europe--for that is America’s true
name--have inaugurated economic war. Each and every nation is waging
an industrial struggle against the others. Everywhere does production
arm itself furiously against production. We are displaying bad grace
when we complain that we are witnessing fresh competing and disturbing
products invade the market of the world thus thrown into confusion. Of
what use are our lamentations? That might is right is our god. If Tokio
is the weaker, it shall be in the wrong and it shall be made to feel
it; if it is the stronger, right will be on its side, and we shall have
no reproach to cast at it. Where is the nation in the world entitled to
speak in the name of justice?

“We have taught the Japanese both the capitalistic _régime_ and war.
They are a cause of alarm because they are becoming like ourselves.
In truth, it is awful. They dare to defend themselves with European
weapons against Europeans. Their generals, their naval officers, who
have studied in England, in Germany, and in France, reflect honour on
their instructors. Several of them have followed the classes of our
special military schools. The Russian Grand Dukes, who feared that no
good could come out of military institutions too democratic to their
taste, must feel reassured.

“I am unable to foretell the issue of the war. The Russian Empire
opposes to the methodical energy of the Japanese its irresolute forces
which the savage imbecility of its government restrains, the dishonesty
of a voracious administration robs, and military incapacity leads to
disaster. The stupendousness of its impotence and the depths of its
disorganisation stand revealed. Withal, its golden reservoirs, kept
filled by its rich creditors, are all but inexhaustible. On the other
hand, its enemy has no other resources than onerous loans obtained with
difficulty, of which victory itself may perchance deprive them. For
while English and Americans are one in assisting it to weaken Russia,
they do not intend that it shall become powerful and to be feared. It
is hard to predict the final victory of one combatant over the other.
But if Japan makes the yellow men respected by the white men, it will
have greatly served the cause of humanity, and paved the way unawares
and doubtless against its own wish for the pacific organisation of the
world.”

“What do you mean,” said M. Goubin, raising his eyes from his plate
filled with a savoury _fritto_.

“It is feared,” continued Nicole Langelier, “that Japan grown to
manhood will educate China, teach it to defend itself and to exploit
its wealth itself, and that Japan will create a strong China. No need
to look upon such a contingency with alarm; it should, on the contrary,
be hoped for in the universal interest. Strong nations co-operate to
the harmony and wealth of the world. Weak nations, like China and
Turkey, are a perpetual cause of disturbances and perils. But we are
ever in too great a haste in our fears and hopes. Should victorious
Japan undertake to organise the old yellow Empire, it will not succeed
in its task that quickly. It will require time to teach China that a
China exists. For she knows it not, and as long as she is unaware of
it, there will not be any China. A people exists only in the knowledge
possessed by it of its existence. There are 350,000,000 Chinese, but
they are not aware of the fact. As long as they have not counted
themselves, they will not count for anything. They will not even exist
by dint of numbers. ‘Number off!’ is the first word of command spoken
by the drill-sergeant to his men. He is there and then teaching them
the principle of societies. But it takes a long time for 350,000,000
men to number themselves. Nevertheless, Ular, who is a European out
of the common, since he believes that one should be humane and just
towards the Chinese, informs us that a great national movement is
simmering in all the provinces of the huge empire.”

“And even should it happen,” said Joséphin Leclerc, “that victorious
Japan came to infuse into Mongols, Chinese, and Tibetans a
consciousness of themselves, and caused them to be respected by the
white races, in what way would the peace of the world be better
assured, and the conquering mania of nations be kept within stricter
bounds? Would not negro humanity still remain to be exterminated?
Where is the black nation which will insure the respecting of negroes
by the white and yellow races?”

“But,” interposed Nicole Langelier, “who can define how far one of the
great human races may go? The blacks are not, like the red man, dying
out through contact with the Europeans. Where is the prophet who will
venture to tell the 200,000,000 African blacks that their posterity
will never enjoy wealth and peace on the lakes and great rivers? The
white men passed through the ages of caves and lacustrine villages.
They were at that time wild and naked. They dried rude potteries in the
sun. Their chiefs led barbarian dances at which they shouted. They knew
no other sciences than those of their sorcerers. Since those days they
have built the Parthenon, conceived geometry, subjected the expression
of their thought and the motions of their body to the laws of harmony.

“Are you then going to say to the African negroes: ‘You shall for ever
carry on an internecine war between tribe and tribe, and you shall
inflict upon one another atrocities and absurd tortures; King Gléglé,
permeated with a religious idea, shall for all time have prisoners tied
up in a basket and thrown from the roof of his royal hut; you shall for
ever devour with enjoyment the strips of flesh torn from the decomposed
cadavers of your aged relations; for ever shall explorers unload
their rifles on you, and smoke you out in your kraals; the wonderful
Christian soldier will enjoy in his bravery the amusement of hacking
your women to pieces; the gay and festive sailor from the befogged seas
shall for all time kick in the bellies of your little children, just to
take the stiffness out of his knee-joints? Can you safely prophesy to
one-third of humanity a state of perpetual ignominy?

“I am unable to say whether one day, as Mrs. Beecher Stowe predicted in
1840, a life will awaken in Africa full of a splendour and magnificence
unknown to the cold-blooded races of the West, and whether art will
blossom forth in new and dazzling forms. The blacks possess a keen
appreciation of music. It may happen that a delightful negro art of
dance and song shall see the light of day. In the meanwhile, the
coloured folk of the Southern States are making rapid strides in
capitalistic civilisation. Monsieur Jean Finot[G] has recently supplied
us with information on the subject.

  [G] M. Jean Finot, editor of _La Revue_, and contributor to several
      French and European publications.

“Fifty years ago they did not, as a whole, own two hundred and
fifty acres of land. Nowadays their property is valued at over
£160,000,000. They were illiterate. To-day fifty per cent. of them
can read and write. There are black novelists, poets, economists, and
philanthropists.

“The half-breeds, the issue of master and slave, are singularly
intelligent and vigorous. The coloured men, both cunning and ferocious,
instinctive and calculating, will gradually (so one of them has
confided to me) reap the advantage of number, and one day lord it over
the effeminate creole race which exercises so lightly over the blacks
its fitful cruelty. It may be that the mulatto of genius, who will make
the children of the whites pay dearly the blood of the negroes lynched
by their fathers, is already born.”

M. Goubin primed himself with his powerful eye-glass, and remarked:

“Were the Japanese to be victorious, they would take Indo-China from
us.”

“Thereby rendering us a great service,” answered Langelier. “Colonies
are the curse of nations.”

M. Goubin’s indignant silence was his sole reply.

“I cannot listen to such statements,” exclaimed Joséphin Leclerc. “We
require outlets for our products, and territories for our industrial
and commercial expansion. What are you thinking of, Langelier? One
policy alone governs Europe, America, and the world to-day--colonial
policy.”

Nicole Langelier, unruffled, replied:

“Colonial policy is the most recent form of barbarism, or, if you
prefer, the term of civilisation. I make no distinction between these
two expressions; they are identical. What men call civilisation is
the present condition of manners, while what they style barbarism are
anterior conditions. The manners of to-day will be styled barbarian
when they shall be of the past. It is patent to me that our manners and
morals embody the idea that strong nations shall destroy the weaker
ones. Of such is the principle of the law of nations.

“It remains to be seen, however, whether conquests abroad always
constitute a good stroke of business for nations. It would not seem so.
What have Mexico and Peru done for Spain? Brazil for Portugal? Batavia
for Holland? There are various kinds of colonies. There are colonies
which afford to unfortunate Europeans desert and uncultivated lands.
These, loyal as long as they remain poor, separate from the mother
country as soon as they become prosperous. Some there are which are
inhabitable; these supply raw material, and import manufactured goods.
Now it is plain that these colonies enrich, not those who govern them,
but whoever trades with them. The greater part of the time they are
not worth what they cost. Moreover, they may at any moment expose the
mother country to military disasters.”

“How about England?” interrupted M. Goubin.

“England is less a nation than a race. The Anglo-Saxons know no
fatherland but the sea. England, looked upon as wealthy in her vast
domains, owes her fortune and her power to her commerce. It is not her
colonies which should be envied her, but her merchants, the authors of
her wealth. Do you imagine, by way of illustration, that the Transvaal
represents so very good a stroke of business for her? For all that, it
is conceivable that in the present state of the world nations who bring
forth many children and manufacture products in large quantities should
seek territories and markets in far-off lands, and secure possession
of them by stratagem and violence. How different it is in our own
case! Our thrifty nation, careful not to have more children than the
natal soil can feed without difficulty, and producing in a moderate
degree, does not willingly embark on distant adventures; our France,
who hardly goes beyond her garden wall, great heavens, what need has
she of colonies? Of what use are they to her? What do they bring her?
She has spent men and money in profusion, in order that the Congo,
Cochin-China, Annam, Tonking, Guiana, and Madagascar shall purchase
calicoes from Manchester, guns from Birmingham and Liége, brandies from
Dantzig, and cases of wine all the way from Bordeaux to Hamburg. She
has, for seventy years, despoiled, hunted, and shot down Arabs, and in
the end she has peopled Algeria with Italians and Spaniards!

“The irony of these results is cruel enough, and it is hard to realise
that this empire, ten or eleven times as big as France herself, has
been formed to our detriment. But, it must be taken into consideration
that whereas the French nation derives no advantage whatsoever from
the possession of territories in Africa and Asia, the heads of its
Government, on the other hand, find it to their great advantage to
acquire them. They thereby secure the affection of the navy and army,
which on the occasion of colonial expeditions reap a harvest of
promotions, pensions, and crosses, to say nothing of the glory won in
defeating the enemy. They conciliate the clergy by opening new paths
to the Propaganda, and by allocating territories to Catholic missions.
They make joyous the ship-owners, builders, and army contractors,
whom they load with orders. They secure for themselves in the country
itself a numerous following by the granting of concessions of immense
forests and plantations without end. And, what is still more precious
to them, they attach to their majority every parliamentary jobber
and kerbstone-broker. Lastly, they cajole the multitude, proud in
its possession of a yellow and black empire, which makes Germany and
England turn green with envy. They are looked upon as good citizens,
patriots, and great statesmen. And if, like Ferry, they incur the
risk of going under, as the result of some military disaster, they
willingly run the risk fully convinced that the most harmful of distant
expeditions will cost them fewer difficulties, and will inveigle them
into fewer perils than the most useful of social reforms.

“You can now realise why we have occasionally had imperialist
ministers, jealous of aggrandising our colonial domain. We must
congratulate ourselves, however, and praise the moderation of our
rulers, who might have burdened us with still more colonies.

“But all danger has not been averted, and we are threatened with an
eighty years’ warfare in Morocco. Is there never to be an end to the
colonial mania?

“I am fully aware that nations are not sensible. How can it be
expected of them, if one considers what they are made of? Still, a
certain instinct oftentimes warns them of what is harmful. They are
occasionally endowed with the power of observing. In the long run they
undergo the painful experience of their errors and blunders. The day
will come when it will dawn upon them that colonies are a source of
perils and ruinous results. Commercial barbarism will be followed by
commercial civilisation, and forcible, by pacific penetration. These
ideas have to-day found an echo even in the bosom of parliaments. They
will prevail, not because men will be more disinterested, but because
they will know their own interests better.

“The great human asset is man himself. In order to rate the terrestrial
globe, it is necessary to begin by rating men. To exploit the soil, the
mines, the waters, all the substances and all the forces of our planet,
it needs man, the whole of man; humanity, the whole of humanity. The
complete exploitation of the terrestrial globe demands the united
labour of white, yellow, and black men. By reducing, diminishing, and
weakening, or, to sum it up in one word, by colonising a portion of
humanity, we are working against ourselves. It is to our advantage
that yellow and black men should be powerful, free, and wealthy. Our
prosperity and our wealth depend on theirs. The more is produced, the
more will there be consumed. The greater the profit they derive from
us, the greater the profit we shall derive from them. If they reap the
benefit of our labours, so shall we fully reap theirs.

“If we study the movements which govern the destinies of societies, we
may perhaps discover signs that the era of violent deeds is coming to
an end. War, which was formerly a standing institution among nations,
is now intermittent, and the periods of peace have become of longer
duration than those of war. Our country affords the observations of
a fact full of interest, for the French nation presents an original
characteristic in the military history of nations. Whereas other
nations never waged war except from interest or necessity, alone the
French have fought for the pleasure of fighting. Now it is remarkable
that the taste of our compatriots has undergone a change. Thirty years
ago Renan wrote: ‘Whoever knows France as a whole and in her provincial
varieties will not hesitate to recognise the fact that the movement
swaying this country for the past fifty years is essentially pacific.’
It is a fact attested by a large number of observers that in 1870
France had no desire to have recourse to the arbitrament of war, and
that the declaration of war was greeted with consternation. It is an
assured fact that few Frenchmen dream of taking the field, and that
everybody readily accepts the idea that the army exists in order to
avoid a war. Let me quote one example out of a thousand in confirmation
of this state of mind. Monsieur Ribot, a representative of the people
and a former Cabinet Minister, having been invited to some patriotic
celebration, replied with an eloquent letter, begging to be excused.
The same Monsieur Ribot knits his brows superciliously at the mere
mention of the word disarmament. He has towards standards and cannon
the leaning proper to a former Minister of Foreign Affairs. In his
letter he denounces as a national peril the pacific ideas disseminated
by the Socialist. He sees in them a spirit of renunciation he cannot
endure. Not that he is of a bellicose turn of mind. He, too, sighs
for peace, but a peace full of pomp, magnificent, and flashing with
the same pride as war. Between Monsieur Ribot and Jaurès, the matter
is merely one of form. Both of them are for peace. Jaurès, simply;
Monsieur Ribot, superbly. That is all. Better still and more surely
than the Socialist democracy which contents itself with a bloused or
coated peace does the sentiment of the bourgeois, who demand a peace
gleaming with military insignia and bedecked with emblems of glory,
testify to the inevitable decline of all idea of revenge and conquests,
since one discerns in it the military instinct, at the very time when
it is losing its nature and is becoming pacific.

“France is acquiring by degrees the sentiment of her true strength,
consisting in intellectual strength; she is becoming conscious of her
mission, which is the sowing of ideas and the exercise of a sway over
thought. She will within measurable time perceive that her only stable
power has lain in her speakers, her writers, and her men of science.
Hence she will some day fain have to recognise that the force of
numbers, after having so often betrayed her, is finally escaping from
her, and that the time has come for her to resign herself to the glory
which the exercise of the mind and the use of reason assure her of.”

Jean Boilly, shaking his head, said:

“You ask that France should teach other nations concord and peace. Are
you so sure that she will be listened to and her example followed?
Is her own tranquillity so assured? Has she not to fear threats from
outside, to foresee dangers, to watch over her safety, and to provide
for her defence? One swallow does not make a summer; one nation does
not make the peace of the world. Is it so sure that Germany keeps up
an army with the sole object of not waging war? Her Social-Democrats
desire peace. But they are not the masters, and their deputies do
not enjoy in the Parliament the authority which the number of their
electors should give them. And Russia, who has hardly entered upon the
industrial period, do you believe that she will soon be entering upon
the pacific period? Is it not to be feared that after having disturbed
Asia she will disturb Europe?

“Supposing even that Europe should become pacific, can you not see
that America would become warlike? Following upon Cuba, reduced to the
state of a vassal republic, Hawaii, Porto Rico, and the annexation of
the Philippines, it is impossible to say that the American Union is
not a conquering nation. A publicist of Yankee proclivities, Stead,
has said amid the plaudits of the whole of the United States: ‘The
Americanisation of the world is on the march.’ And then there is Mr.
Roosevelt, whose dream is to plant the Stars and Stripes in South
Africa, Australia, and the West Indies. Mr. Roosevelt is Imperialist
and he sighs for an America mistress of the world. Between ourselves,
he is planning the Empire of Augustus. He has unfortunately perused
Livy. The conquests of the Romans banish sleep from him. Have you read
his speeches? They breathe a bellicose spirit. ‘Fight, my friends,’
says Mr. Roosevelt, ‘and fight hard. There is nothing like blows. We
are upon earth only to exterminate one another. Those who tell you the
contrary are men without morality. Mistrust men who think. Thought
enervates. ’Tis a French failing. The Romans conquered the world. They
lost it. We are the modern Romans.’ Words full of eloquence, backed
up with a navy which will soon be the second in the world, and with a
military Budget of 40,500,000 francs!

“The Yankees declare that in four years’ time they will fight Germany.
If we are to believe this, they should first tell us where they
expect to come into contact with the enemy. That a Russia, the serf
of her Czar, that a still feudal Germany, should entertain armies
for fighting purposes, this one is tempted to lay to the door of
ancient habits and the survival of a strenuous past. But that a young
democracy, the United States of America, an aggregation of business
men, a mass of emigrants from all countries, lacking community,
traditions, and memories, madly cast into the scramble for the
mighty dollar, should of a sudden be swept with the desire of firing
torpedoes at the flanks of battleships, and of exploding mines under
the enemy’s columns, affords a proof that the inordinate struggle for
the production and exploitation of riches keeps alive the employment
of and taste for brutal force, that industrial violence engenders
military violence, and that mercantile rivalries kindle between nations
hatreds that bloodshed can alone extinguish. The colonial mania of
which you were speaking a while ago is but one of the thousand forms
of the much-vaunted competition of our economists. The capitalistic
state is just as much a warlike one as the feudal. The era has dawned
of great wars for the industrial sovereignty. Under the present
_régime_ of national production it is the cannon which fixes tariffs,
establishes customs, opens and closes markets. There exists no other
regulator of commerce and industry. Extermination is the fatal result
of the economic conditions in which the civilised world finds itself
to-day....”

The perfume of Gorgonzola and Stracchino was pervading the table. The
waiter was bringing in wax-candles to each of which was attached the
_abbrustolatoio_[H] wherewith to light the long cigars with straws, so
dear to Italians.

  [H] _Abbrustolatoio_--apparatus attached to the candle; it has
      two rings through which the cigar is placed, and left to
      burn awhile.

Hippolyte Dufresne, who for some time past seemed to have remained
indifferent to the conversation, here remarked in a low tone tinged
with an ostentatious modesty:

“Gentlemen, our friend Langelier was asserting just now that many men
are afraid of disgracing themselves in the eyes of their contemporaries
by assuming the horrible immorality which is to be the morality of the
future. I do not entertain a like fear, and I have written a little
tale, which has perhaps no other merit than the one of revealing my
calmness of mind when considering the future. I shall one day crave
permission to read it to you.”

“Read it right away,” said Boni, lighting his cigar.

“You will be giving us pleasure,” added Joséphin Leclerc, Nicole
Langelier, and M. Goubin.

“I am not sure whether I have the manuscript with me,” replied
Hippolyte Dufresne.

With these words, he drew out of his pocket a roll of paper, and began
to read what follows.



V

THROUGH THE HORN OR THE IVORY GATE


“It was about one o’clock in the morning. Before retiring for the
night, I opened the window and lit a cigarette. The hum of a motor-car
scudding along the Avenue du Bois de Boulogne broke the reigning
silence. The trees were freshening the atmosphere by the swaying of
their darkened tops. No buzzing insect, no living sound arose from
the sterile soil of the city. The night was resplendent with stars.
Their fires seemed, in the clearness of the air, more so than on other
nights, of varied lines. The greater number blazed at white heat. Some
there were, however, yellow and orange-tinted, similar to the flames
of dying lamps. Several were blue, and I saw one of so pale a blue, so
limpid, and so soft, that I could not avert my gaze from it. I regret
being ignorant of its name, but I console myself with the thought that
men do not give the stars their true names.

“When I reflect that each one of these drops of light enlightens
worlds, I ask myself whether, like our own sun, they do not shed their
rays on sufferings without end, and whether pain does not penetrate the
utmost recesses of heaven. We can only judge the other worlds by our
own. We know of life only the forms which it assumes upon the earth,
and if we suppose that our planet is one of the least good, we have
no reason for believing that all goes rightly in the others, nor that
fortunate is he who is born under the rays of Altair, Betelgeux, or
the fiery Sirius, when we know what a grievous affair it is to open
our eyes on earth to the light of our old Sun. It is not that I find
mine an unhappy fate, when compared with that of other men. I am not
troubled with either wife or child. Love and sickness have left me
unscathed. I am not very rich, and I do not go into society. I am thus
to be numbered with the happy ones. Little joy, however, falls to their
lot. What, then, can be the fate of the others? Men are really to be
pitied. I impute no blame to nature for this; to hold a conversation
with her is an impossibility; she is not intelligent. Nor will I lay
the blame on society. There is no sense in opposing society to nature.
It is as absurd to oppose the nature of men to the society of men, as
to oppose the nature of ants to the society of ants, or the nature
of herrings to the society of herrings. Animal societies are the
necessary outcome of animal nature. The earth is the planet where one
eats; ’tis the planet of hunger. The animals peopling it are naturally
gluttonous and ferocious. Man, the most intelligent of them all, is
alone avaricious. Avarice has so far been the fundamental virtue of
human societies, and the moral masterpiece of nature. Were I a writer,
I should indite the praise of avarice. It is true that my book would
not reveal anything strikingly new. The subject has been dealt with a
hundred times over by moralists and economists. Human societies have
avarice and cruelty as their august basis.

“It is thus in the other universes, in the numberless ethereal worlds?
Do all the stars I see shed their light on men? Do people eat and
inter-devour one another beyond the infinite. This doubt troubles me,
and I am unable to contemplate without fright the fiery dew suspended
in the heavens.

“My thoughts imperceptibly become more lucid and gentle, and the idea
of life, in its sensuality, violent and suave in turn, once more
assumes a pleasurable aspect to my mind. I sometimes say to myself that
life is beautiful. For, without such beauty, how could we discern its
ugly features, and how believe that nature is bad, if at the same time
we do not believe that it is good?

“For a few minutes past, the phrases of a sonata of Mozart have hovered
in the air, with their white columns and their garlands of roses. My
neighbour is a pianist, who at nights plays Mozart and Gluck. I close
the window, and while undressing, I am pondering over the doubtful
pleasures which I may give myself the next day, when of a sudden I
remember that for a week past I have been invited to lunch in the Bois
de Boulogne; I have a vague idea that the invitation is for the coming
day. To make sure of it, I look up the letter of invitation, which lies
open on my table. Its contents are:

                                      “‘16th September 1903.
    “‘My dear old Dufresne,--
        “‘Do me the pleasure of coming to luncheon with ... etc.
    etc., next Saturday, the 23rd of September, 1903, etc. etc.’

“It is for to-morrow.

“I ring for my valet.

“‘Jean, wake me to-morrow at nine o’clock.’

“It happens precisely that to-morrow, the 23rd of September 1903,
I shall enter upon my fortieth year. From what I have already seen
in this world I can almost conceive what still remains for me to be
seen. I can safely foretell the topics of to-morrow’s conversation
at the restaurant in the Bois: ‘My automobile goes sixty kilomètres
an hour.’--‘Blanche has a nasty disposition; but she is true to me;
of that I feel sure.’--‘The Cabinet takes its pass-word from the
Socialists.’--‘In the long run, the _petits-chevaux_ are a bore.
However, there remains _baccara_.’--‘The workmen would be fools not to
do as they please: the government always gives in to them.’--‘I will
bet you that Epingle-d’Or will beat Ranavalo.’--‘What I personally
cannot make out is why there is not some General to sweep away all
those blackguards.’--‘What can you expect? France has been sold to
England and Germany by the Jews.’ This is what I shall hear to-morrow.
Here you have the social and political ideas of my friends, the
great-grandsons of the bourgeois of July, princes of the factory and
foundry, kings of the mine, who knew the way of mastering and enslaving
the forces of the Revolution. My friends do not seem to me capable
of preserving for any lengthy period the industrial empire and the
political power bequeathed to them by their ancestors. My friends do
not shine by their intelligence. They have not indulged in too much
brainwork. No more have I. So far, I have not done much in this life.
Like them, I am both idle and ignorant. I do not feel myself capable of
achieving anything, and if I do not possess their vanity, if my brain
is not stored with all the foolish ideas encumbering theirs; if, like
them, I do not feel a hatred for and a fear of ideas, it is due to a
peculiar circumstance of my life. My father, a big manufacturer and
Conservative deputy, gave me, when I was seventeen, a young and timid
“coach,” who spoke little, and who looked like a girl. While preparing
me for my bachelorship, he was organising the social revolution in
Europe. His gentleness was something refreshing. He has often been
put in prison, and is now a deputy. I used to copy his addresses to
the international proletariat. He made me read the whole Socialistic
library. He taught me things all of which were not to be credited, but
he opened my eyes to what was going on about me; he demonstrated to me
that everything our society honours is contemptible, and that all that
it despises is worthy of esteem. He led me into the paths of rebellion.
In spite of his demonstrations, I came to the conclusion that falsehood
should be respected and hypocrisy venerated as the two surest supports
of the public order. I remained a Conservative, but my soul became
saturated with disgust.

“As I am falling asleep, a few almost imperceptible phrases of Mozart
still reach my ears now and then, and make me dream of temples of
marble standing amid a blue foliage.

“It was broad daylight when I awoke. I dressed myself much more quickly
than it is my wont. Unconscious of the cause for this haste, I found
myself in the street without knowing how I had got there. What I now
saw about me was to me the cause of a surprise which suspended all
my faculties of reflection; and it is owing to this impossibility to
reflect that my surprise did not increase, but remained stationary and
calm. It would doubtless soon have become immoderate, and would have
changed to stupor and terror, had I retained the use of my mind, so
greatly was the scene which I was witnessing different from what it
should be. Everything about me was to me new, unknown, and foreign.
The trees and the lawns which I was in the habit of seeing daily had
vanished. Where, on the day before, the tall grey buildings of the
avenue stood out against the sky, there now stretched a fanciful line
of brick cottages surrounded by gardens. I dared not look round to
ascertain whether my own house still existed, and so I went straight
towards the Porte Dauphine. I found it not. I took a street which was,
so it seemed to me, the old road to Suresnes. The houses flanking
it, of strange style and new form, too small to be occupied by rich
people, were nevertheless embellished with pictures, sculptures, and
brilliant potteries. A covered terrace surmounted them. I followed
this rural road, whose curves produced enchanting perspectives. It
was crossed obliquely by other sinuous ways. Neither trains, nor
automobiles, nor vehicles of any kind went by. Shadows flitted over
the soil. I looked upwards and saw masses of huge birds and enormous
fishes glide rapidly through the upper atmosphere, which seemed to
be a combination of heaven and ocean. Near the Seine, the course of
which was altered, I came across a crowd of men clad in short blouses
knotted at the waist, and wearing long gaiters. To all appearance they
were in their working clothes. But their gait was lighter and more
elegant than that of our workmen. I noticed women among them. What had
heretofore prevented my recognising them as such was that they were
dressed like the men, that they had long and straight legs, and, so it
seemed to me, the narrow hips of American women. Although these folk
did not present a savage appearance, I looked at them with fright.
They presented to my gaze a more foreign appearance than any of the
numerous strangers I had so far met upon the earth. In order to avoid
seeing another human face, I turned down a deserted lane. Very soon I
came to a circus planted with masts from which flew crimson oriflammes
bearing in letters of gold the words: EUROPEAN FEDERATION. Placards
in large frames ornamented with emblems of peace hung at the foot of
the masts. They embodied announcements regarding popular festivals,
legal injunctions, and works of public interest. In addition to balloon
time-tables was a chart of the atmospheric currents drawn on the 28th
of June of the year 220 of the Federation of Nations. All these texts
were printed in characters new to me, and in a language of which I did
not understand all the words. The while I was attempting to decipher
them, the shadows of the countless machines cleaving the air flitted
across my vision. Once more did I gaze upwards, and in this sky altered
beyond recognition, more densely populated than the earth, cloven by
rudders and threshed by screws, towards which a circle of smoke rose
from the horizon, I perceived the sun. I felt like crying on seeing
it. It was the only familiar figure which I had come across since
morning. From its altitude I judged that it was about ten o’clock of
the forenoon. Of a sudden I was surrounded by a second crowd of men
and women, similar in appearance and in costume to the first. I was
confirmed in the impression that the women, although some of them were
very plump, others very skinny, and many beggared description, were
on the whole androgynous in appearance. The crowd went its way. The
open space once more was desert, just as our suburban quarters,
which only come to life on the exodus from the workshops. I remained
behind in front of the placards and read once more the date--the
28th of June of the year 220 of the European Federation. What did it
mean! A proclamation by the Federal Committee, on the occasion of
the festival of the Earth, furnished me with timely and useful data
for comprehension of that date. This is what I read: ‘Comrades, you
are aware how, in the last year of the twentieth century, the old
order collapsed in a fearful cataclysm, and how, after fifty years of
anarchy, the federation of the peoples of Europe was organised....”
The year 220 of the federation of peoples was therefore the year 2270
of the Christian Era; this was certainly a fact which remained to be
explained. How came it that of a sudden I found myself transported to
the year 2270?

“I mused over the circumstance as I strolled at haphazard.

“‘I have not, as far as I know,’ I said to myself, ‘been preserved
for so many years in the mummy state, like Colonel Fougas. I have
not driven the machine with which Mr. H. G. Wells explores time. And
if, following the example of William Morris, I have, while asleep,
skipped three and a half centuries, I am unaware of the fact, since,
when dreaming, one does not know that one is doing so. I am utterly
convinced that I am not asleep.’

“While indulging in these musings and others not worth recording,
I was following a long street bordered with railings behind which
pink-hued houses of various styles, but all equally small, smilingly
peeped through the foliage. At times I perceived huge circuses of
steel standing out in the landscape, and crowned with flames and
smoke. Terror planed over these regions to which no name can be
given, while the vibrating rush of air caused by the rapid flight of
the machines resounded painfully through my brain. The street led to
a meadow studded with clumps of trees and intersected by rivulets.
Cows were pasturing in it. Just as my eyes were feasting upon the
freshness of the scene I fancied I saw in front of me shadows flitting
along a smooth and straight road. The whirlwind engendered by them,
as they passed me, fanned my cheeks. I saw that they were trams and
automobiles, real transparencies in their rapidity.

“I crossed the road by a foot-bridge, and for a long time I sauntered
through small meadows and woodlands. I thought I was in the open
country, when I discovered an extensive frontage of resplendent
houses bordering on the park. Soon, I found myself opposite a palace
of an airy style of architecture. A sculptured and painted frieze,
representing a largely attended feast, stretched across the vast
façade. I perceived, through the panes of the bay-windows, men and
women seated in a large and bright room around long marble tables,
laden with prettily painted potteries. I entered, under the impression
that this was a restaurant. I was not hungry, but weary, and the
coolness of the room, artistically hung with garlands of fruit,
appeared to me delicious. A man who stood by the door asked me for my
voucher, and, as I showed embarrassment, he remarked:

“‘I see, comrade, that you are not of these parts. How is it that you
are travelling without vouchers! Very sorry, but it is impossible for
me to admit you. Go and seek the delegate who hires journeymen; or, if
you are too weak to work, address yourself to the delegate who attends
to those who need succour.’

“I informed him that I was nowise unfit for work, and drew away. A
stout fellow, who was picking his teeth, said to me obligingly:

“‘Comrade, you need not go to the delegate who engages journeymen. I am
the delegate attached to the bakery of the section. We are one comrade
short. Come along with me. You shall be put to work at once.’

“I thanked the corpulent comrade, assured him of my willingness,
pointing out, however, that I was not a baker.

“He looked at me with some surprise, and told me that he could see I
enjoyed a joke.

“I followed him. We stopped in front of an immense cast-iron building
having a monumental gateway, on the pediment of which a couple of
bronze giants were resting on their elbows--the Sower and the Reaper.
Their bodies expressed strength unstrained. A calm pride irradiated
their faces, and they carried high their heads; in this, greatly
dissimilar to the fierce-looking workers of the Flemish Constantin
Meunier. We entered a room forty mètres in height, wherein, amid clouds
of a light whitish dust, machinery was working with a sonorous and calm
hum. Under the metallic dome, bags tendered themselves spontaneously
to the knife which disembowelled them; the flour which escaped from
them dropped into troughs where powerful hands of steel kneaded it
into dough which flowed into moulds, which when full hastened to put
themselves of their own accord into an oven as capacious and deep as
a tunnel. Five or six men at most, motionless amid all this motion,
supervised the labour of the machinery.

“‘’Tis an old bakery,’ said my companion. ‘It hardly produces more than
eighty thousand loaves a day, and its too weak machines employ too many
hands. It matters little. Come up to the place where the goods arrive.’

“I did not have the time to ask for a more explicit command. A lift
had deposited me on the platform. Hardly had I reached it, when a kind
of flying whale alighted close to me and unloaded a number of sacks.
No human being was aboard this machine. Other flying whales brought
more sacks which they unloaded, and which offered themselves up in
succession to the knife which ripped them open. The screws revolved,
and the rudder did its work. There was no one at the helm, nobody
aboard the machine. I could hear in the distance the slight hum of
a wasp flying, and then the thing grew with astounding rapidity. It
seemed quite sure of itself, but my ignorance as to what would happen,
should it perchance go wrong, caused me to shudder. I was several times
tempted to ask to be allowed to go down again. A false shame prevented
me. I stood my ground. The sun was disappearing on the horizon, and it
was about five o’clock when the lift came up for me. The day’s work was
over. I was given a voucher for board and lodging.

“The rotund comrade remarked to me:

“‘You must be hungry. You may, if you wish, take your evening meal at
the public table. If you prefer eating by yourself in your own room,
you may likewise do so. If you prefer supping at my place, together
with a few comrades, say so at once. I am going to telephone to the
culinary workshop that your rations be sent to you. I am telling you
all this in order to set you at ease, for you seem like a fish out of
water. You have no doubt come from afar. You do not look as if you
could take care of yourself. To-day, your task has been an easy one.
Do not, however, imagine that one’s livelihood is earned every day as
cheaply as that. If the Ƶ-rays which directed the balloons had worked
badly, as will sometimes happen, your task would not have been so easy.
What is your particular line, and where do you come from?’

“These questions embarrassed me greatly. I could not tell him the
truth. I could not inform him that I was a bourgeois, and that I had
come from the twentieth century. He would have thought me crazy. I
replied in a vague and embarrassed manner that I had no trade, and that
I came from far, from very far.

“He smiled, and said:

“‘I understand. You dare not admit it. You come from the United States
of Africa. You are not the only European who has thus given us the
slip. But nearly all these deserters end by coming back to us.’

“I answered not a word, and my silence led him to believe that he had
guessed aright. He renewed his invitation to supper, and asked me my
name. I informed him that I was known as Hippolyte Dufresne. He seemed
surprised at my having two names.

“‘My name is Michel,’ he said.

“Then, after a minute inspection of my straw hat, my jacket, my shoes,
and the rest of my costume, which was no doubt somewhat dusty, but of a
good cut, for after all I do not have my clothes made by a tailor who
acts as hall-porter in the Rue des Acacias, he continued:

“‘Hippolyte, I see whence you have come. You have lived in the black
provinces. Nowadays there are only Zulus and Basutos to weave cloth so
badly, to give so grotesque a shape to a suit, to make such ill-shapen
footgear, and to stiffen linen with starch. It is only among them that
you can have learnt to shave off your beard, while preserving on your
face a moustache, and two little whiskers. This custom of scissoring
the hair of the face, so as to form figures and ornaments, is the last
word of tattooing, nowadays in vogue only among the Basutos and Zulus.
These black provinces of the United States of Africa are wallowing in a
state of barbarism resembling in many aspects the state of France three
or four hundred years ago.’

“I accepted Michel’s invitation.

“‘I live quite close to here, in Sologne,’ he said. ‘My aeroplane scuds
along fairly well. We shall soon be there.’

“He made me take a seat under the belly of a huge mechanical bird, and
we were soon cleaving the air so rapidly that I lost breath. The aspect
of the countryside was vastly different from the one known to me. All
the roads were bordered with houses; countless canals intersected the
fields with their silvery lines. As I sat wrapt in admiration, Michel
remarked to me:

“‘The land is fairly well exploited, and cultivation is “intense,” as
they say, since chemists are themselves agriculturists. One has tried
one’s best, and one has worked hard for the past three hundred years.
The fact is that to make collectivism a reality it has been necessary
to compel the soil to return four or five times more than it returned
in the days of capitalistic anarchy. You, who have lived among the
Zulus and Basutos, are aware that the necessaries of life are so scarce
with them that were they to be divided among all it would amount to
sharing poverty and not wealth. The super-abundant production which
we have attained to is more especially due to the progress made by
science. The almost total suppression of the urban classes has also
been of great advantage to agriculture. The shopkeepers and the clerks
have gone, some to the factory, others to the field.’

“‘What!’ I exclaimed. ‘You have suppressed the cities! What has become
of Paris?’

“‘Hardly any one lives there now,’ replied Michel. ‘The greater part
of those hideous and insanitary five-storied houses, wherein dwelt
the citizens of the closed era, have fallen in ruins, and have been
suffered to remain in that condition. House-building was very poor in
the twentieth century of that unhappy era. We have preserved some of
the older and better constructed buildings and converted them into
museums. We possess a large number of museums and libraries: it is
there we seek instruction. We have also kept a portion of the remains
of the Hôtel de Ville. It was an ugly and fragile building, but great
things were carried out within its precincts. As we no longer have
tribunals, commerce, and armies, we no longer have cities, so to
speak. Nevertheless, the density of the population is much greater on
certain points than on others, and in spite of the rapidity of means of
communication, the mining and metallurgic centres are densely peopled.’

“‘What is that you say?’ I asked him. ‘You have done away with the
courts of law? Have you then suppressed crime and misdemeanour?’

“‘Crime will last as long as old and gloomy humanity. But, the number
of criminals has diminished with the number of the wretched. The
suburbs of the great cities were the feeding-grounds of crime; we no
longer have big cities. The wireless telephone makes the highways safe
day and night. We are all provided with electric means of defence.
As to misdemeanours, they were rather the result of the scruples of
the judges than of the perversity of the accused. Now that we no
longer possess lawyers and judges, and that justice is administered by
citizens summoned in rotation, many misdemeanours have disappeared,
doubtless because it is impossible to recognise them as such.’

“In this fashion did Michel discourse while steering his aeroplane. I
am recording the meaning of his words as exactly as I can. I regret my
inability, owing to a lack of memory, and also from fear of not making
myself understood, to reproduce his language in all its expressiveness
and its movement. The baker and his contemporaries spoke a language
astonishing me at first by the novelty of its vocabulary and syntax,
and especially by its pithy and flowing construction.

“Michel came to ground on the terrace of a modest but pleasing dwelling.

“‘We have arrived,’ he said; ‘’tis here that I live. You will sup with
comrades who, like myself, take an interest in statistics.’

“‘What! You a statistician! I thought you were a baker.

“‘I am a baker, six hours of the day. This is the duration of the day’s
work as determined for nearly a century by the Federal Committee. The
rest of the time I give up to statistical labours. It is the science
which has stepped into history’s shoes. The historians of old related
the brilliant deeds of the few. Ours register all that is produced and
consumed.’

“After having conducted me to a hydrotherapic closet established on
the roof, Michel led me down-stairs to the dining-room lit up by
electricity, entirely white, and ornamented only with a sculptured
frieze of strawberry plants in bloom. A table in painted pottery was
covered with dishes with a metallic glaze. Three persons sat at it.
Michel named them to me.

“‘Morin, Perceval, Chéron.’

“These three individuals were all clad alike in rough-spun jackets,
velvet breeches, and grey stockings. Morin wore a long white beard;
Chéron’s and Perceval’s faces were callow. Their short hair and more
especially the frankness of their looks gave them the appearance of
young lads. Yet I felt sure that they were women. Perceval seemed to me
rather pretty, although she was no longer very young. I thought Chéron
altogether charming. Michel introduced me:

“‘I have brought comrade Hippolyte, who also calls himself Dufresne, to
meet you; he has lived among the half-breeds, in the black provinces
of the United States of Africa. He could not get any dinner at eleven
o’clock, and so he must have an appetite.’

“I was indeed hungry. They helped me to tiny bits of food cut into
squares, which were not unpleasant to the taste, however new to me. A
variety of cheeses were on the table. Morin poured me out a glass of
light beer, and informed me that I could drink to my heart’s content,
as it did not contain any alcohol.

“‘That’s right,’ I said. ‘I am glad to see that you pay attention to
the evils of alcohol.’

“‘They have almost ceased to exist,’ answered Morin. ‘We succeeded in
suppressing alcoholism before the end of the closed era. It would have
otherwise been impossible to establish the new _régime_. An alcoholic
proletariat is incapable of emancipation.’

“‘Have you not also,’ I inquired, while tasting a strangely carved bit
of food--‘have you not also perfected food?’

“‘Comrade,’ replied Perceval, ‘you doubtless refer to chemical
alimentation. So far, it has not made any great strides. ’Tis in
vain that we send our chemists as delegates into the kitchen....
Their tabloids are of no good. With the exception that we know how
to compound properly caloric and nutritious foods, we feed almost as
coarsely as the men of the closed era, and we enjoy it just as much.’

“‘Our scientists,’ remarked Michel, ‘are seeking to establish a
rational system of food.’

“‘That’s childishness,’ said the young female Chéron. ‘No good result
will be reached, as long as the big intestine, a useless and harmful
organ, and the seat of microbian infection, has not been removed....
This will come in time.’

“‘In what way?’ I asked.

“‘Simply by ablation. And this suppression, the result, in the first
place, of an operation upon a sufficient number of individuals, will
tend to establish itself by heredity, and will later on be common to
the whole race.’

“These people treated me humanely and conversed obligingly with me. But
it was difficult for me to chime in with their manners and their ideas,
while I noticed that I nowise interested them, and that they felt an
absolute indifference towards my modes of thought. The more I showed
them courtesies, the more I alienated their sympathies. Following
upon my addressing a few compliments, albeit discreet and sincere, to
Chéron, she no longer even deigned to look at me.

“The meal over, addressing myself to Morin, who seemed to me
intelligent and gentle, I said to him with a sincerity which indeed
stirred me deeply:

“‘Monsieur Morin, I am ignorant of all things, and I am suffering
cruelly because of my lack of knowledge. I repeat to you that I come
from far, from very far. Tell me, I entreat you, how the European
Federation came into existence, and explain to me the present social
system.’

“Old Morin protested:

“‘You are asking me for the history of three centuries. It would take
me weeks, nay months. Moreover, there are many things I could not
teach you, as I do not know them myself.’

“I thereupon entreated him to lay before me a very concise summary, as
is done in the case of school children.

“Morin, flinging himself back in his arm-chair, began:

“‘To ascertain how the present society was constituted, it is necessary
to go back far into the past.

“‘The crowning achievement of the twentieth century was the extinction
of war.

“‘The arbitration Congress of The Hague, instituted in the middle of
barbarism, did not to any degree contribute towards the maintenance of
peace. But another more efficacious institution came into existence at
that time. Groups of deputies were formed in the various Parliaments,
who entered into communication with one another, and who in course of
time came to deliberate in common on international questions. Giving
expression as they did to the peaceful aspirations of a growing crowd
of electors, their resolutions carried great weight, and supplied food
for reflection to the governments, the most absolute of which, if one
sets aside Russia, had at that time learnt to reckon with popular
sentiment. What surprises us nowadays is that no one discerned in
those meetings of deputies come together from all countries the first
attempt at an international parliament.

“‘But then the party of violence was still powerful in the several
empires, and even in the French Republic. And if the danger of the
old-time dynastic and diplomatic wars determined upon at a green-baized
table for the purpose of maintaining what was known as the European
equilibrium was averted for all time, it was still to be dreaded,
considering the unsatisfactory industrial condition affecting Europe,
that the conflicting industrial interests might bring about some
terrible conflagration.

“‘The imperfectly organised proletariat, as yet without the
consciousness of its strength, did not put an end to armed struggles
between nations, but it limited their frequency and duration.

“‘The last wars were the outcome of that mad fury of the old world
known as the colonial policy. English, Russians, Germans, French, and
Americans joined in rabid competition, in Asia and Africa, for the
possession of zones of influence, as they said, wherein they could, on
the basis of pillage and massacres, establish economic relations with
the aborigines. They destroyed everything they could destroy in those
two countries. Then followed the inevitable. The impoverished colonies
which were expensive were retained and the prosperous ones lost. But
mankind had to reckon, in Asia, with a small heroic nation, taught
by Europe, which made itself respected by her. By so doing, Japan, in
barbarous times, rendered a great service to humanity.

“‘When at last that detestable period of colonisation came to an end,
no further was there any war. Still the States continued keeping up
armies.

“‘Having so far explained matters, I shall proceed to lay before you,
pursuant to your request, the origins of present-day society. It
issued from the one preceding it. In moral just as in individual life
forms generate one another. Capitalistic naturally enough produced
collectivist society. At the commencement of the twentieth century
of the closed era, a memorable industrial evolution took place. The
slender production of small artisans whose all were their tools was
followed by a great production financially supported by a new agent of
marvellous power--capital. Here was a great social progress.’

“‘What was a great social step in advance?’ I asked.

“‘The capitalistic _régime_,’ replied Morin. ‘It brought humanity an
untold source of wealth. By grouping the workers in considerable masses
and multiplying their numbers it created the proletariat. By making the
workers an immense State within the State it paved the way for their
emancipation, and furnished them with the means of conquering power.

“‘This _régime_, however, which was to be productive of such happy
results in the future, was execrated by the workers, in whose ranks it
made countless victims.

“‘There exists no social benefit which has not been purchased at the
cost of blood and tears. Moreover, this _régime_ which had enriched the
whole world came within an ace of ruining it. After having increased
production to a considerable extent, it failed in its endeavours to
regulate it, and struggled hopelessly in the toils of inextricable
difficulties.

“‘You are not totally ignorant, comrade, of the economic disturbances
which filled the twentieth century. During the last hundred years
of the capitalistic domination, the disorder of production and the
delirium of competition piled up disasters high. The capitalists and
the masters vainly attempted, by means of gigantic combinations, to
regulate production and to annihilate competition. Their ill-conceived
undertakings were engulfed in an abyss of gigantic catastrophes.
During those anarchical days, the fight between classes was blind
and terrible. The proletariat, overwhelmed in the same ratio by its
victories and its defeats, overwhelmed by the ruins of the edifice
which it was pulling down on its own head, torn by fearful internal
struggles, casting aside in its blind violence its best leaders and
most trustworthy friends, fought on without system and in the dark.
It was, however, continually winning some advantage: an increase of
wages, shorter hours of work, a growing freedom of organisation and
of propaganda, the conquest of public power, and making progress in
the dumfounded public mind. It was looked upon as wrecked through its
divisions and mistakes. But all great parties are at odds, and all
commit blunders. The proletariat had on its side the force of events.
Towards the end of the century it attained the degree of well-being
which opens the way to better things. Comrade, a party must have
within itself a certain strength in order to accomplish a revolution
favourable to its interests. Towards the end of the twentieth century
of the closed era the general situation had become most favourable
to the developments of socialism. The standing armies, more and more
reduced during the course of the century, were abolished, following
upon a desperate opposition of the powers that were, and of the
bourgeoisie owning all things, by Chambers born of universal suffrage
under the fiery pressure of the people of the cities and of the
country. For a long time past already, the chiefs of State had retained
their armies, less in view of a war which they no longer dreaded or
could hope for, than to hold in check the multitude of proletaries
at home. In the end, they yielded. Militias imbued with socialistic
ideas supplanted regular armies. It was not without good cause that
the governments showed opposition. No longer defended by guns and
rifles, the monarchical systems succumbed in succession, and Republican
Government stepped into their places. Alone, England, who had
previously established a _régime_ considered endurable by the workers,
and Russia, who had remained Imperialist and theocratic, stood outside
the pale of this great movement. It was feared that the Czar, who felt
towards republican Europe the sentiments which the French Revolution
had inspired the great Catherine with, might raise armies to combat
it. But his government had reached a degree of weakness and imbecility
which only an absolute monarchy can attain. The Russian proletariat,
joining hands with the intellectuals, rose in revolt, and after an
awful succession of outrages and massacres, power passed into the hands
of the revolutionaries, who established the representative system.

“‘Telegraphy and wireless telephony were then in use from one end of
Europe to the other, and so easy of use that the poorest of individuals
could speak, whenever he wished, and give utterance to whatever he
saw fit to a fellow creature living in any corner of the globe.
Collectivist ideas rained down on Moscow. The Russian peasants could
listen in their beds to the speeches of their comrades of Marseilles
and Berlin. Simultaneously, the approximate steering of balloons and
the exact course of flying-machines came into practical use. The result
was the abolition of frontiers. This was the most critical moment of
all. The patriotic instinct took a fresh life in the hearts of the
nations so near uniting and fusing into one boundless humanity. In
all countries, and at one and the same time, the nationalist faith,
rekindled, emitted flashes of light. As there were no longer any kings,
armies, or aristocracy, this great movement assumed a tumultuous and
popular character. The French Republic, the German Republic, the
Hungarian Republic, the Roman Republic, the Italian Republic, and even
the Swiss and Belgian Republics, each expressed by a unanimous vote
of their respective Parliaments, and at largely attended meetings,
the solemn resolve to defend against all foreign aggression national
territory and industry. Stringent laws were promulgated repressing
the smuggling by flying-machines, and regulating severely the use
of wireless telegraphy. The militia was everywhere reorganised and
brought back to the old type of standing armies. Once more did the
former uniforms, boots, dolmans, and generals’ plumes make their
appearance. Fur busbies were anew welcomed with the applause of Paris.
All the shopkeepers and a portion of the workmen donned the tricolour
cockade. In all foundry districts, cannon and armour-plates were once
more forged. Terrible wars were anticipated. This mad spurt lasted
three years, without matters coming to a clash, and then it slackened
imperceptibly. The militias gradually recovered the bourgeois aspect
and feeling. The union of nations, which had seemed postponed to a
fabled remoteness, was near at hand. Pacific efforts were developing
day by day; collectivists were gradually achieving the conquest of
society. The day came at last when the defeated capitalists abandoned
the field to them.’

“‘What a change!’ I exclaimed. ‘History cannot show another example of
such a revolution.’

“‘You may well imagine, comrade,’ resumed Morin, ‘that collectivism
did not make its appearance till the appointed hour. The Socialists
could not have suppressed capital and individual property had not those
two forms of wealth been already all but destroyed _de facto_ by the
efforts of the proletariat, and still more so by the fresh developments
of science and industry.

“‘It had indeed been thought that Germany would be the first
collectivist State; the Labour Party had there been organised for
about one hundred years, and it was everywhere said: ‘Socialism is a
thing German?’ Still, France, less well prepared, got the start of
her. The social revolution broke out in the first place at Lyons,
Lille, and Marseilles, to the strains of _l’Internationale_. Paris held
aloof for a fortnight, and then hoisted the red flag. It was only on
the following day that Berlin proclaimed the collectivist state. The
triumph of socialism had as a result the union of nations.

“‘The delegates of all the European Republics, sitting in Brussels,
proclaimed the Constitution of the United States of Europe.

“‘England refused to form part of it, but she declared herself its
ally. While having become socialistic, she had retained her king,
her lords, and even the wigs of her judges. Socialism was at that
time supreme ruler in Oceania, China, Japan, and in a portion of
the vast Russian Republic. Black Africa, which had entered upon the
capitalistic phase, formed a confederation of little homogeneity. The
American Union had a while ago renounced mercantile militarism. The
condition of the world was consequently favourable, upon the whole,
to the free development of the United States of Europe. Nevertheless,
this union, welcomed with delirious joy, was followed for the space
of half a century by economic disturbances and social miseries. There
were no longer any armies, and hardly any militias; in consequence
of not being constricted, popular movements did not take the form of
violent outbreaks. But the inexperience or the ill-will of the local
governments was fostering a ruinous state of disorder.

“‘Fifty years after the constitution of the States, the disappointments
were so cruel, and the difficulties seemed to such a degree
insurmountable, that the most optimistic spirits were beginning
to despair. Smothered crackings foretold in all directions the
dismemberment of the Union. It was then that the dictatorship of a
committee composed of fourteen workmen put an end to anarchy, and
organised the Federation of European nations as it exists to-day. There
are those who say that the Fourteen displayed unparalleled genius and
relentless energy; others claim that they were mediocrities terrified
and influenced by the stress of necessity, and that they presided as
if in spite of themselves over the spontaneous organisation of the
new social forces. It is at all events certain that they did not go
against the tide of events. The organisation which they established, or
witnessed the establishment of, still subsists almost in its entirety.
The production and consumption of goods are nowadays carried out, to
all purposes, according to the rules laid down in those days. The new
era justly dates from that time.’

“Morin then expounded to me most succinctly the principles of modern
society.

“‘It rests,’ said he, ‘on the total suppression of individual
property.’

“‘Is not this intolerable to you?’ I asked.

“‘Why should we find it unendurable, Hippolyte? In Europe, formerly,
the State collected the taxes. It disposed of resources proper to it.
Nowadays it can be said with an equal degree of truth that it possesses
everything, while possessing nothing. It is still more exact to say
that it is we who own all things, since the State is not a thing apart
from us, and is merely the expression of collectiveness.’

“‘But,’ I asked, ‘do you not possess anything proper to yourself? Not
even the plates out of which you eat, nor your bed, your bed-sheets,
your clothes?’

“Morin smiled at my question.

“‘You are a deal more simple than I dreamt, Hippolyte. What! You
imagine that we are not the owners of our personal property. What can
well be your idea of our tastes, our instincts, our needs, and our mode
of living? Do you take us for monks, as was said in the olden days, for
men destitute of all individual character and incapable of affixing
a personal impress on our surroundings? You are mistaken, my friend,
altogether mistaken. We hold as our own the objects destined to our use
and comfort, and we feel more attached to them than were the bourgeois
of the closed era to their knick-knacks, for our taste is keener, and
we possess a livelier sentiment of form. All our comrades of some
refinement own works of art, and take great pride in them. Chéron has
in her home paintings which are her delight, and she would take it
amiss were the Federal Committee to contest with her the possession of
them. Personally, I preserve in that closet some ancient drawings, the
almost complete work of Steinlen, one of the most highly prized artists
of the closed era. Neither silver nor gold would tempt me to part with
them.

“‘Whence have you come, Hippolyte? You are told that our society is
based on the total suppression of individual property, and you get into
your head that such suppression covers goods and chattels, and articles
in daily use. But, you simple-minded fellow, the individual property
totally suppressed by us is the ownership of the means of production,
soil, canals, roads, mines, material, plant, &c. It does not affect
lamps and arm-chairs. What we have done away with is the possibility of
diverting to the benefit of an individual or of a group of individuals
the fruits of labour; ’tis not the natural and harmless possession of
the beloved chattels about us.’

“Morin next enlightened me as to the distribution of intellectual and
manual labours among all the members of the community, in conformity
with their aptitudes.

“‘Collectivist society,’ he went on to say, ‘differs not only from
capitalistic society in the fact that in the former everybody works.
During the closed era, the people who toiled not were in great numbers;
still, they constituted the minority. Our society differs more
especially from the former in that labour was not properly classified,
and that many useless tasks were performed. The workers produced
without systematic order, method, and concerted action. The cities
were full of officials, magistrates, merchants, and clerks, who worked
without producing. There were also the soldiers. The fruits of labour
were not properly distributed. The customs and tariffs established
for the purpose of remedying the evil merely aggravated matters. All
were suffering. Production and consumption are now minutely regulated.
Lastly, our society differs from the old one in that we enjoy all the
benefits derived from machinery, the use of which, in the capitalistic
age, was so frequently disastrous for the workers.’

“I asked him how it had been possible to constitute a society composed
wholly of workmen.

“Morin pointed out to me that man’s aptitude for work is general, and
that it constitutes one of the essential characteristics of the race.

“‘In barbarian times,’ he said, ‘and right until the end of the closed
era, the aristocratic and wealthy classes always showed a preference
for manual labour. They put their intellectual faculties to an
infinitesimal use, and in exceptional instances at that. Their tastes
always inclined towards such occupations as the chase and war, wherein
the body plays a greater part than the mind. They rode, drove, fenced,
and practised pistol-shooting. It may therefore be said of them that
they worked with their hands. Their work was either sterile or harmful,
for the reason that a certain prejudice forbade them to engage in any
useful or beneficent work, and also, because in their day, useful work
was most often carried out under ignoble and disgusting conditions. It
did not prove so very difficult to impart a taste for work to every one
by reinstating it in a position of honour. The men of the barbaric ages
took pride in carrying a gun or wearing a sword. The men of to-day are
proud of handling a spade or a hammer. Humanity rests on a foundation
which undergoes but little change.’

“Morin having told me that the very memory of all monetary circulation
had become lost, I asked him:

“‘How then do you carry on business without cash payments?’

“‘We exchange products by means of vouchers similar to those just given
you, comrade, and they correspond to the hours of labour performed
by us. The value of the products is computed by the length of time
their production has taken. Bread, meat, beer, clothes, an aeroplane,
represent _x_ hours, _x_ days of labour. From each of these vouchers,
collectivism, or, as it was styled formerly, the State, deducts a
certain number of minutes for the purpose of allocating them to
unproductive works, metallurgic and alimentary reserves, refuges and
private asylums, and so forth.’

“‘These minutes,’ interjected Michel, ‘are continually increasing
apace. The Federal Committee orders far too many great works, the
burden of which is thus on our shoulders. The reserve stocks are far
too considerable. The public warehouses are crowded to overflowing with
riches of all sorts. ’Tis our minutes of labour which are entombed
there. Many abuses are still in existence.’

“‘No doubt,’ replied Morin, ‘there is room for improvement. The wealth
of Europe, which has accrued through general methodical labour, is
untold.’

“I was curious to learn whether these folk had no other measurement of
labour than the time required for its accomplishment, and whether in
their case the day’s work of the navvy or of the journeyman tempering
plaster ranked with that of the chemist or the surgeon. I put the
question frankly.

“‘What a silly question,’ exclaimed Perceval.

“Nevertheless old Morin vouchsafed to enlighten me.

“‘All works of study, of research, in fact all works contributing to
render life better and more beautiful are encouraged in our workshops
and laboratories. The collectivist State fosters the higher studies. To
study is akin to producing, since nothing is produced without study.
Study, just as much as work, entitles one to existence. Those who
devote themselves to long and arduous research secure unto themselves
a peaceful and respected existence. It takes a sculptor a fortnight
to make the _maquette_ of a figure, but he has worked five years to
learn modelling. Now the State has paid him for his _maquette_ during
those five years. A chemist discovers in a few hours the particular
properties of a body. But he has spent months in isolating this body,
and years in fitting himself to become capable of such an undertaking.
During the whole of that time he has lived at the expense of the State.
A surgeon removes a tumour in ten minutes. This is the result of
fifteen years of study and practice. He has, as a consequence, received
vouchers from the State for fifteen years past. Every man who gives in
a month, in an hour, in a few minutes, the product of his whole life,
is merely repaying in a lump sum what collectivism has given him day by
day.’

“‘Without reckoning,’ said Perceval, ‘that our great intellectuals,
our surgeons, our lady doctors, our chemists, know full well how to
derive profit from their works and discoveries, and to add beyond
measure to their enjoyments. They cause to be allotted to themselves
aerial machines of 60 h.p., palaces, gardens, and immense parks. They
are, for the greater part, individuals keenly alive to laying hold of
the world’s goods, and lead a more splendid and more copious existence
than the bourgeois of the closed era. The worst of it is that the
majority of them are stupid fools who should be recruited for work at
the flour-mills, like Hippolyte.’

“I bowed my thanks. Michel approved Perceval, and bitterly lamented the
accommodating mind of the State in its system of fattening chemists at
the expense of the other workers.

“I asked whether the negotiation of the vouchers did not bring about a
rise and fall.

“‘Speculation in vouchers,’ replied Morin, ‘is prohibited. As a matter
of fact, it cannot be prevented altogether. There are among us, just as
formerly, avaricious and prodigal, laborious and idle, rich and poor,
happy and miserable, contented and discontented men. Yet all manage to
exist, and that is already something.’

“I fell a-musing for a while; then I remarked:

“‘Monsieur Morin, if one is to believe you, it seems to me that you
have realised equality and fraternity, as much as possible. But, I
fear that it is at the expense of liberty, which I have learnt to
cherish as the best of things.’

“Morin shrugged his shoulders, saying:

“‘We have not established equality. We know what it means. We have
secured a livelihood for all. We have placed labour on a pedestal of
honour. After that, if the bricklayer thinks himself superior to the
poet, and the poet to the bricklayer, ’tis their business. Every one
of our workers imagines that his form of labour is the grandest in the
world. The advantages of this idea are greater than the disadvantages.

“‘Comrade Hippolyte, you seem to have delved deeply into the books
of the nineteenth century of the closed era; their leaves are hardly
turned nowadays: you speak their language, to us a foreign tongue.
It is hard for us to realise nowadays that the bygone friends of the
people should have adopted as their motto: _Liberty_, _Equality_,
_Fraternity_. Liberty has no place in society, since it does not exist
in nature. There is no free animal. It was said formerly that a man who
obeyed the laws was free. This was childish. Moreover, so strange a
use was made of the word liberty in the last days of the capitalistic
anarchy that the word has ended in merely expressing the setting claim
to privileges. The idea of equality is still less reasonable, and it
is an unfortunate idea in that it presupposes a false ideal. We have
not to seek whether men are equal among themselves. What we must see to
is that each one shall supply his best and receive all necessaries of
life. As to fraternity, we know only too well how brothers have acted
towards brothers during the course of centuries. We do not pretend to
say that men are bad. We do not say that they are good. They are what
they are, but they live in peace, when there are no longer any reasons
for them to fight one another. We have but a single word to express our
social system. We say that we live in harmony. Now it is an assured
fact that all human forces act in concert nowadays.’

“‘In the centuries,’ I said to him, ‘of what you style the closed
era, one preferred the possession of things to their enjoyment. I can
conceive that, reversing the order of things, you prefer enjoyment to
possession. But is it not distressing to you not to have any property
to leave to your children?’

“‘In capitalistic times,’ replied Morin with animation, ‘how many
were there who left inheritances? One in a thousand; nay, one in ten
thousand. Nor must it be forgotten that many generations did not enjoy
the faculty of bequeathing. Be this as it may, the transmission of
fortune through the medium of inheritances was perfectly conceivable
when the family was in existence. But now....’

“‘What!’ I exclaimed, ‘you have no family ties?’

“My surprise, which I had not been able to conceal, seemed comical to
the woman-comrade Chéron.

“‘We are quite aware,’ she said to me, ‘that marriage exists among
the Kaffirs. We European women do not bind ourselves by promises; or,
if we make them, the law does not take cognisance of them. We are of
opinion that the whole destiny of a human being should not hang on a
word. Nevertheless, there survives a relic of the customs of the closed
era. When a woman gives herself, she swears fidelity on the horns of
the moon. In reality, neither the man nor the woman takes any binding
engagement. Yet it is not of rare occurrence that their union endures
as long as life. Neither of them would wish to be the object of a
fidelity secured by means of an oath, instead of by physical and moral
expediency. We owe nothing to anybody. Formerly, a man convinced a
woman that she belonged to him. We are less simple-minded. We believe
that a human being belongs to itself alone. We give ourselves when we
please, and to whom we see fit.

“‘Moreover, we feel no shame in yielding to desire. We are no
hypocrites. Only four hundred years ago, physiology was a sealed book
to men, and their ignorance was the cause of dire illusions and cruel
deceptions. Hippolyte, whatever the Kaffirs may say, society must be
subordinate to nature, and not, as too long has been the case, nature
to society?’

“Perceval, endorsing the speech of her comrade, added:

“‘To show you how the sex question is regulated in our society, I must
tell you, Hippolyte, that in many factories the recruiting delegate
does not even inquire about one’s sex. The sex of an individual does
not interest collectivism.’

“‘But the children?’

“‘Well? The children?’

“‘Not having any family ideal, are they not neglected?’

“‘Whence did you get such an idea? Maternal love is a most powerful
instinct in woman. In the hideous society of the past, mothers were to
be seen courting misery and shame, in order to bring up illegitimate
offspring. Why should ours, exempt as they are from shame and misery,
forsake their little ones? There are among us many good partners, and
many good mothers. But there is a very large number, which increases
apace, of women who dispense with men.’

“Chéron made in this connection a somewhat strange remark.

“‘We have in regard to sexual characteristics,’ she said, ‘notions
undreamt of in the barbaric simplicity of the men of the closed era.
False conclusions were for a long time drawn from the fact that there
are two sexes, and two only. It was therefrom concluded that a woman
is absolutely female, and a man absolutely male. In reality, it is not
thus; there are women who are very much women, while others are very
little so. These differences, formerly concealed by the costume and
the mode of life, and disguised by prejudice, make themselves clearly
manifest in our society. More than that, they become accentuated and
more marked with each succeeding generation. Ever since women have
worked like men, and acted and thought like them, many are to be found
who resemble men. We may some day reach the point of creating neutrals,
and produce female workers, as in the case of bees. It will prove a
great benefit, for it will become possible to increase the quantity of
work without increasing the population in a degree out of proportion to
the necessaries of life. We entertain the same dread of a deficit in
and a surplus of births.’

“I thanked Perceval and Chéron for having kindly supplied me with
information on so interesting a subject, and I inquired whether
education was not neglected in collectivist society, and whether
speculative science and the liberal arts still flourished.

“The following is old Morin’s reply to my question:

“‘Education, in all its degrees, is highly developed. The comrades all
know something; they do not know the same things, nor have they learnt
anything useless. No longer is any time lost in the study of law and
theology. Each one selects from the arts and sciences what suits him.
We still possess many ancient works, although the greater part of the
works printed before the new era have perished. Books are still printed
in greater quantity than ever. And yet typography is on the point of
disappearing. Phonography will take its place. Poets and novelists are
already being published phonographically, while in connection with
theatrical plays, a most ingenious combination of the phono and the
cinemato rendering both the voice and the play of the actors has been
devised.’

“‘You have then poets and playwrights?’

“‘We not only have poets, but a poetry of our own. We are the first
who have delimitated the domain of poetry. Previous to our time, many
ideas which could have been better expressed in prose were expressed
in verse. Narratives were unfolded in rhyme. This was a survival of
the days when legislative enactments and recipes of rural economy
were drawn up in measured terms. Nowadays poets merely sing delicate
subjects which have no meaning, while their grammar and language are
as proper to them as their rhythm and assonance. As to our stage, it
is almost exclusively lyric. A precise knowledge of reality and a life
void of violence have rendered us almost indifferent to drama and
tragedy. The uniformity of the classes and the equality of the sexes
have deprived the old comedy of nearly all its subject-matter. But
never has music been so beautiful and so beloved. We especially admire
the sonata and the symphony.

“‘Our society is greatly predisposed in favour of the arts of design.
Many prejudices harmful to painting have vanished. Our life is more
limpid and more beautiful than the bourgeois life, and we have a
vivid appreciation of form. Sculpture is in a still more flourishing
condition than painting, ever since it has taken an intelligent part in
the ornamentation of public buildings and private dwellings. Never was
so much done towards the teaching of art. If you will but steer your
aeroplane above one of our streets, you will be surprised at the number
of schools and museums.’

“‘To sum matters up, are you happy?’ I inquired.

“Morin shook his head and replied:

“‘It is not in human nature to enjoy perfect happiness. Happiness
is not attainable without effort, and every effort brings with it
fatigue and suffering. We have made life endurable to all. That is
something. Our descendants will do better still. Our organisation is
not immutable. Not fifty years ago, it was different from what it is
to-day. Men endowed with subtile powers of observation believe that we
are on the road to great changes. That may be. However, the forward
steps in human civilisation will henceforth be harmonious and pacific.’

“‘Do you not fear, on the contrary,’ I asked him, ‘that the
civilisation with which you appear to be satisfied may be destroyed
by an invasion of barbarians? There still remain in Asia and Africa,
so you have told me, large black or yellow populations which have not
entered into your concert. They have armies, while you have none. Were
they to attack you...’

“‘Our defence is assured. The Americans and the Australians alone could
enter upon a struggle with us, for they are as learned as ourselves.
But the ocean separates us and a community of interests makes us sure
of their amity. As to the capitalistic negroes, they have not got any
further than the steel cannon, fire-arms and all the old scrap-iron
of the twentieth century. What could these ancient engines of war
do against a discharge of Y-rays? Our frontiers are protected by
electricity. A zone of lightning encircles the Federation. A little
spectacled fellow is sitting I know not where, in front of a keyboard.
He is our one and only soldier. He has but to touch a key in order to
reduce to dust an army of 500,000 men.’

“Morin ceased speaking for a moment; then he continued, speaking more
deliberately:

“‘Were our civilisation threatened, it would not be by any outside
enemy. It would be by the enemies from within.’

“‘There are such enemies, then?’

“‘We have the anarchists. They are many, fiery, and intelligent. Our
chemists and our professors of sciences and letters are almost to a man
anarchists. They attribute to the regulation of labour and production
the majority of the evils which still afflict society. They argue that
humanity will not be happy except in the spontaneous harmony to be born
of the total destruction of civilisation. They are dangerous. They
would be still more so were we to repress them. To do this, however, we
have neither the means nor the desire. We do not possess any power of
coercion or repression, and we get along very well without it. In the
barbaric ages, men nurtured great illusions in regard to the efficacy
of penalties. Our fathers suppressed the judiciary system entirely.
They no longer required it. With the suppression of private property,
they simultaneously suppressed theft and swindling. Ever since we have
carried electric protectors, assaults are no longer to be feared. Man
has come to be respected by man. Crimes of passion are still and will
ever be committed. However, such crimes as these, if left unpunished,
become rarer. Our entire judiciary body is composed of elected
arbitrators who try gratuitously all offences and disputes.’

“‘I rose, and thanking my comrades for their kindness, I begged Morin
the favour of putting one more question to him.

“‘You no longer have any religion?’

“‘Quite the contrary; we have a large number of religions, some of
them somewhat novel. To mention France only, we have the religion
of humanity, positivism, Christianity, and spiritualism. In some
countries there are still some Catholics, but they are few and split up
into sects, as the result of schisms which occurred in the twentieth
century, when Church and State drifted apart. For a long time now there
has not been any Pope.’

“‘You are mistaken,’ said Michel. ‘There is still a Pope. It is by a
mere chance that I know of him. He is Pius XXV., dyer, Via dell’ Orso,
in Rome.’

“‘What!’ I exclaimed, ‘the Pope is a dyer!’”

“‘What is there surprising about that! He must perforce have a trade,
just as everybody else.’

“‘But his Church?’

“‘He is recognised by a few thousands, in Europe.’

“With these words, we parted. Michel informed me that I should find a
lodging in the neighbourhood, and that Chéron would conduct me to it on
her way home.

“The night was illuminated with an opalescent light both powerful and
soft. It gave the foliage the sheen of enamel. I walked by the side of
Chéron.

“I looked her over. Her flat-soled shoes gave firmness to her gait
and balance to her body; although her male habiliments made her seem
smaller than she was, and in spite of her having one hand in her
pocket, her perfectly simple carriage did not lack dignity. She gazed
freely to the right and left of her. She was the first woman in whom I
had noticed the air of a curious and amused lounger. Her features, seen
from under her tam-o’-shanter, were refined and strongly defined. She
both irritated and charmed me. I was in dread that she might consider
me stupid and ridiculous. It was, to say the least, plain that my
personality inspired her with supreme indifference. Nevertheless, of
a sudden she asked me what my trade might be. I answered at haphazard
that I was an electrician.

“‘So am I,’ she said.

“I prudently put an end to the conversation.

“Unheard-of sounds were filling the night air with their calm rhythmic
noise, and I listened in affright to the respiration of the monstrous
genius of this new world.

“The more I looked at the female electrician, the more did I feel a
desire for her, a desire fanned by a dash of antipathy.

“‘So of course,’ I said to her of a sudden, ‘you have regulated love
scientifically, and ’tis a matter which no longer causes any one
uneasiness.’

“‘You are mistaken,’ she replied. ‘We have naturally got beyond the mad
imbecility of the closed era, and the whole domain of human physiology
is henceforth freed from legal barbarisms and theological terrors. We
are no longer the prey to an erroneous and cruel conception of duty.
But the laws governing the attraction between body and body are still
a mystery to us. The spirit of the species is what it ever was and
ever shall be, violent and capricious. Now, just as formerly, instinct
remains stronger than reason. Our superiority over the ancients lies
less in the knowledge of it than in proclaiming it. We have within us a
force capable of creating worlds, to wit, desire, and you would have us
regulate it. ’Tis asking too much of us. We are no longer barbarians.
We have not yet become wise. Collectivism altogether ignores all that
appertains to sexual relations. These relations are what they may be,
most often tolerable, rarely delicious, and at times horrible. But,
comrade, do not imagine that love no longer troubles any one.’

“I could not discuss such extraordinary ideas. I diverted the
conversation to the temperament of women. Chéron informed me that there
were three kinds, those who were amorously disposed, those prompted by
curiosity, and the third, indifferent. I thereupon asked her to which
class she belonged.

“She looked at me somewhat haughtily and said:

“‘There are also various kinds of men. First and foremost are the
impertinent ones....’

“Her reply caused her to appear far more contemporaneous than I had
until then believed her to be. For that reason I began to speak to her
the language used by me on similar occasions. After a few trifling and
frivolous words I said to her:

“‘Will you grant me a favour and tell me your first name?’

“‘I have none?’

“She perceived that this seemed to vex me, for she resumed with some
show of pique:

“‘Do you think that a woman must, in order to be pleasing to you,
possess a first name, like the ladies of former days, a baptismal name
such as Marguerite, Thérèse, or Jeanne?’

“‘You are a living proof to the contrary.’

“I sought her gaze, but it did not respond to mine. She seemed not to
have heard. I could no longer entertain doubts: she was a coquette. I
was delighted. I told her that I found her charming, that I loved her,
and I told her so over and over again. She suffered me to go on with my
speeches, and finally asked:

“‘What do you mean by all this!’

“I became more pressing.

“‘She reproached me for taking liberties with her, exclaiming:

“‘Your ways are those of a savage.’

“‘I do not find acceptance with you?’

“‘I do not say so.’

“Chéron, Chéron, would it cost you any great effort to...’

“We sat down together on a bench over which an elm cast its shade. I
took her hand, and carried it to my lips ... of a sudden, I no longer
felt, no longer saw anything, and I found myself lying in bed at home.
I rubbed my eyes, smarting with the morning light, and I saw my valet
who, standing before me with a stupid look, was saying to me:

“It is nine o’clock, sir. You told me to wake you at nine o’clock, sir.
I have come to tell you, sir, that it is nine o’clock?”



VI


Hippolyte Dufresne was warmly congratulated by his friends on his
finishing the reading of his story.

Nicole Langelier, applying to him the words of Critias to Triephon,
said:

“You seem to have dreamt on the white stone, in the midst of the people
of dreams, since you dreamt so long a dream in the course of so short a
night.”

“It is not likely,” remarked Joséphin Leclerc, “that the future
will be such as you have seen it. I do not wish for the coming of
socialism, but I dread it not. Collectivism at the helm would be quite
another thing than is imagined. Who was it who said, carrying back his
thoughts to the time of Constantine and of the Church’s early triumphs:
‘Christianity is triumphant, but its triumph is subject to the
conditions imposed by life on all political and religious parties. All
of them, whatever they may be, undergo so complete a transformation
in the struggle that after victory there remains of themselves but the
name and a few symbols of the last idea’?”

“Must we then give up the idea of knowing the future?” asked M. Goubin.

But Giacomo Boni, who when delving down into a few feet of soil had
descended from the present period to the stone age, remarked:

“Upon the whole, humanity changes little. What has been shall be.”

“No doubt,” replied Jean Boilly, “man, or that which we call man,
changes little. We belong to a definite species. The evolution of the
species is of necessity included in the definition of the species. It
is impossible to conceive humanity subsequent to its transformation. A
transformed species is a lost species. But what reason is there for us
to believe that man is the end of the evolution of life upon the earth?
Why suppose that his birth has exhausted the creative forces of nature,
and that the universal mother of the flora and fauna should, after
having shaped him, become for ever barren. A natural philosopher, who
does not stand in fear of his own ideas, H. G. Wells, has said: ‘Man
is not final.’ No indeed, man is neither the beginning nor the end of
terrestrial life. Long before him, all over the globe, animated forces
were multiplying in the depths of the sea, in the mud of the strand,
in the forests, lakes, prairies, and tree-topped mountains. After him,
new forms will go on taking shape. A future race, born perhaps of our
own, but having perchance no bond of origin with us, will succeed us in
the empire of the planet. These new spirits of the earth will ignore or
despise us. The monuments of our arts, should they discover vestiges of
them, will have no meaning for them. Rulers of the future, whose mind
we can no more divine than the palæopithekos of the Siwalik Mountains
was able to forecast the trains of thought of Aristotle, Newton, and
Poincaré.”


THE END



Transcriber’s Note:

Quotation marks have been standardised. Spelling and hyphenation have
been retained as they appear in the original publication except as
follows:

  Page 8
  Καὶ εμοιγε δοκειτε ἐπὶ λευκαδα πέτρην καὶ δῆμον ὀνείροων
  καταδαρθεντες τοσαῡτα ὀνειροπολεῖν ἐν ἀκαρεῖ τῆς νυκτός
  ὄυσης. _changed to_
  Καὶ ἔμοιγε δοκεῖτε ἐπὶ λευκάδα πέτρην καὶ δῆμον ὀνείρων
  καταδαρθέντες τοσαῦτα ὀνειροπολεῖν ἐν ἀκαρεῖ τῆς νυκτὸς
  οὔσης.

  Page 63
  since his tenous substance _changed to_
  since his tenuous substance

  Page 65
  would facedeath for a _changed to_
  would face death for a

  Page 72
  are quarelling over _changed to_
  are quarrelling over

  Page 111
  and by a similiar _changed to_
  and by a similar

  Page 120
  personages of the diologue are _changed to_
  personages of the dialogue are

  Page 184
  it as absurd _changed to_
  is as absurd

  Page 191
  were on the whole androginous in _changed to_
  were on the whole androgynous in

  Page 201
  produced and consumed? _changed to_
  produced and consumed.

  Page 231
  schisms which occured in _changed to_
  schisms which occurred in





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