When we arrived home, Dr. Leete had not yet returned, and Mrs. Leete
was not visible. "Are you fond of music, Mr. West?" Edith asked.
I assured her that it was half of life, according to my notion.
"I ought to apologize for inquiring," she said. "It is not a question
that we ask one another nowadays; but I have read that in your day,
even among the cultured class, there were some who did not care for
"You must remember, in excuse," I said, "that we had some rather
absurd kinds of music."
"Yes," she said, "I know that; I am afraid I should not have fancied
it all myself. Would you like to hear some of ours now, Mr. West?"
"Nothing would delight me so much as to listen to you," I said.
"To me!" she exclaimed, laughing. "Did you think I was going to play
or sing to you?"
"I hoped so, certainly," I replied.
Seeing that I was a little abashed, she subdued her merriment and
explained. "Of course, we all sing nowadays as a matter of course in
the training of the voice, and some learn to play instruments for
their private amusement; but the professional music is so much grander
and more perfect than any performance of ours, and so easily commanded
when we wish to hear it, that we don't think of calling our singing or
playing music at all. All the really fine singers and players are in
the musical service, and the rest of us hold our peace for the main
part. But would you really like to hear some music?"
I assured her once more that I would.
"Come, then, into the music room," she said, and I followed her into
an apartment finished, without hangings, in wood, with a floor of
polished wood. I was prepared for new devices in musical instruments,
but I saw nothing in the room which by any stretch of imagination
could be conceived as such. It was evident that my puzzled appearance
was affording intense amusement to Edith.
"Please look at to-day's music," she said, handing me a card, "and
tell me what you would prefer. It is now five o'clock, you will
The card bore the date "September 12, 2000," and contained the longest
programme of music I had ever seen. It was as various as it was long,
including a most extraordinary range of vocal and instrumental solos,
duets, quartettes, and various orchestral combinations. I remained
bewildered by the prodigious list until Edith's pink finger-tip
indicated a particular section of it, where several selections were
bracketed, with the words "5 P.M." against them; then I observed
that this prodigious programme was an all-day one, divided into
twenty-four sections answering to the hours. There were but a few
pieces of music in the "5 P.M." section, and I indicated an organ
piece as my preference.
"I am so glad you like the organ," said she. "I think there is
scarcely any music that suits my mood oftener."
She made me sit down comfortably, and, crossing the room, so far as I
could see, merely touched one or two screws, and at once the room was
filled with the music of a grand organ anthem; filled, not flooded,
for, by some means, the volume of melody had been perfectly graduated
to the size of the apartment. I listened, scarcely breathing, to the
close. Such music, so perfectly rendered, I had never expected to
"Grand!" I cried, as the last great wave of sound broke and ebbed away
into silence. "Bach must be at the keys of that organ; but where is
"Wait a moment, please," said Edith; "I want to have you listen to
this waltz before you ask any questions. I think it is perfectly
charming;" and as she spoke the sound of violins filled the room with
the witchery of a summer night. When this had also ceased, she said:
"There is nothing in the least mysterious about the music, as you seem
to imagine. It is not made by fairies or genii, but by good, honest,
and exceedingly clever human hands. We have simply carried the idea of
labor saving by co=F6peration into our musical service as into
everything else. There are a number of music rooms in the city,
perfectly adapted acoustically to the different sorts of music. These
halls are connected by telephone with all the houses of the city whose
people care to pay the small fee, and there are none, you may be sure,
who do not. The corps of musicians attached to each hall is so large
that, although no individual performer, or group of performers, has
more than a brief part, each day's programme lasts through the
twenty-four hours. There are on that card for to-day, as you will see
if you observe closely, distinct programmes of four of these concerts,
each of a different order of music from the others, being now
simultaneously performed, and any one of the four pieces now going on
that you prefer, you can hear by merely pressing the button which will
connect your house-wire with the hall where it is being rendered. The
programmes are so co=F6rdinated that the pieces at any one time
simultaneously proceeding in the different halls usually offer a
choice, not only between instrumental and vocal, and between different
sorts of instruments; but also between different motives from grave to
gay, so that all tastes and moods can be suited."
"It appears to me, Miss Leete," I said, "that if we could have devised
an arrangement for providing everybody with music in their homes,
perfect in quality, unlimited in quantity, suited to every mood, and
beginning and ceasing at will, we should have considered the limit of
human felicity already attained, and ceased to strive for further
"I am sure I never could imagine how those among you who depended at
all on music managed to endure the old-fashioned system for providing
it," replied Edith. "Music really worth hearing must have been, I
suppose, wholly out of the reach of the masses, and attainable by the
most favored only occasionally, at great trouble, prodigious expense,
and then for brief periods, arbitrarily fixed by somebody else, and in
connection with all sorts of undesirable circumstances. Your concerts,
for instance, and operas! How perfectly exasperating it must have
been, for the sake of a piece or two of music that suited you, to have
to sit for hours listening to what you did not care for! Now, at a
dinner one can skip the courses one does not care for. Who would ever
dine, however hungry, if required to eat everything brought on the
table? and I am sure one's hearing is quite as sensitive as one's
taste. I suppose it was these difficulties in the way of commanding
really good music which made you endure so much playing and singing in
your homes by people who had only the rudiments of the art."
"Yes," I replied, "it was that sort of music or none for most of us."
"Ah, well," Edith sighed, "when one really considers, it is not so
strange that people in those days so often did not care for music. I
dare say I should have detested it, too."
"Did I understand you rightly," I inquired, "that this musical
programme covers the entire twenty-four hours? It seems to on this
card, certainly; but who is there to listen to music between say
midnight and morning?"
"Oh, many," Edith replied. "Our people keep all hours; but if the
music were provided from midnight to morning for no others, it still
would be for the sleepless, the sick, and the dying. All our
bedchambers have a telephone attachment at the head of the bed by
which any person who may be sleepless can command music at pleasure,
of the sort suited to the mood."
"Is there such an arrangement in the room assigned to me?"
"Why, certainly; and how stupid, how very stupid, of me not to think
to tell you of that last night! Father will show you about the
adjustment before you go to bed to-night, however; and with the
receiver at your ear, I am quite sure you will be able to snap your
fingers at all sorts of uncanny feelings if they trouble you again."
That evening Dr. Leete asked us about our visit to the store, and in
the course of the desultory comparison of the ways of the nineteenth
century and the twentieth, which followed, something raised the
question of inheritance. "I suppose," I said, "the inheritance of
property is not now allowed."
"On the contrary," replied Dr. Leete, "there is no interference with
it. In fact, you will find, Mr. West, as you come to know us, that
there is far less interference of any sort with personal liberty
nowadays than you were accustomed to. We require, indeed, by law that
every man shall serve the nation for a fixed period, instead of
leaving him his choice, as you did, between working, stealing, or
starving. With the exception of this fundamental law, which is,
indeed, merely a codification of the law of nature--the edict of
Eden--by which it is made equal in its pressure on men, our system
depends in no particular upon legislation, but is entirely voluntary,
the logical outcome of the operation of human nature under rational
conditions. This question of inheritance illustrates just that point.
The fact that the nation is the sole capitalist and land-owner of
course restricts the individual's possessions to his annual credit,
and what personal and household belongings he may have procured with
it. His credit, like an annuity in your day, ceases on his death, with
the allowance of a fixed sum for funeral expenses. His other
possessions he leaves as he pleases."
"What is to prevent, in course of time, such accumulations of valuable
goods and chattels in the hands of individuals as might seriously
interfere with equality in the circumstances of citizens?" I asked.
"That matter arranges itself very simply," was the reply. "Under the
present organization of society, accumulations of personal property
are merely burdensome the moment they exceed what adds to the real
comfort. In your day, if a man had a house crammed full with gold and
silver plate, rare china, expensive furniture, and such things, he was
considered rich, for these things represented money, and could at any
time be turned into it. Nowadays a man whom the legacies of a hundred
relatives, simultaneously dying, should place in a similar position,
would be considered very unlucky. The articles, not being salable,
would be of no value to him except for their actual use or the
enjoyment of their beauty. On the other hand, his income remaining the
same, he would have to deplete his credit to hire houses to store the
goods in, and still further to pay for the service of those who took
care of them. You may be very sure that such a man would lose no time
in scattering among his friends possessions which only made him the
poorer, and that none of those friends would accept more of them than
they could easily spare room for and time to attend to. You see, then,
that to prohibit the inheritance of personal property with a view to
prevent great accumulations would be a superfluous precaution for the
nation. The individual citizen can be trusted to see that he is not
overburdened. So careful is he in this respect, that the relatives
usually waive claim to most of the effects of deceased friends,
reserving only particular objects. The nation takes charge of the
resigned chattels, and turns such as are of value into the common
stock once more."
"You spoke of paying for service to take care of your houses," said I;
"that suggests a question I have several times been on the point of
asking. How have you disposed of the problem of domestic service? Who
are willing to be domestic servants in a community where all are
social equals? Our ladies found it hard enough to find such even when
there was little pretense of social equality."
"It is precisely because we are all social equals whose equality
nothing can compromise, and because service is honorable, in a society
whose fundamental principle is that all in turn shall serve the rest,
that we could easily provide a corps of domestic servants such as you
never dreamed of, if we needed them," replied Dr. Leete. "But we do
not need them."
"Who does your housework, then?" I asked.
"There is none to do," said Mrs. Leete, to whom I had addressed this
question. "Our washing is all done at public laundries at excessively
cheap rates, and our cooking at public kitchens The making and
repairing of all we wear are done outside in public shops.
Electricity, of course, takes the place of all fires and lighting. We
choose houses no larger than we need, and furnish them so as to
involve the minimum of trouble to keep them in order. We have no use
for domestic servants."
"The fact," said Dr. Leete, "that you had in the poorer classes a
boundless supply of serfs on whom you could impose all sorts of
painful and disagreeable tasks, made you indifferent to devices to
avoid the necessity for them. But now that we all have to do in turn
whatever work is done for society, every individual in the nation has
the same interest, and a personal one, in devices for lightening the
burden. This fact has given a prodigious impulse to labor-saving
inventions in all sorts of industry, of which the combination of the
maximum of comfort and minimum of trouble in household arrangements
was one of the earliest results.
"In case of special emergencies in the household," pursued Dr. Leete,
"such as extensive cleaning or renovation, or sickness in the family,
we can always secure assistance from the industrial force."
"But how do you recompense these assistants, since you have no money?"
"We do not pay them, of course, but the nation for them. Their
services can be obtained by application at the proper bureau, and
their value is pricked off the credit card of the applicant."
"What a paradise for womankind the world must be now!" I exclaimed.
"In my day, even wealth and unlimited servants did not enfranchise
their possessors from household cares, while the women of the merely
well-to-do and poorer classes lived and died martyrs to them."
"Yes," said Mrs. Leete, "I have read something of that; enough to
convince me that, badly off as the men, too, were in your day, they
were more fortunate than their mothers and wives."
"The broad shoulders of the nation," said Dr. Leete, "bear now like a
feather the burden that broke the backs of the women of your day.
Their misery came, with all your other miseries, from that incapacity
for co=F6peration which followed from the individualism on which your
social system was founded, from your inability to perceive that you
could make ten times more profit out of your fellow men by uniting
with them than by contending with them. The wonder is, not that you
did not live more comfortably, but that you were able to live together
at all, who were all confessedly bent on making one another your
servants, and securing possession of one another's goods."
"There, there, father, if you are so vehement, Mr. West will think you
are scolding him," laughingly interposed Edith.
"When you want a doctor," I asked, "do you simply apply to the proper
bureau and take any one that may be sent?"
"That rule would not work well in the case of physicians," replied Dr.
Leete. "The good a physician can do a patient depends largely on his
acquaintance with his constitutional tendencies and condition. The
patient must be able, therefore, to call in a particular doctor, and
he does so just as patients did in your day. The only difference is
that, instead of collecting his fee for himself, the doctor collects
it for the nation by pricking off the amount, according to a regular
scale for medical attendance, from the patient's credit card."
"I can imagine," I said, "that if the fee is always the same, and a
doctor may not turn away patients, as I suppose he may not, the good
doctors are called constantly and the poor doctors left in idleness."
"In the first place, if you will overlook the apparent conceit of the
remark from a retired physician," replied Dr. Leete, with a smile, "we
have no poor doctors. Anybody who pleases to get a little smattering
of medical terms is not now at liberty to practice on the bodies of
citizens, as in your day. None but students who have passed the severe
tests of the schools, and clearly proved their vocation, are permitted
to practice. Then, too, you will observe that there is nowadays no
attempt of doctors to build up their practice at the expense of other
doctors. There would be no motive for that. For the rest, the doctor
has to render regular reports of his work to the medical bureau, and
if he is not reasonably well employed, work is found for him."