Over the Teacups


AFTER the reading of the paper which was reported in the preceding number of this record, the company fell into talk upon the subject with which it dealt.

The Mistress. “ I could have wished you had said more about the religious attitude of old age as such. Surely the thoughts of aged persons must be very much taken up with the question of what is to become of them. I should like to have The Dictator explain himself a little more fully on this point.”

My dear madam, I said, it is a delicate matter to talk about. You remember Mr. Calhoun’s response to the advances of an over-zealous young clergyman who wished to examine him as to his outfit for the long journey. I think the relations between man and his Maker grow more intimate, more confidential, if I may say so, with advancing years. The old man is less disposed to argue about special matters of belief, and more ready to sympathize with spiritually minded persons without anxious questioning as to the fold to which they belong. That kindly judgment which he exercises with regard to others he will, naturally enough, apply to himself. The caressing tone in which the Emperor Hadrian addresses his soul is very much like that of an old person talking with a grandchild or some other pet: —

“Animula, vagula, blandula,
Hospes comesque corporis.”
“ Dear little, flitting, pleasing sprite,
The body’s comrade and its guest.”

How like the language of Catullus to Lesbia’s sparrow !

More and more the old man finds his pleasures in memory, as the present becomes unreal and dreamlike, and the vista of his earthly future narrows and closes in upon him. At last, if he live long enough, life comes to be little more than a gentle and peaceful delirium of pleasing recollections. To say, as Dante says, that there is no greater grief than to remember past happiness in the hour of misery is not giving the whole truth. In the midst of the misery, as many would call it, of extreme old age, there is often a divine consolation in recalling the happy moments and days and years of times long past. So beautiful are the visions of bygone delight that one could hardly wish them to become real, lest they should lose their ineffable charm. I can almost conceive of a dozing and dreamy centenarian saying to one he loves, “ Go, darling, go ! Spread your wings and leave me. So shall you enter that world of memory where all is lovely. I shall not hear the sound of your footsteps any more, but you will float before me, an aerial presence. I shall not hear any word from your lips, but I shall have a deeper sense of your nearness to me than speech can give. I shall feel, in my still solitude, as the Ancient Mariner felt when the seraph band gathered before him : —

“ ‘ No voice did they impart —
No voice; but oh ! the. silence sank
Like music on my heart.’ ”

I said that the lenient way in which the old look at the failings of others naturally leads them to judge themselves more charitably. They find an apology for their short-comings and wrong-doings in another consideration. They know very well that they are not the same persons as the middle-aged individuals, the young men, the boys, the children, that bore their names, and whose lives were continuous with theirs. Here is an old man who can remember the first time he was allowed to go shooting. What a remorseless young destroyer he was, to be sure ! Wherever he saw a feather, wherever a poor little squirrel showed his busby tail, bang! went the old “king’s arm,” and the feathers or the fur were set flying like so much chaff. Now that same old man — the mortal that was called by his name and has passed for the same person for some scores of years — is looked upon as absurdly sentimental by kind-hearted women, because he opens the fly-trap and sets all its captives free, — out-of-doors, of course, but the dear souls all insisting, meanwhile, that the flies will, every one of them, be back again in the house before the day is over. Do you suppose that venerable sinner expects to be rigorously called to account for the want of feeling he showed in those early years, when the instinct of destruction, derived from his forest-roaming ancestors, led him to acts which he now looks upon with pain and aversion ?

“ Senex ” has seen three generations grow up, the son repeating the virtues and the failings of the father, the grandson showing the same characteristics as the father and grandfather. He knows that if such or such a young fellow had lived to the next stage of life he would very probably have caught up with his mother’s virtues, which, like a graft of a late fruit on an early apple or pear tree, do not ripen in her children until late in the season. He has seen the successive ripening of one quality after another on the boughs of his own life, and he finds it hard to condemn himself for faults which only needed time to fall off and be succeeded by better fruitage. I cannot help thinking that the recording angel not only drops a tear upon many a human failing, which blots it out forever, but that he hands many an old recordbook to the imp that does his bidding, and orders him to throw that into the fire instead of the sinner for whom the little wretch had kindled it.

“ And pitched him in after it, I hope,” said Number Seven, who is in some points as much of an optimist as any one among us, in spite of the squint in his brain, — or in virtue of it, if you choose to have it so.

“ I like Wordsworth’s Matthew,” said Number Five, “ as well as any picture of old age I remember.”

“ Can you repeat it to us ? ” asked one of The Teacups.

“I can recall two verses of it,” said Number Five, and she recited the two following ones. Number Five has a very sweet voice. The moment she speaks all the faces turn toward her. I don’t know what its secret is, but it is a voice that makes friends of everybody.

“ ‘ The sighs which Matthew heaved were sighs
Of one tired out with fun and madness;
The tears which came to Matthew’s eyes
Were tears of light, the dew of gladness.
“ ‘ Yet, sometimes, when the secret cup
Of still and serious thought went round,
It seemed as if he drank it up,
He felt with spirit so profound.’

“ This was the way in which Wordsworth paid his tribute to a

“ ‘ Soul of God’s best earthly mould.’ ”

The sweet voice left a trance-like silence after it, which may have lasted twenty heart-beats. Then I said, We all thank you for your charming quotation. How much more wholesome a picture of humanity than such stuff as the author of the Night Thoughts has left us : —

“ Heaven’s Sovereign saves all beings but himself
That hideous sight, a naked human heart.”

Or the author of Don Juan, telling us to look into

“ Man’s heart, and view the hell that’s there ! ”

I hope I am quoting correctly, but I am more of a scholar in Wordsworth than in Byron. Was Parson Young’s own heart such a hideous spectacle to himself ? If it was, he had better have stripped off his surplice. No, — it was nothing but the cant of his calling. In Byron it was a mood, and he might have said just the opposite thing the next day, as he did in his two descriptions of the Venus de’ Medici. That picture of old Matthew abides in the memory, and makes one think better of his kind. What nobler tasks has the poet than to exalt the idea of manhood, and to make the world we live in more beautiful ?

We have two or three young people with us who stand a fair chance of furnishing us the element without which life and tea-tables alike are wanting in interest. We are all, of course, watching them, and curious to know whether we are to have a romance or not. Here is one of them ; others will show themselves presently.

I cannot say just how old the Tutor is, but I do not detect a gray hair in his head. My sight is not so good as it was, however, and he may have turned the sharp corner of thirty, and even have left it a year or two behind him. More probably he is still in the twenties, — say twenty-eight or twenty-nine. He seems young, at any rate, excitable, enthusiastic, imaginative, but at the same time reserved. I am afraid that he is a poet. When I say “ I am afraid,” yon wonder what I mean by the expression. I may take another opportunity to explain and justify it; I will only say now that I consider the Muse the most dangerous of sirens to a young man who has his way to make in the world. Now this young man, the Tutor, has, I believe, a future before him. He was born for a philosopher, — so I read his horoscope, — but he has a great liking for poetry and can write well in verse. Me have had a number of poems offered for our entertainment, which I have commonly been requested to read. There has been some little mystery about their authorship, but it is evident that they are not all from the same hand. Poetry is as contagious as measles, and if a single case of it break out in any social circle, or in a school, there are certain to be a number of similar cases, some slight, some serious, and now and then one so malignant that the subject of it should be put on a spare diet of stationery, say from two to three penfuls of ink and a half sheet of notepaper per diem. If any of our poetical contributions are presentable, the reader shall have a chance to see them.

It must be understood that our company is not invariably made up of the same persons. The Mistress, as we call her, is expected to be always in her place. I make it a rule to be present. The Professor is almost as sure to be at the table as I am. We should hardly know what to do without Number Five. It takes a good deal of tact to handle such a little assembly as ours, which is a republic on a small scale, for all that they give one the title of Dictator, and Number Five is a great help in every social emergency. She sees when a discussion tends to become personal, and heads off the threatening antagonists. She knows when a subject has been knocking about long enough, and dexterously shifts the talk to another track. It is true that I am the one most frequently appealed to as the highest tribunal in doubtful cases, but I often care more for Number Five’s opinion than I do for my own. Who is this Number Five, so fascinating, so wise, so full of knowledge, and so ready to learn ? She is suspected of being the anonymous author of a book which produced a sensation when published, not very long ago, and which those who read are very apt to read a second time, and to leave on their tables for frequent reference. But we have never asked her. I do not think she wants to be famous. How she comes to be unmarried is a mystery to me; it must be that she has found nobody worth caring enough for. I wish she would furnish us with the romance which, as I said, our tea-table needs to make it interesting. Perhaps the new-comer will make love to her, — I should think it possible she might fancy him.

And who is the new-comer ? He is a Counsellor and a Politician. Has a good war record. Is about forty-five years old, I conjecture. Is engaged in a great law case just now. Said to be very eloquent. Has an intellectual head, and the bearing of one who has commanded a regiment or perhaps a brigade. Altogether an attractive person, scholarly, refined; has some accomplishments not so common as they might be in the class we call gentlemen, with an accent on the word.

There is also a young Doctor, waiting for his bald spot to come, so that he may get into practice.

We have two young ladies at the table, — the English girl referred to in a former number, and an American girl of about her own age. Both of them are students in one of those institutions — I am not sure whether they call it an “ annex ” or not, but at any rate one of those schools where they teach the incomprehensible sort of mathematics and other bewildering branches of knowledge above the common level of high-school education. They seem to be good friends, and form a very pleasing pair when they walk in arm in arm ; nearly enough alike to seem to belong together, different enough to form an agreeable contrast.

Of course we were bound to have a Musician at our table, and we have one who sings admirably, and accompanies himself, or one or more of our ladies, very frequently.

Such is our company when the table is full. But sometimes only half a dozen, or it may be only three or four, are present. At other times we have a visitor or two, either in the place of one of our habitual number, or in addition to it. We have the elements, we think, of a pleasant social gathering, — different sexes, ages, pursuits, and tastes, — all that is required for a “ symphony concert ” of conversation. One of the curious questions which might well be asked by those who had been with us on different occasions would be, “ How many poets are there among you ? ” Nobody can answer this question. It is a point of etiquette with us not to press our inquiries about these anonymous poems too sharply, especially if any of them betray sentiments which would not bear rough handling.

I don’t doubt that the different personalities at our table will get mixed up in the reader’s mind if he is not particularly clear-headed. That happens very often, much oftener than all would be willing to confess, in reading novels and plays. I am afraid we should get a good deal confused even in reading our Shakespeare if we did not look back now and then at the dramatis personœ. I am sure that I am very apt to confound the characters in a moderately interesting novel; indeed, I suspect that the writer is often no better off than the reader in the dreary middle of the story, when his characters have all made their appearance, and before they have reached near enough to the dénoûement to have fixed their individuality by the position they have arrived at in the chain of the narrative.

My reader might be a little puzzled when he read that Number Five did or said such or such a thing, and ask, “ Whom do you mean by that title? I am not quite sure that I remember.”Just associate her with that line of Emerson, —

“ Why nature loves the number five,”—

and that will remind you that she is the favorite of our table.

You cannot forget who Number Seven is if I inform you that he specially prides himself on being a seventh son of a seventh son. The fact of such a descent is supposed to carry wonderful endowments with it. Number Seven passes for a natural healer. He is looked upon as a kind of wizard, and is lucky in living in the nineteenth century instead of the sixteenth or earlier. How much confidence he feels in himself as the possessor of half-supernatural gifts I cannot say. I think his peculiar birthright gives him a certain confidence in his whims and fancies which but for that he would hardly feel. After this explanation, when I speak of Number Five or Number Seven, you will know to whom I refer.

The company are very frank in their criticisms of each other. “ I did not like that expression of yours, planetary foundlings,” said the Mistress. “ It seems to me that is too like atheism for a good Christian like you to use.”

Ah, my dear madam, I answered, I was thinking of the elements and the natural forces to which man was born an almost helpless subject in the rudimentary stages of his existence, and from which he has only partially got free after ages upon ages of warfare with their tyranny. Think what hunger forced the cave-man to do ! Think of the surly indifference of the storms that swept the forest and the waters, the earthquake chasms that engulfed him, the inundations that drowned him out of his miserable hiding-places, the pestilences that lay in wait for him, the unequal strife with ferocious animals ! I need not sum up all the wretchedness that goes to constitute the “ martyrdom of man.”When our forefathers came to this wilderness as it then was, and found everywhere the bones of the poor natives who had perished in the great plague (which our Doctor there thinks was probably the small-pox), they considered this destructive malady as a special mark of providential favor for them. How about, the miserable Indians? Were they anything but planetary foundlings? No! Civilization is a great foundling hospital, and fortunate are all those who get safely into the crèche before the frost or the malaria has killed them, the wild beasts or the venomous reptiles worked out their deadly appetites and instincts upon them. The very idea of humanity seems to be that it shall take care of itself and develop its powers in the “ struggle for life.” Whether we approve it or not, if we can judge by the material record, man was born a foundling, and fought his way as he best might to that kind of existence which we call civilized, — one which a considerable part, of the inhabitants of our planet have reached.

If you do not like the expression planetary foundlings, I have no objection to your considering the race as put out to nurse. And what a nurse Nature is! She gives her charge a hole in the rocks to live in, ice for his pillow and snow for his blanket, in one part of the world ; the jungle for his bedroom in another, with the tiger for his watch-dog and the cobra as his playfellow.

Well, I said, there maybe other parts of the universe where there are no tigers and no cobras. It is not quite certain that such realms of creation are better off, on the whole, than this earthly residence of ours, which has fought its way up to the development of such centres of civilization as Athens and Rome, to such personalities as Socrates, as Washington.

“ One of our company has been on an excursion among the celestial bodies of our system, I understand,” said the Professor.

Number Five colored. “ Nothing but a dream,” she said. “ The truth is, I had taken ether in the evening for a touch of neuralgia, and it set my imagination at work in a way quite unusual with me. I had been reading a number of books about an ideal condition of society, — Sir Thomas More’s Utopia, Lord Bacon’s New Atlantis, and another of more recent date. I went to bed with my brain a good deal excited, and fell into a deep slumber, in which I passed through some experiences so singular that, on awaking, I put them down on paper. I don’t know that there is anything very original about the experiences I have recorded, but I thought them worth preserving. Perhaps you would not agree with me in that belief.”

“If Number Five will give us a chance to form our own judgment about her dream or vision, I think we shall enjoy it,”said the Mistress. “ She knows what will please The Teacups in the way of reading as well as I do how many lumps of sugar the Professor wants in his tea and how many I want in mine.”

The company was so urgent that Number Five sent up-stairs for her paper.

Number Five reads the story of her dream.

It cost me a great effort to set down the words of the manuscript from which I am reading. My dreams for the most part fade away so soon after their occurrence that I cannot recall them at all. But in this case my ideas held together with remarkable tenacity. By keeping my mind steadily upon the work, I gradually unfolded the narrative which follows, as the famous Italian antiquary opened one of those fragile carbonized manuscripts found in the ruins of Herculaneum or Pompeii.

The first thing I remember about it is that I was floating upward, without any sense of effort on my part. The feeling was that of flying, which I have often had in dreams, as have many other persons. It was the most natural thing in the world, — a semi-materialized volition, if I may use such an expression. At the first moment of my new consciousness, — for I seemed to have just emerged from a deep slumber, — I was aware that there was a companion at my side. Nothing could be more gracious than the way in which this being accosted me. I will speak of it as she, because there was a delicacy, a sweetness, a divine purity, about its aspect that recalled my ideal of the loveliest womanhood.

“ I am your companion and your guide.” this being made me understand, as she looked at me. Some faculty of which I had never before been conscious had awakened in me, and I needed no interpreter to explain the unspoken language of my celestial attendant.

“ You are not yet outside of space and time,” she said, “ and I am going with you through some parts of the phenomenal or apparent universe, — what you call the material world. We have plenty of what you call time before us, and we will take our voyage leisurely, looking at such objects of interest as may attract our attention as we pass. The first thing you will naturally wish to look at will he the earth you have just left. This is about the right distance,” she said, and we paused in our flight.

The great globe we had left was rolling beneath us. No eye of one in the flesh could see it as I saw or seemed to see it. No ear of any mortal being could hear the sounds that came from it as I heard or seemed to hear them. The broad oceans unrolled themselves before me. I could recognize the calm Pacific and the stormy Atlantic, — the ships that dotted them, the white lines where the waves broke on the shore, — frills on the robes of the continents, — so they looked to my woman’s perception : the vast South American forests ; the glittering icebergs about the poles; the snowy mountain ranges, here and there a summit sending up fire and smoke; mighty rivers, dividing provinces within sight of each other, and making neighbors of realms thousands of miles apart; cities; light-houses to insure the safety of sea-going vessels, and war-ships to knock them to pieces and sink them. All this, and infinitely more, showed itself to me during a single revolution of the sphere : twenty-four hours it would have been, if reckoned by earthly measurements of time. I have not spoken of the sounds I heard while the earth was revolving under us. The howl of storms, the roar and clash of waves, the crack and crash of the falling thunder-bolt, — these of course made themselves heard as they do to mortal ears. But there were other sounds which enchained my attention more than these voices of nature. As the skilled leader of an orchestra hears every single sound from each member of the mob of stringed and wind instruments, and above all the screech of the straining soprano, so my sharpened perceptions made what would have been for common mortals a confused murmur audible to me as compounded of innumerable easily distinguished sounds. Above them all arose one continued, unbroken, agonizing cry. It was the voice of suffering womanhood, — a sound that goes up day and night, one long chorus of tortured victims.

“ Let us get out of reach of this,” I said ; and we left our planet, with its blank desolate moon staring at it, as if it had turned pale at the sights and sounds it had to witness.

Presently the gilded dome of the State House, which marked our starting-point, came into view for the second time, and I knew that this side-show was over. I bade farewell to the Common with its Cogswell fountain, and the Garden with its last awe-inspiring monument.

“ Oh, if I could sometimes revisit these beloved scenes ! ” I exclaimed.

“ There is nothing to hinder that I know of,” said my companion. “ Memory and imagination as you know them in the flesh are two winged creatures with strings tied to their legs, and anchored to a bodily weight of a hundred and fifty pounds, more or less. When the string is cut you can be where you wish to be, — not merely a part of you, leaving the rest behind, but the whole of you. Why should n’t you want to revisit your old home sometimes ? ”

I was astonished at the human way in which my guide conversed with me. It was always on the basis of my earthly habits, experiences, and limitations. “Your solar system,” she said, “is a very small part of the universe, but you naturally feel a curiosity about the bodies which constitute it and about their inhabitants. There is your moon: a bare and desolate-looking place it is, and well it may be, for it has no respirable atmosphere, and no occasion for one. The Lunites do not breathe ; they live without waste and without supply. You look as if you do not understand this. Yet your people have, as you well know, what they call incandescent lights everywhere. You would have said there can be no lamp without oil or gas, or other combustible substance, to feed it; and yet you see a filament which sheds a light like that of noon all around it, and does not waste at all. So the Lunites live by influx of divine energy, just as the incandescent lamp glows, — glows, and is not consumed ; receiving its life, if we may call it so, from the central power, which wears the unpleasing name of ‘ dynamo.’ ”

The Lunites appeared to me as pale phosphorescent figures of ill-defined outline, lost in their own halos, as it were. I could not help thinking of Shelley’s

“ maiden With white fire laden.”

But as the Lunites were after all but provincials, as are the tenants of all the satellites, I did not care to contemplate them for any great length of time.

I do not remember much about the two planets that came next to our own, except the beautiful rosy atmosphere of one and the huge bulk of the other. Presently, we found ourselves within hailing distance of another celestial body, which I recognized at once, by the rings which girdled it, as the planet Saturn. A dingy, dull-looking sphere it was in its appearance. “We will tie up here for a while,” said my attendant. The easy, familiar way in which she spoke surprised and pleased me.

Why, said I, — The Dictator, —what is there to prevent beings of another order from being as cheerful, as social, as good companions, as the very liveliest of God’s creatures whom we have known in the flesh ? Is it impossible for an archangel to smile ? Is such a phenomenon as a laugh never heard except in our little sinful corner of the universe ? Do you suppose that when the disciples heard from the lips of their Master the play of words on the name of Peter, there was no smile of appreciation on the bearded faces of those holy men ? From any other lips we should have called this pleasantry a —

Number Five shook her head very slightly, and gave me a look that seemed to say, “ Don’t frighten the other Teacups. We don’t call things by the names that belong to them when we deal with celestial subjects.”

We tied up, as my attendant playfully called our resting, so near the planet that I could know — I will not say see and hear, but apprehend — all that was going on in that remote sphere ; remote, as we who live in what we have been used to consider the centre of the rational universe regard it. What struck me at once was the deadnfess of everything I looked upon. Dead, uniform color of surface and surrounding atmosphere. Dead complexion of all the inhabitants. Dead - Looking trees, deadlooking grass, no flowers to be seen anywhere.

“ What is the meaning of all this ? ” I said to my guide.

She smiled good-naturedly, and replied, “ It is a forlorn home for anything above a lichen or a toadstool; but that is no wonder, when you know what the air is which they breathe. It is pure nitrogen.”

The Professor spoke up. “ That can’t be, madam,” he said. “ The spectroscope shows the atmosphere of Saturn to be — no matter, I have forgotten what; but it was not pure nitrogen, at any rate.”

Number Five is never disconcerted. “ Will you tell me,” she said, “ where you have found any account of the bands and lines in the spectrum of dream-nitrogen ? I should be so pleased to become acquainted with them.”

The Professor winced a little, and asked Delilah, the handmaiden, to pass a plate of muffins to him. The dream had carried him away, and he thought for the moment that he was listening to a scientific paper.

Of course, my companion went on to say, the bodily constitution of the Saturnians is wholly different from that of air-breathing, that is oxygen-breathing, human beings. They are the dullest, slowest, most torpid of mortal creatures.

All this is not to be wondered at when you remember the inert characteristics of nitrogen. There are in some localities natural springs which give out slender streams of oxygen. You will learn by and by what use the Saturnians make of this dangerous gas, which, as you recollect, constitutes about one fifth of your own atmosphere. Saturn has large lead mines, but no other metal is found on this planet. The inhabitants have nothing else to make tools of, except stones and shells. The mechanical arts have therefore made no great progress among them. Chopping down a tree with a leaden axe is necessarily a slow process.

So far as the Saturnians can be said to have any pride in anything, it is in the absolute level which characterizes their political and social order. They profess to be the only true republicans in the solar system. The fundamental articles of their Constitution are these :

All men are born equal, live equal, and die equal.

All men are born free, — free, that is, to obey the rules laid down for the regulation of their conduct, pursuits, and opinions, free to be married to the person selected for them by the physiological section of the government, and free to die at such proper period of life as may best suit the convenience and general welfare of the community.

The one great industrial product of Saturn is the bread-root. The Saturnians find this wholesome and palatable enough ; and it is well they do, as they have no other vegetable. It is what I should call a most uninteresting kind of eatable, but it serves as food and drink, having juice enough, so that they get along without water. They have a tough, dry grass, which, matted together, furnishes them with clothes sufficiently warm for their cold - blooded constitutions, and more than sufficiently ugly.

A piece of ground large enough to furnish bread-root for ten persons is allotted to each head of a household, allowance being made for the possible increase of families. This, however, is not a very important consideration, as the Saturnians are not a prolific race. The great object of life being the product of the largest possible quantity of breadroots, and women not being so capable in the fields as the stronger sex, females are considered an undesirable addition to society. The one thing the Saturnians dread and abhor is inequality. The whole object of their laws and customs is to maintain the strictest equality in everything, — social relations, property, so far as they can be said to have anything which can be so called, mode of living, dress, and all other matters. It is their boast that nobody ever starved under their government. Nobody goes in rags, for the coarse-fibred grass from which they fabricate their clothes is very durable. (I confess I wondered how a woman could live in Saturn. They have no looking-glasses. There is no such ar ticle as a ribbon known among them. All their clothes were of one pattern. I noticed that there were no pockets in any of their garments, and learned that a pocket would be considered primafacie evidence of theft, as no honest person would have use for such a secret receptacle.) Before the revolution which established the great law of absolute and lifelong equality, the inhabitants used to feed at their own private tables. Since the regeneration of society all meals are taken in common. The last relic of barbarism was the use of plates, — one or even more to each individual. This “ odious relic of an effete civilization,” as they called it, has long been superseded by oblong hollow receptacles, one of which is allotted to each twelve persons. A great riot took place when an attempt was made by some fastidious and exclusive egotists to introduce partitions which should partially divide one portion of these receptacles into individual compartments. The Saturnians boast that they have no paupers, no thieves, none of those fictitious values called money, — all which things, they hear, are known in that small Saturn nearer the sun than the great planet which is their dwellingplace.

“ I suppose that now they have levelled everything they are quiet and contented. Have they any of those uneasy people called reformers ? ”

“ Indeed they have,” said my attendant. “ There are the Orthobrachians, who declaim against the shameful abuse of the left arm and hand, and insist on restoring their perfect equality with the right. Then there are Isopodic societies, which insist on bringing back the original equality of the upper and lower limbs. If you can believe it, they actually practise going on all fours, — generally in a private way, a few of them together, but hoping to bring the world round to them in the near future.”

Here I had to stop and laugh.

“ I should think life might be a little dull in Saturn,” I said.

“ It is liable to that accusation.” she answered. “ Do you notice how many people you meet with their mouths stretched wide open ? ”

“Yes,” I said, “and I do not know what to make of it. I should think every fourth or fifth person had his mouth open in that way.”

“ They are suffering from the endemic disease of their planet, prolonged and inveterate gaping or yawning, which has ended in dislocation of the lower jaw. After a time this becomes fixed, and requires a difficult surgical operation to restore it to its place.”

It struck me that, in spite of their boast that they have no paupers, no thieves, no money, they were a melancholy-looking set of beings.

“ What are their amusements ? ” I asked.

“ Intoxication and suicide are their chief recreations. They have a way of mixing the oxygen which issues in small jets from certain natural springs with their atmospheric nitrogen in the proportion of about twenty per cent., which makes very nearly the same thing as the air of your planet. But to the Saturnians the mixture is highly intoxicating, and is therefore a relief to the monotony of their every-day life. This mixture is greatly sought after, but hard to obtain, as the sources of oxygen are few and scanty. It shortens the lives of those who have recourse to it; but if it takes too long, they have other ways of escaping from a life which cuts and dries everything for its miserable subjects, defeats all the natural instincts, confounds all individual characteristics, and makes existence such a colossal bore, as your worldly people say, that self-destruction becomes a luxury.”

Number Five stopped here.

Your imaginary wholesale Shakerdom is all very fine, said I. Your Utopia, your New Atlantis, and the rest are pretty to look at. But your philosophers are treating the world of living souls as if they were, each of them, playing a game of solitaire, — all the pegs and all the holes alike. Life is a very different sort of game. It is a game of chess, and not of solitaire, nor even of checkers. The men are not all pawns, but you have your knights, bishops, rooks, — yes, your king and queen, — to be provided for. Not with these names, of course, but all looking for their proper places, and having their own laws and modes of action. You can play solitaire with the members of your own family for pegs, if you like, and if none of them rebel. You can play checkers with a little community of meek, likeminded people. But when it comes to the handling of a great state, you will find that nature has emptied a box of chessmen before you, and you must play your game so as to give them their proper moves, or sweep them off the board, and come back to the homely game such as I used to see played with beans and kernels of corn on squares marked upon the back of the kitchen bellows.

It was curious to see how differently Number Five’s narrative was received by the different listeners in our circle. Number Five herself said she supposed she ought to be ashamed of its absurdities, but she did not know that it was much sillier than dreams often are, and she thought it might amuse the company. She was herself always interested by these ideal pictures of society. But it seemed to her that life must be dull in any of them, and with that idea in her head her dreaming fancy had drawn these pictures.

The Professor was interested in her conception of the existence of the Lunites without waste, and the death in life of the nitrogen-breathing Saturnians. Dream-chemistry was a new subject to him. Perhaps Number Five would give him some lessons in it.

At this she smiled, and said she was afraid she could not teach him anything, but if he would answer a few questions in matter-of-fact chemistry which had puzzled her she would be vastly obliged to him.

“You must come to my laboratory,” said the Professor.

“ I will come to-morrow,” said Number Five.

Oh, yes ! Much laboratory work they will do ! Play of mutual affinities. Amalgamates. No freezing mixtures, I ’ll warrant !

Why should n’t we get a romance out of all this, hey ? But Number Five looks as innocent as a lamb, and as brave as a lion. She does not care a copper for the looks that are going round The Teacups.

Our Doctor was curious about those cases of anchylosis, as he called it, of the lower jaw. He thought it a quite possible occurrence. Both the young girls thought the dream gave a very hard view of the optimists, who look forward to a reorganization of society which shall rid mankind of the terrible evils of overcrowding and competition.

Number Seven was quite excited about the matter. He had himself drawn up a plan for a new social arrangement. He had shown it to the legal gentleman who has lately joined us. This gentleman thought it well intended, but that it would take one constable to every three inhabitants to enforce its provisions.

I said the dream could do no harm ; it was too outrageously improbable to crane home to anybody’s feelings. Dreams were like broken mosaics. — the separated stones might here and there make parts of pictures. If one found a caricature of himself made out of the pieces which had accidentally come together, he would smile at it, knowing that it was an accidental effect with no malice in it. If any of you really believe in a working Utopia, why not join the Shakers, and convert the world to this mode of life ? Celibacy alone would cure a great many of the evils you complain of.

I thought this suggestion seemed to act rather unfavorably upon the ladies of our circle. The two Annexes looked inquiringly at each other. Number Five looked smilingly at them. She evidently thought it was time to change the subject of conversation, for she turned to me and said, “ You promised to read us the poem you read before your old classmates the other evening.”

I will fulfil my promise, I said. We felt that this might probably be our last meeting as a Class. The personal reference is to our greatly beloved and honored classmate, James Freeman Clarke.


The play is over. While the light
Yet lingers in the darkening hall,
I come to say a last Good-night
Before the final Exeunt all.
We gathered once, a joyous throng :
The jovial toasts went gaily round ;
With jest, and laugh, and shout, and song,
We made the floors and walls resound.
We come with feeble steps and slow,
A little band of four or five,
Left from the wrecks of long ago,
Still pleased to find ourselves alive.
Alive ! How living, too, are they
Whose memories it is ours to share!
Spread the long table’s full array, —
There sits a ghost in every chair!
One breathing form no more, alas !
Amid our slender group we see ;
With him we still remained “ The Class,” —
Without his presence what are we ?
The hand we ever loved to clasp, —
That tireless hand which knew no rest, —
Loosed from affection’s clinging grasp,
Lies nerveless on the peaceful breast.
The beaming eye, the cheering voice,
That lent to life a generous glow,
Whose every meaning said “ Rejoice, ”
We see, we hear, no more below.
The air seems darkened by his loss,
Earth’s shadowed features look less fair,
And heavier weighs the daily cross
His willing shoulders helped us bear.
Why mourn that we, the favored few
Whom grasping Time so long has spared
Life’s sweet illusions to pursue,
The common lot of age have shared ?
In every pulse of Friendship’s heart
There breeds unfelt a throb of pain, —
One hour must rend its links apart,
Though years on years have forged the chain.
So ends “ The Boys,” — a lifelong play.
We too must hear the Prompter’s call
To fairer scenes and brighter day :
Farewell! I let the curtain fall.
Oliver Wendell Holmes.