by Alfred Lawson
One day, not many years ago, while walking along a street in Detroit, Michigan, I was stopped by a ragged and forlorn beggar, with the request for a few cents to buy something to eat.
I gave him a dime and walking on a few paces stopped to observe his following movements. Contrary to my supposition that perhaps he would enter a saloon and buy whiskey he went as fast as his weary legs would carry him in a straight course toward a restaurant on the opposite side of the street.
As he was about to enter the place his attention was attracted by a more pitiable wretch than himself standing outside who had but one leg, was partly blind, and whose nose was almost eaten off by disease.
He paused for a moment and looked sympathetically at the crippled beggar and then started again toward the door of the restaurant, but before entering he stopped once more to take another look, and after a few moments' hesitation he deliberately turned about, handed the other fellow the dime and walked away without feeding himself.
Of all the heroic deeds I have ever witnessed, I recollect none quite so grand and noble as this act, for notwithstanding this poor beggar may have been heir to every other weakness a human being could possibly contract, still he contained that spark of unselfish love for his fellow beings, without which no man is more than a mere brute, and for that reason I respectfully dedicate this work to his memory.
ALFRED WILLIAM LAWSON.
Judging from my own experience it is my opinion that many strange and wonderful events have happened during the past in which man took part, that have never been recorded.
Many reasons could be given for this, but the main causes perhaps, are that the participants have lacked the intelligence, education or literary ability to properly describe them.
In these respects I must admit my own inferiority. But I feel that should I not promulgate an account of my own remarkable life for the benefit of mankind then I would betray the trust nature has confided in me.
So I warn the exquisite literary critic and the over-polished individual who prefer fancy phrases to logical ideas, that this work may somewhat jar their delicate senses of perception.
And having offered these few remarks I shall introduce myself to the reader. My name is John Convert. The earth is my home and country. All men are my kin, be they white, black, red, yellow or brown. I was born somewhere on the Atlantic Ocean between Liverpool and New York while my parents were emigrating from England to America. My mother died giving me birth.
Whether or not it was because I first saw the light of day while in a state of transit that caused me afterwards to acquire a thirst for travel and adventure I cannot say, but true it is that during my whole life I have been constantly moving from place to place. Then again my father was a Methodist preacher and the good Lord ostensibly sent calls to him from every nook and corner of the United States, for as long as I can remember he too was continually changing abiding places. In fact, it seems to me now when I look back that he seldom preached twice from the same pulpit. Whether this was due to bad preaching or because he had the courage to tell the good church folk many plain truths concerning themselves, I know not, but I do know that in many ways my father was a very good man, and also a very learned man—perhaps a little too learned to be wise, for, like most great scholars he may have forced so much book stuff into his brain that he left no room for progressive thoughts of his own. He was, however, quite unlike many clergymen of the present time who apparently think and certainly act as if their main work was to flatter and amuse the women.
My father was straightforward, honest, kind and truthful. He was dogmatic in his religious beliefs, combative by nature and never happier than when fighting the Devil in his own corner, as he expressed it. Furthermore, he was haughty, stubborn and egotistical, and these traits of character I inherited from him. But while I honestly inherited combativeness, stubbornness and egotism from my father, these characteristics became very objectionable to him when displayed by myself. So from my earliest childhood days there was a continual tug of war between us to see who would be master of the house.
There was one inheritance I received from my father, however, that I have always felt profoundly grateful to him for, namely, a sound physical constitution. One of his earnest teachings, which, by the way, was generally ridiculed, was that parents should not bring children into the world unless they themselves had led temperate lives and were in perfect health. In this respect he lived as he preached and practiced temperateness in all things.
As I grew up I was taught to take care of myself physically, as well as mentally and morally. At the age of eleven I was as large and strong as most boys of sixteen, and at sixteen there were few men who could outdo me in feats of strength and endurance. My education was limited to what I learned at the different public schools which I attended, and without exception I was always rated as the very worst boy of the whole institution. I do not believe that ever a day passed that I was not sent to the principal for refractory conduct, and in many instances I was suspended or expelled entirely. Fighting was my chief offence as I was always ready and anxious for a fistic encounter with any boy who was willing to battle. In short, I was a very unruly child with an independent spirit, who recognized the authority of nobody to give arbitrary commands. In consequence of these facts my father and I had frequent altercations and as my innate love for travel and adventure asserted itself I ran away from home when but eleven years old, an age when most children are mere babies, and started out in the world to paddle my own canoe.
I began to earn my own living by selling newspapers on the streets of Chicago, and from that time on became a wanderer upon the face of the earth; working at various occupations and engaging in many schemes and pursuits in an endeavor to pay my way through life, and during the next eleven years I not only visited every part of the United States, but nearly every country in the world, during which time I experienced enough adventures to fill many books if put into print, but as they have no bearing upon this narrative I must pass them by without mention. And so at the age of twenty-two, being then a worthless vagabond, I was aboard a three-masted schooner working my way from Australia to England as a common sailor. That was during the year of 1881.
Phrenologists after studying the bumps on my head have invariably told me that I lacked diplomacy. This, as I understand it, simply means an incapability of acting the hypocrite. And it does seem under the present system of human existence, that he who fails to practice hypocrisy finds innumerable obstacles to overcome, which otherwise might be avoided. So, lacking in this virtue, as diplomacy is sometimes styled, led me into trouble with nearly everybody with whom I had any dealings. Indeed, had it not been for this very defect in my nature, I should not have been forced to pass through the most remarkable life, I think, ever experienced by living man. And so the ship had barely passed out of the harbor before I had undiplomatically aroused the enmity of all the other seamen, and within two weeks I was thoroughly detested by every man aboard from the captain to the cook. The crew was composed of an unusually tough set of characters who avowed from the beginning that they did not like Yankees and would make life insufferable for me before reaching the next port. Fist fights became frequent and each one of the sailors took a "punch at my head" at different times, only to learn that I enjoyed that kind of sport and retaliated in a way that laid the offender up for repairs afterward. The fact that in these encounters I always gained an easy victory over my opponents caused a more intense feeling of bitterness to exist than ever, and to make matters worse the captain's wife, who was the only woman on the ship, took sides with me against all the others. This apparently angered the captain, for on one occasion, after he had given orders to have me put in irons for breaking one of my shipmate's ribs, and she interceded in my behalf, he became furious and threatened to have me thrown overboard. This threat, however, only had the effect of making me more stubborn and defiant. As a cowboy I had fought Indians and real bad men in the western states of America, hunted elephants in Africa, tigers in India, and roughed it as a gold seeker in Australia until I had become hardened against danger and absolutely fearless, so that a menace against my life did not worry me in the least. In fact, I really enjoyed the situation and dared the captain to do his worst.
We had been out of Sydney about four weeks, and although I did not know the exact latitude and longitude, I imagined we must have been a considerable distance to the south and east of Cape Colony. It seems to me now that I heard somebody say we were a little further south of the regular course taken by vessels sailing around the Cape. It was one of those pleasant nights in December, which one must experience in southern waters to appreciate, that I took my turn on watch in the forward part of the boat. It was past midnight and one of the darkest nights I have ever known. The sea was rather calm but a good breeze astern caused the ship to make good headway. I was all alone and paced back and forth from side to side peering out into space and darkness ahead. Occasionally, I would remain for several minutes leaning against one of the railings. Except for the splashing of the sea against the side of the ship, all was quiet. As I stood in one of my meditative moods, looking straight ahead, I was suddenly attracted by something which caused me to turn quickly and look in the opposite direction, and then I observed the forms of four men coming quickly toward me, but before I realized their object or had time to speak, they grabbed me by the arms and legs. I struggled furiously for several moments and freeing my hands, dealt one of them a vicious punch which felled him to the deck, and it seemed for awhile that I would shake them all off, when suddenly I received a terrible blow on the side of my head which partially stunned me, and during the instant of inactivity on my part I was raised bodily high in the air and plunged overboard into the waters below.
It was in a semi-conscious state that I struck the water head foremost, and it was by instinct, I suppose, that I immediately started to swim away from the side of the vessel.
Although I was a powerful swimmer it seemed as if I should never reach the surface again. The sudden and unexpected plunge had caused me to go into the sea with my mouth open and thereby swallow a large quantity of salt water. When almost on the verge of strangulation, however, by a supreme effort I finally managed to reach the air again, more dead than alive. It was then some time before I regained my breath and fully understood what had happened. I assure the reader that it was not a very pleasant sensation to find myself out in the middle of the ocean without even the support of a life preserver and the ship sailing away in the distance. During my adventurous career I had faced death a score of times without the slightest emotion or semblance of fright, but as I floated about on that broad expanse of water alone I then realized for the first time in my life what a tiny, helpless microbe I really was.
Oh, you little mortal known as man; you microscopical mixture of protoplasm and egotism; you atomical speck of ignorance and avarice; you who believe that the earth, moon, stars and all creation was manufactured for your special benefit; if you could only be shown your actual size in the universe as I was on that occasion, I think it would result in the eradication of some of your innate vanity and selfishness, thereby proving an incalculable blessing to you.
And now at last I was placed in a position whereby I could feel and reflect upon my own littleness. I had absolutely no hope of being saved from a watery grave, feeling that it was only a matter of an hour or two before I should succumb to the inevitable and sink to the bottom of the sea. Still I was unwilling to give up the few bones entrusted to my care until finally overcome by exhaustion and so I kept afloat by lying on my back and exerting myself as little as possible.
At length, however, my strength gave way entirely and I felt that the time had arrived when I must come face to face with the God whom I had been taught to believe in from infancy according to the Christian faith. Then it seemed that a million thoughts crowded themselves into my brain at the same time.
How would He receive me? What dire judgment would He pass upon me? Had I ever done anything to merit His pleasure? I could not recollect one good deed I had ever accomplished of sufficient importance to call to His attention, but on the contrary I recalled a thousand bad acts I should not have committed. I had spent a roving, aimless existence in which I had done practically nothing to increase the production or knowledge of the world, I had lived for myself alone—a life of mere pleasure seeking, without ever a thought of others' rights or happiness. I remembered that during a hunting expedition in Africa how I had once shot and killed seventeen spring-bok in one day, and how I had swelled up with conceit to know that I had destroyed the lives of that many living things. True, they were not human beings, but were they not creatures of nature as well as myself? What right had I to take the life of any living thing at all, let alone for mere pleasure? What excuse could I now offer if tried for that cowardly offence? Would I ask God's forgiveness? If so, would it be any better to ask Him to forgive me just before I died or immediately afterward? What difference would it make? Then again I wondered if God would have any more respect for me if after committing the deed I whined and begged for mercy. Would He not consider that cowardly on my part? Would He not think better of me if I went forward bravely and said: Here I am, O God, I know I have done wrong, now punish me as Thou see'st fit. What would I do if I were to occupy the Creator's position as supreme judge in a case of that kind? Would I not think far more of the man who would come forward courageously and take the punishment he deserved than the creeping, cringing and whining being who begged for mercy? Would God the Creator be more unreasonable about the matter than I, whom He had created?
I had always thanked God as well as my parents for the extraordinary physical strength and courage with which I was endowed, and during my life of trials and hardships that courage had never been shaken by man or beast, but now I felt that the crucial test was about to be applied. Would the courage the Almighty gave me weaken when about to face Him who had bestowed it upon me?
With these and similar thoughts passing through my mind and my strength exhausted, I took one long breath and sank beneath the water.
Sinking slowly down with a feeling of drowsiness stealing away my senses, I was suddenly awakened by my body coming to an abrupt stop and resting upon some hard substance. My first impression was that I had collided with some huge sea-monster and was about to be devoured. So placing my hands and feet firmly upon it I sprang upward with all the force I could command in an effort to get out of its reach, but to my great surprise my head and half of my body shot out of the water into the air above and down I came again square upon my feet with a jolt that caused my teeth to rattle. And there I stood with my head and shoulders out of the water while my lungs inhaled long draughts of pure fresh air. I was too astonished to think and too weak to move, so I just stood there motionless until I had regained my equilibrium. I could never forget how sweet life seemed to me at that time. For a long time I remained standing there without giving a thought as to what I was resting upon, and when I did direct my attention to the question I was incapable of forming a satisfactory solution to the mystery. According to the charts there was no land in that part of the ocean. Could it be a whale, I wondered? The more I thought of it the more perplexed I became. The night was very dark and I could see nothing about me in any direction, so I concluded that the only thing to do was to remain standing just where I was until daybreak. It was a long and tedious wait and I suffered much from stiffness and cold, but at last dawn appeared and I anxiously strained my eyes, looking about in every direction. Then my head nearly burst with a feeling of joyousness, for within two hundred yards of me I discerned the outline of what appeared to be a hill of rocks protruding from the deep, and as the light grew brighter I started to wade slowly towards it. This was an extremely tiresome undertaking, as the bed upon which I had been resting was very rocky and uneven and I received many bruises before finally reaching its base. My limbs too were thoroughly numb and almost refused to work, but with each step ahead the water became shallower and my progress less arduous. As I went forward I thought it was by the miraculous hand of God that my life had been saved, for the time being at least. Then, again, it occurred to me, that if it was the hand of the Almighty that saved me, it must have been by His hand also that I was thrown overboard, for if He directed the one act He must have surely directed the other. So why blame the sailors for attempting to take my life if it was God's will that it should be done?
Reaching the base of the rocks in a feeble condition and staggering like a man under the influence of liquor, I threw myself down and went to sleep just as the sun peeped over the horizon.
Several hours later I awakened with a start to find the burning sun directly overhead and my body dripping with perspiration, my throat parched and an awful feeling of thirst within me. My tongue felt as though it was several inches thick and it seemed as though I would choke immediately for the want of something to drink. Aside from the thirst, however, I felt considerably refreshed and sprang to my feet with my usual agility.
The first thing that attracted my attention as I looked about in a curious manner, was that this strange pile of stone which protruded from the sea, bore evidence of having once been a part of some mammoth building which had apparently been shaken down and now lay in a chaotic heap. Some of the stones were of tremendous size and different in shape and quality from any others I have ever seen. Their designs showed that wonderful skill must have been employed by the workmen who originally cut and fit them into position. The whole mass formed a sort of a ragged hill about one hundred feet in diameter and the highest point about forty feet above the sea level.
In looking about, I discovered to my great delight that among the crevices of the rocks there were many little places which acted as basins to store up water from the recent rains, and I immediately took advantage of these conditions to quench my thirst and bathe my face and head. This done I began climbing up toward the top of the pile. It took considerable time and patience to make the ascent, as the stones were massed together in a most irregular and precipitous manner. Reaching the highest point, I eagerly scanned the surrounding horizons with the hope of seeing some passing ship, but nothing except sky and water met my gaze.
Seating myself upon the topmost rock, I became buried in the depths of meditation, and as I sat perched up there alone without even a glimpse of a sea-fowl for companionship I felt as if I was the only living thing extant; in fact, I actually imagined myself as being the center and objective point of the universe. God in His great wisdom had flung me there for some purpose or other and was watching my movements to the exclusion of everything else, so I thought. Aye, even the warmth from the rays of the sun had been arranged for my special benefit. How big a little faith will make one feel sometimes.
For several hours I remained in one position, musing over my strange situation and wondering what the final outcome would be. At last, after the sun had gone down and darkness began to encircle me, I decided to look about and find a suitable place to lie down and sleep for the night. So I began to climb from rock to rock until I had reached the opposite side of the jagged plateau, when suddenly one of the great stones wobbled, I lost my balance and slid down an incline into a sort of a pit. Then my feet struck something which momentarily stopped my unexpected descent, but it proved to be a mere shell, and crashing through it I landed with a violent jolt about ten feet further below. Although somewhat stunned and a trifle confused by the suddenness of the fall, I quickly regained my equanimity and looking upward I saw a small hole which my body had passed through, the shaggy rocks above, the dark sky and a few stars, but the strangest thing of all was, that the grotto into which I had fallen was as light as day.
After all I had passed through during the preceding twenty-four hours, then to be suddenly cast from the outer darkness into a hole as light as if illuminated by the mid-day sun was a revelation that caused me to seriously doubt my own senses. But having spent a life of travel and adventure in which I had faced many unexpected dangers and inexplicable sights, I soon regained my normal presence of mind and began to look around with considerable interest. I was now fully convinced that the great pile of stone which I had so strangely reached had at one time formed a gigantic structure moulded together by human ingenuity.
The enclosure I found myself within might have been a hallway of the edifice, but it was hard to positively distinguish it as such, for the building in falling had placed things in an almost unrecognizable condition. Some of the great stones from above had passed through the ceiling and floor, while others had become wedged together before reaching the surface, thus forming a very ragged and peculiar aperture.
In places where there were no obstructions I noticed a beautiful white marble floor, while here and there a fragment of the walls showed that the art of decorating had at one time reached a degree of proficiency quite unapproachable by our modern artists. The space I found myself in was too irregular in its outlines to form an adequate idea of what it might have been used for. In some places I had to stoop to pass along, while in others I was forced to climb over great blocks of stone.
After being in this passage about half an hour making an inspection of the premises, I discovered a small opening which led into another apartment. It appeared that a great door had separated the two rooms, but had apparently become broken with the fall of the building and left a space barely wide enough for my body to pass through. So in I went. Or out I went, I was not quite sure which, for after squeezing through the doorway a scene presented itself to my astonished gaze that I must confess my inability to properly describe.
The view before me was a mammoth park with its variety of trees, flowers and shrubbery of every possible description.
Straight ahead in the distance and plainly discernible was a running brook which flowed along in a devious course and emptied into a lake far beyond. And there, in all its majesty was the sun just sinking behind the horizon, its brilliant radiance forming the most beautiful effects of colorization upon the distant clouds it has ever been my good fortune to behold.
I stood in motionless reverence for several minutes as my mind expanded with wonder at the magnificent panorama, while my nostrils inhaled a most delicious fragrance from the innumerable plants which seemed to put new life into my enervated body.
What strange phenomena is this, I soliloquized? On the outside of the earth the sun had gone down and darkness prevailed, while down here, in under its crust I found it blazing away in all its splendor. In fact it seemed that an entirely new world had suddenly been thrown in front of me. Was I really alive or had I passed into some other world, was the next question to enter my mind. I remembered that I had fallen a considerable distance into this strange place and was somewhat stunned in the tumble. Perhaps, thought I, my body is still lying somewhere among the rocks above while this is only my spirit wandering about in a fanciful manner. But no, looking downward I plainly saw my massive frame dressed in sailor's clothes just as I had left the ship and I was positive of being alive, awake, and in my right senses. And the wonders multiplied. Looking to the right of the entrance, a short distance away, I observed a marble platform elevated about two feet from the ground, in the midst of huge flower-beds and shaded by large trees, upon which sat a number of men, silent and motionless, with various musical instruments in their hands as if they had just finished playing and were taking a short rest. These instruments were of an entirely different pattern from any I had ever seen. And the men! Oh, if I only had the power to show them to my fellow beings as I saw them. What an imposing, noble looking lot they were. They were all about the same size and not one of them could have been less than eight feet in height. In looking at them closely, I noticed that they possessed most magnificent physiques. They were neither fat nor lean and their well-groomed bodies showed plainly that no horse or piece of machinery ever received better care or attention. While they appeared to be from thirty to forty years in ages, not one of them wore a mustache, beard or any other shaggy decoration of the face. Their foreheads were broad and massive and extended to the center of their splendidly shaped craniums. Extraordinary intelligence, kindness and gentleness showed forth from every feature of their handsome countenances. Judging from their well-proportioned frames, each one looked powerful enough to battle single handed with an elephant. Judging from their faces not one of them would have hurt a flea. Each man appeared to be buried in the depth of thought—serious thought— notwithstanding every physiognomy plainly showed that the utmost happiness and contentment existed within each, and good will between all of them. The skin of their faces, hands and feet was as white as snow, transparent, and backed by a beautiful pink. At first sight I thought they were the gods. Uniformly clothed in closely fitting garments from the ankles to the neck, their superb forms showed complete symmetrical perfection. The hue of their raiment was indescribable for I had never seen the like before. In fact the colors actually appeared to change before my steady gaze. Their feet were bare, very shapely, and the toes of greater length than ordinarily.
As I stood rooted to the ground and viewed them with intense admiration, I wondered why they did not speak or take notice of my presence. But finally in order to attract their attention I shouted, hello. My voice sounded rather harsh and peculiar on this occasion, and was more like the bray of an ass than anything else, but they made no motion as if they heard me, or were aware of my existence. Walking over to the nearest one, I reached up and touched him on the shoulder. Then I sprang back in amazement, for instead of giving any sign of recognition he merely placed his instrument in position, as did all the others, and with slow, graceful movements began to play. The first strains of music, although distinct and supernaturally grand, seemed to be miles away but gradually increased in sound as if coming nearer and nearer. At the same time I observed that the musicians, who were not only using both hands in the manipulation of their instruments but with graceful dexterity their feet as well, were becoming enthusiastic and appeared to throw their very lives and souls into the work. If at first while inactive they appeared to be extraordinarily intellectual beings, now in action they looked divine. Their eyes blazed like miniature suns shooting forth sparks of a thousand different hues. It seemed as if the very music itself came from the expression of their faces. And on, on, on, came the intoxicating strains, increasing in volume and excellence until I imagined that all heaven had broken loose in one great effort to charm my feeble senses, and then with a thunderous climax it ceased instantly, the musicians smiled and bowed pleasantly to one another, and then resumed their former attitudes.
No mortal's pen could describe my ecstasy while listening to the music produced by this body of—I must say heavenly creatures. There was something strange and analogous about it, too, that seemed to recall a mysterious dream or vision I had once passed through. Whether it was caused by the music or the kindly expressions of love for one another on the faces of the players I know not, but nevertheless great tears spontaneously rolled down my cheeks, the first I ever recollect having shed, and at the conclusion of the piece I remained transfixed to the spot for several minutes in deep cogitation.
Once more, however, my inquiring nature aroused me and I walked over toward the leader. His face was turned slightly in another direction, so I decided to step up on the platform, get squarely in front of him and look straight into his eyes. So with a light movement I sprang for the rostrum. But instead of reaching it my foot and head struck—not the platform but solid wall, and a second later I found myself in a heap on the ground. Then I started to think. Next I began to feel and finally a broad grin overspread my face, for the scene before me was not real after all, but a wonderful painting on the interior of the building.
Putting my hand against the surface and walking along I discovered that this great scene which appeared to stretch away into the distance for several miles, including the trees, brook, lake, sun, clouds, sky, and everything else, was painted on the wall, ceiling and floor, of a circular room. The ceiling was arranged in the shape of a dome, while the floor made a concave connection with the wall. The whole apartment could not have been over fifty feet in diameter. The entire room was covered by one painting, and so well had the work been done that the only way I could discern the difference between the real and artistic scene was by extending my hands in front of me and feeling my way along.
But what about the music? Surely I heard it, and without doubt the skilled musicians had performed their work right before my eyes. And the sun, the light, and the fragrance from the flowers, what about these? While in a state of perplexity at not being able to understand these mysterious things, my eyes fell upon something which I had not noticed previously, at the same time causing me to give a sudden start as if pierced by an electric shock.
To the left of the door through which I had entered and lying in a reclining position upon a bed of flowers, similar in shape to a modern sofa, was the most beautiful object, I think, ever created—a woman. And such a woman. Oh, ignorant humanity, why do you not breed all women like that one? Although nearly twenty-three years have passed since then, still the vision of her is as fresh upon my mind now as at that moment when my eyes first beheld her. And as I think of her now I am unable to repress the tears from filling my eyes, strong man that I am.
Dressed in a tight-fitting costume like those worn by the men, with the addition of a net-like drapery of light material entwined about her, and lying in a comfortable position partly on one side, with her lovely head resting upon one arm, her shapely body and limbs posed gracefully and her eyes closed in slumber, she impressed me as being the queen of the universe.
This is the most beautiful part of the whole picture, thought I, taking a few steps forward. What artist's imagination could ever have created such a sublime and realistic work? As I stood in reverent contemplation of her my admiration was unbounded. It seemed as if my feelings would burst within me. My first love for woman was then and there confirmed for all time. I decided I would stay and spend the rest of my days right there, silently attesting my everlasting devotion to that divine likeness of ideality. Had I not discovered that the whole thing was a work of art, I should have felt positive that she was really alive and merely lay there in peaceful repose. Then a sudden thought passed through my mind which gradually expanded into an irresistible desire; I would press my lips to hers and thereby seal my love forevermore.
Trembling like a timid school-boy I advanced closer. How lovely she appeared. How real. Bending forward and putting my head in juxtaposition to hers it seemed as if I actually heard her heart beat. It may have been my own. With my face flushed and feeling that perhaps I might be taking an unfair advantage of one who would not appreciate my caress, I tenderly touched her lips with mine. For another moment of such indescribable ecstasy I would gladly pass through all the imaginary tortures of the infernal regions. But it ended there.
No sooner had our lips come together than I became aware of the fact that the adorable object before me was real and not artificial as supposed. As if by magic her mouth twitched slightly and her whole frame quivered perceptibly; then she opened her eyes and finally with a most graceful spring she landed squarely upon her feet directly in front of me. I jumped backward in utter amazement. And there we stood face to face staring into each other's eyes. I then noticed that she was about seven feet in height and although not lean still there was not an ounce of superfluous flesh on her serpent-like figure. Like the men, she too was bare footed, and her hair, a dark silky texture, was short and very artistically arranged. Her snow white face, transparent with pink, was the acme of loveliness, with an expression of gentleness, purity and modesty plainly stamped upon every feature. Her dazzling eyes sparkled with the brilliancy of huge diamonds. Evidently she was as much astonished as myself at the strange course of events. Although she did not speak still I received an impression from her as if put into so many words which plainly said: "John, am I dreaming or what awful experiment have you attempted to transform yourself into such a hideous creature?" I tried to speak but my first effort nearly choked me. Then in a voice which seemed to be unusually coarse I finally blurted out: "My dear lady, will you kindly tell me who or what you are?" These words seemed to puzzle her more than ever and after hurriedly glancing about the room she looked me over carefully from head to foot. Speaking once more I said, "Madame, can you understand my language?" Then I received another strange but unmistakable impression which replied: "I can understand your thoughts but not your babble." "Are you able," she continued telepathically, "to give an explanation of this extraordinary metamorphosis?" "The only information I can offer," answered I, "will be cheerfully given. My name is John Convert, late seaman aboard the schooner Brawl, bound from Sydney to London. Last night I was thrown overboard by my shipmates and after floating about the deep for several hours I landed upon this pile of ruins surrounded by the sea. In making an investigation of the exterior I lost my foothold, fell into a crevice and breaking through a thin crust I landed in the outer passageway which finally led me into this room. I must confess that everything here is as inexplicable to me as I appear to you." As I spoke she seemed to be laboring under intense mental excitement and tears came to her eyes.
"I understand it all now," she made known to me in her mysterious way, "the experiment failed."
"What experiment was that?" questioned I in surprise.
Looking me straight in the eye as though trying to impress upon my mind the importance of her communication, she answered, "the attempt of man to change the course of the earth in space."
"And so you inform me that there is nothing left of beautiful Sageland but a heap of ruins surrounded by the sea," mused the lovely—the idea struck me to name her Arletta—"tell me what happened to the rest of my people."
"Not knowing anything about the matter it is impossible for me to answer that question," replied I; "and although I have traveled through nearly every country on earth still no such people as you or the magnificent objects represented in that picture have ever come to my attention before. In fact I have never read of such a race or even heard of a country by the name of Sageland."
At this remark she turned abruptly and walked—or rather flew, so easy and graceful were her movements—over to a portion of the wall and looked long and earnestly into a peculiar instrument, then returning she said: (without the use of words) "according to my chronometer, more than four thousand two hundred and thirty years have elapsed since the awful catastrophe."
"Four thousand, two hundred and thirty years!" ejaculated I, "great heavens, that must have been about the time of the flood." "What flood?" inquired she.
Then I proceeded to tell her how in those days the people of the world being so wicked that God during a terrible fit of anger made it rain for forty days and forty nights, causing the destruction of every living thing on earth except one Noah, his family and a male and female of every animal, bird and insect, who were saved by being taken aboard of a huge ark built for the purpose by Noah. And then after every living thing not aboard the boat was destroyed, how the waves receded, Noah and his flock were safely landed upon a mountain peak, and God put a bow into the sky as a pledge that he would never do such a thing again. Arletta appeared somewhat amused at my recital of the story and at its conclusion merely remarked: "Noah evidently had more good sense than his god." Then she added: "As to the rainbow, that was seen by the inhabitants of the earth millions of years before Noah's time."
"So the world has retrogressed during the past four thousand years," mused she sadly.
"Retrogressed! No indeed, the world has made great progress and has now reached a wonderful state of civilization," answered I, proudly.
Motioning me to an opposite position she majestically seated herself upon the couch and after seriously looking at me for some time she finally said: "This is one of nature's most extraordinary proceedings and there are many things I wish to talk with you about, but before going into the details of this matter I am anxious to get a view of the world as it exists now. You have observed that unlike the lower animals, in which rank unfortunately you belong at the present time"—here I interrupted her by bursting forth into loud laughter, not because I enjoyed being called an animal myself but at the thought of how some of my civilized friends would feel if informed that they were lower animals. My intervention, however, not disturbing her in the least, she resumed: "In our nomenclature your species was known as the Apeman, and represented in the chain of evolution the link between the Ape and Man. Our scientists placed the Apeman within the ranks of the lower animals for reasons I shall make clear later. But to continue, you have observed that unlike yourself I have been conversing with you without the use of the voice but with the mind, the most effectual agent of communication and one of the senses the Apeman has not cultivated. Now I shall show you how to see without eyes.
"Mind sight is an occult force which was exercised to great advantage by my people. This force eliminates both distance and obstruction and exposes to view the object sought even if it is located on the opposite side of the globe. Any mind, if sufficiently strong, can contract distance and bring any mundane scene within its range while penetrating solid matter as if it did not exist at all. So by utilizing this power, which I possess to a considerable degree, it is my intention to make a hurried survey of the earth's surface in order to obtain an exact idea of present conditions. Furthermore, by the subtle concentration of our mind forces together I shall convey to your inner vision the actual scenes witnessed by myself, and you shall act as my mental consort on a trip around the world."
After the many wonderful things I had already seen it was my opinion that there was nothing impossible for this beautiful woman to perform, so I mildly informed her that I was at her service, and ready for the journey to begin.
"Well then," said she, "before starting I wish to warn you that no matter what you see, hear or feel on this trip you must not disturb our observation with your primitive babble, apish laughter or by trying to offer any comments whatsoever."
At this remark I was brought to a realization of the fact that Arletta, whom I so ardently loved, aye even worshipped, was treating me in about the same manner as I would have treated a pet monkey had I been teaching it some new tricks. She evidently regarded my smiles and feelings for her with about the same consideration as I should have given to those of some grinning female baboon had it been trying to make love to me. Her last thoughts, therefore, aroused my sensitive nature, and a violent outburst of temper was the result. I did not mind being called an Apeman so much, but hated the idea of being treated like one, so working myself into a passion I severely censured her, and with much bluster and many gestures endeavored to impress upon her mind how much superior I was to what she had imagined. It was some time before my anger abated, and then I noticed that she appeared quite unmoved by my wrath but sat looking calmly and alternately at me and one of the figures in the picture, while her face bore an expression of sadness and pity. Then I felt ashamed to think of what a lack of self-control I had exhibited, and humbly begged her pardon.
"But now," said Arletta, and I fancied that she called me John, "your soul is at present running the machinery of a very inferior mind and body which plainly shows all the cruel passions and idiotic ideas of the Apeman. This has happened through no fault of your own but is the result of circumstances over which you had no control so that you are not responsible for your present condition. I now say however that you have been chosen by nature for a great and glorious work and from this time forward you must make use of your reasoning faculties for reasonable purposes and cast aside all the animal passions, silly ideas and antiquated superstitions which you have inherited from the ignorant of ages, and begin afresh. Before starting on our journey perhaps it would be well for us to take some refreshments in order that our minds may remain strong and clear during the trip. We take our nourishment in a different way from you cannibals," said Arletta, as she went to one of the artificial flower gardens, began inhaling and motioned me to do likewise. "But we are not cannibals," I mildly remonstrated, "we do not kill and eat human beings." "Do you not kill and eat the flesh of other living things?" inquired she. "Yes," replied I, "our diet consists of the flesh of birds, fish and cattle which God with great wisdom created for that purpose." "Did he? Then you must worship a cannibal god, for it is but a very short step between eating the flesh of your own species and that of others. That is one reason why our scientists ranked the Apeman with the lower animals. But come, inhale this perfume and see if it is not far more refreshing and less disgusting than to fill your stomach with roasted flesh."
At her suggestion I stationed myself near the flower bed which contained a large variety of the most beautiful plants I had ever seen. She touched several of them lightly and immediately the air was saturated with a most delicious fragrance caused, no doubt, by an automatic arrangement concealed within each flower. I stood like one in a most delightful dream inhaling the invigorating fumes, and with each succeeding breath my body became stronger and my mind brighter until I thought I should surely die from the effects of exuberant joy, when my attention was attracted by Arletta, who said: "Come, you greedy little pig, don't you know when you have had enough?" Then she added, "but I forgot that among your species greediness is considered a virtue."
"Greediness considered a virtue among my species." Surely I must have misunderstood her, thought I, once more seating myself, preparatory to beginning my mental journey with Arletta. And I was glad to know that she would shortly view our civilization as it existed, feeling positive that she would then change her ideas regarding my species being lower animals. I felt that it was my own fault because she harbored such an opinion and that I was to blame for being such a poor representative of my race for her to judge by.
"Now, let's be off," said she, "as I feel that my time will be short with you and we had better make the best of it while it lasts." "Time short with you." Those words gave me more pain than if a sword had been thrust through my body. "By all the gods of eternity, I would not care to live ten minutes if anything happened to that heavenly being," thought I, gazing at her with rapturous feelings of tenderness. "Call me a lower animal, a hideous creature or a greedy pig, and treat me like one if you will, but do not leave me. Stay and let me be your slave forever." Those were my sincere thoughts. She understood them, but made no response.
Settling back in a comfortable position with my eyes fastened upon Arletta in loving adoration, the scene changed instantly and I found myself once more upon the rocks in the middle of the sea. The sun was just rising in the east and another day was begun. Then our meteoric flight commenced, and quicker than it takes to relate I was high up among the clouds and peering down at a familiar landscape. I recognized the location at once as the district occupied by and surrounding Cape Town, South Africa.
I had been there before. But how peculiar everything appeared now as I looked down from above. I could plainly discern the harbor and great tableland in the scene before me, although apparently shrunk in size, but the city itself resembled a little toy village, while the largest ships in the harbor reminded me of the tiny boats I used to construct when a child and float about in the bath-tub. But where, oh where, was the greatest of all exalted things—that for which the entire universe and all that it contains therein was constructed—mighty man? He could not be seen. In fact he was as completely invisible as the pestilential germ on the back of a sick flea. "If I only had a microscope," thought I, "perhaps I could see him." Then I began to descend, until finally I discovered innumerable little creepers moving about in all directions. They were men. At first sight they looked to be about the size of ants, but as I got closer to the earth they increased in bulk until they appeared to be at least three inches in height, and then their importance became noticeable. As they moved about in great numbers and I came into close proximity with them, I observed that the actions of some was apparently sensible but that the doings of the most of them was positively ridiculous. For instance, here was one set of creatures diligently toiling to produce something and getting nothing, while here was a set of idlers doing absolutely nothing but receiving everything. The real producer of all the necessities and luxuries of life was actually giving nine-tenths of the fruits of his labor to a class of loafers and schemers who took it as a divine right, and then begrudged him the one-tenth he received of his own production. I observed that for every one of these producers there were ten non-producers who spent their time and efforts devising the best ways and means to confiscate that which had been produced. It seemed strange that the producer would allow this state of affairs to exist; but he did, and seemed quite elated sometimes to think that the non-producer would permit him to live at all. I noticed that most of the non-producers were fat and bloated from being over-fed and from guzzling prepared liquors, and that they were clothed with the finest materials the producer could contribute, while the producers themselves were lean and hungry looking objects, and were dressed in rags. I had seen these same things many times before without giving them any consideration, but now for the first time, I felt that there was something wrong with the people of the world. It seemed to me now that the entire system of human endeavor had been started wrong and was running along upside down. But what was the cause of this curious state of affairs? One word alone explained it all— Selfishness. And then there came to me a sentence, the imprint of which has never been effaced from my memory, viz: "Selfishness is the root of all evil; eradicate selfishness from all human beings and the earth win be heaven."
Oh, dear reader, go over those few words again, and again; ten times; fifty times; one hundred times if necessary to thoroughly impress their full meaning upon your intellect. Study them; practice them; teach them; sing them to all the world. Take them for your everlasting motto and you will have no need for all the stupid theories ever created by man. "Eradicate selfishness from all human beings and the earth will be heaven."
And now I observed that great numbers of these little men were being unloaded from the various ships in the harbor, and upon landing started immediately in a northerly direction. I understood the reason. Gold had been discovered in the Transvaal, and thousands upon thousands were coming from every quarter of the globe in anticipation of getting some of this metal. And what is there about gold that caused people to go such vast distances and bear many hardships and even risk their lives in desperate efforts to obtain it? Is there more real value to gold than other metals? Not at all. There is no more intrinsic value to gold than brass, but centuries ago, a semi-savage glutton discovered that he could not eat all the swine he could raise nor legally steal all his contemporaries could breed, so he originated a plan whereby he could secure for himself what others had produced through the agency of a financial system in which gold could be used as a medium of exchange. He found that he could get other and less crafty savages to go and dig the gold for him in return for swine. He also found that the breeders would exchange swine for gold. So he started by giving the diggers one swine for ten ounces of gold and the breeders one ounce of gold for ten swine. This transaction he called business. This system of business has been handed down from generation to generation until it has become a part of man's very nature. He knows very little of anything else. Gold being the financial medium of business he is taught to crave it in his infancy and as he grows older gold becomes his idol—his God. In order to gain possession of gold or its equivalent man forgets his soul and sells his honor. He is willing to crush the weak, cheat, steal or even murder his fellow beings to obtain it. And no matter whether he has little or much of it he considers any person insane who dare suggest the abolition of the financial system which permits individual accumulation and breeds selfishness and crime.
With a change of mind, I landed thousands of miles further north into the interior of uncivilized Africa, the home of wild beasts. Here something occurred which caused me to think that after all, perhaps Arletta was right in classing my species with the lower animals. Under ordinary conditions I should not have given the incident a second thought, but now my mind being directly connected with hers, I was, no doubt, impressed in the same manner as she while viewing these things.
A party of English gentlemen were on a hunting expedition. They appeared to be intelligent beings of aristocratic birth. Men whom the average individual would take as examples to emulate. But here they were in Africa, thousands of miles from home, with the sole purpose of killing something for pleasure. A short distance away was a family of lions; a male, female and several cubs. The lion and lioness lay close together, apparently casting loving glances at one another and enjoying the antics of the little ones who were playing together nearby. Occasionally the little ones would run over and kiss their elders in a most affectionate way, which seemed to greatly please the parents. Never have I seen a family of human beings display so much real affection toward each others as this family of lions. But alas, their happiness was at an end. Man's appetite for killing must be appeased. One of the hunters had caught sight of the happy little family, and slinking behind a tree before his presence became known to the lions he signaled to his comrades, who sneaked forward from tree to tree until they were within easy range of their prey. Then fixing their rifles and taking deliberate aim at the unsuspecting victims, and without giving them any chance to defend themselves or little ones, these so-called brave and civilized hunters pulled the triggers and the happy old lion and the lioness simultaneously expired, pierced by a dozen bullets. And what became of the little ones? The sight was too pitiable to describe. After the effects of the first fright, caused by the noise of the shots, had passed, they instinctively rushed to their parents for protection. Oh, the anguish depicted upon the faces of these little things when they discovered that their loving progenitors were no more. Their looks and moans were heartrending. But there were others made happy. A sudden shout of joyousness burst forth from the throats of a dozen civilized men who eagerly rushed from behind their fortresses to view the work of destruction. They had displayed fine marksmanship and were greatly pleased. Good shooting, said one of the brave fellows. Splendid, exclaimed another. But what shall we do with the cubs? asked the third. Better finish them also, remarked a fourth, as I am very fond of cub meat, and would like nothing better than a broiled steak from one of their little carcasses. After a few minutes' parley a decision was reached that it would be uncivilized to allow the little ones to wander about the jungle alone for fear that they might become the prey for other wild animals, so they killed them also; and filled their stomachs with them. And after they were through, a flock of vultures descended and finished the work. Men and vultures are somewhat alike in this respect; they both eat the flesh of carcasses. But a good word can be said for the vultures, however; they never kill.
It is not my intention to give a full descriptive account of my peculiar journey around the world with Arletta, nor to recount the many strange things witnessed. Suffice it to mention that we visited nearly every country on the globe through the power of mind sight, and I was enabled to see any terrestrial occurrence as well as if having been on the spot in person. In fact, being under the direct influence of Arletta's perception, conditions appeared much more comprehensive to me than ever before and I felt like some great judge looking down upon the earth and its inhabitants with an impartial eye. And somehow these inhabitants did not seem to impress me as being in such a high state of intelligence as I had formerly been led to believe they were. Everywhere human beings were fighting and snarling amongst themselves like ferocious beasts. Their universal law granted the right of the strong to victimize the weak either through the power of physical or mental force. In fact it was considered a divine right for men of superior intellects to receive more of the fruits of the earth than those of smaller mental capacity. One-half of the world was over-fed while the other half was under-fed. Aside from a slight difference in political and religious theories, the characteristics of all the peoples of the world were the same; the predominant features being greed, vanity, egotism, intemperance, gluttony, fraud, theft, bribery, deceit, brutality, murder, superstition and filth. Even America, the much boasted land of the free, the country which God in his infinite wisdom had taken from the bad English and given to the good Americans, contained people with these traits, and the so-called great men of this country appeared like a lot of silly little pigmies engaged in an eternal quarrel over a few trinkets. Few of them could see further than their own noses unless it was to see something that would increase their own selfish desires. Equality, of which these people boasted so much, existed merely in their imaginations. The actual meaning of equality, as the Americans understood it, was that the physical and mental gladiators and weaklings alike were put into one great prize ring and given an opportunity to fight for their lives and nature's gifts. Those who were capable of battering down and trampling upon their adversaries were legally entitled to all the luxuries the earth provided and more than they could use, but those who were unfortunate enough to have been born weaklings and were unfit to cope successfully with the huge monsters in the ring, were crushed in the struggle.
Fraud was the slogan of the government officials and nearly all of them practiced it, from the highest to the lowest functionary. Money was the power behind the curtain and he who had the largest bank account was catered to like an over-grown hog surrounded by a lot of suckling pigs. "God helps those who help themselves" was their accepted motto. In other words, God helps the strong and not the weak. If the Creator gives any of His attention to the innumerable bickerings of these earthly microbes He must feel greatly flattered by having this splendid motto thrust upon Him, for according to it, one was supposed to go to the assistance of the man who could swim, while he who could not, must be left to drown.
A certain so-called great American, one Mr. Moundbuilder by name, expressed great faith in this doctrine. By employing thousands of his fellow men to do the hard work while he sat in an easy chair and confiscated the difference between what they earned and what he paid them, he accumulated several hundred million dollars for his own use. About the time he was ready to die he learned to his great sorrow that it was necessary to leave all this wealth behind. So he decided to bequeath it to only those who were sufficiently strong and willing to continue his policy of crushing the weak and incidentally erect some monuments to his own memory. After much consideration as to how the strong would derive the most benefit from his ill-gotten goods, he concluded that the weak-minded and sickly creatures who were bred from the system he abetted and the over-worked and under-fed laborer would have no opportunity to read books, so he established hundreds of Moundbuilder libraries and Moundbuilder universities in all parts of the world. To those who were already strong enough to reach a position where they could enter a university and did not really need his aid, the idea was a grand one, as it would help to increase their strength, thereby making it much easier for them to confiscate what the weaklings could produce in the future. Thus the plan to make the strong stronger, the weak weaker, and Moundbuilder immortal, would be perpetuated. But the cherished hopes of Mr. Moundbuilder in this respect will never be realized, for the day is not far distant when earthly mortals will be able to reason and then he will be recognized simply as a vain-glorious old humbug.
Another celebrated American who was classed among the great men of the day was a certain Mr. Porkpacker. This individual conducted an establishment where thousands of animals, bred for the purpose, were slaughtered daily. He had accumulated millions of blood-stained dollars in this way, and was generally conceded to be a man of great business ability. He was pointed out to the rising generation as one of the most successful men in the country whose example should be followed. Just pause a moment and think of it. Here was a man who directed a business where thousands of living things were murdered daily, set forth as a good example to follow just because he had secured millions of dollars by the operation. Oh, ye mortals! Man considers the wolf a blood-thirsty beast because he kills and eats the flesh of human beings for subsistence. What kind of a bestial monster would the wolf consider man if it saw him in his slaughter-house killing thousands of innocent beef, sheep and hogs daily? Or what would it think of civilized man if it saw him shooting myriads of tame and harmless pigeons for amusement, or broiling lobsters alive to satisfy his gormandizing desires? Perhaps the wolf would set man below its grade, if interrogated upon the subject. But tyrannical man, intoxicated by his own egotism and clinging to an elastic religion which allows him to act as he pleases, feels that his god created all these things for his special benefit. If the wolf could be questioned about the matter, it too might claim that its god permitted the killing and eating of man. Mr. Porkpacker was considered both great and good by his fellow beings, for each year he gave thousands of dollars for the erection and maintenance of the church and likewise contributed largely toward his pastor's salary. Would it be good policy then for the pastor to believe that it was wrong to kill sheep, when one of the large contributors was earning money in that business? No, no. So the church upheld the slaughter-houses and proved by the scriptures that they were simply doing what the savages had done thousands of years previously according to divine right.
Once I listened to my father preach a sermon on the beautiful innocence and purity of the lamb. For an hour he spoke feelingly of the many virtues contained by this gentle little creature and after he was through he immediately went home and filled his stomach with roasted lamb for dinner. Good Christians are anxious to know when the time will arrive that the lion and lamb will lie down together in peace and harmony. Possibly the lamb would like to know if the time will ever come when its carcass will not be utilized to appease the voracious appetite of the Christian.
In looking over the so-called great business men and financial swindlers of America they certainly presented a motley collection of physical and mental monstrosities. They spent so much of their time in the mad rush for dollars and how to spend them, that physical and mental improvement received very little attention. Their brains became stagnant for the want of proper training and their bodies were allowed to rot and become useless for the need of exercise. Some were so fat they could not walk, while others were too lean to stand. A great many of them used either canes or crutches as an aid to hobble along or vehicles to convey them from place to place. Nearly all were cripples, more or less; rheumatism, gout, paralysis and numerous other ailments being the cause of their helplessness. Few of them seemed able to understand that all these infirmities were directly caused by the want of proper exercise and from the gluttonous habit of overloading their stomachs with foods of many kinds and meat especially. Apparently it was beyond their comprehension that nature commanded them to improve their physiques for the benefit of coming generations. Men who professed to be athletes when they were past the age of thirty were considered childish, while the exponents of physical culture were generally looked upon as cranks. Eating, drinking and smoking were adapted as the best modes of recreation, while fishing and shooting pigeons, quail, squirrels and other harmless living things were regarded as good, healthy amusements. Of all the brutal methods of diversion ever adopted by man, fishing is perhaps the most cruel. If the reader does not think so, just stop for a moment and imagine yourself being hooked to a great line by the mouth and your body being drawn far up into space and into another atmosphere, there to strangle slowly to death. You would not like it, would you? Then why should the fish be treated so? Do you not suppose that the fish have feelings like yourself? Oh, if all my fellowmen could only have taken that trip around the world with Arletta and seen things as I saw them, cruelty in all its various forms would be a thing of the past. That trip and my subsequent experience with her proved to be the best education I could have received from any source. It taught me the real meaning of the word kindness, without which, not only toward human beings, but toward all living things, man will never rise above the savage state.
We were just twenty-four hours making our journey around the world, when suddenly I found myself once more gazing into the beautiful eyes of Arletta. While she bestowed a kindly look of sympathy toward me, her features plainly showed that her gentle nature had received an awful shock from the terrible and degrading sights we had witnessed. And there was much reason why this pure and lovable woman should be shocked at what we had seen, for even I, a worthless and hardened vagabond, had become thoroughly disgusted with my own species.
"And what do you think of your highly civilized people now?" she inquired sadly. "They are a race of tail-less monkeys and filthy beasts with myself included," responded I, with vehemence, and then I began a tirade of abuse against the entire human family.
"Stop," exclaimed Arletta, "you must not allow malice to enter your mind against any living creature, no matter how beastly or brutal it may be. Hatred will not make the world better; it needs love. No living being is responsible for what it is any more than you or I are accountable for being in existence. But while each individual inherits the good or bad instincts of its predecessor, still it has the power to make better or worse its own condition. Love will not only make better your own condition, but that of your fellow beings as well. Do not expect to find in others that which you do not possess yourself. It is your duty to set a good example, not wait for others to accomplish what you have not done yourself. So begin right now with love. Cast away all unkind thoughts and never allow another to enter your mind, no matter what the provocation might be. I admit that the Apeman of today is no better, in fact, in many respects is much inferior to the Apeman who lived over four thousand years ago, but that is because he took the wrong road in trying to reach real manhood. He is still on the wrong path, but must be turned about and started in the right direction. He must be taught that Heaven is here on earth, if he will only make it so. But the earth will never be a paradise, so long as he allows a grain of selfishness to remain in his system. In yonder picture you can see what real men were like. Study their countenances carefully and see if you can read that any one of them ever committed a selfish act or even permitted an unkind thought to enter his mind, for if he had, you could plainly read it from his features, the face being the mirror of our thoughts and actions, and no matter what we do or what we think from the time we are born until we die, every act and thought is indelibly stamped upon our faces and can never be erased until the material of which we are composed has disintegrated and reentered the great chemical basin from which all living things receive their matter and energy. And it is to be hoped that with each turn of the chemical wheel the succeeding generation will be re-moulded on a better scale, until the Apeman and all lower animals have passed through a successful course of evolution and finally emerge into real manhood—the highest type of earthly beings. This goal is but a few steps and within the power of the Apeman to reach, but he must take his steps in the right direction. A whole nation of those magnificent beings you see in the picture, once existed in real life. Their ancestors were Apemen who were started in the right path, and after persistently sticking to the upward march of unselfish progress for many generations, ultimately reached the class of men you see before you; giants, physically, mentally and morally." And here she paused and looked long and affectionately at those wonderful figures in the painting. Then a feeling of intense jealousy suddenly crept into my brain, and I thought I would surely go mad under its terrible pressure. Arletta was in love with one of those real men, while she held merely a compassionate feeling for me.
I, the Apeman, standing six feet two inches in height and weighing over two hundred pounds avoirdupois, heretofore regarded as a marvel in physical development, now, in the presence of these eight-foot giants, felt like a shrunken pigmy. Formerly it was generally conceded that I was a rather handsome fellow. This woman thought I was hideous. Previously, I had felt proud of my nicely curled heavy black mustache, now I thought it made me look like a monkey. The splendid features of the real men were not disfigured by a hair or blemish of any kind, while their skin was as soft and smooth as that of a new born child. During my trip around the world, I had observed that the more man's body was covered by hair, the more ape-like he appeared, especially when decorating his face with it, and I was certain that my appearance was just as ludicrous in the eyes of Arletta as those I had seen. Therefore my admiration for the stately objects portrayed in the picture was beginning to turn into hatred. I inwardly wished they were alive that I might have an opportunity to combat with one or all of them in order to show Arletta that I possessed the courage to fight until death for her love. While lost in the midst of such reflections Arletta turned her gaze upon me fixedly and said: "What barbaric thoughts have you permitted to enter your mind now?" "I was wishing," replied I rather sullenly, "that the man you love in that picture was alive, that I might have the chance to demonstrate my worth in a fight to secure your favor; perhaps, then, you would discover that I had some good qualities."
"And do you suppose if I saw you fighting like a savage bulldog that I would admire those brutish tendencies in your nature?" inquired she. "Do you think that the animal instincts of fighting and killing are good qualities to possess? Has your trip around the world borne no good results? You have observed that your own species, like other savage beasts, quarrel, fight, maim and kill each other through selfish motives, and you have condemned them for it; now you would continue to do the very same thing yourself and think that I would consider it courageous. According to one of our primitive laws, the courageous man was he who feared no one and caused no one to fear him. These men of the picture were the bravest of the brave, and still if one of them were alive today he would not fight with you, no matter how much you might ill use him, for he would know that it required more real strength to take abuse than to give it. He would suffer more pain if he hurt you than if you injured him. And still he could have crushed you with greater ease than a cat can a mouse, if he were cowardly enough to do it. That is the real courage of unselfishness—the kind your species cannot understand. Your fellow beings applaud cowardice which they mistake for strength of character. They seem unable to comprehend that it requires far more courage to suffer pain than to inflict it upon others. They have inherited their erroneous ideas from the wild beasts who preceded them, and at the present time few of them know any better. But they must be taught differently and the teachers must set the examples, not merely offer advice. The different countries of the world today support large armies of licensed murderers who are commonly called soldiers. They are sent to the battle-fields to slaughter each other for selfish purposes. The strongest side is naturally victorious, and after killing as many of their adversaries as possible, return home to receive the applause and admiration of their countrymen. They are considered heroic because they were successful in slaying their weaker opponents. Your society worships these human butchers and the more lives one of them has destroyed the bigger the monument is erected in his honor. How many of these butchers would have the courage to take an insult from a weaker party without resenting it? It requires great bravery for the strong to refrain from taking advantage of the weak; it demands real heroism for the strong to equally share the results of their labors with the feeble. For the strong are doubly blessed in having strength while the weak are unfortunate and need sympathy."
"Would it not be courageous for one person to die for the love of another?" inquired I.
"That would depend altogether upon the circumstances," replied Arletta. "It would require far more courage to sacrifice your life for one you did not love as there would then be no selfish motive behind it. As I understand your feelings, you love me and imagine that you would not care to live without me."
"Yes," said I fervently, "I shall take my own life sooner than leave you."
"That is not courage at all, it is simply cowardice," answered she. "Through your own selfishness in trying to obtain something beyond your reach, you lack the strength to live without it. It takes far more courage to live when you want to die than to die when you want to live. Unselfishness is the very highest type of courageousness and one must live for the good he may do the world instead of his own personal aggrandizement. Thousands of our noble men sacrificed their lives yearly for the good of the world. Our laws permitted a certain number of them to leave their heavenly country periodically to go among the Apemen, and try and teach these barbarians the meaning of unselfish love. They never returned. They fully realized before starting on these missionary trips, that they were depriving themselves of all the luxuries the earth provided for a life of hardship and suffering; a life of insults and all the cruel tortures the ferocious Apemen could inflict upon them. But it pleased them to know that they possessed the courage to withstand all the insults heaped upon them, while trying to alleviate the conditions of others. Unlike your present missionaries they did not go into different countries backed up by loaded guns ready to annihilate all who did not believe their doctrines. If you hit a man on the head with a club and then tell him that you love him he will not believe you. They understood that to teach the Apemen to love one another they must set themselves up as examples, not with mere words, but by unselfish and courageous acts. They also knew that they had no divine right to enter another country and force upon the inhabitants their laws and customs. They merely went to teach their methods and in trying to do good for others were willing to accept insults in return for their kindness in order to prove their sincerity of purpose.
"At first, these good men were looked upon as gods by the Apemen who wished to worship them as such, and had they been vain-glorious like the Apeman himself, they would have allowed this false idea to exist. But no, there was not a grain of vanity or selfishness in their systems. They had not left their homes and friends to be worshiped, but had gone away to show the Apeman how he might reach real manhood, if he would but follow their instructions. They taught the eradication of selfishness from all living beings and the abolition of the system of individual accumulation, practiced then and now by all of your species. Of course when the rich and religious rulers of the different tribes and nations learned that these men were teaching that all living beings should have an equal chance in life, and that the weak should enjoy the same comforts as the strong, and that their divine right laws were unjust, they became wroth and ordered our men to be put to death by the most cruel methods. Some were burned at the stake; others were buried alive; several were put into dungeons and their bodies allowed to rot; many were cast into fiery furnaces, while a number of them were thrown into dens containing lions and tigers. All these tortures and innumerable others, did these brave men suffer that they might impress upon the Apeman the real meaning of courage and unselfishness. And through the power of mind sight we used to see these heroic volunteers unflinchingly suffer these indignities for the cause of righteousness, notwithstanding we had the power to annihilate the entire Apeman species, if we had so desired. Our chemists could have turned on currents of poisonous air and asphyxiated whole nations of them at once; our electricians could have sent an electric shock around the earth that would have left a path of destruction a thousand miles in width; our scientists could have concentrated the full force of the sun's rays upon any particular city they might choose and burn it up instantly; but they did not. We had the power to destroy, but the courage of forbearance. The highest honor our nation could bestow upon a man was to allow him to leave his heavenly country and become a martyr to his own unselfishness in trying to uplift the Apeman species. And had it not been for the unfortunate catastrophe which I shall explain to you later, our plans would have succeeded and the earth today would have been heaven with no such creature in existence as the Apeman."
"Next to selfishness, religion has been the greatest drawback towards progress the Apeman has had to contend with in all ages," continued Arletta.
"Religion is the outgrowth of ignorance and the Apeman, just starting up the ladder of human knowledge, adopted it as an explanation of things of which he knew nothing. All religions were created by the Apeman; and wherein lies the difference between the god built of stone or from the imagination? In constructing the numberless religions, the Apeman invariably made them to suit his own habits and customs. He built his gods to please his own fancy and gave his own ideas as those of his deities. His own knowledge is likewise the extent of the wisdom contained by his gods, whom lie manufactured to be twisted and turned in any direction and made to answer any purpose he might see fit. No one religion is any worse than all the rest. They are all founded on ignorance, superstition and selfishness. To believe in any of these petty religions is to cast insults upon the real Creator of the universe, for a god created by the Apeman must naturally be a very inferior being. Each devout worshiper can point out the errors and absurdities of every other religion excepting his own. He is capable of utilizing his reasoning powers until directed against himself, and narrowed down to a few words he feels that he is all right but everybody else is all wrong. Of the several hundred religions now extant, would it not be more reasonable to suppose that they were all wrong than to believe they were all right? Take your own religion for instance; you are worshiping a most unnatural god. In fact your Bible puts him in the position of a vain-glorious tyrant. According to the Bible an Apeman can be no worse than his god no matter how bad he may be. The main reason why. the Apeman believes in religion is because he is an inveterate coward and fears some dire punishment if he investigates the matter. But believe me, if the Creator gave you the power to reason, he certainly will not condemn you for making use of your reasoning faculties in not accepting opinions which appear untenable. So let us look into this matter from an impartial point of view. In the first place the offer of rewards for doing good, which is the foundation of all religions is wrong, for it carries selfishness right to the very gates of the imaginary heavens. Goodness is very shallow indeed if it cannot exist without rewards being offered for it. I shall enumerate a few things your god was supposed to have said or allowed, according to the Bible, which would make no Apeman living, any worse in his moral conduct.
"Enmity.—'And I will put enmity between thee and the woman.' Gen. iii, 15.
"Unkindness.—'Unto the woman He said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow.' Gen. iii, 16.
"Flesh Eaters.—'Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you.' Gen. ix, 3.
"Revenge.—'Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed.' Gen. ix, 6.
"Drunkenness.—'And he drank of the wine, and was drunken.' Gen. ix, 21.
"Partiality.—'God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem and Canaan shall be his servant.' Gen. ix, 27.
"Hunting—'He was a mighty hunter before the Lord.' Gen. x, 9.
"A curser.—'And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curseth thee.' Gen. xii, 3.
"Fraud.—'By fraud, Jacob received the blessing intended for Esau and then God blessed him and made him prosperous forever afterward. Gen. xxvii to xxix.
"Fornication.—'And Bilhah, Rachel's maid, conceived again and bare Jacob a second son.' Gen. xxx, 7.
"Anger.—'And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses.' Exodus iv, 14.
"Thievery.—'Speak now into the ears of the people and let every man borrow of his neighbor and every woman of her neighbor jewels of silver and jewels of gold.' Exodus xi, 2.
"Carnage.—'For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night and will smite all the first born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment; I am the Lord.' Exodus xii, 12.
"Jealousy.—'For I the Lord thy God am jealous God.' Exodus xx, 5.
"Slavery.—'Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the doorpost, and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him forever.' Exodus xxi, 6.
"Witchcraft.—'Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.' Exodus xxii, 18.
"Murder.—'And my wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with my sword and your wives shall be widows and your children fatherless.' Exodus xxii, 24.
"Changeability.—'And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for my sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy.' Numbers xxv, 10, 11.
"Brutality.—'And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Bring forth him that hath cursed without the camp; and let all that heard him lay their hands upon his head, and let all the congregation stone him.' Leviticus xxiv, 13, 14.
"Savage Cruelty.—'And if the burnt sacrifice for his offering to the Lord be of fowls, then he shall bring his offering of turtle doves, or of young pigeons. And the priest shall bring it unto the altar, and wring off its head, and burn it on the altar; and the blood thereof shall be wrung out at the ides of the altar.' Leviticus i, 14, 15.
"An Ass.—'And the Lord opened the mouth of the ass and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee that thou hast smitten me these three times?' Numbers xxii, 28.
"I have brought a few of these absurd writings to your attention," said Arletta, "hoping that later on you will go over them carefully and give them the same rational consideration you bestow upon other subjects. There is one commendable feature about your Bible however, and that is, it shows that once there existed among your species a noble mortal who devoted his life trying to teach the Apeman human kindness in somewhat the same manner our men used to do, with the exception of the supernatural dogmas. I refer to Jesus Christ. The fact that the same lessons he expounded were taught thousands of years before he was born, or that he failed to grasp nature's beautiful ideas without confounding them with supernatural fancies, does not detract in any way from his nobility of purpose and his name should be mentioned in the future history of the world as one of the great benefactors of the human race. It seems a pity that his over-zealous followers have tried to place him in the light of a deity, for in time to come, when your species begin to reason, they might possibly regard him as an impostor. This should not be the case however, for although Christ no doubt really believed in a religious god, it is unjust to believe that he ever pretended to be anything more than a mere human being himself, or that he knew anything about the wonderful miracles it was subsequently claimed he had performed.