I set out towards the interior of the land and soon found myself among beautifully cultivated, enormous rice-fields. Along and throughout the rice lands ran pipes; through these the water necessary to swamp the land appeared to have been led, as it is well known that this plant requires flooded soil.
I walked along the boundaries of the fields for one and a half solid hours when finally I reached a highway.
I stood there in open-eyed amazement as I had never seen such a splendid road before. It was made of an especially fine material, softer than concrete, soundless and flexible like rubber, cohesive like gravel and smooth as a mirror. It was flanked on either side by fruit trees. There were gullies on both sides, and on the right was a separate pavement shadowed by an endless promenade. At intervals of about fifty yards big outdoor armchairs were situated along the road. They were not, however, woven of reeds or twigs but made of a smooth material which I took for bakelite. The chairs were surrounded with cypress bushes. At every quarter mile stood a little house, made of concrete and glass, with a single room the interior of which was about five paces long and just as wide.
A single window running all the way round constituted the walls, the roof being supported by a metal pillar, pale silver in colour, at each of the four corners. Looking in, I saw a table of wonderful finish which was nonetheless of extraordinary simplicity, with comfortable, springy rubber easy chairs around it. In the corner there was an electric heater. In my homeland I had seen similar — but by no means so luxurious — glass rooms at the bus stops of metropolises and along the promenades of fashionable bathing resorts, where the passers-by might take shelter from the rain. My supposition that they could be for a similar purpose was borne out by the fact that on the door there was no lock. Along both sides of the roadway, at a distance of about twenty paces from each other, durable-looking, twenty-foot-high lamps stood, each made from a smooth tube with a silvery sheen.
Gradually I came to the conclusion that I was in the park of some very distinguished man. This beautiful esplanade, these glass rooms, the lamps, could not at any rate be public property, for however closely I examined them I discovered no trace of damage or obscene inscriptions. Besides everything displayed a much finer workmanship than is customary with things destined for public use.
I wondered only why so much valuable property was not enclosed within a fence. In turn, it also seemed strange that such a beautiful promenade led among rice-fields and not among ornamental plants.
I should have liked to get away lest I should incur the rightful resentment of the proprietor of the land, but I hurried in vain for the road did not come to an end.
Exhausted, hungry and thirsty, I had just sank into an armchair when I discovered to my joy that near me stood a small basin with a tap in the middle.
Regretting my less than impeccable instincts here, too, I overcame my due respect for private property and, turning on the tap, let the fresh water pour into my palms and avidly quenched my raging thirst.
Hunger was also gnawingat me and the sight of the trees covered with fruit had almost led me into temptation, so that I was able to save my soul from falling into sin only by strongly recalling the gentle instruction of my venerable teachers concerning private property and the self-restraint which is the ornament and virtue of non-proprietors.
I was already about to give way to despair when a luxury car appeared from afar. Its outlines were sleek and displayed advanced technical knowledge. Its dull silvery surface and soundless progress impressed me.
I was certain that the lord of the estate had arrived and started up from my seat in alarm.
At first I wanted to run away, but then thought it better to stand squarely in front of him, honestly disclosing my situation lest — were they nevertheless able to catch me — perhaps I should be taken for a thief. And, indeed, I was driven by hunger, too.
So I stepped to the middle of the road and opening my arms wide indicated to the chauffeur my honourable intention that I should be happy should they consider my person worth stopping for.
The car did indeed stop. Inside on the back seat there was another man.
Both had fine features reminiscent of Greek statues and betraying exceptional intelligence, so that if one of them had not been sitting at the wheel I could not have distinguished the lord from the chauffeur. They were both characterized by a long, straight nose, finely arched eyebrows, lips pressed close, a high forehead and a cold detached look, combining in a peculiar manner a clever and attentive expression. I had never seen such a fusing of unusual contrasts, and it was all the more strange as their faces did not lack harmony. That is, not only did opposites meet but disharmony united in them with harmony. As if a regular geometric figure — were smiling! A strange, uncertain feeling stole over me.
The chauffeur addressed me in a soft foreign tongue of which I understood nothing, and in reply I tried through gestures to make him understand that I did not want to talk to him but to the passenger whom I thought to be the landowner.
And the landowner, comprehending my wish, got out of the car and stood before me. It was only then that I perceived that he was dressed in precisely the same way as his chauffeur. Each wore a grey suit in one piece, with a belt round the waist, tightly buttoned at the wrists and the ankles, and fitted out with big pockets, but tailored from a very fine fabric. It appeared that they used this against the dust when making trips by car. Each had, further, a light soft cap similar to a beret, fastened to their heads by a rubber band.
I bowed deeply and removed my cap with a wide sweep.
I was surprised, however, to see that the lord did not acknowledge my greeting but looked in bewilderment at the cap extended in my hand and then hesitatingly reached for it, took it away, glanced at it and uttered some surprised words, which, of course, I did not understand. It was only with great difficulty that I gathered from signs that he thought I wanted to give the cap to him. I myself felt uneasy seeing that greetings had other forms here, unknown to me, and thought fearfully of the possible awkward and inconvenient situations my ignorance of the rules of the country's finer society might — in spite of my best intentions — place me in during the weeks to come.
Throwing my arms and legs about I began to explain that I had come from the sea, the shore of which I had reached by swimming, and begged his pardon for my trespassing.
At this point I placed my left hand on my chest and bowed deeply once more at which he immediately stepped up to me, undid my clothes and examined my chest where my palm had been. Obviously he misunderstood me and thought my chest hurt.
Anyone who has been even only once in a foreign country where the local habits were unknown to him will understand my embarrassment, which was only increased by their not laughing at all; in their eyes I could see nothing but matter-of-fact goodwill. I seemed to have arrived among correct gentlemen who, understanding the awkwardness of the foreigner, politely stifled their justifiable laughter.
Hunger, however, gnawed at me increasingly and, realizing that in this way I should get nowhere, I pointed to my stomach and explained with signs that I was hungry. I was somewhat ashamed at being compelled to broach such a subject so early but their patient attitude encouraged me. I was sure that my request in this respect, too, would be received with understanding.
And I was not disappointed. They fully understood. They looked at each other, then at me, and pointed at the tree in surprise, indicating that I was at liberty to pick the fruits. This generosity moved me deeply; timidly I picked an enormous pear, and greedily stuffed it into my mouth.
I confess this single pear did not satisfy me, but I did not dare to ask permission to take another one. I hoped that when they saw my voracious appetite they would offer it to me anyway.
It was then that I encountered my first disappointment in Kazohinia. The lord, so cordial a moment earlier, did not care a fig whether I continued taking nourishment. This, I admit, surprised me somewhat unpleasantly.
Oh, had I been familiar with the circumstances, I would not have hesitated to pick as much as I needed! But I was uninitiated. In any case, I attempted to express my gratitude by smiling pleasantly, as I no longer dared to bow.
Their features, however, remained entirely unmoved, which again seemed contradictory to their former cordiality. They even looked into my face with a certain anxiety.
Then they exchanged a few words with each other and beckoned to me to get into the car.
The honour gave me pleasure and I felt that I should have endeavoured to express my gratitude but did not venture to do so.
The car started off. Then, after about half a mile, it stopped. The landlord stepped out and went behind the car, and I was surprised to see him untie a shining metal ladder, which he then, with the help of the chauffeur, extended and supported against a lamp-post. The lord climbed up, unscrewed the bulb and replaced it with another.
I was surprised. Why did he not entrust such work to his servants? But as yet I could find no explanation.
Before long they put the ladder back and we continued on our way. I saw that the lord looked at my waterstained and crumpled clothes with interest and I was extremely ashamed of my unbecoming appearance. I apologized in every possible manner explaining that reasons beyond my control had led me into such an unpresentable state. I perceived, however, that he took special interest in my badges of rank, and I in turn, seizing the opportunity to offer some proof of my quite respectable social rank, explained what it meant, how many people were under me in rank on board ship and that my rank even entitled me to enter the inner household of His Majesty. I noticed nevertheless that he did not understand too much of this, and I was worried by the thought that he might not appreciate it properly.
After five minutes we stopped again, the two men got out and I watched them with astonishment as they each put on a dirty overall, and, having lifted a heavy lid from the road, they disappeared below the ground with a portable repair outfit at their side.
Out of curiosity I myself followed them and, looking down, saw that they were repairing cables. So my destiny seemed after all not to have brought me together with the proprietor of the estate, which again set me in confusion, and I blushed in shame over my former humble behaviour.
Nor did I understand how they had dared to offer me their master's fruit. I cannot say that I formed the highest opinion of their morals.
After a solid half hour they repacked their kits and we drove on.
We drove for about a quarter of an hour and the landscape remained the same. Slowly it began to dawn on me that all this could not be the private property of one man. But what then was all this wonderful technical equipment for? This I could explain only on strategic grounds as it is only the elevated idea of devotion to one's country that enables man to create on such a scale against aliens.
I tried to ask by signs why they had made the road in such a luxurious way, but he seemed to have misunderstood me as he replied that it was only in order that it should not cause jolting.
The rice-fields were followed by fields of corn, potatoes and other vegetables. In some places slender concrete water towers, irrigators, pumps, appeared; and then there were people steering strange big silvery machines. These farmers wore the same kind of clothes as my travelling companions.
Here and there I could already see houses. Of the first I believed that it was the summer residence of some eccentric grand seigneur. It was not large; it might in all comprise some two or three rooms but it was an uncommonly precise, perfect and solid building, suggesting a developed culture. A flat roof, enormous windows with four-five panes, a spacious terrace, a solarium and a roof promenade. It was surrounded with trees and shrubs arranged in neat rows, but I saw no flowers. It had no chimneys, but in front of the terrace there was a swimming pool, and also a couch, a hammock and some gymnastic apparatus.
Later I discovered many such villas. They were all alike.
We stopped once more. The chauffeur got out, opened a metal cabinet at the roadside and pulled a tube from it to the fuel tank.
At first I thought it was some special form of petrol station, but seeing no attendant, I came to believe that it was a water tap. He, however, began to pump in a casual manner and the smell indicated petrol. I had no idea how they protected it from thieves. Nor did I see an attendant in the neighbourhood, nor was there any petrol gauge, or a lock on its door.
We proceeded. A few minutes later, without any transition, we arrived in a town.
Two-storey and three-storey houses followed, all in a style similar to what I had seen in the fields. To begin with I admired them, but later the monotony and lack of ornament gave rise to a feeling that something was lacking. After such a rich environment I expected showy, turreted palaces. Wonderingly I watched to see how beautiful the public buildings, churches, theatres and fashionable dancing bars would be with colonnades, arcades, caryatids and illuminated advertisements, but I saw none.
On the contrary, all we came across was more cars and trams. They ran almost without any noise but at such a speed that I continuously wondered how it was that we did not crash.
At the crossings we raced through underpasses and up on fly-overs. Now above, now under us, electric express trains shot by at a tremendous pace and in what amounted to absolute silence. Soon I realized that the wheels of the vehicles were not of iron, but of some special, sound-proof material, similar to hardrubber.
But what surprised me most of all was that the countless ,people, whether on foot or travelling by car or train, were all very similar to each other, and their attire, too, was almost uniform, being similar to that of my travelling companions. The only variation was that over the suit some wore a grey cloak, which, however, ought rather to be called a cowl, as it had neither collar nor lapel. Most of them went bare-headed, with only a few wearing the same type of cap as my companions, and of hats I saw none.
Their shoes had no heels. I took them to be slabs of rubber cast from a single piece with vent-holes here and there; they were held together by a single buckle. The Reader may imagine in what silence cars and men passed by on the rubber roads.
And what is more, the women were also dressed in this way, so at the beginning I thought to see nothing but men. Why, even their hair-style was uniform; it was worn sleek and cropped around, which could hardly even be called a hair-style. It was only later that a gentler feature, a finer, lighter move betrayed to me who were women among the many uniform beings.
It was in vain I waited for luxurious shops, too. I saw some doors with strange inscriptions, but without iron shutters. As if they were not shops but private apartments with an entrance from the street. The characters in the inscriptions were very simple geometric figures. Nowhere a shop window; only the big, square windows in the dull silvery frames I had seen so often and of which everything here seemed to be made.
Now our car stopped, my guide got out and beckoned to me. I stepped out, the car moved away, while we went to the tram stop. I was greatly ashamed to be a financial burden to my companion, all the more so since I had naturally only English currency on me.
All the same, I took out my wallet and handed him a one pound note hoping that he would be able to change it at the exchange afterwards.
Regrettably the banknote was rather crumpled as it had been soaked. My companion turned it over and over scrutinizing it and asking questions with signs, which, of course, I did not understand, and then he simply gave it back to me.
I did not know whether he did it out of chivalry, or whether he was offended at my not being able to give him a banknote in a better condition. I was beset by doubts but had no time to ponder. A tram arrived and we got on.
Comfortable rubber seats were there to receive us. Everything was of silvery metal, glass and bakelite. I have to state that I had never travelled in such a comfortable and finely sprung tram-car.
People got on and off wordlessly, in a silence scarcely imaginable with us, and with a brisk precision. I had arrived among a wonderful people.
With all my admiration, however, this automatism was depressing. Nowhere a smile, a cordial greeting. Everybody sat with a wooden face, without a single word.
What struck me most, however, was that I saw no conductor in the tram. In spite of this it started exactly, as the driver kept a look-out in a mirror. I also looked in vain for a money-box, finally thinking that here everybody carried a season ticket. I could not comprehend, however, how they checked whether somebody got on who had not renewed his season ticket. However I brooded over it, I was at that time not yet able to find the explanation.
And this was only the beginning.
We reached a river. On its two banks over a width of about a hundred yards stretched an endless park with the row of villas, already repeated a thousand times, behind it. As if everybody were a millionaire bachelor here, and the whole town was not older than twenty years. Not on a single stone of the town did I see anything that would have recalled the past, and I did not see a single work of which I could have said that it gave pleasure to my eyes. I could only marvel at the richness and comfort.
I saw not a single statue nor even a single inscribed monument that might have proclaimed the merits of their great ones. There was no triumphal arch, bridge-head, nor a solitary fountain that might hint at a delight in art, as would befit such an affluent town.
We left the tram and went underground by escalator. We were in an underground station. A minute later a four-car train drew in at lightning speed. Braking strongly, it stopped. At that moment the doors of all four cars slid apart, we got in together with other people, the last one pulling the door and the train started.
In this train there was no driver either. As I came to know later, here everything functioned automatically. At steps the doors opened by themselves, and the train set off when they shut. All-embracing safety automatons ensured that it should not crash into the preceding train, and that the running time be duly adhered to.
Under the river we whizzed through a tunnel, and then speeding up the other side we rose above the houses. We flew en for about five minutes without halting. Our car whizzed along with unbelievable velocity. Below us a sea of houses, parks, gardens swirled, rotated and whirled, beside us strange signalling and controlling automatons flashed, and at the bends, the track heeled over at thirty degrees like motor racing tracks, so that the train, too, took them at full speed, and we were practically glued to our seats by the centrifugal force. I wondered in anguish what would happen if the train were to break down at a bend.
At last we came to a stop, my companion beckoned to me, and we got off. Things were swirling around me, he caught my arm and took me on to a moving pavement, which like an endless band took us along with it. From here we stepped on to another, and then to a third band, each moving a little more quickly than the previous one. On the third belt there were benches on which we sat down.
We travelled in this way for about a quarter of a mile. I could see the houses from above. As if in a field or in a park, on every roof I saw plants : grass, shrubs, vegetables and also fruit trees. It surprised me that there was no chimney on any of them. Then we stood up and stepping backwards we were once again on the pavement. One after the other lightning-fast trains whizzed past us.
Now we stepped into a non-stop lift, which took us down to the ground.
I dare say that since swimming ashore I had not had such a feeling of relief. After the many machine-monsters running to and fro, I stood once more on firm ground.
Now we went a few paces on foot, turned into a side-street, and stopped before a door on which there was some lettering.
At the motion of my companion I entered and took off my cap in politeness. The door opened before us of its own accord and closed behind us in the same manner.
Inside, in innumerable glass wardrobes lay clothes by the thousand, similar to those worn by everybody.
In the shop, however, (I cannot call it anything else), there was no one.
My companion now took out a tape-measure, measured my waist, and my height to my shoulders; then he reached for a suit of clothes from one of the wardrobes and, placing it before me, indicated that I should put it on.
Just then three people entered: a man and two women. They conversed briefly, then, in a similar way, set about making their choice among the clothes.
Untying the clothes, I also found a shirt included. Considering the presence of the visitors, I asked my guide where the fitting room was, but he did not understand my question. Then I made an attempt, having pointed at the ladies, to imitate dressing; I pointed at the door and expressed that I should like to have a fitting elsewhere.
At this my guide without a word approached one of the ladies, exchanged a few words with her (I have to remark that their speech and words were very brief and easily pronounced) and then returned to me with the lady.
Politely I bowed and, offering my hand, introduced myself.
"I am Gulliver," I said with as benign a smile as possible.
The lady, however, looked at me with a surprised expression without returning my smile, and as for my hand extended towards her, she took it in her hands, turned it over, looked at it closely, scrutinized it, and then, uncomprehendingly, let it drop.
Realizing, however, that my guide had misunderstood my wish, I again tried to make myself understood by pointing at the ladies, the door and the clothes, at which they nodded approvingly and taking my arm led me to the street where something happened to me which I feel ashamed even to relate.
The lady, in the open, busy street undid and pulled off my coat, then kneeled down and also unbuttoned my trousers.
Indescribable shame made me blush and I snatched my trousers together close to my body with a cry of horror. I explained throwing my arms and hand about that a terrible misunderstanding had occurred, and that I would not have made so bold as to ask for help of this kind from a lady even in my dreams.
They were, however, indicating without any sign of emotion that I must in any case take off my clothes, at which I babbled at random in Spanish, Portuguese and German, explaining that an Englishman could never suffer such a stain on his personal honour, which at the same time represented the honour of his nation. I threatened them with diplomatic sanctions, but all in vain, for they did not understand.
Quite a few passers-by had already stopped. Some asked questions, and the frightening thought flashed through my mind that I had strayed into a land of lunatics where I was all alone. Nobody would come to my rescue, and I was without protection, exposed to their whims. "What is yet to come?" I thought of the terrible possibilities, and my forebodings came true all too soon.
For they conferred briefly, and then several of them set upon me and despite all my shouting and protesting, there, in the open street, they held me down, while the lady stripped off my trousers.
I called for the police at the top of my voice but in vain. Nobody took pity on me, they merely stared inanely and uncomprehendingly at the maltreatment of an unfortunate fellow-being.
My shirt and pants followed, and I lay there exposed to public ridicule, stark naked, surrounded by cars, trams and passersby.
On the faces of the bystanders, however, I perceived nothing but wonder and perplexity, which then definitely convinced me that I had fallen among lunatics.
Now the lady wanted to put the new shirt on me but I, gathering all my strength, wrenched myself from their hands, snatched the shirt, and covering my private parts with one hand, hurriedly pulled it on.
When the others saw this, they let me go and handed over the clothes, which I put on in similar haste, leaving my old clothes on the spot, afterwards transferring everything from the pockets.
My cheeks were burning with shame and grasping my guide's arm I begged of him that we should disappear quickly.
After a few seconds' consideration, he consented and we went. Now it was I who led him, and dragging him hastily into a side-street, I again committed myself to his care.
My heart was pounding in my throat on account of this barbarism which made a mockery of all decent feelings. Human life and freedom seemed to have no protection here, at least until then I had seen no policeman, nowhere was there anybody with pistol or bayonet. How could they sleep at night?
At the same time I had my own opinion of the decency of the women here, who let themselves be carried away by performing such obscene and immoral acts without the least sense of shame, to which the well-mannered and chaste ladies of my country would never have descended. And certainly not in the open street!
A country of lunatics and sluts! The mere thought of it was appalling. That here every woman could be had so cheaply!
I have to admit, however, that the clothes were especially fine and light. I had never felt so easy and comfortable. The most softly flowing Scottish textiles could not compare with them.
I had no idea which of the streets we were treading. All of them were equally wide, edged with shrubs, trees and completely uniform houses; it was only the traffic that made one distinguishable from the other.
My guide now ushered me through another door with some sort of inscription. The doors, too, were all alike - lockless, each with a glass pane, and requiring no pushing as when somebody approached they opened automatically. They seemed to be controlled by an invisible beam. I pondered greatly as to how they might be locked but was unable to find a solution.
Although I tried to ask with signs why they could not be locked, my companion appeared not to have understood as he said that they would not then open.
We reached an enormous restaurant which occupied the ground floor of the whole building. Only at its end there was a glass partition behind which white-coated figures operated silvery machines the purpose of which was unknown to me. I was undoubtedly a kitchen but nothing in it was reminiscent of the equipment in our kitchens. I saw containers and pipe systems with valves and pressure gauges. Mysterious electric instruments inscribed wavy lines on wide paper tapes. In U-shaped tubes oscillated liquid columns. On a panel behind round sheets of glass coloured signalling lights flashed. There was a swiftly revolving drum and other machine-marvels performed the tasks assigned them.
At the many tables I saw the same comfortable arm-chairs which I had seen so often. The walls were completely covered with a butter-yellow porcelain-like coating. It struck me what wide spaces had been left between the tables so that even with all the many people there was no crowding.
Surprising silence reigned, only the jingling of cutlery could be heard.
Between two rows of tables we flitted along like ghosts on the spongy rubber carpet and sat down at the first unoccupied table.
It was only then that I perceived the endless belt slowly moving on the other side of the tables with silvery boxes, cutlery and glasses set upon it at equal distances.
From among these my guide simply lifted off two, placing one before me. At first I did not know what one was supposed to do with it, but my guide opened his own box and began to spoon the food out of it and I followed suit.
By this time I did not know what to think of these strange people who were sometimes brutal, sometimes gentle and obliging.
And when I tasted the strange, mushy food I exclaimed in rapture.
It was an extraordinary meal. The heavy savour of roast partridge and the light sour touch of mustard were somehow blended in its taste. It included the scent of wood, the overflowing symphony of the juice of the succulent white butter pear, the intoxication of full, bodied wines and the refreshing sobriety of spring water. I may say that the meal tasted of life itself.
It was only now that I realized how hungry I was, for indeed since swimming ashore I had eaten but a single pear. Greedily I fell to and gulped it down in a trice.
As for my guide, he removed the empty dish without a word and placing it in the middle of the table pushed a button, at which the table opened, the box sank, and then everything closed again. On the smooth, yellow glass surface the outlines of the drop-door could scarcely be seen.
Then having seen my hunger, my guide took another box from the conveyer belt and set it before me.
So much kind-heartedness touched me beyond measure. I deeply regretted my earlier thoughts. Somewhat moved I mumbled some words of gratitude and tears welled up iii my eyes.
Seeing them, my guide bent over and regarded me with visible fright. Suddenly he took my face between his palms and turning it towards the light scrutinized it with knit brows.
Then he stood up.
"Elo! Elo! " he cried.
One of the men stood up, and came over to me. My guide said a few words to him pointing to my face, and the man produced a bag from his pocket.
From this he took out a tiny syringe, and holding this to my face he drew off my tears into it, then expressing them into a tiny bottle about a quarter inch in size.
Now, pulling my eyelids down, he began concernedly to examine my eyes and this made me realize that I had come into contact with a doctor.
Again I became seized with terror, and the horrible idea that I had fallen among lunatics haunted me anew.
I wanted to convince him that there was nothing wrong with my eyes. I wiped away my tears and smiled, which caused another sensation.
They conferred briefly, the doctor left, and I sat down to eat the second helping but with considerably diminished appetite.
I did, however, see that, disregarding their imperfections, I had much to thank them for. It occurred to me that my companion had not been able to pay for my clothes as I had run away and he, lest I should remain alone, had chosen to accompany me, exposing himself to the possibility of being pursued as a robber, and here, too, it was he who entertained me. I wanted to refund his expenses by any means possible.
I had already seen that he did not know our banknotes, but fortunately I had some gold and silver coins on me. I emptied my purse and handed over its contents to him. He turned the coins over and over, examined them thoroughly, and asked by signs what he should do with them. I repeatedly pointed towards the kitchen, but putting the money into his mouth and twisting his face in an imitation of chewing, he indicated that no meal could be produced from them. I did not exactly know whether it was his generosity that made him jest or whether he merely did not know our money at all. I tried to explain my intention but explanation was too difficult; finally I gave up, and returned the coins to my purse.
Now my guide beckoned to me; we stood up from the table and left. I expected him to drop the price of the dinner into some automatic machine. I intended to watch him carefully in order to seize an opportunity to explain my money in a_ more tangible way, but eventually I had to conclude that he did not pay here either. Now I was indeed full of curiosity as to their way of life, but there was no way of talking about it.
It was now about six o'clock in the evening. A sea of lights went up in the streets but so well shaded that we could proceed almost with no shadow. The light was neither yellow nor white, but like the sunshine: a diffusive, clean, quiet flood of light.
We might have walked for about ten minutes in traffic similar to that in the morning. I could scarcely make out the shapes of the cars slipping along, they disappeared so quickly. I had never seen so many strange cars. On one there was a long container with no driver to be seen, from another jib-arms rose high, from yet another an enormous metal mouth gaped forward; I also saw a car which had wheels on top so that it could run upside down as well.
Sometimes a big torpedo-like body drifted over us, closely following a wire but without touching it. The men on the silent roadways, in soundless shoes; the vehicles, if possible still more soundless; but all were rushing. This mute witches' dance of machines curiously deprived me of my sense of security, as if there were no force of gravity, only the swish of weightless movement.
The whole had an effect on me as if all of this did not really exist, or at least as if there were no pillars to support it. And the faces, too, were so strangely unfamiliar: from their unusual proportions emanated goodwill and a repellent inaccessibility.
Suddenly I thought of my comrades with whom I had spent so many pleasant evenings in the club, and who were perhaps now resting at the bottom of the ocean in their watery grave. My heart sank and I felt a desperate need for a living being, a friend to whom I could talk warmly and relate my impressions of these people. I had the strange feeling that they were not alive. As if behind this terrible perfection there was no substance.
And, as we were walking, a further feeling arose in me. It gradually took possession of me, although concerning its nature I was not as yet able to give an exact account to myself.
I felt I would welcome the opportunity to throw myself before an altar and to cry. But why? I had no idea! It was interesting that whereas at home I could not have been said to be overreligious, now I suddenly felt I understood the whole genesis of religion and the roots of it hiding within us. I looked for a church where I could pour out my heart without having doctors gape at my tears.
Pointing towards the sky I tried to ask my companion with signs about a church, at which he, likewise with signs, reassured me that there would be no rain. That is, he did not understand this either, like so many other sensible questions which had preceded it. I was not unduly worried by my failure, thinking that I would in any case come across a church, but my search was in vain. Every house was hopelessly uniform and unornamented and who could tell into which of these cheerless boxes they had squeezed the church.
Now we stopped before a door which likewise opened before us.
We went inside, and then stepped into a lift which carried us to the third and uppermost storey. Leaving the lift we found ourselves in a gazebo, where all the windows, which looked on to the back garden, were wide open. Below extended a park about fifty yards in length and breadth; beyond this another house followed, without any intervening fence. Along the paths comfortable rubber couches and a variety of arbours could be seen, all beautifully lit.
Several people were lying on the couches, others were walking on the paths, but everybody was alone and silent. Nowhere a crowd, nowhere an intimate group, nowhere a merry, cosy corner, roaring with laughter, or a debating semi-circle.
From the garden rose a concert of crickets and the intoxicating scent of lime-trees. Inexplicable people! Behold! They were fond of plants and lay down on the lawns, they had large windows and spacious sunny verandas, in the gardens there were the usual swimming pools — all the property of a man complete in heart. Why then this self-separating rigidity? Why did they not honour each other with kind words, or warm friendship?
From the gazebo we proceeded into a room where the lamps turned themselves on as we entered, my guide closed the windows by pushing a button.
The walls were butter-yellow like those in the restaurant. The room contained three chairs, a couch, an armchair and a square table; none of these was made of wood but of the material similar to bakelite that I had seen so often. The floor was the same, with no trace of carpet or curtain. Near the window stood a radiator covered with perforated metal plates, and in the corner a telephone, an electric clock and some other devices the functions of which were perfectly unfamiliar to me. On the wall, behind some sliding glass-like windows, there were books. Like the wardrobes, the bed, too, was built into the wall. At the flick of a finger it slid outwards, and when it slid back, the vacuum cleaner located in the wall automatically cleaned and aired it.
Then we went into the bathroom. I shall not bore the Reader with excessive detail; it is not difficult to deduce the essence from the foregoing. My host undressed in my presence without reserve, then I had to follow suit in order to wash under the shower, which was very agreeable.
Then he took out some bed-clothes from a wall cupboard and after arranging them on the floor prepared a marvellous resting place and motioned me to lie down.
I admit, I found it a little bit strange that he made his guest lie on the floor. Not that my resting place was uncomfortable for the rubber mattress would have been equally soft wherever it was placed, but this procedure cast an unfavourable light on the breeding of my host. I tried to find excuses for him for after all he was apparently only an ordinary electrician. But then what kind of conclusion should I draw from this expensive and extraordinarily fine furniture?
One would, however, expect even an electrician to offer the bed to his guest. He might have known that my good manners would not allow me to accept it anyway. Sighing, I thought again of my dear country where people were kind and generous and where the host always offered the best to his guest, knowing full well that he would make excuses and take the worst.
I went to bed while my host took out different types of gymnastic apparatus in the form of springs and weights and went to the balcony to exercise.
A quarter of an hour later he came back, lay down and clapped his hands once, at which the light went out.
The excitements of the day kept me awake for a long time. Furthermore, I was not accustomed to retiring so early. My host seemed to belong among the more prosperous. But why then he did not keep a servant, or why was he not at least married?
My first day in Kazohinia ended with a profusion of unsolved questions and I excitedly awaited the next day for them to be answered.