The Last American
A Fragment from the journal of KHAN-LI, Prince of
Dimph-Yoo-Chur and Admiral in the Persian Navy
presented by J. A. MITCHELL
EDITION DE LUXE Illustrated in Color by F. W. Read
With Decorative Designs by Albert D. Blashfield and Illustrations
by the Author
TO THOSE THOUGHTFUL PERSIANS
WHO CAN READ A WARNING IN THE SUDDEN RISE
AND SWIFT EXTINCTION OF A FOOLISH PEOPLE
THIS VOLUME IS DEDICATED
A FEW WORDS BY HEDFUL
SURNAMED "THE AXIS OF WISDOM"
Curator of the Imperial Museum at Shiraz.
Author of "The Celestial Conquest of Kaly-phorn-ya," and of
"Northern Mehrika under the Hy-Bernyan Rulers"
The astounding discoveries of Khan-li of Dimph-yoo-chur have thrown
floods of light upon the domestic life of the Mehrikan people. He
little realized when he landed upon that sleeping continent what a
service he was about to render history, or what enthusiasm his
discoveries would arouse among Persian archaeologists.
Every student of antiquity is familiar with these facts.
But for the benefit of those who have yet to acquire a knowledge of
this extraordinary people, I advise, first, a visit to the Museum at
Teheran in order to excite their interest in the subject, and second,
the reading of such books as Nofuhl's "What we Found in the West," and
Noz-yt-ahl's "History of the Mehrikans." The last-named is a complete
and reliable history of these people from the birth of the Republic
under George-wash-yn-tun to the year 1990, when they ceased to exist
as a nation. I must say, however, that Noz-yt-ahl leaves the reader
much confused concerning the period between the massacre of the
Protestants in 1927, and the overflow of the Murfey dynasty in 1940.
He holds the opinion with many other historians that the Mehrikans
were a mongrel race, with little or no patriotism, and were purely
imitative; simply an enlarged copy of other nationalities extant at
the time. He pronounces them a shallow, nervous, extravagant people,
and accords them but few redeeming virtues. This, of course, is just;
but nevertheless they will always be an interesting study by reason of
their rapid growth, their vast numbers, their marvellous mechanical
ingenuity and their sudden and almost unaccountable disappearance.
The wealth, luxury, and gradual decline of the native population; the
frightful climatic changes which swept the country like a mower's
scythe; the rapid conversion of a vast continent, alive with millions
of pleasure-loving people, into a silent wilderness, where the sun and
moon look down in turn upon hundreds of weed-grown cities,—all this
is told by Noz-yt-ahl with force and accuracy.
"Here's Truth. 'Tis a bitter pill but good physic."
ABOARD THE ZLOTUHB IN THE YEAR 2951
There is land ahead!
Grip-til-lah was first to see it, and when he shouted the tidings my
heart beat fast with joy. The famished crew have forgotten their
disconsolate stomachs and are dancing about the deck. 'Tis not I,
forsooth, who shall restrain them! A month of emptiness upon a heavy
sea is preparation for any folly. Nofuhl alone is without enthusiasm.
The old man's heart seems dead.
We can see the land plainly, a dim strip along the western horizon. A
fair wind blows from the northeast, but we get on with cruel
hindrance, for the Zlotuhb is a heavy ship, her bluff bow and
voluminous bottom ill fitting her for speed.
Sighted a fine harbor this afternoon, and are now at anchor in it.
Grip-til-lah thinks we have reached one islands mentioned by
Ben-a-Bout. Nofuhl, however, is sure we are further North.
What a change has come over Nofuhl! He is the youngest man aboard. We
all share his delight, as our discoveries are truly marvellous. This
morning while I was yet in my bunk he ran into the cabin and,
forgetting our difference in rank, seized me by the arm and tried to
drag me out. His excitement so had the better of him that I captured
little meaning from his words. Hastening after him, however, I was
amazed to see such ancient limbs transport a man so rapidly. He
skipped up the narrow stairs like a heifer and, young though I am, it
was faster than I could follow.
But what a sight when I reached the deck! We saw nothing of it
yesterday, for the dusk of evening was already closing about us when
Right ahead, in the middle of the bay, towered a gigantic statue, many
times higher than the masts of our ship. Beyond, from behind this
statue, came the broad river upon whose waters we were floating, its
surface all a-glitter with the rising sun. To the East, where Nofuhl
was pointing, his fingers trembling with excitement, lay the ruins of
an endless city. It stretched far away into the land beyond, further
even than our eyes could see. And in the smaller river on the right
stood two colossal structures, rising high in the air, and standing
like twin brothers, as if to guard the deserted streets beneath. Not a
sound reached us—not a floating thing disturbed the surface of the
water. Verily, it seemed the sleep of Death.
I was lost in wonder.
As we looked, a strange bird, like a heron, arose with a hoarse cry
from the foot of the great image and flew toward the city.
"What does it all mean?" I cried. "Where are we?"
"Where indeed!" said Nofuhl. "If I knew but that, O Prince, I could
tell the rest! No traveller has mentioned these ruins. Persian history
contains no record of such a people. Allah has decreed that we
discover a forgotten world."
Within an hour we landed, and found ourselves in an ancient street,
the pavements covered with weeds, grass, and flowers, all crowding
together in wild neglect. Huge trees of great antiquity thrust their
limbs through windows and roofs and produced a mournful sight. They
gave a welcome shade, however, as we find the heat ashore of a
roasting quality most hard to bear. The curious buildings on either
side are wonderfully preserved, even sheets of glass still standing in
many of the iron window-frames.
We wandered along through the thick grass, Nofuhl and I, much excited
over our discoveries and delighted with the strange scene. The
sunshine is of dazzling brightness, birds are singing everywhere, and
the ruins are gay with gorgeous wild flowers. We soon found ourselves
in what was once a public square, now for the most part a shady grove.
(Afterward ascertained to be the square of the City Hall.)
As we sat on a fallen cornice and gazed on the lofty buildings about
us I asked Nofuhl if he was still in ignorance as to where we were,
and he said:
"As yet I know not. The architecture is much like that of ancient
Europe, but it tells us nothing."
Then I said to him in jest, "Let this teach us, O Nofuhl! the folly of
excessive wisdom. Who among thy pupils of the Imperial College at
Ispahan would believe their venerable instructor in history and
languages could visit the largest city in the world and know so little
"Thy words are wise, my Prince," he answered; "few babes could know
As we were leaving this grove my eyes fell upon an upturned slab that
seemed to have a meaning. It was lying at our feet, partly hidden by
the tall grass, having fallen from the columns that supported it. Upon
its surface were strange characters in bold relief, as sharp and clear
as when chiselled ten centuries ago. I pointed it out to Nofuhl, and
we bent over it with eager eyes.
It was this:
"The inscription is Old English," he said. "'House' signified a
dwelling, but the word 'Astor' I know not. It was probably the name of
a deity, and here was his temple."
This was encouraging, and we looked about eagerly for other signs.
Our steps soon brought us into another street, and as we walked I
expressed my surprise at the wonderful preservation of the stone work,
which looked as though cut but yesterday.
"In such an atmosphere decay is slow," said Nofuhl. "A thousand years
at least have passed since these houses were occupied. Take yonder
oak, for instance; the tree itself has been growing for at least a
hundred years, and we know from the fallen mass beneath it that
centuries had gone by before its birth was possible."
He stopped speaking, his eyes fixed upon an inscription over a
doorway, partly hidden by one of the branches of the oak.
Turning suddenly upon me with a look of triumph, he exclaimed:
"It is ours!"
"What is ours?" I asked.
"The knowledge we sought;" and he pointed to the inscription,
NEW YORK STOCK EXC….
He was tremulous with joy. "Thou hast heard of Nhu-Yok, O my Prince?"
I answered that I had read of it at school.
"Thou art in it now!" he said. "We are standing on the Western
Continent. Little wonder we thought our voyage long!"
"And what was Nhu-Yok?" I asked. "I read of it at college, but
remember little. Was it not the capital of the ancient Mehrikans?"
"Not the capital," he answered, "but their largest city. Its
population was four millions."
"Four millions!" I exclaimed. "Verily, O Fountain of Wisdom, that is
many for one city!"
"Such is history, my Prince! Moreover, as thou knowest, it would take
us many days to walk this town."
"True, it is endless."
He continued thus:
"Strange that a single word can tell so much! Those iron structures,
the huge statue in the harbor, the temples with pointed towers, all
are as writ in history."
Whereupon I repeated that I knew little of the Mehrikans save what I
had learned at college, a perfunctory and fleeting knowledge, as they
were a people who interested me but little.
"Let us seat ourselves in the shade," said Nofuhl, "and I will tell
thee of them."
"For eleven centuries the cities of this sleeping hemisphere have
decayed in solitude. Their very existence has been forgotten. The
people who built them have long since passed away, and their
civilization is but a shadowy tradition. Historians are astounded that
a nation of an hundred million beings should vanish from the earth
like a mist, and leave so little behind. But to those familiar with
their lives and character surprise is impossible. There was nothing to
leave. The Mehrikans possessed neither literature, art, nor music of
their own. Everything was borrowed. The very clothes they wore were
copied with ludicrous precision from the models of other nations. They
were a sharp, restless, quick-witted, greedy race, given body and soul
to the gathering of riches. Their chiefest passion was to buy and
sell. Even women, both of high and low degree, spent much of their
time at bargains, crowding and jostling each other in vast marts of
trade, for their attire was complicated, and demanded most of their
"How degrading!" I exclaimed.
"So it must have been," said Nofuhl; "but they were not without
virtues. Their domestic life was happy. A man had but one wife, and
treated her as his equal."
"That is curious! But as I remember, they were a people of elastic
"They were so considered," said Nofuhl; "their commercial honor was a
jest. They were sharper than the Turks. Prosperity was their god, with
cunning and invention for his prophets. Their restless activity no
Persian can comprehend. This vast country was alive with noisy
industries, the nervous Mehrikans darting with inconceivable rapidity
from one city to another by a system of locomotion we can only guess
at. There existed roads with iron rods upon them, over which small
houses on wheels were drawn with such velocity that a long day's
journey was accomplished in an hour. Enormous ships without sails,
driven by a mysterious force, bore hundreds of people at a time to the
farthermost points of the earth."
"And are these things lost?" I asked.
"We know many of the forces," said Nofuhl, "but the knowledge, of
applying them is gone. The very elements seem to have been their
slaves. Cities were illuminated at night by artificial moons, whose
radiance eclipsed the moon above. Strange devices were in use by which
they conversed together when separated by a journey of many days. Some
of these appliances exist to-day in Persian museums. The superstitions
of our ancestors allowed their secrets to be lost during those dark
centuries from which at last we are waking."
At this point we heard the voice of Bhoz-ja-khaz in the distance; they
had found a spring and he was calling to us.
Such heat we had never felt, and it grew hotter each hour. Near the
river where we ate it was more comfortable, but even there the
perspiration stood upon us in great drops. Our faces shone like
fishes. It was our wish to explore further, but the streets were like
ovens, and we returned to the Zlotuhb.
As I sat upon the deck this afternoon recording the events of the
morning in this journal Bhoz-ja-khaz and Ad-el-pate approached, asking
permission to take the small boat and visit the great statue.
Thereupon Nofuhl informed us that this statue in ancient times held
aloft a torch illuminating the whole harbor, and he requested
Ad-el-pate to try and discover how the light was accomplished.
They returned toward evening with this information: that the statue is
not of solid bronze, but hollow; that they ascended by means of an
iron stairway into the head of the image, and from the top looked down
upon us; that Ad-el-pate, in the dark, sat to rest himself upon a nest
of yellow flies with black stripes; that these flies inserted stings
into Ad-el-pate's person, causing him to exclaim loudly and descend
the stairs with unexpected agility; that Bhoz-ja-khaz and the others
pushed on through the upraised arm, and stood at last upon the bronze
torch itself; that the city lay beneath them like a map, covering the
country for miles away on both sides of the river. As for illuminating
the harbor, Bhoz-ja-khaz says Nofuhl is mistaken; there are no
vestiges of anything that could give a light—no vessel for oil or
traces of fire.
Nofuhl says Ja-khaz is an idiot; that he shall go himself.
A startling discovery this morning.
By landing higher up the river we explored a part of the city where
the buildings are of a different character from those we saw
yesterday. Nofuhl considers them the dwellings of the rich. In shape
they are like bricks set on end, all very similar, uninteresting, and
We noticed one where the doors and shutters were still in place, but
rotting from the fantastic hinges that supported them. A few hard
blows brought down the outer doors in a dusty heap, and as we stepped
upon the marble floor within our eyes met an unexpected sight.
Furniture, statues, dingy pictures in crumbling frames, images in
bronze and silver, mirrors, curtains, all were there, but in every
condition of decay. We knocked open the iron shutters and let the
light into the rooms sealed up for centuries. In the first one lay a
rug from Persia! Faded, moth-eaten, gone in places, it seemed to ask
us with dying eyes to be taken hence. My heart grew soft over the
ancient rug, and I caught a foolish look in Lev-el-Hedyd's eye.
As we climbed the mouldering stair to the floor above I expressed
surprise that cloth and woodwork should hold together for so many
centuries, also saying:
"These Mehrikans were not so unworthy as we think them."
"That may be," said Lev-el-Hedyd, "but the Persian rug is far the
freshest object we have seen, and that perchance was ancient when they
On this floor we entered a dim chamber, spacious and once richly
furnished. When Lev-el-Hedyd pushed open the shutters and drew aside
the ragged curtains we started at the sight before us.
Upon a wide bed in the centre of the room lay a human form, the long,
yellow hair still clinging to the head. It was more a mummy than a
skeleton. Around, upon the bed, lay mouldering fragments of the once
white sheets that covered it. On the fingers of the left hand
glistened two rings which drew our attention. One held a diamond of
great price, the other was composed of sapphires and diamonds most
curiously arranged. We stood a moment in silence, gazing sadly upon
"Poor woman," I said, "left thus to die alone."
"It is more probable," said Nofuhl, "she was already dead, and her
friends, departing perhaps in haste, were unable to burn the body."
"Did they burn their dead?" I asked. "In my history 'twas writ they
buried them in the earth like potatoes, and left them to rot."
And Nofuhl answered: "At one time it was so, but later on, as they
became more civilized, the custom was abandoned."
"Is it possible?" I asked, "that this woman has been lying here almost
a thousand years and yet so well preserved?"
"I, also, am surprised," said Nofuhl. "I can only account for it by
the extreme dryness of the air in absorbing the juices of the body and
Then lifting tenderly in his hand some of the yellow hair, he said:
"She was probably very young, scarce twenty."
"Were their women fair?" I asked.
"They were beautiful," he answered; "with graceful forms and lovely
faces; a pleasure to the eye; also were they gay and sprightly with
Thereupon cried Lev-el-Hedyd:
"Here are the first words thou hast uttered, O Nofuhl, that cause me
to regret the extinction of this people!" There is ever a place in my
heart for a blushing maiden!"
"Then let thy grief be of short life," responded Nofuhl, "for
Mehrikan damsels were not of that description. Blush-ing was an art
they practised little. The shyness thou so lovest in a Persian maiden
was to them an unknown thing. Our shrinking daughters bear no
resemblance to these Western products. They strode the public streets
with roving eyes and unblushing faces, holding free converse with men
as with women, bold of speech and free of manner, going and coming as
it pleased them best. They knew much of the world, managed their own
affairs, and devised their own marriages, often changing their minds
and marrying another than the betrothed."
"Bismillah! And men could love these things?" exclaimed Lev-el-Hedyd
with much feeling.
"So it appears."
"But I should say the Mehrikan bride had much the freshness of a dried
"So she had," said Nofuhl; "but those who know only the dried fig have
no regret for the fresh fruit. But the fault was not with the maidens.
Brought up like boys, with the same studies and mental development,
the womanly part of their nature gradually vanished as their minds
expanded. Vigor of intellect was the object of a woman's education."
Then Lev-el-Hedyd exclaimed with great disgust:
"Praises be to Allah for his aid in exterminating such a people!" and
he walked away from the bed, and began looking about the chamber. In a
moment he hastened back to us, saying:
"Here are more jewels! also money!"
Nofuhl eagerly took the pieces.
"Money!" he cried. "Money will tell us more than pages of history!"
There were silver coins of different sizes and two small pieces of
copper. Nofuhl studied them closely.
"The latest date is 1957," he said; "a little less than a thousand
years ago; but the piece may have been in circulation some years
before this woman died; also it may have been coined the very year of
her death. It bears the head of Dennis, the last of the Hy-Burnyan
dictators. The race is supposed to have become extinct before 1990 of
I then said;
"Thou hast never told us, O Nofuhl! the cause of their disappearance."
"There were many causes," he answered. "The Mehrikans themselves were
of English origin, but people from all parts of Europe came here in
vast numbers. Although the original comers were vigorous and hardy the
effect of climate upon succeeding generations was fatal. They became
flat-chested and thin, with scanty hair, fragile teeth, and weak
digestions. Nervous diseases unknown to us wrought deadly havoc.
Children were reared with difficulty. Between 1945 and 1960, the last
census of which any record remains, the population decreased from
ninety millions to less than twelve millions. Climatic changes, the
like of which no other land ever experienced, began at that period,
and finished in less than ten years a work made easy by nervous
natures and rapid lives. The temperature would skip in a single day
from burning heat to winter's cold. No constitution could withstand
it, and this vast continent became once more an empty wilderness."
Much more of the same nature he told us, but I am too sleepy to write
longer. We explored the rest of the mansion, finding many things of
interest. I caused several objects to be carried aboard the Zlotuhb.
(These objects are now in the museum of the Imperial College, at
Hotter than yesterday.
In the afternoon we were rowed up the river and landed for a short
walk. It is unsafe to brave the sun.
The more I learn of these Mehrikans the less interesting they become.
Nofuhl is of much the same mind, judging from our conversation to-day,
as we walked along together. It was in this wise:
How alike the houses! How monotonous!
So, also, were the occupants. They thought alike, worked alike, ate,
dressed and conversed alike. They read the same books; they fashioned
their garments as directed, with no regard for the size or figure of
the individual, and copied to a stitch the fashions of Europeans.
But the close-fitting apparel of the European must have been sadly
uncomfortable in the heat of a Mehrikan summer.
So probably it was. Stiff boxes of varying patterns adorned the heads
of men. Curious jackets with tight sleeves compressed the body. The
feet throbbed and burned in close-fitting casings of un-yielding
leather, and linen made stiff by artificial means was drawn tightly
about the neck.
Allah! What idiots!
Even so are they considered.
To what quality of their minds do you attribute such love of needless
It was their desire to be like others. A natural feeling in a vulgar
A fair wind from the West to-day. We weighed anchor and sailed up
the Eastern side of the city. I did this as Nofuhl finds the upper
portion of the town much richer in relics than the lower, which seems
to have been given up to commercial purposes. We sailed close under
one of the great monuments in the river, and are at a loss to divine
its meaning. Many iron rods still dangle from the tops of each of the
structures. As they are in a line, one with the other, we thought at
first they might have been once connected and served as a bridge, but
we soon saw they were too far apart.
Came to anchor about three miles from the old mooring. Up the river
and down, North, South, East, and West, the ruins stretch away
indefinitely, seemingly without end.
Am anxious about Lev-el-Hedyd. He went ashore and has not returned.
It is now after midnight.
Praise Allah! my dear comrade is alive! This morning we landed early
and began our search for him. As we passed before the building which
bears the inscription
. . . DORF ASTORIA
upon its front, we heard his voice from within in answer to our calls.
We entered, and after climbing the ruined stairway found him seated
upon the floor above. He had a swollen leg from an ugly sprain, and
various bruises were also his. While our friends were constructing a
litter on which to bear him hence we conversed together. The walls
about us bore traces of having once enclosed a hall of some beauty. In
idling about I pulled open the decaying door of an old closet and saw
upon the rotting shelves many pieces of glass and earthenware of fine
workmanship. Taking one in my hand, a small wine-cup of glass, I
approached my comrade calling his attention to its slender stem and
curious form. As his eyes fell upon it they opened wide in amazement.
I also observed a trembling of his hand as he reached forth to touch
it. He then recounted to me his marvellous adventure of the night
before, but saying before he began:
"Thou knowest, O Prince, I am no believer in visions, and I should
never tell the tale but for thy discovery of this cup. I drank from
such an one last night, proffered by a ghostly hand."
I would have smiled, but he was much in earnest. As I made a movement
to sit beside him, he said:
"Taste first, O my master, of the grapes hanging from yonder wall."
I did so, and to my great surprise found them of an exquisite flavor,
finer even than the cultivated fruit of Persia, sweeter and more
delicate, of a different nature from the wild grapes we have been
eating. My astonishment appeared to delight him, and he said with a
"The grapes are impossible, but they exist; even more absurd is my
story!" and he then narrated his adventure.
It was this:
WHAT LEV-EL-HEDYD SAW.
Yesterday, after nightfall, as he was hastening toward the Zlotuhb he
fell violently upon some blocks of stone, wrenching his ankle and much
bruising himself. Unable to walk upon his foot he limped into this
building to await our coming in the morning. The howling of wolves and
other wild beasts as they prowled about the city drove him, for
safety, to crawl up the ruins of the stairway to the floor above. As
he settled himself in a corner of this hall his nostrils were greeted
with the delicious odor from the grapes about his head. He found them
surprisingly good, and ate heartily. He soon after fell into a sleep
which lasted some hours, for when he awoke the moon was higher in the
heavens, the voices of the wolves were hushed and the city was silent.
As he lay in a revery, much absorbed in his own thoughts, he gradually
became aware of mysterious changes taking place, as if by stealth,
about him. A decorated ceiling appeared to be closing over the hall.
Mirrors and tinted walls slowly crept in place of ivy and crumbling
bricks. A faint glow grew stronger and more intense until it filled
the great room with a dazzling light. Then came softly into view a
table of curious form, set out with flowers and innumerable dishes of
glass and porcelain, as for a feast.
Standing about the room he saw solemn men with beardless faces, all in
black attire, whose garments bore triangular openings upon the chest
to show the shirt beneath. These personages he soon discovered were
As he gazed in bewilderment, there entered other figures, two by two,
who took their seats about the table. These later comers, sixty or
more, were men and women walking arm in arm, the women in rich attire
of unfamiliar fashion and sparkling with precious stones. The men were
clad like the servants.
They ate and drank and laughed, and formed a brilliant scene.
Lev-el-Hedyd rose to his feet, and moved by a curiosity he made no
effort to resist,—for he is a reckless fellow and knows no fear—he
hobbled out into the room.
They looked upon him in surprise, and seemed much amused at his
presence. One of the guests, a tall youth with yellow mustaches,
approached him, offering a delicate crystal vessel filled with a
Lev-el-Hedyd took it.
The youth raised another from the table and with a slight gesture as
if in salutation, he said in words which my comrade understood, though
he swears it was a language unknown to him,
"We may meet again the fourth of next month."
He then drank the wine, and so did Lev-el-Hedyd.
Hereupon the others smiled as if at their comrade's wit, all save the
women, whose tender faces spoke more of pity than of mirth. The wine
flew to his brain as he drank it, and things about him seemed to reel
and spin. Strains of fantastic music burst upon his ears: then, all in
rhythm, the women joined their partners and whirled about him with a
lightsome step. And, moving with it, his throbbing brain seemed
dancing from his head. The room itself, a ll swaying and quivering
with the melody, grew dim and stole from view. The music softly died
Again was silence, the moon above looking calmly down upon the ivied
He fell like a drunken man upon the floor, and did not wake till our
voices called him.
Such his tale.
He has a clear head and is no liar, but so many grapes upon an empty
stomach with the fever from his swollen limb might well explain it.
* * * * *
Bear's meat for dinner.
This morning toward noon Kuzundam, the second officer, wandered on
ahead of us, and entered a large building in pursuit of a rabbit. He
was about descending to the basement below, when he saw, close before
him, a bear leisurely mounting the marble stairs. Kuzundam is no
coward, but he turned and ran as he never ran before. The bear, who
seemed of a sportive nature, also ran, and in close pursuit. Luckily
for my friend we happened to be near, otherwise instead of our eating
bear's meat, the bear might have lunched quietly off Kuzundam in the
shady corridors of the "FIFTH AVENUE HOTEL."
To-day a scorching heat that burns the lungs. We started in the
morning prepared to spend the night ashore, and explore the northern
end of the city. It was a pleasant walk through the soft grass of the
shady streets, but in those places unsheltered from the sun we were as
fish upon a frying-pan. Other dwellings we saw, even larger and more
imposing than the one we entered yesterday. We were tempted to explore
them, but Lev-el-Hedyd wisely dissuaded us, saying the day was waxing
hotter each hour and it could be done on our return.
In the northern part of the town are many religious temples, with
their tall towers like slender pyramids, tapering to a point. They are
curious things, and surprisingly well preserved. The interiors of
these temples are uninteresting. Nofuhl says the religious rites of
the Mehrikans were devoid of character. There were many religious
beliefs, all complicated and insignificant variations one from
another, each sect having its own temples and refusing to believe as
the others. This is amusing to a Persian, but mayhap was a serious
matter with them. One day in each week they assembled, the priests
reading long moral lectures written by themselves, with music by hired
singers. They then separated, taking no thought of temple or priest
for another seven days. Nofuhl says they were not a religious people.
That the temples were filled mostly with women.
In the afternoon we found it necessary to traverse a vast
pleasure-ground, now a wild forest, but with traces still visible of
broad promenades and winding drive-ways. (Olbaldeh thinks this must be
the Centralpahk sometimes alluded to in Mehrikan literature.) There
remains an avenue of bronze statues, most of them yet upright and in
good condition, but very comic. Lev-el-Hedyd and I still think them
caricatures, but Nofuhl is positive they were serious efforts, and
says the Mehrikans were easily pleased in matters of art.
We lost our way in this park, having nothing to guide us as in the
streets of the city. This was most happy, as otherwise we should have
missed a surprising discovery.
It occurred in this wise.
Being somewhat overcome by the heat we halted upon a little hill to
rest ourselves. While reclining beneath the trees I noticed unusual
carvings upon a huge block against which Lev-el-Hedyd was supporting
his back. They were unlike any we had seen, and yet they were not
unfamiliar. As I lay there gazing idly at them it flashed upon me they
were Egyptian. We at once fell to examining the block, and found to
our amazement an obelisk of Egyptian granite, covered with Egyptian
hieroglyphics of an antiquity exceeding by thousands of years the most
ancient monuments of the country!
Verily, we were puzzled!
"When did the Egyptians invade Mehrika?" quoth Bhoz-ja-khaz, with a
solemn look, as if trying to recall a date.
"No Egyptian ever heard of Mehrika," said Nofuhl. "This obelisk was
finished twenty centuries before the first Mehrikan was weaned. In all
probability it was brought here as a curiosity, just as we take to
Persia the bronze head of George-wash-yn-tun."
We spent much time over the monument, and I think Nofuhl was
disappointed that he could not bring it away with him. Also while in
this park we came to a high tower, standing by itself, and climbed to
the top, where we enjoyed a wide-spreading view.
The extent of the city is astounding.
Miles away in the river lay the Zlotuhb, a white speck on the water.
All about us in every direction as far as sight can reach were ruins,
and ruins, and ruins. Never was a more melancholy sight. The blue sky,
the bright sunshine, the sweet-scented air with the gay flowers and
singing birds only made it sadder. They seemed a mockery.
We have encamped for the night, and I can write no more. Countless
flying insects gather about us with a hateful buzz, and bite us beyond
endurance. They are a pest thrice accursed.
I tell Nofuhl his fine theory concerning the extinction of the Yahnkis
is a good tale for those who have never been here.
No man without a leather skin could survive a second night.
Poor Ja-khaz is worse than sick.
He had an encounter last night with a strange animal, and his defeat
was ignoble. The animal, a pretty thing, much like a kitten, was
hovering near when Ja-khaz, with rare courage and agility, threw
himself upon it.
And then what happened none of us can state with precision. We know we
held our noses and fled. And Ja-khaz! No words can fit him. He carries
with him an odor to devastate a province. We had to leave him ashore
and send him fresh raiment.
This is, verily, a land of surprises. Our hands and faces still smart
from the biting insects, and the perfume of the odorous kitten
promises to be ever with us.
Nofuhl is happy. We have discovered hundreds of metal blocks, the
poorest of which he asserts would be the gem of a museum. They were
found by Fattan-laiz-eh in the basement of a high building, all laid
carefully away upon iron shelves. The flood of light they throw upon
the manners and customs of this ludicrous people renders them of
priceless value to historians.
I harbor a suspicion that it causes Nofuhl some pleasure to sit upon
the cool deck of the Ziotuhb and watch Bhoz-ja-khaz walking to and fro
upon the ruins of a distant wharf.
The air is cooler. Grip-til-lah thinks a storm is brewing.
Even Nofuhl is puzzled over the wooden image we brought aboard
yesterday. It is well preserved, with the barbaric coloring still
fresh upon it. They found it standing upright in a little shop.
How these idols were worshipped, and why they are found in little
shops and never in the great temples is a mystery. It has a diadem of
feathers on the head, and as we sat smoking upon the deck this evening
I remarked to Nofuhl that it might be the portrait of some Mehrikan
noble. Whereupon he said they had no nobles. "But the Mehrikans of
gentle blood," I asked, "had they no titles?"
"Neither titles nor gentle blood," he answered. "And as they were
all of much the same origin, and came to this country simply to thrive
more fatly than at home, there was nothing except difference in wealth
on which to establish a superior order. Being deep respecters of money
this was a satisfying distinction. It soon resulted that those
families who possessed riches for a generation or two became the
substitute for an aristocracy. This upper class was given to sports
and pastimes, spending their wealth freely, being prodigiously fond of
display. Their intellectual development was feeble, and they wielded
but little influence save in social matters. They followed closely the
fashions of foreign aristocracies. Great attentions were paid to
wandering nobles from other lands. Even distant relatives of titled
people were greeted with the warmest enthusiasm."
Then I said to him, "But explain to me, O Nofuhl, how it was possible
for so shallow a nation to become so great."
"They were great only in numbers and too weak to endure success. At
the beginning of the twentieth century—as they counted time—huge
fortunes were amassed in a day, and the Mehrikans became drunk with
Whereupon I exclaimed, "O Land of Delight! For much money is
But the old man shook his head. "Very true, O Prince; but the effect
was woful. These vast fortunes soon dominated all things, even the
seat of government and the courts of Justice. Tricks of finance
brought fabulous gains. Young men became demoralized. For sober
industry with its moderate profits was ridiculed."
"Verily, that would be natural!" I said. "But in a land where all
were rich who was found to cook and scrub, to fetch and carry and to
till the soil? For none will shovel earth when his pockets are
stuffed with gold."
"All were not rich. And when the poor also became greedy they became
hostile. Then began social upheavals with bloodshed and havoc."
An icy wind from the northeast with a violent rain. Yesterday we
gasped with the hot air. To-day we are shivering in winter clothing.
The same as yesterday. Most of us are ill. My teeth chatter and my
body is both hot and cold. A storm more wicked never wailed about a
ship. Lev-el-Hedyd calls it the shrieking voices of the hundred
millions of Mehrikans who must have perished in similar weather.
It is many days since I have touched this journal. A hateful sickness
has been upon me, destroying all energy and courage. A sort of fever,
and yet my limbs were cold. I could not describe it if I would.
Nofuhl came into the cabin this evening with some of his metal plates
and discoursed upon them. He has no respect for the intellects of the
early Mehrikans. I thought for a moment I had caught him in a
contradiction, but he was right as usual. It was thus:
They were great readers.
You have told us they had no literature. Were they great readers of
Verily, thou hast said it! Vast sheets of paper were published daily
in which all crimes were recorded in detail. The more revolting the
deed, the more minute the description. Horrors were their chief
delight. Scandals were drunk in with thirstful eyes. These chronicles
of crime and filth were issued by hundreds of thousands. There was
hardly a family in the land but had one.
And did this take the place of literature?
Once more we are on the sea; two days from Nhu-Yok. Our decision was
a sudden one. Nofuhl, in an evil moment, found among those accursed
plates a map of the country, and thereupon was seized with an
unreasoning desire to visit a town called "Washington." I wavered and
at last consented, foolishly I believe, for the crew are loud for
Persia. And this town is inland on a river. He says it was their
finest city, the seat of Government, the capital of the country.
Grip-til-lah swears he can find it if the map is truthful. Ja-khaz
still eats by himself.
This afternoon we reclined upon the deck, the Zlotuhb drifting gently
in a southerly direction. Land could be seen on the starboard bow, a
faint strip along the western horizon.
It was about the middle of the afternoon, while passing the ruins of a
gigantic tower—perhaps a lighthouse—that Nofuhl, of a sudden,
clambered hastily to his feet and looked about him. Then he called to
Grip-til-lah, asking how many leagues we were from the harbor of
Nhu-Yok. Grip-til-lah's reply I forget, but it filled the old man with
a gentle excitement. I observed an unwonted sparkle in his eyes, also
a quivering of the fingers as he pointed to the ocean around about,
"Beneath us, the bottom of the sea is covered with iron ships—the
wrecks of stupendous navies—the mightiest of all human history!"
At once we all became interested.
"What navies?" I inquired. "And what compassed their destruction?
Was it a battle?"
A battle of whose magnitude no Persian has conception; a conflict in
which the sea was tossed and the heavens rent by thunderings of iron
monsters. Any one of them would have blown to atoms a fleet of
Verily! A tale easier told than believed. But I would readily
venture my head in the Zlotuhb against any of these nursery-tale
And with wisdom. For the loss of thy brain. Ad-el-pate, could not
affect the nature of thy speech.
Whereupon there was laughter, and Ad-el-pate held his peace.
But tell us of this battle, O Nofuhl. I remember now to have read
about it at college. These details of ancient history I am prone to
forget. How came it about?
I have spoken of the Mehrikans being a greedy race. And their greed,
at last, resulted in this war. By means of one-sided laws of their
own making they secured for themselves a lion's share of all profits
from the world's commerce. This checked the prosperity of other
nations, until at last the leading powers of Europe combined in
self-defence against this all-absorbing greed. They collected an
armada the like of which was never imagined, neither before nor since.
Then, across the ocean, came the iron host. And here, upon this very
spot where we are floating, they met the Mehrikan ships.
How many ships in all?
The Mehrikans had eighty heavy ships of iron, with a number of smaller
craft. The allies had two hundred and forty heavy battleships, all of
iron. They also had smaller craft for divers purposes.
Allah! A bad prospect for our greedy friends! And being a nation of
traders they had no liking, probably, for the perils of war.
As to that historians differ. According to the Mehrikans themselves
they were mighty warriors. But certain writers of that period give a
different impression. Noz-yt-ahl is sure they were cowards, weak in
body as in spirit, but often favored by fortune. In my opinion, this
battle throws considerable light upon that matter.
A day like this, it was, also in June, as the Europeans, coming
northward along the coast to seize Nhu-Yok, met the Mehrikan Admiral
Nev-r-sai-di with his eighty ships. And the struggle was short.
Verily, I can believe it! With three ships to one I would give the
Europeans about half a day—a summer afternoon like this—to send
the greedy ones to the bottom.
Thy guess is good, O Prince, as to the hours of fighting. It lasted
just one summer afternoon. But the Mehrikans it was who sent their
enemies to the bottom. And the sea beneath our feet is strewn with
Bismillah! If that be a true tale—and I doubt it not—these
greedy ones were not so contemptible, at least when there was profit
At what period did this occur?
Early in the twentieth century. I cannot recall the date, but it was
never forgotten by the Mehrikans. Surely a just pride, for on that day
they accomplished wonders. The Admiral Nev-r-sai-di on his ship the
Ztazenztrypes was at one time surrounded by a dozen German men-of-
war. And lo! he demolished all! And of Frank and Russyan vessels he
put an end to as many more; also sundry Talyans and British.
Bismillah! But that was good! What, O Nofuhl, is the Persian of that
None can tell with certainty. To the Mehrikans it signified victory,
or something similar.
Other miracles were achieved by the Mehrikans that day. Nofli-zon-mee,
a little craft with a pointed prow, jammed holes in nearly a score of
monster ships, and the waters closed over them. There figured also a
long and narrow boat of Mehrikan devising, the Yankyd-Oodl. This
astonishing machine sailed to and fro among the foreign ships
upsetting all traditions. Much glory befell her commander, the Captain
And how many ships did the Mehrikans lose?
Reports are contradictory. According to one of their own writers of
the period they suffered no loss whatever in vessels. Yet at the same
time he asserts, "We gave them Haleklumbya," which must be the name of
A gallant fight! But can you explain how such an inferior people
could become heroic of a sudden?
According' to 'Ardfax, an early British historian, they were addicted
to surprising feats upon the water. And this statement is borne out by
a Spanish admiral, Offulbad-shoota, who maintains that the Mehrikans,
being a godless people, were aided by the devil.
We are on the river that leads to "Washington." Grip-til-lah says we
shall sight it to-morrow. The river is a dirty color.
We see ahead of us the ruins of a great dome, also a very high shaft.
Probably they belong to the city we seek.
A date we shall not forget!
Little did I realize this morning when we left the Zlotuhb in such
hilarious mood what dire events awaited us. I landed about noon,
accompanied by Nofuhl, Lev-el-Hedyd, Bhoz-ja-khaz, Ad-el-pate,
Kuzundam the first mate, Tik'l-palyt the cook, Fattan-laiz-eh, and
two sailors. Our march had scarce begun when a startling discovery
caused great commotion in our minds. We had halted at Nofuhl's
request, to decipher the inscription upon a stone, when Lev-el-Hedyd,
who had started on, stopped short with a sudden exclamation. We
hastened to him, and there, in the soft earth, was the imprint of
I cannot describe our surprise. We decided to follow the footprints,
and soon found they were leading us toward the great dome more
directly than we could have gone ourselves. Our excitement was beyond
words. Those of us who had weapons carried them in readiness. The path
was little used, but clearly marked. It wound about among fallen
fragments and crumbling statues, and took us along a wide avenue
between buildings of vast size and solidity, far superior to any we
had seen in Nhu-Yok. It seemed a city of monuments.
As we ascended the hill to the great temple and saw it through the
trees rising high above us, we were much impressed by its vast size
and beauty. Our eyes wandered in admiration over the massive columns,
each hewn from a single block, still white and fresh as if newly
quarried. The path took us under one of the lower arches of the
building, and we emerged upon the other side. This front we found even
more beautiful than the one facing the city. At the centre was a
flight of steps of magnificent proportions, now falling asunder and
overgrown in many places with grass and flowers.
These steps we ascended. As I climbed silently up, the others
following, I saw two human feet, the soles toward us, resting upon the
balustrade above. With a gesture I directed Nofuhl's attention to
them, and the old man's eyes twinkled with delight. Was it a Mehrikan?
I confess to a lively excitement at the prospect of meeting one. How
many were they? and how would they treat us?
Looking down upon my little band to see that all were there, I boldly
marched up the remaining steps and stood before him.
He was reclining upon a curious little four-legged seat, with his feet
upon the balustrade, about on a level with his head. Clad in skins and
rough cloth he looked much like a hunter, and he gazed quietly upon
me, as though a Persian noble were a daily guest. Such a reception was
not gratifying, especially as he remained in the same position, not
even withdrawing his feet. He nodded his curious head down once and up
again, deeming it apparently a sufficient salutation.
The maintenance of my own dignity before my followers forbade my
standing thus before a seated barbarian, and I made a gesture for him
to rise. This he answered in an unseemly manner by ejecting from his
mouth a brownish fluid, projecting it over and beyond the balustrade
in front of him. Then looking upon me as if about to laugh, and yet
with a grave face, he uttered something in an unmusical voice which I
failed to understand.
Upon this Nofuhl, who had caught the meaning of one or two words,
stepped hastily forward and addressed him in his own language. But the
barbarian understood with difficulty and they had much trouble in
conversing, chiefly from reason of Nofuhl's pronunciation. He
afterward told me that this man's language differed but little from
that of the Mehrikans, as they wrote it eleven centuries ago.
When he finally arose in talking with Nofuhl I could better observe
him. He was tall and bony, with an awkward neck, and appeared at first
glance to be a man of forty years. We decided later he was under
thirty. His yellow skin and want of hair made him seem much older than
he was. I was also much puzzled by the expression of his face. It was
one of deep sadness, yet his eyes were full of mirth, and a corner of
his mouth was ever drawing up as if in mockery. For myself I liked not
his manner. He appeared little impressed by so many strangers, and
bore himself as though it were of small importance whether we
understood him or not. But Nofuhl since informed me that he asked a
multitude of questions concerning us.
What Nofuhl gathered was this:
This Mehrikan with his wife and one old man were all that remained of
his race. Thirty-one had died this summer. In ancient times there were
many millions of his country-men. They were the greatest nation upon
the earth. He could not read. He had two names, one was "Jon," the
other he had forgotten. They lived in this temple because it was cool.
When the temple was built, and for what purpose, he could not tell. He
pointed to the West and .said the country in that direction was
covered with ruined cities.
When Nofuhl told him we were friends, and presented him at my
direction with a hunting-knife of fine workmanship, he pushed out his
right arm toward me and held it there. For an instant Nofuhl looked at
the arm wonderingly, as did we all, then with sudden intelligence he
seized the outstretched hand in his own, and moved it up and down.
This was interesting, for Nofuhl tells me it was a form of greeting
among the ancient Mehrikans.
While all this was going on we had moved into the great circular hall
beneath the dome. This hall was of vast proportions, and there were
still traces of its former splendor. Against the walls were marble
statues entwined in ivy, looking down upon us with melancholy eyes.
Here also we met a thin old man, whose hairless head and beardless
face almost moved us to mirth.
At Nofuhl's request our host led the way into some of the smaller
rooms to show us their manner of living, and it would be impossible to
imagine a more pathetic mixture of glory and decay, of wealth and
poverty, of civilization and barbarity. Old furniture, dishes of
silver, bronze images, even paintings and ornaments of great value
were scattered through the rooms, side by side with the most primitive
implements. It was plain the ancient arts were long since forgotten.
When we returned to the circular hall our host disappeared for a few
moments into a room which he had not shown us. He came back bringing a
stone vase with a narrow neck, and was followed by a maiden who bore
drinking-cups of copper and tin. These she deposited upon a fallen
fragment of the dome which served as a table.
This girl was interesting. A dainty head, delicate features, yellow
hair, blue eyes, and a gentle sadness of mien that touched my heart.
Had she been ugly what a different ending to this day!
We all saluted her, and the Mehrikan spoke a few words which we
interpreted as a presentation. He filled the cups from the stone vase,
and then saying something which Nofuhl failed to catch, he held his
cup before his face with a peculiar movement and put it to his lips.
As he did this Lev-el-Hedyd clutched my arm and exclaimed:
"The very gesture of the ghost!"
And then as if to himself, "And this is July fourth."
But he drank, as did we all, for our thirst was great and the odor of
the golden liquid was most alluring. It tasted hotter than the fires
of Jelbuz. It was also of great potency and gave a fine exhilaration
to the senses. We became happier at once.
And here it was that Ja-khaz did a fatal thing. Being near the maid
and much affected by her beauty, he addressed her as Hur-al-missa (The
most angelic of women.) which, of course, she understood not. This
were well had he gone no further, but he next put his arm about her
waist with intent to kiss her. Much terrified, she tried to free
herself. But Ja-khaz, holding her fair chin with his other hand, had
brought his lips almost to hers when the old man raised his heavy
staff and brought it down upon our comrade's head with cruel
swiftness. This falling stick upon a solid skull resounded about the
dome and echoed through the empty corridors.
Bhoz-ja-khaz blinked and staggered back.
Then, with fury in his face, he sprang savagely toward the aged man.
But here the younger Mehrikan interfered. Rapidly approaching them
and shutting tight his bony hand, he shot it from him with startling
velocity, so directing that it came in contact with the face of
Ja-khaz who, to our amazement, sat roughly upon the marble pavement,
the blood streaming from his nostrils. He was a pitiful sight.
Unaccustomed to such warfare we were seriously alarmed, and thought
him killed perhaps. Ad-el-pate, a mighty wrestler, and of powerful
build, rushed furiously upon the Mehrikan for whom I trembled. But his
arm again went out before him, and Ad-el-pate likewise sat. A mournful
spectacle, and every Persian felt his heart beat fast within him.
By this time Ja-khaz was on his feet again, purple with rage. With
uplifted scimitar he sprang toward our host. The old man stepped
between. Ja-khaz, with wanton cruelty, brought his steel upon the
ancient head, and stretched him upon the floor. For an instant the
younger one stood horror-stricken, then snatching from the floor the
patriarch's staff—a heavy stick with an iron end—he jumped forward,
and, quicker than words can tell it, dealt a frightful blow upon the
head of Ja-khaz which sent him headlong to the ground with a broken
All this had happened in a moment, and wild confusion followed. My
followers drew their arms and rushed upon the Mehrikan. The girl ran
forward either from terror or to shield her spouse, I know not which,
when a flying arrow from a sailor's cross-bow pierced her to the
This gave the Mehrikan the energy of twenty men.
He knocked brave Kuzundam senseless with a blow that would have killed
an ox. Such fury I had not conceived. He brought his flying staff like
a thunderbolt from Heaven upon the Persian skulls, yet always edging
toward the door to prevent his enemies surrounding him. Four of our
number, in as many minutes, joined Ja-khaz upon the floor. Kuzundam,
Ad-el-pate, Fattan-laiz-eh, and Ha-tak, a sailor, lay stretched upon
the pavement, all dead or grievously wounded.
So suddenly had this taken place, that I hardly realized what had
happened. I rushed forward to stay the combat, but he mistook the
purpose, struck my scimitar with a force that sent it flying through
the air, and had raised his staff to deal a second for myself, when
brave Lev-el-Hedyd stepped in to save me, and thrust quickly at him.
But alas! the Mehrikan warded off his stroke with one yet quicker, and
brought his stick so swiftly against my comrade's head that it laid
him with the others.
When Lev-el-Hedyd fell I saw the Mehrikan had many wounds, for my
comrades had made a savage onslaught. He tottered as he moved back
into the doorway, where he leaned against the wall for an instant, his
eyes meeting ours with a look of defiance and contempt that I would
willingly forget. Then the staff dropped from his hand; he staggered
out to the great portico, and fell his length upon the pavement.
Nofuhl hastened to him, but he was dead.
As he fell a wonderful thing took place—an impossible thing, as I
look back upon it, but both Nofuhl and I saw it distinctly.
In front of the great steps and facing this doorway is a large sitting
image of George-wash-yn-tun. As the Mehrikan staggered out upon the
porch, his hands outstretched before him and with Death at his heart,
this statue slowly bowed its head as if in recognition of a gallant
Perhaps it was the sorrowful acceptance of a bitter ending.
Again upon the sea.
This time for Persia, bearing our wounded and the ashes of the dead;
those of the natives are reposing beneath the Great Temple. The skull
of the last Mehrikan I shall present to the museum at Teheran.