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Title: The Republic of the Southern Cross
Author: Valery Bryusov
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Language: English
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Date first posted: June 2006
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Valery Bryusov

[from The Republic of the Southern Cross, and other stories,
G. Constable, London (1918) Translator unknown]

[This story was originally published as "Respublika Yuzhnogo Kresta"
in Zemnaya Os (The axis of the Earth) (1907)]

THERE have appeared lately a whole series of descriptions of the
dreadful catastrophe which has overtaken the Republic of the Southern
Cross. They are strikingly various, and give many details of a
manifestly fantastic and improbable character. Evidently the writers
of these descriptions have lent a too ready ear to the narratives of
the survivors from Star City (Zvezdny), the inhabitants of which, as
is common knowledge, were all stricken with a psychical distemper. For
that reason we consider it opportune to give an account here of all
the reliable evidence which we have as yet of this tragedy of the
Southern Pole.

The Republic of the Southern Cross came into being some forty years
ago, as a development from three hundred steel works established in
the Southern Polar regions. In a circular note sent to each and every
Government of the whole world, the new state expressed its pretensions
to all lands, whether mainland or island, within the limits of the
Antarctic circle, as also all parts of these lands stretching beyond
the line. It announced its readiness to purchase from the various
other states affected the lands which they considered to be under
their special protectorate. The pretensions of the new Republic did
not meet with any opposition on the part of the fifteen great powers
of the world. Debateable points concerning certain islands lying
entirely outside the Polar circle, but closely related to the Southern
Polar state were settled by special treaties. On the fulfilment of the
various formalities the Republic of the Southern Cross was received
into the family of world states, and its representatives were
recognised by all Governments.

The chief city of the Republic, having the name of Zvezdny, was
situated at the actual Pole itself. At that imaginary point where the
earth's axis passes and all earthly meridians become one, stood the
Town Hall, and the roof with its pointed towers looked upon the nadir
of the heavens. The streets of the town extended along meridians from
the Town Hall and these meridians were intersected by other streets in
concentric circles. The height of all the buildings was the same, as
was also their external appearance. There were no windows in the
walls, as all the houses were lit by electricity and the streets were
lighted by electricity. Because of the severity of the climate, an
impenetrable and opaque roof had been built over the town, with
powerful ventilators for a constant change of air. These localities of
the globe have but one day in six months, and one long night also of
six months, but the streets of Zvezdny were always lighted by a bright
and even light. In the same way in all seasons of the year the
temperature of the streets was kept at one and the same height.

According to the last census the population of Zvezdny had reached two
and a half millions. The whole of the remaining population of the
Republic, numbering fifty millions, were concentrated in the
neighbourhood of the ports and factories. These other points were also
marked by the settlement of millions of people in towns which in
external characteristics were reminiscent of Zvezdny. Thanks to a
clever application of electric power, the entrance to the local havens
remained open all the year round. Overhead electric railways connected
the most populated parts of the Republic, and every day tens of
thousands of people and millions of kilogrammes of material passed
along these roads from one town to another. The interior of the
country remained uninhabited. Travellers looking out of the train
window saw before them only monotonous wildernesses, white in winter,
and overgrown with wretched grass during the three months of summer.
Wild animals had long since been destroyed, and for human beings there
was no means of sustenance. The more remarkable was the hustling life
of the ports and industrial centres. In order to give some
understanding of the life, it is perhaps enough to say that of late
years about seven-tenths of the whole of the world's output of metal
has come from the State mines of the Republic.

The constitution of the Republic, according to outward signs, appeared
to be the realisation of extreme democracy. The only fully
enfranchised citizens were the metal-workers, who numbered about sixty
per cent of the whole population. The factories and mines were State
property. The life of the miners was facilitated by all possible
conveniences, and even with luxury. At their disposal, apart from
magnificent accommodation and a recherch cuisine, were various
educational institutions and means of amusement: libraries, museums,
theatres, concerts, halls for all types of sport, etc. The number of
working hours in the day were small in the extreme. The training and
teaching of children, the giving of medical and legal aid, and the
ministry of the various religious cults were all taken upon itself by
the State. Ample provision for all the needs and even whims of the
workmen of the State factories having been made, no wages whatever
were paid; but families of citizens who had served twenty years in a
factory, or who in their years of service had died or become
enfeebled, received a handsome life pension on condition that they did
not leave the Republic. From the workmen, by universal ballot, the
representatives of the Law-making Chamber of the Republic were
elected, and this Chamber had cognisance of all the questions of the
political life of the country, being, however, without power to alter
its fundamental laws.

It must be said that this democratic exterior concealed the purely
autocratic tyranny of the shareholders and directors of a former
Trust. Giving up to others the places of deputies in the Chamber they
inevitably brought in their own candidates as directors of the
factories. In the hands of the Board of Directors was concentrated the
economic life of the country. The directors received all the orders
and assigned them to the various factories for fulfilment; they
purchased the materials and the machines for the work; they managed
the whole business of the factories. Through their hands passed
immense sums of money, to be reckoned in milliards. The Law-making
Chamber only certified the entries of debits and credits in the upkeep
of the factories, the accounts being handed to it for that purpose,
and the balance on these accounts greatly exceeded the whole budget of
the Republic. The influence of the Board of Directors in the
international relationships of the Republic was immense. Its decisions
might ruin whole countries. The prices fixed by them determined the
wages of millions of labouring masses over the whole earth. And,
moreover, the influence of the Board, though indirect, was always
decisive in the internal affairs of the Republic. The Law-making
Chamber, in fact, appeared to be only the humble servant of the will
of the Board.

For the preservation of power in its own hands the Board was obliged
to regulate mercilessly the whole life of the country. Though
appearing to have liberty, the life of the citizens was standardised
even to the most minute details. The buildings of all the towns of the
Republic were according to one and the same pattern fixed by law. The
decoration of all buildings used by the workmen, though luxurious to a
degree, were strictly uniform. All received exactly the same food at
exactly the same time. The clothes given out from the Government
stores were unchanging and in the course of tens of years were of one
and the same cut. At a signal from the Town Hall, at a definite hour,
it was forbidden to go out of the houses. The whole Press of the
country was subject to a sharp censorship. No articles directed
against the dictatorship of the Board were allowed to see light. But,
as a matter of fact, the whole country was so convinced of the benefit
of this dictatorship that the compositors themselves would have
refused to set the type of articles criticising the Board. The
factories were full of the Board's spies. At the slightest
manifestation of discontent with the Board the spies hastened to
arrange meetings and dissuade the doubters with passionate speeches.
The fact that the life of the workmen of the Republic was the object
of the envy of the entire world was of course a disarming argument. It
is said that in cases of continued agitation by certain individuals
the Board did not hesitate to resort to political murder. In any case,
during the whole existence of the Republic, the universal ballot of
the citizens never brought to power one representative who was hostile
to the directors.

The population of Zvezdny was composed chiefly of workmen who had
served their time. They were, so to speak, Government shareholders.
The means which they received from the State allowed them to live
richly. It is not astonishing, therefore, that Zvezdny was reckoned
one of the gayest cities of the world. For various entrepreneurs and
entertainers it was a goldmine. The celebrities of the world brought
hither their talents. Here were the best operas, best concerts, best
exhibitions; here were brought out the best-informed gazettes. The
shops of Zvezdny amazed by the richness of their choice of goods; the
restaurants by the luxury and the delicacy of their service. Resorts
of evil, where all forms of debauch invented in either the ancient or
the modern world were to be found, abounded. However, the governmental
regulation of life was preserved in Zvezdny also. It is true that the
decorations of lodgings and the fashions of dress were not
compulsorily determined, but the law forbidding the exit from the
house after a certain hour remained in force, a strict censorship of
the Press was maintained, and many spies were kept by the Board. Order
was officially maintained by the popular police, but at the same time
there existed the secret police of the all-cognisant Board. Such was
in its general character the system of life in the Republic of the
Southern Cross and in its capital. The problem of the future historian
will be to determine how much this system was responsible for the
outbreak and spread of that fatal disease which brought to destruction
the town of Zvezdny, and with it, perhaps, the whole young Republic.

The first cases of the disease of "contradiction" were observed in the
Republic some twenty years ago. It had then the character of a rare
and sporadic malady. Nevertheless, the local mental experts were much
interested by it and gave a circumstantial account of the symptoms at
the international medical congress at Lhasa, where several reports of
it were read. Later, it was somehow or other forgotten, though in the
mental hospitals of Zvezdny there never was any difficulty in finding
examples. The disease received its name from the fact that the victims
continuously contradicted their wishes by their actions, wishing one
thing but saying and doing another. [The scientific name of the
disease is mania contradicens.] It begins with fairly feeble symptoms,
generally those of characteristic aphasia. The stricken, instead of
saying "yes," say "no"; wishing to say caressing words, they splutter
abuse, etc. The majority also begin to contradict themselves in their
behaviour; intending to go to the left they turn to the right,
thinking to raise the brim of a hat so as to see better they would
pull it down over their eyes instead, and so on. As the disease
develops contradiction overtakes the whole of the bodily and spiritual
life of the patient, exhibiting infinite diversity conformable with
the idiosyncrasies of each. In general, the speech of the patient
becomes unintelligible and his actions absurd. The normality of the
physiological functions of the organism is disturbed. Acknowledging
the unwisdom of his behaviour the patient gets into a state of extreme
excitement bordering even upon insanity. Many commit suicide,
sometimes in fits of madness, sometimes in moments of spiritual
brightness. Others perish from a rush of blood to the brain. In almost
all cases the disease is mortal; cases of recovery are extremely rare.

The epidemic character was taken by mania contradicens during the
middle months of this year in Zvezdny. Up till this time the number of
cases had never exceeded two per cent of the total number of patients
in the hospitals. But this proportion suddenly rose to twenty-five per
cent during the month of May (autumn month, as it is called in the
Republic), and it continued to increase during the succeeding months
with as great rapidity. By the middle of June there were already two
per cent of the whole population, that is, about fifty thousand
people, officially notified as suffering from "contradiction." We have
no statistical details of any later date. The hospitals overflowed.
The doctors on the spot proved to be altogether insufficient. And,
moreover, the doctors themselves, and the nurses in the hospitals,
caught the disease also. There was very soon no one to whom to appeal
for medical aid, and a correct register of patients became impossible.
The evidence given by eyewitnesses, however, is in agreement on this
point, that it was impossible to find a family in which someone was
not suffering. The number of healthy people rapidly decreased as panic
caused a wholesale exodus from the town, but the number of the
stricken increased. It is probably true that in the month of August
all who had remained in Zvezdny were down with this psychical malady.

It is possible to follow the first developments of the epidemic by the
columns of the local newspapers, headed in ever larger type as the
mania grew. Since the detection of the disease in its early stages was
very difficult, the chronicle of the first days of the epidemic is
full of comic episodes. A train conductor on the metropolitan railway,
instead of receiving money from the passengers, himself pays them. A
policeman, whose duty it was to regulate the traffic, confuses it all
day long. A visitor to a gallery, walking from room to room, turns all
the pictures with their faces to the wall. A newspaper page of proof,
being corrected by the hand of a reader already overtaken by the
disease, is printed next morning full of the most amusing absurdities.
At a concert, a sick violinist suddenly interrupts the harmonious
efforts of the orchestra with the most dreadful dissonances. A whole
long series of such happenings gave plenty of scope for the wits of
local journalists. But several instances of a different type of
phenomenon caused the jokes to come to a sudden end. The first was
that a doctor overtaken by the disease prescribed poison for a girl
patient in his care and she perished. For three days the newspapers
were taken up with this circumstance. Then two nurses walking in the
town gardens were overtaken by "contradiction," and cut the throats of
forty-one children. This event staggered the whole city. But on the
evening of the same day two victims fired the mitrailleuse from the
quarters of the town militia and killed and injured some five hundred

At that, all the newspapers and the society of the town cried for
prompt measures against the epidemic. At a special session of the
combined Board and Legal Chamber it was decided to invite doctors from
other towns and from abroad, to enlarge the existing hospitals, to
build new ones, and to construct everywhere isolation barracks for the
sufferers, to print and distribute five hundred thousand copies of a
brochure on the disease, its symptoms and means of cure, to organise
on all the streets of the town a special patrol of doctors and their
helpers for the giving of first aid to those who had not been removed
from private lodgings. It was also decided to run special trains daily
on all the railways for the removal of the patients, as the doctors
were of opinion that change of air was one of the best remedies.
Similar measures were undertaken at the same time by various
associations, societies, and clubs. A "society for struggle with the
epidemic" was even founded, and the members gave themselves to the
work with remarkable self-devotion. But in spite of all these measures
the epidemic gained ground each day, taking in its course old men and
little children, working people and resting people, chaste and
debauched. And soon the whole of society was enveloped in the
unconquerable elemental terror of the unheard-of calamity.

The flight from Zvezdny commenced. At first only a few fled, and these
were prominent dignitaries, directors, members of the Legal Chamber
and of the Board, who hastened to send their families to the southern
cities of Australia and Patagonia. Following them, the accidental
elements of the population fled--those foreigners gladly sojourning in
the "gayest city of the southern hemisphere," theatrical artists,
various business agents, women of light behaviour. When the epidemic
showed no signs of abating the shopkeepers fled. They hurriedly sold
off their goods and left their empty premises to the will of Fate.
With them went the bankers, the owners of theatres and restaurants,
the editors and the publishers. At last, even the established
inhabitants were moved to go. According to Law the exit of workmen
from the Republic without special sanction from the Government was
forbidden on pain of loss of pension. Deserters began to increase. The
employs of the town institutions fled, the militia fled, the hospital
nurses fled, the chemists, the doctors. The desire to flee became in
its turn a mania. Everyone fled who could.

The stations of the electric railway were crushed with immense crowds,
tickets were bought for huge sums of money and only held by fighting.
For a place in a dirigible, which took only ten passengers, one paid a
whole fortune.... At the moment of the going out of trains new people
would break into the compartments and take up places which they would
not relinquish except by compulsion. Crowds stopped the trains which
had been fitted up exclusively for patients, dragged the latter out of
the carriages and compelled the engine-drivers to go on. From the end
of May train service, except between the capital and the ports, ceased
to work. From Zvezdny the trains went out overfull, passengers
standing on the steps and in the corridors, even daring to cling on
outside, despite the fact that with the speed of contemporary electric
railways any person doing such a thing risks suffocation. The
steamship companies of Australia, South America and South Africa grew
inordinately rich, transporting the refugees of the Republic to other
lands. The two Southern companies of dirigibles were not less
prosperous, accomplishing, as they did, ten journeys a day and
bringing away from Zvezdny the last belated millionaires.... On the
other hand, trains arrived at Zvezdny almost empty; for no wages was
it possible to persuade people to come to work at the Capital; only
now and again eccentric tourists and seekers of new sensations arrived
at the towns. It is reckoned that from the beginning of the exodus to
the twenty-second of June, when the regular service of trains ceased,
there passed out of Zvezdny by the six railroads some million and a
half people, that is, almost two-thirds of the whole population.

By his enterprise, valour, and strength of will, one man earned for
himself eternal fame, and that was the President of the Board, Horace
Deville. At the special session of the fifth of June, Deville was
elected, both by the Board and by the Legal Chamber, Dictator over the
town, and was given the title of Nachalnik. He had sole control of the
town treasury, of the militia, and of the municipal institutions. At
that time it was decided to remove from Zvezdny to a northern port the
Government of the Republic and the archives. The name of Horace
Deville should be written in letters of gold among the most famous
names of history. For six weeks he struggled with the growing anarchy
in the town. He succeeded in gathering around him a group of helpers
as unselfish as himself. He was able to enforce discipline, both in
the militia and in the municipal service generally, for a considerable
time, though these bodies were terrified by the general calamity and
decimated by the epidemic. Hundreds of thousands owe their escape to
Horace Deville, as, thanks to his energy and organising power, it was
possible for them to leave. He lightened the misery of the last days
of thousands of others, giving them the possibility of dying in
hospitals, carefully looked after, and not simply being stoned or
beaten to death by the mad crowd. And Deville preserved for mankind
the chronicle of the catastrophe, for one cannot but consider as a
chronicle his short but pregnant telegrams, sent several times a day
from the town of Zvezdny to the temporary residence of the Government
of the Republic at the Northern port. Deville's first work on becoming
Nachalnik of the town was to attempt to restore calm to the
population. He issued manifestos proclaiming that the psychical
infection was most quickly caught by people who were excited, and he
called upon all healthy and balanced persons to use their authority to
restrain the weak and nervous. Then Deville used the Society for
Struggle with the Epidemic and put under the authority of its members
all public places, theatres, meeting-houses, squares, and streets. In
these days there scarcely ever passed an hour but a new case of
infection might be discovered. Now here, now there, one saw faces or
whole groups of faces manifestly expressive of abnormality. The
greater number of the patients, when they understood their condition,
showed an immediate desire for help. But under the influence of the
disease this wish expressed itself in various types of hostile action
directed against these standing near. The stricken wished to hasten
home or to a hospital, but instead of doing this they fled in fright
to the outskirts of the town. The thought occurred to them to ask the
passer-by to do something for them, but instead of that they seized
him by the throat. In this way many were suffocated, struck down, or
wounded with knife or stick. So the crowd, whenever it found itself in
the presence of a man suffering from "contradiction," took to flight.
At these moments the members of the Society would appear on the scene,
capture the sick man, calm him, and take him to the nearest hospital;
it was their work to reason with the crowd and explain that there was
really no danger, that the general misfortune had simply spread a
little further, and it was their duty to struggle with it to the full
extent of their powers.

The sudden infection of persons present in the audience of theatres or
meeting-houses often led to the most tragic catastrophes. Once at a
performance of opera some hundreds of people stricken mad in a mass,
instead of expressing their approval of the vocalists, flung
themselves on the stage and scattered blows right and left. At the
Grand Dramatic Theatre, an actor, whose rle it was to commit suicide
by a revolver shot, fired the revolver several times at the public. It
was, of course, blank cartridge, but it so acted on the nerves of
those present that it hastened the symptoms of the disease in many in
whom it was latent. In the confusion which followed several scores of
people were killed. But worst of all was that which happened in the
Theatre of Fireworks. The detachment of militia posted there in case
of fire suddenly set fire to the stage and to the veils by which the
various light effects are obtained. Not less than two hundred people
were burnt or crushed to death. After that occurrence Horace Deville
closed all the theatres and concert-rooms in the town.

The robbers and thieves now began to constitute a grave danger for the
inhabitants, and in the general disorganisation they were able to
carry their depredations very far. It is said that some of them came
to Zvezdny from abroad. Some simulated madness in order to escape
punishment, others felt it unnecessary to make any pretence of
disguising their open robberies. Gangs of thieves entered the
abandoned shops, broke into private lodgings, and took off the more
valuable things or demanded gold; they stopped people in the streets
and stripped them of their valuables, such as watches, rings, and
bracelets. And there accompanied the robberies outrage of every kind,
even of the most disgusting. The Nachalnik sent companies of militia
to hunt down the criminals, but they did not dare to join in open
conflict. There were dreadful moments when among the militia or among
the robbers would suddenly appear a case of the disease, and friend
would turn his weapon against friend. At first the Nachalnik banished
from the town the robbers who fell under arrest. But those who had
charge of the prison trains liberated them, in order to take their
places. Then the Nachalnik was obliged to condemn the criminals to
death. So almost after three centuries' break capital punishment was
introduced once more on the earth. In June a general scarcity of the
indispensable articles of food and medicine began to make itself felt.
The import by rail diminished; manufacture within the town practically
ceased. Deville organised the town bakeries and the distribution of
bread and meat to the people. In the town itself the same common
tables were set up as had long since been established in the
factories. But it was not possible to find sufficient people for
kitchen and service. Some voluntary workers toiled till they were
exhausted, and they gradually diminished in numbers. The town
crematoriums flamed all day, but the number of corpses did not
decrease but increased. They began to find bodies in the streets and
left in houses. The municipal business--such as telegraph, telephone,
electric light, water supply, sanitation, and the rest, were worked by
fewer and fewer people. It is astonishing how much Deville succeeded
in doing. He looked after everything and everyone. One conjectures
that he never knew a moment's rest. And all who were saved testify
unanimously that his activity was beyond praise.

Towards the middle of June shortage of labour on the railways began to
be felt. There were not enough engine-drivers or conductors. On the
17th of July the first accident took place on the South-Western line,
the reason being the sudden attack of the engine-driver. In the
paroxysm of his disease the driver took his train over a precipice on
to a glacier and almost all the passengers were killed or crippled.
The news of this was brought to the town by the next train, and it
came as a thunderbolt. A hospital train was sent off at once; it
brought back the dead and the crippled, but towards the evening of
that day news was circulated that a similar catastrophe had taken
place on the First line. Two of the railway tracks connecting Zvezdny
with the outside world were damaged. Breakdown gangs were sent from
Zvezdny and from North Port to repair the lines, but it was almost
impossible because of the winter temperature. There was no hope that
on these lines train service would be resumed--at least, in the near

These catastrophes were simply patterns for new ones. The more alarmed
the engine-drivers became the more liable they were to the disease and
to the repetition of the mistake of their predecessors. Just because
they were afraid of destroying a train they destroyed it. During the
five days from the eighteenth to the twenty-second of June seven
trains with passengers were wrecked. Thousands of passengers perished
from injuries or starved to death unrescued in the snowy wastes. Only
very few had sufficient strength to return to the city by their own
efforts. The six main lines connecting Zvezdny with the outer world
were rendered useless. The service of dirigibles had ceased earlier.
One of them had been destroyed by the enraged mob, the pretext given
being that they were used exclusively for the rich. The others, one by
one, were wrecked, the disease probably attacking the crew. The
population of the city was at this time about six hundred thousand.
For some time they were only connected with the world by telegraph.

On the 24th of June the Metropolitan railway ceased to run. On the
26th the telephone service was discontinued. On the 27th all chemists'
shops, except the large central store, were closed. On the 1st of July
the inhabitants were ordered to come from the outer parts of the town
into the central districts, so that order might better be maintained,
food distributed, and medical aid afforded. Suburban dwellers
abandoned their own quarters and settled in those which had lately
been abandoned by fugitives. The sense of property vanished. No one
was sorry to leave his own, no one felt it strange to take up his
abode in other people's houses. Nevertheless, burglars and robbers did
not disappear, though perhaps now one would rather call them demented
beings than criminals. They continued to steal, and great hoards of
gold have been discovered in the empty houses where they hid them, and
precious stones beside the decaying body of the robber himself.

It is astonishing that in the midst of universal destruction life
tended to keep its former course. There still were shopkeepers who
opened their shops and sold for incredible sums the luxuries, flowers,
books, guns, and other goods which they had preserved.... Purchasers
threw down their unnecessary gold ungrudgingly, and miserly merchants
hid it, God knows why. There still existed secret resorts, with cards,
women, and wine, whither unfortunates sought refuge and tried to
forget dreadful reality. There the whole mingled with the diseased,
and there is no chronicle of the scenes which took place. Two or three
newspapers still tried to preserve the significance of the written
word in the midst of desolation. Copies of these newspapers are being
sold now at ten or twenty times their original value, and will
undoubtedly become bibliographical rareties of the first degree. In
their columns is reflected the horrors of the unfortunate town,
described in the midst of the reigning madness and set by half-mad
compositors. There were reporters who took note of the happenings of
the town, journalists who debated hotly the condition of affairs, and
even feuilletonists who endeavoured to enliven these tragic days. But
the telegrams received from other countries, telling as they did of
real healthy life, caused the souls of the readers in Zvezdny to fall
into despair.

There were desperate attempts to escape. At the beginning of July an
immense crowd of women and children, led by a certain John Dew,
decided to set out on foot for the nearest inhabited place,
Londontown; Deville understood the madness of this attempt, but could
not stop the people, and himself supplied them with warm clothing and
provisions. This whole crowd of about two thousand people were lost in
the snow and in the continuous Polar night. A certain Whiting started
to preach a more heroic remedy: this was, to kill all who were
suffering from the disease, and he held that after that the epidemic
would cease. He found a considerable number of adherents, though in
those dark days the wildest, most inhuman, proposal which in any way
promised deliverance would have obtained attention. Whiting and his
friends broke into every house in the town and destroyed whatever sick
they found. They massacred the patients in the hospitals, they even
killed those suspected to be unwell. Robbers and madmen joined
themselves to these bands of ideal murderers. The whole town became
their arena. In these difficult days Horace Deville organised his
fellow-workers into a military force, encouraged them with his spirit,
and set out to fight the followers of Whiting. This affair lasted
several days. Hundreds of men fell on one side or the other, till at
last Whiting himself was taken. He appeared to be in the last stages
of mania contradicens and had to be taken to the hospital, where he
soon perished, instead of to the scaffold.

On the eighth of July one of the worst things happened. The controller
of the Central Power Station smashed all the machinery. The electric
light failed, and the whole city was plunged in absolute darkness. As
there was no other means of lighting and warming the city, the people
were left in a helpless plight. Deville had, however, foreseen such an
eventuality and had accumulated a considerable quantity of torches and
fuel. Bonfires were lighted in all the streets. Torches were
distributed in thousands. But these miserable lights could not
illumine the gigantic perspectives of the city of Zvezdny, the tens of
kilometres of straight line highways, the gloomy height of thirteen-
storey buildings. With the darkness the last discipline of the city
was lost. Terror and madness finally possessed all souls. The healthy
could not be distinguished from the sick. There commenced a dreadful
orgy of the despairing.

The moral sense of the people declined with astonishing rapidity.
Culture slipped from off these people like a delicate bark, and
revealed man, wild and naked, the man-beast as he was. All sense of
right was lost, force alone was acknowledged. For women, the only law
became that of desire and of indulgence. The most virtuous matrons
behaved as the most abandoned, with no continence or faith, and used
the vile language of the tavern. Young girls ran about the streets
demented and unchaste. Drunkards made feasts in ruined cellars, not in
any way distressed that amongst the bottles lay unburied corpses. All
this was constantly aggravated by the breaking out of the disease
afresh. Sad was the position of children, abandoned by their parents
to the will of Fate. They died of hunger, of injury after assault, and
they were murdered both purposely and by accident. It is even affirmed
that cannibalism took place.

In this last period of tragedy Horace Deville could not, of course,
afford help to the whole population. But he did arrange in the Town
Hall shelter for those who still preserved their reason. The entrances
to the building were barricaded and sentries were kept continuously on
guard. There was food and water for three thousand people for forty
days. Deville, however, had only eighteen hundred people, and though
there must have been other people with sound minds In the town, they
could not have known what Deville was doing, and these remained in
hiding in the houses. Many resolved to remain indoors till the end,
and bodies have been found of many who must have died of hunger in
their solitude. It is remarkable that among those who took refuge in
the Town Hall there were very few new cases of the disease. Deville
was able to keep discipline in his small community. He kept till the
last a journal of all that happened, and that journal, together with
the telegrams, makes the most reliable source of evidence of the
catastrophe. The journal was found in a secret cupboard of the Town
Hall, where the most precious documents were kept. The last entry
refers to the 20th of July. Deville writes that a demented crowd is
assailing the building, and that he is obliged to fire with revolvers
upon the people. "What I hope for," he adds, "I know not. No help can
be expected before the spring. We have not the food to live till the
spring. But I shall fulfil my duty to the end." These were the last
words of Deville. Noble words!

It must be added that on the 21st of July the crowd took the Town Hall
by storm and its defenders were all killed or scattered. The body of
Deville has not yet been found, and there is no reliable evidence as
to what took place in the town after the 21st. It must be conjectured,
from the state in which the town was found, that anarchy reached its
last limits. The gloomy streets, lit up by the glare of bonfires of
furniture and books, can be imagined. They obtained fire by striking
iron on flint. Crowds of drunkards and madmen danced wildly about the
bonfires. Men and women drank together and passed the common cup from
lip to lip. The worst scenes of sensuality were witnessed. Some sort
of dark atavistic sense enlivened the souls of these townsmen, and
half-naked, unwashed, unkempt, they danced the dances of their remote
ancestors, the contemporaries of the cave-bears, and they sang the
same wild songs as did the hordes when they fell with stone axes upon
the mammoth. With songs, with incoherent exclamations, with idiotic
laughter, mingled the cries of those who had lost the power to express
in words their own delirious dreams, mingled also the moans of those
in the convulsions of death. Sometimes dancing gave way to fighting--
for a barrel of wine, for a woman, or simply without reason, in a fit
of madness brought about by contradictory emotion. There was nowhere
to flee; the same dreadful scenes were everywhere, the same orgies
everywhere, the same fights, the same brutal gaiety or brutal rage--or
else, absolute darkness, which seemed more dreadful, even more
intolerable to the staggered imagination.

Zvezdny became an immense black box, in which were some thousands of
man-resembling beings, abandoned in the foul air from hundreds of
thousands of dead bodies, where amongst the living was not one who
understood his own position. This was the city of the senseless, the
gigantic madhouse, the greatest and most disgusting Bedlam which the
world has ever seen. And the madmen destroyed one another, stabbed or
strangled one another, died of madness, died of terror, died of
hunger, and of all the diseases which reigned in the infected air.

It goes without saying that the Government of the Republic did not
remain indifferent to the great calamity which had overtaken the
capital. But it very soon became clear that no help whatever could be
given. No doctors, nurses, officers, or workmen of any kind would
agree to go to Zvezdny. After the breakdown of the railroad service
and of the airships it was, of course, impossible to get there, the
climatic conditions being too great an obstacle. Moreover, the
attention of the Government was soon absorbed by cases of the disease
appearing in other towns of the Republic. In some of these it
threatened to take on the same epidemic character, and a social panic
set in that was akin to what happened in Zvezdny itself. A wholesale
exodus from the more populated parts of the Republic commenced. The
work in all the mines came to a standstill, and the entire industrial
life of the country faded away, But thanks, however, to strong
measures taken in time, the progress of the disease was arrested in
these towns, and nowhere did it reach the proportions witnessed in the

The anxiety with which the whole world followed the misfortunes of the
young Republic is well known. At first no one dreamed that the trouble
could grow to what it did, and the dominant feeling was that of
curiosity. The chief newspapers of the world (and in that number our
own Northern European Evening News) sent their own special
correspondents to Zvezdny--to write up the epidemic. Many of these
brave knights of the pen became victims of their own professional
obligations. When the news became more alarming, various foreign
governments and private societies offered their services to the
Republic. Some sent troops, others doctors, others money; but the
catastrophe developed with such rapidity that this goodwill could not
obtain fulfilment. After the breakdown of the railway service the only
information received from Zvezdny was that of the telegrams sent by
the Nachalnik. These telegrams were forwarded to the ends of the earth
and printed in millions of copies. After the wreck of the electrical
apparatus the telegraph service lasted still a few days longer, thanks
to the accumulators of the power-house. There is no accurate
information as to why the telegraph service ceased altogether; perhaps
the apparatus was destroyed. The last telegram of Horace Deville was
that of the 27th of June. From that date, for almost six weeks,
humanity remained without news of the capital of the Republic.

During July several attempts were made to reach Zvezdny by air.
Several new airships and aeroplanes were received by the Republic. But
for a long time all efforts to reach the city failed. At last,
however, the aeronaut, Thomas Billy, succeeded in flying to the
unhappy town. He picked up from the roof of the town two people in an
extreme state of hunger and mental collapse. Looking through the
ventilators Billy saw that the streets were plunged in absolute
darkness; but he heard wild cries, and understood that there were
still living human beings in the town. Billy, however, did not dare to
let himself down into the town itself. Towards the end of August one
line of the electric railway was put in order as far as the station
Lissis, a hundred and five kilometres from the town. A detachment of
well-armed men passed into the town, bearing food and medical first-
aid, entering by the north-western gates. They, however, could not
penetrate further than the first blocks of buildings, because of the
dreadful atmosphere. They had to do their work step by step, clearing
the bodies from the streets, disinfecting the air as they went. The
only people whom they met were completely irresponsible. They
resembled wild animals in their ferocity and had to be captured and
held by force. About the middle of September train service with
Zvezdny was once more established and trains went regularly.

At the time of writing the greater part of the town has already been
cleared. Electric light and heating are once more in working order.
The only part of the town which has not been dealt with is the
American quarter, but it is thought that there are no living beings
there. About ten thousand people have been saved, but the greater
number are apparently incurable. Those who have to any degree
recovered evince a strong disinclination to speak of the life they
have gone through. What is more, their stories are full of
contradiction and often not confirmed by documentary evidence. Various
newspapers of the last days of July have been found. The latest to
date, that of the 22nd of July, gives the news of the death of Horace
Deville and the invitation of shelter in the Town Hall. There are,
indeed, some other pages marked August, but the words printed thereon
make it clear that the author (who was probably setting in type his
own delirium) was quite irresponsible. The diary of Horace Deville was
discovered, with its regular chronicle of events from the 28th of June
to the 20th of July. The frenzies of the last days in the town are
luridly witnessed by the things discovered in streets and houses.
Mutilated bodies everywhere the bodies of the starved, of the
suffocated, of those murdered by the insane, and some even half-eaten.
Bodies were found in the most unexpected places: in the tunnels of the
Metropolitan railway, in sewers, in various sheds, in boilers. The
demented had sought refuge from the surrounding terrors in all
possible places. The interiors of most houses had been wrecked, and
the booty which robbers had found it impossible to dispose of had been
hidden in secret rooms and cellars.

It will certainly be several months before Zvezdny will become
habitable once more. Now it is almost empty. The town, which could
accommodate three million people, has but thirty thousand workmen, who
are cleansing the streets and houses. A good number of the former
inhabitants who had previously fled have returned, however, to seek
the bodies of their relatives and to glean the remains of their lost
fortunes. Several tourists, attracted by the amazing spectacle of the
empty town, have also arrived. Two business men have opened hotels and
are doing pretty well. A small caf-chantant is to be opened shortly,
the troupe for which has already been engaged.

The Northern-European Evening News has for its part sent out a new
correspondent, Mr. Andrew Ewald, and hopes to obtain circumstantial
news of all the fresh discoveries which may be made in the unfortunate
capital of the Republic of the Southern Cross.


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