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In the Year 2889, Page 2

Jules Verne

She is talking, pronouncing a name his name--Fritz! Thedelightful vision gave a happier turn to Mr. Smith's thoughts. And now,at the call of imperative duty, light-hearted he springs from his bedand enters his mechanical dresser.

  Two minutes later the machine deposited him all dressed at the thresholdof his office. The round of journalistic work was now begun. First heenters the hall of the novel-writers, a vast apartment crowned with anenormous transparent cupola. In one corner is a telephone, through whicha hundred Earth Chronicle _litterateurs_ in turn recount to the publicin daily installments a hundred novels. Addressing one of these authorswho was waiting his turn, "Capital! Capital! my dear fellow," said he,"your last story. The scene where the village maid discusses interestingphilosophical problems with her lover shows your very acute power ofobservation. Never have the ways of country folk been better portrayed.Keep on, my dear Archibald, keep on! Since yesterday, thanks to you,there is a gain of 5000 subscribers."

  "Mr. John Last," he began again, turning to a new arrival, "I am not sowell pleased with your work. Your story is not a picture of life; itlacks the elements of truth. And why? Simply because you run straight onto the end; because you do not analyze. Your heroes do this thing orthat from this or that motive, which you assign without ever a thoughtof dissecting their mental and moral natures. Our feelings, you mustremember, are far more complex than all that. In real life every act isthe resultant of a hundred thoughts that come and go, and these you muststudy, each by itself, if you would create a living character. 'But,'you will say, 'in order to note these fleeting thoughts one must knowthem, must be able to follow them in their capricious meanderings.' Why,any child can do that, as you know. You have simply to make use ofhypnotism, electrical or human, which gives one a two-fold being,setting free the witness-personality so that it may see, understand, andremember the reasons which determine the personality that acts. Juststudy yourself as you live from day to day, my dear Last. Imitate yourassociate whom I was complimenting a moment ago. Let yourself behypnotized. What's that? You have tried it already? Not sufficiently,then, not sufficiently!"

  Mr. Smith continues his round and enters the reporters' hall. Here 1500reporters, in their respective places, facing an equal number oftelephones, are communicating to the subscribers the news of the worldas gathered during the night. The organization of this matchless servicehas often been described. Besides his telephone, each reporter, as thereader is aware, has in front of him a set of commutators, which enablehim to communicate with any desired telephotic line. Thus thesubscribers not only hear the news but see the occurrences. When anincident is described that is already past, photographs of its mainfeatures are transmitted with the narrative. And there is no confusionwithal. The reporters' items, just like the different stories and allthe other component parts of the journal, are classified automaticallyaccording to an ingenious system, and reach the hearer in duesuccession. Furthermore, the hearers are free to listen only to whatspecially concerns them. They may at pleasure give attention to oneeditor and refuse it to another.

  Mr. Smith next addresses one of the ten reporters in the astronomicaldepartment--a department still in the embryonic stage, but which willyet play an important part in journalism.

  "Well, Cash, what's the news?"

  "We have phototelegrams from Mercury, Venus, and Mars."

  "Are those from Mars of any interest?"

  "Yes, indeed. There is a revolution in the Central Empire."

  "And what of Jupiter?" asked Mr. Smith.

  "Nothing as yet. We cannot quite understand their signals. Perhaps oursdo not reach them."

  "That's bad," exclaimed Mr. Smith, as he hurried away, not in the bestof humor, toward the hall of the scientific editors.

  With their heads bent down over their electric computers, thirtyscientific men were absorbed in transcendental calculations. The comingof Mr. Smith was like the falling of a bomb among them.

  "Well, gentlemen, what is this I hear? No answer from Jupiter? Is italways to be thus? Come, Cooley, you have been at work now twenty yearson this problem, and yet--"

  "True enough," replied the man addressed. "Our science of optics isstill very defective, and through our mile-and-three-quarter telescopes."

  "Listen to that, Peer," broke in Mr. Smith, turning to a secondscientist. "Optical science defective! Optical science is yourspecialty. But," he continued, again addressing William Cooley, "failingwith Jupiter, are we getting any results from the moon?"

  "The case is no better there."

  "This time you do not lay the blame on the science of optics. The moonis immeasurably less distant than Mars, yet with Mars our communicationis fully established. I presume you will not say that you lacktelescopes?"

  "Telescopes? O no, the trouble here is about inhabitants!"

  "That's it," added Peer.

  "So, then, the moon is positively uninhabited?" asked Mr. Smith.

  "At least," answered Cooley, "on the face which she presents to us. Asfor the opposite side, who knows?"

  "Ah, the opposite side! You think, then," remarked Mr. Smith, musingly,"that if one could but--"

  "Could what?"

  "Why, turn the moon about-face."

  "Ah, there's something in that," cried the two men at once. And indeed,so confident was their air, they seemed to have no doubt as to thepossibility of success in such an undertaking.

  "Meanwhile," asked Mr. Smith, after a moment's silence, "have you nonews of interest to-day?"

  "Indeed we have," answered Cooley. "The elements of Olympus aredefinitively settled. That great planet gravitates beyond Neptune at themean distance of 11,400,799,642 miles from the sun, and to traverse itsvast orbit takes 1311 years, 294 days, 12 hours, 43 minutes, 9 seconds."

  "Why didn't you tell me that sooner?" cried Mr. Smith. "Now inform thereporters of this straightaway. You know how eager is the curiosity ofthe public with regard to these astronomical questions. That news mustgo into to-day's issue."

  Then, the two men bowing to him, Mr. Smith passed into the next hall, anenormous gallery upward of 3200 feet in length, devoted to atmosphericadvertising. Every one has noticed those enormous advertisementsreflected from the clouds, so large that they may be seen by thepopulations of whole cities or even of entire countries. This, too, isone of Mr. Fritz Napoleon Smith's ideas, and in the Earth Chroniclebuilding a thousand projectors are constantly engaged in displaying uponthe clouds these mammoth advertisements.

  When Mr. Smith to-day entered the sky-advertising department, he foundthe operators sitting with folded arms at their motionless projectors,and inquired as to the cause of their inaction. In response, the manaddressed simply pointed to the sky, which was of a pure blue. "Yes,"muttered Mr. Smith, "a cloudless sky! That's too bad, but what's to bedone? Shall we produce rain? That we might do, but is it of any use?What we need is clouds, not rain. Go," said he, addressing the headengineer, "go see Mr. Samuel Mark, of the meteorological division of thescientific department, and tell him for me to go to work in earnest onthe question of artificial clouds. It will never do for us to be alwaysthus at the mercy of cloudless skies!"

  Mr. Smith's daily tour through the several departments of his newspaperis now finished. Next, from the advertisement hall he passes to thereception chamber, where the ambassadors accredited to the Americangovernment are awaiting him, desirous of having a word of counsel oradvice from the all-powerful editor. A discussion was going on when heentered. "Your Excellency will pardon me," the French Ambassador wassaying to the Russian, "but I see nothing in the map of Europe thatrequires change. 'The North for the Slavs?' Why, yes, of course; but theSouth for the Matins. Our common frontier, the Rhine, it seems to me,serves very well. Besides, my government, as you must know, will firmlyoppose every movement, not only against Paris, our capital, or our twogreat prefectures, Rome and Madrid, but also against the kingdom ofJerusalem, the dominion of Saint Peter, of which France means to be thetrusty defender."

  "Well said!" exclaimed Mr. Smith. "How is it," he a
sked, turning to theRussian ambassador, "that you Russians are not content with your vastempire, the most extensive in the world, stretching from the banks ofthe Rhine to the Celestial Mountains and the Kara-Korum, whose shoresare washed by the Frozen Ocean, the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, and theIndian Ocean? Then, what is the use of threats? Is war possible in viewof modern inventions-asphyxiating shells capable of being projected adistance of 60 miles, an electric spark of 90 miles, that can at onestroke annihilate a battalion; to say nothing of the plague, thecholera, the yellow fever, that the belligerents might spread amongtheir antagonists