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A Traveler from Altruria: Romance by W. D. Howells

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cultivation of the earth. We believe that this, when not followed
slavishly, or for gain, brings man into the closest relations to the
Deity, through a grateful sense of the divine bounty, and that it not only
awakens a natural piety in him, but that it endears to the worker that
piece of soil which he tills, and so strengthens his love of home. The
home is the very heart of the Altrurian system, and we do not think it
well that people should be away from their homes very long or very often.
In the competitive and monopolistic times men spent half their days in
racing back and forth across our continent; families were scattered by the
chase for fortune, and there was a perpetual paying and repaying of
visits. One-half the income of those railroads which we let fall into
disuse came from the ceaseless unrest. Now a man is born and lives and
dies among his own kindred, and the sweet sense of neighborhood, of
brotherhood, which blessed the golden age of the first Christian republic
is ours again. Every year the people of each region meet one another on
Evolution day, in the regionic capital; once in four years they all visit
the national capital. There is no danger of the decay of patriotism among
us; our country is our mother, and we love her as it is impossible to love
the step-mother that a competitive or monopolistic nation must be to its

"I can only touch upon this feature and that of our system as I chance to
think of it. If any of you are curious about others, I shall be glad to
answer questions as well as I can. We have, of course," the Altrurian
proceeded, after a little indefinite pause, to let any speak who liked,
"no money in your sense. As the whole people control affairs, no man works
for another, and no man pays another. Every one does his share of labor,
and receives his share of food, clothing, and shelter, which is neither
more nor less than another's. If you can imagine the justice and
impartiality of a well-ordered family, you can conceive of the social and
economic life of Altruria. We are, properly speaking, a family rather than
a nation like yours.

"Of course, we are somewhat favored by our insular, or continental,
position; but I do not know that we are more so than you are. Certainly,
however, we are self-sufficing in a degree unknown to most European
countries; and we have within our borders the materials of every comfort
and the resources of every need. We have no commerce with the egoistic
world, as we call that outside, and I believe that I am the first
Altrurian to visit foreign countries avowedly in my national character,
though we have always had emissaries living abroad incognito. I hope that
I may say without offence that they find it a sorrowful exile, and that
the reports of the egoistic world, with its wars, its bankruptcies, its
civic commotions, and its social unhappiness, do not make us discontented
with our own condition. Before the Evolution we had completed the round of
your inventions and discoveries, impelled by the force that drives you on;
and we have since disused most of them as idle and unfit. But we profit,
now and then, by the advances you make in science, for we are passionately
devoted to the study of the natural laws, open or occult, under which all
men have their being. Occasionally an emissary returns with a sum of
money, and explains to the students of the national university the
processes by which it is lost and won; and at a certain time there was a
movement for its introduction among us, not for its use as you know it,
but for a species of counters in games of chance. It was considered,
however, to contain an element of danger, and the scheme was discouraged.

"Nothing amuses and puzzles our people more than the accounts our
emissaries give of the changes of fashion in the outside world, and of the
ruin of soul and body which the love of dress often works. Our own dress,
for men and for women, is studied, in one ideal of use and beauty, from
the antique; caprice and vagary in it would be thought an effect of vulgar
vanity. Nothing is worn that is not simple and honest in texture; we do
not know whether a thing is cheap or dear, except as it is easy or hard to
come by, and that which is hard to come by is forbidden as wasteful and
foolish. The community builds the dwellings of the community, and these,
too, are of a classic simplicity, though always beautiful and fit in form;
the splendors of the arts are lavished upon the public edifices, which we
all enjoy in common."

"Isn't this the greatest rehash of 'Utopia,' 'New Atlantis,' and 'City of
the Sun' that you ever imagined?" the professor whispered across me to the
banker. "The man is a fraud, and a very bungling fraud at that."

"Well, you must expose him, when he gets through," the banker whispered

But the professor could not wait. He got upon his feet and called out:
"May I ask the gentleman from Altruria a question?"

"Certainly," the Altrurian blandly assented.

"Make it short!" Reuben Camp's voice broke in, impatiently. "We didn't
come here to listen to your questions."

The professor contemptuously ignored him. "I suppose you occasionally
receive emissaries from, as well as send them to, the world outside?"

"Yes, now and then castaways land on our coasts, and ships out of their
reckonings put in at our ports for water or provision."

"And how are they pleased with your system?"

"Why, I cannot better answer than by saying that they mostly refuse to
leave us."

"Ah, just as Bacon reports!" cried the professor.

"You mean in the _New Atlantis_?" returned the Altrurian. "Yes; it is
astonishing how well Bacon in that book, and Sir Thomas More in his
_Utopia_, have divined certain phases of our civilization and polity."

"I think he rather _has_ you, professor," the banker whispered, with a

"But all those inspired visionaries," the Altrurian continued, while the
professor sat grimly silent, watching for another chance, "who have borne
testimony of us in their dreams, conceived of states perfect without the
discipline of a previous competitive condition. What I thought, however,
might specially interest you Americans in Altruria is the fact that our
economy was evolved from one so like that in which you actually have your
being. I had even hoped you might feel that, in all these points of
resemblance, America prophesies another Altruria. I know that to some of
you all that I have told of my country will seem a baseless fabric, with
no more foundation, in fact, than More's fairy-tale of another land where
men dealt kindly and justly by one another, and dwelt, a whole nation, in
the unity and equality of a family. But why should not a part of that
fable have come true in our polity, as another part of it has come true in
yours? When Sir Thomas More wrote that book, he noted with abhorrence the
monstrous injustice of the fact that men were hanged for small thefts in
England; and in the preliminary conversation between its characters he
denounced the killing of men for any sort of thefts. Now you no longer put
men to death for theft; you look back upon that cruel code of your mother
England with an abhorrence as great as his own. We, for our part, who have
realized the Utopian dream of brotherly equality, look back with the same
abhorrence upon a state where some were rich and some poor, some taught
and some untaught, some high and some low, and the hardest toil often
failed to supply a sufficiency of the food which luxury wasted in its
riots. That state seems as atrocious to us as the state which hanged a man
for stealing a loaf of bread seems to you.

"But we do not regret the experience of competition and monopoly. They
taught us some things in the operation of the industries. The labor-saving
inventions which the Accumulation perverted to money-making we have
restored to the use intended by their inventors and the Creator of their
inventors. After serving the advantage of socializing the industries which
the Accumulation effected for its own purposes, we continued the work in
large mills and shops, in the interest of the workers, whom we wished to
guard against the evil effects of solitude. But our mills and shops are
beautiful as well as useful. They look like temples, and they are temples,
dedicated to that sympathy between the divine and human which expresses
itself in honest and exquisite workmanship. They rise amid leafy boscages
beside the streams, which form their only power; for we have disused steam
altogether, with all the offences to the eye and ear which its use brought
into the world. Our life is so simple and our needs are so few that the
hand-work of the primitive toilers could easily supply our wants; but
machinery works so much more thoroughly and beautifully that we have in
great measure retained it. Only, the machines that were once the workmen's
enemies and masters are now their friends and servants; and, if any man
chooses to work alone with his own hands, the state will buy what he makes
at the same price that it sells the wares made collectively. This secures
every right of individuality.

"The farm-work, as well as the mill-work and the shop-work, is done by
companies of workers; and there is nothing of that loneliness in our woods
and fields which, I understand, is the cause of so much insanity among
you. It is not good for man to be alone, was the first thought of his
Creator when he considered him, and we act upon this truth in everything.
The privacy of the family is sacredly guarded in essentials, but the
social instinct is so highly developed with us that we like to eat
together in large refectories, and we meet constantly to argue and dispute
on questions of aesthetics and metaphysics. We do not, perhaps, read so
many books as you do, for most of our reading, when not for special
research, but for culture and entertainment, is done by public readers, to
large groups of listeners. We have no social meetings which are not free
to all; and we encourage joking and the friendly give and take of witty

"A little hint from Sparta," suggested the professor.

The banker leaned over to whisper to me: "From what I have seen of your
friend when offered a piece of American humor, I should fancy the
Altrurian article was altogether different. Upon the whole, I would rather
not be present at one of their witty encounters, if I were obliged to stay
it out."

The Altrurian had paused to drink a glass of water, and now he went on:
"But we try, in everything that does not inconvenience or injure others,
to let every one live the life he likes best. If a man prefers to dwell
apart, and have his meals in private for himself alone or for his family,
it is freely permitted; only he must not expect to be served as in public,
where service is one of the voluntaries; private service is not permitted;
those wishing to live alone must wait upon themselves, cook their own
food, and care for their own tables. Very few, however, wish to withdraw
from the public life, for most of the discussions and debates take place
at our mid-day meal, which falls at the end of the obligatory labors, and
is prolonged indefinitely, or as long as people like to chat and joke or
listen to the reading of some pleasant book.

"In Altruria _there is no hurry_, for no one wishes to outstrip another,
or in any wise surpass him. We are all assured of enough, and are
forbidden any and every sort of superfluity. If any one, after the
obligatories, wishes to be entirely idle, he may be so, but I cannot now
think of a single person without some voluntary occupation; doubtless
there are such persons, but I do not know them. It used to be said, in the
old times, that 'it was human nature' to shirk and malinger and loaf, but
we have found that it is no such thing. We have found that it is human
nature to work cheerfully, willingly, eagerly, at the tasks which all
share for the supply of the common necessities. In like manner we have
found out that it is not human nature to hoard and grudge, but that when
the fear, and even the imagination, of want is taken away, it is human
nature to give and to help generously. We used to say: 'A man will lie, or
a man will cheat, in his own interest; that is human nature'; but that is
no longer human nature with us, perhaps because no man has any interest to
serve; he has only the interests of others to serve, while others serve
his. It is in no wise possible for the individual to separate his good
from the common good; he is prosperous and happy only as all the rest are
so; and therefore it is not human nature with us for any one to lie in
wait to betray another or seize an advantage. That would be ungentlemanly,
and in Altruria every man is a gentleman and every woman a lady. If you
will excuse me here for being so frank, I would like to say something by
way of illustration which may be offensive if you take it personally."

He looked at our little group, as if he were addressing himself more
especially to us, and the banker called out, jollily: "Go on! I guess we
can stand it," and "Go ahead!" came from all sides, from all kinds of

"It is merely this: that as we look back at the old competitive conditions
we do not see how any man could be a gentleman in them, since a gentleman
must think first of others, and these conditions _compelled_ every man to
think first of himself."

There was a silence broken by some conscious and hardy laughter, while we
each swallowed this pill as we could.

"What are competitive conditions?" Mrs. Makely demanded of me.

"Well, ours are competitive conditions," I said.

"Very well, then," she returned, "I don't think Mr. Homos is much of a
gentleman to say such a thing to an American audience. Or, wait a moment!
Ask him if the same rule applies to women."

I rose, strengthened by the resentment I felt, and said: "Do I understand
that in your former competitive conditions it was also impossible for a
woman to be a lady?"

The professor gave me an applausive nod as I sat down. "I envy you the
chance of that little dig," he whispered.

The Altrurian was thoughtful a moment, and then he answered: "No, I should
not say it was. From what we know historically of those conditions in our
country, it appears that the great mass of women were not directly
affected by them. They constituted an altruistic dominion of the egoistic
empire, and, except as they were tainted by social or worldly ambitions,
it was possible for every woman to be a lady, even in competitive
conditions. Her instincts were unselfish, and her first thoughts were
nearly always of others."

Mrs. Makely jumped to her feet and clapped violently with her fan on the
palm of her left hand. "Three cheers for Mr. Homos!" she shrieked, and all
the women took up the cry, supported by all the natives and the
construction gang. I fancied these fellows gave their support largely in a
spirit of burlesque; but they gave it robustly, and from that time on,
Mrs. Makely led the applause, and they roared in after her.

It is impossible to follow closely the course of the Altrurian's account
of his country, which grew more and more incredible as he went on, and
implied every insulting criticism of ours. Some one asked him about war in
Altruria, and he said: "The very name of our country implies the absence
of war. At the time of the Evolution our country bore to the rest of our
continent the same relative proportion that your country bears to your
continent. The egoistic nations to the north and the south of us entered
into an offensive and defensive alliance to put down, the new altruistic
commonwealth, and declared war against us. Their forces were met at the
frontier by our entire population in arms, and full of the martial spirit
bred of the constant hostilities of the competitive and monopolistic epoch
just ended. Negotiations began in the face of the imposing demonstration
we made, and we were never afterward molested by our neighbors, who
finally yielded to the spectacle of our civilization and united their
political and social fate with ours. At present, our whole continent is
Altrurian. For a long time we kept up a system of coast defences, but it
is also a long time since we abandoned these; for it is a maxim with us
that where every citizen's life is a pledge of the public safety, that
country can never be in danger of foreign enemies.

"In this, as in all other things, we believe ourselves the true followers
of Christ, whose doctrine we seek to make our life as He made it His. We
have several forms of ritual, but no form of creed, and our religious
differences may be said to be aesthetic and temperamental rather than
theological and essential. We have no denominations, for we fear in this,
as in other matters, to give names to things lest we should cling to the
names instead of the things. We love the realities, and for this reason we
look at the life of a man rather than his profession for proof that he is
a religious man.

"I have been several times asked, during my sojourn among you, what are
the sources of compassion, of sympathy, of humanity, of charity with us,
if we have not only no want, or fear of want, but not even any economic
inequality. I suppose this is because you are so constantly struck by the
misery arising from economic inequality and want, or the fear of want,
among yourselves, that you instinctively look in that direction. But have
you ever seen sweeter compassion, tenderer sympathy, warmer humanity,
heavenlier charity than that shown in the family where all are
economically equal and no one can want while any other has to give?
Altruria, I say again, is a family, and, as we are mortal, we are still
subject to those nobler sorrows which God has appointed to men, and which
are so different from the squalid accidents that they have made for
themselves. Sickness and death call out the most angelic ministries of
love; and those who wish to give themselves to others may do so without
hinderance from those cares, and even those duties, resting upon men where
each must look out first for himself and for his own. Oh, believe me,
believe me, you can know nothing of the divine rapture of self-sacrifice
while you must dread the sacrifice of another in it. You are not _free_,
as we are, to do everything for others, for it is your _duty_ to do rather
for those of your own household!

"There is something," he continued, "which I hardly know how to speak of,"
and here we all began to prick our ears. I prepared myself as well as I
could for another affront, though I shuddered when the banker hardily
called out: "Don't hesitate to say anything you wish, Mr. Homos. I, for
one, should like to hear you express yourself fully."

It was always the unexpected, certainly, that happened from the Altrurian.
"It is merely this," he said: "Having come to live rightly upon earth, as
we believe, or having at least ceased to deny God in our statutes and
customs, the fear of death, as it once, weighed upon us, has been lifted
from our souls. The mystery of it has so far been taken away that we
perceive it as something just and natural. Now that all unkindness has
been banished from among us, we can conceive of no such cruelty as death
once seemed. If we do not know yet the full meaning of death, we know that
the Creator of it and of us meant mercy and blessing by it. When one dies
we grieve, but not as those without hope. We do not say that the dead have
gone to a better place, and then selfishly bewail them, for we have the
kingdom of heaven upon earth already, and we know that wherever they go
they will be homesick for Altruria; and when we think of the years that
may pass before we meet them again our hearts ache, as theirs must. But
the presence of the risen Christ in our daily lives is our assurance that
no one ceases to be, and that we shall see our dead again. I cannot
explain this to you; I can only affirm it."

The Altrurian spoke very solemnly, and a reverent hush fell upon the
assembly. It was broken by the voice of a woman wailing out: "Oh, do you
suppose, if we lived so, we should feel so, too? That I should know my
little girl was living?"

"Why not?" asked the Altrurian.

To my vast astonishment, the manufacturer, who sat the farthest from me in
the same line with Mrs. Makely, the professor, and the banker, rose and
asked, tremulously: "And have--have you had any direct communication with
the other world? Has any disembodied spirit returned to testify of the
life beyond the grave?"

The professor nodded significantly across Mrs. Makely to me, and then
frowned and shook his head. I asked her if she knew what he meant. "Why,
didn't you know that spiritualism was that poor man's foible? He lost his
son in a railroad accident, and ever since--"

She stopped and gave her attention to the Altrurian, who was replying to
the manufacturer's question.

"We do not need any such testimony. Our life here makes us sure of the
life there. At any rate, no externation of the supernatural, no objective
miracle, has been wrought in our behalf. We have had faith to do what we
prayed for, and the prescience of which I speak has been added unto us."

The manufacturer asked, as the bereaved mother had asked: "And if I lived
so, should I feel so?"

Again the Altrurian answered: "Why not?"

The poor woman quavered: "Oh, I do believe it! I just _know_ it must be

The manufacturer shook his head sorrowfully and sat down, and remained
there, looking at the ground.

"I am aware," the Altrurian went on, "that what I have said as to our
realizing the kingdom of heaven on the earth must seem boastful and
arrogant. That is what you pray for every day, but you do not believe it
possible for God's will to be done on earth as it is done in heaven--that
is, you do not if you are like the competitive and monopolistic people we
once were. We once regarded that petition as a formula vaguely pleasing
to the Deity, but we no more expected His kingdom to come than we expected
Him to give us each day our daily bread; we knew that if we wanted
something to eat we should have to hustle for it, and get there first; I
use the slang of that far-off time, which, I confess, had a vulgar vigor.

"But now everything is changed, and the change has taken place chiefly
from one cause--namely, the disuse of money. At first, it was thought that
some sort of circulating medium _must_ be used, that life could not be
transacted without it. But life began to go on perfectly well, when each
dwelt in the place assigned him, which was no better and no worse than any
other; and when, after he had given his three hours a day to the
obligatory labors, he had a right to his share of food, light, heat, and
raiment; the voluntary labors, to which he gave much time or little,
brought him no increase of those necessaries, but only credit and
affection. We had always heard it said that the love of money was the root
of all evil, but we had taken this for a saying, merely; now we realized
it as an active, vital truth. As soon as money was abolished the power to
purchase was gone, and even if there had been any means of buying beyond
the daily needs, with overwork, the community had no power to sell to the
individual. No man owned anything, but every man had the right to anything
that he could use; when he could not use it, his right lapsed.

"With the expropriation of the individual the whole vast catalogue of
crimes against property shrank to nothing. The thief could only steal from
the community; but if he stole, what was he to do with his booty? It was
still possible for a depredator to destroy, but few men's hate is so
comprehensive as to include all other men, and when the individual could
no longer hurt some other individual in his property destruction ceased.

"All the many murders done from love of money, or of what money could buy,
were at an end. Where there was no want, men no longer bartered their
souls, or women their bodies, for the means to keep themselves alive. The
vices vanished with the crimes, and the diseases almost as largely
disappeared. People were no longer sickened by sloth and surfeit, or
deformed and depleted by overwork and famine. They were wholesomely housed
in healthful places, and they were clad fitly for their labor and fitly
for their leisure; the caprices of vanity were not suffered to attaint the
beauty of the national dress.

"With the stress of superfluous social and business duties, and the
perpetual fear of want which all classes felt, more or less; with the
tumult of the cities and the solitude of the country, insanity had
increased among us till the whole land was dotted with asylums and the mad
were numbered by hundreds of thousands. In every region they were an army,
an awful army of anguish and despair. Now they have decreased to a number
so small, and are of a type so mild, that we can hardly count insanity
among our causes of unhappiness.

"We have totally eliminated chance from our economic life. There is still
a chance that a man will be tall or short in Altruria, that he will be
strong or weak, well or ill, gay or grave, happy or unhappy in love, but
none that he will be rich or poor, busy or idle, live splendidly or
meanly. These stupid and vulgar accidents of human contrivance cannot
befall us; but I shall not be able to tell you just how or why, or to
detail the process of eliminating chance. I may say, however, that it
began with the nationalization of telegraphs, expresses, railroads, mines,
and all large industries operated by stock companies. This at once struck
a fatal blow at the speculation in values, real and unreal, and at the
stock-exchange, or bourse; we had our own name for that gambler's
paradise, or gambler's hell, whose baleful influence penetrated every
branch of business.

"There were still business fluctuations as long as we had business, but
they were on a smaller and smaller scale, and with the final lapse of
business they necessarily vanished; all economic chance vanished. The
founders of the commonwealth understood perfectly that business was the
sterile activity of the function interposed between the demand and the
supply; that it was nothing structural; and they intended its extinction,
and expected it from the moment that money was abolished."

"This is all pretty tiresome," said the professor to our immediate party.
"I don't see why we oblige ourselves to listen to that fellow's stuff. As
if a civilized state could exist for a day without money or business."

He went on to give his opinion of the Altrurian's pretended description,
in a tone so audible that it attracted the notice of the nearest group of
railroad hands, who were listening closely to Homos, and one of them sang
out to the professor: "Can't you wait and let the first man finish?" and
another yelled: "Put him out!" and then they all laughed with a humorous
perception of the impossibility of literally executing the suggestion.

By the time all was quiet again I heard the Altrurian saying: "As to our
social life, I cannot describe it in detail, but I can give you some
notion of its spirit. We make our pleasures civic and public as far as
possible, and the ideal is inclusive and not exclusive. There are, of
course, festivities which all cannot share, but our distribution into
small communities favors the possibility of all doing so. Our daily life,
however, is so largely social that we seldom meet by special invitation or
engagement. When we do, it is with the perfect understanding that the
assemblage confers no social distinction, but is for a momentary
convenience. In fact, these occasions are rather avoided, recalling, as
they do, the vapid and tedious entertainments of the competitive epoch,
the receptions and balls and dinners of a semi-barbaric people striving
for social prominence by shutting a certain number in and a certain number
out, and overdressing, overfeeding, and overdrinking. Anything
premeditated in the way of a pleasure we think stupid and mistaken; we
like to meet suddenly, or on the spur of the moment, out-of-doors, if
possible, and arrange a picnic or a dance or a play; and let people come
and go without ceremony. No one is more host than guest; all are hosts and
guests. People consort much according to their tastes--literary, musical,
artistic, scientific, or mechanical--but these tastes are made approaches,
not barriers; and we find out that we have many more tastes in common than
was formerly supposed.

"But, after all, our life is serious, and no one among us is quite happy,
in the general esteem, unless he has dedicated himself, in some special
way, to the general good. Our ideal is not rights, but duties."

"Mazzini!" whispered the professor.

"The greatest distinction which any one can enjoy with us is to have found
out some new and signal way of serving the community; and then it is not
good form for him to seek recognition. The doing any fine thing is the
purest pleasure it can give; applause flatters, but it hurts, too, and our
benefactors, as we call them, have learned to shun it.

"We are still far from thinking our civilization perfect; but we are sure
that our civic ideals are perfect. What we have already accomplished is to
have given a whole continent perpetual peace; to have founded an economy
in which there is no possibility of want; to have killed out political and
social ambition; to have disused money and eliminated chance; to have
realized the brotherhood of the race, and to have outlived the fear of

The Altrurian suddenly stopped with these words and sat down. He had
spoken a long time, and with a fulness which my report gives little notion
of; but, though most of his cultivated listeners were weary, and a good
many ladies had left their seats and gone back to the hotel, not one of
the natives, or the work-people of any sort, had stirred; now they
remained a moment motionless and silent before they rose from all parts of
the field and shouted: "Go on! Don't stop! Tell us all about it!"

I saw Reuben Camp climb the shoulders of a big fellow near where the
Altrurian had stood; he waved the crowd to silence with out-spread arms.
"He isn't going to say anything more; he's tired. But if any man don't
think he's got his dollar's worth, let him walk up to the door and the
ticket-agent will refund him his money."

The crowd laughed, and some one shouted: "Good for you, Reub!"

Camp continued: "But our friend here will shake the hand of any man,
woman, or child that wants to speak to him; and you needn't wipe it on the
grass first, either. He's a _man_! And I want to say that he's going to
spend the next week with us, at my mother's house, and we shall be glad to
have you call."

The crowd, the rustic and ruder part of it, cheered and cheered till the
mountain echoes answered; then a railroader called for three times three,
with a tiger, and got it. The guests of the hotel broke away and went
toward the house over the long shadows of the meadow. The lower classes
pressed forward, on Camp's invitation.

"Well, did you ever hear a more disgusting rigmarole?" asked Mrs. Makely,
as our little group halted indecisively about her.

"With all those imaginary commonwealths to draw upon, from Plato, through
More, Bacon, and Campanella, down to Bellamy and Morris, he has
constructed the shakiest effigy ever made of old clothes stuffed with
straw," said the professor.

The manufacturer was silent. The banker said: "I don't know. He grappled
pretty boldly with your insinuations. That frank declaration that Altruria
was all these pretty soap-bubble worlds solidified was rather fine."

"It was splendid!" cried Mrs. Makely. The lawyer and the minister came
toward us from where they had been sitting together. She called out to
them: "Why in the world didn't one of your gentlemen get up and propose a
vote of thanks?"

"The difficulty with me is," continued the banker, "that he has rendered
Altruria incredible. I have no doubt that he is an Altrurian, but I doubt
very much if he comes from anywhere in particular, and I find this quite a
blow, for we had got Altruria nicely located on the map, and were
beginning to get accounts of it in the newspapers."

"Yes, that is just exactly the way I feel about it," sighed Mrs. Makely.
"But still, don't you think there ought to have been a vote of thanks, Mr.

"Why, certainly. The fellow was immensely amusing, and you must have got a
lot of money by him. It was an oversight not to make him a formal
acknowledgment of some kind. If we offered him money, he would have to
leave it all behind him here when he went home to Altruria."

"Just as _we_ do when we go to heaven," I suggested; the banker did not
answer, and I instantly felt that in the presence of the minister my
remark was out of taste.

"Well, then, don't you think," said Mrs. Makely, who had a leathery
insensibility to everything but the purpose possessing her, "that we ought
at least to go and say something to him personally?"

"Yes, I think we ought," said the banker, and we all walked up to where
the Altrurian stood, still thickly surrounded by the lower classes, who
were shaking hands with him and getting in a word with him now and then.

One of the construction gang said, carelessly: "No all-rail route to
Altruria, I suppose?"

"No," answered Homos, "it's a far sea voyage."

"Well, I shouldn't mind working my passage, if you think they'd let me
stay after I got there."

"Ah, you mustn't go to Altruria. You must let Altruria come to _you_"
returned Homos, with that confounded smile of his that always won my

"Yes," shouted Reuben Camp, whose thin face was red with excitement,
"that's the word. Have Altruria right here, and right now."

The old farmer, who had several times spoken, cackled out: "I didn't know,
one while, when you was talk'n' about not havin' no money, but what some
on us had had Altrury here for quite a spell, already. I don't pass more'n
fifty dolla's through my hands most years."

A laugh went up, and then, at sight of Mrs. Makely heading our little
party, the people round Homos civilly made way for us. She rushed upon
him, and seized his hand in both of hers; she dropped her fan, parasol,
gloves, handkerchief, and vinaigrette in the grass to do so. "Oh, Mr.
Homos," she fluted, and the tears came into her eyes, "it was beautiful,
_beautiful_, every word of it! I sat in a perfect trance from beginning to
end, and I felt that it was all as true as it was beautiful. People all
around me were breathless with interest, and I don't know how I can ever
thank you enough."

"Yes. indeed," the professor hastened to say, before the Altrurian could
answer, and he beamed malignantly upon him through his spectacles while he
spoke, "it was like some strange romance."

"I don't know that I should go so far as that," said the banker, in his
turn, "but it certainly seemed too good to be true."

"Yes," the Altrurian responded, simply, but a little sadly; "now that I am
away from it all, and in conditions so different, I sometimes had to ask
myself, as I went on, if my whole life had not hitherto been a dream, and
Altruria were not some blessed vision of the night."

"Then you know how to account for a feeling which I must acknowledge,
too?" the lawyer asked, courteously. "But it was most interesting."

"The kingdom of God upon earth," said the minister--"It ought not to be
incredible; but that, more than anything else you told us of, gave me

"You of all men?" returned the Altrurian, gently.

"Yes," said the minister, with a certain dejection, "when I remember what
I have seen of men, when I reflect what human nature is, how can I believe
that the kingdom of God will ever come upon the earth?"

"But in heaven, where He reigns, who is it does His will? The spirits of
men?" pursued the Altrurian.

"Yes, but conditioned as men are here--"

"But if they were conditioned as men are there?"

"Now, I can't let you two good people get into a theological dispute,"
Mrs. Makely pushed in. "Here is Mr. Twelvemough dying to shake hands with
Mr. Homos and compliment his distinguished guest."

"Ah, Mr. Homos knows what I must have thought of his talk without my
telling him," I began, skilfully. "But I am sorry that I am to lose my
distinguished guest so soon."

Reuben Camp broke out: "That was my blunder, Mr. Twelvemough. Mr. Homos
and I had talked it over conditionally, and I was not to speak of it till
he had told you; but it slipped out in the excitement of the moment."

"Oh, it's all right," I said, and I shook hands cordially with both of
them. "It will be the greatest possible advantage for Mr. Homos to see
certain phases of American life at close range, and he couldn't possibly
see them under better auspices than yours, Camp."

"Yes, I'm going to drive him through the hill country after haying, and
then I'm going to take him down and show him one of our big factory

I believe this was done, but finally the Altrurian went on to New York,
where he was to pass the winter. We parted friends; I even offered him
some introductions; but his acquaintance had become more and more
difficult, and I was not sorry to part with him. That taste of his for low
company was incurable, and I was glad that I was not to be responsible any
longer for whatever strange thing he might do next. I think he remained
very popular with the classes he most affected; a throng of natives,
construction hands, and table-girls saw him off on his train; and he left
large numbers of such admirers in our house and neighborhood, devout in
the faith that there was such a commonwealth as Altruria, and that he was
really an Altrurian. As for the more cultivated people who had met him,
they continued of two minds upon both points.


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