Arrived at my hotel, I was at once struck with its extreme quietness, more s_s the apartments were all but taken by some thousands of travellers. Th_ause of this, however, I soon discovered on entering the elegant and spaciou_onversation room. Methought I heard a kind of music, feeble, yet melodious i_he extreme. The sound approached as near as possible that of the human voice
; but still the quality was altogether different. Besides, no artist, male o_emale, was to be seen in the room. The only cue that I could get to th_ystery was through a box of small dimensions; this instrument was placed on _able right in the centre of the room, and thence the sound appeared t_roceed. Taking the affair to be an ordinary musical-box, worked in the usua_ay, I gazed with no little contempt and surprise upon the crowd of serious-
looking, enthusiastic men and women who had clustered round the table. As soo_s the music ceased, I ventured to approach the spectators, at the same tim_sking one among the crowd for some information with regard to the musica_nstrument in which they all seemed to be so much interested. Oh the numbe_f pairs of eyes that stared at me, full of amazement, if not of indignation !
At last one of the enthusiasts condescended to break the silence, '' What,
sir, a musical instrument! where did you ever know such tones to proceed fro_ musical instrument ? Surely, sir, as a gentleman you must have heard of th_elephon ?"
I now remembered that a machine bearing that name, and answering tha_escription, had been invented as far back as 1861 by a certain Reis ; als_hat it was based upon the following law, as discovered and laid down by Page;
namely, that when an electric current passes through a wire coiled round a_ron bar, and the current is continually interrupted, there arises a sound o_ tone, the height or depth of which is entirely dependent on the number o_ibrations produced by the interruptions of the current, according to thei_ucceeding each other with more or less velocity. This recurring to my mind, _ow replied that the telephon was indeed not quite unfamiliar to me, in proo_f which I went back to the history of its first invention; I also gave _escription of Reis' little instrument, by which the sound of the human voic_ould be transmitted through very great distances; and finally, I added m_urmise or natural conviction that such an instrument must have bee_onsiderably improved upon in the course of more than two centuries.
I was happy to notice the excellent impression visibly produced by my words;
there now arose a tolerably general murmur of "whoever now would have take_he telephon to be so old an affair?" As for me, I was complimented on m_ntiquarian knowledge, and, thanks to the amiable disposition of the visitor_owards me, I was not long in discovering what had been going on. That whic_very one now was so anxious to explain to me amounted, in a few words, t_his. The North-American papers had of late been indulging in the mos_xtravagant terms of praise with regard to a lady singer who, according to th_ankee critics, was possessed of a voice such as no mortal had ever yet hear_f, surpassing in compass and quality everything that could be imagined; _alent whereby all the artists of former ages —if history could be relie_n—ladies like Catalani, Malibran, Henriette Sonntag, Jenny Lind, or th_attis, were really no more in comparison than a cricket to a nightingale. O_ourse, as might be imagined, these reports from across the Atlantic ha_reated an immense stir in the musical world of Londinia. From all direction_he managers of concerts and operas had been induced to negotiate with thi_arvellous talent, so that it should no lonorer be hidden from the musica_nhabitants of Londinia. But, then, all these reports emanated from th_tates, the fons et origo of humbug; and, probably taught by experience, th_anagers had all clubbed together, and, at their joint expense, despatched _elegram to the gifted artist, requesting her to allow her marvellous power t_e tested by means of the telephon. That would, at all events, enable them t_udge of the compass and quality of her voice. To this the lady had consented,
and thereupon the managers had hired one of the transatlantic telegrap_ables, on which the experiment had been made.
As a clear indication of the compass of the voice, I was shown sundry slips o_lack paper on which could be seen numerous curved white lines; the latter ha_een traced upon the paper by the phonautographer standing behind th_elephon, and were supposed to mark the musical scales within compass of th_ady's voice. An impression of these slips of paper was to appear, on th_ollowing morning, in the musical journal, Panharmonia, in order that " th_yes of the inhabitants of Londinia might anticipate the glorious treat i_tore for the musical ears of the great metropolis." "For," added the edito_f the Panharmonia, "all connoisseurs in music know the meaning of thes_ittle waves. Won't they be astonished when they see a tone like this !"
Saying this, he pointed with his finger to the very extreme line where th_ittle curves met as near as possible. Of course I was longing to examine th_onstruction of the telephon. I was just about to ask one of the gentleme_resent to give me some explanation on the subject, when there was a genera_emand for silence. The American lady was to afford us another treat. Thi_ime she sang an air from Mozart's Don Giovanni, and I was delighted to fin_hat this masterpiece of the great maestro was not forgotten even thre_enturies after the composer's death.
At the close of her examination, the lady was unanimously declared worthy t_ppear before the critical public of Londinia, and she received what we migh_erm a musical ovation by means of another telephon working in opposit_irection. And here the matter was allowed to rest, it being left to th_ifferent managers to endeavour to engage her services. All and each of thes_entlemen looked as if they were in possession of some secret or othe_herewith to outvie their competitors. They parted, however, on the best o_erms, and I retired to my room.
The following morning I was down very early, and, having enjoyed my breakfast,
I walked slowly towards the place where I expected to meet my companions o_he preceding day. No guide was required in this apparently immense labyrinth,
for nothing indeed was easier than to find one's way. All the streets,
squares, etc., were namely marked, not by names as formerly, but by _articular set of figures, which, with the assistance of a map, directed me t_ny given spot; all that was required to know was two figures, indicating th_oint of destination pretty much as with the latitude and longitude at sea.