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

            by Edward Bellamy (1850 - 1898)

               WITH THE EYES SHUT (1889)

  RAILROAD rides are naturally tiresome to persons who
cannot read on the cars, and, being one of those
unfortunates, I resigned myself, on taking my seat in the
train, to several hours of tedium, alleviated only by such
cat-naps as I might achieve.  Partly on account of my
infirmity, though more on account of a taste for rural quiet
and retirement, my railroad journeys are few and far
between.  Strange as the statement may seem in days like
these, it had actually been five years since I had been on
an express train of a trunk line.  Now, as every one knows,
the improvements in the conveniences of the best equipped
trains have in that period been very great, and for a
considerable time I found myself amply entertained in taking
note first of one ingenious device and then of another, and
wondering what would come next.  At the end of the first
hour, however, I was pleased to find that I was growing
comfortably drowsy, and proceeded to compose myself for a
nap, which I hoped might last to my destination.

  Presently I was touched on the shoulder, and a train boy
asked me if I would not like something to read.  I replied,
rather petulantly, that I could not read on the cars, and
only wanted to be let alone.

  "Beg pardon, sir," the train boy replied, "but I 'll give
you a book you can read with your eyes shut.  Guess you
haven't taken this line lately," he added, as I looked up
offended at what seemed impertinence.  "We've been
furnishing the new-fashioned phonographed books and
magazines on this train for six months now, and passengers
have got so they won't have anything else."

  Probably this piece of information ought to have
astonished me more than it did, but I had read enough about
the wonders of the phonograph to be prepared in a vague sort
of way for almost anything which might be related of it, and
for the rest, after the air-brakes, the steam heat, the
electric lights and annunciators, the vestibuled cars, and
other delightful novelties I had just been admiring, almost
anything seemed likely in the way of railway conveniences. 
Accordingly, when the boy proceeded to rattle off a list of
the latest novels, I stopped him with the name of one which
I had heard favorable mention of, and told him I would try

  He was good enough to commend my choice.  "That 's a good
one," he said.  "It 's all the rage.  Half the train's on it
this trip.  Where 'll you begin?"

  "Where?  Why, at the beginning.  Where else?" I replied.

  "All right.  Did n't know but you might have partly read
it.  Put you on at any chapter or page, you know.  Put you
on at first chapter with next batch in five minutes, soon as
the batch that 's on now gets through."

  He unlocked a little box at the side of my seat, collected
the price of three hours' reading at five cents an hour, and
went on down the aisle.  Presently I heard the tinkle of a
bell from the box which he had unlocked.  Following the
example of others around me, I took from it a sort of
two-pronged fork with the tines spread in the similitude of
a chicken's wishbone.  This contrivance, which was attached
to the side of the car by a cord, I proceeded to apply to my
ears, as I saw the others doing.

  For the next three hours I scarcely altered my position,
so completely was I enthralled by my novel experience.  Few
persons can fail to have made the observation that if the
tones of the human voice did not have a charm for us in
themselves apart from the ideas they convey, conversation to
a great extent would soon be given up, so little is the real
intellectual interest of the topics with which it is chiefly
concerned.  When, then, the sympathetic influence of the
voice is lent to the enhancement of matter of high intrinsic
interest, it is not strange that the attention should be
enchained.  A good story is highly entertaining even when we
have to get at it by the roundabout means of spelling out
the signs that stand for the words, and imagining them
uttered, and then imagining what they would mean if uttered. 
What, then, shall be said of the delight of sitting at one's
ease, with closed eyes, listening to the same story poured
into one's ears in the strong, sweet, musical tones of a
perfect mistress of the art of story-telling, and of the
expression and excitation by means of the voice of every

  When, at the conclusion of the story, the train boy came
to lock up the box, I could not refrain from expressing my
satisfaction in strong terms.  In reply he volunteered the
information that next month the cars for day trips on that
line would be further fitted up with phonographic
guide-books of the country the train passed through, so
connected by clock-work with the running gear of the cars
that the guide-book would call attention to every object in
the landscape, and furnish the pertinent
information--statistical, topographical, biographical,
historical, romantic, or legendary, as it might be--just at
the time the train had reached the most favorable point of
view.  It was believed that this arrangement (for which, as
it would work automatically and require little attendance,
being used or not, according to pleasure, by the passenger,
there would be no charge) would do much to attract travel to
the road.  His explanation was interrupted by the
announcement in loud, clear, and deliberate tones, which no
one could have had any excuse for misunderstanding that the
train was now approaching the city of my destination.  As I
looked around in amazement to discover what manner of
brakeman this might be whom I had understood, the train boy
said, with a grin, "That's our new phonographic

  Hamage had written me that he would be at the station, but
something had evidently prevented him from keeping the
appointment, and as it was late, I went at once to a hotel
and to bed.  I was tired and slept heavily; once or twice I
woke up, after dreaming there were people in my room talking
to me, but quickly dropped off to sleep again.  Finally I
awoke, and did not so soon fall asleep.  Presently I found
myself sitting up in bed with half a dozen extraordinary
sensations contending for right of way along my backbone. 
What had startled me was the voice of a young woman, who
could not have been standing more than ten feet from my bed. 
If the tones of her voice were any guide, she was not only a
young woman, but a very charming one.

  "My dear sir," she had said, "you may possibly be
interested in knowing that it now wants just a quarter of

  For a few moments I thought--well, I will not undertake
the impossible task of telling what extraordinary
conjectures occurred to me by way of accounting for the
presence of this young woman in my room before the true
explanation of the matter occurred to me.  For, of course,
when my experience that afternoon on the train flashed
through my mind, I guessed at once that the solution of the
mystery was in all probability merely a phonographic device
for announcing the hour.  Nevertheless, so thrilling and
lifelike in effect were the tones of the voice I had heard
that I confess I had not the nerve to light the gas to
investigate till I had indued my more essential garments. 
Of course I found no lady in the room, but only a clock.  I
had not particularly noticed it on going to bed, because it
looked like any other clock, and so now it continued to
behave until the hands pointed to three.  Then, instead of
leaving me to infer the time from the arbitrary symbolism of
three strokes on a bell, the same voice which had before
electrified me informed me, in tones which would have lent a
charm to the driest of statistical details, what the hour
was.  I had never before been impressed with any particular
interest attaching to the hour of three in the morning, but
as I heard it announced in those low, rich, thrilling
contralto tones, it appeared fairly to coruscate with
previously latent suggestions of romance aud poetry, which,
if somewhat vague, were very pleasing.  Turning out the gas
that I might the more easily imagine the bewitching presence
which the voice suggested, I went back to bed, and lay awake
there until morning, enjoying the society of my bodiless
companion and the delicious shock of her quarter-hourly
remarks.  To make the illusion more complete and the more
unsuggestive of the mechanical explanation which I knew of
course was the real one, the phrase in which the
announcement of the hour was made was never twice the same.

  Right was Solomon when he said that there was nothing new
under the sun.  Sardanapalus or Semiramis herself would not
have been at all startled to hear a human voice proclaim the
hour.  The phonographic clock had but replaced the slave
whose business, standing by the noiseless water-clock, it
was to keep tale of the moments as they dropped, ages before
they had been taught to tick.

  In the morning, on descending, I went first to the clerk's
office to inquire for letters, thinking Hamage, who knew I
would go to that hotel if any, might have addressed me
there.  The clerk handed me a small oblong box.  I suppose I
stared at it in a rather helpless way, for presently he
said: "I beg your pardon, but I see you are a stranger.  If
you will permit me, I will show you how to read your

  I gave him the box, from which he took a device of
spindles and cylinders, and placed it deftly within another
small box which stood on the desk.  Attached to this was one
of the two-pronged ear-trumpets I already knew the use of. 
As I placed it in position, the clerk touched a spring in
the box, which set some sort of motor going, and at once the
familiar tones of Dick Hamage's voice expressed his regret
that an accident had prevented his meeting me the night
before, and informed me that he would be at the hotel by the
time I had breakfasted.

  The letter ended, the obliging clerk removed the cylinders
from the box on the desk, replaced them in that they had
come in, and returned it to me.

  "Is n't it rather tantalizing," said I, "to receive one of
these letters when there is no little machine like this at
hand to make it speak?"

  "It does n't often happen," replied the clerk, "that
anybody is caught without his indispensable, or at least
where he cannot borrow one."

  "His indispensable!" I exclaimed.  "What may that be?"

  In reply the clerk directed my attention to a little box,
not wholly unlike a case for a binocular glass, which, now
that he spoke of it, I saw was carried, slung at the side,
by every person in sight.

  "We call it the indispensable because it is indispensable,
as, no doubt, you will soon find for yourself."

  In the breakfast-room a number of ladies and gentlemen
were engaged as they sat at table in reading, or rather in
listening to, their morning's correspondence.  A greater or
smaller pile of little boxes lay beside their plates, aud
one after another they took from each its cylinders, placed
them in their indispensables, and held the latter to their
ears.  The expression of the face in reading is so largely
affected by the necessary fixity of the eyes that
intelligence is absorbed from the printed or written page
with scarcely a change of countenance, which when
communicated by the voice evokes a responsive play of
features.  I had never been struck so forcibly by this
obvious reflection as I was in observing the expression of
the faces of these people as they listened to their
correspondents.  Disappointment, pleased surprise, chagrin,
disgust, indignation, and amusement were alternately so
legible on their faces that it was perfectly easy for one to
be sure in most cases what the tenor at least of the letter
was.  It occurred to me that while in the old time the
pleasure of receiving letters had been so far balanced by
this drudgery of writing them as to keep correspondence
within some bounds, nothing less than freight trains could
suffice for the mail service in these days, when to write
was but to speak, and to listen was to read.

  After I had given my order, the waiter brought a
curious-looking oblong case, with an ear-trumpet attached,
and, placing it before me, went away.  I foresaw that I
should have to ask a good many questions before I got
through, and, if I did not mean to be a bore, I had best ask
as few as necessary.  I determined to find out what this
trap was without assistance.  The words "Daily Morning
Herald" sufficiently indicated that it was a newspaper.  I
suspected that a certain big knob, if pushed, would set it
going.  But, for all I knew, it might start in the middle of
the advertisements.  I looked closer.  There were a number
of printed slips upon the face of the machine, arranged
about a circle like the numbers on a dial.  They were
evidently the headings of news articles.  In the middle of
the circle was a little pointer, like the hand of a clock,
moving on a pivot.  I pushed this pointer around to a
certain caption, and then, with the air of being perfectly
familiar with the machine, I put the pronged trumpet to my
ears and pressed the big knob.  Precisely!  It worked like a
charm; so much like a charm, indeed, that I should certainly
have allowed my breakfast to cool had I been obliged to
choose between that and my newspaper.  The inventor of the
apparatus had, however, provided against so painful a
dilemma by a simple attachment to the trumpet, which held it
securely in position upon the shoulders behind the head,
while the hands were left free for knife and fork.  Having
slyly noted the manner in which my neighbors had effected
the adjustments, I imitated their example with a careless
air, and presently, like them, was absorbing physical and
mental aliment simultaneously.

  While I was thus delightfully engaged, I was not less
delightfully interrupted by Hamage, who, having arrived at
the hotel, and learned that I was in the breakfast-room,
came in and sat down beside me.  After telling him how much
I admired the new sort of newspapers, I offered one
criticism, which was that there seemed to be no way by which
one could skip dull paragraphs or uninteresting details.

  "The invention would, indeed, be very far from a success,"
he said, "if there were no such provision, but there is."

  He made me put on the trumpet again, and, having set the
machine going, told me to press on a certain knob, at first
gently, afterward as hard as I pleased.  I did so, and found
that the effect of the "skipper," as he called the knob, was
to quicken the utterance of the phonograph in proportion to
the pressure to at least tenfold the usual rate of speed,
while at any moment, if a word of interest caught the ear,
the ordinary rate of delivery was resumed, and by another
adjustment the machine could be made to go back and repeat
as much as desired.

  When I told Hamage of my experience of the night before
with the talking clock in my room, he laughed uproariously.

  "I am very glad you mentioned this just now," he said,
when he had quieted himself.  "We have a couple of hours
before the train goes out to my place, and I 'll take you
through Orton's establishment, where they make a specialty
of these talking clocks.  I have a number of them in my
house, and, as I don't want to have you scared to death in
the night-watches, you had better get some notion of what
clocks nowadays are expected to do."

  Orton's, where we found ourselves half an hour later,
proved to be a very extensive establishment, the firm making
a specialty of horological novelties, and particularly of
the new phonographic time-pieces.  The manager, who was a
personal friend of Hamage's, and proved very obliging, said
that the latter were fast driving the old-fashioned striking
clocks out of use.

  "And no wonder," he exclaimed; "the old-fashioned striker
was an unmitigated nuisance.  Let alone the brutality of
announcing the hour to a refined household by four, eight,
or ten rude bangs, without introduction or apology, this
method of announcement was not even tolerably intelligible. 
Unless you happened to be attentive at the moment the din
began, you could never be sure of your count of strokes so
as to be positive whether it was eight, nine, ten, or
eleven.  As to the half and quarter strokes, they were
wholly useless unless you chanced to know what was the last
hour struck.  And then, too, I should like to ask you why,
in the name of common sense, it should take twelve times as
long to tell you it is twelve o'clock as it does to tell you
it is one."

  The manager laughed as heartily as Hamage had done on
learning of my scare of the night before.

  "It was lucky for you," he said, "that the clock in your
room happened to be a simple time announcer, otherwise you
might easily have been startled half out of your wits."  I
became myself quite of the same opinion by the time he had
shown us something of his assortment of clocks.  The mere
announcing of the hours and quarters of hours was the
simplest of the functions of these wonderful and yet simple
instruments.  There were few of them which were not arranged
to "improve the time," as the old fashioned prayer-meeting
phrase was.  People's ideas differing widely as to what
constitutes improvement of time, the clocks varied
accordingly in the nature of the edification they provided. 
There were religious and sectarian clocks, moral clocks,
philosophical clocks, free-thinking and infidel clocks,
literary and poetical clocks, educational clocks, frivolous
and bacchanalian clocks.  In the religious clock department
were to be found Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist,
Episcopal, and Baptist time-pieces, which, in connection
with the announcement of the hour and quarter, repeated some
tenet of the sect with a proof text.  There were also
Talmage clocks, and Spurgeon clocks, and Storrs clocks, and
Brooks clocks, which respectively marked the flight of time
by phrases taken from the sermons of these eminent divines,
and repeated in precisely the voice and accents of the
original delivery.  In startling proximity to the religious
department I was shown the skeptical clocks.  So near were
they, indeed, that when, as I stood there, the various
time-pieces announced the hour of ten, the war of opinions
that followed was calculated to unsettle the firmest
convictions.  The observations of an Ingersoll which stood
near me were particularly startling.  The effect of an
actual wrangle was the greater from the fact that all these
individual clocks were surmounted by effigies of the authors
of the sentiments they repeated.

  I was glad to escape from this turmoil to the calmer
atmosphere of the philosophical and literary clock
department.  For persons with a taste for antique
moralizing, the sayings of Plato, Epictetus, and Marcus
Aurelius had here, so to speak, been set to time.  Modern
wisdom was represented by a row of clocks surmounted by the
heads of famous maxim-makers, from Rochefoucauld to Josh
Billings.  As for the literary clocks, their number and
variety were endless.  All the great authors were
represented.  Of the Dickens clocks alone there were half a
dozen, with selections from his greatest stories.  When I
suggested that, captivating as such clocks must be, one
might in time grow weary of hearing the same sentiments
reiterated, the manager pointed out that the phonographic
cylinders were removable, and could be replaced by other
sayings by the same author or on the same theme at any time. 
If one tired of an author altogether, he could have the head
unscrewed from the top of the clock and that of some other
celebrity substituted, with a brand-new repertory.

  "I can imagine," I said, "that these talking clocks must
be a great resource for invalids especially, and for those
who cannot sleep at night.  But, on the other hand, how is
it when people want or need to sleep?  Is not one of them
quite too interesting a companion at such a time?"

  "Those who are used to it," replied the manager, "are no
more disturbed by the talking clock than we used to be by
the striking clock.  However, to avoid all possible
inconvenience to invalids, this little lever is provided,
which at a touch will throw the phonograph out of gear or
back again.  It is customary when we put a talking or
singing clock into a bedroom to put in an electric
connection, so that by pressing a button at the head of the
bed a person, without raising the head from the pillow, can
start or stop the phonographic gear, as well as ascertain
the time, on the repeater principle as applied to watches."

  Hamage now said that we had only time to catch the train,
but our conductor insisted that we should stop to see a
novelty of phonographic invention, which, although not
exactly in their line, had been sent them for exhibition by
the inventor.  It was a device for meeting the criticism
frequently made upon the churches of a lack of attention and
cordiality in welcoming strangers.  It was to be placed in
the lobby of the church, and had an arm extending like a
pump-handle.  Any stranger on taking this and moving it up
and down would be welcomed in the pastor's own voice, and
continue to be welcomed as long as he kept up the motion. 
While this welcome would be limited to general remarks of
regard and esteem, ample provision was made for strangers
who desired to be more particularly inquired into.  A number
of small buttons on the front of the contrivance bore
respectively the words, "Male," "Female," "Married,"
"Unmarried," "Widow," "Children," "No Children," etc., etc. 
By pressing the one of these buttons corresponding to his or
her condition, the stranger would be addressed in terms
probably quite as accurately adapted to his or her condition
and needs as would be any inquiries a preoccupied clergyman
would be likely to make under similar circumstances.  I
could readily see the necessity of some such substitute for
the pastor, when I was informed that every prominent
clergyman was now in the habit of supplying at least a dozen
or two pulpits simultaneously, appearing by turns in one of
them personally, and by phonograph in the others.

  The inventor of the contrivance for welcoming strangers
was, it appeared, applying the same idea to machines for
discharging many other of the more perfunctory obligations
of social intercourse.  One being made for the convenience
of the President of the United States at public receptions
was provided with forty-two buttons for the different
States, and others for the principal cities of the Union, so
that a caller, by proper manipulation, might, while shaking
a handle, be addressed in regard to his home interests with
an exactness of information as remarkable as that of the
traveling statesmen who rise from the gazetteer to astonish
the inhabitants of Wayback Crossing with the precise figures
of their town valuation and birth rate, while the engine is
taking in water.

  We had by this time spent so much time that on finally
starting for the railroad station we had to walk quite
briskly.  As we were hurrying along the street, my attention
was arrested by a musical sound, distinct though not loud,
proceeding apparently from the indispensable which Hamage,
like everybody else I had seen, wore at his side.  Stopping
abruptly, he stepped aside from the throng, and, lifting the
indispensable quickly to his ear, touched something, and
exclaiming, "Oh, yes, to be sure!" dropped the instrument to
his side.

  Then he said to me: "I am reminded that I promised my wife
to bring home some story-books for the children when I was
in town to-day.  The store is only a few steps down the
street."  As we went along, he explained to me that nobody
any longer pretended to charge his mind with the
recollection of duties or engagements of any sort. 
Everybody depended upon his indispensable to remind him in
time of all undertakings and responsibilities.  This service
it was able to render by virtue of a simple enough
adjustment of a phonographic cylinder charged with the
necessary word or phrase to the clockwork in the
indispensable, so that at any time fixed upon in setting the
arrangement an alarm would sound, and, the indispensable
being raised to the ear, the phonograph would deliver its
message, which at any subsequent time might be called up and
repeated.  To all persons charged with weighty
responsibilities depending upon accuracy of memory for their
correct discharge, this feature of the indispensable
rendered it, according to Hamage, and indeed quite
obviously, an indispensable truly.  To the railroad engineer
it served the purpose not only of a time-piece, for the
works of the indispensable include a watch, but to its ever
vigilant alarm he could intrust his running orders, and,
while his mind was wholly concentrated upon present duties,
rest secure that he would be reminded at just the proper
time of trains which he must avoid and switches he must
make.  To the indispensable of the business man the reminder
attachment was not less necessary.  Provided with that, his
notes need never go to protest through carelessness, nor,
however absorbed, was he in danger of forgetting an

  Thanks to these portable memories it was, moreover, now
possible for a wife to intrust to her husband the most
complete messages to the dress-maker.  All she had to do was
to whisper the communication into her husband's
indispensable while he was at breakfast, and set the alarm
at an hour when he would be in the city.

  "And in like manner, I suppose," suggested I, "if she
wishes him to return at a certain hour from the club or the
lodge, she can depend on his indispensable to remind him of
his domestic duties at the proper moment, and in terms and
tones which will make the total repudiation of connubial
allegiance the only alternative of obedience.  It is a very
clever invention, and I don't wonder that it is popular with
the ladies; but does it not occur to you that the inventor,
if a man, was slightly inconsiderate?  The rule of the
American wife has hitherto been a despotism which could be
tempered by a bad memory.  Apparently, it is to be no longer
tempered at all."

  Hamage laughed, but his mirth was evidently a little
forced, and I inferred that the reflection I had suggested
had called up certain reminiscences not wholly exhilarating. 
Being fortunate, however, in the possession of a mercurial
temperament, he presently rallied, and continued his praises
of the artificial memory provided by the indispensable.  In
spite of the criticism which I had made upon it, I confess I
was not a little moved by his description of its advantages
to absent-minded men, of whom I am chief.  Think of the gain
alike in serenity and force of intellect enjoyed by the man
who sits down to work absolutely free from that accursed
cloud on the mind of things he has got to remember to do,
and can only avoid totally forgetting by wasting tenfold the
time required finally to do them in making sure by frequent
rehearsals that he has not forgotten them!  The only way
that one of these trivialities ever sticks to the mind is by
wearing a sore spot in it which heals slowly.  If a man does
not forget it, it is for the same reason that he remembers a
grain of sand in his eye.  I am conscious that my own mind
is full of cicatrices of remembered things, and long ere
this it would have been peppered with them like a colander,
had I not a good while ago, in self-defense, absolutely
refused to be held accountable for forgetting anything not
connected with my regular business.

  While firmly believing my course in this matter to have
been justifiable and necessary, I have not been insensible
to the domestic odium which it has brought upon me, and
could but welcome a device which promised to enable me to
regain the esteem of my family while retaining the use of my
mind for professional purposes.

  As the most convenient conceivable receptacle of hasty
memoranda of ideas and suggestions, the indispensable also
most strongly commended itself to me as a man who lives by
writing.  How convenient when a flash of inspiration comes
to one in the night-time, instead of taking cold and waking
the family in order to save it for posterity, just to
whisper it into the ear of an indispensable at one's
bedside, and be able to know it in the morning for the
rubbish such untimely conceptions usually are!  How often,
likewise, would such a machine save in all their first
vividness suggestive fancies, anticipated details, and other
notions worth preserving, which occur to one in the full
flow of composition, but are irrelevant to what is at the
moment in hand!  I determined that I must have an

  The bookstore, when we arrived there, proved to be the
most extraordinary sort of bookstore I had ever entered,
there not being a book in it.  Instead of books, the shelves
and counters were occupied with rows of small boxes.

  "Almost all books now, you see, are phonographed," said

  "The change seems to be a popular one," I said, "to judge
by the crowd of book-buyers."  For the counters were,
indeed, thronged with customers as I had never seen those of
a bookstore before.

  "The people at those counters are not purchasers, but
borrowers," Hamage replied; and then he explained that
whereas the old-fashioned printed book, being handled by the
reader, was damaged by use, and therefore had either to be
purchased outright or borrowed at high rates of hire, the
phonograph of a book being not handled, but merely revolved
in a machine, was but little injured by use, and therefore
phonographed books could be lent out for an infinitesimal
price.  Everybody had at home a phonograph box of standard
size and adjustments, to which all phonographic cylinders
were gauged.  I suggested that the phonograph, at any rate,
could scarcely have replaced picture-books.  But here, it
seemed, I was mistaken, for it appeared that illustrations
were adapted to phonographed books by the simple plan of
arranging them in a continuous panorama, which by a
connecting gear was made to unroll behind the glass front of
the phonograph case as the course of the narrative demanded.

  "But, bless my soul!" I exclaimed, "everybody surely is
not content to borrow their books?  They must want to have
books of their own, to keep in their libraries."

  "Of course," said Hamage.  "What I said about borrowing
books applies only to current literature of the ephemeral
sort.  Everybody wants books of permanent value in his
library.  Over yonder is the department of the establishment
set apart for book-buyers."

  The counter which he indicated being less crowded than
those of the borrowing department, I expressed a desire to
examine some of the phonographed books.  As we were waiting
for attendance, I observed that some of the customers seemed
very particular about their purchases, and insisted upon
testing several phonographs bearing the same title before
making a selection.  As the phonographs seemed exact
counterparts in appearance, I did not understand this till
Hamage explained that differences as to style and quality of
elocution left quite as great a range of choice in
phonographed books as varieties in type, paper, and binding
did in printed ones.  This I presently found to be the case
when the clerk, under Hamage's direction, began waiting on
me.  In succession I tried half a dozen editions of Tennyson
by as many different elocutionists, and by the time I had
                   "Where Claribel low lieth"

rendered by a soprano, a contralto, a bass, and a baritone,
each with the full effect of its quality and the personal
equation besides, I was quite ready to admit that selecting
phonographed books for one's library was as much more
difficult as it was incomparably more fascinating than
suiting one's self with printed editions.  Indeed, Hamage
admitted that nowadays nobody with any taste for
literature--if the word may for convenience be
retained--thought of contenting himself with less than half
a dozen renderings of the great poets and dramatists.

  "By the way," he said to the clerk, "won't you just let my
friend try the Booth-Barrett Company's 'Othello'?  It is,
you understand," he added to me, "the exact phonographic
reproduction of the play as actually rendered by the

  Upon his suggestion, the attendant had taken down a
phonograph case and placed it on the counter.  The front was
an imitation of a theatre with the curtain down.  As I
placed the transmitter to my ears, the clerk touched a
spring and the curtain rolled up, displaying a perfect
picture of the stage in the opening scene.  Simultaneously
the action of the play began, as if the pictured men upon
the stage were talking.  Here was no question of losing half
that was said and guessing the rest.  Not a word, not a
syllable, not a whispered aside of the actors, was lost; and
as the play proceeded the pictures changed, showing every
important change of attitude on the part of the actors.  Of
course the figures, being pictures, did not move, but their
presentation in so many successive attitudes presented the
effect of movement, and made it quite possible to imagine
that the voices in my ears were really theirs.  I am
exceedingly fond of the drama, but the amount of effort and
physical inconvenience necessary to witness a play has
rendered my indulgence in this pleasure infrequent.  Others
might not have agreed with me, but I confess that none of
the ingenious applications of the phonograph which I had
seen seemed to be so well worth while as this.

  Hamage had left me to make his purchases, and found me on
his return still sitting spellbound.

  "Come, come," he said, laughing, "I have Shakespeare
complete at home, and you shall sit up all night, if you
choose, hearing plays.  But come along now, I want to take
you upstairs before we go."

  He had several bundles.  One, he told me, was a new novel
for his wife, with some fairy stories for the
children,--all, of course, phonographs.  Besides, he had
bought an indispensable for his little boy.

  "There is no class," he said, "whose burdens the
phonograph has done so much to lighten as parents.  Mothers
no longer have to make themselves hoarse telling the
children stories on rainy days to keep them out of mischief. 
It is only necessary to plant the most roguish lad before a
phonograph of some nursery classic, to be sure of his
whereabouts and his behavior till the machine runs down,
when another set of cylinders can be introduced, and the
entertainment carried on.  As for the babies, Patti sings
mine to sleep at bedtime, and, if they wake up in the night,
she is never too drowsy to do it over again.  When the
children grow too big to be longer tied to their mother's
apron-strings, they still remain, thanks to the children's
indispensable, though out of her sight, within sound of her
voice.  Whatever charges or instructions she desires them
not to forget, whatever hours or duties she would have them
be sure to remember, she depends on the indispensable to
remind them of."

  At this I cried out.  "It is all very well for the
mothers," I said, "but the lot of the orphan must seem
enviable to a boy compelled to wear about such an instrument
of his own subjugation.  If boys were what they were in my
day, the rate at which their indispensables would get
unaccountably lost or broken would be alarming."

  Hamage laughed, and admitted that the one he was carrying
home was the fourth be had bought for his boy within a
month.  He agreed with me that it was hard to see how a boy
was to get his growth under quite so much government; but
his wife, and indeed the ladies generally, insisted that the
application of the phonograph to family government was the
greatest invention of the age.

  Then I asked a question which had repeatedly occurred to
me that day,--What had become of the printers?

  "Naturally," replied Hamage, "they have had a rather hard
time of it.  Some classes of books, however, are still
printed, and probably will continue to be for some time,
although reading, as well as writing, is getting to be an
increasingly rare accomplishment."

  "Do you mean that your schools do not teach reading and
writing?" I exclaimed.

  "Oh, yes, they are still taught; but as the pupils need
them little after leaving school,--or even in school, for
that matter, all their text-books being phonographic,--they
usually keep the acquirements about as long as a college
graduate does his Greek.  There is a strong movement already
on foot to drop reading and writing entirely from the school
course, but probably a compromise will be made for the
present by substituting a shorthand or phonetic system,
based upon the direct interpretation of the sound-waves
themselves.  This is, of course, the only logical method for
the visual interpretation of sound.  Students and men of
research, however, will always need to understand how to
read print, as much of the old literature will probably
never repay phonographing."

  "But," I said, "I notice that you still use printed
phrases, as superscriptions, titles, and so forth."

  "So we do," replied Hamage, "but phonographic substitutes
could be easily devised in these cases, and no doubt will
soon have to be supplied in deference to the growing number
of those who cannot read."

  "Did I understand you," I asked, "that the text-books in
your schools even are phonographs?"

  "Certainly," replied Hamage; "our children are taught by
phonographs, recite to phonographs, and are examined by

  "Bless my soul!" I ejaculated.

  "By all means," replied Hamage; "but there is really
nothing to be astonished at.  People learn and remember by
impressions of sound instead of sight, that is all.  The
printer is, by the way, not the only artisan whose
occupation phonography has destroyed.  Since the disuse of
print, opticians have mostly gone to the poor-house.  The
sense of sight was indeed terribly overburdened previous to
the introduction of the phonograph, and, now that the sense
of hearing is beginning to assume its proper share of work,
it would be strange if an improvement in the condition of
the people's eyes were not noticeable.  Physiologists,
moreover, promise us not only an improved vision, but a
generally improved physique, especially in respect to bodily
carriage, now that reading, writing, and study no longer
involves, as formerly, the sedentary attitude with twisted
spine and stooping shoulders.  The phonograph has at last
made it possible to expand the mind without cramping the

  "It is a striking comment on the revolution wrought by the
general introduction of the phonograph," I observed, "that
whereas the misfortune of blindness used formerly to be the
infirmity which most completely cut a man off from the world
of books, which remained open to the deaf, the case is now
precisely reversed."

  "Yes," said Hamage, "it is certainly a curious reversal,
but not so complete as you fancy.  By the new improvements
in the intensifier, it is expected to enable all, except the
stone-deaf, to enjoy the phonograph, even when connected, as
on railroad trains, with a common telephonic wire.  The
stone-deaf will of course be dependent upon printed books
prepared for their benefit, as raised-letter books used to
be for the blind."

  As we entered the elevator to ascend to the upper floors
of the establishment, Hamage explained that he wanted me to
see, before I left, the process of phonographing books,
which was the modern substitute for printing them.  Of
course, he said, the phonographs of dramatic works were
taken at the theatres during the representations of plays,
and those of public orations and sermons are either
similarly obtained, or, if a revised version is desired, the
orator re-delivers his address in the improved form to a
phonograph; but the great mass of publications were
phonographed by professional elocutionists employed by the
large publishing houses, of which this was one.  He was
acquainted with one of these elocutionists, and was taking
me to his room.

  We were so fortunate as to find him disengaged. 
Something, he said, had broken about the machinery, and he
was idle while it was being repaired.  His work-room was an
odd kind of place.  It was shaped something like the
interior of a rather short egg.  His place was on a sort of
pulpit in the middle of the small end, while at the opposite
end, directly before him, and for some distance along the
sides toward the middle, were arranged tiers of phonographs. 
These were his audience, but by no means all of it.  By
telephonic communication he was able to address
simultaneously other congregations of phonographs in other
chambers at any distance.  He said that in one instance,
where the demand for a popular book was very great, he had
charged five thousand phonographs at once with it.

  I suggested that the saving of printers, pressmen,
bookbinders, and costly machinery, together with the
comparative indestructibility of phonographed as compared
with printed books, must make them very cheap.

  "They would be," said Hamage, "if popular elocutionists,
such as Playwell here, did not charge so like fun for their
services.  The public has taken it into its head that he is
the only first-class elocutionist, and won't buy anybody
else's work.  Consequently the authors stipulate that he
shall interpret their productions, and the publishers,
between the public and the authors, are at his mercy."

  Playwell laughed.  "I must make my hay while the sun
shines," he said.  "Some other elocutionist will be the
fashion next year, and then I shall only get hack-work to
do.  Besides, there is really a great deal more work in my
business than people will believe.  For example, after I get
an author's copy"--

  "Written?" I interjected.

  "Sometimes it is written phonetically, but most authors
dictate to a phonograph.  Well, when I get it, I take it
home and study it, perhaps a couple of days, perhaps a
couple of weeks, sometimes, if it is really an important
work, a month or two, in order to get into sympathy with the
ideas, and decide on the proper style of rendering.  All
this is hard work, and has to be paid for."

  At this point our conversation was broken off by Hamage,
who declared that, if we were to catch the last train out of
town before noon, we had no time to lose.

  Of the trip out to Hamage's place I recall nothing.  I
was, in fact, aroused from a sound nap by the stopping of
the train and the bustle of the departing passengers. 
Hamage had disappeared.  As I groped about, gathering up my
belongings, and vaguely wondering what had become of my
companion, he rushed into the car, and, grasping my hand,
gave me an enthusiastic welcome.  I opened my mouth to
demand what sort of a joke this belated greeting might be
intended for, but, on second thought, I concluded not to
raise the point.  The fact is, when I came to observe that
the time was not noon, but late in the evening, and that the
train was the one I had left home on, and that I had not
even changed my seat in the car since then, it occurred to
me that Hamage might not understand allusions to the
forenoon we had spent together.  Later that same evening,
however, the consternation of my host and hostess at my
frequent and violent explosions of apparently causeless
hilarity left me no choice but to make a clean breast of my
preposterous experience.  The moral they drew from it was
the charming one that, if I would but oftener come to see
them, a railroad trip would not so upset my wits.