Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: The Blindman's World - 1898
Author: Bellamy, Edward
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Blindman's World - 1898" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



THE BLINDMAN’S WORLD

By Edward Bellamy

1898


The narrative to which this note is introductory was found among
the papers of the late Professor S. Erastus Larrabee, and, as an
acquaintance of the gentleman to whom they were bequeathed, I was
requested to prepare it for publication. This turned out a very easy
task, for the document proved of so extraordinary a character that, if
published at all, it should obviously be without change. It appears that
the professor did really, at one time in his life, have an attack of
vertigo, or something of the sort, under circumstances similar to those
described by him, and to that extent his narrative may be founded on
fact How soon it shifts from that foundation, or whether it does at
all, the reader must conclude for himself. It appears certain that the
professor never related to any one, while living, the stranger features
of the experience here narrated, but this might have been merely from
fear that his standing as a man of science would be thereby injured.


THE PROFESSOR’S NARRATIVE

At the time of the experience of which I am about to write, I was
professor of astronomy and higher mathematics at Abercrombie College.
Most astronomers have a specialty, and mine was the study of the planet
Mars, our nearest neighbor but one in the Sun’s little family. When no
important celestial phenomena in other quarters demanded attention, it
was on the ruddy disc of Mars that my telescope was oftenest focused. I
was never weary of tracing the outlines of its continents and seas, its
capes and islands, its bays and straits, its lakes and mountains. With
intense interest I watched from week to week of the Martial winter the
advance of the polar ice-cap toward the equator, and its corresponding
retreat in the summer; testifying across the gulf of space as plainly as
written words to the existence on that orb of a climate like our own.
A specialty is always in danger of becoming an infatuation, and my
interest in Mars, at the time of which I write, had grown to be more
than strictly scientific. The impression of the nearness of this planet,
heightened by the wonderful distinctness of its geography as seen
through a powerful telescope, appeals strongly to the imagination of
the astronomer. On fine evenings I used to spend hours, not so much
critically observing as brooding over its radiant surface, till I could
almost persuade myself that I saw the breakers dashing on the bold shore
of Kepler Land, and heard the muffled thunder of avalanches descending
the snow-clad mountains of Mitchell. No earthly landscape had the charm
to hold my gaze of that far-off planet, whose oceans, to the unpracticed
eye, seem but darker, and its continents lighter, spots and bands.

Astronomers have agreed in declaring that Mars is undoubtedly habitable
by beings like ourselves, but, as may be supposed, I was not in a mood
to be satisfied with considering it merely habitable. I allowed no
sort of question that it was inhabited. What manner of beings these
inhabitants might be I found a fascinating speculation. The variety
of types appearing in mankind even on this small Earth makes it most
presumptuous to assume that the denizens of different planets may not be
characterized by diversities far profounder. Wherein such diversities,
coupled with a general resemblance to man, might consist, whether in
mere physical differences or in different mental laws, in the lack of
certain of the great passional motors of men or the possession of quite
others, were weird themes of never-failing attractions for my mind.
The El Dorado visions with which the virgin mystery of the New World
inspired the early Spanish explorers were tame and prosaic compared with
the speculations which it was perfectly legitimate to indulge, when the
problem was the conditions of life on another planet.

It was the time of the year when Mars is most favorably situated for
observation, and, anxious not to lose an hour of the precious season,
I had spent the greater part of several successive nights in the
observatory. I believed that I had made some original observations as
to the trend of the coast of Kepler Land between Lagrange Peninsula
and Christie Bay, and it was to this spot that my observations were
particularly directed.

On the fourth night other work detained me from the observing-chair
till after midnight. When I had adjusted the instrument and took
my first look at Mars, I remember being unable to restrain a cry of
admiration. The planet was fairly dazzling. It seemed nearer and
larger than I had ever seen it before, and its peculiar ruddiness
more striking. In thirty years of observations, I recall, in fact, no
occasion when the absence of exhalations in our atmosphere has coincided
with such cloudlessness in that of Mars as on that night. I could
plainly make out the white masses of vapor at the opposite edges of the
lighted disc, which are the mists of its dawn and evening. The snowy
mass of Mount Hall over against Kepler Land stood out with wonderful
clearness, and I could unmistakably detect the blue tint of the ocean
of De La Rue, which washes its base,--a feat of vision often, indeed,
accomplished by star-gazers, though I had never done it to my complete
satisfaction before.

I was impressed with the idea that if I ever made an original discovery
in regard to Mars, it would be on that evening, and I believed that I
should do it. I trembled with mingled exultation and anxiety, and was
obliged to pause to recover my self-control. Finally, I placed my eye
to the eye-piece, and directed my gaze upon the portion of the planet
in which I was especially interested. My attention soon became fixed and
absorbed much beyond my wont, when observing, and that itself implied no
ordinary degree of abstraction. To all mental intents and purposes I
was on Mars. Every faculty, every susceptibility of sense and intellect,
seemed gradually to pass into the eye, and become concentrated in the
act of gazing. Every atom of nerve and will power combined in the strain
to see a little, and yet a little, and yet a little, clearer, farther,
deeper.

The next thing I knew I was on the bed that stood in a corner of the
observing-room, half raised on an elbow, and gazing intently at the
door. It was broad daylight. Half a dozen men, including several of
the professors and a doctor from the village, were around me. Some were
trying to make me lie down, others were asking me what I wanted, while
the doctor was urging me to drink some whiskey. Mechanically repelling
their offices, I pointed to the door and ejaculated, “President Byxbee
--coming,” giving expression to the one idea which my dazed mind at
that moment contained. And sure enough, even as I spoke the door opened,
and the venerable head of the college, somewhat blown with climbing the
steep stairway, stood on the threshold. With a sensation of prodigious
relief, I fell back on my pillow.

It appeared that I had swooned while in the observing-chair, the night
before, and had been found by the janitor in the morning, my head fallen
forward on the telescope, as if still observing, but my body cold,
rigid, pulseless, and apparently dead.

In a couple of days I was all right again, and should soon have
forgotten the episode but for a very interesting conjecture which had
suggested itself in connection with it. This was nothing less than
that, while I lay in that swoon, I was in a conscious state outside
and independent of the body, and in that state received impressions
and exercised perceptive powers. For this extraordinary theory I had no
other evidence than the fact of my knowledge in the moment of awaking
that President Byxbee was coming up the stairs. But slight as this clue
was, it seemed to me unmistakable in its significance. That knowledge
was certainly in my mind on the instant of arousing from the swoon. It
certainly could not have been there before I fell into the swoon. I must
therefore have gained it in the mean time; that is to say, I must have
been in a conscious, percipient state while my body was insensible.

If such had been the case, I reasoned that it was altogether unlikely
that the trivial impression as to President Byxbee had been the only one
which I had received in that state. It was far more probable that it had
remained over in my mind, on waking from the swoon, merely because it
was the latest of a series of impressions received while outside the
body. That these impressions were of a kind most strange and startling,
seeing that they were those of a disembodied soul exercising faculties
more spiritual than those of the body, I could not doubt. The desire
to know what they had been grew upon me, till it became a longing which
left me no repose. It seemed intolerable that I should have secrets from
myself, that my soul should withhold its experiences from my intellect.
I would gladly have consented that the acquisitions of half my waking
lifetime should be blotted out, if so be in exchange I might be shown
the record of what I had seen and known during those hours of which my
waking memory showed no trace. None the less for the conviction of its
hopelessness, but rather all the more, as the perversity of our human
nature will have it, the longing for this forbidden lore grew on me,
till the hunger of Eve in the Garden was mine.

Constantly brooding over a desire that I felt to be vain, tantalized
by the possession of a clue which only mocked me, my physical condition
became at length affected. My health was disturbed and my rest at
night was broken. A habit of walking in my sleep, from which I had
not suffered since childhood, recurred, and caused me frequent
inconvenience. Such had been, in general, my condition for some time,
when I awoke one morning with the strangely weary sensation by which
my body usually betrayed the secret of the impositions put upon it in
sleep, of which otherwise I should often have suspected nothing. In
going into the study connected with my chamber, I found a number of
freshly written sheets on the desk. Astonished that any one should
have been in my rooms while I slept, I was astounded, on looking more
closely, to observe that the handwriting was my own. How much more than
astounded I was on reading the matter that had been set down, the reader
may judge if he shall peruse it. For these written sheets apparently
contained the longed-for but despaired-of record of those hours when
I was absent from the body. They were the lost chapter of my life; or
rather, not lost at all, for it had been no part of my waking life, but
a stolen chapter,--stolen from that sleep-memory on whose mysterious
tablets may well be inscribed tales as much more marvelous than this as
this is stranger than most stories.

It will be remembered that my last recollection before awaking in my
bed, on the morning after the swoon, was of contemplating the coast of
Kepler Land with an unusual concentration of attention. As well as I
can judge,--and that is no better than any one else,--it is with the
moment that my bodily powers succumbed and I became unconscious that the
narrative which I found on my desk begins.

Even had I not come as straight and swift as the beam of light that made
my path, a glance about would have told me to what part of the universe
I had fared. No earthly landscape could have been more familiar. I stood
on the high coast of Kepler Land where it trends southward. A brisk
westerly wind was blowing and the waves of the ocean of De La Bue were
thundering at my feet, while the broad blue waters of Christie Bay
stretched away to the southwest. Against the northern horizon, rising
out of the ocean like a summer thunder-head, for which at first I
mistook it, towered the far-distant, snowy summit of Mount Hall.

Even had the configuration of land and sea been less familiar, I should
none the less have known that I stood on the planet whose ruddy hue is
at once the admiration and puzzle of astronomers. Its explanation I now
recognized in the tint of the atmosphere, a coloring comparable to the
haze of Indian summer, except that its hue was a faint rose instead
of purple. Like the Indian summer haze, it was impalpable, and without
impeding the view bathed all objects near and far in a glamour not to be
described. As the gaze turned upward, however, the deep blue of space
so far overcame the roseate tint that one might fancy he were still on
Earth.

As I looked about me I saw many men, women, and children. They were in
no respect dissimilar, so far as I could see, to the men, women, and
children of the Earth, save for something almost childlike in the
untroubled serenity of their faces, unfurrowed as they were by any trace
of care, of fear, or of anxiety. This extraordinary youthful-ness
of aspect made it difficult, indeed, save by careful scrutiny, to
distinguish the young from the middle-aged, maturity from advanced
years. Time seemed to have no tooth on Mars.

I was gazing about me, admiring this crimson-lighted world, and these
people who appeared to hold happiness by a tenure so much firmer than
men’s, when I heard the words, “You are welcome,” and, turning, saw that
I had been accosted by a man with the stature and bearing of middle
age, though his countenance, like the other faces which I had noted,
wonderfully combined the strength of a man’s with the serenity of a
child’s. I thanked him, and said,--

“You do not seem surprised to see me, though I certainly am to find
myself here.”

“Assuredly not,” he answered. “I knew, of course, that I was to meet
you to-day. And not only that, but I may say I am already in a sense
acquainted with you, through a mutual friend, Professor Edgerly. He was
here last month, and I met him at that time. We talked of you and your
interest in our planet. I told him I expected you.”

“Edgerly!” I exclaimed. “It is strange that he has said nothing of this
to me. I meet him every day.”

But I was reminded that it was in a dream that Edgerly, like myself,
had visited Mars, and on awaking had recalled nothing of his experience,
just as I should recall nothing of mine. When will man learn to
interrogate the dream soul of the marvels it sees in its wanderings?
Then he will no longer need to improve his telescopes to find out the
secrets of the universe.

“Do your people visit the Earth in the same manner?” I asked my
companion.

“Certainly,” he replied; “but there we find no one able to recognize us
and converse with us as I am conversing with you, although myself in
the waking state. You, as yet, lack the knowledge we possess of the
spiritual side of the human nature which we share with you.”

“That knowledge must have enabled you to learn much more of the Earth
than we know of you,” I said.

“Indeed it has,” he replied. “From visitors such as you, of whom we
entertain a concourse constantly, we have acquired familiarity with your
civilization, your history, your manners, and even your literature and
languages. Have you not noticed that I am talking with you in English,
which is certainly not a tongue indigenous to this planet?”

“Among so many wonders I scarcely observed that,” I answered.

“For ages,” pursued my companion, “we have been waiting for you to
improve your telescopes so as to approximate the power of ours, after
which communication between the planets would be easily established. The
progress which you make is, however, so slow that we expect to wait ages
yet.”

“Indeed, I fear you will have to,” I replied. “Our opticians already
talk of having reached the limits of their art.”

“Do not imagine that I spoke in any spirit of petulance,” my companion
resumed. “The slowness of your progress is not so remarkable to us
as that you make any at all, burdened as you are by a disability so
crushing that if we were in your place I fear we should sit down in
utter despair.”

“To what disability do you refer?” I asked. “You seem to be men like
us.”

“And so we are,” was the reply, “save in one particular, but there the
difference is tremendous. Endowed otherwise like us, you are destitute
of the faculty of foresight, without which we should think our other
faculties well-nigh valueless.”

“Foresight!” I repeated. “Certainly you cannot mean that it is given you
to know the future?”

“It is given not only to us,” was the answer, “but, so far as we know,
to all other intelligent beings of the universe except yourselves. Our
positive knowledge extends only to our system of moons and planets
and some of the nearer foreign systems, and it is conceivable that the
remoter parts of the universe may harbor other blind races like your
own; but it certainly seems unlikely that so strange and lamentable
a spectacle should be duplicated. One such illustration of the
extraordinary deprivations under which a rational existence may still be
possible ought to suffice for the universe.”

“But no one can know the future except by inspiration of God,” I said.

“All our faculties are by inspiration of God,” was the reply, “but there
is surely nothing in foresight to cause it to be so regarded more than
any other. Think a moment of the physical analogy of the case. Your eyes
are placed in the front of your heads. You would deem it an odd mistake
if they were placed behind. That would appear to you an arrangement
calculated to defeat their purpose. Does it not seem equally rational
that the mental vision should range forward, as it does with us,
illuminating the path one is to take, rather than backward, as with you,
revealing only the course you have already trodden, and therefore
have no more concern with? But it is no doubt a merciful provision of
Providence that renders you unable to realize the grotesqueness of your
predicament, as it appears to us.”

“But the future is eternal!” I exclaimed. “How can a finite mind grasp
it?”

“Our foreknowledge implies only human faculties,” was the reply. “It is
limited to our individual careers on this planet. Each of us foresees
the course of his own life, but not that of other lives, except so far
as they are involved with his.”

“That such a power as you describe could be combined with merely human
faculties is more than our philosophers have ever dared to dream,” I
said. “And yet who shall say, after all, that it is not in mercy that
God has denied it to us? If it is a happiness, as it must be, to foresee
one’s happiness, it must be most depressing to foresee one’s sorrows,
failures, yes, and even one’s death. For if you foresee your lives to
the end, you must anticipate the hour and manner of your death,--is it
not so?”

“Most assuredly,” was the reply. “Living would be a very precarious
business, were we uninformed of its limit. Your ignorance of the time
of your death impresses us as one of the saddest features of your
condition.”

“And by us,” I answered, “it is held to be one of the most merciful.”

“Foreknowledge of your death would not, indeed, prevent your dying
once,” continued my companion, “but it would deliver you from the
thousand deaths you suffer through uncertainty whether you can safely
count on the passing day. It is not the death you die, but these many
deaths you do not die, which shadow your existence. Poor blindfolded
creatures that you are, cringing at every step in apprehension of the
stroke that perhaps is not to fall till old age, never raising a cup to
your lips with the knowledge that you will live to quaff it, never sure
that you will meet again the friend you part with for an hour,
from whose hearts no happiness suffices to banish the chill of an
ever-present dread, what idea can you form of the Godlike security with
which we enjoy our lives and the lives of those we love! You have
a saying on earth, ‘To-morrow belongs to God;’ but here to-morrow
belongs to us, even as to-day. To you, for some inscrutable purpose, He
sees fit to dole out life moment by moment, with no assurance that each
is not to be the last. To us He gives a lifetime at once, fifty, sixty,
seventy years,--a divine gift indeed. A life such as yours would, I
fear, seem of little value to us; for such a life, however long, is but
a moment long, since that is all you can count on.”

“And yet,” I answered, “though knowledge of the duration of your lives
may give you an enviable feeling of confidence while the end is far off,
is that not more than offset by the daily growing weight with which the
expectation of the end, as it draws near, must press upon your minds?”

“On the contrary,” was the response, “death, never an object of fear,
as it draws nearer becomes more and more a matter of indifference to the
moribund. It is because you live in the past that death is grievous to
you. All your knowledge, all your affections, all your interests,
are rooted in the past, and on that account, as life lengthens,
it strengthens its hold on you, and memory becomes a more precious
possession. We, on the contrary, despise the past, and never dwell upon
it. Memory with us, far from being the morbid and monstrous growth it is
with you, is scarcely more than a rudimentary faculty. We live wholly
in the future and the present. What with foretaste and actual taste, our
experiences, whether pleasant or painful, are exhausted of interest by
the time they are past. The accumulated treasures of memory, which you
relinquish so painfully in death, we count no loss at all. Our minds
being fed wholly from the future, we think and feel only as we
anticipate; and so, as the dying man’s future contracts, there is less
and less about which he can occupy his thoughts. His interest in life
diminishes as the ideas which it suggests grow fewer, till at the last
death finds him with his mind a _tabula rasa_, as with you at birth. In
a word, his concern with life is reduced to a vanishing point before he
is called on to give it up. In dying he leaves nothing behind.”

“And the after-death,” I asked,--“is there no: fear of that?”

“Surely,” was the reply, “it is not necessary for me to say that a fear
which affects only the more ignorant on Earth is not known at all to
us, and would be counted blasphemous. Moreover, as I have said, our
foresight is limited to our lives on this planet. Any speculation beyond
them would be purely conjectural, and our minds are repelled by
the slightest taint of uncertainty. To us the conjectural and the
unthinkable may be called almost the same.”

“But even if you do not fear death for itself,” I said, “you have hearts
to break. Is there no pain when the ties of love are sundered?”

“Love and death are not foes on our planet,” was the reply. “There are
no tears by the bedsides of our dying. The same beneficent law which
makes it so easy for us to give up life forbids us to mourn the friends
we leave, or them to mourn us. With you, it is the intercourse you have
had with friends that is the source of your tenderness for them. With
us, it is the anticipation of the intercourse we shall enjoy which is
the foundation of fondness. As our friends vanish from our future with
the approach of their death, the effect on our thoughts and affections
is as it would be with you if you forgot them by lapse of time. As our
dying friends grow more and more indifferent to us, we, by operation of
the same law of our nature, become indifferent to them, till at the last
we are scarcely more than kindly and sympathetic watchers about the beds
of those who regard us equally without keen emotions. So at last God
gently unwinds instead of breaking the bands that bind our hearts
together, and makes death as painless to the surviving as to the dying.
Relations meant to produce our happiness are not the means also of
torturing us, as with you. Love means joy, and that alone, to us,
instead of blessing our lives for a while only to desolate them later
on, compelling us to pay with a distinct and separate pang for every
thrill of tenderness, exacting a tear for every smile.”

“There are other partings than those of death. Are these, too, without
sorrow for you?” I asked.

“Assuredly,” was the reply. “Can you not see that so it must needs
be with beings freed by foresight from the disease of memory? All the
sorrow of parting, as of dying, comes with you from the backward vision
which precludes you from beholding your happiness till it is past.
Suppose your life destined to be blessed by a happy friendship. If you
could know it beforehand, it would be a joyous expectation, brightening
the intervening years and cheering you as you traversed desolate
periods. But no; not till you meet the one who is to be your friend do
you know of him. Nor do you guess even then what he is to be to you,
that you may embrace him at first sight. Your meeting is cold and
indifferent. It is long before the fire is fairly kindled between you,
and then it is already time for parting. Now, indeed, the fire burns
well, but henceforth it must consume your heart. Not till they are dead
or gone do you fully realize how dear your friends were and how sweet
was their companionship. But we--we see our friends afar off coming
to meet us, smiling already in our eyes, years before our ways meet.
We greet them at first meeting, not coldly, not uncertainly, but with
exultant kisses, in an ecstasy of joy. They enter at once into the full
possession of hearts long warmed and lighted for them. We meet with that
delirium of tenderness with which you part. And when to us at last the
time of parting comes, it only means that we are to contribute to each
other’s happiness no longer. We are not doomed, like you, in parting, to
take away with us the delight we brought our friends, leaving the ache
of bereavement in its place, so that their last state is worse
than their first. Parting here is like meeting with you, calm and
unimpassioned. The joys of anticipation and possession are the only food
of love with us, and therefore Love always wears a smiling face. With
you he feeds on dead joys, past happiness, which are likewise the
sustenance of sorrow. No wonder love and sorrow are so much alike
on Earth. It is a common saying among us that, were it not for the
spectacle of the Earth, the rest of the worlds would be unable to
appreciate the goodness of God to them; and who can say that this is not
the reason the piteous sight is set before us?”

“You have told me marvelous things,” I said, after I had reflected. “It
is, indeed, but reasonable that such a race as yours should look down
with wondering pity on the Earth. And yet, before I grant so much, I
want to ask you one question. There is known in our world a certain
sweet madness, under the influence of which we forget all that is
untoward in our lot, and would not change it for a god’s. So far is
this sweet madness regarded by men as a compensation, and more than a
compensation, for all their miseries that if you know not love as
we know it, if this loss be the price you have paid for your divine
foresight, we think ourselves more favored of God than you. Confess that
love, with its reserves, its surprises, its mysteries, its revelations,
is necessarily incompatible with a foresight which weighs and measures
every experience in advance.”

“Of love’s surprises we certainly know nothing,” was the reply. “It
is believed by our philosophers that the slightest surprise would kill
beings of our constitution like lightning; though of course this is
merely theory, for it is only by the study of Earthly conditions that we
are able to form an idea of what surprise is like. Your power to endure
the constant buffetings of the unexpected is a matter of supreme
amazement to us; nor, according to our ideas, is there any difference
between what you call pleasant and painful surprises. You see, then,
that we cannot envy you these surprises of love which you find so
sweet, for to us they would be fatal. For the rest, there is no form of
happiness which foresight is so well calculated to enhance as that of
love. Let me explain to you how this befalls. As the growing boy begins
to be sensible of the charms of woman, he finds himself, as I dare say
it is with you, preferring some type of face and form to others. He
dreams oftenest of fair hair, or may be of dark, of blue eyes or brown.
As the years go on, his fancy, brooding over what seems to it the best
and loveliest of every type, is constantly adding to this dream-face,
this shadowy form, traits and lineaments, hues and contours, till at
last the picture is complete, and he becomes aware that on his heart
thus subtly has been depicted the likeness of the maiden destined for
his arms.

“It may be years before he is to see her, but now begins with him one
of the sweetest offices of love, one to you unknown. Youth on Earth is a
stormy period of passion, chafing in restraint or rioting in excess. But
the very passion whose awaking makes this time so critical with you is
here a reforming and educating influence, to whose gentle and potent
sway we gladly confide our children. The temptations which lead your
young men astray have no hold on a youth of our happy planet. He hoards
the treasures of his heart for its coming mistress. Of her alone he
thinks, and to her all his vows are made. The thought of license would
be treasop to his sovereign lady, whose right to all the revenues of
his being he joyfully owns. To rob her, to abate her high prerogatives,
would be to impoverish, to insult, himself; for she is to be his, and
her honor, her glory, are his own. Through all this time that he dreams
of her by night and day, the exquisite reward of his devotion is the
knowledge that she is aware of him as he of her, and that in the inmost
shrine of a maiden heart his image is set up to receive the incense of
a tenderness that needs not to restrain itself through fear of possible
cross or separation.

“In due time their converging lives come together. The lovers meet,
gaze a moment into each other’s eyes, then throw themselves each on
the other’s breast. The maiden has all the charms that ever stirred the
blood of an Earthly lover, but there is another glamour over her which
the eyes of Earthly lovers are shut to,--the glamour of the future.
In the blushing girl her lover sees the fond and faithful wife, in the
blithe maiden the patient, pain-consecrated mother. On the virgin’s
breast he beholds his children. He is prescient, even as his lips take
the first-fruits of hers, of the future years during which she is to
be his companion, his ever-present solace, his chief portion of God’s
goodness. We have read some of your romances describing love as you know
it on Earth, and I must confess, my friend, we find them very dull.

“I hope,” he added, as I did not at once speak, “that I shall not offend
you by saying we find them also objectionable. Your literature possesses
in general an interest for us in the picture it presents of the
curiously inverted life which the lack of foresight compels you to lead.
It is a study especially prized for the development of the imagination,
on account of the difficulty of conceiving conditions so opposed to
those of intelligent beings in general. But our women do not read your
romances. The notion that a man or woman should, ever conceive the idea
of marrying a person other than the one whose husband or wife he or she
is destined to be is profoundly shocking to our habits of thought. No
doubt you will say that such instances are rare among you, but if
your novels are faithful pictures of your life, they are at least not
unknown. That these situations are inevitable under the conditions of
earthly life we are well aware, and judge you accordingly; but it is
needless that the minds of our maidens should be pained by the knowledge
that there anywhere exists a world where such travesties upon the
sacredness of marriage are possible.

“There is, however, another reason why we discourage the use of your
books by our young people, and that is the profound effect of sadness,
to a race accustomed to view all things in the morning glow of
the future, of a literature written in the past tense and relating
exclusively to things that are ended.”

“And how do you write of things that are past except in the past tense?”
 I asked.

“We write of the past when it is still the future, and of course in the
future tense,” was the reply. “If our historians were to wait till after
the events to describe them, not alone would nobody care to read about
things already done, but the histories themselves would probably be
inaccurate; for memory, as I have said, is a very slightly developed
faculty with us, and quite too indistinct to be trustworthy. Should the
Earth ever establish communication with us, you will find our histories
of interest; for our planet, being smaller, cooled and was peopled ages
before yours, and our astronomical records contain minute accounts
of the Earth from the time it was a fluid mass. Your geologists and
biologists may yet find a mine of information here.”

In the course of our further conversation it came out that, as a
consequence of foresight, some of the commonest emotions of human nature
are unknown on Mars. They for whom the future has no mystery can, of
course, know neither hope nor fear. Moreover, every one being assured
what he shall attain to and what not, there can be no such thing as
rivalship, or emulation, or any sort of competition in any respect; and
therefore all the brood of heart-burnings and hatreds, engendered on
Earth by the strife of man with man, is unknown to the people of Mars,
save from the study of our planet. When I asked if there were not, after
all, a lack of spontaneity, of sense of freedom, in leading lives fixed
in all details beforehand, I was reminded that there was no difference
in that respect between the lives of the people of Earth and of Mars,
both alike being according to God’s will in every particular. We knew
that will only after the event, they before,--that was all. For the
rest, God moved them through their wills as He did us, so that they had
no more dense of compulsion in what they did than we on Earth have
in carrying out an anticipated line of action, in cases where our
anticipations chance to be correct. Of the absorbing interest which
the study of the plan of their future lives possessed for the people
of Mars, my companion spoke eloquently. It was, he said, like the
fascination to a mathematician of a most elaborate and exquisite
demonstration, a perfect algebraical equation, with the glowing
realities of life in place of figures and symbols.

When I asked if it never occurred to them to wish their futures
different, he replied that such a question could only have been asked by
one from the Earth. No one could have foresight, or clearly believe that
God had it, without realizing that the future is as incapable of being
changed as the past. And not only this, but to foresee events was to
foresee their logical necessity so clearly that to desire them different
was as impossible as seriously to wish that two and two made five
instead of four. No person could ever thoughtfully wish anything
different, for so closely are all things, the small with the great,
woven together by God that to draw out the smallest thread would unravel
creation through all eternity.

While we had talked the afternoon had waned, and the sun had sunk below
the horizon, the roseate atmosphere of the planet imparting a splendor
to the cloud coloring, and a glory to the land and sea scape, never
paralleled by an earthly sunset. Already the familiar constellations
appearing in the sky reminded me how near, after all, I was to the
Earth, for with the unassisted eye I could not detect the slightest
variation in their position. Nevertheless, there was one wholly novel
feature in the heavens, for many of the host of asteroids which circle
in the zone between Mars and Jupiter were vividly visible to the naked
eye. But the spectacle that chiefly held my gaze was the Earth, swimming
low on the verge of the horizon. Its disc, twice as large as that of any
star or planet as seen from the Earth, flashed with a brilliancy like
that of Venus.

“It is, indeed, a lovely sight,” said my companion, “although to
me always a melancholy one, from the contrast suggested between the
radiance of the orb and the benighted condition of its inhabitants. We
call it ‘The Blindman’s World.’” As he spoke he turned toward a curious
structure which stood near us, though I had not before particularly
observed it.

“What is that?” I asked.

“It is one of our telescopes,” he replied. “I am going to let you take
a look, if you choose, at your home, and test for yourself the powers
of which I have boasted;” and having adjusted the instrument to his
satisfaction, he showed me where to apply my eye to what answered to the
eye-piece.

I could not repress an exclamation of amazement, for truly he had
exaggerated nothing. The little college town which was my home lay
spread out before me, seemingly almost as near as when I looked down
upon it from my observatory windows. It was early morning, and the
village was waking up. The milkmen were going their rounds, and workmen,
with their dinner-pails, where hurrying along the streets. The early
train was just leaving the railroad station. I could see the puffs from
the smoke-stack, and the jets from the cylinders. It was strange not to
hear the hissing of the steam, so near I seemed. There were the college
buildings on the hill, the long rows of windows flashing back the level
sunbeams. I could tell the time by the college clock. It struck me
that there was an unusual bustle around the buildings, considering
the earliness of the hour. A crowd of men stood about the door of the
observatory, and many others were hurrying across the campus in that
direction. Among them I recognized President Byxbee, accompanied by the
college janitor. As I gazed they reached the observatory, and, passing
through the group about the door, entered the building. The president
was evidently going up to my quarters. At this it flashed over me quite
suddenly that all this bustle was on my account. I recalled how it was
that I came to be on Mars, and in what condition I had left affairs
in the observatory. It was high time I were back there to look after
myself.

Here abruptly ended the extraordinary document which I found that
morning on my desk. That it is the authentic record of the conditions of
life in another world which it purports to be I do not expect the reader
to believe. He will no doubt explain it as another of the curious freaks
of somnambulism set down in the books. Probably it was merely that,
possibly it was something more. I do not pretend to decide the question.
I have told all the facts of the case, and have no better means for
forming an opinion than the reader. Nor do I know, even if I fully
believed it the true account it seems to be, that it would have affected
my imagination much more strongly than it has. That story of another
world has, in a word, put me out of joint with ours. The readiness with
which my mind has adapted itself to the Martial point of view concerning
the Earth has been a singular experience. The lack of foresight among
the human faculties, a lack I had scarcely thought of before, now
impresses me, ever more deeply, as a fact out of harmony with the rest
of our nature, belying its promise,--a moral mutilation, a deprivation
arbitrary and unaccountable. The spectacle of a race doomed to walk
backward, beholding only what has gone by, assured only of what is past
and dead,’ comes over me from time to time with a sadly fantastical
effect which I cannot describe. I dream of a world where love always
wears a smile, where the partings are as tearless as our meetings, and
death is king no more. I have a fancy, which I like to cherish, that
the people of that happy sphere, fancied though it may be, represent the
ideal and normal type of our race, as perhaps it once was, as perhaps it
may yet be again.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Blindman's World - 1898" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home