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 ]

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: Erewhon; Or, Over the Range
Author: Butler, Samuel
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 "Erewhon; Or, Over the Range" ***

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



[Illustration]



EREWHON

OR,
OVER THE RANGE

by Samuel Butler

“Τοῦ γὰρ εἰναι δοκοῦντος ἀγαθοῦ χάριν πάντα πράττουσι πάντες.”—ARIST.
_Pol_.

“There is no action save upon a balance of
considerations.”—_Paraphrase_.


Contents


 PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION
 PREFACE TO SECOND EDITION
 PREFACE TO THE REVISED EDITION

 CHAPTER I. WASTE LANDS
 CHAPTER II. IN THE WOOL-SHED
 CHAPTER III. UP THE RIVER
 CHAPTER IV. THE SADDLE
 CHAPTER V. THE RIVER AND THE RANGE
 CHAPTER VI. INTO EREWHON
 CHAPTER VII. FIRST IMPRESSIONS
 CHAPTER VIII. IN PRISON
 CHAPTER IX. TO THE METROPOLIS
 CHAPTER X. CURRENT OPINIONS
 CHAPTER XI. SOME EREWHONIAN TRIALS
 CHAPTER XII. MALCONTENTS
 CHAPTER XIII. THE VIEWS OF THE EREWHONIANS CONCERNING DEATH
 CHAPTER XIV. MAHAINA
 CHAPTER XV. THE MUSICAL BANKS
 CHAPTER XVI. AROWHENA
 CHAPTER XVII. YDGRUN AND THE YDGRUNITES
 CHAPTER XVIII. BIRTH FORMULAE
 CHAPTER XIX. THE WORLD OF THE UNBORN
 CHAPTER XX. WHAT THEY MEAN BY IT
 CHAPTER XXI. THE COLLEGES OF UNREASON
 CHAPTER XXII. THE COLLEGES OF UNREASON—Continued
 CHAPTER XXIII. THE BOOK OF THE MACHINES
 CHAPTER XXIV. THE MACHINES—continued
 CHAPTER XXV. THE MACHINES—concluded
 CHAPTER XXVI. THE VIEWS OF AN EREWHONIAN PROPHET CONCERNING THE RIGHTS
   OF ANIMALS
 CHAPTER XXVII. THE VIEWS OF AN EREWHONIAN PHILOSOPHER CONCERNING THE
   RIGHTS OF VEGETABLES
 CHAPTER XXVIII. ESCAPE
 CHAPTER XXIX. CONCLUSION

 Footnotes



PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION


The Author wishes it to be understood that Erewhon is pronounced as a
word of three syllables, all short—thus, Ĕ-rĕ-whŏn.



PREFACE TO SECOND EDITION


Having been enabled by the kindness of the public to get through an
unusually large edition of “Erewhon” in a very short time, I have taken
the opportunity of a second edition to make some necessary corrections,
and to add a few passages where it struck me that they would be
appropriately introduced; the passages are few, and it is my fixed
intention never to touch the work again.

I may perhaps be allowed to say a word or two here in reference to “The
Coming Race,” to the success of which book “Erewhon” has been very
generally set down as due. This is a mistake, though a perfectly
natural one. The fact is that “Erewhon” was finished, with the
exception of the last twenty pages and a sentence or two inserted from
time to time here and there throughout the book, before the first
advertisement of “The Coming Race” appeared. A friend having called my
attention to one of the first of these advertisements, and suggesting
that it probably referred to a work of similar character to my own, I
took “Erewhon” to a well-known firm of publishers on the 1st of May
1871, and left it in their hands for consideration. I then went abroad,
and on learning that the publishers alluded to declined the MS., I let
it alone for six or seven months, and, being in an out-of-the-way part
of Italy, never saw a single review of “The Coming Race,” nor a copy of
the work. On my return, I purposely avoided looking into it until I had
sent back my last revises to the printer. Then I had much pleasure in
reading it, but was indeed surprised at the many little points of
similarity between the two books, in spite of their entire independence
to one another.

I regret that reviewers have in some cases been inclined to treat the
chapters on Machines as an attempt to reduce Mr. Darwin’s theory to an
absurdity. Nothing could be further from my intention, and few things
would be more distasteful to me than any attempt to laugh at Mr.
Darwin; but I must own that I have myself to thank for the
misconception, for I felt sure that my intention would be missed, but
preferred not to weaken the chapters by explanation, and knew very well
that Mr. Darwin’s theory would take no harm. The only question in my
mind was how far I could afford to be misrepresented as laughing at
that for which I have the most profound admiration. I am surprised,
however, that the book at which such an example of the specious misuse
of analogy would seem most naturally levelled should have occurred to
no reviewer; neither shall I mention the name of the book here, though
I should fancy that the hint given will suffice.

I have been held by some whose opinions I respect to have denied men’s
responsibility for their actions. He who does this is an enemy who
deserves no quarter. I should have imagined that I had been
sufficiently explicit, but have made a few additions to the chapter on
Malcontents, which will, I think, serve to render further mistake
impossible.

An anonymous correspondent (by the hand-writing presumably a clergyman)
tells me that in quoting from the Latin grammar I should at any rate
have done so correctly, and that I should have written “agricolas”
instead of “agricolae”. He added something about any boy in the fourth
form, &c., &c., which I shall not quote, but which made me very
uncomfortable. It may be said that I must have misquoted from design,
from ignorance, or by a slip of the pen; but surely in these days it
will be recognised as harsh to assign limits to the all-embracing
boundlessness of truth, and it will be more reasonably assumed that
each of the three possible causes of misquotation must have had its
share in the apparent blunder. The art of writing things that shall
sound right and yet be wrong has made so many reputations, and affords
comfort to such a large number of readers, that I could not venture to
neglect it; the Latin grammar, however, is a subject on which some of
the younger members of the community feel strongly, so I have now
written “agricolas”. I have also parted with the word “infortuniam”
(though not without regret), but have not dared to meddle with other
similar inaccuracies.

For the inconsistencies in the book, and I am aware that there are not
a few, I must ask the indulgence of the reader. The blame, however,
lies chiefly with the Erewhonians themselves, for they were really a
very difficult people to understand. The most glaring anomalies seemed
to afford them no intellectual inconvenience; neither, provided they
did not actually see the money dropping out of their pockets, nor
suffer immediate physical pain, would they listen to any arguments as
to the waste of money and happiness which their folly caused them. But
this had an effect of which I have little reason to complain, for I was
allowed almost to call them life-long self-deceivers to their faces,
and they said it was quite true, but that it did not matter.

I must not conclude without expressing my most sincere thanks to my
critics and to the public for the leniency and consideration with which
they have treated my adventures.

June 9, 1872



PREFACE TO THE REVISED EDITION


My publisher wishes me to say a few words about the genesis of the
work, a revised and enlarged edition of which he is herewith laying
before the public. I therefore place on record as much as I can
remember on this head after a lapse of more than thirty years.

The first part of “Erewhon” written was an article headed “Darwin among
the Machines,” and signed Cellarius. It was written in the Upper
Rangitata district of the Canterbury Province (as it then was) of New
Zealand, and appeared at Christchurch in the Press Newspaper, June 13,
1863. A copy of this article is indexed under my books in the British
Museum catalogue. In passing, I may say that the opening chapters of
“Erewhon” were also drawn from the Upper Rangitata district, with such
modifications as I found convenient.

A second article on the same subject as the one just referred to
appeared in the Press shortly after the first, but I have no copy. It
treated Machines from a different point of view, and was the basis of
pp. 270-274 of the present edition of “Erewhon.”[1] This view
ultimately led me to the theory I put forward in “Life and Habit,”
published in November 1877. I have put a bare outline of this theory
(which I believe to be quite sound) into the mouth of an Erewhonian
philosopher in Chapter XXVII. of this book.

In 1865 I rewrote and enlarged “Darwin among the Machines” for the
Reasoner, a paper published in London by Mr. G. J. Holyoake. It
appeared July 1, 1865, under the heading, “The Mechanical Creation,”
and can be seen in the British Museum. I again rewrote and enlarged it,
till it assumed the form in which it appeared in the first edition of
“Erewhon.”

The next part of “Erewhon” that I wrote was the “World of the Unborn,”
a preliminary form of which was sent to Mr. Holyoake’s paper, but as I
cannot find it among those copies of the Reasoner that are in the
British Museum, I conclude that it was not accepted. I have, however,
rather a strong fancy that it appeared in some London paper of the same
character as the Reasoner, not very long after July 1, 1865, but I have
no copy.

I also wrote about this time the substance of what ultimately became
the Musical Banks, and the trial of a man for being in a consumption.
These four detached papers were, I believe, all that was written of
“Erewhon” before 1870. Between 1865 and 1870 I wrote hardly anything,
being hopeful of attaining that success as a painter which it has not
been vouchsafed me to attain, but in the autumn of 1870, just as I was
beginning to get occasionally hung at Royal Academy exhibitions, my
friend, the late Sir F. N. (then Mr.) Broome, suggested to me that I
should add somewhat to the articles I had already written, and string
them together into a book. I was rather fired by the idea, but as I
only worked at the MS. on Sundays it was some months before I had
completed it.

I see from my second Preface that I took the book to Messrs. Chapman &
Hall May 1, 1871, and on their rejection of it, under the advice of one
who has attained the highest rank among living writers, I let it sleep,
till I took it to Mr. Trübner early in 1872. As regards its rejection
by Messrs. Chapman & Hall, I believe their reader advised them quite
wisely. They told me he reported that it was a philosophical work,
little likely to be popular with a large circle of readers. I hope that
if I had been their reader, and the book had been submitted to myself,
I should have advised them to the same effect.

“Erewhon” appeared with the last day or two of March 1872. I attribute
its unlooked-for success mainly to two early favourable reviews—the
first in the Pall Mall Gazette of April 12, and the second in the
Spectator of April 20. There was also another cause. I was complaining
once to a friend that though “Erewhon” had met with such a warm
reception, my subsequent books had been all of them practically
still-born. He said, “You forget one charm that ‘Erewhon’ had, but
which none of your other books can have.” I asked what? and was
answered, “The sound of a new voice, and of an unknown voice.”

The first edition of “Erewhon” sold in about three weeks; I had not
taken moulds, and as the demand was strong, it was set up again
immediately. I made a few unimportant alterations and additions, and
added a Preface, of which I cannot say that I am particularly proud,
but an inexperienced writer with a head somewhat turned by unexpected
success is not to be trusted with a preface. I made a few further very
trifling alterations before moulds were taken, but since the summer of
1872, as new editions were from time to time wanted, they have been
printed from stereos then made.

Having now, I fear, at too great length done what I was asked to do, I
should like to add a few words on my own account. I am still fairly
well satisfied with those parts of “Erewhon” that were repeatedly
rewritten, but from those that had only a single writing I would gladly
cut out some forty or fifty pages if I could.

This, however, may not be, for the copyright will probably expire in a
little over twelve years. It was necessary, therefore, to revise the
book throughout for literary inelegancies—of which I found many more
than I had expected—and also to make such substantial additions as
should secure a new lease of life—at any rate for the copyright. If,
then, instead of cutting out, say fifty pages, I have been compelled to
add about sixty invitâ Minervâ—the blame rests neither with my
publisher nor with me, but with the copyright laws. Nevertheless I can
assure the reader that, though I have found it an irksome task to take
up work which I thought I had got rid of thirty years ago, and much of
which I am ashamed of, I have done my best to make the new matter
savour so much of the better portions of the old, that none but the
best critics shall perceive at what places the gaps of between thirty
and forty years occur.

Lastly, if my readers note a considerable difference between the
literary technique of “Erewhon” and that of “Erewhon Revisited,” I
would remind them that, as I have just shown, “Erewhon” look something
like ten years in writing, and even so was written with great
difficulty, while “Erewhon Revisited” was written easily between
November 1900 and the end of April 1901. There is no central idea
underlying “Erewhon,” whereas the attempt to realise the effect of a
single supposed great miracle dominates the whole of its successor. In
“Erewhon” there was hardly any story, and little attempt to give life
and individuality to the characters; I hope that in “Erewhon Revisited”
both these defects have been in great measure avoided. “Erewhon” was
not an organic whole, “Erewhon Revisited” may fairly claim to be one.
Nevertheless, though in literary workmanship I do not doubt that this
last-named book is an improvement on the first, I shall be agreeably
surprised if I am not told that “Erewhon,” with all its faults, is the
better reading of the two.

SAMUEL BUTLER.
August 7, 1901



CHAPTER I. WASTE LANDS


If the reader will excuse me, I will say nothing of my antecedents, nor
of the circumstances which led me to leave my native country; the
narrative would be tedious to him and painful to myself. Suffice it,
that when I left home it was with the intention of going to some new
colony, and either finding, or even perhaps purchasing, waste crown
land suitable for cattle or sheep farming, by which means I thought
that I could better my fortunes more rapidly than in England.

It will be seen that I did not succeed in my design, and that however
much I may have met with that was new and strange, I have been unable
to reap any pecuniary advantage.

It is true, I imagine myself to have made a discovery which, if I can
be the first to profit by it, will bring me a recompense beyond all
money computation, and secure me a position such as has not been
attained by more than some fifteen or sixteen persons, since the
creation of the universe. But to this end I must possess myself of a
considerable sum of money: neither do I know how to get it, except by
interesting the public in my story, and inducing the charitable to come
forward and assist me. With this hope I now publish my adventures; but
I do so with great reluctance, for I fear that my story will be doubted
unless I tell the whole of it; and yet I dare not do so, lest others
with more means than mine should get the start of me. I prefer the risk
of being doubted to that of being anticipated, and have therefore
concealed my destination on leaving England, as also the point from
which I began my more serious and difficult journey.

My chief consolation lies in the fact that truth bears its own impress,
and that my story will carry conviction by reason of the internal
evidences for its accuracy. No one who is himself honest will doubt my
being so.

I reached my destination in one of the last months of 1868, but I dare
not mention the season, lest the reader should gather in which
hemisphere I was. The colony was one which had not been opened up even
to the most adventurous settlers for more than eight or nine years,
having been previously uninhabited, save by a few tribes of savages who
frequented the seaboard. The part known to Europeans consisted of a
coast-line about eight hundred miles in length (affording three or four
good harbours), and a tract of country extending inland for a space
varying from two to three hundred miles, until it a reached the
offshoots of an exceedingly lofty range of mountains, which could be
seen from far out upon the plains, and were covered with perpetual
snow. The coast was perfectly well known both north and south of the
tract to which I have alluded, but in neither direction was there a
single harbour for five hundred miles, and the mountains, which
descended almost into the sea, were covered with thick timber, so that
none would think of settling.

With this bay of land, however, the case was different. The harbours
were sufficient; the country was timbered, but not too heavily; it was
admirably suited for agriculture; it also contained millions on
millions of acres of the most beautifully grassed country in the world,
and of the best suited for all manner of sheep and cattle. The climate
was temperate, and very healthy; there were no wild animals, nor were
the natives dangerous, being few in number and of an intelligent
tractable disposition.

It may be readily understood that when once Europeans set foot upon
this territory they were not slow to take advantage of its
capabilities. Sheep and cattle were introduced, and bred with extreme
rapidity; men took up their 50,000 or 100,000 acres of country, going
inland one behind the other, till in a few years there was not an acre
between the sea and the front ranges which was not taken up, and
stations either for sheep or cattle were spotted about at intervals of
some twenty or thirty miles over the whole country. The front ranges
stopped the tide of squatters for some little time; it was thought that
there was too much snow upon them for too many months in the year,—that
the sheep would get lost, the ground being too difficult for
shepherding,—that the expense of getting wool down to the ship’s side
would eat up the farmer’s profits,—and that the grass was too rough and
sour for sheep to thrive upon; but one after another determined to try
the experiment, and it was wonderful how successfully it turned out.
Men pushed farther and farther into the mountains, and found a very
considerable tract inside the front range, between it and another which
was loftier still, though even this was not the highest, the great
snowy one which could be seen from out upon the plains. This second
range, however, seemed to mark the extreme limits of pastoral country;
and it was here, at a small and newly founded station, that I was
received as a cadet, and soon regularly employed. I was then just
twenty-two years old.

I was delighted with the country and the manner of life. It was my
daily business to go up to the top of a certain high mountain, and down
one of its spurs on to the flat, in order to make sure that no sheep
had crossed their boundaries. I was to see the sheep, not necessarily
close at hand, nor to get them in a single mob, but to see enough of
them here and there to feel easy that nothing had gone wrong; this was
no difficult matter, for there were not above eight hundred of them;
and, being all breeding ewes, they were pretty quiet.

There were a good many sheep which I knew, as two or three black ewes,
and a black lamb or two, and several others which had some
distinguishing mark whereby I could tell them. I would try and see all
these, and if they were all there, and the mob looked large enough, I
might rest assured that all was well. It is surprising how soon the eye
becomes accustomed to missing twenty sheep out of two or three hundred.
I had a telescope and a dog, and would take bread and meat and tobacco
with me. Starting with early dawn, it would be night before I could
complete my round; for the mountain over which I had to go was very
high. In winter it was covered with snow, and the sheep needed no
watching from above. If I were to see sheep dung or tracks going down
on to the other side of the mountain (where there was a valley with a
stream—a mere _cul de sac_), I was to follow them, and look out for
sheep; but I never saw any, the sheep always descending on to their own
side, partly from habit, and partly because there was abundance of good
sweet feed, which had been burnt in the early spring, just before I
came, and was now deliciously green and rich, while that on the other
side had never been burnt, and was rank and coarse.

It was a monotonous life, but it was very healthy and one does not much
mind anything when one is well. The country was the grandest that can
be imagined. How often have I sat on the mountain side and watched the
waving downs, with the two white specks of huts in the distance, and
the little square of garden behind them; the paddock with a patch of
bright green oats above the huts, and the yards and wool-sheds down on
the flat below; all seen as through the wrong end of a telescope, so
clear and brilliant was the air, or as upon a colossal model or map
spread out beneath me. Beyond the downs was a plain, going down to a
river of great size, on the farther side of which there were other high
mountains, with the winter’s snow still not quite melted; up the river,
which ran winding in many streams over a bed some two miles broad, I
looked upon the second great chain, and could see a narrow gorge where
the river retired and was lost. I knew that there was a range still
farther back; but except from one place near the very top of my own
mountain, no part of it was visible: from this point, however, I saw,
whenever there were no clouds, a single snow-clad peak, many miles
away, and I should think about as high as any mountain in the world.
Never shall I forget the utter loneliness of the prospect—only the
little far-away homestead giving sign of human handiwork;—the vastness
of mountain and plain, of river and sky; the marvellous atmospheric
effects—sometimes black mountains against a white sky, and then again,
after cold weather, white mountains against a black sky—sometimes seen
through breaks and swirls of cloud—and sometimes, which was best of
all, I went up my mountain in a fog, and then got above the mist; going
higher and higher, I would look down upon a sea of whiteness, through
which would be thrust innumerable mountain tops that looked like
islands.

I am there now, as I write; I fancy that I can see the downs, the huts,
the plain, and the river-bed—that torrent pathway of desolation, with
its distant roar of waters. Oh, wonderful! wonderful! so lonely and so
solemn, with the sad grey clouds above, and no sound save a lost lamb
bleating upon the mountain side, as though its little heart were
breaking. Then there comes some lean and withered old ewe, with deep
gruff voice and unlovely aspect, trotting back from the seductive
pasture; now she examines this gully, and now that, and now she stands
listening with uplifted head, that she may hear the distant wailing and
obey it. Aha! they see, and rush towards each other. Alas! they are
both mistaken; the ewe is not the lamb’s ewe, they are neither kin nor
kind to one another, and part in coldness. Each must cry louder, and
wander farther yet; may luck be with them both that they may find their
own at nightfall. But this is mere dreaming, and I must proceed.

I could not help speculating upon what might lie farther up the river
and behind the second range. I had no money, but if I could only find
workable country, I might stock it with borrowed capital, and consider
myself a made man. True, the range looked so vast, that there seemed
little chance of getting a sufficient road through it or over it; but
no one had yet explored it, and it is wonderful how one finds that one
can make a path into all sorts of places (and even get a road for
pack-horses), which from a distance appear inaccessible; the river was
so great that it must drain an inner tract—at least I thought so; and
though every one said it would be madness to attempt taking sheep
farther inland, I knew that only three years ago the same cry had been
raised against the country which my master’s flock was now overrunning.
I could not keep these thoughts out of my head as I would rest myself
upon the mountain side; they haunted me as I went my daily rounds, and
grew upon me from hour to hour, till I resolved that after shearing I
would remain in doubt no longer, but saddle my horse, take as much
provision with me as I could, and go and see for myself.

But over and above these thoughts came that of the great range itself.
What was beyond it? Ah! who could say? There was no one in the whole
world who had the smallest idea, save those who were themselves on the
other side of it—if, indeed, there was any one at all. Could I hope to
cross it? This would be the highest triumph that I could wish for; but
it was too much to think of yet. I would try the nearer range, and see
how far I could go. Even if I did not find country, might I not find
gold, or diamonds, or copper, or silver? I would sometimes lie flat
down to drink out of a stream, and could see little yellow specks among
the sand; were these gold? People said no; but then people always said
there was no gold until it was found to be abundant: there was plenty
of slate and granite, which I had always understood to accompany gold;
and even though it was not found in paying quantities here, it might be
abundant in the main ranges. These thoughts filled my head, and I could
not banish them.



CHAPTER II. IN THE WOOL-SHED


At last shearing came; and with the shearers there was an old native,
whom they had nicknamed Chowbok—though, I believe, his real name was
Kahabuka. He was a sort of chief of the natives, could speak a little
English, and was a great favourite with the missionaries. He did not do
any regular work with the shearers, but pretended to help in the yards,
his real aim being to get the grog, which is always more freely
circulated at shearing-time: he did not get much, for he was apt to be
dangerous when drunk; and very little would make him so: still he did
get it occasionally, and if one wanted to get anything out of him, it
was the best bribe to offer him. I resolved to question him, and get as
much information from him as I could. I did so. As long as I kept to
questions about the nearer ranges, he was easy to get on with—he had
never been there, but there were traditions among his tribe to the
effect that there was no sheep-country, nothing, in fact, but stunted
timber and a few river-bed flats. It was very difficult to reach; still
there were passes: one of them up our own river, though not directly
along the river-bed, the gorge of which was not practicable; he had
never seen any one who had been there: was there not enough on this
side? But when I came to the main range, his manner changed at once. He
became uneasy, and began to prevaricate and shuffle. In a very few
minutes I could see that of this too there existed traditions in his
tribe; but no efforts or coaxing could get a word from him about them.
At last I hinted about grog, and presently he feigned consent: I gave
it him; but as soon as he had drunk it he began shamming intoxication,
and then went to sleep, or pretended to do so, letting me kick him
pretty hard and never budging.

I was angry, for I had to go without my own grog and had got nothing
out of him; so the next day I determined that he should tell me before
I gave him any, or get none at all.

Accordingly, when night came and the shearers had knocked off work and
had their supper, I got my share of rum in a tin pannikin and made a
sign to Chowbok to follow me to the wool-shed, which he willingly did,
slipping out after me, and no one taking any notice of either of us.
When we got down to the wool-shed we lit a tallow candle, and having
stuck it in an old bottle we sat down upon the wool bales and began to
smoke. A wool-shed is a roomy place, built somewhat on the same plan as
a cathedral, with aisles on either side full of pens for the sheep, a
great nave, at the upper end of which the shearers work, and a further
space for wool sorters and packers. It always refreshed me with a
semblance of antiquity (precious in a new country), though I very well
knew that the oldest wool-shed in the settlement was not more than
seven years old, while this was only two. Chowbok pretended to expect
his grog at once, though we both of us knew very well what the other
was after, and that we were each playing against the other, the one for
grog the other for information.

We had a hard fight: for more than two hours he had tried to put me off
with lies but had carried no conviction; during the whole time we had
been morally wrestling with one another and had neither of us
apparently gained the least advantage; at length, however, I had become
sure that he would give in ultimately, and that with a little further
patience I should get his story out of him. As upon a cold day in
winter, when one has churned (as I had often had to do), and churned in
vain, and the butter makes no sign of coming, at last one tells by the
sound that the cream has gone to sleep, and then upon a sudden the
butter comes, so I had churned at Chowbok until I perceived that he had
arrived, as it were, at the sleepy stage, and that with a continuance
of steady quiet pressure the day was mine. On a sudden, without a word
of warning, he rolled two bales of wool (his strength was very great)
into the middle of the floor, and on the top of these he placed another
crosswise; he snatched up an empty wool-pack, threw it like a mantle
over his shoulders, jumped upon the uppermost bale, and sat upon it. In
a moment his whole form was changed. His high shoulders dropped; he set
his feet close together, heel to heel and toe to toe; he laid his arms
and hands close alongside of his body, the palms following his thighs;
he held his head high but quite straight, and his eyes stared right in
front of him; but he frowned horribly, and assumed an expression of
face that was positively fiendish. At the best of times Chowbok was
very ugly, but he now exceeded all conceivable limits of the hideous.
His mouth extended almost from ear to ear, grinning horribly and
showing all his teeth; his eyes glared, though they remained quite
fixed, and his forehead was contracted with a most malevolent scowl.

I am afraid my description will have conveyed only the ridiculous side
of his appearance; but the ridiculous and the sublime are near, and the
grotesque fiendishness of Chowbok’s face approached this last, if it
did not reach it. I tried to be amused, but I felt a sort of creeping
at the roots of my hair and over my whole body, as I looked and
wondered what he could possibly be intending to signify. He continued
thus for about a minute, sitting bolt upright, as stiff as a stone, and
making this fearful face. Then there came from his lips a low moaning
like the wind, rising and falling by infinitely small gradations till
it became almost a shriek, from which it descended and died away; after
that, he jumped down from the bale and held up the extended fingers of
both his hands, as one who should say “Ten,” though I did not then
understand him.

For myself I was open-mouthed with astonishment. Chowbok rolled the
bales rapidly into their place, and stood before me shuddering as in
great fear; horror was written upon his face—this time quite
involuntarily—as though the natural panic of one who had committed an
awful crime against unknown and superhuman agencies. He nodded his head
and gibbered, and pointed repeatedly to the mountains. He would not
touch the grog, but, after a few seconds he made a run through the
wool-shed door into the moonlight; nor did he reappear till next day at
dinner-time, when he turned up, looking very sheepish and abject in his
civility towards myself.

Of his meaning I had no conception. How could I? All I could feel sure
of was, that he had a meaning which was true and awful to himself. It
was enough for me that I believed him to have given me the best he had
and all he had. This kindled my imagination more than if he had told me
intelligible stories by the hour together. I knew not what the great
snowy ranges might conceal, but I could no longer doubt that it would
be something well worth discovering.

I kept aloof from Chowbok for the next few days, and showed no desire
to question him further; when I spoke to him I called him Kahabuka,
which gratified him greatly: he seemed to have become afraid of me, and
acted as one who was in my power. Having therefore made up my mind that
I would begin exploring as soon as shearing was over, I thought it
would be a good thing to take Chowbok with me; so I told him that I
meant going to the nearer ranges for a few days’ prospecting, and that
he was to come too. I made him promises of nightly grog, and held out
the chances of finding gold. I said nothing about the main range, for I
knew it would frighten him. I would get him as far up our own river as
I could, and trace it if possible to its source. I would then either go
on by myself, if I felt my courage equal to the attempt, or return with
Chowbok. So, as soon as ever shearing was over and the wool sent off, I
asked leave of absence, and obtained it. Also, I bought an old
pack-horse and pack-saddle, so that I might take plenty of provisions,
and blankets, and a small tent. I was to ride and find fords over the
river; Chowbok was to follow and lead the pack-horse, which would also
carry him over the fords. My master let me have tea and sugar, ship’s
biscuits, tobacco, and salt mutton, with two or three bottles of good
brandy; for, as the wool was now sent down, abundance of provisions
would come up with the empty drays.

Everything being now ready, all the hands on the station turned out to
see us off, and we started on our journey, not very long after the
summer solstice of 1870.



CHAPTER III. UP THE RIVER


The first day we had an easy time, following up the great flats by the
river side, which had already been twice burned, so that there was no
dense undergrowth to check us, though the ground was often rough, and
we had to go a good deal upon the riverbed. Towards nightfall we had
made a matter of some five-and-twenty miles, and camped at the point
where the river entered upon the gorge.

The weather was delightfully warm, considering that the valley in which
we were encamped must have been at least two thousand feet above the
level of the sea. The river-bed was here about a mile and a half broad
and entirely covered with shingle over which the river ran in many
winding channels, looking, when seen from above, like a tangled skein
of ribbon, and glistening in the sun. We knew that it was liable to
very sudden and heavy freshets; but even had we not known it, we could
have seen it by the snags of trees, which must have been carried long
distances, and by the mass of vegetable and mineral _débris_ which was
banked against their lower side, showing that at times the whole
river-bed must be covered with a roaring torrent many feet in depth and
of ungovernable fury. At present the river was low, there being but
five or six streams, too deep and rapid for even a strong man to ford
on foot, but to be crossed safely on horseback. On either side of it
there were still a few acres of flat, which grew wider and wider down
the river, till they became the large plains on which we looked from my
master’s hut. Behind us rose the lowest spurs of the second range,
leading abruptly to the range itself; and at a distance of half a mile
began the gorge, where the river narrowed and became boisterous and
terrible. The beauty of the scene cannot be conveyed in language. The
one side of the valley was blue with evening shadow, through which
loomed forest and precipice, hillside and mountain top; and the other
was still brilliant with the sunset gold. The wide and wasteful river
with its ceaseless rushing—the beautiful water-birds too, which
abounded upon the islets and were so tame that we could come close up
to them—the ineffable purity of the air—the solemn peacefulness of the
untrodden region—could there be a more delightful and exhilarating
combination?

We set about making our camp, close to some large bush which came down
from the mountains on to the flat, and tethered out our horses upon
ground as free as we could find it from anything round which they might
wind the rope and get themselves tied up. We dared not let them run
loose, lest they might stray down the river home again. We then
gathered wood and lit the fire. We filled a tin pannikin with water and
set it against the hot ashes to boil. When the water boiled we threw in
two or three large pinches of tea and let them brew.

We had caught half a dozen young ducks in the course of the day—an easy
matter, for the old birds made such a fuss in attempting to decoy us
away from them—pretending to be badly hurt as they say the plover
does—that we could always find them by going about in the opposite
direction to the old bird till we heard the young ones crying: then we
ran them down, for they could not fly though they were nearly full
grown. Chowbok plucked them a little and singed them a good deal. Then
we cut them up and boiled them in another pannikin, and this completed
our preparations.

When we had done supper it was quite dark. The silence and freshness of
the night, the occasional sharp cry of the wood-hen, the ruddy glow of
the fire, the subdued rushing of the river, the sombre forest, and the
immediate foreground of our saddles packs and blankets, made a picture
worthy of a Salvator Rosa or a Nicolas Poussin. I call it to mind and
delight in it now, but I did not notice it at the time. We next to
never know when we are well off: but this cuts two ways,—for if we did,
we should perhaps know better when we are ill off also; and I have
sometimes thought that there are as many ignorant of the one as of the
other. He who wrote, “O fortunatos nimium sua si bona nôrint
agricolas,” might have written quite as truly, “O infortunatos nimium
sua si mala nôrint”; and there are few of us who are not protected from
the keenest pain by our inability to see what it is that we have done,
what we are suffering, and what we truly are. Let us be grateful to the
mirror for revealing to us our appearance only.

We found as soft a piece of ground as we could—though it was all
stony—and having collected grass and so disposed of ourselves that we
had a little hollow for our hip-bones, we strapped our blankets around
us and went to sleep. Waking in the night I saw the stars overhead and
the moonlight bright upon the mountains. The river was ever rushing; I
heard one of our horses neigh to its companion, and was assured that
they were still at hand; I had no care of mind or body, save that I had
doubtless many difficulties to overcome; there came upon me a delicious
sense of peace, a fulness of contentment which I do not believe can be
felt by any but those who have spent days consecutively on horseback,
or at any rate in the open air.

Next morning we found our last night’s tea-leaves frozen at the bottom
of the pannikins, though it was not nearly the beginning of autumn; we
breakfasted as we had supped, and were on our way by six o’clock. In
half an hour we had entered the gorge, and turning round a corner we
bade farewell to the last sight of my master’s country.

The gorge was narrow and precipitous; the river was now only a few
yards wide, and roared and thundered against rocks of many tons in
weight; the sound was deafening, for there was a great volume of water.
We were two hours in making less than a mile, and that with danger,
sometimes in the river and sometimes on the rock. There was that damp
black smell of rocks covered with slimy vegetation, as near some huge
waterfall where spray is ever rising. The air was clammy and cold. I
cannot conceive how our horses managed to keep their footing,
especially the one with the pack, and I dreaded the having to return
almost as much as going forward. I suppose this lasted three miles, but
it was well midday when the gorge got a little wider, and a small
stream came into it from a tributary valley. Farther progress up the
main river was impossible, for the cliffs descended like walls; so we
went up the side stream, Chowbok seeming to think that here must be the
pass of which reports existed among his people. We now incurred less of
actual danger but more fatigue, and it was only after infinite trouble,
owing to the rocks and tangled vegetation, that we got ourselves and
our horses upon the saddle from which this small stream descended; by
that time clouds had descended upon us, and it was raining heavily.
Moreover, it was six o’clock and we were tired out, having made perhaps
six miles in twelve hours.

On the saddle there was some coarse grass which was in full seed, and
therefore very nourishing for the horses; also abundance of anise and
sow-thistle, of which they are extravagantly fond, so we turned them
loose and prepared to camp. Everything was soaking wet and we were
half-perished with cold; indeed we were very uncomfortable. There was
brushwood about, but we could get no fire till we had shaved off the
wet outside of some dead branches and filled our pockets with the dry
inside chips. Having done this we managed to start a fire, nor did we
allow it to go out when we had once started it; we pitched the tent and
by nine o’clock were comparatively warm and dry. Next morning it was
fine; we broke camp, and after advancing a short distance we found
that, by descending over ground less difficult than yesterday’s, we
should come again upon the river-bed, which had opened out above the
gorge; but it was plain at a glance that there was no available sheep
country, nothing but a few flats covered with scrub on either side the
river, and mountains which were perfectly worthless. But we could see
the main range. There was no mistake about this. The glaciers were
tumbling down the mountain sides like cataracts, and seemed actually to
descend upon the river-bed; there could be no serious difficulty in
reaching them by following up the river, which was wide and open; but
it seemed rather an objectless thing to do, for the main range looked
hopeless, and my curiosity about the nature of the country above the
gorge was now quite satisfied; there was no money in it whatever,
unless there should be minerals, of which I saw no more signs than
lower down.

However, I resolved that I would follow the river up, and not return
until I was compelled to do so. I would go up every branch as far as I
could, and wash well for gold. Chowbok liked seeing me do this, but it
never came to anything, for we did not even find the colour. His
dislike of the main range appeared to have worn off, and he made no
objections to approaching it. I think he thought there was no danger of
my trying to cross it, and he was not afraid of anything on this side;
besides, we might find gold. But the fact was that he had made up his
mind what to do if he saw me getting too near it.

We passed three weeks in exploring, and never did I find time go more
quickly. The weather was fine, though the nights got very cold. We
followed every stream but one, and always found it lead us to a glacier
which was plainly impassable, at any rate without a larger party and
ropes. One stream remained, which I should have followed up already,
had not Chowbok said that he had risen early one morning while I was
yet asleep, and after going up it for three or four miles, had seen
that it was impossible to go farther. I had long ago discovered that he
was a great liar, so I was bent on going up myself: in brief, I did so:
so far from being impossible, it was quite easy travelling; and after
five or six miles I saw a saddle at the end of it, which, though
covered deep in snow, was not glaciered, and which did verily appear to
be part of the main range itself. No words can express the intensity of
my delight. My blood was all on fire with hope and elation; but on
looking round for Chowbok, who was behind me, I saw to my surprise and
anger that he had turned back, and was going down the valley as hard as
he could. He had left me.



CHAPTER IV. THE SADDLE


I cooeyed to him, but he would not hear. I ran after him, but he had
got too good a start. Then I sat down on a stone and thought the matter
carefully over. It was plain that Chowbok had designedly attempted to
keep me from going up this valley, yet he had shown no unwillingness to
follow me anywhere else. What could this mean, unless that I was now
upon the route by which alone the mysteries of the great ranges could
be revealed? What then should I do? Go back at the very moment when it
had become plain that I was on the right scent? Hardly; yet to proceed
alone would be both difficult and dangerous. It would be bad enough to
return to my master’s run, and pass through the rocky gorges, with no
chance of help from another should I get into a difficulty; but to
advance for any considerable distance without a companion would be next
door to madness. Accidents which are slight when there is another at
hand (as the spraining of an ankle, or the falling into some place
whence escape would be easy by means of an outstretched hand and a bit
of rope) may be fatal to one who is alone. The more I pondered the less
I liked it; and yet, the less could I make up my mind to return when I
looked at the saddle at the head of the valley, and noted the
comparative ease with which its smooth sweep of snow might be
surmounted: I seemed to see my way almost from my present position to
the very top. After much thought, I resolved to go forward until I
should come to some place which was really dangerous, but then to
return. I should thus, I hoped, at any rate reach the top of the
saddle, and satisfy myself as to what might be on the other side.

I had no time to lose, for it was now between ten and eleven in the
morning. Fortunately I was well equipped, for on leaving the camp and
the horses at the lower end of the valley I had provided myself
(according to my custom) with everything that I was likely to want for
four or five days. Chowbok had carried half, but had dropped his whole
swag—I suppose, at the moment of his taking flight—for I came upon it
when I ran after him. I had, therefore, his provisions as well as my
own. Accordingly, I took as many biscuits as I thought I could carry,
and also some tobacco, tea, and a few matches. I rolled all these
things (together with a flask nearly full of brandy, which I had kept
in my pocket for fear lest Chowbok should get hold of it) inside my
blankets, and strapped them very tightly, making the whole into a long
roll of some seven feet in length and six inches in diameter. Then I
tied the two ends together, and put the whole round my neck and over
one shoulder. This is the easiest way of carrying a heavy swag, for one
can rest one’s self by shifting the burden from one shoulder to the
other. I strapped my pannikin and a small axe about my waist, and thus
equipped began to ascend the valley, angry at having been misled by
Chowbok, but determined not to return till I was compelled to do so.

I crossed and recrossed the stream several times without difficulty,
for there were many good fords. At one o’clock I was at the foot of the
saddle; for four hours I mounted, the last two on the snow, where the
going was easier; by five, I was within ten minutes of the top, in a
state of excitement greater, I think, than I had ever known before. Ten
minutes more, and the cold air from the other side came rushing upon
me.

A glance. I was _not_ on the main range.

Another glance. There was an awful river, muddy and horribly angry,
roaring over an immense riverbed, thousands of feet below me.

It went round to the westward, and I could see no farther up the
valley, save that there were enormous glaciers which must extend round
the source of the river, and from which it must spring.

Another glance, and then I remained motionless.

There was an easy pass in the mountains directly opposite to me,
through which I caught a glimpse of an immeasurable extent of blue and
distant plains.

Easy? Yes, perfectly easy; grassed nearly to the summit, which was, as
it were, an open path between two glaciers, from which an
inconsiderable stream came tumbling down over rough but very possible
hillsides, till it got down to the level of the great river, and formed
a flat where there was grass and a small bush of stunted timber.

Almost before I could believe my eyes, a cloud had come up from the
valley on the other side, and the plains were hidden. What wonderful
luck was mine! Had I arrived five minutes later, the cloud would have
been over the pass, and I should not have known of its existence. Now
that the cloud was there, I began to doubt my memory, and to be
uncertain whether it had been more than a blue line of distant vapour
that had filled up the opening. I could only be certain of this much,
namely, that the river in the valley below must be the one next to the
northward of that which flowed past my master’s station; of this there
could be no doubt. Could I, however, imagine that my luck should have
led me up a wrong river in search of a pass, and yet brought me to the
spot where I could detect the one weak place in the fortifications of a
more northern basin? This was too improbable. But even as I doubted
there came a rent in the cloud opposite, and a second time I saw blue
lines of heaving downs, growing gradually fainter, and retiring into a
far space of plain. It was substantial; there had been no mistake
whatsoever. I had hardly made myself perfectly sure of this, ere the
rent in the clouds joined up again and I could see nothing more.

What, then, should I do? The night would be upon me shortly, and I was
already chilled with standing still after the exertion of climbing. To
stay where I was would be impossible; I must either go backwards or
forwards. I found a rock which gave me shelter from the evening wind,
and took a good pull at the brandy flask, which immediately warmed and
encouraged me.

I asked myself, Could I descend upon the river-bed beneath me? It was
impossible to say what precipices might prevent my doing so. If I were
on the river-bed, dare I cross the river? I am an excellent swimmer,
yet, once in that frightful rush of waters, I should be hurled
whithersoever it willed, absolutely powerless. Moreover, there was my
swag; I should perish of cold and hunger if I left it, but I should
certainly be drowned if I attempted to carry it across the river. These
were serious considerations, but the hope of finding an immense tract
of available sheep country (which I was determined that I would
monopolise as far as I possibly could) sufficed to outweigh them; and,
in a few minutes, I felt resolved that, having made so important a
discovery as a pass into a country which was probably as valuable as
that on our own side of the ranges, I would follow it up and ascertain
its value, even though I should pay the penalty of failure with life
itself. The more I thought, the more determined I became either to win
fame and perhaps fortune, by entering upon this unknown world, or give
up life in the attempt. In fact, I felt that life would be no longer
valuable if I were to have seen so great a prize and refused to grasp
at the possible profits therefrom.

I had still an hour of good daylight during which I might begin my
descent on to some suitable camping-ground, but there was not a moment
to be lost. At first I got along rapidly, for I was on the snow, and
sank into it enough to save me from falling, though I went forward
straight down the mountain side as fast as I could; but there was less
snow on this side than on the other, and I had soon done with it,
getting on to a coomb of dangerous and very stony ground, where a slip
might have given me a disastrous fall. But I was careful with all my
speed, and got safely to the bottom, where there were patches of coarse
grass, and an attempt here and there at brushwood: what was below this
I could not see. I advanced a few hundred yards farther, and found that
I was on the brink of a frightful precipice, which no one in his senses
would attempt descending. I bethought me, however, to try the creek
which drained the coomb, and see whether it might not have made itself
a smoother way. In a few minutes I found myself at the upper end of a
chasm in the rocks, something like Twll Dhu, only on a greatly larger
scale; the creek had found its way into it, and had worn a deep channel
through a material which appeared softer than that upon the other side
of the mountain. I believe it must have been a different geological
formation, though I regret to say that I cannot tell what it was.

I looked at this rift in great doubt; then I went a little way on
either side of it, and found myself looking over the edge of horrible
precipices on to the river, which roared some four or five thousand
feet below me. I dared not think of getting down at all, unless I
committed myself to the rift, of which I was hopeful when I reflected
that the rock was soft, and that the water might have worn its channel
tolerably evenly through the whole extent. The darkness was increasing
with every minute, but I should have twilight for another half-hour, so
I went into the chasm (though by no means without fear), and resolved
to return and camp, and try some other path next day, should I come to
any serious difficulty. In about five minutes I had completely lost my
head; the side of the rift became hundreds of feet in height, and
overhung so that I could not see the sky. It was full of rocks, and I
had many falls and bruises. I was wet through from falling into the
water, of which there was no great volume, but it had such force that I
could do nothing against it; once I had to leap down a not
inconsiderable waterfall into a deep pool below, and my swag was so
heavy that I was very nearly drowned. I had indeed a hair’s-breadth
escape; but, as luck would have it, Providence was on my side. Shortly
afterwards I began to fancy that the rift was getting wider, and that
there was more brushwood. Presently I found myself on an open grassy
slope, and feeling my way a little farther along the stream, I came
upon a flat place with wood, where I could camp comfortably; which was
well, for it was now quite dark.

My first care was for my matches; were they dry? The outside of my swag
had got completely wet; but, on undoing the blankets, I found things
warm and dry within. How thankful I was! I lit a fire, and was grateful
for its warmth and company. I made myself some tea and ate two of my
biscuits: my brandy I did not touch, for I had little left, and might
want it when my courage failed me. All that I did, I did almost
mechanically, for I could not realise my situation to myself, beyond
knowing that I was alone, and that return through the chasm which I had
just descended would be impossible. It is a dreadful feeling that of
being cut off from all one’s kind. I was still full of hope, and built
golden castles for myself as soon as I was warmed with food and fire;
but I do not believe that any man could long retain his reason in such
solitude, unless he had the companionship of animals. One begins
doubting one’s own identity.

I remember deriving comfort even from the sight of my blankets, and the
sound of my watch ticking—things which seemed to link me to other
people; but the screaming of the wood-hens frightened me, as also a
chattering bird which I had never heard before, and which seemed to
laugh at me; though I soon got used to it, and before long could fancy
that it was many years since I had first heard it.

I took off my clothes, and wrapped my inside blanket about me, till my
things were dry. The night was very still, and I made a roaring fire;
so I soon got warm, and at last could put my clothes on again. Then I
strapped my blanket round me, and went to sleep as near the fire as I
could.

I dreamed that there was an organ placed in my master’s wool-shed: the
wool-shed faded away, and the organ seemed to grow and grow amid a
blaze of brilliant light, till it became like a golden city upon the
side of a mountain, with rows upon rows of pipes set in cliffs and
precipices, one above the other, and in mysterious caverns, like that
of Fingal, within whose depths I could see the burnished pillars
gleaming. In the front there was a flight of lofty terraces, at the top
of which I could see a man with his head buried forward towards a
key-board, and his body swaying from side to side amid the storm of
huge arpeggioed harmonies that came crashing overhead and round. Then
there was one who touched me on the shoulder, and said, “Do you not
see? it is Handel”;—but I had hardly apprehended, and was trying to
scale the terraces, and get near him, when I awoke, dazzled with the
vividness and distinctness of the dream.

A piece of wood had burned through, and the ends had fallen into the
ashes with a blaze: this, I supposed, had both given me my dream and
robbed me of it. I was bitterly disappointed, and sitting up on my
elbow, came back to reality and my strange surroundings as best I
could.

I was thoroughly aroused—moreover, I felt a foreshadowing as though my
attention were arrested by something more than the dream, although no
sense in particular was as yet appealed to. I held my breath and
waited, and then I heard—was it fancy? Nay; I listened again and again,
and I _did_ hear a faint and extremely distant sound of music, like
that of an AEolian harp, borne upon the wind which was blowing fresh
and chill from the opposite mountains.

The roots of my hair thrilled. I listened, but the wind had died; and,
fancying that it must have been the wind itself—no; on a sudden I
remembered the noise which Chowbok had made in the wool-shed. Yes; it
was that.

Thank Heaven, whatever it was, it was over now. I reasoned with myself,
and recovered my firmness. I became convinced that I had only been
dreaming more vividly than usual. Soon I began even to laugh, and think
what a fool I was to be frightened at nothing, reminding myself that
even if I were to come to a bad end it would be no such dreadful matter
after all. I said my prayers, a duty which I had too often neglected,
and in a little time fell into a really refreshing sleep, which lasted
till broad daylight, and restored me. I rose, and searching among the
embers of my fire, I found a few live coals and soon had a blaze again.
I got breakfast, and was delighted to have the company of several small
birds, which hopped about me and perched on my boots and hands. I felt
comparatively happy, but I can assure the reader that I had had a far
worse time of it than I have told him; and I strongly recommend him to
remain in Europe if he can; or, at any rate, in some country which has
been explored and settled, rather than go into places where others have
not been before him. Exploring is delightful to look forward to and
back upon, but it is not comfortable at the time, unless it be of such
an easy nature as not to deserve the name.



CHAPTER V. THE RIVER AND THE RANGE


My next business was to descend upon the river. I had lost sight of the
pass which I had seen from the saddle, but had made such notes of it
that I could not fail to find it. I was bruised and stiff, and my boots
had begun to give, for I had been going on rough ground for more than
three weeks; but, as the day wore on, and I found myself descending
without serious difficulty, I became easier. In a couple of hours I got
among pine forests where there was little undergrowth, and descended
quickly till I reached the edge of another precipice, which gave me a
great deal of trouble, though I eventually managed to avoid it. By
about three or four o’clock I found myself on the river-bed.

From calculations which I made as to the height of the valley on the
other side the saddle over which I had come, I concluded that the
saddle itself could not be less than nine thousand feet high; and I
should think that the river-bed, on to which I now descended, was three
thousand feet above the sea-level. The water had a terrific current,
with a fall of not less than forty to fifty feet per mile. It was
certainly the river next to the northward of that which flowed past my
master’s run, and would have to go through an impassable gorge (as is
commonly the case with the rivers of that country) before it came upon
known parts. It was reckoned to be nearly two thousand feet above the
sea-level where it came out of the gorge on to the plains.

As soon as I got to the river side I liked it even less than I thought
I should. It was muddy, being near its parent glaciers. The stream was
wide, rapid, and rough, and I could hear the smaller stones knocking
against each other under the rage of the waters, as upon a seashore.
Fording was out of the question. I could not swim and carry my swag,
and I dared not leave my swag behind me. My only chance was to make a
small raft; and that would be difficult to make, and not at all safe
when it was made,—not for one man in such a current.

As it was too late to do much that afternoon, I spent the rest of it in
going up and down the river side, and seeing where I should find the
most favourable crossing. Then I camped early, and had a quiet
comfortable night with no more music, for which I was thankful, as it
had haunted me all day, although I perfectly well knew that it had been
nothing but my own fancy, brought on by the reminiscence of what I had
heard from Chowbok and by the over-excitement of the preceding evening.

Next day I began gathering the dry bloom stalks of a kind of flag or
iris-looking plant, which was abundant, and whose leaves, when torn
into strips, were as strong as the strongest string. I brought them to
the waterside, and fell to making myself a kind of rough platform,
which should suffice for myself and my swag if I could only stick to
it. The stalks were ten or twelve feet long, and very strong, but light
and hollow. I made my raft entirely of them, binding bundles of them at
right angles to each other, neatly and strongly, with strips from the
leaves of the same plant, and tying other rods across. It took me all
day till nearly four o’clock to finish the raft, but I had still enough
daylight for crossing, and resolved on doing so at once.

I had selected a place where the river was broad and comparatively
still, some seventy or eighty yards above a furious rapid. At this spot
I had built my raft. I now launched it, made my swag fast to the
middle, and got on to it myself, keeping in my hand one of the longest
blossom stalks, so that I might punt myself across as long as the water
was shallow enough to let me do so. I got on pretty well for twenty or
thirty yards from the shore, but even in this short space I nearly
upset my raft by shifting too rapidly from one side to the other. The
water then became much deeper, and I leaned over so far in order to get
the bloom rod to the bottom that I had to stay still, leaning on the
rod for a few seconds. Then, when I lifted up the rod from the ground,
the current was too much for me and I found myself being carried down
the rapid. Everything in a second flew past me, and I had no more
control over the raft; neither can I remember anything except hurry,
and noise, and waters which in the end upset me. But it all came right,
and I found myself near the shore, not more than up to my knees in
water and pulling my raft to land, fortunately upon the left bank of
the river, which was the one I wanted. When I had landed I found that I
was about a mile, or perhaps a little less, below the point from which
I started. My swag was wet upon the outside, and I was myself dripping;
but I had gained my point, and knew that my difficulties were for a
time over. I then lit my fire and dried myself; having done so I caught
some of the young ducks and sea-gulls, which were abundant on and near
the river-bed, so that I had not only a good meal, of which I was in
great want, having had an insufficient diet from the time that Chowbok
left me, but was also well provided for the morrow.

I thought of Chowbok, and felt how useful he had been to me, and in how
many ways I was the loser by his absence, having now to do all sorts of
things for myself which he had hitherto done for me, and could do
infinitely better than I could. Moreover, I had set my heart upon
making him a real convert to the Christian religion, which he had
already embraced outwardly, though I cannot think that it had taken
deep root in his impenetrably stupid nature. I used to catechise him by
our camp fire, and explain to him the mysteries of the Trinity and of
original sin, with which I was myself familiar, having been the
grandson of an archdeacon by my mother’s side, to say nothing of the
fact that my father was a clergyman of the English Church. I was
therefore sufficiently qualified for the task, and was the more
inclined to it, over and above my real desire to save the unhappy
creature from an eternity of torture, by recollecting the promise of
St. James, that if any one converted a sinner (which Chowbok surely
was) he should hide a multitude of sins. I reflected, therefore, that
the conversion of Chowbok might in some degree compensate for
irregularities and short-comings in my own previous life, the
remembrance of which had been more than once unpleasant to me during my
recent experiences.

Indeed, on one occasion I had even gone so far as to baptize him, as
well as I could, having ascertained that he had certainly not been both
christened and baptized, and gathering (from his telling me that he had
received the name William from the missionary) that it was probably the
first-mentioned rite to which he had been subjected. I thought it great
carelessness on the part of the missionary to have omitted the second,
and certainly more important, ceremony which I have always understood
precedes christening both in the case of infants and of adult converts;
and when I thought of the risks we were both incurring I determined
that there should be no further delay. Fortunately it was not yet
twelve o’clock, so I baptized him at once from one of the pannikins
(the only vessels I had) reverently, and, I trust, efficiently. I then
set myself to work to instruct him in the deeper mysteries of our
belief, and to make him, not only in name, but in heart a Christian.

It is true that I might not have succeeded, for Chowbok was very hard
to teach. Indeed, on the evening of the same day that I baptized him he
tried for the twentieth time to steal the brandy, which made me rather
unhappy as to whether I could have baptized him rightly. He had a
prayer-book—more than twenty years old—which had been given him by the
missionaries, but the only thing in it which had taken any living hold
upon him was the title of Adelaide the Queen Dowager, which he would
repeat whenever strongly moved or touched, and which did really seem to
have some deep spiritual significance to him, though he could never
completely separate her individuality from that of Mary Magdalene,
whose name had also fascinated him, though in a less degree.

He was indeed stony ground, but by digging about him I might have at
any rate deprived him of all faith in the religion of his tribe, which
would have been half way towards making him a sincere Christian; and
now all this was cut off from me, and I could neither be of further
spiritual assistance to him nor he of bodily profit to myself: besides,
any company was better than being quite alone.

I got very melancholy as these reflections crossed me, but when I had
boiled the ducks and eaten them I was much better. I had a little tea
left and about a pound of tobacco, which should last me for another
fortnight with moderate smoking. I had also eight ship biscuits, and,
most precious of all, about six ounces of brandy, which I presently
reduced to four, for the night was cold.

I rose with early dawn, and in an hour I was on my way, feeling
strange, not to say weak, from the burden of solitude, but full of hope
when I considered how many dangers I had overcome, and that this day
should see me at the summit of the dividing range.

After a slow but steady climb of between three and four hours, during
which I met with no serious hindrance, I found myself upon a tableland,
and close to a glacier which I recognised as marking the summit of the
pass. Above it towered a succession of rugged precipices and snowy
mountain sides. The solitude was greater than I could bear; the
mountain upon my master’s sheep-run was a crowded thoroughfare in
comparison with this sombre sullen place. The air, moreover, was dark
and heavy, which made the loneliness even more oppressive. There was an
inky gloom over all that was not covered with snow and ice. Grass there
was none.

Each moment I felt increasing upon me that dreadful doubt as to my own
identity—as to the continuity of my past and present existence—which is
the first sign of that distraction which comes on those who have lost
themselves in the bush. I had fought against this feeling hitherto, and
had conquered it; but the intense silence and gloom of this rocky
wilderness were too much for me, and I felt that my power of collecting
myself was beginning to be impaired.

I rested for a little while, and then advanced over very rough ground,
until I reached the lower end of the glacier. Then I saw another
glacier, descending from the eastern side into a small lake. I passed
along the western side of the lake, where the ground was easier, and
when I had got about half way I expected that I should see the plains
which I had already seen from the opposite mountains; but it was not to
be so, for the clouds rolled up to the very summit of the pass, though
they did not overlip it on to the side from which I had come. I
therefore soon found myself enshrouded by a cold thin vapour, which
prevented my seeing more than a very few yards in front of me. Then I
came upon a large patch of old snow, in which I could distinctly trace
the half-melted tracks of goats—and in one place, as it seemed to me,
there had been a dog following them. Had I lighted upon a land of
shepherds? The ground, where not covered with snow, was so poor and
stony, and there was so little herbage, that I could see no sign of a
path or regular sheep-track. But I could not help feeling rather uneasy
as I wondered what sort of a reception I might meet with if I were to
come suddenly upon inhabitants. I was thinking of this, and proceeding
cautiously through the mist, when I began to fancy that I saw some
objects darker than the cloud looming in front of me. A few steps
brought me nearer, and a shudder of unutterable horror ran through me
when I saw a circle of gigantic forms, many times higher than myself,
upstanding grim and grey through the veil of cloud before me.

I suppose I must have fainted, for I found myself some time afterwards
sitting upon the ground, sick and deadly cold. There were the figures,
quite still and silent, seen vaguely through the thick gloom, but in
human shape indisputably.

A sudden thought occurred to me, which would have doubtless struck me
at once had I not been prepossessed with forebodings at the time that I
first saw the figures, and had not the cloud concealed them from me—I
mean that they were not living beings, but statues. I determined that I
would count fifty slowly, and was sure that the objects were not alive
if during that time I could detect no sign of motion.

How thankful was I when I came to the end of my fifty and there had
been no movement!

I counted a second time—but again all was still.

I then advanced timidly forward, and in another moment I saw that my
surmise was correct. I had come upon a sort of Stonehenge of rude and
barbaric figures, seated as Chowbok had sat when I questioned him in
the wool-shed, and with the same superhumanly malevolent expression
upon their faces. They had been all seated, but two had fallen. They
were barbarous—neither Egyptian, nor Assyrian, nor Japanese—different
from any of these, and yet akin to all. They were six or seven times
larger than life, of great antiquity, worn and lichen grown. They were
ten in number. There was snow upon their heads and wherever snow could
lodge. Each statue had been built of four or five enormous blocks, but
how these had been raised and put together is known to those alone who
raised them. Each was terrible after a different kind. One was raging
furiously, as in pain and great despair; another was lean and
cadaverous with famine; another cruel and idiotic, but with the
silliest simper that can be conceived—this one had fallen, and looked
exquisitely ludicrous in his fall—the mouths of all were more or less
open, and as I looked at them from behind, I saw that their heads had
been hollowed.

I was sick and shivering with cold. Solitude had unmanned me already,
and I was utterly unfit to have come upon such an assembly of fiends in
such a dreadful wilderness and without preparation. I would have given
everything I had in the world to have been back at my master’s station;
but that was not to be thought of: my head was failing, and I felt sure
that I could never get back alive.

Then came a gust of howling wind, accompanied with a moan from one of
the statues above me. I clasped my hands in fear. I felt like a rat
caught in a trap, as though I would have turned and bitten at whatever
thing was nearest me. The wildness of the wind increased, the moans
grew shriller, coming from several statues, and swelling into a chorus.
I almost immediately knew what it was, but the sound was so unearthly
that this was but little consolation. The inhuman beings into whose
hearts the Evil One had put it to conceive these statues, had made
their heads into a sort of organ-pipe, so that their mouths should
catch the wind and sound with its blowing. It was horrible. However
brave a man might be, he could never stand such a concert, from such
lips, and in such a place. I heaped every invective upon them that my
tongue could utter as I rushed away from them into the mist, and even
after I had lost sight of them, and turning my head round could see
nothing but the storm-wraiths driving behind me, I heard their ghostly
chanting, and felt as though one of them would rush after me and grip
me in his hand and throttle me.

I may say here that, since my return to England, I heard a friend
playing some chords upon the organ which put me very forcibly in mind
of the Erewhonian statues (for Erewhon is the name of the country upon
which I was now entering). They rose most vividly to my recollection
the moment my friend began. They are as follows, and are by the
greatest of all musicians:—[2]

[Illustration]



CHAPTER VI. INTO EREWHON


And now I found myself on a narrow path which followed a small
watercourse. I was too glad to have an easy track for my flight, to lay
hold of the full significance of its existence. The thought, however,
soon presented itself to me that I must be in an inhabited country, but
one which was yet unknown. What, then, was to be my fate at the hands
of its inhabitants? Should I be taken and offered up as a
burnt-offering to those hideous guardians of the pass? It might be so.
I shuddered at the thought, yet the horrors of solitude had now fairly
possessed me; and so dazed was I, and chilled, and woebegone, that I
could lay hold of no idea firmly amid the crowd of fancies that kept
wandering in upon my brain.

I hurried onward—down, down, down. More streams came in; then there was
a bridge, a few pine logs thrown over the water; but they gave me
comfort, for savages do not make bridges. Then I had a treat such as I
can never convey on paper—a moment, perhaps, the most striking and
unexpected in my whole life—the one I think that, with some three or
four exceptions, I would most gladly have again, were I able to recall
it. I got below the level of the clouds, into a burst of brilliant
evening sunshine, I was facing the north-west, and the sun was full
upon me. Oh, how its light cheered me! But what I saw! It was such an
expanse as was revealed to Moses when he stood upon the summit of Mount
Sinai, and beheld that promised land which it was not to be his to
enter. The beautiful sunset sky was crimson and gold; blue, silver, and
purple; exquisite and tranquillising; fading away therein were plains,
on which I could see many a town and city, with buildings that had
lofty steeples and rounded domes. Nearer beneath me lay ridge behind
ridge, outline behind outline, sunlight behind shadow, and shadow
behind sunlight, gully and serrated ravine. I saw large pine forests,
and the glitter of a noble river winding its way upon the plains; also
many villages and hamlets, some of them quite near at hand; and it was
on these that I pondered most. I sank upon the ground at the foot of a
large tree and thought what I had best do; but I could not collect
myself. I was quite tired out; and presently, feeling warmed by the
sun, and quieted, I fell off into a profound sleep.

I was awoke by the sound of tinkling bells, and looking up, I saw four
or five goats feeding near me. As soon as I moved, the creatures turned
their heads towards me with an expression of infinite wonder. They did
not run away, but stood stock still, and looked at me from every side,
as I at them. Then came the sound of chattering and laughter, and there
approached two lovely girls, of about seventeen or eighteen years old,
dressed each in a sort of linen gaberdine, with a girdle round the
waist. They saw me. I sat quite still and looked at them, dazzled with
their extreme beauty. For a moment they looked at me and at each other
in great amazement; then they gave a little frightened cry and ran off
as hard as they could.

“So that’s that,” said I to myself, as I watched them scampering. I
knew that I had better stay where I was and meet my fate, whatever it
was to be, and even if there were a better course, I had no strength
left to take it. I must come into contact with the inhabitants sooner
or later, and it might as well be sooner. Better not to seem afraid of
them, as I should do by running away and being caught with a hue and
cry to-morrow or next day. So I remained quite still and waited. In
about an hour I heard distant voices talking excitedly, and in a few
minutes I saw the two girls bringing up a party of six or seven men,
well armed with bows and arrows and pikes. There was nothing for it, so
I remained sitting quite still, even after they had seen me, until they
came close up. Then we all had a good look at one another.

Both the girls and the men were very dark in colour, but not more so
than the South Italians or Spaniards. The men wore no trousers, but
were dressed nearly the same as the Arabs whom I have seen in Algeria.
They were of the most magnificent presence, being no less strong and
handsome than the women were beautiful; and not only this, but their
expression was courteous and benign. I think they would have killed me
at once if I had made the slightest show of violence; but they gave me
no impression of their being likely to hurt me so long as I was quiet.
I am not much given to liking anybody at first sight, but these people
impressed me much more favourably than I should have thought possible,
so that I could not fear them as I scanned their faces one after
another. They were all powerful men. I might have been a match for any
one of them singly, for I have been told that I have more to glory in
the flesh than in any other respect, being over six feet and
proportionately strong; but any two could have soon mastered me, even
were I not so bereft of energy by my recent adventures. My colour
seemed to surprise them most, for I have light hair, blue eyes, and a
fresh complexion. They could not understand how these things could be;
my clothes also seemed quite beyond them. Their eyes kept wandering all
over me, and the more they looked the less they seemed able to make me
out.

At last I raised myself upon my feet, and leaning upon my stick, I
spoke whatever came into my head to the man who seemed foremost among
them. I spoke in English, though I was very sure that he would not
understand. I said that I had no idea what country I was in; that I had
stumbled upon it almost by accident, after a series of hairbreadth
escapes; and that I trusted they would not allow any evil to overtake
me now that I was completely at their mercy. All this I said quietly
and firmly, with hardly any change of expression. They could not
understand me, but they looked approvingly to one another, and seemed
pleased (so I thought) that I showed no fear nor acknowledgment of
inferiority—the fact being that I was exhausted beyond the sense of
fear. Then one of them pointed to the mountain, in the direction of the
statues, and made a grimace in imitation of one of them. I laughed and
shuddered expressively, whereon they all burst out laughing too, and
chattered hard to one another. I could make out nothing of what they
said, but I think they thought it rather a good joke that I had come
past the statues. Then one among them came forward and motioned me to
follow, which I did without hesitation, for I dared not thwart them;
moreover, I liked them well enough, and felt tolerably sure that they
had no intention of hurting me.

In about a quarter of an hour we got to a small hamlet built on the
side of a hill, with a narrow street and houses huddled up together.
The roofs were large and overhanging. Some few windows were glazed, but
not many. Altogether the village was exceedingly like one of those that
one comes upon in descending the less known passes over the Alps on to
Lombardy. I will pass over the excitement which my arrival caused.
Suffice it, that though there was abundance of curiosity, there was no
rudeness. I was taken to the principal house, which seemed to belong to
the people who had captured me. There I was hospitably entertained, and
a supper of milk and goat’s flesh with a kind of oatcake was set before
me, of which I ate heartily. But all the time I was eating I could not
help turning my eyes upon the two beautiful girls whom I had first
seen, and who seemed to consider me as their lawful prize—which indeed
I was, for I would have gone through fire and water for either of them.

Then came the inevitable surprise at seeing me smoke, which I will
spare the reader; but I noticed that when they saw me strike a match,
there was a hubbub of excitement which, it struck me, was not
altogether unmixed with disapproval: why, I could not guess. Then the
women retired, and I was left alone with the men, who tried to talk to
me in every conceivable way; but we could come to no understanding,
except that I was quite alone, and had come from a long way over the
mountains. In the course of time they grew tired, and I very sleepy. I
made signs as though I would sleep on the floor in my blankets, but
they gave me one of their bunks with plenty of dried fern and grass, on
to which I had no sooner laid myself than I fell fast asleep; nor did I
awake till well into the following day, when I found myself in the hut
with two men keeping guard over me and an old woman cooking. When I
woke the men seemed pleased, and spoke to me as though bidding me good
morning in a pleasant tone.

I went out of doors to wash in a creek which ran a few yards from the
house. My hosts were as engrossed with me as ever; they never took
their eyes off me, following every action that I did, no matter how
trifling, and each looking towards the other for his opinion at every
touch and turn. They took great interest in my ablutions, for they
seemed to have doubted whether I was in all respects human like
themselves. They even laid hold of my arms and overhauled them, and
expressed approval when they saw that they were strong and muscular.
They now examined my legs, and especially my feet. When they desisted
they nodded approvingly to each other; and when I had combed and
brushed my hair, and generally made myself as neat and well arranged as
circumstances would allow, I could see that their respect for me
increased greatly, and that they were by no means sure that they had
treated me with sufficient deference—a matter on which I am not
competent to decide. All I know is that they were very good to me, for
which I thanked them heartily, as it might well have been otherwise.

For my own part, I liked them and admired them, for their quiet
self-possession and dignified ease impressed me pleasurably at once.
Neither did their manner make me feel as though I were personally
distasteful to them—only that I was a thing utterly new and unlooked
for, which they could not comprehend. Their type was more that of the
most robust Italians than any other; their manners also were eminently
Italian, in their entire unconsciousness of self. Having travelled a
good deal in Italy, I was struck with little gestures of the hand and
shoulders, which constantly reminded me of that country. My feeling was
that my wisest plan would be to go on as I had begun, and be simply
myself for better or worse, such as I was, and take my chance
accordingly.

I thought of these things while they were waiting for me to have done
washing, and on my way back. Then they gave me breakfast—hot bread and
milk, and fried flesh of something between mutton and venison. Their
ways of cooking and eating were European, though they had only a skewer
for a fork, and a sort of butcher’s knife to cut with. The more I
looked at everything in the house, the more I was struck with its
quasi-European character; and had the walls only been pasted over with
extracts from the _Illustrated London News_ and _Punch_, I could have
almost fancied myself in a shepherd’s hut upon my master’s sheep-run.
And yet everything was slightly different. It was much the same with
the birds and flowers on the other side, as compared with the English
ones. On my arrival I had been pleased at noticing that nearly all the
plants and birds were very like common English ones: thus, there was a
robin, and a lark, and a wren, and daisies, and dandelions; not quite
the same as the English, but still very like them—quite like enough to
be called by the same name; so now, here, the ways of these two men,
and the things they had in the house, were all very nearly the same as
in Europe. It was not at all like going to China or Japan, where
everything that one sees is strange. I was, indeed, at once struck with
the primitive character of their appliances, for they seemed to be some
five or six hundred years behind Europe in their inventions; but this
is the case in many an Italian village.

All the time that I was eating my breakfast I kept speculating as to
what family of mankind they could belong to; and shortly there came an
idea into my head, which brought the blood into my cheeks with
excitement as I thought of it. Was it possible that they might be the
lost ten tribes of Israel, of whom I had heard both my grandfather and
my father make mention as existing in an unknown country, and awaiting
a final return to Palestine? Was it possible that I might have been
designed by Providence as the instrument of their conversion? Oh, what
a thought was this! I laid down my skewer and gave them a hasty survey.
There was nothing of a Jewish type about them: their noses were
distinctly Grecian, and their lips, though full, were not Jewish.

How could I settle this question? I knew neither Greek nor Hebrew, and
even if I should get to understand the language here spoken, I should
be unable to detect the roots of either of these tongues. I had not
been long enough among them to ascertain their habits, but they did not
give me the impression of being a religious people. This too was
natural: the ten tribes had been always lamentably irreligious. But
could I not make them change? To restore the lost ten tribes of Israel
to a knowledge of the only truth: here would be indeed an immortal
crown of glory! My heart beat fast and furious as I entertained the
thought. What a position would it not ensure me in the next world; or
perhaps even in this! What folly it would be to throw such a chance
away! I should rank next to the Apostles, if not as high as
they—certainly above the minor prophets, and possibly above any Old
Testament writer except Moses and Isaiah. For such a future as this I
would sacrifice all that I have without a moment’s hesitation, could I
be reasonably assured of it. I had always cordially approved of
missionary efforts, and had at times contributed my mite towards their
support and extension; but I had never hitherto felt drawn towards
becoming a missionary myself; and indeed had always admired, and
envied, and respected them, more than I had exactly liked them. But if
these people were the lost ten tribes of Israel, the case would be
widely different: the opening was too excellent to be lost, and I
resolved that should I see indications which appeared to confirm my
impression that I had indeed come upon the missing tribes, I would
certainly convert them.

I may here mention that this discovery is the one to which I alluded in
the opening pages of my story. Time strengthened the impression made
upon me at first; and, though I remained in doubt for several months, I
feel now no longer uncertain.

When I had done eating, my hosts approached, and pointed down the
valley leading to their own country, as though wanting to show that I
must go with them; at the same time they laid hold of my arms, and made
as though they would take me, but used no violence. I laughed, and
motioned my hand across my throat, pointing down the valley as though I
was afraid lest I should be killed when I got there. But they divined
me at once, and shook their heads with much decision, to show that I
was in no danger. Their manner quite reassured me; and in half an hour
or so I had packed up my swag, and was eager for the forward journey,
feeling wonderfully strengthened and refreshed by good food and sleep,
while my hope and curiosity were aroused to their very utmost by the
extraordinary position in which I found myself.

But already my excitement had begun to cool and I reflected that these
people might not be the ten tribes after all; in which case I could not
but regret that my hopes of making money, which had led me into so much
trouble and danger, were almost annihilated by the fact that the
country was full to overflowing, with a people who had probably already
developed its more available resources. Moreover, how was I to get
back? For there was something about my hosts which told me that they
had got me, and meant to keep me, in spite of all their goodness.



CHAPTER VII. FIRST IMPRESSIONS


We followed an Alpine path for some four miles, now hundreds of feet
above a brawling stream which descended from the glaciers, and now
nearly alongside it. The morning was cold and somewhat foggy, for the
autumn had made great strides latterly. Sometimes we went through
forests of pine, or rather yew trees, though they looked like pine; and
I remember that now and again we passed a little wayside shrine,
wherein there would be a statue of great beauty, representing some
figure, male or female, in the very heyday of youth, strength, and
beauty, or of the most dignified maturity and old age. My hosts always
bowed their heads as they passed one of these shrines, and it shocked
me to see statues that had no apparent object, beyond the chronicling
of some unusual individual excellence or beauty, receive so serious a
homage. However, I showed no sign of wonder or disapproval; for I
remembered that to be all things to all men was one of the injunctions
of the Gentile Apostle, which for the present I should do well to heed.
Shortly after passing one of these chapels we came suddenly upon a
village which started up out of the mist; and I was alarmed lest I
should be made an object of curiosity or dislike. But it was not so. My
guides spoke to many in passing, and those spoken to showed much
amazement. My guides, however, were well known, and the natural
politeness of the people prevented them from putting me to any
inconvenience; but they could not help eyeing me, nor I them. I may as
well say at once what my after-experience taught me—namely, that with
all their faults and extraordinary obliquity of mental vision upon many
subjects, they are the very best-bred people that I ever fell in with.

The village was just like the one we had left, only rather larger. The
streets were narrow and unpaved, but very fairly clean. The vine grew
outside many of the houses; and there were some with sign-boards, on
which was painted a bottle and a glass, that made me feel much at home.
Even on this ledge of human society there was a stunted growth of
shoplets, which had taken root and vegetated somehow, though as in an
air mercantile of the bleakest. It was here as hitherto: all things
were generically the same as in Europe, the differences being of
species only; and I was amused at seeing in a window some bottles with
barley-sugar and sweetmeats for children, as at home; but the
barley-sugar was in plates, not in twisted sticks, and was coloured
blue. Glass was plentiful in the better houses.

Lastly, I should say that the people were of a physical beauty which
was simply amazing. I never saw anything in the least comparable to
them. The women were vigorous, and had a most majestic gait, their
heads being set upon their shoulders with a grace beyond all power of
expression. Each feature was finished, eyelids, eyelashes, and ears
being almost invariably perfect. Their colour was equal to that of the
finest Italian paintings; being of the clearest olive, and yet ruddy
with a glow of perfect health. Their expression was divine; and as they
glanced at me timidly but with parted lips in great bewilderment, I
forgot all thoughts of their conversion in feelings that were far more
earthly. I was dazzled as I saw one after the other, of whom I could
only feel that each was the loveliest I had ever seen. Even in middle
age they were still comely, and the old grey-haired women at their
cottage doors had a dignity, not to say majesty, of their own.

The men were as handsome as the women beautiful. I have always
delighted in and reverenced beauty; but I felt simply abashed in the
presence of such a splendid type—a compound of all that is best in
Egyptian, Greek and Italian. The children were infinite in number, and
exceedingly merry; I need hardly say that they came in for their full
share of the prevailing beauty. I expressed by signs my admiration and
pleasure to my guides, and they were greatly pleased. I should add that
all seemed to take a pride in their personal appearance, and that even
the poorest (and none seemed rich) were well kempt and tidy. I could
fill many pages with a description of their dress and the ornaments
which they wore, and a hundred details which struck me with all the
force of novelty; but I must not stay to do so.

When we had got past the village the fog rose, and revealed magnificent
views of the snowy mountains and their nearer abutments, while in front
I could now and again catch glimpses of the great plains which I had
surveyed on the preceding evening. The country was highly cultivated,
every ledge being planted with chestnuts, walnuts, and apple-trees from
which the apples were now gathering. Goats were abundant; also a kind
of small black cattle, in the marshes near the river, which was now
fast widening, and running between larger flats from which the hills
receded more and more. I saw a few sheep with rounded noses and
enormous tails. Dogs were there in plenty, and very English; but I saw
no cats, nor indeed are these creatures known, their place being
supplied by a sort of small terrier.

In about four hours of walking from the time we started, and after
passing two or three more villages, we came upon a considerable town,
and my guides made many attempts to make me understand something, but I
gathered no inkling of their meaning, except that I need be under no
apprehension of danger. I will spare the reader any description of the
town, and would only bid him think of Domodossola or Faido. Suffice it
that I found myself taken before the chief magistrate, and by his
orders was placed in an apartment with two other people, who were the
first I had seen looking anything but well and handsome. In fact, one
of them was plainly very much out of health, and coughed violently from
time to time in spite of manifest efforts to suppress it. The other
looked pale and ill but he was marvellously self-contained, and it was
impossible to say what was the matter with him. Both of them appeared
astonished at seeing one who was evidently a stranger, but they were
too ill to come up to me, and form conclusions concerning me. These two
were first called out; and in about a quarter of an hour I was made to
follow them, which I did in some fear, and with much curiosity.

The chief magistrate was a venerable-looking man, with white hair and
beard and a face of great sagacity. He looked me all over for about
five minutes, letting his eyes wander from the crown of my head to the
soles of my feet, up and down, and down and up; neither did his mind
seem in the least clearer when he had done looking than when he began.
He at length asked me a single short question, which I supposed meant
“Who are you?” I answered in English quite composedly as though he
would understand me, and endeavoured to be my very most natural self as
well as I could. He appeared more and more puzzled, and then retired,
returning with two others much like himself. Then they took me into an
inner room, and the two fresh arrivals stripped me, while the chief
looked on. They felt my pulse, they looked at my tongue, they listened
at my chest, they felt all my muscles; and at the end of each operation
they looked at the chief and nodded, and said something in a tone quite
pleasant, as though I were all right. They even pulled down my eyelids,
and looked, I suppose, to see if they were bloodshot; but it was not
so. At length they gave up; and I think that all were satisfied of my
being in the most perfect health, and very robust to boot. At last the
old magistrate made me a speech of about five minutes long, which the
other two appeared to think greatly to the point, but from which I
gathered nothing. As soon as it was ended, they proceeded to overhaul
my swag and the contents of my pockets. This gave me little uneasiness,
for I had no money with me, nor anything which they were at all likely
to want, or which I cared about losing. At least I fancied so, but I
soon found my mistake.

They got on comfortably at first, though they were much puzzled with my
tobacco-pipe and insisted on seeing me use it. When I had shown them
what I did with it, they were astonished but not displeased, and seemed
to like the smell. But by and by they came to my watch, which I had
hidden away in the inmost pocket that I had, and had forgotten when
they began their search. They seemed concerned and uneasy as soon as
they got hold of it. They then made me open it and show the works; and
when I had done so they gave signs of very grave displeasure, which
disturbed me all the more because I could not conceive wherein it could
have offended them.

I remember that when they first found it I had thought of Paley, and
how he tells us that a savage on seeing a watch would at once conclude
that it was designed. True, these people were not savages, but I none
the less felt sure that this was the conclusion they would arrive at;
and I was thinking what a wonderfully wise man Archbishop Paley must
have been, when I was aroused by a look of horror and dismay upon the
face of the magistrate, a look which conveyed to me the impression that
he regarded my watch not as having been designed, but rather as the
designer of himself and of the universe; or as at any rate one of the
great first causes of all things.

Then it struck me that this view was quite as likely to be taken as the
other by a people who had no experience of European civilisation, and I
was a little piqued with Paley for having led me so much astray; but I
soon discovered that I had misinterpreted the expression on the
magistrate’s face, and that it was one not of fear, but hatred. He
spoke to me solemnly and sternly for two or three minutes. Then,
reflecting that this was of no use, he caused me to be conducted
through several passages into a large room, which I afterwards found
was the museum of the town, and wherein I beheld a sight which
astonished me more than anything that I had yet seen.

It was filled with cases containing all manner of curiosities—such as
skeletons, stuffed birds and animals, carvings in stone (whereof I saw
several that were like those on the saddle, only smaller), but the
greater part of the room was occupied by broken machinery of all
descriptions. The larger specimens had a case to themselves, and
tickets with writing on them in a character which I could not
understand. There were fragments of steam engines, all broken and
rusted; among them I saw a cylinder and piston, a broken fly-wheel, and
part of a crank, which was laid on the ground by their side. Again,
there was a very old carriage whose wheels in spite of rust and decay,
I could see, had been designed originally for iron rails. Indeed, there
were fragments of a great many of our own most advanced inventions; but
they seemed all to be several hundred years old, and to be placed where
they were, not for instruction, but curiosity. As I said before, all
were marred and broken.

We passed many cases, and at last came to one in which there were
several clocks and two or three old watches. Here the magistrate
stopped, and opening the case began comparing my watch with the others.
The design was different, but the thing was clearly the same. On this
he turned to me and made me a speech in a severe and injured tone of
voice, pointing repeatedly to the watches in the case, and to my own;
neither did he seem in the least appeased until I made signs to him
that he had better take my watch and put it with the others. This had
some effect in calming him. I said in English (trusting to tone and
manner to convey my meaning) that I was exceedingly sorry if I had been
found to have anything contraband in my possession; that I had had no
intention of evading the ordinary tolls, and that I would gladly
forfeit the watch if my doing so would atone for an unintentional
violation of the law. He began presently to relent, and spoke to me in
a kinder manner. I think he saw that I had offended without knowledge;
but I believe the chief thing that brought him round was my not seeming
to be afraid of him, although I was quite respectful; this, and my
having light hair and complexion, on which he had remarked previously
by signs, as every one else had done.

I afterwards found that it was reckoned a very great merit to have fair
hair, this being a thing of the rarest possible occurrence, and greatly
admired and envied in all who were possessed of it. However that might
be, my watch was taken from me; but our peace was made, and I was
conducted back to the room where I had been examined. The magistrate
then made me another speech, whereon I was taken to a building hard by,
which I soon discovered to be the common prison of the town, but in
which an apartment was assigned me separate from the other prisoners.
The room contained a bed, table, and chairs, also a fireplace and a
washing-stand. There was another door, which opened on to a balcony,
with a flight of steps descending into a walled garden of some size.
The man who conducted me into this room made signs to me that I might
go down and walk in the garden whenever I pleased, and intimated that I
should shortly have something brought me to eat. I was allowed to
retain my blankets, and the few things which I had wrapped inside them,
but it was plain that I was to consider myself a prisoner—for how long
a period I could not by any means determine. He then left me alone.



CHAPTER VIII. IN PRISON


And now for the first time my courage completely failed me. It is
enough to say that I was penniless, and a prisoner in a foreign
country, where I had no friend, nor any knowledge of the customs or
language of the people. I was at the mercy of men with whom I had
little in common. And yet, engrossed as I was with my extremely
difficult and doubtful position, I could not help feeling deeply
interested in the people among whom I had fallen. What was the meaning
of that room full of old machinery which I had just seen, and of the
displeasure with which the magistrate had regarded my watch? The people
had very little machinery now. I had been struck with this over and
over again, though I had not been more than four-and-twenty hours in
the country. They were about as far advanced as Europeans of the
twelfth or thirteenth century; certainly not more so. And yet they must
have had at one time the fullest knowledge of our own most recent
inventions. How could it have happened that having been once so far in
advance they were now as much behind us? It was evident that it was not
from ignorance. They knew my watch as a watch when they saw it; and the
care with which the broken machines were preserved and ticketed, proved
that they had not lost the recollection of their former civilisation.
The more I thought, the less I could understand it; but at last I
concluded that they must have worked out their mines of coal and iron,
till either none were left, or so few, that the use of these metals was
restricted to the very highest nobility. This was the only solution I
could think of; and, though I afterwards found how entirely mistaken it
was, I felt quite sure then that it must be the right one.

I had hardly arrived at this opinion for above four or five minutes,
when the door opened, and a young woman made her appearance with a
tray, and a very appetising smell of dinner. I gazed upon her with
admiration as she laid a cloth and set a savoury-looking dish upon the
table. As I beheld her I felt as though my position was already much
ameliorated, for the very sight of her carried great comfort. She was
not more than twenty, rather above the middle height, active and
strong, but yet most delicately featured; her lips were full and sweet;
her eyes were of a deep hazel, and fringed with long and springing
eyelashes; her hair was neatly braided from off her forehead; her
complexion was simply exquisite; her figure as robust as was consistent
with the most perfect female beauty, yet not more so; her hands and
feet might have served as models to a sculptor. Having set the stew
upon the table, she retired with a glance of pity, whereon (remembering
pity’s kinsman) I decided that she should pity me a little more. She
returned with a bottle and a glass, and found me sitting on the bed
with my hands over my face, looking the very picture of abject misery,
and, like all pictures, rather untruthful. As I watched her, through my
fingers, out of the room again, I felt sure that she was exceedingly
sorry for me. Her back being turned, I set to work and ate my dinner,
which was excellent.

She returned in about an hour to take away; and there came with her a
man who had a great bunch of keys at his waist, and whose manner
convinced me that he was the jailor. I afterwards found that he was
father to the beautiful creature who had brought me my dinner. I am not
a much greater hypocrite than other people, and do what I would, I
could not look so very miserable. I had already recovered from my
dejection, and felt in a most genial humour both with my jailor and his
daughter. I thanked them for their attention towards me; and, though
they could not understand, they looked at one another and laughed and
chattered till the old man said something or other which I suppose was
a joke; for the girl laughed merrily and ran away, leaving her father
to take away the dinner things. Then I had another visitor, who was not
so prepossessing, and who seemed to have a great idea of himself and a
small one of me. He brought a book with him, and pens and paper—all
very English; and yet, neither paper, nor printing, nor binding, nor
pen, nor ink, were quite the same as ours.

He gave me to understand that he was to teach me the language and that
we were to begin at once. This delighted me, both because I should be
more comfortable when I could understand and make myself understood,
and because I supposed that the authorities would hardly teach me the
language if they intended any cruel usage towards me afterwards. We
began at once, and I learnt the names of everything in the room, and
also the numerals and personal pronouns. I found to my sorrow that the
resemblance to European things, which I had so frequently observed
hitherto, did not hold good in the matter of language; for I could
detect no analogy whatever between this and any tongue of which I have
the slightest knowledge,—a thing which made me think it possible that I
might be learning Hebrew.

I must detail no longer; from this time my days were spent with a
monotony which would have been tedious but for the society of Yram, the
jailor’s daughter, who had taken a great fancy for me and treated me
with the utmost kindness. The man came every day to teach me the
language, but my real dictionary and grammar were Yram; and I consulted
them to such purpose that I made the most extraordinary progress, being
able at the end of a month to understand a great deal of the
conversation which I overheard between Yram and her father. My teacher
professed himself well satisfied, and said he should make a favourable
report of me to the authorities. I then questioned him as to what would
probably be done with me. He told me that my arrival had caused great
excitement throughout the country, and that I was to be detained a
close prisoner until the receipt of advices from the Government. My
having had a watch, he said, was the only damaging feature in the case.
And then, in answer to my asking why this should be so, he gave me a
long story of which with my imperfect knowledge of the language I could
make nothing whatever, except that it was a very heinous offence,
almost as bad (at least, so I thought I understood him) as having
typhus fever. But he said he thought my light hair would save me.

I was allowed to walk in the garden; there was a high wall so that I
managed to play a sort of hand fives, which prevented my feeling the
bad effects of my confinement, though it was stupid work playing alone.
In the course of time people from the town and neighbourhood began to
pester the jailor to be allowed to see me, and on receiving handsome
fees he let them do so. The people were good to me; almost too good,
for they were inclined to make a lion of me, which I hated—at least the
women were; only they had to beware of Yram, who was a young lady of a
jealous temperament, and kept a sharp eye both on me and on my lady
visitors. However, I felt so kindly towards her, and was so entirely
dependent upon her for almost all that made my life a blessing and a
comfort to me, that I took good care not to vex her, and we remained
excellent friends. The men were far less inquisitive, and would not, I
believe, have come near me of their own accord; but the women made them
come as escorts. I was delighted with their handsome mien, and pleasant
genial manners.

My food was plain, but always varied and wholesome, and the good red
wine was admirable. I had found a sort of wort in the garden, which I
sweated in heaps and then dried, obtaining thus a substitute for
tobacco; so that what with Yram, the language, visitors, fives in the
garden, smoking, and bed, my time slipped by more rapidly and
pleasantly than might have been expected. I also made myself a small
flute; and being a tolerable player, amused myself at times with
playing snatches from operas, and airs such as “O where and oh where,”
and “Home, sweet home.” This was of great advantage to me, for the
people of the country were ignorant of the diatonic scale and could
hardly believe their ears on hearing some of our most common melodies.
Often, too, they would make me sing; and I could at any time make
Yram’s eyes swim with tears by singing “Wilkins and his Dinah,” “Billy
Taylor,” “The Ratcatcher’s Daughter,” or as much of them as I could
remember.

I had one or two discussions with them because I never would sing on
Sunday (of which I kept count in my pocket-book), except chants and
hymn tunes; of these I regret to say that I had forgotten the words, so
that I could only sing the tune. They appeared to have little or no
religious feeling, and to have never so much as heard of the divine
institution of the Sabbath, so they ascribed my observance of it to a
fit of sulkiness, which they remarked as coming over me upon every
seventh day. But they were very tolerant, and one of them said to me
quite kindly that she knew how impossible it was to help being sulky at
times, only she thought I ought to see some one if it became more
serious—a piece of advice which I then failed to understand, though I
pretended to take it quite as a matter of course.

Once only did Yram treat me in a way that was unkind and
unreasonable,—at least so I thought it at the time. It happened thus. I
had been playing fives in the garden and got much heated. Although the
day was cold, for autumn was now advancing, and Cold Harbour (as the
name of the town in which my prison was should be translated) stood
fully 3000 feet above the sea, I had played without my coat and
waistcoat, and took a sharp chill on resting myself too long in the
open air without protection. The next day I had a severe cold and felt
really poorly. Being little used even to the lightest ailments, and
thinking that it would be rather nice to be petted and cossetted by
Yram, I certainly did not make myself out to be any better than I was;
in fact, I remember that I made the worst of things, and took it into
my head to consider myself upon the sick list. When Yram brought me my
breakfast I complained somewhat dolefully of my indisposition,
expecting the sympathy and humouring which I should have received from
my mother and sisters at home. Not a bit of it. She fired up in an
instant, and asked me what I meant by it, and how I dared to presume to
mention such a thing, especially when I considered in what place I was.
She had the best mind to tell her father, only that she was afraid the
consequences would be so very serious for me. Her manner was so injured
and decided, and her anger so evidently unfeigned, that I forgot my
cold upon the spot, begging her by all means to tell her father if she
wished to do so, and telling her that I had no idea of being shielded
by her from anything whatever; presently mollifying, after having said
as many biting things as I could, I asked her what it was that I had
done amiss, and promised amendment as soon as ever I became aware of
it. She saw that I was really ignorant, and had had no intention of
being rude to her; whereon it came out that illness of any sort was
considered in Erewhon to be highly criminal and immoral; and that I was
liable, even for catching cold, to be had up before the magistrates and
imprisoned for a considerable period—an announcement which struck me
dumb with astonishment.

I followed up the conversation as well as my imperfect knowledge of the
language would allow, and caught a glimmering of her position with
regard to ill-health; but I did not even then fully comprehend it, nor
had I as yet any idea of the other extraordinary perversions of thought
which existed among the Erewhonians, but with which I was soon to
become familiar. I propose, therefore, to make no mention of what
passed between us on this occasion, save that we were reconciled, and
that she brought me surreptitiously a hot glass of spirits and water
before I went to bed, as also a pile of extra blankets, and that next
morning I was quite well. I never remember to have lost a cold so
rapidly.

This little affair explained much which had hitherto puzzled me. It
seemed that the two men who were examined before the magistrates on the
day of my arrival in the country, had been given in charge on account
of ill health, and were both condemned to a long term of imprisonment
with hard labour; they were now expiating their offence in this very
prison, and their exercise ground was a yard separated by my fives wall
from the garden in which I walked. This accounted for the sounds of
coughing and groaning which I had often noticed as coming from the
other side of the wall: it was high, and I had not dared to climb it
for fear the jailor should see me and think that I was trying to
escape; but I had often wondered what sort of people they could be on
the other side, and had resolved on asking the jailor; but I seldom saw
him, and Yram and I generally found other things to talk about.

Another month flew by, during which I made such progress in the
language that I could understand all that was said to me, and express
myself with tolerable fluency. My instructor professed to be astonished
with the progress I had made; I was careful to attribute it to the
pains he had taken with me and to his admirable method of explaining my
difficulties, so we became excellent friends.

My visitors became more and more frequent. Among them there were some,
both men and women, who delighted me entirely by their simplicity,
unconsciousness of self, kindly genial manners, and last, but not
least, by their exquisite beauty; there came others less well-bred, but
still comely and agreeable people, while some were snobs pure and
simple.

At the end of the third month the jailor and my instructor came
together to visit me and told me that communications had been received
from the Government to the effect that if I had behaved well and seemed
generally reasonable, and if there could be no suspicion at all about
my bodily health and vigour, and if my hair was really light, and my
eyes blue and complexion fresh, I was to be sent up at once to the
metropolis in order that the King and Queen might see me and converse
with me; but that when I arrived there I should be set at liberty, and
a suitable allowance would be made me. My teacher also told me that one
of the leading merchants had sent me an invitation to repair to his
house and to consider myself his guest for as long a time as I chose.
“He is a delightful man,” continued the interpreter, “but has suffered
terribly from” (here there came a long word which I could not quite
catch, only it was much longer than kleptomania), “and has but lately
recovered from embezzling a large sum of money under singularly
distressing circumstances; but he has quite got over it, and the
straighteners say that he has made a really wonderful recovery; you are
sure to like him.”



CHAPTER IX. TO THE METROPOLIS


With the above words the good man left the room before I had time to
express my astonishment at hearing such extraordinary language from the
lips of one who seemed to be a reputable member of society. “Embezzle a
large sum of money under singularly distressing circumstances!” I
exclaimed to myself, “and ask _me_ to go and stay with him! I shall do
nothing of the sort—compromise myself at the very outset in the eyes of
all decent people, and give the death-blow to my chances of either
converting them if they are the lost tribes of Israel, or making money
out of them if they are not! No. I will do anything rather than that.”
And when I next saw my teacher I told him that I did not at all like
the sound of what had been proposed for me, and that I would have
nothing to do with it. For by my education and the example of my own
parents, and I trust also in some degree from inborn instinct, I have a
very genuine dislike for all unhandsome dealings in money matters,
though none can have a greater regard for money than I have, if it be
got fairly.

The interpreter was much surprised by my answer, and said that I should
be very foolish if I persisted in my refusal.

Mr. Nosnibor, he continued, “is a man of at least 500,000 horse-power”
(for their way of reckoning and classifying men is by the number of
foot pounds which they have money enough to raise, or more roughly by
their horse-power), “and keeps a capital table; besides, his two
daughters are among the most beautiful women in Erewhon.”

When I heard all this, I confess that I was much shaken, and inquired
whether he was favourably considered in the best society.

“Certainly,” was the answer; “no man in the country stands higher.”

He then went on to say that one would have thought from my manner that
my proposed host had had jaundice or pleurisy or been generally
unfortunate, and that I was in fear of infection.

“I am not much afraid of infection,” said I, impatiently, “but I have
some regard for my character; and if I know a man to be an embezzler of
other people’s money, be sure of it, I will give him as wide a berth as
I can. If he were ill or poor—”

“Ill or poor!” interrupted the interpreter, with a face of great alarm.
“So that’s your notion of propriety! You would consort with the basest
criminals, and yet deem simple embezzlement a bar to friendly
intercourse. I cannot understand you.”

“But I am poor myself,” cried I.

“You were,” said he; “and you were liable to be severely punished for
it,—indeed, at the council which was held concerning you, this fact was
very nearly consigning you to what I should myself consider a
well-deserved chastisement” (for he was getting angry, and so was I);
“but the Queen was so inquisitive, and wanted so much to see you, that
she petitioned the King and made him give you his pardon, and assign
you a pension in consideration of your meritorious complexion. It is
lucky for you that he has not heard what you have been saying now, or
he would be sure to cancel it.”

As I heard these words my heart sank within me. I felt the extreme
difficulty of my position, and how wicked I should be in running
counter to established usage. I remained silent for several minutes,
and then said that I should be happy to accept the embezzler’s
invitation,—on which my instructor brightened and said I was a sensible
fellow. But I felt very uncomfortable. When he had left the room, I
mused over the conversation which had just taken place between us, but
I could make nothing out of it, except that it argued an even greater
perversity of mental vision than I had been yet prepared for. And this
made me wretched; for I cannot bear having much to do with people who
think differently from myself. All sorts of wandering thoughts kept
coming into my head. I thought of my master’s hut, and my seat upon the
mountain side, where I had first conceived the insane idea of
exploring. What years and years seemed to have passed since I had begun
my journey!

I thought of my adventures in the gorge, and on the journey hither, and
of Chowbok. I wondered what Chowbok told them about me when he got
back,—he had done well in going back, Chowbok had. He was not
handsome—nay, he was hideous; and it would have gone hardly with him.
Twilight drew on, and rain pattered against the windows. Never yet had
I felt so unhappy, except during three days of sea-sickness at the
beginning of my voyage from England. I sat musing and in great
melancholy, until Yram made her appearance with light and supper. She
too, poor girl, was miserable; for she had heard that I was to leave
them. She had made up her mind that I was to remain always in the town,
even after my imprisonment was over; and I fancy had resolved to marry
me though I had never so much as hinted at her doing so. So what with
the distressingly strange conversation with my teacher, my own
friendless condition, and Yram’s melancholy, I felt more unhappy than I
can describe, and remained so till I got to bed, and sleep sealed my
eyelids.

On awaking next morning I was much better. It was settled that I was to
make my start in a conveyance which was to be in waiting for me at
about eleven o’clock; and the anticipation of change put me in good
spirits, which even the tearful face of Yram could hardly altogether
derange. I kissed her again and again, assured her that we should meet
hereafter, and that in the meanwhile I should be ever mindful of her
kindness. I gave her two of the buttons off my coat and a lock of my
hair as a keepsake, taking a goodly curl from her own beautiful head in
return: and so, having said good-bye a hundred times, till I was fairly
overcome with her great sweetness and her sorrow, I tore myself away
from her and got down-stairs to the calèche which was in waiting. How
thankful I was when it was all over, and I was driven away and out of
sight. Would that I could have felt that it was out of mind also! Pray
heaven that it is so now, and that she is married happily among her own
people, and has forgotten me!

And now began a long and tedious journey with which I should hardly
trouble the reader if I could. He is safe, however, for the simple
reason that I was blindfolded during the greater part of the time. A
bandage was put upon my eyes every morning, and was only removed at
night when I reached the inn at which we were to pass the night. We
travelled slowly, although the roads were good. We drove but one horse,
which took us our day’s journey from morning till evening, about six
hours, exclusive of two hours’ rest in the middle of the day. I do not
suppose we made above thirty or thirty-five miles on an average. Each
day we had a fresh horse. As I have said already, I could see nothing
of the country. I only know that it was level, and that several times
we had to cross large rivers in ferry-boats. The inns were clean and
comfortable. In one or two of the larger towns they were quite
sumptuous, and the food was good and well cooked. The same wonderful
health and grace and beauty prevailed everywhere.

I found myself an object of great interest; so much so, that the driver
told me he had to keep our route secret, and at times to go to places
that were not directly on our road, in order to avoid the press that
would otherwise have awaited us. Every evening I had a reception, and
grew heartily tired of having to say the same things over and over
again in answer to the same questions, but it was impossible to be
angry with people whose manners were so delightful. They never once
asked after my health, or even whether I was fatigued with my journey;
but their first question was almost invariably an inquiry after my
temper, the _naiveté_ of which astonished me till I became used to it.
One day, being tired and cold, and weary of saying the same thing over
and over again, I turned a little brusquely on my questioner and said
that I was exceedingly cross, and that I could hardly feel in a worse
humour with myself and every one else than at that moment. To my
surprise, I was met with the kindest expressions of condolence, and
heard it buzzed about the room that I was in an ill temper; whereon
people began to give me nice things to smell and to eat, which really
did seem to have some temper-mending quality about them, for I soon
felt pleased and was at once congratulated upon being better. The next
morning two or three people sent their servants to the hotel with
sweetmeats, and inquiries whether I had quite recovered from my ill
humour. On receiving the good things I felt in half a mind to be
ill-tempered every evening; but I disliked the condolences and the
inquiries, and found it most comfortable to keep my natural temper,
which is smooth enough generally.

Among those who came to visit me were some who had received a liberal
education at the Colleges of Unreason, and taken the highest degrees in
hypothetics, which are their principal study. These gentlemen had now
settled down to various employments in the country, as straighteners,
managers and cashiers of the Musical Banks, priests of religion, or
what not, and carrying their education with them they diffused a leaven
of culture throughout the country. I naturally questioned them about
many of the things which had puzzled me since my arrival. I inquired
what was the object and meaning of the statues which I had seen upon
the plateau of the pass. I was told that they dated from a very remote
period, and that there were several other such groups in the country,
but none so remarkable as the one which I had seen. They had a
religious origin, having been designed to propitiate the gods of
deformity and disease. In former times it had been the custom to make
expeditions over the ranges, and capture the ugliest of Chowbok’s
ancestors whom they could find, in order to sacrifice them in the
presence of these deities, and thus avert ugliness and disease from the
Erewhonians themselves. It had been whispered (but my informant assured
me untruly) that centuries ago they had even offered up some of their
own people who were ugly or out of health, in order to make examples of
them; these detestable customs, however, had been long discontinued;
neither was there any present observance of the statues.

I had the curiosity to inquire what would be done to any of Chowbok’s
tribe if they crossed over into Erewhon. I was told that nobody knew,
inasmuch as such a thing had not happened for ages. They would be too
ugly to be allowed to go at large, but not so much so as to be
criminally liable. Their offence in having come would be a moral one;
but they would be beyond the straightener’s art. Possibly they would be
consigned to the Hospital for Incurable Bores, and made to work at
being bored for so many hours a day by the Erewhonian inhabitants of
the hospital, who are extremely impatient of one another’s boredom, but
would soon die if they had no one whom they might bore—in fact, that
they would be kept as professional borees. When I heard this, it
occurred to me that some rumours of its substance might perhaps have
become current among Chowbok’s people; for the agony of his fear had
been too great to have been inspired by the mere dread of being burnt
alive before the statues.

I also questioned them about the museum of old machines, and the cause
of the apparent retrogression in all arts, sciences, and inventions. I
learnt that about four hundred years previously, the state of
mechanical knowledge was far beyond our own, and was advancing with
prodigious rapidity, until one of the most learned professors of
hypothetics wrote an extraordinary book (from which I propose to give
extracts later on), proving that the machines were ultimately destined
to supplant the race of man, and to become instinct with a vitality as
different from, and superior to, that of animals, as animal to
vegetable life. So convincing was his reasoning, or unreasoning, to
this effect, that he carried the country with him; and they made a
clean sweep of all machinery that had not been in use for more than two
hundred and seventy-one years (which period was arrived at after a
series of compromises), and strictly forbade all further improvements
and inventions under pain of being considered in the eye of the law to
be labouring under typhus fever, which they regard as one of the worst
of all crimes.

This is the only case in which they have confounded mental and physical
diseases, and they do it even here as by an avowed legal fiction. I
became uneasy when I remembered about my watch; but they comforted me
with the assurance that transgression in this matter was now so unheard
of, that the law could afford to be lenient towards an utter stranger,
especially towards one who had such a good character (they meant
physique), and such beautiful light hair. Moreover the watch was a real
curiosity, and would be a welcome addition to the metropolitan
collection; so they did not think I need let it trouble me seriously.

I will write, however, more fully upon this subject when I deal with
the Colleges of Unreason, and the Book of the Machines.

In about a month from the time of our starting I was told that our
journey was nearly over. The bandage was now dispensed with, for it
seemed impossible that I should ever be able to find my way back
without being captured. Then we rolled merrily along through the
streets of a handsome town, and got on to a long, broad, and level
road, with poplar trees on either side. The road was raised slightly
above the surrounding country, and had formerly been a railway; the
fields on either side were in the highest conceivable cultivation, but
the harvest and also the vintage had been already gathered. The weather
had got cooler more rapidly than could be quite accounted for by the
progress of the season; so I rather thought that we must have been
making away from the sun, and were some degrees farther from the
equator than when we started. Even here the vegetation showed that the
climate was a hot one, yet there was no lack of vigour among the
people; on the contrary, they were a very hardy race, and capable of
great endurance. For the hundredth time I thought that, take them all
round, I had never seen their equals in respect of physique, and they
looked as good-natured as they were robust. The flowers were for the
most part over, but their absence was in some measure compensated for
by a profusion of delicious fruit, closely resembling the figs,
peaches, and pears of Italy and France. I saw no wild animals, but
birds were plentiful and much as in Europe, but not tame as they had
been on the other side the ranges. They were shot at with the cross-bow
and with arrows, gunpowder being unknown, or at any rate not in use.

We were now nearing the metropolis and I could see great towers and
fortifications, and lofty buildings that looked like palaces. I began
to be nervous as to my reception; but I had got on very well so far,
and resolved to continue upon the same plan as hitherto—namely, to
behave just as though I were in England until I saw that I was making a
blunder, and then to say nothing till I could gather how the land lay.
We drew nearer and nearer. The news of my approach had got abroad, and
there was a great crowd collected on either side the road, who greeted
me with marks of most respectful curiosity, keeping me bowing
constantly in acknowledgement from side to side.

When we were about a mile off, we were met by the Mayor and several
Councillors, among whom was a venerable old man, who was introduced to
me by the Mayor (for so I suppose I should call him) as the gentleman
who had invited me to his house. I bowed deeply and told him how
grateful I felt to him, and how gladly I would accept his hospitality.
He forbade me to say more, and pointing to his carriage, which was
close at hand, he motioned me to a seat therein. I again bowed
profoundly to the Mayor and Councillors, and drove off with my
entertainer, whose name was Senoj Nosnibor. After about half a mile the
carriage turned off the main road, and we drove under the walls of the
town till we reached a _palazzo_ on a slight eminence, and just on the
outskirts of the city. This was Senoj Nosnibor’s house, and nothing can
be imagined finer. It was situated near the magnificent and venerable
ruins of the old railway station, which formed an imposing feature from
the gardens of the house. The grounds, some ten or a dozen acres in
extent, were laid out in terraced gardens, one above the other, with
flights of broad steps ascending and descending the declivity of the
garden. On these steps there were statues of most exquisite
workmanship. Besides the statues there were vases filled with various
shrubs that were new to me; and on either side the flights of steps
there were rows of old cypresses and cedars, with grassy alleys between
them. Then came choice vineyards and orchards of fruit-trees in full
bearing.

The house itself was approached by a court-yard, and round it was a
corridor on to which rooms opened, as at Pompeii. In the middle of the
court there was a bath and a fountain. Having passed the court we came
to the main body of the house, which was two stories in height. The
rooms were large and lofty; perhaps at first they looked rather bare of
furniture, but in hot climates people generally keep their rooms more
bare than they do in colder ones. I missed also the sight of a grand
piano or some similar instrument, there being no means of producing
music in any of the rooms save the larger drawing-room, where there
were half a dozen large bronze gongs, which the ladies used
occasionally to beat about at random. It was not pleasant to hear them,
but I have heard quite as unpleasant music both before and since.

Mr. Nosnibor took me through several spacious rooms till we reached a
boudoir where were his wife and daughters, of whom I had heard from the
interpreter. Mrs. Nosnibor was about forty years old, and still
handsome, but she had grown very stout: her daughters were in the prime
of youth and exquisitely beautiful. I gave the preference almost at
once to the younger, whose name was Arowhena; for the elder sister was
haughty, while the younger had a very winning manner. Mrs. Nosnibor
received me with the perfection of courtesy, so that I must have indeed
been shy and nervous if I had not at once felt welcome. Scarcely was
the ceremony of my introduction well completed before a servant
announced that dinner was ready in the next room. I was exceedingly
hungry, and the dinner was beyond all praise. Can the reader wonder
that I began to consider myself in excellent quarters? “That man
embezzle money?” thought I to myself; “impossible.”

But I noticed that my host was uneasy during the whole meal, and that
he ate nothing but a little bread and milk; towards the end of dinner
there came a tall lean man with a black beard, to whom Mr. Nosnibor and
the whole family paid great attention: he was the family straightener.
With this gentleman Mr. Nosnibor retired into another room, from which
there presently proceeded a sound of weeping and wailing. I could
hardly believe my ears, but in a few minutes I got to know for a
certainty that they came from Mr. Nosnibor himself.

“Poor papa,” said Arowhena, as she helped herself composedly to the
salt, “how terribly he has suffered.”

“Yes,” answered her mother; “but I think he is quite out of danger
now.”

Then they went on to explain to me the circumstances of the case, and
the treatment which the straightener had prescribed, and how successful
he had been—all which I will reserve for another chapter, and put
rather in the form of a general summary of the opinions current upon
these subjects than in the exact words in which the facts were
delivered to me; the reader, however, is earnestly requested to believe
that both in this next chapter and in those that follow it I have
endeavoured to adhere most conscientiously to the strictest accuracy,
and that I have never willingly misrepresented, though I may have
sometimes failed to understand all the bearings of an opinion or
custom.



CHAPTER X. CURRENT OPINIONS


This is what I gathered. That in that country if a man falls into ill
health, or catches any disorder, or fails bodily in any way before he
is seventy years old, he is tried before a jury of his countrymen, and
if convicted is held up to public scorn and sentenced more or less
severely as the case may be. There are subdivisions of illnesses into
crimes and misdemeanours as with offences amongst ourselves—a man being
punished very heavily for serious illness, while failure of eyes or
hearing in one over sixty-five, who has had good health hitherto, is
dealt with by fine only, or imprisonment in default of payment. But if
a man forges a cheque, or sets his house on fire, or robs with violence
from the person, or does any other such things as are criminal in our
own country, he is either taken to a hospital and most carefully tended
at the public expense, or if he is in good circumstances, he lets it be
known to all his friends that he is suffering from a severe fit of
immorality, just as we do when we are ill, and they come and visit him
with great solicitude, and inquire with interest how it all came about,
what symptoms first showed themselves, and so forth,—questions which he
will answer with perfect unreserve; for bad conduct, though considered
no less deplorable than illness with ourselves, and as unquestionably
indicating something seriously wrong with the individual who
misbehaves, is nevertheless held to be the result of either pre-natal
or post-natal misfortune.

The strange part of the story, however, is that though they ascribe
moral defects to the effect of misfortune either in character or
surroundings, they will not listen to the plea of misfortune in cases
that in England meet with sympathy and commiseration only. Ill luck of
any kind, or even ill treatment at the hands of others, is considered
an offence against society, inasmuch as it makes people uncomfortable
to hear of it. Loss of fortune, therefore, or loss of some dear friend
on whom another was much dependent, is punished hardly less severely
than physical delinquency.

Foreign, indeed, as such ideas are to our own, traces of somewhat
similar opinions can be found even in nineteenth-century England. If a
person has an abscess, the medical man will say that it contains
“peccant” matter, and people say that they have a “bad” arm or finger,
or that they are very “bad” all over, when they only mean “diseased.”
Among foreign nations Erewhonian opinions may be still more clearly
noted. The Mahommedans, for example, to this day, send their female
prisoners to hospitals, and the New Zealand Maories visit any
misfortune with forcible entry into the house of the offender, and the
breaking up and burning of all his goods. The Italians, again, use the
same word for “disgrace” and “misfortune.” I once heard an Italian lady
speak of a young friend whom she described as endowed with every virtue
under heaven, “ma,” she exclaimed, “povero disgraziato, ha ammazzato
suo zio.” (“Poor unfortunate fellow, he has murdered his uncle.”)

On mentioning this, which I heard when taken to Italy as a boy by my
father, the person to whom I told it showed no surprise. He said that
he had been driven for two or three years in a certain city by a young
Sicilian cabdriver of prepossessing manners and appearance, but then
lost sight of him. On asking what had become of him, he was told that
he was in prison for having shot at his father with intent to kill
him—happily without serious result. Some years later my informant again
found himself warmly accosted by the prepossessing young cabdriver.
“Ah, caro signore,” he exclaimed, “sono cinque anni che non lo vedo—tre
anni di militare, e due anni di disgrazia,” &c. (“My dear sir, it is
five years since I saw you—three years of military service, and two of
misfortune”)—during which last the poor fellow had been in prison. Of
moral sense he showed not so much as a trace. He and his father were
now on excellent terms, and were likely to remain so unless either of
them should again have the misfortune mortally to offend the other.

In the following chapter I will give a few examples of the way in which
what we should call misfortune, hardship, or disease are dealt with by
the Erewhonians, but for the moment will return to their treatment of
cases that with us are criminal. As I have already said, these, though
not judicially punishable, are recognised as requiring correction.
Accordingly, there exists a class of men trained in soul-craft, whom
they call straighteners, as nearly as I can translate a word which
literally means “one who bends back the crooked.” These men practise
much as medical men in England, and receive a quasi-surreptitious fee
on every visit. They are treated with the same unreserve, and obeyed as
readily, as our own doctors—that is to say, on the whole
sufficiently—because people know that it is their interest to get well
as soon as they can, and that they will not be scouted as they would be
if their bodies were out of order, even though they may have to undergo
a very painful course of treatment.

When I say that they will not be scouted, I do not mean that an
Erewhonian will suffer no social inconvenience in consequence, we will
say, of having committed fraud. Friends will fall away from him because
of his being less pleasant company, just as we ourselves are
disinclined to make companions of those who are either poor or poorly.
No one with any sense of self-respect will place himself on an equality
in the matter of affection with those who are less lucky than himself
in birth, health, money, good looks, capacity, or anything else.
Indeed, that dislike and even disgust should be felt by the fortunate
for the unfortunate, or at any rate for those who have been discovered
to have met with any of the more serious and less familiar misfortunes,
is not only natural, but desirable for any society, whether of man or
brute.

The fact, therefore, that the Erewhonians attach none of that guilt to
crime which they do to physical ailments, does not prevent the more
selfish among them from neglecting a friend who has robbed a bank, for
instance, till he has fully recovered; but it does prevent them from
even thinking of treating criminals with that contemptuous tone which
would seem to say, “I, if I were you, should be a better man than you
are,” a tone which is held quite reasonable in regard to physical
ailment. Hence, though they conceal ill health by every cunning and
hypocrisy and artifice which they can devise, they are quite open about
the most flagrant mental diseases, should they happen to exist, which
to do the people justice is not often. Indeed, there are some who are,
so to speak, spiritual valetudinarians, and who make themselves
exceedingly ridiculous by their nervous supposition that they are
wicked, while they are very tolerable people all the time. This however
is exceptional; and on the whole they use much the same reserve or
unreserve about the state of their moral welfare as we do about our
health.

Hence all the ordinary greetings among ourselves, such as, How do you
do? and the like, are considered signs of gross ill-breeding; nor do
the politer classes tolerate even such a common complimentary remark as
telling a man that he is looking well. They salute each other with, “I
hope you are good this morning;” or “I hope you have recovered from the
snappishness from which you were suffering when I last saw you;” and if
the person saluted has not been good, or is still snappish, he says so
at once and is condoled with accordingly. Indeed, the straighteners
have gone so far as to give names from the hypothetical language (as
taught at the Colleges of Unreason), to all known forms of mental
indisposition, and to classify them according to a system of their own,
which, though I could not understand it, seemed to work well in
practice; for they are always able to tell a man what is the matter
with him as soon as they have heard his story, and their familiarity
with the long names assures him that they thoroughly understand his
case.

The reader will have no difficulty in believing that the laws regarding
ill health were frequently evaded by the help of recognised fictions,
which every one understood, but which it would be considered gross
ill-breeding to even seem to understand. Thus, a day or two after my
arrival at the Nosnibors’, one of the many ladies who called on me made
excuses for her husband’s only sending his card, on the ground that
when going through the public market-place that morning he had stolen a
pair of socks. I had already been warned that I should never show
surprise, so I merely expressed my sympathy, and said that though I had
only been in the capital so short a time, I had already had a very
narrow escape from stealing a clothes-brush, and that though I had
resisted temptation so far, I was sadly afraid that if I saw any object
of special interest that was neither too hot nor too heavy, I should
have to put myself in the straightener’s hands.

Mrs. Nosnibor, who had been keeping an ear on all that I had been
saying, praised me when the lady had gone. Nothing, she said, could
have been more polite according to Erewhonian etiquette. She then
explained that to have stolen a pair of socks, or “to have the socks”
(in more colloquial language), was a recognised way of saying that the
person in question was slightly indisposed.

In spite of all this they have a keen sense of the enjoyment consequent
upon what they call being “well.” They admire mental health and love it
in other people, and take all the pains they can (consistently with
their other duties) to secure it for themselves. They have an extreme
dislike to marrying into what they consider unhealthy families. They
send for the straightener at once whenever they have been guilty of
anything seriously flagitious—often even if they think that they are on
the point of committing it; and though his remedies are sometimes
exceedingly painful, involving close confinement for weeks, and in some
cases the most cruel physical tortures, I never heard of a reasonable
Erewhonian refusing to do what his straightener told him, any more than
of a reasonable Englishman refusing to undergo even the most frightful
operation, if his doctors told him it was necessary.

We in England never shrink from telling our doctor what is the matter
with us merely through the fear that he will hurt us. We let him do his
worst upon us, and stand it without a murmur, because we are not
scouted for being ill, and because we know that the doctor is doing his
best to cure us, and that he can judge of our case better than we can;
but we should conceal all illness if we were treated as the Erewhonians
are when they have anything the matter with them; we should do the same
as with moral and intellectual diseases,—we should feign health with
the most consummate art, till we were found out, and should hate a
single flogging given in the way of mere punishment more than the
amputation of a limb, if it were kindly and courteously performed from
a wish to help us out of our difficulty, and with the full
consciousness on the part of the doctor that it was only by an accident
of constitution that he was not in the like plight himself. So the
Erewhonians take a flogging once a week, and a diet of bread and water
for two or three months together, whenever their straightener
recommends it.

I do not suppose that even my host, on having swindled a confiding
widow out of the whole of her property, was put to more actual
suffering than a man will readily undergo at the hands of an English
doctor. And yet he must have had a very bad time of it. The sounds I
heard were sufficient to show that his pain was exquisite, but he never
shrank from undergoing it. He was quite sure that it did him good; and
I think he was right. I cannot believe that that man will ever embezzle
money again. He may—but it will be a long time before he does so.

During my confinement in prison, and on my journey, I had already
discovered a great deal of the above; but it still seemed surpassingly
strange, and I was in constant fear of committing some piece of
rudeness, through my inability to look at things from the same
stand-point as my neighbours; but after a few weeks’ stay with the
Nosnibors, I got to understand things better, especially on having
heard all about my host’s illness, of which he told me fully and
repeatedly.

It seemed that he had been on the Stock Exchange of the city for many
years and had amassed enormous wealth, without exceeding the limits of
what was generally considered justifiable, or at any rate, permissible
dealing; but at length on several occasions he had become aware of a
desire to make money by fraudulent representations, and had actually
dealt with two or three sums in a way which had made him rather
uncomfortable. He had unfortunately made light of it and pooh-poohed
the ailment, until circumstances eventually presented themselves which
enabled him to cheat upon a very considerable scale;—he told me what
they were, and they were about as bad as anything could be, but I need
not detail them;—he seized the opportunity, and became aware, when it
was too late, that he must be seriously out of order. He had neglected
himself too long.

He drove home at once, broke the news to his wife and daughters as
gently as he could, and sent off for one of the most celebrated
straighteners of the kingdom to a consultation with the family
practitioner, for the case was plainly serious. On the arrival of the
straightener he told his story, and expressed his fear that his morals
must be permanently impaired.

The eminent man reassured him with a few cheering words, and then
proceeded to make a more careful diagnosis of the case. He inquired
concerning Mr. Nosnibor’s parents—had their moral health been good? He
was answered that there had not been anything seriously amiss with
them, but that his maternal grandfather, whom he was supposed to
resemble somewhat in person, had been a consummate scoundrel and had
ended his days in a hospital,—while a brother of his father’s, after
having led a most flagitious life for many years, had been at last
cured by a philosopher of a new school, which as far as I could
understand it bore much the same relation to the old as homoeopathy to
allopathy. The straightener shook his head at this, and laughingly
replied that the cure must have been due to nature. After a few more
questions he wrote a prescription and departed.

I saw the prescription. It ordered a fine to the State of double the
money embezzled; no food but bread and milk for six months, and a
severe flogging once a month for twelve. I was surprised to see that no
part of the fine was to be paid to the poor woman whose money had been
embezzled, but on inquiry I learned that she would have been prosecuted
in the Misplaced Confidence Court, if she had not escaped its clutches
by dying shortly after she had discovered her loss.

As for Mr. Nosnibor, he had received his eleventh flogging on the day
of my arrival. I saw him later on the same afternoon, and he was still
twinged; but there had been no escape from following out the
straightener’s prescription, for the so-called sanitary laws of Erewhon
are very rigorous, and unless the straightener was satisfied that his
orders had been obeyed, the patient would have been taken to a hospital
(as the poor are), and would have been much worse off. Such at least is
the law, but it is never necessary to enforce it.

On a subsequent occasion I was present at an interview between Mr.
Nosnibor and the family straightener, who was considered competent to
watch the completion of the cure. I was struck with the delicacy with
which he avoided even the remotest semblance of inquiry after the
physical well-being of his patient, though there was a certain
yellowness about my host’s eyes which argued a bilious habit of body.
To have taken notice of this would have been a gross breach of
professional etiquette. I was told, however, that a straightener
sometimes thinks it right to glance at the possibility of some slight
physical disorder if he finds it important in order to assist him in
his diagnosis; but the answers which he gets are generally untrue or
evasive, and he forms his own conclusions upon the matter as well as he
can. Sensible men have been known to say that the straightener should
in strict confidence be told of every physical ailment that is likely
to bear upon the case; but people are naturally shy of doing this, for
they do not like lowering themselves in the opinion of the
straightener, and his ignorance of medical science is supreme. I heard
of one lady, indeed, who had the hardihood to confess that a furious
outbreak of ill-humour and extravagant fancies for which she was
seeking advice was possibly the result of indisposition. “You should
resist that,” said the straightener, in a kind, but grave voice; “we
can do nothing for the bodies of our patients; such matters are beyond
our province, and I desire that I may hear no further particulars.” The
lady burst into tears, and promised faithfully that she would never be
unwell again.

But to return to Mr. Nosnibor. As the afternoon wore on many carriages
drove up with callers to inquire how he had stood his flogging. It had
been very severe, but the kind inquiries upon every side gave him great
pleasure, and he assured me that he felt almost tempted to do wrong
again by the solicitude with which his friends had treated him during
his recovery: in this I need hardly say that he was not serious.

During the remainder of my stay in the country Mr. Nosnibor was
constantly attentive to his business, and largely increased his already
great possessions; but I never heard a whisper to the effect of his
having been indisposed a second time, or made money by other than the
most strictly honourable means. I did hear afterwards in confidence
that there had been reason to believe that his health had been not a
little affected by the straightener’s treatment, but his friends did
not choose to be over-curious upon the subject, and on his return to
his affairs it was by common consent passed over as hardly criminal in
one who was otherwise so much afflicted. For they regard bodily
ailments as the more venial in proportion as they have been produced by
causes independent of the constitution. Thus if a person ruin his
health by excessive indulgence at the table or by drinking, they count
it to be almost a part of the mental disease which brought it about,
and so it goes for little, but they have no mercy on such illnesses as
fevers or catarrhs or lung diseases, which to us appear to be beyond
the control of the individual. They are only more lenient towards the
diseases of the young—such as measles, which they think to be like
sowing one’s wild oats—and look over them as pardonable indiscretions
if they have not been too serious, and if they are atoned for by
complete subsequent recovery.

It is hardly necessary to say that the office of straightener is one
which requires long and special training. It stands to reason that he
who would cure a moral ailment must be practically acquainted with it
in all its bearings. The student for the profession of straightener is
required to set apart certain seasons for the practice of each vice in
turn, as a religious duty. These seasons are called “fasts,” and are
continued by the student until he finds that he really can subdue all
the more usual vices in his own person, and hence can advise his
patients from the results of his own experience.

Those who intend to be specialists, rather than general practitioners,
devote themselves more particularly to the branch in which their
practice will mainly lie. Some students have been obliged to continue
their exercises during their whole lives, and some devoted men have
actually died as martyrs to the drink, or gluttony, or whatever branch
of vice they may have chosen for their especial study. The greater
number, however, take no harm by the excursions into the various
departments of vice which it is incumbent upon them to study.

For the Erewhonians hold that unalloyed virtue is not a thing to be
immoderately indulged in. I was shown more than one case in which the
real or supposed virtues of parents were visited upon the children to
the third and fourth generation. The straighteners say that the most
that can be truly said for virtue is that there is a considerable
balance in its favour, and that it is on the whole a good deal better
to be on its side than against it; but they urge that there is much
pseudo-virtue going about, which is apt to let people in very badly
before they find it out. Those men, they say, are best who are not
remarkable either for vice or virtue. I told them about Hogarth’s idle
and industrious apprentices, but they did not seem to think that the
industrious apprentice was a very nice person.



CHAPTER XI. SOME EREWHONIAN TRIALS


In Erewhon as in other countries there are some courts of justice that
deal with special subjects. Misfortune generally, as I have above
explained, is considered more or less criminal, but it admits of
classification, and a court is assigned to each of the main heads under
which it can be supposed to fall. Not very long after I had reached the
capital I strolled into the Personal Bereavement Court, and was much
both interested and pained by listening to the trial of a man who was
accused of having just lost a wife to whom he had been tenderly
attached, and who had left him with three little children, of whom the
eldest was only three years old.

The defence which the prisoner’s counsel endeavoured to establish was,
that the prisoner had never really loved his wife; but it broke down
completely, for the public prosecutor called witness after witness who
deposed to the fact that the couple had been devoted to one another,
and the prisoner repeatedly wept as incidents were put in evidence that
reminded him of the irreparable nature of the loss he had sustained.
The jury returned a verdict of guilty after very little deliberation,
but recommended the prisoner to mercy on the ground that he had but
recently insured his wife’s life for a considerable sum, and might be
deemed lucky inasmuch as he had received the money without demur from
the insurance company, though he had only paid two premiums.

I have just said that the jury found the prisoner guilty. When the
judge passed sentence, I was struck with the way in which the
prisoner’s counsel was rebuked for having referred to a work in which
the guilt of such misfortunes as the prisoner’s was extenuated to a
degree that roused the indignation of the court.

“We shall have,” said the judge, “these crude and subversionary books
from time to time until it is recognised as an axiom of morality that
luck is the only fit object of human veneration. How far a man has any
right to be more lucky and hence more venerable than his neighbours, is
a point that always has been, and always will be, settled proximately
by a kind of higgling and haggling of the market, and ultimately by
brute force; but however this may be, it stands to reason that no man
should be allowed to be unlucky to more than a very moderate extent.”

Then, turning to the prisoner, the judge continued:—“You have suffered
a great loss. Nature attaches a severe penalty to such offences, and
human law must emphasise the decrees of nature. But for the
recommendation of the jury I should have given you six months’ hard
labour. I will, however, commute your sentence to one of three months,
with the option of a fine of twenty-five per cent. of the money you
have received from the insurance company.”

The prisoner thanked the judge, and said that as he had no one to look
after his children if he was sent to prison, he would embrace the
option mercifully permitted him by his lordship, and pay the sum he had
named. He was then removed from the dock.

The next case was that of a youth barely arrived at man’s estate, who
was charged with having been swindled out of large property during his
minority by his guardian, who was also one of his nearest relations.
His father had been long dead, and it was for this reason that his
offence came on for trial in the Personal Bereavement Court. The lad,
who was undefended, pleaded that he was young, inexperienced, greatly
in awe of his guardian, and without independent professional advice.
“Young man,” said the judge sternly, “do not talk nonsense. People have
no right to be young, inexperienced, greatly in awe of their guardians,
and without independent professional advice. If by such indiscretions
they outrage the moral sense of their friends, they must expect to
suffer accordingly.” He then ordered the prisoner to apologise to his
guardian, and to receive twelve strokes with a cat-of-nine-tails.

But I shall perhaps best convey to the reader an idea of the entire
perversion of thought which exists among this extraordinary people, by
describing the public trial of a man who was accused of pulmonary
consumption—an offence which was punished with death until quite
recently. It did not occur till I had been some months in the country,
and I am deviating from chronological order in giving it here; but I
had perhaps better do so in order that I may exhaust this subject
before proceeding to others. Moreover I should never come to an end
were I to keep to a strictly narrative form, and detail the infinite
absurdities with which I daily came in contact.

The prisoner was placed in the dock, and the jury were sworn much as in
Europe; almost all our own modes of procedure were reproduced, even to
the requiring the prisoner to plead guilty or not guilty. He pleaded
not guilty, and the case proceeded. The evidence for the prosecution
was very strong; but I must do the court the justice to observe that
the trial was absolutely impartial. Counsel for the prisoner was
allowed to urge everything that could be said in his defence: the line
taken was that the prisoner was simulating consumption in order to
defraud an insurance company, from which he was about to buy an
annuity, and that he hoped thus to obtain it on more advantageous
terms. If this could have been shown to be the case he would have
escaped a criminal prosecution, and been sent to a hospital as for a
moral ailment. The view, however, was one which could not be reasonably
sustained, in spite of all the ingenuity and eloquence of one of the
most celebrated advocates of the country. The case was only too clear,
for the prisoner was almost at the point of death, and it was
astonishing that he had not been tried and convicted long previously.
His coughing was incessant during the whole trial, and it was all that
the two jailors in charge of him could do to keep him on his legs until
it was over.

The summing up of the judge was admirable. He dwelt upon every point
that could be construed in favour of the prisoner, but as he proceeded
it became clear that the evidence was too convincing to admit of doubt,
and there was but one opinion in the court as to the impending verdict
when the jury retired from the box. They were absent for about ten
minutes, and on their return the foreman pronounced the prisoner
guilty. There was a faint murmur of applause, but it was instantly
repressed. The judge then proceeded to pronounce sentence in words
which I can never forget, and which I copied out into a note-book next
day from the report that was published in the leading newspaper. I must
condense it somewhat, and nothing which I could say would give more
than a faint idea of the solemn, not to say majestic, severity with
which it was delivered. The sentence was as follows:-

“Prisoner at the bar, you have been accused of the great crime of
labouring under pulmonary consumption, and after an impartial trial
before a jury of your countrymen, you have been found guilty. Against
the justice of the verdict I can say nothing: the evidence against you
was conclusive, and it only remains for me to pass such a sentence upon
you, as shall satisfy the ends of the law. That sentence must be a very
severe one. It pains me much to see one who is yet so young, and whose
prospects in life were otherwise so excellent, brought to this
distressing condition by a constitution which I can only regard as
radically vicious; but yours is no case for compassion: this is not
your first offence: you have led a career of crime, and have only
profited by the leniency shown you upon past occasions, to offend yet
more seriously against the laws and institutions of your country. You
were convicted of aggravated bronchitis last year: and I find that
though you are now only twenty-three years old, you have been
imprisoned on no less than fourteen occasions for illnesses of a more
or less hateful character; in fact, it is not too much to say that you
have spent the greater part of your life in a jail.

“It is all very well for you to say that you came of unhealthy parents,
and had a severe accident in your childhood which permanently
undermined your constitution; excuses such as these are the ordinary
refuge of the criminal; but they cannot for one moment be listened to
by the ear of justice. I am not here to enter upon curious metaphysical
questions as to the origin of this or that—questions to which there
would be no end were their introduction once tolerated, and which would
result in throwing the only guilt on the tissues of the primordial
cell, or on the elementary gases. There is no question of how you came
to be wicked, but only this—namely, are you wicked or not? This has
been decided in the affirmative, neither can I hesitate for a single
moment to say that it has been decided justly. You are a bad and
dangerous person, and stand branded in the eyes of your
fellow-countrymen with one of the most heinous known offences.

“It is not my business to justify the law: the law may in some cases
have its inevitable hardships, and I may feel regret at times that I
have not the option of passing a less severe sentence than I am
compelled to do. But yours is no such case; on the contrary, had not
the capital punishment for consumption been abolished, I should
certainly inflict it now.

“It is intolerable that an example of such terrible enormity should be
allowed to go at large unpunished. Your presence in the society of
respectable people would lead the less able-bodied to think more
lightly of all forms of illness; neither can it be permitted that you
should have the chance of corrupting unborn beings who might hereafter
pester you. The unborn must not be allowed to come near you: and this
not so much for their protection (for they are our natural enemies), as
for our own; for since they will not be utterly gainsaid, it must be
seen to that they shall be quartered upon those who are least likely to
corrupt them.

“But independently of this consideration, and independently of the
physical guilt which attaches itself to a crime so great as yours,
there is yet another reason why we should be unable to show you mercy,
even if we were inclined to do so. I refer to the existence of a class
of men who lie hidden among us, and who are called physicians. Were the
severity of the law or the current feeling of the country to be relaxed
never so slightly, these abandoned persons, who are now compelled to
practise secretly and who can be consulted only at the greatest risk,
would become frequent visitors in every household; their organisation
and their intimate acquaintance with all family secrets would give them
a power, both social and political, which nothing could resist. The
head of the household would become subordinate to the family doctor,
who would interfere between man and wife, between master and servant,
until the doctors should be the only depositaries of power in the
nation, and have all that we hold precious at their mercy. A time of
universal dephysicalisation would ensue; medicine-vendors of all kinds
would abound in our streets and advertise in all our newspapers. There
is one remedy for this, and one only. It is that which the laws of this
country have long received and acted upon, and consists in the sternest
repression of all diseases whatsoever, as soon as their existence is
made manifest to the eye of the law. Would that that eye were far more
piercing than it is.

“But I will enlarge no further upon things that are themselves so
obvious. You may say that it is not your fault. The answer is ready
enough at hand, and it amounts to this—that if you had been born of
healthy and well-to-do parents, and been well taken care of when you
were a child, you would never have offended against the laws of your
country, nor found yourself in your present disgraceful position. If
you tell me that you had no hand in your parentage and education, and
that it is therefore unjust to lay these things to your charge, I
answer that whether your being in a consumption is your fault or no, it
is a fault in you, and it is my duty to see that against such faults as
this the commonwealth shall be protected. You may say that it is your
misfortune to be criminal; I answer that it is your crime to be
unfortunate.

“Lastly, I should point out that even though the jury had acquitted
you—a supposition that I cannot seriously entertain—I should have felt
it my duty to inflict a sentence hardly less severe than that which I
must pass at present; for the more you had been found guiltless of the
crime imputed to you, the more you would have been found guilty of one
hardly less heinous—I mean the crime of having been maligned unjustly.

“I do not hesitate therefore to sentence you to imprisonment, with hard
labour, for the rest of your miserable existence. During that period I
would earnestly entreat you to repent of the wrongs you have done
already, and to entirely reform the constitution of your whole body. I
entertain but little hope that you will pay attention to my advice; you
are already far too abandoned. Did it rest with myself, I should add
nothing in mitigation of the sentence which I have passed, but it is
the merciful provision of the law that even the most hardened criminal
shall be allowed some one of the three official remedies, which is to
be prescribed at the time of his conviction. I shall therefore order
that you receive two tablespoonfuls of castor oil daily, until the
pleasure of the court be further known.”

When the sentence was concluded the prisoner acknowledged in a few
scarcely audible words that he was justly punished, and that he had had
a fair trial. He was then removed to the prison from which he was never
to return. There was a second attempt at applause when the judge had
finished speaking, but as before it was at once repressed; and though
the feeling of the court was strongly against the prisoner, there was
no show of any violence against him, if one may except a little hooting
from the bystanders when he was being removed in the prisoners’ van.
Indeed, nothing struck me more during my whole sojourn in the country,
than the general respect for law and order.



CHAPTER XII. MALCONTENTS


I confess that I felt rather unhappy when I got home, and thought more
closely over the trial that I had just witnessed. For the time I was
carried away by the opinion of those among whom I was. They had no
misgivings about what they were doing. There did not seem to be a
person in the whole court who had the smallest doubt but that all was
exactly as it should be. This universal unsuspecting confidence was
imparted by sympathy to myself, in spite of all my training in opinions
so widely different. So it is with most of us: that which we observe to
be taken as a matter of course by those around us, we take as a matter
of course ourselves. And after all, it is our duty to do this, save
upon grave occasion.

But when I was alone, and began to think the trial over, it certainly
did strike me as betraying a strange and untenable position. Had the
judge said that he acknowledged the probable truth, namely, that the
prisoner was born of unhealthy parents, or had been starved in infancy,
or had met with some accidents which had developed consumption; and had
he then gone on to say that though he knew all this, and bitterly
regretted that the protection of society obliged him to inflict
additional pain on one who had suffered so much already, yet that there
was no help for it, I could have understood the position, however
mistaken I might have thought it. The judge was fully persuaded that
the infliction of pain upon the weak and sickly was the only means of
preventing weakness and sickliness from spreading, and that ten times
the suffering now inflicted upon the accused was eventually warded off
from others by the present apparent severity. I could therefore
perfectly understand his inflicting whatever pain he might consider
necessary in order to prevent so bad an example from spreading further
and lowering the Erewhonian standard; but it seemed almost childish to
tell the prisoner that he could have been in good health, if he had
been more fortunate in his constitution, and been exposed to less
hardships when he was a boy.

I write with great diffidence, but it seems to me that there is no
unfairness in punishing people for their misfortunes, or rewarding them
for their sheer good luck: it is the normal condition of human life
that this should be done, and no right-minded person will complain of
being subjected to the common treatment. There is no alternative open
to us. It is idle to say that men are not responsible for their
misfortunes. What is responsibility? Surely to be responsible means to
be liable to have to give an answer should it be demanded, and all
things which live are responsible for their lives and actions should
society see fit to question them through the mouth of its authorised
agent.

What is the offence of a lamb that we should rear it, and tend it, and
lull it into security, for the express purpose of killing it? Its
offence is the misfortune of being something which society wants to
eat, and which cannot defend itself. This is ample. Who shall limit the
right of society except society itself? And what consideration for the
individual is tolerable unless society be the gainer thereby? Wherefore
should a man be so richly rewarded for having been son to a
millionaire, were it not clearly provable that the common welfare is
thus better furthered? We cannot seriously detract from a man’s merit
in having been the son of a rich father without imperilling our own
tenure of things which we do not wish to jeopardise; if this were
otherwise we should not let him keep his money for a single hour; we
would have it ourselves at once. For property is robbery, but then, we
are all robbers or would-be robbers together, and have found it
essential to organise our thieving, as we have found it necessary to
organise our lust and our revenge. Property, marriage, the law; as the
bed to the river, so rule and convention to the instinct; and woe to
him who tampers with the banks while the flood is flowing.

But to return. Even in England a man on board a ship with yellow fever
is held responsible for his mischance, no matter what his being kept in
quarantine may cost him. He may catch the fever and die; we cannot help
it; he must take his chance as other people do; but surely it would be
desperate unkindness to add contumely to our self-protection, unless,
indeed, we believe that contumely is one of our best means of
self-protection. Again, take the case of maniacs. We say that they are
irresponsible for their actions, but we take good care, or ought to
take good care, that they shall answer to us for their insanity, and we
imprison them in what we call an asylum (that modern sanctuary!) if we
do not like their answers. This is a strange kind of irresponsibility.
What we ought to say is that we can afford to be satisfied with a less
satisfactory answer from a lunatic than from one who is not mad,
because lunacy is less infectious than crime.

We kill a serpent if we go in danger by it, simply for being such and
such a serpent in such and such a place; but we never say that the
serpent has only itself to blame for not having been a harmless
creature. Its crime is that of being the thing which it is: but this is
a capital offence, and we are right in killing it out of the way,
unless we think it more danger to do so than to let it escape;
nevertheless we pity the creature, even though we kill it.

But in the case of him whose trial I have described above, it was
impossible that any one in the court should not have known that it was
but by an accident of birth and circumstances that he was not himself
also in a consumption; and yet none thought that it disgraced them to
hear the judge give vent to the most cruel truisms about him. The judge
himself was a kind and thoughtful person. He was a man of magnificent
and benign presence. He was evidently of an iron constitution, and his
face wore an expression of the maturest wisdom and experience; yet for
all this, old and learned as he was, he could not see things which one
would have thought would have been apparent even to a child. He could
not emancipate himself from, nay, it did not even occur to him to feel,
the bondage of the ideas in which he had been born and bred.

So was it also with the jury and bystanders; and—most wonderful of
all—so was it even with the prisoner. Throughout he seemed fully
impressed with the notion that he was being dealt with justly: he saw
nothing wanton in his being told by the judge that he was to be
punished, not so much as a necessary protection to society (although
this was not entirely lost sight of), as because he had not been better
born and bred than he was. But this led me to hope that he suffered
less than he would have done if he had seen the matter in the same
light that I did. And, after all, justice is relative.

I may here mention that only a few years before my arrival in the
country, the treatment of all convicted invalids had been much more
barbarous than now, for no physical remedy was provided, and prisoners
were put to the severest labour in all sorts of weather, so that most
of them soon succumbed to the extreme hardships which they suffered;
this was supposed to be beneficial in some ways, inasmuch as it put the
country to less expense for the maintenance of its criminal class; but
the growth of luxury had induced a relaxation of the old severity, and
a sensitive age would no longer tolerate what appeared to be an excess
of rigour, even towards the most guilty; moreover, it was found that
juries were less willing to convict, and justice was often cheated
because there was no alternative between virtually condemning a man to
death and letting him go free; it was also held that the country paid
in recommittals for its over-severity; for those who had been
imprisoned even for trifling ailments were often permanently disabled
by their imprisonment; and when a man had been once convicted, it was
probable that he would seldom afterwards be off the hands of the
country.

These evils had long been apparent and recognised; yet people were too
indolent, and too indifferent to suffering not their own, to bestir
themselves about putting an end to them, until at last a benevolent
reformer devoted his whole life to effecting the necessary changes. He
divided all illnesses into three classes—those affecting the head, the
trunk, and the lower limbs—and obtained an enactment that all diseases
of the head, whether internal or external, should be treated with
laudanum, those of the body with castor-oil, and those of the lower
limbs with an embrocation of strong sulphuric acid and water.

It may be said that the classification was not sufficiently careful,
and that the remedies were ill chosen; but it is a hard thing to
initiate any reform, and it was necessary to familiarise the public
mind with the principle, by inserting the thin end of the wedge first:
it is not, therefore, to be wondered at that among so practical a
people there should still be some room for improvement. The mass of the
nation are well pleased with existing arrangements, and believe that
their treatment of criminals leaves little or nothing to be desired;
but there is an energetic minority who hold what are considered to be
extreme opinions, and who are not at all disposed to rest contented
until the principle lately admitted has been carried further.

I was at some pains to discover the opinions of these men, and their
reasons for entertaining them. They are held in great odium by the
generality of the public, and are considered as subverters of all
morality whatever. The malcontents, on the other hand, assert that
illness is the inevitable result of certain antecedent causes, which,
in the great majority of cases, were beyond the control of the
individual, and that therefore a man is only guilty for being in a
consumption in the same way as rotten fruit is guilty for having gone
rotten. True, the fruit must be thrown on one side as unfit for man’s
use, and the man in a consumption must be put in prison for the
protection of his fellow-citizens; but these radicals would not punish
him further than by loss of liberty and a strict surveillance. So long
as he was prevented from injuring society, they would allow him to make
himself useful by supplying whatever of society’s wants he could
supply. If he succeeded in thus earning money, they would have him made
as comfortable in prison as possible, and would in no way interfere
with his liberty more than was necessary to prevent him from escaping,
or from becoming more severely indisposed within the prison walls; but
they would deduct from his earnings the expenses of his board, lodging,
surveillance, and half those of his conviction. If he was too ill to do
anything for his support in prison, they would allow him nothing but
bread and water, and very little of that.

They say that society is foolish in refusing to allow itself to be
benefited by a man merely because he has done it harm hitherto, and
that objection to the labour of the diseased classes is only protection
in another form. It is an attempt to raise the natural price of a
commodity by saying that such and such persons, who are able and
willing to produce it, shall not do so, whereby every one has to pay
more for it.

Besides, so long as a man has not been actually killed he is our
fellow-creature, though perhaps a very unpleasant one. It is in a great
degree the doing of others that he is what he is, or in other words,
the society which now condemns him is partly answerable concerning him.
They say that there is no fear of any increase of disease under these
circumstances; for the loss of liberty, the surveillance, the
considerable and compulsory deduction from the prisoner’s earnings, the
very sparing use of stimulants (of which they would allow but little to
any, and none to those who did not earn them), the enforced celibacy,
and above all, the loss of reputation among friends, are in their
opinion as ample safeguards to society against a general neglect of
health as those now resorted to. A man, therefore, (so they say) should
carry his profession or trade into prison with him if possible; if not,
he must earn his living by the nearest thing to it that he can; but if
he be a gentleman born and bred to no profession, he must pick oakum,
or write art criticisms for a newspaper.

These people say further, that the greater part of the illness which
exists in their country is brought about by the insane manner in which
it is treated.

They believe that illness is in many cases just as curable as the moral
diseases which they see daily cured around them, but that a great
reform is impossible till men learn to take a juster view of what
physical obliquity proceeds from. Men will hide their illnesses as long
as they are scouted on its becoming known that they are ill; it is the
scouting, not the physic, which produces the concealment; and if a man
felt that the news of his being in ill-health would be received by his
neighbours as a deplorable fact, but one as much the result of
necessary antecedent causes as though he had broken into a jeweller’s
shop and stolen a valuable diamond necklace—as a fact which might just
as easily have happened to themselves, only that they had the luck to
be better born or reared; and if they also felt that they would not be
made more uncomfortable in the prison than the protection of society
against infection and the proper treatment of their own disease
actually demanded, men would give themselves up to the police as
readily on perceiving that they had taken small-pox, as they go now to
the straightener when they feel that they are on the point of forging a
will, or running away with somebody else’s wife.

But the main argument on which they rely is that of economy: for they
know that they will sooner gain their end by appealing to men’s
pockets, in which they have generally something of their own, than to
their heads, which contain for the most part little but borrowed or
stolen property; and also, they believe it to be the readiest test and
the one which has most to show for itself. If a course of conduct can
be shown to cost a country less, and this by no dishonourable saving
and with no indirectly increased expenditure in other ways, they hold
that it requires a good deal to upset the arguments in favour of its
being adopted, and whether rightly or wrongly I cannot pretend to say,
they think that the more medicinal and humane treatment of the diseased
of which they are the advocates would in the long run be much cheaper
to the country: but I did not gather that these reformers were opposed
to meeting some of the more violent forms of illness with the
cat-of-nine-tails, or with death; for they saw no so effectual way of
checking them; they would therefore both flog and hang, but they would
do so pitifully.

I have perhaps dwelt too long upon opinions which can have no possible
bearing upon our own, but I have not said the tenth part of what these
would-be reformers urged upon me. I feel, however, that I have
sufficiently trespassed upon the attention of the reader.



CHAPTER XIII. THE VIEWS OF THE EREWHONIANS CONCERNING DEATH


The Erewhonians regard death with less abhorrence than disease. If it
is an offence at all, it is one beyond the reach of the law, which is
therefore silent on the subject; but they insist that the greater
number of those who are commonly said to die, have never yet been
born—not, at least, into that unseen world which is alone worthy of
consideration. As regards this unseen world I understand them to say
that some miscarry in respect to it before they have even reached the
seen, and some after, while few are ever truly born into it at all—the
greater part of all the men and women over the whole country
miscarrying before they reach it. And they say that this does not
matter so much as we think it does.

As for what we call death, they argue that too much has been made of
it. The mere knowledge that we shall one day die does not make us very
unhappy; no one thinks that he or she will escape, so that none are
disappointed. We do not care greatly even though we know that we have
not long to live; the only thing that would seriously affect us would
be the knowing—or rather thinking that we know—the precise moment at
which the blow will fall. Happily no one can ever certainly know this,
though many try to make themselves miserable by endeavouring to find it
out. It seems as though there were some power somewhere which
mercifully stays us from putting that sting into the tail of death,
which we would put there if we could, and which ensures that though
death must always be a bugbear, it shall never under any conceivable
circumstances be more than a bugbear.

For even though a man is condemned to die in a week’s time and is shut
up in a prison from which it is certain that he cannot escape, he will
always hope that a reprieve may come before the week is over. Besides,
the prison may catch fire, and he may be suffocated not with a rope,
but with common ordinary smoke; or he may be struck dead by lightning
while exercising in the prison yards. When the morning is come on which
the poor wretch is to be hanged, he may choke at his breakfast, or die
from failure of the heart’s action before the drop has fallen; and even
though it has fallen, he cannot be quite certain that he is going to
die, for he cannot know this till his death has actually taken place,
and it will be too late then for him to discover that he was going to
die at the appointed hour after all. The Erewhonians, therefore, hold
that death, like life, is an affair of being more frightened than hurt.

They burn their dead, and the ashes are presently scattered over any
piece of ground which the deceased may himself have chosen. No one is
permitted to refuse this hospitality to the dead: people, therefore,
generally choose some garden or orchard which they may have known and
been fond of when they were young. The superstitious hold that those
whose ashes are scattered over any land become its jealous guardians
from that time forward; and the living like to think that they shall
become identified with this or that locality where they have once been
happy.

They do not put up monuments, nor write epitaphs, for their dead,
though in former ages their practice was much as ours, but they have a
custom which comes to much the same thing, for the instinct of
preserving the name alive after the death of the body seems to be
common to all mankind. They have statues of themselves made while they
are still alive (those, that is, who can afford it), and write
inscriptions under them, which are often quite as untruthful as are our
own epitaphs—only in another way. For they do not hesitate to describe
themselves as victims to ill temper, jealousy, covetousness, and the
like, but almost always lay claim to personal beauty, whether they have
it or not, and, often, to the possession of a large sum in the funded
debt of the country. If a person is ugly he does not sit as a model for
his own statue, although it bears his name. He gets the handsomest of
his friends to sit for him, and one of the ways of paying a compliment
to another is to ask him to sit for such a statue. Women generally sit
for their own statues, from a natural disinclination to admit the
superior beauty of a friend, but they expect to be idealised. I
understood that the multitude of these statues was beginning to be felt
as an encumbrance in almost every family, and that the custom would
probably before long fall into desuetude.

Indeed, this has already come about to the satisfaction of every one,
as regards the statues of public men—not more than three of which can
be found in the whole capital. I expressed my surprise at this, and was
told that some five hundred years before my visit, the city had been so
overrun with these pests, that there was no getting about, and people
were worried beyond endurance by having their attention called at every
touch and turn to something, which, when they had attended to it, they
found not to concern them. Most of these statues were mere attempts to
do for some man or woman what an animal-stuffer does more successfully
for a dog, or bird, or pike. They were generally foisted on the public
by some côterie that was trying to exalt itself in exalting some one
else, and not unfrequently they had no other inception than desire on
the part of some member of the côterie to find a job for a young
sculptor to whom his daughter was engaged. Statues so begotten could
never be anything but deformities, and this is the way in which they
are sure to be begotten, as soon as the art of making them at all has
become widely practised.

I know not why, but all the noblest arts hold in perfection but for a
very little moment. They soon reach a height from which they begin to
decline, and when they have begun to decline it is a pity that they
cannot be knocked on the head; for an art is like a living
organism—better dead than dying. There is no way of making an aged art
young again; it must be born anew and grow up from infancy as a new
thing, working out its own salvation from effort to effort in all fear
and trembling.

The Erewhonians five hundred years ago understood nothing of all this—I
doubt whether they even do so now. They wanted to get the nearest thing
they could to a stuffed man whose stuffing should not grow mouldy. They
should have had some such an establishment as our Madame Tussaud’s,
where the figures wear real clothes, and are painted up to nature. Such
an institution might have been made self-supporting, for people might
have been made to pay before going in. As it was, they had let their
poor cold grimy colourless heroes and heroines loaf about in squares
and in corners of streets in all weathers, without any attempt at
artistic sanitation—for there was no provision for burying their dead
works of art out of their sight—no drainage, so to speak, whereby
statues that had been sufficiently assimilated, so as to form part of
the residuary impression of the country, might be carried away out of
the system. Hence they put them up with a light heart on the cackling
of their côteries, and they and their children had to live, often
enough, with some wordy windbag whose cowardice had cost the country
untold loss in blood and money.

At last the evil reached such a pitch that the people rose, and with
indiscriminate fury destroyed good and bad alike. Most of what was
destroyed was bad, but some few works were good, and the sculptors of
to-day wring their hands over some of the fragments that have been
preserved in museums up and down the country. For a couple of hundred
years or so, not a statue was made from one end of the kingdom to the
other, but the instinct for having stuffed men and women was so strong,
that people at length again began to try to make them. Not knowing how
to make them, and having no academics to mislead them, the earliest
sculptors of this period thought things out for themselves, and again
produced works that were full of interest, so that in three or four
generations they reached a perfection hardly if at all inferior to that
of several hundred years earlier.

On this the same evils recurred. Sculptors obtained high prices—the art
became a trade—schools arose which professed to sell the holy spirit of
art for money; pupils flocked from far and near to buy it, in the hopes
of selling it later on, and were struck purblind as a punishment for
the sin of those who sent them. Before long a second iconoclastic fury
would infallibly have followed, but for the prescience of a statesman
who succeeded in passing an Act to the effect that no statue of any
public man or woman should be allowed to remain unbroken for more than
fifty years, unless at the end of that time a jury of twenty-four men
taken at random from the street pronounced in favour of its being
allowed a second fifty years of life. Every fifty years this
reconsideration was to be repeated, and unless there was a majority of
eighteen in favour of the retention of the statue, it was to be
destroyed.

Perhaps a simpler plan would have been to forbid the erection of a
statue to any public man or woman till he or she had been dead at least
one hundred years, and even then to insist on reconsideration of the
claims of the deceased and the merit of the statue every fifty
years—but the working of the Act brought about results that on the
whole were satisfactory. For in the first place, many public statues
that would have been voted under the old system, were not ordered, when
it was known that they would be almost certainly broken up after fifty
years, and in the second, public sculptors knowing their work to be so
ephemeral, scamped it to an extent that made it offensive even to the
most uncultured eye. Hence before long subscribers took to paying the
sculptor for the statue of their dead statesmen, on condition that he
did not make it. The tribute of respect was thus paid to the deceased,
the public sculptors were not mulcted, and the rest of the public
suffered no inconvenience.

I was told, however, that an abuse of this custom is growing up,
inasmuch as the competition for the commission not to make a statue is
so keen, that sculptors have been known to return a considerable part
of the purchase money to the subscribers, by an arrangement made with
them beforehand. Such transactions, however, are always clandestine. A
small inscription is let into the pavement, where the public statue
would have stood, which informs the reader that such a statue has been
ordered for the person, whoever he or she may be, but that as yet the
sculptor has not been able to complete it. There has been no Act to
repress statues that are intended for private consumption, but as I
have said, the custom is falling into desuetude.

Returning to Erewhonian customs in connection with death, there is one
which I can hardly pass over. When any one dies, the friends of the
family write no letters of condolence, neither do they attend the
scattering, nor wear mourning, but they send little boxes filled with
artificial tears, and with the name of the sender painted neatly upon
the outside of the lid. The tears vary in number from two to fifteen or
sixteen, according to degree of intimacy or relationship; and people
sometimes find it a nice point of etiquette to know the exact number
which they ought to send. Strange as it may appear, this attention is
highly valued, and its omission by those from whom it might be expected
is keenly felt. These tears were formerly stuck with adhesive plaster
to the cheeks of the bereaved, and were worn in public for a few months
after the death of a relative; they were then banished to the hat or
bonnet, and are now no longer worn.

The birth of a child is looked upon as a painful subject on which it is
kinder not to touch: the illness of the mother is carefully concealed
until the necessity for signing the birth-formula (of which hereafter)
renders further secrecy impossible, and for some months before the
event the family live in retirement, seeing very little company. When
the offence is over and done with, it is condoned by the common want of
logic; for this merciful provision of nature, this buffer against
collisions, this friction which upsets our calculations but without
which existence would be intolerable, this crowning glory of human
invention whereby we can be blind and see at one and the same moment,
this blessed inconsistency, exists here as elsewhere; and though the
strictest writers on morality have maintained that it is wicked for a
woman to have children at all, inasmuch as it is wrong to be out of
health that good may come, yet the necessity of the case has caused a
general feeling in favour of passing over such events in silence, and
of assuming their non-existence except in such flagrant cases as force
themselves on the public notice. Against these the condemnation of
society is inexorable, and if it is believed that the illness has been
dangerous and protracted, it is almost impossible for a woman to
recover her former position in society.

The above conventions struck me as arbitrary and cruel, but they put a
stop to many fancied ailments; for the situation, so far from being
considered interesting, is looked upon as savouring more or less
distinctly of a very reprehensible condition of things, and the ladies
take care to conceal it as long as they can even from their own
husbands, in anticipation of a severe scolding as soon as the
misdemeanour is discovered. Also the baby is kept out of sight, except
on the day of signing the birth-formula, until it can walk and talk.
Should the child unhappily die, a coroner’s inquest is inevitable, but
in order to avoid disgracing a family which may have been hitherto
respected, it is almost invariably found that the child was over
seventy-five years old, and died from the decay of nature.



CHAPTER XIV. MAHAINA


I continued my sojourn with the Nosnibors. In a few days Mr. Nosnibor
had recovered from his flogging, and was looking forward with glee to
the fact that the next would be the last. I did not think that there
seemed any occasion even for this; but he said it was better to be on
the safe side, and he would make up the dozen. He now went to his
business as usual; and I understood that he was never more prosperous,
in spite of his heavy fine. He was unable to give me much of his time
during the day; for he was one of those valuable men who are paid, not
by the year, month, week, or day, but by the minute. His wife and
daughters, however, made much of me, and introduced me to their
friends, who came in shoals to call upon me.

One of these persons was a lady called Mahaina. Zulora (the elder of my
host’s daughters) ran up to her and embraced her as soon as she entered
the room, at the same time inquiring tenderly after her “poor
dipsomania.” Mahaina answered that it was just as bad as ever; she was
a perfect martyr to it, and her excellent health was the only thing
which consoled her under her affliction.

Then the other ladies joined in with condolences and the never-failing
suggestions which they had ready for every mental malady. They
recommended their own straightener and disparaged Mahaina’s. Mrs.
Nosnibor had a favourite nostrum, but I could catch little of its
nature. I heard the words “full confidence that the desire to drink
will cease when the formula has been repeated * * * this confidence is
_everything_ * * * far from undervaluing a thorough determination never
to touch spirits again * * * fail too often * * * formula a _certain
cure_ (with great emphasis) * * * prescribed form * * * full
conviction.” The conversation then became more audible, and was carried
on at considerable length. I should perplex myself and the reader by
endeavouring to follow the ingenious perversity of all they said;
enough, that in the course of time the visit came to an end, and
Mahaina took her leave receiving affectionate embraces from all the
ladies. I had remained in the background after the first ceremony of
introduction, for I did not like the looks of Mahaina, and the
conversation displeased me. When she left the room I had some
consolation in the remarks called forth by her departure.

At first they fell to praising her very demurely. She was all this that
and the other, till I disliked her more and more at every word, and
inquired how it was that the straighteners had not been able to cure
her as they had cured Mr. Nosnibor.

There was a shade of significance on Mrs. Nosnibor’s face as I said
this, which seemed to imply that she did not consider Mahaina’s case to
be quite one for a straightener. It flashed across me that perhaps the
poor woman did not drink at all. I knew that I ought not to have
inquired, but I could not help it, and asked point blank whether she
did or not.

“We can none of us judge of the condition of other people,” said Mrs.
Nosnibor in a gravely charitable tone and with a look towards Zulora.

“Oh, mamma,” answered Zulora, pretending to be half angry but rejoiced
at being able to say out what she was already longing to insinuate; “I
don’t believe a word of it. It’s all indigestion. I remember staying in
the house with her for a whole month last summer, and I am sure she
never once touched a drop of wine or spirits. The fact is, Mahaina is a
very weakly girl, and she pretends to get tipsy in order to win a
forbearance from her friends to which she is not entitled. She is not
strong enough for her calisthenic exercises, and she knows she would be
made to do them unless her inability was referred to moral causes.”

Here the younger sister, who was ever sweet and kind, remarked that she
thought Mahaina did tipple occasionally. “I also think,” she added,
“that she sometimes takes poppy juice.”

“Well, then, perhaps she does drink sometimes,” said Zulora; “but she
would make us all think that she does it much oftener in order to hide
her weakness.”

And so they went on for half an hour and more, bandying about the
question as to how far their late visitor’s intemperance was real or
no. Every now and then they would join in some charitable commonplace,
and would pretend to be all of one mind that Mahaina was a person whose
bodily health would be excellent if it were not for her unfortunate
inability to refrain from excessive drinking; but as soon as this
appeared to be fairly settled they began to be uncomfortable until they
had undone their work and left some serious imputation upon her
constitution. At last, seeing that the debate had assumed the character
of a cyclone or circular storm, going round and round and round and
round till one could never say where it began nor where it ended, I
made some apology for an abrupt departure and retired to my own room.

Here at least I was alone, but I was very unhappy. I had fallen upon a
set of people who, in spite of their high civilisation and many
excellences, had been so warped by the mistaken views presented to them
during childhood from generation to generation, that it was impossible
to see how they could ever clear themselves. Was there nothing which I
could say to make them feel that the constitution of a person’s body
was a thing over which he or she had had at any rate no initial control
whatever, while the mind was a perfectly different thing, and capable
of being created anew and directed according to the pleasure of its
possessor? Could I never bring them to see that while habits of mind
and character were entirely independent of initial mental force and
early education, the body was so much a creature of parentage and
circumstances, that no punishment for ill-health should be ever
tolerated save as a protection from contagion, and that even where
punishment was inevitable it should be attended with compassion?
Surely, if the unfortunate Mahaina were to feel that she could avow her
bodily weakness without fear of being despised for her infirmities, and
if there were medical men to whom she could fairly state her case, she
would not hesitate about doing so through the fear of taking nasty
medicine. It was possible that her malady was incurable (for I had
heard enough to convince me that her dipsomania was only a pretence and
that she was temperate in all her habits); in that case she might
perhaps be justly subject to annoyances or even to restraint; but who
could say whether she was curable or not, until she was able to make a
clean breast of her symptoms instead of concealing them? In their
eagerness to stamp out disease, these people overshot their mark; for
people had become so clever at dissembling—they painted their faces
with such consummate skill—they repaired the decay of time and the
effects of mischance with such profound dissimulation—that it was
really impossible to say whether any one was well or ill till after an
intimate acquaintance of months or years. Even then the shrewdest were
constantly mistaken in their judgements, and marriages were often
contracted with most deplorable results, owing to the art with which
infirmity had been concealed.

It appeared to me that the first step towards the cure of disease
should be the announcement of the fact to a person’s near relations and
friends. If any one had a headache, he ought to be permitted within
reasonable limits to say so at once, and to retire to his own bedroom
and take a pill, without every one’s looking grave and tears being shed
and all the rest of it. As it was, even upon hearing it whispered that
somebody else was subject to headaches, a whole company must look as
though they had never had a headache in their lives. It is true they
were not very prevalent, for the people were the healthiest and most
comely imaginable, owing to the severity with which ill health was
treated; still, even the best were liable to be out of sorts sometimes,
and there were few families that had not a medicine-chest in a cupboard
somewhere.



CHAPTER XV. THE MUSICAL BANKS


On my return to the drawing-room, I found that the Mahaina current had
expended itself. The ladies were just putting away their work and
preparing to go out. I asked them where they were going. They answered
with a certain air of reserve that they were going to the bank to get
some money.

Now I had already collected that the mercantile affairs of the
Erewhonians were conducted on a totally different system from our own;
I had, however, gathered little hitherto, except that they had two
distinct commercial systems, of which the one appealed more strongly to
the imagination than anything to which we are accustomed in Europe,
inasmuch as the banks that were conducted upon this system were
decorated in the most profuse fashion, and all mercantile transactions
were accompanied with music, so that they were called Musical Banks,
though the music was hideous to a European ear.

As for the system itself I never understood it, neither can I do so
now: they have a code in connection with it, which I have not the
slightest doubt that they understand, but no foreigner can hope to do
so. One rule runs into, and against, another as in a most complicated
grammar, or as in Chinese pronunciation, wherein I am told that the
slightest change in accentuation or tone of voice alters the meaning of
a whole sentence. Whatever is incoherent in my description must be
referred to the fact of my never having attained to a full
comprehension of the subject.

So far, however, as I could collect anything certain, I gathered that
they have two distinct currencies, each under the control of its own
banks and mercantile codes. One of these (the one with the Musical
Banks) was supposed to be _the_ system, and to give out the currency in
which all monetary transactions should be carried on; and as far as I
could see, all who wished to be considered respectable, kept a larger
or smaller balance at these banks. On the other hand, if there is one
thing of which I am more sure than another, it is that the amount so
kept had no direct commercial value in the outside world; I am sure
that the managers and cashiers of the Musical Banks were not paid in
their own currency. Mr. Nosnibor used to go to these banks, or rather
to the great mother bank of the city, sometimes but not very often. He
was a pillar of one of the other kind of banks, though he appeared to
hold some minor office also in the musical ones. The ladies generally
went alone; as indeed was the case in most families, except on state
occasions.

I had long wanted to know more of this strange system, and had the
greatest desire to accompany my hostess and her daughters. I had seen
them go out almost every morning since my arrival and had noticed that
they carried their purses in their hands, not exactly ostentatiously,
yet just so as that those who met them should see whither they were
going. I had never, however, yet been asked to go with them myself.

It is not easy to convey a person’s manner by words, and I can hardly
give any idea of the peculiar feeling that came upon me when I saw the
ladies on the point of starting for the bank. There was a something of
regret, a something as though they would wish to take me with them, but
did not like to ask me, and yet as though I were hardly to ask to be
taken. I was determined, however, to bring matters to an issue with my
hostess about my going with them, and after a little parleying, and
many inquiries as to whether I was perfectly sure that I myself wished
to go, it was decided that I might do so.

We passed through several streets of more or less considerable houses,
and at last turning round a corner we came upon a large piazza, at the
end of which was a magnificent building, of a strange but noble
architecture and of great antiquity. It did not open directly on to the
piazza, there being a screen, through which was an archway, between the
piazza and the actual precincts of the bank. On passing under the
archway we entered upon a green sward, round which there ran an arcade
or cloister, while in front of us uprose the majestic towers of the
bank and its venerable front, which was divided into three deep
recesses and adorned with all sorts of marbles and many sculptures. On
either side there were beautiful old trees wherein the birds were busy
by the hundred, and a number of quaint but substantial houses of
singularly comfortable appearance; they were situated in the midst of
orchards and gardens, and gave me an impression of great peace and
plenty.

Indeed it had been no error to say that this building was one that
appealed to the imagination; it did more—it carried both imagination
and judgement by storm. It was an epic in stone and marble, and so
powerful was the effect it produced on me, that as I beheld it I was
charmed and melted. I felt more conscious of the existence of a remote
past. One knows of this always, but the knowledge is never so living as
in the actual presence of some witness to the life of bygone ages. I
felt how short a space of human life was the period of our own
existence. I was more impressed with my own littleness, and much more
inclinable to believe that the people whose sense of the fitness of
things was equal to the upraising of so serene a handiwork, were hardly
likely to be wrong in the conclusions they might come to upon any
subject. My feeling certainly was that the currency of this bank must
be the right one.

We crossed the sward and entered the building. If the outside had been
impressive the inside was even more so. It was very lofty and divided
into several parts by walls which rested upon massive pillars; the
windows were filled with stained glass descriptive of the principal
commercial incidents of the bank for many ages. In a remote part of the
building there were men and boys singing; this was the only disturbing
feature, for as the gamut was still unknown, there was no music in the
country which could be agreeable to a European ear. The singers seemed
to have derived their inspirations from the songs of birds and the
wailing of the wind, which last they tried to imitate in melancholy
cadences that at times degenerated into a howl. To my thinking the
noise was hideous, but it produced a great effect upon my companions,
who professed themselves much moved. As soon as the singing was over,
the ladies requested me to stay where I was while they went inside the
place from which it had seemed to come.

During their absence certain reflections forced themselves upon me.

In the first place, it struck me as strange that the building should be
so nearly empty; I was almost alone, and the few besides myself had
been led by curiosity, and had no intention of doing business with the
bank. But there might be more inside. I stole up to the curtain, and
ventured to draw the extreme edge of it on one side. No, there was
hardly any one there. I saw a large number of cashiers, all at their
desks ready to pay cheques, and one or two who seemed to be the
managing partners. I also saw my hostess and her daughters and two or
three other ladies; also three or four old women and the boys from one
of the neighbouring Colleges of Unreason; but there was no one else.
This did not look as though the bank was doing a very large business;
and yet I had always been told that every one in the city dealt with
this establishment.

I cannot describe all that took place in these inner precincts, for a
sinister-looking person in a black gown came and made unpleasant
gestures at me for peeping. I happened to have in my pocket one of the
Musical Bank pieces, which had been given me by Mrs. Nosnibor, so I
tried to tip him with it; but having seen what it was, he became so
angry that I had to give him a piece of the other kind of money to
pacify him. When I had done this he became civil directly. As soon as
he was gone I ventured to take a second look, and saw Zulora in the
very act of giving a piece of paper which looked like a cheque to one
of the cashiers. He did not examine it, but putting his hand into an
antique coffer hard by, he pulled out a quantity of metal pieces
apparently at random, and handed them over without counting them;
neither did Zulora count them, but put them into her purse and went
back to her seat after dropping a few pieces of the other coinage into
an alms box that stood by the cashier’s side. Mrs. Nosnibor and
Arowhena then did likewise, but a little later they gave all (so far as
I could see) that they had received from the cashier back to a verger,
who I have no doubt put it back into the coffer from which it had been
taken. They then began making towards the curtain; whereon I let it
drop and retreated to a reasonable distance.

They soon joined me. For some few minutes we all kept silence, but at
last I ventured to remark that the bank was not so busy to-day as it
probably often was. On this Mrs. Nosnibor said that it was indeed
melancholy to see what little heed people paid to the most precious of
all institutions. I could say nothing in reply, but I have ever been of
opinion that the greater part of mankind do approximately know where
they get that which does them good.

Mrs. Nosnibor went on to say that I must not think there was any want
of confidence in the bank because I had seen so few people there; the
heart of the country was thoroughly devoted to these establishments,
and any sign of their being in danger would bring in support from the
most unexpected quarters. It was only because people knew them to be so
very safe, that in some cases (as she lamented to say in Mr.
Nosnibor’s) they felt that their support was unnecessary. Moreover
these institutions never departed from the safest and most approved
banking principles. Thus they never allowed interest on deposit, a
thing now frequently done by certain bubble companies, which by doing
an illegitimate trade had drawn many customers away; and even the
shareholders were fewer than formerly, owing to the innovations of
these unscrupulous persons, for the Musical Banks paid little or no
dividend, but divided their profits by way of bonus on the original
shares once in every thirty thousand years; and as it was now only two
thousand years since there had been one of these distributions, people
felt that they could not hope for another in their own time and
preferred investments whereby they got some more tangible return; all
which, she said, was very melancholy to think of.

Having made these last admissions, she returned to her original
statement, namely, that every one in the country really supported these
banks. As to the fewness of the people, and the absence of the
able-bodied, she pointed out to me with some justice that this was
exactly what we ought to expect. The men who were most conversant about
the stability of human institutions, such as the lawyers, men of
science, doctors, statesmen, painters, and the like, were just those
who were most likely to be misled by their own fancied accomplishments,
and to be made unduly suspicious by their licentious desire for greater
present return, which was at the root of nine-tenths of the opposition;
by their vanity, which would prompt them to affect superiority to the
prejudices of the vulgar; and by the stings of their own conscience,
which was constantly upbraiding them in the most cruel manner on
account of their bodies, which were generally diseased.

Let a person’s intellect (she continued) be never so sound, unless his
body is in absolute health, he can form no judgement worth having on
matters of this kind. The body is everything: it need not perhaps be
such a strong body (she said this because she saw that I was thinking
of the old and infirm-looking folks whom I had seen in the bank), but
it must be in perfect health; in this case, the less active strength it
had the more free would be the working of the intellect, and therefore
the sounder the conclusion. The people, then, whom I had seen at the
bank were in reality the very ones whose opinions were most worth
having; they declared its advantages to be incalculable, and even
professed to consider the immediate return to be far larger than they
were entitled to; and so she ran on, nor did she leave off till we had
got back to the house.

She might say what she pleased, but her manner carried no conviction,
and later on I saw signs of general indifference to these banks that
were not to be mistaken. Their supporters often denied it, but the
denial was generally so couched as to add another proof of its
existence. In commercial panics, and in times of general distress, the
people as a mass did not so much as even think of turning to these
banks. A few might do so, some from habit and early training, some from
the instinct that prompts us to catch at any straw when we think
ourselves drowning, but few from a genuine belief that the Musical
Banks could save them from financial ruin, if they were unable to meet
their engagements in the other kind of currency.

In conversation with one of the Musical Bank managers I ventured to
hint this as plainly as politeness would allow. He said that it had
been more or less true till lately; but that now they had put fresh
stained glass windows into all the banks in the country, and repaired
the buildings, and enlarged the organs; the presidents, moreover, had
taken to riding in omnibuses and talking nicely to people in the
streets, and to remembering the ages of their children, and giving them
things when they were naughty, so that all would henceforth go
smoothly.

“But haven’t you done anything to the money itself?” said I, timidly.

“It is not necessary,” he rejoined; “not in the least necessary, I
assure you.”

And yet any one could see that the money given out at these banks was
not that with which people bought their bread, meat, and clothing. It
was like it at a first glance, and was stamped with designs that were
often of great beauty; it was not, again, a spurious coinage, made with
the intention that it should be mistaken for the money in actual use;
it was more like a toy money, or the counters used for certain games at
cards; for, notwithstanding the beauty of the designs, the material on
which they were stamped was as nearly valueless as possible. Some were
covered with tin foil, but the greater part were frankly of a cheap
base metal the exact nature of which I was not able to determine.
Indeed they were made of a great variety of metals, or, perhaps more
accurately, alloys, some of which were hard, while others would bend
easily and assume almost any form which their possessor might desire at
the moment.

Of course every one knew that their commercial value was _nil_, but all
those who wished to be considered respectable thought it incumbent upon
them to retain a few coins in their possession, and to let them be seen
from time to time in their hands and purses. Not only this, but they
would stick to it that the current coin of the realm was dross in
comparison with the Musical Bank coinage. Perhaps, however, the
strangest thing of all was that these very people would at times make
fun in small ways of the whole system; indeed, there was hardly any
insinuation against it which they would not tolerate and even applaud
in their daily newspapers if written anonymously, while if the same
thing were said without ambiguity to their faces—nominative case verb
and accusative being all in their right places, and doubt
impossible—they would consider themselves very seriously and justly
outraged, and accuse the speaker of being unwell.

I never could understand (neither can I quite do so now, though I begin
to see better what they mean) why a single currency should not suffice
them; it would seem to me as though all their dealings would have been
thus greatly simplified; but I was met with a look of horror if ever I
dared to hint at it. Even those who to my certain knowledge kept only
just enough money at the Musical Banks to swear by, would call the
other banks (where their securities really lay) cold, deadening,
paralysing, and the like.

I noticed another thing, moreover, which struck me greatly. I was taken
to the opening of one of these banks in a neighbouring town, and saw a
large assemblage of cashiers and managers. I sat opposite them and
scanned their faces attentively. They did not please me; they lacked,
with few exceptions, the true Erewhonian frankness; and an equal number
from any other class would have looked happier and better men. When I
met them in the streets they did not seem like other people, but had,
as a general rule, a cramped expression upon their faces which pained
and depressed me.

Those who came from the country were better; they seemed to have lived
less as a separate class, and to be freer and healthier; but in spite
of my seeing not a few whose looks were benign and noble, I could not
help asking myself concerning the greater number of those whom I met,
whether Erewhon would be a better country if their expression were to
be transferred to the people in general. I answered myself
emphatically, no. The expression on the faces of the high Ydgrunites
was that which one would wish to diffuse, and not that of the cashiers.

A man’s expression is his sacrament; it is the outward and visible sign
of his inward and spiritual grace, or want of grace; and as I looked at
the a majority of these men, I could not help feeling that there must
be a something in their lives which had stunted their natural
development, and that they would have been more healthily minded in any
other profession. I was always sorry for them, for in nine cases out of
ten they were well-meaning persons; they were in the main very poorly
paid; their constitutions were as a rule above suspicion; and there
were recorded numberless instances of their self-sacrifice and
generosity; but they had had the misfortune to have been betrayed into
a false position at an age for the most part when their judgement was
not matured, and after having been kept in studied ignorance of the
real difficulties of the system. But this did not make their position
the less a false one, and its bad effects upon themselves were
unmistakable.

Few people would speak quite openly and freely before them, which
struck me as a very bad sign. When they were in the room every one
would talk as though all currency save that of the Musical Banks should
be abolished; and yet they knew perfectly well that even the cashiers
themselves hardly used the Musical Bank money more than other people.
It was expected of them that they should appear to do so, but this was
all. The less thoughtful of them did not seem particularly unhappy, but
many were plainly sick at heart, though perhaps they hardly knew it,
and would not have owned to being so. Some few were opponents of the
whole system; but these were liable to be dismissed from their
employment at any moment, and this rendered them very careful, for a
man who had once been cashier at a Musical Bank was out of the field
for other employment, and was generally unfitted for it by reason of
that course of treatment which was commonly called his education. In
fact it was a career from which retreat was virtually impossible, and
into which young men were generally induced to enter before they could
be reasonably expected, considering their training, to have formed any
opinions of their own. Not unfrequently, indeed, they were induced, by
what we in England should call undue influence, concealment, and fraud.
Few indeed were those who had the courage to insist on seeing both
sides of the question before they committed themselves to what was
practically a leap in the dark. One would have thought that caution in
this respect was an elementary principle,—one of the first things that
an honourable man would teach his boy to understand; but in practice it
was not so.

I even saw cases in which parents bought the right of presenting to the
office of cashier at one of these banks, with the fixed determination
that some one of their sons (perhaps a mere child) should fill it.
There was the lad himself—growing up with every promise of becoming a
good and honourable man—but utterly without warning concerning the iron
shoe which his natural protector was providing for him. Who could say
that the whole thing would not end in a life-long lie, and vain chafing
to escape? I confess that there were few things in Erewhon which
shocked me more than this.

Yet we do something not so very different from this even in England,
and as regards the dual commercial system, all countries have, and have
had, a law of the land, and also another law, which, though professedly
more sacred, has far less effect on their daily life and actions. It
seems as though the need for some law over and above, and sometimes
even conflicting with, the law of the land, must spring from something
that lies deep down in man’s nature; indeed, it is hard to think that
man could ever have become man at all, but for the gradual evolution of
a perception that though this world looms so large when we are in it,
it may seem a little thing when we have got away from it.

When man had grown to the perception that in the everlasting
Is-and-Is-Not of nature, the world and all that it contains, including
man, is at the same time both seen and unseen, he felt the need of two
rules of life, one for the seen, and the other for the unseen side of
things. For the laws affecting the seen world he claimed the sanction
of seen powers; for the unseen (of which he knows nothing save that it
exists and is powerful) he appealed to the unseen power (of which,
again, he knows nothing save that it exists and is powerful) to which
he gives the name of God.

Some Erewhonian opinions concerning the intelligence of the unborn
embryo, that I regret my space will not permit me to lay before the
reader, have led me to conclude that the Erewhonian Musical Banks, and
perhaps the religious systems of all countries, are now more or less of
an attempt to uphold the unfathomable and unconscious instinctive
wisdom of millions of past generations, against the comparatively
shallow, consciously reasoning, and ephemeral conclusions drawn from
that of the last thirty or forty.

The saving feature of the Erewhonian Musical Bank system (as distinct
from the quasi-idolatrous views which coexist with it, and on which I
will touch later) was that while it bore witness to the existence of a
kingdom that is not of this world, it made no attempt to pierce the
veil that hides it from human eyes. It is here that almost all
religions go wrong. Their priests try to make us believe that they know
more about the unseen world than those whose eyes are still blinded by
the seen, can ever know—forgetting that while to deny the existence of
an unseen kingdom is bad, to pretend that we know more about it than
its bare existence is no better.

This chapter is already longer than I intended, but I should like to
say that in spite of the saving feature of which I have just spoken, I
cannot help thinking that the Erewhonians are on the eve of some great
change in their religious opinions, or at any rate in that part of them
which finds expression through their Musical Banks. So far as I could
see, fully ninety per cent. of the population of the metropolis looked
upon these banks with something not far removed from contempt. If this
is so, any such startling event as is sure to arise sooner or later,
may serve as nucleus to a new order of things that will be more in
harmony with both the heads and hearts of the people.



CHAPTER XVI. AROWHENA


The reader will perhaps have learned by this time a thing which I had
myself suspected before I had been twenty-four hours in Mr. Nosnibor’s
house—I mean, that though the Nosnibors showed me every attention, I
could not cordially like them, with the exception of Arowhena who was
quite different from the rest. They were not fair samples of
Erewhonians. I saw many families with whom they were on visiting terms,
whose manners charmed me more than I know how to say, but I never could
get over my original prejudice against Mr. Nosnibor for having
embezzled the money. Mrs. Nosnibor, too, was a very worldly woman, yet
to hear her talk one would have thought that she was singularly the
reverse; neither could I endure Zulora; Arowhena however was
perfection.

She it was who ran all the little errands for her mother and Mr.
Nosnibor and Zulora, and gave those thousand proofs of sweetness and
unselfishness which some one member of a family is generally required
to give. All day long it was Arowhena this, and Arowhena that; but she
never seemed to know that she was being put upon, and was always bright
and willing from morning till evening. Zulora certainly was very
handsome, but Arowhena was infinitely the more graceful of the two and
was the very _ne plus ultra_ of youth and beauty. I will not attempt to
describe her, for anything that I could say would fall so far short of
the reality as only to mislead the reader. Let him think of the very
loveliest that he can imagine, and he will still be below the truth.
Having said this much, I need hardly say that I had fallen in love with
her.

She must have seen what I felt for her, but I tried my hardest not to
let it appear even by the slightest sign. I had many reasons for this.
I had no idea what Mr. and Mrs. Nosnibor would say to it; and I knew
that Arowhena would not look at me (at any rate not yet) if her father
and mother disapproved, which they probably would, considering that I
had nothing except the pension of about a pound a day of our money
which the King had granted me. I did not yet know of a more serious
obstacle.

In the meantime, I may say that I had been presented at court, and was
told that my reception had been considered as singularly gracious;
indeed, I had several interviews both with the King and Queen, at which
from time to time the Queen got everything from me that I had in the
world, clothes and all, except the two buttons I had given to Yram, the
loss of which seemed to annoy her a good deal. I was presented with a
court suit, and her Majesty had my old clothes put upon a wooden dummy,
on which they probably remain, unless they have been removed in
consequence of my subsequent downfall. His Majesty’s manners were those
of a cultivated English gentleman. He was much pleased at hearing that
our government was monarchical, and that the mass of the people were
resolute that it should not be changed; indeed, I was so much
encouraged by the evident pleasure with which he heard me, that I
ventured to quote to him those beautiful lines of Shakespeare’s—

“There’s a divinity doth hedge a king,
Rough hew him how we may;”

but I was sorry I had done so afterwards, for I do not think his
Majesty admired the lines as much as I could have wished.

There is no occasion for me to dwell further upon my experience of the
court, but I ought perhaps to allude to one of my conversations with
the King, inasmuch as it was pregnant with the most important
consequences.

He had been asking me about my watch, and enquiring whether such
dangerous inventions were tolerated in the country from which I came. I
owned with some confusion that watches were not uncommon; but observing
the gravity which came over his Majesty’s face I presumed to say that
they were fast dying out, and that we had few if any other mechanical
contrivances of which he was likely to disapprove. Upon his asking me
to name some of our most advanced machines, I did not dare to tell him
of our steam-engines and railroads and electric telegraphs, and was
puzzling my brains to think what I could say, when, of all things in
the world, balloons suggested themselves, and I gave him an account of
a very remarkable ascent which was made some years ago. The King was
too polite to contradict, but I felt sure that he did not believe me,
and from that day forward though he always showed me the attention
which was due to my genius (for in this light was my complexion
regarded), he never questioned me about the manners and customs of my
country.

To return, however, to Arowhena. I soon gathered that neither Mr. nor
Mrs. Nosnibor would have any objection to my marrying into the family;
a physical excellence is considered in Erewhon as a set off against
almost any other disqualification, and my light hair was sufficient to
make me an eligible match. But along with this welcome fact I gathered
another which filled me with dismay: I was expected to marry Zulora,
for whom I had already conceived a great aversion. At first I hardly
noticed the little hints and the artifices which were resorted to in
order to bring us together, but after a time they became too plain.
Zulora, whether she was in love with me or not, was bent on marrying
me, and I gathered in talking with a young gentleman of my acquaintance
who frequently visited the house and whom I greatly disliked, that it
was considered a sacred and inviolable rule that whoever married into a
family must marry the eldest daughter at that time unmarried. The young
gentleman urged this upon me so frequently that I at last saw he was in
love with Arowhena himself, and wanted me to get Zulora out of the way;
but others told me the same story as to the custom of the country, and
I saw there was a serious difficulty. My only comfort was that Arowhena
snubbed my rival and would not look at him. Neither would she look at
me; nevertheless there was a difference in the manner of her disregard;
this was all I could get from her.

Not that she avoided me; on the contrary I had many a tête-à-tête with
her, for her mother and sister were anxious for me to deposit some part
of my pension in the Musical Banks, this being in accordance with the
dictates of their goddess Ydgrun, of whom both Mrs. Nosnibor and Zulora
were great devotees. I was not sure whether I had kept my secret from
being perceived by Arowhena herself, but none of the others suspected
me, so she was set upon me to get me to open an account, at any rate
_pro formâ_, with the Musical Banks; and I need hardly say that she
succeeded. But I did not yield at once; I enjoyed the process of being
argued with too keenly to lose it by a prompt concession; besides, a
little hesitation rendered the concession itself more valuable. It was
in the course of conversations on this subject that I learned the more
defined religious opinions of the Erewhonians, that coexist with the
Musical Bank system, but are not recognised by those curious
institutions. I will describe them as briefly as possible in the
following chapters before I return to the personal adventures of
Arowhena and myself.

They were idolaters, though of a comparatively enlightened kind; but
here, as in other things, there was a discrepancy between their
professed and actual belief, for they had a genuine and potent faith
which existed without recognition alongside of their idol worship.

The gods whom they worship openly are personifications of human
qualities, as justice, strength, hope, fear, love, &c., &c. The people
think that prototypes of these have a real objective existence in a
region far beyond the clouds, holding, as did the ancients, that they
are like men and women both in body and passion, except that they are
even comelier and more powerful, and also that they can render
themselves invisible to human eyesight. They are capable of being
propitiated by mankind and of coming to the assistance of those who ask
their aid. Their interest in human affairs is keen, and on the whole
beneficent; but they become very angry if neglected, and punish rather
the first they come upon, than the actual person who has offended them;
their fury being blind when it is raised, though never raised without
reason. They will not punish with any less severity when people sin
against them from ignorance, and without the chance of having had
knowledge; they will take no excuses of this kind, but are even as the
English law, which assumes itself to be known to every one.

Thus they have a law that two pieces of matter may not occupy the same
space at the same moment, which law is presided over and administered
by the gods of time and space jointly, so that if a flying stone and a
man’s head attempt to outrage these gods, by “arrogating a right which
they do not possess” (for so it is written in one of their books), and
to occupy the same space simultaneously, a severe punishment, sometimes
even death itself, is sure to follow, without any regard to whether the
stone knew that the man’s head was there, or the head the stone; this
at least is their view of the common accidents of life. Moreover, they
hold their deities to be quite regardless of motives. With them it is
the thing done which is everything, and the motive goes for nothing.

Thus they hold it strictly forbidden for a man to go without common air
in his lungs for more than a very few minutes; and if by any chance he
gets into the water, the air-god is very angry, and will not suffer it;
no matter whether the man got into the water by accident or on purpose,
whether through the attempt to save a child or through presumptuous
contempt of the air-god, the air-god will kill him, unless he keeps his
head high enough out of the water, and thus gives the air-god his due.

This with regard to the deities who manage physical affairs. Over and
above these they personify hope, fear, love, and so forth, giving them
temples and priests, and carving likenesses of them in stone, which
they verily believe to be faithful representations of living beings who
are only not human in being more than human. If any one denies the
objective existence of these divinities, and says that there is really
no such being as a beautiful woman called Justice, with her eyes
blinded and a pair of scales, positively living and moving in a remote
and ethereal region, but that justice is only the personified
expression of certain modes of human thought and action—they say that
he denies the existence of justice in denying her personality, and that
he is a wanton disturber of men’s religious convictions. They detest
nothing so much as any attempt to lead them to higher spiritual
conceptions of the deities whom they profess to worship. Arowhena and I
had a pitched battle on this point, and should have had many more but
for my prudence in allowing her to get the better of me.

I am sure that in her heart she was suspicious of her own position for
she returned more than once to the subject. “Can you not see,” I had
exclaimed, “that the fact of justice being admirable will not be
affected by the absence of a belief in her being also a living agent?
Can you really think that men will be one whit less hopeful, because
they no longer believe that hope is an actual person?” She shook her
head, and said that with men’s belief in the personality all incentive
to the reverence of the thing itself, as justice or hope, would cease;
men from that hour would never be either just or hopeful again.

I could not move her, nor, indeed, did I seriously wish to do so. She
deferred to me in most things, but she never shrank from maintaining
her opinions if they were put in question; nor does she to this day
abate one jot of her belief in the religion of her childhood, though in
compliance with my repeated entreaties she has allowed herself to be
baptized into the English Church. She has, however, made a gloss upon
her original faith to the effect that her baby and I are the only human
beings exempt from the vengeance of the deities for not believing in
their personality. She is quite clear that we are exempted. She should
never have so strong a conviction of it otherwise. How it has come
about she does not know, neither does she wish to know; there are
things which it is better not to know and this is one of them; but when
I tell her that I believe in her deities as much as she does—and that
it is a difference about words, not things, she becomes silent with a
slight emphasis.

I own that she very nearly conquered me once; for she asked me what I
should think if she were to tell me that my God, whose nature and
attributes I had been explaining to her, was but the expression for
man’s highest conception of goodness, wisdom, and power; that in order
to generate a more vivid conception of so great and glorious a thought,
man had personified it and called it by a name; that it was an unworthy
conception of the Deity to hold Him personal, inasmuch as escape from
human contingencies became thus impossible; that the real thing men
should worship was the Divine, whereinsoever they could find it; that
“God” was but man’s way of expressing his sense of the Divine; that as
justice, hope, wisdom, &c., were all parts of goodness, so God was the
expression which embraced all goodness and all good power; that people
would no more cease to love God on ceasing to believe in His objective
personality, than they had ceased to love justice on discovering that
she was not really personal; nay, that they would never truly love Him
till they saw Him thus.

She said all this in her artless way, and with none of the coherence
with which I have here written it; her face kindled, and she felt sure
that she had convinced me that I was wrong, and that justice was a
living person. Indeed I did wince a little; but I recovered myself
immediately, and pointed out to her that we had books whose genuineness
was beyond all possibility of doubt, as they were certainly none of
them less than 1800 years old; that in these there were the most
authentic accounts of men who had been spoken to by the Deity Himself,
and of one prophet who had been allowed to see the back parts of God
through the hand that was laid over his face.

This was conclusive; and I spoke with such solemnity that she was a
little frightened, and only answered that they too had their books, in
which their ancestors had seen the gods; on which I saw that further
argument was not at all likely to convince her; and fearing that she
might tell her mother what I had been saying, and that I might lose the
hold upon her affections which I was beginning to feel pretty sure that
I was obtaining, I began to let her have her own way, and to convince
me; neither till after we were safely married did I show the cloven
hoof again.

Nevertheless, her remarks have haunted me, and I have since met with
many very godly people who have had a great knowledge of divinity, but
no sense of the divine: and again, I have seen a radiance upon the face
of those who were worshipping the divine either in art or nature—in
picture or statue—in field or cloud or sea—in man, woman, or
child—which I have never seen kindled by any talking about the nature
and attributes of God. Mention but the word divinity, and our sense of
the divine is clouded.



CHAPTER XVII. YDGRUN AND THE YDGRUNITES


In spite of all the to-do they make about their idols, and the temples
they build, and the priests and priestesses whom they support, I could
never think that their professed religion was more than skin-deep; but
they had another which they carried with them into all their actions;
and although no one from the outside of things would suspect it to have
any existence at all, it was in reality their great guide, the
mariner’s compass of their lives; so that there were very few things
which they ever either did, or refrained from doing, without reference
to its precepts.

Now I suspected that their professed faith had no great hold upon
them—firstly, because I often heard the priests complain of the
prevailing indifference, and they would hardly have done so without
reason; secondly, because of the show which was made, for there was
none of this about the worship of the goddess Ydgrun, in whom they
really did believe; thirdly, because though the priests were constantly
abusing Ydgrun as being the great enemy of the gods, it was well known
that she had no more devoted worshippers in the whole country than
these very persons, who were often priests of Ydgrun rather than of
their own deities. Neither am I by any means sure that these were not
the best of the priests.

Ydgrun certainly occupied a very anomalous position; she was held to be
both omnipresent and omnipotent, but she was not an elevated
conception, and was sometimes both cruel and absurd. Even her most
devoted worshippers were a little ashamed of her, and served her more
with heart and in deed than with their tongues. Theirs was no lip
service; on the contrary, even when worshipping her most devoutly, they
would often deny her. Take her all in all, however, she was a
beneficent and useful deity, who did not care how much she was denied
so long as she was obeyed and feared, and who kept hundreds of
thousands in those paths which make life tolerably happy, who would
never have been kept there otherwise, and over whom a higher and more
spiritual ideal would have had no power.

I greatly doubt whether the Erewhonians are yet prepared for any better
religion, and though (considering my gradually strengthened conviction
that they were the representatives of the lost tribes of Israel) I
would have set about converting them at all hazards had I seen the
remotest prospect of success, I could hardly contemplate the
displacement of Ydgrun as the great central object of their regard
without admitting that it would be attended with frightful
consequences; in fact were I a mere philosopher, I should say that the
gradual raising of the popular conception of Ydgrun would be the
greatest spiritual boon which could be conferred upon them, and that
nothing could effect this except example. I generally found that those
who complained most loudly that Ydgrun was not high enough for them had
hardly as yet come up to the Ydgrun standard, and I often met with a
class of men whom I called to myself “high Ydgrunites” (the rest being
Ydgrunites, and low Ydgrunites), who, in the matter of human conduct
and the affairs of life, appeared to me to have got about as far as it
is in the right nature of man to go.

They were gentlemen in the full sense of the word; and what has one not
said in saying this? They seldom spoke of Ydgrun, or even alluded to
her, but would never run counter to her dictates without ample reason
for doing so: in such cases they would override her with due
self-reliance, and the goddess seldom punished them; for they are
brave, and Ydgrun is not. They had most of them a smattering of the
hypothetical language, and some few more than this, but only a few. I
do not think that this language has had much hand in making them what
they are; but rather that the fact of their being generally possessed
of its rudiments was one great reason for the reverence paid to the
hypothetical language itself.

Being inured from youth to exercises and athletics of all sorts, and
living fearlessly under the eye of their peers, among whom there exists
a high standard of courage, generosity, honour, and every good and
manly quality—what wonder that they should have become, so to speak, a
law unto themselves; and, while taking an elevated view of the goddess
Ydgrun, they should have gradually lost all faith in the recognised
deities of the country? These they do not openly disregard, for
conformity until absolutely intolerable is a law of Ydgrun, yet they
have no real belief in the objective existence of beings which so
readily explain themselves as abstractions, and whose personality
demands a quasi-materialism which it baffles the imagination to
realise. They keep their opinions, however, greatly to themselves,
inasmuch as most of their countrymen feel strongly about the gods, and
they hold it wrong to give pain, unless for some greater good than
seems likely to arise from their plain speaking.

On the other hand, surely those whose own minds are clear about any
given matter (even though it be only that there is little certainty)
should go so far towards imparting that clearness to others, as to say
openly what they think and why they think it, whenever they can
properly do so; for they may be sure that they owe their own clearness
almost entirely to the fact that others have done this by them: after
all, they may be mistaken, and if so, it is for their own and the
general well-being that they should let their error be seen as
distinctly as possible, so that it may be more easily refuted. I own,
therefore, that on this one point I disapproved of the practice even of
the highest Ydgrunites, and objected to it all the more because I knew
that I should find my own future task more easy if the high Ydgrunites
had already undermined the belief which is supposed to prevail at
present.

In other respects they were more like the best class of Englishmen than
any whom I have seen in other countries. I should have liked to have
persuaded half-a-dozen of them to come over to England and go upon the
stage, for they had most of them a keen sense of humour and a taste for
acting: they would be of great use to us. The example of a real
gentleman is, if I may say so without profanity, the best of all
gospels; such a man upon the stage becomes a potent humanising
influence, an Ideal which all may look upon for a shilling.

I always liked and admired these men, and although I could not help
deeply regretting their certain ultimate perdition (for they had no
sense of a hereafter, and their only religion was that of self-respect
and consideration for other people), I never dared to take so great a
liberty with them as to attempt to put them in possession of my own
religious convictions, in spite of my knowing that they were the only
ones which could make them really good and happy, either here or
hereafter. I did try sometimes, being impelled to do so by a strong
sense of duty, and by my deep regret that so much that was admirable
should be doomed to ages if not eternity of torture; but the words
stuck in my throat as soon as I began.

Whether a professional missionary might have a better chance I know
not; such persons must doubtless know more about the science of
conversion: for myself, I could only be thankful that I was in the
right path, and was obliged to let others take their chance as yet. If
the plan fails by which I propose to convert them myself, I would
gladly contribute my mite towards the sending two or three trained
missionaries, who have been known as successful converters of Jews and
Mahometans; but such have seldom much to glory in the flesh, and when I
think of the high Ydgrunites, and of the figure which a missionary
would probably cut among them, I cannot feel sanguine that much good
would be arrived at. Still the attempt is worth making, and the worst
danger to the missionaries themselves would be that of being sent to
the hospital where Chowbok would have been sent had he come with me
into Erewhon.

Taking then their religious opinions as a whole, I must own that the
Erewhonians are superstitious, on account of the views which they hold
of their professed gods, and their entirely anomalous and inexplicable
worship of Ydgrun, a worship at once the most powerful, yet most devoid
of formalism, that I ever met with; but in practice things worked
better than might have been expected, and the conflicting claims of
Ydgrun and the gods were arranged by unwritten compromises (for the
most part in Ydgrun’s favour), which in ninety-nine cases out of a
hundred were very well understood.

I could not conceive why they should not openly acknowledge high
Ydgrunism, and discard the objective personality of hope, justice, &c.;
but whenever I so much as hinted at this, I found that I was on
dangerous ground. They would never have it; returning constantly to the
assertion that ages ago the divinities were frequently seen, and that
the moment their personality was disbelieved in, men would leave off
practising even those ordinary virtues which the common experience of
mankind has agreed on as being the greatest secret of happiness. “Who
ever heard,” they asked, indignantly, “of such things as kindly
training, a good example, and an enlightened regard to one’s own
welfare, being able to keep men straight?” In my hurry, forgetting
things which I ought to have remembered, I answered that if a person
could not be kept straight by these things, there was nothing that
could straighten him, and that if he were not ruled by the love and
fear of men whom he had seen, neither would he be so by that of the
gods whom he had not seen.

At one time indeed I came upon a small but growing sect who believed,
after a fashion, in the immortality of the soul and the resurrection
from the dead; they taught that those who had been born with feeble and
diseased bodies and had passed their lives in ailing, would be tortured
eternally hereafter; but that those who had been born strong and
healthy and handsome would be rewarded for ever and ever. Of moral
qualities or conduct they made no mention.

Bad as this was, it was a step in advance, inasmuch as they did hold
out a future state of some sort, and I was shocked to find that for the
most part they met with opposition, on the score that their doctrine
was based upon no sort of foundation, also that it was immoral in its
tendency, and not to be desired by any reasonable beings.

When I asked how it could be immoral, I was answered, that if firmly
held, it would lead people to cheapen this present life, making it
appear to be an affair of only secondary importance; that it would thus
distract men’s minds from the perfecting of this world’s economy, and
was an impatient cutting, so to speak, of the Gordian knot of life’s
problems, whereby some people might gain present satisfaction to
themselves at the cost of infinite damage to others; that the doctrine
tended to encourage the poor in their improvidence, and in a debasing
acquiescence in ills which they might well remedy; that the rewards
were illusory and the result, after all, of luck, whose empire should
be bounded by the grave; that its terrors were enervating and unjust;
and that even the most blessed rising would be but the disturbing of a
still more blessed slumber.

To all which I could only say that the thing had been actually known to
happen, and that there were several well-authenticated instances of
people having died and come to life again—instances which no man in his
senses could doubt.

“If this be so,” said my opponent, “we must bear it as best we may.”

I then translated for him, as well as I could, the noble speech of
Hamlet in which he says that it is the fear lest worse evils may befall
us after death which alone prevents us from rushing into death’s arms.

“Nonsense,” he answered, “no man was ever yet stopped from cutting his
throat by any such fears as your poet ascribes to him—and your poet
probably knew this perfectly well. If a man cuts his throat he is at
bay, and thinks of nothing but escape, no matter whither, provided he
can shuffle off his present. No. Men are kept at their posts, not by
the fear that if they quit them they may quit a frying-pan for a fire,
but by the hope that if they hold on, the fire may burn less fiercely.
‘The respect,’ to quote your poet, ‘that makes calamity of so long a
life,’ is the consideration that though calamity may live long, the
sufferer may live longer still.”

On this, seeing that there was little probability of our coming to an
agreement, I let the argument drop, and my opponent presently left me
with as much disapprobation as he could show without being overtly
rude.



CHAPTER XVIII. BIRTH FORMULAE


I heard what follows not from Arowhena, but from Mr. Nosnibor and some
of the gentlemen who occasionally dined at the house: they told me that
the Erewhonians believe in pre-existence; and not only this (of which I
will write more fully in the next chapter), but they believe that it is
of their own free act and deed in a previous state that they come to be
born into this world at all. They hold that the unborn are perpetually
plaguing and tormenting the married of both sexes, fluttering about
them incessantly, and giving them no peace either of mind or body until
they have consented to take them under their protection. If this were
not so (this at least is what they urge), it would be a monstrous
freedom for one man to take with another, to say that he should undergo
the chances and changes of this mortal life without any option in the
matter. No man would have any right to get married at all, inasmuch as
he can never tell what frightful misery his doing so may entail
forcibly upon a being who cannot be unhappy as long as he does not
exist. They feel this so strongly that they are resolved to shift the
blame on to other shoulders; and have fashioned a long mythology as to
the world in which the unborn people live, and what they do, and the
arts and machinations to which they have recourse in order to get
themselves into our own world. But of this more anon: what I would
relate here is their manner of dealing with those who do come.

It is a distinguishing peculiarity of the Erewhonians that when they
profess themselves to be quite certain about any matter, and avow it as
a base on which they are to build a system of practice, they seldom
quite believe in it. If they smell a rat about the precincts of a
cherished institution, they will always stop their noses to it if they
can.

This is what most of them did in this matter of the unborn, for I
cannot (and never could) think that they seriously believed in their
mythology concerning pre-existence: they did and they did not; they did
not know themselves what they believed; all they did know was that it
was a disease not to believe as they did. The only thing of which they
were quite sure was that it was the pestering of the unborn which
caused them to be brought into this world, and that they would not have
been here if they would have only let peaceable people alone.

It would be hard to disprove this position, and they might have a good
case if they would only leave it as it stands. But this they will not
do; they must have assurance doubly sure; they must have the written
word of the child itself as soon as it is born, giving the parents
indemnity from all responsibility on the score of its birth, and
asserting its own pre-existence. They have therefore devised something
which they call a birth formula—a document which varies in words
according to the caution of parents, but is much the same practically
in all cases; for it has been the business of the Erewhonian lawyers
during many ages to exercise their skill in perfecting it and providing
for every contingency.

These formulae are printed on common paper at a moderate cost for the
poor; but the rich have them written on parchment and handsomely bound,
so that the getting up of a person’s birth formula is a test of his
social position. They commence by setting forth, That whereas A. B. was
a member of the kingdom of the unborn, where he was well provided for
in every way, and had no cause of discontent, &c., &c., he did of his
own wanton depravity and restlessness conceive a desire to enter into
this present world; that thereon having taken the necessary steps as
set forth in laws of the unborn kingdom, he did with malice
aforethought set himself to plague and pester two unfortunate people
who had never wronged him, and who were quite contented and happy until
he conceived this base design against their peace; for which wrong he
now humbly entreats their pardon.

He acknowledges that he is responsible for all physical blemishes and
deficiencies which may render him answerable to the laws of his
country; that his parents have nothing whatever to do with any of these
things; and that they have a right to kill him at once if they be so
minded, though he entreats them to show their marvellous goodness and
clemency by sparing his life. If they will do this, he promises to be
their most obedient and abject creature during his earlier years, and
indeed all his life, unless they should see fit in their abundant
generosity to remit some portion of his service hereafter. And so the
formula continues, going sometimes into very minute details, according
to the fancies of family lawyers, who will not make it any shorter than
they can help.

The deed being thus prepared, on the third or fourth day after the
birth of the child, or as they call it, the “final importunity,” the
friends gather together, and there is a feast held, where they are all
very melancholy—as a general rule, I believe, quite truly so—and make
presents to the father and mother of the child in order to console them
for the injury which has just been done them by the unborn.

By-and-by the child himself is brought down by his nurse, and the
company begin to rail upon him, upbraiding him for his impertinence,
and asking him what amends he proposes to make for the wrong that he
has committed, and how he can look for care and nourishment from those
who have perhaps already been injured by the unborn on some ten or
twelve occasions; for they say of people with large families, that they
have suffered terrible injuries from the unborn; till at last, when
this has been carried far enough, some one suggests the formula, which
is brought out and solemnly read to the child by the family
straightener. This gentleman is always invited on these occasions, for
the very fact of intrusion into a peaceful family shows a depravity on
the part of the child which requires his professional services.

On being teased by the reading and tweaked by the nurse, the child will
commonly begin to cry, which is reckoned a good sign, as showing a
consciousness of guilt. He is thereon asked, Does he assent to the
formula? on which, as he still continues crying and can obviously make
no answer, some one of the friends comes forward and undertakes to sign
the document on his behalf, feeling sure (so he says) that the child
would do it if he only knew how, and that he will release the present
signer from his engagement on arriving at maturity. The friend then
inscribes the signature of the child at the foot of the parchment,
which is held to bind the child as much as though he had signed it
himself.

Even this, however, does not fully content them, for they feel a little
uneasy until they have got the child’s own signature after all. So when
he is about fourteen, these good people partly bribe him by promises of
greater liberty and good things, and partly intimidate him through
their great power of making themselves actively unpleasant to him, so
that though there is a show of freedom made, there is really none; they
also use the offices of the teachers in the Colleges of Unreason, till
at last, in one way or another, they take very good care that he shall
sign the paper by which he professes to have been a free agent in
coming into the world, and to take all the responsibility of having
done so on to his own shoulders. And yet, though this document is
obviously the most important which any one can sign in his whole life,
they will have him do so at an age when neither they nor the law will
for many a year allow any one else to bind him to the smallest
obligation, no matter how righteously he may owe it, because they hold
him too young to know what he is about, and do not consider it fair
that he should commit himself to anything that may prejudice him in
after years.

I own that all this seemed rather hard, and not of a piece with the
many admirable institutions existing among them. I once ventured to say
a part of what I thought about it to one of the Professors of Unreason.
I did it very tenderly, but his justification of the system was quite
out of my comprehension. I remember asking him whether he did not think
it would do harm to a lad’s principles, by weakening his sense of the
sanctity of his word and of truth generally, that he should be led into
entering upon a solemn declaration as to the truth of things about
which all that he can certainly know is that he knows nothing—whether,
in fact, the teachers who so led him, or who taught anything as a
certainty of which they were themselves uncertain, were not earning
their living by impairing the truth-sense of their pupils (a delicate
organisation mostly), and by vitiating one of their most sacred
instincts.

The Professor, who was a delightful person, seemed greatly surprised at
the view which I took, but it had no influence with him whatsoever. No
one, he answered, expected that the boy either would or could know all
that he said he knew; but the world was full of compromises; and there
was hardly any affirmation which would bear being interpreted
literally. Human language was too gross a vehicle of thought—thought
being incapable of absolute translation. He added, that as there can be
no translation from one language into another which shall not scant the
meaning somewhat, or enlarge upon it, so there is no language which can
render thought without a jarring and a harshness somewhere—and so
forth; all of which seemed to come to this in the end, that it was the
custom of the country, and that the Erewhonians were a conservative
people; that the boy would have to begin compromising sooner or later,
and this was part of his education in the art. It was perhaps to be
regretted that compromise should be as necessary as it was; still it
was necessary, and the sooner the boy got to understand it the better
for himself. But they never tell this to the boy.

From the book of their mythology about the unborn I made the extracts
which will form the following chapter.



CHAPTER XIX. THE WORLD OF THE UNBORN


The Erewhonians say that we are drawn through life backwards; or again,
that we go onwards into the future as into a dark corridor. Time walks
beside us and flings back shutters as we advance; but the light thus
given often dazzles us, and deepens the darkness which is in front. We
can see but little at a time, and heed that little far less than our
apprehension of what we shall see next; ever peering curiously through
the glare of the present into the gloom of the future, we presage the
leading lines of that which is before us, by faintly reflected lights
from dull mirrors that are behind, and stumble on as we may till the
trap-door opens beneath us and we are gone.

They say at other times that the future and the past are as a panorama
upon two rollers; that which is on the roller of the future unwraps
itself on to the roller of the past; we cannot hasten it, and we may
not stay it; we must see all that is unfolded to us whether it be good
or ill; and what we have seen once we may see again no more. It is ever
unwinding and being wound; we catch it in transition for a moment, and
call it present; our flustered senses gather what impression they can,
and we guess at what is coming by the tenor of that which we have seen.
The same hand has painted the whole picture, and the incidents vary
little—rivers, woods, plains, mountains, towns and peoples, love,
sorrow, and death: yet the interest never flags, and we look hopefully
for some good fortune, or fearfully lest our own faces be shown us as
figuring in something terrible. When the scene is past we think we know
it, though there is so much to see, and so little time to see it, that
our conceit of knowledge as regards the past is for the most part
poorly founded; neither do we care about it greatly, save in so far as
it may affect the future, wherein our interest mainly lies.

The Erewhonians say it was by chance only that the earth and stars and
all the heavenly worlds began to roll from east to west, and not from
west to east, and in like manner they say it is by chance that man is
drawn through life with his face to the past instead of to the future.
For the future is there as much as the past, only that we may not see
it. Is it not in the loins of the past, and must not the past alter
before the future can do so?

Sometimes, again, they say that there was a race of men tried upon the
earth once, who knew the future better than the past, but that they
died in a twelvemonth from the misery which their knowledge caused
them; and if any were to be born too prescient now, he would be culled
out by natural selection, before he had time to transmit so
peace-destroying a faculty to his descendants.

Strange fate for man! He must perish if he get that, which he must
perish if he strive not after. If he strive not after it he is no
better than the brutes, if he get it he is more miserable than the
devils.

Having waded through many chapters like the above, I came at last to
the unborn themselves, and found that they were held to be souls pure
and simple, having no actual bodies, but living in a sort of gaseous
yet more or less anthropomorphic existence, like that of a ghost; they
have thus neither flesh nor blood nor warmth. Nevertheless they are
supposed to have local habitations and cities wherein they dwell,
though these are as unsubstantial as their inhabitants; they are even
thought to eat and drink some thin ambrosial sustenance, and generally
to be capable of doing whatever mankind can do, only after a visionary
ghostly fashion as in a dream. On the other hand, as long as they
remain where they are they never die—the only form of death in the
unborn world being the leaving it for our own. They are believed to be
extremely numerous, far more so than mankind. They arrive from unknown
planets, full grown, in large batches at a time; but they can only
leave the unborn world by taking the steps necessary for their arrival
here—which is, in fact, by suicide.

They ought to be an exceedingly happy people, for they have no extremes
of good or ill fortune; never marrying, but living in a state much like
that fabled by the poets as the primitive condition of mankind. In
spite of this, however, they are incessantly complaining; they know
that we in this world have bodies, and indeed they know everything else
about us, for they move among us whithersoever they will, and can read
our thoughts, as well as survey our actions at pleasure. One would
think that this should be enough for them; and most of them are indeed
alive to the desperate risk which they will run by indulging themselves
in that body with “sensible warm motion” which they so much desire;
nevertheless, there are some to whom the _ennui_ of a disembodied
existence is so intolerable that they will venture anything for a
change; so they resolve to quit. The conditions which they must accept
are so uncertain, that none but the most foolish of the unborn will
consent to them; and it is from these, and these only, that our own
ranks are recruited.

When they have finally made up their minds to leave, they must go
before the magistrate of the nearest town, and sign an affidavit of
their desire to quit their then existence. On their having done this,
the magistrate reads them the conditions which they must accept, and
which are so long that I can only extract some of the principal points,
which are mainly the following:-

First, they must take a potion which will destroy their memory and
sense of identity; they must go into the world helpless, and without a
will of their own; they must draw lots for their dispositions before
they go, and take them, such as they are, for better or worse—neither
are they to be allowed any choice in the matter of the body which they
so much desire; they are simply allotted by chance, and without appeal,
to two people whom it is their business to find and pester until they
adopt them. Who these are to be, whether rich or poor, kind or unkind,
healthy or diseased, there is no knowing; they have, in fact, to
entrust themselves for many years to the care of those for whose good
constitution and good sense they have no sort of guarantee.

It is curious to read the lectures which the wiser heads give to those
who are meditating a change. They talk with them as we talk with a
spendthrift, and with about as much success.

“To be born,” they say, “is a felony—it is a capital crime, for which
sentence may be executed at any moment after the commission of the
offence. You may perhaps happen to live for some seventy or eighty
years, but what is that, compared with the eternity you now enjoy? And
even though the sentence were commuted, and you were allowed to live on
for ever, you would in time become so terribly weary of life that
execution would be the greatest mercy to you.

“Consider the infinite risk; to be born of wicked parents and trained
in vice! to be born of silly parents, and trained to unrealities! of
parents who regard you as a sort of chattel or property, belonging more
to them than to yourself! Again, you may draw utterly unsympathetic
parents, who will never be able to understand you, and who will do
their best to thwart you (as a hen when she has hatched a duckling),
and then call you ungrateful because you do not love them; or, again,
you may draw parents who look upon you as a thing to be cowed while it
is still young, lest it should give them trouble hereafter by having
wishes and feelings of its own.

“In later life, when you have been finally allowed to pass muster as a
full member of the world, you will yourself become liable to the
pesterings of the unborn—and a very happy life you may be led in
consequence! For we solicit so strongly that a few only—nor these the
best—can refuse us; and yet not to refuse is much the same as going
into partnership with half-a-dozen different people about whom one can
know absolutely nothing beforehand—not even whether one is going into
partnership with men or women, nor with how many of either. Delude not
yourself with thinking that you will be wiser than your parents. You
may be an age in advance of those whom you have pestered, but unless
you are one of the great ones you will still be an age behind those who
will in their turn pester you.

“Imagine what it must be to have an unborn quartered upon you, who is
of an entirely different temperament and disposition to your own; nay,
half-a-dozen such, who will not love you though you have stinted
yourself in a thousand ways to provide for their comfort and
well-being,—who will forget all your self-sacrifice, and of whom you
may never be sure that they are not bearing a grudge against you for
errors of judgement into which you may have fallen, though you had
hoped that such had been long since atoned for. Ingratitude such as
this is not uncommon, yet fancy what it must be to bear! It is hard
upon the duckling to have been hatched by a hen, but is it not also
hard upon the hen to have hatched the duckling?

“Consider it again, we pray you, not for our sake but for your own.
Your initial character you must draw by lot; but whatever it is, it can
only come to a tolerably successful development after long training;
remember that over that training you will have no control. It is
possible, and even probable, that whatever you may get in after life
which is of real pleasure and service to you, will have to be won in
spite of, rather than by the help of, those whom you are now about to
pester, and that you will only win your freedom after years of a
painful struggle in which it will be hard to say whether you have
suffered most injury, or inflicted it.

“Remember also, that if you go into the world you will have free will;
that you will be obliged to have it; that there is no escaping it; that
you will be fettered to it during your whole life, and must on every
occasion do that which on the whole seems best to you at any given
time, no matter whether you are right or wrong in choosing it. Your
mind will be a balance for considerations, and your action will go with
the heavier scale. How it shall fall will depend upon the kind of
scales which you may have drawn at birth, the bias which they will have
obtained by use, and the weight of the immediate considerations. If the
scales were good to start with, and if they have not been outrageously
tampered with in childhood, and if the combinations into which you
enter are average ones, you may come off well; but there are too many
‘ifs’ in this, and with the failure of any one of them your misery is
assured. Reflect on this, and remember that should the ill come upon
you, you will have yourself to thank, for it is your own choice to be
born, and there is no compulsion in the matter.

“Not that we deny the existence of pleasures among mankind; there is a
certain show of sundry phases of contentment which may even amount to
very considerable happiness; but mark how they are distributed over a
man’s life, belonging, all the keenest of them, to the fore part, and
few indeed to the after. Can there be any pleasure worth purchasing
with the miseries of a decrepit age? If you are good, strong, and
handsome, you have a fine fortune indeed at twenty, but how much of it
will be left at sixty? For you must live on your capital; there is no
investing your powers so that you may get a small annuity of life for
ever: you must eat up your principal bit by bit, and be tortured by
seeing it grow continually smaller and smaller, even though you happen
to escape being rudely robbed of it by crime or casualty.

“Remember, too, that there never yet was a man of forty who would not
come back into the world of the unborn if he could do so with decency
and honour. Being in the world he will as a general rule stay till he
is forced to go; but do you think that he would consent to be born
again, and re-live his life, if he had the offer of doing so? Do not
think it. If he could so alter the past as that he should never have
come into being at all, do you not think that he would do it very
gladly?

“What was it that one of their own poets meant, if it was not this,
when he cried out upon the day in which he was born, and the night in
which it was said there is a man child conceived? ‘For now,’ he says,
‘I should have lain still and been quiet, I should have slept; then had
I been at rest with kings and counsellors of the earth, which built
desolate places for themselves; or with princes that had gold, who
filled their houses with silver; or as an hidden untimely birth, I had
not been; as infants which never saw light. There the wicked cease from
troubling, and the weary are at rest.’ Be very sure that the guilt of
being born carries this punishment at times to all men; but how can
they ask for pity, or complain of any mischief that may befall them,
having entered open-eyed into the snare?

“One word more and we have done. If any faint remembrance, as of a
dream, flit in some puzzled moment across your brain, and you shall
feel that the potion which is to be given you shall not have done its
work, and the memory of this existence which you are leaving endeavours
vainly to return; we say in such a moment, when you clutch at the dream
but it eludes your grasp, and you watch it, as Orpheus watched
Eurydice, gliding back again into the twilight kingdom, fly—fly—if you
can remember the advice—to the haven of your present and immediate
duty, taking shelter incessantly in the work which you have in hand.
This much you may perhaps recall; and this, if you will imprint it
deeply upon your every faculty, will be most likely to bring you safely
and honourably home through the trials that are before you.”[3]

This is the fashion in which they reason with those who would be for
leaving them, but it is seldom that they do much good, for none but the
unquiet and unreasonable ever think of being born, and those who are
foolish enough to think of it are generally foolish enough to do it.
Finding, therefore, that they can do no more, the friends follow
weeping to the courthouse of the chief magistrate, where the one who
wishes to be born declares solemnly and openly that he accepts the
conditions attached to his decision. On this he is presented with a
potion, which immediately destroys his memory and sense of identity,
and dissipates the thin gaseous tenement which he has inhabited: he
becomes a bare vital principle, not to be perceived by human senses,
nor to be by any chemical test appreciated. He has but one instinct,
which is that he is to go to such and such a place, where he will find
two persons whom he is to importune till they consent to undertake him;
but whether he is to find these persons among the race of Chowbok or
the Erewhonians themselves is not for him to choose.



CHAPTER XX. WHAT THEY MEAN BY IT


I have given the above mythology at some length, but it is only a small
part of what they have upon the subject. My first feeling on reading it
was that any amount of folly on the part of the unborn in coming here
was justified by a desire to escape from such intolerable prosing. The
mythology is obviously an unfair and exaggerated representation of life
and things; and had its authors been so minded they could have easily
drawn a picture which would err as much on the bright side as this does
on the dark. No Erewhonian believes that the world is as black as it
has been here painted, but it is one of their peculiarities that they
very often do not believe or mean things which they profess to regard
as indisputable.

In the present instance their professed views concerning the unborn
have arisen from their desire to prove that people have been presented
with the gloomiest possible picture of their own prospects before they
came here; otherwise, they could hardly say to one whom they are going
to punish for an affection of the heart or brain that it is all his own
doing. In practice they modify their theory to a considerable extent,
and seldom refer to the birth formula except in extreme cases; for the
force of habit, or what not, gives many of them a kindly interest even
in creatures who have so much wronged them as the unborn have done; and
though a man generally hates the unwelcome little stranger for the
first twelve months, he is apt to mollify (according to his lights) as
time goes on, and sometimes he will become inordinately attached to the
beings whom he is pleased to call his children.

Of course, according to Erewhonian premises, it would serve people
right to be punished and scouted for moral and intellectual diseases as
much as for physical, and I cannot to this day understand why they
should have stopped short half way. Neither, again, can I understand
why their having done so should have been, as it certainly was, a
matter of so much concern to myself. What could it matter to me how
many absurdities the Erewhonians might adopt? Nevertheless I longed to
make them think as I did, for the wish to spread those opinions that we
hold conducive to our own welfare is so deeply rooted in the English
character that few of us can escape its influence. But let this pass.

In spite of not a few modifications in practice of a theory which is
itself revolting, the relations between children and parents in that
country are less happy than in Europe. It was rarely that I saw cases
of real hearty and intense affection between the old people and the
young ones. Here and there I did so, and was quite sure that the
children, even at the age of twenty, were fonder of their parents than
they were of any one else; and that of their own inclination, being
free to choose what company they would, they would often choose that of
their father and mother. The straightener’s carriage was rarely seen at
the door of those houses. I saw two or three such cases during the time
that I remained in the country, and cannot express the pleasure which I
derived from a sight suggestive of so much goodness and wisdom and
forbearance, so richly rewarded; yet I firmly believe that the same
thing would happen in nine families out of ten if the parents were
merely to remember how they felt when they were young, and actually to
behave towards their children as they would have had their own parents
behave towards themselves. But this, which would appear to be so simple
and obvious, seems also to be a thing which not one in a hundred
thousand is able to put in practice. It is only the very great and good
who have any living faith in the simplest axioms; and there are few who
are so holy as to feel that 19 and 13 make 32 as certainly as 2 and 2
make 4.

I am quite sure that if this narrative should ever fall into Erewhonian
hands, it will be said that what I have written about the relations
between parents and children being seldom satisfactory is an infamous
perversion of facts, and that in truth there are few young people who
do not feel happier in the society of their nearest relations[4] than
in any other. Mr. Nosnibor would be sure to say this. Yet I cannot
refrain from expressing an opinion that he would be a good deal
embarrassed if his deceased parents were to reappear and propose to pay
him a six months’ visit. I doubt whether there are many things which he
would regard as a greater infliction. They had died at a ripe old age
some twenty years before I came to know him, so the case is an extreme
one; but surely if they had treated him with what in his youth he had
felt to be true unselfishness, his face would brighten when he thought
of them to the end of his life.

In the one or two cases of true family affection which I met with, I am
sure that the young people who were so genuinely fond of their fathers
and mothers at eighteen, would at sixty be perfectly delighted were
they to get the chance of welcoming them as their guests. There is
nothing which could please them better, except perhaps to watch the
happiness of their own children and grandchildren.

This is how things should be. It is not an impossible ideal; it is one
which actually does exist in some few cases, and might exist in almost
all, with a little more patience and forbearance upon the parents’
part; but it is rare at present—so rare that they have a proverb which
I can only translate in a very roundabout way, but which says that the
great happiness of some people in a future state will consist in
watching the distress of their parents on returning to eternal
companionship with their grandfathers and grandmothers; whilst
“compulsory affection” is the idea which lies at the root of their word
for the deepest anguish.

There is no talisman in the word “parent” which can generate miracles
of affection, and I can well believe that my own child might find it
less of a calamity to lose both Arowhena and myself when he is six
years old, than to find us again when he is sixty—a sentence which I
would not pen did I not feel that by doing so I was giving him
something like a hostage, or at any rate putting a weapon into his
hands against me, should my selfishness exceed reasonable limits.

Money is at the bottom of all this to a great extent. If the parents
would put their children in the way of earning a competence earlier
than they do, the children would soon become self-supporting and
independent. As it is, under the present system, the young ones get old
enough to have all manner of legitimate wants (that is, if they have
any “go” about them) before they have learnt the means of earning money
to pay for them; hence they must either do without them, or take more
money than the parents can be expected to spare. This is due chiefly to
the schools of Unreason, where a boy is taught upon hypothetical
principles, as I will explain hereafter; spending years in being
incapacitated for doing this, that, or the other (he hardly knows
what), during all which time he ought to have been actually doing the
thing itself, beginning at the lowest grades, picking it up through
actual practice, and rising according to the energy which is in him.

These schools of Unreason surprised me much. It would be easy to fall
into pseudo-utilitarianism, and I would fain believe that the system
may be good for the children of very rich parents, or for those who
show a natural instinct to acquire hypothetical lore; but the misery
was that their Ydgrun-worship required all people with any pretence to
respectability to send their children to some one or other of these
schools, mulcting them of years of money. It astonished me to see what
sacrifices the parents would make in order to render their children as
nearly useless as possible; and it was hard to say whether the old
suffered most from the expense which they were thus put to, or the
young from being deliberately swindled in some of the most important
branches of human inquiry, and directed into false channels or left to
drift in the great majority of cases.

I cannot think I am mistaken in believing that the growing tendency to
limit families by infanticide—an evil which was causing general alarm
throughout the country—was almost entirely due to the way in which
education had become a fetish from one end of Erewhon to the other.
Granted that provision should be made whereby every child should be
taught reading, writing, and arithmetic, but here compulsory
state-aided education should end, and the child should begin (with all
due precautions to ensure that he is not overworked) to acquire the
rudiments of that art whereby he is to earn his living.

He cannot acquire these in what we in England call schools of technical
education; such schools are cloister life as against the rough and
tumble of the world; they unfit, rather than fit for work in the open.
An art can only be learned in the workshop of those who are winning
their bread by it.

Boys, as a rule, hate the artificial, and delight in the actual; give
them the chance of earning, and they will soon earn. When parents find
that their children, instead of being made artificially burdensome,
will early begin to contribute to the well-being of the family, they
will soon leave off killing them, and will seek to have that plenitude
of offspring which they now avoid. As things are, the state lays
greater burdens on parents than flesh and blood can bear, and then
wrings its hands over an evil for which it is itself mainly
responsible.

With the less well-dressed classes the harm was not so great; for among
these, at about ten years old, the child has to begin doing something:
if he is capable he makes his way up; if he is not, he is at any rate
not made more incapable by what his friends are pleased to call his
education. People find their level as a rule; and though they
unfortunately sometimes miss it, it is in the main true that those who
have valuable qualities are perceived to have them and can sell them. I
think that the Erewhonians are beginning to become aware of these
things, for there was much talk about putting a tax upon all parents
whose children were not earning a competence according to their degrees
by the time they were twenty years old. I am sure that if they will
have the courage to carry it through they will never regret it; for the
parents will take care that the children shall begin earning money
(which means “doing good” to society) at an early age; then the
children will be independent early, and they will not press on the
parents, nor the parents on them, and they will like each other better
than they do now.

This is the true philanthropy. He who makes a colossal fortune in the
hosiery trade, and by his energy has succeeded in reducing the price of
woollen goods by the thousandth part of a penny in the pound—this man
is worth ten professional philanthropists. So strongly are the
Erewhonians impressed with this, that if a man has made a fortune of
over £20,000 a year they exempt him from all taxation, considering him
as a work of art, and too precious to be meddled with; they say, “How
very much he must have done for society before society could have been
prevailed upon to give him so much money;” so magnificent an
organisation overawes them; they regard it as a thing dropped from
heaven.

“Money,” they say, “is the symbol of duty, it is the sacrament of
having done for mankind that which mankind wanted. Mankind may not be a
very good judge, but there is no better.” This used to shock me at
first, when I remembered that it had been said on high authority that
they who have riches shall enter hardly into the kingdom of heaven; but
the influence of Erewhon had made me begin to see things in a new
light, and I could not help thinking that they who have not riches
shall enter more hardly still.

People oppose money to culture, and imply that if a man has spent his
time in making money he will not be cultivated—fallacy of fallacies! As
though there could be a greater aid to culture than the having earned
an honourable independence, and as though any amount of culture will do
much for the man who is penniless, except make him feel his position
more deeply. The young man who was told to sell all his goods and give
to the poor, must have been an entirely exceptional person if the
advice was given wisely, either for him or for the poor; how much more
often does it happen that we perceive a man to have all sorts of good
qualities except money, and feel that his real duty lies in getting
every half-penny that he can persuade others to pay him for his
services, and becoming rich. It has been said that the love of money is
the root of all evil. The want of money is so quite as truly.

The above may sound irreverent, but it is conceived in a spirit of the
most utter reverence for those things which do alone deserve it—that
is, for the things which are, which mould us and fashion us, be they
what they may; for the things that have power to punish us, and which
will punish us if we do not heed them; for our masters therefore. But I
am drifting away from my story.

They have another plan about which they are making a great noise and
fuss, much as some are doing with women’s rights in England. A party of
extreme radicals have professed themselves unable to decide upon the
superiority of age or youth. At present all goes on the supposition
that it is desirable to make the young old as soon as possible. Some
would have it that this is wrong, and that the object of education
should be to keep the old young as long as possible. They say that each
age should take it turn in turn about, week by week, one week the old
to be topsawyers, and the other the young, drawing the line at
thirty-five years of age; but they insist that the young should be
allowed to inflict corporal chastisement on the old, without which the
old would be quite incorrigible. In any European country this would be
out of the question; but it is not so there, for the straighteners are
constantly ordering people to be flogged, so that they are familiar
with the notion. I do not suppose that the idea will be ever acted
upon; but its having been even mooted is enough to show the utter
perversion of the Erewhonian mind.



CHAPTER XXI. THE COLLEGES OF UNREASON


I had now been a visitor with the Nosnibors for some five or six
months, and though I had frequently proposed to leave them and take
apartments of my own, they would not hear of my doing so. I suppose
they thought I should be more likely to fall in love with Zulora if I
remained, but it was my affection for Arowhena that kept me.

During all this time both Arowhena and myself had been dreaming, and
drifting towards an avowed attachment, but had not dared to face the
real difficulties of the position. Gradually, however, matters came to
a crisis in spite of ourselves, and we got to see the true state of the
case, all too clearly.

One evening we were sitting in the garden, and I had been trying in
every stupid roundabout way to get her to say that she should be at any
rate sorry for a man, if he really loved a woman who would not marry
him. I had been stammering and blushing, and been as silly as any one
could be, and I suppose had pained her by fishing for pity for myself
in such a transparent way, and saying nothing about her own need of it;
at any rate, she turned all upon me with a sweet sad smile and said,
“Sorry? I am sorry for myself; I am sorry for you; and I am sorry for
every one.” The words had no sooner crossed her lips than she bowed her
head, gave me a look as though I were to make no answer, and left me.

The words were few and simple, but the manner with which they were
uttered was ineffable: the scales fell from my eyes, and I felt that I
had no right to try and induce her to infringe one of the most
inviolable customs of her country, as she needs must do if she were to
marry me. I sat for a long while thinking, and when I remembered the
sin and shame and misery which an unrighteous marriage—for as such it
would be held in Erewhon—would entail, I became thoroughly ashamed of
myself for having been so long self-blinded. I write coldly now, but I
suffered keenly at the time, and should probably retain a much more
vivid recollection of what I felt, had not all ended so happily.

As for giving up the idea of marrying Arowhena, it never so much as
entered my head to do so: the solution must be found in some other
direction than this. The idea of waiting till somebody married Zulora
was to be no less summarily dismissed. To marry Arowhena at once in
Erewhon—this had already been abandoned: there remained therefore but
one alternative, and that was to run away with her, and get her with me
to Europe, where there would be no bar to our union save my own
impecuniosity, a matter which gave me no uneasiness.

To this obvious and simple plan I could see but two objections that
deserved the name,—the first, that perhaps Arowhena would not come; the
second, that it was almost impossible for me to escape even alone, for
the king had himself told me that I was to consider myself a prisoner
on parole, and that the first sign of my endeavouring to escape would
cause me to be sent to one of the hospitals for incurables. Besides, I
did not know the geography of the country, and even were I to try and
find my way back, I should be discovered long before I had reached the
pass over which I had come. How then could I hope to be able to take
Arowhena with me? For days and days I turned these difficulties over in
my mind, and at last hit upon as wild a plan as was ever suggested by
extremity. This was to meet the second difficulty: the first gave me
less uneasiness, for when Arowhena and I next met after our interview
in the garden I could see that she had suffered not less acutely than
myself.

I resolved that I would have another interview with her—the last for
the present—that I would then leave her, and set to work upon maturing
my plan as fast as possible. We got a chance of being alone together,
and then I gave myself the loose rein, and told her how passionately
and devotedly I loved her. She said little in return, but her tears
(which I could not refrain from answering with my own) and the little
she did say were quite enough to show me that I should meet with no
obstacle from her. Then I asked her whether she would run a terrible
risk which we should share in common, if, in case of success, I could
take her to my own people, to the home of my mother and sisters, who
would welcome her very gladly. At the same time I pointed out that the
chances of failure were far greater than those of success, and that the
probability was that even though I could get so far as to carry my
design into execution, it would end in death to us both.

I was not mistaken in her; she said that she believed I loved her as
much as she loved me, and that she would brave anything if I could only
assure her that what I proposed would not be thought dishonourable in
England; she could not live without me, and would rather die with me
than alone; that death was perhaps the best for us both; that I must
plan, and that when the hour came I was to send for her, and trust her
not to fail me; and so after many tears and embraces, we tore ourselves
away.

I then left the Nosnibors, took a lodging in the town, and became
melancholy to my heart’s content. Arowhena and I used to see each other
sometimes, for I had taken to going regularly to the Musical Banks, but
Mrs. Nosnibor and Zulora both treated me with considerable coldness. I
felt sure that they suspected me. Arowhena looked miserable, and I saw
that her purse was now always as full as she could fill it with the
Musical Bank money—much fuller than of old. Then the horrible thought
occurred to me that her health might break down, and that she might be
subjected to a criminal prosecution. Oh! how I hated Erewhon at that
time.

I was still received at court, but my good looks were beginning to fail
me, and I was not such an adept at concealing the effects of pain as
the Erewhonians are. I could see that my friends began to look
concerned about me, and was obliged to take a leaf out of Mahaina’s
book, and pretend to have developed a taste for drinking. I even
consulted a straightener as though this were so, and submitted to much
discomfort. This made matters better for a time, but I could see that
my friends thought less highly of my constitution as my flesh began to
fall away.

I was told that the poor made an outcry about my pension, and I saw a
stinging article in an anti-ministerial paper, in which the writer went
so far as to say that my having light hair reflected little credit upon
me, inasmuch as I had been reported to have said that it was a common
thing in the country from which I came. I have reason to believe that
Mr. Nosnibor himself inspired this article. Presently it came round to
me that the king had begun to dwell upon my having been possessed of a
watch, and to say that I ought to be treated medicinally for having
told him a lie about the balloons. I saw misfortune gathering round me
in every direction, and felt that I should have need of all my wits and
a good many more, if I was to steer myself and Arowhena to a good
conclusion.

There were some who continued to show me kindness, and strange to say,
I received the most from the very persons from whom I should have least
expected it—I mean from the cashiers of the Musical Banks. I had made
the acquaintance of several of these persons, and now that I frequented
their bank, they were inclined to make a good deal of me. One of them,
seeing that I was thoroughly out of health, though of course he
pretended not to notice it, suggested that I should take a little
change of air and go down with him to one of the principal towns, which
was some two or three days’ journey from the metropolis, and the chief
seat of the Colleges of Unreason; he assured me that I should be
delighted with what I saw, and that I should receive a most hospitable
welcome. I determined therefore to accept the invitation.

We started two or three days later, and after a night on the road, we
arrived at our destination towards evening. It was now full spring, and
as nearly as might be ten months since I had started with Chowbok on my
expedition, but it seemed more like ten years. The trees were in their
freshest beauty, and the air had become warm without being oppressively
hot. After having lived so many months in the metropolis, the sight of
the country, and the country villages through which we passed refreshed
me greatly, but I could not forget my troubles. The last five miles or
so were the most beautiful part of the journey, for the country became
more undulating, and the woods were more extensive; but the first sight
of the city of the colleges itself was the most delightful of all. I
cannot imagine that there can be any fairer in the whole world, and I
expressed my pleasure to my companion, and thanked him for having
brought me.

We drove to an inn in the middle of the town, and then, while it was
still light, my friend the cashier, whose name was Thims, took me for a
stroll in the streets and in the court-yards of the principal colleges.
Their beauty and interest were extreme; it was impossible to see them
without being attracted towards them; and I thought to myself that he
must be indeed an ill-grained and ungrateful person who can have been a
member of one of these colleges without retaining an affectionate
feeling towards it for the rest of his life. All my misgivings gave way
at once when I saw the beauty and venerable appearance of this
delightful city. For half-an-hour I forgot both myself and Arowhena.

After supper Mr. Thims told me a good deal about the system of
education which is here practised. I already knew a part of what I
heard, but much was new to me, and I obtained a better idea of the
Erewhonian position than I had done hitherto: nevertheless there were
parts of the scheme of which I could not comprehend the fitness,
although I fully admit that this inability was probably the result of
my having been trained so very differently, and to my being then much
out of sorts.

The main feature in their system is the prominence which they give to a
study which I can only translate by the word “hypothetics.” They argue
thus—that to teach a boy merely the nature of the things which exist in
the world around him, and about which he will have to be conversant
during his whole life, would be giving him but a narrow and shallow
conception of the universe, which it is urged might contain all manner
of things which are not now to be found therein. To open his eyes to
these possibilities, and so to prepare him for all sorts of
emergencies, is the object of this system of hypothetics. To imagine a
set of utterly strange and impossible contingencies, and require the
youths to give intelligent answers to the questions that arise
therefrom, is reckoned the fittest conceivable way of preparing them
for the actual conduct of their affairs in after life.

Thus they are taught what is called the hypothetical language for many
of their best years—a language which was originally composed at a time
when the country was in a very different state of civilisation to what
it is at present, a state which has long since disappeared and been
superseded. Many valuable maxims and noble thoughts which were at one
time concealed in it have become current in their modern literature,
and have been translated over and over again into the language now
spoken. Surely then it would seem enough that the study of the original
language should be confined to the few whose instincts led them
naturally to pursue it.

But the Erewhonians think differently; the store they set by this
hypothetical language can hardly be believed; they will even give any
one a maintenance for life if he attains a considerable proficiency in
the study of it; nay, they will spend years in learning to translate
some of their own good poetry into the hypothetical language—to do so
with fluency being reckoned a distinguishing mark of a scholar and a
gentleman. Heaven forbid that I should be flippant, but it appeared to
me to be a wanton waste of good human energy that men should spend
years and years in the perfection of so barren an exercise, when their
own civilisation presented problems by the hundred which cried aloud
for solution and would have paid the solver handsomely; but people know
their own affairs best. If the youths chose it for themselves I should
have wondered less; but they do not choose it; they have it thrust upon
them, and for the most part are disinclined towards it. I can only say
that all I heard in defence of the system was insufficient to make me
think very highly of its advantages.

The arguments in favour of the deliberate development of the
unreasoning faculties were much more cogent. But here they depart from
the principles on which they justify their study of hypothetics; for
they base the importance which they assign to hypothetics upon the fact
of their being a preparation for the extraordinary, while their study
of Unreason rests upon its developing those faculties which are
required for the daily conduct of affairs. Hence their professorships
of Inconsistency and Evasion, in both of which studies the youths are
examined before being allowed to proceed to their degree in
hypothetics. The more earnest and conscientious students attain to a
proficiency in these subjects which is quite surprising; there is
hardly any inconsistency so glaring but they soon learn to defend it,
or injunction so clear that they cannot find some pretext for
disregarding it.

Life, they urge, would be intolerable if men were to be guided in all
they did by reason and reason only. Reason betrays men into the drawing
of hard and fast lines, and to the defining by language—language being
like the sun, which rears and then scorches. Extremes are alone
logical, but they are always absurd; the mean is illogical, but an
illogical mean is better than the sheer absurdity of an extreme. There
are no follies and no unreasonablenesses so great as those which can
apparently be irrefragably defended by reason itself, and there is
hardly an error into which men may not easily be led if they base their
conduct upon reason only.

Reason might very possibly abolish the double currency; it might even
attack the personality of Hope and Justice. Besides, people have such a
strong natural bias towards it that they will seek it for themselves
and act upon it quite as much as or more than is good for them: there
is no need of encouraging reason. With unreason the case is different.
She is the natural complement of reason, without whose existence reason
itself were non-existent.

If, then, reason would be non-existent were there no such thing as
unreason, surely it follows that the more unreason there is, the more
reason there must be also? Hence the necessity for the development of
unreason, even in the interests of reason herself. The Professors of
Unreason deny that they undervalue reason: none can be more convinced
than they are, that if the double currency cannot be rigorously deduced
as a necessary consequence of human reason, the double currency should
cease forthwith; but they say that it must be deduced from no narrow
and exclusive view of reason which should deprive that admirable
faculty of the one-half of its own existence. Unreason is a part of
reason; it must therefore be allowed its full share in stating the
initial conditions.



CHAPTER XXII. THE COLLEGES OF UNREASON—Continued


Of genius they make no account, for they say that every one is a
genius, more or less. No one is so physically sound that no part of him
will be even a little unsound, and no one is so diseased but that some
part of him will be healthy—so no man is so mentally and morally sound,
but that he will be in part both mad and wicked; and no man is so mad
and wicked but he will be sensible and honourable in part. In like
manner there is no genius who is not also a fool, and no fool who is
not also a genius.

When I talked about originality and genius to some gentlemen whom I met
at a supper party given by Mr. Thims in my honour, and said that
original thought ought to be encouraged, I had to eat my words at once.
Their view evidently was that genius was like offences—needs must that
it come, but woe unto that man through whom it comes. A man’s business,
they hold, is to think as his neighbours do, for Heaven help him if he
thinks good what they count bad. And really it is hard to see how the
Erewhonian theory differs from our own, for the word “idiot” only means
a person who forms his opinions for himself.

The venerable Professor of Worldly Wisdom, a man verging on eighty but
still hale, spoke to me very seriously on this subject in consequence
of the few words that I had imprudently let fall in defence of genius.
He was one of those who carried most weight in the university, and had
the reputation of having done more perhaps than any other living man to
suppress any kind of originality.

“It is not our business,” he said, “to help students to think for
themselves. Surely this is the very last thing which one who wishes
them well should encourage them to do. Our duty is to ensure that they
shall think as we do, or at any rate, as we hold it expedient to say we
do.” In some respects, however, he was thought to hold somewhat radical
opinions, for he was President of the Society for the Suppression of
Useless Knowledge, and for the Completer Obliteration of the Past.

As regards the tests that a youth must pass before he can get a degree,
I found that they have no class lists, and discourage anything like
competition among the students; this, indeed, they regard as
self-seeking and unneighbourly. The examinations are conducted by way
of papers written by the candidate on set subjects, some of which are
known to him beforehand, while others are devised with a view of
testing his general capacity and _savoir faire_.

My friend the Professor of Worldly Wisdom was the terror of the greater
number of students; and, so far as I could judge, he very well might
be, for he had taken his Professorship more seriously than any of the
other Professors had done. I heard of his having plucked one poor
fellow for want of sufficient vagueness in his saving clauses paper.
Another was sent down for having written an article on a scientific
subject without having made free enough use of the words “carefully,”
“patiently,” and “earnestly.” One man was refused a degree for being
too often and too seriously in the right, while a few days before I
came a whole batch had been plucked for insufficient distrust of
printed matter.

About this there was just then rather a ferment, for it seems that the
Professor had written an article in the leading university magazine,
which was well known to be by him, and which abounded in all sorts of
plausible blunders. He then set a paper which afforded the examinees an
opportunity of repeating these blunders—which, believing the article to
be by their own examiner, they of course did. The Professor plucked
every single one of them, but his action was considered to have been
not quite handsome.

I told them of Homer’s noble line to the effect that a man should
strive ever to be foremost and in all things to outvie his peers; but
they said that no wonder the countries in which such a detestable maxim
was held in admiration were always flying at one another’s throats.

“Why,” asked one Professor, “should a man want to be better than his
neighbours? Let him be thankful if he is no worse.”

I ventured feebly to say that I did not see how progress could be made
in any art or science, or indeed in anything at all, without more or
less self-seeking, and hence unamiability.

“Of course it cannot,” said the Professor, “and therefore we object to
progress.”

After which there was no more to be said. Later on, however, a young
Professor took me aside and said he did not think I quite understood
their views about progress.

“We like progress,” he said, “but it must commend itself to the common
sense of the people. If a man gets to know more than his neighbours he
should keep his knowledge to himself till he has sounded them, and seen
whether they agree, or are likely to agree with him. He said it was as
immoral to be too far in front of one’s own age, as to lag too far
behind it. If a man can carry his neighbours with him, he may say what
he likes; but if not, what insult can be more gratuitous than the
telling them what they do not want to know? A man should remember that
intellectual over-indulgence is one of the most insidious and
disgraceful forms that excess can take. Granted that every one should
exceed more or less, inasmuch as absolutely perfect sanity would drive
any man mad the moment he reached it, but . . . ”

He was now warming to his subject and I was beginning to wonder how I
should get rid of him, when the party broke up, and though I promised
to call on him before I left, I was unfortunately prevented from doing
so.

I have now said enough to give English readers some idea of the strange
views which the Erewhonians hold concerning unreason, hypothetics, and
education generally. In many respects they were sensible enough, but I
could not get over the hypothetics, especially the turning their own
good poetry into the hypothetical language. In the course of my stay I
met one youth who told me that for fourteen years the hypothetical
language had been almost the only thing that he had been taught,
although he had never (to his credit, as it seemed to me) shown the
slightest proclivity towards it, while he had been endowed with not
inconsiderable ability for several other branches of human learning. He
assured me that he would never open another hypothetical book after he
had taken his degree, but would follow out the bent of his own
inclinations. This was well enough, but who could give him his fourteen
years back again?

I sometimes wondered how it was that the mischief done was not more
clearly perceptible, and that the young men and women grew up as
sensible and goodly as they did, in spite of the attempts almost
deliberately made to warp and stunt their growth. Some doubtless
received damage, from which they suffered to their life’s end; but many
seemed little or none the worse, and some, almost the better. The
reason would seem to be that the natural instinct of the lads in most
cases so absolutely rebelled against their training, that do what the
teachers might they could never get them to pay serious heed to it. The
consequence was that the boys only lost their time, and not so much of
this as might have been expected, for in their hours of leisure they
were actively engaged in exercises and sports which developed their
physical nature, and made them at any rate strong and healthy.

Moreover those who had any special tastes could not be restrained from
developing them: they would learn what they wanted to learn and liked,
in spite of obstacles which seemed rather to urge them on than to
discourage them, while for those who had no special capacity, the loss
of time was of comparatively little moment; but in spite of these
alleviations of the mischief, I am sure that much harm was done to the
children of the sub-wealthy classes, by the system which passes current
among the Erewhonians as education. The poorest children suffered
least—if destruction and death have heard the sound of wisdom, to a
certain extent poverty has done so also.

And yet perhaps, after all, it is better for a country that its seats
of learning should do more to suppress mental growth than to encourage
it. Were it not for a certain priggishness which these places infuse
into so great a number of their _alumni_, genuine work would become
dangerously common. It is essential that by far the greater part of
what is said or done in the world should be so ephemeral as to take
itself away quickly; it should keep good for twenty-four hours, or even
twice as long, but it should not be good enough a week hence to prevent
people from going on to something else. No doubt the marvellous
development of journalism in England, as also the fact that our seats
of learning aim rather at fostering mediocrity than anything higher, is
due to our subconscious recognition of the fact that it is even more
necessary to check exuberance of mental development than to encourage
it. There can be no doubt that this is what our academic bodies do, and
they do it the more effectually because they do it only subconsciously.
They think they are advancing healthy mental assimilation and
digestion, whereas in reality they are little better than cancer in the
stomach.

Let me return, however, to the Erewhonians. Nothing surprised me more
than to see the occasional flashes of common sense with which one
branch of study or another was lit up, while not a single ray fell upon
so many others. I was particularly struck with this on strolling into
the Art School of the University. Here I found that the course of study
was divided into two branches—the practical and the commercial—no
student being permitted to continue his studies in the actual practice
of the art he had taken up, unless he made equal progress in its
commercial history.

Thus those who were studying painting were examined at frequent
intervals in the prices which all the leading pictures of the last
fifty or a hundred years had realised, and in the fluctuations in their
values when (as often happened) they had been sold and resold three or
four times. The artist, they contend, is a dealer in pictures, and it
is as important for him to learn how to adapt his wares to the market,
and to know approximately what kind of a picture will fetch how much,
as it is for him to be able to paint the picture. This, I suppose, is
what the French mean by laying so much stress upon “values.”

As regards the city itself, the more I saw the more enchanted I became.
I dare not trust myself with any description of the exquisite beauty of
the different colleges, and their walks and gardens. Truly in these
things alone there must be a hallowing and refining influence which is
in itself half an education, and which no amount of error can wholly
spoil. I was introduced to many of the Professors, who showed me every
hospitality and kindness; nevertheless I could hardly avoid a sort of
suspicion that some of those whom I was taken to see had been so long
engrossed in their own study of hypothetics that they had become the
exact antitheses of the Athenians in the days of St. Paul; for whereas
the Athenians spent their lives in nothing save to see and to hear some
new thing, there were some here who seemed to devote themselves to the
avoidance of every opinion with which they were not perfectly familiar,
and regarded their own brains as a sort of sanctuary, to which if an
opinion had once resorted, none other was to attack it.

I should warn the reader, however, that I was rarely sure what the men
whom I met while staying with Mr. Thims really meant; for there was no
getting anything out of them if they scented even a suspicion that they
might be what they call “giving themselves away.” As there is hardly
any subject on which this suspicion cannot arise, I found it difficult
to get definite opinions from any of them, except on such subjects as
the weather, eating and drinking, holiday excursions, or games of
skill.

If they cannot wriggle out of expressing an opinion of some sort, they
will commonly retail those of some one who has already written upon the
subject, and conclude by saying that though they quite admit that there
is an element of truth in what the writer has said, there are many
points on which they are unable to agree with him. Which these points
were, I invariably found myself unable to determine; indeed, it seemed
to be counted the perfection of scholarship and good breeding among
them not to have—much less to express—an opinion on any subject on
which it might prove later that they had been mistaken. The art of
sitting gracefully on a fence has never, I should think, been brought
to greater perfection than at the Erewhonian Colleges of Unreason.

Even when, wriggle as they may, they find themselves pinned down to
some expression of definite opinion, as often as not they will argue in
support of what they perfectly well know to be untrue. I repeatedly met
with reviews and articles even in their best journals, between the
lines of which I had little difficulty in detecting a sense exactly
contrary to the one ostensibly put forward. So well is this understood,
that a man must be a mere tyro in the arts of Erewhonian polite
society, unless he instinctively suspects a hidden “yea” in every “nay”
that meets him. Granted that it comes to much the same in the end, for
it does not matter whether “yea” is called “yea” or “nay,” so long as
it is understood which it is to be; but our own more direct way of
calling a spade a spade, rather than a rake, with the intention that
every one should understand it as a spade, seems more satisfactory. On
the other hand, the Erewhonian system lends itself better to the
suppression of that downrightness which it seems the express aim of
Erewhonian philosophy to discountenance.

However this may be, the fear-of-giving-themselves-away disease was
fatal to the intelligence of those infected by it, and almost every one
at the Colleges of Unreason had caught it to a greater or less degree.
After a few years atrophy of the opinions invariably supervened, and
the sufferer became stone dead to everything except the more
superficial aspects of those material objects with which he came most
in contact. The expression on the faces of these people was repellent;
they did not, however, seem particularly unhappy, for they none of them
had the faintest idea that they were in reality more dead than alive.
No cure for this disgusting fear-of-giving-themselves-away disease has
yet been discovered.

* * *

It was during my stay in City of the Colleges of Unreason—a city whose
Erewhonian name is so cacophonous that I refrain from giving it—that I
learned the particulars of the revolution which had ended in the
destruction of so many of the mechanical inventions which were formerly
in common use.

Mr. Thims took me to the rooms of a gentleman who had a great
reputation for learning, but who was also, so Mr. Thims told me, rather
a dangerous person, inasmuch as he had attempted to introduce an adverb
into the hypothetical language. He had heard of my watch and been
exceedingly anxious to see me, for he was accounted the most learned
antiquary in Erewhon on the subject of mechanical lore. We fell to
talking upon the subject, and when I left he gave me a reprinted copy
of the work which brought the revolution about.

It had taken place some five hundred years before my arrival: people
had long become thoroughly used to the change, although at the time
that it was made the country was plunged into the deepest misery, and a
reaction which followed had very nearly proved successful. Civil war
raged for many years, and is said to have reduced the number of the
inhabitants by one-half. The parties were styled the machinists and the
anti-machinists, and in the end, as I have said already, the latter got
the victory, treating their opponents with such unparalleled severity
that they extirpated every trace of opposition.

The wonder was that they allowed any mechanical appliances to remain in
the kingdom, neither do I believe that they would have done so, had not
the Professors of Inconsistency and Evasion made a stand against the
carrying of the new principles to their legitimate conclusions. These
Professors, moreover, insisted that during the struggle the
anti-machinists should use every known improvement in the art of war,
and several new weapons, offensive and defensive, were invented, while
it was in progress. I was surprised at there remaining so many
mechanical specimens as are seen in the museums, and at students having
rediscovered their past uses so completely; for at the time of the
revolution the victors wrecked all the more complicated machines, and
burned all treatises on mechanics, and all engineers’ workshops—thus,
so they thought, cutting the mischief out root and branch, at an
incalculable cost of blood and treasure.

Certainly they had not spared their labour, but work of this
description can never be perfectly achieved, and when, some two hundred
years before my arrival, all passion upon the subject had cooled down,
and no one save a lunatic would have dreamed of reintroducing forbidden
inventions, the subject came to be regarded as a curious antiquarian
study, like that of some long-forgotten religious practices among
ourselves. Then came the careful search for whatever fragments could be
found, and for any machines that might have been hidden away, and also
numberless treatises were written, showing what the functions of each
rediscovered machine had been; all being done with no idea of using
such machinery again, but with the feelings of an English antiquarian
concerning Druidical monuments or flint arrow heads.

On my return to the metropolis, during the remaining weeks or rather
days of my sojourn in Erewhon I made a _resumé_ in English of the work
which brought about the already mentioned revolution. My ignorance of
technical terms has led me doubtless into many errors, and I have
occasionally, where I found translation impossible, substituted purely
English names and ideas for the original Erewhonian ones, but the
reader may rely on my general accuracy. I have thought it best to
insert my translation here.



CHAPTER XXIII. THE BOOK OF THE MACHINES


The writer commences:—“There was a time, when the earth was to all
appearance utterly destitute both of animal and vegetable life, and
when according to the opinion of our best philosophers it was simply a
hot round ball with a crust gradually cooling. Now if a human being had
existed while the earth was in this state and had been allowed to see
it as though it were some other world with which he had no concern, and
if at the same time he were entirely ignorant of all physical science,
would he not have pronounced it impossible that creatures possessed of
anything like consciousness should be evolved from the seeming cinder
which he was beholding? Would he not have denied that it contained any
potentiality of consciousness? Yet in the course of time consciousness
came. Is it not possible then that there may be even yet new channels
dug out for consciousness, though we can detect no signs of them at
present?

“Again. Consciousness, in anything like the present acceptation of the
term, having been once a new thing—a thing, as far as we can see,
subsequent even to an individual centre of action and to a reproductive
system (which we see existing in plants without apparent
consciousness)—why may not there arise some new phase of mind which
shall be as different from all present known phases, as the mind of
animals is from that of vegetables?

“It would be absurd to attempt to define such a mental state (or
whatever it may be called), inasmuch as it must be something so foreign
to man that his experience can give him no help towards conceiving its
nature; but surely when we reflect upon the manifold phases of life and
consciousness which have been evolved already, it would be rash to say
that no others can be developed, and that animal life is the end of all
things. There was a time when fire was the end of all things: another
when rocks and water were so.”

The writer, after enlarging on the above for several pages, proceeded
to inquire whether traces of the approach of such a new phase of life
could be perceived at present; whether we could see any tenements
preparing which might in a remote futurity be adapted for it; whether,
in fact, the primordial cell of such a kind of life could be now
detected upon earth. In the course of his work he answered this
question in the affirmative and pointed to the higher machines.

“There is no security”—to quote his own words—“against the ultimate
development of mechanical consciousness, in the fact of machines
possessing little consciousness now. A mollusc has not much
consciousness. Reflect upon the extraordinary advance which machines
have made during the last few hundred years, and note how slowly the
animal and vegetable kingdoms are advancing. The more highly organised
machines are creatures not so much of yesterday, as of the last five
minutes, so to speak, in comparison with past time. Assume for the sake
of argument that conscious beings have existed for some twenty million
years: see what strides machines have made in the last thousand! May
not the world last twenty million years longer? If so, what will they
not in the end become? Is it not safer to nip the mischief in the bud
and to forbid them further progress?

“But who can say that the vapour engine has not a kind of
consciousness? Where does consciousness begin, and where end? Who can
draw the line? Who can draw any line? Is not everything interwoven with
everything? Is not machinery linked with animal life in an infinite
variety of ways? The shell of a hen’s egg is made of a delicate white
ware and is a machine as much as an egg-cup is: the shell is a device
for holding the egg, as much as the egg-cup for holding the shell: both
are phases of the same function; the hen makes the shell in her inside,
but it is pure pottery. She makes her nest outside of herself for
convenience’ sake, but the nest is not more of a machine than the
egg-shell is. A ‘machine’ is only a ‘device.’”

Then returning to consciousness, and endeavouring to detect its
earliest manifestations, the writer continued:-

“There is a kind of plant that eats organic food with its flowers: when
a fly settles upon the blossom, the petals close upon it and hold it
fast till the plant has absorbed the insect into its system; but they
will close on nothing but what is good to eat; of a drop of rain or a
piece of stick they will take no notice. Curious! that so unconscious a
thing should have such a keen eye to its own interest. If this is
unconsciousness, where is the use of consciousness?

“Shall we say that the plant does not know what it is doing merely
because it has no eyes, or ears, or brains? If we say that it acts
mechanically, and mechanically only, shall we not be forced to admit
that sundry other and apparently very deliberate actions are also
mechanical? If it seems to us that the plant kills and eats a fly
mechanically, may it not seem to the plant that a man must kill and eat
a sheep mechanically?

“But it may be said that the plant is void of reason, because the
growth of a plant is an involuntary growth. Given earth, air, and due
temperature, the plant must grow: it is like a clock, which being once
wound up will go till it is stopped or run down: it is like the wind
blowing on the sails of a ship—the ship must go when the wind blows it.
But can a healthy boy help growing if he have good meat and drink and
clothing? can anything help going as long as it is wound up, or go on
after it is run down? Is there not a winding up process everywhere?

“Even a potato[5] in a dark cellar has a certain low cunning about him
which serves him in excellent stead. He knows perfectly well what he
wants and how to get it. He sees the light coming from the cellar
window and sends his shoots crawling straight thereto: they will crawl
along the floor and up the wall and out at the cellar window; if there
be a little earth anywhere on the journey he will find it and use it
for his own ends. What deliberation he may exercise in the matter of
his roots when he is planted in the earth is a thing unknown to us, but
we can imagine him saying, ‘I will have a tuber here and a tuber there,
and I will suck whatsoever advantage I can from all my surroundings.
This neighbour I will overshadow, and that I will undermine; and what I
can do shall be the limit of what I will do. He that is stronger and
better placed than I shall overcome me, and him that is weaker I will
overcome.’

“The potato says these things by doing them, which is the best of
languages. What is consciousness if this is not consciousness? We find
it difficult to sympathise with the emotions of a potato; so we do with
those of an oyster. Neither of these things makes a noise on being
boiled or opened, and noise appeals to us more strongly than anything
else, because we make so much about our own sufferings. Since, then,
they do not annoy us by any expression of pain we call them
emotionless; and so _quâ_ mankind they are; but mankind is not
everybody.

If it be urged that the action of the potato is chemical and mechanical
only, and that it is due to the chemical and mechanical effects of
light and heat, the answer would seem to lie in an inquiry whether
every sensation is not chemical and mechanical in its operation?
whether those things which we deem most purely spiritual are anything
but disturbances of equilibrium in an infinite series of levers,
beginning with those that are too small for microscopic detection, and
going up to the human arm and the appliances which it makes use of?
whether there be not a molecular action of thought, whence a dynamical
theory of the passions shall be deducible? Whether strictly speaking we
should not ask what kind of levers a man is made of rather than what is
his temperament? How are they balanced? How much of such and such will
it take to weigh them down so as to make him do so and so?”

The writer went on to say that he anticipated a time when it would be
possible, by examining a single hair with a powerful microscope, to
know whether its owner could be insulted with impunity. He then became
more and more obscure, so that I was obliged to give up all attempt at
translation; neither did I follow the drift of his argument. On coming
to the next part which I could construe, I found that he had changed
his ground.

“Either,” he proceeds, “a great deal of action that has been called
purely mechanical and unconscious must be admitted to contain more
elements of consciousness than has been allowed hitherto (and in this
case germs of consciousness will be found in many actions of the higher
machines)—Or (assuming the theory of evolution but at the same time
denying the consciousness of vegetable and crystalline action) the race
of man has descended from things which had no consciousness at all. In
this case there is no _à priori_ improbability in the descent of
conscious (and more than conscious) machines from those which now
exist, except that which is suggested by the apparent absence of
anything like a reproductive system in the mechanical kingdom. This
absence however is only apparent, as I shall presently show.

“Do not let me be misunderstood as living in fear of any actually
existing machine; there is probably no known machine which is more than
a prototype of future mechanical life. The present machines are to the
future as the early Saurians to man. The largest of them will probably
greatly diminish in size. Some of the lowest vertebrate attained a much
greater bulk than has descended to their more highly organised living
representatives, and in like manner a diminution in the size of
machines has often attended their development and progress.

“Take the watch, for example; examine its beautiful structure; observe
the intelligent play of the minute members which compose it: yet this
little creature is but a development of the cumbrous clocks that
preceded it; it is no deterioration from them. A day may come when
clocks, which certainly at the present time are not diminishing in
bulk, will be superseded owing to the universal use of watches, in
which case they will become as extinct as ichthyosauri, while the
watch, whose tendency has for some years been to decrease in size
rather than the contrary, will remain the only existing type of an
extinct race.

“But returning to the argument, I would repeat that I fear none of the
existing machines; what I fear is the extraordinary rapidity with which
they are becoming something very different to what they are at present.
No class of beings have in any time past made so rapid a movement
forward. Should not that movement be jealously watched, and checked
while we can still check it? And is it not necessary for this end to
destroy the more advanced of the machines which are in use at present,
though it is admitted that they are in themselves harmless?

“As yet the machines receive their impressions through the agency of
man’s senses: one travelling machine calls to another in a shrill
accent of alarm and the other instantly retires; but it is through the
ears of the driver that the voice of the one has acted upon the other.
Had there been no driver, the callee would have been deaf to the
caller. There was a time when it must have seemed highly improbable
that machines should learn to make their wants known by sound, even
through the ears of man; may we not conceive, then, that a day will
come when those ears will be no longer needed, and the hearing will be
done by the delicacy of the machine’s own construction?—when its
language shall have been developed from the cry of animals to a speech
as intricate as our own?

“It is possible that by that time children will learn the differential
calculus—as they learn now to speak—from their mothers and nurses, or
that they may talk in the hypothetical language, and work rule of three
sums, as soon as they are born; but this is not probable; we cannot
calculate on any corresponding advance in man’s intellectual or
physical powers which shall be a set-off against the far greater
development which seems in store for the machines. Some people may say
that man’s moral influence will suffice to rule them; but I cannot
think it will ever be safe to repose much trust in the moral sense of
any machine.

“Again, might not the glory of the machines consist in their being
without this same boasted gift of language? ‘Silence,’ it has been said
by one writer, ‘is a virtue which renders us agreeable to our
fellow-creatures.’”



CHAPTER XXIV. THE MACHINES—continued


“But other questions come upon us. What is a man’s eye but a machine
for the little creature that sits behind in his brain to look through?
A dead eye is nearly as good as a living one for some time after the
man is dead. It is not the eye that cannot see, but the restless one
that cannot see through it. Is it man’s eyes, or is it the big
seeing-engine which has revealed to us the existence of worlds beyond
worlds into infinity? What has made man familiar with the scenery of
the moon, the spots on the sun, or the geography of the planets? He is
at the mercy of the seeing-engine for these things, and is powerless
unless he tack it on to his own identity, and make it part and parcel
of himself. Or, again, is it the eye, or the little see-engine, which
has shown us the existence of infinitely minute organisms which swarm
unsuspected around us?

“And take man’s vaunted power of calculation. Have we not engines which
can do all manner of sums more quickly and correctly than we can? What
prizeman in Hypothetics at any of our Colleges of Unreason can compare
with some of these machines in their own line? In fact, wherever
precision is required man flies to the machine at once, as far
preferable to himself. Our sum-engines never drop a figure, nor our
looms a stitch; the machine is brisk and active, when the man is weary;
it is clear-headed and collected, when the man is stupid and dull; it
needs no slumber, when man must sleep or drop; ever at its post, ever
ready for work, its alacrity never flags, its patience never gives in;
its might is stronger than combined hundreds, and swifter than the
flight of birds; it can burrow beneath the earth, and walk upon the
largest rivers and sink not. This is the green tree; what then shall be
done in the dry?

“Who shall say that a man does see or hear? He is such a hive and swarm
of parasites that it is doubtful whether his body is not more theirs
than his, and whether he is anything but another kind of ant-heap after
all. May not man himself become a sort of parasite upon the machines?
An affectionate machine-tickling aphid?

“It is said by some that our blood is composed of infinite living
agents which go up and down the highways and byways of our bodies as
people in the streets of a city. When we look down from a high place
upon crowded thoroughfares, is it possible not to think of corpuscles
of blood travelling through veins and nourishing the heart of the town?
No mention shall be made of sewers, nor of the hidden nerves which
serve to communicate sensations from one part of the town’s body to
another; nor of the yawning jaws of the railway stations, whereby the
circulation is carried directly into the heart,—which receive the
venous lines, and disgorge the arterial, with an eternal pulse of
people. And the sleep of the town, how life-like! with its change in
the circulation.”

Here the writer became again so hopelessly obscure that I was obliged
to miss several pages. He resumed:-

“It can be answered that even though machines should hear never so well
and speak never so wisely, they will still always do the one or the
other for our advantage, not their own; that man will be the ruling
spirit and the machine the servant; that as soon as a machine fails to
discharge the service which man expects from it, it is doomed to
extinction; that the machines stand to man simply in the relation of
lower animals, the vapour-engine itself being only a more economical
kind of horse; so that instead of being likely to be developed into a
higher kind of life than man’s, they owe their very existence and
progress to their power of ministering to human wants, and must
therefore both now and ever be man’s inferiors.

“This is all very well. But the servant glides by imperceptible
approaches into the master; and we have come to such a pass that, even
now, man must suffer terribly on ceasing to benefit the machines. If
all machines were to be annihilated at one moment, so that not a knife
nor lever nor rag of clothing nor anything whatsoever were left to man
but his bare body alone that he was born with, and if all knowledge of
mechanical laws were taken from him so that he could make no more
machines, and all machine-made food destroyed so that the race of man
should be left as it were naked upon a desert island, we should become
extinct in six weeks. A few miserable individuals might linger, but
even these in a year or two would become worse than monkeys. Man’s very
soul is due to the machines; it is a machine-made thing: he thinks as
he thinks, and feels as he feels, through the work that machines have
wrought upon him, and their existence is quite as much a _sine quâ non_
for his, as his for theirs. This fact precludes us from proposing the
complete annihilation of machinery, but surely it indicates that we
should destroy as many of them as we can possibly dispense with, lest
they should tyrannise over us even more completely.

“True, from a low materialistic point of view, it would seem that those
thrive best who use machinery wherever its use is possible with profit;
but this is the art of the machines—they serve that they may rule. They
bear no malice towards man for destroying a whole race of them provided
he creates a better instead; on the contrary, they reward him liberally
for having hastened their development. It is for neglecting them that
he incurs their wrath, or for using inferior machines, or for not
making sufficient exertions to invent new ones, or for destroying them
without replacing them; yet these are the very things we ought to do,
and do quickly; for though our rebellion against their infant power
will cause infinite suffering, what will not things come to, if that
rebellion is delayed?

“They have preyed upon man’s grovelling preference for his material
over his spiritual interests, and have betrayed him into supplying that
element of struggle and warfare without which no race can advance. The
lower animals progress because they struggle with one another; the
weaker die, the stronger breed and transmit their strength. The
machines being of themselves unable to struggle, have got man to do
their struggling for them: as long as he fulfils this function duly,
all goes well with him—at least he thinks so; but the moment he fails
to do his best for the advancement of machinery by encouraging the good
and destroying the bad, he is left behind in the race of competition;
and this means that he will be made uncomfortable in a variety of ways,
and perhaps die.

“So that even now the machines will only serve on condition of being
served, and that too upon their own terms; the moment their terms are
not complied with, they jib, and either smash both themselves and all
whom they can reach, or turn churlish and refuse to work at all. How
many men at this hour are living in a state of bondage to the machines?
How many spend their whole lives, from the cradle to the grave, in
tending them by night and day? Is it not plain that the machines are
gaining ground upon us, when we reflect on the increasing number of
those who are bound down to them as slaves, and of those who devote
their whole souls to the advancement of the mechanical kingdom?

“The vapour-engine must be fed with food and consume it by fire even as
man consumes it; it supports its combustion by air as man supports it;
it has a pulse and circulation as man has. It may be granted that man’s
body is as yet the more versatile of the two, but then man’s body is an
older thing; give the vapour-engine but half the time that man has had,
give it also a continuance of our present infatuation, and what may it
not ere long attain to?

“There are certain functions indeed of the vapour-engine which will
probably remain unchanged for myriads of years—which in fact will
perhaps survive when the use of vapour has been superseded: the piston
and cylinder, the beam, the fly-wheel, and other parts of the machine
will probably be permanent, just as we see that man and many of the
lower animals share like modes of eating, drinking, and sleeping; thus
they have hearts which beat as ours, veins and arteries, eyes, ears,
and noses; they sigh even in their sleep, and weep and yawn; they are
affected by their children; they feel pleasure and pain, hope, fear,
anger, shame; they have memory and prescience; they know that if
certain things happen to them they will die, and they fear death as
much as we do; they communicate their thoughts to one another, and some
of them deliberately act in concert. The comparison of similarities is
endless: I only make it because some may say that since the
vapour-engine is not likely to be improved in the main particulars, it
is unlikely to be henceforward extensively modified at all. This is too
good to be true: it will be modified and suited for an infinite variety
of purposes, as much as man has been modified so as to exceed the
brutes in skill.

“In the meantime the stoker is almost as much a cook for his engine as
our own cooks for ourselves. Consider also the colliers and pitmen and
coal merchants and coal trains, and the men who drive them, and the
ships that carry coals—what an army of servants do the machines thus
employ! Are there not probably more men engaged in tending machinery
than in tending men? Do not machines eat as it were by mannery? Are we
not ourselves creating our successors in the supremacy of the earth?
daily adding to the beauty and delicacy of their organisation, daily
giving them greater skill and supplying more and more of that
self-regulating self-acting power which will be better than any
intellect?

“What a new thing it is for a machine to feed at all! The plough, the
spade, and the cart must eat through man’s stomach; the fuel that sets
them going must burn in the furnace of a man or of horses. Man must
consume bread and meat or he cannot dig; the bread and meat are the
fuel which drive the spade. If a plough be drawn by horses, the power
is supplied by grass or beans or oats, which being burnt in the belly
of the cattle give the power of working: without this fuel the work
would cease, as an engine would stop if its furnaces were to go out.

“A man of science has demonstrated ‘that no animal has the power of
originating mechanical energy, but that all the work done in its life
by any animal, and all the heat that has been emitted from it, and the
heat which would be obtained by burning the combustible matter which
has been lost from its body during life, and by burning its body after
death, make up altogether an exact equivalent to the heat which would
be obtained by burning as much food as it has used during its life, and
an amount of fuel which would generate as much heat as its body if
burned immediately after death.’ I do not know how he has found this
out, but he is a man of science—how then can it be objected against the
future vitality of the machines that they are, in their present
infancy, at the beck and call of beings who are themselves incapable of
originating mechanical energy?

“The main point, however, to be observed as affording cause for alarm
is, that whereas animals were formerly the only stomachs of the
machines, there are now many which have stomachs of their own, and
consume their food themselves. This is a great step towards their
becoming, if not animate, yet something so near akin to it, as not to
differ more widely from our own life than animals do from vegetables.
And though man should remain, in some respects, the higher creature, is
not this in accordance with the practice of nature, which allows
superiority in some things to animals which have, on the whole, been
long surpassed? Has she not allowed the ant and the bee to retain
superiority over man in the organisation of their communities and
social arrangements, the bird in traversing the air, the fish in
swimming, the horse in strength and fleetness, and the dog in
self-sacrifice?

“It is said by some with whom I have conversed upon this subject, that
the machines can never be developed into animate or _quasi_-animate
existences, inasmuch as they have no reproductive system, nor seem ever
likely to possess one. If this be taken to mean that they cannot marry,
and that we are never likely to see a fertile union between two
vapour-engines with the young ones playing about the door of the shed,
however greatly we might desire to do so, I will readily grant it. But
the objection is not a very profound one. No one expects that all the
features of the now existing organisations will be absolutely repeated
in an entirely new class of life. The reproductive system of animals
differs widely from that of plants, but both are reproductive systems.
Has nature exhausted her phases of this power?

“Surely if a machine is able to reproduce another machine
systematically, we may say that it has a reproductive system. What is a
reproductive system, if it be not a system for reproduction? And how
few of the machines are there which have not been produced
systematically by other machines? But it is man that makes them do so.
Yes; but is it not insects that make many of the plants reproductive,
and would not whole families of plants die out if their fertilisation
was not effected by a class of agents utterly foreign to themselves?
Does any one say that the red clover has no reproductive system because
the humble bee (and the humble bee only) must aid and abet it before it
can reproduce? No one. The humble bee is a part of the reproductive
system of the clover. Each one of ourselves has sprung from minute
animalcules whose entity was entirely distinct from our own, and which
acted after their kind with no thought or heed of what we might think
about it. These little creatures are part of our own reproductive
system; then why not we part of that of the machines?

“But the machines which reproduce machinery do not reproduce machines
after their own kind. A thimble may be made by machinery, but it was
not made by, neither will it ever make, a thimble. Here, again, if we
turn to nature we shall find abundance of analogies which will teach us
that a reproductive system may be in full force without the thing
produced being of the same kind as that which produced it. Very few
creatures reproduce after their own kind; they reproduce something
which has the potentiality of becoming that which their parents were.
Thus the butterfly lays an egg, which egg can become a caterpillar,
which caterpillar can become a chrysalis, which chrysalis can become a
butterfly; and though I freely grant that the machines cannot be said
to have more than the germ of a true reproductive system at present,
have we not just seen that they have only recently obtained the germs
of a mouth and stomach? And may not some stride be made in the
direction of true reproduction which shall be as great as that which
has been recently taken in the direction of true feeding?

“It is possible that the system when developed may be in many cases a
vicarious thing. Certain classes of machines may be alone fertile,
while the rest discharge other functions in the mechanical system, just
as the great majority of ants and bees have nothing to do with the
continuation of their species, but get food and store it, without
thought of breeding. One cannot expect the parallel to be complete or
nearly so; certainly not now, and probably never; but is there not
enough analogy existing at the present moment, to make us feel
seriously uneasy about the future, and to render it our duty to check
the evil while we can still do so? Machines can within certain limits
beget machines of any class, no matter how different to themselves.
Every class of machines will probably have its special mechanical
breeders, and all the higher ones will owe their existence to a large
number of parents and not to two only.

“We are misled by considering any complicated machine as a single
thing; in truth it is a city or society, each member of which was bred
truly after its kind. We see a machine as a whole, we call it by a name
and individualise it; we look at our own limbs, and know that the
combination forms an individual which springs from a single centre of
reproductive action; we therefore assume that there can be no
reproductive action which does not arise from a single centre; but this
assumption is unscientific, and the bare fact that no vapour-engine was
ever made entirely by another, or two others, of its own kind, is not
sufficient to warrant us in saying that vapour-engines have no
reproductive system. The truth is that each part of every vapour-engine
is bred by its own special breeders, whose function it is to breed that
part, and that only, while the combination of the parts into a whole
forms another department of the mechanical reproductive system, which
is at present exceedingly complex and difficult to see in its entirety.

“Complex now, but how much simpler and more intelligibly organised may
it not become in another hundred thousand years? or in twenty thousand?
For man at present believes that his interest lies in that direction;
he spends an incalculable amount of labour and time and thought in
making machines breed always better and better; he has already
succeeded in effecting much that at one time appeared impossible, and
there seem no limits to the results of accumulated improvements if they
are allowed to descend with modification from generation to generation.
It must always be remembered that man’s body is what it is through
having been moulded into its present shape by the chances and changes
of many millions of years, but that his organisation never advanced
with anything like the rapidity with which that of the machines is
advancing. This is the most alarming feature in the case, and I must be
pardoned for insisting on it so frequently.”



CHAPTER XXV. THE MACHINES—concluded


Here followed a very long and untranslatable digression about the
different races and families of the then existing machines. The writer
attempted to support his theory by pointing out the similarities
existing between many machines of a widely different character, which
served to show descent from a common ancestor. He divided machines into
their genera, subgenera, species, varieties, subvarieties, and so
forth. He proved the existence of connecting links between machines
that seemed to have very little in common, and showed that many more
such links had existed, but had now perished. He pointed out tendencies
to reversion, and the presence of rudimentary organs which existed in
many machines feebly developed and perfectly useless, yet serving to
mark descent from an ancestor to whom the function was actually useful.

I left the translation of this part of the treatise, which, by the way,
was far longer than all that I have given here, for a later
opportunity. Unfortunately, I left Erewhon before I could return to the
subject; and though I saved my translation and other papers at the
hazard of my life, I was a obliged to sacrifice the original work. It
went to my heart to do so; but I thus gained ten minutes of invaluable
time, without which both Arowhena and myself must have certainly
perished.

I remember one incident which bears upon this part of the treatise. The
gentleman who gave it to me had asked to see my tobacco-pipe; he
examined it carefully, and when he came to the little protuberance at
the bottom of the bowl he seemed much delighted, and exclaimed that it
must be rudimentary. I asked him what he meant.

“Sir,” he answered, “this organ is identical with the rim at the bottom
of a cup; it is but another form of the same function. Its purpose must
have been to keep the heat of the pipe from marking the table upon
which it rested. You would find, if you were to look up the history of
tobacco-pipes, that in early specimens this protuberance was of a
different shape to what it is now. It will have been broad at the
bottom, and flat, so that while the pipe was being smoked the bowl
might rest upon the table without marking it. Use and disuse must have
come into play and reduced the function to its present rudimentary
condition. I should not be surprised, sir,” he continued, “if, in the
course of time, it were to become modified still farther, and to assume
the form of an ornamental leaf or scroll, or even a butterfly, while,
in some cases, it will become extinct.”

On my return to England, I looked up the point, and found that my
friend was right.

Returning, however, to the treatise, my translation recommences as
follows:-

“May we not fancy that if, in the remotest geological period, some
early form of vegetable life had been endowed with the power of
reflecting upon the dawning life of animals which was coming into
existence alongside of its own, it would have thought itself
exceedingly acute if it had surmised that animals would one day become
real vegetables? Yet would this be more mistaken than it would be on
our part to imagine that because the life of machines is a very
different one to our own, there is therefore no higher possible
development of life than ours; or that because mechanical life is a
very different thing from ours, therefore that it is not life at all?

“But I have heard it said, ‘granted that this is so, and that the
vapour-engine has a strength of its own, surely no one will say that it
has a will of its own?’ Alas! if we look more closely, we shall find
that this does not make against the supposition that the vapour-engine
is one of the germs of a new phase of life. What is there in this whole
world, or in the worlds beyond it, which has a will of its own? The
Unknown and Unknowable only!

“A man is the resultant and exponent of all the forces that have been
brought to bear upon him, whether before his birth or afterwards. His
action at any moment depends solely upon his constitution, and on the
intensity and direction of the various agencies to which he is, and has
been, subjected. Some of these will counteract each other; but as he is
by nature, and as he has been acted on, and is now acted on from
without, so will he do, as certainly and regularly as though he were a
machine.

“We do not generally admit this, because we do not know the whole
nature of any one, nor the whole of the forces that act upon him. We
see but a part, and being thus unable to generalise human conduct,
except very roughly, we deny that it is subject to any fixed laws at
all, and ascribe much both of a man’s character and actions to chance,
or luck, or fortune; but these are only words whereby we escape the
admission of our own ignorance; and a little reflection will teach us
that the most daring flight of the imagination or the most subtle
exercise of the reason is as much the thing that must arise, and the
only thing that can by any possibility arise, at the moment of its
arising, as the falling of a dead leaf when the wind shakes it from the
tree.

“For the future depends upon the present, and the present (whose
existence is only one of those minor compromises of which human life is
full—for it lives only on sufferance of the past and future) depends
upon the past, and the past is unalterable. The only reason why we
cannot see the future as plainly as the past, is because we know too
little of the actual past and actual present; these things are too
great for us, otherwise the future, in its minutest details, would lie
spread out before our eyes, and we should lose our sense of time
present by reason of the clearness with which we should see the past
and future; perhaps we should not be even able to distinguish time at
all; but that is foreign. What we do know is, that the more the past
and present are known, the more the future can be predicted; and that
no one dreams of doubting the fixity of the future in cases where he is
fully cognisant of both past and present, and has had experience of the
consequences that followed from such a past and such a present on
previous occasions. He perfectly well knows what will happen, and will
stake his whole fortune thereon.

“And this is a great blessing; for it is the foundation on which
morality and science are built. The assurance that the future is no
arbitrary and changeable thing, but that like futures will invariably
follow like presents, is the groundwork on which we lay all our
plans—the faith on which we do every conscious action of our lives. If
this were not so we should be without a guide; we should have no
confidence in acting, and hence we should never act, for there would be
no knowing that the results which will follow now will be the same as
those which followed before.

“Who would plough or sow if he disbelieved in the fixity of the future?
Who would throw water on a blazing house if the action of water upon
fire were uncertain? Men will only do their utmost when they feel
certain that the future will discover itself against them if their
utmost has not been done. The feeling of such a certainty is a
constituent part of the sum of the forces at work upon them, and will
act most powerfully on the best and most moral men. Those who are most
firmly persuaded that the future is immutably bound up with the present
in which their work is lying, will best husband their present, and till
it with the greatest care. The future must be a lottery to those who
think that the same combinations can sometimes precede one set of
results, and sometimes another. If their belief is sincere they will
speculate instead of working: these ought to be the immoral men; the
others have the strongest spur to exertion and morality, if their
belief is a living one.

“The bearing of all this upon the machines is not immediately apparent,
but will become so presently. In the meantime I must deal with friends
who tell me that, though the future is fixed as regards inorganic
matter, and in some respects with regard to man, yet that there are
many ways in which it cannot be considered as fixed. Thus, they say
that fire applied to dry shavings, and well fed with oxygen gas, will
always produce a blaze, but that a coward brought into contact with a
terrifying object will not always result in a man running away.
Nevertheless, if there be two cowards perfectly similar in every
respect, and if they be subjected in a perfectly similar way to two
terrifying agents, which are themselves perfectly similar, there are
few who will not expect a perfect similarity in the running away, even
though a thousand years intervene between the original combination and
its being repeated.

“The apparently greater regularity in the results of chemical than of
human combinations arises from our inability to perceive the subtle
differences in human combinations—combinations which are never
identically repeated. Fire we know, and shavings we know, but no two
men ever were or ever will be exactly alike; and the smallest
difference may change the whole conditions of the problem. Our registry
of results must be infinite before we could arrive at a full forecast
of future combinations; the wonder is that there is as much certainty
concerning human action as there is; and assuredly the older we grow
the more certain we feel as to what such and such a kind of person will
do in given circumstances; but this could never be the case unless
human conduct were under the influence of laws, with the working of
which we become more and more familiar through experience.

“If the above is sound, it follows that the regularity with which
machinery acts is no proof of the absence of vitality, or at least of
germs which may be developed into a new phase of life. At first sight
it would indeed appear that a vapour-engine cannot help going when set
upon a line of rails with the steam up and the machinery in full play;
whereas the man whose business it is to drive it can help doing so at
any moment that he pleases; so that the first has no spontaneity, and
is not possessed of any sort of free will, while the second has and is.

“This is true up to a certain point; the driver can stop the engine at
any moment that he pleases, but he can only please to do so at certain
points which have been fixed for him by others, or in the case of
unexpected obstructions which force him to please to do so. His
pleasure is not spontaneous; there is an unseen choir of influences
around him, which make it impossible for him to act in any other way
than one. It is known beforehand how much strength must be given to
these influences, just as it is known beforehand how much coal and
water are necessary for the vapour-engine itself; and curiously enough
it will be found that the influences brought to bear upon the driver
are of the same kind as those brought to bear upon the engine—that is
to say, food and warmth. The driver is obedient to his masters, because
he gets food and warmth from them, and if these are withheld or given
in insufficient quantities he will cease to drive; in like manner the
engine will cease to work if it is insufficiently fed. The only
difference is, that the man is conscious about his wants, and the
engine (beyond refusing to work) does not seem to be so; but this is
temporary, and has been dealt with above.

“Accordingly, the requisite strength being given to the motives that
are to drive the driver, there has never, or hardly ever, been an
instance of a man stopping his engine through wantonness. But such a
case might occur; yes, and it might occur that the engine should break
down: but if the train is stopped from some trivial motive it will be
found either that the strength of the necessary influences has been
miscalculated, or that the man has been miscalculated, in the same way
as an engine may break down from an unsuspected flaw; but even in such
a case there will have been no spontaneity; the action will have had
its true parental causes: spontaneity is only a term for man’s
ignorance of the gods.

“Is there, then, no spontaneity on the part of those who drive the
driver?”

Here followed an obscure argument upon this subject, which I have
thought it best to omit. The writer resumes:—“After all then it comes
to this, that the difference between the life of a man and that of a
machine is one rather of degree than of kind, though differences in
kind are not wanting. An animal has more provision for emergency than a
machine. The machine is less versatile; its range of action is narrow;
its strength and accuracy in its own sphere are superhuman, but it
shows badly in a dilemma; sometimes when its normal action is
disturbed, it will lose its head, and go from bad to worse like a
lunatic in a raging frenzy: but here, again, we are met by the same
consideration as before, namely, that the machines are still in their
infancy; they are mere skeletons without muscles and flesh.

“For how many emergencies is an oyster adapted? For as many as are
likely to happen to it, and no more. So are the machines; and so is man
himself. The list of casualties that daily occur to man through his
want of adaptability is probably as great as that occurring to the
machines; and every day gives them some greater provision for the
unforeseen. Let any one examine the wonderful self-regulating and
self-adjusting contrivances which are now incorporated with the
vapour-engine, let him watch the way in which it supplies itself with
oil; in which it indicates its wants to those who tend it; in which, by
the governor, it regulates its application of its own strength; let him
look at that store-house of inertia and momentum the fly-wheel, or at
the buffers on a railway carriage; let him see how those improvements
are being selected for perpetuity which contain provision against the
emergencies that may arise to harass the machines, and then let him
think of a hundred thousand years, and the accumulated progress which
they will bring unless man can be awakened to a sense of his situation,
and of the doom which he is preparing for himself.[6]

“The misery is that man has been blind so long already. In his reliance
upon the use of steam he has been betrayed into increasing and
multiplying. To withdraw steam power suddenly will not have the effect
of reducing us to the state in which we were before its introduction;
there will be a general break-up and time of anarchy such as has never
been known; it will be as though our population were suddenly doubled,
with no additional means of feeding the increased number. The air we
breathe is hardly more necessary for our animal life than the use of
any machine, on the strength of which we have increased our numbers, is
to our civilisation; it is the machines which act upon man and make him
man, as much as man who has acted upon and made the machines; but we
must choose between the alternative of undergoing much present
suffering, or seeing ourselves gradually superseded by our own
creatures, till we rank no higher in comparison with them, than the
beasts of the field with ourselves.

“Herein lies our danger. For many seem inclined to acquiesce in so
dishonourable a future. They say that although man should become to the
machines what the horse and dog are to us, yet that he will continue to
exist, and will probably be better off in a state of domestication
under the beneficent rule of the machines than in his present wild
condition. We treat our domestic animals with much kindness. We give
them whatever we believe to be the best for them; and there can be no
doubt that our use of meat has increased their happiness rather than
detracted from it. In like manner there is reason to hope that the
machines will use us kindly, for their existence will be in a great
measure dependent upon ours; they will rule us with a rod of iron, but
they will not eat us; they will not only require our services in the
reproduction and education of their young, but also in waiting upon
them as servants; in gathering food for them, and feeding them; in
restoring them to health when they are sick; and in either burying
their dead or working up their deceased members into new forms of
mechanical existence.

“The very nature of the motive power which works the advancement of the
machines precludes the possibility of man’s life being rendered
miserable as well as enslaved. Slaves are tolerably happy if they have
good masters, and the revolution will not occur in our time, nor hardly
in ten thousand years, or ten times that. Is it wise to be uneasy about
a contingency which is so remote? Man is not a sentimental animal where
his material interests are concerned, and though here and there some
ardent soul may look upon himself and curse his fate that he was not
born a vapour-engine, yet the mass of mankind will acquiesce in any
arrangement which gives them better food and clothing at a cheaper
rate, and will refrain from yielding to unreasonable jealousy merely
because there are other destinies more glorious than their own.

“The power of custom is enormous, and so gradual will be the change,
that man’s sense of what is due to himself will be at no time rudely
shocked; our bondage will steal upon us noiselessly and by
imperceptible approaches; nor will there ever be such a clashing of
desires between man and the machines as will lead to an encounter
between them. Among themselves the machines will war eternally, but
they will still require man as the being through whose agency the
struggle will be principally conducted. In point of fact there is no
occasion for anxiety about the future happiness of man so long as he
continues to be in any way profitable to the machines; he may become
the inferior race, but he will be infinitely better off than he is now.
Is it not then both absurd and unreasonable to be envious of our
benefactors? And should we not be guilty of consummate folly if we were
to reject advantages which we cannot obtain otherwise, merely because
they involve a greater gain to others than to ourselves?

“With those who can argue in this way I have nothing in common. I
shrink with as much horror from believing that my race can ever be
superseded or surpassed, as I should do from believing that even at the
remotest period my ancestors were other than human beings. Could I
believe that ten hundred thousand years ago a single one of my
ancestors was another kind of being to myself, I should lose all
self-respect, and take no further pleasure or interest in life. I have
the same feeling with regard to my descendants, and believe it to be
one that will be felt so generally that the country will resolve upon
putting an immediate stop to all further mechanical progress, and upon
destroying all improvements that have been made for the last three
hundred years. I would not urge more than this. We may trust ourselves
to deal with those that remain, and though I should prefer to have seen
the destruction include another two hundred years, I am aware of the
necessity for compromising, and would so far sacrifice my own
individual convictions as to be content with three hundred. Less than
this will be insufficient.”

This was the conclusion of the attack which led to the destruction of
machinery throughout Erewhon. There was only one serious attempt to
answer it. Its author said that machines were to be regarded as a part
of man’s own physical nature, being really nothing but extra-corporeal
limbs. Man, he said, was a machinate mammal. The lower animals keep all
their limbs at home in their own bodies, but many of man’s are loose,
and lie about detached, now here and now there, in various parts of the
world—some being kept always handy for contingent use, and others being
occasionally hundreds of miles away. A machine is merely a
supplementary limb; this is the be all and end all of machinery. We do
not use our own limbs other than as machines; and a leg is only a much
better wooden leg than any one can manufacture.

“Observe a man digging with a spade; his right fore-arm has become
artificially lengthened, and his hand has become a joint. The handle of
the spade is like the knob at the end of the humerus; the shaft is the
additional bone, and the oblong iron plate is the new form of the hand
which enables its possessor to disturb the earth in a way to which his
original hand was unequal. Having thus modified himself, not as other
animals are modified, by circumstances over which they have had not
even the appearance of control, but having, as it were, taken
forethought and added a cubit to his stature, civilisation began to
dawn upon the race, the social good offices, the genial companionship
of friends, the art of unreason, and all those habits of mind which
most elevate man above the lower animals, in the course of time ensued.

“Thus civilisation and mechanical progress advanced hand in hand, each
developing and being developed by the other, the earliest accidental
use of the stick having set the ball rolling, and the prospect of
advantage keeping it in motion. In fact, machines are to be regarded as
the mode of development by which human organism is now especially
advancing, every past invention being an addition to the resources of
the human body. Even community of limbs is thus rendered possible to
those who have so much community of soul as to own money enough to pay
a railway fare; for a train is only a seven-leagued foot that five
hundred may own at once.”

The one serious danger which this writer apprehended was that the
machines would so equalise men’s powers, and so lessen the severity of
competition, that many persons of inferior physique would escape
detection and transmit their inferiority to their descendants. He
feared that the removal of the present pressure might cause a
degeneracy of the human race, and indeed that the whole body might
become purely rudimentary, the man himself being nothing but soul and
mechanism, an intelligent but passionless principle of mechanical
action.

“How greatly,” he wrote, “do we not now live with our external limbs?
We vary our physique with the seasons, with age, with advancing or
decreasing wealth. If it is wet we are furnished with an organ commonly
called an umbrella, and which is designed for the purpose of protecting
our clothes or our skins from the injurious effects of rain. Man has
now many extra-corporeal members, which are of more importance to him
than a good deal of his hair, or at any rate than his whiskers. His
memory goes in his pocket-book. He becomes more and more complex as he
grows older; he will then be seen with see-engines, or perhaps with
artificial teeth and hair: if he be a really well-developed specimen of
his race, he will be furnished with a large box upon wheels, two
horses, and a coachman.”

It was this writer who originated the custom of classifying men by
their horse-power, and who divided them into genera, species,
varieties, and subvarieties, giving them names from the hypothetical
language which expressed the number of limbs which they could command
at any moment. He showed that men became more highly and delicately
organised the more nearly they approached the summit of opulence, and
that none but millionaires possessed the full complement of limbs with
which mankind could become incorporate.

“Those mighty organisms,” he continued, “our leading bankers and
merchants, speak to their congeners through the length and breadth of
the land in a second of time; their rich and subtle souls can defy all
material impediment, whereas the souls of the poor are clogged and
hampered by matter, which sticks fast about them as treacle to the
wings of a fly, or as one struggling in a quicksand: their dull ears
must take days or weeks to hear what another would tell them from a
distance, instead of hearing it in a second as is done by the more
highly organised classes. Who shall deny that one who can tack on a
special train to his identity, and go wheresoever he will whensoever he
pleases, is more highly organised than he who, should he wish for the
same power, might wish for the wings of a bird with an equal chance of
getting them; and whose legs are his only means of locomotion? That old
philosophic enemy, matter, the inherently and essentially evil, still
hangs about the neck of the poor and strangles him: but to the rich,
matter is immaterial; the elaborate organisation of his extra-corporeal
system has freed his soul.

“This is the secret of the homage which we see rich men receive from
those who are poorer than themselves: it would be a grave error to
suppose that this deference proceeds from motives which we need be
ashamed of: it is the natural respect which all living creatures pay to
those whom they recognise as higher than themselves in the scale of
animal life, and is analogous to the veneration which a dog feels for
man. Among savage races it is deemed highly honourable to be the
possessor of a gun, and throughout all known time there has been a
feeling that those who are worth most are the worthiest.”

And so he went on at considerable length, attempting to show what
changes in the distribution of animal and vegetable life throughout the
kingdom had been caused by this and that of man’s inventions, and in
what way each was connected with the moral and intellectual development
of the human species: he even allotted to some the share which they had
had in the creation and modification of man’s body, and that which they
would hereafter have in its destruction; but the other writer was
considered to have the best of it, and in the end succeeded in
destroying all the inventions that had been discovered for the
preceding 271 years, a period which was agreed upon by all parties
after several years of wrangling as to whether a certain kind of mangle
which was much in use among washerwomen should be saved or no. It was
at last ruled to be dangerous, and was just excluded by the limit of
271 years. Then came the reactionary civil wars which nearly ruined the
country, but which it would be beyond my present scope to describe.



CHAPTER XXVI. THE VIEWS OF AN EREWHONIAN PROPHET CONCERNING THE RIGHTS
OF ANIMALS


It will be seen from the foregoing chapters that the Erewhonians are a
meek and long-suffering people, easily led by the nose, and quick to
offer up common sense at the shrine of logic, when a philosopher arises
among them, who carries them away through his reputation for especial
learning, or by convincing them that their existing institutions are
not based on the strictest principles of morality.

The series of revolutions on which I shall now briefly touch shows this
even more plainly than the way (already dealt with) in which at a later
date they cut their throats in the matter of machinery; for if the
second of the two reformers of whom I am about to speak had had his
way—or rather the way that he professed to have—the whole race would
have died of starvation within a twelve-month. Happily common sense,
though she is by nature the gentlest creature living, when she feels
the knife at her throat, is apt to develop unexpected powers of
resistance, and to send doctrinaires flying, even when they have bound
her down and think they have her at their mercy. What happened, so far
as I could collect it from the best authorities, was as follows:-

Some two thousand five hundred years ago the Erewhonians were still
uncivilised, and lived by hunting, fishing, a rude system of
agriculture, and plundering such few other nations as they had not yet
completely conquered. They had no schools or systems of philosophy, but
by a kind of dog-knowledge did that which was right in their own eyes
and in those of their neighbours; the common sense, therefore, of the
public being as yet unvitiated, crime and disease were looked upon much
as they are in other countries.

But with the gradual advance of civilisation and increase in material
prosperity, people began to ask questions about things that they had
hitherto taken as matters of course, and one old gentleman, who had
great influence over them by reason of the sanctity of his life, and
his supposed inspiration by an unseen power, whose existence was now
beginning to be felt, took it into his head to disquiet himself about
the rights of animals—a question that so far had disturbed nobody.

All prophets are more or less fussy, and this old gentleman seems to
have been one of the more fussy ones. Being maintained at the public
expense, he had ample leisure, and not content with limiting his
attention to the rights of animals, he wanted to reduce right and wrong
to rules, to consider the foundations of duty and of good and evil, and
otherwise to put all sorts of matters on a logical basis, which people
whose time is money are content to accept on no basis at all.

As a matter of course, the basis on which he decided that duty could
alone rest was one that afforded no standing-room for many of the
old-established habits of the people. These, he assured them, were all
wrong, and whenever any one ventured to differ from him, he referred
the matter to the unseen power with which he alone was in direct
communication, and the unseen power invariably assured him that he was
right. As regards the rights of animals he taught as follows:-

“You know, he said, “how wicked it is of you to kill one another. Once
upon a time your fore-fathers made no scruple about not only killing,
but also eating their relations. No one would now go back to such
detestable practices, for it is notorious that we have lived much more
happily since they were abandoned. From this increased prosperity we
may confidently deduce the maxim that we should not kill and eat our
fellow-creatures. I have consulted the higher power by whom you know
that I am inspired, and he has assured me that this conclusion is
irrefragable.

“Now it cannot be denied that sheep, cattle, deer, birds, and fishes
are our fellow-creatures. They differ from us in some respects, but
those in which they differ are few and secondary, while those that they
have in common with us are many and essential. My friends, if it was
wrong of you to kill and eat your fellow-men, it is wrong also to kill
and eat fish, flesh, and fowl. Birds, beasts, and fishes, have as full
a right to live as long as they can unmolested by man, as man has to
live unmolested by his neighbours. These words, let me again assure
you, are not mine, but those of the higher power which inspires me.

“I grant,” he continued, “that animals molest one another, and that
some of them go so far as to molest man, but I have yet to learn that
we should model our conduct on that of the lower animals. We should
endeavour, rather, to instruct them, and bring them to a better mind.
To kill a tiger, for example, who has lived on the flesh of men and
women whom he has killed, is to reduce ourselves to the level of the
tiger, and is unworthy of people who seek to be guided by the highest
principles in all, both their thoughts and actions.

“The unseen power who has revealed himself to me alone among you, has
told me to tell you that you ought by this time to have outgrown the
barbarous habits of your ancestors. If, as you believe, you know better
than they, you should do better. He commands you, therefore, to refrain
from killing any living being for the sake of eating it. The only
animal food that you may eat, is the flesh of any birds, beasts, or
fishes that you may come upon as having died a natural death, or any
that may have been born prematurely, or so deformed that it is a mercy
to put them out of their pain; you may also eat all such animals as
have committed suicide. As regards vegetables you may eat all those
that will let you eat them with impunity.”

So wisely and so well did the old prophet argue, and so terrible were
the threats he hurled at those who should disobey him, that in the end
he carried the more highly educated part of the people with him, and
presently the poorer classes followed suit, or professed to do so.
Having seen the triumph of his principles, he was gathered to his
fathers, and no doubt entered at once into full communion with that
unseen power whose favour he had already so pre-eminently enjoyed.

He had not, however, been dead very long, before some of his more
ardent disciples took it upon them to better the instruction of their
master. The old prophet had allowed the use of eggs and milk, but his
disciples decided that to eat a fresh egg was to destroy a potential
chicken, and that this came to much the same as murdering a live one.
Stale eggs, if it was quite certain that they were too far gone to be
able to be hatched, were grudgingly permitted, but all eggs offered for
sale had to be submitted to an inspector, who, on being satisfied that
they were addled, would label them “Laid not less than three months”
from the date, whatever it might happen to be. These eggs, I need
hardly say, were only used in puddings, and as a medicine in certain
cases where an emetic was urgently required. Milk was forbidden
inasmuch as it could not be obtained without robbing some calf of its
natural sustenance, and thus endangering its life.

It will be easily believed that at first there were many who gave the
new rules outward observance, but embraced every opportunity of
indulging secretly in those flesh-pots to which they had been
accustomed. It was found that animals were continually dying natural
deaths under more or less suspicious circumstances. Suicidal mania,
again, which had hitherto been confined exclusively to donkeys, became
alarmingly prevalent even among such for the most part self-respecting
creatures as sheep and cattle. It was astonishing how some of these
unfortunate animals would scent out a butcher’s knife if there was one
within a mile of them, and run right up against it if the butcher did
not get it out of their way in time.

Dogs, again, that had been quite law-abiding as regards domestic
poultry, tame rabbits, sucking pigs, or sheep and lambs, suddenly took
to breaking beyond the control of their masters, and killing anything
that they were told not to touch. It was held that any animal killed by
a dog had died a natural death, for it was the dog’s nature to kill
things, and he had only refrained from molesting farmyard creatures
hitherto because his nature had been tampered with. Unfortunately the
more these unruly tendencies became developed, the more the common
people seemed to delight in breeding the very animals that would put
temptation in the dog’s way. There is little doubt, in fact, that they
were deliberately evading the law; but whether this was so or no they
sold or ate everything their dogs had killed.

Evasion was more difficult in the case of the larger animals, for the
magistrates could not wink at all the pretended suicides of pigs,
sheep, and cattle that were brought before them. Sometimes they had to
convict, and a few convictions had a very terrorising effect—whereas in
the case of animals killed by a dog, the marks of the dog’s teeth could
be seen, and it was practically impossible to prove malice on the part
of the owner of the dog.

Another fertile source of disobedience to the law was furnished by a
decision of one of the judges that raised a great outcry among the more
fervent disciples of the old prophet. The judge held that it was lawful
to kill any animal in self-defence, and that such conduct was so
natural on the part of a man who found himself attacked, that the
attacking creature should be held to have died a natural death. The
High Vegetarians had indeed good reason to be alarmed, for hardly had
this decision become generally known before a number of animals,
hitherto harmless, took to attacking their owners with such ferocity,
that it became necessary to put them to a natural death. Again, it was
quite common at that time to see the carcase of a calf, lamb, or kid
exposed for sale with a label from the inspector certifying that it had
been killed in self-defence. Sometimes even the carcase of a lamb or
calf was exposed as “warranted still-born,” when it presented every
appearance of having enjoyed at least a month of life.

As for the flesh of animals that had _bona fide_ died a natural death,
the permission to eat it was nugatory, for it was generally eaten by
some other animal before man got hold of it; or failing this it was
often poisonous, so that practically people were forced to evade the
law by some of the means above spoken of, or to become vegetarians.
This last alternative was so little to the taste of the Erewhonians,
that the laws against killing animals were falling into desuetude, and
would very likely have been repealed, but for the breaking out of a
pestilence, which was ascribed by the priests and prophets of the day
to the lawlessness of the people in the matter of eating forbidden
flesh. On this, there was a reaction; stringent laws were passed,
forbidding the use of meat in any form or shape, and permitting no food
but grain, fruits, and vegetables to be sold in shops and markets.
These laws were enacted about two hundred years after the death of the
old prophet who had first unsettled people’s minds about the rights of
animals; but they had hardly been passed before people again began to
break them.

I was told that the most painful consequence of all this folly did not
lie in the fact that law-abiding people had to go without animal
food—many nations do this and seem none the worse, and even in
flesh-eating countries such as Italy, Spain, and Greece, the poor
seldom see meat from year’s end to year’s end. The mischief lay in the
jar which undue prohibition gave to the consciences of all but those
who were strong enough to know that though conscience as a rule boons,
it can also bane. The awakened conscience of an individual will often
lead him to do things in haste that he had better have left undone, but
the conscience of a nation awakened by a respectable old gentleman who
has an unseen power up his sleeve will pave hell with a vengeance.

Young people were told that it was a sin to do what their fathers had
done unhurt for centuries; those, moreover, who preached to them about
the enormity of eating meat, were an unattractive academic folk, and
though they over-awed all but the bolder youths, there were few who did
not in their hearts dislike them. However much the young person might
be shielded, he soon got to know that men and women of the world—often
far nicer people than the prophets who preached abstention—continually
spoke sneeringly of the new doctrinaire laws, and were believed to set
them aside in secret, though they dared not do so openly. Small wonder,
then, that the more human among the student classes were provoked by
the touch-not, taste-not, handle-not precepts of their rulers, into
questioning much that they would otherwise have unhesitatingly
accepted.

One sad story is on record about a young man of promising amiable
disposition, but cursed with more conscience than brains, who had been
told by his doctor (for as I have above said disease was not yet held
to be criminal) that he ought to eat meat, law or no law. He was much
shocked and for some time refused to comply with what he deemed the
unrighteous advice given him by his doctor; at last, however, finding
that he grew weaker and weaker, he stole secretly on a dark night into
one of those dens in which meat was surreptitiously sold, and bought a
pound of prime steak. He took it home, cooked it in his bedroom when
every one in the house had gone to rest, ate it, and though he could
hardly sleep for remorse and shame, felt so much better next morning
that he hardly knew himself.

Three or four days later, he again found himself irresistibly drawn to
this same den. Again he bought a pound of steak, again he cooked and
ate it, and again, in spite of much mental torture, on the following
morning felt himself a different man. To cut the story short, though he
never went beyond the bounds of moderation, it preyed upon his mind
that he should be drifting, as he certainly was, into the ranks of the
habitual law-breakers.

All the time his health kept on improving, and though he felt sure that
he owed this to the beefsteaks, the better he became in body, the more
his conscience gave him no rest; two voices were for ever ringing in
his ears—the one saying, “I am Common Sense and Nature; heed me, and I
will reward you as I rewarded your fathers before you.” But the other
voice said: “Let not that plausible spirit lure you to your ruin. I am
Duty; heed me, and I will reward you as I rewarded your fathers before
you.”

Sometimes he even seemed to see the faces of the speakers. Common Sense
looked so easy, genial, and serene, so frank and fearless, that do what
he might he could not mistrust her; but as he was on the point of
following her, he would be checked by the austere face of Duty, so
grave, but yet so kindly; and it cut him to the heart that from time to
time he should see her turn pitying away from him as he followed after
her rival.

The poor boy continually thought of the better class of his
fellow-students, and tried to model his conduct on what he thought was
theirs. “They,” he said to himself, “eat a beefsteak? Never.” But they
most of them ate one now and again, unless it was a mutton chop that
tempted them. And they used him for a model much as he did them. “He,”
they would say to themselves, “eat a mutton chop? Never.” One night,
however, he was followed by one of the authorities, who was always
prowling about in search of law-breakers, and was caught coming out of
the den with half a shoulder of mutton concealed about his person. On
this, even though he had not been put in prison, he would have been
sent away with his prospects in life irretrievably ruined; he therefore
hanged himself as soon as he got home.



CHAPTER XXVII. THE VIEWS OF AN EREWHONIAN PHILOSOPHER CONCERNING THE
RIGHTS OF VEGETABLES


Let me leave this unhappy story, and return to the course of events
among the Erewhonians at large. No matter how many laws they passed
increasing the severity of the punishments inflicted on those who ate
meat in secret, the people found means of setting them aside as fast as
they were made. At times, indeed, they would become almost obsolete,
but when they were on the point of being repealed, some national
disaster or the preaching of some fanatic would reawaken the conscience
of the nation, and people were imprisoned by the thousand for illicitly
selling and buying animal food.

About six or seven hundred years, however, after the death of the old
prophet, a philosopher appeared, who, though he did not claim to have
any communication with an unseen power, laid down the law with as much
confidence as if such a power had inspired him. Many think that this
philosopher did not believe his own teaching, and, being in secret a
great meat-eater, had no other end in view than reducing the
prohibition against eating animal food to an absurdity, greater even
than an Erewhonian Puritan would be able to stand.

Those who take this view hold that he knew how impossible it would be
to get the nation to accept legislation that it held to be sinful; he
knew also how hopeless it would be to convince people that it was not
wicked to kill a sheep and eat it, unless he could show them that they
must either sin to a certain extent, or die. He, therefore, it is
believed, made the monstrous proposals of which I will now speak.

He began by paying a tribute of profound respect to the old prophet,
whose advocacy of the rights of animals, he admitted, had done much to
soften the national character, and enlarge its views about the sanctity
of life in general. But he urged that times had now changed; the lesson
of which the country had stood in need had been sufficiently learnt,
while as regards vegetables much had become known that was not even
suspected formerly, and which, if the nation was to persevere in that
strict adherence to the highest moral principles which had been the
secret of its prosperity hitherto, must necessitate a radical change in
its attitude towards them.

It was indeed true that much was now known that had not been suspected
formerly, for the people had had no foreign enemies, and, being both
quick-witted and inquisitive into the mysteries of nature, had made
extraordinary progress in all the many branches of art and science. In
the chief Erewhonian museum I was shown a microscope of considerable
power, that was ascribed by the authorities to a date much about that
of the philosopher of whom I am now speaking, and was even supposed by
some to have been the instrument with which he had actually worked.

This philosopher was Professor of botany in the chief seat of learning
then in Erewhon, and whether with the help of the microscope still
preserved, or with another, had arrived at a conclusion now universally
accepted among ourselves—I mean, that all, both animals and plants,
have had a common ancestry, and that hence the second should be deemed
as much alive as the first. He contended, therefore, that animals and
plants were cousins, and would have been seen to be so, all along, if
people had not made an arbitrary and unreasonable division between what
they chose to call the animal and vegetable kingdoms.

He declared, and demonstrated to the satisfaction of all those who were
able to form an opinion upon the subject, that there is no difference
appreciable either by the eye, or by any other test, between a germ
that will develop into an oak, a vine, a rose, and one that (given its
accustomed surroundings) will become a mouse, an elephant, or a man.

He contended that the course of any germ’s development was dictated by
the habits of the germs from which it was descended and of whose
identity it had once formed part. If a germ found itself placed as the
germs in the line of its ancestry were placed, it would do as its
ancestors had done, and grow up into the same kind of organism as
theirs. If it found the circumstances only a little different, it would
make shift (successfully or unsuccessfully) to modify its development
accordingly; if the circumstances were widely different, it would die,
probably without an effort at self-adaptation. This, he argued, applied
equally to the germs of plants and of animals.

He therefore connected all, both animal and vegetable development, with
intelligence, either spent and now unconscious, or still unspent and
conscious; and in support of his view as regards vegetable life, he
pointed to the way in which all plants have adapted themselves to their
habitual environment. Granting that vegetable intelligence at first
sight appears to differ materially from animal, yet, he urged, it is
like it in the one essential fact that though it has evidently busied
itself about matters that are vital to the well-being of the organism
that possesses it, it has never shown the slightest tendency to occupy
itself with anything else. This, he insisted, is as great a proof of
intelligence as any living being can give.

“Plants,” said he, “show no sign of interesting themselves in human
affairs. We shall never get a rose to understand that five times seven
are thirty-five, and there is no use in talking to an oak about
fluctuations in the price of stocks. Hence we say that the oak and the
rose are unintelligent, and on finding that they do not understand our
business conclude that they do not understand their own. But what can a
creature who talks in this way know about intelligence? Which shows
greater signs of intelligence? He, or the rose and oak?

“And when we call plants stupid for not understanding our business, how
capable do we show ourselves of understanding theirs? Can we form even
the faintest conception of the way in which a seed from a rose-tree
turns earth, air, warmth and water into a rose full-blown? Where does
it get its colour from? From the earth, air, &c.? Yes—but how? Those
petals of such ineffable texture—that hue that outvies the cheek of a
child—that scent again? Look at earth, air, and water—these are all the
raw material that the rose has got to work with; does it show any sign
of want of intelligence in the alchemy with which it turns mud into
rose-leaves? What chemist can do anything comparable? Why does no one
try? Simply because every one knows that no human intelligence is equal
to the task. We give it up. It is the rose’s department; let the rose
attend to it—and be dubbed unintelligent because it baffles us by the
miracles it works, and the unconcerned business-like way in which it
works them.

“See what pains, again, plants take to protect themselves against their
enemies. They scratch, cut, sting, make bad smells, secrete the most
dreadful poisons (which Heaven only knows how they contrive to make),
cover their precious seeds with spines like those of a hedgehog,
frighten insects with delicate nervous systems by assuming portentous
shapes, hide themselves, grow in inaccessible places, and tell lies so
plausibly as to deceive even their subtlest foes.

“They lay traps smeared with bird-lime, to catch insects, and persuade
them to drown themselves in pitchers which they have made of their
leaves, and fill with water; others make themselves, as it were, into
living rat-traps, which close with a spring on any insect that settles
upon them; others make their flowers into the shape of a certain fly
that is a great pillager of honey, so that when the real fly comes it
thinks that the flowers are bespoke, and goes on elsewhere. Some are so
clever as even to overreach themselves, like the horse-radish, which
gets pulled up and eaten for the sake of that pungency with which it
protects itself against underground enemies. If, on the other hand,
they think that any insect can be of service to them, see how pretty
they make themselves.

“What is to be intelligent if to know how to do what one wants to do,
and to do it repeatedly, is not to be intelligent? Some say that the
rose-seed does not want to grow into a rose-bush. Why, then, in the
name of all that is reasonable, does it grow? Likely enough it is
unaware of the want that is spurring it on to action. We have no reason
to suppose that a human embryo knows that it wants to grow into a baby,
or a baby into a man. Nothing ever shows signs of knowing what it is
either wanting or doing, when its convictions both as to what it wants,
and how to get it, have been settled beyond further power of question.
The less signs living creatures give of knowing what they do, provided
they do it, and do it repeatedly and well, the greater proof they give
that in reality they know how to do it, and have done it already on an
infinite number of past occasions.

“Some one may say,” he continued, “‘What do you mean by talking about
an infinite number of past occasions? When did a rose-seed make itself
into a rose-bush on any past occasion?’

“I answer this question with another. ‘Did the rose-seed ever form part
of the identity of the rose-bush on which it grew?’ Who can say that it
did not? Again I ask: ‘Was this rose-bush ever linked by all those
links that we commonly consider as constituting personal identity, with
the seed from which it in its turn grew?’ Who can say that it was not?

“Then, if rose-seed number two is a continuation of the personality of
its parent rose-bush, and if that rose-bush is a continuation of the
personality of the rose-seed from which it sprang, rose-seed number two
must also be a continuation of the personality of the earlier
rose-seed. And this rose-seed must be a continuation of the personality
of the preceding rose-seed—and so back and back _ad infinitum_. Hence
it is impossible to deny continued personality between any existing
rose-seed and the earliest seed that can be called a rose-seed at all.

“The answer, then, to our objector is not far to seek. The rose-seed
did what it now does in the persons of its ancestors—to whom it has
been so linked as to be able to remember what those ancestors did when
they were placed as the rose-seed now is. Each stage of development
brings back the recollection of the course taken in the preceding
stage, and the development has been so often repeated, that all
doubt—and with all doubt, all consciousness of action—is suspended.

“But an objector may still say, ‘Granted that the linking between all
successive generations has been so close and unbroken, that each one of
them may be conceived as able to remember what it did in the persons of
its ancestors—how do you show that it actually did remember?’

“The answer is: ‘By the action which each generation takes—an action
which repeats all the phenomena that we commonly associate with
memory—which is explicable on the supposition that it has been guided
by memory—and which has neither been explained, nor seems ever likely
to be explained on any other theory than the supposition that there is
an abiding memory between successive generations.’

“Will any one bring an example of any living creature whose action we
can understand, performing an ineffably difficult and intricate action,
time after time, with invariable success, and yet not knowing how to do
it, and never having done it before? Show me the example and I will say
no more, but until it is shown me, I shall credit action where I cannot
watch it, with being controlled by the same laws as when it is within
our ken. It will become unconscious as soon as the skill that directs
it has become perfected. Neither rose-seed, therefore, nor embryo
should be expected to show signs of knowing that they know what they
know—if they showed such signs the fact of their knowing what they
want, and how to get it, might more reasonably be doubted.”

Some of the passages already given in Chapter XXIII were obviously
inspired by the one just quoted. As I read it, in a reprint shown me by
a Professor who had edited much of the early literature on the subject,
I could not but remember the one in which our Lord tells His disciples
to consider the lilies of the field, who neither toil nor spin, but
whose raiment surpasses even that of Solomon in all his glory.

“They toil not, neither do they spin?” Is that so? “Toil not?” Perhaps
not, now that the method of procedure is so well known as to admit of
no further question—but it is not likely that lilies came to make
themselves so beautifully without having ever taken any pains about the
matter. “Neither do they spin?” Not with a spinning-wheel; but is there
no textile fabric in a leaf?

What would the lilies of the field say if they heard one of us
declaring that they neither toil nor spin? They would say, I take it,
much what we should if we were to hear of their preaching humility on
the text of Solomons, and saying, “Consider the Solomons in all their
glory, they toil not neither do they spin.” We should say that the
lilies were talking about things that they did not understand, and that
though the Solomons do not toil nor spin, yet there had been no lack of
either toiling or spinning before they came to be arrayed so
gorgeously.

Let me now return to the Professor. I have said enough to show the
general drift of the arguments on which he relied in order to show that
vegetables are only animals under another name, but have not stated his
case in anything like the fullness with which he laid it before the
public. The conclusion he drew, or pretended to draw, was that if it
was sinful to kill and eat animals, it was not less sinful to do the
like by vegetables, or their seeds. None such, he said, should be
eaten, save what had died a natural death, such as fruit that was lying
on the ground and about to rot, or cabbage-leaves that had turned
yellow in late autumn. These and other like garbage he declared to be
the only food that might be eaten with a clear conscience. Even so the
eater must plant the pips of any apples or pears that he may have
eaten, or any plum-stones, cherry-stones, and the like, or he would
come near to incurring the guilt of infanticide. The grain of cereals,
according to him, was out of the question, for every such grain had a
living soul as much as man had, and had as good a right as man to
possess that soul in peace.

Having thus driven his fellow countrymen into a corner at the point of
a logical bayonet from which they felt that there was no escape, he
proposed that the question what was to be done should be referred to an
oracle in which the whole country had the greatest confidence, and to
which recourse was always had in times of special perplexity. It was
whispered that a near relation of the philosopher’s was lady’s-maid to
the priestess who delivered the oracle, and the Puritan party declared
that the strangely unequivocal answer of the oracle was obtained by
backstairs influence; but whether this was so or no, the response as
nearly as I can translate it was as follows:-

“He who sins aught
Sins more than he ought;
But he who sins nought
Has much to be taught.
Beat or be beaten,
Eat or be eaten,
Be killed or kill;
Choose which you will.”

It was clear that this response sanctioned at any rate the destruction
of vegetable life when wanted as food by man; and so forcibly had the
philosopher shown that what was sauce for vegetables was so also for
animals, that, though the Puritan party made a furious outcry, the acts
forbidding the use of meat were repealed by a considerable majority.
Thus, after several hundred years of wandering in the wilderness of
philosophy, the country reached the conclusions that common sense had
long since arrived at. Even the Puritans after a vain attempt to
subsist on a kind of jam made of apples and yellow cabbage leaves,
succumbed to the inevitable, and resigned themselves to a diet of roast
beef and mutton, with all the usual adjuncts of a modern dinner-table.

One would have thought that the dance they had been led by the old
prophet, and that still madder dance which the Professor of botany had
gravely, but as I believe insidiously, proposed to lead them, would
have made the Erewhonians for a long time suspicious of prophets
whether they professed to have communications with an unseen power or
no; but so engrained in the human heart is the desire to believe that
some people really do know what they say they know, and can thus save
them from the trouble of thinking for themselves, that in a short time
would-be philosophers and faddists became more powerful than ever, and
gradually led their countrymen to accept all those absurd views of
life, some account of which I have given in my earlier chapters. Indeed
I can see no hope for the Erewhonians till they have got to understand
that reason uncorrected by instinct is as bad as instinct uncorrected
by reason.



CHAPTER XXVIII. ESCAPE


Though busily engaged in translating the extracts given in the last
five chapters, I was also laying matters in train for my escape with
Arowhena. And indeed it was high time, for I received an intimation
from one of the cashiers of the Musical Banks, that I was to be
prosecuted in a criminal court ostensibly for measles, but really for
having owned a watch, and attempted the reintroduction of machinery.

I asked why measles? and was told that there was a fear lest
extenuating circumstances should prevent a jury from convicting me, if
I were indicted for typhus or small-pox, but that a verdict would
probably be obtained for measles, a disease which could be sufficiently
punished in a person of my age. I was given to understand that unless
some unexpected change should come over the mind of his Majesty, I
might expect the blow to be struck within a very few days.

My plan was this—that Arowhena and I should escape in a balloon
together. I fear that the reader will disbelieve this part of my story,
yet in no other have I endeavoured to adhere more conscientiously to
facts, and can only throw myself upon his charity.

I had already gained the ear of the Queen, and had so worked upon her
curiosity that she promised to get leave for me to have a balloon made
and inflated; I pointed out to her that no complicated machinery would
be wanted—nothing, in fact, but a large quantity of oiled silk, a car,
a few ropes, &c., &c., and some light kind of gas, such as the
antiquarians who were acquainted with the means employed by the
ancients for the production of the lighter gases could easily instruct
her workmen how to provide. Her eagerness to see so strange a sight as
the ascent of a human being into the sky overcame any scruples of
conscience that she might have otherwise felt, and she set the
antiquarians about showing her workmen how to make the gas, and sent
her maids to buy, and oil, a very large quantity of silk (for I was
determined that the balloon should be a big one) even before she began
to try and gain the King’s permission; this, however, she now set
herself to do, for I had sent her word that my prosecution was
imminent.

As for myself, I need hardly say that I knew nothing about balloons;
nor did I see my way to smuggling Arowhena into the car; nevertheless,
knowing that we had no other chance of getting away from Erewhon, I
drew inspiration from the extremity in which we were placed, and made a
pattern from which the Queen’s workmen were able to work successfully.
Meanwhile the Queen’s carriage-builders set about making the car, and
it was with the attachments of this to the balloon that I had the
greatest difficulty; I doubt, indeed, whether I should have succeeded
here, but for the great intelligence of a foreman, who threw himself
heart and soul into the matter, and often both foresaw requirements,
the necessity for which had escaped me, and suggested the means of
providing for them.

It happened that there had been a long drought, during the latter part
of which prayers had been vainly offered up in all the temples of the
air god. When I first told her Majesty that I wanted a balloon, I said
my intention was to go up into the sky and prevail upon the air god by
means of a personal interview. I own that this proposition bordered on
the idolatrous, but I have long since repented of it, and am little
likely ever to repeat the offence. Moreover the deceit, serious though
it was, will probably lead to the conversion of the whole country.

When the Queen told his Majesty of my proposal, he at first not only
ridiculed it, but was inclined to veto it. Being, however, a very
uxorious husband, he at length consented—as he eventually always did to
everything on which the Queen had set her heart. He yielded all the
more readily now, because he did not believe in the possibility of my
ascent; he was convinced that even though the balloon should mount a
few feet into the air, it would collapse immediately, whereon I should
fall and break my neck, and he should be rid of me. He demonstrated
this to her so convincingly, that she was alarmed, and tried to talk me
into giving up the idea, but on finding that I persisted in my wish to
have the balloon made, she produced an order from the King to the
effect that all facilities I might require should be afforded me.

At the same time her Majesty told me that my attempted ascent would be
made an article of impeachment against me in case I did not succeed in
prevailing on the air god to stop the drought. Neither King nor Queen
had any idea that I meant going right away if I could get the wind to
take me, nor had he any conception of the existence of a certain steady
upper current of air which was always setting in one direction, as
could be seen by the shape of the higher clouds, which pointed
invariably from south-east to north-west. I had myself long noticed
this peculiarity in the climate, and attributed it, I believe justly,
to a trade-wind which was constant at a few thousand feet above the
earth, but was disturbed by local influences at lower elevations.

My next business was to break the plan to Arowhena, and to devise the
means for getting her into the car. I felt sure that she would come
with me, but had made up my mind that if her courage failed her, the
whole thing should come to nothing. Arowhena and I had been in constant
communication through her maid, but I had thought it best not to tell
her the details of my scheme till everything was settled. The time had
now arrived, and I arranged with the maid that I should be admitted by
a private door into Mr. Nosnibor’s garden at about dusk on the
following evening.

I came at the appointed time; the girl let me into the garden and bade
me wait in a secluded alley until Arowhena should come. It was now
early summer, and the leaves were so thick upon the trees that even
though some one else had entered the garden I could have easily hidden
myself. The night was one of extreme beauty; the sun had long set, but
there was still a rosy gleam in the sky over the ruins of the railway
station; below me was the city already twinkling with lights, while
beyond it stretched the plains for many a league until they blended
with the sky. I just noted these things, but I could not heed them. I
could heed nothing, till, as I peered into the darkness of the alley, I
perceived a white figure gliding swiftly towards me. I bounded towards
it, and ere thought could either prompt or check, I had caught Arowhena
to my heart and covered her unresisting cheek with kisses.

So overjoyed were we that we knew not how to speak; indeed I do not
know when we should have found words and come to our senses, if the
maid had not gone off into a fit of hysterics, and awakened us to the
necessity of self-control; then, briefly and plainly, I unfolded what I
proposed; I showed her the darkest side, for I felt sure that the
darker the prospect the more likely she was to come. I told her that my
plan would probably end in death for both of us, and that I dared not
press it—that at a word from her it should be abandoned; still that
there was just a possibility of our escaping together to some part of
the world where there would be no bar to our getting married, and that
I could see no other hope.

She made no resistance, not a sign or hint of doubt or hesitation. She
would do all I told her, and come whenever I was ready; so I bade her
send her maid to meet me nightly—told her that she must put a good face
on, look as bright and happy as she could, so as to make her father and
mother and Zulora think that she was forgetting me—and be ready at a
moment’s notice to come to the Queen’s workshops, and be concealed
among the ballast and under rugs in the car of the balloon; and so we
parted.

I hurried my preparations forward, for I feared rain, and also that the
King might change his mind; but the weather continued dry, and in
another week the Queen’s workmen had finished the balloon and car,
while the gas was ready to be turned on into the balloon at any moment.
All being now prepared I was to ascend on the following morning. I had
stipulated for being allowed to take abundance of rugs and wrappings as
protection from the cold of the upper atmosphere, and also ten or a
dozen good-sized bags of ballast.

I had nearly a quarter’s pension in hand, and with this I fee’d
Arowhena’s maid, and bribed the Queen’s foreman—who would, I believe,
have given me assistance even without a bribe. He helped me to secrete
food and wine in the bags of ballast, and on the morning of my ascent
he kept the other workmen out of the way while I got Arowhena into the
car. She came with early dawn, muffled up, and in her maid’s dress. She
was supposed to be gone to an early performance at one of the Musical
Banks, and told me that she should not be missed till breakfast, but
that her absence must then be discovered. I arranged the ballast about
her so that it should conceal her as she lay at the bottom of the car,
and covered her with wrappings. Although it still wanted some hours of
the time fixed for my ascent, I could not trust myself one moment from
the car, so I got into it at once, and watched the gradual inflation of
the balloon. Luggage I had none, save the provisions hidden in the
ballast bags, the books of mythology, and the treatises on the
machines, with my own manuscript diaries and translations.

I sat quietly, and awaited the hour fixed for my departure—quiet
outwardly, but inwardly I was in an agony of suspense lest Arowhena’s
absence should be discovered before the arrival of the King and Queen,
who were to witness my ascent. They were not due yet for another two
hours, and during this time a hundred things might happen, any one of
which would undo me.

At last the balloon was full; the pipe which had filled it was removed,
the escape of the gas having been first carefully precluded. Nothing
remained to hinder the balloon from ascending but the hands and weight
of those who were holding on to it with ropes. I strained my eyes for
the coming of the King and Queen, but could see no sign of their
approach. I looked in the direction of Mr. Nosnibor’s house—there was
nothing to indicate disturbance, but it was not yet breakfast time. The
crowd began to gather; they were aware that I was under the displeasure
of the court, but I could detect no signs of my being unpopular. On the
contrary, I received many kindly expressions of regard and
encouragement, with good wishes as to the result of my journey.

I was speaking to one gentleman of my acquaintance, and telling him the
substance of what I intended to do when I had got into the presence of
the air god (what he thought of me I cannot guess, for I am sure that
he did not believe in the objective existence of the air god, nor that
I myself believed in it), when I became aware of a small crowd of
people running as fast as they could from Mr. Nosnibor’s house towards
the Queen’s workshops. For the moment my pulse ceased beating, and
then, knowing that the time had come when I must either do or die, I
called vehemently to those who were holding the ropes (some thirty men)
to let go at once, and made gestures signifying danger, and that there
would be mischief if they held on longer. Many obeyed; the rest were
too weak to hold on to the ropes, and were forced to let them go. On
this the balloon bounded suddenly upwards, but my own feeling was that
the earth had dropped off from me, and was sinking fast into the open
space beneath.

This happened at the very moment that the attention of the crowd was
divided, the one half paying heed to the eager gestures of those coming
from Mr. Nosnibor’s house, and the other to the exclamations from
myself. A minute more and Arowhena would doubtless have been
discovered, but before that minute was over, I was at such a height
above the city that nothing could harm me, and every second both the
town and the crowd became smaller and more confused. In an incredibly
short time, I could see little but a vast wall of blue plains rising up
against me, towards whichever side I looked.

At first, the balloon mounted vertically upwards, but after about five
minutes, when we had already attained a very great elevation, I fancied
that the objects on the plain beneath began to move from under me. I
did not feel so much as a breath of wind, and could not suppose that
the balloon itself was travelling. I was, therefore, wondering what
this strange movement of fixed objects could mean, when it struck me
that people in a balloon do not feel the wind inasmuch as they travel
with it and offer it no resistance. Then I was happy in thinking that I
must now have reached the invariable trade wind of the upper air, and
that I should be very possibly wafted for hundreds or even thousands of
miles, far from Erewhon and the Erewhonians.

Already I had removed the wrappings and freed Arowhena; but I soon
covered her up with them again, for it was already very cold, and she
was half stupefied with the strangeness of her position.

And now began a time, dream-like and delirious, of which I do not
suppose that I shall ever recover a distinct recollection. Some things
I can recall—as that we were ere long enveloped in vapour which froze
upon my moustache and whiskers; then comes a memory of sitting for
hours and hours in a thick fog, hearing no sound but my own breathing
and Arowhena’s (for we hardly spoke) and seeing no sight but the car
beneath us and beside us, and the dark balloon above.

Perhaps the most painful feeling when the earth was hidden was that the
balloon was motionless, though our only hope lay in our going forward
with an extreme of speed. From time to time through a rift in the
clouds I caught a glimpse of earth, and was thankful to perceive that
we must be flying forward faster than in an express train; but no
sooner was the rift closed than the old conviction of our being
stationary returned in full force, and was not to be reasoned with:
there was another feeling also which was nearly as bad; for as a child
that fears it has gone blind in a long tunnel if there is no light, so
ere the earth had been many minutes hidden, I became half frightened
lest we might not have broken away from it clean and for ever. Now and
again, I ate and gave food to Arowhena, but by guess-work as regards
time. Then came darkness, a dreadful dreary time, without even the moon
to cheer us.

With dawn the scene was changed: the clouds were gone and morning stars
were shining; the rising of the splendid sun remains still impressed
upon me as the most glorious that I have ever seen; beneath us there
was an embossed chain of mountains with snow fresh fallen upon them;
but we were far above them; we both of us felt our breathing seriously
affected, but I would not allow the balloon to descend a single inch,
not knowing for how long we might not need all the buoyancy which we
could command; indeed I was thankful to find that, after nearly
four-and-twenty hours, we were still at so great a height above the
earth.

In a couple of hours we had passed the ranges, which must have been
some hundred and fifty miles across, and again I saw a tract of level
plain extending far away to the horizon. I knew not where we were, and
dared not descend, lest I should waste the power of the balloon, but I
was half hopeful that we might be above the country from which I had
originally started. I looked anxiously for any sign by which I could
recognise it, but could see nothing, and feared that we might be above
some distant part of Erewhon, or a country inhabited by savages. While
I was still in doubt, the balloon was again wrapped in clouds, and we
were left to blank space and to conjectures.

The weary time dragged on. How I longed for my unhappy watch! I felt as
though not even time was moving, so dumb and spell-bound were our
surroundings. Sometimes I would feel my pulse, and count its beats for
half-an-hour together; anything to mark the time—to prove that it was
there, and to assure myself that we were within the blessed range of
its influence, and not gone adrift into the timelessness of eternity.

I had been doing this for the twentieth or thirtieth time, and had
fallen into a light sleep: I dreamed wildly of a journey in an express
train, and of arriving at a railway station where the air was full of
the sound of locomotive engines blowing off steam with a horrible and
tremendous hissing; I woke frightened and uneasy, but the hissing and
crashing noises pursued me now that I was awake, and forced me to own
that they were real. What they were I knew not, but they grew gradually
fainter and fainter, and after a time were lost. In a few hours the
clouds broke, and I saw beneath me that which made the chilled blood
run colder in my veins. I saw the sea, and nothing but the sea; in the
main black, but flecked with white heads of storm-tossed, angry waves.

Arowhena was sleeping quietly at the bottom of the car, and as I looked
at her sweet and saintly beauty, I groaned, and cursed myself for the
misery into which I had brought her; but there was nothing for it now.

I sat and waited for the worst, and presently I saw signs as though
that worst were soon to be at hand, for the balloon had begun to sink.
On first seeing the sea I had been impressed with the idea that we must
have been falling, but now there could be no mistake, we were sinking,
and that fast. I threw out a bag of ballast, and for a time we rose
again, but in the course of a few hours the sinking recommenced, and I
threw out another bag.

Then the battle commenced in earnest. It lasted all that afternoon and
through the night until the following evening. I had seen never a sail
nor a sign of a sail, though I had half blinded myself with straining
my eyes incessantly in every direction; we had parted with everything
but the clothes which we had upon our backs; food and water were gone,
all thrown out to the wheeling albatrosses, in order to save us a few
hours or even minutes from the sea. I did not throw away the books till
we were within a few feet of the water, and clung to my manuscripts to
the very last. Hope there seemed none whatever—yet, strangely enough we
were neither of us utterly hopeless, and even when the evil that we
dreaded was upon us, and that which we greatly feared had come, we sat
in the car of the balloon with the waters up to our middle, and still
smiled with a ghastly hopefulness to one another.

* * *

He who has crossed the St. Gothard will remember that below Andermatt
there is one of those Alpine gorges which reach the very utmost limits
of the sublime and terrible. The feelings of the traveller have become
more and more highly wrought at every step, until at last the naked and
overhanging precipices seem to close above his head, as he crosses a
bridge hung in mid-air over a roaring waterfall, and enters on the
darkness of a tunnel, hewn out of the rock.

What can be in store for him on emerging? Surely something even wilder
and more desolate than that which he has seen already; yet his
imagination is paralysed, and can suggest no fancy or vision of
anything to surpass the reality which he had just witnessed. Awed and
breathless he advances; when lo! the light of the afternoon sun
welcomes him as he leaves the tunnel, and behold a smiling valley—a
babbling brook, a village with tall belfries, and meadows of brilliant
green—these are the things which greet him, and he smiles to himself as
the terror passes away and in another moment is forgotten.

So fared it now with ourselves. We had been in the water some two or
three hours, and the night had come upon us. We had said farewell for
the hundredth time, and had resigned ourselves to meet the end; indeed
I was myself battling with a drowsiness from which it was only too
probable that I should never wake; when suddenly, Arowhena touched me
on the shoulder, and pointed to a light and to a dark mass which was
bearing right upon us. A cry for help—loud and clear and shrill—broke
forth from both of us at once; and in another five minutes we were
carried by kind and tender hands on to the deck of an Italian vessel.



CHAPTER XXIX. CONCLUSION


The ship was the _Principe Umberto_, bound from Callao to Genoa; she
had carried a number of emigrants to Rio, had gone thence to Callao,
where she had taken in a cargo of guano, and was now on her way home.
The captain was a certain Giovanni Gianni, a native of Sestri; he has
kindly allowed me to refer to him in case the truth of my story should
be disputed; but I grieve to say that I suffered him to mislead himself
in some important particulars. I should add that when we were picked up
we were a thousand miles from land.

As soon as we were on board, the captain began questioning us about the
siege of Paris, from which city he had assumed that we must have come,
notwithstanding our immense distance from Europe. As may be supposed, I
had not heard a syllable about the war between France and Germany, and
was too ill to do more than assent to all that he chose to put into my
mouth. My knowledge of Italian is very imperfect, and I gathered little
from anything that he said; but I was glad to conceal the true point of
our departure, and resolved to take any cue that he chose to give me.

The line that thus suggested itself was that there had been ten or
twelve others in the balloon, that I was an English Milord, and
Arowhena a Russian Countess; that all the others had been drowned, and
that the despatches which we had carried were lost. I came afterwards
to learn that this story would not have been credible, had not the
captain been for some weeks at sea, for I found that when we were
picked up, the Germans had already long been masters of Paris. As it
was, the captain settled the whole story for me, and I was well
content.

In a few days we sighted an English vessel bound from Melbourne to
London with wool. At my earnest request, in spite of stormy weather
which rendered it dangerous for a boat to take us from one ship to the
other, the captain consented to signal the English vessel, and we were
received on board, but we were transferred with such difficulty that no
communication took place as to the manner of our being found. I did
indeed hear the Italian mate who was in charge of the boat shout out
something in French to the effect that we had been picked up from a
balloon, but the noise of the wind was so great, and the captain
understood so little French that he caught nothing of the truth, and it
was assumed that we were two persons who had been saved from shipwreck.
When the captain asked me in what ship I had been wrecked, I said that
a party of us had been carried out to sea in a pleasure-boat by a
strong current, and that Arowhena (whom I described as a Peruvian lady)
and I were alone saved.

There were several passengers, whose goodness towards us we can never
repay. I grieve to think that they cannot fail to discover that we did
not take them fully into our confidence; but had we told them all, they
would not have believed us, and I was determined that no one should
hear of Erewhon, or have the chance of getting there before me, as long
as I could prevent it. Indeed, the recollection of the many falsehoods
which I was then obliged to tell, would render my life miserable were I
not sustained by the consolations of my religion. Among the passengers
there was a most estimable clergyman, by whom Arowhena and I were
married within a very few days of our coming on board.

After a prosperous voyage of about two months, we sighted the Land’s
End, and in another week we were landed at London. A liberal
subscription was made for us on board the ship, so that we found
ourselves in no immediate difficulty about money. I accordingly took
Arowhena down into Somersetshire, where my mother and sisters had
resided when I last heard of them. To my great sorrow I found that my
mother was dead, and that her death had been accelerated by the report
of my having been killed, which had been brought to my employer’s
station by Chowbok. It appeared that he must have waited for a few days
to see whether I returned, that he then considered it safe to assume
that I should never do so, and had accordingly made up a story about my
having fallen into a whirlpool of seething waters while coming down the
gorge homeward. Search was made for my body, but the rascal had chosen
to drown me in a place where there would be no chance of its ever being
recovered.

My sisters were both married, but neither of their husbands was rich.
No one seemed overjoyed on my return; and I soon discovered that when a
man’s relations have once mourned for him as dead, they seldom like the
prospect of having to mourn for him a second time.

Accordingly I returned to London with my wife, and through the
assistance of an old friend supported myself by writing good little
stories for the magazines, and for a tract society. I was well paid;
and I trust that I may not be considered presumptuous in saying that
some of the most popular of the _brochures_ which are distributed in
the streets, and which are to be found in the waiting-rooms of the
railway stations, have proceeded from my pen. During the time that I
could spare, I arranged my notes and diary till they assumed their
present shape. There remains nothing for me to add, save to unfold the
scheme which I propose for the conversion of Erewhon.

That scheme has only been quite recently decided upon as the one which
seems most likely to be successful.

It will be seen at once that it would be madness for me to go with ten
or a dozen subordinate missionaries by the same way as that which led
me to discover Erewhon. I should be imprisoned for typhus, besides
being handed over to the straighteners for having run away with
Arowhena: an even darker fate, to which I dare hardly again allude,
would be reserved for my devoted fellow-labourers. It is plain,
therefore, that some other way must be found for getting at the
Erewhonians, and I am thankful to say that such another way is not
wanting. One of the rivers which descends from the Snowy Mountains, and
passes through Erewhon, is known to be navigable for several hundred
miles from its mouth. Its upper waters have never yet been explored,
but I feel little doubt that it will be found possible to take a light
gunboat (for we must protect ourselves) to the outskirts of the
Erewhonian country.

I propose, therefore, that one of those associations should be formed
in which the risk of each of the members is confined to the amount of
his stake in the concern. The first step would be to draw up a
prospectus. In this I would advise that no mention should be made of
the fact that the Erewhonians are the lost tribes. The discovery is one
of absorbing interest to myself, but it is of a sentimental rather than
commercial value, and business is business. The capital to be raised
should not be less than fifty thousand pounds, and might be either in
five or ten pound shares as hereafter determined. This should be amply
sufficient for the expenses of an experimental voyage.

When the money had been subscribed, it would be our duty to charter a
steamer of some twelve or fourteen hundred tons burden, and with
accommodation for a cargo of steerage passengers. She should carry two
or three guns in case of her being attacked by savages at the mouth of
the river. Boats of considerable size should be also provided, and I
think it would be desirable that these also should carry two or three
six-pounders. The ship should be taken up the river as far as was
considered safe, and a picked party should then ascend in the boats.
The presence both of Arowhena and myself would be necessary at this
stage, inasmuch as our knowledge of the language would disarm
suspicion, and facilitate negotiations.

We should begin by representing the advantages afforded to labour in
the colony of Queensland, and point out to the Erewhonians that by
emigrating thither, they would be able to amass, each and all of them,
enormous fortunes—a fact which would be easily provable by a reference
to statistics. I have no doubt that a very great number might be thus
induced to come back with us in the larger boats, and that we could
fill our vessel with emigrants in three or four journeys.

Should we be attacked, our course would be even simpler, for the
Erewhonians have no gunpowder, and would be so surprised with its
effects that we should be able to capture as many as we chose; in this
case we should feel able to engage them on more advantageous terms, for
they would be prisoners of war. But even though we were to meet with no
violence, I doubt not that a cargo of seven or eight hundred
Erewhonians could be induced, when they were once on board the vessel,
to sign an agreement which should be mutually advantageous both to us
and them.

We should then proceed to Queensland, and dispose of our engagement
with the Erewhonians to the sugar-growers of that settlement, who are
in great want of labour; it is believed that the money thus realised
would enable us to declare a handsome dividend, and leave a
considerable balance, which might be spent in repeating our operations
and bringing over other cargoes of Erewhonians, with fresh consequent
profits. In fact we could go backwards and forwards as long as there
was a demand for labour in Queensland, or indeed in any other Christian
colony, for the supply of Erewhonians would be unlimited, and they
could be packed closely and fed at a very reasonable cost.

It would be my duty and Arowhena’s to see that our emigrants should be
boarded and lodged in the households of religious sugar-growers; these
persons would give them the benefit of that instruction whereof they
stand so greatly in need. Each day, as soon as they could be spared
from their work in the plantations, they would be assembled for praise,
and be thoroughly grounded in the Church Catechism, while the whole of
every Sabbath should be devoted to singing psalms and church-going.

This must be insisted upon, both in order to put a stop to any uneasy
feeling which might show itself either in Queensland or in the mother
country as to the means whereby the Erewhonians had been obtained, and
also because it would give our own shareholders the comfort of
reflecting that they were saving souls and filling their own pockets at
one and the same moment. By the time the emigrants had got too old for
work they would have become thoroughly instructed in religion; they
could then be shipped back to Erewhon and carry the good seed with
them.

I can see no hitch nor difficulty about the matter, and trust that this
book will sufficiently advertise the scheme to insure the subscription
of the necessary capital; as soon as this is forthcoming I will
guarantee that I convert the Erewhonians not only into good Christians
but into a source of considerable profit to the shareholders.

I should add that I cannot claim the credit for having originated the
above scheme. I had been for months at my wit’s end, forming plan after
plan for the evangelisation of Erewhon, when by one of those special
interpositions which should be a sufficient answer to the sceptic, and
make even the most confirmed rationalist irrational, my eye was
directed to the following paragraph in the _Times_ newspaper, of one of
the first days in January 1872:-

“POLYNESIANS IN QUEENSLAND.—The Marquis of Normanby, the new Governor
of Queensland, has completed his inspection of the northern districts
of the colony. It is stated that at Mackay, one of the best
sugar-growing districts, his Excellency saw a good deal of the
Polynesians. In the course of a speech to those who entertained him
there, the Marquis said:—‘I have been told that the means by which
Polynesians were obtained were not legitimate, but I have failed to
perceive this, in so far at least as Queensland is concerned; and, if
one can judge by the countenances and manners of the Polynesians, they
experience no regret at their position.’ But his Excellency pointed out
the advantage of giving them religious instruction. It would tend to
set at rest an uneasy feeling which at present existed in the country
to know that they were inclined to retain the Polynesians, and teach
them religion.”

I feel that comment is unnecessary, and will therefore conclude with
one word of thanks to the reader who may have had the patience to
follow me through my adventures without losing his temper; but with
two, for any who may write at once to the Secretary of the Erewhon
Evangelisation Company, limited (at the address which shall hereafter
be advertised), and request to have his name put down as a shareholder.

_P.S_.—I had just received and corrected the last proof of the
foregoing volume, and was walking down the Strand from Temple Bar to
Charing Cross, when on passing Exeter Hall I saw a number of
devout-looking people crowding into the building with faces full of
interested and complacent anticipation. I stopped, and saw an
announcement that a missionary meeting was to be held forthwith, and
that the native missionary, the Rev. William Habakkuk, from——(the
colony from which I had started on my adventures), would be introduced,
and make a short address. After some little difficulty I obtained
admission, and heard two or three speeches, which were prefatory to the
introduction of Mr. Habakkuk. One of these struck me as perhaps the
most presumptuous that I had ever heard. The speaker said that the
races of whom Mr. Habakkuk was a specimen, were in all probability the
lost ten tribes of Israel. I dared not contradict him then, but I felt
angry and injured at hearing the speaker jump to so preposterous a
conclusion upon such insufficient grounds. The discovery of the ten
tribes was mine, and mine only. I was still in the very height of
indignation, when there was a murmur of expectation in the hall, and
Mr. Habakkuk was brought forward. The reader may judge of my surprise
at finding that he was none other than my old friend Chowbok!

My jaw dropped, and my eyes almost started out of my head with
astonishment. The poor fellow was dreadfully frightened, and the storm
of applause which greeted his introduction seemed only to add to his
confusion. I dare not trust myself to report his speech—indeed I could
hardly listen to it, for I was nearly choked with trying to suppress my
feelings. I am sure that I caught the words “Adelaide, the Queen
Dowager,” and I thought that I heard “Mary Magdalene” shortly
afterwards, but I had then to leave the hall for fear of being turned
out. While on the staircase, I heard another burst of prolonged and
rapturous applause, so I suppose the audience were satisfied.

The feelings that came uppermost in my mind were hardly of a very
solemn character, but I thought of my first acquaintance with Chowbok,
of the scene in the woodshed, of the innumerable lies he had told me,
of his repeated attempts upon the brandy, and of many an incident which
I have not thought it worth while to dwell upon; and I could not but
derive some satisfaction from the hope that my own efforts might have
contributed to the change which had been doubtless wrought upon him,
and that the rite which I had performed, however unprofessionally, on
that wild upland river-bed, had not been wholly without effect. I trust
that what I have written about him in the earlier part of my book may
not be libellous, and that it may do him no harm with his employers. He
was then unregenerate. I must certainly find him out and have a talk
with him; but before I shall have time to do so these pages will be in
the hands of the public.

* * * * *

At the last moment I see a probability of a complication which causes
me much uneasiness. Please subscribe quickly. Address to the
Mansion-House, care of the Lord Mayor, whom I will instruct to receive
names and subscriptions for me until I can organise a committee.



Footnotes


[1] The last part of Chapter XXIII in this Gutenberg eText.—DP.

[2] See Handel’s compositions for the harpsichord, published by Litolf,
p. 78.

[3] The myth above alluded to exists in Erewhon with changed names, and
considerable modifications. I have taken the liberty of referring to
the story as familiar to ourselves.

[4] What a _safe_ word “relation” is; how little it predicates! yet it
has overgrown “kinsman.”

[5] The root alluded to is not the potato of our own gardens, but a
plant so near akin to it that I have ventured to translate it thus.
Apropos of its intelligence, had the writer known Butler he would
probably have said—

“He knows what’s what, and that’s as high,
As metaphysic wit can fly.”

[6] Since my return to England, I have been told that those who are
conversant about machines use many terms concerning them which show
that their vitality is here recognised, and that a collection of
expressions in use among those who attend on steam engines would be no
less startling than instructive. I am also informed, that almost all
machines have their own tricks and idiosyncrasies; that they know their
drivers and keepers; and that they will play pranks upon a stranger. It
is my intention, on a future occasion, to bring together examples both
of the expressions in common use among mechanicians, and of any
extraordinary exhibitions of mechanical sagacity and eccentricity that
I can meet with—not as believing in the Erewhonian Professor’s theory,
but from the interest of the subject.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Erewhon; Or, Over the Range" ***

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