"Now, gentlemen, please make a choice of your evening's enjoyment. Do you wish to hear the programme through the telephonic journal?"
He took two ear-tubes from the wall and handed them to his guests. Kingscourt laughed. "Your excellency, I am not impressed by this. I know this conjuring trick. Such a telephonic journal was in working order twenty-five years ago in Buda-Pesth."
"I don't want to show you anything new. The only thing is that this speaking newspaper is a co-operative undertaking."
"It cannot yield any profits, for there can be no advertisements."
"On the contrary, the announcements are paid for at the highest rates. The reader need not look at the advertisement part of a newspaper. He can turn over the page. So they are comparatively worthless as against announcments made through the 'phone. Just listen. You may hear one."
They lifted the ear-tube. First they heard the announcement of a dock fire in Yokohama, then a short account of a Parisian theatrical first night. There followed the latest prices of wool in New York, and then there sounded clearly and with some emphasis:
"At Samuel Cohen's, For sale the finest gems, real and imitation, at brilliant prices.
"At Sa-mu-el Cohen's, Grand Arcade, 47."
They laughed. David added, "These announcements are often made in so humorous a form that you do not recognize that they are advertisements until the end. The receipts on this account are colossal. The subscribers paid at first one shekel per month and received more in return. This newspaper has neither press, nor paper, nor publication expenses. But the city of Haifa made this enterprise tributary to it, and above all, it is under a special control. At the central station officers of the new community guard the journal so that nothing improper, no lies or sensational information is spoken into the apparatus."
Friedrich caught one word. "Tributary? How can a city or your new community so govern? You have to explain how you make a private corporation tributary to it."
"This is a special case. The telephonic journal had to lay its cables. Now, we have beneath our streets, tunnels for the reception of all manner of cables and wires for the gas and water and sewage. Every house is connected with this tunnel. There is no need to break the plaster in order to lay our new wires in private houses. From this you may get an idea to what stage we have brought our affairs. The great cities, as you knew them, were built by accident and were planless. One system was brought into vogue after another. The whole thing was jumbled up, and the actual condition of the subterranean parts of the city was mostly known after an explosion. When we began to build our city, we took this into consideration and thus prepared for eventualities. It was expensive at first, but it paid for itself. If you compare the municipal accounts of Haifa with those of Paris and Vienna, you will see what this tunnelage saved us. The wires of the telephonic journal were laid in this tunnel, and the newspaper corporation had to pay rent for its way-leave. So the general community gets the advantage of it."
Kingscourt observed, "This is the very first thing that impresses me: that Samuel Cohen sells the most brilliant gems to the advantage of good roads. You are a most confoundedly shrewd people. I would never have thought of it."
"Your compliments have a bitter taste, Mr. Kingscourt," said David, in a friendly tone. "Perhaps your opinion will alter when you have been among us for some time."