Mizora, by Mary E. Bradley Lane

Chapter 9

Whenever I inquired:

“From whence comes the heat that is so evenly distributed throughout the dwellings and public buildings of Mizora?” they invariably pointed to the river. I asked in astonishment:

“From water comes fire?”

And they answered: “Yes.”

I had long before this time discovered that Mizora was a nation of very wonderful people, individually and collectively; and as every revelation of their genius occurred, I would feel as though I could not be surprised at any marvelous thing that they should claim to do, but I was really not prepared to believe that they could set the river on fire. Yet I found that such was, scientifically, the fact. It was one of their most curious and, at the same time, useful appliances of a philosophical discovery.

They separated water into its two gases, and then, with their ingenious chemical skill, converted it into an economical fuel.

Their coal mines had long been exhausted, as had many other of nature’s resources for producing artificial heat. The dense population made it impracticable to cultivate forests for fuel. Its rapid increase demanded of Science the discovery of a fuel that could be consumed without loss to them, both in the matter consumed and in the expense of procuring it. Nothing seemed to answer their purpose so admirably as water. Water, when decomposed, becomes gas. Convert the gas into heat and it becomes water again. A very great heat produces only a small quantity of water: hence the extreme utility of water as a heat producing agent.

The heating factories were all detached buildings, and generally, if at all practicable, situated near a river, or other body of water. Every precaution against accident was stringently observed.

There were several processes for decomposing the water explained to me, but the one preferred, and almost universally used by the people of Mizora, was electricity. The gases formed at the opposite poles of the electrical current, were received in large glass reservoirs, especially constructed for them.

In preparing the heat that gave such a delightful temperature to the dwellings and public buildings of their vast cities, glass was always the material used in the construction of vessels and pipes. Glass pipes conveyed the separate gases of hydrogen and oxygen into an apartment especially prepared for the purpose, and united them upon ignited carbon. The heat produced was intense beyond description, and in the hands of less experienced and capable chemists, would have proved destructful to life and property. The hardest rock would melt in its embrace; yet, in the hands of these wonderful students of Nature, it was under perfect control and had been converted into one of the most healthful and agreeable agents of comfort and usefulness known. It was regulated with the same ease and convenience with which we increase or diminish the flames of a gas jet. It was conducted, by means of glass pipes, to every dwelling in the city. One factory supplied sufficient heat for over half a million inhabitants.

I thought I was not so far behind Mizora in a knowledge of heating with hot air; yet, when I saw the practical application of their method, I could see no resemblance to that in use in my own world. In winter, every house in Mizora had an atmosphere throughout as balmy as the breath of the young summer. Country-houses and farm dwellings were all supplied with the same kind of heat.

In point of economy it could not be surpassed. A city residence, containing twenty rooms of liberal size and an immense conservatory, was heated entire, at a cost of four hundred centimes a year. One dollar per annum for fuel.

There was neither smoke, nor soot, nor dust. Instead of entering a room through a register, as I had always seen heated air supplied, it came through numerous small apertures in the walls of a room quite close to the floor, thus rendering its supply imperceptible, and making a draft of cold air impossible.

The extreme cheapness of artificial heat made a conservatory a necessary luxury of every dwelling. The same pipes that supplied the dwelling rooms with warmth, supplied the hot-house also, but it was conveyed to the plants by a very different process.

They used electricity in their hot-houses to perfect their fruit, but in what way I could not comprehend; neither could I understand their method of supplying plants and fruits with carbonic acid gas. They manufactured it and turned it into their hot-houses during sleeping hours. No one was permitted to enter until the carbon had been absorbed. They had an instrument resembling a thermometer which gave the exact condition of the atmosphere. They were used in every house, as well as in the conservatories. The people of Mizora were constantly experimenting with those two chemical agents, electricity and carbonic acid gas, in their conservatories. They confidently believed that with their service, they could yet produce fruit from their hot-houses, that would equal in all respects the season grown article.

They produced very fine hot-house fruit. It was more luscious than any artificially ripened fruit that I had ever tasted in my own country, yet it by no means compared with their season grown fruit. Their preserved fruit I thought much more natural in flavor than their hot-house fruit.

Many of their private greenhouses were on a grand scale and contained fruit as well as flowers. A family that could not have a hot-house for fresh vegetables, with a few fruit trees in it, would be poor indeed. Where a number of families had united in purchasing extensive grounds, very fine conservatories were erected, their expense being divided among the property holders, and their luxuries enjoyed in common.

So methodical were all the business plans of the Mizora people, and so strictly just were they in the observance of all business and social duties that no ill-feeling or jealousy could arise from a combination of capital in private luxuries. Such combinations were formed and carried out upon strictly business principles.

If the admirable economy with which every species of work was carried on in Mizora could be thoroughly comprehended, the universality of luxuries need not be wondered at. They were drilled in economy from a very early period. It was taught them as a virtue.

Machinery, with them, had become the slave of invention. I lived long enough in Mizora to comprehend that the absence of pauperism, genteel and otherwise, was largely due to the ingenious application of machinery to all kinds of physical labor. When the cost of producing luxuries decreases, the value of the luxuries produced must decrease with it. The result is they are within reach of the narrowest incomes. A life surrounded by refinement must absorb some of it.

I had a conversation with the Preceptress upon this subject, and she said:

“Some natures are so undecided in character that they become only what their surroundings make them. Others only partially absorb tastes and sentiments that form the influence about them. They maintain a decided individuality; yet they are most always noticeably marked with the general character of their surroundings. It is very, very seldom that a nature is fixed from infancy in one channel.”

I told her that I knew of a people whose minds from infancy to mature age, never left the grooves they were born in. They belonged to every nationality, and had palaces built for them, and attendants with cultivated intelligences employed to wait upon them.

“Are their minds of such vast importance to their nation? You have never before alluded to intellect so elevated as to command such royal homage.” My friend spoke with awakened interest.

“They are of no importance at all,” I answered, humiliated at having alluded to them. “Some of them have not sufficient intelligence to even feed themselves.”

“And what are they?” she inquired anxiously.

“They are idiots; human vegetables.”

“And you build palaces for them, and hire servants to feed and tend them, while the bright, ambitious children of the poor among you, struggle and suffer for mental advancement. How deplorably short-sighted are the wise ones of your world. Truly it were better in your country to be born an idiot than a poor genius.” She sighed and looked grave.

“What should we do with them?” I inquired.

“What do you do with the useless weeds in your garden,” she asked significantly. “Do you carefully tend them, while drouth and frost and lack of nourishment cause your choice plants to wither and die?”

“We are far behind you,” I answered humbly. “But barbarous as you think we are, no epithet could be too scathing, too comprehensive of all that was vicious and inhuman, to apply to a person who should dare to assail the expense of those institutions, or suggest that they be converted to the cultivation of intellect that could be improved.”

My friend looked thoughtful for a long time, then she resumed her discourse at the point where I had so unfortunately interrupted it.

“No people,” she said, “can rise to universal culture as long as they depend upon hand labor to produce any of the necessities of life. The absence of a demand for hand labor gives rise to an increasing demand for brain labor, and the natural and inevitable result is an increased mental activity. The discovery of a fuel that is furnished at so small a cost and with really no labor but what machinery performs, marks one grand era in our mental progress.”

In mentioning the numerous uses made of glass in Mizora, I must not forget to give some notice to their water supply in large cities. Owing to their cleanly advantages, the filtering and storing of rain-water in glass-lined cisterns supplied many family uses. But drinking water was brought to their large cities in a form that did not greatly differ from those I was already familiar with, excepting in cleanliness. Their reservoirs were dug in the ground and lined with glass, and a perfectly fitting cover placed on the top. They were constructed so that the water that passed through the glass feed pipes to the city should have a uniform temperature, that of ordinary spring water. The water in the covered reservoirs was always filtered and tested before passing into the distributing pipes.

No citizen of Mizora ever hied to the country for pure water and fresh air. Science supplied both in a densely populated city.

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