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from _The blindman's world, and other stories_ (1898)

            by Edward Bellamy (1850 - 1898)

                  THE BLINDMAN'S WORLD (1886)

  THE narrative to which this note is introductory was found
among the papers of the late Professor S. Erastus Larrabee,
and, as an acquaintance of the gentleman to whom they were
bequeathed, I was requested to prepare it for publication. 
This turned out a very easy task, for the document proved of
so extraordinary a character that, if published at all, it
should obviously be without change.  It appears that the
professor did really, at one time in his life, have an
attack of vertigo, or something of the sort, under
circumstances similar to those described by him, and to that
extent his narrative may be founded on fact.  How soon it
shifts from that foundation, or whether it does at all, the
reader must conclude for himself.  It appears certain that
the professor never related to any one, while living, the
stranger features of the experience here narrated, but this
might have been merely from fear that his standing as a man
of science would be thereby injured.


  At the time of the experience of which I am about to
write, I was professor of astronomy and higher mathematics
at Abercrombie College.  Most astronomers have a specialty,
and mine was the study of the planet Mars, our nearest
neighbor but one in the Sun's little family.  When no
important celestial phenomena in other quarters demanded
attention, it was on the ruddy disc of Mars that my
telescope was oftenest focused.  I was never weary of
tracing the outlines of its continents and seas, its capes
and islands, its bays and straits, its lakes and mountains. 
With intense interest I watched from week to week of the
Martial winter the advance of the polar ice-cap toward the
equator, and its corresponding retreat in the summer;
testifying across the gulf of space as plainly as written
words to the existence on that orb of a climate like our
own.  A specialty is always in danger of becoming an
infatuation, and my interest in Mars, at the time of which I
write, had grown to be more than strictly scientific.  The
impression of the nearness of this planet, heightened by the
wonderful distinctness of its geography as seen through a
powerful telescope, appeals strongly to the imagination of
the astronomer.  On fine evenings I used to spend hours, not
so much critically observing as brooding over its radiant
surface, till I could almost persuade myself that I saw the
breakers dashing on the bold shore of Kepler Land, and heard
the muffled thunder of avalanches descending the snow-clad
mountains of Mitchell.  No earthly landscape had the charm
to hold my gaze of that far-off planet, whose oceans, to the
unpracticed eye, seem but darker, and its continents
lighter, spots and bands.

  Astronomers have agreed in declaring that Mars is
undoubtedly habitable by beings like ourselves, but, as may
be supposed, I was not in a mood to be satisfied with
considering it merely habitable.  I allowed no sort of
question that it was inhabited.  What manner of beings these
inhabitants might be I found a fascinating speculation.  The
variety of types appearing in mankind even on this small
Earth makes it most presumptuous to assume that the denizens
of different planets may not be characterized by diversities
far profounder.  Wherein such diversities, coupled with a
general resemblance to man, might consist, whether in mere
physical differences or in different mental laws, in the
lack of certain of the great passional motors of men or the
possession of quite others, were weird themes of
never-failing attractions for my mind.  The El Dorado
visions with which the virgin mystery of the New World
inspired the early Spanish explorers were tame and prosaic
compared with the speculations which it was perfectly
legitimate to indulge, when the problem was the conditions
of life on another planet.

  It was the time of the year when Mars is most favorably
situated for observation, and, anxious not to lose an hour
of the precious season, I had spent the greater part of
several successive nights in the observatory.  I believed
that I had made some original observations as to the trend
of the coast of Kepler Land between Lagrange Peninsula and
Christie Bay, and it was to this spot that my observations
were particularly directed.

  On the fourth night other work detained me from the
observing-chair till after midnight.  When I had adjusted
the instrument and took my first look at Mars, I remember
being unable to restrain a cry of admiration.  The planet
was fairly dazzling.  It seemed nearer and larger than I had
ever seen it before, and its peculiar ruddiness more
striking.  In thirty years of observations, I recall, in
fact, no occasion when the absence of exhalations in our
atmosphere has coincided with such cloudlessness in that of
Mars as on that night.  I could plainly make out the white
masses of vapor at the opposite edges of the lighted disc,
which are the mists of its dawn and evening.  The snowy mass
of Mount Hall over against Kepler Land stood out with
wonderful clearness, and I could unmistakably detect the
blue tint of the ocean of De La Rue, which washes its
base,--a feat of vision often, indeed, accomplished by 
star-gazers, though I had never done it to my complete
satisfaction before.

  I was impressed with the idea that if I ever made an
original discovery in regard to Mars, it would be on that
evening, and I believed that I should do it.  I trembled
with mingled exultation and anxiety, and was obliged to
pause to recover my self-control.  Finally, I placed my eye
to the eye-piece, and directed my gaze upon the portion of
the planet in which I was especially interested.  My
attention soon became fixed and absorbed much beyond my
wont, when observing, and that itself implied no ordinary
degree of abstraction.  To all mental intents and purposes I
was on Mars.  Every faculty, every susceptibility of sense
and intellect, seemed gradually to pass into the eye, and
become concentrated in the act of gazing.  Every atom of
nerve and will power combined in the strain to see a little,
and yet a little, and yet a little, clearer, farther,

  The next thing I knew I was on the bed that stood in a
corner of the observing-room, half raised on an elbow, and
gazing intently at the door.  It was broad daylight.  Half a
dozen men, including several of the professors and a doctor
from the village, were around me.  Some were trying to make
me lie down, others were asking me what I wanted, while the
doctor was urging me to drink some whiskey.  Mechanically
repelling their offices, I pointed to the door and
ejaculated, "President Byxbee--coming," giving expression to
the one idea which my dazed mind at that moment contained. 
And sure enough, even as I spoke the door opened, and the
venerable head of the college, somewhat blown with climbing
the steep stairway, stood on the threshold.  With a
sensation of prodigious relief, I fell back on my pillow.

  It appeared that I had swooned while in the
observing-chair, the night before, and had been found by the
janitor in the morning, my head fallen forward on the
telescope, as if still observing, but my body cold, rigid,
pulseless, and apparently dead.

  In a couple of days I was all right again, and should soon
have forgotten the episode but for a very interesting
conjecture which had suggested itself in connection with it. 
This was nothing less than that, while I lay in that swoon,
I was in a conscious state outside and independent of the
body, and in that state received impressions and exercised
perceptive powers.  For this extraordinary theory I had no
other evidence than the fact of my knowledge in the moment
of awaking that President Byxbee was coming up the stairs. 
But slight as this clue was, it seemed to me unmistakable in
its significance.  That knowledge was certainly in my mind
on the instant of arousing from the swoon.  It certainly
could not have been there before I fell into the swoon.  I
must therefore have gained it in the mean time; that is to
say, I must have been in a conscious, percipient state while
my body was insensible.

  If such had been the case, I reasoned that it was
altogether unlikely that the trivial impression as to
President Byxbee had been the only one which I had received
in that state.  It was far more probable that it had
remained over in my mind, on waking from the swoon, merely
because it was the latest of a series of impressions
received while outside the body.  That these impressions
were of a kind most strange and startling, seeing that they
were those of a disembodied soul exercising faculties more
spiritual than those of the body, I could not doubt.  The
desire to know what they had been grew upon me, till it
became a longing which left me no repose.  It seemed
intolerable that I should have secrets from myself, that my
soul should withhold its experiences from my intellect.  I
would gladly have consented that the acquisitions of half my
waking lifetime should be blotted out, if so be in exchange
I might be shown the record of what I had seen and known
during those hours of which my waking memory showed no
trace.  None the less for the conviction of its
hopelessness, but rather all the more, as the perversity of
our human nature will have it, the longing for this
forbidden lore grew on me, till the hunger of Eve in the
Garden was mine.

  Constantly brooding over a desire that I felt to be vain,
tantalized by the possession of a clue which only mocked me,
my physical condition became at length affected.  My health
was disturbed and my rest at night was broken.  A habit of
walking in my sleep, from which I had not suffered since
childhood, recurred, and caused me frequent inconvenience. 
Such had been, in general, my condition for some time, when
I awoke one morning with the strangely weary sensation by
which my body usually betrayed the secret of the impositions
put upon it in sleep, of which otherwise I should often have
suspected nothing.  In going into the study connected with
my chamber, I found a number of freshly written sheets on
the desk.  Astonished that any one should have been in my
rooms while I slept, I was astounded, on looking more
closely, to observe that the handwriting was my own.  How
much more than astounded I was on reading the matter that
had been set down, the reader may judge if he shall peruse
it.  For these written sheets apparently contained the
longed-for but despaired-of record of those hours when I was
absent from the body.  They were the lost chapter of my
life; or rather, not lost at all, for it had been no part of
my waking life, but a stolen chapter,--stolen from that
sleep-memory on whose mysterious tablets may well be
inscribed tales as much more marvelous than this as this is
stranger than most stories.

  It will be remembered that my last recollection before
awaking in my bed, on the morning after the swoon, was of
contemplating the coast of Kepler Land with an unusual
concentration of attention.  As well as I can judge,--and
that is no better than any one else,--it is with the moment
that my bodily powers succumbed and I became unconscious
that the narrative which I found on my desk begins.


  Even had I not come as straight and swift as the beam of
light that made my path, a glance about would have told me
to what part of the universe I had fared.  No earthly
landscape could have been more familiar.  I stood on the
high coast of Kepler Land where it trends southward.  A
brisk westerly wind was blowing and the waves of the ocean
of De La Rue were thundering at my feet, while the broad
blue waters of Christie Bay stretched away to the southwest. 
Against the northern horizon, rising out of the ocean like a
summer thunder-head, for which at first I mistook it,
towered the far-distant, snowy summit of Mount Hall.

  Even had the configuration of land and sea been less
familiar, I should none the less have known that I stood on
the planet whose ruddy hue is at once the admiration and
puzzle of astronomers.  Its explanation I now recognized in
the tint of the atmosphere, a coloring comparable to the
haze of Indian summer, except that its hue was a faint rose
instead of purple.  Like the Indian summer haze, it was
impalpable, and without impeding the view bathed all objects
near and far in a glamour not to be described.  As the gaze
turned upward, however, the deep blue of space so far
overcame the roseate tint that one might fancy he were still
on Earth.

  As I looked about me I saw many men, women, and children. 
They were in no respect dissimilar, so far as I could see,
to the men, women, and children of the Earth, save for
something almost childlike in the untroubled serenity of
their faces, unfurrowed as they were by any trace of care,
of fear, or of anxiety.  This extraordinary youthfulness of
aspect made it difficult, indeed, save by careful scrutiny,
to distinguish the young from the middle-aged, maturity from
advanced years.  Time seemed to have no tooth on Mars.

  I was gazing about me, admiring this crimson-lighted
world, and these people who appeared to hold happiness by a
tenure so much firmer than men's, when I heard the words,
"You are welcome," and, turning, saw that I had been
accosted by a man with the stature and bearing of middle
age, though his countenance, like the other faces which I
had noted, wonderfully combined the strength of a man's with
the serenity of a child's.  I thanked him, and said,--

  "You do not seem surprised to see me, though I certainly
am to find myself here."

  "Assuredly not," he answered.  "I knew, of course, that I
was to meet you to-day.  And not only that, but I may say I
am already in a sense acquainted with you, through a mutual
friend, Professor Edgerly.  He was here last month, and I
met him at that time.  We talked of you and your interest in
our planet.  I told him I expected you."

  "Edgerly!" I exclaimed.  "It is strange that he has said
nothing of this to me.  I meet him every day."

  But I was reminded that it was in a dream that Edgerly,
like myself, had visited Mars, and on awaking had recalled
nothing of his experience, just as I should recall nothing
of mine.  When will man learn to interrogate the dream soul
of the marvels it sees in its wanderings?  Then he will no
longer need to improve his telescopes to find out the
secrets of the universe.

  "Do your people visit the Earth in the same manner?" I
asked my companion.

  "Certainly," he replied, "but there we find no one able to
recognize us and converse with us as I am conversing with
you, although myself in the waking state.  You, as yet, lack
the knowledge we possess of the spiritual side of the human
nature which we share with you."

  "That knowledge must have enabled you to learn much more
of the Earth than we know of you," I said.

  "Indeed it has," he replied.  "From visitors such as you,
of whom we entertain a concourse constantly, we have
acquired familiarity with your civilization, your history,
your manners, and even your literature and languages.  Have
you not noticed that I am talking with you in English, which
is certainly not a tongue indigenous to this planet?"

  "Among so many wonders I scarcely observed that," I

  "For ages," pursued my companion, "we have been waiting
for you to improve your telescopes so as to approximate the
power of ours, after which communication between the planets
would be easily established.  The progress which you make
is, however, so slow that we expect to wait ages yet."

  "Indeed, I fear you will have to," I replied.  "Our
opticians already talk of having reached the limits of their

  "Do not imagine that I spoke in any spirit of petulance,"
my companion resumed.  "The slowness of your progress is not
so remarkable to us as that you make any at all, burdened as
you are by a disability so crushing that if we were in your
place I fear we should sit down in utter despair."

  "To what disability do you refer?" I asked.  "You seem to
be men like us."

  "And so we are," was the reply, "save in one particular,
but there the difference is tremendous.  Endowed otherwise
like us, you are destitute of the faculty of foresight,
without which we should think our other faculties well-nigh

  "Foresight!" I repeated.  "Certainly you cannot mean that
it is given you to know the future?"

  "It is given not only to us," was the answer, "but, so far
as we know, to all other intelligent beings of the universe
except yourselves.  Our positive knowledge extends only to
our system of moons and planets and some of the nearer
foreign systems, and it is conceivable that the remoter
parts of the universe may harbor other blind races like your
own; but it certainly seems unlikely that so strange and
lamentable a spectacle should be duplicated.  One such
illustration of the extraordinary deprivations under which a
rational existence may still be possible ought to suffice
for the universe."

  "But no one can know the future except by inspiration of
God," I said.

  "All our faculties are by inspiration of God," was the
reply, "but there is surely nothing in foresight to cause it
to be so regarded more than any other.  Think a moment of
the physical analogy of the case.  Your eyes are placed in
the front of your heads.  You would deem it an odd mistake
if they were placed behind.  That would appear to you an
arrangement calculated to defeat their purpose.  Does it not
seem equally rational that the mental vision should range
forward, as it does with us, illuminating the path one is to
take, rather than backward, as with you, revealing only the
course you have already trodden, and therefore have no more
concern with?  But it is no doubt a merciful provision of
Providence that renders you unable to realize the
grotesqueness of your predicament, as it appears to us."

  "But the future is eternal!" I exclaimed.  "How can a
finite mind grasp it?"

  "Our foreknowledge implies only human faculties," was the
reply.  "It is limited to our individual careers on this
planet.  Each of us foresees the course of his own life, but
not that of other lives, except so far as they are involved
with his."

  "That such a power as you describe could be combined with
merely human faculties is more than our philosophers have
ever dared to dream," I said.  "And yet who shall say, after
all, that it is not in mercy that God has denied it to us? 
If it is a happiness, as it must be, to foresee one's
happiness, it must be most depressing to foresee one's
sorrows, failures, yes, and even one's death.  For if you
foresee your lives to the end, you must anticipate the hour
and manner of your death,--is it not so?"

  "Most assuredly," was the reply.  "Living would be a very
precarious business, were we uninformed of its limit.  Your
ignorance of the time of your death impresses us as one of
the saddest features of your condition."

  "And by us," I answered, "it is held to be one of the most

  "Foreknowledge of your death would not, indeed, prevent
your dying once," continued my companion, "but it would
deliver you from the thousand deaths you suffer through
uncertainty whether you can safely count on the passing day. 
It is not the death you die, but these many deaths you do
not die, which shadow your existence.  Poor blindfolded
creatures that you are, cringing at every step in
apprehension of the stroke that perhaps is not to fall till
old age, never raising a cup to your lips with the knowledge
that you will live to quaff it, never sure that you will
meet again the friend you part with for an hour, from whose
hearts no happiness suffices to banish the chill of an
ever-present dread, what idea can you form of the Godlike
security with which we enjoy our lives and the lives of
those we love!  You have a saying on earth, 'To-morrow
belongs to God;' but here to-morrow belongs to us, even as
to-day.  To you, for some inscrutable purpose, He sees fit
to dole out life moment by moment, with no assurance that
each is not to be the last.  To us He gives a lifetime at
once, fifty, sixty, seventy years,--a divine gift indeed.  A
life such as yours would, I fear, seem of little value to
us; for such a life, however long, is but a moment long,
since that is all you can count on."

  "And yet," I answered, "though knowledge of the duration
of your lives may give you an enviable feeling of confidence
while the end is far off, is that not more than offset by
the daily growing weight with which the expectation of the
end, as it draws near, must press upon your minds?"

  "On the contrary," was the response, "death, never an
object of fear, as it draws nearer becomes more and more a
matter of indifference to the moribund.  It is because you
live in the past that death is grievous to you.  All your
knowledge, all your affections, all your interests, are
rooted in the past, and on that account, as life lengthens,
it strengthens its hold on you, and memory becomes a more
precious possession.  We, on the contrary, despise the past,
and never dwell upon it.  Memory with us, far from being the
morbid and monstrous growth it is with you, is scarcely more
than a rudimentary faculty.  We live wholly in the future
and the present.  What with foretaste and actual taste, our
experiences, whether pleasant or painful, are exhausted of
interest by the time they are past.  The accumulated
treasures of memory, which you relinquish so painfully in
death, we count no loss at all.  Our minds being fed wholly
from the future, we think and feel only as we anticipate;
and so, as the dying man's future contracts, there is less
and less about which he can occupy his thoughts.  His
interest in life diminishes as the ideas which it suggests
grow fewer, till at the last death finds him with his mind a
tabula rasa, as with you at birth.  In a word, his concern
with life is reduced to a vanishing point before he is
called on to give it up.  In dying he leaves nothing

  "And the after-death," I asked,--"is there no fear of

  "Surely," was the reply, "it is not necessary for me to
say that a fear which affects only the more ignorant on
Earth is not known at all to us, and would be counted
blasphemous.  Moreover, as I have said, our foresight is
limited to our lives on this planet.  Any speculation beyond
them would be purely conjectural, and our minds are repelled
by the slightest taint of uncertainty.  To us the
conjectural and the unthinkable may be called almost the

  "But even if you do not fear death for itself," I said,
"you have hearts to break.  Is there no pain when the ties
of love are sundered?"

  "Love and death are not foes on our planet," was the
reply.  "There are no tears by the bedsides of our dying. 
The same beneficent law which makes it so easy for us to
give up life forbids us to mourn the friends we leave, or
them to mourn us.  With you, it is the intercourse you have
had with friends that is the source of your tenderness for
them.  With us, it is the anticipation of the intercourse we
shall enjoy which is the foundation of fondness.  As our
friends vanish from our future with the approach of their
death, the effect on our thoughts and affections is as it
would be with you if you forgot them by lapse of time.  As
our dying friends grow more and more indifferent to us, we,
by operation of the same law of our nature, become
indifferent to them, till at the last we are scarcely more
than kindly and sympathetic watchers about the beds of those
who regard us equally without keen emotions.  So at last God
gently unwinds instead of breaking the bands that bind our
hearts together, and makes death as painless to the
surviving as to the dying.  Relations meant to produce our
happiness are not the means also of torturing us, as with
you.  Love means joy, and that alone, to us, instead of
blessing our lives for a while only to desolate them later
on, compelling us to pay with a distinct and separate pang
for every thrill of tenderness, exacting a tear for every

  "There are other partings than those of death.  Are these,
too, without sorrow for you?" I asked.

  "Assuredly," was the reply.  "Can you not see that so it
must needs be with beings freed by foresight from the
disease of memory?  All the sorrow of parting, as of dying,
comes with you from the backward vision which precludes you
from beholding your happiness till it is past.  Suppose your
life destined to be blessed by a happy friendship.  If you
could know it beforehand, it would be a joyous expectation,
brightening the intervening years and cheering you as you
traversed desolate periods.  But no; not till you meet the
one who is to be your friend do you know of him.  Nor do you
guess even then what he is to be to you, that you may
embrace him at first sight.  Your meeting is cold and
indifferent.  It is long before the fire is fairly kindled
between you, and then it is already time for parting.  Now,
indeed, the fire burns well, but henceforth it must consume
your heart.  Not till they are dead or gone do you fully
realize how dear your friends were and how sweet was their
companionship.  But we--we see our friends afar off coming
to meet us, smiling already in our eyes, years before our
ways meet.  We greet them at first meeting, not coldly, not
uncertainly, but with exultant kisses, in an ecstasy of joy. 
They enter at once into the full possession of hearts long
warmed and lighted for them.  We meet with that delirium of
tenderness with which you part.  And when to us at last the
time of parting comes, it only means that we are to
contribute to each other's happiness no longer.  We are not
doomed, like you, in parting, to take away with us the
delight we brought our friends, leaving the ache of
bereavement in its place, so that their last state is worse
than their first.  Parting here is like meeting with you,
calm and unimpassioned.  The joys of anticipation and
possession are the only food of love with us, and therefore
Love always wears a smiling face.  With you he feeds on dead
joys past happiness, which are likewise the sustenance of
sorrow.  No wonder love and sorrow are so much alike on
Earth.  It is a common saying among us that, were it not for
the spectacle of the Earth, the rest of the worlds would be
unable to appreciate the goodness of God to them; and who
can say that this is not the reason the piteous sight is set
before us?"

  "You have told me marvelous things," I said, after I had
reflected.  "It is, indeed, but reasonable that such a race
as yours should look down with wondering pity on the Earth. 
And yet, before I grant so much, I want to ask you one
question.  There is known in our world a certain sweet
madness, under the influence of which we forget all that is
untoward in our lot, and would not change it for a god's. 
So far is this sweet madness regarded by men as a
compensation, and more than a compensation, for all their
miseries that if you know not love as we know it, if this
loss be the price you have paid for your divine foresight,
we think ourselves more favored of God than you.  Confess
that love, with its reserves, its surprises, its mysteries,
its revelations, is necessarily incompatible with a
foresight which weighs and measures every experience in

  "Of love's surprises we certainly know nothing," was the
reply.  "It is believed by our philosophers that the
slightest surprise would kill beings of our constitution
like lightning; though of course this is merely theory, for
it is only by the study of Earthly conditions that we are
able to form an idea of what surprise is like.  Your power
to endure the constant buffetings of the unexpected is a
matter of supreme amazement to us; nor, according to our
ideas, is there any difference between what you call
pleasant and painful surprises.  You see, then, that we
cannot envy you these surprises of love which you find so
sweet, for to us they would be fatal.  For the rest there is
no form of happiness which foresight is so well calculated
to enhance as that of love.  Let me explain to you how this
befalls.  As the growing boy begins to be sensible of the
charms of woman, he finds himself, as I dare say it is with
you, preferring some type of face and form to others.  He
dreams oftenest of fair hair, or may be of dark, of blue
eyes or brown.  As the years go on, his fancy, brooding over
what seems to it the best and loveliest of every type, is
constantly adding to this dream-face, this shadowy form,
traits and lineaments, hues and contours, till at last the
picture is complete, and he becomes aware that on his heart
thus subtly has been depicted the likeness of the maiden
destined for his arms.

  "It may be years before he is to see her, but now begins
with him one of the sweetest offices of love, one to you
unknown.  Youth on Earth is a stormy period of passion,
chafing in restraint or rioting in excess.  But the very
passion whose awaking makes this time so critical with you
is here a reforming and educating influence, to whose gentle
and potent sway we gladly confide our children.  The
temptations which lead your young men astray have no hold on
a youth of our happy planet.  He hoards the treasures of his
heart for its coming mistress.  Of her alone he thinks, and
to her all his vows are made.  The thought of license would
be treason to his sovereign lady, whose right to all the
revenues of his being he joyfully owns.  To rob her, to
abate her high prerogatives, would be to impoverish, to
insult, himself; for she is to be his, and her honor, her
glory, are his own.  Through all this time that he dreams of
her by night and day, the exquisite reward of his devotion
is the knowledge that she is aware of him as he of her, and
that in the inmost shrine of a maiden heart his image is set
up to receive the incense of a tenderness that needs not to
restrain itself through fear of possible cross or

  "In due time their converging lives come together.  The
lovers meet, gaze a moment into each other's eyes, then
throw themselves each on the other's breast.  The maiden has
all the charms that ever stirred the blood of an Earthly
lover, but there is another glamour over her which the eyes
of Earthly lovers are shut to,--the glamour of the future. 
In the blushing girl her lover sees the fond and faithful
wife, in the blithe maiden the patient, pain-consecrated
mother.  On the virgin's breast he beholds his children.  He
is prescient, even as his lips take the first-fruits of
hers, of the future years during which she is to be his
companion, his ever-present solace, his chief portion of
God's goodness.  We have read some of your romances
describing love as you know it on Earth, and I must confess,
my friend, we find them very dull.

  "I hope," he added, as I did not at once speak, "that I
shall not offend you by saying we find them also
objectionable.  Your literature possesses in general an
interest for us in the picture it presents of the curiously
inverted life which the lack of foresight compels you to
lead.  It is a study especially prized for the development
of the imagination, on account of the difficulty of
conceiving conditions so opposed to those of intelligent
beings in general.  But our women do not read your romances. 
The notion that a man or woman should ever conceive the idea
of marrying a person other than the one whose husband or
wife he or she is destined to be is profoundly shocking to
our habits of thought.  No doubt you will say that such
instances are rare among you, but if your novels are
faithful pictures of your life, they are at least not
unknown.  That these situations are inevitable under the
conditions of earthly life we are well aware, and judge you
accordingly; but it is needless that the minds of our
maidens should be pained by the knowledge that there
anywhere exists a world where such travesties upon the
sacredness of marriage are possible.

  "There is, however, another reason why we discourage the
use of your books by our young people, and that is the
profound effect of sadness, to a race accustomed to view all
things in the morning glow of the future, of a literature
written in the past tense and relating exclusively to things
that are ended."                                             

  "And how do you write of things that are past except in
the past tense?" I asked.

  "We write of the past when it is still the future, and of
course in the future tense," was the reply.  "If our
historians were to wait till after the events to describe
them, not alone would nobody care to read about things
already done, but the histories themselves would probably be
inaccurate; for memory, as I have said, is a very slightly
developed faculty with us, and quite too indistinct to be
trustworthy.  Should the Earth ever establish communication
with us, you will find our histories of interest; for our
planet, being smaller, cooled and was peopled ages before
yours, and our astronomical records contain minute accounts
of the Earth from the time it was a fluid mass.  Your
geologists and biologists may yet find a mine of information

  In the course of our further conversation it came out
that, as a consequence of foresight, some of the commonest
emotions of human nature are unknown on Mars.  They for whom
the future has no mystery can, of course, know neither hope
nor fear.  Moreover, every one being assured what he shall
attain to and what not, there can be no such thing as
rivalship, or emulation, or any sort of competition in any
respect; and therefore all the brood of heart-burnings and
hatreds, engendered on Earth by the strife of man with man,
is unknown to the people of Mars, save from the study of our
planet.  When I asked if there were not, after all, a lack
of spontaneity, of sense of freedom, in leading lives fixed
in all details beforehand, I was reminded that there was no
difference in that respect between the lives of the people
of Earth and of Mars, both alike being according to God's
will in every particular.  We knew that will only after the
event, they before,--that was all.  For the rest, God moved
them through their wills as He did us, so that they had no
more sense of compulsion in what they did than we on Earth
have in carrying out an anticipated line of action, in cases
where our anticipations chance to be correct.  Of the
absorbing interest which the study of the plan of their
future lives possessed for the people of Mars, my companion
spoke eloquently.  It was, he said, like the fascination to
a mathematician of a most elaborate and exquisite
demonstration, a perfect algebraical equation, with the
glowing realities of life in place of figures and symbols.

  When I asked if it never occurred to them to wish their
futures different, he replied that such a question could
only have been asked by one from the Earth.  No one could
have foresight, or clearly believe that God had it, without
realizing that the future is as incapable of being changed
as the past.  And not only this, but to foresee events was
to foresee their logical necessity so clearly that to desire
them different was as impossible as seriously to wish that
two and two made five instead of four.  No person could ever
thoughtfully wish anything different, for so closely are all
things, the small with the great, woven together by God that
to draw out the smallest thread would unravel creation
through all eternity.

  While we had talked the afternoon had waned, and the sun
had sunk below the horizon, the roseate atmosphere of the
planet imparting a splendor to the cloud coloring, and a
glory to the land and sea scape, never paralleled by an
earthly sunset.  Already the familiar constellations
appearing in the sky reminded me how near, after all, I was
to the Earth, for with the unassisted eye I could not detect
the slightest variation in their position.  Nevertheless,
there was one wholly novel feature in the heavens, for many
of the host of asteroids which circle in the zone between
Mars and Jupiter were vividly visible to the naked eye.  But
the spectacle that chiefly held my gaze was the Earth,
swimming low on the verge of the horizon.  Its disc, twice
as large as that of any star or planet as seen from the
Earth, flashed with a brilliancy like that of Venus.

  "It is, indeed, a lovely sight," said my companion,
"although to me always a melancholy one, from the contrast
suggested between the radiance of the orb and the benighted
condition of its inhabitants.  We call it 'The Blindman's
World.'"  As he spoke he turned toward a curious structure
which stood near us, though I had not before particularly
observed it.

  "What is that?" I asked.

  "It is one of our telescopes," he replied.  "I am going to
let you take a look, if you choose, at your home, and test
for yourself the powers of which I have boasted;" and having
adjusted the instrument to his satisfaction, he showed me
where to apply my eye to what answered to the eye-piece.  I
could not repress an exclamation of amazement, for truly he
had exaggerated nothing.  The little college town which was
my home lay spread out before me, seemingly almost as near
as when I looked down upon it from my observatory windows. 
It was early morning, and the village was waking up.  The
milkmen were going their rounds, and workmen, with their
dinner-pails, where hurrying along the streets.  The early
train was just leaving the railroad station.  I could see
the puffs from the smoke-stack, and the jets from the
cylinders.  It was strange not to hear the hissing of the
steam, so near I seemed.  There were the college buildings
on the hill, the long rows of windows flashing back the
level sunbeams.  I could tell the time by the college clock. 
It struck me that there was an unusual bustle around the
buildings, considering the earliness of the hour.  A crowd
of men stood about the door of the observatory, and many
others were hurrying across the campus in that direction. 
Among them I recognized President Byxbee, accompanied by the
college janitor.  As I gazed they reached the observatory,
and, passing through the group about the door, entered the
building.  The president was evidently going up to my
quarters.  At this it flashed over me quite suddenly that
all this bustle was on my account.  I recalled how it was
that I came to be on Mars, and in what condition I had left
affairs in the observatory.  It was high time I were back
there to look after myself.

  Here abruptly ended the extraordinary document which I
found that morning on my desk.  That it is the authentic
record of the conditions of life in another world which it
purports to be I do not expect the reader to believe.  He
will no doubt explain it as another of the curious freaks of
somnambulism set down in the books.  Probably it was merely
that, possibly it was something more.  I do not pretend to
decide the question.  I have told all the facts of the case,
and have no better means for forming an opinion than the
reader.  Nor do I know, even if I fully believed it the true
account it seems to be, that it would have affected my
imagination much more strongly than it has.  That story of
another world has, in a word, put me out of joint with ours. 
The readiness with which my mind has adapted itself to the
Martial point of view concerning the Earth has been a
singular experience.  The lack of foresight among the human
faculties, a lack I had scarcely thought of before, now
impresses me, ever more deeply, as a fact out of harmony
with the rest of our nature, belying its promise,--a moral
mutilation, a deprivation arbitrary and unaccountable.  The
spectacle of a race doomed to walk backward, beholding only
what has gone by, assured only of what is past and dead,
comes over me from time to time with a sadly fantastical
effect which I cannot describe.  I dream of a world where
love always wears a smile, where the partings are as
tearless as our meetings, and death is king no more.  I have
a fancy, which I like to cherish, that the people of that
happy sphere fancied though it may be, represent the ideal
and normal type of our race, as perhaps it once was, as
perhaps it may yet be again.