Mizora, by Mary E. Bradley Lane

Chapter 6

Their domestic life was so harmonious and perfect that it was a perpetual pleasure to contemplate.

Human nature finds its sweetest pleasure, its happiest content, within its own home circle; and in Mizora I found no exception to the rule. The arrangement and adornment of every house in Mizora were evidently for the comfort and happiness of its inmates. To purchase anything for merely outside show, or to excite the envy or jealousy of a neighbor, was never thought of by an inhabitant of Mizora.

The houses that were built to rent excited my admiration quite as much as did the private residences. They all seemed to have been designed with two special objects in view — beauty and comfort. Houses built to rent in large cities were always in the form of a hollow square, inclosing a commodious and handsomely decorated park. The back was adorned with an upper and lower piazza opening upon the park. The suites of rooms were so arranged as to exclusively separate their occupants from all others. The park was undivided. The center was occupied by a fountain large enough to shoot its spray as high as the uppermost piazza. The park was furnished with rustic seats and shade trees, frequently of immense size, branched above its smooth walks and promenades, where baby wagons, velocipedes and hobby horses on wheels could have uninterrupted sport.

Suburban residences, designed for rent, were on a similar but more amplified plan. The houses were detached, but the grounds were in common. Many private residences were also constructed on the same plan. Five or six acres would be purchased by a dozen families who were not rich enough to own large places separately. A separate residence would be built for each family, but the ground would be laid off and ornamented like a private park. Each of the dozen families would thus have a beautiful view and the privilege of the whole ground. In this way, cascades, fountains, rustic arbors, rockeries, aquariums, tiny lakes, and every variety of landscape ornamenting, could be supplied at a comparatively small cost to each family.

Should any one wish to sell, they disposed of their house and one-twelfth of the undivided ground, and a certain per cent. of the value of its ornaments. The established custom was never to remove or alter property thus purchased without the consent of the other shareholders. Where a people had been educated to regard justice and conscience as their law, such an arrangement could be beneficial to an entire city.

Financial ability does not belong to every one, and this plan of uniting small capitals gave opportunity to the less wealthy classes to enjoy all the luxuries that belong to the rich. In fact some of the handsomest parks I saw in Mizora were owned and kept up in this manner. Sometimes as many as twenty families united in the purchase of an estate, and constructed artificial lakes large enough to sail upon. Artificial cascades and fountains of wonderful size and beauty were common ornaments in all the private and public parks of the city. I noticed in all the cities that I visited the beauty and charm of the public parks, which were found in all sections.

The walks were smoothly paved and shaded by trees of enormous size. They were always frequented by children, who could romp and play in these sylvan retreats of beauty in perfect security.

The high state of culture arrived at by the Mizora people rendered a luxurious style of living a necessity to all. Many things that I had been brought up to regard as the exclusive privileges of the rich, were here the common pleasure of every one. There was no distinction of classes; no genteel-poverty people, who denied themselves necessities that they might appear to have luxuries. There was not a home in Mizora that I entered — and I had access to many — that did not give the impression of wealth in all its appointments.

I asked the Preceptress to explain to me how I might carry back to the people of my country this social happiness, this equality of physical comfort and luxury; and she answered me with emphasis:

“Educate them. Convince the rich that by educating the poor, they are providing for their own safety. They will have fewer prisons to build, fewer courts to sustain. Educated Labor will work out its own salvation against Capital. Let the children of toil start in life with exactly the same educational advantages that are enjoyed by the rich. Give them the same physical and moral training, and let the rich pay for it by taxes.”

I shook my head “They will never submit to it,” was my reluctant admission.

“Appeal to their selfishness,” urged the Preceptress “Get them to open their college doors and ask all to come and be taught without money and without price. The power of capital is great, but stinted and ignorant toil will rise against its oppression, and innocence and guilt will alike suffer from its fury. Have you never known such an occurrence?”

“Not in my day or country,” I answered “But the city in which I was educated has such a history. Its gutters flowed with human blood, the blood of its nobles.”

She inclined her head significantly. “It will be repeated,” she said sadly, “unless you educate them. Give their bright and active minds the power of knowledge. They will use it wisely, for their own and their country’s welfare.”

I doubted my ability to do this, to contend against rooted and inherited prejudice, but I resolved to try. I did not need to be told that the rich and powerful had a monopoly of intellect: Nature was not partial to them, for the children of the poor, I well knew, were often handsomer and more intellectual than the offspring of wealth and aristocratic birth.

I have before spoken of the positions occupied by those who performed what I had been bred to regard as menial work. At first, the mere fact of the person who presided over the kitchen being presented to me as an equal, was outraging to all my hereditary dignity and pride of birth. No one could be more pronounced in a consciousness of inherited nobility than I. I had been taught from infancy to regard myself as a superior being, merely because the accident of birth had made me so, and the arrogance with which I had treated some of my less favored schoolmates reverted to me with mortifying regret, when, having asked Wauna to point out to me the nobly born, she looked at me with her sweet expression of candor and innocence and said:

“We have no nobility of birth. As I once before told you, intellect is our only standard of excellence. It alone occupies an exalted place and receives the homage of our people.”

In a subsequent conversation with her mother, the Preceptress, she said:

“In remote ages, great honor and deference was paid to all who were born of rulers, and the designation ‘noble blood,’ was applied to them. At one time in the history of our country they could commit any outrage upon society or morals without fear of punishment, simply because they belonged to the aristocracy. Even a heinous murder would be unnoticed if perpetrated by one of them. Nature alone did not favor them Imbecile and immoral minds fell to the lot of the aristocrat as often as to the lowly born. Nature’s laws are inflexible and swerve not for any human wish. They outraged them by the admixture of kindred blood, and degeneracy was often the result. A people should always have for their chief ruler the highest and noblest intellect among them, but in those dark ages they were too often compelled to submit to the lowest, simply because it had been born to the position. But,” she added, with a sweet smile, “that time lies many centuries behind us, and I sometimes think we had better forget it entirely.”

My first meeting with the domestics of my friend’s house impressed me with their high mental culture, refinement and elegance. Certainly no “grande dame” of my own country but would have been proud of their beauty and graceful dignity.

Prejudice, however deeply ingrained, could not resist the custom of a whole country, and especially such a one as Mizora, so I soon found myself on a familiar footing with my friend’s “artist” — for the name by which they were designated as a class had very nearly the same meaning.

Cooking was an art, and one which the people of Mizora had cultivated to the highest excellence. It is not strange, when their enlightenment is understood, that they should attach as much honor to it as the people of my country do to sculpture, painting and literature. The Preceptress told me that such would be the case with my people when education became universal and the poor could start in life with the same intellectual culture as the rich. The chemistry of food and its importance in preserving a youthful vigor and preventing disease, would then be understood and appreciated by all classes, and would receive the deference it deserved.

“You will never realize,” said the Preceptress earnestly, “the incalculable benefit that will accrue to your people from educating your poor. Urge that Government to try it for just twenty years, long enough for a generation to be born and mature. The bright and eager intellects of poverty will turn to Chemistry to solve the problems of cheap Light, cheap Fuel and cheap Food. When you can clothe yourselves from the fibre of the trees, and warm and light your dwellings from the water of your rivers, and eat of the stones of the earth, Poverty and Disease will be as unknown to your people as it is to mine.”

“If I should preach that to them, they would call me a maniac.”

“None but the ignorant will do so. From your description of the great thinkers of your country, I am inclined to believe there are minds among you advanced enough to believe in it.”

I remembered how steamboats and railroads and telegraphy had been opposed and ridiculed until proven practicable, and I took courage and resolved to follow the advice of my wise counselor.

I had long felt a curiosity to behold the inner workings of a domestic’s life, and one day ventured to ask my friend’s permission to enter her kitchen. Surprise was manifested at such a request, when I began to apologize and explain. But my hostess smiled and said:

“My kitchen is at all times as free to my guests as my drawing room.”

Every kitchen in Mizora is on the same plan and conducted the same way. To describe one, therefore, is to describe all. I undertook to explain that in my country, good breeding forbade a guest entering the host’s kitchen, and frequently its appearance, and that of the cook’s, would not conduce to gastric enjoyment of the edibles prepared in it.

My first visit happened to be on scrubbing day, and I was greatly amused to see a little machine, with brushes and sponges attached, going over the floor at a swift rate, scouring and sponging dry as it went. Two vessels, one containing soap suds and the other clear water, were connected by small feed pipes with the brushes. As soon as the drying sponge became saturated, it was lifted by an ingenious yet simple contrivance into a vessel and pressed dry, and was again dropped to the floor.

I inquired how it was turned to reverse its progress so as to clean the whole floor, and was told to watch when it struck the wall. I did so, and saw that the jar not only reversed the machine, but caused it to spring to the right about two feet, which was its width, and again begin work on a new line, to be again reversed in the same manner when it struck the opposite wall. Carpeted floors were swept by a similar contrivance.

No wonder the “artists” of the kitchen had such a dainty appearance. They dipped their pretty hands in perfumed water and dried them on the finest and whitest damask, while machinery did the coarse work.

Mizora, I discovered, was a land of brain workers. In every vocation of life machinery was called upon to perform the arduous physical labor. The whole domestic department was a marvel of ingenious mechanical contrivances. Dishwashing, scouring and cleaning of every description were done by machinery.

The Preceptress told me that it was the result of enlightenment, and it would become the custom in my country to make machinery perform the laborious work when they learned the value of universal and advanced knowledge.

I observed that the most exact care was given to the preparation of food. Every cook was required to be a chemist of the highest excellence; another thing that struck me as radically different from the custom in vogue in my country.

Everything was cooked by hot air and under cover, so that no odor was perceptible in the room. Ventilating pipes conveyed the steam from cooking food out of doors. Vegetables and fruits appeared to acquire a richer flavor when thus cooked. The seasoning was done by exact weight and measure, and there was no stirring or tasting. A glass tube, on the principle of a thermometer, determined when each article was done. The perfection which they had attained as culinary chemists was a source of much gratification to me, both in the taste of food so delicious and palatable, and in its wholesome effect on my constitution. As to its deliciousness, a meal prepared by a Mizora cook could rival the fabled feasts of the gods. Its beneficial effects upon me were manifested in a healthier tone of body and an an increase of animal spirits, a pleasurable feeling of content and amiability.

The Preceptress told me that the first step toward the eradication of disease was in the scientific preparation of food, and the establishment of schools where cooking was taught as an art to all who applied, and without charge. Placed upon a scientific basis it became respectable.

“To eliminate from our food the deleterious earthy matter is our constant aim. To that alone do we owe immunity from old age far in advance of that period of life when your people become decrepit and senile. The human body is like a lamp-wick, which filters the oil while it furnishes light. In time the wick becomes clogged and useless and is thrown away. If the oil could be made perfectly pure, the wick would not fill up.”

She gave this homely explanation with a smile and the air of a grown person trying to convey to the immature mind of a child an explanation of some of Nature’s phenomena.

I reflected upon their social condition and arrived at the conviction that there is no occupation in life but what has its usefulness and necessity, and, when united to culture and refinement, its dignity. A tree has a million leaves, yet each individual leaf, insignificant as it may appear, has its special share of work to perform in helping the tree to live and perfect its fruit. So should every citizen of a government contribute to its vitality and receive a share of its benefits.

“Will the time ever come,” I asked myself, “when my own country will see this and rise to a social, if not intellectual equality.” And the admonition of the Preceptress would recur to my mind:

“Educate them. Educate them, and enlightenment will solve for them every problem in Sociology.”

My observations in Mizora led me to believe that while Nature will permit and encourage the outgrowth of equality in refinement, she gives birth to a more decided prominence in the leadership of intellect.

The lady who conducted me through the culinary department, and pointed out the machinery and explained its use and convenience, had the same grace and dignity of manner as the hostess displayed when exhibiting to me the rare plants in her conservatory.

The laundry was a separate business. No one unconnected with it as a profession had anything to do with its duties. I visited several of the large city laundries and was informed that all were conducted alike. Steam was employed in the cleaning process, and the drying was done by hot air impregnated with ozone. This removed from white fabrics every vestige of discoloration or stain. I saw twelve dozen fine damask table-cloths cleaned, dried and ironed in thirty minutes. All done by machinery. They emerged from the rollers that ironed them looking like new pieces of goods, so pure was their color, and so glossy their finish.

I inquired the price for doing them up, and was told a cent a piece. Twelve cents per dozen was the established price for doing up clothes. Table-cloths and similar articles were ironed between rollers constructed to admit their full width. Other articles of more complicated make, were ironed by machines constructed to suit them. Some articles were dressed by having hot air forced rapidly through them. Lace curtains, shawls, veils, spreads, tidies and all similar articles, were by this process made to look like new, and at a cost that I thought ought certainly to reduce the establishment to beggary or insolvency. But here chemistry again was the magician that had made such cheap labor profitable. And such advanced knowledge of chemistry was the result of universal education.

Ladies sent their finest laces to be renewed without fear of having them reduced to shreds. In doing up the frailest laces, nothing but hot air impregnated with ozone was employed. These were consecutively forced through the fabric after it was carefully stretched. Nothing was ever lost or torn, so methodical was the management of the work.

I asked why cooking was not established as the laundry was, as a distinct public business, and was told that it had been tried a number of times, but had always been found impracticable. One kind of work in a laundry would suit everyone, but one course of cooking could not. Tastes and appetites differed greatly. What was palatable to one would be disliked by another, and to prepare food for a large number of customers, without knowing or being able to know exactly what the demand would be, had always resulted in large waste, and as the people of Mizora were the most rigid and exacting economists, it was not to be wondered at that they had selected the most economical plan. Every private cook could determine accurately the amount of food required for the household she prepared it for, and knowing their tastes she could cater to all without waste.

“We, as yet,” said my distinguished instructor, “derive all our fruit and vegetables from the soil. We have orchards and vineyards and gardens which we carefully tend, and which our knowledge of chemistry enables us to keep in health and productiveness. But there is always more or less earthy matter in all food derived from cultivating the soil, and the laboratories are now striving to produce artificial fruit and vegetables that will satisfy the palate and be free from deleterious matter.”

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 22:36