William Shuler Harris.

Life in a Thousand Worlds online

. (page 5 of 13)
Online LibraryWilliam Shuler HarrisLife in a Thousand Worlds → online text (page 5 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

a tough species of sea grass.

Five-sixths of Stazza are covered with water and its depth at a few
points is very great. Throughout all the water regions there are many
kinds of animal life, more than can be found in our oceans. Thousands of
human lives have been lost in conflict with the fiercer kinds of these
water animals, with which the people of Stazza entered upon a war of
extermination over one thousand years ago, and while intelligence is
slowly winning the battle, yet the warfare is likely to continue many
centuries to come, owing to the fact that these hostile fish occupy the
soundless depths even as deep as four or five hundred miles according to
our measurement. Horned fish rising from these depths are a horrible
menace to excursion parties or caravans, as well as to settlers on what
we would call the frontier.

The homes of Stazza are made of metallic substances. There are a few
minerals very plentiful, resembling brass, and it is a common sight to
see polished buildings fantastic in their arrangement, shining through
the pellucid water like gold.

The cities are built on gentle inclines in the deeper waters and
present a picturesque scene. They look more like a cluster of giant
fairy abodes than like New York or London. Nothing in all the world of
Stazza resembles a product of our manufacture more than the fine
screening that protects every human dwelling from an invasion of small
water animals. It reminded me of the mosquito netting as a safe-guard
against flies and other insects in our world. But the mosquito baffles
our genius, for he seems to be able to get through as small an opening
as air can. Likewise, the pestiferous water animals seem to invade the
homes of Stazza, notwithstanding all efforts at prevention.

The cities have no continuous streets or lanes. The principal travel is
in the water over the city. The main entrance to the home is on the
housetop. In the center of large buildings there is a shaft running up
and down, through which the people go with greater ease than we can
climb or descend our stairways. It must not be forgotten that water to
them is the same as air to us, and in their domestic life the people
are annoyed by cloudy and muddy currents of water just as we are by
clouds of dust in the air, on the streets, or in our homes.

The wear and tear caused by the chemical action of water on houses and
furniture is not as great as the injury in our world caused by the
chemical action of air, heat and moisture.

The educational systems of Stazza are quite as perfect for that world as
our own systems are for ours. They have an alphabet, covering their
needs in language, consisting of a series of strokes, curves and angles,
somewhat resembling our shorthand systems. This language is identical in
print or script, and is superior to our method of expresssing thought by

The experts of Stazza have learned the art of slicing metallic blocks
into sheets of any desired thickness. These sheets serve the same
purpose for them as paper does for us, and are furnished at an
insignificant cost of labor. We have the very elements in our Earth to
produce these metallic blocks if we knew the combination, which might be
easily found if we had as much need for them as the people of this
water world.

The metallic blocks are used for a great variety of purposes. There are
some high class artists who have immortalized themselves by their
master-pieces, one of which I saw on a five-cornered metallic sheet
measuring about eight feet in diameter.

Perhaps the most surprising feature of the educational advancement of
these water spirits is their knowledge of astronomy. To them, under the
water, the stars have always looked beautiful, and from an early date in
their history a study of them has engaged the attention of their
scholars. No one could tell the style of their telescopes if he should
go to guessing for a week. Let me give you a brief description of one.

They build a metallic pipe about ten feet in diameter and from a point
some two hundred feet below the surface of the water. The pipe is built
until it extends a few feet above water. Inside of this pipe is a series
of transparent ovals of various sizes. These ovals are so arranged that
the upper one throws its light to the lower one, down through the
immense cylinder. Around each oval is built a series of fin protectors,
which is the only part about the telescope I could not fully understand.
They seemed to counteract the refraction of the water, and yet the water
must be in the pipe to obtain proper results.

Imagine an astronomer at the base of this huge metallic structure,
having at his finger's ends a dozen wire strings intricately connected
with the oval system, and by the proper use of which he can increase or
decrease the magnifying power of the ponderous telescope. The highest
magnifying power of a telescope of this size is so great that the Milky
Way is penetrated and its solar systems revealed. What an accomplishment
it would be if a telescope of this magnitude could be mounted, a thing
that these creatures never attempted to do. But they have built
telescopes of various inclinations, all stationary. You can form an idea
of the patience and endurance of these people when you learn that it
required over fifty years of our time for them to perfect one of these
large instruments.

Give human brains to any animal under water or over water, and it will
grasp for larger views of its Creator and of the things He made. These
people are thoroughly convinced that intelligent life can be found in
any world where there is enough water to sustain it.

In the waters of Stazza there are many under-currents similar to our
Gulf Stream. These are used by the inhabitants for transportation. They
construct little hammock cars so that when they are filled with human
freight they float in the water. A simple device which we might call a
fin propeller is used to force the car in one direction or another as
necessity may require. It is possible to enter one of these
under-streams and thus travel over two thousand miles; then, by rowing
only five miles, enter the return current and move homeward. A car of
special design is furnished by each community in which each bridal pair
spends the Wedlock Ride, or the Honey-Moon, as we would call it.

[Illustration: Fishing for Land Animals on a Planet of the Pole Star.]

There is nothing more interesting about this race of beings than the
manner in which they pluck land fruit and catch land animals, and yet
when you compare this with our world, it is the same to them as fishing
is to us.

In all my inter-stellar journeys perhaps there was nothing so amusing to
me as to see a company of these water creatures fishing for land
animals. They would creep up near shore and throw out their wire lines
with various kinds of bait, according to what they wished to catch. Then
followed the inevitable waiting until some innocent Jullep or Petzel
would grasp the tempting morsel on the hook. A skillful jerk fastened
the victim, and instead of pulling him in the water, the fisherman held
his breath and rushed out of the water to get his prize. This has been
found to be a safer method than trying to pull the prize into the water.

These water dwellers relish certain land animals more than we do fish.

Of course the land strips are not inhabited by human beings, but
vegetation is abundant, similar to that found in our tropical regions.
Many kinds of fruit, growing on the land, are sought after by the
masters of the water. In the season when certain fruits are ripe whole
expeditions go out to gather them. But how can they live away from the
great body of water while plucking these fruits? Let me tell you how
they manage it. They have what we would call water-wagons, very wide and
short, and equipped with buckets. At the rear of one of these strangely
shaped carriages stand four or six men abreast immersing their heads in
the water of the wagon for a fresh breath as often as necessity
requires. Thus they are enabled to travel over land to any desired
locality, always being careful to keep near enough the water to cover
any emergency.

When they arrive at the fruit each man takes his bucket of water and
proceeds to work. He plucks fruit or berries for about thirty seconds
and then ducks his head into his bucket of water for a fresh breath.
Then he proceeds as before. When the water is no longer fit for
breathing, he carries his fruit and water bucket to the wagon. Here he
unloads his fruit and refills his bucket from the wagon, proceeding as
before. At intervals the wagon must be refilled with water. During a day
a few men can gather a large quantity of fruit in this manner, and it
can be preserved for over four seasons.

On Stazza there has been developed a fine variety of water flowers, and
no gardens are more beautiful than those that can be seen there. The
higher classes of these people live a very refined life and have their
homes surrounded with an endless variety of water grasses and flowers.
You would scarcely believe your eyes if you could direct your gaze to a
few of these homes.

In their religious life these Stazzans are eminently devoted. They have
no bunch of creeds from which to take their choice, but follow the
teachings of "The Great Interpreter," a man who once lived and reigned
amongst them and who wrote his laws in what we would call, by
interpretation, "The Book of Gold." The leaves of this book are made
from an element costly and rare, more precious to them than gold is to
us. From this book all their sacred books are copied. The civil powers
also accept this book as their authority, and enforce its teachings.

Sin there, as here, is the withering blast of the planet, the destroyer
of the harvest fields of purity and truth. An invisible spirit of evil
holds his force in disciplined command, and the man who wishes to have a
pure heart on Stazza must reach it through conflicts long and sharp. The
path to moral and spiritual purity is quite the same throughout the
whole universe.



After I had finished my interesting tour of Stazza I visited in quick
succession a score or more of worlds that also revolve around Polaris at
varying distances. I found the majority of these planets barren of all
life, owing principally to their molten condition.

Some unthinkable types of human existence are occupying the worlds that
can be inhabited. I marveled aloud as I viewed a few more links of the
endless chain of intelligent creation. On one of these worlds, which I
have christened Tor-tu, I found human beings that resemble us more than
any others in the entire solar bounds of Polaris.

Tor-tu dashes along in its unceasing course at a distance of eight
hundred millions of miles from Polaris. It is much larger than our
world, and is accompanied by three moons and a set of rings which
faintly suggested our picturesque Saturn.

The poles of Tor-tu are inclined at an angle of thirty-three degrees to
the plane of its orbit. This accounts for its temperature being quite
similar to ours, although its year is eight times longer.

When I first reached this world I was impressed with its wealth of
natural scenery. Flowers of charming texture and color grew abundantly
over the wide expanses. The cultivated gardens contained specimens of
unusual beauty, surpassing the finest products of our Earth.

When I examined the leaves of the many kinds of trees, I found none
similar to the foliage of our planet, except in one or two fruit-bearing
trees. The sky, instead of appearing blue, wears a greenish tinge, and
the birds are robed in a variety of colors that would put to naught our
arching rainbows.

In fine, it must be admitted that Tor-tu is a much more beautiful world
than ours. I saw colors there that we could not produce because we have
not the proper elements.

This delightful world is densely populated. Its history is much older
than ours. Sin is firmly rooted in the whole planet and its curse is
just as blighting and withering as it is in our world, although it is
fought more successfully and overcome more effectually in the home and
in the nation.

I observed that the ecclesiastical system is similar to ours, and there
is a great profusion of creeds. To my surprise I noted, in my long
journey, that such a variety did not interfere with true progress, but
was compatible with the purest kind of life and the highest order of
civilization. The people are deeply devoted to their unseen God, and
their sacrifices are astonishing. Their places of worship are the finest
structures of the world. They believe it to be wrong to construct any
building greater in beauty and value than the temples of God. Their
music would sound quite weird to us, although it is sweet harmony to the
people of Tor-tu.

The home life of Tor-tu is most beautiful. The moral life of the home
and of the nations is the cleanest of any world in the whole system of
Polaris. Naturally I investigated to learn the secret of this happy
condition. Then I found to my joy that the relation between parents and
children is very noteworthy. The fine respect manifested by the latter
for the former evoked the blush of shame as I thought of the prevailing
conditions in my own world.

You may think it absurd when I describe a certain system that was a
stepping stone to such splendid results. Were this peculiar system to be
named, we should likely call it: "The Human Seal System."

Each person born into the world of Tor-tu is officially sealed or
tattooed on the forehead and on the arm. It is done by the township
book-keeper, whose duty it is to keep a correct record of all births,
devoting a new ledger page to each infant.

This seal is a life-long mark, and must not be interfered with under any
circumstances. In case the stamp is disturbed by accident, the person
must report to the township book-keeper either in person or by proxy,
and the stamp must be replaced on some conspicuous part of the head.

There are eighteen governments of Tor-tu that united on this scheme. It
is so arranged that no two persons of all these millions have identical
marks. Each government has its seal of different designs from all the

Circles, ellipses and rectangles, with various modifications, compose
the eighteen forms in use. The most powerful of the eighteen governments
has for its seal the following design, which I have filled out as
completely as I could, using our own figures instead of their numerals
which would, of course, be unintelligible to us.

[Illustration: Tor-tu seal]

This is the actual size of the design as it appears on the forehead.

13 represents the number of the state.

21 represents the number of the county.

10 represents the number of the township.

12 represents the color of the person.

352, in the center, represents the individual's number.

This same mark is the individual's signature for life. It cannot be
changed, although the person is allowed to have a metallic or rubber cut
of his own design, provided he writes the individual number by hand, for
any one else doing this would be a forger.

The township clerk is also the collector of the public funds. To him
each person born in that township is compelled to render an annual
report of his residence, occupation, and certain other facts relating to
his life in general.

If any minor or adult commits a criminal act upon which the civil court
has passed, this finding is recorded in the township record on the
individual's page and, when the criminal has served his sentence, this
fact is also recorded. This is a severe law for the criminal, but it is
a great stimulus to a law-abiding career.

It is also customary for public courts to confer on worthy persons
special marks of honor for extraordinary deeds or acts. A record of such
rendering is also kept.

In presenting annual reports to the clerk each father reports for his
minor children. This puts the father on a rightful plane of dignity
before his children, and the parent who makes a wise use of these
provisions can and does reach far better results than can otherwise be

No child can run away from home without falling into much more trouble
then he imagined he had before. At once his seal number is sent to all
the countries and into every sub-division. Any one aiding or abetting
such a person is severely punished. When the runaway is captured, the
system of reprimand is of such a nature that the minor will be glad to
remain under the directions of his parents until his maturity.

If it can be shown that a parent or guardian uses inhuman methods of
punishing children, the act is criminal and is dealt with accordingly.

There are no tramps parading periodically over the countries of Tor-tu.

There is an international law that each township must care for its own
paupers. Every man's forehead seal tells his birthplace and there is no
escaping from it.

When a person is suspected of crime in a foreign land, the foreign
officials can tell not only where the individual was born, but they can
also obtain an official record of his life by applying officially to the
clerk and paying a nominal fee.

Any stranger making a serious effort to cover his forehead is looked
upon with suspicion. It is a current phrase of honor among the
Tor-tuites: "I am not ashamed to show my forehead."

A few hundred years after this "Human Seal Law" went into operation, no
one, except the criminally inclined, would think of returning to the old
reckless way, although the system was scorned and ridiculed by many
Tor-tuites for about fifty years after its advent.

In considering the character of an individual, the courts and the people
place tremendous stress upon the township record. Each son and daughter
early learns the value of a stainless page and strives to keep his
record clean.

The township, through the state, gives to each child at maturity a civil
inheritance, provided his record meets the requirements of the law.

All these customs and regulations are powerful incentives to the youth
to lead a good moral life and naturally tend to a respectful demeanor of
children toward their parents.

This world is not only notable for its moral atmosphere, but for the
remarkable progress its inhabitants have made in political economy.

They know a few things about laws, but not enough to make them so
complicated that no one can understand their meaning. In law, the poor
man usually has the same chance as the rich. Money has no weight in the
Tor-tu scale of justice. The facts in the case are the only things that
have weight, although bribery is possible and is sometimes practiced.

The laws of Tor-tu relating to deeds and titles are the most simple and
yet the most effective that have yet come to my attention.

All the land in each county of Tor-tu is divided into lots, and each lot
is numbered on an immense diagram at the county seat. This diagram is a
miniature relief outline of the county with each lot and plot in the
county designated, and, according to our measurements, it averages
almost eighteen by twenty-four feet, varying according to the size of
the county.

When you buy land you buy from the county only. If you wish to purchase
a lot or plot from another party who is willing to sell, the two parties
concerned go to the chief real estate agent who is an official of the
county and has charge of the county diagram. The former owner or
title-holder, upon establishing his identity, releases to the county his
claims and surrenders his title on condition that he receives the sum
agreed upon between the two parties.

The county agent then issues a new title to the new purchaser. It is a
simple common-sense document completely describing the new owner, his
relatives and his station. Thus each purchaser has his own title from
the county and it is guaranteed. Under this admirably simple system
disputes as to titles are rare and can scarcely occur; but if any should
arise, the county takes the defense and bears all expense of litigation.

No counter claim is even heard after a title is five years old. Thus it
is impossible to resurrect an old buried claim and rob an innocent owner
who purchased and paid for his ground in good faith.

In transferring real estate no lawyers are required. Several persons,
however, must witness the execution of the deed.

The county publishes a journal, monthly, stating the owner of each lot
or plot number in the county. This is furnished free to each land owner.

All credit to Tor-tu for these common-sense regulations! Our laws
covering this field are heathenish compared with the statutes of this
far distant world. There no man loses his real estate by the awakening
of a sleeping title, and if this could happen he would be fully
reimbursed by the county.

In our world some titles are as clear as mud. Often we pay a large sum
to have the records examined and even then a purchaser has no assurance
of non-interference. Here it is even possible to buy a lot, build a
home, and five or fifty years afterward have it sold by some one who
proves a prior claim on the land. No such foolishness, or child-play in
the guise of legal dignity, is countenanced in Tor-tu.

The whole civil system of this sphere is superior to ours. A person who
violates the law is not treated to free boarding and lodging in a well
heated and lighted building, as is quite prevalent in our world, but is
compelled to enter profitable labor under strict surveillance. Any
prisoner becoming rebellious and refusing to work is dealt with
severely. If he is still insubordinate, he is placed on the revolving
wheel of death until his stubborn will is broken, or he falls fatigued
into the jaws of steel.

This convict labor does not compete with the regular ranks of honest
toil. The main work of criminals is farming, and the products of these
farms support not only the criminals, but their families as well. What
is produced beyond that is sold at market price and the proceeds are
applied to current expenses of the county.

In our world the honest man must pay to support the dishonest; the
law-abiding must care for the law breaker. How much longer this will
continue no one has prophesied.

The manner of choosing officials in Tor-tu is both new and surprising.
All the officers, from the highest to lowest, are chosen by lot instead
of by popular ballot or hereditary claim. They who are thus elected
remain in office during competency and good behavior.

1. Their record must be stainless during the preceding ten years.

2. They must have been graduated from the law department of the public

3. They must be at least thirty-one years old.

For the highest officials the conditions are more rigid.

The teachers in all public schools are selected in the same manner from
among the number who apply, and who have been graduated in rank high
enough for the school in question.

At first this lot system seemed very foolish to me indeed, bordering
upon absurdity, but the more I studied its simplicity and observed its
results, the more I became impressed with its good sense and
efficiency. There are no political parties fomenting discord in a
country under a spoils system; no upheavals every few years and
hilarious campaigns; and no idiotic caricatures of public officials to
work unbridled mischief in the hearts of the most dangerous citizens.


A Problem in Political Economy.

After I had left the world of Tor-tu I still lingered in the heavens
around the planet and examined a few of its moons. While enjoying this
pleasing diversion, I learned that not far away, less than one billion
miles, there was a world without an atmosphere. This peculiar condition
was not new to me, for I had seen, during my never-to-be-forgotten
journey, many worlds without gaseous air.

I would not have gone thither had it not been for an unaccountable
desire impelling me. Obedient to my impulse, I soon found myself on this
odd planet which I have named Airess.

I at once observed that the people are formed without nose or lungs. The
nose is substituted by an opening into which liquid air is received and
through which it passes to a bodily reservoir of two lobes in the
vicinity of the heart. When I saw how these people were obliged to fill
their living vessels with this air-supplying liquid, I at once thought
of the manner in which we in our world fill our lamps with oil to
furnish light and heat.

Now it is true that nature supplies this liquid air in reasonable

1 2 3 5 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Online LibraryWilliam Shuler HarrisLife in a Thousand Worlds → online text (page 5 of 13)