As It May Be: A Story of the Future.
by Bessie Story Rogers.
Boston: Richard G. Badger, 1905.
AS IT MAY BE
A Story of the Future
BESSIE STORY ROGERS
Boston: Richard G. Badger
The Gorham Press
COPYRIGHT 1905 by BESSIE STORY ROGERS
All rights reserved
THE GORHAM PRESS
BOSTON, U. S. A.
AS IT MAY BE.
AS my readers follow the ideas in this book they may say it is impossible for such things to come about, but when we think of the wonderful and seemingly impossible things that are happening every day, we may well say "Nothing is impossible."
There is nothing more wonderful than our birth, yet do we often think of the strangeness of it all?
Is it not a more hopeful view to think the word is growing better instead of worse?
We who believe this may be in the wrong, but surely it is pleasanter to think the world is progressing, rather than to feel we have lived for naught.
None of us know about the future, still we are entitled to our opinions.
This book is merely the product of imagination, but suffice it to say if the world ever reaches such a state of goodness as is described herein, many will be happier than they are today.
BESSIE STORY ROGERS.
Rockport, Mass., Nov. 23, 1904.
HOW strange and mysterious everything seems, yet with all the strangeness I feel sure that this place is familiar or has been so to me at some time. I certainly have been here before, but when and under what conditions?
I think I will look around me and investigate my surroundings, to see if I can find anything that looks familiar.
There is the grand old ocean; that certainly looks natural. What stories of suffering the old sea would tell. Many a husband and father have found watery graves in this beautiful, but wicked old ocean. Many have said their fond good-bye to wife and children, thinking soon to be back in their happy, but lowly homes, little dreaming that the mighty deep would claim them before they could see their dear ones again.
These men of the sea are indeed a hard-working, sturdy, courageous people, and I say "God bless them."
It seems almost impossible for me to take my eyes from the mighty sheet of water, and yet I hardly know whither to turn.
I should like to find the beach where I used to spend so many happy hours. If my memory serves me correctly it was not far from this very place. I will walk on a short distance; perhaps I may be able to find this familiar spot.
No, I do not see anything that looks like the beach. It has gone, I am sure. Everything about here has changed. I will walk a little further, I may be able yet to find something familiar. What about my good friend the blacksmith? I may be able to find him. How I used to enjoy seeing him at his forge, and how I loved to watch the fire start from the black, and seemingly lifeless coal. I was only a child and yet hardly a day passed that I did not go to see my friend. No, I do not see the blacksmith's shop, he must have changed his place of business to some other part of the town.
One more place I must try to find, and that is my stable where I kept "Babe," the dearest horse that ever lived. It was only a minute's walk from here to the stable, I will go along and see if I am doomed to disappointment again. Dear old "Babe," what rollicking times we had together. Do you remember how you lifted the cover on the grain chest, you old rogue? And how you would bow your head for an apple or a lump of sugar? I am sure I shall find you, for you never failed me and surely you won't now. What! my horse and stable gone? All my dear friends gone? It must be that my mind has gone, too.
Where am I? I must be dreaming; I feel so queer and unnatural. Everything is strange and new to me, yet I am positive this is the place where I spent my childhood days. I must tarry here awhile, for I know not where to go.
WHAT is that peculiar object I see, just appearing over the horizon? It seems to come nearer and nearer. Can it be a large, graceful bird of some kind? No, it does not look like that. What swiftness, litheness and ease it seems to have. I am completely at a loss to know what I am or what I am seeing. What; can I believe my eyes? Is this object I see coming towards me, a human being, flying? It is a hard thing for me to believe, but that is just what it is, a woman flying in the air. To say the least, I feel uneasy, and I should like to know what has come over me. I never felt so queer and certainly I have never seen a woman fly before. But perhaps this being of grace can give some light on my surroundings. Anyway I will wait here and see whether or not she flies by me or alights close by. If she comes close I will question her as to my whereabouts. She is certainly flying this way; I think she knows my trouble and is coming to help me. Ah, she is almost here. She has alighted on the ground as gracefully as any bird. Now for a few questions. "Pardon me, but can you tell me where I am, or what has befallen me? I am quite sure I ought to be familiar with this place, yet everything is new and mysterious to me. My surroundings are strange enough, but if you will excuse me your manner of floating in the air and your angelic countenance puzzle me still more. If it lies in your power to do so, pray tell me where I am and who I am."
The strange woman turned to me and with a wonderful smile said – "Welcome stranger; by your conversation I think you are what a thousand years ago was called a human being on the earth. I, too, am a human being, but of the 2905 type. This is the same earth that has always existed; if you feel that this place is strange, yet familiar to you, in all probability in 1905 this very spot was the scene of your childhood. Think, my dear friend. Cannot you remember who you were, and what your circumstances and surroundings were before this strangeness came over you?
"I am quite sure, if you can recall who you were and under what conditions you lived, that you will seem as strange to me as I appear to you. Cannot you recall your name, and the last thing you did before this feeling of strangeness came upon you?"
I told my strange friend that I would do as she bade me, and with a few minutes of thought I might be able to tell her what she wished to know. For a few moments neither of us spoke. I concentrated my mind on this one thought; namely, what my name was and under what conditions I lived in the year 1905. It seemed impossible that I was now living in the year 2905, yet I knew by my new found friend's countenance that she was incapable of telling a falsehood. Suddenly the facts seemed to dawn upon me. Somehow I knew my friend would be surprised at my statements, but I felt bound to tell her everything.
"My good lady," I said, turning to her, "I remember everything perfectly. My name was Mary Tillman; I was taken sick, died and was buried."
"Is it possible," said my friend, "that a thousand years ago people were sick, and as you called it, died; and is it possible they were buried?"
I replied: that it was not only possible but that it was really so. Surely there can be nothing out of the ordinary in that. She remarked that she had read of such things, but that she never believed for a moment that it could be so. "At the present time we have no sickness, no death, and no burial. No doubt that seems as incredible to you as your statements seem to me."
"I cannot comprehend your meaning," I said, "for in 1905 death came to every human being."
"Miss Tillman," replied my friend, "I am going to introduce myself. My name is Helen Linden. I want to suggest that you accompany me to my home; I wish very much to have you meet my husband and children; I should like to hear more of the people of the twentieth century and their manner of living, and if it suits your pleasure I shall be pleased to introduce you to our customs. No doubt they will seem very odd to you at first, but I am sure you cannot help seeing a marked improvement."
I was debating and did not reply directly. I did not know whether or not I ought to accept my friend's invitation. From what she had said, I knew the people and their ways were very different from what I had been accustomed to, and I wondered if I should appear awkward in my manners, or abash my friend with my behavior. On second thought I decided I would accept, for I knew by my friend's appearance that she was too much of a lady to reprimand me for my old-fashioned ways.
"Yes," I said, "I shall be very happy to be your guest. You are indeed kind to ask a stranger to your house, and I am sure we can find many interesting things to converse about."
"Without doubt," answered Mrs. Linden; "I am sure we shall become fast friends, and I hope I may be able to make your stay with me both pleasant and profitable. Now, shall we wend our way homeward?"
"But," I answered, "when you made your appearance you were flying. Can you walk along with me, for you know flying is something I know nothing about?"
"Certainly, I can walk as well as you, and in a short time you will be able to fly as well as I. All you need is a flying machine; but we will discuss that later."
We walked slowly towards Mrs. Linden's home. The trees and the ocean, all nature in fact, seemed beautiful beyond description. In 1905 nature was a wonderful thing, but now she had taken on even more loveliness. The atmosphere itself seemed changed. I had never known such happiness myself. I was at a loss how to explain my feelings. Turning to Mrs. Linden, I asked her why she felt so happy and contented. She lifted her beautiful face to mine and said, "Everything and everybody has changed for the better. Our surroundings are all pleasant, and everyone is happy."
I hardly thought such a thing could be true, still I was glad to give the statement the benefit of the doubt, for I knew my friend was sincere in everything she said. I noticed that the houses seemed to be of a different material than was used in the twentieth century. I thought it would be wiser to wait until some future time before asking my friend what material was used for building at the present time.
"Well, here we are," said Mrs. Linden, "this is my home." We stopped in front of a plain but fine looking house. On reaching the door, I of course expected to see my friend look for her key; taking anywhere from one to ten minutes for the search. I remembered only too plainly the times when I had looked for my key; many times I would be in a great hurry to get into the house or be nearly frozen waiting outside. Sometimes my key would be found in the bottom of my shopping bag, and all the bundles had to come out, or else I didn't know just what I had done with it, and had to look through everything for the missing article.
Mrs. Linden had nothing of this kind to go through with. She merely turned the knob and went in. "We used to keep our doors locked and even barred, sometimes," I remarked. "Do you never lock your doors?" "Certainly not," she answered. "Why should we? We have nothing to fear. There isn't anything or anybody that can do us any harm, in this century."
BY this time we had reached the interior of the house. I immediately noticed that everything was tasty and neat, yet simple. The same pleasant atmosphere that was so noticeable out of doors, seemed to pervade the house. Mrs. Linden seemed perfectly calm, and free from the bustle and worry that was so common in my day when callers or visitors were in the home. To me she was a remarkable woman, with contentment and happiness written in her face. I had never seen such a face before. It was indeed beautiful. My friend ushered me into a spacious room, and asked me to be seated. "Now," she went on, "make yourself perfectly at home; anything you wish to know do not hesitate to ask me to explain. I have read so much about things that happened in your day, that I can hardly wait to hear your story, but still as I wish my husband to have the benefit of it, I think I won't ask many questions until he arrives home. I have two children, a boy and a girl. As they have never read anything of the olden days, your story may not be as improbable to them, still am sure they would like to hear of the things that to me seem impossible."
"I am sure," I said, "that we both can tell interesting things; but tell me, Mrs. Linden, why do you look so calm, and beautiful? I never saw such a face as yours." Mrs. Linden laughingly replied, that she was no more beautiful than other people at the present time. "But how have you attained such a countenance?" I inquired. "No doubt," she replied, "it seems a great mystery to you now, but when you compare further your manner of living in the twentieth century with the way we live now it will seem very easy of comprehension; I dare say you will think it a revelation from the olden days. But here is my husband."
I looked towards the door, and saw the newcomer. I began to think that Mrs. Linden's words were true for Mr. Linden had as fine a face as his wife.
"Charles, I want to introduce you to a new friend of mine, Miss Tillman. This morning I found this lady wandering around the streets, apparently she had lost her way; on inquiring, I find she is a lady of the twentieth century, and of course everything seems strange to her. I have brought her to our home to familiarize her with the surroundings, and ways of living at the present time."
"Welcome, Miss Tillman," replied Mr. Linden, "I cannot express the pleasure that your visit will give us. I am sure you will be pleased with the surroundings of the present day, and also our manner of living, although they may be beyond your comprehension at first."
Mr. Linden seated himself in a very comfortable looking chair. "Miss Tillman," he went on, "we have made great strides for the better since 1905."
"I am quite sure it must be so," I said; "I know this very place is where I spent my childhood, yet everything is so changed. It seems more as we thought of Heaven; everything seems to be in perfect harmony."
Just then I heard a tinkling of what to me seemed like far away music. "Ah, there is the call for lunch," said Mrs. Linden. "Helen," asked Mr. Linden, "where are the children?"
"They will be here immediately." Just then a boy and a girl entered the room. They were the most beautiful children I had ever seen. I must have shown a look of wonderment on my face, for Mrs. Linden inquired if I had seen them before. "No," I answered, "but they, too, have the same serene faces that both you and your husband have."
"No matter how many new faces you may see, they will all be pleasant; we have no ugly countenances." I could hardly credit this statement. In my day, occasionally we found a face full of love, contentment, and goodness: but such faces were very rare. Mrs. Linden introduced me to the children, and then we repaired to the dining room. I was given a place at the table, while the family gracefully took theirs.
I noticed that the dishes were very different from those used in the twentieth century. "You will pardon me," I said, "but your dishes are so different from those I have been accustomed to that I cannot refrain from speaking about them."
"Do not hesitate to speak of anything," said Mrs. Linden. "I believe in your day china dishes were used. Now, we use these very simple non-absorbent paper dishes. They are very inexpensive, and when soiled are thrown away."
"I begin to see," I said, "why you all have pleasant faces. In my day dish-washing alone was enough to make any woman look ugly."
Not only were the dishes different from what I had been accustomed to, but the food looked very strange to me. I hesitated about saying anything about it however. I thought perhaps I would be going a little too far if I did so. Mrs. Linden seemed to read my thoughts. "No doubt," she said, "you will find our food very different from what you have been used to. We eat no fish, meat, or anything that has animal life. Many of the herbs which I dare say were called useless in your day, are now used for food. We cook them in many different ways, and I think you will find them very palatable. We have many varieties of cereals, fruits, and vegetables."
I must say that the food looked "good enough to eat." It seemed impossible that materials of such a nature could be gotten up to look and taste so well. Everything seemed so good. Of course, I hadn't any idea what I was eating. I wondered why it was that in 1905 we hadn't learned to cook such attractive looking dishes.
After we had finished our meal I told Mr. and Mrs. Linden how much I had enjoyed the cooking, and remarked that the food and their way of preparing it was a marked improvement over the old.
"I am very glad that you enjoyed the lunch," said Mrs. Linden. "Now, shall we go to the living room?" After seating ourselves comfortably, Mr. Linden said he would be pleased to hear more of the customs of the twentieth century. "Why not start telling us of your ills at that time," suggested Mrs. Linden.
"I am agreeable to anything," I said. "It is hard for me to believe that at the present time you have no sickness, death, or burial; it may be equally as hard for you to believe what I am about to say. We had many kinds of diseases; some more severe than others. Most of us had many sick spells before death claimed us. I haven't a doubt that we brought much of our sickness on ourselves, but we didn't understand how to ward it off. If you have no sickness, I presume people learned from year to year, the cause of it, therefore in time they were able to get rid of the cause, thereby stamping it out entirely. I can fully understand how this might be for even while I was living we knew the cause of many diseases, such as were never known before, and how to obviate them. One great factor was carelessness. Many deaths resulted from catching cold, which came from improper care of ourselves. You do not know what I mean by catching cold, Mrs. Linden?" "No, I do not," she said. "Do you, Charles?" "I must say it is a strange term to me," he replied.
"Very well," I said, "I will try to explain to you. When we exposed ourselves to the wet and cold, our whole system was often affected. Sometimes the head was troubled, sometimes the lungs, and more often a person felt sick all over, and as it sometimes developed into more serious symptoms, we died from the effects. Colds were one of the most common kinds of illness. Women, men, and children all suffered from them.
"You will be surprised when I tell you what inconsiderate things people did and then wondered why they caught cold. Often people would go thinly clad on a cold day, instead of dressing as they should."
"You exposed yourselves needlessly, and should have known better," remarked Mr. Linden.
"We did know better," I said. "But often through pride we caught cold. Why, Mr. Linden, one of my friends never wore a wrap of any kind if she had a new dress. Simply because she wanted to let people see that she was the possessor of a new gown.
"But as I said before we had many kinds of sickness which caused a great deal of suffering."
"And did even your innocent little children suffer from disease?" inquired Mr. Linden.
"Yes, indeed," I replied. "Some of our children were great sufferers. Many times this was caused from exposure and carelessness and many times from diseases brought on we knew not how."
"What a miserable world you must have had with all this trouble. We are free from it now," said Mrs. Linden. "But could your children get no relief from their sufferings?"
"Yes, indeed," I replied. "At the time of my death a great deal had been done for relieving sickness for both old and young. One of the greatest blessings for the children was the 'floating hospital.' Hospitals were large, sunny buildings where we carried our sick to be taken care of. Of course you have none, now that you have no sickness," I said.
"No, we haven't anything of the kind," answered Mr. Linden. "But how does the term 'floating' apply to a hospital," he went on.
"No doubt that sounds singular to you. It did to us at first." I hastened to inform him that a large, comfortable steamboat was leased for the summer months. Every day the poor children of the cities were given an outing; at an appointed time the steamboat started and they were given a delightful trip on the ocean. Attendants were sent with them and everything was done for the comfort of the children. It was a great expense to care for the little ones, but when we thought of the good they were receiving, the cost seemed very little compared with the enjoyment they got from their outings.
"It was indeed a sorrowful sight to see those poorly clad, half-starved children wending their way to the steamboat, and yet it was a joyful one to see the pleasure and delight they seemed to get from their day's excursion. Just one day seemed to brighten their lives. Very little pleasure did these little ones get from their home lives. Many of these children were cripples," I went on. "Do you not have cripples now, Mrs. Linden?"
She looked at me in a sort of inquiring way – and said – "I think not, still I cannot say for a certainty, as I do not know what you mean."
"If you have no suffering," I said, "of course you have no cripples. It is hard for me to bear in mind that you have no suffering.
"My dear friend," I went on, "our cripples were indeed great sufferers. By cripples I mean those who were afflicted by lameness, and were unable to walk. They were always dependent on some one else, never able to go alone, and sometimes they were so badly afflicted they were unable to move. They were indeed most unfortunate."
"What a terrible affliction it must have been, Miss Tillman," said Mrs. Linden. "I cannot imagine such a thing."
"Another class to be greatly pitied were the deaf and dumb people. Possibly you do not know what class of people they were."
"No, we do not," replied Mrs. Linden. "But surely they could not have been more unfortunate than their fellow beings, the cripples."
"Yes," I replied, "I think they were to be pitied even more than they."
Then I went on to tell them of our deaf and dumb mutes. Of the wonderful things they accomplished and how patient they were.
Of course my friends were greatly surprised at my statements and could hardly believe that such terrible things could befall people.
"The worst of all," I said, "was blindness. We even had people who were born blind. Never had been able to see. Never knew how things looked. Never had seen their own fathers and mothers, brothers, or sisters. Just think of it," I said. "What a terrible thing that was."
"Why," replied Mrs. Linden, "I cannot understand why you had such dreadful things in your time."
"No, we often wondered why such hard things came to some people," I said. "But of course, there must have been a cause for these things that we did not understand. But at the present time you have outgrown these awful things – and you should be very thankful."
"I think we have great cause to give thanks," replied Mrs. Linden.
Mr. and Mrs. Linden and myself conversed all day. We found many things of interest to talk about.
It was hard to say whether they were more surprised at the people and customs of the twentieth century, or whether I was more surprised at the present time. Anyway, I knew one thing and that was – there had been a decided improvement.
When it came time to retire for the night, Mrs. Linden asked me if I thought I would enjoy a fly in the morning.
"Why of course," I said, "I would just love to go, but you know I do not know how to fly."
"Oh! that is easy enough," she answered. "You won't have any trouble about that."
I assured her I was ready and anxious to go – but still I hardly knew how I should "make out" with a flying machine.
"But before you decide to go," replied Mrs. Linden, "I must see what the weather will be tomorrow. If you will excuse me a moment, I will go in Mr. Linden's room and look at the weather bulletin."
While Mrs. Linden was gone, I sat and wondered in what way the people of 2905 knew about the weather for the following day.
Presently Mrs. Linden returned. "It is going to be a very pleasant day tomorrow," she said.
"What is your scheme in these days for telling the weather," I asked.
"Could you not tell what the weather was to be on the morrow in your day, Miss Tillman?"
"Yes, In a measure we could," I replied. "Generally when a storm was approaching the 'weather man' could tell. Signals were posted, or storm flags were hoisted to warn one of the storm. We had people who made a business of studying the weather. Sometimes they would be fortunate enough to be correct in their calculations, but many times they were entirely wrong."
"We have no guess work about it now," replied Mrs. Linden. "Every family has an instrument called the weather meter. When we wish to know what the weather is to be the following day, we merely look at the weather meter and we know positively what to expect, and we make our plans accordingly."
I informed Mrs. Linden that in 1905 we had a barometer which told of approaching storms, wind, etc., but we never thought the time would come when we could tell just what the weather would be from day to day.
"Why," said Mrs. Linden, "we depend on our weather meters as much as we do on our clocks. And by the way – I imagine our clocks must be far different from yours. You used electricity for many things, I suppose, but did your clocks run by electricity?"
"We may have had a few," I answered, "but this use of electricity was not common."
"All of ours are run by electricity," she replied. "We put our clocks in the house when it is built just as you would put in your electric lights."
"I am very glad to hear of this improvement," I remarked. "In my day it was a nuisance to keep clocks going, and I am afraid some naughty little words were said sometimes when the clocks refused to perform their duties, or when they had to be regulated as well. Frequently we lost our train by reason of the clock being wrong, and worse than that, we sometimes got out of bed in the morning, thinking it time to arise, only to find we were an hour or so too early. It took a good disposition to stand these things.
"But perhaps your clocks get out of order?"
"No," she replied, "we have no trouble whatever with them. Everything that runs by electricity at the present time, runs to perfection. If you will look just over the mantel, you will see the face of the clock, which, I think, is very much the same that was used in your day, but the clock itself is inserted in the wall – just as the mantel is."
"This arrangement must be a great saving of money as well as worry," I said.
"We have no expense with our clocks after they are once in the house," she answered.
I was greatly impressed with the modern clocks – as I remembered in my day they were quite an expensive piece of "furniture" to keep in repair.
I told Mrs. Linden that I thought I was ready to retire, as I knew I should have an exciting and unusual day on the morrow.
"Very well," she replied in her sweet way. She escorted me to a small elevator, which, by the way, was to be found in every home of the 2905 type. This I thought was a good idea too, as many women were actually tired out in my day, by going up and down stairs.
I remarked to Mrs. Linden the convenience of it. She replied that the people used elevators more than stairs, and that they, too, were put in during the construction of the house. "Did you not have elevators in your day, Miss Tillman?"
"Certainly," I answered, "in public buildings, but they were not common in private houses."
"Queer," she replied, "that they did not think of putting them into use in all homes."
Reaching my chamber, I found a very spacious, cool, and beautiful room. How could people be anything but good, I thought, breathing such pure air and living in such an atmosphere.
I had been so impressed with the freshness of the room that I had scarcely missed the absence of a bed, when presently I saw Mrs. Linden press a button, and from the side of the room, to my amazement, appeared a bed.
Mrs. Linden explained that the beds also were made in the house at the time of building.
On examining, I found it was made on the principle of our folding-beds – but of a neater design and more simple of construction.
"By shutting the bed, more space is given and a nicer appearance in the room is presented," said Mrs. Linden.
"Yes," I remarked, "I think it is a very good idea, indeed."
Mrs. Linden bade me sleep well, for as she said, I had had an exciting day for me, and on the morrow it would be more so, as I would see sights and visit scenes not at all familiar to me.
After wishing me a good night's rest, Mrs. Linden left the room.
So refreshing was my room and so pleasant my surroundings, I had hardly touched my head to the pillow, when I was sound asleep.
WHEN I awoke in the morning, I was somewhat at a loss to tell just where I was, but I soon collected myself and realized it was time for me to arise.
The day was as Mrs. Linden had predicted.
The sun was shining brightly, the birds were singing their morning carols, and everything seemed made for our excursion. After I had made myself presentable for breakfast, I decided to go to the library – but as I hardly dared trust myself to run the elevator, I walked down the stairs.
The family were all down before me. I said "Good Morning," as was the custom in my day.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Eden said, "Greeting to you." "My dear friends," I replied, "I have noticed you never use the expressions 'How do you do,' 'Good morning,' or any of the other sayings which we used in my day."
"Why," answered Mr. Linden, "we have no use for such expressions now."
"You must know we are always well and happy, and everything seems good to us. Our manner of speaking to our friends is by saying 'Welcome,' 'Greeting,' or something of that nature."
I thought it was a very pleasant way indeed, as "Good Morning" in my day was usually followed by a discussion of the weather, instead of well wishes to the person spoken to.
We repaired to the breakfast room. After partaking of a most wholesome and daintily served meal, Mrs. Linden and myself prepared for our flying trip.
Mrs. Linden brought me a rather odd looking dress. It reminded me of what we called a bloomer suit – yet it was much prettier; it really was a pretty gown. "In this century," said Mrs. Linden, "we wear these costumes a good deal, especially when flying."
"Why, in my day," I replied, "the ladies were too vain to wear such suits, unless when bathing or something of that kind."
"But," answered Mrs. Linden, "we have gowns made this way in the most elaborate styles imaginable. It is only a change of style from your day, I suppose."
After putting on my dress for me, Mrs. Linden left the room, and said she would bring the flying machine immediately. Soon she returned, and had it with her. As I had already seen Mrs. Linden's machine, I could not help knowing what it was.
The machine was made of aluminum and therefore was very light; it reminded me somewhat of a straightjacket, inasmuch as the main part fitted snugly to the body to support the back and chest.
From the jacket extending to the arms and also below the knees, were wide bands of aluminum to support those members. My friend had previously informed me that these parts could be changed in any desired position so as to rest the person using the machine.
"Now," said Mrs. Linden, "if you will kindly stand right there, I will fit the machine to you. You could not fly in the twentieth century, could you, Miss Tillman?"
"No," I answered, "it was thought it might be possible to do so at some future time, but most people laughed at the idea as being an impossibility."
"Did any of your people in the olden days try to fly?" she inquired.
I informed her that for a number of years before my death, there had been many experiments, but none had been successful.
"What were the different ways of experimenting?" she asked.
I related the different devices that had been invented for flying. She merely laughed, and asked me if I thought people would have been greatly pleased with such cumbersome arrangements.
"No," I said, "I do not think they would have been popular, for, besides being ungainly, they were very expensive."
"Ours cost very little," she replied, "Everyone has a machine. But tell me," she continued, "did you, personally, ever think it would be possible to fly?"
"Well, to tell the truth," I answered, "I never thought we could." I laughingly said that I supposed a person would have to have wings like an angel to be able to fly – "But I see you have no wings."
"Oh, no," she replied, "the machine is worked by electricity alone."
"It must have looked very odd at first to see people flying in the air," I remarked.
"I imagine so," she said, "but at the present time we have become quite accustomed to it, and think no more of it than to see a person walking."
By this time Mrs. Linden had finished her work of fitting the machine. I think you will not wonder that I felt a bit uneasy when my friend said, "Everything is ready," and bade me walk to the door as from there we would fly.
"But," I said, "I have never taken a lesson and know nothing about flying. If I start likely as not I shall lodge in some one's chimney, or some unpleasant place."
"Nothing of the sort," answered Mrs. Linden. "You will find it just as easy to fly as to walk, only of course, it will seem a little odd at first. We will take a general survey of the city at first, so as to give you some idea of the changes that have taken place since your day.
"Now," she said, "just turn the little handle that you will find just below the chest. By this we get our power. Turn it around to three, that will give you speed enough at first. And also turn the hand of the compass (which you will find just below the power handle) to the West, as we wish to fly in that direction."
I did as I was told and immediately realized that I was on a "Flying trip," to use the expression that was common in the olden days. I am sure when we used that saying we had no idea that the time would come when we should actually fly. You cannot imagine my sensations. Still I felt as comfortable and easy as though I were walking.
After we had flown far above the house tops, my friend suggested that we fly a little higher, as I had become somewhat accustomed to my new situation. I turned the handle around to four, and found myself ascending higher and higher. We had now been in the air some few minutes. I had a very good bird's eye view of the city. If my friend had not assured me that it was the same earth where I had lived in 1905, I should certainly have thought it was a different world.
"Now," said Mrs. Linden, "what would you like to see?"
"I hardly know what to say," I replied. "Everything seems so new to me.
"I used to be greatly interested in fire engines and the fire horses. Why not visit the engine houses? You must have made great improvements in that direction."
To my great surprise my friend informed me that there were no fire engines or engine houses. Those were disposed of long ago. Our buildings are absolutely fireproof. We never have a fire, therefore we have no use for fire engines. I have read that in your day a fire was a common occurrence, that large buildings burned, and that people were actually burned to death.
"Alas, that is only too true," I answered. "We certainly had terrible things happen. We had all kinds of dreadful accidents. Sometimes these were caused by carelessness and – "
"Let me interrupt you right there," said Mrs. Linden. "The terrible things that happened were caused a great many times by carelessness because you did not know how to avert the cause of the carelessness.
"These things resulted from some cause. You must first great rid of that, then you can prevent the horrible things. That is what we are able to do today. All causes for horrible happenings and accidents have been done away with."
"You have indeed advanced," I said, "I think your words are very true. We were careless. For instance, Fourth of July we had many terrible accidents caused by powder crackers and the use of toy-pistols; but do you celebrate Fourth of July?"
"Not in the foolish way that you used to employ," she replied. "There are no fire crackers or fire works made, and as we have no use for fire arms for self-defense or other purposes, they have been disposed of for some years. By study and hard work all causes for accidents have been found out and removed; they are now unknown."
Just then I saw something walking below me that made me fairly scream. "Look at that wolf and that bear," I said. "Why they are walking along the street and no one pays a bit of attention to them! Why does not someone kill them?"
"Why," replied Mrs. Linden, "don't you remember that I just told you we have no fire arms. We do not kill animals now any more than we would people. We never use them for food and do not have the disposition to kill them for fun as they did in your day. Therefore, when the animals found they were unmolested, they finally grew so tame that they wandered on the streets as a dog would in your day. We do not disturb them in any way. They are as free as we are to roam around.
"We do not call them wild as you used to. They are very gentle. The wildest animal in your day is as gentle as can be now."
"This," I said, "is indeed one of the most wonderful changes I have seen yet."
"Not wonderful at all," replied Mrs. Linden. "It is only through kindness that the animals have come to learn that there is nothing to harm them. If your people had had more of this feeling, you would have advanced faster than you did.
"As the people changed, so did the animals change. When the human race grew kinder and more intelligent so did the animals."
I pondered upon these facts for a while, and then said to my escort: "There is reason in your statements surely, for in my short life it seemed to me that I could see a marked improvement in our animals. Wonderful feats were performed by trained horses, dogs, cats, elephants, and lions even. I often wondered what people would have thought to have seen these things one hundred years before my death. It seemed to me that even in 1905 we were doing a great deal to elevate the animals, so to speak."
"Yes," answered my companion, "and it seems also that man was finding out what wonderful things could be done with animals by patience and gentleness, while training himself in that direction."
"I think you are right," I said, "but I have a question I would like to ask you, Mrs. Linden. Do you have mosquitoes? Do you know what I mean?"
"I do not know of anything we have by that name," she answered.
"Then you are greatly blessed in the year 2905," I replied. "Why in my day sometimes it was impossible to be comfortable and good-natured on account of these annoying little things. I don't know how we could have been expected to be always good-natured when we had such things as mosquitoes to contend with. We were driven by their persistency to say naughty little words. If you do not have them now, you cannot imagine how one poor little mosquito could torment a person. I don't wonder the people have improved in disposition even if they have only gotten rid of this one unpleasant thing."
"You seem to be quite wrought up over the subject of mosquitoes. Pray tell me what they were?" said my friend.
"They were small insects with a poisonous sting and they used to bite us dreadfully. They were most bothersome in the summer evenings. We used at that time to sit out doors enjoying surrounding nature, but we were so pestered with them that we were driven into the house. They would inflect a bite on the face, then on the wrist, and then on the ankle until finally they would become unbearable."
"I am sure they must have been unpleasant things," responded Mrs. Linden.
"Not only were they tormentors, but it was proven that they were carriers of disease," I said.
"Yes," replied my companion. "I do not doubt it. Years after 1905 hundreds of ways were discovered whereby disease was carried. But science has conquered and we have no disease now."
"THOSE black clouds yonder look as though we might have a thunder storm. Do you suppose we are going to have a shower?" I asked.
"We do not have thunder storms now," answered Mrs. Linden.
"You are indeed fortunate," I replied. "In my day they were a great source of annoyance to many people. Fancy us having a severe storm, and the lightning striking some member of the family, killing him instantly. Oftentimes one's best friends were taken this way. Can you wonder we were dismayed sometimes?"
"It must have been an awful thing," she replied. "You certainly had enough trouble in the olden days to make you unhappy."
"Mrs. Linden," I said, "as we have been flying in the air I have noticed many strange looking carriages in the streets. One kind in particular seems very odd and at the same time it seems to be very common. I wish I might see some at the present moment so that you could tell me what they are. Look, there is one now!"
"Oh!" replied my friend, "that is what we call a baby carriage. You certainly had baby carriages, Miss Tillman?"
"Well, yes," I answered, "but not that style, I can assure you. We had to push ours and it was hard pushing sometimes, too."
"What an odd sight it must have been to see a person pushing a baby carriage," said she. "When a mother or nurse wishes to take baby out for an airing, they merely get the carriage, seat the baby and themselves comfortably, turn on the electricity, and they are off."
"My what a blessing that would have been for the women of the twentieth century!" I said. "But the cost? they must be expensive."
"Not at all," she replied. "Any one who wishes may have one as the price is very low."
"They remind me of our automobiles, only they are made on a much smaller scale," I said.
"Perhaps we ought to wend our way homeward. You have had quite a fly for the first time," remarked Mrs. Linden.
We turned our machines and flew towards home. On my way I happened to think of the rum shops and saloons that were so common in 1905. Turning to Mrs. Linden, I asked her if such places were known at the present time and if intoxicating liquor was used.
"I do not know of any places that answer that description; neither do I know what you mean by intoxicating liquors," she answered.
"In my day saloons and liquor were a curse to the nation," I said. "I am sure if so many good and wonderful things have happened since 1905, the rum shops and saloons must have vanished, for you could never have true happiness with intoxicating liquor in your midst." I informed her as to the nature of this evil and went on to say that at my time people claimed that the time would never come when it would not be sold. "I myself did not think that, but I did believe that as long as people wanted it made and as long as men craved it to drink, it would be manufactured.
"I realized that not until the people were able to overcome the appetite for liquor could any great reform take place. I felt that they must change a great deal before such a thing could happen. If you could have seen what longings and cravings some had for it, you wouldn't hesitate to say that you have gotten rid of the worst enemy of man. People actually drank intoxicating liquor until they knew nothing that was going on around them. Fancy, if you can, a man so overcome with liquor that his wife and family were in constant fear of him. The wife and children living a life of anxiety lest they be killed, and the husband and father be cast into prison. This leads to the subject of prisons.
"Mrs. Linden, if you have no bad people, of course you have no use for prisons; these were buildings where we put our criminals and law breakers. You do not have them I am sure?"
"No," she answered, "we have nothing of the kind."
"We thought them necessary and perhaps they were, for we had people who were so bad that they had to be put away where they could not harm others. We were so far uncivilized as to cast human beings into prisons for years, yes for life time. Many people thought we should deal with the bad and unfortunate in some other way, but at that time we could not see our way clear to do differently."
"Were these unfortunates never allowed to see their friends or visit their homes?" asked Mrs. Linden.
"Sometimes their friends were allowed to visit them at the prison, but the prisoners were not permitted to go out of the prison yard until they had finished their sentences."
"An awful state of affairs," said my friend.
"Yes, but you haven't heard the worst yet," I replied. "Some prisoners were sentenced to death; by that I mean they were hanged, or in later years electrocuted, until death came."
"You were far from civilized, Miss Tillman."
"We were indeed," I said. "Sad were many cases brought to light. For instance, a man had just cause to lose his temper; perhaps some one tormented him so that he forgot himself, and before he knew it, he had killed some one. Another perhaps crazed by liquor – which he had purchased at a licensed rum shop – got into trouble with some one, and shot and killed his man. The licensed rumseller, who sold the liquor that had caused the trouble, went free because he paid a few dollars to some city or town; but the unfortunate man after the effects of the liquor left him, realized what he had done, and although not for anything would he have committed such an act had he been in his right mind, he was punished to the full extent of the law. He was tried by a jury, which often condemned a man merely on circumstantial evidence. If these few men rendered a verdict of guilty, out went his life and he was no more. The sheriff electrocuted the man and he passed on to another, and I hope brighter, world.
"Which had the hardest heart do you think, the man who was crazed by jealousy, and liquor, or the man who sold the liquor, or the one who did the electrocuting?"
"The man who caused the guilty one trouble of course," said Mrs. Linden, "and as for the sheriff, it was far worse for a man to kill another without actual cause than it was for a man to kill another when wrought up from temper and drink."
"So I say," I replied.
"They were guilty of taking life as well as the prisoner," resumed my companion.
"Yes," I said, "and the sheriff was paid for it, too. I often thought the time would come when the verdict 'Condemned to death' would be a thing of the past, but I hardly thought prisons would be done away with entirely."
"But you see," replied my friend, "the time has come when people do not use liquor and we have no insane jealousy as a result. Your terrible dispositions were hereditary, having been handed down from generation to generation. Many times the people who were bad in your day weren't to blame for it. It was born in them just as goodness and kindness were born in others. Not until all the bad traits were taken from people could the world become what you see it today."
It will be difficult for my readers to realize that we were flying all the time this conversation was going on. I hardly realized it myself. I was very comfortable and as my friend had told me, it seemed easier to fly than to walk.
"Well, here we are home again," said Mrs. Linden. "Turn the power from your machine and we will alight."
I did as I was told. We touched the ground as lightly as a feather and then walked into the house.
I WENT to my room and took off my suit, and after putting on a gown more appropriate for the house, went to the cozy sitting room, where I found Mr. Linden.
"Did you enjoy your flying trip?" he inquired.
"Very much indeed," I replied, "but I was very much surprised to find flying so easy."
"Why, it is the easiest thing imaginable – isn't it, my dear?" This remark was to his wife, who had just entered with the two children.
"Certainly it is," laughingly replied Mrs. Linden. "The children wished to come in and listen to our conversation," she went on.
"I should like to talk with you a few moments concerning your children," I said. "They are so well behaved, and well brought up. Yet you say all children are the same. As the parents have changed greatly since the olden days, I can understand why the children have changed also, still in my day with the best influences, children went astray. What method have you used to bring such a change?"
"None whatever. The children are born good; they need no bringing up. It is just as natural for them to be good as it is for the birds to sing. This is one of the many changes that have been going on from year to year. But tell me," she went on, "what methods were used for guiding children aright in your day?"
"Children were whipped instead of being reasoned with and shown the right way. What do you think of people who so cruelly tortured these little ones of their own flesh and blood?" I said.
"It was certainly very wrong," she answered.
"I think so," I said. "Child nature in my day wasn't best conquered by force. We all knew that. I often thought if parents could not control their tempers and govern themselves accordingly after years of training, how could they expect their children to be even in their dispositions.
"I can see why some people had no patience with their children. Take for instance the class of very poor people. They had not enough to eat or to wear. The mothers were tired and nervous, and sickly besides; often times with drunken husbands coming home to them. How could you expect them to be agreeable and in good spirits? There may have been good excuse for them, but there were other parents with pleasant surroundings who hadn't the least control over their children, and who didn't seem to care what became of them.
"Falsehoods were often told the children by the parents. Now that was entirely wrong. The children soon learned that the parents told untruths, and it was perfectly natural for the children to fall into the same way, and in consequence were punished by a whipping or by being sent to bed without any supper, or something of that sort. It seems to me that the parents were to blame for this. I think children would have preferred to tell the truth rather than to lie, but they were often punished for telling the truth, so they did the next thing and lied. It was simply heartrending sometimes to see what punishments a little child had to stand.
"Do you wonder we had ill-behaved children, Mrs. Linden?"
"I wonder that you had anything but badness and corruptness if those were the ideas you carried out in correcting your dear ones," she answered.
"I HEAR you still have money," I said to Mr. Linden.
"Oh! yes," he replied.
"But if you still have money," I said, "I cannot account for such peace in the world; I cannot understand such contentment as I see, the absence of jealousy and strife. In my day that was the cause of labor troubles, of business depression, and no end of other things."
"That is just it, my friend," resumed Mr. Linden. "Your people thought too much of money. But there came a time when money was not considered all in all. Not until the people gave up the idea that money was the goal of all things did the world become what it is today."
"Do you all have the same amount of money?" I inquired.
"No indeed," he replied, "some have more money than others. Yet every one has enough to live comfortably. We have no poor people as you did. None of that terrible suffering caused from starvation. Still we have no one who wishes to get money for selfish ends, and no one who gets it dishonorably. A great many of your wealthy people, I fear, got their money unjustly. To be sure they must have been smart and in a way earned their money – but behind it all was that feeling of getting ahead of some one else.
"In your day the poor man thought the rich man should give him all he asked for, and the rich man thought the poor man should give him what he demanded, without appreciation on either side. Was that not so?"
"I am afraid it was," I answered. "Many people, not all, thought the wealthy should support them, and would have lived an idle life, if it hadn't been for keeping alive. It was the same with some (not all) of the rich men. They expected the poor man to work for them for a moderate sum, with never a thought of the poor man's burden."
"But it was that selfish motive always creeping in," said Mr. Linden. "Looking out for number one; never a thought of any one else. Lack of appreciation on both sides."
"Do you have labor troubles of any kind?" I asked.
"No," answered Mr. Linden, "I have read that the latter part of the twentieth century was noted for labor troubles. Labor troubles never could be and never were settled satisfactorily until the people thought less of money and more of justice. Human beings, made up of discontent, envy, malice, and the like; you must have known these things could not be settled until these feelings were outgrown."
"That is the truth, Mr. Linden. In my time, no matter how little we worked, we thought our work too hard, and no matter how much money we had, we hadn't enough."
"IN the twentieth century we had the telephone, telegraph, cable and the wireless telegraphy, which was more wonderful than them all.
"It seemed impossible to have anything more phenomenal than the wireless telegraphy, yet so much was happening, we hardly knew what to expect next. Many people claimed that the time would come when our ideas would be transmitted by thought, and now you tell me it is really so, Mr. Linden."
"Yes, it is true," he answered, "you were making rapid strides towards progression whether you knew it or not. Thought transference has been one of the greatest mediums towards making the world as good as it is today.
"For instance, if a really bad man purposed to do some mischief to a person, the bad thoughts were transmitted to the person or victim whether the ill-doer wished it or not. In fact every one possessed the power to know when anything bad or unusual was to happen. As we have no bad people now, we do not use thought transference for this special purpose. I think I have read of a few instances in your day where people claimed they could tell what would happen in the future. They were laughed at, were they not?"
"Yes," I replied, "they were called cranks or crazy."
"Yes, I presume so," he answered, "but still those people had the power of thought that most of your people lacked. Now we all have that power. We have no secrets from each other for it is impossible to have them."
"But in my day, Mr. Linden, this would have been a very unpleasant thing," I said. "Think of every one knowing one's affairs. What trouble this would have caused with business, to say nothing of family affairs."
"No doubt it would in your day, but you know we feel altogether differently about affairs and people," replied Mr. Linden. "The whole universe feels towards each other as a very devoted family should feel with each other, every one working together."
"Well, of course," I said, "if every one feels that way, it is different, but it doesn't seem possible to me that people could ever have acquired that feeling."
"But it is so, Miss Tillman. And that is why we are so happy and why we have such pleasant countenances. "We have reached the stage where it is easy to be good, but impossible to be bad. Very different from your day, I am sure."
"WHILE out flying, I do not remember seeing any churches. You haven't given them up, have you?"
"Oh! yes, some time ago," answered Mr. Linden.
"May I ask why you disposed of your churches, Mr. Linden?"
"Why certainly," he replied. "It was something like this as far as I know.
"The people become more and more negligent about attending worship and believed they could worship God and do good and be good by other means than the churches. They finally drifted away from them altogether. Of course the ministers were affected by this state of affairs, so at length we had no ministers. Without a doubt the ministers of the early years through their good influence, together with other sources of good, have brought us where we are today. 'All things work together for good.'"
I replied, "that I was not surprised that the churches were now a thing unknown. For I remember that in 1905 it was a difficult task to keep the people together and raise funds enough for current expenses, this kept the 'workers' of the church busy most of the time. It wasn't the pleasantest occupation either. For though these kind and willing folk tried to do their best, there were those who were ready to criticise their efforts without ever lifting a hand to help them. In my day each of the different denominations seemed to be of the opinion that it alone was on the right track, and no matter how good his friend or neighbor might be, if he didn't belong to his own particular church he was in the wrong. I hardly see how you ever brought the people to be of one mind."
"It came about gradually," he replied. "In your day you had different creeds and churches. The people finally drifted into one church, creeds were forgotten; the people adopted a different way of doing things. Instead of thinking so much of creeds they began to think how they could do good to their brother men. They adopted as their guide the Golden Rule 'Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.' When every one began to follow this rule, it wasn't long before there was a real change in people."
"In my day this rule was taught, but amid such temptations and such complicated conditions of affairs it was impossible to carry it out," I added.
"I believe that is so," said Mr. Linden. "But just stop and think. If you had done by every one as you would like to have had him do by you, and all the vast universe had done the same, cannot you imagine what a difference there would have been in the world? We have no ministers or churches, not because we are bad and won't have them, but simply because we have grown from year to year to a state of goodness, in which we minister to ourselves. I do not know that the credit is entirely due to us that we have reached perfection at the present time; much is due to past generations who worked and did all in their power for humanity, and the rising generations. The better part of our natures has developed into the present condition. We do not do good because we feel we have to from fear of forty strikes, or from fear that we will be found guilty if we do not, but we do good because it is good to do so."
"I am very glad to hear," I said, "that people do good because it is good. In my day there were a few who had attained to this height. For instance, I once heard a man tell a story about his boyhood. He was very fond of green apples, he went into the field and gathered some and carried them to the house; he asked his mother if he might eat one. His mother said, 'Yes, if you will wait until after breakfast.' As he was going out of the room he heard his aunt, who was sitting in the room, say to his mother, 'he will eat that apple the moment he is out of your sight.' His mother replied that she believed he would not as she had told him not to; he said he wouldn't have eaten that apple for anything since his mother had such confidence in him. He knew he was doing right and he was happy to do so to please his mother. Many will say that all boys would not have thought so much of a simple thing. That is very true, but still it shows that there were some natures even then who did right because it was right."
"You are correct there," said Mr. Linden, "when people did what they knew was right and never got 'side-tracked,' then improvements were in order."
"Why, Miss Tillman," said Mrs. Linden, "it seems to me it must have been very discouraging in the olden days to try to be good and do good, if they thought humanity was growing worse instead of better. Some people thought that, did they not?"
"They did," I answered.
"You improved on electricity, in the manner of travel, along musical lines, in literature, and many other things, surely it must have been a difficult thing to believe the world was growing worse morally," replied Mrs. Linden. "In fact I don't see how any one could have thought that, for progression in these lines was a sign of improvement in your natures."
"That seems very reasonable, Mrs. Linden, but tell me, do you have Bibles now?"
"Yes," she answered, "I have two kinds. I have one that was used in your day and then I have one that was made many years later. There were many good things in your Bible, and many things that would never have helped any person or nation to be good. The Bible that was read later had nothing but good in it."
"I am glad to hear that," I answered, "for although I think a person could have gotten a great deal of help towards a Christ-like life from our Bible, still there were some things in it that weren't fit for either parent or child to read. Still some people thought everything in the Bible was all right. But really I don't see how they truthfully could have believed that. If the same people knew that their children read such language from any other book than the Bible, they would say it wasn't fit to be in print. I think the new Bible must be a decided improvement over the old."
"We think so," replied Mrs. Linden. "People didn't all think alike in those days, and couldn't agree on certain subjects, then why were they expected to believe everything in the Bible? It was written by men who expressed their opinions. Of course they weren't all of the same mind."
"But in my day," I said, "people thought it was very wicked if we didn't accept everything in the Bible as truth."
"As your Bible contradicted itself over and over again, that would have been impossible. You should have taken the best and let the rest go," answered Mrs. Linden. "But I should like to ask you a question now," she went on. "Was it not a queer idea to build churches in order that you might worship God, asking his blessing on the sick and unfortunate, and to help those who were sore afflicted?"
"We never looked at it in that light," I answered.
"It seems to me," she went on, "that you could have worshiped God without going into those buildings you called churches. And you had a day you called Sunday, had you not?"
"Yes," I replied, "Sunday was one day in every week set apart for rest and worship, and on that day we attended church and praised God, and prayed for our fellow men."
Mrs. Linden, with a look of surprise, turned to me and said, "do you mean to tell me that you and your friends had one day only for worshipping God? Did you forget all about God the following days of the week?"
I laughingly replied that it would hardly have been politic in my day to say so, still I thought that was the right idea. "But do you not observe Sunday, Mrs. Linden?"
"Oh! no. That was given up years ago," she said. "Yet we praise our Creator daily."
"YOU promised you would give us more of an idea concerning sickness, death, and burial. There is no better time than the present. Do you feel like telling us about it?" asked Mrs. Linden.
"Certainly," I replied, "I will tell you a few facts that you may be able to judge for yourselves what a great change there has been since the twentieth century.
"If our systems were seriously diseased, we were sent to bed, where we stayed for days, months, or years according to the seriousness of the disease. That was one of the many things that we could not explain, namely, why some people suffered from sickness so much, while others had scarcely an ill day until the time of their death. We were indeed considered unusually fortunate if we had our health."
"But what did you do after you went to bed," inquired my friends.
"The first thing was to send for the doctor that he might find the cause of our suffering and if possible remedy it. Our family physician was a kind old man. When he received word that one of the family was sick, he hastened with all possible speed to ascertain what the matter was and what could be done for us. But why do you look at me with that amazed expression, Mr. Linden?"
"To tell the truth," he answered, "I am in a quandary as to what you mean by a doctor – we haven't a man by that name."
"Doctors stood amongst our best professional men," I said. "They spent their lives studying human anatomy, and finding relief in the way of medicine and other ways, to help suffering humanity. They found out many new things and it isn't surprising after all that you are now free from sickness. But as you have no sickness now, of course you have no need of doctors, but in the year 1905 we had thousands of them. Many were conscientious men, who did a great deal for humanity, while others – well – I hesitate to say just what is in my mind, but I am afraid there were many exorbitant bills passed in by family physicians."
"Do you mean to tell me," interrupted Mr. Linden, "that in your day people were very sick and suffered – then spent fortunes in trying to get well?"
"You have the right idea," I said. "Many a family became discouraged from sickness. The doctor's bills were very hard on the poor man's pocketbook, I assure you. But to go on, if the person afflicted with sickness was not strong enough to throw it off, death followed. If the statements about sickness and doctors surprise you, I hardly know what you will think when you hear of the way we disposed of our dead. I, myself, even in 1905, thought it was a very heathenish custom – but there seemed to be no other way at the time." I went on to tell them that after a person died, the soul was supposed to leave the body, and their friends mourned over the remains. The next thing was to send for an undertaker.
"Pardon me," interrupted Mrs. Linden, "but that is an odd name. You forget that these names are new to us."
"Yes, I do forget," I replied, "but I hope you won't hesitate to ask any questions you may feel like asking. I know you will be very much astonished when I tell you who the undertaker was – and the work he had to perform. It was his duty to preserve the body that it might be in good condition the day of the funeral, which was generally held two or three days after death. (I will explain more about the funeral later on.) He also saw that the person was properly clothed, generally the finest clothes the person owned were put on the body. That seemed a little foolish, yet we felt that it was the last thing we could do for our friends, and besides it had always been the custom. After the body was properly cared for, it was put in as elaborate and costly a coffin as was within the means of the friends who were to pay for it. Of course you do not know what a coffin is."
"No," replied Mr. Linden, "we do not."
I explained to them what our coffins were like. "Now, for further particulars about the funeral and burial," I said. "The services over the body was called the funeral; these services were either held in the house of the deceased or in the church. Friends gathered and paid their last respects to the dead; the family minister spoke words of comfort to the family, then there was a little singing, and the services were over. Personally, I thought the time would come when funerals would be done away with, for they were very unpleasant things to attend, and it was very hard for the relatives to go through with the ordeal. Then we had our cemeteries, which were large tracts of land laid out purposely for the burial of the dead. After the services were over then the remains were carried to the cemetery where they were buried."
When I had finished both Mr. and Mrs. Linden looked too amazed to speak.
"It is only too true, then," said Mr. Linden, "that you actually buried your best friends. I have read of such things, but I couldn't think it was so."
"Why yes," I said, "we either buried or cremated them (the latter meant to burn the bodies), whichever a person preferred. At the time of my death cremating was becoming quite common, still some people had a horror of it. But when you consider that it was known that people were sometimes buried alive, I think you will agree with me that cremating was by far the better way."
At first my friends were horror-stricken with the idea of cremating, but when I informed that that many times the bodies were stolen from the ground, and when I spoke of other unpleasant things connected with burial, they fully approved of cremation.
"Miss Tillman," said Mr. Linden, "I cannot imagine the terrible feelings you must have experienced when you laid your dead in the ground or permitted their bodies to be cremated."
"I am sure you cannot know how sorrowful we were," I replied. "It was one of the hardest things of life. Yet we all knew that some day we should have to leave our loved ones, and we knew not from one minute to the next when we might be called. Children were parted from their parents, sweethearts from each other, husbands from their wives, fathers and mothers all were called by death. Sometimes every child in the family would be taken. After years of loving devotion and care, the child would die, leaving the parents desolate and miserable. We could not understand why such things happened. We expected the death of the older people, as we had expressed it, they had lived their lives; but when our dear children were taken it was very hard. In my day it wasn't possible to live over one hundred and a few years at the most."
"Yes, but you must remember," replied Mrs. Linden, "that everything has changed since your day – our manner of living, our natures, and our surroundings. Living under the conditions you did in 1905, I doubt if you or your friends would care to have lived forever."
"No, indeed we would not," I answered. "Especially the very poor and sickly people, they were thankful many times to sleep their last sleep. You would not be surprised at this statement if you could have seen the misery and care some of these people had. It was enough to make one's heart sore."
"It must have been dreadful," said Mrs. Linden. "But what did you people believe became of you after death?"
"There was a great diversity of opinions," I said. "Some thought death was the last of us, while others thought if we had been wicked in this world we should be sent to Hell; by this I mean that we were to be forever miserable. Some believed if a man had been bad all of his life, and at the time of his death realized what he had been, and repented of his evil ways, that he entered directly into Heaven. This seems very unreasonable to me, for I do not think it would be possible for a person to throw off his evil nature so quickly. Corruptness and evil companions had been his Heaven on earth, therefore it would be impossible for him to enter directly into the Kingdom of Heaven. Until these conditions were changed, Heaven would not be Heaven to him. Others believed we progressed in the next world. By progression I mean that as we died so we awoke in the next world. Gradually we grew better and better until at length we were perfected. Many believed we should never see our loved ones again, while others thought we should meet in a better world beyond, and that our friends were around us in this world, helping us bear our burdens. The last named, I think, were the happiest in their belief and felt the least sorrowful when their friends died. I think this was a very reasonable belief, at least it was a great blessing to think (even if it wasn't so) that our loved ones had not left us, but were with us under different conditions."
"That was a very happy belief," said Mrs. Linden. "Even in your day there was no death. Many of your people possessed the power of seeing and conversing with their friends who had, as you used to say, thrown off the earthly for the heavenly. It is just the same thing now, only we are all able to see and talk with each other. Some time ago you made the statement that the soul left the body after death. What did you mean by that?"
I informed her that we were supposed to have souls which were immortal, but we ourselves were called mortal.
"The same thing that we call our spirit today," said Mrs. Linden. "We have learned to have our spirit as pure on earth as you thought it would become after death. If you thought your spirit progressed after death, you were right, but you could have trained your spirit to progress the same on earth as after death. People have learned to do that since your day. In olden times it was body over spirit, now it is spirit over the body, and now our spirits live forever, but we do not go through death to get to that state. As Christ conquered death and the grave so have we."
"Surely," I said, "there must be a new Heaven and a new Earth."
Minor changes have been made to the original text, correcting erroneous punctuation.