What to make money

What to make money

Upset by the ardour of his prayer, she yielded. 'But I do wrong,' said she, 'since your brother says that it does you harm.'

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'Harm! Oh, no. And besides, what does it matter? Ah! I have at last succeeded in setting the society of the future on its feet, after so many nights of toil! Everything is foreseen, solved; there will be the utmost possible justice and[Pg 421] happiness. How I regret not having had the time to write the work itself, with all the necessary developments! But here are my notes, complete and classified. And you will save them, won't you? so that another may some day give them the definitive form of a book, and launch it through the world.'

He had taken the papers in his long thin hands, and was turning them over amorously, while a flame once more kindled in his large, fading eyes. He spoke very rapidly, in a curt monotonous tone, with the tic-tac of a clock-chain which the weight unwinds; and 'twas indeed the sound of the cerebral mechanism working without a pause whilst the death agony progressed.

'Ah! how I see it, how clearly it rises before me, the city of justice and happiness! There one and all labour, with a personal labour, obligatory, yet free. The nation is simply an immense co-operative society, the appliances become the property of all, the products are centralised in vast general warehouses. You have performed so much useful work; you have a right to so much social consumption. The hour's work is the common measure; an article is worth what it has cost in hours; there is nothing but exchange between all producers, by the aid of labour notes, and that under the management of the community, without any other deduction than the one tax to support the children and the aged, to renew the appliances and to defray the cost of gratuitous public services. No more money, and therefore no more speculation, no more robbery, no more abominable trafficking, no more of those crimes which cupidity prompts, girls married for their dowry's sake, aged parents strangled for their property, passers-by assassinated for their purses! No more hostile classes, employers and wage-workers, proletarians and bourgeois, and therefore no more restrictive laws or courts, no armed force protecting the iniquitous monopolies of the few against the mad hunger of the many! No more idlers of any sort, and therefore no more landlords living on rents, no more bondholders kept in sloth—in short, no more luxury and no more poverty! Ah! is not that the ideal equity, the sovereign[Pg 422] wisdom, none privileged, none wretched, each by his own effort securing happiness, the average human happiness!'

He was becoming excited, and his voice grew soft and distant, as if travelling far away, ascending to a great height, into the very future whose coming he announced.

'Ah! if I entered into details. You see this separate sheet, with all these marginal notes: this is the organisation of the family, free contract, the education and support of children provided by the community. Yet this is not anarchy. Look at this other note; I desire that there should be a managing committee for each branch of production, so that by ascertaining the real wants of the community the output may be proportionate to the consumption. And here is another detail of the organisation: in the cities and the fields industrial and agricultural armies will man?uvre under the leadership of chiefs whom they will have elected, and obey regulations which they will have voted. Stay! I have also indicated here, by approximate calculations, how far the day's labour may be reduced twenty years hence. Thanks to the great number of new hands, thanks especially to machinery, men will work only four hours a day, perhaps only three; so you see how much time they will have left them to enjoy life! For this will not be a barracks, but a city of liberty and gaiety, in which each will be free to take his own pleasure, with plenty of time to satisfy his legitimate appetites, to taste the delights of love, strength, beauty and intelligence, and to take his share of inexhaustible nature.'

By the gesture he made, a gesture which swept round the miserable room, it seemed as though he possessed the whole world. In this nudity in which he had lived, in this poverty exempt from want in which he was dying, he made a fraternal distribution of the earth's goods. It was universal happiness, all that is good and that he had not enjoyed, which he thus distributed, knowing that he would never enjoy it. He had hastened his death that he might make this supreme gift to suffering humanity. And indeed his hands wandered, groping among the scattered notes, while his eyes, which could no longer see earthly things, filled as they were by the dazzling[Pg 423] of death, seemed to espy infinite perfection, beyond life, in an ecstatic rapture which illumined his entire face.

'Ah! how much more activity there will be, entire humanity at work, the hands of all the living improving the world! No more moors, no more marshes, no more waste lands of any kind! Arms of the sea are filled up, obstructive mountains disappear, deserts change into fertile valleys, with waters flowing from every direction. No prodigy is unrealisable; the great works of the ancients cause a smile, so timid and childish do they seem. The earth is at last inhabitable. And man is completely developed, full-grown, in the enjoyment of his true appetites, the real master at last. Schools and workshops are open; the child freely chooses his trade, which his aptitude determines. Years go by, and the selection is made after severe examinations. It no longer suffices that one should be able to pay for education, it is necessary to profit by it. Each one thus finds himself classed, utilised according to his degree of intelligence, by which means public functions are equitably distributed, in accordance with the indications of Nature herself. Each for all, according to his powers! Ah! active and joyous city, ideal city of healthy human work, in which the old prejudice against manual labour no longer exists, in which one sees great poets who are carpenters, locksmiths who are great savants! Ah! city of the blest, triumphal city towards which mankind has been marching for so many centuries, city whose white walls I see shining yonder—yonder, in the realm of happiness, in the blinding sunlight.'

His eyes paled: his last words came indistinctly, in a faint breath; and his head fell back, an ecstatic smile still playing about his lips. He was dead.

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Overcome with pity and emotion, Madame Caroline was looking at him, when a whirlwind, as it were, suddenly swept into the room. It was Busch, coming back without a doctor, panting and worn out with anguish; while La Méchain, at his heels, explained that she had not yet been able to prepare the tisane, as the water had boiled over. But he had perceived his brother—his little child, as he called him—lying on his[Pg 424] back, motionless, with his mouth open and his eyes fixed; and he understood, and gave vent to a shriek like that of a slaughtered animal. With a bound he threw himself upon the body and raised it in his two big arms, as if to infuse life into it again. That terrible devourer of gold, who would have killed a man for ten sous, who had so long preyed upon the filth of Paris, now shrieked aloud with abominable suffering. His little child, O God! he whom he put to bed, whom he fondled like a mother! He would never have his little child with him any more! And, in a fit of mad despair, he seized upon the papers scattered over the bed, tore them up and crushed them, as if wishing to annihilate all that imbecile labour which he had ever been jealous of, and which had killed his brother.

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Then Madame Caroline felt her heart melt. The poor man! he now filled her with divine pity. But where, then, had she heard that shriek before? Once only had the cry of human grief brought her such a shudder. And she suddenly remembered, it was at Mazaud's—the shriek of the mother and her little ones at sight of the father's corpse. As if incapable of withdrawing from this scene of suffering, she remained a few minutes longer, and rendered some services. Then, at the moment of starting off, finding herself alone again with La Méchain in the little office, she remembered that she had come to inquire about Victor. And so she questioned her. Oh, Victor—well, he was far away by this time, if he were still running! She, La Méchain, had scoured Paris for three months, without discovering the slightest trace of him. So she had given it up; the bandit would be found, sure enough, some day, on the scaffold. Madame Caroline listened, frozen and dumb. Yes, it was finished; the monster had been let loose upon the world, had gone forth to the future, to the unknown, like a beast frothing with hereditary virus, and fated to spread the evil with every bite.

Outside, on the footway of the Rue Vivienne, Madame Caroline was surprised by the mildness of the air. It was five o'clock; the sun, setting in a soft, clear sky, was gilding the signboards of the distant boulevard houses. This springtide,[Pg 425] so charming with its renewal of youth, seemed like a caress to her whole physical being—a caress which penetrated even to her heart. She took a deep breath and felt relieved, happier already, with a sensation of invincible hope returning and growing within her. It was doubtless the beautiful death of that dreamer, giving his last breath to his chimera of justice and love, which thus moved her, for she herself had dreamt of a humanity purged of the execrable evil of money; and it was also the shriek of that other one, the exasperated bleeding tenderness of that terrible lynx, whom she had supposed to be heartless, incapable of tears. Yet no, she had not gone away under the consoling impression of so much human kindness and so much sorrow; on the contrary, she had carried despair away with her—despair at the escape of that little monster, who was galloping along the roads and sowing the ferment of rottenness from which the earth could never be freed. Why, then, should she now feel renascent gaiety filling her whole being?