The Time Tunnel by Murray Leinster


The Time Tunnel by Murray Leinster

Author:Murray Leinster [Leinster, Murray]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: Science Fiction
Published: 0101-01-01T00:00:00+00:00


7

Next morning Harrison waked and breakfasted—badly, because there was no coffee—and presently set out upon a business errand. Paris of 1804 was a city of half a million people. It had no railroads. It had no police in any modern sense of the word. Save for certain particular avenues, its streets were unpaved. It had no street-lights; not electric, not gas, not oil, not even publicly provided candles. It was supplied with food by creaking, oilless farm-wagons, except for such foodstuff as came down the Seine by barge and was distributed in unbelievably clumsy carts. It had no potable water-supply. There were wells and cisterns and buckets, to be sure, but nobody who could help it ever drank water. The reason was that there was then no known objection to the use of wells for drowning puppies and the like, and most well-water was unwholesome in the extreme.

There were not even horse-drawn omnibusses in Paris. The city had no sewers. Its streets had no street-signs, because only a small part of the population could read or write, and signs would have been useless. In all its sprawling noisomeness there was not one water-tap, nor any way more convenient than flint and steel to make a fire. There was not one postage-stamp in all of France, and cotton cloth was practically unknown. All fabric was linen or wool or, rarely, silk. In all the world nobody had conceived of power which was not water-power or animal-power, save in Holland where some folk got motion from the winds by wind mills. In all of France, though, every horse power of usable energy save water mills was provided by a horse, and only three people then alive had ever conceived of a steamship, and all of them were across the ocean in America.

It did not seem that such a city could exist in a cosmos in which human beings were intended to survive. Humans had invented cities, apparently, with something of the invincible wrong-headedness that in Harrison’s own era had made them construct atomic bombs. It appeared that through-out all the ages mankind had tried zestfully to arrange for its own extinction. It was difficult to think of Paris as anything but a vast device for the development and propagation of diseases. The death-rate was unbelievable. Ignorance of sanitation was unimaginable. And in a city whose most aristocratic quarters swarmed with flies, the idea of filth-borne disease did not exist and the washing of one’s face and body was done for cosmetic reasons only. Nobody—not even surgeons—dreamed of washing for any abstruse idea of cleanliness. The slums were like the dens of beasts, and their inhabitants took on much of the quality of their environment.

But even so, matters were better than in older times. There had been a time when it was said that Paris could be smelled down-wind for thirty leagues. Now it could hardly be detected for more than fifteen. But to Harrison the improvement was not noticeable.

He left the inn with Albert in his wake, carrying Dubois’ saddlebags over his shoulder.



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