Penguin Island eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 243 pages of information about Penguin Island.

S. I

The houses were never high enough to satisfy them; they kept on making them still higher and built them of thirty or forty storeys:  with offices, shops, banks, societies one above another; they dug cellars and tunnels ever deeper downwards.

Fifteen millions of men laboured in a giant town by the light of beacons which shed forth their glare both day and night.  No light of heaven pierced through the smoke of the factories with which the town was girt, but sometimes the red disk of a rayless sun might be seen riding in the black firmament through which iron bridges ploughed their way, and from which there descended a continual shower of soot and cinders.  It was the most industrial of all the cities in the world and the richest.  Its organisation seemed perfect.  None of the ancient aristocratic or democratic forms remained; everything was subordinated to the interests of the trusts.  This environment gave rise to what anthropologists called the multi-millionaire type.  The men of this type were at once energetic and frail, capable of great activity in forming mental combinations and of prolonged labour in offices, but men whose nervous irritability suffered from hereditary troubles which increased as time went on.

Like all true aristocrats, like the patricians of republican Rome or the squires of old England, these powerful men affected a great severity in their habits and customs.  They were the ascetics of wealth.  At the meetings of the trusts an observer would have noticed their smooth and puffy faces, their lantern cheeks, their sunken eyes and wrinkled brows.  With bodies more withered, complexions yellower, lips drier, and eyes filled with a more burning fanaticism than those of the old Spanish monks, these multimillionaires gave themselves up with inextinguishable ardour to the austerities of banking and industry.  Several, denying themselves all happiness, all pleasure, and all rest, spent their miserable lives in rooms without light or air, furnished only with electrical apparatus, living on eggs and milk, and sleeping on camp beds.  By doing nothing except pressing nickel buttons with their fingers, these mystics heaped up riches of which they never even saw the signs, and acquired the vain possibility of gratifying desires that they never experienced.

The worship of wealth had its martyrs.  One of these multi-millionaires, the famous Samuel Box, preferred to die rather than surrender the smallest atom of his property.  One of his workmen, the victim of an accident while at work, being refused any indemnity by his employer, obtained a verdict in the courts, but repelled by innumerable obstacles of procedure, he fell into the direst poverty.  Being thus reduced to despair, he succeeded by dint of cunning and audacity in confronting his employer with a loaded revolver in his hand, and threatened to blow out his brains if he did not give him some assistance.  Samuel Box gave nothing, and let himself be killed for the sake of principle.

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Penguin Island from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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