How long I stood there, seriously thinking on this subject, and forming new and laudable resolutions for the future, I do not know; but at last I awoke to the fact that I was still nothing more nor less than a common adventurer, held captive on an isolated projecture in the middle of the sea. This became more apparent as I faintly heard the ocean's waves dashing against the rocks on the outside of the place. So, following in the direction of the sounds, they became louder and more distinct, until finally I found myself looking up at the very hole through which I had bored my way so unceremoniously. It was night, and I could easily distinguish the stars in the outer darkness. In making a careful survey of the surroundings, I discovered that it was going to be a much more difficult task to get out than it was to get in this extraordinary grotto. The aperture was located about three feet above my head; was barely large enough to squeeze through, and there was no way by which I could climb up to it. I observed, however, that adjoining the hole there was a huge marble pillar running upward and outward in an oblique slant, and wedged in its position by several other massive stones, but with its end protruding below the rest. So, without wasting any time, I leaped up and caught hold of it with both hands, and then, adopting the tactics of a gymnast, I began slowly working my way through the hole feet foremost, like an acrobat going over a horizontal bar. This feat, which required great muscular strength, flexibility, and tenaciousness, was the very hardest physical performance I ever accomplished, for, besides being unable to get a firm grip on it, I found, to my dismay, that the great pillar I clung to was insecure in its position, and threatened to fall and crush me beneath its weight. And as inch by inch I slowly and persistently worked my way upward and outward, so inch by inch did it slowly, but surely, work its way downward. Passing my feet and legs beyond the brink of the opening, I doubled myself up in such a way that the lower half of my body rested upon a sort of a level platform, and, with head downward, I pushed my way up until I found myself kneeling upon the crust I had previously broken through, and which I subsequently decided must have been a great pane of glass, covered by the coagulated settlings of the air, which for centuries had been forming a solid coating. I remained in a kneeling position for several moments, catching my breath and regaining strength. I feared to move, lest the thin layer upon which I rested would once more give way beneath me. It appeared to waver, as did everything else around me. After a short rest, I carefully arose to a standing position, and then observed that I was located in a sort of a pit, surrounded by rocks of various shapes and sizes. As I cautiously climbed upward, each one of them appeared to tremble at my very touch, until just as I reached the topmost point the whole mass apparently gave way at once, I lost my balance and fell forward, there was a terrible crash, and after that I became dizzy and confused.
The most peculiar and disconnected sensations then passed through my mind. First I thought there was a great hole in the side of my head, which I tried to fill with small stones. Then my head became full of holes, and finally I fancied that I possessed a half dozen heads and all of them were cut and bleeding. And then apparently all of these heads were suddenly and mysteriously severed from my body, and floated away in space like a lot of toy balloons. Following that, it felt as if every bone in my body had been broken, and I was taking these bones from their places and trying to repair them. Then I imagined that I had several different bodies, and all of them were bruised and mangled. These forms increased in numbers until I could see nothing else but them, and they appeared to be struggling to extricate themselves from beneath a huge object which seemed to grow in size until it was as large as a mountain. Finally released, they began climbing up the mountain until the summit was reached and then gradually decreased until there was but one left.
"What is the matter with me?" I wondered. "Who am I, what am I, and where do I belong?" I tried to think coherently, but my mind was feeble and incapable of grasping an intelligent thought. Day and night went and came many times, but still I remained on that mountain wondering, wondering, wondering. Sometimes I would expand until I felt larger than the mountain itself; then again I would shrink to the size of a flea. One time I would feel as if I were up near the North Pole, surrounded by ice and freezing to death. At another time I would imagine that I was in the middle of the Sahara Desert, being roasted alive by the scorching rays of the sun. And, still again, I would feel that I was shipwrecked upon a barren island, and was slowly dying for the want of food and water. Sometimes I fancied that I could see ships all about me, and I would yell, and roar at the top of my voice to attract attention, but without results, as they would pass beyond view without taking any notice of me. At other times it seemed that ships would cast their anchors right in front of my eyes, and apparently remain stationed there for weeks and months at a time, and yet no one would come to my assistance. At last there appeared to be ten thousand ships all of the same pattern lowering small boats into the water, and these boats manned by stalwart oarsmen started to race with each other in my direction. What an evenly matched contest. On, on, on they came, bunched closely together, each using the same uniform stroke as if all were guided by the same coxswain. Now they were right upon me. "Great race," I shouted, as they came within hearing distance. "Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!" "The poor devil is mad," I fancied I heard someone exclaim, and my mind became a blank.
FIRST VOICE: "This is a most peculiar case of enteric fever, in which the patient baffles all medical aid towards a cure. The fellow has been out of his head ever since he was brought here, two months ago, and fancies that he has been in a trance since the time of Noah and the Ark. He has a strange hallucination that he can be awakened from his protracted nap by a kiss from a certain female, whom he describes as Arletta the Beautiful. Although he is as crazy as a loon, yet some of his utterances are really remarkable for the depth of logic they contain. The case has its amusing side also, for every woman by the name of Arletta who visits this hospital cannot resist the temptation of kissing the man, in order to ascertain whether they possess the secret charm to restore his right senses. But so far the osculatory experiment has proved a dire failure. He bears evidence of being a handsome and distinguished person, notwithstanding he is a charity patient, and without friends. His identification is unknown, he having been picked up on the street in his present condition by the police, who had him sent here. I fully believe-but Miss, you are crying. Evidently your nature is too emotional for the sick room, so come, we will pass along."
SECOND VOICE: "No, wait a moment, Doctor. I—I think—I am positive that I know this man. In fact, I was very well acquainted with him a few years ago. It all seems so strange, but-well-you see-he often told me that he loved me. Yes, my name is Arletta, but I did not love him, nor even like him. My father and mother hated him, and we all had to secretly leave home and travel abroad in order for me to avoid his undesirable attentions. But notwithstanding that, my heart now bleeds for him in his terrible plight, and I want to do something for him. My conscience would not allow me to pass along without trying to aid him. You say that in his ravings he claims that a kiss from Arletta would save him. I have never done such a thing before in my life, but now an irresistible force from within has taken possession of me and I feel that it is my duty to try the experiment myself, and see if it will have the effect of restoring his normal condition. Therefore, Doctor, whether this strange method proves efficacious or not, I shall rely upon your honor to keep the secret, and never mention the incident to him. If he knew of it I should die of shame. My parents would disown me for such an act."
As though awakening from a long and profound sleep the aforesaid colloquy seemed to have been impressed upon my mind, and then I opened my eyes and looked about in astonishment. The strangeness of my position and surroundings surprised me beyond expression. I was lying upon my back in a small narrow bed stationed within a large oblong room about one hundred by fifty feet in dimensions. Long rows of little white beds extended from one end of the apartment to the other, each containing the form of a human being. Most of these forms appeared to be soundly sleeping, some lay awake silently meditating, while others tossed about nervously from one position to another as if in terrible agony. An occasional howl of torture rent the air. Moving hither and thither among the different beds were women attired in white dresses and wearing little white caps on their heads. They carried in their hands, spoons, tumblers, trays, and various instruments and vessels of peculiar design.
At the front of my bed stood a man of medium height and build, with a heavy reddish mustache and pointed beard. At one side, half way between the head and foot of my bed, was the figure of a woman, apparently about twenty-one years of age. She was tall, slender, graceful, and magnificently gowned in street clothes. Her head was shapely and covered with an abundance of dark brown hair. Her physiognomy was intellectually strong, and the whole cast of her features showed extraordinary beauty. Her eyes were clear and bright, and expressed a tender and sympathetic nature. She was looking straight at me in a half-startled sort of a manner, and appeared to be backing away from the bed upon which I lay. As my eyes met her steady gaze I involuntarily exclaimed, "Arletta!" Then instantly my memory returned, and I remembered all that had taken place, as explained in the preceding chapters.
Notwithstanding, however, that my mind became clear and well-balanced, I became extremely puzzled as I looked at this beautiful woman, to note that she bore a striking resemblance to the sublime being, who had just passed away among the remnants of Sageland, and I became still further confounded when she timidly approached me and softly said: "You are John Convert, are you not?"
"Yes," answered I, "that is my name."
"And do you recognize me?" inquired she.
"I recognize in you a living demonstration and positive realization of the principle of re-incarnation, as embodied in the Sageman's theory of Natural Law," answered I, slowly and deliberately. "I recognize in you the soul of Arletta, of Sageland, my eternal companion, and a fulfilment of her prophecy that she would be born again. But while I make this declaration with the utmost positiveness, still I am at a loss to understand how such a thing could be, as the soul of that lovely being, having but just left its material body, should according to Natural Law, have attached itself to an embryo form, while you are a full-grown woman." At these words she appeared considerably amazed for a moment, but quickly recovering herself, she said with much sympathy and tenderness of feeling: "Come, now, Mr. Convert, try and think clearly and talk sensibly. Don't you recollect how, three years ago, we became acquainted in Paris; how persistently you followed me all over Europe, then crossed the Atlantic aboard the same steamer, and finally journeyed out West to my home? Don't you remember how angry Papa became, and how he threatened you with dire punishment if you did not stop annoying us?"
"No," said I emphatically, "there must be some mistake, for I have never visited Paris and I distinctly recollect having been in Japan three years ago, as I celebrated my nineteenth birthday in Tokio."
"Now that is absurd," said she, with a mingled look of pity and suppressed amusement. "Three years ago you told me that you were forty years old. Don't you recollect how you once cautioned me not to consider you an old man simply because your hair was white, and how angry you became because I called you Grandpa? Come now, think real hard."
At these words I began to seriously doubt my own identity, but after a moment of calm deliberation I replied, "No, I do not recollect any such happenings, and moreover, I am not forty years of age, but twenty-two, and neither is my hair white but black as you can plainly see. Will you please tell me where I am? My mind is a trifle confused at the strange surroundings."
"You are in the Ruff Hospital, New York," answered she. "I, myself, have been spending some time in this city, and, strangely enough, took a notion that I should like to see the different hospitals. It was purely accidental that I ran across you. The doctor says you have typhoid fever, but," she added, in an encouraging manner, "you will soon be well. So cheer up, and try to concentrate your mind, so that you can think properly."
"Ruff Hospital, New York!" ejaculated I, in astonishment. "How the deuce did I get away over here? Oh, I understand; I fell among the rocks and was hurt; then the sailors came and rescued me, and I was brought here. That seems like a few moments ago, but I presume at least a month must have elapsed since or the ship could not have reached this port. What month is this, January?"
"No, this is the month of March," replied she.
"March!" exclaimed I. "Great heavens, how the time has flown! Why, that is about three months that I have known absolutely nothing. Let's see, it was December 5th that I was thrown overboard, and it must have been December 7th that Arletta died. That's right, December 7, 1881-I shall always remember that date and keep it holy. It must be now March, 1882."
"Why, Mr. Convert, you are certainly dreaming," responded she, "this the year 1903, not 1882. But how strange that you should get so mixed in the dates-December 7, 1881, was the day I was born. That was over twenty-one years ago, instead of three months, as you fancy."
At this juncture the red-whiskered individual came forward and said: "It seems to be a hopeless case, Miss. He has talked in that same strain ever since he came here. Perhaps after his fever abates somewhat he may regain his equanimity, but to me it looks as if his mind will always be unbalanced. He has a nasty scar right over the temporal region, which portends ill for his future reason. Perhaps it would be better not to talk to him any further at present. He is awfully weak, and appears more excited than usual. You have evidently made some impression upon him, however, and if you would visit him every few days he might eventually be able to recognize you, which would have a strong tendency to set him mentally straight again."
"Very well," said she, hesitatingly, as if not anxious to go. "May I call and see him tomorrow, Doctor?"
"There are only three visiting days here each week, Miss; Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays, between the hours of three and four P. M. But any time you call, if you will ask at the office for Doctor Savage, that is my name, I shall consider it a pleasant duty to render you any service within my power," replied he, looking at her with unsuppressed admiration, of which she apparently took no notice. Then continuing, he said, "Would you kindly give me your card that I may know your full name in case you call at other times than the regular visiting hours?"
She opened her pocket book as if to take out a card, stopped and reflected a moment, and then said, "Well, never mind my last name; just remember me as Arletta," and before I could collect my wits sufficiently to voice my agitated thoughts they passed from the room together.
As I lay musing over the strange occurrences recorded in the previous chapter, and wondering whether my entire life was a reality or merely a peculiar dream, one of the white-capped nurses strode up to the side of my bed and without the slightest warning roughly pushed a little glass tube in my mouth. Not knowing whether she wanted me to swallow it or was merely trying to puncture a hole in my tongue, I put it out again and asked what she intended doing.
"Now look here," said she, in an irritated way, "I have about lost all patience with you, and unless you do as I tell you hereafter I shall have the orderly punish you again."
"But," said I, in amazement, "you have not mentioned yet what you would have me do."
"I have told you fully a hundred times to put this thermometer under your tongue and keep it there," replied she, exhibiting considerable temper, as she viciously jammed it once more into my mouth and twisted it under my tongue. "You are about the biggest chump that ever came into this hospital," continued she, grasping my wrist as though she intended breaking it and simultaneously taking my pulse and temperature.
A few moments later she jerked the thermometer from my mouth, glanced at it hurriedly and then entered a record upon a chart suspended from the head of my bed. Then calling one of the male attendants, she instructed him to fill the tub preparatory to giving me an ice bath. This attendant went to the corner of the room from whence he secured a bath tub on wheels, which he pushed over to the side of my bed. The tub was already partly filled with water, and I afterward learned that owing to the laziness and filthiness of the attendants, the same water was often used over and over again for the different typhoid patients. I observed that this attendant, who was otherwise called an orderly, was about as ignorant and degraded a specimen of humanity as a much boasted civilization could possibly breed.
He was about six feet tall, round-shouldered, knock-kneed, and weighed about two hundred pounds of flabby flesh, mostly covered by filthy garments. His head was pyramidal in shape, and covered by a mass of unkempt red hair. He had practically no forehead. His eyes were dull and bloodshot. His nose was flat and bent to one side, and his whole face was covered with pimples. His mouth was wide and beastly, and filled with tobacco. His mustache was irregular, and dyed almost to the roots by tobacco juice. His breath was odoriferous with fumes of whiskey, cigarettes, and foul stomach disorders, causing a poisonous stench to pollute the surrounding atmosphere. One could not look upon him without a feeling of sickening disgust. He was a twentieth century American civilized Christian. He was not, of course, the highest type of a civilized Christian, but nevertheless he was of a high enough order for a Christian community to breed, rear, and put in charge of its sick and unfortunate members. As he pushed the tub along he carelessly allowed it to strike the end of my bed, which gave me a shock as though I had been pierced by a thousand daggers, causing an involuntary groan to escape from my lips.
"Shut up there, you old duffer," said he, looking at me in a stupid, expressionless sort of a way, "you are not hurt yet. I'll give you something to cry about if you don't quit making such a fuss over nothing. You're the biggest baby I ever saw."
Having fixed the tub in position, put some pieces of ice into the water, and adjusted a small portable partition around my bed, which obstructed the view of the other patients, he called for the assistance of another attendant, and began preparations to put me into the tub. As they uncovered me, I glanced down at my emaciated form and was astounded at my own appearance. Nothing now remained of the once muscular and powerful frame I had always felt so proud of, but sickly looking skin and bones. Raising my arm to the level of my eyes I discovered that it was shriveled, and ghastly to behold, and it fell back to my side with a sickening thud for the want of strength to remain erect. It seemed as if a great fiery furnace was located within me and that I was fairly burning alive. Ten thousand different pains were shooting back and forth in every part of my body, but the most excruciating of all was a terrible pain in the center of my back, which caused me to think that my spinal column had been dislocated. And then as if all of the tortures of a refined civilization had suddenly been thrust upon me, as though some supernatural hellish agency was instrumental in causing me to go the full limit of human suffering, those two devilish orderlies took hold of me, one by the head and the other by the feet, and without any leverage whatever to break the strain upon my backbone, they raised and then dumped me into the tub of ice-water below. I had always considered myself invulnerable to bodily pain, and from early youth had schooled myself against outward manifestation of suffering, no matter what the circumstances might be, but on this occasion the power of resistance deserted me entirely and I gave vent to a howl, of rage like the bellowing of a maddened bull, and partly arising, endeavored to clutch the throat of the unfeeling beast at my head, but too weak to accomplish my purpose I fell back into the tub exhausted. At the same time the orderly took hold of my own throat and almost strangling me, beat my head against the tub several times cursing me under his breath in the vilest of language at the same time.
"Look out you don't kill him," cautioned the other orderly at the foot of the tub, "or we might have to go through another of those damned investigations."
Just then the doctor and nurse came within the inclosure, and inquired as to the cause of the commotion.
"This damned idiot has broken loose again, and I am teaching him how to behave himself," replied the orderly.
"Well, he certainly needs a lesson in good behavior," chimed in the nurse; "I cannot understand why he has not been sent over to the Island for more strenuous treatment long ago."
"Why don't you do as told?" inquired the be-whiskered Dr. Savage, in a harsh tone of voice, as he approached close to me, but I was too weak and exhausted to answer, and merely looked from one to the other with the utmost feeling of contempt. After censuring me sternly and advising me to behave myself in the future, the doctor strolled away as if such incidents were of trifling importance.
I was kept in that tub of ice-water, freezing, for fifteen minutes, while the nurse and orderlies lazily rubbed my arms, legs, and trunk, and poured pitcher after pitcher of ice-water over my head, in an effort to reduce the fever. It was a barbarous method of treatment, and seemed of several hours' duration, but it allayed that intense burning sensation, and put new life and vigor into me. As they were about to transfer me back to the bed again, I quietly informed the nurse that my back was in a terrible condition, and requested that the orderlies be instructed to handle me a little more carefully, and to take hold of my body instead of my head and feet when lifting me up, so that the strain would be less on the middle of my back.
"There is nothing the matter with your back," snapped she. "I have told you many times before that you only imagine your back hurts. Furthermore, we understand our business without any advice from you."
And with this rejoinder, the orderlies once more took hold of my head and heels, and after much tugging and twisting, managed to lift me up into the bed. This time the pain seemed even greater to bear than before, but, summoning all my will power, I managed to take the brutal treatment in silence, and said no more. Back upon the bed again, shivering and shaking with cold as though my bones would break, I was covered with heavy blankets, and shortly afterwards fell asleep, thoroughly exhausted, and feeling assured beyond a doubt that I had once more returned to civilization.
It is not my intention to give a full description of hospital life as it came under my personal observation, nor to recount the many cruel acts or cases of stupid negligence on the part of the house staff as perpetrated upon myself and other patients, during my stay in the Ruff Hospital as a ward patient, as to do the subject justice would require at least a volume in itself. Neither is it my desire to hold responsible any particular person or persons for the existence of such a barbarous state of affairs, in which degraded wretches inflict punishment upon the sick, knowing that this is but one of the logical results bred from the debasing system kept in force by a semi-intelligent class of selfish brutes, who are crafty enough to gain control of others by teaching the cruel and savage doctrine known as the "survival of the fittest." I have nothing but a feeling of compassion and sorrow for those abject creatures who mistreated me when I was sick, knowing that they, as well as those whom they mistreated, were but the victims of this pernicious system.
In the desperate struggle for a mere existence, most men and women are forced into employment for which they are entirely unfitted, and consequently take no other interest in their work than that of receiving their weekly or monthly stipend. This fact was thoroughly demonstrated to me by the action of several nurses who appeared to look upon their work as tasks to be executed mechanically, instead of duties to be performed with pleasure. Then again, others who really preferred the work were either kept away from it entirely, or else made dull, peevish and irritable by the great number of hours they were forced to be on duty each day, thus turning what should have been pleasant employment into a drudgery. And like the nurses, so were the orderlies; their daily work hours were so long and their pay so small that only the least intelligent and most stupid moral idiots could be secured to take positions that should be filled by men of the very highest intelligence, character and sympathy.
The physicians themselves I found to be inexperienced youths, generally masquerading under a set of whiskers, which some people are foolish enough to mistake for brains and ability. Coming direct from the medical colleges, they accepted these positions in order to gain some practical experience at the expense of the lives of the hospital patients.
The bricklayer, who devotes his life to the honorable work of building the edifice; the hod carrier, who gives his best services to the community in an equally honorable employment; the locomotive engineer, who safely carries from city to city a train load of human beings each day for many years, are only fit to be practiced upon by inexperienced physicians, and abused by irritable nurses and cruel orderlies, if they are finally overcome by sickness and enter a charity hospital for treatment.
For several days I lay upon my little ward cot in the Ruff Hospital, with my life hanging in the balance, and obliged to accept for succor the abuse and mistreatment of an inferior house staff. And worse still, I had to be an eye witness to cruelties imposed upon other and less fortunate sufferers than myself. I feel sure that many a poor fellow that I saw carried away upon a stretcher, a lifeless corpse, had given up all hope of recovery and died, for the want of a few cheering words and kindly sympathy from sonic one, instead of the constant abuse and brutality he was subjected to.
I fully believe that I myself must have inevitably succumbed to my pitiless treatment, had it not been for the fact that the young girl, Arletta, visited me each day for a half hour, bestowing upon me a tender sympathy, and manifesting the greatest concern for my welfare and recovery.
I was placed in a most peculiar position. I could get no information whatsoever from the doctors, nurses, or orderlies, and even Arletta said very little, and cautioned me against talking or exciting myself in any manner. I learned enough, however, to know that twenty-one years had actually elapsed since my wonderful experience with Arletta of Sageland, and felt convinced beyond a doubt that the beautiful young girl, who took such an interest in my welfare, was impelled by the same soul as my noble instructress in Natural Law. But I was intensely mystified and unable to conceive what had become of the time between the going of the one and the coming of the other Arletta.
Twenty-one years had been swallowed up as completely as if they had never been. Nearly one-half of my life had passed away, of which I could give absolutely no account. A look into the mirror was a convincing proof of this fact, for therein I saw a white-haired and premature old man, with a thin, haggard and drawn countenance, which plainly showed the results of having lived a life of hardship, and almost unrecognizable as my own face. My heavy black mustache was gone, and in its place nothing but white stubble remained. The more I endeavored to reach some tangible solution of the mystery, the more confused I became. According to the girl, Arletta's story, I had been introduced to her at a reception in Paris three years previously, had apparently fallen desperately in love with her, and made myself obnoxious by following her everywhere she went for several months. But as neither she nor her parents liked me, I was finally eluded, and had not been seen for over two years. According to her account, I was generally looked upon as a rich gentleman of leisure and bad habits, who did nothing but travel and spend money recklessly. This being the case, the foremost questions of my mind were: Where had I gotten the money to spend so extravagantly? Had I lived those twenty-one years as a rational being, earning and accumulating wealth and still not knowing anything about it? Arletta of Sageland had told me that there was no such thing as a freak of nature, and that everything worked according to Natural Law, but my case certainly seemed to be an exception to the general run of things. What would be the final outcome of my mysterious career, was a question to be answered that was entirely beyond the limits of my imagination. It gave me a severe pain in the head to contemplate beyond the surface of the subject, and I finally allowed the whole matter to slip from my attention and bent my efforts toward recovery from the effects of my physical ailments.
One day Arletta said to me in as kindly a manner as possible: "Mr. Convert, the doctor informs me that the reason you do not get well is because you lack the will power to do so."
"Will power," exclaimed I, "my dear sweet girl, that is all I have left. It is the only force that is keeping me alive in the face of the cruelest treatment man could possibly receive at the hands of his fellow beings. Without will power I should have been killed long ago by these people, but through that agency alone I have been enabled to defy death and I promise you that I shall get well in spite of them."
"Why, Mr. Convert, how can you talk so harshly against these kind people? I am sure they are doing everything within their power to make you well."
"You think so because you know nothing of the case," answered I. "You simply visit this place for a half hour each day, at a time that everything is moving along smoothly, and merely get a surface view of matters. It is my earnest hope that you may never get a practical insight into these things by being placed in the same position as myself or these other poor fellows all around me. If all the poor unfortunates I have seen carried out of this ward, corpses, have died for want of the same kind of will power I require, then all I can say is that the doctors here should be held responsible for a great many cases of actual murder."
"Why, Mr. Convert, what do you mean by talking in this way?" inquired she.
"Just this," replied I, "these doctors are treating me for the wrong ailment. I am suffering no more from the effects of typhoid fever than you are, but still these doctors are trying to cure me of a malady which does not exist. Since recovering my memory I have observed that the many typhoid patients all around me have been bathed from five to ten times daily, while my fever rises to a point which necessitates an ice bath to reduce it but once each day, and always at the same hour, five o'clock in the afternoon. In any part of the world where malaria is prevalent these symptoms indicate nothing more nor less than chills and fever and should be cured within a day or two by a few doses of quinine. I have explained this to the doctors several times, but with a wisdom born of book learning they have contemptuously disregarded my advice and still continue to treat me for enteric fever, and then lay the blame upon me for not getting well. Do not doubt me, my dear girl, I know what I am talking about. Up to a few days ago my memory was obscured, but now I am in my right senses and fully capable of using all of my reasoning faculties to their fullest extent. Some day I shall explain many strange things to you, of which you know nothing. But now I must devote all of my thoughts and forces toward regaining my former physical strength, and likewise increase my moral and mental vigor for a future great work."
Arletta said no more at that time, but to my great surprise, the next day I was transferred from the charity ward to a paid private room in another part of the hospital. The furnishings of this room were of the most luxurious description, and the nurse informed me that it was the very best and highest priced apartment in the building. I afterwards learned that the cost of renting this room, including attendance, was one hundred dollars per week. Arletta had secured it for me. It was really remarkable how quickly the value of my life increased in the eyes of those hospital attendants, by the expenditure of a little money. From a worthless proletariat I was suddenly transformed into a man of great importance. There were two private nurses to wait on me, and they moved with the celerity of antelopes in response to my slightest bidding. They appeared to be bubbling over with kindness and attention, and seemed to anticipate my every want. The orderlies treated me as if I were the crowned ruler of the universe, while the doctors displayed an unnatural politeness that was almost amusing. I found out later that Arletta was to fee them all handsomely in case of my early recovery. My new nurses were always ready to answer questions and give me any information I wanted.
Upon arriving at my new and sumptuous quarters, one of the nurses informed me that I was to receive a personal visit from the great Doctor Know-all that day. She further informed me that he was considered to be the leading physician of America and that he never made a professional call for less than one thousand dollars. As if by appointment Arletta and this doctor arrived at almost the same moment. Several of the house physicians also followed him into the room anxious to learn what diagnosis this celebrated practitioner would make of a case which had so baffled them. He lost no time in unnecessary talk but got down to work immediately, first looking over the charts which recorded my condition since my entrance to the hospital. Then he examined me carefully, with various instruments, from the tip of my head to the sole of my foot, meanwhile asking me many questions on widely different subjects.
At last he turned to the house physicians and said: "It is my opinion that when this man first entered the hospital he was merely suffering from a simple case of malaria and not enteric fever, as you have diagnosed. Since then his kidneys have become affected, and he now suffers from both malaria and lumbago. For the fever, give him ten grains of quinine three times a day for two days and gradually diminish the quantity until the fever abates entirely. Begin to feed him after the second day. For the lumbago, give him at least two quarts of lithia water to drink each day. Now as to the man's mental calibre, I find him perfectly sane and normal. But owing to a fracture of the skull sustained by him some time in the past, the two sides of his brain have become separated, causing two distinct personalities to exist. When one side of the brain works, the other side remains dormant, and vice versa. He likewise possesses a dual memory, and is only capable of recollecting events as they happen separately and distinctly, according to the side of the brain which takes the impression. Consequently, this man may have lived a perfectly sane life during the past twenty-one years, of which he claims to have no recollection. He may at any time in the future resume either personality by some slight mental disturbance, but his two personalities will always remain as strangers to each other."
Having thus delivered himself, the doctor, who apparently was bent upon making a few more thousand dollar calls that day, hurriedly, but with great dignity, strode out of the room, closely followed by the other physicians.
After they had departed, and we were alone, Arletta pulled a chair up close to the head of my bed, and, looking steadily and earnestly into my eyes, said: "I sincerely hope, Mr. Convert, that you may never again resume your other personality."
The change from a charity patient to the highest paid patient in the Ruff Hospital bore magical results, and I was soon on the road to recovery. The quinine knocked all the fever out of me within two days. The food I was given to eat after fasting two months, began to strengthen me at once and within ten days I was able to walk about the room. Arletta never failed to visit me at least once each day, and on some days, two and three times. With each visit she brought flowers, fruit, or some little delicacy, and I was not long in discovering that she was taking more than an ordinary interest in me. As the days flew by, her visits became more frequent and of longer duration, until finally it seemed as if she almost lived in my apartment. Many times she came in the morning and remained all day, taking her lunch with me in the meantime. As my health improved, and I became more vigorous in bodily strength, those same feelings of admiration and love I bore for the first Arletta took a firm hold of me until it seemed that she was a part of my very life. Ah! those were happy and heavenly days indeed. The happiness I enjoyed there, was of that kind which can only exist between two souls fore-ordained and mated to each other for all eternity. As the time went by-all too rapidly-we had much to talk about. Arletta described the many progressive strides made by science and invention during the twenty-one years in which my mind was a blank, and I told her hair-raising stories of my early travels and adventures in all parts of the world. We said very little regarding my other personality. That subject appeared distasteful, and caused her to shudder whenever it was brought up. She seemed to think that in my other character I was all that was low, mean and contemptible, while she openly avowed that my present self was noble, honorable, and manly.
There was one hitch, however, which seemed to take root and stand threateningly in the path of absolute harmony between us, and that was my belief in Natural Law. She refused to believe the story I told her of the wonderful Sagewoman of whom she was the re-incarnation, claiming that it was nothing more nor less than a fancy of my disordered brain. She also seemed greatly displeased when I informed her that it was my intention to go out into the world and teach the principles of Natural Law. It pained her to think that I should allow myself to even question the authenticity and infallibility of the Bible. Her faith was so strong and her nature so gentle that I refrained from discussing the subject in any form, after I found how much she grieved over it. So I said no more about my experience with the divine Sagewoman and my promise to follow her instructions during the remainder of my natural life, but confined my conversation to other subjects, and to the full enjoyment of her daily companionship during my period of convalescence.
Day by day my weight and strength increased, until at last the time arrived for me to quit the hospital and go into the outer world. I had made no plans as to what I should do when thrown upon my own resources, but felt confident that once well and strong I should find plenty of work to do with both my hands and brain. Arletta, who appeared to have an unlimited bank account, was generously supplying me with every comfort and luxury that money could purchase, notwithstanding my earnest protests against it. The tailor had visited me, taken my measure, and returned a fine black frock suit of clothes. The hatter had furnished a silk tile, the shoemaker, shoes, and the haberdasher all the other articles necessary to complete my wearing apparel in the most up-to-date style. The barber, the manicurists, and even the chiropodist had visited me and taken extra pains in polishing me off.
"You are the handsomest old gentleman in New York," said Arletta, girlishly, as she saw me for the first time dressed in street clothes, and all ready to take my departure. "But you do not look so old, after all," she added reflectively, "if it were not for your white hair you might pass for a man of thirty-five. My! what a great big fellow you are! Really, I am afraid that all of the women at the Waldoria will become infatuated with you at first sight," continued she, critically looking me over from head to foot.
"And what do you mean by the Waldoria?" inquired I.
"The Waldoria Hotel," answered she. "I have arranged for you to live there until you have thoroughly recuperated and regained your full strength-there, now, no more objections, or I shall become angry. At present, you are in my charge, and must do just what I tell you."
"Notwithstanding I consider the task of following your instructions a most pleasant one," replied I, "still it seems to me that I am not doing exactly right in accepting your most generous offerings, for the simple reason that I shall never be able to repay you for all you have done."
"I have been amply repaid already," said Arletta, "by the miraculous transformation of a very bad and offensive man whom I did not like, into a thoroughly good one whom I do like. So say no more about the matter, for the present at least. After you have fully recovered from the effects of the terrible ordeal through which you have just passed, then I shall consider any protests you may have to offer, but not before. I have ordered the carriage to come for you at noon, and have given instructions to have you taken to the hotel. When you arrive there, you will go to the head clerk's desk and hand him your card." Here she gave me a small package of visiting cards on which was inscribed "John Convert." "You will then ask to be shown to your apartments, which have been settled for in advance for one year, after which make yourself as comfortable as possible in the place. Do not mention your business in any way as it pertains to you and me. It will be impossible for me to see you as often as I should like, but whenever it is convenient I shall have you come and see me. I am stopping at a different hotel in another part of the city, and for reasons best known to myself, I shall continue to withhold my last name from you, as you seem to have no recollection of it whatever, and it will also be necessary for the present to meet you in some out-of-the-way place, which I will designate later. Perhaps some day you will learn who I am, and all about me, but until I am ready to furnish you with further information concerning my identity, I shall rely upon your honor as a man not to undertake, by any methods whatsoever, to discover who I am, or where I reside."
With this mysterious admonition and a tender farewell, Arletta left me in the depth of meditation as to what strange occurrence nature's storehouse might still contain for me, and a few minutes later I was notified that the carriage was in waiting.
It would be almost impossible to record my impressions of the different things that came to my notice for the first time in twenty-one years, as I was driven from the hospital to the hotel.
While great progress had taken place in many lines during that time, still after having had such a realistic mental picture of the wonders of Sage-land stamped upon my mind, the new inventions, such as trolley cars, automobiles, etc., which I had never seen before, seemed crude and insignificant.
As I passed from street to street I could not fail to observe the great disorder that prevailed everywhere, in the foremost city of the world. In the first place, I was struck by the inharmonious and ragged appearance of the buildings. Here was a tall skyscraper of nice white marble thirty stories high, towering up into the clouds like a great beanpole, while on one side of it was a squatty little two-story red brick structure, and on the other side a six-story brown stone building, the whole forming a most irregular and distracting appearance to the eye. In other places, right in the heart of the city, and adjoining well-designed buildings, were vacant lots inclosed by high ugly board fences, on which were painted fantastic and ridiculous advertisements.
These defects, of course, could only be thoroughly remedied by putting into force the logical economic principle of State ownership of all land and buildings, instead of permitting the individual to do as he pleased with property made valuable by the community.
The disarrangement of the buildings, however, merely typified the incongruous and illogical disorganization of the people themselves. For instance, here was a big, strong, well-fed fashionably groomed young man, walking along the street, carrying no heavier burden than a light walking stick, while just beside him was a half-starved old woman, almost bent double under the weight of a large basket of clothes she had washed for somebody else.
Then again, here were two big, strong men, perched upon the driver's seat of a magnificent carriage, drawn by two great powerful horses, and conveying about the city for recreation a dyspeptic lap-dog, while trudging along the gutter in search of work or something to eat was a weak, ill-fed, broken-down old man, who had, no doubt, given the best years of his life to the actual labor which had increased the wealth of the community.
Along the streets everywhere were dirty young boys of tender age, who should have been at school or play, rushing madly in every direction, trying to earn a few cents by the sale of newspapers, polishing shoes, and acting as chore boys.
Little brass bands were scattered about here and there, braying forth inharmoniously, and organ grinders and street piano players were rending the air with bad music in return for a few pennies, thrown to them by passing pedestrians.
Venders of fruit, shoe-strings, collar-buttons, and other light merchandise were scattered along the sidewalks and gutters, trying to earn a living by the sale of their wares, while beggars occasionally stopped the more fortunate members of society with pathetic importunities for money to buy bread.
Cabmen and horses were wasting the public power by standing idly about waiting for engagements, or else driving aimlessly in all directions, searching for patronage.
Wagons of every description were rushing about hither and thither in a wretchedly unsystematic method of retail delivery, utilizing in many cases the labor of two men and a team of horses to carry a small package several miles distant.
Countless little retail merchants, with an incalculable force of managers, clerks, book-keepers, errand boys, etc., were fairly throwing away the public power in enormous quantities through the brainless struggle of competitive trade.
All these imperfections could be extirpated by the abolition of the money system, thought I, as the carriage came to a standstill in front of a great brown stone edifice, and the driver announced that we had reached our destination. The door of the carriage was swung open by a uniformed employee, and, alighting therefrom, I was immediately ushered into the main office of the leading institution of its kind in the World—the Waldoria Hotel.
It was quite a new sensation for me to enter this great hostelry as a guest, having spent the fore part of my life as a rough adventurer who had never known the meaning of luxury or refinement. But still, somehow or other, it always seemed natural for me to carry myself properly in whatever position I happened to be placed, and on this occasion I felt composed and at my ease as I entered and made known my identity to the head clerk.
This pompous servant showed extraordinary affability and politeness toward me, which caused me to wonder how I should have been received by him had I been a shoemaker, a carpenter, or some other honest son of toil, whose labor increases the wealth of the world, instead of a moneyed gentleman of leisure and extravagance, as he evidently supposed me to be.
"Your secretary has deposited five thousand dollars to your credit here, Mr. Convert," said he, handing me a blank cheque book, "so if you will kindly give me your signature for certification, you can then draw upon that amount as you see fit."
In astonishment I was about to inform him that I had no secretary, and that the money was not mine, when it occurred to me that perhaps Arletta, or her agent, if she had one, must have pretended to be my secretary. So I said nothing and did as requested.
Upon being shown to my apartments, a handsomely furnished suite of two rooms and a bath, upon the tenth floor, I was further amazed to find therein a trunk, two dress-suit cases, a traveling bag, and six suits of fine clothes, made in different styles, from an evening dress to a sack business suit. And the bedstead, tables and bureaus were literally covered with articles, such as a bath-robe, pajamas, underwear, shirts, collars, cuffs, gloves, hats, shoes, etc., all brand new and marked "John Convert." Upon the dressing case was a small jewel box, containing several kinds of gold cuff buttons, diamond scarf pins, and a solid gold watch, on the inside of which was inscribed, "From Arletta to John."
It took some time for me to get over the wonderment into which I was plunged at the sight of these things, and the contemplation of how far Arletta intended going before ceasing her benevolent acts towards me, but after spending an hour or two in becoming accustomed to my surroundings and putting the various articles away into the bureaus and wardrobes, I decided to make a general survey of the entire hotel premises.
I learned that the Waldoria Hotel was thirty stories high, and covered an entire block in the most fashionable district in New York City. In many ways it resembled a small city in itself, containing a bank, theatre, music hall, photograph gallery, art studio, gymnasium, laundry, electric plant, Turkish baths, tonsorial apartments, brokers' offices, library, and various ball-rooms, besides four different restaurants, two cafes, and several reception and smoking rooms for the use of its patrons.
The entire roof of the building was utilized as a promenade and summer garden for musical entertainments.
The hotel could accommodate about three thousand guests, who occupied apartments, the rentals of which cost from three to one hundred and fifty dollars per day. About two thousand employees were necessary to keep the establishment in good running order. Each floor had a separate clerk and corps of attendants, and nobody could gain admission to any of the apartment floors except the occupants and their guests.
All of the apartments of the hotel, from the magnificent "Royal Suite" to the single bedrooms of the transients, were furnished in the most luxurious manner possible. Costly draperies, priceless paintings, and exquisite furnishings of every description, adorned the drawing-rooms, ball-rooms, foyers and restaurants. Statues of ancient personages ornamented the different hallways, while the carved marble and woodwork seen everywhere showed splendid workmanship. Sweet strains of music from the orchestras stationed in different balconies could be heard in most any part of the building.
Seated on either side of the long, commodious corridors, on lounges overhung by palms and tropical plants of various descriptions, were men and women of the fashionable set, who represented the largest portion of wealth of the community.
The women with their low-cut gowns, highly perfumed, and weighted down with jewels of every kind, formed a brilliant spectacle that was bewitching and bewildering to behold. They vied with one another in the display of their gorgeous gowns and jewels, with the desire to impress upon each other thereby the wealth they possessed and the position they held in society. In fact, wealth seemed to be the predominant feature of their whole existence.
Beautiful young women scarcely out of their teens, could be seen paying all of their attentions to decrepit, bald-headed old men of apparent opulence, while on the other hand, young and athletic looking men were courting women old enough to be their grandmothers. In either case, the young were quite willing to sell their persons for wealth. These unnatural facts plainly demonstrated to what depths the human being, will go in an endeavor to secure money, or the power derived therefrom.
In the restaurants, the most criminal extravagance was practiced by these moneyed people, in many cases the costly viands and high-priced wines ordered being only partly consumed, and the remainder left to be thrown into the waste barrel. In fact, it appeared that the individual's importance was gauged by the amount of money he could spend, and men who no doubt in a great many cases squeezed the pennies from the poor laboring classes through their different financial methods of confiscation, thought nothing of spending from five to fifty dollars for a single meal.
In short, I found the Waldoria Hotel to be a sort of a heavenly place, infested principally by hellish beings-a welcome nest for people with money but a very unwelcome place for persons who had none. It made absolutely no difference how people got their money as long as they had it.
The stone masons, iron-workers, carpenters, painters, plumbers and other laborers who built the beautiful edifice were not allowed inside of it. The furniture makers, carpet and tapestry weavers, interior decorators, etc., through whose skill the hotel was made grand, were not permitted to enjoy the magnificence of their own creation. But owing to the stupid money system, which these laborers them selves help to keep in force, the results of their combined efforts were either usurped by an unproductive class fortunate enough to be born rich, or those shrewd enough to accumulate money, such as trust managers, bankers, real estate speculators, stock jobbers, and brokers, gamblers, burglars, money loan swindlers, high salaried clergymen, etc.
In looking over the daily newspapers the next morning my attention was forcefully called to the fact that fully nine-tenths of the news columns was given to the promulgation of crime in all its various forms, of which ninety per cent could be directly traced to the money evil, of which the system of individual accumulation must be held responsible. For the benefit of future generations who may desire information that will give them an exact idea of the real value of their civilized ancestors, I herewith reproduce a few extracts from the newspapers, word for word, just as the despatches were published.
"Albany, N. Y., Special Despatch: It is reported on high authority that State Senator Grab has received a half million dollars, to be distributed among the various senators and assemblymen, for the purpose of securing their votes in exchange for certain legislative laws that will favor the Gas Trust in its iniquitous squeeze of the people for higher rates. Several senators have openly threatened to vote against these measures, claiming that Senator Grab is acting the hog and will not divide the booty fairly among them."
"Fall River, Mass.: Ten thousand workingmen and women have been thrown out of employment by the mills of this city, owing to the unprecedented rise in the price of cotton, caused by the recent manipulations of that famous Wall Street speculator, Dan Bull, who by forcing up the prices in the speculative market has added millions to his own bank account during the past few weeks. The mills have been shut down indefinitely and starvation is now facing thousands of men, women and children as a consequence."
"Brooklyn, N. Y.: The marriage ceremony between the Right Reverend Q. T. Getrich, Bishop of New York, and Mrs. E. Z. Money was solemnized here today with great pomp, and attended by some of the very wealthiest and most fashionable people of the country. It has been suggested by some ungodly reprobate that perhaps the young and handsome bishop married the fat and aged widow to gain possession of her millions, but this sacrilegious imputation is furiously resented by all pious church members."
"Chicago, Ill.: Municipal ownership of public utilities seems to have been given a serious setback by the very costly and unsuccessful experiment this city undertook in operating its own electric and water plants during the past year. It appears that city officials are just as susceptible to the charm of money as private corporations, and just as willing, by corrupt methods, to fleece the public in order to obtain it. It is evident that as long as there is money in use there will always be boodlers."
"Baltimore, Md.: The pure food inspectors of this city after having made an inspection of the different canned goods, have come to the conclusion that at least ninety per cent. of the same is adulterated and that the public is being slowly poisoned to death. The greed of the various concerns which produce these things for bigger profits, causes them to use cheap chemicals in their adulterative methods in place of higher priced and genuine substances. These inspectors make the astonishing statement that they believe all foods and drinks are more or less adulterated and that in the general rush for money profits, the inhabitants of the world are actually poisoning each other by slow degrees."
"St. Louis, Mo.: An epidemic of diphtheria is raging in this city and hundreds of children are dying daily from the effects of its ravages. The deaths in most cases are children of the poorer classes who cannot afford to pay the exorbitant prices lately put upon antitoxin by the Medicine Trust. This trust, which controls the supply of antitoxin, has increased the price nearly two hundred per cent, during the past year at different intervals, until it has now become absolutely prohibitive to all except the wealthy. Unless there is something done immediately to alleviate this condition of affairs, the lives of thousands of young children will be blotted out, which might otherwise have been saved."
"Kokomo, Ind.: An awful tragedy took place in this town yesterday when Peter Doles, apparently driven insane from poverty and want of employment, killed his wife and five children by splitting their heads open with an axe, and afterward thrust a knife into his own heart. Doles was at one time a wealthy citizen of this place, but speculation was the cause of his downfall."
"Philadelphia, Pa.: A terrible state of affairs has been brought to light here by the police who have discovered that a regular system of child murder has been in practice for some time by a syndicate of fiends who murder children for the insurance. These fiends, who secured their victims from regularly operated baby farms of illegitimate children, would have their lives insured for large sums and then destroy them afterwards, in order to obtain the insurance money."
"Paterson, N. J.: U. R. Dire was sentenced to be hung today for the murder of his father. Some time ago, young Dire obtained information that his millionaire father was about to make a new will, and cut him off without money, so he deliberately entered into a cold-blooded plan with his father's secretary to murder the old man by poison. The secretary afterward turned State's evidence and upon his testimony the young man was convicted."
"Reno, Nev.: This town was the scene of murderous outlawry last night when an organized band of burglars gained entrance to a local bank, and blew up the vaults. The night watchman discovered their presence, and raising an alarm brought the police and other citizens to the premises. Then occurred a general encounter between the police and the burglars in which over a hundred shots were fired, causing the death of three policemen, two private citizens and four of the burglars. The remainder of the desperadoes jumped on their horses and escaped with the money."
"Boston, Mass.: Rev. D. D. Sly, the eminent clergyman of this city, announced today that he has received a call from the Lord to take up his work in another field. He will leave at once for New York City, where he will take charge of a fashionable Fifth Avenue pastorate. Reverend Sly's salary will be increased from two thousand five hundred to five thousand dollars per annum through the change, which once more brings up the question as to whether the Lord was ever known to call a pastor to a new field at a lower salary."
"Buffalo, N. Y.: A case brought up in court here today shows to what extent the extortionate loan sharks will go in their greed for money. It was proved that two years ago O. U. Curr loaned Mrs. Kate Poor, a washer-woman with three small children, the sum of fifty dollars on household furniture. A contract was entered into, whereby the widow was to pay interest at the rate of twenty per cent per month until the principal had been paid. Mrs. Poor stated under oath that she has already paid Curr, in monthly installments, over three hundred dollars and that she is still indebted to him for the original loan of fifty dollars."
"Scranton, Pa.: Trades Unionism is receiving a great deal of public censure at present in this city, owing to the recent disclosure made against Judas Pilate, a union agent, who has been blackmailing different contractors for several years past, by making them pay him large sums of money, under threats of ordering union men to strike. It has been proved that Pilate has secured over fifty thousand dollars by this method. His followers, however, still remain loyal to him, notwithstanding he sold them out many times and brought disrepute upon Trades Unionism."
"Harrisburg, Pa.: The various manufacturers of cigarettes in this state have banded together to defeat the Anti-Cigarette League in its efforts to have laws passed forbidding the sale of cigarettes to children. While the manufacturers do not deny that the cigarette is wrecking the physical, mental, and moral character of the American youth, they contend that it will prove detrimental to their business interests, and thereby cause a loss of many thousand dollars if the Anti-Cigarette Law is put into effect. Reliable statistics for the past three years show that one hundred thousand children are ruined annually by smoking cigarettes."
"Pittsburg, Pa.: The Steel Trust has made a general reduction in the salaries of all its employees throughout the United States, which will decrease the wages of the worker from ten to twenty per cent, and affecting in the neighborhood of two hundred thousand men. It is estimated that this sweeping reduction will save the Steel Trust approximately twenty millions of dollars per year. Owing to the manipulations of the Wall Street schemers, this saving becomes necessary to keep the Trust in existence, as in the great merger of the several different steel companies, the actual valuation of the plants was increased one hundred times over in watered stock, so that it not only becomes necessary for those who do the labor to pay dividends on bona fide investments of the capitalists, but to pay dividends on watered stock criminally increased one hundred fold besides. This decrease in wages will cause great suffering among the laboring classes, for, owing to the increased cost of living caused by the raising of prices by the various food trusts, it is almost impossible for the ordinary man to make both ends meet. It appears to all thoughtful students of political economy that the object of those in control of the money markets is to limit the supply of necessities of life, so that the demand for them will force prices up, and, by decreasing production, will cause a superfluous quantity of labor, which, in turn, will force wages down. With cheap labor to produce, and a high selling price for the production, the trust managers and other financiers have easily solved the question of how to legally confiscate the wealth of the world."
"New York City: A great war is now being waged between the rich tenement house owners and their poor tenants on the East Side, which promises to end in lawlessness, riots, and much suffering in consequence. It appears that the owners of these houses have increased the rents from time to time until they are now beyond the reach of the tenants' ability to pay. At least three thousand of these occupants have banded together to fight the last raise, while the landlords have also combined to evict them unless they comply with the terms. The tenants, who are mostly hard working laborers, claim that it is utterly impossible for them to meet the extortionate prices of foods, fuel, gas, oil, and rents, now being forced upon them by the financiers with the small amount of wages that they receive for their work from the industrialists, and if they are evicted from their present homes it is a problem as to what they will do or where they will go. The landlords claim that is none of their concern; that they themselves are merely following the system now in existence of getting all they can, through their property rights, according to the law of supply and demand. Some of them even claim that these tenants are nothing more than vermin, anyway, and that it would be well to push them all into the East River and exterminate them entirely."
The newspaper articles, which I have reproduced, are but a few of the thousands chronicled daily of the terrible crimes which take place in all parts of civilized Christendom over the individual possession of money, or its equivalent, and they also demonstrate that after nineteen hundred years of Christianity the world still remains in a savage state. The Christian must admit, if he will stop and consider, that there must be something lacking in his religion, if after all these centuries, such barbarous conditions still exist. What is lacking? This question can be answered in a few words. The abolition of the money system. The eradication of individual accumulation. The substitution of united labor and honest distribution. The adherence to the principles of Natural Law.
Had Christ taught Natural Law instead of supernatural religion, had he been an organizer and started a movement toward the abolition of the money system and established a united labor organization in place of the system of individual accumulation, the world long ere this would have been a heavenly abiding place for the human family, instead of a seething furnace of petty quarrels, murderous fights, and selfish strife among all of the inhabitants.
Why should one hog have more to eat than another? Why should one man have more luxuries and privileges than another? Why should the man who conceives an idea receive a greater reward than he who puts the idea into execution? Why should the man who works with his brain have more of the sweets of life than he who works with his hands? Why should the man who lays the brick have more of the world's goods than he who carries the brick mortar to him? These questions do not apply alone to the capitalist, but also to the laborer as well, and as long as the laboring classes champion the cutthroat policy of grading man's allowance according to his ability, of giving more to one than another, owing to a slight difference of brain capacity, he should not, after showing his own greediness in this respect, expect the capitalist not to be greedy also. He must learn that all men should have equal opportunities and benefits from the whole production of united labor. As long as money exists, so long will fights and quarrels take place between capital and labor, and between the different branches of labor as well. The laborer will fight the capitalist until he in turn becomes a capitalist, and then he will turn about and fight the laborer. So there is but one reasonable method to pursue in order to better the conditions on earth, and to eliminate suffering and crime entirely, and that method is to strike at the very root of the cause, and abolish money and the system of individual accumulation.
My sojourn at the Waldoria Hotel was a rather pleasant one in many ways. I enjoyed the luxury and refinement of the surroundings. The harmonious music of the orchestras was pleasant to listen to, and the magnificent paintings and beautiful works of art were pleasing to the eye. I also took some pleasure in wearing the different suits of fine clothes with which I had been supplied, and in making my own person appear as well as possible in the eyes of others. I even enjoyed entering the spacious and luxurious restaurants and eating sparingly of some of the delicious viands prepared by the scientific chef. In fact, the many delightful advantages to be derived from living at the Waldoria directly appealed to me as being some of the blessings supplied by nature for all human beings to enjoy.
But still there was a serious drawback to my thorough and absolute enjoyment of these conditions, when I took into consideration the fact that I was in no way responsible for their existence. I was accepting something from the community, but giving nothing in return. I felt that in living at the Waldoria, and doing no work for the community, I was like a great sponge soaking up the life-blood of honest toil, and returning nothing for the sustenance it afforded me. I felt that I should at least go to work and do something that would help to pay for my keeping. True it was that I had the money to pay for these things, but where did the money come from? Where does all money come from? To have money to pay for things does not mean that one has earned them. So I decided that I would go to work as soon as possible, and give to the community an equivalent for the things I enjoyed.
But then, the great difficulty arose when I tried to find something to do. It made little difference what kind of work I should engage in as long as it was of a productive nature. But when I went around looking for employment, I discovered that there was none to be had.
It is certainly a most unnatural system which fails to utilize all the power at its command for the good of universal production, and it seems hard to realize that such conditions can exist; but during my wanderings from street to street, store to store, and factory to factory, throughout the great commonwealth of New York, I discovered that besides myself, there were also thousands of other earnest men tramping the streets, willing, but unable, to find work. At last, however, I was put in the peculiar position of having to pay to work. One day, after a week of unsuccessful attempts to obtain employment, I ran across one of the sub-bosses of the street-cleaning department. Making known my desire to him, I was amazed when he told me that he would let me work on condition that I paid him twenty-five dollars for the job and promised to give him ten per cent. of my wages each month. He informed me that all of the men under his charge had to do likewise. In fact, he intimated that in order to hold his own position as sub-boss he had to pay this money to bosses higher up in the department.
And so in order to feel that I was at least doing something for the community to earn my right to live, I was forced to pay for the opportunity and also to aid in keeping alive one of the many systems of graft, which unnaturally swallows up the results of honest men's labor. So I began work as a street-sweeper—a position looked upon generally as one of the lowest in the scale of human employment. Why the man who sweeps the streets, making clean and wholesome the thoroughfares, which have to be traveled constantly by the people, and saving the public from filth and disease, should be looked down upon by the rest of his fellow beings for doing this great service, seems beyond the limits of sane reasoning; but such is the case in this world, where money is the god worshiped by all.
An illustrative incident occurred while I held the unique position of street-sweeper, and at the same time being a guest at the fashionable Waldoria Hotel. I had become acquainted with many of the wealthy guests of the place, who, no doubt, supposing me to be a man of riches, courted my society to some extent. In fact, I had become rather popular among the permanent residents. There was one family in particular, a certain Mrs. Snipe and her two daughters, who took every occasion to pay me attentions, until one day as I was engaged in my daily work on the street, some distance from the hotel, I noticed a carriage approaching which held Mrs. Snipe and her brood. They were all looking straight at me, but gave no sign of recognition as they passed along. That evening, after I had changed my working clothes, which by the way, resembled the white duck outfit worn by an African explorer, and, having left them in the tool-house, I went home and attired myself in evening dress. Again I met the Snipe family in one of the foyers of the hotel. The old lady, accompanied by her eligible daughters, approached me and said: "Mr. Convert, I have something awfully funny to tell you. It is just too funny to keep to myself. You have a double; we saw him today. Now, don't get angry when I tell you where we saw him and who he is, but he resembled you so much that if it were not for the position he occupied I should have sworn it was you. He was a member of the street-sweeping brigade, and if you wish to see him just go over to Fifth avenue and Twenty-sixth street tomorrow and you can see for yourself. There, now, you are not angry, are you?"
"No," answered I, "the person you refer to I have seen many times. There is nothing to be angry about. Certainly, not because he holds the honorable position of cleaning the streets which you have to travel."
"Honorable," retorted Mrs. Snipe; "you must be joking. I cannot understand how an aristocratic gentleman like yourself would otherwise make such an absurd remark."
"I am not joking at all," said I; "in my estimation, the street-sweeper belongs to the most honorable portion of mankind. He is down-trodden by society now, owing to an unnatural system which permits the strong to take the largest portion of wealth and rule; but the day will come when men who sweep the streets or occupy other positions of worth to the community, will enjoy the same luxuries and surroundings that you and other non-producers now enjoy. They will live in the palaces now occupied by the parasites who do no work. Such places as the Waldoria Hotel will be utilized for their benefit, and those who do not work, those who claim the right to live without labor, will be thrown out entirely."
"Why, Mr. Convert, what do you mean by talking in such a beastly way? If you are so fond of those vulgar street-sweepers, why don't you become one of them?"
"I have," I answered. "The man you saw today sweeping the streets was none other than myself, and I am proud of it."
"You are either joking or else you have gone out of your mind," said Mrs. Snipe with a look of disgust. But upon my reiteration that I was really the man she saw, both she and her daughters abruptly left my presence and never looked at me afterwards. They no doubt communicated the text of our conversation to the different people of the hotel, also, for I discovered later that the other guests with whom I had become acquainted, not only refused to converse with me, but regarded me as a sort of curiosity or peculiar freak of nature. They would pass me on the street, where I was working at different times, in their gorgeous carriages, and, calling each other's attention would pass jokes at my expense, and laugh loud and mockingly at me. At first these things troubled me to some degree, but gradually I gathered courage to bear their sneers-courage such as I had never experienced before.
I had faced all manner of dangers during my life without fear, but I had never known the real meaning of courage until I made up my mind to do right under all conditions, and accept the ridicule of my fellow beings without resentment. In my humble position I could now appreciate the philosophy and the true greatness of the Sagewoman's beautiful lessons of unselfishness. I felt that I was just beginning to get strong-strong in the grandest attribute a human being can possess-moral courage. The great Sagewoman's teachings on forbearance were beginning to take root in my nature. I was learning to understand that I must work and feel for others, regardless of my own selfish desires.
One day, while I was busily engaged in my daily toil, my attention became attracted to a big, fashionably dressed man, standing on the sidewalk near by, calmly smoking a high-priced cigar. He was apparently about thirty years of age, six feet tall, and weighed over two hundred pounds. He was beastly in appearance, and looked as if he considered his own selfish wants as the only things in the world worth attention. He probably had never done an honest day's labor in his life. A ragged old man, about sixty years of age, who apparently had given his whole life to productive toil, but now feeble and half-starved in appearance, approached and appealed to him for a few cents with which to buy something to eat. The big fellow roughly told him to go along and not bother him, and the old man, not doing as he was ordered, the young man deliberately swung his fist and struck the poor beggar between the eyes, knocking him senseless to the pavement. For a moment I was dumbfounded by this exhibition of brutality, and then instantly every drop of blood in my body was set boiling at the sight. I lost control of myself. My old-time pugnacious spirit asserted itself, and I sprang forward like a maddened bull, striking the brute a vicious blow upon the head with my fist, and sending him sprawling several feet away. As he scrambled to his feet, in a dazed condition, I rushed forward furiously, with the intention of felling him to the ground. After allowing him to regain his feet, I raised my arm to deal a well-directed blow with all my strength, when something within me suddenly cried out: "Don't strike." "Don't make a brute of yourself because the other did." "Let the law take its course." And, as I hesitated momentarily, there passed through my mind like an electric flash, these words:
"Always consult your soul for advice.
"Do no act your conscience will not sanction."
Then instantly recognizing the mandate I had so faithfully promised the great Sagewoman to obey, I overcame my rage and allowed my arms to fall to my sides without striking another blow.
Two policemen hurriedly approached the scene. I stated what had occurred and requested them to take the bully to jail. To my surprise, however, at the command of the well-dressed ruffian, who I afterward learned was a wealthy financier, both myself and the beggar were taken to the station-house. I was fined ten dollars, and the poor old man was sentenced to jail for thirty days.
While I knew that in this case the law of justice had been misapplied in favor of the cowardly Wretch with money, nevertheless I felt that I had gained incalculable strength in self-control by not acting contrary to the warning of my soul and making of myself the same kind of a brute as the one whom I had intended to injure.
Central Park is a tract of land situate in the middle of residential New York. It is oblong in shape, being two miles in length, half a mile in width and covering an area of about eight hundred and sixty acres. The ground has been artificially changed from a wild waste to one of the most beautiful spots to be found anywhere. It is coursed by a net-work of splendid drive-ways, equestrian roads and foot-paths running in all directions among the many little rocky hills and miniature lakes. Trees, flower-beds and shrubbery of various kinds have been cleverly arranged by skilled artists to form a delightfully picturesque effect. Chirping birds of many colors and tame squirrels in multitudinous numbers find this park a heavenly abiding place where the danger of annihilation is minimized. Playgrounds for the children are laid out in different parts of the domain while a zoological garden where animals are kept imprisoned in small cages for the term of their natural lives, is put forth as one of its many features.
As one passes through the entrance gate at Seventy-eighth street and Central Park West, and turns first to the right, then to the left, and finally to the right again, following a foot-path similar in its windings to a letter S, and crossing two small bridges, he will come to an abrupt ending of a narrow path running into an immense projecting rock. Here is located a canopied seat just large enough for two people. Facing this shelter is a small lake, on the edge of which overhanging trees afford delightful shade during the hot months. That was the place selected by Arletta for our meeting ground. It was an out-of-the-way, quiet and romantic spot where we spent many pleasant afternoons and evenings enjoying each other's company. Whenever Arletta wanted to see me she sent a note which never failed to bring me there. In fact, such a feeling of enchantment did the place hold for me, that many times I wandered out there and sat alone for hours, musing.