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abundance, and no doubt all the people would have been happy until now
had it not been for the unjust scheming of a few unprincipled men.

The strange story of the air problem on this distant world is so similar
to the food problem of ours that I have time to describe it briefly.

There were certain men in Airess, shrewd above their fellows, who
secretly combined to secure a controlling interest in all the land
producing liquid air.

In course of time these shrewd schemers, who are known as monopolists,
gathered this liquid air into large tanks and warehouses, and put an
exorbitant price upon it. The business flourished greatly because
everybody was daily in need of liquid air.

The many sources of air-supply were guarded and men were employed to
carry the liquid from the raw springs to the private tanks of the
monopolists. Not long after this, when the monopolists saw that they
controlled all the liquid air of the country, they had rigid laws passed
forbidding the importation of air from any other country. Then when all
preliminaries were arranged, the magnates raised the price of their

The burden fell most heavily on the persons of limited means, for some
were compelled to give half of their earnings for air.

The monopolists grew richer and richer, while the poor became still
poorer, until a cry went up for cheaper living. Then the
generous-hearted magnates decided to build new and larger storehouses,
thus giving employment to the large army of impoverished workmen. Thus
did the poor feel very grateful for the privilege of earning enough to
satisfy their hungry stomachs.

With the larger storehouses now in operation the magnates were enabled
to conduct this air business on a scale more economical, and so it
resulted that the profits of their business were constantly increasing.

Many who were unable to work became sorely distressed insomuch that
some died raving for liquid air. Others were more fortunate and were
helped by charitably inclined citizens. When a few poor comrades clubbed
together and contributed out of their mites, then the magnates sold air,
but if the sufferers had no money, they could have no air.

A growing discontent possessed the people. They appealed to the
legislative bodies, but the magnates had grown so immensely wealthy that
they controlled all the law-making assemblies and gave the members air
free of charge, an act of kindness indeed.

So the law turned a deaf ear to the cries of the people and many riots
followed. But these were all quelled by the standing army which was also
supplied with free air for the good service they were capable of
rendering to the monopolists.

The multitude of laboring people could do as they chose, that is, work
like slaves and live, or refuse to tolerate the monopoly and die.

[Illustration: Monopolizing Liquid Air on Airess.]

Many were the pitiful scenes witnessed in all parts of the land. Men,
women and children gathered around one or another of the large tanks
brimming full of the life sustaining liquid. It was heart-breaking to
see children with half-opened mouths dying for air. Of course none of
the magnates were within hearing or seeing distance. The tanks were in
charge of underlings who were bound to give no air except for the
exorbitant market price.

This state of affairs continued for many generations, nor did relief
come until one named Agitator went forth strongly set in his
convictions. He was a natural-born orator, a lover of justice, one who
believed in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man.

As long as he went about speaking and praying, the monopolists gave no
heed. But when he began organizing the masses into sworn legions, then
did the magnates bestir themselves, seeing danger in the gathering
clouds of humanity.

"What shall we do?" cried they one to another.

"Bribe Agitator," suggested one.

"A happy hit," cried they all.

One was chosen to do the work. A description of the meeting and
conversation of these two great leaders is a choice bit of literature of
the world of Airess. I will translate it as nearly as possible into

Magnate and his companion met Agitator three hours after sun-rise.
Neither one had ever seen the other before, and naturally Agitator did
not suspect the purpose for which Magnate had come.

"We are here," said Magnate, "to place into your hands one million
dollars to be used for the education of poor children. We have
confidence in your judgment and integrity, and if you will accept the
money on our conditions, we will gladly arrange all papers and place the
money at your disposal."

"A magnanimous offer indeed. But what are the conditions," hurriedly
asked the blushing Agitator.

"The conditions are easy to meet.

"1. You are to train and appoint sub-teachers and give your influence to
the building up of these schools.

"2. You are to spend your time in this noble work and receive as salary
ten thousand dollars annually.

"3. Of course you will be glad to put your whole heart and time into
this enterprise and encourage all workmen to show their appreciation of
this generous movement in behalf of the oppressed."

"But what would become of my other great work?" asked Agitator, as a
well-defined interrogation point covered his face.

"This new enterprise will solve the whole question. Is it not true that
ignorance is the cause of nearly all the discontent in the world? If you
scatter the clouds of ignorance, with them the darkness of nearly all
our woes will fly, and you will stand at the head of a new race,
educated, refined, and capable of understanding and securing their
rights ten-fold more surely and more intelligently than now."

Agitator was a man of quick mind. He was, however, almost caught in the
fine network spun around him. He bowed his head a moment in quietness.

"There is a tinge of truth in your words," admitted Agitator. "If I can
avoid it however," he continued, "the people now living will not suffer
for a whole generation in hope of imaginary relief. Your scheme is a
worthy one, but you must seek elsewhere for a leader. I have sworn in my
soul to bend my every effort to break the strong arm of the Monopoly."

Magnate was a cool man, and held his dignity in a pleasing manner. He
carelessly changed his attitude and spoke with decision "If you will not
lead this educational enterprise, the whole offer will be withdrawn and
it will be advertised to the world that the leader of the poor people
has refused the most magnificent offer of the age for the uplifting of
the masses."

"Ah," quickly replied Agitator, "if the offer be sincere, why should it
go by default on my simple refusal to be turned from my present course?
Let some other one, better qualified than I, attend to the management of
this noble cause."

Magnate advanced a step and with emphatic gesture gave his ultimatum:

"You are the recognized leader of the masses, the idol of all the poor
and of the so-called oppressed. In you the very persons whom we hope to
benefit have unbounded confidence, and naturally you are the only man
who can make wisest and most efficient use of this large sum of money.
We have no other choice and I ask you once more, for the sake of
suffering humanity, to accept the leadership of this worthy cause which
will do more for the people than all other reform movements combined.
You can make no mistake in accepting our offer. This is the only right
thing for you to do."

Agitator took no time to study his reply. His words were born on the
occasion for the occasion. He spoke with marked power in his voice and
fiery electricity in his eye:

"I have made my final decision. I am married to my reform movement and
seek no divorce. I want all people to have free air as they have free
sunlight. I am determined that neither favor nor force, neither Magnate
nor money, shall swerve me from my course. The people of my time shall
see their liberty, or I shall see my death!"

This reply of Agitator is most memorable. It is quoted more than the
famous words of Patrick Henry of our world: "Give me liberty, or give me

Agitator pushed his cause with remarkable skill. Soon his movements
reached such proportions that great men courted his favor. The masses
clung to him with truest loyalty. He took full advantage of the
situation and gained control of the legislative bodies.

Then followed the great enactment. All the air of the world was declared
to be free, and any one attempting to buy or sell this natural and
indispensable product was guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by fines
and heavy bonds.

The celebration of this victory was extreme. The most wonderful
jubilations were held at the air tanks. Famous speeches were made and
the tanks were sold by permission of their owners. One enthusiastic
person bought a tank, declared that he would sell it in small pieces for
relics, and use the proceeds for educating poor children. The scene that
followed beggars description. Everybody knew that this was a cut at
Magnate, and the buying of relics was carried on in an unprecedented
manner. The amount of money netted by this sale was so large that
several schools were erected and an endowment provided for their

All this happened long ago on the world of Airess. But the memory of
these unusual times will never die. They have an annual day of
celebration much resembling, in its festivities, our Fourth of July.

The most peculiar human condition of Airess, according to my view, is
the manner in which these people sleep. They do not lie down and
gradually drift into unconsciousness, but they lie motionless and still
retain full consciousness. The rest comes from the quietness of the
bodily members. It is not even possible for these creatures to become
mentally insensible to their surroundings, except by an accident or
through medical treatment.

I was most impressed, however, as I learned of the powerful eyesight
which these people enjoy. Their eyes are indeed little telescopes,
capable of examining heavenly bodies with as much accuracy as we are
enabled to do with the aid of magnifying glasses.

Then comes the surprising statement that these same people have never
invented anything similar to a spy glass or a telescope. Imagine how far
they could peer into the depth of space if their own gifted eyesight
were augmented by good magnifying glasses.

I spent a little longer time on Airess than on some other planets
because I found that I could more easily understand the philosophy of
their attainments.

The last moments of my stay were spent in the largest structure of this
whole world, the central building of education. From this structure
endless lines of power and influence are maintained all through the
territorial divisions of Airess.

I studied this unusual plan of education and viewed with delight the
ponderous portion of this imposing edifice. At last I bid farewell to
all these mute instructors and, looking skyward, fixed my mind on the
shores of another world.


Floating Cities.

Almost everyone is familiar with Ursa Major, or the Great Dipper, that
lies in such bold relief in the region of the northern heavens, and that
apparently revolves around Polaris, the North Star.

The nearer of the two stars that help to form this famous Dipper and
that point toward Polaris, is called Dubhe by our astronomers. This star
and its interesting solar system next claimed my attention.

From Earth I had often looked with admiring wonder at the starry
firmament, and during many an evening I had drawn the imaginary lines
from star to star outlining the Great Dipper, commencing with the end of
the handle and finishing with the star just named at the outer edge, or

As I came near to Dubhe, I scanned the surrounding skies and was
surprised to find that the whole semblance of my dipper was lost.
Instead of lying in a plane, these stars were widely separated, so far
that a billion miles gives no fair hint of the distance.

Many new stars, previously invisible, now shone in great glory so that
the whole celestial field presented new aspects. Far away I looked
toward our Sun; it sparkled like a tiny star, and none of the planets of
our Solar System were visible.

I paused not at Dubhe, but sped onward to one of the busy worlds that
revolve around it, which I shall call Plasden. This is two hundred times
as large as our world, and "slin" covers seven-eighths of its surface.
Slin is a liquid much resembling water and serves practically the same

Plasden is truly a wonderful water world. Its inhabitants are not
confined to the under-water life like those found in Stazza, neither are
they strictly compelled to remain in the atmosphere, although that is
their normal condition. The Plasdenites can sustain life under water,
but only with discomfort. They have three times as many ribs as we
possess, and between them are openings into which air or water enters
for life sustentation. These flabby ribs slowly rise and fall
continuously and involuntarily.

I would describe the upper portion of their bodies, but they would seem
so contrary to our ideas of beauty that I will pass on by saying that to
my eye, now trained in the larger school of interstellar harmonies,
these Plasdenites are lovely and lovable human creatures. They have
reached a high state of civilization and, being gifted with the spirit
life, they are still forging ahead toward perfection, unconsciously
competing with their fellow spirits in millions of worlds.

Plasden is an old planet. Human beings have lived thereon for thirty
thousand years, and consequently, ages ago, the land area became so
densely populated that there was not enough room to accommodate the
increasing millions. This perplexing problem was solved in a very
peculiar manner by an experiment on the part of a wealthy Plasdenite,
who, seven thousand years ago, took advantage of the extremely light
mineral products of this world and built for himself a floating mansion
which covered about ten acres according to our measurements.

This fairy palace was floated on the great oceans from one continent to
another, propelled by the wind and controlled by a series of motors.

After a few years he returned to his native shore and conceived the idea
of building around his palace a water village. All foundations were made
of strong aluminum-like substance mixed with molten granite which, upon
hardening, formed a compound of marvelous lightness and durability. With
painstaking care and unceasing energy the water village was transformed
from a fanciful dream into a tangible reality, and in process of time
one section after another was added until a veritable city floated on
the bosom of the deep.

But this is only a brief description of a marvelous accomplishment. I
did not pause to mention the factories and mills that were attached to
this city, nor have I told you that in less than one thousand years
after this first water city was finished, there were floating, on the
oceans of Plasden, no less than two hundred cities of various sizes,
each a manufacturing center devoted to one or more lines of industry.

The majority of these cities moved in harmony in a world-wide course,
requiring about one year or four hundred of our days to complete a
single circuit. As was their prototype, so they were propelled by a
series of motors and a splendid sail system. At times the wind did the
greater part of the work, and again the full force of the motors was

Let me ask you to get on board one of these cities, and take one year's
journey in a few minutes.

For instance, take one of the vehicle cities, composed of one hundred
factory buildings and three thousand dwellings, all built of
non-combustible materials.

The city is now in the harbor of a great port, and all the merchantmen
who live nearest to this port have been informed that the vehicle city
would arrive about midweek and remain four days. What a busy time
follows after the floating city is fastened to its moorings! Inhabitants
go on solid ground to do their trading. Dealers make large purchases and
place extensive orders.

It should be stated that the mail and telegraph systems between the
continents and all these floating cities are well nigh perfect. Fast
lines of mail steamers follow one another around the same course pursued
by these floating cities, and passengers can go to or from any of these
moving abodes to any part of any continent whenever they wish; so that
if a dealer wishes a vehicle of special design, he can send his order by
mail to any one of the six vehicle cities and have it completed by the
time the floating city arrives at his port. If the community receiving
the order cannot complete the work in time, the order is sent with one
of the mail steamers to the next vehicle city in line.

The massive city starts its journey and in one day it floats to the
coaling stations. Here it takes on board an ample supply of fuel and
proceeds along the regular course, making no stops until it reaches the
mineral station where it takes a new supply of the various kinds of
metals necessary for manufacturing and for all other purposes.

Then perchance it passes a city or two that is lying in dock for trade
purposes. The next stop will be at one of the several tropical stations
where a fresh supply of fruits is purchased and a number of vehicles
sold or delivered.

After this the city passes several apparel cities moored to an immense
dock, taking on board large bales of a cotton-like substance used in
making texture.

So continues the interesting journey along a safe route mapped out
centuries before. Storms arise, of course, but what harm can they do
except to send the ponderous waves dashing against the bulwarks of the
city and rock it gently, all of which becomes so familiar that no one
thinks of these things as serious barriers to the floating-city life.

Perhaps in one tour of four hundred days thirty stops are made. You may
wonder how these huge floats are stopped and started. This is
accomplished by a series of border propellors which can be put into
service at any time if speed is desired or contrary winds are

These cities have done much to civilize the darker races of Plasden. The
manufacturing floats, coming into contact with the shores of all lands,
naturally have an uplifting influence on its peoples, some of whom go on
board to learn trades.

The latest novelty of Plasden is a music city owned by one man and built
most beautifully. Its size is comparatively small and it is equipped
with motors of double power enabling it to proceed with considerable
speed as compared with the cumbersome, heavier floats. This city is
built for business as well as for pleasure.

These Plasdenites enjoy an invention in the form of a machine that
renders music when acted upon by air, and, at certain times, also by
water. It is inspiring to listen to these Siren strains as the music
city passes another floating abode.

Excursion parties go on this music city and remain at one or another of
its famous hotels as long as they wish.

[Illustration: A Floating Palace and a Floating City.]

The most refined feature of this water life is seen in the floating
mansions, of which there are many thousands. These are built in such a
manner that the wildest storms of the ocean can do no more than set the
mansion a rocking, for the structures that venture far away from
shore are very large, and surrounded by many acres of attachments.

It is delightful to live in one of these water mansions, go to any
chosen harbor, remain as long as desired and, taking your choice of
countries, dwell among the icebergs or in the tropical regions. People
of delicate health can shift to any climate and change location as often
as desired. This style of retired life is now the most popular of all in
this peculiar world of Plasden.

The educated people are a very bright class; they have made great
progress in manufacturing. This implies a long list of notable
inventions in every branch of industry. It is strange that these
brilliant inventors never paid attention to air travel. However, they
have perfected submarine navigation to a nicety that would be teasing to
the infant efforts that we have thus far made.

The people of this far away orb have greatly surpassed us in controlling
and utilizing the three distinct forces which are quite similar to
electricity, and these are the wizard forces that furnish the power used
to drive the motors and engines, not only of the floating cities, but
also of the fixed abodes.

By a comparative study I ascertained that we have over six thousand
inventions for which they have no parallel, and Plasden has nearly
twenty thousand to which we have nothing similar. What an inspiring
study all these facts furnished! But my space forbids enlargement. I
believe, however, that if our world remains a few thousand years more,
we will have learned more secrets than the experts of Plasden know
to-day, although they have had a start of many thousand years over us.

There are very few worlds where the devotional spirit has reached a
higher level than in Plasden. The truths of the Creator are preached and
practised with a far more pleasing result than is prevalent on Earth.

Satan has found his way to this planet and has organized his forces into
sworn legions against whom the armies of righteousness are waging
relentless warfare.

The main secret of Plasden's high morality is found in the fact that
the civil governments insist on moral laws and a careful observance of
them. One blushes with shame at the looseness and laxity with which the
greater municipalities of our Earth are governed, and all this under the
shadow of our schools and church spires.

Centuries ago the good people of Plasden learned how to co-operate when
they desired to win in a struggle against iniquity. I would give my
life-blood if I could transport this secret in such a way as to make it
effective on the Earth.

In our world we have before us a most humiliating spectacle. If an
effort is made to extirpate some form of sin that has taken audacious
root in the soil of our moral life, one reform element or denomination
fights with the other until the hoe is so broken that there is nothing
left wherewith to dig out the miserable roots of the obnoxious weed.
Thus do we spend our energies opposing one another instead of fighting
the Devil.

O, for the Plasden power of unity, before which any species of
corruption can be crushed out that is opposed by the forces of

We have succeeded, to a bitter extreme, in getting the church and state
separated from each other so far that the latter scarcely ever gets a
glimpse of the former, and we stand by priding ourselves in the absolute
divorce. Then we have also succeeded in getting the different creeds
separated by chasms so wide that it is impossible to make a combined
attack against a common foe. However, these separations between sects
are gradually disappearing, and over the lessening gaps the hands of a
more Christian fellowship are being extended.

The Devil, wiser in his generation than the children of light, long ago
united his trained forces in defense of his iniquitous schemes, and thus
he is permitted for a season to sit on the throne of power and wield his
black wand over the civil realm, thereby licensing iniquity, protecting
vice, and spreading his dark designs over the commonwealths of the

We look forward to the time when the moral and spiritual forces of our
world will reach the Plasden unity. May this be accomplished without
struggling along for another century!


A World of Ideal Cities.

After I had finished my brief stay at Plasden, I again rose high in air
and looked over the oceans with their floating cities. This was one of
the most charming views I ever had of any world.

I paid a passing visit to a few worlds where human life had never risen
to a great height of civilization, nor can I forget the lessons I there
learned of the power of sin. All this one can clearly see who visits the
three worlds lying next in order to Plasden, but I will forbear the sad
and sickening recital of the depth to which a world is carried by sin
when once it gains a haughty ascendency.

The next orb that attracted my attention also lay in the solar system of
Dubhe, and very much resembles our own world in both size and climate.
The people, who are not half our stature, are so differently formed that

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Online LibraryWilliam Shuler HarrisLife in a Thousand Worlds → online text (page 6 of 13)