To Whom This May Come

Edward Bellamy

07 Jul, 2014 10:05 PM

IT is now about a year since I took passage at Calcutta in the ship Adelaide for
New York. We had baffling weather till New Amsterdam Island was sighted, where
we took a new point of departure. Three days later, a terrible gale struck us.
Four days we flew before it, whither, no one knew, for neither sun, moon, nor
stars were at any time visible, and we could take no observation. Toward
midnight of the fourth day, the glare of lightning revealed the Adelaide in a
hopeless position, close in upon a low-lying shore, and driving straight toward
it. All around and astern far out to sea was such a maze of rocks and shoals
that it was a miracle we had come so far. Presently the ship struck, and almost
instantly went to pieces, so great was the violence of the sea. I gave myself
up for lost, and was indeed already past the worst of drowning, when I was
recalled to consciousness by being thrown with a tremendous shock upon the
beach. I had just strength enough to drag myself above the reach of the waves,
and then I fell down and knew no more.

When I awoke, the storm was over. The sun, already halfway up the sky, had
dried my clothing, and renewed the vigor of my bruised and aching limbs. On sea
or shore I saw no vestige of my ship or my companions, of whom I appeared the
sole survivor. I was not, however, alone. A group of persons, apparently the
inhabitants of the country, stood near, observing me with looks of friendliness
which at once freed me from apprehension as to my treatment at their hands.
They were a white and handsome people, evidently of a high order of
civilization, though I recognized in them the traits of no race with which I was

Seeing that it was evidently their idea of etiquette to leave it to strangers to
open conversation, I addressed them in English, but failed to elicit any
response beyond deprecating smiles. I then accosted them successively in the
French, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, and Portuguese tongues, but with no
better results. I began to be very much puzzled as to what could possibly be
the nationality of a white and evidently civilized race to which no one of the
tongues of the great seafaring nations was intelligible. The oddest thing of all
was the unbroken silence with which they contemplated my efforts to open
communication with them. It was as if they were agreed not to give me a clue to
their language by even a whisper; for while they regarded one another with looks
of smiling intelligence, they did not once open their lips. But if this
behavior suggested that they were amusing themselves at my expense, that
presumption was negatived by the unmistakable friendliness and sympathy which
their whole bearing expressed.

A most extraordinary conjecture occurred to me. Could it be that these strange
people were dumb? Such a freak of nature as an entire race thus afflicted had
never indeed been heard of, but who could say what wonders the unexplored vasts
of the great Southern Ocean might thus far have hid from human ken? Now, among
the scraps of useless information which lumbered my mind was an acquaintance
with the deaf-and-dumb alphabet and forthwith I began to spell out with my
fingers some of the phrases I had already uttered to so little effect. My
resort to the sign language overcame the last remnant of gravity in the already
profusely smiling group. The small boys now rolled on the ground in convulsions
of mirth, while the grave and reverend seniors, who had hitherto kept them in
check, were fain momentarily to avert their faces, and I could see their bodies
shaking with laughter. The greatest clown in the world never received a more
flattering tribute to his powers to amuse than had been called forth by mine to
make myself understood. Naturally, however, I was not flattered, but on the
contrary entirely discomfited. Angry I could not well be, for the deprecating
manner in which all, excepting of course the boys, yielded to their perception
of the ridiculous, and the distress they showed at their failure in
self-control, made me seem the aggressor. It was as if they were very sorry for
me, and ready to put themselves wholly at my service, if I would only refrain
from reducing them to a state of disability by being so exquisitely absurd.
Certainly this evidently amiable race had a very embarrassing way of receiving

Just at this moment, when my bewilderment was fast verging on exasperation,
relief came. The circle opened, and a little elderly man, who had evidently
come in haste, confronted me, and, bowing very politely, addressed me in
English. His voice was the most pitiable abortion of a voice I had ever heard.
While having all the defects in articulation of a child's who is just beginning
to talk, it was not even a child's in strength of tone, being in fact a mere
alternation of squeaks and whispers inaudible a rod away. With some difficulty
I was, however, able to follow him pretty nearly.

"As the official interpreter," he said, "I extend you a cordial welcome to these
islands. I was sent for as soon as you were discovered, but being at some
distance, I was unable to arrive until this moment. I regret this, as my
presence would have saved you embarrassment. My countrymen desire me to
intercede with you to pardon the wholly involuntary and uncontrollable mirth
provoked by your attempts to communicate with them. You see, they understood
you perfectly well, but could not answer you."

"Merciful heavens!" I exclaimed, horrified to find my surmise correct; "can it
be that they are all thus afflicted? Is it possible that you are the only man
among them who has the power of speech?"

Again it appeared that, quite unintentionally, I had said something
excruciatingly funny; for at my speech there arose a sound of gentle laughter
from the group, now augmented to quite an assemblage, which drowned the plashing
of the waves on the beach at our feet. Even the interpreter smiled.

"Do they think it so amusing to be dumb?" I asked.

"They find it very amusing," replied the interpreter, "that their inability to
speak should be regarded by any one as an affliction; for it is by the voluntary
disuse of the organs of articulation that they have lost the power of speech,
and, as a consequence, the ability even to understand speech."

"But," said I, somewhat puzzled by this statement, "did n't you just tell me
that they understood me, though they could not reply, and are they not laughing
now at what I just said?"

"It is you they understood, not your words," answered the interpreter. "Our
speech now is gibberish to them, as unintelligible in itself as the growling of
animals; but they know what we are saying, because they know our thoughts. You
must know that these are the islands of the mind-readers."

Such were the circumstances of my introduction to this extraordinary people.
The official interpreter being charged by virtue of his office with the first
entertainment of shipwrecked members of the talking nations, I became his guest,
and passed a number of days under his roof before going out to any considerable
extent among the people. My first impression had been the somewhat oppressive
one that the power to read the thoughts of others could be possessed only by
beings of a superior order to man. It was the first effort of the interpreter
to disabuse me of this notion. It appeared from his account that the experience
of the mind-readers was a case simply of a slight acceleration, from special
causes, of the course of universal human evolution, which in time was destined
to lead to the disuse of speech and the substitution of direct mental vision on
the part of all races. This rapid evolution of these islanders was accounted
for by their peculiar origin and circumstances.

Some three centuries before Christ, one of the Parthian kings of Persia, of the
dynasty of the Arsacidae, undertook a persecution of the sooth-sayers and
magicians in his realms. These people were credited with supernatural powers by
popular prejudice, but in fact were merely persons of special gifts in the way
of hypnotizing, mind-reading, thought transference, and such arts, which they
exercised for their own gain.

Too much in awe of the soothsayers to do them outright violence, the king
resolved to banish them, and to this end put them, with their families, on ships
and sent them to Ceylon. When, however, the fleet was in the neighborhood of
that island, a great storm scattered it, and one of the ships, after being
driven for many days before the tempest, was wrecked upon one of an archipelago
of uninhabited islands far to the south, where the survivors settled. Naturally,
the posterity of the parents possessed of such peculiar gifts had developed
extraordinary psychical powers.

Having set before them the end of evolving a new and advanced order of humanity,
they had aided the development of these powers by a rigid system of
stirpiculture. The result was that, after a few centuries, mind-reading became
so general that language fell into disuse as a means of communicating ideas.
For many generations the power of speech still remained voluntary, but gradually
the vocal organs had become atrophied, and for several hundred years the power
of articulation had been wholly lost. Infants for a few months after birth did,
indeed, still emit inarticulate cries, but at an age when in less advanced races
these cries began to be articulate, the children of the mind-readers developed
the power of direct vision, and ceased to attempt to use the voice.

The fact that the existence of the mind-readers had never been found out by the
rest of the world was explained by two considerations. In the first place, the
group of islands was small, and occupied a corner of the Indian Ocean quite out
of the ordinary track of ships. In the second place, the approach to the
islands was rendered so desperately perilous by terrible currents, and the maze
of outlying rocks and shoals, that it was next to impossible for any ship to
touch their shores save as a wreck. No ship at least had ever done so in the
two thousand years since the mind-readers' own arrival, and the Adelaide had
made the one hundred and twenty-third such wreck.

Apart from motives of humanity, the mind-readers made strenuous efforts to
rescue shipwrecked persons, for from them alone, through the interpreters, could
they obtain information of the outside world. Little enough this proved when,
as often happened, the sole survivor of the shipwreck was some ignorant sailor,
who had no news to communicate beyond the latest varieties of fore-castle
blasphemy. My hosts gratefully assured me that, as a person of some little
education, they considered me a veritable godsend. No less a task was mine than
to relate to them the history of the world for the past two centuries, and often
did I wish, for their sakes, that I had made a more exact study of it.

It is solely for the purpose of communicating with shipwrecked strangers of the
talking nations that the office of the interpreters exists. When, as from time
to time happens, a child is born with some powers of articulation, he is set
apart, and trained to talk in the interpreters' college. Of course the partial
atrophy of the vocal organs, from which even the best interpreters suffer,
renders many of the sounds of language impossible for them. None, for instance,
can pronounce v, f; or s; and as to the sound represented by th, it is five
generations since the last interpreter lived who could utter it. But for the
occasional inter-marriage of shipwrecked strangers with the islanders, it is
probable that the supply of interpreters would have long ere this quite failed.

I imagine that the very unpleasant sensations which followed the realization
that I was among people who, while inscrutable to me, knew my every thought,
were very much what any one would have experienced in the same case. They were
very comparable to the panic which accidental nudity causes a person among races
whose custom it is to conceal the figure with drapery. I wanted to run away and
hide myself. If I analyzed my feeling, it did not seem to arise so much from
the consciousness of any particularly heinous secrets, as from the knowledge of
a swarm of fatuous, ill-natured, and unseemly thoughts and half thoughts
concerning those around me, and concerning myself, which it was insuperable that
any person should peruse in however benevolent a spirit. But while my chagrin
and distress on this account were at first intense, they were also very
short-lived, for almost immediately I discovered that the very knowledge that my
mind was overlooked by others operated to check thoughts that might be painful
to them, and that, too, without more effort of the will than a kindly person
exerts to check the utterance of disagreeable remarks. As a very few lessons in
the elements of courtesy cures a decent person of inconsiderate speaking, so a
brief experience among the mind-readers went far in my case to check
inconsiderate thinking. It must not be supposed, however, that courtesy among
the mind-readers prevents them from thinking pointedly and freely concerning one
another upon serious occasions, any more than the finest courtesy among the
talking races restrains them from speaking to one another with entire plainness
whenit it is desirable to do so. Indeed, among the mind-readers, politeness
never can extend to the point of insincerity, as among talking nations, seeing
that it is always one another's real and inmost thought that they read. I may
fitly mention here, though it was not till later that I fully understood why it
must necessarily be so, that one need feel far less chagrin at the complete
revelation of his weaknesses to a mind-reader than at the slightest betrayal of
them to one of another race. For the very reason that the mind-reader reads all
your thoughts, particular thoughts are judged with reference to the general
tenor of thought. Your characteristic and habitual frame of mind is what he
takes account of. No one need fear being misjudged by a mind-reader on account
of sentiments or emotions which are not representative of the real character or
general attitude. Justice may, indeed, be said to be a necessary consequence of

As regards the interpreter himself, the instinct of courtesy was not long needed
to check wanton or offensive thoughts. In all my life before, I had been very
slow to form friendships, but before I had been three days in the company of
this stranger of a strange race, I had become enthusiastically devoted to him.
It was impossible not to be. The peculiar joy of friendship is the sense of
being understood by our friend as we are not by others, and yet of being loved
in spite of the understanding. Now here was one whose every word testified to a
knowledge of my secret thoughts and motives which the oldest and nearest of my
former friends had never, and could never, have approximated. Had such a
knowledge bred in him contempt of me, I should neither have blamed him nor been
at all surprised. Judge, then, whether the cordial friendliness which he showed
was likely to leave me indifferent.

Imagine my incredulity when he informed me that our friendship was not based
upon more than ordinary mutual suitability of temperaments. The faculty of
mind-reading, he explained, brought minds so close together, and so heightened
sympathy, that the lowest order of friendship between mind-readers implied a
mutual delight such as only rare friends enjoyed among other races. He assured
me that later on, when I came to know others of his race, I should find, by the
far greater intensity of sympathy and affection I should conceive for some of
them, how true this saying was.

It may be inquired how, on beginning to mingle with the mind-readers in general,
I managed to communicate with them, seeing that, while they could read my
thoughts, they could not, like the interpreter, respond to them by speech. I
must here explain that, while these people have no use for a spoken language, a
written language is needful for purposes of record. They consequently all know
how to write. Do they, then, write Persian? Luckily for me, no. It appears
that, for a long period after mind-reading was fully developed, not only was
spoken language disused, but also written, no records whatever having been kept
during this period. The delight of the people in the newly found power of
direct mind-to-mind vision, whereby pictures of the total mental state were
communicated, instead of the imperfect descriptions of single thoughts which
words at best could give, induced an invincible distaste for the laborious
impotence of language.

When, however, the first intellectual intoxication had, after several
generations, somewhat sobered down, it was recognized that records of the past
were desirable, and that the despised medium of words was needful to preserve
it. Persian had meanwhile been wholly forgotten. In order to avoid the
prodigious task of inventing a complete new language, the institution of the
interpreters was now set up, with the idea of acquiring through them a knowledge
of some of the languages of the outside world from the mariners wrecked on the

Owing to the fact that most of the castaway ships were English, a better
knowledge of that tongue was acquired than of any other, and it was adopted as
the written language of the people. As a rule, my acquaintances wrote slowly
and laboriously, and yet the fact that they knew exactly what was in my mind
rendered their responses so apt that, in my conversations with the slowest
speller of them all, the interchange of thought was as rapid and incomparably
more accurate and satisfactory than the fastest talkers attain to.

It was but a very short time after I had begun to extend my acquaintance among
the mind-readers before I discovered how truly the interpreter had told me I
should find others to whom, on account of greater natural congeniality, I should
become more strongly attached than I had been to him. This was in no wise,
however, because I loved him less, but them more. I would fain write
particularly of some of these beloved friends, comrades of my heart, from whom I
first learned the undreamed-of possibilities of human friendship, and how
ravishing the satisfactions of sympathy may be. Who, among those who may read
this, has not known that sense of a gulf fixed between soul and soul which mocks
love! Who has not felt that loneliness which oppresses the heart that loves it
best! Think no longer that this gulf is eternally fixed, or is any necessity of
human nature. It has no existence for the race of our fellow-men which I
describe, and by that fact we may be assured that eventually it will be bridged
also for us. Like the touch of shoulder to shoulder, like the clasping of
hands, is the contact of their minds and their sensation of sympathy.

I say that I would fain speak more particularly of some of my friends, but
waning strength forbids, and moreover, now that I think of it, another
consideration would render any comparison of their characters rather confusing
than instructive to a reader. This is the fact that, in common with the rest of
the mind-readers, they had no names. Every one had, indeed, an arbitrary sign
for his designation in records, but it has no sound value. A register of these
names is kept, so they can at any time be ascertained, but it is very common to
meet persons who have forgotten titles which are used solely for biographical
and official purposes. For social intercourse names are of course superfluous,
for these people accost one another merely by a mental act of attention, and
refer to third persons by transferring their mental pictures,--something as dumb
persons might by means of photographs. Something so, I say, for in the pictures
of one another's personalities which the mind-readers conceive, the physical
aspect, as might be expected with people who directly contemplate each other's
minds and hearts, is a subordinate element.

I have already told how my first qualms of morbid self-consciousness at knowing
that my mind was an open book to all around me disappeared as I learned that the
very completeness of the disclosure of my thoughts and motives was a guarantee
that I would be judged with a fairness and a sympathy such as even self-judgment
cannot pretend to, affected as that is by so many subtle reactions. The
assurance of being so judged by every one might well seem an inestimable
privilege to one accustomed to a world in which not even the tenderest love is
any pledge of comprehension, and yet I soon discovered that open-mindedness had
a still greater profit than this. How shall I describe the delightful
exhilaration of moral health and cleanness, the breezy oxygenated mental
condition, which resulted from the consciousness that I had absolutely nothing
concealed! Truly I may say that I enjoyed myself. I think surely that no one
needs to have had my marvelous experience to sympathize with this portion of it.
Are we not all ready to agree that this having a curtained chamber where we may
go to grovel, out of the sight of our fellows, troubled only by a vague
apprehension that God may look over the top, is the most demoralizing incident
in the human condition? It is the existence within the soul of this secure
refuge of lies which has always been the despair of the saint and the exultation
of the knave. It is the foul cellar which taints the whole house above, be it
never so fine.

What stronger testimony could there be to the instinctive consciousness that
concealment is debauching, and openness our only cure, than the world-old
conviction of the virtue of confession for the soul, and that the uttermost
exposing of one's worst and foulest is the first step toward moral health? The
wickedest man, if he could but somehow attain to writhe himself inside out as to
his soul, so that its full sickness could be seen, would feel ready for a new
life. Nevertheless, owing to the utter impotence of the words to convey mental
conditions in their totality, or to give other than mere distortions of them,
confession is, we must needs admit, but a mockery of that longing for
self-revelation to which it testifies. But think what health and soundness
there must be for souls among a people who see in every face a conscience which,
unlike their own, they cannot sophisticate, who confess one another with a
glance, and shrive with a smile! Ah, friends, let me now predict, though ages
may elapse before the slow event shall justify me, that in no way will the
mutual vision of minds, when at last it shall be perfected, so enhance the
blessedness of mankind as by rending the veil of self, and leaving no spot of
darkness in the mind for lies to hide in. Then shall the soul no longer be a
coal smoking among ashes, but a star in a crystal sphere.

From what I have said of the delights which friendship among the mind-readers
derives from the perfection of the mental rapport, it may be imagined how
intoxicating must be the experience when one of the friends is a woman, and the
subtle attractions and correspondences of sex touch with passion the
intellectual sympathy. With my first venturing into society I had begun, to
their extreme amusement, to fall in love with the women right and left. In the
perfect frankness which is the condition of all intercourse among this people,
these adorable women told me that what I felt was only friendship, which was a
very good thing, but wholly different from love, as I should well know if I were
beloved. It was difficult to believe that the melting emotions which I had
experienced in their company were the result merely of the friendly and kindly
attitude of their minds toward mine; but when I found that I was affected in the
same way by every gracious woman I met, I had to make up my mind that they must
be right about it, and that I should have to adapt myself to a world in which,
friendship being a passion, love must needs be nothing less than rapture.

The homely proverb, "Every Jack has his Gill," may, I suppose, be taken to mean
that for all men there are certain women expressly suited by mental and moral as
well as by physical constitution. It is a thought painful, rather than
cheering, that this may be the truth, so altogether do the chances preponderate
against the ability of these elect ones to recognize each other even if they
meet, seeing that speech is so inadequate and so misleading a medium of
self-revelation. But among the mind-readers, the search for one's ideal mate is
a quest reasonably sure of being crowned with success, and no one dreams of
wedding unless it be; for so to do, they consider, would be to throw away the
choicest blessing of life, and not alone to wrong themselves and their unfound
mates, but likewise those whom they themselves and those undiscovered mates
might wed. Therefore, passionate pilgrims, they go from isle to isle till they
find each other, and, as the population of the islands is but small, the
pilgrimage is not often long.

When I met her first we were in company, and I was struck by the sudden stir and
the looks of touched and smiling interest with which all around turned and
regarded us, the women with moistened eyes. They had read her thought when she
saw me, but this I did not know, neither what was the custom in these matters,
till afterward. But I knew, from the moment she first fixed her eyes on me, and
I felt her mind brooding upon mine, how truly I had been told by those other
women that the feeling with which they had inspired me was not love.

With people who become acquainted at a glance, and old friends in an hour,
wooing is naturally not a long process. Indeed, it may be said that between
lovers among mind-readers there is no wooing, but merely recognition. The day
after we met, she became mine.

Perhaps I cannot better illustrate how subordinate the merely physical element
is in the impression which mind-readers form of their friends than by mentioning
an incident that occurred some months after our union. This was my discovery,
wholly by accident, that my love, in whose society I had almost constantly been,
had not the least idea what was the color of my eyes, or whether my hair and
complexion were light or dark. Of course, as soon as I asked her the question,
she read the answer in my mind, but she admitted that she had previously had no
distinct impression on those points. On the other hand, if in the blackest
midnight I should come to her, she would not need to ask who the comer was. It
is by the mind, not the eye, that these people know one another. It is really
only in their relations to soulless and inanimate things that they need eyes at

It must not be supposed that their disregard of one another's bodily aspect
grows out of any ascetic sentiment. It is merely a necessary consequence of
their power of directly apprehending mind, that whenever mind is closely
associated with matter the latter is comparatively neglected on account of the
greater interest of the former, suffering as lesser things always do when placed
in immediate contrast with greater. Art is with them confined to the inanimate,
the human form having, for the reason mentioned, ceased to inspire the artist.
It will be naturally and quite correctly inferred that among such a race
physical beauty is not the important factor in human fortune and felicity that
it elsewhere is. The absolute openness of their minds and hearts to one another
makes their happiness far more dependent on the moral and mental qualities of
their companions than upon their physical. A genial temperament, a
wide-grasping, godlike intellect, a poet soul, are incomparably more fascinating
to them than the most dazzling combination conceivable of mere bodily graces.

A woman of mind and heart has no more need of beauty to win love in these
islands than a beauty elsewhere of mind or heart. I should mention here,
perhaps, that this race, which makes so little account of physical beauty, is
itself a singularly handsome one. This is owing doubtless in part to the
absolute compatibility of temperaments in all the marriages, and partly also to
the reaction upon the body of a state of ideal mental and moral health and

Not being myself a mind-reader, the fact that my love was rarely beautiful in
form and face had doubtless no little part in attracting my devotion. This, of
course, she knew, as she knew all my thoughts, and, knowing my limitations,
tolerated and forgave the element of sensuousness in my passion. But if it must
have seemed to her so little worthy in comparison with the high spiritual
communion which her race know as love, to me it became, by virtue of her almost
superhuman relation to me, an ecstasy more ravishing surely than any lover of my
race tasted before. The ache at the heart of the intensest love is the
impotence of words to make it perfectly understood to its object. But my
passion was without this pang, for my heart was absolutely open to her I loved.
Lovers may imagine, but I cannot describe, the ecstatic thrill of communion into
which this consciousness transformed every tender emotion. As I considered what
mutual love must be where both parties are mind-readers, I realized the high
communion which my sweet companion had sacrificed for me. She might indeed
comprehend her lover and his love for her, but the higher satisfaction of
knowing that she was comprehended by him and her love understood, she had
foregone. For that I should ever attain the power of mind-reading was out of
the question, the faculty never having been developed in a single lifetime.

Why my inability should move my dear companion to such depths of pity I was not
able fully to understand until I learned that mind-reading is chiefly held
desirable, not for the knowledge of others which it gives its possessors, but
for the self-knowledge which is its reflex effect. Of all they see in the minds
of others, that which concerns them most is the reflection of themselves, the
photographs of their own characters. The most obvious consequence of the
self-knowledge thus forced upon them is to render them alike incapable of
self-conceit or self-depreciation. Every one must needs always think of himself
as he is, being no more able to do otherwise than is a man in a hall of mirrors
to cherish delusions as to his personal appearance.

But self-knowledge means to the mind-readers much more than this,--nothing less,
indeed, than a shifting of the sense of identity. When a man sees himself in a
mirror, he is compelled to distinguish between the bodily self he sees and his
real self, which is within and unseen. When in turn the mind-reader comes to
see the mental and moral self reflected in other minds as in mirrors, the same
thing happens. He is compelled to distinguish between this mental and moral
self which has been made objective to him, and can

be contemplated by him as impartially as if it were another's, from the inner
ego which still remains subjective, unseen, and indefinable. In this inner ego
the mind-readers recognize the essential identity and being, the noumenal self,
the core of the soul, and the true hiding of its eternal life, to which the mind
as well as the body is but the garment of a day.

The effect of such a philosophy as this--which, indeed, with the mind-readers is
rather an instinctive consciousness than a philosophy--must obviously be to
impart a sense of wonderful superiority to the vicissitudes of this earthly
state, and a singular serenity in the midst of the haps and mishaps which
threaten or befall the personality. They did indeed appear to me, as I never
dreamed men could attain to be, lords of themselves.

It was because I might not hope to attain this enfranchisement from the false
ego of the apparent self, without which life seemed to her race scarcely worth
living, that my love so pitied me.

But I must hasten on, leaving a thousand things unsaid, to relate the lamentable
catastrophe to which it is owing that, instead of being still a resident of
those blessed islands, in the full enjoyment of that intimate and ravishing
companionship which by contrast would forever dim the pleasures of all other
human society, I recall the bright picture as a memory under other skies.

Among a people who are compelled by the very constitution of their minds to put
themselves in the places of others, the sympathy which is the inevitable
consequence of perfect comprehension renders envy, hatred, and uncharitableness
impossible. But of course there are people less genially constituted than
others, and these are necessarily the objects of a certain distaste on the part
of associates. Now, owing to the unhindered impact of minds upon one another,
the anguish of persons so regarded, despite the tenderest consideration of those
about them, is so great that they beg the grace of exile, that, being out of the
way, people may think less frequently upon them. There are numerous small
islets, scarcely more than rocks, lying to the north of the archipelago, and on
these the unfortunates are permitted to live. Only one lives on each islet, as
they cannot endure each other even as well as the more happily constituted can
endure them. From time to time supplies of food are taken to them, and of
course, any time they wish to take the risk, they are permitted to return to

Now, as I have said, the fact which, even more than their out-of-the-way
location, makes the islands of the mind-readers unapproachable, is the violence
with which the great antarctic current, owing probably to some configuration of
the ocean bed, together with the innumerable rocks and shoals, flows through and
about the archipelago.

Ships making the islands from the southward are caught by this current and drawn
among the rocks, to their almost certain destruction; while, owing to the
violence with which the current sets to the north, it is not possible to
approach at all from that direction, or at least it has never been accomplished.
Indeed, so powerful are the currents that even the boats which cross the narrow
straits between the main islands and the islets of the unfortunate, to carry the
latter their supplies, are ferried over by cables, not trusting to oar or sail.

The brother of my love had charge of one of the boats engaged in this
transportation, and, being desirous of visiting the islets, I accepted an
invitation to accompany him on one of his trips. I know nothing of how the
accident happened, but in the fiercest part of the current of one of the straits
we parted from the cable and were swept out to sea. There was no question of
stemming the boiling current, our utmost endeavors barely sufficing to avoid
being dashed to pieces on the rocks. From the first, there was no hope of our
winning back to the land, and so swiftly did we drift that by noon--the accident
having befallen in the morning--the islands, which are low-lying, had sunk
beneath the southwestern horizon.

Among these mind-readers, distance is not an insuperable obstacle to the
transfer of thought. My companion was in communication with our friends, and
from time to time conveyed to me messages of anguish from my dear love; for,
being well aware of the nature of the currents and the unapproachableness of the
islands, those we had left behind, as well as we ourselves, knew well we should
see each other's faces no more. For five days we continued to drift to the
northwest, in no danger of starvation, owing to our lading of provisions, but
constrained to unintermitting watch and ward by the roughness of the weather.
On the fifth day my companion died from exposure and exhaustion. He died very
quietly,--indeed, with great appearance of relief. The life of the mind-readers
while yet they are in the body is so largely spiritual that the idea of an
existence wholly so, which seems vague and chill to us, suggests to them a state
only slightly more refined than they already know on earth.

After that I suppose I must have fallen into an unconscious state, from which I
roused to find myself on an American ship bound for New York, surrounded by
people whose only means of communicating with one another is to keep up while
together a constant clatter of hissing, guttural, and explosive noises, eked out
by all manner of facial contortions and bodily gestures. I frequently find
myself staring open-mouthed at those who address me, too much struck by their
grotesque appearance to bethink myself of replying.

I find that I shall not live out the voyage, and I do not care to. From my
experience of the people on the ship, I can judge how I should fare on land amid
the stunning Babel of a nation of talkers. And my friends,--God bless them! how
lonely I should feel in their very presence! Nay, what satisfaction or
consolation, what but bitter mockery could I ever more find in such human
sympathy and companionship as suffice others and once sufficed me,--I who have
seen and known what I have seen and known! Ah, yes, doubtless it is far better
I should die; but the knowledge of the things that I have seen I feel should not
perish with me. For hope's sake, men should not miss the glimpse of the higher,
sun-bathed reaches of the upward path they plod. So thinking, I have written
out some account of my wonderful experience, though briefer far, by reason of my
weakness, than fits the greatness of the matter. The captain seems an honest,
well-meaning man, and to him I shall confide the narrative, charging him, on
touching shore to see it safely in the hands of some one who will bring it to
the world's ear.

NOTE.--The extent of my own connection with the foregoing document is
sufficiently indicated by the author himself in the final paragraph.


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